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By nutritiontogo, Nov 10 2015 10:30AM

What is cholesterol?

You've probably heard of cholesterol because it's got a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to heart health and excess weight. However, you may not be entirely sure what it is, or know that it is actually an essential element in the body - despite its negative connotations.

Produced by the liver, it is a fat-like waxy substance that is present in all cell membranes. Your body needs it for a number of processes, including for the manufacture of hormones and vitamin D, as well as other substances that assist digestion. It is also important for brain function and the proper working of neurotransmitters - after all, the brain is at least 60% fat - and cholesterol may even play a role in helping you to resist infection!

Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. However, it is also found in some of the foods we eat (such as fast foods, animal fats and oils, eggs, liver, fish, shellfish, red meat, dairy and pastries etc). As a result, when our diet includes too many cholesterol-rich foods, it can lead to blood levels that are too high. It is this imbalance which is thought to promote ill-health and disease, such as atherosclerosis.

You might be surprised to see what most of us would consider to be "healthy" foods included in the list above. It is important to note that you do not need to avoid foods that are naturally rich in cholesterol (such as eggs, liver and seafood). This is because, while we would get some cholesterol from these foods, they usually don't need to be limited because they are also naturally low in saturated fat - the key.

It is best to avoid too much saturated fat, which increases cholesterol levels. Instead, opt for foods that contain unsaturated fat (healthy fat), which can actively support healthy cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol healthy foods

In shaping your diet to include more cholesterol healthy foods, it is worth noting that plants do not contain cholesterol. What's more, they are usually low in saturated fat and high in dietary fibre, Omega oils (the good fats) and other valuable nutrients that support heart health, a healthy weight, brain function and immunity.

So, if you are looking to improve your cholesterol levels, fruit, vegetables and other plant-based foods (particularly those rich in plant sterols) should feature heavily in your daily diet. In particular, go for whole grain cereals, soya, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds like:

porridge oats (rich in beta glucans)

pearl barley

adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, butter beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, edamame beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans, split peas, white beans


vegetables rich in soluble fibre, such as okra, aubergine, turnip, carrots, cabbage and sweet potato

dark leafy greens, rich in magnesium

antioxidant-rich fruits, such as citrus fruits, blueberries, avocados, grapes and tomatoes

soya nuts (also called edamame beans) and other soya foods (such as tofu) rich in isoflavones

and unsalted almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews and peanuts (rich in magnesium and niacin, vitamin B3).

Good examples of heart healthy Omega rich foods include: flaxseeds, walnuts, sardines, mackerel, soybeans, tofu, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

The difference between 'good' and 'bad' cholesterol

In understanding how cholesterol can be bad for your health, it can also be helpful to understand how it is transported around the body.

Cholesterol is transported in the bloodstream, packaged with protein in the form of lipoproteins. These come in 2 main types:

1. Low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (or LDL cholesterol): It is this form that has traditionally been viewed as the one chiefly responsible for depositing cholesterol on the inside of the arteries and therefore associated with heart disease and stroke. This is why it is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol.

2. High density lipoprotein-cholesterol (or HDL cholesterol): In contrast, HDL is usually referred to as "good" cholesterol because it is associated with actually clearing cholesterol from clogged arteries.

While this is a nice clear distinction, it is not the whole picture. In recent years, our understanding of the connection between diet, LDL cholesterol and heart health has come a long way as a result of in-depth scientific research. We now know that there are a number of factors at play. For instance, different types of saturated fats and carbohydrates can affect the amount and size of LDLs.

As such, heart disease is not always necessarily associated with total cholesterol levels alone. LDL particle number and size is now considered one of the strongest markers of heart disease risk. Other markers include Lp(a) - a lipoprotein subclass - and homocysteine levels. If you have increased levels of inflammation in your body, this could (at least in part) contribute to increased cholesterol levels.

Staying healthy and the role of your liver

So while cholesterol levels may not be a deciding factor in heart and other aspects of health, it is certainly an important one. The government currently recommends that total cholesterol intake for healthy adults should be around 300mg of cholesterol per day. People with heart disease or diabetes are advised to limit themselves to 200mg, with less than 7% of calories from saturated fat.

Cholesterol is naturally present in your body to do a job; to help your body repair and health. But, as with anything, if it is abused or its balance is disturbed, it can have unintended consequences for our health.

