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Boost your immunity through good health

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is key to helping your immune system function properly. Whilst we can’t guarantee that a perfect diet can warn off all coughs, colds and viruses, one thing we can do is support our immune system to work at it’s best through good nutrition.


An immune supportive diet is one that is packed with vitamins, minerals, good fibres and plenty of phytochemicals like antioxidants. The more unprocessed foods and plant based foods you have in your diet the better. And variety is key!
To have a really strong immune system the nutrients essential to fight infection include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, and zinc.


So where to find these nutrients? The best way is to include at least 5 serves of bright coloured veggies every day, get 2 serves of fruit, and include a variety of grains, nuts and seeds daily, along with good quality proteins. Here are a few tips to get those specific immune supportive nutrients:

  1. Vitamin A: oily fish, egg yolks, cheese, tofu, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.
  2. B vitamins: legumes, green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, chicken and meat.
  3. Vitamins C: oranges, lemons, limes, berries, kiwifruit, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicum.
  4. Vitamin E: nuts, green leafy vegetables and vegetables oils.
  5. Vitamin D: food sources including eggs, fish and some milks and margarine brands may be fortified with Vitamin D (meaning extra has been added). But most people need just a few minutes outdoors most days.
  6. Iron: meat, chicken and fish. Vegetarian sources include legumes, whole grains and iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
  7. Zinc and Selenium: found in oysters and other seafood, meat, chicken, dried beans and nuts.

Putting it all together
To optimise your immune system, choose a good variety of bright coloured plant based foods, and keep those energy dense, nutrient poor processed foods to a minimum.


Beyond diet, there are other measures you can take to stay as healthy as possible like not smoking, keeping alcohol to a minimum, getting enough sleep and of course exercising regularly.


Stay healthy this winter with this delicious and veggie filled minestrone soup.

Can you boost your metabolic rate?

Fast, slow, average metabolism? Regardless of body size and composition there are a number of factors that impact a person’s rate of burning energy – that is fundamentally your metabolic rate.

Some people have a slower metabolism meaning they burn fewer calories, storing more as fat in the body; that’s why some people have difficulty losing weight by just cutting calories. Whereas those with a fast metabolism tend to burn calories faster – explaining why some people can eat a lot and not gain extra body weight!

Factors that affect your metabolism

Despite gimmicks out there promising to boost metabolism, there are a number of biological factors that impact your rate of burning calories:

  • Age – metabolism often slows with age,
  • Genetics – it’s in your DNA literally!
  • Health conditions and hormonal changes.

Ways to rev up your metabolism

Whilst there are some factors you can’t change, a sluggish metabolism may possibly be sped up naturally by making small changes to your diet and lifestyle. Looking at what you’re eating and what types (and intensities) of activity you’re doing can make a difference.

  1. Eat more protein and eat it regularly over the day – a couple of reasons for this is that protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer so you don’t go snacking on energy dense, nutrient poor foods all the time. Secondly, protein tends to have a higher “thermic effect” compared to fats and carbs – this means your metabolism is revved up more whenever you eat and digest this food.
  2. Add in more strength training – resistance training is known to help boost muscle mass, and more muscle mass means a speedier metabolism.
  3. Pick up the pace – HIIT training can help keep your metabolism firing for as much as a full day!
  4. Enjoy sleep and manage stress levels.

There are other foods like green tea, caffeine and chilli that have been said to boost metabolism. However, the key to success really is consistency with food and exercise routines, paying attention to intensity and details of macro nutrients like protein.

Whilst plenty of marketers out there will make magic promises to speed up your metabolism, your aim should be to prevent your metabolic engine from slowing down by keeping up your muscle mass and fueling your body with good nutrition.

Check out this recipe for a delicious high protein, low GI meal Mexican bowl.

How to handle those pesky cravings

Ever find yourself constantly feeling the need to satisfy cravings? Cravings are one of the number one reasons to derail people from meeting their nutrition goals. Cravings can hit at unexpected times and have you reaching for the sweet, salty or savoury indulgent choice, often leaving you feeling dissatisfied once you’ve finished. Rather than relying on willpower to beat the battle of the craving, outsmart them by understanding the what, the why and the how to overcome them.

