Here’s our light-hearted overview on the A – Z of nutrition.
A – Vitamin A.
A fat-soluble vitamin found in veggies and essential for eye health. It is the most common form of nutrient deficiency blindness in the world. One 14 year old Australian boy recently went blind due to Vitamin A deficiency, so kids – eat your veggies!
B – Vitamin B.
There are eight different types of vitamin B all of which have different functions in the body. Vitamin B1 levels are reduced with excess alcohol consumption. The Health Department in Australia decided we drank way too much booze so now all bread is fortified with vitamin B1. Drink less alcohol people!
C – Vitamin C.
The Australian dietary guidelines recommend that we consume 60mg of Vitamin C a day which is about how much you’d find in an orange. However, these guidelines are based on what it takes to prevent scurvy – the disease that killed off the British on their way to Australia over two centuries ago. When our bodies are stressed, we need as much as 1000mg per day so be sure to eat your fruit and veggies to increase your intake of Vitamin C.
D – Vitamin D.
The slip, slop, slap message from the Cancer Council has worked so well that there has been a reduction in skin cancer prevalence, but an increase in rickets, a disease linked with Vitamin D deficiency, that leads to the softening and bending of bones in children. So, be mindful of too much sun exposure without sunscreen but be sure to get at least 20 minutes in each day to get a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
E – Vitamin E.
The key role of Vitamin E is that of anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants help to clean up the free radicals circulating around our bodies (see below). The main source of Vitamin E is in fats and oils, so next time you make a salad, drizzle some EVOO over it and get a good dose of Vitamin E to stay healthy. Eating a handful of nuts and seeds each day will also give you a good amount of Vitamin E.
F – Free Radicals.
Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that contain an odd number of electrons. If the number of free radicals overwhelm our body’s ability to regulate them, oxidative stress ensues which can adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger several chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer. Free radicals are BAD! Anti-oxidants help to clean up our body of free radicals so be sure to eat a wide variety of whole foods to ensure a healthy intake of anti-oxidants and keep those free radicals under control!
G – Gut health.
Everyone seems to be talking about gut health. Researchers have found associations between poor gut health and obesity, poor mental health, decreased immunity and Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, the topic is so hot, there has even been poo tablets invented to improve the gut health of those people who have poor levels of good bacteria in their gut. Who would ever have thought that! So, eat foods high in fibre to encourage good gut health and that way you can hopefully avoid having to take poo tablets.
H – Hashimotos Disease.
We see many people in our clinic with Hashimotos Disease. It is an autoimmune disease where the immune system cells attack the thyroid gland, causing inflammation and destruction of the thyroid tissue which reduces the thyroids ability to produce thyroid hormones. Without thyroid hormones, our metabolism slows down which affects our energy production causing fatigue and poor memory.
I – Iodine.
Iodine is a mineral found in seafood, dairy products, eggs, and iodised salt and is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland is found in the neck and regulates some very important functions in our bodies such as metabolism, energy production and growth and development.
J – Jaundice.
Jaundice is not a disease but a condition that causes the whites of the eyes and skin to turn yellow, often accompanied by itching. This does not mean you are turning into a Minion, but may have an underlying health issue with your liver, gallbladder or pancreas. It’s a good idea to get to your GP for a checkup.
K – Vitamin K.
Vitamin K acts as a coenzyme for the synthesis of proteins involved in hemostasis (blood clotting) and bone metabolism, making it important in the prevention of osteoporosis along with calcium and Vitamin D. It’s important for those individuals who are taking anticoagulants such as Warfarin to maintain consistent vitamin K levels by regularly eating green, leafy veggies and dark berries such as blueberries.
L – Lactose Intolerance.
This is not the same as a milk or dairy allergy which is when the body’s immune system reacts to even a tiny amount of the allergen, which is often the milk protein. People with lactose intolerance have trouble digesting the lactose (sugar) found in milk and dairy products but can often consume small amounts without experiencing any problems. The symptoms experienced are dependent on the amount of lactose digested but can include bloating, stomach cramps, farting and nausea.
M – Malnutrition.
Many people think that this relates to under-nutrition but one can be malnourished and obese as well. Nourishment is about getting the right amount of nutrients to maintain good health and people with a BMI of 30 and over (obese) often are not getting the right proportion of essential nutrients in their diet making them unhealthy. Obesity and malnutrition can lead to chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
N – Nourish.
This is what we should be doing to our bodies every time we eat. Unfortunately, in Australia, we feed our bodies full of high fat, high salt, high sugar foods that can lead to obesity. Every time you take a bite of food, think about how it nourishes your body. If the answer is “it doesn’t” then don’t eat it! It’s quite simple. Eat well, live well.
O – Osteoporosis.
There are many factors that cause osteoporosis including, low levels of calcium and Vitamin D, misuse of alcohol and some medications such as oral corticosteroids. The hormone, oestrogen is also essential for healthy bones making post-menopausal women at greater risk of developing osteoporosis due to the drop in oestrogen levels. For women over 51, be sure to have at least 4 serves of dairy per day.
P – Poo.
In our kid’s classes, we have a mantra – The bigger the poo, the better for you. We get them laughing but it gets the message across at an early age and hopefully lasts a life time. Your poo is a good indicator of your health. Meatball poos indicate constipation and sausage poos indicate healthy poos. Regular sloppy poos can be an indication of many underlying health conditions, including excessive consumption of alcohol. So, check your poos and remember, the bigger the poo, the better for you!
Q – Co-enzyme Q.
This is another wonderful anti-oxidant found in almost every cell in the body. It is essential in the production of energy and can be found in organ meats such as liver, oily fish such as salmon and tuna and whole grains.
R – Rectal Cancer.
There is an underlying theme here about poo so we hope you are getting the message. Gut and bowel health is very important. Rectal cancer is not something I would wish upon anyone. High fibre diets are important to reduce your risk, as is limiting your intake of processed meat which has been linked to colo-rectal cancer if eaten more than once per week. This includes hot dogs (sorry Bunnings), bacon, ham, sausage and some deli meats.
S – Stress.
Mental health has a very strong association with diet. If you experience stress on a regular basis be sure to eat well to help nutritionally support your body. It’s easy to grab the closest chocolate bar or soft drink but think of the sugar overload on your body; it puts extra stress on your body which can lead to long term health problems such as type 2 diabetes. Nourish your body through stress by eating a wide variety of whole foods including lots of fruit and veggies.
T – Tofu.
Did you know that tofu is made from soy beans? And did you know that soy is the only plant protein that contains all the essential amino acids (building blocks) our body needs to make protein? This makes it a complete protein unlike other plant based protein foods that contain only some of the amino acids. If you are vegetarian, be sure to mix your plant based protein foods such as rice and legumes, to ensure you get all the amino acids needed to form a complete protein.
U – Unsaturated Fats.
To saturate or not to saturate? Unsaturated fats are the “good” fats we often read and hear about, compared the to “bad” saturated fats. Unsaturated fats help to reduce your risk of heart disease and reduce cholesterol levels as well as having a range of other health benefits. There are two types, poly-unsaturated fats (omega 3, omega 6) found in fish and oils (especially flax seed oil) and nuts, and mono-unsaturated fats found in avocado, olive oil and nuts.
V – Vegan.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a Vegan as a person who does not use or eat animal products. The Urban Dictionary defines a Vegan as someone who slaughters and kills fruits and vegetables. Many people become vegan for animal welfare reasons but fail to educate themselves about healthy eating. As a result, there are many nutrient deficiencies often seen in vegan diets such as protein, omega 3, calcium, iron and Vitamin C just to name a few. If you are vegan, love yourself as much as you love animals by learning about nutrition and you can both be happy and healthy.
W – Wholegrains.
We should be having five serves of wholegrains each day and that does not mean eating five slices of white bread! White, refined grains have two layers of the grain removed to leave mainly carbohydrate and protein. The layers that are removed contain many wonderful nutrients such as unsaturated fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals. So, ditch the refined grains and swap them with nutritional wholegrains such as brown rice, multi-grain bread and wholemeal pasta. Try some barley, buckwheat and quinoa for a bit of wholegrain variety. These are as easy to cook as rice and can be found in most supermarkets.
X – Xylitol.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is often used as a replacement for sugar in processed foods. It has a similar sweetness to sugar but fewer calories so if often used in diet foods such as chewing gum. It has a low GI making it a safe alternative for those with diabetes.
Y – Nutritional Yeast.
This wonderful product is a must have for any vegetarian and vegan and is easily available in many health food shops. It contains good quantities of B vitamins which are often lacking in vegetarian and vegan diets. It is also a great source of fibre. Sprinkle it on your favourite food such as muesli or in a juice or smoothie to get an extra boost of B vitamins in your diet.
Z – Zits.
A poor diet does not cause pimples, however for those suffering acne, researchers have found a diet high in dairy and high glycaemic foods can make the condition worse. A healthy intake of good quality unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, and olive oil will help symptoms by reducing inflammation. For those aged between 19-50, aim to be eating 2 ½ serves of dairy each day.