Saturday, 23 November 2013

Coconut Craze

The use of coconut oil has been said to do many impressive things for the body, but is this backed up by science or is it just another fad?

First let’s look at some brief history – coconut oil is edible, and has been consumed as part of the regular diet in tropical places for years. Some studies have shown that the people in these areas are more generally in good health, and don’t suffer as much from the diseases that we see in our western nations, where coconut oil is rarely consumed.

This surprised me as coconuts are high in saturated fat (the bad fat), but it has been shown that the increases in HDL cholesterol are higher than the increases in LDL cholesterol – which may actually mean improvements in the blood cholesterol profile.

Interesting targets for coconut oil, especially for this time of the year, are the skin and hair. With the winter months bringing dry, crisp and brutal weather it’s increasingly important for us to protect these areas. 

In a study done years ago, they tested coconut oil versus sunflower oil as well as mineral oil on different types of hair. The study showed that among the three, coconut oil had the best results on decreasing the loss of protein from damaged or non-damaged hair. The authors postulate that this is because of the saturated fat content (specifically lauric acid) which gives coconut oil a high affinity for hair proteins. Due to its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, it is able to get within the hair shaft and affect the proteins. This is not the case for bulky sunflower oil or mineral oil which has no affinity for protein and is the reason they do not change the actual health of your hair in terms of preventing protein loss.

It has also been shown that coconut oil has great moisturizing properties when applied directly to the skin, but these properties are comparable to the active control product, mineral oil.

So, coconut oil may be worth a try, but remember to do your research about any product you think sounds interesting before buying into the “hype” as it might just be the new fad of the month.

Keep your skin and hair healthy this winter!

Karine Shirazi

4th Year BSc NANS

Monday, 18 November 2013

Local fruits and veggies year round!

With the colder months approaching many of us struggle with trying to eat local foods as much as possible. Ever wonder which fruits and vegetables are in season in November in Ontario? Although our selection in terms of local foods may decrease in the winter months, there are quite a few fruits and vegetables grown locally through November. These include:

·      Crabapples
·      Pears
·      Beets
·      Bok Choy
·      Brussels Sprouts
·      Cabbage
·      Carrots
·      Cauliflower
·      Greenhouse cucumber
·      Garlic
·      Leeks
·      Greenhouse lettuce
·      Mushrooms
·      Onions
·      Parsnips
·      Greenhouse peppers
·      Radishes
·      Rutabaga
·      Sprouts
·      Squash
·      Sweet Potatoes
·      Greenhouse tomatoes


A great place to look for local fruits and veggies is your local farmer’s market. Here in Guelph we have a great farmer’s market open year round with many vendors selling everything from beets to handmade socks to freshly squeezed juice! See for more information.

A great way to include some of the above super foods into your diet is in a homemade juice or smoothie. Here is a simple recipe for a delicious energizing juice:

- 1 beetroot
- 1 cucumber
- 2 sticks of celery
- 3 carrots
- 1 red apple
- An inch of ginger

Juice it up and enjoy! Both colourful and delicious!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Coffee Controversy

Recently it has been shown through epidemiological studies that habitual consumption of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee is significantly associated with a decreased risk of Type II Diabetes. However, short term intervention trials have demonstrated coffee to acutely reduce insulin sensitivity. This may sound like many other nutritional news reports you have read or heard; one day they say something is good for you, and the next they say it’s bad. Who do you believe?

