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Eating for immunity


Great Greek Philosopher Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

 

Science has found the proof is in the pudding and many of our tastiest foods are also immunity boosters, that are both affordable and versatile to boot.

A healthy habit is to have these superheroes as pantry staples. Whole, natural, colourful fruits and vegetables all have unique benefits, working in synergy with each other.


PLANT POWER
Kale was and still is king, and is rich in vitamin C. Its cousins in the brassica family, such as cabbage and cavolo nero, are also immunity-boosting powerhouses. Spinach has flavonoids which help ward off colds. Kumara is an antioxidant-rich satisfier, whereas berries such as blackcurrants and elderberries are renown beneficial flu fighters.


SOUP SAVIOURS
Onions and garlic offer allicin for immunity and are a great base for mineral-rich bone broths. Slow boil a chicken or cheap cuts of meat on the bone to extract the goodness – or buy the prepared version. Add in herbs and vegetables for more immune fuel.


WASTE NOT
Use the whole food. For example, grate the zest of a spray-free lemon, before you do the big squeeze – it’s an additional immunity boost. Beetroot leaves are delicious and nutritious in stir fries, salads or added to smoothies.


FROM OUR SHORES
New Zealand harvests its own superfood spirulina – delicious with pineapple and banana in a Shrek-coloured smoothie. Also, our seaweeds, mussels and oysters are high in all-important flu-flighting zinc. And oily fish such as Tuna and Salmon have Vitamin D.


SNEAK IT IN
Add gelatinous all-round healthy chai seeds to desserts or soups. Ground flax seeds sprinkled onto breakfast or salads or smoothies add the anti-inflammatory Omega 3. Toss in the tempeh and mix in the miso to increase the immune system’s antibodies.


NATURALLY SWEET
How lucky are we to live in the land of treasured manuka honey? An anti-viral, it supports the respiratory system, whereas too much sugar suppresses it. So swap to bee-made sweetness for toast and teas.


HEALTHY PIZZAS
Hold the cheese overdose and pile a thin base generously with immunity enhancers like onions, broccoli, vitamin C-loaded red bell peppers, mushrooms for zinc, and top with olive oil and fresh herbs.


SPICE IT UP
Use ginger for stir fries, pumpkin-soup pep, or medicinal hot drinks with honey and lemon. Superfood turmeric makes a warming latte or can be used to spice up your porridge, unless you prefer the flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg with their anti-inflammatory benefits..


NOT SO HUMBLE HERBS
Herbs are medicinal powerhouses. Thyme contains thymol – which is wonderful for the respiratory system. Oregano too, has anti-viral properties, so liberally add herbs for medicinal magic.


PREBIOTICS
Healthful sauerkraut and kimchi are piquant sidekicks on the dinner plate. Immunity starts in the gut, so prepare an army of good bacteria.


SWEET AND SOUR
Citrus fruits contain vitamin C, an essential micronutrient which contributes to the improved health of your immune system. Because our bodies cannot produce nor store vitamin C, it’s important we pack it into our diets wherever we can!


 

2020 Food Predictions


In recognition of the new decade, we caught up with My Food Bag’s development kitchen team, comprising of Nadia Lim and 13 talented chefs and nutritionists, about what we can expect to see on the culinary horizon for 2020.

 


1. Mindful eating – Consideration for health and the environment are on the rise.

When it comes to our food choices, people are more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies and their footprint.

Mindful eating is also about being present while we eat, appreciating food and spending quality time at the dinner table.


2. Out with fad dieting – When it comes to health and weight loss, sustainability in all things is the way forward.

Understanding the tried-and-tested method of eating real, nutritionally balanced food with a vegetable focus will become the ultimate goal.


3. Home food fast, not fast food – Convenience is key.

With Kiwis short on time, they want to be able to prep and cook food fast, but this doesn’t have to mean eating badly.

Homecooked and veggie-packed ready meals are in hot demand.


4. Zero-waste and home composting – Over the past decade ‘nose to tail’ and ‘stalk to tip’ have become commonplace.

This year we’re continuing to lessen our waste from the beginning to the end of our food’s journey.

Home composting is also on the rise with composts and urban worm farms increasing in popularity.


