Cuckoo for Coconuts

I love, love, LOVE anything coconut! I love eating raw coconut meat, drinking coconut water, using shredded coconut in baking, using coconut milk in soups and curries – but my favourite coconut product is also the one that offers the biggest health benefits – coconut oil. In fact, I am cuckoo for coconut oil!

Coconut oil has had a bad rap in the past because it is a highly saturated fat and saturated fats are commonly associated with all kinds of health problems; however, emerging research is shedding a different light on saturated fats. Not all saturated fats are evil and some of them (particularly coconut oil) offer some pretty amazing health benefits.

Healthy fats have critical roles in our body and in our overall health. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t making very healthy choices when it comes to fats due to all of the misinformation out there about them. In my one-hour workshop, The Skinny on Fats, I get into quite a bit of detail regarding fat imbalances and deficiencies that most of us have and offer suggestions on how to correct them. (If you are interested in attending or would like to organize a group presentation of this workshop, please contact me for information).

What I want to focus on for the purpose of this tip is that a fat’s health benefits aren’t simply related to whether or not it’s saturated, but also to the length of its fatty acid or triglyceride chains.

You’ve likely heard the terms saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated as ways to classify fats. But fats can also be classified another way – by the length of their fatty acid or triglyceride chains, e.g. short chain triglycerides (SCTs), medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and long chain triglycerides (LCTs). Each of these has important effects on our health.

Most of the fats and oils we eat are composed predominantly of LCTs. Coconut oil is unique because it is composed of predominantly MCTs. Interestingly, one of coconut oil’s MCTs is a substance called lauric acid. Why is this interesting? It’s because the other place in nature where we find high levels of lauric acid is in breast milk, which is known to be highly nourishing and immune-boosting for babies, providing protection from harmful bacteria, viruses, fungal infections and parasites.

The high amount of MCTs in coconut oil is a pretty big deal because they have some very impressive properties, with my three favourite being:

Immune-boosting and anti-microbial (e.g. anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic)
Easily digested and quickly absorbed for energy
Promotes weight loss by boosting metabolism and burning body fat
The positive health implications of these three properties are so widespread, it would take me hours to share them all with you, so I’ll just talk about the one I have had the most experience with, which is promoting weight loss.

Here are two excerpts from the book The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife:

“Studies show that after eating a single meal containing MCTs, metabolism remains elevated for at least 24 hours. So when you eat a meal with coconut oil, your metabolism will increase and remain elevated for at least 24 hours. During this entire time, you will have a higher level of energy and be burning calories at an accelerated rate.”

“Researchers at McGill University in Canada have found that if you replace all the oils in your diet that are made of long-chain triglycerides such as soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil and the like, you can lose up to 36 pounds of excess fat a year.”

In their book Eat Fat Lose Fat, Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon suggest that a sure-fire way to promote weight loss is to consume some coconut oil 20 minutes before every meal, as by the time you eat, coconut’s hunger satisfying effect will be in full force. Consuming healthy fats such as coconut oil will help keep your appetite and cravings in check. When we are deficient in healthy fats, we often crave sugary, unrefined carbs, which we all know is not healthy.

These books offer loads of great information on coconut oil, including supporting research, how much you should take, suggestions on how to get enough of it into your meals and snacks in order to realize its benefits as well as some great recipes. You can purchase these books (and other great books that separate fat facts from myths) here (scroll down to Recommended Books and DVDs).

As with most things, you get what you pay for – and coconut oil is no exception. I’ve researched and tried dozens of brands and my very favourite is one from a Canadian company called Quality First International (Quality First….pretty much sums it up!).

What’s so great about this brand of coconut oil? Here are just a few things that I’ve learned from the company’s literature [my comments added]:

  • Extra-virgin & biologically pure [not all brands are]
  • Superior quality re: taste, texture, aroma & colour [amazing delicate texture, taste, smell]
  • Processed by cold centrifuge [some brands use heat which can damage the oil]
  • Non-GMO [not genetically modified – a growing concern to our health]
  • Non-Generic – unlike generic virgin oils, has a unique balance of capric, caprylic and lauric acids for optimum health effects [capric/caprylic acids fight candida/bad bacteria overgrowth]
  • No chemicals, fermentation, boiling, roasting or unsanitary ‘village’ drying
  • FAIRLY FAIR TRADE – direct to farmers, no third party, no child labor [all important to me]
  • Raw from fresh organic coconut milk [not all brands are]
  • Highly stable with indefinite shelf life of 3+ years (the only one tested)
  • Well balanced medium chain fatty acids [MCTs]
  • Higher antioxidant, anti-septic and anti-fungal properties than other brands
  • Excellent for cooking, even at higher temperatures
  • Excellent for internal, external and in formulation usages [the only thing I use on my skin!]
  • Produced with commitment to environmental and rural development

Whew! That’s a lot of benefits!

Coconut oil doesn’t need to be refrigerated and it has a 3+ year shelf life so you can take advantage of cost savings by buying large containers. Once you try it, I’m certain you’ll want to include it in many of your meals and snacks. It’s delicious in smoothies, in salad dressings, as a spread, in cooking and baking, in soups, curries and stir fries, mashed into sweet potatoes, melted into hot cereals….I could go on and on! You’ll also love it as a moisturizer, make-up remover, dry hair and scalp treatment, as a bath or massage oil, as a lip balm and to soothe and heal all kinds of skin irritations (e.g. cuts & scratches, insect bites, rashes, dry skin).

