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.


Recipe of the Month: Home-made Saucy Chicken Wings

chicken wings

Chicken wings can be a fun finger-food to enjoy but the ones in the box are often deep fried and have all kinds of additives. Making your own is easy and this recipe tastes great!


½ cup ketchup

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup rice vinegar

3 Tbsp soy sauce (gluten-free if needed)

2 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp minced garlic

3lb of chicken wings


Wash and dry wings.  Combine all other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add wings. Refrigerate for one hour.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 25 minutes.  Flip and bake for another 25 minutes.

Tips for a Healthy Summer


The warm weather is in full swing! Here are my tips for a healthy summer:

1. Get out doors! There is tons of research about the health benefits of spending time in nature – from better blood sugar and blood pressure to decreased stress and anxiety, improved mood, better energy and concentration and better immune function. There are parks and green spaces in every neighbourhood and tremendous provincial parks within a couple hour’s drive.

2. Eat what’s in season. Try farmers’ markets for a variety of fresh, local produce at the peak of its nutritional content.

3. Manage your sun exposure. Some is good – 20-30 minutes per day is enough to make your required vitamin D. But too much increases the risk of skin cancer. Avoid peak hours, wear a hat and choose a non-toxic sunscreen. Popular natural sunscreens include the Green Beaver line or DeVita which use zinc-oxide as the active ingredient rather than hormone-disrupting chemicals.

4. Stay hydrated. In the summer we need at least 2L per day of water. If it’s too plain for you, try adding lemon, cucumber or berries. Or make herbal iced tea.

5. Repel mosquitoes naturally. If you’re concerned about getting bitten, arm yourself with natural repellants like the homeopathic formula Mozi-Q or sprays that use essential oils like Citronella or Tea tree oil.

6.Take your vacation! Many people don’t and it’s so important for your overall health. Take some time to rest and relax.

Photo credit:

Recipe of the Month: Gluten-free Sweet Potato Gnocchi

sweet potato gnocchi

Hard to pronounce but delicious and fun to make!  Only 2 ingredients but limitless possibilities to dress them up.


  • 1-2 sweet potatoes
  • Rice flour


Peel and dice potatoes and boil until tender.  Drain very well and mash.  Measure your mashed sweet potato and add an equal amount of rice flour, mix thoroughly.  You may need to add extra flour to get a thick dough.

On a floured surface roll a piece of dough into a long rope and cut into 1 inch segments.  In small batches drop gnocchi into a pot of boiling water and keep an eye on them.  When they float, remove with a slotted spoon.

Once they’ve all been boiled, combine with your favourite ingredients to make a great meal.  Consider tomato sauce or pesto.  Don’t forget to add protein (meat or beans) and vegetables!

In my batch this week I added chicken, bacon, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, garlic, pine-nuts, fresh basil and lots of olive oil.

A Dose of Preventative Medicine

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”   ― Benjamin Franklin

He who cures a disease may be the skillfullest, but he who prevents it is the safest physician.  — Thomas Fuller

There are many quotes out there about preventing illness.  And while it can sometimes seem less impressive than a miraculous cure, most people would agree that they would prefer to never suffer from an illness at all.

Last year the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine research department published an exciting study in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association.  They studied the addition of Naturopathic Medicine to standard treatment in 246 Canadian postal workers.  This included diet and lifestyle modifications, weight loss and supplement recommendations.  

After one year, the participants receiving Naturopathic care had a 17% reduction in a heart disease risk factor while the participants receiving standard care had an increase in their risk. 

Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are some of the most common causes of death in our society.  There is a genetic factor in these illness and this is well-known by the public.  As a result, I often have patients in my office tell me that they are doomed to have a heart attack or end up on insulin like their family members.  I love that I get to tell them that this is not necessarily true! There is a vast quantity of research demonstrating dramatic reductions in the risk of these illnesses with simple diet and lifestyle modifications. 

While less exciting than a dramatic cure, preventative medicine has the opportunity to contribute to our health in very significant ways and help us to avoid the suffering and expense of chronic disease.  If you are working with a Naturopathic Doctor, congratulate yourself for investing in your future health and keep up your efforts to stay healthy. If you’ve never worked with a Naturopathic Doctor, consider taking the step to invest in preventative care.  

