Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Food Inc.

I watched Food Inc. yesterday. It's a documentary about our food supply and an absolute must-see! I don't really know what to say other than: Watch It! Sometimes I find myself having conversations with people and I tell them that I don't eat a lot of meat, I am not an all out vegetarian but might not have meat for weeks and when I cook it's mostly vegetarian and fish. Then, sometimes I get the comment: Well, what's wrong with meat?  Because the general impression that most people seem to have is that maybe they should cut down on the amount of sugar they eat, or fast food they eat but meat from the grocery store is good for you.

But really, it's not "What's wrong with meat?" it's "What isn't wrong with it?". The implications of the our food choices go far beyond our own health and affect the treatment of workers as well as the environment. And yes, once again, choosing organic, locally grown food costs more. But it is a vote you cast. A vote that has an impact. Big stores like Walmart and Superstore are carrying more and more organic products and with the purchasing power of these giants the implications are huge. It means millions of tons of pesticides and other chemicals NOT dumped into the soil. It also clearly supports, of course, farmers in your local area.

At any rate, I highly recommend this film. In Canada you can get it on Netflix and I sure you'll find other ways to watch it as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The power of vulnerability

This was shared with me in response to my last post. I wanted to share it here because I know that some of my readers are not connected to me through Facebook and may not have seen this yet. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Value of Vulnerability

I recently learned a wonderful life lesson. I learned this from my students. This happened (in part) when I, recently, attended what is called the Thompson Rivers University, Adventure Guide Program 'Pin Party'. I teach whitewater kayking, swiftwater rescue and rafting at TRU and have done so for about 4 or 5 years. Adventure grads are notorious for not showing up to grad ceremonies because these events are usually when they are already working somewhere on the rivers, oceans or in the mountains. Therefore, the pin party was created. It takes place in November when all adventurous activities become dreadfully wet and cold; and it's generally in between commercial guiding seasons. Instructors, students, grads and former student then gather in the gear bay (a giant room filled with kayaks, rafts, canoes etc) and grads are presented with a TRU Adventure Programs pin. We all cheer, watch slide shows of recent adventures and generally rejoice in the magic of this place. It was at this recent event that I had a conversation with one of my former students, who told me how I had had a tremendous impact on his life. He told me that he had made several lifestyle changes lately such as paying attention to what he eats, making meditation part of his life and writing a mission statement for his life. He told me that all of this began, for him, with a conversation him and I had in the spring. I had talked to him about my personal journey. I talked about cancer, meditation, nutrition and personal growth & development. It was that evening, because of that conversation that I had a realization about this life lesson. But there were other experiences that led me have this epiphany. Over the past few years of teaching kayaking I had the incredible privilege of teaching some very talented boaters. Some of them, had far more natural talent than I, they were younger, more graceful than I. The first time this happened to me, I had second-year student as an assistant on a Kayak 1 course (the beginner level kayak course). At the time I felt threatened by this better kayaker. I felt out of shape and a bit rusty at the time and I struggled to deal with this situation. The following year I had a student in the Kayak 2 course who was clearly a much more talented boater than me. Thankfully it was so obvious, because I now had to adjust my entire approach right from the start rather than struggle with a threatened ego for the whole course. I realized that I wouldn't be able to out perform this student. But what he had in talent, I had in experience. Especially teaching experience. I had spent a lot of time honing my detection and correction skills. Being able to look at a complex movement and determine what could be done to improve it. So I decided to take a coaching approach to my teaching. I did not pretend to be the better boater, instead I said: "Here is what we want to learn, let me provide you with a location and specific challenge to help you master this skill". Then I provided feedback and everynow and then I would challenge myself to give it a go. Sometimes I did well, other times I wasn't as smooth and when that happened I provided my opionion as to why that happened. At the end of the course, this student told me that I had been his favorite instructor and that he had learned so much from me. As it turns out I learned just as much from him. So the life lesson I took away from all of these experiences is this: The value of vulnerability. I can have a much greater impact, when I am vulnerable. When I don't pretent to have it all figured out, know all the answers or possess all the skills, others are able drop those same barriers and allow themselves to step up. Great conversations happen from a place of vulnerability, because we all have our struggles, our doubts, fears and pain. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable you are really open and you allow others to do the same. Then, the magic happens.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Solution To Pollution Is Dilution!

I was reminded of the importance of letting some fresh air into the house. We all appreciate fresh air when we get outside of the city or town where we live. Anytime we get outside for a walk, maybe up in the hills above the valley floor I think most of us take in a deep breath and appreciate the clean fresh air. Many of us, depending on where we live, pay attention to air quality ratings. Fewer people consider the indoor air quality. Because the air in our homes comes, of course, from outside it is often more polluted than the outside air unless we let some frash air in. This is because once the air is in the house, we add pollutants to it in the form of hair spray, perfumes, cleaning products, off-gassing from adhesives, paint, furniture carpets, cooking etc. In addition to that, there are organic pollutants like dust mites, molds and other micro-organisms which, along with good old dust add to the pollution of the air inside our homes. There are ways to deal with all of this pollution of course. One way is to filter the air and in a lot of North American homes air is circulated through a forced air heating and AC system. Those who own their own home may have options available in terms of upgrading the furnace or installing additional air filters. But many people live in older houses or don't have the option of installing an expensive air filtration system. The other two options are much cheaper: reduce or eleminate the sources of pollution and LET SOME FRESH AIR IN! Ways to reduce pollution in your home include eliminating many of the common house hold cleaning products. There are natural ways to clean, using vinegar and natural soaps. Norwex has a line of micro fibre cloths that require only water to effectively clean almost any surface (go to for more info). And then you can open some windows and let some fresh air in! My grandmother used to open the windows to her bedroom every morning and lay the down pillows on the window sil. She'd let both the bedroom and pillows air our for 1/2 hour to 1 hour, while keeping the door closed as to not let all the heat from the whole house escape. Making a habbit of opening the windows in your bedroom to let fresh air in every day will ensure your bedroom remains a healthy place for you to rest.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Death by Doctor

A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook and I am thankful she shared it. I knew that allopathic medicine is responsible for more deaths than the diseases it attempts to cure but Dr. Peter Gilden does very fine job of outlining the reality we live in and how we got here. It's just a short video, but great food for thought so I hope that you will take the 5 min. and watch it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

All the crap in personal care products... Part 1

Ruby from Valemount suggested that I write about harmful chemicals in make-up. I am on my way to San Diego today and saved a number of articles and websites about this topic to read while traveling. I knew a bit about this subject but it's been eye opening to read more about it. One of the resources I used was David Suzuki's website where he lists the "Dirty Dozen" chemicals in personal care products. A common thread throughout this document is that regulations of the various chemicals are much more lax in Canada than they are in other parts of the world such as Europe. Some chemicals, which are banned for use in cosmetics in Europe, are not regulated at all here. For others, the allowed concentrations are ten or hundred fold of what is considered safe in Europe. Maybe people in Europe are just weaker than us Canadians? After all, people are not the same everywhere! Apparently school children can run away from cars much faster in Saskachewan where the speed limit in school zones is 40 km/h instead of the 30 km/h here in BC. All joking aside, the amount of harmful chemicals in cosmetic products isn't funny at all. I guess what happened is, back in the 1930s we thought that our skin was pretty well impermeable. Add to that an ever increasingly eager chemical industry and an underfunded regulatory body and you end up with carcinogenic, hormone disrupting, toxic chemicals in products that claim to be good for you. If you think that government agencies such as Health Canada or the Food and Drug Administration in the US test everything for it's safety you are sadly mistaken. While the process is quite rigorous for new medications to get on the market and thorough and expensive testing is required, no testing is needed for chemicals that are used in cosmetic products. The few chemicals that do get tested are rarely assessed for their long term effects on human health and never in combination with any other chemicals. And while the concentrations for some of these compounds are relatively low, they are often persistent, meaning that they do not break down quickly in the environment and often stay in the body for some time. Also, we use so many different products that while concentrations can be low in individual products, they add up. When it comes to fragrances, companies don't even have to disclose any of the chemicals because fragrances are considered trade secrets. That means you don't have any idea what's in a products that smells nice. Some 3,000 chemicals are used in fragrances and even products that are labeled 'Unscented' or 'Fragrance-free' often contain fragrance chemicals as well as masking agents that prevent the brain from perceiving odor. If you want to find out more about the specific chemicals so that you can take a look at the ingredients in some of the products in your bathroom cupboard check out this link: The major concerns with these harmful chemicals fall into these categories: Some of them are known carcinogens or are associated with causing cancer. Others are called endocrine disruptors because they interfere with hormone function. Some are straight up poisonous and last but not least most of them are untested and we have no clue what they do to us, especially long term. I am descending into San Diego, so I will have to continue with this tomorrow. I am not done, so stand by for more....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sprouted Grain Bread

I got a suggestion to write about sprouted grain bread. Maybe you've seen bread at the store that advertised it was made from sprouted grains like it's a good thing. Maybe you've bought some and figured you doing your body some good but your not quite sure why exactly sprouted grains are better than regular whole wheat bread. If you know all about sprouted grains, stop reading right now and go do something valuable with your time!

