Friday, April 29, 2011

Top Ten Healthfoods

Here is a list of my top ten healthfoods, meaning foods that can better your health or are good replacement foods for more unhealthier options. Obviously, this is very subjective, but from working in a healthfood shop I learn a lot about all our different items, and these ones tend to stick out.
In no particular order except for number one because number one is definitely my favourite:

1. Spirulina
I am in love with spirulina. Some people might argue that this is a supplement rather than a healthfood, but I've learnt to treat spirulina like a food, even though it's in tablet form. Spirulina is a micro-algae that grows in salt water. I have been taking it as a multivitamin for around a year now. It basically has a bit of everything except vitamin C (that a multi would have). Maybe not in as large quantities, but spirulina is easier for the body to absorb than a multi. It's pure, it's particularly loaded with calcium, betacarotene and iron - it raised my haemoglobin levels from 135 to 150g/L. In the powder form, it's a great food for fussy kids who won't eat their vegetables (to get some nutrition into them) - you just have to hide it in a smoothie.

2. Pumpkin Seeds
So, it's snack time and you're deciding what to munch on to see you through to the next meal. Do you think it would be better to have something with 'empty calories' (meaning all calories and no real nutrition) like a donut, or something that is 'nutrient dense', so fewer calories with lots of vitamins or minerals, like pumpkin seeds, which not only are high in manganese, magnesium, tryptophan, protein and zinc (to name a few) but are also alkalysing and low GI. Basically, they tick all the boxes.

3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is like that crazy relative that everyone has and you can never work out whether you love them or hate them. It's gone through some bad press in the last 40 years, but it's onto a good streak again, being recognised as the most heat stable of oils. This means that when you cook with it, it doesn't ruin the structure and you're not consuming oxidised molecules. You can use it in place of butter in baking to make it a little bit healthier. It actually has a lot of health benefits as well - check this website out for more info.

4. Quinoa
Quinoa is the latest (yet ancient) fad to come out of South America. It is a grain (also gluten free, which = handy) which is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is relatively low GI (51) and tastes great. You can use it like rice or even like porridge for brekkie.

5. Rapadura Sugar
I wouldn't say that Rapadura sugar is healthy, but it is an excellent alternative to white sugar, which is one of those empty calorie foods we talked about earlier. Just look at the nutrition panel of white sugar and it is 0g of everything except energy. Rapadura sugar still has high energy levels but has the nutrients as well. It is the dried evaporated cane juice of the sugar cane plant, so it is also less processed than white sugar (which isn't hard to achieve). It tastes great, it has a real caramel flavour and you can use it exactly as you would use white sugar.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Digestive issues? Start taking a shot of apple cider vinegar in the mornings (watered down a bit though). It's really alkalysing, it stimulates the secretion of your gastric acid and digestive enzymes, so it helps you digest your food properly.

7. Green Tea
I remember when I first tried green tea when I was 16 and thought it tasted like cigar ash (not that I've eaten that though). Since then it's grown on me and I have it all the time at work for morning and afternoon tea. It's really high in antioxidants, and has had a lot of research done in regards to health benefits, and has come up trumps in lots of different areas, including anti-cancer, treating cardiovascular issues and weight loss.

8. Lentils
People think lentils, think vegetarians, then because they are meat-eaters they don't touch the lentils. Well, you don't have to be a vegetarian to eat a vegetarian meal. Lentils are a great source of protein and amino acids and can be made into the feature of a meal. They also have a lot less saturated fat than meat.

9. Himalayan Crystal Salt
This is another replacement food, and is so much better to use than table salt. This salt actually has health benefits, rather than disadvantages. That said, it's something you still use in moderation. During my naturopathy education we were taught that salt is an essential nutrient, it's just that we eat way too much of it. There is a school of thought that believes we need absolutely no salt in our diet, as a very opinionated customer tried to tell me the other day, but that's not my line of thinking. Check this website out for more info.

