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This blog started as a way for me to share my recipes + culinary adventures, tips for vibrant health + happiness, thoughts on the latest developments in nutritional medicine + the low down on the Sydney wholefoods scene and beyond...

Filtering by Tag: sugar

If you crave a food, then for God's sake just eat it!


IMG_5264I appreciate that there is a lot of well-meaning advice circulating the internet at this time of year about how best to 'manage' tempting party foods and beverages and how to muster enough willpower to not to get swayed off course.
I have a slightly different take on this.
For me, food is just as much a source of nourishment and fuel as it is a source of pleasure.  Food should never be a stressful experience. If denying yourself a certain food or drink is causing you stress, angst or resentment, then I think the psychological impact of that may very well be doing you more harm than the physiological  harm of the food itself. In other words, if you're craving it you're probably not ready to give it up (yet). Be kind and gentle with yourself and indulge if you really want it and try to just perhaps eat it less frequently or in smaller quantities. For me, I simply no longer desire any processed foods (including grains, desserts and sweets). Even naturally sweet or sweetened foods are very much in the "take it or leave it camp".
How did this happen? Over time and in 2 ways:IMG_5044
1. I simply crowded out the empty fillers, processed and sugary-laden foods. I filled up my plate and stomach with only nutrient-dense foods so there was simply no room for anything else. By the time I consume my daily dose of 2-3 eggs, bacon, kefir smoothie, 1/2 cup of sauerkraut, a cup or 2 of broth, a palm size serving of protein (eg fatty meat) at every meal, vegetables, plenty of water and good fats like butter and coconut oil.... Well there's no spare stomach real estate to allow any more in over the course of a day. I also make sure each meal is a really decent size so I feel very satiated afterwards. There's only so much volume that I can physically fit in so I've just filled that volume to the brim with the good stuff, effectively crowding out the empty /nutritionless stuff.
IMG_44722. As a result of number 1 above,  my taste buds over the years have changed and my sweet tooth 'miraculously' disappeared. The more and more I ditched sweet food and empty fillers, the more and more my taste-buds didn't crave that stuff. I no longer have a hankering for lollies, bread and sweets. I don't really like their taste or after taste, and I don't like the way those foods makes me feel afterwards. Over a period of years I found that it's the nutrient-dense foods that I'm drawn to because that's what our body is designed to thrive on. Give me another juicy lamb chop or an extra piece of bacon or eggs or avocado instead of toasted bread anyday.  Nutrient-dense foods are delicious! Why? It's because nutrients  (vitamins and minerals) are what gives food its flavour. Don't get me wrong - it took me years to get to this point. Years to overcome sugar and carb addiction. But once you get there there's no turning back because the benefits to your psychology and physiology are worth it.
So in response to the 5:2 diet that's trendy right now,  when some asks me "Soulla what would you eat if you could IMG_5309eat absolutely anything you wanted to for 2 whole days?" My response is "I would eat exactly the same foods that I eat the other 5 days because I find them delicious, satiating and nourishing." Much like a recovered alcoholic who can walk away from a glass of scotch without flinching, I can walk away from a packet of Tim Tams that in yesteryears I would have devoured in a heartbeat (and them some).
So here's what I think: if you crave it, just eat it and don't feel guilty about it. We already have enough to feel guilty about in life! Educate yourself about the food you're eating - what are the ingredients, where did they come from, what's been done to it, what effect does it have on our body and then listen to how it makes you feel afterwards. If you start to slowly and gently crowd out the 'bad guys' with nutrient-dense foods and trust that over time your taste buds will change accordingly, I bet you that at some point in the near future you won't crave the empty fillers or processed foods that you might now think you could never live without.
IMG_4208On a separate note, 2013 has been a huge year for me both personally and professionally with many changes.  As this year draws to an end,  I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and encouragement. Thank you to those of you who bought my products, attended my workshops or cooking classes, had personal consultations or simply read or commented on my blog and Facebook posts.  Thank you for being part of this vibrant community to which I belong.  And most importantly, thank you for allowing me to do what I love the most, to follow my passion and grow and learn personally and professionally. May 2014 bring you vibrant health, boundless energy and much joy and laughter. I'll be back in Bronte, Sydney, from 27th December open for business. I would love to see you then!IMG_9868

shopping at organic farmers market in Paris

Sugar Love (a not so sweet story)....


