Yesterday was Kukur Tihar in Nepal. It is a day during the festival of lights where dogs all around the country are worshiped and celebrated for their cherished companionship with us humans. While I was looking through the #kukurtihar hashtag on Instagram admiring dogs adorned in paint and marigold flower crowns, I was reminded of why I went Vegan, about 9 months ago.
As I’ve mentioned before, there wasn’t one reason I went Vegan, but rather a handful of moments that made me reflect on meat consumption in general. One moment happened to be when I saw a petition circulating which opposed the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, held annually in the city of Yulin, China. I wondered how many of these (predominantly Western) people signing this petition eat meat? How many of these people consume meat that came from a factory farm? How many of these people eat pigs and yet cannot see the similarities between pigs and dogs? Then I asked myself the same questions.
The truth is, I wasn’t really that aware of the similarities. I grew up downtown not surrounded by animals and nature. Meat came in a package. I wasn’t aware that 70 billion land animals are killed annually to feed 7 billion humans. That is not counting aquatic animals. I didn’t stop and think about just how unsustainable and heartbreaking that is. I didn’t stop and research the similarities between pigs and dogs, but once I did I realized I could never eat pigs again. I discovered that when cows are forcibly separated from their calves they scream and cry for days. I visited farms and looked animals in their eyes. I watched Cowspiracy, footage of terrified animals on their way to slaughter, and started following the @torontopigsave Instagram page. I felt I needed to watch them. I needed to cry. I needed to donate to animal sanctuaries in an effort to attone.
For the first several months I felt incredible. Not only did I feel lighter, healthier and experience more energy overall, I also felt my mood lift dramatically. However, by the 7 month point, I noticed that I was beginning to lose energy and vitality. In order to be optimally healthy while vegan, it is important to be on track with supplements and your personal dietary requirements. I have never been great at staying on top of taking supplements. I felt no desire to eat meat, and yet I felt that I needed to do something different.
I looked to my nutritional mentors, Chris Kresser and Dr. Mark Hyman. I love Chris Kresser because he’s informed, rational and fair. He’s also an ex-vegan surfer who has the upmost respect for animals and the environment. For anyone that is Vegan but isn’t experiencing optimal health, I strongly encourage you to check him out, including his podcast with Joe Rogan (link below). As Chris explains in this particular podcast, if you are considering adapting your Vegan diet to a Vegan-ish (as I have done) consider adding in protein & fats that have the highest nutrient density and sustainability, with the lowest amount of cruelty. The best example of this would be to consume things like clams, mussels or oysters. All of which have no pain receptors and are packed with nutrients like zinc, iron and B12.
I am now about 90% vegan. I have added in mussels & oysters on occasion, as well as good-quality, ethically raised, free range grass fed butter and chicken which comes from a local farm. I realize I am fortunate to have access to such a farm.
I learned so much about myself by taking the time to be an active participant in my food choices. I realize that choices like this are a privilege that not everyone can enjoy. If you are lucky enough to be in this position as well, I encourage you to begin eating from a conscious perspective, with gratitude and respect for every farmer and animal that contributed to your meal.
Chris Kresser & Joe Rogan: or watch on YouTube:
This is one of my absolute favourite drinks of life. It's perfect.
1 tbs. raw almond butter
2 soft Medjool dates, chopped (you can soften these by putting them in hot water for 5 minutes)
1/2 cup almond milk, or to taste.
2.5 ounces of cold brew coffee
small handful of crushed ice
All all ingredients together, saving the almond butter and ice for last.
Blend in a high-powered blender for about 15 seconds or until your desired consistency is reached.
This recipe is easily adjusted to suit your preferences. Try adding in 1/2 teaspoon of raw cacao powder to make a mocha version, or adjust the milk/almond butter to your desired consistency.
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cans chickpeas, rinced and drained
1 small fist-size of ginger, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. tumeric
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. graham masala (sometimes I forget this and it's fine)
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 cup of water
1 cup of basmati rice
chopped cilantro & 1/2 sliced avocado for garnish/extra magic
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot - add onions and cook until browned, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Add chopped ginger and garlic, stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
3. Combine spices with a splash of water and stir to make a paste, then add to onion, garlic ang ginger.
4. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, adding some water if it dries out.
