One of the best ways to keep your food budget under control is to eat seasonally. At the moment Zucchini is in season and Harris Farm is offering the imperfect picks known as unruly Zucchini at good prices. So how do you make the best use of Zucchini? One of my favourites is a stir fry with ginger and orange but its also lovely in ratatouille, grated in fritters or chargrilled in salads.
Zucchini is a low carb vegetable with one cup of zucchini providing 3g of carbohydate, 40% of your daily Vitamin A requirements and is a good source of carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are beneficial for eye health and vision.
A few other options for zucchini recipes from some favourite sites and a few recipes for inspiration;
In a casserole dish layer zucchini, capsicum and potato. Start with zucchini on the bottom and finish with potato on the top and sprinkle with 2 tsps dried thyme. Cover with lid and cook in over an 180C for up to an hour. Serve as a side with grilled meats or fish.
Stir fried zucchini with ginger and orange
600 g zucchini
Small knob of ginger
peel of half an orange grated
2 Tblsp Soy Sauce
Cut zucchini into batons. Grate ginger finely and saute lightly for 30 seconds in a wok. Add zucchini and stir fry until soft and a little blackened. Stir through the grated peel and add the soy sauce, stir through for 30 seconds and then serve.
Simple Potato Curry
One tablespoon curry paste, 1 tsp each cumin, mustard, ginger and garlic One onion 2 potatoes 1 piece sweet potato or pumpkin or 2 carrots 2 red capsicum 1 eggplant 2 zucchini 1 can chopped tomatoes 1 can coconut milk
Add a little oil to the pan and a chopped onion plus the spices. Fry the onion in the spices. Add two potatoes, a quarter pumpkin, two red capsicum (scrub potatoes, don’t peel – less work and better for you). Cut all the vegetables about the same size – for instance, in quarters.
Chop and slice salted eggplant and two zucchini. (Before you use eggplant – slice it, pour salt on it and then after 10 minutes wash it off). Stir this through, add a can of chopped tomatoes, cover for 20 minutes, cook on low heat. Check that the potatoes are getting soft. Add a small can of coconut milk and simmer for a further 5 mins before serving.
Variations: add a bunch of spinach (chopped) or Chinese cabbage a few minutes before it is finished cooking. Leftovers will make another meal with a tin of legumes or chickpeas added.
Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081 or online.
Did you join me for my Natural Medicine Week Webinar? If you missed it or want a review of the highlights then click through to the youtube recording or scroll through the powerpoint which is attached below.
In the webinar we cover the following topics;
Blood Glucose and insulin how does this work and what does this mean for you?
What are the risks from a health perspective of poorly managed blood sugar?
Which diet is best able to assist you to manage blood sugar
If you have any other queries please pop them in the comments below or book in with Christine on 02 8084 0081. Christine Pope is an accredited naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives and is offering both in person and online consultations.
So many plans for February were cancelled it was a bit surprising that my Canberra trip actually went ahead. Part of the trip was associated with a Board role for COSBOA, which involved an in person Board meeting and the pitch finals for the Accelerator for Enterprising Women and other part was actually to have a short break and explore Canberra and surrounds.
Part of my planning with a trip is to check out recommendations on Trip Adviser and see what gluten free options are available and well rated. For any one with specific food intolerances or preferences there are a number of filters you can choose to enable you to see what the best options are in the area. There have been quite a few closures as a result of COVID lockdowns so its usually advisable to make sure that any venues are still open and trading hours are unchanged. Usually checking out that social media is current works but if you are really keen on a place call and check. Staff shortages mean many cafes and restaurants are limiting hours or days.
First up we looked out for a few good breakfast options with bonus points for some different breakfasts. The most scenic option was a cafe called Local Press at Kingston Foreshore on Lake Burley Griffin. The best local option (close to our hotel) was Eighty Twenty. Local Press has a number of gluten free and vegan options with the ability to build your own breakfast with your preferred vegetables and protein. My choice was the LP Veggie bowl with broccolini, carrot, wild rice pilaf, sesame crusted avocado and pickled cabbage and I added some house cured salmon. The combination was the perfect breakfast fuel and had a good range of different textures.
80/20 actually has four locations in Canberra and specialises in providing a range of allergen friendly food. Whilst I usually like to load up with vegetables and protein to really give the menu a workout the buckwheat waffles were obviously the best idea. Served with pureed date, maple nut crunch and seasonal fruit plus vegan ice cream the waffles were very tasty and satisfyingly sweet. Other options included smashed avocado, various acai bowls, a big breakfast and a veggie bowl.
