With winter on our doorstep, it’s time to rediscover the leek! This month, find fascinating facts on fasting (and what it could do for you) and discover a free diet diary app with an Aussie food database! If you’ve had a gutful lately, check-in to our unique cookshop to tame an irritable bowel. And if you have a sweet tooth, enjoy our top tips for sweet alternatives. Plus more!
Fasting Facts for Health & Weight Loss
Wondering what all the fuss is about fasting? Fasting is nothing new; it has been around for millennia, and many people – both in ancient and modern times – have fasted, due to religious or health reasons, or in times of food shortage.
Scholars and doctors throughout history have held fasting in high regard. It is said that Plato and Socrates would fast to increase their mental acuity and stamina; Pythagoras required his students to fast before they attended his lectures; and Hippocrates used fasting to allow the body to repair itself after disease. In the sixteenth century, Swiss physician Paracelsus said, “Fasting is the greatest remedy”. Centuries later, Dr Adolph Mayer said, “Fasting is the most efficient means of correcting any disease”.
A number of modern doctors and researchers are now echoing the same message. “There is a lot of initial evidence to suggest that temporary periodic fasting can induce long-lasting changes that can be beneficial against aging and disease,” says Dr Valter Longo, director of the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute. Fasting can also be an effective weight loss strategy, says Dr Krista Varady, a leading researcher in the area of alternate day fasting.
The latest trend in fasting, known as ‘The 5:2 Diet’, has received much media coverage and even celebrity endorsement. The BBC’s Dr Michael Moseley contends that so long as people restrict their calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, they can eat what they like on the other five days and still achieve a half a kilogram of weight drop per week!
What is fasting?
Fasting is defined more formally as a form of total or partial calorie restriction. It can be conducted in a number of different ways:
- Total fasting (or complete fasting) involves a total abstinence from food for a short or prolonged period of time.
- Intermittent fasting (or every-other-day fasting) is a modified fasting approach where individuals fast for only a few intermittent days in the week or month.
- Fasting can also include avoidance or abstinence from particular foods or fluids for a certain period of time. These might include red meat, dairy or alcohol.
What are the benefits?
Scientific data is emerging to support the theory that fasting (and calorie restriction of any type) allows the body to focus on repair, rather than on growth or development. You may have noticed that when an animal is sick, it instinctively stops or drops its normal eating pattern to allow its body to heal. Doctor Longo explains it this way: Protein ingestion encourages cell multiplication and therefore allows little opportunity for the body to focus on repairing damaged or mutated cells. However, under calorie and protein intake restrictions, the body tends to use its energies to repair itself.
Recent studies show that calorie restriction may increase immunity by making the body’s cells more resilient to stress and toxins. What’s more, fasting could be used therapeutically (under medical supervision) to improve blood sugar control, increase insulin sensitivity and promote weight loss. There are also promising benefits for heart health, as fasting has been shown to drop blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. A recent, but small 12-week intermittent fasting study with normal weight and overweight people, showed a significant drop in participants’ cholesterol levels and markers of inflammation, as well as an average four- to six-kilogram loss of weight. In turn, such changes could decrease risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that the amount of research available on intermittent fasting is currently small. Also, most of the studies are short in duration, have a small number of participants, and have been mainly conducted on overweight and obese individuals – making it difficult to draw solid conclusions that will apply to the broader population. And despite some contrary views, most studies suggest that to maintain the results gained from intermittent fasting, you are best to avoid over-eating on your non-fast days, keep to a lower saturated fat and high fibre diet, and maintain a regular exercise pattern. Scientists agree that further studies are needed to examine intermittent fasting as a weight loss tool and control for chronic disease.
Is fasting safe?
For some, fasting can be difficult and uncomfortable – especially if you’ve never experienced it before. You will feel hungry and may experience headaches, constipation, dizzy spells or a feeling of weakness. Some of these symptoms will resolve if you hydrate yourself well. On the upside, some people report clearer thinking when fasting.
In the past few years, intermittent fasting or every-other-day fasting has been viewed as a more realistic way to restrict calories for computer-glued, sedentary individuals. Researchers suggest that people may find it easier to restrict their intake occasionally rather than constantly.
Intermittent fasting involves consuming only 25 per cent of your normal calories on fast days and eating normally on non-fast days. Eating one small meal or two small snacks that are high in fibre and protein on the fast day can help control hunger and prevent loss of muscle mass.
Important Fact! Muscle is a metabolic active tissue that keeps your metabolism high and burns calories – so you want to retain as much muscle as possible.
