Posts Tagged ‘weight loss’

Agave syrup – healthy alternative or liquid poison?

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Agave nectar (or syrup) is basically high-fructose corn syrup impersonating a healthy sweetener. Many manufacturers and marketing gurus have jumped on the ‘facts’ about the health-promoting properties of agave. While the ‘blue agave’ species is grown in rich volcanic soil, there is unfortunately no evidence that any of these compounds remain present in the commercially manufactured syrup.

Agave is much sweeter than cane sugar and it pours more readily than honey. It’s also low-glycemic and, for this reason, is often marketed to diabetics and those wishing to lose weight.

While that all sounds like it’s the nectar of health, now let’s look at the facts…

The reason agave is low-glycemic is due to the fact that it is composed predominately of fructose. Agave nectar boasts the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener.

So what does this mean?

All sugars are a mix of glucose and fructose. Regular cane sugar is 50:50. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 45:55 in favour of fructose. Agave nectar is 90:10…almost twice as high as HFCS!

When fructose is found naturally in fruit, it is relatively low (apples are 7% fructose) and it is accompanied by a combination of fibre, antioxidants and other nutrients. Unfortunately, when we extract this and concentrate the fructose into a sweetening agent, it can have dire health consequences.

Fructose causes a myriad of metabolic issues, such as insulin resistance and increased triglycerides (a risk factor for heart disease), increased visceral fat (around the abdomen & internal organs) and increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, diabetics are warned not to consume fructose. Fructose digests like a fat – via the liver – and has been linked to non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease.

All-in-all, agave and other commercially produced ‘syrups’ are no healthier for you than plain old sugar. My advice? Try training your taste-buds to enjoy the flavours in food rather than feeling the need to sweeten everything. The less ‘sweet’ you have the less you want. If this is not an option, try using naturally sweet foods, such as a passionfruit or berries or, if you must, a touch of Stevia.

Think before you drink…

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

With the festive season fast approaching, it’s easy to be seduced by the numerous Christmas parties and celebrations. As we all know, a little extra alcohol consumption is generally part and parcel of such occasions. Before you become immersed in the festive season, it may be worthwhile familiarising yourself with the calories in alcohol…

Joint pain and your weight…

Monday, October 14th, 2013
The rate of knee and joint surgery in Australia is on the incline and appears to be increasing in tandem with the obesity epidemic.
For those suffering with joint pain, even losing a small amount of weight can make the world of difference.
Some interesting stats below:

Most people will notice a 30% improvement in joint pain and function after losing 5% of their body weight

Most people will notice a 50% improvement in joint pain and function after losing 10% of their body weight

Quality of life, need for joint replacement and mortality are also improved

People who are overweight are at greater risk of more osteoarthritis

For every kilogram of weight you lose there is a four-fold reduction in knee joint load

source: www.myjointpain.org.au

Pros & Cons: Sushi, seeds & Goji berries

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Sushi

Pros: Fresh sashimi (Japanese raw fish) is a great source of protein and omega 3 fats. Many of the Japanese food options are ‘clean’, unprocessed and very nutritious, including seaweed salad, edamame, nori and other Japanese vegetables.

Cons: Unfortunately sushi is (processed) white rice which is made ‘tacky’ with the addition of white sugar to form into sushi. The addition of soy sauce is also very high in sodium, so if you are predisposed to hypertension, this may not be the ideal option.

Seeds

Pros: Like raw nuts, raw seeds can also be a great source of fibre, essential fats, vitamins and minerals. It’s important to consume them raw to preserve the integrity of the essential fats. To reap the benefits of these fats, the seeds need to be ground/broken, otherwise the insoluble fibre of the seed may pass through without reaping all of the nutritional benefits. Seeds are sensitive to heat, light and oxygen, so keep them cool and in a sealed, opaque container.

Cons: Seeds ground into ‘butters’ and spreads, as well as commercially ground mixes (such as LSA) have likely been exposed to significant heat, potentially turning the sensitive omega 3 and 6 fats rancid. The average Western diet is very high in omega 6 (from vegetable oil, nuts, seeds, etc) and relatively low in omega 3 (oily fish, flaxseed oil), so a high consumption of nuts and seeds can further throw this balance out. For example, LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond) is predominantly omega 6.

Goji Berries

Pros: All blue, red and purple coloured berries are high in flavonoids – potent antioxidants. The different varieties all have varying levels of beneficial nutrients, so it’s advantageous to include a mix of all colour, fresh (or frozen) berries in our diet on a regular basis.

Cons: When water is removed from fruit (dried fruit), the sugars become concentrated and enthusiastic consumption may lead to dental caries and weight gain. Fresh or frozen varieties in their natural, unprocessed state are always a better choice. Dried fruits may also contain the preservative sulphite, which can trigger allergy-like reactions in some individuals, including asthma, hives and anaphylaxis.

