Monthly Archives: March 2013

My Top 5 Favourite Antioxidant Foods

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Anitoxidants..a term we are all likely to have come across at some point, but what exactly are they?  Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds in foods that have long been shown to promote good health. Their role in the body is basically to “mop up” or nuetralise chemicals in the body known as free radicals (unstable molecules), that are produced by oxidative processes in the human body. It is important that we do our best to prevent build ups of these chemicals as they are linked to aging processes and common health problems such as cancer and heart and liver disease!

So this is where our Antioxidants come into play! Antioxidants are found in many types of fruits and vegetables, nuts and wholegrains, but some are much richer sources than others. Below are my top 5 favourite antioxidant rich foods..not only because they contain these important natural compounds but also because they are delicious and leave you feeling revitalised and full of energy! Many have also been shown to have anti-aging effects! yay!

1. Blueberries:Blueberries

Though they are only tiny, these tastey little morsels pack a good punch as they known to be one of the richest natural sources of a antioxidants in the world! Just half a cup of blueberries will double your usual antioxidant intake! These little babies not only have anti-aging properties but they also contain a culmination of other essential vitamins and minerals that will keep you energised and healthy!  So, to get a serious hit of antioxidants in your daily diet, why not add half a cup to your breakky cereal in the morning or whiz them up in a tastey, nutrient rich smoothie? Though fresh blueberries are often quite expensive..don’t lose hope as the frozen varieties are just as nutritious if not more, due to being snap frozen after picking!

2. Raw Cacao

What’s not to love.. it’s used to make our beloved chocolate AND its good for you!! win win situation right?? Now notice that I said Cacao not cocoa, which is a much more commericalised, highly processed version of the chocolate forming compound that contains very little nutrients at all due to the high level of processing it undergoes before it reaches your supermarket shelves. Raw Cacao on the other hand is known as the raw chocolate superfood as unprocessed raw cacao beans are super-rich in the type of flavonoid called flavanols which are very strong antioxidants that help maintain healthy blood flow and blood pressure! In a recent study by Cornell University* food scientists discovered that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants found in green tea! So instead of reaching for the highly processed sugar laiden chocolate bunnies on your supermarket shelf..why not try making your own antioxidant rich Easter treats using raw Cacao powder! (See my previous post for a quick and easy, yet oh so tastey and nutritious Easter treats recipe!)

3.  Acai Berries

Acai berries, although fairly new to the Western world, are quickly becoming very popular due to their high antioxidant properties. Acai berries are small purple colored berry that originates from the Amazon jungle!..(healthy and exotic!) The antioxidants found in them have been shown to have a positive effect on the heart and cardiovascular system. In addition, acai berries are believed to improve circulation, fight cancer, and prevent both blood clots and artherosclerosis, the clogging of blood vessels! You can buy acai powder and other products from most health food shops and watch out for this little gem at your local juice bars and cafes, as it is often whizzed up in delicious smoothies and juices!

4. Green Tea

Just another reason to have another cuppa! Green Tea has been cultivated for centuries, beginning in India and China and it’s benefits have long been known to these cultures. In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, practitioners used green tea as a stimulant, a diuretic (to help rid the body of excess fluid), an astringent (to control bleeding and help heal wounds), and to improve heart health. Other traditional uses of green tea include treating gas, regulating body temperature and blood sugar, promoting digestion, and improving mental processes. And why is green tea so great? Well it is now knwon that green tea in particular, which is made from unfermented tea leaves contains the highest concentration of a powerful type of antioxidant known as “polyphenols”, making it a very potent (and easily accessible) source of these aging and disease fighting compounds!

