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» star anise organic wholefoods

traditional wholefoods for a modern world

Filtering by Category: My Thoughts

Why I almost cringe when I hear the term "Paleo"

soullachamberlain

IMG_7197 I almost cringe when I hear the word "Paleo" being used to describe a food, business, product or a dietary philosophy.

It means so many different things to different people. While it's original intention was to set the benchmark of what humans are biologically designed and not designed to eat there remains of course disagreement and controversy around the edges. Are we designed to consume dairy? What about grains? And should meat be lean? The paleo diet has certainly evolved and changed since its founder Loren Cordain's first book The Paleo Diet was published, although strict adherents still exclude dairy and grains on the basis that these foods didn't exist pre agricultural revolution. But to exclude an entire food group for that reason alone doesn't make sense to me if the food in question is nutrient-dense, unprocessed, non-toxic, digestible for the individual and delicious. For me, certain dairy items readily tick those boxes so my kids and I enjoy and thrive on those foods. Ditto with small amounts of properly sourced and prepared gluten-free grains.

I am loathe to subscribe to any dietary labels. Instead I advocate an omnivorous diet rich in nutrient-dense whole unprocessed foods properly sourced and prepared. Some wholefood heavyweights like Chris Kresser in the USA call this "Paleo" for short as the aforementioned description is certainly a mouthful (excuse the pun). Fair enough!  But I still prefer to be descriptive and factual for the avoidance of doubt and apologies to those who find my verbosity offensive 😉

I'm not at all disparaging those who use the "Paleo" label to describe their dietary philosophy, products, TV shows or business. I always seek to ascertain what a person or business really stands for, regardless of their chosen description. This is why I'm not hung up on labels or organic certification for that matter.

Even if 2 people are in total agreement over what we are and aren't genetically programmed to eat, each person is still going to tweak their diet to suit their digestive issues, taste preferences, goals, energy expenditure, the climate they live in and stage of their life. So it's not surprising that there is no one exact size diet that fits all.  I think it's more important that we don't loose sight of the bigger picture- that if an individual can meet all their nutritional needs from cleanly sourced and properly prepared wholefoods- whatever they may be- then happy days for them!  It's just much harder to achieve this when whole food groups like dairy are excluded but it's certainly not impossible.

As I've mentioned in a recent blog post, we can never hope for a complete reenactment of the diet and lifestyle of our Paleolithic ancestors. The best we can do is try to bridge the gap between our genes (our biology) and our environment (via our lifestyle factors) to inch a little closer to fulfilling our true potential. We can maximise nutrient- dense foods and minimise dietary and environmental toxins. We can move more like our ancestors because that's how we are designed to function. We can sleep and rise more in line with the sun. We can punctuate our day with more rest and fun. We can train ourselves to breathe through our nose deep into our stomach. We can learn to manage chronic stress. And we can spend an appropriate amount of time in sunshine. Can we ever meet the vibrant health, strength, speed, height and beauty enjoyed by our Paleolithic ancestors? As a society, no, not until we close the gap between our genes and our environment. At a societal level, this is a lofty goal given how far we have fallen down the rabbit hole of physical and mental degeneration, but at an individual level it's something each and everyone of us can strive for by making small and meaningful lifestyle changes each day. And the more you narrow the gap, the closer you move to vibrant health and happiness for yourself and your children and their children.

Check out what myself, Anthia Koullouros from Ovvio Organics and Leila Lutz from Momentum For Life had to say about the Paleo Diet in this article written by A Wholefood Lover's Guide to Sydney.

This is not a paleo re-enactment

soullachamberlain

"We’re not going for paleo reenactment here. We look at things from an ancestral perspective to generate questions and hypotheses and give us some ideas about what may or may not make sense..."

- Chris Kresser

Nature-Masterpieces-leopard-gregory-colbert-saved-by-Chic-n-Cheap-LivingI read this quote recently and it really resonated with me. We can't go back to live a replica of a paleolithic lifestyle and nor would we want to. We rely on our modern conveniences far too much - who would want to wash clothes by hand and give up every electronic device, to list just a few examples? So many anti-ancestral advocates use this line to argue that because we can't go back it's pointless to even try to push against the tide of convenience foods and other realities of our modern lifestyle.

The point is, it is useful to look at things from an ancestral perspective to better understand and appreciate what makes us tick, function and thrive, and what makes us fall apart. It is really hard to be happy when we are not functioning properly. And conversely life seems to flow more effortlessly when we are firing on all 6 cylinders.

When we understand our anatomy and physiology and can align to the best of our ability our modern lifestyle choices with our biology, we have greater potential to perform and function properly and reach our true potential. I say "to the best of our ability" because the foods we eat today together with the quality of our soils is a far cry from those enjoyed by our palaeolithic ancestors from which we evolved and from which our genes were set, the quality of the water we now drink and the air we breathe is inferior, our stress is now chronic, our lifestyle is far more sedentary and relegated to the indoors with artificial lights, and our length of sleep and its cycle is severely compromised. No matter hard how we try. But we still have the choice to align our modern lifestyle as best we can to more closely match what we are built for. We can maximise nutrient-density. We can minimise toxins. We can move and sleep more, sit less, spend more time outdoors in nature in sunshine and make attempts to manage our stress. We shouldn't throw the baby out with our chlorinated bathwater in the name of our modern lifestyle.

Our children's health is partly a reflection of our health at the time of their birth and partly a reflection of their diet and other lifestyle factors that impact them as they grow. So we need to invest in ourselves and our children for our collective well-being and that of future generations.  And that's why I care. This is not a reenactment. It's being consciously aware of whether our deliberations further our potential, our health, our happiness and that of future generations and the well-being of the planet or detract from it.

The catch phrase for my business "traditional wholefoods for a modern world" summarises where I stand on this issue- to strive to marry the best of both worlds- the wisdom of our ancestors with the conveniences of our modern, digital age. To unite them to create a new kind of homeostasis for the modern human.

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Star Anise is now hiring!

soullachamberlain

354A1690I am looking to hire someone to start sooner rather than later for approx 10 hours a week to assist Thomas, Tehgan and I in making and packaging my full range of products (including activated nuts, pâté, stock, sauerkraut, date coconut balls, power bars, chocolate, kombucha, beet kvass etc). Attributes:

1. must enjoy my eclectic taste in music (top 40 anyone?!)

2. able to deal with my frequent passionate outbursts (I am Greek after all...)

3. able to laugh at the numerous behind-the-scene F$#K ups that don't seem to be abating any time soon

4. totally cool with handling chook feet, beef bones, as well as copious amounts of beef tallow.... Hard to believe I was once a hard-core vegetarian, huh?!

5. happy to taste-test numerous iterations of my wholefoods creations (even if you don't feel like rosepetal water kefir jelly for the 10th time that day or some fish stock at 8am)

6. any IT skills (esp in excel spreadsheets) would be freakin' awesome.

....and oh, being reliable, responsible, creative, takes initiative, organised, clean-living, works in a super clean and tidy manner and has a keen interest in nutrition and wholefoods are a given.

To apply or to make enquiries please email me at soulla.chamberlain@me.com

3 tips for staying healthy around Christmas time, and the not so healthy "health" foods

soullachamberlain

To read about my 3 tips for staying healthy around Christmas time and my list of the not so healthy "health" food that abounds, check out my interview here with Vie Active - luxury, high-performance activewear brand based down the road in Bondi. Happy holidays and get some sun, sea and surf!

