Do Sugar and Carbs Cause Diabetes?

Diabetes is considered the fastest growing chronic condition in the world, with someone diagnosed every five minutes. Can we prevent it by cutting out sugar and carbohydrates?

The logic seems simple enough. Because diabetes is a disease of high blood glucose levels, and because carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body, many people think eating sugar and other carbohydrates can cause diabetes.

But there’s a problem with focusing on one particular nutrient like this.

Plant foods are carbohydrates foods, explains Dr David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Centre, and co-author of How to Eat.

“But carbohydrates come to us not only in the form of plants in nature, but in many forms made in factories. They can be anything from lentils to lollipops, pinto beans to jelly beans,” he says. “Some carbs are the staff of life; some are the stuff of disease.”

Carbohydrates become a problem when they are highly refined. A product like white flour, for instance, has had all the good stuff stripped out of it, leaving you with a flour that’s low in fibre and nutrients. In your body, it acts much more like refined sugar than a wholegrain, which means it’s rapidly digested and quickly raises your blood sugar.


How wholegrains are different

A grain with its fibre intact acts very differently. When you eat wholegrain bread or rolled oats, the fibre slows down digestion, preventing the dangerous insulin and glucose spikes we see after eating refined carbs.

“Large-scale studies consistently find a relation between routine wholegrain consumption and lower risk of all chronic disease and cardiovascular disease… and improved glycemic control (the fluctuations in blood sugar levels),” explains Dr Katz.

Fibre is the reason we shouldn’t worry about the sugar in fruit but should be far more concerned about the amount of refined sugar we consume, particularly when we drink it. Studies have found that people who regularly drink sugar-sweetened drinks (whether that’s soft drinks, sport drinks or cordial) have a roughly 25 per cent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A diabetes diagnosis is serious. Reduce your risk by choosing healthy foods, watching your weight and exercising regularly.

Do You See Exercise as Punishment for Enjoying Life?

What makes you put on your running shoes or active wear? Is it wanting to stay healthy? The satisfaction of seeing your step count increase? A desire to drop some kilos or build more muscles?

Perhaps for you exercise is more of an obligation, something you know you should do but don’t particularly love. As Kelly McGonigal, research psychologist and author of The Joy of Movement puts it, you see exercise as “punishment for enjoying life.”

Mindset reset

McGonigal believes many of us have developed the wrong attitude to exercise and movement. “Movement is a fundamental part of being human,” she says, so “don’t exercise from a place of shame or fear.”

She argues that rather than a chore, exercise is integral to enjoying your life. People who are physically active report being more satisfied with their lives and experience more gratitude, love and hope and less loneliness and depression.

The powerful effect of exercise on the brain leads to a wide range of psychological benefits. Here are three of them:

  • You connect more to others.

Exercising with others is one way to increase a feeling of connection – and not only because you are spending time with each other.

It’s all down to brain chemistry. Research shows that the ‘exercise high’ is linked to a class of brain chemicals called endocannabinoids (the chemicals mimicked by cannabis), which can reduce anxiety and increase feelings of optimism. They also increase the pleasure we get from being around other people, helping to strengthen relationships.

  • You become more sensitive to joy.

“When you exercise, you provide a low-dose jolt to the brain’s reward centres – the system of the brain that helps you anticipate pleasure, feel motivated, and maintain hope,” says McGonigal. Over time, regular exercise leads to higher circulating levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which relieves depression, helps you become more resilient to stress and expands your capacity for joy.

  • You can transform your self-image.

If you have a voice in your head telling you that you’re too old, too unfit, or too weak to exercise, the sensations you feel when you move can provide a powerful counterargument. Moving with power, grace or strength can change how you feel about yourself and what you are capable of, a feeling that can transfer to your daily life.

Your roadmap to becoming more active

1. Look for ways to allow physical activity to play a bigger role in your life.

Don’t think about durations or intensities. Instead, find an activity that suits you by thinking about what you already love. If you enjoy spending time with friends or family, go to gym class together or arrange a weekly walk. If you love dancing, go to a dance-based class or try out ballroom dancing.

2. Make your first goal achievable.

If you’re new to exercise, start small – even 10 minutes of exercise is beneficial, but the more you do, the greater the physical and mental benefits.

