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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Zucchini and corn fritters (gluten & dairy free)

Monday, September 19, 2011

These are a great substitute for pancakes. I like them for breakfast topped with a few slices of avocado and a poached egg.

Ingredients (to make 3 large fritters)

One 60g egg

60g grated raw zucchini

60g sweetcorn, already cooked

One teaspoon finely chopped parsley

One teaspoon cornflour

Salt to taste


Mix all the ingredients well. Spoon into an oiled frypan at medium heat and flip over when browned.

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'Allergic Shiners' - a sign of leaky gut?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The outside of your body can offer you valuable clues about what’s happening deep inside. You might have noticed occasional dark circles under your eyes after a night on the tiles, or when you aren’t getting enough sleep. But if you’re wearing dark circles frequently, it could be from something you ate, or a sign of ‘leaky gut’ from your digestion. Naturopaths sometimes call these dark circles ‘allergic shiners’ – here’s why

Stationed at several places along your intestines are ‘Peyers Patches’ – they’re actually the home of many types of immune cells, and they group together to work together and assess the safety of food particles passing by. I call them the patrol guys of your digestion. They ask for identification (all food molecules have a distinct shape). They alert the rest of your immune system if they don’t recognise the food, or worse, if they believe that this food is dangerous.

When your immune patrol encounters unfriendly molecules, it quickly alerts all other cells in the area to become vigilant. The sensitive cells lining your intestines are likely to react severely if there’s enough of this problem substance. They respond by becoming inflamed: Blood flow increases, cells swell, and the normally tight junctions between cells loosens a little, enabling the food and immune cell battle to move into your bloodstream. That’s where the term ‘leaky gut’ comes from.

The results can be a drop in your energy levels, or skin reactions, or dark circles under your eyes. Usually your bowels will be upset too.

Children seem to be particularly vulnerable to food reactions, perhaps because of their smaller body size and underdeveloped immune system.

Some common food intolerance reactions that can prompt the formation of dark circles under your eyes include reactions to gliadin, the gluten protein found in wheat, oats, barley and rye; and casein, the protein found in dairy like milk, yoghurt, cheese, and ice cream. But there are many other foods that can cause a problem.

The important thing to remember is that if you’re often seeing dark circles under your eyes, and feeling low in energy, you should check with your health practitioner that all is well with your immune system and your digestion.

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Enjoy food more - here's how

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Have you noticed that over the past few years there’s been a growing interest in food? TV cooking shows and competitions are appearing everywhere, demonstrating just how easy it is to prepare fresh, nutritious food. It’s great to see.

And we have an abundance of fresh, sensational produce easily available to us in the area I live in. We can visit farmers markets, buy produce at the farm gate, seafood that’s almost straight off the boat, and meat products that have been grown locally. We’re spoilt for choice – away from this area, that the same variety and quality just isn't available like it is here.

We’re so lucky, because creative cooking, and eating food, are some of the great pleasures of life: A meal can be a time to re-connect with family and friends, or a chance to relax in solitude.

So if food is so pleasurable, why are so many of us disconnected from it? Eating ‘on the run’; eating while multitasking with the internet; or eating unconsciously while watching TV. After your meal, are you really aware of what you ate, its texture and flavour?

Think about other pleasurable activities, like watching a great movie. You’ve heard about it, anticipated how enjoyable it will be, and made time to view it. Do you then watch the movie on fast forward to get though it sooner? Probably not. You consciously enjoy the whole event.

Why not apply this process to your meals too? A more mindful way of eating is actually going to be better for your health. You’ll digest your food more efficiently when you’re relaxed. And for weight loss, you’ll find your appetite control easier. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to register “I’m full!” – so really savouring your food will give your body time to let you know that. By the way, if your mind is occupied elsewhere while you’re eating, you might miss the ‘full’ message completely.  That’s how entire packets of biscuits can somehow evaporate during a TV show.

If you suspect you’re eating unconsciously, you could try making every meal an event this week (even breakfast!). Appreciate the food, enjoy the experience.  Sounds easy – but sometimes the most commonsense approaches are the most challenging! See if you feel more relaxed, better fed, by the end of the week. Good luck!

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You don't HAVE to eat dairy to prevent osteoporosis: Here's the evidence

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Brace yourself. I may be about to challenge one of your most dearly held beliefs about food. There is a commonly held perception that you must eat dairy frequently to prevent your bones crumbling.  But when you examine the evidence, this just isn’t so.

For some people, consumption of dairy foods is actually harmful, bringing on skin rashes, digestive upsets, sneezing, and sometimes even a low mood. And yet when I suggest that they give the dairy a miss for a few weeks to see if they benefit, the reaction is often shock and horror: “But I’ll develop osteoporosis!”

An epidemiological study is a great resource for health evidence, because they normally include thousands of people over many years. (Clinical research generally includes only about 100 people over weeks to months; not an adequate amount of time to investigate a slow-progressing body change like bone formation). 

