Lindy’s Gut Health talk hits the mark at the Library

By | Feedback, Community event, Nutrition | No Comments


Informative      Interesting      Engaging      Excellent      Relevant …

This session on Gut Health run by Lindy Cook was very well received by our community.

Lindy gave an excellent talk on the subject pitching it at just the right level. Lindy has a huge amount of knowledge that she packages brilliantly together for the public audience. The library received very positive feedback from audience members who felt more confident that they could make constructive changes in their lives to improve their health.

Lindy is a great speaker and so generous with her time answering questions after the talk. The powerpoint slides are also excellent.

Branch Manager, Whitehorse Manningham Libraries

Happy foods, gut health, RelaxBePositive, chi kung and a cashew beetroot spread

By | Relaxation, Tai Chi, Qigong, Nutrition | No Comments

Whoa! Chillout has some exciting new programs to start the new year. We have Lindy’s two marvellous nutrition workshops;  happy foods to elevate your mood; and ways to improve your gut. Joanne teaches how to be relaxed and positive.  And, I have introduced a short enjoyable Chi Kung exercise set that is easy to learn and easy to do for the rest of your life.

I’m so happy to introduce these new programs, I know the world benefits when we each make an effort to lift our game. And to top it off there is a delicious recipe,  beetroot and cashew spread, courtesy of Sandra Dubs, My Wholefood Community (

Happy Foods Workshop – Lindy Cook

This session uncovers the links between mental health, diet, behaviour, gut health and lifestyle. Specific foods and nutrients are discussed that boost the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin, our immunity and our sense of wellbeing. With one in four Australians experiencing anxiety and one in eight experiencing depression at some point in their lives, this workshop is relevant to all.

Gut Health Workshop – Lindy Cook

Most of us have heard about gut health and maybe know the basics, but what’s all the fuss about? Gut health is not just about digestion; how happy our belly is effects everything from our mood, brain function, sleep, weight, allergies and immune system. This workshop offers practical dietary and lifestyle tips to nourish and support your gut microbiome, supporting good health, wellbeing and productivity.

Be relaxed Be peaceful Be positive Workshop – Joanne Jackett

It is widely recognised that a positive attitude is important. When our words are positive, our actions and perceptions are positive, there are many benefits to ourselves and others. When we are in a positive state of mind our body feels relaxed and free, we are able to connect with an abundance of energy. Practicing relaxation techniques is a key component to developing positivity.  It allows the brain and nervous system to take time out.

Tai Chi Chi Kung Workshop – Judy Crowe

In this session you will learn 18 energy enhancing exercises called Shibashi. The exercises are synchronised with abdominal breathing and take 20 minutes to perform, add some cool down, all up 30 minutes. With this small time investment you will soon discover why millions of people all over the world are enjoying this health exercise. Mind/body relaxation, improved balance, and an enjoyable workout for the rest of your life.

Beetroot Cashew Spread

Serves 4
Cashews: 1 cup
Beetroots, peeled and cut: 1
Carrots: 1
Parsley-minced: ½  cup
Coriander-minced: ½  cup
Celery, diced 1 stalk
Red onion:  ½
Cumin-ground: 1tsp
Turmeric-ground: 1 tsp
Miso: 2-3 TBS to taste or use


  • Soak cashews in water to cover by 2cm for minimum 1 hour but 5 hours is best for creamier spread. Drain.
  • Place drained cashews, peeled and cut beetroots, carrots, fresh parsley and coriander, onion, celery, miso turmeric, cumin into high power blender.
  • Add filtered water in top of blender (through holes in cap) to desired consistency


*Recipe with thanks from Sandra Dubs, My Wholefood Community

Have a look at Sandra’s newly released Wholefood Community Cook Book

I’ve just ordered my copy yippee!

Happy Liver Foods by Lindy Cook, Naturopath and Nutritionist

By | Seasons, Nutrition | No Comments

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’.

Cruciferous vegies such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and bok choy help support the detoxification process of the liver.  There really is a good reason to eat extra kale this time of year!

