White potato has long been a staple food in many households even my own growing up. Whether it was mashed, roasted, steamed or fried it was always making an appearance. White potatoes are often criticised as being unhealthy, however if eaten in moderation and small amounts they do contain some nutrition including folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and potassium.
Mashed potato is particularly renowned for being loaded with butter, milk, cream or cheese which makes this fluffy, starchy, plain tasting vegetable taste even more delicious. While mashed potato gets a bad name and like all things it is best enjoyed in moderation there are ways to make it healthier.
‘Healthify’ White Potato
- Instead of using butter, milk, cheese and cream that is produced on cow’s milk dairy, try their healthier alternatives. Use a little olive oil, salt and pepper to flavour your mash. Use a small amount of grass fed butter with coconut cream or coconut milk. Try crumbling a little goat’s cheese or feta through rather than the more processed/harder cheeses.
- Try adding some cooked millet to white potato to bulk it up. Millet is used like a grain but is actually a seed and is quite fluffy in texture with a mild flavour.
- Try mashing half sweet potato and half white potato to get more nutrition. Sweet potato contains carotenoids some of which can be converted into vitamin A which is beneficial for vision and growth.
- Try mashing steamed cauliflower with some olive oil, salt and pepper or coconut milk. You could even add some nutritional yeast for those who are vegetarian or vegan and like the ‘cheesy’ flavour. Nutritional yeast is high in B vitamins.
Stress is a result of our bodies responding to a situation whether it be negative (fear or injury) or positive (love and excitement). Regardless the nature of your stress whether physical, mental, social or emotional it is how our body responds to the stressor that is essential. We naturally need some stress in our lives to motivate us, however it is when we find ourselves in a situation where we are unable to wind down and rest that causes havoc to our adrenal glands. I know all too well what this was like especially when I was working FIFO for 3 weeks at a time.
Cortisol and adrenaline are the main hormones produced by our adrenals during periods of stress. When we cannot switch off this ‘flight or fight’ response it becomes dangerous as our body cannot then switch off the production of hormones leaving us feeling tired, anxious, irritable, and weak. Often people experience gastrointestinal disturbances, sugar cravings and blood sugar disorders as well. This can lead to adrenal exhaustion when our body effectively shuts down, telling us it has had enough and needs to stop, rest, recover and reset.
Reduce your Stress
- Find a hobby or something you enjoy doing (yoga, walking, beach, reading, TV show, video game etc.) that allows you to relax and not think too much. Spend 30 mins doing an activity that you enjoy each day to unwind.
- Lay on your back with your legs up against the wall for 10 mins, to allow blood flow to go to your head and just breathe focusing on your breathing only.
- Become a planner. Start each day off with a list of what needs doing in order of priority making it realistic.
- Eat lots of wholefoods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean meats, legumes and pulses) to reap the benefits of nutrients and antioxidants.
- Try herbal teas (e.g. camomile, liquorice) which can provide relaxant properties and support your adrenal glands.
- Aim for 8 hours of sleep at night. If you do not get 8 hours of sleep don’t think too much about it, just focus on aiming to get 8 hours sleep the following night.
- Try to avoid TV, phone and computer lights an hour before sleep or at least 30 minutes prior to give your body the best chance of being able to fall asleep.
- Exercise regularly aiming for 30 mins each time – 4 times a week can boost mood.
- Enjoy quality time with friends and family.
- Limit caffeine during stressful periods. If you really need caffeine stick to 1 per day maximum) as caffeine enhances our bodies reaction to stress.
- Take a magnesium and B vitamin supplement to help support your adrenals and calm your nervous system during periods of stress.
- Practicing deep breathing exercises or try meditation can also help you relax and handle stressful situations more effectively.
Should I buy organic food is often a question I get asked. There are many mixed reviews and opinions on this topic that it can get quite confusing.
To be able to call food organic, producers need to be able to make/grow a product without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides or any other artificial chemicals. Synthetic additives and antibiotics cannot be added to animal feed either.
There are studies that either state organic produce contains more vitamins and minerals as well as studies that indicate there isn’t any real difference. Eating organically is often more expensive and not always readily available depending on where you reside. While I tend to try and buy organic fruits, vegetables and meat when I can, I do prefer to support the local farmers at the markets on weekends.
It is more important to eats lots of fresh fruits and vegetables regardless whether they are organically grown or not due to the nutrients they provide. The best thing you can do is always wash them first as close to consumption as possible and rewash produce that is packaged or sliced to remove any chemicals and dirt. Buy your fruits and vegetables in season as it is often cheaper, they taste better and they provide you with a variety of nutrients.
While I do love meat I tend to eat more fish, eggs, and vegetarian proteins myself, but I do like to buy organic chicken and beef as I believe it tastes nicer and I like knowing that antibiotics in particular have not been used in their feed.
At the end of the day you need to stick to your budget, buy seasonally and enjoy everything in moderation. Our bodies, if working well are very capable of eliminating substances that shouldn’t be there and will look after you if you take care of them.
Be mindful that foods labelled organic don’t always mean that they are healthier. Read the ingredients on the packaged foods first and try and stick to fresh wholefoods where possible.
If you do buy organic produce you will only be able to buy what fruits and vegetables are in season and the fresh produce may look a little different in shape and size due to growing requirements.
Iron deficiency is very common and can be linked to various different factors. Some of the most common include; low dietary iron (common in vegetarians and vegans), blood loss (menstruation in females and haemorrhaging), and poor ability to absorb iron (gastrointestinal conditions).
Low iron has always been something that I have struggled on and off with being Coeliac. Most of the time I am able to maintain good iron levels by watching what I eat, however there are times when I have needed to take iron supplementations over the years.
It is estimated that those who eat a vegetarian diet of non-haem iron only absorb 10% of dietary iron compared to those that eat a mixed meal with haem iron who absorb 18%.
Low iron levels mean that you have less oxygen available to your cells which results in fatigue, lethargy and lack of energy which are some of the most common signs and symptoms.
What can you do?
- Limit processed foods – these foods interfere with effective iron absorption.
- Limit caffeine – caffeine found in coffee and tea also inhibits iron absorption.
- Iron rich foods – animal meats, apples, apricots, asparagus, bananas, broccoli, egg yolks, kelp, leafy greens, orka, parsley, peas, plums, prunes, purple grapes, raisins, rice bran, squash, turnip greens, wholegrains and sweet potatoes.
- Blackstrap molasses – 1 tbsp twice daily is a great source of iron and B vitamins.
- Quite smoking – inhibits iron absorption.
- Reduce heavy metal exposure – try buying organic if possible.
A blood test is often the easiest way to have your iron levels tested and you can have the results back within a few days. Supplemental iron and vitamin C may be recommended to enhance iron absorption and vitamin B12 may also be recommended if you are vegetarian/vegan.
If you’re concerned that you may have low iron please speak with your health care practitioner today.
The Paleo Diet is a diet that I have often been asked questions about in terms of what my thoughts are on it and whether or not we should all be following it. This diet is publicised in the media quite a lot and in the cities especially where there are cafes/restaurants that focus on being ‘paleo friendly’.
Essentially the Paleo Diet has been referred to as the “Caveman Diet” or the diet of “Hunter Gatherers”; going back to the basics where only wholefoods were accessible such as; animal meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Foods such as; legumes, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and amaranth being excluded.
Legumes were by far a lot harder to harvest or collect thousands of years ago as the seeds were ejected from their pods as soon as they were ripe, however remnants of wild legumes were found 20 thousand years ago in hunter-gatherer sites.
- Legumes contain phytic acid which can be harmful to the body in large amounts but so do nuts, therefore this is why soaking legumes, nuts and seeds before eating is recommended.