I did a little bit of reading about sprouted grains and here is what I found out. Flour made from sprouted grains provides more protein, vitamins and minerals than refined flours. The grains gain more nutritional value during sprouting. As the seeds germinate, certain enzymes are activated that begin to break down the seed. This increases the availability of certain vitamins and minerals. Bread made from sprouted grain flour is also easier to digest, because the enzymes have already begun to break down some of the starches. The same goes for gluten; most sprouted grain bread is low gluten or gluten free. Sprouted grain bread is also much lower on the glycemic index than other breads, especially white bread. This is important not just for diabetics, blood sugar spikes cause all kinds of trouble in our bodies.

Give it a try, you might find it's delicious as well as healthy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taking little steps

I heard through the grape vines that someone had read my blog and ended up feeling guilt ridden about not eating 100% organic and following all the recommendations I've made here. So, I just wanted to go on the record and say that, my intention is not to make anyone feel like that! I have been driven to take some drastic measures by the threat of death.... basically. I changed my diet and lifestyle dramatically when cancer was spreading and growing. And it was still a journey of a thousand little steps, when things got serious some steps were more like leaps but nonetheless, it took a lot of steps.
And I also want to say that I cannot claim to be perfect or walk the talk everyday. I have some general rules for myself, in terms of what I eat and what I do, but of course I break them every now and then.
I hope that anyone who reads this blog will find some information or a recipe that helps them or inspires them to take one step toward better health. So I guess what I am trying to say is, take what you like and leave the rest.


Jenna suggested I write about The Happiness Advantage, a term and also a book by Shawn Achor. Most of us think that we'd be happier if we were more successful, but there is ample research that shows the opposite is true. Being happier makes us more, creative, intelligent, successful and healthy. In his book, Achor provides concrete ways to be happier and one of them seems appropriate to write about right now. Being grateful makes us appreciated what we have and that makes us happier. So, one way to become happier is to keep a Gratitude Journal and write down 3 things a day you are grateful for. Since we just celebrated thanksgiving, why not try and keep the gratitude going?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is taken from the 'The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook' by Marjorie Hurt Jones, R.N. and it is DELICIOUS!!!

Nut and Seed Crunch Crust

½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup ground nuts
¼ cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp arrowroot
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp veg oil
1 tbsp honey

preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine the flour nuts, seeds, arrowroot, and cinnamon.
In a small sauce pan combine the water, oil and honey. Heat over low heat until the honey liquefies. Pour over the flour mixture, and stir with a fork until well combined.

Place in a 9” pie plate. Press firmly into place with your fingers, spreading to cover the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Pat top into a straight edge.

For baked crust: bake for 18-20 min or until lightly brown. Cool before filling.

For unbaked crust: bake for 8 minutes, add desired filling and finish baking as the filling recipe directs.

Nutty Pumpkin pie with honey

½ cup brazil or cashews
1 ¼ cup boiling water
1 1/3 cup pumpkin puree.
½ cup honey or agave nectar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp cloves
3 tbsp arrowroot
2 tbsp cool water

in a blender grind the nuts to a fine powder. With the motor off, scrape the bottom of jar with a spatula and blend again. Add ½ cup of boiling water and process for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ¾ cup boiling water and blend for 10 -20 sec.

Add the pumpkin, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and cloves, blend well.

In a 3 quart saucepan, dissolve the arrowroot in the cool water. Stir in the pumpkin mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat and cook for 3 min. Remove from heat, let cool until lukewarm. And pour into the baked pie shell. Chill for a few hours before serving.

Variations: replace half the honey with molasses. Or mix up the crusts!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Black Bean Soup

This easy to make, low glycemic, healthy and delicious meal is from the book 'Low Glycemic Meals in Minutes' by Laura Kalina and Cheryl Christian. For more low glycemic recipes and information check out their website at

Ingredients: makes 8 servings

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 can (28 oz/796 ml) diced tomatoes
6 cups water (or broth)
2 cans (19 oz/540 ml) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes (or to taste)


1. In a large pot, sauté celery, onion, carrots and garlic in the oil until softened. Stif in cumin and sauté 1 minute longer.

2. Stir in the tomatoes, water (or broth) and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Add salt and hot pepper flakes to taste.

4. Serve topped with a spoonful of plain yogurt or fresh salsa (optional).

This soup keeps up to 4 days in the fridge or 4 months in the freezer. You can substitute any other type of canned beans in place of black beans. To give a smoother texture, ladle out a portion of the soup and mash with a potato masher or purée with a blender, then stir back into the soup.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Philosophical ranting about kayaking...

I have been paddling for close to two weeks. So I find myself staring at the computer screen and all that is on my mind is the experiences I have had on the river. I went up to Mount Robson to paddle with friends in between teaching kayaking courses. The most powerful experience on that little adventure was getting out of my boat and swimming out of a very powerful recirculating wave in a class IV rapid. I won't bore any non-paddlers with lengthy descriptions of kayak related technicalities, but suffice to say that while swimming is something beginners do frequently, it is a big deal when I pull the chute and get out of my boat while upside down. Last year I hit a log in the river and went upside down and under it. I panicked and literally walked out of my boat. That was the first time I swam in over 7 years.
I am a big proponent of approaching these adventure activities with a certain amount of philosophy. There are life lessons to be learned from the experiences you can have on rivers and in the mountains. But if you don't reflect on your experiences, the lessons and deeper meanings will be lost. All the remains is the thrill, the adrenalin rush and the excitement of taking risks. But that, is hardly deserving of the amount of risk we often take when we engage in adventure activities.
Tomorrow we'll give a lecture to our students about progressing as a paddler with a degree of care. We'll urge them to not rush the progression and push the white water grades too quickly and instead enjoy the journey, take smart risks and reflect on their experiences. Hopefully we are able to plant some seeds.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Identity Theft

This morning I was on the phone with someone from the Fraud Department at RBC who told me: "You have been the victim of identity theft". That actually made me cringe! Not because of the identity theft, but because I got labelled as a 'victim'. After all, I have done so much work on myself to NOT live my life as a victim. So, such a blatant categorization did not sit well with me. Then he mentioned something about all the money that was no longer in my checking account and then I cringed because of the identity theft! Now, the money will be reimbursed and it will all boil down to a bunch of hassle, but what a weird thing! I mean, this came out of nowhere and I have never even known anyone who has had this happen to them. I have to say, the fact that someone has all this information about me and managed to call the bank, pretend to be me and get my password changed to gain access to my account is a bit creepy.

...a little update on Frank.

So a little while ago I challenged one of my kayak students, Frank, to cook a healthy meal. He accepted the challenge and with a little help and guidance he cooked the Lemon Pepper Fish recipe I had posted. Here he is with his very first healthy meal, cooked by himself and perhaps a little surprised that it actually tasted great!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tofu - Healthy and Delicious (if you make it so...)

