The Perfect Pair – Food Nutrient Combo’s that Really Work for Your Body

It seems that there are so many nutrients that our body needs to function at its best. Think vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, carotenoids, trace elements……you get the picture right? The list is long and sometimes it feels like a mammoth task to get the whole bunch of them in our diets regularly.

The good news is, the nutrients in some foods love to pair up with nutrients in other foods, because together they are a perfect nutrition match. A single nutrient (Hans Solo) will work by itself but two and sometimes three nutrients (a bunch of battle troopers) can work even better.

The magic word is ‘bioavailability’ and when we talk about this in relation to food, it means that the nutrients are ready for the body to absorb and use effectively. This is why teaming up particular foods means a win for our bodies. On the flip side, sometimes we make decisions about food combo’s that actually interfere with the body’s ability to maximise the good nutrients, so for your best health and well-being it is good to know which foods are the team players.

My top food combo’s include:

Iron + Vitamin C

Iron deficiency is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their capacity to carry oxygen is limited. The end result of this is tiredness and fatigue, breathlessness, repeat infections and failure to grow in kids. The thing is, dietary iron can be difficult to obtain and is found in two different forms – ‘haem’ iron which is found in animal foods and ‘non-haem’ which is found in plant-based non-animal food.
‘Haem’ foods usually contain more iron, which is well absorbed compared to non-haem iron, which is not.
Help is at hand though, as Vitamin C boosts the absorption of non-haem iron, if eaten in the same meal. The best sources of Vitamin C are fruit and vegetables, preferably in their whole form.

Top Food Combo’s = wholegrain breakfast cereal and sliced banana, baked beans on toast with fresh tomato or chickpea curry with fresh lime

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is essential for strong bones and effective working muscles but without Vitamin D, its absorption within our body is greatly reduced.
Calcium can be found in the largest amounts in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt and although it is found in other foods, they often contain much less calcium which is also inefficiently absorbed.

Vitamin D is also crucial to our well-being and is synthesised under the skin in the presence of sunlight. Of course, this can be hard to come by in some countries on a regular basis!

Regardless, it is very difficult to get enough Vitamin D through diet alone and most dietary Vitamin D comes from table margarine, canned fish and eggs.

Top Food Combo’s = Berry smoothie + a short stint in the sunlight each day

Antioxidants and Healthy Fats

The scientific explanation of how antioxidants exert their protective effect is that they prevent damage to body cells and tissues caused by free radicals and singlet oxygen.

The less technical and easier way of remembering what antioxidants do is to picture the 1980’s Pac-Man game where the aim is to get the Pac-Man to gobble as many ‘ghosts’ as possible. Pac-Man is the antioxidant and the ‘ghosts’ are the free radicals. For those too young to have played this 80’s game, go check out the 2015 movie ‘Pixels’ starring Adam Sandler and you will be all over it!

One of the most powerful antioxidants in food available to us is lycopene, found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and ruby grapefruit.

Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red colour and its best friends include the healthy fats found in oils, avocado and nuts.

Top Food Combo’s = Fresh tomato and bocconcini salad with sliced avocado or tomato pasta sauce cooked with a drizzle of olive oil.

Carbohydrates + Lemon Juice or Vinegar

Carbohydrate foods are classified according to how quickly they are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose and this is known as the Glycemic Index (GI). Low GI foods are digested and absorbed more slowly and high GI foods more quickly. If we choose mostly lower to medium glycemic index carbohydrates, our energy levels are more stable, meaning we have greater endurance and less spikes and dips in our day which is always a good thing.

Many aspects of a meal can affect the overall GI including fat, fibre, protein, cooking methods and processing of the food.

But, there is something you can add to a meal containing carbohydrate that lowers the glycemic index and is just so simple – lemon juice or vinegar! The acidity of either of these combined with carbohydrate means longer lasting energy for you.

Top Food Combo’s = Baked sweet potato and a side of spinach and strawberry salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or Linguine topped with lemon juice, capers and salmon.

What are your top food combo’s for the perfect partnership? Share away – I would love to hear about them.

12 Tips for a Healthy Festive Season – make a list and check it twice

There are just two sleeps until the jolly man arrives to spread festive cheer and joy! For most of us the festive cheer and joy has been gathering momentum for a while and very often involves things to eat, things to drink, things to eat, things to drink……

Here are my 12 Tips for a Healthy Festive Season to assist your body over the break. Don’t forget to check it twice.

I like to move it, move it

We all know that the festive season means party, party, party. It’s just like managing a bank account and if you are budgeting for big ticket items (like parties or events), this means doing some saving. Choose an exercise that you enjoy and buddy up with a friend.

Choose your drop

We all know that Santa likes the odd drink or two to go with his midnight snacks. The thing is, the nuts, chips, dips and their friends make you drink more. It’s not your fault, they are addictive and persuasive. Fat and alcohol are mates too and togetherness promotes fat storage. Think about eating a healthy snack or meal before you hit the party. This will eliminate the need to pounce on platters of finger food as they sail by and most importantly, less excess baggage in January.

Cold as ice

Summer is hot right? Instead of grabbing a sugary icy pole, try blending some watermelon, fresh lime and ice for a refreshing and healthy treat. Perfect for summer. Simple too. Just remember not to get your tongue stuck on them, it’s awkward.

Chocolate

Chocolate contains a bunch of powerful antioxidants that can do good works in our bodies. Don’t go crazy though – two squares of good quality dark chocolate will do the trick, you don’t need the whole box that you were given!

What’s the time Mr Wolf?

Don’t eat too late at night – this is when your body is least active and not burning a lot of fuel. Eating foods loaded with sugar and fat can mean disturbed sleep and tired eyes the next morning.

Zing

Let’s face it, the festive season can be tiring. Aside from endless festivities – ongoing tiredness and fatigue can be caused by iron deficiency. Iron is essential as it helps oxygen sail around your blood stream and everyone’s after more oxygen aren’t they? Lean red meat is one of the high scorers in the iron department and is a great source of protein and zinc too. Breakfast cereal and legumes are decent sources of plant based iron but need a friend in the form of Vitamin C to assist absorption. Pump that iron people.

Gone fishing

It seems that Western Australia is the favourite place for sharks to hang out. Sharks are multi-skilled, as the finned hunters are not only scary but nutritious too, being low in fat and high in protein. Shark, fish and other seafood (fresh and tinned) are the perfect summer protein full of omega-3 fats which promote healthy hearts and brain function. We can all do with those.

Carb down

Low carb beers are low in carbohydrates but they still contain alcohol and therefore kilojoules. Choosing a low carb beer over a full strength beer will save you about 100 kilojoules. Low carb beer are not the same as ‘light’ beers which are lower in alcohol, so watch out for the false promises of beer advertisers. If you are concerned about your weight try choosing a beer that you enjoy and drinking a bit less of it.

Safety in numbers

With all the mountains of food that we are preparing and eating during the festive season it is easy to get busy and forget about storing our food correctly. To avoid an unhappy stomach and poisoning all of your guests in the process, don’t leave food uncovered on the bench or table, put it straight into the fridge.

It’s all in the eyes

With the year coming to a close, it is no wonder that our eyes can get weary and sore and this can be especially so at night when we are behind the wheel. Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene which is a form of Vitamin A, known as the ‘vision vitamin’ because it helps prevent night blindness. You never know when you need your night vision goggles on whilst out socialising over summer, so get crunching on a carrot every day.

Mindfulness

Before you eat – be selective, gather only what you need, roll it around a few times and savour it, chew slowly and enjoy. Being mindful means everything tastes so much better and can prevent you from overeating.

Relax, don’t do it

We made it to the end of 2016! Refreshing and regrouping is essential for your well-being and we all need rest and relaxation for a healthy brain and body. Make sure you carve some out for yourself.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy festive season and break! Well done on what you have achieved this year and here’s to next year being your best yet. Thanks so much for being part of my community and I look forward to speaking to you all in 2017.

One potato, two potato

The countdown is on and there is only a week to go until the 2010 Commonwealth Games kick-off (hopefully with all structures intact and athletes safe) in Delhi, India. I began a new venture 3 months ago as Sports Dietitian at the Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) so I am surrounded by the buzz of excitement and anticipation.  Along with Clare Wood my fellow Dietitian at WAIS,  I have recently been involved with the Western Potatoes publication, FeelGoodFood which is published every quarter and available at most fresh food markets and supermarkets.  If you would like to check out the story featuring Western Australia’s champions, Pole Vaulter Steve Hooker and swimmer Eamon Sullivan click here. There is no doubt that potatoes are very useful as a recovery food for athletes (and for everyone else too).  Eating carbohydrate-rich foods like cereal, bread, pasta, potato and fruit at each meal is key to ensuring that your blood sugar levels are kept at an even keel.  Ever felt light headed or find yourself completely ineffectual at doing anything at all? That could be your body saying ‘Hello’, anybody there to feed me? As carbohydrate foods are digested and absorbed, our blood glucose level rises, promoting the release of insulin, which in turn, promotes the storage of glucose into cells and lowers blood sugar levels.  A way of classifying a carbohydrate food according to how quickly it’s digested and more importantly, how quickly it’s absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose, is know as the Glycemic Index (GI). Low GI foods are those with an index between 0-55, medium GI 55-70 and high GI foods 70-100, with glucose being the carbohydrate that is absorbed the speediest.  It is a great idea to choose mostly low to medium GI carbohydrates as this will keep you fuller for longer and help you avoid the seesaw effect of blood sugar levels that dash up and down leaving you tired and fatigued. No need for you to be part of the Commonwealth Games team for this to be useful. My fave potato dish is a whole potato in its jacket, cooked in the microwave and topped with baked beans and a little grated cheese.  Whats yours??

Run like the wind

Woohoo, I made it.  The Perth 1/2 Marathon that is.  There was actually never any doubt in my own mind that I would finish it, although I did have to give myself the toughen up talk a few times along the way.  I learnt a few things today. Continue reading “Run like the wind”