Spring is the season of new beginnings, of rebirth and renewal. We naturally begin to eat more lightly and cleanse the body of the heavier foods consumed during the colder winter months. Working in harmony with the season, foods still need to be cooked, but not as thoroughly. Stir-fry or lightly steam your vegetables to gain maximum nutrition yet still keep the digestive fires gently warmed.
Spring is also traditionally seen as the ideal time for the body to detoxify, with specific emphasis placed on the liver and gallbladder. Prime functioning of these organs is critical to ensure detoxification pathways function effectively and the 'recycling' of wastes is avoided. Some signs that your liver and gallbladder may need gentle support include: dark circles under the eyes, bad breath, difficulty losing weight, constipation and/or diarrhoea, bloating, weight stored around the abdomen, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, moodiness and fatigue.
Seasonally, nature supplies us with many of the foods that will support the detoxification pathways of the liver and gallbladder. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, silverbeet and artichoke are all abundantly available and, as you will see below, all have a role to play in aiding liver function. Fruits such as pineapple and paw paw also reappear and both contain natural digestive enzymes that help break down foods and enhance digestive functioning.
Simple Ways to Get Your Detox On
The winter months are a time for conservation and cultivation of energy. As the weather cools and the days shorten, go to sleep earlier and get up later. Take the opportunity to slow down. Sleep in on weekends and nourish yourself with warm and wholesome foods. Winter is also the season of sniffles and lurgies! Most of us shudder at the idea of getting stuck in bed with the dreaded flu but there is plenty you can do to keep your immune system primed and strong.
You might be surprised to know that most people have low vitamin D levels (especially in the winter). Chances are if you work in an office from 9 to 5 most days of the week, or just don’t manage to spend much time outdoors, your Vitamin D levels will be low.
Aside from supporting bone health, reducing your risk of many cancers and other auto-immune diseases a number of recent studies have shown that optimal Vitamin D levels can boost your immune system, reducing the likelihood of coming down with a cold or flu. One recent study found that people with lower levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to develop influenza, compared to people with high levels of vitamin D.
It’s best to get your vitamin D from the sun if you can. Of course that’s not always possible during winter (especially here in Melbourne!) If you suspect your levels are low during the cooler months, your best bet is to get a blood test before you start supplementing. This is the most accurate way to see if a supplement is really required and, if so, the dosage that’s needed.
While there is debate as to ideal concentrations, the following is a good guide
Your supplement should come from a natural form of vitamin D - either cod liver oil or an oil-based D3 supplement. The best food sources of natural vitamin D are egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, organ meats, and some portabello (highest), oyster and white mushrooms. However, keep in mind that it's tough to get enough vitamin D in the winter from food sources alone.
Coconut oil contains two special active constituents, lauric and caprylic acid, both well known for their anti-fungal and ‘anti-candida’ action. What’s not so well know is that lauric acid is also anti-viral. The body converts it to monolaurin, an antiviral agent that fights of a number of viruses including influenza. If you’re looking to boost your immunity naturally, simply use a teaspoon of coconut oil a day. Add it to your smoothies, cooking, baking or just eat it straight from the jar!
Not only is garlic a wonderful herb that enhances your winter dishes with a rich and warming flavour, it has a long history as an immune booster. During the First World War raw garlic juice was used as an antiseptic for bathing wounds and helped save saved thousands of lives. The major active component found in garlic, allicin, is responsible for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Studies have shown that people including garlic supplements experienced fewer and less severe colds compared to those taking a placebo. Try adding some regularly to your diet throughout the colder months.There isn't a recommended daily allowance for garlic, but German researchers recommend a dose of 1-4 cloves a day which provides around 4,000mcg of alliin. To cure a chesty cough crush three cloves of raw garlic, sprinkle one tablespoon of brown sugar and leave in a covered saucer for six hours. Sip the liquid throughout the day until the cough has gone. If you feel yourself coming down with a cold or flu chop a clove in four pieces (the allicin is more potent when exposed to air), then swallow it down whole, without chewing, as though it was a supplement. That way you can avoid the awful garlic breathe you would get from chewing it whole.
