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Zaretti Nutrition Therapy, Kent, Canterbury, Broadstairs

Apples top the

The Environmental Working Group - a consumer health non-profit organization - has published its "dirty dozen" list of fruits and vegetables most contaminated by pest- and weed-killer which you should try to buy organic, and apples tops this list. Most of the pesticides found in apples concentrated in the skin, but the skin is also unusually rich in beneficial anti-oxidant nutrients which will be lost if you peel them. Anti-oxidants help neutralise harmful chemicals that damage tissues and may contribute to the development of chronic disease such as heart disease. Choosing organic apples means you can eat apples with their skins on whilst avoid problems related to pesticide residues.



Posted by Maria Zaretti at 20:15

Acid-alkaline balance and good health!

Friday 10th August 2012

Acid-alkaline balance and good health!

What is acid-alkaline balance

In all of us blood needs to be maintained at a pH of 7.35 (very mildly alkaline) and the body's regulatory systems works hard to maintain this. If blood pH deviates too far to the acid side, oxygen decreases and metabolism is less effective so the body works less efficiently - this can lead to sickness.

Our bodies are exposed to a cascade of acidic substances every day – food, pollution, stress, even its own internal bio-chemicals contribute to the load. When faced with a lot of acid our body pulls alkaline minerals out of body tissues to compensate. If there are insufficient alkaline reserves in the tissues they are recruited from elsewhere, mainly being leached from bones as carbonates, which also releases calcium, and magnesium from muscle.

Common symptoms of over-acidity

Bone quality declines and the risk for osteoporosis increases when calcium is leached from bones due to high acidity.

Excess acid can be dumped in tissues for storage creating more symptoms including overweight. It is thought that the body will sequester away excess acid in fat cells, in a protective manoeuvre, to keep acids away from our vital organs. So if you are overly acidic you may have difficulty loosing weight, because you body is reluctant to let the fat go.

Microforms (bacteria, yeast, fungus) are thought to thrive in acidity, and low oxygen levels that come with acidity. The toxic waste produced as a by-product of the microforms metabolic activity can produce symptoms in your body such as fatigue, allergies and poor mood.

How acidic are you?

pH test strips are a convenient way to monitor your acid-alkaline balance. Saliva pH varies a lot so urine pH is considered a more reliable indicator. Urine pH varies too, in response to what you have eaten, so measuring in the morning may result in overly-acidic reading (because during sleep the body deals with and excretes acids), so measures taken later in the day are more indicativeUsed daily, pH test strips are great for helping you realise you are too acidic, and for monitoring pH improvement and keeping you motivated towards long-term change.

All test strips are open to interpretation, so it is important to look at your bigger health picture when alkalising - your symptoms of over-acidity, your overall health, diet, lifestyle etc. - and for this a personal consultation with your Nutritional Therapist to identify and  meet your individualised needs will be helpful. In the meantime, below are my top tips for rebalancing your pH, to get you started towards pH balance and greater vitality.

Top tips for pH balance

Reduce acid forming foods in your diet (animal products including dairy, sugar, white flour products, coffee, alcohol).

Increasing alkaline fruit and vegetables, especially green leafy veggies to help neutralise the acid.

Drink plenty of water to hydrate the cells and flush out the stored acid waste.

Ongoing stress increases acidity in the body so reduce stress and find ways to relax that suit you.

Taking an alkalising supplement that supplies calcium, magnesium and bicarbonates (sodium, potassium). This can help replenish buffer reserves and restore acid-alkaline balance to the body quicker, whilst you are working on longer term dietary change.

Young O Redford-Young S (2010) The pH Miracle Paitkus


Posted by Maria Zaretti at 13:21

Do you eat because you are depressed? Or are you depressed because of what you eat?

Depression is very common with an estimated 5-10 per cent of the UK population affected to some degree at any one time. It is more typically thought of as strictly emotional or biochemical, but Nutrition can play a key role, contributing to onset of depression and exacerbating its severity.

New research by Fulton & Sharma (2012) shows that, in addition to causing obesity, excessive consumption of high-fat foods can cause chemical reactions in the brain ultimately leading to depression

Reward and pleasure centres in the brains of both animals and humans are controlled by a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine enables people to see rewards and take actions to move towards them.  Fulton & Sharma showed that mice fed a high-fat diet developed depressive symptoms with changes in the brain's reward and pleasure centres associated with depression.

