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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Digestion: What We Can Take From Paleo, Raw Food, Vegan and Plant Based approach to eating

From the outset, let me make clear that I don't follow any food regimen strictly and zealously nor do I advocate a restrictive approach to eating, movement or living at all.

I believe - as I hope you will - that each of us needs to make choices that align with our values, our beliefs, our needs and our enjoyment and engagement with life. That means that your approach will likely differ over time and I've known many people who go from meat eaters to vegetarians and have periods of returning to seafood or meat if they feel their nutritional needs aren't being met sufficiently without it, or just because they want it and choose it.

It's not for any of us to say what is right and wrong for anyone else - so this post is not advocating a dietary approach, rather it is looking at the importance of gut health to quality of life and the ideas and lessons we can take from each of these approaches and consider when preparing and sharing meals.

I've been reading The Complete Gut Health Cookbook by Pete Evans and naturopath, Helen Padarin. While the book does strongly follow paleo guidelines to eating, there is a recurring reminder that these are suggestions and not a strict advocacy of one way to eat or live. Regardless of your preconceived ideas around Pete, his genuine desire to share a love of eating well and with awareness of how food affects overall health is contagiously joyful.

The consistent message across paleo, vegan, raw food and plant based eating is that food is more than simply calories and fuel. Food has medicinal and spiritual value. Choosing to eat to truly nourish rather than just to curb the appetite reflects a greater commitment: choosing to live in a way that nourishes our selves and those around us.

However, back to the gut.
gut health foods

Many diseases and lifestyle-based illness including diabetes type 2, angina, leaky gut, obesity and metabolic syndrome are the result of eating diets high in processed foods, lacking in vital micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes) and the approach to eating food on the run, with little consideration for how important it is to sit down, savour and enjoy food as part of feeling genuinely satiated, nourished and allowing food to digest without the impediment of stress hormones creating a maelstrom of poor digestive consequences: bloating, indigestion, leaky gut, constipation etc.

There's much research to show that gut health is intrinsically connected to brain health and the strength of the immune system and all other systems of the body. When you get a moment, have a look at this TED talk: Food for thought: How your belly controls your brain.



Gut flora is a term that refers to the environment of bacteria within the gut which is highly sensitive to foods, environment, stress and overall fitness and health. The healthier and richer our gut flora, the more energy we have, the greater absorption of nutrients from food and the greater ability to CREATE nutrients. It also feeds the immune system, fending off disease and allergic responses as well as maintaining a fit metabolism and regulating weight.

The most common and preventable factors that damage gut flora are continual use of NSAIDs (ibuprofen, over-the-counter and prescription pain killers and anti inflammatories), chemicals found in processed foods and commonly used in agriculture, household cleaners and beauty products, preservatives and food colourings and flavours, excess fructose and simple carbohydrate consumption, chronic stress and lack of sleep and routine sleep and meal times.

Raw food - food not heated above 36 degrees - contains the richest source of nutrients and enzymes. These enzymes allow for foods to be digested without requiring the body to use up its own enzymes in trying to break down foods and extract micronutrients during the digestive process. With sufficient quantity and diversity of raw vegetables and plant-based foods (nuts, legumes, etc), these simple protein chains create complex chains of proteins that fuel the body adequately and ideally. It is common for vegans to be deficient in iron and B12 though and in these situations, it may be wise to supplement with the recommended daily dosage or with the assistance and advice of a nutritionist, dietitian or medical practitioner.
gut health

Here's the essential spices to start including in your meals to boost gut health

Turmeric
Cinnamon
Ginger
Fennel
Cumin
Coriander
Peppermint
Chilli
superfoods


Here's the essential prebiotic & probiotic foods to include in your weekly meals (bitter and fermented foods are superpowered gut medicine, don't be afraid to try them)


Dandelion Greens
Jerusalem Artichoke
Leeks
Asparagus
Garlic
Onions
Bananas
Apples
Walnuts 
Almonds
Cacao
Flaxseeds
Kelp & Seaweed
Bananas
Pickled ginger
Quinoa
Miso


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Beauty & A Tan That Doesn't Cost The Earth

natural beauty cruelty free

The skin is actually one of the largest organs of the body. We often think of heart, kidneys, liver when we think of organs of the body, but actually the skin is a living, functioning organ that absorbs elements of the environment and especially, the products we put on it.

This is why it's so important to choose carefully what you apply when it comes to skincare, shower gels, cleaning agents, hair products and if you're sensitive, laundry products too.

Many cheap and chemical based beauty and skincare products rely on parabens as a cheap, easy preservative to extend the life of products on shelf. Parabens are entirely man-made and synthetic.
butterfly tattoo
They mimic hormones within the body and once absorbed into the skin, can change and warp the natural balance of hormones within the body. The short and long term effect of this has not been thoroughly researched but since hormones rule everything from mood, fertility, appetite, appearance, sleep and immune system, it would pay to be careful with the endocrine system. 
Natural products often opt for ingredients like grapeseed oil as a natural preservative. Pay attention to the ingredients list and there are quite a number of great books out on natural beauty that explain ingredients and what to avoid in common household and body products.

