I remember trying to find an answer to this a few years ago and found that studies had shown mixed results. In general, I’d been avoiding soy products and started thinking about this again as I’m eating a mostly plant based diet. Because I have hormone conditions related to high estrogen, and breast cancer runs in the family, I decided to do some more digging.
Soy (and soy products), legumes, flaxseeds, broccoli, carrots, coffee, oranges and tea are high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring estrogen from plants and so a plant-based diet is high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens seem to function similarly to human estrogen but are weaker. Soy is also found in 60% of processed foods (Pros and Cons of Phytoestrogens, 2010).
The benefits of phytoestrogens are believed to reduce osteoporosis, heart disease, breast cancer and menopausal symptoms (as well as prostate cancer in men). High levels of estrogen made by the body and synthetic estrogen increase the risk of breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids and endometrial cancer. Phytoestrogens are natural but do they cause the same risks? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
Unfortunately, most studies are still showing mixed results. Studies can be difficult to compare as they may use different doses, duration, diets, ethnicities, age (hormone levels) and forms of phytoestrogens administered. Additionally, some studies are conducted on animals or are funded by soy manufacturers (which may result in bias).
According to Soy and Health Update (2016), most studies that show concerns regarding soy are based on animal studies whereas human studies support the benefits of soy. However, the author is the executive director of the Soy Nutrition Institute, an organization funded by the United Soybean Board.
The Biological Effect of Soy in Diseases (2019) reviews studies on humans and concludes that soy seems to help prevent disease. However, they point out that the data is incomplete as most of the subjects were from Asian countries where soy is a major component of diet. The results seem to show that consuming soy from early childhood reduces the risk of breast cancer, however consuming it later in life shows less benefits. The authors recommend that soy should be included in a daily diet.
Soy, what do you think? Ha ha. I guess I’m going to have to revisit this again in a few years’ time. In the meantime, I think I will start to consume soy and soy products in moderation. Bottom line is to use caution - talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant, if you’ve had breast cancer and if you’re considering feeding your baby soy formula.
For easy to understand information (relatively speaking!) on disease prevention and treatment results with soy see Soy Isoflavones published by Oregon State University.
A lot of people think I’m crazy when they find out I’ve run up to 50km but it’s really all relative. I have friends that train to do a 5km and I have friends that run 100 miles. It’s getting out there and doing it that matters. And it helps if you like doing it!
I started running when I was 23, when my boyfriend at the time had signed up to do the Manitoba Marathon. It intrigued me so I signed up for the half marathon and started pounding the pavement, running part of the perimeter highway to get my kilometers in. I loved and hated it but I had a goal to complete my first half marathon. I wasn’t a fast runner but was surprised how emotional crossing the finish line was. And when I did, I said I’m never doing that again!
I still ran short distances on and off when I moved to Calgary and Edmonton. I signed up for a gym membership and met with a personal trainer who warned me that running wasn’t good for a woman my age (I was 35!). Since I wasn’t in love with it I used it as an excuse to quit.
In the middle of winter in 2010 a good friend of mine invited me out to her running group, which she promised was fun and social. And it was! There were walkers and runners and ultrarunners. One day I was asked to fill in for an injured runner for a leg of the Death Race. If they were asking me I knew they were desperate. Since I love helping people and it was downhill I agreed. That’s when I discovered trail running! How did I not know about this? Out running in nature, breathing fresh air and completely zenning out while being aware of rocks and roots on the trail. I was hooked! I did another leg the following year and then for Sinister 7. At home I signed up for the Five Peaks races. I still wasn’t a fast runner but I discovered I could do distance. Soon I was running 25kms on hilly terrain at the Blackfoot Ultra and then I ran the Skyline trail, the Grizzly Ultra 50km and the Blackfoot Ultra 50km. And don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy! Spending a chunk of every weekend doing a long run, some minor injuries, various weather conditions and finding the motivation were all challenging. But never, ever, did I regret any of my runs. Getting out the door was sometimes hard but I always felt better after I warmed up and was always glad I had done it. And when you’re spending that much time with a running buddy, you get to know each other really well!
The year I signed up to do my first 80km, my metatarsals started dropping which caused Morton’s Neuroma (pain and numbness). I was told to stop running and the worst thing was they couldn’t give me an idea of if and when I could run again. Running was all I did, I didn’t like anything else. After about a year of doing nothing I got depressed. Running was my life and also my social life. Eventually I tried biking and aquacise. It wasn’t the same but at least it was something. I finally resumed running this year. I may never do another 50km but now I’m grateful for each run I get.
