Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vacation Time!! Korea and Japan!!

Makoto and I often write "TAKE A VACATION!!!" on our prescription pads to our patients.  There is nothing more relaxing and healing for your mind, body and soul than taking off to a fun and exciting destination!  It's amazing how countless patient's eczema/IBS/migraines will completely vanish while on vacation....this is our body reminding us how healthy we can be if we take time to enjoy life!!  We decided to spend my upcoming 30th birthday in Korea (going home to the motherland!  I LOVE KOREA!!) and then Makoto is taking me to Japan...he's been there a handful of times but this will be my first!!  TOOOOOO exciting!  Our office manager now refers to January as Japanuary :)  I was looking at pics of our last visit to Seoul last summer and here are just a few highlights:

Visiting my old school and dorm where I spent the last year of University - Yonsei University:

Drinking shi-keh (Korean rice beverage) at Dragon Hill Spa...great place to go for a massage and a manicure if you can`t sleep at 4 in the morning!!! 

Visiting Palaces, making paper, playing with traditional Korean toys and exploring Hanok Korean Village:

Late night shopping for the most random things:

 Food, food and more food:

And of course karaokeing!!

We were so sad to go (last late night/post Dragon Hill Spa 3am meal):

But at least we were able to come home to our little Rambo and give him his new Taekwondo outfit!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Everything!!

Wishing everyone a very healthy and happy
holiday and a joyous new year!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Family Unit - Honor and Love

For the first time in my entire life, I will be spending Christmas without my nuclear family.  My parents, sister and I all have conflicting travel and work plans that collided with our usually family Christmas get together....and I am pretty devastated :(  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!! 

Makoto has been an absolute sweetheart trying to re-create the Christmas that my parents usually do for my sister and me......chocolate advent calendar, cherry candy canes and he surprised me with a special trip to buy our first Christmas tree together!!  Gotta love him :)  

I realized quickly how lucky I am to have my loving hubby and our wonderful "Toronto Family" consisting of fabulous friends and neighbors.  We hope to be blessed with a healthy baby soon but in the meantime, we have our hairy little son, Rambo :) 

We've filled December with lots of get togethers and celebrations....and as much as I will miss spending the holidays with my family and all my flying monkey cousins....I am extremely excited to spend our first Christmas in Toronto!!!

Who do you consider your "family"?  Think of the people in your life....who are those who make you feel wonderful?  Treat you with honor and respect?  Are there to laugh with you when times are great and cry with you when times are not so great?  These people are your family!

It's time for Makoto and I to start traditions of our is the end of our 1st Christmas tree that we are going to turn into an ornament.   Happy December everyone!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Obsession with Dental Hygiene

I kinda got stuck with not such a strong mix of dental DNA. Being half-British and half-Japanese speaks for itself in terms of quality of teeth genes.

As such, I am prone to cavities. I am quite envious of that minority of people who have that amazing dental heredity and have never had a cavity despite only irregular brushing and rarely flossing.

My routine consists of flossing on a daily basis. Aileen laughs at how I go a little too hardcore with the floss flicking action, but I just want to take any measures necessary to disrupt those bacterial colonies that grow on enamel. I love dental floss, and always make sure to keep either an extra pack of floss or specialty toothpicks at work, in the car or in my coat. It's good dental hygiene and man, is it satisfying!

I have experimented with many different manual toothbrush techniques in the past: small circles followed by brushing to the crown, dry toothbrushing followed by wet, small vibrations using a very loose grip, dental pastes vs gels vs powders...I've even tried ambidextrous brushing to ensure that each quadrant is equally brushed.

Despite all of this time I put into my dental care routine, many times I visit the dentist and hear about some new "small" dental carie developing. It drives me nuts and makes me obsess even more about refining my brushing technique.

Finally, I gave in reluctantly and invested in an electric toothbrush...and let me tell you, my teeth have never felt so clean! I think I may overdo it sometimes going well past the indicator timer that tells you you have spent enough time brushing your pearly yellows. Best part is that my dental check-ups have been much more positive since.

Debate is still open about fluoridated versus non-fluoridated toothpastes. Aileen and I do try to choose toothpastes that are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)-free. SLS functions as a foaming agent, but is quite harsh to use on mucous membranes like your gingiva. Some people (although this is purely empirical information) find it can aggravate or even cause canker sores.

I would recommend Tom's of Maine toothpastes, which use natural ingredients, and give you the flexibility of choosing fluoride vs fluoride-free, or SLS vs SLS-free, which is nice, as well as Jason Naturals, which has a nice line of toothpastes that are both chemical-free and SLS-free.

Also important to have a fantastic dentist. We love our dentist, Dr.Jerry Vasilakos. He's always up in his new dental gadgetry that helps to monitor the state of your dental health, and has some of the best dental hygienists around. Aileen and I both agreed that we have never had such thorough dental cleanings till we went to Dr.Jerry.

To summarize:
Get an electric toothbrush.
Try out some natural toothpastes.
Get an electric toothbrush.
Make sure you have a great dentist.
And get an electric toothbrush!

Something That is ALWAYS a Good Idea

I realized that I have never once left the gym unhappy.  Going to the gym is ALWAYS a good idea!!!  Makoto despises the fact that I over use the words alwaaaaaaaaaaays (and neeeeever) but I really do think that going to the gym is always a good idea.  Although, it's important to learn how to adjust what activities you do at the gym for your mood and how your body is feeling.