I don’t know about you but all the on-trend cafes I walk in to these days are serving up turmeric 'golden milk' lattes. And quite frankly, I love ‘em! It’s the most delicious way to warm up from the inside out over the cool winter months and do your body some good at the same time. Without doubt turmeric is the latest spice to be crowned a superfood. High in antioxidants and considered a natural anti-inflammatory, people who consume it are less susceptible to colds, coughs and congestion.
Turmeric – especially curcumin its chemical compound – contains potent antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties. Laboratory studies found that curcumin reduced viral replication of 90% and more of cells infected by influenza virus. It also displayed an ability to protect infection from spreading to other cells. This ability to halt replication of microbes and viruses means that turmeric could offer therapeutic benefits in treating flu.
Turmeric is considered a natural antibiotic in Ayurvedic medicine. For those with respiratory tract infections – common flu symptoms – mix water, ½ tsp turmeric and little milk and gargle with this. A cup of warm coconut or almond milk with a teaspoon of turmeric powder can fight flu, colds and cough. I like to add in a little extra ginger, cinnamon and black pepper for that added kick and warmth. In fact, I think I might just go and make one right now.. …..
Even though it’s tempting to pull back the covers and snooze a little longer or go home straight after work and snuggle up on the couch on those grey, chilly winter days it's vital you keep up your exercise regimen. A recent study showed that even a moderate level of regular exercise has a long-term cumulative effect on our immune system. It found that individuals who went for a brisk walk several times a week reduced the number of sick days they took by around 40%. Indeed, regular aerobic exercise, five or more days a week for more than 20 minutes a day, rises above all other lifestyle factors in lowering sick days during the winter cold season. The trick is to not go overboard as overly strenuous exercise releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which can weaken the immune system.
Probiotics are essentially ‘good bacteria’ found in naturally fermented foods and supplements that help keep your immune system strong and ward off infections. Around 70 to 80 per cent of your immune system resides in your gut so it’s critical you have a really good, balanced gut flora - your first line of defense against all those nasty winter bugs. Indeed, the latest research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that New Zealand athletes had about 40% fewer colds and gastrointestinal infections when they took a probiotic compared to when they took a placebo.
When bacterial imbalance occurs in the gut, it can throw your system out of whack and leave you more susceptible to those lurking winter bugs. Foods like sugar, cake, biscuits – anything white and processed really – along with alcohol and certain drugs like antibiotics and the Pill have a detrimental impact on the gut flora. If you have really been over indulging or had to take a course of antibiotics it's a good idea to take a good quality probiotic supplement. But, of course, my favouite thing to do is use ‘food as medicine’ to truly boost the power of your immune system and stay healthy and vital throughout the winter months. After all, it all starts with prevention.
Try to include a serve of at least one of these foods daily to promote ‘good’ bacteria and support immunity.
Kombucha tea is a fermented tea that has been around for more than 2,000 years with a rich anecdotal history of health benefits. Made from sweetened tea that’s been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (a SCOBY, a.k.a. “mother” because of its ability to reproduce, or “mushroom” because of its appearance). It contains billions of friendly gut organisms.
Kefir is a cultured/fermented dairy drink that's been used for thousands of years as a health elixir. It’s also the easiest form of dairy to digest, and it is generally 99 percent lactose free.
Natural yoghurt is my perfect, go-to snack food. It’s rich in protein and good fats to help keep you feeling full and your blood sugar levels balanced. I like to serve mine topped with chopped nuts, chia seeds and berries. You can also add it to your smoothies, scoop it onto your breakfast cereal, mix with unhulled tahini and parlsey as a dip or sauce for your vegies or have it for dessert instead of your usual sweet fare. Just make sure you choose a natural, sugar free yoghurt, preferably organic. That way, you know you will get optimal health benefits and ‘good bacteria’ to boost immune system functioning.
The range of delicious sauerkrauts available in health food shops now is, quite literally, mouth watering. I regularly find myself in quandary when deciding just which I want to accompany my lunch or dinner. Most recently I have been going with a smoked jalapeno and cabbage mix. A little bit on the side and everything tastes so damn good! The great news is it's really simple to make your own a 'food as medicine" sauerkraut and then start experimenting with different flavours, here's how.
