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By Lynne Wilkinson, CEO AUSBUY
“If you have your health, you have your wealth.” These are words my grandmother used to cite as she served yet another lovingly-made meal to her family of 10, copious numbers of grandchildren and hangers on. Good food, an active, interest filled life and shared company were her ingredients.
Life seemed simpler then, because we bought what was in season, it did not travel half way around the world, there was less choice and much of the value adding was done at home. Australian farmers still produce some of the best food in the world. The problems now are that we are not sure where much of our food comes from, and we have been complicit in putting our capacity to feed ourselves at risk. Consumers deserve to know these things.
Your purchasing decisions can make a difference. The following are issues of concern to AUSBUY as these potentially put our capacity to feed ourselves under threat and reduce the quality of the food we eat.
Since 1991 AUSBUY has represented only Australian-owned companies. Its food industry members source from our farmers as part of their business strategy and process products here. As Australian-owned businesses, they make decisions here, profits here, reinvest and keep jobs and skills here. They compete in an aggressive market place, but the values they apply to their products are of integrity and quality. Aussie brands such as Jalna, Go Natural and Sanitarium will be familiar.
Food security is an issue for
Finally, we invite concerned Australians to donate to this research. Go to our website for more information, www.ausbuy.com.au, or call us on 1300 882 361 to become a ‘Friend of AUSBUY’.
By Roger French
Fresh, ripe fruits are essentially cocktails of minerals, vitamins, other antioxidants, fibre, natural sugar and thousands of phytochemicals, all in a high content of ‘pure’ water. The water content ranges from 75% in bananas to 93% in watermelon.
The Natural Health guideline is to consume approximately 350 to 700 gram daily – as part of a total of fruits and vegetables per day of around 1000 to 1250 gm. Have some fruit each day. High-sugar fruits, such as grapes, should be limited in quantity. Fruits are the most suitable energy foods in hot weather, except that winter fruits are fine for cold weather.
All fresh, ripe fruits are highly alkali-forming, due to their very high content of potassium and modest levels of magnesium and calcium. The acid fruits, although containing significant levels of organic acids, are also ultimately alkali-forming.
This article describes only the common, everyday fruits, and does not include the numerous exotic varieties.
The onset of the winter months brings shorter days and fewer hours of sunlight, affecting your mood in many ways as the cold begins to set in.
If you are feeling sluggish, depressed or tired, your dopamine levels may be low. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, one of the chemicals that sends signals to our brains. As our dopamine levels decrease, our mood often suffers.
Luckily, meditation is a great way to increase dopamine levels in the brain.
Meditation promotes feelings of wellbeing and emotional balance, and scientists are now proving that meditation can even change the way the brain works. Simply put, when we are stressed out or not living healthily, we lose sleep and our dopamine production drops. By meditating, we allow our brain to ‘repair’.
Regular meditation can help keep you in a positive mind frame through the long winter months.
Follow these easy steps to meditate, and as you do, feel your mood lifting ...
1. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit where you will not be easily distracted.
2. Cross your legs and allow your hands to rest on your thighs, palm up.
3. Close your eyes and empty your mind.
4. Breathe in and out – slowly. Try to breathe in for 4 counts and out for 8 counts. If you can’t breathe out for 8 counts at first, no worries. Try breathing out for 5 counts, then 6, then 7, until you can build up to 8.
5. Concentrate on your breathing. Even if your mind is wandering to start off with, the simple act of focusing on your breath will help to clear your mind. Guided meditation CD’s can be very helpful if you are new to meditation.
6. Do this for about 10 – 15 minutes every day.
Another reason why we feel tired in the winter months is because melatonin production in the body rises during winter. Melatonin is the sleep hormone, and it causes that sleepy feeling that makes it harder to get out of bed on a cold morning. On the flip side, serotonin production, a hormone that elevates our mood, decreases in the winter months. Serotonin production increases as we are exposed to more sunlight, and the shorter winter days make this difficult.
Use every chance you can to find the sun during winter – even try taking your meditation into the sunshine at lunchtimes. Doctors recommend that 15 minutes of sunshine a day will help to elevate your serotonin and also ensure that you are getting the proper amount of Vitamin D.