Secrets of success…

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Statistics from the US National Weight Control Registry (founded in 1994)  tracks over 5000 individuals who have lost more than 13kg and kept it off long term, improving their health & quality of life. Below are a few of the common traits of each participant:

98% modified their food intake

78% eat breakfast

75% are weighed/weigh themselves at least once a week

62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week

90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day

Did you know…

  • It takes 20 minutes of brisk walking to burn off 1 x skinny latte
  • Every ‘standard’ glass of wine takes 20 minutes of walking to burn off
  • We lose around 5% of muscle each decade after the age of 30 (if we don’t do regular strength training)
  • Your metabolism drops by 140kjs for every kilogram of muscle lost
  • 95% of people regain their weight after ‘going off’ a diet
  • 75% of your calories are burned by your basal metabolism
  • Your cannot out-run or out-train a poor diet!

The benefits of exercise…

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

In my experience, one of the most common reasons we’re motivated to exercise is aesthetics. Yep – shed a few kilos of fat, tone-up those flabby areas, fit into our ‘skinny jeans’ or look good on that beach holiday. While it can be a positive thing to have a goal, the downside of this kind of superficial/external motivation is that it’s more of a whim than a long term need. At the end of the day, is it really enough to make you change your entire lifestyle to achieve?

Whilst caught up in the frenzy of numbers on the bathroom scales and the profile of our belly in the mirror, sometimes we miss the other far more important benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular, consistent exercise. I’ve known many individuals throw their arms up in the air in despair, claiming not to be getting any benefit at all from exercising, simply because the scales are not moving as quickly as they’d like. At times like these, it’s important to be aware of the many benefits of exercise and view the aesthetic results for what they are … a pleasant bonus!

The evidence is overwhelming: A body needs physical activity to stay lean and healthy

Fat burning: the effects of exercise are not as simplistic as ‘calories in vs calories burned’. You cannot out-run or out-train a poor or excessive diet. However, there are many physiological benefits activated by regular exercise, all of which assist your body in burning fat more effectively…

Increases insulin sensitivity: Muscles are the engines in your body that burn calories and make you move. And just like any engine that burns fuel to make it go (such as a car burning petrol), muscles need fuel too. That fuel is fat and carbohydrate (glucose). During exercise, the demand for fuel increases and the body responds accordingly. Glucose stored in the muscle is burned very quickly.  At about the same time, glucose stored in the liver is released into the bloodstream (like fast fuel injection). Fat is released from special cells called adipocytes (fat storage cells). This fat along with glucose makes its way through the bloodstream to the muscles to be used for fuel. Once the fuel reaches the muscle, it must enter through special pathways so that the muscles can use it for energy.

On the wall of every muscle cell are special receptors, like doors, that allow glucose to pass from the bloodstream to the muscle. These doors do not open unless they are ‘unlocked’ by insulin. The good news is that exercise has an insulin-like effect, making insulin work better in your body. During exercise, the doors swing open easily, allowing more glucose to enter the muscle to be burned up for energy.

Sometimes blood glucose continues to drop after exercise. That is because the glucose in the muscle that was used at the beginning of exercise needs to be replaced. The muscles, all revved up from exercise, continue to take glucose from the bloodstream to replace what was lost.

Increased Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

Our BMR is the calories we burn at rest. If you lay still for 24 hours, you burn a certain number of calories a day to keep your heart beating and sustain life. This BMR is generally around 75% of the total calories we use in a day, so it’s pretty significant. It is determined largely by our lean body weight (muscle tissue). The more muscle (density, tone, strength), the higher your BMR. Conversely, should you feel your exercise regime is ‘not working’ and become inconsistent, you risk a rapid loss in lean muscle tissue and a consequent decrease in BMR. Whilst you may remain the same ‘weight’, or even lose weight, you’re actually getting fatter as your body composition changes in the wrong direction (Less muscle, more fat).

The EPOC effect: Following high intensity interval training the body enters a state known as ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’, or EPOC. After you finish your workout, your body will be working overtime for up to 24 hours in order to restore your body back to its resting state. This means you will be burning energy/kilojoules at a much higher rate, even whilst sedentary.

Protection against disease: regular exercise can reduce our risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, certain cancers (colon, breast), type-2 diabetes and depression.

Joint health and inflammation

Joints require motion to stay healthy. Inactivity causes joints to stiffen and the adjoining tissue to weaken. Building strength and ‘tone’ in muscles surrounding our joints allows that ‘tension’ in our muscles to pull pressure away from the joints, resulting in less compression and friction. Conversely, allowing muscles to deteriorate can lead to permanent joint damage over time.

