Spotlight on Greens 01: Spinach
 

Spinach, we know it's good for us, but just how good is good? Keep reading to find out why I am such a big fan!

Where Does Spinach Come From?

Spinach originated in in Persia (what is now known as Iran) and quickly spread to Europe and Asia. However, spinach cultivation in North america didn't begin until the 19th century. 

When is Spinach Season? 

Spinach is readily available in Ontario from mid May through October. (Yay!) That's great news for spinach lovers! 

Nutritional Benefits

Spinach (100g serving) is an Excellent source (containing 20% of the daily recommended intake or more) of the following nutrients; A, C, K, magnesium, manganese, iron and folate. It is also a good source (containing 10%-19% of the the DRI) of Riboflavon, B6, E, calcium and dietary fibre. 

100g serving of spinach comes in around 27 calories, with approximately 3g of protein, and has a very low glycemic index making spinach a big bang for your nutritional buck. 

It is important to note that while raw spinach is an excellent source of folate (approximately 25% of folate is lost in cooking), if you are looking to boost iron and calcium absorption, it must be lightly cooked. Spinach does contain binding agents called oxylates, which can inhibit absorption of iron and calcium. However, these are broken down by lightly cooking this leafy. In the case of iron, it is also beneficial to combine spinach with vitamin C rich foods to ensure iron absorption, such as citrus, strawberries, blueberries, etc. 

Other Health Related Benefits

Abundant flavonoids in spinach act as antioxidants to keep cholesterol from oxidizing and protect the body from free radicals, particularly in the colon. The folate in spinach is good for cardiovascular health, and magnesium helps lower high blood pressure. Studies also have shown that spinach helps maintain brain health, memory and mental clarity.

Spinach contains extremely high amounts of Chlorophyll (the pigment that gives spinach its rich green colour). chlorophyll is known to aid digestion, support healthy gut bacteria, alkalize the body and reduce inflammation. 

Another interesting fact concerning Chlorophyll comes to us from "World's Healthiest Foods" - "Inside the cells of the spinach plant, the places where chlorophyll gets stored are called chloroplasts, and their membranes play an active role in converting sunlight into energy (through a process called photosynthesis). These chloroplast-associated membranes are called thylakoid membranes, or simply thylakoids. Because fresh spinach is such a rich source of chlorophyll, it has often been used in research studies as a source for thylakoids and their potential health benefits. Several recent studies in this area have shown thylakoid-rich extracts from spinach to delay stomach emptying, decrease levels of hunger-related hormones like ghrelin, and increase levels of satiety-related hormones like glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Exactly what these changes mean is not yet clear, but researchers hope to eventually determine whether routine intake of spinach can help lower risk of obesity partly because of these thylakoid-related processes. It is also worth noting in this context that several prescription drugs currently used to help treat type 2 diabetes (for example, albiglutide, exanatide, dulaglutide, and liraglutide) work by imitating the activity of GLP-1. For this reason, future studies may find a relationship not only between risk of obesity and spinach intake but risk of type 2 diabetes as well." 

Possible ill effects

If someone is taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) it is important that they do not suddenly begin to eat more or less foods containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting. You can still enjoy spinach in moderate amounts. 

Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If a patient's kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal, anyone with kidney disease should speak with their doctor about their intake of this and other high potassium foods. 

Flavour Parings

Spinach has a milder flavour than other greens and pairs well with many other foods like strawberry, citrus friuts, tamari and olive oil. 

To enhance its flavor, add nutmeg, mace, fresh garlic, coarsely ground black pepper or, in moderation, fresh lemon juice, or mustard. 

Preparing and Cooking 

Soak in a basin of cold water to remove sand and grit. Change water several times or until the bottom of the basin is free of residue. Dry on clean towel, bag and refrigerate. Use within several days.

Spinach is easily overcooked. Cook gently, over low to moderate heat.

Enjoy it raw in salads, smoothies, or on sandwiches and wraps. Enjoy it lightly wilted with onions and olive oil, or add it to your pesto or tomato sauces. The possibilities are endless! 

#NOMNOM

 

 
Fats on Fleek 3: The BIG "FAT" Myth
 

Saturated fats and cholesterol, we have been told for generations to avoid both. Are saturated fats really the root cause of cardiovascular disease? As it turns out, it's not as simple as vilifying saturated fats for our cardiovascular woes.

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The Man, The Myth

This big fat confusion came from research conducted in the 1950's by American physiologist and researcher, Ancel Keys. In 1955, Keys presented his "Fat Hypothesis" to the World Health Organization. He believed that saturated fats raise cholesterol, therefore increasing risk of cardiovascular disease. Soon after, the American Heart Association began to promote a low fat diet as the sure fire way to prevent heart disease. 

Why then, have the rates of heart disease not decreased? Why then is heart disease still the second leading cause of death for Canadians.

