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    News — #immunehealth

    Eating Seasonally: Spring

    It’s September, which means spring and we can certainly feel the change in climate in sunny Queensland already! After a couple of months of warm, cosy winter stews and soups we’re ready to dive into some of our favourite lighter dishes again.

    Spring means warmer weather, leaves on the trees, flowering plants, and the appearance of fresh, light spring veggies. Spring is all about detoxifying foods that are refreshing and regenerating. They’re light and fresh, like crisp asparagus (a classic spring veggie), beets and green leafy veggies.

    We know that certain fruits and vegetables flourish at certain times of the year, and it’s a good idea to buy seasonal produce however because grocery stores stock just about everything all year round, it’s sometimes easy to forget what’s in season and what’s not. 

    A good tip is to take a walk around your local farmer’s market and see what kinds of produce are available – these will usually be the ones that are in season.

    There are many benefits to eating seasonally.  The food is at its freshest, tastes the best, is best for you, is more sustainable, and is usually cheaper. It also allows us to get back to the roots of local and sustainable eating, by supporting local businesses and our local community as a whole.  

    Seasonal fruits and veggies that have been allowed to fully ripen on the plant and picked at the peak of freshness are better quality and higher in nutrition compared to produce that is picked unripe and then transported to different areas or countries.

    Foods that are harvested in your local area at a certain time are also dealing with the same environmental factors that you are. For example, summer fruits and veggies are often higher in water content (e.g. tomatoes or watermelons), which makes sense given that during summer we are often hot and sweaty and need more hydration from our diet.

    Tomatoes also contain an antioxidant called lycopene which research has shown to be helpful in protecting our skin against the sun’s rays…so it does make sense why tomatoes thrive in warmer weather. Eating local sustainable produce allows for maximum nutrition that is tailored to your local environment.

    Eating foods that are in season gives you the opportunity to appreciate the foods that are available, and allows for more variety in your diet as seasonal foods are constantly shifting – a wonderful cycle that allows you to experience each food.

    We’ve been cooking dishes that feature lots of Spring seasonal veggies the past few weeks, like our one-pot Greek Chicken with Zucchini and Potatoes, and our Roast Fennel with Chickpea Skordalia, Grilled Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes. 

    What veggies are in season this spring? Print out our handy list of spring seasonal veggies and hang it on your fridge!

     

    How to Boost the Absorption of Curcumin + Immune-Boosting Turmeric Shot Recipe!

     

    Last week we posted an article on turmeric and the healing properties that are associated with its active ingredient, curcumin. We focussed particularly on the potential role of dietary turmeric in cancer prevention (if you haven’t read it yet, click here to be taken to the article). We mentioned briefly at the end of the article that using black pepper with turmeric can enhance the bioavailability of the curcumin, and we wanted to delve into that more here.

    We know that turmeric has been used extensively in Indian and other South Asian cuisines, and has often formed part of a “curry powder blend” alongside other spices and black pepper. These spices are then typically combined with onions and garlic, some sort of protein and vegetables, and a fat such as coconut milk.

    Well, it seems that this traditional style of cooking and ingredient combining is actually beneficial for our health and can help with the absorption of the curcumin compound present in turmeric.

    There is a particular plant in South Asia that was traditionally used to treat asthma, whereby the leaves of the plant were steeped with black peppercorns before using them to make tea. In 1928 scientists investigated this ritual and discovered that adding black pepper actually increased the anti-asthmatic properties of the plants leaves. It was important to note that black pepper didn’t work alone, more so it was the combination of the pepper with the leaves.

    Approximately 5% of black pepper consists of a compound called piperine, which is actually the cause of the strong pungent flavour of pepper. Usually, the liver banishes foreign substances by making them water soluble so that they can be excreted easily. The piperine present in black pepper actually inhibits that process, instead contributing to the increase in absorption of the substance.

    An investigation by scientists in 1998 revealed that taking ¼ tsp of black pepper with curcumin boosted the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%, and even just a tiny pinch of pepper significantly boosted levels.