Bone health and balance

Weight-bearing exercise is very beneficial for bones in people of all ages. This approach applies tension to muscle and bone, and the body responds to this stress by increasing bone density, in young adults by as much as 2 – 8% a year. Careful weight training can also be very beneficial for elderly people, particularly women. In addition to improving bone density, weight-bearing exercise reduces the risk of fractures by improving muscle strength and balance, thus helping to prevent falls.

Back pain

People who do not exercise regularly face an increased risk for low back pain, especially during times when they suddenly have to perform stressful, unfamiliar activities. These activities may include lifting children, gardening, digging, or moving heavy items.

Lack of exercise leads to the following conditions that may threaten the back:

  • Hamstring inflexibility may alter the pivot point in general movement, causing you to compensate by bending from your lower back rather than your hips. This repetitive strain can lead to pressure on discs and consequent injury.
  • Tightness through the hip flexor muscles (from sitting for prolonged periods) can also contribute to lower back pain and eventual disc damage.
  • General muscle inflexibility can restrict the back’s ability to move, rotate, and bend, forcing unnecessary pressure on surrounding joints.
  • Weak core muscles can increase the strain on the back and can cause an abnormal tilt of the pelvis (hip bones).
  • Weak back muscles may increase the load on the spine and the risk of disk compression.
  • Carrying excessive body fat puts more weight on the spine and increases pressure on the vertebrae and discs.

Effect of Exercise on Cancer

A number of studies have indicated that regular exercise may reduce the risk of breast, colon, and possibly prostate cancers.

Studies confirm that exercise significantly reduces the risk of colon cancer (by up to 50%). Exercise also decreases the risk of breast cancer in pre and post-menopausal women by up to 30%.

Low intensity exercise has a protective effect against colon cancer, according to studies, including the Nurses Health Study and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II. People with colon cancer who exercise may reduce their risk of a recurrence.

Exercise also has a beneficial effect on people receiving treatment for cancer. Aerobic and resistance training can reduce fatigue in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer. Fatigue is a common side effect of such treatments.

Effects on the Gastrointestinal Tract

Moderate regular exercise may reduce the risk for some intestinal disorders. These disorders include ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and diverticulosis. Older people who exercise moderately may have a lower risk for severe gastrointestinal bleeding.

Effects on Neurological Diseases and Mental Decline

Studies have shown that regular exercise helps reduce one’s risk for memory loss. Epidemiologic studies have found an association between increased exercise and slower rate of functional decline in older adults.

People with existing neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, should be encouraged to exercise. Specialized exercise programs that improve mobility are particularly valuable for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Patients with neurological disorders who exercise experience less stiffness, as well as reduction in, and even reversal of, muscle wasting. In addition, the psychological benefits of exercise are extremely important in managing these disorders.

Effects on Emotional Disorders

Some research has suggested that exercise may have antidepressant effects. Although there is little evidence that exercise can correct major depression, a number of studies have suggested benefits in mild to moderate depression in adults. Research findings include:

  • Just 30 minutes of brisk exercise three times a week was as effective as medication in relieving symptoms, and reducing relapse, in many patients with mild-to-moderate depression.
  • Teenagers who are active in sports have a greater sense of well-being than their sedentary peers. The more vigorously they exercise, the better their emotional health.
  • Physical inactivity is strongly linked to depression in children 8 – 12 years of age.
  • Exercise decreases some of the most troublesome emotional symptoms of menopause. Women who exercise during menopause showed less anxiety, stress, and depression than inactive women with menopause did.

Exercise’s Effects on Diabetes:

Moderate aerobic exercise can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Exercise has positive benefits for those who have diabetes. It can lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and strengthen the heart. Strength training, which increases muscle and reduces fat, may be particularly helpful for people with diabetes.

In conclusion…the next time you become frustrated with your lack of ‘results’ on the scales, remember all of the above health benefits of exercise and remember to take a long term, holistic approach. Exercise (and diet!) is not something we do for a short stint to reshape our backside, it needs to become part of our general body maintenance. You don’t necessarily ’see’ a result from brushing your teeth everyday, but you continue to do it as you know it is a significant part of care and maintenance. Regular exercise is no different.

MILK: the good, the bad & the ugly

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

When determining if an adult or child is getting optimum nutrition from food choices, it is necessary to consider the whole picture. In the case of milk ‘substitutes’, many of the available alternatives are not a nutrient-for-nutrient substitute for cow’s milk. If you’ve been conclusively diagnosed with intolerance to certain elements of dairy, or if you’re making choices based on a vegan diet, switching to an alternative milk without making other dietary adjustments to compensate may leave you, and/or your children, vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies.

There seems to be much confusion, perpetuated by information overload from overzealous marketing campaigns, when it comes to milk and milk substitutes. In this article, I have addressed some of the most common alternatives, along with the pros and cons, to help provide some clarity and enable you to make informed choices for yourself and your family.