On this trip we revisited a few of my favourites including the wonderful Akiba where the food is Asian fusion, Tipsy Bull with a great range of gluten free options and Pillagio Estates. These were probably the pick of the dining options in fact we enjoyed the Tipsy Bull so much we went back for a second meal when out trip was extended for a few extra days.
The Tipsy Bull has a friendly up market bar vibe with both in door and garden seating. It is reknown for its excessive number of gins on its menu however it offers a full range of cocktails and more usual beverages as well. Not the reason I enjoy going, but apparently gin is very big at the moment. The food is designed around share plates with the usual recommendation being that you order three small plates, two from the garden and one large plate to share between two people. The stand out dishes for us were the tuna ceviche, the large chicken plate and the crispy squid. In terms of garden dishes its always worth ordering the cauliflower if its on the menu, however the street corn and broccolini were also interesting options.
Akiba has a coeliac friendly tasting menu which is always worth ordering, but if you are going a la carte, make sure the miso eggplant, crispy squid and the fried rice with prawns are on your list. The seafood is also excellent and the kingfish sashimi is well worth ordering. The menu is really flexible and on one occasion when I ate with a colleague who was vegetarian we did enjoy a really tasty meal, particularly the mushrooms tofu and cashew.
Pillagio Estates has an extensive range of house cured meats and salmon in its cafe and at the fine dining restaurant. We were aiming for the cafe before we went for a bushwalk and accidentally drove to the fine dining at Pavilion. Despite our hiking gear staff were very considerate and offered us the option to dine in and were so glad we did. Since we had already thought ploughman’s lunch we did a fine dining version with a selection of the farm’s produce and a few sides from the garden. There was a little too much food realistically and one of the standouts was the Heritage Carrots with Sunflower hummus. There were five large carrots which in addition to the hummus made for a very substantial side. Paired with a garden salad and the Smokehouse Charcuterie Board it was a delicious meal and very relaxing looking out over the gardens where the vegetables were harvested.
The other activity for a little bit of balance after all these meals was a few bushwalks around Canberra. The All Trails app showed a wide range of graded options but my favourite walks were at The Arboretum. We walked up Daisy Farm Hill on a hot day and enjoyed the views from the peak and then to cool down walked through a beautiful 100 year old cedar forest. The other walk that is really worthwhile is the two bridges walk which takes you in a loop around part of Lake Burley Griffin.
Most people when they get sick usually find that after the initial illness they probably need to spend one or two days recovering and then they are fine to get on with their work and lives as per usual. For a small percentage after a virus they may find that they are slower to recover and what usually took a few days is now taking a few weeks or months. If you are finding that your recovery is much slower than usual it might be good to review some of the strategies recommended below and see if adopting these assists with your recovery.
There are three main areas to focus on in terms of post viral recovery, namely, rest, immune support and good quality nutrition. In addition if recovery is protracted its a good idea to check with your healthcare practitioner and ensure that there are no other factors which are contributing. For example its not uncommon for women suffering with anemia (low iron) to find it takes a long time to recover from an illness. Another factor that can be problematic is a history of glandular fever as people who have had this virus are more prone to developing post viral fatigue.
Once upon a time when people had a serious illness there was this concept called convalescence. It was expected that people continued to rest and recover after an illness. In today’s world I tend to recommend streaming sessions, find a series online that you enjoyed and rewatch it. A series that you have watched before does not require as much concentration and you can doze on and off without affecting your viewing.
It also important to ensure that even when you feel well enough to return to work you schedule rest into your day, whether it’s a short nap on the couch if you are working from home or just making sure you get out for a break at lunchtime. In this era of constant busyness it can be very hard for people to cut down their workload to allow time for this but adequate rest post virus will reduce the amount of downtime you need.
You may also find that its useful to gradually return to exercise slowly. This might mean starting with short walks of ten minutes and building up gradually, rather than just returning to a full on gym or pilates session. If you are coping with short walks once a day then build to twice a day consistently. However if you do find that heading back to the gym wipes you out for a day or two, then its time to regroup and gradually build up again.
