Monday, 25 May 2015

Green Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

Summer has finally come to Alberta! It's been incredibly hot these past few days, and the ice cream maker has been in use. If you don't already own an ice cream maker - I highly recommend you get one! If not, ice cream can still be made in the freezer, but it won't be as creamy.

Since I'm not having dairy or eggs, I made coconut milk based ice cream. It's creamy and satisfying! Plus, you can change the flavor/sweetness to be exactly how you like it. :) This recipe even sneaks in some veggies for that lovely green color instead of using artificial colors.

This is the easy ice cream I made today, based off of Food Babe's recipe.

Blend in a high-speed blender (like Vitamix):
2 cans coconut milk
1 cup coconut palm sugar
3 tsp peppermint extract
2 loose handfuls spinach
1 pinch Himalayan sea salt

Then pour into an ice cream maker, follow manufacturer instructions and add a handful of cocoa nibs halfway through.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

ADHD & Diet

Our brains are extremely sensitive to nutrient availability and are the most energy demanding organ in our body. In fact, our brain requires approximately 125 grams of glucose every day (a very important reason not to cut out carbs).

An astonishing 60% of our brain (dry matter) is fat. This fat comes from and is directly influenced by our diet! Our diet can change cognition, learning, behavior, sleep, focus, and memory by influencing the brain's development.

Children with diagnosed ADHD have significantly lower levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fats: arachidonic acid (AA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These children (from the same study) also had a higher number of behavioral problems and higher incidences of those behavior problems, as well as temper tantrums and sleep deficits.

Note: Arachidonic acid is an Omega-6 fat. Decosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid are Omega-3 fatty acids. In the typical Canadian diet, we do not get enough omega-3 fats.

Another study also found that lower levels of AA and DHA are linked with more learning difficulties and more visual or auditory deficits.
In fact, the physical symptoms of many children with ADHD (more urination, greater thirst, dry skin) are like those of a fatty acid deficiency.

Foods for healthy brain development:* 

  • Fatty fish, seafood (eg. salmon, sardines, herring, cod liver)
  • Flax seed oil (great to hide in smoothies, salad dressings, or in cereals)
  • Ground flax seeds (go rancid quickly: best to refrigerate)
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Fish oil
  • Omega-3 enriched eggs
*It's also recommended not to restrict fat consumption from whole foods in children.
See "Dietitians of Canada" for a list of foods with omega-3 fats & the amount of omega-3s they contain.

TL;DR ADHD is a multifactorial condition that is associated with low levels of AA and DHA (omega 6 and omega 3 fats). A diet rich in omega-3 fats can help healthy brain development and may prevent ADHD.


Stevens, 1995: Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Mazurak, V. Anti-aging Nutrients: Can the aging process be slowed? [Pdf document]


Monday, 6 April 2015

Community Nutrition: False Advertising

This video is self explanatory. We watched it in my community nutrition class: CBC Marketplace Food Fiction: Lousy Labels.
If you have some time, I highly recommend you watch it so you can be more aware of false food claims when going grocery shopping. The food ingredient list and nutrition table are much more reliable than the claims on the front of the label... 

It frustrates me that, as consumers, we must research and criticize every ingredient on the food label to determine whether a product truly is healthy. Eating right should not be this difficult! Click here for a list of 10 ingredients to avoid in your foods, by Food Matters.

Friday, 3 April 2015

30 day Yoga Challenge - Complete!

It's been a busy month! I was able to complete all 30 days of yoga (see my day 3 update here). I feel so much stronger, flexible, and overall balanced. Sometimes it was inconvenient to set aside an hour plus driving for yoga and for myself, but in the end it was always worth it.
As a bonus, that yoga place is giving anyone who successfully completed the challenge another 30 days free. Woohoo :)

And I'm happy to say that I can now hold myself in the crow position for a fair while! At the beginning of this challenge I couldn't even get myself up...

I'm currently working on my headstands.

 See how I got my legs up a bit? That's so exciting!! But I'm pretty terrified of holding my feet up right over my head so I'll need to work on trusting my body as well as strength.

The cat in the background is our beloved Silver... relaxing in the sun :)
Isn't he just adorable??

