Monday, October 24, 2011


Written by Kate Bullen, APD

A number of friends have asked my opinion about probiotics, and since I haven’t looked at the research in a while, I thought this would be a good topic to review. Let’s start by defining what a probiotic is. A probiotic is ‘good bacteria’ that can help improve the functioning of our digestive system.  Or if you would like a slightly more scientific definition ‘probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’.  We all have bacteria in our digestive system that ideally helps to keep us healthy. Sometimes the balance of good and bad bacteria can get a bit out of wack – and this is where probiotics may be able to help.

Who will benefit from probiotics?

I read a few studies that found probiotics can be useful in treating antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.  As you may be aware, antibiotics are prescribed to kill bacteria – except they will kill the good and bad bacteria in your body – hence why you are at increased risk of diarrhoea during or after a dose of antibiotics.  This is when I will purchase products specifically for their probiotic content. In the last month every member of my family has been on antibiotics – so during the course of antibiotics and for around a week afterwards, I will give each of us a daily dose of a probiotic. What do I usually choose? Yakult.  I cant find any actual evidence on the benefit of yakult but for me it is an easy and cost effective way to get probiotic into us. And it means no one gets the antibiotic associated diarrhoea, so for me that is good enough.

I didn’t find any evidence for the long term benefits of taking a probiotic. In my professional opinion, I would ask why people might choose to take a probiotic long term – it may be that their diet is in adequate in some areas, and I would suggest that be addressed first. Probiotics will not improve everything for you!

Caution should be exercised in using probiotics in people who are immune compromised – this might include the elderly, or those with a chronic disease. Probiotics are safe for use by healthy people.

Which probiotic should you choose?

You might have seen probiotics advertised on yoghurts, yoghurt drinks, or even in a pharmacy in the form of tablets, I guess it is probably personal choice, but as I mentioned for me I choose yakult as the kids consume it happily and it is easy to purchase from the supermarket. A few people have said they can't get their kids to drink yakult - I reckon it could be added to a milkshake or similar to mask the taste if that is a problem.

Image from

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Written by Kate Bullen, APD

I started using Chia seeds regularly just over 12 months ago. They are a small little seed that has many uses – from baking, to sprinkling over cereal or adding to a smoothie.  I think the real benefit of Chia seeds is that they are a fantastic fibre source – and most people are lacking in the amount of fibre in their diet. In just 1 tablespoon of Chia seeds, you get 5g of fibre – so you will be well on your way to meeting your daily fibre needs of 25-30g. Chia provides both soluble and insoluble fibre which is good news for keeping you full for longer, helping with your bowel habits and your cholesterol.

As well as being a great source of fibre, Chia also provides us with omega 3 fatty acids – which is great, except our bodies are not very good at converting this plant source of omega 3 to DHA and EPA – which is what we want. So we still need to get at least 2 fish meals at week to get this DHA and EPA form of omega 3. But – Chia is a great source of fat to include in our diet, and we always like that! Ok that is the biochemistry lesson out of the way!

What else is great about Chia? It is a good source of protein, antioxidants and it is gluten free.

When I add Chia to my cereal it still maintains a bit of a crunch or nuttiness – but when I use it in a smoothie the fibre absorbs the water and becomes gel like – so you don’t get any crunchiness in your smoothie.

And the other thing I love – it is being grown locally. Up in Kununurra in fact by The Chia Co. So fantastic that Western Australia is producing this very healthy crop. Just make sure you buy the one in the orange pack - as I think other chia might be imported.... best to support local!

Where to Buy

I usually buy my Chia seeds from my local health food shop. You can choose from white Chia seed, black Chia seed or ground Chia seeds. I have the white ones at the moment. The 500g packs retail at $18.95 – which is quite expensive – but I put a tablespoon on my cereal in the morning and a bit over a teaspoon on each of the kids cereal – so the pack lasts me a long time. On the Chia Co website you can also get smaller 150g packs for $7.39 so if you are worried about whether you will get the use out of it, then start small.
Bakers Delight make a range of bread that contains Chia seeds – so that might be another option to try some chia.