I am thrilled that I can now offer Quality First’s superior Virgin Oil de Coco-Crème coconut oil to you in two amazing economical sizes: 1.8 kg (1/2 gallon) for $55 and 3.8 kg (1 gallon) for $90.

Once you try it, I bet you’ll be cuckoo for coconut oil too!

Enjoy,

Anna

References

http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/

Cereal Killers

Many of us start our day with a bowl of cereal, and while it’s quite obvious that cereals consisting of sugar-coated, coloured shapes with sparkly marshmallow bits aren’t good for us, you may be surprised to learn that even some ‘all natural’ whole grain cereals aren’t that good for us either. In fact, most of us eat way too many grain products – especially wheat – which can lead to blood sugar imbalances, weight problems, and inflammation in the body (inflammation is the cause of numerous chronic health issues).

Now, back to the topic of cereals. When you see the word(s) ‘natural’ or ‘all natural’ on a box of cereal, what does that mean to you? Many consumers think that it means that the product is made with organic ingredients; however the terms ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ are not equal! An organic product should be free from pesticides and genetically modified ingredients. This is NOT the case with ‘natural’ products.

‘Natural’ products can often be contaminated with synthetic, chemical pesticides, many of which are known to be cancer-causing. This is not the case for CERTIFIED organic products…so remember to look for the Canada Organic symbol on packaged good products.

There are no set rules or definitions related to labelling a food as ‘natural’ (….wait a minute…when did we start thinking that we needed to label food as ‘natural’? Something is seriously wrong here folks!). Unfortunately, many of us are misled by this meaningless term that is nothing more than marketing hype. And worst of all, many of these ‘natural’ products are priced higher than certified organic products – another way that manufacturers can ‘trick’ consumers into thinking that products labeled as ‘natural’ are superior. If they cost more, they must be better, right? Wrong!

This ‘natural’ hype is true for any packaged product, so why am I focusing on cereal? It’s because I was recently made aware of a 48 page report entitled ‘Cereal Crimes‘ by the Cornucopia Institute (www.Cornucopia.org). Another reason is that cereals are heavily marketed as a healthy way to start the day – especially ‘natural’ whole grain cereals – and children who are most susceptible to pesticides and genetically modified ingredients are pretty heavy consumers of cereals.

The report exposes some very shocking facts about breakfast cereals – even those boasting an ‘all natural’ claim. Here is an interesting excerpt from the report:

Numerous “natural” products were indeed contaminated with high levels of GE[genetically engineered] ingredients, sometimes as high as 100%: Kashi GoLean,Mother’s Bumpers, Nutritious Living Hi-Lo, and General Mills Kix.

It’s appropriate timing to be learning about the findings of this report – that is, the contamination of cereals with genetically engineered ingredients – as October is Non-GMO Awareness Month (GMO stands for ‘genetically modified organisms’ – it is a term used to refer to anything that has been genetically engineered or modified). If you aren’t sure what the big deal is with genetically modified foods and how they can negatively impact our health, I invite you to read my October 2010 Tip of the Month (in the Tip of the Month Library) and consider this fact (courtesy of www.naturalnews.com who is helping the Cornucopia Institute broadcast their findings):

There is GE contamination in almost everything. Even “non-GMO” food products almost always contain trace levels of GMOs (often between .01% and 0.5%). A test for the mere presence of GMOs is not considered conclusive. What’s important is the level of GMOs in a particular food item. Some of the “natural” items tested by the Cornucopia Institute showed GMO contamination levels between 28% and 100%, which means the key ingredients in those cereals are most definitely genetically engineered from the source (and it’s not just a chance contamination from some other nearby field).

 Surprisingly, several products under brands names typically associated with being healthy, such as Kashi (Kellogs), Mother’s (PepsiCo), Whole Foods and Barbara’s Bakery, contained ‘high levels’ of GMOs.

The good news? One of the shining stars of this investigation was a Canadian company, Nature’s Path. This company’s products are all certified organic, contain no significant GMO contamination and are clearly made with non-GMO ingredients. I was happy to learn that, as of the two boxes of cereal in my pantry, one is made by Nature’s Path (and the other one is also certified organic).  An added bonus with Nature’s Path cereals is that they are typically priced lower than the over-rated ‘all natural’ brands.

Curious to learn more about this research and find out how various brands of cereals tested? Thanks to the Cornucopia Institute, you can:

Knowing that genetically engineered foods can play havoc with our health, wouldn’t it be nice to have them clearly labeled as such so that it would be easier for us to avoid them should we choose to do so?….and we should! You can help make this happen by taking just a minute or two to sign this on-line petition – and share it with others.

http://action.responsibletechnology.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8367

Yours in Health,

Anna

Oh No! Not Head Lice!

I recently emailed a friend of mine to ask her how her weekend went. She said her weekend was all about head lice!

