Canola Oil – A Healthy Oil Fraud?

Canola Oil
By Be Well Health Coach Jenny Sansouci

For years, canola oil has been marketed as one of the healthiest oils for salad dressings and cooking, but the truth is that this oil is far from healthy. The wildly controversial canola oil is everywhere – even in the seemingly healthiest of restaurants, but it’s far from “natural.”

Is canola oil lurking in your kitchen cabinet? If so, here’s why you should ditch it.

What is Canola Oil?

Canola oil comes from a seed called the “rapeseed,” and was once mainly used for industrial purposes. There is no “canola plant” found in nature — it’s a made up product that goes through extreme amounts of processing. Canola stands for “Canadian oil low acid,” because it was originally developed in Canada and the word “canola” sounded good for marketing at the time.

90% of canola oil has been genetically modified — and it’s very cheap to use, which is why almost all restaurants cook with it. Check out this video to see exactly how canola oil is produced – using lots of machinery, heat and harsh chemicals. Definitely not a natural process!

Here is an image I got from the Weston A. Price Foundation about how canola oil is processed:

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Posted by on Jul 08, 2014| 2 Comments

10 Foods You May Think Are Healthy, But Aren’t (Part 1)

Energy Bar

When patients first visit my office, I always make it my business to find out not only about their health histories and lifestyle habits, but also what they eat. Fortunately, these days patients are more knowledgeable about nutrition than they were even 5 or 10 years ago, so that makes the job of turning their health around a bit easier. However, many people still have some rather retro ideas about what’s a health food and what’s not, so I and my Be Well nutrition team often have to engage in some re-education, to guide patients on their journey to sustainable and optimal health. What follows is my two part post on 10 foods most often mistaken for health foods – and the truly healthy, nutrition options to trade them in for:

1. Put Down the Juice Box

These days many people are dropping sugary sodas in favor of juices like blueberry, black currant and cherry, which are perceived as healthier because of their high concentration of antioxidants. Problem is, most fruit juices come up nutritionally short, because they deliver little in the way of fiber, plus loads of extra sugar you don’t need, unless perhaps you’re chasing your juice with a 20-mile run. If you want fruit, eat whole fruit. If you want a drink, pour yourself a glass of organic tea, a phyto-greens drink, coconut water or plain water. If it’s fruit flavor you crave, top a 2 oz. shot of unsweetened organic fruit juice with plenty of water or seltzer and enjoy. But whatever you do, don’t kid yourself into thinking that juices are an even nutritional swap for whole fruits, because they’re not. Instead, set a good example for your kids (and yourself!) and eat your fruit, don’t drink it.

2. Stop Guzzling the Gatorade

Unless you’re wearing a Super Bowl ring, or have just finished an Ironman race, strike commercial sports drinks from your list. They’re full of sugar, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and numerous mysterious ingredients that do little to support health and could be undermining it. In fact, until recently, Gatorade contained brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, a suspected carcinogen used in flame-retardants! Instead, try quenching your flames of thirst with my simple home-made sports drinks. They’ll help replenish your body with health supporting fluids, not chemical cocktails! 

3. Energy Bars Are More Like Candy Bars in Fancier Wrappers

Most of the “energy bars” you’ll find within easy reach – those sold at the supermarket or the deli—are essentially glorified candy bars masquerading as health food. Convenient as they may be, they’re crummy substitutes for real food. Even the “good” high-end bars tend to be heavily-processed sugar-bombs with hardly enough protein or fiber to make them worth eating. And lower-end bars are worse, made with cheap, genetically-modified and/or pesticide-soaked ingredients (soy, oats, nuts, fillers, etc.), then glued together with seemingly “healthy” but actually sugar-packed coatings like chocolate, yoghurt, honey, maple syrup, etc. My advice? Eat them only if you’re stuck on a desert island and there’s nothing left to eat except your shirt. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and make your own, nutrient-dense bars or assemble a few small bags of organic trail mix and keep a supply in your briefcase, gym bag and desk to squash hunger and boost energy.

4. Whole Wheat Doesn’t Make It Healthy

Millions of people are still fooled by the idea that anything with whole wheat slapped on the label means it’s good for you. In a nutshell: it’s not. The overwhelming majority of our whole-wheat products these days are, like the energy bars mentioned above, heavily-processed, sugar-packed and made with factory-farmed, sometimes genetically-modified ingredients, raised in nutrient depleted soil and drenched in pesticides. If that weren’t enough, modern wheat is our biggest dietary source of gluten, which much of the population is either sensitive or allergic to, whether they’re aware of it or not. Gluten-sensitivity can trigger digestive problems, chronic inflammation and disease, making whole-wheat, anything but a health food. Ideally, the wisest way to support your health is to kick all wheat altogether. But if bread is an absolute must for you, make every bite truly nutritious and make your own – it’s easier than you think. Here’s the Be Well gang’s favorite gluten-free paleo-bread recipe from Elana’s Pantry.