There are many scaremongers online touting the ‘dangers’ of consuming dairy products. I’ve now heard it’s responsible for everything from a snotty nose to cancer. Consequently many of us are sent in search of ‘healthier’ alternatives. Rather than listening to hearsay and unqualified opinions, let’s look at some facts…

COWS MILK & DAIRY PRODUCTS

Milk is a significant source of readily absorbed vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium. Despite persistent rumours about an association between dairy and ill health, there is no scientific evidence to qualify these myths, which include excessive mucous production, cancer and weight gain. There is, however, a plethora of peer-reviewed studies recognising dairy consumption for its important role in optimum health and nutrition.

Milk and milk products contain a good balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate and are a very important source of essential nutrients including calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus, pantothenic acid and vitamins A, D and B12. Milk products also contain high quality proteins that are well suited to human needs.

Cancer & fatty acids:

Although the etiology of most cases of this disease is not known, risk factors include a variety of nutritional factors. The quantity and quality of fatty acids are especially crucial. Among fatty acids to which great importance in modification of cancer risk is attributed are conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). The main natural source of them is milk and dairy products and meat of different species. Studies show their possible health promoting effects in obesity, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammation, and various types of cancer – especially breast cancer.

Several recent peer-reviewed studies indicate that the recommended amount (3 servings/day) of dairy produce helps close gaps between current nutrient intakes and recommendations. In fact, consuming more than three servings of dairy per day leads to better nutrient status and improved bone health and is associated with lower blood pressure and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.

In Australia, 60% of children (9-16 years) are not meeting the estimated average requirement for calcium, and milk is an important dietary source of calcium.

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) indicates the amount of any given essential nutrient required to prevent a deficiency in 97% of the population. It is by no means our optimum amount, rather a bare minimum. If your RDI of calcium is 1000mg/day and today you consume only 500mg, the other 500mg is pulled from your bone minerals. Repeat this for the next 10 years and you’ll likely find yourself with irreversible brittle bones.

Further research facts:

  • Osteoporosis – if milk and milk products are removed from the diet, it can lead to an inadequate intake of calcium. This is of particular concern for women, children and the elderly, who have high calcium needs. Calcium deficiency may lead to disorders such as osteoporosis
  • Colon cancer – some studies have found that people who regularly eat dairy products have a reduced risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Blood pressure – research in the US found that a high intake of fruits and vegetables, combined with low-fat dairy foods, lowers blood pressure more than fruits and vegetables alone.
  • Type 2 diabetes – a 10-year study of 3,000 overweight adults found that consuming milk and other milk products may protect overweight young adults from developing type-2 diabetes.

Adequate dairy consumption:

  • reduces oral acidity (which causes decay)
  • Stimulates saliva flow
  • Decreases plaque formation
  • Decreases the incidence of tooth decay

Variations explained:

  • Full cream – full cream milk contains around 4% fat and is a source of vitamins A and D. For children up to the age of 2 years, full cream milk is recommended.
  • Reduced fat – expect around half as much fat (2%) in reduced fat milk as full cream. Children over the age of two years can drink reduced fat milk.
  • Skim milk – contains less than 1% fat. Children older than five years can safely consume skim milk. Both reduced fat and skim milk have vitamin A and D added to replace the naturally occurring vitamins that are reduced when the fat is removed.
  • Raw milk
    Most milk is pasteurised (heat treated). While pasteurisation reduces the amount of some vitamins, such as vitamin C, it also kills bacteria. Unpasteurised milk is a health hazard because of the dangers of exposure to bacterial diseases.

Goats milk
Some people switch to goat’s milk as an alternative to cow’s milk because of perceived sensitivities.

Allergies and sensitivities are usually due to one or more of the proteins found in milk. The proteins in goat’s milk are very closely related to those in cow’s milk so replacing one with the other usually doesn’t help.

Lactose intolerance
Lactose is a type of carbohydrate that naturally occurs in milk from any mammal, including humans. Normally, an enzyme called lactase breaks down lactose so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Some people don’t produce enough lactase – undigested lactose is broken up by the bacteria in the gut causing gas, bloating, pain and diarrhoea. This condition is called ‘lactose intolerance’. You can be born lactose intolerant or develop it later in life. If you think you may be lactose intolerant, it’s advisable to see your health professional for a conclusive diagnosis.

Who is at risk for lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a common condition that is more likely to occur in adulthood, with a higher incidence in older adults. Some populations are more affected than others, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, and Asian Americans. The condition is least common among Americans of northern European descent. Infants born prematurely are more likely to have lactase deficiency because an infant’s lactase levels do not increase until the third trimester of pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

People with lactose intolerance may feel uncomfortable 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming lactose. Symptoms range from mild to severe based on the amount of lactose consumed and the amount a person can tolerate. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and nausea. However, these symptoms may also be associated with other issues, so a professional diagnosis is essential.

