Eat Smarter

Red Cabbage

It’s cheap and readily available. So it can’t be a superfood can it?

No food is actually a ‘superfood’ as this is purely a marketing term, but if one food does punch above its weight in terms of nutritional benefits, it’s the humble red cabbage.

Red cabbage is one of cruciferous vegetables, which also include rocket, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radish and turnips. All these vegetables are low in kilojoules, and rich in folate, vitamins C, E and K, and fibre.

They also all contain phytonutrients, plant-based compounds that may help lower inflammation, and research suggests may reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Choose red cabbage and you will get added value in the form of phytonutrients called anthocyanins. These are the pigments that give red, purple and blue plants their rich colouring. They act as strong antioxidants in your body. Research indicates anthocyanins may protect against many chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease.


What to do with red cabbage:

  • Shred and use as a base for a coleslaw with grated carrot, shredded baby spinach or kale and chopped walnuts.
  • Make a warm side dish. Braise a small shredded red cabbage for 10 minutes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sliced red onion, peeled grated apple, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ¼ cup apple juice.

Whenever you cook with red cabbage, add an acidic liquid such as vinegar, apple juice or wine, otherwise the cabbage will lose its colour and turn blue.

Clean Air Means Clear Lungs

Not all workplace hazards are visible. Dust, gas, fumes and vapours that you can’t see may be harming your lungs.

During a day at work, you will breathe in almost 8000 times. Every breath may be potentially damaging, putting you at risk of occupational lung diseases (OLD). These are conditions of the respiratory system caused by workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals and dusts, and include work-related asthma, asbestos-related conditions, silicosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Who is at risk?

1. Manufacturing workers: can be exposed to invisible hazards in the air, such as fumes and dust.

2. Construction workers: are often in contact with dust from concrete and fumes from welding.

3. Engineered stone workers: are exposed to silica dust in all parts of their work process – from preparing and working on the slab, to cleaning up the workplace and disposing of waste.

4. Agricultural workers: may come into contact with a range of hazards in the air, including pesticides, chemicals and fuels.

What can you do?

Workplace Health and Safety legislation means your employer must ensure that standards are in place to protect your lung health.

You can help by ensuring you use your PPE that is designed for the hazardous agent you’re working with. You may need training in how to use it, as well as undergo fit-testing.

Some recommendations:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking or vaping of any kind increases your risk of many lung diseases.
  • Practise good hygiene. Wash your hands and face before eating and drinking and put clothes in a separate wash basket.
  • Talk to your doctor. Have regular check-ups with your doctor, even if you’re not experiencing symptoms.

Should We Stop Giving So Much Weight to BMI

Are you a healthy weight? To get an answer, you’re likely to measure your body mass index or BMI. But how helpful is this?

Your health can be gauged by a simple formula we are told. Divide your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared (kg/m2) and you have your BMI.

This can be then used by your doctor, nutritionist, or your fitness instructor to assess if your weight is ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ for your height or whether you are hovering close to being classified as ‘overweight’, ‘obese’ or ‘underweight’.

BMI is used around the world to measure obesity and give an estimate of our overall disease risk. There is an assumption that a normal BMI equates to good health, while scores in the ranges above or below suggest your health is at risk.


Is there a link between BMI and health?

BMI does have value. Being quick, simple and cheap, it can quickly identify people who may be at risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease and be a useful starting point for further investigations.

But many health professionals, backed by a growing body of evidence, are now questioning the reliability of BMI as a marker of health.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Obesity looked at BMI as an indicator of heart health. The research team checked individual BMI results against other indicators, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure and insulin resistance. What they found was surprising:

  • 30 per cent of people in the normal BMI range were at above-average risk of heart disease.
  • 48 per cent of ‘overweight’ and 29 per cent of ‘obese’ people were heart-healthy.

What else can’t BMI tell you?

  • The amount of fat on your body

In adults who have stopped growing, an increase in BMI is usually caused by an increase in body fat, but there are many exceptions to this.

