What’s the Deal with Superfoods Anyway?

Are superfoods really all that super?

That’s the question I just keep asking myself, because in my opinion, all food is super, so long as it’s fresh and real and from a farm rather than a factory.

So is it just catchy marketing luring shoppers into yet another purchase, or do certain foods contain a higher nutrient density than their peers? Like kale, or acai, or cacao.

Turns out, there are some standouts in the crowd. A study by the CDC took an objective look at 47 different foods and measured their nutrient values. If they contained at least 10% of your total recommended daily value of 17 essential nutrients per 100 calories, then they were considered super.

Here’s what came out on top…

Watercress: 100.00
Chinese cabbage: 91.99
Chard: 89.27
Beet greens: 87.08
Spinach: 86.43
Chicory: 73.36
Leaf lettuce: 70.73
Parsley: 65.59
Romaine lettuce: 63.48
Collard greens: 62.49

Bottom line: GREENS. When it comes to getting your daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals, you really can’t go past greens (meanwhile, where’s kale on that list?) but there are other foods, not on this list, that also boast other benefits, like high antioxidant values or immune boosting capabilities.

Which is partly why the superfood list keeps growing; there are so many different things to measure that it just depends what you’re looking for in order for a certain food to be deemed ‘super’. The key? Variety. Eating as many different fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and even grains will give your diet the greatest cross-section of vitamins and minerals. No one food has it all, but all foods have a little something, ergo, the more variety you have, the more you benefit.

Here, my favourite ‘super’ foods…

1. Cacao – life without chocolate is vanilla, but rather than gorge on the heavily processed, sugar-laden stuff I choose raw cacao instead. It’s packed with flavonoids, which act as natural antioxidants to protect against ageing free radicals, plus it tastes bitterly delicious. Add it to your morning smoothie for a chocolate thick-shake that’s totally guilt free or use it in raw sweet treats for an energy boost throughout the day.

2. Cress – we know greens are good, and cress is considered the most nutritious of them all. Despite the painstaking removal of leaves from stem, the hard work is paid in full when you think about all the goodness you’re giving your body. Add it to salads, sandwiches or even green smoothies.

3. Kefir – cultured, fermented foods are my ultimate ‘super’ food as they flood the gut with immune-boosting good bacteria. My daily hit of coconut kefir keeps germs at bay, while also giving me energy and vitality long term.

4. Turmeric – inflammation in the body is the root cause of many dietary (and skin) issues, so reduction is key. Of all the spices we use to cook with, turmeric and its active ingredient – curcumin – is probably the most beneficial, with studies showing it has the potential to ward off dementia and cancer, fight cold and flu, reduce risk of heart attack and stroke and even help with weight loss.

5. Berries – it’s the high antioxidant value of berries that make them a must-have addition to your diet. But don’t play favourites based on good marketing, play the field and enjoy the health benefits of blueberries, açai, raspberries, mulberries, blackberries, goji berries… you get the gist.

6. Spirulina – As I don’t eat much meat, spirulina is my protein go-to as it contains all 8 essential amino acids and 10 non-essential ones. It’s also high in iron, vitamin B12 and chlorophyll, and is the perfect addition to my morning muesli or smoothie.

Wondering how to get more in your diet? Try these picks…

IsoWhey Superfood Powders (shown here: Organic Sacha Inchi, Turmeric and Gubinge)

isowhey-organicsachainchiturmericgubingepowder_iw_group_shot

Or, for the non-cooks in the house: Bioglan Superfood Tablets and Capsules range, $29.95 each (for 100)

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Tell me Happies…

Do you eat superfoods?
Which ones are on high rotation for you?

Who Am I Again?

It feels so good to be back.

Back in touch with me. The real me. The one who understands the importance of a mind/body connection and breathes and sits and feels stillness, because I’ll be honest, having a child is the fastest way to eliminate stillness. Not in a negative way, but stillness isn’t really a part of the program those first 12 months. Or ever, really.

breathe

So I’ve made a conscious decision to bring it back into my life. To prioritise small moments of calm to come back to myself and feel grounded, everyday, in order to be a better mother; a better wife; a better friend; and perhaps most important of all, a better me.

It all started at Billabong Retreat. An amazing eco resort 50 minutes drive from Sydney that specialises in reconnecting your head and your heart. It’s a yoga and meditation retreat essentially, but the way this place instantly calms you, settles you, invites you to unravel and relax and let everything go is unique to any other retreat I’ve been to.

