Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My African Adventure in Food & Nutrition - Part 2: Malnutrition Expedition

Coming to South Sudan I have been faced with seeing malnutrition as a common problem in kids. Many young children (under 5) at the orphanage and in the community show the obvious sign of malnutrition – a swollen abdominal. This can signify a lack of protein (kwashiorkor) or carbohydrates (marasmus). Technically though, malnutrition is when the body is missing anything it needs. With these children, because the diets are deficient, they are missing micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, as well as lacking the macronutrients. This breaks my heart.

What especially saddens me though is that this state of malnutrition has become the norm and it is not looked at with so much concern. Even when I was talking with a well-qualified nurse, he said that this (the swollen abdominal) is normal. I urged him, “No, this is not normal. Children in North America do not have these swollen bellies.” He conceded that their diet is lacking but it isn’t serious enough because it doesn’t cause long-term damage. I can agree that the children here aren't severely malnourished or wasting away, but if a growing body is not getting enough protein or carbohydrates or BOTH along with missing numerous vitamins it will affect their development.

Fortunately, tI was able to teach a seminar at the orphanage (to the leaders) about the basics of nutrition and explain the problems of malnutrition. I explained what carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are as well as vitamins and minerals. We looked at the different food groups (Vegetables, Fruit, Grains, Protein – not Dairy, since they don’t really have that here), and identified which local foods fit into which categories. We worked together to complete a basic menu plan to see how you can use foods from each food group in a given day and use variety in your diet (eg. Instead of eating maize 3/day for your grains, you could have cassava at a meal and sorghum at another meal). I was able to do some teaching to provide knowledge about nutrition and hopefully they can continue to apply this knowledge in accordance with their economic capacity.

In thinking about the malnutrition here, some similarities to my own North American culture struck me. Just as the people here expect a degree of malnutrition and see it as “normal”, we do the same thing with our health. We don’t recognize if we are sick when that is our constant state of being and we have never experienced a higher level of health. We live each day with the effects of our high-sugar, high-fat, highly-processed diets thinking we are healthy for the most part. Perhaps we are all feeling sick from these things, but it has become the new normal. I encourage you to improve your diet and lifestyle and see if you can reach a higher level of wellness. Don’t let sickness become your norm.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My African Adventure in Food & Nutrition - Part 1: My Sustainer

It has been a very long time since I last blogged. The past 2 months have been a whirlwind, getting ready for our summer and diving into it. We (James and I) spent 2 weeks in Israel visiting family and now have been in South Sudan for almost 2 weeks.

Over the course of the next 2 months I will focus my blog on what I am learning and experiencing in Africa around the subject of Food & Nutrition. The posts will be less frequent as internet access is a difficult thing to come by!

My Sustainer

Coming here to South Sudan was a difficult decision for me, someone who loves nutrition, because I knew that I wouldn’t have a lot of control or choice over my diet—and that it would be less nutritious than what I eat at home.

Our typical diet here is porridge (made out of maize flour and water) and white bread for breakfast; white rice or maize with beans for lunch; and a repeat for dinner. Sometimes there are cooked leafy greens or some peanut butter added to the beans. To supplement the diet we are fed at the orphanage we occasionally eat some cucumber or plain lettuce from the garden, buy bananas and peanuts at the market and get a mango down off the tree. So basically, I am eating a lot of refined carbs, and limited fruits and vegetables – quite the opposite from my diet at home.

Knowing in advance our diet would be lacking, we packed some vitamins and supplements for us to take each day, but this definitely isn’t a replacement.

I learned a very important lesson this week in a very real way—that God is my Sustainer. In Canada, it is easy to trust myself as sustainer, because I could eat the foods I know are good for me and take the supplements or medications I need. However, here in South Sudan, I don’t have so many options so I cannot rely on myself for sustenance—I need to rely on God.

