All Posts by vitalassurance

Controlling Your Winter Cravings

Winter has come! It’s cold out there, the days are getting shorter and the seasonal blues have hit. Whatever the reason, when winter hits, cravings for comfort food increases.

We long for foods that will warm us up quickly and this message is usually played out as a craving for carbohydrate-rich foods. The sugars and starches in these foods provide the instant "heat" boost your body is longing for.

Unfortunately when we give in to those cravings for sugary, starchy foods, our blood sugar spikes and then just as quickly falls. As a result, it sets up a cycle that keeps the cravings in motion. We get hungrier quicker so we reach out for more carbohydrate-rich foods to satisfy that hunger.

Something else to consider is that with the days getting shorter, there are less daylight hours, which causes our bodies to have a lack of exposure to natural light. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD leads to problems with the body’s biological clock as well as reducing our levels of serotonin, also known as the ‘happy’ drug. With lower levels of serotonin in our blood, we look to ‘self-medicate’ with those carbohydrate-rich foods that give us a serotonin rush. Furthermore, when it’s dark and gloomy, we tend to generally eat more and go for stews, mashed potatoes, pasta dishes – the dishes that make us feel warm and cozy.

If the first two symptoms weren’t already working against us, winter can also cut into the amount of physical activity we do. Not only do shorter days and colder weather reduce our outdoor time, but also our motivation to exercise reduces. Exercise helps increase serotonin levels, so if we are not exercising, our appetite increases to increase the serotonin levels, which ultimately means we’re eating more and moving less - and that’s a disaster plan for weight gain.

Studies have shown that the population on average puts on between 4 – 8kg during the winter months and although having a heartier appetite for a few months of the year is not the end of the world, it can become detrimental when it happens year in year out. However with a little bit of planning, we can keep can take control and keep our life and appetite in harmony.

Here are some suggestions on how you can do this:

  1. Eat a healthy snack in between meals – try some nut butter on apple slices, rice crackers with avocado and sliced tomato, veggie sticks and hummus dip. Healthy snacking will fuel your body's heat mechanism, helping keep you warmer.
  2. Make a winter activity plan for your exercise regime. Set yourself some realistic goals about the number of times you can exercise and schedule those in as appointments in your diary.
  3. Create lower calorie alternatives to the food you are craving. For example, top your shepherd’s pie with pumpkin and sweet potato mash, make an almond flour dough for your pizza bases or make cauliflower rice to have with your curries.
  4. Get a daily dose of light. Make the effort to spend at least 10 minutes outdoors in sunlight everyday.
  5. Keep the temptation of sweet treats out of the house. As they say out of sight, out of mind.

I hope that these tips can help you beat those winter cravings, and keep you on track for your ‘summer body’! Remember, warmer weather is potentially only three months away!

Why Am I So Tired All The Time?

Are you finding it hard to get moving in the morning even after a full night’s sleep? Do you need two cups of coffee before you start to feel ‘awake’? Do you lack energy in the afternoon? Are you less tolerant of others, get easily frustrated or have trouble concentrating?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you could potentially be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue. Adrenal Fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms (known as a syndrome) that results in the adrenal glands functioning below their necessary level. It is most commonly associated with periods of prolonged stress, however it can also occur after acute or chronic chest infections or respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis and pneumonia. With winter having just arrived, this is something we need to be very mindful of.

Every case of Adrenal Fatigue will present differently, however there are many common symptoms:

  • Difficulty getting up each morning, even after a long sleep;
  • High levels of fatigue during the day;
  • Inability to handle stress;
  • Cravings for salty foods;
  • High energy levels in the evening;
  • A weakened immune system;
  • Asthma;
  • Dark circles under the eyes;
  • Extreme tiredness an hour after exercise;
  • Joint pain;
  • Low blood sugar;
  • Weight gain;
  • Numbness in your fingers / Poor circulation;
  • Frequent urination.

