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June 07, 2017

Eating right ensures a healthy gut


A poor balance of “gut bacteria” is being linked to almost every known health problem. And it certainly makes sense. Without balanced intestinal microbiota we can't absorb many of the nutrients from our food. This weakens our immune system (among other things) and makes us susceptible to many health problems.

This focus on gut health is making “fermented foods” increasingly popular, even though they have been around for a long time. Fermented foods can encourage and maintain balanced gut microbiota.

But surprisingly, no one seems to question why we need to focus on fermented foods in the first place.

Fermented foods (created by humans, by the way) are merely treating the symptoms of a poor diet. We need to get to the real root of the problem: Fix our diets.

Our diet is rich in human-altered, highly refined foods that ruin the balance of our gut bacteria, or at the very least contribute nothing beneficial to it.

Nature gave us foods like vegetables as the perfect, natural probiotic (stimulates growth of beneficial bacteria). And many vegetables, along with other whole, natural foods also act as prebiotics (food for the probiotics). Yet few of us eat lots of vegetables – or a diet rich in whole, unchanged foods.

I’m not cutting down fermented foods. Eat them if you like them. Many are very nutritious. But you have a very narrow focus if you believe eating fermented foods and/or taking probiotic/prebiotic supplements is solving your health problem. You are just treating the symptoms, not permanently addressing the underlying issue: Your overall diet. And an untreated health issue may snowball into other health problems in the future.

In addition, it’s never a good idea to rely on or become obsessed with one food or type of food – like fermented foods – to improve health. It’s the balance and variety of all whole food sources that ensures good health, not the magical properties of a few superfoods. All whole foods are really superfoods in that their differing nutrients work together as a team to ensure our survival.

Eat a wide variety of whole, real foods. Foods retain their nutrients when they are altered as little as possible by humans. They also retain their “mysterious” functions in our bodies, which we do not yet fully understand.

We haven’t identified everything in our foods or how they ‘work’ in the human body. And if we don’t understand it, how can we change it or make it better? Therefore, the original designer of our food sources and our bodies (Mother Nature) is who we should trust. Not someone in a laboratory wearing a white coat. And not someone selling you a product or supplement (like fermented foods and probiotics).

Use common sense in your quest for good health. Eat real, whole foods. The way nature intended.

​​And everything in your gut should balance out nicely.

Eve Lees has been active in the Health & Fitness Industry for over 35 years. She is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Health Writer for several publications. 




May 10, 2017

Can You Isolate and “flatten” The Lower Abs With Exercises?

Having a protruding lower belly encourages many to do exercises targeting the lower abdominals (abs). 

However, it’s impossible to completely isolate the upper abs from the lower abs, even if it feels like you are. Muscle contraction is all or none; a muscle can’t contract just in certain areas. In addition, the four muscles in your abdominal area are not independent. They all work together as a team; you can’t train one part without affecting all of them.

The best way to affect the muscles in the entire abdominal area is to practice a wide variety of movements, including those that seem to work the lower abs more. So don’t focus only on the so-called lower ab exercises, like the reverse crunch or hanging leg raises, where the lower body moves toward the upper body (unlike crunches or sit-ups where the upper body flexes forward). Include various exercises in your abdominal routine.

However, the “lower ab” exercises do offer more tension on the tendons in the lower part of the muscle (tendons attach muscle to bone), just as “upper ab” exercises put more tension on the tendons that attach muscle to bone in the upper part of the muscle. Tendon strength is important too, although it won’t necessarily make a visible difference in the appearance of your tummy bulge.

To activate or place more “stress” on the lower abdominal tendons, maintain a pelvic tilt during the action (ask a certified fitness instructor about proper technique). Avoid mindlessly swinging your legs. Concentrate on feeling the lower portion of your abs doing all the work.

Lower abdominal bulge is often due to subcutaneous body fat. In which case, a sensible diet and being regularly active will utilize that stored fat – not doing endless abdominal exercises (which is primarily just affecting your muscle strength).

However, if you already have low body fat, but still have a bulge under your navel, there are many contributing factors to explore. Certain health conditions, like bladder inflammation or infection, can contribute to protruding lower abdominals. Food allergies or sensitivities and poor digestion can also affect the distension of the abdominal area.

Consider also how many refined sugars and other highly processed foods you eat (which can affect the health of your intestinal flora and your digestive abilities). Other factors to think about: How much you eat at one sitting, how quickly you eat and drink, and how thoroughly you chew your food. All these can contribute to that annoying tummy bulge!

Eve Lees is a Certified Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Health Writer for several publications.



April 11, 2017

Choose food – not silver – as medicine

Colloidal Silver is a dietary supplement in which silver particles are suspended in a liquid. Advocates boast of this mineral’s cure-all properties: An immune system booster, fights bacteria and viruses, and treats cancer and many other disorders.

They also warn humans are suffering from a “silver deficiency.”

However, silver is not an essential nutrient, so we can’t be deficient in it: Silver has no biological use in the human body.

Colloidal Silver can be used externally; it’s an effective antibacterial and antiviral. It’s sometimes used to sterilize medical equipment. But don’t get external use confused with internal use. We don’t know enough about using Colloidal Silver internally. And we are all different: You have no idea what your tolerable level really is. At the very least you may risk turning your skin bluish-grey (you can’t undo this, by the way) – and at the very worst, you may risk renal failure.

If you are seeking an antiviral and antibacterial to lower your risk of illness, simply eat better. Food is medicine. We need to break away from our “pop-a-pill-or-take-a-potion” mentality. Getting a wide variety of nutrient-rich plant foods is our best defence against any illness.

But if you can’t immediately break from this pill-taking society we’ve created, then stick with plants our bodies were designed to ingest – such as medicinal herbs like oregano and ginger . . . and there are many others. Take those in pill form, if you must (and eat them in their food form as well). These plants have all the same health-boosting properties of “silver.” Better safe, than sorry (or turning blue).

If you disagree with me about Colloidal Silver, fine. But please do your research. Many of us choose to only regard the studies and articles that confirm what we want to believe. We ignore or overlook the views that conflict with our beliefs.

Review both sides of all issues with an open mind. And then make your decision.

Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker and a Health Writer for several publications.



March 08, 2017

Should you avoid plants in the nightshade family?


The Nightshade plant family includes foods such as tomatoes, red peppers, eggplant and white potatoes. Some people react to the glycoalkaloids they contain, which is likened to a “bug repellant” – nature’s design to protect the plant.

However, glycoalkaloids can cause inflammation in some individuals, particularly those with compromised immune systems, intensifying digestive and other related autoimmune problems. It’s recommended those with rheumatoid arthritis, gluten intolerance, inflammatory bowel syndrome, or any form of leaky gut syndrome should be careful consuming nightshades: The bug-repelling properties of glycoalkaloids can weaken an already weak cell membrane. However, everyone is different: Experiment with the different plants and the amounts you eat.

Plant foods in the nightshade family include eggplants/aubergines, goji berries, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), red peppers and most other peppers (including bell peppers, sweet peppers, chili peppers, jalapenos, pimentos), tamarillos, tomatillos, tomatoes.

Less common nightshade plants are ashwagandha (or winter cherry), bush tomatoes (native to Australia), cape gooseberries (or ground cherries, different from regular cherries), cocona fruit, garden huckleberries (different from regular huckleberries), kutjera (a type of tomato), naranjillas (a type of orange), pepino fruit.

Spices/Seasonings considered nightshades: Many spice blends including cayenne pepper, chili pepper flakes, chili powder,  curry powder, curry spice powder, Hot Sauce, Ketchup (and BBQ Sauce), paprika or capsicum spice, red pepper flakes, Steak Seasoning.

The nightshades all differ in their levels of glycoalkaloid. Peppers have a lower level than the other nightshades. Unripe tomatoes are the richest, but the levels decrease as the tomato ripens (this is a stage when the plant needs to attract bugs – not repel them – to help cross-pollinate). The skin of white potatoes contains the highest levels of glycoalkaloid (especially the greener they are), but peeling them reduces the levels greatly. Incidentally, sweet potatoes, yams, and taro are not in the nightshade family.

Glycoalkaloids are heat-stable, particularly in potatoes. Therefore cooking will not affect the levels to any significant degree.

The properties in the nightshade family tend to affect those with autoimmune disorders more than the average person. If you experience joint inflammation and pain from arthritis, it’s recommended to try a nightshade elimination diet for 30 days. You may be sensitive to only one or two of the nightshade plants – or it could be the total amount you are eating from any source that’s more of a concern.

If you eat nightshades regularly and experience frequent bloating, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or headaches, try omitting them for a short time, and introducing them back one at a time to gauge your reaction. Or simply moderating your intake may be enough.

What is NOT advised is to eliminate these nutritious plants from your diet because of fear. Adopting the “good food” “bad food” mentality is not wise. It is more sensible to reduce the amounts of all foods you eat and choose from a wide variety of them.

All plants contain a natural toxin, similar to the Nightshade family. It’s nature’s unique design to protect the plant from the elements and from extinction, so it’s wise not to overeat them for this reason alone. However, eating small amounts is also a good idea because every plant also provides many nutrients (known and unknown) to keep us healthy. Eliminating any plant, without a sound medical reason, is risking nutrient deficiencies. As is eating a limited variety of foods.

Gluttony contributes to illness: Overeating is common to many of us – as well as tending to eat the same food choices each day. Practice variety, moderation and balance in your food choices.
Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker and a Health Writer for several publications.



February 09, 2017

Why do we crave chocolate?


There is a definite connection between food and emotions. Chocolate is a food commonly craved. However, science can’t pinpoint exactly why we’d brave a snowstorm for a chocolate bar, but not for asparagus.

Obviously, chocolate's appealing taste is a big factor. And while you enjoy your chocolates this Valentine’s Day, consider the several other theories behind chocolate cravings.

Caffeine. Chocolate contains caffeine that -- with other elements in chocolate -- can affect mood. However, its caffeine content alone isn’t substantial. An average chocolate bar has 10-20 milligrams of caffeine, while six ounces of coffee can supply as much as 175 mg.

Phenylenthylamine (PEA) is a substance in chocolate that occurs naturally in the brain and may have a role in emotional arousal. Experts suspect it’s the PEA in chocolate that causes certain people to crave the treat when they’re depressed. The theory is still being researched.