I began eating a fair bit of tofu after reading David Servan-Schreiber's Anticancer book. I trust him, because his book is incredibly well researched and he walks the talk. Once I began experimenting with different ways to marinate the tofu I learned to really enjoy it as well. Tofu was discovered over 2000 years ago in China, were it was called doufu. Legend has it, that a cook added seaweed nigari to soy milk and caused it to curdle - voila! Today you can get tofu in various consistencies, from soft or silken to extra-firm. Tofu is very bland, which makes it incredibly versatile and therefore it's up to you to make it tasty. My downstairs neighbors gave me an excellent tip: cut the tofu in slabs, wrap it in a dry cloth and place some weight on it for 20 min to get the moisture out. This will make the tofu more absorbent, allowing it to take on more of the flavor of the marinade. Tofu can also be frozen in the original package, which will alter the consistency and appearance, making it more spongy and absorbent as well as a bit more yellow.
Tofu is an excellent source of protein, with virtually no saturated fats and relatively few calories. On top of that, tofu provides many health benefits. It can help lower LDL Cholesterol levels by as much as 35%-40% and helps other parts of your cardiovascular system run smoothly. For women going through menopause, soy can help alleviate some of the symptoms like hot flashes. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are basically plant based hormones. In premenopausal women, whose estrogen levels are erratic, these phytoestrogens can dock onto estrogen receptors and act like very, very weak estrogens. When estrogen levels are high, they block out estrogen and when levels are low, they can provide just enough estrogen to reduce uncomfortable symptoms.
While there is an overwhelming amount of research that outlines the numerous health benefits of soy, there has also been some concerns. It seem clear at this point that eating soy is healthy, so long as you are not allergic or have a soy intolerance. The question is, how much is too much. I would suggest that eating everything soy, from soy milk, to soy yogurt, to tofu and soy cheese may be a bit much. But eating tofu on a regular basis is a great way to enjoy a more plant based diet. As a society, we are eating too much meat, and it's not just detrimental to our health but the environmental footprint of this enormous meat consumption is also wrecking havoc.

For more info on tofu, check out
And check out this link, where some of the concerns you may have regarding soy are addressed:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Green Tea

Have some Green Tea! It's good for you! My grandmother has been drinking a lot of green tea for a long time and she's always told me that it's healthy. But it wasn't until I read the Anticancer book that I learned why it is healthy and began to appreciate it. Green tea contains catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate-3 or EGCG, which is a powerful antioxidant. It inhibits the growth of cancer cells, it reduces the growth of new blood vessels which are needed for tumor growth and metastases and facilitates the death of cancer cells by apoptosis (natural cell death). It activates enzymes in the liver that eliminate toxins from the body and lowers LDL cholesterol levels. It also inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots (thrombosis), which is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.
Japanese green teas such as sencha, gyokuro and matcha contain the most amounts of EGCG. In order for the beneficial catechins to be released the tea must be steeped for at least 8 minutes, ideally 10 minutes. Try to drink at least two to three cups of green tea a day, but always drink it within an hour of making it. Otherwise it will loose its beneficial properties.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lemon Pepper Fish

For the longest time I had no idea how to cook fish. I really had no idea how to cook, in general, but even when I started to take some cooking baby steps I didn't cook much fish because I didn't know how to prepare it. Looking back now, I think that was pretty silly, after all, I just needed to look at a recipe and give it a shot! That's really all it takes when it comes to cooking and now we have thousands of recipes at our fingertips online.
Not long ago I wrote about a student of mine, who told me he wanted to learn more about nutrition and cooking because he was aware that he was not feeding his body well enough. I've been trying to think of an easy recipe ever since, which he'd be able to make and that would be a healthy meal. Well, I decided that tonight's meal, really wasn't that hard to make and so I am going to challenge Francois to make it on his own. Here it goes:

The Meal: A salad, some white fish and rice. Bonus points for Zucchini!

Servings: 2 (Francois plus date)


1 Zucchini - medium/large sliced length-wise
Lettuce or a small box of baby greens
3 Tomatoes - Sliced
2 green onions - Chopped
Salad Dressing - See Flo's Notoriously Delicious Salad Dressing
White Fish of your choice
2 Cups of brown rice
1 Lemon
Olive oil


Start out by getting the rice going and just follow the instructions of the rice you buy. A general rule for 2 cups of rice would be to combine it with 4 cups of water (or broth for more flavor) and bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer with a lid on until the liquid is absorbed.
Place the fish in a bake pan or ceramic dish and pre-heat oven to 450 F.
Take the lemon and rasp some of the rind over the fish, then squeeze half of the lemon juice over the fish as well. Pour a little olive oil over fish and add salt and pepper. Bake fish for about 15 min, then switch to broil and let the fish crisp a little (you'll have to keep a close eye on it at this point to avoid burning it!).
Slice the Zucchini length wise and place the slices in a pan with olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and fry on both sides. You can add a little bit of soy sauce here to give more flavor.
The green onions, tomatoes and lettuce are for the salad and with the salad dressing it's worth making enough for several days while your at it.

Good luck, and enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

TED Talk: What's wrong with what we eat.

I watched this TED talk yesterday and I think it's a perfect follow up to the recent discussion about organic food, farming practices etc. So here you go, I highly recommend this 20 min. video. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What does "Organic" mean anyway?

I got a comment in response to yesterday's post, which I am always really excited about. It let's me know that I am not just sending text into cyberspace, which no one reads, plus I like the dialog. I also just came back from a dinner with some friends and there was some discussion about the topic of organic food. The contention seems to be mostly about the price of organic food and what really justifies such a mark-up. As Josh pointed out very much correctly in his comment yesterday, just because something is labelled organic doesn't mean it has no chemicals in it. In other words, there is no guarantee that organic food is 100% chemical and pesticide free.
The question on the mark-up of organic products is, in part, one of volume. It is difficult for organic products, which make up a fairly small portion of the market, to compete with products grown or produced in big industrial-style agriculture. When I left Europe 9 years ago, organic products were only marginally more expensive than conventional products, the selection was big and the products were available in almost all stores. I believe we are almost two decades behind Europe when it comes to this trend and we're just not quite at the volume were organic products can compete with conventional ones. We are close, in some markets in the US organic products are close to half the price they are here in BC.
When considering if eating organic really makes a difference in the amount of chemicals you get exposed to, it is important to realize that you cannot eliminate all pollutants. But consider this, in 2003 Cynthia Curl, PhD, a researcher at the University of Washington conducted a study in which she analyzed the urine of 42 children aged 2 to 5 for traces of organochlorine pesticides (the most commonly used pesticides). The parents were asked to write down exactly what they gave their children to eat and drink for 3 days. Their diet was considered 'organic' if at least 75% of their food was labelled organic. On the other hand, their diet was considered 'conventional' if their food was at least 75% non-organic. The results showed that the levels of pesticides in the urine of the children on the organic diet was below the maximum acceptable level (as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency). It was also about 1/6 of the level seen in the children eating the conventional diet. Those children, in fact, had levels that were four times the maximum acceptable level. So, clearly eating organic does have an effect on the amount of toxic chemicals that go through your body. That same study was backed up by another study at the same University and similar results have been shown by studies done in Europe as early as 1986.
But 'organic' isn't only about our health, it's also about sustainable farming practices and the health of our soil and water. As David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D. writes in his book Anitcancer: "Many politicians believe that pesticides promote agricultural productivity, although there is very little hard data to support this belief. Some argue that relying on conventional agricultural chemicals protects the economic activity and jobs in farming areas. It also preserves the interests of the chemical industry."
It simply isn't sustainable to continue to dump ever increasing amounts of synthetic chemicals onto our soil. So, while our wallets may bleed still, we are sending a message as consumers and creating a demand for products that are grown in more responsible and sustainable ways. As for growing your own food and buying locally, either directly from local farms or at farmers markets, I not only whole heartedly support that, I think it's the way of the very near future. I recommend a book by Canadian economist Jeff Rubin called "Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller" which deals with the end of available, cheap oil and the consequent end of globalization. I believe we will soon rely much more on fields closer to home, rather than those half way across the globe. Just one more reason to treat those fields well.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Eating Organic

