Tag Archives: healthy-living

Seeking Natural Balance

autumn 1

The end of this week marks the Autumnal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere and the Spring, or Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The two equinoxes always occur in the months of March and September and they mark the point of balance in the year. At its most mundane level the equinox is the day of the year when the daylight hours and the night hours are of equal length, when the sun rises and sets exactly twelve hours apart.

But on an energetic level the equinoxes have a deeper significance. Just as they are the time of balance between daylight and darkness, so they are the time to seek balance within ourselves and in our life.

This is the time in nature when trees are shedding their leaves, or the eucalypts and wattles are dropping their gumnuts and seeds. The trees are drawing in their life force by releasing the leaves that have been nourished over the summer by the suns rays and the nutrients from the earth, they are shedding that which no longer serves them, turning inward and focusing inward on their centre, their heart. They are creating the space to build their reserves in readiness for the changes later in the year.

For all the earth it is the time to prepare for the next part of the cycle, the dark of winter, the time of going within.

 autumn-colors

STRATEGIES

The Autumn Equinox is the time for you to achieve balance in your life by releasing anything in your life that is no longer of use to you and that doesn’t support you to be your essential self and to live your true purpose.

Begin with your material possessions and be harshly honest with yourself to decide what can be given away or discarded. Cleaning out the excess clutter in your life opens space for the new, whether that is possessions, people or insights.

Don’t stop with your possessions. Look hard at your relationships. Are there some that have served well in the past but are no longer supportive? What about your job? Does it fire your passion or even still interest you? How about your self-nurturing? Do you even take the time to honour your essential needs?

As you release unneeded stuff from your life you feel much lighter, just as the trees are lighter without their leaves.

 lust for life

SELF-CARE

When the days slow in autumn it is time for you to begin to conserve your energy, allow yourself more rest and make preparations for the winter. Winter is the time of quiet. Your body needs more sleep, more nourishment and more downtime, just so that it can function well. When you honour that basic need your body responds. You stay healthier through the cold months. When you honour that need your mind responds with clarity and focus. When you honour that need your soul responds with insights and understanding.

In our modern homes life often goes on without much change over winter. We have light and warmth, we continue to go out and party, we still exercise, work and play. But living in tune with the seasons allows you to also tune in to yourself. Tuning into the energies of autumn allows you the space to slow down and listen to your inner voice. It allows you to recognize your needs and where they are not being met. It allows you to recognize your strengths and to find ways to support yourself to find happiness, and to love your life.

The equinox serves as a reminder to us to live in harmony with nature and with ourselves by first acknowledging and then honouring our own essential emotional needs. When you strive to live holistically, in sync with the seasons you become attuned to the greater rhythyms of life. When you nurture and nourish yourself, not only does it support your health, it enables you to tune in to the cosmic energies and encourages you to live in a state of harmonious balance on all levels.

Just as the trees emerge in Spring sprouting a flush of beautiful new leaves, you too will emerge from a winter where you have tuned inward to nourish your essential core, with new life.

How do you seek balance in your life as the season turns?

Autumn Equinox - the message is balance
Autumn Equinox – the message is balance

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Stressed? Relax The Natural Way

dear stress1

Stress has become such a permanent part of people’s lives that many stressors are now considered a normal part of everyday life, or regarded as a necessary evil of modern life.

The world, and our place in it, has developed at an alarming pace. Although we’re still adapting to the world, it’s at a much, much slower rate. Our bodies and reactions are completely out of synch with our world. Our brains tell us stress is just part of living a modern life, but our bodies tell us the opposite. 

Ongoing chronic stress is now considered the number one hurdle to good health.

Stressors can be physical, such as illness or violence, extreme heat or even noisy neighbours. They can be caused by lifestyle practices, such as work stress, alcohol abuse or poor sleep habits. Or the stressors can be emotional, originating in your mind. These can be the most complex and lead to the greatest impact.

Stress can have many widespread effects on the body. Sometimes anxiety develops as a result of ongoing stress. But the effects of even low-grade stress are significant:

  • Blood pressure increases
  • Muscles tense up
  • Breathing rate increases
  • Heart rate increases
  • Brain waves slow down

Of course these are all signs of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response kicking into action. This is fine in the short term but detrimental to your health when they are ongoing.

When stress is ongoing it leads to widespread problems through the whole body.

  • Weight Gain – Stress alters the way fat’s distributed in the body, depositing it around the midriff where it poses the most danger to health.
  • Faster AgeingA study from the University of California found chronically stressed mothers aged faster. Another study linked prenatal exposure to the mothers stress to accelerated ageing in the child.
  • Affects Brain Cells – A Stanford University study found brain cells shrink in the chronically stressed.
  • Serious Disease – Stress is known to increase free radicals incidence which leads to the development of serious chronic disease.

RECOGNISING STRESS

While anxiety is often the effect of stress, not everyone who’s stressed is anxious. People who suffer from stress often appear calm. So it’s worth learning to recognize other body cues that occur when you’re stressed. If you learn to notice and recognize the signs in your body you can take steps to reverse them.

Do you recognize or experience any of these signs that you are under stress?

  • Your neck gets tight and stiff and you develop a tension headache at the base of your skull.
  • Your shoulders and back tighten.
  • Your chest wall feels constricted. If you cross your arms to compensate it simply further constricts your breathing.
  • You get a feeling of a tight ball or knot in your belly.
  • Your jaw clenches, your forehead tightens, as do your lips.
  • Your fingers feel tight, your hands clench.
  • People looking at you can easily see your stress – your shoulders hunch, your head bows, your face is clenched and you may even seem to be wearing a defeated air.

signs of stress and how to reduce stress

You may even experience some more serious problems which include palpitations, stomach upsets, sleep problems, impotence, reduced sex drive, raised blood pressure or a stroke or heart attack.

Perhaps most importantly, stress has been shown to lead to an increase in free radicals throughout your body. Free radicals lead to inflammation and are now seen as the forerunner of serious chronic and autoimmune diseases such as cancer, SLE lupus, other autoimmune disorders, ageing, cataract, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

 

YOUR DE-STRESS TOOL KIT

While it can be virtually impossible to eliminate many ongoing, underlying stresses from your life, adopting some simple techniques to use in times of increased stress can help you feel better in moments. When you take steps to reduce your stress response you also create an immediate effect on the stress hormones released through your body. Having a few tools suitable for crisis control can restore your sense of wellbeing and help you cope in difficult situations.

Being able to reduce stress and anxiety without having to fall back on medications will help build your health in the long term.

Some techniques will work better for you than others and so it is worth searching out those that you find most effective. Try any technique you come across, even the esoteric ones, you can never be certain which will work for you. Allow them all the benefit of the doubt and give them a fair try. It is likely you will need to combine more than one technique, so be on the watch for any improvement and don’t reject anything if it is only partially helpful, it will still be making some difference.

Learn the technique before you are caught in a difficult situation. Memorise it and  practice it – you need to be able to use the skills automatically. Most important, don’t give up – stress can make you restless and inclined to not stick it out.

There are many ways to manage the symptoms of stress. Acupressure, massage and diet are some of the better known. Flower essences and homeopathic remedies are excellent and very effective. Herbals are available in many forms. But there are also certain simple techniques and practices that you can do wherever you happen to be, right in the moment you need help.

SIMPLE TECHNIQUES TO USE

Relax

Often when your muscles are tense you are not even aware of it. Relaxing is a very basic and simple technique which will not only help you to release the tension, it will also bring you awareness of the state of your muscles.

Sit, stand or lie. Tense up one set of muscles in your leg or arms as tight as you can. (You can even start with just your toe muscles to be more effective). Then let them go so they are quite limp. The contrast between the two states will show you what ‘relaxed’ actually feels like. Concentrate on that feeling as you then tense and relax the other muscle groups in your body – your toes, feet, legs, buttocks, back, abdomen, hands, arms right through to your head. Pay particular attention to your jaw and forehead.

Breathe  

Ninety percent of people breathe inefficiently.

Before you begin, reassure yourself that consciously controlling your breathing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to control anxiety and stressful feelings, and to diminish the effect of stress on your body.

Find somewhere quiet, clear your mind and start breathing deeply into your abdomen. Place your hand on your belly, you should feel it rise and fall. Breathe slowly and don’t raise your shoulders.

If you struggle, breathe as you count backwards from fifty. Breathe in on ‘fifty’, out on forty-nine and so on. Keeping your mind focused on synchronizing your breath with the numbers slows down your breathing and forces you to breathe deeper.

You can read more about the technique of deep breathing, and learn how to make effective breathing a normal, unconscious part of your life here – “Mastering The Breath Of Life”.

 

image: Shawn Rossi
image: Shawn Rossi

Smile

Frowning triggers the release of stress hormones and smiling decreases them. In addition, smiling causes the release of endorphins, the chemicals that make you feel ‘oh-so-good’.

Stretch

Simple but very calming! Do it as slowly and gracefully as you can. There are three co-ordinated actions involved:

  • Controlling your breath
  • Raising your hands and arms
  • Stretching your whole body from toes to fingertips

Stand. Let your arms, wrist and fingers go limp. Bend your knees slightly, entwine your hands loosely and turn your palms upward.

Slowly breathe in. Raise your hands towards your mouth and start to straighten your legs.

Slowly breathe out, turn your palms outward and stretch your body. Slowly exhale totally, reach your arms up, face your palms to the ceiling. Stand on your toes.

Now reverse the action

Repeat at least five times, slowly. Take a few minutes afterwards to relax and do nothing.

Affirm

Your subconscious is a powerful force. Affirmations tap into your subconscious and are extremely effective if they are worded well and are used routinely. Given the impact and complexity of emotional stresses, affirmations are a useful tool because your subconscious cannot tell the difference between what is real or what is not, it only knows and directs according to what you tell it. If your thoughts are always that you can’t cope or you have no money, that’s what your subconscious believes and will direct accordingly.

