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… test us on ten days of a diet of vegetables and water, then see how we look compared to the other young men…(From the biblical book of Daniel, chapter 1, verse 12)

It’s the “c” word… not the vulgar one, but the scary one.  Cancer.  The diagnosis no one ever wants to hear (among so many others).  According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 40% of Canadian women and 45% of men will develop cancer during their lifetimes. An estimated 1 out of every 4 Canadians are expected to die from cancer and cancer is the leading cause of premature death in Canada. 

Cancer seems to have a smorgasbord of choices - appearing in the lungs, breast, prostate, ovary, pancreas, colon, uterus, thyroid, kidney, brain, lymph and skin, among still others.

With statistics like that, it puts an even greater responsibility on society to practice prevention. While genetics play a certain role in cancer – somatic cancers (acquired during life) are on the rise.  Statistically, the message of prevention is dwarfed behind the push for a cure.  We run, bike, skip, sail, jump, dance and bake for “the cure” but what are we doing to prevent cancer?  This is not to say that major advances have not been made in cancer research, or to imply that miracles have not happened with modern medical treatments – but what part of cancer is the researchers role and what part is society’s? 

While doctors are studying the petri dish, we can study our diet. Today’s diet is, well… highly acidic and cancer promoting.  Most of our diet today leans toward the acidic side – heavy in meat, dairy, starchy and processed, sugary foods.  

Cancers love acid
Their cells thrive and survive in an acidic environment.  According to Dr. Susan Lark, MD, “The simplest and most dramatic thing you can do for your body is to balance the levels of acid vs. alkaline.”  Cancer cells will actually die in an alkaline environment because an alkaline state is oxygen rich and cancer cells cannot survive high levels of oxygenation.   Vegetarian and plant-based protein diets, as well as diets rich in antioxidants from fruits and veggies have been shown to help prevent cancer as well as slow the rate of cancer cell growth.  

A study by J.H. Cummings, and S.A.Bingham entitled Diet and the prevention of Cancer (BMJ 1998;317:1636-1640) concludes that:  “...diet contributes to varying extent to the risk of many other cancers, including cancers of the lung, prostate, stomach, oesophagus, and pancreas... Generally, fruit, vegetables, and fiber have a protective effect, whereas red and processed meat increase the risk of developing cancer."

Cancer has and continues to have devastating effects on families and society.  We can no longer afford to leave prevention on the sidelines.  Food is medicine and medicine is food – whether we believe ol’ Socrates or not.  By the way, Daniel mentioned above, well… after ten days, he and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than the kings men who ate rich foods and meat.    Seems we’ve known a thing or two about diet for a long, long time.  Don’t live to eat, eat to live!

Erin Bell

 
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In the past, vegetarian and vegan diets were associated with being a hippy. Things are changing, and plant-based lifestyles are becoming more and more mainstream. Many vegetarian or vegan parents have strong beliefs and are choosing to raise their children with the same diet and lifestyle. As a parent, this is completely logical. 

Who wants to be cooking two separate meals? Vegan and vegetarian diets vary in terms of what foods are allowed and what foods are not, and can fall anywhere from quite liberal to extremely strict. Should kids be on a restricted diet at all? What risks are involved with these types of diets?

One of the biggest risks with these diets are nutritional deficiencies. Depending what types of foods are restricted, children (and adults) may be put at risk for deficiencies. Because children have higher needs for growth, they are more at risk than their parents.

First off, we have to separate vegan and vegetarian. Vegetarian diets may or may not include eggs, dairy, and even fish. Because of this, some vegetarian diets are nutritionally complete. The less restrictive the diet, the more variety of nutrients that diet can provide.

Vegan diets are much more restrictive because they eliminate any foods of, or containing, anything of animal origin. This includes meat, dairy, eggs, and anything with traces of animal product as an ingredient. 

These diets are high contenders for a potential deficiency in B12, calcium, iron and other nutrients. Vegan kids will need a lot of high Calorie foods like nuts, nut butters, seeds, beans, and vegetable oils to make sure they’re getting enough Calories and protein for adequate growth.

