Cooking, Education, Health

Mercy bears richer fruits

By: Nohemie Mawaka

I love food, more importantly I love eating and drinking healthy foods. Why? You gain more energy, muscle strengthens, stronger immune system; the list goes on and on. Usually after each meal, I grab myself a fruit. When bored at home, when studying and loosing focus or after exercising; I usually make myself a delicious smoothie. Truth be told, I do not follow some sort of recipe when making drinks. I grab whatever is available and knowing my taste buds, I always enjoy whatever I make. Thus, I made: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas and almonds smoothie. These are fruits that I always buy at the market whenever doing my groceries; they also can be used for baking (banana bread) or salad (berries are delicious with Spanish and goat cheese), snacks (roasted almond at 400 degrees topped with Paprika, so good!).

IMG_6715Here are the health benefits are the following food items used:

Strawberries: Strong antioxidants (substances which slows down cell damage), strong source of vitamin C (good for skin, cell connector, iron absorber), lowers obesity and weight loss increase.

Blueberries: High in vitamin C, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease, its blue pigmentation fights off cancer causing radicals, removes bacterias in urinary tracts.

Raspberries: Increases enzyme activities in the body, which leads to foods being broken down quicker and digested faster. This causes lower rates of obesity, less likelihood of fat liver. U.S department of agriculture and science shows that organic raspberries carry more antioxidants than those manufactured with pesticides.

Banana: As the most widely used fruit in the world, bananas are free of fat, contains a lot of Potassium yet is very low in cholesterol and sodium, altogether lowers blood pressure. Lowers Asthma risk by approximately 34% in children, lower rates of childhood leukemia, high fiber intake leads to less rates of colorectal cancer, lower rates of type-1 diabetes. Good treatment for diarrhea effect.

Almonds: It’s a source of fat, YES FAT! Unsaturated fat (the good kind). Lowers LDL-cholesterol (the bad kind), lowers heart risk, great source of vitamin E ( important for immune system and metabolic process). The more the almonds, the lower the blood sugar levels. Surprisingly eating almonds makes you feel fuller, thus more energy for the day while remaining healthy.

All sources are found in the British Journal of Nutrition, 2011-2014.
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Cooking, Health

In the kitchen: Quinoa Tabbouleh

I love being healthy, but I also acknowledge the fact that I love my carbs! This is my biggest weakness. Since I am not willing to give up carbohydrates, although too much intake is related to several health problems. Thus I find ways to substitute carbs; replacing rice for quinoa. This is a whole grain but many sources confirmed that quinoa is actually a seed high in proteins, which is good for amino acids build up and your immune system.
Today in my kitchen, I made quinoa tabbouleh with a side of Coconut shrimp. Here is the easy recipe for the tabbouleh:

IMG_6677 IMG_66761/4 quinoa rinsed and cooked with 3/4 water, once ready put to cool for 15 minutes
Three green onions
small amount of parsley
one medium size tomato
small cucumber cubed
3 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of honey

Very easy salad and I added some avocado on top to add even more flavor. Enjoy!

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Education, Fat, Health

#Veganism

About three months ago, towards the end of December to be exact, I started to notice some gastral discomfort. I was unable to identify what exactly what causing such an unpleasant stomach reaction considering the fact that I eat fairly healthy. Thus, I decided to start from scratch and eliminating almost everything I usually eat for a month and slowly add my daily foods one at a time to help identify the cause of such pains. Since I strongly do not like “Juice cleanses” nor do I find them realistic and healthy, I decided to try veganism.

The entire month of January, all I ate were vegetables and carbohydrates, well for the most part. For those not familiar with veganism; A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals. (www.vegan.org). Therefore, for twenty eight days I mostly ate cereals, oatmeal and fruits for breakfast instead of eggs, feta or goat cheese. While lunch was much easier with my usual salad and veggie sandwiches. For dinner, no chicken nor fish were eaten ( I do not eat red meat for personal reasons; it was not difficult to eliminate). At first I thought it would be easy simply because I am passionate about healthy eating, thinking to myself that the transition would be easy. Well not quite. The tremendous advantage I found with veganism was the fast weight loss; I lost 15 pounds to be exact, for my body max index that is a lot. This can be explained by the fact that veganism diet is largely composed of unsaturated fat intake with energy-dense nutrients such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Raw foods are known for reducing 9% of body fat within the first three months of dieting, but if eaten excessively it may deteriorate the body. As well, the body max index (BMI; your weight divided by your height) among vegans is estimated to be lower than among omnivores (those who eat everything). As well, veganism I found quickened my metabolism. Meaning, I was consuming many legumes which are hydrophilic and eating a lot of fibres; both are strong for secretion. Whilst foods high in fats and saturated, are hard breakdown by the digestive system and tends to accumulate in blood vessels. Despite the many health advantages of veganism such as weight loss, healthier eating, and not purchasing animals products turned out to be cheaper in cost.

