Friday, 5 December 2008

Do you have diabetes and not know it?

Did you know that being over the age of 40 alone puts you at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes? Everybody over that age should get their blood sugar checked at least every three years.

More than 2 million Canadians and 23.6 million Americans have diabetes but at least a quarter of them don't know it!

Most people diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes.

If you're over the age of 40 and have any of the following risk factors, you're at a higher risk of developing diabetes and should have your blood sugar checked earlier and more often:

Overweight or obese,
Have a family history of diabetes,
Are a member of any of the following high-risk ethnic groups: African, Hispanic, Native American/Aboriginal, Asian American and South Asian, Pacific Islander,
Have high blood pressure or high cholesterol,
Had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant,
Gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9lbs (4kg),
Been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, acanthosins nigricans or scizophrenia.

Click here to determine your risk for having diabetes.

Symptoms of diabetes include:

Being very thristy,
Having to urinate frequently,
Weight change,
Low energy and fatigue,
Blurred vision,
Recurring infections,
Cuts that take time healing,
Tingling or numb hands and feet,
Trouble getting or maintaining an erection.

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
If diabetes goes undiagnosed and untreated, you have a high risk of having a stroke or heart attack, of organ and nerve damage, of having eye problems than can lead to blindness, gum and mouth disease and skin disorders.

The good news is that all these complications can be avoided with early detection and treatment.

Visit the CDA and the ADA websites for more information and talk to your doctor to schedule your next blood test!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Foods That Fight Cancer- Part 2

Cancer Fighting menu:

Include cruciferous vegetables (of the cabbage family), particularly broccoli and brussel sprouts, and foods from the allium family, namely garlic and onions, in your daily diet. These foods contain anti-cancer phytochemicals that prevent carcinogenic substances, like nitrites found in cured meat, from damaging cells and that attack and kill damaged cancerous cells.

Eat at least ½ cup broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and/or brussel sprouts (cruciferous vegetables) a day, at least 3 days a week.

This has been associated with reducing risk of bladder, lung, breast, prostate and gastrointestinal (including stomach and esophageal) cancer.

Studies have shown that eating 1/2 cup of these veggies daily is associated with reducing bladder cancer by half compared to people that ate one or less serving of these veggies a week. Another study found that 2 daily servings of cruciferous vegetables was associated with 40% reduced risk of breast cancer and yet another has shown that 3 weekly servings reduced the risk of prostate cancer.

Of all edible plants, cruciferous veggies, and specifically broccoli and brussel sprouts, have the most anti-cancer phytochemicals, but cooking them reduces the amount. Avoid boiling these vegetables- instead, steam for as little time as possible, stir fry them or eat them raw, when possible. Moreover, they have to be well chewed to release the phytochemicals.

Eat 2 cloves of garlic and ½ cup onions and/or shallots most days.

Foods from the allium family- garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and chives- may play an important role in preventing esophageal, stomach and colon cancer. Other studies have also shown a link between these foods and a reduced risk of prostate and breast cancer. Of these foods, garlic has been the most researched and we know it contains at least 20 anti-cancer compounds, making it a very effective anti-cancer agent. These same compounds are not all found in garlic supplements, therefore fresh garlic is preferred. The phytochemicals in these vegetables are released when they’re crushed, chopped or chewed.

Rest of the menu to follow... stay tuned!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Foods That Fight Cancer- Part 1

Are you afraid of getting hit by lightning? Getting attacked by a shark? Of flying? Many people are.

However, maybe this will put things into perspective:

1 person in 280 000 000 will die in a shark attack.

1 person in 3 000 000 will die in a plane crash

1 person in 350 000 will get hit by lighting

1 person in 7000 will die in a car crash

1 person in 3 will get cancer.

Cancer is a real threat.

In North American right now, 1 in 3 of us will get cancer before the age of 75 and 1 in 4 will die from complications related to cancer. Currently, 10 million North Americans are living with cancer and 600 000 of them will die this year.

