Fermented Foods

All content or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Alternative Food Network Inc. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a reader based on the content of this site. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

Fermented foods have gained attention due to their possible health benefits, with more studies being conducted to determine their role in healthy diets. As discussed in an episode of AFN’s Doctors+ podcast series titled The Gut-Brain Axis , the following are examples of fermented foods:

  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Sourdough bread
  • Miso Soup
  • Tempeh
  • Pickles – make sure jar says “naturally fermented” or brined in water and salt instead of vinegar. Watch that salt intake though!
  • Sauerkraut – Again, be mindful of the salt.
  • Yogurt– look for “live and live cultures” on the packaging.

From Barely Surviving to Happily Thriving: Anorexia and My Relationship with Food

By Kenzie Osborne

Food – the one thing that is supposed to keep us alive is the one thing we’re convinced to avoid… Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Why does the media constantly encourage us to fear food, and to feel guilty when we fuel our bodies with calories? Why do big, corporate, supposedly “healthy” companies like Weight Watchers encourage us to count every darn “point” or calorie” that we consume? It’s like food has become an enemy to society – and in order to be “our best self” we must carefully monitor every little crumb we put into our body.

Even just thinking about the word “point” or “calorie” probably made a few of you cringe… For some reason, the amount of energy a food provides (a calorie) has been morphed into something so negative. To go one step further, in my opinion, this whole “point” system that has developed is completely ridiculous! Really? We’re giving “points” to food now? That’s like saying “three strikes and you’re suddenly unhealthy.” Just look around – low calorie this, low fat that, zero calorie this, negative calorie that! The messaging we hear is that the more energy a food has (or the more “points” it gets), the more reasons there are to avoid it. How does that make any sense? I guess it doesn’t matter if it makes logical sense. It only matters that society believes it.

Growing up, I was certainly no exception… Unfortunately, I believed the media and the hype, and I fell victim to an eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa. It all began with this irrational fear of calories. I started by avoiding “indulgent”, high calorie treats: cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, chips, etc. Then, I eliminated fatty foods: nuts, seeds, cheese, whole milk, most meats, etc. Next, I restricted carbohydrates (when the media jumped on the “low-carb” train): bread, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, etc. Lastly, I got rid of any food that was processed or prepared by someone else: anything in a box, anything from a restaurant, anything in packaging, etc. Pretty much all I was left with were a few leaves of lettuce… And if I was lucky, maybe a cherry tomato on top.

Of course, I can’t blame everything on the media and society. There were other factors – athletics and school. I was officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at age 16, but I had struggled with body insecurities since I was 10. Around this time, I was starting to participate in gymnastics competitions. I trained 5 days a week for at least 4 hours at a time (yup, it was a lot for a 10 year old!). I loved the sport, but I always hated being in my skin-tight gym suit. Our group of athletes would talk about how thin some of the girls were, and how big others were (yup, kids can be brutally honest, and not aware of the impact of their words). To make matters worse, our coaches always encouraged us to watch what we ate, and would scold us for having a cookie or a bag of chips – those were “bad” foods. Mind you, there was SOME truth to this… Having a bag of chips prior to a four-hour training session isn’t exactly the best fuel for your body. BUT, that isn’t to say you can never have a bag of chips or you can never indulge in an ooey gooey cookie! The problem is, no one ever really made this clear to us. Instead, coaches just scolded us for eating processed and high-calorie foods, and praised us for eating lower-calorie snacks! Little did they know, the coaches’ attitude towards high-calorie foods was making their athletes WEAKER and more insecure about their bodies.

In addition to the “food rules” from gymnastics, there were more “do’s and don’ts” coming from another source – elementary school. Each day, I’d head off to school with a lunch box filled with nutritious foods (props to mom and dad, killing it with the healthy foods!). Now, let’s just remember that kids have no filter, and they tend to say whatever is on their minds. I was always the healthy one (and there was truth to this –  I was active, and my parents were amazing at feeding me with healthy, wholesome foods). The problem was that I established my identity as an athlete, and as an athlete, I was supposed to be “the healthy one”. Therefore, when I hit high school (and was packing my own lunches), I wanted to keep the same image. To be honest, I liked being a fit and athletic girl at school. It was a good identity to have, and people seemed to treat me positively for it. The problem was that everyone expected me to ALWAYS eat healthily – and if I even had a bite of a cookie, people would gasp – you’re actually eating a cookie!? I hated being singled out, and I didn’t want the attention… Bye bye cookies.