However, through some research I found that veganism also has some disadvantages. One major debate is its deficiency in Vitamin B12 which are used for the maturation of red blood cells and the making of nerve tissues.  These vitamins are not naturally found in plant food, but high in milk products. Strong deficiency of Vitamin B12 does not appear right away, rather shows signs later on when body damage may be too late to repair. Damages such as neurological issues may arise, thus a healthy vegan diet requires Vitamin B12 pills intake. Since I refuse to take any pills unless it is a life or death situation (personal life choices), if I were to pursue a life of veganism; I would be suffering. Especially among people of African descent where anemia is common through the recessive sickle cell gene, this may be very concerning. Especially if considering the fact that the red blood cells if strong, contains a great level of iron. Another nutrient that is much higher in animal based products. In that same token, another essential vitamin is a very popular one; “Sunlight vitamin” also known as Vitamin D. This is crucial for bone growth and is strongly absorbed with exposure to sunlight. Due to pigmentation differences, people of darker skin colour have lower levels of Vitamin D in comparison to Caucasians. Vitamin D are found in oily fish, eggs and meats. Since they are crucial for bone growth and strength, it is important for optimal growth of a newborn and children. That is why many vegans have been found to have low Vitamin D levels and are advised to take supplements for fortified foods.

One of the biggest arguments in modern day society is that veganism leads to a tremendous decrease in protein levels. This may be due to the fact that our society is so obsessed with protein intake, leading to many people overly consuming proteins thinking that it will give them “cut-board abs and gorgeous biceps”! In reality, anything taken excessively is not healthy. Don’t get me wrong, proteins are very important and essential in one’s diet. Matter fact, they are crucial for amino acids productions and regulation of hormones, which ultimately is the root of the human’s body functioning. And this is concerning among vegans, because their protein levels has been absorbed to be lower than those of omnivores. And although proteins may be absorbed through beans and some nuts, animal products contain a full sufficient amount of proteins. However, a healthy vegan diet has been proven to meet the standard protein levels for the average human. Simply more concerning among children who need a stronger development of amino acids. Yet again, the proteins through a vegan diet may be observed throughout the day in different meals containing foods such as beans or lentils; rather than stressing to eat all of the daily protein portion in one plate.

Ultimately, I was able to identify which item was causing me stomach pains. It turned out to be half and half cream, which is composed of over 30% of the animal fat milk. This happens to be used in most drinks served at several cafes that I go too. Therefore, I was able to eliminate it in my day to day diet. All in all, if done properly with the right supplements, veganism is a great way to live. It is not for me, simply because I enjoy eating a well-balanced meal with fish and occasional eggs; but doing this cleanse for a month has allowed me to learn far more than I had initially anticipated. Before, I had failed to realize how much animal fat based products were used as ingredients in foods sold in grocery stores. As well, portion control while eating any meal is very important because unlike most North Americans who eat to the point of vomiting; food should be eaten for energy and life sustainability. Thus, veganism has allowed me to be more mindful of eating to the point of being full and content by being recognizing my servings. Also, some become vegan for reasons of protesting against animal cruelty for mass market profits, while others do it for health reasons. Regardless of why you may embark in veganism; do it in a healthy fashion and get yourself educated on the matter.

F. Phillips.(2005). Vegetarian nutrition. British Nutrition Foundation, Bulletin, 30: 132-167.

C. Ciocchetti. (2012). Veganism and living well. Agriculture Environment Ethics, 25: 405-417.

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Uncategorized

Recipe: Comfort foods

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One great thing about being passionate for healthy foods, is cooking it! I try my best to explore a different meal each day as much as I can. Today I went to the market to buy some locally grown foods to encourage local business owners; I picked up some great foods and vegetables. On a relaxed saturday evening such as this one,  I try to keep it simple in the kitchen. I made a chicken lemon stir fry with brown rice with some strawberries and mango bowl. Here is the recipe, I thought it would be great to share:

Main
1 boneless Chicken- Cook in oven on broil for 20 minutes at 450 degree (no added spice, just a simple wash)
1/3 of rice in rice cooker with 1/2 cup of water
1 large red onion and 1 large red pepper, both sliced and cooked in hot olive oil at medium temperature for 10 minutes until caramelized.

Lemon Stir fry sauce
Sauce from http://www.fortysomething.ca :
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar

Once chicken turned a little brown (make sure inside is cooked), cut in small cubic pieces and add to stir fry along with caramelized peppers and onions. Let mixture cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on how much sauce you want.

