The Healing Properties of Kitchen Herbs – Part 2

edition 7This the unedited version of my ‘cravings’ article from Edition 7 of

The Australian Vegan Magazine

You can order your copy here.


When most people think of nutrition, they might think of macronutrients, or even micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. I think of phytonutrients! Phytonutrients are plant nutrients. Another word for them is phytochemicals, because they are chemicals naturally produced by the plants themselves in their quest to stay healthy… and what keeps them healthy, tends to keep us healthy! As a naturopath and herbalist who has studied nutrition, biochemistry and herbal medicine, I’ve long been intrigued with the chemicals in plants that give them their magical healing properties.

Most people have heard of the wonderful phytonutrients called ‘flavonoids’. Every green plant produces flavonoids, and these potent antioxidants protect the plant from unstable molecules called free radicals, which damage cells. When we consume foods rich in flavonoids, these foods help to the slow aging process and reduce the likelihood of cancer. There are many different kinds of flavonoids, such as flavones, which have the added bonus of being anti-inflammatory, while also working to reduce tension and spasms in the body and helping us fight off infection. Some of the richest sources of flavones are herbs such as thyme, paprika, parsley, oregano and rosemary. Continue reading

The Healing Properties of Kitchen Herbs – Part 1

edition 6This the unedited version of my ‘cravings’ article from Edition 6 of

The Australian Vegan Magazine

You can order your back copy here.


The first cookbook I ever fell in love with was a birthday gift from my sister: Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Foods. Kimberly’s recipes worked around most of our family food sensitivities, and we loved the way she used leafy greens as wraps, and lettuce as a plate. Most of all, her approach reminded us of the food-as-medicine principles our mother had raised us with. “Remember how Mum always gave us raw carrot, celery and apples before dinner?!” Smart move, getting raw food into us while we were hungry! Like Kimberly, she knew this would stop us from overeating less nutrient dense food, while also stimulating our digestive enzymes.

Since then I’ve had two other love affairs with cookbooks, and each time it’s as though the author is standing beside me in the kitchen, introducing me to new foods, flavours and cooking styles. Rawsome Vegan Baking, by Emily von Euw, is fully responsible for my raw desert obsession. After learning from Emily’s recipes, I began creating my own, using ingredients from my garden and my naturopathic clinic: chamomile and orange cake; slippery elm with rehmannia and blueberries; calendula and carrot. My husband remembers the Emily von Euw year with fondness and longing. “I’d go to the freezer and there would be not one, but six different flavours of raw cake to choose from!” Continue reading

Taming the Hunger Beast

edition 5This the unedited version of my ‘cravings’ article from Edition 5 of

The Australian Vegan Magazine

You can order your back copy here.


A few years ago, my weight crept up to an unfamiliar size 16, after a series of injuries reduced my physical activity. It wasn’t so much the way I looked that annoyed me, it was the way I felt: heavy and unfit, with rolls of fat restricting my freedom of movement. Exasperated, I joined a gym, for the first time in my life, and found exercises that worked around my injury. The first month was great. The weight dropped off beautifully and I was given the dubious distinction of being the “biggest loser” of the month.

Unfortunately, the over-emphasis on weight-loss (as opposed to fitness) messed with my head. I became obsessed with food, feeling constantly hungry, simply because eating for weight-loss had become the mantra. I wasn’t hungry because I was hungry, I was hungry because food had suddenly become a black-market no-go zone. What a horrible way to live! Needless to say, I quit the gym, found my own ways to exercise away from all the ‘lose weight, eat-less’ hype, and quickly repaired my relationship with food. Continue reading

Vegetable oils: ethics, environment and health

edition 4This the unedited version of my ‘ethical oils’ article from Edition 4 of

The Australian Vegan Magazine

You can order your back copy here.


What is Palm oil?

Palm oil comes from the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.), a tropical crop that produces over four times more oil than other oil crops. It’s also the cheapest vegetable oil to purchase, making it the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet, and a popular source of biodiesel. The World Wildlife Fund says Palm oil and its derivatives are found in about half of all packaged items in supermarkets. It’s found in fast foods, household cleaning products, personal care and cosmetic products such as lipstick and shampoo, and products ranging from margarines and breakfast cereals to chocolates, instant noodles and ice creams. Driven by demand for these products, palm oil production nearly doubled between 2003 and 2013 and its popularity continues to grow.

In years gone by, the United Nations saw palm oil an environmentally-friendly, economically-viable “magic bullet” that would help struggling farmers in undeveloped nations build economic stability while also providing cheap calories, but palm oil’s rosy glow quickly faded. Palm oil has dramatically improved the economies of producing countries, but it’s come at great expense to the lives of many, and it’s a significant contributor to deforestation and climate change. Indonesia and Malaysia have so far been the main producers of palm oil. Continue reading

Plant-based Iron, Synergy & Wholefoods

edition 2This the unedited version of my iron article from Edition 2 of

The Australian Vegan Magazine

You can order your back copy here.


THE BENEFITS OF PLANT-BASED IRON

Iron is a mineral found in every living cell on earth, and in human nutrition, iron is considered a ‘trace’ mineral, because it’s only needed in very small amounts. We might not need much of it, and the human body has clever ways to make the most of those small amounts, but iron deficiency is a common world-wide deficiency. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that iron-deficiency anaemia is no more prevalent among vegans than non-vegans.

