You probably know that yoga is a great for relaxation, de-stressing, stretching and better balance. But did you know that it yoga can also reverse molecular reactions cause cancers, depression[i] and more?
It all begins with your reaction to stress. Stress (fear, irritation, annoyance) triggers your fight or flight response. Hormones are released which raise your heart rate and cause glucose to surge into your blood ready for you to fight or take flight. Another important action is the releases of chemical, which cause inflammation. Inflammation is important in the short-term because it enhances wound healing – very important in our hunter-gatherer days. And it is still important.
The trouble is that the hectic pace of 21st century living and the huge number of demands on us everyday means that we’re exposed to stress in the form of little niggles throughout the day. And little irritations add up to big daily doses of stress.
The continuous release of stress hormones leads to which is at the heart of chronic (degenerative) conditions such as heart disease and cancers as well as depression and accelerated ageing.
According to scientists from the University of Coventry in the UK, yoga and other mind-body interventions (MBI), such as meditation and Tai Chi, reduces inflammation at the moeclucalr or DNA level.
So as well as aerobic exercise which reduces stress hormones, think about practicing yoga (and/or meditation and Tai Chi). Take a look at this free yoga routine that you can try in the privacy of your home here.
Okra may have originated in Africa West Africa or Ethiopia) or south Asia and history tells us that the ancient Egyptians cultivated it in the 12th century BC. Known as ladies fingers (or gumbo in the Americas), okra is a member of the mallow family. You can find dishes that feature in the cuisines in many counties around the world.
400g fresh okra
6-8 tbsp light olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced lengthwise
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ teaspoon fennel seeds ground
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
Salt to taste
2 green chilies, sliced lengthwise
Wash the okra, drain and dry really well (otherwise the veggies can feel a little slimy – yuck!). Cut off the ends and slice into 2cm pieces.
1 tsp ground pomegranate powder or a splash of lime juice.
In a large pan, heat the oil and add the onion. Stir and cook until golden.
Add the spices to the pan (except the pomegranate powder or lime juice) and roast for a minute or so to allow the spices to become fragrant.
Add the okra, stir to coat and cook, uncovered on a medium heat for about 20 minutes (the veggies should simmer). Don’t add water but do stir occasionally so the mixture doesn’t stick. The dish is done when the veggies are tender.
Sprinkle with the pomegranate powder or lime juice and serve with naan, pitta or roti.
This fresh pesto is easy and tastes wonderfully fresh. Enjoy with pasta or rice or add a little more oil and dip it! This recipe make lots of pesto so half it or store half in an airtight jar for up to two day.
4 garlic cloves
One bunch of basil leaves
One bunch of coriander leaves
1 x 400g frozen edamame (soya beans), thawed
Large handful of cashew nuts
Juice of one lemon lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Using a food processor, pulse the garlic, basil and coriander. Spoon into a large bowl.
Now crumb the cashew nuts in the food processor and add to the herb mix.
Stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Add more olive oil if you like a little more moisture.
Need a little spice in your life? Everyone does! Homemade garam masala doesn’t just bring a bit of spice to your veggies dishes, it brings a whole new depth of layered flavour. Try this roasted spice mixture once and you’ll be a fan for life!
In Punjabi, garam means hot, and masala means blended spices. So,garam masala literally means warm/hot spice mix.
But that doesn’t mean that garam masala is hot in terms of spice. It refers to the way it is said to raise metabolism. It’s also why you should use it sparingly and at the end of cooking or preparing veggie dishes such as salads, soups, bread, dahls and vegetable curries.
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black cardamom
1 tbsp green cardamom
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp black peppercorn
1 tsp cloves
1 x 2.5cm cinnamon sticks
1 tsp mace
4 dried bay leaves (Indian if possible)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dried ginger
Roast the spices (except the black cardamom (to release the fragrant essential oils in a heavy based pan, stirring to ensure they are all roasted event.
Allow to cool and then grind in a clean coffee grinder.
