When is a Carb not a Carb? The topic of carbohydrates is very complex; there are so many myths out there about whether or not they should be consumed, that it’s no wonder everyone is confused and unsure of whether they are good or bad for us.
Carbohydrates are actually the single most important food in our diet for long-term good health.
Carbohydrates, in their natural form, contain most of the essential nutrients and specialised chemicals that keep you healthy and increases our metabolism. The problem arises when the majority of the carbohydrates we eat today are refined and highly processed. Our bodies are unable to metabolise these carbohydrates efficiently, and so they have a detrimental effect on our health. They slow down our metabolism and contributing to major diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancer.
Carbohydrates make up the largest food group we consume and there are many different types of carbohydrates. Each type interacts with our genes differently therefore they can have significantly different effects on our metabolism.
We all know that breads, pasta, rice, cookies, cakes and cereals are carbohydrates, but did you know that fruits and vegetables are too? Or that whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds are classified as carbohydrates? These carbohydrates are a MUST to eat if we want to remain healthy as they contain the key ingredient PHYTONUTRIENTS.
Phytonutrients are specifically found in plant food, and the only way they can be consumed is through eating real, whole, unprocessed plant foods. The phytonutrients help switch on genes that help us burn fat and age less quickly. They are a powerful source of anti-oxidants and help to reduce inflammation in our bodies. When carbohydrates are processed, many of their important phytonutrients are stripped away leaving you to consume food that is empty of vitamins and minerals. In other words, food that is just empty calories and of no health benefit.
Fruits and vegetables can be grouped into five different colour categories: red, purple/blue, orange, green, and white/brown. Each colour carries it’s own set of unique disease fighting chemicals. For example, the antioxidants in red fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cancer and keep our heart healthy whereas the antioxidants in purple/blue fruits and vegetables help protect cells from damage and can also help reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
This is why when we prepare a meal we should endeavour to ‘eat a rainbow’ as not only does it look great but it also provides our body with the best sources of nutrients to maintain long-term health.
Now lets look at the relationship between carbohydrates and insulin. The role of the insulin is to remove the excess glucose so that our blood returns to its balanced level. When we consume carbohydrates that are starchy (eg; potato and corn) or sweet (eg; cake, biscuits, pastries, lollies), they are broken down into glucose (sugar) in your body. The glucose ends up in your blood stream, signalling your body that blood sugar levels have been elevated and for your pancreas to secrete insulin into the blood.
The insulin takes the glucose to our muscles and liver where it is stored as glycogen. However when these glycogen stores are full, the excess sugar is transported by the insulin into fat cells and unfortunately fat cells have an infinite capacity to expand therefore causing you to gain more and more weight, slowing down your metabolism and promoting chronic conditions. This is most apparent when we consume foods (eg. Coke, pastas, breads) that get broken down to glucose quickly signalling a surge of insulin release and potentially no place to store this glucose except for in fat cells.
Not to fear though, certain types of carbohydrates burn more slowly and take longer to turn into sugar in your bloodstream. This keeps your insulin levels at bay and reduces the amount of excess glucose circulating in your blood stream and needing to be stored. These types of carbohydrates come from whole, unprocessed plant foods, specifically those that contain fibre as fibre has the ability to slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Fibre acts like a sponge and is able to soak up fat and sugar in your gut and may also prevent some of its absorption. This in turn sends positive messages and switches on the genes that burn fat, increase metabolism and reduce the effects of ageing.
So in summary:
It has taken me a long time to be able to read and understand my body's signals when it comes to food. Often we mistake our need for food with a desire for food. The following article by Dr. Libby Weaver breaks down the differences, and provides some useful tips on how to control our appetite.
Ever wonder why sometimes we eat less, exercise more and don’t lose weight?
Food was designed to give us energy. We consume calories so that we will have something to burn, which in turn gives us the fuel to keep going. The calories we ingest from fibre, carbohydrates, protein, fats and nutrients are metabolised at different rates and provide us with different amounts of energy. For example, if you have a soft drink the sugar will enter your bloodstream quickly and the calories you are not using at that time will be stored as fat. However, if the sugar you consume enters the bloodstream more slowly, your body has a greater chance to make use of the calories, meaning more will be burned and less will be stored.
