5 Good Reasons to Try Maca

image: Shutterstock

image: Shutterstock

Every once in a while, a food comes to light we may not be familiar with but in another part of the world it is revered for it’s ‘superfood’ qualities.  Maca is one such food.  If you haven’t heard of it, there are reasons you may want to know what it is and why people are looking to it for everything from increased energy to regulation of hormones and increased fertility.

Maca originates from high in the Peruvian Andes Mountains of South America where it has been growing wild for thousands of years. It is a cruciferous plant as are other healthy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips.

A significant number of vitamins and minerals are inherent to wild maca. These include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, sodium, as well as iron and may also contain beneficial trace minerals including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, and manganese. It is also thought to be high in vitamins B1, B2, C, and E. 

Maca’s purported health benefits are based on generations of people who have used it.   It has thus gained some serious attention by natural health enthusiasts in North America. For those who have used maca whether in the Andes or elsewhere, the benefits are said to include:

  • Increased Energy Many athletes have now started taking maca for peak performance. if your energy levels are low, maca may be worth a try.
  • Increased Libido Maca is thought to increase sexual function in both men and women. Balanced hormone, endurance and stamina are cited among the benefits benefitting libido. Watch this clip on CNN which reports on the benefits specifically to women.
  • Menstrual cramps/Menopause Maca is considered beneficial in aiding with menstrual cramps. As well menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings and even depression can be alleviated. 
  • Fertility It has been noted that where maca grows is so high above sea level that animals brought to those heights from lower altitudes will stop reproducing. However if you feed them maca, they become fertile again. It’s as though nature offers a fertility remedy at those high altitudes. More on this can be seen in this New York times clip.
  • Adaptogen Maca is considered an adaptogen meaning it can help strengthen the body so it can better handle daily stresses and resist disease.

Caveats

Always use a reputable source for your maca supplements and follow the manufacturers recommended dosage.  It’s a good idea to consider running a new supplement by your medical doctor if you have a condition you are trying to remedy. But many do choose to try natural remedies over pharmaceuticals initally.  And as with any supplement its not recommended to start something new while pregnant.

My favourite maca powder is from Giddy YoYo It tastes delicious in a smoothie, is superior quality and can be purchased direct from the manufacturer OR on-line at Sessabel.

Hooray My Family Likes Hemp!

I recently introduced my kids to Manitoba Harvest’s hemp hearts. All I read touted these wee seeds  as a nutrition powerhouse which naturally intrigued me. What parent doesn’t dream of good-tasting, easy to use (read: NO PREP!!) healthy foods that kids will happily eat. So I gave it a go.

Now a few months after adding hemp hearts to our meals, my eldest daughter now requests them.  We use them on salads, in our home-baked goods and sprinkled on after school snacks such as Coconut Bliss.  Even our fave baking mix becomes a little bit more super-foody by adding hemp hearts. And as my daughter tends not to eat much meat or cheese, her favourite meal…a corn tortilla with salsa suddenly becomes a more nutritionally-balanced meal by adding hemp hearts.

There are a number of other reasons I love that hemp hearts have become a food choice in our house:

Hemp is grown in Canada. With so many of our foods in Canada coming from warmer climes, I love that hemp is home-grown.  Hemp is a sustainable crop used also in the production of building products, paper and clothes. So as an environmentalist, I am hoping that this means eventually less of our gorgeous trees will be cut down for paper. And hopefully there will be less need for clothes made from cotton….one of the most-sprayed crops in North America.

And anyone who knows me or reads my posts, will know that I LOVE the fact that hemp is not grown with the high pesticide use common in many other North American food crops. High pesticide use is why my family has  already given up non-organic wheat, soy, corn and sugar.

The nutritional benefits of hemp would make anyone striving for an all-round healthy foods want to try it. Known for its protein-packed punch…10 g of vegan protein per 3 tbsp AND without excessive saturated fat and cholesterol, it knocks the socks off a number of other conventional animal sources of protein. And the near perfect ratio of Omega 3 and 6’s is not found naturally in either flax or in chia.

And hemp contains the hard to come by Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). Studies have shown that GLA helps with arthritis, join mobility, eczema, hormonal balance, migraines, blood pressure levels and even weight management.  Hemp is also a good source of fibre, iron, thiamine, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and manganese.

Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts come already hulled making them easy to digest allowing the nutritional benefits to be easily assimilated into the body.  I appreciate that Manitoba Harvest processes in a dedicated facility meaning it does not process any dairy, soy, nut or gluten products.  We have no allergies in our home but being void of known allergens makes Manitoba Hemp Hearts a suitable addition to my kids lunchbox meals.

