What is a cholesterol-lowering diet?
A cholesterol-lowering diet is aimed at assisting the body to reduce cholesterol using cholesterol-lowering foods and avoiding foods that increase cholesterol levels. This is very different from traditional low cholesterol diets, which aim on reducing cholesterol intake in a bid to reduce cholesterol levels. Only a small amount of our endogenous cholesterol levels are from ingestion of cholesterol, the rest is made by our body. High cholesterol can be a result of the wrong dietary choices over a period of time, an inflammatory disease process, a hypothyroid condition, or even allergies! The following dietary advice is aimed at helping to lower your cholesterol levels.
The following foods are associated with cholesterol-lowering properties:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Linseed Oil
- Mustard Green
Fibre helps to lower cholesterol by binding to bile, which is made from cholesterol, and carrying through the bowel for excretion. This means that the bile is not reabsorbed and needs to be produced by the liver again from cholesterol, lowering endogenous levels.
The following foods are high in beneficial fibre which increases the excretion of cholesterol:
- Slippery Elm
- Psyllium Husk
- Wholegrain products
- Linseed Meal
- Brown Rice
- Black Rice
Another aspect of cholesterol to look at is the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) ratio. HDL cholesterol is beneficial as it bounces off the blood vessel walls, cleaning up excess cholesterol and fats that have stuck to the walls and carrying them back to the liver for metabolism. In contrast, LDL cholesterol is damaging to its low density as it bounces against the blood vessel walls and leaves splats of bad cholesterol particles that stick to the blood vessel walls. It is these particles that are the predisposing factor to atherosclerosis as they make it easy for calcification to occur, leading to blockages that cause heart failure and strokes.
Foods that increase HDL and decrease LDL are:
- Nuts and their cold-pressed oils – almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts
- Seeds and their cold-pressed oils – sesame seeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds
- Globe artichoke
- Linseeds and linseed oil
- Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- Apples with ski
- Linseeds / Linseeds oil
- Brown and black rice
- Fish – mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, blue-eyed cod
Cholesterol actually serves an antioxidant role in the body, so when the antioxidant status is low it can cause an increase in cholesterol levels. Increasing antioxidant foods in the diet can therefore help to lower cholesterol by decreasing oxidative stress but will also have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system, preventing atherosclerosis and heart disease.
The following foods are good source of antioxidants:
- Black Olives
- White Tea
- Wheat Grass
- Red Grapes
- Brazil Nuts
- Red Wine
- Green Tea
What increases my cholesterol?
Now that we’ve covered all the beneficial foods you should be including in your diet, it’s time to discuss what kind of factors will have an unfavourable effect on your cholesterol levels, and should therefore be avoided.
Trans-fats are created by oxidation of the fat molecule, which causes it to change from its natural cis formation to a transformation. This form is not easily digested or metabolised by the body, and studies have shown that trans-fatty acid intake is associated with inflammation, increased oxidative stress, and poor cholesterol and fat parameters.
The main sources of trans-fats that should be avoided are:
- Spreadable Butter
- Deep-Fried Foods
- Oil that is not cold-pressed
- Cooking Spray Oils
Sugar and simple carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for the body, so when our diet is high in simple carbohydrates the body uses this excess energy to convert to fat which then can increase our cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Simple carbohydrate sources which should be avoided include:
- White Bread
- White Crackers
- Jasmine Rice
- Jams and Spreads
- Canned Fruit/Veg with added sugar
A high saturated fat intake has been associated with high cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is however beneficial, it should just be consumed in small amounts compared to the other fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet, which should be consumed more frequently.
Limiting the amount of the following will ensure you are not consuming too much-saturated fat:
- Excess Fat on Meat
- Chicken Skin
- Hard Cheese
- Fatty Meats
Low-fat products generally tend to be high in sugar, and as mentioned above this can lead to increased cholesterol levels. Low-fat dairy products usually contain milk solids to make them creamier. Milk solids are in fact milk powder and are high in oxidised cholesterol due to the high heat process by which they are made. It is in fact better to have full-fat products in moderation than it is to ingest these oxidated cholesterol-containing foods.
The following low-fat products should be avoided:
- Skim/Trim/Low fat/No fat milk – if you insist on low-fat milk try Mungali Creek organic low fat, TRIM or you’ll love coles skim milk as these do not contain milk solids
- Low fat cream, yogurt, cheese, ice-cream or other dairy products
- Other products that claim to be low in fat but are high in added sugar (check labels)
So how do I put these dietary changes into action?
Making changes to your diet can be difficult, which is why it is important to take things slowly, changing one or two things at a time. Your practitioner will assist you in choosing which dietary changes are best to try first and will give you practical dietary advice along with recipes.
