‘Demonised’ pasta may actually be key to weight loss

Pasta is no longer off the menu, after a new review of studies suggested that the carbohydrate can form part of a healthy diet, and even help people lose weight.

For years, nutritionists have recommended that pasta be kept to a minimum, to cut calories, prevent fat build-up and stop blood sugar spiking.

The low-carb food movement spawned such diets as the Atkins, Paleo and Keto, which advised swapping foods like bread, pasta and potatoes for vegetables, fish and meat. More recently the fad of swapping spaghetti for spiralised vegetables has been championed by clean-eating gurus.

A new study has found that eating three pasta meals a week can help people lose weight.


A new study has found that eating three pasta meals a week can help people lose weight.

But now a meta-analysis of 30 studies by Canadian researchers found that not only does pasta not cause weight gain, but three meals a week can help people drop more than half a kilogram over four months. The reviewers found that pasta had been unfairly demonised because it had been lumped in with other, more fat-promoting carbs.

“The study found that pasta didn’t contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat,” said lead author Dr John Sievenpiper, a scientist with the St Michael’s Hospital’s Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre in Toronto.

“In weighing the evidence, we can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern.

“In fact analysis actually showed a small weight loss. So contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet. The new review reassessed evidence from 30 randomised controlled trials involving nearly 2,500 people who ate pasta each week, alongside a low glycemic diet – a food plan, which prevents the blood sugar from spiking.

Those involved in the clinical trials on average ate 3.3 servings of pasta a week instead of other carbohydrates, one serving equalling around half a cup. They lost around half a kilogram over an average follow-up of 12 weeks.

Unlike most refined carbs, pasta has a low glycemic index, meaning it is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly and so does not cause high blood sugar levels.

The authors concluded that pasta could form part of a low-glycemic diet, which is often recommended for people who are trying to lose weight, or who suffer chronic illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Glasgow said: “I tend to agree. I eat pasta regularly and if consumed in modest amounts then no reason for it to cause weight gain.

“So it’s nice to see this evidence. In the end, weight gain occurs with overconsumption of calories and so portion size matters.

“Regular portions of healthy pasta can be part of a healthy balanced diet and this work supports this view.”

The research was published in the journal BMJ Open.

Geeta Sidhu-Robb, founder of Nosh Detox, the clean eating home delivery service whose clients include Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow said: “Simple-carb foods are those that your body breaks down quickly and easily, including sweeteners such as sugar and honey or refined grains like pasta.

“Because these carbohydrates are broken down so quickly, they cause spikes in our blood sugar levels.”

 – The Telegraph

The Stone Age Answer to Your Desk Job

They walk or run miles every day – often barefoot. They survive on a diet of vegetables, fruit, meat and fish – which they like to eat raw. They sleep on the ground and wear loincloths made of bear skins – OK, I made that last part up.

These are the modern-day paleo fanatics and there may be one sitting right next to you.

This return to the Stone Age movement involves living like our ancestors did in the Palaeolithic period, the era of human history which started about 2.6 million years ago and ended around 10,000 BC. Back then people worked in small, tribal groups known as “bands”, and led an active, outdoorsy lifestyle.

The craze to copy the paleo humans started with the paleo diet. Now the Stone Age practice is sneaking into our offices too

With just simple stone and wood tools, eventually they conquered every continent except Antarctica. They hunted a range of bizarre animals, from tiny hippos to giant sloths, and gathered what they could find. Think of the recent Aardman film Early Man, but with less football.

The craze to copy the paleo humans started with the paleo diet, swapping processed and carbohydrate-rich foods for a high-protein, high-fibre menu. Now the Stone Age practice is sneaking into our offices too.

Today it extends to all kinds of uncomfortable habits. Diehard enthusiasts across the globe have been taking up barefoot running, swapping mattresses for cold, hard earth, not eating for days at a time, going to the toilet in a squatting position, and even donating blood regularly to simulate being wounded, to name but a few.

It seems that long work hours, high stress levels, massive, open plan buildings and sitting at our desks all day aren’t very good for our health – who would have thought it? And all of these things can be bad for productivity, too.

This isn’t about holding meetings in caves. It’s about small changes that will make the time we spend at work more compatible with human biology

Enter the paleo office, a concept which could make our workplaces more efficient. This isn’t about growing your beard out or holding meetings in caves. It’s about small changes that will make the time we spend at work more compatible with human biology. For example, taking walking meetings, investing in standing desks, and taking regular breaks to de-stress.

(Credit: Lionsgate/Entertainment/Alamy)

Nick Park’s animation, Early Man, tells the tale of an innovative Stone Age tribe versus a more sophisticated Bronze Age group
(Credit: Lionsgate/Entertainment/Alamy)

Proponents argue that while technology and culture are evolving at astonishing speed, our bodies are not. They say that humans today are essentially hunter-gatherers, displaced in a world of massive global businesses and long hours. It’s a controversial idea, but regardless of your views, anything that makes office life easier to bear is difficult to argue with.

“There’s three aspects to it – one is the organisation of the office and how it’s managed. The other thing is to create an environment which is, at least, approaching something we’re used to as hunter gatherers. And the other thing is to make it less sedentary,” says Gustav Milne, who recently authored a book about how we can improve our lifestyles by better understanding our prehistoric past.

Dunbar’s magic number

Take company size. In the corporate world it’s often assumed that bigger is better, but this may not always be the case. While larger teams may get more done overall, individuals in big groups actually perform worse. Theories abound as to why, ranging from the idea that it’s easier to find the right support in a smaller group, to a tendency to agree with everything your colleagues say if you have too many people in one team. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calls it the “two pizza rule”: if a team can’t be fed by two pizzas, it’s too large.

Jeff Bezos calls it the ‘two pizza rule’: if a team can’t be fed by two pizzas, it’s too large

But one reason around maximising individual performance at work is rooted in our biology. In fact, maintaining friendships can be very mentally draining and there’s a limit to the number of people we can keep up with socially at any given time: around 150. These are our so-called “casual friends”, the kinds of people we follow on social media and might invite to a large party. This rule has been shown to apply across multiple cultures and eras; from ancient Mesopotamian villages to the nomadic !Kung San people of Botswana, the number of people we know is exactly the same.

But fast-forward to today and we’re forced into massive social groups on a regular basis. Apple’s new headquarters in California will eventually house 12,000 employees, while Google’s giant new office in London will be capable of housing 7,000 people. There may be downsides to this.

The thing is, the magic number of people we can know – known as Dunbar’s number – is hardwired in our biology. It’s limited by the size of our brains, and first emerged around 250,000 years ago, when we were living in tribal groups. Even today, 150 is the average size of military companies and academic circles.

According to Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford who co-authored the study that coined the idea, our social limits are still relevant in the corporate world today. “If you want to run your organisation as an egalitarian, democratic institution, this is about the limit,” he says. “It means you don’t need a hierarchy because everyone works on the basis of personal relationships and personal obligation.”

Limiting offices to 150 people might create happier and more productive workplaces

Following this principle, in the future, limiting offices to 150 people might create happier and more productive workplaces. If everyone has met and has some kind of personal relationship, it might be easier to cooperate with colleagues and your boss is unlikely to be intimidating or aggressive. Already, there is some anecdotal evidence that this is the case.

As of last year, Gore-Tex, which makes waterproof and breathable fabric, has appeared on Fortune magazine’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list 20 times. It prides itself on not having a rigid hierarchy; instead it has a “latticework” approach to management, which treats its employees more like a structure of interwoven talents. How has it achieved this harmony? As Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book The Tipping Point, the company adheres to what he called the “rule of 150”.

The story goes that in the company’s early days, its co-founder Bill Gore noticed that when a factory reached 150 employees, it started to become less efficient and productive. From then on, he limited all his factories to this number of people; instead of expanding them, he just kept building more new factories next door, creating a community of staff that were willing to work hard and help each other out.

Dunbar explains that once organisations expand beyond 200 people, communication really breaks down. Firms begin to need a top-down management structure because face-to-face communication stops and a silo effect can kick in, for instance, when different parts of a company end up working on the same project, but no one notices, duplicating work and wasting resources.

This is something Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer at Netflix and the author of Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, is familiar with. “Often when I work with start-ups I say that you have to change the way you communicate when you can no longer do it standing up on a chair. And that’s about 150 people if you’ve got a room that’s big enough,” she says.

This is partly for entirely practical reasons – “To speak with people you have to go to another country, another building, another floor,” says McCord – but there are other factors.

In smaller organisations where everyone has some kind of personal relationship, people are more likely to be helpful and less likely to shirk their obligations. They also tend to have a better understanding of what the business is about, since they’re likely to have bonded with colleagues in several departments beyond their own home team.

If the paleo movement is all about moulding our lifestyles and environment to suit our biology, adhering to Dunbar’s number in the office might be a good place to start. It makes sense that organisations based on personal relationships would be more efficient, while navigating politics and collaborating would be a lot easier if you at least knew everyone’s name and role.  “The more people understand the [whole] business, the more they understand the customers they’re serving, then they can be much more aligned and make better independent decisions,” McCord explains.

But there are other ways of aligning our future workplaces with our paleo past. One is to bring some nature into the office.

It’s thought that our prehistoric ancestors spent a large portion of their day outdoors. In contrast, the average American spends 47 hours every week confined in offices. Recently researchers at the London School of Economics estimated that the psychological trauma of this daily slog costs the US economy about $250 billion every year. In 2013, an EU-funded project estimated that work-related depression costs Europe €617 billion annually.

One 2014 study found that employees were 15% more productive when their fashionable, minimalist offices were filled in with houseplants.

Facebook last year announced plans for a new building in Menlo Park, California, which boasts a garden roof the size of nearly seven American football pitches. The new $5 billion Apple HQ, Apple Park, is even more extravagant, with around nine thousand newly planted trees.

Lenny has recently been joined by Waffles, a golden retriever, and Tofu, who’s a Shiba Inu

But other firms are trying a different tack.

“One of the nice things is you get an extra oxytocin bump if you’re having a rough day,” says Phil Nottingham, a strategist who works for the online video hosting company Wistia, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He’s talking about petting his co-worker Lenny, a charismatic red labradoodle who has been with the company since the beginning.

Lenny has recently been joined by Waffles, a golden retriever, and Tofu, who’s a Shiba Inu. They spend most of the day chewing things and loudly interrupting meetings, but the company welcomes all dogs, so long as they don’t aggravate any allergies or wee on the floor – standards you can’t really argue with.

Nottingham believes that the whole company benefits from their presence there. And there’s emerging evidence that colleagues you can cuddle may reap benefits in terms of employee satisfaction, too.

There haven’t been many studies on the impact of pets in the workplace, but there is some low-budget research from 2006. It involved showing college students a picture of an office that contained a cat, dog, or no animal, and asking them to rate their satisfaction and mood if it were their office. Those who viewed the pet-containing office said they’d be happier and more sociable, though they also saw their imaginary workplace as less professional, clean and safe.

Meanwhile, a study from 2012 found that employees who were allowed to take their dogs to work started the day just as stressed as everyone else – but as the day progressed, they became significantly less so than those who weren’t allowed their pooches.

Get up, stand up

The final flourish in any self-respecting paleo office is to encourage movement at all costs. It’s now well known that a sedentary office life can sap workers of energy and increase their risk of death. Enter so-called “low fat” buildings, which encourage physical activity with sneaky design, such as centrepiece staircases and hiding the lifts.

