Quitting Sugar With A Plan

I wouldn’t say that I have a sweet tooth; but I definitely feel a void without sugar. For good reason, people report that sugar comforts them and makes them feel good. And with the upcoming holiday season, my sugar intake is likely going to go into high gear with cookies, cakes, tarts and the like; but before the time comes for seasonal indulgence, I’ve decided to embark on a sugar detox.

Sugar, although sweet and delicious, affects our bodies negatively in the following ways:

Sugar can decrease growth hormone (the key to staying youthful and lean

Sugar increases cholesterol

Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein Sugar causes food allergies

Sugar contributes to diabetes

Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases)

Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections)

Sugar contributes to osteoporosis

Sugar feeds cancer

Our bodies change ingested sugar into two to five times more fat in the bloodstream than it does starch. With a million and one reasons why sugar is bad for us, we wonder, is there even a need for it? Well, the interesting thing about sugar is that it tastes good and makes us temporarily feel good, which explains why big brands put it in EVERYTHING. But all sugars are not created equal; complex sugars found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are good for us; they, also, contribute to a feeling of well being and give us long lasting energy- it’s the white, refined stuff that needs the boot.

So how am I going to kick my sugar habit?

Monitor My Blood Sugar. Eating a protein rich breakfast is the most important step; in addition to eating protein with every meal. Protein stabilizes blood sugar and leaves us feeling satiated, so that our moods and energy levels are at an even keel. Eating low G

I snacks at regular intervals will also serve to help us kick the habit; most of the time a sugar craving is simply hunger manifesting itself. Eating enough to feel satisfied, and regularly enough so that you feel stable, means we won’t crave so junk.

Keep Things In Perspective. While weight loss is usually a natural consequence of giving up sugar, it should not be focus. Weight loss is often a side effect of loving our bodies and freeing ourselves from food addiction; but health should be the focus.

Be ready. I have a list of things to do when a sugar craving hits. Relying on will power can be dicey, especially during the early days; so having something to get our mind off the craving is completely necessary. I love walking, so I will likely be walking whole lot over the next 5 days; what will you do?

Become A Detective. Sugar is hidden in almost everything; so when shopping plan on reading every single label. Becoming a label detective is a make or break of a sugar detox; because unknowingly consuming sugar will make the habit that much harder to kick. Look for hidden sucrose, fructose, honey and molasses; and be wary of canned soups and sauces, as they are well known for having high sugar and sodium contents.

Stay The Course. I don’t reccomend planning on failing, per se; but it may happen, that’s life. The thing to keep in mind is that this is a journey and we are doing this for our health, so having a slip up shouldn’t be considered the end of the world. Focusing on ourselves and the damaging effects of sugar on the body is the biggest tool to stay motivated.

Have you given up sugar? Did you find it hard?

Yoga For An Improved Sex Life

I love guest posts on the Vitality Guide for Women; especially when they’re super informative. So this week, while I’m off gallivanting around Chicago, in celebration of my twenty seventh birthday, I’m happy to present to you some amazing guest features.


Yoga is generally thought of as a gentle, calming practice. However, many people may not realize that it can actually be a powerful tool for kicking their sex drive into high gear. Despite the sleepy and relaxing appearance of yoga practitioners, a few good sessions can help awaken sexual desire again.

This is particularly important for older people. As the body ages hormone levels drop. This can sometimes lead to decreased libido. However, just because the physical desire is not as strong as it once was does not mean that the desire for physical intimacy is gone completely. Many older people still want to be able to respond physically when the time is right.

These individuals may find a lot to like about yoga. The centuries-old practice has been used by millions of people to achieve a calm state of mind and tone the muscles. But why is it so good at boosting sexual desire?

A Calm Mind Equals A Responsive Body

The surest way to kill sexual desire is to start thinking about problems at work or all of your family responsibilities. When the mind is removed from an intimate situation it tends take all sexual desire with it.

Yoga trains the mind to avoid this kind of wandering. During sessions, practitioners are trained to focus their mind on the feeling of each position in their body. This keeps the mind wholly in the present. Over time, this becomes the default state of mind.

When your mind stops wandering you are more likely to respond to an intimate situation with your partner. The act seems much more pleasurable when you can keep your attention focused and avoid letting unhappy or distracting thoughts interfere.