As we have already mentioned above, our diet can have a significant effect on our cholesterol levels (as well as our triglycerides, another type of fat found in the blood). So too can our lifestyle, including factors such as smoking, drinking and levels of stress and physical activity.

However, it is worth noting that the liver is responsible for producing a massive 75% of your cholesterol. So cutting down on cholesterol-rich and fatty foods alone is unlikely to be enough.

Your liver's production of cholesterol is actually influenced by your insulin levels - this is a vital piece of information if you are looking to lower your levels. Why? Well, by optimising your insulin levels and keeping your blood sugar stable, you can help to regulate your cholesterol levels in a proactive way.

Foods that cause your insulin levels to rise (high glycaemic index foods), include refined carbohydrates, grains, sugars, alcohol etc). They contribute to high cholesterol by forcing your liver to make more of it.

So, once again, this largely comes back to dietary choices, staying active and managing your weight. Subject to any advice to the contrary from your doctor or health practitioner, try switching to a low-carbohydrate diet (avoiding refined carbohydrates as much as possible), reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption, stop smoking, avoid sugars and processed fats.

Instead, pack your diet with natural whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables and leafy greens, as well as lean protein (particularly oily fish). These will be naturally high in Omega oils, vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fibre, flavonoids (such as resveratrol and quercetin) and antioxidants.

By nutritiontogo, Oct 12 2015 09:34AM


Where would we be without our skin? This incredible organ (your body's largest and fastest growing), not only keeps our insides in, it also protects us from infection, radiation and dehydration, keeps us warm and makes us look good.

But when was the last time you spared a thought for your skin or gave it some much-needed TLC? After all, no other organ in the body is so exposed to damage and disease from the outside world. For example, from sunlight, environmental pollution, smoking, cold weather, air conditioning, heating, germs, injury, shaving and applications (such as make-up, creams, deodorants, perfumes, aftershaves and other harsh toiletries). And the list goes on...

At the same time, the state of our skin tends to reflect many aspects of our inner health (both physical and emotional), such as blushing, sweating, toxic load, intolerances, allergies and illness. What's going on within can lead to skin-related symptoms such as cold sores, acne, rashes, hives, psoriasis and discolouration.

Your skin is a delicate organ, which is affected by any number of factors - both internal and external. These include age, hormonal balance, genes, hygiene, lifestyle, circulation, digestive health (including the balance of gut flora), liver function and detoxification. Perhaps most notably, nutrition is a key factor, involved at every stage of skin development.

So if your skin is looking a little lacklustre and feeling less than fresh, why not give it a boost from within.


It's hardly surprising that the skin, the most outward organ of our bodies, reflects what we put into it.

If our diet is made up of mainly greasy, fatty foods, our skin is likely to be greasy too. Clogged pores, acne and dull complexion are also common with this type of diet. The result? Older looking skin.

In contrast, if our diet is packed with natural, nutritious foods that are rich in skin-loving nutrients like antioxidants, phyto-chemicals, vitamins and minerals, our skin is more likely to be vibrant, fresh and clear. The result, younger looking skin - particularly if we stay well-hydrated too.

But nutrition also has a more direct role to play in the state of our skin. Starting with the dermis (the inner layer), collagen is made when vitamin C converts the amino acid proline into hydroxyproline. Collagen is the substance in our bodies that gives skin its strength, elasticity and structure. No vitamin C equals no proline - so pack your diet with foods that are rich in this vital antioxidant if you want to keep your skin looking youthful!

Why our skin starts to look older (often before our time)!

Antioxidants for skin

The flexibility of collagen and elastin fibres declines over time, owing largely to damage caused by free radicals - harmful molecules that are formed through the body's natural processes, as well as as a result of external factors within the environment (such as those already described above). Free radicals can damage or destroy tissue, resulting in skin that looks old and wrinkled.

Antioxidants are nutrients that are thought to help protect the body against the destructive effects of free radicals. They are found in natural whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. They are most common in plant foods with naturally bright, distinctive colours, such as bright green wheatgrass, red cherries, orange carrots and purple blueberries (for instance). The most common (and powerful) antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E. Others include beta carotene, selenium, lycopene, anthocyanins and resveratrol.

As well as antioxidants, Omega oils (healthy fats) also have a key role to play in skin health. The membranes of skin cells are made from these essential fats. A diet lacking in these fats can mean that the cells dry out too quickly.

