Reprogram your genes
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5 Steps to Reprogram Your Genes

There are fixed, heritable genes (such as skin and eye colour) and there are genes that can be influenced daily according to our lifestyle. These genes are continually directing the production of proteins that control how your body functions at every second of the day. Genes turn on or off (sometimes at a rapid rate) only in response to signals they receive from the surrounding environment – signals that you provide based on the food you eat, the exercise you do (or don’t do!), your quality of sleep, sun exposure and so on. Genes are like light switches that turn on and off and influence every element of body function. So, you are in the drivers seat to take control of your genes expression. Here are some tips for you:

  1. Awareness Start thinking about your everyday lifestyle and how your genes may be responding to it. Each day your genes will respond positively or negatively depending on how you are living your life.
  1. Exercise – The activity level of skeletal muscle modulates a range of genes that produce dramatic molecular changes, and keep us healthy (Neufer & Booth, 2005). Even one single vigorous workout can set off a chain reaction of health benefits through activation of key genes. Exercise can suppress the expression or genes that contribute to chronic diseases, whilst up-regulating healthy gene expression almost immediately. So, next time you’re sweating it out in a workout, know you are having a positive affect on your genes. It maybe the motivation you need to go that extra mile!
  1. Nutrition Studies have shown that different intakes of food can affect your gene expression through a process called methylation. Methylation reactions are critical for many bodily functions and need significant amounts of methyl groups from food to function optimally. We have known for many years that certain foods which are high in B vitamins help with methylation, such as cooked vegetables (especially green vegetables & beets), unprocessed meats and quinoa – but we also need other foods to make up a healthy, balanced diet.

CARBOHYDRATE AND GENE EXPRESSION

Recent research from the University of Science and Technology in Norway has shed light on the gene, expressing effects of certain types of diet. “We have found that a diet with 65% carbohydrates, which often is what the average Norwegian eats in some meals, causes a number of classes of genes to work overtime,” says Berit Johansen, a professor of biology at NTNU.

This has significant implications for people who follow recommended dietary guidelines and eat a diet that has 55-65% calories from carbohydrate.

“Genes that are involved in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer respond to diet, and are up-regulated, or activated, by a carbohydrate-rich diet,” says Johansen.

The researchers concluded that both high and very low carbohydrate diets were wrong, but carbs should be capped at 40% calories.  “A healthy diet shouldn’t be made up of more than one-third carbohydrates (up to 40 per cent of calories) in each meal, otherwise we stimulate our genes to initiate the activity that creates inflammation in the body.”

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

The Ritualize 80/20 food pyramid will give you a great balanced diet that is lower in carbohydrate and higher in fat and protein than traditional government guidelines. Eat plenty of fresh, locally grown vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit, as well as grass fed, free range meat and chicken, sustainable fish, legumes, nuts and seeds and drink plenty of water. Most of your fat should come from extra virgin olive oil and avocado, with moderate amounts of coconut oil, dairy and other animal fats as well as minimal amounts of processed fats and commercial vegetable oils. The big key is to avoid processed foods and eat mostly stuff that has been alive. Home cooking is always the best, but for the time poor, there are more and more healthier choices in supermarkets and grocery shops for a quick, easy meal.

  1. Stress – we have known for many years that chronic stress can have detrimental effects on your health, and we now know the biochemical pathways behind such negative effects. Even negative thoughts can stimulate the production of genes that increase our chances of chronic disease, but we need to understand the ‘Goldilocks effect’ of stress – we need a certain amount of stress to stimulate us and help us to adapt. This process is known as ‘hormesis’ and enables us to develop stress resistance. Just like an athlete can either under-train or over-train, we can get too little or too much stress. Athletes optimise their training by paying close attention to volume, intensity and duration, and so should we. During a period of prolonged and more intense stress, our recovery needs to be optimal – just like an athlete.
  1. Psychosocial – a number of other areas are emerging that can affect gene expression. We know that being socially isolated or rejected can up-regulate genes involved in dangerous metabolic inflammation, but being socially connected can have a positive effect on our wellbeing. Meditation has recently been found to suppress inflammatory genes and can even increase grey matter density and the practice of gratitude can enhance your mood and wellbeing. Doing a daily gratitude ritual, practicing a few 1-minute meditations throughout the day and taking time to connect socially will pay huge dividends over time.

The bottom line is that a range of interacting lifestyle behaviours affect our gene expression and our overall health. Eating well will give you the energy to exercise and exercising regularly will help you to manage stress and enhance your focus, as will regular 1-minute meditations and a daily gratitude ritual. This will put you in the right frame of mind to cultivate social relationships, which will make you more positive – a very positive lifestyle loop!

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Benefits of Basil
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Benefits of Basil

Adding herbs and spices to your dishes is not just about flavour.  There are a host of nutritional benefits and it’s a good idea to include them in your diet each day. Basil is one such example.  It evokes the aroma’s of Italian sauces and adds a perfect pop to a pizza.  It’s also really good for you.

One benefit is its anti-bacterial qualities, so much so that food scientists are currently looking at using basil oil in food packaging that will act as an antimicrobial agent, inhibiting the growth of food-borne bacteria. Another benefit is its anti-inflammatory properties, but what does this mean?  In general, eating food that inhibits inflammation is about reducing your risk of many preventable diseases in later life and improving your overall health.  It’s about using food as part of a disease prevention plan.  Basil has an active ingredient called Eugenol which has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help reduce the risk of cancer and diabetes.

It also is a great source of vitamin K (a nutrient important for bone health) and a ¼ cup delivers nearly a 3rd of your daily intake.

A great way to get plenty of basil into your diet is by adding pesto to your meals.  Add it to fish or chicken, stir through pasta, add to tomato and serve on toast or add it your pizza. Yum!

Don’t refrigerate your basil. Store at room temperature in a glass of water.  It’s best used on the day of purchase, as it wilts very quickly and get depleted of nutrients.  If you have any left over, simply process with a bit of olive oil and freeze it in an ice-cube tray.  Better still, grow your own so you only pick what you need.

BASIL PESTO RECIPE

Benefits of BasilBasil evokes aroma’s of fresh Italian dishes and can be eaten cooked or raw.  Not only is is so delicious, it’s also incredibly healthy. Read about the health benefits of basil here and enjoy this simple pesto recipe.

Ingredients

3 cups well packed basil leaves
1 cup well packed fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to cover when storing
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (leave out if you’re diary free)
Salt
Fresh ground pepper

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients (except the cheese, salt and pepper) in a food processor or blender and whizz to a smooth paste.
  • Stir in the cheese and add salt and pepper to taste
  • Pour into an airtight container and add the extra olive oil to cover the surface (this prevents discolouration)
  • Store in the fridge for up to 7 days or freeze for 3 months

Tip: Great with grilled fish, chicken or lamb or stirred through vegetables

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Creative Ways to Eat More Vegetables

Including loads of vegetables in your diet is so important for your health. Vegetables are incredibly rich in nutrients and antioxidants, which boost your health and help fight off disease. Additionally, they are good for weight control as they have a low calorie content. Getting the required several serves of vegetables can be hard for some people.Some simply don’t like them while others are unsure how to prepare them so they taste good.Here are some unique ways you can incorporate vegetables into your diet, so that you never get sick of eating them.

Veggie-Based Soups

Soups are a great way to eat multiple servings of vegetables at once. You can make veggies the “base” by pureeing them and adding spices. You can also simple cook veggies in broth or cream-based soups. Adding even a small amount of extra veggies, such as broccoli, to soups is a great way to increase your intake of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Try this easy Carrot and Ginger soup.

Zucchini Lasagna

Another creative way to eat more veggies is by making zucchini lasagna. Traditional lasagna is a pasta-based dish made by layering lasagna sheets with sauce, cheese and meat. It’s tasty, but it’s also typically very high in processed carbs. A great way to prepare this delicious dish so that it has a lower carb content and more nutrients is to replace the lasagna noodles with strips of zucchini.

Zucchini is a rich source of B vitamins and vitamin C, in addition to trace minerals and fiber.

Experiment With Veggie Noodles

Veggie noodles are easy to make, and a great way to get more veggies in your diet. They’re also an excellent low-carb substitute for high-carb foods, such as pasta. They are made by inserting vegetables into a spiralizer, which processes them into noodle-like shapes. You can use a spiralizer for almost any type of vegetable. They are commonly used for zucchini, carrots and sweet potatoes. Once the “noodles” are made, they can be eaten just like pasta and combined with sauces, other vegetables or meat.  Try this Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Prawns.

Add Veggies to Sauces

Adding extra vegetables to your sauces is a sneaky way to increase your veggie intake. While you are cooking sauce, such as a bolognese sauce, simply add some veggies of your choice to the mix, such as chopped onions, carrots, spinach or capsicum (peppers). You can also puree certain veggies with seasonings and make them into a sauce on their own.

Make a Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower is extremely versatile, and there are many unique ways to include it in your diet. One strategy is to replace regular, flour-based pizza crust with a cauliflower crust, which is made by combining cauliflower with eggs and almond flour and some seasonings. You can then add your own toppings, such as fresh veggies, tomato sauce and cheese.

Substituting cauliflower crust for flour-based crusts is an excellent way to enjoy the delicious taste of pizza, while increasing your nutrient intake. A cup (100 grams) of cauliflower contains only 5 grams of carbs and 25 calories, in addition to lots of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which flour-based crusts lack.

Blend With Smoothies

Smoothies are great for breakfast or a snack. Typically, they are made by combining fruit with ice, milk or water in a blender. However, you can also add veggies to smoothies without compromising the flavour.

Fresh, leafy greens such as kale and spinach are common smoothie additions and a great way to get a serving of vegetables. Try this Breakfast Berry Smoothie. Just 1 cup (30 grams) of spinach contains 181% of your daily needs for vitamin K and 56% for vitamin A. The same serving of kale provides 206% of your daily needs for vitamin A, 134% for vitamin C and 684% for vitamin K.

Add Veggies to Casseroles

Including extra veggies in casseroles is a another great way to increase your veggie intake. Casseroles are a dish that combines pieces of meat with chopped vegetables and often potatoes.

Left-over Veggies with Scrambled Eggs

In the western world we tend not to think of eating vegetables for breakfast.  However, there are opportunities. Heating left-over veggies and pouring in some beaten eggs is a tasty, nutrient dense breakfast.  Find the recipe here.

Lettuce Wrap or Veggie Bun

Using lettuce as a wrap or certain veggies as buns in place of bread is an easy way to eat more veggies. Lettuce wraps can be a part of several types of dishes, and are often used to make low-carb sandwiches and bunless burgers. Additionally, many types of veggies, such as portobello mushroom caps, sliced sweet potatoes and sliced eggplant make excellent buns. Lettuce wraps and veggie buns are an easy way to reduce your calorie intake while providing you with extra nutrients.

 Grilled Veggie Kebabs

Veggie kebabs are a great dish to try if you want to increase your veggie intake. To make them, place chopped vegetables of your choice on a skewer and cook on a grill or barbecue. Capsicum, onions and tomatoes work well for kebabs. You can also use mushrooms and zucchini.

Add Veggies to Tuna Salad

Adding veggies to tuna salad is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Try this Tune and Rice Salad.

Make Stuffed Capsicum

Stuffed capsicum is an easy and excellent dish to include in your diet if you want to increase your veggie intake. They are made by stuffing halved capsicum with cooked meat, beans, rice and seasonings and then baking them in the oven. Capsicums are a rich source of many vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A and C. You can increase the nutrition content of capsicum by including lots of extra veggies. Onions, spinach or cauliflower all work well.

Add Veggies to Guacamole

It is fairly easy to add veggies to guacamole, and makes for a unique way to increase your veggie intake. Guacamole is an avocado-based dip made by mashing ripe avocado and sea salt together with lemon or lime juice, garlic and additional seasonings.  Try this Easy Guacamole recipe. A variety of vegetables taste great when incorporated into guacamole. Capsicum, tomatoes and onions are good options.

You can also make guacamole with roasted vegetables.

Make Cauliflower Rice

A unique way to increase your veggie intake is by eating cauliflower rice. It is made by pulsing cauliflower florets in a food processor into small granules. You can then use it raw or cooked as a substitute for rice.  This Cauliflower Fried Rice is delicious. Even the kids will love it!

Cauliflower is significantly higher in nutrients than rice. It is particularly high in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium.

To Summarise

There are many unique ways you can include more vegetables in your diet. Make “rice” and “buns” with vegetables, or incorporate them into common dishes, such as casseroles and soups. By making veggies a regular part of your food intake, you’ll significantly increase your intake of fibre, nutrients and antioxidants. Eating enough vegetables is also linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, and may be beneficial for keeping your weight under control.

At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong eating more veggies.

Benefits Good Fats in your Diet
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Choosing the right olive oil for better health

Benefits Good Fats in your DietThe benefits of olive oil

We know the amazing benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), such as a huge array of beneficial polyphenols and fats that are good for your heart and brain. EVOO also has a high smoke point, so you can fry and bake with it, unless you’re cooking at very high temperatures (such as deep frying).

Not all oils are created equal

However – you may be surprised to know that know not all are created equal. When it comes to EVOO, you don’t always get what the label says.

There are beautiful EVOOs available in Southern Europe, but most of them don’t make it to Australia, and many export oils have been mixed with normal olive oil or even canola oil.

In addition, many small growers from the Mediterranean, who may have processed and bottled the olive oil themselves in the past, are now sending their olives off-site to a pressing plant.  This means olives may be left for several days waiting to be pressed, allowing the fruit to start fermenting, affecting the flavour and producing chemicals.

The oil from fermented olives needs to go through a process using chemicals, heat, pressure and filtering to be fit for human consumption. This removes many of the beneficial phytochemicals found in EVOO, which also reduces the health benefits.

Fortunately, there are now Australian Standards and testing procedures to ensure quality, and over 95% of the olive oil produced here is extra virgin. In addition, many Australian producers have a short processing time from harvesting the olives to turning them into olive oil, which is crucial to producing high quality oil.

Those EVOOs that pass the test will have a small certification triangle on the label, so an easy way to ensure that you get the best quality EVOO is to choose an Australian band with the symbol.

What is the best solution?

The best choice is a cold pressed, Australian brand in a dark bottle that has the certification triangle on the label. They do cost more, but in the case of EVOO, you are more likely to get what you pay for.  This will give you peace of mind that you are consuming a quality product with amazing health benefits for you and your family.

You may also be interested in reading our article on Good fats.

Micronutrients in Fruit
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Cooking Matters and the Benefits of Micronutrients

Micronutrients in FruitThe Benefits of Micronutrients

We know fruit and vegetables contain healthy micronutrients – vitamins and minerals, but did you know that different methods of food preparation can affect the levels of vitamin content and bioavailability (how well they’re absorbed).

It appears some micronutrients are most available and better absorbed:

  • eaten raw
  • if food is cooked
  • when foods are eaten with other foods
  • when their structures are broken down first (such as chopping or crushing)

For example:

  • The compounds in blue-red foods (called anthocyanins) such as plums or eggplant are digested relatively quickly.  Many types of anthocyanins, such as those in berries, are readily available and best eaten raw.
  • Water-soluble vitamins found in vegetables such as dark leafy vegetables and capsicum can be lost when cooked in water.  To preserve vitamins the best method is steaming, blanching, sauteing or roasting.
  • Micronutrients in tomatoes or many carotenoids in yellow, orange or red plants, are often better absorbed when cooked.

Micronutrients, such as those in dark leafy vegetables, become more (or less) available when combined with other foods.  Examples of this are:

  • Fat-soluble vitamins need fat to absorb them. So put olive oil, real butter, avocado or nuts with your salad or vegetables.
  • We need vitamin C to maximise iron absorption, so squeeze lemon juice over your leafy greens
  • Combining vegetables with extra virgin olive oil is the magic combination of the healthy mediterranean diet
  • Chopping or crushing garlic, then letting it sit for a few minutes before cooking, will release allicin, a powerful disease-fighting chemical.
Effects of antioxidant supplements
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Are Antioxidant supplements making you weaker?

Effects of antioxidant supplementsThe marketing of antioxidant supplements

We have been marketed to by antioxidant supplements for years, with their health and longevity benefits being touted no end. The theory goes something like this:

1. Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species, create oxidative stress and other cellular damage and accelerate the raging process.

2. Anto-oxidants neutralise free radicals and therefore protect against damage.

3. Therefore, if we consume anti-oxidant supplements it will enhance our disease protection and longevity.

Does the science reflect this theory?

Whilst there is good evidence for points 1 and 2 above, most of the studies in support of number 2 are performed in vitro, i.e., in test tube or petri dishes, and not in free-living humans. As for point 3, it may surprise you to discover that numerous clinical trials and metabolic studies show no benefit, or even harm, from using antioxidant supplements. Here are some examples:

  • A 2004 American Heart Association meta-analysis of 20 clinical trials showed no benefits for the use of Vitamins C, E and beta carotene in the prevention of heart attacks or strokes, and no reduction in mortality.  Importantly, the authors acknowledged that the scientific evidence from observational studies supports the conclusion that “a diet high in food sources of antioxidants and other cardioprotective nutrients” reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, they found no support for any benefits from the routine use of antioxidant vitamin supplements. 
  • A 2008 Cochrane Institute meta-analysis of 67 randomised clinical trials on antioxidant supplements (beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium) found no evidence that antioxidant supplements prevent mortality in healthy people or patients with various diseases. The authors said that “treatment with betacarotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality” and that “potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study”. 
  • A 2001 University of Washington randomized trial showed evidence of positive harm from taking a cocktail of antioxidants in patients on statin niacin therapy. The supplements reduced levels of HDL and increased levels of coronary blockage . 
  • A study at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute showed that cardiac stem cells cells that were loaded with high doses of antioxidants developed genetic abnormalities that predispose to the development of cancer. 
  • A 2009 study by German and American researchers found that daily supplementation with 1000 mg Vitamin C and 400 IU Vitamin E  during a 4-week exercise program by healthy young men suppressed improvements in insulin sensitivity and suppressed production of other protective genes observed in the non-supplementing control group. 

How is it that administering the same antioxidant chemicals that we are commonly told that make fruits, vegetables and herbs “protective”, actually appears to be ineffective or even harmful when taken as dietary supplements?

A clue comes from the last study quoted above – the 2009 paper that was titled “Anti-oxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans”. Exercise creates free radicals, which cause metabolic stress, and the body responds by up regulating powerful protective genes – this is a hormetic response (as covered in my last blog post). Researchers such as Edward Calabrese and Mark Mattson call these genes “vitagenes”, because they ramp up our own internal defences against free radicals, which are much more powerful that any pill that we can take.

By taking antioxidant supplements, we suppress the increase in our own internal defences that would otherwise occur in response to the exercise stress.

So, getting back to the antioxidant theory at the start of this post – what is missing in this theory is the role of our body’s own innate defences system for handling toxic chemicals like free radicals. While our immune system handles invading organisms and large proteins, another system is needed to deal with chemical toxins. It’s called the xenobiotic metabolism; and it’s broken into 3 ‘waves’ of protective enzymes – Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III, which act synergistically to protect against damage and disease.  

We must understand that the body is an adaptive system and it will adjusts to maintain a relatively constant state, known as homeostasis. The science of hormesis states that if you provide it with external “help”, it will reduce the effort in building its own internal defences.  Just as being sedentary results in muscle wastage and a decrease in fitness, it turns out that chronic consumption of exogenous antioxidants reduces the “pressure” on your adaptive stress response to ramp up its own endogenous antioxidant defence system.  In biological terms, taking antioxidants leads to homeostatic down regulation of the antioxidant response element.  This actually makes biological sense:  Why should the organism expend precious energy and resources building a defence system if the defence is provided for “free” through diet or supplements?

So it appears that, by consuming more antioxidants, we become dependent upon them and, perversely, we reduce our innate ability to detoxify.  So, now that we know that our endogenous antioxidant defence system is so potent, what steps can we take to build it up? We get the answers from the science of hormesis, and I will explore how to up regulate these powerful natural defences to disease in the next few blogs.

Sub-lethal poisons in food
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Get Your Daily Dose of Poison – Seriously!

Sub-lethal poisons in foodIn my last post I wrote about the fact that the marketing and hype around taking antioxidant supplements is not supported by the research – and that numerous research studies show that taking anti-oxidant supplements (especially individual supplements) may actually cause us harm – partly by down-regulating our own natural antioxidant defence system.

However, it’s important to differentiate between supplements and real food – fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of anti-oxidants, and they have them in a complex cocktail that is necessary to sustain life.

There are quite a few researchers who question whether the quantity of antioxidants in fruit and vegetables is enough to have a significant physiological effect in humans, and that the antioxidant defence model has been massively oversimplified. I (and many others) feel that we should be talking much less about anti-oxidants and much more about plant botanicals, or phytochemicals, in general.

Polyphenols are a sub-class of phytochemicals and some of them act as antioxidants (improving cell survival through complex mechanisms), whereas some act as pro-oxidants.

As we have over-egged (and over-simplified) the antioxidant story, I want to focus on the pro-oxidant story, which is really a story of hormesis in action. Remember from earlier posts that hormesis is the stress resistance that comes from sub-lethal exposures to toxins that would be lethal at higher doses.

It turns out that sub-lethal exposure to pro-oxidants in fruit & veg up-regulates protectives genes (increases gene expression), which not only increases our powerful anti-oxidant defence systems, but can also prevent tumor growth.

Let’s take the cells of our brain, known as neurons, and investigate how hormetic plant chemicals can protect against Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

WARNING – geeky science bit inbound!! – It is known that Galantamine (from the snowdrop plant) increases levels of an important neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (which is reduced by AD). Cathechinsfrom Tea, Caffeine from tea & coffee, and Capsaicin from capsicums/peppers help this acetylcholine to release calcium ions in the other neurons (which is how the brain works). Inside the neurons, the plant TOXINS Sulphoraphane (from brocolli), Curcumin(from the spice tumeric), Resveratrol (from grapes – and wine!) and Allumin(from onions and garlic) all help to increase the expression of protective genes, which produce growth factors as well as our endogenous anti-oxidants that combat the cellular stresses that create the damaged proteins that are teh hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease.

This is not a process that is exclusive to the brain – it happens in all of our cells and it turns out that the vast array of plant phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables play critical roles in cellular metabolism.

There are a long list of phytochemicals that have been broken down into numerous sub-classes (such as Flavenoids, isoflavones, Lignans and Cartenoids) and studies have shown that these plant phytochemicals protect us against Aging, Cardiovascular Diseases, Diabetes, Cancer and Brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.

The bottom line – eat real foods that we have co-existed with for millions of years, rather than eating a diet with significant processed foods and trying to off-set it with chemically manufactured supplements.

Lastly, remember that hormesis is about a sub-lethal exposure and that although many plant phytochemicals are great for our health, overconsumption of some of these can have both beneficial and harmful effects – soy isoflavines being one example. Eating a varied diet rich in fruit and veg will help keep you healthy –partly by exposing you to small doses of poison!

Grains in your diet
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For or Against the Grain?

There is so much in the media and the blogosphere about cutting out grains and living a life similar to that of the caveman through a Paleo diet. Although some of the claims of the Paleo community don’t stand up to good scientific scrutiny, there are many people who have seen incredible results including weight loss, reversal of Type 2 diabetes and autoimmune conditions, energy increases and more by adapting a Paleo diet.

However, we are not here to advocate giving up grains. If you can tolerate them (and lots of people can) then there is little reason to give them up. Our approach at Ritualize has long been to eat grains sparingly, putting more emphasis instead on other nutrient dense foods via the 80/20 Food Pyramid (see below). It’s interesting to note that nutrition Australia has very recently released a new food pyramid which is moving towards the 80/20 food pyramid by putting vegetables at the bottom rather than grains (we still think they have some work to do J).

Let’s talk about what we at Ritualize believe when it comes to eating grains:

In traditional cultures, grains are soaked and some sprouted before baking with them – as are beans and lentils. Even our grandmothers soaked oats before they made porridge. However, modern lifestyles have demanded that everything be instant, so we now skip that process. The thinking behind the soaking of grains (as well as beans and lentils) is that it makes them easier to digest, and removes some substances that the Paleo community refer to as ‘anti-nutrients’. If you think about it, grains are seeds, so in nature they don’t want to be digested, they want to be planted! The plants probably created these ‘anti-nutrients’ within them to make them difficult to digest, which would persuade creatures not to eat them. There are also certain compounds that stop the active enzyme activity of germination. So, if grains are soaked for a certain period of time, the sprouting process is started, which helps you digest them more readily – and makes them more nutrient dense.

In ‘western diets’, we consume far too much of 3 crops – wheat (in breads, cereals, pasta, etc., etc.), corn and soy (mostly through vegetable oils in processed foods). There are many ways to make better choices when it comes to grains and carbs in general. Eat a variety of natural, unprocessed grains, such as quinoa (strictly a seed), barley, cous-cous and oats. Wild rice, for instance, has almost twice the amount of fibre as brown rice. If you cook potatoes, cool them before eating. This increases levels of resistant starch, which bypasses the small intestines and goes straight through to the large intestines, where it feeds your good bacteria. There is now evidence that if you cook rice with a tablespoon of coconut oil, then cool it right down, the resistant starch is increased and the calories are decreased by 50-60% – that’s a win on 2 fronts!

And what about bread? I think even the most loyal of Paleo followers must crave a piece of toast at some stage (ok, maybe not, but many of us do). There are many grain-free bread recipes out there, but if you are eating wheat bread, we highly recommend buying authentic sourdough bread made the artisan way. The gluten, which is very high is mainstream breads, is consumed away in the 12+ hour fermentation process, so much so that up to 90% of the gluten is gone by the time and bread is baked. Not only that, it’s delicious! Next time you’re buying a loaf, consider spending a little more and get a true artesian sourdough bread, which you will find them at most good deli’s and farmers markets.

The bottom line is that Government guidelines have traditionally promoted unprocessed whole grains for their fibre intake, but most of the grains that we eat are the highly processed, nutrient depleted type. Instead of this, follow the Low HI (Human Interference) principles of our 80/20 food pyramid and get your fibre and resistant starch from vegetables and fruit, soaked beans and lentils and a moderate amount of unprocessed whole grains in different varieties – and prepare and cook in a way that optimises their health value.

Benefits of eggs in your diet
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What a good egg!

Eggs have had gone from good to bad and now back to good.  They are a great source of protein and good fats (if you buy free range eggs). Eating eggs for breakfast keeps you fuller for longer, so you eat less throughout the day, which can lead to weight loss. They are also good for your brain!

Don’t worry about the cholesterol as it has a minimal effect on your blood cholesterol and the link between blood cholesterol and heart disease has been completely over blown. Free range eggs have more Omega 3’s and higher in nutrition than cage eggs (plus they are happier chooks!).

Eggs are easy and versatile, so start eating them for breakfast and see what a difference it makes to your day!

Caveman theory
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We are all Cavemen in a Modern World

In the words of Charles Darwin: ‘It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’

Our species has become the most dominant species on earth, partly because it has adapted to change better than any other species. Genetic mutations are an important part of adapting to change, but it’s important to understand that genetic mutations take thousand, if not tens of thousands of years to spread through a species through natural selection.

This has important ramifications for us. There is a quote by a researcher called Frank Booth that appeared in The Journal of Applied Physiology in 2002 – “Our genome has not changed in over 45,000 years. The current human genome requires, and expects, us to be highly physically active for normal functioning.’

So we pretty much still have the same genome as we did in our hunter-gatherer days, but our environment has changed significantly. Rather than moving lots and having periods of feast and famine, the average person now moves a lot less and has food available on every street corner – much of which didn’t even exist 50 years ago!

We’re pretty much betraying our genome by living a life it’s not cut out for! By way of comparison, the average Australian office worker takes between 3,000 and 5,000 steps per day, whereas the Amish community (who shun cars and lead traditional lifestyles) take 18,000 to 22,00 steps per day – very similar to hunter gatherers!

What we now understand is the biological consequences of being sedentary – it has a very negative effect on our gene expression and can increase our risk of chronic diseases dramatically, as well as negatively affecting mental health. Exercise increases expression of protective genes, whereas being sedentary and chronically stressed shuts down expression of protective genes and increases expression of damaging ones.

Life as a Caveman vs Life Now

Imagine yourself as a caveman or hunter-gatherer and think about what sort of life you would be leading from the point of view of our genome. There’s no reaching for coffee, sugar or chocolate when the 4pm slump kicks in and certainly no sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day.

You’d be moving constantly, being part of a functioning tribe, hunting, gathering, looking after the tribe’s children and educating the young ones. The stress you would feel comes in spurts and is not constant. For example, there maybe a lion approaching and this will put stress on the tribe, but after it’s gone you are now safe, so the stress goes with it.   No desks, computers or TV, no traffic, deadlines, money worries or other sources of continuous stress.

Now compare your life now. How long do you sit each day? Do you use your car a lot? Do you feel stressed a lot of the time? If you’re hungry, you have food at hand and even when you’re not hungry, you may still eat because it’s there. How often do you eat fresh vegetables, fish and meat? How many packets of processed food are you opening each day? Sure, we have lots more enjoyable things now, but the impact of modern life on our gene expression is undeniably negative.

Our bodies are not designed to be this sedentary, to have an abundance of food (especially the processed variety), have continuous stress or even to cope with life without a tribe.

As a result, we are fatter, unhealthier and more depressed and anxious than ever and lifestyle diseases are now the biggest killer in human history.

 What do you do?

Awareness is the first step! Move more, eat fresh, natural food, join groups or spend time with family. Ritualize can help this process through small, daily rituals that add up to big results overtime. If you’re not part of the Ritualize tribe, check us out at www.ritualize.com. It’s a free, fun and effective tool for making long-lasting lifestyle changes.