10. Psyllium
There's nothing like being regular. Psyllium is high in soluble fibre and increases the bulk of a stool. If you eat it and don't drink enough water, you won't go to the toilet at all. Okay that is an overstatement but there's some truth in it. Taken properly, it's great for bowel regulation and maintaining the integrity of your bowel walls as well. It's the main ingredient in Metamucil and other fibre supplements.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mind, Body & Happiness

If you are anything like me and have no more self control than a mosquito to a lantern, you might have over-consumed over the Easter period. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I believe entirely in having a healthy mind and a healthy body, and sometimes what makes a healthy mind doesn't make a healthy body. But it's okay to indulge in moderation. How happy would you be turning down everything vaguely unhealthy 100% of the time? Easter, Christmas, birthdays, parties?

It's about having the motivation and control to know when it's not going to make you feel any happier having that second helping of dessert, but rather it's going to make you feel unhappy because you knew you didn't need it.

After times like Easter it's sometimes good to have something like a mini detox to get you back on track again. Even if that just involves doing that little bit more exercise than usual or tweaking your diet for a few days (eg avoiding anything processed).

Looking after your mind and maintaining a positive attitude will help you achieve your health goals, but try to have the things that make you happy but aren't necessarily good for your health (like chocolate) only in moderation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Magic Fountain

The Fountain of Youth.
A magical, mythical fountain of water that, once you have bathed in or drank some of it's glorious H2O, all your illnesses will disappear and it will restore your youth and lead to an abnormally long life.

Is there a moral to this story? Yes!

We hear all the time that we should drink at least 2 litres of water a day. How many of us do it? Answer this question now, how many days in the past week have you drank at least 2 litres of pure water? If the answer is 7, then good on you, you can stop reading this post now.

I think that people get lazy with their water intake because you don't consciously notice any side effects of low water intake straight away. Fluid retention, headaches, tiredness, constipation, bad skin - these can all happen when you don't drink enough water, but you don't always attribute them to dehydration.

This is getting into a bit of speculation here, but I know a handful of people who look a lot younger than they are (almost perfect skin). I said this to someone once, and she said, it's water - I drink HEAPS of water. And now I think back and all the other people who I think have aged well are big water drinkers also. Coincidence?

Anyway so we all know it's good, we just have to put in the effort to drink more. I found that having 500ml of water with breakfast makes it easier to reach 2L throughout the day because I can just fill up my 1.5L drink bottle and if I can finish that then great, I'm good for the day.

You can do it!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking.

I've been trying to decide what is the most important thing when it comes to achieving a healthy lifestyle. And what I've come up with is this:


Have you been lying in bed, sitting on the toilet, driving, brushing your teeth, in the shower or standing on the scales, and thought, RIGHT. This is it. Then you mentally make a list of all these things you're going to do and how life is going to be oh so much better and you're excited to really start living. Then a few days, a week, a month later you can hardly remember that random burst of inspiration and you are back into your old habits.

These random bursts of inspiration are usually triggered by something; you've read a good biography, seen a motivational speaker, been to a funeral, had a near death experience...

What you need to do, before making any changes to your lifestyle, is work out what motivates you and how you can remain motivated for long periods of time. Definitely easier said than done, but I'm going to list a few ways that can help.

1. Inspirational quotes. Be one of those daggy people that print them out and stick them somewhere in the house. Change it semi-regularly so you don't get tired of it. I found one I like:
"First say to yourself what you would be, then do what you have to do." - Epictetus.

2. Look at your family medical history. This is interesting and in my opinion not enough of us actually spare this enough thought. If there are hereditary conditions that you can lower your chances of getting, that can be a big motivational factor. It's too late when you're 60 and think, I should have done more when I was younger. Especially with weight-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension, arthritis (these are not necessarily caused by obesity though, I might add).

3. Get a health buddy! If you have a friend who is also keen on living healthier, have regular catch-ups and see where you each have gotten since you last talked.