Use a teaspoon or two at the end of cooking your dishes to enjoy the fragrant flavour. Store in an airtight container but try to use quickly – the essential oils lose their potency fast.
You’re bound to have heard about omega 3 fats – probably a lot. But what exactly are they? Why are they called essential? And, how can you boost your intake to of the right kind to help boost your health?
Omega 3s are a group of unsaturated fats. They tend to be liquid at room temperature (as opposed to saturated fats which are solid at room temperature – e.g. butter and fat on meat). Unsaturated fats tend to come from plant sources (I’ll explain later in this feature) while saturated fats tend to come from animal sources.
The two important omega 3 fats in this group are called docosahexanoic (DHA) pronounced do-co- sa-hex-a-no-ick acid and eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) pronounced i-co-sa-pen-ta-no-ick acid. DHA is the most important – around 60% of your brain is made from DHA and it is concentrated in the eyes, too.
Why are omega 3s important?
The omega 3 group of fats are important for health because they’re involved in wide a range of body processes. For example, they’re potent anti-inflammatories, which is vital since inflammation is behind a lot of chronic conditions – from heart disease to cancers and arthritis. They are also thought to have neurological effects; studies also link low DHA concentration with behavioural problems such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Your body uses DHA to make anti-inflammatory compounds and is the main omega 3 fat as far as your body’s needs are concerned. Your brain is around 60 per cent DHA and this type of fat are also concentrated in your eyes.
How it works
DHA seems to exert its anti-inflammatory action by interfering with the pro-inflammatory effects of another type of fat, omega-6 or arachidonic acid (AA).
These come from healthy foods such seed oils and cereals. And, they aren’t unhealthy – it’s just that the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats is very different now compared with our hunter-gatherer times. Then, the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio was one or two to one. Today, the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is around 14-25 to one and many experts suggest that this is just too high. And, the higher the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3, the worse are the effects of inflammation seem to be according to the University of Maryland Medical Center[i].
So why do you need are omega 3s ?
DHA and EPA are called essential because your body can’t make them for itself. But, it can make DHA and EPA from a type of fat found in foods such as flax, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts – this is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
ALA is a short chain omega 3 fat. To make the long chain omegas it needs, your body connects the short chains together to make longer one – it’s a bit like connecting small chains of pearls into a long strands of pearls.
But the conversion of short chain ALA to long chain DHA and EPA is limited. In fact, less than 5% of the ALA you eat gets converted to EPA. And, less than 0.5% of ALA consumed is converted to DHA. However, more research needs to be done in this area since even though vegans only get short chain omega-3s from food, they still seem to have adequate amounts.
Anyway, back to omega-6s …
Getting too much omega 6 fats also reduces your body’s ability to convert ALA to DHA and EPA. Also, you need enough zinc, iron and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), biotin, calcium, copper and magnesium to make the conversion in the first place (which if you’re enjoying a mixed diet, you should be OK with). But, if your iron levels are on the low side, this cold further reduces your body’s ability to convert ALA to DHA in particular.
So what can you do to get the omegas you need?
Here are three ways you can you boost your intake of omega 3s
Enjoy a mixed diet that’s rich in veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes and protein sources. This should help you get the minerals and vitamins you need.
Don’t stint on veggie sources of omega 3s such as flax seeds (freshly ground are most potent), chia seeds, walnuts, soya, canola, seaweed and pecans.
Think about a supplement. If you eat fish, opt for an ethically sourced supplement. If you don’t, go for a supplement that contains DHA and EPA from algae.
Even though strict vegetarians don’t traditionally have preformed DHA in their diet, they get their nutrition from the health-giving effects of veggie sources of DHA. But if you don’t want to take any kind of nutritional risk, think about an algae supplement especially if you are pregnant. In this case, aim for 300mg DHA/100 EPA per day . Choose a supplement that comes from sustainable sources and is as ethical and you can.
I’m just about to start offering an ethical high strength supplement that is made in Australia and made from farmed and therefore ethically sourced algae. I’ll keep you informed!
