Earth Overshoot Day, August 2nd

According to Global Footprint Network, today, August 2nd, is Earth Overshoot Day. That is, the date each year where humans have already exhausted a year’s worth of the world’s natural resources.

Earth Overshoot (previously known as Ecological Debt Day) measures the balance between humanity’s consumption with biocapacity, or the Earth’s ability to regenerate those resources. So in 7 months we’ve emitted more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb, felled more trees and consumed more water than the planet can produce in a year.


In the 1980s, we hadn’t reached this point until November. By the early 1990s overshoot fell in October. It shifted back to September in the millennium and reached 8 August last year. It was earlier still, this year.

Food makes up 26 per cent of our global footprint yet 1/3 of it is wasted worldwide. And if that isn’t sobering enough, only 1/4 of all that wasted food is needed to relieve the 795 million people in the world suffering from hunger and malnourishment.

food wasteIn the US, we’re serious offenders. Americans discard 70,000,000,000 pounds of food each year. That’s more than 20 pounds per person each month with the average American family of four throwing out $1,600 of food every year. (sources)


The good news is, we can take simple steps ourselves to reduce our own economic and environmental impact by planning our meals and buying only what we need (especially perishable food); boxing leftovers and eating them later (at restaurants and at home), composting food scraps and eating less meat, which is a lot more climate damaging than fruits and vegetables.

According to The Global Footprint Network if we cut food waste in half, ate less protein-intensive foods and consumed more fruit and vegetables, humanity’s total global footprint could be reduced to 16 per cent.

If you’d like to check out your own ecological footprint you can do so here at The Global Footprint Network.



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What on earth is nutritional yeast and what do I do with it?

What is nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast comes from the fungi kingdom, it’s grown on a food source, typically molassas, sometimes whey. Once harvested, it’s heated, dried and crumbled into yellow flakes.

It differs from bakers yeast in that it isn’t alive – so it’s not going to make bread rise, or your food frothy! Nutritional yeast shouldn’t be confused with brewers yeast either. Brewers yeast is also a single-celled fungus, and can also be taken as a nutritional supplement but it tastes really bitter and so is best to be left for the beer makers.

nutritional yeast nooch yeshi hippie dust bruflax

Are we going to address this whole name thing?

Well apparently I’m not the only one who finds the name nutritional yeast unappealing (particularly since it looks so unappealing also – think, fish food). Not surprisingly it has picked up a few nick names here in the US, nooch and hippie dust being the most common, which to be honest, I don’t think sounds much better!

In Australia it’s known as savoury yeast flakes, but I didn’t recognize it from my childhood until I realized it’s what we called brufax in New Zealand.

Yeshi, I’m told, is the Ethiopean name and I like that. It’s starting to stick. Shame re-imagining it’s appearance isn’t as easy.

Is it good for me?

Like pretty much anything, the nutritional value will differ between manufacturers – but in general, yeah, this stuff is pretty good to add to your diet, particularly for vegetarians and vegans.

A serving gives a decent amount of protein, and importantly, it’s a complete protein meaning that it has a good proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids which we require. Except for in a few cases (quinoa, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, turnip greens, soy and pistachios are a examples) most plant proteins don’t contain all nine amino acids, unlike meat, fish, dairy and eggs and so for vegetarians or vegans this can be a real advantage (of course, a diet with a wide range of plant proteins will have us covered too).

Added bonus for non-meat eaters, it’s often fortified with B12 (which there is no non-vegan food source for). It’s also good additional fiber, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium and zinc. Perhaps more importantly than what is in it, is also what it doesn’t contain: it’s low on sodium and calories and is sugar and dairy free.

nutritional yeast pizza

How do I use it?

Think of it as seasoning. It’s kind of nutty-ish, I guess.  You know those cooking cubes you pop in soup for more flavor? They often contain nutritional yeast – particularly the veggie ones. So just like that, stir a spoonful or two into a soup or stew. Sprinkle on cooked pasta, popcorn or eggs. It’s great on avocado, tomatoes. I remember people used to have it on toast in New Zealand – which is great for flavor but it’s kind of dry and dusty so for that reason that idea doesn’t appeal to me.

Nutritional yeast also gets called a ‘cheese substitute’ a lot – which leads me to this:

The yeshi pizza experiment.

Yeshi is probably best known in online-vegan-ville as a cheese substitute and so I decided to give that a go tonight. Although picking one of my least favorite things to eat (pizza – yuck!) as a place to start might not have been my wisest move, but I had promised the kids to make homemade pizza over the summer holidays and so my view was I couldn’t make it any worse with this experiment. I decided on a simple pesto base with fresh tomato topping. Sprinkled on oregano and basil and a good sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

There isn’t much to say about how to put pesto, tomatoes and flavoring on a pizza base so let’s just cut to the verdict: I think the whole ‘it’s just like cheese thing’ is a little misleading and in waiting for the yeshi to ‘melt’ as per every-blogger-who-just-plagiarized-every-other-blogger-saying-it-should-melt-without-bothering-to-try-it-themselves-instructions, I did overcook the pizza a little.

Take it from someone who has actually tried it,

nutritional yeast doesn’t really act like cheese.

However, I can say, that everyone enjoyed the end result, and for me, the pizza was edible (which is about as big a compliment as I can ever give pizza). It was a much more interesting flavor and a million times more appealing to me than typical pizza.

So for ‘cheese substitute’ I give it a 2/5. For tasty topping it would be a good 4 maybe even nudge a 5 stars for me.

nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute

Where can I buy it?

Most health food shops or even the health aisles of your grocery store are likely to have it. Of course Amazon is also easy peasy.  This is the brand I’m currently using Bragg and I also like Bob’s Red Mill brand.

The final word

While I think calling nutritional yeast, or yeshi, a ‘cheese substitute’ is a bit of a stretch, it’s going to remain a pantry staple for us and I look forward to using it as a seasoning and trying out some new ideas. I have seen some great nut ‘cheese’ recipes with it which look interesting, I’ll just call them nut spreads!



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Homemade Coconut Honey & Beeswax Balm

When it comes to skin care and bathroom products – I’m all about keeping it simple and natural, and a nice oil (coconut, olive, almond or avocado oil), beeswax and honey balm is my go-to for everything skin related.

Prior to industrial times, balms made from oils, honey and beeswax, clay and plants were used both as beauty and as healing products and these types of basic balms are still useful today and much more nurturing when void of unnecessary and sometimes quite nasty ingredients.

This easy homemade balm recipe contains just three simple ingredients, coconut oil, beeswax and manuka honey. It’s so quick and easy to make, taking me fewer than 30 minutes to whip up a batch.

This is perfect for dry skin (I even use it on my face), great for little scrapes, irritations and insect bites, gentle enough for the kids’ skin, and because I make it with no fragrance, even my husband is happy to use a bit when his skin gets dry.