It’s so…still.

My sister and I treated ourselves to a 3-day retreat, leaving our kids in the very capable hands of our husbands as we zipped up the highway, along Old Windsor Rd. and down into the bush covered timber oasis of Billabong. We could hardly believe it was true – three entire days of nothing but time to relax, unwind, rebuild and rest – but as soon as we got there, we immersed ourselves in getting that sacred connection back.

It’s yoga and meditation that does it. Allowing yourself the freedom to sit (or move) in silence and breathe. That’s really all it takes. Breathing. Tuning in. Connecting.

So we did just that. Yoga classes, meditation of all varieties, reading and eating the most glorious organic vegetarian food I’ve had in some time. We sipped tea, we talked about all the things that really matter and we found that caring for ourselves is just as important as caring for our loved ones.

Here’s what I’m doing going forward…

1. A daily yoga practice

Billabong understands that the mere nature of a retreat means that you unwind while you’re there, but what happens when you get home? Often those zen feelings are lost within days, taking you back to where you started. So they’ve developed a yoga practice that you can do at-home in as little as 7.5 minutes, teaching you the sequence before sending you off back into the ‘real world’. For me, this is what wellness is all about. Doing what you can – even if it’s only small increments everyday – rather than nothing at all. So a daily yoga practice of at least 7.5 minutes has become part of my morning ritual.

2. Breathing

It sounds so simple to just breath, but the reality is most of us are doing it all wrong. If you’re unconsciously breathing shallow breaths, or letting your day go without stopping to just breath, think about taking a few moments to just reconnect, calm down and centre. The best time? When your stress levels are peaking.

3. Meditating

That magical 7.5 minute yoga sequence also happens to include a chant and time to meditate. It’s  incredible. I think of all the ways to feel grounded meditation is the most effective and by taking a few moments to sit in stillness, you’re allowing yourself the space you need to truly find your Zen.

Tell me Happies…

Have you lost your mind/body connection?

Do you need to do a retreat to re-find yourself again?

Spring Awakening

Oh, hi!

I know it’s been a while but I’m not going to apologise. What for? I know you don’t mind, and quite frankly, I’ve come to the realisation that when there’s a small human in the house, there’s a rare few seconds spare.

But today I’ve had a spring awakening. A rare moment of clarity to sit and quietly write while Arlo’s down. Which is fabulous, really, because it coincides with the end of spring – the season that’s all about shedding excess waste, removing your winter coat and hurling yourself into new beginnings – and the start of summer; the time of sunshine, refuelling and digging into salads, rather than soups.

And so I’ve been thinking. Thinking about how fast the year is slipping away and what I want to achieve come January 2015. What’s left on my list? What’s left on your list?

Think about it. So often the year sails by without us really getting the opportunity to stop and unfurl the sails. Summer turns into Autumn, which turns into Winter, which turns into Spring, which brings us back to Summer again, only one year on. Did you have time to pause and change with the seasons, as nature does, or were you so caught up in the day-to-day that the four quarters of the year simply merged into one?

Having just returned from a fabulous 3-day yoga and meditation retreat at Billabong Retreat (more on that in another post), I’ve had the chance to pause for a moment and consider what it is I need to do in order to reconnect and tie 2014 up with a bright pink bow, while also honouring the season ahead. Keen to do the same? Here are some options…

Step 1: DE-CLUTTER

Spring and summer are light, airy, breezy months, meaning that you need to shed what’s holding you back. Often, that’s possessions. When was the last time you did a serious house chuck out? The kind where you go through every draw and get rid of the unnecessary things that are cluttering your home; your life; your head. There’s an incredible lightness that comes with having fewer possessions, so if you’re feeling heavy and sluggish and weighed down, now is the time to de-clutter your life. Start with the kitchen and work your way around every room.

Step 2: SWITCH YOUR SCHEDULE

The sun’s shifted gear; rising earlier and setting later. You should too. Embrace the longer days by setting your alarm (or waking naturally) even 15 minutes earlier than normal, slowing bringing the time earlier and earlier as the weeks progress. Spiritually there’s a believe that the energy in the early hours of the morning is calmer, as the thoughts and busy-ness of the evening has settled as we sleep, so take note of that and allow some time in the morning for yoga and meditation to set you in good stead for the day. Come night time, enjoy the later evenings by going for a walk, having an outdoor dinner picnic with your loved ones or just reading a book. My advice? Ditch all electronics at least an hour before bed.