Exercising outdoors, such as a walk or a bike ride, is a great way to get some sun as well as increase brain activity. Oxygen is pumped into the brain during physical activity, leaving you feeling alert and refreshed to fight that tired feeling that creeps up as the days get shorter.
As the cold weather sets in, remember these tips to keep you healthy and smiling all winter long.
A well balanced diet will also help keep you happy and motivated throughout winter. As soon as the layers of clothing get piled on, we tend to turn to sugary or fatty foods. Sugar gives a quick energy hit, but this disappears very quickly and can result in feelings of depression and low self esteem. These temptation foods are best avoided altogether, but particularly in winter.
Healthy vegetables of the green leafy kind, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes provide brain power along with foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. These kinds of veggies combat the winter blues, so it is important to load up on them as much as possible.
A healthy gut will also strengthen your body when your hormones are all over the place from the weather. Natural probiotic foods, such as no-added-sugar acidophilus yoghurt, kefir and miso soup, can keep the digestive system on track.
For more information on Hopewood Health Retreat, visit www.hopewood.com.au or call 02 4773 8401.
2 cups raw cashew nuts (crushed in food processor)
1 cup Feta cheese (crumbled in food processor)
½ medium Spanish onion (finely chopped)
1 bunch English spinach (blanched)
4 x 60 gm whole eggs
½ cup of your favourite herbs (chopped) (e.g., mint, basil, chervil, dill, parsley, coriander)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped or crushed)
2 teaspoon cumin
12 x ½ walnuts (for garnish)
12 large mushrooms
Crush raw cashews to a coarse meal in food processor. Dice Feta cheese and crumble in food processor. Bring a pot of hot water to the boil while washing spinach and removing the stalks. When water boils, add the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds to one minute. Strain and refresh with cold water. Remove as much liquid from spinach as possible by pressing the spinach in your hands. Chop the blanched spinach into 1 cm pieces. Mix all ingredients together except walnuts. Remove stem from mushrooms and fill with stuffing. Garnish with walnut half and put onto a tray lined with baking paper.
Bake at 180˚C for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.
If you do not like mushrooms, you can use tomato or zucchini. For the tomato, cut in half and remove seeds and then replace with filling. For the zucchini, cut into half lengthwise and remove seeds as you would with a cucumber. Top with filling. Cook zucchini whole and slice into portions after cooking. Cooking time for both is the same as for the mushrooms.
You can also substitute sesame seeds or pine nuts in place of the walnuts.
Regain your natural health and wellbeing with this 7-night package. During a personal consultation, our qualified naturopath will discuss your specific health concerns and plan an individual nutritional program especially for you. You’ll receive ongoing guidance, care and support throughout your stay.
• Naturopathic consultation with follow-up support and supervision
• Dietary and lifestyle program designed for you
• Detox program or juice therapy*
• Regular monitoring of your detox progress
• Individually prepared meals*
• Blood pressure check
• Prescribed hydrotherapy
• Blood sugar level check*
• Relaxation Massage OR Hopewood Facial
• Spa Manicure OR Pedicure OR Reflexology OR Reiki
• Nutritional and lifestyle notes
*If recommended by a naturopath
As with all Hopewood’s accommodation packages, guests enjoy fully-serviced balcony rooms with en-suites, delicious gourmet vegetarian meals and fresh fruit, healthy lifestyle learning opportunities. Guests are invited to participate in Hopewood’s daily activities program which can include tai chi, yoga, low-impact exercise classes, guided walks, food demonstrations and more. Guests have the use of all the facilities, including outdoor heated pool, tennis court, bicycles, fitness room and art room.
Hopewood Health Retreat is a sanctuary for good health and wellbeing; it is the perfect environment to unwind and rejuvenate.
Hopewood specialises in natural healing, delicious vegetarian food, relaxation, stress management, nutrition and weight control, gentle exercise, first class massage and beauty pampering.
Whether you have a day, a weekend or a week to invest in your health and wellbeing – Hopewood has the perfect package available.
“At Hopewood we aim to bring you the best in natural health and help you get back on the right track.” – Sharon Beavon, General Manager
Visit www.hopewood.com.au for more details or call us on (02) 4773 8401.
By Roger French
Starchy carbohydrate food refers to the starchy vegetables, potato, pumpkin and sweet potato, and the starchy cereal grains and other grains. Their chief characteristic is that they are very high in starch and lower in protein than the protein-rich foods.
