I have just spent a lovely week with the family in Bali for a wedding and like all holidays I read a book. I do love a good non-fiction book every now and then, but I am a sucker for a good textbook too! This trip it was more of the later, with a book I was recommended by a colleague called ‘Deep Nutrition: Why your genes need traditional food’ by Catherine Shanahan. It was well worth the read. It’s based around a Doctors research into tribal diets and the four main things every diet should have to reduce disease and keep your genes healthy. The word used is ‘epigenetics’. Epigenetics in a nutshell is the latest buzzword based on evidence that your genes are not locked or unchangeable structures passed down from your parents. Genes are dynamic and everything you do (food, stress, environment etc) can dramatically change the way your genes behave. This is really powerful news. She believes although our life expectancy is longer than 20 years ago by a few years, we are actually less healthy, with diseases occurring at younger ages. The increase in life expectancy is due to improved medicines, not improved health. Interesting?

So the four food requirements Dr Shanahan found that were the same across healthy tribal cultures worldwide are below:

1) Meat: The more fatty cuts. Cooked as rare as you can eat it or slow cooked. Always on the bone.

2) Offal: If you can stomach organs, they are super rich in every mineral known to man.

3) Raw Milk and Dairy (inc. Butter): You can buy this, although its not allowed for consumption due to Australian laws. I bought some this week and it tastes, looks and drinks like normal milk. Long story short, when you pasteurise and homogenise milk you break the fat cells membrane, making it near impossible for your body to digest. Dr Shanahan actually thinks this is the reason for lactose intolerances. I was super nerdy the other day and made my own butter (blog to follow).

4) Fermented and sprouted foods: I’m still getting my head around this point, but will keep you posted on my progress. I just bought sprouted bread twice last week. Once from the organic markets near me on a Sunday (Frenches Forest) and the other from my home delivery shop (The Organic Food Network). Both were yummy!

The final points are NO sugar, one piece of fruit a day only, NO vegetable oils.

The book goes right into the science of it all and also looks into maternal nutrition, conceiving and birth. Some interesting concepts are raised about western mothers having babies super close together and the problems that maybe associated with this. All theories, but quite believable. Hope you get to read this book!

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Organic vs conventional?

This is a hot debate. One that I am passionate about. I really do believe that organic food is better. Not only for its nutritional value but also for the benefits to agricultural land and our environment for sustainability. We buy our fresh fruit and veg from The Organic Network in Brookvale (ofn@bigpond.com) and it’s home delivered each week. Firstly, it saves so much time and secondly, because I always have a baby in one arm and getting groceries up from the car to my apartment is virtually impossible!

I read this article this morning and clicked through to the reasarch article. It’s well worth a look at. A young girl has been researching the benefits of organic food vs conventional in the health of fruit flies. The organic fed flies are ahead in leaps and bounds. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/17/is-organic-better-ask-a-fruit-fly/?src=me&ref=general

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Raw Food Craze

The latest craze I’m on at the moment is raw food. My first experience of raw food was a slice of lemon raw cake (that I initially thought was cheesecake) at Pure Wholefoods in Manly. Walter got me try it as it and I could not believe a raw cake could taste so good. It had not been cooked and was all organic…I’m in heaven! The recipe is a guarded secret, but over the years I’ll always get another ingredient out of them. Tumeric is used to get the bright yellow of the cakes top. Flaxseed, agave, shreded coconut and soaked walnuts contribute to the base with coconut oil holding it all together. There a few missing pieces to the puzzle but it really is something to try if your down in Manly anytime soon.

A few weeks ago I came across Amanda, the Raw Food Chef around the corner from me in Fairlight at The Raw Food Kitchen. I am planning to do one of her raw cooking (or lack of) classes this year. In the meantime I bought her beginners book, followed by a splurge on a magimix food processor (thank heavens for the January sales!) and I’m on my way to eating a few more raw meals at home. I think desserts by far have to be the best thing to do raw. We all know how to prepare a juice/smoothie/salad, but raw desserts are simply amazing considering there is no cooking involved and the end product is a delicious, nutrient packed, healthy treat that actually tastes like the naughty equivalent. No more feeling guilty!