After having dinner on Friday night, Makoto and I were still determined to go for a late night workout.  This seemed almost impossible after our 2nd glass of wine and a very satisfying dinner.  BUT, at around 10pm, we somehow found ourselves at our gym.

I usually have a hairy canary when Makoto suggests going to the gym at night because it usually means that it'll take me too long to wind down and go to sleep.  What I have since figured out is that I shouldn't feel pressured to have a high intensity workout every single time I go to the gym.  My night workouts usually include a nice little walk on the treadmill (20min) followed with stretch exercises on the mat (15-20min).....followed by an awesome 20min eucalyptus steam room pow wow with my locker room crew!  Even if you are too exhausted to have a mini workout, go stretch.....or spend time pampering yourself with a nice steam....or even spending an extra 5 minutes to meticulously apply that extra hydrating conditioner to your hair.  It feels great to take care of yourself!  

It was such a perfect way to wind down after a hectic week at the clinic! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Favorite Blogs

A scary thing happened to me last week.  An afterwork event forced me to leave my laptop at the office and I swear I had the shakes all night from internet withdrawl!!  So sad.'s not thaaaaaaaaaaaaat bad but there are definitely some online shopping sites and certain blogs that I love to follow!  Here are some of my favorite health related blogs (because I'm sure you already know that I loooooooooooove Can't. Help. It.)

1.  Holistic Vanity ( - I am crazy about natural skincare and Kristen Ma is definitely one of my fave natural skincare health gurus!  She owns Pure and Simple Spa in Toronto (which was just voted the best spa from NOW Toronto...YAY!!) and I couldn't live without my deep cleansing facial from Slavica at their Yorkville location.  She is always trying out new products, gadgets and gluten free recipes and gives an enlightening view on how ayruvedic medicine can give you clues about the health of your skin.

2.  Gwendolyn Honey ( - This is a new blog by writer Stacey Lindsay.  She is a wealth of knowlege when it comes to natural products, studies, tips and recipes and her sincere journey to live a healthy and happy life is conveyed through her writing.

3.  Gluten Free Goddess ( - This is a blog that I recommend countless times every single day I practice.  It has great tips on how to start eating gluten free as well as delicious gluten free recipes for every meal....including brunch!  Check out all the gluten free breads (her gluten free sandwich bread recipe is amaaaaaazing), cakes and even cupcake recipes she has!

Annnnnnnnnnnnnd....if you are a coffee lover and want to find out where all the good quality coffee is in the city, check out  You're already going to have that cup of java so make it a good quality, delicious one!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Movember: Promoting Men's Health Awareness Through Moustaches

The whole idea behind Movember was a dumb guy idea...but the awesome thing about dumb guy ideas is that every other guy gets them and loves them.

Movember was supposedly started over beers by a few blokes in Melbourne, Australia in 2003. The idea was to grow your mo (moustache) for the month of November (starting with a clean shave on October 31st), to raise awareness for men's health. This event has now ballooned into a worldwide phenomenon supporting prostate cancer awareness, the ugly stat being that 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Last year, the Movember charity raised $47 million worldwide, with Canada being the second largest fundraising country worldwide behind Australia. Good on ya, mates.

Being a healthcare provider and a fellow member of the male species, I observe and understand the difficulties men have in taking charge of their health. In growing my pathetic excuse for a moustache (mind you, I did start a week late...) I am supporting the brotherhood of men (the Mo Bros) throughout Toronto and the world to raise awareness for men's health.

Men do tend to struggle with being proactive in their health and getting check ups from their health professionals. I admire women for taking charge of their health and being on top of annual physicals and bloodwork, and being courageous enough to try to find out if anything is amiss in their body. I also admire women who bring (or sometimes drag) their reluctant male partners into the office because they care. And, of course, I admire all the men who are brave enough to go on their own for a health check up, are open to listening to messages their body is telling them, and take a proactive role in preventing opposed to visiting the doctor after a problem has already arisen.

To the Mo Bros and Mo Sistas (not women with moustaches as some people think, but women who support the promotion of men's health through the Movember movement), here are a few health reminders for the dudes in your lives:
  1. Get your annual bloodwork and physical done...and yes, annual means EVERY year
  2. If you don't have a family doctor yet, take the time to find one that is accepting new patients...try the website for the Health Care Connect which helps Ontarians find a family health care provider.
  3. Check your testicles every month for any unusual lumps (takes 2 minutes)
  4. Over 50? Time for a colonoscopy and prostate exam.
  5. 45 years old with a family history of prostate cancer? Time for a prostate exam.
  6. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit will not make you less of a man.
  7. If you avoid soy products because you are worried you will grow breasts, know that beer is also estrogenic like soy.

Although my version of Movember, so far, should be renamed Dirtyupperlip-ember and Aileen is supporting only the reason behind this, but not necessarily my new look, I'm happy to keep going with this until November 30th in support of men's health.

Happppy Movember!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to Make Yourself More Happy AND Burn Some Excess Calories

SING!!!  That's right!!  Belting out your favorite tune not only helps to release endorphins, your brain's natural feel good chemical, it can also burn up to 100 calories in an hour!  Shake your booty while singing and instantly double that calorie count.

