National Nursing Student Week 2015

National Nursing Students Week is an annual event, hosted by the Canadian Nursing Students Association [CNSA], that occurs in November intended to celebrate nursing students nation-wide in their hard work and accomplishments. It is an opportunity that allows the achievement so of nursing students throughout Canada to be showcased to the community. This year, National Nursing Student Week was from November 15th – November 21st. Each year, there is a significant theme chosen for National Nursing Student Week that reflects the nursing student population and nursing in general. This year’s theme is “Nursing the Mind,” with an emphasis on the importance of self-care amongst all nursing students.


It is no secret that nursing as a post-secondary program of study is competitive, rigorous, and extremely demanding, to say the least. Not only do nursing students face upwards of 20-25+ hours of school hours a week, on top of a heavy course load, they must also complete anywhere from 6-24+ clinical placement hours a week as well. Overall, it is quite a difficult program, making it quite easy for nursing students to overlook their own self-care and well-being. Nursing students are easily overwhelmed with their work and with school, solely focused on the care of others, making it ironic for them to neglect their own health. This week’s theme helps to emphasize the importance for nursing students to consider their own health and wellness as a top priority as well.

While it is important to work hard and be dedicated in school, it is also equally as important to take care of yourself and make time to ensure that your needs are met. That is the focus for this year’s National Nursing Student Week. The goal for this past week was to take some time out of a nursing student’s day to relax, de-stress, and do something they genuinely enjoy. Some suggestions include, but are not limited to, taking a walk for a few minutes, sitting down and catching up with some friends, reading a book, etc. This advice can even extend towards all students because it is evident that a lack of self-care is an issue that is consistent amongst a student population.

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Ryerson has celebrated National Nursing Students Week on an annual basis as Ryerson has its own chapter of CNSA. Ryerson’s chapter of CNSA conducted a variety of events in the past week to celebrate National Nursing Students Week. Some of the events included offering free snacks for nursing students on campus, information on mental health and self-care, opportunities to relax and enjoy other nursing students’ company in the nursing lounge, etc. With the focus being self-care, the events were centred on ways in which nursing students could find the time throughout their day to relax and rest; give themselves the opportunity to re-charge and clear their busy heads.

Being a nursing student at Ryerson in my third year, I am all too familiar with the chaos and intensity that accompanies my program. I have experienced the large number of demands that being a nursing student calls for and more often than I’d like to admit, I have overlooked my own needs in order to meet my academic and career needs. For a long time, I found it very difficult to find the time to allow my mind and body to rest and simply enjoy myself. This past National Nursing Students week has allowed me to reflect on what I can do to enhance my self-care practices in the future. It has taught me that relaxation and rest is very necessary in every individual’s life and that no matter how busy your day may be, there is always time for you to pause and rest. I have learned that while my academic and career goals are a priority and something I need to be working very diligently to accomplish, my own health and wellness is also a priority. I am more than just a nursing student, I am also a young person who enjoys life and wants to experience everything that life offers. I want to stop overlooking the joyous things in life and allow myself to take a break once in awhile. National Nursing Student Week 2015 has taught me that no matter how demanding and how stressful life may seem, there is always time in the day – whether that be 5 minutes or an hour – to take care of yourself, and your own health and wellness. As a nursing student, I have the responsibility to care for others – as well as myself.

A Touch of Sugar

sugar-heartOn the 14th day of every November of every year the threat of diabetes is acknowledged by the world. In 1991, the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization (WHO) designated November 14 as World Diabetes Day in response to rising counts of diabetes around the world. Diabetes has been mingling with the human population since as early as 1550BCE when Egyptian physicians made note of patients having excessive urine, which we now know to be a diagnostic factor in diabetes. Throughout history physicians came into contact with a disease that was described as being “the melting of flesh and limbs into urine”, showing another diagnostic factor – rapid weight loss. Some of these doctors even took to boiling the urine until it evaporated and found that what was left was a sweet granulated material that seemed to be sugar. It was discoveries like these that created the disease profile for diabetes as a condition that results in excess sugar in the blood because the body cannot absorb it. The physicians of humanities past had no idea what diabetes was but they knew it was deadly and they worked to discover more about it, as we continue to do today. From the 16th century onwards, various discoveries were made and treatments developed, but it was not until the 20th century that a very small but ingenious idea was conceived and a very important discovery made. This discovery was insulin and the fantastic work it does within the body. Along with this, diabetes was differentiated into two types, 1 and 2, type 1 being when insulin cannot be produced by the body and type 2 being when the red blood cells do not respond to the insulin being produced.