3. Move outdoors.

Many people report an immediate boost from exercising outdoors. Any green space will do, it doesn’t have to be a long bushwalk.

“Every decade, adults lose up to 13 per cent of the dopamine receptors in the reward system. This leads to less enjoyment of everyday pleasures, but physical activity can prevent the decline.”

Kelly McGonigal

Is Your First Aid Up to Date?

If you have a First Aid certificate, or are thinking of getting one, you need to commit to doing a regular refresher. Here’s why:

1. Guidelines and procedures can change

A significant example is the change to CPR protocols. Many of us were taught to do 15 compressions and then two breaths. The new rule is to do 30 compressions followed by two breaths.

The difference could be the difference between life and death.

2. It’s easy to forget details

If you’re not using your first aid skills regularly (especially if your workplace has a good safety record), you’re likely to forget some parts. Research shows that healthcare providers’ skill retention declines as soon as three months after training.

It’s vital that your knowledge and skills are front of mind in an emergency, so you don’t need to doubt – or Google – anything.

Regular refreshers help you remember the important details and keep your skills sharp.

3. It boosts your confidence

Your confidence in first aid matters almost as much as the information. When you know your skills are fresh and up to date, you’ll have more confidence in making quick decisions. Your confidence will be felt by any bystanders or colleagues who need to follow your instructions – and of course, by your patient.


What are the regulations for renewal?

Workplace first aid is covered by government regulations.

Although your First Aid Certificate doesn’t expire as such, your workplace needs to follow the regulations.

It is recommended that:

  • CPR training should be refreshed every year.
  • First Aid Qualifications should be renewed every three years.


What are the overall regulations for first aid in the workplace?

All workplaces must provide first aid equipment, facilities and in some circumstances, trained first aiders.

Further, a workplace must ensure:

  • first aid equipment is provided for the workplace
  • each worker at the workplace has access to the first aid equipment
  • access to facilities for the administration of first aid are provided
  • an adequate number of workers are trained to provide first aid at the workplace, or
  • workers have access to other persons who have been trained to provide first aid treatment.

Dreams and Your Wellbeing: What Does It Mean?

Dreaming about honey means you’re about to be more productive or prosperous. If you dream about your teeth falling out it means you’re worried about money. But does it? Really?

And if not, do our dreams have any meaning? Or are they just a random firing or neurons? And most of all, what do our dreams mean for our mental wellbeing?

Here’s what we know:

1. You won’t have decent dreams unless you get enough sleep. We dream during the “rapid eye movement” or REM stage in sleep, which is the last stage of the sleep cycle. On a typical night, most of us go through four to six cycles of each of these stages of sleep. It usually takes around 90 minutes of sleep before we reach REM sleep and start dreaming.

2. Research shows that dreams are good for our mental health. REM sleep helps with emotional regulation and helps us process our experiences. Studies have found that people whose REM sleep was disturbed had more problems dealing with emotional distress.

REM sleep is essential for our mental function, especially for memory, learning, and creativity. During REM sleep, our neurotransmitters are replenished and our brains are almost as active as when we’re awake.


3. Your dreams can be a useful problem-solving tool. Dr Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist and dream scholar at Harvard Medical School, says dreaming is “our brain thinking in a different biochemical state.”

Dr Barrett says our dreams can indicate our emotional state. Many of us have had a dream about finding ourselves naked or underdressed in a public situation, which can indicate we’re feeling a sense of shame or social disapproval. Or then there’s that “test” dream, where we dream of a big upcoming exam or audition, but something is stopping us from getting there or doing it well.

According to Dr Barrett, this indicates we’re worried about measuring up in some way.


4. Dreaming about scary stuff can be a good thing. A 2019 study found that fear-ridden dreams helped us deal with fear in real life. Participants wrote down their feelings when they woke up, including whether they were afraid. They were then shown emotionally-jarring images. Those who had scary dreams were more likely to respond to emotionally stress in a healthier way.

However, if you’re having ongoing nightmares about something that really happened to you, this could be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and you should talk to your GP or seek support.

35 billion dreams

On average, we each have five dream episodes each night (or, for shift workers, each time we sleep deeply).

Each episode generally goes for 15-40 minutes, which means we each dream for around two hours each night.

With a global population of seven billion, that means we, as humankind, are producing 35 billion dreams every 24 hours.