“Having a high ratio of muscle to fat is liable to put you into the ‘overweight’ category,” says Canadian dietician Abby Langer. “Muscle weighs more than fat, and if you’re solid and muscular – think athletes or weightlifters – BMI won’t recognise that; it will just categorise you as overweight when you’re not.”

Body composition, including your per cent body fat or muscle mass, can also vary by race and ethnic group.

  • Where that fat is stored

Where you store your fat is critical to your health. Body fat stored around the abdomen (an ‘apple’ shape) is more dangerous than fat on your hips or thighs, but BMI won’t tell you where your fat is located. The ‘apple’ shape is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and you can have a BMI in the ‘normal’ range but carry risky amounts of belly fat.

  • Your individual risk

Your risk of disease doesn’t automatically increase with weight. The normal ranges don’t work so well for predicting health risks in older adults, who don’t appear to have a greater risk of death when their BMI is in the ‘overweight’ category.


What are the alternatives?

Your waist circumference is a better predictor of health risk than BMI, because it can indicate how much fat is stored around your abdomen, where it is potentially more dangerous.

Both waist circumference and BMI can be good starting points, but other measurements will give a fuller picture of health risk. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, activity levels, diet and stress, along with blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels should all be considered.

What’s The Big Deal About a Strong Core?

When you’ve only got limited time in your day to exercise, it can be tempting to go straight for the stress-busting cardio or heavy weights and skip your core muscles. Find out why you need a strong core to thrive in your everyday life.


What are core muscles?

Your core is a group of muscles which wraps all the way around your torso, both front and back. Muscles include the transverse abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, and the rectus abdominis – you ‘abs’.


Why you need strong core muscles

We often don’t realise how important our core is until causes problems.

You might have experienced this if you’ve had sore abs after a workout, or if you’ve had an operation such as a c-section.

We use our core to do basic things like stand up or sit up. When you bend over to pick up a wrapper from the ground, or reach up to get a mug from a high shelf, you’re using your core muscles. Even sitting in an office chair requires core muscles activation. In fact, you need your core (especially your transverse abdominal muscles) every time you move a leg or an arm.


What happens when core muscles are weak

If you get back pain from standing too long or find yourself all hunched over when working on the computer, you may find that a weak core is exacerbating the problem.

When your core muscles aren’t strong enough, you can often find your overall posture suffers. It can be difficult to keep a straight spine, whether you’re sitting or standing. It can even affect how well you can use your hands for tasks like writing, typing or using hand-tools.

It can even cause shortness of breath, especially if you’re standing for long periods of time.

The connection with back pain

A growing amount of evidence suggests back pain may be partly caused by weak core abdominal muscles over time.

At least 84 percent of us will experience back pain at some stage in our lives. By strengthening your core muscles, you can help protect and strengthen your back, and potentially reduce the risk of back pain.


How to strengthen your core

Forget the old sit-ups that your school Physical Education teacher made you do. There’s no single core exercise that’s ideal for everyone because we all have different issues and needs.

A good starting point is the plank. Or at least, to work up to the plank. It doesn’t require equipment and you can do it pretty much anywhere.

Here’s an easy explanation:

  1. Plant hands directly under shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder width) like you’re about to do a push-up. A variation is placing your forearms on the floor instead, with your elbows is placing your forearms on the floor instead, with your elbows aligned below shoulders and your arms parallel to your body.
  2. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to stabilise your body. Your legs should be working, too – be careful not to lock your knees.
  3. Neutralise your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands. Your head should be in line with your back.
  4. Hold the position for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable with the move, hold your plank for as long as possible without compromising your form or breath.

Why Women Have More Anxiety Than Men

When it comes to some mental health conditions, particularly anxiety, it matters whether you’re male or female.

Women are almost twice as likely to experience anxiety as men, says a 2016 University of Cambridge review of studies.

Why women?

Biology can explain only some of the differences.

Hormonal changes across a woman’s life – during puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause - have been linked to anxiety. Women also tend to be more prone to stress and to have different coping mechanisms than men. They are more likely to spend more time thinking about life stressors, which can increase anxiety, while men tend to engage more in active, problem-focused coping.

