Kirsten Chick (Nutritional Therapist) is great at untangling the confusion around nutrition questions. She has been called “queen of the analogy” for her skill in bringing scientific concepts to life. Her down to earth approach makes nutrition accessible to everyone, and she inspires people to make simple changes that have a profound impact.
Kirsten has been talking nutrition for over a decade, and still isn’t tired of it. In workshops, on university and college courses, on retreats and to the hundreds of people who have come for one-to-one consultations. And then there are those she meets socially, who open with: “Oh, you’re a nutritional therapist? Can I just ask what you think about…”
1. I’ve heard I should be cooking with coconut oil. Is olive oil ok?
This is something people are understandably confused about. Public health messages and scientific research has been failing to match up for a long time. Read more…
2. I don’t think I eat enough fruit to get my 5 a day. Should I eat more?
So the first thing to point out here is that your 5 a day should be mostly vegetables! Read more…
3. How can I get my children to eat healthier snacks and more vegetables?
The simple answer: get them involved! Get them to help make nut truffles, buckwheat pancakes, vegetable bakes and colourful salads… Read more…
4. I can’t eat wheat – should I buy gluten-free bread?
Hmmm…maybe check the ingredients label first. There are often sugars and additives in gluten-free alternatives that you may not want in your diet. Read more…
5. Is being gluten-free just a load of hype?
No. Gluten really does aggravate the gut, causing inflammation, and in some cases damage. The degree to which it does this varies… Read more…
6. How important is eating organic?
Very – where you can. Non-organic fruit and vegetables are usually sprayed with oestrogen-mimicking pesticides and fungicides and carcinogenic cadmium, harsh toxins for your body and for the planet. Read more…
Come along to one of our Bloom Holistic Retreats and ask away! Kirsten delivers daily Nutrition Workshops and Talks and is also available at mealtimes for questions. Our longer retreats include a one-to-one consultation with Kirsten so you get to find out what a good listener she is too.
More more information on Kirsten Chick, visit her website www.connectwithnutrition.co.uk.
This is something people are understandably confused about. Public health messages and scientific research has been failing to match up for a long time. Recent research showing that cooking with vegetable oils releases cancer causing chemicals may help to move things along . Sunflower oil, corn oil and extra virgin olive oil all released high levels of these toxic aldehydes. The longer you heat them for, the more they release.
Coconut oil, duck fat, goose fat and even lard are much more stable to heat. This is because they are made up of saturated fatty acids. Saturated fats have been given an undeserved bad press over the years. Sure, you don’t want to be dripping with them, but small amounts are not only fine for most people, but important for providing your cell membranes with structure.
Unsaturated fatty acids are the omega 3, 6 and 9 oils we have been encouraged to eat more of. There are lots of them in olive oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, rapeseed oil and other nut and seed oils, and a smaller amount in butter. They have plenty of health benefits, but go rancid when exposed to oxygen, and even more quickly when you heat them or put them in too much light.
Rancid oils can’t do their job properly and so can cause problems in your body. Normally they would smell and taste awful, but many commercial processes make oils go rancid before you even buy them, so they are deodorised so you can’t tell. Make sure your omega-rich oils are cold-pressed, kept in dark bottles in a cool place, and use them in dressings and drizzles instead of cooking with them.
The ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids you eat is really crucial to your health. If you have a lot of sunflower, rapeseed or corn oil in your diet, then you run the risk of having too much omega 6. This can contribute to chronic inflammation, and so chronic disease, including diabetes and heart disease – yes, the reasons we are told to use these oils in the first place! (Go back…)
So the first thing to point out here is that your 5 a day should be mostly vegetables! In fact, in some countries that would be 6, 10 or even 13 a day – but the emphasis would still be on vegetables.
There’s nothing wrong with fruit, in fact fruit has some amazing health benefits. The questions I would like you to keep asking are:
– which fruits are seasonal right now
– how is my body coping with more acidic foods right now?
– does my body want a lot of fruit right now?
When your body is colder and perhaps more sluggish – for example during winter and in states of chronic illness – fruit can sometimes be challenging to the digestive system. So in such times, you need to weigh up the benefits of its fantastic nutrients against the potential strain it might cause on your ability to digest them. In wintertime in Northern Europe, there aren’t (m)any fruits available naturally, so that may be a clue to how much we might want to eat at that time. In summertime – or in California, Asia, Mexico and Africa – it may be a different story.
