Monday, March 30, 2009

A Treat ? Really ?

There are times when you really have to take a step back and ask what is going on here? We all want our children to grow up to be happy and healthy. So why do we do things that not only don’t help them with this goal but may make it harder for them?

On the weekend my daughter brought in something she found in her cupboard. It was from a party she went to around November of last year .It was a bright orange sweet which looked a bit like a snowman in three layers with faces and decoration. Pretty as a picture.

The reverse side was not so pretty. The ingredient panel showed it to be sugar, glucose syrup and six “numbers” (artificial additives colourings and preservatives).Included in this were two colourings that are banned in the UK (but not Australia) The use by date was May 2010!.

This is basically chemically coloured sugar in suspended animation. There is not only no goodness in it but chemicals that the livers of these young bodies will have to work to remove.

Now you are right in thinking that there is no use putting a stick of celery or carrot in a party bag for kids .It is a treat and doesn’t happen that often. However there are two issues to think about.

First is the overall message we send to our children about foods and nutrition. By making something which is artificially coloured sugar into a reward we are training children to see this sort of thing as special. Secondly what does it say about us as adults that we are prepared to do this?

We all like sweet treats and there is no reason why children can’t have them at times.
However there is no reason why these treats cant be sweet and fun for children and not have just sugar and artificial colour .There are an increasing number of “treats “ which do not have artificial colourings and preservatives . There are also sweet treats that you can make at home with natural ingredients Yes it might take a bit longer and require a bit more effort. This is our children we are talking about though

It is counterproductive to be zealous about what we fed our children .Being too strict with “healthy” food may push them the other way. Collectively though we can do more than offer artificially coloured sugar. There is a happy middle way. It does require a bit of effort It is worth every bit of that effort.

Tip for today

Have a look in your pantry and read the labels on 3 boxes or packages . Then make decisions about what you do and don’t want inside your body.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Breakfast - The vital starter

A survey for Australian health insurer MBF revealed that 40% of Australian children miss breakfast on at least one day per week. Some 8% of children never ate breakfast.

We all know thatbreakfats is the most important meal of the day. We also know that with children going to scchool that their concentration,attention span and capacity to learn will be reduced if they don't have some "fuel in the tank" to start the day.

So what were the reasons given for not having breakfast. According to the survey the commonest reasons given were lack of time ,being too tired or couldn't be bothrered. To say that these are poor excuses is an understatement. On the plus side there is a simple solution to each.

For lack of time it may mean geting up 10 minutes earlier Breakfast doesnt have to be difficult to be nutrutious. Some fruit and yoghurt is fine Some rye or spelt toast is OK. if you want to invest a bit more time then rolled oats(cooked) or an egg is good too. It is not time consuming Make sure you have some water as well

Being too tired can be overcome by going to bed on time. As I have written before sleep is vital for the body and needs to be seen as being as imporatant as breathing and eating.

For those who couldnt be bothered the question really is how important is your childs health and development. It is vital for everyone to eat beakfast but even more so for growing minds and bodies.

No child should leave the house in the morning without breakfast(unless you are eating breakfast out). There is no excuse that cant be overcome.

Tip for the day
Simplest breakfast is seasonal fruit(banana apple whatever you like) with yoghurt and a sprinkle of rolled oats Ready in two minutes or less

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Live better longer

Two articles caught my eye this mornings paper. An analysis from Oxford University published in The Lancet showed a direct correlation between body mass index (BMI) and longevity.

The researchers followed nearly one million people in The USA and Europe for between 10 and 15 years and found that the greater the BMI, the shorter the life expectancy. Those with a BMI of 30-35 died 3 years earlier than otherwise expected Those with a BMI over 40 “lost” 10 years off their expected life span. The main reasons for this was heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

Whilst these studies always rely on statistics and methodologies can always be questioned even if you halve the figures it is still significant

The other piece was about Alzheimer’s disease. The likelihood of getting this can be reduced by 40% according to research from the University of Illinois, by simply eating “brain food”. This means foods with antioxidants and colour such as blueberries, red grapes and the spice turmeric (see Add some colour to your life March 8) . These foods contain antioxidants like vitamin C and E and also folic acid. Exercise both physical and mental was also important.

Living longer and keeping your mental facilities going is as simple as putting the rights sorts of fuels into your body and keeping yourself active.