Just like many of us, she received that dreaded notice that was sent home from school that starts out something like this: “Your child may have come in contact with head lice”….and then the dreaded phone call from your child’s best friends’ mom “You may want to check Sally’s head – our Janie has head lice.”

I wasn’t planning on writing about head lice this month, but my friend’s story revived a head lice nightmare I lived many years ago with my two daughters….and according to the National Pediculosis Association (pediculosis is a fancy word for head lice), not surprisingly, September is Head Lice Prevention Month….so I figured I’d do my bit to celebrate it.

Head lice are human parasites and they’ve been around since the beginning of time! Being parasites, they’re not picky – any human blood will do them just fine. Anyone, at any age, can get them– and it has nothing to do with a lack of personal hygiene. They spread by head-to-head contact, sharing hats, brushes, headrests or anything else that comes in contact with the hair/head. Contrary to what some may think, head lice do not jump or fly and they cannot survive without human blood, so it is not necessary (but rather potentially harmful) to use pesticide sprays around the house or on furniture and beddings.

So…back to my head lice nightmare. Several years ago, my youngest daughter brought the dreaded note home from school – and then came the phone calls from her friends’ parents informing me their children had them. It was just before Christmas, so you can imagine how much I was dreading what I was possibly in for.

Given that my daughter has a beautiful head of thick, curly hair, and the fact that I’d never seen a lousy louse (louse is the singular form of the word ‘lice’), or a nit (a louse egg) before, I wasn’t really sure I’d be able to find what I was supposed to be looking for. Luckily for me (I guess), upon my very first inspection of her head, I saw one of those nasty critters scurry along her scalp! It was SO fast; I only saw it for a split second – from another angle or under different lighting I could have easily missed it. Further inspection found more, so the next morning I made the call to the school to let them know my daughter had head lice and that she would be staying home until I was certain the situation was under control.

I spent a good chunk of that Christmas holiday doing daily searches for head lice and nits as it turned out my other daughter also had head lice (and to top it off, so did I). These daily searches took several hours. Immediately after we did our treatment, I  would get comfortable on the couch with some very good lighting, a child sitting down in front of me, my bag of head inspection tools (small double-pointed knitting needles, a nit comb, hair clips to segment off hair, etc) and hopefully something good on TV that would keep them entertained for a couple of hours while I performed the tedious inspection.  I found it easier to do head checks immediately after we washed our hair as it made it easier to spot lice and nits when the hair was less full and easier to manage (compared to a thick, curly head of dry hair).

The word spread about my daily ritual and parents started bringing their children to me for checks – I was even hired by a private teaching academy to go and check all the heads of one of their classes as they had a persistent infestation even though parents had used treatments and were certain their children were ‘clean’.  In that classroom of ‘parent-declared’ lice-free and nit-free children, I found a few children who still had lice and/or nits. How could that be when parents had used the special shampoos from the pharmacy?

My opinion is two-fold. First, I feel that some parents get a false sense of security when they use one of the many lice treatment pesticide shampoos/lotions available and figure that after a couple of treatments, their child is 100% lice-free, so send them back to school and become less diligent about doing head checks after that (if at all). Secondly, even if parents do head checks, some aren’t sure what they’re looking for (or perhaps don’t have the eyesight to spot what they’re looking for!) and/or aren’t doing very thorough searches.

Of the many chemical treatments available, some are perhaps safer than others, some are perhaps more effective than others, but remember that all lice-killing products are PESTICIDES and must be used with care and exactly as instructed. After I did my research on head lice, I chose not to use them. This was my personal choice and I was comfortable with it. If you are not, I don’t expect you to follow my example, but I do want to make you aware that there are alternative ‘treatments’ if you would rather not go the chemical route. The treatment I chose involved tea tree oil, coconut oil and most importantly, daily, diligent head checks for at least 2 weeks. Apparently, coconut oil suffocates the lice and makes it harder for them to grip the hair. Interestingly, a friend of mine from the Philippines told me that coconut oil is the only thing her family ever used in cases of head lice.

According to the President of the National Pediculosis Association, no chemical treatment is 100% effective, and no treatment is 100% safe for 100% of children as they can aggravate conditions such as asthma, allergies and eczema. Pregnant and nursing women should speak to their pharmacist or physician before using one of these products on themselves or applying it on someone else.

If your child does not have head lice, DO NOT USE A CHEMCIAL TREATMENT AS PREVENTION! It will NOT prevent lice and it will contribute to making head lice resistant to the treatments. It would be like giving your child antibiotics when they aren’t sick! Instead, keep hair short or covered, or tied back in braids, buns, or some other fashion. Using a tea tree oil shampoo and/or working a little bit of tea tree oil through their hair every morning before sending them off to school  may help as lice don’t particularly like the smell of tea tree oil. It’s not completely lice-proof, but it may help. Also tell your child not to share any items that come in contact with heads/hair.

An indispensable resource is www.headlice.org. I encourage you to visit this site to separate fact from fiction, to understand the life cycle of these critters, and to understand treatment options. They even have pictures of what to look for and there are loads of great educational resources for parents and teachers.