5. Mezze plates are the new platters: The bowl reached its peak in 2019 and although this movement isn’t going anywhere, the platter is catching up – think Middle Eastern influences, elaborate grazing platters and mezze plates.


6. Mini foodies: The next decade will see kids’ palates continuing to evolve. Forget chicken nuggets and chips!

Thanks to the rise in popularity of baby-led weaning, olives and sushi are becoming everyday staples for many youngsters.

My Food Bag predicts New Zealanders are raising a generation of foodies interested in eating and cooking nutrient-dense foods with bold flavours.


7. Nut butters: New Zealand’s nut butter industry has taken off in the last five years with several artisan suppliers such as Pic’s and Forty Thieves providing a range of simple, minimally processed nut butters free from sugar and added vegetable oils.

Peanut, almond, cashew and hazelnut butters, as well as tahini are becoming more common in cooking, adding flavour and texture to sauces and dressings.


8. Alternative flours: Alternative flours have been used as replacements in baking for years but now they’re going mainstream and forming the bases of staple food items like pasta and bread.

Rapidly growing in popularity due to the rise in gluten-free and coeliac and the desire for more diverse foods, these flours are becoming regular supermarket purchases for those without dietary requirements.


9. Fermentation: Kombucha and sauerkraut are so 2019! However, the rise and focus on gut health is here to stay in 2020 and this will see an increased focus on improved digestion from prebiotics, the non-digestible starch our gut bacteria feeds off, which is typically known as fibre.

Think lots of veggies and fibre-rich foods like broccolini, sweetcorn, whole grains and chickpeas.


10. Is smashed avo out? We’d be lying if we said avo on toast is on the out, but the bread base is changing and Kiwis are becoming increasingly creative when it comes to their avo toppings and add-ons.

We’re moving from ciabatta and rye to bespoke sourdoughs made from fermented oat and potato, as well as gluten-free almond, turmeric and cricket bread.

Meanwhile, favourite toppings in 2020 will include whipped pumpkin and feta, tahini or almond butter and kimchi mushrooms, crushed peas or crispy buckwheat and hummus.


 

New Year, new you!


Although New Year’s resolutions come in all different shapes, sizes and styles, it seems many of them lean towards health and wellness. After all, healthy body, healthy mind, right?

So if you’re looking to make 2020 your healthiest year yet, we’ve got the inside scoop from women’s health expert, author and speaker, Holistic Nutritionist Jessica Giljam Brown BSc, from Wellness by Jessica.


Can you tell us a bit about your personal journey to better health and wellbeing and how this came about?
I was diagnosed with chronic pain at age 17 after an accident and my journey began there.

It wasn’t until later that I really found out how much control I had when it came to looking after myself and healing.

At university, I learned about the science of the body, the chemistry of food and the reactions that take place, but it wasn’t until several years later, once I began working, that I learned about the immense healing power of food.

There is a vast array of options outside of the traditional medical matrix that can help heal the body.

It took a lot of trial and error to find exactly the right balance that worked for me; how best to reduce the inflammation that was triggering the pain, which nutrients I needed to boost to help support my mood and what steps to put in place when my pain did flare up again.

Since my early days in clinic, I have grown immensely and have been very lucky to have some really great mentors who have opened my eyes to the wider world of both natural and mainstream medicine.

I enjoy working right in the middle of natural and mainstream medicine, and pulling treatment options from both sides alongside my clients’ GPs and specialists.


How critical is healthy eating to overall health and wellbeing?
Your food supplies the energy and nutrients you need in order for every single function in the body to happen.

Without energy and nutrients, your body can’t function as it should, so it is absolutely critical to eat well in order to function well.

Food should always be the foundation when making health changes and trying to resolve issues, with sleep and stress management being on par too.


What are some of your favourite foods and meals that contribute to health and wellbeing?
Real food provides us with the best density of nutrients, so I try to make sure my diet is predominantly real foods, rather than processed.

Green leafy vegetables are one of my favourite food groups because they provide so many nutrients.

Kale, cabbage, lettuces, spinach, silverbeet and herbs contain vitamins A, B, C and K as well as magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and lots of fibre.