Despite all this gloom and doom, Adrenal Fatigue is a condition that is easily treatable. The food you eat is your first line of defence. Create an adrenal-supportive nutritional plan whereby firstly you avoid the foods that make your Adrenal Fatigue worse and secondly you actively eat the foods that will aid your recovery. This means consuming nutritious whole foods and avoiding foods that you have sensitivities or intolerances to or foods that will increase inflammation within yourself.

In addition to food, addressing the state of your mind and body plays an enormous role in the road to recovery. We need to address the underlying cause of stress in our lives. Just as our mental state can cause illness, improving our emotional wellbeing can reverse this condition.

Ways to restore your emotional and physical health include:

- Doing the right type of exercise;
- Meditation and deep breathing;
- Reviewing your lifestyle, including family, relationships, work and spirituality.

So although Adrenal Fatigue may not be a commonly diagnosed syndrome within the medical world, this newsletter explains that someone that is suffering from it can have his or her life severely impacted by the condition. Making small changes within your food, mind and body can have a big impact on getting yourself back to a healthier and energised you!


Beating the Winter Blues

I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t enjoy the months of May – September with the cooler temperatures and that biting chill in the air. We associate illnesses with these months, and with the additional stresses of our busy lives our immune system gets compromised, leading to many of us experiencing some sort of a cold, cough or sniffle during this time.

Although we would like to, we cannot escape most of what we are exposed to, therefore maintaining good health over the winter season is critical. There are many ways we can support our health during these colder months and strengthen our body’s response to the cooler weather. Basic needs such as sleep, good nutrients, hydration, stress management, keeping active and having exposure to sunlight are all imperative to be able to keep those winter illnesses away.

While most of us turn to over-the-counter medications to try and beat these illnesses, there is no purer ‘medicine’ than eating food rich in nutrients to strengthen and support our immune system, which will keep these bugs away. Over 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, and what you eat forms the foundation of your health. Therefore if it’s not supported with the right foods, it becomes susceptible to illness and disease.

When it comes to our immune system, the major nutrients that will assist it in performing at its best are: Vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Omega 3, Ginger, and Probiotics.

Below outlines the ways we can get each of these through natural sources.

Vitamin C is used by the body to protect us when an infection enters the body and its anti-oxidant activity helps prevent inflammation and damage by bacteria and viruses. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons but is also present in capsicum, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Kiwi fruit, strawberries and potatoes.


Zinc acts as an anti-oxidant which not only strengthens our immune system but can also shorten the duration of a cold. Zinc is found mostly in red meat and poultry, so zinc supplements may be something you need to consider if you are a vegetarian/vegan or just don’t eat these foods regularly.

Foods rich in Vitamin E have anti-oxidants which help boosts the body’s defence against bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. Some examples are nuts, seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.

As I was growing up there was nothing more comforting then a bowl of chicken soup when I wasn’t feeling well and I could not agree more that bone broths are a great inclusion in your daily diet. They are full of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and amino acids which support our adrenal health, nervous system and immune system.

Oily fish rich in Omega 3 such as wild salmon, herring, and anchovies all help kick-start your immune system by reducing harmful inflammation in your body.

Ginger is a powerful anti-viral herb that helps the body get rid of toxins, stimulate circulation and boost your immune system. Ginger can be enjoyed in your juices, your cooking and even as simple as sipping on a lemon and ginger tea.

Probiotics are essential in the fight to prevent infection. Probiotics increase the balance of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ bacteria in our gut which helps to keep our gut healthy and boost our immune system to guard us against colds. Probiotics can be taken in the form of a supplement or are rich in foods such as sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, Kefir and Kombucha.

By adding the foods listed above into your weekly diet, you can properly support your immune system to hopefully get through this winter without those winter blues.

Achieving Ultimate Beauty

Beauty is something that is deep, lasting and grows from the inside out. Looking beautiful on the outside is a reflection of our internal health, and we require ongoing care and cleansing to keep our vibrant beauty. When your cells, organs and blood are clean, your body is able to function optimally and you are able to achieve your beauty and weight loss goals.

