Nov 28 2014

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.

Nov 22 2014

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!

thanksgiving

References

http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/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.

http://www.webmd.com/women/features/gratitute-health-boost

 

Nov 12 2014

Peanut Tofu with Quinoa and Leeks

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.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 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

Method:

  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.

 

Nov 07 2014

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!

Oct 28 2014

Artichoke and Mushroom Pasta with Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese

IMG_1090_0This is a Jean LaMantia original recipe. I’ve been making this dish for years. It’s evolved over the years to its current standard. One ingredient—the marinated artichoke hearts—has been in the recipe since its beginning.

Here is what you will need for the recipe:

IMG_1078Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • Whole grain pasta
  • 2 Bunches green onions
  • 2 Portabella mushrooms
  • 4-6 Shitake mushrooms
  • 12-16 Cremini mushrooms
  • 1-2 Cloves of garlic
  • 1 Small jar of marinated artichoke hearts
  • 2 TBSP black olives
  • 2 TBSP sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/3 Cup white wine
  • 1/4 Fresh parsley, chopped

Method:

  1. Chop the garlic and set aside. Garlic contains anti-cancer compounds, but these are only formed after chopping or crushing the garlic. To maximize these cancer-fighting compounds, let the garlic sit for 10 minutes before adding it to the pot.garlic
  2. Prepare the mushrooms. This is optional, but I like to remove the gills from the Portabella mushrooms. You can do this by scooping them out with a spoon. I do this because I think it looks nicer. Remove the stems from the Portabellas and shitakes. Remove or shorten either the stems on the Cremini.IMG_1080
  3. Chop the mushrooms and green onions.IMG_1081
  4. Add the marinade from the bottle of marinated artichoke hearts (reserve the artichoke hearts for later) to your cooking pot, turn the heat to medium and add the chopped garlic.IMG_1083
  5. Add chopped mushrooms, green onion and white wine to the pot along with the garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until you see the mushrooms and onions have softened and some liquid has come out of them.IMG_1085
  6. Prepare the other ingredients—chop the fresh parsley, sun dried tomatoes, olives and reserved artichoke hearts.IMG_1086_0
  7. Add the fresh parsley, sun dried tomatoes, olives and artichoke hearts to the pot just before serving.IMG_1087
  8. Serve over hot pasta. Top with about 1 TBSP of goat cheese.
  9. Enjoy!

Important!

Tip: Add steamed broccoli, or cauliflower to your plate along with the pasta. Even though this sauce is loaded with veggies, there is always room for more.  You can also serve this dish with a few stems of grilled asparagus.

 

Oct 22 2014

Boosting the Immune System to Fight Cancer

While preparing an upcoming product I will be releasing, I have been diving in for a deep review of the immune system. I have been reading about the inflammatory response and how our immune system uses this as a way to heal and repair damaged tissue.

Unfortunately, I got a first-hand review of this when my daughter fell off the monkey bars and broke her arm. The five pillars of inflammation were all present: redness, heat, swelling, loss of function and pain.

I managed to keep myself calm as I drove to the hospital emergency department. Thankfully, my partner was with us so she could sit in the back and take care of the patient, while I navigated the streets to the ER. The patient is now on the road to recovery.

The doctors at the children’s hospital are all too familiar with money bar mishaps and were able to get a good alignment of the fractured bone without surgery.

Broken Bone Pictorial

My daughter missed school and as it turns out, her assignment was to prepare a pictorial of a story with one sentence each. Here are her four drawings to give you a visual of the adventure.

I have often spoken about a “cancer fighting diet” and “fighting cancer cells”, but recently, I started to approach cancer from a different perspective. This new perspective is that of “boosting the immune system”. The immune system, after all, is the body’s built-in army for fighting invaders. Most of us think of the immune system when it comes to bacteria, viruses and infections but it is also fights against cancer cells.

While chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are the tools of the oncologist, the immune system is our built-in healing tool. There is a part of the immune system called cell-mediated immunity. This consists of cells that recognize abnormal cells and attack them. They don’t need to know the foreign cells by a previous infection or immunization.