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Cooking Creative

Ahhh yes my daily struggle... trying not to get bored with meals when I have so few foods to choose from. I've been on an elimination diet for a while, meaning (for me personally) no eggs, beef, pork, legumes, raw vegetables (unless juiced), oranges, gluten, spices (!), nuts, seeds etc. I'm on this diet for the time being to help my digestive issues heal.
So, since I'm always in a rush to make my meals (student life!) I usually stick to thin chicken breast fillets or fish plus vegetables, possibly with a side of rice or rice noodles. Requires minimal preparation and is super quick. But, as you can imagine, I get extremely bored with this meal combo. Today's supper was a little more unique, so I'll share it with you. Best of all, it's done in 20 minutes.

Cashews and Veggies with Quinoa:

1. Cook the quinoa! (Rinse the quinoa first) I used 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. You can also use stock for more flavor. Takes about 15 minutes.
2. After getting the quinoa going, steam the vegetables. I used from frozen carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, so there was no chopping preparation to do. Because I can't have raw nuts, I also steamed the cashews with the vegetables. I also threw in some frozen chopped parsley, just because.
3. Wait for the timer to go off! Everything was done at the same time, which makes me incredibly happy. Eat up :)
Bonus: sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top for a mild cheesy flavor and a boost of vitamins!!

Protein from cashews and quinoa
Fats from cashews
Carbs from veggies and quinoa

Having the occassional vegetarian (or vegan) meal is extremely healthy & is a nice change of pace. I hope this "recipe" inspires you to think vegetarian today and realize it really is just that easy!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Food for kids

I was reading this blog post from "I Quit Sugar" and I absolutely 100% agree with how this father packs his son's school lunches.

My favorite quote from the post:
"Don’t tailor lunchboxes to a “kids palate.” I pack Tashi’s lunchbox as If I’m packing my own lunchbox. In my experience kids will always go for the sweet or sugary option, so if you include those foods then you will begin to change their palate and preferences. It’s a hard road back from there."

It's normal for preschoolers and young children to have inconsistent likes & dislikes of foods. In addition, they may not be prepared to try new foods until they have seen it 20-30 times. Present new foods with foods they like and don't give up!

I get a great sense of what kids get for school snacks because I teach at a German School every Saturday morning. I see a small portion of children that consistently have non-processed, whole foods for snacks. The great majority of students bring candies, chocolates, fruit-gummies, granola bars etc. for snack. These are loaded in sugars and nutrient poor... Diets high in processed foods and low in nutritious wholesome foods in children can negatively impact them in the future (related to chronic diseases).

Today, for St. Patrick's day at German School I served my students a fresh fruit salad (topped with some whipping cream). It fit into the theme because it was rainbow-colored and I was happy to be giving them a healthy snack instead of cupcakes, cookies or candies. :)

I Quit Sugar Blog Post: See more at:

Image from:

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Sugar Sweetened Beverages

Homemade smoothies are
delicious and nutritious!
Drinking for Beauty...
Glow from the inside out by avoiding sugary drinks

Sugary drinks are drinks with lots of added sugar. The sugar is not added by you, it is part of the drink you buy. This makes it tricky to know just how much sugar you are drinking.
Sugary drinks like pop are high in energy but low in nutrients:
Extra energy from sugars = body stores as fat
No nutrients = poor growth
Sugar in drinks also gives you cavities. This means longer dentist visits... Sugar may also slow down your learning and memory.

Pop vs. Milk or Water:

Coca-Cola Nutrition label
Avoid any added sugars!! 
Healthy Drinks:

  • water
  • water infused with fruits etc. (eg. lemon water)
  • milk (raw is best in my opinion...)
  • homemade smoothies!
  • teas
  • fermented drinks like kombucha
In moderation: 100% juices, bought flavored waters or milks
Best to avoid: Pops, fruit punch, powdered drink mixes, cocktails

Craving fizzy drinks? Try 100% fruit juice with seltzer.
Looking for something warm? Heat up a mug of milk, then melt a teaspoon of honey in it. Delicious!
Water too boring? Add sliced strawberries to your water. Shake. Enjoy the flavoured water!

Bea, J.W., Jacobs, L., Waits, J., Hartz, V., Martinex, S.H., Standfast, R.D., Farrell, V.A., Bawden, M., Whitmer, E., Misner, S. (2015). Need for Specific Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Lessons for Fouth- and Fifth-Graders. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 47, 36-43.

