BELL Master Herbalist Series – Product #24 Allergy Relief

AHHHH I have tears in my eyes! No, not itchy, scratchy, watery, allergy tears. Not anymore anyways. Tears of happiness because those itchy, scratchy, watery allergy tears are GONE!

I guess you could say I’ve “grown into” my allergies. They just showed up a few years ago, completely out of the blue. Needless to say I was not too impressed. This year my allergies seemed to be exceptionally bad, I’m not sure if it was just a bad season all around or if it was just me. In any case, NOTHING helped. I couldn’t find any relief anywhere. Claritin didn’t work at all, on rare occasions Reactine gave me a tiny smidgen of relief and Benadryl kind-of-sort-of worked, probably only because it knocked me out so I couldn’t remember I had allergies. Ha.

My alleriges were so bad that I had to stay inside some days because I just couldn’t handle all the sneezing and congestion of being outside. I couldn’t even drive with the window down because of people cutting their grass and those darn white fluffies floating through the air. On the other hand, staying inside meant vacuuming my house three times a day and wanting to ship my cat off to Timbuktu. Basically I needed to live in a bubble away from all possible allergens for the entire spring/summer season with one of these:

wnd_4bf094863c350a8fe81c037b03769212

Fun fun fun fun fun.

A few weeks ago I finally said enough was enough. I was sick of my head feeling like a fuzzy balloon 24/7, being unable to breathe, and tired of blowing (literally) through half a box of Kleenex every day. Willing to try anything, I went over to the local Natural Health store to see what they had. I was directed to BELL Master Herbalist Series Product #24 Allergy Relief, which they said has received great reviews from their customers.

IMG_7764

IMG_7770

Well, I certainly cannot argue with those great customer reviews. Twenty-four hours after taking this product for the first time, I was completely symptom free.

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS!

No more sneezing, itchy throat, scratchy watery eyes, stuffy nose, or fuzzy balloon head! I can bury my face in my cat’s fur as much as I want to. I can drive with the window down. I can go outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and even roll around in the freshly-cut grass if I wanted to. It is amazing!

*The suggested dosage is two capsules daily for a few days to build up your system, and then one a day after that for prevention. However, I do find that on days where I’m exposed to a greater number of allergens, I need to take two a day.

I cannot say enough good things about this product and the relief it has given me! I know they say “never say never” but I am NEVER going back to those waste-of-money allergy pharmaceuticals! Thank you Bell for allowing me to breathe again!

The Master Herbalist Series by Bell has over 50 natural products for everything from allergies, fertility, blood sugar regulation, joint pain, snoring and migraines, to constipation, colds & flus, acid reflux, vision problems, hearing loss and help quitting smoking.

You can check out their other products at www.BellLifestyleProducts.com

How do you find relief from allergies?

Be sure to follow me on Facebook for more frequent updates and extra posts! 

Centrifugal vs. Cold-Press Juicers

Earlier this year, our Jack LaLanne juicer made a trip to the happy hunting grounds. It was a great starter juicer, but I don’t think it could handle us using it as heavily as we did (2-4 times a day, 365 days a year). On our journey to find a new juicer, we discovered that there is more to choosing a juicer than just choosing between brands; there are actually two different types of juicers!

Instead of doing a single review on our new Omega-3 VRT350 juicer, I’m going to switch it up a little and do a comparison of centrifugal and cold-press juicers.

PicMonkeyCollage.jpg1.jpg

COLD-PRESS JUICERS

The Omega-3 juicer is a cold-press juicer. What does this mean? It is as the name says: it presses the fruits and vegetables instead of chopping them up like a centrifugal juicer.