Whether you decide to use chemical treatments or alternative treatments, please remember that the only 100% effective way to get rid of head lice is to be diligent with ‘head checks’  and to remove all lice and nits. Miss one or two and you’re back to square one.  I strongly recommend that you spend the money on a top quality comb, such as the LiceMeister Comb, available at most health food and some drug stores. Studies done with this comb suggest it is the most effective comb for use in controlling head lice infestations. Check it out (along with a video of how to use it) at:  www.headlice.org/licemeister/index.htm

A head lice infestation is more than just a nuisance – it needs to be taken seriously. Recent scientific study suggests that the potential for disease transmission via the head louse should not be underestimated. If you are having trouble getting rid of head lice in your family and would like some advice, need some assistance in figuring it out, or would like to discuss alternative treatments, I would be happy to have an appointment with you.

Hmm, I don’t know about you, but all this talk about head lice is making my head itchy!

Happy Head Lice Prevention Month!

Anna

What’s Really in the Food

We all know that many packaged foods aren’t the greatest in terms of being healthy for us, but I’m guessing that most of us have some in our fridges and pantries.

Packaged foods aren’t all evil – and you can avoid those that are and make better choices by taking a few seconds to read the ingredient labels. I really want to stress to you how important it is to read ingredient labels. If you don’t, you’re likely to get fooled by healthy-sounding messages slapped all over the packaging, such as ‘low fat’, ‘low sodium’ and even ‘organic’. Some of these healthy sounding foods contain loads of unhealthy ingredients that can play havoc with our health.

Another misconception we may have is thinking that a ‘flavoured’ version of a healthy food is still good for us – like yogurts that boast they contain probiotics…or cereals boasting that they are made with ‘whole grains’. But read the ingredient lables and you’ll find they might also be full of sugar, artificial colours, flavours and other unnatural and unhealthy ingredients.

I recently read a great article from www.naturalnews.com entitled “What’s really in the food? The A to Z of the food industry’s most evil ingredients.” by Mike Adams. The article covered most of the ingredients that I do my best to avoid like the plague – and I suggest you avoid them as well. I thought this article did a great job of identifying the most common ingredients to avoid, as well as providing a simple explanation of why they should be avoided. So, for this month’s tip, I would simply like to share this article with you. Here it is [with some of my own references added for those of you who are interested in learning more information on some of these topics].

What’s Really in the Food? The A to Z of the Food Industry’s Most Evil Ingredients. (www.naturalnews.com July 28, 2011, Mike Adams)

Ever wonder what’s really in the food sold at grocery stores around the world? People keep asking me, “What ingredients should I avoid?” So I put together a short list that covers all the most toxic and disease-promoting ingredients in the food supply. These are the substances causing cancer, diabetes, heart disease and leading to tens of billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs across America (and around the world).

If you want to stay healthy and out of the hospital, read ingredients labels and make sure you avoid all these ingredients:

Acrylamides – Toxic, cancer-causing chemicals formed in foods when carbohydratesare exposed to high heat (baking, frying, grilling). They’re present in everything from bread crusts to snack chips, and because they aren’t intentional ingredients, acrylamides do NOT have to be listed on labels.

Aspartame – Chemical sweetener that causes neurological disorders, seizures, blurred vision and migraine headaches.

Autolyzed Proteins – Highly processed form of protein containing free glutamate and used to mimic the taste-enhancer chemical MSG.

BPA (Bisphenol-A) – A hormone mimicking chemical found in nearly all food packaging plastics. Active in just parts per billion, BPA promotes cancer, infertility and hormone disorders. It also “feminizes” males, promoting male breast growth and hormone disruption.

Casein – Milk proteins. Hilariously, this is widely used in “soy cheese” products that claim to be alternatives to cow’s milk. Nearly all of them are made with cow’s milk proteins.

Corn Syrup – Just another name for High Fructose Corn Syrup (see below). Frequently used in infant formula products.

Food Colors – FD&C Red #40, for example, is linked to behavioral disorders in children. Nearly all artificial food colors are derived from petroleum, and many are contaminated with aluminum.

Genetically Modified Ingredients – Not currently listed on the label because the GMO industry (Monsanto and DuPont) absolutely does not want people to know which foods contain GMOs. Nearly all conventionally grown corn, soy and cotton are GMOs. They’re linked to severe infertility problems and may even cause the bacteria in your body to produce and release a pesticide in your own gut. If you’re not eating organic corn, you’re definitely eating GMO corn. [For more info on GMOs, read my Tip of the Month for October 2010 – ‘GMOs: Protect Your Food Supply]

High Fructose Corn Syrup [HFCS]- A highly processed liquid sugar extracted with the chemical solvent glutaraldehyde and frequently contaminated with mercury. It’s also linked to diabetes, obesity and mood disorders. Used in thousands of grocery items, including things you wouldn’t suspect like pizza sauce and salad dressings. [For more information on HFSC, read my Tip of the Month for February 2010 – Sweet Misery: Sugar and HFCS]

Homogenized Milk – The fats in the milk are artificially modified to change them into smaller molecules that stay in suspension in the milk liquid (so the milk fat doesn’t separate). While it makes milk look better on the shelf, it’s also blamed for promoting heart disease and may contribute to milk allergies. Raw milk is healthier, which is why the government had outlawed it.