- Legumes also contain a carbohydrate called galaco-ligosaccharides which is often problematic if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but so do some fruits and vegetables which usually has no symptoms in healthy individuals.
This raises the question as to why should legumes be avoided. If they do not cause any gastrointestinal discomfort to you then they should be included as a healthy plant food, as part of a healthy diet.
Buckwheat, millet, quinoa and amaranth are actually SEEDS, yes seeds, not grains. These seeds are highly nutritious, easily broken down and digested in the body and contain lots of essential fibre, B vitamins and other essential nutrients. They are also a great vegetarian source of protein.
Paleo to me is a lifestyle where grains and diary are often omitted because of how they are created or cultivated via modern human intervention. An abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables should ideally make up the majority of one’s diet, along with fresh fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Each and every person is unique, we already know this, same goes with how many meals should be eaten each day. Various factors such as; work and exercise commitments in particular have a big impact on timings of meals and how many meals are consumed.
Often we are advised that we should have 3 big meals each day plus 2 snacks, however this is not always effective for each person or practical. It is more important to take into consideration your lifestyle and focus on preparing meals that are macronutrient balanced (containing quality protein, carbohydrates and fats) to get the most out of each meal you consume.
I recommend always eating a good breakfast and lunch as this is when your metabolism is at its fastest and often when you are doing the most work. If you do not need a snack between breakfast and lunch that’s fine, you may find you need a snack between lunch and dinner instead.
I do recommend having a small macronutrient balanced snack before exercising to maintain blood sugar levels and to provide you with sustained energy throughout, followed by a meal after a workout to replenish and speed up your recovery.
If you have trouble with blood sugar levels you may find you need to have regular small meals throughout the day that are macronutrient balanced. If you wake up in the morning feeling nauseated or shaky, a small macronutrient snack before sleep and a small snack as soon as you awake can help alleviate this and keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
I do suggest that you do not go more than 4-5 hours without having something to eat to keep your metabolism strong and your blood sugar levels stable.
What my day looks like in terms of meals.
- 5:45am – small snack before exercising
- 8:00am – breakfast
- 12:30pm – lunch
- 3:30-4pm – snack
- 6:30pm – dinner
Interested to hear your thoughts on this topic!
Intolerance to lactose is not something that is new, however it seems to be more recognised today than ever with more and more people starting to notice the unpleasant side effects associated with consuming dairy products.
Cow’s milk dairy products are the main culprit here as the protein ‘Casein’ can be hard to digest and there is a high presence of lactose (main milk sugar) found in these products. When we are babies we naturally produce lactase, the enzyme required for effective digestion of lactose, found in breast milk and formulas, however once we are weaned off milk as a baby our bodies no longer produce large quantities of lactase. It is estimated that between 2-5 years of age we stop producing lactase, therefore to some extent we all become sensitive to lactose.
Some babies are not able to digest lactose well from the start and suffer from colic and other gastrointestinal problems. Quite often a high strength probiotic can assist here with aiding the digestion of lactose. Pure goat milk formulas are also great for relieving digestion difficulties in young children while also providing the essential nutrients for growth during the early stages of life.
Those who suffer from lactose intolerance often experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as; diarrhoea, bloating and gas that can last a few hours up to 1-2 days depending on their sensitivity. Trust me it is really not fun!
Natural yoghurts, full fat creams, grass fed butter and cheeses such as cottage cheese are often easier to digest as they contain smaller amounts of lactose. Lactose intolerant individuals often find that they can eat small amounts of goat and sheep milk dairy products as the proteins are easier to breakdown and digest as opposed to cow’s milk. ‘Meredith Diary’ provides a good range of these products which can be found in your local Coles or Woolworth.
If you’re worried about missing out on calcium there are many other plant based food sources that can provide adequate amounts including; tahini, almonds, soy beans, white beans, dark leafy greens, almond milk and other fortified nut milks, figs, sardines and salmon.