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Xmas trading hours and my grown-up Xmas wish list

soullachamberlain

IMG_3347 While the kids and I will be away visiting family from 23-31 Dec, my assistants will be manning the fort in my absence. Just text me any orders and I will co-ordinate with them for you to collect from my workshop in Waverley.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all my clients, customers, retailers and followers of my blog for all your wonderful support over 2014. It has meant that I have been able follow my passion and do what I love to do: make nutritious and delicious food, share it, talk about it, show you how and why to make it, debunk the confusion surrounding nutrition and help you on your journey towards robust health.

2015 is set to be an exciting year with the launch of some new products, getting my cookbook off the ground, expanding to further shops and conducting regular cooking classes on some new topics as well as the golden oldies.  My aim is to focus more on food coaching and to that end I am working with a holistic GP (Dr Min Yeo) and naturopath/herbalist (Anthia Koullouros) so that our mutual clients are provided with an integrated service with my focus being on culinary/dietary support and nutritional theory /myth-busting. To that end, if you're confused about what on earth you should be eating, how to shed some extra kilos, what to eat for fertility and lactation, how to perform your best if you're an athlete, how to overcome fussy eaters, have digestive or gut issues, want to curb your sugar (or other processed food) addiction,  or need help with meal planning or sourcing wholefoods at the most affordable prices, I encourage you to come and see me. Click here for more information.

My wish for 2015 is a place where:IMG_1986

  • school canteens offer healthy, nutritious and delicious food for growing bodies so our kids can function properly and perform their best
  • kids are not offered junk food as a reward or treat from teachers or well-meaning adults
  • hospitals offer nutritious food to enable speedy and robust recovery of patients
  • schools offer kids the choice of standing or sitting at their desks (this has started with one school in Melbourne)
  • kids are encouraged to spend most of their play-time outside in sunshine in nature
  • more people walk or cycle to school, work or shops
  • people are fully aware of what they are eating and the effect it has on their body so that they can make an informed choice
  • people understand that the health of our food starts with the health of our soil and oceans
  • farmers who are committed to ethical and sustainable farming practices are paid and revered like rock stars

Granted, the above is a pipe-dream that I probably won't ever see realised in my life time let alone 2015 but I like to dream big and maybe, just maybe, if we work together small yet meaningful increments can be made.

In the words of the Dalai Lama.....dalai lama quote

Here is a 2 minute video I whipped together showing the culinary highlights of star anise organic wholefoods in 2014- I hope you enjoy it!

http://flipagram.com/f/NGOYO1HWSh

Wishing you all happy holidays, much love soulla x

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Clean Eats: My favourite places to eat out in Sydney for brekky, lunch and dinner

soullachamberlain

I am often asked for recommendations on where to eat out for breakfast lunch and dinner. I'm not really into fancy foams and overpriced menus that pay for Sydney views. I'm into clean wholesome fare that's ethically sourced and minimally processed. The big considerations for me are (a) pastured meats, poultry and eggs; (b) wild (as opposed to farmed) seafood; and (c) no manufactured/ processed /industrialised seed oils (eg vegetable, canola, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, peanut etc). Chemical-free produce is a bonus but I'm not going to die in a ditch over that as I think its toxic load is less than what grain-fed meat, farmed fish and industrialised seed oils carry. It's mighty rare to find places that tick ALL of these boxes. More often than not it comes down to negotiating the menu and the art of picking and choosing the cleanest dishes. Even though I don't often eat bread (I try to avoid gluten as much as possible but occasionally I have a piece of sourdough bread slathered in butter if i feel like it when eating out) I have noticed over the years that there's a direct correlation between the quality of a restaurant and the quality of its bread. So, somewhat paradoxically, I seem to select restaurants based on the quality of their breads. It comes down to this: a restaurant that goes to the effort of understanding and sourcing sourdough bread or making their own bread appreciates quality.

So without further a-do, here's THE LIST of my  favourite clean eats for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner (I have blogged about some of these place before). I have tried to limit each category to my top 3 or 4 places:

Breakfast:

Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen (Alexandria)-  I love their biodymanic eggs with greens, tomato, sourdough bread with loads of butter and sides of kim chi and grilled halumi. Wide selection of teas, coffees and probiotic drinks all in a super colourful delightful setting decorated with all manner of fruits, vegetables and yummy treats. Communal tables. Housed in a big warehouse shared with Campos coffee and a sourdough bakery.  Walking into this place always makes me feel perky and smiley.

Egg of the Universe (Rozelle)- great selection of traditional wholefoods properly prepared including kombucha, sauerkraut, and activated buckwheat pancakes. Felt like I was in my own kitchen with someone else serving me.Meals are only cooked in coconut oil as their fat of choice, and filtered water is used and served. Large kid-friendly outdoor area. Yoga studio attached.

Bitton Cafe  (Alexandria) -Opened 14 years ago by the charismatic Frenchman David Bitton, his French flair comes through in his menu. David uses only Pepe Saya ghee, butter, olive oil and coconut oils as his cooking fats. No processed oils at all. The chickens and eggs are organic. It's also open for lunch and dinner.

 Three Blue Ducks (Bronte) - I just love their black pudding (blood sausage) with eggs breakfast meal (great to see some organ meats on a breakfast menu!).

Lunch:

Kitchen by Mike (Rosebury)- Great guy, great food, great open large warehouse shared with über stylish Koskela interior designs.

Orchard Street (North Bondi) - renowned for its juices in its original Macpherson Street Bronte appothecary, Orchard Street has opened up a new large eat-in or take away store in North Bondi. Owner and natropath Kirsten Shanks has created this new store that reflects her beautiful style and energy. Clean food, gorgeous atmosphere and kombucha on tap!

Henleys Wholefoods (Bondi Junction) - tucked away down the stairs from Oxford St, this little gem provides lovely meals and smoothies.

Thrive (CBD) -  Grab a takeaway meal, sit in the Domain in the sun and enjoy a respite from office confinement.

Side Door (Vaucluse) - situated next to the butcher shop GRUB (with the food coming from there), the Side Door reopens again on Wednesday December 10 2014 from Wednesday - Friday 12.30-8.30pm. Everything on the menu has Paleo and Gluten free options.

If you want a fancier /more exy lunch then refer to any of the places listed under Dinner below.

If I'm at a pinch at Westfield or some other shopping centre the best bet is to grab 1/2 dz oysters at the seafood counter in DJs Food Hall with a small selection of local or imported cheese from the cheese counter - look at what cheeses are on sale to make it more affordable. No need to ever step foot into a food hall. Many people think that sushi is really healthy. The issue here is the cheap farmed fish often used in sushi and the fact that it isn't very high in saturated fats which leaves me unsatiated and hungry within 30 minutes.

Dinner:

Bei Amici (Darling Point): the high water mark in clean foods dining. Home-made Northern Italian fare using the best ingredients. Pastured meats from Feather & Bone, organic produce, home-made bread and organ meats adorn the menu including pate and tongue. Not that they wouldn't be welcome, but I personally wouldn't take kids here because its small, intimate and high-end.  Take the rare opportunity to masquerade as adults.

4 in Hand Dining Room (Paddington): I love the organ meats that feature on the menu and the slow cooked lamb or pork for 2. There is also a suckling pig to share if you can gather a group of 10 friends together. Grass fed meats, gorgeous cosy ambience, and excellent friendly service.  Chef Colin Fassnidge never disappoints. Organic veggies from Martin Boetz' farm. Butter or olive oil are the fats used for cooking except for deep-fried food. The gratuitous appetiser of smoked white fish with citrus and basil is a nice touch. Any restaurant that has butter and unrefined salt in a marrow bone on the table has already won me over. And I love the enormous triptych of the squid that hangs on the wall. This is my kind of place.

