Friday, December 30, 2011

Primal Ham & Cheese "Quiche"

I made this variant (above) of a recipe that Lisa first saw on Canada AM. Below is a shot of the "original" made just about exactly the way the recipe noted (but no muffins and butter not "Pam"). The variant above is made with a scrambled egg (rather than whole egg) with some grated cheddar cheese and a few small slices of green onions mixed into the egg, and topped with grated cheddar cheese. I really need to use a better camera, but you get the idea from these shots.

Real food bargains: St. Albert edition

My friends, Ken and Lisa, told me some time ago that I should blog about bargains from stores in the St. Albert area on real food and related items, since finding such deals is one of my hobbies. So here you go, my inaugural post of such things, with just a few items I saw at the Real Canadian Superstore on a recent outing.

Ocean spray cranberries* (340 g bag): $0.46 per bag when you buy in groups of 2
Sunny Fruit dried figs (200 g package)*: $1 per package when you buy in groups of 3 (*no preservatives)
Giant yams: $0.46 per pound
Lactantia whipping cream (1 L carton): $1.50
Brita replacement filters$2.94 for a 3 pack (there are a lot of complete filter pitchers on sale, too)

* I made a variant of the cranberry recipe on the bag by replacing the sugar with 2 tablespoons of honey; very tart and tasty with much less sugar!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Save time, the environment, and your health

The Edmonton Journal reported a new study earlier in December that actually quantified yet another benefit of taking stairs over an elevator: stairs are faster. So now people have yet another reason to bypass the line for the elevator and get some fitness on their way to the office (or wherever the upward-bound destination happens to be) . This is even more important in our world today when the destination is an office chair, prolonged periods of sitting, and otherwise sedentary employment given the recent evidence that we should avoid excessive (sitting) "down" time.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The tables have turned: Look who's the experimental test subject now

For the past two years or so I have been participating in an MRI study examining the relationships between MS, disability, and iron in the brain. The study was headed up by my neurologist, Dr. Gregg Blevins and Dr. Alan Wilman, both from the University of Alberta. I also participated in the media release: click here to view Global Edmonton's piece.

Friday, December 2, 2011

When it comes to nutrition, we're on our own

The Canadian government cancelled a program to verify nutritional and purported health benefits of products sold in grocery stores. What does this mean for us, the consuming public? My take of this news is that it is all the more reason to stick to real, whole food, rather than packaged, processed nonsense that comes in beautiful packaging covered in slogans reflecting the latest health craze (omega 3 enriched [insert crappy food here], for instance).

UPDATE: Apparently, the government is "scaling back" testing, not cancelling it outright, as was originally reported (see first link in this post). None-the-less, consumers would do well to not purchase "food" that is packaged and touted as "heart healthy" etc. If the product needs marketing to sell it, you probably shouldn't but it. You don't often see any health claims on whole food in the produce section.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Carbohydrates anonymous

A news piece in the Edmonton Journal (originally published in the Vancouver Sun) a few days ago does a nice job of summarizing some of the issues around excess carbohydrate consumption. There are many factors to consider that the piece does not get into (read: all carbohydrates are not evil) but it gets the main point across nicely, namely, that too many carbohydrates (i.e., more than you can readily burn off) are not a great plan if you want to lead a healthy life. The problem is compounded if you select highly processed carbohydrates that have the additional strike against them of containing industrial oils high in pro-inflammatory omega 6s.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

21.4 minutes or 4 years - you decide

This is my 100th blog post and it may be one of the most important I have written (some might argue that none up until now were important, so at least I am marking the 100th milestone by upping my game). 

Many people feel that they don't have adequate time to eat properly (i.e., eat real, actual food, not the latest cure-all supplement or meal replacement) or to exercise (read: move your body). Well, in a new study reported on today, that 21.4 minutes per day that you save not exercising (they recommend a paltry 150 minutes a week or 21.4 minutes a day) will cost you 4 years that you could have lived. It's your choice: 21.4 minutes per day of some form of activity, or meet your maker 4 years sooner. Moreover, consuming 5 or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables can also add an extra 1.3 years on average to your life. The arithmetic is simple: a little investment now will pay dividends later.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Well, that was fun! Ancestral Health course, 2011.