You will need:

  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil (available from Amazon here)
  • 1 tablespoon of beeswax (available from Amazon here)
  • 1 teaspoon of manuka honey (available from Amazon here)

manuka honey coconut oil beeswax face mask ingredients

If you have a double boiler – great! If you don’t, a make shift one works fine. I just popped a smaller saucepan inside a larger one and that worked perfectly. If you are going to put glass in the top level make sure it’s heat proof glass and be very careful that the bottom doesn’t fall out when moving it.

Fill the bottom pan with a few inches of water. Combine the coconut oil and beeswax in the top pan and over medium-low heat, stir continuously until both are melted and combined well.

Take off the heat and add in the honey. Stir for a several minutes then allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes and give it another really good stir. It takes a bit of elbow grease getting the honey properly combined with the beeswax and coconut oil but you’ll want to make sure you’ve really stirred it in so that they honey doesn’t separate out again later.

Scoop out into a small glass container. When it’s totally cool, cap and store in the bathroom cupboard.

Why this is a wonder balm

Coconut oil – coconut oil is a fabulous natural moisturizer, smoothing out wrinkles and reducing cellulite, stretch marks and scars. It’s naturally antibacterial and is an excellent cleanser and make up remover.

Beeswax – beeswax provides a protective barrier for the skin and because it’s an anti-allergenic it is tolerated by most skin types, even skin that is usually quite sensitive. In addition, beeswax is a humectant (attracts water, so it’s hydrating), is a natural exfoliant and is very soothing on itches.

Manuka honey – manuka honey is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, reduces redness and is extremely hydrating and soothing so it’s awesome on irritated and acne prone skin without harshly drying out the skin.

homemade manuka honey coconut oil and beeswax balm

Variations on this balm

I like this mix because it’s really plain and simple, but if you’ve got a favorite essential oil go ahead an add a few drops of your choice.

The consistency of this balm is quite light if you want to make a thicker balm or to put it in a lip balm tube, then add more beeswax.

If you’re using the mixture as lipbalm, you may want to add flavor. Adding vanilla extract would make it tasty! (available from Amazon here).

You can also naturally tint your balm with beetroot powder, cocoa powder, turmeric or cinnamon.


Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is general in nature and for informational purposes. It is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. None of the statements on this site are a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. If you suspect you have a disease or health-related condition of any kind, you should contact your health care professional immediately. Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program. Cosmetic products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

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7 reasons why green tea is the healthiest beverage on the planet

Green tea is the healthiest beverage on the planet with its health benefits of tea observed since the first infusions of the tea plant 4700 years ago.

Of course, no one thing you drink or eat is going to counteract smoking, lack or exercise or a terrible diet – but sipping on this traditional Chinese beverage is an excellent choice for health and here are the top reasons why.

ancient china drinking tea

The #1 benefit of green tea

The thing that really makes green tea stand apart from other teas is the high catechin content. Catechin is a natural plant compound or polyphenol and along with flavanoids, tanins, theflavins and other compounds, are present in nearly all teas. The level of these antioxidants does vary widely, however, between species, climatic conditions and seasons.

Of all the catechins in tea, EGCG is the one that has been most studied for its health benefits. It’s content is much higher in green tea than other varieties because of the low oxidizing in the tea making process. EGCG is a powerful antioxidant reducing free radicals in the body.

Some of the catechin benefit will be damaged when green tea is made with boiling water, so brew your green leaves with hot, not boiling, water.

Green tea is good for the heart 

Studies show that green tea may reduce the risk of the biggest risk factors of heart disease and stroke. The catechin compounds in green tea are said to lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and are beneficial to arterial health.

While there is a possible link to drinking green tea and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, the addition of milk to the tea blunts these artery-relaxing effects so drink it green.


Green tea is a fantastic pick-me-up

Green tea contains caffeine, and in fact, the dried leaves contain more caffeine than the equivalent weight of dried coffee – however, by the time each are brewed in a typical cup, the cup of green tea will contain significantly less caffeine. Enough for a pick-me-up but not sufficient for the jitters or an afternoon cup to keeping you up all night.

Caffeine has been intensively studied and has been found to lead to improved concentration, memory, mood, vigilance, reaction time and focus.

As an added bonus, the amino acid L-theanine is also present in green tea and has a synergistic effect with caffeine. In combination the two compounds really boost brain function.

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain

Not only is green tea great for short term brain function, but it might be beneficial for the two most common age-related neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Multiple studies suggest that the catechin compounds in green tea might block the formation of plaque that is believed to lead to Alzheimer’s and protect our neurons, potentially reducing the risk of Parkinson’s.

This potential protective effect has been found to be stronger in women than in men.

Green tea can kill bacteria and inhibit some viruses

The catechins in green tea have another biological benefit. Green tea has been found to kill bacteria and inhibit viruses. This could lead to improved dental health, potentially lowering the risk of infection and reducing bad breath.


chinese tea ceremony

What about weight loss?

Unfortunately there is nothing you can eat or drink that will magically melt away pounds. Green tea has been shown to slightly boost our metabolism – although in real terms that probably means burning about an additional 70 calories a day so it’s not going to have a huge affect on weight without making some other dietary and lifestyle changes.

Where green tea may be of great benefit to someone who is trying to cut calories is it’s a smart swap for highly calorific sodas, sweet teas and syrupy coffees. Cutting a can of soda a day could cut 50,000 calories in a year – and that’s going to make a huge difference to both weight and overall health.

It’s relaxing

Studies have shown a link between stress and a poor diet and lifestyle choices. Learning how to rest is critical to our health. The L-theanine in green tea is said to have a calming effect and can be taken in pill form as a natural support for sleep and mood.

A more immediate benefit is taking the time to step away from the computer and take a tea break! I’m going to put the kettle on now!

green tea certified organic

The quality and nutrient levels in different green teas can vary widely. Camellia sinensis (tea bushes) love to absorb their environment so it’s important to look for organic tea so you’re not drinking pesticides. My recommendation is Zealong organic green tea, which is a premium award winning tea. The biodegradable bags are free of synthetic fibers, glues and bleaches. Healthier for you and for the planet. Zealong green tea is available here from Amazon.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is for general information purposes only and does not constitute, nor does it intend to constitute medical diagnosis or treatment or other professional advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regime.


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7 health benefits of manuka honey

Manuka honey is often referred to as an alternative medicine, however, with a growing body of scientific research into its therapeutic benefits, combined with a serious need to find a way to combat antibiotic resistant bacterial strains, manuka honey is now coming into the spotlight with legitimate medical uses.

arab-chemistThe healing benefits of honey have been known for thousands of years.  Dioscorides, the great Greek physician and pharmacist is attributed to saying, honey is good for sunburn and spots on the face and for all rotten and hollow ulcers. Honey heals inflammation of the throat and tonsils, and cures coughs. As it turns out, Dioscorides was on to something way back in c 60 AD!

Dioscorides wasn’t the only one, Hippocrates prescribed honey to be taken daily for health. Aristotle advised using honey as a salve for wounds and sore eyes. The wise Solomon praises the virtues of honey in the old-testament. The Romans used honey to cure pneumonia, pleurisy and snake bites. The Mayans used honey for treatment of cataracts. The healing properties of honey are mentioned in the Koran and it has been used in traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2000 years. We were still using honey in the trenches in World War 1 but the therapeutic benefits of honey got pushed aside with the advent and wide spread use of man-made antibiotics in the 1960s.