So how to we get to this position? Achieving our optimal beauty is tightly linked to the alkaline-acid principle. This principle takes us back to our school days where we learnt about pH in science lessons. The pH scale ranges from totally acidic at 0.0 to totally alkaline at 14.0, making 7.0 neutral. For the human body, the ideal blood pH is 7.365 and it must stay within a tight range for us to maintain optimal health.

In order to make ourselves the healthiest, most youthful and most beautiful we can be, we must support our body’s effort to stay at its perfect, slightly alkaline pH. We must make changes to our diet and become conscious of which foods leave an alkaline residue and which foods leave an acidic residue in our body. Maintaining the balance of alkalinity and acidity in our bodies and tissues is one of the most important roles of nutrition.

An overly acidic body greatly diminishes our beauty, and really who wants that??? Excess acidity can be a major contributing cause of premature ageing, along with premature lines and wrinkles; acne, dark under-eye circles; limp, bodiless or otherwise unhealthy hair; and brittle nails.

You may ask: “But how does the food we eat impact on this alkaline-acid principle and therefore what changes can we make?” All foods leave either an alkaline or acidic residue in the bloodstream due to whether they contain more alkaline or more acidic minerals.

What is important for our health and beauty is the way foods break down in our body and the residue that foods leave. For example, limes and lemons add an ‘acidic’ balance to a recipe, but when digested, they leave an alkaline residue in our bodies, however dairy milk in isolation has an alkaline pH, but when it is digested it leaves an extremely acidic residue in the body.

So in order to stay in alkaline state we must become conscious of which foods leave an alkaline residue and which foods leave an acidic residue in our body. Here’s a simple table for you to use as a guide:

Very Alkaline Foods

Very Acidic Foods

Ripe Fruits

Alcohol

Greens

Animal Protein

Sprouts

Artificial Sweeteners

Other Vegetables
(excluding starchy vegetables)

Caffeine

Dairy Products

Drugs, such as antibiotics/steroids

Nicotine

Refined Sugar

Sodas

The more alkaline foods you can introduce into your diet, the more your body will be prepped to promote health, beauty and longevity and be able to fight disease, toxaemia and ageing.

Coconut Curried Cauliflower Soup

There’s nothing better then on a Winter’s day, when you are cold right through to the bone, to warm yourself up with a hearty, nourishing soup. The sweetness of the roasted vegetables balances out so nicely with the spice of the red curry paste. This is sure to be a soup that pleases everyone!

Ingredients:
1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
300g butternut pumpkin, chopped
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1-4 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (depending on your level of spice)
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1 x 420g can coconut milk
seasoning
chilli oil / lime juice (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line a tray with baking paper.

Place the chopped cauliflower and pumpkin on the tray and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Season with salt and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the cauliflower and pumpkin have softened and begin to brown.

In the meantime, start preparing your soup by heating the remaining olive oil on medium heat.  Add your onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add your carrots and cook for a further 10 minutes until they begin to soften. Add your garlic and ginger and stir to ensure they don't burn for a further minute.

Add your turmeric and red curry paste.  Maybe start with 1-2 tablespoons and you can always add more if you prefer it spicier. 

Stir for 1 minute and then deglaze the pan by adding some vegetable stock.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all the dark bits.

Add your roasted vegetables and the remaining stock.  Bring to a simmer and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the stove and blend the soup until smooth by either using an immersion blender or transferring the soup to a blender in batches. 

Add your coconut milk to the soup and adjust your seasonings as required.

Serve with a squeeze of lime juice or some chilli oil

Serves 4-6

Key Tips When Eating Out

Eating out has always been something I have enjoyed. I have many fond memories, especially from when my father was still alive, of going to restaurants and eating beautifully prepared food.

Since changing my style of eating to be more clean and healthy, I get asked all the time whether I still eat out. Thankfully I am able to answer YES! There are so many restaurants now that cater for clean eating that it has really made this transition so easy. Some of my favourite places include Feast of Merit, Tokyo Tina, Ten Greek Plates, Zurouna, Foxes Den, Miss Ruben, Naked Chicks and the list goes on and on…. Restaurants are becoming more accustomed to customers needing to make changes and substitutions to their menu and the majority of the time they are extremely accommodating. Going out for meals is a great way to catch up with friends, and not something you should give up if you have switched to a clean eating lifestyle.