Most of us fit into one of two categories when it comes to food and exercise. We either commit to regular exercise and eating well or we are happy to sit on the couch not caring about what we put into our mouths. But did you know that food contains hidden information that gets communicated to our genes, giving our metabolism specific instructions of what it should be doing. For example:
We are genetically designed to accumulate fat as a result of our primal ancestry. We always needed to make sure that we ate enough to gain weight when food was plentiful, as we didn’t know when we would be able to source food again. This way of eating has carried over into today’s society, which has become more hazardous to both our health and our waistlines.
One of the most important principles of weight loss is never to starve yourself. The question is not whether you are eating enough calories, it is whether you are eating enough of the right calories. Our bodies have a minimum amount of calories it requires to be able to function. The reason why so many diets backfire is because we restrict the amount of calories we consume to drop below that minimal requirement.
If you eat less than the required amount, which is in the case of most diets, our body perceives itself as being in danger (starvation mode) and sets off an alarm in your body which slows down your metabolism and signalling you to eat more. Our bodies don’t like it very much when we don’t give it the calories that it needs, so as a result we end up eating more, and consume many additional calories.
So while we think that we might be in control of our minds and our willpower, the truth is we have very little control over the unconscious choices we make when we are surrounded by food. Therefore, the key to a healthy metabolism is learning what those responses are, how they are triggered and how we can stop them.
To recap, when it comes to weight management, it’s not about limiting our calories, it’s about being calorie aware and making sure that the calories we consume provide our body with the right nutritional needs.
If you follow some of the below suggestions, it may help you normalise your eating so that you neither under nor over eat:
Remember that it is what you do every day that has an impact on your health, not what you do sometimes.
It has been an extremely busy time of the year, with lots of Christmas parties, end of year break ups and of course New Year’s celebrations.
What does this mean? Lots of wining, dining and temptation!
Although we do our utmost to stay focused and on track with our food choices, we undoubtedly at times veer off track a little.
All that food and drink increases the toxins that we ingest and puts additional stress on our liver and detoxification system. But not all is lost, by returning to our roots of clean eating principles we can assist our liver in removing all the additional toxins so that we don’t experience any long term disruptions to our metabolism.
Our detoxification system relies on the right balance of protein, fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to be effective. Eating the following foods will prime your system for detoxification:
· Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, Chinese broccoli); Green tea; Watercress; Dandelion greens; Cilantro; Artichokes; Garlic; Citrus peels; Cocoa
Drinking juices and smoothies are also a fabulous way to increase the amount of nutrients to support your detoxification system whilst giving your digestive system a break.
A couple of good recipes to help you get started are:
Kale and Spinach Juice
¼ pineapple, peeled
handful kale, washed and de-stemmed
200ml filtered water or coconut water
Place pineapple, kale and spinach through a juicer and then add water at the end. Alternatively place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth. You may want to strain the juicer prior to drinking to remove excess pulp.
Green Gardener’s Bowl
100g spinach leaves, washed
100g rocket leaves, washed
½ head of broccoli, cut into florets
½ head of cauliflower, cut into florets
½ beetroot, grated
2 Lebanese cucumbers, diced
½ avocado, diced
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
200g lentils, washed and drained
handful cilantro, roughly chopped
handful parsley, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 lemon juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon raw honey (optional)
Split the greens in between two bowls.
Prepare broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot and cucumbers and spread between the two bowls.
Sprinkle the bowls with pumpkin seeds, lentils and herbs.
Add diced avocado and dressing just before serving.
When you make these recipes, Instagram a photo and be sure to let me know how you go and tag #vitalassurance. Let me know what kind of salad or juice ideas and inspirations you are looking for in your comment.
In good health,
We are what we absorb. A key message in this must-watch TED Talk from Julia J Pucklidge, PhD. This is one clinical psychologist who wants to make a difference by showing us how significant the link between nutrition and mental health is!
I hope you enjoyed my first newsletter, and found the information interesting and useful.
In this newsletter, I want to talk to you about cravings, and what they mean. Often people associate cravings specifically with food, however there is so much more to the root cause of our cravings. Hopefully the information below gives you something to think about the next time you reach for that chocolate bar.