Just a few years ago, standing desks were the preserve of mavericks in Silicon Valley, but today these too are entering the mainstream. In Scandinavia, 90% of office workers have access to one, while in Denmark, it’s a legal requirement for companies to provide them. Walking meetings are also on the rise, with fans such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

It might have taken millennia to invent the open-plan office, minimalist décor and desks, but with a bit of luck, we’ll be back to the Stone Ages soon. Just don’t swap your suit for a loincloth just yet.

  • By Zaria Gorvett

US-based study finds microplastics in popular brands of bottled water

A US-based study has find tiny particles of plastic in most samples of bottled water tested by researchers, but it’s not known whether the so-called microplastics are a health risk.

The study, carried out by non-profit journalism group Ord Media, involved tests on more than 250 bottles from 11 top bottled water brands from countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. It found 93 per cent of bottled water sampled had some sign of microplastic contamination.

For plastic particles in the 100 micron, or 0.10 millimetre size range, tests at the State University of New York revealed a global average of 10.4 plastic particles per litre. These particles were confirmed as plastic using an industry standard infrared microscope, Orb reported.

The tests also showed a much greater number of even smaller particles that researchers said were also likely plastic. The global average for those particles was 314.6 per litre. With the smaller particles there was a possibility some of the particles could be other contaminants as well as plastic, though “rationally expected to be plastic”, Orb reported.

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Some bottles had thousands, a few “effectively” had no plastic. One bottle had more than 10,000 particles per litre. The scientific report said data suggested contamination was at least partially coming from packaging and/or the bottling process.

Bottled water manufacturers had emphasised their products met all government requirements.

A 2016 European Food Safety Authority report said as many as 90% of microplastic particles consumed might pass through the gut without any impact. Of the rest, some can lodge in the kidneys and liver.

Orb quoted one toxicologist saying knowledge about the toxicity of microplastics was limited. As fas as was known there was little health concern.

A World Health Organisation official told BBC News the research had not been done to know what the plastic particles might do in the body. WHO was to launch a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water.

Gerolsteiner, a German bottler, and Nestle both said their own tests found much lower quantities of microplastics in their water than the amount found in the Orb study.

Orb was also behind a study last year that showed tap water around the world is also contaminated with microplastics. That study used different methods to identify microplastic but there was room to compare the results, Orb said.

For microplastic debris around 100 microns in size, about the diameter of a human hair, bottled water samples had 4.45 microplastic particles per litre, compared to the 10.4 in the bottled water.

Microplastic was also found in water in glass bottle samples.

University of East Anglia biochemistry lecturer Andrew Mayes, who developed a technique used in the study to identify the microplastic, told Fortune a batch of glass bottles checked for comparison, also had microplastics.

Two of the best-known brands tested in the Orb study were Evian and San Pellegrino. For both brands, there were samples with no microplastics, while for Evian the highest number was 256 particles “rationally expected to be plastic”, while for San Pellegrino the highest number was 74.

Danone, which owns the Evian brand, told BBC News it could not comment on the Orb study because “the methodology used is unclear”.

It said its bottles had “food grade packaging” and highlighted a smaller 2017 German study that found plastic particles in single-use bottles but not above a statistically significant amount.

How much junk food can you ‘get away with’ and still be healthy?

If you want to enjoy junk food once in a while, take a look at your overall health habits to see how much of an impact it might have on your body.

A client recently asked me, “How often can I get away with eating junk food?”

She knows that my nutrition philosophy is the “80:20 rule”: Eat healthy foods as often as possible (at least 80 percent of the time), but also enjoy the occasional less healthy food (less than 20 percent of the time), if that’s what you really want.

I’ve seen this approach work well with my clients who were previously chronic dieters yet hadn’t been able to lose weight. Once I give them permission to have “forbidden foods”, those foods lose their power and they’re able to make healthier choices the bulk of the time.

There is some evidence that “cheat meals” (although I hate that term) can help boost fat loss and mental health among dieters. Yet I wanted to give my client a more quantifiable answer. Could a few days of junk food or even a single fast food meal make a difference in your overall health?

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What is “junk food”? Essentially any food that is highly processed, high in calories and low in nutrients. Junk food is also usually high in added sugars, salt and saturated or trans fats. Some evidence points to junk foods as being as addictive as alcohol and drugs.

“Fast food” is food that is prepared quickly and is eaten quickly or taken out. Although there are a growing number of healthier fast food options, most fast food can still be classified as junk food.


Eating a poor quality diet high in junk food is linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, digestive issues, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and early death. And as you might expect, frequency matters when it comes to the impact of junk food on your health.

A review of studies on fast food and heart health found having fast food more than once a week was linked to a higher risk of obesity while eating fast food more than twice a week was associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and death from coronary heart disease.

This is disturbing considering nearly half of American adults eat fast food at least once a week.


It’s human nature to think about benefits and risks over the short term rather than considering the impact our choices have over the long term. So how does consumption of junk food affect your body over the short term?


Just a few days of junk food could change your metabolism. A small study of 12 healthy young men found eating junk food for just five days led to a reduced ability of their muscles to turn glucose into energy, even though they didn’t eat more calories as part of the study. Over the long term, this change could lead to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.

Another effect of just a couple of days of junk food is poor digestion. Because junk food lacks fibre, eating too much of it could lead to constipation.


That single fast food meal can narrow your arteries, leading to an increase in blood pressure.

And the quick spike in your blood sugar from eating junk foods high in refined carbohydrates and added sugars can cause a surge in insulin, leading to a quick drop in blood sugar. That leaves you feeling tired, cranky and hungry for more.

Just one serving of junk food can increase inflammation throughout your body. Further, an Australian study suggests that in people with asthma, a fast food meal high in saturated fat can increase inflammation in the airway, potentially making an asthma attack more likely. So it seems the quick hit of junk food, while fleetingly rewarding, does carry short-term risks.


The amount of inflammation and oxidative stress your body will experience after eating occasional junk food seems to be a function of the “big picture” of your choices over time.

If you want to enjoy junk food once in a while but are concerned about the impact on your health, take a look at your overall health habits. Do you smoke or overdo it on alcohol? Are you exercising regularly and eating plenty of nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, nuts and seeds, and whole grains?

When it comes to your health, it seems you can “get away with” the occasional junk food more easily when you follow a healthy lifestyle most of the time. So think about your ratio of healthy to less healthy foods. Are you achieving 80:20 or is there room for some improvement?

When you’re making the choice between a healthier option and junk food, consider that just one healthy meal a day worked into a typical diet could reduce overall stress and inflammation in your body. Every meal is an opportunity to positively impact your health.

Based on the current research, my advice to my client essentially remains the same: Once you’re aware of all of the short-term and long-term impacts of junk food and you still really want some, have it less than once a week and really savour it. Then get right back to enjoying nourishing, nutritious foods.

Christy Brissette is a dietitian, foodie and president of 

The World’s most nutritious foods

Did you know? (Credit: Fact and Story)

After analysing more than 1,000 raw foods, researchers ranked the ingredients that provide the best balance of your daily nutritional requirements – and they found a few surprises.

Imagine the ideal food. One that contains all the nutrients necessary to meet, but not exceed, our daily nutrient demands. If such a food existed, consuming it, without eating any other, would provide the optimal nutritional balance for our body.

Such a food does not exist. But we can do the next best thing.

The key is to eat a balance of highly nutritional foods, that when consumed together, do not contain too much of any one nutrient, to avoid exceeding daily recommended amounts.

Scientists studied more than 1,000 foods, assigning each a nutritional score. The higher the score, the more likely each food would meet, but not exceed your daily nutritional needs, when eaten in combination with others.

Calculated and ranked by scientists, these are the 100 most nutritious foods:



86kcal, $0.21, per 100g

A bright orange tuber, sweet potatoes are only distantly related to potatoes. They are rich in beta-carotene.


99. FIGS (v)

249kcal, $0.81, per 100g

Figs have been cultivated since ancient times. Eaten fresh or dried, they are rich in the mineral manganese.


98. GINGER (v)

80kcal, $0.85, per 100g

Ginger contains high levels of antioxidants. In medicine, it is used as a digestive stimulant and to treat colds.


97. PUMPKIN (v)

26kcal, $0.20, per 100g

Pumpkins are rich in yellow and orange pigments. Especially xanthophyll esters and beta-carotene.



72kcal, $1.98, per 100g

Used in folk medicine and as a vegetable, studies suggest burdock can aid fat loss and limit inflammation.



43kcal, $0.35, per 100g

A type of cabbage. Brussels sprouts originated in Brussels in the 1500s. They are rich in calcium and vitamin C.


94. BROCCOLI (v)

34kcal, $0.42, per 100g

Broccoli heads consist of immature flower buds and stems. US consumption has risen five-fold in 50 years.



31kcal, $0.44, per 100g

Unlike broccoli, cauliflower heads are degenerate shoot tips that are frequently white, lacking green chlorophyll.



97kcal, $1.50, per 100g

The water chestnut is not a nut at all, but an aquatic vegetable that grows in mud underwater within marshes.



34kcal, $0.27, per 100g

One of the foods richest in glutathione, an antioxidant that protects cells from toxins including free radicals.


Cantaloupe melon - rich in antioxidants

Cantaloupe melon – rich in antioxidants

90. PRUNES (v)

240kcal, $0.44, per 100g

Dried plums are very rich in health-promoting nutrients such as antioxidants and anthocyanins.



82kcal, $1.50, per 100g

Though nutritious, recent evidence suggests octopus can carry harmful shellfish toxins and allergens.


88. CARROTS (v)

36kcal, $0.40, per 100g

Carrots first appeared in Afghanistan 1,100 years ago. Orange carrots were grown in Europe in the 1500s.



34kcal, $0.24, per 100g

Unlike summer squashes, winter squashes are eaten in the mature fruit stage. The hard rind is usually not eaten.



29kcal, $0.66, per 100g

The same species as other peppers. Carotenoid levels are 35 times higher in red jalapenos that have ripened.


85. RHUBARB (v)

21kcal, $1.47, per 100g

Rhubarb is rich in minerals, vitamins, fibre and natural phytochemicals that have a role in maintaining health.



83kcal, $1.31, per 100g

Their red and purple colour is produced by anthocyanins that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.



56kcal, $0.44, per 100g

Red currants are also rich in anthocyanins. White currants are the same species as red, whereas black currants differ.


82. ORANGES (v)

46kcal, $0.37, per 100g

Most citrus fruits grown worldwide are oranges. In many varieties, acidity declines with fruit ripeness.


81. CARP

127kcal, $1.40, per 100g

A high proportion of carp is protein, around 18%. Just under 6% is fat, and the fish contains zero sugar.


Did you know? (Credit: Fact and Story)


40kcal, $8.77, per 100g

A variety of the species Cucurbita maxim. Tear-drop shaped, they are often cooked in lieu of pumpkins.


79. KUMQUATS (v)

71kcal, $0.69, per 100g

An unusual citrus fruit, kumquats lack a pith inside and their tender rind is not separate like an orange peel.



164kcal, $1.44, per 100g

Often called jacks, Florida pompanos are frequently-caught western Atlantic fish usually weighing under 2kg.



127kcal, $1.19, per 100g

These fish are rich in long-chain fatty acids, such as omega-3s, that improve blood cholesterol levels.



50kcal, $0.58, per 100g

Sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) are a different species to sweet cherries (P. avium). Usually processed or frozen.



141kcal, $3.08, per 100g

Closely related to salmon, rainbow trout are medium-sized Pacific fish also rich in omega-3s.



91kcal, $1.54, per 100g

Pregnant and lactating women are advised not to eat perch. Though nutritious, it may contain traces of mercury.



31kcal, $0.28, per 100g

Green beans, known as string, snap or French beans, are rich in saponins, thought to reduce cholesterol levels.



