Am I an Optimist or a Pessimist?


Not sure where you fall on the spectrum? Take this free Optimism test to find out if you are an optimist or not.

There are some advantages to being an optimist, including health benefits. To find out more about this, read my post called Are Optimists Healthier?

How to Become An Optimist

If you haven’t seen my post called Are Optimists Healthier? You can check it out here.

Suffice to say, there are some advantages to being an optimist, including improved immune system function. If you are a pessimist don’t despair—no really don’t despair—there is help!

Check out this great guide: The Pessimists Guide to Becoming an Optimist 

Optimist versus Pessimist

The classic example of the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is:

the optimist will see a half glass of liquid as half full and the pessimist will see it as half empty

But how does this example apply to situations that really matter (and not just drinking glasses)? What about a cancer diagnosis? If a doctor tells a patient the 5-year-survival-rate for their type of cancer is 30%, how do the optimist and the pessimist respond now?

The pessimist might say, “Well, the cards are stacked against me and chances are, I’m in the 70%.” While the optimist might say, “30% is better than 20% and as long as I’ve got any chance even if it’s 1%, I see myself in that number.”

It’s easy to speculate that these two different attitudes will result in different outcomes.  In my review of the research in this area, being an optimist may in fact be better for your immune system. If you haven’t seen my post called Are Optimists Healthier?, you can check it out here.

Here is short story that illustrates the comparison between an optimist and a pessimist. Enjoy!

Optimist VS Pessimist

I’d love to read your examples of an optimist versus a pessimist. Add them below in the comments section.




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Are Optimists Healthier?


Are Optimists Healthier?

This is the question I set out to answer, in my quest to find all the tools available to us to support our immune systems.

This is what I found.  First off, researchers from Australia conducted a review of studies on the subject and have found that optimism is closely associated with a strategy called benefit finding (1). Benefit finding, as the name implies, is a strategy in which you find the positives in adverse situations.

You might be thinking, what allows a cancer patient to engage in the practice of benefit finding? Well, two prerequisites suggested themselves in the research review—optimism and social support.

While the tabulation of their literature review did show a mix of results, some of the positive findings of the practice of benefit finding were:

  • less depression,
  • less anxiety and
  • lower levels of cortisol.

Lower levels of cortisol is important because cortisol is a stress hormone that suppresses the immune system. So, lower levels of cortisol means a stronger immune system.

While this is by no means strong evidence, I believe every little bit helps. So, if there is some evidence optimism and benefit finding can help my immune system, then these tools are going straight into my toolkit!


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A second study that I looked at made the waters on the subject a bit more cloudy (2). While optimists do have better mental health such as mood, better adaptation to change, and less depression and anxiety, it seems it is not as straightforward as “an optimist will always have a better immune response”. It appears to be a situation of short-term pain versus long-term gain. Let me explain this in more detail by giving you an example.

An optimist is diagnosed with cancer. They believe the cancer will be contained and the treatment they will undergo will be easy and effective. They start learning what they can about their cancer, begin networking with others and really get engaged in their cancer treatment. Then, they find out their cancer is more advanced and the treatment comes with little guarantee of a cure—this can spike their levels of cortisol because of disappointment and/or because the stress of being engaged in their cancer diagnosis is draining on them. The result of this spike in cortisol is lower immune system function.

In contrast, a pessimist is diagnosed with cancer and they think “game over”.  They do not hold high expectations and do not get engaged in finding answers or treatments. This disengagement is actually protecting their immune system. They do not experience a spike their levels of cortisol from the disappointment or the draining energy of engagement and therefore, do not have a lowered immune system function.

However, in the long run, as the initial stress of the diagnosis wears off, the optimist begins to see some successes along the way. The benefits of their engagement in their cancer journey forms new support systems and community. They may even begin benefit finding. As a result, their immune function improves and surpasses that of the pessimist.

So, what does this research tell me? I think the optimist is the healthier perspective. As a short-term strategy though, I would suggest setting incremental goals, which may avert some immune-depleting disappointment. I would also recommend a regular practice of benefit finding.


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A benefit I can report from my cancer experience is that I had a much closer relationship with my family, especially my mother. So much so that I would now say, I think the benefit of that closer relationship, outweighed the ugliness of having cancer and treatment.

What benefit did you find in your cancer experience? Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!





(1) Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2013 Dec;17(6):760-6. 2013 Apr 21.

Benefit finding in cancer: a review of influencing factors and health outcomes.

Pascoe L1, Edvardsson D.

(2) Brain Behav Immun. 2005 May;19(3):195-200.

Optimism and immunity: do positive thoughts always lead to positive effects?

Segerstrom SC1.

How to fight cancer by eating cake

Christmas Present

Yes, you read that correctly! I modified this loaf recipe from its original version to make a healthy, tasty snack. You can make it at Christmas time instead of a traditional Christmas cake or have it on hand for healthy snacking anytime!

