Resolve To Keep Working At It!

By this point in the year many have lost faith in, given up on or all-together forgotten about their New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s easy to get discouraged when we don’t measure up to the lofty objectives that we set when we have a fresh slate. The good news is that it’s not too late to make a positive change this year! There is still tons of time in 2014 to achieve goals around being a healthier you.

An important concept to keep in mind is that it’s what we do the majority of the time that really counts.  It’s easy for us to have one overly indulgent meal or skip out on one workout and to feel like the entire plan is ruined and give up.  I tell my patients that it’s what they do every day or the majority of days that counts and that the once-a-month treats (within reason, of course) matter much less.  The important thing is not letting those occasional indulgences take you off course.  Rather than beating yourself up or sliding back to old routines, it’s important to get right back to the healthy plan.

Another important part of resolutions is having support.  Have you told anyone about your goals? Have you teamed up with anyone to achieve your goals together? Maybe there’s a family member, friend or neighbour who also wants to commit to walking in the evenings.  Or a co-worker who would like to exchange healthy recipes with you. Have you told me about your health goal for 2014? Whether it’s improving your diet, losing weight, decreasing your need for medication or just feeling better, I’d love to help you achieve it!

New Year’s Resolutions have a certain excitement about them, but really any day works for setting goals.  Working towards goals doesn’t require us to be perfect, but simply to stick with it.  And the more support we have, the better. I hope you have a terrific 2014 and I can’t wait to work with you to make it the healthiest year yet!


Recipe of the Month: Kale Chips

If you haven’t tried them yet, you might think that “kale” and “chips” are two words that don’t belong together.  But if you’re someone who’s tried this trendy super-food, you know what a terrific snack it is! You can find kale chips in many grocery stores but making your own allows you to avoid an additives. And it’s easy! Kale is a powerhouse with the most nutritional value per calorie; it is alkaline and anti-inflammatory.


  • 1 Bunch of Kale
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional seasonings: 1 Tbsp Lemon or Lime Juice, 1 Tbsp Tahini, ¼ Tsp Cayenne Powder, or any other seasonings that you enjoy – be creative!


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Wash kale, dry thoroughly, remove the stems and break into bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, toss kale, oil and salt.
  4. Transfer kale to cookie sheets and spread to a single layer.
  5. Roast in oven for about 15 minutes, until edges are dark but not blackened. Watch closely to make sure they don’t burn!
  6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Be sure they are thoroughly cooled before putting into a container (if you can resist the temptation to eat the whole batch!)  

Recipe adapted from The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook by Susan Sampson. (I got it as a gift over the holidays and love it!)

Photo Credit: MorgueFile

NEW Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course

Are you looking to bring calmness to your mind and your life? Or maybe you are looking to better manage that work or family stress? Mindfulness training could be a helpful part of your plan!

I’m very excited to announce a new Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course that will be available in the New Year at the Justine Blainey Wellness Centre.  I will be facilitating this 8-week course based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s successful program.  This course has been extensively studied and shown to reduce stress, decrease anxiety and depression and improve concentration, productivity and sleep.  It’s also been shown to benefit many physical illnesses including fibromyalgia, headaches and arthritis.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to one’s moment-to-moment experience.  It’s about getting out of our heads and living in the present moment rather than dwelling on things that happened in the past or worrying about things that could happen in the future. 

Mindfulness training teaches people to pay attention to their thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in an observant, non-judgemental way.  When we view our thoughts and feelings from the perspective of an observer we notice that even negative ones are only temporary and not always as true as we might think.  By becoming aware of them we can make a conscious choice about how to respond to them.

This course helps participants develop the skills for being mindful through the use of a variety of exercises including meditation and group discussions.  Participants will also be asked to complete daily homework exercises to maximize the benefist of the program.  While there are some education components, most of the classes consist of experiential learning and the development of practical strategies and skills for participants to use in their daily lives.

More Info: Click on the Mindfulness page to learn more.