Keep your heart healthy

Yoga has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve overall vascular health. This is important when it comes to sexual performance, particularly for men. Erectile dysfunction has been closely associated with heart disease and is even considered an early warning sign of the cardiovascular condition.

When a man has impaired vascular health, the arteries of his sexual organs are going to be the first to be affected because they are much narrower than other arteries. In fact, many cases of erectile dysfunction stem from poor heart.

Yoga helps men eliminate these problems. A session in the studio can be an excellent cardiovascular workout. Eventually men will find that they have excellent heart health measures, which will pay dividends in the bedroom by contributing to enhanced sexual function.

In general, exercise is important for maintaining a positive mood and enthusiasm for life. This type of attitude also plays an important role in stoking the fires of sexual desire. This makes just about any type of exercise good for supporting function.

However, because yoga combines the mental element to the exercise, it may be one of the most effective types of workouts for supporting sexual desire. Individuals who would like to spend more intimate time with their partner may benefit from joining a yoga studio and going to classes on a regular basis.

Black Bean Soup RecipeVegetarian

Today is May 4th, and that can only mean one thing- tomorrow is May 5th, also known as Cinco de Mayo! I love Cinco de Mayo for various reasons; one, the copious amounts of beer that will be consumed and the justification that I must drink in celebration; and, two, tacos of course! Tomorrow will be indulgent, of this I am sure; which is why I find it essential to eat healthy in the days leading up to a booze and taco soaked fiesta! And this, for me, undoubtedly means fiber.

Bean are legendary for being one of the best sources on fiber on the planet; and considering many of us don’t get enough fiber, this is information that benefits us all. Fiber protects us in so many ways; as high fiber diets are now being associated with lower risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity; which makes sense to me considering all those illnesses are the rise and as a whole we are deficient in fiber.

Coincidence? I think not!

Beans, or rather the fiber within them, are the ultimate regulator of blood sugar; as the soluble fiber found in abundance influences the rate at which glucose is absorbed. And for those who endeavor to eat a low glycemic diet, beans are the foremost in low glycemic foods; due in large part to their high fiber (again with the fiber, noticing a trend?), which raises the blood sugar very, very slowly.

And then there is the BIG C, cancer; a research study found a significant reduction in the frequency of breast cancer in women who consumed a higher amount of common beans or lentils; what’s more, is that these benefits did not take long to record. Eating beans or lentils two or more times a week resulted in a 24% reduced risk. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me to get on the bean bandwagon.

So in light of the indulgence that is sure to follow cloaked as the aforementioned Cinco celebration, I decided to make a large family sized portion of black bean soup to ensure my blood sugar and digestion are ready. For me, black beans always bring about thoughts of Mexican food, likely due to them being found plentifully in tacos and other Mayan dishes.

I decided to tailor this soup to the occasion and garnish it with a spicy homemade salsa. A word on salsa, if I may; fresh salsa is heads and above better than anything found on the shelves of your local grocery store, it’s meant to be prepared and eaten within a day or so. So please do not ruin this velvety smooth culinary experience with jars of fraudulent salsa. In addition to garnishing with fresh salsa, one day I supercharged it with sautéed corn kernels, and WOW! I wasn’t even able to take a picture because I greedily slurped it up in the moment- but I’m sure you get the idea!

Black Bean Soup with Fresh Pico de Gallo

1 red onion, diced

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 cup canned tomatoes and their juice

¼ tsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin

3 ½ cups canned or soaked, par cooked black beans

½ tsp salt

4 cups vegetable stock

Pico De Gallo (salsa)

About 4 cups of diced tomatoes

1 jalapeno chili, chopped finely (remove seeds to reduce spice or omit altogether)

1 small red onion, chopped finely

1-2 small garlic cloves, minced

1 lime

2 sprigs of cilantro

Salt to taste

Pinch of sugar to taste

For the soup, heat oil in a large soup pot on medium heat; add the onion, chili powder and cumin and cook until onions become fragrant and transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans and season with salt; cook for 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the chopped tomatoes in a colander. Now place the colander on top of a bowl and let it sit for 30-45 minutes. Half way through, add the onions, jalapeno, garlic and cilantro and give it a light toss. This allows the flavors mingle. After 45 minutes, shake the colander to drain off the excess tomato juice.  You will see the drained juice in the bowl below the colander. Discard it. Take the same bowl, wipe it dry and toss the contents of the colander to the bowl. Add salt, lime juice and sugar. Give it a toss and taste. You can add more lime juice if needed; and set aside.