So I was delighted to come across a peer-reviewed epidemiological study published in the American Journal of Public Health. It included 77,000 women aged 34-59 over 12 years. The study concluded that high intake of calcium from dairy or other food didn’t provide protection against bone fracture. In fact, women who consumed large amounts of dairy actually developed a higher risk of hip fracture. (Here's a link to the article

From a non-scientific (but common sense) perspective, consider that there are many cultures in the world where dairy just isn’t part of the daily diet; and osteoporosis isn’t any more of a problem.

Its true, healthy bones do need calcium; it’s such an important mineral for us that it appears in almost all food sources (but almonds, seafood and green leafy vegetables are particularly good non-dairy sources). Bone cells are more likely to grow from regular pressure stimulation (another reason to get out there walking, running or dancing to stimulate your bone strength). A healthy estrogen level is important too, as this important hormone for females promotes bone formation.  

But dairy isn’t essential in large quantities. So if you suspect that dairy food might not agree with you, why not give it a miss for a few weeks and see how you feel. The evidence indicates that your bones won’t crumble from it.

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Why the Mediterranean diet is so good for you

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Some cultures have traditional diets that naturally promote better health amongst their population. One that has been studied extensively and given a resounding ‘thumbs up’ by science is the diet followed by Mediterranean cultures. It’s been found to be particularly beneficial in promoting good cardiovascular health. Let’s take a look at how the Mediterranean diet compares with a modern western diet, and discover several easy ways you can incorporate Mediterranean style food into your own diet.

First, consider the modern western diet. It’s dominated by grains, dairy and sugar. Many people eat vegetables only once a day, and struggle to include seafood in their diet more than once or twice a week. Legumes appear on their plate only rarely.

Here are the elements that make the Mediterranean diet different – and better for you.

  • Vegetables abound, in at least two meals of the day. Apart from being a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, vegetables are a source of antioxidants, the anti-ageing nutrient.
  • Legumes are a staple part of the Mediterranean diet: They’re a great source of complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals. With a naturally low GI rating they’re a fabulous way to include carbohydrates in your diet without giving yourself a blood sugar spike. Ideal for diabetics; and the mix of soluble and insoluble fibre promotes better bowel health.
  • Oily fruits: The olive and Mediterranean style food are synonymous. Olive oil is widely used through their cooking, even to dip bread into. It’s a healthy monounsaturated fat.
  • Seafood: Protein sources in the Mediterranean diet are dominated by seafood. This automatically increases the proportion of omega-3 oils (which are anti-inflammatory) in your diet, and reduces the proportion of omega-6 fats (which are pro-inflammatory). No wonder the Mediterranean diet is so good for cardiovascular health - clogged arteries are partially caused by an inflammatory diet.
  • Red wine (in moderation!) It’s scientifically proven to be good for your health – and I bet the researchers thoroughly enjoyed delving into the benefits of this drink!

Sure, grains dairy and sugar still appear in the Mediterranean diet, but more as additions that ‘spice up’ a meal rather than the main event.

Want to assess how close your diet is to the Mediterranean? Write down everything you ate yesterday, then take a highlighter and note the proportion of grains, dairy and sugar to vegetables, legumes and seafood. Then, if you can see room for improvement, start changing at least one of your meals each day. The local library and the internet abound with recipes to inspire you.

P.S. Some more evidence about how the Mediterranean diet can help prevent degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimers: Read this post from 'Food & Function' Journal

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Omega 3 and omega 6 oils: Getting the balance right

Saturday, August 20, 2011

There’s a general consensus that omega-3 fatty acids (like fish oils) are generally good for your health, and help treat many chronic health problems; but did you know that how much omega-3 oils are in your diet isn’t as important as their balance with your omega-6 intake?

The difference between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is purely molecular – they have a slightly different structure that makes the omega-3 molecules a little more flexible, and omega-6 molecules a little stiffer. Both have a role to play in your body, but in our modern diet the ratio has become so skewed as to be unhealthy.

Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory, soothing arthritic joints and skin rashes, and even reducing depression and anxiety.

Why do they affect your thinking? It’s all to do with cell membrane flexibility (remember that difference in the molecular structure of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids). Your brain is mostly fat, and the more flexible your brain cell membranes (from a better omega-3 intake), the more effectively your brain will be able to transmit messages from one cell to another.

In the stone age, before we began gathering in villages and farming, our diets had a very different omega-3 / omega-6 ratio: about one to one. This is because our diets were much richer in seafood (easier to catch than a large animal) nuts, seeds and oily fruits, and had almost no dairy, meat or grains (all rich sources of omega-6 fatty acids).

As human settlements became more industrialised, our diet began to contain less seafood, and more meats, dairy and grains. A modern diet now contains about 10 times as much omega-6 as omega-3 oils. The result? Lots of chronic disease that stems from inflammation, and lots of mood disorders through our population.

You could take a large amount of fish oil capsules to take up the gap; but it’s more fun to change your diet and include more foods higher in omega-3 oils . This will naturally decrease the proportion of omega-6 oils in your diet.

