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Well Being Articles: Nutrition

Nutrition

Food Labels - How to understand them

How many times are we told to read the labels on the food we buy? That's all well and good but one can spend hours reading and it won't really help unless you know what to look out for so here is a basic summary of what should make you sit up and take notice. Please note that most of the information for this post was taken from a leaflet for the World Cancer Research Fund, please visit their website for further information: www.wcrf-uk.org

Engergy:


Energy is measured in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), although many people also speak of just plain Calories (Cals). Generally it is accepted that to maintain a healthy weight, women should consume no more than 2000 Calories a day and men 2500 Calories. One Calorie is equivalent to 4,186 kilojoules so to work out your kilojoule allowance you would multiply the number of Calories by 4,186, you can also use the converter at: http://www.jsward.com/cooking/appendices.shtml.

Naturally, these are only guidelines and people who do sport and/or lead a very active lifestyle would need more Calories, children would need less.

Try to balance the Calories you take in with the Calories you use up through exercise and conscious food choices.

Protein:

On food labels, protein is expressed in grams (g). We need protein for growth and repair, it also plays a role in metabolism. When choosing protein to include in your diet, try to opt for fish, poultry, game or vegetarian sources such as tofu as red meat can be high in saturated fat.

What is Flax Oil ?

Flax Oil


Also known as flaxseed or linseed oil, flax oil is an important source of Omega-3 fatty acid or alpha-linolenic acid(LNA) which is essential to the body and is the precursor to other important Omega-3 oils, EPA and DHA.
Flax oil is the best oil for people with an omega-3 deficiency as it contains the largest amount of LNA, which is the strongest dispersing essential fatty acid. It is also suitable for vegetarians who may not wish to take fish oils. LNA helps to break up saturated fat deposits and cholesterol but must be taken with caution as if it is taken for too long it can actually start to cause Omega-6 deficiency.

Uses of Flax Oil:

Flax oil may contain a substance which resemble the prostaglandins which regulate blood pressure, kidney, arterial, platelet and immune function. In fresh or unrefined flax oil one can find lecithin and other phospholipids which help to emulsify fats and oils to make them easier to digest. It plays a role in calcium and energy metabolism and is useful for treating fatty degenaration in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Flax seeds contain easily digestible protein which contains all the amino acids essential to human health. Flax seeds are also an excellent source of fiber which amongst other things, helps keep our digestive tract clean and moving, free from mucus and toxic materials. Fiber also prevents bile acids and cholesterol from being reabsorbed into our body from our intestine, it softens stools, maintains regularity and prevents constipation.

Flax Oil can be helpful in treating dry skin, eczema and dandruff, it has been known to help in relieving some allergies and cases of asthma and may be useful in the treatment of depression.

It has been found to be helpful in relieving some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and also in the relief of conditions which involve edema.

Flax Oil helps to make the skin soft, hair shiny and nails strong and can shorten the healing time for bruizes as well as increase energy and a feeling of vitality.

Storage of Flax Oil:

Flax oil is best stored in a cool environment (preferable a fridge) in a dark glass bottle to prevent exposure to light and oxygen which destroy the health giving properties of flax oil.

How to take Flax Oil:


Flax Oil is best taken with protein, Johanna Budwig, a researcher in the field of oils, recommends taking flax oil with cottage cheese for best absorption. It can be used in salad dressings and over steamed vegetables.

Flax seeds make a good addition to mueslis and baking or stir-fries. The nutty flavour can enhance many dishes.

According to Udo Erasmus, author of Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, Flax oil should be a part of the intake of most of the population.

Bibliography: Flax oil as a true aid against arthritis, heart infarction, cancer and other diseases - Dr. Johanna Budwig.

Fats that heal, Fats that kill - Udo Erasmus

Staying Healthy with Nutrition - Elson Haas, MD.

By Lela Rabie

 

Dairy, Friend or Foe?