Eventually, I had to make sure that everything I ate was 100% healthy (and couldn’t be challenged as “unhealthy” by anyone). I eliminated wayyy too many foods that I enjoyed (and that were healthy) simply because someone, somewhere said they were “bad”. I thought if I was supposed to be the healthy one, I definitely couldn’t be caught dead eating something that was considered to someone as a “bad” food. So I eliminated:

  • Bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, corn, bananas – too many carbs
  • Cheese, milk, whole yogurt – too many saturated fats
  • Red meat, eggs, any meat that wasn’t “extra lean” – too many fats, too much cholesterol
  • Nuts, seeds, oil, butter, cream cheese – too many fats, too many calories
  • Cookies, cheesecake, brownies, cupcakes – too many calories, too much sugar, too many fats
  • Condiments – too much salt, too much sugar
Now I was left with just a few options: low-calorie vegetables, low-fat cottage cheese, 0% Greek yogurt, extra lean chicken and oats. I’d developed a full blown eating disorder. The funny thing was, I knew what I was doing was unhealthy. I knew I was hurting my body. I knew my liver was breaking down. I knew my body was losing vitamins and minerals, and I knew I was getting close to “falling off the edge”. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but my eating disorder had grabbed hold of me, and I was no longer in control…

I referred to my eating disorder as “ED”. I thought of ED like another person – because he kind of was. He had different morals – he wanted to be thin regardless of my health status, he prioritized food over family (if there was food at a family event, he didn’t care, I wasn’t going), he lied (saying I was allergic to something or telling people I’d eaten when I hadn’t), and he was a straight up (bleep) (he made fun of me, put me down, discouraged me, and always ensured I was 100% miserable). He also had a VERY different agenda – to eat less and less and less (it was his way of feeling in control, and he LOVED to be in control).

ED knew EXACTLY how to control me. He knew my weaknesses and he knew how to attack. He constantly told me I was worthless, ugly, unhealthy, and not worthy of a joyful life. Every time I took a bite of food, he reminded me I didn’t deserve it. He reminded me that others would disapprove. He reminded me that I didn’t deserve to eat unless I worked out to exhaustion. He reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to eat “bad” foods – no matter how much I wanted or how much my body suffered.

Soon enough, ED had gained so much control that I no longer had a say in my life. ED wouldn’t let me think of anything other than food… I was starving, but ED didn’t care. I couldn’t eat with friends or family – instead, I had to eat in isolation, hiding the fact that I was eating food. If someone gave me food, I had to throw it away (even if it meant going to the washroom and flushing it away). I couldn’t go to restaurants or cafes, I couldn’t eat my grandpa’s homemade lemon meringue pie (which is probably the single best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life), and I certainly couldn’t eat if I didn’t exercise before – period. Day in, day out I’d spend hours just laying in my bed. I couldn’t concentrate, my brain was cloudy, my muscles ached from the lack of nutrients, my bones banged together and bruised, my skin became dry and flaky, my eyes struggled to stay open, my butt couldn’t sit on a wooden chair because it hurt too bad, the insides of my mouth were ripped up from biting on my cheeks out of hunger, and my liver was in SERIOUS trouble. It wasn’t until my dad sat me down and told me I had a few months to live before I finally found some sort of strength to tackle ED and get him the (bleep) out of my life.

With a TON of encouragement and support from friends and family, I began reincorporating my feared foods back into my life. It started with my parents preparing my meals for me – I’d sit down with them and they’d watch as I ate my food. They’d sit there for hours as I struggled to get the food down, and they’d encourage me when I didn’t think I could take another bite. I’d cry, yell, and scream but they stuck right by my side. We all knew it was ED who was the one getting upset, and we all just had to power our way through and keep on fighting.

When I wasn’t eating, I had to complete a little “homework” that my mom and dad planned out for me. My parents covered all of the mirrors in our house in brown paper (there was NO WAY to look at my body in my whole house!). I was tasked to go to each mirror and write something I loved about myself, or something I did that day that I was proud of. I loved this task – finally it was a mirror I actually liked going to. Instead of staring back at myself and judging my body, I saw who I truly was. I read the things I liked about myself and the things I was proud of myself for achieving. I finally saw myself in the ways that my parents and friends and family saw me – and I finally LOVED what I saw. I knew that in order to continue to be myself, I had to tackle ED, and looking in those “mirrors” gave me some of the motivation to do it!

As I continued to move through recovery, my parents started slowly adding more and more flavours to my food. I had avoided salt, sugar, condiments and flavour from my diet for so long that even a sprinkle of salt tasted like the saltiest dish in the world. Nevertheless, they started adding more flavour, more colour, and more variety to my meals. For once in a longggg time, I actually found some sort of enjoyment in tasting my food. Although the thought of eating the food was terrifying, the taste was good, and I could draw my attention towards flavours and away from the specific ingredients. I began spending time day-dreaming about my own recipes – I thought of different flavours that I might enjoy, and I wanted to start experimenting in the kitchen. I spoke to my parents, and they agreed that I could start cooking for myself – the only rule was that I had to use whole ingredients (no “fat-free” crap)! My parents supervised me for the first little while to ensure I was using whole ingredients, but after a month or so, I was on my own. By this time, I was truly looking forward to making food (and I was actually excited to taste it!). Sure, I was still afraid of some ingredients, but I was excited about trying out the dishes I’d envisioned in my mind. In short, I found relaxation by working with the exact same thing that terrified me the most…. Sounds weird, but hey, it worked, so I’m not complaining!