Theobromine, another stimulant in chocolate, may also elevate mood, claim some researchers -- but only mildly, say others. This theory also needs more research. Theobromine has similar effects on the body as caffeine; increased heart rate and energy level.

Nutritional deficiencies. When hormones (like insulin, cortisol, and estrogen) are changing or out of balance, cravings are strongest. For example, many women experience food cravings just before menstruation. Hormone imbalances can be corrected by dietary changes to boost nutrient intake, especially removing all the highly refined and nutrient-depleted foods like sugars. Some experts suspect people who crave certain foods are trying to correct a chemical or nutritional imbalance. Cocoa is a rich source of magnesium, making some researchers wonder if chocolate bingers could be magnesium-deficient. But devils’ advocates point out if magnesium deficiency caused the craving, why doesn’t the body crave other magnesium-rich foods -- like spinach?

Allergies.  Some health experts believe people often crave foods they are allergic or sensitive to. Chocolate, or cocoa, is a common allergen, triggering migraine headaches in some people. Allergic reactions from chocolate can also be caused by its other ingredients; dairy products, nuts, fruit, liquor or other additives, flavorings and preservatives. Those allergic to chocolate can try substituting with products made from carob (a bean that’s caffeine-free) or white chocolate. White chocolate is really not chocolate at all. It’s made from sugar, cocoa butter, milk solids and vanilla. It has no caffeine because it doesn’t contain any chocolate liquor -- the thick dark paste left after cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa bean. Unfortunately, white chocolate has the same amount of calories, fat, and sugar as brown chocolate.

Anandamide. Research shows chocolate contains small amounts of anandamide, which is produced naturally in the brain. This chemical activates the same areas in the brain that marijuana does. Combined with other chemicals, like caffeine, anandamide can mimic the effects of marijuana. However, researchers at the Neurosciences Institute of San Diego stress the effects are much milder than those caused by marijuana. Researcher Daniele Piomelli says his work doesn’t imply chocolate is as stimulating as marijuana: An average-sized adult would have to inject the equivalent of about five pounds of chocolate, at one time, to get the marijuana-like effects.

Carbohydrates.  Chocolate treats contain sugar, a simple carbohydrate. Carbohydrates release serotonin from the brain, a hormone that has a calming effect. This theory seems to make sense because food cravers most often want high-carbohydrate or sugar-rich foods; no one has fantasies about eating unsweetened chocolate.

Psychologically soothing. For many people, chocolate can simply be a comfort food, associated with happy childhood memories. However, using the food as an escape from stress or depression isn’t getting to the root of the problem. If foods like chocolate become a regular coping tool, find other ways to relieve stress and/or improve your mood. If you can't control the craving, talk about it or get counselling.

There is one other theory about food cravings that has been proven: Getting a hug from your “Valentine” is just as mood-lifting as eating chocolates.

Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker and a Health Writer for several publications.


January 04, 2017


Good health is simply good chemistry

A nutrition message for 2017 . . .


The foods we eat are a complex mass of chemicals. Our bodies are also complex masses of chemicals. These chemicals in our food and our bodies work together to ensure we function and operate normally.
The chemicals in our food/water/air are the tools (nutrients, etc.) that we require to survive; to keep our bodies operating efficiently.

Unfortunately, when we change our food (process it) we change its chemistry. This can change how our bodies “read” the food and may affect how we absorb and utilize it. As our bodies try to figure out how to deal with this unfamiliar, changed chemistry, it becomes more work for the body. More work is more stress.

Constant stress over time can be health-robbing. In addition, depriving ourselves of the unchanged, unprocessed “tools” we need to function will also ruin our health. As we age, we become less and less able to deal with this malnutrition. Digestive stress and all types of discomfort and illness begin to develop.

And as we continue to age, these health problems snowball into more and bigger problems. Until we are at the point where walking, talking, and thinking become very difficult. Our body finally has to say; “I give up. I can’t deal with this abuse any longer!”
We call this aging.

But this extreme response does NOT have to happen. Making better food choices is a big factor in slowing the many symptoms we inaccurately attribute to aging.

You don’t have to drastically change your eating habits. Or become a born-again fanatic about it. Simply become aware of making better food choices. More often, opt for an apple instead of a cookie or snack bar. Add an extra vegetable (or two) to your meals. Cut back on the soft drinks and more often choose a healthier alternate instead, like water with lemon.
Choose to begin 2017 by practicing healthful eating habits. Make it an investment for your future.

Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker and a Health Writer for several publications.


December 08, 2016

The latest study says . . . we are sadly misinformed!

There’s tons of health misinformation everywhere, especially on the internet. Even newspapers, magazines, radio and T.V. news may not tell the whole story – mostly because the reporters who receive the press releases about the “latest health study” may lack an understanding of human physiology and the science of nutrition – so they will misinterpret and inaccurately report the findings to you.

What can you do? Most important is never to immediately believe what you hear. Question it. Always. Misinformation perpetuates because we do not question it. If the public would have questioned the gluten-free diet, it would not have become as popular as it is today. Same for the low-carb diet, oxygenated water, cellulite creams, detox diets, weight loss teas . . . the examples are endless.
A few months ago, the media reported a poor diet is now believed to be a cause of acne. Sadly, this isn’t really news – it’s just that the medical and dermatology fields never believed it in the past. While those who understood nutrition always knew poor diet is among the major causes of poor skin health.

But I digress.

Getting back to the concern of misinformation and inaccuracy . . . the “acne” report stated skim milk was linked to causing acne, more so than whole milk. The report failed to mention that healthy fats (as found in whole milk) are necessary for healthy skin. Now we risk a knee-jerk reaction of many people switching from skim to whole, because whole milk is said to be better for the skin: Ergo, whole milk must be “healthier”.

Whole milk is definitely a smart choice for those needing a healthy source of fat in their diet. But it’s not the only good source for fat. Skim milk is higher in calcium than whole milk, and much lower in fat. This makes skim milk a wise choice for those concerned about bone health or those wanting to lower their body fat.

So if we questioned that “acne” study, we would have discovered that healthy fats contribute to great skin – not whole milk, per se. Therefore, we really don’t have to stop drinking skim milk if we are concerned about our skin health. All we have to do it make sure we are choosing to eat more healthy sources of fat. Avoid or reduce fried foods and margarine, and more often enjoy foods like nuts and seeds, avocado, fish and eggs.

Incidentally, studies show a correlation. They do not prove causation. (So think about that when the next alcohol or coffee study circulates.) It’s not wise to change your lifestyle habits based solely on someone’s research.

When the next news report comes around about some new finding (like a sure-fire diet, or a practice that will improve your health) always question it. Avoid blindly following the latest news. It’s the only way we can stop the misinformation and be able to make an informed decision.

Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Freelance Health Writer. For more health info, follow Eve on Facebook or visit



November 03, 2016

pH balance: Can diet make you ‘acidic’?

Eve Lees


Among the many highly debated health topics, is the belief your body can become acidic from eating acid-forming foods, like meats and grains . . . and that being ‘acidic’ is linked to poor health. These assumptions are partly right and partly wrong, because they have been extremely simplified. Your body’s alkalinity or acidity – your pH balance – is a very confusing, complicated process.

Can we become acidic? Well . . . yes and no. Yes, because if you eat an acid-forming food, like meats or grains, a pH test might indicate you are ‘acidic’ until your body eliminates the acid residue (therefore, you can be very healthy, yet still test ‘acidic’). And, most likely no: Your body has many differing pH levels. It precisely maintains the levels of its many systems, so unless you have organ failure or were poisoned, it's difficult to become entirely ‘acidic’. If you were, you could not function normally: You wouldn’t be sitting here reading this. You would most likely be severely ill, perhaps in the hospital – or dead.

Your body is designed to maintain the many differing pH levels required in various areas of your body. The human body (including all its pH levels) is not static – everything is constantly changing to maintain homeostasis, or ‘balance’. There are several metabolic pathways that carefully monitor and adjust your pH levels in response to diet, stress, exercise, and many other factors. If this didn’t happen, you’d die.

The confusion about acid/alkaline balance can perhaps be attributed to the simplified mindset that being acidic is ‘bad’ and being ‘alkaline’ is good. Actually, our bodies are a balance of both, as are our foods – that’s nature’s design. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, you can be temporarily ‘acidic’ but not ill, or you can test ‘alkaline’, yet still have poor health.

Another reason for the confusion is not understanding the difference between symptom and cause.

If you use a pH test strip to test your urine or saliva, and it reads acidic, this is a symptom that you recently ate an acid-forming food (generally categorized as meats and grains). The food was the cause of that symptom. If you are healthy, and eating a balanced diet which includes lots of alkaline-forming foods (predominantly fruits and vegetables), this symptom of ‘acidity’ is temporary. No need to worry. But if you are not regularly eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, you may want to investigate that acidity symptom so as not to cause poor health in the future.

The underlying cause of your symptom (the acidity) was your poor diet. But many choose to treat the symptom instead, with a heavy focus on alkaline-forming foods, alkaline water, and other alkalizing products.

Here’s the problem with treating the symptom only: While it will definitely change and correct your test results (and perhaps make you feel better, only because you increased your plant consumption!), you haven’t really addressed the underlying cause of your abnormal levels. You haven’t learned anything. The underlying issue wasn’t corrected because you simply put a band aid on the problem. This is similar to blood pressure and cholesterol testing. Like pH testing, these tests can be used to measure your health. A poor test result may be an indication of poor health, but not the cause of it. Yet many doctors immediately prescribe drugs to reduce high levels of cholesterol or hypertension (the symptoms) failing to investigate the cause of why those levels became high in the first place.

When testing your urine/saliva pH, acidity is the symptom. You need to treat the underlying cause of that symptom: poor diet. Therefore, choose to eat a balanced diet of both alkaline and acid-forming foods, because it was the imbalance that initially caused your ‘acidic’ test results and/or your poor health. Following an ‘alkaline only’ diet again limits your variety of nutrients, just as it did with the ‘acidic’ diet. Both can create other health problems over time.

A healthy diet is a major factor in maintaining a balance in health – including the balance of your pH levels. The focus should be on moderation, variety and balance in your food choices. You do not need to eat only alkaline-forming foods, use costly alkalizing products . . . or learn to test your pee.