There is a very important Canadian connection to this story and that is Fredrick Banting. In the 20th century the idea that the pancreas was related to diabetes came about along with the idea that some kind of hormone was involved in the uptake of sugar in the blood. This discovery unfortunately came to our knowledge by way of the removal of pancreases from dogs; scientists found that these dogs developed diabetes. After insulin was found in the pancreases of these dogs, Fredrick Banting experimented with insulin he purified and tested it in humans at the University of Toronto. Banting’s experiment worked and thousands of people were able to live a much easier and longer life. Work continued on insulin and eventually synthetic human insulin was created and today millions of people can live with diabetes. However, this is part of the diabetes problem we face today, we know how the disease works and have an effective way to treat it but millions of people are living with this chronic condition that still greatly affects their quality of life. This is why every year we have World Diabetes Day, which just happens to be the same day as Fredrick Banting’s birthday, go figure.

intin7_diabetes-infographic_for-post_oct-17-2013Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death around the world today, the International Diabetes Foundation claims that every 7 seconds someone dies from diabetes. Additionally, WHO estimates that in 2012 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and that in 2030 it will be the 7th leading cause of death worldwide. These statistics and projections are startling and what is even more worrisome is that the rates of type 2 diabetes are increasing in every country. Type 2 diabetes is a strange beast, even though we found an effective treatment for it and we know how to prevent it, it still hunts us. Why does type 2 diabetes continue to be a problem for humans? There is no simple answer to that question. Increasing world food prices resulting in the lack of accessibility to fresh and nutritious foods and the removal of physical activity from day-to-day living are just two of the hot-topic answers. Also, these are two of the hardest solutions to achieve on a global scale, let alone making insulin available to all individuals living with diabetes. Living in North America, we are already at somewhat of an advantage to preventing type 2 diabetes, even though North America has some of the highest diagnosis rates. However, North America is also where the most money is spent on healthcare for diabetes. This means that more people are being treated but it also means that more is being done to raise awareness and to prevent diabetes. Additionally, North America has the money and resources to develop policies that allow for healthy lifestyle changes in effect preventing or slowing the onset of diabetes, the problem is getting governments to accomplish this task. That is why grassroots organizations are so important.


Organizations such as Toronto’s own FoodShare, which I have written about previously, and their Mobile Good Food Market. This initiative brings fresh and affordable food to areas of Toronto that face economic hardship and lack accessibility to fresh food. More organizations and initiatives such as this one are needed to cage diabetes and ultimately many other diseases that come about in conjunction with it. Here at Ryerson we have the Good Food Centre as well as research accomplished by professors within in our Food and Nutrition program. It is a very large task to tackle diabetes across the world, but individuals can make a difference here in their own city and in their own lives. Adding physical activity back into your daily routine can be as simple as taking the stairs or finding a part of your day that makes you use your body. Why not eat an apple if you can, they don’t bite back. I am not saying solving or preventing diabetes is as simple as biting into an apple or walking up the stairs, but we need a place to start. I also understand and acknowledge the fact that there are people that cannot afford to buy an apple and in doing so I say to everyone make the best choices you can make, an accomplishment is still an accomplishment, big or small.


The Ryerson chapter of the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Planetary Health Commission, and Health Out Loud Ryerson are acknowledging World Diabetes Day this Friday and from 11am to 3pm on the SLC’s main floor there will be food, games, and contests where you can learn more about diabetes.

Good Food and Good Times

This past Tuesday, October 20th, I attended a free event hosted by the Good Food Centre.

For those of you who don’t know, the Good Food Centre (GFC) is one of the equity services provided by the RSU (Ryerson Students’ Union). It is one of the oldest post-secondary relief programs in Canada. GFC provides hunger relief for those in need by offering services as well as free non-perishable food items, and fresh produce. To read more about our amazing Good Food Centre please click here! Or if you want to stay in the loop through Facebook you can like their page here.