When I was well into recovery, I spent a TON of time watching cooking shows, and discovering the WHOLE nutrition behind the food I was eating. I looked back at my experiences with my eating disorder, and I compared how I felt then to how I felt as a survivor of anorexia nervosa. After comparing, it is CLEAR to me that using full fat ingredients, eating high calorie/nutrient dense foods, and incorporating condiments into meals is the BEST way to live a healthy lifestyle! Using full fat ingredients allowed my body to hydrate its skin (that had turned brown from being deprived of nutrients), and finally protected my bones from banging together and bruising. Plus, I was finally able to sit down on a wooden chair without having to pile up a bunch of pillows to cushion my butt! Eating high calorie/nutrient dense foods allowed me to spend less time eating while still getting a ton of nutrients (instead of eating pounds and pounds of salad, I could eat one bowl of vegetarian coconut curry – a lot less food and a much wider variety of nutrients!). Finally, incorporating condiments into my meals allowed me to actually ENJOY what I was eating – I could finally look forward to my meals, and not dread having to eat them. Eating a variety of foods allowed my body to thrive! I had so much energy, I built back my muscles, my blood work was finally in normal ranges, my heart rate and blood pressure returned to a stable state, and most importantly I was AT PEACE with my body and life.

My experiences with my eating disorder makes it clear to me that the media has it ALL WRONG. It’s not about being thin: being thin doesn’t determine your self worth, beauty, or capabilities. It’s not about calories. Calories are simply a measure of energy, the more there are, the more energy the food has to offer. That’s IT. It’s not about the fat and carbs. Everyone needs different ratios of macronutrients. What works for you is what your body needs (in short, listen to your body, not to the magazine that claims it knows more about you than you do…). Instead, it IS about loving your food. Enjoy the social activities that are usually paired with food. Savour the tastes and flavours that you love, and indulge in those ooey gooey decadent treats! It IS about getting a wide variety of nutrients, and incorporating many foods into your diet: eat veggies, fruits, whole grains, whole milk products, meats, alternatives, oils, and of course, don’t forget those sweets and treats! Finally (and most importantly), it IS about living an enjoyable life. Life is too short to stress about every little thing you eat. Eat whatever makes you feel good. Eat whatever allows your body, mind, and soul to be happy. Eat whatever puts a smile on your face, and share good food with the people you love. Eat to thrive, not just survive.


Kenzie is a George Brown Culinary Nutrition student who suffered from anorexia nervosa throughout her childhood and teenage years. Since recovery, Kenzie has written her own personal blog that can be found at https://thrivingonnature.wordpress.com/. In her blog, she discusses popular nutritional fads and myths, and shares some of her favourite recipes. Throughout the summer, Kenzie spent time teaching children how to cook nutritious meals and launched her own catering business called Last Piece Sweets. Last Piece Sweets delivers pastries, hosts cooking classes, and provides personal chef services, all while donating to mental health and eating disorder charities around Toronto. For more information, visit https://lastpiecesweets.com/.  The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and/or contributor and do not necessarily reflect the position of Alternative Food Network Inc.

Understanding Health Food Terms: Organic, All Natural and More

By Natalee Goodman

Have you ever found yourself in your local grocery store, looking at products and thinking, “What do all of these labels mean?” In our podcast, Organic and Other Health Food Buzzwords Explained, Dr. Ashley Salomon, MD, highlights ten of the most common and confusing health food terms that her patients ask her about.