Step 3: KEEP IT LIGHT (AND EASY)

Winter calls for heavy, hearty meals that satisfy your body’s comfort cravings but come summer, it’s time to keep it light, fresh and seasonal. Look around your local farmer’s market and you’ll discover that summer fruits and vegetables are starting to make an appearance, so cash in. Make fresh fruit, zingy salads and smoothies, varying your nutrients as much as possible.

Tell me Happies…

What’s on your to-do list to close out the year?
Any of these?

Yes, You Can Meditate With a Small Human

As far as I’m concerned, meditation is one of the most important life skills I can teach my son. Right up there with using the toilet and eating healthy food and, you know, being a good human, learning how to stop, breathe and just chill the hell out is an essential life skill in this day and age. Just ask Jerry Seinfeld. Oprah Winfrey. Lena Dunham. The late Steve Jobs. All extremely successful people who… you guessed it… regularly meditate.

But let’s be frank. Finding the time to sit in silence is challenging at the best of times; throw a one-year-old into the picture and it may, for some, seem completely impossible or just a waste of time. But hear me out.

YazandArlo

 

Countless studies have shown that meditation doesn’t just reduce stress on the surface, it physically changes your brain too. How? Meditation increases the thickness of your prefrontal cortex – the area linked to decision making, planning and even your personality – making it stronger and potentially more resilient to change, stress and today’s hectic, technology-driven lifestyle. Begging the question, who wouldn’t want to meditate?

So how do you get a toddler to sit still and tune in? You don’t. That’s impossible. Instead, like with all things baby related, you expose them to different experiences of the same outcome over time. Here’s an example: when Arlo was a newborn, rather than sit in front of the TV at night for his feeds I’d remain in our dimly lit room and play guided meditations. My thought process was that it’s the middle of the night and I don’t want to stimulate him (or me) with the TV, so this was an incredible way for us both to get close and remain in a nice sleepy state, while also being entertained.

Cut to now, when things are slightly more (ahem) busy and I’ve had to adapt to the situation. Now, when he’s eating dinner I dim the lights and play relaxation music, giving him cues that it’s quiet time. There’s no TV or electronic devices, just time to sit and eat and enjoy in a really calm, relaxing setting. We play and have fun, but there’s no external distractions. And he loves it. He loves that we’re so present with him and that he can slowly (so slowly!) eat his dinner without feeling rushed or sensing any stress.

Or, when he’s just having a crazy manic day, I stop everything, pick him up and put on a guided meditation. I hold him and gently sway, breathing deeply into his ear and reassuring him that it’s okay to be expressive and frustrated, and to just breathe it out. To me, this seems completely normal. I see my job as Arlo’s mum to remain as calm as possible when he becomes overwhelmed, I’ve had more practice than he has, and heck, life is overwhelming. It will continue to be. But it’s how you learn to cope with the craziness that sets you apart.

 

Tell me Happies…

Am I crazy?
Do you meditate?
Do you want, or more importantly, need to?

 

Stay Happy,

Yaz x

Fun Find: The Coco Jack

In the interest of public safety I always clear the kitchen when I’m about to open a coconut. It’s messy, loud and often fraught with danger, as I ask myself ‘could this be the time I lose a finger?’

And I know I’m not the only one. I’m always getting asked by my clients and BodyLove Bootcamp members how to open young coconuts without risking life and limb, because gosh knows I bang on about them enough.

I usually open mine with a rolling pin, sharp knife and chopping board and awkwardly bounce all three over each other to pry open the nut without too much spillage. I position the knife into the side of the nut, then use the rolling pin (or anything strong and sturdy) to bang the knife deep into the nut, rather than swinging the knife itself. The chopping board is used to keep the nut in place on the bench and while this system hasn’t failed me so far, it’s still a little clunky.

So there’s still room for improvement. And I think I’ve found just the thing: I’ve just stumbled across a clever little contraption that does all the hard work for you, no loss of limbs threatened. It’s called Coco Jack, and is a hammer and mallet situation that elegantly opens your nuts without busting your balls, so to speak.

Here it is…

cocojack

Curious as to how this little guy works, I left it to the experts to explain. Here’s the video…

I’m sold! Are you? They even have a stainless steel coconut scoop to make removing the flesh easier too. Genius!

Tell me Happies…

Do you suffer in the name of coconut opening?

Do you need one of these in your life?

 

Stay Happy,

Yaz