Photo credit:

Whole Foods

We’ve all heard the term “Whole Foods” mentioned.  It’s a popular marketing catchphrase these days and heck, there’s even a store bearing the name! But what does it really mean to eat whole foods?  

I read about a really practical experiment done in a high school culinary arts class that illustrated the idea of whole foods very clearly.  In the experiment, one student juiced 6 oranges to produce 8oz of juice, drank it in a few seconds and said “I’m hungry, what’s for breakfast?”  Another student was also given 6 oranges but instructed to cut them up and eat them.  After 15 minutes and 5 oranges the student said, “I think I'm going to be sick, I can't eat another bite.” 

While some people consider the orange juice to be a whole food – there was no extra sugar or flavouring added after all – it still differs significantly from the food’s natural state. By juicing it, we’ve removed the fiber which gives our body a signal that it’s had enough and helps to slow the absorption of sugar, lessening the impact on our blood sugar levels.  Also, the liquid format allows us to drink it very quickly without giving the body the opportunity to register the amount of sugar that has been consumed.  Instead, why not eat the whole fruit or add the entire fruit to a smoothie?

Another example of this concept is milk.  While I’m not a proponent of people drinking cow’s milk, if you do choose to drink it, you’re better off choosing whole milk.  A recent study looking at childhood obesity compared weight outcomes with the type of milk children consumed.  Surprisingly, compared to children drinking high-fat milk, those drinking 1% had a 57% increased chance of being obese 2 years later. One possible explanation is that by removing the fat from the dairy product you create a product that is less satisfying which may encourage people to drink more of it. 

Another challenge exists when whole foods are combined with other ingredients.  A bread or pasta may bear the label claim “made with whole grains” because a small portion of the product is whole wheat or brown rice.  However, in many of these products, an equal or even a larger portion of the product is made of refined white flour or a variety of other highly processed ingredients and additives. 

Rather than choosing processed foods with this catchy phrase on their packaging, try to incorporate more foods in their whole, natural form into your meals.  Enjoy a piece of fresh chicken or fish rather than a frozen burger or fish stick. Have a whole apple (with the skin) instead of the apple sauce cup.  Boil some quinoa or brown rice instead of bread, pasta or white rice.  Top your salad with lemon juice and olive oil instead of a bottled dressing. Try making your own homemade granola or cookies using whole grains, nuts and seeds. And don’t forget about your 6-8 servings of vegetables, my favourite whole foods of all!

When making food choices, focusing on whole foods is a great way to ensure that you are getting all of the benefits naturally found in a food and it helps us to eat foods in the right amounts.  Why not try choosing more whole foods today?



Scharf RJ et al. Ach Dis Child. 2013;0:1.


Recipe of the Month: Vibrant Kale Salad

This is my favourite salad and a great crowd pleaser. Vegetables come in a variety of colours (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green and Purple) and each colours provide a variety of plant-based compounds (called phytochemicials) which have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancer activity. This salad covers four of the five colours! Most of these ingredients are currently in season so it’s a great time to make a batch.


  • 1 large bunch of Kale
  • ½ Red Onion
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Raw Beets
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • ¼ cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions: Shred kale into bite-sized pieces and wash. Peel and julianne the carrots and beets and thinly slice the red onion and add to the kale. Combine all dressing ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Add dressing to the vegetables and allow at least 1 hour before serving in order to soften the kale.

Note: Because the beets love to share their vibrant colour you may wish to wear gloves while peeling and slicing. If you use your bare hands, the colour will wash off fully within a day.


Does Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer?

You may have heard about a study that was published recently that made the claim that higher levels of omega-3 fats were linked to increased rates of prostate cancer.   This is a concerning statement because omega-3s are recommended for a huge range of health benefits such as heart disease prevention, anti-depressant effects and anti-inflammatory benefits– whether it’s in the form of fish oil supplements or increasing the consumption of fish in the diet. 