We are designed to operate with a healthy balance of both an acid and alkaline pH, thus we can include acid-forming foods – whole grains, nuts & seeds, and some fish or meat if you like – they all contribute valuable nutrients to keep you alive. So don’t worry about having salmon or quinoa (both ‘acid-forming’), especially if you accompany them with a generous serving of vegetables and perhaps fruit for dessert (both ‘alkaline-forming’). Our diet should be a balance of acid and alkaline foods. (But personally, I like to advise leaning a bit more toward the alkaline side, due to their high fibre and other nutrients – so eat lots of veggies!)

It’s obvious how healthy and balanced your diet is, just by looking at it. You don’t need a urine test to determine that. Do you even eat vegetables? How many? How often? Do you eat fruit daily? Are you having these plant-based foods at every meal? A truthful answer to these questions trumps the need to test your pee. If you aren’t eating plant foods – or if you are regularly flunking your urine tests – that’s a darn good indication you aren’t getting a lot of variety in your diet; specifically the plant foods. Thus, you are missing vital nutrients your body needs to function efficiently.

Nutrients are the tools your body requires to keep you alive. Deprive yourself of any nutrient and you’ll get sick. These are simple facts that many people just don’t ‘get’ (and why we continually fall for diet myths). Being ‘acidic’ is not the issue you need to be concerned with – the root of the problem is malnutrition.

Your body will become malnourished if all the nutrients you need are not being supplied. If you are malnourished, you’ll become ill in some way. And yes, that can include getting cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Fruits and vegetables offer the most anti-oxidants (disease fighters) and other phytochemicals vital to ensure good health. Recent discoveries about plant fibre in particular, shows it is a major contributing factor to the health of our intestinal ‘gut’ bacteria – which has been revealed as vital for the health of the immune system. However, the average person doesn’t eat enough plant foods; at least two servings of vegetables at every meal (including breakfast!).

It’s unfortunate that acid-forming foods are the bulk of our typical Western Diet, because this only fuels the belief that acidity equals poor health: The average person eats lots of meats, dairy products, caffeine, as well as plenty of highly processed stuff like sugar, salt, flour, hydrogenated fats, etc. Grains are slightly acid-forming, and we eat far too many refined grain products. We are a sandwich culture: Bread, buns, pastas and other flour-containing products constitute a large part of the average person’s diet. The problem is many of these foods (especially the highly processed ones) offer few, if any, nutrients. Because our diet has such a focus on the above mentioned foods, we limit nutrient variety, and suffer poor health. Therefore, it’s no wonder many believe acidity means illness.

If you continue to follow the typical Western Diet, over time, the limited food variety will deprive you of so many nutrients. Without adequate nutrition to help your body function normally, it won’t be able to handle the added abnormal workload of neutralizing your pH levels. Your body will soon become exhausted.

Eventually, this ongoing, exhausting work leads to other health complications, perhaps involving your kidneys and maybe your bone health. You may also risk muscle loss, aching joints and chronic inflammation. By the way, does this slowly-evolving series of health issues sound familiar? It should. We call it “aging” – or what many of us recognize as aging. In my opinion, this gradual progression to poor health (aging) can be slowed enormously with a sensible diet.

You just need to use common sense: Quit eating the junk (processed foods) and eat more veggies. For those with mild health complaints, just taking these two simple steps will reap significant improvements. Even those with serious disorders like cancer should be very careful about limiting nutrients with any restricted-variety diet. This is definitely not the time to restrict nutrients! There’s no need to limit your food variety to only alkaline-forming foods. Focus on getting rid of the junk, and eat a wide variety of natural, wholesome foods.

Incidentally, I’m not criticizing The Alkaline Diet, as it does encourage eating more plants and allows a selection of acidic-forming foods, so it can be a healthy food plan to follow. My comments throughout this article referred to eating ONLY alkaline-forming foods, and omitting all acid-forming ones. However, my concern with the Alkaline Diet is it may encourage the good-food-bad-food mentality; that acid foods are bad and alkaline foods are good. Some people may choose to restrict or omit many healthful food choices, risking their good health over time. In this case, you would not be healthy because of poor nutrition, yet your pH tests may read alkaline because you are still eating alkaline-forming foods. And in the reverse situation, as mentioned earlier, you can be healthy, yet still test as ‘acidic’ after eating acid-forming foods. This shows how inaccurate it is to connect good or bad health to your pH balance.

In summary:
‘Acidity’ is how you interpret it: You can overreact, or you can relax and realize it normally happens from time to time. It really isn’t a sentence of poor health. But it is a symptom – possibly a warning to smarten up.
Treating the symptom (acidity) with ingesting only stuff that’s ‘alkaline’ is not fixing the problem. If you regularly test ‘acidic’ then obviously your diet is lacking in variety because you are eating only a select type of food (in this case, the more acid-forming ones). You need more nutrition – more food variety. But eating only alkaline-forming foods is the same as eating mostly acid-forming foods. You are again limiting your nutrients, and you’ll still risk future poor health.
You achieve ‘pH balance’ simply by eating healthful, real foods and choosing from a wide variety of them. This provides all the tools your body needs to keep you balanced; to keep you healthy.

All whole natural (non-processed) foods should be included in your diet. This is your only guarantee you are getting all the nutrients (known and unknown) you need to survive. Perhaps follow Michael Pollan’s simple rule: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

A former newspaper editor, Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach and has been a Health Researcher, Writer & Speaker for over 30 years.



Eve Lees is a health writer for several publications and has been a Fitness & Nutrition Counsellor for over 30 years.



September 2016


Losing weight, gaining skin?

You’ve reached your dieting goal. Bravo! But now you have another concern. Slack skin. Rolls of it. Ugh.

If you’ve gained and lost 40 to 50 percent more than your ideal body weight, it may be difficult (and for some, unlikely) for skin to regain its original elasticity. However, for some of us, depending on certain conditions, there is still hope loose skin may eventually tighten up.

The younger you are, the slower you gained the weight and the slower you lost it will make regaining skin tone much easier. Good genetics regarding your skin helps too, but unfortunately we can’t pick our parents.

Quick weight loss and yo yo dieting (continually gaining and losing large amounts of weight) can aggravate the extra skin problem. It is important to lose no more than one pound per week and regular exercise is recommended to avoid too much slack in the skin as you lose weight. When you burn fat through exercise, the circulation to the muscle bed increases, helping to maintain skin tone.

An adequate diet, providing all the essential nutrients we need for healthy skin is also advised. Skin health relies on the omega 3 fatty acids (fish are a rich source) and the antioxidants (especially vitamin C), as well as the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Severe calorie restriction will not guarantee you are getting your required nutrients. Exercise regularly and keep the calories up, just cut back on too much fat, like deep fried foods and foods rich in trans fats. Be aware of the type of fat you are eating. Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and foods such as fish, fresh coconut and avocado provide healthier sources of fat and other nutrients for your skin.

High levels of processed carbohydrates (carbs) in the diet have also been found to contribute to poor skin health, so omit the processed refined carbs, and stick to the highly nutritious carbs in their natural form (eat more cooked, whole grains, instead of bread!).

Keeping your body hydrated will also keep your skin adequately hydrated, which may reflect in a more toned and firmer appearance of your skin. Drink adequate water and avoid or reduce anything that can dehydrate your body, like caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and high protein diets. Carbohydrates (carbs) help lock water into your muscles, so you need just enough carbs to maintain adequate hydration in your body. The drawback to the low carb diets (Atkins, South Beach, etc.) is the body becomes dehydrated, contributing to wrinkled, loose skin.

Excess skin can be removed surgically, but wait until your weight goal has been achieved and stabilized for six to nine months. And try to follow the good health practices mentioned in this article. If you are feeding it adequately, your skin can continue to tighten for an entire year. Your patience could help avoid unnecessary surgery.

Eve Lees is a health writer for several publications and was a Fitness, Nutrition & Wellness Counsellor for 30 years. Visit



August 2016

Don’t Deny Your health

We humans are in denial.

We smoke and deny it’s killing us. We eat high-fat foods and deny the plaque building in our arteries. We drink alcohol for heart health, but deny it’s killing our brain cells. We eat nutrient-depleted ‘fast foods’ at almost every meal and deny its long-term consequences on our health.

Currently our health care system is a 90% focus on treating disease and disorder. Only 10% goes toward preventing it. We are all to blame for this (and we’re in denial of this as well).

Each of us has the choice to create good physical and mental health. Make that choice now. Choose to take better care of yourself . . .

Stop smoking . . . Beware of alcohol and caffeine . . . Drink water . . . Play catch with the kids . . . Eat more fruits and vegetables . . . Avoid processed, refined foods, especially sugar . . . Get off your butt and go for a walk . . . Fill your heart and entire body with feelings of love. Project that love outward, even to those who offend you . . . Reduce the unhealthy fats in your diet; eat more nuts and seeds instead . . . Say goodbye to fried foods and hello to baked potato. . . Protect your skin from too much sun . . . Think positive thoughts . . . Stop being so damned negative . . . Chew your food well . . . Don’t deprive yourself of sleep . . . Laugh often. Laugh at the serving sizes in Canada’s Food Guide because you know you eat way more than that. Learn and practice those serving sizes . . . Don’t litter . . . Take your holidays . . . Be honest . . . Use avocado instead of butter or margarine . . . Learn relaxation techniques or enjoy a hobby . . . Take breaks often to clear your mind of all thoughts. Listen to your heart beating. Concentrate on your breathing . . . Love yourself . . . Say NO to super-sized anything including popcorn and soda . . . Stop in the middle of any task and look at that tree, that flower, your own hand  and really LOOK at it: See its perfection, its beauty . . . Eat winter squash and try other foods new to your diet . . . Hang out with positive-thinking, supportive friends: Be one yourself . . . Cut down on desserts . . . Give freely of your time, money and possessions because generosity comes back tenfold . . . Take deep breaths . . . Go outside and appreciate nature: Stop destroying it . . . Snack on an apple not a candy bar . . . Tell your spouse/kid/parent/sibling/relative/friend you love them. DO IT NOW . . . Quit working yourself to death for more “stuff”: Your friends aren’t your friends just because of your flashy car or designer clothes and if they are GET NEW FRIENDS.