We also need to be aware that many fruits – and especially citrus fruit, such as grapefruit, oranges and lemons – are highly acidic. In excess (which is a different amount for different people) this may also have an aggravating affect on your digestive system. And an aggravated digestive system may contribute to inflammation, poor nutrient intake and a host of health problems. This may not mean you need to avoid them, but it might make you think about how many you are cramming into your smoothies, juices and snack times. (Btw, lemons don’t seem to be the miraculous alkalisers the internet would have you believe! And high levels of fruit acids aren’t great for your teeth either…)
So don’t worry about forcing down fruit that you really don’t fancy. Especially if it has been force grown in artificial environments or flown halfway round the world. Instead, ask your body what it wants, trust it, and focus on the veggies as much as you can. (Go back…)
The simple answer: get them involved! Get them to help make nut truffles, buckwheat pancakes, vegetable bakes and colourful salads (for very young children, you can do the bits than involve blades and high heat). Get them growing things, whether its in the garden/allotment, in a window box or some sprouted seeds in your kitchen.
Make mealtimes fun and engaging. Let your children play with their food. Ask them to describe how it tastes, how it feels in their mouths and in their tummies. Ask them how many green foods they can see? How many red? How many orange? How many purple? Can they make a rainbow with their dinner? Share fascinating food facts at mealtimes (“Did you know carrots really do help you see in the dark?), and happy food memories (“Remember the size of those watermelons we had in Spain last summer?). (Go back…)
Hmmm…maybe check the ingredients label first. There are often sugars and additives in gluten-free alternatives that you may not want in your diet. If you want to keep your gluten levels to a minimum, then opt for 100% rye sourdough bread. Rye has low levels of gluten that are largely processed away by this long fermentation method, so it is usually much easier on digestion.
For completely gluten-free alternatives, make buckwheat pancakes and other gluten-free pancakes. Both the big pan-sized ones and the smaller, fluffier scotch pancakes. Use oatcakes (“gluten-free oats” are strictly gluten free; most oats may be contaminated with the odd bit of wheat while being processed and packaged), or make your own delicious crackers.
One thing I do try and get people to avoid are rice cakes. The extrusion process used to make them damages the protein structures in the rice. They don’t seem to be that great for blood sugar either. Plus they taste of polystyrene. Why even go there? (I try really hard not to be judgemental around food, but I often fail when it comes to rice cakes!) (Go back…)
No. Gluten really does aggravate the gut, causing inflammation, and in some cases damage. The degree to which it does this varies from person to person. Some people may notice immediate discomfort – with pain, bloating, energy dips, irritability, headaches or other symptoms. Others may be symptom free – either because their bodies handle gluten relatively well, or because they eat so much of it their guts have given up sending their brains the pain signals (but the damage may still be there).
For some, the damage causes causes dangerous health problems which means gluten needs to be avoided completely. To everyone else, I’d say that gluten may not be urgently problematic, but you still may want to address the quantity of gluten you are exposing your delicate digestive tract to.
As a society, we tend to overeat gluten, with wheat-based cereals or toast for breakfast, sandwiches and muffins for lunch, biscuits and wheat crackers as snacks and then pasta or couscous for dinner. Most of the wheat we grow these days is particularly high in wheat, as it protects the crop from pesticides and adverse weather. Then where we once would have used long fermentation methods to make bread to help make it easier to digest, now we use shortcuts and nutrient-stripped white flour.
But a lot of companies may have jumped on the bandwagon. Just because something says “gluten-free”, that doesn’t make it a healthy alternative. Always read the labels. Still better, learn how to make some simple, delicious, gluten-free food yourself. We specialise in these on these blog pages and on our retreats. (Go back…)
Very – where you can. Non-organic fruit and vegetables are usually sprayed with oestrogen-mimicking pesticides and fungicides and carcinogenic cadmium, harsh toxins for your body and for the planet. Non-organic meat may have been fed with some of these, as well as GM foods. There have been media reports that organic foods don’t contain more nutrients than non-organic, but the scientific research suggests it does.
The first thing to remember is that you can’t make the choice that isn’t there. So if your access to organic food is limited, use what you have and be grateful it’s there. The same goes to limited finances. If you can’t afford to eat organic, then maybe you don’t have that choice for now – or maybe you could adjust your priorities so that you can afford to spend a little more on food. Also check out organic community allotments or get your own vegetable patch together.
Organic farmers, on the whole, are more likely to have animal welfare as a core value. Having said that, there are non-organic farms who are just as good if not better in terms of soil quality, farming methods, animal welfare, quality of animal feed, amount of time out in the fresh air and feeding on pasture, and minimising use of unnecessary antibiotics. For reasons of finance or red tape, they may not have applied for organic status, but the ethos is still there. At the same time, other farms have ticked the minimum boxes to achieve organic status but seem to cut corners where they can get away with it. So it’s worth doing a little research. (Go back…)