Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Medicinal Properties of Oats

Eating on the go is an inevitable part of a busy lifestyle, but doing so healthily shouldn’t be impossible!  That’s why my mom and I came up with this healthy breakfast recipe back when I was in high school, so I could continue to eat well amidst my busy schedule of school, dance, and commuting between the two.  We called them ‘Breakfast Cookies’, as they are essentially the contents of a bowl of oatmeal in cookie form, for a quick and easy breakfast!  Unlike a traditional ‘cookie’, however, they are free from any added sugar or fat; their natural sweetness comes from raisins and spices, and their moisture comes from applesauce.

Breakfast cookies, ready to enjoy with a mug of tea or a glass of milk (dairy or non-dairy!)

This recipe features oats, which have medicinal properties as a food as well as in their botanical form.  When consumed as a food, oats are rich in fibre, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.  They are useful in balancing blood glucose levels, decreasing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, lowering cholesterol levels, and overall improving cardiovascular health.

Botanically known as Avena sativa, oats are a true nutritive for the nervous system.  When given as a botanical tincture, oats have mild anti-depressant properties, and are also indicated for nervous exhaustion, anxiety and insomnia.

This is what an oat field looks like - in Farmington, California

Oats are also extremely nourishing and moisturizing to the skin when applied topically, and can be used for many conditions including inflammation, eczema, acne, dry and irritated skin.  My favourite is an oatmeal face mask: simply grind a couple tablespoons of oats in the blender and mix in a small bowl with enough warm water to form a thin paste.  Massage gently into skin and allow to dry.  Rinse off after 20-30 minutes.

But since eating oats is the most fun, see the recipe below!

Scarlett’s Breakfast Cookies

First, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Then, mix together in a large bowl:

1 1/3 cups of whole rolled oats
2/3 cup rolled oats, ground into flour in the blender
½ cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
2/3 cup walnuts (or other nuts/seeds)
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1 ½ cups applesauce
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place cookie batter in small flattened mounds, an inch or so apart, to make 18 cookies.  Bake for 15-17 minutes, then allow to cool on a wire rack.  These cookies can be eaten immediately, or stored in the fridge for up to a week.  Enjoy for breakfast or as a snack anytime!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Spicy Dahl Recipe

To put theory to practice, here's my straightforward and delicious recipe for dahl.  It features red lentils, a small quick-cooking legume that softens and forms a thick stew-like mixture when combined with vegetables and spices.  Red lentils are a rich source of protein, fibre, B vitamins such as folate and thiamin, and minerals such as iron, molybdenum, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and copper.  When combined with a grain such as quinoa or rice, this combination forms a complete protein source.

This recipe also features turmeric (Curcuma longa), a relative of ginger that is widely recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties.  

Turmeric in three forms: the whole root, ground, and powdered

Turmeric is associated with a myriad of health benefits, including protection against liver damage, anti-cancer effects, and reduction of inflammation in arthritis.  Dr Andrew Weil, MD, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, is a proponent of using turmeric abundantly in cooking.  He also points out the research showing that turmeric is much better absorbed when combined with black pepper.  For the recipe below, at least 1-2 tsp of turmeric and 1-2 tsp of freshly ground pepper is recommended.  The rest of the spices can be added to taste.  Enjoy!

Scarlett's Spicy Dahl

Bring to a boil 1 cup red lentils and 3 cups water, then reduce heat to simmer.  Stir occasionally – they’ll thicken up as they cook.
In a separate pot, bring to a boil 1 cup quinoa and 2 ½ cups water, then reduce heat to simmer.

In a frying pan, sauté a variety of vegetables in olive oil or coconut oil: Onions, red pepper, green pepper, leeks (the green and white parts!), zucchini, green peas, celery, garlic
Then add spices to taste:
Turmeric (1-2 tsp)
Chili pepper flakes
Cumin (ground and whole seeds)
Pepper (1-2 tsp; freshly ground is best)

Once the lentils have thickened up, add the veggies to the lentils and see how it tastes.  At this point, you can definitely add more spices – I also like to add a little more olive oil at the end for more flavour.
Serve dahl over a bed of quinoa (or rice!)


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Preparation Tips for Beans

As promised, in an effort to decrease consumption of canned foods (see my previous post on BPA in Canned Food), this week I'll give some guidance on how to cook beans from scratch!

Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), red kidney beans, navy beans, and black turtle beans

The First Step - Measuring
Dried beans yield approximately 3 times the amount once cooked.  So, 1 cup of dried beans = 3 cups cooked beans.

The Next Step - Soaking
After rinsing, soak beans overnight in a glass jar containing 3 times their volume of cold water.  In the morning, drain the beans and put them in your favourite cooking pot with the same amount of fresh water.

The Next Next Step - Cooking
Choose your favourite bean from the chart below to determine their cooking time.  Bring water and beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Allow to cook until soft and easily mashed, then drain the beans.