Hydrochloride – When you see anything hydrochloride, such as Pyridoxine Hydrochloride or Thiamin Hydrochloride, those are chemical forms of B vitamins that companies add to their products to be able to claim higher RDA values of vitamins. But these are synthetic, chemical forms of vitamins, not real vitamins from foods or plants. Nutritionally, they are near-useless and may actually be bad for you. Also watch out for niacinamide and cyanocobalamin (synthetic vitamin B-12).

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein – A highly processed form of (usually) soy protein that’s processed to bring out the free glutamate (MSG). Use as a taste enhancer.

Partially Hydrogenated Oils – Oils that are modified using a chemical catalyst to make them stable at room temperature. This creates trans fatty acids and greatly increases the risk of blocked arteries. It also promotes what I call “sludge blood,” which is thick, viscous blood that’s hard to pump. This is usually diagnosed as “high blood pressure” and treated with blood-thinning medications that are technically the same chemicals as rat poison (warfarin).

Phosphoric Acid – The acid used in sodas to dissolve the carbon dioxide and add to the overall fizzy-ness of the soda. Phosphoric acid will eat steel nails. It’s also used by stone masons to etch rocks. The military uses it to clean the rust off battleships. It absolutely destroys tooth enamel. Search Google Images for “Mountain Dew Mouth” to see photos of teeth rotted out by phosphoric acid.

Propylene Glycol – A liquid used in the automotive industry to winterize RVs. It’s also used to make the fake blueberries you see in blueberry muffins, bagels and breads. (Combined with artificial colors and corn syrup.)

Sodium (Salt) – The processed white salt lacking in trace minerals. In the holistic nutrition industry, we call it “death salt” because it promotes disease and death. Real salt, on the other hand, such as “dirty” sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, is loaded with the trace minerals that prevent disease, such as selenium (cancer), chromium (diabetes) and zinc (infectious disease). Much like with bread and sugar, white salt is terrible for your health. And don’t be fooled by claims of “sea salt” in grocery stores. All salt came from the sea if you go far back enough in geologic time, so they can slap the “sea salt” claim on ANY salt!

Sodium Nitrite – A cancer-causing red coloring chemical added to bacon, hot dogs, sausage, beef jerky, ham, lunch meats, pepperoni and nearly all processed meats. Strongly linked to brain tumors, pancreatic cancers and colon cancers. The USDA once tried to ban it from the food supply but was out-maneuvered by the meat industry, which now dominates USDA regulations. Sodium nitrite is a complete poison used to make meats look fresh. Countless children die of cancer each year from sodium nitrite-induced cancers.

Soy Protein – The No. 1 protein source used in “protein bars,” including many bars widely consumed by bodybuilders. Soy protein is the “junk protein” of the food industry. It’s made from genetically modified soybeans (often grown in China) and then subjected to hexane, a chemical solvent that can literally explode.

Sucralose – An artificial chemical sweetener sold as Splenda. The sucralose molecule contains a chlorine atom. Researchers have repeatedly found that artificial sweeteners make people fat by actually promoting weight gain.

Sugar – The bleached, nutritionally-deficient by-product of cane processing. During sugar cane processing, nearly all the minerals and vitamins end up in the blackstrap molasses that’s usually fed to farm animals. (Blackstrap molasses is actually the “good” part of sugar cane juice.) Molasses is often fed to farm animals because every rancher knows that farm animals need good nutrition to stay alive. Sugar promotes diabetes, obesity, mood disorders and nutritional deficiencies.

Textured Vegetable Protein – Usually made of soy protein which is extracted from genetically modified soybeans and then processed using hexane, an explosive chemical solvent (see Soy Protein, above). Widely used in vegetarian foods such as “veggie burgers” (most of which also contain MSG or Yeast Extract, by the way).

Yeast Extract – Hidden form of MSG that contains free glutamate and is used in many “natural” food products to claim “No MSG!” Yeast extract contains up to 14% free glutamate. You’ll find it in thousands of grocery store products, from soups to snack chips. I even once spotted it used on fresh meat! Food label tricks Here’s a trick food companies frequently used to pack more sugar into their products without making sugar look like the first ingredient.

Ingredient labels, you see, must list the most prominent ingredients first, and some consumers might freak out if they saw a box of cereal that said, “Sugar, whole grain wheat, corn” and so on. Instead, the company uses 3 or 4 different forms of sugar to distribute them farther down the label, like this:

“Whole grain wheat, sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids…”

This way, the first ingredients looks like “whole grain wheat” when, in reality, the cereal might be over fifty percent sugar! How to buy honest food

  • Shop at your local farmer’s market, food co-op or CSA.
  • In the USA, look for the USDA Organic label on foods. This is a legitimate claim to being certified organic. It’s one of the few programs run by the USDA that actually has integrity. [For Canadian info on this topic, read my July 2008 Tip of the Month: Eating Organic]
  • Read the ingredients labels! If you see names of chemicals you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it.
  • Buy more unprocessed food ingredients and make your own meals rather than buying ready-to-eat, processed foods, which are almost universally formulated with disease-promoting ingredients.
  • GROW some of your own food! The best food you can ever eat is food from your own garden.