The exact words you use form your affirmations are very important and can make or break the effectiveness of the affirmation. It is just as important that they become a regular part of your day and so the way you integrate them into your life needs to be considered.

Keep your statements in the present tense, as if they already exist. “I want to…” or “I can…” or “I will” relate to what you want to achieve and are not as powerful as “I am” or “I (do)” which relate to a state already in existence.

You will find some guidelines to creating and using affirmations here.

It can be useful to consult a practitioner to set up an affirmation technique that really works for you.

Visualise

If you are a visual person imagining a big screen showing a scene that you find calm can be useful.

Close your eyes and choose an image that reflects how you would like to feel, perhaps an idyllic tropical island or a peaceful waterfall.

Next imagine this image on a big screen in your mind.

Keeping your eyes closed ‘examine’ the image – the long stretch of beach, the ferns beside the water.

When you see it clearly, step inside. See yourself in the scene as if you are really there. Notice what you are wearing, what you can hear, smell. Feel the sand or grass, the breeze in your hair.

Once you feel you are really in the scene, reach for the ‘controls’ of the screen and turn up the volume and picture. As everything around you becomes brighter and louder and your physical feelings more intense, you become calm and relaxed almost immediately, as if you were really there.

Relax, keeping the calm with you.

tropical-paradise

Release

One of the most common symptoms of stress is a clenched jaw and clenched teeth. Releasing the jaw is a simple technique to release much of the tension of stress.

First become aware of the tension in your jaw. Clench tighter, then release it.

Lightly press your tongue against the roof of your mouth behind your teeth.

Part your lips slightly and feel your jaw relax.

Repeat several times a day.

Tap

The Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping, is SO simple and SO effective. Anyone can teach themselves the basic routine and use it to create all types of changes. It can be very effective for creating calm.

It simply involves a routine of tapping on acupressure points in the body, while saying a set of statements. The process lodges any change in thinking within the subconscious. Changes occur with EFT extremely quickly.

Discover the basics of EFT, watch a demonstration and learn how to do the basic technique yourself right here. If you would like to learn more, many EFT practitioners run free information and demonstration sessions.

Eat

If all else fails eating small amounts of DARK chocolate helps calm anxiety. The theobromine in chocolate helps to elevate your mood and the tryptophan in dark chocolate improves your levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood and contributes to feelings of wellbeing.   Many people with anxiety are known to have low levels of serotonin.

Stress and the inflammation that results are now seen as the forerunner of serious chronic and autoimmune diseases. It's time to change that right now.
Stress and the inflammation that results are now seen as the forerunner of serious chronic and autoimmune diseases. It’s time to change that right now.

Importantly, remember to try the techniques out when you are feeling ok. Get to know them so you can move straight into doing them whenever you need, without having to think them through. If you struggle to remember what to do it will only add to your stress.

Do you have a technique that you find really helps when you are feeling stressed?

Leave a reply below and tell us about it.

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

Wilson, P. Instant Calm, Penguin, 1995

Hartley, A. Love The Life You Live, Hart Publishing, 2000

Stevia – The Key To Kicking Your Sugar Habit

sugar Kicking the sugar habit is easier said than done. For some people even making the decision to get rid of sugar from their diet is beyond thinking.

One of the biggest health pushes of 2013 was to encourage both us and food manufacturers to dramatically cut back the amount of that ‘giant nasty’ sugar that we consume. Suddenly it seemed that the finger was pointed squarely at sugar as the primary culprit behind one after another health problem.

We all know that too much sugar is bad for us. But most of us don’t really know why,  or how much too much actually is. But it seems that many of us have now picked up on the message that it could be that ANY sugar is bad for us.

But actually removing sugar and sweet foods from what you eat is another matter altogether. Only last week someone was talking to me about their New Year resolutions and breaking their bad habits. “I really need to lose weight” she said “but I don’t think I’m quite ready to say good bye to sugar”. And therein lies the problem that the majority of Australians, and probably most other Westerners face. They love their sweet food and they know just how hard it is to say goodbye to it completely.

Add to this reluctance the fact that sugar is addictive, and the resolve to abstain dissolves.

It is not just about deciding to give up sugar. It is also about breaking the physical effects of sugar. As with any other addiction, sugar metabolism sets up a chemical reaction in the brain as well as the body. Within the brain, glucose from metabolized sugars causes a higher release of dopamine and opioids.

Dopamine is often called the ‘feel-good neurotransmitter’. But while it may make you feel good, the release of too much has many health consequences. Many addictive drugs including nicotine, cocaine and methamphetamine also cause increased levels of dopamine to be released in the same way that sugar does. The opioids released by sugar metabolism also make sugar hard to beat by playing a part in the withdrawal symptoms.

I Love Sugar

HOW SUGAR AFFECTS THE BODY

One health problem where sugar plays a part is ADHD /ADD. Although sugar is not thought to cause ADHD, it does raise levels of dopamine. Increased levels of dopamine have been shown to lead to high activity level and impulsive behaviour in the person. So it seems that when parents notice behavioural changes in their child after eating sugar, they may be seeing the dopamine effect.

During 2013 it was suggested that sugar should be included amongst the big three causes of high cholesterol. The other two being trans fats and stress. It was thought that saturated fat was the main cause of high cholesterol levels but the question is now whether it may be sugar instead. At present this remains a controversial topic.

SUGAR AND ILL HEALTH

Here are some of the many illnesses that sugar is known to either cause or where it  plays a significant role or aggravates the symptoms of illnesses:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Mineral depletion which interferes with the absorption of magnesium & calcium
  • Food allergies
  • Slows down your immune system
  • Increases your risk for cancer – as hypothesized by Dr Walberg
  • Heart disease
  • Behaviour problems – ADHD, ADD
  • Insulin resistance
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Increased triglycerides
  • Reduces (HDL) high-density lipoproteins
  • Poor nutrition
  • Suppresses your immune system
  • Causes inflammation within the body
  • Causes a decline in tissue elasticity and function
  • Raises dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline levels and release
  • Lead to an acidic digestive tract
  • Arthritis
  • Learning disorders in children
  • Candida overgrowth

 For more from this impressive list of 143 Ways That Sugar Ruins Your Health check out this list from Nancy Appleton.

MORE SUGAR PROBLEMS

Over time you become desensitized to sugar. The more you eat, the more effective your body becomes in absorbing it, and the more sugar you absorb the more damage it does. As well as becoming more sensitized to sugar you also become more sensitized to its toxic effects. But fortunately this sensitization to sugar can be decreased so you become less reactive to it, by taking a sugar holiday, even just two weeks off sugar can be effective.

 Sugar is an expert at masquerading and is excellent at hiding in the foods you are eating. It goes by many names but an easy way to identify many sugars is to read the ingredient panel and take note of any ingredients that end in “ose”. Dextrose, lactose, sucrose, glucose, maltose – these are all just different forms of sugar, which when they are metabolized in your body all end up as the same thing, and all have the same effect on your body.

Remember that natural sweeteners, although better for you than white cane sugar because they are not so processed, all essentially become the same thing in your body, blood sugar or glucose. If you want to cut back the amount of blood sugar you cannot just replace one for the other.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

The alternative is NOT to turn to artificial sweeteners. Diet soft drinks, artificially sweetened yoghurts, lo-cal, lo-joule or diet anything are most definitely a poor alternative choice when  they contain artificial chemical sweeteners.

The chemicals such as aspartame that are used to sweeten “diet” or low-sugar foods are linked to all manner of health problems.

But there is one sweetening agent now readily available that is a good alternative to sugar, or to any other sweetener, and it is very safe.

That product is STEVIA.

Stevia rebaudiana
Stevia rebaudiana

Stevia rebaudiuna is a herb that comes from Paraguay in South America, where it has been used for centuries as a sweetener and a health tonic by the Guarani Indians.

The leaves of Stevia are intensely sweet. This naturally sweet extract is in fact up to an amazing 300 times sweeter than cane sugar, so you only need to use a tiny amount of stevia.

The thing that makes the use of stevia so attractive and exciting is that it does not cause an increase in blood sugar levels, in spite of being so sweet. Stevia allows you to enjoy some sweet foods in your diet without the health or weight issues that are caused by cane sugar.

By the way, stevia can used in cooking.

Occasionally some people find stevia has a metallic aftertaste but this seems to be related to the way the plant is processed. The plant leaves have no aftertaste. If you find this a problem it may be worth trying another brand of Stevia, or search out a liquid form.

Be very careful when you buy your Stevia. I was reading the ingredient of a product claiming to be stevia on the shelves at the supermarket and discovered that although the box was covered in the word “Stevia” in fact it was a mixture of stevia and aspartame!

Be careful to buy only pure Stevia. If you are concerned shop for it at a Health Food Shop. It is just as important to read the ingredient panel on foods that are sweetened with Stevia as it is any other to make sure there are not other artificial chemical sweeteners added as well.

Crushed stevia leaves
Crushed stevia leaves

SOME OF THE REPUTED HEALTH BENEFITS OF STEVIA

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Provides sweetness without elevating blood glucose level
  • Research shows taking 1000mg a day of stevioside reduced blood sugarlevels after meals by up to 18 percent in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Studies conducted at Mahidol University in Thailand showed stevia to have the following actions: Lowers blood pressure; anti-inflammatory; anti-tumour; anti-diarrhoeal; diuretic; immunomodulating

Currently further research is being conducted into the effects of stevia on diabetes.

So why not make the decision today to reduce your sugar and other sweetener intake and give stevia a go.

Have you tried stevia? Have you totally removed sugar and sweet food from your diet? Tell us about your experience in the Leave a Reply section below.

