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  • Five tips to maintain healthy cholesterol levels

    5-tipsWhen trying to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level, it can be hard to create meals that accommodate this, even though it's key. Family gatherings, holiday parties and company events all present an opportunity to make unhealthy food choices.

    However, with a few simple changes to your diet, avoiding the pitfalls can be easier.

    Here are five food tips that may help you maintain a healthy cholesterol level:

    Minimise Refined Carbohydrates - Sugar, white flour and other refined carbs are among the biggest contributors to obesity and cardiovascular disease, alarmingly common health problems. Reducing the amount of refined carbohydrates as part of a balanced diet can help to reduce your risk.

    Steer Clear of Trans Fats - Any product that lists hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredients label contains trans-fats, even if the product claims otherwise. These are often found in snack foods like crackers and chips. Search for products with natural oils instead, or even better, ones that are baked or air-popped instead of fried.

    Get More Garlic - Make a regular habit of putting fresh garlic in your dishes. This incredible vegetable is believed to promote healthy cholesterol levels.

    Green Tea - Many experts recommend drinking green tea every day. The antioxidants it contains have been shown to help protect HDL (good) cholesterol and help inhibit the oxidisation of LDL and VLDL (bad) cholesterol.

    Fibre - Eat foods high in soluble fibre. The fibre helps reduce dietary cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Good sources include legumes, pulpy fruits, oatmeal, root vegetables and peas.

  • Fish Oil: How much do I need?

    If you’re keen to stay mentally active as you get older, you might want to make sure you’re consuming fish on a regular basis. Research involving 14,000 participants aged 65 and over has Fish Oilshown that people in low to middle income countries whose diets contain the most fish were less likely to develop dementia than those who consume large quantities of meat.

    DHA for age-related memory and learning decline
    Additional research suggests that taking supplements of the omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is found in fish and fish oil, may be beneficial for the health and functioning of the ageing brain. In a placebo-controlled study involving 485 people aged 55 years and older who were affected by age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) or age-related memory impairment, taking supplements containing 900 mg of DHA per day for 24 weeks improved learning ability and both immediate and delayed memory functioning.

    The study concluded that supplementing with 900mg of DHA daily improved learning and memory function in people suffering from age-related cognitive decline and helped maintain and improve brain health in older adults.

     

    How much fish do I need?

    The richest dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and the related compound eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. The Heart Foundation estimates that a 150 mg serve of fresh Australian sardines contains a combined total of 4-500 mg of EPA and DHA per serve. To obtain 900 mg of DHA per day and replicate the dosage used in the study referred to above, you may need to take a fish oil supplement. Options include taking eight capsules per day of salmon oil or regular or enteric-coated fish oil, or four capsules per day of concentrated fish oil.

     

    Are their other sources of DHA?

    If you’re vegetarian, consider taking flaxseed oil capsules instead. They are a vegetarian source of omega-3 oils that can be converted into EPA and DHA by the body – although this process is not considered as efficient as consuming those oils in the state in which they’re present in fish oil.

  • Vitamin E - a powerful antioxidant

    vitamin-eVitamin E is regarded as the most important of the fat-soluble antioxidants, and many of its physiological actions are attributed to its antioxidant properties.

    As an antioxidant, vitamin E helps protect cell membranes from free radical damage, excessive levels of which have been associated with the development of a wide range of chronic health problems and degenerative diseases. Vitamin E is part of a network of nutritional antioxidants that also includes vitamin C and selenium, and is often taken in conjunction with these nutrients for its antioxidant actions.

    Blood vessel health
    Vitamin E prevents free radical damage (oxidation) to LDL-cholesterol (sometimes referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol). This action is particularly valuable for heart and blood vessel health because oxidised cholesterol particles are regarded as being more likely than others to induce inflammation and other changes in the blood vessels, and may increase the likelihood of plaque being deposited in the walls of arteries.

    Vitamin E also performs several other helpful roles in the cardiovascular system, including:

    1. Helping to maintain the structure and function of the capillaries and other blood vessels
    2. Assisting in maintaining blood circulation to the peripheral areas of the body such as the legs, hands and feet
    3. Helping to maintain healthy blood viscosity (thickness) by inhibiting the aggregation of platelets and their adherence to blood vessel walls

    What else does vitamin E do?
    In addition to its actions in the cardiovascular system, vitamin E may also:

    1. Help maintain health and wellbeing
    2. Help to maintain immune defences, and in this regard may be especially beneficial for older people

     

    Where can I find vitamin E?
    Valuable dietary sources of vitamin E include wheat germ oil and other cold-pressed vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, egg yolks, dairy products and soybeans. If you’re taking supplements, always choose a formula that contains vitamin E in its natural form, d-alpha tocopherol (also known as RRR-alpha-tocopherol).