    Further findings in the area of curcumin bioavailability have showed that fat can also help to boost absorption. Consuming curcumin as a whole food (fresh as turmeric root or dried and powdered) naturally enhances the bioavailability of curcumin due to the natural oils found in the turmeric. Fat from the turmeric oil helps the curcumin to be directly absorbed into the blood stream and into the lymphatic system.

    However, when curcumin is extracted from turmeric (for example to make supplement capsules), it loses its oils and bioavailability. For this reason, a healthy fat (e.g. some whole nuts or seeds) alongside a curcumin supplement may help to improve the absorption rate.

    If you like to consume your curcumin fresh in the form of turmeric root, then rejoice because turmeric root has all the oils necessary for absorption. Simply combine the turmeric with some black pepper (like in this wellness shot recipe below) and you will truly be harnessing the potential of this amazing golden spice pigment.

    In the Wholesomeness kitchen we love to maximise nutrition, that’s why we often add turmeric and a tiny pinch of black pepper to our vegan protein blends.

     

    Responsible health advice: There is no one size fits all approach to nutrition or the healing properties of food.  If you are unwell please seek professional advice.

    References:
    Gupta, P. K. Prajapati. A clinical review of different formulations of Vasa (Adhatoda vasica) on Tamaka Shwasa (asthma). Ayu. 2010 31(4):520 - 524.
    Shoba, D. Joy, T. Joseph, M. Majeed, R. Rajendran, P. S. Srinivas. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998 64(4):353 - 356.
    Anand, A. B. Kunnumakkara, R. A. Newman, B. B. Aggarwal. Bioavailability of curcumin: Problems and promises. Mol. Pharm. 2007 4(6):807 - 818.

     

     

     

    Author:
    Lisa Cutforth
    B.Sc Nutrition with Psychology (Dual Degree)
    Consulting Clinical Nutritionist to The Banyans Wellness Retreat
    Owner and Managing Director of Wholesomeness and Wholesomeness-on-Roma

    The Healing Properties of Turmeric: Could Curcumin Play a Role in Cancer Prevention

     

    It seems that not only is Curcumin a powerful anti-inflammatory, it may play a role in protecting us against cancer.

    The study of plant-derived substances has evolved in the last 200 years, after the discovery that different active compounds can be derived from plants and studied for their health benefits. One such compound that has gained a lot of attention is the polyphenol curcumin, which is present in the yellow-orange turmeric spice powder.

    Curcumin was first isolated in 1815 by two scientists from Harvard College Laboratory. Since then, it has been studied extensively for its powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and antiviral activities. In particular, it was found that curcumin could influence a wide range of molecules that play a role in cancer, and this unsurprisingly sparked a new area of interest among researchers – the study of curcumin and its anti-cancer potential.

    Since 1987, the National Cancer Institute has tested over 1000 different agents for their potential chemopreventative activities (meaning the ability to reduce the risk of, or delay the development of cancer). Only about 40 of those ever moved to clinical trials, with one of those being curcumin.

    Chemopreventative agents are usually grouped into three different subgroups:

    1. Antiproliferatives (substances used to prevent or slow cell growth, particularly malignant cells, into surrounding tissues)
    2. Antioxidants (compounds that protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals)
    3. Carcinogen-blocking agents (agents that disrupt the mechanisms that drive carcinogenesis, such as DNA damage)

    As identified by researchers in a 2013 review, curcumin is found to belong to all three of these subgroups, and appears to play a role in helping to slow and/or block every stage of cancer, findings which help shed light on the potential powerful anticancer capabilities of curcumin.

    Back in 1987 an interesting study examined the effects of curcumin on the DNA mutating ability of several toxins, and found that it was a successful anti-mutagen (an agent that helps to prevent the mutations of a compound) against several environmental carcinogens (however this was conducted in test tubes, not on humans).

