coconutoilqa.jpgAfter the olive oil article Lora wrote last week, we had a question about coconut oil from a reader on Facebook. So we decided coconut oil would be a good topic for the next Q&A!

Don't forget about our seminar this Thursday evening at Cancer Services' office in Winston-Salem.

Cancer Nutrition Myths and Truths: Thursday 1/29 at 5:30pm. We will be demonstrating and tasting 3 recipes and giving you some of the ingredients for you to take home and try yourself. We'd love to have you join us!   RSVP if you'd like to attend.

Q&A Coconut Oil

The reader asked "should coconut oil be avoided because it contains a high percentage of saturated fatty acids?" (as compared to poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids).  Given that saturated fat is linked to increased cholesterol levels and risk for adverse cardiac events, it is recommended that no more than 7% of calories consumed each day should come from saturated fat.

No - we don't expect you to actually calculate that! But it's good to know the recommendations, right? :-)

The main idea to remember is that fat is fat.  Whether it's plant based or animal based, and regardless of its saturated fat content, fat is high in calories and should not be used excessively in the diet.  As I said in the olive oil article last week, some fats are healthier than other fats, and those should be chosen more often

  • Solid fats, like butter and animal fats, are sometimes referred to as "bad fats."  These are high in saturated fats, which is why they are solid at room temperature. 
  • Vegetable oils, like canola and olive oil, are sometimes referred to as "good fats."  These are low in saturated fats and high in the unsaturated fats, which is why they are liquid at room temperature. 
  • HOWEVER, you have to remember, fat is fat, so even though the fatty acid profiles differ, they still all have the same amount of fat and calories per volume. 
Check out this very handy chart that shows the percentages of fatty acids found in different types of fats.

Since coconut oil is from a plant it's a healthier choice, right? 

Wrong! Believe it or not, coconut oil actually contains more saturated fat than butter.  This high saturated fat content makes coconut oil solid at room temperature, and it should be classified as a solid fat, along with animal fat and butter. 

I will note that there is some current research looking at how the type of saturated fat found in plant based foods like coconuts may actually be different from the saturated fats found in animal products, but until more research is conducted and this theory is confirmed, I would treat it as any other saturated fat. 

So should you use coconut oil?

My motto for almost everything in the realm of nutrition is moderation.  If you like the way coconut oil gives food a sort of coconut flavor, then, every once in a while, you can substitute a small amount of coconut oil for another vegetable oil or butter. 

But... should you cook your eggs in it, add it to your mid morning smoothie, take 2 teaspoons as a supplement after dinner, and then rub it on your body and in your hair as a moisturizer every day? Probably not.  For most of your cooking and baking, choose a vegetable oil like canola, olive, or flaxseed oil. 

When you want to add a little more flavor to a recipe, a little coconut oil, or even butter, every now and then can fit perfectly into a healthy lifestyle.

For more on the confusion around types of fats and which ones are better or worse for you, check out this article Julie wrote last year: Dietary Fat Recommendations: Have The Experts Been Lying?


I am hosting a Survivorship Seminar called Cancer Nutrition Myths and Truths next Thursday at Cancer Services' office in Winston-Salem, so if you're local, RSVP to come! We will be demonstrating and tasting 3 recipes and giving you some of the ingredients for you to take home and try yourself. We'd love to have you join us! 

When Someone Has Poor Appetite

My intern has been working hard identifying recipes for making nutritional supplement drinks (like Ensure, Boost, Carnation Instant Breakfast, etc.) taste better. One of the common complaints for people who have to consume them is that they don't taste good.

These drinks aren't necessary for everyone, but the one case that they're recommended for sure is when a person cannot consume enough food to meet their calorie, protein and other nutrient needs. For some going through cancer treatment, this is a significant issue!

