So, as a nutritionist I obviously have an impeccable diet. Wait, I mean mostly perfect diet. Well, pretty good. Actually, sometimes my diet downright sucks. Why am I telling you this? Because I think it’s really important that people (yeah, I mean you) stop beating themselves up when life isn’t all green tea and mung beans.
We live in a society that has become obsessed with image and food elitism (being seen to eat the organic, paleo, gluten free, vegan, activated, blessed by a shaman, superfoods). Sure, these things have their merits, but it’s also important to live a little. Sometimes we need to eat things simply because they make us happy and feed our soul. Obsessing over always eating the perfect diet will actually cause more damage to your health than the occasional treat.
Do I sometimes eat more treats than I should? You bet! Sometimes I’m stressed, tired, busy, excited or just want to eat my emotions and that makes me…normal. The best thing about life is that it’s never too late to start again with our diet.
If you’ve had a bad run lately, be kind to yourself and encourage yourself. Don’t set yourself up to fail by setting yourself impossible goals, just take each day at a time, each meal at a time. So, coming up to the weekend I thought I’d share one of the best things I was ever told in relation to treats … to always remember that the first bite tastes the same as the last….
Hemp seeds! We are still battling to have these legalised as a food product in Australia, but in the meantime we can purchase them for beauty use. For those of you lucky enough to be able to use hemp freely, let me tell you about some of the benefits.
Hemp seeds are a complete protein, which is especially exciting for vegetarians and vegans who are looking for balanced protein sources. Hemps seeds are highly nutritious, containing EFAs, antioxidants, amino acids, B vitamins, calcium and much more. What a great little ingredient to boost your health! The other great thing is that hemp is gentle on the stomach and easy to digest, so it’s often a great choice for those with digestive issues.
Most people have been on a diet or 3 at some stage of their life. We start off with the best of intentions, throw out half of the food in the pantry and renounce junk food forever, well, for this afternoon at least. I mean, chocolate’s not really that bad for you, is it? Just a square? Before you know it, you’ve forgotten all about your plans to lose 10kg by Friday lunch time. Besides, who wants to count calories or weigh every. single. bite.? Sigh!!!!
Surely I’m not the only one who has been through this! So, why is dieting so hard? Well, the answer is pretty simple really. Because we aren’t designed to deny ourselves pleasure!!! Guess what? It’s ok to like food! It’s ok to eat for pleasure and to enjoy every morsel that you put in your mouth. You don’t have to live on lettuce and purified water in order to have a body you love. Firstly, let’s ditch the word diet, I can feel you cringe at the very mention of it. Instead, embrace a way of eating (WOE) that is sustainable. Most diets fail because they’re not enjoyable and therefore, not sustainable. The trick is to find a WOE that you can embrace because it’s delicious, satisfying and good for you.
Oh, is that all? Yep. Is there really any such thing? You bet! So let me explain what I’m talking about, but before I do, let me walk you through some of the more common detoxes and diets.
The Lemon Detox – this detox contains maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and water, and promotes drinking this concoction for up to 30 days, with no other form of sustenance. This detox has been around for decades and promises everything from drastic weight loss to curing cancer. Does it work? While people may initially experience weight loss, there are some pretty major problems with this one. Firstly, the sugar. Modern science agrees that sugar, especially fructose, is the major dietary culprit for making us fat. I could bore you with a major lesson in science, but instead you can check out the research here and here done by people far smarter than I. Fructose places an enormous amount of pressure on the liver, causing issues with hormone production and regulation, which in turn affect our weight. Fructose also creates insulin resistance, and can lead to conditions such as diabetes. Fructose is also known for tricking our brain into thinking we are still hungry, even when we’re not. What a kicker!!! Sure, you might lose some, or even a lot of weight initially, but that will always happen when you significantly reduce your calorific intake, but keeping it off is another story. Once you start eating real food again your body is going to store everything it can in case you decide to starve it again!!!
High Protein Diet – On the surface, this sounds pretty good to a lot of people. I mean, eggs are good for you, right? Sure, except for the fact that unless you’re an athlete, you don’t need anywhere near as much protein as these diets suggest. Too much protein also puts a lot of pressure on the kidneys (uh-oh) and may even contribute to weight gain. As I learned in many lectures as a student, taking unnecessary protein supplements often just creates super expensive wee. Oh, and our kidneys are kind of important since they’re responsible for detoxing our blood. No biggie.
Isajunkix – This one makes all sorts of claims which they stand steadfastly by, despite being repeatedly proven false (such as being non GMO and sugar free). That may not sound like the worst thing in the world, but is it actually any good? The short answer is no. Isagenix uses nasty oils such as canola, which contains a long chain fatty acid called erucic acid and has strong links to cancers, cardiovascular diseases and neurological disorders. Canola is generally agreed to be toxic. Another nasty ingredient in these products is soy lecithin. Firstly, soy is only effectively digested by our system if it is fermented. Unfermented soy has been linked with problems such as auto-immune disorders, cardiovascular disease, allergies, reproductive issues, cognitive function and more. Unfermented soy is difficult to digest because it is high in enzyme inhibitors, meaning it blocks the production of enzymes such as protease and amylase lipase, which are produced to break down food and release the nutrients into our body for effective absorption. You would think that would be enough to scare anyone off, but there’s more. SUGAR!!! This one is usually under the name of agave syrup in these products. This is fructose, so has all the same issues as mentioned earlier in the article. Is this really the type of thing you want to be putting into your body? For a more in depth overview of Isagenix products, check out this great article. This is not the only misleading brand on the market, many others such as Juice Plus, Yor Health, Herbalife etc. present similar issues.
Grapefruit Diet – there are many variations of this diet, but you might be surprised to know that it’s not too far from the mark when it comes to a diet that actually works. Wait, what? Yep, you read that right. Traditionally, the grapefruit diet promoted eating grapefruit before all other food because it has magical properties, um, because it supposedly creates chemical reactions that increase metabolism. However, the real reason this diet yields results is because it promotes reducing carbs and sugar while increasing protein and good quality fat. There is a lot of science, such as this article and this one, this one too and don’t forget this one, to support reducing carb and sugar intake, moderate protein intake and high fat consumption. So, am I suggesting that fat is good for you? Read on, MacDuff!
Low Carb High Fat (LCHF). You may have seen variations of this one around the traps and it may even sound like a really bad idea. Don’t worry, I totally feel you. There has been a war on fat since the 50’s, drumming into us the perils of cholesterol and that eating fat will make us less than waifish. Oh no!!! But the truth is, we need fat, and lots of it. Our body relies on fat in order to function effectively, relying on fat to transport nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K throughout our system. We rely on fats to help regulate hormones, promote healthy hair and skin, assist with cognitive function, regulate sleep patterns and……. Drum roll please…….. weight management. I can hear you chew on this tasty little morsel of information. So, how does this work? Well, there are a few pretty cool factors that come in to play here. Remember where I mentioned hormone regulation? Often, our weight issues stem from hormone imbalances (such as leptin and cortisol), and good quality fats help the liver rebalance hormones and stimulate others. Again, this is getting way too sciencey for this article, but you can read more here and here. Next, fat promotes satiety. This is the feeling of satisfaction/fullness after eating. This is pretty important, as it prevents us from overeating if we listen to our bodies. This element is also key to a sustainable way of eating, as feeling satisfied means that we are more likely to follow a WOE long term, leading to more permanent results. There is also a profound psychological effect that goes along with this – it’s easier to stick to a diet that is satisfying and therefore we feel good because we are kicking goals. Nobody likes falling off the wagon, and doing so can often cause us to spin into a cycle of emotional eating or other unhealthy habits. Unlike sugar and many carbs, saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter, ghee etc, also provide us with long lasting energy, diminishing our need to constantly refuel. Another great thing about fat is that it tastes great!!! And since food is meant to be enjoyed, this is kind of important! I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly relish eating food that tastes like cardboard just because it promises to make me look like Cara Delevingne. So, a diet that tastes good, makes you full, provides slow burning energy and has numerous health benefits (as outlined here and here). Sounds pretty good to me!
Now, obviously there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health and this doesn’t take into account individual needs, but I’d encourage you to do some research of your own. The LCHF approach certainly seems to tick all the boxes for me, as well as encouraging a balanced WOE.
Recently I’ve had an overwhelming number of clients bring up the 5 Star Health Rating as one of the tools they are using in an effort to getting their health on track.
Obesity and health are major problems in the western world, so kudos to the government for attempting to do something about it. Unfortunately, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and may actually be preventing you from achieving your health goals.
Ok, so you’re probably wondering if I’m just being an uptight nutritionist who is high on kale, cacao and self importance, or if there’s really something to my claims. Let’s break it down.
The idea behind the star rating is pretty simple – the fewer stars, the worse it is for you, whereas 5 stars will have you glowing with health and smug satisfaction. Apparently.
Health Star Ratings are based on:
Total energy (kilojoules) of the product. An average Australian adult should consume around 8,700 kJ a day.
The saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugar content. Consuming too much of these risk nutrients is linked to being overweight and obese, some cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The fibre, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content. Increasing consumption of these healthy nutrients and ingredients is good for your health.
This was pulled straight from the government site FAQ
For those of you who have been reading my articles for a while now, you’ll know how passionate I am about fighting the war against fat and promoting it as a healthy part of our diet. As I’ve referenced in these articles, good quality fat – including saturated fat – is an important part of our diet and promotes satiety and weight management, improved mental health, better quality sleep, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, increased cognitive function and much more. Saturated fat is the first thing on their watch list, yet is effective at reducing the risk of a number of risk factors mentioned in their brief.
Salt is also an essential part of our diet, especially for those of us living in tropical and subtropical climates. It’s important to ensure that we are getting this from proper food sources such as sea salt and not processed foods or the nasty salt that seems to grace the tables of every food court in the world, but more on that another day.
Sugar. Well, at last I have found something I can agree with! As people are becoming aware, sugar is responsible for weight gain, inflammation, promoting disease, hyperactivity, energy crashes, inability to focus and more. I was excited to see sugar on here and thought this might be a redeeming feature, but it doesn’t really seem to add up with the health ratings being doled out.
For example, did you know that Milo has a 4.5 health star rating? While my inner 8 year old jumped for joy at reading that and had flashbacks to hiding in her Nanny’s pantry to secretly eat milo straight from the tin, the nutritionist in me couldn’t help but die a little inside. At 27.3g of sugar per 100g, this is hardly a low sugar option, while Nutrigrain gets a 4 star rating and has a staggering 32g of sugar per 100g. Up & Go also comes in with a 4.5 star rating and while it is relatively low in sugar (3.3g per 100g), it has a whopping 67g per 100g of carbohydrates. A further issue is that Up & Go has 3.3 serves per unit, though most of us would consume the entire contents in one go.
Just like the Heart Foundation tick of approval that was thankfully discredited, this rating system doesn’t accurately demonstrate which foods are healthy, only how they stack up against other foods in their category. “The system allows us to quickly compare the general nutritional profile of foods within the same category of packaged and processed goods. And it’s simple to understand and use.” It’s one saving grace is that it’s not a rating that is bought, though it is left up to manufacturers to create their own rating in accordance with some very confusing and flexible guidelines. So while it’s great that they’re comparing apples with apples, it seems they’ve forgotten to rate apples at all!
Sadly, unprocessed foods such as fresh meat, fruit and vegetables don’t get a star rating at all. Yet isn’t this what should comprise the majority of our diet?
So, scrap the star rating, the heart foundation tick and any other gimmick they pitch at us and just get back to basics. Shop the outside of the supermarket, eat predominantly fresh food and stick to items that are low in sugar and don’t have more than a handful of ingredients in them. Simples!
My dad is pretty motivated when it comes to staying healthy and is often a great source of questions because of this (thanks Dad!). One of the things he asked me about recently was cholesterol, because the misinformation surrounding this topic is something I often like to rant about. I know, how unlike me! Dad isn’t the only one with questions though. Cholesterol is a bit of a hot topic in my clinic at the moment, especially with my patients over 50, so I figured with all these questions coming at me I’d take some time to set the record straight. It seems to be something that doctors love testing and medicating for, but what’s the truth behind cholesterol?
It’s pretty standard these days for medical practitioners, the media and government sources to promote all the perils of elevated cholesterol, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. We’re usually told that elevated cholesterol, particularly LDL, accumulates in blood vessel walls and over time will lead to clots, blockages, strokes and heart attacks. We’re encouraged to focus on reducing our “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increasing our “good” cholesterol (HDL) to reduce our risk of these conditions. But is there any truth to this?
It might surprise you to learn that in truth, there’s no such thing as “good” and “bad” cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat that we not only consume from animal products, but create naturally within our body. Every cell, with the exception of the gonads and adrenal cortex, has the ability to create cholesterol. It is imperative for our cell health as it ensures that our cells maintain their fluidity. Without this fluidity our cells lose the ability to regulate what passes in and out of our cells and will eventually lead to cell death (cue dramatic music). Cholesterol also plays an essential role in transporting fat around our blood, creating new cells, producing and regulating our hormones, and aiding in food digestion.
Our body is pretty switched on, and is designed for homeostasis, which essentially means it regulates things within our body to maintain happy levels. This includes cholesterol! If we increase our dietary intake of foods rich in cholesterol, then our body naturally adjusts to produce less. If we eat fewer cholesterol rich foods, our body will produce more! So, this means that vegans and vegetarians will generally produce more cholesterol than meat eaters, simply because it isn’t part of their diets!
HDL are generally classed as good cholesterol due to the fact that they are smaller and their primary role is to collect fat molecules that have accumulated in blood vessels and transport them to the liver and other organs to be reused (talk about upcycling!). But, what you may not know is that LDL are larger and transport fat molecules to the cells throughout our body so they can be utilised for hormone production, generating new cells, energy production and more. That doesn’t sound so bad in reality, does it?
This paper from the British Medical Journal is just one of many that demonstrates that elevated LDL does NOT increase risk of mortality. It links to 19 other research papers that collectively studied over 68,000 subjects, which ALL concluded that elevated LDL was associated with a DECREASED risk of death.
When we experience prolonged or chronic inflammation, there is a breakdown of structural integrity in the blood vessels. This results in thinning of the blood vessel walls, and in order to protect the damaged areas, they attract deposits of cholesterol. Inflammation can be caused by things such as a diet rich in processed and high sugar foods, high carbs, high oxidised fats (this is where fats are broken down into smaller particles, which results in our body being unable to utilise them for energy), rich in grains, elevated blood sugar levels (BSL), insufficient antioxidants and many other factors. Unfortunately, these can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, dementia and more. If you want to truly reduce your risk of these conditions, it’s important to address the real causes of the inflammation.
If you have what is deemed to be high LDL cholesterol levels, it’s likely that you will have been prescribed statins by your GP in order to drop those levels back down. The problem with statins is that they don’t treat the underlying cause and only succeed in masking the symptoms you are experiencing, as well as coming with a whole variety of nasty side effects such as liver damage, increased BSL resulting in risk of diabetes II, and muscle pain and weakness. Studies have shown that “statins may be causative in coronary artery calcification and can function as mitochondrial toxins that impair muscle function in the heart and blood vessels through the depletion of CoQ10 and haem A and thereby ATP generation. Statins inhibit the synthesis of vitamin K2, the cofactor for matrix Gla-protein activation, which in turn protects arteries from calcification. Statins inhibit the biosynthesis of selenium containing proteins, one of which is glutathione peroxidase serving to suppress per oxidative stress.” But aren’t these the very things statins are trying to prevent?
There are literally thousands of in vitro clinical trials surrounding the safety and efficacy of statins, so how have they got it so wrong? There is no contest that these studies have consistently demonstrated their ability to effectively reduce LDL, but what the study above has established (and the others have failed to examine) is that statins also deplete CoQ10. This may not seem like a big deal until you realise that low levels of CoQ10 have been attributed to increased risk of HEART DISEASE, CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, brain disorders, diabetes and cancer. I’ll let that sit with you for a moment.
So if we take into account the fact that LDL isn’t the problem and we’re also depleting CoQ10 stores, what does this mean for our health? In a nutshell, we are creating an environment that is perfect for the development of CVD, not the prevention! Is it any wonder that those who experience benefits from taking statins are in the minority?
In keeping with the proven Hippocratic principle of “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, a variety of published studies demonstrate that dietary changes are significantly more likely to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease than statins.
So next time you’re prescribed any kind of medication, I’d encourage you to take the time to examine the research and and seek a second opinion. Pharmaceuticals aren’t the devil and definitely have their place, but they’re often not the miracles they’re purported to be and may not be the best option for you.
If you have questions about your health, book in to see your natural health practitioner. Prevention is always better than the cure, and your health is the most valuable thing you have.
You’ve probably noticed a trend on social media where it seems ok to fat shame people. As a society we have come to view overweight people as greedy and lazy because if you’re overweight, it’s totally your fault, right?
Wrong! For a start, major corporations spend millions of dollars researching how to get us hooked on their products by targeting different areas of the brain and our chemical responses to various ingredients. As I’ve written about before, there are so many factors that contribute to weight, such as genetics, illness, culture, hormone imbalance, socio-economic status, education, psychological and emotional distress and more. The last 2 in particular can be some of the hardest to combat, with many people experiencing food addiction due to finding comfort in eating.
Like any addiction, it’s not as simple as “just stop doing it”. It’s an ADDICTION!
I’m wondering how many people have considered that food addiction maybe be even harder to break than drugs or alcohol?
I know that may be hard to accept, but hear me out. Drug addicts struggle to give up drugs, they crave them, they use them as a form of escape, but they don’t physically need them to survive. They won’t die without them, though it may sometimes feel that way to them. The same applies to alcoholics. Yet people who are addicted to food are faced with the stone cold fact that the very thing they are addicted to is essential to their existence. They will literally die without it! They are faced with their addiction every single day! It’s not illegal or restricted, it’s advertised freely.
One of the biggest tools for recovery is for addicts to remove themselves from situations or people that may encourage them to relapse, so how is a food addict supposed to utilise this integral step? Is there any hope for recovery?
Firstly, I’d like to let you know that if this is an area you’re struggling with, you’re not alone. You shouldn’t feel ashamed if you don’t seem to make any progress. We all need help with things sometimes and it’s ok not to know how to do everything yourself. So, how can you make changes?
Identify the problem. With emotional eating, one of the best things you can do is acknowledge that this is your trigger. Once you have identified this, it will empower you to take ownership and slowly start to make changes. If you know what causes you to reach for comfort food, it makes it easier to put steps into place to combat that.
Seek help. Doing things alone can be a real struggle. Often we become disheartened, lose motivation or simply can’t find what works for us. A good nutritionist will be able to help you identify problematic patterns, help you find feasible alternatives, prescribe supplements (that may be linked to your cravings) and provide you with support and encouragement along the way. Finding a counsellor or psychologist may help you identify and work through any psychological issues attached to your eating patterns, as well as providing you with added support.
Join a program. There are many programs out there which are designed to help you lose weight without having to sign up for fancy shakes, products or gym memberships. One that I really love is the Eat Fat Get Fit Program, which I am actively part of and have seen many people achieve great results. The program is designed to provide you with nutritional information based on solid science, meal plans, Q and A, exercise plans, interaction and support from other members, support from a Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist, Dietitian and Personal Trainer who all want you to succeed! One of the things I love most about this program is the private Facebook group where the members can talk abut anything, because there’s no such thing as a stupid question. People are so great at encouraging each other and sharing information, that it’s a super positive community to be a part of.
Spring clean. Some people find that a really effective way to discourage poor eating habits is to simply not stock the fridge or pantry with the usual junk food culprits. Go through the fridge and pantry and ditch all the convenience foods. Often we will think twice if we have to make a special trip to the shop for a treat, with junk becoming a less appealing choice if the only options in the house are healthy or something we have to prepare.
Restock. I’m the last person in the world to say no to chocolate! Treats and enjoyment of food are a wonderful thing, so in order to discourage bingeing, replace your treats with healthier options. Buy chocolate with a higher cacao content, as it will have less sugar. Switch out sweets for frozen berries, ice-cream for frozen natural yoghurt, and crisps for seed crackers and hummus.
Community. One of the biggest struggles with addiction is feeling isolated, misunderstood and unsupported. Joining groups of like minded people can provide a safe place to talk about your struggles, receive support, share ideas, discuss what has or hasn’t worked for you, share encouragement and motivation. There are many groups for this type of thing both in the community and online. They will all have a slightly different approach, so explore your options and see what gels with you.
Take the First Step. While getting the courage up to try again can be the hardest thing, you won’t make any progress if you don’t take the first step.
Believe in yourself. You CAN do this! You may make mistakes along the way and struggle to keep going, but you CAN make changes, you CAN break the cycle and you CAN change your relationship with food.
Together, let’s change the attitude around body shaming and encourage people instead, as you never know what they may be struggling with.
Gut health has become really popular of late, which is a wonderful thing, especially when you consider that our gut has as many receptors in it as our brain! Isn’t that amazing! Because of this, you may hear many practitioners refer to the gut as the “second brain”, with gut health also being a major focus in any natural health protocol. Coming into winter, gut health often becomes more important because of the role it plays in supporting our immune system.
One of the things that repeatedly crops up for gut health is bone broth. So, what is it exactly? Is it the same as stock? Well, sometimes the two are referred to interchangeably in cooking, though there is a huge difference when it comes to health. To start with, both broth and stock are made on a base of bones (and sometimes meat), water, vegetables and seasoning, but this is where the similarities end.
Stock is simmered for a short period of time (slow cooked between 3 and 4 hours) and is a great way to flavour food and use the odds and ends in the fridge. Stock may yield a small amount of gelatin, depending on the bones used. Once you have finished cooking your stock, you should be able to lift out the bones.
Bone broth is a nutritional powerhouse and is made similarly to broth, though it is typically slow cooked for a much longer period of time (8-24 hours). Because the purpose of bone broth is to extract beautiful fats, collagen and gelatin, it’s important to use the right bones. Bones with large joints, chicken necks and feet etc. are all ideal for making bone broth. For a well rounded flavour to your bone broth, ensure that you rub the bones with salt and roast them for at least 30 minutes before adding to the slow cooker. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is also a really important ingredient due to the way it draws the nutrients out from the bones. Once the bone broth has finished cooking you will find that the bones will disintegrate easily when squeezed gently. You should also be able to see a visible layer of fat and gelatine once the broth has cooled! I often have to crack mine apart with a knife so I can get to the broth underneath. Because we are absorbing such concentrated levels of all the lovely nutrients bone broths provide us, it’s essential to buy the best quality bones you can afford.
Bone broths are a rich source of minerals, protein, gelatin, collagen, healthy fat, glycine and proline.
Glycine is an amino acid that is used to support the natural detox processes, promotes digestion and gastric acid production, assists with the synthesis of bile salts, haemoglobin and other chemicals that occur naturally. Glycine has even been used in the treatment of cancer, stroke and schizophrenia.
Proline is used for the production of collagen and cartilage, so is a great addition to the diet for those who want to remain youthful looking. The effects of proline are particularly effective when coupled with vitamin C.
Gelatin is often used to facilitate good digestive health, and just like proline, is great for skin health.
So, if you’re wanting to improve your overall wellness this winter, bone broth may be an option worth exploring.