Tip for the day

Eat some grapes and blueberries

Monday, March 16, 2009

Water needs to flow

Headaches are extremely common. Almost everyone will get a headache at some stage. Yet some people get them frequently and others only occasionally. Whilst there are some underlying causes of headaches such as eye strain, sinus problems, neck injuries and high blood pressure to name a few, the commonest type of headache is the “tension type headache”.

This form of headache is generally felt across the front of the head and can sometime be felt like a “band “ around the head it can last from half an hour to many days. The name implies a relationship to tension or stress.Only 50% of those with this form of headache have an identifiable stress leading to the headache.

One of the major contributors to headaches is simple to overcome. It is lack of water. The Boston study (see link) showed a correlation between rising ambient temperature and presentation to emergency rooms with headache. The study didn’t reach a conclusion as to why this occurs.

In my view the reason is people becoming slightly dehydrated. The body is 70% water and as the temperature goes up we lose more. Unless it is replaced we become “drier”. Our cells start to shrivel up like leaves. One of the first signs of dehydration is a headache so it is no surprise that with warmer weather more people get headaches.

The body needs around 35ml/kg body weight per day of water This is before exercise or it being a hot day in which case you need more. The body needs to turn over its water. Consider the difference between a river and stagnant pond. Both have water, one has movement of water the other doesn’t. Would you prefer your body (which is 70% water) to be a stagnant pond or a flowing river?

If you want to drink filtered or bottled water that’s great. However tap water will do.
Just make sure it is water.( A wedge of lemon or orange is fine to give it some flavour) Coffee, alcohol and soft drinks don’t count.

Resolve today to be the river not the stagnant pond.

Tip for the day

When you have a glass of water have a second one.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You and your car- the right fuels

Occasionally, the obvious is borne out by scientific studies. It is amazing how really important but obvious facts are overlooked in the health sphere particularly when it comes to diet and nutrition.

The study in Diabetes journal looked at the effect of a low Glycaemic Index(GI) diet on the need for insulin use in pregnant women with diabetes. No prizes for guessing that the women who ate more whole foods (fruits and vegetables) halved their need for insulin compared to those eating a “more conventional” high GI diet which contained more processed food.

Given that eating too much processed food is the key driver in the development of diabetes this result should not have surprised the researchers. In simplest terms by putting the right sorts of foods into the body, the body does better and has less need for any sort of pharmaceutical, even if the pharmaceutical is a hormone like insulin.

The New England Journal study showed that for those wanting to reduce weight the most important factor was reducing the number of calories consumed irrespective of what type of “diet” was followed. In other words all the diets out there “work” providing you consume fewer calories and thus use up the bodies reserves (fat stores.)

You wouldn’t dream of putting diesel into a petrol (gasoline) driven car because it wouldn’t run well. Yet sadly we put all sorts of fuels into our bodies that cause it to not run well and eventually become dis-eased.

Keep it simple . Eat “whole” foods which until recently were growing somewhere or moving around. Minimise the foods which have use by dates beyond next week, and come out of boxes and packages. Make water your main beverage.

Putting the right fuels into the body gives it the best chance of running better for longer. You are more important than your car!!

Tip for today

Try fruit or rolled oats for breakfast instead of boxed cereal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time for exercise ?

We all know that exercise is important yet how many of us convert the knowing into doing. To use the Zen quotation “to know and not to do is not yet to know”.

The most common reason given is lack of time. All of us have 24 hours available in the day (16 once you have slept for 8 hours). So why is it that some people find the time and others don’t? This statistic may provide a clue.

Time magazine (March 9 2009) reports that according to a Nielsen report the average American watched 151 hours of television per month in the fourth quarter of 2008.This does not include time on the internet or in front of other screens

This equates to 5 hours per day .Before we point the finger at Americans, it is unlikely that Australia, the UK or a number of other Western countries fare much better.

Given that 30 minutes per day on at least 4 days per week is the basis of a good exercise program, lack of time cannot be the reason. As with all things in life the answer is the choices we make and our priorities. If you make regular physical activity a priority then the time is there and for those that way inclined there is still 4 ½ hours TV time per day

The key is mindset and choosing to be active.

Tip for the day:

Park your car in the bay furthest rather than closet to your destination

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Add some colour to your life

Whilst the” benefits” of pharmaceutical agents are studied and promoted intensively less research is done on vitamins and other natural products like spices and herbs .Part of the reason for this is that there can be no patent applied to something found in nature.