If you are local (Mitcham, Melbourne, Australia) you can pick up Stevia at Indigo Centre for Health & Wellbeing.

Small stevia plantation
Small stevia plantation

Disclaimer

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatments suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.

Source articles

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/12/16/stevia-the-holy-grail-of-sweeteners.aspx

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/20/sugar-dangers.aspx

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/4/523.full

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2012/october/cholesterol-myth-what-really-causes-heart-disease/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dopamine

http://nancyappleton.com/141-reasons-sugar-ruins-your-health/

http://www.healthylife-healthyplanet.com/health-problems-caused-by-sugar.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2356674/Stevia-First-natural-sugar-substitute-help-fight-obesity-diabetes.html

http://owndoc.com/pdf/Stevia%20new%20rural%20industry.pdf

 

Junk it!

Katrina Stairs Red Cross Pantry

Junk food! Everyone knows the term, almost everyone has their favourite, and everyone when asked to name a few would be able to name many more than a few with no hesitation at all. There are certain foods that are immediately recognized as junk foods – many ‘take-away foods’, as well lots of others, packaged and sold in supermarkets or convenience stores – potato chips, biscuits, lollies, soft drinks – are all obvious inclusions. But, what about other junk foods that are masquerading as ‘healthier’ options?

Processed foods are those that have had the ingredients altered so they are no longer in their natural state. Humans have processed their food for millennia. Any food that’s prepared by drying, grinding, chopping or cooking is processed. Traditionally this was done to make the food more digestible or to preserve it for later, when food may not be available. Grain foods were processed, and cheese, sausage and wine are just a few others.

Modern processed foods may on the surface seem far less insidious than the widely accepted ‘junk foods’. But often they are just as bad for you. No longer are processed foods the artisan foods of the past. Now foods are industrially processed in factories. In fact most of the foods in the Aussie diet are processed.

Processing may be as simple as freezing or it may be putting together a complete meal ready to heat and eat. During the process many of the nutrients that are in the original food are destroyed leaving the finished product a far cry from the original, and certainly not in line with the traditional purpose of processing. Grains are treated with very high temperatures and pressure which destroys the nutrients, denatures the fatty acids, and the process even destroys the synthetic vitamins that are added.  But not only does the extrusion process used for grains destroy the nutrients, in particular the amino acid lysine, it turns the grains into neurotoxins according to biochemist Paul Stitt in his book Fighting the Food Giants.

Processed foods often appear to be healthy. These days they may feature low-fat, low-carb, fortified with vitamins, fibre, iron, or minerals, no trans-fats, containing omega-3, high-calcium, plus many more. They may make claims to promote health such as ‘may reduce the risk of heart disease’. But they all have the flavour enhanced with excess salt, sugar or oil. Many processed foods like white bread, are essentially empty calories offering very little nutritional value, certainly far less than the wholefood alternative.

During processing part of the plant is often removed or purposefully changed. One example where you can see this is with wheat grains used for bread. The wholewheat grain forms with three layers, the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. (diagram) The bran is the layer where the fibre exists. Most nutrients and fatty acids are found in the germ. The endosperm is the starchy layer. The high nutrient density of grains only exists (and provides us with nutrients) when these layers are intact. During processing of the wholewheat grain into a loaf of white bread, most of the germ and bran is stripped away leaving just the starchy endosperm.

Take a look at the package or label on your white bread and notice all the ingredients that are listed. In the past bread was made by mixing whole milled wheat, often other grains or seeds, water, salt and a fermented dough starter, to create an easily digested, fermented bread, or sourdough loaf. Later yeast was used instead of the fermented starter. Traditonally, the bread mixture was kneaded and left to prove twice, unlike commercial breads which are only left to prove once. The extra steps in the process allowed the components of the grain, such as the phytic acid, to break down properly so they can be properly absorbed, or, as is the case with phytic acid which inhibits absorption of other minerals if it is not broken down, to prevent them interfering with efficient metabolism.

White bread packaging showing a list of ingredients which is far removed from those few ingredients found in traditional breads
White bread packaging showing an enormously long list of ingredients, far removed from those few ingredients required to make traditional breads

In commercial processed breads, the process is rushed through, with steps eliminated, and lots of other ingredients beside the basic ingredients that are needed to make home-made bread added. Preservatives, sweeteners, gluten, salt, soy flour plus many chemicals are all added to the mix.

Bread is a perfect example of the big problem with processed foods and also the pointer as to how to get around the problem. Traditional methods of food preparation allowed for the use of pure, wholefood ingredients. Home made foods did not need to have lots of chemicals straight out of the laboratory, many of which come with health cautions, added to stabilize the product and make it more appealing.

Home made food may include less than desirable ingredients, such as sugar, but at least the sugar is real sugar, and not a chemical version, and the butter is butter and not a questionable vegetable oil, or you can make the choice to replace the butter with a healthier fat option such as coconut oil. With processed foods there is no choice. You cannot opt to avoid trans fats or white sugar.

Many of the chemicals, including vitamins and minerals, that occur in a plant work together to help the plant grow and survive more efficiently, and they also work together in a synergistic balance once they enter your body and are metabolized.  But when foods are processed the natural balance between the different chemicals in the original food is upset so their effect on your body and the way in which they work, is altered. Many extra chemicals also need to be added to processed food to stabilize the product, or to make it look, taste, or feel more appealing, and these are rarely good for you

HOW TO AVOID PROCESSED FOODS

Sometimes it is difficult to know whether or not a food is processed, and the first step is to get a few guidelines to help you recognize them when they are traveling incognito. It all comes down to reading the ingredient list, because even a glance at the list will often set the alarm bells ringing. If the product has a long list of ingredients then you can be pretty sure it is processed. The case with the bread is a good example, where the food should have only a few ingredients when made according to traditional methods, often there may be eight, ten or even fifteen on the label.

If the food has a long list of ingredients where there should only be a few it is likely processed.

If you don’t recognize many of the ingredients, or can’t pronounce them, then it is probably highly processed.

If it has a very long shelf life – the ‘use by’ date is way off in the future it is processed.

If it contains trans fats, MSG, or lots of numbers it is definitely processed. In fact about ninety-five percent of processed foods contain MSG.

Take-away foods are a real trap. Aside form the obvious problem with deep frying foods like fish and chips, even foods that seem ok are loaded with highly processed ingredients. Pizza for instance, is covered in oils, processed meats and cheese. The kids menu is particularly bad, generally comprising only highly processed foods such as nuggets, chips and pasta (which is white and therefore highly processed). Salad, vegetables or a baked potato are all less processed options. Beware though of some of the ‘take-away salad chains’ as many of their salads are loaded with processed ingredients in the dressings, again take a quick look at the ingredient list.

processed foods NH

If you set out to eat more fruit and vegetables then you will find you have naturally replaced many processed foods with more natural ones without even being aware of it. Get to know when they are in season and try to eat seasonally, as that is the way you will get the best level of nutrients available.

Look for suitable alternatives – porridge made from wholegrain oats (not quick oats) or quinoa makes a great alternative to boxed cereals. Other breakfast options might be eggs with spinach, asparagus or avocado, quinoa with fruit and nuts, fruit salad and yoghurt, high-fibre-superfood fruit smoothies, omelettes with different vegetables, homemade baked beans, bircher muesli with fruit, green juice. When I have some time I enjoy stir-fried vegetables.

We are all time stressed these days, but the very best way to avoid processed foods is to make foods yourself. Instead of just watching Masterchef, get out in the kitchen yourself and cook up your own junk foods. When you make cakes, muffins or biscuits yourself you can use real eggs, butter or good oils and avoid artificial colours, preservatives and trans fats. Make your own oven-baked potato wedges and avoid the additives. You can flavour them with spices like sumac for an extra kick. Invest in a bread maker, making bread at home is so easy these days, you can even start your own sourdough bread starter.

This is the way to start back to good health through our eating, by reclaiming a few of the best practices of the past, by becoming aware enough to check out what we are consuming before wolfing it down, and by selecting foods that look like they may have come from the garden.

Simple really!

What are your favourite ‘junk food’ alternatives?

photo:  John Burke
photo: John Burke

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

http://www.foodinsight.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=wtg018sd8qk%3D&tabid=1398

http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/10-reasons-to-cut-out-processed-food/

http://www.healthy-food-site.com/processed-food.html

http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-foods/wheaty-indiscretions

Related articles

 

Spirulina, The Supergreen Solution

super spirulina

Spirulina is one of my favourite superfoods because it is one of the most nutritious plant-like organisms known to humans. I regard it as the ultimate superfood powerhouse. Although there are other super-greens such as chlorella, spirulina is almost like the supergreen equivalent of a “multi-vitamin”, a great all-rounder. Its nutritional benefits are both vast and impressive, making it an invaluable food especially for vegetarians, vegans, anaemics, diabetics and anyone who is nutritionally compromised.

Spirulina is one of the oldest life-forms on the earth and it helped produce our oxygen-rich atmosphere billions of years ago. Actually a blue green algae, it is a 100% natural and highly nutritious micro water plant. It is found in both the ocean and large warm alkaline fresh water lakes.

Spirulina is so nutrient dense you could survive on it and water alone.

Health Benefits

Spirulina earns its superfood powerhouse status because it has the highest concentration of digestible vegetable protein (60-70%) with a perfectly balanced combination of essential amino acids. This is more protein than you will find in beef, chicken or soybeans.

One of the most common vitamin deficiencies found in a vegan or vegetarian diet is vitamin B12. When you consider that Spirulina also contains large amounts of Vitamin B12, which is very difficult to find in other plant foods, it is easy to understand why it makes such a great choice for vegetarians.

