Author Archives: Michela DiTocco

Health Benefits of Tea

Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world, second after water and there are many documented health benefits of drinking the many available varieties of tea. There are many types of tea which can be consumed today including, black, white, green, red, oolong, peppermint and herbal teas. These studies have found that some teas may help with cancer (through high levels of antioxidants), heart disease, diabetes, assist in weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, lower stress hormone levels, help fight cavities and reduce plaque, keep your hydration levels up, aid in digestion, make you more alert and aware and can have antimicrobial qualities. Let’s explore the different varieties and their many health benefits.

Black tea, the most popular in the western world is either consumed with or without milk and sugar. Black tea is made with fermented tea leaves and has the highest caffeine content and high in polyphenols and flavonoids.

Green tea is very popular in the western world and increasing in popularity in the western world. It is made with steamed tea leaves, and it is thought that the antioxidants in green tea may inhibit with bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers. Its other benefits are to improve cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of strokes and neurological diseases, detoxify your body, help stimulate the metabolism and lose weight.

White tea is similar to green tea, as it is unfermented and has a high antioxidant value. It therefore has similar properties as green tea, like helping with some cancers, heart disease, anti-aging and boosting your immune system. It is rarer and more expensive than the above 2 varieties.

Herbal teas are usually made from herbs, fruits, seeds or plant roots and generally have a lower concentration of antioxidants when compared to green, white, and black teas. There are many varieties of herbal teas which all have varying health benefits. Some of the main ones include Echinacea tea which is great for oral issues and cold and flu symptoms. Chamomile tea is best for stress relief and relaxation, also used to help alleviate digestive problems and inflammation. Ginger tea is excellent for circulation, stomach aches and nausea (suitable for pregnant women). Peppermint tea is usually recommended for nausea and vomiting, IBS, stress relief and digestion problems. Red tea (or rooibos) is derived from a South African herb and is high in antioxidant properties.

Overall, there are many benefits to this underrated drink. So next time you go to have a warm cup of tea, think about the wonderful things you are doing to your body and how many amazing benefits it offers. 

Image Source

Carbohydrates: The Low Down on Loading Up

Carbohydrate loading can be a confusing term and is often misinterpreted in the sporting world. It is defined as a change in your training and nutrition that allows you to maximise your muscle glycogen stores prior to an endurance event, to perform better. Many people think that if they are involved in a sports team or a sporting event they need to “Carbo load” the night before. This is only necessary for people who are planning to compete in endurance events (longer than 90 minutes).

Any individual who will be exercising continuously for over 90 minutes at a constant pace will benefit from carbohydrate loading. People involved in sports like marathon running, cycling, long distance triathlons, cross country skiing, endurance swimming and hiking, will see the value of this dieting technique.

It has been proven through many studies that increasing your muscle glycogen levels, through a high carbohydrate diet, will delay the onset of muscle fatigue by 20% and improve your exercise performance by 2-3%.

The way to carbohydrate load is to change your training and eating during the lead-up to the event. This technique was originally developed in the 1960’s and involved a depletion phase and a loading phase. The depletion phase is where you would exercise to fatigue for 1-4 days and follow a low carbohydrate diet. Then for the loading phase you would taper off your exercise or rest for 1-4 days, prior to the event, while following a diet high in carbohydrates.

The best way to increase your carbohydrate intake is to include foods that are considered high GI, like sugars, cordials, soft drinks, sports drinks, jams, honey, jellies, canned fruits and lollies. It is also important to remember to reduce your protein intake and fibre intake during this phase. Another point to remember (and not to be concerned about), is that during this carbohydrate loading phase you may increase your body weight by a few kilos, through increased food intake and water consumption. This will naturally decrease after you finish the event and return to your normal nutritional ways.

Overall, if you feel that you will benefit from carbohydrate loading before an endurance event, it is important to speak with a professional about what is involved, to prepare yourself. Ensure that you do not make these changes too close to the event, to guarantee your body will respond well to this nutritional training.

Image Source

Nutritious Snacks

Snack AttackMany people choose to snack between meals, others not so much. Each individual is different in what their body needs, but most importantly, if snacking throughout the day, you need to choose healthy and nutritious snacks. Snacking between meals is extremely important for people who are diabetic, people who want to lose weight, young children and active people.

There are many positives to consuming small amounts of food throughout the day, including managing hunger pains, maintaining blood sugar levels, refuelling your body, preventing overeating at main meals, and obtaining more nutrients. Planning and choosing healthy snacks is important, because they can add fibre and essential nutrients to your diet, and help you avoid unwanted calories.

The best snacks are ones that are healthy, nutrient-dense food. There are many options for healthy snacks for both adults and children, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, high-fibre breakfast cereals, plain popcorn, canned fruit in natural juices, boiled eggs, low fat muesli bars, baked beans, low fat dips (like tzatziki), cup-a-soups, low fat dairy-based snacks (milk, cheese, yoghurt, smoothies, custards), wholemeal bread/rolls, rice crackers and natural nuts, just to name a few. If you are unprepared and need to choose processed foods for snacks, aim for low-fat, low-sugar options and low-calorie options.

There are many ways to include healthy snacking options into your everyday diet; just make sure you plan ahead, always have healthy, appropriate snacks on hand and don’t feel you always have to eat, just because its morning tea time. This will help you to lose weight, feel energised and enhance your diet.

Image Source

Breakfast…The Best Meal Of The Day & Why You Should Eat It

Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, and many studies have tried to define why this is important, and the benefits it can have for your wellbeing and weight loss.

