The Perfect Diet

Atkins, candida, low-fructose, raw food, gluten-free, high protein – I wonder, how many different types of diets exist and which one is perfect for everyone? Some of us have probably tried one, two or all of these diets in a bid to make a change in our health, whether it be for weight loss or to battle illness. Personally, I have dabbled in at least three of these diets over the years and have not found complete success with any of them. But just take a look online and you can be sure to find thousands of people who can advocate for the benefits of each one. At the same time there are thousands of people who claim that none of these diets work. With so many mixed messages, how is someone like me meant to figure out what’s best?

Over years of experimentation with raw food, low carbs, gluten free and the like, I have discovered that there is no popular diet that is perfect for everyone. Β While one diet is perfect for one person, it may be harmful for the next. The problem is, there are so many diets now accessible online that people simply download a plan, follow it exactly and expect results. And they may get those results. But there are always those who don’t and that is because if a diet is not personalised, it is likely to fail. To find the perfect diet for you, it’s about being conscious of how your body responds to certain foods. I discovered early on that dried fruit was a no-go for me when I ate half a bag of dried apricots and ended up doubled over in pain from bloating and gastrointestinal issues. The same thing happens to me when I eat grapes and too much ice-cream. Both dried fruit and grapes are very high in fructose while ice-cream is high in lactose so I put two and two together and decided that I probably have some sort of sugar intolerance. As a result, I Β avoid the kinds of sweet foods which lead to those gastrointestinal issues. Β Interestingly, I have no problems drinking freshly squeezed juice, eating wheat and various other high-sugar fruit and vegetables which may have negative effects for others following a low FODMAPS diet. So it’s really about discovering what works for you.

As a general rule, fresh, unprocessed foods and plenty of water is the foundation of a great diet. From there, it’s all about experimentation to find out what foods and meals work best for your digestive system, energy levels and palate! Recording how your body responds after each meal is a fantastic way to pinpoint some of the foods that could be potentially contributing to great health or ill health. And my final tip: the perfect diet is the one that makes you feel good on the inside and look good on the outside! x

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Mini Coconut Brown Rice Puddings with Fig

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Before a few months ago, I had never eaten a fig. Fresh, dried or otherwise, this fruit always seemed to elude me. I had never seen it in a grocery store until recently and at the occasional time I saw it on a menu, I would ignore it in favour of fruits like pear or apple – safe and delicious! However, I was forced to finally try figs when I went out for breakfast with the BF one day to a hip, little backyard cafe called Cafe Komodo. The fruit from the “pancakes with fruit” I ordered turned out to be dried figs, served with cute pikelet-sized pancakes, maple syrup and a small scoop of ice cream. Granted, it wasn’t the healthiest breakfast I had that week but the dried figs were a perfect addition and from then on, I decided to give figs a fighting chance!

Unfortunately, fresh figs are pretty uncommon in my local grocery stores, so when I found a packet in Woolworths I had to snap it up! I thought my first time trying a fresh fig would be amazing. It was bland and boring! I’m not one to waste though, so I set about discovering all the ways I might cook up the six pint-sized figs before they shrivelled up and died.

So here’s a simple dessert recipe using only a few ingredients! I adapted the recipe from [http://www.tarteletteblog.com/2011/08/recipe-gluten-free-fig-gateau-de-riz.html] – I swapped the brown sugar for rice malt syrup as I am trying to reduce my fructose intake and I used silicon moulds to bake the puddings in for portion control. I also used a steamed sachet of brown rice which only took 90 seconds to steam in the microwave. This takes all the hassle out of cooking rice on the stove if you’re in a hurry! This recipe would probably work with quinoa and chia added in to the rice as well. Overall, these mini desserts are low in fat, sugars and GI and so make a perfect treat for the health-conscious. They are not terribly sweet so I would suggest drizzling a bit of rice malt syrup over them to serve. Hope you enjoy!

Mini Coconut Brown Rice Puddings with Fig (makes 7 small puddings)

Ingredients

1/2 can of full-cream coconut milk

250g cooked brown rice (I used Sunrice Organic Brown Rice Steamed Rice Sachet)

2 eggs

1 tbsp rice malt syrup

2 small figs, sliced into 7

Directions

1. Steam your rice in the microwave if using a rice sachet. Otherwise, just put your cooked brown rice in a bowl.

2. In another bowl, mix the coconut milk, eggs and rice malt syrup until well combined.

3. Pour milk mixture over cooked rice and stir.

4. Pour rice batter into 7 silicon moulds (sit the moulds in a muffin tray) and top each with slice of fig.

5. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180 C until golden brown. Let the puddings cool down slightly and set a little in the tray.

6. Eat hot from the moulds if you like or let the puddings cool down completely and slip off the moulds, pop the puddings on a plate and drizzle with rice malt syrup to serve. Enjoy!

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To Juice or not to Juice?

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I know I’m a little late to get on this bandwagon but, how good is juicing?! A couple days ago, I was introduced to a juicer and I’ve been going mad pulverizing every kind of fruit and vegetable I can find. It doesn’t cease to amaze me how I can turn a whole apple, 3 carrots and a bunch of spinach into a small container of colourful liquid goodness, just like that! I feel like David Copperfield!

In my internet travels, I’ve read a whole lot of “don’ts” for juicing. Since when is making juice so complicated? I didn’t know there was any more to think about than throwing the food in the machine and drinking whatever comes out! But if you want to get the most out of your juice, there are apparently a few things you need to consider. Let’s see if we can separate some fact from fiction first.

1. Don’t drink juice with food – TRUE

When you take a tablet with food, the absorption of that drug is reduced as the tablet passes more slowly through the stomach and the surrounding acids destroy some of its effects. The same goes for drinking juice with food. So if you want to absorb all the nutrients from your juice, the best idea is to drink it separately from your meals, like first thing in the morning!

2. Don’t throw away the pulp – THIS DEPENDS!

When you juice fruit, the solid of the fruit becomes separated from the liquid. The solid is made up of fibres which are the undigestable components of food that pass through your bowel, keeping you “regular”. Fibre also keeps you full for longer. Anti-juicers would say juicing is not beneficial because you are throwing away the fibre, however, all the nutrients are contained in the juice and being in liquid form, are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Obviously it’s great to have fibre AND nutrients, but it’s still beneficial to drink only the juice if you want a quick vitamin/mineral hit. My advice is that juicing should not be a total substitute for eating whole fruits and vegetables, it should be a supplement to your current intake.

3. Don’t mix fruit with vegetables – FALSE

Well, in my opinion, this guideline lacks evidence. The reasoning behind not mixing fruit with vegetables seems to stem from the idea that whole fruit and vegetables are digested by different enzymes. Consequently, when you eat them at the same time, your gut goes a little crazy and has problems trying to digest both, leading to gas and bloating. Whether or not this actually occurs, it doesn’t seem relevant to juicing because juice does not require digestion. As explained above, juice is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and therefore that whole digestion process is removed. In my own experience, I have never had any gut issues drinking fruit and vegetable juice, even when drinking two glasses of juice day. But everyone is different – listen to your body and if something doesn’t make you feel good, experiment with different food combinations! I usually juice 1 fruit to 3 vegetables as a general ratio.

4. Don’t drink juice later – TRUE

When juice comes into contact with air, the nutrients and enzymes within the juice are gradually destroyed. Therefore it’s best to drink your juice immediately or pop it into an air-tight container to freeze. Nothing beats freshly squeezed juice though!

So there you have it! Whether you make juice, drink smoothies or simply eat the whole fruit or vegetable, they are all practical and delicious ways to incorporate more nutrition into your diet.

The Gluten Free Experiment

A few health conscious friends of mine recently started cutting out gluten from their diet as an experiment to see if it would improve their well-being and cure some of their nagging health issues. This got me thinking, why are more and more people restricting gluten? If you don’t have celiac disease, what would be the benefit? As a nutrition student, I saw a gap in our learning as we have been taught virtually nothing about this thing called gluten which is in every food I want to eat. Doh. This seems strange considering it is a widespread component of the food group Australians are encouraged to eat the most of – breads and cereals.

What do I really know about gluten apart from the fact that it’s found in this major food group?

  • I know bread with gluten tastes better than bread without it. Why? Because it gives the bread a light, chewy texture. I prefer it to the gluten-free stuff which often looks and tastes like a brick.
  • Many people are intolerant to it and when they do have it, it causes bloating, gas, fatigue and headaches.

So in other words, I don’t know that much about gluten. However, I can understand that a lot of the symptoms experienced by those who are gluten-intolerant are things that many people experience daily and perceive as a regular part of their existence. What if being tired or bloated after eating wasn’t normal? Personally, I’ve never considered myself intolerant to any kind of foods. I can usually eat whatever I want and not feel like complete crap afterwards, unless I’ve over-eaten Β or consumed a meal with a million calories. And then I just feel crap because I feel guilty. However, my health is definitely not perfect and if cutting out gluten can improve things like clear my skin, reduce bloating and increase energy, then I am willing to give it a go. My only question is, if it works, is it really the restriction of gluten that will bring about these results or will it be the restriction of calories coupled with the substitution of more fresh, unprocessed foods? As a personal experiment, it will be hard to tell however it won’t change the end result. If it is a positive one, who really cares how you got to it!

Good news is, apparently Pho is gluten-free so eating out won’t be a complete disaster πŸ˜‰

Arrivederci, gluten! I will be saying goodbye to you for 7 days and afterwards I will let you know if I notice any improvements in my health. In the meantime, it’s time to devise some suitable gluten-free meals! Stay tuned for some delicious recipes over the next week πŸ™‚

xx