Although supplements are helpful and I should use what God provides (knowledge, resources) to care for my body, ultimately I must rely on God to sustain my body, to keep it going and keep me healthy. By this, I am not saying that I will remain in great health necessarily, beacause God can use sickness in our lives as well. In Philippians 4:12b – 13, Paul says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

My prayer is that I can learn this contentment that Paul had and trust in God to give my body strength – and continue trusting him in this way even when I return to Canada.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Refined Foods: Perhaps not so “Fine”

Over the past couple weeks I have been studying all the vitamins and minerals our body needs, the sources they come from, their functions, various uses in treatment and the effects of deficiency or toxicity.
I came across a few themes when it comes to vitamins and minerals. First, significant amounts of many vitamins and minerals are lost during food processing and/or cooking. Second, depleted soil (which is an ever-increasing problem with modern agriculture) causes nutrient depleted foods. Here are a few examples (all taken from “Staying Healthy with Nutrition” by Elson M. Haas”):

o Vitamin E – “The protective covering or germ part of the grains is what contains the E, which is lost easily in the milling of flour or in the refinement of grains. For the vitamin E to be preserved, extraction of the oils from nuts and seeds must be done naturally, as by cold-pressing, rather than by heat or chemical extraction, which is used commonly in food processing”
o Folic Acid (a B Vitamin) – “Folic acid is sensitive and easily destroyed in a variety of ways—by light, heat, any type of cooking, or an acid pH below 4. It can even be lost from foods when they are stored at room temperature for long periods.
o Potential Mineral Loss in…Wheat Milling – “Manganese 88%, Chromium 87%, Magnesium 80%, Sodium 78%, Potassium 77%, Iron, 76%, Zinc 72%, Phosphorus 71%, Copper 63%, Calcium 60%, Molybdenum 60%, Cobalt 50%”
o Potential Mineral Loss is…Refining Sugarcane – “Magnesium 99%, Zinc 98%, Chromium 93%, Manganese 93%, Cobalt 88%, Copper 83%
o Magnesium – “Many factors affects magnesium availability from goods. One is the amount of magnesium in the soil in which the good is grown…”

These are just a few examples. Many vitamins and minerals follow the same patterns. This is a big problem! We are eating food that may give us energy to burn, but doesn't provide us with the nutrients we need to sustain basic bodily functions, such as cardiac function, fluid and pH balance, conducting nerve impulses, muscle contraction, blood clotting, maintaining strong bones…the list goes on!

So what can we do to make sure we get the vitamins and minerals our body needs? Supplements can help, but unfortunately good health isn’t as easy as popping a pill. We should avoid consumption of refined foods and eat whole foods instead. Look for cold-pressed oils instead of vegetable/canola oils processed at very high heats (you’ll likely have to go to a health food store). Buy local produce that is picked ripe (when its at its highest nutrient content), so that you can eat it fresh, since nutrients often degrade over time. (Your know the produce in the grocery store doesn’t get here from Peru overnight!) Also, eat a variety of foods, especially vegetables since different foods are high in different nutrients. Once the food is in our hands, how we prepare it also affects the nutrient content (see below).

Check out this pyramid, taken from the website of Udo Erasmus, Ph D. in nutrition and an expert on Fats and Oils for more info on how processing affects our food.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Living off the Land--Are we Pushing the Limits?

In recent years, North Americans are starting to become more aware of how much of the world’s precious resources we are consuming—but we have a long way to go. WorldWatch Institute states that, “the planet has available 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes—yet the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares worth. These “ecological footprints” range from the 9.7 hectares claimed by the average American to the 0.47 hectares used by the average Mozambican.” (

The idea of the respecting the earth’s limited resources is no new phenomenon. In the Bible, in Genesis 13:6 it tells the story of Abram and Lot separating. “But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great.” This happens again two generations later with Jacob and Esau. Genesis 36:7b stays, “Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock.” As the second verse points out clearly, a person’s amount of livestock was usually how one’s wealth was measured during this time. The solution to the problem at this time (roughly 2000 B.C.) was fairly simple, just move away so you can occupy more land. However we are beyond maxing-out our resources—we can’t move away because someone is already living there.

So what does this all have to do with food? This verse from the Bible shows that just like us, animals are consumers of the land, and the land can only support so much (it has limits!) Modern farming has pushed these limits by factoring farming and feeding animals unnatural diets instead of allowing them to graze on pasture or be free-run. Pushing these limits has had a big impact on the environment and our health.
Abram and Lot as well as Jacob and Esau respected the limits of the land and we need to follow suit. We should only have as much livestock as can live naturally off the land and that, in turn, limits our diets as well. Keep in mind you can feed more people off plant foods than animal foods, so reducing our animal product consumption helps reduce our use of the earth’s resources.