But there are certain life events that can particularly affect women. Beyond Blue and Jean Hailes have identified a number of factors that can impact women’s mental health, including:

  • Caring for others. Women do most of the caregiving, whether for a partner, elderly parents, and/or children. While it can be a very positive experience for many, caring can affect your physical and mental health, financial security and independence, particularly if caring for people who are ill, frail or with a disability.
  • Infertility and miscarriage. The grief and loss of infertility and miscarriage can be devastating for women and is often experienced privately, which can further impact mental health.
  • Pregnancy, having a baby and becoming a mother. For some women, adjusting to the major life change and challenges of early motherhood leaves them more likely to experience depression and anxiety.
  • Menopause. Hormone changes in the years leading to menopause can contribute to depression and anxiety. The physical changes of menopause – hot flushes, night sweats, interrupted sleep and weight gain – can also impact mental health.
  • Relationships. Conflict at home, particularly physical and mental abuse, can cause great fear and anxiety. Women who are separated, divorced or widowed are more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. As well as feelings of loss and grief, the end of a relationship can affect financial security, social connections, housing and relationships with children.
  • Money worries. Stress over money is common and can affect your mental wellbeing. According to a recent BlackRock study focusing on the relationship between wealth and wellbeing, money is a top worry amongst the 27,000 people they asked worldwide. In many of these cases, women indicated that finances caused higher levels of stress than men did.

The Wordless Feeling of Loss

“Ambiguous loss”. It’s a vague but bone-deep sense of grief. It’s hard to define, and many people find it hard to justify when they ‘should be grateful’.

Yet you’ve probably felt it this past year with COVID, as you grieve the loss of your normal life and the loss of control.

The term ambiguous loss was coined by Dr Pauline Boss in the 1970s to cover the idea of ongoing losses that can’t be resolved, combined with an inability to return to “normal”. It was used to explain feelings around immigration, addiction, divorce and aging parents.

You can see why it applies so clearly to our experience of the COVID world. There is no foreseeable end, and it feels untenable and unsustainable.

Dr Sarah Woods, Assistant Professor and Director of Behavioural Health at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, calls it “feelings of stress, sorrow, and frustration we feel at the loss of our normal lives.

“The first thing to know is that feeling distressed due to ambiguity is normal,” says Dr Wood. “The complicated grief we’re experiencing due to the shifting sands of our current lives, and accumulation of impalpable losses, is valid.”

If you’re feeling stressed, it’s not your fault

We’re seeing our old world-order destabilise. Our work, education and our economy – it’s all rocky and uncertain right now.

Robert Neimeyer, PhD, director of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Memphis, says, “The losses include our sense of predictability, control, justice, and the belief that we can protect our children or elderly loved ones,”

Dr Neimeyer points out that the level of grief we feel is usually connected to our level of attachment to the thing we’ve lost.

“We’re capable of losing places, projects, possessions, professions and protections, all of which we may be powerfully attached to,” he says. “This pandemic forces us to confront the frailty of such attachments, whether it’s to our local bookstore or the routines that sustain us through our days. We’re talking about grieving a living loss – one that keeps going and going.


So what can we do about it?

You don’t have to suffer alone.

Here are ways to help manage this ambiguous grief and loss.

  1. “Name and claim it,” says Dr Neimeyer. It can help to give this “wordless suffering” a name, and know that it’s a feeling shared by so many.
  2. Understand it. It can help to understand that this kind of grief fluctuates. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed one day, and yet happy and grateful the next.
  3. Keep social. Do what you can to maintain your social supports. Even if you can’t see someone and hug them, it can help to stay connected online and by phone. Talk to your friends and family about ambiguous loss – you might be surprised by how they open up about their own experience.
  4. Stop doom-scrolling. When the news keeps updating with yet more suffering, it’s tempting to keep refreshing your news feed. It’s almost like we’re seeking control. Try to give yourself breaks from the news and limit yourself to a couple of checks a day for urgent updates.
  5. Remember your strengths. Look back on those times when you made it through tough situations, and remind yourself how resilient you are.

How to Apologise and Mean It?