The Final Step - Eating
From hearty chili to summer bean salad, there are countless ways to enjoy cooked beans!  In my next post, I'll share with you one of my favourite original recipes using red lentils:  Scarlett's Spicy Dahl

Beans (best soaked first)
Cooking Time
Black Beans
1 - 1½ hours
Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
1 - 1½ hours
Great Northern Beans
1 - 1½ hours
Lima Beans (Large)
45 - 60 minutes
Lima Beans (Baby)
1 hour
Navy Beans
1 - 1½ hours
Pink Beans
1 - 1½ hours
Pinto Beans
1 - 1½ hours
Red Beans
1 - 1½ hours
Red Kidney Beans
1 - 1½ hours
3 hours

Beans (do not require soaking)
Cooking Time
Black-Eyed Peas
1 - 1½ hours
30 - 45 minutes
Green Split Peas
30 - 45 minutes


Friday, June 8, 2012

BPA in Canned Food

In recent years, alarming news about Bisphenol-A (BPA) has lead many consumers to look for alternatives to plastic waterbottles, tupperware, and even children’s toys.  BPA is an industrial chemical used in the production of most synthetic plastics, and has been seen to mimic the body’s natural hormones, classifying it as an endocrine disruptor.  In particular, BPA mimics estrogen, which is cause for concern in cancer, infertility, weight gain, altered immune function, early puberty, behavioral disorders, heart disease, diabetes, and liver toxicity.  In October 2010, the Canadian government added BPA to Canada’s list of toxic substances.

A less acknowledged but highly important source of BPA to be aware of is canned food; the liner present inside cans contains BPA.  Although manufacturing costs for BPA-free cans are 2.2 cents higher than that of cans containing BPA, some companies have made the choice to go without.

In the search for BPA-free canned food, examples of brands to choose include Eden Organics (canned beans) and Vital Choice (canned fish).  This article contains the full list, and is informative for how to make decisions at the grocery store: 7 Companies You Can Trust to Use BPA-Free Cans

While it is important to choose BPA-free cans when buying canned food, it is also important to keep in mind that all canned items are still processed.  Canned foods tend to contain high levels of sodium and lower levels of nutrients compared to their fresh counterparts.  To get the most nutrition out of your food, it is important to be mindful about consuming freshly prepared foods more often.  Check back soon for tips on preparing different varieties of cooked beans for using in all your favorite bean salad and chili recipes!



Friday, June 1, 2012

My Journey, Thus Far

Everyone who knows me, knows how much I love the west coast.  Growing up in British Columbia, I never dreamed I would move away from its peaceful serenity.  After completing high school on Saltspring Island, I moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia where I earned a Bachelor of Science with honours in Nutritional Sciences.  A true yogi, I strived for a life of balance and continued to nurture my passions throughout my university education.

The Chief, Second Peak - Squamish, BC

Life was amazing – however, I felt somewhat unfulfilled.  I knew that there was so much more to health than the nutrition I had studied thus far, and I had the desire to learn everything I could about the human body and all complementary and alternative approaches to health.  I had begun to appreciate the importance of nourishing not only the body, but also the mind and the soul.  I wanted to live a nourishing life not only for myself, but more importantly to evoke this passion in others.

I discovered The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine through family connections and personal experiences with naturopathic doctors, and ultimately my career path became clear.  I moved to Toronto in January 2010 to pursue another four years of education to become a naturopathic doctor, a profession which I have already found to be more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.   

When I initially made the decision to move here, I didn't realize how huge of a life change it would be.  It has been such a remarkable journey already, and yet I often feel as if I have hardly begun.  I have grown in ways I couldn't have foreseen three years ago; the amount I have learned about naturopathic medicine, and myself, is indescribable.

May 2012 marked the beginning of my one-year internship at The Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto, and I couldn't be more excited!  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to provide naturopathic care to the community while gaining invaluable experience working with patients under the supervision of licensed naturopathic doctors.

Earlier this year while volunteering in Nicaragua with Natural Doctors International, I was reminded that we can nourish our soul, mind and body from wherever we are in the world.  A lagoon at the top of a volcano on the island of Ometepe; a yoga studio in downtown Toronto; running along Kits beach; exploring the nature trails of Ontario; connecting with patients in the clinic or a cashier at the grocery store; or simply having kale and quinoa salad for lunch.

Reflecting on these experiences and sharing them with you is what helps me to lead and teach a nourishing life, and I have come to realize that this is the theme of my journey.  I hope you will take part in my journey by checking back often for naturopathic news, health tips, and updates about the path I am on.  I would love it if you left a comment now and then - I appreciate so much all of your continued interest and support!

In the wise words of John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."  And so I wish for each of you health, peace and serenity, wherever you happen to reside in the world.

Ann-Scarlett Cooper, BSc (Hons), CCNM ND 2013