To celebrate Mindfulness in May we have asked our incredible yoga and mindfulness guru, Lisa Moor to give us a few tips on simple techniques to live more mindfully and bring some peace and tranquility into our daily lives.
Lisa was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in her teens and, faced with the prospect of being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, she embarked on a journey of self-healing and this led her to yoga, relaxation and meditation.
Lisa trained at Gita International, one of Australia's longest running yoga schools, where she obtained her diploma in yoga teaching and the teaching of deep relaxation and meditation.
She has also been fortunate enough to study with Mark Breadner, one of Australia’s most prominent yoga teachers, where she obtained her qualification as a Yoga Coach. But her most valuable knowledge has come from self-enquiry and exploration in all fields of health and wellbeing. She has been able to leave behind those years of ill health and lead a vibrant, healthy and positive life. Lisa currently teaches yoga in the Macedon Ranges and takes yoga retreats to Bali each year. She has experience in corporate and children's yoga as well as holding many workshops in relaxation and sleep as well as yoga in the workplace.
Lisa is currently training with Vidyamala Burch, the founder of Breathworks in the UK to become a certified Mindfulness Based Pain Management and stress reduction teacher. She has attended many mindfulness retreats and trainings and is currently teaching high school students & corporate classes for Mindfulness.
Her mantra for this life is to ‘Smile, breathe and go slow’ Thich Nhat Hahn.
Living Mindfully - Lisa Moor
We are all familiar with being fully engaged in the present moment. It comes very naturally to us when we are doing something we love. This is mindfulness.... fully engaged and present in each moment of our lives. But perhaps it is a little more familiar to you to be anywhere else other than the present moment.
I love this quote from 80 year old Nadine Stair:
“Oh I have had my moments, and if I had to do it over again I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.”
So how can we remember? How can we be reminded to be here, present and awake to our life unfolding?
1. Informal practice - You can choose something that you usually do on autopilot each day and dedicate mindfulness to that activity.
For example when you prepare your favourite drink.:
2. Use environmental cues.
The more we do this the more we come back to this moment of our lives, the more we strengthen that pathway in our brain. Be gentle with yourself. The mind will resist and wander away from the present moment again and again but the more we practice mindfulness, just like the more we practice anything, the better we become.
Basic Mindfulness Meditation
Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgement and return to your focus on the breath.
Mindfulness practice can lead to
• Improved wellbeing
• Better physical and mental health
• Stress reduction
Enjoy this moment......
The days of bright berries, crisp salads and exotic summer fruits are behind us for another year. With autumn upon us it is time to slow down and allow our energy to slowly turn inward and contract. Autumn is the season to regain balance, a time to pull inward and gather together on all levels, a time to store food and prepare for the approaching stillness of winter. Allow yourself to find comfort in your inner sanctuary through meditation and contemplation.
Heartier, richer dishes will support and ground you. Add a little more sea salt and some extra oil (avocado, olive, coconut, macadamia) to warm your body while avoiding the raw, cooling foods of summer. Brown rice, miso, lentils, tofu, tempeh, greens and root vegetables and mixed seaweed vegetables will provide the nourishment and sustenance required for the cooler months ahead.
Fruits are still plentiful throughout the autumnal season. Choose from an abundant array of apples - pink lady, gala, fuji, granny smith, jonathans, red delicious, golden delicious and snow! Another of nature's super foods, they offer countless health benefits. Make sure you always consume the outer peel as pectin levels are concentrated here. Pectin contains soluble fibre that slows digestion and helps balance the blood sugar levels, while also lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. Research has shown that phytochemicals in the apple skin restrict the growth of colon cancer by 43 percent. Apples are also the richest source of the flavonoid quercertin, a powerful compound that protects the body from many cancers, exerts an anti-allergy action and reduces the risk of thrombotic strokes. Apples are delicious and can be prepared in countless ways. Grate them onto your cereal to make a juicy bircher-style muesli. Stew them with pears and apricots, add a dollop of natural yoghurt, a tsp of chia seeds and a sprinkle of ground linseeds then serve as a sensationally sweet but healthy dessert. Alternatively, try baking apples with cinnamon and cardamom to warm and strengthen your digestive fires. Freshly juiced apples tone and cleanse the body by purifying the blood, promoting intestinal activity and easing constipation. Apples are rich in vitamin C and potassium.
Autumn is the season of balance. Allow a calming, grounded energy to bring focus in preparation for the peace and stillness of the winter months ahead.
APPLE CINNAMON QUINOA BREAKFAST BAKE
A warm, wholesome, and satisfying breakfast or snack for those cooler mornings.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 apples, peeled, diced
1/4 cup raisins
2 cups soy/almond/rice/cows milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
Yogurt: Greek (cows)/coconut/soy
Without doubt sugar is one of the hottest nutritional topics of the moment.
Foods have trends too and what is healthy one day can be out of favour the next.
One thing we know now is that eating too much sugar is NOT good for you. So here is my guide to the sweeteners available out there to help you make the best choice possible.
Agave nectar is a healthy, completely natural unrefined natural substitute for refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Made from the Agave plant (yes, that is where tequila comes from) it has been used in native societies of Mexico for centuries as a sweetener and healing ointment. Agave is thought to have anti-bacterial properties that can heal wounds and fight off infections.
Stevia has been widely used as a natural sweetener in South America for centuries and in Japan since 1970. It is completely natural and non-toxic, deriving from the sunflower family native to subtropical South and Central America
Honey is about as natural as any sweetener gets. A good quality honey may also have a few added benefits and extra medicinal benefits that other sweeteners don’t. Manuka honey from New Zealand and Ulmo honey from Chile both have incredible antiseptic, immune stimulating and healing properties. Make sure you always opt for raw honey to ensure all of the valuable nutrients and enzymes are retained.
Brown Rice Malt Syrup
Brown Rice Malt Syrup is a fabulous substitute for sugar and one of my favourites. As the name suggests, it is a whole food derived from brown rice. Even better it is completely fructose free (hooray!) and has a low glycaemic level, so it doesn’t send you off into the crazy blood sugar highs and lows that sugar can.
Hot Cross Muffins
SERVES: 12 MUFFINS PREP TIME: 20 MINUTES COOKING TIME: 30-35 MINUTES
All the delicious fruit and spice flavour of a hot cross bun but in a cute as a button muffin.
I don’t know about you but life seems to speed up a notch (or two) once the festive season begins. End of year work parties, catch ups, warm weather and dinners out, things just start to get just a little crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I really love it and spend most of winter looking forward to pulling out my summer dresses and sandals, enjoying the warmer weather and a bit more socializing. It can also feel like a bit of a survival test. Just how many times can you go out in one week and keep your health and energy levels up? It’s always good to know that quieter times are not too far off, when you get to kick back a little and really enjoy summer. Still, the goal is to get there feeling pretty good, ready to embrace a new year with spark. Here are a few of my tips to help you get there not just in one piece, but in great health too.
Being extra busy is fun but it can be tiring and stressful. At times like these our need for certain nutrients can greatly increase. If you don’t generally take supplements, this may just be the time to consider it, to give the boost you need to get you over the line in good shape. Consider a good quality B Complex or Magnesium (more on that later) or herbs like Withania, Siberian Ginseng, Rhemania and St John’s Wort. These help increase your resistance to stress, leaving you feeling calmer and more able to cope with a full schedule. The B group vitamins — B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 — play an important role in keeping our bodies running like well-oiled machines. These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day and are involved in the manufacture of neurotransmitters like serotonin. They are critical nutrients for all things mind-related: mood and memory can benefit from the B's. In the right amounts, the B's can quell anxiety, lift depression, ease PMS, and boost your energy. Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins. Add them to your salads, smoothies and spread on your wholegrain bread.