Seans Panaroma (Bondi): similar ambiance to Bei Amici- small, cosy and intimate. Book a babysitter and don't even think about taking the kids. Enjoy the gorgeous food in peace.

Porteno (Surry Hills) - traditional Argentinian (but need to carefully navigate the oils used in the menu). Big, fun, noisy and kid-friendly.

Felix French bistro (CBD) -  they often have organ meats on the menu. Despite its massive size, it still feels cosy and manages to keep great service. Extensive wine list. Very popular with the CBD bankers and finance crowd. Wear a suit and frock up.

Alfie & Hettie (Glebe): elegant dining-room in a heritage-listed terrace which changed owners 3 months ago. Despite a bad experience with service (which I will put down to an aberration rather than typical) the food was exceptional. Slow cooked meats for 2 including 18 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder and 2 day slow cooked short ribs. Amazing. Who cooks dishes for that long nowadays?

LP'S Quality Meats (Chippendale): opened several months ago, ex-Tetsuya head chef Luke Powell has created a no-fuss American style diner featuring pastured meats, Thirlmere pastured chickens and pork from Vic Meats. No vegetable oils are used other than canola oil for the chicken. So watch that. The smoker is one of a kind in Australia imported from Tennessee. The staff are super friendly. We had the 10 hour beef short ribs (a bit too charred for me), pate and sardines and lambs belly.

Tea, coffee and a snack:

Ovvio Organics (Paddington)- the best quality tea in Australia bar none. No one is fussier than Anthia Koullouros in the source and processing of her teas and spices. It's one of the few places in Australia I can walk into and not have to ask about the provenance of the products nor examine the ingredients list on the products that line the shelves.

Bondi Wholefoods (North Bondi) - kid-friendly courtyard.

About Life Marketplace (Bondi Junction) - I like their drinks menu esp raw cacao spicy chai

Formaggi Occello (Surry Hills) - cheese heaven.

But whatever restaurant I land at (and let's face it we don't always get to choose!) these are the strategies I employ:

  • ask for my meal to be cooked in butter or olive oil instead of any industrialised seed oils (most restaurants can accommodate this other than Mexican restaurants or cheaper Asian restaurants. Anyone feeling entrepreneurial?? And while you're at it open a clean fish and chips shop.....there's nothing wrong with dreaming BIG!!)
  • or opt for a dish that isn't cooked in any fats or oils at all eg grilled fish or roast meat or casseroles tend to be cooked in their own fat
  • avoid salmon and ocean trout on menus in Australia as these fish are ALL farmed (and fed some really nasty stuff including antibiotics, soy pellets, colour dyes etc) and are not wild
  • avoid sauces or ask that they are put on the side if I think that they will contain vegetable oils eg hollandaise sauce and béarnaise sauce are typically are made with canola oil as the base
  • avoid any deep-fried food (as they are almost always cooked in cottonseed oil even at the cleanest of restaurants), legumes or grains (other than sourdough bread if i feel like it) but a small amount of legumes or grains even if not properly prepared won't kill you (unless your celiac, have leaky gut, auto-immunity or other major digestive issues then it's just not worth it)
  • I rarely have dessert (I'm content/full with an entree plus main though I'm always happy to share a cheese platter sans the crackers).

And more importantly if you've made a decision to eat somewhere (whether it's your choice or not) just enjoy the social experience and don't stress too much about it! And if you see something on the menu that really takes youre fancy then as I've blogged about before if you crave a food then for God's sake just eat it. As my guru Chris Kresser is fond of saying "It's better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude, than the right food with the wrong attitude!" Short of having food sensitivities or digestive issues (eg celiac, leaky gut, or some auto-immunity etc),  the emotional nourishment you get from sharing a meal and a glass (or more!) of wine with loved ones will normally outweigh any physiological damage that the food/drink might do to your system. So better to just relax and enjoy the experience than wring your hands in distress. Obviously if you have food sensitivities, leaky gut, auto-immunity or the like,  or if you are like me and are deeply concerned about the provenance and processing of what you eat, then take initiative and choose the restaurant if you can (pick up the phone and make enquiries of the kitchen staff ahead of time) or pick and choose from the menu wisely as I've set out above and then.... ENJOY!

Have you been to any of the above places? What did you think? What are some places that you rate that I have not mentioned? I'd love to hear from you. 

Photo gallery below:

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The active couch potato meets the standing bench. Why exercise isn't enough.

soullachamberlain

Most people are aware that physical activity is essential to good health and extended sitting is harmful to health. That's not controversial. It's how we evolved for the vast majority of our evolutionary history - we had to exert ourselves, often strenuously, on a daily basis. But back then it was called survival and not exercise. Today things are very different. The typical adult in the Western world is sedentary for 60% of their waking hours and sits for an average of 6 hours per day (and often much longer in the case of those who work primarily on computers). In fact, being sedentary is now the norm and exercise is primarily seen as an intervention - something we do to guard against the negative impacts of a sedentary lifestyle.

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So here I was thinking that because I engage in moderate to rigorous exercise most days then surely that must counteract any damage done by all the extended sitting I do in front of a computer or being a taxi driver to my kids each day in the car. However multiple studies (eg here and here) show that too much sitting time is still harmful even if you're getting enough exercise! That's right, regular vigorous exercise alone isn't enough to reverse the harmful effects of too much sitting. So if you think your rigorous cross-fit training regimen protects you from the harmful effects of too much sitting when you're not training - it doesn't. Damn brother! I realised I am (or was) an "active couch potato". This phenomenon has become the norm rather than the exception in industrialised countries today.

Ok, so what can we do if we have jobs that involve being in front of a PC  for extended periods of time? How can be get off our butts and standing upright?! Here are some suggestion (summarised from a Chris Kresser article published in the Huffington Post with some obligatory modifications to add in my two cents worth):

1. Work at a  Standing desk

Nowadays you can buy standing desks, portable standing desks and Ikea has designed an inexpensive new height-adjustable standing desk. Or if spending hundreds or thousands of dollars doesn't appeal to you, you can, like I did, make your own very inexpensive standing desk by buying a couple of 3-tiered shelving units from KMart at a cost of $17 each, then tip them on their side to sit your keyboard, mouse and monitor on them. For the grand total of $34 I have my own standing bench complete with 6 extra storage cavities. Brilliant. These shelving units happen to be the perfect height for me at 5 feet 7 inches (my arms are at a right angle when i type). I stand with my legs at least hip-width apart and am mindful not to lean to one side and to stand upright. This simple change means that i'm now only sitting when driving or eating thereby reducing the hours on my butt by several hours a day.  What if you don't work from home? I would like to think that most employers nowadays would be open to accommodating a standing bench for their employees. I had a standing desk 17 years ago when I was a lawyer at Freehills so I'd like to think that things have only progressed in the past couple of decades. Back then, of course, I was seen a total aberration in the law firm but the trend caught on and more and more lawyers started to request standing desks.

The transition from sitting to standing at my PC wasn't too hard for me as I don't have a regular office job where i'm forced to be at my PC for hours and hours at time. So one question i have been asked a lot recently is how do you transition  from going from sitting at a desk all day to standing all day.  A button-adjustable stand-up desk is wonderful for this reason as it gives you the option of standing or sitting as you please and you can build up a little each day to standing. However, if you have a non-adjustable standing work desk (like I have) and think that going from sitting all day to standing is going to be too big of an initial adjustment, then sit down at another desk if available wherever you can for non-computer tasks so that you are doing a combo of  standing (for PC work) and sitting (eg when talking on the mobile, reading, etc).