Here is my video explaining how you can make it taste better and a recipe for Iced Chai Tea Smoothie with Ensure:

Tips for Drinking Ensure

The added vitamins and minerals can give nutrition supplement drinks an unpleasant taste.  Because of this, it is best to drink these drinks:
  • cold AND
  • over ice AND
  • in a cup with a lid and a straw. 
You can also try this recipe!

Iced Chai Tea Smoothie


  • -1 (8 oz) can vanilla Ensure
  • -1 chai tea bag
  • -1/2 cup boiling water
  • -3-4 ice cubes


  1. Steep tea bag in water for 3-5 minutes.  Allow to chill in refrigerator for 15 min.
  2. In a blender, combine chilled tea, Ensure, and ice cubes.  Blend until smooth.

Let me know what you think!

- Julie

I have a new intern! Lora wrote up this q&a as a result of a question we received from a client. A great question and I'm thrilled to have Lora helping out on the Cancer Dietitian team!

oliveoilpicmonkey2-1.jpgQ: I have heard that olive oil is not as great as everyone says, if heated it turns to trans fat. True?

I will start by saying it is not true that olive oil is turned to trans fat when cooked at high temperatures. 

No doubt, you have heard that some fats are good for you while others are bad.  This is because there are different types of fatty acids that have different chemical structures. Think of the difference between olive oil, which is liquid when left out on the counter, and lard or butter, which remain solid when not refrigerated.
  • The "good" fats, mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, are found in plant products and are liquid at room temperature. 
  • The "bad" fat, saturated fats, are found in animal products and are solid at room temperature. 
  • See Julie's article about fats here: Dietary Fat Recommendations: Have The Experts Been Lying?

What are Trans Fats?

Trans fats are actually vegetable oils that have been processed and their chemical structure changed in order to make vegetable oils more solid at room temperature.  This is a processing technique that food manufacturers use to extend the shelf life of some products, such as baked goods.

In addition to extending the shelf life, it is CHEAPER to manufacture solid fat, than to purchase solid fats like butter. However, although it increases the shelf life of the product, trans fats has been shown to  be harmful to the body, and result in an increased risk of heart disease.

Trans fats can be found naturally in small amounts in some dairy and meats.  However, these are not the harmful trans fatty acids you typically hear about. 

Using Olive Oil for Cooking

Given that the production of trans fats requires a special hydrogenation process that does not occur naturally through cooking, it is impossible for olive oil to turn into trans fats while cooking, even at the highest of temperatures. 

What is true though is that olive oil has a lower smoke point than other vegetable oils, meaning that it will start to degrade at lower temperatures.  This isn't necessarily harmful, but it can produce an unpleasant taste.  For this reason, olive oil is not the best oil to use when cooking at high temperatures.

Is olive oil a healthy oil?

With a recent interest in the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is often promoted as a "healthier" vegetable oil, which isn't necessarily the case.  Vegetable oils differ in their content of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.  

  • Olive oil is comprised of approximately 15-20% saturated fatty acids, while canola oil is only about 5% saturated fatty acids.
  • Other recently popular vegetable oils, like coconut and palm oils, can contain almost 50% saturated fatty acids, and are more solid at room temperature like meat fat and butter.
  • Vegetable oils, including olive oil, are a healthier choice than animal fats.

Want to know about Canola oil? Check out Julie's article here: Quick Q&A: What is Canola Oil?

Should you cook with olive oil? 

If you're cooking at a lower temperature, less than about 350˚F, then olive oil should be fine.  Olive oils also work well in recipes that do not require heat, such as in salad dressings and marinades.  When choosing which vegetable oil to cook with, consider not only the nutritional value of the oil, but which oil is best for the type of cooking you are doing.

- Lora


This is a tip I learned from Chef Megan Hutton. We contracted her to come teach a few cooking sessions in our Mindful Eating Program this past fall. I couldn't believe it when she told us that we could make salad several days ahead of time. Brilliant!!

As most people do with a new recipe...I went home and didn't even try it. UNTIL last week. And when I posted it on my facebook page, I knew instantly I would have to blog about it.

People asked for the recipe, the order of ingredients and how long it lasted. The first week that I made it, I didn't measure anything. However, this past Sunday evening, I made an effort to pay attention to measurements!

Salad In A Jar Dressing

First, let's start with the dressing. Go to this website if you want the actual recipe. I, however, just make the vinaigrette using the Pampered Chef Measure Mix and Pour. (Find it here on Amazon - No.... i do not get a referral benefit!).

You could probably get a generic one at a kitchen store, but I got suckered into a party once. I try to pick something to buy that I will actually use and this was it! Honestly, I love it. Mostly because it has enabled my husband/ sous chef to make salad dressing in a jiffy.

Next is the assembly. For the past 2 Sundays, I have spent the evening preparing food for the week. The salads are my "to do" while watching Downton Abbey, which I have just started watching so don't try to have a conversation with me about it 'cause I have no idea what's going on.

Now... another show that keeps me company while cooking is A Chef's Life, which is on PBS and produced by UNC-TV. I LOVE THIS SHOW!! It's about a chef in small town NC who is doing Farm to Table cuisine. I'm pretty much caught up on all the shows to date while cooking this week, but I digress. :-)

How To Make Salad In A Jar

For a one person serving, I typically use a quart mason Jar. You can also do this in larger jars for a 2-4 person dinner.

Here's the order of business:

  1. Place the veggies that would be good marinated in the jar first and add dressing (2T for a quart jar, adjust accordingly depending on the size of your jar). For example, carrots, cucumbers, legumes, tofu, onions, celery are very tasty after marinating a day or two in the dressing.
  2. Layer any other of the "hard" veggies. In the picture above, from the bottom, I have onions, then celery, then carrots, then cucumbers, then green pepper. Be sure to add the dressing either first, or anytime up to this point.
  3. After the veggies and dressing have been added, then put in some mini tomatoes. I do not cut these, as I imagine they would get soggy after a few days in the jar. Leave them whole and they will be delicious.
  4. At the very top, you cram in your lettuce. I chose an artisan romaine that was at Harris Teeter. Any of your favorite lettuce should work. Kale (which could probably handle the dressing), spinach, spring mix, iceberg. Pick your favorite. I like Romaine as it's a bit darker, but still crunchy. I find it easy to chop/slice and cram into the top of the jar. You do NOT want dressing on the lettuce. Put as much lettuce as you want, or as can fit.
  5. Put the top on and place in the fridge!
  6. Take a picture and share it with me on facebook, cause I want to see the beautiful creation! :-)

For 6 quart salads, I bought 2 small heads of artisan romaine lettuce, one small pack of full size carrots, one small head of celery, one green pepper, one pint of tomatoes and I used about 2 cups worth of black eyed peas leftover from my freezer.

How Long Does It Last?

These salads were very delicious, even on Thursday! The lettuce was crisp, the marinated veggies very tasty and the lettuce wasn't even brown at all. I was pretty amazed. Now, if you're a picky person when it comes to the veggies, you probably want to eat it all by Wednesday evening.

There are many variations on this recipe. I found this article earlier this week. Maybe it will inspire you!

Best Mason Jar Salads

Oh my goodness, they all look really good! I'm not really a salad person, but this makes it so easy and so tasty that it's giving me a change of heart. :)

BONUS: Weekday Meal Plan

Since I've been so organized with meals this week, I thought you might like some ideas for weekday meals. Here's what we've got going on this week and some of the 'plan ahead' things I'm doing to make weeknights less stressful. Dinner time gives me a lot of anxiety as I come home from work, so having it planned out is a huge stress prevention plan for me.

Sunday evening:

  • Prepare salad in a jar for lunches and Thursday dinner. Any leftover dressing was used to marinate leftover veggies. It's never bad to have extra marinated veggies to add to salads, rice, etc.
  • Prepare monday night's dinner - Pasta with cream sauce (made with nutritional yeast and low-fat milk - recipe on the nutritional yeast package). Heat frozen veg medley and mix into the pasta.
  • Chop onions, celery and carrots and store in jar or other container for use in Thursday night's dinner.
  • Make simple tomato sauce for lasagna on Friday (see recipe link below for lasagna which includes the tomato sauce ingredients).


  • Dinner: Warm up pasta; saute spinach with garlic.
  • Prep for Tuesday: cook potatoes in the oven for Tuesday dinner.


  • Dinner: Cook salmon (recipe here: Baked Salmon), saute green beans with onion (i bought green beans in a bag that was already washed and prepped), heat potatoes (reheated from night before). This took 30 min to have it ready.
  • Prep for Wednesday: NONE!!


  • Leftovers night. Or eat out. Or eat cereal. I actually ended up cooking a chicken in the crockpot this Wednesday because it needed to be cooked. We'll eat some of it, and freeze the rest and make broth overnight in the crockpot.
  • Prep: make rice for Thursday dinner. If you really get motivated, you can even make the curry for Thursday dinner.



  • Start the crockpot lasagna in the morning! Luckily, I'm joining friends for dinner and they are doing the sides.
  • TGIF Par-Tay!!
Now... when you find something that works, you've will want to write it down and save it so you can re-use it. That is what is called a "cycle menu." Also known as "no sense in re-creating the wheel." My husband and I actually write out our plan on a physical calendar (I know - so old school!). We make our plan on Sunday afternoon, do our shopping and prep on Sunday so we're ready to face the week.

Let me know how it goes for you!
- Julie
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season! Here is a photo of a piece of my time over our break. We had a great evening at the beach running from the waves and watching the sunset.

sunset.jpgAs I write my first post of 2015, I can't help but think of all the social media posts and talk about resolutions, diets and hopes for the coming year.

I will start this article with this caution: Diets can harm you. Yes, they can cause some physical side effects, but I think the biggest risk to diets is actually the psychological impact it can have.

Whether you're a cancer survivor or someone interested in prevention, it's in your best interest to focus your mental energy on positive lifestyle choices, rather than focusing on the things you should avoid. Cancer survivors know first hand that it's not worth it to waste your time and energy on negativity and guilt!

I believe the first place to start with healthy eating is by following some basic mindful eating techniques. At the very core, mindful eating is about two simple principles:

  1. Eat when you're physically hungry.
  2. Stop eating when your body has had enough.
The challenge for many of us is that we don't pay very close attention to these two things. At Cancer Services, I coordinate a mindful eating program for GYN survivors. We contract a local dietitian to teach the class and the suggested reading she gives is for the book Intuitive Eating. I think this would be a great place to start, especially if you think you're an emotional eater.

The complement to mindful eating is to be physically active. The best type of physical activity is the kind you enjoy. Make it walking, dancing, yoga, classes or doing yard work. It's as simple as using your body, and limiting the amount of time you spend sitting.

Want to try not dieting this year? Join Julie Dillon, RD on a FoodPeaceChallenge! She's posting on her blog about it, and I encourage you to follow. Yes - you can make big strides in your health by NOT dieting. Try it. :)

Maybe you don't feel like you're an emotional eater, but you would like a bit of guidance on making healthy food choices. This next review is for you!

Diet Review by US News and World Report. And the winner is...???

It's handy that people do this work for me! This week I read an NPR story on the diet review that the US News and World Report did. It's a great read, you can find it here: From Paleo To Plant-Based, New Report Ranks Top Diets Of 2015. The reason I like this is that there are SOOO MANY really bad diet plans out there. It's like going to the grocery store. Probably 85% of the products are not good for you.

Remember this about diet plans, books, programs: THEY EXIST TO MAKE MONEY! OK. There is a major conflict of interest here. They don't need to be based on any kind of proof. They just want your money. And they can say pretty much whatever they want to take your money and make promises they don't have to deliver on, while at the same time making you feel guilty for failing. What kind of business model is this? You give them your money and end up feeling bad about yourself. How about we not do that!!