How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?

Two tests are commonly used to measure the digestion of lactose.

Hydrogen Breath Test. The person drinks a lactose-loaded beverage and then the breath is analysed at regular intervals to measure the amount of hydrogen. Normally, very little hydrogen is detectable in the breath, but undigested lactose produces high levels of hydrogen. Smoking and some foods and medications may affect the accuracy of the results. You should check with your doctor about foods and medications that may interfere with test results.

Stool Acidity Test. The stool acidity test is used for infants and young children to measure the amount of acid in the stool. Undigested lactose creates lactic acid and other fatty acids that can be detected in a stool sample. Glucose may also be present in the stool as a result of undigested lactose. Because lactose intolerance is uncommon in infants and children younger than 2, a health professional should take special care in determining the cause of a child’s digestive symptoms.

Researchers have identified a possible genetic link to primary lactase deficiency. Some people inherit a gene from their parents that makes it likely they will develop primary lactase deficiency. This discovery may be useful in developing future genetic tests to identify people at risk for lactose intolerance. Secondary lactase deficiency results from injury to the small intestine that occurs with severe diarrheal illness, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or chemotherapy. This type of lactase deficiency can occur at any age but is more common in infancy.

Milk and milk products are highly nutritious, so those who suffer from lactose intolerance don’t need to give them up entirely. You can still consume cow’s milk in moderate quantities and you can also use lactose-free milk.

Those intolerant to lactose can generally tolerate:

  • Half a cup of milk
  • Three quarters of a cup of yoghurt
  • Three quarters of a cup of unripened cheeses like cottage or ricotta.

Is all dairy high in lactose?

Lower-lactose dairy products include:

  • Fermented milk products, including some yoghurts, mature cheeses (like cheddar cheese, fetta and mozzarella) and butter, generally pose no tolerance problems.
  • Heated milk products, such as evaporated milk, seem to be better tolerated than unheated foods because the heating process breaks down some of the lactose.

Foods that contain lactose are better tolerated if eaten with other foods or spread out over the day, rather than being eaten in large amounts at once.
Daily calcium requirements
Getting enough calcium is important for people with lactose intolerance when the intake of milk and milk products is limited. Many foods can provide calcium and other nutrients the body needs. Non-milk products that are high in calcium include fish with soft bones such as salmon and sardines and dark green vegetables such as spinach.

The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for calcium by age and gender:

2-3 yr: 500mg/day
4-8yr 700mg/day
9-11yr 1000mg/day
12-16yr 1300mg/day
Adults 1000mg/day
Women 51yr+ and the elderly 1300mg/day

Calcium content in common foods

Non-milk Products Calcium Content
Sardines, with bone, 90g 325 mg
Spinach, frozen, cooked, 1 cup 291 mg
Salmon, canned, with bone, 90g 181 mg
Soy milk, unfortified, 1 cup 61 mg
Orange, 1 medium 52 mg
Broccoli, raw, 1 cup 41 mg
Lettuce greens, 1 cup 20 mg
Tuna, white, canned, 90g 12 mg
Milk and Milk Products
Yogurt, with active and live cultures, plain, low-fat, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup 415 mg
Milk, reduced fat, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup 285 mg
Swiss cheese, 30g 224 mg
Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup 87 mg

A2 milk

A2 milk is cow’s milk produced from cow’s whose milk is high in the beta-casein A2 form of casein and low in the beta-casein A1 form of casein (a type of protein present in milk).  A1 is believed to be responsible for some of the intolerances to cow’s milk, while A2 is believed to be more easily digested.

A1 and A2 are genetic variants of the beta-casein milk protein with different chemical structures. The A1 β-casein type is the most common type found in cow’s milk in Europe (excluding France), the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

A genetic test, developed by the A2 Corporation, determines whether a cow produces the A2 or A1 type protein in its milk. The test uses hair from the cow’s tail to determine this. The test allows the A2 Corporation to give licenses to milk producers once these producers prove their cows produce A2 β-casein protein in their milk.

RICE MILK

Rice milk is a kind of grain milk processed from rice. It is mostly made from brown rice and may be manufactured as sweetened or unsweetened.

Compared to cow’s milk, rice milk contains more carbohydrates, but does not contain significant amounts of calcium or protein, and no cholesterol or lactose. Commercial brands of rice milk, however, are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B3, and iron.

Rice milk is often consumed by people who are lactose intolerant, allergic to soy or have PKU. It is also used as a dairy substitute by vegans.

Rice milk is made by pressing the rice through a mill stream using diffusion to strain out the pressed grains. It is sometimes also made at home using rice flour and brown rice protein, or by boiling brown rice with a large volume of water, blending and straining the mixture.

