I Can't Believe it's Black Bean Brownies
The healthiest brownies that no one will guess are healthy. I often modify recipes to make them my own, but with baking, modifications are a bit trickier for me, so this is very close to the original.
- 2 cups black beans (I used canned, drained and rinsed)
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/3 cup of maple syrup
- ½ cup date paste* (see recipe below) *allow 1 hour soaking time for date paste
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup raw cacao powder
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ cup oat or almond flour (I used almond)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- Pour 2/3 cup of hot water over 1 cup pitted dates and then soak for about an hour. Throw all ingredients into a powerful blender or food processor and process until a smooth, thick paste is formed.
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease mini muffin tins with coconut oil.
- In a food processor with S-blade (I used my Vitamix with regular blade; it was iffy, but did the job), mix black beans, banana, maple syrup, date paste, coconut oil, cacao powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt until well-combined and smooth.
- Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Fill mini muffin tins about 2/3 full and bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack.
- High fibre and protein with no processed sugar.
Adapted from Karma Chow
Active Life Health--TCM and Natural Health http://www.activetcm.com/
The first question I can normally anticipate about acupuncture is, “Does it hurt?” Since Connect Health has started to ask its practitioners to write articles for their newsletters, I covered this topic.
To read that article, click here: Acupuncture–Does it hurt?
I used to keep a book where patients could write in their own words about what acupuncture felt like to them. Some of my favourite descriptions include, “gingerale slippers,” “like a marshmallow in a microwave,” “spa-like,” and “like the transition in Wayne’s World.” I don’t expect all of those narratives to speak to you, so if you have your own depiction, I’d love to hear it!
It’s the end of February. Did you set goals, intentions, or–the foreboding word–resolutions about your health this year? I used to work in a gym, signing people up for memberships and teaching them how to use the equipment. But my most important role was to help with motivation to keep members coming in. It takes almost no effort to sign up for a membership, pay a nutritionist, or buy a treadmill. The more challenging part is usually keeping up with those desired changes. And that involves creating new healthy habits.
This article I wrote for 24 Hours discusses some simple steps to take to create your new healthy habits. And, of course, I’m here to help you set your health goals and keep up with making them come to fruition.
To read the article, click here to view the PDF or here for the link to the 24 Hours site.
February 14th is the re-launch date for Active Life Mobile Acupuncture, chosen because we want to show our love for Traditional Chinese Medicine and for your health.
Active Life Mobile Acupuncture is a business that I started a number of years ago because I was often asked by patients if I could treat them at their location. I’ve since hired a small team of amazing acupuncturists who will go to you.
We offer acupuncture at:
- Your workplace
- Your retirement home or long-term care facility
- Your hospital
We also offer Lunch ‘n Learn lectures, health seminars, and wellness lectures at your location. The topics I have found to be in highest demand include:
- Don’t let stress stress you out
- Healthy and easy meals
- What element are you?
- Will acupuncture help you?
To find out more about our mobile acupuncture services, check out www.mobile-acupuncture.com.
Hawaiian Hula Shake Recipe
When I came back from Hawaii, I wanted to bring back a piece of that beautiful place with me. When I saw frozen pineapple at the grocery store, I knew I could make a Hawaiian-feel shake.
- Frozen (or fresh) pineapple
- 2-3 leaves of kale
- 1 apple
- High quality vanilla protein powder
- Greens powder
- Dash of cinnamon powder
- Krisda stevia powder (cane sugar may be grown in Hawaii, but I don't need more sugar)
- 6-8 drops vitamin D (a bit of liquid sunshine)
- Immune booster tincture (just because I could and because it's cold and flu season)
- Blend it all together and enjoy!
- If it starts to separate, hula with it until it remixes. :)
Active Life Health--TCM and Natural Health http://www.activetcm.com/
I didn’t know that I would love borscht so much, but yum!
Immune boosting, warming, and pretty easy to make
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 cup water
- 4 medium red beets, peeled and diced
- 1 large potato, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 cups shredded kale (it called for cabbage, but I made it with kale and think that worked out great!)
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, minced
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Warm 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add diced onion, saute until soft. Add water, broth, beets, potato, carrots, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the veggies are cooked. Add the kale (or cabbage) and fresh dill and simmer another 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Add vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
- Soup is always great to make in large batches and freeze for future meals. This kind of recipe is also easy to modify to suit your own taste.