Another excellent reason to opt for natural ingredients in your skincare is to be earth friendly. Less chemicals produced and manufactured into skincare and beauty products means less toxic products released into the waterways, air and earth before, during production and after use.
nutrimetics vegan beauty

Here are some of the products I've discovered recently that align with my goal to use primarily organic, natural and eco-friendly, skin friendly beauty and body products. Nutrimetics makes a whole range of targeted skincare as well as body care from shower gels to deodorant and makeup. I've been using and loving their Black Cherry Shower Gel, Honey and Almond Scrub for face, and the super nourishing apricot based Nutri-Rich Oil


Ink Nurse is a Melbourne-made tattoo healing cream that is just as vital for your freshly done work as it is for years' old work that you want to keep fresh after a bit too much time exposed to the sun. It uses all natural products and is vegan friendly and no parabens. As they say themselves, "A badass, ethical, cruelty-free, product that no one else compares to when it comes to tattoo skin care." True! Hoping to see it at more Melbourne studios.
eco tan natural tanning

Eco Tan is an organically certified, skin loving and naturally derived tanning range that has won awards for its face and body products. As someone who lives in Lycra and doesn't tan naturally, I'm all about the tan in a bottle! Just as with Ink Nurse and Nutrimetics, Eco Tan is fully organic and vegan. Their Eco Tan Face Tan Water is the best facial tanning product I've ever used and I've used plenty of tanning brands over the past 15 years. No nasty smell and the colour of both face and body (my choice is Cacao Firming Mousse) are totally believable: deep enough to look like you've been sunning on St Kilda beach but not so deep it looks like you fell asleep there all day.



Sunday, 29 January 2017

February Gym Bag Loves - The Style, Beauty & Body Gear For Now

fitness fashion beauty body
Hello February!
Exactly a month in my new beachside abode and I've still got so much to explore locally. It's been a struggle trying to build more classes into my schedule but (apart from a few hair-pulling, nail biting evenings of angst) I'm feeling hopeful of making this happen. My other goal is to increase my freelance writing and collaborative work. I'd also really love to schedule some more workshops and encourage people to come together locally to share food, stories, inspirations and ideas about life and living it well, fit and joyfully.
hair body fitness body beauty lululemon

There's a bit of a theme going on with my February gym bag - it must be living so close to the salty air! It's...being naked. Now wait! Don't go pulling your top off and risking mega fines just for the sake of solidarity!
Phew.
lululemon naked align pants

It's naked in regards to an approach to ingredients and elements. The Naked Dry Shampoo from Herbal Essences has none of the nasty chemicals usually associated with both dry shampoos and aerosols generally. It took me a while to get on the dry shampoo bandwagon but as someone who gets oily roots within a day of washing, it prevents overdoing it on the shampooing OR walking around with nasty oilslick hair. Important.
Try the whole Naked range - I'm all about the Naked Volume Shampoo and Conditioner.
The Naked lululemon Align Pants II are designed with no ruffles, frills and bows, literally. They are ideal for wearing independently or pairing up with your favourite booty shorts, jogging shorts, slouchy shirt or T, or even going out in your best 90s style with a pair of ripped denim shorts (man, I LOVED that look at the time.)

It's also a mindset I encourage you to adopt in February.
Get naked.
Strip off all the history. Strip off yesterday. Strip off the labels that have been placed on you, or that you've placed on yourself. Daughter, wife, mother, teacher, Australian, American, Young, Old, Friendly, Rude, Determined, Lazy, Fit, Flexible, Friend, Foe.

This is not to dismiss everything that you are, but to recognise that beneath and beyond all these labels and these ideas you develop about your life, you are so much more than that. Come back to your roots. Your heart beats, your lungs pump air, you exist from one micro-moment to the next in a world where we are all so vulnerable. This is quite wonderful - and it doesn't depend at all on any labels you put on yourself or what you own or what you do.

Once you've had a little smile to yourself, ensure that you hold onto these sunbeams of joy in your very core so that they radiate out through your pores and make your face glow with the beauty of being alive and appreciative of it. Then pack your gym bag and get out there. The gym bag featured in above image is the Lululemon Urban Warrior Duffle Bag. Yes, you can attach your yoga mat.

Post showering, keep the fresh scents lasting all day by applying my absolute, all time favourite body moisturiser, Laura Mercier Souffle. There's a few delicious choices but I'm in love with almond and coconut (it gets SO many compliments!) or pistachio. YUM.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Plant Based Food Melbourne

Plant Based Food Melbourne

There's so many places for great food and great vibes in Melbourne. If you're vegan, vegetarian, gluten, lactose intolerant, paleo, raw, any and all of the above or NONE of the above, you will find options that cater to you and do so with flavour, joy and generosity.

Herewith, and I must confess I haven't tried all of them, are some great finds in Melbourne. Some I have dined at, some I am YET to dine in, but all of them come highly recommended by friends, colleagues and fellow Melburnians.