How much carbohydrate do we need each day? As it is our main source of energy, we require enough to meet our energy needs, so the quantity depends on the amount of our physical and mental activity. Genuine appetite is generally the best guide.
For a sedentary adult of average size, the quantity of starchy grain food (cooked) would be around 100 to 120 gm per day in total (equivalent to 3 to 4 slices of bread, whether it’s bread, rice, pasta or whatever). If the starchy veggies are eaten instead, the quantities could be much larger, perhaps double, because the starch contents are much lower. It is better on some days to have starchy vegetables instead of relying on grains every day of the week.
These quantities assume that sugary carbs are also eaten that day, meaning fresh fruits and the sugary concentrates, dried fruits, honey or maple syrup, etc. If sugary carbs are not eaten, the quantity of starchy carbs would probably need to be increased.
[Fresh fruits were the subject of Part 1; concentrated sugary carbs will be the subject of Part 5 in the next issue.]
Starchy foods, being ‘heating’ foods, are more suitable for cold weather, while sweet, succulent fruits are more compatible with hot weather.
Overeating starchy foods produces excessive acidic residues, setting the stage for mucus conditions, rheumatism, arthritis and so on.
Another effect of overeating carbohydrates, both sugars and starches, is disturbance to blood sugar level. This is related to the glycaemic index (GI) of the food, which is a measure of how rapidly the carbohydrate breaks down into simple sugars during digestion. Foods with a high index break down rapidly, while low GI foods break down more slowly. Eating too much high-GI food initially raises the blood sugar level then dumps it (called ‘hypoglycaemia’), leading to physical and mental fatigue and feeling hungry sooner after a meal. This also encourages the body to turn ingested carbohydrates into fat stores. Low GI foods satisfy appetite for longer, and are less likely to be converted into body fat.
A starch veggie with high GI is potato. Whole grains are mostly low GI, whereas refined grains like white flour tend to be high.
NOTE that quantities of food constituents vary among individual foods due to differences in climate, soil fertility, the tests used and so on. Throughout this article, it is only possible to give approximate figures. All nutrient quantities are per 100 grams of the food.
The common starchy vegetables are potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and sweet corn. They are good, nutritious foods that can be consumed in generous quantities.
In contrast to the acid-forming grains, these veggies are alkali-forming.
This ‘ubiquitous’ starchy vegetable, that is eaten all around the world and has been for thousands of years, offers nothing spectacular in its nutrient content, yet can support human life very well. During the 19th century, about half of
Energy is the primary offering of the potato. It contains 13 percent starch, and provides 64 calories per 100 gm, which is neither high nor low, and certainly not enough to make the potato a danger for obesity.
But eaten fried as chips or crisps is a different story because the cooking fat, which is calorie rich, will be oxidised and toxic. In addition, French fries may contain acrylamide, a toxic, cancer-causing substance that forms in starchy foods when they are cooked at high temperatures.
With a water content of 82 %, the sheer bulk of this food tends to inhibit overeating.
The one nutrient that the potato – in its numerous varieties – has in abundance is potassium at 450 mg per 100 gm of potato. Vitamin C content is modest, ranging from 17 mg to 24 mg depending on the variety, and magnesium at 20 mg is useful, as are mild levels of sulphur, chlorine and silicon. Otherwise minerals and vitamins are low-ish.
The greatest concentration of minerals and vitamins is just under the skin, so eating potatoes with their ‘jackets’ on is highly desirable. Cooking by steaming or baking makes the starch and other nutrients easier to assimilate. Who would eat a potato raw anyway!
Potatoes don’t contain irritants like gluten which are found in grains.
If the potato is of a purple variety, the colour is due to that marvelous group of antioxidants, anthocyanins, which strongly oppose diseases right up to cancer.
The one negative about the potato – which is why some nutritionists condemn it – is a high glycaemic index of over 80, and for baked potato over 90. This can be overcome by accompanying potato with a heap of veggies or a dab of butter or sour cream or just keeping it to small quantities. For a person who is free of diabetes or hypoglycaemia, potato as part of a balanced diet of unprocessed foods would normally be beneficial.