Spirulina is loaded with other nutrients in addition to B12. It is very rich in iron, which is a mineral that is very commonly deficient. Spirulina also contains calcium, magnesium, and Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K. There are also small amounts of a number of other minerals. There is no use in ingesting lots of minerals if they are not absorbed, but Spirulina actually improves mineral absorption and so the abundance of minerals it contains can be utilized properly by the body.

Spirulina is a wonderful plant source of the essential fatty acids linolenic acid (omega-3) and GLA (omega-6), offering a great source for anyone who cannot get their essential fatty acids from fish oil.

There is always some concern about the effect on processing and shelf storage on nutrients. But Spirulina only grows in extremely warm conditions and it has the ability to withstand the high temperatures that are always involved in processing, able to retain its nutritional value unlike many other plant foods which deteriorate at these temperatures.

It only contains 3.9 calories per gram and still has all of these great benefits. It is a low calorie, nutrient dense

The immune boosting qualities of spirulina can never be over stated. With its unique ability to fight infection, enhance cellular functioning, and even keep cancer at bay, it has a wide range of uses.

Here are some ways that Spirulina is beneficial:

  • Boosts energy – it is a source of life force or vitality
  • Protection against viruses including flu, herpes, mumps and measles
  • Promotes healthy nerve tissue
  • Increases antioxidant protection to fight free radicals
  • Improves digestion and gut health Improves age spots, eczema, acne, rashes
  • Fights the ageing process,
  • Curbs the appetite to help weight loss
  • Aids glaucoma, cataracts, poor vision
  • Improves allergies & respiratory function
  • Helps to detoxify radiation out of the body
  • Plus it fights heart disease, reduces arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and depression, and lowers bad cholesterol

Because it is so easily digested it packs a powerful punch when it comes to all these benefits.

What to look for

Good Spirulina has no side effects, and this is one product that you need to be absolutely certain of the quality. Contaminated blue-green algae is incredibly toxic to the system and can cause a range of fresh health problems such as liver damage. Because Spirulina easily absorbs nutrients from water, if the water contains pollution or heavy metals, these will be highly concentrated in the Spirulina cell. If this happens, then this kind of Spirulina is no longer suitable for human consumption. There are a number of Spirulina products on the market that are of questionable quality so select carefully. Either research well or buy from a qualified practitioner.

 

Spirulina Tablets
Spirulina Tablets

Spirulina comes in powder or tablet form and it is easy to tell if it is good quality or not. Quality tablets are made without sugar, starch fillers, animal parts, preservatives, stabilizers, and colours. They are a uniform dark green colour without any light coloured specks. You can take up to about twelve a day, and some people take even more. But start out with three and increase to six over a couple of days. You can take them all at once or spread over two doses. The recommended dose for adults is 5-10 per day.

When I am going on a long-haul flight I take lots of Spirulina on the day of the flight as well as the day before and the one after. It is part of my ‘flight regime’ to help overcome the bad effects of air travel.

Powder is a better choice if you want to add spirulina to smoothies, juice or other foods. 100% pure powder is also a uniformly dark green colour.  You feel the effects very quickly because the powder is easily digested. Because Spirulina is a natural food and NOT a supplement you can’t take too much. If you take more than you need it is like overeating. You can take two or more tablespoons a day but a good way to start is with one teaspoon (5 grams) added to drinks or other foods. The drink or smoothie colour will change to dark green but it doesn’t really affect the flavour. You can gradually increase the amount over time to two teaspoons (10gms) per drink.

I use the brand Hawaiian Pacifica made by Microorganics in my clinic as I know it to be high quality and free from toxic heavy metals. Just for the record, I have no affiliation with this company or product, and only recommend it to you to help your health. (I also like this one personally as it is easy to swallow)

If you are very run down or have a debilitating illness keep the amount you take low. You will get enormous benefit from the smaller amount and the smaller quantity will not push your body too fast or too hard.

Avoid alcohol, soft drinks or coffee for about 30 minutes after taking the spirulina as these will destroy some of the nutrients and enzymes.

People with hyperparathyroidism or phenylketonuria should not take spirulina.

Spirulina powder
Spirulina powder

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

http://www.australianspirulina.com.au/spirulina/spirulina.html

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/01/spirulina-the-amazing-super-food-youve-never-heard-of.aspx

http://hecticlifehealthygirl.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/what-is-spirulina-and-what-are-its-health-benefits/

http://www.naturalnews.com/033698_spirulina_superfood.html

http://www.naturalnews.com/041164_spirulina_superfood_supplements_immunity.html

http://www.naturalnews.com/036101_spirulina_superfood_nutrients.html

Related articles

Delicious Recipes Using The Superfood – Spirulina (susansmithjones.com)

Natural Ways To Deal With This Galling Problem

Dandelion, a classic bitter herb stimulates bile production as well as bile action.
Dandelion, a classic bitter herb stimulates bile production as well as bile action.

Gallstones are a common condition and gallbladder removal is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in Australia, where about 18,000 are performed using keyhole surgery each year.

The gallbladder is a small pear shaped pouch-like organ in the upper abdomen just under the liver, that works alongside the liver to digest foods and eliminate toxins. It is responsible for breaking down fats, mostly cholesterol, so that they can be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine.

Bile is made in your liver from recycled red blood cells, cholesterol and bile salts (minerals). The bile then passes from your liver into the bile duct and gallbladder which acts as a storage house. Here the bile is concentrated ready to be released when it is required. After a fatty meal more bile is needed to digest the extra fat and can be released quickly from the gallbladder into the intestine to help with digestion.

When your gallbladder is not functioning well it can affect your energy level, your weight, exacerbate thyroid conditions, cause bloating, gas and stomach pain and other miscellaneous pains. But many people nowadays have poorly functioning digestive systems and often regard many of these symptoms as being normal.

Many people have gallstones and are not even aware of them as they have no obvious symptoms. But for some the presence of gallstones can cause excruciating pain and other symptoms.

Bile is usually liquid, but when the different components are out of balance the bile hardens and over time forms gallstones. They can be the result of insufficient amounts of bile or an excess of cholesterol (fat) in the bile. At first the fat clumps to form a sludge. With time this sludge thickens to become first ‘sand’, then ‘gravel’ until eventually the ‘gravel’ becomes one or more gallstones, which can be as big as a golf ball. They form in the liver and most of them are carried through into the common bile duct on their way to the small intestine.

English: Opened gall bladder containing numero...
Opened gall bladder containing numerous gallstones resembling pebbles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Problems arise as the gallstones pass from the liver through the common bileduct. When a stone begins to make its way down this tube the result can be what is known as biliary colic. Pain suddenly starts under the ribs on the right side, sometimes radiating up into the back, getting steadily worse for a few hours until the stone passes out of the bile duct and into the intestines. It can be accompanied by sweating, vomiting and great restlessness. The attack passes, but will recur again later.

The next stage of gallbladder disease, cholecystitis, is similar to biliary colic but involves inflammation and fever and vomiting. The pain is often stronger and lasts longer and  jaundice occurs if the stone becomes stuck along the way. If the stone gets impacted in the neck of the gallbladder it impedes the flow of bile and the gallbladder eventually becomes infected. This is when a major attack occurs, often requiring surgery.

After the gallbladder is removed the bile drips steadily into your intestines. Because there is no longer anywhere to store it, there are no reserves for the body to draw on if it has to digest a greater amount of fat so it becomes vital not to eat large amounts of fat that will overwhelm the system.

There are a number of factors that make you more susceptible to gallstones.

  • They are twice as common in women than men.
  • It seems that oestrogen plays a role and having more children puts you more at risk.
  • So does pregnancy, obesity, liver disease, diabetes, high fat diets, the contraceptive pill, a sedentary lifestyle, family history of gallstones and some forms of anaemia.
  • Their incidence also increases with age particularly for those over sixty years old.

Some Natural Ways To Prevent Gallstones

The gallbladder works with the liver to digest food and eliminate toxins. When either of them is clogged up from poor nutrition or a buildup of toxins the cholesterol in the bile crystallizes to form gallstones. Gallstones are far more difficult to break down than to prevent, so it is worth taking steps to keep your liver and gallbladder happy.

Gallstones won’t form if you are digesting fats properly. However, removing fats totally from your diet, while it might seem like an easy option, is not the answer. Your body needs fats in order to function efficiently and therefore it is a matter of choosing better forms of fat and digesting those fats well. In fact eating fats helps to prevent the bile in the gallbladder from stagnating as it promotes the flow of bile.

HEALTHY FATS

The best approach lies with choosing healthy fats. Olive oil, coconut oil and saturated fats from grass-fed animals for instance, actually help assimilate nutrients from foods that help to maintain a clean liver and gallbladder. Select foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish or chia seeds, to reduce the toxic burden. One way to help break down the fat in your meal is to have lemon juice before you eat. Add it to warm water as a tea and drink thirty minutes before eating. It will cut through the fat making it easier to digest.

Avoid unhealthy fats and oils such as canola oil, soybean oil or other vegetable-based hydrogenated processed oils as they cause inflammation and chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease. In addition chronic inflammation causes high cholesterol. Don’t include foods high in unhealthy fats like burgers, fried foods, ice-cream, or cheese.

Raw, unfiltered apple juice is a useful way to support the gallbladder.
Raw, unfiltered apple juice is a useful way to support the gallbladder.

FOODS

Liver and gallbladder health is strongly affected by what you eat. Foods are perhaps the simplest way to make changes to your health. Here are a few that will support your gallbladder or even dissolve gallstones.

1.  Apples are a great friend for the gallbladder and eating apples is a particularly useful way to support the gallbladder. They contain pectin to soften and disintegrate existing gallstones and prevent new ones forming. Raw, unfiltered apple juice is very rich in pectin. Juicing reduces inflammation and enzymatically helps to detoxify your liver and gallbladder. Good selections to add to apples are lemons, celery, tomato and beets. Another wonderful apple juice variation is to add Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with malic acid to it, which makes a great gallbladder flush. The richest source of malic acid is apples.