Well, Good ol Ancel got it a bit wrong and while monitoring saturated fat intake, he ignored other critical data such as the quantity of refined sugar in the diet. While it is true that some saturated fats raise cholesterol, the type of saturated fat and the type of cholesterol it affects is really the key.  Saturated fat does indeed raise LDL (bad cholesterol) but it also raises HDL (good cholesterol). In contrast an excess of refined sugar in the diet lowers HDL. It is the ratio of LDL to HDL that is a for more important biomarker for cardiovascular disease and heart attack than LDL alone.

Fats, What Are They Good For?

We require a variety of unsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats for good health. Saturated "Phats"... if I spell it with a "PH" it means the good kind of fat right? 90's jokes aside,  saturated fats are required for the following:

  • Saturated fats are responsible for healthy, strong cellular membranes for every living cell in your body. Improper formation of cellular membranes can hamper essential cellular functions, cause  malformation of the cell and even reduce the exchange of nutrients between the cell and its environment. 
  • Saturated fats and healthy cholesterol provide the building blocks for hormones, and hormone-like substances.
  • Act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Are required for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A and for mineral absorption, nutrients essential for supporting eye and skin health among other functions.
  • Act as antiviral agents (caprylic acid).
  • Required for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bone. 
  • Saturated fat has been shown to protect the liver from alcohol and medications, including acetaminophen and other drugs commonly used for pain and arthritis.
  • Helps lower LDL cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids).
  • Modulate genetic regulation and help prevent cancer (butyric acid).
  • Saturated fat plays a key role in cardiovascular health, reducing lipoprotein (a), which correlates to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Required for neurological function (brain health) and proper nerve signaling.
  • For proper functioning of the lungs. The surfactant that coats the air sacs of the lungs is made of 100% saturated fats, replacement of these critical fats by other types of fat makes for faulty surfactant and potential breathing difficulties.  
  • Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil (myristic acid and lauric acid) play key roles in immune health. Loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi, possibly increasing risk of infection.

Consider The Source

Many proponents of a plant based diet tout a diet low in saturated fat as the ideal, however I'm hear to tell you that's not entirely the case. It is important to consider the source of your saturated fats, but not to avoid them. Saturated fats from processed meats and fast foods (long chain triglycerides) will have a completely different effect than say, the medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil, coconut butter or avocado. In recent years, studies have shown that medium chain triglycerides such as lauric acid actually have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. Saturated fats from a Big Mac on the other hand will not have this protective effect. Nor will it improve lung health, or immunity. Fats make food taste good! Below, find a list of plant based fats to include in your diet and fats to avoid.

Do include

  • Nuts and seeds in their whole forms such as almond, cashew, macadamia, Brazil nut, chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds.
  • Good quality oils such as olive, coconut, ethically sourced palm oil and coconut butter.
  • Whole food sources of saturated fats such as cacao butter, dark chocolate, olives and avocado.

Avoid

  • Processed vegetable oils such as safflower oil, canola, peanut oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated oils, margarine, shortening, corn oil and cottonseed oil.

Now you're well on your way to having your fats on fleek! don't skimp on this vital macronutrient, make sure to have around 25% of your dietary intake come in the form of high quality fats. 

Moral of the story, eat the whole avocado, don't be shy!

 

 
Kara-Lynn Garland
It's NOT skin deep, it's GUT deep!
 

As a hairstylist and makeup artist I am often asked for tips on how to combat hair and skin issues. Usually clients are looking for a quick fix product recommendation. While skin, hair and nail products can help, they are really just a band-aid on the surface.

So what's the single best thing you can do right now to improve your hair, skin and nails?

Improve your overall digestion! Say what? I know it sounds nutty but the link between your gut and your skin is real. Hair and nails are essentially just extensions of your skin... So let's discuss some tips for healthy digestion, and key nutrients that are essential for healthy skin.

Before we get started you need to know that skin, hair and nail issues are multi-factoral, meaning they can have several causes. However many of those other causes can also stem from problems with digestion, let's start at the source.

Digestion does not begin in the stomach

Let me say that again.... Digestion does not begin in the stomach. The signals for digestion begin before we even put food into our mouths. The sight, and smell of food trigger a chain reaction. Pupils dilate slightly and we begin to salivate. Saliva contains digestive enzymes (amylase) important for beginning the breakdown of carbohydrates and simple sugars.

What can go wrong- If we are in a hurry and don’t take the time to really look at, smell and appreciate our food in a relaxed state, digestion will be compromised. When we are rushed, stressed, or distracted our bodies are not ready to digest. Stress especially, will interrupt digestion. When stress hormones (cortisol/ adrenalin) are elevated, our bodies perceive danger on an unconscious level, and prepares to either fight the danger, or run from it. Therefore, energy and blood flow are directed away from the digestive organs and into the muscles.

The quick fix- Put your phone away, turn off the TV, eliminate as many distractions as possible. Spend a moment taking deep breaths, smell your food and relax before you sink your fork into it. Some folks find it helpful to spend 3-5 minutes meditating and feeling gratitude for the food they are about to enjoy, this encourages mindfulness at meal time.

