In the midst of a global pandemic, I think it is safe to say we are all aware of just how important our health is, both physical and mental. Over the past year we have come to value our health, and unfortunately are no strangers to the fear and anxiety associated with illness, especially when the health of our family and friends is at risk.

Most of us have come in contact with a family illness at some point in our lives. A family member who has battled cancer or a loved one who has experienced a heart attack, has diabetes or is fighting mental illness. If you are reading this and it is resonating with you, chances are you have questioned: what does this mean for me? Is it possible that this illness can be passed on? And the answer is yes, it is possible. Many cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mental illness are all hereditary illnesses.

A hereditary illness is a disease or disorder that is inherited genetically. Hereditary diseases are passed on from one generation to another through defective genes. These diseases are then transmitted in the same family meaning it could be you, but it also doesn’t have to be.

I come from a family of warriors. Although they are strong, they have been incredibly unlucky in the health department. My mother, who just happens to be a real-life super hero and my greatest inspiration, has battled and beat cancer four times. She is currently cancer free but it has been a long almost ten years of illness. My mother has endured breast cancer, bone cancer, radiation, medication, stress, worry and no shortage of heartache. Years of medication and cancer treatments and surgeries have left her with pan-ulcerative colitis, a missing scapula and diabetes.

My father, another hero, has survived skin cancer and recently drove himself to the ER while having a heart attack.

My mother’s family has a strong history of cancer and my father’s family a history of heart disease. Their health conditions could be a coincidence, but more than likely they have fallen victim to hereditary family illness.

I have been greatly affected by my family’s health history. Enduring years of family illness has left me with so much fear and anxiety, but has also opened my eyes and set me on a proactive path to break the chain and drastically lessen my own family’s chances of developing hereditary illness.

How you ask? By living a healthy lifestyle through regular physical activity and healthy eating.

I have always been a healthy eater and love sharing my colourful nutritious meals and meal prep ideas on my social media. Looking back as far as my high school days I was on every sports team my school offered. After having my two children I started competing in bikini fitness, most recently placing 2nd place in my class at the CPA Northern Classic Naturals in 2019.

Health and fitness have always been a passion of mine but it was kicked into high gear when my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. After that first diagnoses, I would lay awake at night reading and researching foods that fight cancer, foods to help boost immunity and energy and now most recently have started researching heart healthy meals to combat heart disease.

My weekly shopping list always consists of bright, colourful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, leafy greens and salmon.

Here are a few other staples that I have found through my research, and always ensure to have around the house to keep myself, and my family as strong and healthy as we can:

Berries

A staple in our home are berries. We usually choose blueberries and strawberries as both are high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidant polyphenols. Incorporating berries into your diet may help prevent and reduce symptoms of many chronic diseases. Research also shows eating blueberries may help reduce risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Beets 

Beets are a favourite of mine. Beets add the perfect splash of colour to my plate and are so nutritious. Beets are loaded with antioxidants and have been found to protect against cancer, heart disease and inflammation. Like berries they are naturally sweet and full of fiber and vitamin c.

Spinach

Spinach has powerful antioxidants and has been found to combat a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, ovarian, and colon cancers. Research also indicates that spinach protects the heart from cardiovascular disease.

Edamame

These green protein packed soy beans are packed with isoflavones, phytochemicals which are linked with a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Salmon

Salmon delivers more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than most fish. The two omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, DHA and EPA, are associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and cardiovascular death.

Red onions

Red onions are particularly high in vitamin C, a nutrient involved in regulating immune health, collagen production and tissue repair. Onions contain antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation, may lower heart disease risk. Furthermore, red onions are rich in anthocyanins, the pigments that give red, purple, and blue plants their rich coloring, which are powerful plant pigments that may protect against heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.

In closing, research and evidence show that when it comes to a longer, healthier life,

staying physically active and eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and leafy greens and minimizes processed foods high in trans fats, added sugars and sodium is the key.

There’s no one specific food that is going to guarantee you do not genetically inherit an illness but a healthy diet and exercise are a prescription for a healthy life.

There’s a connection between eating well and being healthy. My mom continues to beat the odds and I have carried what I have learned through years of research and applied it to my family’s daily life. I am setting us up for a healthy life and contributing to our wellness everyday by staying physically active and providing healthy, nutritious, disease fighting foods everyday.

Recipe:

Disease Fighting Heart Healthy Power Wrap/Salad with Green Apple Beet Slaw

Slaw:

1 granny smith apple grated
2 beets peeled and grated
1/4 cup finely diced red onion

Slaw Dressing:

1.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1.5 tablespoons maple syrup.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil.

Mix and add to beets, apple and onion mix let sit 20 minutes

Wrap

cooked salmon or chicken breast
½ cooked quinoa
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup of chopped strawberries
1tablespoon of feta cheese crumble (optional)
1 -2 tablespoons of dried cranberries
Beet slaw

Using a wrap or a salad bowl assemble 2 cups of spinach, 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, chicken, carrots, strawberries, cranberries and beet slaw. Sprinkle feta and top with a drizzle of balsamic oil.

This can be enjoyed as a wrap or a salad.