Common Ingredients (will vary between brands): filtered water, brown rice (10%), sugar sunflower oil, calcium carbonate, salt, vegetable gum, flavour.

250ml (1 cup) serve Reduced fat cow’s milk Unfortified Rice Milk
calories 104 cals 128
protein 8.3g 1.5g
carbohydrates 12.0g 26.0g
fat 2.5g 2.0g
calcium 308mg 20mg
sodium 113mg 175mg

As you will observe in the above nutrient comparison, rice milk is higher in carbohydrates and sodium and lower in protein and calcium (unless fortified). The protein in rice is not a complete protein (containing all essential amino acids), so is not as readily utilised at that in cow’s milk. If you choose to replace dairy with rice milk, you can see this is not a direct nutrient-for-nutrient substitute. Cow’s milk is also unique in that the absorption of calcium is superior to other sources. When it comes to infants (<2yrs), besides the insufficient calcium and protein, rice milk is not an adequate source of dietary fat. If chemicals and hormones are what you’re concerned about, perhaps you could consider organic milk.

ALMOND MILK

Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, Omega 6 fatty acids and minerals. Almond milk is made from ground almonds (friction, heat, oxygen) that are mixed with water, plus vitamins, stabilizers, and in most cases, sugar. Also, commercially manufactured almond milk is often fortified with calcium.

Typical ingredients list in commercial Almond Milk: Water, almonds, cane sugar, salt, sunflower oil, gum plus various added vitamins and minerals.

The pros:

  • It’s lactose-free
  • It’s dairy-free for those who have dairy-related intolerances or allergies (although, you can source lactose-free or A2 milk to cover these issues)

The cons:

  • Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are highly sensitive to heat, light and oxygen which, when exposed, can turn the EFAs rancid
  • The source of calcium often used in fortification is calcium carbonate. This is the cheapest source of calcium supplementation and can cause gas and stomach upset as it requires adequate stomach acid to effectively digest and absorb.
  • There have been cases where parents have substituted Almond Milk instead of infant formula or breast milk, providing inadequate nutrition for infants. This can result in low bone density, rickets, low muscle tone and a visible goitre.
  • Almonds are a goitrogenic food, meaning, when consumed in large quantities, they can suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake, causing an enlargement of the thyroid. Goitrogens can be negated by cooking, but many are opting for raw almond milk, thinking it’s the healthier option. Again, while cooking may reduce the goitrogen effect, it will further destroy the EFA’s.
  • It often contains added sugar
  • It often contains vegetable oil – generally high in Omega 6. Besides this oil likely being highly processed and exposed to heat, it is also further throwing out our already skewed omega 3:6 ratio (see previous blog regarding a balance between Omega 3 and 6)

SOY MILK

Another ‘pretend’ milk and not my favourite choice. Many ‘rumours’ about detrimental health effects of soy, however, no conclusive scientific evidence either way. However, I tend to think that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Food for thought…

The pros:

  • It’s lactose-free and doesn’t contain the proteins some individuals may have sensitivities to in cow’s milk
  • Suitable for vegans

The cons:

  • Soy milk is ‘pretend’ milk, therefore the manufacturers add (processed) oils and sugar in an effort to make it resemble cow’s milk
  • It is usually calcium fortified, which is not as well absorbed as the natural calcium found in dairy (see information earlier in this article)
  • Soy milk is composed of an inferior profile of essential amino acids (absorbed and utilised protein) when compared to cow’s milk
  • Flatulence – the amount of gas produced depends on the quantity consumed.
  • Soy allergy – common allergic symptoms to soy milk include hives, coughing, digestive distress, fainting and wheezing.
  • Thyroid function – soy is a goitrogen, which means it may interfere with thyroid function. The thyroid gland runs our metabolism and low thyroid during pregnancy and infancy (non-dairy formulas) can lead to retardation.
  • Phytic acid – non-fermented soy milk contains large amounts of phytic acid, which can interfere with absorption of several essential nutrients, such as iron, calcium and iodine.
  • “Soy after-taste face” :-)

Are you playing Russian roulette with your health?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

In recent months I’ve noticed a wave of so called ‘experts’ perpetuating a potentially detrimental food revolution.  So many individuals seem to be confusing these ‘food elimination fads’ with being the ‘healthy alternative’.

I’ve listed a few of the most common examples below along with an explanation which I hope will help to make some sense of this complex weave of nutritional jargon.

Gluten-free

Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten poses no detrimental effect to your health unless you have been diagnosed with a gluten-intolerance or coeliac disease. For the rest of us, a gluten-free diet will have no impact on our health or weight.