The workshop I attended is called Eat Up Meet Up: Fermentation 101. It is part of the Eat Up Meet Up cooking workshop series. The purpose of this series is to bring together post-secondary students and give them the opportunity to learn new skills, recipes, and food related knowledge. Which is exactly what we did on Tuesday.

We learned the basics of fermentation and it’s nutritional value. Then we attempted to make our own fermented food (sauerkraut) and ate a delicious vegan meal afterwards. Tofu tacos with avocados and sauerkraut, with salad, and cherry perogies for dessert. Yum!

Tofu tacos with salad on the side

Tofu tacos with salad on the side

Cherry perogy topped with icing sugar

Cherry perogy topped with icing sugar

So what exactly is fermentation and how does it work?

It works through a process called lacto-fermentation. There are beneficial lactic bacteria that are naturally present on cabbage or other produce, in the air, or on our hands such as lactobacilli. These lactobacilli ferment the sugars in the cabbage. The brine (water saturated with salt) used creates an anaerobic (without oxygen), acidic environment, which allows for the growth of beneficial bacteria and stops harmful bacteria. It is beneficial not only because it extends shelf life, it is easier, faster and more sustainable than canning but also because it enhances nutritive value and creates many enzymes and probiotics.

Where and when did it originate?

It originated before refrigerating and freezing was possible, it was a way to preserve foods and provide nutrients during the winter. It dates back in Eastern Europe to the 9th century but now exists in almost every culture.

For more information check out this website:

So to put our new knowledge to the test we tried making sauerkraut. If you’re like me and haven’t really had sauerkraut before let me explain to you what it is. The word sauerkraut means “sour cabbage”. It is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria, which are the same good bacteria found in yogourt.

There are many health benefits of sauerkraut. Because it is uncooked it contains live lactobacilli and beneficial microbes, and it is rich in enzymes. The fibre and supply of probiotics help improve digestion and promote the growth of healthy bowel and intestinal flora, protecting against diseases of the digestive track.

At first I was taken aback at how yummy it was. The only experience I have ever had with sauerkraut was when eating perogies but I don’t even think I tried it so I was a complete sauerkraut newbie. I had no clue sauerkraut could be eaten with other things such as tacos or salad.

All in all this was an amazing experience and I cannot wait until the next one coming up on November 3rd, they haven’t announced what exactly we will be learning yet but you should join us! Like the Good Food Centre on Facebook and they will be creating the event page for it soon.

But anyway, the process of making sauerkraut was actually quite simple (even I could do it and I am culinarily declined!) see below if you want to learn how to make it.


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Is Anyone Else Hungry Besides Me?

Gurgle gurgle

That’s my stomach again

There’s $16 in my chequing

Gurgle gurgle

There’s $400 due on my MasterCard

Maybe I’ll just eat later

Gurgle gurgle

I wonder if there are people who forget about food. If there are people in this world that are not thinking about what they will eat next or when or where it will come from. Who are these people? I don’t know, but I know the people who are thinking about when, where, what, and how they are going to eat next. These people are food insecure– they do not have access to affordable food that is culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate, and there is not enough agency or policies in place to ensure that they do.  In Canada, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, food insecurity is an alarming issue. Approximately 3.9 million Canadians experience food insecurity or 1 in 3 Canadians according to Food Secure Canada. In Toronto, often cited as Canada’s poverty capital, 1 in 6 children experience poverty, which includes being food insecure. These statistics are at least doubled for Canada’s indigenous population and minority communities. These questions and statistics are especially important to consider on a days like yesterday, World Food Day.

On October 16 1945, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was formally instituted in Quebec City and so every October 16 World Food Day is celebrated. The issues of food security are so grand that for even localizing them to Canada will bring up a plethora of research that has been done and is currently underway. Along with this, there are several initiatives all over Canada and the world to end hunger. Looking specifically at Toronto, which was the first city to create a council for food policy 25 years ago due to rising rates of hunger and the need to institutionalize food banks. Toronto has taken several initiatives to combat food insecurity within its borders such as the creation of FoodShare and a poverty reduction strategy to be discussed at City Hall this coming week.

