IT’S IN THE MUESLI

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Developed by a Swiss physician in the 1800s, muesli is a breakfast meal based on a mixture of rolled oats and other whole grains, fruits and nuts. It is marketed as being a healthy, wholesome alternative to sugar-laden cereals, as it is rich in fibre and essential vitamins. However, research has shown that many commercial brands of muesli contain far too much sugar, salt and saturated fats to be considered as healthy. Thankfully, not all mueslis are created equal.

Honest to Goodness Muesli

Amanda Powell, 27, is the in-house nutritionist for Honest to Goodness, a Sydney-based online retailer, wholesaler and distributor of organic and natural food products says that the most beneficial ingredients in muesli are the whole grains, such as rolled oats.

“Rolled oats are a great source of dietary fibre and essential nutrients,” said Powell. “Oats help stabilise blood sugar levels, soothe the digestive and nervous systems and proven to reduce cholesterol levels.”

While most commercial muesli brands contain rolled oats they also contain other ingredients that are not that nutritious.

“Much commercial muesli has added sugars and preservatives,” said Powell. “The added sugars turn what could be healthy and wholesome muesli into an energy dense, with excess calories, breakfast rather than one that is nutrient dense,” she said. “Preservatives like sulphur dioxide are often added to extend product shelf-life, which is a known harmful substance for many people, particularly asthmatics and young children.”

Added sugars in foods often results in excess sugar and calories consumed which can contribute to weight gain,” said Powell. “Sugar raises blood sugar levels, placing an increased demand on insulin, which can be a concern for those who have or are at risk of diabetes,” she said. “Sugar consumption also has other health consequences including tooth decay and obesity.”

“Many of the commercially toasted muesli’s on the market are baked or even fried in vegetable oils, and can have high saturated fat content,” said Powell. “Saturated fats can increase cholesterol, contributing to cardiovascular disease,” she said. “When choosing muesli, always opt for the natural untoasted variety with no added nasties.”

Powell says that it is important to remember that not all fats found in muesli are bad for you. The body needs fat to survive, but these need to be good fats.

“A note on fat,” said Powell. “Most quality natural muesli’s contain “good fats” like raw nuts, seeds and unsweetened coconut, which provide us with essential fatty acids and nutrients.”

“I believe a wholesome muesli should contain natural, whole and unprocessed ingredients like whole grains, raw nuts and seeds, with absolutely no added nasties – no added sugar, preservatives and oils,” said Powell.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Powell rates natural and healthy muesli blends as a 10 for an alternative to other breakfast cereals, as a nutritious breakfast and snack, and as a way to lose weight.

“A natural and healthy muesli blend provides a nutrient dense breakfast that stabilises and sustains your blood sugar levels, giving lasting your energy to keep you going until lunch time,” said Powell. “If you have small portion of muesli as a snack, this is a great whole grain food that keeps you fuller for longer, and prevents further snacking between meals,” she said. “Plus, the sustained energy from whole grain natural muesli stabilises blood sugar levels to reduce the demand for insulin, which is a fat storing hormone.”

“All of the Honest to Goodness Muesli’s are hand-blended and either certified organic or natural,” said Powell. “They contain no sulphur dioxide, no added sugars or preservatives or no nasties, as I like to call them,” she said.

“Our range of muesli’s includes three fruit and nut varieties, with a 38-40% blend of fruit, nuts and seeds,” said Powell. “Compare this to most commercial muesli blends, which are usually bulked-up with cheap fillers and minimal quality and nutritious ingredients like raw nuts and seeds,” she said.

“We also make small batch runs of our muesli to ensure high-turnover, so we can deliver fresh and nutritious products to our customers,” said Powell.

“Compared to many commercial mueslis, our range of organic and natural muesli’s are higher in protein, dietary fibre and many nutrients, as well as being lower in saturated fats, sodium and, of course, sugar,” she said.

Muesli’s True Value

Jules Galloway, 36, a naturopath and writer for allergy revolution says that muesli contains whole grains that are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and are lower in GI than processed grains.

“This means muesli releases energy steadily throughout the morning,” said Galloway. “They contain dried fruits, which give you vitamins and fibre, nuts for protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and untoasted ingredients,” she said. “Toasted ingredients may contain transfats, oils which, when heated up, can cause damage and inflammation to the body, but if they remain untoasted then these transfats are not released.”

Galloway says that it is the hidden ingredients that are often the most harmful in muesli.

“Sugary breakfast cereals can result in blood sugar rising sharply and then dropping in the mid-morning, usually around 10.30-11.30am,” said Galloway. “This results in cravings for sugar, starchy food or caffeine. Hidden sugars, anything which is similar to sugar, such as fructose, glucose and evaporated cane juice, all act in a similar way to sugar,” she said. ” And, oils which turn into transfats when the muesli is toasted, such as canola and vegetable oil, have been associated with inflammatory diseases in the body.”

“The best brands of muesli contain whole rolled oats that are low GI, easy to digest and full of vitamins and minerals, and other whole grains, for fibre and added nutrients,” said Galloway. “They also contain nuts, such as almonds and pecans, as well as seeds, chia, pumpkin, flaxseeds or sunflower seeds are all fantastic, and fruit pieces, which have been dried without sugar,” she said.

Galloway says if you are looking to lose weight then buy your muesli carefully and go for more healthy snacks, such as fruits, yogurts and nuts, rather than snacking on muesli. Though she does recommend some muesli bars.

When it comes to organic foods, Galloway says these are typically ‘free’ of chemicals, but it does not mean they are better in nutritional value.

“An organic muesli should be free from chemicals, pesticides and genetically modified ingredients,” said Galloway. “The nutritional value will most likely be similar to other muesli,” she said. “Some people believe that organic foods contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals, but there aren’t enough studies to prove this yet. Organic muesli can still contain fats and sugars, so you need to read the label carefully.”

“A lot of people are eating a gluten free diet these days and they need to be particularly careful when selecting a muesli, as some gluten free products are higher in sugar,” said Galloway. “Try and steer away from gluten free muesli that contains a lot of puffed grains, as these are higher in GI and you won’t be as full for as long after eating them,” she said.