The What ..

Food cravings are an intense desire for a specific food. These are often highly sensory foods either sweet, salty, crunchy or smooth, which are packed with excess calories and not much nutrition!  And the desire can seem uncontrollable, that feeling of not being satisfied until you get that particular food! The one thing to remember is that cravings are most often short lived and transient.

The Why …

There are a number of reasons why cravings can occur and often they are triggered by seeing, smelling or hearing about a specific food. They can be related to learned experiences for example your parents giving you a chocolate to make you feel better when you were a child. As an adult you associate chocolate with comforting you from a sad emotion.

Other reasons for why cravings hit include:

  • under eating or overly restrictive
  • stress levels
  • fatigue
  • nutrition deficiencies
  • depriving your self of satisfying your taste preferences
  • emotional triggers
  • visual cues like food advertising

The How to handle cravings …

There are a variety of ways to reduce unwanted food cravings. By following a few steps you can prepare yourself for even the most unexpected craving.

  • Understand your triggers: recognise the when and why of your cravings. Are you leaning on a glass of wine every evening after work, or reaching for the 3pm sweet treat? Be mindful of where that craving is coming from and why, so you can more strategically understand how to fuel your body, without having to sacrifice completely
  • Manage your stress levels: use techniques other that food rewards to support stress levels. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you need include more exercise either upbeat or downtime stretching?
  • Nourish yourself: Stay hydrated and ensure your meal plan has enough food to support your bodies nutritional needs especially protein
  • Be prepared: keep foods that you know you crave out of sight (and hopefully out of mind). Also create yourself a list of healthier alternatives to your craving. For example if you love salty chips as your craving weakness, why not swap out for some airpopped popcorn or a handful of crunchy roasted almonds. And make sure you have a little emergency craving kit that has healthier options.

Example healthy options to handle cravings:

  • For potato chips try air popped popcorn
  • For chocolate opt for dark chocolate with a handful of raspberries – this reduces the amount and adds extra nutrition
  • For sweets/lollies try natures sweets like berries or fruit like pear/apple with yoghurt to add some protein

Other ideas include:

  • Grainy crackers and your favourite cheese (40g is a dairy serve and you need to hit 3 serves a day for most adults)
  • Some dry roasted nuts (30g is a serve)
  • Tomato salsa or a dollop of hummus or tzatziki dip with veggie sticks like carrots, celery, capsicum or tomatoes (unlimited amount – you can never have enough)!

Why not try making these delicious peanut butter bliss balls that are packed with protein, sweetness and goodness to combat any craving!

Healthy habits for disease prevention

Preventative chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia, are on the rise in Australia and account for up to 64% of deaths in Australia each year according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Precursors to these diseases are abdominal obesity, hypertension, high blood sugar and elevated triglycerides, all of which are mostly preventable through good nutrition and healthy lifestyles. By choosing to create healthy habits around our diet and lifestyle, we can live longer and lessen the burden on Australia’s healthcare system (1, 2, 3).

Cardiovascular Disease is an umbrella term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels, there a number of subcategories, but common conditions include coronary heart disease and stroke. Studies strongly suggest that over 80% of cases of CVD could be prevented through lifestyle intervention (4).

Cancer is a group of several hundreds of diseases, and it is estimated that on average, 380 people are diagnosed with cancer in Australia each day (4). Whilst genetics may play a role in the development, there are lifestyle behaviours that are known to contribute to the burden of cancer. Studies suggest the major risk factors to cancer incidence include; physical inactivity, obesity, poor dietary choices, tobacco use and alcohol use (5).

Dementia is a term used to describe a group of similar conditions that gradually impair brain function (6). The number of people with dementia is steadily increasing each year, and the impact of the condition is widespread, deeply impacting many families and society. More research is supporting the idea that this is a mostly preventable disease, and by creating healthy habits in early life, we can mitigate our risk of developing dementia as we age (7).