Include foods rich in the liver’s favourite nutrients (lipotropics) to support fat metabolism – choline and inositol (whole grains, legumes, egg yolks and lecithinmethionine (garlic, onion, legumes, eggs, yoghurt and sardines  and carnitine (avocado, fish, beef and chicken).

B Vitamins (raw nuts and seeds, wholegrains and vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables and legumes).

‘Good’ fats generally improve liver function, support blood sugar regulation keeping us feeling full for longer, reduce inflammation and enhance our immunity.  Think oily fish, nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seed oil, coconut oil, olives and legumes. ALWAYS check your fish is sustainably sourced. Our oceans are incredibly depleted and we need to do our bit to help conserve those that are left.

Dandelion root tea is a natural liver tonic. With a slightly coffee-like taste, it can be drunk with your choice of milk or ‘black’. The bitterness stimulates digestion, enhances the detoxification role of the liver and can improve bowel function. Try making your own chai dandelion for extra digestive support and deliciousness.

Warming Winter Foods By Lindy Cook Naturopath & Nutritionist

By | Seasons, Nutrition | No Comments

With the colder months upon us, now is the time to nourish and warm your body from within with the foods you eat, working in harmony with nature and the winter season.

One way of achieving this goal is to flavour your foods with pungent herbs such as ginger, garlic, cayenne, turmeric and small amounts of chilli. These foods gently heat the body and stimulate the circulation while garlic has the added benefit of fighting both bacterial and viral infections and breaking down mucous.

Garlic is a great natural remedy for colds and flu, add it to your cooking or mix it with lemon, warm water and honey for a really powerful immune system kick.

Another way of protecting your body from the winter chill is to ensure your foods are ‘warm’ or heated rather than served cold. Winter is not the time for salads or too many cold fruits. Always add ginger to any fresh juices and stew fruits (served warm) to harmonise the cold element.

Cook up hearty, nutritious soups and stews filled with as many vegetables you can manage. A big pot of organic chicken and vegetable soup (with added garlic and ginger of course) is a nourishing winter feast and another great way to aid recovery from illness.

Seasonally, winter is a time to eat root vegetables. Higher in energy-giving carbohydrates, our bodies need this fuel to keep the inner winter fires burning. Choose from sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin and beetroot.

The orange vegetables are naturally high in betacarotene, an antioxidant that helps protect all the mucous membranes of the body, including the lungs. Smokers can help reduce the risk of lung cancer by consuming higher levels of betacarotene.

Beetroot gently enhances liver function thereby aiding digestion and helping to relieve constipation. It is considered a natural ‘blood tonic’, and can help boost iron levels.

These delicious foods can be roasted, blended into dips, stewed, added to soups or steamed.

Fruits tend to be better suited to the warmer weather.

However, the deliciously sweet, Australian navel orange is in season. High in vitamin C and alkalising to the body, oranges make a great winter fruit. Start the day with a fresh orange, carrot and ginger juice. This will keep your immune system primed and fight off any potential colds and flu. Include some of the pith from oranges in your juice as this helps ensure vitamin C is well absorbed and gives extra anti-viral action.

Remember to choose organic or biodynamic foods whenever possible. Not only are you ensuring your food has maximum nutritional value, your body does not have to break down the cocktail of pesticides, chemicals and additives found in conventional foods that are linked to so many chronic disease states.

Organic foods contain on average 50% more vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients! Plus, knowing you are doing your bit to support our environment is a great feeling.

Winter Abundance Bowl


Garlic-Ginger Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Serves 2-3

 2/3 cup brown rice

1/3 cup green lentils

¼ – ½ tsp. sea salt

1 head broccoli

1 medium sweet potato (leave the skin on if it’s organic!)

