Humans have been fermenting food since ancient times. But now, as dishes like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha have become seriously hip, science is discovering the stuff may be an elixir of health
What exactly is fermentation?
Fermentation is the process of preserving and ennobling food by allowing bacteria to feast upon it. This process of benevolent decay is the same process that turns grapes to wine, hops to beer, soy beans to miso, cocoa beans to chocolate and milk to cheese. The key difference between fermentation and rot, is that fermentation is anaerobic, consuming no oxygen, while rot is aerobic. Leave a cabbage leaf in the open air and it will rot; submerge it in liquid and it will ferment.
The amount of probiotics and enzymes available in the average diet has declined sharply over the last few decades as pasteurized milk has replaced raw, pasteurized yogurt has replaced homemade, vinegar based pickles and sauerkraut have replaced traditional lacto-fermented versions, the list goes on.
THE ADULT HUMAN BODY is home to around 3kg of bacteria – roughly the same weight as your brain. Every nook and cranny of your person is swarming with microscopic bugs, from your skin to your mouth to your throat to your gut. You are not an individual entity – you’re an ecosystem, home to vast, teeming populations of bacteria. And these bacterial populations, collectively known as microbiota, are crucial to your good health. We’re a composite organism and this microbial component is just as important to our biology as our human cells. So important is our microbiota, scientists are now beginning to think of it like an organ, just like your stomach, liver or kidneys. These microbial legions modulate our immune systems and control our metabolisms, they regulate our central nervous system and shape our moods. Although the precise mechanisms remain shadowy, the importance of these populations of bacteria are now scientific fact. Obesity, cancer, depression, allergies, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases like asthma, even tooth decay – are all being traced back to disruptions in our microbiota. Put simply, these vast populations of bacteria don’t live on or in us – they live with us. Without us they die; without them, we die.
Our microbiotas start developing at birth. In our mother’s womb we are sterile, free of all bacteria. But as we begin struggling down the birth canal, then pushing our heads into the light, we are coated with millions of microbes. When we first take our mothers nipple and begin sucking down breastmilk, we ingest millions more (breast milk is swarming with the good stuff). And thus the process begins, a process that gathers steam as we begin eating, crawling, walking. By the time we’re three, our microbiotas have been largely established. Whether your bacterial ecosystem is diverse and healthy or narrow and fragile depends (to a large extent) on those first 3 years of life. If you were born by caesarean section, then your microbiota would have suffered. If you were fed formula rather than breast milk, it would have suffered further. If you led a cocooned existence as a child, rarely getting dirty or touching other humans or patting animals, it would have taken another hit.
If this describes your early life, don’t despair. Over the past few decades, the entire Western world has been doing its level best to destroy our bacterial friends. We’ve been starving them with low-fibre diets, ravaging them with antimicrobial soaps, obliterating them with course after course of antibiotics. We’ve sought to cleanse them from our kitchens, scrub them from our skin, poison them from our guts. Little surprise that, taken as whole, our microbiotas are seriously impoverished. Like a rainforest that has been burned and logged, our bodies have become inhospitable places of our bacteria.
Fortunately, the great strength of the microbiota is its malleability. Fragile microbiota can be strengthened, just as robust ones can be weakened. AND this is where fermented foods come in!
These foods teeming with colonies of bacteria are an antidote to out sterile modern landscape of antimicrobial soaps and antibiotic medications; they are the handfuls of live seeds spread over that burned and logged rainforest. There’s good evidence that taking live microbes orally has a real impact on our health. The data is not yet overwhelming, but its pointing in the right direction.
Fermentation transforms foods nutritionally. The pre-digestion of fermented foods makes the nutrients more easily available to us. Fermentation also causes the production of certain unique micro-nutrients that are produced by the bacteria as they ferment the food. Then there are the strains of live bacteria that are found only in certain types of fermented food.
To have a food that can improve your immune function and mental health – that’s huge.
Sure, stuffing vegetables in jars and letting bacteria do their thing may be well and good in a backwoods retreat or the world’s finest chef in their gleaming kitchens. But what about the rest of us? Should we really be packing cabbage into jars and waiting till the bugs have their way? Can’t we just buy a bottle of Yakult?
Ah well no. Yakult’s just good marketing and is actually really high in sugar. Pickled vegetables are similarly dismissed as they are preserved in vinegar which kills off bacteria. Jars of sauerkraut are also not ideal as to ensure they don’t “explode on the shelf”, they have been pasteurised, eradicating most of the good bacteria.