The fat-fed mice developed high levels of CREB. CREB is a molecule that activates genes involved in brain function including genes that dampen the reward-circuitry.  Having high CREB may make the same-old dose of a 'drug', in this instance high-fat food, less rewarding and promote a negative mood state. It seems that if you comfort eat fatty foods to improve your mood you may actually end up feeling worse!

Dr. Fulton draws a comparison with drug addiction whereby a vicious cycle sets in where “food-highs” are used as a way to combat depression. “In a similar way to illicit drugs” says Fulton “continually eating high-fat foods can lead to depression as the 'come-downs' take their toll”.

Whilst Fulton's research focuses on the relationship between high-fat diet and depression, there are plenty of other dietary patterns, including excess sugars, nutrient deficiencies and skipping meals that may contribute to or exacerbate depressive symptoms.  The bottom line is that food often plays a key role in maintaining your mental health, and there is a lot that can be done naturally to help rebalance mood naturally if you are currently affected to some degree by depression.

Nestler E and Malenka R (2004) Scientific American ;290(3):78-8.

Sharma S & Fulton S (2012) Diet-induced obesity promotes depressive-like behaviour that is associated with neural adaptations in brain reward circuitry International Journal of Obesity 10.1038/ijo.2012.48.

Posted by Maria Zaretti at 15:54

The Sweet Potato: Delicious and Impressively Nutritious!

Health Benefits:

Although they are named sweet "potatoes" they actually have a very different nutritional profile to potatoes, supplying superior nutrition and having a delicious sweet taste making them a healthy family favorite. They supply good levels of fiber to support digestive health and they provide antioxidants which helps protect your cells from damage by harmful chemicals (free radicals) and support your immune system function. Unlike potato, the sweet potato does not belong to the "night shade" family of vegetables which means they do not contain chemicals called alkaloids that can compromise joint function in some people. This can makes them a great alternative to potato if you have joint problems. Especially high levels of one particular nutrient (beta-carotene) contained in sweet potato may also support blood sugar regulation which could be significant if you experiences blood sugar fluctuations or have been diagnosed with diabetes - This is an exciting possibility worthy of further scientific investigation.

Best Ways to Cook and Enjoy:

Sweet potatoes are a robust vegetable that will remain fresh for a month if you store them in very cool, dark, dry place such as your kitchen cupboard. Don't store them in your refrigerator however, because the moisture and light encourages the sweet potato to sprout, and makes it more sugary by increasing the conversion of some of its starches to sugar.

When it comes to preparing and cooking your sweet potato, I'd recommend that you rinse and then cut your sweet potato into small pieces (about 1/2 inch cubes) to help them cook more quickly and then steam them for 7 minutes which makes them tender, brings out their flavor, and maximizes their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for assimilation. I would not recommend boiling sweet potatoes which leaves them soggy and depletes many of the nutrients they contain. Cooking them in oil at high temperatures can potentially create harmful chemicals (free radicals) that can damage cells so I would recommend you avoid roasting your sweet potatoes. It's fine to leave the skins on if your sweet potatoes are organic, otherwise peel the flesh before chopping and cooking to reduce your exposure to pesticide residues with which they may have been treated. Vitamin A is better absorbed if you have a little fat with your sweet potato such as a 1/2 teaspoon of butter or drizzle of olive oil after dishing up.

Nutritional Profile (Vitamins and Minerals):

The pigments in fruits and vegetables have antioxidant properties and the orangey-red hue of sweet potato flesh is a fabulous example. This vivid sweet potato flesh is due to it's exceptionally high beta-carotene content which helps protect your cells from damage by harmful chemicals (free radicals) and support your immune system function. Sweet potato also contains Vitamin C and some storage proteins called sporamins which further increases its antioxidant power. They are also supply good levels of minerals (manganese and copper) which are needed by your bodies inbuilt antioxidant system (called superoxide dismutase) which means they boost your body's antioxidant levels from within as well as being an external source.

When digested and absorbed beta-carotene is converted in your body into Vitamin A making sweet potato an excellent dietary source of vitamin A. Vitamin A helps fight viral infection so is an important immune system boosting nutrient. It also helps maintain the normal structure and function of your mucosal tissues found in your lungs and gastrointestinal tract, helping prevent nasty infection-causing microorganisms from taking hold in your lungs and gut. As well as that, Vitamin A is also important for maintaining healthy eyesight.

Additionally, sweet potato supplies good amounts of iron, vitamin B6 and potassium needed for energy, nervous system health and maintaining healthy blood pressure respectively, and good levels of fiber to support your digestive health.

