2

May

Unclogging The Confusion on Cholesterol

CholesterolCholesterol is sometimes thought to be an evil thing and completely eliminated from our body. It is actually an essential type of fat present in our body and is used for many things including structure and membranes of cells, hormone production and various other functions. Our body produces enough cholesterol for all of these processes and doesn’t necessarily need any more from our diet to assist in these functions.

As you know certain foods which we consume are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, if we consume too much of these foods through our diet this can cause excess cholesterol to be present floating around the blood system and consequently blocking the artery walls and causing heart disease. Our body is good at removing excess cholesterol from our blood stream via the liver. The main concern for excess cholesterol in our body is overtime it can lead to heart disease

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14

Mar

Diabetes: The Short And Sweet Of It

Jelly BeansAround 4% of the Australian population are diagnosed with Diabetes, of these 3 out of 5 people have other cardiovascular concerns and half of these people are overweight or obese.  There are many people at risk of developing Diabetes or may have Diabetes and be unaware of it. 

These statistics may seem scary, but the prevalence of Diabetes is on the rise and most of the time good eating and exercise can help reduce the risk factors and keep your blood sugar levels under control. 

When diagnosed with Diabetes, people tend to think that it is going to be the end of the world; that they have to avoid sugars entirely, cut out carbohydrates, or eat special diabetic food. This is not the case, you can eat the same foods as everyone else in your family, and the only recommendation is to monitor your carbohydrate intake, as these foods are what increase your blood sugar levels. Most research will suggest consuming low GI foods.  The reason behind this is that they are digested by your body slowly and therefore elevate your blood sugar levels slowly, which is better than consuming foods which sharply increase your blood sugar levels. The other benefits of low GI foods are that they keep you feeling fuller for longer, and may help you to manage or lose weight. 

It is also important for diabetics to eat regular meals and not skip any meals (especially breakfast). Your body easily regulates your blood sugar levels when you are consuming your meals at regular times throughout the day and that they are of the same caloric value. It is very important to not skip any meals, as this also doesn’t assist your body to maintain its blood sugar levels, or eating bigger meals some days and less on other days (try to consume the same calories on a daily basis).  

Keeping a food diary in the beginning can help people understand what they are eating where to make changes and how to swap certain foods for more healthier/appropriate choices.  Research has suggested that for those people who keep a food diary they are more likely to lose weight and maintain this weight loss. The main foods that you need to be aware of due to their effect on your blood sugar levels are those highly refined carbohydrates. Listed below are a few examples; swap white rice for brown rice, white potatoes for sweet potatoes, pasta for wholemeal pasta, white bread for wholegrain/wholemeal breads, sugary breakfast cereals for high fibre cereals and croissants and pastries for bran muffins. All of the foods listed as an alternative are high in fibre, low GI and won’t rapidly spike your blood sugar levels. Artificial sweeteners can be added to your diet in place of sugars, without adding excess calories, however be aware of the recent research around on the detriments these products can cause. 

Another important thing to remember, is it’s not just the food you put into your body that can elevate your blood sugar levels, it’s also the beverages, more importantly, alcohol. People will tend to forget but wine and beer contain carbohydrates (sugars) and also some cocktails (with fruit juices). All of these need to be consumed in moderation and being a diabetic you will need to closely monitor your blood sugar levels when drinking alcohol. 

Exercise should not be overlooking when devising an action plan to manage your diabetes in as natural a way as possible. For those diabetics/pre-diabetics exercise is important in weight loss and maintaining weight loss and is also thought to help improve your body’s insulin sensitivity. Slow exercise may be all that you need in the beginning, to get moving again and help you feeling good. 

For diabetics in our society today, it is not that hard to make a few changes to the way you eat to help you live comfortably with the condition. There are many great websites out there that offer advice http://www.ndss.com.au/ or http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/ and are a constant source of information and support. Also Australian chef Michael Moore has some great insights into the topic and has some great cookbooks and recipe ideas for people living with diabetes. 

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11

Jan

Going Mad For Dairy

Cow

Dairy foods are one of the five major food groups we need to consume on a daily basis and they provide many essential health benefits to help your body run effectively. 