Potatoes are members of the Solanum family – along with tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant and peppers – which means that they contain solanine, a natural pesticide. Because solanine can aggravate arthritis, doctors often warn against eating potatoes. But if there is no problem, potatoes can actually help promote recovery because they are alkali-forming (ditto tomatoes).
What about potatoes with a green tinge? The tubers grow underground, but if they are exposed to light, they produce chlorophyll and develop a greenish skin. This would not be a problem, but the light also significantly increases the levels of solanine, which is why green potatoes are said to be ‘toxic’. High levels of this chemical can aggravate arthritis, irritate the lining of the intestines causing stomach ache and diarrhoea, exacerbate inflammatory bowel disorders and cause miscarriage. To avoid solanine, don't buy potatoes with green skin and do store them in a dark place.
The potato is basically a very good food – and some people love their spuds.
Although pumpkin goes so well with potato, it is actually in a different family, the one that includes melons and marrows. Compared to potatoes, pumpkin supplies less than half as many calories. Another great benefit is that the bright orange colour reflects a huge content of carotenoids.
This is a starchy veggie, but contains only 4% to 8% starch depending on the variety, so supplies only 30 – 40 calories per 100 gm, with water content between 86% and 90%, making it very suitable for shedding weight – although good for all of us, thick or thin.
Glycaemic index at 75 is high, but with so little carbs, its glycaemic load is low.
The carotenoids in pumpkin are outstanding. Beta-carotene is not as rich as in carrots, but is still very high. Alpha-carotene is also present. But the super-duper nutrient is beta-cryptoxanthin, which is at far higher levels than in carrots, and strongly benefits the respiratory system, particularly the lungs. Studies have found that beta-cryptoxanthin can reduce the risk of lung cancer by more than 30 per cent and rheumatoid arthritis by 41 per cent. Our bodies convert all three of these carotenoids to vitamin A, an important antioxidant and nutrient for eye function.
The next most abundant carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are needed specifically by the macular at the back of the eye. Lack of them risks macular degeneration.
The carotenoid antioxidants in pumpkin reduce the risks of prostate and other cancers, heart disease, macular degeneration and cataracts.
If pumpkin is steamed, baked or made into soup, the addition of a little cream, butter or oil offsets the high GI and enhances the absorption of the fat-soluble carotenoids. It’s fortunate that pumpkin soup is so popular!
As with potatoes, mineral and vitamin levels are nothing to shout about, except for high potassium, ranging from 230 mg to 470 mg depending on the variety. Calcium and B-vitamins are at modest levels.
A ripe whole pumpkin can be stored for many weeks in a cool, well ventilated place at room temperature.
This is a veggie with great assets that we can consume abundantly without fuelling obesity.
This starchy veggie is bright orange for the same reason as pumpkin – a very high to medium content of carotenoids, mainly beta-carotene. Comparing to the carrot, the ‘king of beta-carotene’ containing 10,350 micrograms, sweet potatoes contain 6,770 microgm in the Ora variety down to 1,370 in another variety. To obtain the best content, go by colour.
Minerals and vitamins are, like the above veggies, modest. Potassium is a healthy 210 – 250 mg, vitamin C averages almost 30 mg and B-vitamins are at useful levels.
This is an energy food with a much relished sweetness. Carbohydrate content averages 15% comprising approx. 10% starch and 5% (natural) sugar, the latter being sucrose, glucose and fructose. Glycaemic index at around 50 is much better than for potato or pumpkin.
As in the case of pumpkin, the carotenoids in sweet potato reduce the risks of cancers, heart disease and eye diseases.
For the North American natives corn was the staple grain for 10,000 years, and for Mexicans it is the grain for their bread, the tortilla. Compared to the ‘maize’ fed to animals, sweet corn or ‘corn on the cob’ is much more nutritious.
The yellow colour is due to carotenoids, mainly beta-cryptoxanthin and some beta-carotene. There are also high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin, which is why people with macular degeneration showed improvement after being fed spinach and corn for months.
Other studies showed that beta-cryptoxanthin reduces risk for rheumatoid arthritis by 41 per cent.
Potassium at 530 mg per 100 gm is very rich, iron is good at 2.1 mg, B-vitamins are at quite good levels and vitamin C is a trace.