IMG_27672. Take it to the next level with a treadmill desk (this is what health guru Chris Kresser in the USA does).

3. Walk or bike to work (or part of the way) eg get off the train 1 or 2 stops earlier then walk rest of the way.

4. Do whatever mundane household tasks you can standing like opening mail, talking on the phone, reading letters, folding clothes etc. Whenever you are sitting simply ask yourself "must I be sitting right now or could I do this standing?"

5. Take regular standing breaks during extended sitting periods

6. Organise walking or standing meetings. More and more executives are doing this.

7. Sit more actively if you can't stand or walk eg sit on a fit ball or learn to sit up straight this will engage your back muscles more actively than simply being dead weight in a chair. When driving in the car, you should know that bucket seats are hideous for the lower back. They tighten the hip flexors which in turn strains the lower back.  My tip here is the get one or more rolled up towels and place them right in the nook of the seat to effectively level out the seat so that your hips are higher than (or at least the same height as) your knees. It might feel like your driving a bus with your head almost scraping the roof of the car but, hey, it sure beats chronic lower back pain. I miraculously "cured" my incessant gnawing lower back pain within 24 hours by doing this.

As an aside, if you're spending more and more time standing and /or walking please have a think about what you are wearing on your feet. Thongs IMG_2732and high heels are the worst things you can wear on your feet as movement coach and PT Chris Ogle reminds us regularly in his fascia release classes at Centennial Health Club. Thongs make you claw the ground and put tremendous strain on the feet,  tightening the feet muscles and changing your gait. It's a pet hate of mine seeing young kids wear thongs. Birkenstocks are NOT thongs even though they don't have a strap around the ankle because they come up quite high on the top of the foot which makes it unnecessary to claw at the ground. Birkies are great but recently I bought these summer sandals (pictured) from Camper- comfy and fun to wear with extra spring in my step.  High heels shorten calf muscles which have a detrimental cascading effect on the rest of the body. Occasional wear is unavoidable for most women but wearing them every day can be pretty gruelling on the body (I know as I did it for 10 years as a lawyer in my former life).

 Do you use a standing desk? Where did you get it from and how do you find it? I'd be very interested to hear what people are doing for school-aged kids re standing desks. Please share. 

What is resistant starch and why you should consume it

soullachamberlain

IMG_2474Resistant starch is all the rage right now in the ancestral health community. I have been receiving numerous enquiries over the past few months about resistant starch and how to consume it. Firstly I want to point out that I don't follow trends. I try to understand the science behind something before I alter any of my lifestyle choices. So let's start with the science and a potted summary of gut health because this is where it all begins....

  • Our health depends on the health of our gut (by "gut" I'm referring to the Gastro-Intestinal tract that runs from the mouth to the anus).
  • The health of our gut in turn depends on the balance, number, location and strains of bacteria that live there (this bacterial film is often referred to as our microbiota, microbiome, or gut flora).
  • The bacteria that live in our gut span the spectrum of good or friendly bacteria (called probiotics or 'old friends') on the one hand and bad bacteria (pathogens) at the other end of the spectrum with a heap in between.
  • The good guys should outnumber the bad guys by 85% to 15%. The location of that bacteria is really important: they should mostly be in the colon, the large intestine.
  • When the balance or location or the different strains of bacteria is out of whack, our health is compromised, either in some minor way (eg reduced immunity leading to colds and infections. NB 75% to 80% of the immune cells in the body are in the gut, so changes to your gut microbiome are absolutely going to affect your immunity and your ability to fight off infections) or acutely (eg SIBO, leaky gut, brain and/or skin disorders, autoimmunity).
  • There are a number of factors that affect our intestinal bacteria, diet being one of them (others include antibiotics, the sterility of our environment, C-section versus vaginal birth, the contraceptive pill, acid-stopping drugs, smoking, the use of colonics, environmental toxins, pesticides, heavy metals).
  • Anthropological evidence shows that many strains of good bacteria that appeared in our hunter-gatherer ancestors have permanently disappeared from the modern gut today. We pass on our microbiome down to our children through birth from generation to generation so the state of our health and our lifestyle choices today will affect the health of future generations. As Chris Kresser recently put it "if we change or eliminate certain species of gut flora that have been living in our guts for millions of years or hundreds of thousands of generations and we wipe them out, we’ve permanently changed essentially what it means to be human because we have 10 times more bacterial cells than we do human cells, so it’s a big deal."
  • I wont go into all the details on what the good bacteria do for our health but without them we can't survive and we need them for strong immunity, healthy digestion, good brain function, healthy skin, calm nervous system, and a well-functioning metabolism.

A diet rich in lacto-fermented foods provides natural probiotics (good bacteria) that populate our gut. But once the good bacteria are there these essential little critters need to be kept alive and kicking. Enter prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food for the probiotics already in our gut to keep them alive and healthy. So we need a diet rich in both probiotics (to populate our gut with new strains of good bacteria) and prebiotics (as their fuel source). Fortunately a nutrient-dense traditional wholefoods diet can provide, for most people, a good source of both without resorting to over the counter supplements. I always try to obtain my nutrients from wholefood sources wherever possible. Prebiotics are generally classified into three different types: non-starch polysaccharides, soluble fiber, and resistant starch (RS).  Each of these types of prebiotics feeds different species of gut bacteria, but of these, RS is most recently donning the spotlight for its ability to lower blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity (which contributes to fat loss), act as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and maintain the integrity of our gut by decreasing intestinal permeability. RS is a type of starch that is not digested in the stomach or small intestine, reaching the colon (the large intestine) intact.  Thereby “resisting” digestion.  This explains why RS does not result in spikes in either blood glucose or insulin, and why we do not obtain significant calories from RS.  Once RS reaches the large intestine, bacteria attach to and digest, or ferment, the starch.  This is when we receive the benefits of RS.

Examples of RS include:  

(a)  starch found in grains, seeds, and legumes; (b) starch found in raw potatoes, green (unripe) bananas, and raw plantains.  Cooking these foods causes changes in the starch making it digestible to us, and thus removing the RS; (c) retrograde RS since this type of RS forms after RS found in foods listed in (a) or (b) above are cooked and then cooled for 24 hours.  Examples include cooked and cooled parboiled rice, cooked and cooled potatoes, and cooked and cooled properly prepared (soaked or sprouted) legumes.

IMG_2478Since many of my clients and people who follow a nutrient-dense traditional wholefoods diet do not eat much if any grains, seeds and legumes, and since raw potatoes and green unripe bananas are not so tasty and since plantains are rare as hens teeth in Australia well that just leaves cooked and cooled potatoes as our most practical wholefood source of RS. To that end I have put together the following 2 simple recipes incorporating cooked and cooled potatoes that I am now incorporating into my and my kids' diet:

In the coming weeks I will also post recipes for avocado and raw salmon nori rolls and Greek rice pudding (both incorporating cooked and cooled white rice- properly soaked then rinsed before being cooked then cooled).

Kids typically love all of the above dishes so adding them into your culinary repertoire shouldn't be a hardship. They are a convenient lunch box idea (obviously make them the day before) as well as fun summer time food perfect for picnics and easy dinners when you don't feel like eating hot food. At it's most simplest level you could get into the habit of adding some chopped potatoes to your evening steamed veggies then pop all or some of them in the fridge to be consumed the following day in kids' school lunch boxes and into your salad for lunch. Just a thought.