The production of synthetic chemicals, among them pesticides, has gone from 1 million ton in 1930 to over 200 million tons today. The amount of pesticides and chemical food additives we are exposed to regularly is staggering. Yet it's easy to forget and not think about. After all these chemicals are odorless, tasteless, have no color and there is not simple way for us to detect them in our food. But ignoring it, doesn't make it go away. In the US researchers have identified 148 toxic chemicals in the blood and urine of people or all ages. And it's not just pesticides that end up in our food, as Dr. Wentz writes in his book The Healthy Home "Every time you eat meat you are likely drugging yourself with antibiotics". In 2008 the US used 35 million pounds of antibiotics, and 70 % of that went to cows, chickens and pigs that we eat. These are the same antibiotics used on humans, which decreases their effectiveness. So eating organically raised meat is very important. If you find that to be a bit expensive, cutting back on your meat consumption might not be such a bad thing anyway. A long term study of 91,000 nurses over twelve years showed that the risk of breast cancer for those who ate red meat more than once a day was twice as high as for those who ate it less than three times a week.
I understand that eating all organic is an ideal, which is impossible to achieve for most people. I know I can't afford to eat 100% organic, so had to do some research to find out which food is most contaminated and therefore important that I buy organic. There are many lists of most contaminated foods available online that can help you decide what to buy organic and what foods are less contaminated. One of these resources is the Environmental Working Group ( who developed the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen" (

The Dirty Dozen are foods that are most likely to test positive for pesticides and are highly contaminated. As an example, peaches have been treated with more chemicals than any other produce. Tests have shown combinations of 57 different chemicals.
The Clean Fifteen are vegetables and fruits that are least likely to test positive for pesticides and generally show less contamination.

The Dirty Dozen:

Nectarines - Imported
Grapes - Imported
Sweet Bell Peppers
Blueberries - Domestic
Kale/Collard Greens

The Clean Fifteen:

Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Cantaloupe - Domestic
Sweet Potatoes

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Cream Of Broccoli Soup

Servings: 4


1 cup Broccoli - chopped
2 Carrots - chopped
1/2 cup Cashews
3 stalks Celery - chopped
3 cups Chicken Broth
3 cloves Garlic - crushed
1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 Onion
2 Potatoes or Yams - chopped
2 cups fresh Spinach
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
2 Tomatoes - chopped


In a large pot cook garlic, celery, onions, and rosemary using olive oil until onions are softened (about 5 minutes).
Add potatoes (or Yams) and 2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Cook for about 8 - 10 minutes with the lid on to cook the potatoes.
In a blender grind the cashews to a powder, add 1 cup of broth and blend until it is a smooth cashew milk.
Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cashew milk and the broccoli and cook for another 5 min just until the broccoli is done.
Add the spinach and cook until it is just wilted.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can use a Hand Blender to blend the soup to your liking.

Serve and enjoy!

Tofu Lasagna

The following recipe is courtesy of Laura Kalina and Cheryl Christian, who wrote the Low GI Cookbook. To learn more about the glycemic index, low GI eating and more recipes go to

Tofu Lasagna

Makes 6 to 8 servings

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 zucchini, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 jar (24 oz/700 ml) Italian tomato sauce
1/2 tsp each dried oregano and dried basil
1 cup mushrooms, sliced with stems removed
1 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated
1 pkg (300g) soft tofu
1 pkg (300g) frozen spinach, drained
2 pkgs (300g each) extra firm tofu
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté zucchini,
peppers, onion and garlic until onions are transparent.

3. In a large bowl combine tomato sauce, oregano, basil, and mushrooms.

4. In another bowl, mix soft tofu with spinach.

5. Slice extra firm tofu into 1/8-inch to 1/4 -inch slices to act as lasagna noodles.

6. Oil a 9 x 13 inch lasagna pan with the remaining olive oil. Pour a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom. Add a layer of tofu as you would lasagna noodles. Top with some of the spinach mixture and then some grilled vegetables. Sprinkle some mozzarella on top.

7. Repeat until all ingredients are used (you will have 2 or 3 layers). Top with remaining mozzarella and lastly sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

8. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Vitamin D - Ancient Substance, New Research.

I mentioned yesterday that there are Vitamin D receptors everywhere in our bodies, and that includes the brain. This is where, through the presence of Vitamin D, serotonin is released. Serotonin makes you happy, therefore the sun makes you happy! What some of the most recent research into Vitamin D has uncovered is that "[Vitamin D] can reduce the risks of heart attacks by as much as 50%; decrease the risks of cancers of the breast, colon and prostate by a similar amount; reduce infectious diseases, including influenza, by as much as 90%; combat both type-1 and type-2 diabetes; diminish the risk of dementia and associated neurological dysfunctions; and dramatically impede the incidence of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases."*
When it comes to cancer, there is now enough research linking Vitamin D, sunlight and cancer, to include Vitamin D not only in prevention but also in treatment protocols. A recent study found that post-menopausal women who took 1,100 IU per day of Vitamin D and 1,500 mg per day of calcium lowered their risk of dying from ANY cancer by over 66%! Another study found the risk of breast cancer spreading was 94% higher for those women who were Vitamin D deficient when they were diagnosed. As mentioned in previous posts, Vitamin D is stored and can be activated anywhere, anytime. When the vitamin becomes active it takes part in two very important anticancer processes. It induces apoptosis, which is cell-suicide (that's a good thing, all cells are supposed to die, cancer cells don't and need to be reminded) and it inhibits new blood vessels from forming that would feed cancerous growths.
There also is a strong correlation between latitude and heart attacks, the further away from the equator you live, the higher your risk of heart attack. Also, in Northern Latitudes heart attacks surge by 53% in the winter when sunlight and Vitamin D levels are at the lowest. In the tropics, however, the rate of heart attacks is constant throughout the year. Vitamin D reduces blood pressure, is an anti-inflammatory agent and it's ability to stimulate your cardiovascular function is as good as aerobic exercise!
In terms of immune support it is becoming clear now that Vitamin D is vital. Many researchers are now saying that seasonal infections such as colds and influenza have much less to do with higher seasonal viral activity, but are the cause of decreased levels of Vitamin D! In another recent study supplementation with 2,000 IU per day of Vitamin D, compared with the formerly recommended dose of 400 IU per day, resulted in a 90% reduction of upper respiratory tract infections!
Alright, I think I have thrown around enough stats for today. Let's talk about how much Vitamin D you should take. I hope that by now you are sufficiently convinced that both sunlight and Vitamin D supplementation is absolutely critical! In fact my fiancée Jenna recently decided, after reading all of this new information about Vitamin D, to call it Vitamin Duh! because knowing all of this you'd be silly not to take it!
I'd like to clarify to you at this point that pretty much all Daily Recommended Intake values for vitamins and minerals are based on preventing acute deficiency conditions and NOT on providing optimal health. Health Canada increased their recommendations for Vitamin D, just last year, from 200 IU per day to 600 IU per day and that's really still just barely enough to prevent rickets! To put these recommendations into perspective for you, consider this: Full body exposure to strong sunlight (when the sun is high in the sky) for 15 to 30 minutes, enough to make the skin turn a little pink (but not burn!) will provide the body with 15,000 - 20,000 IU of Vitamin D. The following is a chart that can provide you with some guidance in terms of the about to take. Following my Naturopath's recommendations I take 10,000 IU per day. Keep in mind that the best source of Vitamin D is the sun! But anyone living outside of the tropics must supplement with this important nutrient!

*Lyle MacWilliam, MSc, FP - Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vitamin D - What it does in our bodies

Vitamin D is produced in the skin when it is exposed to UVB rays in a process that begins with the conversion of a precursor of cholesterol. Without going into the actual biological processes here, you could just think of it as photosynthesis of the skin. We do store Vitamin D in our fat cells and it is released in the winter months, given we allow our bodies to produce such quantities. The sunshine vitamin is present in different parts of the body and in various forms. Calcitriol is the form of active Vitamin D that circulates throughout the body and is in charge of regulating the metabolism of calcium. See, for most people the problem isn't not getting enough calcium, the problem is that they don't have enough Vitamin D to use the calcium they get and their acidic diet leaches a lot of calcium out of their bodies.
What has been more recently discovered is that there are Vitamin D receptors in every part of our body and this Vitamin, which also acts as a hormone, is involved in a whole lot more than just dealing with calcium. Dr. Micheal Holick, author of The Vitamin D Solution writes "If you had to choose a single nutrient that would help you ward off disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, demintia, influenza, bacterial infection, depression, insomnia, muscle weakness, fibromyalgia, osteomalacia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and hypertension, it would be vitamin D" !

