Q+A Tuesday: Eating Gluten-Free Without Access to Specialty Food Stores.

Welcome to Q+A Tuesday! A super hot topic today: gluten-free nutrition.

Q: “Hey Lee-Ann, my son and I are currently being tested for celiac disease. Even if the test is negative, I’ve noticed a huge change for the better after eliminating gluten from both of our diets, so I plan on sticking with it. Any dietary advice? We now live in a very rural area (on a grain farm, ironically enough) so many of the ingredients in gluten-free recipes, I can’t get at my local grocery store.” —Victoria M. in (rural) Ottawa

A: Hey Victoria! Looks like you and your son have joined the many who are converting to a gluten-free lifestyle and reaping the benefits. That’s great! Our bodies are brilliant machines and they do let us know when something doesn’t agree, and sometimes that something isn’t always plainly obvious. But with the engineering of wheat occurring since the mid-1900s and the proliferation of wheat in our food system, it’s not surprising that our bodies are letting us know that perhaps other alternatives may be best.

This question really depends on which foods you regularly prepared using wheat flour. I personally like to work with people’s favourites and teach them ways to convert the recipe to a gluten-free recipe. But we’ll go over a few options that even folks living in rural areas with a limited grocery supply can enjoy so that we can get a general sense of gluten-free options if there are some who are considering making the change as well.

1. Aiming towards eating a paleolithic-style diet.
I don’t normally like to preach this or that diet because there are as many different dietary/nutritional needs on this planet as there people, but I’ll use the term “paleo” in this case for the general framework it implies, which is usually no grains, and a lot of veggies, nuts/seeds, some fruit, and some meat. What basically ends up happening on a paleo diet is that people start eating more low glycemic whole foods, blood sugar stabilizes, they’re eating more fruits and colourful vegetables instead of grains and thereby consuming more antioxidants, reducing inflammation, and gaining more energy. It’s a great way to learn to consume carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit rather than grains. And if you have the space, growing a few veggies is a great way to get the freshest and cleanest produce. For omnivores, soup broths or bases made from the bones of organically-raised and pastured animals make a super nourishing option to which veggies, bits of meat, herbs, and spices can easily be added to. Bone broth soups are inexpensive, versatile, and very nourishing. They can help restore balance to a gut that has been damaged by gluten sensitivity reactions.  (Google “red velvet beet cake/cupcakes” and “home made bone broths”.)

2. Experimenting with bean, nut, and alternative grain flours.
The internet is a great resource for alternative grain recipes and with more people being on board with a gluten-free lifestyle, the recipes keep getting better and more creative. Many people are beginning to use and prepare their own bean, nut, and gluten-free grain flours from home. You can make small batches using a coffee grinder. Whole beans, whole rice, and steel-cut oats can also be used. For example, rice pudding is not just for grandma. And if you need to use a dairy-free “milk” option to go with some of the preparations, almond milk can easily be made at home with just a few supplies. In terms of local alternatives to wheat grain, buckwheat is a gluten-free grain that may be available from farm co-op stores.  Talk to your farmers and find out if they grow organically. This also helps to raise awareness! (Google “black bean brownies”, “buckwheat pancakes”, and “home made almond milk”.)

Best of luck with your new changes and happy experimenting, Victoria! Making nutritional improvements is very rewarding, empowering, and is a great opportunity to reveal our creativity.

Thank you for participating in Q+A Tuesday! Remember to keep sending in your questions! See you next week!

Much love and wellness,


Q+A Tuesday: Benefits of Coconut Oil.

Welcome to Q+A Tuesday! If you’re ready to get your spring and summer on, let the warm thoughts of coconut oil take you away…

Q: “Coconut oil: Is it really as good as all the hype claims it to be?” ­­—Aron B.

A: Good question, Aron! And yes it can be, depending on how the coconut oil was processed in the beginning and how and what it will be used for in the end.

