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Fall into Autumn with some questions, answers and nutritional advice from a modern day nutritionist!  Michele Chevalley Hedge is an accredited nutritionist and the author of many articles regarding health and nutrition.  Michele has a particular interest in women’s health and wellbeing.

Q1. Moving into the cooler months, what illnesses should women be most aware of and how can we eat to fortify ourselves?

Colds and the flu are more common in the cooler months due to a number of reasons. Two of which are the combination of less sunlight and more bacteria and viruses being spread in closed in areas, leading to a decrease in our immune status. To boost your immune system, select foods rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene and other carotenoids), vitamin E, vitamin C and D. Carrots, spinach, cabbage, kale, capsicum, and oranges, are excellent sources of vitamin A and C and all in season in autumn. Our orange colour vegetables and fruits are often loaded with vitamin A and this can be especially important in supporting the lining of our lungs and our lymph glands. What you may not know is that you need a small amount of quality fat in your diet to make vitamin A (a fat soluble vitamin) work more effectively. Simply, we need good quality fats (olive oil, avocado, seeds and nuts) in our diet for our body to fully absorb the benefits provided to us in Vitamin A, E, and D to ward off nasty colds and the flu this winter.

Q2. Some of us are prone to feeling low in colder months. What foods do you suggest generally to increase energy or mood?
Good Mood Food, one of my favourite topics! Choose whole, real food that makes you feel nourished, rather than feeling toxic and sluggish. If most people were honest, they would agree a bowl of warm, spicy chicken soup feels so much better than a bag of hot trans-fat dipped chips. More specifically, choose foods that have the amino acid tryptophan in them as tryptophan – with the right about of vitamin B in your diet – will increase your serotonin levels. Hooray, more happy hormones! Tryptophan can also assist in the regulation of appetite and sleep patterns. Foods such as plain yogurt, dairy products, turkey, chicken, red meat, kale, soy beans and most fish will contain excellent levels of tryptophan.

Q3. We have not always eaten as we do today. For example, in caveman times, populations probably survived by foraging (meaning unpredictable and infrequent meals and possibly a lack of regular meat). Are there any lessons to learn from earlier times?
It is no secret that our ancestors didn’t grow up eating packaged, processed foods like sugary breakfast bars, doorstopper sized banana bread, and sweetened juices and soda. They ate 100% unprocessed foods with natural sugar. Their diet was two thirds plant food including fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and the rest came from meat and fish. It is important to note that whilst the caveman only lived till about 18, they would usually die from viruses and bacteria, unlike our generation which are dying from diet-controlled diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

Q4. Vitamins can be expensive and many people are suspicious about their marketing verses actual benefits. Does science back up the need for them and does your experience as a nutritionist lead you to believe in them?
As a nutritionist, I believe in whole food – real food, not processed food – should be a patient’s first port of call for nutrient fulfilment. However, sometimes a person’s diet isn’t sufficient and they require additional vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fibre for a particular health condition. It is at times of nutritional deficiency when vitamins and mineral supplementation can be pivotal. Science absolutely needs to back this up and we are seeing more and more evidence- based research come to the public’s attention as people are seeking “preventive health” measures rather than reactive illness practices. Scientific scrutiny is something the public is asking for. Some would maintain that it is unnecessary to study these therapies: that their longevity and rising popularity provide ‘proof’ of validity. Fortunately, others are like me: we like the research. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in NYC, one of the top cancer research hospitals in the world, has undertaken a Complimentary Therapies Centre for their patients. They are incorporating nutritional therapies into their cancer patient’s protocols, and are undertaken extensive research and testing with vitamins, minerals, and herbs.

Q5. The Mediterranean diet is often referred to as a healthy one (but it includes daily intake of wine). What is the current accepted thinking around alcohol in one’s diet – is it beneficial – and if so how much is too much?
As a modern day Nutritionist, wine is a yes, of course, but in moderation or it could turn into a double edged sword. Some studies reveal red wine can ward off colds and viruses due its rich resveratrol content, which is a powerful antioxidant. But too much can lead to numerous health problems for many individuals, such as pregnant women and women at risk of breast cancer, as alcohol raises the risk of breast cancer. To gain the benefits of a glass of wine, chose a glass of red and enjoy it with dinner. And remember that one glass is only 5 ounces so sip slowly.

Q6. Low libido is often a complaint of busy modern women. In your experience, what foods, vitamins or other aides can assist libido boosting?
Low Libido… a common complaint of busy women… or a complaint of their partners! I believe that simply by cleaning up your diet with whole foods which are rich in vitamins and enzymes and giving yourself a mild cleanse, your libido will increase naturally. When you are eating clean, feeling light, we are physically and mentally happier. Often, women who come on my retreats say they want to lose weight, which they will. However, I remind them to not let that be a priority. When you’re eating right, your level of energy, your mental clarity, and your hormones will come back to a place of homeostatis. And guess what? Your libido returns…you will have eaten yourself sexy, not starved yourself sexy!

Q7. Coming out of summer (silly season) many people try detoxes (and more extreme measures too – like colon cleansing). Is this is good thing after a few months of ‘party’ behaviour?
Extreme detoxes do not work well in the long term for any individual. Cleansing and nourishing your body conjures up the image of feeding yourself with nutrient rich goodness. Detoxing usually is associated with starving, juicing, and going without. I do believe that after the ‘party behaviour’ and silly season is over, it is worth giving your body a little rest. This is not difficult and you can do this alone or with the guidance of a nutritionist. I like to use whole foods, eliminate processed and liver-burdening foods, and food combining principles. By giving your liver and digestive system a break, we restore our metabolic rate and energy levels.

Q8. Antioxidants: Like vitamins there is a massive marketing push by creators of nutrition aides and health stores now sell antioxidant pills and potions. Do we need to spend money buying marketed antioxidants (or can we find the same effect in the right foods and drinks?)
Antioxidant rich foods are wonderful for our immune systems and for ageing gracefully. There is a lot of evidence based research on the benefits of these foods in terms of disease prevention. Some of the delicious foods that are high in antioxidants include blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, artichokes, walnuts, cranberries, spinach, and sweet potatoes. If you are eating a whole food diet with variety at each meal, and you already healthy, your food should supply ample amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.

Top Tips:

  1. Eat as clean as possible but don’t be extreme about any of it. If you can eat 75% of your diet in unpackaged, unprocessed, whole foods, you are on your way to increased vitality.
  2. Be aware of hidden sugars. By reducing the amount of sugars from your diet you can balance your blood sugar and therefore reduce weight, brain fog, and mood swings.
  3. Twice a year, cleanse and nourish yourself. Give your digestive system and liver a clean out, rest, realise what is like to be in a place of optimum health, then go back to living in moderation and enjoy food!

All of our posts reflect our philosophy at A Healthy View www.ahealthyview.com. A whole real food perspective on food and life.  Extremes do not work but clean, whole, tasty and easy food choices can create a lifetime of good habits that lead to a lean, happy, and healthy person.  Contact us on our website for our next Low Sugar Lifestyle program or a nutritional consult.   Article by Michele Chevalley Hedge

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