If fatigue and other symptoms are continuing for a protracted period then its possible you have a low level of the virus continuing in your system. There are a number of options for supporting your immune system to enable it to recover. These could include anti-viral herbs as well as nutrients which support the immune system, such as Vitamin D, Zinc and Vitamin C. With Vitamin C aim for 500mg three to four times a day however with Zinc 25mg daily is a useful dose. It is helpful to know your Vitamin D levels before supplementing however 2-3 weeks of higher dose Vitamin D 2-4000 IU daily should be manageable for most people when recovering from a virus.
One useful option for supporting the immune system is medicinal mushrooms in particular supplements with Reishi, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail and Shitake being useful. These are often supplemented in powder form rather than consumed as mushrooms. If brain fog is problematic post virus then Lion’s Mane is useful for brain function, however it is also important to consider other key nutrient to support brain health including good quality fatty acids, such as fish, avocado and nuts and seeds.
GOOD QUALITY NUTRITION
An over looked area for recovery is diet. To really assist your immune system to work effectively its important to ensure that you are eating a wide range of vegetables and fruit, up to 30 different types in a week. Its really easy the first couple of days to build good variety but then we often have the same vegetables every two or three days. This recent blog provides you with a good range of options for feeding your microbiome as well as possible What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?
In addition to the three cups of vegetables a day make sure to include a small amount of protein as well as a couple of serves of carbohydrates, from potatoes, rice or grains. At this stage in recovery easily absorbed carbohydrates are quick sources of energy.
Depending on whether your stomach was affected you may find that its easier to start eating bland food initially and then gradually add more variety. Start with warm foods as it requires less digestive energy to break it down. This might include soups, steamed vegetables or casseroles if you are up to meal preparation.
Attending an Integrative Oncology conference online in June 2021 was an interesting experience. The organiser provided an extensive program looking at treatment options and naturopathic support. One in three people will develop cancer at some point and improvements in testing and treatment have resulted in significant improvements in survival rates with those for breast cancer increasing from 75% to 91% over the past twenty years.
In addition to medical treatment there is also useful research on changes that can improve your survival risks and indeed may be useful preventative strategies, particularly if there is a history of breast cancer in the family. These strategies include diet, exercise , therapeutic foods and reducing alcohol consumption.
First up diet! During treatment doctors may advise that diet really doesn’t matter. Largely this is due to the concern that the nausea and lack of appetite resulting from chemotherapy or radiation treatment will result in significant loss of weight and you are less able to sustain treatment. At this stage maintaining kilojoules and weight is key. Post treatment however diet becomes critical.
What is the best diet for reducing your breast cancer risk ? Ideally a plant based whole food diet which still includes adequate amounts of protein from either animal or plant sources. Let’s consider the key components of this type of diet and how it may help.
Eat your vegetables
A wide range of vegetables is ideal and at least three cups of vegetables a day. There are four major reasons why vegetables are critical to good health;
Vegetables provide a wide range of nutrients including key minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Vegetables are a good source of fibre for gut flora. The benefits of adequate fibre are significant as it feeds beneficial strains of bacteria in our gut.
The fibre in vegetables which assist the body in processing our hormones down a less proliferative pathway.
The fibre in vegetables results in a slow release of energy, which assists in maintaining blood sugar and a healthy weight range. Being significantly overweight or obese increases your risks.
In addition to vegetables a couple of serves of whole grains daily in the form of good quality sourdough or brown rice is also useful in terms of ensuring adequate fibre.
One to two serves of fruit
The polyphenols in fruit, like grapes, apples, pears , cherries and berries has been shown to be protective against many chronic diseases. Polyphenols are a component of plants that serve to protect them from ultraviolet radiation or infections. They are considered natural antioxidants and assist in both the treatment and prevention of cancer (1).
A small amount of protein at each meal is essential for repair post surgery and treatment but also provides stable blood sugar. Ideally a palm size , palm width portion is sufficient. Wherever possible consider including plant based sources of protein , such as chickpeas, lentils and tempeh, nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds make an ideal snack to include daily as they are a powerhouse of nutrition with the benefit of incorporating healthy fats as well as essential minerals like zinc.
Add Therapeutic Foods
There are many foods which really have therapeutic effects outside of superfoods from the Amazonian rain forest. These include options such as green tea , cruciferous vegetables, flaxseed and turmeric. Through a range of pathways they are beneficial as they can assist in modulating genes which affect cell expression, growth and proliferation. Therapeutic foods may be helpful in that they can assist in reducing inflammation and support the development of tumour suppressor genes
Green tea which contains useful polyphenols that can act as anti-oxidants in the body. From a preventative aspect the dosage of the active ingredient would result in you consuming up to four cups of green tea a day, preferably organic.