Here’s what the study showed: those patients with higher omega-3 levels had a 43-71% increased incidence of developing prostate cancer compared to those with the lowest omega-3 levels. 

Here are some of the headlines that were posted about this study:

"Omega-3 supplements linked to prostate cancer" (Fox News)

"Men who take omega-3 supplements at 71 percent higher risk of prostate cancer" (NY Daily News)

"Omega-3 supplements may trigger prostate cancer" (Nursing Times)

"Hold the salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids linked to higher risk of cancer" (CNN)

Sounds pretty scary! But let’s look at whether or not these headlines were appropriate.  The truth is that the design of a study is enormously critical to the usefulness of the results and this one has some major issues.

From reading these headlines, you’d probably think that the researchers took a group of people, divided them in half, gave one group fish oil and monitored for prostate cancer.  If this were the case, I would be very interested in stopping this supplement in my patients.  Check out my blog post “Killer Calcium” for an example of research showing potential harm from supplementation.  However, this is not what happened in this particular study. 

Firstly, this was a retrospective trial.  Another study was completed to investigate something different and after it was finished researchers looked back at various factors among the participants to find associations.   And that is the main problem – associations do not tell us about cause. 

I could create a study where I could find an association between having yellow fingers and an increased risk of lung cancer.  Using my retrospective study we might say that the yellow fingers caused the cancer but using common sense we know that smoking causes your fingers to yellow and increases your risk of lung cancer. And the yellow fingers really aren’t to blame.  

In the case of this study, we have to consider other factors that may have been at play.  What if men with more risk factors for cancer or heart disease started taking omega-3 supplements but eventually developed cancer due to their genetic disposition?  (A first degree relative such as a father or brother with prostate cancer raises your risk by 120-180%)   The study did not take into account the health of the participants.  The study also did not account for diet, exercise, genetic risk or obesity.   What if more participants in the high risk group had a family history of prostate cancer or other known risk factors like obesity?

Other correlations that were found within this study were that non-smokers had more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, the risk of prostate cancer was higher in non-drinkers and that patients with prostate cancer were less likely to have a history of diabetes.  Based on these outcomes, and the same line of reasoning that was used with omega-3 levels, we might say that the best way to avoid prostate cancer would be to develop diabetes, drink in excess and smoke cigarettes.   These ideas clearly are opposite to what we know about cancer prevention.  And the same is true for omega-3 intake and prostate cancer risk.

A 2007 study from Harvard of 14 916 men revealed a decrease in prostate cancer risk among men with higher levels of omega-3s. A large 2010 study showed a 63% decrease in the risk of dying from prostate cancer among men with higher fish consumption.  A 2003 study of 47 866 men found a trend towards decreasing risk of prostate cancer with higher omega-3 levels.   A 2013 Harvard study of 293 464 men showed a lower rate of fatal prostate cancer among those with higher omega-3 intakes.  We can also look at historical data. For generations, Japanese men have eaten diets containing large amounts of fish.  Japanese men have had the highest blood levels of omega-3’s and yet some of the lowest rates of prostate cancer.  More recent studies have shown an increase in prostate cancer in this population and it’s possible that the global trend towards the Standard North American diet (low in omega-3’s) could be playing a role in the trend.  These are high quality studies using huge populations.  And there are LOTS more.  To say that one study involving 2200 participants is able to contradict this established PROTECTIVE effect of omega-3s is not appropriate or justified. 

Another concern is the type of testing used in the study.  The testing performed in this study looked at the omega-3 fatty acids in the liquid part of the blood (the plasma) which changes very rapidly.  The omega-3 levels within the red blood cells provide information about more long term omega-3 status.   The difference in plasma levels seen in this study could have simply been related to whether the men chose to have chicken or salmon the night before the blood test was done. 