Interestingly, many of these dreams share common characteristics.

These are the 10 most common dreams. How many have you had?

1.       1. Being chased

2.       2. Exams, tests or auditions (including not being ready, not being able to get there)

3.       3. Flying

4.       4. Driving (including going too fast or out of control)

5.       5. Teeth falling out

6.       6. Can’t find the toilet

7.       7. Being naked in public (particularly at school or work)

8.       8. Falling

9.       9. Seeing someone famous

10.   10. Death.

Cook a Pot of Soup

There are few dishes more satisfying than a bowl of delicious soup. Here are three reasons why:

1. Soup helps you reach your five a day

You’re making a minestrone. You add chopped onion, celery, carrots, tomatoes, capsicum, kale and mushrooms to the pot. You’re on your way to creating a dish that contains seven or eight different vegetables, with a wide range of disease-fighting nutrients to help you get your daily quota of vegetables. Add healthy grains in the form of brown rice, barley, or quinoa, plus a can of beans or lentils and you’ve got added protein and fibre for a satisfying chunky soup. Your gut bugs will thank you too as your soup will be loaded with prebiotics.

2. Soup keeps you fuller for longer

The bulk of soup helps to fill us up, so we feel satisfied with fewer calories. Studies show that when people have soup before a main course, they tend to eat less overall, which is how soups can help you lose weight.

3. Soup’s convenient and easy to cook

Soups don’t need lots of hands-on time, particularly if you use a slow cooker. Once your vegetables are chopped, you can sweat them gently in olive oil, add water or stock and meat such as chicken or beef, and wait until they’re cooked through. Soups are simple to cook ahead of time, and you can easily double the quantity to freeze for a later meal.

Are Plant-based Milks Better for You?

For anyone who doesn’t want to drink cow’s milk there are many alternatives available. Are these healthier than traditional milk, and should we all be making the switch?

First it was soy, now there’s almond, cashew, hazelnut, oat, rice and coconut. Plant-based milks are increasingly popular, with no shortage of people promoting their supposed health benefits over regular milk.

Plenty of us don’t drink cow’s milk, and there’s no reason why you have to, says nutrition researcher Dr Tim Crowe.

“If you don’t like milk, or if you’re intolerant to it, or have ethical issues with it, then seeking out an alternative that some of these plant-based milks may offer seems a logical step.”

That said, continues Dr Crowe, if you’re happy drinking cow’s milk, then there’s really no reason to switch to a plant-based option. Milk contains important nutrients including protein, vitamin D and A, and many micronutrients. It also plays a significant role in bone health, being a particularly rich source of dietary calcium.

And for anyone concerned that milk promotes inflammation in the body, a number of review studies have shown the opposite – that diary acts as an anti-inflammatory.


How to choose a healthy milk alternative

None of the plant-based milks naturally contain enough calcium to rival cow’s milk, which is why many of them – but not all – are fortified. Whatever one you choose, read the nutrition label. This will tell you if it contains added calcium and any sweeteners. Vegans may also want a milk that has added B12.

Soy: If you’re after the closest match nutritionally with diary milk, then choose soy. Soy typically contains more protein than other plant-based alternatives (and like milk it’s a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids), along with carbohydrates and B vitamins. Most soy milks are fortified with calcium and contain healthy unsaturated fats and fibre.


Almond: You may have heard that almonds contain calcium, so it makes sense to assume almond milk is rich in calcium, doesn’t it? Not unless it’s fortified.

A 2017 survey conducted by consumer group Choice found almond milk contained only two to 14 per cent almonds, with water being the predominant ingredient. Almond milk is also low in energy and protein but as a bonus does contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Other nut milks like cashew, hazelnut and macadamia have a similar nutrition profile, although tend to be more expensive.


Oat: Blend oats and water, strain off the liquid, and you have oat milk. Low in fat but also low in protein, oat milk is naturally sweet, contains fibre (including the cholesterol lowering beta-glucan), vitamin E, folate and riboflavin.


Coconut: There’s little advantage to choosing this, as it’s low in protein and carbs, and high in saturated fats.


Rice: Produced from milled rice and water, rice milk is naturally high in carbs and sugars, but low in protein and calcium, unless fortified.


Are any plant milks good for children?