A wholesome and nutritious breakfast, containing good carbohydrates, low fat proteins and fruits, will ensure you give your body the best possible start to the day. Some examples include natural muesli with Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit, poached eggs on sourdough bread and mushrooms and grilled tomatoes, porridge with skim milk and poached fruits and almonds.

Many studies say that eating breakfast in the morning, preferably before 8am, will allow your body to harness the energy provided to concentrate at school or work throughout the morning until your next major meal at lunch. These studies also say that children or adults who don’t eat a nutritious breakfast find it hard to concentrate, lack energy and will most commonly crave sugar later in the morning, causing them to reach for that morning tea muffin or biscuit or donut.

Another benefit of eating a regular breakfast is refuelling your body and giving it the energy to function. This avoids poor food choices at morning tea and lunch as you are starving by then and your body will eat anything at that point.

Studies have also shown that people who skip breakfast regularly tend to be overweight in comparison to those people who do not. It is thought that the reason behind this is that the body has gone more than 18hours without food, and these people will then tend to overeat at lunchtime and dinnertime, causing the body to then store all of this energy.

There are many great reasons to make the time and have breakfast every morning, if not to control your weight and kick start your metabolism, then to ensure you are getting a variety of vitamins and nutrients throughout the day. There are many great ideas for what you can eat for breakfast: the possibilities are endless.

Image Source

The Breakdown on Nutritional Labels

The main point of nutritional information on packaged foods is to provide you, the consumer, with a breakdown of the main nutrients in the food (for example proteins, carbohydrates, fats and energy).

The nutritional label on packages can be confusing. The first thing you need to understand is the energy. Kilojoules (KJ) and calories are two different forms of essentially the same thing. The bottom line with KJ/calories is that the more you eat the more you need to exercise to burn off those extra calories. Therefore, choosing products that are low in KJ/calories will allow you to not exceed your daily food intake and help to maintain a healthy weight. Next up is protein, any value for protein is good but anything above 7g per 100g denotes a high protein product (you would expect tuna or yoghurt to have a high protein value). Fats are the one thing people focus on these days. You can usually find the total fats, which you would aim to be fewer than 10g per 100g or less and the saturated fats (or bad fats) to be around 2g per 100g or less. It is more important for this value, saturated fats, to be as little as possible, because foods high with this value can cause heart disease over time.

Carbohydrates and sugars are classified in the same area, as when you break them down, sugars make up complex carbohydrates. For carbohydrate products you want the value to be 30g per 100g or less. This would indicate a low GI product. The next acceptable level would be 30-70g per 100g; this is most breads, cereals and pastas. Anything above 70g per 100g would be considered high and most likely not an appropriate food choice. Sugars are found in a lot of processed foods and can be the culprit in people not losing weight. Ideally if you want to make a nutritious choice you would aim to choose a product that is less than 20% sugars. For example, a breakfast cereal has 69g per 100g of carbohydrates and 22g per 100g of sugars, equating to 22% of sugars. Therefore, I would not necessarily recommend this product as something to consume daily, without further information regarding the product. However, it may be fine to consume occasionally.

The final value to be cautious of is the sodium content of packaged foods. Anything above 400mg per 100g is too high in salt and should be avoided. With today’s society and the addition of extra salt on foods it’s best to avoid any excess salt in foods – especially for those people with blood pressure problems or heart concerns.

There are many food label claims on products like “99% Fat Free”, “Low Fat”, “low salt”, “High in Fibre”, “Good Source of Omega-3”; the list goes on. You cannot just take the manufacturer’s claims as whole truths, and you will need to look more carefully at the nutritional information. For example, just because something is fat free or low fat does not necessarily mean it is good for you, as it may contain a high amount of sugar; that is why all of the information on the nutritional panel should be compared between products.

When using food labels to make nutritious food choices you must remember to compare the nutritional panel on the packaging and in doing so this can be an effective way to make sound choices in your everyday eating.

Image Source

Fats: The Good and The Bad

An everyday healthy diet should include some forms of fats, preferably the “good” ones, as they can be beneficial to your heart health. There are many different kinds of fats found in foods and it can sometimes be confusing, so let’s look at them and figure out which ones you can keep in your diet, and which of those we should eliminate.

There are 2 main types of fats: unsaturated fats (good fats) and saturated fats (bad fats). It is recommended by many health organisations worldwide that for a healthy or low fat diet you should include foods that contain good fats.

Unsaturated fats are “good” fats as they can help to improve blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy heart. Unsaturated fats are predominately found in plant foods like; vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and fish. There are 2 types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fats which help to lower LDL (low density cholesterol, the bad cholesterol), and raise HDL (high density cholesterol, the good cholesterol). Foods such as olive oil, canola oil, avocados, some nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pecans), and sesame and pumpkin seeds are all high in monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are great to help prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure and aid in brain development. Great food sources include flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, soya beans, walnuts, and oily fish. Both types of unsaturated fats should be included in your diet, preferably instead of saturated fats.

Saturated fats are the “bad” fats and having too much of this in your diet will cause your body to increase its total cholesterol levels by increasing your LDL levels, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease. An important point to remember is that the mix of saturated and unsaturated fats in your diet, not the amount of cholesterol you eat from food, is what has a greater influence of your total cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products like meats and chicken with skin, and full cream dairy products (milk, cheese and ice-cream). There are a few plant-based products which are high in saturated fats, namely coconut oil and palm oil. These types of food should be limited in your diet and always try to opt for a low fat option.

The best piece of advice in reference to fats is to try to limit the amount of saturated fats (from red meats and full cream dairy products), and replace them with unsaturated fats. This way your body will receive the important fats it needs to function efficiently.

Image Source