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Make Stress Your Friend

Sounds crazy right? You’ve probably heard that stress makes you sick! And that our goal is to get rid of it! I recently watched an interesting TED talk that demonstrated why stress is actually beneficial; however, it depends how we think about the stress.

The body’s stress response is actually preparing us to responds to challenging situation – the elevated heart rate sends blood to your muscles for physical action and the release of hormones encourages you to seek out support from others and support those around you. Interestingly, studies show that people who do not perceive stress as harmful are not effected by the negative health consequences of the stress! So the goal may not actually be to get rid of stress but rather to see it differently.

Mindfulness is one tool that helps us to see stress in a different way. It allows us to be with the stress in a gentler, more accepting way rather than trying to fight against or get rid of the stress (which can sometimes add to our suffering!). We can learn mindfulness through meditation practices and other exercises. To get started working with mindfulness consider joining the upcoming class (click here for details!) or speaking to Dr. Monique about resources and books to get started. Also, check out the full TED talk video by clicking here. Or a great TED talk on Mindfulness

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thanks!

A quick note to say "Thank you" to those of you who contacted your MPP or signed the petition in support of Naturopathic Doctors in Ontario! I really appreciated your support. The exciting update is that NDs have moved under the Regulated Health Professional Act - the same piece of legislature that governs 25 health professions including Medical Doctors in Ontario, bringing collaborative, integrative care one step closer.

Photo credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net

Recipe of the Month: Home-made Popsicles!

It's hot out there! You want to cool down and enjoy a delicious treat. Rather than reaching for the ice cream or store-bought popsicles (that are just made of sugar, water and artificial colouring), try making your own! It's easy and fun. Kids love making them too.

Here are some great recipe ideas but use your own creative juices too. Try including fruit for anti-oxidants and fiber, protein powder or Greek yogurt for protein or coconut water for electrolytes.  Fruit can be pureed or left whole or added as 100% fruit juice.  For a creamy consistency without dairy try coconut milk. If you feeling brave you could also sneek in some pureed veggies like beets, carrots or greens for added colour and vitamin content. 

Have fun and enjoy!

Photocredit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/deenashanker/healthy-ice-pops-to-cool-down-your-...

The Most POPULAR Salad

Have you heard someone raving about the superfood salad you can get in a bag at the grocery store?  Every time I hear some start with “there’s this amazing salad I bought…” I know exactly what they talking about! The good news is that it’s actually PHENOMENALLY nutritious! But on the other hand it’s kind of pricey and who knows how long it’s been in the bag for.  I tried the real one a couple of times and have since experimented with making my own.  Here’s my take on it:

Salad Ingredients

2 cups of shredded raw Brussel sprouts

1 cup of shredded green cabbage

1 cup of julienned broccoli stems

2 cups of thinly sliced kale

3 green onions, finely sliced

½ cup pumpkin seeds, preferably toasted

½ cup dried cranberries

Your favourite vinaigrette salad dressing

Directions

Chop all vegetables as described.  The Brussel Sprouts, broccoli stems and cabbage can be chopped quickly using a mandolin (click here for more info) or by hand.  To slice the kale very thinly, stack several leaves, roll them tightly and slice with a sharp knife.  Add toppings.  Add dressing (the bag version uses a creamy poppy seed dressing, I used Paul Newman’s Oil and Vinegar but you can certainly make your own or use your favorite bottled version).  I recommend adding the dressing about 1 hour before eating to soften the kale. Enjoy!

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Butter chicken (without the butter!)

I love Indian food but it doesn’t always agree with me.  This version of the classic dish Butter Chicken is lighter but has all the flavour and beneficial herbs and spices of the authentic dish.  And compared to the canned versions available, it’ free of preservatives and additives.  Very warming for a cold winter day!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 cup of milk or milk-alternative (I use plain almond milk)

Directions:

On high heat add oil and onions and saute until golden brown.  Add garlic and ginger, reduce heat to medium and cook 2 minutes.  Add tomato paste and cumin seeds and cook 30 seconds. 

Reduce heat to low and add garam masala, brown sugar, turmeric and salt and cook for 2 minutes.  Add chicken and cook 5 to 7 minutes.  Add milk and cook until chicken is fully done, about 5 minutes. 

Serve with brown rice and a variety of vegetables. 

Modified from “Bal’s No-Butter Chicken Recipe” in her fantastic cookbook “Everyday Indian”

Making Veggies Exciting!

Have a hard time getting in your vegetables?

We all know the health benefits of eating vegetables.  Massive studies have shown incredible results such as a 44% reduction in cancer and 38% reduction in strokes when comparing 5+ veggie and fruit servings to 1 serving. But sometime steamed carrots and green beans can be boring or plain – I hear you!

The good news is that they don’t have to be! There are tons of ways to make vegetables interesting and great tasting. 

  1. Change the way you shape them

For Christmas this year I got a fantastic kitchen gadget that I LOVE! It’s called a spiralizer and it turns round vegetables into curly ribbons.  The above photo includes an exciting salad topped with spiral beets and cucumbers as well as some zucchini pasta that has a fraction of the carbohydrates of regular spaghetti.  This tool also works with carrots, kohl rabi and sweet potato.