While iron performs uncountable roles in the human body, about two-thirds of the iron within us is found smack bang in the middle of our haemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that contains a pigment called ‘haem’, linked with a protein called ‘globin’. The pigment gives blood its red colour. Haemoglobin can bind to and then release oxygen. Like a delivery truck, haemoglobin picks up oxygen from our lungs and delivers it to our cells in exchange for the waste product carbon dioxide, which it carries back to the lungs for expelling. If we don’t have enough haemoglobin (which cannot be made without iron), every cell in our body tires easily. Continue reading

The Magic and Mystery of Soy

edition 1This is the unedited version of my soy article from Edition 1 of

The Australian Vegan Magazine.

You can order your back copy here.


Controversy and Confusion

As vegan dieticians Davis and Melina point out in their excellent book Becoming Vegan “some of the science on soy has been distorted by people who misunderstood or sensationalised the research when scientific articles have been published – and then misinterpreted – leading to rumours that spiralled out of control.” The authors also point out that the bad press may in part be due to the fact that “soy foods pose a threat to the animal products industry.”

Soy because quite popular in the 1990’s, with soymilk finally making its ways into supermarket fridges alongside cow milk, in the same kind of packaging used for cow milk. To add insult to injury, blind taste tests were proving that many consumers found soy preferable to cow milk. Most of the anti-soy articles I’ve read online can usually be traced back to groups who are promoting the consumption of a meat and dairy based diet because they represent the interests of cattle ranchers and dairy farmers.

Continue reading

Good Digestion

HEALTHY DIGESTION

Here are some basics to consider, as well as remembering to take a holistic approach (hint: it isn’t just about food choices!), but essentially the journey for each person is unique and the most important thing is to experiment and listen to your body.

  • Please recognise that it can be very confusing for your body if you are constantly chopping and changing with diets, especially if those changes are sudden and/or extreme. It takes time to build up gut the gut flora needed to digest (breakdown, ferment, transform) specific foods, if you haven’t been eating them (or much of them) previously. For this reason, there are times when making slower, more gradual changes can be kinder and more sensible that jumping from one therapeutic way of eating to the next every couple of months.
  • When testing out an approach to eating to see if it’s right for us, we need to be constantly listening for that sweet spot that sits half-way between really giving the therapy a decent chance to work its magic and really listening to what your body is telling you. And this can be confusing, because in the early stages, how do you tell the difference between ‘I feel uncomfortable because my body is still adjusting to the changes’ verses ‘this food/approach really doesn’t work for me’. This is why transitioning gradually can be wiser: your body struggles less and you can test the various elements of the new way of eating/living more slowly and effectively. As my husband says, reduce the variables: test one thing at a time.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to diets, because we are all so uniquely different. The true therapeutic diet that is going to work best for you is one that is probably a mish-mash of different approaches from different eating philosophies. Find what works for you by exploring and experimenting. I personally think cherry picking can be a smarter move than copying what someone else has found works for them. Because you are not them! It’s imperative that you listen to your body and find what works for you. Having said that, every nutrition/health teacher and therapeutic diet is going to teach you something. Keep a diary and note down what seems to work for you as an individual, rather than needing to subscribe to a particular ‘club’, no matter who that external authority happens to be.
  • Now that I’ve told you that, I’m going to share what I have learned about a healthy gut from my training, my personal experience, working with clients, research and so on. But my opinion is of course, just one more in a sea of clamouring voices and I hope I don’t add to the overwhelm! All I can do is share my take, but my personal and professional perspective is not The Truth, The Way…. you have to find your own truth, your own way (ie listen to your body while you experiment):

Continue reading

Understanding Zinc

zinc

ZINC and the IMMUNE SYSTEM

I can’t say that zinc is a go-to solution for me when I’m boosting the immune system, even though deficiencies in zinc can impact the immune system. In part, this is because I know immune boosting herbs tend to be rich in zinc as well as the many other nutrients required for healthy immune functioning.

Zinc is not the only or even the best answer for immune deficiency, by a long shot. It’s worth noting zinc is often prescribed or self-prescribed for immune deficiency even when there is no evidence of a zinc deficiency. The thing is, while correcting a zinc deficiency can help improve immune function, boosting zinc levels when they are already fine won’t do anything to improve your immune function, and may actually be counter-productive.  Continue reading

Recommended Nutrient Intake

Question:

“I am looking for “naturopaths’ advice” on vitamins and minerals levels -zinc, magnesium, calcium, chromium, iron, B12, D, C etc. I know the GPs recommended levels, which are not the optimum levels, I would like to know where I can find the “real” levels we actually need.”

Answer:

GP’s recommended nutrient levels, so long as the GP in question is staying up to date with changes, are generally coming from the best research available at the time. You can access this information via government websites such as this: https://www.nrv.gov.au/introduction

As you can see from this Australian Government page about Nutrient Reference Values, there are quite a few different methods used, with the approach used and amounts recommended varying between countries. It really isn’t as cut and dried as you might think: there is no definitive “ideal nutrient intake” list. Researchers, organisations, governments and countries don’t necessarily all agree, and the lists we do have are a ‘best guess’ for the average person. Continue reading

The Super Hero

I had a lovely morning talking with my daughter and she has inspired some blogs. Here’s the first one, before I forget everything she told me!

“I don’t understand. You get these people who go vegan, but they haven’t done their research and they aren’t eating properly, and they get sick, and then instead of fixing up their diet, they just decide veganism is bad for them and they stop altogether. Where’s the sense in that?

It’s like being a super hero and burning out because you are saving too many people and doing it all night when you should be sleeping. So you go to the doctor and you ask him for advice and he says ‘Oh you should stop being a super hero, it’s bad for you’.

If you really loved helping and saving people, you wouldn’t accept a lame kind of response like that. You’d think ‘This doctor is useless. If he was a decent doctor, he’d say ‘Let me help you organise your time and energy better, and set some limits on how much work you do and when, so that you can keep doing what you love’.” Continue reading