This is the part of the immune system we can use against cancer. It begs the question, is there anything we can do to support this part of our immune system? Turns out there are many tools at our disposal. An obvious one is what we eat, but there are several lifestyle factors that can be used too. I can’t wait to share with you more about what I have learned about nutrition and lifestyle tips to boost your own immune system. The best way to stay up to date is to join my community. I’ll keep you posted on when I will be ready to share all this great information. CLICK HERE to join my community!

Oct 12 2014

Avocado on Rosemary Crackers with Fresh Peas

Untitled design (47)

My daughter created this appetizer. We love the combination of smashed avocado on Rosemary Triscuits. She added the fresh peas in a moment of creative inspiration!

Ingredients:

  • Crackers
  • Avocado
  • Fresh Peas
Triscuits Small

We like to use Rosemary Triscuit crackers for this recipe.

Method:

Scoop out fresh avocado. Place about 1 TBSP on a cracker and press down with a fork. Top with 3 fresh peas.

Voilà.

What’s your favourite kid-inspired recipe?

Oct 07 2014

BRCA1 and BRCA2 Gene Mutations

Breast cancer caused by the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are rare and account for only 5-7% of breast cancers.

Discussing genetic testing with your doctor should be considered if your family has:

  • Cancer in multiple generations
  • A cancer which has developed at a younger than normal age
  • Rare and unusual cancers
  • A woman in the family who has had both breast and ovarian cancer
  • A male with breast cancer

Testing is usually done on the family member who has cancer. If a specific genetic defect is found, then other family members can test for that specific defect rather than the entire investigative panel. However, a negative test is not always the end of the story. There may be gene mutations responsible for cancer that have not yet been identified or tested.DNA

It’s important to keep in mind that these gene mutations can occur in any race, but do appear more often in Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (Eastern European). It’s also important to remember that you inherit genes from your mother and father. So, the history of breast cancer in the relatives on your father’s side of the family is equally important.

A woman without the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations has a 12-13% chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime, as opposed to a woman with the gene mutations who has a 60-80% chance. In addition, if she has already had breast cancer there is a 50% chance of getting breast cancer again.

There is also increased risk of ovarian cancer. A woman without the gene mutation has a 1-2% chance of developing ovarian cancer, but a woman with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation has a 30-45% chance of developing ovarian cancer.

BRCA1 versus BRCA2

With BRCA2, you see:

  • More male breast cancer
  • Less ovarian cancer than BRCA1 mutation
  • More prostate, pancreatic and melanoma than BRCA1 mutation

It’s not only people who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations that can be proactive when it comes to prevention. Everyone can do this by following these 3 key measures:

  1. Achieving a healthy body weight
  2. Regular physical activity
  3. Healthy eating

In fact, 1/3 of common cancers can be prevented by these three measures.

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that lifestyle choices are a far more significant predictor of cancer risk. This can sometimes be difficult to sort out as some families can see a higher prevalence of cancer – but families also share lifestyles, such as eating and exercise habits, as well as genes.

To find out more about dietary changes you can make to help reduce your risk of cancer, stay in touch by joining my community where you will receive my newsletter, tips, updates and advanced notice of upcoming webinars and programs.  Click Here to Join

Sep 28 2014

Apple Puff Pancake

Fall time brings back many great memories for me. I grew up in a family business. My father was the owner of Country Market, a fruit store just south of Lindsay, in central Ontario, well known for its fresh local produce. I worked there growing up and one of my jobs was to work in the canopy area just in front of the store. There we sold baskets of whatever produce was in season. During the fall, we sold gourds, corn, squash, pumpkins and of course apples—so many apples. My father always amazed me that he could just look at a single apple and tell you what kind it was and what it was best for – whether it be applesauce, pie or a good eating apple.

With this in mind, I want to share a recipe with you from my book, The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook, for Apple Puff Pancake.

Apple Puff Pancake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs (omega-3)
  • 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 TBSP butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, divided
  • 3 apples, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 TBSP packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend flour, milk, eggs, granulated sugar and salt to make a smooth batter. Let stand while cooking apples.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, melt 2 TBSP butter over medium heat. Add apple slices, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until apples are softened.
  3. Add 1 TBSP butter to each baking pan and place in preheated oven until melted. Swirl to coat bottom and sides. Pour batter into pans, dividing evenly, and top each with an even layer of warm apple mixture.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Important!