Being Korean, I am lucky to have a karaoke gene encoded in my DNA.  This does not mean that I am an amazing just means that I have no shame when it comes to belting out a tune in private or in public.  Makoto is half Japanese so I was convinced that he would also be a karaoke star but it took a little persuasion to get him to come out of his shell.  On our first trip to Korea, I dragged him to a karaoke bar (Asian Karaoke bars are a little rent private rooms....this is mostly because we are all mic hogs and sharing the stage with a large group of strangers and having to patiently wait our turn would be out of the question).  At first, he insisted on just listening to me while he shook the tambourine and drank soju.  Maybe it was the liquid courage or the discovery that he could karaoke to Eminem, Snoop Dog, CCR, Metallica, The Backstreet Boys and, of course, Vanilla Ice but the man is now addicted.

Subsequently, we now own both Rap Star and Sing Star for our PS3.  The greatest thing about karaokeing is that you quickly realize that you don't have to be a good singer.  It's all about having fun and just letting go!  So start the day with singing your favorite song in the shower (the acoustics are faaaaaaaaaaantastic) or organizing a karaoke night with your friends!  Toooooooooooo much fun!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!!!


Monday, October 25, 2010

A lesson from Tom Green: Laughter and Testicular Cancer

Tom Green was in Toronto this past week as part of his North American standup comedy tour.

Having grown up in Ottawa, and listening to his late-night college radio show and then seeing him around downtown pulling hilarious pranks on unsuspecting bystanders for his Rogers' Cable TV's The Tom Green Show, was awesome.

I wasn't sure how he would do at standup, since I've been used to him doing performance comedy, pranks or hosting guests on his talkshows. I somehow convinced Aileen to come along to join the fun, but felt added pressure that Tom not resort to bringing out roadkill to hump on stage, or I would have a very disappointed wife.

After waiting in line in the rain for a good 20 minutes in front of the Phoenix, we were hoping for a really good show. The opening act was actually hilarious, and then Tom came running up from behind the crowd and didn't let up for a high-energy amazing performance. I couldn't stop laughing for the whole 90 minutes. Best part was that Aileen was busting a gut laughing as well. Phew...thought I would be hearing about "the *real* romantic night when Makoto dragged me to see Tom Green" for decades to come. Happy wife, happy life.

Anyhow, it's been a stressful and busy few weeks, and I think laughing our brains out was the best prescription we could have had. I think neither of us would have imagined anytime before that night, that Tom Green would actually be therapeutic. They do say laughter is the best medicine, and sometimes it's easy to forget when you are too busy to laugh. I have to remember to keep passing this advice on to others, and refer to Dr.Tom Green, Dr.Russell Peters, Dr.Chris Rock or one of the many other docs with mics.

Another lesson from Dr.Tom Green was about his survival through testicular cancer. He says "Sometimes I think about my battle with cancer, and think, I wouldn't trade if for anything...and then I think, well, I would trade it for my right testicle. Wouldn't mind getting that back!"

I recall his "Cancer Special" on MTV's The Tom Green Show in 2000 that tried to make light of his experiences dealing with doctors and surgery through his cancer treatment. Was great that he was educating the public through humour. He had a frank and serious moment in the show when he touched on this again, appreciating that he survived cancer, and reminding all the men to check their nuts.

So guys, don't forget to do a quick nut check every month in the shower.

There's not a lot of tissue to palpate (no matter what you want to believe), so it won't delay your morning by more than a minute or two. Ensure that there aren't any strange lumps or masses, and if there is anything you feel that is not normal, consult with your physician.

Prognosis is good if caught early, and main demographic is fairly young (20-35 yrs old), but can happen at any age. And, no, it does not make you any less manly if you see your doctor more than once every five years.

Thanks for the awesome time, Tom!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Amazing Olive Oil!! How to incorporate Olive Oil Into Your Life!

Those who know me are well acquainted with my obsession for olive oil.  I. Love. Olive. Oil.

Olive oil is an important source of monosaturated fatty acids...the good type of fat that helps to decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol).  It also protects your heart, decreases the risk of colon cancer, helps to heal ulcers and keeps your skin glowing and moisturized! 

It also is SUPER YUMMY!!  My favorite is Kalamata Olive has an extra amazing fresh and fruity taste to it!

But...not all olive oils are created equally and it's a very fragile oil so here are some guidelines:
1.  ONLY buy Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and it must be cold pressed.  Organic?  Even better.
2.  Stovetop - only heat olive oil at the 3 or 4 setting...maximum. 
3.  Oven - only heat olive oil to 350F...maxium. 

So basically, EVOO is best eaten in it's natural, raw state.  Here are some of my favorite ways to use EVOO:
1.  Pour it on toast.  Makoto and I pour Kalamata Olive Oil over toasted Dimpflmeier 7-Grain toast almost everyday.  Add a dash of sea salt and freshly ground pepper for a boost of deliciousness! (If you're feeling extra fancy and want to have a very Parisian lunch, top with chopped basil and sardines (yes...sardines...The French eat sardines the way us North Americans eat tuna...if you like tuna, you will love sardines).

2.  Pour it over pizza (yes...Makoto and I eat pizza!  Life would be so boring without pizza!  There are so many crust options (thin, gluten free) and topping options now!) - I learned this while visiting Italy.  The pizzeria's would insist on pouring fresh olive oil over my pizza.  At the time (I was 16yo), I was completely afraid of the added fat from the olive oil but now realize that olive oil is a form of GOOD fat that has many beneficial health properties and helps me to burn bad fat.  Try will never eat pizza again without pouring olive oil on top!

3.  Add a heaping tsp to your smoothie or yogurt - it blends instantly into your smoothie/yogurt and boosts your snack with a dose of antioxidants!

4.  Chop up all the leftover veggies in your fridge and spread them on a baking sheet.  Drizzle EVOO, fresh chopped up herbs, sea salt and fresh ground pepper over them and bake at 350F for 30-45min (or until veggies are tender). 