5. Soy’s Not Exactly a Health Food Either

A few months back I wrote a post on the numerous concerns that I and many of my colleagues have with soy – and why I regularly advise my patients to avoid it. When I say soy is not a health food, I’m talking about the typical genetically-modified, pesticide-doused soy you find blended into countless processed foods found at the supermarket. The easiest way to purge soy from your diet is to eliminate processed foods, as well as the more obvious sources like soy milk, soy cheese, etc. However, if you’re not willing to give up soy, aim to eat only organic fermented soy products, such as tempeh, miso and natto, that are also marked non-GMO, gluten and pesticide-free. Keep portion sizes small and don’t eat it every day; once or twice a week is plenty.

Watch out next week for 5 more foods most often mistaken for health foods – and what to eat instead. 

Posted by on Jul 07, 2014| 4 Comments

Be Well Kitchen: Pistachio Avocado Salad with Balsamic Honey Dressing Recipe

Pistachio Salad

Like any gluten-free good health fanatic, I’m a HUGE salad lover! Salads are a delicious way to enjoy a few servings of veggies in just one meal. Plus, you can prepare a large bowl of the recipe, leave the dressing on the side and enjoy leftovers for lunch the following day. Salads are great because there are endless combinations of healthy toppings to choose from, so you can try new recipes and mix and match until you find the perfect salad for you.

To make this salad I used 1 cup of mixed greens as a base — dark leafy greens are one of the best way to get phytonutrients and lots of fiber. To jazz up my greens, I added finely chopped purple cabbage, carrots julienned (fancy kitchen talk for thinly sliced), fresh parsley, and chives. On top of the veggies, this salad is loaded with healthy fats from pistachios, sunflower seeds, and avocado. I love the contrast between the creamy texture of the avocado and the crunchy texture of the nuts and seeds. I also love making my own salad dressing; this one is easy to make and infinitely better than prepackaged dressings that are packed with chemicals and preservatives. To make the Balsamic Honey Dressing for this recipe, all you have to do is whisk olive oil, Dijon, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper and you’re ready to eat.

Next time you’re in the mood for a fresh new meal, try this yummy Pistachio and Avocado Salad!

Pistachio Avocado Salad with Balsamic Honey Dressing - Serves 4


  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. organic balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp.  organic, raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 large organic ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups organic purple cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mixed greens
  • 2 large organic carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 6 fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. raw pistachios, shelled


  1. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, Dijon, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.
  2. In another bowl, combine avocado, cabbage, mixed greens, carrot, parsley, chives, sunflower seeds and pistachios.
  3. Drizzle salad with dressing; gently toss to coat.
Posted by on Jul 03, 2014| 0 Comments

Apple Cider Vinegar and Skin Care

Apple Cider Vinegar

Since there is no secret to my obsession with ingredients for skin care, I no longer need to hide the truth. I don’t have to load up on apple cider vinegar in shame, or fear judgment for my ramblings on its virtues. The truth is we don’t have to look that hard or far for the perfect skin fixes. Reading about the latest jungle berry or sea wonder for skin, cosmetic companies are having us race to the beauty counters for the next miracle in a jar. Don’t be tempted! I am not refuting that there can be advancements in skin care and that from time to time an amazing new active is discovered. What I am saying is that there are also shelves already lined with skin wonders, pantries full of actives that will deliver the results you’re after. So instead of chasing the promise in a jar, racing to the beauty aisle, loading up on products that make empty promises and then feeling let down by the money you wasted on yet another “skin perfecting, wrinkle erasing, zit zapping” product, look to the shelves of your local grocery store for all the skin magic and miracles you need.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been one of my favorite skin ingredients for some time. Consumers may tire of the same old, same old when it comes to what they use for their skin, but the benefits of ACV are so numerous and varied that your skin’s capacity for absorption of these advantages will never cease.

Fermentation is used to make the cider into vinegar. During this process, bacteria and yeast break down the sugars in the cider. First the sugars are turned into alcohol, and when the alcohol ferments further, you get vinegar. The word vinegar comes from the French, meaning, “sour wine.” The main ingredient of apple cider vinegar is acetic acid, however it also contains other acids (lactic, citric and malic), vitamins, mineral salts, and amino acids.