If you want to give your children plant-based milks, it’s a good idea to discuss the best options with a dietitian first as many may not be suitable.

Of all the plant milks, soy milk comes out on top for children as it provides similar nutritional benefits to diary milk. Protein is an important part of a child’s diet, essential for normal growth and development, and soy provides a similar amount of protein to diary milk.

For children, look for a soy milk that is full fat and fortified with calcium, ideally at least 100mg per 100ml.

Rice milk is the plant milk least likely to trigger an allergy but it is still not a suitable milk substitute for children because of its low protein content.

How To Handle a Chatty Co-Worker

Chatting to colleagues at work is one of the things we’ve missed most while working from home during COVID-19. But how do you respond when a workmate talks too much?

Those small conversations you have with your workmates can be powerful interactions. Casual talk about your life, what you’re doing at the weekend, and even discussing work politics builds rapport and nurtures budding friendships.

As valuable as those conversations can be, sometimes you need to let a co-worker know that they are chatting too much and you need to get on with work. How do you do this without causing offence?

“When you have an incessant talker, you have two options,” says author and workplace advice columnist Alison Green.

“You can deal with it on a case-by-case basis as it happens, or have a big picture conversation about your need for more space to focus. The second option will probably feel more awkward in the moment, but it tends to be less exhausting in the long run.

But if you’re not ready for that – and it��s fine if you’re not – then the approach to try first is being more assertive about setting boundaries in the moment.”

Green advises saying things like:

  • “Sorry, I’m swamped today and can’t really chat!”
  • “I’d better get back to this X project, I’ve got a ton of work to do.”
  • “I’m glad your weekend was good! I can’t talk much today, got to finish up X.”
  • “Sorry to cut you off – I’ve got to get back to this.”


Liz Fosslien, co-author of No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Feelings at Work suggests a similar approach: “A great way to frame the problem is to make it about either a) your need for heads-down time to focus on and finish important work, or b) your need for more alone time,” she explains.

Fosslien also suggests setting a time in the future when you’re likely to be available and more in the mood to chat. “You can offer an alternative time to talk by adding, ‘Maybe we can grab coffee together tomorrow morning?”

If chattiness is becoming a frequent problem, it might be necessary to have a more direct conversation about it, uncomfortable as this may be. Green suggests saying: “I want to let you know that I’m trying to focus better during the day so I probably won’t be able to chat as much as we used to.”

Once you’ve said that, you’ll likely find it easier to be direct in the future.

You Like to Move It, Move It

Do you tell yourself you should move your body more? Do you feel guilty at the end of the week for not exercising enough?

This guilt-driven “should” mindset is a clue to why you might not be incorporating enough movement into your day.

Too often we turn exercise into yet another thing we have to do. Or, worse, yet another example of how we’ve failed.

Instead, start to change the way you think about movement and exercise and how it can make your life better.

Follow these steps to motivate yourself to move your body more:

1. Create a list of reasons WHY you want to exercise

Does it simply make you feel good? Does it help you with stress or sleep? Do you want more energy?

2. Imagine your life once you’ve achieved those outcomes

Take a moment to visualise your future self once you’re reaping the benefits of step 1. Imagine what your life would be like when you have lots of energy, or when you get better quality sleep, or when you feel fit.

3. Understand the real reasons why you’re putting it off

What’s actually stopping you from moving more? Unless it’s a medical condition or injury, there is something else stopping you from prioritising exercise. And it’s not time. We all have time for things we really want to do, even if it’s just scrolling through social media for half an hour before bed.

For example, you might be embarrassed about how unfit you’ve become. Or, you might not be prioritising self-care because work/family/personal issues have taken over. Find out what the problem is, so you can address it head-on.

4. Make it easier

Too often we take an all or nothing approach. We tell ourselves we’re going to run for an hour every day before breakfast. And then when we inevitably fail, we give up.

Yet, research shows that movement “snacks” can be just as effective. Start by finding 10 minutes to move your body: a brisk walk, or simply stand and roll your arms and shoulders to get the blood pumping.

Make it so easy that there’s no excuse not to do it.


The motivating magic of music for movement

Next time you take a movement break, pop on some headphones and blast some music. Numerous scientific studies have shown that music is not only motivational but can improve your exercise performance.