Pros:

  • The pressing motion takes longer to press the juice from fruits and vegetables, which results in more juice produced, and a drier pulp leftover.
  • Because there is no blade, less heat is generated, therefore preserving more nutrients in the resulting juice
  • As such, the juice remains good for a longer period of time before consumption
  • Leafy greens juice better
  • Much quieter to operate

Cons:

  • Much like the Vitamix blender, cold-pressed juicers are very expensive (~$250-500)
  • The initial prep takes longer, because the produce must be cut into smaller pieces to accommodate the small chute
  • As the chute is smaller, it takes longer to feed all your produce through
  • The resulting juice is SO pulpy, I either have to strain it or blend it, which I hate. I know it’s quick to throw into a blender and blend, but I just want my juice to come out as juice and be on my way. 

CENTRIFUGAL JUICERS

A centrifugal juicer, such as my Breville, has a blade, which chops up the fruit and vegetables.

Pros:

  • Cheaper (~$100-400)
  • Little prep needed due to a wider chute
  • Faster juicing time
  • Produces a little-to-no-pulp juice (Juices do tend to be quite foamy though, which means having to stir or shake them before drinking)

Cons:

  • Very noisy due to the grinding and cutting of food
  • Resulting pulp is moist, which means less juice is produced
  • Leafy greens do not juice well; it is better to blend them into your juice with a blender
  • Lower nutrient quality of juice due to the cutting of food, thus damaging nutrients
  • The nutrient quality of the juice deteriorates the longer it sits before being consumed

*I have heard people complain about their juice separating with a centrifugal juicer and say that it doesn’t with a cold-press juicer. From my experience, the resulting juice separates in both types of juicers. However, I don’t think this is a huge negative selling point, it just requires you to stir, shake or blend your juice before drinking, which I often end up doing anyways to add in “extras” like chia seeds, spinach, flaxseed oil, etc. 

My verdict?

I really love my Breville. It is fast, the resulting juice is a good consistency and the preparation and clean up is easy. On the other hand, I do love the pressing action of the Omega-3, and the higher volume and nutrient concentration of the juice produced. It also seems to be a hardier juicer than a centrifugal one. That being said, I will probably go for an Omega-3 juicer when my Breville decides to bite the dust (which is hopefully not anytime soon!)

The reality is that juicing is SO nutritious, I think either option can be a great choice!

Which brand is the best?

Now that juicing is becoming more popular, there seems to be a new brand pop up every week. From what I know and personal experience, the top brands are Omega-3, Breville and Jack LaLanne. Cuisnart or Hamilton Beach would probably get the job done too, they just might not have the quality or lifespan that the other brands do.

Where can I find good juice recipes?

I can NOT say enough good things about The Funky Fresh Juice Book by “The Juice Master” Jason Vale. I use it daily and have not made a bad recipe yet! There are also some tasty recipes on Joe Cross’ (from the movie Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead) website. I love his Mean Green

Hopefully this information helps you pick the right juicer for you!

 

UnDiet: Eat Your Way To Vibrant Health

“Today is the day. Let’s make it happen!”

This is the mantra of Toronto-area nutritionist (or “nutritionista” as she likes to call herself), Meghan Telpner. Meghan became interested in Nutrition after doctors diagnosed her with an “incurable autoimmune disease.” Unable to accept this diagnosis, she set out to prove them wrong. After “UnDieting” for one month, Meghan was happily and healthily 100% symptom-free, and continues to remains so. Having ignited the Nutrition fire, Meghan made the journey to become a Certified Nutritionist and today not only writes her popular blog, but also runs online culinary courses (which I am looking into!), just recently opened her Culinary Nutrition school, and has written the phenomenal book UnDiet.

UnDiet-by-Meghan-Telpner

I’ve been following Meghan’s blog for a few years now and love her feisty, but straight-forward approach to Nutrition. I received her book as a birthday present and was practically vibrating with excitement after finishing it. Why?

  1. UnDiet is full of SO much excellent information – information that anyone can understand.
  2. It makes me extremely happy that there are others out there who share the same views on Nutrition as me.
  3. It also makes me so so SO excited for what the future holds for me in this line of work!

So what’s UnDiet all about?