Picture this, you are at a function and the beautifully decorated table is filled with different cupcakes, cakes and pastries, or you go to your favourite sporting game and walk into the arena to the smell of hot chips and doughnuts. You get this immediate, uncontrollable urge to grab hold of anything and start consuming it. That describes a craving - an intense, powerful desire for something.
How are we supposed to ignore that feeling? We don’t, we succumb to it, feed our craving, enjoy every mouthful and then feel miserable afterwards. Berating ourselves, trying to work out why we just couldn’t say NO! And we convince ourselves that next time it will be easier, we will be stronger and we won’t indulge.
At the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) we are taught to accept and welcome our cravings. It doesn’t matter what we crave, the important thing is understanding why you crave what you crave. Once we understand that our bodies don’t make mistakes we can accept that cravings are just a method in which our body can tell us what we need.
Historically, food is generally what we turn to when we experience a craving and we view food as our medicine in an attempt to fix the underlying imbalances. But really what are these cravings trying to tell us?
There are 8 primary causes of cravings:
1. Dehydration – the body doesn’t send a message that it is thirsty until you are on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can be misinterpreted for being hungry, but majority of the time when we get that rumble in our stomach or that desire to eat something all we really need is a drink.
So the next time you get this feeling not long after eating, go for a full glass of water and take note on whether this feeling goes away. If after 20 minutes you can still feel this urge, reach out for a health snack.
2. Lifestyle – Emotional eating is a common way for people to fill the void. This is experienced by many when they are dissatisfied with a relationship, have an inappropriate exercise routine, are bored, stressed, uninspired by their job or lacking in spiritual guidance.
3. Yin / Yang Imbalance – Certain foods can be described as having yin qualities (expansive foods which provide the feelings of lightness, elevations in mood and relief from stagnation). Refined sugar would be the best example to describe as having yin qualities. Whilst other foods have more yang qualities (contractive foods which give us a feeling of strength such as meat)
4. Inside Coming Out – Often cravings come from the foods we have eaten from our childhood or that remind us of a special occasion. This should not be ignored but instead we satisfy these cravings by having a healthier version of the food you are craving. For example, chocolate cake can be swapped for a sweet potato brownie, fish and chips can be made by grilling the fish and baking the chips and ice creams can be replaced by thick smoothies… Mmmm, yummy!
5. Seasonal – 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. In summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw vegetables and ice-cream. In winter our body craves hot and heat-producing foods like soups, stews and meat. Foods taste better when they are in season and 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.
6. Lack of Nutrients – Cravings can often come when our body is getting an inadequate amount of nutrients. For example, salt cravings are produced when we lack minerals especially Zinc. If our body is lacking in nutrients, it often looks for non-nutritional forms of food to supply itself with the energy: caffeine, sugar, alcohol etc.
7. Hormones – Fluctuating hormone levels, especially for women during the menstruation period, often results in craving certain foods. At these times, it is best to pause for a moment rather than impulsively reaching for something and consider what it is exactly that your body is asking for, are you craving something sweet or something salty? Something bitter, pungent or spicy? Are you craving something crisp and dry or moist and liquidy?
8. De-evolution – When things are going well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome occurs. We suddenly crave foods that throw us off balance and then we have more cravings to re-balance. In these moments, it may not be food that we are craving at all. The nourishment we require may be from needing a little excitement in our lives or maybe some comforting.
So as you can see, cravings can mean many different things and once we can learn to deconstruct these cravings, our body can start to heal. Cravings are not a weakness, they are important messages that our bodies our sending us to help you maintain balance and to find harmony and happiness in your life.
They encourage you to look for foods, deficits and behaviours that are the underlying causes of your cravings and work out strategies and ways to overcome them.
Next time you experience a craving, stop and listen. Working to understand your cravings is one of the best places to begin to build a mutually loving relationship with your own body.
What is unique to the training I received from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) as opposed to other dietary or nutrition course available is the concept of “Primary Foods”.
Primary Foods refer to our lifestyle factors that help create optimal health. They can be broken down to four core groups: relationships, physical activity, career and spirituality.