Add to rice and voila!

Fruit bowl
1/3 tablespoon of salt
3 tablespoon of lemon juice
10 strawberries (sliced)
1 small mango ( I don’t like it ripped, yellow inside but a little harden-good for salad)

This is a light meal and healthy. During cold winter days such as these, whole wheat carbs such as brown rice and citrus fruits like lemons are great for digestion, along with all berries like strawberries.

Picture by me.

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Education, Health

Human produced gas

By: Nohémie Mawaka

Today’s post is somewhat of an embarrassing subject for most people, yet I have absolutely no discomfort in discussing subjects that many find grotesque. We will be discussing: FART, in a more proper term; Flatulence. This word encompasses another word, Flatus. This is a gas caused by the intestinal tract. Thus, very often medical texts will teach us that flatus comes out of the anus.

Not only is farting ‘smelly’, but humiliating when released at the most inconvenient time during a meeting at work or in a public setting with peers. I always thought that flatulence was due to your digestive system not being able to properly breakdown particular foods consumed, thus you could not secrete waste but it was released in the form of gas; hence the smell. My thinking was true to some degree. In other words, when digesting food, gas is released in the form of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. As these gases continue to build up inside the body, we must get rid of it, so we do so through flatulence (fart) or burping (belching).Interestingly, you might have noticed the variety in the smell of your fart. Sometimes the smell is so minimal that it is unnoticed. Other times, the smell is very strong; in this case it is an indication that there is a higher amount sulfur gas exertion.

While studying organic chemistry, the most terrifying course for any undergraduate science student-some treat this course like it’s a contagious plague! In organic chemistry, we learn that some gas are stronger than others due to their position in the periodic table, while others like methane at room temperature are odorless but change in properties with temperature. Even more fascinating, is the fact that most gases that cause humans fart, are naturally found in the atmosphere (i.e. nitrogen gas occupies over 75% in weight of dry air) and some may be industrially used like sulfur to refine oil or as a resource for minerals. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide is what we as humans want to exert out of the body and only keep oxygen from photosynthesis. Not to turn this into a chemistry lesson, but this is just another part of science that truly fascinates me. How some chemicals may on one hand be deadly when exposed to it for too long at a particular temperature, on the other hand the human’s body may be able to sustain it and release it back to the air through flatus exerted through the anus in the form of gas.

Now if you are anything like me and find yourself eating healthy, with the occasional cheat night of beer barbecue pork ribs from your delicious local steak house, you may think that all healthy foods will never lead to excessive flatulence. Sadly, a lot of healthy foods do cause fart! Such as beans, broccoli, sprouts and etc. I am not suggesting to completely cut out these vegetables from your daily diet, simply to be aware that these vegetables have a higher amount of carbs (Carbohydrates), thus causing gas. Some doctors even suggest drinking water only an hour prior to your daily meals because the body relies on the stomach acids to digest food. When drinking too much water you dilute those acids, making less potent, and being less efficient in breaking down food; leading to gas. Again, this is not say that drinking water is bad for you, but as an old French proverbs goes: “tous excès nuient”-anything in excess ruins you. Therefore, drink your regular ounce of water as recommended by the government food guide and continue eating your vegetables. But it is good to know why our body does certain things, and why our consumption may goes exertion of gas.  

 

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Education

Prostate!

Males reproductive system

Over the weekend, I had the chance to spend some time with my parents. Seeing my father with grey hair on his head at the age of fifty nine was an eye opener, making me realize that he was no longer young. Thus, upon a medical visit to the urologist where my father was scheduled to run some medical exams to make sure that he did not have prostate cancer. I began to wonder what exactly prostate cancer is. I recall my biology professor in my second year of university saying: “Prostate cancer is easily curable, thus not a worry for the field of cancer research in comparison to breast cancer.” So, what exactly is prostate cancer? And why is my father worrying for this now, yet he did not talk about this twenty years ago?

According to the United States National Institute of Cancer, prostate cancer can be defined as follow: “Cancer that forms in tissues of the prostate (a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum). Prostate cancer usually occurs in older men.” (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/prostate), followed with close to thirty thousand annual deaths in the U.S alone from this cancer. This definition is pretty simple and straightforward, but missing some visual imagery to better understands the morphology of the male’s body. Please refer to this link for better imagery:  Males reproductive system . The name itself originates from the ancient Greek word prostatini, which means ‘set before’. Therefore, the prostate gland is at the base of the male bladder. Furthermore, the prostate is an exocrine gland (an externally secreting gland, such as a salivary gland or sweat gland that releases its secretions directly or through a duct) of the male reproductive system near the rectum. Interestingly, the prostate itself is about the size of a walnut. But for some older men, it becomes enlarged with age. Within the prostate, many small glands are produced for the formation and maintenance of semen, while the sperm is produced in the testicles. When males reach a sexual climax (orgasm) the prostate releases these fluids through the urethra and eventually goes through the penis. That is why during sexual intercourse, if a male has an orgasm; sperm in its liquid form is released through the penis.