Anyway... back to the point - which diet (I prefer to use the term 'food choice guidance plan') is the best? Here's the bottom line from the study, which uses medical experts and nutritionists to do the review and they look at long term success.

"For the fifth year in a row, the government-researched DASH diet (an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) ranked No. 1 overall diet. It's similar to the Mediterranean diet: heavy on fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts."
This is the plan I usually recommend to people who want a list, meal plan, or something to "follow." It's proven and effective and focuses on lots of plants. What's not to love!? You can find more info here at the DASH diet website.

I hope your New Year has started with many simple blessings. Thanks for listening to my rant!
- Julie

cranberry sauce.jpgFor a list of some of my favorite holiday recipes, check out this page:

Below is my current favorite cranberry sauce recipe. I hope you like it!

Cancer Fighting Cranberries:

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, Cranberries have the following beneficial phytochemicals:

  • Flavonoids, including anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and flavonols
  • Ursolic acid
  • Benzoic acid and hydroxycinnamic acid

In addition, they're a great source of fiber and vitamin C. All of these nutrients work together to support your bodies immune system. And they're yummy!!

Julie's Cranberry Sauce Recipe

In celebration of cranberries (and the fact that I bought a huge bag at costco), I've started making them weekly. Here's my favorite version so far!


  • 12 oz. bag of cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4-6 pieces of trader joe's candied ginger pieces (asian grocery stores sell this as well, or worst case, get the crystalized ginger, but it can be expensive!!)
  • 1 tangerine
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 cup of water


  1. Mince the candied ginger pieces (I would guess it comes to about 1/4 cup of minced ginger)
  2. Peel the tangerine and mince the peel. I even squeezed the tangerine into the pot and tossed it in too.
  3. Put the cranberries, water, sugar, allspice, minced ginger and tangerine peel in a pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Enjoy hot or refrigerate and eat cold.

Yum!! We loved having it warm as a dip for carrot apple muffins I made.

potpourri.jpgHomemade Potpourri Recipe:


  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • allspice
  • 3 tangerine peels
  • cranberries
  • water


  1. Place all ingredients in a pot.
  2. Allow water to simmer on low to release the aroma and humidify your home!

Easy Peasy!

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving. Remember... as I pointed out in my 2012 Holiday Tips ... I hope you overeat. Cause that's what you're supposed to do on Thanksgiving!

- Julie

Maybe you've wondered about recipes calling for molasses. Is it healthy? Could you add it to recipes or replace sugar with it? Here's a quick Q&A about molasses, put together by my current dietetic intern, Alexis!

What is Molasses?molasses.jpg

Molasses is a byproduct of the process of boiling down either the sugar cane plant or beet sugar plant. Molasses is syrup that has been "squeezed" from the plant and then centrifuged to release the sugar crystals. The molasses produced from cane sugar is used for human consumption while the molasses from beet sugar is more for animal feed.

Molasses vs. Black Strap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is the name given to the byproduct from the third reduction of the crystallized sugar. Blackstrap is bitterer than molasses because more sugar has been taken from it.

Nutrition Benefits of Molasses:
According to the USDA, Both molasses and blackstrap molasses are healthy in that they offer a good amount of the following:

  • iron,
  • calcium,
  • magnesium,
  • potassium.
In fact, in just 1 tablespoon molasses has:
  • 41mg of calcium,
  • 48mg of magnesium,
  • 293mg of potassium,
  • 1mg iron.

Is Molasses Healthy?
Keep in mind that molasses is still sugar so consuming in moderation is the key. Let's compare Sugar and Honey to Molasses. Sugar has no calcium, magnesium, potassium, or iron. Honey has: 1 mg of calcium, 11mg of potassium and no iron or magnesium

What can I use Molasses in?
Molasses can substitute sugar in most dishes. When substituting molasses for sugar use 11/3 cup for 1 cup of sugar, reduce liquid by 5 tbs, and add ½ tsp of baking soda.

