Thursday, October 29, 2009


Good health depends on staying hydrated: water is the medium in which every single reaction in our bodies takes place. Unfortunately, should the urge to sip hit, there aren't a lot of healthy options on offer. Store shelves are stocked with a kaleidoscope of flavoured drinks that offer little more than sugar with preservatives and crayon box hues. Vitamin Water anyone? Kool-Aid with vitamins would still be Kool-Aid. Think about it!

Research shows that liquid calories are the worst offenders when it comes to weight gain because our bodies don't really register the energy intake like they do with a solid meal. So what's a health conscious drinker to do? We diligently shun any beverage with sugar...or fake sugar...or calories of any sort and drink loads of pure, simple water day in and day out (out of a BPA free reusable bottle). Which, truthfully, can get a little boring! Sometimes you need a little flavour...healthy flavour. The answer to your healthy drink quest? Tea!

Tea has a lot going for it: calorie free, much lower in caffeine than coffee and host to powerful disease busting antioxidants. So drink plenty of water...but when you need a little healthy flavour in your life - try one of these 5 great teas!

1. Oooli. Made right here in Vancouver, Oooli is all about oolong tea. What is great about Oooli is that it is real brewed tea, either plain (zero calories!) or lightly sweetened with fruit flavours. The highest calorie count is 80 calories for a 473mL serving and nothing artificial - which is waaaay less than other "iced teas" aka liquid glucose delivery systems. Flavour without the sugar hit!
2. Kombucha Wonder Drink. Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been enjoyed for centuries...the nice people at Wonder Drink people have conveniently bottled it for us! Kombucha is celebrated for detoxifying and energizing properties (try it for yourself to see how you feel - I like it!) and at about 60 calories per 250 ml....the highest calorie count of all 5 teas on my list but not too bad in moderation. One note...I didn't realize that Wonder Drink pasteurizes their products, so unfortunately there are no live probiotics to benefit your gut health - but the products of fermentation (the organic acids purported to detoxify) still live on!
3. Numi Pu-erh Teas. Ever heard of Pu-erh? Pu-erh is a highly prized tea picked from very old tea trees which is then fermented for 60 days. The result is a rich, earthy taste and a higher antioxidant count than most green teas. Pu-erh is purported to have numerous health benefits (you can check them out on Numi's site)....apparently in Taiwan, Pu-erh is called the "skinny tea"! Any Taiwanese tea drinkers out there...let me know! Did I mention there is a chocolate flavour? Yum.
4. Red Espresso. Not that coffee is hideous for isn't really...but perhaps you are a latte lover looking to swap your bean for leaf? Red Espresso is calling! Red Espresso is a specially ground rooibos tea that can be used in your espresso machine or french press. Naturally caffeine free and antioxidant rich, long used in South Africa as a healthy beverage - rooibos tea has a sweet, rich flavour that definitely satisfies the coffee craving. You can buy Red Espresso in the shops and a few local cafes have started making tea lattes from it too.
5. Matcha. The classic green tea health beverage, matcha tea is a highly prized green tea that is ground into a vibrant green powder with a rich, grassy taste. Whisked with a small amount of hot water, matcha is traditionally drunk almost like an espresso shot and because you actually consume the tea leaves - matcha blows traditional green tea out of the water when it comes to antioxidant levels. A bit of an acquired taste....but matcha is where it's at.

To your health!

PS....just in case you are wondering, no one paid me to talk about their products...but the nice folks at Oooli did supply me with the photo when I asked...these are all drinks I actually love!

Sunday, October 18, 2009 Habit

Welcome back Habit! For those of you unfamiliar with Habit on Main St...sadly, 10 months ago this great restaurant had a fire and closed down for a while. It is reopened with a refocused theme and menu and finally (I seriously don't get out much nowadays...) my husband and I tried it out this previous Friday.

For those of you who went to Habit version 1.0 - you will be relieved to note that they still have the amazing carrot and brie pierogies.

The room now looks like an ultra sultry take on the 70's rumpus room (kind of how you always imagined it looking as a nocturnal teenager) complete with a comfort food packed menu. The cocktail list features the classics reinvented (sex on the beach, deconstructed bento box style so you can shake your own? YES!) and a big list of Canadian whiskey...because is there a single one of us who doesn't crave a Crown and coke every once and a while?