Briefel, R.R., Wilson, A., Cabili, C., Dodd, A.H. (2012). Reducing Calories and Added Sugars by Improving Children’s Beverage Choices. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 269-275. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.10.016

Kendig, M.D. (2014). Cognitive and behavioural effects of sugar consumption in rodents. A review. Appetite, 80, 41-54.

Steyn, N.P., Temple, N.J. (2014). Dietary Sugar: Public Health Perspective. Encyclopedia of Toxicology, 2, 125-127.

Wyckoff, E. (2014). Super-Simple, Kid-Friendly Smoothies. Rachel Ray. Retrieved from

Zheng, M., Rangan, A., Olsen, N.J., Andersen, L.B., Wedderkopp, N., Kristensen, P., Grontved, A., Ried-Larsen, M., Lempert, S.M., Allman-Farinelli, M., Heitmann, B.L. (2014). Substituting sugar-sweetened beverages with water or milk is inversely associated with body fatness development from childhood to adolescence. Nutrition, 31, 38-44.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

30 day Yoga Challenge - Day 3

So, I am 3 days into a 30 day yoga challenge offered by That Yoga Place. Unfortunately I started off the challenge sick with a cold, but the warm yoga classes have worked out well for me. In fact, I'd say that they have helped me get over my cold - the deep breathing along with gentle exercise seems to be exactly what my body needed. 

Today was the first day back at a hot flow yoga class! (I've actually only gone to warm yoga classes three times...) Today's class was great, and despite my congestion I was able to breathe deeply through my nose during the class. Success.
Also, I was finally able to hold the position shown in the picture for a while today! It's incredibly hard to do when you're dripping with sweat...

So far 3 for 3 in this yoga challenge. I'm not planning on missing any days. :)


Image source (for noncommercial reuse):

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A healthy twist on broccoli salad

Margaret at always has the most delicious wholesome recipes! This week I'm re-posting one of her lentil recipes that she has entered in a contest.

Take a look at the recipe - if it intrigues you and has you considering swapping out the greasy bacon for smokey paprika lentils, leave a comment or pin from her blog! Feedback is always appreciated :)

Broccoli Lentil Salad

Click on the link below for the recipe!

Doesn't it look absolutely delicious? It can even be adapted to be vegan too. Enjoy!

Lentil Health Benefits

  1. Lentils are slow release carbohydrates, so they can help regulate blood sugar levels
  2. Lentils are high in protein, but if you are vegan or vegetarian, keep in mind that lentils and legumes do not provide a complete protein source. Combining legumes with whole grains or nuts and seeds will provide you with a complete protein over the day.
  3. The high fiber keeps you full longer, so lentils may be helpful in weight loss.
  4. High in potassium and low in sodium: potassium plays a major role in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance. A balanced potassium distribution is crucial for the body to keep a steady heartbeat etc. Most Americans are deficient in potassium.
  5. Low in fat. I am a fan of healthy, naturally occurring fats in avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oils, even coconut oils. But our diet needs to consist of many naturally low fat foods as well (please don't buy reduced fat processed products...) and lentils are a great choice!
  6. A source of vitamin B6. All the B vitamins are essential for metabolism, but I find vitamin B6 especially important for regulating stress and adrenal fatigue.
  7. A good source of iron. This is especially important who have a higher requirement of iron (due to monthly blood loss) and vegans or vegetarians (since non-animal iron sources are not as well absorbed). 

Jenkins, D. J., Wolever, T. M., Taylor, R. H., Griffiths, C., Krzeminska, K., Lawrie, J. A., ... & Bloom, S. R. (1982). Slow release dietary carbohydrate improves second meal tolerance. The American journal of clinical nutrition,35(6), 1339-1346.
Wikipedia nutrition fact label for boiled lentils.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sugar like Cocaine?!

Sometimes, people use gross comparisons to get their point across. It infuriates me when I notice how WRONG their comparison is, even if their point is correct. It's like spreading a rumor that has just enough truth to it so it spreads.

Ok, confusing thought without context. This is what I mean...
Regarding sugar, and making the point that sugar is essentially bad for you:

"...Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition says, ".white refined sugar-is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer." ...The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Sugar's formula again is C12H22O11. For all practical purposes, the difference is that sugar is missing the "N", or nitrogen atom."

