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So far Lauren Atkins has created 27 blog entries.

Best for the Breast

Best for the Breast: 5 Tips To Reduce Cancer Risk

You, your sister, your aunty, your best friend’s mum, your neighbour. 

Just about everyone knows someone touched by breast cancer. 

With 53 Australian’s diagnosed with breast cancer every single day and an estimated 19,535 cases per year, it’s really no surprise either. 

The risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer by age 85 is 1 in 7 for women, and while the number of diagnoses is increasing, pleasingly the number of deaths is decreasing. 

Even so, breast cancer is second only to lung cancer among the most fatal cancers to women in Australia, with the average age of onset being just 61. 

This means that there are a number of Australian women will receive their first breast cancer diagnosis under the age of 60.

The sooner we find it, the better we can manage it. 

But the reality remains that prevention, whenever possible, is better than cure. 

At OnCore Nutrition we’re here to support you and your loved ones during and after their cancer journey. 

Our years of passionate experience in Oncology Nutrition in specialised hospitals and services across Melbourne positions us well to support you before, during and after cancer treatment. 

We understand the impact that cancer and treatments can have on the body and have the expertise to select the right balance of nutrients and eating patterns to optimise your path to wellness.


Today’s Spotlight Is On Prevention 

Because we also want to reduce the stats.

Fifty three Australians per day is too many. 

Approximately 5-10% of breast cancers are due to a strong family history or genetic mutation, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, which leaves an overwhelming majority of cases that are due to other causes, including food choices.

In fact, research suggests that as many as 30-35% of cancer-related deaths are linked to diet (Anand). 

So what can we do about it?


The Top 5 Types Of Foods To Include More Often

The foods below have shown some potential for breast cancer risk reduction in those who consume them more regularly…

  1. Walnuts: these little power houses have been shown to reduce levels of hormones including insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which have been linked to both breast and prostate cancer. Include a small handful (25g) each day.
  2. Carotenoids: found in orange and dark green leafy vegetables and fruit, carotenoids such as beta carotene that contribute to these foods vibrant colour. Put some orange and dark green on your plate to reap the antioxidant rewards. 
  3. Oily Fish: This will help us to achieve the recommended 200-500mg of omega-3 fatty acids DHA+EPA per day as well as providing a source of vitamin D. If we swap out some red meat for oily fish we’ll also do some favours for our bowel.  Aim towards 2 serves of oily fish per week.
  4. Green Tea: The antioxidants found in green tea can protect against cell damage that can contribute to cancer risk. Just be careful if you’re prone to hot flushes as some people find this can be a trigger. And chat to us first if you’re receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  5. Probiotics found naturally in food: There’s some evidence to suggest that probiotic strains L acidophilus (found in miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha); and L. casei Shirota (found in youghrt and kefir) may reduce breast cancer risk. 

The Top 5 Types Of Foods To Include Less Often

The foods below have shown some potential for increased breast cancer risk  in those who consume them more regularly…

  1. Alcohol: Go easy on the alcohol. Particularly if you’ve been previously diagnosed with breast cancer as even 6g (1 std drink = 10g) per day may increase risk of recurrence.
  2. Refined Carbohydrates: When we include high glycaemic index carbohydrates, our body reacts by releasing insulin to help move, use or store the circulating sugars. When our levels of insulin become elevated over long periods of time, we may increase circulating hormones and inflammatory markers (including IGF-1) that may be linked with breast cancer risk. Read more about the glycaemic index here
  3. Red Meat: We often talk about these in relation to bowel cancer, but there is research to suggest that a lower intake of red meat can reduce our risk of breast cancer too. Meat-free Monday anyone?
  4. Processed meats: Bacon, ham, salami, hot dogs. Same as the above. Swap them out for seafood, poultry, legumes or tofu.
  5. Sugar Sweetened Drinks: The World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting intake of sugar sweetened drinks, ideally avoiding them entirely. Sweetened drinks have been linked to weight gain and excess body fat increases our risk of thirteen different cancers, including breast cancer.

Dietary Patterns

While singular foods like the ones above are important to be mindful of, science has a lot to say about the association between cancer risk and your overall dietary pattern.