While I was injured, I heard a doctor acquaintance of mine talking about these stubborn injured athletes. These patients who were told to give up their sport, would beg and plead with them that there must be something else that could be done for them. These doctors were frustrated by how these patients just don’t get it. They’re done, it’s over, simple as that. And sure, maybe it was for some or all of them but what these doctors don’t understand is that it isn’t just a sport to them. It’s their life! It’s difficult to understand if you haven’t been there and I thought about how I would try to explain it to them. So here it is. I run for exercise, for weight loss, for better health. I run to meditate, think better and improve my memory. I run because it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, it’s not expensive and you can do it anywhere. I run for the outdoors, fresh air and scenery. I run for community and my social life. I run for more energy, for stress relief, to commit to goals and increase my confidence.
And so my question to you is, why aren't you running?
Last fall I became a documentary junkie. And I don’t know how it happened because I don’t watch tv. Anyway, now that you’ve run out of shows to binge on, I thought I’d share these with you!
I watched all of these documentaries on Netflix with an open mind and took what they presented with a grain of salt (they may not be available any longer but if you Google them you can find most of them on YouTube, etc.). Before this, I was a meat eater, fervent recycler and IKEA shopper. I’ve now reduced meat to three or less meals per week and have thrown away my Teflon coated floss. Below, you’ll find a synopsis, any criticism and any response to criticism, if applicable, for each documentary. I should warn you; this may be difficult for some to digest!
Disclaimers: Most of these documentaries are filmed in the US, not Canada. I am not a doctor or a farmer. I still support our local farmers and am not telling you to stop eating meat. Everyone will do what's right for them and some diets may work better for different people. I'm only providing this as I found it interesting. I will not profit in any way from this blog.
SYNOPSIS: “After noticing a strange odour in his child’s pajama, filmmaker and father, John Whelan, searches for the source and uncovers potentially toxic secrets of the chemical industry. He discovered that any manufacturer could include known carcinogens, under the umbrella term “fragrance,” without being required to name a single one.”
CRITICISM: “John Whelan spends a lot of time on the phone trying to track down the "toxic" chemicals in his daughter's pajamas, all while asserting that we are guinea pigs of industry bathed in a sea of chemicals. Throughout, he completely ignores the basic principle of toxicology that "the dose makes the poison." This scaremongering documentary can't help but mention the words "toxic" and "chemicals" every other sentence, a tactic of repetition in lieu of scientific evidence.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: “Stink! was featured on the syndicated television show, The Doctors. The Doctors invited the three major industry trade associations of which the movie was critical, including the American Chemistry Council, to appear on the show to contest the claims presented in the film. All three organizations declined.”
MY OPINION: When manufacturers don’t have to prove the chemicals are safe, we are by default their guinea pigs. The chemicals have to be proven unsafe before they are banned. “The dose makes the poison” is like saying, yes, this chemical is toxic but only if you have a lot of it. I’ll pass on a little bit of toxin, thanks. And the reason there may be little scientific evidence – who can afford hundreds of thousands of dollars on scientific studies? Well, manufacturers can, but you can bet they’re not sharing anything unflattering. And when industry doesn’t want to talk about it, it makes them look guilty. Shocking and a good watch.
The Devil We Know
SYNOPSIS: “Citizens in West Virginia take on a powerful corporation after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical -- now found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans -- into the local drinking water supply. And it turned out they did so knowing that the waste was detrimental to the environment and human health. This leads to the filing of one of the largest class action lawsuits in the history of environmental law.”
CRITICISM: Not found.
MY OPINION: It’s a good look at industry and how some are in it just to make a buck despite ANY consequences. Even more shocking and a good watch.
SYNOPSIS: “Tells the story of James Wilks — elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner — as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance. Showcasing elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes, what James discovers permanently changes his understanding of food and his definition of true strength.”