This is written in a very convincing manner. And I'm sure many people would believe that sugar is just one nitrogen atom away from cocaine.
But, although sugar is terrible for your health (for many reasons) it's NOT similar to cocaine. Yes, they are both organic molecules (containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen) and they are both addictive... but that's it.

This is cocaine:

And this is sucrose (the most common type of sugar):

As you can see, there's no similarity in structure (thus neither in function). But this quote is used as evidence on a well-intentioned popular blog post and on an online article. 

List of structural differences: 
  • no benzene ring in sucrose (a very characteristically stable structural component)
  • no nitrogen in sucrose (a completely different element with its own functional structure)
  • 2 six membered carbon rings in cocaine vs. 1 ring of six and 1 ring of 5 in sucrose
  • 2 ester groups in cocaine, none in sucrose
  • 1 ether group in sucrose, none in cocaine
  • numerous alcohol groups (-OH) in sucrose, none in cocaine
  • different amount of carbons and hydrogens

Careful what you believe, especially on the internet.

Organic Chemistry 261 and 263 classes at University of Alberta

Image credit to Wikipedia.


P.S. Fun example of structure differences:
CO vs. CO2
One kills you silently, whereas the other is a harmless by-product of breathing.
(carbon monoxide vs. carbon dioxide)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Valentine's day lunch

So I thought I would share the special lunch I made for Valentine's day yesterday. Chicken pot pie is one of Harry's favorite meals, and I've been meaning to try make it for years now. Valentine's day was the perfect opportunity!

I am great at making cakes. I am decent at making cookies.
But I have only made pies a handful of times. And I've never had chicken pot pie, let alone made it.
On top of that, I have a current egg and dairy allergy. So I had to adjust the recipes I used...
But I was determined to make Harry's favorite food.

I used this recipe for the chicken pot pie filling, and used this vegan flaky pie crust.
These were my adjustments (and they worked well):

Vegan Flaky pie crust (doubled):
recipe from
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 2 ½+ cups light spelt flour
1 ¼ teaspoon salt  1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon shiitake mushroom powder (optional)
½ teaspoon onion powder (ground onion flakes)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
¾ cup (161 grams) or 1 ½ sticks cold Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated stick margarine, cut into ¼ inch cubes  161 grams Earth Balance vegan spread
6 Tablespoons (81 grams) or ¾ stick cold Vegan Shortening or store bought shortening, cut into ¼ inch cubes
½ cup cold water (I only used half of the liquid! Probably due to the flour change)
3 Tablespoons cold vodka
Refrigerated overnight.

I did have some trouble with this recipe - it was extremely sticky when making (which is why I used half of the liquid) and still relatively sticky when rolling out the next day. I might try with 3 cups of spelt flour next time right of the bat. 
Tip: roll out between wax paper sheets!!

Chicken pot pie filling:
recipe from
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
1-3/4 cups sliced carrots 2 cups sliced carrots
1 cup butter, cubed 3/4 cup mixed coconut oil, Earth Balance vegan spread, and splash of olive oil
2/3 cup chopped onion 1 cup chopped onion
1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup spelt flour
1-3/4 teaspoons salt 3/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups milk 1 can coconut milk
4 cups cubed cooked chicken breast (boiled the night before)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
2 packages (14.1 ounces each) refrigerated pie pastry doubled the vegan pie crust recipe

I also added a bit of oregano and paprika to taste.

I baked at 350F convection for about 35 minutes. (This differed from the recipe.)

The result:
Not the prettiest - but delicious!
The Valentine's chicken pot pie

The second chicken pot pie for my family.
The crust was beautifully flaky and the inside seasoned well. I'll definitely use these recipes again.

Healthy fats:
Personally - I like coconut oil. It has healthy medium length saturated fatty acids much like butter. Used in moderation, I think it's a healthy fat. So I'm happy with my substitution of butter with the oils in the chicken pot pie filling. 
Also, substituting the Earth Balance spread for the margarine stick in the crust recipe was a healthy choice as well. I couldn't find non-hydrogenated margarine (better than hydrogenated) so I bought the Earth Balance spread instead. These are much healthier fats than the processed margarine stick has. In fact, I might try using only the Earth Balance spread in the crust next time to get rid of the yucky hydrogenated fats in the vegetable shortening! Making the vegan butters and shortening as on the crust recipe website would also be a great option.