16kcal, $1.55, per 100g

Evidence suggests lettuce was cultivated before 4500 BC. It contains almost no fat or sugar and is high in calcium.


71. LEEKS (v)

61kcal, $1.83, per 100g

Leeks are closely related to onions, shallots, chives and garlic. Their wild ancestor grows around the Mediterranean basin.


Rolled out leeks can make a healthier lasagne than using pasta sheets

Rolled out leeks can make a healthier lasagne than using pasta sheets


318kcal, $22.19, per 100g

Powdered cayenne pepper is produced from a unique cultivar of the pepper species Capsicum annuum.



61kcal, $0.22, per 100g

Kiwifruit are native to China. Missionaries took them to New Zealand in the early 1900s, where they were domesticated.



63kcal, $0.22, per 100g

Kiwifruits are edible berries rich in potassium and magnesium. Some golden kiwifruits have a red centre.



32kcal, $0.27, per 100g

Grapefruits (Citrus paradisi) originated in the West Indies as a hybrid of the larger pomelo fruit.



139kcal, $2.94, per 100g

An oily fish, one serving can provide over 10 times more beneficial fatty acids than a serving of a lean fish such as cod.



131kcal, $3.51, per 100g

Another oily fish, rich in cholesterol-lowering fatty acids. Canned salmon with bones is a source of calcium.


64. ARUGULA (v)

25kcal, $0.48, per 100g

A salad leaf, known as rocket. High levels of glucosinolates protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.


63. CHIVES (v)

25kcal, $0.22, per 100g

Though low in energy, chives are high in vitamins A and K. The green leaves contain a range of beneficial antioxidants.


62. PAPRIKA (v)

282kcal, $1.54, per 100g

Also extracted from the pepper species Capsicum annuum. A spice rich in ascorbic acid, an antioxidant.



18kcal, $0.15, per 100g

A low-energy, nutrient-dense food that are an excellent source of folate, potassium and vitamins A, C and E.


Did you know? (Credit: Fact and Story)


23kcal, $0.33, per 100g

Fruit that has not yet ripened or turned red. Consumption of tomatoes is associated with a decreased cancer risk.



15kcal, $1.55, per 100g

The cultivated lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is related to wild lettuce (L. serriola), a common weed in the US.



42kcal, $2.19, per 100g

Young taro leaves are relatively high in protein, containing more than the commonly eaten taro root.


57. LIMA BEANS (v)

106kcal, $0.50, per 100g

Also known as butter beans, lima beans are high in carbohydrate, protein and manganese, while low in fat.


56. EEL

184kcal, $2.43, per 100g

A good source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), though the skin mucus of eels can contain harmful marine toxins.



144kcal, $2.13, per 100g

A large fish, rich in omega-3s. Pregnant women are advised to limit their intake, due to mercury contamination.



146kcal, $0.86, per 100g

A Pacific species also known as silver salmon. Relatively high levels of fat, as well as long-chain fatty acids.



17kcal, $0.22, per 100g

Harvested when immature, while the rind is still tender and edible. Its name refers to its short storage life.


52. NAVY BEANS (v)

337kcal, $0.49, per 100g

Also known as haricot or pea beans. The fibre in navy beans has been correlated with the reduction of colon cancer.


51. PLANTAIN (v)

122kcal, $0.38, per 100g

Banana fruits with a variety of antioxidant, antimicrobial, hypoglycaemic and anti-diabetic properties.


Plantain, a variety of banana fruit

Plantain, a variety of banana fruit


42kcal, $0.62, per 100g

Peas are an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, minerals and water-soluble vitamins.


49. COWPEAS (v)

44kcal, $0.68, per 100g

Also called black-eyed peas. As with many legumes, high in carbohydrate, containing more protein than cereals.



13kcal, $0.39, per 100g

Also known as butterhead lettuce, and including Boston and bib varieties. Few calories. Popular in Europe.



50kcal, $0.33, per 100g

A raw, unprocessed and unfrozen variety of sour cherries (Prunus cerasus). Native to Europe and Asia.


46. WALNUTS (v)

619kcal, $3.08, per 100g

Walnuts contain sizeable proportions of a-linolenic acid, the healthy omega-3 fatty acid made by plants.



23kcal, $0.52, per 100g

Contains more minerals and vitamins (especially vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus and iron) than many salad crops. Spinach appears twice in the list (45 and 24) because the way it is prepared affects its nutritional value. Fresh spinach can lose nutritional value if stored at room temperature, and ranks lower than eating spinach that has been frozen, for instance.


44. PARSLEY (v)

36kcal, $0.26, per 100g

A relative of celery, parsley was popular in Greek and Roman times. High levels of a range of beneficial minerals.



158kcal, $0.65, per 100g

An Atlantic fish, among the top five most caught of all species. Rich in omega-3s, long-chain fatty acids.



97kcal, $1.98, per 100g

A generic name for a number of related medium-sized oily fish species. Popular in the Mediterranean area.



13kcal, $0.11, per 100g

Variants of the cabbage species Brassica rapa, often called pak-choi or Chinese mustard. Low calorie.


Did you know? (Credit: Fact and Story)

40. CRESS (v)

32kcal, $4.49, per 100g

The brassica Lepidium sativum, not to be confused with watercress Nasturtium officinale. High in iron.


39. APRICOTS (v)

48kcal, $0.36, per 100g

A ’stone’ fruit relatively high in sugar, phytoestrogens and antioxidants, including the carotenoid beta-carotene.



134kcal, $0.17, per 100g

Fish eggs (roe) contain high levels of vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Caviar often refers to sturgeon roe.



134kcal, $3.67, per 100g

Species of oily freshwater fish related to salmon. Common in the northern hemisphere. Rich in omega-3s.



23kcal, $7.63, per 100g

A herb rich in carotenoids, used to treat ills including digestive complaints, coughs, chest pains and fever.



17kcal, $1.55, per 100g

Also known as cos lettuce, another variety of Lactuca sativa. The fresher the leaves, the more nutritious they are.



27kcal, $0.29, per 100g

One of the oldest recorded spices. Contains sinigrin, a chemical thought to protect against inflammation.



82kcal, $3.18, per 100g

A large white, low fat, protein-rich fish. Cod livers are a source of fish oil rich in fatty acids and vitamin D.



90kcal, $0.60, per 100g

Various species, but often referring to the North Atlantic fish Merlangius merlangus that is related to cod.


31. KALE (v)

49kcal, $0.62, per 100g

A leafy salad plant, rich in the minerals phosphorous, iron and calcium, and vitamins such as A and C.


Kale - an excellent side dish


22kcal, $0.66, per 100g

Not to be confused with broccoli. It has thinner stems and smaller flowers, and is related to turnips.



324kcal, $1.20, per 100g

The pungent fruits of the Capsicum plant. Rich in capsaicinoid, carotenoid and ascorbic acid antioxidants.



86kcal, $1.78, per 100g

Lean, protein-rich shellfish. Often eaten lightly cooked, though care must be taken to avoid food poisoning.


27. COLLARDS (v)

32kcal, $0.74, per 100g

Another salad leaf belonging to the Brassica genus of plants. A headless cabbage closely related to kale.


26. BASIL (v)

23kcal, $2.31, per 100g

A spicy, sweet herb traditionally used to protect the heart. Thought to be an antifungal and antibacterial.



282kcal, $5.63, per 100g

A source of phytochemicals such as vitamin C, E and A, as well as phenolic compounds and carotenoids.



29kcal, $1.35, per 100g

A salad crop especially high in magnesium, folate, vitamin A and the carotenoids beta carotene and zeazanthin. Freezing spinach helps prevent the nutrients within from degrading, which is why frozen spinach ranks higher than fresh spinach (no 45).



45kcal, $0.27, per 100g

The word dandelion means lion’s tooth. The leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium.



42kcal, $0.27, per 100g

The red flesh of pink varieties is due to the accumulation of carotenoid and lycopene pigments.



69kcal, $4.19, per 100g

A shellfish low in fat, high in protein, fatty acids, potassium and sodium.


Did you know? (Credit: Fact and Story)


72kcal, $3.18, per 100g

Closely related to Atlantic cod. Its livers are a significant source of fish oil rich in fatty acids and vitamin D.



31kcal, $0.12, per 100g

Rich in vitamins. Its wild cabbage ancestor was a seaside plant of European or Mediterranean origin.



27kcal, $0.51, per 100g

Known as spring onions. High in copper, phosphorous and magnesium. One of the richest sources of vitamin K.



92kcal, $3.67, per 100g

Also called walleye pollock, the species Gadus chalcogrammus is usually caught in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. A low fat content of less than 1%.


16. PIKE

88kcal, $3.67, per 100g

A fast freshwater predatory fish. Nutritious but pregnant women must avoid, due to mercury contamination.


15. GREEN PEAS (v)

77kcal, $1.39, per 100g

Individual green peas contain high levels of phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and dietary fibre.



53kcal, $0.29, per 100g

An oblate orange citrus fruit. High in sugar and the carotenoid cryptoxanthin, a precursor to vitamin A.



11kcal, $3.47, per 100g

Unique among vegetables, it grows in flowing water as a wild plant. Traditionally eaten to treat mineral deficiency.



319kcal, $6.10, per 100g

Celery that is dried and flaked to use as a condiment. An important source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids.



292kcal, $12.46, per 100g

Parsley that is dried and ground to use as a spice. High in boron, fluoride and calcium for healthy bones and teeth.


Sprinkling the occasional parsley on your meal could be a good idea

Sprinkling the occasional parsley on your meal could be a good idea


100kcal, $3.75, per 100g

A family of mainly marine fish, with red snapper the best known. Nutritious but can carry dangerous toxins.



22kcal, $0.48, per 100g

The leaves of beetroot vegetables. High in calcium, iron, vitamin K and B group vitamins (especially riboflavin).



632kcal, $0.95, per 100g

A good source of B vitamins and minerals. Pork fat is more unsaturated and healthier than lamb or beef fat.



19kcal, $0.29, per 100g

A very rare dietary source of betalains, phytochemicals thought to have antioxidant and other health properties.



559kcal, $1.60, per 100g

Including the seeds of other squashes. One of the richest plant-based sources of iron and manganese.



486kcal, $1.76, per 100g

Tiny black seeds that contain high amounts of dietary fibre, protein, a-linolenic acid, phenolic acid and vitamins.



70kcal, $1.15, per 100g

Sole and flounder species. Generally free from mercury and a good source of the essential nutrient vitamin B1.



79kcal, $0.82, per 100g

The Atlantic species. A deep-water fish sometimes called rockfish. High in protein, low in saturated fats.



75kcal, $1.84, per 100g

Cherimoya fruit is fleshy and sweet with a white pulp. Rich in sugar and vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and potassium.


1. ALMONDS (v)

579kcal, $0.91, per 100g

Rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Promote cardiovascular health and may help with diabetes.


Ten ingredients healthy people have in their kitchens

A wellness blogger has revealed the ingredients health fanatics could never live without if they want to eat clean.

Lily Simpson, who founded healthy food delivery service and deli chain The Detox Kitchen, says there are 10 staples that she always keeps in her cupboards at home, according to The Daily Mail.

The co-author of The Detox Kitchen Bible favours organic fare and dairy-free produce for her super-healthy diet – and of course, avocados are on her list too.

Lily’s list of top 10 foods, which she shared in a video with Tor Cardona for Sheer Luxe, to keep in stock at all times gives an insight into the virtuous eating habits of influential wellness bloggers – and it could inspire you to throw out the chocolate and replace it with brown rice, seeds and herbs instead.


