Healthwise: Natural Health Solutions

November 30, 2012 11:24 am
Natural Health Solutions

It seems that more people are going back to the basics when it comes to their health, and this includes turning to natural cures for minor ailments. Often, the ingredient you need is already in your pantry, so why look any further?

Here are some of the ingredients you can put to good use:

Spices for fresh breath

No need to maintain a wholesale inventory of chewing gum to ensure fresh breath. Instead, chew on cloves! A few minutes of chewing should do the trick (then spit them out). The essential oils found in cloves are antiseptic and therefore eliminate bacteria causing bad breath.

Nourish hair and skin

It seems that coconut oil is all the rage these days, and with good reason. Coconut oil is a source of medium-chain fatty acids, which are used by the body to produce energy, growth and repair.

Not only can you eat this healthy fat, you can also use it to nourish hair. How? Simply massage 2 tbsp of coconut oil into dry hair and scalp. Leave for 30 minutes, then shampoo.

Or dab coconut oil onto skin to help ease dry patches, rashes or even to reduce fine lines, saving you hundreds of dollars on expensive cosmetic creams and skin lotions sold in pharmacies.

Sage helps calm a soar throat. PHOTO:

Soothe a sore throat

Instead of relying on cold medicine this season, turn to anti-inflammatory sage to soothe a sore throat. Boil 2 tbsp of dried sage and a pinch of salt in water, let cool and then gargle the mixture to help kill germs and ease symptoms.


Calm a stressed mind

Unwind with a warm cup of green tea – rich in a powerful antioxidant that helps fight cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Green tea also improves immune function!



Healthwise: Maintaining your Health over the Holidays

November 26, 2012 11:00 am
Staying healthy 2

We all know that the holidays are approaching fast. It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of social commitments and to-do lists. However, maintaining our mental and physical health this season is critical. It is sometimes easier to sacrifice healthy food choices, adequate sleep and relaxation in favour of sustaining a hectic schedule. Unfortunately, such choices can be taxing on your sense of overall wellbeing and can start the New Year off in the wrong direction (like flat on your back).


Eat well

What are the holidays for if not to indulge in sweets and large meals shared with family and friends? In fact, our culture often uses food as a foundation for socialization; however, it is easy to get carried away when socializing is extended over the period of two to four weeks. Therefore, it is important to choose the times when we decide to treat ourselves – and even more important to avoid some of the sweets and cheese trays at hand. Instead, infuse your meals with healthy choices: load your plate with veggies and fruit and other nutritionally-dense food, leaving less appetite for desserts or snacks.


Late nights and high excitement can certainly affect the quality of one’s sleep. Aim to get an average of eight hours per night but, should that be impossible, try to take a nap in the afternoon. The holidays can be hectic and the last thing we want is to return to the hustle and bustle of January completely exhausted.


Although exercising means that we are expending energy, we will also gain energy from it. Don’t have time to run to the gym? No problem. Instead, head outdoors for a walk in the cool air. Take your family with you and incorporate it into your social time. The outdoors will help refresh you and keep you energized.


Don’t forget to breathe through the chaos. No matter how fun holiday celebrations can be, sometimes we need a time out. Remove yourself from it all and take a few minutes to sit in a quiet room or outdoors to take a deep breath or meditate a little to allow time to process thoughts and emotions.

“Maintaining our mental and physical health this season is critical.” PHOTO:

Just say no!

It can be difficult to decline an invitation to one more party or respectfully refuse to bake a pie, but between shopping, work, cooking, parenting and social engagements, we risk exhaustion if we do not. The truth is that saying no can be the best gift we give ourselves this holiday season.


Healthwise: The Benefits of Meditation

November 19, 2012 12:00 pm
Meditation 1

In the past, health was almost always associated with the physical body. Nowadays, more people are discovering the benefits of exercising the mind. The advantages of adding brain-teasers and crosswords to your routine have been lauded over the last few decades because they sharpen the mind and help keep dementia at bay. But even more at the forefront these days are the multiple health benefits of meditation.