<3 Jessica


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Stress Management Tips

For me, this weekend was one of the more stressful ones, because I have 3 exams coming up this week. I realize I'll be stressed out until the last midterm of this week is done on Thursday. That's midterm season though, it's to be expected as a university student.

"Some of the negative physiological consequences of ongoing stress include hypertension, high levels of muscle tension, and lowering of immune system defenses" (Baghurst and Kelley, 2014).
The connection between stress and the immune system is well established - this is why we often get sick when it's so important to be at our best, for example during exams.

To reduce stress:
  • Exercise! Cardiovascular physical activity is especially good to reduce the effects of stress
  • Meditation or other relaxation techniques can be just as helpful (stress management)
  • Study breaks, generally recommended to be approximately every hour
Stress management techniques and physical activity were analyzed by Baghurst and Kelley (as well as other studies) to significantly reduce test anxiety, personal burnout and perceived stress in college students.

Animals tend to be a great study break partner - whether cuddling with your pet or watching birds feed. These are pictures of my study break partners today that visited outside my window:

This guy was always on the look-out

He ate lots - and stayed longer than any other bird


Does anyone know what kinds of birds these are??

 Baghurst, T., & Kelley, B. (2014). An Examination of Stress in College Students Over the Course of a Semester. Health Promotion Practice, 15(3), 438-447. DOI: 10.1177/1524839913510316 

<3 Jessica

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Healthy Snacks

I don't know about you, but I snack A LOT when I study. And with midterms coming up so fast, I've been eating more even when I'm not hungry. There's been days when I hardly have supper because I'm already so full on snacks from afternoon study sessions. Not good...
Studying on campus helps a lot. I am able to concentrate more and get less distracted by eating or thinking about food.

Nonetheless, studying at home is convenient, and I do it a lot. For any of you that have the same problem snacking, here are some delicious snacks that are also nutrient-dense. I figure that if I'm eating, I better be consuming lots of healthy anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Pecans and pumpkin seeds
1. Nuts or seeds.
My favorites, since I'm avoiding almonds due to an allergy, are: pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and cashews. Just keep in mind that nuts and seeds pack a lot of energy - pour a bowl, don't eat from the bag/container. This is a great tip for any snack.
Nuts and pumpkin seeds are absolutely delicious roasted in an oven or on a dry frying pan for a bit, until fragrant. Beware of burning. For truly raw nuts and seeds, it would also be worthwhile to soak and then toast to increase digestibility.

Delicious organic figs (from Costco)
2. Dried fruit
High in fiber and nutrients, this is a great snack option. My favorites: figs, medjool dates, & raisins.
However, beware sugar-sweetened craisins and other dried fruit with added ingredients like sulphites. Also keep in mind that even non-sweetened dried fruit has a lot of naturally occurring sugars - so keep portion sizes small, and consider them a treat.

3. Combine dried fruits and nuts for a delicious, homemade trail mix!

4. Hummus with veggies.
Mmm hummus. With lots of garlic. Makes any vegetable taste heavenly! The classic trio of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots works well for this snack and is very affordable. You can even make quick homemade hummus if you have a food processor around! (I don't recommend a Vitamix for hummus or other spreads.)

5. Cereal.
A bit on the sugar-y side, especially if you choose mainstream cereals. But some brands use truly whole ingredients and are also really healthy. Read the food label ingredient list!
Bonus: super quick and always available.

Roasted chickpeas with honey, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa glaze
6. Roasted chickpeas
Unfortunately there's a wait time for this snack, but it's well worth it! Chickpeas are high in fiber and a good source of protein. You can make them sweet, spicy, herb-y... whatever you feel like! All you need is a can of garbanzo beans, some oil, and spices. Google roasted chickpeas for lots of recipe ideas.

Mary's Organic Crackers with lemon & dill tuna
7. Crackers with toppings
I just love Mary's Organic Crackers! They go well with a chocolate almond spread for a sweet tooth, and I also like them with cream cheese and other savory toppings.