2 cups shredded red cabbage

juice of ½ lemon or lime

drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil


  1. Combine rice and lentils in a medium bowl, cover with water and wash well, rubbing grains and legumes together. Drain and repeat until water is clear. Cover with water again and soak overnight / for up to 8 hours, if possible. Drain and rinse.
  2. In a medium saucepan place the rice and lentils, plus 1½ cups water (if soaked – add 2 cups water if un-soaked), and sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered until water has been absorbed and rice and lentils are cooked through (about 30-45 minutes depending on if you soaked the grain or not).
  3. While the rice and lentils are cooking, chop the broccoli into florets and the sweet potato into bite-sized cubes. About ten minutes before the grains have cooked (check the water level before adding veggies – if it’s dry, add a little more liquid), add the sweet potato. After five minutes, add the broccoli on top of the sweet potato.
  4. While the rice and lentils are cooking you can also blend together the sauce (see below) and prepare the cabbage: Shred cabbage using a mandoline or sharp knife. Toss with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. Toss to combine.
  5. To assemble the bowl, simply spoon in the cooked rice and lentils with the steamed veggies, add the cabbage on the side and pour sauce over. Give thanks for the abundance and enjoy.

Garlic-Ginger Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Makes 2 cups


1 cup/150g pumpkin seeds

3 cloves garlic

knob of fresh ginger

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

¾ -1 cup /175- 250 ml water

¾ tsp. fine grain sea salt

¼ tsp. cracked black pepper

cayenne pepper to taste


1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast pumpkin seeds, stirring every so often, until they begin to pop. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. In a food processor, pulse to mince garlic and ginger. Add cooled pumpkin seeds and blend on high until sand-textured. Add remaining ingredients (start with ¾ cup water) and blend, scraping down the sides periodically. Add remaining water as needed to suit your desired consistency. Season to taste. Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

NOTE: This recipe makes quite a lot of sauce, but as it keeps for five days it’s a wonderful thing to have on hand to dress salads, roast veggies and cooked whole grains. You can easily make half the amount if you know you won’t eat it all in before it spoils.

RAW VERSION: You can also make a raw version of this sauce. To do so, soak the pumpkin seeds for 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse well. Skip step 1 in the instructions and carry on with the others.


*Recipe from the always inspiring My New Roots

Natural Remedies to get you sleeping soundly with a Restful Sleep Meditation

By | Relaxation, Events, Yoga, Meditation, Nutrition | No Comments

The globe will unite for World Sleep Day® on March 17, 2017 to host activities incorporating the slogan, ‘Sleep Soundly, Nurture Life.’

We all know the story, lying in bed wide awake in the wee hours of the night, unable to sleep and dreading yet another day ahead feeling exhausted and flat.

Just as the sun begins to rise you finally drop off, only to be rudely awoken by the sound of your alarm.

Or do you find it hard to get to sleep, tossing and turning wishing you could just stop thinking and fall into a deep refreshing sleep?

Lack of sleep and associated fatigue seems to be the curse of the modern age.

Adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but insomnia can keep them from getting the sleep they need. With around 1/3 of Australians suffering from a sleep issue of some sort there is no doubt there is plenty of ‘counting sheep’ going on every night around our country.

Just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal health and happiness, so is sleep. The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life, including your mental productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and even your weight.

Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn and create at a level even close to your true potential.

If you are struggling to get a good night’s kip, these tips can help get you sleeping more soundly and ready to embrace life again feeling energized and focused. Start getting the sleep you need to boost your energy, efficiency and creativity.

Stay Cool

To drop off we must cool off, literally. The body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That’s why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep. Studies have shown that the optimal conditions for sleep are a slightly cool room and a lower core temperature. So make sure your bedding is appropriate for the time of year, the heating is not switched too high or have a luke warm shower if you are finding it difficult to cool down.

Step Away From Your Phone (iPad, Lap Top, Device…)

That’s right, switch off and unplug! Experts say one of the most alluring sleep distractions is the 24-hour accessibility of the internet. Why? The blue wavelengths produced by your smartphone and other gadgets (and energy-efficient LED light bulbs) significantly suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy, according to University of Basel research. They also keep your mind stimulated and active, making it harder to unwind and sleep.

Breath In, Breath Out, Let it Go…

Relaxation techniques are one of the most effective ways to increase sleep time, fall asleep faster, and feel more rested in the morning. Visualizing a peaceful, tranquil scene and gradually relaxing every muscle in your body can help calm a busy mind or try a short meditation 20 minutes before bed. Meditation sends signals to your sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response telling it that it’s all right to relax and can help you let go of the worries and problems from your day.

Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath and then reading a book or listening to soothing music. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime carried out away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from the activities of your day.

Enjoy this Restful Sleep Meditation by Joanne Jackett, Chillout Yoga and Meditation Teacher.


Nourish your Adrenals

Your stress response, often known as ‘fight or flight response’, is powered by the hormone cortisol – secreted by the adrenal glands. This mechanism is intended to save your life when we are under threat and once the threat passes, return to normal. The problem is that in our busy world prolonged stress can leave our body’s thinking we have a never-ending emergency, the cortisol remains high and adrenal fatigue sets in.

Stress and adrenal function affect sleep, particularly the circadian pattern of cortisol. When we are managing stress effectively, cortisol should rise in the morning to give us energy for the day. By the time we are ready to hit the hay, it should drop, making it easy to fall into a deep, refreshing sleep. However, if it remains elevated at night we find it hard to unwind and slumber, instead feeling slightly wired, edgy and anxious – exactly when we need to find our Zen.

Ultimately you must get sleep if your adrenals are to get stronger. Natural remedies are brilliant at resetting your stress hormone levels and inducing calm in an uptight body. Try taking a mix of herbs such as Withiania, Chamomile, Oats, Rhodiola and Ginseng during the day to keep your body calm then add in the more powerful soporific tonics half an hour before bed. Think Valerian, Zizyphus, Passionflower and Jamaican Dogwood. Of course these need to be prescribed by a qualified Naturopath.

Balance Blood Sugar Levels

Adrenal fatigue may have another outcome in the poor sleep cycle– low blood sugar. Cortisol plays an important role in maintaining blood sugar (glucose) levels around the clock.

However, during adrenal fatigue cortisol levels may not work effectively to maintain blood glucose levels. If your brain detects low blood sugar levels at night it may make it difficult to get to sleep or have you waking in the middle of the night. An internal alarm is set off so you can wake (or get up) and refuel.

Make sure you eat a balanced diet during the day with protein at most meals and a good serve of complex carbohydrates. Skip the simple sugars from sweets and processed foods that cause your blood sugar levels to swing and energy to flag.

Having a healthy snack before bed can help fortify the body’s nighttime energy reserves. Make sure your snack contains protein, unrefined carbohydrate, and high quality fat, such as half a slice of whole grain toast with almond butter, a serve of yoghurt with chopped nuts and blueberries or a slice of cheese on a whole grain cracker.

Food As Medicine

Without doubt what you eat affects how you sleep. One of the keys to a restful night’s sleep is to get your brain calmed rather than revved up. Some foods contribute to restful sleep; other foods keep you awake.


Studies show even being mildly deficient in magnesium can affect your sleep quality. Given one of the major constituents of the adrenal glands is magnesium and we tend to burn through it when under stress, it is a fair assumption to make that a high degree of our population s deficient in this important nutrient. Magnesium comes in a wide range of foods, from nuts and seeds, to leafy greens and grains:

Nuts and seeds – raw almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, pumpkin, (pepitas) and sesame seeds.

Green leafy vegetables –kale, silver beet, chard and spinach.

Whole grains – quinoa, wheat, buckwheat and rye are not only high in magnesium but other nutrients too.

Dark Chocolate – feel like a treat? Raw Cacao is also high in magnesium and makes a great guilt free treat. Just don’t eat it too close to bed time, the caffeine can keep you awake!


Tryptophan is a precursor to the sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin. This means tryptophan is the raw material that the brain uses to build these relaxing neurotransmitters and will help make you sleepy.

Eating carbohydrates with tryptophan containing foods makes this calming amino acid more available to the brain. So cutting the carbs at night may not be the best thing for someone who is struggling to get a good nights in! Eating a high-protein meal without accompanying carbohydrates may keep you awake, since protein-rich foods also contain the amino acid, tyrosine, which perks up the brain.

Food sources of tryptophan include red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, soybeans and soy products, tuna, shellfish, and turkey. Try having a serve of natural, full cream yoghurt with a handful of nuts mixed before bed to enhance your tryptophan levels naturally.