There are many benefits to these diets and they can be very healthy. For one, they eliminate a lot of processed and high calorie foods that we don’t need. Secondly, they are often high in plant-based foods which provides a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, and low in Calories and harmful fats. 

The key to following a vegan or vegetarian diet successfully is planning and knowledge. Knowledge of what nutrients are in which foods, and planning a variety of foods to make sure you get enough of each. Again, this is particularly important for vegans due to the highly restrictive elements of the diet. It’s a lot of work if done properly, but it can be done. If you’re not able to or don’t want to spend the time to plan properly, I wouldn’t recommend this diet for you or your kids. Alternatively, you can visit a Registered Dietitian to get help with planning.

Janine Bolton

 
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It used to be Tupperware parties… now, its Botox parties.  Gone are the days of applying a moisturizer and flossing before bed!  Enter the world of cosmetic surgery and products – all aimed at steering us ever closer to the appearance of youth!

We likely take our skin for granted most of the time.  Our skin is an organ, yet we don’t often think of it like we might of …say - the heart or liver.  We tend to think of “organs” as those on the inside – that we cannot see.  Skin is our largest organ and needs as much TLC as the other organs of the body.

With that in mind, consider some of the concerns about products we use on our skin on a daily basis:

Mineral Oil – A petroleum product.  Allergenic.  Can promote acne. Becomes toxic in sunlight (photo toxic).  Is cheap and plentiful.  Often used in body lotions and moisturizers.

Talc – Used in facial powders and eye shadows as well as baby powders.  Often contains asbestos.  Known carcinogenic (cancer causing), as well as an irritant to lungs.

Phthalates – Used in hairsprays, nail polish and perfumes.  It can be inhaled (during application) or absorbed into the skin.  Known to cause damage to the liver and reproductive system.

Parabens – Used as a preservative in cosmetic products and shampoos.  Can be allergenic and toxic.  Can also disrupt hormone system by helping create xenoestrogens.

Toluene – Petroleum derived solvent most often found in nail polishes.  Can cause dizziness when inhaled.  Toxic when ingested or absorbed by skin.

Aluminum – Used in cosmetic powders such as eye shadows.  Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.

This is just a short list.  Combined with sun exposure, environmental toxins, inadequate sleep, poor diet and stress, its’ easy to see how the skin pays a very high price. 

Food?  for thought…

Detoxifying from the inside out, drinking plenty of fresh water and eating fresh fruits, veggies and avoiding prolonged exposure to sun can all help.  But if you’re stuck for some natural alternatives to help make your skin glow, just head for the kitchen and try some of these suggestions:

Avocado – provides a boost of vitamins A, D, and E and can promote healing.  Mash a ripe avocado and apply to skin as a mask.  Rinse and see how nice your skin feels.

Camomile Tea Bags – don’t throw out that bag after you’ve sipped your tea, save and use on tired, red, puffy eyes to help rejuvenate.

Cucumber – also good for tired eyes, but the juice is cooling and cleansing and also acts as a mild astringent.

Honey – mix with a little yogurt and finely ground oatmeal to make a paste.  Smooth on face for a luxurious mask for all skin types.

Papaya – a delicious fruit to eat, but also used for acne, wrinkles, sunspots and as a treatment to slough off dead skin cells.  Mash a ripe papaya or use the juice.  It’s loaded with vitamins and enzymes that are good for your skin.  Rinse thoroughly after use as it can cause irritation if used in high concentration.

Antioxidants
Diet is as important in beautiful skin as anything else.  Antioxidants like fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries) as well as dark green veggies and raisins are all excellent foods to promote healthy skin, as well as whole grains, flax seeds and nuts such as walnuts.  

So, before you decide to go under the knife, apply the needle or peel off the years, try using cosmetic and skin products that are non-toxic and non-allergenic and consider the bounty of products in your own refrigerator.

Erin Bell

 
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Congratulations – you’re pregnant!  Now, what to do about those couple extra cheese burgers over the past few weeks, or what about your fetish for diet soft drinks?  When you finally read the stick, you automatically start thinking of your diet.  But prenatal nutrition really needs to begin before conception, as by the time you find out you’re even pregnant, many, many things have already developed in that tiny life hiding inside.