First, Coconut oil contains a few key different types of saturated fatty acids: palmitic, caprylic, capric, and lauric acids. The last three make up 2/3 of the fat profile in coconut oil, which also happen to be the beneficial medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil contains the most concentrated amounts of MCTs, and the MCTs are the fats that have primarily been linked with benefits to cardiovascular, intestinal, digestive, and cognitive health. These beneficial triglycerides require less digestive function to break down and absorb, plus they are not stored as fat but burned as energy, which is great news for athletes and people concerned about their fat intake. With regards to improving reduced cognitive function due to age, the MCTs aren’t used by the brain directly but converted into a ketone-like substance that can stand in for the decreased usage of glucose by the brain, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, which in some cases is now being referred to as Type III diabetes. Coconut oil can also help improve insulin usage by the body in general and support the usage of thyroid hormones, helping to maintain a balanced metabolism.

In terms of taking care of our outer layers, coconut oil has been used by many cultures as an all-natural skin moisturizer and hair treatment. The benefits to the skin and hair may also be fortified by the consumption of the oil itself.

Secondly, in terms of cooking oils, both refined and unrefined coconut oils offer unique benefits and versatility, especially through their different smoke points. If you wish to maximize the health benefits of consuming coconut oil, unrefined coconut oil will contain the most MCTs if used at a temperature of no more than 350°. With refined coconut oil, you lose the concentration of MCTs but gain significantly more slack with your smoke point and can cook with it up to temperatures of 450°, which makes it great for sautéing and as a plant-based substitute for butter, lard, or shortening in cooking. In addition, most refined coconut oils have had the coconut aroma neutralized if you’re not a big fan of the taste of coconut oil with all of your fried foods. But remember that with refining, you are also sacrificing some of the beneficial substances naturally occurring in coconut oil.

To choose the best coconut oil for you, be sure to read the label closely and choose refined or unrefined accordingly. And who says you can’t be armed and ready with both among your kitchen arsenal of healthy fats, right? And in terms of choosing between virgin and extra-virgin, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the quality from what I’ve read, unlike olive oil.

So whether you’re spreading coconut oil on your toast or on your skin, it’s a great fat with many benefits and versatility. But as with everything, usage in moderation is your best bet.

Thank you for participating in Q+A Tuesday! Remember to keep sending in your questions! See you next week!

Much love and wellness,


Q+A Tuesday: CIlantro and Digestion.

Our third week into Q+A Tuesday!

Q: “I started drinking cilantro tea (cilantro leaves steeped in boiled water, then strained to drink). It seems to help a lot with bloating. Is it me or does this really work? Are there other helpful benefits to drinking this?” ­­—Jenn from London, ON

A: Thank you for your question, Jenn! It’s definitely not your imagination that the cilantro has been helping your digestion. Cilantro is among the list of many herbs that aren’t just pretty plate garnishes but digestive tonics and helpers, too!

For those who are unfamiliar with cilantro, it is similar in appearance to parsley but has larger leaves. It is traditionally used in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American cuisine.

Cilantro leaves and its tea have been shown to provide relief from intestinal pain, gas, and bloating. It is also a helpful diuretic and can be used to clear up urinary tract infections. It contains antibacterial and antifungal properties, which help to  rebalance gut flora in cases of dysbiosis or candida infections. Cilantro has also been researched for its unique compound called dodecenal, which laboratory testing has discovered is twice as effective as gentamicin for eliminating Salmonella bacteria. Crazy! And the food industry is also looking to develop a flavourless product based on the dodecenal found in cilantro as a natural food preservative. S’about time!

In addition, cilantro also contains flavonoids, which are anti-inflammatory antioxidant compounds that help to reduce inflammation and fight free radicals in the body. For detoxification, cilantro is also commonly believed to act as a heavy metal detoxifier, namely mercury, and works by having its detoxifying compounds pull the heavy metals from organs and tissues for elimination by the body. (Hard rock miners, millers, refiners, processors, heavy equipment operators, and tradespeople of the nickel basin, I’m looking at you!)

The cilantro seeds, also known as coriander, have a few benefits as well; coriander has been researched for its blood sugar lowering effect, which occurs by increasing insulin production. They also play a role in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.

To prepare a cilantro leaf infusion at home is very simple! All you need are 2 teaspoons of organic cilantro leaves per cup, steeped in hot water for 3-5 minutes (boil water, let rest for 3 minutes before pouring over leaves). If you have a tea ball infuser or strainer, even better! Be sure to drink at least 15-30 minutes before or after a meal to prevent diluting your gastric juices during its prime working time. As a side note, cilantro grows quite easily and happily in a herb garden and now is a great time to get your indoor herbs started!


