Month: September 2013

Is a raw food only diet really healthy?

The most fashionable trend in cookery is…not cooking.  Raw food is on a roll with raw restaurants springing up, not just in California but all over the world. The buzzwords are sprouting, fermenting and dehydrating and the celebrities are falling over themselves to eschew the heat. It’s easy to see why – raw food bodies tend to be long lean slim bodies.  But it’s not just about aesthetics:  many people insist they go raw for the supposed health benefits of the diet.  Venus Williams started following the regime at the beginning of the year after being diagnosed with auto-immune disease Sjögren’s syndrome.  Apple CEO Steve Jobs was also a fan – but unfortunately the diet didn’t prevent him dying of cancer. Raw restaurants are increasingly fashionable, not just in California, but around the world. Gordon Ramsay recently put a raw food bar in his London restaurant and Claridges hosted a pop-up raw food restaurant. There are various forms of raw foodism or rawism.  While some advocates include raw meat and fish, the majority tend to …

Ayurvedic healing at Austria’s Schloss Pichlarn

I love ayurveda, the 5,000 year old system of Indian mind-body spirit medicine.  In fact, I love it so much I wrote an entire book about it.  Yet I hadn’t had a dose of ayurvedic cleansing for many years and was yearning for some of its deep pampering treatments.  Would I have to trek over to India or Sri Lanka to get my abhyanga and shirodhara fix?  It seemed not.  I could fly to Saltzburg and be at Schloss Pichlarn less than two hours later.  No jet lag,  no sirree.   Saltzburg?  The Austrian mountains seem an unlikely venue for exotic ayurveda but, in fact, it’s not as strange as it sounds.  Ayurveda became very popular in Germany and Austria in the 90s and there is a wide choice of ayurvedic spas in these most firmly western countries.  Schloss Pichlarn has been developed around an old castle (complete with turrets) with a vast slab of mountain behind.  It’s big and grand (but not remotely stuffy) with all you’d expect from a large luxury hotel (there’s a …

Juice fasting – yes or no?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a celebrity nowadays who isn’t sipping freshly pressed juice.  Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Cattrall, Demi Moore, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Nichole Ritchie, Reese Witherspoon, Alicia Silverstone, Colin Farrell…the list goes on and on.  It’s not hard to see why – juicing is touted as the elixir of youth, a magic bullet for preventing or curing disease and the holy grail of weight loss all squeezed into one glass.  In Hollywood juice cafes are virtually considered temples. You can simply incorporate the odd glass of juice into your daily diet or, as many of the A-listers do, give yourself the occasional juice ‘detox’, drinking nothing but juice for a few days or even a few weeks. ‘Juicing is great because you can take concentrated nutrients from a whole lot of fruits and vegetables,’ says Erica D’Angelo, who runs juice retreats at the Ti Sana spa in northern Italy.  ‘Normally you simply wouldn’t be able to eat that amount at once. You’re consuming a substantial quantity of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help …

Mindfulness – the key to less stressful living?

Could mindfulness provide the key to less stressful living?  The simple form of meditation, based on Buddhist principles, is fast gaining acceptance as a powerful way of bringing peace to frantic 21st century minds.  Actress Goldie Hawn advocated the technique be taught to children, even before they start formal education.  It isn’t just a case of woolly Hollywood liberalism – her MindUP™ programme has conducted solid research, finding that 82 percent of children following the programme become more optimistic and think more positively.  They are, quite simply, more happy. ‘Mindfulness techniques are being taught everywhere from schools and hospitals to the workplace now,’ says Jane Matthews, author of Have the Best Year of Your Life (O Books) who incorporates mindfulness into her workshops.  But why the huge upsurge in popularity?  ‘It’s an antidote to the way our world is on permanent fast forward,’ she says.  ‘There is simply so much to do, to see, to know and to organise that many of us feel as if we are hurtling through our days on automatic pilot. It …

Superfoods – safer than supplements?

A new book is warning that vitamins might not be as healthy as we think: they could even be causing us harm.  Dr Paul Offit, author of Killing Us Softly (Fourth Estate) claims that vitamin supplements can actually increase our risk of heart disease and cancer. While that may come as a shock to most of us, many naturopaths and, in particular, raw food advocates, are not so surprised.  They have been saying for years that the best way to supercharge our diet is not with manufactured supplements but with foods dense in natural nutrients – the so-called ‘superfoods’. In fact, many nutritional experts are now eschewing supplements altogether, claiming that foods like acai, maca and chia are better, healthier and much safer than synthetic vitamins and nutritional supplements. ‘Superfoods are holistic health supplements that contain more nutrients per calorie than most other foods,’ says naturopath Veronika  Poola from Kaliyoga Retreats in Spain.   ‘They are especially high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. Unlike synthetic supplements, they are foods and therefore come in a form …

The rise and rise of the serious medical spa

Spas have become so commonplace now that it’s unusual to find a smart hotel that doesn’t have one.  The word spa has become synonymous with pampering, with elaborate ‘rituals’ and esoteric beauty treatments.  But it wasn’t always so. The original spas were built with serious healing in mind.  They were usually sited in places with natural springs where people would ‘take the waters’ – drinking or bathing in water rich in minerals, or being daubed with its mud.   Far from being ‘feelgood’ places, they were often quite draconian in their treatments. I clearly remember enduring all kinds of torture (including freezing showers and being wrapped in wet bandages) at Tyringham Hall, an erstwhile naturopathic spa.  There was no concept of picking and choosing your treatments – you were given what the doctor thought you needed, no more, no less. Now we’re seeing a move back to this more focused therapeutic function with some spas building up impressive reputations for treating specific problems.  People flock to them, not for sybaritic pampering but to get to the …