Take control of what you can! Yours in health, Anna

Why Wheat May Be Sabotaging Your Health

recently read an article entitled ‘The Dark Side of Wheat – New Perspectives On Celiac Disease & Wheat Intolerance’ by Sayer Ji (www.greenmedinfo.com).  Stay with me on this one….it’s not just for people with Celiac disease or life threatening wheat allergies. If you eat wheat, or know someone who does, please keep reading!

Celiac disease (as definied by the Canadian Celiac Association) is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten (found in wheat and other grains such as . This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.

This article shares some very interesting research that all of us can benefit from. It suggests that wheat is not exactly the ‘staff of life’ that many believe it to be. The article’s introductory paragraph states:

“A study of Celiac disease may help unlock the mystery of why modern man, who dines daily at the table of wheat, is the sickest animal yet to have arisen on this strange planet of ours.”

For those of you who aren’t aware of Celiac disease (CD), it was once considered a very rare ‘disease’; however, today a growing number of studies indicate that it affects 1 in every 133 North Americans – a much higher figure than ever estimated.

As many of you know, I believe that most of us would benefit from avoiding wheat and cutting back on our grain servings.  In my Mindful Weight Control webinars (www.MindfulWeightControl.com), I list wheat as one of the top 3 most common foods linked to food sensitivities – and food sensitivities are one of the major sources of inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been linked to serious diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease and can also cause a whole host of daily aches, pains and problems that many people sadly resign to accept as their ‘norm’, when it doesn’t have to be that way.

I have seen many clients get relief from skin problems, joint pain, digestive issues (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea), headaches, irritability, allergy-type symptoms, sinus problems, repetitive throat clearing, blood sugar issues, water retention/edema, fatigue/lack of energy and an inability to lose weight when they eliminate or limit inflammatory foods – such as wheat – from their meals and snacks.

I have provided a link to the 2-part article in the References list at the end of this tip for those of you who would like to read it in full, but I would like to highlight what I found to be the most important message this article communicates and it is this:

 

“It is usually not our genes, but what we expose them to that creates disease. What we eat and what we are exposed to in our environment directly affects our DNA and its expression.”

 

The article states that “…diseases that result from errors in the nucleotide sequence of a single gene are exceedingly rare. Perhaps only 1% of all diseases fall within this category, and Celiac disease is not one of them. In fact, following the completion of the Human Genome Project (HGP) in 2003 it is no longer accurate to say that our genes ’cause’ disease….”

What this means is that there are factors outside of the control of our genes that play a role in determining how our genes will be expressed  – and this can affect how our health unfolds. These factors can be directly and indirectly influenced by numerous things, including chemicals, viruses, bacteria – and most interestingly to me of course – the presence or absence of key nutrients in the foods we eat.  So, we can’t completely blame our genes for causing diseases and health issues – what we choose to expose them to plays an important role.

Now, let’s link this back to Celiac disease and wheat. Could it be possible that the symptoms of Celiac disease aren’t unhealthy responses to a healthy food, but rather healthy responses to an unhealthy food? What if the symptoms of Celiac disease are actually a way of alerting the body that wheat is not healthy for us? Is it possible that people who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease may actually have an advantage over those of us who don’t have, or ignore, the ‘classical’ symptoms of Celiac disease, and instead our intolerance or sensitivity to wheat manifests itself in other ways that are perhaps equally as damaging to our health but expressed more subtly or indirectly? If so, what is it about wheat that causes problem?

Other than being starchy and acid-forming (as is the case for most grains), wheat contains two substances that are problematic. Gluten and gliadin. Let’s take a look at these.

Interestingly, gluten means ‘glue’ in Latin…so it’s not surprising to learn that wheat is often used as an industrial adhesive (I witnessed one example of this myself during a recent tour of a cigar factory in Cuba where they used a mixture of wheat and water to stick labels on cigars and cigar boxes). In fact, the words pastry and pasta are derived from the term ‘wheat paste’ (paste) – which was the term used to refer to a mixture of flour and water that was sometimes used as plaster. Does that sound like something you want to be putting into your body every day? For a list of gluten-containing foods, visit this link.

Gliadin is a component of gluten. Some research suggests that gliadin has a harmful effect on all of us as it ultimately causes damage to the intestines, including increased intestinal permeability. Increased intestinal permeability has been associated with a number of diseases including cardiovascular disease, liver disease and many autoimmune disorders.

There are also some reports that suggest that wheat is high in substances such as glutamic and aspartic acids, which may contribute to M.S., Alzheimer’s, ADD, migraines and other conditions related to the health and function of the brain and nervous system.

Wheat wasn’t always such a prominent part of our food system. In the big picture of our  time here on earth, it wasn’t that long ago that wheat and other cereal grains were a very small part of the human diet, if even a part of it at all, since the majority of grains came into popularity with modern agriculture. When you consider this, it isn’t hard to imagine that wheat is not a ‘necessary’ food.