How to Use

Some of the ways I use Chia seeds are:

  • 1 tablespoon on my cereal in the morning
  • Add to soups or casseroles
  • Add to baking, such as pancakes, muffins or muesli bars
  • Add to milkshakes/smoothies
Have you tried chia? How do you like to use chia?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe: A winning green bean salad & dressing

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
I have been loving the fresh green beans that are out at the moment - so last week for lunch, as I was getting the vegetables for dinner ready, I kind of threw together this salad. It was just so fresh - and the dressing was very, very nice!  And well I am a bit of a sucker for a soft boiled egg! Try it out!

Green Bean Salad
Serves 1
1 cup steamed green beans
1 bok choy, cleaned and steamed
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
2 mushrooms, sliced
4 kalamata olives, pitted
1 soft boiled egg, quartered
Black pepper

You could add any other vegetables that you like – such as tomatoes, capsicum, cucumber, lettuce, roast pumpkin, celery, asparagus – or whatever you have in your fridge!

Dressing (only 1 teaspoon of dressing needed on salad – plenty to keep in fridge for later!)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed

1.      Arrange vegetables and olives in a bowl, and place egg on top
2.      Place all dressing ingredients in a small sealed container and shake. Measure out 1 teaspoon and drizzle over salad. Season with freshly cracked black pepper.

This salad is perfect for lunch. If you are feeling a bit hungry you could easily add a slice of bread.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Easy Food Ideas

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

I am all about healthy food being simple. So today I thought I would share with you a few super easy lunches and snacks that we have had in our house recently.

Lunch today in our house was some chopped carrot, sugarsnap peas, tomato and then some ham and avocado on bread for me and some crackers for my daughter. Super tasty and so simple to make.

Lunch last week - crackers with vegemite, some cheese, cucumber and sugarsnap peas.

Morning tea yesterday for my almost-2 yr old son,  5 yr old daughter and one of her friends. They shared some wholemeal english muffins, cheese, cherry tomatoes, carrot, pineapple, strawberries and roasted pumpkin. I usually try to offer a mix of fruit and vegetables. Predictably the vegetables were the only thing left on the plate - but each kid did have at least 1 piece. If they are offered then they wont eat anything!!

Healthy food doesnt need to be complicated or involve too much time or effort. Simple solutions are often the best.

What is your favourite easy, healthy and tasty snack or lunch?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vitamin Supplements - are they necessary?

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

My husband just sent me this link to an online article today, as he just knew that I would love it. This is an article about a journalist in the USA who fed himself 22 vitamin supplements, protein bars and psyllium each day for 5 months. So he used himself as a science experiment! He had a doctor check him before starting the experiment and again at the end. The only significant change was an increase in his Vitamin D - oh and he gained 5kg in weight!! I accept that this study is not a double blind placebo controlled study (the bees knees) but it does raise some very valid points about vitamin supplements - unless you have a real need for supplements, you may just be popping a pill and weeing it down the toilet. Which really just makes for expensive wee :)

And not forgetting that the vitamin industry is a multi-million dollar industry. I continue to be blown away by just how expensive supplements are.

I have written before about my thoughts on vitamin supplements, and while there are some genuine times that supplements can be very helpful (for example, if you are vegetarian, or pregnant, or breastfeeding, or have arthritis), many are just excessive and not needed. 

Some food for thought on this Monday evening!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Behaviour Change

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

Some of our long term readers might remember a client that I wrote about some time ago. Previously I have shared that Nigel changed his choice of Subway as his regular lunch meal, with amazing outcomes. As a followup, Nigel is doing fantastically. So fantastically that his belt has had to be tightened a few notches and many of his jeans/trousers and shorts are now too baggy for him. Nigel has sustained his diet and lifestyle, and his weight for almost 12 months with great success.

On a recent followup visit Nigel shared a new change with me. When buying a loaf of bread, he has finally made the change from white bread, which has been a long time staple of his, to wholegrain bread. Nigel went on to say that his wife (who, by they way, sounds very nice) has been *encouraging* him to switch from white bread to the grainy varieties but he has resisted this. In fact for 15 years Nigel has resisted changing from white bread to wholegrain. So why the change? Well, Nigel shared that he felt it was time to make the change to set a good example for his children. Nigel has even surprised himself by branching out and enjoying some of the Lawsons grainy breads.

I congratulated Nigel on this change. He is now giving himself a greater source of fibre and wholegrains – which provides a huge range of antioxidants and phytochemicals.

The moral of this story? Behaviour change can take a long, long time. And sometimes our motivations change. Change is not always about ourselves, but what is best for others as well.

What change could you make to improve your diet?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegetables and Fruit help to reduce your risk of bowel cancer

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

The word cancer – what does it mean? Well most people instantly think of a bloody awful disease that no-one wants. 50% of us will be diagnosed with some type of cancer by the time we are 85years old. I know which side of the fence I want to be on!

I have just finished reading about a new study that was done here in Western Australia looking at whether fruits and vegetables can help to reduce our risk of bowel cancer. What is bowel cancer? You might have also heard it referred to as colorectal cancer – same thing, just a different name. Bowel cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in Australia to be diagnosed in both men and women. Almost 15,000 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. Bowel cancer is more common in men than women, and it is rare to be diagnosed before the age of 40.  

This research was part of the Western Australian Bowel Health Study where over 1700 (834 with bowel cancer, 939 didn’t have bowel cancer) Western Australians were recruited to assess their diet.  The difference with this Western Australian study was that the actual location of bowel cancer was assessed. This is quite important because the average length of a person’s colon is 1.5m. So the study assessed whether the cancer was proximal colon cancer (ie: at the beginning of the colon), distal colon cancer (more towards the end of the colon), or rectal cancer which is right at the end of the bowel just before faeces leave our body. Ok, so now that we have got a bit of human biology out of the way, let’s move on!

We have always thought that vegetables and fruit have a protective effect on our health. And this study confirmed this. The key findings were:

  • Fruit juice appears to increase our risk of bowel cancer, in particular rectal cancer.
  • The Brassica family of vegetables – which includes cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy and turnip – reduces our risk of proximal bowel cancer, and maybe even distal bowel cancer. This makes these types of vegetables very important because really they seem to reduce our risk of most bowel cancer. This is a good thing!
  • The risk of distal bowel cancer is reduced when we eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Eating more dark yellow vegetables decreases our risk of distal bowel cancer. Dark yellow vegetables include pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato and squash.
  • Eating apples (the whole fruit – not juice!) appears to reduce our risk of distal bowel cancer.

Why are fruits and vegetables protective? We don’t know the exact answer, but it is possible that it is because of their fibre content, and maybe because of the compounds they contain – such as carotenoids in dark yellow vegetables.

A final point – diet of course isn’t everything. There is some evidence to say that you are at increased risk of bowel cancer if you are overweight, are not physically active, and drink too much alcohol. 

In summary, this research gives even more evidence for why we all need to look at ways to increase our vegetable and fruit intake – and make sure we are eating a variety of colours and types of vegetables to offer protection from many illnesses, including bowel cancer.

How much vegetables should we be eating? We should all be eating 5 serves of vegetables each and every day. I always say that you need to be eating vegetables across at least 2 meals to get your 5 serves in. Every time I look at a new recipe to cook I always aim to increase the serves of vegetables in the meal and reduce the meat and rice/pasta content. The picture above is the vegetables we had for dinner tonight - a couple from the dark yellow (pumpkin and carrot) and a couple from the Brassica family (broccoli and bok choy).
How do you try to get your vegetables in each day?

Annema N, Heyworth JS, McNaughton SA, Iacopetta B. 2011. Fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of proximal colon, distal colon, and rectal cancers in a case-control study in Western Australia. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 111 (10): 1479-1490.

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