  1. Non-GMO Non-GMO means not a genetically modified organism. This means that parts of the DNA in the food have not undergone artificial genetic engineering in a lab and they have not been combined with any other genetic material from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria. Some of the most common genetically modified foods are corn, soy, canola oil and sugar beets.
  2. All Natural This term means nothing, as Dr. Salomon tells listeners in the podcast. It’s best to just ignore this term unless there are other certifications on the label.
  3. Superfood Superfood is not a scientifically defined or technical term, says Dr. Salomon. Generally, this broad term refers to foods that are nutrient dense and have properties that are potentially beneficial to one’s health. This term is associated with clean, whole foods. Dr. Salomon’s list of superfood examples that she mentions in the podcast includes hemp, chia and flax seeds, berries, avocados, cruciferous vegetables, olive oil, garlic and ginger.
  4. Grass fed This term refers to animals that started out on a diet of grass, but do not necessarily eat exclusively grass as they may have been introduced to grains as well. This term does not mean that the animal lives on a grass pasture. The term commonly refers to animals excluding poultry.
  5. Grass Finished Grass finished is the ideal label to look for when shopping for meat products, according to Dr. Salomon. Though hard to find and more expensive, this label means that animals have been fed exclusively grass or vegetables for their entire life. This is the ideal type of meat because animals that eat more grass and fewer grains have higher levels of omega-3’s.
  6. Whole Food Whole foods are foods that have been minimally processed, minimally refined, and are mostly free of artificial chemicals and additives. Dr. Salomon recommends these foods as it is the cleanest way to eat. Think of it as eating a potato versus eating a potato chip – the less additives and preservatives, the better. Foods containing high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and dyes, for example, are not whole foods.
  7.  Naturally Sweetened ‘Naturally sweetened’ is a very broad term, warns Dr. Salomon. It refers to any plant derived sweetener. The term includes “healthier” versions such as raw honey, molasses, or maple syrup, as well as sweeteners that are more like sugar such as agave or cane syrup. Naturally sweetened also refers to some sweeteners that are not technically sugar-based such as xylitol, erythritol or stevia. Dr. Salomon recommends reading actual ingredients rather than relying on the term ‘naturally sweetened’.
  8. Pasture Raised This term indicates the animal has spent a portion of their lives on a pasture. This broad term doesn’t define how long the animal has spent on a pasture and also doesn’t guarantee that the animal exclusively grazed on grass. It is often the term used for poultry and eggs, as opposed to ‘grass fed’ and ‘grass finished’ which usually refers to other meats.
  9. Organic In the United States, to be “certified organic” food must be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (https://www.usda.gov/topics/organic) and labelled accordingly. A farm must have been free from all chemicals for 3 years before the food can be certified organic by the USDA. Any food with this label is inherently non-GMO, states Dr. Salomon. USDA certified organic must be 95% free of all pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes. Organic certification also means that the food is not processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or any genetic engineering. For organic meat products, the animal must not be given antibiotics or synthetic animal feed. Not only is the food cleaner but those working on the farm are not exposed to harsh chemicals.
  10. Macronutrients & Micronutrients Macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fat. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals in food. Vitamins are either water-soluble (e.g. vitamins B and C) or fat-soluble (vitamins A, V, E, or K). Minerals can be trace minerals (e.g. cobalt, iron, manganese, zinc) or macro minerals (e.g. calcium, magnesium, potassium).

Travel Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness

By Natalee Goodman

 All content or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Alternative Food Network Inc. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a reader based on the content of this site. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

When you travel, you may be at a higher risk for contracting a foodborne illness. In many countries across the globe, food, water and sanitation standards vary, leaving your immune system susceptible to a multitude of bacteria to which you are unaccustomed. On AFN’s podcast entitled Food Poisoning, Parasites and Food Safety, Dr. Ashley Salomon M.D. shares valuable travel tips to help prevent foodborne illness from potentially ruining your trip.

  1. Wash your hands often. 

This is something that everyone should do and often. Surfaces can harbour a multitude of bad bacteria and by not washing your hands before eating or preparing food, bacteria has the ability to enter your system and wreak havoc.

  1. Be mindful of water while travelling

Water is one of the largest potentially contaminated sources of foodborne illness when travelling. This is because water filtration standards vary by country. Dr. Ashley Salomon recommends always opting for bottled water but she cautions people to be aware that in some countries, bottles are filled with tap water, re-sealed, and then sold to unassuming travellers. Therefore, she recommends travelling with a hand held water filtration system that works using reverse osmosis to keep bacteria at a minimum.

If you can’t get your hands on a water filter, iodine tablets can also help reduce bacteria. They are sold over the counter and you just add to your water. This is not always the best option though, according to Dr. Salomon, as it isn’t suitable for people with iodine allergies. Furthermore, if the water contains stronger bacteria like Giardia, iodine will not be effective.

The easiest way to purify your water while travelling so it will be suitable for consumption is by bringing your water to a boil and letting it continue to boil for at least 60 seconds.

Dr. Salomon also reminds travellers to avoid drinks with ice. Though the drink itself may be fine, ice is very easily contaminated.

  1. Stay vigilant when eating out while travelling

Opt for fully cooked food (no raw fish sushi!) including vegetables. Produce can be easily contaminated with bacteria and parasites (see our other blog post) during the many steps from farm to plate and the best way to avoid is to order cooked produce such as stir fry or a sauté. When ordering meat, always asked for well done and don’t be afraid to send it back if it looks undercooked.

If you are indulging in any type of breakfast buffet look for fruit with peels, such as bananas or oranges. When peeling, be sure that the outer part of the peel does not touch the inner edible part in order to avoid contamination. When it comes to dairy, Dr. Salomon reminds travellers that dairy can contain different flora in different places in the world and is very easily contaminated so you may want to consider avoiding dairy products when you can.

  1. Travel items to bring with you

Dr. Salomon recommends travelling with activated charcoal capsules. They help bind toxins together in the gut and allow a person to flush them faster. However, Dr. Salomon recommends talking to your doctor first since charcoal can cause constipation. If you are looking for something that is easier on the stomach and gut, look for some shelf stable probiotics that you can easily bring with you on your trip.

