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In this issue discover why you should be weary of so called ‘energy drinks’, see a new recipe idea with Sue Radd from Greece, learn how blueberries can boost your health and find out how to store your leftover ginger.

What’s in the News - The Dark Side of ‘Energy Drinks’

Are you or your teenager using energy drinks?  Think dance parties, staying up late to study for exams or pushing yourself to meet work deadlines.  With our increasingly busy lifestyles many people are looking for a quick fix to get them through their day – or pumping throughout the night!  Hello energy drinks.  But recent research suggests these beverages could have a dark side and result in serious health consequences, particularly if you or your loved one consume large quantities.

What is an energy drink?

An energy drink is basically a sugary beverage with added caffeine and a few other ingredients, usually guarana (an additional, natural source of caffeine), taurine, ginseng, some vitamins and amino acids.  Banned in certain countries, and once forbidden in Australia, multiple brands of energy drinks are now readily available at your local petrol station with the biggest sellers being Red Bull and V.

Celebrities often endorse energy drinks.  Marketing is also highly geared towards young people, young adults and professionals promising improved concentration, performance and endurance.  The result: the average age of consumption for energy drinks is about 17 years and energy drinks are seen as hip and cool.  It is no wonder these drinks now account for 20 % of all beverages sold in convenience stores. 

Why are there concerns?

According to recent research published in the Medical Journal of Australia, there has been a considerable rise in the number of toxic reactions and serious hospitalisations in young people due to the consumption of energy drinks. 

Emergency calls to the NSW Poisons Information Centre (NSWPIC) have increased significantly over a seven year period, with reports of serious symptoms after drinking these beverages, such as heart palpitations, tremor, agitation, GI upset and chest pains.  Other long-term effects of highly caffeinated drinks include hallucinations, seizures and a reduced blood supply to heart.  There have even been reports of sudden death from heart attacks in young people directly linked to guzzling these caffeinated beverages.

But why the rise in health problems?  People have been enjoying caffeinated drinks (both hot and cold) for decades.  The concern among health authorities mainly revolves around the fact that it is super easy to unknowingly take in very high doses of caffeine from energy drinks.  Consider this: one serve of energy drink can deliver to your body between 1.5 - 2 times the caffeine you would ingest from a cup of coffee, or three times the amount you’d get from a can of cola!  See table 1 below.  Although some flavoured iced coffees can supply as much or more caffeine per carton, young people are less likely to down multiple cartons of flavoured milks at a party as compared to taking ‘shots’ of energy drinks in succession.

Research has found that the average number of energy drinks consumed by people who make a distress call to NSWPIC is 5!  This would be equivalent to you drinking about 7.5-10 cups of coffee in succession!  But help calls have occurred even after one drink.  It’s also quite common for these drinks to be taken with other caffeinated beverages, caffeine tablets, alcohol and even ecstasy - clearly a recipe for disaster!

Table 1. Selected energy drinks and their caffeine content.


Brand Caffeine (mg) per serve Equivalent cups of instant coffee
Mother (500 ml) 160 mg 2
Rockstar (500 ml) 160 mg 2
Monster Energy (500 ml) 160 mg 2
V Pocket Rocket (60 ml) 120 mg 1.5
V (350 ml) 109 mg 1.4
Boca Lupo (330 ml) 106 mg 1.3
Red Bull (330 ml) 106 mg 1.3
Pulse (300 ml) N.B. Also contains 6.5 % alcohol 96 mg 1.2
Powerade Fuel+ (300 ml)  96 mg 1.2
Mother mini (150 ml) 48 mg 0.6


Better ways to boost your energy levels

Due to the ease with which you could consume toxic doses of caffeine through energy drinks, and the increasing reports of harmful effects in young people, Australian researchers are calling for more specific health warnings to appear on pack.

In our opinion, as there is no universally safe level of intake for energy drinks, these are best avoided.  Some people are so highly sensitive to caffeine they can develop a rapid heart rate and agitation to doses as small as 50 mg – the amount you would get from, say, a cup of black tea or one third or one quarter of a typical energy drink.  One young client presenting to our Clinic for a separate reason reported she had previously taken energy drinks as they helped keep her full so she wouldn’t eat!  But after an unexpected visit to the hospital emergency department triggered by these drinks, the girl was left with some permanent heart damage and now regrets ever taking a sip!

If you are flagging and need an energy boost it’s important to remember that your body is probably trying to tell you something - it needs rest or at least a mental break.  Try to listen to your body’s cues more and organise more catch up sleep, regular rest time or earlier nights rather than trying to override these signals and pushing your body into overdrive with the aid of highly caffeinated drinks.  Smarter beverages to temporarily boost energy levels in young people include flavoured mineral water and freshly squeezed juices.  The quick acting carbohydrates will raise blood sugar levels very rapidly providing a lift.  Often, however, a simple glass of water can also aid with concentration and performance.

Health Quote

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.” Ashleigh Brilliant.

Food in Focus – Inconvenient Truth About Sugary Drinks

Did you catch Sue Radd’s new TV segment on InFocus news?  Watch it now on Vimeo

Virtual Supermarket Tour – Fun Way for you to Get Coached on Food Labels & Smarter Shopping

How do you determine the best brands to buy at the supermarket? What’s the difference between organic and free range?  Are ‘light’ oils better for you?  And what levels of sugar, salt and fat should you stick to when checking labels?

To find out the answers to these and many more questions, why not join us for a Virtual Supermarket Tour at the Clinic? We’ll take you through the aisles in the comfort of your chair with the help of food photography and have you comparing multiple products.  You will increase your confidence to pick best food choices and become a supermarket sleuth.

When: Wednesday 21st March, 6:30 – 8:30 pm.

Our senior dietitian Monica Kubizniak will be running this event so you won’t want to miss out!  Find out more about this event

Call NOW on (02) 9899 5208 to book a spot and bring your partner. 

New Recipe Video - Creamy Yoghurt with Walnuts & Honey

Stuck for a quick dessert or snack idea that’s actually good for you?  On her recent trip to Greece Sue Radd filmed this short clip to share a very simple, traditional idea with you: Creamy Yoghurt with Walnuts and Honey.  Try it – it’s really delicious!

The ideal yoghurt to use for this recipe is the ‘strained’ Greek variety, which gets naturally thickened as the liquid whey is drained.  Unlike many yoghurt varieties, it contains no added gelatin or other animal based thickeners.  Until recently however, you had to go to Greece to get it!

Enter Chobani Greek Yogurt.  We tasted this ‘new kid on the block’ and have to say, we’re impressed!  We’ll be using the plain fat free and 98 % fat free versions generally in cooking and for the above recipe idea.  You may also enjoy Chobani 0% and 2 % fat yoghurt varieties with various fruit options on the bottom. Chobani is vegetarian friendly, low lactose, protein packed and has added probiotics.  You can buy it from Woolworths.  www.chobani.com.au

What's Cooking in April - Super Quick & Easy Wellness Dishes

Are you struggling to find time and energy to cook healthy meals? Is your weight loss plateauing?  Are you trying to get back on top of a medical condition? 

Resorting to fast food can fast track you to a fatty liver!

Join us for a delicious cookshop and learn kitchen shortcuts to prepare yummy meals using whole foods. Leading Australian nutritionist and author Sue Radd will also show you how to use a pressure cooker - the original time saver device!  Perfect if you’re time poor but want to commit to healthy choices.

When: Tuesday 3rd April, 6:30 – 8:30 pm.

You will love the food tasting throughout the evening, and get to take home recipes and handouts.

Find out more about this cookshop

Call NOW on (02) 9899 5208 to book your place as seats will go fast. 

What’s Fresh – Blueberries

Have you tried blueberries? Blueberries have long been regarded as one of natures ‘superfoods’ and with good reason.  In addition to being low in energy - a handful will cost you only 158 kJ - blueberries are low in fat, low GI and provide a source of vitamin C. Blueberries are also packed full of antioxidants, being one of the highest sources of antioxidants of any fruit or vegetable.

Getting your daily dose (1/2 - 1 cup) of antioxidant-rich blueberries is important to help protect you from chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  Studies in rats have shown that a blueberry boosted diet can improve coordination and reverse the short-term memory loss associated with ageing. Blueberries are also an extremely rich source of anthocyanin, a phytonutrient important for your eye health. Similarly to cranberries, they have proven themselves useful in both preventing and treating urinary tract infections - something worth remembering.

Originally from North America, premium quality blueberries have been grown in Australia since the 1970s and you can buy fresh blueberries for 10 months of the year from July through to April. Farms now exist in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Southern NSW, Victoria, Southern QLD and Northern NSW. 

There are three common varieties of blueberries known as the lowbush, highbush and rabbiteye. As their names suggest, the low and highbush shrubs grow at different heights whereas the rabbiteye got its name due to its ‘rabbit eye’ appearance during ripening. Although it won’t be stated on pack, you are most likely to see the highbush variety in your supermarket punnet as this variety accounts for more than 80 % of annual blueberry production.

Blueberries should always be refrigerated and stored in an airtight container away from moisture as leaving these delicate blue gems at room temperature will lead to early spoilage. Stored under the correct conditions your blueberries will keep fresh for up to two weeks. 

3 ways with blueberries:

1. Start your day with a hearty breakfast of Swiss muesli topped with blueberries.  Check out our easy recipe for Swiss Muesli with Mixed Berries Ideal if you have diabetes or a high cholesterol.

2. Take a whole punnet to school or work and eat at your desk when you get the munchies.  A great healthy snack, which you can enjoy guilt-free straight from the packet!

3. Toss into a fruit smoothie for a really cool purple-blue colouring effect. Kids will love this!

Food Matters with Sue Radd – Recipe Makeover

If you are watching your waistline, have insulin resistance, diabetes or a high blood cholesterol, you’ll find these simple food renovation tips in Sue Radd’s latest Signs column really useful. 

Clinic News – Your Health Fund Rebates for the New Year

A quick reminder to our Clinic clients that we have entered a new year as far as health funds and Medicare is concerned.  This means if your dietetic visits were cut short because you used up all your rebates last year, you are now entitled to more since the full quota for each year kicks in from January.  If you previously qualified for the Medicare Chronic Disease Management Plan, speak to your doctor and check whether you can participate in a care plan for this year. If you are privately insured, your benefits automatically start up again.

Kitchen Tip - How to Store Leftover Ginger

Tired of finding your leftover fresh ginger dried out or mouldy the next time you go to use it?

As more and more recipes call for fresh ginger, this anti-inflammatory root vegetable is fast becoming a favourite in Australian households.  However, few people realise you can successfully store leftover fresh ginger for future use and minimise your waste.

A great way to extend the life of your ginger rhizome is to freeze it.  Examine the piece you have left and check there are no obvious blemishes on the skin.  Then rinse (with the skin on), pat dry, wrap in paper towelling and pop into a paper bag before placing into the freezer.

Next time a recipe calls for ginger, simply grate the frozen ginger piece and add to your dish for a wonderfully fresh lift.  Ginger stored under these conditions can last for up to two months. 

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Published by the Nutrition & Wellbeing Clinic, Copyright 2012.

Suite 10, 80 Cecil Avenue, Castle Hill NSW 2154 Ph: +61 2 9899 5208 Fx: +61 2 9899 2848 www.sueradd.com

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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