Sunday, 30 November 2014

My Cold/Flu Remedies

Yesterday I was suddenly plagued with a headache (that lasted all day), general brain fog, a sore throat, decreased appetite, swollen lymph nodes and body aches. I couldn't go to work and slept 12+ hours...
Today, I shook off a mild headache in the morning and am now only stuck with a mild sore throat!

This is what I did to boost my immune system:

  1. Obviously, lots and lots of sleep. This allows your body to focus on getting rid of the virus.
  2. Oil of oregano water. This essential oil is very potent and has antiviral and antimicrobial properties due to the active ingredient carvacrol. Just put a drop (or two) into a large glass/bottle of water and sip throughout the day. If you don't dilute it enough, the oil of oregano can be extremely unpleasant to drink and burn your throat. Also, fair warning: it will make plastic cups and bottles taste forever "herb-y", especially if you don't rinse right after drinking.
  3. Drink more water than usual. The adequate intake of healthy adult women and men, respectively, is 2.7 L/day and 3.7 L/day. To expel the virus and toxins, your body requires more water, so drink plenty of water and teas (chamomile is nice and soothing). Absolutely no coffee or other dehydrating beverages allowed!
  4. Drink a glass of organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (ACV) that still has the "mother". Apple cider vinegar can kill off any yeast that may be feeding the infection, help your body maintain an alkaline state, and unpasteurized ACV also provides many useful enzymes and nutrients.
  5. Have soup based on (homemade) bone broth. Bone broth provides many nutrients, especially minerals and amino acids, that are easily absorbed and useful for fighting infections. I recently made lots of venison bone broth and have it ready in the freezer.
  6. Supplement with immune-enhancing nutrients, such as: zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea. Remember that recommended dietary intakes are based on healthy individuals, and if you are sick, you need more to compensate. I supplemented with both zinc (picolinate) and vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
<3 Jessica

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Vitamin A and its antioxidant precursor, Beta-Carotene

A lesson from my nutrition class...

Food Sources:

Picture credit to: Ramzi Hashisho
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient that is found pre-formed (as retinyl esters) in many animal-sourced foods such as liver, milk & milk products, and egg yolk. It has many functions within the body, BUT it is not an antioxidant itself.

Beta-carotene, converted by the body into Vitamin A, is found in brightly coloured (especially orange) fruits and vegetables such as: papayas, yams*, tomatoes, spinach, pumpkin, carrots*, and broccoli. Beta-carotene and other related carotenoids are antioxidants.
(* = a single 125 ml serving meets or exceeds the RDA for women.)


There are 3 different forms of active Vitamin A in the body (retinoids), all with different uses: retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. The body readily converts retinyl esters from animal food sources, and beta-carotene from plant sources into the retinoid form it requires. However, the conversion to retinoic acid is irreversible.
Retinol supports reproduction and growth. This translates to sperm development and normal fetal development in men and women, respectively. In children, vitamin A (retinol) helps remodel bone to allow for growth by supporting osteoclasts (cells that eat away at the bone to allow for growth & overall remodeling by osteoblasts).
Retinal is the form of vitamin A that everyone is well aware of - it supports vision. Specifically, it maintains a clear cornea (the clear front "window" of the eye), and helps covert the light energy arriving at the back of the eye (retina) into nerve impulses that allow us see.
Retinoic acid:
Retinoic acid regulates growth, thus helps maintain our constantly renewing barriers such as skin and mucous membranes within the body. Importantly, vitamin A (in the form of retinoic acid) helps protect our skin against sun damage. By maintaining our barriers, this form of vitamin A is also essential for our immune system.

Beta-carotene as an Antioxidant

Not all beta-carotene is converted to retinoids in the body. Some of it is used to quench free radicals, preventing disease, cancers, and promoting overall health. Without antioxidants to halt damage, free radicals are capable of altering DNA & RNA (thus changing proteins), causing overall cell damage, diseases and aging. For this reason, try to incorporate both dark green and bright orange vegetables and fruits in your daily diet. Adults should be consuming 7-10 servings of both raw and cooked fruits and vegetables every day (the majority should be vegetables) .