There are many options available to you as substitutions for foods that you enjoy in your daily diet – try using xylitol (a natural fruit sugar found in health food shops) instead of sugar, or substituting low-fat milk for rice or oat milk.
What other things can I do to reduce my cholesterol?
Regular exercise is an integral part of cholesterol reduction as it helps to increase metabolism and increase cholesterol excretion. Aim for 40 minutes three times a week. Try to have a mix of cardio which increases your heart rate, and strength exercises which help to reduce fatty tissue and build muscle mass.
Dehydration increases oxidative stress so be sure to drink at least 1.5 litres of filtered water a day, more if exercising or on a hot day.
The Alkaline Diet – It All Comes Down to the PH
The acid/alkaline diet may be something you have heard of before, but what does it mean? Foods have different properties when consumed. Acid or alkaline refers to the effect the food has within the body, being acid-forming or alkaline-forming. A common misconception is that foods such as lemon are acid, however, when consumed in the body they are actually highly alkaline-forming.
pH is a scale used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of certain things. The higher the pH, the more alkaline, the lower the pH, the more acid.
- Acid – 0
- Alkaline – 14
- Water – 7
- Seawater – 8.5
- Blood – 7.5
- Urine – 6
- Wine, beer, and cola drinks – 3
The ideal blood pH is 7.5. Eating too many acid-forming foods can reduce this pH, leading to acidity in the body. The correct pH is needed for ALL bodily functions to work correctly, from the cellular level to our metabolism and organ function.
Foods that are acid-forming should therefore be reduced in the diet, and limited to 20% of your total dietary intake.
Foods that are the most acid-forming in the body include:
- Refined and Processed foods
- Soft drink
- Wine, beer, and other alcohol
- Black Tea
- Dairy products, especially milk and milk powder
- Artificial sweeteners
- Rancid Oils
- Most grains (except buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and quinoa)
- Most legumes (except lentils)
- Most nuts and seeds (except almonds, pepitas, and sesame seeds)
Alkaline-forming foods should form the basis of your diet, making up 80% of the food you eat.
As a general rule, most fruits and vegetables are alkaline-forming, with the most alkaline foods being:
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, silverbeet, kale, etc)
- Raw salads
- Sesame seeds
- Raw honey
- Buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa
- Spirulina, barley or wheatgrass
Changing your diet
Most people have a very acid-forming diet, being high in wheat, refined foods, and sugar. Substantial improvements in most health conditions can be obtained by reducing acid-forming foods in the diet to only 20% of your intake. This is not an easy task initially, as significant changes will need to be made to achieve this.
A good start is to look at substituting some of the acid foods for alkaline foods:
- Wheat – use buckwheat, millet, amaranth, or quinoa.
- Sugar – use raw unfiltered honey instead (honey is acid-forming once cooked).
- Dairy milk – try rice milk or oat milk on cereal, BONSOY milk in tea and coffee – these are still acid but less so than dairy.
- Coffee – try herbal tea or roasted dandelion coffee.
Try looking at your meal and imagining how you could make it more alkaline. Adding green leafy vegetables is a good way to do this, or having a salad on the side can also help. Lemon juice in water can be had on rising and before meals (30 minutes) to stimulate digestion and alkalise the body (always rinse your mouth out with fresh water after having lemon juice).
Antioxidants; why we need them and where you get them from.
Antioxidant is a word that is thrown around a lot in food advertising these days – you hear about it in breakfast cereals, juices, and even now on chocolate! The hard part is deciding how to interpret this information – dark chocolate is high in antioxidants but the sugar content lowers it’s therapeutic capacity substantially, so you have to read between the lines.
Antioxidants are substances needed in the body to protect our cells and tissues from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage in the body can lead to tissue damage and has been linked to cardiovascular disease and aging. Antioxidants have a protective effect on cells, slowing the aging process and keeping our cells and organs healthy.
Antioxidants are found in many food sources but hormones, neurotransmitters and other compounds in the body also have antioxidant properties.
Some of the best sources of antioxidants include:
- Green tea – especially with lemon juice added
- Berries – especially blueberries, bilberries and blackberries
- Green leafy vegies
- Apples with skin
- Pawpaw and pineapple
- Tomato especially cooked with oil
- Goji berries
- Red grapes
- Red wine – especially pinot noir (in moderation of course)
- Cocao / Cacao (raw cocoa)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Foods which are brightly coloured generally have a high antioxidant content, so aim for a rainbow on your plate!
Try these recipes to help fight the flu this winter!
Honey, lemon and ginger drink
Yes, an oldie but a goodie. For best results, stir the honey through once the drink is slightly cooled.
- 1/2 lemon
- 5 slices of fresh ginger
- 1 tsp of honey
Cut lemon into pieces, put in a mug and crush slightly to release the juice. Add sliced ginger and pour boiled water over the top. Add honey last when cool.