The simple truth is that meditation is a discipline that can improve the structure of the brain and thereby encourage positive thought patterns to replace negative stress responses. Kelly McGonigal from Stanford University outlined how regular meditation leads to a cortical gyrification, which enhances neural processing. Gyrification is a good thing because the less gyrification, the more susceptible one is to depression, aging and Alzheimer’s disease. This means that meditation leads to bigger and more efficient brains (


There are multiple benefits to a regular meditation practice, including:

  • Improved attention span
  • Reduced stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer feelings of depression
  • Reduced risk of dementia
  • Positive attitude

Simple Techniques

When learning to meditate, it is important to understand that frequency is more significant than duration. Therefore, it is more beneficial to meditate every day for three to five minutes, than to meditate for 20 minutes once a week. Try one or all of the simple techniques listed below. Set up in a quiet space and allow yourself these few minutes to release mental tension. With practice, you may even be able to transfer your skills to busy environments, such as when using public transportation.

  1. Breath-focused Meditation: Focus on your breath. Count your breath cycles (inhale/exhale) until you reach 10 and then start again.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation: Become mindful of your breath. Notice your chest and belly rise and fall in connection with your breath.
  3. Notice how you feel. Allow your thoughts to flow freely. Acknowledge each thought, and then let it go without dwelling on one single thought.
  4. Walking Meditation: Stand with shoulders away from the ears and chest open. Begin walking slowly and deliberately. While walking, become aware of each step, including the distribution of your body weight. The great thing about this technique is that it can be practiced discretely in almost any environment.
  5. Visualization Meditation: Visualize an object and focus on the details of the mental image. For example, picture a rose. Imagine the petals, the stem, the leaves, a drop of water rolling down the petals, etc. Try to block all other thoughts from your mind. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to your mental visualization.
  6. Loving-kindness Meditation: Sit quietly and close your eyes. Think of someone who would benefit from emotional support. Think positive thoughts and direct this loving-kindness towards that person, whether a friend, family member or complete stranger.

Whatever your style or preference, a regular meditation practice will surely help prepare you for the hectic holiday season, or any other challenge life may bring.

Just breathe!

Healthwise: Revitalize Your Health with These Five Superfoods

November 7, 2012 1:33 pm
5 Superfoods1

Ever heard of superfoods? Nowadays, it is a term that is thrown around often but may not be understood by everyone. A superfood is a food that is nutritionally dense and considered especially beneficial to health and well-being. These foods can help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve overall mood.

Dark Leafy Green

Dark leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse and one of the least expensive sources of nourishment. They can help manage healthy weight as they are high in dietary fiber (making you feel full longer) and high in vitamins, not to mention their cancer-preventing properties. Don’t like the taste of these vegetables? Try masking the flavor by blending them in a smoothie along with bananas or other fruits to help sweeten the bitter flavor.

Sources: kale, spinach, wheatgrass, broccoli…

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain healthful fats essential for managing inflammation and maintaining the normal structure of the cells in our bodies. They are also full of essential vitamins and minerals. To incorporate them into your diet, snack on a handful of nuts, sprinkle seeds on your salads, or add them to your smoothie.

Sources: almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, flax seed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds…


Sprouted seeds are one of the most beneficial foods because they support cell regeneration and can help prevent damage done by free radicals. They are a good source of essential fatty acids, which can help boost the immune system.

Sources: bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, lentil sprouts…


Kefir is a liquid similar to yogurt, made by fermenting kefir grains in milk. It is filled with beneficial bacteria, proteins, lipids and sugars, which contribute to a healthy digestion. Consider drinking it on its own or mixing it in a smoothie.


Often overlooked, water should be considered a superfood since it is absolutely vital to our survival and optimal health. Drinking sufficient water will help your body avoid headaches, fatigue and lack of concentration that is often caused by dehydration. It flushes toxins from the body and can lead to weight loss. Water intake will contribute to shinier hair and healthier skin, and will help lubricate joints and prevent constipation.



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