The Muesli

Emma Dumas, partner and director of the Bodsquad Australia, who holds a bachelor degree of applied science in physical education, started selling muesli in 2004 using zip-lock bags, a hair-net and gloves from her home kitchen. She was motivated by her friend, Donna Aston, a registered nutritionist and personal trainer.

“Donna kept saying, “my clients do my head  in, they can’t get breakfast right.” So I said I’d make something for them, and the muesliwas born,” said Dumas.

“I saw a massive gap in a terribly busy marketplace. Mueslis galore on the supermarket shelves, perceived as being healthy and nutritious were more often than not the culprit for Donna’s clients  ‘getting breakfast wrong’,” said Dumas. “It’s virtually impossible to find one that isn’t loaded up with sugars in one form or another, with all the good fats destroyed by roasting or toasting and other nasty oils added,” she said. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you can start by getting that right then you’re way ahead for the rest of the day.”

SUGAR is making us fat and sick,” said Dumas. “We’ve been conned for 30 + years into avoiding ‘fat’ at all costs, while all that time they’ve been loading up every processed food and drink with sugar, calling it ‘fat free’ and convincing a generation to eat it,” she said. “Obesity and disease are escalating simultaneously.”

“I desperately want to be a part of re-educating society in their approach to a healthy diet and lifestyle and I truly believe that identifying SUGAR as the major problem and working from there simplifies matters enormously,” said Dumas. “There are massive vested interests involved in this message not getting out, but it will make the difference,” she said.

“I eat a pretty good, natural diet rich in protein, good fats, lots of colour,” said Dumas. “I avoid processed foods, anything white – except cauliflower, and I mainly shop and eat whole foods from the market, where possible,” she said. “Any packaged food that I buy, I check just one line on the nutrition panel before I even consider it. This is sugars, and if they’re below 5 grams per 100 grams, then I think about buying it.” said Dumas.

“The muesliis an all-natural premium blend of five nuts, four Seeds, oats and coconut with the nuts and seeds making up 50% of the mix. It is also, and most importantly, 97% Sugar Free — 1.6 grams  per 100 grams,” said Dumas. “It’s the abundance of premium ingredients and this ‘Sugar Free’ message, which sets us apart from all the rest and makes the muesliunique.”

Dumas, walks lots to keep fit. She even competed in the Oxfam Trailwalker a couple of years ago, and she still loves a good long training walk early in the morning. Other fitness activities Dumas does include Pilates and playing golf, which says are excellent for the mind and body.

Natural Muesli

Flip Shelton, creator of her own natural muesli brand, says that her muesli consists of 65% of whole grains, 13% of seeds, 10% fruit and 10% nuts. It contains no sultanas and is low GI and high in fibre.

“My range of delicious and nutritious natural muesli, including one that’s gluten free and endorsed by the Australian Coeliac Society, plus a five-grain porridge, have been produced by me for the last 10 years,” said Shelton.

“These blends are different,” said Shelton. The one with ‘just nuts and seeds’ was created because I knew there were people who would discover they were fructose intolerant and also those that valued the importance of essential fatty acids,” she said. “The one with ‘just fruit’ is a hit as it is naturally low in fat and kids love it, while the one with ‘fruit and nuts’ is the best of both worlds.”

“All my mueslis contain 35% fruit and nut, whereas most other mueslis have about 25%, and each blend has 13 different ingredients, most contain 6-8, and all are natural, untoasted, so the cellular make up and nutritional profile of the ingredients are not compromised,” said Shelton. “All nuts and needs are whole. This reduces their rate of oxidisation.”

Shelton feels that balance is the key to creating a wholesome muesli.

“Muesli is by nature a blend of ingredients. No one ingredient is more important than another.  It’s all about the balance,” said Shelton. “This includes essential fatty acids and protein, nuts and seeds, complex carbohydrates such as oats and amaranth, fibre, such as oat bran and of course taste. You are not going to eat something that’s good for you if it tastes appalling,” she said. “For me, it’s also about colour and shapes, you need to look into a bowl and be excited by what you see,” she said.

“Sugar in isolation and in anything above small amounts isn’t good for anyone,” said Shelton. “But, we don’t sit down and eat just sugar. Some granolas are made with sugar and honey, plus oil, so read the labels,” she said. “Eating dried fruit which contains simple carbohydrates, sugar, within a muesli blend of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and proteins, is fine in my book.”

“Some saturated fats need to eaten in serious moderation or eliminated, as they have limited nutritional value and are usually very high in energy — calories/kilojoules,” said Shelton. “For me saturated fats in untoasted natural nuts and seeds, as well as avocados and coconut butter is fine in moderation, but you need to know your own nutritional needs and requirements,” she said.

Shelton has developed a gluten free muesli and another that is suitable for people who are fructose intolerant. She thought was important to cater to everyone’s needs, especially those who were forgotten by major brands.

“My husband is a Coeliac,” said Shelton. “He was my greatest challenge. To create a breakfast he liked eating. In fact, the challenge was creating a gluten-free muesli that I enjoyed,” she said. “There are so many bad tasting ones out there.”

“When I launched by brand in 2003, I wanted to create a fruit-free muesli, because I suffer from fructose intolerance and it was only through trial and error that I discovered that,” she said. “I love nuts and seeds and many others also recognize the importance of essential fatty acids and plant based proteins.”

“Gluten intolerance is different to being a Coealic, which my husband is,” said Shelton. “Gluten intolerance is when you may experience bloating and slow digestion, but it’s not life threatening.  Coealic is a medical condition where the individual suffers when consuming even the tiniest amount of gluten, which essentially strips the gut lining and can cause a host of problems including malnutrition,” she said. “If in doubt, see  your GP.”

“And fructose intolerance, is when the body has an inability to digest fructose causing severe discomfort,” said Shelton. “Fructose appears in both fruits and vegetables, and in some ‘sugar’ syrups in various degrees,” she said. “Plus, not all fructose is created equal.”

“Remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” said Shelton. “Yeah yeah, I know you’ve heard that before, but it is true,” she said. “Yogis believe that you should eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch and a pauper at dinner.”