(Check out these happy little cilantro friends in their 4th week of growth on my window ledge at home!)

For any folks who are in the London area and would like to seek further assistance with any chronic digestive concerns, please feel free to contact Vanessa Case, RHN at Our Natural Connection (http://www.ournaturalconnection.com/). She is a wonderful digestive wizard and was the one who got me started on this path to better health!

Thank you for participating in Q+A Tuesday! Remember to keep sending in your questions! See you next week!

Much love and wellness,


Q+A Tuesday: Balancing Female Sex Hormones.

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today’s question is a special little sumthin’ for the ladies.

Q: “I’ve been seeing a Naturopath for a couple of years now and she’s been treating me for hormonal imbalances. What are some of the things I can change in my diet to help restore balance to my hormones? Is there a specific diet or supplement that should be followed depending on which hormones are out of whack or is there a general diet or supplement that will help restore order to my crazy hormones?” —Renee from Timmins, ON

A: (As complex and amazing humans, we have many different types of hormones in the body. For the purpose of this question, we will address nutritional support for sex hormones in women of reproductive age. Not to be confused with nutritional support for sexy time, which can be a topic for another day.)

Many women suffer from hormonal imbalances in the body, whether too much or too little estrogen or androgens, and for a variety of reasons. It’s not surprising, especially for those of us who live, work, and play in busy cities or manufacturing and mining communities where the exposure to environmental toxins is greater. Every day, our endocrine system works to neutralize a variety of assaults against it: we’re stressed, we are exposed to chemicals at home, at work, outside, and foods of “convenience” don’t provide the nutrients we need to fuel our tired hormone machines. On top of that, we may have inherited a genetic predisposition to endocrine-related conditions such as terrible PMS, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), or worse, reproductive cancers. That being said, healthy hormonal function definitely benefits from both nutritional and lifestyle support.

People who have read the few small articles and newsletters that I’ve previously written over the last year know how much I am a fan of the Brassica, also know as “cruciferous”, family of vegetables for hormonal support. These veggies contain Indole-3-Carbinole, which is a substance that has been studied for its ability to fight reproductive cancers (in women and men) by altering our metabolism of estrogen and at the same time, detoxifying toxic (xenoestrogens) or excess estrogens from the body. One note of caution with regard to these vegetables is their goitrogenic effect when eaten raw, meaning that they can suppress thyroid function and are not suitable for those who have low thyroid function, unless cooked. Some examples of these super awesome healthy estrogen-loving veggies are:

– broccoli,
– cauliflower,
– kale,
– collards,
– cabbages,
– turnips,
– kohlrabi,
– and brussels sprouts.

And not only do they contain I-3-C, these vegetables also are high in vitamin C and fibre, which help to give the boot to any free radicals and toxins that may be trying to crash your hormone-balancing party. Worried about having to eat broccoli and brussels sprouts every day for the rest of your female life? Don’t be! If you’re stumped as to how to get these foods into your diet, feel free to be creative! Sneak them into your sauces, soups, casseroles, stews, and stir-fries. Here is one of my favourite vegan broccoli soups to get you started: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/11/vegan-cream-of-broccoli-soup (Shown in photo below.)
And who doesn’t love kale chips? (Try it with coconut oil, instead of olive oil): http://suite101.com/article/roasted-kale-a25130


Now for the second part to this answer: some of the key hormonal reactions, including the synthesis of hormones via cholesterol and saturated fats and neutralization of excess or toxic hormones, occur in the liver, ladies. So that means we must also be sure to provide our liver with a lot of support when seeking to balance hormones because the liver is already a busy place and we’d like for it to do its best work possible.

So! In addition to cruciferous veggies, the liver also likes it when you eat your organic greens, organic fruit, whole and unprocessed foods, fibre, high-quality protein (if you’re an omnivore: organic, hormone-free, and pastured meat), healthy fats (plenty of avocados, Omega-3s, and use coconut oil for high heat cooking), and drink a lot of pure, clean water (a trusted spring source or reversed osmosis are best). In addition, a probiotic and a fibre supplement are helpful in removing and reducing the incidence of reabsorption of any excess estrogen that likes to linger in the large intestine.