Don’t deny it; every moment of every day you are presented with choices and you make choices. Choose the one offering the greatest health benefit. It’s as simple as that.

For over 30 years, Eve Lees has been a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Freelance Health Writer for several publications. Follow her on Facebook or visit             


July 2016

You are what you think

Your thoughts predict and affect your health. Scientists and researchers are beginning to understand exactly how.

The mind and body are one system, working together. We experience this when we feel our stomach churn when we imagine a disaster. We feel it when our hearts beat faster thinking of someone we love, or how we salivate when we think of tasty foods. Thought becomes sensation; thinking creates action.

Thoughts have physical effects on our bodies in three ways; through the autonomic nervous system, the endocrine system and the immune system.

The autonomic system or nervous system is an intricate web running though our bodies. It’s divided into the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic system is our energizer, allowing us to meet challenges or dangers, stimulating the adrenal glands to secrete norepinephrine and epinephrine to increase our heartbeat and breathing. The parasypmathetic system does the opposite; it relaxes and calms.

The endocrine system is made up of the hormone-secreting organs, like the pituitary and adrenal glands. These hormones regulate our growth, sexuality and activity level.

The immune system keeps us healthy by protecting us from outside antigens (bacteria and viruses) and from tumor cells forming in our bodies.

These three systems are intertwined. They continually exchange information through neurotransmitters made from proteins called neuropeptides. The three systems each have receptor sites on all their cells that are able to accept these neurotransmitters. How these neuropeptides link with their receptors makes up the biochemistry of our emotions.

Researchers say the immune system listens to emotions through its neuropeptide receptors. It responds by sending signals to the brain via neurotransmitters. The brain does the same thing in influencing the immune system. The brain therefore actively monitors and reacts to the immune response. Immune system cells also produce a hormone that can stimulate the adrenal gland into action.

The nervous system, endocrine system and immune system work together, translating our thoughts into action. When we worry, we begin a chain reaction that prepares us for fight or flight -- a reaction that may not have been necessary and is exhausting if it frequently happens. An overworked immune system becomes exhausted and unable to fight bacteria or viruses. We become ill. Or it may learn to react too strongly: Instead of attacking outside invaders the immune system attacks harmless substances in the body, creating conditions like allergies or rheumatoid arthritis.

A negative mindset (anger, depression) can have a negative effect on the functions of our immune system, because this system is closely connected to the other systems affected by emotions (the nervous and endocrine systems). In contrast, positive thinking, happiness and the ability to relax have all shown to maintain a healthy balance in the body.

The damage of chronic stress comes from your body’s learned response to a situation – not from the situation itself. Learn ways to control your reaction to
stressful situations. Train your brain to think with a smile.

For over 30 years, Eve Lees has been a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Freelance Health Writer for several publications. Follow her on Facebook or visit




June 2016

Eating slowly assists weight loss

In our faced-paced lifestyles, many of us eat our food quickly and mindlessly. However, eating slowly can help you feel fuller and lose weight.

Fast eaters are more often (but there are exceptions) heavier than those who eat slowly. Studies find people who eat quickly tend to be heavier and gain more weight over time, compared to slower eaters.

Appetite and calorie intake are mostly controlled by hormones. Normally, after we eat, our bodies release three anti-hunger hormones; cholesystokinin (CCK), peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). These hormones relay messages to the brain, to signal that you’ve just eaten and nutrients are being absorbed. This reduces appetite, makes you feel full, and helps you stop eating.

This process takes about 20 minutes. Slowing down gives your brain the time it needs to receive these signals. But if you eat too quickly, your brain doesn’t have time to receive or process these fullness signals.

Eating slowly can decrease the amount of food consumed at a meal. In part, this is due to the increase of those anti-hunger hormones generated when meals aren’t rushed. One study showed fewer calories were consumed at a slow-paced meal than at a fast-paced meal, although the difference was greater in the normal-weight group of participants.  Additionally, all participants also felt fuller longer after eating more slowly, and were less hungry 60 minutes after the slow-paced meal than after the faster meal.

Another benefit to slow eating: you’ll be chewing your food more thoroughly before swallowing it. Your body can more efficiently absorb and utilize the nutrients in the food when it is thoroughly chewed. The saliva generated in your mouth offers enzymes that help digest your food – particularly carbohydrate-rich foods. When you thoroughly mix and coat your food with your enzyme-rich saliva, it combines with the enzymes in the food, allowing more thorough and efficient utilization of the nutrients in the food.

There are many other benefits to slow eating: It Increases your enjoyment of food. It improves digestion and may reduce or eliminate digestive problems like bloating and flatulence. It promotes stronger, healthier teeth. And it assists in feeling calmer and more in control, which can reflect on how you respond to stressful situations.

Here are some suggestions to help you develop a “slow eating” habit . . .

Avoid getting extremely hungry. When you are really hungry, it’s much more difficult to eat slowly. Try to eat regularly throughout the day and keep healthy snacks handy for those unexpected hunger pangs.

Chew more. Be conscious of chewing your food. No need to count – different foods break down in differing lengths of time. It’s best to simply chew until your mouthful is almost a watery consistency, before you swallow it.
Take a break occasionally. Put down your fork/spoon between mouthfuls of food.
Savour each mouthful. Concentrate on the texture and taste in your mouth.
Set a timer or eat with a friend who will keep you focused. Set the timer for 20 minutes, and try to stretch the meal until the time is up. Or buddy up with a friend who will remind you to eat at a slow, consistent pace throughout the meal.
Avoid distractions until slow eating becomes a habit. At mealtimes, it may help to turn off the television and stay away from the computer and hand-held electronic devices. Put down the newspaper and novel too. In a month or two, your new habit should have a firm hold and distractions won’t be an issue.
Breathe deeply. When you notice you are eating too quickly, stop and take a few deep breaths to help you refocus.
With practice, eating slowly will become habitual. Enjoy every bite!

Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Freelance Health Writer for several publications. She has been active in the Health & Fitness Industry for over 30 years.


May 2016

Have Faith in Food

Our foods contain thousands of properties we have yet to discover. Yet many people choose pills over food because they believe food today does not contain the nutrient value of many years ago. Not so.

There may be some areas where soil has been mistreated, but it's usually obvious by the poor quality of plant yield. In order for plants to grow, they must be able to absorb all the nutrients they need from the soil. If not, the food source will not be the right color, texture, taste or smell. However, our soil quality in many regions, particularly in the less populated rural areas of Canada, remains as rich in nutrients as it did many years ago.

Yes, areas of overly-depleted soil do exist, and these areas are the source of the “studies” used by vitamin supplement marketers to promote their products. However, it is naive to believe soil is deficient world-wide. There still remain many areas of fertile, nutrient-rich soil, particularly with the growing interest in organic and sustainable farming practices.

If the fruit or vegetable you are eating doesn't taste, smell or look right, it may have grown in poor soil, or was handled improperly after harvesting (poor storage or spraying the produce to prepare it for shipping will also affect a food’s nutrient quality). You can choose to change your source for the food or grow your own. Consider buying locally, from a farmer’s market where you can become acquainted with the proprietors. And if your budget allows, buy organic as often as possible, to reduce the chemical exposure.

How you store and prepare your food is perhaps the biggest factor in nutrient retention.

Always store your food as recommended; eggs and condiments (like mustard and peanut butter) should be stored in the refrigerator, and root vegetables in a cool, dark area, etc. Be smart when you cook, such as avoid over-boiling your vegetables; steam or bake them instead.

Also important, is to cut back (or eliminate!) the processed, refined foods that slide out of a can or roll out of a box. These foods lack many nutrients. They just aren’t natural; they’ve been changed drastically from the way they were created in nature. Stick to whole and fresh whenever possible. Fresh food retains its nutrients – unlike food that’s had its nutrition processed out of it. And fresh food doesn’t have added sugars, fats and chemicals, as processed foods do.

And finally, practice variety. A well-rounded variety of foods in your diet is the best guarantee you're getting all the known (and unknown) substances we need to keep us healthy.

Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Freelance Health Writer for several publications. She has been active in the Health & Fitness Industry for over 30 years.



April 2016

Anti-aging products? 

Your eyesight is going. So is your hearing. Fatigue is now a daily condition and your weight loss plan to fight that creeping obesity isn’t working: The only part of you getting thinner is your hair.

Can anti-aging products help? Can they actually slow or even stop the aging process? Generally, the old adage is probably the best advice – if a product sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

However, there is evidence that antioxidants (“disease fighters”) can protect your body by neutralizing free radicals (waste products) that may damage the body and as a result, speed the aging process. Antioxidants consumed in foods and those taken as supplements both show evidence of protecting the body. Foods brighter and deeper in colour contain the most antioxidants and other properties to keep your body’s immune system strong. The more well known antioxidants include:

  1. Vitamin A and beta-carotene. They’re richest in red and yellow vegetables, like carrots, winter squash, cantaloupe and apricots. Spinach too. Vitamin A is also rich in fish liver (cod-liver or halibut-liver oils).


  1. Vitamin C. The richest source is citrus fruits. Peppers and kiwi fruit are good sources too, and there are varying amounts in many other fruits and vegetables (even cauliflower and potatoes!).
  1. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that may also protect against cataracts and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E is rich in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.


  1. Selenium is an antioxidant mineral. It’s found primarily in seafood and liver. However, two or three Brazil nuts daily will meet your daily requirement.
  1. Coenzyme Q-10 is an antioxidant enzyme produced by your body. It’s rich in beef, sardines, tuna, spinach and peanuts.


Hormone levels decline with age, and scientists suggest hormones play a major role in the aging process. Two of the more talked about hormone supplements are DHEA and HGH.

DHEA. Dehydroepiandrosterone (de-hi-dro-ep-e-an-DROS-tur-own) is a hormone produced mainly in the adrenal glands. DHEA levels decline with age and when the body is severely stressed. Most health authorities do not recommend supplemental DHEA for those under the age of forty, as younger bodies are seldom deficient in this hormone. Other factors that deplete DHEA in the body are high intakes of sugar, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. Deficiencies of the essential fatty acids (omega’s 3 and 6) can also reduce levels, mostly because these “good” fats promote hormone production and keep them in balance.