Let’s talk about the omega-3 values themselves.  Based on previous research, blood levels in a person eating a moderate amount of fish at approximately 6% and in a person supplementing 3.6g of fish oil daily are about 11%.  In this study the group with higher prostate cancer risk had blood levels of 4.66% compared to the low risk group with 4.48%.   These low levels suggest that neither group was supplementing with fish oil or regularly eating large quantities of fish and this incredibly small difference in blood level (0.18%) may have, again, been simply related to those who ate fish the night before the blood test. 

For many reasons, the results of this article are not sufficient to cause concern about people eating fish or supplementing with fish oil.  The participants in this study had very low levels of omega-3s and the form tested is more reflective of short term exposure than the long term intake of omega-3s that would affect disease risk.   The main concern about the study, however, is that even if a correlation is seen, it does not tell us about the cause.  Numerous large, high quality studies suggest a protective effect of omega-3s for prostate health.  Taking this into consideration, we can safely say that the media response to this study was unjustified and inappropriate and that with all their other health benefits omega-3s should remain an important part of a healthy diet. 


Szymanski KM, Wheeler DC, Mucci LA. Fish consumption and prostate cancer risk: a review and meta-analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition. Nov 2010;92(5):1223-1233.

Leitzmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Michaud DS, et al. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. The American journal of clinical nutrition. Jul 2004;80(1):204-216.

Chavarro JE, Stampfer MJ, Li H, Campos H, Kurth T, Ma J. A prospective study of polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in blood and prostate cancer risk. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology. Jul 2007;16(7):1364-1370.

Bosire C, Stampfer MJ, Subar AF, et al. Index-based dietary patterns and the risk of prostate cancer in the NIH-AARP diet and health study. American journal of epidemiology. Mar 15 2013;177(6):504-513.

Epstein MM, Kasperzyk JL, Mucci LA, et al. Dietary fatty acid intake and prostate cancer survival in Orebro County, Sweden. American journal of epidemiology. Aug 1 2012;176(3):240-252.

Mori M, Masumori N, Fukuta F, et al. Traditional Japanese diet and prostate cancer. Molecular nutrition & food research. Feb 2009;53(2):191-200.

Ferris-Tortajada J, Berbel-Tornero O, Garcia-Castell J, Ortega-Garcia JA, Lopez-Andreu JA. [Dietetic factors associated with prostate cancer: protective effects of Mediterranean diet]. Actas urologicas espanolas. Apr 2012;36(4):239-245.

The Study:

Photo credit:

Peanut Butter VS Almond Butter

Peanut butter is a staple of many peoples’ diets – as a sandwich for breakfast or lunch, in baked goods or on crackers or celery for snacks.  But almond butter is becoming increasingly popular and is recommended by many Naturopathic Doctors.  Let’s take a look at how these two stack up!

If we compare 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to almond butter we see many similarities.  Both are good sources of protein (7-8g), high in heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, a good source of potassium and similar in carbohydrate content. 

Although almond butter is slightly higher in calories, it is lower in unhealthy saturated fat (1g vs 3g), has twice as much magnesium, and 7 times as much calcium! It also has twice as much fiber, iron and vitamin E. 

Both nut butters have benefits but it does seem that almond butter comes out on top!

While these statistics were taken from the USDA References as representing the average almond and peanut butters, it’s also very important to keep in mind that not all are created equally! When it comes to almond butter, most contain only ground almonds.  On the other hand, unless you get “Natural” peanut butter, it’s likely to contain added sugar, salt and fat to make it creamier and sweeter.  The fat used is often hydrogenated which contains trans-fat that dramatically increase the risk of heart disease.   Read the labels on all products that you buy and keep in mind that fewer ingredients are almost always better!

And don’t be afraid to add variety to your diet by branching out to other members of the nut butter family - health food stores have huge selections! Why not try sunflower, cashew or hazelnut butter? You probably grew up eating peanut butter but it might be time to add nutritional value and variety to your diet by giving almond butter a try.