Organic

Organic means that a food has been prepared without the use of chemicals, hormones or genetic modification. It does not, however, mean organic foods do not contain sugar, highly processed grains and trans fats. If you’re conscious of your health and your weight, don’t be seduced by organic labelling and be sure to read the fine print.

No added sugar

This is a tricky one and I still strongly recommend you read the list of ingredients, which must list all ingredients in sequence of quantity (the largest being the first on the list). Many products marketed as the ‘healthy alternative’ will add honey, fruit juice concentrate and the latest fad – agave nectar…all of which are extremely high in a sugar called fructose. Fructose is digested like a fat – through the liver. It can be detrimental to our health (particularly to diabetics) and can raise cholesterol levels.

Dairy-free

This one drives me mad! Dairy is an excellent source of calcium. The average person (under 50yrs) requires a minimum of 1000mg/day (1 cup of milk is 300mg). If you only consume 500mg today, your body will take the remaining 500mg from your bone minerals. Over time, this will lead to osteoporosis, which is irreversible. If you have been officially diagnosed with lactose-intolerance, I recommend lactose-free milk and/or yoghurt over ‘fake milk’, such as soy, rice or almond. To make these faux alternatives resemble our beloved milk, they are highly processed, adding oil and sugar to make them palatable. Repeat after me: There is NO BENEFIT to weight loss or health in eliminating dairy from my diet!

Red meat

Many of the studies linking red meat to ill-health are flawed and inconclusive. Any detrimental effect could be from cooking methods (high temperature & charring create heterocyclic amines (HCA), which may be carcinogenic (cancer causing). Studies on high consumption of red meat also include highly processed meats, such as take-away burgers, deli meats, etc…which are also part of a diet high in numerous processed foods. There have also been studies which indicate that these ‘heavy meat eaters’ are also more likely to be smokers. Generally, it’s an entire lifestyle issue which cannot be pointed directly at red meat. I’ve never know any study which proves that those who consume a moderate amount of lean red meat with a balance of colourful, fresh plant foods is at higher risk of anything!

To add to the misinformation, a diet book was written many decades ago which suggested that red meat would putrefy in our intestines for weeks before we could eliminate it. Despite being physiologically impossible, this ludicrous comment seemed to stick!

We know that if we eliminate red meat from our diet completely (particularly women), we frequently become iron and B12 deficient. Iron carries oxygen around our bloodstream and supports our immune system, so those suffering from iron-deficiency will be experiencing very poor health.

Lean red meat, 2-3 times a week as part of a balanced diet is not only not detrimental, it’s good for your health!

Detox

Detox-schmeetox! It seems logical not to ‘tox’ in the first place. If you are feeling a bit ‘toxic’, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is clean up your everyday diet and curtail junk food, alcohol, cigarettes and/or pharmaceuticals. We are bombarded with the hype of ‘cleansing’ and ‘flushing out’ our system – in particular, the liver. Contrary to popular belief, your liver is not like the dirty lint filter in your vacuum cleaner. It does not get clogged up with filth and require a bit of a spring clean! If it is unsuccessful at filtering toxins, they simply pass straight through, unfiltered. The whole detox phenomenon is not unlike a binge and purge cycle. It has gained popularity because it presents as a short term quick-fix, as opposed to an ongoing healthy lifestyle change. The concept of detox really constitutes ‘binges’, rationalised by the occasional ‘purge’.

Shaping up – for all the right reasons

Monday, February 4th, 2013

In a recent media interview, I was asked the question, ‘is it realistic for ‘mere mortals’ to get themselves into the same shape as the celebrities we all admire?’ Guess what? Celebrities are mere mortals. Just like you and I, they share similar insecurities and time constraints, and they face obstacles that challenge their goals. Sure, the cream-of-the-crop may graduate to immense privilege, such as personal chefs and live-in lifestyle gurus, but in reality, this is an elite few. The most successful people I have worked with, whether triumphant in wealth or health, all have something in common – enduring vision and discipline.

A large part of my daily work involves helping clients find inspiration and providing them with the direction and knowledge necessary to achieve their goals. I am delighted to say that I am still humbled by, and draw much inspiration from, a long-time client and friend, Sigrid Thornton. While Sigrid needs no introduction, what many of you may not know is that this acclaimed actor is also a very successful mum, wife, daughter, friend, humanitarian and … mortal.

I can almost hear you saying that someone of Sigrid’s caliber already has a means of motivation that exceeds the average person, having to appear in the spotlight. Even minor spotlights are motivating enough for many of us to be seduced by diet and exercise quick fixes. What distinguishes Sigrid from others is the fact that she doesn’t take the road that many celebrities do. The ones who live their lives to excess, madly dieting and exercising for the next film, appearance or photo shoot. They don’t seem to realize that they are ruining their metabolism, making it more and more difficult to lose weight each time. And what of their health?