5.  Pour a 1/4c of EVOO into your next bath...add 20 drops of your favorite essential oil if you're feeling extra fancy.  Soak for at least 20min.  When you come out of the bath, towel dry and just massage the oil left on your body into your skin.....your skin will feel baby soft.

I even designed Sprout Botanicals Nipple Balm with olive oil as the main ingredients due to it's healing and moisturizing properties (

I heart olive oil forever!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

BEDBUGS! How to be proactive in preventing an infestation

Bed bug, Cimex lectularius
Seems like these days everyone's major fear for their home and personal comfort is a bedbug infestation. In the last few years, there have been huge increases in incidences and almost daily articles in the newspaper about new areas of infestation, including major sports stores, cinemas and high-end hotels. Most of us feel that there is not much we can do about this, but hope for the best... and in the awful case that we do get infested, get our home treated by an exterminator.

Aileen's natural baby care line has a natural outdoor spray, which contains essential oils that can function as a bedbug repellant, and can be ordered online or purchased at several health food stores, including The Big Carrot. Of course, nothing is a guaranteed prevention for bedbugs, but this helps in being proactive instead of feeling helpless.

You can visit the
Sprout Botanicals website for product information.

Below is what we recommend to patients regarding a bedbug prevention protocol and evidence that natural essential oils function to repel blood-sucking arthropods.


Following is a link to a 2006 research paper from the Journal of Medical Entomology, an article entitled "
Repellency of Oils of Lemon Eucalyptus, Geranium, and Lavender and the Mosquito Repellent MyggA Natural to Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) in the Laboratory and Field."

The tested product contained essential oils of lemon eucalyptus, geranium and lavender and was tested on ticks which are blood-feeding arthropods, as are bedbugs. Repellancy effects were substantial.

Sprout Botanicals Outdoor Spray's ingredients are known to be effective in deterring mosquitoes and blackflies, should also logically function as a preventative measure to repelling bedbugs. It is not a guarantee to prevent bedbugs, but as evidence shows, does function as an effective repellent for blood-feeding arthropods.

Sprout's Outdoor Spray contains essential oils of eucalyptus, geranium and lavender, which not only smell great, but are also the same oils tested in the 2006 study. Although it is called an Outdoor Spray it is completely safe to use indoors and inhale as it is 100% chemical-free.

Bedbug prevention can be implemented in the following ways:

  1. Sprayed uniformly on mattresses (covers and sheets removed) every 2 weeks. Allow a few hours for mattress to air dry before re-covering with linens.
  2. Carried in your bag or purse to public places prone to bedbug infestations (theatres, cinemas) and sprayed on the seat before sitting down.
  3. Sprayed on your clothes after having been seated in a public place.
Good luck, and don't let the bedbugs bite!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quick and Easy Lemon Lentil Soup

After a crazaaaaazy September, Makoto and I are happy to be spending most of our time in Toronto this month. We realized how much we love our house and we missed seeing our wonderful neighbors. We are dedicating our weekends to “winterizing” our house, cleaning up the garden and hosting a few dinner parties.

When things get busy, and especially when we’re travelling, we eat out 3 meals a day. So it’s time to get back on track and we decided to do so by making some easy to digest, high in protein soups.

I made this quick and easy Lemon Lentil Soup and it provided several hearty lunches…especially when had with toasted organic Dimpflmeier Sunflower bread (drizzled in kalamata olive oil with a dash of cracked black pepper). YUM.

Lemon Lentil Soup
(Adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook)
2 onions
5 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
8 cups vegetable stock or water
5 cups of baby spinach, chopped
1 small handful fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea Salt to taste

1.  Chop onions and gralic and saute in coconut oil until soft (5-7min).
2.  Add the red lentils and vegetable broth/water.  Cover pot and simmer for 30min (or until lentils are cooked through).
3.  When lentils are cooked, add chopped spinach and parsley along with the lemon juice and sea salt.  Simmer on low for another 5 minutes.
4.  Cool soup and purree if you'd like but it tastes just as yummy as is :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Apple Pie Smoothie

Tested out a great tasting smoothie after my Thanksgiving workout today.

And in the spirit of the holidays: thanks to our gym for being open on a holiday, and thanks to my Uncle Bob and Aunt Carol for giving me a huge bag of apples from their organic orchard after an amazing Thanksgiving feast last night, and thank you to the powers above for keeping Aileen and I, our friends and families, in good health and spirits.

Thanksgiving Apple Pie Smoothie

Two fresh apples (peeled, with guts removed)
A healthy dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg
Thumb-sized piece of ginger
Frozen banana
Maple Syrup, to desired sweetness
Your choice of healthy protein powder (mine is brown rice protein)
1.5 cups Filtered water

1. Blend and enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 10, 2010



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cool New Lab Tests: Functional Nutritional In-House Lab Tests

We've been excited about a series of new lab tests that we have been putting together at our clinic and are now offering to new or existing patients. The cool thing about them is that they can be done in-house, with results within a few minutes, and are cost-effective.

The information from the seven tests is useful to help guide you to understanding how well your body is functioning and if you have a healthy mineral status (calcium and zinc).

My favourite tests are the Urinary Indicans Test which reveals the health of your digestive tract (the degree of 'dysbiosis' or toxic bowel) and the Koenisburg's Adrenal Test, which helps to assess the state of your adrenal glands, which can be depleted if you are under chronic stress.

