Last summer, a Tiktok video about coffee went viral: “Good morning, everybody,” the speaker began. “Did you know, if you replace your morning cup of coffee with a nice hot cup of green tea, that you can lose up to 87 percent of the f*cking little joy you have left in this life?”

I think of this every time I’m about to order a cappuccino not with traditional cow’s milk, but with almond milk, which I perceive as the greener, healthier option. It’s void of natural sugar and saturated fat…and also creaminess and froth, a.k.a. the principles of a cappuccino. As I stand at the counter, the barrister waiting for me to make a decision, I consider my options: a coffee that’s arguably better for me and the environment, or one that can provide a little more joy. Do I really have to choose?

Absolutely not, says Vineet Sidhu, a registered dietitian and neuroscientist at Fortify in Winnipeg. There are some plant-based milks that are rich in nutrients, low in sugar and saturated fat, boast a creamy texture and have the ability to froth—you just have to choose the right one.

But, that proves to be a challenge—there are many options available (almond, hemp, coconut, oat, soy, potato), and they all have caveats. What’s good for one person may not be good for another; likewise, what makes a good addition to a black coffee may not make a good ingredient for a cappuccino.

Here, three registered dieticians share their thoughts and expertise to help you choose the right milk for you.

First, the deal with cow’s milk

Studies show fewer people have been drinking cow’s milk over the past few years—and the number of alt milks on offer at your local coffee shop supports that. According to Sidhu, this is due to a number of reasons, including health concerns (such as lactose intolerance, allergies or heart health problems, in which people want to avoid dairy and/or reduce their intake of saturated fats), morally-derived reasons (like veganism or environmental concerns) and cultural traditions (part of a community where cow’s milk isn’t consumed).

Others are turned off of cow’s milk simply because it’s high in fat, but that doesn’t mean it’s an unhealthy pick. “Cow’s milk is a great source of protein and calcium,” says Vandana Gujadhur, a Toronto-based registered dietician. A reminder: Protein helps you stay fuller longer and calcium is essential for bone health.

But you can get vitamins and minerals from alternative milks, too. Aside from their natural health benefits, many of them are “fortified with certain nutrients to match the nutrient profile of cow’s milk,” says Gujadhur.

Almond milk

Almond milk is low in fat, carbohydrates, protein and calories. “If someone is trying to keep their calorie count down, then almond milk is a good choice,” says Gujadhur.

But almond milk is also low in nutrients. “It’s basically just flavoured water,” says Nanci Guest, a registered dietician in Collingwood, Ontario. “You’re not really getting any nutritional value out of almond milk, because there could be just one or two almonds in a cup.”

Even so, some baristas have found a way to get a thick froth with almond milk. The secret: You’ll need freshly made almond milk that contains more than just two almonds.

Oat milk

Another popular plant-based milk is oat milk, which has more fibre than most other non-dairy alternatives, says Gujadhur. It has a naturally sweet taste that makes it a good choice for cereal and smoothies. It’s also creamy, rich in flavour and can froth. What’s more, it’s typically fortified with micronutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins, so it has health benefits, too.

“In my own experience, oat milk often tends to be the milk alternative people use when they want to move away from dairy, as it offers a comparable flavour and texture,” says Sidhu.

But oat milk isn’t the best choice for everyone. Sidhu says she wouldn’t suggest it for people with diabetes, in particular, because it’s high in sugar and carbohydrates. “That might raise more glucose in an individual than almond or soy milk might,” she says. Oat milk contains gluten, too, so it’s not a good option for people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.

Soy milk

Soy milk was the first commercially available plant-based milk in North America, and it continues to be the most popular—and for good reason. “Soy milk is among the few plant milks that is high in protein, comparable to that of cow’s milk,” says Gujadhur.

Soy milk contains isoflavones, which have estrogen-like effects, and there have been concerns about the impact it can have on the body. But research indicates that isoflavones can actually help to lower the risk of cancer.

Since soy milk does contain estrogenic properties, Sidhu recommends it more for women who are going through menopause and are not producing as much estrogen, to help prevent osteoporosis.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk has a little bit more fat than other alt milks, and that means it can hold froth better, says Gujadhur.

Not only is it high in fat, but, naturally, calories too, so it’s best for people who are trying to increase their energy intake, she says.

Hemp milk

Hemp milk is a great source of polyunsaturated fats, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. What’s more, Gujadhur says, it has a creamy texture, making it perfect for coffee and tea.

The catch: It has an “earthy” taste and chalky texture, which may not appeal to everyone.

Are we missing any nutrients by not drinking cow’s milk?

Since cow’s milk provides adequate levels of protein and calcium, you should find a replacement source for that protein and calcium you may be missing out on, says Guest. “For my clients who don’t want to eat breakfast, I tell them to get a large soy latte, because that gives them eight grams of protein—that’s a decent source of protein,” she says.

Most plant-based milks are fortified with calcium, vitamin A, D, and B12, so it’s easy to replace any lost nutrition. But often organic plant milks are not fortified, says Guest.

And that also goes for home-made plant milk—it lacks essential nutrients found in cow’s milk since there’s no fortification, says Gujadhur. “But as long as your nutrient needs are met through the consumption of other foods during the day, there’s no problem. If plant milk replaces cow’s milk in the diet without taking the rest of the day’s nutrient consumption into consideration, then fortified plant milk is better.”

Who may want to consider switching from cow’s milk to a plant-based alternative?

The main reasons someone should consider moving away from dairy is cultural beliefs, allergies, intolerances and heart health conditions. “Cow’s milk has more saturated fats (as does coconut milk) which should be avoided by those with heart conditions,” says Sidhu.

If you suspect dairy gives yous blemishes and are considering swapping cow’s milk for oat, check this out: A 2016 study found that high glycemic foods may exacerbate acne. If that’s the case, cow’s milk is actually a better option than the highly glycemic oat milk.

What kind of environmental impact does milk have?

Dairy makes a significant impact because of the land use it requires—not just to farm the cows, but also to grow the grain they need to eat. “That means a lot of land is changed over from forest or other vegetation,” says Guest. “Then there’s all the water and energy use, and emissions.” The energy requirement for cow’s milk is about 10 times that of most plant milk, she says.

After cow’s milk, almond milk has the second-largest environmental impact. It uses more water than other plant-based milks—but still significantly lower than what’s used for cow’s milk.

What do the experts drink?

Gujadhur drinks cow’s milk—specifically, A2 milk. “It’s a homogenized milk that undergoes less processing such as pasteurization, homogenization and fortification compared to commercial plant milk.” A2 milk is known for being easy to digest, and Gujadhur says it has a great flavour, too.

Sidhu also opts for cow’s milk, but swaps it out for oat milk on occasion. “I drink dairy when it’s important for me that the flavour is true to dairy milk, like with chai tea,” she says, “But on the other hand, I do love drinking cappuccinos, and I find that oat milk froths the best for that.”

Guest chooses soy, primarily because of the protein it offers. “Soy is one of the few foods that can say it’s heart healthy on the label,” she says. “Also, the plant estrogens actually help lower the risk of breast cancer, and it’s better for climate and the environment—so it ticks off all the boxes.”