The data shows us that we need to address our lifestyles, in order to lessen the impact of these three leading causes of death and hospitalisation. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that healthy habits such as good nutrition, participating in regular physical activity and stress management can play a significant role in avoiding obesity and other associated precursors to disease states.

We have the capacity to impact our own futures and quality of life. Investing in healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, healthy eating, sleep and stress management, is great insurance against disease, and can slow the progression of existing illness.

Take home message

  • Chronic lifestyle diseases are often preventable
  • Regular exercise, good nutrition, quality sleep and stress management help prevent disease states
  • You have the power to impact the health of your future by choosing healthy habits

Eat well for a better future

Nutrition is a key lifestyle habit that affects longevity, and plays an important role in the prevention of diseases (1, 2) such as dementia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, some of the leading causes of death in Australia. The foods you eat can significantly impact your physical and mental health, making the right dietary choices, gives you the potential to increase your lifespan (3) and improve your quality of life.

The modern western diet can significantly, and detrimentally impact the human body. It is typically high in refined foods containing sugar, salt, refined grains, processed meats and unhealthy fats/oils. For the most part, these foods are convenient and available in large amounts. Overconsumption of highly calorific, processed foods contributes to the obesity epidemic facing Australia and many other parts of the world. The latest National Health Survey (2018) from the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that 67% of Australian adults were either overweight or obese. Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, not only reduces quality of life in most individuals, but is commonly correlated with high blood pressure (greater than 130/85mmHG), high fasting blood sugar (insulin resistance), elevated triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol (4). This group of biomarkers are known as metabolic risk factors, and are associated with the aforementioned diseases dementia, CVD and cancer, but also other chronic diseases such as diabetes and stroke.

But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. For most of us, lifestyle-related diseases can be prevented, or slowed, by making wholesome choices and creating healthy habits each day around the foods we eat. A micronutrient dense, wholefoods, Mediterranean-style diet (5) packed with colourful fruits and vegetables, rich in healthy fats, quality proteins and high in fibre, can help to stabilise blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight. Reducing your risk of developing the unhealthy biomarkers for disease.

Whilst many people find making dietary changes challenging and boring, eating well can be tasty, and is all about creating habits. In order to be consistent, it is essential you understand the importance of why you should choose good-quality foods to fuel your body. When you choose to eat well, you are actively choosing to let go of unhealthy habits from the past, and minimise your risk of disease in the future. And once you make the switch, you will feel so good, you won’t want to go back!

Take home messages

  • Good nutrition can help prevent diseases such dementia, cardiovascular disease and cancer
  • Choose a colourful wholefoods diet packed with plant foods, healthy fats and quality proteins
  • Healthy eating is habitual and doesn’t need to be boring

3 Reasons to Get More Sunshine

Adequate sunlight can impact your immune system and overall health. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies actually make Vitamin D when we expose our skin to the sun (1) and by definition it is actually a hormone (2). In Australia, it is fairly easy to have enough sunlight, and we in fact need to be careful not to burn. Exposing our skin to safe and healthy amounts of sun without burning in both summer and winter, will help keep your immune system strong (3) and your sleep cycles healthier (4).

Below are 3 benefits of sun exposure on our health:

VITAMIN D SUPPORTS IMMUNE FUNCTION

Vitamin D, is produced in the skin from cholesterol when you have healthy exposure to the sun. The most effective sun exposure for vitamin D production is in the middle of the day, of course, only for short periods to avoid burning. The amount of sun you need, and can tolerate, will be dependent on your skin colour. Vitamin D is critical for immune function and is known to enhance the function of immune cells. Adequate production of Vitamin D can help the body to fight off infections. Vitamin D deficiency may compromise your body’s immune response (5).

SUN PROMOTES QUALITY SLEEP

Sunshine can help regulate sleep patterns by affecting circadian rhythms (6), and promoting increased serotonin levels. Exposure to the morning sun, without sunglasses, acts on the retina to trigger the release of serotonin. Healthy circadian rhythms promote the release of melatonin in the evening to improve sleep. Quality sleep is linked to a strong immune system (7). So get some winter sun to help fight off infection.

BOOST YOUR MOOD WITH SUNSHINE

Sunlight releases serotonin (8), also known as the “happiness hormone”, resulting in us feeling more calm and alert. When our mood is good, we are more likely to make healthy choices around food, exercise and other lifestyle habits. Healthy habits promote a strong immune system!

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Sunshine is good for you! Although we have to be careful we don’t burn, it’s just as important for our health that we don’t avoid the sun altogether. Healthy sun exposure dependent on your skin type can help to keep your immune system strong, improve sleep and boost your mood.

Choose Healthy Fats for Better Health

For many years, dietary fat was demonised and people started consuming more processed, sugar-laden foods. As a result, people became sick and overweight, and the rates of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease escalated (1). We now know that moderate intake of healthy fat is an important part of our diet, and even saturated fat isn’t as bad as it was made out to be. But what is dietary fat and why is it so important?

WHAT IS DIETARY FAT?

Fat is a macronutrient in food (the others are Carbohydrate and Protein). Based on the chemical structure, fats take different forms such as saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated Fats (SFAs)

Saturated fats are most commonly found in animal products, and play a role in heart health, brain health, skin health, immune health and even weight loss (2). Some examples include butter, coconut oil and the fat in meats such as beef, lamb and pork.

Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs)

The predominant fat in the famous “Mediterranean diet”. MUFAS, are known for their role in decreased breast cancer risk, regulation of blood cholesterol levels, reduced body fat and reduced risk of heart disease (3). Almonds, avocado and eggs are examples of foods that contain MUFAs.

Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs: Omega-3 and Omega-6)

Polyunsaturated Fats include two essential Fatty Acids that we need from our diet: Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids. OMEGA-3 fatty acids are known for their health benefits including brain and heart health, reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety and ADHD, anti-inflammatory properties (4), joint health and cancer fighting properties. Some foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish such as salmon and grass-fed beef. OMEGA-6 fatty acids are also important for brain development, immune system function and blood pressure regulation. Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds and nuts are rich, healthy sources of Omega-6 fatty acids. Vegetable oils used for cooking and in processed foods are also high in Omega-6. Whilst they are both essential, in nature, humans would consume them in a ratio of around 1:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3. However, with the introduction of vegetable oils for cooking, a typical western diet includes up to 25 times more Omega-6 Fatty acids. This creates a pro-inflammatory state in the body, and inflammation is one of the leading causes of metabolic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes (5, 6). So, to keep it simple, whilst it is ok to consume whole foods containing Omega-6 Fatty Acids, we should mostly avoid refined and processed vegetable oils.

WHY DO YOU NEED FAT IN YOUR DIET?

It is important that we consume fat in our diet for many reasons, some of which include (7, 8, 9, 10):

  • Improves the uptake of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Helps maintain skin health
  • Helps maintain healthy joint function
  • Provides fuel/energy for the body and supports cell growth and structure
  • Helps transport nutrients across cell membranes
  • Essential for optimal nerve, brain and heart function
  • The human brain is nearly 60% fat and fatty acids are critical for cognitive performance
  • Helps maintain hormone balance, and sex drive!! (remember dietary cholesterol, found in fat, is the building blocks of hormones)
  • Can help maintain a stable weight, and help you to get leaner

ARE THERE FATS TO AVOID?

Trans fats are a by-product of a process called hydrogenation which turns liquid vegetable oils into solids and prevents them from becoming rancid. Essentially, it turns a non-saturated fat into an unhealthy, and unnatural version of a saturated fat. Like most things, when we mess with nature, we mess things up! Trans fats create inflammation in the body, increase the more harmful LDL cholesterol and reduce the beneficial HDL cholesterol. Basically, these man-made fats are bad news!

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Naturally occurring, unrefined dietary fats are an essential and healthy part of a balanced diet. Include a variety of SFAs, MUFAs and PUFAs in your diet for optimal health. Enjoy the following foods in moderation:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocado
  • Full fat dairy in moderation
  • Eggs
  • Fatty Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines and Herring
  • Lean beef, pork and lamb meat and offal
  • Poultry
  • Game meats
  • Olives and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coconut
  • Cacao

For better health, avoid processed and refined “junk foods” that are a source of trans fats and Omega-6 in the form of vegetable oils, and usually sugar and other refined carbohydrates.

3 Reasons to Eat More Protein

Protein, along with carbohydrate and fat, is a macronutrient found in foods. Protein-containing foods provide you with amino acids, which are the building blocks for your body proteins and the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters (1). When you eat protein, it is broken down into these amino acids, which are then used to help build muscle tissue and can also play a role in regulating our immune function (2). There are essential and non-essential amino acids, essential amino acids need to be consumed through your diet, because they cannot be made by your body. Whilst there are 20 amino acids, the 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Some foods contain significantly more protein than others, so when we are looking to increase our protein intake, we can look to increase specific foods. Foods such as meat, fish and eggs are generally known to be the highest available sources of protein.

Whilst this is a bit of a hot topic for debate, research suggests active people should consume between 1.6-2.2g/kg of body weight of protein for optimal body composition improvements (3, 4). Whilst not everyone’s the same, it is unlikely that eating higher levels of protein will give you a greater metabolic advantage. Some people will fair well on less protein, and genetics, personal circumstances and preferences will affect intake. Those consuming substantially lower amounts, could potentially notice significant improvements in body composition such as fat loss, and in training performance, by increasing their intake closer to this reference range. This equates to consuming around 25-35% of your calories from protein (5), and most studies suggest spreading this intake across the meals of the day.

Check out these 3 great reasons to eat more protein:

Improves body composition
Protein containing foods are satiating (6), meaning they will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Protein can help to reduce a hormone called Ghrelin, which is also known as the “hunger hormone” and hence you may eat fewer calories. In addition, it can assist in reducing appetite, and also cravings for processed foods. By choosing a protein-rich diet you can help build and maintain lean muscle mass. Ultimately, most people will be leaner and healthier on a moderate to high protein diet.

Makes you stronger
Alongside resistance training, and because quality protein intake can help you build and maintain lean muscle mass (7), you can and will get stronger in the gym. In addition, amino acids from the proteins in foods are involved in building and maintaining healthy bones and tissues as you age (8).

Improves clarity and focus
Somewhat indirectly, higher protein diets can help with blood sugar control and stability. When you ensure your meals contain quality proteins, more often than not, the processed carbohydrates that wreak havoc with blood sugar control, are reduced or displaced. Blood sugar instability is often associated with something described as “brain fog” that can affect your concentration at work. Combining quality proteins with healthy fats and wholesome carbohydrates, can not only improve your body composition, but also your cognitive function and focus as well.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Choosing good quality, high protein foods to add to your meals and snacks can help you to lose unwanted body fat, increase lean muscle mass, maintain strength of tissues and bones, and focus better in your day job. Include a variety of protein-containing foods in your diet such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, yoghurt, cottage cheese, tofu, legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds to stay healthy and strong!

Are you chronically dehydrated?

Are you drinking enough? Water that is! When living and training in a warm climate, it is easy to underestimate how much you need to drink and it doesn’t take long to become dehydrated.

Your body is approximately 60% water (1), and whilst you might be able to survive a relatively long time without food, most people will only survive a few days without water. Most of us are not at risk of dying from dehydration in day to day life, but even mild dehydration, especially if it is chronic, can impact cognitive function and physical performance significantly. Internally, all your cellular and bodily functions require adequate hydration, without enough water your kidneys and other organ functions can become compromised (2). Staying well hydrated will keep your skin, joints and digestive system healthy and functioning at their best.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • thirst
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness/fainting
  • nausea
  • flushing of the skin
  • rapid heart rate
  • low motivation for training
  • feeling weak

How much do we need?

