Antioxidants – will we live longer if we eat them?

Antioxidants are compounds in food that research shows can play a role in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, eye disease and slowing down ageing. Little powerhouses indeed.

Supplement and skincare companies know that youthfulness and staying young is right at the top of our wish lists don’t they? There is every powder and potion known to man, designed to smooth our skin, get rid of wrinkles and stop the ageing process on retail shelves all over the world.

A 2012 meta-analyis of over 70 clinical trials found antioxidant supplements are ineffective or even detrimental to health. The high doses of antioxidants found in supplements can lead to severe health problems.

Just Imagine Being Able to Get Youthful Benefits From the Food You Eat, Instead of Spending Money and Time on False Promises

Firstly, lets look at the science behind these little beauties.  Antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues caused by free radicals and singlet oxygen. They sound very impressive but the easier way of remembering what antioxidants do is to picture the 1980’s Pac-Man game where the aim was to get the Pac-Man to gobble as many ‘ghosts’ as possible.

Pac-Man is the antioxidant and the ‘ghosts’ are the free radicals. Thanks to the ‘Pixels’ movie starring Adam Sandler released a couple of years ago, everyone remembers the Pac-Man.

There you have the essential role of antioxidants.

Now About Those Free Radicals

They are produced in the presence of:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Ultra-violet light
  • Radiation
  • Carcinogens
  • High PUFA diet
  • Exercise
  • Inflammation

We need those antioxidants to help mop up those free radicals and thankfully they are conveniently colour coded for easy identification.

Red

Good source of lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer in males.  Found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and ruby grapefruit.

Lycopene is among the most powerful antioxidants around. It is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red colour and occurs naturally in many red foods, including watermelon and pink grapefruit. Tomatoes do provide a rich source but tomato paste is even better as cooking and processing tomatoes further stimulates and concentrates the lycopene content.  There is no current recommended dosage but suggestions range from 5-35mg per day, which equates to at least one to two servings of tomatoes or tomato products per day.

Orange and Yellow

Good source of beta-carotene, which can protect against a range of cancers.  Found in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, mango, paw-paw, apricots and rockmelon.

Green

Good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds related to beta-carotene that can protect our eyes as we age.  Found in broccoli, spinach, silver beet, capsicum, chilli, parsley and dark lettuces.

Blue and Purples

Good source of anthocyanin’s for antioxidant and antibacterial properties.  Found in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, beetroot and radicchio lettuce.

Brown

Good source of catechin’s for blood vessel health and of course, our happiness!  Found in some of our favourites such as tea, coffee, chocolate and red wine.

How Many of These Antioxidants Do We Need?

There are no recommended intakes just yet. We do know that it is preferable to consume antioxidants through food rather than supplements, because there are other nutrients in food that enhance their absorption. The average worldwide intake of fruit and vegetables at present is too low and we need to work toward the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, which are 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables daily.

To keep our bodies zinging on the inside and out during winter, go grab some. Like now.

Scroll up – the best recipe for the best dough

Scroll, scroll, scroll

The scroll situation is limited only by your imagination – think pizza, cheeseymite, banana and nutella, strawberry and ricotta, chicken and sweet chilli sauce or bolognaise sauce and cheese.

I have always loved the symmetry of the scroll and the deliciousness too.  The thing is, very often the scroll is made using pastry and the high fat content really prevents it from being a food that can be eaten regularly.

You can also find a good scroll at the local bakery but these guys can be quite large and sometimes the cheese and bacon are taking up a lot of space (I know that might seem like a good thing!).

Fortunately I have the solution with just two ingredients. Flour and yoghurt.

The Best Recipe for The Best Dough

Ingredients

2 cups self raising flour

1 cup natural or plain Greek yoghurt

Method

Place both ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl and using a butter knife, mix until dough comes together.  If the dough seems a little dry, add a small amount of extra yoghurt but be conservative as too much will make the dough too wet and sticky.

Flour a pastry sheet or large chopping board and knead the ball of dough until smooth (shouldn’t take too long and don’t overdo it). Using a heavy rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangular shape approximately 50cm by 30cm.  This is the basic dough and now you can decide what you are going to put in your scroll.