Another aspect to this idea of respecting the limits of the land is to eat local food. The cost of our food on the earth’s resources grows exponentially when we use oil to ship it half way around the world. But I won’t get into the details of local eating here…that deserves at least a post of it’s own! What I will say in the time being, is to find local food sources and buy what you can from them. Even if you can get 50% of your food locally, that’s good progress!

This post just scratches the surface of way to apply this verse, because they are so many ways in which we need to make changes so we are living sustainably. Please feel free to leave any ideas or comments about sustainability, it would be great o get a discussion going.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipe: Almond Cookies

As promised, here is another recipe that you can use soaked and dehyrdated nuts in. To see how to soak & dehdrate nuts see my post "Nuts over Nuts" This recipe for Almond (and other nut cookies) is great because it adds a source of protein to your cookies and does not contain white flour or white sugar. The arrowroot flour used is nutritious and easily digested (that’s why it’s used for babies – remember arrowroot cookies?) You can purchase arrowroot flour/starch at the Bulk barn or a health food store.

The following recipe for Almond cookies is taken directly from the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

Almond Cookies (makes about 18)

1 ½ cups crispy (soaked & dehydrated) almonds, preferably skinless
½ cups butter, softened or coconut oil
1 cup arrowroot or 7/8 cup bulgur flour
½ Rapadura**
½ tsp sea salt
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
18 crispy almonds

Place almonds in food processor and process to a fine meal. Add remaining ingredients except 18 almonds and process until well blended. Form dough into walnut-sized balls and place on buttered cookie sheets. Press an almond into each. Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes. After about 5 minutes in the over, press cookies down lightly with a fork. Let cool completely before removing to an airtight container. Store in refrigerator.

Variation: Raspberry Jam Cookies
Instead of using 18 almonds, use ¼ cup naturally sweetened raspberry jam. After 5 minutes in the over, press cookies down slightly, make an indentation and fill with raspberry jam.

Variation: Peanut Cookies
Follow the same instrUctions as with almond cookies, but replace with peanuts. Omit lemon zest and extract and add 1 more tsp vanilla extract.

** A note about Rapadura – Never heard of this before? That’s okay! I hadn’t until about a year ago. Rapadura is evaporated sugar cane juice. It is a much healthier alternative to white sugar because it contains the vitamins and minerals naturally found in the sugarcane, whereas almost everything nutritious is stripped from white sugar. You can find it at a health food store.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Recipe: Nut Butter

As promised, here is a recipe that you can use soaked and dehydrated nuts in. To see how to soak & dehydrate nuts see my post "Nuts over Nuts" This is a great alternative to store-bought peanut butter which contains hydrogenated oils and roasted nuts instead of soaked & dehydrated. And it's so tasty! It's great on a sandwhich, pancake, celery sticks or apple slices.

Recipe is taken from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (with my variations)

Nut Butter (makes 2 cups)
2 cups crispy (soaked & dehydrated) nuts such as peanuts, almonds or cashews
2/3 cup cold-pressed coconut oil (recipe suggest 3/4 cup, but I put in less)
2 Tbsp raw honey (can be omitted for a sugar-free version)
1 tsp sea salt

Place nuts and sea salt in food processor and grind to a fine powder. Add honey and coconut oil and process until "butter" becomes smooth. It will be somewhat liquid but will harden when chilled.

It is best to store in fridge to keep the oils in the nuts from going rancid, however it needs to be served at room temperature, so you'll have to take it out of the fridge a few hours before you want to use it. If you can't plan ahead that well, keep most of it in the fridge and take out what you think you'll use in a few days and leave it in the cupboard. Enjoy!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nuts over Nuts

Nuts make a great snack! First of all they are tasty, but they also are a good source of protein and nutrients and their fat content (healthy oils) keeps you feeling full. However, there a few things you should know about nuts before grabbing a jar of planter peanuts.

Most commercially available nuts come to us already roasted. This means that the good healthy oils are negatively affected, the B vitamin and mineral content is decreased (Elson M, Haas. Staying Healthy with Nutrition, p. 334), and the enzymes are destroyed. To add to this, they are roasted in more oil (often not very good oil) and a lot of salt is added. Intead of roasted, raw is a better choice—but even raw nuts require some preparation.

Nuts can be difficult for our body to digest because of the enzyme inhibitors that are present. Enzymes are a very important and often overlooked part of our food. Enzymes are used in our body to be a catalyst for chemical reactions, so that means without enzymes many reactions cannot occur. In terms of our digestion, we need the enzymes present in the food to be able to use the energy and nutrients available in our food. Fortunately, the enzyme inhibitors in the nuts can be neutralized by a simple soaking which provides the following benefits:
• Increased digestibility
• Increased nutrient availability and absorption
• Better taste, especially almonds and walnuts

To soak you nuts, use a glass jar or bowl and soak in warm filtered water, with some sea salt added. The nuts will expand when they absorb the water, so make sure there is extra room in your container. There are different recommendations for the length of soaking for each nut, but in general the harder the nut, the more soaking is required.

In the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, the author suggests soaking 4 cups of nuts with 1 Tbsp sea salt (only 2 tsp salt for walnuts and pecans) for 7 hours or overnight and then dehydrating the nuts in a warm oven (150 F) for 12-24 hours (depending on the nut) until they are dried out. Although, you can eat them still wet, drying them out will give a texture close to that of a roasted nut, but without killing the enzymes, nutrients and oils.

Keep posted for some recipes with these delicious nuts in the next few days!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Malnourished: the East and the West

Over the past week or so I have been thinking about how many of the people in the world are malnourished (not in the strict sense of the word, but poorly nourished in one way or another)—but I’m not just thinking about the Third World countries or the Developing countries, I’m thinking about the Western Developed nations as well. One billion under-nourished and over one billion overweight, according to the article shown in the picture below.
This summer, my husband and I are planning to go to South Sudan on a mission trip (if all goes well). Part of the work I’ll be doing there is teaching on nutrition. As I’ve been thinking about what it will be like in South Sudan, I’ve been struggling over the question, “What am I going to be eating?” On one side of things, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m going to have to sacrifice having many of the nourishing foods I’d prepare for myself at home. However, on the other hand, I was thinking about how nearly 3 months away from the heavily processed food of North America might do my body good. In a sense, I’ve been thinking over what would be better for me, the one I have here (along with the processing, modifying, pasteurizing, additives, preservatives, hormones antibiotics, etc) or a simpler diet that is perhaps filling but lacking in nutrients.

How absurd it is, that we in the West have all the money or resources at our fingertips to eat healthfully but yet we make poor choices that leave us malnourished. As individuals we make poor choices, choosing refined foods devoid of nutrients rather than whole, natural foods—choices which drive the supply and demand of our food market. Or perhaps we make poor choices, spending money in unnecessary areas and buying the cheapest food possible. On a larger scale though, we have made poor choices as a nation, not standing up against the use of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and much more in our deteriorating food supply. So many people in the world would love to have choice when it comes to food. It is devastating to think that so many people in the world are dying from malnourishment, in a sense, half from under-eating and half from over-eating/poor eating.

Where is justice when it comes to distribution of food? What can you do help? What choices can you make today?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is It Right To Eat Meat?

The question of vegetarian vs. meat-eating is a big question for many. There are many reasons people may choose to refrain from eating meat: health, environmental, economical and ethical.

What does the Bible have to say about eating meat? Interestingly, God didn’t give Adam and Eve meat in their diets. In Genesis 1:29, God says, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” He makes no mention of eating meat for food.

However, after the fall and the flood, God gives meat to Noah and his descendants for food. Genesis 9:2-3 says, “The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”

Now it is also important to know that food was not the first purpose animals were killed for. They were required first for clothing (Gen 3:21). After Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit they covered themselves with leaves but their covering was inadequate by God’s standards so God made suitable clothing for them out of skin. This could be interpreted as a foreshadowing of how blood of a lamb and ultimately the Lamb of God (Jesus) atones for sin.

So, the Bible does not forbid meat-eating, but it has more to say on the topic. For example, is it right for us to eat factory-farmed animals (which fill the shelves of our grocery stores) or only for traditionally raised animals? There is more to the ethic of meat eating than a simple yes or no.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food

Here is a TED Talk from Jamie Oliver on Food. He shows the striking dangers of obesity for this generation, but more importantly for the next generation. The biggest killer in the United States (and Canada as well) is diet-related disease--that includes heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Oliver says that kids these days will live a life 10 years shorter than their parents because of their food. Somethings got to change.
Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food | Video on

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love, Sweet Love

Does sweetness = love?

All around us we see, hear and experience things that tell us that sweetness means love, or that there is a connection between the two. Especially around this time of year with the ‘holiday of love’ we see all sort of heart shaped cookies and candies, boxes of truffles or chocolate roses. Do we need sugar to celebrate or experience love?

I had never really paid much attention to this connection until I came across something when reading “The New Detox Diet” by Elson M. Haas, M.D. In the chapter on sugar detoxification, Haas points out this connection and suggest a few explanations. First he explains that a baby’s first food is lactose (milk sugar). This time of breast feeding also shows love and care for the child, so this connection seems to start very early. He goes on to expose how children are rewarded and shown affection through receiving sweets. Even in our language this connection is evident. Haas gives a list of common terms of endearment, so here are a few: sweetie, sweetie pie, sweetheart, honey, sugar lips, sugar baby, honey bun and sugar plum.

Perhaps our craving for sweets shows that what we really crave is love. I beleive that the true source of love is God because only his love is perfect and unconditional.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recipe: "Choose Your Own Adventure" Salad

One of my favourite salads to make! Very easy and versatile because you can use whatever you have on hand. Choose one of each below.

1) Spring Greens Mix: You can buy a mix or create your own. They often contain baby greens such as arugula, radicchio, spinach, mustard greens, mizuna and chicory.
2) Fruit: Some of my favourites are strawberries, pears, apples, mandarin oranges or dried cranberries. You can choose fresh, dried or canned.
3) Nut/Seed: Some of my favourites are pecan pieces, cashews, sliced almonds and sesame seeds.
4) Cheese: Some of my favourites are feta, warm brie and mozzarella.
5) Dressing:I usually use raspberry vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing. (For the best healthy salad, make your own dressing and avoid the refined oils and additives in the store-bought varieties)

Recipe: Breakfast Porridge (Serves 3-4)

(Recipe taken from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon)

1 cup oats, rolled or cracked
1 cup warm filtered water plus 2 Tbsp whey, plain yoghurt, kefir or buttermilk (Those with milk allergies can use vinegar or lemon juice)
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup filtered water
1 Tbsp (freshly) ground flax seeds (optional)

For the best digestion and highest benefits, porridge should be soaked overnight or even longer. Once soaked, oatmeal cooks in about 5 minutes (that’s a pretty fast food).

Mix oats with 1 cup warm water mixture and soak in a warm place for 7 to 24 hours. When ready to cook, bring 1 cup additional water to a boil with sea salt. Add soaked oats, reduce heat, cover and simmer several minutes. Remove from heat, stir in optional flax and let stand for a few minutes. Add in butter or cream, as well as a small amount of a natural sweetener like maple syrup (not Aunt Jemima), maple sugar, raw honey, date sugar or Rapadura. You can also add apricot butter, chopped nuts (raw nuts, soaked and dehydrated) or dried unsweetened coconut.

Variations: Kamut, Spelt, Rye, Teff, Amaranth
You can try other grains besides oats. Prepare the same way, except Teff and Amaranth need 24 hours of soaking and Rye may need extra soaking and more water.

Some of My Variations
I enjoy adding in some fruit to my oatmeal, some blueberries (fresh or frozen) or some diced apple. Another natural sweetener I’ve tried is apple butter, which goes great with a dash of cinnamon as well. I always add chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts and almonds) because I need some protein in the morning to keep me going.

You may find the taste of the oatmeal a little sour at first because of the soaking (I did), so at the beginning you can add a little more sweetener and try to reduce it gradually. If you are trying to limit sugar in your diet, your taste buds will adapt and your “threshold” of sweetness will be lowered.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do Yourself a Favour--Avoid the Cereal Aisle

I had some friends ask me why I don’t eat breakfast cereal anymore (or very rarely). I always thought breakfast cereal was a healthy choice to start my day, but once I learned how these flakes, puffs and O’s were made, I thought twice about pouring myself a bowl of cheerios (yes, even plain ones!)