5. Apples

Yep, you thought it was just an old wives tale didn’t you that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”… Well in actual fact, that old saying actually rings very true, espeically when talking about health promoting compounds like antioxidants! Packed full of flavenoids,  (a collective term for a range of antioxidant compounds), apples are a great source of antioxidants, as their natural sugars (known as Fructose) are believed to improve our body’s abilities to absorb the high levels of the falvenoids that they contain! Along with their antioxidant properties, apples also contain pectin, a soluble fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol. So, what’s not to love about this wonderful fruit that is available almost all year around? Not only do they taste great, but they are always relatively cheap (even for all you poor uni students out there!) AND they have multiple health benefits to help keep you feeling healthy and youthful! Who knew the old faithful apple could be so ridiculously good for you?!

Enjoy!

A

 

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Healthy Chocolate Easter Treats!

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IMG_0683So I’m not too sure what happened to the last 12 months but somehow it’s Easter time again already and I know what you’re all thinking… “woooo a 4 day pass to ditch the diet and eat AS MUCH CHOCOLATE AS POSSIBLE before Monday rolls around!!”

Well before you all go roaming the isles of your local supermarkets topping up your trollies full of all sorts of delicious chocolate Easter treats hear me out! Why? Because I think I have just the thing you need to curb those Monday night guilts after demolishing almost your own body weight in chocolate over the weekend!

This afternoon I put together a much healthier alternative chocolate treat that will not only cure any chocolate craving but will also be much kinder on the hips! Packed full of protein, antioxidants and poly and monounsaturated fats (the good stuff), these choc protein balls are the perfect healthy alternative to boring old chocolate egg! AND they’re GLUTEN AND DAIRY FREE!!!

Healthy Choc Protein Balls

What you need…

1 cup of pitted mejoole dates (or the packet varieties if you can’t find fresh ones!)

1 cup raw almonds

1/4 cup pistachios

1/2 cup raw cocao powder

1/2 cup natural whey protein powder

drizzle of honey

splash of water if necessary

desiccated coconut

What to do…

Throw your dates and nuts into a mix master/blender and blend until they are the consistency of fine pebbles.

Then add all remaining ingredients except the water and coconut and blend until well combined. If it looks a bit dry and isn’t really coming together add a splash of water.

Once combined roll the mixture into bite sized balls and roll them in the desiccated coconut before placing them in the freezer to let them firm up! They will keep really well in there so they make the perfect snack to keep on hand as well! Easter Treats for anytime of year! yum!

Of course you can always mix it up with the ingredients and use whatever nuts or dried fruit your heart desires! You could also add some tahini paste or other sort of nut paste (cashew/almond etc) to give it a slightly more nutty flavour and bump up the amount of protein and other essential nutrients in them!

Also I put a drizzle of honey in but you probably don’t even need it as they are already pretty sweet with natural sugars from the dates!

Healthy, nutritious and delicious!

Happy Easter Everyone!!

A

Why I’m Not Going Gluten Free

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My thoughts exactly!!!

Chances are if you have been around any kind of media source lately you have heard about the gluten-free fad. A recent poll done by a marketing research company found 30% of adults claim to be going gluten-free. Do you know someone who has gone gluten-free? Have you tried to go gluten-free yourself? Do you even know what gluten is? Before you decide to give up gluten it is important to know all of the facts.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is important to our foods because it is what gives baked products elasticity. Without gluten you would not be able to shape your pizza dough or knead your bread dough. Contrary to what you may have heard gluten is not a toxin and it is not a harmful particle.

So why would cutting this little protein out of your diet help you feel better? For…

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Butter or Margarine?

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fn_butterWith all the recent noise and confusion surrounding fats and oils and their effects on the body, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to spread the word on spreads and decipher the mors code of current research surrounding the use of butter vs margarine!

Firstly a bit of background on fats so we’re all up to speed..

So basically everything we eat can be broken down into 3 major building blocks, being Fat, Carbohydrates and Protein (and fibre of course) but for now we will just stick to the major macro-nutrients in our diets!

And if we narrow it down to just fats we have a variety of different types, some that are good for us and others that are not so good! The “bad” fats as they are commonly referred to are the saturated and trans fats in our diets. And why are they bad? Well basically these fats are responsible for increasing the bad type of cholesterol in our blood (known as LDL-Cholesterol). This type of cholesterol essentially causes a build up of fatty plaque in our arteries, causing restricted blood through through our blood vessels. This build up is very dangerous as it then obviously leads to cardiovascular problems such as high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure) and eventually heart attacks and strokes due to not enough blood being able to be pumped around the body!