A lack of any of these nutrients can leave your skin looking dry and feeling itchy, can make your skin more prone to stretch marks, cellulite and poor healing and can contribute to a host of skin problems (such as eczema). The answer?

1. A diet packed with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids sourced from fresh, unprocessed foods.

2. Limited intake of alcohol, caffeine, artificial additives, salt, saturated fat, sugar and smoking.

3. Proper hydration - drink at least a litre of water (preferably filtered) each day.

This way, you'll be giving your skin the best chance to look its best, and for longer. In many ways, what you eat and drink today, you wear tomorrow.

Natural treats for your skin

Natural skin treats

And don't forget herbs and spices! Although usually only used in small amounts, they can offer concentrated sources of beauty nutrients, phytochemicals and anti-inflammatories. So, when planning your meals for a younger looking you, make sure to include these fab natural skin boosters:

Parsley: High in pro-vitamin A and K1, as well as luteolin (nature's 'anti-rust paint' for your skin cells)!

Garlic: Shown in studies to have a beneficial effect on fibroblasts (special cells that create collagen).

Turmeric: Rich in manganese and iron (which provides nutrition to cells), as well as curcumin (a natural anti-inflammatory).

Cinnamon and cloves: Both contain antioxidants and show great promise in helping to protect against the formation of Advanced Glycation End-Products - compounds that wreak havoc on our skin and literally age us from the inside.

Basil: Rich in the antioxidants cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin, as well as vitamin K1.

By nutritiontogo, Sep 29 2015 09:25AM

Almost everyone you talk to these days seems to experience IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) type symptoms, have a food allergy or intolerance, or just generally suffer with some form of digestive complaint (including excessive wind, diarrhoea, bloating and stomach pains after eating etc).

The modern lifestyle, with its hectic schedule, fast pace and stressful ways, can have a lot to do with this. Often, poor dietary habits are also key, not least because so many of us find ourselves forced to eat in a rush or on the go. Processed, refined foods, ready-meals and most other convenience foods do little (if anything) to support digestive health! In fact, they can often make the problem a lot worse - particularly when coupled with a a lifestyle that is not digestion-friendly.

Unfortunately, with digestive disorders and sensitivities coming in so many different forms and levels of severity, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong. Symptoms can be vague, broad and ambiguous, sometimes only presenting many hours after eating or coming and going without any definite pattern.

If you find yourself getting down about persistent digestive troubles and have real concerns, it is always worth having a chat with your doctor or a qualified digestive health expert. They will be able to help you work out the potential causes, including any offending foods. A meal plan (and early elimination diet) is also often called for. It is never a great idea to self-diagnose!

Having said that, you may be wondering about the possibilities in the meantime. Perhaps you've read about, or heard friends referring to, leaky gut syndrome and wonder what it is?

Could I have leaky gut syndrome?

During the complex process of digestion, food passes from your stomach into your small intestine. There, it is broken down into even smaller molecules so that it can be transported into your bloodstream for the purposes of delivering nutrients around the body as needed.

At this critical stage of the process, your small intestine effectively acts as a protective "gatekeeper", allowing only what is essential and beneficial to pass into the rest of your body from the digestive tract. Many kinds of friendly bacteria and yeasts live in the small intestine, helping us to digest and absorb substances.

The small molecules that have been broken down are permitted to pass through the tiny holes in the intestinal wall, while larger molecules, toxins and harmful bacteria and other micro-organisms are prevented from getting through. At least, this is how things should work...

Leaky gut syndrome is the term used to describe an extremely common condition, whereby large pieces of undigested or partially digested food are able to "leak" through into the bloodstream. This is because the mucous lining of the small intestine has been compromised and become too porous, as a result of inflammation and irritation.

What can cause leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut causes

As is the case with so many other digestive disorders, leaky gut syndrome can be brought on by a range of factors (acting alone or in combination). Common causes or contributing factors include:

high levels of stress (which also contribute to a reduction in digestive enzymes)

the overuse of medication (such as antibiotics, steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen)

dysbiosis (an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria in the body and the overgrowth of harmful gut flora as a result)

poor diet (particularly those high in sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, which can aggravate the gut and also feed harmful yeasts and bacteria (such as Candida))

food allergies and intolerances

food poisoning and gastrointestinal infections

Candida overgrowth

nutritional deficiencies

and high toxic load (e.g. brought on by poor diet, medication or environmental contaminants).