Recommended Intakes

Adult men: 700µg RAE/day
Adult men: 900µg RAE/day
Upper level/limit = 3000µg / day

RAE = Retinol activity equivalents
µg retinol = 1 RAE
12 µg beta-carotene = 1 RAE (due to inefficient conversion within the body)

Should you supplement with beta-carotene?
Research tends to show that supplementation with beta-carotene have either no effect or even increased mortality in smokers. (This must be taken with a grain of salt since there are usually many experimental design flaws in bio-availability of supplementation, diet, and lifestyles...)
Studies found that smokers have an increased risk of CHD and lung cancer when supplementing with beta-carotene.
However... increased food-sourced beta-carotene, decreases risk of both coronary heart disease (CHD) and colorectal cancer.
So eat up your veggies and toast to your health!

<3 Jessica

Whitney, E., Rolfes, S., Hammond, G., & Piche, L. (2013). The Antioxidant Nutrients. In Understanding Nutrition (1st Canadian ed.). Toronto: Nelson Education.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Chia Berry Sauce for Waffles or Pancakes

Another post about food! But no big surprise there - when it comes to healthy living I really love the nutrition aspect of it. Harry, on the other hand, is more passionate about the actual working out part, which I'm finding difficult to integrate into my schedule.

So this morning for breakfast - after searching high and low for any recipe - I finally decided on waffles. I chose this recipe because I've made it before: approved to be quick, easy, and even non-stick! Unfortunately, we didn't have any spelt flour (which I have successfully subbed for the all-purpose flour) and so I tried the recipe with a combination of buckwheat and all-purpose gluten-free flours. Not recommended.... the waffles tasted pretty doughy and were incredibly dense.
However - the berry sauce on top with a variety of other possible toppings really made up for it!

Chia Berry Sauce

My waffle with chia berry sauce
  1. In a pot, dump in some frozen fruit. This time we had a mixture of fruits handy, but it could be only blueberries, strawberries, raspberries etc.
  2. Add a bit of water and cover with a lid to cook soft. I turned mine up on high until it was nice and steamy, then brought the temperature down to low.
    You may want to add some sugar if you have a sweet tooth, or depending on the fruit you chose. I liked this sauce without.
  3. Once the fruits are nice and soft, add in some chia seeds while stirring to prevent clumping. Add in slowly so that you can stop once the seeds have gelled up nicely and the sauce is as thick as you like.

I love this easy "recipe" simply because it's so quick and healthy. The chia seeds add a fun "gelly" texture and lots of extra nutrition.

Now - the pretty picture you see above is my plate. I like keeping my toppings rather simple, at most mixing in some chocolate almond spread with the berry sauce on my waffles today.
Harry's plate is a different story. It's a delicious, sweet mess... 
If I remember correctly that's a combination of: raisin cinnamon peanut butter, chocolate almond butter, maple syrup and, obviously, the berry sauce.

How do you eat your waffles? Loaded or limited toppings?

- Jessica

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

Last night around 10 pm, my friends and I were busy baking cookies and other treats. We hadn't seen each other in over 2 months due to conflicting and busy school/work schedules, so a date was long overdue!

In addition to baking these delicious oatmeal cookies, we also made white chocolate bark with Golden Grahams Cereal. That was too easy: melt white chocolate wafers and mix in the cereal. Then spread it out on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Break up into delicious bite-sized pieces!

As for the cookies... we found a recipe on the internet and changed it to be a bit healthier and gluten-friendly to accommodate my current diet. You can find the original off of here.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Cream together 3/4 cup butter and 1 - 1 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar until smooth
  3. Beat in 2 eggs and 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract until fluffy.
  4. Stir in remaining ingredients:
    • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose gluten free flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamin
    • a pinch salt if you used unsalted butter
    • 2 3/4 cup large flake oats
    • 1 cup raisins
  5. Drop by tablespoons onto a lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown but still a tad gooey in the middle. Cool on the baking sheet and enjoy!

Why use coconut palm sugar?
In short, refined white sugar is devoid of any additional nutrients that it used to hold, whereas coconut palm sugar still has many vitamins and minerals. As well, coconut palm sugar has a lower glycemic index of ~35 (vs. ~68 of table sugar), which means that your body won't get as big of a blood sugar spike that would stress the homeostatic response. 
Bonus: Coconut palm sugar has a slight caramel-y taste!

Why eat gluten free?
Gluten is one of the most difficult proteins for the body to digest and absorb, and can cause problems for many people by compromising GIT health and, for some, triggering autoimmune reactions. However, not everyone does better on a gluten free diet... those who can eat gluten should look for whole, sprouted or soaked grains and think of reducing gluten to give their digestive system a well-deserved break.

- Jessica