December Newsletter: Quality Cholesterol, Films, Books and Recipes to Enjoy for the Holidays

Can you believe we’re coming to the end of 2023!

Have you reached all your goals for the year or already filling out your list for 2024?

I find myself reflecting on what I did this past year. My memory meshes many things together but I can distinguish some significant highlights that moved me along.

Besides my travel experience to Asia this past fall, I was glad to share with you the teachings of somatic movement, qigong, meditation, and continued nutrition content.

Thank you for all your support and following me along my journey for introducing more healing methods to improve your health.

A holistic approach to good health includes nutrition, mindful awareness and movement practices and are at the core of sustaining a functional body and mind! Bringing this triad of care into your sphere of knowledge, will creäte a deeper presence with yourself and with the people in your world!

In this December newsletter:

  • Article: Five Ways to Improve Quality Cholesterol HDL levels
  • Books to read: Outlive: The Science of Art and Longevity by Peter Attia, MD and The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride.
  • Films this past year, I really enjoyed the documentary, The Deepest Breath and the film Flora and Son.
  • Recipe: A versatile holiday recipe Moroccan Aubergine and Chick Pea Stew with Almonds and Pomegranate On Millet that are good for quality HDL and blood sugar levels.
  • Weekly Events and Programs
  • Programs for 2024

As a thank you for this past year, I am offering a free cooking class with a short mindful eating segment on Facebook Live. We will make gingerbread treats on Thursday, December 21 at 12:00 noon. If you are not on Facebook, I can set it up on zoom too.

Article: Five Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Cholesterol HDL levels

Lately, I’ve been hearing too many people talk about their cholesterol levels and statin medications and it’s astonishingly coming from younger people in their 20’s and 30’s. Traditionally, an older person’s problem, high or too low cholesterol effects all ages.

 There are many assumptions about cholesterol, how it’s diagnosed, prescribing statins and taking them for the rest of your life.  It’s a reference point to measure where heart disease begins.

Cholesterol plays an important role in the body.

  • Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that is essential for the proper functioning of the body.
  • It plays a crucial role in building cell membranes
  • Producing hormones (including sex hormones)
  • Aiding in the digestion of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K.
  • Our body manufactures cholesterol, and we also get it from food. 
  • Cholesterol is categorized into two main types: low-density lipoprotein LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL Cholesterol (Low Density Lipoproteins are often referred to as “bad cholesterol” LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. However, if too much is delivered, it can build up plague on the walls of the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart disease.

HDL Cholesterol (high Density Lipoproteins) known as the “good cholesterol” HDI carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it is either broken down or passed out of the body as a waste product. Higher levels of HDL are associated with lower risk of heart disease.

Both fats (lipoproteins are fats) effect how the body breaks down and eliminate fats. In a recent study of HDL cholesterol’s role in supporting heart health, researchers found that it may be about quality over quantity. That is, instead of having more HDL, the quality of HDL’s function in picking up and transporting excess cholesterol from the body, may be more important for supporting cardiovascular health.

Genetics also plays a factor and varies from environmental, lifestyle and DNA expression.  

The link between cholesterol and heart disease was first established from a research study in the 1940’s’ called the Framingham Heart Study in the US lead by Dr. Ancel Keys. He founded a correlation between elevated blood cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease. In the 1970’s, cholesterol was later confirmed to contribute to heart disease. Some circles believe that from the increased deaths from heart disease in North America, the only tangible measurement was cholesterol but not necessarily an indicator. However, heart disease was not an endemic disease in other countries such as Asia or parts of Europe since they ate a very different diet.

Cholesterol builds the cell membranes which are surrounded by fat in the body. When the cell wall is compromised it can damage the mitochondria which holds ATP, the energy centres of the body. Therefore, saturated, processed fats and high LDL cholesterol has multiple influences on other illnesses than heart disease including Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, dementia, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, heart disease and many more. 

Over the years, guidelines for cholesterol levels have been developed, emphasizing the importance of managing LDL and increasing HDL levels to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events.

Following the quality versus quantity theory of HDL, here are five ways to improve quality HDL levels into your diet and lifestyle:

  1. Healthy fats are a necessity in your diet. From the past decades of “no fat” (especially in diet culture) and the production of 0% fat in foods today, a good balance of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) with less consumption of Omega 6 fats (found in many foods and calories from sugar, starches and concentrated foods) there are many foods to mix up with EFA’s which include avocados, cold fresh water fish, (mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout,), nuts and seeds and seed and nut oils, coconut, coconut oil, coconut butter, (also low glycemic). You can read more about fats in a past blog post The Power of Fats. Reducing consumption of certain saturated and processed types of fats (trans fats) will raise LDL cholesterol. I.e. exception is coconut oil (in some circles of thought it is controversial).
  2. Adding more vegetables and fruits into your meals and mix it up with a rainbow of colours which these foods contain natural antioxidants that eliminate free radical/toxins accumulated in the body. Whole grains (complex carbs) and quality proteins (a mix of plant and animal) are also essential.
  3. Regular hydration keeps the cells fluid, joints supple and blood circulating through the body. It’s recommended drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. Not soda water or all the vitamin altered waters, regular filtered and good sources of water, daily.
  4. Regular physical activity highlights the dual benefits of movement and exercise for reducing stress and sustaining quality cholesterol levels. A mix of cardio, strength training and stretching for 150 hours per week, can include brisk walking, biking jogging, swimming, and cycling. and movement activities such as yoga, tai chi, qigong and somatic movement too.
  5. There is a strong link between stress and raised cholesterol levels. Adding a mindful awareness practice into your daily life will improve the quality to your lifestyle and HDL levels for reducing stress.

Additionally, eliminating smoking and excessive alcohol consumption will improve high LDL levels. A moderate intake (two glasses/week) of red wine has been associated with helping HDL levels (a school of thought).

Medications have been helpful for raising HDL levels such as statins and there are new ones on the market today. However, staying on statins for the rest of your life without modifying your lifestyle can be detrimental to your health in the long run.

By incorporating these strategies into your lifestyle, you can take proactive steps to improve your HDL cholesterol levels and overall heart health. Mix up the variety of vegetable’s and fruits, mix up movement and exercise practices and ways that you explore relaxation and stress relief too. Always consult a healthcare professional for personalized advise and guidance. Top of Form

Books and Films to Enjoy This Holiday Season:

If you like to read books about current trends in medicine and lifestyle, I recommend Outlive: The Science of Art and Longevity by Dr. Petter Attia. It’s dense information and a holistic view towards maintain better health for longevity. I’ve been listening to it as an audiobook.

Peter Attia is an American physician and was written with the journalist Bill Gifford it focuses on how we need to maximize both chronological lifespan (age) and healthspan (quality of life), which represent the two key components of longevity. He draws from a wide body of science, anecdotes, and personal stories, to explain how the current modern medicine approach (Medicine 2.0), has failed people and he correlates poor metabolic health is the preamble to Horsemen diseases, (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases). Attia also emphasizes that these diseases do not just appear overnight. Instead, they slowly develop in the body, often for decades. The current medical approach is ill-equipped to help us achieve our longevity objectives. Instead, he argues that people need to take control of all aspects of their health to craft their own strategy that works for them based on science. He believes only a new way of thinking and strategy about medicine which he calls Medicine 3.0 will achieve their desire for better health whether its longevity or less disease combining the mix of healthy food, exercise, sleep, emotional well-being to reduce stress Only then will people be able to achieve their longevity goals. While he does not tell people what to do, he provides key scientific knowledge and tools that people can use to create their own longevity playbook.

Another book I just read in my bookclub is a novel by the award winning writer James McBride. You may have read his book The Colour of Water years ago, This book The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store published in 2023 draws on themes of racial inequality and justice from the 1930’s to 1070’s..

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store is an adult historical fiction/mystery novel. In 1972, a skeleton found in an old well unravels the hidden secrets of Chicken Hill, a Pennsylvania neighborhood where Jewish and Black communities coexist amidst racial tensions. Chona Ludlow is the Jewish owner of the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, which shapes the destinies of various characters over the decades. The novel explores themes of community, survival, and justice. I loved it, there are many layers to the story. An enjoyable quick read to snuggle up in a blanket and get absorbed in.

Films to Watch:

Today, we have the ease of streaming many films and documentaries. There were a few that stood out for me this year: The Deepest Breath (Netflix) based on true events about Alessia Zecchini, an Italian free diver determined to break the world record, and Stephen Keenan an expert safety diver. This film follows their paths to meet at the pinnacle of the free diving world, (which I never knew was a sport), and documents the rewards and risks of chasing a dream through ocean depths. Roger Ebert writes,  “It takes a certain kind of person to be a free diver. All need not apply. Not everyone wants to plunge into the blackness of the ocean without oxygen, pushing the limits of the human body, swimming what is essentially the height of the Statue of Liberty twice, once down, once back up”.

This film is visually beautiful with scenes of the ocean underwater world. It gives an awe-inspiring and terrifying idea of what these divers experience and devotionally crave. The pursuit is psychological as much as it is physical. Former world champion free diver Natalia Molchanova said in an interview, “Mental relaxation is the foundation of free diving.” The sport requires you to empty yourself of everything except in-the-moment consciousness. Anything else takes too much energy.

An interesting exploration into the experience of inner peace and meditation.

Another sweet film is Flora and Son (Apple TV). A brash young woman raising her teenage age son find a new beginning sharing their creative lyrics and love of music in this heart felt film. From the director and Son or of Once, a wonderful film about two street performers in Ireland. In finding music, Flora finds her voice, a kindred spirit in her teacher, and a way to connect with her surly son.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Moroccan Aubergine & Chickpea Stew with Millet and Mixed Greens  
Serves 4 

I just made this dish for a family Hanukah party and it was a hit! I enjoy making this recipe in the winter time, it’s rich and creamy with a variety of vegetables, dried fruits and stocks. I’ve made it different ways over the years mixing up the vegetables, sauces, or proteins. You can make it with crushed tomatoes with a vegetable stock or with coconut milk for a creamier consistency.

Coconut milk is a popular ingredient in many cuisines and is known for its rich, creamy texture and distinct flavor. While coconut milk contains saturated fats, which were traditionally associated with negative effects on cholesterol levels, certain components in coconut products, particularly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs which are different from the long-chain fatty acids found in many animal fats. MCTs in coconut milk are thought to be metabolized differently than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), potentially leading to different effects on cholesterol levels.

I find this dish a fulfilling comfort food and a quality vegan or vegetarian meal. Meat can be added if desired.

Get the recipe here

Weekly Events and Programs

Practice Together on Tuesdays at 6 pm,  Wake-Up Wednesdays at 10:30 am and Thursdays at 9am

Join us as we Practice Together in gentle movement and mediation. We practice qigong and somatic movement for the first 20 minutes and a meditation for 25 minutes. Followed by an open discussion if you wish to share. On Thursdays we practice Somatic Movement for Healing. Somatic Movement is gentle and slow. It helps to release tension in the body and reduce pain. Find out more about somatic movement here

We meet virtually on zoom so you can join us from wherever you are! To

Register for Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday sessions, I recommend accessing the calendars through this link

Introducing Calm Membership for Meditation, Qigong and Somatic Movement sessions. This membership allows you to take as many classes as you wish each month for $35/month.

This membership offers recipes, mindful eating content and a personal consultation (once every 3 months).

Programs in 2024

Heal to Health: A mindfulness approach to cope with stress.

Transform your stress into strength!  Start your own mindfulness practice and embody calm and movement with ease in your life. Based on the Jon-Kabat Zinn, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program that has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve cognitive function.


  • Seven different meditation practices
  • The philosophy of mindfulness and Buddhist practices
  • How stress reactivity and response tap into your nervous system creating dis-ease
  • How to find relaxation and calm within yourself in a daily practice.

Find out more about the HEAL TO HEALTH eight-week program.

The next session begins January 16th to March 5th, 2024

  • Registration requires four people minimum to run as a group.
  • Register here
  • Sliding Scale Fee  $127 – $267 

Find out more here

Feed the Brain: A mindful eating approach to nourish the body, mind and heart explores your daily relationship to eating and changing the dialogue between the body and mind. 

In this course you will learn how to:

  • Discover a deeper mind-body relationship.
  • Learn tools of integrating a mindful eating program into your lifestyle
  • Gain a language independent of a diet culture.
  • Feel a positive body image with self esteem to advance your personal goals.

 Thursdays, January 18 to March 7th, 2024 From 12:00 to 2:00 pm.

  • Registration requires four people minimum to run as a group.
  • Sliding Scale Fee:  $127 – $267 

Find out more here

Let’s Chat! Contact me if you have any questions, about the weekly sessions or programs. I look forward to practicing together!

 My best in Health,