Eat less like..The Westerners

Results from various studies have found a link between Western dietary patterns – high in refined carbohydrates, sugar-sweetened drinks, processed, fried and packaged foods, red meat, saturated and trans fats – and breast cancer risk. This link is stronger in post-menopausal breast cancers. The Western dietary pattern was significantly associated with an 18% increase in the risk of estrogen receptor (ER+) and/or progesterone (PR+) breast tumours.

Eat more like…The Mediterraneans

Not only does this dietary pattern include plenty of the ‘eat more’ and less of the ‘eat less’ foods above, but a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in fresh seasonal vegetables, fruit, legumes, with moderate amounts of fish, poultry, dairy and extra virgin olive oil has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. Learn more about the Med Diet here


Final Thoughts 

If you or a loved one is undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment and would benefit from our support, please reach out today. The oncology nutrition experts at OnCore are here to help and happy to answer any questions you have. Email us at

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

A big thank you to Andy the RD, the kaleigraphy king, for your support and encouragement in putting this together! Anand P, Kunnumakara AB, Sundaram C, Harikumar KB, Tharakan ST, Lai OS et al.Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. Pharm Res. 2008 Sep; 25(9): 2097–2116. Carbohydrates, glycemic index, glycemic load, and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Schlesinger S, Chan DSM, Vingeliene S, Vieira AR, Abar L, Polemiti E, Stevens CAT, Greenwood DC, Aune D & Norat T. Nutr Rev. 2017 Jun 1;75(6):420-441.  Dietary compared with blood concentrations of carotenoids and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Aune D, Chan DS, Vieira AR, Navarro Rosenblatt DA, Vieira R, Greenwood DC, & Norat T. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012; 96(2): 356-73.  Fruits, vegetables and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Aune D, Chan DS, Vieira AR, Rosenblatt DA, Vieira R, Greenwood DC, & Norat T. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012; 134(2): 479-93.  Dietary fibre and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Aune D, Chan DSM, Greenwood DC, Vieira AR, Rosenblatt DAN, Vieira R & Norat T.  Ann Oncol. 2012; 23(6):1394-402.  De Pergola G1, Silvestris F. Obesity as a major risk factor for cancer. J Obes. 2013;2013:291546. doi: 10.1155/2013/291546. Epub 2013 Aug 29. Surfacing role of probiotics in cancer prophylaxis and therapy: A systematic reviewArticle (PDF Available) in Clinical Nutrition 36(6):1465-1472 · December 2017 with 524 ReadsDOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2016.11.017 Calle EE1, Kaaks R. Overweight, obesity and cancer: epidemiological evidence and proposed mechanisms.  Nat Rev Cancer. 2004 Aug;4(8):579-91. Levi F, La Vecchia C, Gulie C, Negri E. Dietary factors and breast cancer risk in Vaud, Switzerland. Nutr Cancer. 1993;19(3):327–35.Return to ref 4 in article La Vecchia C, Decarli A, Franceschi S, Gentile A, Negri E, Parazzini F. Dietary factors and the risk of breast cancer. Nutr Cancer. 1987;10(4):205–14. Nicodemus KK, Jacobs DR Jr, Folsom AR. Whole and refined grain intake and risk of incident postmenopausal breast cancer (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 2001;12(10):917–25. Malin AS, Qi D, Shu XO, Gao YT, Friedmann JM, Jin F, Zheng W. Intake of fruits, vegetables and selected micronutrients in relation to the risk of breast cancer. Int J Cancer. 2003;105(3):413–8. Dong JY, He K, Wang P, Qin LQ. Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(3):900–5. De Lorgeril M, Salen P, Martin JL, Monjaud I, Boucher P, Mamelle N. Mediterranean dietary pattern in a randomized trial: Prolonged survival and possible reduced cancer rate. Arch. Intern. Med. 1998;158:1181–1187.  Escrich E, Moral R, Grau L, Costa I, Solanas M. Molecular mechanisms of the effects of olive oil and other dietary lipids on cancer. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Oct;51(10):1279-92. Dinu M, Pagliai G, Casini A, Sofi F. Mediterranean diet and multiple health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jan;72(1):30-43.  Benetou V, Trichopoulou A, Orfanos P, Naska A, Lagiou P, Boffetta P, Trichopoulos D, Greek EPIC cohort. Conformity to traditional Mediterranean diet and cancer incidence: the Greek EPIC cohort. Br J Cancer. 2008 Jul 8; 99(1):191-5. De Lorgeril M, Salen P, Martin JL, Monjaud I, Boucher P, Mamelle N. Mediterranean dietary pattern in a randomized trial: Prolonged survival and possible reduced cancer rate. Arch. Intern. Med. 1998;158:1181–1187.  Escrich E, Moral R, Grau L, Costa I, Solanas M. Molecular mechanisms of the effects of olive oil and other dietary lipids on cancer. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Oct;51(10):1279-92. Dinu M, Pagliai G, Casini A, Sofi F. Mediterranean diet and multiple health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jan;72(1):30-43.  Benetou V, Trichopoulou A, Orfanos P, Naska A, Lagiou P, Boffetta P, Trichopoulos D, Greek EPIC cohort. Conformity to traditional Mediterranean diet and cancer incidence: the Greek EPIC cohort. Br J Cancer. 2008 Jul 8; 99(1):191-5.