Antibiotics revolutionized medicine in the 20th century, and have together with vaccination led to the near eradication of diseases such as tuberculosis in the developed world. However, the effectiveness of man-made antibiotics and easy access has led to an overuse  and now there is a serious and increasing problem of bacteria almost inevitably developing resistance to antibiotics where they are extensively used. This is such a big problem that the World Health Organization has classified antimicrobial resistance as a “serious threat [that] is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country.” (1)

The good news is manuka honey is emerging as a possible solution. 

Attempts to generate honey-resistant strains of bacteria in the laboratory have failed and

the low chance of bacteria developing a resistance to honey

makes the use of manuka honey an attractive alternative for control of infection. (2)  


When antibiotics are used to treat infections the usual practice is to first identify the species of the bacteria and to test its sensitivity to antibiotics. This is done to select an antibiotic for treatment, ensuring that the antibiotic used is effective for that strain of bacteria. This is not necessary when honey is used. The very broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity of honey and the absence of strains of bacteria with resistance to it means that it is almost certain to be effective if a honey with an appropriate standardised level of antibacterial potency is used. (3)

Honey works differently from antibiotics, which attack the bacteria’s cell wall or inhibit intracellular metabolic pathways. Honey is hygroscopic, meaning it draws moisture out of the environment which dehydrates bacteria. Its sugar content is also high enough to hinder the growth of microbes and the pH level of honey being low (3.4 – 5.5) make a hostile environment for bacteria. It has also been recently discovered that in the process of the bees breaking down the glucose of the nectar the bees’ stomach enzymes produce hydrogen peroxide which also provides an antibacterial quality to the honey. The hydrogen peroxide levels of different honeys can vary widely, from almost untraceable to very high.

manuka flowerManuka honey comes from honey made by bees that have feasted on manuka bush nectar. Professor Peter Molan of Waikato University, New Zealand, was the first to report the unusual activity of manuka honey and began testing its action against a wide range of different bacterial species in the mid 1980s. Whilst it was clear manuka honey contained special antibacterial qualities, for a long time it was a mystery as to why. It has been quite recently that scientists have attributed manuka honey’s special antibacterial component to methyl gloxal (MGO). MGO results from the presence of dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a naturally occurring phytochemical found in the nectar of flowers of the Leptospermum species (the manuka family) native to New Zealand and Australia. (4)

A recent review of the scientific literature on the therapeutic uses of manuka honey found that in

97 research articles, 61 different strains of bacteria were tested.

To date manuka honey can effectively inhibit all problematic bacterial pathogens tested. (5)

No longer is manuka honey an ‘alternative’ treatment. As well as clinical trials, the anti-inflammatory action of manuka honey has been extensively observed in animals.  Animals are incapable of having attitudes that influence their healing process, such as believing a natural product is more effective or being influenced by a blog about manuka honey and healing. Thus, the positive results in animal trails can’t possibly be because of a placebo effect.

I’ve sorted the findings into the top 7 scientifically proven therapeutic uses of manuka honey:

manuka honey for wound careBurns, wounds and ulcers: One of the most extensively researched therapeutic benefits of Manuka honey is its use in wound care. Particularly for the treatment of chronic and infected wounds and  for the treatment of burns. It is now accepted by many medical professionals that some highly antibacterial honeys, such as a high grade manuka honey, hastens healing and promotes healthier tissue regrowth. Manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory effects reduce swelling, scaring, pus and pain.  The high sugar content of manuka honey has an osmotic effect, which draws water from bacteria cells and keeps the wound moist by mobilizing the fluid in the surrounding tissue. (6) Further research has shown Manuka to have increased healing and lower incidence of infection over the standard hydrogel therapy used for venous ulcers. (7)

MRSA other bacteria with multiple drug resistance: The main reason why medical professionals first try using honey on wounds seems to be because the wounds are failing to heal with best modern treatment. This is especially so in cases where the wounds are infected with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria such as MRSA which cannot be controlled by the usual treatments. Some scientists now suggest that regular topical use on cuts and infections (especially in the hospital and nursing home setting) may keep MRSA naturally at bay. For example, patients with kidney failure who have catheters for dialysis treatment have a risk of getting blood-stream infections from Staphylocci which grow on the catheters. The usual way of protecting patients from this risk is to apply the antibiotic mupirocin, but this long-term use of the antibiotic makes it likely that strains of bacteria resistant to mupirocin will develop. Honey has been found to be as effective as mupirocin in preventing blood-stream infections in these patients and removes the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. (8)


A case study: “Five years ago a 12-year old patient was submitted to our unit. Doctors at another hospital had removed an abdominal lymphoma, leaving an open drainage site on his abdomen. On admission, his wound was infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In order to avoid nosocomial spread, the patient was immediately isolated, a difficult situation for the child to comprehend with significant additional costs from the perspective of the hospital. Although the patient was scheduled to receive chemotherapy, treatment could not commence until the infection cleared. The wound was treated with a local antiseptic (octenidin) for 12 days. Since no improvement occurred, we decided to use a leptospermum [manuka] honey, a type with excellent in vitro activity against MRSA. The wound was free of bacteria two days later, and the chemotherapy against the underlying illness could be started.” (9)

Another case study: “A teenager had extensive deep infected skin sores resulting from meningococcal septicaemia. These sores had a heavy growth of Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus. They had remained non-healing for 8 months despite a wide range of treatments with various antibiotics and modern wound dressing products being tried. The patient was in a high-dependency unit in the hospital and needed a general anaesthetic for dressing changes on the sores because they were so painful. The cost of hospitalisation and treatment was estimated to be GB£1 million. After reading a publication of a laboratory study showing that Pseudomonas was killed by manuka honey the hospital staff tried using manuka honey dressings on the wounds. Anaesthetic was no longer needed for dressing changes. Within a few days, signs of growth of new skin on the sores were seen and skin grafting became possible as the bacteria were cleared. The patient was able to go home after two weeks of commencing the treatment with honey. Complete healing was achieved within 10 weeks.” (10)

manuka honey for gingivitisGingivitis and tooth decay: Several studies from the School of Dentistry in Dunedin, New Zealand found that sucking on manuka honey significantly reduced plaque and bleeding sites. (11)

Post chemotherapy and radiation care: Many cancer patients suffer from mucositis, a side effect of chemotherapy that attacks the entire gastrointestinal tract leaving the patient prone to ulcerations and infections. In a healthy person wounds in the mouth heal quickly, but chemotherapy does not distinguish between healthy and malignant cells and attacks any rapidly reproducing cells, including the important and beneficial cells in the gastrointestinal tract. 20–40% of all cancer patients receiving intensive chemotherapy suffer from mucositis, the number climbs to 80% when chemotherapy and radiation are combined, and staggers even higher in patients receiving treatment for cancer in the head and neck area. Open sores in cancer patients suffering from mucositis leave them susceptible to infection. One study found that just over a teaspoon of manuka honey just before, just after and 6 hours post treatment gave a significant reduction in mucositis. (12)