This is how the book I’m reading, Foods that Fight Cancer, begins... quite the reality check. The authors point out that most of us attribute cancer to genetics (actually only the cause of 15% of cancer cases), pollution (really only the cause of 2% of all cases) and UV-ray exposure (only 2% of all cases).

In fact, 70% of cancers are related to modifiable lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity, and diet. Diet itself is responsible for 30% of all cancers. Actually, 90% of cancers affecting the gastrointestinal system (esophagus, stomach, colon) are diet-related.

For example, people that eat the least amount of fruits and vegetables are about 2 times more likely to develop certain kinds of cancers than those that eat more.

Obesity is responsible for 35% of deaths linked to colon cancer in men and 60% of deaths caused by endometrial cancer in women.

The authors plead with the readers to stop thinking of food as only fuel but to adopt a more Eastern mentality and think of it as disease prevention.

What will follow over the next few days is what the authors of this beautifully designed and informative book, Drs Richard Béliveau and Denis Gingras, list as key foods for cancer prevention. They remind the reader that no one food can cure or prevent cancer, but as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, can make the difference between a diagnosis of cancer or a clean bill of health.

While the vitamins, minerals and fibres in fruits and vegetables have been credited in the past for their ability to prevent chronic diseases like cancer, we now know that this benefit is due to their phytochemical content. Phytochemicals are compounds that allow plants to protect themselves from predators and allow them to survive in challenging environments. These phytochemicals do the same for us- they are our defense against cancer-causing agents.

Stay tuned to learn what foods have the most phytochemicals and can help you fight cancer.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Healthiest (and unhealthiest) US city

According to 2006 data from the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), the healthiest city in the States is Burlington, Vermont. The unhealthiest city: Huntington, West Virginia.

The data corroborates what we’ve already known- that age, income and educational status affect health. Although both are small college towns, Burlington residents are younger (average age 37 versus 40), richer (8% living at the poverty level versus 19%) and more educated (40% have at least a bachelor’s degree versus 15%) than Huntington residents. Nearly half of the Huntington residents are obese, 22% have heart disease and 13% have diagnosed diabetes. 31% of Huntington residents report not exercising at all.

According to the 2007 CDC data, Lincoln, Nebraska surpassed Burlington as the healthiest city (Burlington went down to 4th place) but Huntington, West Virginia remained the unhealthiest! 92.8% of Lincoln residents reported being in good health compared to only 68.8% of Huntington residents.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Combat Cuisine

Every year on November 11th Canadians, and the citizens of the Commonwealth countries, pause in a silent moment of remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. More than 1 500 000 Canadians have served our country and more than 100,000 have died. They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace”.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses,
row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from
failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae

Nutrition on the battlefield

The Institute of Medicine determined that the average service member, classified as highly active men aged 18-30, burns 4200 calories a day during combat. However, it was found that they only consumed 2400 calories a day, creating a large caloric deficit. The military understands the importance of food on performance, indicating directly on their food packages:

"Restriction of food and nutrients leads to rapid weight loss, which leads to: loss of strength, decreased endurance, loss of motivation, decreased mental alertness."

Researchers and technicians have been trying to improve quality, taste and packaging of combat food since the American Revolutionary War in an effort to keep soldiers healthy and happy: from canned foods during the Civil War to lightweight salted and dried meats during World War I, back to canned C rations through the Korean War to the MCI (Meal, Combat, Individual) during the Vietnam War and to the more recent MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) and First Strike Ration (FSR).

Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE)

In 1983, the MCI (still referred to as C-rations) was phased out by the MRE, mainly because the MRE weighs 13-18oz versus 2.7lbs for the same number of calories.

MRE meals provide 1200 calories, have a shelf life of 3 years at 27°C, and are able to withstand a parachute drop of 1200 ft.

A typical MRE contains a main course and side dish, dessert, crackers, spread of cheese, peanut butter or jelly, a powdered drink (fruit flavoured, cocoa, coffee, tea, sport drink or dairy shake), plastic utensils,a flameless ration heater (FRH) and an accessory pack (includes gum, water-resistant matches, napkin, towelette and seasonings). The food is packaged is a flexible ‘can’ to maintain sterility.