The Combo’s

You can choose from any of the following combinations or make up you own (and then let me know!).

Pizza – spread the dough with 1/2 cup of your favourite pasta sauce and top with 1 cup grated cheese

Cheeseymite – spread the dough with vegemite to taste (more is better for the flavour even if you are not a fan like me) and top with 1 cup grated cheese

Banana and nutella – spread the dough with 1/2 cup nutella and top with two small thinly sliced bananas

Strawberry and Ricotta – spread the dough with 3/4 cup ricotta and top with 10 thinly sliced washed and hulled strawberries

Bolognaise – spread the dough with 3/4 cup leftover bolognaise sauce (drain as much liquid as possible from the sauce) and top with 1 cup grated cheese

It’s Time to Rock and Scroll

Once you have decided on your filling and assembled all that you need, you can get cracking but remember to leave about 1cm around the edges so that you don’t end up with an exploding scroll!

To get things moving, start rolling from the long side and keep tucking and rolling until you reach the end, leaving that under the roll.

Using a well floured seated knife slice the roll into 2cm pieces and then place flat side down onto a lined baking tray.

Bake in a moderate oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

All you need to do now is enjoy but I dare you to be able to stop at one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corn Chips – The Healthy Alternative

Corn chips + salsa, corn chips = nacho’s, corn chips solo – the list could go on.

It is hard not to love those crunchy savoury bites but the fact is, these tasty morsels are not hitting the greatest of all time on any nutrition list.  Before you get all uptight and upset about enjoying food – I agree and I get it, totally.

The thing is, if I ate these chips every day of the week there would be additional bits added to my body that I really don’t need. Quite honestly, I have have got enough going on while Hot Cross Buns are on the shelf.

Great news ahead though – there is a newish kid on the block in the corn chips world and they are seriously good.

What are these corn chips you speak of?

Cobs Naked Corn Chips come in two flavours, ‘The Big Cheese’ and ‘By the Sea Salt’ and both are seriously delicious.  As soon as I open a pack of these corn chips – boom, they are gone (I think my kids can smell them from 100 paces). They are made in Australia too, which we love.

Nutrition Round-up

These corn chips are made from corn and ancient grains, quinoa, chia and sorghum. Don’t forget that on a nutrition information label we are looking for less than 8g of fat per 100g serve, less than 10g of sugar per 100g serve and a sodium (salt) content that is not off the Richter scale.  For a savoury snack product, at 533mg per 100g serve, the salt content is very reasonable. 

Regular corn chips contain around 25% fat (compared to 14% for Cobs). They are 100% wholegrain and made with high oleic sunflower oil, which is very low in saturated fat.

corn chips

How are they best eaten?

You can eat these chips just as they are – naked and they work really well as the base for nacho’s. Perfect for lunch boxes too.

How much are they?

It depends on where you get them from but they retail for around $4.00 for a 168g pack.   To find out where you can locate them in Australia, click here at Cobs list of retailers.

The Naked range is not stocked in the two major supermarkets (although their popular popcorn is), so you might need to look at the smaller independent stores. 

Have you tried them yet?

 

 

 

 

 

Raw Bliss Balls

Roll up, roll up, these bliss balls are super delicious and the perfect treat or post training recovery snack. All you need is 10 minutes and a blender.

 

Ingredients

12 Medjool dates

1 cup pistachios

1 cup almond or hazelnut meal

2 heaped tbsp cacao

2 tbsp dessicated coconut

1 tbsp chia seeds

 

Method

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until combined. If the mixture is not sticky enough to form balls, add a very small amount of water and process again.

Using a heaped tablespoon of the mixture form into balls and place into an airtight container and refrigerate until firm.

Soup – a simple way to warm up this winter

In my mind, chilly days signal the start of soup season. It’s time to get the soup pot out and fill it to the brim with winter vegetables, tasty stock and other goodies that make soup so delicious and warming. Once you have made this magical soup – it is a super easy and quick lunch, dinner and sometimes a snack too.