5. Add chickpeas and 1/2 cup of water and simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Cook basmati rice separately.
7. Spoon curry over rice and garnish with cilantro and/or avocado slices.
One thing I love about getting older (and hopefully wiser) is learning new things about myself, accepting change and being open to evolving and letting go of beliefs that I once claimed as a definitive part of me.
I have never been one to yo-yo diet or follow any type of strict diet, although in the months leading up to my wedding I did follow the Paleo diet (heavy on meat consumption) with great success. I felt strong, lean and happy (albeit stressed at times!). While in school I remember choosing the 'Raw Vegan' diet for a research paper. I had come across several Youtube channels hosted by raw vegans and I was struck by how clear and bright their eyes and skin were, as well as the overall vitality and passion they had. They looked SO happy.
I understood through my studies that those who are able to follow this diet in an ideal & healthy way (prioritizing fruits and veggies over heavier items like like nuts, sprouted grains and desserts) are assimilating more minerals and bioactive nutrients than most people. I knew that if you could actually follow this diet in a healthy way, you would feel incredible. I also knew that living in Canada, this would be difficult to do outside of the summer months, so I put it in the back of my mind as something I would like to try for 2 weeks in the summer. However, after carefully following a Paleo diet, all I wanted to do, post-wedding, was eat anything and everything!
This year my husband and I moved to the country, and suddenly I had the space to reflect on so many things. I have been happily consuming meat all of my life. I definitely laughed at vegan jokes. However over the past couple of years I have had a quiet feeling of knowing that eating meat (and eating as much as I, and most people, ate) is problematic on so many levels. Our good friend Nathan Isberg had a magical restaurant called The Atlantic where he created ethical food with an emphasis on small animal protein that was low on the food chain (ex. quail, crickets). It was truly inspiring and revolutionary - and desperately needed these days, in our obscene culture of rockstar bro-chefs competing with each other to make the most gluttonous, meat-heavy "fuck you" plates. It's become glaringly obvious that meat consumption, especially with larger animals such as cattle, is unsustainable. I definitely talked the talk, but didn't walk the walk - I championed free-range, ethically raised organic meat (and still do), but I didn't always eat it and of course couldn't bring myself to watch or read anything about what really goes on in a slaughterhouse (still don't want to).
The Paleo-Vegan diet is actually the healthiest diet theory I have come across - basically the emphasis is on a mostly vegan diet, with the occasional meat protein...a very realistic version of what (many of) our ancestors ate. I think that if most people followed this diet, they would see drastic improvements in their health almost immediately.
I think it's really important to know that is a personal decision, without judgement of others. There is too much hatred and knee-jerk opposition in the world, too much shouting and moral outrage (hey Facebook!) which leaves no room for people to think, discuss, and reflect on important issues with each other because they are likely to have someone jump down their throat.
As always, I offer my services in a non-judgemental setting. I don't believe everyone should go vegan or even vegetarian. I don't believe in strict diets in general - I think you should listen to your body, revisit your beliefs and stay open to change, just as life does.
If you have thoughts on this I would love to hear them!
This bowl is packed full of flavor and superfoods and only takes 20 minutes to throw together. Blood sugar friendly, it is filling and makes a perfect lunch.
YIN YANG BOWL
1 bunch asparagus
½ bunch dark kale
1 handful raw almonds
1 handful raw cashews
1 cup quinoa
1 cup ramen bone broth/stock
1 tsp. organic soy sauce or coconut aminos
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Rinse quinoa, strain and place in a pot with 1 cup of water or broth (or even half & half). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
3. In the meantime, cover almonds and cashews in 1 tsp of olive oil and a few pinches of harissa. Place in oven for 20 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly toasted.
4. Cut asparagus into halves and fry on medium heat for 5-6 minutes until slightly softened.
5. Separate kale from stocks and chop into small pieces. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil and a small pinch of coarse salt and massage into the leaves for a few minutes until they turn shiny, dark and softened.