By just 4 weeks, roughly about when women will even realize they are pregnant, amazing developments have already taken place.  The brain, spinal cord and nerves have begun to form, and the heart is already beginning to pump the blood throughout a microscopic body – a tiny heartbeat is now present.  Organs like the liver and kidneys have already begun to grow and by the 5th week, facial features are beginning to take shape.  Seems pretty advanced for something no bigger than a the tip of your baby finger.

Over the next 8 months, the baby will continue to grow and develop, with different systems advancing at different stages. Discovering that you are pregnant is often when a dietary change is considered, but for fetal development, women need to consider their overall health even up to a year before conceiving. While that is not always possible, for those wishing and planning pregnancy, it’s best to lay a nutritional foundation in Mom before conception. 

Let’s use an analogy.  Before one plants a garden, the soil is turned and tilled, fertilized and nutrients are added to make the soil a suitable place for planting. We prepare the bed before we plant the seeds.  The body is much the same.  Preparing for pregnancy with good nutrition is as important as a healthy diet during pregnancy.    A diet full of wholesome and nutritious foods will enhance both the chances of fertility as well as a healthy environment for the embryo to begin it’s journey to birth.  

Millions of women are treated each year for problems with fertility and the problem is increasing.   Almost half of these infertile cases can be attributed to fathers – another ever increasing problem within the fertility pool.  The actual causes of infertility can be numerous and exhausting both physically and emotionally.  Malnutrition is often a cause and yes, even in Western cultures, we can be malnourished.  A diet high in fat, processed foods, food additives, combined with the use of alcohol, caffeine, smoking and drugs can all be culprits.    Maintaining healthy weight and managing stress are two key factors in preparing for pregnancy. 
 
Deficiency in B vitamins in women has been reported as a possible cause of infertility as well.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, wholesome grains, adequate amounts of lean protein, limiting the overuse of dairy products and supplementing the diet with a quality vitamin and mineral supplement will help normalize hormones in both women and men – whereby increasing the chances of fertility.  Herbs like raspberry, nettle and chaste tree, dandelion, milk thistle and cramp bark can be helpful for women seeking to conceive.  It’s best to consult with an herbalist or naturopath before taking herbs as some can have side effects that could be unpleasant.  

If you find yourself struggling to get pregnant, don’t give up hope.  Begin with the most simple of lifestyle changes – your diet.  And even if you’re just thinking of beginning your own family – remember the garden – make the bed fertile long before you begin planting the seed.

Erin  Bell

 
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Since nutrition labeling became mandatory in 2005, many people have started to take advantage of this extra information and be proactive about their health. As a parent, reading labels for yourself can be confusing enough. You might look for things like sodium for your high blood pressure, or fat content for your waist line or cholesterol levels. But should you be looking for different things for your children? This partly depends on the age of your child. Do you know what to look for on a nutrition label for your kids?

For children, there are certain nutrients that are of concern:

Sodium (salt):
young children (under the age of one year) are not recommended to have foods that are high in salt (such as deli meats) because their kidneys aren’t fully developed and extra sodium puts extra stress on them. Unfortunately, many processed and packaged foods are very high in salt, including snack crackers and soups. For young children it’s best to limit their intake of processed and packaged foods.

Fat:
Unlike adults, young children should not be on a low-fat diet. Children under 2 should be drinking full-fat (3.25%) milk and eating full-fat yogurt. As children get older you can switch them to lower fat dairy products. However, just like adults, intake of unhealthy fats (saturated and trans) should be limited. Try to avoid trans fats from processed and packaged foods altogether.

Fibre: Whether it’s adults or kids, fibre is always a good thing. High fibre foods fill you up faster and slow the release of sugar into the blood, which helps control hunger and blood sugar levels. Fruits and vegetables are always high in fibre. For cereals and other foods, look for 3-4g of fibre per serving. However, if your child has a small appetite, fills up easily, or is underweight, you may actually want to limit high fibre foods in favour of getting your child to eat more Calories. Speak to your physician or dietitian if you are concerned with your child’s growth or appetite.