I'm also going to give a shout-out to my raw food workshop on February 7 at Kotch Lane Cafe in St Kilda. For $45 you get a handbook, goodie bag of products, entry to a doorprize, hands-on raw food meal making, and the fun of being in a group of curious, inspired people.
Plant Based Food Melbourne

Fed Up Project
South Melbourne


Good food, local produce. This relative new-comer is a haven of nutritious and yummy offerings located right near the South Melbourne market so you can dine and then be inspired to go and buy your own ingredients. OR you can walk in circles around the market to build up an appetite and then go nourish your body and soul. Visit Fed Up Project.

Uncle & Jak
Fitzroy

Plant Based Food Melbourne

Easy parking, yes please. This is a menu that doesn't turn into a novel, which is promising. Doing the menu options you offer WELL with fresh, carefully selected produce is worthy of respect. Pretty easy to park this end of Johnston Street, especially on weekdays. A brunch or lunch post yoga is easily catered to. I can vouch their coffee is excellent and George is a sucker for the turmeric latte here (I can vouch it LOOKS cool.) Visit Uncle & Jak.

Fourth Chapter Cafe
Prahran

Plant Based Food Melbourne
All day breakfast menu? Yes, please! Lunch available from 11am. There's meat for your carnivorously inclined friends and fam. There's some absolutely belly loving bounty on the menu here and like most things in Prahran, the venue is super chic. Environment is vital! Visit Fourth Chapter Cafe.

Vegie Bar
Fitzroy

Plant Based Food Melbourne

This is a stalwart of Fitzroy and you simply must. Their raw food offering is genuinely divine. Raw Pad Thai, tacos, cheesecake. This is an offering that goes beyond superfood salads and proves raw food is creative, expansive and exciting. Visit Vegie Bar.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

How Your Eating Affects Skin and Physical Signs of Ageing

The typical Western approach to exercise and eating is geared towards a More Is More approach - but unfortunately, not more joyful, more mindful, more considered and more strategic. Just More. However, well intentioned as your ambitions to run a full marathon, train for 4 hours a day, eat a gluten free, dairy free, carb free diet and exfoliate three times a day, you may win medals but you could also be asking to look like a mouldy prune by 40.


What best benefits your body and mind is some perspective. 
You have a functioning, well body. You have the intelligence and awareness to be seeking and open to information on how to move and fuel it. Everything begins and ends with that desire to be well. Consider that everything you do must stem from the intention to look after your body because you love it and want it to function, look, feel and BE fit and well throughout your whole life.

A restrictive diet can result in bone loss, nutritional deficiency and an onset of physical signs of ageing and illness.

The vegan diet in particular can be short on protein, iron, B12 and calcium if these nutrients aren't knowingly enhanced in dietary choices. Similarly, if you are genuinely allergic to foods, it is vital to have your levels of iron, calcium, vitamins B & D and iron measured. It would also be worth seeing a nutritionist or dietitian who can advise on dietary sources of essential nutrients based on your age, lifestyle, level of fitness and your goals (whether that's running a marathon, travelling the world, having a child or addressing particular symptoms).

Consider also that combining particular foods can enhance their nutritional power. Many vitamins are fat soluble, including A, D, E and K. Even a drizzle of coconut oil, a handful of nuts or some avocado in your salad will immediately boost the value of these nutrients in your veggie intake. Iron and vitamin C are known partners (a little citrus addition to your spinach in the form of lemon juice or sliced up oranges in your salad...)

My pick for Australian Certified Organic, all natural, tasty coconut oil is The Whole Foodies. Coconut oil not only adds island fresh flavour to salads and sauces, but is ideal for frying, roasting and ALSO as a beauty tonic. Comb it through the hair for an instant mask, or apply it as a moisturising balm to the skin.

Plant-based healthy fats are an excellent addition to your diet for more than vitamin and nutrient absorption. They take longer to digest than carbs and protein and therefore act to fulfil the appetite and regulate hormones such as insulin, ghrelin and leptin which - when imbalanced - can fuel hunger and cravings whether you require fuel or not. Go for avocado, coconut, olive oil, nuts, seeds, milk and yoghurt (obviously not fat-free versions!)

Adequate calcium prevents the face and body from ageing signs.

A lack of calcium can show up in weakened and vulnerable bones. This doesn't just result in the dreaded "hunchback" appearance of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis at its most potent. Consider that the face is a thin layer of skin over...bone.
If the bones are weak and deteriorating, this impacts the cartilage in the nose, eye sockets, chin and forehead. Weak bones leads to an early onset of shrinkage of the bones, wrinkles, a concave effect on the forehead and no amount of fillers and botox will disguise a lack of good nutrition and genuine glowing health. Protect and feed the scaffolding so that you glow for your whole mortal life. If you don't do dairy, consider another calcium rich source of milk such as soy and almond. Check the level of calcium as not all "milk" products are calcium-rich. Don't even bother with rice and oat milk if calcium is your concern.

One major calcium secret for vegans and foodies? Unhulled tahini! It contains four times the amount of calcium in full fat cow's milk. My pick is the organic unhulled tahini from Aussie brand The Whole Foodies which is Australian Certified Organic, paleo, gluten free and 100% vegan.