These nutrients support all of our processes in our body.

Fat rich nuts and seeds are something I encourage everyone to increase their intake of.

The low-fat era has thankfully ended, but there still seems to be some residual fear around nuts and seeds.

These foods are rich in heart-healthy fats, vitamin E, fibre, zinc, B6 and magnesium.

These nutrients are particularly important for healthy sex hormones and skin health.

Nuts and seeds provide valuable fats to our meals to help us feel more satisfied, keeping us feeling fuller for longer.


You take quite a holistic approach to healthy living, so it’s not all about just eating well. What are some of the other key areas we should be focusing on when it comes to looking after ourselves?
The body is affected by stress, sleep, environment, connections and relationships and movement, so all of these areas need to be focused on alongside what you eat in order to be truly well.

I work with my clients on all of these areas, pulling in extra expertise as needed.

I find that stress management and sleep improvement is what is most needed for the majority of people and is something I always address.

I encourage clients to set up relaxation practices that work for them, it could be meditation, a short yoga sequence, breathing exercises, walking, reading, or dance.

I also help them set up a sleep hygiene routine that helps them get more restorative sleep.

Once stress and sleep are better managed, I find that people can make far better choices about what they eat.


What’s your biggest piece of advice when we start struggling with our resolutions or fall off the bandwagon completely?
Focus on getting ‘more’! It’s so much easier for the human brain to want ‘more’, so play to your strengths.

Instead of ‘eat less chocolate’, change the goal ‘to eat more fruit’, or instead of ‘lose 5kgs’, set goals like ‘increase veggie intake to seven handfuls each day’, ‘walk 15-30 minutes per day’, ‘take a filling lunch so I don’t have to buy lunch each day’.


What does 2020 have in store for you?
I am really excited about 2020, there is a lot happening for me both professionally and personally.

I am really proud to have a team behind me to help me bring all my ideas to life.

We have lots of women’s health courses coming this year to help women resolve their hormone concerns and some couples’ fertility courses to help prep couples for a healthy pregnancy.

To stay up to date with what is happening, you can follow along via Facebook and Instagram.


 

Feeding the Soul


Early human civilisations viewed food as medicine. Today, taste and convenience trump nutritional objectives when it comes to our food. Yet as more of us are seeking healthier lifestyles, there’s a growing interest in nutrition. We check out a few of the most nutrient-dense foods and how to incorporate them into our diets.

 

  1. Kale

    Of all the dark leafy greens, kale takes the top spot.

    Without a doubt one of the most super superfoods, kale is brimming with vitamins C, A, K1 and B6, plus large amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.

    It also has a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

    Kale also packs a powerful punch of antioxidants such as quercetin (an anti-viral that can combat the common cold) and carotenoids for good eyesight.

    Kale can be eaten raw or cooked – add it to pasta sauce, soups, curries, smoothies and salad!

    And why not switch out your potato chips for a healthier alternative?

    Line a tray with washed kale leaves, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the edges are brown (10 to 15 mins) and voilà – kale chips!


  2. Quinoa

    Perhaps the most nutritious grain of all, quinoa is a one of the few plant goods considered a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts.

    This complex carbohydrate is a fantastic energy source that will keep you fuller for longer and is not only high in protein and fibre – it’s also packing several B vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium and phosphorus.

    Good news for coeliacs and gluten-free folk: this whole grain is naturally free from gluten!

    Quinoa can replace pasta or rice as the primary source of carbs in a meal.

    It can also be used as a substitute for your morning porridge!

    For dinner, why not stuff capsicums or heirloom tomatoes with a seasoned quinoa mix for a hearty plant-based and gluten-free meal?


  3. Garlic

    These amazing little cloves are in a league of their own!

    Not only does garlic make almost every savoury dish much tastier, it’s also loaded with vital nutrients such as calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.

    Allicin, garlic’s active ingredient that gives it its unique odour, is an incredibly important nutrient that reduces inflammation and offers antioxidant benefits.

    Garlic has also been shown to fight off the common cold, and lower blood pressure and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

    Garlic can be incorporated into most savoury foods like pasta, salad, pesto, soups/stews, stir-fries and more.

    Not a fan of the garlic taste? Dried garlic capsules are available from most health food stores and vitamin retailers.


  4. Seaweed

    Seaweed/kelp deserves more recognition than it currently gets – it’s not just for fish!

    Seaweed has been found to be even more nutritious than land vegetables in many cases; it’s particularly high in minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese – and iodine!

    Iodine is vital for optimal thyroid function, and because New Zealand soils are relatively low in iodine, many Kiwis are lacking this nutrient in their diet.

    Eating kelp or consuming kelp supplements once a week can give your body all the iodine it needs.

    Try adding a sheet of nori to a wrap or sandwich, make your own sushi rolls, or incorporate small pieces of nori into your salads or stir-fries.

    Seaweed snacks are also available from most supermarkets and Asian food stores, as are kelp noodles.


Putting the spice into innovation


If you’ve made your way over to the Lyttelton Farmers’ Markets on a Saturday morning and noticed the ‘Bambina’, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at your usual meaty sausage lying on a beautiful fresh bread roll.

 

 

It’s not even clear upon tasting that this is, in fact, an innovative plant-based creation.

Lightly spiced with fennel seeds and paprika, and with a chewy texture that gets crispy when it’s shallow-fried, the Bambina looks and cooks much like a meat sausage, but is in fact, completely meat-free.

This impressive display of local food innovation has sizzled its way to the top of the 2019 FoodStarter competition where plant-based and vegan options dominated the entries.

Growing up in Argentina meant there was a strong connection between food and socialising for Ananda Simply Wholefoods founders Fernando Gutierrez and Marita Lopez. “Growing up in Argentina, barbecues were always an excuse to get together and socialise; that’s in our genes,” Fernando says.

“Every chance to cook or share food with friends and family was a good one.”

So when the couple went vegan 12 years ago, it meant getting creative with their meat alternatives.

When they arrived in the land of the long white cloud, they found just one vegan sausage available on the market.

“When we first arrived in New Zealand from Argentina seven years ago, we realised there was a gap in the market for a good, high protein, plant-based product,” Fernando says.

The couple began producing the Bambina sausages, along with vegan and gluten-free patties – a smoked lentil patty and a chickpea patty – and their classic Argentinian Chimichurri dressing, also vegan and gluten-free.

 

 

“We started at the Opawa Famers’ Markets, then the Riccarton Bush markets, now we’re at the Lyttelton Markets. From there we were able to build up regular customers and then moved into shops and restaurants,” says Fernando, who worked as a full-time landscaper until three months ago, before moving to part-time hours so he could concentrate on making sausages. “But now we have a lot more to do!”

They certainly do, with the FoodStarter win coming in when Marita was 37 weeks pregnant with their second child.

The Bambina sausage was one of 121 entries to the FoodStarter competition, a partnership between Foodstuffs South Island and the Ministry of Awesome (MoA), based at the Te Ōhaka Centre for Growth and Innovation, at Ara Institute.

More than 90 percent of entries had a health, environment and dietary awareness focus, with four of the top five products being vegan.

“The entries showed just how impactful the current trend for plant-based and vegan is,” Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer Marian Johnson says.

“We’re in the early adopter phase at the moment, but we are seeing a lot of startups in that area.”

She often buys vegetarian sausages, but says the Bambina was a particular stand-out.

 

 

“This was amazing – it actually tasted like a lovely spicy pork sausage,” she says.

“It held together really well and had the kind of texture you’d expect from a good sausage.

It was an incredibly tough competition, and we saw an outstanding display of innovation, invention and passion from all five of our finalists.”

It was a sentiment expressed by all the judges.

Foodstuffs South Island CEO Steve Anderson says all the top five entries showed stunning innovation, but Ananda Simply Wholefoods’ vegan Bambina sausage was exceptional.

“You can’t tell it’s plant-based – we thought there must be some kind of meat in there, but there’s definitely not. The balance of flavours and textures make it a truly worthy winner.”

The $75,000 business incubation prize package includes product development from FoodSouth, brand and design guidance from Strategy Advertising, business startup incubation at Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth & Innovation, guidance from MYOB staff and guaranteed placement of the winning product in all New World supermarkets across the South Island – a prize Fernando and Marita describe as “life-changing”.


 

What hunger are you feeding?


In a world where people are bombarded with celebrity diets and images of photoshopped bodies, disordered eating has become the new normal while our body’s natural hunger cues are being ignored.

 

Oxford Women’s Health Dietitian Sara Widdowson is encouraging people to recognise what hunger they are actually feeding, when it comes to our complicated relationship with body image and Sara says humans are born intuitive eaters, meaning they listen to their body’s hunger and fullness cues.

For example, a baby may cry when they are hungry and stop when they are full.

Although body shapes are incredibly diverse, when people begin to develop a sense of self-image around ages five-seven, the body’s natural hunger cues can become blurred as weight-related stigma pressures people to think their body needs to be a certain size. With complex emotions comes a tendency to eat for comfort or over-eat when full.

“Paying attention to what we eat and why we are eating it is important to ensure our bodies are getting the nutrients they need to be healthy,” Sara says.

“It’s important for people to acknowledge that food and the experience of eating is complicated. We live in a world that celebrates dieting but dieting fights those cues your body is giving you about hunger, so you develop distrust.”

She says it is important to celebrate non-weight-related outcomes such as sticking to a regular fitness plan rather than being concerned by the number showing on the scales.

Having a healthy relationship with food and ensuring your body is getting the nutrients that it needs is paramount.

“People can be healthy at all sizes, so we need to focus on health-related goals rather than weight-related goals. We know that diets don’t work because when the body experiences a major calorie deficit it protects itself as if there’s a famine and does everything it can to preserve itself.”

A good way to reconnect with your body’s intuitive cues is to practice being mindful of the experience of eating, such as recognising how you feel before, during and after a meal.

Doing this can also help to identify emotional triggers, when you consider what you are eating and why you are eating it, Sara says.

“People will eat food as a socially acceptable way to self-soothe. If you come home from work and you’re stressed and reach for the wine or chocolate, it’s the stress doing that.

Try to find something else that makes you feel just as relaxed.”


 

Eating Beautiful

Eating Beautiful


We’ve long treated our skin and hair externally, as we seek to become younger, more beautiful versions of ourselves.

 

Eating Beautiful

 

But there’s an increasing movement towards the recognition of the intricate connection between what we eat and our external appearance.  Rather than all the lotions and potions at our disposal, consuming the most nutritionally amped-up superfoods might actually be the key to looking your best.

So what do we need to grab at the supermarket on the way home to get the glow of goodness? We’ve picked out some of our faves.

 

Awesome Avos

Avocados are loaded with antioxidants that help protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays and essential fatty acids which help lock in your skin’s natural moisture.

 

Culinary cure-all

Kale is jam-packed with a host of vitamins, including Vitamin A, which is vital for a dazzling white smile, while its omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation

 

Seedy disposition

Packed with B vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fatty oils, pumpkin seeds are your ticket to clear and glowing skin.

 

 

Macadamia magic

The macadamia nut’s overall combination of fatty acids and zinc makes it a wonderful skin beautifier.

 

 

Berry-licious

Loaded with Vitamin C, berries are a beauty powerhouse, with Vitamin C linked to less wrinkles.

 

 

A sweet option

Sweet potatoes are bursting with beta-carotene, which improves the integrity of your hair and nails.

 

 

Ode to Oysters

Oysters contain zinc, which boosts collagen production, speeds up the healing process and helps improve acne by regulating oil production.

 

 

Repair oil

With the ability to repair the skin, coconut oil is a great addition to smoothies, in cooking and on the skin.

 

Turmeric treats

Turmeric is well known for its ability to purify blood which is essential for clear skin.

 

 

Clever Cacao

Dark 70 percent Cacao Chocolate has flavonoids which improve the texture and hydration of the skin, while battling damaging UV rays.

 

 

Coffee craving

Caffeine addicts rejoice because coffee is absolutely loaded with antioxidants essential for healthy skin.

 

 

Almond action

Almonds contain a large amount of catalase – an enzyme that impedes the graying process by limiting the build-up of hydrogen peroxide in your hair follicles.’