Chew Chew Chew your food 

Careful chewing will make a huge difference in the effectiveness of digestion. While chewing we manually break down our food into a soft squishy goop that will make easy work for the stomach. Also during this time, our stomach is triggered and begins to release more HCl (hydrochloric acid) and enzymes (protease/pepsin) in preparation for protein digestion.

What can go wrong- Inadequate chewing results in larger food particles ending up in the stomach. Creating more work for the stomach to do. Furthermore, inadequate chewing may also not allow enough time for digestive juices to accumulate, meaning the stomach is not well prepared for digestion.

The quick fix- Chew your food! Really savour it, and don't swallow until it's a fine paste.

Slow down on the liquids

This is the only time I will tell you to slow down on water and other liquids. Proper Hydration is important, but at meal time less is more.

What can go wrong- Too much water and other liquids can slightly dilute stomach acid, making it less effective in food break down. If food isn’t broken down efficiently, we cannot absorb beneficial nutrients from it.

The quick fix- Do your best to stay well hydrated between meals, at least 20 minutes before, or after meals is desired.

Absorb it, don't waste it!

Next stop on the digestion train is the small intestine. This is where food continues to be broken down to its smallest components. Vitamins and minerals are pulled away from the proteins, fats and carbohydrates that bind them and are absorbed through delicate membranes onto the bloodstream. This is where the connection to skin really becomes evident.

What can go wrong- Poor food combining, overeating and inadequate chewing can put stress on the stomach and result in poor breakdown and absorption in the small intestine. Furthermore, food sensitivities can create low grade inflammation in this delicate organ and impede proper breakdown and absorption of key nutrients, especially essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, B12 and zinc. Zinc is especially important for healthy skin as it is a co-factor for vitamin A. Inflammation in the small intestine is often mirrored elsewhere in the body, including the skin. #Eczema. In addition, Iron and B12 deficiency are linked to hair thinning and loss.

The quick fix- Practice the rules of food combining (unless blood sugar issues exist). Eat fruits alone, do not eat starchy grains with proteins and drink water between meals, not with meals. Chew your food carefully, and stop eating when you feel satiated (2/3- 3/4 full), not when you feel “full” (100% full).

Love your liver

Your liver is a busybody. It has too many functions to name in this article, but it's two main functions are, dismantling toxins, and creating bile to store in the gallbladder. Bile is essential for digestion of fats in the duodenum of the small intestine.

What can go wrong- An overloaded liver cannot function efficiently, as a result bile production can slow. Improperly digested fats leave us deficient in fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K as well as essential fatty acids. Vitamins A, and E are essential for strong healthy collagen networks and healthy skin cells. Essential fatty acids (EFA's-omega 3 and 6) are responsible for healthy cellular membranes and the secretion of oils that moisturize and protect the skin, scalp and nail beds. Rough, dry alligator skin, dry scalp, and dry brittle nails are all indicators of EFA deficiency.

The quick fix- Don't give your liver too much to do. Avoid processed foods, alcohol and bad fats such as fried foods, hydrogenated oils and rancid fats. Show your liver some love by incorporating bitter greens (mustard, dandelion, or beet greens) into your diet and boost sulphur (the mineral supportive of the liver's detoxification pathways) by adding more onions, garlic, cabbage and broccoli sprouts to your meals.

Poop

Yup! I said poop... After food has made its way through the small intestine, it finds itself in the large intestine (colon). This organ is largely known for its host of friends, the billions of little bacteria that call it home. These little guys help us further break down insoluble fibres and can even help us out by making vitamins K and B12. The large intestine also reclaims water. Then poop happens.

What can go wrong- What if poop isn't happening? Improper balance of beneficial bacteria and dehydration can slow down the elimination of poop. When you're not eliminating this waste daily a few things can occur.

  1. Hormones (mainly estrogen) can be reabsorbed and recirculated- ladies this is bad news for a bunch of reasons, including hormonal disruption of the skin. #Breakouts.
  2. Inadequate water, means inadequate water reclamation. Dehydration= dry hair, skin and nails plus early signs of ageing. #NotSoFineLines
  3.  If the body cannot eliminate through the bowls... it will eliminate through the skin, not just the skin of the face, but the skin of the body too. #Chestne. #Backne.

The quick fix- Foster a happy colon, drink 8-10 glasses of pure water daily. Feed your beneficial flora with pre-biotics such as healthy fibre from pectin rich fruits (apples, cherries, pears), fibrous veggies (dark leafy greens, celery, yams and artichokes) and legumes (split peas, lima beans, Black beans and lentils). Get contributions of healthy bacteria from fermented foods (kefir, homemade sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha). If constipation persists, you may be low in magnesium. Try taking a dose of magnesium citrate about an hour before bedtime, this should encourage elimination in the morning. Alternatively, you could add a teaspoon of chlorophyll to your first glass of water in the morning to support detoxification in the liver and as a bio-available source of magnesium.

In summary, a happy gut = happy skin! #Radiant

 
Fats on Fleek 2: Skip The Fish
 

Considering the state of our rivers and oceans; polluted with plastic residues (BPA's), heavy metals and agricultural wastes, as well as diminishing fish populations due to overfishing and irresponsible environmental practices, we must consider other sources of polyunsaturated Omega 3 fatty acids.