DHEA is a controversial supplement. There can be risks, including hormone imbalance, liver damage, cancer, excess body hair and high blood pressure. Health Canada has declared DHEA to be an "anabolic steroid" and it’s illegal to own or sell it without a prescription. However, in the United States, DHEA is currently still available over-the-counter.

To promote healthy adrenal glands and ensure your natural secretion of DHEA, it’s best to improve your lifestyle habits (diet, exercise, stress control) to keep hormones balanced.

HGH or human growth hormone is released by the pituitary gland. This peptide hormone plays a role in several functions that keep us looking and feeling young. After about age 20, HGH production begins to decrease. The injectable hormone is banned in Canada. If abused, it can create severe side effects such as distortion and enlargement of organs and bones, as well as cause diabetes, heart disease, and impotence.

However, there are several products available that claim to safely stimulate the body’s production of HGH. These products contain herbs, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. There is no evidence they really work, and no long-term studies to support their claims. But they are safe when used properly. If you currently use prescription drugs, talk to your pharmacist about possible drug interactions.

Several lifestyle practices can naturally boost your HGH production:

  1. Get adequate sleep. Most HGH is released during deep sleep.
  2. Exercise. HGH is also released during physical activity. Try to be moderately active on a regular basis.
  3. Avoid sugar and other highly refined and processed foods (also called simple carbohydrates). These can make the pancreas release large amounts of insulin. Insulin and HGH are antagonists, so when insulin rises, HGH levels fall. Especially avoid these poor carbohydrate choices near bedtime, as it will interfere with your body’s release of HGH during sleep. Cut back on simple carbohydrates or foods altered by man. Choose complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, root vegetables, legumes and grains) in the form Mother Nature created them.
  4. Other inhibitors of HGH include stress, being overweight, a diet high in “unhealthy fats” like saturated and trans fats, and alcohol (which is really a simple sugar as well). A poor diet in general affects HGH production, because deficiencies of many nutrients will reduce the release of HGH.

Here’s some more good advice to aging gracefully . . .

  1. Exercise your body and your mind.
  2. Eat sensibly and healthfully.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Avoid trendy quick-weight-loss diets.
  5. Use sunscreen and avoid getting too much sun.
  6. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
  7. Learn to control your reaction to stressful situations.
  8. Take time to relax and smell the roses: Slow the pace of your life and you’ll slow the aging process.

Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Freelance Health Writer for several publications. She has been active in the Health & Fitness Industry for over 30 years.



February 2016

Tips to lower chlorine in tap water

White Rock’s privately-owned water company (Epcor) had its first and only contamination issue in 2010. Fortunately, no one became ill. However, that experience and Epcor’s recent purchase by the City, now places White Rock’s water supply under bureaucratic regulations.

White Rock City Council has decided against purifying the water supply with chloramine (ammonia and chlorine). They chose to use chlorine alone, a slightly lesser evil, according to many. For those not comfortable ingesting chlorine, here are some tips that may help ease the worry.

If you have the budget, look into installing a whole-house water filtration system. Costs can run up to $1,500 (or more). That doesn’t include the replacement filters that last up to 6 months. Single-tap counter top or under-counter water filter systems average from $150 to $500, but the filters need changing more often. Ultraviolet Light (UV) is also effective to remove chlorine from water supplies. Whole-House UV Light Sterilizers start at about $500. Another option is self-standing water coolers, if the heavy replacement bottles aren’t an inconvenience. There are many kinds of systems and price ranges. Do the research for a system that best meets your budget and needs.

Tests shows chlorine will dissipate from water over time, when left uncovered (about 24 hours, say some sources, two days say others). And at the same time, exposure to sunlight will help speed chlorine dissipation. TIP: Alternate several water pitchers from a sunny spot on the counter to the refrigerator, for an ongoing, rotating water supply.

Add a few lemon slices to your water pitcher (or a few drops of pure lemon juice) to help neutralize the chlorine. Lemons and limes offer a concentrated source of vitamin C, which has been shown to dissipate or neutralize chlorine. Sanitary engineers use vitamin C to neutralize chlorine before flushing out water systems.Surprisingly, tests show only a small amount of lemon in your glass will make a difference. Keep this in mind when you have water in a restaurant; ask for lemon wedges.

Research finds charcoal can filter 95 to100% of chlorine from water. Charcoal filter pitchers are a less costly choice than whole-house systems. “Brita” products are just one example. They are available in BPA-free plastic or stainless steel. To store larger amounts of filtered water, pour it into a glass Beverage Dispenser equipped with a built-in tap. Leave it on the counter or in the refrigerator. Refillable coolers need
regular cleaning.

Bottled water is another option, but it’s ‘buyer beware’. According to Health Canada, Federal regulations allow the use of the words “Spring” or “Mineral” water on the bottle’s label only if the water originates from an underground source, and it may not be modified from its original composition. However, it may be treated by the addition of carbon dioxide for carbonation, ozone for disinfection, or fluoride to prevent dental carries. The label must reveal if these methods were used. Bottled water not labeled as Spring or Mineral water may be from any source and can be treated to modify its original composition, to make it fit for human consumption. Again, the label must indicate how it was treated, so be sure to read the label to know what you’re drinking. Bottled water sold in Canada is inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and/or regional health officials.

Will boiling tap water help dissipate the chlorine? Most sources say yes, although they differ on how long to boil; anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes has been recommended. Many sources suggest several nutrients in food (especially vitamin C) and perhaps even certain properties in tea and coffee, help dissipate any chlorine in the tap water used.

To water small indoor and outdoor plants, use tap water that’s been sitting (for at least a day or two) in large, open-top watering cans. As for watering outdoors with a hose, studies indicate chlorine binds to particles on the soil’s surface. The organisms in the topmost surface of soil or compost may be affected but little chlorine remains as the water seeps downward. In one test, researchers found organisms deeper than one half inch were thriving, and the affected organisms in the top layer quickly replenished (partly due to chlorine’s quick dissipation). In order to kill soil microorganisms to a six inch soil depth, it required water containing 65 parts per million of chlorine. Drinking water contains much lower chlorine levels (about 70% lower). Read more here:

What about bath water concerns? Chlorine is also absorbed via the skin; more so than through the digestive system. The liver, kidneys and other mechanisms filter the chemicals you eat and drink. However, skin absorption does not involve the filtering benefits of the digestive process, so your body can absorb much more through the skin.

Vitamin C added to water instantly dissipates chlorine, based on studies done by water utility companies in Canada and the U.S. There are vitamin C bath salts and tablets designed for bathing, or use plain vitamin C powder. Consider using Calcium Ascorbate, or Sodium Ascorbate powder, instead of the slightly more acidic Ascorbic Acid version of vitamin C. Calcium Ascorbate and Sodium Ascorbate have a neutral pH, and may be less irritating to the skin. If they are difficult to find, ask your local health store to stock them for you. Only ¼ tsp (about 1,000 mg vitamin C) will neutralize the chlorine in up to 100 gallons of water, which is much more than what a standard-sized tub holds. Avoid using more; it’s not necessary. And using the recommended small amount makes your vitamin C supply last longer!

For those who prefer to shower, consider a shower head filter, with charcoal and/or vitamin C within the showerhead. Shop around for the many chlorine-eliminating and water storage products available (some are shown below as examples only; this article’s intent is not to endorse or support any company or product).

Ideas for dechlorinating and water storage products:;jsessionid=B91431F1AC4AB52A76EA37473E8F3633


Article sources:

Eve Lees is a Nutrition Coach, a Health Speaker, and a Freelance Health Researcher & Writer for several publications. She has been active in the Health & Fitness Industry for over 30 years.



January 06. 2016

Detoxification Diets. Why?


Detoxification diets aim to cleanse the body of food that is often “contaminated” by various unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients. This includes sugars and other highly processed foods, salt, trans-fats, food colourings, pesticides, preservatives and other chemicals. Common sense should tell us not to eat these foods anyway. Yet no one seems to question why they need a “detox diet” in the first place.
Detox advocates claim a toxic sludge or mucoid plaque builds up in the colon, making it a breeding ground for parasites, yeasts like Candida, and even “rope worms”. But mucoid plaques, toxic sludge and rope worms do not exist. They were created by clever marketers selling detoxification treatments. Gastroenterologists (who explore colons for a living) have never seen intestinal plaque or sludge, because it is impossible for that to happen. The lining of your intestinal tract is the same as the lining of your mouth. Layers of waste matter do not build up in the lining of your mouth.
Detoxing does not teach us anything. We detox for a few days, then go right back to a “normal” toxic way of living. And if weight loss was the goal of the detox, the weight is usually regained – with extra. Eat healthfully and your body is able to “cleanse” itself. That’s how we are designed.  Our major organs of detoxification include the digestive tract, kidneys, skin, lungs, liver, lymphatic system, and respiratory system. These systems break down compounds into other forms that we can eliminate via feces, urine, sweat, or respiration.
Instead of a “three-day cleanse”, we should all try eating and living in a way that promotes a detoxifying environment for the body ALL the time. When the body is strengthened from good nutrition, it is much more able to withstand the environmental pollutions we can’t control. Choose to mostly eat non-processed foods, and don’t overeat. A weekend juice cleanse should not be necessary. The best “detox” diet is to stop eating junk, and eat more vegetables (a natural internal “cleanser” with its fibre and other beneficial nutrients).
How to detox naturally (no blender required): Here several ways to promote a detoxifying environment in the body . . .

  1. Eat reasonable amounts. Almost everything is toxic at some level. We can’t avoid it. All plants contain protective “elements” that may be toxic in large amounts (nature’s design to protect the plant). And then, add to that all the crap in our processed foods! So eating one cookie (if you must), instead of eight, is basically a detox diet.

  2. Get more fiber by eating more plant foods. Veggies, fruit and whole grains contain compounds, like fibre and antioxidants, which help the body deal with chemicals. Think of fibre as a scrub brush; an internal cleanser.

  3. Eat organic fruits and vegetables when you can, or when your budget allows it. Far fewer contaminants have been found on organically raised foods than conventionally raised. Google the “dirty dozen”; a list of foods that more readily absorb pesticides. You may want to at least consider buying these as organic.

  4. Regarding your animal sources of protein, choose free-range, organically fed, etc. This will reduce your ingestion of hormones, antibiotics, etc.