Magnesium – Adrenal Superfood
Magnesium is probably the most prescribed nutrient I use in clinical practice and truly is your nervous systems friend. It helps regulate cortisol levels and promotes feeling of wellbeing. One of the great things the majority of my patients find is that it gives them a very quick boost to their energy levels. I generally recommend supplementing with a powdered form, it is better absorbed and faster acting. Apart from nourishing the adrenals, magnesium is also a key cofactor in the ATP cycle – how we manufacture energy – and is also an essential mineral that is used by the body in over 300 different biochemical processes. Because magnesium is so widely used, it is easy for it to become depleted. Common signs of magnesium deficiency include muscular cramps and spasms, headaches, eye twitches and even a decreased resilience to stress. Magnesium deficiency is surprisingly more common than you may think.
Magnesium comes in a wide variety of foods, from nuts and seeds, to leafy greens and grains. Include these nutrient-rich foods in your diet to support your magnesium status:
Here's a few simple ways to increase the levels of magnesium in your diet.
Blood Sugar Balancers
One thing I hear myself saying it over and over again in clinic to my patients is to include protein with every meal. Increasing your protein intake helps you feel full for longer, boosts your metabolism and maintain your lean muscle mass. Protein also increase’s your brain’s levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone that tells you when your belly is full. Keep this in mind before you head out to your work party or Christmas function – pop some protein on your plate with a good serve of salad.
Happy Liver Foods
It’s pretty hard to avoid not having a few extra drinks at this time of year, it goes with the territory. While it’s important to remember to keep your alcohol intake moderate and stay well hydrated by keeping your water intake high, there are also numerous herbs and foods that will support the livers detoxification pathways and regeneration of cells. Herbs such as St Mary’s Thistle and Schisandra have regenerative qualities, while dandelion root, globe artichoke and golden seal get the bile moving to break down some of those extra fats you might be indulging in and ensure your detox pathways are fired up and working well. As always, my favourite way to look after your liver is through the use of ‘food as medicine’. Try including a few of these goodies in your diet to keep you and your liver happy throughout the festive season.
And if you are looking for a delicious dessert that is rich in magnesium but low in sugar to help you celebrate the Festive Season, look no further ....
Chocolate Chia Superfood Pudding
1 1/4 cup almond or coconut milk
1/4 cup chia seeds
3 tbsp raw cacao
Pinch Himalayan salt
1 tbsp of maple syrup or brown rice syrup
Optional - organic dark chocolate shavings to serve
Place all ingredients in a large jar with a lid and stir well.
Put lid on jar and pop it in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours until the mixture is thick and creamy.
Serve with toppings like goji berries, chopped nuts, coconut and mixed berries for extra deliciousness.
We are very happy to once again be selected to be part of the City of Port Phillip's Summer program. Our Chillout teacher, Joanne will be teaching the progressive relaxation classes.
Participant registration for the 2016 Leisure and Lifestyle Program is NOW OPEN.
All activities are free of charge and only on offer to local Port Phillip residents.
Classes suitable for all ages and abilities.
Day/Time: Friday 10:00am - 11:00am
Dates: 5 - 26 February 2016
Location: Edwards Park, Port Melbourne
Number of Sessions Per Participant: 4 sessions
To register, please download the program application below and email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Progressive Relaxation Participant Registration Form - (PDF 375)
If you'd like to sample Joanne's class, visit: http://www.shraddhayoga.com.au/store/
To find out about all programs, such as beach volleyball, sailing and more visit: http://www.portphillip.vic.gov.au/leisure-lifestyles-program.htm
We are lucky enough to have the very special Jane Spence from The Hello Nature Project writing a guest blog for us this week.
The Hello Nature Project was created as part of her studies with the Centre for Sustainability Leadership Fellowship. (check out their inspiring and innovative program http://www.csl.org.au). Jane oozes positivity, it's as if a little sunshine and nature is radiating from her! She aims to remind us all that you don't have to travel outside of the city to find nature, it's all around us, right here. All you need to do is pause, take a moment, a break from technology, the buzz of our busy lives and reconnect.
You can sign up to receive daily emails throughout November. Fun, simple activities to help you connect to nature will be sent straight to your inbox. The activities will include cloud gazing, freeing your feet and standing on the grass, listening out for birds and insects and taking your lunch outside.
So let's hear from Jane and all the amazing things nature can do for our health, happiness and wellbeing.