The major nutrient found in dairy products is calcium, as well as potassium, phosphorus, proteins, vitamin D, A, B12, niacin, zinc and magnesium. These nutrients help benefit your body in many ways. They assist in weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight, sustaining healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis, lowering the risk of hypertension, kidney stones and heart disease, building and maintaining healthy muscles and even the prevention of some cancers. 

The recommended daily requirement of dairy products for Australian adults is 3 serves. A serve can be 250ml of milk (full cream or non-fat), 200g of yoghurts or 40g of cheese (preferably low fat). Most of the research conducted suggests that low-fat dairy options are the best due to the amounts of saturated fats animal products can contain and the lower caloric value low-fat alternatives have. 

The most important point we are constantly told when we are growing up is to drink milk for strong, healthy bones. This is important because obtaining calcium via foods, as opposed to supplements, is better absorbed by the body. Also if your body does not get enough calcium via your diet, it “steals” it from your bones to maintain adequate levels in your bloodstream. Over time this can lead to the onset of osteoporosis and other possible bone diseases. 

Recently, in society, more people are diagnosed as being lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products every day. Lactose intolerance means your body no longer produces the enzyme necessary to digest the sugars founds in milk, called lactose. The symptoms associated with intolerances are diarrhea, gastrointestinal distress and flatulence. Allergies however, are incurable and can cause more severe symptoms such as respiratory distress, digestive problems and skin disorders. For those people there are alternative sources of calcium and vitamin D that can be consumed in order to meet their daily requirements, including soya-based milks, spinach, broccoli and some bread. 

Overall, dairy products are back in fashion. They are a great way to keep your calories within the recommended daily limit and obtain essential nutrients your body needs to function. So make sure you have your 3 serves a day to ensure you are maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. 

 

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11

Dec

DASH: The Diet To Lower Your Blood Pressure

What is the DASH diet? Well it literally stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet is a low salt/sodium diet designed for those people who have high blood pressure, as a natural way to lower it. It has since been proven as an effective way to lower blood pressure as well as cholesterol, heart disease, stroke incidence, diabetes, kidney disease and to assist in weight loss. The main reason people are raving about this eating plan is that it provides you with an easy-to-follow-plan that relies on mainly fruits, vegetables and proteins, all fresh and wholesome foods. It is ideal for the entire family (adjusting the portions appropriately for those individuals who are wanting to lose weight).  So as well as being low in sodium, which is a huge factor to lowering blood pressure, this diet is high in fibre, low in fat and rich in important minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. 

The main point of this diet is the sodium or salt content. Almost 30% of Australian adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and changing their dietary habits can help to lower their blood pressure. Although many Australians have stopped adding excess salt to their meals, they are still over-consuming processed foods, packaged foods and restaurant foods, all containing a high salt content. The current recommendation for daily sodium consumption for a healthy individual with no health concerns is 2300mg/day. Those with hypertension or other heart-related health problems should be aiming for a figure of 1500mg/day. The only way to achieve these values in your everyday eating is to consume fresh, wholesome foods in your diet. The less processed the better and this is what the DASH diet is based on. 

The DASH diet action plan is a comprehensive book you can purchase which contains all the info and recipes for a 28 day meal plan, with varying calorie levels to cater for different people. It also provides you with information about how to eat out, how to read food labels, making good food choices and staying on track with your goals. The key feature of the book is being able to provide for you a high fibre, low calorie, well balanced meal of appropriate portions to help you achieve successful weight loss and lowering blood pressure levels. On a 2000 calorie diet you should be aiming to consume 7-8 serves of grains, 4-5 serves of fruits, 4-5 serves of vegetables, 2-3 serves of low-fat dairy, 2 serves of lean meat/poultry/fish, 4-5 serves weekly of nuts/seeds/legumes and very minimal fats or sweets. 

Alongside with these amazing results this diet has achieved for high blood pressure patients, it has also shown to assist in weight loss. If you have any weight concerns or have high blood pressure please talk to your Doctor and look at adopting an easy and healthy approach to your eating. 

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10

Dec

Hydration: How much water is the right amount of water?