6. Score avocado, remove pit, then cut into cubes.
7. Mix cooked quinoa, asparagus and kale in a large bowl with soy sauce or coconut aminos. Top with avocado cubes, toasted almonds & cashews and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Similar to the words “chemical peel” sometimes the words “hyaluronic acid” can be off-putting to people as it sounds possibly painful, complicated and/or elaborate. If you feel this resonates with you, know that is all in the past now.
Hyaluronic Acid is your new BFF and Valentine.
What is it?
Hyaluronic Acid is a glycosaminoglycan, which is a type of molecule created in the dermal layer of the skin, alongside two other well known structural components, collagen & elastin. Its function is to bind to water and lubricate joints and muscles, as well as nourish collagen and support the skins structure. It has a jelly-like consistency and is the main ingredient found in most cosmetic dermal fillers these days.
How does it work?
With its superhero freak powers of holding its weight in water in a ratio of approximately 1:1000! Thus, a hyaluronic acid serum will soften your skin, boost the power of your moisturizer, and give you that glowing, plumped up looking skin.
Hyaluronic Acid vs. Sodium Hyaluronate:
Like many things in life, not all products on the market are created equal. When it comes to hyaluronic acid there are essentially two types: small or large molecular structure. The smaller the molecule (in all skincare) the deeper it will penetrate into the skin. Larger molecules will be too large to penetrate into the skin and will simply stay on the surface. Sodium Hyaluronate is derived from Hyaluronic Acid and is the smaller molecule of the two, so it will penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. There are benefits to both types, and ideally I would suggest using both to get the best results.
If you are looking for a cheap serum to get started I would suggest OZ Natural’s Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin C Serum. I usually buy this off of Amazon for about $20.00 CAD. I absolutely notice a difference in my skin when I’m using it and I feel like it extends the life and efficacy of my moisturizer. It is also vegan, alcohol-free, paraben-free and sulfate-free.
To use, start by cleansing your face with a mild or oil based cleanser, then tone (alcohol free!), and then apply a thin layer of the serum. Wait until dry and then apply your serum, moisturizer and/or SPF. Use all year round!
Have you embraced H.A. yet? How has it helped and what brands have you tried and loved?
The Doctrine of Signatures was an important aspect of folk medicine from the Middle Ages often associated with the work of herbalists, wise women and native peoples from around the world. It drew upon the belief that natural objects that looked like a part of the body could cure diseases that would arise there (ex. Walnuts, which closely resemble a brain, have brain-boosting benefits). This belief became known as the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’ after the appearance of a book by the German mystic Jakob Boehme called The Signature of All Things (1621). Of course not all foods resemble organs they are nutritionally aligned with...but it's cool when they do.
Another beautiful example of this is the womb-shaped avocado, which takes approximately nine months to grow from blossom to ripened fruit and contains an unusually large seed (‘baby’) in its centre. Avocados are rich in specific nutrients needed during pregnancy, such as folate, potassium, vitamin B6, C & K, fiber and healthy fats, which help to feel satiated and improve brain function.
Other curious examples of The Doctrine of Signatures at work include:
Tomatoes – Heart
Known for their affinity with heart health, these bright red fruits strongly resemble a heart, in both shape and colour, and when sliced open they reveal four chambers just like a heart. Countless studies have linked tomatoes to heart health, and the prevention of heart-related illness.
Grapes - Lungs
Clusters of grapes strongly resemble the branches of alveoli that comprise our lungs. These fruits, high in anti-oxidants, have been shown to help lung disorders such as asthma and even lung cancer.
Figs - Testicles
Figs are known to increase sperm count and mobility. Figs grow in pairs and when opened reveal thousands of white seeds.
Celery – Bones
Stick-straight, hard celery closely resembles a bone and has identical amounts of sodium to bones (23%) as well as a high amount of calcium.
Sweet Potatoes – Pancreas
The elongated shape and orange colour of a sweet potato bears an uncanny resemblance to the elongated orange coloured Pancreas. Studies have shown that sweet potatoes can help stabilize blood sugar levels by releasing sugars gradually into the bloodstream. It also helps lower insulin resistance as well, making it a great low glycemic food for diabetics.