Apples that are good for baking include Cortlands, Empire, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp and Ida Red.

What’s your favourite baking apple?

Sep 21 2014

GMO or GM-No?

Popcorn bag labels

What is GM?

Genetic modification (GM) is a process in which a gene from one species (plant, animal, insect, mold, etc.) is inserted into the genetic code of another species (I’ll focus on plants for our purposes). The resulting product is a unique product, for example, GM corn. Since GM products are unique, they can then be patented by their developers.

Is this the same as plant breeding?

No, traditional plant breeding techniques used by agronomists and farmers are the more traditional and slower method. Plant breeding produces a plant with a certain trait but does so by cross-pollinating different varieties of the same plant. Charlie Johnston, an Amaryllis farmer will show you how this is done. Watch his YouTube video here.

Purple, orange and green cauliflowers are good examples of traditional plant breeding.

Why breed plants?

Some, like Charlie Johnston, breed plants to experiment and see what new plants can be created. Others are more strategic and want to develop a new plant with certain traits. For example, you could take 2 plants with favorable traits, one that is drought resistance and other disease resistant, and cross-pollinate them with the hope that the offspring has both drought and disease resistance.

Why use Genetic Modification (GM) then, if plant breeding is available?

Genetic modification is faster and can produce new offspring that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Genetic modification doesn’t just cross two varieties of the same plant; it instead introduces genetic material from a completely unrelated organism.

What crops are approved for GM in Canada?

Some varieties of:

  • Alfalfa
  • Corn
  • Canola
  • Cotton
  • Flax
  • Papaya
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Soybeans
  • Sugar beet
  • Sunflower
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Wheat

What’s GM-approved in the U.S.?

In addition to the above list, the U.S. has also approved:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Papaya
  • Radicchio

Which crops are actually grown commercially and on store shelves?

Despite the fact that there are over 50 crops approved for GM, only a few are actually grown commercially. These are:

  • Field corn (used as animal feed and to make corn products such as corn starch, corn syrup, corn oil and corn flour)
  • Soy beans
  • Canola
  • White sugar beet (used to make sugar)
  • One variety of sweet corn (called Attribute, newly available as of 2012)

In the U.S., in addition to the above the following GM crops are commercially available:

  • Cotton
  • Papaya
  • Squash

Why are crops genetically modified?

Foods are genetically modified to produce a crop with a certain characteristic. These are the characteristics sought after to date:

  • Crops that continue to grow even when sprayed with pesticide or herbicide
  • Crops that are resistant to certain insects
  • Crops that are resistant to drought or cold
  • Crops that ripen more slowly and are more stable during shipping
  • Crops that bruise less easily
  • Crops that are higher in certain nutrients, such as vitamin A rice

Are GM products safe?

As you can image, GM has its proponents and its opponents.

GM proponents say:

  • There is a reduced pesticide use in Bt cotton
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Protection from pests and disease in our crops

GM opponents say:

  • Lack of evidence that GM food is unsafe is not the same as proof that it is safe
  • One altered gene could have unintended effects
  • We need more study on the impact of GM crops on our environment and our health
  • Some animal studies have shown negative results on health
  • Herbicide resistant GM crops have higher levels of chemical residue

What do you say?

At this point I’m on the side of the opponents. I will avoid GM products for my family and myself and recommend this for members of my community.

How do I avoid GMO?

  • You can buy organic corn, sugar, canola, soy and foods containing these products. Make sure to read the labels!
  • Buy organic squash and papaya, if the product is from the U.S.
  • You can choose sugar that is made from sources other than sugar beet (e.g. cane sugar, agave, coconut palm).
  • Grow your own sweet corn.
  • Purchase from a grower that you know that isn’t using GM seeds (e.g. farmer’s markets or farms that retail their crops direct to consumers).
  • Choose products that display the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal.

Non GMO Project Verified

The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the U.S. and Canada. You may see this label on products sold in Canada and the U.S.Organic Canola Oil
This bottle of canola oil, labeled “organic” does not contain GM canola. This is what I use in my home.

 

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