There are a few things to remember when you have been given conclusive statements regarding the toxicity or benefits of different nutrient extracts, whole foods, or beverages. First, if you are reading it in the newspaper and hearing it on the news, remember the only stories that get published in the news are those that draw a reaction out of the public. We see reports of floods, hurricanes, and crimes… not reports of those towns that didn’t get flooded, or reports of people who have managed to follow the law perfectly. It’s not any different in the nutrition world. One study does not represent the entire story. Second, many reporters will take a correlation and make it seem like a cause. The months of June, July, and August are correlated to increased ice cream sales. These months don’t cause the sales to increase, it just so happens the temperatures are higher and most people prefer ice cream when it’s hot. In other regions of the world it could we warm year round, or hot during a different time of year. Which bring me to my next point; understand the context! Due to ethical reasons, many studies are conducted using animal models. They may or may not be representative of human metabolism. It is also very common to increase the doses in order to see results, because interesting results means more publications, which ultimately leads to a larger paycheck. Many of these doses are so high, they are unrealistic to that of human consumption. Remember what the Paracelsus stated in the 1950’s; “Everything is poison. Only the dose makes a thing not a poison.” So before you jump on the bandwagon of the next nutritional claim supported by a study or two, albeit positive of negative, do your research. 1. Does the person reporting the findings stand to benefit from making these proclamations? 2. Have the proper conclusions been drawn, in other words is it causative or correlative? 3. Are the settings and dosages/exposures realistic? You don’t have to acquire your PhD to decide whether a claim is true or not, just use common sense.

Back to the coffee controversy. This is an interesting topic a couple of my friends and I have been tackling for a Nutrition Toxicology class. Yes one side is more correlative and the other is more causative. However, the negative effects caused from coffee seem to only occur acutely, and the amount of caffeine within the coffee also seems to have a significant role as well. Could it be dependent on our P450 genes (a topic discussed previously in this blog)? Could we adapt to the initial negative effects of coffee to the point where other components within the coffee, namely the many different phytochemicals, provide a more positive impact? Due to the lack of fruits and vegetables in the average consumers’ diet, many people receive most of their phytochemicals from coffee, especially when it’s not uncommon to have over 500 mL a day. We know many phytochemicals have antioxidant capacity, and that oxidative stress is also significantly associated with insulin resistance. By no means is this enough information to draw proper conclusions, but it begs for another study to help solve the mystery! I’m not telling you to increase your coffee consumption, nor am I telling to stop drinking it all together. Remember what you consume does impact your health, and balance is the key to a healthy diet.

Mary Allison
4th year BSc. Nutrional and Nutraceutical Sciences

University of Guelph

Friday, 1 November 2013

Halloween Sweets- good or bad?

We all know Halloween is a time for splurging our sweet tooth but as Halloween has come to an end many of us are eating the leftover treats that were suppose to be given out. But, you may want to think twice when you are about to reach for another piece of that chocolate bar.

We all have read the numerous facts and studies about how chocolate is actually heathy for us, but is it really? Chocolate is high in empty calories and a lot of Americans these days can eat three chocolate bars and still not be full and this all because of the empty calories in it. Empty calories causes weight gain and we all know that weight gain can cause so many health effects such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. The high amount of calories in chocolate bars are due to the loads of sugar found in them. But the sugar in the chocolate bar is crucial for customers to keep buying it. Can you imagine a Kit-Kat without it being sweet? It would be extremely bitter and no one would buy it. Next, chocolate contains a chemical called tyramine which is thought to be associated with migraines. This is why when someone finishes eating a chocolate bar they may experience a migraine. Chocolate also has a chemical known as oxalates which can causes kidney stones.

Now I am not saying to stop eating chocolate but you may want to eat less of it. Here are some healthier alternates to curb your sweet tooth.

-yogurt with granola
-trail mix

I hope you all had a great Halloween!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Fending Off Flu Symptoms

With the cold weather and winter days approaching, most of us will start to feel those inevitable cold and flu symptoms as our noses begin to run, and all we can handle is lying in bed watching our favourite TV drama with a hot pumpkin spice latte in hand. But, is there a way to prevent this scenario, and fend off the flu symptoms that nobody has the time or energy for?

There may not be a "magic cure" or preventative way to make our bodies resistant to any illness, but there are nutritional strategies that can be implemented to ensure we are at our best when this flu season comes around.

1. Pumpkin: I'm sure most of you haven't heard of pumpkin as a remedy to colds and flus, but in reality, this is just one of many orange vegetables that has an antioxidant effect as they are packed full of beta-carotene. Make sure you're including bright vegetables in your diet at least three times per week!

