Seasons Greetings!

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We wish you and your families all the best for the holiday season and look forward to feeding you again in the New Year!

Did you know you have a “brain in your gut”?

women eating chocolate

What Is It About Chocolate?!

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. 

Cocoa:

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)

Milk:

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). 

Sugar:

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!

 

Cheating death with plants? Is it possible?

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”.

What is a Healthy Diet for Seniors and How Does Getting a Pre-cooked Meal Help?

As we get older our nutritional requirements change. It is important that we are feeding our bodies a diet that supports all of the changing requirements and needs that it has as we age.

Here are some of the requirements for seniors:

1.     Calcium rich foods

Menopause puts women at an increased need for calcium, due to the loss of bone density they experience because of lower oestrogen levels. Ensure you are eating enough calcium rich foods (e.g. dairy products, almonds, green leafy vegetables, tofu, and fish with bones) and engaging in weight bearing exercises. Women and men over 70 years old need 1300mg of calcium per day (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2014).

2.     Good fats

Care must be taken to avoid saturated and trans fats, and instead include good fats in your diet (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). Avocado, unsalted nuts and seeds are all examples of good fats. In addition, oily fish such as salmon and tuna provide essential omega-3 oils which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and depression.

3.     LESS salt is better

A diet high in salt can increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Adding salt to foods can be very dangerous! Herbs and spices can provide enough flavour to your meals without having to add a lot of salt. Around 1 tsp of salt is more than enough for the day, which is not a lot when you think about it!

4.     Protein

Protein is especially important for older adults to ensure a healthy immune system, skin and tissue repair and skeletal strength. Lean meats, lentils, beans, tofu and low-fat dairy products are great sources of protein for seniors. The recommended intake of protein for women over 70 years old is 57g/day, with men needing a little more. Our delicious chicken and lean beef meals are examples of some of our protein-rich meals.

5.     Fibre

Fibre in the diet has many proven benefits, including a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease and improvements in the management of diabetes and high cholesterol. Wholegrains, whole fruits, vegetables and beans are all amazing sources of fibre. Aim to get around 21g of fibre if you’re a woman over 50 and 30g if you’re a man over 50.

As easy as it may sound to eat a healthy balanced diet that includes all these things, it is actually very hard for seniors to meet their nutritional needs. Many seniors may be living alone and find it hard to cook for themselves, some may have chewing or swallowing problems, and others may experience physical problems that make it hard to them to cook.

Having even just one pre-prepared, nutritious meal every day can benefit your health greatly and provide you with essential nutrients and vitamins that you might not be getting by cooking yourself!

We have a number of different plans available, making it easy for you to order the right amount of meals that suits your lifestyle.  Visit http://www.healthymealstoyourdoor.com.au/Gold/ to see our current offer, and view the menu and prices.

Happy eating!

References:

National Health and Medical Research Council. (2014). Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand including recommended dietary intakes. Available from: https://www.nrv.gov.au/

Why it is bad for your health to decide what to eat for dinner at 5pm.

By the end of a long hard day, or even an average day, you have made about 35 000 decisions.

After you have woken up, (some of you have already made a decision by deciding to get up!) you’ve decided what to wear, decided what to eat for breakfast, what to pack for lunch, if anything, if you have kids you have made loads of decisions before you even leave the house.   Then you go to work, or university or school, and more decisions need to be made.

Every time you make a decision you use up vital brain power.  This “brain power” is limited.  The more decisions you have to make in a day, the harder it becomes for your brain to make decisions, and the more brain power you use up.  So by the end of the day you have usually used up your capacity to make good decisions.  You’re tired.

In fact you have something neuroscientists call:  Decision Fatigue.

Add to that the fact that it’s nearly dinner time and you’re physiologically hungry.  Biochemically this means you probably have a cocktail of hormones rolling through your system, one of them is ghrelin.

When hungry, the hormone ghrelin is produced in the stomach. In a recent study the hormone was shown to have a negative effect on decision making capabilities and impulse control.  They found increased ghrelin, like that seen prior to meals or during fasting, causes the brain to act impulsively and also affects the ability to make rational decisions.

So the end of the day, the time most people are making decisions around what to feed themselves (and their loved ones) for dinner, is probably not the best time.

In fact, arguably it is the worst possible time, because if you add “stress” to this mix of decision fatigue and hunger hormones (and lets face it, most people are feeling a little stressed by the end of a long hard day). A stressed brain will be lead to an increased preference for high sugar or carb foods and and an increased tolerance for fatty foods.

This means, that come 5pm, if you are tired and stressed, you will probably make a decision about what to eat for dinner that is unhealthy.   The drive through will be literally calling out your name:  “Come on in, you know you want to!”

If you have kids, they will add further pressure to this decision…

That’s why it’s a bad idea to only make the decision about what you will have for dinner at 5pm because you are more likely to choose something unhealthy, that’s high in refined carbs, high in fat, and fast!

So you could plan meal plans, shopping lists, cook some things in advance, come home an hour earlier and spend hours in the kitchen, or get a live in chef or nutritionist… but since we can’t all live in a dream reality or if you could do that you already would be… here are some things you can try instead.

family eating healthy dinner at the table

Five things you can do to avoid last minute unhealthy eating decisions:

1.    Come up with a list of 5 favorite healthy meals that are quick and easy to make and stick the list on your fridge or pantry door for inspiration.  In the morning or the day before decide what you will prepare.

2.    Make sure you always have healthy ingredients in the store cupboard and freezer and some basic essentials in the fridge to be able to whip up at least one of the five favorites, ingredients for two is an even better plan.

3.    Always cook extra of the favorites so you can freeze some for another night.  (Even if it is only part of the dish, e.g. bolognaise sauce).

4.    Order some frozen ready made meals so you can keep a batch of healthy meals in the freezer for times you are more tired, stressed or decision fatigued than usual.  You can’t be bothered to cook, but you still want something healthy and that feels “home made”.

5.    Get all your meals delivered and never have to worry about any of this ever again!