We can also help you determine your blood type and recommend a basis for your diet, that best suits your genetic makeup according to your blood type (ie. based on the theories in The Blood Type Diet by Dr.Peter D'Adamo).

Here is a complete list of the new functional nutritional tests we now offer at Zentai Wellness Centre:

Urinalysis: For the urinalysis test, you will provide a urine sample. A ten-patch test strip will be dipped into a urine sample. Within a couple of minutes, you will have results determining the following:

•Specific Gravity (concentrating & diluting power of kidneys)
•pH (acidity/alkalinity)
•Leukocytes (infection)
•Nitrite (significant bacteria)
•Ketone Bodies
•Blood and Hemoglobin

Zinc Sufficiency Test: Zinc is crucial for many possesses in the body, however many of us are deficient. By swishing a zinc solution for 20 seconds, you will find out your zinc levels.

Koenisburg's Test (Adrenals): With a simple urine sample, the results of this test will be able to provide information on the state of health of your adrenals.

Urinary Indican Test (Dysbiosis): Interested in the state of your bowels? This test, looking for indicans (resulting from incompletely digested protein, proliferation of harmful bacteria, and a permeable bowel wall) in your urine, can give you a glimpse of your level of toxicity (dysbiosis) or clear state of bowel health.

Sulkowitch Test: Serum calcium levels can be determined through a urine sample. Calcium is associated with many conditions such as osteoporiosis, osteopenia, arthritis, and hyptertension. Find out your calcium levels with the Sulkowitch Test.

Blood Type: Are you a universal donor or receiver? Find out your blood type with this quick blood test, using only a few drops of blood from your finger. We also offer Blood Type Diet consultations which helps you cater your meals to your specific blood type.

pH Test: Our pH saliva test, will determine the acidity/alkalinity of your body.

More info about these tests on our website.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sprout Botanicals - Now available at The Big Carrot!!

Sprout Botanicals is a natural baby skincare line that Makoto and I founded over a year ago.  I started to compound natural and gentle skincare products in our clinic compounding room for my pediatric patients that were struggling with sensitive skin. 

My first product that I made was Sprout Botanicals Soothing Balm....a natural, petroleum free alternative to Vaseline.  You can slather it on an irritated diaper rash, itchy eczema, dry lips and nose or mix a dollop of it into your favorite moisturizer for added hydration.

Sprout Botanical products are completely natural and free of harsh chemicals and preservatives.  They are safe to use on delicate baby skin but are also great for adults with sensitive skin including eczema, rosacea and psoriasis.

The newest store to carry Sprout Botanicals is The Big Carrot Natural Food Market.  For a more complete list of where to find Sprout Botanicals or more information about our entire product line, please visit

Monday, September 27, 2010

Flexible Quinoa Salad - safe to bring to dinner parties!

This is one of our favourite naturopathic-friendly go-to recipes that can easily be altered to suit your tastes or pantry supplies. The bonus of this very healthy (and dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, vegan) recipe is that it is safe enough to bring to dinner parties (ie. not too weird-looking and enough flavour to appeal to everyone's tastebuds, even for those who aren't health-conscious). We have tested variations of this recipe out at a few potluck parties, and it always gets rave reviews.

Flexible Quinoa Salad

1 ½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
pinch of salt

½ cup dried apricots or cranberries, finely diced
½ cup red bell pepper
½ cup yellow bell pepper
¾ cup toasted pine nuts, cashews pecans or walnuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro or basil


grated lemon zest and lemon juice from one lemon
splash of balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil

1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in cold water then pour into a fine meshed strainer and rinse again under running water (if not rinsed well, quinoa tends to be bitter).
2. Bring water to boil and add salt, then stir in the quinoa.
3. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 15min. Taste the grain. There should be just a little resistance and the opaque spiraled ring of germ should show. If necessary continue cooking until done.
4. Pour into strainer and set it to drain over a bowl.
5. Toast all the nuts either in a dry pan or the mini oven works great too! Just put them on some foil in the mini oven, watch them carefully and stir often because they may burn.
6. Combine the apricots, peppers, nuts and cilantro in a large bowl.
7. Mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette and add to the bowl of yummy apricots, peppers, nuts and cilantro.
8. Once the quinoa has cooled, add it to the bowl. Give it a good mix and ENJOY!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Warming Foods for the Cooler Weather: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Seems like in the last couple of weeks, everyone has been getting sick from coast to coast (we noticed it in Toronto and then when we went to Vancouver for Aileen's sister's wedding, people were hacking out their lungs). Part of the problem is that the weather has been cooling down, and as happens every year, we neglect to protect ourselves with adequate clothing.

Yesterday I saw people wearing parkas, others wearing shorts, and some wearing parkas with shorts(??). What this means is that those people that are holding on to the last remnants of summer by continuing to wear their summer wardrobe (not that I can blame em...I'm having a really hard time giving up my flipflops) are going to be chilled, and thereby at a higher risk of infection, such as the common cold.

For decades, conventional thinking has dismissed the correlation between cold weather and risk of infection because of Pasteur's germ theory of medicine. The germ theory explains that infection is based on exposure of a host to a pathogenic organism. The component that this theory neglects is the immune state of the host, which can be compromised by exposure to negative stressors, such as cold weather. Mothers and grandmothers have been telling us ad nauseum for eons to "dress warmly" and their theory has been vindicated by a review article in 2007 in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, which clarifies that there is a relation between repiratory tract infection incidence and exposure to cold: Exposure to Cold and Respiratory Tract Infections.