Julie really likes to use molasses in her granola. You can substitute it for 1/2 of the honey in this quick and easy granola recipe. She also has a delicious recipe for molasses coconut cookies.

Some examples of things you can use molasses in are:

  • Oatmeal
  • Cookies
  • Baked Beans
  • Muffins
  • Yogurt
  • Gingersnap cookies

What's your favorite recipe with molasses??

- Alexis

PS - Did you know there was a "Great Molasses Flood of 1919"?? According to the MadeHow website "the Great Boston Molasses Flood of January 1919 when a molasses storage tank owned by the Purity Distilling Company burst, sending a two-story-high wave of molasses through the streets of the North End of Boston." WOAH! Read more:

References and additional reading:

I promised I would get you the Bob's Red Mill tour!! Jessica, my intern from May, had the privileged of visiting the mill this past summer. Read on to learn about it and try out her favorite recipe! - Julie

Bob's Red Mill
by Jessica Beardsley, MS, RDN

IMG_4651.jpgMy family and I recently visited Bob's Red Mill near Portland, Oregon. Prior to this experience, my only exposure to Bob's Red Mill was buying their flax meal and seeing their fancy flour at the health food store. After the tour I was inspired to cook and experiment with their rich variety of grains and flours. In addition, I learned that they are an excellent company with passionate employees and high standards for quality in every grain that you can imagine.

Facts about the mill:

  • The working mill is separate from the bakery and store, which is one mile down the road.
  • Bob Moore opened the mill in the 1960's and has gradually acquired stone mills from all over the world.
  • About five years ago Bob generously gave his employees ownership of the company, and continues to work there even today.
  • The employees' passion and attention to quality is evident in all the interactions we had during our visit.
IMG_4645.jpgBob's Red Mill Products:

The variety of grains that the Mill offers includes:
  • wheat flours
  • oats
  • millet
  • grits
  • pastry flour
  • rye flour
  • graham flour.
Their gluten-free selection was just as extensive:
  • almond flour
  • arrowroot starch
  • black bean flour
  • brown rice flour
  • fava bean flour
  • garbanzo bean flour
  • masa harina
  • IMG_4655.jpgcorn flour
  • oat flour
  • pea flour
  • hazelnut flour
  • millet flour
  • potato flour
  • sorghum flour
  • amaranth
  • teff
  • flaxseed
  • buckwheat
  • quinoa. 
Ever wonder where to buy texturized vegetable protein (TVP) or xanthum gum? Yep, Bob has that too!

Making The Products:

IMG_4642.jpgOur tour guide showed the children how the threshing of wheat removes the chaff leaving the edible wheat kernel. Just a light breeze cleared the chaff away and the children took the berries and put them into a small tabletop mill.  Each child turned the hand crank, which milled the wheat berries into flour. The entire process was a great reminder of how simple and minimally processed our flour can be. 

After we returned home I used Bob's whole-wheat pastry flour to make peach cobbler for our family. Their whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft white wheat. It is low-protein soft spring wheat, compared to regular whole-wheat flour that is milled from hard red wheat. The lower protein content is more desirable for pastries, cakes, cookies, and muffins. So the flour was ideal for my peach cobbler (see recipe below).

The natural fats in your flour will go oxidize and go rancid at room temperature. To extend the shelf-life, store your whole wheat flour in the refrigerator or freezer in a plastic bag or airtight container.

Peach Cobbler with Bob's Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk or soy milk
  • 4 cups fresh peach slices (about 6 peaches, I peeled mine)
  • Ground cinnamon

  1. Melt butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
  2. Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter (do not stir).
  3. Bring remaining 3/4 cup sugar and peach slices to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  4. Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.


I know I said that Bob's Red Mill would be my next post, but this quick topic came up and I felt like clearing the air!

I was reading a publication from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ran into an advertisement about Canola Oil. I have vetted the information they shared to make sure it was accurate, because we all know that believing someone who is selling you something is not in your best interests! [Let that be a life lesson to you! ha!]

How did Canola Oil get it's name?

At first, I assumed that there was some kind of canola nut, or something that they got the oil out of. Then several years ago I read that it came from rapeseed, but I couldn't figure out why there would be rapeseed oil and canola oil, if that was the case. I obviously didn't spend much time looking into it, but now I know!

Canola oil was developed in Canada through plant breeding to remove two components found in rapeseed (erucic acid and glucosinolates). Hence, the new plant was named Canola - a combination of "Canadian" and "ola" (meaning oil).

FYI - they wanted to cut back on the erucic acid because large amounts of it can be toxic. Canola must have less than 2 percent erucic acid. They wanted to cut back on glucosinolates because it has a bitter taste. Canola must have less than 30 micromoles of glucosinolates.

Is Canola Oil good for me?

Interesting is that the canola plant is actually a member of the Brassica family that includes broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. This family is one of the most studied groups of foods for it's cancer fighting benefits. Check out more info on that here: Anti Cancer Diet Essentials: Cruciferous Vegetables.

Canola oil also has a favorable fat profile. It has the most plant based omega-3's and the least saturated fat of all the plant based oils. It's transfat free and also has very little flavor, which is a bonus if you have family members picky about the stronger taste of olive oil.

How do I use Canola Oil for cooking?

The great thing about canola oil is you can use it in pretty much any capacity you would need oil. It can heat to a high temperature without burning, so it's good for stir frying, searing, baking and roasting. It works in baking because of the neutral flavor. It's also great for vinaigrettes, if you don't want the olive oil flavor.

Want to know more? Here's a few articles I found helpful when fact checking:

From the Mayo Clinic: I've read that canola oil contains toxins. Is this true?
From Eating Well: How Healthy Is Canola Oil Really?
From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: All About Oils: Canola Oil

Bob's Red Mill is up next! FYI - I made their Teff Porridge this morning for breakfast and it was delicious!!
- Julie
Happy Blogiversary to all my readers!! It wameandjeff.jpgs 7 years ago, on Nov 12, 2007, that I wrote my first post.

I miss my fri
end, Jeff - the inspiration to get it started. (See our picture on the right, at a triathlon we did together in Oct 2007). Seriously if it weren't for his encouragement and ideas, I would not have taken my career in this direction. Not to mention many other aspects of life that I learned the few years we were friends. (The list would include growing food, composting, not following the rules, finding the silver lining while being honest, loving your family and community, going with the flow, overcoming challenges... just to name a few.)

I'm also very grateful for all of you who read my posts, participate in the conversations on facebook and especially you survivors who teach me things daily. Here's to another 7 years, yah!

I had my Carbs webinar a little over a week ago. Thanks to all who attended! For those who missed it, here's the link to the recording.


Last post, I ventured into the heated topic of GMO foods: GMO Foods: Why You Should NOT Freak Out!

Here's part of my issue with the GMO discussion. For many, it's not a level headed, respectful discussion. It's like an angry moral debate. I don't think food should be argued about. And your choice on what to eat does not imply that you are a good or bad person. I do think we need to be reminded about that regularly!

I recently read a blog post linked by a fellow RD. I felt like the article illustrated exactly what goes through my head! Here's an excerpt:

"some people can be a little, shall we say, touchy about food. ... They don't believe that sugar, for example, is a food. Or beef. Or brown rice. Or bananas. Or whatever Mercola is fear-mongering about this week. They won't eat white rice because of arsenic, chicken because of antibiotics, yogurt because of saccharin, olive oil because of adulteration, sugar because of obesity, soy because of man-boobs, beef because of BSE, broth because of lead, kale because of goitrogens, beets because of GMOs, bread because of autoimmune disease, quinoa because of Bolivians. If there's anything that characterizes the modern sensibility about food, it's fear."

From "what I think you should eat," posted on I would highly recommend you read the whole thing! I think you'll find it liberating. :)

Actually, it doesn't take me much time at all working with people facing cancer to be reminded that life is too short to obsess about food!

GMO's Part 2

Back to the GMO's. Here are a few interesting articles I've read over the last week or so regarding GMO foods.

  • Something interesting happened with GMO's last week. Apparently Colorado and Oregon voters reject GMO labeling laws. It's the latest of several state-based GMO labeling ballot measures to fail. Read more here.
  • From Medline Plus: "Genetically engineered foods are generally regarded as safe. There has been no adequate testing, however, to ensure complete safety. There are no reports of illness or injury due to genetically engineered foods. Each new genetically engineered food will have to be judged individually." Read more here.
  • From the University of Utah: "It has been estimated that 70% of all processed foods in the United States contain at least one genetically modified ingredient--usually a product of soy plants." Read more here.
Potential Benefits:

Here is a short list of some of the potential benefits of GMO crops. It's not exhaustive, but gives you a bit of understanding for why we would want to consider using them. Much of the information came from a Harvard article you can find here.

  • If growing GM crops results in the reduced use of toxic chemicals, or a switch to chemicals of lower toxicity, that would be beneficial, given the potential role of some pesticides in causing human disease, especially among infants and children.
  • If significantly greater yields were achieved by using GM technologies, particularly in the developing world, where risk for crop failures because of extreme weather events secondary to climate change will be ever more likely in the coming century, the public health benefits would be enormous.
  • If the nutritional quality of foods could be improved, for example as has already been done with rice to relieve vitamin A deficiency (a condition that afflicts some 400 million people worldwide), great strides in relieving human suffering would be made. 
Potential Risks:

Of course, there are some risks. These need to be calculated and we also need to keep informed on whether the potential risks actual present in real harm. Here are a few things to think about.

From the University of Utah article I linked above:
  • Cross-breeding with wild populations. "For all of these examples, a primary concern is preventing genetically modified versions from mixing with the naturally existing populations of plants from which they're derived."
  • Toxicity or allergic reactions. "Many people suffer from allergies to various food items, including nuts, wheat, eggs, or dairy products. There is concern that the protein products of introduced genes may be toxic or allergenic to certain individuals."

From the Harvard Article I linked above:

  • "For one, there are the risks that could come from pharmaceutical production in food crop species. The so-called "pharma crops" are grown according to stringent protocols designed to prevent contamination of the food supply. ... corn that has been genetically engineered to produce drugs such as lactoferrin (an antimicrobial, iron-binding protein, present in high concentrations in human colostrum--the first breast milk secretions) is required by the USDA to be grown at least one mile away from other cornfields. After harvest, such "pharma" corn must be labeled and carefully tracked to avoid mixing it with corn destined for consumption by either humans or livestock. However, scores of recent examples of human error in dealing with GM crops suggest that contamination of food with "pharma crops" is a likely occurrence."
  • "There is also the possibility that one of the chemicals widely used in GM crops, glyphosate, and perhaps to an even greater extent, its commercial preparation Round-up, may act as an endocrine disruptor."

The Bottom Line:

As you can see, it's not a cut and dry issue, as much as many would want you to believe. You probably won't hear me talking a lot about this issue, at least until we have more conclusive information. That's because of this: I think there are more important choices that you can make that have a FAR BIGGER impact on your health. GMO vs. non-GMO foods is a small issue.

My bottom line is that we know for sure that eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and other plant foods helps to decrease risk for cancer and other diseases and promotes general well-being. That is what's most important. You don't need to stress out on a lot of the other issues. Yes - educated yourself if you want, but don't obsess. It's not helpful. And certainly don't make others feel badly about their choices!

Next time, we get to discover a lighter topic. My intern, now Registered Dietitian, Jessica took a visit to Bob's Red Mill Factory in Oregon over the summer. You'll get to see some photos and learn about their product along with Jessica's favorite products!

- Julie

January 2015

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