    This is the form of vitamin E found in the largest quantities in the blood and tissue, and is twice as biologically active as the synthetic form (dl-alpha tocopherol or all-rac-alpha-tocopherol).

  • 5 Foods that may trigger IBS

    IBSIrritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a combination of symptoms related to the digestive system. These symptoms stem from a variety of factors, often including one or more of the following: diet, allergies or intolerances to certain foods, difficulty with digestion or malabsorption of certain nutrients and or foods, malfunction of (or biological issues in the stomach area) its lining, and the intestines.

    The symptoms of IBS are as painful as they are problematic, particularly for people with busy schedules who cannot afford to be slowed down by pain or bowel disturbance. Unfortunately there is not one dietary answer for all IBS sufferers. Each individual would benefit from following an elimination diet in conjunction with their health practitioner’s advice. There are, however, a few common dietary changes that may help reduce many of the symptoms associated with this condition. Here is a small list of 5 foods that are commonly thought to trigger IBS:

    Fibre - Many people do not know how much fibre they are really consuming. Along with the consumption of fibre, there must be also be a high consumption of water and moderate exercise because fibre to help move the fibre through the digestive system. Without enough water and body movement, fibre may become stagnant, causing excess gas and cramps. Ask your healthcare practitioner to recommend the fibre to water ratio that you should consume according to your weight and height.

    Cruciferous veggies - The kings of gas, namely, broccoli, sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are excellent sources of nutrients that are low in carbohydrates, fat, sodium and calories. However, for IBS sufferers, these wonderful choices of food can be quite painful. They can produce excess gas and, in stomachs already weakened by inflammation, gas is not just a nuisance, but a cause for cramps, nausea and even diarrhoea.

    Legumes - You all know the song, ‘Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot!’ Well, not surprisingly, beans, hummus, and all things “starchy” also produce gas, contain excess fibre, and may not be good choices for IBS sufferers. Legumes make popular side dishes with just about every meal, but for IBS cases the best substitute for legumes is brown rice. This latter choice does not bulk up your belly and may not irritate it either. The best thing to do if check with your healthcare practitioner to see which legumes are suitable for you.

    Grease - Excess fat in meals means that your body will have a harder time processing the high oil content of food. It also means that your stomach will have extra work to do trying to make “something” out of the fat that it will have to break down with the help of your pancreas and liver enzymes. Try to go without excess fat for at least three days and note the difference in your digestion.

    The extras - Those fake foods that we consume, and do not belong to any food group, wreak havoc in our system. Sweets, alcohol, soft-drinks and chips of any kind contain something in excess (alcohol, sugar alcohol, fat, sodium, food colouring and other preservatives). These add-ons are foreign substances that can really hurt IBS stomachs. Eating foods that don’t come in a packet are the best choices. Eating food in moderation is the key to healthy digestion. Make the swaps that you need to lead a healthier, happier life.

    Always consult your healthcare practitioner before starting major dietary changes.

  • What are the consequences of low levels of vitamin D?

    Vitamin DSince vitamin D is largely produced via the action of sunlight on the skin, it was once assumed that deficiency wasn’t a problem in a sunny country like Australia. However, it’s now clear that many Australians do have sub-optimal levels of vitamin D.

    Research suggests that even in a sunny region like Queensland, more than 40% of healthy adults may have insufficient vitamin D levels. People living in the southern parts of Australia are even more likely to be affected, especially during the colder months of the year.

    What are the consequences of low levels of vitamin D?

    Inadequate vitamin D levels have been linked with a wide variety of health problems, including :

    • Increased hair loss.
    • Osteoporosis and osteopaenia.
    • Increased susceptibility to fractures and falls in the elderly.
    • Muscle weakness and non-specific musculoskeletal pain.
    • Reduced immune function.

    How can I make sure I get enough vitamin D?

    Optimise your vitamin D levels by exposing your skin to sunlight on a regular basis. The recommended amount of sun exposure for adequate vitamin D levels varies according to where you live. To achieve healthy vitamin D levels it is recommended that people living in Darwin, Brisbane and surrounding areas have a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure on most days throughout the year. People living in areas like Sydney, Canberra and Perth need a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure on most days during summer and two to three hours per week during June and July.

    Those who live further south (for example in Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart or surrounding areas) need a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure on most days in summer, and two to three hours per week from May to August. Make sure to avoid sun exposure during the times of the day when UV rays are at their strongest. Instead, choose early morning or late afternoon as your times for catching some sunshine.

  • Support your body’s natural energy levels with COQ10

    COQ10Whether you’re concerned about maintaining your heart health, supporting your body’s natural energy levels, or just getting the benefits of one of nature’s greatest antioxidant nutrients, chances are you’ve considered adding a bottle of co-enzyme Q10 capsules to your vitamin drawer.

    But as with any supplement, there’s more to choosing the right Q10 than you can tell from the front of the bottle – so make sure you choose the real thing! Almost unheard of outside scientific circles just a decade ago, co-enzyme Q10 has become one of the most popular nutritional supplement ingredients in Australia.

    Antioxidant:

    The reason for Q10’s popularity varies from person to person. It’s a powerful antioxidant, which means that it can help our bodies to fight off the damaging effects of chemicals known as free radicals. Free radicals are common in the environment, and can be caused by pollution, but they are also by-products of our own metabolism, and thus form within our bodies. They are often linked to ageing, and cause a form of “wear and tear” at the cellular level known as oxidative stress.

    Energy:

    But Q10 is also much more than an antioxidant. It’s sometimes known as “nature’s spark plug”, because it is so important for energy production within the body. In individual cells, Q10 is found naturally in the mitochondria – the “energy centre” that helps fuel nearly all bodily processes.

    Heart Health:

    For many of Q10’s fans, though, the best thing about Q10 is the support it provides for heart health. Q10 can help to optimise normal, healthy heart function. It can also prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which makes it an excellent part of a lifelong heart-health plan. With this in mind, Q10 is often combined with other heart-friendly nutrients like omega-3 fish oil and vitamin E.

  • Benefits of Magnesium

     

    MagnesiumConsidering all of the important roles that magnesium plays in the body – and the fact that a magnesium deficiency is one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in adults, with an estimated 80 percent being deficient in this vital mineral – it’s a good idea to consider taking magnesium supplements regularly and eating magnesium-rich foods.

    Amongst others, the physiological functions Magnesium is involved in include:

    1. Nerve conduction.
    2. Muscle activity.
    3. The production of energy from carbohydrates and fats.
    4. The production of ATP which provides energy for most of the body’s metabolic processes.
    5. The production and maintenance of healthy bones, including the synthesis of bone matrix, bone mineral metabolism and the maintenance of bone density.
    6. Maintenance of healthy heart function and normal heart rhythm.

    It may also play a role in helping to maintain Cardiovascular Health and Healthy Bone Density.

    Magnesium Deficiency:

    Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency include muscle cramps, fatigue, poor concentration, memory problems and mood changes.

    Aside from not getting enough Magnesium in your diet, factors that can have a negative impact on your magnesium levels include:

    • Stress (especially when prolonged or severe).
    • Inadequate sleep.
    • Profuse perspiration.
    • Excessive consumption of caffeine, salt, soft drinks or alcohol.
    • Having heavy menstrual periods.
    • Eating a diet that contains large quantities of processed and refined foods.
    • The use of some multiple pharmaceutical medications.
    • Gastrointestinal disorders such as short-term diarrhoea or vomiting and conditions that affect your absorption of nutrients.
    • Getting older.

    Dietary Sources of Magnesium:
    Magnesium-rich foods include dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, soybeans and cocoa.

    A significant amount of Magnesium may be lost from foods during processing, refining and cooking, so in order to maximise your Magnesium intake, it’s best to avoid refined and processed foods.

    How much Magnesium do I need?
    The recommended dietary intake (RDI) of magnesium is:

    • 400 mg/day for men aged 19-30 years, increasing to 420 mg/day for those aged 31 and above.
    • For women aged 19-30 years, the RDI is 310 mg/day, increasing to 320 mg from the age of 31 onwards.
    • Depending on their age, the RDI for adult women who are pregnant is 350-360 mg/day.
    • The RDI for breastfeeding for those who are breastfeeding is 310-320 mg of magnesium each day.
  • Prostate Health

    Around 50% of all men over 50 years old and 80% of those aged over 80 years experience symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (sometimes referred to as benign prostatic hypertrophy).

    With these statistics in mind, it’s in your best interest to look after your prostate health, so in this article we explain what BPH is and how complementary medicines may be able to help.

    What is the Prostate?

    The prostate is a small gland the size of a walnut, responsible for producing prostatic fluid, which forms part of semen. It is located directly below the bladder and in front of the rectum, with the urethra passing through the centre of it.

    What is BPH?

    The inner layers of the prostate begin to slowly and progressively enlarge from around the time a man enters his 40s. This enlargement (or ‘hypertrophy’) may lead to obstruction of the urethra and retention of urine. BPH is a consequence of normal hormonal changes related to ageing, such as lowered testosterone, increased dihydrotestosterone and increased oestrogen.

    Symptoms of BPH:

    Although almost all men over 45 years have some degree of BPH, symptoms often do not become an issue before the age of 60.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Urinary urgency and frequency.
    • Hesitancy and dribbling when urinating.
    • Reduced volume and force of urinary flow.
    • Multiple visits to the toilet at night.
    • Sensation of incomplete bladder emptying.
    • Uncontrolled overflow incontinence - where the bladder continues to drip for some time after urination.

    Some of the symptoms of BPH are similar to those of other, more serious prostate conditions, so if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described, please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

    Natural Support for your Prostate

    Herbs and nutrients that may support prostate health include:

    Saw Palmetto: The dark red berries of the saw palmetto plant have been traditionally used in western herbal medicine to help maintain prostate health. Numerous scientific studies have shown that saw palmetto extract helps reduce symptoms of BPH such as needing to get up repeatedly during the night to urinate and weakened urinary flow. In mild to moderate cases of benign prostatic hypertrophy, benefits may be experienced in as little as four to eight weeks. Saw palmetto appears to work by reducing the formation of dihydrotestosterone and inhibiting its binding to receptors on prostate cells

    Epilobium: Epilobium has a long history of use in traditional herbal medicine as a male tonic and to assist reduced urinary flow. Clinical studies seeking to understand its actions in improving symptoms of BPH suggest that it may work by reducing the formation of dihydrotestosterone

    Lycopene: Lycopene is a red-coloured carotenoid found in foods such as tomatoes, guavas, ruby grapefruit and watermelon. It is a powerful antioxidant that is stored by the body in the prostate gland and may help to maintain prostate health via a number of mechanisms. Cooked tomato products (including tomato sauce) are the best dietary sources of lycopene, but it is also available in supplement form.

    Pumpkin Seed Oil: When taken alone or in combination with saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil has been shown to reduce symptoms of BPH and improve the quality of life of men affected by the condition. These effects may start to become noticeable after just three months of treatment, with additional improvements noted in subsequent months

    Zinc: The prostate contains a higher concentration of zinc than any other body tissue and maintaining adequate zinc levels is important for overall prostate health and functioning. Some evidence suggests that men with BPH and some other prostate conditions have lower zinc levels in their prostates and prostatic secretions than men without prostate disease.

    Researchers have hypothesised that zinc deficiency may contribute to these health problems by increasing oxidative stress (free radical damage)

  • Reduce your stress & cortisol levels with these 10 foods

    Foods to help with stressHave you heard of cortisol? Don’t stress as you might raise it! Cortisol is the main stress hormone that is produced when we are in the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode of stress. Stress is a natural and automatic short term response that occurs when the body feels threatened by a situation. Stress causes the release of cortisol, which causes a physical response such as a raising of blood sugar levels so you’re body has the energy to take ‘flight’. In this busy modern day life, stress however, can be prolonged, which can turn into chronic stress, and increase detrimental amounts of cortisol in the body over the longer term.

    This long term impact of cortisol can be the cause of many issues, including:

    1. Sugar & carbohydrate cravings

    2. Abdominal fat deposition & difficulty losing weight

    3. Low mood & poor cognition

    4. Lower testosterone levels

    5. Decreased immune response

    6. Poor thyroid function

    7. Adrenal fatigue

    But it’s not only stress that perpetuates this cortisol production. Our diet plays a huge part in dictating the amount of cortisol we will find circulating in our body. Stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol provide us with pseudo-energy, and this increases the stress response and stimulates the production of cortisol. Inflammatory and oxidative foods such as highly processed foods, trans-fats, refined carbohydrates and sugars will also trigger the release of cortisol. However it’s not all bad news! By incorporating the right foods into our diet, we can reduce our stress levels, maintain a steady energy flow and reduce the amount of cortisol that our body has to deal with.

    Top 10 foods for reducing Cortisol

    Nuts provide us with a decent hit of protein and good fats, which can help us to maintain a steady energy level and reduce our blood sugar levels. They are also an important source of minerals such as zinc and magnesium which help us to maintain balanced blood sugar levels and promote good mood. Tip - soak your nuts to release the nutrients, which are bound to phytates otherwise and not as well absorbed.

    Salmon and other oily fish are an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and cortisol. Salmon is also a great source of dietary protein, to level out those energy levels and provide us with important amino acids to produce our neurotransmitters, important for reducing stress and lifting our mood.