When the large food particles are inadvertently allowed to pass through the now over-porous intestinal wall, they are treated by the body as foreign objects and get attacked. Your body ends up creating antibodies, causing an immune system reaction and, potentially, creating intolerances.

In this way, leaky gut syndrome is strongly associated with several autoimmune diseases.

Get it sorted!

Fix a leaky gut

If you suspect that you have leaky gut syndrome, or any other digestive condition for that matter, don't just ignore it! It is all too easy to get used to experience griping, bloating and pain after eating but this shouldn't just be accepted as part of your daily life. While it is normal to experience a bit of tummy ache from time to time, if it is persistent your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong.

Untreated, leaky gut syndrome (for example) can lead you to become more susceptible to illnesses and other gastrointestinal symptoms. After all, 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, so it is perhaps not all that surprising that a whole host of conditions are related to leaky gut (such as irritable bowel syndrome, acne, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, allergies, coeliac disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and bronchitis).

And aside from placing ever-increasing strain on your digestive and immune systems, it can lead to a higher toxic load and other chronic problems. So there is a possibility that a leaky gut could be at the root of many of your health problems.

What's more, 95% of the serotonin in your body is created and located in your gut. Known as the "happy hormone", serotonin is actually a neurotransmitter which influences your mood, appetite and sleep patterns. As such, if you have a leaky gut, there is a good chance you may also be dealing with weight issues, sleep problems and/or feelings of depression.

If this all sounds familiar, get yourself tested. A practitioner can advise on practical steps, nutrition and supplementation as appropriate. Whether it is leaky gut or not, it needs to be sorted!

And don't forget to also check out our Facebook and Google Plus pages for more health tips like these, as well as latest news and exclusive offers.

For help and support of which supplement may be best for you email

By nutritiontogo, May 19 2015 04:48PM

If you listen to the hype about so-called "super foods", they can help your body to do everything from sharpening focus and enhancing memory, to improving attention span and brain function. But do they really work and which foods truly deserve the "super" title?

While there may not be miracle foods that can transform your mind into the realm of genius over night, there are certainly brain-food nutrients out there that can help with concentration. So, got a big day ahead or an exam looming, why not give the following foods a try?

It is also worth remembering to get a good night's sleep, keep hydrated, stay active and try meditation - all of which can help to calm the mind, enhance focus and support clear thinking.

Eat a smart breakfast

Brain-food breakfast

While it may be a bit of a cliche, breakfast is an incredibly important meal of the day.

If you're tempted to skip it, because you're in a rush or feeling stressed, don't! The right breakfast can supply your brain with fuel that is essential for both attention and short-term memory. By contrast, missing breakfast can leave you feeling tired and unable to concentrate. For example, studies have found that students who eat it tend to perform better than those who don’t.

But we aren't just talking about any old breakfast - a slice of buttered toast or poptart just isn't going to cut it. Foods at the top of researchers' breakfast brain-fuel lists include high-fibre whole grains and fruits. Organic whole grain oats, for instance, help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and provide an excellent source of slow-release energy (without leaving you feeling sluggish). Whether cooked into a warming blend of yumminess or blended with fresh fruit in a smoothie, oats provide your body with a wide range of benefits.

But a word of warning - don't overeat! Researchers also found that high-calorie breakfasts can sometimes hinder concentration.

Despite your instincts, avoid caffeine!

Avoid caffeine!

When you're feeling tired or in need of a quick boost, it's a natural instinct to reach for a strong cup of coffee, tea or sugary snack to help with energy levels. But, while you might benefit from a short-term "buzz", in the long-term this cycle can leave you feeling even more tired and struggling to concentrate.

According to research from Dr Peter Rogers at Bristol University, it is more likely that this short-term sensation is simply relief from the symptoms of withdrawal - coffee is addictive! Plus, rather than making us feel better and improving concentration, there is evidence to suggest that coffee actually worsens mental performance and has an adverse impact on overall health (not least because its highly acid-forming in the body).

Caffeine is actually known to block the receptors for a brain chemical called adenosine, which is responsible for stopping the release of dopamine and adrenalin (motivating neurotransmitters). With less adenosine activity, levels of dopamine and adrenalin increase, with a corresponding increase in alertness and motivation.

