Archive for August 2013

Feeding the Good Bacteria

Perhaps you’ve heard of probiotics through yogurt commercials showing a joyfully dancing belly, arrows pointing downward, and hands forming heart shapes over the abdomen, all  inferring some of the benefits of these good bacteria.

Yogurt and other fermented foods like kefir, raw sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kombucha are all sources of probiotics. Probiotic supplements offer stronger treatment options with specific selection of particular bacteria. Each kind of friendly bacteria offers a different health benefit, from treating bowel trouble to boosting the immune system to managing skin disease to supporting healthy brain cells and more.

Like all living creatures, these healthy bacteria need to be fed. This is where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are non-digestible components of some foods that promote growth and activity of probiotics. It is possible to buy prebiotic supplements, either on their own or in combination with probiotics.

You might also choose to eat more artichokes, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, and gluten-free oats, as all are good sources of prebiotics.

Of course, avoiding killing your good bacteria by limiting your use of antibiotics  is also key to a healthy colony of friendly bacteria; and since these good bacteria can help keep your immune system strong, consuming probiotics and prebiotics regularly is a foundation to good health.


Which herb is this?

Which herb is…

– a good source of vitamin K?
– anti-bacterial?
– protects against radiation?
– good to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, indigestion, insect bites, and pneumonia?
– a delicious summer market find?

This herb is just one of the 10 top herbs that Chef Luisa Rios and I will talk about at Connect Health on Tuesday August 27th from 7-8:30 p.m. To sign up for that free talk, click here or call 604-733-4400.

This herb has more varieties than most other herbs. Some of the varieties include: cinnamon, Genovese, Holy, lemon, lime, purple, sweet, and Thai.

Figured it out?

It’s basil.


Do you take Celebrex? Did you once take Vioxx, before it was removed from the North American market because of its high risk for heart attacks and strokes? Well, consider that there are many herbs, foods, and supplements that are natural COX-2 inhibitors that are much safer. Basil contains several COX-2 inhibitors, so it is a helpful part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Combine it with avocados, which are high in vitamin B6, and you have a medicinal food combo for treating carpal tunnel syndrome.


As part of the mint family, basil is one of the top herbs for impaired digestion that can result in gas, bloating, heartburn, stomach pain, belching, and nausea.

To Protect and Serve

Basil contains two components that help it protect our cells and serve up better health. The first component is flavonoids. They help protect against radiation damage and oxidative damage (you’ve likely heard of the benefits of antioxidants), things that can damage your cells and contribute to faster aging and disease. The second is volatile oils, discussed in the “gassy” section, but also of benefit in the following ways.

Bye Bye Bugs

I haven’t yet tried it, but apparently holy basil is rubbed on the skin in India and Africa to act as bug repellent. I’m going to give this one a try! Let me know how you fare.

More Bye Bye Bugs

Want to avoid the bacterial “bugs?” Basil contains volatile oils that help restrict the growth of many bacteria, including those that are antibiotic resistant. In order to get those volatile oils, you will want to get fresh basil or use food grade pure essential oils of basil.

For more about basil and other food herbs, how to cook them, how to store them, how to select them, and some recipes, remember to register for our seminar!



24 Hours and CKNW: On Stress

Stress is a “four letter” word for most of us. Stress causes fatigue, frustration, and frazzled nerves. But, it is really how we perceive stress that makes it bad. My latest 24 Hours newspaper article covered some of the basic ways that you can better manage stress and some tips for handling some of stress’ consequences. For that article click here: Proactive Measures Tackle Stress Head On (for the PDF version).




Food Truck Inspiration

You may not expect to read about a food truck drink on a health blog. Certainly, many of the options available from food trucks are not health foods, though there are now better options than there once were–hot dogs, chips, and pop.

It was at the Kitsilano Farmer’s Market one Sunday that I tried my first horchata. The food truck is called Guanaco, and it serves foods from El Salvador. I had never previously tried any Salvadoran cuisine, and I did enjoy my pasteles and yuca fries. It was, however, the horchata that had me hooked.

Guanaco uses morro seeds, ground cocoa, cinnamon, sesame seeds, nutmeg, tigernuts and vanilla to make their traditional beverage. Many other countries–Mexico, Spain, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, etc–also make their own versions. I found a recipe online and then contacted my good friend, Chef Luisa Rios of Cooking Journeys about making our own. We copied a recipe adapted from Rick Bayless, a chef who specializes in Mexican foods. We’ve made a couple of modifications and here’s our version.

2/3 cup (dry) long grain rice
1 1/4 cup blanched almonds (we blanched our own)
3-inch cinnamon stick (but if you too love cinnamon, use extra)
4 1/2 cups water, divided
1/6-1/4 cup light agave nectar, to taste (this is less than half of what the regular recipe called for and it is still sweet)

Combine the rice, almonds, cinnamon stick, and 2 1/2cups hot water in a bowl. Allow the mixture to cool, then cover it. Refrigerate overnight.

Pour the mix into a blender, along with agave. Blend on high until the mixture is as smooth as possible. This will take a few minutes. Add one cup of cold water and blend for 10 seconds. Taste, and add more agave if needed.

Place a large metal sieve over a large bowl and line the sieve with cheesecloth (or use a nut milk bag). Slowly pour the blended mixture through. Press on the solids with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Squeeze the rest of the liquid out, then discard the remaining pulp.

* I made my own horchata protein balls with the pulp by mixing it with protein powder, dates, and coconut flakes (ask me if you want that recipe).

Pour the mix into a pitcher and stir in the last cup of water. Serve cold.




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