How often do I eat cooked and cooled potatoes? At least once  if not twice a week. A little less often in the case of cooked and cooled white rice.  So I guess this has been a change for me, in a practical sense, since reading about RS. I'm not sure how important the 24 hours of cooling is prior to consuming the cooked and cooled potatoes. In my household sometimes these dishes get consumed in less than 24 hours of being cooked but if you can be a little organised and prepare ahead of time then all the more power (and prebiotics) to you!

To read a more comprehensive article on prebiotics and RS written by Chris Kresser click here  (I have essentially condensed and summarised the punch lines for you in this blog post). In his article Chris points out that if you are on a low carbohydrate diet or don’t tolerate potatoes well you can add RS to your diet via unmodified Potato Starch (NOT potato flour), plantain flour and/or green banana flour (by adding to cold or room temperature water, almond milk, or mixed into smoothies). His article comes with the usual caveat that if you suffer gastro-intestinal tract distress with even small amounts of RS, this may be an indication of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or microbial dysbiosis, and you may need to consider working with a healthcare practitioner to establish a more balanced gut microbiome through the use of herbal antimicrobials and probiotics before adding RS or other prebiotics. To that end for those of you living in Sydney I highly recommend working with a holistic practitioner on the same nutritional page such as integrative GP Dr Min Yeo or natropath/herbalist Anthia Koullouros (both at  Ovvio Paddington 5 Ways). If you live in Melbourne I have a list of like-minded practitioners that I can email you.

Moroccan fennel and orange salad and dinner party 'formulas'

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This recipe is inspired from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian with my own twists and variations. This salad is always a crowd pleaser at dinner parties because it's so different and refreshing. With naturally sweet oranges and cinnamon, you could even serve this at the end of the meal almost in lieu of dessert. For those who are a little more intimate with the way that I rock, you might have observed that my meals can be quite formulaic, even though the ingredients are diverse and varied. Why? Firstly, formulas take time and stress out of meal preparation  (because as much as I love cooking and crafting recipes, we all have better things to do than be in the kitchen for hours on end). And secondly, formulas ensure that you've got a good balance of macronutrients (fats, protein and carbs) in each and every meal and of course I'm assuming that within each macronutrient family the ingredients are micronutrient-rich, grown/reared the way nature intended with due regard to their source and processing e.g. pastured versus confined meats and dairy, wild versus farmed seafood, pastured versus battery hens, traditional fats versus industrial seed oils, chemical-free fresh seasonal produce versus conventional, etc etc.

A typical summers dinner party 'formula' might look something like this:

  • Pastured meat: typically long slow roasted. Casseroles, soups, and curries I tend to do more in colder months while roasts, BBQs and raw meats are favoured in warmer months
  • A couple of salads: if you can throw together one salad that's a little more interesting or different than your garden-type variety salad (excuse the pun), then all the more power to you
  • A root veggie dish: For some of my other favourite root veggie dishes click here.
  • A cup of home-made broth: I try to match the broth with the meat that I am cooking i.e. either chicken, fish, pork or beef broth. Matching is by no means essential.
  • All finished off with some light dessert.

You might like to read one of my earlier posts on Entertaining Made Easy.

For last night's dinner party the menu was:

  • 9HR slow-cooked (90 degrees) pork shoulder with crispy crackling (to make crackling place heavily salted shoulder towards bottom of oven under heated grill element for 5 minutes or until the skin blisters and browns). To understand why I marinate the pork for 24 hours in apple cider vinegar then discard the vinegar before roasting read this
  • Garden salad with activated pepitas and avocado kindly brought by the gorgeous Sylvia- don't be afraid to ask a guest to bring a garden salad (and wine) when they ask "What can I bring?" as a green salad is pretty easy to throw together for most people and one less thing you need to worry about
  • Moroccan fennel and orange salad
  • potato gratin
  • Jellies for dessert (chocolate coconut panacotta plus a mint and ginger jelly. I will be writing up a separate blog post on jellies soon. One dessert would have been sufficient but I had a second jelly left over from a birthday party the night before).

It was more than enough food. So here's the recipe for the Moroccan salad:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large fennel bulbs, cut into paper thin rounds
  • 2 oranges, peeling and cut into segments
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
  • 1 tsp unrefined salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

 Directions:

Place all ingredients (other than mint) in a bowl and toss well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Add mint leaves just before serving.

I make this several hours before serving. This salad keeps in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours and in fact its flavours improve with time.

Serves 8

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What are some of your favourite dinner-party salads? Please share.

"So How Was School Today?"

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Kid_drawingI recently read this article from my son's school newsletter and thought I would share it. It is written by the Assistant Head of Junior Preparatory Years 2 - 4 of The Scots College and the idea behind it is to ask more specific questions about your child's school day rather than simply, "How was school today?" which often results in a response of "good" and not much more.   25 Ways to Ask Your Kids "So How Was School Today?"

1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?) [I often play this game of highs and lows with my kids: What was your high today? What was your low?]

2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

4. Where is the coolest place at the school?

5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)

6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?

7. How did you help somebody today?

8. How did somebody help you today?

9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.

10. When were you the happiest today?

11. When were you bored today?

12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?

13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you've never played with before?

14. Tell me something good that happened today.

15. What word did your teacher say most today?

16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

19. Where do you play the most at recess?

20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?

21. What was your favourite part of lunch?

22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?

24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?

25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

You can see how these may be useful in opening up more meaningful dialogue between yourself and your child. I'm going to give them a try to curb groundhog dog questions and answers. Hey, with a bit of modification, what not try some out on your partner?!? Could provide for some humorous or creative responses...

My interview with A Wholefood Lover's Guide to Sydney

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Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.21.03 pm"A Wholefood Lover's Guide to Sydney" is a new online guide to living a wholefoods lifestyle in Sydney. It's basically the who's who, the what's what and the what's on of the Sydney wholefoods movement. It was founded by writer and public relations consultant Ilona Marchetta in July this year. Ilona has made it her mission to bring you the latest and most trusted information about the people, places and products on Sydney’s wholefoods scene. I think the online guide is shaping up to be a wonderful resource for Sydney-siders and those visiting Sydney.

I was recently interviewed by Ilona about my wholefoods journey and lifestyle, my greatest influencers, and the ins and outs of my day.  Check out the interview and the online guide here.

Is soy good for us?

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img-soy-products-3I was recently asked to write a piece about soy products for a publication and thought that I would share my views on soy with my followers on this blog. The consumption of soy products has grown in popularity in Western societies in recent decades on the notion that soy is a healthy food. After all soy is eaten in numerous countries in Asia without ill effect. And I too jumped on the soy bandwagon in my 20s consuming soy milk instead of cows milk (and scouting out every other soy product under the sun). I still see a lot of clients in my nutritional practice who come to me initially consuming soy milk.

Here's the thing: traditional Asian societies only ever ate soy beans (which are technically a legume) that were very long fermented (i.e. for numerous days or weeks) eg miso, natto, tempeh, soy sauce or tamari (which is wheat-free soy sauce). This is because soy beans contain extremely high levels of  phytates which wreak havoc on the body including creating nutritional deficiencies, gut permeability (leaky gut) and inhibiting certain digestive enzymes. Traditional societies discovered that only through a process of very long fermentation can the toxic levels of phytates in soy beans be reduced making soy beans more digestible. Small infrequent consumption of these traditionally long fermented soy bean products is ok for the average person who is not suffering from any digestive issues. However, eating large amounts of unfermented soybeans on a regular basis is not a good idea (eg soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, tofu, edamame, soy flour).

