Immunity Vegetarian Harira Soup

Didn’t get your flu shot this year? Don’t worry! What if I told you that you could protect yourself against the flu and other illnesses with the food you eat? Yes, you read that right…with FOOD!

Did you know that 70% of our immune system is in our gut (intestines) [1]? Crazy right?!! As part of our gastrointestinal system, our gut is strongly affected by the food that passes through it. That is why the foods we eat can have such a strong impact on our health. I love the saying:


In order to build our immunity and keep our bodies strong and healthy, we want to feed our gut powerful foods that help our body, not hinder it. As part of the Culinary Nutrition Expert program I have been taking this fall, we had to develop a recipe for a chosen health condition. I decided to focus on tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a small, slow-growing bacterium that can only survive in humans [2]. As the tuberculosis bacterium needs oxygen to survive, it is primarily found in the lungs of an infected individual [3], but can also affect other parts of the body including the kidneys, spine and brain [2]. Several complications of TB may develop including spinal pain, joint damage, liver problems and sometimes even heart disorders [4]. The primary treatment for TB is antibiotics, and the only major diet restriction noted in TB treatment is the avoidance of alcohol to reduce stress on the liver [4]. However, extra stress on the liver through poor diet choices should also be avoided, as well as extra support provided to the immune system to help fight off the TB infection. Inflammatory foods including gluten, sugar, saturated and trans fats and processed foods should be avoided. Healing nutrients for TB include zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, iron and antioxidants.

For my recipe development assignment, I chose to incorporate as many of these healing nutrients as possible into a hearty, healthy, healing immune-boosting soup. I chose a soup because like smoothies, soups are a great way to pack in all kinds of nutrients, which is exactly what I did with this specific recipe. There is also nothing like a warm, comforting bowl of soup during times of illness. Check out all the healing ingredients!

  • Sweet potato and carrots
    • Vitamin A for strong and healthy mucus membranes including the respiratory tract
    • Vitamin C helps boost immunity; we burn through vitamin C when ill, which is why it is often the main vitamin recommended when you find yourself coming down with something
  • Garlic and onion
    • Contain phytonutrients and flavonoids, which both have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Shiitake mushrooms
    • High in vitamins and minerals including zinc, which is the #1 mineral for immune system health
    • Vitamin B6 to support nerve health, which may be harmed as a side effect to typical TB antibiotics
    • High in iron, which is needed to circulate oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body
  • Tomatoes
    • High in vitamin C
  • Turmeric
    • Contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory
  • Lentils
    • High source of protein, which helps build body’s tissues
    • High in zinc

I’d say this soup packs quite the nutritional punch!

Immunity Vegetarian Harira Soup

  • ½ cup red lentils, soaked overnight
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded and roasted
  • 1 tsp. + 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed
  • 1 Tbsp. each of turmeric, cumin and chili powder
  • 1 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
  1. In a bowl, cover lentils with water and let soak overnight
  2. Preheat oven to 450F. Slice red pepper in half and remove the seeds and stem. Drizzle lightly with 1 tsp. of olive oil and place on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for ~30 minutes, or until skin starts to blacken. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes until cool to the touch. Remove the skin.
  3. While pepper is roasting, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery. Cook for ~5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
  4. Add diced carrot and sweet potato plus 4 cups of water. Let simmer for ~10 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, spices and soaked lentils and let simmer for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add soup to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. (*More water may be needed to help the mixture blend. Add accordingly)

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: ~1 hour total

Serves: ~8 cups



[1] Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Cara, G., & Frati, F. (2008, September 1). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Retrieved December 11, 2015, from

[2] Health Canada. Tuberculosis. (2014, December 18). Health Canada. Retrieved October 21, 2015.

[3] National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases. “Tuberculosis (TB) Cause.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 5 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.

[4] World Health Organization (2014, July 18). “WHO Guideline: Nutritional Care and Support for Patients with TB.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.


Stress. What do people mean when they say “I am stressed?” What even is stress? To me I’ve always felt that stress is the pressure you feel when you have too much work to do in too little time.

The dictionary defines stress in three different ways:

  1. Importance attached to a thing
  2. A force producing a strain
  3. A specific response by the body to a stimulus

I am currently enrolled at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition where I am working towards a Registered Holistic Nutritionist designation, and in our very first class we talked about stress. Turns out that we can certainly experience mental stress such as work overload, but there are also other types of stress we experience daily without even knowing it!