Our good fats on the other hand, are known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as they help to lower our bad cholesterol levels and raise our “good” cholesterol levels (known as HDL-Cholesterol). Our good cholesterol has a role in mopping up the bad cholesterol in our blood and taking it back to the liver for processing, see we want to keep our levels of good cholesterol as high as possible.

So where do we find all these types of fats in our diets?

So firstly our saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature and consist mainly of fats from animal products, namely those found in red and white meat and dairy products (butter, milk, cream etc). Trans fat on the other hand is basically a type of unsaturated fat that behaves like a saturated fat because of its chemical structure. Though there are minimal amounts of natural trans fats in dairy products, beef, lamb and veal, majority are of an artificial or synthetic nature. These manufactured trans fats are caused by the way some fats and oils are processed. Basically they are the end result of the hydrogenation process of poly and monounsaturated fats (such as vegetable oils) and are found primarily in your highly processed products such as cakes, biscuits, fried foods etc.

And the good fats?

Well as I said there are two main types, the monounsaturated and the polyunsaturated fats. The former are those found from plant based products such as nuts and seeds, vegetable and seed oils (such as sunflower, canola, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils) and avocados.

Polyunsaturated fats can be broken down further into what are commonly known as omega 3 and omega 6 fats. As I’m sure most of you would have come across at some stage, omega 3 fats are those found in things like oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and blue mackerel,  as well as walnuts and linseeds.

Our omega 6 fats are those primarily found in plant based products such as tahini (sesame seed spread), margarine, linseed (flaxseed), sunflower and safflower oil, pine nuts and brazil nuts but are also found in some types of fish.

Alright so lets get down to business.. are we better off using butter or margarine?

As a Dietitian I am very much an advocate for providing nutrition advice that is evidence based, meaning my recommendations are always based on the cold hard facts, not the latest fad or trend or some small scale study that has just been released.

So basically in weighing up all the pros and cons of butter vs marg my general consensus is, that Margarine is a good substitute for butter, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease or are already actually experiencing similar problems with your health. And here is a quick summary of a few reasons why I think this…

1. Margarine spreads contain 65% less saturated fat than butter
Each 10 gram serving of a typical margarine spread (enough for two slices of bread) contains 1.7g of saturated fat compared to 5.0g of saturated fat in butter.

2. Most margarine spreads contain only a trace amount of trans fats whereas butter contains 3-4% trans fats
Unfortunately, margarine has long been thought to be bad for our health, as once upon a time margarine spreads did infact contain much higher levels of trans fats due to the way in which they were processed. Today however, most margarine spreads contain less than 1% of trans fatty acids, which is a very low level. It is actually now a strict regulation that all margarine spreads must contain no more than 1% trans fat to be able to be sold in country!

3. Margarine spreads contain more ‘good’ unsaturated oils than butter
Standard margarine spreads are made up of around 65% ‘good’ oils and therefore retain all the benefits of these oils. As I explained earlier, it is important that we include plenty of these types of good fats in our diets for better heart health!

4. Canola margarine spreads contain omega-3 whereas butter does not contain any omega-3
Margarine spreads made with canola oil, are a natural source of omega-3. Omega-3 fats are valuable nutrients in a healthy diet as scientific evidence shows that these fats are beneficial to health throughout all stages of life and are essential not only for improving and maintaining good cardiovascular health but also for healthy development and function of the brain and eye.

In saying all this, at the end of the day it is your choice which you choose, but at least now you are equipped with the real facts and can make your own informed decisions about what you choose to spread on you bread tomorrow!

Alternatively, why not ditch the spreads altogether and smash some fresh avo on your toast or sandwiches instead! Not only are avos healthy and natural, but they are packed full monounsaturated fats (to help further reduce your bad cholesterol levels) and also contain essential vitamins and minerals that will help keep you fighting fit and healthy!