Beyond the issue of phytates, soy has additional problems. Soy beans also contain phytoestrogens which adversely affect hormones and can lead to reproductive issues such as infertility.  A study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that consuming just 1 cup per day of soy milk decreased  sperm count, especially in men who were overweight or obese. Other studies found that phytoestrogens in soy may adversely effect male reproductive hormones and sperm capacitation (an important process sperm must go through after being ejeculated into the female reproductive tract). Soy phytoestrogens also have potentially harmful effects on women. A large review of 47 studies found that soy phytoestrogens reduced levels of LH and FSH, 2 hormones essential to fertility and reproductive health, and increased menstrual cycle length (source: Chris Kresser). I don't think it is coincidental that I see many vegetarian yoga practitioners who eat large amounts of tofu in their diet and are unable to fall pregnant.  Studies show that fermenting soy decreases but does not completely eliminate phytoestrogens.

The research on soy is not however clear-cut. Some studies (like the ones mentioned above) show harm, while others show no harm. On this basis I take a highly precautionary approach. Given that soy is not essential to health, is not nutrient-dense, contains extremely high levels of phytates and that soy phytoestrogens may cause reproductive and endocrine problems, I would recommend avoiding unfermented soy entirely and only consume long-fermented soy products in small infrequent amounts. The table below sets out a quick summary.

 

 

 

 

A tribute to the most important people in the world: our farmers!

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IMG_0521Last Saturday I had the pleasure of hanging out with and engaged in riveting conversation with Rob Lennon from Gundooee Organics and Mark Hopkinson from Emerald Hill Beef. These farmers came to Kingsleys Meats butcher for an open day of meet and greet and BBQ sizzle. It was a terrific opportunity to connect with the people who rear our meat and to ask them questions and learn more about the source and provenance of the foods we eat. Rob Lennon is Australia's version of America's Joel Salatin. He has a brain the size of a planet and I always feel humbled in his presence with his wealth of knowledge. Rob farms premium organic wagyu beef in a manner that I would call the high water mark of Australia's beef farming practices. His farm (Central West NSW, about 5 hours from Sydney) is Australian certified organic and his wagyu beef is supplied to numerous butchers and providores around the country (listed on his website) plus a couple of restaurants (eg Agape Organic Restaurant) .

Here are just some of the things that we talked about that you might be interested in learning:IMG_0523

  • Rob talks a lot about the importance of biodiversity of the microflora in the soil. Understanding and building healthy, balanced soils is the greatest priority on his farm. The nutrients in the soil end up in our bones and body, so everything comes back to the health of the soil.
  • Rob's cattle graze on predominantly "deep rooted native perennial grasses". This goes beyond the "grass fed and finished" requirement because a "grass" also includes the cereal grasses that produce grains such as wheat, oats, barley, rye etc. THAT I didn't know! Cereal grasses are grown in a monoculture environment with little top soil.  The high water mark is "deep rooted native perennial grasses" which have access to different soil types which all contribute to supplying a varietal mix of nutrients to the plants, have better access to moisture, are adapted to our specific climate and are well established in the soil giving them resilience and affording permanent soil cover. So not all "grass fed and finished" meats are the same. Deep rooted native perennial grasses are the best, followed by cereal grasses,with grain-fed cows being at the bottom of list (in terms of nutrition, taste, animal ethics and environmental sustainability).
  • IMG_0522Wagyu (breed of cow) is naturally marbled with fat throughout the muscle meat, even though the cows are fed only grass. For most other breeds of cow, if they are grass fed the fat is encased around the perimeter of the muscle meat and not marbled through it. Grain-fed cows produce a heavily marbled effect which the Japanese in particular covet. However Rob's wagyu is the best of both worlds because it is grass fed and finished AND naturally marbled which when cooked provides that melt in your mouth delicious taste experience.
  • Sometimes the best way to remove weeds is to let them run their course as their very existence provides an environment where they will naturally die out without use of chemicals. You can draw analogies here to the human body.
  • Resting meat after is has been cooked is important to allow the muscle fibres (which have tightened and contracted during cooking) to relax providing a better mouth feel. Resting meat also allows the juices to be reabsorbed providing more juicy tender meat.
  • Cooking meat in one whole piece then cutting it into individual steak sized serves provides for better tasting and less inflammatory meat as less surface area of the meat is exposed to a hot surface.

IMG_0518Thank you Rob and Mark and to all of the farmers out there who raise their livestock with compassion on the most healthy pastures and who are committed to providing the best quality meat through a sustainably functioning farm ecosystem.

What can you do?

  • Support the farmers whose beef is raised on deep rooted native perennial grasses or at the very least cereal grasses (as opposed on grain-fed)
  • Find a butcher who has done this due diligence for you who you trust and who has close relationships with the farmers he buys from
  • Before digging into your meal, take a moment to have a think about where the meat has come from and all of the people and things involved to getting your food from soil to plate. I sometimes play this game this with my kids to get them thinking about how connected we all are, the numerous steps in the chain, and to not take our food for granted.

 

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What's in my medicine cabinet to treat common colds and sore throats

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I am often asked for recommendations on what natural remedies to take for a common cold or sore throat. Even though Spring is just around the corner (hooray for that!) and the temperatures are rising I often find that it is the change of seasons when many people succumb to colds and sore throats. So here is what I and my kids take when we have a cold or sore throat:

1. Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil. This is high in vitamins A, D and  K2 plus omega 3 fatty acids. 1 tsp/day for adults, 1/2 tsp for children and 2 tsp/day for pregnant/lactating women. I take the cod liver oil infused with the high vitamin butter oil for extra vitamins as I don't have any dairy intolerances. Otherwise you could take the plain one without butter oil. I sell at $60 or purchase directly from  GPA Wholefoods.

2. Schuessler homeopathic tissue salts. The 2 I always have on hand are "fer phos" which is akin to a natural Panadol for the onset of cold/fever, and "kali mur" which helps with mucous and sore throats. Take up to 6 each per day. $12ish each for 125 tablets. Sold at organic stores like About Life or The Health Emporium at Bondi.

3. Vabori olive leaf extract. Like everything, source and processing of olive leaf is critically important and after much research this premium quality olive leaf extract is the ONLY brand I would recommend as they use fresh (not reconstituted) olive leaves. Store in fridge and take as directed on bottle.

4. Gargle salt water a few times per day. Make sure your salt is unrefined eg sea salt. A salt water gargle is just as good and safer than any pharmaceutical-based throat gargle.

5. Loving Earth Gubinge Vitamin c powder. Vitamin C great for healing and immunity. 1 tsp / day dissolved in water. Sold at Ovvio Organics at Paddington 5 ways or The Health Emporium at Bondi.

6. In terms of nutrient-dense foods when ill- I advocate lots of home-made gelatinous broth/stock, cultured veggies for natural probiotics, pastured livers, garlic and pastured egg yolks. A tub of my ready-made chicken liver pate is an easy meal when you're feeling too sick to cook.

7. Drink lots of filtered salted water (add 1/8 tsp per liter of filtered water). Herbal teas like home-made lemon and fresh ginger tea or Ovvio C-Strength tea are great too.

8. Coconut oil - I recommend both oil-pulling to speed up detoxification and adding extra coconut oil in your cooking (eg on steamed veggies or to pan fry) and in smoothies. Coconut oil is anti-microbial, anti-bacteria, anti-fungal and anti-viral... Meaning that it KILLS BAD BUGS! It's also a natural inflammatory.