You probably have memories of being forced to apologise when you were a child. You’d say you were sorry, but you wouldn’t really mean it

And just saying the words didn’t work, and it didn’t heal anything.

A real apology needs to come from an intention of restoring trust and healing wounds. And it’s hard.

We often avoid apologising, partly because we’re worried about unleashing even more anger, and partly because it feels uncomfortable.

As points out, “Apologising is hard because we don’t want to feel bad about ourselves. We try to have a positive image of ourselves, and our need to protect that can make sincerely apologising quite hard.”

However, a sincere apology can not only mend cracks in a relationship, but make it stronger. Here’s a nine step system you can follow:

  1. Ask for permission to apologise

Etiquette expert and founder of The Etiquette School of America, Maralee McKee, says your apology affects the other person, so they need to consent. You can’t just go to someone, open up raw wounds and then just leave. They might need some time before you’re ready to listen.

2. Make it clear what you’re apologising for

Be specific. It shows the other person you understand exactly what you did wrong.

3. Admit you were wrong.

Take responsibility and be careful not to make excuses.

4. Acknowledge their feelings

This is the make-or-break moment. Say you’re sorry for hurting them. Note: you’re not sorry “if it hurt you”, or “if you were offended”. That implies it’s their fault for having feelings. suggests something like, “I understand you must have felt really upset, angry and confused.”

5. Say sorry

Actually say you’re sorry. “Don’t tack a ‘but…’ onto the end of that sentence,” warns

6. Offer a solution

Tell them how you’ll make things right. If you don’t know how, ask them what they think will help.

7. Tell them it won’t happen again

This is important. As Maralee McKee says, “Otherwise, what you’ve offered isn’t an apology – it’s an excuse.”

8. Ask for forgiveness

Overtly ask for their forgiveness. Keep in mind they might not be ready yet.

9. Move forward with an intention of change

You can’t do it again, and once they’ve forgiven you, they can’t keep holding a grudge.

What Can and Can’t Reduce Inflammation

You can’t survive without me, yet I lie behind many of today’s chronic diseases.

Inflammation has become a favourite topic of wellness bloggers and influencers. It’s a scary sounding condition that’s blamed for many common illnesses, often with justification but frequently without any strong evidence.


What is inflammation?

Inflammation is usually a good thing. Without it, wounds and infections would never heal, spelling bad news for your survival.

An inflammatory response is the natural response of your immune system to any foreign invader or perceived threat, whether that’s bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, or an injury.

You’ll see acute inflammation in action if you cut or burn yourself. An influx of white blood cells and chemicals trigger redness and swelling – all part of your body’s response that begins the healing process. Inflammation is also in action out of sight, fighting off disease, including the rogue cells that cause cancer. After the initial reaction, inflammation calms down to allow your body to heal.


Can inflammation work against us?

Yes, it can. Inflammation becomes a problem when it can’t be turned off and your body continues to react to something it sees as a threat.

Persistent, invisible, low levels of inflammation (known as chronic inflammation) can damage your body. It’s linked to many long-term diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and some cancers. It plays a role in inflammatory bowel disease and is even believed to contribute to certain types of depression.

Inflammation is serious, but you can do something about it. It all starts with understanding what can cause it.


What causes chronic inflammation?

Viruses, autoimmune disease like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and pathogens the body can’t get rid of can all cause inflammation. So too can:

  • ageing
  • smoking
  • poor diet
  • stress
  • lack of sleep
  • being overweight, particularly carrying weight around your middle.


What you can do

Your diet and lifestyle can go a long way to calming down chronic inflammation. Getting active for as little as 20 minutes every day can reduce chronic inflammation. So too can quitting smoking, getting adequate sleep, losing weight and reducing stress.

One of the most powerful tools you have to combat inflammation is your choice of food. Pick the wrong ones and you can accelerate inflammation. But choose the right foods and you can reduce your risk of illness.

“A pretty poor typical Western diet high in highly processed convenience foods and added sugar and low in minimally processed plant foods has been implicated in inflammation,” says nutrition research scientist Dr Tim Crowe on his blog Thinking Nutrition.