Pretty impressive I think! More on that tomorrow, and also we'll talk about how much to take in supplement form.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vitamin D History 101

Vitamin D is key in the metabolism of calcium. In fact the migration of early marine life onto land was only possible because Vitamin D made the development of strong bones possible, which could support mammals on land. Really the origins of Vitamin D can be traced back over 750 million years to single cell organism, however in terms of human history it has played a vital role all along. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors have always been exposed to strong sunlight and the darker complexion of peoples that live closer to the equator are testament to this history. In fact if you have darker skin and live north of 37 degrees latitude you really aren't able to make enough Vitamin D (in which case you need to supplement). The Neanderthal's demise may very well have had to do Vitamin D deficiency as well. Their bow-legged bone structure and stooped posture was a sign of severe calcium imbalances likely due to Vitamin D deficiency.

In more recent times, it was during the Industrial Revolution when more and more people began living in big smoggy cities, seeing less and less sun. At the turn of the 20th century it was discovered that sunlight caused the skin to produce Vitamin D, it was estimated that close to 80% of kids living in Northern Europe and the Northeastern United States suffered from rickets, which is a bone deforming disease. Heliotherapy (exposing people to sunlight) became increasingly popular and was prescribed for the treatment of rickets, tuberculosis and psoriasis. And although it worked, it fell out of favor and instead the use of antibiotics, vaccinations and other drugs were heavily promoted. During the 1960s the pharmaceutical industry began to shift public perception, regarding the risk of skin-cancer and premature wrinkling due to sun over-exposure. All of a sudden we began to think of the sun as "bad"! It should be noted that it has been known since 1937 that, yes, over exposure to strong sunlight can increase the risk of skin cancer (generally easily treatable), but that UV sunlight can actually protect you from many more, and much more deadly cancers. Non-melanoma skin cancer has a death rate of 0.5%, while internal cancers such as colon and breast cancer can have death rates of 20%-65%. In fact there is even evidence that increased sun exposure can increase survival rates for melanoma, which is a more deadly form of skin cancer!

I hope you are getting the point, Vitamin D is absolutely vital for good health and sunlight is not bad! Sunlight has always, since the beginning of time, been essential for life and it is still today vital for our well being. Sunscreen with SPF 30 will eliminate 99% of your skin's ability to manufacture Vitamin D. If you give yourself 15 to 30 minutes of strong full body sunlight, when the sun is highest in the sky, you will have plenty of Vitamin D! The rest of the time, you can moderate your exposure by covering yourself and wearing a hat. Just don't let your skin burn.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vitamin D - we should all worship the sun!

I was reading about all the new research on Vitamin D in the NUTRISEARCH Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements (I know, it doesn't sound like a riveting read, but that's exactly what the first two chapters about Vitamin D are, they are riveting!) and I couldn't help but chuckle at humanity's recent ridiculous blunder. Let me explain. For most if not nearly all of human history, we have worshiped the sun. The ancient Egyptians knew about the health benefits of the sun and so did many other cultures. There are medical texts dating as far back as 1500 BC that speak of sun exposure therapies. After all, the sun has been part of life on this planet since life began. But over the past 50 years we have managed to actually give the sun a bad reputation. The discovery that overexposure to the suns UV rays can cause skin cancer was used to launched a massive campaign to get people to cover themselves with sunscreen. This in addition to an increasingly indoor lifestyle has lead to Vitamin D shortcomings of astronomical proportions. The health implications are both vast and tragic.

Over the next few days I will write about Vitamin D, so if you read this blog on your laptop, read it outside in the sun and let your skin make some of this incredible stuff!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dairy-free (but incredibly delicious) Alfredo Pasta

This is an absolute favorite of mine and Jenna and I have made this for many people who could have sworn it had cream in it. We use tofu and rice pasta and so it fits the bill for many allergies and food sensitivities. I would like to thank Noelle and Kris for introducing us to this meal! Here it goes:


2/3 cup Cashews
1 1/3 cup broth
2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 block of extra firm tofu or 2 chicken breasts
450 g of rice pasta (or regular pasta if gluten and wheat are of no concern)
Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 cup of fresh Basil, chopped
Salt / Pepper


Blend the cashews dry until they are a fine powder (you may have shake the blender a little while you do this to prevent the cashews from sticking to the bottom). Stop the blender and scrape the bottom, then add 1/3 cup of broth and blend again for about 1 minute. Then add the rest of the broth and blend for another minute.
It helps to marinate the tofu before and I usually use italian seasoning, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic for the marinade. When marinating tofu, cut the block of tofu into slabs, wrap them in cloth and place a bit of weight on it (about 5 lbs). This will squeeze some of the water out of the tofu and allow it to absorb the marinade better.
Sauté the tofu (or chicken) in a large pan for 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and the garlic and sauté until the mushrooms and are nearly done. Add the cashew milk from the blender and continue to stir. Brining the cashew sauce to a light boil will thicken the sauce. You can add more broth if need be.
Finally add the chopped basil just before taking it off the stove and serving it with the pasta.


Taking a thousand little steps to lead...

Last night I was in the communal kitchen of the Clearwater Bible Camp, which is home base for two White Water Kayaking courses that are part of the Adventure Guide Program at TRU right now. One of my students was cooking rice and heating beef stroganoff out of cans, when he confessed that in terms of cooking this was a stretch for him. In fact, as he closely monitored the rice and managed two pots he said it was the most stressful thing he had done in a while. This student happens to be an incredibly talented boater with over 120 days in his Kayak this year alone, who runs 60 foot waterfalls and steep creeks! I told him that when I was a student in the Adventure Program I made a lot of meals that go on bread. I've come a long way in my cooking and it's taken a lot of little steps.
I've had an incredible week here in Clearwater, teaching the Kayak III course. In my evolution as a teacher I've taken a lot of little steps as well. It has been wonderfully rewarding to teach this course, which is a Kayak Instructor course. I've been challenged in so many ways, I have learned a lot and yet it also feels like an accomplishment to be here. I always enjoy working with Sharman, our friendship has grown over the years and in terms of kayaking and teaching he's been both a teacher and a mentor to me. So working with him and being able to contribute to the course is great.
But I was talking about food and cooking. Sharman and I have been eating an incredibly healthy diet this week and in a way that's felt like an accomplishment as well. First of all I wondered if I'd be able to keep up eating healthy on this courses as the field course season approached. And I was grateful when Sharman told me he was on board with eating "the way I do", which is mostly vegetarian (one salmon dish this week) and quite different from the BBQ'ed meat with a salad every night that had been the norm on these courses. And that has also felt like a bit of an accomplishment, the fact that I've inspired a friend to try my food and then to have planned and cooked meals that have been filling, healthy and incredibly delicious.
Once I am back I have some catching up to do, in terms of blog posts, so get ready for some recipes!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dairy Myth Buster

Growing up you may have been told how important it is to drink milk. If your mom didn't tell you, the dairy industry certainly did. Especially in more recent years, it seems there is an incredible amount of celebrities and athletes asking us if we are 'getting enough milk'. These people are probably told that they are saving the world by promoting milk consumption. After all, milk is a source of calcium and that is what we need for healthy bones! The message is pretty clear: Your crazy not to drink milk, if you are not drinking milk you should probably be really worried about your bones and if you are drinking it then you should still be worried and probably drink more!

That we should drink milk and generally consume lots of dairy for the entirety of our lives to be healthy is a myth! Let me lay out some facts. 90% of Asians, 70 of Blacks and Native Americans, and 50% of Hispanics are lactose intolerant and those people aren't all crippled by rickets and wasting away. The whole notion that a certain amount of dairy is 'enough' is probably based on the amount of calcium present in milk and in reference to the recommended daily intake of calcium. To begin with, milk isn't even as good a source of calcium as it's made out to be. In fact vegetables, especially alkalizing ones, are a much better source of calcium than milk. Arugula, for example, provides over 5 times more calcium per 100 calories than milk. See, if you come pair milk with vegetables in terms of calories, milk comes in near the bottom of the list. Now, if you argue that you would have to eat rediculous amounts of arugula in order to meet the required amount of calories (and calcium), consider the fact that people who eat a plant based diet eat the same amount of calories as a person who consumes dairy products. Also, a cup of broccoli has the same amount of calcium as a cup of milk.