  5. Reduce use of canned foods to reduce the amount of chemicals you absorb, such as the cancer-linked BPA (which may line the insides of cans). More often, buy foods in glass jars, foil, or tetra (cardboard) packaging. Be careful using plastics storage containers; wait until hot foods have cooled before filling the plastic container and avoid microwaving foods in them.

  6. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink alcoholic beverages. Neither of these practices are natural. Your body doesn’t need the chemical residue from burning tobacco, and alcohol will negatively affect the liver’s job of filtering the blood. If nature didn’t intend us to do it, don’t do it.

  7. Avoid processed foods and focus more on whole foods. Processed foods are typically high in fats, sugars, and other chemicals and additives your body really doesn’t need. And they are low in nutrients. Whole foods – unchanged by humans – should be your main dietary focus.

  8. Stay lean. Chemicals and other harmful compounds are able to accumulate in body fat. With less body fat, there will be fewer storage areas for these “toxins”.

  9. Drink enough fluids. The kidneys are major organs of elimination: Keep them functioning efficiently by staying hydrated. Eight cups was never a strict recommendation: It is merely a guideline. We are all different, so you’ll have to decide how much you should be drinking. Dark–coloured urine can indicate dehydration. 

  10. Exercise and sweat regularly. Our skin is a major elimination organ.

Eve Lees is a Health Writer & Speaker and a Nutrition Counsellor. She was a Personal Trainer for over 30 years.


December 03, 2015

Know the Basics of Being Vegetarian

Becoming a vegetarian isn’t only about omitting meat. And it’s not simply a matter of replacing meat with bread.

Vegetarians should know about food combining for a “complete protein” source. These include legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains (not processed into flour, but cooked on the stove as you would cook rice). There are many kinds of whole grain berries or kernels; quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, spelt, kamut, whole wheat or whole rye kernels, etc. When cooked in their whole kernel form, grains retain more of their nutrients than a grain ground into flour. That’s why it’s best to eat the whole grain more often than “bread” made from its flour.
Vegetarians must also choose from a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Limiting their choices to only a few will severely limit the many nutrients needed to sustain life.

            There are 21 amino acids. Nine are essential because we can’t produce them. The remaining 12 are non-essential because our bodies can produce them. We need protein for many vital functions. Most notably, protein is important for growth and repair of our body tissues. It basically “constructs” us; our bones, hair, teeth, fingernails, etc. And it is necessary to create several components necessary for bodily functions, like antibodies, enzymes, and hormones.

There are two types of protein; complete and incomplete. Meat and other animal sources of food are complete proteins, as they are rich in all nine essential amino acids in proper proportions. Incomplete proteins are foods of plant origin. Plants are missing one or more of the essential amino acids or have an unbalanced amount of them.

Vegetarians can combine plant foods to create a complete protein. This is called “complementing proteins”. For example, rice can be combined with beans. Other combinations best for ensuring a complete protein source is combining seeds with legumes, or combining grains with leafy vegetables. Some meal ideas are; “Chili” made with various legumes and vegetables. Vegetable or fruit salads with nuts, seeds, chickpeas or mixed beans added. Split pea or bean soup with cooked whole grains or a variety of vegetables added. Use lentils or another legume to replace the meat in a stir-fry. Create a quinoa and mixed-bean salad.

It’s not necessary to consume complimentary protein foods at each meal. Your total daily intake will eventually combine to create the protein your body requires. That’s why it’s important to consume a wide variety of foods throughout the day. Protein combining at each sitting just makes the meal tastier, and convenient to keep track and ensure you are eating the variety of foods you need.

There are many variations of a vegetarian diet. A “vegan” avoids all animal-derived products including eggs, dairy products, and even honey (bees are considered animals). An ovo-vegetarian eats eggs. A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products. An ovo-lacto-vegetarian consumes both dairy and eggs. A pescetarian is a vegetarian who eats fish. Flexetarians are vegetarians who predominantly consume plant foods, but will occasionally have a meat or dairy source (this is also known as a “plant based” diet).

Vegetarian diets – especially strict vegan diets -- can be relatively low in several other  nutrients, most notably omega 3 fatty acids (these are richest in animal products, especially fish), iron (the non-heme iron in plants is not as bioavailable as from meat sources), and vitamin B 12 which is found only in animal source foods. Calcium may also be a concern if the vegetarian is not consuming large amounts of dark-green vegetables (collard greens, kale, broccoli) and other dairy-free alternatives. Supplementation can be considered, or perhaps switch to following other versions of the diet.

Eve Lees is a Health Writer & Speaker and a Nutrition Counsellor. She was a Personal Trainer for over 30 years.


November 04, 2015

Top 10 reasons for weight-gain

1. Lack of activity. Too busy? Fit it functionally into your day (take the stairs, park further away, etc.). Keep your walking shoes handy for short, brisk walks. No need for one hour or two hour-long workouts. That’s old school. Twenty to thirty  minutes, three times a week is perhaps all you need. Gift yourself an early Christmas present this year; a visit with a Certified Personal Trainer, who can design a quick, easy, effective workout you can do even in your own home, and without any special equipment if you so choose!

2. Eating more calories than you burn. Total calories and serving sizes are the biggest factors in weight loss success. Surf the web for calorie-intake calculators, to estimate your caloric needs. See the Canada Food Guide for serving sizes. Or better still, use your built in calorie counter; your hunger! Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full!

3. Eating poor quality calories. Choose natural, unchanged foods. Our bodies are designed to slowly break down and process whole foods. However, foods already refined and processed are too quickly digested and can lead to hormone imbalances (including insulin imbalance, which creates weight gain). Eat more slow-digesting whole foods like whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Limit packaged, prepared foods such as cakes, cookies, and snack bars.

4. Ignoring hunger signals. When you ignore hunger, the body senses famine and conserves body fat. This is a life-saving defense mechanism if food isn’t available, because body fat is the preferred long-term fuel. Ignoring hunger programs your body to be more efficient at storing and not using stored body fat. Avoid strict diets. Eat sufficient calories in several meals and snacks.

5. Losing sleep. Sleep loss has been show to lower the levels of leptin (a protein that suppresses appetite) and increases the hormone ghrelin (which stimulates appetite). Try for at least seven hours sleep nightly.

6. Inability to control stress. Stress is linked with weight gain. It raises blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol can cause the body to store fat in the abdominal area. Cortisol levels can be lowered with exercise, positive attitudes, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and other stress-management techniques.

7. Negative thinking. Avoid negative self-talk: “I’m so fat!” This creates a depressed emotional state which affects your ability to deal with the issue. In addition, stress hormones make you crave food and store fat. Instead, shift your focus to positive thoughts: “I want to lose weight so I’ll feel more confident.” This calms the emotional brain, so you think clearly and rationally. Tell yourself you

are losing weight because you are a special person who deserves to feel more energy!

8. Having no patience. Weight loss can be slow. When we lose patience, we abandon good intentions. Many hormonal and genetic factors will slow weight loss, especially if you’ve been heavy for some time. Be patient. You'll soon achieve your goal.

9. Eating too fast. Chewing food thoroughly allows time to feel satiety (fullness), resulting in less food eaten. And well-chewed food is more efficiently used with less stored as fat. There’s no need to chew a particular number of times; just chew until the food becomes liquid in your mouth.

10. Allergies or food sensitivities: The inflammatory response may slow fat loss. Determine if you have allergies or sensitivities and try avoiding or limiting those foods.

There are other factors that influence weight gain, many that we can’t control, such as side-effects of certain medications, hormonal problems, chemical and environmental sensitivities, diseases/disorders, or stubborn genetics. However, those mentioned above can be controlled (and may assist in reducing the amount of weight you gain from the factors you can’t control!). Play detective, do the research, and find out which may be affecting your good intentions!

Eve Lees is a Health Writer & Speaker and a Nutrition Counsellor. She was a Personal Trainer for over 30 years.


October 07, 2015

The gluten-free diet resulted from nutrition confusion.

This is a continuation of last month’s article about identifying processed, refined foods (See “What is a processed, refined food?” posted below this article).

When we are confused about nutrition, we easily fall victim to others who are perhaps just as confused as we are. For instance, those who advocate gluten-free diets also fail to understand the difference between whole foods and processed foods; in this case, between a whole grain and flour.

Gluten-free diet books continually refer to flour and other refined foods made from flour as being the root of our myriad health problems. However, eating the whole grain kernel or berry is never mentioned. All the illnesses and suffering and all the diseases and disorders mentioned in these books are attributed to eating wheat and the gluten in the wheat. But the problem is really from eating refined products like wheat flour, where nutrients are lost and the gluten becomes highly changed. It most assuredly was not cooked whole grains that the people in these books were eating. They were eating highly processed wheat products, and other highly processed foods. If you’d like a more detailed explanation of this, read this article about gluten-free diets:

Therefore, it’s not the wheat or the gluten specifically; it was the refining of the wheat kernel. Grinding the whole wheat into flour not only changed the gluten to make it even harder to digest, but we are also eating far too much of it, because it is easy to add flour to so many other food products.
When wheat is ground into flour and made into bread it destroys our health, simply because it is so highly processed. But in its whole form, wheat (or any food for that matter), is a much healthier and wiser choice. If we had never invented flour, and continued to eat our grains cooked on the stove as the early pioneers did, we would never have had the health problems that the gluten-free advocates associate with eating wheat. Those books would never have been written.

This gluten focus or the “War on wheat” is really just a huge misunderstanding (and by the way, it is also based on several nutrition inaccuracies). The gluten or the wheat is not the real enemy here. It’s what we’ve done to the wheat. It’s eating the highly processed foods like wheat flour that creates health problems. We need to understand that. Or we’ll never get to the real root of our health problems.

For more information about the misinformation in the Gluten-Free theories:

Eve Lees has been a Fitness and Nutrition specialist for over 30 years. She is also a former newspaper editor who uses her journalism background to Freelance Write on health issues for several publications


September 03, 2015

What is a processed, refined food?


All nutrition sources, credible or not, agree that eating highly processed and refined foods are not good for us. But what qualifies as a “highly processed and refined” food? We get mixed messages, even from very credible sources, of what these foods actually are.