Here are my key tips for eating cleanly when eating out:

1. Don’t go out on an empty stomach. Have a small snack and a big glass of water about 30 minutes before you go out, so that when you get to the restaurant you won’t be starving, and end up ordering too much food. If you are going out for breakfast, perhaps have a piece of fruit or a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt with a handful of almonds before you leave. Before heading out for dinner, have some vegetable sticks with some dip or a small bowl of soup.

2. Don’t forget to add your greens. Order a side salad as a starter. Not only will this help you control the amount that you eat but greens are also very alkalising therefore it will aid in the digestion of your meal.

3. Order a healthier version. Don’t be afraid to ask the wait staff how your meal is going to be prepared (ie. cooked, fried, baked, roasted etc.) and ask for it to be changed to make it healthier.

4. Dressings and sauces. Restaurants love to drown their foods (in a good way) with dressing and sauces. However, with this comes a lot of refined sugars, since most places will use sugar as a key ingredient in most dressings and sauces. To maintain the original flavour, ask for the dressing/sauce on the side so that you can moderate how much you consume. Or to eliminate it completely, simply ask for a basic alternative that will be sugar free.

5. Be mindful of your portion size. It’s all about portion control. You don’t have to say goodbye to the foods that you love, but being mindful about your portion size will allow you to continue to enjoy the foods that you love whilst maintaining your weight. Order two entrée meals or share a main to help keep you on track.

6. Eat mindfully and enjoy your meal. The part about going out that is most enjoyable is the different textures, flavours and smells. Ensure that you savour the moment, chew each mouthful thoroughly and take breaks, put your utensils down in between mouthfuls.

7. Don’t go overboard with alcohol. It can be easy to get carried away with the amount of alcohol that you drink while on a night out, however it has no nutritional value and is just empty calories. You can still enjoy your alcohol, but limit yourself to 1, or at the most 2, drinks. Your body will thank you the next morning.

Remember that eating cleanly is also about balance, and the 80/20 rule is one that comes in to play here. You can still go out and enjoy yourself, and the above tips are a guide to help you monitor what you eat.



Overcoming Those Sugar Cravings

Sugar and its impact on your health would definitely be one of the hottest topics within the health industry. With obesity and chronic disease rates growing dramatically, the link between sugar consumption and this is more evident.

As a parent I have always been concerned about the potential risk of my children becoming hooked on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, but it has never been considered that sugar is as much of a damaging ‘drug’ that you can easily get hooked onto. There are many programs available to assist you in overcoming certain addictions, but what about sugar?

Sugar is everywhere. It is called several different names and therefore you probably wouldn’t even recognise that foods you are consuming are filled with this drug. It is no surprise that there are many times during the day when you are felling a little tired or sluggish that your ‘go to’ food will be something sweet to give you that pick me up.

Reducing the amount of sugar you consume could potentially be life saving. Here are 8 of my top tips to help you eliminate sugar from your diet.

1. Eat regularly. Eat three meals and two snacks or five small meals a day. For many people, if they don’t eat regularly, their blood sugar levels drop, they feel hungry and are more likely to crave sweet sugary snacks.

2. Choose whole foods. The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain.

3. Include protein and/or fat with each meal. This helps control blood sugar levels, keeps you satisfied and fuller for longer. Make sure they are healthy sources of each and moderate amounts.

4. Move your body. Whatever movement you enjoy, whether it be walking, running, gym or yoga, will help reduce tension, boost your energy and decrease your need for a sugar lift.

5. Get enough sleep. When we are tired we often use sugar for energy to counteract the exhaustion.

6. Don’t substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar. This will do little to alter your desire for sweets as your body recognises the artificial sweetener as sugar. If you do need a sweetener, try Stevia, it’s the most natural.