Further to this study, in 2005 at the Common Cold Center at Cardiff University, Claire Johnson and Professor Ron Eccles conducted a study that involved immersing participants' feet in cold water for twenty minutes. The participants' incidence of catching a common cold within the next few days was 29%, which was much higher than the control group, which was only 9%.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has acknowledged this phenomenon for thousands of years, and termed pathologies created by exposure to cold as "Wind-Cold Invasion". Much of TCM theory is based on Yin versus Yang qualities, which includes respectively, Cold and Heat characteristics.

Based upon changes of seasons, TCM also recommends changing cooking methods and types of foods based on their inherent cooling or warming qualities, to balance out the energies we are exposed to from the environment.

Cooking methods that impart "heat" into foods include roasting, baking and steaming. A raw food diet may be beneficial to some people who have a more yang or hot constitution, but may be detrimental in the cooler months from October to March.

Below, I have summarized common warming and cooling foods from each particular food group. During the fall, winter, and early spring, stick to neutral and warming food types, and in the summer, switch to cooling foods.
  • Warming Vegetables: sweet potato, parsnips, cilantro, green onions, cabbage, beets, turnips, pumpkin, shiitake mushrooms
  • Cooling Vegetables: broccoli, eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, radish, celery

  • Warming Fruits: blackberry, cherry, date, peach, lychee
  • Cooling Fruits: apple, banana, watermelon, strawberry, grapefruit, avocado

  • Warming Grains: oats, quinoa, rice, spelt, rye
  • Cooling Grains: barley, wheat, wild rice, millet

  • Nuts and seeds are generally all neutral, with some warming nuts including coconut, pinenut, chestnut and walnut.
  • Most meats are warm or neutral. Cool meats are frog and rabbit. I know this may be extremely challenging, but please make sure to limit your intake of frog and rabbit meat in the winter.

  • Most beans are neutral, with the exception of the cooling beans mung, soy, and lima beans.

  • Herbs are generally warming foods. If they are added to a recipe, they will provide more heat to the final food. There are some cooling herbs to avoid in the winter time: marjoram, mint and tamarind

TCM also considers a protective energy called your Wei Qi (akin to your immune system), that can be easily depleted by exposure of your neck to cold winds. So, like your mom always told you, DONT FORGET TO WEAR YOUR SCARF.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wonderful Weddings in September!!!!

We just came back from Vancouver to help my sister and our new brother-in-law celebrate their AMAZING wedding on September 12, 2010!!!  CONGRATULATIONS Elisa and Denis!!!  September is a big wedding month for our family.  My wonderful parents celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary on the 10th of September.......

And Makoto and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary on the 9th of September!

Denis and Elisa were absolutely glowing on their wedding day and I credit this to their incredible ability to stay grounded throughout the entire wedding planning process.  They made sure to take care of themselves, exercise, sleep well and eat well up until the day before the wedding and while half of the wedding party had caught a bug or were completely exhausted from a week long of pre-wedding celebrations, Elisa and Denis were the picture of perfect health!  We all had an incredible time and they really went all out including a beautiful fireworks show (with heart shaped fireworks!!!) and....Makoto's favorite....a photobooth!!!  Congratulations Elisa and Denis...we love you!!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Air Purifying House Plants

These are the two little plants in our bedroom that we count on to purify our bedroom air. 
The extent to which they can clean our air is unknown but what we do know is that new infrastructure and construction sites are rising up all over the city, road maintenance is a regular occurrence, and smog produced by our daily usage of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and coal, are major contributors to Toronto’s poor air quality and pollution.

North Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. We would except that this would decrease our exposure to air bound toxins. However, air quality indoors is often times just as, if not more, toxic! There are at least 300 known toxic substances found indoors ranging from insulation, sealants, paints, to household cleaners, detergents, and even carpet. Three most common air pollutants found indoors are formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. Poor indoor air quality often results to a condition called Sick Building Syndrome which includes symptoms such as allergies, asthma, eye, nose and throat irritations, headaches, fatigue, sinus and respiratory congestion.

In the 1970s, NASA conducted many studies in search for solutions to maintain air quality inside confined spaces (e.g. space pods). Results showed that plants, through the process of photosynthesis, can break down contaminants and greatly reduce indoor air pollutants!

It is recommended to have one mid-sized houseplant per 100 square feet in your home or office.

Here is a list of the top plants that will help to naturally detoxify indoor air for cleaner breathing:

Bamboo Palm
Chinese Evergreen
English Ivy
Gerbera Daisy
Janet Craig
Mass cane/Corn Plant
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
Pot Mum
Peace Lily

In addition to air purification and detoxification, plants can add many additional benefits:
-  Studies have found that plants can help to reduce stress (lowers blood pressure and heart rate).
-  Plants can help with productivity and creativity as they allow us to relax and focus
-  Plants can keep the air in our homes from getting too dry by increasing humidity
-  Plants aid in reducing noise - add a few by your windows to reduce noise from outside

Add a few plants to your home and give them some TLC. They offer you so much in return!

Give a plant a home today!
If you need further assistance or want to purchase air-purifying houseplants, contact Paul (he is super knowledgeable and very, very nice!) at Bloom The Flower Company (1009 Yonge Street, at Crescent Road), 416.324.9900.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Officially Fall: Does the Cold Weather Cause The Cold/Flu? Tips on How to Adapt to the Cooler Weather

I know it's not Sept. 21st yet but for me, there are 3 things that make it Fall:

1.  For the first time since Spring, the weather is cool enough that I wanted to come home and take a warm lavender bubble bath, make a cup of tea (it's the first Saturday in months that we didn't come home and open up a bottle of white wine!) and then pull out extra blankets for Makoto, Rambo and me.