The best (and cheapest) method is to make your own!
Humans didn’t invent fermentation; fermentation created us. Hone your fermenting skills with this basic sauerkraut recipe
Should your muscles be sore after every workout and have you walking side to side?
We’ve all been there. The day after a brutal squat session or copious amounts of bench or bicep curls. You’re finding yourself cringing as you walk down a flight of stairs or reach to grab your toothbrush.
The soreness you feel can be attributed to ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’, otherwise known as DOMs. The feeling often manifests within 6-8 hours post-exercise and peaks up to 48 hours afterward.
What Causes DOMs?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand what doesn’t cause DOMS: lactic acid. It is a common misconception that the accumulation and build up of lactic acid or toxic metabolic waste was the reason for our post-exercise pain.
This is now considered an outdated theory and yet ironically, there is no clear cut winner for the exact mechanism of DOMS. However, there is a widely held belief that it is the product of inflammation (caused by microscopic tears) in the connective tissue elements that sensitise nociceptors and thereby heighten the sensation of pain. Simply put, DOMS appears to occur due to connective tissue microtrauma.
When it comes to how people view DOMS, there are two extremes. There are those that seek it no matter what. They gauge the effectiveness of their training by how sore they are the next day, thinking the sorer they are, the more progress they’ve made. Others avoid DOMS like a bad movie. For them, being sore isn’t pleasurable.
So, which vantage point is correct? - Well, the answer is a loaded one. When it comes to soreness and whether or not it’s mandatory to making progress, the truth is, soreness isn’t a prerequisite for building muscle and there really can be gain without pain. However... in order to progress – whether your goal is to add muscle or lose fat – it's crucial to consistently challenge the body to adapt. This is done by making muscles work, pushing things, pulling things, picking heavy things up and putting them back down. The same people who avoid DOMS or hardly ever experience it, are usually the same people who find themselves wondering why they are never making any progress. When you try a new workout or unfamiliar exercise, your body is going to respond with some feedback. The most common response? Muscle soreness.
Soreness vs. Pain
Important to note, there is a difference between muscle soreness and pain. The former is OK, the latter however (pain) is an indication that the workout or exercise was too advanced, too heavy or that something structurally wrong may have occurred and done damaged (poor technique/form).
How to differentiate?
Any experienced athelete will know the difference between DOMs and pain (injury), but here's a tip: DOMS manifests within 6-8 hours post-exercise and peaks up to 48 hours afterward. An injury can occur shortly after doing the exercise and it will feel 'different' or 'wrong'. It also most likely wont start feeling better after the 48 hour mark like DOMs traditionally would.
If you are in pain or think you have injured yourself, it is important to seek out a reputable health professional to avoid the formation of scar tissue or further damage.
Finding a Balance
DOMS is a normal physiological response by the body, and is a result of what happens when you challenge it. The degree of soreness experienced from one person to another can be highly individual and while soreness (or lack thereof) should never be the sole measurement in determining the effectiveness of a workout. If you find you are never sore following exercise, there’s a good chance you’re not challenging yourself. Perhaps you’re not using heavy enough weight to elicit an adaptive response, or maybe you’re not adding enough variety to your routine.
Conversely, it’s also not ideal to be sore all the time. Ample recovery is just as important, if not more so, to overall success and development.
Seek out discomfort. Cyclists hate stretching because their legs are tight; swimmers hate running because they’re faster in water. Humans love being comfortable, so we keep doing what we’re good at. But once you remove yourself from that comfort zone, you’re building the foundations to embrace your fears and GROW. In every workout, aim to do one exercise that you dread. You’re not simply expanding your skills – you’re preparing yourself for those testing situations in life that can engulf you like a rolling whitewash.
We don't give them much thought when compared to super-foods like quinoa and kale but it turns out the old dinner-table staples are some of the healthiest on the planet.
Birmingham based catering company Plyvine Catering has revealed the list of relatively inexpensive and easy-to-source fruit, nuts, fish and vegetables that give us the most in health benefits.
From dark chocolate to potatoes, these are the foods to focus on for a healthy diet:
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have been linked to a reduced risk of depression, heart disease and cancer. An 85 gram serving contains almost half your daily dose of niacin, said to protect against Alzheimers and memory loss.
