wishing you a colourful Easter, naturally!

I have fond memories of Easter as a child, most notably of chocolate egg-hunting in the backyard with my Father. He would walk alongside me, drop an egg behind a bush when I wasn’t looking and then excitedly say “Oh look, there’s one!” Thanks Dad.

People who know me know that I am still like a kid at heart. I love to have fun, enjoy treats, and celebrate. As a nutritionist, that can be difficult to rationalize, but I have been working on ways to indulge, and feel good about it. I love to bake, and have been experimenting with natural ingredients, including herbal food colouring. Now that Easter is here, it’s the perfect time to have some more fun with this.

all-lined-up.jpg after.jpg

We’ve all seen them, the little mini-cupcakes in the grocery store’s bakery section, topped with colourful frosting, just begging to be eaten up. Unfortunately, commercial food colouring has been linked to many unpleasant things like allergies, ADHD, and even cancer. As good as they look, I would much rather make my own cupcakes , with high quality natural ingredients, and top them with naturally-coloured frosting. Why take a chance with artificial dyes, when herbs can look just as good, and give you nice things like enhanced immunity, pain-relief and protection from cancer? Just look at how cute they are! And there’s no funky herbal taste either. The yellow cupcakes are flavoured with lemon juice and zest, while the pink were supposed to be grapefruit, but need some more work (they still taste good!)

By using ingredients like unbleached flour, organic cane sugar, and aluminum-free baking powder, you can control the quality of your cupcake, decreasing the potential harm this little treat could do to your body. Turmeric and beetroot, the herbs I used for colouring, are readily available, so do not feel intimidated. Just mix some herb powder with water and add a little bit to your frosting, and watch the colour develop. It’s a lot of fun, and you will feel great using natural ingredients.

As a side note, you can also use foods to dye eggs for Easter. There is a lot of info available online about this, and trying it out was really interesting. I learned that eggs boiled with beet, but then rinsed in water actually turn beige, and eggs boiled with red cabbage turn blue. Who knew?

eggbowl.jpg If you have any recipe questions, or tips on cupcakes or egg-dying, please leave me a comment, or email me.

Happy Easter!

Don’t forget, spring is a great time to make changes in your life, and your diet. I offer a free introductory consultation if you are thinking of working with a nutritionist. Please visit www.lemonholistic.com.

a follow up to my guest piece on suite 101…

What a glorious morning – because the sky is so blue, the sun is so warm, and my guest piece about spring detoxing on suite101.com is up! Check it out here.

A big THANK YOU to Mary Luz, writer at suite101.com who I met through the Women’s Culinary Network. She writes for the food trends section, and has a lot of really interesting articles to peruse.

Now, there was a mention in the article of some great “detox” dishes: kale salad, beet salad, etc. You could make these at home, many recipes are available on the internet, or if you are out and about and need to grab a bite, these dishes can be found at Camros Organic Eatery on Hayden Street, just south of Yonge and Bloor in downtown Toronto. If you know me, I am sure you have heard me rave about this place – organic, healthy, tasty food, in a warm, enviting, eco-friendly place, run by an amazing family. I am collaborating with them on some interesting projects – stay tuned for more exciting news!

For those who are looking to buy some more natural wholesome foods, a great place to start is your local health food store, a nearby farmer’s market or even a Loblaws, which should have a natural and organic food section. (Also, several other big grocery chains like Dominion, Sobeys and Longos are bringing in more alternatives all the time.) Please watch out for the natural/organic product coupon book The Healthy Shopper which should be available in health food stores in April. For first time buyers, this is a great way to try something new, and save a few bucks.

Finally, I thought I would give you all a little crash course in label -reading: “natural” vs “organic”. I recently read through a great food magazine published by Wegman’s a big grocery chain in the US which is focused on wellness and high quality foods. They had a little piece describing “natural” and “organic” which I think makes it crystal clear:

“Natural Foods contain no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or additives, and are minimally processed. All organic foods are natural, but not all natural foods are organic. Natural foods can be grown by conventional methods. There is currently no government-approved definition of “natural” foods, except for meat.” (I am not sure about the meat thing in Canada.)

“Organic Foods are grown in greater harmony with nature, without using synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, or growth hormones. To be sure an item is the real thing, look for the USDA label – foods with this designation are certified to have been grown and processed according to the USDA Organic Standards, with inspections to verify organic authenticity.”

(from Menu, winter 2007, pg. 88 published by Wegmans)

So, now you know the difference but what do you buy? The best choice is always whatever works for you. Organic foods can be expensive, and organic does not always = healthy. Depending on your dietary needs, you have to take protein, carbohydrate, fat, sodium and sugar levels into account, no matter if the product is “natural” or “organic”. The easiest choice is to pick up items from your local farmer’s market from a vendor you trust.

If you are interested in a nutritional program due to a diagnosed condition, to effectively lose weight, or to prevent future health issues, please visit my website lemonholistic.com.

