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    News — #immunehealth

    10 Practical Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holiday Season

     

    Holidays are usually a busy time of the year, with lots of family gatherings, Christmas get-togethers and holiday traditions. Just because your schedule might seem a little more “full” than usual and your routine may be out of whack, it doesn’t mean that you have to kiss your healthy lifestyle goodbye! Sure, being surrounded by yummy holiday sweets and treats for a whole month can make it easy for your healthy habits to slip, but keeping your goals on track during the holidays is doable (with a little flexibility, which is absolute key. Click here to read our latest article on 3 healthy mindset changes to make during the holidays).

    We’ve put together 10 practical tips that will help to keep your healthy habits on track this Christmas season. 

    1. Be prepared. Prep ahead of the holiday season so that your house is filled with yummy wonderful healthy options. If you’re strapped for time, order a box of freezer-friendly Wholesomeness meals to set you up for success before the busy holiday season starts.

    2. Eat before you go. This is a great tip to avoid turning up to a celebration ravenously starving, ready to devour anything in sight. Make a quick smoothie at home beforehand or grab a Wholesomeness snack from your freezer for a nutritious pick-me-up.

    3. Be a great guest. Be a great party guest and bring a plate of something yummy and healthy that you made at home (like a huge salad or a delicious grazing plate with homemade dip and veggie sticks). That way, you’ll know for sure that there will something healthy to eat while you’re there.

    4. Load up on greens. If you see a salad or veggies at your holiday party, go for it. There will be probably be lots of other yummy things that you want to conquer first but eating a salad or veggies first will be best for your digestion and you’ll fill yourself up a little bit before going for everything else!

    5. Avoid fried foods. Skip the high-fat fried foods and go for the lighter options.

    6. Avoid heavy and creamy sauces. Avoid the heavy sauces and opt for the lighter options on offer – it will be better for your digestion and you’ll feel better after the meal too.

    7. Hydrate properly. Opt for a drink of water first, to support your digestion and prevent the dreaded “post-Christmas dinner” headache.

    8. Chew your food slowly and carefully. Use your senses to enjoy your food (taste, smell, touch, sight). Break your food down slowly with your teeth. When we eat fast there’s no time for our stomach to signal our brain that we are full, so try to pace yourself, chew your food and give enough time for your body to send you those hunger/fullness signals.

    9. Add a side of berries to your plate. Adding a cup of antioxidant-rich berries (e.g. strawberries or blueberries) to your meal helps to maintain a healthy oxidative balance, which helps counteract the negative effects of an unhealthy meal (check out our article on this here).

    10. Create your own gym wherever you are. This is especially relevant during the current Covid times, so many of you may already be pros at this! Even just walking up and down your stairs a few more times every day, picking up things/squatting, or dancing to some holiday music can be beneficial!

    How do you stay healthy during the holidays?

    Supercharge Your Brain Function with these 4 Powerful Plant Foods

     

    We know that our diets play a significant role in our overall health and wellbeing, but did you know that there is also a powerful link that exists between the food we eat and our brain health? 

    Recent research in the last decade has shed light on the incredible benefits of certain foods that are rich in plant phytochemicals on aspects of brain function, for example sharpness, mood, memory and critical thinking.

    Because oxidative stress and low-grade inflammation are major risk factors for cognitive decline, nutrient-dense, brain-supporting plant compounds play an important role in helping to supercharge our brain function and rewire it into high performance mode. Eating a diet rich in nourishing brain foods also helps to eliminate brain fog, protect against brain diseases and balance out neurotransmitters (which influences other parts of our health as well).

    So if you’re looking for a mood-boost, better focus, or a little extra sharpness, try reaching for these snacks instead…

    Blueberries

    Blueberries and other berries like strawberries, raspberries and goji berries are jam-packed with protective antioxidants and flavonoids. A 2010 randomized, double-blinded placebo-controlled trial found that when older adults consumed 1 cup of blueberries per day they experienced significant improvements in certain aspects of cognition, for example long-term memory. A few years later, a study found cognitive performance improvements across all measures in children, even just a few hours after consuming a blueberry meal.

    Walnuts

    Walnuts are bursting with ALA, the omega 3 fatty acid and super-antioxidant that works to scavenge free-radicals and repair and protect cell membranes in the brain. A study among college students in 2011 revealed that regular consumption of walnuts had a significant improvement on inference capacity, or critical thinking.

    Grapes

    Grapes are an amazing source of vitamins K and C (important nutrients for tissue health), resveratrol (a powerful anti-inflammatory plant compound) and antioxidants. In fact, the majority of antioxidants in grapes are actually found in the skin and seeds of the grape. Research has found that the consumption of grapes can influence performance across a wide range of tasks, in particular quicker response times.

    Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts)

    A small bowl of green veggies may not be the most sought-after snack, but benefits to brain performance could definitely be worth it…According to one recent study, consumers of cruciferous vegetables were found to perform better in several cognitive tests than non-consumers. Cruciferous veggies as well as other dark green leafy vegetables are natural superstars in the nutrition department because they’re literally bursting with healthy nutrients and vitamins. In fact, ½ a cup of kale has 50 times more lutein than an egg (lutein is a naturally occurring carotenoid that has been found to have an incredibly powerful role in neutralizing free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and lowering inflammation). Whenever we get the chance, we pack our meals with some brain-boosting green veggies, making them the perfect work lunch to support your brain for a productive and supercharged work afternoon J

    References:

    Lamport DJ, Lawton CL, Merat N, Jamson H, Myrissa K, Hofman D, Chadwick HK, Quadt F, Wightman JD, Dye L. Concord grape juice, cognitive function, and driving performance: a 12-wk, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover trial in mothers of preteen children. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):775-83. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.114553. Epub 2016 Feb 10. PMID: 26864371.
    Miller MG, Hamilton DA, Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B. Dietary blueberry improves cognition among older adults in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr. 2018 Apr;57(3):1169-1180. doi: 10.1007/s00394-017-1400-8. Epub 2017 Mar 10. PMID: 28283823.
    Pribis P, Bailey RN, Russell AA, Kilsby MA, Hernandez M, Craig WJ, Grajales T, Shavlik DJ, Sabatè J. Effects of walnut consumption on cognitive performance in young adults. Br J Nutr. 2012 May;107(9):1393-401. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511004302. Epub 2011 Sep 19. PMID: 21923981.
    Whyte AR, Schafer G, Williams CM. Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Sep;55(6):2151-62. doi: 10.1007/s00394-015-1029-4. Epub 2015 Oct 5. PMID: 26437830.

    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