Now that you know about the best plant-based milks, find out how a trendy plant-based egg compares to the real thing.

A few years ago, I booked a consultation with Paris-based cosmetic doctor Dr. Jean-Louis Sebagh, who has been described as the man “behind some of the world’s most radiant faces.” (Think Cindy Crawford.) I wanted to know how I could tweak my beauty routine in order to keep my skin healthy and looking youthful for as long as possible. Sebagh, whose name now appears on a range of anti-aging and skin care products, gave me simple advice: “Stay out of the sun.”

Since that appointment, I’ve wondered how a dermatologist would rate my sun-dodging ways. Although I excel in the “remembers to apply SPF daily” and “always chooses the seat in the shade” categories, I’m less diligent about reapplying sunscreen or avoiding peak sunshine hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). So, is it possible to “stay out of the sun” without hindering your lifestyle?

“In Canada, we wait so many months for [sunshine]—it’s our lifeblood,” says dermatologist Renée Beach, founder of DermAtelier on Avenue, a medical and cosmetic dermatology clinic in Toronto.

Beach doesn’t want to be “the Grinch who stole sunshine” by advising clients to avoid the sun completely, so she suggests being safe, but reasonable, with sun protection. “Would I ever buy a convertible? Absolutely not,” she says as an example. “They’re fun, fun for joy and leisure, but not great for skin care.”

For those of us who are fans of both sun protection and fun, Beach shares eight simple tricks for safely enjoying the sunshine.

Skip the moisturizer

In the summer months, chances are you can skip the moisturizer and go straight to sunscreen, as it contains moisturizing properties. Plus, layering too many products can cause skin to look and feel greasy. “I find with our humidity this time of year, moisturizer often isn’t necessary,” says Beach. But if you do have dry skin, Beach suggests letting your moisturizer dry before applying sunscreen.

Apply more sunscreen than you think

Beach says most people aren’t applying enough sunscreen. “The amount that we should be applying to the face is a quarter teaspoon,” she says, “and a half a teaspoon if we’re doing face and neck.” As for your body, you’ll want to apply about one ounce—enough to fill one shot glass.

Don’t forget to cover other important zones

You probably know the most-forgotten spots to apply sunscreen—ears, back of neck, feet—but there are other areas that need special attention, too. The scalp, for example, requires protection, and the best way to shield it from the sun is to avoid exposure from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and consider wearing a hat. “There are beanies that fit well to the skull and are very protective with blocking out about 99.8 percent of ultraviolet radiation,” says Beach.

Another don’t-miss area is the hands. Ideally, we’d be reapplying sunscreen after every hand-washing, but that’s not realistic. Beach says if you’re going to be doing outdoor activities, like cycling, in which your hands are directly exposed to the sun, a more practical solution is to find gloves that offer UV protection.

Wear a foundation or tinted moisturizer with iron oxide

If you wear tinted moisturizer or foundation over sunscreen, opt for one that has iron oxide in it. “Iron oxide can prevent against pigmentation changes for people who have melasma or inflammation leftover from acne,” says Beach, explaining that it protects skin from darkening or reddening in the sun.

Carry SPF in a stick or powder form for midday touch-ups

“Reapplication is important but mostly depending on one’s activity level,” says Beach. “If you’re moving about quite a bit and a reasonable amount of sunscreen is being sweated off or coming off on your mask, then definitely reapplication is important.”

She recommends sunscreens in stick or powder forms, which can be more convenient than a liquid version. “Sticks are practical because they can get very precise areas as opposed to a cream that’s going to be a little bit more challenging to rub in,” says Beach. “A powdered sunscreen is good for getting rid of shine, but also to be able to provide some protection.”

Try La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Targeted Sun Protection Stick SPF60 for Face, $21, shoppersdrugmart.ca or Supergoop’s (Re)setting Powder SPF 45, $40, sephora.com.

Practice sun-safety in the car, too

Being behind the wheel doesn’t offer much sun protection. In fact, after 28 years on the road, a 69-year-old truck driver had visible sun damage on the left side of his face, the side closest to the window. What’s the solution?

“One of the most important things to do in cars is making sure your sunscreen has UVA protection,” says Beach. “UVA goes through windshields, and that’s more related to aging.” She also advises using the in-car sun visors, which can help with protection.

Look for the shady spot

“Shade protects you from UVB,” says Beach. “UVB is related to things like sunburns and skin cancers.” She recommends walking on the shaded side of the street, opting for the shaded patio seat and wearing a hat with a five- to 10-centimeter brim.

Follow these tips no matter your skin tone

The idea that individuals with darker skin tones don’t need sun protection is a common misconception.

“People with lighter skin tones are represented more frequently with skin cancers,” says Beach. “With brown and black skin tones, it’s not as easy to see a tan, and they don’t have as high numbers of skin cancer, but there are certainly pigmentation changes.” Finding a good sunscreen can be hard for people with darker skin tones, as many formulas leave a white residue behind.

The most important thing is to find a sunscreen that works for you, whether that means something mineral, something for acne-prone skin, or something that goes on clear. The best sunscreen is the one you’ll wear.

Next, discover the best sunscreens for dark skin.

Relaxing on the toilet is difficult for a lot of people: When something feels stuck, there’s an impulse to push. But when you bear down to force a bowel movement, it applies pressure to your anus, which can result in inflamed veins and tissue, hemorrhoids and…anal fissures (yup). For a smoother experience, pelvic floor physiotherapist Michiko Caringal suggests repositioning yourself: Elevate your feet, keep your knees higher than your hips and lean forward. And don’t forget to breathe.

If you’re someone who brings their smartphone into the loo for a little scrolling, or if a trip to the washroom feels incomplete without some reading material, it might be time to let go of those habits. Distracting your brain with your phone or a book may seem like a good plan if you’re struggling to relax, but it can actually be bad for your butt. Cracking open a book could send the wrong signals to your brain—your mind might start to associate the toilet with reading, making it harder to go. Plus, reading can make you linger for longer than you need to, leading to not-so-fun conditions like hemorrhoids. Instead, keep your mind in the gutter and concentrate on the task at hand. “I would just focus on your body and really, really think about something relaxing,” Caringal says. Try taking a few deep breaths to calm your central nervous system.

And please: Don’t strain. It seems counterintuitive, especially when you’ve been constipated for what feels like an eternity, but pushing and holding your breath to force a bowel movement can actually work against you in the quest for an easy time on the porcelain throne. Rushing yourself will only make you subconsciously contract your muscles, closing off opportunities for relief.

Next: How To Keep Your Pelvic Floor Happy and Healthy

If you’ve been in a gym, a dance studio, or a yoga class, you’ve undoubtedly seen people working their muscles over these narrow cylinders. Since their introduction as a self-massage device in the 1980s, foam rollers have become a popular fitness and recovery tool.

You might wonder, What does that cylinder do, anyway? Foam rolling is a self-treat¬ment tool that compresses tissues, mimicking certain benefits of a physical therapy session with someone like me. It employs a person’s body weight to release painful knots in muscle tissue (aka trigger points), improve muscular performance and flexibility, extend ranges of motion, warm up muscles before a workout, and kick-start the recovery process after a workout ends. You don’t need to be in pain to benefit from foam rolling, either. This is for futureproofing as much as it is for treatment.