  1. Add interesting textures

I often recommend a fabulous cook book written by local ND Carol Morley: Delicious Detox.  My favourite recipe is the Crunchy Broccoli.  Preheat the oven to 500o and soak 1 head of broccoli florets in water for 5 minutes.  Drain and add 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, 3 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix thoroughly, spread on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Enjoy!    

  1. Add interesting flavours

The world of herbs and spices has no bounds.  And the great news is that herb and spices have a MULTITUDE of nutritional benefits – from fighting inflammation and cancer to boosting immune function.  Experiment with turmeric, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, basil, thyme, rosemary and more! Check out the bulk barn for inspiration.

  1. Make combinations

Many people eating a healthy diet come to dread salads as something boring.  But there are so many possibilities! Start with some leafy greens – if iceberg or romaine are feeling old, try the bright flavours of arugula or water cress; for more texture thinly slice kale or swiss chard (just make sure to add the dressing early to allow harder leaves to soften).   Add a variety of colour with beets, carrots, red cabbage, onions, cucumbers.  And if you don’t have a spiralizer, try grating the hard vegetables or using a potato peeler to make carrot ribbons.  And top it off with something fun – some dried fruit (like cranberries or gogi berries), nuts and seeds and a delicious dressing.

Veggies are the powerhouses of the world of nutrition and with a few simple strategies you can make them fun and exciting parts of every meal.

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Healthy, Happy Holidays

The holiday season is upon us.   Filled with excitement, fun, family, friends and delicious foods.  But sometimes also stress and overindulgence. Here are some pointers for enjoying a healthy holiday season.

Enjoy, but keep the overall balance.  Diet has a tremendous impact on health.  The way we eat has significant impacts on how we feel now and our risk for illness in the future.  However, food plays a significant role in many traditions and celebrations.  My advice to patients is to give yourself the opportunity to enjoy some of those special meals while still maintaining the overall balance as much as possible.  Have the mashed potatoes and gravy but include some vegetables too.  And if you know there will be a special dinner, try to stick to your normal breakfast and lunch and get back to your normal diet the next day.  If food sensitivities are a challenge for you there are lots of great recipes online to help you make treats that you’ll feel good eating (see my gingerbread recipe in the previous post!)

Secondly, take time to pause and soak it all in.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season.  See if you can find the occasional 30 seconds to pause for some deep breaths while last-minute shopping or completing preparations.  This helps us to step out of autopilot and interrupts the stress response.  And during those special holiday moments – gathering around the table with family or watching others open gifts – see if you can bring your full attention to the present moment.  Our minds are likely to wander to the things we need to do or reflecting on things that have happened, but see if you can gently guide it back to observing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of our present holiday experiences.  This gives us the opportunity to fully enjoy those special moments.  If these exercises have you interested, learn more about mindfulness. 

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year.  Give yourself the chance to enjoy and be sure to pause and soak it all in. Happy and Healthy Holidays to you and your loved ones!

Photo Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net

Hypoallergenic Gingerbread Recipe

I have a cherished holiday tradition that involves something sweet, some creativity and some fun.  Every year some of my friends from Natruopathic Medicial School gather and bake gingerbread cookies.  There are some food sensitivities within the group so these hypoallergenic gingerbread cookies are our staple.  They taste so terrific that you could bring them to any holiday gathering without anyone suspecting that they are hypoallergenic! Enjoy :)

Dry Ingredients:
1+1/2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)
1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1+1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp cloves (ground)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (ground)
3/4 tsp ginger (ground)
1/8 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites (cold)
1/2 cup gluten-free molasses

Other Ingredients
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine
3 tbsp olive oil

Direction:
Thoroughly combine the dry ingredients. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut in the non-dairy margarine and olive oil until the mixture is crumbly.  In a small bowl, beat the wet ingredients together well. Add the wet mixture to the dry and combine until it forms a heavy dough. Form a flat ball, cover and refrigerate one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with baking parchment. Sprinkle a little tapioca flour on a sheet of baking parchment and roll out 1/4 of the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Use extra tapioca flour if the dough is sticky. Cut out the shapes as desired and place on lined baking sheets. Repeat for the remaining dough. If the dough becomes difficult to work with, chill it again for 15-20 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes and cool on a wire rack

Decorate with allergy-free icing and enjoy!

Recipe from: www.theallergyfreekitchen.ca

Photo credit:www.freedigitalphotos.net

Fall Butt-Blasting Outdoor Workout

Although we aren’t sporting shorts and bikinis anymore, it doesn’t mean that we have to neglect our fitness. Autumn is one of my favorite times of year to be exercising outdoors – the air is crisp and the scenery is stunning with the leaves changing color. One area of the body that is often neglected with pant wearing and stretchy tights is the booty, aka your butt. Here is an effective, body weight outdoor workout I devised to help sculpt your tushy and keep things in check this fall.