To Eat Meat or Not To Eat Meat

That is the question? Vegetarianism is an interesting topic. One might think that as a Naturopathic Doctor, I’d be all for swearing off burgers, steak and all other meat, but in reality I’m not.  There are many potential benefits of eating a plant based diet but there are also many potential pitfalls.

The results of the studies on vegetarianism are mixed.  When we compare an ideal vegetarian diet to the standard North American diet, the veggie diet wins, hands down.  It contains more vegetables, fruit, fibre, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats and less saturated fat and thus undoubtedly reduces cancer and heart disease risks.  But what happens when we compare the veggie diet to a healthy omnivore diet? A large study of 76000 people showed no difference in the risk of overall mortality – the risk of dying –between vegetarian and non-vegetarian individuals.  However, the death rate in this group was half that of the general population.  This suggests that some of the benefit of eating vegetarian may be lost when we compare it to something that looks like a vegetarian diet plus some meat. 

When speaking about a diet choice, it’s important to also consider the risks and when vegetarianism is not done correctly, it can be a recipe for major deficiencies.  We’ve all seen individuals who decide to be vegetarian and simply leave the meat off their plate without substituting anything in its place.

The biggest challenges in plant-based diets are protein, iron and vitamin B12 –all found in smaller quantities or less usable forms in vegetable sources.  Protein is made up of a combination of 20 building blocks called amino acids.  Meat contains all 20 amino acids and thus is considered a “complete protein”.  Plants tend to contain some of the amino acids but not all.  As a result, plant-based proteins must be eaten in combination and in greater quantities to ensure that the minimum requirements for all the amino acids are met.  As a result, vegetarians must make a consistent effort to include a variety of protein sources and an adequate amount at each meal.  Iron can also be a challenge.  It is found in two different forms –a plant form and an animal form – and the plant form tends to absorb rather poorly, in the range of 1-15% compared to 15-40%.  Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal sources and this deficiency can lead to neurological problems, mood changes and fatigue.  In order to prevent these deficiencies, vegetarians must carefully plan their meals and supplement if necessary.

In addition to the health benefits, many people look to vegetarianism for environmental reasons.  A cow raised on a factory farm must consume 16 pounds of cattle feed to produce 1 pound of meat for human consumption making it an inefficient process.  While 100 gallons of water is needed to produce one pound of hemp seeds, the production of one pound of beef requires at least 2500 gallons.  For more information about the environmental benefits of plant-based diets check out Brendan Brazier‘s book, Whole Foods To Thrive.   

So what’s to make of all of this? While there are unique situations and health concerns where either vegetarianism or higher-meat diets can be very helpful, my recommendation for most people is to get the benefits of both of these options.  Eat all of the foods that a well-balanced vegetarian meal provides –heaps of vegetables, legumes, nuts and seed, whole grains and healthy fats – and supplement with meat to ensure that all nutritional needs are met while choosing healthy meats and moderate amounts.  This can mean observing Meatless Monday, choosing cuts of meat that are lower in saturated fat and grilling or baking them, and choosing meats that are grass-fed and locally raised.  If you think that vegetarianism is the right choice for you, be sure to talk to a Naturopathic Doctor to create a plan that meets all of your nutritional needs and health goals.


Brazier, B. 2011. Whole Foods to Thrive. Penguin Canada

Key TJ et al. AJCN 1990;70:516S-524S

Meatless Monday -

Photo credit:


Killer Calcium?

When people think about natural health products such as vitamins, minerals and her,b many feel confident in the safety of these products based on their natural origin.  While natural health products do boast an excellent safety record overall, it is important to recognize that with any medicine –natural or synthetic – there may be long term effects. 

Calcium is an important example.  Many people are concerned about calcium intake as a way of preserving bone density and warding off osteoporosis.  While there is a benefit of adequate calcium intake, the effect of supplementation is considered marginal and other factors such as weight bearing exercise and other dietary factors also play important roles in the prevention of osteoporosis. 

