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Category Archives: Body

Red Meat Linked To Colon Cancer

So, today my beef is with red meat – i.e. lamb, pork, veal, beef and processed meats.

Nine years ago, two major studies reported the link between red meat consumption and colon cancer. To be honest, I had entirely forgotten about it until recently. Now that my passion for plant-based diets is burning strong, I want to revisit these findings.

Basically… Increased red meat consumption is associated with a significantly higher risk of colorectal cancer.

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The Evidence

Two longitudinal studies published in 2005 found strikingly similar correlations between red meat consumption and colon cancer. If you’re anything like me, you won’t believe what you read without sufficient evidence; so, here are the numbers…

doctorThe American Cancer Society studied 150,000 people between 50 and 74 years old over a 20 year time span. They found those who ate a lot of red meat were 30-40% more likely to develop colon cancer. Further research by the same team, published in 2013, also found that reducing red meat intake could improve colorectal cancer sufferers’ chance of survival.

At the same time, a European 5-year study of 478,000 individuals also found the people who consumed the most red meat were about a third more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Their findings were confirmed by another European study (involving over half a million participants) several years later.

According to Harvard Medical School, “A meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%.”

There are also other risk factors involved in developing colorectal cancer – like genetic predisposition, being overweight or obese, smoking, low fibre intake, alcohol use and little physical activity. However, I find the aforementioned research pretty compelling.

Why Is Red Meat Bad?

The jury is still out on this one. A leading theory is that preservatives in processed red meat – such as sausages, salami and ham – are converted to carcinogenic nitrates by the body. Other research from the UK suggests that N-nitroso compounds found in red meat induce DNA changes in the bowels.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Various sources recommend eating no more than two 100g servings of red meat per week to minimise the risk of bowel cancer. When you do eat it, lean meats are the best choices. Although for me, cutting out red meat altogether seemed like the best option.

My grandma died from bowel cancer several years ago. Her diagnosis was a shock to us all, as she was an active and healthy woman. She had only retired from teaching pre-primary a few of years prior. She ate healthy foods and never touched sugar. But, my grandpa was in the sausage casing industry so they always ate a lot of red meat.

Looking at her experience now, I can’t help but make the connection between bowel cancer and red meat consumption. Personally, I am happy eating a plant-based diet and am glad that it could also help prevent cancer (specifically one I may already be predisposed to!). Prevention is the best cure. 🙂

A yummy veggie burger alternative!

A yummy veggie burger alternative!

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2014 in Body

 

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6 Reasons to Not Wear A Bra

brasLike most women, I started wearing training bras at the beginning of puberty. Eventually wearing a bra became so normal that I didn’t even question it; but letting the girls out of boob jail at the end of the day has always been a huuuge relief.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realised I don’t have to wear a bra. In fact, some evidence suggests that wearing a bra is detrimental to your health.

I began going bra-less and I haven’t looked back! It takes some getting used to – particularly when those pesky nipples stand to attention as you walk past the supermarket fridges – but I am now 100% more comfortable in my everyday activities.

NB: I am small chested so what works for me won’t apply to everyone.

And now we have arrived at the 6 reasons not to wear a bra…

  1. Bras don’t prevent sagging
    Breasts are firmer and less likely to sag in women who do not wear bras, according to a 15 year study by French researcher Jean-Denis Rouillon. His research found that wearing a bra weakens the pectoral muscles that keep breasts perky. Rouillon’s findings made a splash when they came out in 2013 as these new facts go against everything we’ve been taught.
  2. Bras constrict the lymphatic system
    Bras compress the lymphatic tissue in the breasts, stopping the flow of lymph – the fluid which helps rid the body of toxins. This causes toxins to accumulate in the breast area, potentially leading to disease.
  3. Bras restrict the circulatory system
    Wearing a bra may restrict circulation, thus preventing proper distribution of nutrients to the breast tissue (and beyond). Ultimately, poor circulation can damage breast tissue and cause pain or disease.
  4. Bras may increase breast cancer risk
    Various studies, notably by Singer & Grismaijer (1995), have indicated a link between bras and breast cancer. Firstly, let me stress that breast cancer can be caused by a vast array of environmental and genetic factors. Secondly, Singer & Grismaijer’s scientific methodoly has been slammed, however the link does seem plausible. Employ critical thinking as you read their findings, but remember that national health organisations also denied the connection between smoking and lung cancer. Here’s what they found:
    – Women who wore bras for 24 hours a day had a 3 in 4 chance of developing breast cancer;
    – Women who wore bras for 12 hours a day had a 1 in 7 chance;
    – Women who wore bras for less than 12 hours a day had a 1 in 152 chance;
    – Women who rarely wore bras had a 1 in 168 chance.
    Additionally, they noted that breast cancer tends to be less prevalent in indigenous cultures where bras are not worn.
    More research certainly needs to be done on the topic, but it is still an intriguing connection.
  5. Bras increase breast pain
    Wearing a bra increases breast pain and other breast-related health problems, according to a study by The University Hospital of Wales. Interestingly, breast pain is often a precursor to breast cancer.
  6. There’s no evidence that bras are good for you
    While the evidence against wearing bras is mounting, there is no positive evidence that wearing a bra is good for your health. You never hear bra companies asserting the health aspects of their products, because that proof simply isn’t there.Fun fact: Up until a few decades ago women were told they needed to wear girdles to keep their bodily organs in place!

Sure, I can understand that some women need to wear bras. However, I personally feel much better going bra-free. For more info on how to ditch the bra, go to brafree.org – the author has some great tips on how to move away from conventional bras and get around related issues in the workplace.

sandyboobs

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Body

 

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Why I’m Bananas About Bananas

According to my boyfriend, I am a monkey; but there’s much more to my love for bananas than just that! Bananas are an underrated superfood, containing loads of healthy vitamins and minerals.bananasThe Things That Make Bananas Super

  1. Tryptophan
    Bananas contain this amino acid which helps your body make serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that makes you happy and melatonin regulates your natural circadian rhythm.
    Helps conditions: Depression and insomnia.
  2. B Vitamins
    One banana contains a quarter of your daily vitamin B6 intake, as well as small amounts of vitamins B3, B2 and B1. B vitamins help strengthen and calm the nervous system, form red blood cells and synthesize antibodies.
    Helps conditions: Anxiety, nervousness, poor immune function and anemia.
  3. Potassium
    Potassium in bananas prevents calcium loss, thus strengthening bones; boosts brain power; and, combined with the banana’s low salt content, lowers blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
    Helps conditions: High blood pressure, osteoporosis, concentration problems.
  4. Fibre
    Bananas are high in fibre, which helps in the digestion and excretion of food.
    Helps conditions: Constipation, upset stomach and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
  5. Sucrose, Glucose & Fructose
    Bananas contain 3 fruity sugars which will boost your energy. Combined with their high fibre content, bananas will help regulate blood sugar levels.
    Helps conditions: Morning sickness, PMS, lethargy and hangovers.
  6. Phosphorous
    Bananas are an excellent source of phosphorous. This mineral is known for its role in strengthening teeth and bones; but it also improves brain function, energy levels, hormone regulation, protein production and digestion.
    Helps conditions: Menopause, osteoporosis, upset stomachs and physical/mental lethargy.

Basically, bananas are wonderful for you! Not only can they help improve a wide array of health problems, they’re also delicious.

Easy Banana Recipes

Bananas are great as is, but sometimes you want to mix things up a bit. Here are a couple of my favourite, ultra-easy banana recipes.

Banana “Ice-cream”

Banana icecream - Image courtesy of theKitchn.com

Banana icecream – Image courtesy of theKitchn.com

You can make tasty banana ice-cream simply by freezing bananas and blend them in a food processor. So simple! I like to add yoghurt to stretch it out a bit, but you can add extras (like nuts, honey, peanut butter, chocolate chips…) as you please. Check out theKitchn’s recipe here.

Healthy Banana-Oat Cookies

Healthy cookies?! Yes, it’s a thing! These yummy bites are made by combining mashed bananas with quick-cooking oats (and any other extra ingredients you have on hand), then baked in the oven. They’re the perfect breakfast when you’re in a rush, or pick-me-up snack. Take a look at Burlap Bag’s cookie recipe here or check out this recipe for the cookies pictured below.

Banana cookies with sunflower seeds and coconut :)

Banana cookies with sunflower seeds and coconut 🙂

Now, last but definitely not least…

Most People Peel Bananas Wrong

I’m serious, we’ve all been doing it wrong for years! We need to learn from our monkey friends in this department, they are the professionals after all. Watch the video below. It will change your life – well as far as banana-eating goes anyway!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Body

 

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Addicted To Sugar

That’s right… I’m talking about sugar. Most people in the western world consume sugar every day, and it’s harming our health. Excess sugar consumption can cause a plethora of health problems including (but not limited to) cancer, heart disease, diabetes, digestive problems, liver disease and hormone imbalances; and, it’s addictive.

sugarcubesWhy It’s a Big Deal

Sugar is being dubbed the new tobacco. Advertised everywhere, socially acceptable, found in nearly every household, addictive, sold cheaply and ultimately causing serious diseases. Sugar is devoid of any nutrients, healthy fats, protein or enzymes. Not only is it empty calories, refined sugar depletes the body of important minerals. vintage_cigarette_ad_actually_promoting_health_benefits

Studies suggest that people grossly underestimate their daily sugar intake. While most sugar is consumed in sugary juices and fizzy drinks, tea and coffee, biscuits, chocolate, lollies, ice-cream and other sweet treats; added sugar is hidden in many everyday products like bread, yoghurt, cereal, jam and low-fat options. Even if you steer clear of sweet treats, chances are you’re still consuming a decent amount of the sweet stuff.

Senior Dutch health official Paul van der Velpen recently proposed warning labels on sugary foods, much like the labelling on tobacco products. He stated: “Just like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is actually a drug. There is an important role for government. The use of sugar should be discouraged. And users should be made aware of the dangers”. I, for one, am inclined to agree with him.

Recent studies show the average American eats 60kg (130lb) of sugar each year. The US is a more extreme example, but we see similar figures around the world. It’s estimated that Australians eat 53kg, Canadians eat 40kg, Kiwis eat 56kg and Brits eat 30kg of sugar per year on average. I don’t think I even need to point out that’s A LOT OF SUGAR!

Symptoms of Sugar Addiction

While sugar addiction is still the topic of debate, the evidence is clearly there. Symptoms of sugar addiction can be identified most easily when you stop consumption. Here are a few ways it can manifest:

1. Cravings – Sugar is as addictive as cocaine and heroin according to several studies.

2. Fatigue – This includes both general tiredness, and the 3pm slump that goes away after a chocolate bar.

3. Difficulty Resisting Sweets – If you just can’t say no to dessert, you may be addicted to sugar.

4. Withdrawal – Suffering discomfort (headaches, dizziness, nausea, irritability and moodiness) when you cut back on sugar is a surefire sign of addiction.

5. Chronic Illness – Disease can be caused by many things, but if your illness just won’t go away then sugar might be the culprit.

How To Kick The Habit

We don’t have to be slaves to sugar. It may seem drastic to cut all sugar out of your diet, but for some people that is the best method. Going cold turkey will certainly show fast results. For others, a more gradual reduction of sugar is more effective.

Try these easy tips to reduce your sugar intake and improve your health:

  • Read labels – Fructose, sucrose, corn syrup and other names for sugar can hide in unlikely places.
  • Switch from sugary breakfast cereal to sugar-free options.
  • Eat fruit – When you crave sweets, the sugars in fruit will give you the pick-me-up you need without the harmful effects of refined sugar.
  • Sweeten tea with raw honey – Honey is a nutrient-rich sweetener, providing the body with much needed minerals and antioxidants. NB: Use sparingly, honey still has a 53% fructose content.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks – If you can’t go without, add a little fruit to carbonated water for a sugar-free version.
  • Ditch the sugary treats – Clean out your fridge and pantry so you won’t be so tempted by sugar.
  • Switch to dark chocolate or carob – These chocolates are much lower in sugar and higher in antioxidants than milk chocolate.
  • Eat healthy snacks while watching TV – Many people (myself included) mindlessly snack on junk while they are distracted by what’s on TV.

fruits

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Body

 

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Video

The shocking truth about your health: Lissa Rankin at TEDx FiDi

Amazing talk by a physician on how healing your body starts with healing your mind and soul. Possibly my new favourite TED talk!

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Body

 

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Daily Yoga: 1 Month In

While I have dabbled in yoga over the years, I only recently began practicing regularly. I can already feel the positive effects from doing 15 – 60 minutes of yoga nearly every day for the past month. Of course I knew about yoga’s benefits, but I didn’t expect it to have this big an effect on me.

bwyoga

It’s great to attend weekly yoga classes, but I have found daily practice to be much more powerful. I’m still in the very early days of my yoga journey, but I can tell it will now be a permanent fixture in my life. To keep myself motivated I wanted to list just 5 benefits I have experienced thus far:

Improved Strength & Flexibility

Yoga involves long stretches to increase all-round flexibility and many postures require a great deal of physical strength.

I loved sports as a kid and teenager and was involved in gymnastics, athletics, swimming, dancing, netball, basketball, volleyball, tennis… The list goes on. As often happens though, my interest in sports fell by the wayside when I started university and working part-time. I still did some physical activity but nothing like I used to.

Today (5 years later), I’m nowhere near as strong or flexible as I was. I miss it but can feel yoga is helping me get back to my peak physical condition. It’s only been a month and I feel like my physical fitness has begun to really improve!

Daily Meditation

Yoga is a wonderful way to quiet the mind and ease into meditation. Meditating daily is the key to overcoming stress, achieving peace of mind and growing spiritually.

I enjoy meditation and try to do it often, though sometimes I find it difficult to keep still. This is where yoga is awesome. Having something physical to do makes it much easier for me to calm my mind and find my centre. During the practice my mind becomes so empty and still that it becomes super easy to sit in meditation for an extended time afterwards.

Healthy Start To The Day

Starting the day off healthily encourages healthy choices for the rest of the day.

I do yoga as soon as I get up in the morning. After my practice I feel very mindful – particularly about how I treat my body. I find that I want to make better food choices to keep my good health spree going throughout the day.

Better Posture

Strengthening your core and back muscles + relaxing the shoulders + straightening the spine = Great posture!!

Leaning over the computer and writing can leave me all slouchy and hunched over. Yoga reminds me to stand up straight and relax my shoulders. This is getting easier every day I practice yoga. In time, good posture will become second nature.

Energy Boost

Yoga gets the blood flowing and wakes up the muscles, kickstarting my day better than a cup of coffee.

Like any form of exercise, yoga releases feel-good endorphins and gives you energy. I am finding this particularly helpful during the cold Canadian winter – where it’s so cold and dark outside, you just want to stay snuggled up in bed. A morning energy boost can go a long way.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Body

 

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Healthy Eating on a Budget

Looking at the healthy whole food options at the supermarket, it’s easy to assume that these foods are only for people with deep pockets. I’m here to blow apart that misconception!

All natural muesli 450g – $9
Almond milk 900mL – $3
Salad mix 300g – $6
Sound familiar? It all adds up pretty quickly and makes it seem like healthy eating is very costly. Sure, it can be – however, it definitely doesn’t need to be.

My partner and I spend around $50 (CAD) a week on food; but don’t let the budget fool you. We eat plenty of healthy, nutritious meals every day. I want to share some tips with you on how to eat well without the hefty price tags.

1. Fresh Produce

Freshproduce

Fresh fruit and vegetables are super cheap, and provide you with loads more essential nutrients than their preserved counterparts. Try and fill your trolley with fresh produce and consider these few rules to maximise bang for your buck:

Seasonal Fruit & Veg

Aim to buy fruit and vegetables in season. They are likely to be cheaper and fresher – as they haven’t been stored, greenhouse grown or travelled long distances. Take this opportunity to enjoy new fruits and vegetables you otherwise wouldn’t have considered. I have been loving pomegranates this winter (a fruit I never ate much before) and can pick one up for as little as $1.

Farmer’s Markets

Local farmer’s markets are the best place to pick up fresh, local and organic produce. You can speak directly with growers about their farming practices, find out which fruits and veggies are in season and buy cheaply in bulk. Furthermore, the produce is usually fresher and more inexpensive than the equivalent at a supermarket.

2. Make Meals From Scratch

1360965_60031494Ready-to-use foods from sauces to mixed salads to microwave dinners are super expensive, especially when you buy the “healthy” versions (not to mention filled with preservatives, salt, sugar and artificial flavours and colours). In a culture obsessed with convenience, we spend a fortune on ready-made food; yet the ingredients used in these products aren’t expensive and it doesn’t take long to make them yourself.

Make the Time to Make your Meals

The most common excuse for not making things from scratch is: “I don’t have the time.” It is essential to make time to prepare healthy meals for the sake of both your health and your wallet. If you are always busy during the week, set aside a couple of hours on Sunday to prepare meals or sauces to use on weekdays. It honestly doesn’t take as long as you may think.

Time is money, but if you spend a little time you can save a lot of money.

Some Groceries You Can Make Yourself

  • Muesli – buy bulk grains, dried fruit and seeds from grocery or health food stores and mix up a big batch of home-made muesli for a fraction of the price (and sugar content!).
  • Snacks – use your muesli and a bit of honey to make home-made muesli bars.
  • Dips – it is really easy and quick to make yummy dips (like hummus) in your food processor.
  • Diced tomatoes – jar your own tomatoes. Growers at farmer’s markets will give you a great price on excess/older stock.
  • Satay sauce – a spoon of natural peanut butter, dash of soy sauce, sprinkle of chilli and wham! bam! Home-made satay!