Facial Wrinkles Linked to Bone Density (WebMD)
Calcium In The Vegan Diet (The Vegetarian Resource Group)

Adrenalin-fuelled exercise leeches calcium from the bones. Extended cardio - from cycling, running, climbing or whatever you may be doing - as well as caffeine and stress are all sources of calcium robbery from your body. While you can ensure a higher intake of calcium through diet, it is also worth replacing some of the cardio-based exercise you do with weight-bearing exercise that builds bone strength (this can be weight-lifting or reformer pilates, circuit training or BodyPump).


Probiotics and Prebiotics for a healthy immune and digestive system

A happy belly is related to more stable mood and appetite, having positive benefits for sleep, relationships, energy for exercise and just living generally.
A healthy gut and immune system are also the basis for healthy skin. The process of shedding the outermost layer of the dermis and allowing new skin to be revealed that is radiant and well nourished depends on a healthy diet, stress management, balanced hormones and adequate sleep. Fuel your healthiest gut with pre- and probiotics found in kombucha, miso, tofu, yoghurt and kefir.

I've been delighted by Adam Liaw's recent book of recipes that embrace fresh, seasonal produce in creative and flavour loaded combinations. Here's a recipe for Sushi Sandwiches - they look so fancy and yet they're so easy to make! The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw is published by Hachette Australia ($49.99).

SUSHI SANDWICHES
おにぎらず
SERVES 1, BUT MAKE AS MANY AS YOU LIKE PREPARATION TIME 10 MINS COOKING TIME 0 MINS

INGREDIENTS
1 cup cooked rice per sandwich
1 sheet nori per sandwich
Your favourite sandwich
or sushi fillings (some
suggestions below)

METHOD
1 Place a sheet of nori on a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting
board with the shiny side facing down. Spread ½ cup rice in a
10cm square at 45° to the nori. Top the rice square with your
choice of filling and cover with the remaining ½ cup rice.
2 Fold the corners of the nori sheet into the centre to create
a square with the filling inside. Gather the plastic wrap around
the sandwich and leave wrapped for at least 10 minutes for the
seaweed to soften and stick to the rice. This will help hold the
sandwich together. Use a sharp knife moistened with a little cold
water to slice through the centre of the sandwich to reveal the
filling, and serve.
SOME FILLINGS WE LIKE INCLUDE
Prawn and avocado
Ham, cheese and tomato
Teriyaki chicken and green beans
Salmon, salmon roe, egg and lettuce.

Just like the rice balls, don’t keep these sandwiches in the fridge.
Eat them straight away or pack them in plastic wrap or foil at room

temperature to eat later

Stress Relieving Practices regulate hormones, increase energy and counter a busy lifestyle.

Many people claim their yoga practice is their stress relief. I understand - but it is really only effective if the style, environment, accessibility and cost are all feeding into your practice being a stress relief rather than a source of agitation.

If you feel that doing class is a chore rather than a joy, or you are pushing yourself to do a vigorous and athletic form of yoga when everything else you do is busy, competitive, adrenalin-fuelled and physical then it's hard to imagine this practice is genuinely stress relief for your body and mind.
This is not to say you shouldn't do this type of practice - only that you may also benefit from including other types of yoga practice such as yin yoga, restorative, iyengar, slow flow or pure meditation and pranayama practice.

Other forms of moving meditation that attune your mind, body and spirit and create a sense of peace that you carry beyond the practice itself and into your daily life include anything outdoors - surfing, walking through parks, beach and gardens, tai chi, swimming and sailing.

Use Good Quality Skincare. Incorporate It Into Your Stress Relief Practices.

I don't mean apply your avocado and coconut face mask and get into a headstand, although I am partial to applying my face mask and...getting into a headstand. Because, why not?

Make skincare part of a routine and ritual that calms and grounds you daily. I always wash my face as soon as I get up - it's my wake up call. I wash off my day when I get home too. If I'm in need of some down-time, I slather on a face mask, crack open a book and sit on my balcony to allow the wind and elements to soothe me. A streaming reggae playlist also helps.

My latest discovery is Bobbi Brown for skincare - as a long time fan of her makeup and Bobbi as an entrepreneur and force of good in the world of beauty, skincare and women in business, I am not surprised (but still thrilled) her skincare is worthy of devotion and dollars too.
Try her Coral Grass & Green Algae Skin Nourish Mask


I'm also big on peels but nothing too harsh because being violent with the skin only inflames the blemishes or ageing signs. Rather, do a weekly at-home glycolic peel.  Try cult beauty brand StriVectin LABS 5-Minute Glycolic Peel.





Thursday, 22 December 2016

TRENDING FOR 2017: Fit fashion, Body Piercing, Wellness Cafes, Travel Fit and Eat Superfoods

TRAVEL FIT

There's a big trend towards travelling for fitness and holistic wellbeing experiences. Did it kick off with Eat, Pray, Love? Who knows...but it continues apace and the offerings get more and more intriguing, exciting and sometimes, ridiculous, every year. The beautiful thing is that whether you're travelling with a group of friends, your partner or family or you're a solo traveller, you'll find events, customised itineraries and experiences that appeal to your need for learning, seeing, doing and being all over the world.