There are several key attributes to ACV for maintaining beautiful skin, and exfoliation is one of them. Exfoliating is a key element for keeping youthful healthy skin. There are several ways to exfoliate, and one of them is by “digesting” dead skin cells, which the acids in ACV do. This mild cell turnover is widely used as a skin treatment to improve, soften, and smooth skin texture. The new skin layer, once revealed, is more vibrant, youthful, and healthy.

With a pH similar to skin, AVC helps restore and balance your skin’s pH and acid mantle. This too is key to healthy, beautiful skin. The acid mantle is the combination of sebum (oil) and perspiration on the skin’s surface. This barrier protects the skin and makes it less vulnerable to environmental damage (smog, sun and wind), less prone to dehydration, and also inhibits the growth of foreign bacteria and fungi (enabling skin to be healthier and have fewer breakout and blemishes. Acne, allergies and other skin problems become more severe as the skin becomes more alkaline).”Mild” soaps are often alkaline (pH 9.5-11), and remove the natural acid protection as well as extract protective lipids (fats) from the skin. Washing with soap can increase this alkaline state and make the skin even more vulnerable to irritation and infection. Most people are cleansing with products that are breaking down their acid mantle and causing increased skin issues. Balancing your pH is an imperative part of maintaining healthy skin.

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Posted by on Jul 02, 2014| 0 Comments

7 Scary Food Additives to Avoid

This article was originally posted on

I’m an avid label reader. In fact, I was given the nickname “Inspector Label” many years ago because of my passion for calling out harmful ingredients lurking in our foods (and because it would take me three hours to walk through a grocery store because I had to read every label onevery single product I was interested in buying!). In fact, that’s what prompted me to write our book, Unjunk Your Junk Food, Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks.

As consumers, we want to believe that food manufacturers have our best interest at heart, but the truth is, as we learn more about the foods in the grocery store, we realize these companies are more concerned with taste and shelf life than with our overall health. 

Thousands of chemicals are used to make our food taste better, look better, and last longer, but most of these food additives, preservatives, and colorings are synthetic. Even the term “natural food” – once used to describe whole fruits and vegetables and unrefined grains – has now been expanded to include packaged, processed foods, many of which contain a wide array of chemicals.

According to a survey we conducted of over 2,600 consumers, 95% said they always read a food label, but 55% admitted they don’t recognize half the ingredients on the label! This is because packaged food is loaded with additives, many of which have chemical or scientific names. Although the amount of additives in our food is getting a bit out of hand (there are more than 6,000 food additives approved for use in the food industry), using ingredients to improve or enhance food has been the norm for centuries. Our ancestors used salts to preserve meat and sugar to preserve fruit. Spices and herbs were used for flavoring, and vegetables were fermented or pickled so they could be eaten during colder seasons.

Read more about the ingredients in conventional spices

Over the course of the two years it took my my co-author, Lisa Tsakos, and me to write our first book, Unjunk Your Junk Food (Gallery, 2011), we thoroughly researched ingredients commonly found in packaged foods across North America and grouped those that caused the most harm to our health into seven categories. We called them The Scary Seven™They are:

Note: GMOs are not included on this list because companies don’t have to disclose them on their labels. However, they are on our “Also Beware Of” list, so please avoid them whenever possible. You can find a list of the “8 Most Genetically Modified Foods” here. You can learn more about the harmful effects of GMOs here.

1. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

HFCS is an inexpensive substitute for real sugar and is used primarily to sweeten beverages, including soft drinks. The American Heart Association identifies sugar-sweetened beverages as the main source of added sugars in our diet, suggesting that liquid calories are more likely to lead to weight gain than calories obtained from solid foods. HFCS, made from yellow dent corn, has been shown to promote increased belly fat and insulin resistance—not to mention the long list of chronic diseases that result directly. The fructose in high-fructose corn syrup goes directly to the liver, where it converts to fat and can ultimately lead to heart disease.

New research shows that fructose (like the fructose in HFCS) causes cancer cells to metastasizein a way that other sugars don’t, proving that there is a difference between fructose and other sugars. All sugars can lead to health problems, but high-fructose corn syrup is worse in terms of cancer risk.

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Posted by on Jul 01, 2014| 0 Comments

Conversation with Jonathan Bailor on Protein

The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor

Jonathan is the author of the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling The Calorie Myth

Dr L: Is Protein Heart Healthy?

