“I’ve given up carbs!” my client announced proudly as he settled into my clinic office for his consult.
“Carbs?” I asked, looking a little puzzled.
“Yep! Not eating any of them.” I could see he wanted a high five but I was still confused, and a bit worried.
“So… you’re not consuming anything that comes from a plant? No fruits and vegetables at all?”
He looked at me as though I’d taken leave of my senses.
“No carbs…” he stressed, thinking perhaps I was hard of hearing. “You know, lollies and cakes and bread and pastry and soft drinks and stuff.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and happily gave him the high five he’d been waiting for. Then I took some time to make sure he understood the difference between healthy and unhealthy “carb” sources.
This conversation took place many years ago and it’s happened many times since. Some people gloat with saintly pride when they conquer those devilish carbs. Others declare shame-filled defeat at having been corrupted by evil incarnate. This irrational fear of carbohydrates is described in the Urban Dictionary as a current “source of great hysteria. Carbophobia has reached such levels it’s become its own religion.” From where I’m standing, carbophobia seems like an ever-expanding nutritional black hole that is sucking people in and making valuable nutrients disappear into thin air. When I ask people to define what they mean when they say “carbs”, the definition is different every time and it’s making less and less sense as each year rolls by. Continue reading →
Australia, like all Western societies, is suffering from an epidemic of fibre deficiency. In an article published in the May edition of Nutrition, written by researchers from Nutrition Research Australia and the Department of Statistics, the authors reported on fibre intakes among Australian children and adults, using the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. They found that only 42.3% of children and 28.2% of adults met the Adequate Intake (AI), and “less than 20% of adults met the Suggested Dietary Target (SDT) to reduce the risk of chronic disease.”
These statistics were gathered before the latest carbophobic ketogenic diet fad kicked in, so the current figures may be worse. When people assume ALL carbs bad, they are effectively throwing the baby (the fibre) out with the bathwater (the refined carbohydrates). Thankfully, popular concepts such as superfoods, nutrient density, gut health, and the anti-sugar movement, have been helping to turn the tide. Anytime we step away from refined, processed foods and embrace whole plant-foods, we’re repairing our broken relationship with fibre and giving ourselves an opportunity to live longer, healthier and happier lives. Continue reading →
In this third and final ‘Healing Properties of Kitchen Herbs’ article, I will be sharing what I know and love about seven herbs I have in my garden and kitchen. Two of these are green leaves, the healthiest and most under-appreciated food group on the planet! The other five are seeds I source in bulk from organic growers. When I was a child, my mother, who loved the idea of using food as medicine, inspired within me great respect and admiration for the nutritional properties of edible seeds.
“Seeds are very rich in proteins, healthy fats, and minerals. They are little nutrient powerhouses!” she would say. “Think about it: they not only produce life in the form of a new seedling, sometimes after laying dormant for years, they’re packed full of all the nutrients the seedling needs to survive until it grows roots and pushes its way up through the earth into the sunlight.”
Just when I thought seeds couldn’t possibly get any more interesting, my mother’s mother retired from medicine, began studying botany, and was soon waxing lyrical about the sex-lives of plants. “They really are quite clever!” she would say with a blush. Grandma could tell me anything I wanted to know about the sexy ways seeds are made, and the very creative tricks Nature has for dispersing these tiny packages of promise. Continue reading →
The Practitioner’s Committee for Responsible Medicine is a group of more than 12,000 physicians who are leading a revolution in medicine—putting a new focus on health and compassion.
Their efforts are dramatically changing the way doctors treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. By putting prevention over pills, these doctors are empowering their patients to take control of their own health. They are also building a new way of viewing research. Since 1985, the Physicians Committee has been working tirelessly for alternatives to the use of animals in medical education and research and advocating for more effective scientific methods.
Their staff of physicians, dietitians, and scientists is working with policymakers, industry, the medical community, the media, and the public to create a better future for people and animals. While their advocacy work is primarily focused on their local area (United States), they have over 150,000 members worldwide and they are a brilliant resource if you are wanting to stay abreast of the latest in health research. Here is a sample of some information provided by PCRM:
*Veganism is a brain-healthy diet: Foods rich in vitamin E, such as broccoli, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds, reduce dementia risk by as much as 70 percent.
*A low-fat vegan diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes also helps prevent stroke, heart disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases.
*Those who consume vegan diets have better cholesterol levels than people who eat meat, fish, dairy, and/or egg products, according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Participants were categorized as meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. Those who ate a vegan diet consumed the most fiber, the least total fat and saturated fat, and had the healthiest body weight and cholesterol levels, of all the diet groups. A previous analysis from the EPIC study found that vegan and vegetarian groups had a 32 percent lower risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease. http://www.pcrm.org/health/medNews/cholesterol-levels-lower-in-vegans http://www.pcrm.org/media/good-medicine/2013/spring2013/can-we-end-alzheimers
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 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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.