2.  While at our friend's (gorgeous) penthouse abode, I had a bird's eye view of the luscious green trees turning red in Allan Gardens.....tear.

3.  I picked up the September issues of Vogue and Bazaar....this confirms that it's officially Fall.

In Chinese medicine, many philosophies on health are directly related to the changes in seasons.  As leaves fall off trees, flowers stop blooming and several plants become dormant, they are conserving their energy in their seeds and roots to prepare and survive the winter.  We should also take cues from nature and use this time to conserve our energy as the Fall and Winter are designated the "yin" seasons where our bodies priorities shift towards recharging and nurturing our "qi" (inner energy).

Now...this doesn't mean stock up on cheetos and become a couch potato until March.  But it does mean that the Fall and Winter are a fantastic time for renewing, exploring, starting fresh and taking care of yourself.  I make a lot of referenes to Chinese Medicine in this blog post so you'll either think this is interesting or that I'm talking about a lot of mystical voodoo weirdness, but whichever camp you are on (or maybe somewhere in between) I hope you can take something from these tips which can help you stay healthy and happy during the Fall and Winter:

Weird Health Fads Review #4: The Master Cleanse

Often called "The Lemonade Diet" or "Maple Syrup Cleanse" the Master Cleanse became popular (as most health fads do) as a result of the Hollywooders. Although created with the intention of being a cleanse or detox, it is most often misused as a crash weight loss program.

Originally concocted in 1941 by Stanley Burroughs, an alternative health practitioner, it has increased exponentially in popularity in the last decade. It is quite a simple program as there is only the "lemonade" solution consumed during the detox period. The length of time suggested ranges from 10 to 40 days...this is without any food, only the lemonade.

The solution is a mixture of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, dark unrefined maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. Taste-wise, the Master Cleanse solution is actually not bad - goes down like a natural tangy lemonade.
The theory with this cleanse, as with other fasts, is that the lack of food gives the body a break to recuperate and repair its tissues. Lemon juice provides vitamin C and electrolytes, maple syrup provides natural sugar and minerals, and cayenne pepper increases circulation and sweating.

The composition of the lemonade provides basics to sustain the body during a fast, but unsupervised, this can be quiet dangerous particularly with underlying health conditions and/or medication. The other problem is that fasting, although targeted to eliminate toxins from the body as a result of nothing else being consumed by the body, can actually do the opposite.
Metabolic detoxification pathways in the liver require many nutrient co-factors that can be depleted during a fast. Because of this, toxic metabolite intermediates may actually back up in the body or be prevented from being properly eliminated. Proper foods and nutrients should be supplemented with to support the detoxification process. Without this support, it actually defeats the purpose of cleansing.

Short-term, under medical supervision, The Master Cleanse can have benefits for some people, but I would not recommend doing this for longer than a 2-3 day period without food. And to reiterate, this is only after a thorough medical assessment and under supervision.

Many people use this cleanse as a quick weight loss program, which will absolutely work in the short-term, but as most diets that put the body in a state of ketosis (or starvation) will have a rebound effect as you reintroduce food. You will quickly regain the weight you lost, and often more than previous, as your body wants to protect itself from starvation again.

I think the cleanse lemonade solution is a great adjunct to a normal healthy diet, taken first thing in the morning, or even as a natural homemade Gatorade replacement (with a pinch of salt and baking soda added), but would not recommend it for extended periods of time.

REVIEW (out of 10):
Weird Factor: 5
Safety Rating: 3
Health Benefit: 4

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What We Learned from a 15 Year Old

My little cousin Andrew (aka Andy Pandy or Drew-Poo :)) stayed with us for a few days at the end of July/early August.  He just came off of a 2 week trip to Washington and New York where he was chosen to represent Canada in a youth leadership conference and his days were filled with learning about international politics and world banking.....he's also the captain of his volleyball team, a debate champ, reads The Economist on his free time and dresses like a fashion model.  Oh, did I mention he's 15 years old?!?!?  At 15, my main priority was to get home in time to watch The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Makoto's hottest outfit at age 15 was his red sweat pants and matching Spiderman shirt.

Makoto and I were completely entertained by him and realized that 15 is not what it used to be.  Here are a few things that we learned from him:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gluten-Free Beers and other Alcohol Options for Celiacs or Gluten-Sensitive Folk

Nothing is as refreshing as a cold one on a hot summer day.

For the increasingly many who are either gluten-sensitive or suffer from celiac disease, options may seem limited for enjoying a drink on the patio with friends. But fear not...there are actually a good selection of options available.

Firstly, wine, and its fortified counterparts (sherry, port) are all safe. As a general rule, there are no gluten containing ingredients used in wine production.

Secondly, essentially any pure distilled spirit such as whiskey, rye, vodka and gin will lose its prolamin (celiac-aggravating proteins that include gluten and gliadin) content during the distillation process. As a result, it does not matter whether the initial fermentation uses gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye or barley, as long as the final product is a result of distillation. The only caveat to this is if there is some gluten-containing ingredient added after the distillation process (ie. in some kind of weird mixed drink concoction).