The workout:

1. Hill Sprints

Find a hill, any hill will do! St. Pietersburg hill here in Maastricht, Netherlands has a HUGE hill with a steep incline, which is where I decided to do this workout. While I didn’t sprint the entire hill, I picked a distance (approximately 50m) and timed myself. Try 5 sets x 30 seconds all out effort, with 90seconds rest between sets. This is sure to get the heart rate up and the booty burning! 10min

2. Stair Running

The Chedoke 298 step outdoor staircase in Hamilton is a great spot, but any stairs will do the trick. Since I used a smaller flight, I kept my rest intervals short, about 30 seconds, and I completed 8 sets up and down. For safety reasons make sure not to sprint down the steps! 9 min

3. Unilateral Bench Reverse Lunges

This exercise really creates a deep stretch in the hip extensors, ie the butt and hamstrings, and adds a stability component since you are working one leg at a time. Try 3 sets of 25 reps per leg, with 1 minute of rest between sets.

Execution: Start by standing on a bench (or if there isn’t one you can use the 2nd or 3rd step of a staircase), lunge down with the right leg making sure you get a long stride. Then step back up onto the bench, and repeat. Finish reps on one leg, then move on to the other leg to complete the set. 9 min

4. Walking lunges

So simple, yet so effective! Find a 50-100 meter flat area and get going. I did 3 sets of 25 lunges per leg, with 1 minute rest between sets. 9 min

5. Jump Squats

Using the same flat area from exercise 4, jump squat the length of the area, focusing on explosive movement with the help of your arms. I did 20 standing squat jumps for 3 sets, with 90 seconds between sets. 6 min

The whole workout takes around 45 minutes to complete, and it will leave you feeling bootylicious! A foolproof workout to maximize your assets ;)

Here’s to building better behinds!

- Dr. Crystal

Learn more about Dr. Crystal Ceh ND at www.coreessentialshealth.com

Crystal is licensed Naturopathic Doctor who is passionate about helping people reclaim their health and transform their lives through Naturopathic medicine. She is the owner of Core Essentials Health, and provides convenient, concierge Naturopathic and fitness services to her clients in the comfort of their own homes. While there are many tools in her toolkit, she focuses on the fundamental healing modalities: nutrition, movement and mindfulness. Crystal welcomes all clients to her practice, but she has a special interest in weight/fat loss, digestive health, stress management and hormonal health. Crystal actively engages the community by hosting health seminars, corporate lunch-and-learns, and contributes articles and health blogs regularly to local organizations and online journals. Crystal is a member of the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapies-Naturopathy (BDDT-n) and the Association for Natural Medicine in Europe (ANME).

The “F-word” in Nutrition... Fats

I know, I know, it’s a bad word in a lot of peoples’ books. There are many patients who cringe when I suggest increasing it in their diet.  But the truth is, it shouldn’t be a bad word.  Dietary fats have been given a really bad rap for a long time but they actually don’t deserve it.  Scientific research is showing the BENEFITS of many type of fat and the down sides of having too little and, thankfully, public opinion is starting to shift too.

Let’s look at some misconceptions:

All fats are bad for you.  There are many kinds of fat in the diet and their effects on the body range significantly.  Trans fats, found in deep fried foods, processed foods and commercial baked goods are really bad.  They dramatically increase inflammation and our risk of heart disease. However, omega 3 fats, found in fish, flax, walnuts and hemp, and omega 9 fats, found in olive oil and avocados, decrease inflammation and risk of heart disease.  Less well-know is the fact that omega 6 fats (found in all the other plant oils) also increase inflammation.  The ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 in the historic human diet was about 1 to 1 but the current North American diet contains a 1 to 15 ratio favouring the pro-inflammatory fat. The effects of all this inflammation are showing up in a range of chronic diseases that plague our modern civilization.  Bottom line: the type of fat really makes a big difference!

Eating fat makes you fat. Fats got this reputation because they contain more calories per gram.  That means that a gram of olive oil has more calories than a gram of white sugar.  However, it has been demonstrated that eating low-fat does not decrease calorie intake – likely because low-fat foods are less filling and people end up eating larger quantities. A low fat diet tends to be higher in carbohydrates which have a number of effects on weight management. When we eat a meal high in sugar it triggers a huge cascade of reactions in the body.  We release larger amounts of the hormone insulin, resulting in more belly fat, increased inflammation, increased cholesterol and blood pressure.  It also affects the appetite-control hormone leptin which helps the body tell you that you’re full.

A huge number of my patient report that eating more carbohydrates causes them to crave more and eating less causes them to crave less.  On the other hand, fats are satisfying and tell the body that it’s had enough.  A study of children given whole milk or fat-free milk found that those drinking the fat-free variety were MORE LIKELY to be overweight at the end of the study! 

Adding more of the right kind of fat to your diet can be tremendously helpful for helping you reach your goals.  The brain is 60% fat and nerves depend of proper fats to function properly - there are connections between low levels of certain fats and mood disorders.  Fats serve as precursors to all kinds of hormones and signalling molecules in the body.  They are necessary for healthy skin and hair.  I could keep going but I think you get the point! Fats have many benefits, if you choose the right ones, and avoiding them can cause harm. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about making sure your dietary fats are in balance and supporting you in achieving your optimal health.

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