I love pregnancy nutrition! My approach is that birth is a natural state of being for a woman, however it does place some added stress on the body, mind and spirit. With proper nutrition you can feel strong & nourished, reduce cravings, minimize any unwanted weight gain and encourage hormonal health.
There are quite a few important nutrients & foods to incorporate into your diet while pregnant. This is by no means a complete list, just some of my favourite recommendations to get you started. Introduce new foods slowly during your pregnancy, and stick to whole foods that are natural, alive and good-quality whenever you can.
1. Butter (yassss!).
Just as there are so-called “superfoods” one could call butter a “superfat” – it is loaded with fat-soluable vitamins A, D, E & K (needed for the development of body and brain), iodine (critical for thyroid function) as well as DHA (vital for brain development and function). Butter also provides arachidonic acid (AA), which supports the skin, intestinal health, and brain function.
Look for Ghee if you have any diary intolerance, especially for cooking. Otherwise you can purchase a good-quality grass-fed (might have to go online or find a local farmer!) or a cultured butter as I think they are the most nutritious options. Failing that, conventional butter is still a much better option than margarine or any hydrogenated oils.
Stay away from trans-fats in general, and especially when you are pregnant.
2. Homemade bone broth.
Homemade bone broth (sourced from good-quality chicken, duck, beef, lamb or even fish and slow-cooked for 24-48 hours) is a collagen & gelatin-rich food that helps digestion and contributes to strong bones and tendons and connective tissue in both mother and baby.
Bone broth is extremely rich in minerals calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, all of which are important for building your baby's bones, and also keeps your own stores from becoming depleted. Continue drinking bone broth while breastfeeding to produce calcium rich milk and help replete loss of bone density. Drink plenty while pregnant!
3. Pastured, whole eggs.
Eggs contain choline, which is critical to the development of the brain and helps protect against neural tube defects. Eggs also contain vitamins A, D, E, and K, folate, biotin, iron, zinc and selenium.
Choose fresh pasture-raised eggs whenever possible. Choline can also be found in foods such as: spinach, pork, navy beans, sardines, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts. Make sure eggs are cooked (white and yolk) to avoid any chance of salmonella bacteria.
4. Yogurt & Probiotic-rich foods.
Pregnant mothers pass on healthy bacteria onto their newborns during vaginal birth and thus it is essential to promote healthy gut bacteria before and during pregnancy. Probiotics strengthen the immune system, increase immune cells of both mother and baby, regulate bowel movements, break down bacterial toxins, make Vitamins B, A & K and help to protect against environmental toxins.
Fermented foods include: goats milk kefir, coconut juice kefir, yogurt, kimchi, Greek yogurt, sour cream, sourdough bread and sauerkraut. It is important to increase good bacteria and inhibit bad bacteria with anti-fungals such as coconut oil and garlic.
Choose sealed packages of yogurt from grocery stores when pregnant (instead of anything homemade just to be on the safe side) and eat within a day or two of opening.
5. Small, Cold-Water/Oily Fish.
These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) which are very important for brain and eye development, as well as heart health.
These are some of the fish with the highest nutrient-to-pollutant ratio out there. Examples of fish found in this category would be: Atlantic mackerel, cod, haddock, herring, mahi mahi, salmon, anchovies, pollock, trout, whitefish, and sardines as well as canned skipjack/light tuna (in moderation). The ones in bold are my favourite choices.
6. Iron-Rich Foods.
The amount of blood in your body increases during pregnancy until you have almost 50 percent more blood than usual, so you need more iron to make more hemoglobin, and support the growth of your baby and placenta.
Topping the list of foods rich in iron would be things like chicken livers, as well as beef and the dark meat of turkey. When eating liver, I would recommend purchasing organic, pasture raised meat. The liver is an organ of detoxification, so my thoughts are that it is best to choose one from as healthy an animal as possible. Note that livers are high in vitamin A (you will want to monitor your total vitamin A levels from food + supplement sources), so you can eat them, but in moderation and more towards the second and third trimester. Iron from meat sources is better assimilated into the body, however there are non-heme (non meat) sources as well.