“I am always amazed that people will spend a lot of money and allow plenty of time for dinner and to a lesser degree lunch,” said Shelton. “Yes, I realise dinner is a much more social meal than breakfast, don’t worry I am not particularly conversational in the morning. I just think people generally want to spend as little as possible, that’s time and money, on breakfast, the most important meal of the day. You are just ripping yourself off.”

Perfect Portions

Amanda Clark, 47, a dietitian and creator of Portion Perfection Plates, a visual weight control program, says that muesli is packed full of vitamins and minerals and is high in protein because it contains fruit, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. Plus, the addition of milk or yogurt to muesli increases your calcium intake.  However, Amanda suggests that you look for natural or untoasted brands.

“Toasted muesli is often high in fat and sugar and is therefore higher in calories than natural or untoasted muesli,” said Clark. “A lot of dried fruit, especially the tropical kind, like pineapple and mango is going to increase the GI  of the muesli,” she said. “Ingredients such as coconut are going to increase the fat content of muesli, as well as too many nuts.”

“Ideally look for a muesli that has less than 15g of sugar per 100g,” said Clark. “Too much sugar will obviously increase the calorie value of the muesli and can turn an ideally ‘healthy’ breakfast choice into a very ‘unhealthy’ choice. Chewy, sticky dried fruit can get stuck in teeth and increase likelihood of dental cavities,” she said.

“Carbohydrates, including sugars, and fats are our primary sources of fuel,” said Clark. “If carbs are present, fats will be stored instead of being immediately used as a fuel, as carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source,” she said. “Therefore too many carbs will lead to weight gain as the fat is reserved for future needs.”

“Too much fat leads to weight gain and increases risk of coronary heart disease,” said Clark. “Fat contains approximately 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrate,” she said. “For those wanting to lose weight, eating less fat reduces calorie intake and therefore will assist with weight loss.”

“The so called ‘bad fats’ are the saturated and trans fats,” said Clark. “Generally the more solid a fat is at room temperature, the higher the level of saturated and trans fats. To decide whether the fat content of a muesli is too high, look at the ingredients list on the packet,” she said. “Avoid those that contain vegetable oil in their list of ingredients as these generally are a saturated fat. Ideally, look for a muesli that has less than 5g of fat per 100g.”

“The ‘good’ unsaturated fats come from oats, seeds and nuts,” said Clark.

Clark believes that muesli is a highly nutritious start to the day.

“As a breakfast choice, muesli can be a fantastic nutrient rich start to the day,” said Clark. “A combination of raw whole oats, with moderate amounts of dried fruits, nuts and seeds.”

“Oats contain a type of fibre called beta glucan, which assists in lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol and therefore reduces the risk of heart disease,” said Clark. “Also, oats are low GI, promoting satiety, a feeling of fullness, helping with weight loss and stabilised blood sugar levels and mood,” she said.

“Fruits lose little of their nutritional value when dried and are a valuable source of fibre, vitamins and minerals,” said Clark.

“Nuts and seeds contain the ‘healthy’ mono-unsaturated fats,” said Clark. “Nuts vary in calorie value, but a few can make you feel satisfied and the benefits definitely outweigh the ‘bad’,” she said. “Nuts and seeds are also rich in fibre and protein, as well as many vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus.”

As a snack, Clark feels that muesli may be a choice that contain too many calories, though she does suggest a suitable weight reducing alternative.

“Depending on how active you are and whether you are aiming to lose or maintain your weight rather than gain weight, a serve of muesli is going to contain too many calories to be classed as a snack,” said Clark. “If you’re aiming to maintain weight, then 100g of yoghurt with 2 Tbsp of muesli sprinkled on top would be a great snack,” she said.

“If you make the right choice and choose a muesli that’s low in sugar and fat, that’s packed full of whole raw oats and moderate amounts of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, then muesli is definitely a good choice as a cereal option when it comes to weight loss,” said Clark. “It’s going to be low GI, assisting with appetite control and improved blood sugar levels, to keep you going for longer,” she said.

“Keep your portion size to half a cup of a natural muesli for females or three-quarters of a cup for males, and top with skim or low fat milk and a small serve of fruit, such as ½ a cup of berries or half a banana,” said Clark.

If you are looking to find your ideal portion size and want to know what the best Australian cereals are for weight loss are, then Clark recommends that you download an electronic copy of the Australian Healthy Snack Bible, which defines healthy foods.

“You can download a free electronic copy of the Australian Healthy Snack Bible, containing a bonus cereal guide, from my website,” said Clark. “This lays out the nutritional value and ideal portion size of the best Australian cereals for weight loss or weight maintenance.”

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FUNCTIONAL GARDENS FOR FOOD AND FITNESS

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Years ago, Australian and UK homes sported large backyards and fine gardens. These gardens promoted outdoor activity and allowed for home owners to enjoy gardening, get amongst the great outdoors and unwind. Today, these gardens are giving way to urban sprawl and urbanisation as new housing developments rob nations of valuable farming land and make developers wealthy.

In the UK, the Government estimates that some 2 million homes have no gardens and by 2020 this is expected to rise to 2.6 million. In Australia, urban sprawl and new housing developments are required due to population growth and immigration levels. The National Institute of Labour Studies estimates that Sydney and Melbourne will need 430,000 ha of new land to keep up with current demands. Agricultural output of fruit, nuts, oil and pig meat will suffer as a result as productive land is lost.

The cost, however could be far greater than just primary production, especially as the girths of Australians and individuals that live in the UK become larger. According to Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute (MODI), Australia is ranked as one of the fattest nations in the world. Obesity has more than doubled over the last 20-years. Cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD) are estimated to add to a quarter of the burden of disease in Australia and approximately two thirds of all deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO), estimate that globally there are some one billion people who are overweight with some 400 million of these being obese. WHO predict that by 2015 there will be more than 2.3 billion overweight people globally.

While large homes on small blocks allow for maintenance free living, they don’t allow for activity. This is not only adding to obesity levels and promoting lifestyle illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, but it also adds to higher levels of stress.

Home gardens can be used for rest and relaxation, allow individuals to enjoy the sun and increase their levels of vitamin K, and they reduce the impact of global warming.  In addition, they can also be used to produce healthy, organically grown produce, and as a place for exercise.

The Functional Garden

Matt Leacy, Director of Landart Landscapes and co-host of Channel Nine’s Garden Gurus, has designed gardens for Backyard Blitz, Domestic Blitz and Random Acts of Kindness.

Leacy is a landscape designer that believes a garden is ‘good for the soul’. His idea of a functional garden is a place that is used productively for enjoyment on many different levels.

“There are many opinions out there in relation to the definition of a functional garden,” said Leacy. My belief is that it is a place that not only does produces food and generates compost to feed the garden, completing the full circle, but it is also a place where you can read, eat, play, entertain, swim, swing, exercise and just sit under a tree and relax. It is a place where everyone in the family has favourite areas to enjoy, both on their own and with family,” he said.

Leacy, a qualified horticulturalist and landscape construction and designer, says that he has designed a few functional gardens for food and fitness in his career. Most have been based on Calisthenics, but he has design one that had weights and rowing machines incorporated into it.

“The fitness side of the garden can happen just about anywhere,” said Leacy. Sometimes even down the side of the house.”

“I like to design areas in the garden that are able to be used as space for calisthenics, but by looking at them you would never guess that that is what they are used for,” he said. “This can be a bar or a tree branch for chin/pull ups, a bench seat for step-ups, sit-ups and leg raises, a grassed area for burpees, squats and lunges, and if you are lucky enough to have one, a pool, which can provide the best form of low impact cardio exercise around.”

“In relation to food, the placement of your veggie garden is best facing north or where it will get a minimum of five hours sun a day,” said Leacy. “I like mine to get eight hours of sun.  With veggies, the more sun, the more taste.

“If you’re not that into gardening or you’re just starting out, I recommend only growing veggies and herbs that you like to eat on most days and foods that you know how to use,” he said. “This way your interest remains high  and you are more likely to tend and care for your garden.”

Leacy believes that a functional garden, which is planned well, can provide you will all of your nutritional and fitness needs, without you having to look elsewhere.

“It can provide you with all the nutrition you need, if grown correctly. The only thing you may need to do is make the odd trip to the butcher,” said Leacy.

“If knowing that the food you grow is completely organic and 95% cheaper is not enough for you, then simply do it for the taste,” he said. “Once you have tasted the difference I can assure you it will be hard to buy from the supermarket again. Keeping in mind that for most veggies the more sun they get the tastier they are.”

Leacy recommends growing a variety of fruits and vegetables.

“Most fruits are full of nutrition and by growing any you can’t go wrong. My favourites are avocado, apples and grapefruit,” said Leacy. “With veggies, I believe in growing a mix of colours. This is the best for providing nutrition across the board,” he said. “Go with an extra few with dark green colouring. My top ten are broccoli, carrots, capsicum, peas, baby spinach, beets, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and cauliflower.”

A functional garden, according to Leacy, keeps you fit and active.

“This type of garden is good all-round for your health,” said Leacy. “Spending time in the garden keeps you away from technology and enables you to get some vitamin D from the sun. Plus, gardening is a great way to keep in shape, you will be amazed at how many muscles you actually use.”

“Overall, I feel a garden should be an extension of ourselves,” he said. “In our climate, with the right landscape design, it is possible to use the garden all year round. The more time we spend outside the better off we will be. Remember the more food you grow the lighter your carbon footprint will be. Once you start, you can’t stop because your wallet will feel heavier and you will feel lighter.”

“Don’t forget to educate your kids as you go. Teach them where their food actually comes from and that it isn’t grown on a supermarket shelf.”

Getting the Most Out of Your Functional Garden in Terms of Fitness

Mal Pace, a fitness and lifestyle coach and personal trainer, believes that a functional garden is about growing veggies in the backyard and then using the surroundings for exercise.

“I used my parent’s place to grow vegetables and then I would do chin-ups of the pergola and push-ups on the lawn,” said Pace. “You name it, I did it.”

“From a food point of view, I’d recommend growing lots of organic fruit and vegetables in your functional garden,” he said. “And yes, I mean properly organically grown, with no non-natural fertilisers and sprays.”

“From a fitness point of view, we need to set up the yard so that we can work as many of the muscles in the body as possible,” said Pace. “At the same time, we want to be able to cardiovascular exercises.”

Pace, believes that any garden has the potential to be functional.

“Obviously size of available space will play a big part. If you have too small a garden, you just won’t be able to get everything in,” he said. “I don’t feel that a functional garden needs to be planned by a professional landscaper. In fact I’d suggest that someone who is trained in the nutrition and fitness industries would perhaps be better suited to do the planning.”

“I just believe the knowledge of  someone who knows about nutrition and training would probably be more of valuable than someone who is just trained in landscaping,” said Pace. “This is not to undervalue the benefits of a landscaper. In fact, what would be ideal is to have both. n have your Nutrition and fitness consultant working closely with a (separate) landscaper.”

To gain the most amount of benefit from your functional garden says Pace, you need to focus on planning and variety.

“The focus should be on two things, planning your garden so that you can get a large variety of fruit and vegetables from it,” he said. “Doing so, will maximise the total number of nutrients that you can obtain from the garden. In fact, if you have enough variety, you could become totally self-sufficient. No more trips to the grocery store,” said Pace. “A tip here is to grow lots of different coloured veggies. This is because the different colours represent dominance in certain vitamins or minerals. For example, green often means high iron content. Reds and oranges generally mean high vitamin A and Beta Carotene content.”

“The second thing is to set up your garden so that you get the most variety when using it for fitness training, think efficiency so you can fit as much in the given space you have,” said Pace. “Any good fitness training program should contain some resistance training so that you can train all the muscles of the body, not just some.”

“A good functional training garden would include, a bench or chair to do step-ups. This is a good start for the cardiovascular,” said Pace. “You’d definitely be wanting a chin-up bar, a children’s swing can serve well, if not a truss that supports your balcony, this will also work.”

“For strength training you can use a hanging a rope over a low branch,” he said. “If your backyard is big enough, jog around it. If you’ve got some serious size rocks in your garden, work on your strength by doing a little rock climbing. And if you’ve got the luxury of some serious space, nothing beats a good game of touch footy to get the heart rate up.”

Pace believes that ‘fresh is best’ when it comes to food, especially when supermarkets store food for months and use pesticides.

“There’s nothing fresher than picking food from your own backyard,” said Pace. “Nutritionally, pulling it from your own garden will generally beat store-bought any day.”

“Firstly, store-bought foods usually have been stored, sometimes for months,” said Pace. “The quality of the nutrients in the fruit and vegetable a reduced over time, even if they’re kept cool. Basically, the longer time that has passed between picking and eating, the greater loss of nutrients.”

“Secondly, if you grow food at home, you have direct control over how much, and what type, of insecticides, pesticides and fertilisers you use,” he said. “Less is best in this case. And if you chose to grow them organically, better still.”

“The perfect scenario, said Pace, would be truly organically grown produce that is picked fresh at the time you intend to eat them. This would yield produce with the highest nutritional value. Especially when you consider an apple that was grown overseas that has been stored in a cold container and shipped over here, then put into storage again and has been sprayed with substances that are full of chemicals and then it eventually makes its way into your shopping basket. There’s no comparison really,” he said.

Nutritionally speaking, Pace believes guava, grapefruit and watermelon are rich in value.

“Guava and grapefruit seem to be two contenders for the top role. Although watermelon has a lot of water in it, hence the name, it is surprisingly dense with nutrients — 14 different nutrients in fact,” said Pace. “Cantaloupe is another that regularly pops up. It boasts over 20 different micronutrients. One of my personal favourites is the good old banana,” he said.

“However, what can be grown in a functional garden, will depend on the climate that the garden is in,” said Pace. “So, what can be grown easily in the upper mountains of Tibet, may not be so easy to grow in the middle of Sydney. But, if we take Sydney as the “case study”, in terms of nutrition, my top 10 pick would be snow peas, climbing beans, broad beans, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, garlic, spring onions, and capsicum,” he said.

A functional garden offers people a chance to take control of their health says Pace, and absorb some vitamin D and escape from some of life’s stressors.

“Someone who is taking control of their health, someone who is proactive about bettering themselves and their wellbeing would enjoy a functional garden,” he said. “Science now shows that those that exercise are generally happier people than those that are sedentary,  as are those that take time out of their day to relax and unwind. Many of my clients actually use exercise itself as a stress-relief mechanism.”

“Those that tend to be higher achievers, but also know how to relax, would recognise the benefits of a functional garden,” said Pace. “Being one to choose nutritious vegetables and fruits is often correlated with a person’s personality.”

“However, the opposite is also true. We can “nurture our nature” and educate ourselves on topics so that we change our views, and thus our actions,” he said. “The reading of an article, such as this one, may be the very trigger to a whole new outlook on life, health, diet and nutrition.”

“Additional benefits of a functional garden, apart from the ability to exercise, is well, vitamin D for one,” said Pace. “We all need vitamin D. And one of the best sources of vitamin D is that big yellow ball in the sky called the sun. We should be exposing our skin to about 10 minutes of sun a day. A garden that is pleasant to laze in or stroll around in, whilst soaking up a few rays, would be grand,” he said.

“Tranquillity would be another thing that a functional garden would have,” said Pace. “The ability to escape the stresses of everyday life is paramount. And if we can do this in our own back yard, great. The backyard should be conducive to relaxation. A hammock suspended near a pond may be just the ticket to drop those stressed-induced cortisol levels,” he said.

“If you are thinking of a pool, then just a few words on this,” said Pace. “If you have a pool that is large enough to do laps in, then swimming is great exercise, the only concern I have is the chlorine,” he said. “Most pools these days are chlorinated, to at least some degree, which is why I generally advise my clients to swim in salt water where possible. If you don’t have the ability to use a salt water pool, try and cut the amount of chlorine you use down to an absolute minimum. Consider other disinfecting mechanisms like ozone treatment.”

“The reason for trying to avoid chlorine is that we’re now finding that chlorine is even more toxic to humans than we thought,” said Pace. “Chlorine forms by-products such as Trihalomethanes,  Haloacetates and Haloacetonitriles. The research is starting to show that regular contact with these by-products does all kind of nasties to us and our skin, and may predispose us to an increased cancer risk,” he said.

Michelle Nazoff, director of Nazafit and a nutritionist who is inspiring people to get fit from within, is a natural body building champion who won a beautiful garden award in Western Australia.

Nazoff feels that a functional garden for food and fitness should combine many elements to make it harmonious.

“Recycled functional water gardens are optimal for health and fitness as it allows us to grow the ultimate ‘Live Food’ in our very own backyard,” said Nazoff. “Picking fresh live produce for our daily meals is better than anything  as the nutrient density of the food is at its highest,” she said.

“High nutrient density is key the for optimal health and wellness. Our bodies are built on micro nutrition– vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants — these nutrients are what get us fit from within,” said Nazoff. “Plus, when you grow your own fruits and vegetables you know exactly what the growing conditions are, if any pesticides or chemicals are used and you can allow the fruits and vegetables to ripen fully before being harvested,” she said.

“All fruits are beneficial in the diet, but the top ones we use in our Nazafit Live Food eating plans are apples, avocados, banana’s, strawberries, kiwi fruit, mangos, blueberries  and grape fruit,” said Nazoff. “My top 10 vegies to grow in a functional recycled water garden are kale, watercress, spinach, silver beet, broccoli, capsicums, beans, herbs of all kinds and collard greens,” she said.

“I believe that a functional garden offers an amazing lifestyle that is soothing and rewarding,” said Nazoff. “There is nothing better than growing your own food, picking your own food and preparing your own food from scratch that is super nutrient for you and your family,” she said. “It is very rewarding.”

The Nutritional Benefits of a Functional Garden

 Rachel Jeffery, an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) says that a functional garden for food and fitness should be well prepared and laid out so that you can get the  best nutritional benefits from it.

“Your garden should suit your needs and lifestyle,” said Jeffery. “There is no use planting out a whole garden if you have not prepared the soil well and you do not have time to maintain and nurture it,” she said.

“If you are in an apartment or rental, having little space or it not being your permanent home, then I suggest using large pots to plant tomatoes, capsicums, lemons, limes, strawberries, chillies and herbs in,” said Jeffery. “However, if you have plenty of space and are settled, setting up a garden bed or small hot house may be possible,” she said. “In a well established spot you can grow root vegetables including potatoes, carrots as well as leafy greens including bok choy, spinach and a variety of lettuces. Large trees including apples, pears and stone-fruit including apricots, peaches and nectarines would also be suitable.”

A functional kitchen garden will be able to provide you with fruits, vegetables and herbs all-year-round,” said Jeffery. “They not only make the garden look pretty, but they also may save you money, as well as being very nutritious.”

“Fruits and veggies provide good sources of fibre for bowel health, vitamin C  for strong bones, Foliate for cell health, and vitamin A for eye and skin health, as well as Iron for strong blood, and they generally have little or no salt, fat or sugar content,” she said.

“Remember to plant some herbs as well,” said Jeffery. “This includes parsley, mint, basil, chives, rosemary and oregano as all are really easy to grow,” she said. “Plus, small amounts provide vitamin C and Iron. They are not only good for you, but also will add a zing to meals.”

Jeffery also recommends growing your own produce over store bought.

“If you are able to grow some of your own fruits and vegetables that is great and will potentially save you some money too,” said Jeffery. “Choose veggies for different seasons so that you have a range through the year. Beans, broccoli, cabbage and leaks are good Winter veggies,  tomatoes, zucchini and spinach in Spring,  beetroots, carrots and cucumbers in Summer and Garlic, parsnip and silver beat in Autumn,” she said. “The same applies for fruits, apples, pears and grapefruit in Winter, mandarins in Spring, berries and stone fruits in Summer and grapes, quinces and lemons in Autumn.”

“You may find there are fruits and veggies not suited to where you live or the space you have, for example bananas and eggplants are best grown in the warmer tropical regions, where as carrots, cabbage and broccoli are better suited to cooler climates,” said Jeffery. “So, choose fruits are veggies that grown best where you live. Ask the local nursery to help you choose the right ones,” she said.

“Where you cannot grow certain fruits and veggies yourself or they are not suited to where you are, ensure you buy these as fresh fruits and veggies from the store and use them within a few days,” said Jeffery. “Fruits and vegetables stored for long periods will begin to lose nutrients over time.”

“Eat the fruits and vegetables bought within the same week. Choose fruits and vegetables in a wide variety of bright colours (green, red, yellow, orange) and these will also provide a wide variety of nutrients,” she said.

In terms of what fruits and vegetables are the best to grow and give you the most amount of nutrition, Jeffery suggests growing the following in your functional garden.

“All fruits are good, but some that are full of nutrients and pretty easy to grow in your garden are avocadoes, which are rich in monounsaturated fat (good fats), B-group vitamins and vitamin E. Please note that avocadoes do take a long time to fruit, so you may want to look for a mature fruiting tree rather than planting from scratch,” said Jeffery. “Oranges, lemons and limes are a fantastic source of vitamin C and oranges also provide good amounts of fibre and some minerals. Varieties are available all year round,” she said. “Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, fibre and the best source of lycopenes. Lycopenes are an antioxidant and can help reduce the risk of certain cancers.  Strawberries are full of vitamin C and Folic acid. They grow well in pots or in a garden bed.”

“Vegetables have little or no fat, salt and sugar and they are high in fibre and provide wonderful nutrients including, fibre, vitamin C, vitamin E and B-group vitamins,” said Jeffery. “Broccoli  is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, foliate and fibre, so it really is one of the super foods. Capsicum is a great source of vitamin C and ½ a small capsicum can provide your daily vitamin C needs,” she said. “Carrots  have highest concentration of Beta Carotene of all veggies, which is converted to vitamin A.  Chillies are full of potassium, vitamin C and fibre. They will add a spark to any dish and are really easy to grow in pots. Spinach  is full of antioxidants, vitamin C, Beta Carotene and vitamin E. It is full of Iron, but needs to be eaten with other high vitamin C foods to aid the conversion into an absorbable form the body can use. Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes contain B-group vitamins, phosphorus, potassium and a good source of vitamin C. Peas and Snow Peas have good amounts of vitamin B1 and B2, but eat soon after picking or buying, and do not overcook as the nutrients are lost easily.”

“It is also important to consider those wonderful green herbs including parsley, basil, chives, dill, oregano, rosemary. They are full of vitamin and minerals adding a boost to any meal they are added to,” said Jeffery.

“Overall, have a large variety if fruits and veggies in your diet,” said Jeffery. “The more varied and brightly coloured fruits, veggies and herbs you have eaten daily the more nutrients you will be providing your body for good health,” she said. “Ensure you are having at least 2.5 cups of veggies or salad equivalent daily and 2-3 pieces of fruit. Spread fruits and veggies through all meals from breakfast, lunch, dinner and all your snacks.”

“Remember to chose fruits and veggies in season, this will ensure you are saving money and buying the best quality produce,” said Jeffery.

Gabrielle Maston, a clinical dietitian and exercise physiologist, who holds a nutrition and science honours degree in clinical dietetics agrees that a functional garden for food and fitness needs to be mindful of growing seasons and that produce should be picked and then eaten to gain the most amount of nutritional value.

“When planning a functional garden you need to take into consideration the season,” said Maston. “Not all plants and fruits will grow all-year-round. Use veggies, herbs and fruit that you typically use in your day-to-day cooking,” she said. “Some ideas for winter include spinach, leek, garlic, and lettuce, all, of which, are stable ingredients in every day dishes. Sweet potato is a great low gi-starch that will grow almost all year round. Summer veggies may include basil, blueberries, capsicum, chilli, corn and egg plant.”

“Using veggies and fruit that are freshly picked and used in cooking or to eat immediately provides the highest amount of nutrients, antioxidants and active enzymes,” said Maston. “The food has better quality higher levels of B-vitamins, beta carotene and vitamin C and often tastes a lot better because of this. When fruits and veggies are picked and transported, like most super market produce, over time their vitamin and folic acid levels are reduced. This is due to air and light exposure.”

The other benefits of growing your own food says Maston is you avoid ingesting chemicals.

“If you have the time then yes home grown veggies are great and packed full of nutrients. The produce will last longer and be more cost effective, reducing food waste and helping the environment,” said Maston. “It’s also a cheap way of eating organic foods. The benefits being no herbicide or pesticides are used for growing,” she said. “The evidence is not conclusive on the benefits of eating organic foods, however trying to reduce chemical load on our system is always a good idea where possible for general health.”

Some of the most nutritious foods are slow growing says Maston, so it may be an idea to grow a selection.

“Avocados, apples, apricots are some of the best fruits to grow, however they maybe the most nutritious but they take years and years to grow,” said Maston. “Some 12-years for an avocado tree to bear fruit. Not ideal for a quick functional garden,” she said. “Strawberries, rock melon, water melon and grapes may not be as nutritionally superior, but you will get fruit within 6-months to a year, so may be a better option in the short term.”

“For veggies, grow spinach. It is easy to grow packed full of iron, magnesium, vitamin c and foliate, said Maston. ” I also suggest chilli, as the red pigmentation in the chilli can stimulate metabolism and is high in vitamin C. Garlic is a natural immune booster and good for digestive health. Tomatoes are high in lycopene. It’s an antioxidant that is heart protective,” she said.  Capsicum is a natural metabolism booster and high in vitamin C, brussel sprouts are high in the antioxidant zeaxanthin, which is good for reducing retinal damage and protects the eyes from macular degeneration, and broccoli contains flavonoids like beta-carotene cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown that these compounds help protect from prostate, colon, urinary bladder, pancreatic, and breast cancers. I also suggest planting onions because they are high in vitamin C, B6, biotin, chromium. These help with blood sugar control and appetite regulation. Beetroot as it is high in foliate, iron, potassium and vitamin C and great for women’s health particularly during pregnancy. And alfalfa sprouts as they have a high sapoinin content which protects the immune system.”

“And remember, that a functional garden will only be “organic” if NO fertilizers and chemicals are used. Make sure if you use these types of products that you thoroughly wash the fruit or vegetable before eating,” said Maston. “This reduces your chances of ingesting nasty substances.”

Virtual Medicine an Evolution in the Battle Against the Bulge

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NEWS FEATURE:

Obesity and weight issues are an escalating problem in many western countries. A problem that costs health systems and taxpayers billions every year. However, virtual medicine is seeking to reduce this financial burden with reality therapy that battles the bulge.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that obesity costs Australian taxpayers more than $8 billion dollars per year, whereas experts in America report that the nation is spending more than $140 billion a year on obesity.

Drastic measures such as gastric bypass surgery and extreme diets have risen, in some nations, by as much as 800 percent. Regardless of this, it seems that it is inactivity and poor lifestyle choices that are continuing to increase the body weight of western inhabitants.

With an urgent need to reduce obesity numbers and teach Westerners better living practices, virtual medicine has introduced a reality therapy that teaches overweight individuals how to better manage their wellbeing.

Joe Mastro, product development and customer support manager for Virtual Medicine, an Australian based virtual reality therapy (VRT) firm, believes that his company is able have a positive impact on the weight and wellbeing of Australians through the use of guided imagery.

“Most people with weight management problems have tried to lose weight on previous occasions,” said Mastro. “Therefore, contemplating new attempts to lose weight may be surrounded by the fear of more failures. Stress, anxiety and possibly even depression play a part. Although they desperately want to lose weight, they have trouble believing that more dieting and more exercise, by itself, will create the results they desire,” he said.

“The VRT weight management program is a psychological intervention strategy, which helps people with motivational problems to alleviate all the stress and anxiety that’s previously caused them to fail,” Mastro said. “VRT helps people to feel good about themselves, motivates them to exercise, makes them sleep better, and it helps them to manage and cope with stress and anxiety. The VRT program is not a replacement strategy for exercise and a healthy eating plan,” he said.

“VRT practitioners use a two pronged approach,” said Mastro. “The VRT programs are used to address issues on the unconscious level. Counselling is then given to help create change on the conscious level. Both approaches aim for a body-mind balance and complement each other,” he said. “This, then allows people to achieve a life plan, making a healthy diet and regular exercise achievable in the long-term.”

Mastro, who has a background in information technology, says that he has a keen interest in health and fitness and has worked in the industry for 10 years. His motivation to help others achieve their weight loss goals stems from being overweight as a child.

“I learned from an early age what it’s like to have obesity issues,” said Mastro. “As a child I was very overweight and experienced first-hand the social difficulties and pain of being a fat kid. This continued on into my early adolescence and I began to experience health issues as a consequence, he said. “Gall bladder disease, back and knee problems and breathing issues were all part of my childhood. Seeing people going through these same experiences is enough fuel to keep me going and continually push to optimise what we do.”

To keep himself fit, Joe Mastro works out regularly and believes that it is an important part of his day.

“I work out five days a week,” said Mastro. “I get up at 6am and do a 60-minute workout that includes a medium intensity cardio and weights program. If I don’t get there in the morning, I usually don’t get there at all,” he said. “So it’s important for me to make sure I drag myself up when the alarm goes off because there is no room in the rest of my day to get there.”

Mastro feels that too many people consider their physical and mental wellbeing as  being two entities, rather than one.

“Too often we look at our physical health as being separate from our mental health, said Mastro. “More often than not, our physical state is the manifestation of our overall thinking and state of mind,” he said. “Working from the inside out as well as having a commitment to a healthy lifestyle is imperative for long-term success.”

“For me, a long-term commitment to exercise has become a necessity,” said Mastro. “I know how different I feel when I don’t get my workout. The hormone changes, the sluggishness and at 46 years of age, I feel like my whole body isn’t properly lubricated when I miss a workout,” he said. “So it is important to make a commitment to exercise every day. It’s actually easier to make it a daily habit than a twice-a-week deal.”

Shane Warren, a registered psychotherapist and certified practicing hypnotherapist that uses VRT, says that he is a great believer in people achieving almost anything if they live with simple lifestyle principles that include a healthy diet, gentle exercise and a positive frame of mind.

Warren, who first experienced VRT 3-years ago, says that he uses a combination of VRT and hypnosis to help his patients reach their health and fitness goals.

“I was first introduced to VRT in 2009 and I was excited by the mix of hypnosis script with complimentary visuals,” said Warren. “We live in such a visual society now. So, I gave it a go and found it worked very well,” he said. “It helped my clients who needed motivation to get active.”

“VRT and hypnosis communicate to the sub-conscious brain, which, in turn, helps the conscious brain to make healthier choices,” said Warren. “This also helps to bring forward some of the adverse emotions and beliefs that have been holding people back from losing weight,” he said. “Food is often used as a tool to push emotion down and VRT helps to holt that habit. Then therapists, such as me, can assist to alter the negative emotions and beliefs, which then makes weight loss long-term.”

Working out 20 to 30 minutes a day is Warren’s way of maintaining his own health and fitness levels. His focus is on a sound mind and body.

“I’m a swimmer, jogger and yoga guy,” said Warren. “These keep my mind in focus because it is more than exercise,” he said. “For example, I hate jogging but so too does one of my closest friends, so we jog together three nights a week. When we jog we give each other 10 minutes to bitch while the other listens, then we swap over. This way we are debriefing our minds and also exercising our bodies.”

Mind debriefing is a process that allows VRT users to overcome their mental challenges says Daniela Romano, author of  a virtual reality therapy report published in the journal of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology in 2005.

Romano says in her paper that VRT is an emerging and effective technological application that exposes patients to stimuli in a controllable environment.

This treatment, according to Romano, allows the patient to focus and teaches them new skills virtually. However, there is a downside.

“Prolonged immersion in computer-generated worlds causes what is generally referred to as VR sickness. The reported symptoms are vertigo, motion sickness, flashbacks, spontaneous seizures, and excessively nervous and antisocial behavior. VR sickness usually occurs after an exposure of 30 minutes or more,” Romano said in her report. This is why it is important that sessions are not too lengthy.

S2H Replay is the ‘Be Fit’ Incentive of the 21st Century

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NEWS FEATURE: 

Being inactive and consuming a poor diet are the two main lifestyle risks that contribute to obesity in Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 90 percent of Australians have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake and some 70 percent lead sedentary or inactive lifestyles.

Maree Mamo, general manager for Rewarding Health, the Australian distributor for the S2H Replay and Step systems, believes that the answer to getting Australians ‘off the couch’ is to reward them for their activity. Mamo says she has done this by introducing the Replay and Step into Australian culture.

“It’s all about providing motivation to get off the couch and get active,” said Mamo. “The more active you are, the more rewards you earn. Rewarding Health is excited by the potential that the $39.95 Replay and Step can have on decreasing the overweight rate in Australia, as well as making sport even more rewarding,” she said.

The S2H Replay and Step are two revolutionary devices developed in America. These devices, which are bright and colourful, record physical activity, and after 60 minutes of movement the device displays a code that the user then uploads to an online account. These points then accumulate and, later, they can be redeemed for rewards such as gift cards and goods from major Australian retailers.

Retailers that are in on the act include Myers, JB Hifi, EB Games, Target, Officeworks, and David Jones says Mamo, who brought the S2H Replay and Step to Australia because she wanted to motivate others, especially those she loved.

“A person close to my heart, like many others his age, spends a lot of his time in front of a screen,” said Mamo. Be it the computer, game console, phone, or TV. Technology is certainly a part of life, but unfortunately it has contributed too many of us, especially young people, losing their battle with balance between inactivity and physically activity,” she said. “We, who love them, want them to be healthy and fit, but we struggle with how to motivate them. My personal experience is why I feel so passionate about S2H Replay and Step and why I am proud to bring these products to Australia.”

“The Replaydetects and measures physical activity, and then, it produces a code, which can be uploaded online to receive points. The Step, on the other hand, measures the number of footsteps taken, and it is great for those that prefer to walk. Points can then be redeemed online for cool gift cards, products and prizes,” said Mamo.

“The S2H rewards program takes the things young people enjoy, and turns them into motivation to get physically active,” she said. “Whether your loved one likes video games, toys, books or clothes, those items now become the motivator to help them get active.”

“Rewarding Health is proud to be the exclusive Australian distributor bringing the Replay, and soon the Step, to families nationwide.”

Mamo feels that the S2H Replay and Step will provide Australians with the extra motivation that they need to get active.

Dr Peter Dingle, a retired professor who holds a Bachelor of Education, and Science with Honours, says that health is the most important thing we have. Without it, says Dingle, we have nothing. Even a small decline in our health limits us and detracts from our life.

Dingle says that his drive to educate on better ways to live is driven by misinformation.

“There is so much wrong information out there,” said Dingle. “Starting with the food pyramid, right through to weight control and cholesterol. You need to know what is right and how to maintain your health,” he said.

“I have researched goals and motivation for 20 years, and when I explain the basics and why it works, not to mention the benefits of all aspects of health, it becomes a big motivator,” he said. “Diets kill. A nutritional program heals.”

“For most people there is no such thing as balance,” said Dingle. “We are designed to work 3-4 hours a day, but often work more than 12 when we include office and home work. I see health more as life integration so that you are able to build your health during your day,” he said. “You don’t just do exercise at the end of the day when you’re already tired. Instead, always have healthy food, not what the ads tell you are healthy. Always look for an opportunity for some walking, for some quiet time, and for being healthy.”

Professor Dingle, an advocate for sustainable health, feels that a mixture of exercise and good foods will lead to a healthy lifestyle and a long-lived life.

“I walk a lot, jog a bit, and surf a bit, play basketball a bit. Do lots of bits and always have healthy food available,” said Dingle. “I have quiet time every day for gratitude and to help create that life that I want.”

He also recommends drinking lots of water and no soft or energy drinks, and walking often.

“Walk everywhere you can. Build it into your day,” said Dingle. “Eat fresh, eat raw, as much as you can, “he said. “ Raw salads are full of enzymes and add to your energy. Eat the salad before you eat any processed foods.”

This advice, coupled with the S2H Replay and Step, could lead to a healthier more active Australia, and see the younger and older generations enjoying more quality time as they take control of their lifestyles and develop their health and fitness levels.

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