In 2010, following a change to dietary guidelines, the USDA replaced their food pyramid (MyPyramid) with a food plate (MyPlate) identifying that the following food groups that need to be incorporated in your diet: fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins, with some dairy added too. IIN incorporates the same concepts in their plate (fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains) but also makes some variations: replacing dairy with water, adding healthy fats and oils and the most important variation, inclusion of the four core groups of your Primary Food. As Joshua Rosenthal, founder of IIN, explains: “The food you eat plays a critical role in your health and happiness…. But the four forms of primary food truly nourish you and make your life extraordinary.”
Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When your primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making WHAT you eat secondary food. The more primary food we receive, the less we depend upon secondary foods. The opposite is also true. The more we fill ourselves with secondary foods, the less we are able to receive the primary foods of life.
Let’s explore the primary foods in more detail:
Relationships – relationships come and go and during the course of our lifetime we have relationships with our parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, children, friends, colleagues, the list goes on and on. The quality of these relationships plays a large part in the quality of a person’s life. We need to surround ourselves with people that will help us grow and develop and be the best that we can. Establishing relationships with people we enjoy being around that make us smile and laugh. Spending time and energy in relationships whereby the person does not support us and does make us feel good can truly be toxic to not only our minds but also to our bodies and can impact on the quality of our health. All relationships take a lot of work, but they can be extremely rewarding.
Physical Activity – Our bodies were made to move. If we think of our ancestors they were constantly on the move, they had to hunt and gather to live. In today’s society not only do most of our jobs involve sitting down all day, but at the end of the day we can also have all our groceries and meals delivered to our front door. Unless we are consciously moving, we forget that we need to. Physical activity does not necessarily entail training for a marathon or going to the gym 2 hours a day, it is simply about moving around. Perhaps you can take the flight of stairs instead of the lift, or get off the tram one stop earlier or just take your children to the park. Physical activity can be simple and different forms or exercise will give you different types of energy and will nourish your body differently.
Career – if we calculate how we spend the hours in our day, most of the waking part of our day is spent at work. Now let’s be realistic and how many of us can say that we absolutely love the work that we do and look forward to waking up and going into work each morning? I know I can!
But this took many years of trying different career paths to really find where my passion is and what drives me. Feeling helpless and unhappy in our jobs definitely is not a nourishing lifestyle. Finding work that you love is essential to living a healthy, balanced life. So many of us complain constantly about what we do but feel powerless to make a change, I strongly urge you to have the courage to make your job a more positive place to be. Discover what work means to you and what you need to achieve to be happy and nourish you. Feeling happy and productive in the place you spend most of your time will dramatically increase your sense of well-being.
Spirituality – Joshua Rosenthal says “Spiritual nutrition can feed us on a very deep level and dramatically diminish cravings for the superficial rewards of life”. We all search for the meaning in our lives and spiritual practice has a different meaning for everyone. Some people may find it in religion, or through meditation or yoga and others through the universe. Embrace synchronicity, believe that things happen for a reason and that you end up meeting people at the right place at the right time, things happen for a reason. Learn to read the signs, feel the direction in which life wants to go and then use your intelligence and creativity to make it happen.
It’s easy to overlook all of the things that contribute to our sense of nourishment and fulfilment. It’s not just the food we eat that affects our health, but all of the other factors present in our daily lives. Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spiritual awareness are essential forms of nourishment. I will support you in achieving all of your goals, from eating the right foods for your body to living an inspired, fulfilling life.
The effect of stress on our body is completely underestimated. When talking about toxins in our body, the biggest one of all is stress. It is a proven contributor to all the major causes of DEATH including Heart Disease, Diabetes, Stroke and Cancer. Click on the link below to hear more about the impact on stress on our bodies.
Karen from Positive Healthwellness recently put together a great infographic that comprehensively covers how stress affects the body. See the image below, and click the image to visit their website.
Your career is one of the "primary foods" in our lives, and how happy you are at work will have a direct impact on how you feel outside of work, and can become a road block to your weight loss goals as well as affect your general well being. Here is a great TED Talk that explores the correlation between success and happiness, and how we have it completely backwards and are thus unable to truly be happy.