So a few key things to remember to support a healthy female hormonal system:

– Limit your exposure to chemicals, especially at home, in household cleaning products and beauty products. (Check out a good book called “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick”.)
– Manage stress. Do things you love.
– Eat your cruciferous and leafy green vegetables.
– Support your liver by eating a clean, whole foods diet.
– Take a deep breath, implement the changes at your pace, and don’t feel like you need to go it alone. Find a qualified practitioner, like a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, who can provide you with support and guidance to ensure that you are following the best nutritional and lifestyle protocols for your best hormones yet!

Thank you for participating in Q+A Tuesday! Remember to keep sending in your questions! See you next week!

Much love and wellness,


Brown Rice, Chickpea + Crunchy Veggie Salad.

Brown rice, chickpea, and crunchy veggie salad!

From: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Crunchy-Vegetable-and-Brown-Rice-Salad-102077

1/2 cup Short grain brown rice, pre-soaked
1/2 cup Dry chickpeas, pre-soaked
1/2 Large cucumber
2 Celery ribs
1 Carrot
1 Yellow, orange, or red bell pepper
1/2 Bunch of arugula
4 Scallions
2 tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp. Mustard
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 tsp. Himalayan or sea salt
1/4 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper

Cook rice and chickpeas. In the meantime, cut cucumber, celery, carrot, and bell pepper into 1/4-inch dice. Remove tough stems from arugula and chop leaves. Chop scallions.

In a large bowl whisk together lemon juice, broth, mustard, oil, salt, and pepper. Add rice, chickpeas, vegetables, arugula, and scallions, tossing to combine well, and season with salt and pepper. Serve salad at room temperature.

This recipe would also be great using sprouted chickpeas. For a more pacific flavour that reap the benefits of sea vegetables, I’ll someday try this using bits of wakame or kelp.


Homemade Vegan Protein Bars.

Homemade protein bars! And they taste GOOD! REALLY good! Awesome way to enjoy the natural mood boosting benefits of protein, healthy fats, and chocolate!

Based on this recipe: http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/homemade-protein-bars/

1 cup Raw walnuts
1 cup Raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup Vanilla Chai Vega One protein powder
1/2 cup Shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp. Himalayan salt (Himalayan salt has 80 trace minerals and holds the wisdom of 1,000 yogis, but sea salt would also be fine)
1/2 cup Tahini
1/2 cup Coconut oil
2 tbsp. Maple syrup
2 100g gram bars of organic dark chocolate (85%)

Follow the same preparation instructions as the original recipe. To keep it simple, I melted the dark chocolate bars for the topping instead of making my own chocolate as the recipe suggests.

Also, I didn’t have any vanilla extract (just moved… everything is a little willy-nilly right now) so the Vanilla Chai Vega One protein powder was really perfect because of its vanilla flavour, protein, green food, probiotics, EFAs, and whole lot of other benefits (it’s a personal fave).

So easy and worth the ingredients if you don’t already have them!


Bison + Quinoa Chili.

Bison and quinoa chili!

Recipe is based on this one: http://www.food.com/recipe/low-carb-chili-67654

I like experimenting with the recipe. Here is today’s version.

1 lb. ground bison
1 cup quinoa, soaked overnight with lemon juice
1 quart Water
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Cumin
1 Onion, chopped
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 tsp. Sea salt
2 tbsp. Chili powder
1 tsp. Black pepper
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Allspice
1 (6 oz.) can Tomato paste
3 Bay leaves
2 cups Kale, torn into small pieces

Brown ground bison. Add all ingredients together in a large pot or crockpot, bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 3 hours.


Soaking for Easier Digestion.

Make your quinoa, rice, lentils, or beans easier to digest! Before cooking, put any grain (quinoa shown in picture) or legume in enough water to cover with the juice of half a lemon (apple cider vinegar can also be used) and soak overnight. The soaking process combined with the lemon juice helps to neutralize the phytic acid present in the grains and legumes. Phytic acid inhibits the proper breakdown of foods during digestion so with less phytic acid present, we can enjoy easier digestion and assimilation of our beans and rice! This means less gas and more energy for everyone!

Peace out, phytic acid. See you in the morning, quinoa. 🙂