Look for the Angkor Empire Full and Half Marathon in August 2017 for a road race around the Angkor temples that has previously attracted between 500 and 1000 participants. There's a Marathon Half Marathon, 10km and 3km Family Run to choose from.

Alongside local offerings including the Canberra Yoga Festival (#Canberrasana !) and Byron Spirit Fest, there is also Wanderlust Festival offering yoga, wellness and lifestyle inspiration all over the world year-round. Try New Zealand in and Oahu, Hawaii in February for a start. See wanderlust.com/festivals The Byron Spirit Festival takes place in March 2017 offering tantra, dance, music and yoga.

Consider travelling to learn as well. Many people do their initial and ongoing Yoga Teacher Training overseas and this gives an excellent perspective on how yoga is a universal language. Perhaps you could do a language or cooking course also.
In Ubud, Bali (my favourite!) you can do Raw Food workshops and courses. You can even do your Raw Chef qualification if you schedule ahead. The school gets rave reviews on social media and Trip Advisor. Check out Raw Food Bali.
Find ways to travel and really immerse yourself in the local culture for the time you're there, whether it's a week or a year.


BODY PIERCING

Multi-ear piercing is still trending. Thanks to the celebrity and fashion editor's favourite body piercer, Maria Tash, the trend continues for chic and neat piercings that sparkle up the ear, in and around it. Her choice of jewellery, as well as her finesse in placing it to best highlight facial features, is highly refined and speaks to the trends of 2017. Spiked rings say "I'm a little bit punk rock" but delicate and in gold, they also say "I'm also a businesswoman, a blogger-author-globetrotting fashionista".
Melbourne's own Sammah Chehade is a piercing guru and has a particular eye for knowing which jewellery size, style and placement on the ear or face will best bring out their features. She advises according to facial structure, hair and skin tone and your style preferences. I have entrusted her with both needle and gun piercings (see my article Can I Work Out After A Piercing? )and she is divinely comforting, calm and radiates joy and passion for her work. She's available for consultations on multiple ear piercings, facial and body piercings. You can reach her via email or on Instagram.


ACTIVE WEAR AND FITNESS FASHION

There is a growing trend in consumers wanting to know the ethical credo of their fashion. This extends to athletic wear and fit fashion. Is it fair trade? Is the cotton sustainably farmed? Are the conditions for manufacturers and workers involved in production overseen and audited by an ethics and fairness body?

Expect, as far as colours and style, to see more wild patterns, bold colours and plenty of green and pink if the Pantone colour predictions for 2017 are a reliable guide (and they are relied upon by fashion and design industry internationally so I'd be buying stocks!)

In that spirit, brands like Onzie that are proudly LA made and owned still float my boat. Their designs, campaigns and ethos are all about loving yoga, loving movement, loving fashion and being a traveller of the world. See their instagram for international ambassadors and global "Take Me There" inspirations.
Canada-originated yoga brand Lululemon ALWAYS brings it's top game to design. Sure, it's not going to attract your budget bargain bin buyer but this is gear that goes the distance and it is designed for performance. It is not just for yoga either - the customer service staff are thoroughly trained so if you go in and talk to them about what you do for training and lifestyle, your preferences around style and colour, you can be pretty sure they'll know exactly where to direct you. They also have a fantastic initiative which is weekly community classes where teachers provide a class at no cost in-store. A great way for teachers to connect with their local community and also for people to trial a class without the commitment of studio or gym fees. Pictured is the new Energy Print bra and leggings. Add to cart.


RAW FOOD, VEGAN DIET, SEAWEED & TURMERIC

The rise of "vegan" as a key Search Engine Optimisation term will continue apace. Cassie Cross from Unique Health Products confirms "Australia's packaged vegan food market is set to grow over $60 million in value to reach $215 million by 2020. In fact, "vegan" is googled more in Australia than anywhere else in the world." Still, I am not vegan and while I think it has a very strong ethical basis, I fear that people are adopting a dietary approach that cuts entire food groups in the misguided belief that cutting entire these is a weight loss method that works longer than a week. The vegan approach to a diet rich in legumes, soy and plant proteins, grains and vegetables will hopefully inspire people in their approach rather than dictate it. While there are many foods which increase in nutritional value when heated (tomatoes, for example), I believe that raw, unprocessed and organic foods have a high "prana" value and this elevates my spirit when I'm preparing, sharing and eating my food. What's that mean, you ask? Prana is the "life force". Think about it. That gorgeous, ripe, organic kiwi fruit and big bowl of raw, organic walnuts are now sitting in front of you because they came from a seed, got rained on, absorbed sunshine and minerals and vitamins from the earth, and they were nurtured into ripeness right up until the moment that you picked them (even if i was out of a box at the market!). They have a story, an energy to them that fuels your body and your soul. As often as possible, try to eat raw, unprocessed foods daily. This might be a handful of almonds, or a bowl of cherries, or a fresh, green salad. As often as possible, grow your own herbs, veggies and fruit and go to local markets and organic grocers. Find a connection with your food.
"Seaweed is predicted to be the next big superfood," explains Cassie Cross. "It's full of vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties."
The Whole Foodies is a locally based provider of good, nourishing foods including oils, nut spreads and a whole range of seaweed based products. Their site is an excellent source of recipes too.Check out The Whole Foodies.
I'm a total kelp noodle addict. Get on board that train STAT!