I like this recipe because instead of using sugar-soaked and colour-laden cherries this uses dried cherries and cranberries. Both of which are very good sources of cancer-fighting phytonutrients. The Brazil nuts add a blast of selenium—an antioxidant mineral. The ground flax seeds add some omega-3 fats, as well as lignans—more cancer-fighting ingredients!

If you like, you can change the ratio of Brazil nuts and dates by adding 3 cups of dates and 3 cups of Brazil nuts. Sometimes, I have it adjusted this way because I love the taste of the Brazil nuts. You also may notice that there is no added sugar in the recipe! I find it just doesn’t need it. With the cherries and cranberries, there is enough sweetness.

Delicious and Nutritious Brazil Nut Loaf


  • 2½ cups pitted dates, cut up
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 3½ cups Brazil nuts
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, well beaten (I suggest omega-3 eggs)
  • 2 TBSP rum
  • ¼ cup ground flax seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray (mine is 5 x 9 x 2 ½).
  3. Mix fruit and nuts and add rum. Let sit.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, ground flax seeds).
  5. Mix beaten eggs with dry ingredients.
  6. Add rum soaked nuts and dry fruit. Continue mixing by hand until there is no flour visible in the batter.
  7. Pour into loaf pan.
  8. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Check doneness by inserting a toothpick until it comes out clean. Let sit 10 minutes before removing from the pan.


Want more recipes like this? Ready to learn how small changes to your diet can boost your immune system and help you thrive after cancer? CLICK HERE to learn more.

Fighting Cancer with Citrus


The citrus family has some popular members—orange, lemon, lime, clementines and grapefruit. It also has some members that are no less important but are certainly less popular. These include pomelo, tangelo, tangerine, mandarin, blood orange and bitter orange, plus a whole lot more.

Citrus fruits are famous for their vitamin C content. This is impressive but there is a whole lot more to impress you about citrus! At the top of that list is that citrus fruits contain plant nutrients from the Flavonoid family.

You may have heard of flavonoids. They are also in blueberries, apples, dark chocolate, green tea and other foods and are promoted for their cancer-fighting ability.

While flavonoids have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease risk and neurodegenerative disorders, their cancer-fighting ability is what has peaked my interest.

In a study published in 2002 researchers tested the ability of various fruit extracts to stop the growth of human liver cancer cells that were living in a petri dish. Lemon was the second most powerful—it beat out apple, strawberry, red grape, banana, grapefruit and peach. The number one most powerful was cranberry and I’ll be writing about that in a future article.

Citrus fruits are also anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic; meaning that they don’t allow cancer cells to create their own blood supply.

So, if you are feeling down about the lack of fresh, tree-ripened fruit in the produce section, take heart and stock up on all the juicy goodness that winter offers us through oranges, grapefruit, clementines, lemons and limes. Know that when you make the citrus family a part of your diet, you are participating in one of the many things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.

There is a lot more to know about the citrus family! And I hope to share it with you in the new year as part of my new program. Stay in the loop and get priority access to my new materials by joining my community. CLICK HERE to join my community!

Fennel Tea, a Great After Meal Digestive

While most of my research on spices and herbs has focused on their ability to fight cancer and their role in a cancer-fighting diet, spices have far ranging medical attributes that have been used for centuries.

Fennel is a plant with a large bulb, tall hollow stalks with feathery fronds and a flower with seeds. You can eat the bulb, fronds and seeds of the plant. The flavour is unmistakable. Chances are you have tried black licorice or black jelly beans or maybe ouzo, absinthe or sambuca. They all have the same flavor, which is called anise flavour. This same flavour is also in anise seeds, called aniseed and star anise. All three of these contain anethole—an aromatic compound that provides the black licorice flavour.

Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds.

Turns out anethole provides more than just flavour. It has medicinal benefits too. Fennel has been found to help with a variety of ills in human studies including menstrual cramps, digestive problems like gas and bloating and even more advanced digestive issues including inflammatory bowel disease.

It’s also shown other benefits in animal studies—treating Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, stroke and glaucoma. While it’s difficult to make recommendations to humans based on animal studies, keep in mind that it’s a spice that’s been eaten for centuries! And when taken in traditional culinary amounts, there isn’t a danger of using fennel.

I have used the fennel bulb to make salad, which is delicious, but more often I simply use the seeds to make fennel tea. You can purchase fennel tea in the tea section of the grocery store, but I prefer to make my own with the fennel seeds.

Simply put a few seeds on a cutting board and press the seeds with the back of a spoon to release some of the flavour. Put the seeds into a teapot and add hot water. Let the tea steep for about 8 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Another variation is to toast the seeds first. This makes the seeds and the tea a little darker. The tea also has a distinct toasty flavour and the black licorice taste is not as obvious.

Toasted Fennel Seed Tea

This tea is made with toasted fennel seeds. The tea is darker in colour.

Untoasted Fennel Seed Tea

This tea is made from fennel seeds that have not been toasted. It is greener in colour. I prefer the taste of this version because it tastes more like black licorice.