8. Rye crispbread with honey
A simple yet satisfying snack: Wasa light rye crispbread with unpasteurized honey. Just sweet enough for your sweet tooth but without danger of a sugar high.
Crispbreads have a lot of healthy fibers. They're obviously meant as savory snacks - but are often versatile enough for sweet treats as well (depending on the brand and flavors).

9. Fresh fruit or vegetables
An obvious nutrient-packed snack - my favorites include: avocados, kiwi, apples, broccoli, carrots and cherry tomatoes. If you have the time, a quick salad is always a satisfying snack.

10. Vega One All-in-one nutrition shake
Quick & easy. However, it's not my first choice since it is processed to an extent...but Vega One is great brand & delivers a delicious product. One scoop with water, shake, drink! I usually have this snack after workouts.

Happy snacking!
<3 Jessica

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dry skin brushing, for your health!

 Rather than view dry skin brushing as a fad-like quick fix, it should be seen a habitual practice as fundamental as bathing or brushing your teeth.

Potential benefits of skin brushing are best divided into two categories: vanity benefits and health benefits.

Vanity benefits:

  • Removes dead skin
  • creates smoother skin and gives a healthy glow
  • Improves skin's elasticity
  • could reduce cellulite
  • improves muscle tone
  • prevents premature ageing 
  • can change/purify eye color

Health benefits:

  • Stimulates the lymphatic system
  • clears toxins from the lymph system
  • strengthens immune system
  • helps with digestion
  • stimulates circulation
  • improves cell renewal
  • stimulates and balances hormones

Why dry skin brushing has so many benefits. 

Most people have heard that the skin is the largest organ we have. The skin removes around a pound of waste every day. The make-up of sweat mimics urine so many consider the skin sort of like a third kidney! So keep those pores clean and open! 

A major factor in the skins ability to properly rid toxins is the lymphatic system, which includes the liver. 70% of the lymphatic system lies underneath the skin in the interstitial space. The lymph system does not have any sort of pump or mechanism to keep it clear and moving, so it requires stimulation to help the flow of toxins. 

A healthy flowing Lymphatic system helps other body systems function better as well. 

How to skin brush

First, you will need to buy a dry skin brush with natural bristles. Any supermarket, drugstore, or health food store should carry them for around $10. Always use it while completely dry and wash it around every week depending on use. 

Quick tips:

Should take 5-15 minutes. I think it could combine well with a meditation routine. 
Skin and brush must be completely dry
Do in the morning or before bed- though, it can be energizing!
Good to do prior to showering since body is prepared for cleansing
Sauna is great to use after brushing
Alternate hot and cold in sauna/shower for extra circulation boost. 
No lotions for a few hours prior to use
Should not cause too much agitation. Slightly pink skin is OK. 
Avoid broken skin or damaged areas
Wash brush once per week 

Many experts have developed their own methods to follow for skin brushing. I have tried 3 which I have enjoyed and have combined them in different ways. The key is to find strokes that work for you.

Check out the water shed approach which can be found in a youtube video by greensmoothiegirl titled "The correct way to skin brush.

Check out Dr. Bruce Berkowsky's method which can be found in another youtube video by greensmoothiegirl titled how to dry skin brush.

Happy brushing! 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Bee Pollen: A Whole Food Supplement

So last week I put down artificial supplements... so I thought I better be more positive this week! I recently bought some local bee pollen from the nearby health food store. This is why:

**First of all, I want to mention that all of the information summarized below is from peer reviewed published articles. I found the articles on Science Direct or PubMed, which both search for academic papers from many different journals. However, some inferences are mine (marked as *), based on University of Alberta nutrition & science courses.**

Bee pollen has:
  • antimicrobial activity
  • antimutagenicity properties
  • antioxidant activity
  • carotenoids (up to 243ug/g of dry bee pollen)
  • protein (~20%)
  • B vitamins, including vitamin thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and vitamin B6
However, due to different flowers, soil types, weather and handling methods, there is high variability between different bee pollen samples.