1. Mental/Emotional

Types of mental stress can definitely include things like brain overload from studying for an exam, or trying to meet a work deadline. However, mental stress can also tie in with emotional stress, say if you are in a relationship and things aren’t as happy as they should be, or if you are holding on to anger or hurt from a past event. Even road rage can be considered a type of emotional stress! All of these types of negative feelings cause stress on our body.

Reducing Mental/Emotional Stress:

  • Focus on the POSITIVE. If you find yourself being negative in any way, question why, ask yourself if it is really worth the stress, and try and turn it around into something positive.
  • If something isn’t making you happy in life, change it!

Finding ourselves a few minutes every day where we can let go of the day’s stresses and move on to a better, more positive tomorrow can do wonders for our mental and emotional stress.

2. Environmental/Nutritional

Unfortunately, environmental stress is largely out of our control. It can also present itself in many different forms. There are cataclysmic events, such as floods, fire, or earthquakes. There are major life changes that impact our environment, such as having a baby, getting divorced, starting university or losing a job. Then there are environmental stressors we experience daily, such as working our noisy factory job, a tense environment between coworkers or enduring congested rush hour traffic on the way home. Finally, there are ambient environmental stressors, which are the things we can’t see but know are there, such as air pollution.

Reducing environmental stress:

  • Be wary of your footprint on the Earth (e.g. reduce, reuse, recycle, don’t litter, conserve water, etc.)
  • Be wary of where you live (i.e. away from power lines and industrial plants, in the city vs. the country, etc.)
  • Be conscious of the environment(s) in which you spend your time (e.g. working in a noisy, dusty factory, working a high-stress office job for a high-end corporation, spending time around cigarette smokers, etc.)

Have you ever considered the food you eat to be a stressor? Neither have I, but thinking about it now, it makes so much sense! For example, a Big Mac and fries are high in fat and sodium, which can negatively affect our arteries. Consistent stress like this over time can lead to reduced blood flow and ultimately things like heart disease! For my body, gluten and dairy are stressors. So the two banana splits and cake I chose to indulge in this summer? They stressed my body out by causing it to work extra hard to get rid of the “toxins” I ingested. Crazy train of thought right?! So now that we know the wrong types of food can be stressful to our body, why do we choose to eat the unhealthy things we do?? Hmm….

Reducing nutritional stress:

  • Avoid unhealthy foods! (high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar, deep-fried, alcohol, soda, etc.)

3. Structural/Physical

I think the most common example of physical stress is that of sitting in an office chair all day at work. The body wasn’t made to sit all day; especially not slouched over a desk and/or computer. Things like carrying a purse on your shoulder or a child on your hip are also considered physical stress. The weight of the child and purse pull the body to one side, which causes an imbalance of the body’s physical position, straining our muscles. The heavy bag of groceries I carried on my bag last week was a definite form of stress to my body. Even getting fewer hours sleep than recommended is considered physical stress!

Exercise is also considered physical stress on the body, but is a good form of stress.

Reducing physical stress:

  • Sleep at least 7-8 hours every night for optimal functioning
  • Avoid carrying heavy loads
  • Alternate arms/shoulders/hips when repeatedly carrying things, like children or purses
  • Practice good posture at all times
  • Regular exercise helps to maintain weight, combat disease and provides the body with energy. Exercise can also help reduce other forms of stress, like emotional and mental stress. Win-win-win!

4. Electromagnetic 

This is probably one of the biggest stressors we face in our society today, and goes hand-in-hand with environmental stress. Electromagnetic stress refers to all the electronic particles that are buzzing around in the air from satellites, keeping us constantly connected to things like phones, internet and TV all at the push of a button. Cellphones are by far the worst, with the majority of the population connected to their phone 24/7. Most keep it on their person at all times, many even at night when they are sleeping. Think about all the electromagnetic stress that is causing on our bodies – yikes!

Reducing electromagnetic stress:

  • Unplug your wireless internet when you’re not using it. It doesn’t need to constantly be sending particles into the air to interfere with our body’s well-being.
  • Turn off your phone at night. You’re sleeping, you don’t need it! If you use it as an alarm, fork over a couple bucks for an alarm clock. If you can afford a cellphone, you can afford a clock. (Except on exam days…then set every single alarm you own so you don’t sleep in!) If you absolutely need to keep your phone on at night, simply turn the sound to “silent,” so you don’t hear every single notification that comes in. If you have an iPhone, Apple so conveniently created the “Do Not Disturb” setting so you can still set things like your alarm, but not be bothered by a new text message or phone call from just anyone while you’re sleeping. Not only does this behaviour cause electromagnetic stress, it also causes physical stress by interrupting our sleep every time we get a notification!
  • Disconnect yourself from technology whenever possible. It is not contributing positively to your health. Get out and live life in person, not through a camera, phone or TV screen!