Additionally, new research has begun to surface regarding the risk of supplementing with calcium.  A 2010 study that reviewed trials involving calcium supplementation of greater than 500mg in 12 000 participants, found that patients receiving the calcium supplements had a higher frequency of heart attacks compared to control subjects –an increased risk of 31%. Other studies have shown that calcium obtained from the diet does not produce an increased risk.  It is know that calcium plays a role in “hardening of the arteries” –also called atherosclerosis— which causes heart attacks.  Calcium supplements seem to increase the amount of calcium in the blood more significantly than dietary calcium, which may be responsible for its effect on the walls of the blood vessels. 

So does this mean that all calcium supplements are harmful in all people? It’s unclear.  There are other potential factors –for example, calcium supplements that include vitamin D were not included in the review.  Vitamin D plays a role in helping the calcium get to the bones and thus may have a protective effect.  Additionally, there may be cases where calcium supplementation is important for the treatment of other medical concerns. 

When considering the use of any supplement or natural health product it is important to understand the potential risks and not assume that “natural” is the same as “safe”.  It is best to speak with a Naturopathic Doctor or Medical Doctor to ensure that you are maximizing benefit and minimizing the risk of harm from the products that you choose. 


Bolland MJ, Avenell A, Baron JA, Grey A, MacLennan GS, Gamble GD,  Reid IR. (2010). Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 34:3691.

Tang BMP, Eslick GD, Nowson C, Smith C, Bensoussan A. (2007). Use of calcium or calcium in combination with vitamin D supplementation to prevent fractures and bone loss in people aged 50 years and older: a meta-analysis. Lancet, 370:657–66.

Photo credit:


“Let Food Be Thy Medicine”

This famous quote by Hippocrities, the father of modern medicine, is often used by Naturopathic Doctors.  But what does it really mean?

At least three times per day we put a vast range of substances into our bodies, providing a tremendous opportunity to either support health or take away from it.  The food we eat is broken down into the building blocks that make up every cell in your body.  While some substances can be broken down to produce energy, others cannot and may accumulate in the body –think of cholesterol and pesticide residues.   Conversely, if we are deficient in essential nutrients, vital processes in the body can be significantly affected such a thyroid function without enough iodine. There are also compounds in food that produce a wide range of well-researched, healing benefits in the body such as I3C, a compound in some vegetables that can help normalize estrogen levels. 

The most profound example of healing with food that I’ve learned about was documented in a TED Talks lecture.  Dr. Terry Wahls MD recounts her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease of the nervous system for which there is no known cure, in 2000.  Despite receiving the best care offered by medicine, her disease progressed rapidly to the point that she was dependant on a motorized wheel-chair and by 2007 had to be reclined in a zero-gravity chair.  She began reading medical research about degeneration of the nervous system and found nutrients that showed potential for treatment.  She started supplementing with these nutrients and found that the speed of decline slowed; however, her health continued to decline. 

One day it occurred to Dr. Wahls to try getting the long list of nutrients she needed from food.  After significant research, she decided that the Hunter-Gatherer or Paleolithic Diet was the richest in the essential nutrients that many North Americans lack.  As part of her diet she ate 3 cups (one heaping dinner plate) or green leaves (such as kale, collards, parsley), 3 cups of sulphur-rich vegetables (such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic), and 3 cups bright colour (beets, carrots, peppers, berries), along with grass-fed meat, organ meat and seaweed.   

Three months after staring her new diet, Dr. Walhs was able to walk around the hospital where she practiced using one cane; after five months she was able to ride her bike again and a year later she was back to living an active lifestyle.

While this is a very dramatic story, the fact is, food has a tremendous impact on our health and wellbeing.   Dr. Walhs’ diet plan was designed around her disease but its principles are beneficial for a huge range of health concerns and for prevention.  To learn more about dietary changes that are best suited for your health concerns, consider talking with a Naturopathic Doctor.


Photo credit: