… 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

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.

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


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

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!
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

As parents, we have an inherent need to make sure our kids eats enough, but when your child turns into a picky eater it can be extremely frustrating. If your child won’t eat the food you’ve served to the rest of the family it becomes very tempting to make them something you know they will eat. This, is when the “short order cook” parent is born.

If you’ve just served the rest of your family a hot, balanced meal, but find yourself in the kitchen 2 minutes later making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you are a short order cook. 

What’s the problem with this?

The upside of being a short order cook (S.O.C.) is that your child eats and you feel better knowing they will not starve. However, the downsides to being a S.O.C. heavily outweigh the good. The most obvious downside is that once you start to be a S.O.C., it’s a tough cycle to break. You don’t want to be making separate meals until your kids go to college. Another downside is that children won’t learn to try new foods and, over the long term, they may not be getting a wide enough variety of nutrients. Although the intention is good, being a S.O.C. often does more harm than good.

The upside of being a short order cook (S.O.C.) is that your child eats and you feel better knowing they will not starve. However, the downsides to being a S.O.C. heavily outweigh the good. The most obvious downside is that once you start to be a S.O.C., it’s a tough cycle to break. You don’t want to be making separate meals until your kids go to college. Another downside is that children won’t learn to try new foods and, over the long term, they may not be getting a wide enough variety of nutrients. Although the intention is good, being a S.O.C. often does more harm than good. 

What to do about it?

STOP! The first step is to stop making different meals for different people in your family. Kids need to learn to eat with the rest of the family, and that includes the types of foods. The second step is to try to incorporate at least one food that your child likes into most meals you preparing, and respect them if there is a food they genuinely dislike. Remember, it’s your job to decide what, where and when to serve food, and the child’s job to decide if they eat and how much. Finally, be patient! It can can 15-20 exposures to a new food before a child will try it. 

If you’ve been a S.O.C. for a while, your children may put up a fuss and refuse to eat at first. As long as your child is growing well, don’t worry about it. Make it clear to them that this is what you have prepared to eat and there will be no more food until the next meal or snack time. Your child will eat when they’re hungry enough. Offer them snacks and meals at regular intervals and they will soon try the foods you offer.
There are so many things you want to teach your kids: to be polite, wash their hands, keep their rooms clean. But what are you teaching your kids about food? In the past 30 years it seems food has been largely forgotten or simply taken for granted. Part of the reason the obesity epidemic is as bad as it is, is because at some point we stopped learning about food and we became so busy with our daily lives that we turned to convenience foods. We let other people make our food and we don’t know where it comes from, who made it, or what’s in it.

It’s a vicious cycle. If our parents weren’t around to teach us how to cook or relied on convenience foods, that is what we know and what we will inevitably pass on to our children. We need to break that cycle. We are now learning what the industrial food system has done to our health, and we are beginning to make positive changes. Knowledge is power and it’s extremely important to teach your children about food.

The Five most important things to teach your kids about food:

  1. What real food is. Real food does not come in a box and does not have a label or a long ingredient list full of words you can’t pronounce. Real food should be the rule, “food-like” substances should be the exception. 
  2. You are what you eat. You’ve heard it a million times, and that’s because it’s true. Eating a lot of food that isn’t good for you will make you feel, well, not good! Teach your kids that choosing healthy foods will help them in school, improve their soccer game, and give them more energy to play with their friends (as if they need it!).
  3. How to cook. You don’t need to be Martha Stewart and you don’t need to make your kids into mini Jamie Olivers (although, it would be great if you could!) but you do need to teach your kids the basic skills for how to prepare healthy food. Get them involved in the grocery shopping and in the kitchen, and show them that cooking is fun! 
  4. To listen to hunger and fullness cues. It may seem obvious that part of the obesity problem comes from overeating, but why do we overeat? Overeating usually occurs when we override our fullness cues, when we pay attention to our eyes and eat until the food is gone rather than stopping when our bodies are telling us that we’ve had enough. Help your child listen to their body by letting them decide when they’re finished eating, and never force your child to finish what’s on their plate. 
  5. Where their food comes from. Take your kids to your local farm and ask to go on a tour. Show your kids where lettuce and potatoes come from. Your kids will be more interested in the food and more likely to eat those foods if they know more about what they’re eating. Starting a backyard garden or even a windowsill herb garden is a great way to get the kids involved in gardening. They will love to watch their plants grow and it’s a great way for you to teach them how to use that food from “farm” to table. 

And remember, the best way to teach your kids about healthy foods is to be a good role model!

Janine Bolton

BPA. It sounds like it would be a friendly acronym. Maybe something you would text to your friends. Unfortunately, this acronym, which stands for bisphenol A, has been popping up in the news lately. And the things being said about it aren’t so friendly. 

According to bisphenol-a.org, an online resource about the chemical, BPA is:

“...an industrial chemical used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins – both of which are used in countless applications that make our lives easier, healthier and safer, each and every day.” 

They are undoubtedly right about the countless applications part. There are the things that we might think of right off hand that we hear about all the time like those plastic water bottles we can’t live (or get on the treadmill) without. Then there are the things that we might not think about: aluminum cans, baby bottles, baby toys, water pipes — even our sunglasses!

The interesting (and potentially dangerous) thing about BPA is that it mimics estrogen in our bodies. In fact, thedailygreen.com reports that BPA was originally made in 1891 as a possible estrogen replacement therapy. And too many hormones in the body, as we well know, can have dangerous health consequences, especially when we are exposed to it all the time.

Our eyes are the windows to the world around us.  They are very complex organs and we often just take them for granted.  That is, until they begin to show signs and symptoms of damage and or vision loss.  Diseases and conditions of the eyes include:

-   cataracts
-   eyestrain
-   colorblindness
-   glaucoma
-   inflammation and infection
-   macular degeneration
-   dryness
-   bloodshot and blurred eyes 

These disorders and symptoms are often an indicator of a more serious health problem within the body.

Protecting our eyes goes beyond wearing UV protecting sunglasses and minimizing eyestrain at the computer screen.  Many other considerations can affect eye health, including the use of various pharmaceuticals, inadequate water intake, poor lighting and malnourishment.

Key to good eye health is diet.  A poor diet contributes to many of the symptoms of eye trouble.  The well known vitamin for eye disorders is vitamin A, but often overlooked is essential fatty acids, commonly known as omega 3 and 6, alpha-linolenic and alpha-linoleic acid respectively.   To be healthy, we must include these essential fats in our diet.  A deficiency of these fats in the body are associated with many physical and mental conditions, and specifically, the eyes require essential fatty acids for optimum function and health.

Sources of EFA’s

The Standard (North) American Diet (SAD) is exactly that… sad and lacking in general in omega 3’s but overly abundant in omega 6, which is found in products like safflower, sunflower, canola and corn oils, as well as almonds and olive oil.  It’s omega 3 that our eyes are looking for. This essential fatty acid is absolutely necessary for good eye health.  Good sources of omega 3 are flax seeds, flax oil, evening primrose oil, nuts and seeds such as walnuts, dark leafy green vegetables and cold-water fish.  

Also available are EFA oil blends sold in most health food stores.  Essential fatty acids are very susceptible to oxidation.  This means that they do not have a long shelf life and they are very prone to the formation of free radicals.  Essential fatty acids should be kept in a refrigerator away from air, light and heat sources.  They should also be kept in a dark bottle or container. 

Deficiencies of essential fatty acids can lead to any of the potential eye problems mentioned above.  It can also lead to retinal damage and problems with pressure in the eyes.  Nutritional deficiencies affect the entire body and as mentioned, poor eye health can be an indication that there is another problem going on elsewhere in the body.  Our eyes are precious, delicate and very susceptible to damage.  We need to nourish them as much as any other part of our body and a diet including fresh vegetables, fruits, sufficient protein, carbohydrates, pure water and the essential fatty acids are a healthy approach to protecting one of our greatest blessings – to be able to see!

Erin Bell

30% of kids aged 6-11 are overweight, and 15% are obese. For teens, the numbers are slightly higher. Obesity is a complicated condition with many contributing factors. One of those factors is probably sitting in your living room.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, most children under age 6 watch an average of 2 hours of television per day, and kids and teens 8 to 18 years of age spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen (plus almost 2 additional hours on the computer). Television has become our entertainment, our babysitter, our relaxation tool, and our source of information.  

Research has shown that the risk of being overweight or obese, and developing type 2 diabetes and other conditions, increase with the more hours of television that kids watch. The risks of overweight and obesity may be greatest when kids watch over 2 hours of television per day, but most experts agree that any amount of television is detrimental. 

Is TV really the culprit?

Is it purely the lack of physical activity that causes the link between time spent watching Tv and being overweight, or is there something more? Some researchers claim it’s not the amount of time spent watching television, but rather what is being watched that matters. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids in the U.S. see about 40, 000 commercials each year (I imagine this number to be on par with Canada), and a large portion of those commercials are for food products that promote an unhealthy diet. Most of the commercials for food are products that are typically low in nutritional value, and high in fat, sugar and Calories. 