Reading up on the hemp industry in Canada will confirm that it is a very regulated business. You can rest easy knowing that any notion that hemp is related to marijuana was put to rest years ago by our Federal Government.  They reportedly tested hemp for 4 years prior to legalizing commercial hemp production in Canada in 1998. A ‘virtual high-five’ for Health Canada!

So super-healthy, tasty and clean (even the de-hulling process is chemical-free), I am happy I gave hemp hearts the ‘kid-test’ in my house.

Manitoba Harvest has offered to send a total of 5 lucky people in either the US or Canada a bag of hemp hearts!!!  We will draw from the entries on July 5, 2013. There are a number of ways to become eligible to win.

Here’s What to Do:Hemp_Hearts__12867.1371813843.1280.1280

  • Post a comment on this post telling us why you would like to try hemp hearts.
  • Tweet: I want to try #hemphearts  @sessabel @manitobaharvest #giveaway #EatRealFood
  • Share this post and giveaway on Facebook and tag @sessabel (and we like when you ‘like’ our page too!)
  • Or Pin the Hemp Hearts photo to Pinterest tagging Sessabel We just started Pinterest this week so would love a wee bit of love for our board!

A Celebration and Junk Food For All??!

Junk food for all! That was the scene in my 4 year olds classroom yesterday morning when I dropped her off at 9am. What? Parents weren’t informed of any reason nor given the option of making comment on the junk being given out in class that day. Usually we know of a party or celebration and can act accordingly.

Confused, I went to the school office to enquire. Why was my child being given junk food at school?! I explained…To me it’s an issue on so many levels.  So many food sensitivities ie. gluten, dairy, eggs are just being discovered at this tender age. And is there a person on the planet who thinks a high sugar treat is conducive to learning?

My daughter is too young to be able to speak about detail of what she does and doesn’t eat at home. I am not sure if the school relying on young kids to say ‘no thank-you my mom wouldn’t approve’? OR ‘We are a’junk food adverse family..no thanks’ OR ‘I barely eat gluten as my daddy is sensitive to it so it may bother my tummy’ OR  I only weigh 36 pounds so I won’t deal well with all that sugar’. Is anyone expecting that sort of thing from a 4 year old?

In retrospect I am still wondering how this all went down. Have schools become confused? The crap being doled out yesterday in class was labelled ‘school safe’.  But clearly peanut-free doesn’t make it a good choice for all and shouldn’t give schools the right to give it out at will to such young kids without their parents knowledge.

Needless to say, my child came home with a nasty tummy ache. To anyone who thinks it is fun to give young kids these things without knowing if it is in their daily diet or not, here’s the scoop… If you cause a wee kid a health issue, even a seemingly minor tummyache it was not such a celebratory thing for all. Maybe its time we respect all of each other’s dietary choices no matter how foreign it may seem to us.

And it would appear from my experience that there is no policy on handing out food to kids past that of severe allergens. I was asked if I wanted my daughter to be left out of such food festivities in future. What? is anyone listening…What place does junk food have in a school, handed out to young kids?  I was informed by the teacher (who I have the utmost respect for as a teacher..she is quite fabulous really) that she didn’t know the mom was bringing in the snack for the whole class to celebrate the birth of her new baby so couldn’t inform the parents in advance…Wow..and so you just hand it out? Clearly the Toronto District School Board (or at least the school) needs a policy around this.

Any other parents have experience with this? Please share as I am at a loss…

Chocolate In the Raw.

So you’ve heard that dark chocolate is good for you right? Well, if you dig a little deeper, there is more to consider about chocolate than if it is simply dark. Truth is that processing can make or break the ‘healthy’ claim.

Giddy yoyo_original

Raw cacao is one of the healthiest things on the planet. It contains a significant amount of valuable antioxidants which help cells in the body to repair themselves and stay well.  It is reported to have many times more antioxidant power than raw blueberries, goji berries and red wine. Studies on cacao confirm it is linked to reducing blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular disease and cancers.

The issue is most cacao used in conventional bars of chocolate has been grown with chemicals, is then high heat processed and to boot any goodness is further diluted with hydrogenated oils, dairy, and crazy amounts of refined sugars.

Enter Canadian company Giddy YoYo….who have figured it all out by making bars of chocolate both nutritious AND delicious. Giddy’s bars are made without high temperature processing. I asked them the scoop and was told that the highest temperature their bars get is in the sun in its native Equador. Wow…who knew? And certified organic means you won’t be consuming the loads of chemicals from high pesticide use and irradiation commonplace in conventional cacao bean production.