We started with a smoked onion and white bean hummus...and yum! I love hummus but I never expect that anyone can do anything really that exciting with it. A little extra garlic or spice, but that is about it. Well, the smoked onion gave the dip and incredible flavour and it was served with fry bread. I know that I shouldn't be condoning fry bread but it was so bloody good how can you say no?

For the main course, my husband had tuna casserole (OceanWise of course!) and I had the vegetarian shepherd's pie. Jim loved the casserole, super rich, creamy and indulgent. The shepherd's pie was just what I wanted: silky lentils, rich and filling, topped with a potato-parsnip hash. And enough fibre to ensure your digestive system hums for days afterwards. I promise to start bringing my camera when I eat so I can snap some shots of the gorgeous food.

So if you are looking to support an awesome local restaurant, give the chains a break for the night and get cozy at Habit. 2610 Main St.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 boost your immune system

Nothing like getting caught up after a vacation to cut into your blogging time but I am back! Since we are running head first into probably the most interesting cold and flu season we have experienced in recent memory (H1N1 anyone?)I thought it fitting to spend some time talking about how we can boost our immunity with good nutrition.

Now, I don't think anyone can hear this enough...washing your hands constantly and not touching your face is a massive step towards stemming the spread of cold and flu germs but building a healthy strong body through good nutrition can help you fight off whatever little bug may come your way.

Let's take this step by step...and talk first about probiotics. Yogurt has been considered a health food for literally thousands of years. Revered in Indian Ayurvedic medicine as a "food of the gods", the secret to yogurt's success is fermentation by lactic acid forming bacteria. It was Dr Elie Metchnikoff in the early 1900s that popularized the health giving benefits of yogurt in the West, believing that the healthy bacteria in yogurt fought disease causing critters and normalized bowel habits.

Clinical research is mixed on the health benefits of probiotics, which probiotic strains are best and the dosage but probiotics are typically taken to encourage a healthy mix of bacteria in the colon. The link to our immune system is one of a healthy barrier. Believe it or not, our gut (from mouth to you-know-what) is actually the outside of our body...what? Yup, our gut is a first line defense against the outside world much like our skin is. So keeping our gut barrier healthy (and discouraging disease causing bacteria from setting up camp in our colon) theoretically helps to strengthen our immune defenses.

Researchers have learned that our gut health is regulated by the bacteria that live within us. A newer concept in GI medicine is one of gut barrier integrity, or "leaky gut": the idea being that if our gut is unhealthy, the cells which are supposed to be a barrier to the outside world become "leaky", allowing food particles and bugs that have no business getting through the velvet ropes to crash the party. The result is inflammation, infection and potentially food and gut hypersensitivity. It is thought that probiotics may reduce inflammation as a whole by downregulating inflammatory messengers called cytokines and therefore gut sensitivity.

If you want to learn more and like reading original scientific articles (and really, who doesn't), see this great 2009 review article here: . By the way, I love it when journals offer free access to their thank you Journal of Gastroenterology :)

To supplement or not? As a dietitian, I am always a food first kind of girl but I have been known to take a probiotic supplement if feeling like I have been "hit with a bug". However, then the question becomes "which brands can I trust?". This is where things get a little tricky. A 2004 study done at UBC looked at 10 common over-the-counter probiotic supplements and not a single one of them met the specifications shown on the label. 50% of them didn't even contain the bacterial strain they claimed on the label. What is frustrating is that the researchers declined to name the brands - which I would really like to know. If a company is saying one thing and selling another, customers should have the right to know! Here is the study URL if you want to check it out for yourself. . If you do want to take a supplement, make sure you enlist the help of someone knowledgeable who knows the brands.

My personal probiotic prescription for better health? 3/4 cup of plain nonfat organic yogurt daily. Keep it simple (and get a boost of protein and calcium along with your probiotics!). Remember, it was yogurt that has been revered as a health food...not the individual strains it may or may not contain (not yet at least!).

There is a lot of bad yogurt on the shelves - filled with gelatin and other stabilizers, colours, flavours and other gunk that you don't need. Good yogurt should be milk and live active bacterial cultures. Like it a little sweet? Add a bit of honey or maple syrup or better yet, try one of my favourite healthy snacks: take a half cup frozen blueberries, add yogurt and put in your lunch box along with some hemp seed and organic bran. By mid morning, the berries will have thawed and juiced up the yogurt better than any premixed stuff. Mix in the other goodies for some fibre and healthy omega 3 fats!

A bientot,