Sodium intake in Canada, and its health risk.

nutritional chartSalt has long been a treasured food staple. Salt provides two elements – sodium and chloride – that are essential for life. Your body cannot make these elements on its own, so you must get them from your diet.

As well as that, salt is very important when it comes to preserving food. See the nutritional chart at the back of a can of Campbell’s soup next time you are in a supermarket, chances are it is pretty high in sodium.

Salt does great things for the body: it’s essential for the health of all the cells. Along with potassium, you need salt so that your nerves can function and your muscles can contract. Salt helps to balance out the body, it contributes to fluid, electrolyte and pH balance.


However, as per Health Canada, the average sodium intake for Canadians is about 3400 mg, which is more than 2x the recommended daily intake. If you are a healthy adult, your upper limit for daily sodium intake should not exceed 2300 mg per day, and if you suffer from a coronary disease like high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, aim for 1500 mg daily. 

Kazakhstan, where I am from, has the highest average sodium intake in the world, measuring at whopping 6000 mg per day! Their average life expectancy is 67.35, versus 68.50 global average (according to the World Health Organization).

Salt is made of sodium and chloride, but the processed (table) salt also has man-made chemicals, such as moisture absorbents and flow agents, dangerous chemicals like ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate.

The more sodium we have in our bloodstream, the more water it binds. As such, sodium is thought to increase blood pressure (and it does, though mildly). If blood pressure is elevated, the heart has to work harder to push the blood throughout the body, and there is increased strain on the arteries and various organs. High blood pressure (AKA hypertension) is a major risk factor for many serious diseases, like heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

Cardiovascular disease deaths.

Heart disease and stroke are two of the three leading causes of death in Canada. These statistics are based on 2008 data (the latest year available from Statistics Canada).

In 2008 cardiovascular disease accounted for (Statistics Canada, 2011c):

  • 29% of all deaths in Canada (69,703 deaths – or more than 69,500)
  • 28% of all male deaths
  • 29.7% of all female deaths

In 2008, of all cardiovascular deaths (Statistics Canada, 2011c):

  • 54% were due to ischemic heart disease
  • 20% to stroke
  • 23% to heart attack

Its not a secret, that too much salt can kill you. But how much is “too much”? Apparently, 0.45g/lb of body weight. If the average person weighed 150 lbs, then about 5 tablespoons will be a lethal dose.

My girlfriend Maria and I are guilty of binge-watching TV series. The day before yesterday, a new show we’re watching, “30 Rock”, passingly mentioned the dangers of high-sodium diet, which made me think, “how much sodium do I take per day?” I really like clamato (clam + tomato) juice, and my evening meal usually includes a large sandwich with bacon and pickles, and a glass of the juice. To my surprise, a nutritional chart at the back indicated that 250 ml (about 1 glass, give or take) contains 800 mg of sodium. And that’s almost 1/3 of the upper limit for adults. In just one glass! Add the 300 mg from the 2 slices of bacon, more from pickles, and the potato chips (even though I prefer Boulder branded ones, which have nothing but potatoes, vegetable oil and salt), that is already pretty close to the 1500 limit, which I should be aiming to.

TL;DR: Canadians eat too much salt – on average 4000 mg. daily vs. 2300 upper limit recommended for healthy adults, or 1500 for ones suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease. If needed, reduce the salt intake to the adequate level; read the nutritional chart before you eat something; try to replace the table salt with the healthier kosher, additive-free or sea salt. Keep in mind that no salt is also dangerous, and, as anything else, salt is good for you in moderation.

Refer to Health Canada article on sodium consumption:

Smoking in Vancouver

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British Columbia banned smoking in all public spaces and workplaces including, as of March 2008, within 6 metres of doors, open windows and air intakes. Additionally, all commercial displays of tobacco visible to people under the age of 19 was banned in public areas under the same legislation. As of March 2008, ventilated smoking rooms are only permitted in nursing homes and care facilities. The smoking ban does not apply to hotel rooms.

To promote the care and protection of health of people in parks, the Vancouver Park Board Smoking Regulation Bylaw prohibits smoking in Vancouver parks and park areas, including:

  • On park land
  • On seawalls and beaches
  • In buildings in parks, except caretaker residences
  • In customer service areas in parks
  • In vehicles for hire in parks
  • On public transit in parks
  • In shelters in parks where people wait to board vehicles for hire or public transit


City of Vancouver has banned smoking in circumstances such as:

  • A customer service area, which means a partially enclosed or unenclosed area, including a balcony, patio, yard, or sidewalk, that is part of, connected to, or associated with a business or use in a building or premises that includes the service of food or alcoholic drinks to customers or other persons for consumption on site;
  • Any area within 6 metres of the perimeter of a customer service area;
  • Any area within 6 metres, measured on the ground from a point directly below any point of any opening into any building, including any door or window that opens, or any air intake;
  • In a vehicle for hire, or on public transit such as a school or passenger bus, ferry, or rapid transit;
  • All municipal properties, including parks, playgrounds, beaches, sports fields;
  • Within 6 metres from bus stops and public buildings;

Hookah (AKA waterpipes, shisha):

The council has passed the bylaw in October of 2007. An exemption for hookah and cigar lounges was removed 9 months later. Provincial tobacco control legislation stipulates that hookah bars could still operate as long as they don’t use tobacco or tobacco blends.

Apparently, and don’t quote me on that, you can still operate a smoking lounge as long as the employees are not exposed to second-hand smoke. So an idea of a cigar club would be viable, if the smoking room was kept close at all times, and the area inside is not serviceable by any of the employees.

B.C. municipalities that prohibit hookah smoking:

Port Coquitlam
Salmon Arm
West Vancouver

Source: Canadian Cancer Society

Buying new (eye)glasses in Vancouver

This is NOT a paid post, I am not receiving any remuneration, bonuses or special treatment from the business; this is merely an appraisal for the business, that I believe deserves it.


Over the weekend I have misplaced my prescription glasses during the camping trip. Without further adieu, I had to get them replaced, because I need them for driving and work.

Living in the country with mostly capitalist economy, I had a few options for the place to buy my glasses from. I had to compare prices, because I did not feel like spending any more that I should have. Really, I was looking for the cheapest eyeglasses with a solid frame.

First, I went to LensCrafters, as they had a retail outlet within 3 blocks from where I work, then to VisionWorks at Capilano Mall, then to First Avenue Optometry Centre. I did not have my prescription on me, so it prevented me from making hasty decisions on the spot.

The quotes I got:

1. LensCrafters – $306 for frame+lenses ($126 frame, IIRC); ~1 week wait.
2. VisionWorks – $199 for frame+lenses with anti-glare coating, or $149 for the lenses without the coating; ~3-5 days wait.
3. 1st Avenue Optometry – $138 for frame+lenses; 

Needless to say, the choice was made on the spot at the 1st Avenue store. Since I had my eye exam taken by them, they still had my vision data on file. Luckily, they had the lenses with my dioptres in store, so the glasses were ready within LESS THAN ONE HOUR. I am wearing them right now, and it’s a perfect fit. I also got a free case!

Grass-fed meat in Vancouver

Where to buy grass-fed meat in Vancouver?

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 8.50.58 AMCanada has banned the treatment of meat with Carbon Monoxide, the chemical commonly used in US and in some countries worldwide to make the meat appear fresher. However, the regular meat we buy at grocery stores is often infused with hormones for various purposes, whether to increase the shelf life, or the amount of meat from one animal. These hormones come from either the food that the animals are getting, or from intramuscular injections.

Apparently, “[t]he safety of hormone use has been reviewed by many experts and agencies, including Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations“, and they have concluded, that “these hormones can be used safely in beef production” ( When the hormone is being approved for the use, it must: 1. Be effective, e.g. do what it’s supposed to do; 2. Be safe for the animal; 3. Be safe for human consumption.

(notice how the interests of the end used are at the last priority? moving on)

Research has shown that high levels of hormones taken for a long time may be a risk factor in some kinds of cancer (

It is natural for cattle and farm birds to feed off grass and grains, so why break the model that has successfully worked for hundreds of years, given that it may cause a terminal illness. I don’t speak for everyone , but I definitely prefer having my food as natural as possible. Besides, the grass-fed meat tastes much better anyway.

There are a few places where you can buy grass-fed organic meats in Vancouver.

1. Harkness & Co. Butchers ( is the place that comes to mind first. It is located at the intersection of Broadway and Fraser in Vancouver; and I’m told the people who work there are nice and genuine, and a pleasure to associate with.

2. Windsor Quality Meats ( on Main and King Edward, also in Vancouver.

3. Famous Foods ( at1595 Kingsway St. – just a few blocks East from Fraser at Kingsway.

4. Grass Fed Jeff ( products are sold in multiple stores, check the link above.

If you do not have an opportunity to buy grass-fed at your local stores, or in the stores from the list above, FreeFrom series sold at Superstore are also good (not exactly sure on what is used to feed the animals, but the meat is free of growth hormones).

Car-free hiking destinations near Vancouver

Transit-accessible hiking destinations.

Car-free hiking destinations.

Where to hike in or near Vancouver if you have no access to a car?

Owning a car in Vancouver may come off as a luxury, with the gas and minimum insurance prices. Personally, I prefer owning a personal vehicle (right now I commute on a motorcycle – ’03 Suzuki DR-Z400s), to avoid the stress from using public transit at most times; but my girlfriend, despite me offering to buy her a motorcycle or a scooter, chooses to use TransLink.

Luckily, TransLink’s area of service covers a lot of suburban locations, that are pleasant getaway from the everyday life. The ones that came to mind are listed below, and grouped by the general proximity to one another.

(Visit or for route planning)

1. Grouse Mountain (Bus #232, #236):

image from

image from

Grouse Mountain is a very popular destination for tourists and local residents. You can either take the gondola both ways, or hike up and take the gondola down. Hiking back down is not recommended, especially outside summer, as the top 1/4 of the route is very steep, and gets icy and slippery, so you are endangering yourself and others around you.


  • Capilano Lake + Canyon
  • Grouse Grind
  • BCMC Trail (like Grouse Grind, but with 1/3 of traffic)

2. West West Vancouver Area (Bus #250/#250A, #251, #252, #253, #254, 255, #256, #258, #259, #C12):

The view from Whytecliff Park

The view from Lighthouse Park

Horseshoe Bay area is incredible during both the warmer and colder months. Lighthouse Park and Whytecliff park are about 10 km away from each other, so you will need to take another short bus ride from one to another; although Lighthouse Park is big enough for a day stroll on its own. In addition to the exceptional views of the city and the water, there are a lot of hiking trails throughout.

If you like old buildings, visit the Point Atkinson Battery in the Lighthouse Park- it was built for defending the city during the WWII.

          • Lighthouse Park & trails nearby
          • Whytecliff Park + Point Atkinson Battery
          • Whyte Lake
          • Caulfield Park & Erwin Park

3. Deep Cove (Bus #211, #212, #C15)

Deep Cove is an excellent place to visit during the Summer, and is not a bad destination for the colder months. Be aware, that during the rainy season the trails will be more dangerous as they get more slippery.

  • Quarry Rock
  • Cates Park
The view from Quarry Rock (and my shoes)

The view from Quarry Rock (and my shoes)

4. Lynn Valley (Bus #228, #229):

Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge is a good alternative to Capilano Bridge: it is free to visit, and there is far less traffic. It is smaller than its rival, but the surrounding area has a lot more to offer: you can hike around the Rice Lake, cliff jump at Lynn Canyon, do the Lynn Loop or visit the Twin Falls. There are much longer trails heading North, if you feel like continuing with your journey.

  • Rice Lake
  • Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge
  • Cliff jumping at Lynn Canyon
  • Lynn Loop

5. Buntzen and Belcarra (Bus #C25, #C26):

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Diez Vistas is an excellent, albeit a longer (6-7 hours) hike. Buntzen Lake also has shorter trails, if you are not a big fan of longer walks. Belcarra Park is within a walking distance from Buntzen, and there are a few trails connecting the two.

Keep in mind, that Belcarra is on the other shore right across the Deep Cove, so you may be able to make your way there on a kayak, if the water is temper.

  • Buntzen Lake
  • Sasamat Lake
  • Diez Vistas
  • Belcarra Park

6. Simon Fraser Unversity (Bus #135, #143, #144, #145)

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Often underestimated, SFU (Burnaby campus) has a whole lot of hiking trails with various difficulties. There are some foot trails, and some trails that you can ride on a bicycle. Barnet Marine Park is just across the highway.

— edit Aug.28 2014 —

7. Deer Lake/Burnaby Lake (thanks, /u/ThanksThanksObama) (Bus #110, #123, #129, #144; there are a few other ways to get to Burnaby Lake, refer to TransLink/Google Maps for route planning)

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Burnaby Lake and Deer Lake are a good option, if you do not feel like going to far, but still want to temporarily seclude from the city chaos.

8. Green Timbers Urban Forest (thanks, /u/ThanksThanksObama) (Bus #502)

Picture by @staceymelquist

Picture by @staceymelquist

Unfortunately, I have not seen nor heard of this park. But, hey, it is there and you can visit it anytime you feel like it (unless the access is restricted by the respective agencies).

Other helpful articles and pages:

As always, if you have any suggestions or comments, I’m all ears!