And just to make life a little sweeter…they use just enough (non GMO of course!) cane sugar and some very delish organic, fair trade flavours, My personal faves are the Mint, Orange, and the Spicy. But with more fab-sounding flavours just coming out, I have more taste-testing to do.

And as there is never any dairy, gluten, nuts in Giddy YoYo, I am over the moon as it is a healthy, nutritious and safe treat for school lunchboxes. Yippee!

As with most of my very fave products, Giddy YoYo bars can be purchased on-line in Canada at Sessabel (with free shipping in the Greater Toronto Area) and it’s in lots of brick and mortar stores as well.

 

The Low-Down on Commercial Baked Goods

Bread still life

It is no secret that I became a card-carrying label reader and avid googler of all things food while developing food products for a large Canadian company.

I have seen the inside of many factories producing food for mass distribution. I have had to study and research food ingredients to ensure regulatory approval and to ensure a sufficient shelf life. My colleagues and I used to joke that ‘our employer was the best university in the world for learning all about processed foods’. And now as a parent, navigating grocery labels in terms of health I believe my food industry experience was just that…no joke.

I am often asked why I avoid commercial baked goods like the plague. Because over and above the undesirable GMO wheat and oils, there are a host of unsavoury chemicals used to cheapen production and to extend shelf life.  Sadly, many of them are linked to ill health. Unlike when I worked for Big Food having to go with the status quo, I now exercise the option to avoid some ingredients.

Here’s the dirt on the ingredients I choose to avoid:

Azodicarbonamide: As time=money, processors use this to speed up the wheat production process. So we all get a dose of this dastardly chem. in most of our commercial baked goods.  Next time you eat fast food, don’t just sweat about the health of of what’s inside the bun, consider also the bun itself.  Europe got wise a while ago and banned it as BOTH a plastic blowing agent ( yes its used in plastics too) and a flour whitening agent as it is linked to respiratory issues.

Calcium Propionate:  Used to prevent mold growth in baked goods, this chem. has been linked to irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in children who consume it daily.  A 2002 study cited in the Journal of Paediatric Child Health confirmed the details. Who thought it was a good idea to have bread last two weeks and to potentially harm human health?

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene): This is a preservative and a quite controversial one at that.  Widely used, it is considered a human respiratory irritant, as well as a human allergen and carcinogen. BHT and its cousin BHA are flagged for future assessment under Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan. So why would I eat it until they figure it all out? Check commercial cereals and chewing gum as well.

So now I opt for smaller, organic producers when I do buy baked goods. If you make the switch, the first thing you may notice other than feeling better is that your bread no longer lasts for two weeks.  If you really think about what that means, you may come to realize its a good thing 🙂

I Had ‘The Talk’ With My Daughter..The ‘Real Food’ Talk

I’m sure I am not the only parent to have to explain to a 7 year old the difference between real and not so real food. In this particular case, it came along with a side of peer pressure….hers not mine.

Yesterday for the first time, my daughter asked for ‘Fruit Roll Ups’.  ‘All of my friends have them in their lunchboxes and I don’t’. So it was prime time for ‘the talk’ about healthy food choices.

A mom/daughter trip to the grocery store and some investigating of the ingredients in the so-called ‘Fruit’ snacks helped solidify a mutually agreeable solution to wanting them in her lunchbox.

The label on the box confirmed that the ‘fruit’ snacks were made from loads of highly processed sugars, hydrogenated oils (to make the rolls firm and have shelf life) and artificial flavours and colours…basically chemicals to make if look and taste like fruit.  And later, our on-line investigation confirmed that in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency only requires 2% fruit puree in such snacks. Really almost no fruit to speak of.

So finally my daughter got the idea real food = better nutrition and highly processed foods and those processed to mimic real = not so good.  So I won the argument without a fuss right there in the grocery store. And she got to pick out another treat of her choice that she finally chose from the ice cream aisle. I believe in children having treats…of course, but with the knowledge of what offers a nutritionally better choice.

From this experience, I am certain that the BIG FOOD industry is counting on people not reading labels. And their executives are most likely quite giddy at the profits stacking up because some time-strapped parents find not having to wash berries or cut up an apple, reason enough to buy their fake fruit snacks. Whatever the  reason, I have a serious distaste for marketing such junk food toward kids and worse, all dolled up to appear somewhat healthy.

In the end, I am pleased that my very young daughter now gets that it doesn’t matter what the other kids are eating. You have the choice to gather information, make informed decisions and eat what’s best for you.