As additional benefit – the beauty of soup is that it can be a truly effective way of getting a ton of vitamins, minerals, fluid and fibre into your daily intake.

The thing is, although soup is an easy meal to prepare, the fact is that time does not always allow us to make a batch every week.  Enter the ready to eat options.

Have you been down the soup aisle of the supermarket lately??  It has most certainly grown over the past few years.  No longer is this section stacked with can after can of reheat and eat.  The packaging is now rather glossy and sleek and although packets and cans of soups still adorn the shelves, the newest kid on the block is the soup pouch.

During my most recent supermarket tour (ask me for more information on these if you are interested in the next one), I was actually really surprised at the sheer volume of variety.  Given all this choice, it seemed incumbent upon me to review some of these soups because lets face it – ‘ready to go’ can be vital on some days, especially if no-one wants to get hurt in the process.

All of the soups I tested are available on the shelf and do not require refrigeration – hence the perfect meal to store in the pantry or desk drawer at work. Heating time was on average 2.5 minutes, so they are definitely classed as fast food – in a good kind of way.

Nutrition 

When looking at food products in general, it is important to check the fat, sugar, salt and fibre content of the food.  Try and choose food that includes the following:

Fat – less than 8g per 100g serve

Sugar – less than 10g per 100g serve

Sodium (salt) – less than 400mg per 100g serve

Fibre more than – 5g per 100g serve

As you can see from the summary below, the four varieties that I tasted all fit the criteria for fat, sugar and salt but all are lowish in fibre.  The soup that you prepare at home is likely to be much higher in fibre due to the quantity of vegetables that you are most likely to add but you could bump up the fibre of these sou

p pouches by adding a slice of grainy toast or bread.

La Zuppa is particularly low in calories for a meal – it is more of a clear soup, so in this case adding some bread would round things out a little.

Taste

My favourite was the Split Pea, Carrot and Kale soup by the Australian Organic Co. – it was super tasty and filling and the texture was pleasant. I thought the Heinz soup had an overwhelmingly tomato flavour, although the La Zuppa was very tasty and did actually contain chicken. The Coconut and Pumpkin soup by Hart and Soul had a lovely flavour but sligh

tly bizarre long stringy pieces of coconut and (and perhaps onion) throughout the soup.

Cost

Of course, the one I enjoyed the most was the most expensive!  A bit like clothes really.

I have noticed that many of these soups are discounted on a regular basis across most supermarkets and are often available at around the $2 – $2.50 mark per pouch. This means that packaged soup in pouches can be a super cheap meal, especially in comparison to buying lunch.

And what about you – have you tried some of these or is there a packaged soup that you enjoy and would like me to take a look at?

 

 

Easy Chicken Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce

This recipe for meatballs is one of the quickest you could ever hope to make and perfect for a week night when you really need to hustle along! A good source of calcium, protein and deliciousness and loved by kids and adults alike.

Easy Chicken Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce

500g chicken mince

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

200g cottage cheese

½ cup snipped chives

400g can mushroom soup

½ cup natural yoghurt

Method

Mix chicken mince, breadcrumbs, cottage cheese and chives together in a bowl.  Roll into meatballs and cook for 5 minutes on each size in a lightly oiled frypan.

Mix soup and natural yogurt together and pour over meatballs.  Return to a low heat for 10 minutes.

If you are not a fan of mushroom soup, you can always sub in another flavour. 

To see this recipe in action click here for the video.

 

Pizza Perfection

 

It is rare to find someone who doesn’t like pizza isn’t it? 

Friday nights in our household are sacred pizza nights. It’s pretty much a religion and on the odd occasions it is just not possible – there is every chance a riot can ensue.

We do have an enduring love affair with Italy and we constantly strive to make pizza in the Italian way.  I say the royal ‘we’ but my role in the pizza making is solely to prepare the dough.  It is a very important job though!

It is actually my husband who is the expert chef and he produces simply delicious pizza from scratch. Right now, Friday night is imminent and perhaps you too have a tradition like mine.  Maybe you don’t but you would like to.

So, I am sharing the love – our family pizza dough recipe is coming right up so that you can experience the Friday night pizza religion too.