Fried, boiled, poached, or scrambled – but I also love to make a frittata in the evenings, it’s super quick and easy.


I love sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. I flash fry them and chuck them into a salad, it literally transforms any salad.


I’m often roasting them off, and I love making a sweet potato dhal.


I always have oat milk in my fridge. It’s a great alternative to dairy, it’s great in cereal, with tea or with coffee. It’s really great to have as a drink before you go to bed.


One of my favourite all-time salads is a brown rice salad with loads of spring onions, nuts, cucumber, and tomatoes. I have brown rice maybe five times a week.


Just throw them into a stew or soup or salad and it will transform the dish and give it an extra boom of flavour.


Probably my favourite vegetable. Amazing in soups, stews, curries.


Amazing on toast or on a salad or grilled is good too.


They are my go-to breakfast. I have it as a porridge or make my own granola by covering them in golden syrup and then roasting it in the oven and then mixing with chopped nuts.


It’s my favourite herb. You love it or hate it, I absolutely love it. I throw it into any salad or it’s great just chopped on a curry or in a soup.

10 surprising food and drink products that aren’t vegan

Veganuary is a thing and this year it has taken off like never before. People in the UK and across the world are trying out veganism for the month of January and it’s likely to have been a tricky task to take on for meat, cheese and chocolate lovers – whether they took on the challenge due to health reasons, ethical concerns or environmental causes.

But if you’ve been sticking to your resolutions up until now, you might be disappointed to discover that there are a fair amount of rather surprising non-vegan foods and beverages around to trip you up.

Some of these unexpected non-vegan foods may be the deal breaker for those weighing up whether Veganuary should become a long-term lifestyle commitment, or whether it should remain a short-term experiment.

Either way, the more you know about what’s vegan and what’s not, the easier it’ll be to avoid temptation or to make informed lifestyle decisions.

Too often, though, it seems that animal-derived products are hidden in the small print.

Here is a list of some items that may or may not include animal products:

1. Beer

Certain beers (particularly British ones) are filtered with isinglass, which is a membrane that comes from tropical fish bladders. The ingredient is used as a fining agent to remove haziness from beers and to make them look clearer, brighter and more appealing to drinkers.

But although some beers use isinglass, gelatin, glycerin or casein, German and Belgian beers using traditional methods of brewing, which are vegan – according to German purity law or Reinheitsgebot, which ruled that only the ingredients of water, grain (barley or wheat), hops and yeast could be used.

Thankfully, other brewers, both multi-national and micro, are cottoning on to customers feeling sea-sick about the fishy product, and to the fact that they’re thirsty for vegan beer. The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has called on brewers to remove isinglass, and Guinness announced in 2016 that its draft stout would be vegan-friendly, and other big brewers including Carlsberg, Stella Artois and Heineken also get the green light for Veganuary after-work pints. Prost!

2. Wine

During the wine making process, the wine is filtered through agents which can include blood and marrow, milk protein, and fibres from crustacean shells and gelatin, in order to reduce haziness and cloudiness in the liquid.

However, if your day has been really tough, do not fear – there are vegan wines available. Animal-friendly winemakers are turning to activated charcoal and the volcanic clay bentonite to process their products, and these vegan wines are hitting supermarket shelves.

This website has a comprehensive list of vegan and non-vegan NZ wines.

3. Worcestershire sauce

While Lea & Perrins is often the key ingredient in completing your dish or perfecting your Bloody Mary at the weekend, its worth considering that it is in fact fermented anchovies that give this British brand its famous umami flavour.

Luckily, there are other brands to choose from or you could even make your own Worcestershire sauce at home (vegan resource One Green Planet has a recipe available online, as does blogger Martha Stewart).

4. Margarine

It’s commonly believed that margarine is the vegan alternative to butter. However, the truth is that it often contains traces of whey, gelatin and milk proteins. Checking the ingredients list is one of the only ways to be sure that your margarine isn’t harbouring any milk-derived ingredients.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), have a guide to plant-based, vegan butter and margarine.

5. Bagels

Synthetic and microbial versions of L-cysteine do exist and are used in some products, but at present are more costly than hair- or feather-derived L-cysteine. So if you want to avoid human or animal sourced products, it’s worth doing some research.

For reference, the E number for L-cysteine is E920. According to The Vegan Society, a number of other food additives can be derived from animal products. Examples include E120, E322, E422, E 471, E542, E631, E901 and E904.

6. Orange juice

Fruit juice might seem like the perfect vegan breakfast drink, but if you’re drinking it from a carton, it could be time to start reading the ingredients more closely.

Some fortified juices (those that have added ingredients to up the vitamin count) contain vitamin D3 obtained from lanolin, the waxy substance from sheep’s wool. If your orange juice is promising you a healthy heart, you’re even even bigger trouble, since added omega-3 fatty acids are derived from fish oil and fish gelatin. Anchovies are a common source.

To avoid breaking any vegan diets, look for 100 per cent orange juice on the packaging – or start squeezing your own.

You should also look for the presence of carmine in pink lemonades and grapefruit juices, which is made from the ground-up shells of cochineal bugs.

7. Figs

To avoid a sticky end to Veganuary, figs are worth avoiding. Having laid their eggs inside the fruit, female wasps are often unable to escape and decompose inside.

Non-vegans shouldn’t worry too much as the fig plant produces an enzyme that breaks the wasp down into a protein, but technically when you bite into a fig, you’re often munching on the by-product of a wasp carcass.

Despite this, you’re unlikely to have ingested too many dead wasps over the years. UK edible figs are normally varieties of the common fig which are still pollinated by wasps but don’t act as a fruity incubator for eggs. And some varieties have even been bred to self-pollinate, removing waspish involvement from the entire process.

8. Red sweets and lipstick

Artificial sugars seem to go hand in hand with the natural colouring contained in red sweets, which are given their colour by crushed bugs, mainly cochineal insects. Carmine, the red dye often used in confectionery, is made by boiling the crushed bugs with sodium carbonate or ammonia.

It’s used as a dye in makeup such as red lipsticks, foundations and eyeshadows, while boiled animal bones provide the fat – or tallow, as it’s more commonly called.

9. Chewing gum

Before you tuck into a piece of chewing gum to stifle a hunger pang or resist a chocolate temptation, it’s worth checking the back of the pack, as some gums use bases which are made of gelatin or stearic acid, derived from animals.

Marshmallows, gummy bears, and jelly products often use gelatin as a thickener. Gelatin is made from boiling animal products such as leftover skin and bones from meat processing. You can also find it in some pill coatings, jellies, yogurts, and beauty products.

10. White sugar

For those of you that look forward to the odd one or two sugar cubes in your almond milk tea in the afternoon, it might be best to stick to coconut sugar or maple syrup.

White sugar is often bleached after it has been filtered through animal bones. Bone char is made by heating animal bones to incredibly high temperatures and helps removes impurities from sugar.

But don’t think switching to brown sugar will make your sweet tooth more Veganuary-friendly: brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added back in, so there’s no guarantee that it’s avoided the animal bones filtration process. The nutritional value of the molasses is minimal, so it’s another myth that brown sugar is healthier (as debunked by the New York Times.)

As always, it’s worth checking the label and referring to The Vegan Society’s guide to avoiding non-vegan products.

Meanwhile, products such as Silver Spoon royal icing sugar contains dried egg white and therefore would not be suitable for vegans, although it doesn’t use the bone char process.

Setting long-term goals and behaviour patterns

Top Australian nutritionist Susie Burrell has revealed that she believes looking at long-term goals and behaviour patterns are the best way to ensure this success.

To help you make 2018 your healthiest year yet, Burrell has revealed to the Daily Mail’s FEMAIL her top five tips for creating better long-term habits and achieving your weight-loss goals – for good.

1. Keeping track

Burrell suggests keeping yourself accountable and having an awareness of how much you’re eating and how often you’re moving.

“Being mindful of our day-to-day food and activity habits and incremental changes in body size is a crucial aspect of long-term weight control,” she told FEMAIL.

She also added that banishing scales from your home isn’t necessarily the best idea.

“Keeping an eye on our weight via regular check ins with the scales reminds us to pull back when we see those numbers start to creep up.”

2. Allow yourself small indulgences

While most of us believe in order to lose weight we need to cut out everything unhealthy, Burrell explains that this method doesn’t lend itself to long-term success.

Instead, she recommends practising moderation rather than complete restriction for two reasons:

Firstly, people are hardwired to enjoy eating treats and food that tastes good. Restricting certain items can encourage binge eating.

The second reason stems from a psychological point: Restriction impacts blood glucose regulation, which can cause cravings for the very foods we’re trying to avoid.

3. Change your environment

Keeping treats out of your home altogether is the best way to avoid indulging your naughty cravings.

Burrell explains: “If we can see the lollies, we will eat double the amount we would if we could not see them.

“The larger the plate, the more we will eat. Working backwards this simply means if you do not want to eat it, do not buy it, and simply serving yourself less is a powerful weight control technique that we have 100 per cent control over.”

4. Planning is key

“Planning is the key to dietary success,” Burrell says.

She also adds that falling into the trap of eating whatever is most convenient is detrimental, both long and short-term.

“How many times do you travel, go to a conference or to a social function and find yourself eating poor quality, high-calorie food because you have nothing else on hand and are hungry?”

In order to avoid this, Burrell suggests having a supply of foods with you in order to make sure your food choices align with your long-term health goals.

5. Be consistent

Before you go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back for having a healthy work week – and turning a blind eye to a treat-filled weekend – Burrell says aiming to be “good” all the time is better than aiming for a “good” week or day.

“It does not matter if it is Christmas, a birthday or if they have been ‘good’ in the week, individuals who control their weight keep their basic dietary intake consistent,” she states.

She added: “Just as exercise consistency is the key to success so too is dietary consistency.

“So no more taking the weekend off, or starting again Monday, just start now, with your very next meal or snack choice.”

The diet is dead. But is the ‘wellness’ movement and ‘clean eating’ trend any better for us?

Is 'clean eating' simply dieting dressed up as 'wellness'?

Ihor Pukhnatyy

Is ‘clean eating’ simply dieting dressed up as ‘wellness’?

Diets don’t work. If they did, there would be a lot more skinny people walking around – as many as there are fad diets.

And if you’ve been thinking about eliminating sugar or gluten or dairy, don’t bother. Although it might look great on Instagram and may have worked wonders for a friend of yours, “clean eating” is just dieting dressed up as “wellness”. True wellness doesn’t entail depriving yourself of things you love.

You won’t lose weight or be any healthier if you drastically restrict the amount you eat or cut out whole food groups. Of course, focusing all your energy on not eating is a waste of your time on Earth. But if you really want to lose weight, there are better strategies than going on a diet.

Diets, which rely on willpower, will always fail in the long run.


Diets, which rely on willpower, will always fail in the long run.

For now, let me explain that dieting is dead. Clean eating, although popular, needs to die, too. And the answer to eating healthily is not to be found in the new superfoods section of your supermarket.

In 2015, Professor Traci Mann published a summary of more than two decades of research on dieting from her Health and Eating Laboratory at the University of Minnesota. In Secrets From The Eating Lab, she identifies why so many people constantly try dieting and fail. It’s because nobody has enough willpower. So diets, which rely on willpower, will always fail in the long run. In fact, they may even make you fatter.

Coconut oil has been touted as “healthy”, but it’s still oil.


Coconut oil has been touted as “healthy”, but it’s still oil.

