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.
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
Drugs, such as antibiotics/steroids
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
So what is the story behind fat? The type of fat you eat is more important than the amount of fat you eat. Whether a particular fat is healthy or unhealthy depends on how your body responds to the fat. ‘Bad’ fats turn off your fat-burning genes while ‘good’ fats increase your metabolism and actually help you burn fat. It is important to remember that fat is crucial for your cells to function optimally.
When you understand the different types of fat and which foods contain which type of fat, you can use it to your advantage to increase your ability to burn fat and lose weight.
Many people have turned to low-fat diets in order to lose weight, however the problem with this is that these diets are often rich in starchy or sugary carbohydrates, which in turn raises your insulin levels and promotes weight gain.
Fats can be classified as ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’. Lets look at all three a little more closely.
1) Omega 3
The king of the good fats is the Omega-3. Omega 3 has many beneficial qualities including reducing systemic inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, reducing triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels and increasing immune function just to name a few.
Omega 3 can be sourced from the following foods: Wild salmon, herring, anchovies, flaxseeds and flax oil, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds.
2) Monounsaturated fats
These are considered to be one of the healthiest types of fat as it has none of the adverse effects associated with saturated fats, trans fat or omega 6 polyunsaturated vegetable oil.
These can be sourced from the following foods: Olive oil, hazelnuts, almonds,brazil nuts, cashews, avocado, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
3) Saturated fats
Many saturated fats are considered bad due to increasing the amount of LDL cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol), the stuff that forms plaque in our arteries, and subsequently decreasing the amount of HDL cholesterol (aka good cholesterol), the stuff that chips away the plaque forming in our arteries.
These saturated fats are found in commercially raised beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and dairy. However, having some saturated fat, especially those containing Lauric Acid, is necessary as this is the preferred source of energy by heart cells.
Sources of this fat can be found in the following foods: Coconut products, macadamia nut oil, palm fruit oil.
4) Unrefined Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats
These fats are only required in small doses. Only use the expeller or cold-pressed versions (found on the label of the bottle) of the following oils: grape seed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, walnut oil, sesame oil
These fats affect your metabolism adversely, making it difficult to burn the weight you would like to. They include:
These are man made fats that simply cannot be properly digested by your body. They interrupt the natural operation of your cells and have the capacity to affect your health in radically negative ways. They also block your metabolism, create weight gain and increase your risk of chronic disease. These fats should be avoided.
Hydrogenated oils or Trans fats are the most dangerous. Trans fats are found in nearly all processed or commercially baked or packaged foods. Some examples of trans fat include: vegetable shortening, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods and baked goods.
In summary, the recipe for weight loss with fat is to include 1-2 servings of ‘good’ fats with each meal, plus the occasional ‘bad’ fat, while avoiding the ‘ugly’ fats. This will result in an increase in your metabolism and improve your ability to burn fat.
When you first start looking at leading a healthier lifestyle, you might think that it will involve lots of work to change your diet. However, choosing healthier foods is easier than you may think. By changing just a few eating habits you can make a big difference to your diet and your health. For example, swapping foods high in trans-saturated fats, salt and sugars to wholesome fruits and vegetables.
Here are some suggestions you may want to try:
If you’ve ever questioned whether or not the whole “clean eating” lifestyle actually makes a difference to your health, I would like to share one of my many success stories with you. I hope that the positive results she has seen, even at her age, will motivate you to start to make changes in your life.
In 2009, Dorith was 58 years old. She had been an unsuccessful yo-yo dieter (trying many different diets), battling with her weight for at least 10 years. A typical food day for her was no different to most ‘normal’ people: she started her day with a bowl of a store-bought cereal with skim milk and a coffee with skim milk and sweetener. Lunches were quickly thrown together and usually consisted of a tub of diet yoghurt and some rice cakes with a small tin of tuna. Dorith’s nemesis was her sweet tooth and by the time she got home from work, she would generally be too tired to prepare herself a meal so she would just snack on the bits and pieces that she could find in her kitchen and this generally included biscuits, chocolate and Pepsi Max.
Her world took a dramatic change when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. From that point on, managing her weight and health became an even more difficult uphill battle for her.
Following her first round of treatment, she hit a further speed bump when she developed lymphedema in her legs, which made it difficult for her to walk and maintain even a low level of exercise. Her weight continued to creep up and her overall health began to deteriorate rapidly, experiencing ongoing pain in her back, hip and legs requiring regular trips to the doctor for treatment of cellulitis and other infections. She was extremely lethargic and had limited energy. Over the next 6 years, her cancer returned twice and she currently remains on long-term chemotherapy treatment to try to beat this disease.
In November 2015, Dorith reached her ‘tipping point’. She knew that something had to be done to change her diet and lifestyle if her health was going to improve.
Knowing her health and diet history, I realised that her body was on fire and was working against her. To be able to transform this, she had to remove from her diet many of her ‘staple foods’ including processed food, wheat, gluten, sugar, soy, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. Instead, these were replaced with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein (eg. fish and chicken), and whole foods such as brown rice (not white), quinoa, nuts and seeds. By consuming these foods, she was beginning to allow her body to repair itself, eliminating cravings and increasing her energy.