The best tempo for exercise is 120 beats per minute, or bpm. The five most popular 120bpm songs right now, according to jogfm, are:

  • Pink – Raise Your Glass
  • Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
  • Lady Gaga & Colby O’Donis – Just Dance
  • Journey – Don’t Stop Believin
  • Ke$ha – Tik Tok

I’m Not an Anti-Vaxxer, But…

How do you feel about the COVID-19 vaccine? If you’re unsure about its safety, we answer some of your concerns.

It’s brand new, was rapidly developed, and we don’t really know that much about the vaccine, do we?

There have been a number of studies published on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance rates around the world. Some countries, like China and Malaysia, have acceptance rates over 90%, while other countries have much lower rates. In the US, the vaccine acceptance rate was found to be 57%, while in Russia and Italy, it’s a little over 50%. Yet more countries, like Australia, hover around the 75% mark.

We don’t have to get the vaccine, but the more of us do, the safer everyone will be - particularly when international travel becomes more in reach for everyone.

Most of the reasons for hesitancy centre around the safety of the vaccine. Here are some of the most common concerns:

Concern: The vaccines have been developed too quickly

The vaccines appear to have been developed quickly. But the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis meant that all available resources and efforts, including some of the best minds in the world, were directed towards finding a vaccine.

Vaccines can be developed faster than in the past, thanks to newer technology that uses the genetic code for the virus to build the vaccine. Researchers were able to start work as soon as the genome for the virus was released in January 2020.

Clinical trials of the vaccine were also able to progress quickly because COVID-19 was widespread in many countries. This meant that differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups could be detected sooner than for a rarer disease.

Concern: There were shortcuts taken so safety was not prioritised

It’s true that COVID-19 vaccine trials were set up quickly, but this doesn’t mean that safety was compromised.

In fact, most of the vaccine trials included tens of thousands of people. This provided a larger amount of data than for many other vaccines we often get. Phase 1 and 2 trials often overlapped because safety had already been established.

In most countries, COVID-19 vaccines must meet the same high standards as any other vaccine. Once a vaccine is being used, experts and regulators continue to monitor its safety.


Concern: There may be long-term side effects

The vaccines have been tested since mid-2020, and millions of doses have now been given with very few reported adverse effects. But they continue to be monitored, with countries sharing their vaccine safety monitoring data via a global database.


For up-to-date information on the vaccines, visit your government health body’s website and look for the COVID-19 updates.

How Screens Can Affect Your Eyes

You may experience it as a headache at the end of the day. Or perhaps your eyes are sore or burning, and your vision is blurred. Theses are all signs of digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome.

Digital eye strain is more than just a work issue. Even though we can spend most of our working day in front of a screen, we often do the same when we get home. There are increasing numbers of people presenting with eye strain due to overuse of digital devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Why do devices strain our eyes?

  • When reading on a device, we tend to blink less than usual. As blinking is key to moistening the eyes, this can lead to dry, gritty, red eyes.
  • We view digital screens at less than ideal distances or angles – often way too close
  • Devices often have glare or reflection, or poor contrast between the text and the background
  • Other factors that can make symptoms worse include poor posture, incorrect setup of your computer or workstation, incorrect prescription in your glasses, and circulating air from an air conditioner or nearby fan which can further dry your eyes.

What can you do about it?

  • Take breaks. Rest your eyes by looking away from the digital screen.
  • Blink often. Remind yourself to blink regularly when looking at a screen, as this will moisten your eyes.
  • Use artificial tears. Over-the-counter artificial tears can help prevent and relieve dry eyes. Use them even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated and prevent a recurrence of symptoms.
  • Check the lighting. Reduce the amount of overhead and surrounding light that is competing with your device’s screen.
  • Get your eyes checked. Make sure you have appropriate vision correction, and consider investing in glasses or contacts designed specifically for computer work. Ask your optometrist about lens coatings and tints that might help too.
  • Adjust your monitor and screen settings. Position your computer screen so it’s one arm’s length in front of your face and enlarge the type for easier reading. Adjust the contrast and brightness to a level that’s comfortable for you.
  • Use a document holder. If you need to refer to print material working at your computer, use a document holder, placed either between the keyboard and monitor or to one side. The goal is to reduce how much your eyes need to readjust and how often you turn your neck and head.