Farmed fish is not ideal either and has it's own host of associated environmental and health related issues. So where can we find reliable plant based Omega 3's and how can we ensure we are getting enough? Below is a cheat sheet with the most important facts about omega 3 fats. 

Fact: Fish do not make omegas, they eat them! Skip the fish and head straight to the source, sea vegetables (sea weeds and certain types of algae) are ideal sources of Omega fatty acids. However if the thought of sea vegetables is not appealing to you, land dwelling plants sources are also readily available. 

  • Without proper planning, a vegetarian diet may be lacking in Omega 3 fatty acids. However it is still possible to meet your daily recommended intake. Foods such as oils, nuts and seeds are very high in Omega 3. The problem with a lot of these foods is that they are also high in the other type of essential fatty acid: Omega 6
  • Omega 6 inhibits the conversion of Omega 3 into DHA and EPA. So, the Omega 3 from foods like walnuts (2542mg Omega 3 but 10666 Omega 6) or sesame seeds (105mg Omega 3 but 5984mg Omega 6) may not be adequate sources of Omega 3 for conversion into DHA and EPA.
  • The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA. ALA is efficiently converted to EPA, but it may require large amounts of ALA to produce optimal amounts of DHA.
  • The capacity to convert DHA from ALA is higher in women than men. Studies of ALA metabolism in healthy young men indicate that approximately 8% of dietary ALA is converted to EPA and 0-4% is converted to DHA . In healthy young women, approximately 21% of dietary ALA is converted to EPA and 9% is converted to DHA. The better conversion efficiency of young women compared to men appears to be related to the effects of estrogen.
  • Something to consider: because omega-3s are a type of fat, conditions that involve poor absorption of fats from our digestive tract can increase our risk of omega-3 deficiency. These include inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and cystic fibrosis.
  • If you want your DHA levels to be the same as non-vegetarians, supplementing with 300 mg per day will likely accomplish that.
  • If you just want some insurance that you are getting a source of DHA in case your body isn't efficient at making it, supplementing with 200 - 300 mg every 2-3 days will provide that.
  • Seaweeds and algae have fairly high amounts of Omega 3, but they are also one of the only vegan foods which also contain EPA and DHA. Spirulina (58mg Omega 3, 88mg Omega 6 per tablespoon) is one of the best choices. Wakame is a close second.
  • Flaxseed oil (also known as flax oil or linseed oil) is available as an ALA supplement. DHA supplements derived from algal and fungal sources are also available. Because dietary DHA is retroconverted to EPA and DPA in humans, DHA supplementation represents yet another alternative to fish oil supplements

Tips to optimize your conversion of Omega 3 into DHA and EPA:

  • Decrease the amount of foods that are high in Omega-6: Foods high in Omega-6 fatty acids reduce the amount of ALA that's converted to
  • EPA and DHA by up to 40%. this can be accomplished by Eliminating certain oils from your diet that are high in Omega-6. These include sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean oils.
  • Eat a diet rich in ALA foods: This will increase the amount of DHA your body makes. The best sources of ALA are the following:

Improve your overall Diet: There are other changes you can make to increase the conversion rate by improving liver function. Cut back, or eliminate, alcohol, and foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fatty acids. They also interfere with the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA.

High Omega-3 Morning Shake:

  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup baby kale
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 tbls ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbls vegetarian (flax/algae) Omega 3 oil with DHA (ex. Nutra-vege by Ascenta)
  • 1-1/2 cups water

*This shake provides 3.265g overall omega three, with 500mg in the form of ready available DHA.

**Men can convert the available ALA to 0.15g into EPA and approximately 0.08g DHA. Women can convert the available ALA to approximately 0.4g EPA and approximately 0.171g DHA.

*** Adding a tablespoon of spirulina to this shake and boost the available omega-3 by 58mg.

 

 
Fats on Fleek

Are your fats on fleek? Are you sure you know how to choose and properly store your nuts, seeds and oils? Do you know which fats are right for the high temperature job? I think you might be surprised how easy it is to consume dangerous, toxic, or rancid fats and oils. Keep your "Fats on Fleek" with this easy guide! 

 

Making the choice

Buying your nuts and seeds is not as simple as cramming heaping scoop fulls into that wimpy plastic baggy at the bulk food store. Great attention should be payed to the quality of those nuts and seeds. Because they contain such delicate unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, nuts and seeds that have been shelled are quite vulnerable to light, oxygen and temperature changes. Such exposure can cause oxidative damage to those quality fats. Rancid fats and oils are not fit for consumption. (They can be damaging to your liver, kidneys, digestive and cardiovascular systems, you name it! They're basically poison.) Yet most of us do not know the signs to look for. 

Fact: We required quality unsaturated as well as saturated fats for healthy, strong cellular membranes, circulatory health, hormonal health and radiant skin.