Pizza Dough (makes 6 large)

Ingredients

2.5 cups OO pizza flour

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons yeast

200ml water

Pasta or other tomato based sauce

Method

In the following order place the water, flour, salt, oil and yeast into the basin of a bread maker or Thermomix and put on Dough Setting.  This process takes around 90 minutes depending on the equipment you are using.  You could mix the dough by hand and leave to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen (whether it is in a bread maker or otherwise) divide into six equal portions. Using a heavy rolling pin (we use a marble one) to roll and shape into a base the size of a large dinner plate. Spread each with four tablespoons of pasta sauce.

Our favourite toppings include:

  • Tuna, onion + grated cheese
  • Olive oil, fresh rosemary and salt (the delicious image above)
  • Thinly sliced cold roast beef or lamb + mango chutney
  • Prosciutto + artichokes + sliced mushrooms
  • Ham, pineapple + grated cheese (apologies to all the Italians as this is NOT the Italian way but it is the kids way)
  • Salami + capers + grated cheese

Don’t forget – the golden rule is simplicity and keeping the toppings to a minimum.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

How to make your salad sing

 

I love to cook but my motivation is at all time low right now.  I want the ingredients to get themselves together and just make something already. You know what I mean? Enter salad.

Salad vegetables (and all kinds too of course) are full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, which all help our mind and bodies working day-to-day and reduce our risk of chronic disease.

That said, getting enough of those vegetables does become a little tricky if you leave your daily dose to one meal like dinner, so spreading the vegetable love across the day is key. Of course, you can tick off  a bunch at breakfast by adding mushrooms, tomato, spinach or baked beans to a poached egg and then gather speed by adding a crisp, crunchy salad to lunch.

We can most certainly make salad fancy but the question is, do we need to? 

Just like a coordinated wardrobe, there are some easy ways to mix and match colours and ingredients to put together a salad that everyone around you will be wishing they had too.

For an all seasons salad mix any of the following:

+1…Go Green – baby spinach leaves, crunchy Cos lettuce, beetroot leaves or tatsoi for a fibre, magnesium and folate boost
+2…Orange all over – roasted warm chunks of orange sweet potato, pumpkin or carrot, all excellent sources of the powerful antioxidant carotene.
+3…Go Fast Red – cherry tomatoes, sliced ripe Roma tomato

And don’t forget to add Exceptional Extra’s like – crunchy cucumber, baby roasted or canned beetroot, sliced mushrooms and crunchy combo sprouts.

Toss your choice of salad ingredients and add:

  • Protein Power – lean chicken, sliced cold leftover lamb or beef, lean ham, boiled egg, small tin of 4 bean mix/chickpeas or lentils.

Quick Salad Ideas

  • Lentil, Ricotta and Beetroot – combine 220g canned, drained lentils with 3 baby beets, a handful of baby spinach and 100g low fat crumbled ricotta
  • Orange, capsicum and avocado – toss a handful of mixed salad leaves with 1 orange peeled, segmented and sliced, ¼ of a sliced avocado and ¼ medium red capsicum topped with 40g crumbled low fat feta

Along with the rest of the world, the distinct green leaves of kale have been one of my favourites for a while. Kale going solo does lack appeal but in this recipe – kaboom!

Try my fave healthy Kale Caesar Salad recipe below and you will see what I mean.

Kale Caesar Salad (serves 6)

Ingredients
½ bunch curly or Tuscan Kale (washed, dried and leaves trimmed of stalks)
4 slices proscuitto (fat trimmed), grilled
4 slices sourdough bread

Dressing
½ cup low fat natural yoghurt + 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard + 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil + 1 large garlic cloven + ¼ cup lemon juice + 2 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese

Method
Once trimmed, roll up kale leaves, slice finely and place in large salad bowl. Break the grilled proscuitto into small pieces and scatter over the kale leaves.

Tear the bread roughly into 1 cm pieces, place on a baking tray and spray with cooking spray. Bake in a moderate oven for approx. 10 minutes until crispy.

For the dressing, mix all ingredients together in a shaker or jug and pour over kale leaves. Using your hands, mix the dressing through the salad and serve.

 

How to Make Healthy Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls

The truth is, its hard to avoid all the Easter chocolate isn’t it? Despite the deliciousness, I do know that Easter eggs are jam packed with calories and it is very hard to stop at just one, especially the little teeny tiny ones.

Enter the Easter Chocolate Bliss Ball. The concept of ‘balls’ have become very popular over the last few years and it is very common to see them adorning the glass display cabinets of many a cafe. The thing is, although the ingredients in these so called ‘healthy and natural’ treats, may look good on paper they still contain a bunch of calories and are not actually healthy.

Todays recipe is my own for Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls and a modification on my Festive Chocolate Balls (which may contain a little alcohol…). These guys are so quick and easy and make the perfect Easter chocolate gift. If there are any left of course. These balls are high in fibre and a great source of healthy fats and antioxidants too.

Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls

Ingredients
10 Medjool dates + 8 dried apricots
2 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 cup raw hazelnuts or mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) or
1 tablespoon chia seeds

Method
Throw ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few minutes until nicely combined and sticky. Make tablespoons of the mixture into balls, roll in extra shredded coconut and enjoy.

Wishing you all a safe and hoppy Easter!

Incredible Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Some of my favourite childhood memories of food involve the humble cauliflower. The smell of this delicious vegetable baking in the oven smothered in a cheesy sauce, takes me straight back to my mum teaching me the basics of cooking. Of course, I know now that cauliflower is so much more than a friend to cheese, plus there are so many incredible health benefits to eating this tasty vegetable.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica family and close cousins to broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In the nutrition world, they pack a punch and can truly enhance your health and well-being.

Bring on the incredible benefits of cauliflower.

Fighting the Free Radicals

Cauliflower is a rich source of a particular group of antioxidants known as ‘indoles,’ which are linked to the prevention of a number of cancers including bladder, breast and colorectal. These antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues. This damage is caused by free radicals which are produced in the presence of cigarette smoke, radiation, inflammation, UV light and extreme exercise. The indoles in cauliflower gobble up the free radicals and reduce damage to your cells and the risk of cancer. Although antioxidants can be found in supplement form, they are much more effective in whole food like cauliflower.

A Date with Detox

The human body is very clever but sometimes it needs a bit of help. Our natural detox system usually ticks along all by itself but we do need to give it adequate nutritional support. If unwanted toxins come sailing in and less than ideal choices are being made in the dietary department, we put ourselves at an increased risk of damage to our cells and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease and cancer.

Cauliflower does come to the rescue here as it is bursting with phytonutrients known as glucosinolates that help activate our detoxification system. They are the sulphur containing compounds that give cauliflower its distinctive aroma and taste and they also act as natural anti-inflammatories.

Come in Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for skin and brain health and is a powerful antioxidant to boot. Many people think oranges and berries when looking for Vitamin C but cauliflower has hidden talents in this area. Half a small cauliflower contains almost 60mg of Vitamin C compared to 69mg in a medium orange, 32mg in 1-cup raspberries and 14mg in 1-cup of blueberries. Being the brightest doesn’t always mean the best!

Low calorie friend

Having low calorie snacks and meal ingredients on hand makes eating healthy food so much easier. The beauty of cauliflower is that it is extremely versatile and can be the base of a delicious soup or curry, an accompaniment to any meal and even a tasty substitute to rice or pasta in the form of the popular cauliflower rice. Versatility aside, one of the incredible benefits of cauliflower is that there are just 48 calories in 1-cup.

Fill up on Fibre

Research shows that fibre is vital to our gut health. It is also one of the keys to fat blasting as fibre does a great job of filling you up and therefore reducing your intake of high fat and calorie foods.

Fibre helps reduce cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels plus it helps to keep us regular. Fibre keeps the system moving by feeding the healthy bugs in the large bowel and speeding up digestion, which helps protect against cancer.

A healthy gut is strongly linked to mood and mental health, so it is great news that cauliflower contains over 5 grams of fibre in every cup.

So what are you waiting for?