FoodShare has been working for the last 25 years to create equitable access to good healthy food, through empowerment and community development. FoodShare has developed many programs that work with other services to try and reduce hunger within Toronto. One service that FoodShare has been operating since their beginnings is the FoodLink hotline (416-392-6655) which connects callers to the food programs in their neighborhood including food banks, drop-in meal programs, and information on how to find community gardens, markets, and kitchens. FoodShare is also involved in bringing good food to schools with their Good Food Cafe, which turns school cafeterias into providers of fresh and nutritious meals that are made in-house daily. Having volunteered with the Good Food Cafe I have been able to experience what can happen when the healthy choice is the only choice. The girls at St. Joseph’s High School showed me that kids will eat good food when they are given the option, but if it is not even an option how can they take it. Along with this, FoodShare operates Student Nutrition programs which provide children with healthy snacks and breakfast everyday at school to promote learning and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. FoodShare is a Toronto initiative but it has many partners throughout the city including school boards, Toronto Public Health, and Ryerson.

Beyond the work Ryerson does with FoodShare, which includes working with Good Food Cafe, developing community garden initiatives, and working with the Good Food Box program, we have our own services to combat food insecurity on campus. The Good Food Centre, a Ryerson equity service centre, works to provide food to Ryerson community members. In 1993 Ryerson began operating the Student Feedback program which operated as a food bank on campus, eventually becoming the Good Food Centre and expanding to operate as more than just a food bank but as a service hub for community members. Along with the food bank, the Good Food Centre also facilitates the community gardens on campus which supplements the fresh produce available at the centre as well as provides students with education and skills on how to grow their own food. The Good Food Centre is also a pick up location for Good Food Boxes, which is a program run by FoodShare that provides Ontario grown fresh produce (whenever possible) for a nominal fee. Ryerson has even more initiatives beyond the Good Food Centre in the form of the Centre for Studies in Food Security.

Ryerson’s Centre for Studies in Food Security works to provide education and manages projects to fight and understand hunger. In collaboration with the School of Nutrition and the Chang School the Centre offers the Certificate in Food Security which involves courses in food policy, gender and food, indigenous food systems, and urban agriculture. The Centre’s projects include work in urban design, food studies, as well as indigenous food security and international work with scholars from Brazil, Africa, and the Caribbean.

This discussion of food security and what is being done about it could go on for pages as it has been going on for years. This crisis is of global proportions and it can be difficult to see it when you do not know what you are looking at or for, but I can assure you it is right in front of you. Your classmates, teachers, friends, family, strangers on the street, they could too easily be food insecure even in a country like Canada and we must understand what that means. Not having money for food will greatly impact not only your physical health but emotional health as well. The stress in combination with a lack of proper nutrition opens your body up to disease and it’s lethal. The food security crisis did not happen over night and it was created by humans, therefore, it will take more than a night to solve but it must be solved by humans. This issue is one that should not be thought of only one day a year, food insecurity is on the mind of its victims everyday and therefore should be on ours as well.

Eat Think Vote: The Politics of Hunger


On September 23rd, The Good Food Centre and Rye’s Homegrown put on Eat Think Vote:  The Politics of Hunger as part of DisOrientation 2015.  The topic of the event was food security and framing it as an issue for the upcoming federal election.  Despite being one of the wealthiest countries, food insecurity has remained high and stagnant over the past decade.

Michael Kushnir, the Vice President of Services with CESAR, described food as “central to every community on earth” yet 4 million Canadians lack access to sufficient and healthy food.  This includes 1.5 million children who are disproportionately affected by food insecurity.  This works out to 1/10 Canadians and 1/6 children being food insecure.  Post secondary students are also disproportionately affected by food insecurity.  In the 2013/2014 school year, 2500 Ryerson students accessed food banks, which have become a staple on university campuses.  With food insecurity being such a prevalent issue in Canada, why has the issue been absent since an election was called?  Eat Think Vote set out to make food insecurity an election issue… as it should be.