One potato holds 66 micrograms of folate. That's about the equivalent to the amount found in a cup of spinach or broccoli. Kumara has almost eight times the amount of vitamin A required daily.
Just one lemon has more than 100 per cent of your daily intake of vitamin C, which may help increase "good" HDL levels and strengthen bones.
Citrus flavonoids found in lemons may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Just seven grams of dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals.
Of all nuts, walnuts contain the most omega-3, an essential fat shown to improve mood and fight cancer.
A medium stalk of broccoli contains more than 100 per cent of your daily vitamin K requirements and just under 200 per cent of your recommended daily vitamin C dose.
Allicin is a compound found in garlic that works as an anti-inflammatory. It has been shown to help lower cholesterol and blood-pressure levels.
Avocados can reduce your risk of heart disease. In one avocado, more than half the fibre and 40 per cent of the folate you need daily can be found.
This leafy green contains two immune-boosting antioxidants important for eye health. Recent research found that among cancer-fighting fruits and veggies, spinach is one of the most effective.
A serving of legumes such as beans, peas and lentils four times a week can reduce the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.
Vision-impairing conditions are on the up. Protect yourself from these eyesight saboteurs
According to many ophthalmologists, cases of myopia (near sightedness) are spiking while glaucoma, cataracts and other eye conditions are also on the rise. One major culprit is screen use. But stress, poor nutrition, smoking and obesity can also sap your sight. In fact, anything that hurts your heart will strain your eyes. So don’t fall victim to these mistakes!
Blue light from your devices may contribute to macular degeneration, an impairment of you central vision. Plus not blinking fully while staring at a screen can cause ‘computer vision syndrome’ – dryness, pain and fatigue.
Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 seconds, take a break and look at something 20 feet (6 metres) away for 20 seconds. Look out a window if you can, broad vistas help your eyes relax.
The stress hormone cortisol can lead to impaired retinal function. This can result in a condition known as central serous chorioretinopathy (CSCR), a build-up of liquid that causes blurry vision.
Exercise and meditation can slash stress. Better yet, go see your favourite act. An hour of live music can lower your cortisol levels by 25%.
The closer you hold something to your face, the harder your eyes work. This strain may cause your eyeballs to elongate, possibly resulting in myopia.
Keep any screen at least 40cm from your face and bump up the text size if you find yourself squinting on leaning closer.
Blunt trauma to the eye – say, from an errant ball or elbow – is the most common cause of vision loss in young men. One nightmare is a detached retina, which can also result from any violent head movement – even an intense sneeze.
If the sport allows, wear sunglasses. Good for sports like cricket and beach volleyball, not so good for others like rugby. If you take a hit and notice flashing lights, head to the ED.
Avoiding leafy greens means you miss out on nutrients such as nitrates and lutein that can help ward off glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Nitrates help promote bloodflow to the retina. A study published found that people who eat 240mg a day (a cup of spinach) are 30% less likely to develop glaucoma than people who steer clear of greens.
If you’re a smoker, obese or both, your risk of glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye diseases soars by up to 300%.
Lose the extra weight and ditch the burners. A diet rich in fatty fish, fruits and vegetables (especially those high in vitamin C and zinc) helps deliver better eye health.
Almost a year and a half ago (October, 2015), the World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled processed meats – such as bacon, sausages and hot dogs as ‘carcinogenic’ and therefore cancer causing. This puts processed meats in a group 1 list, which already includes tobacco, asbestos and diesel fumes – Yikes! In addition, WHO added that red meats including beef, pork, veal and lamb are “probably carcinogenic”.
The announcement wasn’t a total surprise. For years, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has been recommending that individuals reduce the amount of red meats in their diets and to avoid processed meats. Indeed, there is a lot research showing a connection between red and manufactured meats, linked to various types of cancer. A massive study in BMC Medicine for example, linked processed meat consumption not just with cancer but also early death – “A diet rich in processed meat is energy-rich and nutrient poor, and is associated with the development of the disabilities and diseases of modern civilisation. This includes cancer but also obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and many other conditions associated with continuous chronic low level inflammation.
How processed meats increase risk of cancer is still being studied, but four major factors have been identified;
1) Preservatives used such as nitrites and nitrates
2) Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons - A toxic substance formed by smoking meats
3) Heterocyclic amines - Formed by cooking meat at a high heat (shown to damage DNA)
4) The heme iron found in red meat, which can damage the lining of the colon
NOW, before a room full of vegetarians all applaud and shake hands…
First, this does not mean that all carcinogens are equally dangerous, it’s important to note that even things like aloe Vera is on the list of possible carcinogens.
Second, these findings need to be taken with a heavy grain of salt. At the other end of the spectrum, there have been some equally worrying findings regarding vegetarian/vegan diets. Various studies, including one that was carried out in Austria, found that adults who consumed a solely vegetarian diet (compared with other dietary habits) were actually, "less healthy, had a lower quality of life and required more medical treatment". They found that vegetarians were significantly more likely to suffer from mental health ailments such as; anxiety, depression, decreased social relationships and negative environmental factors. They were also more likely to suffer from allergies and other types of cancer.
The point? Scientific evidence shows that cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and a balanced diet with healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health. It’s also important to put all new findings and new classifications in context.
I genuinely believe WHO are on the right track when classing processed meats as carcinogenic. I am not so convinced when it comes to their labeling of other red meats. Plenty of research points to the benefits of red meat consumption; the high biological-value proteins and important micro-nutrients such as B vitamins, iron and zinc. People also need to consider any off-setting benefits such as the nutritional value meat delivers or the implications of drastically reducing or removing meat from the diet altogether. Good quality, free range meat contains Vitamin B12, CoQ10, Creatine, Carnosine, Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin D3 (all of which are found exclusively in animal sources).
What Is Healthy Meat?
In New Zealand we are lucky, nearly all of our cows are grass-fed as opposed to grain (like much of the USA). There are two steps I recommend when it comes to choosing your meat.
1. Avoid Processed Meat
Meat in general gets blamed for causing bowel cancer. I believe it is processed meat, a lack of green leafy vegetables, poor digestion, lack of chewing, over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and vitamin, mineral and antioxidant deficiencies which leads to increased cancer risk. Many processed meats use a raft of corn and soy fillers, chemical preservatives, anti-foaming agents, sugar, hydrolysed vegetable oils, meatglue and in some cases, colour and flavour. Ontop of that, a review of more than 7,000 clinical studies examining the connection between diet and cancer came to a stark conclusion: No one should eat processed meats.
2. Choose Nutrient Dense Meat
Due to modern intensive agricultural farming, nutrient levels in the soil and in the food we grow have been stripped. We should choose growers who nurture the soil ecology, that promote and follow organic and free range practices and also those growers that recognise overuse of chemicals can damage the soil ecology (and are dangerous to human health).
Fortunately, there are farmers who are growing more nutrient dense foods and you can even get this kind of food delivered direct to your home or office. Green Meadows Beef, is an example of good quality grass-fed beef that you can get delivered anywhere in NZ with free deliveries over $90! Visit them here at http://www.greenmeadowsbeef.co.nz/
(If you know any other good suppliers please comment and link them in the description!)
Remember, everyone is at different stages of their health journey and our knowledge of foods and diets are constantly changing. I would urge readers not to think of red meats (on their own) as carcinogenic. After all, the Inuit people had a traditional diet loaded with blubbery meat and there are good records showing colon cancer did not exist in that population. It is my belief that a daily serving of beef, lamb or pork, served with a rainbow of veg, will actually protect you against intestinal cancers and I strongly encourage everyone to add more vegetables into their diet as well as healthy red meat.
Vitamin D is a star nutrient these days, and has been well-established in the role of good bone health and supporting the immune, brain and the nervous system. As well as reducing the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Interestingly, before the year 2000, very few doctors ever considered the possibility that we may be deficient in vitamin D. But as the ability to measure levels became more readily available, it became increasingly clear that vitamin D deficiency was absolutely rampant, with up to 84% of New Zealanders deficient in this essential vitamin.
Did you know:
The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). What few people realise is the body can only synthesise vitamin D between 10am and 3pm in SUMMER! When the sun’s rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere at too much of an angle, the atmosphere blocks the UVB part of the rays, so your skin can’t produce vitamin D.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Many decades ago, doctors believed that vitamin D was good only for healthy bones and teeth. Research has since proven otherwise, with a deficiency now being linked to numerous health problems including; heart disease, depression and cancer. One study at Creighton University found that vitamin D, when combined with calcium, reduced cancer by 77%.
One clue your lacking? You’ve starting feeling wimpy or blue. That’s because your muscle fibers contain vitamin D receptors, which play a key role in protein synthesis and growth. Without enough of the nutrient, both muscle strength and body function can suffer.
How much do you need?
This is as easy as rolling up your sleeve! If you haven’t had your vitamin D levels tested, I would highly recommend doing so. Most medical clinics in DHB areas are no longer funded for this, as it is considered a ‘preventative test’. Generally, the best way is to go into a local lab like Southern Labs, Lab Tests or Med Labs where you can get a test done for around $40.
Vitamin D levels are measured by 2 different units, ng/ml in the United States and nmol/l in most other places. Depending what you read, recommended levels are beween; 40-60 ng/ml OR 50-100 nmol/L. Anything less is considered a deficiency.
Note; The is the minimum required levels, not the optimum levels, further research suggests we may need even more. Older adults especially need more as aged skin becomes less efficient at synthesising vitamin D.
How do you increase your vitamin D levels?
Get some summer sun! The best time to get outside and soak up the vitamin D is between 10am and 3pm (in summer). However, your body can’t make vitamin D if you’re wearing sunscreen, so 20 minutes of sun exposure should be the maximum you aim for (depending on your skin type, less if you’re fairer), as it’s important not to burn your skin. Most people with fair skin will max out their vitamin D production in just 10-20 minutes. Some need less, others more. The darker your skin, the longer exposure you will need to optimize your vitamin D production. A good rule of thumb; if your shadow is longer than you are tall, you’re not making much vitamin D. The closer to midday the better the angle and the more vitamin D is produced.
Vitamin D can also be obtained from food and supplements, however, it is my firm belief that we were not designed to swallow our daily dose of vitamin D, we were designed to absorb it from the sun. Food and supplements should be used to complement vitamin D from the sun, especially in the winter months. There are very few foods that actually have therapeutic levels of vitamin D naturally, some of those foods include; oily fish (salmon, tuna, trout), liver, eggs, mushrooms and raw dairy (milk, cheese). Supplements can help fill the gaps, so if you are taking a supplement, you will want to make sure you are getting D3, as this is the most biologically active form of vitamin D.
Final Thoughts & Tips
It is a fine line between sufficient vitamin D absorption vs skin damage and melanoma. There is a danger that a couple ‘sun bunnies’ will read this article and think it is ok to spend 3 hours in the sun getting burnt. It’s not.
To all my readers, the blog will be taking a break in January and will be back the first Monday of February. Have a good holiday and enjoy the summer sun!
10 foods proven to lift energy, repair muscles and blast fat
Looking for some fresh, tasty salads this summer? We got you covered! Best of all, by including a variety of ingredients, salads are often a nutritional powerhouse.
These onions are a bright idea for your body; they contain allicin, which aids muscle repair and increase antioxidant activity, according to the journal Phytotherapy Research.
Ditch the banana; this hardy herb delivers on your potassium needs. Just one bulb provides a quarter of your RDI, as well as helping combat gas and regulate hunger. It’ll ensure you’re all bulk and no bark.
Packed full of nitrate, these greens boost your blood flow and oxygen supply, so you can make better use of your outdoor summer activities.
The flesh is full of vitamin B6, which reduces fatigue and helps turn carbs into energy.
Mint works as a natural muscle relaxant which helps with muscle spasms and knots.
Beat infections with beta-carotene. Chilli ups your dose of multiple vitamins to keep germs at bay.
This meaty fish is heart-healthy. Its rich in potassium but sodium-poor, curbing your risk of high blood pressure.
As one of the few foods that contain silica, cucumber improves calcium assimilation to boost bone density and strength.
It’s a top source of quercetin, an anti-inflammatory flavonoid that increases your nitric oxide, for better stamina.
This sharp finishing touch is packed with vitamin C - an ally of energising iron. It enhances mineral absorption, squeezing more from the rocket and tuna – the perfect pairing.
Gratitude may be a “chick thing”, but it’s another reason why women are happier and live longer than men. But you can even the playing field with two very simple words
Just so you know, gratitude has been around slightly longer than the internet. The Roman Philosopher Cicero deemed it ‘the greatest of virtues’ and the world’s major religions foster a sense of gratitude with prayers of thanks and litanies of blessings. However, when it comes to giving thanks, it would appear men are noticeably off the pace (sorry gents!). In comparison, women are more grateful on almost every level. Take Facebook, women are grateful for sunny days to butterflies to ass-kicking gym sessions.
Despite this, are we actually becoming a more grateful society? It hardly feels like it. People are least likely to express gratitude in the workplace despite wishing to be thanked more often in it. If asked, most would say they are grateful for family and friends, yet only 52% of women and 44% of men express gratitude on a regular basis. All in all, most think we have become less grateful over the past 20 years.
What you won’t see on Twitter, is a decade’s worth of research from scientific studies on gratitude. The new field of ‘positive psychology’ has produced more than 1000 scientific papers showing that gratitude, can improve three key areas of your life;
As far as your health goes, studies show that gratitude can significantly lower systolic blood pressure, helping those with hypertension. It also showed, those who felt most grateful about life, slept better. Grateful people it seems, have more positive thoughts and fewer negative ones just before sleep. Research also links the experience of feeling grateful emotions to an increased activity in the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is beneficial in controlling stress.
A study at the University of North Carolina found that gratitude is like a booster shot for romantic relationships. The study discovered that the good deeds we do for our soulmates go completely unnoticed about half the time. Which can lead to feeling underappreciated or feelings of resentment.
This can be rectified with one simple exercise. Each night, independently responds ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following 2 statements. First statement; I did something thoughtful for my partner. Second; My partner did something thoughtful for me. This strategy will highlight all the little things you may be unaware your partner does and the opportunity to give and receive gratitude.
This involves the power of ‘thank you’ in the workplace. Most of us never hear a word of heartfelt praise at work, even though 81% of us say we’d work harder if we did. The connection here is that workplace gratitude is directly associated with productivity, the more employees feel valued, the harder they work. The absence of gratitude can send as powerful a message as the presence of it, as someone not thankful can send a strong signal of distrust.
Consider this: Negative attitudes are bad for you while gratitude makes you happier and healthier. In a word, it is remarkable that the positive effects of gratitude, are consistent, significant and quantifiable. In that, if you invest in a way of seeing the world that is mean and frustrating, you’re going to get a world that is, well, more mean and frustrating.
So why do we suffer from ‘gratitude deficit disorder’? Theories suggest that gratitude implies we need help, and we don’t like looking weak. Gratitude implies dependence, and we don’t like being dependent. Gratitude is an emotion, and we don’t like emotions. But if you can find a authentic reason to give thanks, with anything that is going right with the world or your life. Then statistics say you’re going to be happier while perhaps bringing out the best in those around you too.
Looking for a protein hit that won’t cost the earth? It might be time you started adding Ocean Vegetables to your kitchen rotation.
But it’s like sea ‘weed’ right, something to avoid on the beach? – Not anymore. While most of us may be comfortable with nori sheets encasing our sushi, we would be less comfortable with a slimy fettucine variant. Meanwhile, in Asia, they’re eating it by the bucket load. However, there are signs that seaweed may be on its way to becoming the new kale, as producers eye a global edible seaweed market valued at $8 billion.
So lets begin with a few facts to explain why this ocean vegetable could be a key component in the future of food.
As urbanisation spreads and expands, fertile land to grow crops and raise livestock are quickly running out. Global fisheries are not doing much better, with the UN food and agriculture (FAO) estimating that 70% of the fish population is either fully used, overused or in crisis.
Seaweed on the other hand is abundant, sustainable and widespread.
Nutritionally, seaweed packs what our land vegetables can’t, mainly because of deficient soil quality. New Zealand in particular has some of the lowest levels of selenium in the world. By contrast, seaweed acts as a sponge in mineral rich oceans, loading up with
Then there’s the protein. The percentage varies between the 30-odd known edible seaweed varieties (from 10,000 plus in total). After drying, it comprises 40% protein. That’s dusting most cuts of beef right there. A further milling process provides a salt reduced extract boasting a whopping 60% protein. Now you’re nudging towards the top of the protein hit-list, in tune with another algae which you may have already heard of and tried; spirulina.
Seaweed has one more superweapon. It is high in what are called free glutamates, which when combined with other ingredients, produces what a Japanese scientist coined umami, or delicious flavour. Umami is now accepted in the West as the fifth taste alongside salt, bitter, sweet and sour. Umami is that savoury meatiness that keeps you coming back for more of something. Other examples of umami include; Marmite (a kiwi favourite) and also parmesan cheese. Seaweeds advantage however is Parmesan is 18% saturated fat while seaweed is just 0.2%.