There is a nice balance of the major nutrients in sweet corn. Protein is significant at 4.2%, and carbohydrate is 16%, with a small amount of this being sugar providing the slight sweetness. Fat is very low at 1.2%, while fibre is high at 4.5% of which a good portion is indigestible. Water content is 71%.
The most common grains are wheat, rye, oats, barley, rice, millet and buckwheat. The cereals, which are members of the grass family, include all these except buckwheat.
Always select unrefined carbohydrates – whole-grain foods – for energy. They also supply plenty of minerals, vitamins and fibre.
Gluten is present in wheat, rye, oats and barley. Wheat has the most; the other grains have considerably less.
Wheat flour is made into such a vast array of dishes that some people are eating it all day long. The ‘staff of life’, bread, has many forms, including white, wholemeal, grain bread, Lebanese bread, foccacia, Turkish bread and flat bread. Wheat flour is also the basis of pasta, pizza, breakfast cereal, buns, croissants, cakes, pastries, pie crusts and thickening for gravies and numerous other uses in recipes. If a person is eating breakfast cereal, biscuits for morning tea, sandwiches for lunch, cakes at mid-afternoon and pasta for dinner, his/her diet could be two-thirds wheat. This is very unbalanced eating.
Eaten in sensible quantities, wheat in the whole, unrefined form is very nutritious, but has the big negative that it contains the protein, gluten, to which many people are sensitive or allergic.
There are about 300 varieties of wheat which are used to make our everyday foods. There are hard varieties that are high in gluten and used for bread-making, white wheats, lower in gluten, used for pastries, and Durum wheats used for pastas.
‘Kibbled’ wheat is the whole grain broken into small bits, while ‘semolina’ is the endosperm of Durum wheats ground into coarse or fine particles, and used in making pasta, breakfast cereals, puddings and couscous.
Wheatgerm is the pick of the wheat grain for nutrients, but it must be fresh, because if not, the wheatgerm oil will most likely be rancid, and a very nutritious food has become a toxic one. The rich nutrient supply is: potassium 960 mg, calcium 100 mg, magnesium 280 mg, zinc 7.5 mg, iron 9.7 mg, vitamin B1 1.4 mg, B2 0.55 mg and B3 5.8 mg. compared to most other foods, these are exceptionally rich levels.
By far the most health building use of wheat is as the juice of the grass – wheatgrass juice. This is made by soaking grains, spreading them one-deep over a shallow tray of soil, and watering twice daily. When the wheatgrass is around 15 cm (6 inches) high, cut and juice through a crushing juicer (such as the Compact available in the NHS shop).
The wheat grain – or ‘kernel’ or ‘berry’ – consists of an outer husk (the bran), a starchy inner part (the endosperm) and the bit that can grow into a new plant (the germ).
The best quality flour is made by stone grinding organic wheat. The stone grinding is slower than steel grinding and minimises heating of the flour.
But the greatest factor in quality is in using whole-wheat or wholemeal flour rather than refined white flour. Whole wheat retains the bran and wheatgerm and is much more nutritious (see nutrient comparison later).
Important too is the issue of additives. Many breads contain preservatives at the very least, and often a range of other additives. It is essential to read the label to see what ingredients are present other than wheaten flour, water, yeast, sugar (only a small amount to feed the yeast) and perhaps salt. White bread is likely to have more additives than wholemeal, because the health conscious consumer of wholemeal tends to avoid them.
Although bread has been the staff of life around the world for 10,000 years, it has its negatives, quite in addition to the loss of nutrients due to refining. The top two are gluten and phytic acid.
The gluten content of hard wheats has been increased by plant breeding so that the bread will be light and fluffy. During bread-making when the yeast produces numerous tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide, the glue-like gluten causes the bubbles to stay intact while the bread cooks. In a gluten-free grain like rice, the bubbles burst and the dough flattens, so that the bread is more like rock cake. It is very tricky to make bread without gluten. This troublesome protein also occurs in rye, oats and barley.
Unfortunately, it appears that a lot of gluten is not good for us. This protein can damage the lining of the small intestine, which in the extreme case results in rather drastic malabsorption and is called coeliac disease. For the rest of us, it is quite possible that gluten is doing ‘sub-clinical’ harm in the form of tying up a portion of the immune system along with other possible effects.
The ancient grain, spelt wheat, does contain gluten but studies have shown that it can be tolerated by many people who are normally gluten-intolerant. Allergy testing has shown that when wheat-sensitive individuals are exposed to both wheat and spelt, the majority react negatively only to the wheat. However, people with coeliac disease should not eat spelt.
Phytic acid, which is in the bran and therefore present in wholemeal flour, causes malabsorption in a different way. It combines with minerals, rendering them insoluble so that they cannot be absorbed. This applies especially to calcium, zinc and iron. However, it is possible that the digestive system of a person who regularly eats wholemeal products can adapt and absorb these minerals.
In sourdough breads, the bread-making process converts much of the phytic acid to soluble compounds, so the malabsorption problem is largely overcome.
Wholemeal flour versus white flour. Milling the whole wheat to produce white flour removes the bran and wheatgerm and with them most of the nutrients. Although the carbohydrate and protein contents are similar, there endeth the similarities. Both contain 11 – 12% protein, but fibre and minerals and vitamins are drastically reduced in the white flour – we might call the refining process nutritional vandalism.
From Nutritional Values of Australian Foods, produced by ANZFA, here is a comparison of nutrients:
NUTRIENT WHOLEMEAL FLOUR WHITE FLOUR % LOSS
Fibre 11.2 gm 3.2 gm 70%
Potassium 315 mg 162 mg 49%
Calcium 30 mg 18 mg 40%
Magnesium 102 mg 34 mg 67%
Zinc 1.3 mg 0.5 mg 62%
Iron 3.0 mg 1.3 mg 57%
Vitamin B1 0.42 mg 0.27 mg 36%
Vitamin B2 0.11 mg 0.15 mg [36% more]
Vitamin B3 5.5 mg 2.8 mg 49%
Where white flour products are staples in the diet, the resulting mineral, vitamin and fibre contents can be associated with a wide range of health problems. People who eat white bread and pasta, cakes and pastries which are normally made from white flour are putting themselves in this risk category.
In contrast, whole wheat products eaten in moderation are considered to be protective against cancers of the bowel and breast. Wheatgerm, with its load of vitamin E, is protective against cancers and heart disease generally.
Research by the CSIRO, published in the April 2012 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, confirms that the fibre in whole wheat is protective against bowel cancer, of which
Rye bread has been eaten for centuries in Europe, Scandinavia and
Compared to wheat, rye flour contains considerably less gluten. Of the two proteins in gluten, there is plenty of gliadin but much less glutenin, resulting in lower gluten effect.
Be wary with rye bread as it often contains more wheat than rye, because the gluten in wheat makes the bread lighter – in contrast to pure rye bread which is dark and heavy.
If a loaf of so-called ‘rye’ bread is light in weight and light in colour, it will be mostly wheaten flour and the first item on the ingredient list will be “flour” or “wheaten flour”, both of which mean refined white flour. If the loaf is light in weight, but dark in colour, it means that colouring will have been added. Unfortunately, most rye breads are not 100% whole grain.
To obtain pure rye bread, go for the German-style pumpernickel, which is dark, dense, close-textured and made from ground whole rye grains, baked for long periods at low temperatures. Otherwise look for a loaf in which the ingredients are rye flour, water and whatever leavening.
Scottish people have thrived on oats as their staple grain for centuries – it is a good grain. Although only cultivated for 3,000 years, it is widely used around the world, mostly as porridge and muesli.
The grains are rolled, flaked or made into oatmeal or flour. ‘Instant’ oats are pre-cooked and cut up finely. The flour can be used to make bread, while the rolled oats may be the main ingredient in cookies and, of course, the legendary Anzac biscuits.
Gluten is present in oats, but much less than in wheat.
Oats is higher in protein, at 10.7%, than the other cereals and it is well balanced. Starch content is 62%, making it a good energy food.
But the most interesting major nutrients are fat and fibre. Its 8.5% fat content is much higher than any other cereal grain, which is why it makes a mouth-watering creamy porridge, and its 7% fibre content is two-thirds soluble – it is one of the richest sources of soluble fibre, called beta-glucan. Soluble fibre carries surplus cholesterol out of the body and has been assumed to benefit heart disease, hence a book published in 1999 called The 8-Eight Week Cholesterol Cure by Robert E. Kowalski, which was based on consuming oat bran (16% fibre). [Note that the theory of cholesterol causing heart disease is now out of date.]