The upcoming federal election is being called one of the most important elections, and will greatly affect the path Canada takes and its future.  Eat Think Vote included discussions by two of the candidates running in the Toronto Centre riding on the issue of food insecurity.  While the Conservative and Liberal parties were not in attendance, Linda McQuaig of the NDP party and Colin Biggin of the Green Party shared their personal and party views on food insecurity.  As this is such an important issue to take into consideration when casting your vote in October, here are the platforms on food insecurity presented at Eat Think Vote:

Colin Biggin- Green Party:

Biggin described how the food many Canadians eat comes from places like California as opposed to the surrounding areas.  While this works for economists, it’s not working for us.  Canada is not as self sustainable as we should be and should strive to be considering the cost of oil and the droughts in areas we get our food from.  Biggin discussed the current situation of farmers in Canada; many are unable to sustain themselves on farming alone, are being pushed out by industrial farms and have no one to carry on their work once they retire.  Biggin’s discussed the Green Party wanting to support younger farmers, small farms as opposed to industrial size and support helping people onto the land such as immigrants.  He noted the Green Party opposes the temporary worker program and would like to see participants in that program be able to immigrate here fully and paid good wages.

Biggin also connected the issues of food insecurity and with other issues in the Green Party’s platform.  He discussed the need for families to be able to afford food.  The Green Party plans to respond to this issue through a number of policies including a guaranteed income which would allow people to afford food.  This would be done through an amalgamation of several social programs and a top up program.

A question from the audience lead to a discussion of Northern, remote and Indigenous communities.  Biggin would like to see food in those communities made more affordable by encouraging more businesses to go into that area (there is currently one) and by subsidizing transportation costs.  Biggin also mentioned that a national school nutrition program is included in the Green Party’s platform.

Linda McQuaig- NDP Party:


McQuaig began her presentation on food security by describing how striking it is that one of the essential basics to our well-being is invisible as an election issue.  She described her career as an author and journalist, focusing on income inequality, and drew many connections between inequality and food insecurity.

McQuaig showed concern about the increasing inequality in Canada and how food insecurity is a big part of this inequality.  She went on to say that a reliance on food banks is not a secure way to access food and that the quality of food in food banks is not healthy.  She also endorsed a school nutrition program policy as food is key to children’s health and ability to learn.  She went on to discuss how seniors are greatly affected by food insecurity.

McQuaig presented a variety of NDP platform policies that would decrease food insecurity in Canada by addressing inequality.  These policies include putting $400 million dollars towards the Guaranteed Income Supplement which would lift 200 000 seniors out of poverty.  Second, the NDP plans to implement a $15 federal minimum wage which would lift 100 000 people out of poverty.  She claimed this would set a national standard and put pressure on the provinces to raise their minimum wages.  Third, the NDP plans to introduce a national childcare program at a maximum of $15 per day.  This would alleviate poverty in allowing women to work and earn an income as opposed to staying home due to not being able to afford childcare.  The NDP would also create a universal drug program, invest in affordable housing and restore the 36 billion dollars that has been cut from public health care.  The NDP plan to pay for these programs by raising corporate taxes which would result in an extra 7 billion dollars per year.

McQuaig went on to discuss her concerns about the environment.  She believes Canada has been an obstructionist in world talks on climate change and thinks we should be a key player in these talks.  She has concerns about preserving water ways, farmer’s land, fisheries, and feels we need to address the issue of climate change for any type of a sustainable future.

A question from the audience raised the concern of post-secondary students and growing food insecurity in the face of rising tuition fees.  McQuaig and the NDP recognize the problem and would consider earmark funding to provinces specifically for reducing tuition and reducing the student debt burden.  In this discussion, she raised the point of post secondary institutions resorting to private philanthropy in the face of reduced funds resulting in the rich having influence in shaping post-secondary education.

To my fellow post-secondary students, we have a voice and a vote.  Two out of four parties in Toronto came out to a student-led and mostly student-attended event to say that food security should be an election issue and provided policy ideas to decrease food insecurity.  On October 19th, go out and vote!

Winter is coming… So what’s for dinner?


Even if you aren’t a fan of Game of Thrones, there is no denying that winter is coming. And what is better than some comfort food on those cold and dark winter night? Here are some great recipes, that are easy to make and will keep you warm all winter long.

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine

This recipe is easy to make and full of flavour and it’s great for leftovers. It looks like a lot of little ingredients which would add up to a large bill at the grocery store, but head to a bulk store and you can get almost everything you need to make this.