Once the soup has simmer and the beans begin to break apart;blend the soup with an immersion or traditionalblender until smooth and creamy. Garnish with fresh Pico de Gallo.

Super Food Recipes For Health As Seen on Breakfast Television Edmonton

Today I’m on Breakfast Television in Edmonton, extolling the virtues of super foods; I have graciously been given 4 segments to wax poetic about foods that make our bodies healthy!

Today is as short of a post you’re likely to see on the Vitality Guide For Women; so relish in it…it’s a rare occasion as I tend to be rather wordy.

I’ll be making Hemp Seed and Pistachios Squares, which I adapted from vegan chef Doug McNish, a Coconut Oil Super Food Spread, an Acai and Kefir Smoothie; and a Red Wine and Kombucha Spritzed Sangria, because super foods recipes for health can be all kinds of fun!

Hemp Seed and Pistachio Squares
Makes 8 squares

1/4 cup hemp seed, soaked for 30 minutes
1/2 cup raw pistachios, soaked overnight
1 cup raspberries + 1/2 cup
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 cup manuka honey
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup chopped, raw pistachios for garnish

Drain the hemp seeds and pistachios and discard the water. In a food processor, blend the hemp seeds, pistachios, raspberries, cacao powder and honey; while blender is running slowly add water and coconut. Blend the mixture until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Place mixture in a bowl and gently fold in the the remaining half cup of raspberries. Pour the mixture in a baking tray; and refrigerate overnight.

Super Food Spread
Makes 1 cup

3/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup organic jam, any type

In a food processor, blend both ingredients until well combined; about 1 minute.

Acai and Kefir Smoothie
Makes 2

1 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup kefir
1/4  cup silken tofu
3/4 cup acai juice
1/4 cup frozen spinach

In blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

Red Wine and Kombucha Spritzed Sangria
Serves 2

1 cup red wine, Pinot Noir
1 cup Kombucha (fermented tea)
1 navel orange, sliced into rounds
2 plums, sliced into half moons
2 white peaches, sliced into half moons
1/2 cup ice

Prepare the fruit and place in the glass; add the ice and pour in red wine and kombucha. Serve immediately.

Playing With Summer Strawberries Making Hummus

Well hello there! It certainly has been a minute since I’ve posted a recipe; but what can I say, it’s summer and I have been enjoying it. When the mercury rises all I feel like doing is sitting poolside with friends, lounging on restaurant patios and cruising my local farmer’s market for the best that Mother Nature has to offer us!

Strawberries are my favorite of the summer bounty, because during the summer months, when they are able to be grown close to home, they sing like Aida! But aside from being juicy and delicious during the hot season, fresh strawberries are a high antioxidant food. In addition to being a rich source of vitamin C, strawberries contain a whole host of other health promoting nutrients such as folate, potassium, B vitamins and flavanoids like quercetin (read: they make you feel AND look great). And a fun fact about strawberries is that they are the only fruit to have seeds on their exterior, which provide a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. All in all, I’d say strawberries are pretty boss!

But, alas, there are some important housekeeping notes about strawberries that we must attend to. Strawberries are grown all over the world and are readily available in grocery stores year round, however, they do not sore well and lose the bulk of their nutrients once picked. Do yourself and the beloved strawberry a favour and eat them in season. And lastly, conventionally grown strawberries are often treated with a toxic cocktail of pesticides and fungicides, so enjoy these beauties organic.

To the recipe…!

Although strawberries are beautiful eaten raw or drizzled with balsamic vinegar, I have to tell you, when they are slow roasted in an oven, their depth of flavor comes alive! As they yield to the heat their  sweetness becomes a concentrated center of goodness. Now, roasted strawberries make a lovely addition to a smoothie (once cooled) but in this case I felt for hummus, so I threw caution to wind and roasted strawberries, white beans and garlic scapes into my food processor. HOLY. SMOKES. Hummus will never be the same!

The process of this recipe is simple: roast the strawberries and garlic scapes, soak and boil the beans, add everything into a food processor and watch the magic happen.

  • 1 pint strawberries, halved
  • 1/2 cup white beans, soaked overnight
  • 3 garlic scapes
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 325F.

