Written by marni

Restaurant Branding By Design


by Marni Andrews

When sisters-in-law Amreen and Seema Omar went from serving Indian street food at a Toronto farmers’ market to a 50-seat downtown restaurant, a trip to Mumbai with Toronto firm Jump Branding & Design helped inspire the decor for Bombay Street Food.

“The identity of the brand is no longer just the logo,” said Eric Boulden, president of Jump Branding. “The brand or the story is a better description of the experience projected to its guests. These stories do happen through signage, but can also be expressed through the way the bill is presented, the personality and tone of communication, the origins of the food, authenticity of the recipes or signature concoctions that make the space, brand and experience defensible.”

Another recent Jump Branding project is the flagship Basil Box location at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre in Toronto. The fast casual concept also derives inspiration from exotic street food — in this case, the markets of Southeast Asia.

After spending time in Thailand and Vietnam, Basil Box founder Peter Chiu wanted to adapt Asia’s healthy local food for a western palate by toning down the spice level. At the same time, Chiu wanted to retain the authentic ingredients of those cuisines.

Chiu said the design goal for Basil Box was to target urban professionals and millennials with a modern, clean interior that references traditional Southeast Asian materials such as basket weaves (which became a floor-to-ceiling wall feature) and bamboo.

The design also took into account the millennials’ affinity for technology with the addition of power outlets under the tables.

“We look to create social moments within a space, places the guest will naturally use to socialize their experience and share with their following,” said Boulden. “Restaurants are fast becoming the emotional connecting point for consumers.”

In the last decade, Boulden said menu expectations have shifted, driven by millennials’ desire for better and unique experiences.

“In the last 10 years, expectations of menu strategy have shifted from wrap it and bag it to chef-inspired, recipe-driven meals with an origin of ingredients story,” Boulden said. “On average this group is spending 23 per cent more on eating away from home, and they aren’t eating what their parents ate.”

Simon Shahin, founder and CEO of BUILD IT By Design, said today’s diners want to drool over more than the meal. They expect a restaurant’s decor to be appetizing as well.

“The most recent trend is clients looking for a way to incorporate a selfie wall or marketing area that customers will utilize for social media, specifically Instagram, which helps to brand the location,” said Solid Design & Build Inc. founder and design principal Ian Rydberg. “While social media is a great tool, it has also caused restaurant goers to have a rather limited attention span.”

Tech Talk

With technology changing at a rapid pace, Shahin said restaurants are revamping their interiors to incorporate convenient grab-and-go counters.

As well, interest in innovations such as a bakery oven that could be operated via a mobile phone could reveal a world of possibilities.

Technology is becoming more sophisticated and it’s being integrated seamlessly and sometimes invisibly into the customer experience, said Richard Dirstein, principal, executive vice-president, design and innovation, Shikatani Lacroix Design.

He mentioned tabletop digital menus, ordering tableside using a tablet, one-way digital signage, data-driven signage, interactive technologies such as touchscreens and projections, and immersive experiences using augmented reality and interactive projection mapping as examples.

“A lot of the newer technology can be integrated into a space without the need for much modification. However, technology must have a purpose. It’s important to not add digital for the sake of adding digital,” he explained.

Shikatani Lacroix recently designed a new 400-seat restaurant concept for Boston Pizza at Front and John streets in Toronto. With an immersive digital strategy, the prototype features multiple digital feature walls to create an “engaging Boston Pizza canvas,” said Dirstein.

Boston Pizza rendering

Helen Langford, Boston Pizza senior vice-president of foodservices and design, noted the new restaurant prototype features about 50 per cent more screens than the chain’s other locations. In addition, having specific screens dedicated to live feeds allows more personal interaction at the table, since guests are not checking their phones for that information.

There are also two touchscreens, one in the waiting area with a copy of the menu and one in the take-out/delivery area highlighting game-day specials. A state-of-the-art kitchen video system is also being tested.

Dirstein said that one of the challenges of the BP project was designing a space that could easily accommodate groups of all sizes. The solution was flexible restaurant seating with modular segments for scalability. And every seat in the house has a view of a digital screen.

Setting the mood 

Andrew Muller, business development, Louis Interiors Inc., said he’s seeing a trend of straight lines in furniture, especially with banquettes, which are now featuring built-in plugs. He also noted restaurants and designers are being bolder with colour and fabric choices.

“Restaurants want to stand out when their patrons post, tweet or snap photos to social media,” he said. “Guests today are tired of waiting and expect a waiting area that is comfortable and fun. The lounge seating needs to make a strong first impression and not turn off customers before they even try your food. Today’s customer puts an added emphasis on having the decor picture-ready.”

BUILD IT By Design recently worked with Paramount Fine Foods to build their Richmond and Spadina location in Toronto. Shahin said lighting and furniture play a large part in how a restaurant brand defines itself visually. This year, he is seeing restaurateurs move away from buying pieces off the shelf and toward more custom furniture, fixtures and lighting.

With the Paramount project, the design team used custom lighting to set a refined mood and custom wood tables, banquettes and chairs. Prior to installation, the entire restaurant was laid out in BUILD IT By Design’s facility as it would be in the final space so ownership could make adjustments before the restaurant was operational.

“It’s one thing to see a space in layout, but it’s another to be able to navigate it fully built out like customers and staff would,” explained Shahin.

Rydberg is seeing a lot of Art Deco trends in furniture. In lighting, he says the main trend is warm, rich brass.

“Our clients are all looking for that standout feature or element that will identify their brand as well as have a long-lasting effect on their customers,” Rydberg said.

Tammy Demaine, owner/partner, Bum Contract Furniture Ltd., said a patio with nice furniture will attract customers. “And a patio full of customers on a nice day is a bonus to the bottom line,” Demaine said.

Boulden said as the lines blur between quick service, fast casual and casual dining, lighting choices have shifted. Bright fluorescents have given way to the warm glow of Edison lamps in quick service restaurants and casual dining. LED lighting has provided the opportunity to control colour, temperature and lumens, while overall ambient light levels have lowered, coupled with carefully curated use of light that provides theatre within the space by utilizing light and shadow.

“Creative lighting has become an art in itself,” says Nipun Sharma, chief operating officer, Baton Rouge Steakhouse & Bar. “It follows through under the bar counter, on the floor, around the windows, on the walls and also from the increasingly popular open kitchen. A bright kitchen is increasingly on display front and centre in most modern restaurants today, even if the adjacent dining room is dark and quiet.”

Lighting in a restaurant can change everything, says Sharma, adding clever ways of engineering lighting and colours may influence ambience more than fancy decor.

Colour me rouge 

For Baton Rouge’s recent restaurant rejuvenation program in Oakville, Ont., there was a big challenge — how to attract a younger or newer customer base while not alienating the existing regular customers who contribute more than $100 million in sales to the 25-year-old brand.

“We had to carefully balance keeping all the good stuff that made our brand survive and thrive, while also making it current and vibrant,” explained Sharma.

To that end, Baton Rouge analyzed every detail with regards to restaurant design, including staff uniforms and menu covers. This included hiring Marie-Chantal Milette, designer and colour consultant at Kryptonie The Colour Agency.

Milette said research shows people make a subconscious judgement about a person, environment or product within 90 seconds and that between 62 per cent and 90 per cent of that assessment is based on colour alone. Other studies show that ambient lighting modifies the flavour of wine and our willingness to buy more.

“Everything that comes in contact with the customer has to convey a consistent theme of design and functionality that stays true to Baton Rouge’s history and brand promise,” said Milette, noting the new location features red, burgundy, cognac and copper colours.

Red, for example, is appetite arousing, while burgundy makes the customer see the brand as more refined. The cognac colour worked well with elevating the drink menu, while copper is currently trendy, she added.

The incorporation of lighting and colour was part of Baton Rouge’s rejuvenation of their Oakville restaurant, which was highly successful based on customer response, according to Sharma.

Dirstein noted good design is good for business.

“Eating at a restaurant is an investment in time. Restaurateurs are not only competing with other restaurants, they’re competing with anything that takes up an hour and a half of someone’s time,” he said. “Done right, design can help customers escape and immerse themselves in an experience. It’s all about the experience.”


Fruit d’Or: From Bog to Table


by Marni Andrews

Fruit d’Or, the world’s largest producer and processor of organic cranberries, has been successfully introducing their new retail dried fruit snack line called Patience Fruit & Co. since last Spring. The name, which was inspired by the extra time required to produce a quality product, has six SKU’s, three Whole & Soft (from 113 g to 142 g unit size, eight to a case) and three Classic (from 196 g to 283 g unit size, six to a case). Sweetened with either organic apple juice or a little sugar they contain no other ingredients aside from organic sunflower oil (less than 1%).

Patience is distributed through most major food retailers and natural food stores in Canada and is being introduced to the U.S. through nearly 600 supermarkets in the next two months. Shelf cases and display racks are available.

After being in the retail market for several years, Fruit d’Or decided to develop this side of the business as their client base expanded. The new business is completely different than their bulk business so needed separate expertise and a different business model, says Vicky Samson, Key Account Manager, Eastern Canada for Fruit d’Or.

Fruit d’Or is a leading supplier of cranberries and blueberries in bulk and has been a pioneer in organic cranberry farming since 2000. The company is located in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Quebec (pop. 700) which they call “a small corner of nowhere” where life is lived “at the rhythm of the cranberry.”

Without chemical fertilizer or pesticides, their berries grow more slowly and weeds are removed by hand. Their production process is unique to Fruit d’Or and they say only that it is both longer and slower than that used by conventional producers in order to end up with a bigger, juicier and tastier berry.

More than half of Fruit d’Or’s cranberry-producing areas, which are all local, are farms owned by shareholders of Fruit d’Or. The rest is from growers who are partners, confirmed Samson. The main growing challenges are insects and weed control but with all the growers concentrated in the same area they have developed strong expertise that enables them to produce higher yields than other organic fruits and without the problems of small fruits or rotting.

The better average yield we get from organic growers is at least 25% lower than conventional production, which is not bad, says Samson.  While yields vary greatly from one grower to another and one season to another, and depend also upon variety and the soil, typically Fruit d’Or’s yield is between 130 to 200 bbl/a compared to between 180 to 280 bbl/a in conventional. So their best organic growers are producing more than lower yielding conventional farms.

Another innovative Fruit d’Or product is their Whole Cranberry Powder, made 100% from their cranberries under the brand name Cran Naturelle for their Nutraceutical division. With high levels of proanthocyanidins (PACs) it is the purest, all natural, high quality, whole food cranberry powder on the market, according to Samson.

Since not all cranberry products on the market are crafted to Fruit d’Or’s standards, they recommend food & beverages or supplement buyers ask four questions before purchasing. Where are the cranberries from? Are they conventional or organic? What are the ingredient proportions? What food certifications does the producer have?

Even Fruit d’Or, with their constant emphasis on quality, continually works to improve their practices around sustainability. For example, they have broadened training for employees, ensure traceability of incoming produce and processed products, constantly improve recycling methods and are using a “closed circuit” culture whereby collected rainwater and melted snow are used to irrigate the fields.

The profile of the cranberry continues to rise in the natural foods world. Rich in flavonoids, phenolic compounds and antioxidants, its healing applications show no signs of slowing down. Research is even being done on the cranberry in relation to type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Canada is the second largest producer of cranberries in the world after the U.S. Other Fruit d’Or products are organic cranberry seed dry extract, organic cranberry seed oil and organic cranberry tea powder. They are sold in bulk only.

Fruit d’Or will be exhibiting next at BIOFACH 2016 from February 10 to 13 in Nuremberg, Germany followed by an active schedule including Natural Products Expo West in March and SIAL Canada in April.

SIAL Canada Hits New Heights


by Marni Andrews

SIAL Canada, to take place in Montreal April 13 to 15, is on pace to be the biggest ever with about 900 exhibitors from 50 countries, 240,000 square feet of space and 15,000+ visitors. Last year in Toronto there were 831 exhibitors from 45 countries.

Starting in 2010, the show has alternated between Toronto and Montreal and from 2010 to 2015 it grew by 65%. The decision to be in Toronto was to redevelop the brand outside of Quebec. While the two locations generally drew from either Ontario/rest of Canada or just Quebec respectively, this year exhibitors from Ontario are up by 30% and up by 58% from the rest of Canada.

Organic products continue to grow with approximately 150 companies expected this year compared to 130 last year and more exhibitors of ethnic foods as well.

“Organic foods and products are among the top ten reasons why visitors come to SIAL Canada,” says Marie-Christine Siviere, Communications Officer for the event.

SIAL Canada is a sister fair of SIAL in Paris, the second largest international food fair. The global focus is reflected in the exhibitors. The Toronto show has more Asian-focused exhibitors while the Montreal edition offers more Latin and North African exhibitors, which reflect the populations in each province.

The U.S. will be the featured Country of the Year while Spain, Hungary and Korea are taking part for the first time. There is a strong Latin American presence with companies from Argentina, El Salvador, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia represented.

Four buyers programs are organized for this year’s show:

  • The U.S. buyers program (launched in 2015)
  • A B2B program with UGI, one of the main buyers’ groups in Canada
  • A B2B program for ethnic buyers
  • An international buyers’ program for Canadian food processors

The growing sectors at SIAL Canada 2016 are:

  • Organic foods and supplements
  • Logistics and supply chain
  • Foodservice
  • Ethnic foods
  • Cheese (new sector)

“The growth we are experiencing is exceptional this year (+26%),” says Siviere. “The show is strong in all spheres: international (+58%), Quebec (+21%), Ontario & rest of Canada, cheese, foodservice, equipment, supply chain, etc. The last time we had this kind of growth (+35%) was in 2011 after the launch of our show in Ontario.”

SIAL Canada plans to expand the show by 10,000 square feet next year.

Nova Scotia Organics is #1


by Marni Andrews

Nova Scotia Organics, a Canadian organic herbal products company based in Halifax, has accomplished something remarkable. With their recent USDA organic certification for the entire product line, they now have the only full line of all USDA-certified organic vitamins, minerals and herbals on the Canadian market, with about 40 SKUS. The company, formally known as Naturally Nova Scotia, has rebranded itself to reflect this certification.

Founder Nancy Smithers says she changed the company name because “the word ‘naturally’ does not say anything, but ‘organics’ means quality and no chemicals.” She says it feels good to move from being a firm with products made with organic ingredients to one with all products 100% certified organic.

Smithers has been a pioneer in the field of all natural (and now certified organic) supplements for more than 20 years. As with many entrepreneurs, she entered her field in an unexpected way. In 1993, her sister, a physiotherapist, asked her for a supply of natural healing remedies for her practice. Smithers, who had grown up immersed in nature, researched local plants.

With the help of a herbalist, she learned what could be produced locally. Smithers started with tinctures of typical medicinal herbs such as borage, dandelion root, echinacea, red clover, heal-all, calendula and chamomile to target colds, female issues, immunity, allergies, pains, and coughs. “I incorporated in the first year of operation because I knew I would sell the tinctures,” she says.

While there were no major obstacles because she started small by wild crafting herbs, she found that preparing herbs in her kitchen was a problem. She needed a larger facility and purchased a 250-acre property she calls “the farm” five minutes from her house. She began growing her herbs there and followed organic farming practices, without synthetic herbicides and fertilizers.

The early years were full of lessons learned, starting with the basics of identifying different herbs as seedlings. Smithers grew seedlings in the greenhouses and transplanted them in the summer. She survived by hiring summer students.

And then came the selling. “This was a challenge because I was very nervous about going into stores and selling my products even though I realized they were wonderful. People asked me questions I was not expecting,” says Smithers, who adds that the first year was tough trying to explain to people why they should choose her products rather than others.

Her advice to anyone considering the same path is to plan carefully, have a vision and be realistic about where you are going. And don’t grow too fast too soon.

“Don’t be afraid, but be careful,” she cautions. It is a complex industry “that big pharma has gotten into, and they have a lot of money. I could have done something easier in life, but I love what I do. It is not a business for the faint of heart!”

Her other early lessons were economic. With no government funding available, Smithers was facing a considerable investment in machinery. “When I first started there was not much equipment around for my industry. My herb press came from the U.S., and my first freeze dryer from the U.K. My first labeling machine came from Canada and my first encapsulating machine from India,” she explains.

The purchase of the freeze dryer came when she realized after several years of producing tinctures that her market was looking for a pill format. And then came the challenge of tableting.

“Tableting certified organic ingredients is not easy because you can’t use flow agents, silicon dioxide, magnesium stearate, all the things that non-organic people use to keep tablets together,” says Smithers. “I had to hire a tableting expert to show us how to get the tablets to stick together. It is always a learning curve when you are in an industry like this!”

Smithers has promoted her products through the annual Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) shows in Toronto and Vancouver and has advertised in magazines. She got a distributor in Canada and made the bold move to expand into Japan in 1999 because the Canadian market was small and she had to spend a lot of money on research.

She also knew she wasn’t yet ready for the U.S. market. “Certified organic was not mainstream, and (U.S) consumers did not understand its importance. The Japanese appreciate organic products.” Opening a firm in Japan is no different than opening up somewhere else,” says Smithers. “The thing I had to learn was the culture. I have been in the Japanese market for 16 years, so I am accepted.”

Today, Smithers sells three-quarters of her products outside Canada. The primary export markets for Nova Scotia Organics are the U.S. (which she entered last year and will be focusing on this year), Japan and the European Union. In the next five years, she hopes to expand quickly in the U.S. market.

Her best sellers are Nova Greens in Canada, Berry Beauty products in Japan and certified organic multivitamins in the U.S. She employs between 10 and 20 people in Nova Scotia, including her son.

Smithers is very excited to change her encapsulated line to a certified organic capsule, a breakthrough for the market. “There is no other website with this kind of comprehensive line of only USDA-certified organic supplements,” she says. “Many people sell one or two certified organic products but not everything. I never have and never will produce anything that is not organic certified.”

Nova Scotia Organics will be exhibiting this season at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, March 10-13.

Superfoods to Help You Look 10 Years Younger

by Marni Andrews

There may be no other period in our history that has been so focused on analyzing what we eat. And yet, the American population today is probably more overweight and less healthy than it has ever been. One way to alleviate these problems and return to a healthier way of life is to harness the power of superfoods.

Superfoods are generally foods in their natural, unprocessed state. Superfoods are full of powerful antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients that are good for the brain, digestive health, and various other anti-aging health benefits. Even if you are not following a weight loss diet plan, incorporating these superfoods into your diet is a quick, painless, and delicious way to start achieving your anti-aging nutrition and health goals.

Apples: Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) measured the antioxidant concentration in more than 100 foods, and ranked Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples as number 12 and 13 on that list. Antioxidants can help prevent and even repair oxidation damage that happens as a result of aging. Medium-sized apples also contain about 4 g of fiber. Plus, researchers at Cornell University identified one dozen compounds in the apple peel that either inhibit or kill liver, colon, and breast cancer cells.

Beans: When it comes to superfoods, beans are at the top of the list. In the same USDA antioxidant study, the number one food on their list was dried, small red beans. Dried red kidney beans were third, while pinto beans were fourth on the list. Low in fat, packed with protein, and full of fiber, these kinds of superfoods also have a low glycemic index, meaning they are digested slowly to help keep blood glucose levels stable.

Broccoli: Broccoli is part of the superfoods group because it’s a superstar vegetable. In 1992, Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered a compound in broccoli (glucoraphanin) that prevented the development of tumors in the studied group by up to 60%. It also reduced the size of existing tumors by 75%. Steaming broccoli, rather than boiling, preserves most of the nutrients. But like many other superfoods, broccoli is best when it’s eaten raw, because it retains all of its nutrients.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon may seem like just a spice but it’s an important member of the superfoods group. Extracts from cinnamon bark have long been used in traditional medicines around the world. Several laboratory studies have demonstrated cinnamon’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties.

Pumpkin: Very high in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin is part of the superfoods group because it’s full of disease-fighting vitamins. Chief among them is carotenoids, the fat-soluble plant compounds that have been shown to decrease gastric, breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, as shown by a Japanese study. Pumpkin seeds are a nutritional powerhouse that helps treat symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

Green tea: Inexpensive, calorie-free, and readily available—it’s the perfect find when it comes to superfoods. Green tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins that have been shown to slow the growth of cancer cells. Other studies have shown promise in green tea’s ability to lower cholesterol, burn fat, and ward off dementia. No list of superfoods is complete without green tea.

Sources:“An Apple Peel A Day Might Keep Cancer At Bay,” Science Daily web site;, last accessed May 28, 2013“Antioxidants,” Clemson University web site;‌nutrition/nutrition/dietary_guide/hgic4064.html, last accessed May 28, 2013

Brown, A.L., et al., “Health effects of green tea catechins in overweight and obese men: a randomised controlled cross-over trial,” British Journal of Nutrition 2011; 106: 1880-1889; doi: 10.1017/S0007114511002376.

Huang, X.E., et al., “Comparison of Lifestyle Risk Factors by Family History for Gastric, Breast, Lung and Colorectal Cancer,” Asian Pacific Organization for Cancer Prevention 2004; 5: 419-427.

What to Expect From Menopause

by Marni Andrews

There are a record number of North American women now entering a new period of their lives, menopause, which marks the official end of their reproductive period. Women are born with a finite number of eggs in their ovaries—by the time they reach their 50s, the number of fertile eggs has dropped significantly. When the remaining eggs are released, or hormones in the body can no longer stimulate their release, the body enters menopause. This generally happens between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being around 51.

When a healthy, middle-aged woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period, she is usually considered to be approaching menopause. There are several different stages that you need to know about. Perimenopause is the transition period into menopause, starting anywhere from two to 10 years before your last period. At this time, the ovaries start producing less estrogen. Postmenopause refers to the years after menopause, when your estrogen levels are lowest.

Some of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause may include hot flashes, irregular or skipped periods, mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, depression, irritability, headaches, changes in libido, anxiety, weight gain, mental confusion and difficulty concentrating, night sweats, reduced bladder control, and hair loss or thinning. Many women going through menopause are on the hunt for the best solutions to these side effects. Some of the most common questions that usually come up during this period are about how to deal with hot flashes, mood swings, hormones and aging, and about skin care for menopause.

Menopause symptoms will be different for every woman. Interestingly, symptoms can also sometimes vary by culture. Japanese women, for example, report fewer hot flashes, among other symptoms; Thai women tend to have more headaches; Scottish women report fewer severe symptoms; Greek women have a higher rate of hot flashes; and Mayan women report few or no symptoms at all. This could be related to a variety of different factors, including diet, lifestyle, and environment.

If you’re nearing menopause, you may experience some, or perhaps none, of the symptoms. But if you do, here’s how you can manage them.

Hot flashes and night sweats:

  • Avoid triggers such as caffeine, sugar, spicy food, acidic foods, alcohol, tobacco, hot tubs and saunas, aerobic exercise, stress, and anger.
  • Keep a glass of water by your bedside. Throw in a couple of ice cubes to keep it cold through the night.
  • For immediate cooling relief, keep a bucket of ice near your bed with a face towel on top.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.
  • Practice rhythmic breathing and use it when hot flashes strike.

Menopause-related mood swings, depression, and stress management:

  • Regular sessions of exercise or yoga can get rid of stress and help you get a better night’s sleep.
  • Massages, meditation, and deep breathing are also effective for ongoing stress. Talk about your concerns with friends, especially women who are going through menopause too. It’s a great way to release tension and learn about how they’re managing their menopause symptoms.


  • Herbal supplements, such as valerian and chamomile, have been shown to help with menopause-related insomnia.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and sleep with a light sheet. Keep extra blankets nearby in case you start to feel chilly.

Menopause and anti-aging skin care:

  • Changing hormone levels during menopause can completely alter the physiology of skin—it can become oilier than usual, or drier than usual. So, the skin care products you were using before may not be as effective anymore—it’s important to use the right products for your new skin type.
  • For oily skin, use a gentle cleanser. Avoid the urge to use a harsh exfoliant.
  • For dry skin, avoid long showers or baths in scorching hot water, which will make it worse. Use a hydrating moisturizer while skin is damp and more absorbent.


“Menopause,” Canadian Women’s Health Network web site;‌faq/menopause, last accessed June 6, 2013.

8 Ways to Get Rid of Wrinkles Without Going Under the Knife

by Marni Andrews

Gorgeous, glowing skin is a great beauty asset, no matter how old you are. Skin is the body’s largest organ, so it makes sense to take good care of it, as you would any other part of your body.

It’s never too late to start incorporating good anti-aging skin care habits. Even if you already have some fine lines and wrinkles, there is no reason why you need to accumulate any more—with the right technique, you can prevent new wrinkles from surfacing, and can even improve wrinkles that have already started appearing. Getting rid of wrinkles is as simple as finding the right anti-aging skin care regime that you can do at home, and making small lifestyle changes to improve your skin’s health. Incorporate these simple tips to banish wrinkles and look younger.

  • First of all, to fight wrinkles naturally you need to get very serious about sun protection. Sun damaged skin may be common, but it’s never attractive. Get into the habit of applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (higher if you are fair skinned) half an hour before you go outside. Don’t forget hands and exposed skin on the chest or neck area. Try to avoid being in direct sunlight for prolonged periods, especially when the rays are strongest (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).
  • If you smoke, stop—it’s the best thing you can do to fight wrinkles naturally. In addition to too much sun, smoking is one of the most easily avoidable habits when it comes to anti-aging skin care and overall health. Smokers have more wrinkles and sagging skin than non-smokers, in addition to other health problems. Smoking has actually been shown to make skin look much older than it really is.
  • The next step is to eliminate as much stress as possible from your daily life. It is proven that being under stress can make you look as much as six years older. Studies have shown that high-stress levels adversely affect the skin’s ability to function the way it’s supposed to, which can lead to more wrinkles. Learn to breathe deeply and slowly. Not only does this help alleviate stress, but it delivers much needed energizing oxygen to your entire body.
  • Drink lots of water and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which have high water content. Water hydrates the skin from the inside out, and helps it look plumper. Eat at least one cup of leafy greens daily to get the most skin care value.
  • Exercise regularly. On top of helping with weight control and stress relief, it also boosts white blood cell activity, and improves your mood and circulation, which helps deliver nutrients to your cells. Regular sweating helps detoxify the skin, and healthier skin is less prone to wrinkles.
  • Get lots of sleep. Your skin restores its natural balance while you snooze, which has a dramatic effect on your skin’s appearance. Lack of sleep increases stress levels, as well as the release of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol in the system can break down collagen in the skin—less collagen leads to more wrinkles.
  • Maintain moderate caffeine and alcohol intake. Too much coffee, tea, and alcohol are dehydrating for the skin. Their effects need to be offset by additional water intake to keep the skin looking healthy, supple, and free of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Remove all makeup before going to bed to allow your skin to breathe, and to keep the pores clean. This tip will be on every anti-aging skin care list because it’s one of the best ways to avoid wrinkles and make skin look younger.


Cox, L., “10 tips for an awesome complexion, Best Health web site;‌‌look-great/skin/10-tips-for-an-awesome-complexion, last accessed June 6, 2013.

Drosu, A., “For healthy skin, get some sleep,” Los Angeles Times web site;, last accessed June 6, 2013.

Gross, D., Your Future Face, (New York: Penguin Group, 2005).

Jimenez, A., “7 Habits of Perfect-Skinned People,” Total Beauty web site;‌content/gallery/habits-perfect-skin-people/p65852/page2, last accessed June 6, 2013.

4 Ways to Treat Pain Naturally

( article)
by Marni Andrews

Figuring out how to treat pain naturally may be somewhat new for scientists, but the method dates back thousands of years.

The first synthetic antibiotic drug, Prontosil, became available commercially in 1935, although the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Central American peoples all had the knowledge of using molds to treat infected wounds—their traditional means of how to treat pain naturally.

The first Aspirin, made from salicin in willow bark, was first bottled as a powder in 1899, but Hippocrates in ancient Greece is said to have known all about how to treat pain naturally with powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree.

While Prontosil and Advil both significantly impacted the management of pain and infection in the 20th century and onwards, it’s clear that there has been a long history of how to treat pain naturally using all-natural ingredients.

The body actually has its own natural pain reliever—chemicals called endorphins—that are produced in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. When the body is in pain, endorphins are released to diminish the perception of that pain, and to act as sedatives. Endorphins also play an active role in stress management, but the body cannot get addicted or dependent on them the way it can with drugs like morphine.

When talking about how to treat pain naturally, endorphins are a key component. You can encourage the release of more pain-relieving endorphins by doing physical activity that gets your blood pumping. “Runners high” isn’t just a myth—it can actually make you feel better physically and emotionally, the perfect answer to how to treat pain naturally.

There are also certain ingredients that work well in terms of how to treat pain naturally. Here are four natural pain remedies:

Capsaicin: This is what makes hot peppers spicy. Capsaicin is the answer for how to treat pain naturally because it desensitizes the intensity of pain signals. It is available as a powder, dietary supplement, and topical cream. Capsaicin provides moderate relief for cluster headaches, joint pain, skin conditions, and nervous system conditions, such as shingles. One study found topical capsaicin produced a 50% reduction in pain. Another study showed that neuropathy patients who used a high concentration (eight percent) patch once for 60 minutes experienced effective pain relief for up to 12 weeks, proving that capsaicin can be an effective solution for how to treat pain naturally.

Vitamin D: Every tissue and cell in our body has a receptor for vitamin D and a study of 22 clinical investigations showed that those with chronic back pain almost always had insufficient vitamin D levels. Another study at the University of Minnesota found that 93% of those with non-specific, unexplained pain were deficient in vitamin D. Clearly, increasing the body’s level of vitamin D is essential when discussing how to treat pain naturally.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Glucosamine is naturally present in shellfish and animal bones. Chondroitin is present in shark and bovine cartilage. They are both part of normal human connective tissues. Taken alone or together for mild to moderate osteoarthritis, they can offer pain relief equivalent to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), making them an ideal alternative for how to treat pain naturally.

Turmeric: A component of curry powder, turmeric contains curcumin, which has traditionally been used for pain and wound healing. It eases inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. When looking for how to treat pain naturally with turmeric, try mixing the powdered spice with warm water or milk—it doesn’t taste the best but it works. You can also find it as a tablet supplement.

Whether you are facing cancer or heart disease, or dealing with depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis-induced joint pain, having the knowledge of how to treat pain naturally is one of the most valuable things you can possess. While prescription drugs are proven to work, in non-life threatening circumstances, going natural for pain relief can be just as effective.


Anand, P., et al., “Topical capsaicin for pain management: therapeutic potential and mechanisms of action of the new high-concentration capsaicin 8% patch,” British Journal of Anaesthesia 2011; 107: 490-502; doi: 10.1093/bja/aer260.Bright, J.J., “Curcumin and autoimmune disease,” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 2007; 595: 425-451.

Leavitt, S.B., “Vitamin D – A Neglected ‘Analgesic’ for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain,” Pain Treatment Topics web site;, last accessed June 4, 2013.

Mason, L. et al., “Systematic review of topical capsaicin for the treatment of chronic pain,” BMJ 2004; 328; doi: 10.1136/bmj.38042.506748.EE.

Plotnikoff, G.A., et al., “Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, non-specific musculoskeletal pain,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2003; 78: 1463-1470.

The Easiest Way to Get Fit Without the Gym

( article)
by Marni Andrews

There are many advantages to working out at home, two of the most obvious being not having to commute to the gym and saving on expensive membership fees. At-home fitness also means you skip the crowd that’s usually at the gym during peak hours—busy machines, limited locker space, and lack of privacy can turn off even the most committed exercisers. An at-home fitness plan can solve all of these problems.

At-home fitness can be useful for other reasons too, such as exercising with an injury or managing joint pain. In these circumstances, individuals who work out at home can focus on going at a pace that is comfortable for them instead of worrying about tying up communal machines for too long. Plus, the commute-free benefit of at-home fitness is even more valuable. Also, if you are trying to get fit at forty or fifty, and it’s been a while since you’ve done strenuous physical activity, it may be comforting to know that no one will be watching as you take your big step—albeit a slow one—toward healthier living.

Another advantage of at-home fitness is that you don’t need expensive, full-size equipment—using free weights can be just as effective, and they’re fairly affordable. The results of a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning showed that when women lifted weights as part of an hour-long strength-training workout, they burned more calories afterward than if they had skipped the weights. Researchers have also found that weight lifting works to fight intra-abdominal fat—it’s actually been shown to work better than doing just cardio.

If you build your at-home fitness routine around doing a group of exercises as a circuit—doing various exercises in a series with little rest in between—it can be as effective as working out on a machine. For the best results, you want to mix up your at-home fitness routine.

Your cardio workout can also be easily covered in your at-home fitness plan, again without any machines. No equipment is required to go for a brisk walk or jog around your neighborhood. Besides, fitness experts believe that it’s actually better for you to run outside versus on a treadmill because the uneven surface of the pavement forces you to use other muscles in your body that you otherwise wouldn’t engage when using a treadmill.

If you’re planning to take up at-home fitness, here are some tips to keep in mind to get the most out of your workout:

  • When you work out at home, it’s much easier to slack off. Choose a regular time and stick to your schedule to make sure it becomes a force of habit.
  • Pick something that will remind you of your at-home fitness routine, like a yoga mat or workout gear, and place it in plain sight as a reminder.
  • If you’re trying to exercise for weight loss, keep a photo of you at your heaviest weight somewhere conspicuous so that you’re constantly reminded of what can happen if you don’t stick to your at-home fitness plan.
  • At-home fitness doesn’t mean you need to stay home. Take it outside for a brisk walk, run, or bike ride. Head to the park and use a tree for standing push-ups, and a park bench for tricep dips.
  • Amp up your at-home fitness routine by fitting in workout movements throughout the day. While brushing your teeth, stand against the wall and slide down till you reach a seated position. Hold the squat till you finish brushing your teeth. While watching TV, try holding a plank position for increasingly longer periods.
  • If you’re having trouble sticking to your at-home fitness plan, tell yourself you just have to get through 10 minutes at first. Once you get used to it, increase the time by a few minutes each week.

One of the biggest obstacles to guard against with at-home fitness is lack of motivation. Because you’re not going to an actual gym, it’s easy to convince yourself that your workout isn’t as important. When you work out at home, treat it as seriously as you would a trip to the gym, and it won’t be long before you start noticing results.


Aaronson, L., “The Best Strength Training for Women,” Women’s Health Magazine web site;, last accessed June 19, 2013.

Andersen, C., “8 Reasons Why You Should Lift Heavier Weights,” Shape Magazine web site;, last accessed July 19, 2013.

The 7 Best Foods to Prevent Memory Loss, Alzheimer’s, and Dementia

( article)
by Marni Andrews

An estimated five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia, according to 2013 statistics. One in every three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia in 2013. These are startling numbers.

While there are still many questions surrounding the disease, including clear details on causes and prevention—or even what Alzheimer’s is in some cases—there is some general consensus on foods that seem to help prevent memory loss or assist with maintaining a sharper memory.

Blueberries: Studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries improved the learning and muscular function of aging rats. They also appear to protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals, which contributes to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, compounds that have great antioxidant properties. In one study, scientists used mice that were genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and treated them with flavonoids. The results showed a reduced amount of harmful amyloid-beta brain deposits that are commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients.

Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds contain high volumes of vitamin E. In a study involving 6,000 participants from Chicago, those who consumed the most foods with vitamin E had a 67% lower risk of Alzheimer’s, compared to those who consumed the least amount of vitamin E from foods. As an antioxidant, vitamin E can combat the brain oxidation that causes mental deterioration, and subsequent memory loss.

Fish: The same Chicago study showed that those who ate fish at least once a week were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who rarely or never ate fish. Fatty fish, such as salmon and herring, have especially high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Whole Grains: A diet that is rich in whole grains can help lower your level of “bad” cholesterol, thereby reducing plaque build-up in the brain and enhancing blood flow to the body. In addition, whole grains are also good sources of vitamin E, mentioned earlier.

Beets: A study by scientists at Wake Forest University showed that when nitrates in beets are converted to nitric oxide in the body, they enhance blood flow, which can help brain health and prevent memory loss. The best way to consume this vegetable is freshly juiced or raw, as cooking it will deteriorate some of its nitrate value.

Eggs: Egg yolks contain choline, an essential nutrient that is a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which has an important role to play in memory. Alzheimer’s has been associated with acetylcholine deficiencies. Egg yolks also contain other healthy nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acid, folate, vitamin B12 and selenium. All of these are considered to be helpful in staving off Alzheimer’s.

While Alzheimer’s research is making continual advances, there are still questions around causes and treatments. Eating a healthy diet that includes these foods can be a strong preventative step.


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Terry, A.V., et al., “The cholinergic hypothesis of age and Alzheimer’s disease-related cognitive deficits: recent challenges and their implications for novel drug development,” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 2003; 306: 821-827.