As mentioned above, Meghan believes in “UnDieting”, that is, avoiding all the public and media hogwash about diets and dieting, and instead simply just eating REAL food.

What is “real food”? Here’s a quick reminder!

  • Whole grains
  • Beans, peas and legumes
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Organic meat, poultry, eggs and fish
  • Unprocessed dairy (raw milk and its products)
  • Natural sweeteners
  • Extra virgin cold-pressed oils

In UnDiet, Meghan takes readers on a journey through the simple basics of Nutrition and why UnDieting works. Her quirkiness will make you laugh out loud as she delves into topics from meal planning, food prep, food storage and the importance of hydration, to battling cravings, manifesting a good poop, and “making love in the kitchen”! She also shares 40 delicious gluten-free recipes to help you on your way to UnDiet.

Although the book mainly focuses on food, Meghan also takes a peek into our cleaning cupboards and skin care. These two sections were equally as fascinating to me as the nutrition info and have really motivated me to do some clean up in these areas of my own life, especially with skin care. The skin is our body’s largest organ, and Meghan makes a good point by noting that if we don’t eat skin care products because they’re poisonous, why do we put them on our skin and let our body absorb them? Definitely some food for thought!

My favorite tidbits from the book:

  • “Wouldn’t you rather eat something that tastes healthy than something that tastes like it might cause you to have a quadruple bypass? Strangely, for most people, they’ll take the bypass. Play now, pay later.”   (This is horrifying, and NOT the way people should be thinking about things. We only have one life. We don’t want to cut it short to have to “pay later!”)
  • “The basic flaw in a calorie-counting diet and most conventional diet programs, is that they rarely consider the nutritional value of the calorie. Not all calories are equal.”    (See my post on calories for more on this!)
  • “In the spirit of celebration” indulgences should ideally be partaken in with the utmost selectivity.”    (Ties in well with my recent post about cheating on your diet!)
  • “Cellulite is a sign of built up toxins in fat cells.”    (…It appears I have some toxic fat cells. Yikes. Need to fix this!)
  • “As soon as a normal food becomes “diet”, “light”, or “free,” you know it has taken a trip to the chemistry lab.”    (Avoid these foods at all costs!)
  • “People will often reach for food and will acknowledge that it’s emotional eating, claiming it brings them comfort, but being overweight and sick never made anyone comfortable.”    (I have never thought about it like this before, but I like this approach!)
  • “Supplements are not meant to replace a good diet. They are intended to supplement proper eating by adding a little extra dose of nutrition when we need it.”    (I talked about this in a previous post on vitamin supplements!)
  • “We burn up to 50% more calories when the processing of our whole foods happens instead our body, compared to when eating already processed foods.”    (Just eat REAL food!)
  • “Our food system, as we know it, is becoming a worldwide threat to our health.”     (Considering we have to eat to survive, this is a terrifying thought. Something needs to be done!)
  • “The grand missing component of total health is our attitude. We can blame others all we want but ultimately our level of health and happiness is our own responsibility.”     (Love this!)
  • “Who wants to rely on any substance (e.g. coffee every morning) to be “fine”? By UnDieting, we want to do our best to not have to rely on any substance except maybe real food, water, sunshine and fresh air to function.”    (REALLY love this!)

What are your thoughts about the UnDiet?

Remember, “Today is the day! Make it happen”

Coconut Butter Fudge

Do you remember the time you found that new recipe that called for an ingredient you don’t typically keep in your house, so you went out and bought the ingredient but somehow ended up losing the recipe, leaving you stuck with this one ingredient you never use? If you cook/bake, this has might have happened to you before, and that is what led me to this recipe.

Awhile ago we acquired two jars of coconut butter, but have since lost the recipe that we got them for. I’ve been on a baking binge lately and my Mom said if I wanted to make something, I had to find something that used coconut butter so it can stop collecting dust on the shelf!

So I did.