Now why was my father speaking of a PSA levels or why did he have to visit a urologist (Medical doctor whose specialisation is in urine). Well it turns out that, irregular urine release or even interruption while urinating throughout the night or blood coming out while peeing; is abnormal. That is why prostate glands are involved in the control of urine flow after the liquid has gone through the urethra. Within the prostate gland, antigens (foreign substance that induces an immune response in the body) are produced by the name of Prostate Specific antigens (PSA). These are useful for the moderation of semen levels. The PSA may go into bloodstreams, which later may or may not lead to prostate cancer. That is why high levels of PSA may be a good indication that there is something wrong with the prostate, and blood test may be done for further examinations. With this, prostate cancer is very common among men. Some die without even knowing that they had cancer, while others are affected daily. This cancer is not common among men younger than mid-forties. And its intensity levels are associated with the size of the cancerous tumours.  

All ended well when the doctor told my father a weird joke: “Some have large noises, it does not mean that they need a nose job. Some older men have enlarged prostates, does not mean that they have prostate cancer. Sir you are healthy, and have the urinary capacity of a forty year old man!” With that, prostate is very common among older men, and is something that should not be taken lightly rather, be dealt with by a physician.

By: Nohémie Mawaka.

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Uncategorized

Vitiligo

By: Nohemie Mawaka

A few weeks ago, I had posted an article about my skin discoloration condition that was often associated with a very strong dryness of the scalp. Whilst my skin is no longer dry (the natural path method did work!), my mother on the other hand insisted that I see a dermatologist because my skin was losing its natural coloration. To be honest, I love the field of medicine but I do avoid going to the doctor at all cost because they often feed us loads of medication; it’s almost like the good old medical care system has forgotten its ethics. Thus why I do my best to always be healthy, use natural products and I have always been confident that I have a good immune system. In reality, at a certain age or time in our lives we all need medication and the attention of a doctor in order to stay alive. Recently, with my skin progressively loosing its natural color especially on my forehead and scalp, around my noise and at the center of my neck; my parents became very concerned. That is how I ended up at my family doctor’s office that referred me to a dermatologist.

When my doctor told me that he suspects that I may have vitiligo, millions of thoughts were running through my mind when he called it an autoimmune disease (condition in which an individual’s immune system reacts against the body’s own organs or tissues). In  vitiligo, melanocytes which are cells created by our bodies for pigmentation are destroyed. This leads to a progressive discoloration of the skin. The origin of vitiligo is unknown but researchers suspect that it is an inherited three genes which leads to depigmentation. For some reason, vitiligo appears to be more common in people with other associated autoimmune diseases. It often begins in the early twenties or at the least prior to the age of forty. While women tend to be more receptive to multiple illness’; contrarily vitiligo is common among both genders and all ethnicities. With darker skin individuals showing more signs of discoloration. More so, it is often found among people with pernicious anemia; a condition where there is an insufficient amount of vitamin B12 absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract), hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland) or uveitis (inflammation in one part of the eye). These are all suspected cause of vitiligo associated diseases, but not a confirmation nor certainty for the reason behind the disease.

Although there is no cure for vitiligo and no physical associated pains, for many it is emotionally and psychologically unbearable. Having a discoloration of the skin in public areas of the body such as the face, neck or harms, may become embarrassing to walk around with because it is so noticeable to others around you; particularily vitiligo affected individuals of darker skin. Luckily, there is professional mental health help available to all living in developed countries. Treatments are slowly becoming more available such as depigementation where the entire body fades and matches in color, topical psoralen photochemotherapy which involves the application of UVA light once or twice a week which is more useful among those whose diagnoses shows a correlation with sunburns, surgery of skin removal; just to name a few. I am not 100% certain if I am a carrier of vitiligo or simply that the dryness of my skin loses its pigmentation at certain times of the years (usually in the fall). But for what it’s worth, I will wait for my biopsy and see the results. Reading several articles on vitiligo and recalling individuals who I have met that are affected by the disease, makes me realize that this condition ought to be embraced rather than a stigma for public humiliation. Visit the American Vitiligo Research Foundation for more details: http://www.avrf.org

Source: Jian Cui, Li-Yu Shen and guang-chao Wang. Role of hair follicles in the repigmentation of Vitiligo. Journal of Investigative Dermotology (1991) 97, 410-416.

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