Check out the study mentioned:

7 Minutes for Your Health

7 Minute Workout

No time to exercise?

Do you have 7 minutes?

When people say they don't exercise, the most common reasons are that they don't have the time or energy or interest. Now there’s a workout that can help you overcome these challenges!

The health benefits of exercise are staggering.  Regular physical activity decreases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and of dying from ANY cause! It is a potent tool for decreasing depression and stress and one of the best ways to increase energy. 

New research is being conducted on the use of short duration, high intensity workouts.  This new approach to fitness has shown excellent health outcomes while being more time efficient than traditional approaches to fitness.  For example, research at McMaster University has shown that a few minutes of exercise close to your maximum capacity can create changes in the muscles similar to long bouts of running or bike riding. 

A sequence of exercises has been well researched to improve fitness in a short amount of time.  There are 10 exercises that are each done for 30 seconds with a 10 second rest in between. Jumping jacks

  1. Wall sit
  2. Push-up
  3. Step-up onto chair
  4. Squat
  5. Triceps dip on chair
  6. Plank
  7. High knees/running in place
  8. Lunge
  9. Side plank


All exercises should be done at a speed that is comfortable and modified to your current fitness level.  For example, push-ups and planks can be done from the knees instead of the feet.  If stepping onto a chair is too high, use a small step stool or the first step of a flight of stairs

Various online versions and a downloadable Apps walk you through the routine with a visual guide and keeps track of time. You don’t need any equipment or special clothing - just a wall, a chair and some running shoes.  That means you can do it in your office or your home or anywhere. Even the busiest day can spare 7 minutes in the name of health and fitness!

Shaved Vegetable Salad Recipe

Shaved vegetable salad photo

This salad was inspired by a Summerlicious creation that I had at Quince Bistro a while back.  It is so colourful that it makes an impressive addition to a dinner party but it’s so PACKED with nutritious vegetables that you could enjoy it any day!  I used heritage carrots in my salad today – you might be able to see the purple and yellow ribbons.  Also when candy or golden beets are available in stores or farmers’ markets they add great colour too.  Oh and if you’ve never heard of kohl rabbi you’re not alone – feel free to leave it out but I challenge you to pick up this great veggie at your neighbourhood grocery store and give it a try!


  • 5 cups of baby arugula
  • 1-2 carrots
  • ½ bulb of fennel, cut top to bottom
  • 1/8th head of a red cabbage
  • ½ red onion
  • 6-8 radishes
  • ½ kohl rabbi, outer skin removed
  • 1-2 raw beets, skin removed
  • 1 avocado


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper


Trim, wash and thinly slice fennel, red cabbage, red onion, radishes and kohl rabbi using a mandolin.  Use a peeler to create long ribbons or carrot after peeling and trimming.  Dice avocado. Combine all vegetables.  Combine dressing ingredients and add the desired amount.  Toss well and enjoy.

Earth Hour

March 29th from 8:30-9:30pm local time is Earth Hour.  An hour when people around the world will switch off their lights to raise awareness for the planet.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, protecting and preserving the health of the planet is a significant concern.  Simply because it’s the only planet that we have and also because the health of the natural world has a tremendous impact on human health. 

The research about the effects of spending time in a natural environment shows profound positive impact on the physical and mental health and stress levels of humans.   Two minutes in nature relieves stress, as measured by muscle tension, blood pressure and brain activity.  One hour in nature improves memory and attention span by 20%. Two consecutive days in nature increases white blood cells –the infection and cancer fighting cells of our immune system – by 50%.  As such, preservation of natural habits where people can disconnect from their busy lives is of utmost importance. 

Also, the plants, animals and water that nourish us every day have a huge potential to impact our health –for good or bad – and the health of the planet.   Food produced through factory farming can contain pesticides, hormones, antibiotics – all of which are known to impact human health.  Pesticide exposure has been associated with numerous health conditions including cancer, neurological and psychological problems.   Approximately 80% of all antibiotics produced are used in farm animals to increase their rate of growth and to compensate for poor living conditions. The overuse of antibiotics may be one of the contributing factors leading to widespread antibiotic resistance, a major medical problem. 