Dorith found this extremely overwhelming at first, being concerned that not only would she have limited food options, but also the amount of preparation that would be required. However, we worked together to come up with a meal plan with a wide variety of food options. I also showed her some great cooking hacks like preparing her fruit and vegetables as soon as she gets them home before putting them away, and also learning to ‘cook once and eat twice (or even three times)’.
To be able to sustain and maintain this lifestyle change, results needed to be seen, so it was fabulous for her to experience an immediate 2kg weight loss in the first few days. This gave her the motivation to keep going. Four months on, Dorith has now lost an incredible 21kg!!!! A further loss of 4kg will see her at her goal weight, a weight she has not been at for over 15 years!
But it was more than just about weight loss. Dorith’s attitude in general started to improve, and she found herself being more positive towards life overall. This reinforces the strong relationship between mood and food, and how a diet filled with processed carbs and refined sugars has as much of an effect on our mental health as our physical health. Whereas a “clean diet” filled with fresh produce, lean protein and whole grains leaves you feel refreshed and energised.
Dorith was introduced to foods that she had never heard of before and is now enjoying cooking and eating, she is always pre-prepared with her meals, her cravings for sweet foods have diminished and her love for Pepsi Max no longer exists.
Dorith has been amazing through this journey, showing great strength and determination to make long-term changes to her health. She is now reaping the rewards of her hard work and in her own words, ‘today, at 21 kilograms lighter, I feel more energetic, and am now off the cholesterol medication that I had been taking for many years”. Dorith has found a new zest for life, “Keren was my mentor and without her great support and guidance, I would not have been able to achieve what I did!”
Social Media is awash with so called “experts” who give advice on ‘toxic foods’, ‘eating right’, and ‘living right’, and there are just as many other “experts” who then counter-argue against some of these people. It can become extremely confusing for people to decipher what is the right decision to make and what the ‘right’ approach is to leading a healthier lifestyle.
What I have learned so far is that there is no singular “right” diet. No two people are alike, especially when we are looking at people’s metabolism. We need to consider how they respond to stressful situations, and their time and availability to exercise and take time out for themselves. Therefore, people need to trial different eating methods to work out how their body responds and reacts to be able to find the right approach for them.
When it comes to fat loss, it’s all about getting our body to work optimally to burn more energy, rev up our metabolism and making sure you eat the correct nutrient dense foods to support this. However, achieving your weight-loss goal is not just about food, it’s about lifestyle too. You need a lifestyle that will help you become leaner, fitter and healthier.
Although we would like it to be as easy as snapping our fingers to lose excess weight and keep it off, losing weight and keeping healthy takes a lot of dedication. So what is the recipe for a leaner, fitter and healthier life? Eating the right foods, getting regular exercise and making the right lifestyle choices.
Eating cleanly to me represents eating simple, fresh food that I have prepared myself. The food keeps me energised and nourished all day, makes my skin glow, and rejuvenates my cells keeping me looking young.
Below are 3 of my staple daily recipes:
Breakfast - Banana Chia Smoothie
1 banana – frozen
1 cup almond milk or coconut water
2 tablespoons pea protein powder
1 tablespoon chia or ground flaxseed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Method: Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy
Lunch – Chop Chop Salad
1 cup mixed greens (spinach & cos lettuce)
½ Lebanese cucumber, diced
½ red capsicum, diced½ yellow capsicum, diced
2 radishes, diced
1 spring onion, diagonally sliced
2 tablespoons mixed pumpkin and sunflower seeds
¼ avocado, diced
Small handful fresh mint, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ -1 lemon juiced
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
Cracked pepper to taste
Combine dressing ingredients in small jar and mix well. Set aside.
Prepare vegetables as listed.
Pour over dressing and mix well.
Dinner – Baked Lemon-Dill Salmon with steamed greens
2 x 180g Salmon fillet
1 lemon, sliced
few sprigs of fresh dill
salt & pepper
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 handful green beans, top and tailed
1 bunch asparagus, stems broken off
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.
Place salmon fillets on separate pieces of non-stick baking paper and season with salt & pepper.
Place a few sprigs of dill on fillet and top with two to three slices of lemon.
Form parcel from baking paper by twisting the ends together.
Place on baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes depending on how you like your salmon cooked.
Whilst fish is cooking fill a large saucepan with about 2.5cm of water and put on the stove. Place a steamer basket or colander in the pot and bring water to a slow simmer.
Whilst waiting for the water, prepare vegetables.
Once water is simmering place the broccoli in the steamer and cover for 2 minutes. Then add the green beans and asparagus and cover for a further 3 minutes (cooking time may vary according to how you like your vegetables cooked).
Once vegetables are ready remove into a colander and run under cold water briefly to stop the cooking process.
Place a fillet of salmon on 2 separate plates, divide the vegetables and enjoy.
In good health,
This talk really gets to the heart of what we at Vital Assurance believe in. Being healthy is more that just having a 'healthy diet', it's about a whole lifestyle of health. Small gradual changes to your everyday habits can have a huge impact on your well-being.