CRITICISM: “It received criticism for scientific inaccuracies and a perceived unbalanced support for plant-based nutrition, with several experts accusing it of misinformation and pseudoscience. Despite its overall reception, the documentary came under heavy criticism not only from sports, science and nutrition sectors, but also from other defenders of plant-based diets.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: Joe Rogan addressed the documentary on his podcast, which featured Chris Kresser, paleolithic diet proponent. Both harshly criticized the documentary, accusing it of scientific dishonesty on the show. Kresser described it as being "full of misleading statements, half-truths, flat-out falsehoods, flawed logic, and absurdities." However, Rogan invited both Kresser and creator, James Wilks, to a follow up podcast. The debate lasted four hours and saw Wilks engaging Kresser's criticisms, eventually making him concede mistakes about vitamin B12 livestock supply. Notably, Rogan himself stated to have changed his own posture, praising Wilks' defense of his position and even considering taking down the previous chapter from his channel. He was quoted as "James knocked it out of the park and defended himself and the film quite spectacularly."
MY OPINION: This is the first documentary I watched and the catalyst for starting to change my diet. Plant-based diets don’t have a lot of scientific evidence because there’s not enough money in vegetables to fund it! Definitely a good watch.
SYNOPSIS: ”A new docuseries examines how the rush to make things cheap or convenient for consumers has led to a lot of intended and unintended consequences. The episodes cover counterfeit makeup, where these knock-offs contain ingredients that poison consumers, how furniture makers are so intent on making cheap furniture that it’s injured or killed children; how the vaping industry has sucked in young smokers with hip products, and the plastic crisis and how we won’t recycle our way out of it.”
CRITICISM: None found.
MY OPINION: The episode on recycling was the best one and the furniture episode will have me buying local and good quality furniture next time I need it. Worth the watch.
Forks over Knives
SYNOPSIS: “Forks Over Knives examines the claim that most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that afflict us can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. The storyline traces the personal journeys of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon. On separate paths, their ground-breaking research led them to the same startling conclusion: Chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes can almost always be prevented—and in many cases reversed—by adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.”
CRITICISM: Two very long critiques. See:
MY OPINION: This one seemed to drag at parts but some of the science was interesting. Not in my top picks but still worth the watch if you’re interested in diet and/or science.
The Magic Pill
SYNOPSIS: “The Magic Pill follows doctors, patients, scientists, chefs, farmers and journalists from around the globe who are combating illness through a paradigm shift in eating. And this simple change -- embracing fat as our main fuel -- is showing profound promise in improving the health of people, animals and the planet.”
CRITICISM: Longer critiques are found here:
MY OPINION: This one is about the keto diet. My big problem with this one is that they followed people who ate mainly processed foods. In that case, these people could have switched to any diet that bans processed foods and have had an improvement in their health! If you eat processed foods, it’s a must watch, otherwise only if you’ve watched the rest.
What the Health
SYNOPSIS: “Filmmaker Kip Andersen uncovers the secret to preventing and even reversing chronic diseases, and he investigates why the nation's leading health organizations don't want people to know about it. The film exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars and keeping us sick.”
CRITICISM: “When this anti-meat documentary materialized, it was vigorously debunked by health officials, scientists, and journalists alike. The film, which blames meat for pretty much every health ill in modern society, butchered science and misled viewers. While filmmaker Kip Anderson claims the film is evidence-based, fact-checkers found that "96% of the studies mentioned in the movie do not support the claims being made."
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: https://medium.com/thrive-global/critics-of-the-documentary-what-the-health-can-just-go-to-health-382c7cb710b5
MY OPINION: The critic’s “fact-checkers” was actually one person who wrote a book about meat belonging in a healthy diet. So…100% not reliable! One of my favourites – it was also entertaining!
The C Word
SYNOPSIS: “Cancer is no laughing matter but the archaic way we are beating it, is! With a dose of good humor, heart, and a touch of rock-n'-roll beat, THE C WORD reveals the forces at play keeping us sick and dares to ask: if up to 70% of cancer deaths are preventable, what are we waiting for?”
CRITICISM: Nothing found.
MY OPINION: A favourite - must watch!
SYNOPSIS: “A ground-breaking environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.”
CRITICISM: “Did you know that animal agriculture is the leading contributor to climate change, responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions, more than fossil fuel energy? No? Good. Because it's completely untrue. This is the lie at the heart of Cowspiracy, which claims that if the world's population "simply" went vegan, we'd save the planet. More nuanced, evidence-based evaluations find that eliminating meat from our collective diet actually wouldn't be as beneficial as claimed. Pesticide production would have to go way up to make up for all the lost fertilizer in the form of manure, and many more people would face nutritional deficiencies.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: The Union of Concerned Scientists has disputed that the majority of greenhouse gases are produced by animal agriculture, as this runs counter to scientific consensus (the cause is fossil fuel emissions). However, this dispute has been critiqued as a biased effort to minimize the impact livestock has on climate change.”