If you are an adult travelling by air, she recommends bringing a colloidal silver throat & nose spray that can protect you from inhaling harmful bacteria.

Dr. Salomon also mentions a few immune-supportive herbs that you should ask your doctor about before you travel. Garlic oil extract, oregano oil, ginger, thyme, olive leaf, and cloves are anti-viral/antibiotic herbs that can aid in gut protection.

Safe travels!

Antimicrobial Foods

By Natalee Goodman

 All content or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Alternative Food Network Inc. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a reader based on the content of this site. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

As heard on AFN’s podcast about food poisoning, parasite infections and food safety  there are anti-bacterial foods that you can eat to maintain a healthy and strong gut while also potentially protecting against unwanted foodborne bacteria. These foods can also be eaten while travelling to help protect yourself.  

  1. Papaya
  2. Pumpkin seeds
  3. Curry
  4. Cloves
  5. Thyme 
  6. Black walnut
  7. Oregano oil
  8. Garlic
  9. Manuka Honey

Before making any dietary changes, be sure to talk to your doctor. 

Food Poisoning, Parasite Infections and Food Safety

By Natalee Goodman

All content or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Alternative Food Network Inc. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a reader based on the content of this site. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

Everyone’s had it – food poisoning. But while you clutched your stomach, did the thought cross your mind, “How could I have avoided this?” According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 600 million people per year get sick from eating contaminated food. On a recent episode  about food poisoning, parasites and food safety on Alternative Food Network’s podcast series Doctors+, Dr. Ashley Salomon, M.D., discusses what foodborne illness is and how to avoid it both at home and while travelling.

Difference Between Foodborne Illness and Food Poisoning
Food poisoning and foodborne illness are used interchangeably, but technically foodborne illness is an infection that results from eating food contaminated with parasites, viruses or bacteria. Foodborne illness can also include an allergic reaction. Food poisoning is a type of foodborne illness wherein one consumes the toxins from bacteria.

Symptoms can last from 1-7 days but sometimes foodborne illness caused by parasites or bacteria can cause irritable bowel symptoms for a prolonged period of time.

Causes of Foodborne Illnesses
There are four categories of foodborne illness: bacterial, parasitic, viral and toxins.

Nearly all foods can become contaminated with harmful bacteria and parasites but the most common are:

  • Raw/Unpasteurized Milk and Dairy: Bacteria including campylobacter, staph infection, listeria, and salmonella
  • Raw or Uncooked Seafood: Parasitic infections such as tapeworms, roundworms, and vibrio
  • Raw Eggs: Salmonella via the egg shell itself
  • Raw or Undercooked Meat and Poultry: Campylobacter, E. coli, salmonella, listeria, parasites
  • Canned Goods: Clostridium botulinum or botulism which can be very dangerous because it can cause neurological issues
  • Fresh Produce: coli from contact with manure that could contain animal/human waste, salmonella, listeria
  • Drinking Water: Drinking water could contain cryptosporidium or giardia.
  • Rice: Commonly cooked and left to sit, contracting and harbouring bacteria.

The most common foodborne virus in the U.S. is Norovirus, followed by Rotavirus and Hepatitis A.

When to Consult a Doctor
Trying to stay hydrated with small sips of water or ginger tea is recommended. Electrolyte tablets can also help. Dehydration can exasperate symptoms, making someone who is ill feel even sicker and more lethargic. If illness persists and a person is getting dehydrated, it may be time to see a doctor. Dr. Salomon suggests that if someone has trouble taking fluids, has bloody stool, chills, shakes, chest pain, shallow breathing or severe abdominal pain, they should seek medical attention.

For patients with prolonged symptoms over weeks and months, Dr. Salomon mentions in the podcast that she sends stool tests to advanced labs as it is extremely difficult to catch certain types of parasites and bacteria in regular stool tests.

According to Dr. Salomon, foodborne illness is a great area of integrative medicine because “there’s a place for using pharmaceuticals and then there’s a phenomenal place for using supplements that help detoxification, and herbs that can help the immune system and are antimicrobial.”

High Risk Groups for Foodborne Illness
Anyone can get a foodborne illness but certain people who have lower immune systems can be more susceptible. Pregnant women, young children and seniors as well as people suffering from cancer, chronic illness and Lyme disease are all at higher risk due to their weaker immune systems. People who are susceptible to foodborne illnesses should also avoid soft cheese and raw dairy and make sure that all of their food is both washed and cooked thoroughly.

Prevention Tips
To aid in prevention of these illnesses and infections, Dr. Salomon reminds listeners to be aware of what you’re eating, making sure that everything is cooked thoroughly. When at home, have a temperature gauge so you can verify that your food is properly cooked. Use a separate cutting board for meat/seafood/poultry and diligently wash the cutting board and your hands to eliminate cross contamination. Wash countertops thoroughly and be sure to wash all produce – even organic produce could be contaminated! When defrosting or marinating food, leave it in the fridge and not on the counter. With canned food, make sure the can is not dented or warped and do not use any food that is foul smelling. Lastly, think twice before eating all that raw sushi!