There are currently 24 different meals available, including pork rib with clam chowder, turkey breast with gravy and potatoes, manicotti with vegetables, chicken with thai sauce and yellow/wild rice pilaf and country captain chicken and buttered noodles.

In 1992, servicemembers were able to enjoy a hot meal in the field with the introduction of the flameless ration heater (FRH). Magnesium dust is mixed with salt and a little iron dust in a thin, flexible pad about the size of a playing card. To activate the heater, a soldier adds a little water.Within seconds, the flameless heater reaches the boiling point. The soldier then simply inserts the heater and the MRE pouch back in the box that the pouch came in and, within ten minutes, dinner is served.

Despite all the innovations, MREs are still popularly referred to as: Mr. E (mystery), Meals Rejected by Everyone, Meals, Rarely Edible, Meals Rejected by the Enemy, Morsels, Regurgitated, Eviscerated, Meal, Ready to Excrete, and Materials Resembling Edibles.

Their low fibre content have also lead to the nicknames: Meals Refusing to Exit, Meals Refusing to Excrete, and Massive Rectal Expulsions.

In 2001, the First Strike Ration (FSR) was created by the US Army Soldier Systems Center. FSR foods don’t need to be reconstituted with water but take the form of pocket sandwiches that can be eaten by hand, on the go. FSR has a 2 year shelf life, includes nutrition bars, electrolyte drinks and caffeinated gum and provides triple the calories of the MRE, 3600- 3900 calories, for the same weight.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Americans celebrate Election Day with doughnuts, coffee and ice cream

Election day in the States. Vote!

If you’re in the States, you can get a free star-shaped doughnut from Krispy Kreme (~110 calories), a free scoop of ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s (~230 calories) between 5-8pm and a free cup of coffee from Starbucks.

These companies were going to offer this free food to voters only, but Election laws prohibit that. As a result, they're proclaiming the giveaway part of a national party to celebrate the election.

Enjoy the free treats!

Monday, 3 November 2008

National Sandwich Day

It’s National Sandwich Day!

November 3rd is the anniversary of John Montagu, aka the fourth Earl of Sandwich’s, birthday. Rumour has it that this 18th century noble, and avid gambler, wanted an easy-to-eat meal that he could eat in one hand, while continuing to play cards. Hence the invention of placing meat between two slices of bread.

Here are some sandwiches from around the world:

USA and Canada’s BLT: Bacon, lettuce and tomato.

France’s Croque-Monsieur: Ham and cheese, grilled.

USA (New Orleans)’s Po’Boy (literally ‘Poor Boy’): a traditional submarine that consists of meat or seafood, usually fried, served on baguette-like Louisiana French bread.

The UK’s Breakfast Roll: A bread roll with one or more fillings like sausage, fried eggs, bacon, white and/or black pudding, butter and ketchup. Popular as a hangover cure.

Vietnam’s Bành mì: Baguette made with wheat and rice flour with thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon, onions, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and meat (including roasted or grilled pork, chicken or Vietnamese ham) or tofu. Most contain a mayonnaise-like spread made with a mixture of egg yolks, oil or butter and spices.

Finland’s Smörgåstårta (sandwich cake): This sandwich has so much filling that it resembles a cake. Made of several layers of bread and creamy fillings. Fillings vary but include egg and mayonnaise, liver paté, olives, smoked salmon, prawns, ham and caviar. Sliced like a dessert.

Brazil’s Bauru: Melted cheese, sliced roast beef, tomato and pickled cucumber in a French bun with the soft inner part removed.

Middle East’s Shawarma: Shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey or beef (or a mix of meats), commonly served with hummus, tomato and cucumber on pita. Toppings also include tahini and amba (pickled mango).

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Happy World Vegan Day!

Happy World Vegan Day!

Today is also the start of Vegan Month.

The holiday, created by the Vegan Society, has been celebrated since 1994 by vegans around the world. This year’s theme is: improving the quality and availability of vegan food.

Veganism is a diet and lifestyle that excludes animal-derived products. Vegans choose not to eat any foods derived from living or dead animals - no meat of any kind (red meat, poultry, white meat, fish etc.), no animal milks (cow's dairy products, sheep, goats etc.), no eggs, honey or any other animal products (no gelatin, cochineal, shellac etc.).

Most common reasons for becoming vegan include an ethical conviction for animal rights, the environment (animal farming uses much more land, energy and water and has a greater effect on climate change than plant-based agriculture), health and religious concerns.

How do you plan to celebrate vegan month?

Maybe try going a day or two without eating any animal products? It’s easier than you think! Lots of dishes are already vegan, including Chinese, Indian, African, Asian and Mediterranean meals.

Click here for other ideas on how you can celebrate.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Blame the food dyes on your kids' hyperactivity this Halloween

Happy Halloween!

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released the following statement, just in time for Halloween:

"British candy has all the sugar of American candy, and it’s certainly not health food, but as Halloween approaches, it's a shame that American kids trick-or-treat for candy dyed with discredited chemicals while British families have many of the same foods, minus the dyes."

That’s because earlier this year the UK’s equivalent to the American’s FDA, the UK’s Food Standards Agency, asked food companies to voluntarily recall artificial colours in food by 2009. Moreover, the European Parliament approved a warning on packages containing food dyes: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”.


Although synthetic food dyes have been suspected of affecting children’s behaviour since the 70s, two recent British studies found a direct link between food dyes (with the common preservative sodium benzoate) and impaired attention and hyperactivity in children.

According to the FDA, Americans consume 5 times as much food dye as they did 30 years ago. Attention Deficit Disorder is also a growing concern for many parents. However, the FDA and Health Canada maintain that there isn’t sufficient evidence to ban the use of food dyes. As a result, The CSPI has submitted a petition to the FDA requesting they ban eight artificial food colours: Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Orange B and Yellow 6 (tartrazine). They’re also requesting that the FDA include warnings on packages containing these food dyes.

In the UK, Fanta orange soda gets its colour from pumpkin and carrot extract, while in the States, it gets its colour from Red 40 and Yellow 6. McDonald’s strawberry sundaes are coloured with Red 40 in North America but with real strawberries in the U.K. Starburst Chews and Skittles, both Mars products, also contain synthetic food dyes in the U.S. but not in the U.K.

Hope I didn’t put a downer on your Halloween. Enjoy your Halloween candy... in moderation, of course!

Remember that October 31st is not just about candy, it’s National Unicef Day. On Oct 31st 1949, five goodhearted kids went door-to-door in Philadelphia to collect money for other kids in post war Europe. They raised $17 and donated it to Unicef. ‘Trick-or-Treat for Unicef’ was launched and in 1966, US President Lyndon Johnson pronounced October 31st National Unicef Day, stating: “Mrs. Johnson and I hope that our fellow citizens this year will once again join in bringing the opportunity for a better life to more of the world's children."

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Cup of coffee shrinks cup size

A new Swedish study published in the British Journal of Cancer has found a link between coffee intake and breast size.

About 300 healthy pre-menopausal non-hormone using women were questioned about their coffee intake and had their bust measured. It was found that the women who drank 3+ cups of coffee a day had ~17% smaller breasts than those that drank less. However, this relationship was found only in women that were carriers of a specific genetic variant. The good news for these women is that previous studies have shown that coffee may protect carriers of this same genetic variant against breast cancer. About half the women in this study were carriers of this gene.

Lead author Helena Jernstrom stated that although “Drinking coffee can have a major effect on breast women don’t have to worry ... breasts aren’t just going to disappear.”

Health Canada recommends you not exceed 400mg caffeine a day. Women in their childbearing years should not consume more than 300mg. A generically brewed cup of coffee has between 100-200 mg caffeine.