The trouble is, the more caffeine you have, the more your body, and brain in particular, become less sensitive to its own natural stimulants. This is how the vicious cycle is triggered - you then need more and more stimulants just to feel normal and alert.

It's therefore a far better idea to keep your mind and body consistently strong with the help of a nutrient-rich diet and, when you're in need of a little extra support, opt for natural energy-boosters like:

Eggs: egg yolks are naturally rich in B-vitamins, which are responsible for converting food into energy. They are also a great source of protein - a macro nutrient required for almost every process in the body.

Soybeans: High in energising nutrients like B-vitamins, copper and phosphorous, soybeans help to break down carbohydrates into glucose for fuel and help to transport oxygen throughout the body.

Wheatgrass: The broad spectrum and high quantity of vitamins and minerals found in chlorophyll - one of the major constituents of wheatgrass - mean that it is considered to be one of nature's greatest superfoods. There is also a surprising amount of high-quality protein in wheatgrass, making it an excellent energy source.

Nuts: All foods provide some level of energy, but some come packed with energy potential. Nuts tend to have a high number of healthy calories per serving, making them an ideal snack for delivering high energy in a small serving. They are also a great source of the potent antioxidant, vitamin E (linked to a slower rate of cognitive decline as you age).

And whole grain cereal: High-fibre whole grain cereals help to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream, which ultimately translates into more consistent energy levels throughout the day.

Fish really is brain food

Fish for the brain!

A healthy, lean protein source linked to brain boosting is fish, and oily fish in particular. Why? Well, for one thing, it is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for brain health and cognitive function.

A healthy diet for the long-term

Brain-food diet

Nothing supports energy levels, mental focus and concentration like a healthy body that is in balance. Consistently receiving the broad spectrum of nutrients that it needs for fuel will help your brain to stay sharp and alert. In stark contrast, a diet that is nutrient-poor, filled with "empty" calories and harmful chemicals and toxins can only hurt your ability to concentrate.

Always aim for a well-balanced diet, packed with cleansing, alkalising and protective nutrients from natural whole foods like fruit, vegetables, green leafy plants, seeds, nuts, legumes and whole grains.

Vitamins, minerals and other health supplements

Concentration supplements

If you want to support your brain and concentration levels, why not supplement with vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients in conjunction with your balanced diet?

Protein shakes, vitamin C, probiotics, B-vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants and Omega oils are all popular additions to the diet for this particular health goal.


By nutritiontogo, Jan 9 2015 11:55AM

Like everybody else, you gave in to a wave of over-indulgence and enjoyed the festivities. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but it may have left you feeling over-full, bloated and suffering with a severe case of indigestion (we won't even mention some of those less pleasant sprout-associated symptoms)!

If this sounds all too familiar, don't worry. Give your January diet an overhaul, packing it with some naturally detoxifying foods that will help you to get back to your healthy, happy self in 2015. Give your digestive system some much needed assistance and your a liver a well-earned rest with cleansing and protective nutrients, such as enzymes, antioxidants, phyto-chemicals, vitamins and minerals. 10 of our favourite detox foods, rich in these nutrients, are listed in the infographic above, but there are many more. Simply opt for seasonal fruit and vegetables and other natural whole foods and you will be headed in the right direction. TRY DIGESTIVE ENZYMES WITH SOOTHING HERBS, 8 STRAIN MULTI FLORA, ORGANIC MULTIVITS & SUPERFOODS AND VIT C PLUS.

Why not create a weekly shopping list and meal plan to help you incorporate detoxifying foods into your diet on a daily basis. A sensible detox can be of immense benefit following any period of over-indulgence, but it is also worth considering eating a diet packed with these cleansing nutrients for the long-term too. We are exposed to harmful toxins, pollutants and contaminants every day - through the food we eat, air we breathe and water we drink. Adopt a clean living, clean eating lifestyle in 2015 that starts with naturally cleansing foods!

Looking for extra detox support?

If you've decided to go full-steam ahead with a naturally detoxifying diet, packed with cleansing foods, but want a bit of a boost to get you started, try ORGANIC SUPERGREENS WITH VITAMINS, COLCLEAR B AND WATER TO GO.

The supplements have been specifically chosen for their superfood, alkalising, antioxidant and nutrient-dense ingredients, which support the body's detox organs and systems and natural detoxification processes, along with high energy levels and a strong immune system.

Best of luck with your detox and here's to a fabulous new you in 2015!

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