“I recommend between thirty seconds and two minutes per roll. It often helps to do a second set as well.”

Benefits of foam rolling | Calf Roll

How to Roll Your Calves

The calves run along the back side of the lower legs. To roll these muscles, your body should form the letter L when viewed from the side: torso upright (don’t slouch) and supported by extended arms and palms on the floor, hands directly under your shoulders. Extend your legs in front of you, with one or both calves ele¬vated and resting on the roller directly below your knees. Your toes should point up.

Begin rolling back and forth from the top of your calves to the midpoint. Your body will tell you when you hit a problem spot; when it does, sink into it and linger there until the pain or tightness dissipates a bit. Then keep rolling. Next, move the starting position to halfway up the calf or calves, and begin rolling from there to the lowest part, near the ankle. To change the emphasis slightly, point your toes inward or outward.

Variation: To make the sensation more intense, cross one ankle over the one on the roller. The added pressure allows you to dig deeper into the tissues.

benefits of foam rolling | Shin Roll

How to Roll Your Shin Muscles

An essential muscle on the front side of the lower leg is the tibialis anterior, which runs along the shinbone. You may not have heard of this muscle, but you’ve probably heard of shin splints, a dull, nagging ache along the inner shin that tends to afflict runners. The tibialis anterior is the muscle that’s hurting with shin splints. Although shin splints are seldom severe, they can lead to more serious conditions like stress fractures without proper treatment. It’s your body’s way of telling you you’re doing too much, too soon.

The function of the tibialis anterior is dorsiflexion, the act of using your ankle to raise your foot toward your leg. To roll this muscle, assume the standard starting position of a push-up: Hands directly below your shoulders; palms on the ground for support; legs trailing behind you.

The toes of one foot should be touching the ground for stability, but the opposite leg should be elevated on a roller, with the point of contact being the top of the shin. Begin rolling back and forth at a measured pace, looking for tight spots and trigger points you can sink into and release. Turning your foot in either direction changes the emphasis and will bring more muscle and less shin bone into contact with the surface of the roller. You can probably roll the entire anterior tibialis without resetting your position, although if you can’t cover the whole muscle, hit the upper half first, followed by the lower half.

benefits of foam rolling Roll Abductors

How to Roll Your Adductors

The adductors are the five small muscles that combine to form the inner thigh musculature. Their primary function is bringing the thighs together. (Another set of small muscles, the abductors, move the thighs apart.) The adductors originate at the pelvic bone and connect to the thighbone, slightly above the knee.

Sit too much, and these muscles inevitably will tighten, risking groin pain and a reduction in mobility. Rolling can help remedy these adverse outcomes.

Adductors can be a little tricky to access because of their awkward location. In my experience, adductors might be the single most difficult muscles to roll. But if you position your body correctly, you can roll these tricky muscles.

To perform the move, position the roller perpendicular to your body, and then move toward one end of the roller so that one inner thigh is touching it and the other leg lies beyond it. Your elbows and forearms should be flat on the ground; the knee of the leg on the roller should be slightly bent, while the free leg should be pretty straight.

Starting with the roller positioned directly above your knee, gently rock back and forth in the direction of your pubic bone. The roller should travel only 6 to 8 inches. Next, position it above the uppermost point of the previous roll, and rock back and forth from there. It may take a third repositioning to reach to where the adductor meets the pubic bone. From there, gently rock back and forth over the upper inner thigh, up to where it meets the groin.

When you feel a pressure point or any sort of pain throughout the stretch, hold that position until the tension releases, even if it feels uncomfortable. However stop if you feel numbness and tingling.

Whatever you do to the adductors on one side of the leg, perform the same action to the other side as well for the sake of balance.

Variation: To increase the bite on the adductor, use a higher-density roller, once with less give. To make it even more challenging, roll your adductors over a lacrosse ball or softball.

benefits of foam rolling Roll Quads

How to Roll Your Quadriceps

Next, I want you to roll your quadriceps, the large muscles covering the front of your thighs. Begin in a plank position, with your elbows and forearms on the mat or floor. Your legs should extend behind you, one or both of them elevated on the roller, with the point of contact directly above the knee. (You can roll both legs at once or do them individually; it’s up to you. One leg at a time allows for more focus on any trigger points that might reveal themselves.)

Begin rolling your thigh back and forth at a measured pace. It doesn’t have to be straight back and forth, either. Tilting your torso to one side or the other changes the emphasis, as does pointing your toes in either direction. Feel for tender spots and areas of tension; once you find them, spend extra time working on those areas. Sometimes I’ll hold my position on a trigger point for thirty to sixty seconds. Get to the top of the quadriceps, too, and then back down to right above the knee.

benefits of foam rolling Roll Hamstrings

How to Roll Your Hamstrings

Do you constantly feel like you have tight hamstrings, and no matter how much you stretch, it never feels quite right? Foam rolling might help.

The most common knee injury strikes the ACL. If you want to protect your knees from this devastating injury, focus a lot of attention on your hamstrings, the large muscles on the back of the upper legs.

Having strong hamstrings improves your knee stability, protecting against excessive shearing and twisting. Unfortunately, the hamstrings are highly prone to tightening up, especially after long stretches spent sitting. Hamstring tightness limits the muscles activation.

To roll your hamstrings, sit on the floor or a mat with your arms straight, supporting you. The roller should be under your legs, right above the knee. Your legs should extend straight in front of you. Roll halfway up the hamstrings and then back down to the starting position. As with the quadriceps roll, turning your toes inward or outward will shift the emphasis a bit, which I recommend doing. Again, you’re hunting for trigger points. When you find them, focus on that area until any pain or tightness dissipates.

Once you’re done rolling the bottom half of the hamstrings, reset your position so that the starting point is the endpoint from last time, halfway up the back of the upper leg. From there, roll up to the bottom of the glutes and then back down to the midpoint, continuing this back-and-forth motion.

benefits of foam rolling Roll Glutes

How to Roll Your Glute Muscles

The gluteus medius lies in the outer buttocks region and plays a crucial role in pelvic stability and functional movement, particularly when standing on one leg. When the gluteus medius is too tight or weak, it can cause problems throughout the body, including knee pain. Foam rolling this muscle can release trigger points, allowing for more hip flexibility and mobility and a greater range of motion.

Roll these muscles one side at a time. You want to angle your body to let the roller dig deep into the gluteal muscles, and you won’t be able to do that if the glutes on both sides are resting on the roller simultaneously. For the sake of this descrip¬tion, let’s hit the gluteus maximus (largest glute muscle) on the right side first. Sit on the roller, supporting yourself with your right arm extended behind you and that palm flat on the floor. The point of contact for the roller should be your right glute. Now cross your right leg over your left knee. Using your arms, you want to slightly push yourself forward, specifically rolling over your glute. You should note that the movement is quite small. If you need to maintain your balance, make sure to use your left foot for support.

As you roll, listen to your body; if you feel tightness or pain, linger on the spot for a while, holding it, gently rocking back and forth.