If eliminating wheat seems too daunting, I encourage you to at least cut down on the amount of wheat and wheat products you eat. A great place to start is by cutting back on bread and pasta. There are also some great alternatives to wheat, including quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth. Eating bread and pasta made from a variety of sprouted grains is also a great option. You can find these wheat alternatives, and numerous other products made with them, in health food stores and many grocery stores. I encourage you to start replacing wheat and other grain products with these healthier choices.  You’ll be surprised at how good they are – and possibly even how much better you will feel, which is so nicely stated in the closing paragraph of the article:

 

“When one eliminates wheat and fills the void left by its absence with fruits, vegetables, high quality meats and foods consistent with our biological needs we may begin to feel a sense of vitality that many would find hard to imagine.” 

If you need some suggestions on how to go about eliminating/limiting wheat and other inflammation-promoting foods from your meals and snacks, I encourage you to come and see me for a consultation. Note that I offer sensitivity testing that can help to determine what foods, chemicals and environmental substances may be stressing your health. Click on the ‘BioEnergetic Evaluation’ tab on the top left of this page to learn more about it.

Yours in Health,

Anna

References:

www.greenmedinfo.com/toxic-ingredient/wheat

www.celiac.ca

What’s Up With Nordic Walking?

I live in a great neighbourhood for taking walks. The roads are wide, there are lots of big trees providing a shady canopy from the sun and there’s hardly any traffic. Recently, I’ve noticed more and more people in my neighbourhood walking around with what look like ski poles. I’d heard something about this walking technique a while ago – something to the effect that it offered numerous health benefits over ‘regular’ walking, but I never really knew what it was all about – until a few weeks ago when I got a call from a long-time friend of mine, Judy Whitelock.

During our conversation Judy mentioned that she had recently taken up Nordic Walking and that she’d become so passionate about it and its health benefits, that she also become an instructor. We started talking about it and she let me know about a presentation on the topic that is taking place on June 30th at the Ottawa Heart Institute (more details at the end of this article) and she invited me to join her for a Nordic walk in Britannia Park so that she could show me what it was all about.

After my walk with Judy, it occurred to me that many of the people who I’ve seen Nordic walking don’t seem to have the correct technique and are therefore missing out on its many health benefits, as well as potentially causing strain to their bodies. I also decided to do a bit of research about this activity and was impressed with the numerous health and fitness advantages of what adding a couple of poles to your walk can do! It’s a great activity for people of any age, health and fitness level. Anyone who can walk, and even some who have difficulty walking, can participate in this health-promoting activity. Best of all, you can do it at your own pace, starting and building to an intensity level that is comfortable for you. You can do it anytime, anywhere and all you need are the poles (which are very reasonably priced) and some good walking shoes.

So what’s the big deal about Nordic walking?

Nordic walking is a low-stress exercise technique that basically incorporates the use of walking poles to more-or-less ‘regular’ walking. When done properly, the poles engage the legs and upper body, resulting in a total body workout with clinically demonstrated health, fitness, physical and psychological benefits.

According to my research, Nordic walking originated in Finland many decades ago and was born out of the trend of cross-country skiers using poles in their summer training. It wasn’t too long until clinical studies correlated the use of poles with improved health and fitness. Nordic walking was developed by a Finnish sports equipment manufacturer in close cooperation with sports medicine researchers and other fitness professionals. It was officially launched in 1997. It has spread quickly throughout Scandinavia and Europe, with an estimated 3,000 trainers and 3.5 million people who now do it regularly. It has spread to North America, where its popularity is growing quickly.

The main reason why this activity is catching on so quickly is that it has been clinically proven to be an excellent way to prevent and improve many health issues. This is because compared with regular walking, Nordic walking involves applying force to the poles with each stride, so Nordic walkers use more of their entire body with greater intensity. This means they get more muscle stimulation compared with normal walking, including the chest, laterals, triceps, biceps, shoulder, abdominals, spinal and other core muscles. This extra muscle involvement leads to many health benefits over regular walking done at equal paces including:

  • increases overall strength and endurance in the core muscles and the entire upper body (when done properly, Nordic walking engages 90% of all muscles!)
  • burns more calories
  • significantly increases heart rate
  • increases cardiovascular fitness and oxygen delivery. Interestingly, Nordic walking has been used in the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered a heart attack. Studies conducted at the University of Wisconsin showed that the oxygen uptake when Nordic walking was on average 21% higher compared to regular walking. Other studies have shown up to a 46% increase, with calorie burning also increasing accordingly.
  • use of the poles improves balance and stability
  • significantly reduces stress on the hip, knee and ankle joints
  • use of the poles turns walking in to more of a resistance exercise, which supports increasing and/or maintaining bone density

The great news is that even though it offers so many benefits over regular walking, you don’t really feel like you’re working any harder.