Strep throat: There have been several studies in the last decade showing how Manuka honey stops the growth of strep bacteria, the bacteria that gives you a sore throat. (13)

manuka honey for gastroGastroenteritis (stomach flu): Diarrhea and vomiting isn’t really a ‘flu’ but can be caused by a bacterial infection. Salmonella and campylobacter bacteria are the most common bacterial causes of gastroenteritis in the U.S. and are usually spread by undercooked poultry, eggs, or poultry juices. Salmonella can also be spread through pet reptiles or live poultry. E. coli, whilst less common, is another bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis. (14)

Small intestine bacterial overgrown (SIBO), low stomach acid or acid reflux:  A recent study found that bacteria found in all three of these conditions were susceptible to Manuka honey’s bactericidal effects. Taking Manuka honey is beneficial for reducing acid reflux and balancing your digestive system. (15)

There is more manuka honey research coming out every month, with small studies and a heap of anecdotal evidence for using manuka honey on eczema, acne, psoriasis, ring worm, sunburn and rashes, IBS / IBD, stomach ulcers, gastritis and bronchitis. Research is also being conducted in using honey in opthamology and the treatment of cancer so there are lots of exciting things happening in manuka honey research.

8.-what-tahi-honey-bee-sure-quality-certificationWhilst there are no known adverse effects of manuka honey all medical treatment should be under the supervision of your primary health care professional. The very complex and rather unpredictable nature of honey is challenging for scientists and medical practitioners alike. Since honey is a natural product spores can occasionally be found in honey. Medical grade brands often gamma irradiate as a safety measure to inactivate such spores. In saying that, not a single case has been reported in the literature of C botulinum wound infection being related to the use of non-irradiated honey.

A more real issue that you are likely to encounter is the variation of authenticity and potency of manuka honey. Read here about how to know if it’s authentic and certified manuka honey. Once you have found an authentic brand the potency must also be considered. The above studies used at least UMF 10+, UMF 15+ or even UMF18+ and UMF20+ are considered the level required to reap therapeutic benefits. I recommend buying certified and highly potent manuka honey from Amazon here.



Adams C. J, Manley-Harris M, & Molan P. C. (2009). The origin of methylglyoxal in New Zealand manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey. Carbohydrate Research, 344, 1050-1053. doi: 10.1016/j.carres.2009.03.020

Biswal B.M, Zakaria A, & Ahmad N.M. (2003). Topical application of honey in the management of radiation mucositis: a preliminary study. Support Care Cancer, 11, 242-248.

Blair S, Cokcetin N, Harry E, & Carter D. (2009). The unusual antibacterial activity of medical-gradeLeptospermum honey: antibacterial spectrum, resistance and transcriptome analysis. European Journal of Clinical Microbiol Infectious Diseases 28, 1199-1208. doi: 10.1007/s10096-009-0763-z

Carter D.A, Blair S.E, Cokcetin N.N, Bouzo D, Brooks P, Schothauer R, & Harry E.J. (2016). Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative. Front Microbial, 7, 569. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00569

Dunford C, Cooper R, & Molan P.C. (2000). Using honey as a dressing for infected skin lesions. Nursing Times, 96(14), 7-9.

English H, Pack A, & Molan P. (2004). The effects of manuka honey on plaque and gingivitis: a pilot study. Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology, 6, 63-67.

Fischer, C. (2013). Trust and communication in European agri-food chains. Supply Chain Management, 18(2), 208-218. doi:

Gethin G, & Cowman S. (2009). Manuka honey vs hydrogel – a prospective, open label, multicentre, randomised controlled trial to compare desloughing efficacy and healing outcomes in venous ulcers. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18(3), 466. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02558.x.

Hammond, E. N., & Donkor, E. S. (2013). Antibacterial effect of Manuka honey on Clostridium difficile. BMC Research Notes, 6(1), 1-5. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-6-188

Lin S.M, Molan P.C, & Cursons R.T. (2011). The controlled in vitro susceptibility of gastrointestinal pathogens to the antibacterial effect of manuka honey. European journal of clinical microbiology & infectious diseases, 30(4), 569-574.

Lin S.M, Molan P.C, & R.T, C. (2010). The post-antibiotic effect of manuka honey on gastrointestinal pathogens. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents., 36(5), 467-468. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2010.06.046

Maddocks S.E, Lopez M.S, Rowlands R.S, & Cooper R.A. (2012). Manuka honey inhibits the development of Streptococcus pyogenes biofilms and causes reduced expression of two fibronectin binding proteins. Microbiology, 158, 781-790. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.053959-0

Molan P.C. (2002). Re-introducing honey in the management of wounds and ulcers – theory and practice. Ostomy Wound Management., 48(11), 28-40.

The World Heatlh Organization. (2014). WHO’s first global report on antibiotic resistance reveals serious, worldwide threat to public health. Press release 30 April 2014.

Wilkinson J.M, & Cavanagh M.A. (2005). Antibacterial activity of 13 honeys against Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Journal of Medical Food, 8(1), 100-103. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2005.8.100.


Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is for general information purposes only and does not constitute, nor does it intend to constitute medical diagnosis or treatment or other professional advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regime.



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Turning chia seeds into chia gel

I used to sprinkle chia seeds on my salads and put them in my homemade raw museli.  The little black and white seeds don’t taste like much, but they do add a bit of crunch, fiber, omega 3 , protein, iron, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants.   I don’t know why I stopped buying them.  I think because they have quite similar nutritional qualities to flax seed and flax seeds are easier to find.

The new milled and whole chia seeds from Dole Nutrition Plus.

The new milled and whole chia seeds from Dole Nutrition Plus.

In the last few weeks, however, I’ve come back to chia seeds.  Dole (you know, the big fruit and veggie guys) have decided to get into the “naturally functional” arena and have launched a new brand: Dole Nutrition Plus.  The first products to be marketed under this brand are  a line of chia seed products.  I received a coupon for $4 off a pack AND my local supermarket was also offering an additional couple of dollars discount on the line.  I got sucked into a good deal and came home with both a tub of Dole whole chia seeds and a tub of Dole milled chia seeds.

This time though, I had decided to go beyond just sprinkling them on my salads and breakfast and I wanted to try “gelling” with chia seeds which I had previously read about but had never tried.  There’s a couple of basic things you need to know about how to gel chia seeds and then the rest is up to imagination and experimentation.

The basic rules are:

  • A ratio of about a tablespoon of chia to half a cup of liquid makes a thickish gel.  It’s not as thick as jello (jelly) but more like a sago pudding in thickness and texture.
  • The seeds need to soak in the liquid for about 10 minutes for them to jellify.
  • The mix needs whisking or it will clump.   I found whisking at the beginning, once or twice in the middle and again at the end of the setting period worked perfectly.
  • Chia has such a mild flavour that it will take on the flavour of the liquid (but this means if the liquid doesn’t have much flavour then you’ll probably want to add some other kind of flavouring).

With my two chia tubs on hand and my almost 3 year old taste tester waiting at the dining room table these are some of the ways I’ve used chia gel in the last few weeks.

Hot chia seed breakfast.  Ana calls this "Bananas in Pajamas"

Hot chia seed breakfast. Ana calls this “Bananas in Pajamas”

This is Ana’s new favourite breakfast.  She came up with the name.  I’m not sure if it was because she was in her PJs eating bananas or it looks like the bananas are wearing PJs but the name is cute so it has stuck.  For a single serve I whisk together 1/2 a tablespoon of milled chia with 1/4 cup of almond milk.  Let it stand for about 10 minutes whisking a couple of times to avoid clumps.  I add a bit of ginger and cinnamon for flavour (almond milk and chia by itself is fine but a bit boring flavour wise).  Once the gel has thickened I cut half a banana into the mix and microwave for a minute and it’s done.  You may want to drizzle with a little honey on if it’s not sweet enough for your taste but I find if there is a good banana to chia gel ratio it tastes great.

Orange chia pudding.

Orange chia pudding.

This was another instant hit with Ana.  I used the whole seeds in all my pudding experiments as it gave a sago type consistency which I quite liked.   For this orange pudding I simply whisked a tablespoon of whole seeds with a 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice.  (Note: this is slightly less liquid to seed ratio as described above but I wanted a thicker consistency for the puddings).  I did the ‘whisk, let it stand, whisk routine’ for 10 to 15 minutes and there you have it, an orange pudding that’s full of goodness.  Ana thought this was a real treat.

The next night I made another pudding with chia, almond milk, freshly grated ginger, cinnamon and some raisins.   Ana thought that was delicious too – especially the raisins.  I’d like to try some of these puddings with coconut milk which I think will be delicious but I haven’t done so yet.

Chia can be used as a thickening agent.  I sprinkled  milled chia on our stew last night to thicken it.

I sprinkled milled chia on our stew last night to thicken it.

Chia can be used as a nutritious thickening agent and is a good alternative to thickening with flour.  I’ve tried both making a gel (with the milled chia and water) and adding it and  also just sprinkling milled chia on top then stirring it in.  I think sprinkling on top worked a bit better.  Chia can be used to thicken soups, stews, smoothies or whatever you like.

Other ideas I haven’t tried but I thought I’d pass on:

  • An egg substitute for baking: For each egg use a tablespoon of milled chia in a quarter of a cup of water.  I don’t bake so haven’t tried this myself but I’d love to hear from someone if they have.   This would be a great idea for someone with egg allergies or vegans.
  • Banana icecream: blend a frozen banana, 1/3 cup almond milk and a tablespoon chia seeds.
  • Cauliflower mash: combine 2 tablespoons chia seeds with a cup water and make to a gel.  Blend the gel with a cooked cauliflower.  Add butter and seasoning if you wish.
  • Chia butter: blend butter with chia seeds for a chia spread.
  • Broccoli sauce: Make a gel from 2 tablespoons chia seeds with a cup of vegetable stock.  Blend with a cooked broccoli.

Chia is also gluten free and has been touted as the next greatest “magic pill” for weight loss.  Whilst chia seeds can be part of a weight loss diet (the fiber and protein content help you stay fuller for longer and it has high nutritional value for its calories) but I found several chia websites that over sell the “magic seed”, “super food”, “weight loss secret” angle.  Particularly when a site would spruik eating chia seeds for weight loss then suggest sprinkling them on ice cream, making gel toppings for cheese cake and whipping up drinks which require a cup of sugar in them.  Topping ice cream, cheese cake and sugar with chia seeds doesn’t magically turn these junk foods into health foods.  These seeds are good, but they’re not that good.

One other note of warning, if you are on a paleo diet Dr Cordain (The paleo diet founder) thinks we shouldn’t eat chia due to their anti-nutrients and phytic acid content.  You can google more about that if you’re interested (I also touched on a similar complaints about legumes in this post).  There are are other paleo proponents who support eating chia seeds and believe the benefits out weigh any potential adverse effects.  Apparently if your diet is quite low in fiber devouring big chia seed puddings may leave you feeling bloated and gassy.  We haven’t noticed that around here but we eat a really high fiber diet already.  Perhaps begin with small amounts if you think your insides might get a bit cranky.

The verdict in our family?  Two thumbs up.  A tub of seeds is quite expensive but a tablespoon goes a long way and they certainly pack a good nutritional punch.  Chia breakfasts are becoming quite regular around here.  They’re available on Amazon here. I think we’ll be keeping a tub of chia seed in the cupboard from now on.  We’re sold on it.

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Mexican Caviar Salad

My sister said it was time I posted another recipe.  Something that’s quick and easy.  The sort of thing you can whip up on those nights when you haven’t given dinner that much thought.  Last night was one of those nights for us and this is what I made – so VJ, I hope this salad is the kind of inspiration you’re looking for.

I call this Mexican Caviar Salad but I doubt there is any authenticity in that name.  Prior to arriving in the States I had never heard of Mexican Caviar, but in the US it seems describe any vaguely Mexican-like salsa served with tortilla chips.  (My understanding is that in Mexico “Mexican Caviar” refers to Escamoles which are ant eggs so “Mexican Caviar” referring to salsa might be a US invention).  Anyway, my favourite Mexican Caviar I’ve had thus far was at a neighbors bunco party.  At her house I ate it as intended with tortilla chips, trying to balance as much of the stuff on top of the chip as possible without dropping it all over her kitchen but at home we skip the chips and serve something similar on top of a big pile of lettuce.  Our salad probably takes it yet another step further from whatever is the “original” version, but we love it.

My version of Mexican Caviar all ready to be served on top of mixed lettuce.

My version of Mexican Caviar all ready to be served on top of mixed lettuce.

Combine a can of beans (I used pinto in the above mix but black beans good too) and add a can of corn.  Make sure you give the beans a really good rinse before you put them in the bowl.

Then add some colorful chopped raw veggies.  Baby tomatoes, yellow, red and orange peppers are favourites for this dish.  I also use radish and cilantro for a bit of oomph (and I had some lurking in the back of the fridge).

Avocado is pretty essential for the taste of the dish and adds a bit of creaminess.  I also like a good dash of lime (or lemon juice).  If it’s still too dry for your taste add a splash of olive oil and / or apple cider vinegar.

Then seasoning.  Salt and pepper.  I sometimes use a bit of cumin and chilli powder too.

Serve up on a big pile of lettuce and that’s my Mexican Caviar Salad.

I’ve talked about the “bean controversy” before.  Particularly Paleo guys (and many low carb followers) believe we shouldn’t be eating them, but in my view they are super handy to have in the cupboard and can be made into a huge range of healthy hot and cold meals and snacks.  They are starchy, but have a low glycemic index (so they digest slowly).  They are high in fiber, potassium and magnesium, a great protein source for non-meat nights and for those who care, gluten free.  They’re filling, cheap and the whole family likes them.  So in my mind I can’t see why I’d cut them out of our diet.  Anyway, VJ, I hope you like the recipe!