Adapted from The Year in Food
Active Life Health--TCM and Natural Health http://www.activetcm.com/
Anyone following the NFL—and many who don’t—know that Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks in history. Last year he set single-season records for touchdowns and passing yards, and of course this year his team is playing in the Superbowl against Seattle.
I am a Peyton Manning fan. But the reason that I am writing about him is because of his recovery—a resurrection, really—from a neck condition that resulted in four surgeries and would have ended the career of most professional athletes.
So, what did Peyton do to have one of his best years yet, at age 37, following such physical trauma? I don’t know the details of his rehabilitation, but there are some pieces that we do know.
- Peyton sought help from the experts and his athlete friends. He found out what he could about his condition, though he recognized that every individual heals differently.
- He rested. For almost three months after his fourth surgery (a second vertebral fusion) he did not pick up a football.
- He started slow and built himself up patiently. He was forced to listen to his body, and with the guidance of his trainers he started with minimal movement and minimal weight, throwing darts instead of footballs, lifting only five-pound weights, and sitting in front of a mirror practicing his throwing action.
- He changed the way he plays. His right arm is still weaker than his left, so he had to relearn and alter his game to match his new body.
- He put it all into perspective. His older brother Cooper was a promising wide-receiver who had to quit football at a young age because of spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spaces within the spine, putting pressure on the spinal cord). At age 16 Peyton was told by his doctor that his neck curvature was a potential problem, but he was fortunate to be able to play without major injury for 20 years, and he didn’t take his talent for granted. He also became a proud father of twins and said that though it was hard to be fighting for the return of his physical gift, the gain of having his kids was an equalizer. “I would take that trade any day of the week,” he said.
I don’t know if Peyton received acupuncture or biopuncture, but I do know that these therapies would have helped improve local blood flow to support the healing of the injured tissues. They can also reduce inflammation, release tight muscles, and relieve pain. But you know that already, right?
“There’s always going to be detractors,” B.C.’s Minister of Advanced Education, Amrik Virk, said in an article titled “Chinese medicine critic argues against B.C. school” posted by 24 Hours Vancouver. True. I have been practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since I graduated from the 4 year program in 2001, so I know a lot about critics to this and other alternative and complementary medicine practices.
[If you want to read my shorter version of this article, as published in 24 Hours newspaper, click here.]
In the beginning, I found facing that opposition challenging. On a near daily basis, I felt like I needed to justify the validity of this long-standing medical system. I felt like I needed to be ready, on the defensive, anytime someone asked me what I was studying.
I never feel like that anymore. Partly, this is because TCM is much more common and widely accepted in North America. Where I used to have to try to explain TCM and acupuncture to anyone I met, I now more commonly find that the response to the, “What do you do?” question is, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to try acupuncture” or, “My friend just started going to school for that” or, “Cool. I just saw my TCM doctor last week.”
More deeply, my reason I now never think about prepping a response to a negative attitude to my profession is because I am confident in my knowledge that it works. I have seen its effectiveness. I see it work on a daily basis. I know there will be detractors, but I also know that I am not alone in my understanding that this medical system is powerful and effective.
So, when I was asked to respond to this article, in which a China-based opponent of TCM, Albert Zhang, stated that “a B.C. government plan to fund a school teaching the discipline will waste money and pass on techniques he alleges can be dangerous,” I had to stretch those old muscles that used to always be ready to spring to the defense of TCM. I wanted to write a fair response, stating facts, not just my opinion. I wanted to do more than just throw back reminders about the statistics of deaths caused by pharmaceuticals every year; about the high, extremely high—one more time—atrociously high cost of pharmaceuticals and surgeries; about the inherent flaws in our modern science and research; or about the growing numbers of patients dissatisfied by the conventional care system’s approach to their chronic disease.
My opinion is not enough. I understand that it is important that we continuously scrutinize the ways that we practice medicine and healthcare (“medicine” is often different than “health care,” and both are important). We also need to be discriminating in how we spend our limited public budgets.
I see two main questions raised by this article. One, is TCM an effective medicine that can be safely practiced? And, two, is it a good idea for the government to fund a TCM program at one of our public universities?