This is an easy and tasty dish to make on Sunday that will keep the family fed and warm for a day or two in the week, too (store in the fridge and it tastes better as the spices have time to suffuse). In our case, though, it only lasts a couple of days …
Ikg toor dal or use red lentils which are easier to get from the supermarket
6 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
3 tsp mustard seeds
3 tsp teaspoon fenugreek seeds (or methi – find it in your Indian grocer)
3 tsp cumin seeds
10 cm fresh ginger
2 x 700g passata or one and half kilos of ripe tomatoes
2 tsp asafoetida powder (or hing– find it in your Indian grocer)
6 green chilies (sliced if you like heat)
8-10 teaspoons salt
2 tsp chili powder
6 tsp turmeric powder
Juice of 4 limes
Black mustard seeds, fenugreek leaves and cumin seeds
Tomatoes and fragrant seed mix
Fry the cumin, mustard and fenugreek leaves
Ginger, turmeric, hing, green chillies and tomatoes
Add the chilli powder, salt and pepper
Add chillies, turmeric and salt
Cook the lentils in plenty of boiling water until soft (around 45-60 minutes on simmer)
Meanwhile, heat oil in a pot on medium-high flame.
Once hot, add mustard seeds, methi seeds and cumin seeds. Allow to splutter and crackle.
Carefully add ginger and tomatoes (watch for spatter; cook for five minutes
Add hing, green chillies and a little water to moisten the mixture; turn down the heat and cook until the tomatoes are softened.
Throw in the salt, chilli powder and turmeric and mix well.
Mix well and allow it to cook on medium-high flame for 5 minutes.
Drain the lentils (reserving some of the cooking liquid) and spoon the tomato mixture into the lentils.
Add water if the dahl is dry and then cook for another 10 minutes.
Lower the flame and cook for 10 more minutes on a simmer.
Add the lime juice.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with cooked basmati rice.
Tired, guilty, feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? Welcome to 21st century living. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Try these six, easy, no-fail tips and tricks to living a happier, calmer, more rewarding life starting today!
Dump that self-doubt
‘The only limit to our realisation of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.’
Franklin D. Roosevelt
When was the last time you doubted yourself and everything turned out better than you’d expected? Next time you doubt yourself, take a moment to think about your example and allow yourself to feel good. Taking the time to allow positive thoughts may help to make doubt disappear faster next time.
Go away guilt
‘You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are full of yesterday’s junk.’
What is guilt? An emotional warning sign that you feel you’ve done something wrong? Well we all do that! Next time you feel guilt, pinpoint exactly why you feel it. Then, try and alter your behaviour and apologise if you need to. If you don’t accept that too. Talking with supportive friends can help lift you enough to see the truth. And then in the words of Frozen, let it go. Otherwise, your guilt will fester and interfere with life and your relationships. Learn from what happened, don’t do it again and move on. Compromise is a wonderful thing …
‘I have to exercise early in the morning, before my brain figures out what the hell I’m doing.’ Marsha Doble
If you don’t set aside time for exercise and don’t treat it like it matters, it just won’t happen. So treat your workouts like an important meeting – book them into your schedule. Then go, go, go!
Needs a little extra motivation? Pick some of your favourite and create an exercise playlist – make sure it lasts as long as your workout so you can stop when the music stops. Don’t have time to get out and exercise? There’s always housework to be done. So, think about investing in wrist and ankle weights so you’ll challenge your muscles when you mo.
Set your health goals
‘We must use time wisely and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right.’
There’s no quick fix to good health. If you’ve had 10 years of poor lifestyle choices, which have made you a little heavier than you want to be, a 10-day detox won’t fix much. So aim for the long haul. If you want to lose 10kg, break it up into 10 x 1kg goals. And every time you hit your goal, let yourself feel good about it. And then? On to the next …
Opt for better organisation
‘In a sense, clutter is the end result of procrastination.’ Jeff Campbell
Most of us have so much to do that it’s easy to forget. Trouble is, forgetting can cause you – and those around you – even more stress. Get yourself organised with an old fashioned list. Choose paper or an online version that syncs with your mobile. Make sure every item has a deadline or it may not get done, though!