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6 different points of view on the “healthiest diet”

‘Group think’ is a phenomenon where a group of people resist and ignore external knowledge and views whilst reinforcing their own way of thinking.  This leads to ‘in-thinking’ where basically, we stop challenging others in the same group and ourselves.

In my own research, I’ve been looking at group think in a corporate setting, however I frequently see the same principles occur when it comes to how we decide what to eat.  It’s easy to troll the internet using search terms that bring up websites and blogs where everyone else agrees with our already held view.   Reading only one side of the story (or worse, stopping at what we already believe true) is a slow way of learning.

To understand a topic well, especially in a field that still has so much to learn, a continued quest for knowledge is critical.  It is also important to understand various sides to the research.  Upon consideration of opposing views, we may still believe what we already believe.  And that’s fine too, but our reasons will be all that more stronger for the process.

To help with this challenge, here I have summarized the views of six respected leaders contributing to the field of nutrition.  Three are physicians, two are journalists and one is a scientist.  Whilst they all have different opinions on what we should be eating and why I think they’re all contributing to the field in someway.

Michael Pollan.

Michael Pollan.

Michael Pollan

Who is he?  An author who focuses on the American food system as well as healthy eating.  He is a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley’s Grad School of Journalism  and was named in TIME magazines world’s 100 most influential people in 2010.

His nutritional philosophy: Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.  It shouldn’t be complicated.  He is also interested in a healthy planet as much as healthy people.

So in his view, what should we eat?  Eat mostly plants including vegetables, fruits, whole grains.  He thinks that the most important foods missing from the standard American diet are leafy greens and fermented foods with live cultures.  He believes in a mostly vegetarian diet but eating meat once or twice a week is fine (think of meat as a side dish, not a main) and also thinks eggs and fish are good.  Brown rice over white.  Organic over conventional.  He’s also makes comment on how we should eat: small portions, don’t eat until “full”, no seconds or snacking, share communal meals, and take pleasure in your food.  Eat home cooked meals, try new spices and foods, and if you can, eat food from your own garden.

And what not to eat:  Processed food (anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, anything with more than 5 ingredients listed on the packet or an ingredient you can’t pronounce), high fructose corn syrup, GMO food, probably soy, feedlot meat (and limit total meat consumption).

Best known book:  ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’, ‘The Botany of Desire’ and ‘In Defense of Food’

My comments:  Pollan’s research on the American food system brings another dimension to the food debate.  He writes about animal welfare, sustainable farming, the environment, organic farming, food safety and farm policy as well as health.  I like his simple and common sense approach to healthy eating which he doesn’t over prescribe but lets us be our own guides.

Dr Joel Fuhrman.

Dr Joel Fuhrman.

Dr Joel Fuhrman

Who is he?  A Physician who specializes in nutritional research.  He’s best known for his ANDI scoring system (micronutrients / calories), his position on Whole Foods Market Scientific Advisory Board and his appearances on the Dr OZ show.

His nutritional philosophy:  We should be “nutritarians” and eat foods that are high in micronutrients for their calories.

So in his view, what should we eat?  Lots and lots of vegetables (especially leafy greens) as well as beans, fruits, nuts and seeds.  He says we should particularly focus on “G-BOMBS” which are greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds.

And what not to eat:  Fish is not recommended due to methylmercury, meats and eggs are also not recommended.  Fat free dairy rates higher than full fat dairy, but neither are recommended.  Cheese has it’s own category and is right down the bottom of Fuhrman’s scoring system with olive oil and butter (because they are high in fat for their nutritional value), refined grains, refined sugar, sodium and caffeine are all at the low scoring end.

Best known book: ‘East to Live’ and ‘Disease Proof Your Child’

My comments:  I’m not sure how you’d get enough vitamin D, B and omega 3 on this diet.  Whether it’s high enough in protein as well is the classic vegan / omnivore debate.  However I like Fuhrman’s views on eating foods that give us the best nutritional punch for its calories.  I think Fuhrman is also a great source of advice for those who chose to be vegans (not only in terms of getting the right nutrients for a vegan diet but also eliminating high processed vegan foods).

Dr Dean Ornish.

Dr Dean Ornish.

Dr Dean Ornish

Who is he?  A physician who is a clinical professor of Medicine at the University of California and the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute.  Steve Jobs was rumored to have followed Ornish’s diet.

His nutritional philosophy:  Eating a high-fiber, low fat vegetarian diet will help you stay healthy and lose weight.

So in his view, what should we eat?  Veggies and fruits, grains, beans and legumes in whatever quantities you like.  Non-fat dairy and egg whites in moderation.  He also advocates 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day and stress management.

And what not to eat:  Meat of all kind, oils and oil containing products such as margarine and most salad dressings, avocadoes, olives, nuts and seeds, dairy products, sugar and sugar derivatives, alcohol, anything commercially prepared.  Ornish thinks that no more than 10% of our diet should be made up of fat.

Best known book: ‘Eat More, Weigh Less’

My comments:  Dean Ornish is the extreme end of low fat, high carb representative in this post which is quite against the grain of where most nutritionists now believe we should be eating.  But, the point of this post was to share a variety of views!  I also wanted to summarize his views because they are so often publically attacked by the next guy who is on the other end of the fat / carb extreme.  Where Ornish is a bit more aligned with other thinking of today is a high consumption of vegetables and fiber and rejection of processed foods.

Gary Taubes.

Gary Taubes.

Gary Taubes

Who is he?  A scientific research journalist.  He initially wrote about cold fusion theory in physics before turning to health.  He’s notorious for controversial articles and his public criticisms of Dean Ornish (the guy above).

His nutritional philosophy:  Carbohydrates generate insulin and insulin generates fat.

So in his view, what should we eat?  Fat and protein.  Meat (including bacon, steak, sausage and burger – just hold the bun), cheese and other dairy (make it full fat), eggs, butter, oil, nuts and salad veggies.  Lots of fat (including saturated fat) is encouraged for satiety. 

And what not to eat:  Carbohydrate.  Not just refined carbs such as bread, cookies and pasta but also a large number of vegetables, especially high carb veggies such as potatoes, corn and carrots and fruit.  Taubes also thinks you shouldn’t exercise if you are trying to lose weight.

Best known books:  ‘Why We Get Fat’ and ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’

My opinion:  Taubes believes the high fat, low carb diet (a.k.a the Atkins diet) is the “healthiest” diet.  Whilst countless people have undoubtedly lost weight on such a diet, to me, Taubes’ focus is more on weight loss than health.  Taubes aims to be controversial and quite often I find his writing a bit sensationalist, but what I do like is that he is always challenging the status quo.

Dr Loren Cordain.

Dr Loren Cordain.

Dr Loren Cordain

Who is he?  A scientist who is the founder of the Paleo Movement.  He has a PhD in Health from the University of Utah and is currently a professor in the department of health and exercise science at Colorado State Uni.

