Aspartame – Deadly Neurotoxin?

Aspartame is an artificial/chemical sugar that breaks down into 3 components, 2 naturally occurring amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine) and methanol. It is found in many different types of processed foods/drinks including; lollies, yoghurts, chewing gum, frozen desserts, milk drinks, soft drinks, and many more. Generally speaking if something states it is ‘Sugar Free’ than aspartame is used. It is estimated to be 180-200 times sweeter than table sugar. It is permitted and considered ‘safe’ in Australia and New Zealand in specified amounts.

Aspartame is sold under other names such as Equal and NutraSweet.

Aspartame has been labelled a deadly neurotoxin as it excites the neurons in the brain which leads to neurons becoming damaged and dying as a result, therefore a common symptom that is reported is memory loss. Aspartame has also been shown to create an addictive effect once consumed on a regular basis.

People who suffer for Phenylketonuria (PKU) a genetic disorder where they cannot metabolise phenylalanine are unable to ingest aspartame and need to stay well away.

Other common symptoms that have been experienced and linked to the consumption of aspartame include: headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss and joint pain.

Researchers and physicians who have been studying the adverse effects of aspartame have also linked aspartame to triggering or worsening chronic illnesses including: brain tumours, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia and diabetes.

There is still much more research to be conducted before aspartame will be removed from foods and drinks, however if you feel that you suffer from any of the symptoms associated with aspartame consumption you are best to remove it from your diet and stick to wholefoods. Symptoms should resolve on their own if caught early enough, however please consult your healthcare practitioner should you require further information.

Lemon Juice & Apple Cider Vinegar

Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar have long be known for their assistance as digestive aids as they stimulate gastric juices in the gut to help breakdown food that we are about to consume. This occurs as they stimulate the liver to produce bile and as a result this helps to kick start your metabolism and assist the liver in detoxification. As a result this can reduce bloating, relieve constipation and boost the immune system.

I have seen clients who feel unwell and nauseous from consuming lemon juice or apple cider vinegar so this may not be your best option if you are solely drinking it for digestive reasons. Digestive enzymes may be a better solution for you.

Both lemon juice and apple cider vinegar have also be known to alkalise the body by reducing pH levels, however from experience with acid/alkaline balance in the body, these alone are not enough to alkalise our bodies. For starters we need to consume anywhere between 8-12 serves of vegetables per day to balance out the acidity that we get from everyday foods (i.e. animal proteins, grains and nuts/seeds) plus lifestyle factors (i.e. pollution, stress and exercise) and even this is quite often not enough without the assistance of a supplement.

Lemons contain vitamin C which can be useful in meeting your daily requirements, and lemon juice in water can also assist with calming an upset stomach and settling indigestion.

Proper organic apple cider vinegar is a fermented product and contains what is known as ‘the mother’. Acetic acid is the bacteria created during the fermentation process and is believed to be useful in controlling blood pressure, fat accumulation, reducing bad cholesterol and regulating blood glucose levels by also improving insulin sensitivity. It also appears to be effective in killing certain types of bacteria (i.e. E. Coli) and believed to have anti-tumour properties.

If you are not sensitive to drinking lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in water than I definitely recommend doing it first up in the morning and before sleep at night to support the liver. Please ensure that you buy fresh lemons and apple cider vinegar that still contains ‘the mother’ to get the maximum results. If you are unsure if this is something you should be doing or require further advice as to whether you should or should not be consuming lemon juice or apple cider vinegar please consult a registered health care practitioner.

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Fasting – Is it for you?

Toxins accumulate within the body overtime from sources such as; pollution in the air we breathe, food and water we consume, prescription medications we take along with many other means. Everyday the body attempts to adequately rid itself of toxins, however after a substantial period of time fasting can be a very effective way to eliminate toxins when symptoms such as; headaches, diarrhoea, depression and fatigue settle in more permanently than we would like.

Fasting allows the body to have a break from digesting food which allows the body to complete its detoxification process in full and to start facilitating healing. In acute illnesses such as; colon disorders, allergies and respiratory diseases, fasting can be very beneficial, whereas in chronic degenerative diseases it is not as effective.

Fasting has also been shown to regulate hormones, reduce systemic inflammation, boost the immune system, balance blood sugar levels, improve concentration and mental clarity, boost metabolism and aid in weight loss, reverse and slow down the aging process and to help people live a longer, happier and healthier life. Fasting allows the cleansing of the liver, colon and kidneys.

During a fast, liquids such as fresh vegetable juices, bone broths and herbal teas are often consumed as water alone can cause toxins to be released too quickly leading to many side effects that can be serious.

Fasting Suggestions – To Improve Overall Health

  • 12 hours fast – The easiest fast that one can do is to have no food between Dinner and Breakfast. This allows the body 4 hours to complete digestion and 8 hours for the liver to complete its detoxification cycle. This fast can be done everyday safely.
  • 14 hour fast (Women)/ 16 hours fast (Men) – If you are use to having 12 hours between Dinner and Breakfast this additional time won’t be too difficult to carry out. This fast is often suggested 2-3 times a week to reap the benefits. It is important for women in particular to stick to 14 hours without any food as opposed to 16 hours due to hormones, whereas men benefit more from 16 hours as it actually boosts testosterone.

Fasting can go for longer periods of time including 24 hours, 3 days, 5 days or 7 days, however it is best that you discuss these longer fasts with a qualified health care practitioner as these need to be done carefully.

Children should not fast, and people with chronic diseases should consult their health care practitioner before considering fasting.

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My Week On A Plate

I often get asked how I have some much time to prepare meals. Even though I do not have kids my life is still busy but a different kind of busy. It does help that I do enjoy preparing food and I am always happy to make time to prepare food, but that doesn’t mean that I have ample time to do it!

I generally do not get home until 7pm of after on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, therefore I need to be well prepared so I am not spending a large amount of time that evening or the following morning making meals.

On a Sunday I tend to spend a good hour in the kitchen preparing for the week. Often this looks likes roasting a bunch of vegetables (i.e. eggplant, zucchini, sweet potato, broccoli, capsicum and onion) and throwing together a quick salad (salad leaves, carrot, cabbage, green beans, sprouts, capsicum, cucumber etc.) whatever I have on hand from going to the markets on a Sunday generally. Then I alternate between the two for lunches and dinner while I’m time poor during the week.

I am also a fan of hard-boiling some eggs whether this be while I am winding down of a night time or first up in the morning before work. I also have tins of tuna/salmon, beans, chickpeas and lentils on hand at all times for days where I simply have had no time to cook. Otherwise I will cook up some meat/fish of choice and make double to pair with vegies or salad.

The nights I do have time to cook a meal I always make at least double as it never hurts to have a frozen meal for crazy days either.

Also a good idea to have some deli meat (i.e. turkey or leg ham) handy when time poor. Roast chickens from the deli also make life easier too, however I try not to do this too often. I eat a lot of fish and vegetarian proteins as they are super quick to prepare.

I am a fan of plant based protein powder and always have some on hand for breakfast of a morning. I often have a pancake for breakfast made on protein powder or a smoothie with some fresh fruit on almond milk. Otherwise I will fry up a few eggs in coconut oil and add some spinach and avocado.

For snacks I tend to eat:

  • Fruit with nut butter
  • Handful of nuts/seeds
  • Chia seed pudding with my protein powder
  • Homemade treat (if I had time to make something)
  • Smoothie (berries, nut milk, protein powder or nut butter)
  • Carrot/cucumber with hummus

week-on-a-plate

Keeping Cool & Hydrated

With warmer weather kicking in quicker this year with temperatures already rising to 30+ degrees this often means beaching it up, swimming in the pool, camping, fishing and many other outdoor activities. Often these activities involve lots of sunshine and drinking and I don’t just mean water!

Keeping cool and hydrated is important as we will have to battle with hot, humid and what sometimes feels like ‘unbearable’ weather. While sitting and sleeping in air-conditioning is also nice during the hotter months, it can still be dehydrating.

While we all know we need to drink a lot of water all year round (approximately 1.5-2L daily) and that’s the minimum, the taste can become boring for some people. We all wake up of a morning dehydrated after sleeping so we need start our day by rehydrating ourselves. The easiest way to do this is to drink 1-2 glasses of water upon waking. This also kicks starts your metabolism and lymphatic system to start detoxifying your body. BONUS!

Try these simple tips to help you stay cool and hydrated during these warmer months.

  • Coconut Water – it is a natural electrolyte, contains essential minerals and is quite tasty. If you are consuming alcohol why not add some coconut water as a mixer or use coconut water in smoothies.
  • Smoothies – smoothies are a great way to drink more liquid and can be mixed using a variety of different bases (water, milks and juices). Adding fresh fruits are also a great way to keep cool and hydrated for longer.
  • Fruits and Vegetables – contain a high percentage of water. Foods such as; watermelon, celery, cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce and oranges are all great sources of water as well as nutrients.