Jonathan: The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed a whopping 147 studies on diet’s impact on health and found zero correlation between meat consumption and cardiovascular disease. [1] Further, distinguished researcher Dr. Halton at Harvard University found: “Exchange protein for carbohydrates [eating protein in place of carbs] has been shown to improve blood lipids [cholesterol], and in epidemiologic [observational] studies, higher protein diets have been associated with lower blood pressure and reduced risk of coronary heart disease.” [2]

Speaking about one of the world’s number one killers, cardiovascular disease, Chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Healthy, Dr. Willett, adds: “The Nurses’ Health Study is the only large prospective study to have examined the link between dietary protein and cardiovascular disease…The group of women who ate the most protein…were 25% less likely to have had a heart attack or to have died of heart disease than the women who ate the least protein…While this needs to be confirmed, it offers strong reassurance that eating a lot of protein doesn’t harm the heart.” [3]

Finally, when it comes to the health marker so many Americans take medication for, cholesterol, Harvard’s Dr. Willett continues: “Cutting back on carbohydrate and replacing those calories with protein lowers the levels of triglycerides that increase the risk of heart disease and also boosts HDL, the protective form of cholesterol.” [4]

Bottom Line: For a healthy heart, enjoy hearty servings of protein.

Dr L: Does Protein Cause Cancer?

Jonathan: A few years ago, a popular book and documentary claimed that protein causes cancer going so far as to assert that eating protein “turned cancer on,” while not eating protein “turned cancer off.” Let’s go back to our friends at the Harvard School of Public Health in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition to see if this lines up with the findings of the broader research community. “A survey of 65 counties in rural China, however, did not find a clear association between animal product consumption and risk of heart disease or major cancers,” says Harvard’s Dr. Hu. [5] In fact, Dr. McCullough of the American Cancer Society remarks, “Fish and poultry have been associated with lower rates of coronary heart disease and cancer.” [6]

Bottom Line: No longer eating protein to avoid cancer is like no longer watering your garden helps you to avoid weeds.

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Posted by on Jun 30, 2014| 2 Comments

On the Cleanse But Not Losing Weight?

Weight Loss
By Be Well Health Coach Kerry Bajaj

I occasionally hear from people who are doing the 14-day Cleanse detox and are surprised or frustrated that they’re not losing weight. Here are the questions I ask to help them figure out what might be the reason why:

1. Are You Eating Too Many Grains?

More and more, we have found that cutting out all grains (not just gluten) can help people to lose weight. If you are eating lots of brown rice, quinoa and gluten-free bread or pasta you might want to consider cutting back or cutting them out altogether to see if it helps. This means that your meals would center around protein, lots of vegetables and healthy fats.

2. Are You Over-eating “Trigger” Foods?

We all have trigger foods – those foods that we find it incredibly hard to stop eating once we start. For me, it’s granola. For many people, it’s nuts, nut butter or hummus. For nuts, a serving is one ounce, which is about the size of a shot glass. Nut butters are good in small amounts, but they are incredibly dense and a little bit goes a long way. A serving size is about 2 tablespoons. Same with hummus – a serving of hummus is not the whole container! If you know that it’s very hard to keep certain foods in the house without overeating them, you might not want to keep them in the house, at least while trying to reach your weight loss goals.

Even eating too much fruit might be a problem for some people if you’re very sensitive to sugar. Berries are good because they are low-glycemic. But you might want to avoid the very sweet fruits like pineapple and mango, and limit your fruit to 1-2 servings per day.

3. Are You Eating Enough?

Not eating enough can backfire when you’re trying to lose weight. You want to eat enough at your meals so that you are satisfied and nourished. If you eat a satisfying lunch with a high volume of nutrient dense foods, you are less likely to graze on snack foods and you’re more likely to stick with your healthy eating plan. If you’re having a salad for lunch, make sure it’s not a “wimpy” salad — you’ll want to add some protein and healthy fats like avocado, nuts or olive oil so that you feel satiated.

4. Are You Exercising?

You may be tired in the first few days of the Cleanse, but usually people are able to pick up their exercise again and this can support your weight loss efforts if they are stalled. Even if your exercise is more gentle than usual, try to fit in some cardio or take walks to get moving.

5. Are You Eating Late at Night?

Giving your digestive system a rest for at least 12 hours at night can be helpful as well. This means that if you finish dinner by 7pm, you wouldn’t eat again until 7am the next day.

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Posted by on Jun 27, 2014| 3 Comments

Food Allergy versus Food Sensitivity: What You Need to Know

Peanut Allergy

It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week this week.  In the early years of this work, when we first began speaking about food allergies, people used to look at you like you were making it up.  How could a child be allergic to food?  And since when?  As kids, we ate PB&Js and had cartons of milk for lunch at school. They weren’t loaded weapons on a lunchroom table.  What’s changed?  And why has it changed so fast?