Sigrid puts in the effort with consistency and balance – not just for the next red carpet event. She has long embraced a healthy lifestyle, incorporating ‘real’, unprocessed foods and regular exercise into her daily regimen. The results are evident: a body that exudes health, energy, poise and strength. This is something many aspire to and is one thing that, while it sets Sigrid apart from the mainstream, is certainly attainable.

Finding the key to ignite your personal drive

Without a tangible driving force and realistic goals, motivation is often a temporary whim and will fade prematurely. The very definition of the word ‘motivation’ is to find reason or inspiration to move forward. I’m sure we all have similar reasons for wanting to improve our body, but ‘wanting’ and ‘doing’ can be worlds apart. Many of us also ‘want’ to be wealthy, but if wanting was enough to make it happen, the world would be teeming with billionaires!

While vanity is a common instigator of changes in diet and exercise, it is not usually substantial enough to remain high on your priority list – certainly not for the long-term. You must dig deep and find the fundamental reason/s behind your desire to improve your body. If you still find that your motivation is superficial, then do some reading – learn about the benefits of a consistent, healthy lifestyle. Learn that stop-start attempts at healthy eating are making it more and more difficult to look good, let alone be healthy.

The most effective persuasion is to observe someone you consider an ‘equal’ achieve a goal you aspire to. Obviously this is an effective means of convincing yourself that it is feasible. Without a strong belief that your goal is attainable, motivation and implementation become almost impossible to sustain. Marketing gurus the world over have tapped into this very ‘human’ trait, exploiting airbrushed ‘before and after’ pictures for all they can muster.

Ensure that your expectations are congruent with your willingness to change and capacity to achieve. For example, if you wish to drop a few kilos and reshape your body, yet you are not willing to make the appropriate changes to your diet and lifestyle, you will be disappointed. The ‘secret’ lies in committing yourself to a goal and beginning to embrace the lifestyle and patterns as if you are already where you want to be. Your body will have no choice but to mirror your actions – just as it does with your current lifestyle.

Another bonus of improving your health and fitness is that this drive and energy is contagious in other areas of your life, such as family, business and relationships. To harness lasting motivation, your drive must be important enough to you to fuel your actions. Every individual is different.

Now, I have three tasks for you to start today to help you move closer to attaining your goals:

1. walk EVERYDAY for 30 mins … you eat everyday, you must move everyday!

2. be responsible for your actions … think ahead and don’t allow yourself to be in situations where you are over-hungry and resort to poor food choices

3. be conscious of portion sizes and grazing … create a new rule: when eating, put your food on a plate and sit down. No standing in the kitchen and grazing.

We all have the capacity for the drive needed to create a fitter, healthier body. You apply it in other areas to which you have given priority, whether in your business or family life. Learning to harness this discipline and condense your efforts to form an effective diet and exercise regimen for life is the key to success. Start today. What have you got to lose besides a few kilos?

The great GI scam

Friday, January 18th, 2013
I felt compelled to write this blog after reading yet another erroneous article about the glycemic index (GI).
I’d simply like to make a few points of observation about the information in the article, which I found quite disturbing.
1. While I acknowledge the theory behind the GI, foods are measured at these increments when consumed alone.  Therefore, when these foods are consumed with proteins, fats and other carbohydrates (as in most average meals), this makes the GI irrelevant.
2. While I agree that some of the ‘low-carb’ diets encouraging the consumption of foods such as bacon and salami are detrimental to our health, I think it is hypocritical to then condone ‘low GI’ (and nutritionally-compromised) foods such as chocolate and over-processed cereals, simply because they are released more slowly.
Ironically, the low-carb and the GI advocates are actually imparting the same message:  keep your sugar consumption low to avoid developing insulin resistance, which brings with it a plethora of degenerative disease. It seems that we have all recognized this important factor, but we still have a long way to go before the recognition of a more holistic approach (to the importance of deriving optimum nutrition from our daily food intake) takes hold.
My research and publications have always focused on balance of nutrients and promote consumption of unprocessed, unrefined foods, but, in my opinion, the GI does not focus on the nutritional value of a food (which I feel is a crucial factor), but rather the rate at which it is absorbed. For this reason, I cannot help but conclude that the GI advocates  are only taking one of many factors into account in their studies.  Surely the nutrient value is at least of equal importance.
I have spent the past 20 years trying to educate consumers about the importance of the quality of the food we choose to eat, and the significant impact this has on health, energy, fat loss and disease prevention.  For this reason, I get annoyed when the ‘GI symbol program’ is suggesting that it’s better for our health to consume a Mars Bar or Coco Pops than a baked potato, or that there is no significant difference between chocolate and carrots!  Nobody can honestly say that this is a responsible approach to nutrition.
My advice? Don’t allow yourself to be seduced by the hype and always  let common sense prevail!