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!