On the other hand, think about just how important it is to be super organised and have the house always pristine. With the addition of a child or children or more, there’s bound to be a bit of chaos in the house. So you decide – accept a bit of clutter to have time to spend with children or loved ones? Or would you rather the house was pristine but your child was alone?
Make sure you’re mindful
‘Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but they can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake …’
It’s easy to overdo it. And, ever little bit adds up. For example, an extra 10 per cent more calories may not sound like much but you might be surprised. Because, if you need around 7,560 KJ (1,800 calories) daily, consuming 10 per cent more (756 KJ or 180 calories) could add up to a hefty 9.3kg weight gain over a year.
Make sure there are no distractions – that you can enjoy every morsel.
If you’re the type of person who likes to feel full, enjoy a soup or salad before your meal. Then pile on the veggies – as long as they’re not drowning in oil or cheese. Eat more pulses and love your legumes because they provide satisfying protein and filling fibre (don’t forget to drink lots of water to help the fibre fill up inside you and help to cleanse you from the inside out, too. Studies also show that veggies and legumes contain prebiotics – foods that feed the healthy bacteria that live inside your gut and produce chemicals that reduce inflammation and even counter stress hormones. Stress hormones affect your appetite so it might help you eat a healthier diet, which in turn can boost your mood. Bon appetite and to your good health!
Scientists have found one aspect of depression to be substantially raised levels of an omega-6 fat called arachidonic (pronounced a-rack-ee-don-ick) acid and correspondingly low levels of omega-3 fats. Your brain is where the majority of omega-3s reside in your body. But, brain tissue can take up omega-6 or omega-3 fats (which are similar in makeup). With depression, though, it seems that levels of omega-3s in brain tissue are low. How can this happen? Eating a diet high in omega-6s and low in omega-3 – and this has also been linked with a range of other chronic (long-term) health conditions such as cancers and heart disease, too.
So, it’s not just about getting enough essential fats, it’s specifically about getting enough omega-3s in proportion to the omega-6s in your diet. Confused? Here are six ways to get the balance right …
If you eat fish, eat oily fish such as ethically farmed/fished salmon two or three times per week. Because of the potentially high levels of the heavy metal mercury in larger, carnivorous fish, only eat these in moderation, though.
Eat more veggie sources of omega-3s. The kinds of omega-3s in these foods are short and strung together by your body (a bit like pearls) to make the longer chain fats needed by the body and used in organs such as the brain. Good sources include walnuts, chia, freshly ground flax seeds and hemp.
Get more greens. Although dark leafy greens aren’t concentrated sources of any kinds of fat, what they do have is a predominance of the omega-3 kind. Load up with spinach, watercress, rocket and more.
Love your legumes. Again, not a great source of any kind of fat, but pulses and legumes have the right ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. Take marvellous mung beans, for example, they provide nearly fifteen times the omega-3 as omega-6 fats.
Try to use a healthy oil such as extra virgin olive oil in cooking and to make dressings and sauces.
Eat less fast and takeaway and processed foods – these are likely to contain omega-6 fats. These include corn, sunflower, safflower oil and vegetable oils.
You might also want to take a supplement of algae-based long chain omega-3s. Choose local, choose ethically sourced and they’ll also be mercury free (unlike large carnivorous fish which.
The whole subject of rebalancing the fats in your diet shifting the balance by eating less omega-6 and more omega-3 is complicated. But it could help ease depression and other conditions. So much so that in the future, treatment of depression may partly lie in controlling the omega-3 fat intake and decreasing omega-6 fatty acid intake.