Mateljan G (2007) The World's Healthiest Foods, GMF Publishing

Posted by Maria Zaretti at 12:48

Planes, trains & automobiles- Being a healthy traveller!

Any long journey, whether by plane, road or rail, will be associated with "travel fatigue", the combined effects of a changed routine, particularly sleep loss, altered meals with poor food choices, and the general disruption caused by travel. Some factors are not easy to guard against like sitting in cramped and uncomfortable conditions others, like making the healthiest possible food choices whilst you are traveling, can help reduce travel fatigue and help keep you energized and focused.

On entering the service station, train station or airport it can be challenging to select wholesome, healthy foods because your hunger is mercy to mostly chain food outlets serving a lot of convenience foods. High-fat, high-cholesterol foods such as burgers, chips and pizza are still abundant. These foods are associated with increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes and will only satisfy your hunger temporarily. The muffin/biscuit and coffee combo is another popular staple among passengers on the move. Cravings for sugary and caffeinated foods are typically linked to blood sugar imbalance which is caused by eating refined foods containing sugar and white flour, or by having caffeine. The bad news is that the blood sugar imbalance caused by eating these foods will make your travel fatigue much worse.

When you eat, sugar in the form of glucose from your food is absorbed into your blood where the body takes what it needs for energy and then removes the excess so your blood sugar levels return to normal. The glucose from your muffin and other refined foods is absorbed too speedily causing a fast surge in your blood sugar levels which soon passes as your body removes the excess and your blood sugar levels plummet. Caffeine in your coffee increases stress hormones in the body which, in turn, also causes a surge in blood sugar followed by a plummet. This is when you will feel tired. You'll find yourself unable to concentrate on the work you'd hoped to get done on the train or plane since your brain cannot function well without a steady supply of glucose. Caffeine can also leave you feeling “tired and wired” and unable to sleep on the train or plane.

To become a healthy traveler and minimize your travel fatigue I recommend that you select the low fat options, skip refined carbohydrates and caffeine and eat foods containing some protein and complex carbohydrate instead when possible.

Complex carbohydrate like wholemeal bread or vegetables, releases its glucose more slowly whilst the protein element i.e. chicken, egg, nuts, slows the conversion of carbohydrate into sugar. The combined effect is a more stable blood sugar level, with no more cravings, greater energy and less travel fatigue.

Check-in your bags and breakfast on protein rich natural yoghurt with a juicy fruit salad or hot porridge oats for a convenient supply of complex carbohydrates and protein. If not, a wholegrain smoked salmon breakfast bagel or sandwich (skip the cream cheese) makes a tasty alternative that will help keep travel fatigue at bay.

If you are faced with a 3 hour airport delay and in need of a hearty meal, soup is one of the healthiest options. Smoky root vegetable and bean, classic lentil and tomato, or creamy chicken and sweetcorn soup combine vegetables which are naturally low in fat complex carbohydrates with some protein for the all-important blood sugar balancing effect. If you are having a sandwich, have wholemeal with chicken, hummus, or fish instead of meat or cheese, and skip the mayo if you are watching your fat intake. Have a salad with your soup. The additional vegetables will boost you towards your 5-a-day and supply vitamins and minerals that keep that healthy by helping you avoid flu-like infections that can be transmitted on cars, trains, and planes due to close proximity seating.

Herbal teas and bottled water are an excellent alternative to coffee, preventing dehydration which can worsen symptoms of travel fatigue and jet lag, if you've flown across several time zones and your "body clock" is temporarily out of sync with the new local time.

Some healthier snack options are now available from station and airport outlets (fruit, nuts, plain yoghurt) and will help sustain blood sugar levels between meals and minimize travel fatigue. A better value more nutritious option to high priced eateries are the supermarkets springing up at many train and service stations supplying a variety of bite sized veggies, fruits, yoghurt, deli cuts, hummus, wholegrain crackers and bottled water.

Take on-board these delicious healthy travel tips to combat travel fatigue and you too will arrive, fresher, more energized and focused.

Foxwell A Roberts L Lokuge K Kelly P (2009) Transmission of influenza-like illness on international flights, Emerg Infect Dis 17(7):1188-94.

Mangili A & Gendreau M (2005) Transmission of infectious diseases during commercial air travel. Lancet;365(9463):989-96.

About the Author
Maria Zaretti BSc Hons DipION runs Nutritional Therapy practices in South East Kent. Contact: 07791 930 391,,

Posted by Maria Zaretti at 14:24