If you want to get the media’s attention, use the words, “dangerous” or “harmful.” Zhang clearly knows this, as he tries to alarm the public about TCM. TCM treatments are not innocuous. They are powerful therapies that must be administered by qualified professionals. Luckily, in British Columbia, TCM is a regulated health profession. We must be licensed and registered in order to practice. I, and most of my B.C. colleagues, use only one-time use sterile needles. Good practitioners will also answer your questions about the quality and source of the herbs and supplements they provide. The herbs I use are from third party tested suppliers that verify the herbs are free of contaminants. I do not use herbs from endangered animals or that are harvested unethically. If these are issues that are important to you—and I hope they are—ask your practitioner. So, breathe a sigh of relief, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a safe practice.
In a time of technology-focused quick fixes, Traditional Chinese Medicine has managed to gain ground in its use around the world because it is an effective medicine. Scientific study requires a hypothesis that is tested through careful observation. TCM has thousands of years of close observational study of a vast number of individuals. The World Health Organization supports its use for over fifty health conditions. Gold standard double-blind research studies are hard to perform with holistic therapies, as this type of medicine needs to be customized to the unique needs of each individual. Large scale studies are expensive and placebo control is hard to do effectively for acupuncture. However, there are good studies available for a wide variety of health conditions, including pain, fertility, and digestive issues. There are studies to demonstrate that acupuncture boosts endorphins, improves circulation, and changes brain activity to effect whole body changes.
On to the second question, is it a good idea for the government to fund a TCM schooling program? This question is a lot harder for me to answer. I am glad that TCM is gaining widespread recognition, and for it to be taught in a university setting is a big leap toward broader acceptance. However, I appreciate the work that the good private TCM schools do to teach a full understanding of this intricate medical system. I worry that a publicly funded schooling system might end up teaching a “cookbook” style of TCM that states that “X” points or herbs are to be used for “Y” diseases and symptoms, just as the pharmaceutical world does. Anyone who has gone through the long years of study to be licensed, and the even greater hours of ongoing study throughout a career in TCM, knows that TCM diagnosis and treatment is complex. I would hope that a public schooling program will not lose the nuances of this ever evolving practice.
Pharmaceuticals, surgeries, MRIs, CT scans, and other advanced testing methods of the conventional care model are expensive. Traditional Chinese Medicine offers high skill, low technology options that can be integrated into the current system. In addition, holistic therapists teach the patient how to be an integral part of the wellness plan, offering guidance for lifestyle changes that contribute to long-term health benefits. This knowledge and these skills must be taught to students of TCM, so with the growing public demand for health practices and treatments that can be integrated into a conventional care plan, it’s wise for the government to be funding options. With better chronic illness prevention and disease management, we stand to save money in the long-term.
Zhang said that “there are many Chinese people who don’t even believe in TCM.” This debate is not about belief. It is about facts, and the fact is that TCM is safe, effective, and a lower cost alternative to many conventional medical options.
“Believe in magic.” I heard this said this morning and it seemed timely. Tonight I sit writing this blog and watching “Polar Express.” “I believe” says the little boy. Flying reindeer, elves making toys, and a big man in a red suit who knows all and delivers presents around the world in one night—a time of magical wonder. All of these things I believed in as a kid, along with the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and so much more.
Wouldn’t it be nice to believe in magic again? As adults, we question most everything. I regularly question if something will work. It’s my job to look into the evidence behind treatments, supplements, and health information. It’s my job to explain how acupuncture and the other therapies I use work. I usually talk about how acupuncture increases local blood flow, at least in part by stimulating the release of nitric oxide. I speak to how acupuncture causes the body to release chemicals like serotonin, a feel good hormone that can reduce symptoms of depression, pain, anxiety, and stress, while supporting healing. Evidence has also demonstrated that acupuncture points have lower bioelectric and biomagnetic resistance than other areas, and that placing a needle in an acupuncture point changes how the brain reacts.
But my favourite way to explain how acupuncture works is, “it moves Qi.” Qi is most commonly translated as energy. Some have explained that Qi is actually better translated as oxygen. But I prefer to think of it as magic!
Life is magic. Love is magic. Healing is magic.
When you think of what you would like from 2014, wouldn’t you like to have a little magic?
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
A natural immune boosting shot
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Two gluten-free cookies
and a natural immune boosting shot
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Three kale shakes
two gluten-free cookies
and a natural immune boosting shot…
Four vitamin D drops
Five TCM consultations!
Six green teas
Seven days to rest
Eight yoga classes
Nine press needles
Ten herbal formulas
Eleven Grouse Grind climbs
TWELVE acupuncture treatments!