WOW! Are you stressed about being stressed now? I have always considered myself a fairly low-stress person, but based on the above list, I am actually really stressed!

Unfortunately, every single one of us experiences each of these forms of stress daily. This overload of stress is called the “rain barrel” effect. Each additional stress we experience gets added into our barrel until eventually, it overflows. It is at this point that our body is stressed to the max, leaving it vulnerable to things like illness or chronic disease. By reducing our stress, we can empty our rain barrels so to speak, and improve our health, happiness and quality of life.

I’ve always considered the main things that determine our health to be diet and exercise, but now I know that there are other important considerations too, like stress.


Based on the types of stress listed above, are you stressed?

Food Sensitivity Test: Retake

Five years ago I had a Food Sensitivity Test done just out of curiosity. Based on the results I made several changes to my diet, with the major change being the elimination of gluten and dairy. Since then I have experienced several  positive health changes. Today, five years later, I still maintain a gluten and dairy-free diet and still feel wonderful…for the most part. I do feel great, but not 100% as well as I could, I think.

Having just completed my nutrition degree and being on the verge of embarking on my professional career, I decided to have my food sensitivity test redone to see if there have been any changes that may be contributing to this incomplete feeling of wonderful. Comparing the two tests was very interesting and gave me the answer I needed!

In each pair of pictures below, the coloured results are from my test five years ago and the black and white results are from my recent test.


Fruit compare

No significant changes in the fruit department. Cranberries still don’t agree with me, which is fine because I don’t really agree with them either!


veggies compare

Mushrooms are similar to the cranberry situation above. I’m not the hugest fan of them and vice versa apparently. No loss there! It seems they have also cut out and/or replaced a few foods on their test in the last five years as asparagus wasn’t on the most recent test. It is actually one of my top 5 most disliked foods, so I’m not too concerned!


meat compare

The disappearance of my sensitivity to eggs is interesting because I definitely eat more eggs now than I did five years ago when I had a sensitivity to them. Hmmm…


Fish compare

Nothing of concern here. It is still a little ironic to me that my taste buds dislike fish products so much, yet my body seems to love them. Murphy’s law I suppose!


miscellaneous compare

My sensitivity to sugar is a little lower than five years ago, but it is still there, which means that I should continue to avoid sugar and try harder at avoiding it. Chocolate is just so good though!!


nuts grains compare

This section was the one I was most interested in because it contains gluten, which is one of the two main diet changes I made after my initial test five years ago. When I first read the current test results and saw the low reactivity to wheat and gluten I thought “how could this be?? When I eat glutenous things now I KNOW I react to them because I feel so terrible after eating them.” Then I thought back to the section on immunology from my microbiology class where we learned about immune responses and I realized that my body wasn’t reacting to it because this time it wasn’t in my system for it to react to! This confirmed to me that gluten is in fact bad for my body personally, and that I should continue to avoid it.

That being said, I then began to wonder if some of the other foods showed no reaction because they also weren’t in my system, especially in the fish section because I hardly eat any fish. After reading back over my results I decided it wasn’t anything to be too concerned about because I never eat things like coffee or sesame seeds and I showed a reaction to them. I might have a slight sensitivity to some foods I never eat, but there is obviously a reason I never eat them, so I don’t think there is anything to be too worried about.


Dairy compare

The dairy section provided a very clear answer to my question about not feeling 100%. When I say I have been eating gluten and dairy-free for the last five years, I should really add “for the most part” at the end of that sentence. I avoid gluten 99% of the time, but still indulge in dairy fairly regularly. These test results confirm that I should be avoiding dairy 99-100% of the time as well.


Overall, I am very happy that I redid my food sensitivity test because it confirmed to me that I am on the right track to feeling 100%, but to get there I need to be more adamant about avoiding dairy and sugar. I also like the confirmation that dairy and gluten really are not right for my body. A little proof for all the naysayers out there 😉


Storing Kale

Leafy greens are a wonderful addition to any meal, but they often don’t last long in the fridge before going wilty and/or bad. My family is so excited to have found what we think is the most optimal way to store our kale!