IMG_7530

:D

This my friends, is coconut butter fudge. It is also probably the most incredible fudge you will ever eat. It is heavenly. I’ve had several people tell me they could eat the entire pan, and others who I didn’t expect to like it, love it! Even someone who doesn’t like coconut liked the fudge! Better yet, the recipe is so ridiculously simple, you won’t believe it!

Chocolate Coconut Butter Fudge

  • 1/2 cup coconut butter (a.k.a coconut spread)
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extra
  • 2 tsp. peppermint extract (optional)
  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)
  1. In a food processer, combine coconut butter, coconut oil, cocoa powder, honey, peppermint and vanilla until well-combined. Add shredded coconut and pulse until just combined.
  2. Spread mixture into an 8×8 square glass pan and smooth the top evenly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (*Don’t worry if the mixture is super runny when you pour it into the pan, it will harden!)
  3. Remove pan from fridge and cut fudge into squares. (*If the fudge is too hard to cut, let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes and try again.) Loosen squares with a small spatula or fork, transfer to container and store in the refrigerator.

Coconut Citrus Fudge

  • 1 cup coconut butter (a.k.a coconut spread)
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp. your choice of citrus zest (I mixed lemon and lime together – YUM)
  • 2 Tbsp. your choice of citrus juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)
  1. In a food processor, combine coconut butter, coconut oil, honey, zest and juice. Process until well-combined. Add shredded coconut if using and pulse until just combined.
  2. Spread mixture into an 8×8” square glass pan and smooth the top evenly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (*Don’t worry if the mixture is super runny when you pour it into the pan, it will harden!)
  3. Remove pan from fridge and cut fudge into squares. (*If the fudge is too hard to cut, let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes and try again.) Loosen squares with a small spatula or fork, transfer to container and store in the refrigerator.

*Kendahl from Our Nourishing Roots recommends removing from the fridge and letting the chill come off for about 20 minutes before serving. However, I served (and ate!) mine directly from the fridge. No doubt it would be a little creamier and softer if it sat out for a few minutes first but we’ve had a few hot days here so I didn’t want it to melt! I guess it just depends on the situation. 

Now that I’ve used up all our coconut butter (like she asked), my Mom says we need to buy more for some reason…

Do you ever buy new ingredients just to make a certain recipe?

Greek Yogurt

I have never been a fan of trends or fads. Most of the time people join in because everybody else is and actually have no idea why that thing is “in.” One of these such trends is Greek yogurt. I’ve heard people justify buying it because it is “healthier” but they don’t seem to know what makes it healthier, alas it is in almost everyone’s shopping cart at the grocery store! Do you know why Greek yogurt is suddenly all the rage, or is it all just Greek to you?

Greek yogurt.jpg

First of all, what is Greek yogurt?

Surprise! Both Greek yogurt and regular yogurt hail from a combination of milk and bacterial cultures. The bacteria ferment the lactose (milk sugar) to produce lactic acid. After fermentation, the liquid whey is then strained off the solid yogurt, to create the creamy yogurt consistency we love.

So how does Greek yogurt come about? Greek yogurt is actually just regular yogurt that has been strained an additional time or two more than regular yogurt. This is why Greek yogurt has a much thicker, creamier consistency, and why regular yogurt often has some liquid in the container when you buy it.

Nutrition wise, how does Greek yogurt compare to regular yogurt?

After comparing a regular vanilla Danone Creamy yogurt, with a vanilla Danone Oikos yogurt (the Greek line from Danone), here is how Greek yogurt stacks up:

  • Almost equal calories
  • Less fat
  • Less sodium
  • Less carbs
  • Lower in calcium
  • Slightly less sugar
  • Higher protein

*The whey that is strained out contains much of the sodium, carbs and calcium found in yogurt, which is why Greek yogurts tend to be lower in these areas compared to regular yogurt.

So is Greek yogurt healthier then?