2.  There are a number of foods that are perfect for offering support to the liver, and therefore the gallbladder. Green vegetables including artichokes, rhubarb, beets and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli etc) stimulate bile  production.  Other helpful foods include green leafy vegetables, fresh ginger, and foods rich in pectin. Add them to your meals wherever you can.

3.  Diets high in refined carbohydrates are a problem because they reduce the solubility of the bile, making it more likely to ‘sludge’

4.  Eat lots of soluble fibre (apples, celery, dark green leafy vegetables) which goes a long way to help prevent gallstones forming and can even reverse them once they have formed.

5.  Having sufficient bile is also essential and some foods that promote bile production and flow are artichokes, beets, dandelion root, and turmeric.

6.  Turmeric is certainly a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food. Adding it to your meals helps maintain a healthy gallbladder by improving the solubility of your bile, so that it is able to break down the minerals and cholesterol in it more efficiently. You can take also take curcumin (the active component of turmeric) as a supplement – 300mg of curcumin three times a day.

Support For Your Liver And Gallbladder

Because the liver and gallbladder work alongside each other, taking care of your liver also benefits your gallbladder. Reducing your toxic load greatly reduces the strain on your liver and how hard it has to work. You can do this by reducing your intake of caffeine, alcohol and unnecessary medications. In addition try to reduce any toxins you are exposed to, but don’t actually ingest. Hair care products, skin and body care products, toxic fumes, even the pesticide residue on  non-organic foods are some factors that put stress and strain on your liver. Don’t forget that you body may regard and respond to many seemingly harmless foods as toxins. Foods such as gluten and dairy foods are perfect examples.

There are a number of botanicals that you can treat your liver to. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) protects liver cells. Dandelion root, a classic bitter herb can be taken as a tea or latte, and stimulates bile production as well as bile action. Rosemary is another herb that stimulates bile production. Both young milk thistle leaves and dandelion leaves (picked from your garden) can be steamed like spinach or added to salads.

There are many wonderful Homeopathic remedies such as Chelidonium, Dioscorea, Nux vomica and Lycopodium amongst many others, used to successfully relieve the symptoms of gallbladder attack as well as to redress a dysfunctioning liver and gallbladder and prevent more gallstones developing.

If you find you get mild pain after eating fatty foods you could take the digestive enzyme lipase to help digest the fat. But, if you provide extra enzymes as a supplement over a long period, and your body is no longer required to manufacture them at all, it may cease making them altogether. It is far better to improve the health of your body so that it is able to more easily make the enzymes it requires itself. In the long run it is the healthier outcome.

 Supplementing with lecithin is one easy way to dissolve gallstones. Make sure it comes from sunflower or non-GMO soy. The digestion of lecithin requires large amounts of bile, and in the process hardened gallstones are also dissolved. Taking even one gram of lecithin three times a day has been shown to increase the concentration of lecithin in the bile. Taking more (up to ten grams) produces even greater increases.

Lastly, increasing exercise and stretching can help prevent gallbladder disease.

Raw turmeric - a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
Raw turmeric – a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/535096-foods-that-increase-bile-flow/

http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/how-to-prevent-gallstones-with-everyday-foods

http://www.naturalnews.com/038571_gallstones_prevention_foods.html#xzz2HHGadpLN

http://www.betternutrition.com/gallbladder-function-nutrition/columns/askthenaturopath/1016

http://www.detoxyourgallbladder.com/gallbladder-function/

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/health/health+advice/what+does+a+gall+bladder+dor,18591

ht

A Winter’s Tale: Does Your Winter Mood Need A Lift?

Winter Girl Blowing Snow by Petr Kratochvil

Enough is enough! Yesterday was a day of bitingly cold winds, hail showers and snowfalls on the nearby ranges. Eleven weeks in and I am over the Winter Wonderland Magic.

I was chatting to a man in the supermarket register queue last night as he added some gorgeous coral coloured roses to his pile of groceries. He said he just needed some warm colours around his house to remind him that winter would not go on forever, that spring is nearly here. I felt so inspired, I bought some too!

Winter is eleven weeks in now and it seems we are all feeling over it. The joy of curling up with a warm drink, cosy slippers, a heat pack in front of a movie or with an engrossing book is past. I want to go outside without rugging up, to plant my spring vegetables, to enjoy a salad again, to get to the end of the day without cold feet and to enjoy some sunny evenings.

Even though we are at the tail end of winter this is the time that Winter Blues shows up for many people, as the accumulated stresses of winter start to affect them. These days winter blues are recognised as a disorder known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is caused by a lack or not sufficient sunlight.

To help get us over that last hump in the winter road and to keep us going until the warmer days of spring arrive I have gathered some ideas to help lift our spirits as winter heads on out.

First up, a couple of warm drinks with a difference. I love herbal teas and I have a whole cupboard devoted to their storage – the tea cupboard. But, even with my wide choice, as well as the basic green tea back-up, I am bored. Here are a few new yummy hot drink ideas I have come across to spice things up when tea is just not going to cut it any more

Hot chocolate!  Chocolate is recognized as a mild stimulant and if you choose your chocolate wisely you get all the benefits of antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals. Here are two DELICIOUS chocolaty drinks to warm your insides and your mood.

The first is from Tara Bliss at Such Different Skies

hot choc smoothie

This PIPING HOT CHOC WINTER SMOOTHIE is thick, creamy, decadent and not-naughty.

1 banana

1 heaped Tablespoon raw cacao (don’t use drinking chocolate or cocoa…it’s absolutely worth GETTING some Raw Cacao INSTEAD)

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon chia seeds

2 medjool dates or some honey

1 cup boiling water OR warm almond milk OR dandelion tea

(you can add peanut butter, oats, cinnamon, coconut or maca)

 Blend, Pour, Guzzle Buzz.

 haute hotchocoalte

SUPERFOOD HAUTE CHOCOLATE from Sarah Britton at My New Roots

2 Tablespoons raw cacao powder

2 teaspoons maca porder

1 Tablespoon coconut sugar

Pinch sea salt

Pinch cinnamon powder

Pinch cayenne pepper

Pinch ginger powder

Small piece vanilla bean, scraped (optional)

1½ cups milk of your choice or water

Boil water or warm milk on the stove and let cool slightly. If using raw nut milk do not heat above 42ْ C

Whisk in dry ingredients. Serve immediately with a cinnamon stick, if desired.

Not only is this hot choc yummy but all the spices are wonderfully warming circulation stimulants to warm you through to the fingertips and toes.

                DANDELION CHAISPICED DANDELION ROOT TEA

                1 teaspoon -1 dessertspooon organic roast dandelion root per cup.

1 cinnamon stick (or a pinch of cinnamon powder)

Ginger root, chopped up with the skin left on

Add any of these spices to taste: star anise, bay leaf, black peppercorns, green cardamom seeds slightly crushed, cloves, dried orange peel, dried raspberry leaf, fennel seeds, peppercorns, vanilla bean, licorice root.

Place all ingredients and water in a pot, bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

You can keep any leftover in the fridge and add water and reuse.

Add some honey and your milk of choice if desired.

It tastes great black, but may be too strong for if you are not used to it.

 Aug 22 040

HOME MADE LEMON AND GINGER TEA is so easy to make and head and shoulders better than any from a tea bag.

2 cups boiling water

Juice of ½-1 lemon (about 60ml)

2.5cm piece ginger root, grated

A couple of spoons (or more) of honey to taste

Add the ginger to the boiling water. Simmer in an open pan for about 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the honey to the ginger water. Strain into your cup.

Or you can add all the ingredients to the water and pour into a thermos and let the mix sit for 20 minutes before straining and drinking.

This is a good option if you are still trying to throw off a winter cough. The lemon is high in vitamin C to boost your immune system. Ginger and honey also help the immune system.

ROOIBOS, sometimes called red tea, is one with heaps of health benefits. It comes from South Africa and has a fairly robust flavour. We recently tried one with added honey at work and it was very popular.

Looking out the window at the pots of flowers on my deck today, it struck me that the  colours of late winter are lavender, the colour of the rosemary in full flower, and golden yellow – think daffodils. Bringing a bunch of winter daffs in for your desk or bench will brighten your mood, reminding you the season is about to change. Yellow is the colour of spring and it is considered cheerful and optimistic.

There have been a number of studies done which show that the colours you surround yourself with will have a great impact on your state of mind. In the Stadium at the University of Iowa, the visiting teams locker rooms are painted all-pink and have been for thirty years, because pink is a tranquil colour that is known to calm and pacify. If the Home Team then painted their own locker rooms red which stimulates a faster heart rate and breathing, they would no doubt benefit from an emotional energy boost.

Using colour is a great way to lift your mood and one very simple way to use colour is to swap a bright cheerful coloured silk scarf for your woolly, black  winter scarf (of course you have a black scarf if you live in Melbourne!). Avoid blue because it lowers the pulse rate and body temperature.

Vitamin D is a wonderful mood lifter and if you are feeling a bit low taking a quality vitamin D supplement is a great move. In many parts of the world it is almost impossible to get sufficient sun exposure to meet your needs during the winter. Vitamin D is involved in so many body functions, but at this time of the year it often becomes very obvious that you have a deficiency of this vitamin when your mood drops. It is really worth having your blood levels tested with a simple blood test, as then you will be able to calculate how much vitamin D supplement you need to take.  Optimum levels are >75 nmol/L. If your levels are significantly lower than this (and a large part of the populations are, even here in ‘sunny Australia’), then you will need to take quite a bit of supplement to bring the levels up again.