This can vary hugely depending on many factors such as environmental temperature and humidity, exercise, eating certain foods, drinking alcohol and how much you sweat.
On average, we need 30-40ml of water/kg of body weight, yet these needs are increased based on the above factors. Again on average, adults need around 3L a day as a baseline, with about 1 L of that coming from food, and 2L coming from drinking. Give or take depending on your size, remember this is just a guideline (3).

In very hot environments, it’s important to consider electrolyte replacement. This is particularly important for athletes exercising in the heat, and sweating out a lot of salts. Or for those suffering with vomiting or diarrhea. Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium and every process in our body depends on these. Obviously, we consume a lot of these in the food we eat, but in certain circumstances we may consider supplementing these in the water that we drink. In the case of severe dehydration, rehydration should be approached with caution, slowly in small amounts and usually with electrolytes included. This is best guided by a suitably qualified health professional.

Day to day, when you hydrate, make sure you use a glass bottle, not plastic, as this can leach harmful toxins into your water. Glass, unlike some plastic bottles, does not contain chemicals such as BPA, phthalate, PVC, or polycarbonate, so nothing can leach into your water from a glass bottle. Plastics made from polycarbonate resin can leach bisphenol-A (BPA), a strong endocrine disruptor (4), into its contents. Studies suggest that BPA may negatively affect reproductive organs, such as the breasts and prostate, as well as causing potential heart problems. You can save money and Earth’s resources by utilizing an eco-friendly, reusable, recyclable glass water bottle. Glass is taste-neutral, so no plastic or metallic taste will affect your beverage.

Many people just “forget” to drink so a great place to start is to invest in a large glass (or stainless steel) water bottle, fill this with water and make sure you sip it throughout the day so you know how much you’re consuming. Herbal teas are another great way to increase your intake. Consuming certain foods can help you stay hydrated too, some examples of foods that have a high water content include:

  • spinach
  • cucumber
  • melon
  • celery
  • berries
  • capsicum
  • soups and broths
  • milk
  • yoghurt

Take Home Message

Staying hydrated is essential for your health. You will perform better at work and play if you are adequately hydrated. Depending on your size, environment and activity levels, aim to drink 2-3L of water per day as a baseline and consume foods high in water. If you are an athlete, you are an active person in a warm climate, or you are suffering with diarrhea or vomiting, you should consider an electrolyte replacement formula, and it is best to seek professional advice.

Beginners guide to clean eating

Eating well does not need to be confusing, and often people set themselves up for failure, by trying to over complicate things. You really don’t need to follow any special “diets”, you simply need to choose clean, whole foods and be a little bit organised. Whilst there are benefits for some people to specific diets and eating strategies, jumping straight into a paleo diet or a keto diet, or intermittent fasting, before you sort out your food selection and basic health habits, is like getting behind the wheel of a racing car, before you can drive.

In the fitness industry, you will often hear the term “clean eating” and essentially, that just refers to choosing unrefined, whole foods in their most natural state possible. It also encompasses the idea of choosing nutrient dense foods to fuel your body, and the activities that you do.

WHAT IS A WHOLE FOODS DIET?

A whole foods diet is pretty simple, it’s about choosing foods in their most natural state possible. Foods that have minimal or no processing, just as nature intended. This includes an abundance of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, minimally-processed grains and dairy, pasture-raised eggs and grass-fed or pasture-raised meats. When foods are processed, more often than not, a lot of “good things” are removed, compromising nutrient content, and usually preservatives and other additives are used. In addition, the way you absorb and digest whole foods is very different to refined foods, so the impact on your body and how it functions is significant. As an example, a whole foods diet promotes better blood sugar stability, and reduces the long term risk of developing lifestyle related diseases such as type II diabetes (1, 2). In general, whole foods will have higher levels of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients and they will be higher in good quality fatty acids, amino acids and fibre.

When it comes to deciding on what to eat, you can start by simply looking at macronutrient sources. The macronutrients in our food are: carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and focusing on quality sources of these is a great place to start when “cleaning up” your diet.