By Lela Rabie

There are varied opinions in the nutrition world about the benefits and/or drawbacks of including dairy in the diet. I have compiled my top 5 benefits and drawbacks for your interest. Please note that this is my personal opinion and in no way suggests that you should include or exclude dairy from your diet based on this opinion. Always consult your personal nutritionist before making any long term changes to your diet.

Benefits:

In no particular order, here follow what I consider to be the top five benefits of dairy products:

Probiotics:

‘Friendly’ intestinal bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are used to make yoghurt and as such, yoghurt can be an useful aid in digestion. Acidophilus yoghurt helps to reimplant normal colon bacteria, so yoghurt is a good food after having taken a course of anti-biotics which may have destroyed these bacteria. The friendly bacteria also aid in the production of many B Vitamins. In addition, yoghurt is low in fat and calories and contains good levels of calcium. Yoghurt is also helpful in preventing yeast infections in a woman’s vaginal tract.

Weight Control:

Milk is rich source of leucine, a branched chain amino acid. Because of the high leucine content, dairy proteins can help in weight control programmes. Leucine helps to increase fat loss and promotes lean muscle tissue, it also helps to regulate blood glucose levels. Muscle uses more calories than fat so leucine also contributes to weight control by helping to increase the muscle to fat ratio in the body.

Blood Pressure Control:

Casein and whey, both found in dairy, are rich sources of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitory peptides, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure in various animal and human studies. Thus consuming low – fat (full fat would contribute to high blood pressure) dairy products could assist in keeping blood pressure normal in individuals who struggle with high blood pressure.

Cheese:

Cheese is a high protein, high calcium food which contains good levels of Vitamin A and other minerals and if well tolerated and used sparingly it can be a nutritious addition to a well-balanced diet. However, moderation is key and low fat, low sodium cheeses are the healthiest options. Sheeps
or goats milk cheeses are available for those avoiding cow’s milk products in particular.

Source of short and medium chain fatty acids:

Butter, a dairy product, is a good source of short and medium chain fatty acids. It is a healthier option than margarine, especially with regards to the processing margarine undergoes in order to achieve the smooth end result. Butter also has antimicrobial, anti-tumour, anti-fungal and immune stimulating properties. Butter is also a good source of the trace minerals chromium, iodine, manganese, zinc and selenium. Butter also has the advantage of being directly absorbed by the small intestine. If good olive oil is not available I usually find butter to be a good alternative to melt over vegetables or use to stir-fry foods with.

Drawbacks:

Again, in no particular order, here follow, in my opinion, the top five drawbacks of dairy and dairy products:

High fat content:

Fat in milk and milk products could increase cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels which can create problems with high blood pressure and heart disease. Full fat milk products can include butter, cream, ice-cream and full fat cheeses and ‘drinking’ milk. Low fat versions are usually available (not for butter) but this affects the Vitamin D and Vitamin A content of those products.

Poor absorption of nutrients:

Excess consumption of milk and milk products for an extended period of time can cause poor mineral absorption in the intestines. This is because stomach acid is neutralised by milk which often leaves protein partially digested. Milk also causes extra mucous production in the intestines, this
mucous lines the intestinal wall forming a hardened lining with food residues and so it becomes difficult for minerals and other nutrients to be absorbed. Strangely enough calcium absorption suffers when has been drinking milk or eating milk products for a long time, this is because milk helps alkali forming putrefactive bacteria to live in the intestine, which creates conditions unsuitable for the absorption of many minerals, especially calcium. Thus even though milk contains high levels of calcium, the consumption of milk can prevent that calcium from being properly absorbed!

Cancer:

Recent studies have found a link between lactose and ovarian cancer. This is because lactose is believed to over-stimulate hormone production which causes tumour growth. High levels of oestrogen, which is found in pregnant cows has been cited as a possible contributing factor in the cause of breast cancer.

Osteoporosis:

There is an inverse relationship between calcium and protein. High protein intake results in calcium loss. As dairy is a high protein food, a high dairy intake could deplete calcium levels in the body, causing a higher risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.