9. Immune Defence herbal tonic by Ethical Nutrients. I personally haven't taken this but it comes highly recommended by integrative GP Dr Min Yeo as an addition to my above list (but not to be taken when pregnant or breastfeeding). Sold in the fridge at Chemist Warehouse (eg Oxford St mall at Bondi Junction). 1-2 per day.

Obviously if your symptoms persist I recommend seeing a holistic practitioner on the same nutritional page such as integrative GPs Dr Kate Norris or Dr Min Yeo from the U-Clinic in Surry Hills or natropath Anthia Koullouros at Ovvio Paddington 5 Ways. If you live in Melbourne I have a list of like-minded practitioners that I can email you.

Happy healthy healing!

the big chill.....my 8 favourite ways of keeping warm over winter

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I'm not a fan of the cold. My Mediterranean ethnicity coupled with my upbringing on the balmy Gold Coast has conditioned me for warmth and heat. But over the years I've learnt to shoulder the cold with the following coping strategies that make the colder months a little more bearable:

1. Hot water bottles. Yep, that good old-fashioned heating method that grandma used. I fill with boiling water and pop into my and my kids' bed a hour or so before sleep time. There are soft covers you can now buy that makes for a cuddly bedfellow!

IMG_95092. Heat packs. The ONLY time I use a microwave oven and the ONLY reason why I still own one is to heat up my heat pack. I place a glass of water in the microwave when heating my heat pack for safety reasons in case the heat pack overheats and catches fire. I lay the hot heat pack lengthways down my spine from the base of neck and lie over it in bed before falling asleep. It's a great way to instantly feel warm and a lovely chest opener to counter the effects of all of the forward motions we do all day. Especially great for breastfeeding mums! Seed Clothing sells cute little heat packs for little people (pictured).

3. Thermals. I buy woollen thermal tops and bottoms from Target each winter. Can be used as outerwear, underwear, PJs etc.

4. Flannelette sheets: these make a massive difference to keeping warm in bed. The new range of plain-print brushed-cotton sheets areIMG_3093 a far cry from the  hideously-printed wog versions I grew up with.  Chemical-free flannelette sheets that are very affordably priced can be purchased from Ecodownunder.

5. Hot baths and showers before bed. I can't sleep for life or death if I'm even slightly cold not matter how tired I am. If you don't have  a water filter attached to your bath to remove chlorine (or if your bath - like mine  -  can't accommodate a water filter) then consider purchasing a bath ball dechlorinator to remove chlorine which can be purchased from  iherb for $35. Simply stick ball in bath, fill bath, allow to stand for 5 mins, remove ball then stick in kids (or yourself!). Replace ball annually. I also add 1/2-1 cup of Epsom salts to the bath for mineral (esp magnesium) aborption and a few drops of lavender essential oil for a calming effect.IMG_9265 IMG_9264

6. Put on an extra layer of clothing before turning on heating but if you must turn on heating do NOT use an unflued gas heater. i.e. the portable ones with a gas hose that you plug into a gas bayonet to heat your house. A few months back I read a research paper issued by NSW Health (dated 3/3/11) on the dangers of unflued gas heaters. The upshot is that:

(A) Gas heaters produce heat through burning gas fuel. When gas fuel is burnt, air pollutants are produced and released directly into the room.

(B) The air pollutants released are carbon monoxide (which deprives body of O2, impairs thinking and reflexes) and nitrogen dioxide (which can cause irritation of the respiratory tract and shortness of breath). Children, unborn babies and elderly are more effected.

As my integrative GP Dr Min Yeo wrote to me, if you have an unflued gas heater  "get rid of it IMMEDIATELY! They are horrendously toxic and poisonous! You will have chronic carbon monoxide poisoning amongst other toxins. They are banned in Victoria with good reason."

Flued (fireplace) gas heaters, electric heaters or central heating (while they do have a dehydrating/ drying effect on the body) do NOT have this problem of toxicity.

7. Hot drinks. Dust off the old fashioned thermos container, fill with home-made stock, hot water or herbal tea and sip away all day. Click here to read about my favourite hot drinks.

8. Move.  high-intensity interval and strength training gets the heart rate going, the blood pumping and heats the body. Not to mention the feel-good endorphins that are produced that buoy the spirits at this naturally dreary time of year. Releasing (via foam rollers and small balls that trigger pressure points) and stretching (eg yoga) are equally  important in this weather as muscles tighten and everything contracts. If you're looking to train at a gym a few that I have been to and can highly recommend are Centennial Health Club at EQ Moore Park where I currently train ($20 per week for unlimited classes- say I referred you!), Primal Fitness at Double Bay (specialising in one on one PT sessions) and Origin of Energy at Bondi Junction (specialising in group classes). If you are self-motivated you could d0 your own sprints at a park or beach or up some hills (anything that provides resistance is preferable) and even better is to get a group of friends to join. If you've got kids in tow and can't make it to a gym or class you might like to read one of my earlier posts here about suggestions for movement while mothering.intervalsmove1

Do YOU have any tips for keeping warm over winter? I'd love to hear. 

It's time to end the war. New science confirms saturated fats are not to blame.

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From this..... time magazine

to this........

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60 years on the war against saturated fats is taking a new turn as more and more scientists around the globe are realising that saturated fats are not what's hurting our health. The latest cover of  Time Magazine encouraging us to "Eat Butter" is a complete contrast from the cover several decades earlier  when Ancel Keys led the war vilifying saturated fats and encouraging us to hold the bacon, eggs and butter.

I grew up on a diet of margarine, white refined bread and low fat dairy. I dutifully cut all the fat off my meat, cursed at my mum for liberally pouring olive oil into salads, and felt ever so guilty if even a morsel of chicken skin or fat from a lamb chop passed my lips. Why? Because conventional wisdom told us that saturated fat and cholesterol caused heart disease so ergo we should eat less high fat red meat, eggs and dairy and replace them with vegetable oils, margarine and more carbohydrates especially in the form of grains and cereals. Sugar replaced fat in packaged goods and refined grains replaced animal protein as a daily staple.  Why would be even doubt what the government, the Australian Dietetics Association, the Australian Heart Foundation and the Australian Medical Establishment tells us? In them we trust. And one would be forgiven for thinking, rightly so.

But what happened 60 years on in this "vast nutritional experiment" (as it has been called) has been nothing short of a dismal failure. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses and degenerative diseases have all skyrocketed and reached epidemic levels in our recent past. With nearly 1 million Americans a year dropping dead from heart disease and the western world growing sicker and fatter each year, the most curious amoing us can't help but stop and ponder whether we somehow, just maybe, got it wrong.