4. Set goals. We hear this all the time, but that feeling of smashing your PB is a real rush. It helps to have lots of little goals, with a few big ones on the horizon. I remember when I used to run a particular route around home that had lots of hills around it, and I would always walk up the hills. The first time I made it home without stopping to walk I was so happy, and so motivated to take it further.

5. At the end of each day, ask yourself, has this been a good day? Not in terms of what you can't control, like the weather or someone getting you down, but more 'are you happy with the choices you made today'?

6. Give yourself presents as a reward, but don't use what you've been trying to avoid. Eg, don't think 'I've been eating well all week so today I'm going to treat myself and have McDonalds'. Keep your rewards healthy like a massage or a little shopping spree.

Obviously, everyone is different, but believe in yourself, believe in what you want to achieve and you will achieve it. Positive thinking is a powerful tool and you should use it each and every day.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

So What Is It?

New acquaintance "So do you go to uni?"

Me: "No, I'm actually a naturopath."

New acquaintance: "Ah... what is that?"

Good question!

I just googled 'naturopath definition' and the definition that automatically came up was:
'A system of alternative medicine based on the theory that diseases can be treated or prevented without drugs by techniques such as diet and exercise.'

That's relatively accurate, but very simplified. I think that naturopathy is interpreted differently by each practitioner or client. I'm going to try to sum up what naturopathy is for me.

I help clients identify which foods are rich in particular macro or micro nutrients to benefit their specific situation.
I discuss diet, food replacement and I write out diet plans or recipes.
I use herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and bacteria to treat, prevent or contain illnesses.
I advise clients on what products to use on their skin and around their home.

To be honest, most things that I use as tools of the trade are scientifically researched, but not to the extent of pharmaceutical drugs.

I try to help people help themselves. I believe that prevention is the best treatment. The best form of prevention is to lead 'a healthy life'. Easier said than done. In subsequent posts I'm hoping to outline some ways to help you start being the healthiest version of yourself.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Shake it up Baby.

Smoothies. Become a fan.

I love smoothies. You can read all about them all over the net but I'm just going to give you a few reasons why I think they are great.

1. You can use them like a meal replacement. I don't usually like using the 'meal replacement' term because it brings to mind images of certain money-grabbing brands where you 'have 2 shakes a day and a palm full of protein and you'll lose weight', but when you make a good smoothie, it is often nutritionally better than what you might have chosen for a meal (obviously, depending on what you would have chosen).

2. They are fun to make! Add a bit of this, a bit of that and you have a power packed drink.

3. No grains necessary! How many meals a day do you include some form of grain? Because a lot of the time you find yourself saying, 'well, all of them'. Not that grains are the devil, but everything in moderation.

4. You can include your supplements in a smoothie without having to take lots of tablets.

So in the picture I've shown you what I've been using lately. I'll give you a quick recipe:
1/2 cup coconut water
1/2 cup Elgaar Farm Organic Fat Free Milk (yum!)
1-2 tablespoons 100% pure whey protein concentrate (from dairy not soy)
1/4 teaspoon Lifestream calcium powder (which you can also cook with because it's heat stable)
1/2 teaspoon Hawaiian spirulina powder (only a little or it tastes like a fish tank)
1 chopped banana
1 teaspoon raw cacao powder

Put everything in a blender and enjoy!

I have my smoothie only after exercise. The function of my smoothie is to provide nutrients (I take no multivitamin), to help muscle recovery after exercise (protein content) and to give me breakfast.
To formulate your smoothie, figure out what function(s) you want it to have and adjust the ingredients from there. Here are some very simple suggestions:

Function : Ingredient
Body building : a big serve of better quality protein (eg whey protein isolate)
Electrolyte balance : coconut water or a good rehydration mix (I like the Endura range - I don't like Powerade/Gatorade with artificial everything)
Anti-aging : green tea powder or acai powder
Fat burning : L-carnitine powder
High fibre (for digestion) : psyllium

There is so much out there to choose from, and it is so much better for you and so much more fun that a couple pieces of toast for breakfast.
Also, you can get almost everything I've mentioned at Go Vita stores ;)