Variation: To make this technique even more intense, use a lacrosse ball instead of a roller. The ball is harder and can dig deep into a given spot.

benefits of foam rolling Roll Stomach

How to Roll Your Stomach

Everyone understands that they need to stretch their back, but rarely do people stretch their stomach area. That’s an oversight. Your stomach tissue often gets tight and compressed over time due to long periods of sitting or endless sets of crunches. The foam rolling goal is to open up the region, mobilize the spine, and release any trigger points or other tension. Not only will opening up your stomach tissue help you feel more relaxed overall, but it also might relieve some of your chronic neck and shoulder stiffness that you feel from working at the office all day.

Begin in a plank position with your elbows and knees supporting your body, and the roller positioned under your stomach as the point of contact. Slowly begin rolling up and down your stomach, directly below your rib cage to directly above your belt line. Go easy at first, especially if you’ve never rolled your stomach before. It’s a sensitive area. If you find a tender spot, gently sink into it until the pain and tightness ease.

After finishing, stand up straight and take several deep breaths. You may find your breathing to be less restricted.

Sit Up Straight Cover

Excerpted from Sit Up Straight: Future Proof Your Body Against Chronic Pain with 12 Simple Movements. Copyright © 2022, by Vinh Pham with Jeff O’Connell. Published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Next: WTF Is WFH Doing to My Back?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), a once exotic whole grain, has found its way onto mainstream North American menus. The fast-casual chain Panera Bread sells warm grain bowls made with quinoa, and you’ll find it in most supermarkets. Thanks to quinoa’s notable nutrient profile, research-backed benefits, and gluten-free status, its popularity is projected to grow.

Here’s a look at what quinoa is, why it’s a nutritional powerhouse, how it may benefit your health, and healthful ways to incorporate quinoa into your usual eating routine. According to the Oldways Whole Grains Council, quinoa is native to the Andean region of South America. While Peru and Bolivia produce the vast majority of the world’s quinoa, it’s grown in over 50 countries.

Quinoa is in the same plant family as beets, Swiss chard, and spinach, but it’s very different from these veggies. Technically, quinoa is what’s referred to as a pseudo grain, or pseudocereal. These plants are botanically different than cereal grains like oats and rice but treated as members of the whole grain family because they’re so similar, both nutritionally and in their culinary uses.

The United Nations declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, in part because of its nutritional value, eco-friendly growing capabilities, and ethical qualities, including increasing the income of lower-income farmers in the Andes. Quinoa has also been praised by NASA as an ideal crop for inclusion in possible future long-term space missions.

(Related: Is Quinoa Healthier Than Rice? Here’s What Experts Say)

Types of quinoa

You’re probably most familiar with white quinoa, sometimes called ivory quinoa, which is the most common variety. But red and black quinoas are also growing in popularity and availability. They tend to have slightly stronger, earthier flavours and hold their shape well after cooking. Some products combine all three colors.

Other quinoa products are also on the rise, including quinoa flakes, flour, and pasta, as well as packaged foods that incorporate quinoa, such as chips, crackers, cereals, and puffed quinoa snacks.

Quinoa nutrition facts

Quinoa provides a unique combination of nutrient- and fibre-rich carbs, along with plant protein and healthful fat. One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa contains the following macro and micronutrients.

  • Calories: 222
  • Fat: 3.6 g (5 percent daily value, or DV)
  • Sodium: 13 mg (1 percent DV)
  • Carbohydrates: 39 g (14 percent DV)
  • Fibre: 5 g (19 percent DV)
  • Sugar: 1.6 g
  • Protein: 8.1 g (16 percent DV)
  • Calcium: 31.45 mg (2 percent DV)
  • Iron: 2.76 mg (15 percent DV)
  • Potassium: 318 mg (7 percent DV)

(Related: Amaranth: This Grain’s Nutrition, Benefits—Plus Recipes)

Potential health benefits of quinoa

May reduce the risk of chronic diseases

In addition to its vitamins and minerals, quinoa contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants, according to a 2017 study, published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. This perk may help reduce oxidative stress, an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body’s ability to counter their harmful effects. For this reason, quinoa consumption may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

May boost heart health

Heart disease is listed as the leading cause of death by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2020 study, published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, looked at the impact of quinoa on cardiovascular health, and the results were encouraging. In the meta-analysis and systematic review, scientists found that supplementing adults’ diets with quinoa reduced body weight, waist measurements, total cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides (blood fats), and blood insulin levels.

Another study, published in Current Developments in Nutrition, also assessed the link between quinoa and heart health. Researchers found that compared with a control group that didn’t eat quinoa and those who added 25 grams of dry quinoa per day, overweight and obese subjects who added 50 grams (about 1.7 ounces) of quinoa daily experienced benefits. These included reduced triglyceride levels and a 70 percent reduction in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic factors that include all of the following: increased abdominal fat, reduced “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, increased triglycerides, elevated fasting blood glucose, and high blood pressure.

May help regulate blood sugar

Quinoa also has a low glycemic index (GI) of 53 out of 100. A food’s GI indicates how fast blood sugar rises after you consume a carbohydrate-containing food. Quinoa’s ability to help regulate blood sugar is one reason why it’s often recommended for people with diabetes or prediabetes.

A 2017 study, published in Nutrición Hospitalaria, randomly assigned people with prediabetes to consume either quinoa or a placebo (maltodextrin). After 28 days, the quinoa group had experienced reductions in body mass index (BMI), fasting blood glucose, and A1C levels. The latter is a measure of how well-controlled blood sugar has been managed over the previous three-month period. Quinoa eaters also noted improvements in fullness and satiety.

It’s a gluten-free option

Because quinoa is naturally gluten-free, it can be used as a nutrient and fibre-rich source of complex carbohydrates for people with celiac disease, who must avoid gluten. It’s also a good option for people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The National Celiac Association recommends looking for quinoa products that are specifically labeled “gluten-free.” This is to ensure that products were handled in a way that prevented cross-contamination by other gluten-containing grains, either in the field or during the transport, milling, or packaging processes. Quinoa also makes a good wheat substitute for people with wheat allergies, as noted by Food Allergy Research & Education.

(Related: What is Teff? What to Know About This Gluten-Free Ancient Grain)

Quinoa allergy and risks

After quinoa is harvested, it undergoes processing to remove a natural compound called saponins, a bitter-tasting chemical that coats the exterior and acts as a natural pesticide. Some quinoa brands advise rinsing before cooking to remove any remaining saponins.

Some experts claim that saponins should be avoided, particularly by people with digestive issues, because they’re toxic to some animals. However, a 2019 study, published in Pharmacological Research, suggests that saponins may actually help reduce inflammation. And animal research suggests that saponins may suppress intestinal inflammation and promote intestinal barrier repair.

It’s also worth noting that quinoa is a food recommended for managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as part of the low-FODMAP diet, which is used to identify carbs that can cause digestive issues like bloating. Finally, while quinoa allergies are rare, it is possible to be allergic to this plant-based food.

How to cook quinoa

The simplest way to prepare dry quinoa is to follow the directions on the bag or box. Unlike dry beans, quinoa does not require soaking, so it’s easy to make. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Rinse under cold water for a few minutes, using a fine-mesh strainer, and drain.
  2. Place one cup of rinsed quinoa and two cups of water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
  4. Fluff with a fork, and you’re good to go.

You can also prepare quinoa in a rice cooker or slow cooker. And if you’re pressed for time, you can buy pre-cooked quinoa in the frozen section of most markets. Just thaw and enjoy.

(Related: 14 Quinoa (Pronounced keen-wha) Recipes)

How much quinoa should you eat?

There’s no one right answer to how often you should eat quinoa, or how much. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises choosing whole grains (as opposed to refined) for at least half of the total grains you consume. But, the best advice is to mix up the type of whole grains you eat in order to take in a broader spectrum of nutrients. As for what counts as a serving, for whole grains, it’s one-half cup cooked.

How to add quinoa to your diet

Quinoa is incredibly versatile from a culinary perspective. It can be eaten hot or chilled, in both sweet and savory dishes, and at nearly every eating occasion. The options are practically endless. At breakfast, blend quinoa into smoothies, used it in place of oats as a breakfast porridge, or incorporate cooked quinoa or quinoa flour into pancakes. You can also layer cooked, chilled quinoa with plant-based yogurt, fruit, and nuts in a parfait, or added it to a veggie-and-chickpea scramble.

Savory ways to incorporate quinoa into lunch and dinner meals include adding it to salads, grain bowls, soups and stews, casseroles, or stir-fries. Try it in cooked stuffed peppers, with veggies as a side dish, or in homemade plant-based burgers. Quinoa can also be transformed into desserts and sweet treats, including quinoa pudding, dark chocolate quinoa truffles, energy balls, and bars. Whole quinoa or quinoa flour can be included in baked goods, from cookies to muffins, brownies, and cakes.

Try: GoGo Quinoa Tri Color Quinoa ($6, houseofwellness.ca).

Now that you know about quinoa’s nutrition, here’s what to know about plant-based protein and how to add it to your diet.

Angie Deveau had planned to spend Boxing Day of 2013 lounging in front of the Christmas tree with her family. Instead, she had morning sickness and found herself rushing back and forth to the bathroom. That evening, after she read her three-year-old son his favourite bedtime story, cuddled him, and kissed his forehead goodnight, Deveau took a pregnancy test. She’d already guessed what it would say: positive.

At the time she was 34 and lived in a house in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Though she shared custody with her son’s father, she was the boy’s primary caregiver and had only her part-time income as a researcher to sustain them both. She made $25 per hour, working 15 hours per week, and had all the bills that everyone does: housing, groceries, clothing, utilities, and on it went.

Being pregnant made every day a struggle. At seven weeks, she had unbearable nausea. Nibbling on saltines, she tried to work while her son napped. Most days, she had to return to her computer again at night, working into the small hours. Deveau was exhausted and conflicted about having another child. She didn’t have the time or the desire for another kid. She didn’t want a bigger family and knew that she couldn’t afford one.

The path forward was clear to her: she had to schedule an abortion. That’s when she cursed the fact that she lived in New Brunswick. In her province, making the decision to terminate a pregnancy and being able to act on it are two very different things.

Adequate reproductive health care is not uniformly available across Canada. In New Brunswick, where religious stigma against abortion is strong, it’s even harder to access. According to a 2011 Statistics Canada report (the most recent year the agency collected this data), nearly 85 per cent of the province is Christian—compared to about 67 per cent of all Canadians at that time. Here, church parking lots still fill up on Sundays. Traditionally, many in the province feel strongly that pregnancies should be carried through to term.

The province offers four places, in total, to get an abortion: three hospitals, where the cost of the procedure is covered by provincial health care, and one independent clinic, where it is not. Still, while provincial health care may cover the fees of an abortion at each hospital, it doesn’t mean the process is cost-free for everyone—or easily accessible.

Both the Moncton Hospital and the Georges Dumont Hospital are located in Moncton; the Chaleur Regional Hospital is in Bathurst, 220 kilometres north of Moncton. This means 76 per cent of the province’s population is hundreds of kilometres away from any access at all. When these people need abortions, they must take time off work and pay to travel not once, but twice: first for an ultrasound and again for the abortion itself. Add to that the costs of accommodations and potentially also child care, and the procedure is easily out of reach for many New Brunswickers, whose median income in 2015 was $28,107 after tax.

Abortion Access New Brunswick Quote - THE COST OF AN ABORTION IS EASILY OUT OF REACH FOR MANY NEW BRUNSWICKERS.

A patient may also opt to go to Fredericton’s Clinic 554. It was originally founded in the mid-1990s as the Morgentaler Clinic. The facility provides sexual and reproductive health services alongside other health care, with 3,000 patients currently on file. Under provincial healthcare laws, the clinic is not reimbursed for ultrasounds or abortions, so it charges between $700 and $800 for the procedure. In fact, New Brunswick is the only province in Canada where abortions aren’t covered outside of hospital settings.

Premier Blaine Higgs has repeatedly defended the province’s current system. “If we felt that we weren’t providing the service in reasonable manner, I mean, it would be a different story,” Higgs told The Globe and Mail in 2019 when asked why he wouldn’t extend abortion funding.

To Deveau, the challenges of getting an abortion at a hospital felt insurmountable. Without her own car, she’d have to take the bus to Moncton, 177 kilometres away, or Bathurst, 254 kilometres away. Plus, at the time, New Brunswick also required that two doctors sign off on the medical necessity of all abortions offered at hospitals. (This requirement was later lifted in 2014 and never applied to Clinic 554.) Getting an appointment with her family doctor usually took weeks. If her doctor signed off, they’d likely refer her to the second required doctor, which would take more time.

Abortion access New Brunswick - In New Brunswick, Clinic 554 is the only place to get an abortion outside of a hospital.
In New Brunswick, Clinic 554 is the only place to get an abortion outside of a hospital.

Coupled with the wait to schedule the abortion, Deveau was afraid she wouldn’t be able to have the procedure in time to meet the hospitals’ gestational limit of 13 weeks and six days. She decided her best option was Clinic 554 (then still named the Morgentaler Clinic). They were able to see Deveau right away, and her abortion was scheduled for roughly a week later, on a Tuesday. Still, she couldn’t afford the $800 fee—especially not after Christmas—and in the end, her dad loaned her the cash.

Over the years, Clinic 554 has arguably played the role of both saviour and last resort for many. It’s staffed by one full-time employee and about 10 contract staff. That it has also managed to avoid being closed down is no small miracle. Lack of provincial funding most recently drove it to the brink of closure in September 2019, when its medical director, Dr. Adrian Edgar, was forced to put it up for sale. A swell of community support, as well as small donations, helped keep it afloat—but just barely. It had to drastically reduce services over the next year. In October 2020, it was forced to cease providing all non-provincially funded services, including ultrasounds and abortions. By early 2021, Clinic 554 seemed destined to close for good.

Abortion Access New Brunswick Quote - LACK OF PROVINCIAL FUNDING HAS DRIVEN CLINIC 554 TO THE BRINK OF CLOSURE MORE THAN ONCE.

In a 2014 Maclean’s interview, Dr. Wendy Norman, a professor of family medicine at the University of British Columbia, said her research shows 31 per cent of women over age 45 report having had an abortion at some point in their lives. It’s likely many women faced barriers in securing that right. While the procedure is common enough, abortion remains taboo and the subject of lobbying and protests by anti-abortion advocates. Politicians of all parties, meanwhile, generally prefer to distance themselves from the issue. Canada has been without an official abortion law since 1988. That year, the old laws, which required a “therapeutic abortion committee” to approve each individual abortion, were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler fought for abortion rights for nearly two decades before it was legally made more accessible for Canadians. In reality, access is scarce not only in New Brunswick but in parts of every province and territory. Fewer than 17 per cent of Canadian hospitals provide abortions. Those who live in rural and northern areas, or even smaller cities and towns, must travel long distances if they want the procedure. In Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, for example, abortions are offered only in cities, even though 18 per cent of Canada’s population is rural. The Yukon, P.E.I. and Northwest Territories are home to one provider each.

Access varies so widely because health care is a matter of provincial jurisdiction. When Canada’s restrictions were struck down, the provinces were left to dole out access—or prevent it—as they saw fit. In some provinces, doctors are still able to deny care based on moral grounds. Gestational limits also vary by province. In P.E.I., the limit is 12 weeks and six days, but in specific locations in Ontario, Quebec and B.C., abortions are performed well into the second trimester. Of all the regions, Atlantic Canada is the most restrictive.

Abortion Access New Brunswick Quote - ACCESS IS SCARCE ACROSS CANADA. FEWER THAN 17 PER CENT OF HOSPITALS PROVIDE ABORTIONS.

From 1988 until 2016, for example, Prince Edward Island offered no abortion services, with both the province’s government and hospitals refusing on moral grounds. People had to travel at their own cost to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia—provided they were first able to secure the necessary two-doctor referral. In 2016, advocates eventually threatened to sue the government for a violation of their Charter rights, citing unequal access to health-care services. By the end of January 2017, a reproductive health clinic had opened in Summerside, P.E.I., and the first abortions in 35 years were performed on the Island.

Meanwhile, from 1988 until now, eight different New Brunswick governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have refused to fund clinic-based abortions. Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, describes New Brunswick politicians as having their heels “dug in.” Deveau wraps up her feelings on the matter in two sentences: “A few years ago, my husband got a vasectomy, and taxpayers paid for that. The onus is on women, then, to keep our legs closed.”

As a specialist in reproduction, trans health care and addiction medicine, Dr. Adrian Edgar is a firm believer in equal access to health care. His belief was solidified during time spent volunteering in Mae Scot, Thailand. There, Edgar volunteered twice at a refugee health centre, and what he experienced there committed him to this line of work. “We routinely saw people who had tried to self-abort,” Edgar explains. “If you try to obstruct abortion access, a pregnant patient will find a way to control their body, and that might lead to their death.”

Edgar didn’t set out to be a spokesperson for abortion access in the Maritimes. At 38, he is shy and soft-spoken. But he was fired up when he returned to New Brunswick in 2014 and discovered that lack of funding after Morgentaler’s death threatened to close the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton. Fearing Maritimers would lose access to much-needed sexual health care and could resort to self-abortion, he helped the community to raise more than $131,000. The facility was renamed Clinic 554 in January 2015, after its street number.

The clinic stands out: one side of the building is painted in the colours of a rainbow. It’s centrally located and by the river. Across the street is the Boyce Farmers Market, where many Frederictonians congregate on Saturday mornings for breakfast.

Abortion Access New Brunswick Quote - “IF YOU OBSTRUCT ABORTION ACCESS, A PREGNANT PATIENT WILL FIND A WAY TO CONTROL THEIR BODY.”

Since the clinic reduced service offerings last October, Edgar has continued to perform abortions—some are paid by the patient, and some he does for free. But he can’t keep doing it forever. For now, Edgar is taking a wait-and-see approach. In June 2021, a judge gave the green light for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to sue the New Brunswick government. CCLA argues that the province’s lack of access is against the Constitution. (And, indeed, the Canada Health Act does stipulate that it’s illegal to make Canadians pay for their health care or to pose barriers to that health care. Abortion is included under this umbrella.) Edgar hopes the results will work out in the clinic’s favour and the government will be forced to repeal the delisting of ultrasound and abortion outside of hospital.

“People need access to reproductive health clinics that are local, in their communities, and have on-site staff who understand not just reproductive rights, but also the need for women to be reassured in their decision,” says Melanie Vautour, who works with Fresh Start in Saint John, N.B., an organization that provides housing to women and families. She and three other people volunteer many hours to help women get essential services. This includes driving to and from appointments, securing lodging for women as they undergo or recover from a medical abortion, and providing basic comforts like food and pain medication.

Abortion Access New Brunswick Quote - BY ONE ESTIMATE, 68,000 WOMEN WORLDWIDE DIE EACH YEAR FROM UNSAFE ABORTIONS.

“We are not counsellors or social workers, but we are trying to fill that gap,” Vautour says. She worries about how desperate many women can become when that gap isn’t filled. The WHO estimates that about 68,000 women worldwide die each year from unsafe abortions. That’s about eight per hour. Edgar has repeatedly warned the province that if his clinic closes, some in New Brunswick may try unsafe methods, and people will die. There are no Canadian stats on unsafe abortion, but P.E.I. professor of psychology Colleen MacQuarrie’s research covering her province’s own access deficit suggests several self-induced abortions took place on the Island each year the province refused to provide the service.

At the end of September 2020, just before Clinic 554 reduced its services, Deveau gathered on the front lawn of the New Brunswick legislature with a group of about 30 other reproductive rights activists for a candlelight vigil. Since her abortion in January 2014, she has protested on the lawn many times. Each time there’s an election, or an added barrier to abortion—like, say, a national pandemic—the calls for better access start again, and each time Deveau is there. She doesn’t want other women to go through the same stress and uncertainty and helplessness that she did.

She is now 41, and her son is 10. Deveau doesn’t hide her activism from him; to her, it’s all about equal access to health care. They talk openly about abortion and the importance of choice. He recently chose to write a school report on the 1970s book How to Care for Your Husband and talked about how gender roles have changed since the time it was written. Deveau has now lived through 15 different governments, the Morgentaler decision and countless pushes for better access, and she says that something, eventually, has to give. She keeps going because she knows she’s not alone in her desire for better access to health care.

In some ways, things have started to give. The two-doctor approval is gone. In 2017, New Brunswick also became the first province in Canada to cover the cost of Mifegymiso, a medication containing the ingredients of mifepristone and misoprostol that, together, induce what’s called a medical abortion. The former blocks progesterone, a hormone needed for pregnancy. The latter helps empty the contents of the uterus. It isn’t a perfect solution. In Canada, Mifegymiso can be prescribed only up to nine weeks gestation.And while New Brunswick foots the bill, in some provinces it can cost up to $450.

In the meantime, the lobbying continues. Around the same time as the candlelight vigil, protesters from across the province met to demand better access. They took over the sleepy town common in Rothesay, N.B., then-health minister Ted Flemming’s district, on a sunny Thursday afternoon. About 50 people, most of them young, sporting buttons and carrying signs, camped out for hours, even as Flemming refused to speak with them. He’d barely addressed the issue at all during his term. The protest ended at Flemming’s suburban house. It was just hot enough to break a sweat on the way up the hill from the common. Each protester carried a sign. My body, my choice. One by one, they stepped up to Flemming’s door and laid their signs to rest, for him to find.

Next: Women’s Health Collective Canada Is Addressing the Gap in Women’s Health

Standing in line with Johnnie on the cobblestone street outside our apartment in the city centre of Nice, we waited for socca.

Chickpea flour, water, and oil poured onto a wide skillet and cooked on an open fire. Sprinkle of salt. Served on a paper plate.

The nuttiness from the chickpeas, crunchy salt, the purest olive oil had me on tilt. Oil soaked the paper plate as we stood in the warm sun, not checking the time, just enjoying.

It’s a vegan and gluten-free combination of pancake, crêpe, and dosa, and we made our own version at Saturday Dinette. We added a hint of rosemary and served it rolled, stuffed with lavender ricotta, and dusted with confectioners’ sugar with a drizzle of olive oil to finish it. I only wish we could have served it on paper plates.

Rosemary Socca

Makes 4 pancakes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1 L) chickpea flour
  • 4 cups (1 L) water
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the skillet
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) chopped fresh rosemary
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Full-fat ricotta cheese (optional)
  • A glass of rosé wine (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, add the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt, and rosemary. Stir to combine. You should be left with a thick batter resembling pancake batter. Cover and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  2. Preheat the broiler to high. Generously grease the bottom of a 12-inch (30 cm) oven- safe skillet or cast-iron pan with olive oil. Place it in the oven and allow it to heat up until almost smoking, about 6 minutes. Using a ladle, place 1½ cups (375 mL) of the batter into the pan and swirl it around. Use a spoon to help you smooth the batter out until it covers the bottom of the pan. Broil for 4 to 5 minutes, until golden and crispy. Slide the pancake onto a clean plate and repeat with the remaining batter.
  3. Before serving, garnish each piece of socca with a sprinkle of sea salt and a dollop of ricotta, if using. Enjoy with a glass of rosé wine to complete the experience.

Book Cover My Ackee Tree

Excerpted from My Ackee Tree by Suzanne Barr and Suzanne Hancock. Copyright © 2022 Suzanne Barr and Suzanne Hancock. Published by Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Next: This Jamaican Chicken Curry Dish Deserves a Spot in Your Weekly Dinner Rotation

Traditional meals are often a source of comfort—and that was especially true for Betti Eskedar’s daughter.

Growing up, the young Ethiopian Canadian began experiencing stomach pain, and despite multiple trips to the hospital, no one could figure out what was wrong. Eskedar’s daughter finally tried an elimination diet, methodically cutting out foods like dairy and bread to pinpoint what was triggering her symptoms. She soon discovered that the problem was gluten—and that a nutritious solution could be found in one of the staple Ethiopian ingredients Eskedar’s family enjoyed at home.

Teff is a cereal grain that has been farmed in Ethiopia for more than 6,000 years. It is used to make injera, a fermented flatbread that is naturally gluten-free and high in protein, fibre and iron.

Eskedar recalls how, in Ethiopia, friends and family would drop by, unscheduled but always welcome, to gather around food and coffee. “We shared, we ate by hand and we ate from the same platter,” says Eskedar. No matter if it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, teff was always on the menu.

When Eskedar came to Toronto 40 years ago, however, teff was hard to find. “We would make meat, lentils and vegetables, but we had to eat it with bread or pita bread,” she recalls. One Ethiopian restaurant her family frequented would make injera from whole wheat and rice flour, but the taste was never quite right.

Teff is about the size of a poppy seed and has an earthy flavour reminiscent of hazelnut. It’s an ingredient that is not only central to Ethiopian cuisine but also a critical source of income for millions of Ethiopian farmers. With growing rates of gluten intolerance and celiac disease, teff has become more popular—and large brands are cultivating teff outside of Ethiopia, in places like Australia and the United States.

In an effort to bring this beloved taste of her home to Canadian consumers, and also to support Ethiopian farmers, Eskedar partnered with friends Amira Aboubaker and Zewdi Redaey to launch Ethio Organics, a line of pancake mixes made from Ethiopian teff. The mixes can be used to make a variety of baked goods including cookies, cakes and, of course, injera. The line includes organic teff mixed with flaxseed, almond flour or oat flour.

Ethio Organics practises fair trade and partners directly with women, small business owners and farmers to ensure that their community benefits as much as possible. The trio started the venture with their own money in 2018, eventually partnering with Shopify to help grow their business.

Despite supply chain issues and the rising cost of imports, these entrepreneurs are determined to keep their margins slim to maximize the benefits for the farmers they work with. “We treat them not like just a business but like our family,” says Aboubaker. As pandemic restrictions ease, their hope is to introduce Ethio Organics into restaurants and grocery stores.

“Food is not just to fill your stomach. Food is culture. Food is how we share love,” says Aboubaker. And with Ethio Organics, these women hope to spread that love even further.

This story is part of Best Health’s Preservation series, which spotlights wellness businesses and practices rooted in culture, community and history. Read more from this series here: 


Sharing Chinese Herbal Soups and Teas, Steeped in Tradition


This Soap Brand Is Sharing the Healing Power of Inuit Tradition


This Canadian Soap Brand is Rooted in Korean Bathhouse Culture


Meet Sisters Sage, an Indigenous Wellness Brand Reclaiming Smudging


Get more great stories delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the Best Health Must-Reads newsletter. Subscribe here.

A gushing, explosive waterfall between your legs that leaves you struggling for breath. The pinnacle female orgasm. Shejaculate. That’s how squirting has been portrayed in the media, in shows like Californication and movies like American Pie.

As much as it’s considered a rare and proud achievement, squirting is also assumed by many to be a myth—something movies and embellished pornography have tricked us to believe is totally doable, common even.

But the thing is, squirting is doable and not as rare as it may seem.

So, how do you squirt?

First, let’s establish what squirting is exactly—or try to. Turns out, its definition has been up for debate as far back as the 1600s, when Dutch physician and anatomist Regnier de Graaf became one of the radical few and first to take a scientific look at female ejaculation. He discovered ejaculation can be discharged when climaxing from what he referred to as the “female prostate.”

The “female prostate” is often referred to as the Skene’s glands (named after a man, naturally), which are two holes located around the urethra, very close to the bladder. That’s right—two holes. Which means people with female reproductive organs have a couple of extra holes down there than basic sexual education has led us to believe. The Skene’s glands are comparable to the male prostate (which, as a reminder, produces semen), and is indeed where female ejaculate is released from.

“Female ejaculate wouldn’t have sperm or an egg in it, but it has the same function of creating lubrication and flushing the system,” says Megan Gilron, a Vancouver-based comprehensive sexual health educator. “It combines with the practice of urinating after having sex to clean everything out, so there’s no leftover bacteria that can cause problems [like urinary tract infections] later.”

Is it true it feels like pee comes out when you squirt?

The Skene’s glands’ proximity to the bladder is also why some have assumed female ejaculate is urine—but that’s not accurate, says Montreal-based Dr. Gabrielle Landry, who specializes in sexual wellness. “While it is not expressly urine,” the substance could contain some traces of it, she says. And yes, there’s a very strong chance a squirting orgasm will make you feel like you’re about to urinate, which is where a lot of the anxiety (and the thrill, let’s be honest) surrounding squirting can come in. But rest assured, that is not what’s happening.

Research on squirting, in general, is minimal (and seen as taboo, being about female sexuality and all), but a 2018 study described the liquid as “a form of urine” that contains prostate-specific antigen with concentrations of urea, creatinine, and uric acid (all of which are found in urine). Still, the fluid produced is often clear or a murky white, far from a shade of yellow. In other words, it’s not as simple as straight-up pee.

Can anyone with a vagina squirt?

It depends on which data source you want to run with. For example, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that anywhere from 10 to 54 percent of women can experience squirting. According to another 2013 study, women of all ages can ejaculate, and those who do produce two ounces of ejaculate each time. Clearly, more research needs to be done, but Gilron says it is possible, theoretically, for all women to squirt—it’s just something that takes work.

Okay, how do I have one?

The instructions for squirting are the same as any other sexual play— you need to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible because loose muscles are key. Communication is also essential if you’re attempting squirting with a partner. That can mean laying a towel down and having a conversation beforehand about what you want to do, how to do it and that, yes, it may get messy–but that’s all part of the fun.

It’s common to have anxiety around it, says Gilron. Particularly, it’s common to fear you might not actually squirt, but pee. These fears are similar to those issues surrounding anal play. But, the secret to squirting, says Gilron, is having trust and “overcoming the ick factor.”

She suggests a trusty technique: Your partner needs to use a “hooking motion,” where they will have their fingers inside you and find a walnut or pecan texture. They should then “hook and pull” that towards themselves in a kind of “come hither” motion. This is what we’ve come to know as stimulating the G-spot, which is actually more of an area than a specific, cute little target.

“That is stimulating all the nerves and the muscles and that’s a very overwhelming feeling,” says Gilron. “If you’ve had a lot of water, you definitely can have projectile squirting.”

Wait, what? Here’s the thing: Drinking a lot of water before sex can lead to a more “spectacular” orgasm. According to Gilron, the more water in your system, the more likely you are to squirt. That’s because the fluid being expelled is largely water and that liquid has to come from somewhere. (So yes, that means being dehydrated can make reaching orgasm more difficult, too.)

On the other end of the squirting spectrum, you may just see a bit of a trickle—and that’s good too. As Gilron puts it, “it’s as if those two ducts are tear ducts, and they’re just having a little cry.”

What if it doesn’t work?

If this technique or any other doesn’t help you achieve a squirting orgasm, don’t fret. As with most things when it comes to sex, it can be different for everyone, and it can also take time, practice and different tools (i.e. hands, angled toys, vibrators, dildos, a penis). It also may not be as exciting for everyone! Whatever the case, the more you think about it, the more pressure you’re adding, and that’s a recipe for disaster.

“It’s healthy, it’s natural,” says Landry. “But I really want all women to know that if you never have it, that’s okay. It’s not because your partner is not good or there’s something wrong with your body. It’s really just a question of anatomy, and there is a lot of complexity when it comes to general orgasm.”

The unfortunate fact is that research on squirting remains limited. But pleasure will always be the bottom line, and that means normalizing every type of orgasm–no matter how wet.

Next: You Know Your Love Language—How About Your Sex Language?

Where’s the vinegar? I’m in the poultry demo at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and I’m looking for the vinegar. The instructor is just patting the chicken dry and then nothing, no washing. What is this? Reports say that washing your chicken can cause bacteria to spread to kitchen surfaces and utensils. That will never stop Black folks from doing what feels right. In my childhood kitchen in Plantation, my mum would douse the chicken in vinegar for each and every dish. Roast chicken. Chicken in a bag. Curry chicken.

My mum used store-bought curry spice for her curry chicken. I wanted to create my own spice blend and put my own stamp on this dish. It seemed to work! This is the dish that my angel investor fell in love with, and with his gift, Johnnie and I were able to open Saturday Dinette.

100K Curry Chicken

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Curry Spice Mix

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) whole allspice
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) fenugreek seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons (7 mL) black peppercorns
  • 1 whole dried clove
  • 2½ tablespoons (37 mL) turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon (2 mL) cayenne pepper

Curry Chicken

  • 3 pounds (1.35 kg) chicken quarters
  • ½ cup (125 mL) curry spice mix 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) canola oil
  • 3 cups (750 mL) chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 whole Scotch bonnet pepper, any colour
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups (500 mL) canned coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups (500 mL) steamed white basmati rice, to serve

For Garnish (optional)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) toasted cashews
  • ½ cup (125 mL) toasted unsweetened coconut flakes Fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • Mango chutney

Directions

  1. Make the Curry Spice: Mix In a medium dry skillet over high heat, toast the coriander, cumin, allspice, mustard, fenugreek, peppercorns, and clove for 2 to 4 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from the heat and let cool for 2 minutes. Transfer the spice mix to a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, or to a high-speed blender. Grind to a powder. Transfer the powder to a small bowl. Add the turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cayenne. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. Make the Curry Chicken: Trim off any excess fat from the chicken. Cut each chicken quarter into 3 equal pieces and place them in a large bowl. (Using a serrated knife can be helpful for this, particularly on the skin.) Add the curry spice mix, garlic, onion, olive oil, and salt. Use your hands to massage the mixture into the chicken pieces until they are evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the chicken in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  3. Remove the chicken from the fridge. Place the canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add enough of the chicken (and the onions and garlic) to cover the bottom of the pot. Cook until the chicken is browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl. Repeat until all of the chicken has been browned.
  4. In the same saucepan you used to brown the chicken, add the chicken stock, bay leaves, Scotch bonnet, and chicken pieces. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer, uncovered, for at least 35 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked and beginning to fall off the bone.
  5. While the curry is simmering, place the potatoes in a medium stock pot. Fill the pot with water to cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, until tender. Drain.
  6. Add the coconut milk to the saucepan with the chicken and stir to combine. Let simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Add the potatoes. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Toast the Cashews: Preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cashews and give the skillet a shake to ensure they’re arranged in a single layer. Toast for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant. Immediately transfer the nuts to a medium bowl to cool.
  8. Just before serving, remove the bay leaves and the Scotch bonnet from the curry chicken and discard. To serve, place ½ cup (125 mL) steamed rice in each bowl. Ladle the curry overtop. Garnish each serving with some toasted cashews, toasted coconut, fresh cilantro, and mango chutney, if desired.

Book Cover My Ackee Tree

Excerpted from My Ackee Tree by Suzanne Barr and Suzanne Hancock. Copyright © 2022 Suzanne Barr and Suzanne Hancock. Published by Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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