Travel Tips
In AFN’s podcast, Dr. Ashley provides tips for travellers to aid in the prevention of foodborne illness but she also reminds us that it is difficult to fully eliminate the possibility of contracting one of these illnesses when travelling.

The number one prevention tip is to always wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Opt for fully cooked vegetables, bottled water and fruits with peels that protect the inner edible portion of the fruit such as oranges or bananas. Water quality varies from country to country and sometimes even bottled water is tap water with the cap resealed. Avoiding ice is also recommended.

In order to eliminate as many toxins as possible, Dr. Salomon recommends buying a handheld water filtration system that has reverse osmosis, or bringing water to a full boil and letting it boil for 60 seconds before drinking. Iodine tablets also work well in a pinch. From a more holistic standpoint, Dr. Salomon also recommends travelling with activated charcoal. It can mop up toxins and reduce nausea and abdominal pain. Lastly, probiotics are great for helping mend the gut lining after an episode, and while many probiotics require refrigeration, there are some that can be stored at room temperature.

For people who don’t have a contraindication, immune supportive herbs can also be used. In the podcast, Dr. Salomon lists garlic extract, garlic oil, oregano oil, ginger, thyme, olive leaf and cloves as examples of herbs that are anti-viral.

Eating foods that are high in spices such as curries and foods with garlic, onion, oregano and thyme are anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Examples of foods that are anti-parasitic are papaya, pumpkin seeds, clove, thyme, oregano and black walnut. Manuka honey is also a great anti-bacterial. Anti-parasitic herbs are great to take when travelling, but these are strong so it is advisable to consult with a licensed medical practitioner.

Other recommended resources:

Food safety: GI Society https://badgut.org/

Travel safety: CDC https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

What Is Moringa?

Moringa is gaining in popularity as a new “superfood” with nutritional and medicinal advantages.

The Moringa oleifera plant, also called the “Miracle Tree”, grows in parts of India, Pakistan, the Caribbean, the Philippines and parts of Africa. It is considered to be one of nature’s healthiest and most nutritious foods.

It has been used for generations in Eastern countries to treat and prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, anemia, arthritis, liver disease, and respiratory, skin, and digestive disorders. In Ayurveda, India’s holistic health system, it has been used as a curative for 300 diseases.

In addition to anecdotal evidence regarding Moringa’s efficacy, there are scientific studies from various parts of the world that provide preliminary evidence of its therapeutic benefits.

If you’re wondering how to use it, one option is to add Moringa powder to a smoothie or tea. “I like to make a glass of iced Moringa tea for myself in the spring and summer. It’s a lovely, healthy and refreshing way to drink it”, says Rose Verjee, Founder of Esme + Sita. The following is Rose’s recipe for Moringa Iced Tea.

MORINGA ICED TEA RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of hot water
  • 2 teaspoons Organic Moringa Leaf Powder
  • Juice of one lemon or to taste
  • One finger of whole, peeled piece of ginger cut into a few pieces
  • Organic honey to sweeten
  • Mint leaves and lemon slices to garnish

 Instructions

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Add ginger pieces and take pan off the heat.
  3. Let ginger steep.
  4. Let water cool to tepid temperature.
  5. Add the Moringa powder and lemon juice and steep for 5 minutes.
  6. Strain and stir in honey.
  7. Pour into tall glasses and garnish with mint leaves and lemon slices. Add a few cubes of ice. Store any extra in the fridge.

As always, you should consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner to confirm whether Moringa is safe for you.

The Plant-Based Diet: What Is It and How To Start

Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or a meat eater interested in integrating more plant-based foods into your diet, there’s no question that plant-based has gone mainstream. But it’s more than just fruits and vegetables. A plant-based diet can include nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans also. And it is not synonymous with being a vegan. Technically, a plant-based diet contains proportionately more foods from plant sources.

In AFN’s podcast about plant-based eating, the stories and health struggles of Fay Knights and Ashley Swanson are revealed. After consulting with healthcare professionals and doing their own research on plant-based eating, they each decided to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet and achieved positive results.

One criticism of a plant-based diet is that it is too expensive for the average income-earner. However, both Fay and Ashley agree that cooking plant-based at home is not expensive. Ashley can do it for less that $3 per meal!

If you’re thinking of adding more plant-based foods to your diet or are looking for more plant-based recipes, here are some breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes:

BREAKFAST

PEANUT BUTTER BANANA SMOOTHIE (Courtesy of Fay Knights)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup organic unsweetened coconut milk or preferred milk alternative
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk powder
  • 2 tbsp organic smooth peanut butter
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • ¼ tsp organic ground cinnamon

Optional

  • 1 tbsp unflavoured collagen powder
  • 1 scoop vanilla vegan protein powder unsweetened

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to blender, blend on high until smooth and enjoy!

