Eating Out and About

Rough & Bare, Mona Vale

I discovered this gem while looking for a park along a hidden laneway. Rough & Bare is what happens when a passionate chef teams up with experienced naturopaths. Their breakfast and lunch menus are packed with great quality, organic whole foods. Or, you can stop for a quick coffee and a healthy treat. Oh, and they make food look like a piece of art. Well worth a trip from wherever you live.

Replay Espresso, Turramurra

This is my favourite local café. They make great coffee (even decaf!), serve a mean breakfast and have a great selection of gluten free treats. Visit them a few times and they will know your name and remember your order. If you are after an outing with kids, combine your café stop with a trip to Turramurra Park or a library visit.

Pineapple Crush, Avalon

This a vegan spot famous for its nourishing bowls inspired by a Asian influences. The bowls are packed with fresh ingredients and bursting with flavour. If you are in a need of a dessert they have a selection of gluten free treats. However, on a hot day, you just can’t beat their famous icy pineapple crush.

Growing Your Own

Helena Koncek, Organic Gardener 

I first met Helena at Fox Valley Preschool where she helped convert a barren patch of neglected land into a thriving garden, providing preschoolers with amazing produce. Culinary adventures and love of food soon followed. Helena has helped create veggie gardens and edible landscapes at West Pennant Hills Public School, Warrawee Public School and has advised several personal clients.  She has hosted an open garden at her home on behalf of Kuringai Council and assisted with case studies on backyard sustainability, veggie garden design, poultry and beekeeping.

Stocking Your Kitchen

Taste Organic

This is a one-stop shop for everything healthy, green and eco-friendly. They have a good selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables, well-stocked meat and seafood section and even some healthy options for those days when you just can’t cook from scratch. You will also find a huge range of natural personal care and cleaning products that will help you minimise your chemical exposure. The staff are always friendly and will go out of their way to order anything you can’t find in the shop.  

Rawesome, Westfield Hornsby

This is health food shop hiding in a shopping centre. They are small but very well stocked. They also sell kombucha starter cultures and have a nice collection of health-focused cookbooks. Every 1st Thursday of the month you can enjoy store-wide discounts. 

Berkelouw Bookshop, Westfield Hornsby 

Whenever I need inspiration for my menu I dive into Berkelouw’s amazing collection of cookbooks. They also have a great collection of health-related titles, books on eco-friendly architecture and a tantalising selection of organic teas that you can sample while sitting in the café and browsing through the books. 

Hornsby Farmers Market

I believe that being in touch with people who grow my food is very important. Every Thursday morning I make my weekly trip to the market, often with my 3 boys in tow. We chat about the produce and how seasons and weather impact what is available. They now know that carrots are packed with Vitamin A, that chooks don’t lay many eggs when it is cold and that real apples have blemishes. 

Starving your way out of diabetes

A study published in a prestigious journal, Cell, has found that intermittent starvation can remodel pancreatic cells and effectivelya reverse diabetes.   In this study, diabetic mice were subjected to ‘fasting mimicking diet’ (FMD) that was severely calorie restricted, low in carbohydrate and protein and relatively high in fat. After 5 days of FMD, mice were re-fed for 25 days. This cycle triggered reprogramming of gene expression in pancreatic cells. Basically, genes that pancreatic cells had used very early in their development were re-activated. It is like they remembered what a young and healthy cell should be doing - and started behaving that way. As a result, both mice suffering from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes had their pancreatic function restored.   The researchers repeated this experiment in vitro, with human pancreatic cells that were modelling Type 1 diabetes. Amazingly, the cells responded by re-activating long forgotten genes and regenerating.   In case you are wondering about real, live humans, Dr Longo at the University of Southern California conducted a study mirroring a fasting regimen used in the mouse study. Here, healthy human subjects are restricted to 500 calories per day, for five days and then allowed to eat their normal diet for 25 days. Calorie restricted diet was essentially a vegan diet consisting of plant-based soups, kale chips, a nutty bar, a herbal tea and an energy drink. Dr Longo and his team found that the fasting-mimicking diet reduced risks for cancer, diabetes and heart disease in participants who followed this protocol. The team now hope to conduct a larger study on the use of the fasting-mimicking diet to treat diabetes patients.   Before anyone tries to replicate this experiment at home, please remember that these studies are done under strictly controlled conditions and under close medical supervision. Do not try to do this on your own.

Carb Confusion

Carbohydrates have become a feared food group, to the extent that fruit avoidance is not uncommon. Is this justified? Can science help us make sense of it?

An interesting study was published in the American Journal of Physiology this month. The study compared effects of feeding female rats fructose or glucose, in addition to their usual diet. Fructose or glucose were dissolved in water and fed to rats. Rats fed fructose ate more, gained more weight, had higher plasma triglycerides and were on their way to developing fatty livers. In addition, their blood vessels became stiffer and less responsive to signals that induce relaxation - not a good thing! If, at this point, you are questioning your fruit intake please hold on. There is so much more to this story.

Another interesting contribution to the debate came from the “PURE" study. Data from this powerful study, involving 150 000 people from 17 different countries, clearly showed that diets high in carbohydrates were associated with higher cardiovascular risk. Risk really took off when percentage of carbohydrate in diet reached 50% or more. Diets higher in fat offered a degree of protection, particularly if they were rich in monounsaturated fats such as olive oil.

Things get even more interesting when data from the same study were used to tease out the effects of particular components of the diet. It turns out the fruit consumption is protective, vegetable and meat consumption is neither harmful nor protective. Eating 4 pieces of fruit of any kind appears to offer significant reduction in cardiovascular risk.

So, what is going on? On one hand, studies are telling us that carbohydrates and fructose in particular, are harmful, on the other, it appears that eating fruit is in fact beneficial. How do we reconcile this?

Let’s look at the study I mentioned in the beginning - the one where rats were fed a solution of either fructose or glucose. The rats received acellular sugar that is not bound inside plant cells. Eating acellular sugars can have serious metabolic consequences because gut bacteria are fed large amounts of sugar that is completely available to them. This is known to alter the balance of bacterial species in the gut leading to gut permeability and systemic inflammation which then contributes to development of obesity (this is a whole new topic).

What happens when carbohydrate intake is high, but it comes from whole plants? Kitavan Islanders of Melanesia are horticulturalists, eating a traditional diet that is up to 70% carbohydrate, originating from fruit and tubers. They also have high saturated fat intake. And yet, Kitavan Islanders have very low fasting insulin and blood glucose. Diabetes, obesity and atherosclerosis are virtually unknown. This is not explained by genetics - when individuals from these societies are exposed to Western diet they very quickly develop Western health issues.

Bottom line - it is the kind of carbohydrate, not the amount of carbohydrate that matters. When eaten as a part of a whole plant, carbohydrates are released very slowly and are much less available to the gut bacteria. This is what our gut microbiome has evolved with. In contrast, acellular carbohydrates, consumed in form of flours and sugars, deliver a damaging hit of highly concentrated and easily available carbohydrate. Fructose, delivered in the form of high fructose corn syrup or apple juice concentrate, can be particularly problematic and lead to increase in plasma triglycerides, development of fatty liver and weight gain.

Out of all of this, take home messages are:

  1. Carbohydrates are OK - as long as they come from whole plants
  2. Fruit is great as long as it eaten fresh and whole
  3. Read your labels - do not eat anything that is sweetened with various forms of acellular sugars. Examples include high fructose corn syrup, apple juice concentrate and glucose syrup
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