3. Plan Your Meals

Being organised can help you buy the right things and minimise wastage. Write down what meals you plan to cook this week, making a list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Breaking things down might take some time in the beginning, but soon you’ll recall the ingredients of the top of your head.

4. Stock Up On Staples

spices

Ingredients like oats, rice, flour, lentils, chickpeas and split peas are always cheap. They are also wonderfully effective ways to bulk out meals while providing necessary fibre, protein and other vitamins. For example, porridge with fresh fruit and honey is a delicious and nutritious breakfast that only costs about $1 a bowl.

A well-stocked spice rack is also important for cooking from scratch and dressing up simple meals. While I don’t recommend buying every spice at once, gradually building up a collection of spices can save you in the long run.

Although these ingredient are generally inexpensive, if you see them on special then stock up. Every cent counts, so make the most of their long shelf-life.

5. Keep It Simple

Fresh, simple ingredients are enough to make tasty and healthful meals. So-called peasant dishes – such as paella, dhal, rice dishes, stew and soup –  and basic salads please the body and the tastebuds, despite being made from just a few key ingredients.

fooood

Simple cooking minimises the ingredients you need to buy and cuts down on cooking time – leaving you with more cash in your pocket and more time to prepare other meals from scratch.

Tip within a tip: That garlic and rosemary infused olive oil that looks too good to resist? Use it as inspiration to infuse your own oils. It’s super easy and inexpensive, plus they make awesome gifts!

6. Avoid/Limit Meat

There’s no two ways about it, meat is expensive. This is especially true if you want to buy ethically farmed, free-range meat products. Plant-based protein sources like seeds, nuts and legumes are much cheaper options. Going vegetarian, even if just for a few nights a week, will greatly reduce your grocery bill.

7. Never Waste Anything

Waste not, want not. You wouldn’t throw your money in the bin, so why would you throw away food which cost you good money? If you follow tip #3 and plan your meals then you should have minimal food wastage to begin with. In any case, here are a few ways to salvage food:

  • Use vegetable scraps (or bones) to make stock;
  • Make soup out of older or excess vegetables;
  • Purée excess/older fresh herbs with a little oil;
  • Crumble stale bread into breadcrumbs;
  • Always keep leftovers – they make great lunches;
  • Freeze or dry older fruit;
  • Store foodstuffs in clear, airtight containers to prevent mould/bacteria.

Do everything you can to ensure that you DO NOT WASTE FOOD.

8. Shop Wisely

Shop Around

Get to know the true price of foods in your town so you can recognise a good deal. Shop at various supermarkets and take note (I suggest literally, with a pen and paper) of various food prices. One supermarket may have better deals on packaged foods, whereas another will have cheaper produce. For example I know of one grocery store where I can buy twice the amount of spinach for half the usual price. You may find you’ve been spending much more than you needed to for years!

supermarket

Don’t overlook international supermarkets. I buy much of my food from a local middle-eastern supermarket. They sell quality, foreign brands at lower prices than the no-name brands offered by supermarket chains.

Specials ≠ True Savings

Specials and discounts can be great, but don’t assume that the discounted item is the best value. Stores often run specials to get rid of old stock that isn’t selling. Some reasons for discounts are: the product is expiring soon, it didn’t sell because it is over-priced or has questionable ingredients. And then sometimes specials just aren’t that special…

discount

NB: A discounted big-brand product is probably still pricier than it’s unknown-brand counterpart.

9. Don’t Buy Into “Green” Marketing

As our society is becoming more health-conscious, brands are tailoring their packaging to our new values. Companies target advertising to the niche “wealthy & healthy” market, but the ingredients don’t necessarily reflect the labels.

Stamps like “natural”, “100%”, “low-fat” etc. don’t actually mean very much. “Natural” cereal is likely crammed full of all-natural sugars and salts; just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. After all, arsenic is all-natural too! The “100%” claim on your juice could refer to anything (like 100% flavour), not just the fruit content. “Low-fat” options often include more sugar, salt, artificial flavours and chemicals in order to mimic the full-fat version.

Oh, and the worst culprit of mock-healthy labelling: eggs “with Omega 3”. ALL EGGS CONTAIN OMEGA 3! But that’s a whole other story.

The best solution… ALWAYS READ THE LABEL!

I hope these tips are helpful for those who want to eat healthily without blowing their budget. If you already do so, what pointers would you add to this list?

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Body

 

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