Is October the Best Month to Start a Diet?

Diet Time Concept

Well, as far as one study is concerned, it could be! The world-renowned eating behavior expert and author of the brilliant Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink teamed up with two other respected researchers to record the daily weight change in 2924 participants over a 12 month period from three countries (United States, Germany and Japan) and discovered that the participants' weight rose over the Christmas/New Year period plus in all three countries there was significant weight gain around other major holidays.  Overall, weight increase was between 0.5kg and 0.8kg and whilst around half the weight gained was often lost after all the recorded holidays, the other half tended to remain for many months.

Whilst the researchers concluded that greater self-control during holidays was clearly the route for all, they determined that this was not always easy so best advice is to do everything we can to ensure that we head into ANY holiday period at a healthy weight, which makes October an excellent month to make a few resolutions and get started on a weight loss journey in the lead up to the Christmas and New Year holiday and party season!

click here for 20 diet and lifestyle changes to get you started!

Health at a Planetary Scale

Physicians, Howard Frumkin and Sam Myers have written an extremely informative and very revealing article for POLITICO on climate change and the need to link human health directly to the health of the earth’s natural systems on which we depend and why we should be thinking bigger - way bigger - about public health.... 

Here are just two extracts but I urge you to read the full article and share it as extensively as you can:

"Ultimately, if the insights of planetary health are going to yield their full benefits, it will fall to policymakers to think big – to see the connections among issues such as natural resource management, energy, agriculture and urban development and to place human health and well-being at the center of their decisions."

"Food is yet another example. Agronomists have known for some time that climate change reduces the yield of most major food crops. But climate change has other effects as well: rising carbon dioxide levels erode the nutritional quality of many foods, lowering the levels of critical nutrients including protein, zinc and iron. This research helps anticipate hot spots of potential malnutrition and helps drive the search for more nutritious cultivars."

Why Your Skin Loves the Colour Purple!

Purple fruits and vegetables. Blue onion, purple cabbage, eggplant, grapes and plums on a wooden background.

There was a time when your local greengrocer's shop was hefty with the colour green (the clue is in the name, I suppose!) but no more... they are now a riot of colour and have you noticed how purple is making a rather large statement?

Berries, plums, black grapes, red cabbage, red onions etc have had a seat at our tables for decades but what about purple potatoes, purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple-sprouting broccoli, purple asparagus and a number of other fruits and vegetables that appear to have had a bit of a blue rinse?

It's all about a type of plant chemical in the flavonoid group called anthocyanin (an-tho-si-a-nin) being highly-researched in past years and discovered to have hugely-protective properties against those pesky free radicals (unstable molecules that damage cells and contribute to ageing and disease). Blueberries were first to earn themselves the now-perhaps-overused title of superfood but nevertheless, they certainly showed themselves to be a worthy addition to our diet and research continued to focus on more dark red and purple foods.

Blue corn is said to be the richest source of these anthocyanins and if you have been to Mexico you will likely have seen it regularly featured on menus as it is liberally used in traditional Mexican food (the story goes that tribes in the Southwestern United States were using it in cooking as far back as 1540 so it's certainly nothing new and they knew nothing about 'the power of purple'!) However, you have to seek it out in other parts of the world and whilst blue corn tortilla chips are readily available and are certainly a better choice than the plain variety, it can't be said to be a splendid excuse to hoover down a bag or two - rather too many calories and salt!

Why are these plant chemicals good for your skin? Principally, the role they play in the protection of our capillaries, the vast and extremely delicate network of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to skin tissues and remove waste, allowing them to repair and renew. Anthocyanins also assist in collagen formation and stability and help protect us against the damaging effects of too much sun - particularly on the face.

So while you continue to use purple fruits and berries for snacks, in juices and smoothies, in salads and in your Fresh Fruit with Crunchy Yoghurt (see my recipe), keep an eagle eye out for purple vegetables - the green varieties already provide a fabulous array of vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals but the purple lot have a wee extra something!

You have likely noticed aubergine (eggplant), that beautiful, shiny purple vegetable often features in my recipes (love it!) Try my Aubergine Curry with Meat, Poultry, Fish or Tofu recipe. Instead of using white cauliflower for the 'cauliflower rice', I occasionally opt for the purple variety - and it looks and tastes great!  

Why Your Brain Loves Avocados!

Sliced avocado

It was some considerable time ago that avocados leapt into the superfoods chart thanks to the impressive levels of a group of monounsaturated fats that have been shown to provide important anti-inflammatory benefits to our body systems - particularly the cardiovascular system. All manner of new and exciting superfoods have hit the charts since then (goji berries, macqui berries, watermelon seeds, chia seeds, chaga mushrooms - the list goes on) but research into the health benefits of the now-perhaps-overly-familiar avocado continues and this is extremely good news!

A recent study conducted at Tufts University found that the consumption of fresh avocado is an effective way to increase lutein levels in the eyes and brain. Lutein is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant chemical which is found in fruits and vegetables and avocados are a rich source. Researchers found that one medium avocado per day increased lutein levels by 25% in the eyes and progressive improvement on tests that evaluated memory, processing speed and attention levels in the control group (40 healthy adults over the age of 50) leading to a meaningful proposal that the consumption of fresh avocado daily may lead to increased macular pigment density and improved cognitive function in healthy older adults. This study also revealed that lutein levels in the eye more than doubled in subjects that consumed fresh avocados compared to those that took a supplement.

I find myself getting somewhat distressed when people shy away from eating avocados on a regular basis believing them to be fattening because they are rich in fats - nothing could be further from the truth! Not only are they an excellent source of health-enhancing monounsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory and protective plant chemicals, they are also rich in soluble fibre which helps stabilise blood sugar levels, facilitate good digestion and bowel regularity and aid weight control, they are a good source of energy-generating B vitamins and immune-boosting vitamin C, they are rich in essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron and copper and they offer a worthy supply of folate for pregnant women which is crucial in the prevention of birth defects. They also have the highest protein levels and lowest sugar content of any fruit and the richness of fat makes them a filling, delicious and nutritious part of a meal or simply as a fast and fabulous snack.

Here are the links to a few of my tasty avocado recipes that offer their unique combination of nutrients and a great deal more:

Stuffed Avocado

Lemon Ginger Chicken

Soft Boiled Eggs with Sweet Potato and Avocado

Crab, Salmon, Avocado, Fennel and Apple Salad