You will need…

2 cans of chickpeas (or 4 cups)

2 cups veggie stock (you can use water if you don’t have any)

1 lemon (or lemon juice)

2 cups of diced sweet potato or sweet or pie pumpkin or butternut squash

1/2 cups of quinoa

1 chopped onion

1/4 cup of chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup raisins

4 sliced sun dried tomato halves

2 slices of fresh ginger root

1/2 tsp of cumin

1/2 tsp of coriander

1/4 tsp of cinnamon

1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes

In a large pot, put a little oil and cook onions till soft. Then add all of the other ingredients. If you are using canned chickpeas only use 1/1/4 cups of veggie stock or water as the liquid from the canned beans can be used. Now just let it cook on medium for about 45 mins, stirring every once and awhile. You will know it is done when the potato/squash/pumpkin is tender.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie

I know some traditionalists would have an issue with me even calling this recipe Shepherd’s Pie as it would originally have meat, but it is such a great veggie recipe I couldn’t resist. This recipe is great for people who are trying to reduce their meat consumption. You will need…

Several large potatoes, I like Yukon Gold or Sweet Potatoes (the number of potatoes depends on the size of your dish, make sure you have enough potatoes to mash and cover the casserole dish)

Green Lentils. You can easily cook dried lentils before making the dish as they don’t need to be pre-soaked or use lentils from a can.

Veggie oxo cube/miso/cornstarch you will need this to create the gravy for the ‘meat’

Any veggies you have in your fridge. I like onion, carrots, peas, corn and green beans which are all easy to keep on hand in your fridge or frozen in your freezer. You could use cauliflower or broccoli or whatever veggies you like.

First get the potatoes on. This takes the longest. You can peel them if you want. I generally don’t, what can I say I am a little lazy. While those are cooking, start the veggies. Sauté all of your chosen veggies and then add the lentils. Once that is cooked, take a veggie oxo cube and dissolve it in hot water. You can add some miso too if you have it, just be mindful of how salty it will be. Then add the mixture to the veggie/veggie ground mixture. Stir throughly and then add a little corn starch to thicken it up just a little. Don’t worry about adding too much cornstarch, you can always add more water. Just make sure to stir throughly. Place the veggie mixture in your casserole dish, then mash the potatoes and spread over top. You can put cheese or nutritional yeast or chives on top. Bake at 350 for 20-30 mins, or till the top is golden brown and the veggie gravy is bubbling up.

The alkaline diet and cancer

I’ve been working at a juice bar for the last month and it’s been pretty awesome to be around people who are just as passionate about health and nutrition as me. But as inspiring as it is to be in an environment that encourages healthy living, it’s also frustrating because of how little my coworkers – and the customers – know about the science behind food and the body. Lately, there’s been talk about the alkaline diet, which suggests that blood pH – the level of acidity or alkalinity in the blood – is influenced by what we eat, and a more alkaline diet can protect the body from cancer.

The alkaline diet promotes the avoidance of foods that are thought to produce harmful acid in the body, including meat, dairy, refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods. Eating foods that are more alkaline, like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, are believed to protect against blood pH from becoming acidic, which can harm tissues, cells, and fluids.

The pH scale ranges from zero (being the most acidic) to 14 (being the most alkaline). Our blood falls at a neutral level between 7.35 and 7.45. If the pH strays from its target – potentially from muscle breakdown, hormonal changes, or lack of oxygen – our body will immediately adapt and return blood pH to its steady level. These essential adaptations include breathing more rapidly, urinating frequently, urinating less, and releasing neutralizing substances, like hemoglobin and bicarbonate, to prevent blood pH from becoming too acidic. Ultimately, it’s the body’s doing – not the doings of food – that regulates pH levels.

Cancer is scary, and the scariest part of it is that even the healthiest people are diagnosed with it. I have talked to a few juice bar regulars who live by the alkaline diet because they believe drinking green juice can protect against – and even cure – cancer. Science has shown that cancer cells create – and thrive in – an acidic environment in the body. It would make sense that if those conditions could be neutralized – by making it more alkaline – the cancer cells would be destroyed. Unfortunately, food can’t promote an environment like this and an alkaline diet doesn’t cure or protect against cancer.