According to UCLA Health System, “The occurrence of allergic disease is skyrocketing, and some estimates are that as many as one-in-five Americans have an allergic condition.”

You don’t have to tell that to parents.

Today, a food allergic reaction sends someone to the emergency room once every three minutes.  One in ten children struggle with asthma, and one in four are affected by allergies. The incidence of allergy has increased significantly over the past two decades, and allergy to peanuts more than doubled from 1997 to 2002. The National Association of Nurses now says 19% of school age children have a food allergy.

In the last twenty years, there has been a 400% increase in the rates of allergies in children and a 300% increase in the rates of asthma, with at least a 56% increase in the number of asthma-related deaths.

Approximately 30 million children – more than 1/3 of our kids – are affected by one of the four new childhood epidemics – allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism, earning our children the title of “Generation Rx” and these condition the title “the 4As.”

This is not something we can just accept nor can we afford to ignore.

And it’s not just affecting children.

The official statistic holds that allergies affect millions of Americans, including about 6-8 percent of children below the age of three. That information comes courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Lester M. Crawford, J., D.V.M., Ph.D., speaking before the Consumer Federation of America on April 22, 2002.  It is over ten years old.

Since then, the Centers for Disease Control issued a report in 2008 that said that there has been a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions.

Since when did a PB&J and a carton of milk become so dangerous?

This Begs Explanation

An allergy is basically an overreaction by your immune system to a protein that it perceives as a threat—for example, the proteins in particular types of food, the dust mite protein, or pollen. For people without allergies, these proteins are harmless. But if you’ve got an allergy, your immune system sees these proteins as dangerous invaders.

To drive the invader out, your immune system mobilizes all its resources: mucous, to flush out the intruder; vomiting, to force it out; diarrhea, to expel it quickly. Such conditions may make you feel sick, but they’re actually evidence of your body’s attempts to get well.

A key aspect of the immune response is known as inflammation, characterized by one or more of four classic symptoms: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Inflammation doesn’t occur only in allergic reactions; it flares up whenever your body feels threatened, in response to a bruise, cut, bacteria, or virus as well as to otherwise harmless pollen, dust, or food. Scientists now believe that much of our immune system is found in our digestive tracts, where many of these inflammatory reactions occur in the form of stomachaches, cramping, nausea, bloating, and vomiting.

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Posted by on Jun 26, 2014| 7 Comments

From the Be Well Kitchen: Grapefruit Kale Salad

Grapefruit Kale Salad
By Be Well Health Coach Jenny Sansouci

If you’ve never considered putting grapefruit into a salad before, you’ve been missing out! The tangy, juicy grapefruit paired with the creamy avocado and crunchy pumpkin seeds are a delicious and refreshing combo. The grapefruit is a vitamin C powerhouse, which will support your immune system, and the healthy fats from avocado and pumpkin seeds will give you energy and keep you satisfied.

Bring this salad to a summer BBQ – you’ll be the life of the party!

Serves 2

  • 1 head of lacinato kale
  • ½ grapefruit, chopped up into small pieces
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
Posted by on Jun 25, 2014| 0 Comments

How to “Crowd Out” Unhealthy Foods

Avocado Smoothie
By Be Well Health Coach Katrine van Wyk

I am not one for deprivation… I’m done with calorie counting and dieting! I like to eat and enjoy delicious food, so for me the concept of “crowding out” less healthy foods with good-for me stuff is great! Think about it – my belly can only fit so much food at once, so if I fill it up with good stuff, I’ll be less likely to crave the bad.

Here are the secrets to crowding out the unhealthy foods:

1. Hydrate

I know this one might be obvious, but sometimes our sense of hunger can actually be a sign that we’re dehydrated. So make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day (and not necessarily with your meal!).

2. Loads of Vegetables

Serve some vegetables with every meal and load up on them! They’re full of water and fiber that help fill you up and make you feel satisfied and full for longer. Some tips to eat more veggies:

  • Try a breakfast smoothie with avocado and spinach 
  • Make a big, green salad for lunch with lots of leafy greens
  • Roast a tray of cauliflower 
  • Steam some asparagus with dinner

A great rule of thumb is to load your plate up with 80% plants and make sure the first bite you take is of a vegetable.

3. Something Sweet

Add something sweet-tasting to your meals to help fight cravings for desserts. I love sauteed onions, baked sweet potatoes or a salad with some apple or pear. A little sweetness with every meal makes my taste-buds so happy.

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014| 0 Comments