Iron: Iron is especially important for young children under the age of one and those that don’t like a lot of meat. Iron will be listed as a percentage daily value (DV) which can make things confusing. If you’re child doesn’t eat a lot of meat, look for high iron foods with more than 15% DV for iron. Good non-meat sources of iron are: iron-fortified cereals, beans (kidney, pinto, navy, etc) and lentils, such as chickpeas.  

Sugar: Excess sugar intake in children and adults can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Many processed and packaged foods have tons of sugar added to them. Check the ingredient list for words such as “high-fructose corn syrup”, “glucose”, “sucrose”, and “syrup”. These words mean “sugar”. The best way to avoid added sugar is to cook as much as you can from scratch, but sometimes convenience foods win out. When grocery shopping, look for items where sugar is not in the first 5 ingredients on the list.

Janine Bolton

 
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Most of what we eat consists of acid-forming foods – that is, highly processed, white, sugar-laden, fatty and heavy in meat and dairy products.  An acidic environment paves the way for disease.  The evidence for this lies in the statistics of our current health – diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and obesity are skyrocketing – even among young children.

Foods are categorically acidic or alkaline based on how they affect the body – not whether they are acidic or not.  For instance, lemon may taste acidic, however, once in the body, lemon is alkalizing after being metabolized.  An acidic environment provides the foundation for disease to develop and thrive.

In contrast, many diseases, including some cancers cannot survive in a more aerobic (oxygen-rich), alkaline state.  The body functions optimally at a slightly alkaline pH of 7.5.  A diet ratio of about 70% alkaline to 30% acidifying foods is best for optimal pH. The current SAD (Standard American Diet) is more of the reverse of this, with the majority of food intake being acidic.  Alkalizing the diet is one of the best ways to practice prevention.

pH is a very delicate balance that the body constantly and vigilantly maintains… the slightest variation in pH could be near fatal with symptoms varying from coma induced from blood sugar imbalance to convulsions and quite possibly - death.  
Acid vs. Alkaline Foods

Foods that are acidic are:
  • Coffee, Alcohol and soft drinks
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • White flour and products (pastries)
  • Whole grains
  • Corn
  • Fish
  • Liver
  • Wine
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Oils
  • Fats (such as trans fats)
Foods that are Alkalizing are:
  • Salt
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocados
  • Fruit - most
  • Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Dandelion greens
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes - cooked
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini
  • Vegetables – most, including sea vegetables

Foods like cheeses, milk and yogurt tend to lean more towards acid than alkaline because of pasteurization – which makes them more acidic.  Sometimes they are referred to as buffers, but they are essentially acid forming because they are processed and not in raw form. 

From these lists, it is obvious to see that the Western Diet consists mostly of acidifying foods – heavy meat consumption, white flour, fats and sugars.  These lists do not suggest eating more salt and potatoes - (want fries with that?), but rather give an idea of what is acid forming and what is alkalizing to the body.  What we need is balance.  For optimum health, alkalize!  

Erin Bell

 
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Not too long ago studies were coming out showing that kids were watching less Tv than ever before. At first glance, this seemed like a great thing, but this information was puzzling when compared to the sky-rocketing obesity rates. 

Turns out those researchers forgot one relatively new (at the time) but very important thing - computers. Researchers soon came up with the term “screen time” to refer to all time spent in front of a screen, including computers, video games, cell phones, movies, and of course, Tv. As soon as screen time was taken into account, things changed dramatically. 

Newer studies show that, although Tv time is down, screen time is up. Way up. A recent survey found that kids in Grades 6 through 10 spent 5 1/2 hours in front of a screen on week days, and 7 1/2 hours on weekends. That’s a full-time job! Obviously, any time spent in front of a screen is time spent not moving. On top of this there are many hours spent doing other important, but inactive, things such as schoolwork. 

In my previous post about television commercials and child weight gain, I explained that television advertising has a strong influence on what children under the age of 12 eat. One good thing (and this may be the only good thing) about non-television screen time is that your child isn’t likely to be exposed to as many commercials targeted at children. However, even this is changing. 

Many companies have realized their young audience has migrated from the living room floor to the computer desk, and have shifted their marketing plans accordingly. Big companies such as Nestle, Kraft and McDonald’s are developing websites that are fun for kids, enticing them to play for hours while being bombarded with marketing. For older kids, new studies have shown that teens with more screen time have lower quality relationships and spend even less time with family than other teens.