We just wrapped up my first Ancestral Health course, and I have to say, it was a blast. I think the class liked it too. I think we might have a winner with this course!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

St. Albert Deliveries: Big Coulee Farms

Here is the content of the new delivery leaflet from Big Coulee Farms (BCF).

Please call to order: (780) 675-9458
We are coming to St. Albert Centre parking lot near Hwy. #2 in front of the Bay on the following dates from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. with orders only.
(Chicken, Turkey, Beef, Pork and Eggs)

October: 22
November: 5, 19
December: 4 & 17
January: 7, 21
February: 4, 18
March: 3, 17, 31
April: 14, 28
May: 5, 19
June: 2, 16, 30
July: 14, 28
August: 4, 18
September: 1, 15, 29
October: 6, 20
November: 3, 17
December 1, 15, 22

While product is available.
Please pay with cheque or exact cash. You will be contacted thre Friday before delivery with the amount of your order.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Love dark chocolate but you eat Paleo/Primal? No problem!

Aerial view of dark chocolate...

One of my graduate students (thank you!) gave me the link to this recipe. I made it last night and it was great, even my 12 year old daughter liked it! I like it because you can control exactly what goes into it, it takes very little time to make, and it costs way less than store bought chocolate bars. Here is the recipe (Ingredients and Directions) copied from the site with my modifications in parentheses.


1/4 – 1/2 cup organic cocoa powder (I used 1/2 cup of regular, non-organic)
1/4 cup coconut milk (Native Forest Classic)
dash of Celtic Sea Salt (regular sea salt, about 1/2 turn of the grinder)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla (regular, non-organic)
Stevia  (honey) to taste (about 3/4 tbsp honey)

1. Heat the oil on med/high to thin it out; then add cocoa, coconut milk, vanilla, salt. It will thicken when you add the coconut milk so keep it warm while you add stevia a little bit at a time. (If you are using the steviva concentrated powder, just use a little dusting at a time and keep tasting it. If you add too much it will be more bitter. You can always add a little more coconut milk if it gets too sweet.)
2. Once you are satisfied with the taste, take it off the heat and pour it into molds or spread on a small plate and freeze. Even if left at room temp if will harden because of the coconut oil. (I left it on the counter for 5 minutes, stuck it in the freezer for about 5 minutes, then stored it in the refrigerator. I poured it onto a regular dinner plate.)
3. You can add other ingredients to the chocolate before letting it set – coconut, almonds, walnuts, etc. (I made it plain - see photos)

Plate full of yum!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Too pretty to eat? Nah!

Lisa and Meg are still at a dance festival so I had to fend for myself for dinner (and Mackenzie, too, but that's another story). This is what I came up with for my dinner. It took me about 10 minutes. Poached sockeye salmon, some greens (spinach, mixed, celery), onions, avocado with extra virgin olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. There might be something to this Paleo/Primal thing...

Monday, April 25, 2011

What to do with leftovers?

We had a nice turkey dinner yesterday with plenty of leftovers for today. One option would be to eat the turkey in the same manner as yesterday. Another option would be to turn them into Turkey Madras (pictured below).
I sauteed the turkey and 3 green onions in some coconut oil, added some curry powder and water and let it simmer (covered) a while (5 minutes or so) then added the chard and spinach and covered it again for about 5 minutes to steam the greens. I added a dash of freshly ground sea salt and then enjoyed. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stand UP!

Here's my most recent "invention" - a stand-up workstation in my departmental office. I have been using this for about a month and really enjoy it. I encourage all to give this a whirl. There have been recent studies related to the perils of all the sitting we do each day (see Mark Sisson's post here, for instance), so, I got off my keester, literally, and did something about it.
 I finally got around to posting this after seeing similar posts on Richard Nikoley's blog on John Durant's blog and with some prodding from one of my students (thanks to AM for that!).

Get cracking!