Last night I christened the food processor and made Amanda’s Chocolate pudding (pic attached) and it was fabulous. Her recipe is as follows: 2 avocados, 1 coconut (juice and white flesh), 1 cup of almond milk, 3 medjool dates, 1/2 cup raw cacao powder, dash of vanilla extract, a few tablespoons of agave to taste (sweetener, you can buy this everywhere now) and a pinch of salt. Pop it all in and wizz it till combined. I served it with shaved coconut and mango, but you could do whatever tickles your fancy.

Raw Chocolate Pudding

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Check out this visual image of popular health foods and the evidence behind them. In each bubble you can see what it has evidence for. The info is from PubMed and the Chochrane datebase – the best source! Green tea, fish oil and cranberries are as you would expect are high on the list. Things with little evidence that may surprise you are golji berries, ginsing and acai. Things to watch are tumeric and krill oil. Tumeric can easily be added to juices and to your home made curry pastes. Curry pastes are actually super easy to make with a blender. I’ll pop up my favourite tumeric curry paste recipe later this week with some pictures.

Health Food/Supplement Evidence
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With only 12 days to go till my bubba girl is due, I thought I’d post some pics of my Pilates session yesterday. Through my pregnancy I’ve done studio Pilates sessions 1-2 times per week combined with swimming a few kilometers. Pilates has always been something I’ve done for overall conditioning, well-being and ironing out all the “niggles” you get from life/work. It’s always worked for me. During pregnancy has been no different. It has helped with:

  • Maintaining strength: by using the machines you can continue resistance training in a very safe environment for your body.
  • Maintaining flexibility: again in a safe environment, with assistance from the machines you can protect your ranges of motion with stretching to avoid over-stretching. This is common in pregnancy as there is that lovely hormone ‘relaxin’ that makes a pregnant womans ligaments lax.
  • Maintain a sense of wellbeing: it’s so easy (and I know this from first hand experience!) to give into the tiredness and over-eating and feel very guity about it. Yes you do need to listen to your body and rest more and you do need to eat a well balanced diet with the right intake. However, you will feel so much better when you maintain the right type of exercise.
Rememeber though, when you do Pilates during pregnancy there are precautions and contraindications that are generic for pregnant women and specific to some individuals. Make sure you are with a well qualifed instructor and do studio sessions where you can guarantee you are doing the appropriate exercises and doing them correctly to avoid any injuries. Pilates during pregnancy is really safe if you’re in the right hands! (not to mention fun!!!)

 

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Having just finished the book The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, I wanted to share with you some of the interesting ideas that were being explored. Some I have been exposed to over the years of study but they were told in another light that gave a sense of clarity to them.  All were backed up in the book by research.

Firstly I want to discuss what a “plastic” brain is. Plasticity simply means that it is mouldable and can change. For many years it was believed that the brain was like an electrical machine that could not change after the critical period (period from birth to approximately eight years of age). We now know that this is not the case and our brains are plastic and can have changes in a positive way even into our 80s and 90s. Here are a few simple ways from the book to help the brain stay active and reduce age-related cognitive decline.

  • Learn a new task. And that does not mean practicing a task you already know how to do. This means a completely new task such as a musical instrument, a language, a hobby or a new sport. Once we hit middle age we tend to stop learning new tasks. We change jobs less often, we are skilled in our careers, we rarely participate in tasks that focus our attention as closely as we did when we were younger.
  • The task must be something that requires full attention and the desire to learn, so make it something you have always wanted to learn or are really interested in. When we are really focused and have the desire to learn our brain releases chemicals from the nucleus basalis that assist with plasticity.
  • Walk as much as you can with your shoes off and on all different terrain to keep up the sensory feedback from your feet. As we age this declines and wearing shoes on our feet all the time for decades does not help either. Doidge suggests this can lead to improved balance and reduced falls.

As a final point you need to use it or you loose it! As age expectancy and our body’s lifespan increases to well into our 80s we need extend our mental lifespan to match it.

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