What you can do:

  1. Limit all screen time - If you limit Tv time for your kids (and you should be doing this), make sure you include all screen time.
  2. Find new hobbies - often times kids (and adults) resort to Tv because they’re bored or just want to relax. Brainstorm some other activities you can do with your kids instead of using the Tv or computer, such as playing a board game together or going for a bike ride.
  3. Be a role model - Just like nutrition, when it comes to screen time, it’s important to set a good example for your kids and minimize your own screen time.

Janine Bolton

 
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It seems like every time I turn on the television or open a newspaper, I’m hearing about one more food that fights cancer. This is certainly good news, but sometimes it can become a little bit overwhelming. You get to the grocery store and think, “Let’s see, am I supposed to be eating artichokes or avocados to prevent cancer?”

In reality, there are probably some foods that are better than others at preventing cancer, but you can make sure that you are getting the good vitamins, minerals and enzymes your body needs to stay in tip-top shape by eating a variety of healthy foods, especially in the produce aisle.

When you’re scanning the produce section for the healthiest fare, just make sure to fill your cart with all the different colors found in nature so that your body is getting the greatest variety of nutrients.

If (like me) you want something a little more concrete to take to the store with you Lucy Burney, author of Superfoods for Healthy Kids, has compiled a comprehensive list of the best of the best when it comes to fighting cancer:


Alfalfa sprouts                 Chicory                                     Pumpkin Seeds
Almonds                         Evening Primrose Oil                   Quinoa
Apples                            Extra Virgin Olive Oil                  Salmon
Apricots                          Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil          Sesame Seeds
Asparagus                       Garlic                                        Shitake Mushrooms
Beans                              Gingeroot                                  Soy Milk
Beansprouts                    Green Tea                                  Sunflower Seeds
Brazil Nuts                       Kale                                          Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli                           Lentils                                       Tofu
Brown Rice                      Lettuce                                     Tomatoes
Brussels Sprout                Mangoes                                   Turmeric
Carrots                            Peas                                          Pulses
Cauliflower           

Make sure to incorporate a healthy variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains into your diet. If you’re relying on just one or two of these foods to meet your nutritional requirements, you’re probably going to fall short, so mix it up. Throw a new fruit into the basket or try a new recipe, even if you don’t think you’ll like it.

And remember, while you’re taking the time and energy to prevent yourself from getting cancer, think about what you’re feeding your kids, as well. In addition to being great for preventing cancer risk in adults, these foods are superstars when it comes to growing babies into healthy grown-ups!
 
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Cancer: It’s a scary word. But even if we don’t like to talk about it, the fact is that, according to the World Health Organization, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world — and the number of new cases seems to be increasing every year.

In Canada, 171,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2009, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and, according to the American Cancer Society, 562,340 people died of cancer in the U.S. in 2006. With statistics like those, chances are, you or someone you love has been in for the fight of his or her life.

The point of all these numbers isn’t to scare you, though. In fact, there’s actually some good news about cancer floating around out there. According to cancer survivor and nutritionist Conner Middelmann Whitney, 30% of the cancers in the West could be prevented by proper nutrition, exercise and body weight control and another 30% could be prevented by not smoking.

While many people feel like cancer is waiting around to attack them at any time (and, let’s face it, for some people, it is) for a good many of us, the things we do — and eat — in our daily lives can keep us from ever getting the “big C.” Furthermore, whether we are fighting for our lives or cancer survivors, keeping away from the Marlboro man and tweaking our lifestyles can keep us cancer free in the future.