“What is widely considered an anti-inflammatory diet” is one high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes, and wholegrains,” explains Dr Crowe. The Mediterranean style diet is a good example, especially if you include fish and olive oil, as it is rich in antioxidants and other inflammation-fighting nutrients.

Slips and Trips Lead to Falls and Injury

You lose traction on a slippery floor and start to fall, hitting the ground with a thud. If you’re lucky, you’ll walk away with only your ego bruised. If you’re not, you could be seriously injured.

Slips, trips and falls are among the most common causes of serious injuries at work – second only to hazardous manual tasks. And you don’t have to fall far. Falling as little as two metres can result in serious injury and lengthy amounts of time off work.

While the most common injuries are cuts, bruises, sprains, strains, fractures and dislocations, more serious injuries can also occur, and even death.

What do we mean by slips, trips and falls?

A slip: is when your foot loses traction with the ground surface. This can be due to inappropriate footwear or walking on slippery surfaces that are highly polished, wet or greasy.

A trip: can occur when you catch your foot on an object or surface and lose your balance. Most commonly, people trip on low obstacles that are difficult to spot, such as uneven edges in flooring, loose mats, open drawers, and poorly stored materials such as untidy tools or electrical cables.

A fall: can result from a slip or trip, although they can also occur from falling from low heights such as steps, stairs, and curbs, or falling into a hole, ditch or into water.

How to prevent injury

  • Report any inadequate or broken lighting, which can prevent someone noticing slip or trip hazards.
  • Avoid and/or report trailing cables or other low obstacles such as open drawers, loose mats or carpet tiles, or wrinkled carpeting.
  • Keep walking areas clear of clutter or obstructions.
  • Clean up or report any contaminants immediately. Contaminants can be wet, such as water, oil or grease; or dry, such as dust, metal shavings, plastic bags or off-cuts.
  • Wear appropriate footwear for your role. It should be suitable for your type of work and work environment, comfortable, and with an adequate non-slip sole and appropriate tread pattern.
  • Always take your time and pay attention to where you are going.
  • If you are carrying or pushing anything, make sure it doesn’t prevent you from seeing any obstructions.

Why Soda Water May Be Bad for Your Teeth

Regularly drinking soft drinks and other sugary drinks can lead to cavities and gum disease. But is fizzy water any better?

We’re told to brush twice a day, floss, avoid sugar and visit your dentist regularly. “Taking care of your teeth will ward off cavities and gum disease.”

And with an estimated 2.3 billion people in the world suffering from tooth decay, it’s a message we need to listen to.

Sugary, fizzy drinks, such as soft drinks and sports drinks are double trouble for our teeth. First, they contain sugar. Bacteria that live in your mouth feed on sugar and form acid which attacks the surface of your teeth. Over time, this can result in cavities.

Then there’s the acid content of soft drinks. Even if a fizzy drink doesn’t contain sugar, it often contains phosphoric or citric acid. This lowers the pH of the drink (making it more acidic) which can soften your tooth enamel, leading to damage.


What about my home-made soda water?

Soda water is a better option than most soft drinks as it contains no sugar. However, we should not drink it every day.

Soda water is also known as carbonated water. It is created by dissolving carbon dioxide gas in water – this creates an acid known as carbonic acid. The carbonic acid causes the pH of the soda water to be lower than plain water, but it is not as low as fizzy soft drinks.

The American Dental Association agrees, saying that even though the acidity occurring in sparkling water is far less than what you’d find in a citrus juice or many soft and sports drinks, they advise keeping any acidic drinks to mealtimes only.


Trust the tap

It’s boring, but your best options are tap water or milk. Most of us have access to fluoridated drinking water, which helps to protect and strengthen teeth. If your local tap water is unsuitable for drinking, bottled plain water is also a good option.

If you do drink fizzy drinks, or other acidic drinks such as hot water and lemon, kombucha or apple cider vinegar drinks, follow these with a glass of clear tap water or plain bottled water and avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes. Any form of acid will soften your tooth enamel and if you brush too soon you risk adding to the erosion.