Following an alkaline diet has an upside because it encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Most of us don’t get enough of these amazing foods, which deliver vitamins, minerals, and fibre to the body to keep it healthy. But the alkaline diet is restrictive, and avoiding meat and dairy can lead to negative health outcomes if the individual doesn’t properly supplement their diet with comparable alternatives, like tempeh, tofu, and plant-based milk beverages.

Cancer is a multifactorial disease, which means that many factors – rather than just one – contribute to its development. To protect against cancer, take many approaches to your health, including physical activity, wearing sunscreen, annual check-ups with the doctor, and eating a balanced  – not restrictive – diet.

Debunking the myth that soy causes cancer

Soybeans and it's friends

Recently, I spent the afternoon with my newly vegetarian cousin and her husband, and we got to talking about plant-based nutrition. While exchanging recipe ideas, her husband repeatedly expressed his refusal to eat soy because of its speculated cancer-causing components, and it made me want to punch him in the throat.

Years ago, soy was thought to increase the risk of breast and uterine cancers in women. Despite the latest research stating soy has cancer-protecting properties, many people are still adamant about excluding it from their diets.

I love soy. I mow down hard on tofu steaks and tempeh strips, and a peanut-butter-banana-sandwich isn’t complete without a cold glass of vanilla soymilk to wash it down with. For vegetarians and vegans, or for those limiting their meat intake, soy is a great alternative to animal-based foods. Not only is it a comparable source of protein, it’s also a good source of omega-3 fat and fibre.

Another component in soy are isoflavones. These little guys act like estrogen, a hormone produced by the body, and they are the reason behind soy’s bad rep. A number of older, animal-based studies revealed that isoflavones increased the body’s total estrogen level, which upped the risk of cancer. However, those findings have now been proven false. The newest research suggests isoflavones have an inverse relationship with cancer, which means higher levels of isoflavones can actually reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Let’s nerd out on the physiology behind all of this, shall we?

The lowdown on the relationship between your cells, soy, and cancer goes like this: a cell is kind of like a sponge, and it will absorb both the estrogen made by the body and the isoflavones found in soy. When the cell becomes oversaturated with estrogen for a long period of time, it has the potential to become cancerous. However, when the cell absorbs isoflavones, there is less room for it to absorb – and become saturated with – estrogen. It’s believed that when the cell absorbs more isoflavones it’s protected from cancer.

Because I’m a rational person, I held back and didn’t punch my cousin’s hubby in the throat. Instead, I tried to convince him that soy isn’t dangerous and it can safely be included in his – and his wife’s – diet. There are a variety of soy products on the market today, which makes it relatively simple to incorporate into meals and snacks, but not all soy products are created equally.

Soy nuggets, soy burgers, and soy cheese are delicious treats to enjoy at BBQs and on special occasions, but they’re kind of like the junk food of soy products. Janel Funk, a registered dietitian based in Boston, spoke to Today’s Dietitian and summed it up like this: “… a soy nugget is no different than a processed chicken nugget – it just doesn’t contain chicken.” With that in mind, reach for less processed soy foods like soybeans, tofu, tempeh, edamame, miso, and soy beverages.

The next time you hear someone smack-talking soy, don’t punch them in the throat! Instead, unclench your fist and get them up-to-date on the newest research behind the benefits of this magical bean and it’s delicious constituents.

Alcohol consumption and cancer

Alcohol. I love it. And, fellow Ryerson students, I know you love it too. More than ever, drinking has become an integral part of youth culture and a common activity during social gatherings. As the days grow longer and that gloriously hot summer sun beams down on us from a cloudless sky, we are more inclined to crack open a cold one, suck back a mason jar of sangria, or sip on a glass of wine to cool down and relax.

But, like many wonderful things in life, alcohol is not that good for our bodies. In April, Cancer Care Ontario released a new report outlining a correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer, and it mentions that our demographic – those between the ages of 19 and 29 – has the highest prevalence of excessive drinking. The report also reveals that only one-third of Canadians are aware of these links, which is why it is important to raise awareness about it in the Ryerson Community.