Beer on the other hand, is fermented from barley malt or a mix of other grains (rye, wheat, oats)with barley. Because these standard grains contains gluten and this is not broken down or extracted in the fermentation process, beer is sadly excluded as an option for those with gluten sensitivities. The great news is that there are an increasing number of breweries that are catching on to this predicament, and are producing gluten-free beer options.
Rejoice, celiacs!

Keep in mind that because they are brewed from non-standard grains, they have a slightly different taste, but not difficult to get accustomed to. It is still beer after all.

For Canadians, there is the health-conscious Quebec brewery, Les Bieres de la Nouvelle France, which has not one but TWO gluten-free and preservative-free beer options. La Messagere and La Messagere Red Ale are both derived from buckwheat and rice and are available across Canada.

Albertans give us Bard's Beer, founded by Craig Belser and Kevin Seplowitz, both diagnosed celiacs who could not stand a miserable life without beer, and brought us their popular beer derived from sorghum.

American beer-makers, Lakefront Brewery, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, also has a gluten-free beer available. Their beer is called New Grist, which is brewed from rice and sorghum (a gluten-free grain from the grass family).

Brewing giant, Budweiser, has gotten on the bandwagon by partnering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and providing us with Redbridge Beer, another sorghum-based gluten-free beer, available widely in the States, but unfortunately not yet to us Canucks, as far as I know.


Monday, August 9, 2010

How much Calcium do we need? Non-Dairy Calcium Sources Exists!

It amazes me how many of my patients can make the link between dairy milk consumption and their maldigestion symptoms (ex. stomach aches, gas, bloating, diarrhea) yet they continue to drink it because they "need the calcium!".  So let's chat about non-dairy sources of calcium.

Calcium is super important as it is the most abundant mineral in the body and needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth as well as play a role in preventing osteoporosis. 

Recommended Intake of Calcium:
Infants (up to 12mos) - 200mg per day
Children (1-4yo) - 500mg per day
Children (4-8yo) - 800mg per day
Children (9-13) - 1300mg per day
Adults (18-50yo) - 1000mg per day
Adults (>50yo) - 1500mg per day

1 cup of milk has 300mg of calcium...but 1 cup of cooked collard greens has over 350mg!  Here are some other non-dairy sources of calcium:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bulk Barn Healthy Options & Gluten-Free Section

Aileen and I work and live in downtown Toronto, and as such we hardly encounter Bulk Barn, which always seems to be somewhere in a random plaza in the burbs. We happened to be out on the northwest end of Toronto this past weekend, and stumbled across a Bulk Barn.

We all have fond memories of Bulk Barn...pretending not to notice the "Do Not Sample" signs, and tasting - just a few - of every awesome snack available. We were quite impressed with the extensive gluten-free section. (Note that although these are labelled gluten-free, this is more applicable to gluten-sensitivities rather than celiac disease, in which case bulk sections are not recommended due to cross contamination with trace amounts of gluten).

The gluten-free options range from almost every type of whole grain (organic quinoa, amaranth, teff, millet, and a great variety of rices) to flours and pancake mixes to gluten-free pasta.

Of course, prices are reasonable as a result of being sold in bulk and use much less packaging...I think they would actually be even cheaper, but Bulk Barn must be taking into account the "snack factor" that we all have been guilty of.

Other awesome finds: Cassava chips, bulk almond and sunflower seed butter, apple butter, tamari almonds, honey-coated sunflower seeds, dried herbs, pinatas, and cool cake and pastry molds. And since this blog is all about healthy compromises and honesty, of course, we had to get a selection of some nostalgic childhood candies. Aileen loves her gummy green mint leaves and blue sharks, and I love my red lips and sour keys. Mm mmm.

Heard there is a Bulk Barn just at Leslie and Lakeshore, just a few minutes from downtown...I think we will be paying it a visit once our new stash of clear-bagged goodies starts to dwindle down.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My last summer as a 20-something year old

A couple of weekends ago, Makoto planned a day of fun to celebrate my 29.5 birthday.  I'm turning 30 in the new year which means I am now enjoying my last summer as a 20 something year old.  Suddenly I feel this cheesy urge to start clubbing again to "get it out of my system".  When does the transition happen when we go from dancing all night to amazing (and sometimes even not-so-amazing) music at clubs to drinking $20 cocktails at posh hotel lounges for fun?  I told Makoto this and he was right there for me, even finding his old university backpack that would secretly house a 12-pak and has secret built in compartments for attaching straws.

Then we remembered our last outing to some random club and how our conversation upon arrival went a little something like this:

Makoto:  I think the air quality in here is pretty poor.
Me:  Whoa....the music is so you think this is bad for my ears?
Makoto: least we'll be getting our cardio in tonight.

As my 16yo cousin would say, LAME-SAUCE!  We still have a great time going dancing and ending the night with a mandatory 3am meal in Chinatown from time to time but we realize that our gong show clubbing days are behind us.  I must say that my favorite nights are the ones I spend talking and laughing the night away with Makoto and our beloved family and friends no matter where we are. 

As much as I loved my 20s, I am incredibly excited to move into my 30s and leave behind certain insecurities, self doubt and certainly some bad fashion choices (listen up Asian girls...we should NEVER streak our hair blonde...ever).

One thing I am much more in tune with is my health and my body.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm just "getting older" and more sensitive to things that I use to be able to easily overcome or whether I'm just not tolerating certain discomforts any longer.  Either way, I know it feels good to take care of myself and I'm a much more happier and peaceful person when I do.

I know I still have a lot to learn....but I'm looking forward to it.....and I will forever be the first girl on the dance floor at any good party!
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