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Best for the Breast2019-10-07T08:53:01+00:00

Mediterranean Diet and Cancer

Should we all head to the Med?

Mediterranean Diet and Cancer 

The numbers are frightening. In 2017 it was estimated that 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer by their 85th birthday [1-3]. That means either Batman or Robin, Bert or Ernie, Bonnie or Clyde, you or me. Perhaps even more concerning is that as many as 30-35% of cancer-related deaths are linked to diet [4]. And that’s not even counting those linked to physical inactivity and stress! 

It’s estimated that 3-4 million cases of cancer worldwide might be avoided by adopting a healthier lifestyle5.We know that diets rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes; and lower in red and processed meat are protective against cancer [5,6]. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even a dietitian, to see why the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) would have health benefits. It’s loaded with these plant-based gems, quality fats and limits processed foods. There’s some promising research that a Mediterranean style diet can assist with cancer prevention by reducing risk of weight gain and obesity [5] but also through some other protective mechanisms. 

The MedDiet and cancer

Scientific reviews have demonstrated that the MedDiet is protective against overall cancer incidence and mortality [7]. One particular clinical trial has shown a 61% decrease in overall cancer incidence [8]. We could stop there and all pop home for a med style lunch….but it gets better. As well as the convincing evidence that Med-style eating can reduce the incidence of cancer overall, data also suggests that the MedDiet is associated with lower risk of specific cancer types [9,10]. Strongest adherence to MedDiet has shown reductions in risk of colorectal, breast, gastric, liver, head and neck, gallbladder, and biliary tract cancer [9,10]

Figure 1 below highlights the strength of evidence for each of the reported health outcomes, including overall cancer incidence and mortality as well as the positive association with specific cancer and disease types. 

Figure 1: Summary of the strength of evidence for the evaluated health outcomes. Numbers indicate the number of meta-analyses with convincing, highly suggestive, suggestive, weak or no evidence for each outcome [10].

The MedDiet: is it all or nothing?

While it is far more meaningful to consider the overall dietary patterns of the MedDiet, there are some key players that help keep these health promoting associations strong (refer to Figure 2). The EPIC study of 28 572 participants from Greece in 1994-1999 found that substantially reducing red meat intake and substantially increasing legume intake or substantially increasing intake of vegetables and substituting olive oil in place of butter was associated with a 12% reduction in overall cancer incidence [11]. Talk about smart swaps. 

The MedDiet emphasizes intake of fish or poultry at least twice per week. Inclusion of moderate amounts of fish, including oily fish, will improve intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which, in contrast to omega-6 fatty acids, have shown tumour inhibitory effects [9]. Our friend extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) may also play a role in reducing cancer risk. Studies have suggested that the protective effects of EVOO may be linked to the oleic acid content, as well as presence of bioactive compounds including squalene, biophenols, phytosterols and vitamin E [9]. These compounds, in conjunction with other elements of the MedDiet, have been found to down-regulate inflammatory pathways and reduce oxidative stress and hormones associated with cancer development. The high oleic acid content of EVOO makes it less susceptible to damage from oxidation than polyunsaturated fatty acids [12-15]. The phenols in EVOO are also thought to be effective scavengers of reactive oxygen species that can lead to cell damage and disease risk. These pathways may help to reduce cancer-related mutations and overall cancer risk [7,12,16]

Figure 2: Pooled risk ratios of individual Mediterranean diet components and overall cancer risk [7].