  • When buying bulk nuts and seeds look for gravity bins that dispense from the bottom versus open air containers with scoops. This will ensures freshness.
  • If there aren't gravity bins... Lift the top of the regular bin and lean in... Take a nice deep sniff. You might Look weird but it's ok... I do this on the regular! If the nuts/seeds smell a little fishy or have a paint/paint thinner like aroma... they're bad. Abandon them and search for nuts in vacuum sealed pouches. 
  • Buy your nuts and seeds whole whenever possible and grind them at home as you need them. Especially flax and chia. 
  • Another thing to look for is colour. Walnuts especially should be a lighter brown, if they look dark in patches or are darker brown, they could be rancid... Back away. 
  • When buying oils, do your best to buy oils in glass bottles or jars. Due to the nature of fats, they easily absorb chemical residues from plastic, BPA and other plastic residues have hormone disrupting effects, long story short, avoid plastic when storing nuts, seeds and especially oils. 

Strengthening your storage game

The battle against oxydation doesn't end once you've gotten home from the store. Proper at home storage is key to conquering the war on rancid fats. 

  • Transfer nuts and seeds to glass jars with tight lids and store them in the fridge or freezer. A simple rule of thumb to follow is -store up to three months in the fridge, up to 6 months in the freezer. 
  • Oils should be kept in dark coloured bottles, in a cool place away from heat. The higher the ratio of unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the more delicate the oil. For the most part, oils that are liquid at room temperature such as sesame, flax, or sunflower should be kept in the fridge. Oils that are stable at room temperature are generally solid, like coconut. The only exception is olive oil. It has a stable composition and can be stored in a dark bottle at room temperature safely, away from heat. 
  • Open your oils and check them before use, give them the sniff test mentioned above, if they smell fishy or paint like, it's time to toss them. 
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winning high temp cooking

It is important to choose oils with a high smoke point for higher temperature cooking. "Smoke Point" refers to the temperature at which an oil starts to burn. For example, cold‐pressed flaxseed oil is a wonderful oil to use in salad dressings, but you wouldn’t cook  with it; in contrast, avocado oil has a very high smoke point even when it’s not highly refined, making it an excellent choice for high heat cooking. Overheating oils produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals.  This is why it’s important not to “re‐use” oil that’s  already been used to cook something (i.e. the deep fryer at a fast food restaurant).

  • Beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals found in many unrefined oils are destroyed when the oil  is overheated.  
  • Overheating also creates harmful free radicals.
  • Low smoke point = between 225°F and 350°F, Ex. coconut or unrefined sesame oil (up to 350°F).
  • Medium smoke point = 375°F, Ex. virgin olive oil (up to 420°F) or sunflower oil (up to 450°F). 
  • 450°F High smoke point = between 470°F and 485°F and above, Ex avocado oil (up to 520°F).

*Pro tip: Keep a spray bottle filled with water in the kitchen and spritz water over your fry pan or baking sheet a few times while cooking, this will prevent oil burning. 

 

Gratitude is the BEST Attitude

Sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways. When life gets complicated it is easy to fall into a pattern of negativity. I struggle with this myself at times. Finding things to be thankful for may seem like an exercise in futility, especially when it feel like the odds are stocked against you, but it really does work.

If you can find at least one thing to be thankful for every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep, you can quickly flip your attitude from one of soul sucking discouragement to one of bright shiny optimism.

I recommend a journal. Sometimes it is helpful to write down your feelings, to help you sort through them. When you find something to be grateful for, write it down and highlight it! Writing it down is an excellent way to affirm your gratitude, keeping it in the front of your focus.

Ex.

In the morning you could write- “Today I am grateful for...”

In the evening you could write- “Today I was grateful that ... happened.”

Be as creative as you like! Use fun pens and markers or find positive quotes to affirm you positive mindset.

Soon you will be on your way to a happier day! :)

And just remember...

It is not happy people who are thankful, It is thankful people who are happy.
wellness, adviceKara-Lynn Garland
Be YO Self
I'm far from perfect as you can plainly see...

I'm far from perfect as you can plainly see...

Let go of the desire to be anything but your truest self.
... But I gotta be me...

... But I gotta be me...

... I just gotta be me, goofy faces and all! Photos courtesy of Miaou Photography

... I just gotta be me, goofy faces and all!

Photos courtesy of Miaou Photography

Society keeps trying to tell us “just be yourself”? While at the same time meaning... “just be someone else”... confusing right? I feel ya.

We've all heard it. “Just be yourself”.

A little background...

I was taking a nap the other day and while I was starting to fall asleep, my mind wandered onto the subject of authenticity... and what does that really mean? Immediately I jumped up, headed to my laptop and decided I need to write down everything on my mind in that moment...

I began to think about how other people perceive me, the ways they describe me and the judgements we all make.

I've been told a lot of things, some are positive, others are funny, others have been downright hurtful.