See here for more https://www.cowspiracy.com/blog/2015/11/23/response-to-criticism-of-cowspiracy-facts .
MY OPINION: I don’t understand the critic’s logic that pesticide production would have to increase (ironically, it’s from RealClearScience.com). The critic also seems to be vague and uninformed on nutrition. You need to know where to find protein and B12 in a plant-based diet but that’s more about awareness. Definitely an interesting watch!
SUMMARY: Knowing that scientific evidence can be hard to come by, I’m open to case studies and anecdotal evidence. Most criticisms are about the lack of evidence but show me where the research is to prove them wrong. For example, the critics aren’t providing any evidence that meat is good for you. So why is it up to the plant-based side to prove a meatless diet is better for you when we know that meat isn’t good for you?
With many of these documentaries supporting a plant-based diet, I did a quick search and found these studies:
So prepare yourself a healthy snack and enjoy a documentary or two! And then get some exercise.
Have you watched any of these? What were your thoughts? Are there any other documentaries you’d recommend?
Did you know bone broth is highly nutritious, helps fight inflammation, helps the digestive system, improves joint health, helps with weight loss, improves sleep and brain function and improves hair and skin?
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well as it turns out, that may be the case. Most of these benefits are based on assumptions and there is very little scientific research on bone broth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there has to be scientific evidence for something to be true, just that we have to take it with a grain of salt. Ha ha.
Similarly, there is little evidence for chicken soup and infection, but we all know it’s comforting and makes us feel better. Though science hasn’t found why exactly, they do know that chicken soup helps with inflammation.
One study found that bone broth was a poor source of many nutrients but adding vegetables increased the nutrient content. They also stated that you could get a lot more nutrients by eating other foods.
The assumption about hair, bones and skin has to do with collagen (that gelatinous layer on our broth after its cooled). The assumption goes like this: collagen is released from the bones in the broth and therefore when we consume it, the collagen will be absorbed by our own bones, skin and hair. However, through digestion, collagen is broken down into amino acids and the amino acids are used by the body where they are needed most. Additionally, there was a concern raised, as bones are known to store heavy metals, particularly lead. However, a 2017 study reported that the lead and cadmium content of both store-bought and homemade bone broth was low.
There is no harm in eating lots of bone broth if its low sodium, low fat and contains lots of vegetables. To get the most out of your broth, add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (this reduces the pH) and simmer for 8 hours or more. This helps increase the amount of calcium and magnesium in the broth, but it’s less than 5% of the daily recommended levels.
Want to make your own broth? I like to start with this recipe by Epicurious and add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and simmer it for at least 8 hours (you can add extra water). You can also brown the bones first by roasting them on a baking sheet at 450F for 30-45 minutes. This gives your broth more flavour and a darker colour.
Remember the butter vs margarine debate? One year butter was declared the winner and the next it was margarine. Well, it turns out the experts don’t entirely agree on this one either.
Many of my blogs are inspired from conversations with others, and this one is no exception. My husband, Greg, and I were debating which oil was the healthiest. From my reading, it was olive oil; from what he’d read it was avocado oil. He’s been waiting for me to write this blog for months!
As with most subjects I seem to tackle, there’s no easy answer. There is a ton of conflicting information out there which sent me down about a dozen rabbit holes. So again, bear with me as I try to make the science part as pain-free as possible. Or, if you just want the answer, scroll to the bottom of this article.
Let’s start with saturated and unsaturated fats. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature, such as butter, lard, palm and coconut oils, animal fat and dairy products. Unsaturated fats are classified as monounsaturated (omega-9) or polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6) and both are in liquid form at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated and polyunsaturated may be healthier than monounsaturated (though the jury is still out). And I forgot to mention trans fats or hydrogenated fats (i.e., margarine, shortening), the worst of them all.
If you’ve made it this far, I don’t want to lose you on the chemistry. Instead I’ll explain why one is better than the other. Trans fats increase your risk of heart disease, increase your LDL (bad cholesterol), decrease your HDL (good cholesterol) and contribute to insulin resistance. Saturated fats increase your risk of heart disease and stroke and raise both your LDL and HDL. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats decrease your risk of heart disease and decrease the levels of LDL (many studies show that they don’t affect HDL). Omega-3s are heart protective and anti-inflammatory and may increase your HDL. Omega-6s may help control your blood sugar, reduce your risk for diabetes and lower your blood pressure (it may also be anti-inflammatory). They used to say that you should consume more omega-3 than omega-6 but it looks like this is also being challenged.