    Following on from this, a 1992 study was conducted studying the effects of eating less than 1 tsp of turmeric every day for a month, on a group of non-smokers vs smokers. After the month was over, the smoker group saw significant decreases in DNA mutagens in their urine (however it still exceeded that of the non-smoker group, so it’s better not to smoke at all).

    There have been many more studies and systematic reviews conducted since then, focusing on the potential health benefits of dietary turmeric, with findings showing the inhibition of cell growth in many types of cancerous cells, shedding light on curcumin as an anti-mutagen and its potential usefulness in chemoprevention.  There’s certainly a lot of exciting research out there in the world of “food as medicine”.

    Tumeric has many other benefits and properties, particulary acting as an anti-inflammatory agent.  We love using it in our meals and our vegan protein powder blends.

    Turmeric can be purchased in powder form from the spice aisle of the supermarket, or as fresh turmeric root (looks a little like ginger root), which is also usually available from most grocery stores in the fresh produce section.  For enhanced bio-availability use pepper with turmeric.

    Do you have turmeric in your spice cabinet? If so, how do you like to use it? 

    Responsible health advice: There is no one size fits all approach to nutrition or the healing properties of food.  If you are unwell please seek professional advice.
     
    References:
    -Anand, P., Sundaram, C., Jhurani, S., Kunnumakkara, A. B., and Aggarwal, B. B. (2008). Curcumin and cancer: an “old-age” disease with an “age-old” solution. Cancer Lett. 267, 133–164. 
    -Nagabhushan M, Amonkar AJ, Bhide SV. In vitro antimutagenicity of curcumin against environmental mutagens. Food Chem Toxicol. 1987;25(7):545-547. 
    -Park W, Amin AR, Chen ZG, Shin DM. New perspectives of curcumin in cancer prevention [published correction appears in Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2017 Jun;10 (6):371]. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2013;6(5):387-400. 

     

     

     

    Author:
    Lisa Cutforth
    B.Sc Nutrition with Psychology (Dual Degree)
    Consulting Clinical Nutritionist to The Banyans Wellness Retreat
    Owner and Managing Director of Wholesomeness and Wholesomeness-on-Roma

     

    The Importance of Eating Antioxidants with Every Meal

     

     

    Firstly, what are antioxidants?

    Antioxidants are compounds found in certain foods that help to neutralise the free radicals (damaging molecules produced through the body’s process of oxidation) in your blood. In short, they help to protect our cells and DNA from damage that can lead to disease. That’s why it’s really important that we take in more antioxidants than we use up. In fact, the very act of eating increases oxidative stress, which is the attack on your cells from free radicals.

    Antioxidants originate from the plant kingdom, due to the thousands of antioxidant compounds found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Ideally, fresh produce should be sneaking its way into every meal that we eat. But, we know that that’s not always possible – takeaway nights, dining out, dinner at a friend’s house…sometimes it’s a little hard to eat healthy all the time.

    A few interesting studies have shed a light on antioxidants and their ability to counteract the negative oxidative effects of an “unhealthy” meal e.g. a meal that is high in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates, and low in whole foods.

    A 2010 review found that consuming fruits which are high in phenolic phytonutrients (health-promoting compounds) with an unhealthy meal (high fat, pro-inflammatory, low in nutrients) increases the antioxidant capacity of the blood and helps to counterbalance some of the negative effects of the meal.

    In another interesting study, participants were given standard breakfast items which caused a high increase in oxidized cholesterol in their blood stream 6 hours after the meal. However, adding a cup of antioxidant-rich strawberries to the meal kept the meal from contributing to further oxidation, and allowed them to eat lunch at a baseline oxidation level.

    A similar study found that eating a bunch of grapes with a meal resulted in a rise in blood antioxidant levels, leaving the body in a positive antioxidant balance for a few hours. The same results were found with blueberries.

    These findings highlight the importance of eating antioxidants with every meal, and if you can’t avoid an unhealthy meal, adding a side of berries or grapes to your plate may be beneficial in helping to maintain oxidative balance.