Intermittent fasting is considered safe, but is still best if monitored by a health professional, especially if you have any medical conditions. It may be dangerous if taken to extremes. Poorly managed fasting can put your body into ‘starvation mode’ and contribute to the loss of valuable muscle and even vital body organs.
Remember: Intermittent fasting doesn’t mean that you stop eating altogether. It means that you reduce the amount of food you eat for only a short period of time, in a recurring fashion.
Is it for you?
Intermittent fasting could be an approach you choose if you are overweight or battling a chronic disease. Animal studies have been found to support the theory that fasting can lead to a longer life, and some may choose to fast with this in mind!
Sue’s paternal grandmother fasts one day each week. She skips breakfast and lunch and has a light meal later in the afternoon on her fast day. On her non-fast days, she still focuses on two nutrient-dense, plant-based meals (such as lentil soup with fresh salad of bitter greens), she avoids snacking (except for the occasional fruit) and drinks plenty of water. She also never eats late at night. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that she is 90, virtually medication-free, lives independently and still tends a kitchen garden!
Fasting should therefore not be used as an excuse to eat junk foods on non-fast days! Maintaining a background diet that is high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods is important for optimal weight maintenance and chronic disease prevention. Combining a nutrient-dense diet with a regular exercise routine can also be a weight loss strategy, even without fasting.
Fasting is not recommended for individuals with any type of eating disorder or binge eating tendencies, or for those recovering from an injury or surgery. It is also not advisable for children, type 1 diabetics or insulin-dependent type 2 diabetics. If you’re taking prescribed medication, it’s always important to talk to your doctor before undertaking any type of fast.
If you’ve been inspired by recent media stories to try a fast, be sure to speak to your doctor and dietitian first. Based on your medical and social history, they will be able to assess if fasting is a safe and realistic approach for your wellbeing.
 Mattson MP, Annual Review of Nutrition, 2005;25:237-260.
 Varady KA et al, Nutrition Journal, 2013;12:146.
“The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.” – Benjamin Franklin.
What’s Cooking – Dairy Free, Gluten Free & Low FODMAPs: How to Tame an Irritable Bowel
Are you suffering from unresolved bloating, wind, pain, diarrhoea or constipation? Have you been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or an allergy to dairy?
If so, this cookshop is for you!
Learn to make healthy, family-friendly wholefood recipes, which eliminate the culprits responsible for irritable bowel.
Taste yummy dairy-, wheat- and gluten-free recipes low in FODMAPS (fructose, polyols, fructans and GOS), without missing out on intact fibre – an essential element lacking in most commercially prepared products.
Join us for a special gut taming event! Spend two hours with one of our senior dietitians, experienced in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The good news? 85 per cent of IBS cases can be treated. Why tolerate discomfort any longer? This practical cookshop could change your life!
When: Tuesday 15th July 2014, 6.30 pm - 8:30 pm
Where: Nutrition and Wellbeing Clinic, Castle Hill (Sydney)
Read more about our cookshops
You will enjoy a yummy four-course menu on the night, and receive recipes and nutrition handouts to take home!
Call NOW on (02) 9899 5208 to book your place. IBS is common – why not invite a friend?
What’s Fresh? – Leek
Leek is the perfect winter vegetable. It’s ideal in warm soups, stews and bakes, and adds beautiful flavour and aroma to any dish. Leeks are part of the onion family and look like a giant spring onion with a thicker bulb. They provide a sweet, mild onion taste.
Leeks have been cultivated and eaten for millennia in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Archaeological excavations have found leek to be part of the ancient Egyptian diet from around 2000 B.C. onwards. The Greeks and Romans prized leek, as they believed it was good for the throat. It has been said that leek was also a favourite vegetable of the Roman Emperor Nero; he thought it improved the quality of his singing voice!
Like onions and garlic, leeks contain important sulphur compounds, which can protect the walls of blood vessels and reduce inflammation in the body. Health conditions that involve high levels of inflammation include atherosclerosis (formation of plaque on the blood vessel walls), type 2 diabetes, obesity and arthritis. These sulphur compounds are also thought to protect against cancer!
Leek is a low calorie veggie with a high dietary fibre content: A quarter of a cup of cooked leek provides only 34 kilojoules (eight calories). Leeks are a good source of Vitamins C and K, and are a great way to boost your immune system.
In Sydney, leeks are available all year round, but their best months are between March and October. When choosing your leeks, look for those with a clean, firm, white bulb and fresh looking leaves. The leaves should not be yellowed or wilted and the bulb should be clear of cracks or bruises. Smaller- to medium-sized leeks tend to be the most tender and have the most delicate flavours.
When preparing, wash leeks well to remove any dirt. The best way to do this is to slice a leek vertically in half, from the base towards the leaves, and then fan the leaves under running water to flush out any hidden dirt. You can then go ahead and slice as required. It is worth noting that all of the leek is edible, with the white part being most intense in flavour.
Six ways to include more leeks in your meals this winter:
- Try our Yellow Split Pea Soup with Leek & Thyme
- Add leek to fritters or rissoles
- Make a beautiful vegetable and leek stew
- Bake a spinach and leek filo pastry pie
- Mix leek into to your favourite quiche or frittata recipe
- Slice finely and add to a potato salad
Food Matters with Sue Radd – Boost Your Beans
Want to know why we love our legumes? Read Sue Radd’s article to discover why beans bring the best carbs (and protein) to your plate, and learn how to use them more!
Track Your Nutrients with an Aussie Calorie Counter - Easy Diet Diary
Many people enjoy tracking their calorie intake and exercise output with gadgets. This can be highly motivating and help you stick to your goals! We like the free Australian Calorie Counter app because it uses an Australian food database, allowing you to monitor seven key nutrients (the same ones found on food labels), set a weight goal and track your exercise. It also plugs into the professional version of FoodWorks, so you can email your diary to your dietitian for further computer analysis when required. Download it free from the Apple App store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. No Android version is available yet.
Virtual Supermarket Tour – How to Stock a Healthy Pantry
Need to hone your skills in reading food labels at the supermarket? Or is it simply time for a pantry makeover?
Find out how you can easily improve your eating habits by restocking your pantry with nature’s superfoods. Learn about food items that could be sabotaging your health.
Get coached under the guiding eye of our dietitian in a two-hour interactive, small group event.
Take home our clever Wallet Shopping Guide and List of Best Food Brands. People just love this!
When: Tuesday 25th June 2014, 6.30 pm - 8:30 pm
Where: Nutrition and Wellbeing Clinic, Castle Hill (Sydney)
Take the first step today to a healthier life and phone us on (02) 9899 5208 to book yourself in.
Food InFocus – Top 10 Germ Spots in Your Kitchen
Could nasty bugs be hiding in the crevices of your appliances, tools and places where you prepare your food? Watch this TV episode with Sue Radd to discover the somewhat surprising germ hot spots hiding in the typical family kitchen.
Kitchen Tip – Top Tips on Sweet Alternatives
Most of us have a sweet side, especially when it comes to food. The good news is that there are ways to hit your sweet spot without sacrificing your health goals. Instead of grabbing that processed chocolate bar, or picking through a bag of lollies, find a smarter, yet satisfying, alternative that works for you!
Top 9 Healthy Sweet Alternatives:
- Dried Fruit: Figs or medjool dates are great if you’re looking for that sweet kick. Try freezing your dates so they have a beautiful toffy mouthfeel.
- Prepare a glass of low-fat plain yoghurt with berries, chia seeds, muesli and a drizzle of honey.
- Try a smoothie with frozen banana and raw cacao powder. Other ingredients to add to your smoothie of choice: frozen berries, frozen mango, almond milk, soy milk, fresh medjool dates, raw almonds, raw cashews, macca powder, wheat germ, chia seeds, baby spinach leaves or cinnamon.
- Chia seed pudding: This is so easy to make! Just mix two tablespoons of chia seeds with one tablespoon of raw cacao powder. Then add one tablespoon of maple syrup or honey and a small amount of vanilla essence to taste. Slowly pour in one cup of soy or almond milk while mixing. Place in the fridge and allow to set (takes approximately one hour or leave overnight). Delicious!
- Try a fruity sorbet. Freeze some berries and banana and wizz together for a fresh dessert.
- Remove the core of an apple and stuff with dried cranberries, slithered almonds and walnuts. Bake in the oven and serve with cashew nut cream.
- Try a nut, seed and dried fruit mix. A great combo is raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate nibs and a splash of goji berries.
- Have a slice of brown grainy bread with a nut butter of your choice, sliced banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Bake some healthy muffins and sweeten with banana or dates. Add ground linseeds to boost the fibre content. Ask your dietitian for some tasty recipes!
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Published by the Nutrition & Wellbeing Clinic, Copyright 2014.
Suite 10, 80 Cecil Avenue, Castle Hill NSW 2154 Ph: +61 2 9899 5208 Fx: +61 2 9899 2848 www.nwbc.com.au
We are a boutique Dietitians clinic in Sydney, Australia, offering one-on-one consultations, culinary medicine cooking workshops, motivational health seminars and nutrition advisory services to businesses in the local and global area.
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