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Gold Standard Nutrition News...

Stevia | A Natural Sweetener

Stevia is a small green plant bearing leaves that can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia creates an intensely sweet effect on the taste buds without raising blood sugar levels. It is therefore a GREAT alternative for people with diabetes and those wanting to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.

We should ALL try to limit added sugars and artificial sweeteners in our diet, however for people who do wish to add sugar STEVIA is a good option.

SUPERfoods or SUPERmarketing?

Hardly a month goes by without some type of food heralded as the new miracle cure for all of life’s health problems. These foods are usually reported to have been used for thousands of years by some ancient civilisation as a therapy in the treatment of numerous health conditions. The western world then learns of their supernatural powers and markets them as ‘Superfoods’

What are SUPERfoods?

‘Superfoods’ is the generic term given to foods considered high in nutrients that may offer some health benefit. Since there is no legal definition for the term, cleaver marketing has led us ALL to believe that we NEED these foods in order to be healthy and live longer, which is a little misleading. Over the last 10 years, Superfoods have skyrocketed to fame by claiming to possess healing properties to help treat a number of conditions.

Foods such as Goji Berries, Acai Berries and Wheat Grass Juice are all marketed to contain nutrients that may help fight cancer, treat diabetes, help with weight loss, slow down the aging process, improve heart health, improve vision, fight fatigue… the list goes on and on.

While it might be true that such foods are high in nutrients and antioxidants there is very little evidence, if any, that actually proves these foods have a curative effect on such conditions.

What is proven however, is that since these foods are marketed as Superfoods, you are required to pay top dollar for something that promises so much yet has no evidence to back it up. So, while ‘Superfoods’ are not necessarily bad for you, it is important to make an informed decision based on the facts...

There is no such thing as a ‘Superfood’ just clever marketing.

Instead, focus on a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, lean meat and healthy fats. That way you are ensuring good health for now and the future... But I guess marketing this isn't as sexy as super goji berries that can prevent cancer.

Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the most nutrient rich grains available. It is a good source of iron and B vitamins for energy, calcium and magnesium for healthy bones and nervous system function, and vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant.

Quinoa contains a good balance of all 8 essential amino acids, making it a good choice for vegetarians. Quinoa is also high in fibre and has a low GI, which means that it is great for keeping blood sugar levels stable.

‘Pills or Food’ - How do you get your daily dose of nutrients?

The supplement industry is a multi-million dollar business. Each year Australians spend around $500 million dollars on dietary supplements. With such a wide variety of healthy foods at our fingertips all year round, one needs to ask ‘have we become a nation of over supplementers?’

In this ever increasing, fast paced, stress filled, not enough hours in the day society - it is common to find that our diet takes a back seat as other priorities get in the way. The thought of simply ‘popping a pill’ in order to get the nutrients we need is all too attractive for some. Supplement companies are well aware of this and it only takes one visit to your local supermarket or pharmacy to see what I mean. There are supplements marketed to relieve stress, anxiety, improve the health of our liver, reduce inflammation, reduce cramping, improve sex drive, improve sleep patterns, reduce cholesterol, help our immune system.. the list goes on and on.

Yes, it is true that some people do require vitamin and mineral supplementation due to medical conditions and self-restricting diets (such as vegetarians or vegans). However, this accounts for only a small percentage of the population. The majority of us can get all the nutrients our bodies need from appropriate food choices. I guess here lies the dilemma though... our ability and willingness to make appropriate food choices.

For years we have known the benefits of a healthy diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, whole grain cereals, low-fat dairy and healthy fats. However, more and more of us are ditching these foods in favour of a supplement. This is disturbing, as what doesn’t seem to be talked about are the other health benefits associated with eating whole foods.

Consuming a good variety of whole foods not only provides us with the nutrients needed for a healthy mind and body, it also helps reinforce a positive relationship with food as we smell and taste our way to better health. Unlike popular belief, you DO NOT need to be a gourmet chef to achieve appealing, satisfying meals. Unfortunately, it seems that for most of us, when we realise that our diet is subpar we opt for a ‘pill’ instead of changing our food habits.

What’s even more disturbing, is that there appears some of us are taking supplements as a means to counteract the ‘unhealthy’ foods in our diets. Essentially giving us a license to over indulge. Hey we’re all human – even us dietitians. I have had my share of food indulgences over the years, but once we start placing too much importance and reliance on supplements to provide us with all the nutrients we need, I believe it reinforces and possibly promotes unhealthy eating practices as we slowly ‘forget’ what it takes to eat healthy.

I appreciate that many of you may be including some form of supplement in your diet and understand that you may not agree with me, but I ask you to truthfully answer this question: ‘why do I take supplements?’.

If your answer has nothing to do with the fact that you require them to help manage a medical condition or self-restricted diet, then my advice would be to look at your choice in foods FIRST.

If you feel your choices are not the best, how can you improve them? Remember, food offers additional health benefits other than simply being a vehicle in which to reach our nutritional goals.

Chia

Did you know that Chia was one of the four main crops during ancient Aztec civilisation? The other 3 being corn, beans and amaranth. Chia is the highest plant based source of omega-3 fats which helps heart health and cholesterol. The best way to include Chia in your diet is to add some to cereal, or my favourite... Add a tsp to your recovery shake after a big workout.

Clean Eating? ...or Stuck-up-ism out of Control?

It has come to my attention of late that from the powers to be (these so-called dieting gurus), that we are encouraged to become a society of proud dieters. To find solace and strength in depriving ourselves of certain foods, by following such heavily restrictive diets, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. We have become so involved with following particular diets that they start to resemble that of a cult, and no rational thinking or evidence to the contrary is going to change our minds.

There are many terms we use to describe our eating habits. There’s the carnivore – who’s diet typically resembles that best suited to a lion. The vegetarian – who even themselves find it difficult deciding whether it is appropriate to include eggs or dairy, so we had to split the meaning into three: ovo-lacto vegetarian, ovo vegetarian & lacto vegetarian. There’s the flexitarian – who mainly follows a vegetarian diet but allows for some exceptions. The vegan – when even the mere mention of meat or animal products sends shivers down the spine. There’s the fruitarian – who restricts themselves only to fruits, nuts, seeds and other plant matter. The raw food follower – who will not eat anything heated above a certain temperature, and finally there’s the omnivore – who includes a bit of everything in their diet.

Upon hearing these terms we get a good idea of the type of diet the individual follows and to some extent even their beliefs, and believe me some people take their dietary beliefs very seriously! But there is one term being used more and more to describe a person’s eating habits that I find extremely hard to swallow ‘clean eating’. Now, I’m not here to judge or question people’s choices in foods, we all have the right to eat what, how, where and when we choose (to an extent – cannibalism anyone??). The issue I have is with the term; it suggests that if you are not eating ‘clean’ then you must be inevitably eating dirty, and this unfortunately conjures up a whole range of negative imagery and starts us on a slippery slope toward a destructive relationship with food. We have enough anxiety about food and emotional eating in this country as it is, we do not need to make it worse.

Ask any health conscious, gym going athlete what clean eating is and if they aren’t currently following it, they at least know someone who is. So what is clean eating? Well there actually isn’t an accurate definition to what it means, so we’ve had to invent our own understanding to what it might entail. Whilst the specifics of whether particular foods are allowed or not varies from person to person and diet to diet, the main concept is a diet comprising predominately of unprocessed foods, grains, nuts, low-fat ‘natural’ dairy, lean meats/fish/poultry, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables whilst avoiding cocktails of food additives, chemicals and ‘junk food’.

Now, I might be wrong and going out on a limb here… but that to me sounds very much like a HEALTHY DIET! In Australia we have nutrition guidelines based on the results of hundreds of studies put together by the best minds in dietetics and disease prevention centred around this very principle. Hell we even have a you beaut picture in case you’re too lazy and can’t be bothered to read the 200+ pages the guidelines are printed on (which by the way is free to download).

Some variants of the clean eating diet requires you to restrict whole food groups such as dairy and emphasises the need for organic everything. Not only does this become expensive (and more than likely unsustainable), we are now venturing down the road of unhealthy, especially if you do not replace the nutrients from foods omitted on the diet. Other variants require you to juice most of your fruit and vegetables. While this might seem ok in theory, once you start juicing and throwing out the skin (which contains important fibre), you’re just left with a concentrated source of calories without the feeling of being full, which may result in consuming more energy than otherwise necessary.

One google image search of ‘clean eating’ and you’ll know what I mean. Why do we need to label a way of eating with such a black and white term, that it polarizes people so much it rivals the whole ‘good vs bad’ food dilemma?. Have we become that obsessed and stuck up,that it is no longer enough to simply eat healthy, but we also need to be eating ‘clean’ and taking it upon ourselves to look down our nose on those who aren’t?.

Again, just so we’re clear, I have nothing against the diet’s concept (as long as it doesn’t require you to cut out whole food groups), but let’s call it what it is, without the attitude or guilt… a healthy, well rounded diet.

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