Yet there are many health benefits from naturally occurring substances particularly plants. This report ( see link) looks at turmeric It has powerful antioxidants . Curcumin, the component which gives turmeric its yellow colour has been shown to have an anti inflammatory effect in the body. It reduces the production of and activity of some enzymes involved in inflammation.

We know that many chronic diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers are the end result of slow inflammation. New research is going to be done looking at the use of turmeric to prevent Alzheimer disease .

You don’t need to wait for the results .Colour in the diet is really important Fruit vegetables herbs and spices add colour and variety to our diets Often the components which provide the colour are the active component that helps our bodies .In addition to this herbs and spices add flavour to food.

The ancients actually knew more about this than our modern scientists

Tip for the day

Add some colour to at least 2 meals

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Healthy you- Healthy budget

This is a quote from time Magazine
Total U.S. health-care spending in 2007 rose to $2.2 trillion, and the public portion is growing fast. "Medicare and Medicaid on their current trajectory cannot be sustained," Obama told a group of columnists aboard Air Force One.

The New York Times reports that $US 2 billion each year may be spent on unnecessary antibiotics

In all western countries the issue is the same .The so called “health system” is in reality a disease system and the money is actually spent on disease not health. For reasons unknown virtually no emphasis is placed on people being healthy .

The London based World Cancer research Fund stated that one third of cancers could be avoided(not treated) by people adopting better eating habits and being more active How simple is that?

This wont break the government budget or YOUR budget, which in the current economic environment is a big plus. You may even save on your food bill by eating less processed food.More importantly wouldn’t you rather be healthy than be “treated” for illness?

Above all else through adopting the DIY health principles you are likely to look and feel better

Tip for today
Try some nuts or seeds instead of a biscuit at morning /afternoon tea

Easy to do, minimal cost No fancy technology needed,9171,1880648-1,00.html

Monday, March 2, 2009


We spend more time asleep than any other thing we do. It is number 3 after air and water and before food in the ranks of importance to the body Yet we often dont treat sleep time with respect and "borrow" from it to do other things forgetting to repay the debt

Last year, three separate studies showed the importance of sleep. At UCLA, it was demonstrated that there was an increase in silent inflammation of the body in people who did not get an adequate amount of sleep. Slow or silent inflammation is a critical component in the development of heart disease, stroke and various auto-immune conditions. A Japanese study showed lack of sleep as a separate risk factor for heart disease aside from blood pressure, cholesterol and all the others. Most interestingly was an American study which showed that when a county in Kentucky decided to push back the start of middle and high school by an hour, traffic crash rates for drivers aged 17 to 19 dropped 16.5% and of course, the students reported getting more sleep.

While asleep every part of the body is “active” except the conscious mind . Slow the mind down by reducing external and internal stimuli. It is the “chatter “ of the mind the keeps many awake.

Sleep in a dark quiet room with a comfortable bed . Wind down before going to bed . Consider candle burners with soothing scents ,soft tranquil music or guided relaxations. Tai chi, yoga and mediation can help as can some herbal teas .

Make sleep a priority in your life rather than something you do when everything else is finished .

Sunday, March 1, 2009

With health- simple things mean a lot.

A new report from the London based World Cancer Research Fund has once again highlighted the importance of simple lifestyle measures that you can apply everyday. This report published last week estimates that 1/3 of cancers are related to poor diet and nutrition and lack of physical activity.

In other words by being on a healthy diet, getting enough essential vitamins and minerals and being physically active, your chances of getting cancer can be reduced by 1/3. This is apart from lower rates of heart disease and stroke that also comes from maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

It is important to be aware though that avoiding disease is in fact the result of a focus on being healthy. The principles of good health include eating foods that the body requires in the right amounts, drinking enough water (30ml’s/kg per day), being active on a regular basis (at least 30mins 4 times a week), and getting the right amount of sleep (avg. 8 hrs for most people).

Ok, so most of you reading this are saying to yourself “I already know all this.” There is an old Zen saying “To know and not to do is not yet to know.” The question then becomes how many of you really “know” this.

By applying these basic principles of DIY Health the body can attain optimal health. By being healthy it becomes less likely that you will develop any form of disease. It also means that you will have the energy and vitality to enjoy and get the most out of your life each day.

What are you going to do (know) today to improve your health.