Kids can't tell the difference

Sugary cereals, candy, snacks, fast food and sugary beverages are made to look appealing to kids and often feature your child’s favourite Tv characters. Companies spend millions on advertising campaigns to get your children to want their products, and it works! Research has shown that kids under 6 years of age are unable to distinguish program content from commercials, especially if the product features a recognizable Tv character. Anyone with who’s been to a grocery store with a young child can tell you what types of foods they ask for, and it’s usually something that comes in a box that they’ve seen on Tv. 

Does this really matter? I think it does. The Institute of Medicine reports that television advertising has a strong influence on what children under the age of 12 eat, and unfortunately, there aren’t a lot (if any) commercials for fruits and vegetables. Kids will want the unhealthy yet attractive foods they see on Tv, which starts kids off on the wrong nutritional food and puts them at risk for long-term health issues. For this reason, many groups are advocating to ban advertisements aimed at children altogether.

Even if you take the television out of your home completely, you can’t get away from marketing entirely. So what can you do? 
  • Limit Tv time. The AAP recommends that kids under the age of 2 do not watch any Tv at all, and those older than 2 watch no more than 1 - 2 hours per day of quality programming.
  • Teach your kids to be critical of what they see. Talk about what they’re watching and ask questions like "Do you think that's a healthy choice?"
  • Explain the purpose of marketing. Explain to your kids that commercials are meant to make people want things they don't necessarily need 
  • Use the Tivo. Record programs without the commercials, or use your PVR to fast forward them. 
  • Goto the video store. Buy or rent children's videos or DVDs.
Will banning food ads on Tv stop the obesity epidemic? Not likely. It is, however, a step in the right direction, and any long journey starts with one step.

Janine Bolton

source: Jenny Morro
You feel like a tick  - about to pop!  Traffic, bills, kids, your boss, deadlines!  And it only begins there.  Like the thinning ozone layer or tax increases, we’ve come to accept everyday stress and just “live with it”.    But do we realize how it could be ruining our health?  

The damage of stress cannot be measured with any medical certainty, so with that, it continues to challenge medical research.  The truth is, chronic stress is highly damaging to overall health and it is badly misunderstood by most.  Why? Because we think it’s normal. There is nothing normal or potentially more damaging to health, than chronic stress.

We don’t stop long enough to even realize how stress is affecting us.  We are a society out of time, running late and needing it yesterday!  It seems we may even want more time as much as we want more money.  Sensationalism and pressure to be and to do and to have more has created a hyper-society, exhausted – yet running for more.

So, what do we do with all this stress?  We feed it, entertain it, suppress it and plain ignore it.  When that seems to fail, we medicate it.  Stress often requires a “cocktail” of prescriptions in order to relieve the pain, reduce the inflammation, increase the energy and improve the sleep – all while aiming to improve the psychological functioning.  

While some stress is normal and our bodies are equipped to deal with it with an ample supply of “stress hormones”, we are not equipped to have these hormones turned “on” all the time.  If they are, specifically cortisol and adrenaline, then you’re headed for trouble. Stress hormones have a direct effect on other hormones and can suppress your immune system.  If you’re immune system is down, then so is the guard at the gate of your health.

Feeding Stress!

The crunch of salty snacks or the smooth comfort of ice cream is “medicine” in itself for the stressed out, but unfortunately, these foods will only make the stress and your body’s ability to adapt to stress worse!  Stress hormones directly affect hunger hormones, signaling us to satisfy and pacify – sending us straight to the cookie aisle.  However, what the body is really craving – is good, healthy food, filled with natural ingredients that combat stress and build immunity.  

Antioxidants - found in fresh, colored fruits and vegetables help mop up free-radical damage and boost immunity.  

Adequate protein - found in lean portions of meat, fish, beans, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy products supply long-term energy for muscles, and assist the body to build and repair.  Sufficient protein also helps us feel fuller, longer.  

Complex carbohydrates – the primary source of energy for the body - found in whole grains, vegetables, beans and lentils provide fiber, energy and slow down the release of blood sugar and insulin in the body.  

And good fats – such as those found in avocados, nuts and seeds and oils such as olive oil and fish oil provide fuel for the brain and immune system.  

Incorporating these foods, as well as an age-specific multi-vitamin/mineral supplement that is formulated for stressful or active lives can mean all the difference to our health during stressful times. And while half a pint of chocolate marshmallow swirl can be comforting, it certainly won’t give you any advantage for dealing with stress.  

We may not be able to remove all the things that stress us, but we certainly can give our bodies the fuel for the fight.

Erin Bell