7. Drink lots of water. Sometimes drinking water can help with the sugar cravings. Also sometimes what we perceive as a food craving is really thirst.

8. Keep sugary snacks out of your house and office. It’s difficult to snack on things that aren’t there! Have alternatives such as veggies, fruit, yoghurt and almonds.



Eating Seasonally for Autumn

Autumn is a time of abundance when it comes to fresh produce. I love the flavours of it: apples, lemons, bananas, figs, grapes, kiwifruit, asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, pumpkins and zucchini. Because there is such a copious amount of fresh fruits and vegetables available, it’s easy to cook and create a variety of different meals that are full of flavour.

Foods taste better when they are in season, and they also have the most nutritional benefit at this time. Knowing what fruits and vegetables can be sourced locally is a great way to keep track of this, so eating watermelon during the winter months is not an ideal option (for example). If you’re not sure what is in season, spend a weekend day walking through your local farmer’s market to see what produce is available.

It is very important to listen to what our body is telling us, and often the body craves foods that balance out the elements of the season. For example, in summer people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw vegetables and ice cream. Conversely, in winter our body craves hot and heat-producing foods like soups, stews and meat.

With autumn comes rich, healthy, nutritious, comforting soups. Here is a recipe of one of my favourites.

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

Ingredients:
16 Roma Tomatoes, cut in half lengthways
2 onions, cut in half lengthways
1 head of garlic, roasted
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons mixed Italian herbs
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2.5 cups water or vegetable stock
1 cup light coconut milk

Method:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Cut onions and tomatoes in half lengthways and place on parchment-lined tray. Cut the top of the garlic head in order to expose the majority of the garlic whilst it remains in tact.
Drizzle onions, tomatoes and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roast in oven for approximately 60 mins.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Place in blender the roasted tomatoes (with their juices), onions, 8 roasted garlic cloves and all other ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Serves 6



Roast Pumpkin with Walnut Pesto

I love taking simple ingredients and creating something special.  This garlic roasted pumpkin will absolutely melt in your mouth!! With the addition of the walnut pesto and toasted almonds, it takes the flavours to the next level.  The left over pesto can be stored in a glass jar in the fridge for 4-5 days or can be frozen for 3 months.  It can be used as your sauce to pasta, a dip or a delicious spread in your sandwich.

Ingredients:
1 butternut pumpkin
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and pepper to taste
drizzle olive oil
toasted slivered almonds (optional - as topping)

Walnut pesto:
4 cups basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup walnuts
zest and juice of one lemon1/2 cup olive oil, more as needed
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of cracked pepper
1/2 cup parmesan (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Prepare a tray with baking paper and prepare your pumpkin by cutting it in half length-ways and removing all the seeds.  Place the pumpkin on the tray skin side down.  Rub the pumpkin with the garlic, season and drizzle with the oil. Bake in the oven for 75 minutes.  The pumpkin should be very soft.

Whilst the pumpkin is baking, you can make the walnut pesto by adding all of the ingredients except for the oil into your food processor (including parmesan if you are using) and pulse a few times to break the basil down.  In a steady stream add the olive oil until it is all blender and forms a loose paste.  Add one tablespoon of oil at a time if you haven't reached the consistency you desire.  Adjust seasoning

Transfer the pumpkin to a tray and top with the walnut pesto and slivered almonds.

Serves 8

Raw Chocolate Macaroons

Every year at Passover I make a batch of macaroons - the kids love them.  They are quick and easy to make and the flavour can be adjusted to your liking.  They aren't too sweet, but are soft and chewy, just as macaroons should be.

Ingredients:
2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch pink salt


Method:
​Mix your cacao, coconut oil, syrup and salt in a large bowl placed on top of a pot of simmering water.  Stir until it is all melted and mixed together. Mix in your shredded coconut.

Line a tray with non-stick paper and use a tablespoon to shape them into macaroons.

Place in the fridge or freezer to set.

Note / you can add some peppermint or orange essential oil to adjust the flavour.

Makes 20-30 depending on size

(This is a JBT Recipe, check out the programs I offer here)