Production of phlegm:

Consuming high levels of dairy causes the production of phlegm, often aggravating asthma. People with dairy sensitivities also find that consuming these products can cause outbreaks of eczema, removing dairy from the diet will often cause the eczema to disappear.

Conclusion:

I feel that if we all could consume raw, organic milk and milk products made from raw milk, which was not further processed or heated unduly then we could probably derive quite a lot of benefit from these products.
I don’t think that anything in excess is good for the body but a moderate intake of raw milk and milk products should not affect a healthy body in a negative way and can be a good and enjoyable part of a well-balanced diet.
I do not feel that the ‘evil’ here is necessarily dairy but rather the processing which changes that dairy. As with many things, the original, raw and organic version is best for us and the planet.

 

The Difference between Carbohydrates and Starches

By Lela Rabie

Some time ago at a client meeting, I was asked the question,'what is the difference between a carbohydrate and a starch?', well, to my own surprise and embarrassment, I couldn't answer! So here is the low-down on carbs and starches, I hope you find it as interesting as I do! All the information for this article was taken from one of my all-time favourite nutrition books: 'Staying Healthy with Nutrition' by Elson Haas MD. (ISBN:0-89087-481-6, Celestial Arts Publishing, Berkeley, California, 94707). Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

What is a carbohydrate?

Carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and are the product of photosynthesis in plants. As they contain carbon and come from living sources they are classified as organic molecules.

Types of carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are classified according to their structure and as such there are three main classifications: sugars, starches (there is the answer!) and fibre. Sugars are further divided into monosaccharides such as glucose, fructose and galactose and disaccharides such as lactose, sucrose and maltose. Starches are also known as polysaccharides or complex carbohydrates (because they are made up of long chains of glucose molecules, unlike mono- or disaccharides). Fibre is mainly found as indigestible cellulose in the coverings of cereals grains or the skins of fruits and vegetables.

So how is starch different to carbohydrates?

Well, as we can see above, starch is one 'type' of carbohydrate, thus a 'no-starch' diet will mean that you are cutting out one form of carbohydrate but not all of them. A 'no-carbohydrate' diet, if followed correctly(and technically) would mean that you are cutting out all forms of carbohydrates, which includes sugars and fibre. We all know that some sugar is needed in a healthy diet and fibre is a rather important part of good digestion so this leads me to say that probably a 'no-starch' or 'low-starch' diet is a slightly better option than a 'no-carbohydrate' or 'low-carbohydrate' diet. However, please note that it is in no way my recommendation that anyone goes on either of these diets. A healthy diet (even one for weight loss in particular) should include all the food groups, rather focus on eating the right kind of carbohydrates in healthy amounts than leaving them out all together.

So what are healthy carbohydrates?

Well, it depends on your individual needs. A sportsperson or athlete may require different kinds of carbohydrates than someone who is more sedentary in their daily life. However as a general rule of thumb, it is better to look at the complex carbohydrates (starches) such as whole grains(rice, corn), potatoes and carrots for sustained energy and some simple sugars combined with fibre in the form of fruits. Honey is also simple sugar which is a good source of 'quick-release' energy. Refined carbohydrates such as cakes and pastries are best avoided, not only do these products contain high levels of unhealthy fats, the carbohydrates they contain can elevate glucose levels in the blood and tissue, thus a diet rich in these foods could lead to blood-sugar imbalance and other sugar-related health problems. As always, moderation is key!

A final note on weight loss:

If you are trying to lose weight, try to investigate how you can change your entire diet to contain foods which are conducive to health and well-being rather than 'cutting out' or avoiding one type of food only. By removing a particular food or food group from your diet, you stand the chance of developing nutrient deficiencies later on and you are also not looking at why you are carrying excess weight and how you can improve your lifestyle and choices. Common sense goes a long way and in addition educating yourself about healthier foods is a good way of taking the first step on your weight-loss journey.

I hope this has provided some answers! As always, feel welcome to comment or drop me an email!