While there are certainly those out there who dispute each of these ideas, here are a few “rules” that can help you and your family prevent cancer from coming in the first place, or, if you’re a survivor, from coming back again:

  1. Sugar Feeds Cancer: If you’ve read my blogs about sugar, you know I’m not a big fan of the refined stuff and its health consequences. Neither is Patrick Quillin, PHD, RD, CNS. Quillin sites multiple studies that show that in mice and in humans, the more sugar consumed, the higher the risk for cancer. So save the Hershey’s Bars for an occasional treat. 
  2. Eat Whole Grains: According to Lucy Burney, author of Superfoods for Kids, the fiber in the wholegrains “helps to balance blood glucose levels and to carry toxins and carcinogens out of the body.”
  3. Go Organic: It might cost you a little bit more, but going organic is a crucial step in any cancer battle. Pesticides are carcinogens. Period. While I would always recommend going as organic as your budget allows, if you are going to eat meat, dairy products and eggs, it’s especially important to go organic in those areas.
  4. The ideas of bioaccumulation and biomagnification teach us that when a pesticide goes from the environment to the first layer of the food chain (i.e. grass to cow) the effects of it multiply. When it goes to the next link in the food chain (i.e. cow to human) they multiply again. In short, while the pesticides in that grass might not have been so bad, by the time they get to you, you can have some major poison on your hands (and in your body).
  5. Maintain a Healthy Weight: The American Cancer Society reports that excess weight leads to 90,000 unnecessary cancer deaths every year. That’s 20% of the cancer deaths in women and 14% in men in the U.S. And what’s frightening is that only 1% of the American public, when polled, even realized that weight and cancer could be linked.

Long story short, the bad news is that there will always be people out there who get cancer, even when they do all the right things. The good news, though, is that, for a good many of us, the choices we make can keep us strong, healthy and cancer free.
 

Kristy Harvey

 
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Imagine doing something over 31 million times per year – and that is if you’re in good shape.  Now, imagine having to do it over 42 million times and MORE – and that is if you’re in bad shape.  The heart is a magnificent organ and ironically, the less we use it, the less efficient it is.  That is not to say that 42 million beats per year in a sedentary person is better than the 31 million beats per year in the active person… on the contrary, the person with the lesser beats actually has the better heart.

The heart is a muscle and like all muscles, it needs to be worked.  A heart that is not beating within a healthy, active body can be weak, small, or even enlarged due to hypertension.  When the heart tissue is unhealthy, the arteries and blood vessels are clogged and constricted and the blood supply to the heart is blocked.

It cannot beat and function without having a continuous supply of oxygen.  It then has to beat faster to pump enough blood through to function.  A conditioned, healthy heart actually beats slower, as more blood is pumped through with each stroke.  A normal resting heart rate is said to be between 70 and 80 beats per minute, but sadly, many people are struggling with heart rates that are much higher. 

Cardiovascular disease remains the top killer of society.  Major risk factors include:
  • high blood pressure
  • high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • smoking
  • lack of exercise
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • and stress.  
The two most important preventative measures against cardiovascular disease are diet and exercise.  However, for some reason, people just still are not getting it when it comes time to prevention.  They continue to look for a “magic pill” – one that allows overindulgence in junk foods and too much time on the couch!   

Can vitamins help?


Vitamins and minerals are called supplements (i.e. in addition to a well balanced, healthy diet).  Supplemental vitamins that help maintain a healthy heart - specifically vitamin C, B-complex, and vitamin E, along with the minerals calcium, chromium, zinc and selenium are all excellent supplements to a heart-healthy diet.

Although not literally called “vitamin Q”, another powerful supplement is Coenzyme Q10.  Claimed as a miracle nutrient, it is not actually a vitamin in itself, but rather a vitamin-like substance naturally present in our tissues, but declines with age.   Q10 energizes the coronary system and actually strengthens the heart muscle and improves tissue respiration.  It is been extensively researched and has no known side effects or toxicity.  It has been remarkably successful all over the world to enhance the immune system, treat heart disease, and high blood pressure.  It is remarkable for its ability to help treat heart attack and stroke victims.  It is also a powerful antioxidant capable of destroying the damage done by free radicals.   Q10 is found in such foods as salmon, sardines and mackerel as well as in supplement form from the health store.   

Of course, there is no sense in taking a handful of vitamins and minerals each day and continuing with a sedentary lifestyle packed with unhealthy, processed foods and other poor dietary choices.  Nothing can replace the heart-healthy benefits of a proper diet and exercise along with supplementation of heart friendly vitamins and minerals like those mentioned including the miracle nutrient Coenzyme Q10.  Take care of your heart – because if it stops, so do you!