Oats are quite rich in minerals and vitamins. Potassium is around 300 mg per 100 gm, calcium is 45 mg, magnesium 130 mg, zinc 1.9 mg, iron 3.7 mg, B1 0.53, B2 0.14 and B3 1.0 mg. There are also good levels of manganese (the ‘memory mineral’), copper and the B-vitamins folic acid and inositol which is good for the brain.
Muesli was invented in
Commercial muesli today is nearly all oats and little else. ‘Raw’ rolled oats is actually not raw as it has been lightly steamed during the rolling process. ‘Roasted’ oats has had a lot more heating with consequent loss of nutrients.
Oats is helpful for certain conditions. Its high silica is good for the skin and nails, its low GI make it suitable for diabetes sufferers, and it makes us feel full which helps prevent obesity.
Barley was consumed by the Egyptians and other ancient civilisations over 8,000 years ago. In the modern world its main use is for the making of beer, whisky and vinegar. Barley soup is a favourite in the home kitchen, and barley is also available as rolled barley or flakes for use in porridge, etc, in the same way as oats, and also as flour. Barley has a nice heating effect on the body in winter.
The most nutritious way to prepare this cereal is as barley grass juice, made in the same way as wheatgrass juice. The nutrition is superb and very easily assimilated.
As with oats, most of the fibre is soluble (as beta-glucan), in fact, there is a higher content than in oats. Similarly, the low GI of barley makes it suitable for diabetes sufferers, and the fibre makes us feel full which helps prevent obesity. Also similarly to oats, there is gluten in barley, but much less than in wheat.
Whole grain barley is referred to as dehulled barley and still has its bran and germ intact, making it highly nutritious. The refined grain is pearl barley or pearled barley; it is dehulled barley which has been steam processed to remove the bran. It may then be ‘pearled’ or polished.
The only figures for nutrient content at hand are for pearl barley. It would appear that barley is somewhat similar to oats in its nutrition. Protein and starch levels are broadly similar, fat is much lower at 2.4%, whereas fibre is double. Because pearl barley is refined, the mineral and vitamin contents are significantly lower than in the whole grain. Compared to whole-grain oats, barley levels are around half to three-quarters. An exception is vitamin B3 which is much richer in barley.
Rice was first cultivated in
Rice is classified by the size of the grain. Long-grain rice is long and slender. These grains stay separate after cooking and are the best choice for a side dish or as a bed of rice. Medium-grain rice is shorter and plumper, and works well in paella and risotto. Short-grain rice is moist grains that stick together when cooked, and is used for rice pudding and molded salads. Most varieties are sold as either brown or white rice.
A specialty variety is risotto rice for risotto. Basmati rice is unique in that the grains are longer than most other types of rice, are free flowing rather than sticky, and have a unique fragrance – just as does jasmine rice. Basmati is also available as white or brown.
A huge benefit of rice compared to other cereals is that it free of gluten, so is ideal for people sensitive to gluten. Also, it rarely causes allergic reactions and is commonly used in diagnostic elimination diets used to detect allergenic foods. Rice cakes/thins are a good alternative to wheaten bread.
As with wheat, the outer layer of the grain is the bran and germ, and contain most of the good nutrition. Milling to produce white rice removes these valuable parts, so that white rice is mainly starch and a little protein.
For the major nutrients, both whole and white rice are close to 78% starch and 7% protein. The protein in rice is the best balanced – the most complete – among the cereal grains. Fat is 2.4% in brown and 0.5% in the white version. Fibre is 3.9% and 2.3% respectively.
But the critical difference lies in the minerals and vitamins. From Nutritional Values of Australian Foods, produced by ANZFA, here is a comparison:
NUTRIENT BROWN RICE WHITE RICE % LOSS
Potassium 165 mg 49 mg 70%
Calcium 11 mg 7 mg 36%
Magnesium 120 mg 34 mg 72%
Zinc 2.1 mg 1.1 mg 48%
Iron 1.2 mg 0.7 mg 42%
Vitamin B1 0.35 mg 0.08 mg 77%
Vitamin B2 0.05 mg 0.02 mg 60%
Vitamin B3 4.5 mg 2.0 mg 55%
As with wheat, these are big losses for the refined grain. As a nutritionist wrote over 100 years ago, “Man commits a crime against nature when he eats the starch and throws away the mechanism necessary for the metabolism of that starch.” White rice and white bread are close to fitting the description of ‘empty calories’; they almost rate as junk foods. In peoples whose diets are mostly white rice, they must sooner or later develop deficiency diseases such as beriberi from insufficient vitamin B1.