    A 2004 study found that out of all fruits, berries (e.g. strawberries, blueberries) were the best source of polyphenol antioxidants.

    Berries are on the dirty dozen, so organic berries are best. Keeping frozen berries on hand is also a great idea, and actually, frozen berries often have more antioxidants and other nutrients because they’re frozen shortly after picking. Essentially, frozen produce is often even fresher than what we call “fresh produce”!

     

     

     

    References:
    Burton-Freeman B, Linares A, Hyson D, Kappagoda T. Strawberry modulates LDL oxidation and postprandial lipemia in response to high-fat meal in overweight hyperlipidemic men and women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010;29(1):46-54. doi:10.1080/07315724.2010.10719816
    Burton-Freeman B. Postprandial metabolic events and fruit-derived phenolics: a review of the science. Br J Nutr. 2010;104 Suppl 3:S1-S14. doi:10.1017/S0007114510003909
    Ursini F, Zamburlini A, Cazzolato G, Maiorino M, Bon GB, Sevanian A. Postprandial plasma lipid hydroperoxides: a possible link between diet and atherosclerosis. Free Radic Biol Med. 1998;25(2):250-252. doi:10.1016/s0891-5849(98)00044-6

     

     

    Author:
    Lisa Cutforth
    B.Sc Nutrition with Psychology (Dual Degree)
    Consulting Clinical Nutritionist to The Banyans Wellness Retreat
    Owner and Managing Director of Wholesomeness and Wholesomeness-on-Roma

    New Study: Can Mushrooms Create Vitamin D from Sunlight?

     

    You may know of vitamin D as the “sunshine vitamin”, and for good reason. When we are exposed to the suns (UV) ultraviolet rays, our skin creates its own vitamin D, which then travels to the liver and then to your kidneys to be turned into active vitamin D.

    While Vitamin D is also naturally found in some foods such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, cod liver oil), eggs yolks, mushrooms and some fortified foods (cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals), the sun remains to be the best and most efficient source of this vitamin.

    Even though it can be quite easy to get your daily Vitamin D intake from sunlight (especially here in sunny Queensland, Australia), figures from Osteoporosis Australia state that over 30% of Australian adults have a mild, moderate or severe Vitamin D deficiency, which is about 1 in 4!

    There are a number of factors that can contribute to a deficiency in Vitamin D, including those who are housebound, the elderly, darker skinned people, medical conditions that can affect your ability to absorb/process vitamin D, and the issue of being able to be sun smart while also getting enough daily sunshine on exposed skin. Many of us have also been in isolation for the past few months, which has made it even more difficult to get our daily sunshine vitamin.

    A brand new systematic review by Blumfield et al., has found that eating just five UV exposed mushrooms can give you your daily required dose of vitamin D.

    According to the review, in order to boost the vitamin D levels in your mushrooms, you need to have them sitting in direct sunlight for 15-60 minutes. After exposing them to sunlight, you can store them in the refrigerator where they will remain vitamin D boosted for up to 8 days. Blumfield et al., states that “UVB-exposed mushrooms increase and maintain serum 25(OH)D levels to a similar degree as vitamin D supplements.” This was tested on individuals with and without a vitamin D deficiency.

    The study also highlights the other health benefits of mushrooms, including the ability to improve markers of metabolic syndrome, improve gastrointestinal health, and reduce risk of ovarian and prostate cancers.

    Now with the potential to provide us with our daily dose of vitamin D, there’s just so many reasons to love mushrooms! They are so nutritionally unique and can make such a powerful addition to your diet. Grill them, roast them, stuff them, add them to pizzas or risottos, soups or pastas. Get creative with them on #MeatlessMondays by using grilled portabella mushrooms on burgers, or making grilled shiitake skewers. There are so many ways to spice up your cooking with mushrooms! How do you like to eat mushrooms? 

    Reference: Blumfield et al. (2020). Examining the health effects and bioactive components in Agarius bisporus mushrooms: a scoping review. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 84.