Clinical and anecdotal reports indicate that Nordic walking may be beneficial in a number of conditions including arthritis, back conditions, relieving neck and shoulder pain (which is increasingly prominent with so many people spending most of their days sitting in front of a computer) cardiovascular diseases, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, obesity and many more. Nordic walking looks easy, but it does involve some specific warming up exercises and a particular technique to realize its full benefits and to avoid any strain on the body. To learn more, you may wish to take advantage of a unique opportunity on Thursday June 30th at noon at the Ottawa Heart Institute (Foustanellas Auditorium, 2nd Floor). Dr. Klaus Schwanbeck, founder of the German Health Preventive Network and the German Olympic Sports Federation, will be giving a talk about Nordic walking.  Dr. Schwanbeck launched Nordic walking across the United States, Canada and other countries as a highly beneficial health and fitness exercise for everyone. During this talk, he will give a synopsis of the 300 medical studies which support why Nordic walking is emerging as one of the best physical activities that anyone can do. Feel free to bring a friend or colleague along. You can read more about Nordic walking and Dr. Klaus’s credentials athttp://www.nordixx.com. As previously mentioned, Judy Whitelock is a certified instructor and is happy to offer free clinics if you can get a group of 5 – 10 people together who would like to learn how to get the most health benefits from Nordic walking. Poles will be provided for use during the clinic and are available for purchase for those who are interested at a very reasonable price. You can reach Judy at 613-288-8464 or at 1-888-700-1224 ext 2. Enjoy! References:

  1. http://www.nordixx.com

Seasonal Allergies and Nutrition

Spring is finally in the air….along with all the things that cause seasonal allergies.   Allergy symptoms are caused by histamine being released in our bodies. This is a natural immune system response, and in many cases, it will just run its course – although that means putting up with symptoms such as burning/itchy eyes, a runny nose, sneezing and wheezing. Depending on the severity of the allergic response, symptoms can range from mildly annoying to debilitating.

Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies feel that anti-histamines are the only way to get relief. But did you know that making certain changes to your diet can help to make the allergic response less severe, and therefore help to alleviate the symptoms associated with external allergens such as pollen? Here are a few suggestions that can help:

  • Avoid/limit dairy, sugar and gluten-containing foods(e.g. wheat, rye, oats, barley). These foods cause the creation of mucus in the body. While mucus can actually help to get allergens out of the body, when it gets to thick (as is the case when we eat too many mucus forming foods) allergens can get stuck in this thick, slow moving mucus, causing allergy symptoms to be worse.
  • Avoid foods high in histamine. Since allergy symptoms are caused by histamine, it makes sense that we would want to avoid putting more histamine into our bodies through the food we eat. The digestion of certain foods can increase histamine in the body since certain bacteria found in the digestive tract can convert the amino acid histidine in these foods into histamine. Histidine is found in many protein-containing foods, but especially in higher protein-containing foods that have been aged such as fermented soy sauce and tofu, certain cheeses (e.g. Camembert, Brie, Gruyere, Cheddar, Roquefort/Blue Cheese, Parmesan), sauerkraut, alcohol, vinegars, aged meat and canned fish (apparently, the longer a fish remains ungutted, the higher the levels of histamine in its flesh – so the fresher the better!).
  • Eat foods that are high in vitamin B6. While certain bacteria in our digestive tract can convert the amino acid histidine into histamine, we also have cells in the lining of our digestive tract (and in other parts of the body) that can break down histamine into other substances before it gets absorbed into the bloodstream. These enzymes require vitamin B6 in order to function. To make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B6, you can supplement with it or eat good food sources, such as spinach, bell peppers, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, Brussel sprouts and chard.

Since an allergic response is a function of the Immune System (a large part of which is in the gut), here are some suggestions to support the Immune System and a healthy gut:

  • Eat plenty of whole, organic, naturally raised foods, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Animal products should be from organic, pasture-raised/naturally raised animals. Buy locally as much as possible. Avoid/limit processed foods, especially ones with long ingredient lists containing artificial sweeteners/flavours/colours and ingredients that you wouldn’t normally find in your own kitchen. Note that there are a number of food additives and preservatives that affect the release of histamine.
  • Supplement with, or eat foods high in quercetin. Quercitin is a bioflavonoid, which may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties helpful for allergies. Studies suggest that quercetin prevents the release of histamine. Foods rich in quercitin include green tea, apples, citrus fruits, onions, parsley, kale, papaya, broccoli and many berries (especially dark berries such as bilberries, blackberries and blueberries).
  • Vitamin C is a great immune boosting vitamin. Foods rich in vitamin C include bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, papaya, kiwi, raspberries, strawberries and citrus fruit. You can also supplement with vitamin C. Take up to 2,000 mg/day in multiple doses of 500mg spread out over the day to maximize utilization.
  • Probiotics support the health of the entire digestive tract (right from the mouth to the other end) and strengthen the immune system. I feel most of us would benefit from daily supplementation as probiotics are destroyed by numerous things, including stress. For more information on probiotics, please read my May 2008 Tip of the Month.

If you still need relief, I have recently begun to carry a great product called HistoPlex AB (the AB stands for ‘Air Borne’). This product supplies a proprietary blend of herbal extracts that helps to regulate the immune/allergy response. This is the first spring that I am carrying this product and so far, I’ve been getting great feedback from my clients who are taking it. They have reported less congestion, better breathing, no more runny nose, better energy and better sleep. They have also told me that it is more effective and faster acting than other products they have used in the past. This product is going fast, so please email me at info@perfectresonance.com to reserve your bottle.

Here’s to a happy and healthy spring!

Anna

References:

  1. Spring is in the air: Changing your diet to help lesson your allergies. Kschamica S. Nimalasuriya MD, MPH, May 19 2011