So we all know regular exercise helps promote deep sleep. It helps relieve muscle tension and stress build up in the body. A couple of key points to note are; don’t exercise too late at night. As already mentioned, your body needs to be cool in order to sleep. The increased adrenaline can also make switching off harder. The other key point is to include exercise as a regular part of your daily routine. A recent studied revealed that while long-term exercise does help alleviate insomnia, it needs to be a regular habit. Unfortunately, only exercising once a week or for a short burst will not necessarily induce those nods you are craving.

Get Your Yoga On

A few low-key yoga moves can signal to your brain that slumber is coming. It is also a beautiful way to lower stress levels, calm the mind and relieve the tensions of the day and can be an effective natural sleep remedy. Certain resting and inversion poses can be particularly helpful for combating restlessness and insomnia, especially when practiced in the evening just before turning in. A Harvard study found that daily yoga for eight weeks improved total sleep time and the time it took to fall asleep.

Cut the Caffeine

It is a bit of a vicious cycle. You feel so tired during the day you desperately need a coffee, especially mid afternoon, to keep you going. Then that night, although you are exhausted, for some reason you just can’t drop off (again). When you are not sleeping well and feeling burnt out you need to nourish and calm your body, not keeping pushing it to fire on all cylinders with caffeine – I always liken it to flogging a dead horse.

Aim to stick to just one, morning caffeinated drink daily (excluding the nasty coke and pepsi drinks) and if you are really struggling with your sleep, it is time to cut it out and switch to chamomile or other herbal teas to stop stressing your adrenals.

That also means no nibbling on dark chocolate after dinner. Caffeine products, such as coffee, tea, colas and chocolate, remain in the body on average from 3 to 5 hours, but they can affect some people up to 12 hours later. Even if you do not think caffeine affects you, it may be disrupting and changing the quality of your sleep. Avoiding caffeine within 6-8 hours of going to bed can help improve sleep quality.

Lose the Booze

Drinking alcohol close to bedtime can lead to a night of restless sleep. Although many people think of alcohol as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep, causing nighttime awakenings.

To sleep well we need a calm, healthy, well-nourished body.

Step off the merry-go-round and find your Zen.

Wishing you sweet dreams, Lindy


Local and Worldwide Wellbeing Event Calendar 2017 – match your workplace event

By | Laughter, Tai Chi, Qigong, Events, Yoga, Meditation, MIndfulness, Nutrition | No Comments

Join in with local and worldwide events, contact us to tailor a session in your workplace.

Month Event Chillout workplace program
Jan New Year Personal sustainability with goal setting
Feb FebFast Energise and Detoxify
Mar World Sleep Day Sleep, fatigue and stress seminar
April World Tai Chi day Tai chi and qigong workshop
May Mindful in May Mindfulness training to increase focus & clarity
June UN International Day of Yoga Simple yoga techniques to improve wellbeing
Jul National Diabetes week I quit sugar seminar
Aug National Relaxation Day Yoga stretching regime for good posture
Sep R U Ok? Day Laughter, Joy, Happiness workshop
Oct National Nutrition Week Superfood talk and tasting
Nov Movember Men’s Health Men’s Health workshop
Dec Xmas Top Nutritionist tips to thrive in the festive season

Festive Summer Foods by Lindy Cook, The Nutrition Guru

By | Seasons, Nutrition | No Comments

Summer has been called the ‘season of luxurious growth’ and it is reflected in our lifestyles as a time of expansion, growth and lightness. Wake early, embrace the day and enjoy the renewed energy and spirit that summer brings. Summer is, after all, the season of vitality.

Summer foods offer abundant variety and your diet should reflect this. Seasonal fruits include apples, strawberries, boysenberries, cherries, raspberries, mangoes, honey dew melon, watermelon, passionfruit, pineapples, nectarines and peaches. Indulge in beautiful fruit compotes, blend delicious fruit smoothies and juice exotic fruits.