Lay the strawberries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lay the garlic scapes on a baking sheet as well. Roast the garlic scapes for 10 minutes and slow roast the strawberries for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans; place in pot with enough water to cover them and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. It doesn’t matter if they are slightly overcooked, they are getting blended anyways. Once cooked, drain and cool.

Remove the strawberries from the oven and place them, along with the cooked beans, roasted garlic scapes and all the remaining ingredients into a food processor; blend until your desired consistency is reached (I like it chunky, but the choice is yours).

Where To Use Roasted Strawberry Hummus

  • Use 1/4 cup hummus and whisk with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 3 tbsp olive to create a hummus vinaigrette
  • Slather it on toast
  • Use on a cheese plate as spread
  • Eat it with a spoon (this is what I did!)

Strawberry Facts 

  • Aid digestion by making a tea
  • Contains antioxidants that help fight cancer
  • Help prevent blood oxidization and arterial damage because of flavonols
  • Consume in season and organic in order to harness the most nutrients

What is your favorite summer fruit or vegetable and how do you use it?!

Moroccan Vegetable Stew Recipes

As I write this, it is 4 am in the morning and I cannot sleep; I am far too excited for BT Vancouver in four hours. I feel like a kid at Christmas; but with a little more appreciation for the wonderful opportunity I have been given. Truth be told, I was awake at 2 am but after finishing my book, taking a shower and touching up my manicure, I thought that I could use this time more usefully. So here I am, writing about Moroccan Stew at 4am in the morning.

I know what you’re thinking “Bianca, you’ll regret not sleeping”; and in a few hours I may agree with you, but for now I want to talk about this stew.

This is one of those stick to your ribs kind of meals that full of flavor and spice; but not spice for spice sake. Oh no, the spice in this dish provides a complexity of flavors that as you continue to eat they develop more on your palate. What’s more, this stew is chocked full of vegetables, which helps to keep Ms. Digestion happy and in working order. And the crowning jewel of this dish is, hands down, sweet potato.

Sweet potato, although the name would suggest, is in fact not related at all to the potato; it is a member of the morning glory family. They’re sweet, dark and one of the oldest vegetables known to man; having been around since prehistoric times; not many vegetable can say that they kicked it with T-Rex.

This starchy carbohydrate is high in fiber, half of which is soluble, and an incredibly rich source of beta carotene; a powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family. And you know I am a heart health warrior and, if you’re like me, then sweet potatoes should be kept in your back pocket; as they are loaded with vitamin A and heart healthy potassium and a smidge of calcium. If that weren’t enough to convert you into a lover of this sacchariferous root vegetable, a medium sized sweet tater has a modest 103 calories! Whatever you do, DON’T forget to eat the skin- it’s the best part and contains the most fiber.

There are two different types of sweet potatoes; moist (orange fleshed) and dry (yellow fleshed); both are delicious. However, the moist fleshed variety are often called yams, which is a misnomer, as true yams are a large root vegetables with origins in Africa; so whether moist and orange or yellow and dry, the health benefits are the same!

In this dish the sweet potato tempers the heat from the spices with its characteristic sweetness; and as they break down during cooking they serve to thicken the broth and elevate this to a true stew. This is the perfect meatless meal; however, for the diehard carnivores among us, customization is welcome, simply by adding diced chicken to the pot with the spices and allowing the chicken to brown we make this meatless meal, meaty.

This is one of those dishes that gets better with age; on the second and even third day the “ooohs” and “aahhhh” will be discernible from the down the street!

Serves 4

2 tbsp coconut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced

½ tsp chili pepper flakes

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp ground coriander

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 medium zucchini, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

¼ small head of green cabbage, shredded

1-19 oz can chickpea, drained and rinsed

1 tsp sea salt

½ cup fresh mint, chopped

*2 chicken breast, cubed

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat, add the garlic, ginger, chili flakes, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, pepper, allspice, coriander and chicken (optional). Stir for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots and cabbage. Pour in enough water or vegetable stock to cover the vegetables, about 5 to 6 cups.

Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not completely cooked. Ladle out 1 ½ cups of the vegetables and 1 ½ cups of the broth and puree in a blender until thick. Return to the remaining stew.

Mix in the chickpeas and add the salt, bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for an additional 10-15 minutes. Stir in the mint and serve over quinoa or bulgur wheat.