IMG_4231This  month's National Geographic features an article on sugar. Here are the salient points:

  • Fact: Today the average American consumes more than 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.
  • The problem: we evolved to get by on a tiny fraction of that.
  • Upshot: whenever there is a mismatch of our genes and our environment, the result is mental and/or physcial degeneration. ie disease and illness follow.
  • Some stats: today 1/3 of adults world wide have high blood pressure, in 1900 only 5% did. Today 347million people have diabetes, up from 153m in 1980. Obesity continues to rise even though saturated fat consumption has plummeted. Why? Sugar is one of the major culprits.
  • Where we went wrong: in the 1960s the British nutrition expert John Yudkin conducted a series of experiments on animals and people showing that high amounts of sugar in the diet led to high levels of fat and insulin in the blood - risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. But Yudkin's message was drowned out by a chorus of other scientists blaming the rising rates of obesity and heart disease instead on cholesterol caused by too much saturated fat in the diet.
  • Glucose vs Fructose: table sugar (sucrose) is 50% of each glucose and fructose. Glucose is metabolised all throughout the body, but fructose is processed primarily in the liver into fats (triglycerides) which can build up there and also enter the blood stream. The result risks are high blood pressure, obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  • The mutant gene: some 20 million years ago, well before mankind graced the planet, there was once a time of famine. At some point a mutation occurred in one ape making it a wildy efficient processor of fructose. Even small amounts were stored as fat, a huge survival advantage in months when food was scarce. The mutation was such a powerful survival factor that only animals that had it survived, including humans. Even though this gene got our ancestors through the lean years, when sugar hit the West in a big way, we had a big problem.
  • The irony: the very thing that saved us could kill us in the end.

Nothing new in the article but another reminder that we need to think of sugar (especially when consumed in excess) not as just empty calories but as a poison, a toxin, and an addictive drug. Be wary of all of the hidden sources of sugar found in packaged goods, sauces, condiments, dips etc. Fruit juice is a big no no, especially for growing bodies.  It all adds up. Read all the labels and better yet start making as much of your own food as possible so you know exactly what is in it. Take solace in knowing that once you start cutting out sugar your taste buds will change over time so that you wont crave sweet foods at all. Great to see National Geographic bringing the dangers of sugar squarely in the mainstream.

The Perfect Human Diet- DVD review


NEW_PHD_Movie_posterI recently watched a documentary film (rented from iTunes) called ‘The Perfect Human Diet’ (not to be confused with the book called ‘The Perfect Health Diet’ by Paul Jaminet, although the subject matter is very similar). The film was released as a DVD on 1 January 2013.

The film looks at evolutionary and scientific factors to determine what we are biologically designed to eat. The upshot: we are genetically programmed to eat a diet of the type eaten by our paleolithic (hunger gatherer) ancestors 2+ million years ago- essentially a diet rich in animals (muscle meat, organ meat and fat) and plants (including nuts and berries).

On the whole I give this DVD a big thumbs up. It’s is a terrific introduction for anyone new to ancestral (primal, paleo) diets who would prefer to watch a DVD instead of reading a text or scouring websites. It’s also great for anyone who is familiar with a paleo diet but would like confirmation of it from an evolutionary and scientific basis. And of course paleo-anthropology geeks like me would relish it.

Here are some of the salient points that emerged from the DVD:

  • Journalist CJ Hunt (the narrator) suffered from a near death experience (heart attack) at 24 while running. At the time he was eating according to the USA food pyramid guidelines (ie a conventional diet) and felt constantly hungry. He then embarked on a quest over the next 10 years to find, in his words, “the perfect human diet”. To this end he experimented with a range of nutritional philosophies such as vegetarianism, blood type diet, vegan diets etc (does this journey sound familiar to you?? Been there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt….). He then came across the paleo diet and started doing his own research. What transpires is a marriage of science and evolution in determining what we are biologically designed to eat.
  • Modern diseases and illnesses are a result of a departure from what our genes are biologically designed for (including a departure from an ancestral diet). “We are so far off base from what we are genetically designed to eat”.
  • The film features many international paleo heavyweights including Loren Cordain (author of The Paelo Diet), Robb Wolf (author of The Paleo Solution), Gary Taubes (author of Good Calories, Bad calories), Michael Eades (author of Protein Power),  and the work of Price Pottenger Nutritional Foundation (which supports the work of nutritional pioneer Weston A Price).
  • The paleo diet is not a fad or a trendy movement. Or, if it is, it is a 2.6 million year diet- in fact the oldest human diet.
  • There’s been a steady decline in human health since the agricultural revolution (which started 10,000) with the introduction of grains into the human diet for the very first time. Much emphasis was given to the fact that wholegrains are just as bad as, if not worse than, refined grains because they block the absorption of minerals.
  • Early dietary advice from medical and scientific community (about 100 years ago) was a low carb/sugar/starch diet. However that nutritional philosophy was turned on its head with the low fat movement starting 50 odd years ago. When fats are reduced, carbohydrates inevitable increase. With this change in macronutrient emphasis, human health really started deteriorating.
  •  There was great myth busting around the notion that dietary fat doesn’t make you fat and in fact high carbohydrate loads are responsible for fat gain.
  • The conventional food pyramid is essentially a “feedlot pyramid” as farmers follow it to fatten up cattle.
  • Nutrient-dense animal foods doubled early human brain size.
  • Good discussion on protein releasing slow steady state energy throughout the day in contrast to carbohydrates which cause energy spikes and crashes.
  • A tour of a supermarket showed that most of what is sold is not consistent with what our genes are designed to eat. Boxed cereal in particular is no better than eating straight sugar and you would only do so if there was nothing else to eat and you were on your death bed and imminently needed glucose to the brain. Man, and to think I grew up on the stuff thinking that all that granola and puffed wheat was good for me.