Another vitamin that plays a crucial role in keeping up good spirits are the B group of vitamins. Vitamin B deficiency is linked to a range of emotional disorders as well as many other body functions. Opt for 50mg daily of a Vitamin B-complex rather than selecting individual B vitamins as these vitamins work much better synergistically when all the ‘B’s’ are present.

Other supplements that are critical in dealing with depression and mood disorders are selenium, magnesium and iron. A multi vitamin and multi mineral can address any deficiency you may have.

Socialising is a great way to pick up your mood. Maybe this is the time to do something with your friends out of the ordinary. Hold a fondue party, or dust off the board games, particularly the ones you loved as a child, like Twister, Pictionary, Monopoly or Charades. Or combine a pot-luck night with a game night. Or maybe your friends would enjoy a ‘Funny-Home Video’ night or a Karaoke night.

Even though it is cold try and get outside for some exercise. It is tough to exercise in the winter, and arriving home in the evening just as the sun goes down and the cold closes in is not much incentive to head out to the gym or go out for a walk. But exercise goes a long way towards relieving the stress of the day. The endorphins released during exercise improve your mood and help you sleep, and the effects can last for a number of hours.

One problem of the colder weather for many people is that they crave starchy or sweet foods more than normal which increases their blood sugar levels, making them feel blue. Remember that the foods you eat are a strong contributor to your mood. A poor diet will cause an imbalance in your body and make you feel worse. Add more fruits and vegetables, including raw as much as possible. Use complex grains, organic meats when you can and eggs and ignore those cravings for white flour and sugars.

Natural light is one of the best ways to avoid the blues and to lift your spirits. You can now get full spectrum light globes in Australia and there are energy saving versions available. They provide the full range of natural light from infra-red to ultra-violet. The benefits are well established and they reduce many health problems such as headaches, nausea and fatigue. In your home open the curtains wide to let the sun stream in on any day that is a little warmer, particularly where you cannot install full spectrum light globes.

After being closed up for months on end houses get stale. Freshen up your surroundings and your mood at the same time with essential oils. There are some that have anti-depressant properties including bergamot, lavender, geranium, jasmine and clary sage.  Others that are good mood lifters are sweet orange, neroli, and ylang ylang. Using high quality essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser releases them into the air in the form of water vapour, which is the best way for them to spread through your home. You can also add them to a bath (or a foot bath) or add a few drops to a carrier oil and use as a massage oil.

Here’s to the arrival of spring…

 Copy of daffodils

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

http://www.naturopathic.org/content.asp?contentid=262

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-natural-ways-to-beat-the-winter-blues.html?page=2

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=341

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/sex+relationships/wellbeing/beat+the+winter+blues,9093

The Good Oil

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy.

It has long been held that fat is bad for you, all fat that is. But in fact not only are there many fats that are not bad for you, many are very good for you, and you will actually be less healthy if you are not getting enough of the right kind of fat. Good fats promote a healthy and well-functioning cardiovascular system, a healthy nervous system and are useful for maintaining weight. They help to both protect and maintain good clear skin and healthy hair, support your immune system, can help regulate blood sugars, your thyroid,  and even protect against cancer.

Most people know that olive oil is regarded as a healthy oil but there are whole new breed of oils available that may be better choices, particularly when it comes to using oil for cooking.

There is a temperature reached during cooking with oil called the smoke point, which is the point at which the oil is compromised, both in taste and nutritionally. Bluish smoke starts to rise as the oil is close to burning. It is the temperature where the oil starts to break down chemically, and it varies from one oil to the next, depending on whether it has been refined or not and the extent of refining, as well as the origin of the oil. When the oil breaks down it creates trans fats. Oil that has been damaged by overheating is bad for you because it is chock full of free radicals, which we already know are the basis of disease . Any oil with a low smoke point should not be used for cooking at all.

Before we go on to which oils are best for which purpose it’s worth knowing that there are three different types of oils – monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. Some oils contain more of one type than another and it is important to know which is which. For a long time the advice has been that saturated fats are bad for you and polyunsaturated are good for you. But it is not as straight forward as that.

Many oils today are refined. Refined versions of the oils have a higher smoke point but they are REFINED, which means that chemicals and high heat were used in the processing to extract the oil, which drastically damages the nutrients, rendering them harmful. Hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils are man made and you need to avoid them. You may know these better by their other name – trans fats.

Extra-virgin oils traditionally came from the first pressing of the fruit, seed or nut, but now the term is more likely to mean the oil is ‘pure’. These days cold-pressed oils are unlikely to actually have been pressed, and cold-extracted is a more accurate description. The oil is extracted using centrifugal force and very low heat, about 28-30C, low enough not to damage the oil. The speed at which the oil is extracted helps to preserve the antioxidants.

The stability of the oil is the important factor when it comes to heating the oil during cooking, particularly extra high heat used to fry. Saturated oils are the most stable, mono-unsaturated are pretty stable, and polyunsaturated are the least stable. Polyunsaturated oils are the worst to cook with – including safflower, sunflower and canola. These polyunsaturated oils contain lots of omega 6 fats which when damaged, form artery clogging trans fats. They also cause many other serious health problems.

Oils 2

So how do you know which oils are best for what?

It all depends what you are going to use the oil for. If it for dressing a salad then you would look for one with a nice taste, but if you want to cook with it you would need to carefully consider whether the oil will stand up to the heat. If you will be frying food, then the oil needs to have a high smoke point.

It is better to select oils that are unrefined as they are going to have more nutrients and less additives so will be healthier for you. It’s not worth buying cheap oils as in the long run they will cost you with your health. Generally, the pricier the oil the more likely there was care taken in the manufacture.

Here is the lowdown on some of the better edible oils you can use in your cooking.

COCONUT OIL

Coconut oil is almost all saturated fat, and so has been the most maligned and misunderstood oil for a long time, but it is actually one of the healthiest oils, a nutrient packed superfood. The love affair with coconut keeps growing every day and you can read lots more about this wonderful oil right here.

It has a high smoke point, 180ْC (350ْ F) and is very shelf stable and is the very best choice when you want an oil that is stable even when it is heated. In addition coconut oil also promotes heart health, helps maintain stable cholesterol and even helps you to lose weight.

Coconut is almost entirely saturated fat, but unlike the saturated fats you find in animal products coconut oil is not absorbed the same way by your body and so does not pose the same problem to your health. It is rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These are easier for your body to break down and digest, they put less stress on your digestive system and body organs, they are immediately converted into energy in your liver rather than being stored as fat, and they stimulate your metabolism to help you lose weight. Long chain fatty acids, LCFAs, do not have these benefits and are more difficult to digest. Coconut oil is converted to energy like a carb but without the insulin spike effect in your bloodstream of carbs. It doesn’t get stored in the body – your body either uses it or gets rid of it. One special feauture of coconut fat is that 50% of the fat is lauric acid which has wonderful health promoting qualities and is able to destroy virus and bacteria.

AVOCADO OIL

Avocado oil has a high smoke point – 200 degrees C, so you can use it to cook at very high temperatures without compromising the properties of the oil. It has been proven to fight heart disease and effectively lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), helps with diabetes, cancer, skin and hair problems. It contains a healthy beneficial balance of omega-6, omega-3, and omega-9 fats as well as the antioxidant vitamin E. The vitamin E level will be higher in cold-pressed versions as they will have undergone less oxidation. Avocado oil is also used frequently in skin creams as a moisturizer.

MACADAMIA OIL

I recently saw macadamia oil referred to as the ‘new olive oil’. But I actually think it is better. It is about 80% monosaturated (good) fat and is one of the healthiest oils available for cardiovascular health, much higher than olive oil. It has a high smoke point at 220ْ C (430ْF) which makes it a healthier oil to use for cooking. It is 85% monounsaturated fats and has a two year shelf life.

Here is why this All-Aussie nut is so good for you. It enhances heart health, helps to reduce the build up of plaque and prevents atheroschlerosis, reduces the risk of heart disease, helps with blood sugar regulation for diabetics, and helps your nervous system function well.

Unrefined avocado, macadamia or coconut oil are all healthy choices
Unrefined avocado, macadamia or coconut oil are all healthy choices

WALNUT OIL

The smoke point of unrefined walnut oil is 180ْ C (350F), slightly lower than either coconut or macadamia oil, and easily damaged at high temperatures, so one to avoid for frying. It has a nutty flavour and is great in salads and smoothies. Unrefined walnut oil contains high levels of monounsaturated oils such as omega 9 which keeps your arteries supple and helps prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is also high in omega-3 and omega-6 to reduce inflammation, and to lower the risk of blood clots and erratic heart rhythyms. Research from Penn State University showed that wanuts and walnut oil could maintain healthy blood pressure even during stressful times. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and vitamin E. It can help prevent eczema and alleviate other skin problems. It is one of the best sources of antioxidants of the tree nuts.

OLIVE OIL

Olive oil is indeed a healthy oil but not when it comes to cooking. It is a monounsaturated fat which makes it more stable than polyunsaturated fats, but on a cellular level it is not so stable and has been associated with increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer when it is heated. But, it is a great oil to include in an unheated state. The smoke point varies depending on how olive oil is made. Extra Virgin olive oil is 160ْ C (320F). Virgin is higher at 220ْ C (420F) and extra light 240ْ C (470ْ F). The rise in smoke point corresponds to how refined the oil is – the less refined the lower the smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil is a very perishable oil and can go rancid quickly, every time it is exposed to the air it oxidizes.

My choice for high heat cooking is avocado, macadamia or coconut oil. But as usual be careful of the quality. Most commercial oils are refined and contain chemicals from the processing so watch out for cold pressed and extra virgin oils. It’s especially good if it is in a dark jar as this helps protect the oil from light damage.

Remembering that the smoke point for each variety of oil is variable, and that it is always better to avoid refined oils, here is a rough guide for a few oils.