So, what is bee pollen good for then?
  • Killing (or stopping the growth of) bugs, especially Gram-positive bacteria
  • Possibly prevent DNA mutations or unwanted changes 
    • may help prevent cancer*
  • May help prevent chronic diseases related to oxidative stress (resulting from too little antioxidants) such as:
    • cancer
    • autoimmune disorders
    • cataracts
    • rheumatoid arthritis
    • cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases
  • Antioxidants found in bee pollen can also help slow down the aging process
  • Carotenoids reduce risk of diseases, especially certain cancers and eye diseases
  • Protein is a required "macronutrient" for energy, strong hair, supple skin, muscle building, and a strong immune system (among many other functions).*
  • B vitamins are highly involved in body metabolism, and should be consumed on a daily basis for good health*
(* = personal inferences based on knowledge from science and nutrition university courses.)

You can probably find bee pollen in your local health food store. However, if you are having trouble finding it, keep in mind that raw honey also contains the pollen! 

Important note: Keep in mind that bee pollen comes from flowers! If you have any allergy to pollen or other environmental allergens, please do not eat this product... Search up nutritional yeast instead for a whole food supplement. :)

Almeida-Muradian, L., Pamplona, L., Coimbra, S., & Barth, O. (n.d.). Chemical composition and botanical evaluation of dried bee pollen pellets. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 105-111.

Arruda, V., Pereira, A., Estevinho, L., & Almeida-Muradian, L. (n.d.). Presence and stability of B complex vitamins in bee pollen using different storage conditions.Food and Chemical Toxicology, 143-148.

Arruda, V., Pereira, A., Freitas, A., Barth, O., & Almeida-Muradian, L. (n.d.). Dried bee pollen: B complex vitamins, physicochemical and botanical composition.Journal of Food Composition and Analysis,100-105.

Johnson, E. (2002). The Role of Carotenoids in Human Health. Nutrition in Clinical Care, 56-65.

Pascoal, A., Rodrigues, S., Teixeira, A., Fe├ís, X., & Estevinho, L. (n.d.). Biological activities of commercial bee pollens: Antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 233-239.

Pham-Huy, L., He, H., & Pham-Huy, C. (2008). Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health. Int J Biomed Sci.,4(2), 89-96. Retrieved January 18, 2015, from

<3 Jessica

Monday, 12 January 2015

New & enlightened way to cook veggies!

I've been wanting to try out roasted vegetables for quite a while... I can't believe I waited this long!

The. Best. Veggies. Ever.

In fact - so good that I had to share it immediately. 

I strongly encourage you to use any vegetable scraps you have left in the fridge for this delicious side. Simply toss in olive oil with salt & pepper (and basil or other spices if you wish) and roast at 375F in the oven for 25-35 minutes!

I used: onion, sliced potatoes, chopped carrots, orange and yellow bell peppers, broccoli, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes cut in half.

<3 Jessica

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Thoughts on Vitamin Supplements

I used to take various vitamin supplements every day - at times up to 20 or so pills! All in the name of health. However, when you look past all of the health claims based on questionable studies, and take into account that most pills don't contain what they advertise... you're left questioning whether taking vitamin supplements is even good for you.

My current conclusion:
Due to over-used soils, genetic modification, long produce transportation times and the drive of companies for quantity over quality many of us are vitamin deficient. However, instead of turning to vitamin supplements to maintain health, we should instead consume more super-foods & whole foods.

Foods like:
  • Cod liver oils for healthy fatty acids and Vitamin A and D
  • High quality butter from pasture fed cows for healthy fats and fat-soluble Vitamins (A, D, E, K)
  • Wheat germ oil for Vitamin E (sunflower seeds are a great source of Vitamin E too)
  • Nutritional yeast or bee pollen for many B Vitamins
  • Liver, for Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, etc.
  • Powdered rose hips, acerola berries, or amalaki for Vitamin C

Why whole foods over vitamin supplements?

In short: Because synthetic vitamins can be harmful to your health.

Long Answer: Synthetic vitamin supplements are simplified and highly concentrated, which the body is unable to digest and use as well as naturally occurring vitamins in complex compounds. For this reason, high doses of synthetic vitamins are often required, which may lead to biochemical imbalances and side-effects.

In addition, some Vitamin supplements only provide a single part of the (partly unknown) complex that makes up the Vitamin. This is the case for Vitamin C, in which the supplemental form only provides ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is actually a complex of nutrients including bioflavonoids, rutin, tyrosine, copper etc... The ascorbic acid functions as the preservative for this complex Vitamin. Taking only the ascorbic acid depletes the other compounds of Vitamin C... the exact opposite effect I'm sure you were hoping for.