2. Kiwi: This is a quick and easy way to consume an entire day's worth of Vitamin C! Other options to ensure you're getting your recommended intake of Vitamin C are broccoli and red peppers.

3. Milk: Milk is a rich source of Vitamin D, and as the darker days of winter approach, we aren't getting as much Vitamin D from the sun. This vitamin-packed drink provides a great immunity boost, and just a few glasses a day can provide the vitamins we need. If you aren't a milk drinker, other sources of Vitamin D are fortified juices, fish (salmon), and eggs.

4. Oysters: This one may seem a little strange, and even unappetizing to most of you, but the real magic behind oysters is their zinc content. Studies involving zinc have seen an improvement in immunity, and not very much is needed for this effect- only about one serving, or 13 milligrams of zinc. Other zinc-rich foods are beef, spinach, cashews, and cocoa (now there's an appetizing zinc source!)

5. Water: This may be the single most important nutrient in both preventing colds, and also fighting them off once they appear. Our body is comprised primarily of water, so maintaining high levels of this essential nutrient can promote healthy blood and muscle, and well, pretty much healthy everything! Hydration becomes even more important once an illness is present, as fluids are lost readily through runny noses, sneezing, and fevers.

So stay hydrated and well-nourished, and good luck with the upcoming winter season!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Something that always seems to be a constant in the fall is pumpkin, and what better way to celebrate and welcome the change of colors with some Healthy Pumpkin Spice Muffins.

The ingredient list may be long but I kid you not, these things are amazing, and made butter and vegetable oil free.  This recipe is my favorite because it sneaks in some carrot, and who doesn’t love carrots.

            1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
            1/2 cup whole wheat flour
            2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
            1-1/2 tsp baking powder
            1 tsp baking soda
            1/2 tsp sea salt
            1 cup canned pure pumpkin (This is NOT pumpkin pie filling)
            1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
            1/2 cup raw honey, melted
            1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
            1 egg
            1 tsp pure vanilla extract
            1 cup finely grated carrots
            1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

First, preheat your oven to 375F. Next you’ll want to spray your muffin tin or you can just use muffin cups, whatever fits your taste.
In one separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, excluding the chocolate chips.
In another bowl, mix together all of the other ingredients, whisking them until they’re fluffy.
Finally, combine the two bowls and mix well. The dark chocolate chips are optional, but remember that they do have health benefits!
Bake them for about 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them. With a tooth pick, you will be able to see whether or not they’re done.

Happy baking!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Happy International Coffee Day - Coffee, Caffeine and Your Unique Liver

If you're not familiar with the field of nutrigenomics, prepare to be amazed.

It turns out that caffeinated coffee can either be a medicine or a poison. At least when it comes to one particular risk: heart disease. And it all hinges on one specific gene, called CYP1A2.

You see, the CYP1A2 gene tells your liver to make one of two enzymes: CYP1A2 fast or CYP1A2 slow. Now, here's where it gets interesting.

If you have the gene that makes the fast version of CYP1A2, each time you drink caffeinated coffee, your body processes and eliminates the caffeine from your bloodstream very quickly.

That effect -- being a fast metabolizer of caffeine -- leads to a decrease in heart disease risk when you drink a moderate amount (two to four cups) of caffeinated coffee each day.

(Stay thirsty my friends!)

However, if you have the gene that makes the slow version of CYP1A2, each time you drink caffeinated coffee, your body processes and eliminates the caffeine from your bloodstream very slowly.

That effect -- being a slow metabolizer of caffeine -- leads to an increase in heart disease risk even when drinking the same amount of caffeinated coffee each day.

(Damn these slow genes!)

Crazy, isn't it? When it comes to heart disease risk, caffeinated coffee can actually be a "poison" for one person, and a "medicine" for another. It all depends on one little gene.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Local Food is Here to Stay

Hi everyone! 

Adriana Glofcheskie here, 4th year NANS student and Academic Commissioner for our student association. I have the privilege of writing our first blog post for the 2013-2014 school year. On behalf of all of us on the exec, welcome to our official blog!