Here's a potted summary (from the Time magazine article) of how we detoured off path:

  • historical records suggest that for most of our history on this planet humans were voracious omnivores, feasting on plentiful wild game.
  • a guy called Dr Ancel Keys back in the early 1950s put forward the idea that high levels of cholesterol would clog arteries leading to heart disease. His solution was to reduce saturated fat intake. His landmark Seven Countries Study found that people who ate a diet low in saturated fats had lower levels of heart disease. Keys landed a front cover on Time magazine in 1961 in which he admonished Americans to reduce fat consumption.
  • the vegetable oil industry jumped in step and, with Ancel Keys as their poster boy, promoted replacing butter with margarine and vegetable oils.
  • the American Heart Foundation followed suit and codified dietary guidelines advising Americans for the very first time in history to cut down on saturated fats.
  • sadly for humanity, it transpired (a little too late) that Keys was a fraud and his research was dodgy from the start. He cherry-picked his data leaving out countries that didn't fit his hypothesis. But the anti-fat message went mainstream (largely thanks to the clever marketing of big business and their sugar-laden fat-free advertising campaigns) and by the 1980s it was so embedded in modern medicine and nutrition that it became nearly impossible to challenge the consensus.
  • the research that challenges the idea that fat makes people fat and is a dire risk factor for heart disease is mounting. New research suggests that it's the consumption of carbohydrates, sugar and sweeteners that is chiefly responsible for the epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Refined carbohydrates - like those in "wheat" bread, hidden sugar, low-fat crackers and pasta - cause changes in blood chemistry that encourage the body to store the calories as fat and intensify hunger, making it much more difficult to lose weight. A 2010 meta-analysis- basically a study of other studies- concluded that there was no significant evidence that saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Those results were echoed by another meta-analysis published in March in the Annals of Internal Medicine that drew on nearly 80 studies involving more than half a million subjects.
  • There is also a massive public misunderstanding of cholesterol and its role in the body. There are 2 types of LDL particles that carry cholesterol around the body- small, dense ones and large, fluffy ones. The large ones are mostly harmless - and its the levels of those particles that fat intake raises. Carb intake (and I would also add excess omega 6 intake and stress) seem to increase the small, dense particles that now appear to be linked to heart disease. When people get their cholesterol checked, I query whether their GPs are really checking the right markers. This is why having a GP with an excellent understanding of cholesterol is really important and to that end the only GPs I recommend and trust here in Sydney are the integrative medical practitioners at the U-Clinic in Surry Hills, being Dr Kate Norris (who I have blogged about before here) and Dr Min Yeo. If your GPs is not across this, you could be walking out of your GPs office with a lecture on needing to unnecessarily lower your cholesterol or, worse yet, a script for statins.

The article discusses the host of issues we face in overturning our vilification of fat:

  • First, one of the issues we face is that the demonisation of fats is so deeply embedded in western culture that even the mere words themselves "saturated fat" and "cholesterol" have become ingrained as dirty words. I try to use these words positively around my children (so a positive association is all they know) and to educate them and my clients on what the specific roles of saturated fat and cholesterol are in the human body and why they are essential to our growth and function and to perform our best. The best place to start changing perception is always education and leading by example.
  • Secondly it is going to take much time and education to dislodge the notion that eating fat will make you fat. It doesn't take much of an imaginative leap to think that this is true because fat is the very thing that jiggles around our waist and thighs. But this mantra needs to be overturned through an understanding of physiology and the role of fats in the body. In the same way that eating broccoli doesn't make you green, eating fat from natural sources doesn't make you fat. We are what we metabolise, not what we eat. Saturated fats from natural sources are used by the body for a host of important functions rather than just making a beeline straight for our waist. An excess of sugar and carbs get stored as fat, not an excess of fat per say that makes you fat. Look at the bodies of traditional populations (past and present eg Masaai warriors) who ate liberal amounts of saturated fats from natural sources- their bodies are lean and strong. Look at modern day proponents of traditional wholefoods - are they overweigh? And trial it yourself- what happens to your body mass index when you replace sugar and gluten with natural fats and animal protein? And lastly look at scientific studies like the 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine that looked at more than 300 subjects and found that those on a low fat diet lost less weight than those on high fat diets.
  • A third notion that needs to be dislodged is the calories in versus calories out. That is too simplistic a view. All calories are not created equal. Fats are calorically dense, yes, but they are also very satiating which means that you don't need to rape the fridge and pantry door every 5 minutes to feel full.

I salute the author of article for raising these issues even though the explanations presented might not have been as full or scientific as the issues deserve.

The Time Magazine article is a refreshing step in the right direction. It does not however adequately discuss the importance of source and processing of fats ie that not all fat is created equal. It does not make a distinction between saturated fats from natural sources (eg coconut oil and dairy, egg yolks, and meat from pastured animals)  on the one hand and processed/industrialised fats on the other  (eg vegetable oils, and unnatural saturated fats in the form of trans-fats found in margarine). Nor is there an explanation of the differences between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and in particular the importance of the balance between omega 3 and omega 6  polyunsaturated fats. However one step at a time is a good step in the right direction. Let's first plant the seed that it is sugar and refined grains, not saturated fats, that are the nutritional culprits to ill health. And the rest will all unfold in due course, one would hope.

It remains to be seen whether more and more articles like this will penetrate the walls of our government agencies and result in any formal change in dietary guidelines. What would be required is tremendous public pressure of a type that I am not sure that I will witness in my lifetime although I remain hopeful that at least this next generation of children will be exposed to an alternative point of view - a ground-swell of action that simply can't be ignored.  And I often wonder if the government fears what legal repercussions lie in store in turning dietary guidelines on their head. In our litigation-loving society, it's not a far stretch to foresee a plethora of law suits being taken by millions of Australians whose diet mostly consists of the Heart Foundation 'tick of approval' packaged foods laden with sugar and refined grains that largely contributed to their obesity and Type 2 diabetes. However, in a breadth of fresh air,  last year Sweden took the momentous step in becoming the first nation to reject low-fat diet dogma in favour or low-carb high-fat nutrition. Sweden's switch in dietary advice followed the publication of a two-year study by the independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment. The committee reviewed 16,000 studies published through May 31, 2013. The committee found that "Butter, olive oil, heavy cream, and bacon are not harmful foods. Quite the opposite. Fat is the best thing for those who want to lose weight. And there are no connections between a high fat intake and cardiovascular disease." When more and more progressive countries hopefully follow in Sweden's footsteps, maybe America and Australia will sit up and take note. But as Brian Shilhavy (Health Impact News Editor) so eloquently put it "the USDA nutritional guidelines favor the heavily subsidized crops of wheat, soy, and corn. The political forces are just too strong in the U.S. right now to allow any dietary advice that would cut into corporate profits and their production of cheap food to dominate world food supplies." Indeed.

sugarLast year Time Magazine published an article on the dangers of sugar which I blogged about here. Now all we need is for Time Magazine to publish an article on the dangers of gluten and industrialised oils and will we have public health largely back on track if the recommendations are implemented by the masses.

The war over fat is far from over. Consumer habits are deeply formed formed and entire industries are based on demonising fat. But here's what I think we (especially the parents among us) can do:

  • Question everything and encourage your children to question everything: Simply because a government or some regularity body or a teacher tells us something or legalises something (eg tobacco) doesn't necessarily mean that they are right or that the product is safe. Do you own research and make up your own mind. And get your kids to do the same when they are old enough. Don't hand over something as precious as your health to a third body. Take responsibility for it.
  • Question the validity of "studies" that are freely touted as gospel truth and toask whether the study was robust,  properly conducted and grounded in real science. Popular health magazines recycle mainstream dogma and flawed studies which become sticky and hard to debunk.
  • Consider whether what we are eating and drinking (and how we move, sleep, breathe, connect and play)  is broadly consistent with how our Palaeolithic ancestors or pre-industrialised populations lived, because we know (from anthropological evidence and the work of nutritional pioneers like Dr A Weston A Price) that traditional societies lived (in fact thrived) in a state of perfect robust health, free of all chronic illness and degenerative disease.
  • Encourage your kids to listen to their own bodies and ask how they feel after eating certain foods. I personally know how I felt and looked on a grain-based low-fat vegetarian diet versus a nutrient-dense traditional wholefoods omnivores diet.

When these things come together- when modern science backs up the wisdom of our ancestors and it accords with ones own personal experience-  what results is powerful shift in realisation and consequential action that can pull humanity out of our physiological demise and back to reclaiming and harnessing the beauty and potential of our species.