Turmeric shows no sign of abating as the herb du jour. This is as it should be - it is excellent as an immune booster, makes a sunshine coloured latte, and acts as a powerful flavour for rice, roast vegetables, curries and soups.

If you're at a total loss as to how to prepare meals beyond a poached egg and a pack of noodles, try a cooking school. Many local markets run workshops and on-site cooking schools by chefs and nutritionists now. A google search for "raw food" or "healthy food workshops" in your city should give you an idea of what's happening. You could also consider travelling to do a course overseas.


WELLNESS CENTRES

In Ubud, the divine Yoga Barn (loved by yogis and travellers worldwide) incorporates yoga studios, ayurvedic health practitioners, a restaurant, juice bar, dance space and overnight accommodation options all in the one mega-space. It does so in a beautifully integrated way that doesn't feel like you are trekking between one separate business and the next. This is an entire lifestyle offering in the once place. Just as health practitioners have become savvy and many doctors combine forces within one medical practice, so it will keep serving wellness businesses and individuals to combine forces and create easily accessible places that are holistic in nature. Myotherapy followed by pilates, shopping for  organic coffee and a pair of locally made yoga pants should be all happening under one roof. Will existing stores merge with local wellness practitioners and cafe owners/juice bars to run pop-ups before taking the leap? Let's hope so. I'd love to be able to do a Community Class at Lululemon and then sit around in a dedicated cafe space drinking juice and talking to the local fashionista yogis!



Monday, 12 December 2016

Gut Microbiota And Your Health


I recently had the opportunity to interview Professor Margaret Morris, Head of Pharmacology at the University of New South Wales. She and her colleagues are involved in some extremely relevant and fascinating research into the role of the gut bacteria in regulating weight, mood, overall health and how this research might apply to treating obesity and major illness and disease. While there is still much to be discovered and investigated, there is also much to be excited about.
Essentially, if you are eating a balanced, healthy diet rich in complex carbohydrates, unprocessed foods including plenty of veggies and fruit (organic is ideal!) and meats, fish, tofu, soy and legumes then you're setting up your guts and your body for optimum fitness, stable energy and mood and an overall more happy, healthy life.
The good news is - though it takes time for change to show definite, measurable results in regards to weight, mood and wellbeing, it doesn't matter how old you are, how active you currently are or how often you dine on Krispy Kremes at this point. You can make small changes from today and see results over time and you can change your guts, you can change your whole life for the better.

My interview with Margaret is a podcast on iTunes or free stream on Soundcloud.

Cat:  For those new to the term, what is the gut microbiota?

The term refers to the suite of organisms that reside inside our gastrointestinal tract (gut).  There are many bacteria in our intestine and colon, that number in the trillions.  In fact the number of bacteria outnumber the number of cells in our  body!

Bacteria is usually a word associated with germs and dirtiness. Can you explain the role of bacteria in the gut and why the term “bacteria” is not referring only to the “bad” bacteria?

The bacteria in our gut perform a wide range of functions, and in fact, they are required for a healthy gut. Some of the functions include- They are harvesting nutrients from food; vitamin production; maintaining a healthy lining of the inside gut wall; healthy immune function.

How long have you been working in the field of gut microbiota and its role in health?

I have been working on obesity for 20 years, focusing on how the brain regulates appetite (and what goes wrong in the face of unlimited palatable food) and more recently began to examine the changes in gut microbiota profile  across a range of  interesting experimental models  that we have – so about 4 years.

What are the most exciting studies you’ve been involved with lately and what do they show us about lifestyle choices affecting gut microbiota and overall health?

We are very excited by our research in animals into the link between cafeteria diet induced changes in memory, and the effect on the gut microbiota.  Consumption of an unhealthy diet (e.g. high in saturated fat, high sucrose, low in fibre) is associated with less diversity in the bacteria in the gut - so-called ‘dysbiosis’ -  and we found that the reduction in cognitive function was linked to changes in certain types of bacteria.  This means that in the future, we may be able to introduce the missing bacteria to improve cognition.

What role does the gut bacteria play in regulating mood and could studies lead to better treatment of depression, psychiatric illness and sleep problems such as insomnia and apnoea? Could these studies also mean that there will be preventative approaches & holistic non-pharmacological interventions provided by the educational, government and healthcare industries in future?

Evidence suggest that the composition of the gut microbiota is altered in people  with mood disorders  (although the issue of causality arises here).  In terms of using knowledge about the gut microbiota to more effectively treat certain disorders, there is a precedent for this with some serious infections of the gut. I can refer your listeners to our piece in The Conversation.

Other work of Pedersen et al, Nature 2016 has shown that the microbiota may  be very relevant to insulin sensitivity, leading to the conclusion that ‘Our findings suggest that microbial targets may have the potential to diminish insulin resistance and reduce the incidence of common metabolic and cardiovascular disorders', so  I think there will be future developments in this space.