This tasted as good as it looked so I had to share! Big Coulee Farms eggs (of course) fried in triple-smoked European bacon grease from the Grapevine Deli. (Blog post borrowed from an Egg Farmers of Ontario slogan I remember from when I was a kid.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ethical livestock: Big Coulee Farms

This is the brochure for the family who raises our eggs and meat. Click on the following images for details of pricing and products available. You can check them out at the St. Albert Farmer's Market Starting in June. They also have bi-weekly deliveries available to St. Albert and also to Edmonton. Call Vicky for details.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Showdown at the Canola corral

There will be more posts on this topic, but I had to get something down after my conversation with a representative from the Alberta Canola Producers Commission this afternoon. They had a display set up in the Students' Union Building at the University of Alberta this afternoon. I noticed it on my way back to my office after my Ashtanga Yoga practice and thought I would check it out. There was a large version of the graph on the top of this figure (below) that caught my eye.
Canola oil is listed at the top of this chart because it has the least saturated fat content of the oils listed. The representative asked if I used canola oil. Here is a paraphrased excerpt of our conversation.

Me: No I don't use canola oil.
Rep: What oil do you use?
Me: Coconut oil, lard (bacon grease actually, butter and olive oil.
Rep: Don't you know those have a lot of saturated fat?
Me: Is that bad?
Rep: Yes, saturated fat has been linked to heart disease.
Me: What studies showed this?
Rep: Studies as far back as the 1960s.
Me: Did you know those researchers selected countries for their studies that fit their theory that saturated fat is bad, and that if all the countries were included in their analyses, there would be no relationship?
Rep: That's one interpretation.

There was more back and forth about rates of heart disease increasing in countries in Asia that have increasing use of saturated fats that I countered with the question of refined carbohydrate use also increasing in these countries - to this the reply was that there are a number of factors. I then asked why focus on saturated fat? The rep asked about my blood work, to which I replied that it was even better now that I used saturated fats more and no canola oil. I can't remember if I mentioned that I also don't eat any grains. 

Here's my "unhealthy" breakfast this morning. Fortuitous, I know. A two free-run egg omelet (eggs from Big Coulee Farms in Athabasca; they sell pastured chickens, beef, and pork too), with German salami (from the Grapevine Deli in St. Albert - go there for gluten/preservative-free deli meats and imported goodies, tell them I sent you), mushrooms and asparagus all fried in bacon grease (gasp!) from triple-smoked European bacon from, where else, the Grapevine Deli!

I then asked about the high percentage of omega 6 in canola oil and pointed out that the n6:n3 ratio is already a problem in society so why would we want more in a product like canola oil? The reply was that the 6:3 ratio in canola was respectable at 2:1. I noted that the fraction of n6 in coconut oil was tiny by comparison to canola (2% in coconut vs 21% in canola). No real answer. (I didn't get into the other issues like the production process and the issues with GMO plants.) The rep had not much more to offer at this point. I left the display and went back to work.

I'm not sure anything was accomplished, except that I engaged the rep in, what I thought, was a meaningful discussion, and presented a counterpoint to the conventional wisdom that canola (and other seed oils) is good for health.

My student Ashley suggested that I put some information up about where to source coconut oil in the greater Edmonton Area. Here is the brand I buy I get mine from the Great Candaian Superstore for $8.99 per 454g (1 pound) container. In honour of my conversation(s) (there was another one that I had with nutrition students about grains and carbohydrates in diet - I'll post on that later) I ate a large tablespoon full of the oil pictured below when I returned to my office.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bacon night!

Our "bacon night" dinner night looked like this tonight. Simple, delicious and nutritious.
Lisa's had tomatoes.
Mine had the sauteed chard. Yum.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's all about you

People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of good nutrition as a part of good overall health and well being. This is good. The problem is that everyone wants a quick fix to their problems, whether it is carrying too much weight, hypertension, digestive issues, or whatever. And they want their quick fix to "fit into" or to "work" with their very busy lives. 

But at the end of the day, the only person responsible for your health and wellness is you. Not your spouse, children, friends, relatives, neighbours, colleagues, and certainly not spokespeople for the current "solution" du jour.


And while you may be busy, or busier than the next person whom you compare yourself with, you control your health choices. And if you make poor, or suboptimal decisions, do you know who is going to pay the price?


Oh, your family, friends and the like will be saddened that you have to spend time with doctors, in hospital or whatever. But they'll get over it. Eventually. You may not. In fact, your choices may result in very serious consequences and even contribute in a very real way to your eventual demise.