Is it eight glasses, four litres, or the 3184ml that I found when I entered my body data into an online calculator?! The simple answer: drink to thirst. But that is not all. Climate, altitude, age and physical exertion all have their parts to play. Water consumption shouldn’t change regardless of weather, however when it’s hot we drink more and when it’s cold we don’t. At high altitudes the body actually becomes more efficient with how it uses and stores water with the body staying in a state of perpetual dehydration. In regards to age, once again the 8 glasses of water a day remains in effect; however, the further along in years you get, the more susceptible you are to the effects of dehydration. So does that mean I should start the day with a massive guzzle of water? There was, and as far as I know still is, the practice in the army that the first thing in the morning we all stood lining the hall and on command had to skull a full 2 litre water bottler before being allowed to start the day. Usually this would result in people choking, water coming out the nose or the solid water vomit onto the linoleum floor. That kind of water consumption is definitely not recommended. Spacing is the key. Drink often and drink regularly. Every hour on the hour if you really wish to regiment it.

However, drinking isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. Food accounts for 20% of our average fluid intake with fruits and some vegetables having higher concentrations than others. Also hydration comes from some other unlikely fluid sources. Despite popular, belief tea, coffee and even alcohol actually do assist in bringing the body back from the brink of dehydration. Even though side effects include having to journey to the toilet constantly or having a rather painful headache resulting from over consumption, the body will still filter out the fluids and use them in the daily functioning of the body. This however, doesn’t mean water can be completely substituted. 

Too much water can also be a bad thing. When the body is flooded with water the danger of hyponatraemia can become a real possibility. This condition occurs when the sodium levels in the body are so diluted that the body’s cells fail to function. Symptoms of hyponatraemia include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, appetite loss, restlessness and irritability, muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps, seizures, and decreased consciousness, and in worse cases, coma. This can simply be avoided with the right diet, a little extra salt on your meal, a sports drink, or a can of soft drink. Basically anything that has the right ingredients to give your body those much needed electrolytes after a particularly sweaty workout. Did you know 13% of the athletes who finished the 2002 Boston Marathon were in a clinically hyponatraemic condition.

So remember drink plenty of water before and during exercise. Then once completed drink some more with either a little snack or a good balanced meal. For longer more intense sessions such as my Military Circuit on Wednesday mornings or Tough Mudder, make sure you bring with you a little snack like a banana or a sports drink so as to keep those sodium levels topped up and your body in its best condition to keep working and working hard. 

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1

Nov

This Soup Is Too Salty!

Salt is a major part of our everyday diet and is mostly in everything we eat. It can also be referred to Sodium Chloride (NaCl), its chemical name, and is essential in controlling the water balance in our bodies, the pH levels of our blood and blood volume, in transmitting nerve signals, and in muscle contractions.

Unlike other minerals found in foods, sodium is overconsumed in our daily diets, about 50% above the RDI (recommended daily intake) of 1600mg for both men and women. Salt is found naturally in most foods we eat, in varying amounts, and in all processed foods, to either enhance the flavour or act as a preserving agent. Some extreme side effects to consuming a diet high in salt may include swelling of the limbs, high blood pressure, difficulty in breathing and heart failure. A deficiency in salt is rare due to the overconsumption in Australian diets. However, in some instances it may occur during prolonged illness, severe vomiting or diarrhoea, or via dehydration through excessive sweating. The symptoms associated with this may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, fainting or fatigue.

While salt does not cause you to gain body weight, as it contains no calories, excessive consumption through our diets will result in a temporary weight gain through the retention of water. This is why some “crash diets” which claim quick weight loss, rely on you eating foods that are low in salt and therefore causing your body to lose water (not necessarily fat), rapidly and when you begin to consume large amounts of salt in your diet again, the weight/water comes back on. This is why you need to be careful of such rapid dietary changes. Reducing salt in your diet can easily be achieved and is not just through table salt, but also through products such as bread, cheese, canned vegetables, and processed meats. All of these have hidden salts in their manufacturing. This is why it is important to check foods labels for packaged foods and always choose low salt options. Consuming more FRESH fruits and vegetables, which are high in potassium, will also help to balance out high levels of sodium in your body.

The other major concern of too much salt in your diet is its effects on your cardiovascular system, most importantly your blood pressure. It is not known exactly why, but it is believed that excess salt in your body causes an increase in water retention, which therefore causes an increase in blood volume and places an extra load on your heart. This is why it is extremely important to ensure you consume the RDI of salt and do not exceed this level too often. Although salt is vital for our body to function efficiently, too much in this instance is never good long term.

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