A refined and processed food is any food that no longer resembles its original form. It has been changed by humans. Common examples are table sugar, which originally was sugar cane, sugar beets, or corn. And flour was originally whole grain kernels. A processed food usually has an ingredient label (i.e. table sugar and flour have food labels; apples or carrots do not).

Our digestive systems are designed to break down (or “process and refine”) the whole foods that nature provides. However, our digestive systems are not designed to eat food that is already broken down. Our digestive systems work in unison with all the elements that naturally occur in the plants and animals we eat. Highly changed foods lose many of the nutrients that worked together in the whole food. These nutrients work as a “team” to assist the body in reading the instructions for that particular food. In addition, the chemistry of the food may change, creating even more havoc in our bodies (examples are trans fats or high fructose corn syrup).

A highly changed food is no longer a language or “code” the body easily understands. When the code is disrupted, the message is misread. Our bodies become distressed. That’s not a big problem if we seldom eat processed foods, because our bodies are very resilient, and can bounce back to good health, given time. However, many of us eat highly changed foods at every meal and snack.

We know enough to know that when one nutrient is extracted from a food it becomes more potent, and more toxic to our bodies than when it was in combination with the other nutrients that occurred in the food.  For example, in pill form, Vitamins A, D, or iron are dangerous if overused. Yet if large amounts are ingested from foods, they do not create a problem. Possibly because other nutrients in the whole food helped to buffer its potency. Unfortunately, few of us (including some health experts) fail to realize that the same problem can occur in highly changed foods. Vitamins are lost or isolated, and may become unbalanced and more potent.

Many of our foods today do not resemble their original form: All sugars (like table sugar), salt, flour and products made from it (like breads and crackers), rice cakes, chips, all condiments, juices, soda pop, deli meats, wieners and sausages, processed cheeses, ice cream . . .  the list is endless. Many are foods we believe are “healthy”, like whole wheat bread, granola, protein shakes, tofu and stevia. These are all highly changed foods. During processing and refining, they have lost many of their nutrients, both known and unknown, and have been changed to become hard to “read” or understand by our bodies.

The nutrients and other properties in a whole, untouched food, are the “code” to instruct the body what to do with the food – how much insulin or digestive acids to secrete, etc. It’s not unlike the “html code” we must program into a computer for the computer to be able to interpret and then relay information to others. In much the same way, our food supplies a “code” that the body reads. Take even just one element in the food away, or disrupt the nutrient synchronicity, and you have a code that is difficult to read. Confusion occurs.

This confusion is stressful to our digestive systems. And that stress becomes chronic if we continually eat these foods on a regular basis. Think about how much bread and sugar the average person consumes in one day. Inflammation sets in as the body fights to retain homeostasis: Hormones are being released at the wrong times and in the wrong amounts (i.e. insulin). Other defense mechanisms kick in, including secretion of the fight or flight stress hormone, cortisol. Cholesterol is sent into the bloodstream to repair the damage created by the constant stress response.

Highly processed foods require much energy to digest, because of the greater degree of difficulty for the body to digest them. We waste much energy digesting these foods; energy that would be better spent on other things. The first thing people notice when they cut the junk out of their diet is an abundance of energy, so it’s  no wonder being tired is such a common complaint in today’s fast-food culture.
We need to more often eat foods as they naturally occurred in nature, or as close to that as possible. But this is difficult to do when we are inundated with confusing messages even from credible nutrition experts.

For example, credible Health Letters (like Tufts Nutrition Letter or Berkeley Wellness Letter) tell us it is important to substitute the refined grains in our diet with whole grains products. So they tell us to eat whole grain bread. But whole grain bread is actually a refined grain product.
After we grind the whole grain kernel into flour, it’s not “whole” any more. It becomes refined. Flour is a highly processed food. And it makes no difference if the flour is whole grain flour (which simply means the wheat germ and bran weren’t discarded). The whole grain is changed when it’s ground into flour. Bread is made of flour. Which means bread (any kind of bread, whole grain or not) is a highly processed food. The experts have the knowledge to go into great detail about the problems that occur in the body when we eat highly changed foods, yet they don’t seem to make the connection that bread is also a highly changed food that will also create these problems in the body, even if it’s the healthy whole-grain variety. The actual whole grain kernel offers many nutrients, but when it is crushed to make flour, all the nutrients are lost when they are oxidized (exposed to oxygen, light and heat).

Very seldom is it explained that the health benefits of eating whole grains (cooked in a pot on the stove) far surpass eating whole grain breads. The message these credible health letters should be sending is this: Cut down on eating the large amounts of bread we currently consume (at practically every meal), and start eating more of the cooked whole grains. Now that is credible advice.

We must to learn how to identify what refined, processed foods are, so that we can limit our consumption of them. A good start is simply asking, “How much has this food been altered or changed by humans?” We need to understand that the “natural” sweetener stevia is no more “natural” or healthier than refined table sugar, that bread, couscous, rice cakes, and juices are all highly processed too. But this will take time, because the sales people, the clever marketers, and even the inaccuracy of the health experts, will continue to create confusing, mixed messages.
Eve Lees has been a Fitness and Nutrition specialist for over 30 years. She is also a former newspaper journalist who uses her journalism background to Freelance Write on health issues for several publications


August 04, 2015

Coconut oil, like any oil, is best in moderation

Coconut oil is a healthy fat to add to your diet. It contains several properties, as any natural food does, that are beneficial to your good health. However, keep in mind all oils are high in fat, and should still be used in moderation. That’s the key to good health: variety and moderation – not overdoing it on coconut oil!

All foods contain differing properties and varying quantities of nutrients, and none should be omitted or prioritized. In the case of fat intake, a healthy diet should contain a healthy balance (equal amounts, preferably) of the saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat. Even though it contains lauric acid (a healthier, medium chain saturated fat) that the body burns more readily than long-chain saturated fats, coconut oil is still high in calories and fat. If you are eating this oil out of balance of your caloric needs, and out of balance from other types of necessary fats, you will gain weight and possibly affect your good health in other negative ways.

Fifty percent of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, found in few other foods, and can be used by the body to help boost the immune system. Coconut oil also has a large amount of medium-chain fatty acids, which isn’t stored in adipose tissue as readily as long-chain fatty acids are. This is part of the reason why we thought to look at coconut oil as a weight-loss aid. However the few small studies done so far haven’t shown any significant amount of weight loss or improved body mass index (BMI). Incidentally, short-term studies have also suggested medium-chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid, do not raise serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol as much as long-chain fatty acids do. However, more long-term studies will have to be done to confirm this finding.

Coconut oil has more saturated fat than lard does. One tablespoon of coconut oil offers 14 grams of fat (12 grams saturated) and 116 calories. Consuming too much of any oil increases your caloric intake — and if those calories are in excess of what you need, you’ll increase your body fat stores. Because it is a saturated fat, coconut oil is therefore a good choice if you are cooking foods at a higher temperature. Saturated fats have a higher ‘smoke point’, as compared to monounsaturated fats like olive oil, and can tolerate higher temperatures without affecting its nutritional value or flavor.

Ignore all the hype and use common sense. Yes, coconut oil is a healthy addition to your diet – but it shouldn’t be the only one. Other oils (like olive, avocado, and almond oil) contribute many healthy properties too – including properties we aren’t yet aware of. Add a variety of fat sources to your diet, but always be mindful of moderation.

Eating coconut oil won’t guarantee you’ll lose weight, improve your health or your cholesterol levels. The dietary way to improve your health and maintain a healthy body weight is to avoid eating to excess and choose from a wide variety of healthy foods.

Eve Lees is a health writer for several publications and was a Fitness, Nutrition & Wellness Counsellor for 30 years. Visit



July 01, 2015

Sugar, not fat, increases cholesterol levels and creates other health problems

            The medical community is finally realizing it’s not dietary fat contributing to high cholesterol levels. It’s the added sugars and the “sugar” of highly processed and refined foods. New recommendations no longer advise us to control the amount of dietary cholesterol we eat. Now there is more focus on consuming whole foods in their natural state, or changed as little as possible.

            Your body is designed to eat a whole food and process and refine it into the tools it needs to sustain life. It is not designed to digest food that is already highly processed. These changed foods are not familiar or comfortable for our bodies to deal with.

            The body can’t understand the “language” or the “codes” of these highly processed foods because nutrients are missing or its chemistry has been altered. This is similar to programming html (the language it understands) into a computer, but without using html the message can’t be deciphered. Another analogy would be the electronic handshake of your cell phone to the system in your car. If the handshake isn’t recognized, your phone won’t be in sync with your car.

            We need to eat whole, unchanged foods so the messages to our bodies are recognized and dealt with in the manner the body is familiar and comfortable with – the way nature designed us to operate. Many nutrients in highly changed foods are missing, and those that may remain are too potent without the buffering or synergistic effects of those missing nutrients. In addition the chemistry of the food may change and become harmful (like trans fats and high fructose corn syrup).

             The body “reads” any highly processed food the same as simple table sugar. They are both one and the same; both were processed from whole food sources. They can both elicit the same chemical changes and stimulate the brain’s reward pathways as drugs and alcohol do.

            When we eat any highly refined food (like table sugar or flour), we put our body in DISTRESS as it tries to deal with a food it is not familiar with. The problem is, we subject our bodies too frequently to this stress. We eat these poor quality foods at most meals and snacks. Continued stress is not an ideal condition for the body. Chronic stress creates hormonal disruption (insulin spikes are just one example), digestive problems (gas, bloating, etc.), immune stress (overworks the liver and other organs, and creates damage that eventually contributes to systemic inflammation).

            If the body is under constant stress from eating highly refined foods many negative reactions result, including a signal to the adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol has a necessary role in helping us fight or run from danger – it stimulates our blood vessels to constrict, and increases blood pressure and heart rate. This ongoing response can eventually damage arteries and other blood vessels, creating inflammation when the immune system tries to repair the damage. Increasing your blood cholesterol levels is one of the many responses involved in the repair process.

            Cholesterol is necessary for good health; it is basically what our bodies are constructed of. It lines the walls of every cell, to name just one important role. Cholesterol is sent into the bloodstream as part of the inflammatory response – to help repair the damage and make new cells. So in many cases, trying to reduce high cholesterol levels is like shooting the messenger. We aren’t getting to the root of the problem. Cholesterol in the blood didn’t cause the “damage”. It’s more likely attributed to eating high “sugar” (those highly processed, refined foods).