Ethanol, the component in all alcohol, is a known human carcinogen and is believed to cause damage to our DNA. It also acts as a solvent that breaks down our cell walls, which allows for other carcinogens to penetrate into them and cause genetic damage. The cancers associated with alcohol consumption include those of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus.

I know what you are thinking, readers: I’ll just switch up my tequila for vodka and I am in the clear. Unfortunately, the CCO report states that is not the type of alcohol that matters, but rather the amount you drink. The latest recommendation on alcohol consumption, established by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Canada Research, reveals there is “no established ‘safe limit’” to prevent an increased risk of cancer.

WHAT?! NO SAFE LIMIT?! I know, right? I kinda died too.

Seeing as the summer pretty much equates to a frosted mug of beer, this is not a feasible recommendation for the majority of people. But fret not, my beloved patio-goers and Bellwoods dwellers, there are secondary recommendations you can follow that let you enjoy your tall cans in the safest way possible. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend females 19+ consume no more than 10 drinks per week (1-2 drinks per day), and males of the same age demographic stick to 15 drinks per week (2-3 drinks per day).

But, there’s a catch – we have to be mindful of what a standard drink means. A 12 oz. bottle of beer (5% alcohol) is 341mL; 1.5oz. of hard booze (40% alcohol) measures 43mL; and 5 oz. (142mL) is one glass of wine (12% alcohol).

As well, the aforementioned guidelines also encourage us to plan non-drinking days throughout the week to avoid developing a habit.

As young folks, we rarely think of the future of our health because we focus enjoying the moment. But it is the habits we acquire in our younger years that impact our later years. Cancer can take decades to form before it shows itself. This means that a cancer diagnosis in midlife may have been the result of various habits in our younger years.

I am not telling you to stop drinking, but rather I am spreading the good word and empowering you to make a healthy choice. Have a few drinks, enjoy those drinks and have fun with friends, but know your limit, adhere to the guidelines as much as possible, and be safe.


Easy Spring Detox

The image shows the word "detox' written with vegetables

Spring will soon be upon us and if you are like me, you have spent this winter hibernating. Perhaps eating and drinking a little too much. It is common to spring clean our homes, so why not our bodies? There are hundreds of detox plans floating around these days, but if you have not tried a detox before, this is one which can ease you gently into detoxing.

This detox should take 14 days. It is a good idea to choose a two week period in which you don’t have any food or drink related events planned. I like starting it when I have a day or two off just in case I experience headaches. (Do not be deterred by this side effect. Headaches usually go away after a day or two. It your body’s natural reaction to not having stimulates like caffeine or Yerba Mate, as well as, a side effect of toxins being released).

Days 1 to 14: You’ll eat only vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. You will drink only spring water and non-caffeinated herbal teas. Try to eat mostly, if not all, organic foods.

You will be eating every 3 hours (five times per day), so that you blood sugar levels remain constant. While each meal should be relatively small, you can eat until you feel satisfied. You should not feel terribly hungry during the cleanse.

You can eat almost any fruit or vegetables during the detox. To maximize detoxification, consume plenty of brightly coloured vegetables and dark, leafy greens. For lunch and dinner, at least half of your plate should contain vegetables.

It is important to avoid eating the foods that most commonly cause sensitivity reactions in people. These are…

  • wheat
  • cow’s dairy
  • nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers)
  • eggs
  • soy
  • peanuts and pistachios
  • citrus (except lemons and limes)
  • sugar

When cooking, it is best to steam, water stir-fry, poach or broil foods. Do not eat any fried foods.  Be mindful when eating. Try to eat without distractions, such as television or reading. Chew all food well. Aim for 20 times per mouthful. Avoid drinking during meals. Drink liquids half an hour before and 1 hour after a meal.

Drink 3-4 liters of fluids, preferably spring water, each day. Drink lemon water, especially in the mornings, to help alkalize your body.

It is also important to focus on your mind, as well as, your body during this period. Take time to mediate, relax and or write in a journal. Spend time getting exercise and vitamin D from the sun. Spend time near beaches, or in parks. Getting gentle exercise will help you body with the detoxification process. You can also try dry brushing. ( Also, considering treating yourself to a massage or reflexology.

Detoxing is an important process for your health and a great way to invigorate yourself and mark the emergence of spring.