THE HELLO NATURE PROJECT
Boost your health, happiness and creativity with a dose of nature
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about nature’s healing power: "In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man..." And that delight, that awe and excitement – it’s so good for us.
We spend less and less time outside and more and more time inside - 90% of our time is spent indoors and an office worker spends around 5 years of their life sitting at a desk. 5 years!
Research has found that spending time in nature can help protect us against depression, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer plus many more. Research has shown that not only can nature help boost our immune system, but gazing at a garden can help speed healing from surgery, infections and other ailments.
Connecting to nature can even make us better people - more empathetic and with more meaningful relationships and stronger community ties.
And it doesn’t need to take up too much of your time. You don’t have to go outside of the city to find nature – it’s the trees in your street, it’s the herbs growing on your windowsill, it’s the birds singing on your way to work and it’s looking up when you go outside.
Simple ways to connect to nature
Sign up to receive daily emails throughout November with a fun, simple activity to help you connect to nature. The activities will include cloud gazing, freeing your feet and standing on the grass, listening out for birds and insects and taking your lunch outside.
One in five Australians will experience mental illness this year and it is an issue many workplaces are now taking very seriously. In 2015, Mental Health Week will run from Sunday 4th to Saturday 10th October. World Mental Health Day is marked every year on the same date, 10th of October. The week aims to raise awareness and understanding of the issues facing so many. Anyone can get involved, all you need is an interest in your own good health and wellbeing. We all have a role to play in looking after our mental health - eating a nourishing, balanced diet, exercising, getting adequate rest and being kind to yourself and those around you. These all sound good, but in reality they often get forgotten in our busy lives. In the lead up to World Mental Health Day focus on a simple activity that would benefit you - make a mental health promise to yourself. It might be writing a gratitude journal, walking for half an hour several times per week, cutting your sugar intake, signing up for yoga, downloading (and using) a mindfulness app or committing to be kind to yourself and your colleagues. Simple actions and intentions can have powerful consequences.
At Corporate Chillout we can visit your workplace and activate, educate and engage your staff in some simple (and sometimes surprising) ways to nurture their physical and mental wellbeing. During Mental Health Week we can also send daily motivational messages directly to your in box. Let us provide the inspiration for your staff to work on their own personal sustainability.
See below (youtube clip) for our gift to you ... a five minute meditation with Toby Wallace, Chillout Meditation and Yoga Teacher.
It’s not just your waist line eating a poor diet can impact upon. Research now suggests that depression and dementia are affected by the quality of our diets. Indeed, studies from countries as diverse as Norway, Spain, Japan, China, England, America and Australia show people whose diets are healthier are less likely to experience depression. Research also shows that people who eat a more unhealthy diet, high in junk foods are at increased risk of depression. Processed foods – high in sugar, fat, salt foods - not only undermine your optimal nutritional status, but impact upon our mental wellbeing.
So, it really is true you are what you eat. Most people fail to realize that your gut is quite literally your second brain, and actually has the ability to significantly influence your mind, mood and behavior. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain! So it actually makes perfect sense that eating a healthy diet to nourish your gut flora for optimal serotonin function will have a profound impact on your mood, psychological health, and behaviour. In fact, recent studies have shown foods and drinks rich in probiotics can play a role in curbing social anxiety in young adults.
Aim to include fermented foods in your diet on a regular basis. You can try making some of these foods yourself or visit your local health food store, they generally to stock a large range. It won’t just be your digestive system that reaps the rewards.
- Natural Yoghurt and Coconut Yoghurt
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. By focusing on the here and now, many people find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.
Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
Click below to enjoy a 5 minute meditation with Toby Wallace, Chillout Meditation and Yoga Teacher.
Meditation and Yoga
Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on our body. By encouraging relaxation, it helps to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This has many related benefits including lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion and boosting the immune system as well as easing symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma and insomnia. Yoga helps us to focus on the present, to become more aware and to help create mind/body health. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time and memory. The meditative aspects of yoga help many to reach a deeper, more satisfying place in their lives.