Notes:

  • This smoothie also works well with any other type of nut butter, i.e.: almond, cashew, Brazilian nut, and hazelnut.
  • You can also substitute the maple syrup for coconut nectar
  • If you don’t have coconut milk powder, add a spoon of organic coconut oil or coconut cream.

 

BLUEBERRY-GREEN SMOOTHIE (Courtesy of Fay Knights)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup organic coconut milk or preferred milk alternative
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk powder
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach or kale or both
  • ½-¾ cup organic blueberries
  • ½ a banana, frozen or regular

Optional:

  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 serving unflavoured collagen powder
  • ½ scoop vanilla vegan protein powder (look for no sugar added)

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to blender, blend on high until smooth and enjoy!

 

BAKED PUMPKIN STEEL CUT OATS (Courtesy of Ashley Swanson)

Ingredients

  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup or coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 (14 oz) can full fat coconut milk
  • 4 ½ cups water or plant milk
  • 2 cups steel cut oats

Toppings: pecans, pepitas, hemp seeds, sliced apples, maple syrup, plant milk

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients, except steel cut oats, in a large pot on the stove. Over med-high heat, bring to a soft boil.
  2. Stir in steel cut oats. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes (stirring every 5-10 minutes) or until oats are tender.
  3. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately or portion out into your meal prep containers for the week. Top with your favorite toppings, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a splash of plant milk.

Recipe Notes

You can try making this in the oven for a more hands-free approach. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, mix well. Pour mixture into oven safe dish. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving or portioning out into meal prep containers.

LUNCH

CREAMY CARROT-GINGER SOUP (Courtesy of Fay Knights)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion roughly chopped
  • 2 -3 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cups organic low-sodium chicken broth or veggie broth works well too
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lb bag of organic baby carrots this is usually the small bag, the big bags are 2lbs
  • 1 cup frozen butternut squash
  • ½ can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of fresh or dried thyme
  • Sea salt & ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a medium-large pot, heat olive oil on medium-high and add in chopped onion. Sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and then add in the ginger and sautée for 1 more minute.
  2. Add in carrots then pour in broth and water, ensuring all ingredients are covered with liquid. Bring to a boil and let boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Add in garlic powder, thyme, coconut milk, and squash. Boil for another 10 minutes.
  4. Poke carrots with fork, they should be tender and easy to fork – that’s when you know it’s ready.
  5. Remove from heat and then with a handheld blender, blend until creamy (about 3 minutes).

Optional:

  1. Top with toasted walnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Notes

Serve hot or let cool and store in the fridge for up to three days. You can also store in an air-tight container in the freezer and thaw out 8-12 hours prior to using.

 

SAVOURY JACKFRUIT BOWLS (Courtesy of Ashley Swanson)

Serving: 3-4

Creamy Cashew Butter Sauce (Makes enough for one (14.5 oz) can jackfruit)

Ingredients

  • 2 heaping tbsp cashew butter (or any combination of nut/seed butters)
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2-6 tbsp hot water (add 2 tbsp at a time to thin)

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to a small bowl (except water) and whisk well to combine.
  2. Add water, 2 tbsp at a time, to thin.
  3. Taste test. If too savory, add a little maple syrup (1-3 tsp). If too thin, add more nut/seed butter. Add mixture to jackfruit (see below).

Jackfruit Mixture

Ingredients

  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can jackfruit
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sautée ½ diced, yellow onion until translucent, about 5 min.
  2. Add 1 (14.5 oz) canned jackfruit, shredding it with your fingers as you do so, and cook for another 3-5 min.
  3. Pour sauce over jackfruit mixture and stir well to combine, cooking for another 3-5 min.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cooked quinoa, greens or broccolini, cooked butternut squash or sweet potatoes, and a lemon tahini dressing.

 

DINNER

CHICKPEA MASALA (Courtesy of Fay Knights)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 can organic cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen cubed carrots
  • 1 small diced onion
  • 1 small crushed garlic glove or ½ tsp organic garlic powder
  • 1 ½ cups organic tomato sauce
  • ½-1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp each salt & ground pepper

Optional

  • handful of finely chopped parsley
  • pinch of cumin or coriander

Instructions

  1. Prepare basmati rice as per package instructions.
  2. Wash and strain chickpeas.
  3. While rice is cooking, in a media pot, sauté diced onions and garlic on medium-high until slightly golden (2-3 minutes).
  4. Add in all remaining ingredients to pot, pour water in last.
  5. The amount of water to add can vary slightly.  You want to make sure all ingredients are covered with liquid (not swimming in it but just enough to cover). If the tomato sauce you use is more runny, you will need less water. I typically need around ½-1 cup of water.
  6. Stir all ingredients well then put the lid on.
  7. Once the sauce starts to simmer, turn heat down to medium and let cook for 10 minutes.
  8. If after 10 minutes you find the masala too watery for your liking, remove lid and cook for an additional 5 minutes or add 1 tsp of cornstarch.
  9. Plate desired amount of rice and top with chickpea masala and enjoy!