As dark, leafy veggies go, seaweed is about as nutrient-dense as it gets. So if you’re looking for something to help build muscle, re-populate your gut flora and improve your heart health, while being as virtuous as a solar panel. Perhaps it’s time to reach for some weed.
Some health benchmarks are outdated. If you want to stay fit and mentally sharp for life, then consider these new science-proven trackers of well-being.
Every cell in your body relies on water for survival. Studies suggest that dehydration hampers your endurance, motivation and mental sharpness. Problem is, the old eight glasses a day is too broad. It doesn't take into account gender, weight or activity throughout the day. A 70kg man, for instance, needs far less than a 100kg crossfit fanatic.
So stop counting trips to the water cooler and start counting trips to the bathroom. You should be averaging at least 5 trips a day to mean you're well hydrated. If not? Drink.
Devised in the 1830's, BMI was used to estimate 'how fat' someone was by dividing their weight (in kg) by their height (in meters squared).
Out of interest I entered my own measurements into a BMI calculator which you can find at the New Zealand Heart foundations website here; Having a BMI of 25.26, I just scraped into the category that classifies as; "overweight" and of "high risk of developing obesity related diseases". Which is not accurate.
This is BMI's major flaw, in that it does not distinguish between muscle and fat. Measuring BMI alone, certain groups (such as competitive athletes) can be shown inaccurately as obese. This doesn't mean BMI is wrong for everyone, it just means it has its limitations.
A better 'one-off measurement' is the waist-to-hip ratio. A study by Mayo Clinic assessing more than 15,000 adults, found that men with high waist-to-hip ratios were twice as likely to die over the 14 year study as men with high BMI’s.
Waist-to-hip Ratio - How to calculate
To calculate your ratio, measure your waist at your belly button and your hips at their widest point. Divide the first number (waist) by the second (hips). For males 0.90 - 0.95 is the average, so aim for < 0.90. For females 0.80 - 0.85 is the average, so aim for < 0.80.
Numbers above average indicate you have too much visceral fat, the kind that promotes type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
To improve this number, many may be thinking cardio like the treadmill. A better idea is to hit the squat rack. Not only is weighted exercise more effective at burning fat but the higher the 'bottom' number, the better your overall score. So kill 2 birds with 1 stone and burn fat while building a better rear.
Saturated fat took a big hit a few decades back, when research (wrongly) linked it to heart disease. That science has since been debunked and I have talked about it in multiple blogs, but perception lingers. So let’s be clear, there is no solid evidence that saturated fat puts your heart at risk.
What isn’t controversial is the link between cardiovascular health and sitting; the more time you spend in your seat, the more your heart-attack risk spikes. A study in the Journal of Clinical Exercise found inactivity was responsible for twice as many deaths as obesity, and daily workouts don’t completely undo the damage.
Tying in to the first point, drink plenty of water so you are going to the bathroom at least 5 times a day. Don't think of it as an annoyance but rather an opportunity to get up and walk around. Office less than 4 floors up? Walk!
So enjoy a steak. Just earn it with time on your feet.
The sit and reach test (sitting with your legs straight and trying to touch your toes) does have some merit. A study of Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition found that people with more flexibility have less arterial stiffness. Unfortunately, the results apply only to people over 40.
A better test; grip strength. By following 140,000 adults, international researchers linked a weaker grip to an increased risk of death from all causes. The average middle-age should generate about 50kg of force.
To test your grip, you will need to use a dynamometer, which you may find at your local gym or ask a personal trainer.
In 1970, 1000 milligrams a day of vitamin C was believed to protect you from colds. Numerous studies have surprisingly, found very little, to no link between vitamin C and illness prevention.
What does help? Friends. Researchers found that people with robust friendship circles tend to have less systemic inflammation. According to a Cornell University Study, the average person today, has two close friends. Aim to have 5 to see an uptick in Health. Everyone benefits from social interaction, and no, Facebook doesn’t count!
Your arteries don’t do well under pressure. They stiffen and plaque collects along the inner walls which puts undue strain on your heart. The magic number for blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.
In a US study of people aged 50 and over with high blood pressure. Those who dropped their systolic BP below 120mmHG reduced their risk of death by 27%. So keep your Blood pressure down. No pressure.