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Olwen Anderson's Blog

The Vitamin You Can Absorb Through Your Skin

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Ever wondered why vitamin E is so often available as a vitamin E cream? And why this is such a valuable nutrient for the health of your cells? Read on and I'll explain.

Because vitamin E is so widely available in food its unusual to encounter someone with a frank deficiency, although this vitamin is often used therapeutically by naturopaths as a supplement (usually alongside other nutrients).

This is one of the rare vitamins that you can absorb through your skin and mucous membranes, hence its popularity as an ointment. Once in your body, one of the main tasks of vitamin E is to help preserve the health of your cell membranes by acting as an antioxidant.

Your cell membranes are actually made up of fat molecules joined together by miniscule magnetic attraction, rather like oil floats on the top of water. These membranes are vulnerable to attack by free radicals, (molecules missing an electron who can damage cell membranes). A good supply of Vitamin E in your body can prevent these free radicals from causing damage to your cell membranes.

Vitamin E has a reputation as a free radical scavenger and oxidation-preventer in other parts of your body too. Within the gastrointestinal tract, it prevents vitamin A from being oxidised before absorption. High quality fish oil (omega 3) supplements routinely contain vitamin E, to prevent oil in the capsules from going rancid.

Although vitamin E supplements are sometimes used to promote cardiovascular health, or as an antioxidant, it is very popular as an ointment. It can slow premature aging of skin, and help heal damaged skin tissue and scars.

The best way to obtain your vitamin E is from food. There are several different varieties of vitamin E (tocopherols). Obtained from food, vitamin E will contain all the tocopherols, plus added nutrients. Vitamin E capsules may contain only one tocopherol of the vitamin (usually the alpha version), and may be synthetic. Yet another reason to focus on improving your nutrition with high quality food rather than taking supplements.

The best food sources of vitamin E are cold pressed oils, eggs, sunflower seeds, offal, molasses, peanuts, soy beans and lima beans.

If you are taking a vitamin E supplement, check the label: Natural vitamin E's technical names are preceded with d- (e.g d-alpha-tocopherol). Synthetic vitamin E will be labelled as dl- (e.g dl-alpha-tocopherol). Although cheaper to produce, synthetic vitamin E is not absorbed as easily as its natural cousin.

Now you know why vitamin E is so valuable, including for your skin, consider buying a tub of vitamin E-enriched body lotion next time you're shopping.

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Try A Vegan Meal And Spice Up Your Life!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
After last week’s column where we focussed purely on meats, it seems only fair to devote this week’s column to the joys of vegan eating. If you’re a meat eater, your meal planning probably revolves around selecting the meat first, then the vegetables or salad to go with it. You might want to step occasionally into a whole new food world – vegan cookery.

Here’s an idea – try making one family dinner during the week ‘vegan night’ and prepare a healthy vegan meal. This has lots of health benefits for you – 

- More variety: You’ll be trying out some different foods, increasing the variety in your diet.
- More nutrients: Vegan food is high in fibre, legumes, vegetables and fruit – all great sources of vital nutrients.
- Less fat: A vegan diet is naturally low in saturated fat.
- Something new: You can experience some different non-animal protein sources. Often these are exotic foods from different cultures where vegan food is a natural part of their culture. 

Vegan food excludes all animal protein sources, obtaining all protein from plants. (Vegetarian food excludes animal meat and fish, but usually includes animal protein from egg and dairy sources.)

Everyone needs protein, so vegetarians have to be careful to obtain enough protein in their diet to stay healthy. Vegans need to be particularly vigilant to ensure they reach the target of 0.8g of protein per kg of their ideal weight. (For example, a person with an ideal weight of 70kg needs 56g of protein every day). But if you’re eating vegetarian/vegan only one or two times a week, you don’t need to be quite so vigilant.

Animal protein sources already contain complete proteins. To form ‘complete’ protein, a vegan meal should include legumes with nuts or seeds, or legumes with grains. Or all three – legumes, grains and nuts/seeds. Each food type contributes some of the essential amino acids. Put together they form ‘complete’ protein. 

Here are some ideas to help you get started with interesting vegan food:

- asian stir fry of marinated tofu (legume), vegetables and noodles (grain)
- curry of chick peas (legume) and vegetables served with rice (grain). Sprinkle with some toasted cashews to serve
- eggplant and bean (legume) and vegetable stew served on a bed of cous cous (grain)
- Indian Dahl (legume) and rice (grain) with vegetables or salad on the side.
- Spicy laksa soup of tofu (legume), vegetables and soft hokkein noodles (grain).

You can find vegan recipe books at the local library or bookstores for some more ideas. Indian and asian recipe books will naturally include many vegan recipes. Add some variety and spice to your diet this week with a vegan meal or two!

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Seafood Stew

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Here is a fast and easy recipe for a spectacularly presented meal. From thought to enjoyment in about 20-30 minutes

Visit the fishmonger (I go to Scales in Kennedy Drive Tweed Heads) and purchase as much seafood as you would normally eat in a meal. Make a selection of -
- firm white fleshed fish like snapper
- scallops
- green prawns
- squid
- mussels

The quantities here are for one person: Multiply for the number of people you're feeding.

  1. Gently saute 1/2 small onion and one clove of garlic in some extra virgin olive oil until clear (about two minutes)
  2. Add 375ml prepared fish stock and bring to a simmer
  3. Add one small potato that has been peeled and diced
  4. Simmer for five minutes
  5. Add 1 small tomato, diced. Keep the stew at a simmer from now on - as you add more ingredients, be careful to return the stew to a simmer immediately, but without boiling.
  6. Add your firm white fleshed fish, cut into large chunks, and simmer 5 minutes
  7. Add the green prawns, peeled and de-veined. Leave the tails intact if you want a special presentation. Simmer one minute.
  8. Add the squid, cut into rings. Simmer one minute more
  9. Add the mussels. Simmer one minute more
  10. Add the scallops.
  11. Sit a wedge of orange on top of the stew, and let it simmer for two more minutes.
  12. Remove from the heat. Check the seafood is cooked and taste test. You may need to add a squeeze of orange juice
  13. Present in wide shallow bowls sprinkled with finely chopped parsely, or fennel sprigs.
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