 

INSTANT POT LASAGNA SOUP (Courtesy of Ashley Swanson)

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 20 oz frozen veggies (I used 10 oz mirepoix & 10 oz carrots)
  • ½ cup split lentils
  • 5 oz diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • Italian herbs (1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried sage, 1 tsp dried thyme plus 1/2 tsp garlic powder and ½ tsp onion powder)
  • 4 cups veggie broth (add more to thin, mine is more stew-like)
  • 6-10 no boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup chopped frozen greens

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients (except lasagna noodles and greens) to an Instant Pot and stir well to combine. Add lasagna noodles, making sure they’re submerged in liquid.
  2. Place lid on securely with quick release valve closed and manually set Instant Pot to 3 minutes.
  3. Once cooking is complete, use quick release valve to release pressure fully, then carefully remove lid.
  4. Mix in 1 cup chopped frozen greens.
  5. Dish out into meal prep containers and store in fridge for 5-6 days.
  6. Reheat portions daily and top with nutritional yeast and red pepper flakes.

 

All content or opinions expressed in this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner.

Better For You Desserts

Better For You Desserts

Desserts are ever so tempting, aren’t they? At AFN we believe that desserts shouldn’t be off the table just because you want to eat healthier or because you have food restrictions. There are workarounds. And there’s not one dessert for everyone. From vegan, to lower sugar, to vegetable additions to desserts (yes, it can be tasty), here are some desserts we have compiled with some help from our audience.

VEGAN DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CAKE BALLS

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup hemp protein powder
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup dairy free chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix all the ingredients together except for the chocolate chips.
  3. On a pan start forming flat patties with the batter.
  4. Start forming balls with the batter and put the chocolate chips inside
  5. Make sure the balls are completely closed.
  6. Put in the oven for 20 minutes (check on it every once and a while to prevent possible burning).
  7. Take out and let cool.

 


 

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI MUFFINS (DAIRY-FREE) 

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup oil (we used canola but you can substitute)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup grated zucchini, unpeeled (about 1 zucchini) and patted dry with paper towel
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together applesauce, sugar, oil, eggs, oil and vanilla. Add grated zucchini and mix.
  3. In another larger bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt until blended. Add chocolate chips and mix.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix.
  5. Spoon batter (Tip: we like to use an ice cream scooper for this part) into muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out fairly clean.

 


 

CARROT CAKE

Preheat oven to 350⁰F.  Grease and flour a cake tin (I use butter and use 2-3 small cake tins)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour (can use organic spelt)
  • ¾ cup sugar (can reduce according to your preference)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 5/8 cup oil (canola or your preference)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • ½ of a 14 oz can of crushed pineapple, well drained
  • ¼ cup (or more) of chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all dry ingredients.  Add eggs and oil and mix well.  The mixture should have a thick consistency.  Turn into a bowl and stir in grated carrots, pineapple and nuts.  Pour batter into greased cake tin and bake on middle rack of oven.
  2. Bake in a greased and floured cake tin (or approximately 2-3 small cake tins) for approximately 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.  The baking time for the small tins will be shorter.
  3. This recipe can easily be doubled and the cakes can be frozen.

 


 

PEANUT BUTTER DATE BITES

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted fresh dates (if dry, allow to soak for 10 minutes prior)
  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter (or any nut/seed butter)
  • 1/3 cup quick oats (use gluten-free oats if needed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp chia or flax seeds
  • ¼ cup mini dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Mix the dates in a food processor until dates are in small pieces.
  2. Add peanut butter, oats, vanilla and seeds. Mix in food processor. The mixture should be thick enough to form into balls without being too sticky. If it’s too sticky, add 1-2 more tbsp oats. If mixture is too dry, add 1-2 more tbsp peanut butter.
  3. Add the chocolate chips and mix gently by hand.
  4. Roll into small balls.
  5. Store in fridge.

 

How To Download and Listen to Podcasts

We love to podcast. It’s a great way to get information to our audience, inspire conversation and create a more intimate communication experience. For listeners it’s great because you can listen to podcasts whenever and wherever, while multi-tasking or just lounging around.

How to Download Podcasts
For those who are new to podcasts or who want more information about how to download podcasts, here’s an informative article.

How to Access AFN Podcasts
As podcast listening continues to grow, we wanted to make sure know how to access Alternative Food Network podcasts. Here are some options:

  1. Visit the podcast page on our website, press play and stream the podcast.
  2. Visit AFN’s podcast host, Spreaker and stream or download a podcast.
  3. Download a podcast app as further explained in the article referred to above.

No matter the listening method you choose, we hope you enjoy the experience.

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