B-vitamins are essential for the nervous system, as well as for our energy supplies.
Buckwheat is not a cereal grain and it not related to wheat. It is actually a triangular-shaped seed related to rhubarb and sorrel. It can be ground into flour, making it a suitable substitute for cereal grains. Another name for buckwheat is its Polish name, ‘kasha’,
It is free of gluten, so is fine for people who are sensitive to it.
Buckwheat can be made into a hearty porridge or tabouli or added to a vegetable-based soup. It can replace rice in dishes. The flour can be made into apple muffins, light and fluffy pancakes or noodles for an Asian stir-fry. Buckwheat is widely used in Japanese cuisine and in western
Nutritionally, buckwheat is similar to many other grains. Its protein content is very good at 13%, starch 72%, fat 3.4% and fibre an abundant 10%.
Minerals are richly supplied – potassium is 460 mg, magnesium 230 mg, zinc 2.4 mg and iron 2.2 mg. Calcium is a low 18 mg. B-vitamins are well supplied, including a good dose of folate.
This is a grain that's good for the cardiovascular system. It is linked to lower risk of high blood pressure and a healthy heart. Buckwheat's beneficial effects are partly due to its rich supply of flavonoids, particularly rutin. Flavonoids protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C and acting as antioxidants. They help maintain blood flow and prevent excessive blood clotting.
The magnesium relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow, while lowering blood pressure.
Millet grains are tiny, highly nutritious and loved by budgerigars – those little birds aren’t stupid! It is a ‘freak’ among the grains because it is alkali-forming, whereas the others are acidl-forming.
Millet is a staple crop in arid or semi-arid regions of the world and is grown widely in
It is a whole grain with no gluten, and does not tend to cause allergy. The flour is suitable for baking. Millet bread is flat bread, due to the absence of gluten.
Compared to other cereal grains, millet is higher in protein at around 11%. Starch is 65% and fat 4%. Millet has a good content of tryptophan from which the body makes the ‘feel-good’ stress hormone, serotonin.
Minerals are abundant, although not as much as in buckwheat. Potassium is 200 mg, magnesium 115 mg, zinc 1.7 mg, iron 3.0 mg, copper 0.75 mg and manganese 1.7 mg. Calcium is a mere 8 mg. B-vitamins are well supplied, including a lot of folate. Even though these levels are not outstanding, millet is still alkali-forming, leaving an alkaline residue after metabolism is complete.
The folate and iron contents and alkali-forming properties make millet a good food for pregnant women.
A significant negative with millet is that it is goitrogenic, meaning it opposes iodine and the production of thyroid hormone, so can lead to goitre. Other common goitrogenic foods include soya products and cruciferous vegetables. Cooking does not destroy goitrogens, so consuming sea kelp would be a good way of obtaining extra iodine.
Millet with its many positives and one negative is a good example of why no one food should be over-eaten and why variety is the spice of good nutrition.
A super way to consume millet is as porridge combined with buckwheat and flax seeds. Mix three parts millet with one part each of buckwheat and flax seeds and grind coarsely in a coffee/seed grinder. Mix well with water and cook in a double boiler or in a single saucepan which will requred stirring continuously.
For people consuming fruit only for breakfast, this porridge can be renamed ‘pudding’ (as in rice pudding) and eaten as the carbohydrate dish in lunch or dinner.
By Dr Lisa Matriste, BDSc Hons (Uni of Qld)
Director, Australians for Mercury Free Dentistry, Environmental Committee, International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology
Mercury, a potent neurotoxin that is also known as quicksilver, is one of the most poisonous substances on earth, known or believed to cause scores of conditions such as irritability, liver and brain damage, muscle spasticity, autistic behaviour, chronic fatigue and Alzheimer's disease. Depending on the type of mercury and type of exposure, poisoning can lead to delirium, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies, psychosis, brain death and, of course, death outright, as was witnessed at the Minamata tragedy in Japan a number of decades ago.