Pollution and toxins that are produced at an ever increasing rate as a result of transportation, human consumption and industry can have significant effects on the body.  A recent study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group revealed that more than 200 chemicals are present in the umbilical cord blood of newborns.  Our bodies have elaborate mechanisms to eliminate toxic compounds but at a certain amount, those mechanisms can be overwhelmed and disease occurs.  The World Health Organization estimates that a quarter of the world’s disease burden is related to environmental hazards which are preventable.  This includes illnesses such as asthma, cancer, heart disease and birth defects. 

Why not pull out the candles and show your support for Earth Hour? If you’re reading this blog, health is important to you.  And to have human health, we need a healthy planet. 

Visit parks and natural areas near you, and speak up for their protection.  Vote with your grocery bill – choose farmers’ markets, organic vegetables, and ethically raised meat.  Take transit or ride your bike. Recycle and reuse. We need the planet for our health, and the planet’s health depends on us too!                 


Prüss-Üstün A and Corvalán. Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments. World Health Organization. 2006

Alavanja, M., Hoppin, J., & Kamel, F. (2004). Health effects of chronic pesticide exposure: Cancer and neurotoxicity. Annu. Rev. Public Health, 25, 155–97.

United States Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Summary report on antimicrobials sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved September 18, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention

Pink Ribbon

Guest Post from Dr Andrea Gri

Although treatment and survival rates have improved over the past couple decades, breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, affecting 1/9 Canadian women. Your Naturopathic Doctor is an important source for personalized prevention strategies but here is a summary of 3 general tips:

1. Maintain a healthy body weight through proper nutrition and exercise. Fat is a metabolically active tissue, raising insulin levels and producing small amounts of estrogen. Higher exposure to both insulin and estrogen increases the chances of getting breast cancer.

2. Limit alcohol consumption. The link between alcohol use and breast cancer is well established. Compared to women who don’t drink, one glass of alcohol per day increases a woman’s risk by up to 13%, two drinks per day increases the risk up to 27%, and three drinks or more per day can increase the risk by 40-50%. The World Health Organization reports that alcohol consumption is a greater risk for breast cancer than being overweight, having a low intake of fruits and vegetables, or not being physically active.

3. Include these cancer-fighting foods in your daily diet as much as possible:

  • Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale). These vegetables contain sulforaphane to help the liver detoxify estrogen.
  • Ground flaxseeds – helps the body get rid of excess estrogen, promotes regular bowel movements.
  • Brazil nuts – wonderful source of selenium, which the liver converts to glutathione, one of the most powerful anti-oxidants the body can utilize.

An interesting area that is gaining more research is the impact of environmental chemicals on breast cancer risk. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has released a study linking higher rates of breast cancer with occupational exposure to pesticides, plastics, and heavy metals. While more research in this area is needed, there are a number of simple lifestyle modifications that can reduce your exposure to these chemicals:

1. Replace plastic Tupperware and plastic bottles with glass. If you do use plastic Tupperware, reserve for cold storage only and avoid exposing to heat (microwave, dishwasher, etc).

2. Consider switching to organic produce and meats. Visit the Environmental Working Group website ( for this year’s “dirty dozen, clean fifteen” list. Wanigan offers organic produce at a reasonable price and will deliver fresh produce to your door (

Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Do you buy organic produce? Or have you thought about it? I encourage people to choose organic produce if they are able to but only if that doesn’t limit the amount of vegetables they consume – you all know I want people eating plenty of veggies!

A great option when choosing whether to opt for organic or conventionally grown is to consult the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.  The Dirty Dozen are the produce items which are highest in pesticide residues and should be purchased organic if possible.  While it started off as 12 items, 2 have been added to the list more recently.  The Clean Fifteen are the lowest in pesticide residues and can be bought conventionally.

Dirty Dozen Plus

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry Tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot Peppers
  7. Nectarines
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers
  13. Kale and Collards
  14. Zucchini

Clean Fifteen

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Sweet Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mango
  10. Mushroom
  11. Onions
  12. Papaya
  13. Pineapple
  14. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  15. Sweet Potato

While corn makes the list for low pesticide residues, it’s important to keep in mind that much of the corn available is genetically modified.  As a result, it’s best to opt for organic corn products.  The same applies for soy. 

While choosing organic produce does cost more, you may be able to offset this difference by committing to making your food from scratch and planning out your meals before shopping to minimize waste.

Happy grocery shopping!

Photo credit: