What are the leading causes of death, and is it possible to prevent them? Modern science is learning more and more about epigenetics and the miraculous dance between our genes and our environment. However, most of what modern Science confirms is really not that new. Arguably ancient traditions have held and practiced this wisdom for many generations. Watch this interesting albeit somewhat controversial clip that “Uproots the leading causes of death”.
With Easter coming up, it seemed a good time to ask this question:
Why does chocolate make us feel SOOO good and seem to have so much power over us?
If you are the type of person who thinks about chocolate all the time and can’t live without it, and if you just can’t even think about saying no or resisting it, then you are probably addicted to it!
You can be both physiologically and psychologically or emotionally addicted to a substance or behaviour and that is what makes it harder to control or give up.
What is it in chocolate that makes it so “addictive”?
The taste, the texture and the way it makes you feel!
The main ingredients in chocolate are: cocoa, milk and sugar.
If we break each of these down, we can start to understand the effect each of these has on the body.
o Contains compounds that act as stimulants for the central nervous system, so we feel more alert (for example caffeine and theobromine)
o Contains phenylalanine which can increase levels of endorphins in the brain, so we feel good
o It also contains important minerals like iron which is needed for blood formation and magnesium which the body needs for muscle movement (contraction and relaxation) and also for the nervous system, so it can help us feel a little relaxed.
o The heavenly texture can be attributed to the fat. This pleasurable “mouth feel” associated with fat is probably an evolutionary consequence of the high energy fat could provide in times of famine.
o Also contains antioxidants (protective in the body)
o Contains tryptophan which is converted to serotonin (one of our “happy hormones”) in the brain
o Interestingly a sensitivity to milk can give rise to cravings for milk. (You may not be lactose intolerant but you could still be sensitive to milk! Some partially-digested proteins for example casein in milk or gluten in wheat will form opium like peptides (chains of amino acids) which can bind to special receptors in the brain and are capable of producing a drug-like effect, leaving us wanting more of the very thing that is causing us harm!) (I will cover more on the topic of allergies in future newsletters).
o (Carbohydrate) aids the transport and absorption of tryptophan into the brain
o Will provide an increase in blood sugar, which will periodically alleviate the symptoms of low blood sugar (low energy and low mood).
Therefore you can see there is a host of explanations for why chocolate has such an effect on us and it would be so hard to give up.
The downside of chocolate:
o Processed, mainstream chocolate is high in sugar and contains all sorts of other additives to keep it “fresh”. Anything that causes a rapid increase in blood sugar will inevitably result in a rapid drop in blood sugar, which will affect your energy and your mood short term but has more serious long-term consequences (e.g. diabetes).
o Caffeine is a stimulant so acts increases stress in the body.
o There are better ways to achieve higher levels of these important nutrients: e.g. iron (meat, chicken thighs). Milk hinders iron absorption. Tryptophan is found in protein rich food like chicken, pumpkin seeds, turkey, tuna, rolled oats is a particularly good option, because of the combined carbohydrate content.
o Some people are sensitive to certain foods, continuing to eat these foods can have undesirable consequences for the body, for example it causes inflammation which can appear with the following symptoms: bloating, mucous production, diarrhea, cramping, leaky gut.
The million-dollar question: So is chocolate bad for me?
0 It’s a treat! It is definitely acceptable and possibly even beneficial to enjoy good quality chocolate in moderation. “Good” options are 1-2 pieces 75-90% Cocoa, and preferably Organic Chocolate. If you can’t stand dark chocolate, choose a good quality milk chocolate with nuts in it, (hazelnuts or almonds).
0 Always make sure you are enjoying it while you eat and never eat it mindlessly (while you are doing something else!), it just isn’t worth it!
It’s Easter, so there’ll be a lot of chocolate around. Try to eat dark chocolate where possible and not too much!
Otherwise, enjoy your Easter!
We wish you and your families all the best for the holiday season and look forward to feeding you again in the New Year!
Why should you take nutrition advice personally? And what do I mean by that?
As a nutritionist I’ve been quizzed about the strengths and weaknesses of different diet trends and fads. Usually my clients want a simple answer in response to a question like “Is veganism healthy” or “What do you think of Paleo”?
The truth is that different people have different dietary needs, tolerances and preferences, and nutrition is highly personal.
It’s interesting, we expect people to be different to each other in a number of ways: their hair colour, their build, their talents, their favourite sport, their style of dress, their favourite colour, their favourite movie, their choice of music, their career choices, their dream partner and their dream home among other things. We expect that some people will have common interests and may even be very similar in some ways, though we understand that won’t mean they are exactly alike. We even anticipate that identical twins will have some differences to each other.
We know people have different preferences to foods. Some people love spaghetti bolognaise, other people love roast dinner, some people love spicy foods, some love seafood, some like marmite and it hurts me to say it, but some people even claim to love McDonalds.
In the same way that people have different preferences, people also have different needs. And while it would be really convenient and even tempting to advocate for the idea of a perfect diet that would perfectly meet everyone’s needs… it is highly improbable.
For example research tells us that the healthiest diet on the planet is a whole food plant based diet, so arguably a well constructed vegan or vegetarian whole food diet would be the closest you can come to achieving that. However, some people have a DAO enzyme deficiency, (like me) which means levels of histamines (an amino acid but also secreted by the body in response to allergens) can rise too high. If someone has a histamine intolerance eating a diet high in nuts, seeds, beans and certain vegetables can over elevate their histamine levels. Despite these all being “healthy foods”, this “perfect diet” would be imperfect for some people, and if they excluded these plant proteins they may become deficient, despite the fact the diet is built on “super foods”. Furthermore, some vegans become low in iron and vitamin B12, even without enzyme deficiencies so they too need to monitor their nutrition status.
So does that mean everyone can eat meat (or should)? Well back to the histamine intolerance example, in fact too much chicken or processed meat, or fish can also raise levels too high, so it is not just a vegan diet that is problematic, they actually NEED to be picky with what they eat.
Let’s consider another diet, one currently trending in popularity, the Paleo diet. This diet recommends the restriction of grains, pulses, beans, corn, dairy and sugar, and promotes animal protein and vegetables, fruit, animal fats and coconut oil as primary food sources. There are lots of great benefits reported by this way of eating, however the approach doesn’t restrict or exclude processed meat (e.g bacon), which we know are linked to colon cancer.
Typically people eating this way consume an excess of protein rich foods on this diet, which for some is detrimental for their kidneys and digestive system and can be problematic for people who suffer from inflammatory conditions. And for someone suffering with Hemochromatosis (a genetic disorder where your body stores too much iron) this diet would be far too high in iron, making you vulnerable to iron toxicity.
Additionally, if you eat too much meat, and fats and not enough starchy carbohydrates, you can affect your digestion, your cholesterol levels, your energy levels and your brain function.
Some may argue the Paleo diet can be done well, but often quite frankly, it isn’t. So again, this apparently “great and healthy diet” is not healthy for EVERYONE, and like any diet, it needs to be considered with the context of the individual in mind.
So, in answer to questions about what the perfect diet is, I usually respond: “Eat real food, and for the rest, it really depends on you (your needs and preferences), and what you are trying to achieve.”
Personalised nutrition is fundamental for health. You need to be eating what is healthiest for your body, and that’s subtly different for everybody. In fact, I encourage people to take their nutrition, personally.
YES there are guiding principles for the “best diet” and they are eat real and whole foods as much as possible. For the rest, get yourself tested, see a good nutritionist and find out the best diet for you PERSONALLY.
I often am approached by parents wanting information on best feeding practices for their children. Sometimes parents complain they battle with “fussy eaters”, sometimes it is that their “toddler is too busy to eat”, sometimes it is that their children are constantly nagging for junk food, or “won’t eat anything healthy”.
On the one hand I encourage parents to keep the peace in the home and resist the urge to try to control their children, especially with regards to eating. Food wars, almost always will cause problem eaters down the track. At the same time, parents are the nutritional gatekeepers, and so I do encourage them to take advantage of their ability to influence their children’s eating habits. They can do this in several ways:
- They can make sure there is delicious healthy food available.
- They can be a good role model, choose, prepare and eat healthy food in satisfying ways.
- They can watch their dialogue around food, eating, and body image.
- They can invite their children to take part in meal decisions or meal preparation.
- They can crowd out or minimize the availability of junk food in the house.
- They can set norms, boundaries and expectations around eating in the home.
- They can create an environment for best eating practice.
At every stage of childhood, parents have responsibilities with feeding while children have responsibilities with eating. As the child gets older, their responsibilities increase. So be aware that you will have different degrees of influence and responsibility at different ages. That is why being a role model, and a facilitator and leader is a better strategy than trying to control everything, or nothing.
Here’s what I mean: In the case of the infant: the parent is responsible for what the infant eats and how they eat it. A baby has no ability to control that, they can cry, they can refuse to eat, but the parent will decide whether the baby is offered breast or bottle, if bottle, which formula, the parent will decide when to wean, and the parent will decide what to wean with. (Once the preferred infant food is decided by the parent, the infant is only in charge of how much they consume.
As a child starts eating more solid foods they become accountable for not only how much they eat but also whether they eat. Usually the older they get, the more they assert their will and their preferences, but they still can’t really “help themselves” or control “what their choices are”. Children choose how much they eat and whether they eat.
If parents successfully take on responsibility for their part of the feeding (e.g. choosing food, preparing food, being good role models around food and mealtime), children will learn how to eat, how to determine satiety and how to eat a variety of different foods, all of which lead to competent eating (1). But in order to achieve this, parents must give their child some responsibility of their own. This is crucial in teaching children good eating habits.
Here is one example highlighting why it is important they are given some of the responsibility. I have watched many well intentioned parents insist their children don’t leave the table until they finish everything on their plate (my mother included). While the parent has the best interests of the child at heart (or perhaps they don’t like to waste food), unfortunately this rule overrides the child’s natural abilities to judge “satiety” and learn when they have had enough and practice the act of “stopping eating”.
Under three, children will stop eating based on their own internal cues rather than being influenced by serving size or how much food is on their plate; after five however, a child will typically be much more influenced by serving size, and eat more or less dependent on external rather than internal cues. So I would encourage you to give your child the opportunity to practice this skill, if they have had enough, let them stop.
In the same breath, I am a mum, and I “get” that children might “play up”, get distracted, have preferences and so it is necessary to consider some practical guidelines around eating, and certainly important to manage expectations and boundaries.
Here are some ideas:
Encourage them to sit down and eat their food at the table (not on the run or in front of the TV), research shows this facilitates mindful eating, and furthermore research shows lower incidence in teenage depression of families who share at least one meal a day at the dinner table.
You might set an expectation that they eat vegetables every day, but you encourage them to choose any two types of vegetables from the options available for their plate each night (they can choose from what is available e.g. “Which two would you like, you can have pumpkin, raw carrot sticks, cucumber, avocado, broccoli or peas?) By doing this you work within their preferences but you set the expectation and habit of including vegetables and healthy food as part of the meal.
You might make an effort to both include new things for them to try, and include old familiar favorites they like.
Remember parents are the nutritional gate keepers, you do most of the food shopping and preparation, therefore you need to make sure there are delicious and nutritious options available for them to choose from. (If you need some support with healthy meal preparation and catering remember Healthy Meals To Your Door does healthy family dinners!)
As we know, educating children on good eating behaviours and allowing them to develop their own positive attitudes toward food is greatly beneficial for when the child steps into adulthood. Their habits and values will carry with them throughout their life.
For more information or support in understanding or healing your relationship with food visit www.sizefantastic.com.au
An article written by The Italian Tribune displayed some recent data from Bloomberg Rankings, showing the top healthiest countries and the least healthiest countries in the world. Each country is given a health score and a health risk score.
Singapore was named the number one healthiest country in the world (yes we were surprised too). Coming in at a close second was Italy, followed by Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Israel and Spain. While Swaziland, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Mozambique were rated the top 5 least healthiest countries in the world, respectively.
We were interested to know how these rankings were assigned. The health score given to each country was based on mortality rates, smoking rates, immunization rates, the number of people with access to healthcare, healthcare efficiency and satisfaction and life expectancy. These are all very important factors, but it would interesting to see the worlds healthiest countries ranked in terms of just diet and lifestyle, instead of quality of healthcare. Would Australia still come in third place? Probably not. Japan might slide up a few spots though, given that it has one of the lowest rates of obesity (3.3%) compared to Australia (20%) and the U.S (35%).
It’s important to note that good quality healthcare is not the number one predictor of health. Many countries with excellent health care (like Australia and the US) are actually staggering under huge numbers of unhealthy individuals. We are overweight, obese; we have diabetes, cancer, mental illnesses.
There are many reasons why a country might have a fantastic health care system, one being that they are most likely a developed country. Usually you see an increase in health in a population as healthcare infrastructure increases. Unfortunately this doesn’t always correlate. Australia has an amazing public health care system, as does Canada, and the UK comparative to many other countries.
Sadly despite the comparatively good health care systems in the States, the UK, and Australia, this infrastructure often is bulging under the pressure to treat the millions of people everyday who are burdened with chronic diseases. Ironically many in first are a product of the first world and modernisation or “westernisation”, and arguably could be prevented with lifestyle changes or a return to more traditional ways (specifically eating less processed foods, cooking meals, and eating as a family, being part of a community, less stressful lives).
In underdeveloped countries the illness and disease profiles look quite different, and it is surprising that with improvements and infrastructure that more developed countries aren’t performing better than this in their countries “health scores”.
So the question is whether we should be looking at the quality of treatment that a country gives to its citizens as a marker of the health of the country or the effectiveness in preventive health care and health promotion infrastructure available to the general public of said country (e.g. diet, exercise and lifestyle factors, social support mechanisms and other support services and infrastructure and policy) to enable its citizen’s to better take care of themselves and each other. What do you think?
We did love some of the notes on how the Italians do life, and we do love and promote the benefits of enjoying a Mediterranean diet… viva Italy! In our minds, it’s not just the great health care infrastructure that lifts their health markers… it’s the lifestyle factors, that are so often underestimated like: culture, social support, community and of course great eating practices that also play a key role.
Read the article by The Italian Tribune here: http://www.italiantribune.com/italy-second-healthiest-country-in-the-world/
Do you need help deciding which plan is best for you?
Why not speak to our nutritionist?
Sometimes it can be daunting trying to figure out what you should be doing. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. You can talk through your health goals, your dietary preferences and our nutritionist can help you meet your specific needs.
Face to face (nutritionist in Brisbane), skype and telephone consultations also available.
Do you have a healthy issue and want to know how changing your diet can help?
Health rebates may apply if you have private health insurance, check out your plan, you may be able to claim a percentage of your consultation back.
Nutritionist (Brisbane based):
Lisa Cutforth (BSc. Hons Nutrition with Psychology)
Lisa Cutforth is our lead nutritionist and the founder of Size Fantastic.
She is qualified in Nutrition and Psychology and therefore can advise you on what your body needs from food in order to feel well, as well as being able to help you action any advise. Sometimes change can be challenging and Lisa who is also completing her Diploma in the Neuroscience of Leadership can help you understand your mind and your brain and how they influence what you do. This plays an important part in getting well again.
So here, instead of a list of foods to avoid is a list of foods for you to eat… Eat from this list daily, and your challenge, should you choose to accept it is to create as many of your meals with these foods in them as you can.
Here are my top 20 healthiest foods to add to your day:
- Berries especially blueberries and blackberries. (2) High in antioxidants and despite being a fruit they aren’t going to spike your blood sugar terribly.
- Lemon: squeeze it into water, over meat, over salads, over avocado
- Coconut: eat the flesh, drink the water, use the oil (cold pressed)
- Sardines (in a can): high in omega 3, without the mercury, and because they contain the bones they are also high in calcium.
- Oysters, high in iron, protein and all sorts of sea minerals.
- Goats cheese or goat’s yoghurt (if you fancy cheese, goat is the way to go)… more closely resembles human milk than cows milk, therefore easier to digest. High in calcium and vitamin D and protein.
- Fresh herbs like basil, mint, coriander, rosemary and thyme they don’t just add flavour to meals, they have great health qualities too.
- Sugar snap peas… yummy crunchy, green and full of B vitamins, fiber, protein and yumminess.
- Broccoli and cauliflower, soo much goodness in cruciferous veg! Wonderful cancer fighters.
- Tahini (sesame seed paste) high in calcium… and yummy in dips or dressings
- Apples (organic and washed!)
- Chilli or Harissa
- Cinnamon (this is a spice, not a food, I know… but it can actually help you manage your blood sugar levels so eat it with food like pumpkin, oats, apple)
- Pistachios (one of the best nuts to eat for a number of reasons!)
- Sauerkraut or Kimchi (fermented foods are great for gut health)
- Ancient grains: quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat (all wheat free and naturally gluten free, so these grains are not going to irritate your gut like other gliadin grains tend to, they are also high in essential amino acids.
- Leafy greens especially watercress, chinese cabbage, beet greens, dandelion greens (which are great “liver cleansers”) and spinach.
- Ginger and Tumeric (cook with them, add them to stir fries, rice, casseroles… soo good.)
- Sprouted legumes or beans
- Great quality cocoa – I have to sneak that in there… full of antioxidants!
Some other tips: garlic is amazing, any veg especially endives, artichoke hearts, asparagus, spaghetti squash, tomatoes. If you are going to eat potatoes opt for purple or red skin new (small) potatoes or sweet potatoes.
If you are going to eat meat, go for organic where possible and always grass fed, same applies for chicken. Game meats and bone broth are great and full of goodness too…
Soya has got a bad wrap, but actually organic soya beans or tofu, have amazing health benefits and have actually been found to be protective against cancer.
As fish go, salmon and mackeral are great, but unfortunately farmed are not always and now there is the issue of a polluted sea and mercury levels etc… wild caught ocean cod may be an option too.