In order to digest milk our bodies produce acids. These acids have to be buffered with calcium, which is taken from the bones. So even though milk provides the body with some calcium, it is cancelled out by the loss due to acid production. You see, osteoporosis is not a result of 'not getting enough' calcium. It is the result of loosing it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fact vs. Fiction

Brian Klemmer wrote a book called The Compassionate Samurai. He passed away this year and I am sad to have never met him. I am grateful, however, that I was able to take some of the leadership seminars he developed through his company Klemmer & Associates ( One of the lessons I learned through taking their classes was to differentiate between fact and fiction.
In life, all kinds of stuff happens to us. I am talking about all the life events, small to big, they undeniably happened to us. For example, my parents got divorced and subsequently spent 10 years fighting each other ferociously, often screaming at each other over the phone. This happened. It is a fact.
Since they were fighting about me I felt that it was my fault and that I wasn't good enough because if I was somehow good enough they wouldn't be fighting about me. While this happened as well, it only happened in my head. It's a story I made up. This is fiction.
How can we test this hypothesis? Well, we could go to other people who witnessed these fights and ask them how they were affected. We would hear a different story from every single person. That means, the event was not responsible for the story, the person was.
There are millions of other examples I could give you, maybe you can even think of one for yourself. Maybe someone told you something today and "it" stressed you out all afternoon. Well, that this person told you whatever they told you, is an undeniable fact. But the meaning you attached to that fact, is completely made up. By you!
Think about it! Say you lost your job. That's a fact, it clearly happened. You felt rejected and you got angry at your boss because you felt that he did not value your contribution and now you feel sorry for yourself because of what he did to you! See all of that is fiction, it's made up, it only goes on in your head! And we know that this is true because someone else might loose that same job and react and feel totally different about it!
What is the benefit of knowing this? Well, it opens up two options for us. The first one is that we can chose how we react to these events. And because that is sometimes easier said than done, the second option is that we can at least take responsibility for our own made up stories, emotions and reactions.

Food for thought.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Health vs. Flavor

I had a conversation at work today, about eating really healthy meals. I was talking to the store manager Kelly and the department manager Mark. Kelly, who is also a chef, and I were talking about recipes when mark joined the conversation. He expressed his desire to eat healthy but said he wasn't really willing to give up flavor. I could relate to that because I remember when Jenna's sister Noelle first went to the Naturopath because of migraines, she went on a very restricted diet. I remember thinking that, it must just be horrible eating like her and that it certainly meant giving up all flavor.
A few years later, we now eat with very similar restrictions and I can honestly say that we eat amazing meals all the time! I am going to try to post a few more recipes in the coming weeks and hopefully you'll give them a try. I promise you, I will only put recipes on this blog that are among our favorites, really tasty and very healthy.

Today was a big day so this is all I got....

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Amazing Zucchini Pasta

A few days ago, one of my roommates said to me, "You eat some pretty weird stuff Flo!". At the time I replied "Well, yeah I know, but I feel all the better for it." But as I thought about it later on it occurred to me, that I am not the one eating the weird stuff! And this isn't so much about my roommate as it is about the majority of people in our society. There is so much food that really isn't food but just looks like it and is genetically and chemically designed to be tasty! I am talking about things like twinkies (for the record, my roommate eats healthier than that).

But you don't really need to go to the extremes of junk food to point out that there is a lot that isn't right with our food supply. If you eat non-organic meat, you are drugging yourself with antibiotics every time. I have already talked about the fact that cows are now feed mostly corn, which makes beef incredibly high in omega-6 fatty acids that cause coagulation of the blood, are inflammatory and cell growth stimulating. I have also talked about the chemical pesticides that get dumped on our food and the fact that our soil has been depleted of essential nutrients.

But I am the one putting weird stuff into my body! ;-)

Anyway, I decided to share a recipe with you today. It is absolutely amazing, one of our favorites and fairly quick and easy. Enjoy!

Zucchini Pasta
Makes: 4 servings

2 zucchini, sliced into thin strips (think thin french fries)
1 cup cherry toms
1 cup snap peas
5 green onions
3/4 cup mushrooms, MARINATED
1/2 cup sundried toms
1/2 cup Cashew Nuts
1 1/2 cups of broth
2 tbsp soy sauce or Bragg
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves


To marinate mushrooms: cut the mushroom into slices about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Toss with balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, garlic and some herbs (you can get creative here) and let sit for at least 1/2 hour. In a blender grind cashews, then add the broth and blend more to make a cashew milk. It helps if the broth is hot and if you only add half, then blend and then add the other half before blending some more.

Sauté the mushrooms for a few min. and then add the zucchini, cherry tomatoes (halved), sun dried tomatoes, snap peas and the sauce. You only need to bring the sauce to a light boil for it to thicken up and this recipe is originally a raw food recipe so you don't have to cook it for more than few minutes.


Ps: next time I make it I will add pictures here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


So, yesterday I got into this rant about sunscreens and all the carcinogens and gender bending estrogenic compounds they contain. I talked about the fact that using them blocks your body's ability to produce vitamin d and how vitamin d deficiency is linked to osteoporosis and cancer. As I was writing I was careful not to make statements that I couldn't back up with facts and research. So in the meantime I did some more digging around and I came across this study.
This research paper was published in the British Journal of Cancer in 1992 by J. Moan and A. Dahlback. These researchers looked at the occurrence of skin cancers in Norway between 1957 and 1984. Here is what they found: during this time the occurrence of skin cancer went up 350% for men and for women it went up 440%. The Ozone Layer, however, did not suffer any depletion over Norway during this time period. Therefore they concluded that an increase in ultra violet radiation was not responsible for the increase in skin cancer occurrence. If you want to check out the study, here is the link for it:

Food for thought. Now here are some tips for avoiding both skin cancer and carcinogenic sunscreen:

- Ease into the summer. Slowly increase your exposure to sunlight so that you develop a natural tan without burning.

- Limit your exposure at the hight of the day, between 11 and 2 when the sun is highest in the sky and most intense.

- Cover up naturally. There are natural sunscreens as well as light long sleeve clothing options that can help protect you.

-Wear a hat.

All these measures go toward one goal: not allowing your skin to burn!

Getting sun is healthy, burning is not.

You can check out the Good Guide at to help you find sunscreen products that are rated according health, environment and society. The last two categories obviously have to do more with the company's practices than the product itself.

Alright, enjoy what's left of the summer and stay safe!

PS: You may have noticed that I changed the design of this blog a bit. I felt that the black background was a bit hard on the eyes. I have also started to add labels to my entries, which will allow readers to search for entries in certain categories such as recipes. Let me know what you think!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vitamin D and Sunscreen

Thanks to modern technology I am sitting outside while fulfilling my daily commitment of writing. I have been writing about vitamins and minerals, how our soil has been depleted over several decades and why we need higher amounts of anti-oxidants to support our body's cells. There is another vitamin that most people are deficient in. It's Vitamin D, which is made by our bodies when we are exposed to the sun. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a lot of health problems. Because the body needs Vitamin D to properly use calcium, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to bone related diseases such as osteoporosis and rickets. The vitamin is also crucial for cell regulation functions and therefore is key in preventing cancer.

So, what are some of the reasons why you might not get enough of this Vitamin? Well, how much time do you spend outside? Of the time you spend outside, how much time do you wear sunscreen? You see, we've been told that ultra violet light is bad and causes skin cancer. But it's clearly not all bad, because we desperately need it to produce Vitamin D. Of course our use of certain greenhouse gases has diminished the ozone layer and we are now exposed to more ultra violet radiation than we used to. I don't mean to suggest that we all go out and get crazy red sun burns, but know that every time you apply sunscreen, you are not allowing your body to produce a vitamin essential to your health. Also, I think it's worth noting that chemical sunscreens contain chemical compounds that are known carcinogens. They generate free-radical activity, which as we've learned damages cells and can lead to cancer. They also have estrogenic properties that affect sexual development and have other ill health effects.

I have to say, as I am writing this I am realizing that I need to write a bit more about sunscreen. But I want to read a little more and make sure I have some good sources. So in the meantime, try to get some sunlight on your skin, without sunscreen, I am not talking six hours of sun tanning here, just a little. And think about taking Vitamin D this fall, winter and spring when your body is probably not able to produce adequate amounts.