  • I've been told I'm a “hipster”, an “activist”, a “girly girl”.
  • I've been told that I’m super smart, the human encyclopedia, or dictionary. I'm almost too nerdy to function.
  • I've been told that I'm strong willed and opinionated.
  • I've been told I’m too sensitive, overly concerned about the welfare of other people, animals and the planet. I'm a bleeding heart.
  • I've been told my sneezes sound like mice exploding, rodents fighting or miniature laser battles (squeak, pieeeew pieeew pieeeeew).
  • I've been told I make baby pterodactyl noises, I’m the clumsiest person in the world, that I make funny faces, that my laugh is contagious and I have a terrible sense of direction.
  • I've been compared to Jessica Day (Zoey Deschanel's character on the show “New Girl”), Sometimes I like to sing or dance or make funny voices for no real reason.
  • I've been called "Ned Flanders"... that one took me by surprise!
  • I've been called names, I've been victimized, I’ve been demoralized.

I could go on...

When I think about all of these statements, I know deep down that I just wouldn't be me without any of them. Each joyous moment, each painful challenge and each quirky trait has made me who I am today. It is what it is, I am who I am, and I accept that.

But acceptance and pride in one's uniqueness doesn't come easy in a world that tells us how we should look, what we should wear, how we should eat, and who we should be.

The dictionary defines authenticity as “not false or imitation, true to one's own spirit or character”.

How do we become true to our own spirit or character, how do we achieve a place of “not false”?

I believe these are the steps that helped me achieve a place of authenticity:

  1. Forgiveness: Forgiveness is not about excusing, it's about letting go so you can find peace. Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past. Many years ago I began to forgive, I forgave my bullies, I forgave my ex's, but the most challenging thing to do is to forgive yourself. I still occasionally struggle with this one, regret is a powerful emotion. When I catch myself dwelling on a “mistake” I remind myself “You did the best you could with the information you had at the time”. Doing your best is all you can do.

  2. Accept: Each day accept a part of yourself without resistance. One at a time, embrace your “flaws” and “quirks”. There was a time I found sneezing in public to be horrifyingly embarrassing. Now I laugh and shrug it off... I know my sneeze is “unconventional” but generally it makes others laugh, so I now see it as a gift.
  3. Find Your Voice: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Just find your voice and speak your truth. Talk about your thoughts, feelings and ideas in a constructive way, but don't hide them.

  4. Be Vulnerable: Because as Brene Brown writes “Authenticity is a collection of choices we have to make everyday. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” We cannot let our true selves be seen unless we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

  5. Let Go: Let go of the desire to be anything but your truest self. Your truest self is the most beautiful expression of you. 

These are the lessons I have found to be most helpful. I strive everyday to do what feels good and right to me. I of course take outside influences into consideration, but ultimately, if it doesn't feel right, I don't take it on board. This is how I stay true to myself, this is how I embrace my authenticity.

I challenge you to forgive, accept, find your voice, be vulnerable, and let go of the desire to be anything but you. I know you can do it, cuz you're awesome like that!

 

Why a Plant Based Diet Worked For Me

I believe it is important to note, that while no diet can cure an autoimmune condition, one can live symptom free the majority of the time. A plant based diet didn't work for me simply because It excluded animal products. It worked for me because I started eating highly alkalizing, whole, organic and plant based foods. While it is becoming easier and easier to be vegan in today's society, it remains challenging to be a whole foods vegan. 

The idea of transitioning to a plant based diet should challenge you to eat more fruits and vegetables. With an ever increasing number of vegan and gluten free foods popping up on grocery store shelves, it can be enticing to reach for the convenient option. However, beware of nutrition "buzzwords". The words "vegan" and "gluten free" are not synonymous with health. All packaged and processed foods can contain harmful ingredients. (I will address some of these ingredients in future posts.)

Be a savvy consumer, and don't fall victim to the hype. Selling "health foods" has become a billion dollar a year industry. Remember that the healthiest foods are the ones that have gone through the least amount of processing to make it to your table. These foods, the ones free of additives, dyes and preservatives are the one's that will support your body's natural healing processes. 

Celebrating World Vegan Day With Strawberry Blonde

All Photos Courtesy of Miaou Photography

What's a Celebration Without Cake?

Yeah, what is a celebration without cake? Well, it's a little less magical if you ask me, or the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with dietary restrictions; whether they be allergies, cultural, ethical or otherwise, food restrictions make life a little less sweet.

For Eric and me, being gluten free vegans has made it challenging to find tasty accessible treats. However, we need not look any further - Strawberry Blonde Bakery, here in Ottawa, has rekindled our love of baked goods once more!

In celebration of World Vegan Day, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Jacqui and Claire, owners and masterminds behind Strawberry Blonde. We had a wonderful time getting to know one another, sharing stories and laughs over cups of tea.

 

A Little Background

I just didn't feel like it was contributing anything meaningful to the world” - Jacqui

Jacqui worked in television in Toronto but was feeling disenfranchised so she decided to go to baking school. She had recently became vegan and decided to look into vegan baking and even entertained the idea of one day owning a vegan bakery. It was at this time that she also discovered a growing demand for gluten free baked goods.

Claire attended Carleton University for a Bachelor of Social Work which she “hated” so she quickly began to focus more on her new found interest in baking.