Berries are undoubtedly the fruits of the season. One of nature’s super foods, berries contain powerful antioxidants which are complex compounds that help de-activate the cell-damaging free radicals whose activities can lead to cancer and age-related diseases. Red berries active constituents include lycopene and anthocyanins. Lycopene has a wide range of activities and helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer and protects the skin from sun damage. The blue, purple and black berries contain anthocyanins and phenolics. These clever compounds help prevent conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and heart disease. A high intake of cherries can reduce the pain and inflammation associated with gout and arthritis while cranberries have an antibiotic quality that alleviates symptoms of cystitis. All berries are rich in vitamin C, improve the circulation and may reduce risks associated with high cholesterol.

Summer is the time to emphasize raw foods in your diet, as long as your digestive system is robust and functioning efficiently. Raw foods are richer in enzymes that support the entire digestive process and have lost none of the heat-sensitive vitamins and minerals in the cooking process. To cope with the summer heat, incorporate foods with cooling properties such as watermelon, cucumber, sprouts, apples, lemons and limes. Eat more lightly on hotter days to avoid feeling sluggish and remember to replace those minerals and salts that are sweated out. Keep your fluid intake high and try to include regular vegetable juices to keep your body hydrated. Vegetable juices are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Coconut water naturally hydrates and balances your body’s pH. Try making a fresh green smoothie made with coconut water – it makes a deliciously refreshing and nourishing drink on a hot day.

Summer is a season of abundance so use plenty of brightly coloured summer fruits and vegetables and enjoy making dazzling and creative meals. Enjoy this time of increased vitality.


Acai Chia Pudding

Serves 4

1/2 cup chia seeds

1 1/2 cups coconut nut milk

2 tsp coconut sugar

2 tsp Acai powder

1 cup mixed berries

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate over night or for a minimum of 4 hours.

Serving Options

Sprinkle with cacao nibs or grated 85% dark chocolate, fine dessicated coconut, berries and yoghurt if desired.

Summer Fruits Icy Poles

  • 1/2 medium watermelon
  • Handful frozen blueberries/raspberries
  • 3 kiwi fruits
  • Frozen mango pieces
  • 1 punnet strawberries
  • 2 passionfruit

How to make fruit ice blocks

  1. Blend up the watermelon in a blender or food processor. It should be liquified and will be quite watery.
  2. Slice up strawberries and kiwi fruit (peel kiwi fruit first).
  3. Start by placing a mix of fruit (frozen and fresh) into the bottom of each mould. I like to place the kiwi pieces along the sides, they look so delicious this way!
  4. Spoon or pour in the watermelon mix. Gently tap the moulds so that everything settles and there are no gaps left.
  5. Place the stick into the mould and freeze for 4-5 hours or until completely set

To easily get the ice blocks out of the moulds when ready to eat, run them under hot water for 5-10 seconds so they slip out of the mould.

* Recipe from

Six Tips For Staying Well In Winter by Lindy Cook, Naturopath & Nutritionist

By | Nutrition | No Comments

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.

Vitamin D
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

  • vitamin D sufficiency > 75 nmol/L
  • sub-optimal levels 50-75 nmol/L
  • vitamin D insufficiency 25-50 nmol/L
  • vitamin D deficiency 15-25 nmol/L
  • severe vitamin D deficiency < 15 nmol/L

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
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.



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 1 medium green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1⁄4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄2 cup apple cider
  • 1⁄2 cup water, to taste (use less water if you like it more tangy) 
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed (optional)


  1. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat and cook onion, stirring constantly, until it begins to soften and turn translucent.
  2. Add cabbage, cider, vinegar, water, salt and caraway seeds and bring to a boil.
  3. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 30 to 45 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. Add a little water if it gets too dry.
  4. This can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Spring Time Cleansing by Lindy Cook, Nutritionist

