Paleo-mythic Diet and Why You Should be Consuming Whole Grains

2014 was the year of the Paleo Diet here in Australia and I have met countless people who have eschewed grains in search of better health. It is time to put to rest the myth that grains are bad for our health. In order to promote better health I pronounce 2015 to be the year of Whole Grains!

Why whole grains? Most people know grains are a source of energy, fibre and B vitamins.  And many people believe they can get all the fibre and B vitamins they need from vegetables so eliminate grains entirely.  However, whole grains have a whole lot more going for them than just fibre and B vitamins.  They are nutritional powerhouses and have been associated with lower risks of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Inflammation and even weight gain.

So what are whole grains?  Examples include wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, maize (corn), rye, millet, sorghum, teff, triticale, amaranth, buckwheat, farro, freekah, bulgar, emmet, spelt, Kamut and quinoa. Whole grains, according to the American Association of Cereal Chemists International and the FDA in the US, consist of “the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grain whose principal components, the starchy endosperm, germ and bran, are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact grain.” Here is an illustration detailing the different components of a whole grain:grain
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Caramelised Carrot and Mung Bean Salad

IMG_7987Up until a year ago I had never seen (let alone cooked or eaten) mung beans. I had seen mung beans sprouts in the supermarket but I had never seen the actual dried beans which I think are quite attractive and look like glossy green gems. Here is what they look like uncooked:

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Mung beans are incredibly healthy and can be considered a functional food. This means they have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing numerous important nutrients like folate, magnesium, iron, potassium, and fibre, scientific studies have found that mung beans have certain physiological functionalites. These include antitumour activity (see here), antioxidant activity (see here), antidiabetic activity (see here), antihypertensive activity (see here), and the ability to lower plasma cholesterol (see here)  and inhibit LDL oxidation (see here). Wow, who knew? Continue reading “Caramelised Carrot and Mung Bean Salad”

Coconut Carrot Cake Spiced Oatmeal

IMG_7936My family loves oatmeal and we eat it almost every morning. Oatmeal doesn’t have to be boring as you can cook it with a variety of different ingredients to change it’s flavour. This recipe uses the ingredients typically found in carrot cake plus I add coconut and banana to make it even tastier. I like eating this dish as the carrots count towards my 5 serves of vegetables that I try to get each day. And oats are super healthy as they are a whole grain that contain resistant starch. Continue reading “Coconut Carrot Cake Spiced Oatmeal”

Spiced Red Lentils with Cucumber Yoghurt

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This beautiful dish is another recipe I adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty. I love that cookbook and am very excited about getting my hands on Plenty More, the sequel that is coming out in October. I love this dish because it relies on numerous exotic spices to flavour the dish instead of using a lot of salt. Most people in Western (and some Eastern) cultures consume excess salt above the level that is healthy. A high salt diet can not only lead to high blood pressure, but to osteoporosis, obesity, stomach cancer, kidney stones, and stroke. Check out the AWASH (Australia’s Division of World Action on Salt and Health) website here for more information on the health effects of excess salt and tips for reducing your salt intake. Continue reading “Spiced Red Lentils with Cucumber Yoghurt”

Mediterranean Clam Stew with Tuscan Kale and Cabbage


030The Mediterranean Diet has received a lot of press this year as countless studies have uncovered the numerous health benefits of this style of eating. Evidence has shown that the Med Diet can increase lifespan, prevent cancer, protect against metabolic syndrome,control diabetes, ward off Parkinson’s disease, lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and elevated “bad” cholesterol levels, and even slash the risk of Alzheimer’s!  In fact, researchers found that women who followed a healthy Mediterranean diet during middle age were about 46% more likely to live past the age of 70 without chronic illness and without physical or mental problems than those with less-healthy diets. You can find that study here.

Continue reading “Mediterranean Clam Stew with Tuscan Kale and Cabbage”

Pan Fried Lima Beans with Feta, Spinach and Sumac

009Are you trying to incorporate more legumes into your diet and just don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you need an elegant dish to serve a vegetarian at a dinner party? Look no further than this excellent dish that I have modified from the cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. I adore his recipes and love his mix of fresh ingredients and middle eastern spices. Do not be afraid of using Lima beans. These are not the “slima” beans we ate as kids in the school cafeteria. These beans are made from scratch and will melt in your mouth. I promise! And don’t forget legumes are important for maintaining blood sugar levels as they are among the lowest glycemic index (GI) foods, and they are high in soluble fibre which helps slow down the rate nutrients are absorbed into the body. Continue reading “Pan Fried Lima Beans with Feta, Spinach and Sumac”

Super Rice

Are you tired of eating mundane brown rice everyday? Why not jazz it up with some quinoa and black or red rice. Quinoa is an excellent addition to rice as it adds protein, calcium, iron, and fibre. Black and red rice contain the antioxidant anthocyanin which can help fight against heart disease and cancer. Black rice creates a deep purple colour when cooked which can add a striking contrast to your dish. And this simple mixture of rice and quinoa has a complex nutty flavour that you will love!IMG_7642 Continue reading “Super Rice”

Roasted Vegetables

The results of a comprehensive survey of the dietary habits of Australians were released this week with depressing news. Only 6.8% of Australians are eating the recommended number of serves of vegetables each day. What are the daily recommended number of serves of vegetables?

Age group # of Serves of Vegetables per day
Men 6
Women 5
Children aged 12-18 boys 5 1/2
Children aged 12-18 girls 5
Children aged 9-11 5
Children aged 4-8 4 1/2
Children aged 2-3 2 1/2

One serving equals a 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, 1/2 a medium potato (french fries and chips don’t count!) or 1 cup of raw vegetables like salad.

So how do you get enough serves of vegetables each day? Don’t wait until dinner because it is hard to fit them all in one meal. One way I get my family to meet the recommendations is to roast up a big batch of veggies on Sunday night, store them in a container in the refrigerator, and use them each day to create quick and healthy meals. I promise you, this is a HUGE time saver.

Start with a variety of vegetables. Choose the rainbow and try to pick what’s in season. You can change the mix each week to keep it interesting.
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Kale and Freekeh Salad with Toasted Coconut and Mango Dressing

There is a new grain in town called Freekeh and it is freekehing delicious! It is actually an ancient grain from the Middle East but is relatively new in western countries. Freekeh is a type of wheat that is picked when green and then roasted which causes the grain to be higher in fibre, protein and nutrients including calcium, iron, zinc and potassium. Freekeh is also great for your eyes as it is a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been linked with a reduced risk of macular degeneration. Freekeh is also very high in resistant starch, a type of fibre that has been shown to increase the production of ‘butyrate’ in your gut. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that has repeatedly been associated with a reduced risk of developing bowel diseases and is thought to help reduce cholesterol by suppressing cholesterol synthesis. See a CSIRO study on freekeh here.

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Sweet and Salty Seaweed Snacks

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These toasted nori strips are irresistible, especially to kids! They are crispy and slightly sweet with a hint of salt. You won’t be able to stop at just one! They are ready in 10 minutes and make a perfect after-school snack. Continue reading “Sweet and Salty Seaweed Snacks”