This south Asian yellow curry is easy and delicious. And, it combines the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric with black pepper. It’s high in protein from the peanuts and beta carotene from the pumpkin. Boost the fibre by serving with brown rice.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 red onion
2 tsp turmeric
2cm piece fresh ginger
1 tsp curry powder
2 red chillies thinly sliced
10 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
1 x 425ml can coconut cream
2 tsp brown sugar
Juice of two limes
1 large butternut pumpkin, cubed and cooked
Large handful roasted peanuts
Black pepper to taste
Herbs and extra chillies to finish
Brown rice to serve
Blitz the 2tbs of the oil, garlic, onion, turmeric, ginger and curry powder in a blender until smooth.
In a large pan, heat the remaining oil and fry the paste until fragrant.
Add the chillies and lime leave. Stir in the coconut cream and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the sugar and lime juice.
Add the pumpkin and peanuts and stir to coat. Simmer for five minutes.
Serve with black pepper, more chillies, micro herbs and brown rice.
Were you were ever a fan of writer Roald Dahl’s work – and who wasn’t? Well, you may have come across this quote of his:
‘A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’
So, if you can be lovely just by thinking good thoughts, imagine how drop dead gorgeous you would be if those good thoughts turned into good actions?
One of the best things you can do for you, your family, society and the world is to make ethical choices. This doesn’t mean surviving solely off your own home-grown veggies or carts of kale from your local farm. It’s about enjoying a mix of foods, focusing on fresh, local and seasonal, Fair Trade if you can’t source close to home and exploring organic – especially for some foods. Here are six sure fire reasons your mind, body and life around you could benefit from you making more ethical choices …
Better for your health
Takeaways and ready meals can be delicious, but a lot of the time, you don’t really know what you’re eating – what the ingredients are and where they came from. Time stresses can mean that it’s not always possible, but by cooking more at home, using fresh ingredients, and focusing on more veggies will mean you feel better. Plus, the ingredients you use and the way you cook them can help preserve delicate vitamins and minerals. Mixing up certain foods also boost their health benefits. For example, mixing turmeric (a cousin to ginger and which gives Indian curries their golden glow) with capsicum boosts turmeric’s ability anti-inflammatory power. Plus, you can choose veggies and fruits that are free from preservatives and other potential nasties.
Better for the animals
Eating less meat is good for your health. Its also good for the environment and, naturally, for animals used for food. According to Animals Australia, over 500 million animals are raised every year in factory farms in appalling living conditions, so look out for labels such as RSPCA Approved, Organic and Free-Range when buying animal products. And, being smarter about your egg and dairy consumption can make a massive difference as well. Going meat free just one day a week can make a massive and global difference to your world and the world of others.
Better for the farmers
Though Australia’s workplace laws are very strict, unfortunately, workers and farmers in developing countries aren’t as lucky. By opting for products such as tea, coffee and chocolate that are labelled Fair Trade, you are ensuring that the farmers and workers receive a fair price and decent working conditions. And with over 3000 Fair Trade certified products in Australia and New Zealand, you’re spoiled for choice, too.
Better for the environment
You can’t turn on the news or scroll through your newsfeed these days without hearing more global warming horror stories. What you can do, though, is something about the choices you make. Buying seasonally and locally, and growing some of your own produce your reduces your carbon footprint in all sorts of ways including in the transportation involved in getting your edibles to you. Plus, you don’t have to dash off to the shops quite as much if part of your supermarket is on your windowsill or out in your yard!
Better for your wallet
It’s true that organic and Fair Trade products are often expensive, but certain ethical eating habits can definitely cut down your grocery costs. By preparing meals that use legumes, grains and tofu rather than meat (or by diluting meat down with them), you can save a bundle. After all, two beef steaks cost around $10 whereas you can get around 10 cans of chickpeas for the same price and make falafels with hummus. Or chickpea curry. Or burgers. Yep, it’s where nutritious meets delicious and great value, too.
Better for your conscience
Doing good things makes you feel better, that’s a fact. If it’s good for you, your family and your planet, making and taking some simple steps and being selective with what you eat can make those sunbeams shine out of your face (remember Roald Dahl). So what are you waiting for? Time to make those sunbeams shine …