By | Seasons, Nutrition | No Comments

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

  • Consume bitter foods.
    Anything bitter will stimulate digestion and enhance liver function. Start the day with 1/2 a freshly squeezed lemon in warm water. Bitter greens include silverbeet, cos lettuce (outer leaves), endive, chicory, dandelion, raddichio and mustard greens
  •   Foods rich in antioxidants help the liver in its detoxification role:
  • Vitamin C (broccoli, parsley, red fruits and citrus fruits)
  • Vitamin E (raw nuts and seeds, egg yolk, wheat germ)
  • Zinc (raw nuts and seeds, especially brazil nuts and cashews, eggs, whole grains, fish such as herring and oysters)
  • Selenium (raw nuts and seeds, especially brazil nuts and cashews, eggs, whole grains, fish and seafood, garlic and onion)
  • Foods rich in ‘favourite’ liver nutrients (lipotropics):
    choline and inistol (whole grains, legumes, egg yolks and lecithin)
    methionine (garlic, onion, legumes, eggs, yoghurt and sardines)
    Carnitine (avocado, fish, beef and chicken)
    B Vitamins (raw nuts and seeds, wholegrains and vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables and legumes)​

  • Keep alcohol consumption low and stick with red wine (anti-oxidant rich) or vodka and soda (low sugar). 
  • Bring in some fermented foods to your diet to help flood your gut with good bacteria. Fermented foods are really ‘food as medicine’ at their very best – they are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form. This, along with the bevy of probiotics created during the fermentation process, could explain the link between consumption of fermented foods and improved digestion.Think keffir, sauerkraut, tempeh, natural yoghurt and kombucha. There are many brilliant fermented foods available at your health food shop now. I am personally loving a side of Peave, Love and Vegetables green sauerkraut served up with my daily (and ever changing) protein combo. Of course, you can also make your own. Here’s how
  • Steam foods or bake/fry in coconut or olive oil
  • ‘Good’ fats generally improve liver function, support blood sugar regulation keeping us feeling full for longer, reduce inflammation and enhance our immunity. Phew, that’s a lot of reasons to include some in your diet everyday!  Think oily fish, nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seed oil, olives and legumes. ALWAYS check your fish is sustainably sourced. Our oceans are incredibly depleted and we need to do our bit to help conserve those that are left.

  • Dandelion root tea is a natural liver tonic. With a slightly coffee-like taste, it can be drunk with soy milk, milk, honey and ginger and will enhance the detoxification role of the liver and improve bowel function.
  • Remember that grains put a strain on our digestive system and can ‘feed’ the wrong bacteria, leading to food sensitivities and compromised immunity. Try going grain free during a period of detoxification to give your gut a break. Coconut flour and buckwheat flour are both okay to use during this time and can help you feel a little less deprived. You might like to start your day with a buckwheat pancake.
  • Foods that accelerate healing in the liver include chlorophyll-rich foods (wheat or barley grass, spirulina and chlorella, along with green, leafy vegetables). Mung beans and their sprouts, seaweeds, lettuce, cucumber, watercress, tofu and millet improve detoxification.
  • Cut the Sugar! Leave out the processed, sweet foods and your digestion will improve, detoxification pathways function better, energy levels will rise and your body will thank you for it. Yes, it is hard to do, studies show sugar is more addictive than heroin, but the amount we are consuming in Australia is one of the factors contributing to the sad fact we are now officially one of the worlds fattest nation. If you are looking for a healthier sweet treat, try our delicious raw cacao slice
  • Incorporate a ‘green smoothie’ into your daily diet. This is a really simple way to get a big bang of nutritional goodness into your day. Use almond milk (Pureharvest – avail from your supermarket – or fresh) or coconut water (I use Raw C) as a base and combine ingredients like silverbeet/spinach/avocado/lettuce/apple/banana/lemon/cucumber/berries. Throw in some protein (my favourite at the moment is Amazonia Raw Protein) and chia seeds and blitz. Frozen fruit adds an extra thickness and creaminess to an already delicious combo. You can also try our Green Smoothie Sunrise or our Green ‘Zing’ Smoothie
  • Sulphur compounds found in the cabbage family and dandelion can improve the detoxification process of the liver. These foods include: brussel sprouts, cabbage and garlic.

Remember, by using ‘food as medicine’ and eating in harmony with the seasons you are giving yourself the best chance to achieve optimal health. Organic foods support this process and reduce the chemical load placed on the liver. Happy spring cleaning.