    Grass fed Beef is also higher in omega-3 fatty acids than regular grain fed beef, and lower in pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids. This means less inflammation in your body, and a good quality protein hit to maintain energy.

    Berries are a rich source of Vitamin C, which may reduce stress and cortisol levels, and aid in the production of our neurotransmitters to assist improve our mood. The anthocyanins found in darker berries, such as blueberries, and other antioxidants may also reduce oxidative stress in the body and cortisol.

    Chocolate as well all know, is delicious, but it’s also jammed packed full of cortisol lowering antioxidants, particularly dark chocolate which contains more antioxidant polyphenol and flavonols, and less sugar. The polyphenols and flavonols in chocolate may also be beneficial for maintaining a healthy mood.

    Garlic is filled with antioxidants as well, and can also boost our immunity that is often lowered when we are stressed and have higher cortisol levels present.

    Avocados contain many plant based antioxidants, fibre and poly/monounsaturated fatty acids, and has been found to improve satiety and maintain energy levels. They also contain B vitamins which are important for energy production and mood.

    Bananas give us our B vitamins for boosting our energy levels, and potassium and tryptophan, which are important for keeping us happy and helping our mood.

    Oats are a great way to start the day, with the complex carbohydrates and beta-glucan keeping you fuller for longer, and balancing out your energy levels. Oats like bananas contain tryptophan, which is a precursor for producing our happy brain chemical, serotonin.

    Olive oil has a plant chemical called oleuropein which has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, and is also anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective. Olive oil can also help to increase testosterone levels, which are often lowered with an increased cortisol level.

     References

    1. Randall M. The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. 2012. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. Available from: http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/
    2. Mark L. Dreher and Adrienne J. Davenport. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013 May; 53(7): 738–750.
    3. Oi-Kano Y1, Kawada T, Watanabe T, Koyama F, Watanabe K, Senbongi R, Iwai K. Oleuropein supplementation increases urinary noradrenaline and testicular testosterone levels and decreases plasma corticosterone level in rats fed high-protein diet. J Nutr Biochem. 2013 May;24(5):887-93.
    4. Ali Kuopolla. 9 Foods that Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally. Available from: http://www.anabolicmen.com/foods-that-reduce-cortisol-levels-naturally/
    5. Keri Glassman. 13 Foods That Fight Stress. Available from: http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/13-healthy-foods-that-reduce-stress-and-depression
  • Yoga for Reducing Stress

    Yoga for Reducing StressYoga

    Cat, Cow, Pidgeon. Yes, these sound like animals you might find on your local farm, but they are also the names of Super Stress-busting Yoga poses! We all know that a regular practice of yoga has many health benefits, but did you know that it has also been proven to reduce your stress levels?

    A study published last year on healthy volunteers showed that 40 minutes of yoga per day could do the following:

    • Decrease stress levels - by reducing adrenaline, the hormone which contributes to increased stress levels and our ‘fight and flight’ stress response.
    • Elevate mood – by increasing serotonin, the happy and mood lifting brain chemical.
    • Increase antioxidant action – by decreasing the components of blood that contribute to oxidative stress, and increasing levels and activity of glutathione, which can increase the antioxidant status in the body
    • Increase immunity – by increasing levels of immune related cytokines, which can assist with healthy immune function.

    The beneficial and stress busting effects of yoga in this study were evaluated after 12 weeks. The daily yoga program included yoga body poses, breathing exercises, meditation and awareness practices.

    There are many different types of yoga, but all focus on the practice of being mindful and present whilst performing the yoga poses. You will often find most classes include a small amount of meditation time. Here’s a summary of the main yoga types and benefits:

    1. Hatha Yoga – yoga poses are slow and gentle which is great if you’re just starting out or are wanting to wind down at night.
    2. Vinyasa Yoga – yoga poses are performed to flow into one another, almost like a moving meditation.
    3. Ashtanga Yoga – strong poses are held for long periods of time, this is a more physically demanding type of yoga.
    4. Restorative Yoga – this is a more relaxing type of yoga to quiet the mind.
    5. Prenatal Yoga – designed for mum’s to be, this type of yoga focuses on breathing and core work.

    There are also many other types of Yoga out there to try. So what are you waiting for!? Grab your yoga mat and head out to your local yoga class and experience for yourself the amazing health benefits this form of exercise can offer you.

     

    1. Lim SA, Cheong KJ. Regular Yoga Practice Improves Antioxidant Status, Immune Function, and Stress Hormone Releases in Young Healthy People: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Pilot Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Jul 16. [Epub ahead of print]

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