Claire was also diagnosed as sensitive to gluten (she was misdiagnosed with Celiac Disease initially):

I am very sensitive to gluten, but I can tolerate spelt alright.” - Claire

The two (now) vegans met when they started working at Rainbow Foods with a drive toward something greater.

I really wanted to do something that was meaningful” - Jacqui

Both had an interest in opening their own bakeries and it was Claire that suggested they join forces. Jacqui was hesitant at first but was quickly won over by a Queen Elizabeth cake that Claire had made.

Then she made the Queen Elizabeth cake for a function at Rainbow and I was like - ‘This is the greatest thing I have ever eaten in my life! I need to make this woman my business partner rather than my competitor’…” - Jacqui

After selling their goodies at the local Christmas Farmer’s Market, the owners of Rainbow Foods happily supported Jacqui and Claire’s new endeavour by selling their products in store. Soon after, Herb & Spice picked up their products as well, and interest in their vegan, gluten-free, nut-free baked goods began to snowball.

So we quit Rainbow, and the owner's came to us and said we could use their kitchen downstairs.” - Jacqui

Things took off to a point where the ladies began to focus on the baking full time, which meant leaving their jobs at Rainbow Foods. Luckily, the owners continued to happily support Jacqui and Claire and offered them the use of a kitchen space for only cost.

Soon the demand for Jacqui and Claire's treats required a bigger space which lead them to their current location at 114B Grange Avenue.

The Kitchen at Rainbow was so small, I don't know how we didn't kill eachother.” -Jacqui

Came close a couple of times. (laughs)" - Claire

Ingredients Matter

For their ingredients Jacqui and Claire try to make sure everything is organic whenever possible but the need for gluten-free, nut-free, egg and dairy free always takes priority. That being said, their coconut milk and soy products are always organic.

One way or another, they try to source their ingredients for flours from Jamestown Mill in Aylmer.

Ingredients that are environmentally conscientious and ethically sourced are also key concerns:

The other issue with coconut milk is that some companies buy coconuts from places where they use monkeys to pick them...We make sure to use Native Forest for our coconut milk, because they don't do that...We use Earth Balance which does contain palm oil, but it is ethically sourced.” - Jacqui

Products aka The TREATS

What did I say was my new favourite the other day?” - Jacqui

Jacqui’s (current) favourite treat at the shop is their scones (of which there are many delectable flavours to choose).

Claire admits that the Power Cookies are addictive. Jacqui agrees, as she usually starts her day with one and adds “they’re probably our best seller”. Although still a baked treat, the Power Cookies offer good nutritional value being packed with dried fruits, oats, coconut and seeds, and they’re sweetened only with molasses and agave.

...there's a new nanaimo cookies and cream bar that is phenomenal, but I can only eat half because it's so decadent. It doesn't help that I put vanilla ice cream on top (laughs)” - Claire

I actually love the bread, It's so flavourful and satisfying. Although it is not fluffy like conventional bread, It toasts up really well and I have been enjoying it with a variety of toast toppings, to be featured in a future post. -Kara

Recipe Development and Testing

Claire is really the mastermind behind most of the products.” - Jacqui

Recipe development used to be split 50-50 between Jacqui and Claire, but as time went on, they’ve slipped into their roles of business management and recipe planner respectively.

As such, Jacqui is usually the one who suggests new recipe ideas (usually to mimic something she can’t eat because of dietary restrictions) and Claire figures out how to make it a reality.

Claire will usually work out the recipe at home in her kitchen and once she feels she’s made progress, she’ll bring it into the bakery to test with her coworkers.

We don't want anything to go out the door unless it's tastes great.” - Jacqui

In Retrospect

Rob a bank - Get more money” (laughs) - Claire

I asked Jacqui and Claire if there was anything they’d change in retrospect or if there was any advice they’d offer to their younger selves. Claire mentioned that she would tell her younger self to stress less as “everything usually works out anyway” especially when “ you have a great business partner to lean on”.

Both agreed that patience was key as running a business is a learning process.

Jacqui added that they were fortunate to get a loan from Futurpreneur (Canadian Youth Business Foundation) which required a business plan, but that business plans need to be fluid because of the surprises business ownership often brings.

Strawberry Blonde turns 3

One of the things we wanted when we started the business was to create a community and give back” - Jacqui

Strawberry Blonde recently celebrated it’s third anniversary. As they’re now in a position to give back, to honour the occasion, the bakery held a doughnut eating competition to fundraise in support of Refuge RR; an animal sanctuary for domestic, wild and farm animals in Alexandria Ontario (close to Claire’s hometown).

Other businesses in the community eagerly contributed prizes to the cause as well and as a result the bakery managed to raise just over $1500 for Refuge RR!

It was really fun, but I looked at the photos after and all the contestants looked like they might be sick (laughs).” -Claire

Work - Life Balance

That's what's so great about having a business partner...if we had done this alone, the business would have flopped by now. Thankfully, there is always someone else to take over when one of us can't be around.” - Jacqui

Both ladies admit to being workaholics but recent circumstances in both of their lives have forced them to slow down and step back (a little).