Despite the New Year’s resolutions you make, your body already has its heart set on an ideal weight. In The New York Times, neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt explained that this “set point” is “determined by genes and life experience”. If you suddenly start to lose a lot of weight, your brain’s weight-regulation system will coordinate a neurological, hormonal and metabolic response designed to protect you from starving. On a diet, your brain is more likely to notice food, which will seem more tempting and eating will seem more rewarding. Your hormone levels change so that you feel even hungrier and less full, and your metabolism slows so your body stores more fat.

Professor Mann says that in the first six to 12 months of a diet, even a crazy diet, most people can lose about 10 per cent of their weight. And they’ll think this means the diet works. In the long term, though, most will regain the weight. But rather than blaming the diet, they’ll blame themselves.

Mann estimates that about 5 per cent of dieters do manage to keep weight off – by devoting their entire life to living like a starving person.

Dietitian Jessica Moulds says inexpensive vegetables, such as broccoli, are just as nutritious as pricey “superfoods”.


Dietitian Jessica Moulds says inexpensive vegetables, such as broccoli, are just as nutritious as pricey “superfoods”.


In light of these facts, the diet industry looks increasingly silly at best, and wilfully misleading at worst. Of course, there are myriad wacky diet pills, cleanses and teas that use caffeine or laxatives to mess with your body’s normal processes. But you don’t have to venture into the fringes of a Facebook banner ad to be conned. To walk through the average supermarket is to be assailed by a bewildering number of health claims.

There are “low-fat” yoghurts that have as much sugar as ice cream and “iron man food” cereals with as much sodium as a packet of chips. There are expensive “alternatives” like Himalayan pink salt (mined in Pakistan) and agave syrup, which, because they have negligible trace elements of minerals or vitamins, we are seemingly expected to regard as health foods. There’s coconut oil, which is still oil and will still raise your cholesterol if you have too much of it. And coconut sugar, which is still sugar, and therefore something to be minimised.

In the next five years, the global market for food intolerance products is expected to grow by 7 per cent. This could be because foods labelled “free from”, intended for those with allergies, are often assumed to be healthier, when that’s not necessarily the case. Look at almond milk, which is about 2 per cent almonds and 98 per cent water. And coconut yoghurt, which is great if you’re lactose intolerant, but high in saturated fat and low in protein, with little to no calcium to promote healthy bones.

And don’t get me started on the new health foods section in my local New World. Here you can buy a cacao mint bliss ball that contains 24g per 100g of sugar (the recommended maximum daily intake for 7 to 10-year-olds) and costs $2.99. For one measly bliss ball. Turmeric is suddenly everywhere, it’s healthfulness suggested rather than claimed, since the pigment in turmeric that has widely touted anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (cucurmin) is very poorly absorbed and rapidly eliminated.

The cumulative effect of all these bogus health claims can be mind-boggling. Researching this story one night, I read about the alkaline diet (invented by a convicted fraud, espoused by actress Kate Hudson) which stipulates that, because our blood’s pH level is slightly alkaline, we should eat foods that are alkaline, or risk making our bodies too acidic.

This theory neglects to account for the fact that everything we eat goes through the stomach, which is highly acidic.

Dietitian Jessica Moulds stresses that eating well doesn’t have to be expensive.


Dietitian Jessica Moulds stresses that eating well doesn’t have to be expensive.

I laughed at this and even read parts out loud to my family. But the next morning in the supermarket, I caught myself hovering on impulse over some “low acid” tomatoes. Hadn’t I read somewhere that low acid was good for you?

Jessica Moulds, a Christchurch-based dietitian, stresses that eating well doesn’t have to be expensive. “Things are being sold to people as ‘superfoods’, when actually, basic leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, some dairy and lean meat and fruit are all superfoods,” she warns. “You don’t have to have hugely expensive things like acai, goji berries and cacao to be healthy. I’d rather buy three big broccolis, which are cheaper but just as nutritious.”

It’s not just food marketers who are leading us up the garden path. We’re easily swayed by Instagram posts of rainbow-coloured salad bowls and smoothies. Rather than taking advice from dieticians with degrees, we would rather hear some influencer’s personal story of redemption through “clean eating”.

But, Moulds points out, “often they’re not telling the whole truth. They’re sharing that they lost all this weight and feel great and have all this energy, but they’re not sharing that they’re out on the weekend having a wine and feeling guilty about it.”

Clearly there is something deeply seductive about clean eating, with its 35 million boring Instagram posts and its promise of freedom from allergens and unspecified toxins. I wonder if we’re suggestible because we’re confused and anxious about where our food comes from and what might be in it. Deep down, we’re scared our food is making us sick.

As a population, there is some basis for this. In the last half-century, portion sizes have become bigger and the Western diet has become more sugary, salty, fatty and oily, with more meat and fewer vegetables. Diabetes, obesity and heart disease are on the rise. Parts of the clean eating message – to side-step dangerously moreish, highly processed foods and eat more vegetables – make perfect sense.

But it’s not just our food that’s making us sick.

Aro-Hā retreat near Glenorchy is part of the fast-growing wellness tourism industry, for which Asia-Pacific is a hot ...


Aro-Hā retreat near Glenorchy is part of the fast-growing wellness tourism industry, for which Asia-Pacific is a hot destination.

It’s everything. The stressors of technology, social media, increased working hours, and even threats such as global warming and terrorism combine to cause insomnia, anxiety and a longing for peace of mind. The forces that made clean eating popular are also behind a large-scale interest in wellness, in all its guises.

Don’t get me wrong: people still care about looking their best. But punishing gym workouts and counting calories are beginning to feel a bit quaint and 80s. Life is punishing enough. These days, we want to do things that make us feel calm, grounded, and nourished, not starved.

Wellness practices that were once considered a bit fringe and hippie – yoga, meditation, organic food, natural skincare – have entered the mainstream, becoming billowing billion dollar industries, with glamorous connotations and selling power.

In New Zealand, yoga has exploded, growing by 500 per cent in the last 10 years. Although it’s often associated with wealthy young white women, yoga is actually popular across all socioeconomic backgrounds, performed by nearly 30,000 of our 65 to 74-year-olds, and even embraced by the All Blacks.

Alongside yoga, meditation is growing, too. In the past five years, several peer-reviewed medical journals have published studies concluding that mindfulness meditation has a demonstrable effect on anxiety, depression, stress and burnout. In the US, Google, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America offer mindfulness training to employees, as does Air New Zealand and Wellington City Council.

Wellness tourism is growing nearly 50 per cent faster than global tourism. Asia-Pacific is now the world’s second-largest market, and Tourism New Zealand says high-end retreats offering yoga, Pilates and meditation alongside the usual spas and massages have become primary destinations. Aro-Hā, a wellness retreat near Glenorchy, offers five nights in “Zen-inspired luxury”, hiking, doing yoga and meditation, getting massages, and eating “Paleo friendly, gluten free, dairy free, and enzymatically active” vegetarian food, for $5575 per person. And Te Aroha now has Te Atawhai, a new retreat where you can enjoy four days of wellness activities (including a tour of Hobbiton!) for $2200.

In the beauty industry, which has long relied on synthetic ingredients, natural skincare brands now outsell traditional products by two or three times, and New Zealand entrepreneurs are among the vanguard.

Nearly 10 years ago, New Zealander Imelda Burke opened one of London’s first natural skincare shops, Content Beauty, and last year published a book explaining her holistic take on skincare: tuning in to your skin’s needs, simplifying your routine and letting your body find its own balance.

Emily L’Ami launched her wellness company Bodha from Wellington five years ago, before relocating to Los Angeles. Originally a yogawear brand, Bodha now makes high-end products to complement yoga and meditation – aromatherapy eye pillows, luxuriously scented Japanese incense and essential oil blends – as well as natural, therapeutic perfumes. (This is yet another market which, like essential oils, is forecast to experience 7 per cent growth over the next seven years.)

In New Zealand, yoga has grown in popularity by 500 per cent in the past decade.


In New Zealand, yoga has grown in popularity by 500 per cent in the past decade.

In publicity for a scent she created for a designer fashion label, L’Ami describes her morning routine – misting with a calming spray, drinking apple cider vinegar, meditating. Typical wellness stuff. But she also describes how the rationale for these rituals also helped her to reshape her career, and gave her life a sense of purpose. When she decided to “start following what felt good, no matter how big or small”, she slowly began to feel happier and more confident, which flowed into her business.

It’s a good example of wellness “mission creep” – how easily a bit of yoga can turn into a liking for meditation, which can deepen into a whole new way of thinking about your life, your career, your relationships and everything in between.

Last year, business news site Quartz argued that, in America, the wellness industry now amounts to an “alternative health-care system” – built by privileged women and riven with dubious claims, but worth taking seriously as “a direct response to a mainstream medical establishment that frequently dismisses and dehumanises women”.

New Zealander Imelda Burke opened one of London’s first natural skincare shops, Content Beauty, nearly 10 years ago.


New Zealander Imelda Burke opened one of London’s first natural skincare shops, Content Beauty, nearly 10 years ago.

Bridget Delaney, a Guardian writer who investigated wellness in her 2017 book Wellmania, sees it as a replacement for traditional religion. “The wellness industry… has found a way of monetising elements of spiritual practice from a variety of different traditions,” she writes.

Whether you see wellness as alternative medicine, a secular religion, or just today’s answer to the tennis and bridge my grandmother played with her besties, it’s clear that it has the economic potential to revitalise any market. Its core principles of self-care and mindfulness, of shutting out distractions and tuning in to what feels good, can be applied to almost anything – even eating.

“I’m a huge believer in that mindfulness stuff,” Moulds says. “Also, thinking every day about a couple of things you’re grateful for can change your whole mood – and your mood drives your eating actions, a lot of the time.”

Nicola Jackson, a registered nutritionist, says relying on a 
set of food 'rules' might sell books, but it also ...


Nicola Jackson, a registered nutritionist, says relying on a set of food ‘rules’ might sell books, but it also generates fear.

Nicola Jackson suggests anyone habituated to following diets looks into something called “intuitive eating”. Connected to mindfulness, this involves giving up the dieting mindset and learning to tune back into your body’s hunger, fullness and satisfaction cues. “Some people feel that if they don’t have rules, they’ll just eat everything and anything, but ironically, it’s often trying to control food with rules that leads to feeling out of control,” she says.

Many dietitians will tell you to stop worrying about your weight. Shane Gosnell, a Wellingtonian who lost 60kg over two years without dieting, says he stopped weighing himself early on. “It was just kind of a mindf… and I realised that it’s not a linear process,” he says. (Gosnell, who blogs about his transformation at, made small, incremental changes – one less sugar in his coffee, getting off the bus one stop earlier.)

And while brands such as New Zealand’s own Lonely lingerie are building successful campaigns around body-positive messages, you don’t have to “love your body” either. Just try to accept it and treat it well.

Shane Gosnell lost 60kg over two years without dieting.


Shane Gosnell lost 60kg over two years without dieting.

“Hating your body is not a great motivator for change,” Nicola Jackson says. “Kindness is a much better driver of self-care behaviours.”

Besides, it’s quite common to make healthy changes and feel better without losing weight.

In Studies from the Eating Lab, Professor Mann notes that young women’s diaries from the 1890s tended to fret about things like being kinder, working harder, being less frivolous. A century later, our thoughts are consumed with how to look better and what we can buy to accomplish it. Opting out of this mindset doesn’t mean letting yourself go, Mann writes.

Lonely markets its lingerie with normal-looking women – including Girls creator Lena Dunham, left, and actor Jemima Kirk.

Zara Mirkin

Lonely markets its lingerie with normal-looking women – including Girls creator Lena Dunham, left, and actor Jemima Kirk.

“It just means not letting our bodies become our primary life projects.”

Insect flour

Ever get the feeling your protein shake isn’t protein-y enough?

Well, some might say the solution just isn’t cricket, but it is.

It’s cricket flour. Yep, the insect.

Give your protein shake a protein boost with cricket flour.


Give your protein shake a protein boost with cricket flour.

While it’s called cricket flour, it’s really a high-protein additive (68 per cent protein) and it’s even gluten free.

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Perfect for your ‘new year, new you’ post-workout recovery.

Shop owner Jeremy Claasen was not sure how edible insects would go down in Blenheim.


Shop owner Jeremy Claasen was not sure how edible insects would go down in Blenheim.

Judy and Jeremy Claasen have started selling cricket flour, along with a host of other edible insects, from their new Blenheim store, The Shop That’s Not.

Salted-caramel scorpions, barbecued grasshoppers, chili chocolate lotus have been flying off the shelves in the Queen’s Market Mall store since they opened eight weeks ago.

They sourced their products from Crawlers, based in Auckland, which imports insects and insect products from Thailand.

Edible insects are flying off the shelves in Blenheim and "everybody" is trying them.


Edible insects are flying off the shelves in Blenheim and “everybody” is trying them.

The Crawlers website said it took approximately 1000 crickets to make 100 grams of cricket flour.

Cricket flour was 100 per cent natural with no preservatives, artificial colours or flavours.

Judy Claasen said they asked everybody who came into the shop if they wanted to try an edible insect, and about 90 per cent were willing.

The Hell Pizza bug pizza with edible insects that didn't make it. But you can make your own insect toppings at home.

Hell Pizza

The Hell Pizza bug pizza with edible insects that didn’t make it. But you can make your own insect toppings at home.

The crunchy critters had been selling well for Christmas and birthday gifts, Claasen said.

“A woman bought crickets for her son for Christmas … he was 11 I think and he enjoyed them so much he came back the next week and bought another packet,” she said.

Claasen said people had been “pleasantly surprised” with the taste.

There's a new source of protein available at The Shop That's Not, in Blenheim, if you're brave enough.


There’s a new source of protein available at The Shop That’s Not, in Blenheim, if you’re brave enough.

“If you didn’t know you were eating an insect, you’d think it was like a nice biscuit,” she said.

Claasen said she wanted her store to stand-out from the crowd.

“Our aim is to sell products no-one else in Blenheim has,” she said.

Dunedin Polytechnic Food Design Institute student Funn Boyle created an insect ice cream in 2016.

Funn Boyle

Dunedin Polytechnic Food Design Institute student Funn Boyle created an insect ice cream in 2016.

Partner Jeremy Claasen said he wasn’t sure how the edible critters would go in a town like Blenheim.

“It’s different eh, especially in a little conservative town,” he said.

Although, he was thrilled the insects had been going so well.

The Shop That's Not, in Blenheim, is selling a variety of edible creepy crawlies.


The Shop That’s Not, in Blenheim, is selling a variety of edible creepy crawlies.

He said the tarantulas had proved the most popular of the lot so far.

The pair were planning to expand the variety of insects instore because the first batch was successful.

Judy Claasen wanted to sell edible black ants, meal worms, scorpion lollipops, ant lollipops, cricket lollipops and mealworm lollipops.

The insects had a shelf life of 12 months and had been collected fresh from farms and cleaned, cooked, dried and packaged, Claasen said.

The cost of the edible crawlies ranged from $12 to $25.

Insects from more than 1900 species form parts of the diets of roughly 2 billion people worldwide, according to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The crunchy critters were a good source of protein, iron and calcium.

One warning: if you are allergic to prawns and shrimps, crickets and locusts will cause you problems.

Get on top of your stress levels

Stress is born, lives, and dies between your ears. Well that’s mostly true. There are certain stressors like financial, physiological and environmental that maybe beyond our control. However most emotional stress is self-inflicted and a product of our thoughts, expectations and beliefs. For the past 15 years I have been studying stress and how to manage it especially in a working environment. Its important to have tools to control your stress levels, rather than your emotions controlling you.

Language is the tool that we programme our brain with. It is the tool we teach our children with and manage our work environment. Despite major technological advances the human brain has not changed much in the past few thousand years. What was true of the stoic philosophers Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus is true now. Life is not stressful, its just our view of it that is. Thoughts are our internal language and programming code for the brain.

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Certain words are more stressful than others. We think in patterns and attitudes that generate cortisol, put our blood pressure up, make us age prematurely and we can transfer these attitudes to those around us and the generations that follow. Having studied thousands of people’s thoughts I noticed common attitude profiles and gave them a diagnosis and cure.

I covered these in my book the Power of Healthy Thinking but words are powerful and potentially damaging. Words like “should” and “must” are demanding and stressful. “You should tidy your room” can be replaced with “I would prefer you tidied your room otherwise here are the consequences”. Without appropriate consequences we don’t tend to change our behaviour.

“I must get everything done for everybody” can be replaced with “I would rather get everything done but in fact I need some time for myself or my family”. We are often too hard on ourselves and others. Other stressful and potentially damaging words are “hopeless” and “useless”. No worker, client, parent or child is hopeless or useless, in my view. This profile is the judge and we are quick to judge ourselves and others.

If we make a mistake we can blame the situation but if others make mistakes we can blame their character. If someone cuts you off in the traffic there are range of expletives one can use, often in the presence of others. If you cut someone off you tend to blame something or someone else. Stress causes parts of the brain to shut down, thereby increasing your risk of an accident.

Most stress is just not worth it. Unless it changes your behaviour, it is what I call an unhealthy emotion. If financial stress causes you to spend less or earn more, it’s a healthy emotion. If you don’t change your behaviour then you are just wasting your time getting stressed and often winding up others at the same time.

I use what I call cognitive switches to manage stress. When things go wrong as they often do, I tell myself, “there are no problems only solutions”. My mind shifts to a different part of my brain and I looking for solutions, rather than dwelling on the problem. 2018 will have its challenges as well as its rewards. Remember it’s not what happens to you that is important, its how you deal with it that counts. If you want to know more check out our website

Raw water: the problem with the latest heath craze

The “raw water” movementromanticises the idea of drinking water that contains the things they say nature intended without the chemicals, such as chlorine, often used in urban water treatment processes.

In some areas of America, especially the West Coast, it has become a high-dollar commodity – water captured in glass bottles and sold straight to you.

But by shunning recommended water safety practices, experts warn, raw water purveyors may also be selling things you don’t want to drink – dangerous bacteria, viruses and parasites that can make you sick.

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“We’re glad people are so interested in water quality and the value they’re placing in safe water,” said Vince Hill, who heads the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch at the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“But I think it’s also important for people to know where their water comes from, what’s in it, how it’s delivered and whether it’s safe to drink.”

Where water comes from, how its treated and what it’s bottled in, has long been the subject of heated debates.

Could demineralised water be bad for you in some circumstances? What about using plastic bottles? And, of course, do some water systems have dangerous levels of lead? Many communities reject adding fluoride to drinking water, even though it strengthens teeth and is safe at low doses.

Michelle Francl, who chairs the chemistry department at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, said truly raw water, which is simply hydrogen and oxygen, is fine to drink – as long as it’s clean.

“Water pulled from a spring or water that comes out of the tap – the water molecules are identical,” she said. “So the only difference is what else is in there and some of those things might be innocuous like the minerals, some of them might be not so innocuous – things like Giardia and bacteria have been found in springs.”

The trend shuns treated drinking water, which experts say isn't a good idea.


The trend shuns treated drinking water, which experts say isn’t a good idea.

“The lack of clean water kills hundreds of thousands of children a year,” said Francl, who is also a scholar at the Vatican Observatory. “So this notion of raw water is crazy.”

That’s why, experts say, it’s imperative to know what exactly you’re putting into your body.

The cleanliness of the water, they say, depends on things you can’t see – like whether herds of elk or moose or caribou have relieved themselves in a stream that you’re drinking from and left it full of parasites. Or whether there has been groundwater contamination from naturally occurring elements such as arsenic, radon or uranium, or from agricultural pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals.

But all in all, “we have an incredibly safe and reliable water supply” in the United States, said David Jones, professor of history of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

US law requires the Environmental Protection Agency to put in place certain standards to ensure that tap water is safe to drink. The US’s Food and Drug Administration regulates water that is bottled and sold to consumers.

But raw water is really up to you.

“In some respects,” Jones said, “the fact that people are worried filtration is removing necessary minerals is really an extreme case of one of these First World problems.”

Experts say raw water may contain minerals, but you can get the minerals you need from a healthy diet – and the risk of harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites is not worth any benefit from trace minerals.

Water treatment is intended to remove harmful bacteria such as E.coli, Salmonella and Giardia, a common parasite that causes a diarrheal illness called giardiasis and can be contracted by drinking “untreated or improperly treated water from lakes, streams, or wells,” among other ways, according to the CDC.

Until a couple centuries ago, waterborne illnesses were much more common – before people knew to or were able to separate sewage from drinking water. Jones, at Harvard Medical School, said in the late 19th century in response to epidemics of cholera, a bacterial disease that spreads in water, cities made massive investments in water treatment processes, including sand filtration.

Once communities were able to separate sewage from the drinking water and then filter that drinking water, cholera nearly disappeared from cities in Western Europe and North America.

“These kinds of changes are likely largely responsible for huge improvements in human life expectancy,” Jones said. He added that life expectancy increased by some 30 years from 1900 to 1970.

“Clean water has made such a difference in people’s life expediencies in the United States and other industrialised countries, so I can’t imagine why you would want to drink water that wasn’t and thereby endanger your health,” Francl said.

Doug Evans, who said he subsists on an organic, plant-based diet, said he has been drinking raw water for nearly two decades now.

“If you have heavily processed water with chemicals in it that are designed to kill bacteria, then I think it can really materially alter the body,” he told The Washington Post. “The springs that I will drink from have all been tested – and the closer you’re drinking it to the source, the safer it is. So I think that if you’re drinking from a natural spring at the source, it tastes better. And I feel good drinking it.”

Evans, an entrepreneur who founded the now-defunct juicing company Juicero, said that when he can’t get his own water, he buys it from Live Water, a raw water business based in Oregon. The company claims on its website that “all other bottled, filtered, tap, and even spring waters are sterilised with ozone gas, irradiated with UV light, and passed through a submicron filter” and that “blasting water with ozone changes its molecular structure”.

Live Water did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Francl, the chemist, said ozone gas is used to remove bacteria and other things from water and then the ozonised contaminants are strained out, leaving clean water. She also said that ozone does not change the molecular structure of water, as Live Water claims; if it did, the liquid would no longer be considered water.

Evans said others should make their own decision about what to drink.

“You want to drink tap water, drink tap water. You want to go buy water that’s been filtered and put in a plastic bottle, I think that has environmental consequences, but I’m not going to protest,” he said.

“The pundits will say water is H2O, but I think as you break it down, there’s a lot more to it. And I feel very vibrant on its consumption.”

 – The Washington Post

Can you get fit in just six weeks?

Tess Nichol put in the hard yards to see how big a change she could make in six weeks. Photo / Nick Reed

We’ve all had those moments when we’ve realised we’re not looking after ourselves the way we should be.

In those moments it’s easy to wish you could just hand yourself over to the experts, and let them have their way with you. To be told what to eat and how to move your body, then watch the changes start.

Well, one of my colleagues has spent the past six weeks doing just that. She called in a nutritionist and a personal trainer, and sat down to hear the truth about the changes she should be making.

Not only that, but she put in the hard yards of actually making those changes, and documenting how she felt during all of this. It’s not always pretty trying to make a big lifestyle change, and let’s just say, she was fairly honest about that.

I spoke to Tess Nichol, NZ Herald consumer affairs reporter and willing human experiment, for the latest episode of the Go to Health podcast.

We talked about what changes she made under the guidance of the nutritionist and personal trainer, whether it had the results she wanted, and which changes she thinks she’ll keep long term.

By: Frances Cook

Why gym bunnies are mixing it up

There’s been a change in what gym bunnies think is the best way to work out. Photo / File

When you’re slogging away at improving your fitness you want to be sure all that effort isn’t wasted.

It seems there’s a new way to get fit every day. Aerial suspension ran hot for a while, with people trying yoga or strength classes while suspended in reams of silks.

There are shake weights, rolling weights, or weights you can strap onto different parts of your body.

For those who fancy themselves a bit of a ballerina, barre classes have been popular for a while now.

I love a good gimmick, and if it gets me moving, all the better.

But under all the fads, I want to know what’s actually working for people, and what the experts recommend as we head into 2018.

So I called Ish Cheyne, Head of Fitness for Les Mills.

He’d just returned from an international fitness conference, so was ready to tell us all about the fitness trends becoming more popular, the ones that are one their way out, and the difference between people who stick with the fitness habit and those who don’t.

This is what sugar does to your brain

The part of the brain that senses hunger is also integrated into the rewards system.

The part of the brain that senses hunger is also integrated into the rewards system.

To tell the story of what sugar does to your brain, you have to start with the thought that triggers your need for a hit of sweetness.

It often happens in the afternoon when your brain, which runs on sugar, starts to get hungry.

To satiate the craving your brain activates a string of neurons, often referred to as the reward pathway, which pump the chemical dopamine into your brain.

The prefrontal cortex acts as the brain's “brakes” but it's weakened by too much sugar (and fat).


The prefrontal cortex acts as the brain’s “brakes” but it’s weakened by too much sugar (and fat).

All of a sudden you need a chocolate bar or that sweet pastry you saw at lunchtime.

Nicotine, alcohol, sugar – the desire for them is also linked to the part of the brain that registers fear and stress.

Nicotine, alcohol, sugar – the desire for them is also linked to the part of the brain that registers fear and stress.

If you act on that craving, the reward pathway then switches mode, pumping chemicals such as beta-endorphins into your brain, generating feelings of pleasure.

Your brain thanks you for the sugar hit by making the chocolate bar literally taste sweeter, says Dr Zane Andrews, a scientist at Monash University who studies how our brains regulate control of our diets.

But if you respond to the brain’s need for sugar too often, the reward pathway can develop tolerance to the stimulus.

In animals, and men and women, a high-sugar diet seems to impair the hippocampus, which controls memory.


In animals, and men and women, a high-sugar diet seems to impair the hippocampus, which controls memory.

“That means we need to eat more to get the same feeling. That’s a classic feature of addiction,” Andrews says.


You do possess the ability to resist cravings – it’s called willpower.

That ability to stop yourself comes in part from a network of neurons called inhibitory neural circuits. These circuits occur throughout your brain, but are particularly concentrated in the parts involved in decision-making, impulse control and delaying gratification.

“They are kind of like the brain’s brakes,” explains RMIT sugar scientist Dr Amy Reichelt.

But if you find you can’t resist that craving for a chocolate bar don’t be ashamed – you may be able to blame it on the sugar.

In world-first research using rats, Reichelt has shown that high-sugar diets can alter decision-making and the ability to control behaviour.

Her studies revealed that rats fed on high-sugar diets suffered a loss of those willpower neurons.

“When you’re consuming these high-sugar diets and you’re told to stop consuming them, you’ve made alterations to your behavioural control – and that can lead to your diet falling apart,” she says. “You’re literally unable to resist that cake.”

Much of the research, though, on sugar’s impact on the brain has yet to be replicated in people.

In another study conducted last year, a team led by Professor Richard Stevenson from Macquarie University asked a group of volunteers to rate how much they wanted to eat several snack foods when they were feeling hungry versus when they were sated.

They found that the volunteers who regularly ate a high-fat, high-sugar diet were much more likely to crave snack foods even when they weren’t hungry.

A pyramidal neuron in the brain of a rat fed a normal diet.


A pyramidal neuron in the brain of a rat fed a normal diet.

The scientists suggest the high-sugar and fat diet was actually impairing the ability of the brain to block food cravings.


Let’s say you manage to use your willpower to get on top of your craving for that chocolate bar. But the feeling does not go away.

A pyramidal neuron in the brain of a rat that has been bingeing on sugar for 10 weeks. Photo: Courtesy Dr Arnauld Belmer, QUT


A pyramidal neuron in the brain of a rat that has been bingeing on sugar for 10 weeks. Photo: Courtesy Dr Arnauld Belmer, QUT

Your mouth runs dry. You can taste the first bite. Your work performance drops. It’s just like … (you think wistfully to yourself) … craving a cigarette.

Maybe the similarities run deeper than that.

In world-first research, Queensland University of Technology neuroscientist Professor Selena Bartlett claims to have found evidence that high-sugar diets act on the brain in very similar ways to tobacco, alcohol or other physically addictive substances.

The green flecks are new immature neurons in the hippocampus of a mouse but their number has been reduced by chronic ...


The green flecks are new immature neurons in the hippocampus of a mouse but their number has been reduced by chronic sugar consumption.

Her work targets the basolateral amygdala, a small region in the brain that is linked to fear and stress, and the prefrontal cortex, which sits at the front of the brain.

She found that mice who had binged on sugar had far fewer links between the neurons in these regions and looked a lot like animals addicted to alcohol.

More remarkably, when her researchers gave mice a medication used to treat nicotine addiction, they stopped eating as much sugar.

The amount of newborn neurons (green) is much higher in the brain of a mouse fed a normal diet.


The amount of newborn neurons (green) is much higher in the brain of a mouse fed a normal diet.

“What we discovered in the last five years is that sugar is as addictive as alcohol. We nailed a very specific set of circuits in the brain that alcohol and nicotine bind to,” Professor Bartlett says.

“We showed sugar using the same protocols could change the brain in exactly the same way as alcohol and nicotine do, which labels it into the addictive pathway.”

In a hotly contested field, claims about sugar’s addictive qualities are among the most fraught.

“When we look at obesity, we’re not finding those addictive qualities at all. Where’s the evidence for that?,” says Professor John Dixon, a researcher with the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

“More than any other disease, people believe they know what causes obesity. They don’t.”

Even University of NSW Professor Margaret Morris, one of the leading proponents of the theory that sugar can damage the brain, says the evidence for actual addiction is weak.

“We did a review of the evidence and we had to conclude, on the balance of evidence, that there was no strong evidence for sugar addiction in humans.

“We’re all prone to try to excuse our behaviour by claiming we’re addicted. Which is rubbish.”


Most research on sugar’s impact focuses on a small horseshoe-shaped region in the middle of the brain, about level with your ear, called the hippocampus. It is responsible for memory formation and navigation; to do that, it needs to be continually building new neurons or rewiring existing pathways.

This role makes it vulnerable to external stresses – potentially such as diets high in sugar.

In animals, the research is fairly clear: sugar damages their ability to make new memories.

The first person to confirm that effect in humans was Professor Richard Stevenson, leading a team at Macquarie University, earlier this year.

He had volunteers spend a week eating a high-fat, high-sugar breakfast. After just four days, their performance on memory tests fell dramatically.

“Sugar seems to adversely impact the hippocampus and longer-term brain structures that are involved in decision-making and pleasure,” he says.

The University of Sydney’s Dr Kieron Rooney once did a quick study – largely for a lark – on a small group of people who signed up to a popular quit sugar diet. He was surprised to find that their memories had significantly improved by the end of the diet.

Morris has spent more than 20 years putting rats on high-sugar diets. She says the results are consistent and repeatable. “Weight gain and a cognitive decline – it’s quite a large effect,” she says.

Obesity is characterised by low-grade inflammation throughout the body. The theory, Morris says, is that with excess sugar and fat in the diet inflammation also appears to affect the hippocampus, impairing its function.

High-sugar diets also reduce the levels of a chemical needed for new neuron formation – which is crucially important to the hippocampus’s job of creating new memories.

The most prominent and studied impact of sugar on the hippocampus is navigation. We use the hippocampus to build an internal map of our surroundings.

Morris found that navigation for rats fed a high-sugar diet is significantly impaired.

She also makes it clear though that her research on sugar’s effects on the brain has not been replicated in people, so the link to how humans will react is not definite.

“It’s probable but it’s far from confirmed,” Morris sums up.


So, what can you do to protect your brain from sugar?

Beyond trying to eat less of it, not much, experts say.

To deal with the addictive powers of sugar, Bartlett suggests meditation exercises to build focus and willpower.

Omega-3s, the fats contained in fish oil, have shown potential neuro-protective effects in some trials, plus the ability to bolster hippocampal function. Morris suggests using them to supplement your diet.

But ultimately, Morris says, the only magic pill is exercise and following the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which recommend limiting your intake of added sugars.

“There is no question that there is some ability of the system to reset. If people adopt a healthy diet, that could go some way to reversing the effect.”

 – The Age


How to grow a cocktail garden

The festive season is a fine excuse or motivation to dust off the cocktail shaker and whip up something fancy, all the better if you can draw upon the provender of your garden for inspiration and substance.

Depending on what you grow, you’ll likely have plenty of mouth-watering options – fresh strawberries, raspberries, early stone fruit, including peaches and Japanese plums, and citrus of at least a few lingering kinds.

The summer herb garden has much to offer the bartender too – mints of various kinds, lemongrass, verbena, balm and myrtle, stevia, kaffir lime, sorrel, rhubarb, lavender and even acrid, invigorating wormwood.

Facebook/Bedford Soda & Liquor

A range of summer drinks can be made with homegrown ingredients. The only real limit is your own good taste.

So what should you go if you want tasty summer cocktails and mocktails?

If you have a loquat tree, you can try making your own DIY amaretto. This almond-flavoured liqueur is traditionally made from bitter almonds, which are not grown or sold here due to their moderate degree of toxicity. You can make a much safer, but still very almondy version, from sun-dried and cracked loquat kernels. Soak 1 cup of kernels in a litre of vodka for about six months. Sweeten to taste with sugar syrup and use in place of amaretto. Blend it with almond milk, white grapes and ice for an almost-nutritious heat buster.

Got a peach tree? Why not make homegrown bellinis. One of the simplest of all cocktails, it relies absolutely on perfect peaches and just enough cold, sparkling wine, simply stirred together and served. Squeeze ripe peaches to a pulp by hand. Force through a sieve, chill and mix 1:2 with dry, sparkling white wine. For something cutely kiwi, use ‘Blackboy’ peaches instead, blended with sparkling rosé.

Or, if you have homegrown cherries, cherry brandy couldn’t be easier. Remove stems from ripe, whole cherries and prick them all over before filling a large jar to the top. Add enough caster sugar to fill the jar a third from the bottom. Fill the jar with brandy, seal and store in a cool, dark place for at least six weeks. Add cracked cherry stones for an almond flavour.SUPPLIED

The garden can offer a bounty when it comes to making cocktails.

You can use your berries to make a fizzing pink berry spritzer too. In a blender, blitz frozen or fresh berries of your choice, with sugar syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar and water) and ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Press the mixture through a sieve and discard the solids. Pour into a jug and top with sparkling wine, lemonade or soda water. Pour over ice into glasses with added berries and herbs.

Fancy something non-alcoholic? To make the best lemon cordial ever, add the finely grated zest and juice of 5 lemons, along with a pinch of salt, to a litre of strong sugar syrup (2:1 with water). Bring to the boil for 3 minutes. Cover and set aside for 12 hours or overnight. Re-boil, strain and bottle. Dilute roughly 1:10 with chilled water – preferably sparkling.

Water diet ‘the most dangerous weight loss regime ever’

Nutritionists have expressed concern over a dangerous new fad diet which bans everything but water, tea and coffee.

Water Fasting involves trying to lose weight by eating no food and only taking in the three beverages.

The trend has become popular on social media with thousands of people using the hashtag #waterfast to document their progress and encourage others to take part.

But critics have warned it could be “the most dangerous diet ever” and said that it was taking the trend for cleansing way too far.

Eating disorder expert Joanne Labiner likened Water Fasting to conditions like anorexia and said it should be avoided, especially at a time of year when people are considering slimming down after Christmas.

She said: “It can be so bad for your organs. That’s why people with anorexia can die of a heart attack. Their body feeds on their heart.

“Our body thinks it’s an emergency and tries to prevent that fat storage from being used up, and it feeds on the muscle”.

On social media site Twitter dieters claimed that the Water Fast left their skin looking “amazing”.

Others said that they got the “best sleep of my life” once they started it.

On Christmas Eve one dieter wrote: “Day 9 of my 21 day #waterfast and it’s going very well. Amazing results. #Weightloss 2 warts cleared up. Back acne gone. Visible abs. More mental focus”.

One man claimed to have set out to do it for 47 days and, whilst he initially felt energised and focused, said he was forced to stop after 28 days.

Another dieter, who lost 23kg, said that he was forced quit because he was so tired he could barely get out of bed.

Yet others were still convinced it could work with one writing: “Here goes……!!! Back at it again, #waterfasting time.

“Anyone who wants to join me and go threw this pleasurable pain and suffering with me is more than welcome 2 because its a lot easier when you got somebody you know who’s suffering with you lol (sic)”.

Kidney specialist Dr Jason Fung, said that short-term fasting worked but only for certain patients.

He suggested that water fasts were appropriate for clients who are obese or have Type 2 diabetes – but only under the supervision of a doctor.

He said: “It can be done, people do them, but they have to be done safely.

“I don’t think it’s the safest thing to do, but if you’re obese, it’s not the most dangerous thing, either. If you’re relatively slender, it’s more dangerous”.

Dr Fung, who wrote a book called The Complete Guide to Fasting, added: “The longer you (fast) the more risks you take”.

8 for 2018

Swapping treats for a piece of fruit or walking an extra block each day are small, simple changes that could make a huge difference to a person’s health and wellbeing in 2018.

Being healthy is easier said than done but it does not have to be chore, says Kirstan Corben, executive manager of programs at Victorian Health Promotion Foundation in Australia.

“Setting small, realistic goals helps to make them more achievable and less daunting, which means you’re more likely to stick to them.”



One simple way to avoid excess sugar is to swap sugary drinks for water. Sugary drinks like soft drinks are the largest source of sugars in our  diet, and they can lead to weight gain and tooth decay.


It’s all about moderation. Drink water in between alcoholic drinks. Remember, alcohol contains a lot of empty kilojoules.


Being active helps us to clear the mind, feel energised and importantly reduces our risk of nasty chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

Try parking the car at the far end of a car park, play a family game of cricket, or do some laps at the local swimming pool.


Salt increases the risk of high blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke. To cut back salt, fill up on fresh fruit and vegies and use herbs, garlic and pepper to food flavour.

Buy low salt versions of your favourite foods and where possible cook instead of getting takeaway.


Stress can impact our physical health, making a person more prone to illness, and it also impacts mental wellbeing. Make time to read a book, go for a run, listen to music or just sit in a park. Activities such as yoga, can also help keep stress at bay.

If you feel like you’re not coping, contact a support service like


Too much screen time can impact kids’ sleep and reduces the amount of time they spend being active. Swap screens for the great outdoors.

Take the kids to the beach or go for a walk.


Social connection is important for strong mental wellbeing but for many people Christmas and the New Year can be a lonely time. Keep an eye on your friends, neighbours and loved ones and offer support when needed.


It’s never too late to quit. Research shows smokers who quit at age 50 halve their risk of death caused by smoking, while quitting by age 30 avoids almost all of the excess risk associated with smoking.

2018 Food Predictions

Last year was all about plant protein, sprouted foods and healthy fats. My prediction is that 2018 will be focused on eating to prevent and manage health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and boosting digestive health.

This year’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo was held in Chicago and brought more than 13,000 nutrition professionals together to learn about food and nutrition research and innovation.

Here are the top food and nutrition trends you’ll see in the year ahead.

Ancient Romans used chicory root to help cleanse the blood and Egyptians used it to purify the liver. It's popular today ...


Ancient Romans used chicory root to help cleanse the blood and Egyptians used it to purify the liver. It’s popular today as a caffeine free replacement for coffee.


Why it’s a trend
Healthy fats are in, and in 2018 we’ll home in on omega-9s (also known as monounsaturated fats) for their potential to regulate blood sugar levels and promote a healthy weight.

Where you’ll see it
Algae has been touted as a superfood in its own right, but the newest use for algae is in the production of omega-9 cooking oil. The process doesn’t use genetically modified organisms or chemical extraction, further broadening its appeal. Thrive algae oil is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. It has a high smoke point of 485 degrees, which means you can use it in baking, roasting and sauteing.

So what does algae oil taste like? It’s completely neutral and odorless, so you can use it in any recipes where you want healthy fat without changing the flavor of the food.


Why it’s a trend
Probiotics have been a hot topic in the nutrition world for several years. They’re bacteria that provide health benefits such as better digestion and a stronger immune system. With plant-based eating becoming increasingly popular, people are looking for probiotic sources beyond yogurt and kefir.

Where you’ll see it
GoodBelly dairy-free probiotics come in tasty shots, juice, infused drinks and bars so you can get your daily dose of good bacteria any way you like. All GoodBelly offerings feature bacteria strain Lp299v, which has been scientifically proved to survive stomach acid and arrive safely in the intestines, where it can colonize in the gut. In other words, these probiotics go beyond “live and active cultures” – they survive and thrive to give you health benefits.


Why it’s a trend
It’s fantastic to introduce healthy bacteria into your digestive tract, but you also need to provide the right fuel to help those good bacteria thrive. That’s where prebiotics come in.

Chicory root fibers (inulin and oligofructose) are the only scientifically proven plant-based prebiotics with proven health benefits such as weight management, improved calcium absorption and digestive health.

Where you’ll see it
Expect to find chicory root fiber in a variety of foods, including nutrition bars (ThinkThin), yogurt (Oikos Triple Zero), smoothies and oatmeal. You can also find it as a powder (Prebiotin) that can be added to your food and beverages.


Why it’s a trend
Alzheimer’s disease is now being referred to as “Type 3 diabetes” and “brain diabetes,” as both conditions involve insulin resistance and deficiency. In 2018, we’ll be focusing more on the importance of eating for brain health.

Where you’ll see it 
A randomized control trial of the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH intervention for neurodegenerative delay) diet is looking into the benefits of a nutrient-rich diet emphasizing foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and berries in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Frozen blueberries are being given to participants because they are rich in antioxidants that may be beneficial for the brain, particularly when it comes to memory loss in aging.

Recent research published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that daily consumption of the equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries, given as 24 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder, showed positive changes in cognitive function in older adults over a placebo.

Expect to see blueberry powder as a supplement and blueberries being used to create condiments and sauces in savory as well as sweet dishes.


Why it’s a trend
Getting healthy whole grains on the table has always been a challenge because of longer cooking times. That’s why food companies are coming up with ways to bring us whole grains and pseudograins (seeds that are served as grains) much more quickly.

Where you’ll see it 
Fast and portable amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa in single portions such as Ellyndale Q Cups in low-sodium flavors like Savory Garlic & Mushroom. They’re ready in five minutes; just add boiling water and steep and you’re ready to eat.


Why it’s a trend 
Stevia continues to rule as the sweetener of choice for people wanting to cut down on sugar or calories. As the demand for stevia grows, so do the product offerings.

Where you’ll see it
Look for stevia as an ingredient in more beverages, baking mixes and condiments as consumers look for calorie- and sugar-reduced versions of their favorites.

Stevia will be mixed with brown sugar, cane sugar and honey by companies such as Truvia to make lower-sugar and lower-calorie options. Because these stevia products are naturally sweeter than sugar, you need to use only half the amount.


Why it’s a trend
Cottage cheese used to be only for dieters because it was seen as plain and, let’s face it, lumpy. Now it’s becoming more popular because we’re all obsessed with finding more ways to pack protein into our meals and snacks. This cousin to Greek yogurt is slightly higher in protein and is mostly casein, a protein that can help you feel full longer.

Where you’ll see it
Brands such as Muuna make cottage cheese with a texture that melts in your mouth and is sweetened with real fruit and no artificial flavors. Plus it’s low in sugar, with only four grams in the plain version.

 – The Washington Post

The keto diet burns 10 times more fat than a standard American diet

The keto diet burns 10 times more fat than a standard American diet – even without exercise, research suggests.

Researchers studied people who have or type 2 diabetes or were at risk of developing it. They found that those following the low-carb plan advocated by the diet saw the most health benefits compared to those on a typical diet, whether the latter carried out physical activity or not, reports the Daily Mail.

The controversial ketogenic plan is relatively high in fat and advocates moderate protein – the most well-known being Atkins and Paleo.

Fans of the diet – said to put the body into an ‘optimal’ fat burning state – include celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Rihanna.

Those following it saw significantly better results in terms of their weight, body fat percentage, body mass index (BMI), blood sugar levels and ketones which break down fat.

Additionally, their resting metabolic rate – the rate at which your body burns energy when it is at complete rest – was more than ten times than those who ate a standard diet.


Researchers from Bethel University in Minnesota studied 30 women and men between the ages of 18 and 65. All had previously been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, or type 2 diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a cluster of conditions – increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels – that occur together, increasing your risk the heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Their BMI was greater than or equal to 25 (or waist circumference above 37 for men and 31.5 for women) and body fat percentage above 30 per cent.

They were randomly placed into three groups, in the order they signed up for the study.

For ten weeks the first group consumed a diet of less than 30 grams of carbohydrates per day and did not exercise.

The second ate their normal diet and also did not exercise.

The third ate their normal diet but exercised for three to five days per week for 30 minutes a session.

After ten weeks, the results showed that while ample evidence indicates that exercise is beneficial, the health benefits produced were not as strong as following a ketogenic diet.

The authors wrote: “All variables for the ketogenic group out-performed those of the exercise and non-exercise groups, with five of the seven demonstrating statistical significance.”

The findings were published in the journal Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome.


A ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy.

It’s also known as a low-carb high-fat (LCHF) plan and the most famous include Paleo and Atkins.

Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are all allowed, as are non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens. Dairy, organic, full-fat is recommended for keto diets.

It involves limiting added sugars and white, refined carbs and only a small amount of fruit is allowed.

Eating high carbs causes your body to produce glucose and insulin. Glucose is the easiest for your body to convert and use as energy so that it will be chosen over any other energy source, it is believed.

Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body. Since the glucose is being used as a primary energy, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored.

By lowering carb intake, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis, a natural process that helps us survive when food intake is low.

This makes us produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.

The goal of the keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state – essentially it’s a type of starvation but not of calories but carbohydrates.

However, some experts say low-carb diets bring heart and cancer risks from eating too much fat and protein.

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