As you change your diet to favour omega-3 oils, you’ll notice your skin becoming softer and more flexible; stiff or painful joints may ease; and if your mood tends to be low or anxious, you may notice a change there too.

Foods to improve your omega-3 / omega-6 balance:

-          Seafood, especially oily fish like sardines, salmon and tuna. Try sardines on toast with tomato paste and spring onions for breakfast.

-          Nuts (not peanuts). Walnuts are especially valuable, and make a great snack with some fresh fruit.

-          Oily fruit like avocado and olives: Use olive oil for cooking; add avocado to your salad.

Foods to eat less of:

-          Butter and yellow cheese: Loaded with saturated fat! Use avocado or hummus as a spread instead.

-          Pastries, cakes and biscuits: Choose fresh fruit and nuts for a snack instead.

-          Fatty, processed meats (ham, bacon, salami)

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Using wisdom from the past to get healthy today

Saturday, August 13, 2011

You can probably recall some of the annoying and awful things your parents subjected you to in your childhood “because it’s good for you”. Some of them seemed really unpleasant, but as we look back, we can see how they actually were doing you good. Many of these practices we can return to, and reap the benefits. Here are some of the more memorable ones:

-          Having a spoonful of Cod Liver Oil poured down your throat: Although the texture and taste may have been repulsive, cod liver oil is a great source of the omega-3 essential fatty acids, plus the fat soluble vitamins A and D. (Thankfully, cod liver oil is now available flavoured!)

-          Being forced to eat a real breakfast: The first meal of the day has traditionally been much more substantial than in modern times. You may have been served a steaming bowl of porridge followed by a protein like eggs. Farmhouse breakfasts were even more substantial as everyone understood that a complete meal would “carry you through the day”. The modern practice of something light on the run is setting you up for a mid-afternoon energy slump. Try making time for a substantial breakfast over the next week and watch your mid-afternoon energy slump evaporate. (You will have to get up a little earlier, but it’s worth it)

-          Offal like liver and kidneys appeared on your dinner plate: Often ‘disguised’ with names like ‘lambs fry’ or ‘tripe’ so you couldn’t easily identify what you were eating: These relatively inexpensive cuts of meat are packed with vitamins and minerals. Liver is a fabulous source of vitamin A; kidneys are a great source of vitamin B3. They can make a nutritious addition to your ‘big breakfast’, or become part of a stew, like steak & kidney pie.

-          Sitting down together as a family for your evening meal. The last meal of the day was traditionally a time when all family members were expected to be present. No multi-tasking with answering the phone, watching the TV, or with one eye on the computer for incoming emails.  It’s a valuable practice in modern times to stop for dinner. It will help you de-stress, re-connect with your family, and be focused on the pleasure of eating, reducing indigestion.

You can probably recall lots more – like being forced to eat your vegetables. Now that we’ve had this trip down memory lane, could you use some of these traditional practices to help you and your family get healthier today?

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Sinus problems?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

If you’ve ever had to deal with inflamed sinuses, you’ll know just how uncomfortable they can feel. And they can be notoriously resistant to clearing – mostly because of their location. Here’s what your sinuses do for you, and how chronic sinus problems are addressed with natural therapies.

Your sinuses are actually a series of bony ‘caves’ around and above your nose, lined with mucous membranes, and equipped with drains into your nasal cavity. Sinuses have two main roles: One is to create mucous for your nose. The mucous contains immunoglobulins, the patrol team of your immune system. They identify potential invaders (like viruses and bacteria) and alert other members of your immune system so the intruders can be killed.  The other job of your sinus cavities is to create resonance for your voice. That’s why people with sinus problems have a ‘nasal’ tone to their voice.

When the membranes lining your sinus cavities become inflamed, they can swell, creating unpleasant feelings of pressure in your face. The swelling may also prevent mucous from draining properly into your nose – or create too much mucus.

Chronic sinus infection can be the outcome of a cold or flu that never really cleared. Bacterial infections can often develop secondary to a viral infection. If you insist on ‘soldiering on’ rather than taking time out to allow a cold or flu to completely heal, chronic sinus problems can be the result.

Another source of a constantly drippy nose, curiously, is from dust and dust mites; an allergic response. One of the nicest things you can do for your respiratory system is regularly dust behind cabinets, air your bedding in the sun and vacuum your mattress. I sometimes wonder if people present more with sinus problems in spring because their houses have been closed up all winter.

An infection in your sinuses can be harder to clear, mostly because those sinus cavities provide an ideal location for bacteria to set up home without too much disturbance. Natural remedies focus on boosting your immunity, disinfecting your mucous membranes to remove bacteria, and reducing the inflammation.  Sometimes chronic mucous membrane inflammation can be a sign of a food intolerance, so your natural therapist may ask you to abstain from certain types of food while your sinuses are being treated, then later ‘test’ your tolerance of that food.

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