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Supporting your Immunity

Supporting Immunity

Our immune system is continuously interacting with our internal environment, protecting us from our external environment and provides the amazing inherent knowledge to sense the difference between friend and foe! There are many things that suppress our immune system and in a modern world we are subjected to them on a regular basis, they include: aging, flying, allergies (pollen, dust, food), chemicals in our environment and food, alcohol, drugs, emotional extremes, infections (viral, bacterial, yeast, fungal and parasitic), high fat diets, excess sugar, poor quality sleep, malnutrition (despite living in a world of plenty!), surgery and of course, stress!

Our immune system is comprised of many components including our organs, bone marrow, cells, antibodies and chemicals and of course, all the nutrients that nourish and produce them. The immune system provides both innate (inborn) non-specific immunity and specific learned or acquired immunity.  Specific immunity depends on humoral (chemicals and antibodies carried in the bloodstream) and cellular (white blood cells) responses, which can produce immediate or delayed reactions.

Consider food allergies as they can trigger an immune response leading to inflammation and damage to the gut lining allowing undigested food particles through which the immune system considers a “foreign body” and consequently sends out the army to conquer them! Around 80% of our immune system is present in the gut and on high alert!

Be conscious of FAT choices: Saturated and hydrogenated fats and excess polyunsaturated fats can stimulate production of the prostaglandins and interleukins which encourage inflammation.  Increasing the ratio of essential fatty acid (EFA’s) in your diet will reduce inflammation in the gut and elsewhere in the body,  support cardiovascular health, support your liver and aid digestion, increase energy, improve memory and support the nervous system. EFA’s also synthesize prostaglandins which aid the body’s healing mechanisms, reduce inflammation and strengthen skin cells. So try to include more good sources in your diet, such as oily types of fish (salmon, herring, anchovy, mackerel, tuna), and linseed or flaxseed. Other good sources include walnuts, pecans, and traditional soy products such as tempeh and miso.
Minimise takeaways and processed foods: often contain damaged fats and additives that put extra stress on the immune system and increase inflammation.  Trans fatty acids (TFA’s) encourage “free radicals” in the body, which are molecules with unpaired electrons, charging around like “boy racers” causing cellular damage wherever they choose! Some occur naturally in beef, lamb and dairy fat though the amounts are very small in comparison to what we consume in processed foods. The most dangerous are those that occur when chemically hydrogenated fats and oils are heated to high temperatures. It is wise to keep the temperature as low as is practical and be very quick when cooking with fats and oils.  Aim for no more than once a week.

How to reduce intake of Trans fatty acids:

  • Aoid commercially prepared peanut butter – either make your own or purchase it from a health food shop, if it doesn’t have a pool of oil on top then it has been hydrogenated!
  •  If you use margarine, read labels carefully and use those with the lowest Trans fat content.
  •  Minimise takeaways as much as possible, especially fries from the big chains! Pitango do a great range of organic soups, risottos etc. and are in the chiller at your supermarket – stock up when they are on special so you have something on hand for those nights you don’t feel like cooking.
  •  Minimise margarine, packaged snack food, deep fried foods and commercial baking.

Water, water, water: Build up to an intake of 8-10 glasses daily as water helps to flush out impurities, and with fibre helps to clear the colon of toxic material that we may ingest or that is excreted by our cells, if we eat a good ratio of fats and the cell membrane is flexible!

Eat a rainbow: Lots of coloured vegetables and fruit will provide many vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants to fight free radical damage that puts the immune system under pressure. They also provide valuable fibre to assist removal of toxic waste in the bowel.

Soluble fibre plays an important role is assisting the liver rid the body of excess cholesterol and toxins. Bile (produced by our liver and stored in the gallbladder), contains components to break down fats, hormones already used by the body, heavy metals and toxins that we need to eliminate via the large intestine. If we have sufficient soluble fibre in our diets the bile forms a bond with this special fibre and is carried off to our large intestine and excreted. This is where the insoluble fibre comes into the picture – we need this type of indigestible fibre to assist the feces form a pliable mass that moves easily along the intestinal walls collecting carcinogenic impurities and anything else detrimental along the way for easy removal from the body.
Soluble fibre: psyllium, prunes, figs, mango, slippery elm, seaweed, linseed, legumes, oat bran, rice bran, barley, cooked apple and mushrooms.
Insoluble fibre: wholegrains, most fruits and vegetables (note that legumes, nuts and seeds have both types of fibre).
In the colon, probiotic bacteria make important fatty acids from the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. Eating dietary fibre (especially soluble fibre), provides necessary food for the bacteria to survive. Research shows the fatty acids made by probiotics help keep immune cells vigilant. If the probiotics decline, so does the supply of the fatty acids, and your overall health.

Sugar: cell mediated immunity is depressed by 50% for 120 minutes after sugar ingestion (75 grams). A 100g portion of sugar can significantly reduce the capacity of white blood cells to engulf bacteria. Maximum immune suppression occurs one to two hours after ingestion and remains suppressed for up to five hours after feeding. When you eat sugar remember your immune system slows to a crawl! Try alternatives such as stevia, xylitol, good quality maple syrup (which contains some valuable minerals), fresh and dried fruit, frozen bananas blended are great on desserts or summer cereals, honey (contains valuable enzymes if used raw), palm sugar (contains calcium and iron – grate to use, available in blocks at health food stores).

Include the following in your diet:

Active Elements 7.1 is a great preventative as well supporting us during times of illness

Garlic: Anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic and anti-viral, anti-oxidant properties, Improves circulation and immunity, sulphur content aids liver detoxification, calms NFK-B a dangerous free radical, contains germanium which assists immunity and cellular oxygenation.

Ginger: anti-inflammatory, aids circulation, antioxidants. Great in stir fries, marinades and pilafs etc. Slice some fresh ginger and simmer for 15 mins or so for a lovely warming tea in winter, serve with honey and a squeeze of lemon juice. Keep in a zip lock bag in the freezer which makes it very east to grate.

Shitake Mushrooms: Contain Vit C, germanium, iron, high in selenium- stimulates antibody production, strengthens cellular immunity, activates NK lymphocytes and phagocytes, and prevents CVD & cancer. Contains lentinan a polysaccharide that stimulates production of reticular immune cells that can ingest bacteria, particulate matter and worn out and cancerous cells, reduce inflammation. Usually found in supermarkets/health food stores dried – when dried they contain vit D too! If using dried keep a few soaking in water, in a glass jar in the fridge and use as required. Gently squeeze to remove some moisture and slice and add to any dish where you would usually use mushrooms – stir fries, casseroles, soups, omelets, rice or pasta dishes, in a hot drink made with miso paste and some seaweed flakes. Use the liquid too in soups casseroles etc. Dried shitake will keep in a cool dry place for up to year.

Red pepper, melon, paw paw, strawberries, Brussel sprouts, citrus fruit or juice, kiwifruit, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, blackcurrants: good amounts of Vitamin C that acts as an antioxidant, inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells, stimulated interferon production – anti-cancer, increase iron absorption – important for immunity, with bioflavonoids is anti-inflammatory and provides cellular defence, increases phagocyte (cells that ingest the nasties!) function.

Liver, fish liver oil, butter, cream and egg yolks as they contain preformed Vitamin A or retinal, which is the main animal source of Vit A

Provitamin A (mainly in the form of beta-carotene), is found in yellow and orange coloured fruits and vegetables as well as leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin A stimulates growth of the base layer of the skin cells. It helps skin cells differentiate normally (that just means it helps them grow from less mature cells to grown up ones without abnormalities!), and gives them their structural integrity or strength. It does this for both the external skin cells that we can see as well as for our body’s inner skin – the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, intestinal tract, respiratory lining and the bladder lining. Through ensuring normal growth Vitamin A helps to protect these areas from cancer cell development. It also encourages healthy secretions which help us fight off environmental pollutants and infectious agents.

Vitamin A is another anti-oxidant and protects the body (especially cell membranes and tissue linings), from free radicals by neutralizing them! If we are deficient in Vit A this encourages a loss of Vit C from the body. Deficiency manifests as lowered immunity, ear problems, fatigue and acne.

Seafood, especially oysters, prawns, poultry, wholegrains, shitake mushrooms, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds as these foods contain zinc. Zinc acts as an anti-oxidant (as part of superoxide dimutase or SOD – one of the anti-oxidant super heroes!), and when paired with vitamin E speeds wound healing and prevents scarring. Zinc boosts your white blood cells which helps your immune system fight any invaders. This is a vital nutrient for the metabolism of EFA’s. Zinc is thought to help utilize and maintain body levels of Vitamin A which aids the maintenance of healthy skin cells and generate new ones. Zinc aids collagen formation too which is its role in wound healing.

Nuts, wheat germ, whole grains, soy beans for their vitamin E content. Vit E is another powerful antioxidant that protects our lipids and in particular our cell membranes from free radical damage. It enhances cell mediated immunity and assists white blood cells to do their job. Vit E assists the absorption of fat, aids circulation and muscle function, protects the immune, nervous and reproductive systems and prevents the adverse oxidative modification of LDL cholesterol.

Lifestyle

Exercise: Particularly important for our lymphatic system that has no pump of its own and relies purely on muscle activity and exercise to get the lymphatic fluid circulating. Lymph nodes are often swollen and sore and easily felt when an infection is present. These nodes, and there are 100’s throughout the body, are filled with foreign bodies and proteins that will eventually be dumped into the bloodstream so they can be packed up and eradicated.  A gentle walk can often make you feel better if you feel something coming on. A good test if you are feeling unwell is to go for a gentle walk and if after 10 minutes you don’t feel any better, then return home and REST!!

Hygiene: Particularly important during the winter months to minimise exposure to pathogens. Wash hands well before preparing food or eating, after touching any open wounds or sores, after going to the toilet, changing nappies, cleaning, playing with pets, gardening etc. It is not so much what we use to wash our hand but how long we wash them for. Use the 20+20 rule: wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and hot water and dry for 20 seconds with a clean, dry towel or paper towel. DO NOT share toothbrushes, drink bottles, food containers, cutlery etc. with others to avoid the spread of pathogens. Keep toothbrushes in a cupboard and always close the toilet lid before flushing to prevent the 20,000 or so minute droplets from covering towels and surfaces.

Fine Dining: Take a deep breath before dining, and ensure you are feeling relaxed. Avoid eating if you are upset or angry. Chew thoroughly and slowly to encourage sufficient secretion of digestive juices in the mouth and stomach to break down the food ingested. This will encourage maximum digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients to support your immune system.

Stress Management: Take time out – yes, give yourself permission for some “me time” without any to do lists! Spend ten minutes in nature or somewhere quiet, just “being”. Practice breathing exercises or meditation, yoga or your favourite exercise. Plan you day and schedule in “my time” just as you would any other appointment. Ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Spend time with family and friends and enjoy laughter – it releases endorphins which lift your mood!

 

 

 

Active Elements

Active Elements Role in Sports

Active Elements Role in Sports by Dr. Lisa Williams

The power of the Active Elements Minerals and of correct mineral supplementation in general, has been most exemplified for me in relation to exercise and sport. 
I like to keep myself fit and I run all year around, with pretty much annual forays into more intense training territory when I get these crazy big ideas to do an event like a half marathon…..
I have always played sport and kept fit so I thought my energy levels were pretty good. However when I started taking the minerals – my mineral signature is 3.1 + 2.1 - I was amazed at the difference. I started taking them initially 3x daily. One week later I returned from my usual run and I was astonished to find that the normal fatigue I had after a run was completely gone. Nothing. I felt fresh. Energized. I could have happily turned around and gone again (but I didn’t).

It turns out that the sense of fatigue I had felt and put down to normal post-exercise tiredness - or perhaps to the feeling that I needed to be fitter – was more a result of depletion. I hadn’t noticed anything wrong as such; I was healthy and I was still able to complete the run, but this sub-par feeling of fatigue had crept up on me without my realizing it. Knowing what the feeling is, the difference between a normal tiredness from exertion and a depleted feeling can be crucial to monitoring our own health and wellbeing. Now that I know the difference, I can keep an eye on it.

In addition to the maintenance dose, I have also utilized the minerals effectively in targeted ways to support myself in training for the 21km distance.
Firstly, the 3.1 blend can effectively and completely eradicate sore muscles associated with over exertion – lactic acid build up. That “next day” feeling many of us know all too well of what happens to unfit muscles that are pushed beyond their normal range of use. Painful to contract, stiff as boards and about as flexible - it can make the day after exercise very slow and tentative!

And can be even worse on day 2…. 

This acidic build up is a result of the incomplete metabolism of glucose in the muscles, which happens when the muscle has a serious lack of oxygen. When oxygen is plentiful, we get complete breakdown of glucose and maximize the energy we get from it – happy muscles. The more fit we are, the better our body’s oxygen carrying ability, the more oxygen is available to the muscles, and the less lactic acid build up occurs.  But even fit muscles can get a bit tender with over exertion, as those acidic waste metabolites build up in the tissues.

The 3.1 blend can completely alleviate that sore lactic acid muscle feeling. It contains sodium phosphate, which works to clear the lactic acid from the muscles by acting as a pH buffering system. The sodium takes the phosphate into the tissues, and the phosphate forms an acid/base buffer. The way that I have used it is to take one tablet every hour for at least 4 hours once you have finished exercising – once you have that dawning feeling of “ooh this is going to hurt tomorrow”. Regular doses post exercise prevents the soreness the next day! If it is too late and the next day soreness has already set in, you can still assist the process by taking them hourly and the muscles will ease through the day.

The 3.1 blend also has the benefit of magnesium phosphate and potassium phosphate – both vital components of nerve transmission and muscle contraction and therefore good at ensuring we don’t get cramp. If you are cramping, then there is likely an imbalance in the minerals associated with the contraction and – perhaps more importantly – relaxation of muscle contraction.

Magnesium ions are vital for the relaxation part of the muscle contraction – relaxation cycle and without it the muscle gets stuck in the contracted position – a very painful process!

It should be noted however, that calcium and sodium and potassium are also involved in muscle function, so a balanced combination of all of these mineral salts is needed in our diet. Taking a combination Active Elements blend like 3.1 along with a silica/calcium fluoride mineral combination (either 2.1 or 4.3) provides all the minerals we need to provide that balance. For muscle contraction we get valuable calcium, but also silica for the elasticity and strength of all the connective tissues.

Finally, in terms of training and exercise demands on the body, magnesium is vital for the body’s “engine room” - cell metabolism. Many of the cell’s bread & butter metabolic processes that provide energy and building blocks for the body - like making proteins, cell division/growth and repairing tissues, digesting food – need magnesium. Providing magnesium as a phosphate also delivers vital phosphate to the cell. Phosphate is part of the cell’s energy currency, ATP, without which we soon experience fatigue and the body is under stress to cope with any demands on its performance.

Both magnesium and phosphate can become highly depleted when exercising intensely or for long periods, which is where the fatigue comes from. Providing magnesium for all those enzyme processes, and for the pathways that break down glucose to provide energy; and at the same time providing phosphate for the ATP building/breakdown cycles, gives you the juice to keep running. And, I have found that taking the 3.1 tablets during running, whether a race or training, boosts my energy and avoids any depletion. In addition, the boost provided is instant owing to the homeopathic component of the formulation.

 

Sugar - Exfoliant!

Having written an article on sugar and refreshed my memory about all of the reasons we should avoid white sugar, I recently enjoyed sugar in a whole new light. I was lucky enough to have been given a voucher for a body treatment which included a massage, a body scrub and a spa bath - utter bliss! What was in the body scrub? You guessed it - sugar. Who knew it was a such a great exfoliant?

We all need to take time out for ourselves, especially at this time of year when we are all just a little bit over winter! We can't all regularly indulge in gorgeous spa treatments but there is nothing to stop us replicating them at home. Run a bath, throw in some flower heads or petals, light some candles and indulge in a body scrub. Soak in your luxurious bath then follow this up by moisturising with some almond oil and a few drops of your favourite essential oil or body lotion and a glass of water in a stemmed glass, yes, you know you need it on the inside too!

You can capture that feeling of enjoying some pampering and time out on a more regular basis without blowing the budget. Check out  "Bathroom Relaxation"  on this website.

What does a bath have to do with nutrition? Our body is strongly influenced by our state of mind and reducing stress not only improves digestion but puts less pressure on the cardiovascular, nervous and immune systems.

Constant stress can exacerbate many chronic conditions. Taking time out is not something to feel guilty about, it should be treated as part of your overall health plan!

I digress - if you feel you are consuming too much sugar have a look at the article on my website for some healthier alternatives. We can still enjoy the sweet things in life and provide some nutrients at the same time.There is still some debate around sugar being an addictive substance - sugar is a carbohydrate and these appear to encourage addictive tendencies.

The NZ Medical Journal recently cited the case of an obese woman who experienced "withdrawal syndrome" for about a month after giving up sugar and white flour. Read the article.

For those with a sweet tooth, don't despair!  Go ahead and enjoy that favourite treat, just aim to keep it on a weekly, rather than daily basis.

Avocados

July 2011

Wow, we planted an avocado tree 2 years ago and were told that it would be at least 4 years before we saw any fruit. We are just finishing off the last of 13 gorgeous avocados – so perfect inside it is almost unbelievable, probably due to the lack of handling they have been subjected to. A few were given away with much trepidation, would they actually ripen? Indeed they did!

Avocados, along with eggs, received a bad rap for quite some time a few years ago but they are such a wonderful nutrient rich food. They make a great spread to replace butter or margarine, can be thrown in a smoothie, made into a spicy guacamole, sliced or mashed on toast, added to sandwiches or wraps and are lovely in salads. For the very brave there is even a chocolate sauce recipe at the end of this article containing avocado!

In fact, recent research suggests that the addition of avocado to a salad actually increases the uptake of two important anti-oxidants, lycopene and beta-carotene. The highest concentration of these wonderful antioxidants in the darkest flesh closest to the skin so it is best to carefully quarter an avocado and then peel the skin off so that none of the flesh remains, yes, this does depend on the fruit being the at the perfect stage of ripeness!

Their bad rap did indeed come from the fact they do contain unusually high amounts of fat for a fruit. (Around 85% of calories are in the form of fat). However, the fats that reside in the beautiful creamy flesh of an avocado are very beneficial to our health.

Phytosterols account for a large proportion of the fat (phytosterols are plant alcohols and were very high in early diets but now our Western diet is relatively low in them). They discourage cholesterol being absorbed by the intestines and food containing phytosterols appear to prevent cancer though it has not been determined whether it is the phytosterols that are responsible or other compounds found in plant foods containing phytosterols.

These phytosterols include beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol which all contribute to keeping inflammation under control throughout the body. The anti-inflammatory benefits of these avocado fats are particularly well-documented with problems involving arthritis and some anti-inflammatory components of the avocado are credited with preventing arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  The phytosterols, in particular, (stigmasterol, campesterol, and beta-sitosterol) discourage excess pro-inflammatory PGE2 (prostaglandin E2) production by the connective tissue.

The next beneficial fat in avocado are known as polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFA’s) which are found in abundance in sea vegetables but are unusual in land grownplants. These PFA’s also provide anti inflammatory benefits.

There is also an unusually high ratio of a fatty acid called oleic acid, over half of the fat in an avocado. Quite a similar make up to olives and olive oil. These fatty acids aid absorption of fat soluble nutrients such as the Vitamins A, D, E & K and carotenoids. This monounsaturated fatty acid has been identified as a player in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin K, potassium, folate, Vitamins B6 and C, copper and fibre all add to the healthy status of this lovely fruit also known as an alligator pear!

Avocado contains a unique 7-carbon sugar, (mannoheptulose), which takes the body longer to break down therefore is excellent for regulating blood sugar levels (thus improving energy levels and mood). The fats in avocado are moisturizing for the skin and aid cognitive function possibly due to the fact that the fatty acids help keep brain cell membranes healthy.

The unusual mix of both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients contribute to the anit-cancer properties in an avocado. Risk factors for cancer proliferation are almost always related to excessive inflammation (related to lack of anti-inflammatory nutrients) and oxidative stress (related to lack of antioxidants). Here is why the avocado story is especially interesting. In healthy cells, avocado works to improve inflammatory and oxidative stress levels. In cancer cells, avocado works to increase oxidative stress and encourage cancer cells into a programmed cell death cycle (apoptosis), lessening the cancer cell proliferation.

This means that avocados appear to selectively increase cancer cells oxidative stress and increase their probability of dying, all the while actively supporting the health of non-cancerous cells by increasing their supply antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. There is still much research to be conducted in this area in relation to humans, but it does lend further weight to the mounting evidence that avocados are indeed a health food and should be consumed in moderation regularly.

Avocados:

  • Contain Anti-inflammatory nutrients
  • Support cardiovascular health
  • Support the fight against cancer
  • Regulate blood sugar levels
  • Supply vitamins and minerals

Guacamole Recipe

3-4 ripe avocados

2 tbsp lemon or lime juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tomato, finely chopped

½ - 1 red onion, finely chopped

Fresh chillis, deseeded and finely chopped, add according to taste!

¾ cup fresh coriander or ¼ tsp ground cumin powder

Blend or mash all together leaving some chunky bits for texture. Serve with pita bread, use as a spread or use on top of Mexican dishes.

Chocolate Dip

1 ripe avocado

1/3 cup cocoa or carob powder

1/3 sweetener such as maple syrup or honey

2 tspn vanilla extract

5 tbspn water

Blend all ingredients except sweetener in a blender and blend until well mixed, slowly add sweetener, taste as you go as you may not need this much. Refrigerate for several hours before serving. Lovely served with a fruit platter.

A good start to eating a rainbow every day!

Brain Health

March, 2011

I do tend to go on and on about taking fish oils supplements and my newsletter was going to be all about brain health and fish oils but I was sidetracked by research that has been published extolling the virtues of fish oil supplements with regard to breast cancer prevention. Though further study needs to undertaken it is an interesting observation.

In NZ breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women and more than 2,600 women are expected to be given such a diagnosis this year. Men are not immune either, although it is fairly rare in the male population, but around 20 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. So that’s another good reason to take fish oils.

Ministry of Health/NZHIS (April 2010). www.moh.govt.nz

Many of are probably aware of some of the benefits associated with good quality fish oil supplements such as:

Improve cardiovascular health (irregular heartbeat, blood clotting, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure)

Lower cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats)

Encourage anti-inflammatory prostaglandins

Assist with structural integrity and flexibility of sperm to achieve fertilisation

Assist with weight loss

Aid depression

Ensure good brain and eye development in the foetus and newborn

Aid cancer prevention

Let’s get back to our brain! It has become evident that even as adults we can grow new brain cells – good news for most of us! The human brain is composed mostly of fat and most of that is DHA or di.................... It makes good sense to replenish our stores of DHA rather than consume fats that actually contribute to the killing off of brain cells. Good quality fish oils can defeat free radicals that destroy brain cells, decrease responses in the immune system that trigger cell damaging inflammation and alter the way neurotransmitters (chemical messengers), behave and even change the physical structure of the actual brain cells or neurons.

A neuron is a fascinating cell made of a round body and nucleus (back to school chemistry!), with a single nerve fibre (axon), and many branch like structures called dendrites, that process messages and send them to the axon where those all important neurotransmitters are stored. When these neurotransmitters are released messages are conveyed across the synapses or cell junctions from one axon to another in a flurry of biochemical electrical activity. This is how our brain cells chat constantly to each other and affect our mood, memory and overall intellect.

All cells, and we have around a hundred trillion of them, need a membrane that is flexible enough to allow nutrients in and toxic waste out, but firm enough to contain the minute factory housed within in each cell. This is particularly important in the brain as the membrane of neurons must be pliable and constantly fluctuating to receive the messages flying across the synapses at lightning speed. The more synapses we have in the brain and the better they communicate, all contributes to increased brain function – even more so than the number of brain cells we have! Here’s where fish oil comes in, one of the most important building blocks for synapses is DHA.

DHA also appears to encourage higher levels of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are linked with depression, suicide, impulsive and even violent behaviour, alcoholism and even some cravings. Good levels regulate mood, sleep, appetite, impulses and reduce anxiety.

Saturated fats are the fats responsible for making the cell membrane hard and inflexible.  Sat fat even contributes to stunted neuron growth and slower learning and intellectual ability. Remember this next time you are considering that drive through for a quick meal!

As with all things in life it is about balance and aiming to obtain the correct ratios of fats is of prime importance. As our brains evolved during prehistoric times the amount of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the diet would have been about equal with a little saturated fat, today the ratio has ballooned to around 20 parts omega 6 to one part omega 3 with ever increasing amounts of saturated fats.  Our brains are not geared up to cope with this imbalance so aiming for a ratio of 4 parts omega 6 to 1 part omega 3 will help to redress this imbalance.

What should you do?

  • Aim to decrease saturated fats, omega 6’s and Trans Fatty Acids.
  • Aim to increase monounsaturated oils and omega 3’s.

Saturated Fats:butter, cream, palm oil, coconut oil, fried foods and takeaways, fat on meat, skin on chicken, full fat dairy, deli meats, commercial cakes, biscuits pastries and confectionery.

Omega 6 Polyunsaturated Fats:sunflower, safflower, soy bean, sesame, cottonseed and grapeseed oils, pine nuts and Brazil nuts.

Trans Fats:margarines and fat spreads (check labels), deep fried fast food, commercial baking – check for the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated on labels. Note that if vegetable oil is stated it means they do not have to specify which oil has been used.

MonounsaturatedFats:Olives and olive oil, avocados, peanuts and peanut oil, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecan nuts, cashews and almonds.

Omega 3 Polyunsaturated Fats:Oily fish – herring, sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna, walnuts, linseed and linseed oil (also known as flaxseed). When it comes to fish the smaller the better as they have had less time to accumulate toxins such as mercury, PCB’s etc.

Of course there is more to brain health than just fish oils – here are a few more things you can include in your life to be as brilliant as you can be!

Increase your antioxidant and vitamin intake – think brightly coloured fruit and vegetables

Increase dark oily fish meals

Add some nuts to your day especially walnuts, almonds and 2 Brazil nuts

Reduce sugar intake

Minimise processed and take away foods

Reduce intake of meat

Exercise REGULARLY physical exercise is great for the brain on many levels but so too is mental exercise try getting dressed in the dark, taking a different route to work, mix up your walking routes, do crosswords or Su Do Ku puzzles, learn a new language or skill and keep up and make new social contacts – have some fun!

Finding the Fun

22 July, 2010

While out walking yesterday morning before the rain started a car came around the corner obviously on the way to drop children at school and one of the children was holding a colourful windmill out the window taking advantage of the wind and the motion of the car. I couldn't help but smile and was grateful for the sense of fun that child had provided.

Too often we get caught up in the rush of day to day life and forget to nuture our inner child and have some fun! As I discovered yesterday you don't even have to make your own fun - just keep an eye open for things going on around you.

Exercise is one of those things that for some is fun on it's own for others it is a chore however you package it! I was reminded how important it is to find the fun on a daily basis whether is be sharing a laugh with someone at the gym, connecting with someone at yoga or enjoying the antics of a fantail on a walk, there is plenty of fun to be had if you are open to it and incorporating some in to your exercise regime might just help you get out there more often.