Today my sweet pea (aka ‘Sessa’) requested a real apple and a few pieces of Giddy YoYo chocolate (no nuts, dairy, hydro oils or fake anything!) for her school snack. And I was more than happy to oblige!

Chia: My Superfood

Mention chia and many people giggle remembering chia pets from the 70’s. Ditto but who knew back in the day that chia is one of nature’s most beneficial foods? Loaded with Omega 3’s, fibre, protein and calcium chia is often referred to as a superfood.

As a mom, I am simply looking for healthier options for my family’s breakfast.  Nutritionally-void, over-processed, chemically preserved foods are not cutting it anymore.

My recent interest was fuelled by the fact that my 4 year old was introduced to little brightly coloured rings of sugar which are boxed up and called a breakfast cereal.  She had never seen these before when they were introduced to her outside my home.  Eventually I was worked over in the grocery store. Every parent knows the scene.

With a little research, I discovered that the breakfast cereal she wanted was known to be one of the sugariest cereals on the planet.  Yikes! And if that wasn’t enough, the cereal also contained the controversial preservative BHT, AND of course food dyes. All which gave me serious cause for concern about what I was feeding my kids for breakfast. So the search started for my superfood: nutritionally sound, no junk AND super-easy to prepare.

I discovered Chia Goodness by Ruth’s Foods of Toronto and haven’t looked back.  No doubt it is not easy to switch a child from sugary cereals to something so less sweet but little by little the palate will adapt, demanding less and less sugar. Read about the potential  perils of too much sugar in our diets and you too may become a breakfast cereal convert.

An added bonus for me was that Ruth’s Foods also offers snack bars with the same nutritionally packed chia and less sugars than conventional bars. As they contain nuts, these bars cannot go to school with my kids but they do enjoy them at home. And my husband has taken to keeping Ruth’s bars in his desk to deal with the ‘afternoon hungries’.

And an added benefit I hadn’t even initially considered, is that my new found Chia Goodness is GMO-free.  Even some of the ‘healthy’ option cereals have recently been criticized for using GMO’s. And as GMO’s are linked to ill health effects, it is an added benefit that I do appreciate.

Chia Goodness comes in 4 flavours Original, Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate and Cranberry Ginger and can be found on-line at Sessabel or at your local health food store. Give it a try, you may also become a convert.

Ten Years of Happiness-Celebrated with Good Food, Good Company and Geddy Lee’s Wine

Who would ever argue that part of living a healthy life is being a happy, contentedAnniversary wine individual consistently enjoying whatever it is that floats your boat?

Yesterday, Mr. Canning and I celebrated our 10th anniversary.  Our gift to one another  was  a dinner at a fancy resto and a B.Y.O.B. wine to match. Our history of food and wine goes back to the beginning. When we first met, it seemed a perfect match.  He a wine enthusiast and me, a foodie.  Needless to say, we have enjoyed many a great meal with a well-matched bottle together over the last decade.  And of course, our tenth anniversary dinner celebration was no different.

Dinner last night was enjoyed at a Toronto institution. A culinary mecca where quality and service are second-to-none. And a reservation made 6 weeks in advance, assured us a great view from our table’s unique hillside vantage point, high atop the city on Benvenuto Place.  It was a fab evening indeed.

One of the most special parts of the evening came in the bottle of wine we brought to the resto.  Ten years ago, after polling my girlfriends as to what to get my new mate for our first Christmas together, I bought Mr. Canning some fabulous bottles of Burgundy.

At the time, I knew nothing about wine but did know my usual plonk would not do. These particular fancy bottles came from a friend’s bro who as a wine agent, clearly knew just what make wine enthusiast swoon.

The gift wine arrived on that day 10 years ago, in a box strangely marked ‘Geddy Lee’.  A quick check on Wikipedia confirmed that the famous Geddy Lee enjoys fine burgundies.  And a little more digging confirmed that the Subdivisons singer buys wine from the same broker I bought the gift bottles from.

I am not sure why I might have received wine originally destined for the famous singer but feel grateful I was the recipient of this particular bottle of 1999 Pommard.  It may have been the gift that set the foundation for the years of great wine-centered meals at Casa Canning and most certainly it was a fabulous addition to our anniversary dinner.

And having just passed the decade mark, I reminisce. It has been a very happy decade with Mr. C.  I am definitely a true believer that part of a happy, healthy life is to savour the simple pleasures in life with the one you love. And Mr. Lee, thank you, your wine was fabulous!  I think that we too, can now confidently claim to like fine wines from Burgundy as well.