In the first year of the business, Claire had a brain bleed, which really forced her to step back and focus on her personal health. Jacqui ribs her for “only” working 40 hours a week now as opposed to the 80 hours that she used to put in.

I am fortunate to have a great business partner here, I'm lucky to have her in my life.” -Claire

Jacqui recently had a baby which, naturally, requires her to focus outside of the business as well.

Do What you Love, Love What You Do

I always thought it was more important to like the people you work with...That way you’re going to enjoy going to work more.” - Jacqui

Working with one of your best pals is always fun.” - Claire

Jacqui and Claire are good friends and appreciate that they’re like minded. Kitchens, in general, are tight spaces which can easily turn into pressure cookers, luckily, their employees are good team players.

We really wanted to create a space where people enjoyed coming to work, and like the people that they work with and where they get fairly treated. We try our best to make it a safe and positive work environment, and I'm pretty proud of us for doing that.” - Jacqui

Strawberry Blonde is a little bakery with a big heart. These lovely ladies are such an inspiration. I am so pleased that I got to spend the morning with them. If you are in the Ottawa area you can visit their shop at 114B Grange Ave. Ottawa, in Westboro.

...doing something that contributes to the world - as a vegan it's important...when they (kids with allergies) come into the store and their parents tell them they can eat anything - seeing their faces and how excited they get - that is probably my favourite thing. It's makes me cry almost every time. That's something that we're really proud of.” - Jacqui

I have provided a link to their website here.

If you'd like to learn more about Refuge RR or if you are interested in donating, you can find more info here. Please consider donating today. They could really use your help and what better way to celebrate World Vegan Day than by donating to an animal shelter or rescue near you?  

Kara-Lynn Garland
Who Am I?
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All photos courtesy of Miaou Photography

All photos courtesy of Miaou Photography

Hi I'm Kara-Lynn,

Kara or K-L for short, and I am many things in this life, as most of us are. I am a woman, a vegan, a cat lover, a tree hugger, a hairstylist, a make up artist, a yogi, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and most recently, a blogger. 

If someone had told the 17 year old me that I would one day be a vegan nutritionist, I would have laughed wholeheartedly! As much as I wanted to be vegan at the time, my efforts were thwarted by my hatred of legumes and love of all things cheese and ice-cream. Actually, 17 year old me worked at a Dairy Queen franchise in my home town, and I probably gained 15 pounds that summer. I was no stranger to weight gain and other minor to moderate health challenges, with digestive issues, eczema, asthma, and budding allergies being at the forefront. I honestly don't remember a time in my youth where I didn't have "tummy troubles" as my mom called it. Although I would have bouts of extreme abdominal and joint pain (severe enough to render me in the emergency room) no doctor could seem to diagnose a problem. 

Fast forward a few years... after high school graduation I went to beauty school and became a hairstylist. I loved my career so much, and I still enjoy doing hair part time today. A good friend I met through work encouraged me to join a gym with her and talk to her dietitian. I agreed and almost immediately I saw results. Although I lost weight... I still never felt great. Those minor health problems persisted and I needed to find answers. Being the inquisitive person I am, naturally I began to research and experiment with food. After much trial and error, I found a diet that worked for me and my digestive health began to improve slightly. But alas a piece of the puzzle was still missing. 

In 2012, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. The pain I had been experiencing, had become a full blown autoimmune condition. For a moment, I felt like my life was over. I worried that this would mean the end of my career. As a hairstylist and make up artist, I had a physically demanding job, and I became obsessed with finding ways to lessen and manage my pain. It was through this quest for answers that I stumbled across a plant based diet. I was skeptical, but I knew I couldn't keep popping Advil and Aleve like candy... I fully committed to an anti-inflammatory vegan diet for 30 days and to my complete amazement I began to notice changes.

Throughout that first month I experimented with all kinds of vegetable dishes, I tried new legumes, I scoured blogs for recipes, and I even started sprouting! Within weeks my energy improved, I started shedding a few pounds and my pain improved so much, I started back to the gym, doing gentle exercise. I was convinced that the vegan life was the life for me! 

I knew my discoveries were not a coincidence, and yet I had to go through all these crazy trials and errors to find a path to healing. I became frustrated with our current healthcare system, and wondered why no one had told me that food could make such a difference in one's life... Like seriously, why isn't this common knowledge?! I knew I had to find a way to share my new found knowledge with the world!

Enter the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition... In September 2014 I set foot in my first nutrition class at CSNN, and I knew I was in the right place. I was so inspired by my instructors, I immediately started brainstorming about what I might do upon graduation. It was during my studies that my passion for not only our personal health, but also the health of our planet deepened and the Nomshell philosophy was born.  Upon graduating as valedictorian in the fall of 2016, I realized just how much I wanted to help others, and right away began to build this site. 

I am so pleased to be able to share my passion with all of you, I hope I can inspire you, empower you and help you on your own journey to wellness. 

Healing can be a long and winding road, but if we help one another, we just might all find our way. 

KL