We have these Tupperware containers that are made to store celery but we have found them to be perfect for kale too!


First, cut the kale leaves off of their stems. Watch out for bugs and leafy green worms; you wouldn’t want to accidentally eat one of these guys!


Once all the leaves are ready, put a little water in the container under the tray, then add the kale leaves, put a lid on it and store the container in the fridge.

*It is important that you DON’T wash the kale until you are ready to use it. If you wash it before storing, then it will wilt and go bad much faster. The little bit of water in the bottom of the container provides enough hydration for the leaves while they are stored.


When stored this way, we have found the kale can last for up to a month. Yes, a MONTH, compared to just a few days when you leave it in its bunch in the fridge. Wow!

Don’t worry, any other Tupperware container works fine too! However, something like the celery one is more optimal because the tray in the bottom prevents the water from actually touching the leaves, which keeps them for longer.


When it does come time to use your kale, be sure to give it a good wash in a sink of water, or with a salad spinner.

How do you store your kale?

Try this amazing Kale Caesar Salad

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Real Fruit Juice vs. Store-Bought Fruit Juice

As I continue on my Nutrition journey, I sometimes catch myself reminiscing about times before I started studying Nutrition and what I thought about food and Nutrition then. One such example is in regards to juice. I always thought store-bought fruit juice was real juice; where people in factories put fruit into a big machine and out came the juice straight into the bottle I bought at the store. I had a big glass of orange juice every single morning for breakfast, and felt lost without it. As much as I loved my daily OJ, there was always something about it that was a little off to me. It had this weird, bitter aftertaste, nothing like you would expect a fruit juice to be, given that fruit is sweet.

The juice I drank was from concentrate, and even though it is still fairly pure, it is still not “real” juice. Yes, it may be 100% fruit juice, but it has still gone through some form of processing to extract the water, as well as to make it suitable for long-term storage before consumption.

Ever since I started juicing, this concept has really hit me and I thought it would be interesting to directly compare real fruit juice and store-bought fruit juice. Normally I juice these fruits in amongst other fruits and veggies, so it was just as interesting for me to see what they look like juiced alone!

Can you tell which glass contains store-bought juice and which glass contains fresh fruit juice I juiced myself?

Orange Juice


You guessed it – the left glass is the fresh OJ!

Of the three types of juice I compared, the two forms of orange juice were the most similar visually. It is really interesting to me that the fresh juice looks so pulpy, because it isn’t pulpy in texture at all!

Now taste-wise, there is a huge difference. My once beloved store-bought OJ doesn’t even really taste like OJ at all to me anymore, compared to the sweet, fresh, pure taste of the orange I juiced myself. In fact, I found myself in a bit of a dilemma having that weird tasting store-bought OJ. I didn’t know what to do with it! Five years ago I would have guzzled it down with no hesitations! Crazy how our taste preferences change when exposed to REAL food, isn’t it?!!

Apple Juice 


Wow! What a difference!

Similar to the fresh OJ, the fresh apple juice looks pulpy, but doesn’t have a pulpy texture at all. I can see how it might not be as visually appealing as the store-bought juice, which I find amusing because the fresh apple juice looks like the apple cider you would buy in the store, which people seem to have no trouble buying. So why is it not okay to buy regular apple juice that looks like that then? Weird.

Similar to the OJ again, there was a huge difference in taste between the fresh and store-bought juice. I have never been a fan of apple juice to begin with, but sipping between the two I found the store-bought apple juice to be overwhelming and unnaturally sweet. I actually found this with all the store-bought juices. It was strange.

Grape Juice


There was also a huge taste difference between the fresh and store-bought grape juice. I sipped the store-bought grape juice and thought “yup that’s what grape juice tastes like.” Then I sipped the fresh grape juice and it didn’t taste like the store-bought at all! So I guess it’s really the store-bought grape juice that doesn’t taste like grape juice!


The above picture shows what the fresh grape juice looks like once it sits for a few minutes and separates (the same separation occurs with fresh apple juice, I just didn’t let it sit long enough to separate). Surprise – fresh grape juice isn’t purple!! Although to be fair I used red grapes because I couldn’t find any black grapes. However, I still think fresh juice made from black grapes would be more red than purple. I also find it interesting that when the fresh juice separates it is transparent, while the store-bought juice isn’t. That isn’t natural!