A great plant-based source of iron (as well as calcium and magnesium) would be nettle leaf (not root) tea during the second and third trimesters. Other sources include spinach, lamb, beans, and sunflower seeds. Another easy way to increase iron levels is to switch to cast iron pans while you are cooking at home.
Meal & Snack ideas:
· Pan-fried whole sardines stuffed with lemon, parsley and garlic, served over fresh baby spinach with purple potatoes.
· Borscht soup topped with freshly chopped dill & sour cream, served with potato latkes and spiced yogurt.
· Bone broth soup served with sourdough bread with butter and hard cheese.
· Shakshuka (with fully cooked eggs) or fully cook eggs and then serve on top of homemade tomato sauce with sourdough and thinly shaved aged parmesan slices.
“Blaming new health problems on old foods doesn’t make sense.”
- Authority Nutrition
In case you haven’t heard yet, almost everything we have been taught about avoiding saturated fat has been misleading (to put it politely). Yet the “low fat” or “no fat” products still dominate the marketplace as well as popular opinion when it comes to health. The theory that high cholesterol causes heart disease has become an almost knee-jerk reaction with religious certainty…although that is starting to change. We now know that the original “lipid hypothesis” study published in the 1950’s by scientist Ancel Keys stating that 1. Saturated fat raises cholesterol and 2. Cholesterol causes heart disease, was deeply flawed (or, as some would say: “the greatest scam in health history”). 
We now know through numerous recent studies, as well as by simple observation, that since the mid-century when consumers started dutifully switching over to margarines and low-fat foods, that obesity, heart disease and other health conditions have been steadily increasing. In fact, the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and The American Heart Association have both backed away from dietary cholesterol restrictions and instead have urged people to cut back on added sugars. 
What you need to know
Butter is a nutrient dense powerhouse that is also really delicious. Fat doesn’t make you fat. It is excellent for pregnant women. If it’s a choice between the two, choose butter. If it’s a choice between butters, there are a few exceptional types that deserve a shout out:
GHEE (aka Clarified Butter)
Ghee is a great choice for individuals with dairy sensitivities as the lactose and milk protein are only present in miniscule amounts. Ghee is a rich source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K as well as the cancer-fighting conjugated linolenic acid (CLA). It also has a smoke point of 450-500 degrees – much higher than most cooking oils, including butter which is about 350 degrees. Look for grass-fed Ghee if possible and always read the labels to see if anything weird/unnecessary has been added to it.
GRASS-FED BUTTER (Aka Cows are ruminants and should be eating grass)
Grass-fed butter is marked by its distinctively deep yellow color, far from the light, almost white, waxy store-bought butter, which is attributed to the diet of the cows. Grass-fed cows eat fresh vegetation high in carotene and vitamins A & K2 (a lesser known vitamin that actually helps to reduce arterial plaque and uses calcium effectively). Most of the “regular” butter sold in grocery stores are pale, since these cows are usually fed a diet of corn and soy (also these crops are almost always GMO) – even though they are ruminants that would naturally graze on grass.
Sadly…as far as I know, it is almost impossible to find this in Canada. Your best bet would be to either find a local farmer and buy direct, or you could try and purchase it online or in person from the United States. Some companies also only feed their cows grass during the warmer months, then switch to grains during the winter, so do your research before you buy.
CULTURED BUTTER (A.K.A. European style butter) The first time I tried this I freaked out! It’s so delicious! The one I had was seasoned with fresh sea salt, but you can also find unsalted versions. It has a slightly tangy + very creamy taste. Cultured butter is traditionally made from fermented cream, so basically the remaining lactose sugars. Although many commercial cultured butters would incorporate bacterial cultures instead. Cultured butter is a great way to add in fermented foods into your diet.