You can enjoy fennel tea anytime, but next time you are feeling gassy or bloated then instead of heading for the medicine cabinet, head for the spice cupboard instead. If you don’t have time to make tea, just chew on some of the seeds.

The Health Benefits of Gratitude

I would like to wish all of my American readers a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. No gift giving, just coming together with friends and family over a beautiful harvest meal. I hope part of your Thanksgiving tradition is to also take a moment to give thanks. Turns out this can benefit your health.

According to Psychology Today, studies show that gratitude can be deliberately cultivated and can increase levels of well-being and happiness among those who practice this art. In addition, grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism and empathy.

There is actually published research on the topic. Study participants are asked to record either what they are grateful for or the hassles they experience.

When your gratitude leads to optimism and it often does, this is a boost to your immune system. Expressing gratitude leads to a more optimistic outlook, less stress and a stronger immune system. What’s not to love about it?

Are you in a rut, focused on all the negative things in your life? Consider it your new prescription to begin a daily practice of gratitude!



Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2013 Dec;17(6):575. Gratitude: a gift of cancer. Mayer DK.

Span J Psychol. 2010 Nov;13(2):886-96. The effects of counting blessings on subjective well-being: a gratitude intervention in a Spanish sample. Martínez-Martí ML, Avia MD, Hernández-Lloreda MJ.


Peanut Tofu with Quinoa and Leeks


November is the time to start preparing warm dinners that make your house smell intoxicating when you walk in from the cool outdoor air. They comfort you with their seasoning and fortify you with their healthy ingredients. This is one of those recipes.



  • 900ml carton of vegetable broth
  • 1 28oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 leeks, cleaned and sliced (mostly white with some tender green parts) (pictured above)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups green beans, washed and snapped into 1″ pieces
  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter (I prefer chunky)
  • 16-20oz block of extra firm tofu, cubed and drained (I like Wild Wood Organics Super Firm)
  • dash of hot pepper flakes—more if you like it hotter
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • dash or more of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts for garnish


  1. Chop garlic and allow it to sit for 10 minutes in order for the beneficial compounds to develop.
  2. Clean, slice lengthwise and chop leeks.
  3. In a large saucepan heat olive oil. Add garlic and leeks and cook about 5 minutes until softened, stirring.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, cumin, red pepper flakes and ground black pepper and stir.
  5. Add container of broth and heat until it comes to a boil.
  6. Add peanut butter and stir.
  7. Add prepared green beans and rinsed quinoa, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  8. Add cubed tofu and allow it to heat through about 2-5 minutes.
  9. Serve in shallow bowls with crushed peanuts as garnish.

Every ingredient in this dish is a healthy one and I love the warm savory flavour. It’s a balanced meal, with protein, vegetable and grain all in one, so it stands alone as a one-dish dinner. If you aren’t comfortable cooking with tofu, this is an excellent first dish to try as it has lots of delicious sauce to add flavour and moisture to the tofu.


What are Probiotics?

​Probiotics were first discovered by a Russian biologist by the name of Dr. Elie Metchnikoff. He observed that Bulgarian peasants who drank fermented milk were living very long lives and he hypothesized that bacteria produced as a result of the fermentation were providing health benefits.

Dr. Metchnikoff is now known as the father of probiotics. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered (eaten) in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to the host (person)”.

So probiotics are not just any bacteria, they are bugs that provide us with proven health benefits.

Does it make a difference if the yogurt you purchase says “probiotic” on the label or not? I think it does.

In order for good bacteria (probiotics) to provide us with a health benefit, there are three hurdles that it must overcome.

Firstly, good bacteria must survive the processing that it undergoes as the food is made. For example, while all yogurt begins with starter culture, not all starter culture survives to the end of the yogurt-making process and then to the end of the shelf life of the packaged product.

Secondly, good bacteria must survive stomach acid. The destination for good bacteria is the intestines. This is where they join other healthy bacteria that make up our intestinal flora. If the strain of good bacteria used in the fermented food doesn’t do well in acid then it won’t make it to the intestines.

Thirdly, the probiotic must be present in a large quantity. This is measured in CFUs (colony forming units). The intestines require a large number of probiotics to have a health effect.

The use of the term probiotic on the food label is regulated by Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S.

I couldn’t find any information on the FDA website about regulations for the use of the term “probiotic” (If you have a link, please feel free to share it with me!). However, in Canada, only 16 species of bacteria can be called “probiotic” and carry a health claim. These 16 species are all from the families of bifodbacterium and lactobacillus.

So, if you are the “grab and go” type of shopper, gear down as you pass the yogurt aisle long enough to scan for the word “probiotic” and get those healthy bugs working for you.

Probiotic vs Regular Yogurt

I am continuing to do research as I prepare for the launch of my new program. Be the first to know when it’s ready by subscribing to my community. CLICK HERE to join my community!

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