Sore throat tea and gargle
- Steep 1 tsp fresh or dried sage in one cup of hot water.
- Once slightly cooled add honey and 1/2 tsp slippery elm.
- Sip on the tea, gargling occasionally.
Immune boosting smoothie
High in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, this smoothie is both nutritious and delicious!
In a blender put:
- a handful of blueberries
- a handful of raspberries
- 1/4 red paw paw – chopped
- 1 kiwifruit – skin on
- the juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
- a little extra water
- a handful of ice
- 1 tsp or 1 broken capsule of probiotics (optional)
Blend until smooth
- Add water until desired consistency.
- Drink immediately.
For more information about colds and influenza, click here.
Winter is the time when our immune system is more vulnerable to catching the common cold and influenza. Both the common cold and influenza start out as a virus, which makes them very contagious. These viruses change year to year, with many different strains around each flu season.
The common cold is relatively harmless if your immune system is working correctly, and is usually short lived. Influenza virus however is much more dangerous, especially in the young and the elderly, and if not treated promptly can lead to severe illness and even death.
The common cold and antibiotics
Antibiotics are not effective against viruses – only bacteria, so they do not actually target the cause of the cold or flu – just the bacterial infection left behind, often presenting as mucous build up or a runny nose.
Antibiotics are harmful to your digestive and immune systems as they wipe out your beneficial digestive bacteria strains, such as lactobaccilus and bifidus. This leads to an imbalance in the digestive system which can cause bloating, indigestion and candida overgrowth.
In your digestive system there are 2-3kg of these bacteria, hanging in a delicate balance to perform many functions. Studies have shown that these bacteria have critical roles in modulating our immune system, reducing inflammation and allowing nutrient absorption in the intestine.
A good way to avoid antibiotic use is to visit your naturopath at the first signs of a cold or flu. Naturopathy helps by using herbs which support your immune system in fighting off the virus, as well as using specific antiviral herbs and nutrients that work quickly to resolve the illness. Symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sinusitis and post nasal drip also respond well to naturopathic treatment, getting you feeling back to 100% quicker.
The following foods have antiviral properties:
These foods have antibacterial properties – great to use on a sore throat or for gastroenteritis
- Raw unfiltered honey
- Coconut oil
Foods that boost the immune system
These foods are rich in immune boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc and omega 3.
- Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
For great flu fighting recipes, click here.
To make an appointment, click here.
As we all know that with winter comes the cold and flu season. Although a flu shot may protect you against certain strains of the influenza virus, the best defense against both influenza and the common cold is your immune system.
The immune system is complex, including different armys of cells to identify invaders and activate other cells, as well as cells to fight the invader and clean up and debris they leave behind. A cold or flu usually begins with a viral attack, which then leads to a lowered immune system, allowing bacterial overgrowth and flu-like symptoms. It is therefore important to act quickly upon the first sign of infection, as this will help to reduce cold duration and severity.
Some simple things that you can do to strengthen your immume system are:
- Eat a varied diet high in vitamin C and antioxidant rich foods such as blueberries, strawberries, bilberries, raspberries, blackberries, lemons, oranges, onions, kiwifruit, broccoli, red cabbage, capsicum, chilli, garlic, ginger, Brazil nuts, spinach, grapefruit, beetroot, carrots and sweet potato.
- As soon as you feel the start of a cold, eat 2 cloves of raw garlic a day with food, swallowed whole if possible. Garlic is anti-viral and improves immune function.
- Have lemon, ginger and honey tea. Yes, this old remedy works as the ginger loosens mucous, the lemon is high in vitamin C and bioflavovoids which increase immune function, and honey is antibacterial and soothing to the throat. To make put a few thin slices of ginger root in a cup, pour hot water over, squeeze 1/4 lemon juice in plus the skin and 1 teaspoon raw honey. Seep until cool enough to drink.
- Avoid sugar. Sugar gives bacteria something to feed on an weakens the immune system.
- Avoid getting cold – read outlines above.
- Drink plenty of filtered water. Keeping hydrated is an important part of the healing process. Drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
- REST. Rest allows the body to repair itself so by resting you will shorten the duration of your cold.
Take quality nutritional supplements at the right dose for best results. Vitamin C, bioflavonoids and zinc are important for improving immune function.
- Herbs that can also be of use here include Echinacea, Andrographis and Siberian ginseng to strengthen the immune system. Specific herbs to treat syptoms are also useful to reduce the duration of your cold.
- NOTE: Alkylamides are the active constituents in Echinacea which give it its immune boosting properties. Alkylamides are only present in the root of the Echinacea plant when extracted correctly. Most over the counter Echinacea products use the leaf, flower and aerial parts of the plant as these are cheaper and more readily available. Read labels to ensure you are getting the root of the plant.