Do you know how easy it is to make butter? So easy! All you need is heavy cream (go for good quality/local) + pinch of salt (optional) blender/mixer/you stirring like an old pioneer woman. The buttermilk will separate from the butter and form into a clump. After that you separate the butter from the buttermilk, rinse the butter under cold water, strain with cheesecloth and rinse again, and then…done! You will also be left with buttermilk which you can use for cooking or baking.
Remember to enjoy like the French…sans guilt.
Your skin’s cellular turnover rate is about once per month. However, as we age, cellular turnover begins to slow down and visible signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation become more noticeable.
When we exfoliate, we force our skin to renew itself, revealing younger, brighter skin. There is little point in buying expensive creams or serums if it is only going to be applied to dead skin cells that cannot be re-hydrated.
Exfoliants fall into three categories: Mechanical, Enzymatic, and Chemical. Depending on your skin type, the best results will likely come from combining all three categories into your skin care regimen.
Benefits of exfoliation include:
- Skin appears smoother and brighter
- Reduction in clogged pores and breakouts
- Increased collagen production
- Reveals a clearer, more even-toned complexion
- Reduction in hyperpigmentation (dark spots) from things like sun, age, hormones or acne scars
- Fine lines are softened and are less visible
- Reduction in dryness and flakiness
- Serums, moisturizers and toners all work more effectively
Chemical Exfoliation There are essentially two types of chemical exfoliations, BHA’s (betahydroxy acids), which would be targeted toward breakout prone skin (think B as in Breakout), and AHA’s, which would generally be for pre-mature/mature skin (think A as in Aging).
AHA’s – There are a few types of AHAs and in general they are best for dry or pre-mature/mature skin. These could be: lactic acid (derived from sour milk), glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane), tartaric acid (grapes), or malic acid (bitter fruits). AHAs are used to break apart the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together, dissolving in a smooth, even layer to reveal beautiful new skin. Lactic acid is the mildest of these other AHAs and is also quite hydrating, so it would be best for sensitive skin.
It is extremely important to use sunscreen diligently after using AHAs as they are photosensitizing and you can damage your skin by not wearing sunscreen post-peel.
BHA’s – BHA's (salicylic acid) are derived from salicin so they are not to be used if you have an allergy to asprin. In general, BHA's are targeted towards those with oily and/or acneic skin as it penetrates into the pores to clean and dry out excess oil.
Enzymatic Exfoliation These exfoliants are usually derived from the naturally occurring enzymes of papaya, pineapple or pumpkin. Enzymes eat away at the bonds which hold dead skin cells together on surface of your skin, which reveals a brighter and more uniform completion.
Enzymatic exfoliation is particularly great for oily skin, or non-reactive/resilient skin types. You may want to try a patch test on the inside of your arm to check for sensitivity before you begin.
Mechanical Exfoliation Anything abrasive used to physically remove dead skin cells. Things like sugar, salt, apricot pits, brushes or even microdermabrasion fall under this category. Micro beads found in many products would also fall into this category, however these are thankfully being phased out due to their enormous environmental impact. They are tiny plastic beads that have been found accumulating in water sources…not good.
Mechanical exfoliation would be a good place to start if you are totally new to this process. Just remember to look for a product specific to the face, with small uniform granules and use gentle circular motions.
Where to start For most skin types, an alcohol-free AHA based exfoliant, for three nights on, three nights off would be a good place to start. This way, you’re still getting an intensive exfoliation, but you also give your skin a break. You would then combine this with a very mild facial scrub twice a week to lift off and remove the dissolved skin cells.
Always tone with an alcohol-free toner afterwards (you are giving your skin a glass of water here, not dehydrating it!), followed by your cream and serum. For a mini, at-home facial you could exfoliate followed by a hydrating mask and then apply your toner, cream + serum.
It is especially important to use sunscreen diligently after exfoliating, because your skin will be extra sensitive and vulnerable to sun damage.
For most of my life, I would not touch sunscreens or sunblocks. I felt that the sun was too crucial to our health and didn't want to slather on chemicals, heat them up and bake them into my body (I also just looooved to tan). I still feel this way, however I have hyperpigmentation that I can't ignore and I kind of wish I would have at least used something on my poor little face.Read More