Vitamin D Breakdown

Vitamin D Breakdown

Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more common. We probably know of at least one friend who has been diagnosed as deficient by their doctor but why does it occur so frequently and is it something we need to worry about?

What is Vitamin D?
Our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D when we’re in the sun as our skin responds to sunlight. It’s a vital vitamin that helps our bodies regulate calcium and phosphorus uptake as well as facilitating normal immune function. This helps us maintain strong bones, muscle and overall health.

How much Vitamin D do I need?
Adults require 5 micrograms of Vitamin D until about aged 50, after which we need about 10 micrograms which then increases to 15 micrograms at 70 years and older. Children need 5 micrograms until aged 18.

What happens if I don’t have enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to Rickets (soft bones) in children and Osteoporosis in adults as Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb Calcium. Studies have also linked other illnesses to Vitamin D deficiency including an increased risk of Cardio Vascular Disease, increased risk of cognitive impairment while children can experience severe asthma.

Vitamin D has also shown to have a potentially protective role. Some studies show that Vitamin D could play a role in preventing and or treating type 1 and 2 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis and hypertension.

Where do I find Vitamin D?
While some foods have Vitamin D, they usually don’t have nearly enough for our daily recommended amount. Foods such as fish, eggs and margarine (with added Vitamin D) are good sources, but still don’t contain enough for us to get our daily required amount. The best way to make sure your body has enough Vitamin D is to head outside.

Of course this needs to be done being sun smart, as the same UV rays that provide our bodies with Vitamin D can also cause skin cancer. Here in Australia you only need about 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure in summer. Avoid times when the UV is at it’s highest, so early morning is best. While banned in Australia, I know some countries still allow sun beds or tanning beds. Never use these period as they increase your risk to develop skin cancer. Rather spend a few minutes outside first thing in the morning watering the plants or enjoying a cup of tea. Don’t spend extended periods in the sun as this will increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Chat to your Dr to see what they recommend first.

Supplements?
If going in the sun for a few minutes isn’t an option for you, your Dr can recommend some supplements for you to take. First consult your Dr before you start taking Vitamin D supplements as taking too much can lead to some unpleasant side effects. Most people don’t require supplementation though, so chat to your Dr to see if they think you require supplementation first.

Who’s at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency.
These include:
– Being indoors most days
– Having more melanin in your skin
– People who wear clothing that cover their whole or most of their body
– People who take medication that can affect Vitamin D metabolism
– Being obese
– People with a disease or disability that affect Vitamin D metabolism such as renal disease, end stage liver disease and fat malabsorption syndromes such as coeliac disease, cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Summary:
– Vitamin D can be found in some foods such as fish, eggs and margarine and milk products to which Vitamin D has been added, but isn’t enough to meet our daily requirements.
– Sunshine is a great source of Vitamin D, but be sun smart.
– Supplementation can be a great option for people who can’t go out in the sun and expose their skin to UV. Talk to your Dr about supplementation if you fall into that category.
– Several factors can put you at risk for developing Vitamin D deficiency.
– Vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones, muscles and an immune system.
– If you think you’re at risk of a Vitamin D deficiency, book an appointment with your Dr so he can schedule the correct tests for you.

A Safe, Healthy Halloween

A Safe, Healthy Halloween

This year’s Halloween celebrations might be looking a little different than usual. With Covid-19 it’s important to keep everyone safe, which means going trick or treating might not be an option where you live. Parents are also worried each year about the amount of lollies (or candy if you’re not from Australia) kids consume during the night.

This year I thought I’d share some fun Halloween activities and sugary alternatives for you to try. Who knows, maybe you’ll start a new family tradition?

Activities:
Kids (and those young at heart) love to go trick or treating, but unfortunately this year going door to door might not be the best option. That doesn’t mean the kids need to miss out on the fun. Let the kids still dress up in their costumes and decorate a designated area (either inside or outside) where they can enjoy some fun activities. If you have some close friends or family in your bubble invite them around to join in the fun if rules allow, alternatively set up an online Halloween party.

One of the tradition activities for Halloween is bobbing for apples. Get a big enough plastic container for each child and fill it with water and some apples. You can even add some for the adults too.

Create a little scavenger hunt through your home or your garden and hide some treats. A good mix of healthier home made options with some of their favourite sweets is a good idea. They get to go on a little adventure, have fun in the process and get their delicious treats.

Set up a Halloween movie night. After finishing finding their treats, why not watch some of their favourite Halloween inspired movies. Popcorn is also a much healthier alternative to the bags full of lollies they’d normally bring home.

Organise socially distancing trick or treating with your neighbours or friends. Set up a little treat station with small paper bags filled with delish treats for the kids. When they pop round, you can still see and chat to each other from a safe distance and each child can take one little bag with their treats inside which is a much more hygienic option. Arrange a time so slot for each neighbour or friend so all the kids get the opportunity to go trick or treating.

Treats:
Why not make a Halloween themed dinner? There are so many creative and amazing recipes out there, but you don’t need to make it complicated. Some home made pizza with healthy toppings to make a spooky picture work just as well. I’ve made some stuffed carved capsicums before (wish I could say it was for kids, but it was for me. Grownups can love Halloween too) and I’ve also seen some a great idea for healthy, batty nachos. You can use the linked recipes as inspiration and make your own healthy creations.

Another great option is to make bliss balls and then use thin liquorice or pretzels as the legs. The Internet is filled with some amazing, creative and easy recipes on how to create both sweet and savoury Halloween meals and treats that will appeal to everyone. Prevention has a list of awesome recipes here.

Naturally the kids will be disappointed if they don’t get any sweet treats. There’s really no need to worry about a little indulgence one night of the year. Provided they eat a healthy, balanced diet most of the time, having the odd night where they get to enjoy some of their favourite treats won’t be the end of the world.

The Switch Witch:
This is a recent addition to Halloween and one I think is absolutely brilliant. Parents get their kids to swap a portion of their treats for a surprise gift. The gift is usually a book they’ve been wanting or a small stuffed animal or maybe a game. Nothing too expensive. If they don’t want to swap, then no present. Get them to leave the treats they’ve decided to swap somewhere that you can access easily and just swap it for their present before they wake up the next morning.

I hope this gives you a few ideas to start with for Halloween this year and inspires you to create a fun, safe and memorable day.

Delicious and easy to make Rajma

It’s cold. It’s rainy. It’s the perfect time for comfort food that warms you up. Enter my super easy super quick Rajma.

Ingredients:
Cooked brown basmati rice (or which ever rice you prefer)
1 Brown onion
2 Cloves of garlic minced
1 Can of diced tomatoes
2 Cans of red kidney beans, washed and drained
1 to 2 Heaped teaspoons of tomato paste (to your taste)
1 And a half teaspoon of Rajma spice mix (you can make your own or buy premixed spices at your local Indian grocery shop)
Handful of coriander leaves if you like the taste
Dash of olive oil

For additional heat:
4 Green chillies chopped
1 Tablespoon red chili powder

Cooking:
Cook your preferred rice to your method.
In a medium pot, add your olive oil, garlic, onion and chillies (if you opted for them) and cook until the onions are light brown.
Add in your Rajma spice, red chili powder if you opted for it, tinned tomatoes and cook for a few minutes stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Add your tomato paste and mix it in thoroughly.
Now add your red kidney beans and stir it into the mix. If the mix is a little dry you can add some water. It all depends on how much juice is in your tinned tomatoes. Add water to make sure the beans are just covered by the mix.
Cook on medium to low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add a little bit more water if the mix starts to get too dry.
Remove from heat and let it sit for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Add your coriander leaves to your pot and then serve with your rice.

The great thing about recipes is that you can adjust and experiment to suit your own tastes. I was inspired by a recipe I saw in my Bollywood Cookbook a friend gave me for my birthday one year (yes, I love Bollywood and delicious curries, so this is the best of both worlds!) The original is from Bollywood actress Preity Zinta but would normally take me a few hours to make. I wanted something quick, easy and adjustable based on whether I had guests who didn’t like their food too hot. This is what I came up with. Let me know how you like it and how you tweak it to make it your own.

How to help your immune system this winter

We’re right in the start of winter and you would have noticed a few co-workers already succumbing to winter bugs. You would also have seen a sudden increase in “immune booster” products being advertised to us, but do they even work?

I thought I’d share a few scientifically proven ways you can help keep your immune system healthy and balanced this winter while addressing a few myths at the same time.

Boosting your immune system
We’ve all heard about boosting our immune system, but is that even possible? Our immune system is quite complex consisting of hundreds of different cells doing a variety of different jobs. It consists out of the innate response (which identifies unfriendly bugs often leading us to have a fever or feeling under the weather) and the acquired response (which swoops in and battles against the unfriendly bugs). So the question is, what exactly are these products claiming to boost? Is it antibodies, or white cells or nothing really? Scientifically speaking, you can’t really “boost” your immune system. You can however try to keep things in balance and make some lifestyle and dietary changes that will help you have a healthy immune system.

Supplements
Supplements only work when you have a poor diet and find yourself deficient. Studies have shown that taking supplements if you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet won’t improve your immune system. Taking high dosages of vitamins can actually have an adverse effect and can lead to toxicity, especially in vitamin D and A.

What about herbal supplements like Echinacea? Unfortunately there just haven’t been enough studies to support the claims that herbs have a boosting effect on the immune system. Some of the studies have also been criticised for being too small or for being badly designed, which means they don’t supply us with enough supporting evidence.

Probiotics fall in the same category as herbal supplements. Scientists have started to look at the role our gut bacteria plays on our overall health, but it’s still early days and currently we can’t conclusively state that taking probiotics as a supplement will help boost the immune system. At the moment eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in fibre is a scientifically proven way to keep the gut healthy and as a result, help keep your immune system healthy. As more research is done in this area over the next few years we might be able to understand better what effect taking a probiotic supplement might have on our immune system.

Exercise
Staying active especially as the days become darker and colder can be a challenge. But it’s one of the ways you can help your immune system. Exercise helps to keep blood pressure and body weight under control. Working out also helps protect the body against some diseases. So instead of hitting the snooze button and sleeping in, get up and get moving.

Sleep
Sleep in general won’t help improve your immune system, but getting enough restorative sleep will help keep your immune system healthy. Most adults these days get less than 7 hours sleep a night, which doesn’t leave much time for restorative sleep. A few tips include making sure you switch all blue light appliances off at least 30 minutes before bed (this includes your mobile phone), winding down in bed with a good book, meditation or a relaxing bath and make sure you don’t drink too much alcohol as it can impact your sleep quality.

Diet
Raw food diets, juice cleanses and detox diets are fad diets. Despite what they claim, they won’t help keep your immune system healthy. You need to make sure you’re giving your body all the nutrients it needs and the best way to do it is by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Focus on incorporating a wide range of fruit, vegetables and fibre rich grains and pulses. This will make sure you get all the micronutrients your body needs to remain healthy. Make sure you limit your intake of processed foods and red meat.

Conclusion

If you do have a compromised immune system, make sure you chat to your GP about steps to take to help protect you against bugs this winter. There’s so much misinformation dressed up as science floating around on the internet and it can be tricky trying to sort fact from fiction. Often times, having a healthy body is usually the answer and it doesn’t require fancy, expensive lattes (although they are pretty), gruelling diets or pricy pills. While it’s not very sexy, a balanced wholefood mainly plant-based diet combined with exercise is one of the best ways to take care of your body and make sure your immune system remains healthy.

Decadent Chocolate Brownie Bites

I am a total chocoholic, but I’m also a bit of a chocolate snob. It needs to be delicious and rich. Often though, the chocolates we buy in the supermarket is filled with ingredients not so good for us. Enter my Decadent Chocolate Brownie Bites.

I was trying to find something that was healthier than your average chocolate bar, but consisted out of whole foods and would hit the spot when I crave chocolate.

The great thing about these bites are that I find I only need to eat one tiny square and my craving is gone. Because they’re made out of whole foods, they’re also very filling.

Ingredients:
1 Cup Cashew
1 Cup Almonds
1 Cup Cocoa Powder (this is what makes it so chocolaty)
1 Cup Dates
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
Water to be added to your preferred consistency.

I blitz up my almonds, cashews and dates in my food processor.
Next I add the cup of cocoa powder and vanilla essence and blitz it all together. It should be a loose, semi powdery consistency.
Now I slowly add a little bit of filtered water at a time while it’s blitzing until it all starts to stick together. You don’t want to make the “batter” too runny, it needs to be sticky.

Line a dish or rectangular pan with baking paper and spread out the mixture. I like to spread it to about 1.5cm thickness.
Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or so.
It should have hardened a bit and will be easy to take out of the container.

Remove the baking paper and cut into small, square bites (I like mine to be about 3cm). You can make them bigger if you like, but remember they’re meant to be a treat.

Store them in an air-tight container in the fridge and they should keep for about 2 weeks (they never last that long though, we eat them way before then).

If you make these, let me know how they turned out for you. If you tweak them let me know what you added. I sometimes add some chopped up pecans or walnuts and stir them in just before I spread the mixture out into the pan. Enjoy!