- Acute doses of herbal medicine are very effective in reducing cold duration and improving symptoms, ask Katherine to find out more.
- Steam inhalations can be useful to relieve symptoms, and are easily made by inhaling a hot infusion or adding a couple of drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water, then covering head with a towel over the bowl. Use an infusion of elderflower for clear, thin mucous, fenugreek infusion for thick mucous, a couple of drops of thyme oil for an unproductive cough or yellow/green mucous, and the more well know eucalyptus oil to clear the throat and sinuses.
Practitioner strength herbal medicines work best for combating colds and flus and getting you better sooner. Call 07 3367 0337 for your appointment or use the form here.
Wheat Gluten and Wheat Intolerance Explained
Wheat free, gluten free, yeast free… the list is forever expanding of things that we should supposedly not be consuming. There is a fair bit of overlap of why you should not eat these foods groups and what kind of people should avoid them. This article aims to shed some light on the topic so that you can make an informed choice of whether or not you can tolerate these food groups.
The difference between wheat and gluten free
Wheat is high in a protein called gluten, which is usually the culprit that gives you digestive discomfort. Wheat is not the only grain which contains gluten however, so a wheat free product is not necessarily gluten free. The gluten protein in wheat is larger than a lot of other grains, which makes it harder to digest. It is for this reason that many people who can’t tolerate wheat can eat other gluten containing grains without much difficulty.
Wheat intolerance or allergy
Wheat intolerance is very common in today’s society. This is because of the mass production methods which are used to produce wheat, which yields a grain which is higher in gluten. Refining of grains also adds to the problem, removing the outer husk which is rich in vitamins and minerals to yield white flour, which is then bleached to make it whiter still.
Traditionally wheat was part of a balanced diet which included other grains, whereas now it is not common for people to have toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner – which equates to three servings of wheat a day! Less common is a wheat allergy, where the consumption of wheat can make the person severely ill, with the resulting reaction sometimes requiring hospitilisation. Some of the classic signs of wheat intolerance are bloating, indigestion, flatulence, foggy headedness and feeling tired after a meal.
Wheat free options
For those of you who are lucky to have an intolerance to wheat and not gluten, your options are surprisingly good. Wheat flour substitutes include spelt, kamut, rye, barley, corn, rice, oat, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat (this is not actually anything like wheat) and millet. Some of these grains contain a small amount of gluten, however it is much more easily digested than the gluten from wheat.
Gluten sensitivity explained
There are varying levels of gluten sensitivity, from an autoimmune reaction to an inability to digest. The most severe gluten intolerance is called Coeliac Disease. In people with Coeliac disease, gluten causes an autoimmune reaction in the intestines, destroying the intestinal wall which is essential for the digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Those with coelic disease will get very ill if even consuming a small amount of gluten, so need to avoid it their whole lives. Many people suffer from a gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance, with symptoms ranging from digestive discomfort and diarrhoea to fatigue and allergy like symptoms. Gluten free grains which can be used include rice, corn, millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and besan (chickpea) flour. Pasta, breads and flours are now available in many of these grains.
For some yeast can cause digestive discomfort, bloating, flatulence and even irritability! Yeast is found in commercial breads in high amounts and yeast extract spreads like vegemite. Yeast free options include sourdough bread (beware of breads which claim to be sourdough but have added yeast), flat breads and wraps.
Assessing if you have an intolerance
The most simple way of checking if you have a food intolerance is by removing it from your diet. Start with gluten, and then if you find that you have no problem try and introduce some of the wheat free grains like spelt or rye. An easy method that I use with my patients is as follows:
Week one: Remove all wheat from the diet. Use only gluten free breads, pastas and flours made with rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa or besan flours. Keep a food diary with what you have eaten for the day and how you felt.
Week two:Introduce some gluten containing wheat free grains such as spelt, kamut or rye. Continue to record symptoms and foods in you diary.
Week three:If you found that you tolerated the last weeks grains then try and introduce some organic wholegrain wheat such as wholemeal bread or pasta.
Record what you eat and how you feel daily in your food diary. By looking back on you food diary, you may be able to trace which foods were associated with your symptoms. Most people will realise that wheat of gluten was their problem within the first few days of stopping eating it.
Other tests available
There are other tests available to evaluate the severity of a food intolerance or allergy. The IgG food panel is a blood spot test which indicates the level of which you are allergic to something with a 1+, 2+, 3+ or 4+. Other tests include blood tests to measure your antibody levels and white blood cells which can be raised in an allergenic person.
For help with identifying any food allergies you may have,call 07 3367 0337 and make an appointment today.