If you’re reading this, it’s safe to bet that you’re conscientious when it comes to nutrition, food and health (or at least I hope you are!) In this post, I want to talk a bit about locally grown food, why it’s important and where you can get it.

I was lucky enough to be raised by parents that instilled in me a love for growing fresh, nutritious and delicious food.  Yes, I was that child who actually loved eating vegetables and fruit…basically every parent’s dream. So maybe you didn’t grow up eating food grown right in your own backyard.  Regardless, the local food movement is one that has been gaining momentum for quite some time now, and it seems to me that it is here to stay.  

The agri-food sector is a key component of Ontario's economy. In fact, this past Monday, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a $30-million fund to promote local food.  Buying local means that you’re supporting local farmers, sustainable farming practices and helping to reduce air pollution and packaging waste. Not only does fresh food taste better, but it tends to be more nutritious: the shorter the time it takes food to get from farm to table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost. For example, 24 to 48 hours after harvest, 50%—89% of vitamin C is lost from leafy vegetables. Bagged spinach loses about half its folate and carotenoids after being stored in refrigeration for just four days. Now, just think about the nutrients in produce that is imported from other countries or continents. In general, by becoming more mindful of the food we eat, we are more likely to make healthy choices and consume less processed foods with added preservatives, sugar and fat.

It’s no secret that agriculture is a key player in our local economy here in Guelph:  there are 2, 588 farms in our region. So where can you go to get your hands on some local food?  The Guelph Farmer’s Market is one hot spot to check out. Open year round, it has between 60-120 vendors selling a wide variety of meat, breads, fruits and veggies, ethnic foods and more.  If you’ve never been, now is the time to go, as many fruits and veggies are in season Aside from local farmer’s markets, you can also get your Ontario food fix at fruit and veggie stands, supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses.  

Here’s a great website that includes a directory of all of the places in the region where you can get local food:

Another great resource is Foodland Ontario’s Availability Guide, where you can see when fruits and veggies are in season:


Saturday, 9 March 2013

Health & Cooking Classes!

A recent study done at the University of Glasglow in Scotland revealed that enlisting in cooking classes can help boost healthy eating. Participants who took part in either a four-week or eight-week class reportedly ate more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as less pre-prepared meals, than before taking the classes. Researchers elude this correlation to an increase in confidence in the kitchen, as well as more knowledge surrounding nutrition.

This seems like a simple (and fun) way to try and curb the disastrous eating habits of many in developed countries. Mandatory cooking lessons in schools, or free community cooking classes, are only a few ways that this new research could be applied to within Canada. 

Check out the rest of the article here: and go get cooking!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Nutrition Month!

For those of you who don’t know, every year in March is known as Nutrition month in Canada. Nope we didn’t just make that up! Every year dieticians across the country look to inform and remind us of the impact nutrition has on our bodies and overall health. This years theme is dedicated to making healthier food choices when buying groceries. As students, we all understand that craving for greasy, salty or fried foods after a late night of studying. Now that midterm season is coming to an end it’s time to put down that bag of chips and get back on track with healthy eating.

Here are 5 fresh, simple foods to keep stocked in your fridge to start your meals off in the right direction!

Milk, Yogurt, Cheese: Milk products contain 16 essential nutrients and are one of the most bioavailable forms of Calcium.

Fresh vegetables and fruit: Filled with fibre, vitamins and minerals, fresh produce is a convenient way to snack while studying without reaching for those energy dense alternatives.

Hummus or bean dips: Legumes are loaded with protein and fibre, which will help keep you fuller longer. Try making a simple bean dip with chickpeas, black beans or white beans to make snacking on vegetables more interesting.