Cruciferous vegetables which contains natural sulforaphane shown to slow down tumour growth and block the genetic mutations that lead to cancer in the first place. At least one cup a day of raw cruciferous vegetables which includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage.
Flaxseed, which contains beneficial omega 3 fatty acids and contains compounds that may reduce the body’s production of oestrogen. 1-2 Tablespoons a day is
Turmeric, the most potent natural anti-inflammatory food on the planet; it is also many times more antioxidative than vitamin E.
One intervention that has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by up to 55% is brisk walking of up to 2.5 hours a week. Exercise has the advantage of reducing inflammation but also assisting in the management of stress levels. Walking 30 minutes a day five days a week is enough to see a significant benefit it just needs to be at a pace where you can talk but not sing ! (2)
The recommendation for alcohol consumption for women are 1-2 drinks a day however even at these levels it has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer by 30-50%. (3) The equivalent of one standard drink a day increases risk by about 5%. Alcohol reduces the ability of the body to detoxify hormones and so it is particularly concerning with hormone receptive cancers.
So which intervention is more useful for you and your particular circumstances ? Not sure if it is my bias as a nutritionist but sorting out diet tends to make a significant impact and usually improves your energy so that you can increase your physical activity as well.
If you need assistance implementing changes or just want to check in on your current diet and supplements Christine is available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Elemental Health at St Ives and you can make appointments on 02 8084 0081. You can also book an online consultation on Zoom.
(1) Quideau S., Deffieux D., Douat-Casassus C., Pouységu L. Plant polyphenols: Chemical properties, biological activities, and synthesis. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2011;50:586–621. doi: 10.1002/anie.201000044.
School holidays can be a welcome relief from prepping the dreaded lunch boxes. It can be difficult to be inspired about providing healthy lunches and snacks five days a week. In this blog we will be reviewing some ideas on prepping lunch boxes as well as providing you with a list of snack ideas and recipes. Scroll down for a link to a recipe book with five snack ideas for lunchboxes.
Ideally lunch boxes include a range of healthy foods your child enjoys which can keep them motivated for a full day at school. There are six key features to consider when organising a lunch box.
Think about the macro content , that is try and include protein and carbohydrates at every meal to maintain energy levels over the day. Carbohydrates are typically quick at releasing energy but if the meal is solely based on carbohydrates (bread, rice or pasta) then energy levels lag after an hour or two. Protein is ideal for slow release of energy and also to maintain balanced blood sugar through the day. Protein sources can include meat, fish , chicken, eggs as well as vegetarian proteins like legumes such as chickpeas, lentils or tofu and tempeh.
Use vegetables with dips instead of crackers or corn chips. Most people struggle to get children to eat enough vegetables so including carrots, capsicum or cucumber with humuus or a dip just helps increase the nutrient quality of their diet and normalise eating vegetables. Harris Farm also carries little snack packs of mini cucumbers and carrots which can be an ideal size for lunchboxes as well as maintaining their structure through the day.
Salads are a good alternative to sandwhiches but need to be robust enough to keep in a school bag in the heat. Ideally pack in a thermos to keep them cool or include a small drink bottle with frozen water to keep it fresh. Good options can include a ham and rice salad, tuna nicoise or shredded chicken with coleslaw. Cabbage salads tend to be more robust and keep better. A family favourite is this wombok salad which works well with chicken drumsticks for lunch.
Stock the freezer with useful options, many muffins freeze easily and make an ideal snack. Mixing it up with options like banana muffins, chocolate pumpkin muffins and zucchini and goat cheese muffins (recipe in the snack book below).
Prep home made treats and make enough for a few days and keep in air tight containers. Home made popcorn can be an ideal treat to add to lunchboxes and adds a good dose of fibre as well. Other home made options can be trail mix with dried fruit and seeds (avoid nuts for school lunchboxes) or crispy chickpeas.
A couple of pieces of fruit can be an ideal inclusion. From a packing perspective apples or mandarins are easy to pack however its always a good idea to have variety and include small tubs of berries, kiwi fruit or melon or a couple of small apricots or plums.
For some more recipes for snacks download the recipes from the link below for a range of ideas for lunchbox snacks.