How is the medical and health industry (private and public) as well as government responding to your studies and conclusions around dietary, behavioural and lifestyle choices in overall health of children and adults?

No formal responses from government -  but interest from the scientific community.  And we have funding to continue  some of this work.

Can you explain the link between the intestinal function and cognition and memory? What does this say about memory, learning and how it is related to diet?

There are a range of studies demonstrating a link between a healthy diet and memory and learning.  Many of these are observational -  they study a large number of people and look for associations between diet and brain function. Some studies have shown that various food patterns  are linked to poorer cognition,  or greater cognitive decline over time.  Clearly it is time-consuming and difficult to conduct this type of work -  and showing a cause-effect relationship is challenging.  However on balance, there does appear to be evidence for poor diet linking with poorer function, and possibly brain changes  (e.g. smaller hippocampus).

How does a high fibre diet affect the gut microbiota and what sort of foods are ideal to add or increase in the diet?

Diets that are rich in plant fibre are generally good for the gut microbiota.

Have studies into omega 3 (and healthy fats found in nuts, fish, avocado and seeds) shown to have a positive effect on hormones and the gut microbiota?

Yes, omega 3 in the diet can influence the makeup of the gut microbiota, so this may explain some of the benefits of  eating foods that are  rich in omega 3.  In humans there is evidence that low omega 3 is linked to increased risk of depression.
See ‘Role of Omega-3 fatty acids in the etiology, treatment, and prevention of depression: Current status and future directions’ Robert K. McNamara;  Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism 5 (2016) 96e10.

While highly processed carbohydrates such as those in white bread, donuts, chips and takeaway burgers are well known to be “unhealthy” choices, it is also unhealthy to cut whole food groups. As an active person, what carbohydrates are healthy choices for balancing the gut microbiota?

Generally complex carbohydrates that are unprocessed  are best – these include whole grains, oats and the like.  Refined sugars are less helpful. In fact, we observed changes in gut biota and impaired memory in animals that are eating a healthy diet,  but supplementing that with high sugar intake.
Of course, small amounts of refined sugar are probably ok and  it is important to enjoy food  and eating with friends…

Agreed that the importance of sharing meals and enjoying food is vital so the occasional donut or Tim Tams with the workmates should not be declined or denied!

What role does the timing of meals have in regulating gut microbiota and how can people use this to their advantage? For example, many people skip breakfast or eat smaller lunches to excuse late night snacking.

Not much know (I believe)  regarding impact of meal timing on the microbiota – it is an interesting question.

What current studies are under way and what do you hope to see as far as investment in this area from public and private government and health investors?

We have a range of studies underway -   for instance, we are interested in the effect of exercise on the gut microbiota (even in the face of an unhealthy diet)  as well as the impact of probiotics on gut microbiota and memory.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Holiday Gift Guide for Wellness, Fitness and Beauty Addicts

Who doesn't have that last minute panic of What On EARTH Do I Give Jane, Rosie, Steph...etc? Here's the simple, straightforward guide to what's out there that makes a great gift for the wellness oriented pals in your life.

Bobbi Brown Wine & Chocolate Nail & Palettes

It used to be very much that makeup and beauty and supplements were all about what you don't have, what you want to conceal, what you are deeply lacking and need to spend all your hard earned moolah on to ensure you are fulfilled.

In fact, many brands and media still push this idea.

Thankfully, there are some brands out there with a message that is really positive. Sure, they're still selling you things, but there is not that toxic message that you need this because you are inherently lacking and this is the answer.


The latest collection is Wine & Chocolate. Divine, of course! A full range of eyeshadows, lipsticks, blush and to-die-for nail hues in beige, crimson, grape, chocolate and ballet pink. I'm obsessed with nail polish in Chocolate and brightening blush in Pink Truffle.

Onzie Activewear

Made in LA by yoga devotees FOR yoga devotees. I have Onzie leggings and capris that I still wear daily after 5 years and they look exactly as they did when I first wore them. These aren't 3-wears-and-a-wash style activewear that quickly gets consigned to the donation bin. 
There's an all new collection just out for men and women - that's right! Onzie has a men's range and a children's range so you could dress your family, friends and workmates in matching outfits.

My hopes are entirely pinned on those leopard shaper leggings. A burgundy open back hoodie? I wouldn't say no, Santa.

philosophy Fragrance

Every year, philosophy releases limited edition Christmas bath and body goodies which are beautiful to look at and divine to smell. The tried and true longstanding favourite of mine and many others is amazing grace. The box features the philosophy behind the name and the fragrance and on opening, there's a little message: "believe in miracles".
I love being reminded of this each time I go to spritz it on and I do think to myself - be amazingly graceful!