The only real significant difference is that Greek yogurt is higher in protein, about 2-3 times the protein of regular yogurt. Protein helps us feel full after eating and gives us energy, so if we are going to enjoy a dairy treat such as a fruit yogurt, we might as well make it as nutritional as possible and choose Greek yogurt!

That being said, the catch with any yogurt is that there are many different flavors, which means there are plenty of opportunities for added sugar and fat to sneak in. Thus, it is best to stick to plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself with some fresh fruit, granola or a drizzle of honey. It is also wise to choose the low-fat and no added sugar or low-sugar options.

Plain yogurt can also be a great replacement for fattier things when cooking, like sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese or butter. Use it in place of eggs in baked goods, mix it with spice to make a creamy vegetable dip, or use it to make the dressing in your favorite cold salads!

Beware impostor Greek yogurt!

In my research for this post I came across this article from the Globe and Mail, that talked about impostor Greek yogurt. That is, companies selling “Greek yogurt” that is not actually true Greek yogurt. Instead of straining the yogurt after fermentation, companies may add protein powder, milk protein concentrate or filter the milk before fermentation to make the yogurt resemble Greek yogurt. (The article names Liberte and Yoplait as two of the companies guilty of this, and notes that Chobani strains its Greek yogurt properly and uses all natural ingredients. No mention of other Greek yogurt brands).

A plug for Greek yogurt

A few weeks ago my Mom bought some Greek yogurt for us to try (coconut flavor), so we could see what all the Greek yogurt fuss was about. Being a Nutrition student, I of course had to try some! HOLY MACARONI it was amazing! It was SO thick and creamy, and the coconut flavor was incredible. It immediately swept me away to a sandy beach with an ice cold pina colada in my hand. Heavenly!

*Please note this is the only brand and flavor of coconut yogurt I have tried, so I am of course, completely biased with this opinion. 

Have you tried Greek yogurt? Do you like it better than regular yogurt?

References:

Flourless Chocolate Date Cake with Raspberry Coulis

It is tradition in my house that on your birthday, you get to pick what you would like for your birthday dinner. My only request this year was no cake. Crazy right? Well, maybe not so crazy for someone who is gluten-free! Ever since going gluten-free I’ve cheated and had regular, gluten-filled cake on my birthday but this year I wanted to change that.

I wasn’t sure what to expect for dessert but my Mom surprised me with this delicious gluten-free cake!

We’ve never made a gluten-free cake before so I knew it was a new recipe and tried to guess the ingredients, but I just could’t put my finger on it. I was shocked to find out that it was made from dates! Because they are a dried fruit, dates are very sweet – so sweet that there is actually no sugar at all in this recipe! The almond flour and dates made the cake very filling, so only small pieces were needed, which was okay because it made it last longer!

IMG_70252.jpg

Flourless Chocolate Date Cake with Raspberry Coulis

  • 1 cup (250mL) pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) brewed coffee, hot
  • 1 & 1/2 cups (350mL) almond flour
  • 1 tsp. (5mL) cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. (2mL) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. (1mL) salt
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup (80mL) melted coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. (10mL) vanilla extract or chocolate extract
  • 1 cup (250mL) fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries
  • 2 tsp. (10mL) honey
  • 2 tsp. (10mL) lemon juice

Soak pitted dates in one cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Blend dates and soaking water in a blender until smooth. Place cocoa powder and hot coffee in a large heatproof bowl, stir to combine, and set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line bottom of 9″ (23cm) springform pan or round cake pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the sides.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the date paste, egg yolks, oil and extract into the cocoa-coffee mixture. Add cocoa mixture to almond flour mixture and stir gently until combined.

Using an electric mixer or whisk, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter and then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 33 minutes or until the sides are set and the centre looks slightly damp. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before cutting.

To make the coulis, combine raspberries, honey, lemon juice and 2 Tbsp. of water in a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing with a spoon or spatula to remove the seeds.

