We have all heard that too much salt in the diet is not good for us. It can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and from there on to cardio vascular disease (CVD) and stroke. But how much is too much? Does it effect us all? Do we eat the right amount or too much? How can we lower our intake?
According to the Australian and New Zealand Nutrient Reference Values, adults should be consuming somewhere between about 500 and 900 mg of salt a day. However, the typical diet contains 50% more than that at least.
Some people appear to be more affected by salt intake than others, some people are described as "salt resistant" and others as "salt sensitive". It is those who are salt sensitive who are at greatest risk of adverse effects from a high salt diet. If you eat salt without considering the quantity and still have low blood pressure, the chances are you are salt resistant. However, if your blood pressure is already high or on the high side, then you may be salt sensitive and thus need to be more mindful of your salt intake.
Given that in a "normal" western style diet we eat at least 50% more salt than is advised, how can we cut down in a doable way? Well a lot of processed food is high in salt, so we can minimise processed foods, salted foods and anything with added salt - pick the no or low salt option. We can refrain from adding salt to cooking, or cut down the quantity. If you have read our book, you will know that processed foods (both carbs and proteins) have many negative health consequences, so this is a wise thing to do for many reasons.
There have been a number of studies and interventions around the world over the last few decades on this topic, and interestingly, one such study clearly pointed to the fact that those eating a healthy diet high in plants and low in processed foods were much less sensitive to the negative effect of salt intake. Subsequent studies found the same or similar results. So it seems that a healthy diet, like the one we espouse, can help you in this area also.
Finally, in the UK in 2003, a nationwide study and intervention took place in collaboration between the health department and the food industry. Data was collected about salt intake, food producers were incentivised to cut the salt content of foods over a number of years, and an awareness campaign was launched for the general public. As a result, the salt intake of the population as a whole fell by 15% over a 7 year period. So with some thought, it is possible to change our food in a cooperative and progressive way.
This Lentil Chilli is a real winner. Everyone who eats this loves it and wants the recipe!! It is adapted from a recipe from Carleigh Bodrug of the Centre for Nutrition Studies. This is also a quick meal to make, although the brown rice takes 40 mins to cook, it only takes about 1/2 hour to make the lentil chilli.
We make a batch this size, and although it says it serves four, we usually get 6 helpings out of it over three nights. So eat tonight, freeze one batch for the future, and keep another batch in the fridge and eat in a couple of nights. You are going to love this one!! For a printable version of the recipe click here!
As part of our blog we thought it might be interesting to review books on this topic as they come available. Here is a little about "Food Fix" by Dr Mark Hyman. I read this book last week, it is only a couple of weeks since it's publication. Dr Hyman is a Physician and Functional Medicine Doctor. He is an advocate of healthy eating, for both vegetarians and omnivores.
Dr Hyman describes the destruction wrought by our current food production systems - it is US focussed and one hopes things are not quite so bad elsewhere in the world, but we all need to know the way this is heading. Not only does this system produce nutrient poor and health damaging foods but also it destroys the land, brings farmers to ruin, and creates massive pollution is terms of emissions and waste.
It is a confronting read in many ways, but lays out the challenge ahead of us to clean up our food production for the sake of the planet, the farmed animals, the farmers, and our own health. Currently we are on a road to more chronic health issues, climate change and land degradation on a massive scale, which will ultimately lead to our inability to grow the food the world needs for lack of fertile pastures. Dr Hyman lays out a positive way forward that we can take if we want a healthier future for us all, and that some farmers are already on to and finding very lucrative and successful. A must read for anyone interested in the topic. Click here for a link to Amazon.
If you are making a meal that would be enhanced by a delicious thick and rich gravy, here is my 'secret' gravy recipe that I have been making all my life. I used to use animal products in it, but it is just as good with alternative ingredients, so give it a try!! It is a bit of an art, so you may need to have a few practices to get it right!! Click here for the printable recipe.
Using the ideas from other Risotto recipes, we came up with this one which includes that very healthful green, kale. It is a totally different flavour from the Mushroom and Thyme Risotto in our book, but with some similarities!
If you would like to give this one a try, click here.
This is a lovely warm winter bean and vegetable stew. Sarah invented this one day when she realised she had a fridge full of vegetables and was wondering what to do with them all!! Basically you can put whatever you like in this dish, in terms of vegetables.
The beans give you protein, fibre and nutrients and it is ideal to use a variety, so Sarah uses one tin of black beans (drained and rinsed) and one tin of some other beans. Sarah also adds buckwheat which again gives added fibre, and nutrients, and doesn't change the taste at all, but adds some bulk!
Prebiotics are foods for the gut bacteria! They are the healthy plant foods (particularly their fibre content) in your diet that help to feed your microbiome. All fruit and vegetables are in this category, some are more beneficial than others. Root vegetables, leafy vegetables, stewed apples, firm bananas and a variety of coloured vegetables are ideal. These foods are full of nutrients and are the foods for a healthy gut. To gain the benefit there is a need to ensure that they have not been destroyed in the food production system. Unprocessed plant foods are best, so the fibre and nutrient content is retained. Each day ensure that at least most fruit and vegetables are unprocessed!! You will then be feeding your gut bacteria regularly!
Probiotics are the healthy microbes in the gut that need to be constantly replenished. This can be done by eating the prebiotic foods above plus yoghurt (if you are not dairy free) and fermented foods as well as all organic foods that will bring some microbes along with them, and by taking a probiotic capsule. People often take probiotic capsules when they need to take antibiotics in order to counter the loss of microbes as a result of the medication. If you have digestive issues, it is fine to take them all the time. It is just worth noting though, that on their own they are not sufficient to populate your gut with a healthy number of microbes. Your gut needs thousands of different strains of bacteria and other microbes for optimum health, and probiotics bought over the counter offer only a few. There is nothing like a diet high in (preferably organic) vegetables and fruits of different types and colours to feed the gut with adequate supplies of little helpers!
Postbiotics are the chemicals produced by your gut microbes, from the food you feed them, in the form of short chain fatty acids like butyrate, acetate and propionate which are all vital for the health of the gut and also your overall health.
Prebiotics + Probiotics = Postbiotics
Postbiotics are produced during the fermentation of fibre within the gut and the more postbiotics your gut produces the healthier you are as they are vital for the health of your colon in particular and your liver. Short chain fatty acids appear to protect against colon cancer and in addition they improve heart health, weight management, type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.
If you eat an abundance of largely organic, some raw and a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts, you will provide your body with all the pre pro and postbiotics you need for a healthy life.
** And a last tip, remember “resistant starch” which is a terrific type of fibre mentioned in our book. It comes from grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes, that have been cooked and cooled before eating. Either eat cold or reheat and instead of being ‘blood glucose increasing’ problem foods, they become resistant starch which is a very useful type of fibre or prebiotic!
This is a lovely green curry in the 'Thai' style of Green curries that we have adapted from a recipe by Deryn Macey.
It takes only about half an hour to put together - though the brown rice takes about 40 minutes to cook - and if you cook, cool and reheat to make it more healthy "resistant starch" you should cook it in advance.
We made a batch big enough to two nights, and it was even tastier the second night!! (Or maybe we were hungrier!!)
Dr O'Bryan, gives us his idea of a way to start to move to a healthier gut and thus a healthier body and mind. He explains that he finds his patients are sometimes reluctant to just cut out sugar, or cut out dairy, so he suggests a few steps first, that will help to lessen the cravings for those types of foods.
1 Buy a variety of (preferably organic) root vegetables, carrots, turnip, parsnip, radish, onions, sweet potatoes. Not white potatoes. Eat at least one every day and vary which one. He says "cook it however you like, just get it down!!"
2 Take a good Prebiotic and a Probiotic for 2 months.
3 Buy five different fermented foods, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, kefir, tempeh. Aim to eat a forkful or small glassful of a different one each day.
4 Buy a variety of (preferably organic) prebiotic vegetables, onion, garlic, banana, asparagus, leeks, oats, apples, flaxseeds and more, and eat at least two of them every day and vary the types.
5 Buy (preferably organic) green apples, chop them up, skin on and stew them for 10 minutes. Add cinnamon to taste if you like. Eat two spoons full of this stewed apple every day. It produces Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase (IAP) which is a powerful healing chemical for the gut and useful throughout the body.
Dr O'Bryan explains that once you have done the above 5 steps for 2 months, the next step of cutting out sugar will be much easier, as your gut bacteria will be healthier and the cravings for sugar will not be as intense.
Dr O'Bryan's book "The Autoimmune Fix" is being read, and will be reviewed here at some point later.
It takes about seven days to grow alfalfa from seed to edible sprout! You can buy these sprout nurseries at many health shops and hardware stores, and then purchase some alfalfa seeds when next at your health shop or grocer and give it a try. In these days of lockdown, both the sprout nursery and the seeds can be bought online, thankfully!!
Fresh sprouts are good for your gut health, and full of nutrients. They are especially good grown at home, chemical free and super fresh!!
We do this all the time, have one lot growing, whilst we use last weeks crop for our salads and sandwiches through the week. Easy, cheap and nutritious!!
Resistant Starch is starch in the diet from foods such as legumes, lentils, nuts and firm bananas, that "resist" digestion and find their way down to your large intestine. There they "feed" your gut bacteria and produce useful healing chemicals such as butyrate.
Most starch in the diet is digested fast in the upper digestive tract, and leads to blood glucose increases that are bad for you in may ways and dangerous for diabetics. Such foods include rice, pasta and potatoes.
Why not pre-cook your rice, potatoes and pasta - let them cool, and then eat them cold or reheated. The cooling allows the starch to be "locked" into the cells of the product and carried down to the large intestine, making them resistant starch instead of damaging starch. A simple trick to make these foods much more healthy, whilst not changing the meal composition at all. Read More
This recipe is a winner, it is very similar to traditional minestrone, but removes a couple of less than healthy ingredients, and adds other beneficial ones!! Give it a try on your wellness journey. This photo is Jessica's version, she uses larger pasta, Sarah uses macaroni, any pasta is fine, whatever your tastes dictate!!
On April 1st Sarah and Jessica undertook a podcast interview with Kel Butler of ListenUpPodcasting. It was a slightly surreal experience, done over zoom, with all three talkers in different locations due to the coronavirus lockdown!! However, it went well, was enjoyable and we hope gives a good feel for the book, the authors and the reason for writing it!