Feel free to Spread the word!

A

 

Paella Paella Paella!!

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paella8Espana Espana Espana! Having visited Spain a couple of times myself, Spanish food has quickly become one of my FAVOURITE cuisines and if you hadn’t guessed it already….Paella is one dish that really appeals to me! I just love the idea of sitting down around a big table amongst family and friends to share in a huge paella pan filled with delectable spanish flavours of saffron, rice, fresh seafood and other tastey meats and veggies!

As I seem to have incredible difficulty in following recipes, this dish is a take on Jamie Oliver’s traditional Paella and is perhaps a sllllightly healthier version! By swapping the pork belly he usually includes for a couple of chicken thighs (fat removed) and by cooking the chorizo seperately before adding to the dish, I have significantly reduced the amount of saturated fat in the dish. I perhaps could have made this dish even healthier by omitting the chorizo altogether but we are all entitled to the occasional treat right?! Not to mention the chorizo just really adds another dimension of flavour to the dish! But if you are trying to cut down on those extra calories at night, omitting things like processed meats and choosing leaner cuts of meat such as chicken are great solutions!

What you need… (enough for 4 people)

1.25 cups Spanish paella rice (Aborio rice is a great alternative if you can’t find spanish rice)paella2

2 cups gluten free chicken stock

1 lg brown onion (diced)

3 cloves garlic (crushed)

1 tin crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)

bunch parsely

2 chicken thighs (sliced & trimmed of fat)

300g green sustainable banana prawns (peeled)

150g scallops (halved)paella3

1 gluten free chorizo (sliced)

1/2 red capsicum (chopped)

1/2 cup frozen peas

pinch of saffron

1 tsp paprika

1 lemon

olive oil

What to do…

Firstly, slice your chorizo to a small fry pan and pan fry it until crisp and golden brown. Set aside.

Add your onion to the paella pan with a good drizzle of olive oil and saute until the onion has softened. Then add your garlic and capsicum and cook for a further 2 mins. Finely chop half your parsley (including the stalks) and then add it to the pan along with a pinch of saffron and a tsp of paprika and stir through for 1-2 mins. Add in your chicken thighs and cook for 2-3mins. Add your chorizo and then your rice, stirring for 1-2mins.

Add your tin of tomatoes and then your stock and wine and stir it all through til well combined. Season with salt and pepper then leave the pan on low heat for around 15-20mins or until the rice is almost cooked but still slightly crunchy to the bite. Try not to stir your rice during this time so that your dish develops a beautiful crust on the bottom of the pan. Then add your peas, prawns and scallops and push them down into the remaining fluid. (sometimes you may need to add a little extra stock at this point if your rice is looking a bit dry). Turn the seafood over if necessary to ensure they cook through. Once cooked sprinkle over the rest of your chopped parsley and serve up at the table with a few wedges of fresh lemon and some homemade aoili! (I just stole my aoili recipe straight off the net!) And there you have it..the perfect dinner party dish that will unite any crowd of hungry troupes!

Hasta la vista chicos y chicas!

paella 7     paella6

 

Lamb, pumpkin and goats cheese salad

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lamb salad 2Ever tried homegrown lamb straight from the farm to you plate? If you haven’t you are seriously missing out! Having grown up on a sheep and cattle property in the center of Queensland, I am lucky enough to be well familiar with the taste of fresh, top quality meat and the backstrap from my parents farm that we devoured last night was no exception! It’s been almost 3 hours since I ate dinner and I can still taste the succulent, tender lamb melting away in my mouth!

In saying this, a lamb backstrap from any decent butcher will do the job for this recipe and I am not kidding when I say that if you like red meat, especially lamb you HAVE to try this one. It’s fast, it’s fresh and it’s sure to please any crowd of carnivorous food lovers!