Natural nut butters: Natural nut butters, such as peanut or almond, can be a tasty way to add some protein into your meal. Try adding a spoonful on your toast in the morning or as a side with some apple slices.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Vitamin C

We all know that vitamin c has many benefits for our bodies. Some benefits include healthy tissue growth, iron absorption and proper collagen formation. Recently though, it has been found that vitamin C can be beneficial for those who with Rheumatoid Arthritis. While Rheumatoid Arthritis affects 1.3 million adults in the U.S alone, researcher Dr. Nina Mikirova and her team have discovered that high doses of intravenous vitamin C eases the pain and inflammation associated with the major inflammatory joint disease. She explained that oxidative stress is elevated in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients, but reactive oxygen species are present as possible mediators of tissue damage. It was also found that RA patients tended to be vitamin C deficient and needed high dosage supplements to maintain vitamin C levels. 

Information taken from:

Monday, 4 February 2013

During the insanely cold winter days when you get brain freeze waiting for your bus, you might be inclined to buy a hot beverage to warm you up. Here are a few recipes to make your own yummy hot drinks. Making your own can save you some money, save a cup, help you avoid the nasty things that are often found in hot drinks (like artificial flavour, artificial colour, processed sugar etc.), plus it gives you the freedom to tailor it to your liking (dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free etc.)
Mint Hot Chocolate
2 Cups Milk (regular, almond, soy, or coconut for a real treat)
2-3 tsp Pure Cocoa powder (Cocoa Camino is Canadian and fair-trade!)
Dash of salt
A few drops of peppermint extract
Sweeten to taste with agave nectar, raw cane sugar, honey or maple syrup
Heat the milk in a saucepan or in the microwave. Mix cocoa powder and salt in a mug. Pour milk slowly into mug, mixing as you go. Sweeten and add peppermint.
 Spiced Chai Steamer
2 Cups Milk (regular, almond, soy etc)
1 Chai Teabag
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Sweeten to taste with agave nectar, raw cane sugar, honey or maple syrup
Heat the milk in a saucepan or in the microwave. Pour hot milk over tea bag, and steep for about 5 minutes. Sweeten and add vanilla extract. Add a pinch of cayenne for a kick!
 Hot Apple Cider
2 Cups Apple Juice (not from concentrate, or ½ C juice and ½ C water)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Heat the juice in saucepan or in microwave. Mix the spices in a mug. Pour hot juice over spices.
Lemon Ginger Drink
2 Cups Water
3-5 Thin slices of fresh ginger (more if you like it really strong)
Juice of ½ a lemon (lime works too)
Sweeten to taste with agave nectar, raw cane sugar, honey or maple syrup
Boil the water, and pour it over the ginger slices. Let it brew for about 5-10 minutes (the longer the stronger). Add lemon juice and sweetener.
These are just a few ideas. Experiment with different spices, teas, and sweeteners! Try to go easy on the sweeteners though.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Clothing Sale

Welcome Back! I hope you all had a great break.

Our NANS Student Association meetings will pick up again next Thursday the 17th at 2:30 pm in SCIE 1508. Everyone is welcome and it's never too late to get involved.

Also, our NANS swag is on sale next week! We have T-shirts (American Apparel), hoodies, sweaters, sweatpants, water bottles, and lanyards all on sale starting next MONDAY (Jan 14) through Friday (Jan 18). Choose from a variety of colours and sizes to make your clothing unique to you. This will be the only clothing sale of the year so be sure to drop by SCIE 1503! The order form is BELOW. Check out our NANS logo!  

Selling Times (Jan 14-18) in SCIE 1503:
10:30 am -3:30 pm M/W/F
10:00 am -4:00 pm T/Th

Lastly, I want to bring your attention to the fact that the HHNS undergraduate scholarship applications are due around February 15th.

Best of luck this semester!


Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences Student Association

Clothing & Merch Order Guide
Item #


Crew neck

Crew neck



No pockets

Water Bottle










1:  Reds:  Red, Poppy, Cranberry, Fuchsia 2-5: Grey, Black, Forest Green, Red, Maroon*, Navy,
     Greens:  Kelly Green, Mint, Grass Royal Blue, White**
     Blues:  Navy, Royal Blue, Teal  * Not available for 4 & 5
Basics: Purple, Sunshine (Yellow), Black, White  ** Not available for 5

6: Stainless steel bottle with black logo    7: Black lanyard with bright green logo

Logo Colours: Light grey or dark grey (black)