Unrefined Oil Type

Smoke Point Centigrade

Smoke Point Farenheit

Unrefined Canola, sunflower, safflower,

160

225

Unrefined peanut oil

160

320

Extra virgin olive oil

160

320

Walnut oil, unrefined

160

320

Coconut oil, unrefined

180

350

Macadamia

200

390

Avocado

190-200

375-390

Refined Oil Type

Canola, sunflower, safflower, refined

220

430

Virgin olive oil (refined)

220

430

Extra light olive oil (refined)

240

460

Walnut oil, semirefined

200

390

Coconut oil, refined

230

450

Rice bran oil

250

480

Peanut oil

225

440

Before I finish, just a quick word about RICE BRAN OIL which has appeared in Australian shops over the last few years. Promoted as a ‘Natural Oil’, it is not quite as natural as you would think, and is a good example of how advertising may be misleading. It has a very high smoke point, no additives listed, and the makeup of rice bran oil sold here in Oz is 47% monounsaturated, 33% polyunsaturated and 20% saturated, so it would seem a reasonably healthy choice.

However, rice bran oil is a refined oil that comes from Thailand. It is subjected to very high temperatures and chemicals during processing. It is not a cold pressed oil, like olive and some of the nut oils. On the bottle the oil it is labeled as extra-cold filtered, which is a manufacturing process that results in the removal of the saturated fats, and is not the same as cold-pressed or cold-extracted.

So go ahead and enjoy your oil, just make sure you are selecting The Good Oil.

good oils 2

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/10/22/coconut-oil-and-saturated-fats-can-make-you-healthy.aspx

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=56

http://www.naturalnews.com/031801_avocado_oil_healthy_fats.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/481198-is-walnut-oil-healthy/

http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/870/20100804/seven-great-benefits-of-walnut-oil.htm

http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/what-oil-is-best-to-cook-with-and-which-oils-should-never-be-heated

http://www.naturalnews.com/004653.html

http://www.naturalnews.com/010125.html

http://macadamias.org/pages/health-benefits

http://changinghabits.com.au/_blog/Changing_Habits/post/rice-bran-oil–the-healthy-alternative-or-so-you-think/

Participate Relentlessly In The Pursuit Of Happiness

People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you're fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort.
People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort.

Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”         ~  Dalai Lama XIV  ~

For many people the pursuit of happiness is the main focus of their life. This week what happiness is all about has popped up in my radar in a number of ways.

Apparently, according to the Sydney Morning Herald on May 28th this year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says ‘Australia is still the world’s happiest nation’. Their happiness guage is based on the majority having paid work, the national economy side-stepping the worldwide recession, people working fewer hours, the existence of a stronger sense of community, and that most people said they have more positive experiences than negative in an average day.

But is this how to define happiness? Is it all about the economy and what we possess?

According to the Greek philosopher Epicurus external goods such as status and luxury are not good for us, and putting value on them, and pursuing them is not good for us at all.

Epicurus believes we need to abstain from external desire in order to achieve tranquility. He says the path to tranquility is through choosing the simple things in life.

A quick scroll through my Pinterest feed affirms that this is one belief firmly ascribed to by many others today.

 “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”   ~ Dalai Lama ~

Apparently our level of happiness is age-related as a study by  Hannes Schwandt, a research associate at Princeton University shows. People are happiest at the age of 23 and then again at 69 and life slumps for most people in the mid-50’s, when many battle with regret. Young people in their early twenties feel very optimistic about their future which while it equates to happiness can easily turn to misery if the expectations and dreams are not met.

Our happiness is age-related
Our happiness is age-related

So what is it that makes sixty-nine year olds happy? Have they come to terms with their failures? The research showed that the elderly have lower expectations and so are less disappointed. Is this all? It reminds me a little of Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh who never expected anything good.

Is it that they have stopped seeking happiness in the material world, so they are ab;e find happiness in other ways?

Of course this piece of research presents a perfect example of what happens when you focus on the past or the future.

The famous quote “carpe diem” may have come from the Roman Horace, but many others, including Epicurus also had something to say about living in the moment. Epicurus advocated living in the present moment as it is the only point at which we have any control. He said that by focusing on the past and future we dis-empower ourselves, but when we focus on the present moment we re-empower ourselves. This has become a very popular approach. It forms the basis of many Buddhist practices and many of the techniques of modern psychology are also based on this concept.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”     ~  Dalai Lama XIV  ~

It is widely accepted that happiness is not to be found in the trappings of the world but as the result of our internal state of mind and approach to life. Happiness lies within.  As Elizabeth Gilbert said in her book  Eat, Pray, Love  , We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure–your perfection–is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”

Leave the busy commotion of the mind...and enter into the stillness of the heart
Leave the busy commotion of the mind…and enter into the stillness of the heart

However, there is no one thing in life that many agree can apparently be said to be the key to happiness. It seems that many psychologists have given their advice as to what the answer is and there are any number of blogs with lists advising how to achieve a happy life.

Finding happiness seems to boil down to our need to make changes both to the way in which we assess the positive and negative about our life, as well as the attitude we adopt as the purpose of our life.

Psychologist Martin Seligman believes the key is to recognize our strengths and virtues and then to use them for a purpose greater than our own. This concept is one that is ascribed to widely.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project

Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work thinks our biggest obstacle is the belief that we are powerless and the victim of circumstance. He believes that we are the creators of own existence, and that control lies within the attitude with which we approach our work, and by association our life. As he says “The knowledge we have that we are responsible for living the life we have is our most powerful tool”.

Rao advocates inhabiting the “other-centred universe”. This is a world where our focus lies on others. And is a wisdom that forms an important part of Eastern spirituality. If we are motivated by an attitude of focus that is outside ourself, of looking for ways to achieve in our life that will be of benefit to others rather than focusing on satisfying our own wants and desires, then we will find happiness in our life.

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~  Dalai Lama  ~

For many people what may seem a huge negative in their life, a disaster, can in fact turn out to be a positive in hindsight. Often when serious illness forces someone to stop their life, to let go in order to undergo treatment and healing, they are offered the opportunity to turn their life in a different direction, one that can ultimately lead them to a happier life. Often it is a much simpler life.

Changes are made on many levels. Frequently the person finds they need to address their nutrition and they adopt a natural, wholefood diet, including the discovery of superfoods. The often seek out and adopt practices like meditation that allow them to sit in stillness. They recognize the generosity of others around them and begin to regularly and frequently express gratitude for those others as well as for the small, simple joys of everyday life. Importantly, their approach to their life can undergo a radical change which leaves them focused on the world outside themselves. Leaves them asking what they can do to improve and benefit the world and the individuals around them. It leads to a generous approach to life.

So what were the things that have reminded me this week about the purpose of life, the pursuit of happiness?

Well, firstly my free ‘Kindness Cards’ from the Wake-Up Project  http://www.wakeupproject.com.au  arrived in the mail. These are beautiful little cards to leave behind when you anonymously perform a random act of kindness. They tell the person that an act has been performed and invites them to repeat the game with someone else, to pay it forward. Why not some yourself?

Secondly, I have entered a competition on Pinterest to create “My Happiness Board”. I am not sure if entering a competition to win a great prize constitutes the true pursuit of happiness, and it has created some stress for me, however, once the event is over I will slowly build the board to hopefully be an inspiration to others. You can take a look here (don’t worry, you won’t need to trawl through a huge board – the rules called for only five pins!)

Thirdly, I re-read a favourite book (I love to re-read!) in which one oft-quoted line is “it is what it is”.

Forget about a positive spin on life. Life is what it is. We have to make the best of what it is – it could be better, it could be worse. But it isn’t – it is.

Look for your strengths, the things you may not even recognize, and use those strengths to address ways in which you can make the world a better place. Practice kindness, be generous with what you can offer. Accept what life gifts back to you. When you reach the age of sixty-nine you may very well realize that the lemons of your life were indeed gold.  As Aristotle reminds us “Happiness depends on ourselves”.

And lastly, take note of Gretchen Rubins’ advice and try to notice and give credit to others that are living a life focused on giving what they have to offer to others.  “The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others. And because happiness seems unforced, that person usually gets no credit.”

Acknowledge your strengths, the things you may not even recognize as they come so easily to you, and use those strengths to address ways in which you can make the world a better place.
Acknowledge your strengths, the things you may not even recognize as they come so easily to you, and use those strengths to address ways in which you can make the world a better place.

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

History of Happiness

http://philosophyforlife.org/philosophies-for-life/epicureans/#sthash.ZnrVDZZt.dpuf

http://www.smh.com.au/business/australia-the-worlds-happiest-nation-oecd-20130528-2n87z.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/people-happiest-20s-60s-article-1.1407789

http://www.thehappinessinstitute.com

http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2009/09/the-happiness-project-book/

http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-resources

Sample Some Superfoods From This Southern Treasure Chest

I remember quite clearly when the catchphrase of all the campaigns to save the Amazon Rainforest from widespread clearing, was that we were destroying the World’s Pharmacy.

But now it appears this was only a part of the picture. As more and more fantastic Superfoods appear in the West it seems that the entire South American continent is a veritable treasure chest of foods as medicine. Perhaps we now need to say instead that the entire South American continent is the biggest room in the World’s Pharmacy.

So many of the wonderful new healthy foods we can add to our diet come out of the countries of South America.
So many of the wonderful new healthy foods we can add to our diet come out of the countries of South America.

So many of the wonderful new healthy foods we can add to our diet to either replace problem foods, or simply to send our health zinging, come out of the countries of South America. Foods such as quinoa, maca, raw cacao and chia all have their origins in that part of the world.