Now I'm not claiming that I have always made excellent, or even mediocre decisions at some points, when it comes to my health and wellness. It has been a long, ever-evolving process. I have made plenty of missteps along the way. I like to delude myself into thinking that I have learned from them and will avoid them in the future. Who knows? Only time will tell. 

What I do know is that each one of us as individuals have to decide for ourselves how to make the most of our time here, and that nutrition plays a key role. And nutrition starts with the consumption of food. Real food. Not as Michael Pollan calls it, "food-like substances". Food.

My own road has led me to adopt a Primal/Paleo style diet, that is leading more and more towards strict Paleo (started with no grains, legumes, sugar, processed food, and now moving towards an elimination of dairy too). I feel great, eat great food, and exercise in a manner that is consistent with our evolutionary history. 

I encourage everyone to more carefully consider their health and wellness as the primary focus at the centre of their busy lives, and not something peripheral that only needs to be dealt with when an MD directs them to "eat healthier and get some exercise".
Here's some banana-almond pancakes as a reward for reading this long-winded post. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

sturdyteam registered for the MS Walk 2011!

sturdyteam at the 2011 St. Albert Enerflex MS Walk

It is time to start building an increased awareness of multiple sclerosis and to start fundraising again as the 2011 MS Walk is only 2 months away (15 May 2011). This year, we are participating in the Edmonton Enerflex MS Walk instead of the St. Albert MS Walk because of conflicts with the girls' dancing schedules. Like last year, we'll be doing the 10 km walk. Please click here to donate to sturdyteam or our individual members.

I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis in May 2009. I am currently taking Copaxone, a standard MS disease modifying drug (DMD), via daily injections. Before this I was on Rebif for two stints, but it caused nasty side effects so I moved over to Copaxone (Glatiramer acetate is its generic name - Copaxone is the trade name used by Teva Pharmaceuticals).

Although there are many new therapies being researched and introduced all the time (here's a new pill-based therapy introduced in Canada just two days ago), my goal/hope is that research will be directed towards uncovering what causes MS so that people can avoid "modifying their disease" through DMDs and instead live a long, healthy life, free of MS. Here is an example of the direction I think we need to be pursuing more vigorously, especially the dietary suggestions that are in line with a Paleolithic diet (and related to a recent blog post of mine).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization

This is a very important article just published in an open access source, that clearly, and with all of the appropriate materials cited (including counters to the standard counterarguments), outlines why we as a society are suffering needlessly. It also outlines what can be done about it by identifying patterns of nutrition, fitness and other lifestyle factors that can be easily modified to avoid diseases that are by and large a product of our modern world. I was directed to this paper by Jamie Scott on his blog and Julianne Taylor on her blog (I am sure many others in the blogosphere are commenting on and linking to this very important paper.

And now, following the recommendations in the paper, here's some vitamin D (Melbourne Beach, FL, March 2011; Conference on Comparative Cognition)!

Don't forget the Paleo/Primal approved meal (prime rib, veggies, red wine and dark chocolate @ CO3's banquet honouring Alex Kacelik)!!
Please send this paper to any/all who may benefit from reading it (basically, anyone who hasn't yet read it, Paleo/Primal practitioner or not).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Too many things to post about, too little time!

Breakfast a la Sturdy (Big Coulee Farm egg omelet with asparagus and blueberries).

There too many things to choose from to post about, so I'll start with a shot of a great breakfast from a while back. Some notable happenings include: Meghan's relay team qualifying for the Edmonton Journal Games, Mackenzie getting braces, my wife joining me on a Primal/Lacto-Paleo diet and me trying acupuncture for my knee discomfort. Throw in the normal business of kids busy with school, dance and friends, along with a career for Lisa and I, two dogs that want lots of love and there you have it. Our life in a nutshell. Oh, and throw in an upcoming conference in Florida, some new graduate students admitted into the program and my lab, along with a new course prep (Ancestral Health) for this fall, and the needle is officially at "Full". Actually, it is over filled as there are many cool details I am omitting (or am I sticking my head in the sand?) but I'll get to them eventually. Over the next while I am going to start posting more regularly on various happenings and topics that interest me, but I am going to try to keep each post focussed on one main topic rather than the scattergun approach of this "catch-up" post.
Waiting for the walk (Libby and Finlay).