I hope you are still drinking lots of water too!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oxidative Stress

I am not quite done with vitamins. There is another big reason why I believe it's important to take vitamins and that has to do with oxidative stress. You've probably heard of free radicals and anti-oxidants but chances are you may not know exactly what one or both of them are.

Free radicals occur naturally in the body. They are chemical compounds that are very reactive and will steel electrons from other molecules. When this occurs, the molecules who have just given up an electron then become more reactive and turn into free radicals themselves. We have a chain reaction and the result is oxidation. If you cut an apple or an avocado in half and leave it exposed to the air, it turns brown. This is oxidation.

In our bodies, it's the cells that take the hit. They get damaged by oxidation and this is referred to as oxidative stress. The cells are the building block of your body, healthy cells build healthy bodies. The body protect's itself from this oxidative stress with anti-oxidants, which are compounds and molecules that are able to donate an extra electron to free radicals thus stopping that chain reaction. Where do we get these anti-oxidants from? Fruits and Vegetables for example. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant, in fact if you take that apple or the avocado from the earlier example and squeeze some lemon juice on it, it won't turn brown. That's because the Vitamin C is protecting the exposed fruit cells from oxidation (see right side of the apple).

The same applies to our body's cells, the get their protection from anti-oxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables. So far this should make pretty good sense, if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables your more likely to be healthy. Oxidation is a natural process and anti-oxidants help the body deal with it. So why would anyone be concerned with getting more anti-oxidants? The answer is that just as the mineral content of our farming soil has dramatically decreased since the 1940, the amount of oxidative stress has increased. What are some of the sources of this increased Oxidative Stress? Toxins in our environment, which are either in the air we breathe or in the food we eat, have increased astronomical since the 40s.

David Servan-Schreiber writes about this in his book Anticancer: "The annual production of synthetic chemicals has risen from a million tons in 1930 to two hundred million tons today"! The chemical industry has released well over one hundred thousand chemical compounds since the 1940s, the vast majority of which remain unstudied in terms of their ability to cause cancer for example. One argument that chemical companies always make is that humans generally are exposed to only one hundredth of the amount toxic to animals of the chemical in question. However, we are regularly exposed to 3,750-7,500 carcinogens of which one hundredth is still thirty-seven to seventy-five times the dose considered toxic to animals. And of course there is the 'cocktail effect' of being exposed to a vast combination of environmental toxins, of which no one has a clue what the effect is on the human body.

One thing is certain, we have been getting sicker and bigger. This coming generation may actually be the first in history to be outlived by their parents. I for one am committed to limiting my exposure by eating as much organic, fresh and local as I can. And I am also comforted to know that my body is getting protection and all the help it needs to repair itself from the Vitamins, Anti-oxidants and Minerals I take.

Stay healthy friends, live long and prosper!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Nutritional Crisis

Yesterday I talked about the mineral depletion of our soil over the last several decades. Because trace minerals are rarely added back to the soil, their concentrations have decreased dramatically in vegetables since the 1940s. Therefore, assuming you eat a very healthy diet full of fresh wholesome foods, your body does not get enough of the essential trace minerals and nutrients it needs to maintain optimal health. That is one of the reasons why I believe it is important to take supplements.

I don't, however, want to suggest that taking vitamins alone is enough or disregard the importance of real food. I think eating organic and locally grown fresh food is something we should all strive for. I think organic farming is the only sustainable kind of farming in the long run and in the face of the climate challenge we need to change the way food travels. The food in your shopping cart may well have travelled collectively tens of thousands of kilometers depending on what's in your cart. Kiwis and lamb from New Zealand, apples and oranges from California, atlantic salmon that was shipped to China to be processed and then shipped to North America to be sold. You get the idea, but I want to write more about nutrition than about the environment today. I just wanted to make the point that eating local and organic foods is important for many reasons. And I know that eating all organic comes with a steep price tag, which many cannot afford. I don't eat 100% organic, but it's something I strive for. You can look up lists online about which foods are most contaminated in terms of pesticides and other chemicals and that can help you get started. Eventually organic foods will become affordable as more and more people choose them.

Now it's time for me to walk the talk and go down to the Farmer's Market to get some locally grown organic vegetables...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Take Vitamins

I am going to present my case for why you should take vitamins. This is obviously a bit self serving as I am in the business of selling vitamins, but hopefully I can back up my reasons with facts and research well enough to make it clear that I care about your health more than my wealth.
I used to take vitamin and mineral supplements fairly intermittently. Basically, whenever I got sick and the odd time my mom would urge me to take them because of my active and physically demanding lifestyle. As a broke student I really only took them when I got them from my mom.

Now I take not only vitamin and mineral supplements, but also other nutritional supplements such as fish oil and specific plant based extracts. I have learned why it is important to take nutritional supplements and why I won't get what I need by just eating healthy. But I have also experienced what has happened to my body when I started to give it everything it needs. When I experienced a recurrence of testicular cancer late last year it was bit like wild fire, growing and spreading. Before a surgery in January it had spread to some lymph nodes in my abdomen and consecutive CT Scans showed that those nodes were growing. After drastic lifestyle changes, which to list them would require a blog entry of its own, I experienced significant results.

I had gone to the Naturopath and done some intravenous therapies there, Vitamin C and Sodium Bicarbonate. I went on a near vegan diet, got my body ph into the alkaline range and began taking supplements. CT Scans since have shown that those lymph nodes have shrunk. I went from wildfire to tumors getting smaller. I am not trying to make any claims about having cured myself. As of now I still have enlarged lymph nodes and elevated tumor markers (levels of certain substances in the blood). But things are far from the out of control situation last winter.

But enough about my personal journey, I promised to write about why it is important to take Vitamins and why we don't get enough of essential nutrients just by eating healthy. First of all, you probably don't eat as healthy as you think. If you took an honest account of what goes into your body, kept track of it for a week and then looked at it, you would most likely have to admit to yourself that there is a fair bit of less-than-healthy food that you eat. But even if you ate as much fresh vegetables as you should and you ate mostly unprocessed foods, whole healthy meals, I am saying that you're not getting enough of certain vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals. And here is why:

Some things have changed over the last couple of decades and I am going to begin with the changes in how our food is grown. As the world's population has increased, farming has become more and more an industrial food production. Most crops are grown in monocultures, which require large amounts of fertilizer and as a result the soil has become devoid of many essential minerals. If it isn't in the soil, it won't be in the plant! The following are two charts that show the level of mineral depletion in the soil here in North America and specifically the depletion of certain minerals in vegetables. The last graph shows a strong correlation between the depletion on minerals in the soil and mineral deficiency related diseases.

So, I will let you ponder this and continue with more on this topic in my next entry. I have to eat some lunch and take some vitamins....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jack's Letter

I was in Williams Lake, BC on Monday teaching a Swiftwater Rescue Course when Jack Layton died. He wrote a letter to Canadians two days before he passed. I wish to honor him by posting his words here. Maybe some of you have not taken the time to read his letter yet and will do so now. I don't feel adequate to comment on his life or legacy and wish only to express my gratitude for his words and the values he fought for.

August 20, 2011
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don't be discouraged that my own journey hasn't gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don't let them tell you it can't be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,
Jack Layton

The Big Bold Goal really is Big and Bold!

Two weeks into my blogging career, I am very much aware how big and bold my goal of writing every day to 90 days is! I was in Williams Lake, BC these last couple of days, teaching a Swiftwater Rescue Course. The nature of these courses is such that the days are long and without any breaks. The alarm goes off somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30 and I don't think I ate dinner before 9 pm any of the nights I was up there. I am not trying to make excuses for not writing the last two nights, I am just realizing that when I set my goal, I did not think about these kinds of days. But I am sticking to it, at the end of my 90 day goal I will have 91 blog entries. So I will have to do some catching up.
The course I taught is called Swift Water Rescue Technician. I have taught a variety of students on such courses. When I work for Thompson Rivers University the students tend to be in their 20's and from all across Canada and the world. Sometimes the students are Firefighters or Search and Rescue volunteers. This particular course had students who, all but one, belonged to a First Nations Band and were working as fisher-men and women.