            More often, we should choose the foods that are changed very little. Usually, they won’t have an ingredient label. Eat more fresh fruit, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, whole grains (NOT flour), seafood and unprocessed meats (limit deli meats and wieners, etc.), legumes, natural nuts, unprocessed dairy foods (i.e. avoid the processed cheeses or fruit-filled yogurts which are high in sugar). Cooking is fine, as long as you don’t burn or overcook the food.

            Refined sugars, flour, and table salt are the most widespread processed foods in our diet and should be omitted or greatly reduced. They are added to almost every packaged or canned food. And there are many foods we eat today that we mistakenly think are “healthy.” Mixed messages from marketers and even the experts have us misled and confused about which foods actually are highly processed: Stevia, juices, rice cakes, breads, pastas and other baked items made with flour (yes, even the whole grain varieties) – these are all highly refined foods. Incidentally, our “bread” should ideally be whole grain kernels or “berries” cooked on the stove, exactly as you would cook rice. These kernels retain all their nutrients, instead of losing them when they are crushed to make flour. Nutrients play a vital as part of the “code” or “message” of the food, allowing the body to digest it properly and with minimal stress.

            There are many more foods that do not resemble the way they occurred in nature, yet we mistakenly think they are good for us. They create havoc in your digestive system, even though you are not aware of it at the time. But over time, this ‘silent’ stress will eventually rob you of your good health.

            Before you put any food into your mouth, ask yourself if you could have eaten that food if you were living off the land, without any technology (except perhaps a heat source for cooking). If you can say “yes” . . . bon appetite!

            Eve Lees is a health writer for several publications and has been a Fitness & Nutrition Counsellor for over 30 years. Visit






June 04, 2015

Know your hormones to control your weight

The main digestive hormones involved in weight loss and maintenance include insulin, glucagon, leptin, ghrelin, and cholecystokinin (CCK). A basic understanding of these hormones can help you reach your goals of weight loss and/or maintaining a healthy body weight.
INSULIN is released by the pancreas when blood levels of carbohydrate (glucose) increase. Insulin’s primary role is to ensure we use glucose for energy. When insulin is elevated in the blood, it works to store carbohydrates as glycogen in the muscles and liver, transports amino acids into cells to immediately build proteins, and sends fats to the liver for processing to be stored in the liver or adipose (fat) tissue. Problems may develop particularly if insulin is stimulated too often by overeating or with frequent consumption of high-sugar foods; especially the highly processed “junk” foods. High sugar foods are associated with a greater risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Action plan: Insulin can be controlled with exercise, and consuming whole unprocessed foods (including the slower digesting complex carbohydrates like root vegetables and squash, legumes, and whole grains). These practices aid in maintaining stable blood sugar levels.

GLUCAGON is also produced and secreted by the pancreas, but its role is the opposite of insulin. When your blood sugar falls too low (from insufficient calories and/or prolonged exercise), glucagon is released to break down the glycogen stored in muscles (glycogenolysis) and the liver (gluconeogenesis). Glucagon also communicates to the brain the amount of body fat we have stored. Normally, it there is ample body fat, glucagon levels elevate to suppress the desire to eat and create more body fat. However, when we frequently eat highly processed foods, we risk the abnormal lowering of glucagon levels, and we lose the effect of one of our most potent appetite suppressants.
Action Plan: It’s important to get calories from whole foods (not processed foods) that will adequately fuel the intensity and frequency of your physical exertions.

LEPTIN is primarily produced in fat cells and is a powerful regulator of hunger. Typically, when leptin levels increase, appetite is reduced; when leptin levels decrease, appetite increases (NOTE: leptin resistance can occur with weight gain, in the same way we can become resistant to insulin (as in diabetes). Obese individuals often have very high levels of leptin, indicating a leptin resistance). When calories are restricted, leptin will decrease to prevent starvation. In severely low-calorie diets, leptin can drop so low that hunger and cravings are difficult to control. This is a major reason why low-calorie diets to not work.
Action Plan: Your weight loss plan should be adequate to meet your calorie needs to avoid a drop in your leptin levels. In addition, diets high in simple sugars have been linked to leptin resistance and weight gain. Consumption of simple sugars (processed, refined foods) should be reduced or eliminated, to avoid developing a resistance to this hormone. (NOTE: lack of sleep can also lower leptin levels).

GHRELIN is produced mainly in the stomach. Ghrelin is elevated just before a meal, and reduced after eating. Increased blood levels of ghrelin stimulate hunger. Ghrelin basically tells the brain that the body is ready for food. Grehlin’s role makes it obvious how it can be linked to obesity.
Action Plan: Adding a source of protein to meals has shown to more efficiently reduce ghrelin in the blood after eating, as compared to meals higher in fat and carbohydrate (NOTE: this does not mean you should eat large amounts of protein. A serving size of protein or protein alternates (for vegetarians) is sufficient at each meal or snack). In addition, high-fibre foods will also reduce ghrelin levels after eating.

CHOLECYSTOKININ (CCK) is produced in the lining of the small intestine and primarily released after eating. It is an important regulator of digestion, aiding with satiety and portion control. Higher levels of CCK aid in delaying gastric emptying (release of food from the stomach) to provide more time for the intestines to digest fat, and the pancreas to secret its important digestive enzymes. CCK has also been shown to help increase contractions of the gallbladder, to more efficiently emulsify fats.
Action Plan: There are various factors that stimulate CCK’s release from the small intestine to aid in satiety: Protein, fibre and especially (healthy) fats sources. Your diet should include fibre and healthy unsaturated fat sources (nuts, seeds, fish for omega 3’s, avocado, etc.) to delay gastric emptying which results in lower ghrelin levels after eating and, therefore, reduced hunger.

In summary, a balanced interaction of digestive hormones and the speed of digestion are major factors in successful weight loss and maintenance. Consuming reasonable quantities of whole-food sources of protein, carbohydrates and fibre as well as healthy choices of fats, allows your body to work in the efficient manner it was designed to. You can easily reach your bodyweight goals if you avoid overeating, imbalanced eating (too much, too little, or omiting either protein, carbohydrate, or fat), and especially the frequent consumption of highly processed foods.

Processed refined foods and their health consequences have been mentioned often in this article. If you’d like to learn more about processed, refined foods (how to identify them, how to avoid, and replace them in your diet) and what exactly they do in your body after you eat them, you are invited to attend a free presentation, held in the Surrey BC area. See the poster below this article for more information.

Eve Lees is a health writer for several publications and has been a Fitness & Nutrition Counsellor for over 30 years.





May 05, 2015

Stay Slim With Weight Training


Creeping obesity. Sounds like a science fiction thriller. Actually, it is a common condition we can all suffer as we age, if our physical activity declines.

Lack of physical activity can cause a wasting of muscle tissue, and since muscle is much more active than fat, your metabolic rate (internal activity) will slow. In addition many of us continue poor lifestyle habits developed during childhood, such as eating a diet high in sweets and fats. Combined with less activity, the result is a weight gain. Unfortunately, it is mostly a gain in body fat, not lean muscle tissue.

Even if you maintain a given weight as you age, you may still be fatter because the amount of lean tissue has reduced and the fat has increased (and by the way, one does not become another – they are two totally separate types of tissue. One of them (the fat) increases while the other (the muscle) decreases!).

Watching what and how much you eat, as well as regular exercise is the only way to avoid creeping obesity, or that middle-aged spread. But if you suffer from it now, it is not too late to correct it.

Weight training is probably the most effective way to stay slim as you age. In one study, 72 men and women were monitored for eight weeks as they followed a sensible daily diet and exercised for 30 minutes three times weekly.

Half of the group spent the 30 minutes on a stationary exercise bike. The other rode the bike for 15 minutes followed by 15 minutes of weight training.

At the end of the study, two months later, those doing only the aerobic (biking) activity lost an average of three pounds of fat and a half pound of muscle. Those who combined an aerobic activity with an anaerobic activity (bike and weights) lost an average of 10 pounds of fat and gained two pound of muscle.

By increasing their muscle tissue, the weight training group was able to increase their metabolic rate so that they burned more fat.

As indicated in the study just mentioned, a weight training program doesn’t have to be lengthy or difficult! A quick, whole body program can be easily completed in 20 to 30 minutes, and just two to three times weekly.

You can design an effective and time sparing workout that exercises all your muscles simply by doing at least one exercise for each of the four major muscle areas of your body: The back, chest, legs, and mid body (the abdominals and low back). This entire workout should take you about 30 to 40 minutes. Try following it at least two to three times weekly.

The chest muscles are pushing muscles. So are the triceps (back of upper arm). When you exercise the chest you are also working the front and sides of your shoulders. Typical exercises for the chest area are the bench press or the push up.

The muscles of the back are pulling muscles. So are the biceps (front of upper arm). You are also using the rear and sides of your shoulder muscles, and in some exercises you are also using your low back muscles. Common exercises for the muscles of the back are chin ups, latissimus pulldowns or any rowing motion.

The Legs (your entire hip and thigh area, including your buttocks and hamstrings) are stressed by doing the leg press, squat, lunge, or bench stepping. To a minor extent, you are also working your calves and low back.

The mid-body or core is affected by doing abdominal (ab) exercises like crunches. (Note: You are also strengthening the abs in stabilizing yourself during any of the above mentioned exercises). Lower back muscles are strengthened with prone leg/arm lifts or the “bridge”.

Your workout should always include a brief warm up activity before your exercise and a cool down afterward (stretching). And don not neglect the most important muscle of the body, your heart. Do an aerobic activity like using the treadmill or exercise bike for at least 15 minutes before or after you hit the weights.

The intent of this article is merely to give you a starting point. You may need to consult a fitness professional on how to do these exercises correctly. You may also need advice on the repetitions and sets to do for each exercise, as this depends on your personal goals. Generally, to strengthen muscles without adding bulk, you would do three sets (groups) of 10 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Rest about 30 seconds to one minute between sets. Use the amount of weight that does not feel too easy, yet will not cause you to sacrifice good form.

Remember the old saying, use it or lose it. Put those muscles to work!

Eve Lees is a health writer for several publications and was a Fitness, Nutrition & Wellness Counsellor for 30 years. Visit


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