His nutritional philosophy:  We should be eating foods that mimic our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors.  According to Cordain to replicate the diets of our ancestors we should be eating a lot of protein, fiber, fat and potassium and only a little carbohydrate and sodium.

So in his view, what should we eat?  Lots of grass fed meat, seafood and eggs, low starch vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, healthful oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado and coconut).

And what not to eat:  Cereal grains, legumes (all beans including peanuts), dairy, starchy fruits and vegetables (especially potatoes), salt, refined sugar and refined vegetable oils.

Best known book: ‘The Paleo Diet’.

My comments:  The Paleo diet is another backlash against the low fat, high carb craze.  I like its ideology of going back to basics and eating real food.  The biggest difference between this and some of the other whole food diets above is the amount of animal protein consumed and the elimination of grains and beans.  I’ve also found that Cordain’s guidelines of what the Paleo diet entails and what some other Paleo advocates promote varies in the detail.

Dr Mark Hyman.

Dr Mark Hyman.

Dr Mark Hyman

Who is he?  Another American physician. a four-time New York Times bestselling author (which is also endorsed by Bill Clinton) and, of course, you will have also have seen him on Dr Oz

His nutritional philosophy:  Mother Nature is the best pharmacist and food is the most powerful drug on the plant (ie, nutrition can prevent and heal).  He promotes foods that are low-allergy, whole, anti-inflammatory, organic and fresh.  He’s also big on other lifestyle factors such as cutting down on screen time and stress and increasing physical activity and getting adequate sleep.

So in his view, what should we eat?  Lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats (olive, fish and coconut oils, avocado) spiced up with chia, hemp, parsley and cilantro.  A small amount of whole grains, beans and lean animal protein (small wild fish, grass fed meat and farm eggs).  He’s also big on taking supplements such as probiotics, vitamins and minerals and omega 3 fats.

And what not to eat:  high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated (trans) fats, pesticides, artificial sweeteners and basically anything man made.  He writes a lot about food allergens (dairy and gluten, he believes, are the main culprit but suggests some people may need to eliminate corn, eggs, soy, nuts, nightshades, citrus and yeast) but says we only need to be cutting these things out if we are sensitive to them.

Best known book:  ‘The Blood Sugar Solution’.

My comments:  Mark Hyman acknowledges that we have individual needs, that some of us are sensitive to things like gluten and dairy, but for those of us that aren’t sensitive to those foods there is no need to cut it out.  I also like his approach to lifestyle.  The only times he looses me is in some of the smaller details.  As an example, he is a raw milk advocate.  I think it’s too risky to be feeding my family unpasturized milk.  I’m also not convinced that all disease is preventable through nutrition – that’s another post.

There are so many other guys  (and gals) that I could put on this list, Mark Sisson (Primal Living), Barry Sears (Zone), Joy Bauer, Dr David Katz, Dr Andrew Weil, Robb Wolf (The Paleo Solution), Robert Lustig, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (The Whole 30), the list could go on and on. I had to stop somewhere, so I stopped at the six above.

I find it really interesting to see where these views converge and diverge.

There’s (mostly) agreement that:

  • We should be eating whole foods and not processed foods.
  • Vegetables are good for us, especially leafy greens.   (Some debate about moderate and high carb veggies).
  • Fruits are good for us.  (some debate about how much due to carbohydrate content again).
  • We should be considering lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress levels and exercise in our overall health plan

Foods that get more yes votes than no (but are debated):

  • Nuts and seeds and other “good fats” such as avocado
  • Coconut oil (a MCT saturated fat)
  • Beans and legumes
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Whole grains

Foods that get more no votes than yes (but are also hotly debated):

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Refined oils
  • Sodium
  • Artificial sweeteners

Where there is total disagreement:

  • Meat.  Two think we should eat a lot.  Two think we should eat a little.  Two think we shouldn’t eat animal protein at all.
  • Soy.  I’ve put this here because whilst Ornish espouses the benefits of soy, Cordain the dangers of soy, the others tend to sit on the fence a bit acknowledging the confusion around both the benefits and problems.  Most agree that if you are going to eat soy products eat it only occasionally, go for unprocessed (edamame and soy beans), or at most, lightly processed (tofu and milk) but stay clear of the heavily processed soy (such as soy cheeses and vegan meat substitutes made from soy).
  • And probably most importantly, the biggest disagreement is about how we should be combining our food into meals.  From high fat and protein with little or no carb (Taubes); to reasonably high fat,  20%-35% protein with moderate carb (Cordain); a more moderate mix of carb, fat and protein (Hyman and Pollan); to lower fat 100% plant based diet (Fuhrman); to high carb plant based diet with only 10% of calories coming from fat (Ornish).  It’s for this reason many of these guys would probably hate to see a list of foods like the one above because one of the biggest disagreements isn’t so much the type food, but in what proportions we eat them.

The point of this post wasn’t to try to extrapolate a “healthiest diet” out of piecing together six different views anyway.  And it’s hardly a scientific way to come up with a single “best diet”.  Furthermore, I don’t believe there is a singular healthiest diet.  Whilst we are discovering new things about how we react to different nutritional regimes, saying there is a singular best diet is assuming that our bodies all behave in the same way.  Clearly, all these diets have worked for a large number of people.  All these guys have best selling books and are highly regarded in their field.  Why?  Because they all have a lot of people who believe in what they are saying based on their own experiences.

Some real examples from around here on the importance of individual needs: after several experimental gluten free weeks in our house, my husband found that the acid reflux which he had been complaining for years had disappeared, he had a lot more energy and lost weight (although he didn’t need to lose any).  In contrast, I had no noticeable changes in any aspect eating the same gluten free diet.  Another thing my husband and my bodies must process quite differently is meat.  I eat some meat because I think it balances out my diet (and the rest of the family loves it), but too much protein makes me feel heavy and blocked up.

Ethics and personal values are also a big part of this picture.  Morally, if your values on the environment or animal welfare extend to how you eat then that’s your right.  Embrace a diet that fits with you personal code.

Gary Hamel, one of the world's top business thinkers.

Gary Hamel, one of the world’s top business thinkers.

What’s Gary Hamel doing in a post about healthiest diets?  Hamel says that we need to be humble to learn.  I agree!  We need to ask questions.  We need to keep reading new research and ideas and accept that at some stage, we are probably going to be wrong about something and should be prepared to change our minds.

If you are really interested in nutrition, I encourage you to read a variety of views with an open mind.  Others’ views may make you even more sure of where you stand now, but they may just open up another piece of the puzzle for you particularly in a science that still has so much to learn.

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The will power myth

“I just have no will power” one Mom told me, complaining that her latest diet wasn’t working, “I bake a batch of biscuits for the kids to have when they get home from school.  The aroma of hot cookies fills the kitchen and I can’t resist just having one… but half an hour later I’ve eaten half the batch!”

Baked goods are hard to just stop at just one bite.