What you need…(enough for 3 people)

1 lamb backstrap

2 cloves garlic

bunch of thyme leaves (or rosemary!)

olive oil

1 tsp seeded mustard

200g pumpkin

1/2 packet mixed salad leaves (washed)

4-5mushrooms (halved)

1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes

goats cheese

1/2 small avocado

1/2 lebanese cucumber

1/2 packet mixed salad leaves (washed)

sm handful of toasted pinenuts

What to do…

Firstly, crush your garlic and add 3/4 of it to a bowl along with the a splash of olive oil, the thyme/rosemary leaves and mustard and mix together. Add the lamb and coat well. Set aside til ready for cooking.

For the salad cut your pumpkin into small chunks and add to a baking tray along with the mushrooms.Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle the remaining garlic over your mushies. Place in a moderate (180degree) oven and leave to bake for around 20 mins or until pumpkin is soft and slightly browned around the edges.

For the lamb, grab a non stick fry pan and add a drizzle of rice bran oil or canola. Seal the lamb on both sides (approx 30secs each side) and then place in a baking tray and place in the oven with your pumpkin and mushies. Leave the lamb in there for about 10-15mins for a perfectly cooked (medium rare) piece of meat!

While your meat and veggies are in the oven, add your mixed salad leaves, chopped cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sliced avo, and a sprinkling of goats cheese to a salad bowl. Toast your pinenuts and add to the salad.

When the lamb is cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 3-4mins before slicing. Add to your salad along with your roasted pumpkin and mushies. Drizzle over some balsamic vinegar and olive oil and you are ready to eat! If you like you can always serve this salad with a dollop of minted yoghurt as there is no denying that lamb and tzatziki really are a match made in heaven!

The Pros:lamb salad

– Quick and easy to prepare

– Fresh and light..perfect for balmy summer nights!

– Good source of iron, protein, fibre and B vitamins!

– and it’s just so ridiculously delicious!

The Cons:

Well..there are none!

As stated by our patriotic lamb ambassadors..Avoid Lambnesia and EAT MORE LAMB!!

Enjoy!

A

Homemade vietnamese rice paper rolls

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One of the easiest meals to whip together, ricepaper rolls have long been one of my go to’s when I’m after something quick, fresh and healthy! Low in fat and packed full of fresh salad veggies and lean grilled chicken breast this meal really can’t be beat in the health department…not to mention they taste amazing!

So what you need….

mini rice paper rollsricepaper rolls3

1/4 packet rice vermicelli noodles

1 large chicken breast (sliced)

2 cloves garlic

tsp grated ginger

2 tsp fish sauce

juice of half a lime

1 tbs sweet chilli sauce

coriander

1/4 capsicum

half an avocado

1 large carrot grated

a couple of iceburg lettuce cups

1/2 lebanese cucumber (cut into long thin strips)

handful of fresh mint leaves (or vietnamese mint!)

For the dipping sauce….  ricepaper rolls4

juice of a lime

1 tsp brown sugar

2 tbs white vinegar

3 tsp fish sauce

splash of sesame oil

sm handful coriander (finely chopped)

1/2 red chili (sliced)

What to do….

For the chicken marinade, crush up your garlic and add to a bowl with your grated ginger, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce, lime juice and a handful of chopped coriander. Mix together and then add in your chicken, mixing it around to coat all of the meat. Set aside until ready to cook. (if possible try and do this an hour or 2 earlier to give it time to marinate!)

Then for the dipping sauce, add all your ingredients to a small serving bowl..and you’re done here!

Place your noodles into a bowl and pour over boiling water until they are all covered. Set aside for a couple of minutes until they are cooked through and then pour into a drainer and leave aside to drain well. For the salad veggies, grate your carrot, and slice up your avo, capsicum and cucumber into thin slices. Put on a serving tray/plate with the lettuce and herbs.

When you’re almost ready to serve heat some ricebran or canola oil in a fry pan and pan fry your chicken in batches.

Annnd that’s about it! Next time you’re feeling like something light and fresh while spending minimal time in the kitchen I highly recommend giving these a go! They are delicious!

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