Other things to consider:
The table below is a summary of the most widely available oils. Many of them come refined or unrefined (the less common ones are in brackets).
So, what’s the answer? I’d say the best oil isn’t one from a bottle but from the foods themselves. However, if you must use an oil, olive oil and avocado oil it is (Greg and I both win)! Try to use unrefined oils (extra virgin, virgin, expeller pressed or cold pressed) but keep in mind they also have a lower smoke point than their refined counterparts.
I’ve taken courses on skincare and nutrition and have researched natural medicine and healthy foods. It’s fascinating how our diet affects our body’s health. There are some nutrients you can both ingest and apply topically, some that can only be ingested (or produced by the body) and some that can only be applied topically. Today we’re going to look at how our diet affects our skin, what nutrients the skin needs, what benefits they provide and what foods you can eat.
To maintain healthy skin, you need water, vitamins A, B, C and E, zinc, essential fatty acids and proteins:
Collagen cannot be applied topically as the molecules are too big to absorb through the skin. Collagen doesn’t exist in any food other than homemade bone broth and is instead produced in the body (The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen, Cleveland Clinic). As we get older our body produces less collagen. Here’s what to eat to help boost collagen production:
Zinc can be found in:
These foods contain antioxidants:
Eat many of these different foods and make your skin happy. It will reward you with beautiful, healthy looking skin!
Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/essential-fatty-acids
The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-best-way-you-can-get-more-collagen/
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that results from uranium breaking down underground. It gives off radiation and is odourless, colourless and tasteless. Remember your table of elements? Its symbol is Rn.
It’s found in homes across Canada and gets in through cracks in foundation walls, floor drains, or anywhere the house contacts the soil.
It’s the second highest cause of lung cancer behind smoking and the number one cause in nonsmokers. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time in the basement, specifically in winter, as our homes are more air tight with all our windows closed.
You can buy a do-it-yourself test kit for about $30 and then ship it to a lab to analyze the results. Or you can hire a professional to test it for you (some even do free testing). You can also purchase a radon detector for about $200-300 and monitor it on an ongoing basis. See https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/radon.html for more information and links to where you can find a test kit or professional near you. Regardless of the method you choose, the test should last three months.
The Canadian guideline is 200bq/m3. If it’s over this amount, you should take steps to remediate it. This can be done by venting the gas from under the basement floor to the outside.
For a more comprehensive guide check out Radon - A Guide For Canadian Homeowners.
We all know that antioxidants are good for us but we may not understand how they work, all their benefits or where to get them. Oxidation (think rust or deterioration) is a chemical reaction that produces free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable and can lead to damaged cells (like a rusted out car). An antioxidant is a molecule that prevents or delays cell damage (like a rust proofing sealant) AND doubles as an anti-inflammatory. Still with me?
The bad news is that free radicals can lead to premature aging, damaged cells, broken down tissue, activation of harmful and cancer causing genes and an overloaded immune system.
So what can we do to prevent our bodies from "rusting" out? We can limit or avoid free radicals. This means processed food, medication, high exposure to chemicals, stress, sun exposure and smoking.
We can also remove the free radicals from our bodies by consuming antioxidants in superfoods. This means purple, red or blue grapes, or red wine (hooray!), wild blueberries, goji berries, dark chocolate, pecans, artichokes, kidney beans, cranberries, blackberries, cilantro, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin, kale, broccoli, squash, wild salmon and green tea. If you're doing your own seasoning, use clove, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, ginger, thyme, garlic and cayenne. Basic guidelines recommend 3-4 or more servings a day.
The benefits of consuming these foods include slower signs of aging in the skin, eyes, tissue, joints, heart and brain, glowing skin, reduced cancer risk, longer life span, protection against heart disease and stroke, reduced risk for dementia, vision loss and cataracts.
Antioxidant supplements do not provide all these benefits and none of them help you live longer. Your diet and lifestyle are the most important - don't rely on supplements. To supplement is to add extra to something.
And if that's not enough, researchers are currently finding that many health problems are linked to inflammation (heart disease, cancer, dementia, arthritis, etc). Which leads me right back to antioxidants.
So enjoy your red wine and dark chocolate (in moderation) and eat a variety of whole foods to delay the signs of aging and to reduce your cancer risk.
Loves living a healthy lifestyle and sharing what she learns along the way.