Unexpected effects are also true for some other Vitamins:
Vitamin A is associated with reduced cancer risk, but supplementation of beta-carotene (a precursor) may increase risk of lung cancer.
Synthetic Vitamin D3 seems to have the opposite effect as naturally occurring Vitamin D2: D3 seems to soften bones and harden arteries.

So in general this just emphasizes the fact that you cannot compensate an unhealthy diet with Vitamin supplements. Focus on whole (unprocessed) foods, stock up on super-foods, and save the chocolate for an occasional treat.

Info from "The Fourfold Path to Healing" by Thomas S. Cowan, MD

<3 Jessica

Monday, 5 January 2015

DIY Refreshing Face Spray

First of all, Happy New Year! I was away in Germany over Christmas break visiting family. Only complaint I have is that it was over much too fast! Nonetheless, I did take the time between finals and in Germany as a blogging break - I will be posting once a week now again :)

Today I'd love to share my recipe for face spray. It's gentle and refreshing for my acne-prone skin and I'd assume, based on the simple ingredients, that it would be good for any other skin type as well. I use this spray daily & it was very refreshing during travel.

I fill a small mist bottle (from the Dollar Store) with alcohol-free witch hazel, and add 2-5 drops of Melaleuca oil (aka tea tree oil). Spray on your face after cleansing (as a toner) or whenever you need a little pick-me-up!

Make sure you find alcohol-free witch hazel, because alcohol will dry out your skin (or boil down your own from herbs). And a note about the tea tree oil: generally a good quality oil will come in a dark bottle.

Benefits of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana):
  • Botanical anti-inflammatory
  • Skin-soothing properties
  • Common astringent in people with oily skin due to its high tannin content
  • To preserve the beneficial tannins, it's best to boil down your own extract with 5-10g of the herb in 1 cup water (6)
  • Helps reduce swelling, repair broken skin, and fight bacteria (7)

Benefits of Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca):
  • Antibacterial (broad-spectrum) and anti-inflammatory activity (5)
  • Clinical studies have shown tea tree oil to be just as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide (2) and 2% erythromycin in those with mild to moderate acne (1).
  • Shown to be better than baseline or placebo at reducing the count of inflammatory lesions (acne) (3).

Summary of some clinical studies evaluating tea tree oil for acne treatment
Treatment Groups
Mean reduction in lesion count
Frequency of Adverse Events
Overall Outcomes
1) Tea tree oil gel (5%)
2) Benzoyl peroxide (5%)
1) 29% after 8 weeks
2) 46%
1) 44%
2) 79%
Benzoyl peroxide was better than tea tree oil, but had more side-effects. (2)
1) Tea tree oil gel (5%)
2) Erythromycin gel (2%)
1) 55% after 6 weeks
2) 40%
not stated
Tea tree oil was significantly better (1)
1) Tea tree oil gel (5%)
2) Placebo gel
1) 44% after 6 weeks
2) 12%
1) 10%
2) 7%
Tea tree oil was significantly better than placebo at decreasing lesion count. (3)
1) Tea tree oil (3%) and lavender oil (2%)
2) Baseline
1) 10% after 4 weeks
2) 5%
1) 4%
2) 0%
Inflammatory lesion count significantly decreased with tea tree oil (4)
Adapted from K.A. Hammer, (5).


[1] Darabi R, Hafezi MA, Akbarloo N. A comparative, investigator-blind study of topical tea tree oil versus erythromycin gel in the treatment of acne. In:15th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. 2005 [abstract no. 1133 249].

[2] Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barnetson RS. A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust 1990;153:455–8.

[3] Enshaieh S, Jooya A, Siadat AH, Iraji F. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo controlled study. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2007;73:22–5.

[4] B. Kim, S. Shin. Antimicrobial and improvement effects of tea tree and lavender oils on acne lesions. J Convergence Inf Technol, 8 (2013), pp. 339–345

[5] K.A. Hammer. Treatment of acne with tea tree oil (melaleuca) products: A review of efficacy, tolerability and potential modes of action. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 13 November 2014. 

[6] Vincent Morelli, Erick Calmet, Varalakshmi Jhingade. Alternative Therapies for Common Dermatologic Disorders, Part 2. Review Article. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, Volume 37, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 285-296