All posts filed under: Food and Drink

WHO says we should cut sugar – but is it enough?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is releasing its report Guideline on Sugars Intake for Adults and Children today.   It recommends that no more than ten percent of our daily energy should come from free sugars and goes on to say that in an ideal world, we would consume no more than five percent.  How much is five percent?  About six teaspoons a day for women and eight teaspoons a day for men. How much?  That’s still a heck of a lot of sugar, isn’t it? And there is absolutely NO need for sugar in our diets; it has zero nutritional value and, in fact, more and more research shows it has an actively negative effect on our health.   No shilly-shallying around it – sugar acts like a poison on our bodies and minds. According to Action on Sugar, the UK is in an obesity epidemic, and is officially the ‘fattest’ country in Europe, with one third of children and two thirds of all adults classified as obese or overweight. One third of UK adults …

Ti Sana – detoxing with a dose of science in Italy

Ti Sana has the ambiance of a monastery: an ancient but very smart monastery. Set in the heart of a small Italian village, midway between Milan and Lake Como, the spa has been created from an eighteenth century noble’s house and is intimate, a cluster of buildings looking inwards on itself – all soft stone and thick rustic beams.  It’s on a firm mission – to bring you to awareness about your health; to encourage you to make conscious choices about your diet, exercise and general lifestyle – and they’re taking no prisoners.  The owner, Erica d’Angelo, and her team are young and highly committed – they walk their talk every step of the way.  But there’s nothing flakey about this place – everything they do is based on the firmest science they can find. First stop for any of their detox retreats is a series of tests at the medical spa, followed by a consultation with the spa doctor.  There’s no hiding, no fudging the issue – if you fib on your questionnaire about …

Kaliyoga: sociable accessible yoga in Spain (and France)

A warm breeze is caressing my skin and I’m almost drunk on the sweet heady fragrance of orange blossom and jasmine. Lying in a hammock at Kaliyoga in the foothills of the Alpujarras in Southern Spain is so supremely relaxing that I keep reading the same page of my book over and over again. The soft hum of bees is replaced by a burst of laughter from the pool and I lift my head.  More giggles ensue and curiosity wins the day.  I slowly stir myself to wander over and, perching on the end of a sun lounger, join the fun. If I had only one word to describe Kaliyoga I’d say ‘sociable’.  Swiftly followed by ‘laughter’ and ‘warmth’.  I don’t think I have ever talked or laughed so much as during my week with a bunch of people who started off as complete strangers. Maybe we were just incredibly lucky, maybe our group just happened to gel, but I also reckon it has something to do with the spirit and soul of Kaliyoga itself. Our …

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 …

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 …

Fasting – the ultimate weight-loss plan?

The very latest eating plan is simplicity itself.  It requires no fiddly recipes, no special equipment and no complicated rules.  You don’t need to combine anything, count anything or measure anything simply because there are no foods to combine, no calories to count and no ingredients to measure.  This is the lean world of fasting which makes the most draconian diet look generous. It involves ingesting nothing more than water for upwards of a day and it is gaining in popularity virtually by the minute. It’s certainly not a new concept – back in medieval times, fasting was a way of life and all over the world religions have espoused the spiritual benefits of purifying and castigating the body by withholding food.  Nowadays, however, few think of fasting as a solely religious experience and it certainly isn’t regarded as punishment: fasters are simply looking for a healthier body, a brighter mind and clearer emotions. Amidst healthy scepticism there is evidence backing periodic, sensible fasting.  Research has been carried out since 1880 and since then medical …

Green tea – the wonder stuff

Is there anything green tea can’t do?  It’s been feted as a weight loss miracle, melting away the pounds.   Research suggests it might lower the risk of heart disease and prevent certain types of cancer.  Acne sufferers daub it on their skin while others swear it works a treat as a mouthwash.  Just recently it was reported that drinking green tea could even protect us from glaucoma and other eye diseases.  Its celebrity following is vast – from Oprah Winfrey through Jennifer Lopez and Lindsay Lohan to Courtney Love and (inevitably) Gwyneth Paltrow.  But is it just another over-hyped fad or should we really be ditching our mugs of builders’ finest and playing green tea ceremonies instead?  ‘Green tea has become a ‘must have’ drink with its own fashion status,’ says Ross Hutchison, MD of The Teahouse (www.theteahouse.co.uk), speaking from a tea garden in China.  He points out that green tea isn’t actually that mysterious.  ‘All the major types of tea (white, green, oolong, black) all originate from the Camellia Sinensis tea bush. The difference …