Of course there are general differences in teaching at the University and teaching outside of an academic institution. In both situations I strive to provide the students with an opportunity to learn to most. In the private sector, however, there is also a strong emphasis on customer service. Don't get me wrong, both student groups fill out course evaluations and I strive toward professionalism at all times. Maybe this example will highlight the difference in teaching styles. When TRU students drag their feet a little and maybe don't clean up after themselves as much as would seem prudent, I yell at them (sort of). Or better yet, I watch my friend and colleague Sharman deliver his legendary "I'm not yo momma' talk. And every course, I learn and I am inspired. Often it happens near the end, when all of a sudden a little magic happens that makes it all worthwhile. I had some challenges on this course, specifically in finding the right places to teach. After finishing the first day of teaching drove 100 km (one way) just to scout the next day's location. But on on the last day there was magic! I had several young guys in my class, guys in their late teens. On the last day I saw them swimming in the river and coming out with smiles on their faces and a certain glint in the eyes that told me that they got it. They got why fell in love with rivers in the first place. There was a spark that I managed to ignite, which I can only hope will grow into a passion for rivers

Monday, August 22, 2011

Random thoughts

I committed writing everyday, so here I am, it's eleven at night and I have been going since five thirty this morning. I am teaching a Swift Water Rescue course and it seems there is always things that need to be figured out, changed, adjusted or improvised. After finishing the class at five I drove 100 km to tomorrow's location to scout teaching sites and then back 100 km. So here, I am sitting on the bed in the hotel... Glad that my buddy Sharman is here to help out on the course. I feel good about what I accomplished today and I am so ready to hit the sack.

And that's all I have to say about that! No words of wisdom about health today, I just don't have it in me.

Oh, by the way, if in yesterday's post (which I just posted now) I sounded a bit angry it's because I was. I get upset about that topic. Without going into it further I want to just say that, as someone who is reading my ramblings about health, you clearly have taken an interest in your own health. So, my hat's off to you, I commend you. It's a start and that's very important. For me going to the Naturopath was a start. There are many different ways to go about it and I am glad you are here.

Thanks for listening!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Body Is Not A Car!

When something on my car breaks, I take it to a mechanic to get it fixed. Other than dropping it off, picking it up and paying for the bill there is nothing required of me. And that's fine, because we are talking about my car here. But why are we applying the same passive attitude to our bodies when it comes to health care? I am tired of being treated by doctors and oncologist like a car. All that is required of me is that I drop off my body for tests, they diagnose and then I submit my body for treatment. They take out a part, replace it with a spare and all along nothing else is required of me.

But it isn't just that doctors don't see me as a whole person (and of course some do), but we as a society have adopted this blind faith in medicine and have given up responsibility. Wake up people! It's ok to question the status quo and it is certainly ok to question the health care system! You have to realize that sickness is a resource as lucrative as any other. And there is financial incentive, if not pressure, for the pharmaceutical industry to come up with new lucrative solutions to health problems or in turn health problems to their patented solutions. So when a child has a hard time focusing in school and can't ever calm down we could could look at some possible causes for this behavior. Maybe it has something to do constant stimulus of computers, video games, cell phones and the five hours of TV a day? Maybe we could look at the incredible amount of sugar and high fructose corn syrup combined with the utter lack of nutritional value the food this child is receiving? Maybe we could look at the family situation and look for sources of conflict, emotional pain etc.
But if we think of our bodies as cars, with faulty parts that need to be fixed, then it makes perfect sense to give this behavior a name and purchase a solution. The child gets drugged with Ritalin and no one has to change.

Maybe it's time we start evaluating our own attitudes toward our health and begin taking proactive action. Just a thought...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Masaro Emoto - Modern Water Research Pioneer

Yesterday I wrote Viktor Schauberger, who was a pioneer and the father of water research. Today I want to highlight the work of another pioneer, Masaro Emoto. In his book 'The Hidden Messages in Water' he showed his work, which had yielded amazing results. He had taken water samples and flash froze droplets in order to take pictures of the crystals that would form. He then began influencing the water, prior to freezing it, using different vibrations such as music. He explored the difference between more harmonious music such as Mozart and more aggressive music like death metal. The pictures speak for themselves.

Top left: Mozart's Symphony No. 40, top right: Bach's Goldberg Variations, bottom left: Japanese Pop song, bottom right Heavy Metal Music.

He then started to test finer more subtle vibrations, such as human emotion. These were his results:

The caption incorrectly identifies the top two images as 'molecules' when they really are crystals.

If this at all sparks your interest, you should watch 'What the bleep to we know' it's a great movie and you'll be able to find it on YouTube. Following that, you might want to check out the film 'Water - The Great Mystery' another amazing film and you can watch it on my website at

That's it for me for today. I am off to do some floating down the river with friends....

Friday, August 19, 2011

Viktor Schauberger

I thought about where go next in my discussion about water and I decided to start with Viktor Schauberger. He was a pioneer of many things, one of them is the field of water research and the practice of water vitalization. Many books have been written about him and I cannot give justice to the wealth of knowledge and discovery that is his legacy. My blog will have to serve, merely as an inspiration for readers to learn more about him and the legacy he left behind.

Viktor Schauberger lived from 1885 - 1958 in Austria and was a Forrester. He made a name for himself through his unmatched skill in designing log flumes. Log flumes were used to transport logs down valleys from where they were logged to sawmills, using water. His keen astute observations of creeks and rivers allowed him design flumes, which could transport bigger logs and also wood that is denser than water such as beech and fir. He did this by incorporating natural water movements that created vortices, which would in turn spin the logs. He also knew that colder water was denser and made sure that the water in the flumes was continually replenished and remained cold.

He was fascinated by fish, specifically those in creeks. He was intrigued by the fact that trout could effortlessly remain in one spot in incredibly strong currents. These observations sparked several ideas and theories. His theory of implosion was inspired by these observations, however I have not adequately studied it to explore it here. One of the observations he made was about the natural movements of water and how these movements are such stark contrast to the path water takes once we get a hold of it. In nature, water always meanders and particularly in mountain streams it bounces and falls, it stalls and swirls. One phenomenon he noticed particularly was the vortex.

There are several things that happen in a vortex and Schauberger felt it was very much a self-cleansing process. There is oxygenation that happens in a vortex, but there is beauty in the structure of it as well. Below I have an image of one of the most breathtaking living sculptures ever created. It is a vortex and because the water pours over the edge of the class it seems as though it is a free-standing column of water. The water forms an incredible helix, very much like the double helix of the DNA.

Schauberger realized that once water is captured for human consumption it is put through kilometers of straight pipes, undergoes all kinds of a treatment and when it arrives at our homes it is dead. It has lost the vitality it possessed in the mountain stream.

He began designing mechanical devices that would vitalize this dead tap water. His motto: understand and copy nature. He designed pipes that caused the water to spiral though them.

The amazing thing about these pipes is that many years later, experiments were carried out at a university in Stuttgart, Germany. They found that at a certain water speed, the resistance began to decrease. In other words, because of the spiral movement of the water, at a specific speed, the water began to pull itself through the pipe!

He also designed a simple device to be installed in homes right at the faucet that would vitalize the water, simply by sending it into a vortex.

It is still sold today, and what's amazing is that it works! I watched a documentary and it featured a bakery in Europe that had been using this device since the 1980s. The baker said that he notices a difference in how the dough rises as well as that they have less mold problems.
So, fast forward to 2011 and for the past 11 days I have been watering sprouts on two different dishes, using two kinds of water. One gets Kamloops tap water, the other dish gets Kamloops tap water that is vitalized, using a device that is inspired by the work of Viktor Schauberger. The first one is the straight up tap water:

And the next one is watered with vitalized tap water using the EWO Balance (

Both dishes had the same amount of seeds in it, received the same amount of water at the same time and sat beside each other in the same place. You can clearly see a difference, and for the record similar experiments have been done in labs by people with PhD's.

There is more to this device than the physical swirling of the water. But the other processes deserve entries of their own. I hope haven't lost anyone yet. There is more to water than you know! Tomorrow, I'll continue on my journey with water, read on....

Now, go drink something...