Are you a store-bought juice drinker? Seeing these pictures, how do you feel about fruit juice now?

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Roasted Chickpeas

I brought a delicious chickpea salad for lunch one day and the two girls who sat behind me in class were completely flabbergasted that I was eating chickpeas raw. I admit I thought they were off their rockers a little, because I’ve only ever eaten chickpeas raw or in chili and thought that was the only way you eat chickpeas. Then they said they’ve only ever eaten chickpeas roasted and thought that was the only way to eat chickpeas. Ha! I guess we were both wrong!

I had never roasted chickpeas before so I was anxious to try them, and let me tell you, I quickly found out why people rave about them – they are dangerously delicious! I could seriously eat them like candy. One day I ate so many for lunch that I skipped dinner because I was so full! They’re also extremely versatile. You can put them on a salad, mix them with some rice and other veggies or even just eat them by themselves!


Roasted Chickpeas

Preheat oven to 350F. Drain a 14-oz. can of chickpeas and rinse thoroughly. Lay chickpeas out on a baking sheet lined with paper towel and pat dry with another paper towel. Remove the paper towels and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly. Roast for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Season according to personal preference (I really like a little garlic powder and parmesan cheese. Mmmmmm!)

My favourite way to eat roasted chickpeas is with other veggies in a concoction like this:


Today’s mixture includes cucumber, avocado, tomato, roasted chickpeas and Basil Parmesan salad dressing. I have also added in celery, bell peppers, rice and/or quinoa before. Delicious every time! 

How do you eat chickpeas?

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My Top 5 Food Dislikes

While I am far from a picky eater, there are a few foods that absolutely make my stomach churn.


One night at work, the vegetables served at dinner were beets and asparagus. I thought to myself “well, if this was me, I would only be eating meat tonight” because I hate both of those vegetables. It really got the wheels turning as to what other foods I don’t like, and thus this blog post was born!

Let the countdown begin!

#5 – Asparagus / Organ meats (it’s a tie!) 


When I was younger my Mom tried to pass off asparagus as beans. It worked for a while but I eventually caught on! It has such a weird flavour to me, and is so darn chewy and stringy.

I also do not enjoy organ meats. They are not staples in my family’s diet, but my parents do enjoy liver on rare occasions and I have tried a bite before. Not only does it smell like mouldy socks when cooking, but the texture….*shudders*. Embarrassingly enough, I found out just a few years ago that my Mom cooks up the neck and heart from our Thanksgiving turkey and adds it to her homemade turkey soup. I always wondered why there were funny tasting bits of “turkey” in there! Moms are so sneaky!!! I can’t say that I will be doing the same with my future turkeys!

#4 – Seafood


Seafood is a huge no-go, except for tuna, salmon and imitation crab (does this mean I’d like real crab?) Even then I have to be in the right mood to have any of those, and those moments are rare. Seafood is just not my favourite. It is so……fishy. Yuck.

#3 – Olives


It is SO weird to me how people can eat olives straight, like grapes. I have never been able to get into their flavour.

#2 – Spicy Food / Curry



Spicy food is completely out of the question. I enjoy food with spices for flavour (except curry – horrible horrible stuff), but I do not enjoy spices for hotness. They do not feel right in my stomach, nor do I enjoy breathing fire after meals. Recently my Mom wanted to try some jalapeños in her homemade spaghetti sauce and it was awful (Sorry Mom). I think that meal sat in my throat for a full 24 hours after eating it. Spicy and me are not meant to be!

#1 – Beets


Without question, the number one spot is reserved for beets. They taste like complete and utter dirt to me…literally. When I was younger, the rule in my house was “clear your plate before you leave the table” but let me tell you, no amount of butter or ketchup could make me eat those beets any faster, or disguise their dirt flavour. It was always a struggle to choke them down so I could leave the dinner table. They are the worst!

Surprised that brussels sprouts aren’t on the list? Me too! I had actually never had them before until a few years ago when my Aunt made this brussels sprouts/apple/almond dish for Christmas. Surprisingly, the brussels sprouts tasted okay! That being said, I haven’t had them since, or had them in any other form, so my evaluation might be a little skewed, but cooked right they seem okay. They’re definitely not my first choice for a vegetable though.

What’s on your top five food dislike list? Would you like to see a “favourites” list?

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