So your day on a plate has looked pretty good so far. You have eaten some complex carbohydrates (wheat free where possible), plenty of protein (with vegetarian options), good fats, vegetables and a serve or two of fresh fruit. Now you want something a little extra, a reward at the end of a busy day. Let’s face it, we all love a sweet treat now and then! Eating a healthy, nutritious diet doesn’t have to mean never having sugar again. To me it is all about balance – a ‘clean eating’, ‘whole food’ diet can still include some indulgence. Of course those sweet treats shouldn’t be daily, but you really can enjoy some guilt free deliciousness occasionally. Here are a few of my nutritional tricks of the trade to keep your healthy treats just that – healthy.
By including protein you help ensure your blood sugar levels are balanced. Protein keeps you feeling full for longer by increasing your brain’s levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone that tells you when your belly is full. It helps you avoid those blood sugar highs and lows that so often come with eating sweet foods. Try to include some nuts, nut butters, LSA, hemp seeds, coconut flour, seeds or a dollop or two of yoghurt with your treats.
Who would have thought eating chocolate could be good for you! I love cooking with raw cacao because, not only do I love dark chocolate, it has amazing health benefits. Raw cacao is dark chocolate in its most unrefined form and to the Aztecs, it was the food of the Gods. Some of its many health benefits include:
So kick back, relax and enjoy some raw cacao deliciousness knowing your mood will naturally be uplifted, your nervous system nourished and free radicals banished.
Another superfood that helps to keep you feeling full for longer! Good quality virgin coconut oil is more satiating than simple carbohydrates and sugars. It contains medium-chain fatty acid (MCTs), whereas most saturated fats are long chain-fatty acids. These MCTs are more easily metabolized, providing quicker energy, improved blood sugar regulation and are not typically stored as body fat. When combined with protein, it you can fuel your energy reserves properly, and get you off the sugar roller coaster. Even better, a study reported in the Journal of Nutrition found that coconut oil boosts metabolism. Researchers found that participants who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil per day burned more kilojoules than those who consumed less. Coconut oil will not turn rancid and oxidize when heated, unlike many other oils (including olive oil), so it is ideal for heating and baking. Try using it instead of butter when making goodies like Anzac cookies, muesli slice and hedgehog.
There really is no excuse for using white, refined table sugar any more as there are just so many mineral rich, low glycaemic alternatives out there. Think maple syrup, coconut sugar, organic cold pressed honey, agave nectar and brown rice syrup. Brown Rice Syrup is a fabulous substitute for sugar and one of my favourites. As the name suggests, it is a whole food derived from brown rice. Even better it is completely fructose free (hooray!) and has a low glycaemic level, so it doesn’t send you off into the crazy blood sugar highs and lows that sugar can. I use Pure Harvest Brown Rice Syrup. The taste is not as sweet as other sweeteners and that is one of its added benefits. This ‘reduced’ sweetness gives your body (and your taste buds) a chance to adapt and not need those sugar hits for instant energy pick-me-ups
There is a reason why this is my final point – the only way you can really control the health and nutritional content of your treats is to make them yourself. As always, if you have children I really encourage you to get them cooking with you. They can help you choose the recipe, shop and then create. Talk to them about the ingredients you are using and their health benefits, there really is no better nutritional ‘education’ than learning to cook a ‘whole-food’ diet with your parents. As Jamie Oliver likes to say “pass it on”.
Here is one of my absolute favourite healthy, sweet treats using all the elements I discussed. Enjoy!
Raw Cocoa Fruit & Nut Slice
1 cup raw macadamia nuts
½ cup raw cashews
½ cup raw almonds
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 tbsp each chia seeds and flaxseeds, ground
1 cup coconut
16 prunes, pitted
10 fresh dates, pitted
¼ to ½ cup water
2 tbsp rice syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 cup raw cacao
1 tbsp cold pressed coconut oil
1. Place macadamias, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds and coconut in food processor until broken up into crumb size. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well mixed.
2. Press evenly into a plastic container 30cm x 20cm, cut lines for squares and refrigerate. When firm, remove and break into squares and place in air tight container
Lindy Cook is a Naturopath, Nutritionist and Director of Corporate Chillout.