Now go outside and enjoy this glorious Friday!

If you have any comments about the spring detox article, Camros Organic Eatery, The Healthy Shopper book, or “natural” vs “organic”, I would love to hear from you!

show someone you care this month with GARLIC

As February is Heart Month, let’s take a look at a food which should be part of everyone’s diet to promote heart health – garlic.

Garlic: the sweet smell of health

It is affectionately known as “The Stinking rose”. Garlic or Allium Sativum, is a member of the lily family. It is native to central Asia and is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. There are approximately 300 types of garlic.

People have always been of two minds regarding this herb. It has been traditionally used for its exceptional culinary and medicinal qualities, yet garlic has a bad reputation due to its pungent odor. The odor comes from the sulfur-containing compounds which are the very substances that promote health. As written by William Shakespeare in a Midsummer Night’s Dream: “…eat no onions, nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath”.

If one were to exclude garlic from their diet, they would be missing out. Aside from warding off vampires, including 1-2 cloves of garlic daily in your diet can be an effective way to prevent and reverse serious health issues.

First of all, garlic may reduce your risk of colon cancer. According to current statistics of the Canadian Cancer Society, 2 in every 5 men and 1 in every 3 women will develop cancer sometime in their life. Overall, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer. Substances found in garlic, such as the sulfur-compound allicin, have been shown not only to protect colon cells from cancer-causing chemicals, but also to stop growth of cancer cells once they develop. A study done at the University of North Carolina concluded that a high intake of either raw or cooked garlic may be associated with a protective effect against both colorectal and stomach cancers.

The same garlic compound that may protect you from colon cancer is also a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent. Allicin has been shown to be effective against common infections like colds, flu, stomach viruses and Candida yeast, as well as harmful microbes including tuberculosis and botulism. The antibacterial power of garlic may also be responsible for the reduced risk of stomach cancer, due to its potential ability to decrease gastritis caused by Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium responsible for most peptic ulcers. A recent study conducted at Faith University in Istanbul, Turkey showed that people who consumed raw and cooked garlic regularly had the same prevalence of h.pylori, but less antibodies – meaning there was less reproduction of the bacteria, reducing further damage.

As if those reasons are not enough to encourage you to add garlic to your diet, garlic may protect you from cardiovascular disease, which is the world’s leading cause of death. Several risk factors for heart disease that can be addressed with diet are high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and platelet aggregation which can lead to arterial blockage. In the prevention of cardiovascular disease, many of garlic’s nutrients are working together including the sulfur-compounds, vitamin C, selenium and manganese. According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk factor with the most scientific evidence linking it to garlic is high cholesterol. Research has shown a 9% decrease in total cholesterol due to garlic consumption, according to a study done at New York Medical College.

Now that you are convinced and ready to incorporate garlic into your daily diet, here are some easy things you can do:
1. add a crushed clove of garlic to your salad dressing. If you eat salad every day, this modification alone could allow you to start feeling the health benefits of garlic.
2. make hummus – a popular protein snack made from chick peas which gets its delicious taste mainly from garlic.
3. cook with garlic – the taste of many stir-fried, roasted, or baked dishes is enhanced by the addition of a few cloves of garlic. And for those brave souls who want to get a monthly dose all at once, they can try the classic French recipe “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic”!

Hopefully, you will see garlic in a new light – look past the “stink” and see it just as a rose. In the words of Robert, Duke of Normandy in 1100 AD: “Since garlic hath powers to save from death, bear with it though it makes unsavory breath”.

© 2006 lemon holistic
The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed practitioner or health care provider.

women, listen up: nutrition is key to help prevent cardiovascular disease

It has been all over the news the past couple of days – women and cardiovascular disease. This is a serious issue, and has taken a back seat in terms of priority for women when compared to issues such as breast cancer. According to the mayo clinic:

“…more women than men die of cardiovascular disease each year. Women are six times as likely to die of heart disease as of breast cancer. Heart disease kills more women over 65 than all cancers combined. ”

But that does not mean other age groups can turn a blind eye:

“While heart disease is the leading cause of death for women 65 and older, it’s the third-leading cause of death for women 25 to 44 and second-leading cause of death for women 45 to 64. All women, of all ages, should take heart disease seriously.”

So we realize the gravity of the situation, and most of us know that proper monitoring of physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglycerides are good preventative measures. Also quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and more exercise are important factors to address.

But what I want to stress, is that according to the Amercian Heart Association:

“A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons you have to fight cardiovascular disease.”

Many women put others’ needs before their own, and have lost the ability to take time for themselves to relax, enjoy the small things in life, and care for their own health. Body, mind, soul – everything about a person must be in balance in order to achieve an optimum state of health, and prevent degenerative disease.

You can improve your quality of life by eating nutritious foods, managing your stress, sleeping well, and challenging your body with exercise. This is your life – take the time to look after YOU – you’re worth it :).