Here are what I thought were the 2 main shortcomings of the film or what I thought needed further clarification:evolution picture

1. While it was great to see the film really emphasising the dangers of sugar and refined grains, there was interestingly no mention at all of what I call public enemy number 3: industrial seed oils (eg canola, cottonseed, vegetable oil, margarine etc). Maybe it’s case of “slowly slowly catchy monkey” i.e. let’s get the public comfortable with the dangers of sugar and refined grains first before we explode their brains with another ubiquitous component of modern diets- processed oils. It would, however, have been prudent in my view to have had at least passing mention to this third category of dietary toxins.

2. The film takes what I call a very strict paleo view of the human diet ie no milk post weaning, lean meat, no grains even if properly prepared. Taking  each of these in turn:

  • on the issue of milk, the strict paleo view is that hunter gatherers did not drink milk post weaning and ergo humans are not designed to drink milk. I have thought long and hard over the past few years about the relevance of milk in the modern human diet and after much research I concur with the views of Chris Kresser on this subject: just because our paleolithic ancestors didn’t consume a certain type of food doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consume it if 4 conditions are met: (a) it’s nutrient dense (b) it’s non toxic (c) you have the relevant enzymes to digest it and (d) you enjoy consuming it (the last condition is my contribution!). In relation to milk, like all food, everything come down to its source and processing as not all milk sold on the market is the same. For more information on this issue I suggest you speak to me in person or click here and here.
  • there was mention a few times to the importance of eating “lean” meat. I find the reference to lean meats (which often pops up in the paleo text books) confusing and contradicts the references to the importance of eating fat and in particular the brain and other organ meats of animals which are naturally high in saturated fat. Hearing references to lean meats might confuse the public into thinking that we should be eating a low fat diet. Perhaps the reference to lean meat might have something to do with the fact that the wild animals hunted down by our hunter gatherer ancestors were leaner than the farmed cattle we consume today. Or perhaps lean meat refers to muscle meat as opposed to fat and organ meats and bones which should also be consumed. My view is that if you eat the whole of the animal – like our ancestors did-  then you can’t go wrong. If anyone can explain to me why paleo heavyweights refer to lean meats I’d love to hear it.
  • Grains, even whole grains, are touted as being strictly out on a paleo diet for they were cultivated as part of the agricultural revolution a mere 10,000 years ago when our hunter gatherer ancestors abandoned nomadic lifestyle to an agrarian one. The film explains that grains block the absorption of minerals leading to bone density loss (there was no mention in the film that “phytates” primarily found in the outer husk of grains are responsible for this damage to our osteo skeletal structure).  However, nuts get a tick on a paleo diet but there was no mention of the fact that nuts also contain phytates. Phytates are significantly reduced by proper preparation through long soaking and dehydrating (today called activating nuts), sprouting or fermenting. Dr Weston A Price in the earlier part of last century discovered that all traditional societies the world over prepared grains, legumes, seeds and nuts through one or more of these proper preparation techniques to reduce the phytate content. My view is that if nuts are going to be consumed, they too must be properly prepared otherwise I wouldn’t recommend their consumption. Secondly while I don’t personally consume grains (as I don’t think they are very nutrition dense for all the effort involved to properly prepare them) I do think that the occasional consumption of properly prepared grains (eg sourdough, sprouted, long soaked) is fine if you don’t have blood sugar issues or allergies and if you favour the gluten-free grains (eg rice, buckwheat). In this regard my nutritional philosophy is more aligned with the Weston A Price foundation than strict paleo.

1One of my favourite quotes from the film:

Q: Is a paleo diet convenient? A: It’s hell of a lot more convenient than diabetes, cancer and cardio-vascular disease.

Click here to view the film’s website including trailer.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Have you seen The Perfect Human Diet? If so what was your view? Do you agree with my comments?