The superfood heartland, where chia, quinoa and other superfoods are cultivated in terraces around Cusco, Peru  Photo credit: Liana John
The superfood heartland, where chia, quinoa and other superfoods are cultivated in terraces around Cusco, Peru
Photo credit: Liana John

Following on from last weeks postabout free radicals, here are twelve wonderful Superfoods from the South and Central American treasure chest that would be fantastic additions to your menu.

Quinoa  Credit: Alisha Vargas
Quinoa
Credit: Alisha Vargas

Quinoa (keen-wa) has swept into our diets as a fantastic replacement for gluten grains.  Only a few years ago it was quite difficult to find but it is available on every supermarket shelf now. It has been grown for at least 6,000 years in the Andes of Peru. It was sacred to the Incas and famous for giving the Inca warriors super-human strength. It is gluten free and a great source of magnesium, iron and phosphorous as well as rich in fibre and folate. Technically it is not a grain but a seed, but it can be used just as you would a grain in your cooking. It’s really easy to prepare and quick to cook so makes a great addition to the menus of busy working families.

Chia seeds
Chia seeds

Chia Seeds were originally grown by the ancient Aztecs, Incans and Mayans for health and strength. They are chock-full of omega 3 (the one you need more of), actually one of the highest sources around, as well they have lots of fibre (4 teaspoons provide 30% of the daily requirement) and calcium. They are the highest source of protein compared to other seeds and grains. They are easily absorbed and this enables you to take in lots of the nutrients. They help with tissue growth and regeneration and are great during pregnancy and lactation, as well as for athletes.   

Amaranth plants
Amaranth plants

Amaranth (Kiwicha) has been around for a long time, and was a staple food for the Incas.   I remember a fellow Community Garden member experimenting with it about ten years ago. The next season every single plot in the garden had amaranth growing in it, so there shouldn’t be any difficulty of you would like to try growing some yourself here in Melbourne. Like quinoa, amaranth is a pseudograin, not really a grain. It has been used in its puffed form in health snack bars for some time and the flour, which has a rich flavour, is also available. Nutritionally it is similar to quinoa – high in protein and all amino acids, but also amaranth is rich in iron with 29 percent of the RDI of iron in just one cup, making it a great addition to a vegetarian diet. It also contains the minerals manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and copper.

Lucuma
Lucuma

Lúcuma is another fairly new food to appear in our markets. It is a large, sweet fruit  with a creamy citrus flavour, from the highlands of Peru, Bolivia and Equador, where it has been harvested from ancient times. It is considered one of the lost crops of the Incas but is still very widely eaten today. Its fruit tastes a little like maple syrup and sweet potato and it makes a wonderful low-sugar sweetener. It is very nutritious, rich in beta-carotene and niacin (vitamin B3), iron and calcium. The fruit is dried and ground to a powder. I have to say it is YUM combined with raw chocolate!

Lepidium meyenii
Lepidium meyenii (Maca) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maca Powder is another of the superfoods of the Incas and grows at 4,000m above sea level in the Andian highlands of Peru. It has been a medicinal food in that area for over 2,000 years. The harvested root is loaded up with protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and other minerals, vitamins and all the amino acids. Maca has some amazing health benefits as it is an adaptogen which supports and heals the adrenal glands. It is great for offsetting the effects of stress, gives an amazing energy boost, and can improve insomnia. But one of the most common uses is for balancing hormones when there is an overabundance of environmental oestrogens involved. It is also a powerful aphrodisiac.

Just note that there are certain contraindications for Maca. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or being treated for a hormonal issue consult your practitioner before using it.

Acai berries Credit: Cametaora
Acai berries
Credit: Cametaora

Acai (ah-sigh-ee) grows only in the Brazilian rainforest and coastal Colombia. This small purple berry is related to the blueberry and cranberry, and like them, is very rich in antioxidants which reduce oxidative stress. They stimulate the immune system and boost your energy. They can be helpful in preventing heart disease and cancer, and may help reduce cholesterol levels. They are associated with reduction of blood sugars, and assist with cognitive and mental function. It is frequently used in many healthy foods as well as smoothies and juices. Lots of beauty products now contain acai oil due to the high antioxidant content.

Ripe raw cacao pods
Ripe raw cacao pods

Raw Cacao can be considered a superfood, a healthy food, which was originally found in the Amazon Rainforest! It has been cultivated for over 3,000 years by the Incan, Mayan and Aztec peoples. Unlike the highly processed, fat-full, dairy-full, high sugar versions made by Cadbury etc, raw cacao is good for you. It comes as a powder or cacao nibs and can be used through your cooking as well as eaten raw. Keep milk away from it as many studies show that milk neutralizes the healthful properties.

Raw cacao really can be considered a true superfood. (woo hoo! Love my chocolate) It is very high in antioxidants as well as minerals which help with mental alertness, heart health and physical stamina. In addition it increases serotonin uptake in the brain which creates a sense of euphoria and counteracting stress.

I like to think of it as my favourite vegetable.

Dried camu camu seeds
Dried camu camu seeds

Camu Camu is another amazing food from Peru and like the acai, it is a berry. It provides  great support to the immune system and helps to ward off viral infections, especially when you are more stressed or anxious than normal. It contains bioflavonoids, amino acids, vitamin Bs (thiamin, niacin and riboflavin), plus it has sixty times more vitamin C than an orange. It will promote healthy gums, eyes, skin and supports the nervous system (brain) and the circulatory system (heart).

Macqui berries Credit: Mona Vie
Macqui berries Credit: Mona Vie

Maqui (mock-ee), Chilean Wineberry, is yet another powerhouse berry and comes from the Patagonia region of Southern Chile. It is known for its detoxifying properties and the benefits bestowed by its  antioxidants. It was used by a tribe of warriors, the Mapuche Indians, who were attributed with great strength and  endurance. The deep purple berries are loaded with antioxidants, with more than three times those found in acai. Maqui berries are very powerful so you only need half as much maqui as you would other berries. They have the highest ORAC score of any berry in the world. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) unit, ORAC value, or “ORAC score” is a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements.

The Maqui berry protects your immune system, skin, cardiovascular system, bones and joints. It also detoxifies the digestive system and restores metabolism to maximum capacity. They renew cells and help improve many diseases as well as fighting the effects of ageing.

Purple corn Photo credit: Randen Pederson
Purple corn
Photo credit: Randen Pederson

Purple Corn has been grown in Latin America for thousands of years. It is another food very rich in antioxidants, containing more than blueberries. Its gorgeous colour has been used as a naturalfood colouring, and it is often used in Peru to make chichi morada – purple corn drink.

Mesquite pods
Mesquite pods

Mesquite is actually from Central America, Mexico. The long pods are ground up into a low-glycemic, gluten free flour with a sweet nutty taste, which bakes up just like wheat flour – use it instead of half the wheat flour in the recipe. It can be used in raw desserts as it doesn’t need to be cooked. You can even add a spoonful to smoothies for a sweeter flavour. It is rich in soluble fibres and a great source of calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and lysine. Because it is in fact a legume and not a grain it is higher in protein than grain flours. It sits low on the glycemic index and won’t cause blood sugar spikes.

Inca Berries, or goldenberries, are golden berries about cherry size, which resemble    a raisin when they are dried. They are high in phosphorous, vitamins A, C, B1, B6 and B12, and are very high in protein for a fruit (16%)

In order to get the most from your South American Superfoods buy only ones that are organically certified. If the foods have been commercially produced they will carry chemical residue and much of the benefits will be lost.

You now have lots of information about some magic foods you can try out. If you need some ideas about how to use them there are lots of recipes and ideas out on the web so do a search.

But, you also need to actually get your hands on some of these magic goodies. I don’t normally recommend specific products but this week I am making an exception. The Loving Earth  company stocks most of these brilliant superfoods from the South American Treasure Chest, as well as creating a range of wonderful products that make use of them. Plus, on their website they have some amazing, delicious recipes which use all these foods. They also sell many of them in their raw state, including Maca powder, Raw Cacao, Camu Camu Powder, Purple Corn Extract and Chia seeds.

They also operate from an ethical basis. From their website…”The company is based on the philosophy that the earth is a living organism, (and) eating foods in their pure, minimally processed states, foods that are grown organically in a sustainable way, is one of the most significant ways in which we can live this philosophy.”

They support Fair Trade 100% and most of their foods are Australian Certified Organic.

Just in case you are wondering, I don’t take any payment from Loving Earth, in fact they don’t even know that I have written this about their products. They are just some products that I’ve tried and loved and I believe they are a company well worth your support. You can find their products in Health Food shops or can buy online.

Superfoods are the way of the Health Future. However, taking superfood supplements on their own are never going to be enough to turn around ill health. But by including a range of them as some of the dietary changes that are part of wider changes you make to build your own great health, they are certainly a powerful and effective addition.

Do you have a favourite South American Superfood? How do you use it? Post it in the comments below…we’d love to hear.

South America is a treasure chest of wonderful superfoods
South America is a treasure chest of wonderful superfoods

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles

http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/nutrition/7-south-american-superfoods

http://www.maquiberrybenefits.com.au/maqui_berry_anti_aging.php

http://www.age-well.org/maqui-berry.html

http://www.amazonhub.com/Superfoods-of-the-Incas/superfoods-of-the-incas-medicine-natural-buy.html

http://foodsforlonglife.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/omega-3-power-seeds-chia-hemp-and-flax.html

http://www.amazonhub.com/Superfoods-of-the-Incas/superfoods-of-the-incas-medicine-natural-buy.html

http://www.desthealth.com/products/vitamins-supplements/maqui-berry-active-60-capsules

http://www.thewellnesswarrior.com.au/2012/09/superfood-profile-camu-camu

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/mesquite-powder-health-benefits-tips-and-recipes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesquite

http://www.naturalnews.com/029562_mesquite_flour_superfood.html

http://www.vegparadise.com/otherbirds1002.html