How many of you can relate?  It turns out this Mom is not alone.  I asked a couple of Mom’s groups on Facebook which foods they find the hardest not to overeat and within 24 hours I had a long list of common culinary culprits.  Sweet baked goods (cakes and cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, slices, pie, doughnuts and danish pastries) made up 44% of the answers.  Other sweet treats such as chocolate, licorice, twizzlers, soda and ice-cream 23%, followed by bread at 19% and the remaining 10% of answers included savoury snacks such as chips and popcorn, cheese and pasta.

Not surprisingly every single answer was a processed food.  The vast majority contain sugar.  (I have a lot to say about sugar, read here if you didn’t read that earlier post).  Most also contain some combination of refined flour, fat and salt.  You are certainly not alone if you find that these foods are hard not to over eat.  Also known as hyperpalatable foods, these sorts of treats stimulate endorphins and chemicals in the brain.  They make us feel good.  (The reward centres in our brains actually light up on a brain scan when we eat this kind of stuff).  Our dopamine neurones become activated.  Dopamine makes us want more.  (Recreational drugs releasing dopamine is what is thought to be one of the key things that makes them addictive).  With such strong physical reactions that can start even when we just have a small amount of these foods it’s not a surprise that our will power can’t fight the urge to have another, and another, and another.

In addition to these internal reactions to the food we’re bombarded by external cues.  The half eaten loaf of bread is still out on the cutting board, the movie theatre smells of popcorn, the bowl of chips at the party sit right beside us and even if we can’t see it, we know there is still half of that fudge brownie still sitting in the pantry.

Are your play group meet ups synonymous with cupcakes?

To make things even tougher we often have well formed habits around consuming these foods.  It’s the regular playgroup meet up where cupcakes are always involved.  It’s every birthday at the office when a cake is compulsory.  It’s the fast food restaurant we drive passed on the way home from late night soccer practice and their burgers and fries are just. so. gooooooood.  It’s Friday night standard activity has become to put the kids to bed, choose a netflix movie and time the pizza delivery for just as the kids’ little eyes close.  We also form habits to deal with conditions such as tiredness, boredom, anxiousness and sadness.  If our coping mechanism is always chocolate then how can we expect our will power to save us?

The responses to eating these hyperpalatable foods and external cues are certainly much stronger in some people than others.  However, we don’t have to succumb to out of control eating.  The more we keep ourselves the away from hyperpalatable foods and their associated situations and habits, the easier it becomes not to eat them.  This requires some mindful planning (and yes, a bit of will power) at the outset, but as those physical and emotional connections break we eventually find ourselves able to walk passed our old favourite bakery without any urge to go in. (and may even be able to get to the point where you can have the occasional “one” without having to demolish the lot).

Here’s how:

  1. Keep the house free of foods that you know trigger over eating.  Don’t go to the supermarket hungry and always shop with a list.  Tried and proven advice!
  2. If foods that you like to over eat make it into the house, get rid of them.  My husband’s colleagues enjoyed my daughter’s Halloween candy recently for example.
  3. Find foods that you can enjoy and eat without over indulding.  Not one person that replied to the Facebook question about foods we overeat said they over eat a fruit or vegetable (meats, eggs and whole grains, except if they’re processed into bread, also didn’t get a mention).
  4. When going to a friend’s house take a healthy option as your contribution.  We often offer to bring a salad or fruit platter.  It means that there is always something I can load my plate up with.
  5. Make alternative plans for situations that you know are your undoing.  Can’t stop buying that muffin when you meet up with a friend at the local coffee shop?  Meet else where.  Can’t stop ordering take out on a Friday night?  Make a plan to cook before you get hungry.
  6. Identify bad habits that have formed and make a plan to break them.
  7. Form new, healthier habits.  Focus on strengthening them.
  8. Keep at it.  Keep at it.  Keep at it.  The more you over eat the more you need to satisfy that desire.  Conversely the healthier you eat the easier making healthy choices gets.  Our tastes DO change (and it can be an amazing experience when you visit your old favourite burger joint one night and wonder what you ever liked about it – it’s a bit like catching up with an ex-boyfriend).
  9. You have the ability to change your habits.  You have to believe this to be able to do it.

Success breeds success.  It does take time but it gets easier the more we do it to the point that we aren’t trying to use sheer will power against physical and emotional bonds that are much stronger.  We go from mindless over eating to mindlessly making good choices.

Photos from here and here.

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Celeriac brunch

A celeriac (or celery root) came in our veggie box this week.  Celeriac is a variety of celery that has been bred for better eating roots (as opposed to cultivated for the celery stalks).  The roots mass together to form a bulb that looks a bit luck a hairy, ugly turnip.

It’s one ugly looking vegetable.

Celeriac has a celery / parsnipy / parsley-ish taste to it.  Although that description doesn’t do it justice.  I find celery a bit ho-hum (it’s no wonder it has been used in decades gone by as a vessel for scoffing large quantities of cream cheese and peanut butter under the guise of a “healthy” snack), and something that really bugs me about celery is how those fibrous strings stay connected to the other piece when I bite into it raw.  Celery for me is just something I add to soups and stews.  It’s a cheap filler.  It’s dispensable.

Photo and recipe from

The flesh of a celeriac, however, has a much nicer texture than celery.  It’s less watery, almost creamy and there are none of those annoying fibrous strings.  It can be used pretty much like any root vegetable (although it has a lot less starch than a potato – a good substitute if you are wanting a lower starch alternative).  Roast it, mash it, fry it or stick it in a soup or stew.  Unlike potato, it can also be eaten raw.  The French use celeriac in céleri rémoulade a salad where it is grated, soaked in lemon juice and dressed with mayonnaise and mustard.

Photo and a great looking recipe (that includes capers) from

My original plan was to cook our celeriac up earlier in the week as part of my husband’s birthday roast dinner but I ran out of room in the pan.

Jose’s birthday roast dinner. Pork ribs, carrot, sweet potato and golden beetroot already had the pan full (the brussel sprouts and broccoli were cooked on the stove).

So, what to do with my rejected celeriac?  Last night the kids had already been fed leftovers and put to bed.  My husband was out of town and I felt like a bit of lazy fry up.  I decided to hash brown my celeriac and have brunch for dinner.

I peeled and grated the bulb and added about the same amount of grated potato and half an onion.  Cracked in an egg to combine the mix and seasoned with salt and pepper.

It’s easier to use a sharp veggie knife than a peeler to to remove the thick skin, gnarled roots and hairy stuff.  Some varieties are a more uniform shape than others, but I’ve noticed many of the celeriac varieties locally need a lot of cutting and trimming to get all the gnarly bits off.

I scooped a handful of the mix with my hands, squished it flat and pan fried it.  This mix made five decent sized hash browns.

I ate it was a poached egg, brussel sprouts, mushrooms (with sage and thyme) and spinach.  A tomato would have been nice to add some color and juiciness but I ate the last of my tomatoes yesterday.

Breakfast?  Brunch?  Dinner?

These were the tastiest hash browns (even if I say so myself!)  The celeriac is a much more interesting flavour than plain old potato but it didn’t overwhelm the other food.  The hash browns felt lighter than a stodgy potato hash too.  To me this is more of a weekend brunch dish, but it perfectly filled the spot for dinner.

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