House of Matcha tea

What an awesome discovery THIS has been! House of Matcha does high-grade matcha green tea. It is neon, kryponite coloured and the special set comes with a whisk, bowl and an easy-to-follow set of instructions for preparing your matcha. The preparation is key.
The limited edition gift set is the perfect present for the dedicated matcha lover or your friend, mother, daughter, husband who is all about wellness but hasn't discovered the deep joy of matcha green tea powder. I drink it as a tea and also use the powder as a seasoning for fish and vegetable dishes. I've also seen it used to flavour smoothies and chia seed pudding. Get creative! As they say, "800 years of Japanese practice and perfection" is pretty reliable.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Fresh Fit Food: Which Meal Delivery Services I Recommend


I know how to cook, prepare and serve delicious, nutritious meals.
I can also talk macronutrients, energy, allergies, vitamins and minerals.
In short, I'm not in the dark when it comes to food and how to look after myself. There are other reasons for using a meal delivery service.

Good Reasons To Use Meal Delivery:

  • Being caught up in a hectic, unpredictable time where shopping, planning meals and feeding yourself and your family or housemates just isn't possible (ie. new job, illness in the family)
  • Experiencing injury or illness that can sap you of energy and the physical ability to get out and about to shop and then to do the preparations also.
  • Feeling caught in a rut and eating the same meals over and over again
  • Struggling to find inspiration for new ideas at meal times and wanting a kick in the butt
  • Curiosity
Why I Use Meal Delivery

I am guilty of being caught in eating the same meals all the time because it's easy. I know exactly what I need to buy in advance, I know how long it takes me to prepare and I know I like it. Only, I get so bored and if I'm bored, so is my body! Variety - just as in the classes you do, the friends you have, the places you go - is fuel for the soul. The body also benefits in every way from a variety of flavours, nutrients and just the mental effect of discovering something different and inspiring.

Which Meal Delivery Service To Use

There's already some really great services that deliver around Australia, and there are new ones popping up every week. This is both fabulous and also overwhelming if you're not sure where to start or you've had a bad experience. 
I've used the following and I highly recommend them. None of them require contracts or an ongoing relationship. You can order a one-time-only delivery and never do so again if you want!




This is for the person too busy to shop but not completely inept in the kitchen. This is for people who enjoy the preparation factor, but don't want to walk through supermarket aisles for the sake of a few meals. The box arrived for me on Tuesday morning (delivered silently in the very early hours of morning!) and had each meal packaged in a separate large paper bag.

In the box, recipe cards that described the preparation of each meal including cooking and prep time. I was provided herbs, flavourings, raw ingredients and ultimately, I had to cook and prepare. The great thing about this is that I felt like I had control over the level of flavouring I could add, and I could be a little creative as far as presentation and making any little adjustments like changing the choice of herbs or adding different vegetables.

I heartily recommend the chicken and fish meals as well as the superb Superfoods Veggie Bowl. I did add extra protein to this one but if you didn't, it's ideal for vegans and vegetarians.

Marley Spoon




Kate Save is a clinical dietitian with a true passion for food and it shows in the delicious menu options she offers. She designs meals with a real focus on balanced amounts of protein, carbs, vitamins and micronutrients to ensure hormonal balance, weight control and VERY importantly, flavour. From frittata to curries, chunky soups, chia pods, protein ball snacks through to vegetarian friendly tofu dinners, there is no skimping on quality and yumminess.

Kate has worked with eating disorders, obesity, diabetes, juveniles and adults in her clinical role of dietitian and it was this, combined with her genuine love for preparing healthful, flavourful foods, that acted as the catalyst to start her own business. She has raised her children on these same meals and it is imperative to her that they are well fed, nourished and loved. This comes across in the food that arrives on my doorstep. It is full of flavour, perfectly balanced for a fit and weight-conscious individual, and also full of love and soul. There is nothing dry and boring about Kate's meals and even though they are perfectly measured as far as macronutrients (safe for anyone looking to lose or maintain weight), there is nothing boring about Kate's menu.

You can put in an order as late as Sunday evening and be assured of delivery the following Tuesday - everything is prepared and delivered fresh and clearly labelled.

I totally recommend the chia puddings - in fact, I'd put in an order for these alone! - and the frittata with kale and chickpeas. Delicious. Definitely don't skip the Berry Bliss Chia Pudding and the Blueberry with Chia Seeds.
I also loved the South American Chilli Beef And Beans for lunch on the go.

Be Fit Food


My Muscle Chef was the very first meal delivery service I tried and it is not at all what I feared it might be: tiny portions of NASA-grade food for body sculptors who subsist on a couple of almonds and a lettuce leaf. THANKFULLY these are divinely tasty and the fact they are energy-controlled and designed with the ideal ratio of protein to carbs is an afterthought once you dig the fork in. The meals range from vegetarian through to kangaroo, fish, chicken and beef.
I'm a big fan of the kangaroo with brown rice. It's so easy to overcook and dry out kangaroo meat but this is perfectly prepared and delivered for maximum flavour and texture. I admit, the meals are not nearly as big as I need for dinner. As a lunch option, perfectly portioned. I add nuts, extra rice and loads of vegetables to the dinner portion and occasionally, extra protein depending on my appetite. They deliver weekly to Melbourne and Sydney.

My Muscle Chef

Other delivery services I recommend trying include Aussie Farmers Direct, Woolworths Online and Nourished Life for supplements and healthy meal preparation tools.

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