Below you will find a guide to which foods you should choose, and those that you should mostly avoid. The categories look a little something like this:

Choose these: these are your “everyday” food choices. Base your meals around these foods.

Limit these: whilst not “bad” foods, you might consider limiting the consumption of these. Think of them as “sometimes” foods, rather than foods that make up every meal.

Avoid these: foods you should mostly avoid, except on those odd social occasions where they may be available. These foods are processed and of low nutritional value.

CARBOHYDRATE FOODS

Quality carbohydrates are a good source of energy, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, so the selection of your carbohydrate-containing foods is important. Carbs are the downfall for many people when it comes to clean eating. Processed carbohydrate foods are addictive, and usually easy to over consume. They often leave us in calorie surplus, but still hungry, and can lead to blood sugar instability, that is the foundation for a number of health conditions and metabolic diseases such as obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease (3).

Choose these: Fresh fruits, starchy and non starchy vegetables, whole grains such as rice, barley and buckwheat, quinoa, corn, oats, legumes and pulses.

Limit these: whole grain breads and crackers, sourdough, whole grain pasta, couscous and rice noodles, muesli and whole grain cereal, dairy and non-dairy milks, dried fruits, trail mix and coconut water.

Avoid these: processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, white breads, pastries, chips/crisps, lollies and chocolate, soft drinks and fruit juices, flavoured milk, cereal bars and packaged snacks, sugar, syrup and sauces. Avoid food with >10g sugar/100g.

PROTEIN RICH FOODS

Protein-containing foods contain building blocks that our body needs called amino acids. Amino acids are used to build and repair muscles and bones. They also have a significant role in the production of hormones and enzymes (4,5,6). Protein is satiating, meaning it leaves you feeling fuller for longer. It can curb cravings, helping us to lose unwanted body fat and build or maintain muscle mass. Whilst most people already hit about 15% of their calories coming from protein, many will benefit from up to 20-35% of calories coming from protein-containing foods. This will vary depending on the individual and their activity. Like all foods, not all proteins are created equal.

Choose these: Grass-fed meats such as beef and lamb, pasture-fed whole eggs and poultry such as chicken, turkey and duck, fish, plant-based protein sources such as legumes, pulses and tempeh, full-fat dairy especially plain yoghurt, cottage cheese and aged cheeses, nuts and seeds and biltong.

Limit these: other cheeses, full cream milk, fatty meats, sausages (high meat content), nitrate free bacon, tofu, most cheeses, naturally sweetened yoghurts, protein powders, meat jerky, minimally processed deli meats, fish with high mercury content such as tuna and swordfish.

Avoid these: processed deli meats such as ham and salami, low-meat sausages, fried and battered meats, hotdogs, chicken nuggets, cage eggs and low fat and sweetened dairy.

HEALTHY FATS

Your body needs fatty acids from the healthy fats in our diet to thrive. In the recent past, dietary fats were demonised, and many people removed dietary fat in favour of sugar and processed low fat foods, and as a consequence there was a significant increase in obesity and metabolic disease. Even saturated fats are not as bad in most cases as they were made out to be (7). Fatty acids are essential for your cell metabolism and function as well as cognitive and hormonal health (8, 9). Adding healthy fats to a meal, will help to lower the glycemic load of that meal, hence also impacting blood sugar stability.

Choose these: olive oil, whole eggs, avocado, nuts, seeds, aged cheeses, full fat yoghurt, coconut products such as oil, coconut milk and coconut flesh and fatty fish.

Limit these: butter, cream, cheese, nut and seed oils, nut butters, dark chocolate and fish oils.

Avoid these: margarine, vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, canola and cottonseed, fatty and processed meats, processed high sugar spreads, trans fats and shortening.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Base your meals and snacks around whole foods, and limit or remove processed foods, to improve your health and feelings of well being. A clean diet, as nature intended, reduces your risk of lifestyle related health conditions and metabolic diseases such as type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Whilst the above suggestions are not an exhaustive list of foods to choose and avoid, focusing on whole foods macronutrients with minimal processing, is a great way to begin to “clean up” your diet and feel great!