Serve slices of cake drizzled with coulis (and maybe whipped cream!)

*Note: My Mom doubled the recipe and made a layered cake with raspberry jam in the middle. Double yum! 

Thank you to my Mommy for making the most delicious gluten-free birthday cake! <3

 

Cheating On Your Diet

During the school year, I had the opportunity to speak with a community member who had been eating gluten-free for just over a year. As we talked, she confessed that she found it a daily challenge to not “cheat” and eat gluten. After we met, I did a lot of thinking about our conversation and realized that I have that same daily struggle.

cheat-meal-tips2

On my “About Me” page it says that I have been eating gluten-free for four years. It really should say “on and off for four years” because I still occasionally consume glutinous things. Last summer, I “cheated” all summer long. I ate all kinds of sugar, bread and dairy, especially in the last two weeks. There was birthday cake, goodbye donuts, goodbye cake, social snacks and I ate it ALL. Should I have eaten any of it? Nope. I knew how my body reacted to gluten, dairy and sugar but I ate it anyways. Why? Because it tasted SO DARN GOOD. Was the taste of an entire summer’s cheating worth it for the seven pounds I gained and the two week’s recovery from freaking out innards? Absolutely NOT.

As I write this, I am currently recovering from yet another round of cheating. In the past two weeks I have had birthday cake, hot cross buns, pizza, eggs benedict on an English muffin and probably one or two other things I can’t think of at the moment. Why did I eat all of that? Taste, taste, TASTE! Bready things are just far too tasty to eat gluten-free. It is SO hard to resist!!! BUT…the way they make me feel afterwards is absolutely a good reason to eat gluten-free. I think sometimes my body just needs to be reminded of why I choose to give up scrumptious things like pizza and cake. It is just not worth it for the way I feel after. (That was a very hard sentence to write!!)

There are people who will say “you only live once” so eat whatever you want, or others who say, “we are only human”, meaning it is in our nature to want to eat these things. It is in our nature to want to eat these things. We can eat these things. We can absolutely eat whatever we want…WITH repercussions.

The key to “beating the cheating” is honesty…honesty with yourself. Remember why you chose to avoid that food in the first place. Trying to convince yourself that “just one won’t hurt” is not the way to go. You can stuff your face with chocolates behind your family’s back all you want, but you aren’t hiding anything from your body. You live in your body. It is always there, and it knows what you put into it. You can tell yourself that you can cheat on it all you want, but the reality is, you can’t.

Try and recognize them as CHOICES and not CHEATS. Choose whether to eat that pizza or not. Choose to say no to that slice of boxed cheesecake at your work Christmas party. Feeling great at the end of the day instead of sick will make you feel good about your choice.

Now, it is in our human nature to crave things like chips, chocolate and ice cream. It happens to all of us. Try and replace these “cheats” with healthier options:

  • If you’re craving crunchy things like chips, try an apple, raw veggies, unsalted popcorn or nuts instead.
  • If you’re craving sweet things, reach for some fresh fruit (slice a banana up, sprinkle with honey and cinnamon!), a Black Bean Brownie, a bowl of Avocado Chocolate Pudding or a Pumpkin Goody Two-Chew Bite!
  • If you’re craving salt, pop open a bag of 100-calorie popcorn, dip an apple in some peanut butter, or enjoy a handful of nuts and seeds.

Or if you really feel the need to “cheat” with a treat, cheat with something that is actually worth it!

Things that ARE worth cheating for:

So what is NOT worth cheating for?

  • Store-bought baked goods (nothing ever compares to homemade!)
  • Candy (try Nature’s Skittles instead!)
  • A bowl of wheat and sodium-filled party mix at a social gathering
  • Pre-packaged desserts you know are just mediocre
  • That boxed pizza I ate
  • Anything you eat just to feel included (i.e. dessert at a restaurant because all your friends are getting dessert)
  • Anything that I do not make myself!

Do you ever feel tempted to “cheat” on your diet?