Let me start by saying that breakfast cereals are marketed very well, but their advertising claims hold little truth. If you really want a breakfast that is heart healthy or high in fiber and nutrients look for food that is closer to its natural form.

Have you ever wondered how they turn corn into Corn flakes, or rice into Rice Krispies? Breakfast cereals are made from the extrusion process, which is basically pushing the raw materials through a hole to make it into a certain shape. However, in order to do this the grains are subjected to high temperatures and high pressures which destroys many nutrients, causes oils to go rancid, makes some proteins toxic and makes it harder to digest (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, pg. 454) Since they basically destroy the nutrition in the process, they add-in synthetic vitamins/nutrients as well as lots of sugar and flavoring. Another interesting yet scary tidbit is that breakfast cereals have caused rapid death in test animals (Fallon, p. 25, 468-469) but Kellogg’s won’t tell you that!

Since breakfast cereal is highly refined and most varieties contain a lot of added sugar, they are high on the Glycemic Index (GI) and cause your blood sugar to rise rapidly. A GI above 70 is considered high. Let’s look at a few well-known ones: Cheerios (74), Golden Grahams (71), Special K (72) Bran Flakes (74) (values taken from

A better breakfast alternative is traditional oatmeal. Not the little sugar-laden packages that you add water or micro, and not even quick-oats, but good old-fashioned rolled oats. They are better for your health, but also for your budget as they are a fraction of the price. See the recipe and ways to spice up your oatmeal!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Culprit: Sugar

Book Review – The New Sugar Busters!: Cut Sugar to Trim Fat by H. Leighton Steward, Sam Andrews (M.D.), Morrison Bethea (M.D.), and Luis Balart (M.D.)

This book unveils a truth that our modern society desperately needs to hear--sugar and refined grains are the culprits to many of our modern health dilemmas. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying sugar/refined grains are the only problem, but a big piece of the puzzle)

The fact is that health and medicine in the 21st century deals with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease as well as cancer (and how many cancers are linked to obesity?!) These chronic diseases have skyrocketed just as our sugar intake has skyrocketed. Some interesting statistics from the U.S. department of agriculture reveal that in 1997 the average consumption of refined sugar was 154 pounds per person per year! (that’s just under ½ pound per day). To put that into perspective, in the early 1900’s the average refined sugar consumption was less than 20 pounds person per year.

This book takes a look at how eating sugar and refined grains causes one’s blood sugar to spike and then plummet and explains the role of insulin in an easy-to-understand way. To summarize, insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar. So, when you eat a meal that causes your blood sugar to rise significantly, insulin kicks in and stores the glucose (sugar) into a chain called glycogen. Insulin also prevents the breakdown of fats. The problem arises when we are constantly refined foods, our blood sugar and insulin levels are elevated thus storing fat and not allowing the breakdown of fat in the body. This can also lead to insulin resistance or diabetes.

The Sugar Busters book uses the glycemic index (GI) which gives a numeric value to foods to indicate how they will affect one’s blood sugar. The Sugar Busters lifestyle advocates a diet composed of low-glycemic carbohydrates, such as high fibre vegetables and whole grains along with fat and protein. They suggest avoiding any refined sugar (includes many processed items), and white starches such as rice, bread, potatoes, flour, pasta and corn products. The idea is to keep your insulin levels on an even keel so you body can use up its stored fat.

One word of caution with this book is that it does not provide a thorough look at fats and oils to include in your diet. In fact, I believe it is misleading to some degree as they advise the use of canola oil (a genetically engineered oil). Canola oil has been marketed at a heart-healthy oil, but buyer-beware—it is far from that. As well they also do not give a thorough look at saturated fats, which are not the “bad fat” they are often made out to be. So all in all, look to another resource for advice on fats and oils (see my recommended book list).

Overall, the book is a good read for learning about the harmful effects of sugar and refined grains and will help you know how to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. It also contains recipes at the back for you to get started on your low-glycemic diet, not to be confused with a low-carb diet.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chocolate Cravings?