Herbal teas, fresh fruit, vegetables juices and plant based milks are also great sources of water and can make drinking water a little less mandatory and more appealing. Even adding some fresh fruit to your water to change the flavour slightly can make a huge difference to some people.

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Matcha Green Tea

Matcha green tea powder tastes exactly like green tea but stronger, so if you don’t like the taste of green tea you most likely won’t like this either! It definitely goes nicer with milk I have found, I am not a fan of drinking it on water unless you really enjoy the taste.

So why so much hype over this powder? Green tea is super high in antioxidants and catechins (in particular EGCg’s), which are required to combat oxidative stress to protect our cells from becoming damaged. These qualities alone have shown to reduce your likelihood of developing cancer cells in the body. The powder can also boost calmness, memory, concentration, energy and endurance due to the caffeine and the amino acid L-Theanine that it is rich in. It will also give your metabolism a boost while detoxifying the body due to the chlorophyll content (hence the bright green colour). The powder is more nutrient dense than the tea due to the different processing.

Matcha green tea powder DOES still contain caffeine, and if you suffer from anxiety, stress or gastrointestinal symptoms, you are still best to reduce/reframe from consuming caffeinated beverages.

How to consume?

It can make quite a nice latte made on preferably nut milk or full cream milk or can go nicely with a shot of espresso added to it. While I do not require any additional sweetener, some people do due to the bitter and strong taste. If this is you try a little stevia, raw honey or birch xylitol to keep it healthier. The Workshop in Rockhampton does a really nice Military Latte (matcha + espresso) and you can choose to have it made on any type of milk you like.

The powder is easily available through health food stores and prices do vary shop to shop.

Have a try and see what you think!

My 6 Favourite Supplements

With so many supplements on the market it can be hard to decide what you should be taking to improve your health in the present and in the long term. My favourite supplements include:

Multivitamin – A high quality multivitamin is a great daily supplement that can provide added nutritional support to anyone no matter your age, lifestyle or how healthy you eat. Our food is very deficient in many vitamins and minerals compared to how it is used to be and our lifestyles are very different to how our ancestors lived. Multivitamins make a great way to fill in the gaps and to give our bodies the vitamins and minerals that we may be deficient in. It will also help with giving us added energy and boosting our immune systems all year round.

Vitamin D – why would we require a vitamin D supplement when we live in Australia, especially in North Queensland? Absorbing enough vitamin D from the sun can be difficult as we often cover up too much, wear sunscreen and don’t allow ourselves a solid 10-15 minutes to stand in direct sunlight exposing as much skin as possible. The darker your skin, the harder it is to absorb vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is pretty much required for every tissue in the body to adequately function and vitamin D is required to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Vitamin D is also essential for supporting your immune system and neuromuscular system. It is also essential for regulating mood and makes you feel happier and less depressed.  Low levels of vitamin D pre-dispose you to a wide range of chronic conditions. Research now indicates that we need more vitamin D than originally thought and that diet and sun alone may not be enough to meet daily requirements.

Magnesiummagnesium is excellent for nervous system function as it provides a calming effect on the body. This helps our muscles contract smoothly, reduces anxiety and stress, aids digestion, promotes quality sleep as well as supporting various other body systems and functions. Stressors in everyday life in combination with poor diets are two main reasons why we require more magnesium than ever before to keep our levels within a healthy range.

Fish oil – fish oil is important for neurological and brain function and for reducing inflammation in particular. Our bodies are not capable of making Omega 3’s or Omega 6’s, however we often consume too many Omega 6’s as they are found in nuts/seeds and plant foods. In order to maintain the balance, taking a high quality fish oil supplement is ideal for the days where you are not eating fresh fish or foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds or hemp seeds to get your daily quota.

Probiotics – probiotics are fantastic for keeping your stomach happy and healthy by balancing out the good and bad bacteria. Having good gut bacteria means better digestion, better absorption of vitamins and minerals, improved skin health as well as keeping your immune system strong. We are exposed to various forms of bacteria and viruses daily and we are consuming more processed foods than ever before, all of which are the main culprits in throwing out this ideal balance.

Zinc – deficiencies in zinc are extremely common even though we eat a diet rich in animal meats due to factors such as; increased consumption of processed foods, medications becoming more accessible, and an increase in poor intestinal absorption. Zinc is a very important trace mineral that is essential for over 200 different enzymatic processes including; protein digestion, energy production, electron transport, RNA synthesis, bone metabolism, alcohol detoxification, and the normal absorption and action of vitamins, in particular B vitamins. It is also essential for a healthy immune system, reproductive growth, reducing acne, healing of wounds and burns as well as improve our sense of taste.

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