While reading “Adrenal Fatigue” by James L. Wilson (see book review), I came across an interesting fact about what is behind chocolate cravings, especially for women at a certain time of the month! Our body craves chocolate when we are low on magnesium, because chocolate is high in magnesium. One of the ways magnesium is used in the body is in the manufacture of the hormone progesterone, so it is related to PMS symptoms.

Unfortunately, we start a downward cycle. Although we get the magnesium our body needs, caffeine-like substance, theobromine, tires our adrenal glands (whose job it is to balance the sex hormones). The increase in adrenal fatigue leads to increased PMS symptoms…and then (to our detriment) we eat more chocolate.

So when you are constantly craving chocolate, listen to your body’s need for magnesium but get it from another source. Some suggestions for foods high in magnesium are kelp, almonds, cashews, peas and beans, whole grains (not refined) and green leafy vegetables. You could also try taking a supplement. The author here suggests 400mg from ovulation to the first day of your cycle. But remember, a supplement isn't a replacement for nourishing food.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Does God care what I eat?

In my study of food in the Bible, I came across something intriguing right from the start. In Genesis 3, we have a record of the first sin or wrongdoing: in short, Eve ate a piece of fruit and then gave some to Adam. So what? God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of that particular tree. I find it interesting that the first wrong doing on earth was about eating and now most of us think that God doesn’t concern himself with what we eat.
In Genesis 3:13, Eve is quoted saying, “The serpent [Satan] deceived me and I ate”. Many men and women (including me) are still saying this. Satan deceives us saying, “If you eat _______, or eat more of ______ then you’ll feel better, you’ll be comforted by the food.” But really it leaves our stomachs aching and our hearts and souls still empty. I believe that only Jesus can fill the emptiness we feel, and that I can go to him for true comfort.
For Adam and Eve it was black and white – they could eat any seed-bearing plant except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17). For us there are more shades of grey. Perhaps a question to ask yourself is, “Why am I eating this?” Am I using the food to nourish my bodies or to satiate a void in my soul?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stressed Out? Burned Out?

Book Review - Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., Ph.D.

This book caught my eye because I experienced a significant burnout in the fall of 2009 and I wanted to learn more about the physiological side of it. It addresses a common health issue that modern medicine and doctors don’t accept, except in extreme cases. Wilson gives an estimate that up to 80% of adult Americans will suffer with adrenal fatigue in their lifetime, however it is extremely under-diagnosed. Your doc might just say you need more sleep, your too stressed or your depressed.

The adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys at the bottom of your ribcage. They are considered the “glands of stress” and allow your body to deal with stress, including physical, emotional, psychological, infectious and environmental. However, when you are under too much stress for too long a period of time, it weakens your adrenal glands. If you have a handful of the following symptoms you might suffer from adrenal fatigue:
o You have difficulty getting out of bed and are still tired
o You don’t have energy or enjoyment with life or are mildly depressed
o You aren’t as interested in sex
o It takes you a long time to recover from an injury or illness
o You get light headed when you stand up quickly
o You have increased PMS and probably chocolate cravings
o You get worse when you skip meals or you drive yourself with coffee, cola or snacks – sweet or salty
o Your thoughts are fuzzy or your memory suffering
o You have decreased productivity and ability to handle stress

Wilson’s book includes a comprehensive look at how to recover from adrenal fatigue naturally. It requires a lifestyle change not a medication. Nutrition is a big part of the recovery equation. He recommends eating a balanced diet of whole grains, plenty of vegetables, a small amount of fruit, a combination of protein from plants and animals along with appropriate oils and fats (eg. butter, coconut, olive and essential oils). He recommends cutting sugar and white flour products because they are nutritionally void and cause blood sugar to spike and plummet, which aggravates adrenal fatigue. Also avoid the foods you are addicted to (or crave often) and any foods you are allergic or sensitive to. Other elements of recovery that he addresses are exercise, sleep, proper supplementation, coping with stress through reframing and removing “energy robbers” from your life.

If you think you are way too stressed out (and have been for a while) I highly recommend picking up a copy of “Adrenal Fatigue.” You can also visit his website at for more information. His book is easy to read and includes a lot of helpful diagrams, a questionnaire and some at-home tests for a self-diagnosis. This book will empower you with the knowledge and tools to improve your adrenal health and get the most out of life.