Figure 2: Pooled risk ratios of individual Mediterranean diet components and overall cancer risk [7].

What nutrition research has been telling us loud and clear is that we don’t eat foods or nutrients in isolation and it is the combination of health-promoting foods that work in synergy to maximise these benefits. Cruise to your maximum daily calories by sculling some EVOO and you sure won’t be reaping the same rewards as going full Med. 

We also shouldn’t overlook the lifestyle associated with the MedDiet. The social, economic and environmental themes of the MedDiet – sourcing seasonal food locally, focus on plant-based diets, preparing and eating food with loves ones – may also play an important role in the health promoting benefits.

Head to the Med

It’s shown health benefits far beyond reducing cancer incidence, but we think even that’s enough reason to eat a little more Greek!

Your map to the Med in a nutshell (pun intended) :

  1. Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits (and don’t ditch the skin!). Go for 2 fruit and 5 veg per day (a good guide is to fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies at each meal) and eat a rainbow. The micronutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals and prebiotics will all help to reduce your risk of becoming one of those nasty stats! 
  2. If fruit and veg are your rainbow, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains are all in the pot of gold. Put some lentils, chickpeas, pinto or cannellini beans front and centre on your meat-free Monday! Add a small handful of nuts and seeds to your daily routine and always choose wholegrain breads and cereals. The closer they are to their natural state the better (tip: look for shorter ingredients lists). Broaden your grain horizons – try quinoa, barley, freekeh, buckwheat and thank us later when you’re feeling fuller and energised for longer. Anyone who wants to talk glycaemic response, insulin-resistance, insulin-like growth factor-1, or just be an anti-carb- hater in general, please call me! (And check our blog ‘The GI: Oh Gee, I love carbs’)
  3. Choose lean proteins, limit red meat to less than 500g per week and don’t forget your omega-3 rich fish (salmon, sardines, trout, herring, flathead, tuna).
  4. Chill your grill. Avoid overcooking or charing meats. This process can produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that can increase cancer risk.
  5. Traditional Med diets (the ones with all the research showing health benefits) are low in salt and deli meats. Don’t let Italian flags on all the salami packets fool you! Swap out nitrates, nitrites and other preservatives found in processed foods and deli meats for herbs and spices. Nitrates and nitrites can increase cancer risk. Herbs and spices such as curcumin (turmeric), ginger, cloves, garlic and tea can reduce your risk. Simple.
  6. Aim for a high monounsaturated to saturated fat ratio by using predominantly EVOO, avocados, nuts and seeds. Go easy on saturated fat from butter and reduce trans fats by limiting take away and commercially baked goods.
  7. Include alcohol in moderation, predominantly flavonoid-rich red wine, and mostly at meals. But if you don’t drink, don’t feel obliged to start.
  8. And last but definitely not least, LOVE YOUR FOOD! Source seasonal produce locally wherever possible, prepare meals with love and savour them with loved ones. 


T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

    2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017. Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: All cancers combined. Canberra: AIHW. [Accessed February 2018].
    3. AIHW 2017. Cancer in Australia 2017. Cancer series no. 101. Cat. No. CAN 100. Canberra: AIHW.
    4. Anand P, Kunnumakara AB, Sundaram C, Harikumar KB, Tharakan ST, Lai OS et al. Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. Pharm Res. 2008 Sep; 25(9): 2097–2116. 
    5. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a global perspective. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. 
    7. Schwingshackl L, Schwedhelm C, Galbete C, Hoffmann G. Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Cancer: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2017 Oct; 9(10): 1063.
    8. De Lorgeril M, Salen P, Martin JL, Monjaud I, Boucher P, Mamelle N. Mediterranean dietary pattern in a randomized trial: Prolonged survival and possible reduced cancer rate. Arch. Intern. Med. 1998;158:1181–1187. 
    9. Escrich E, Moral R, Grau L, Costa I, Solanas M. Molecular mechanisms of the effects of olive oil and other dietary lipids on cancer. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Oct;51(10):1279-92.
    10. Dinu M, Pagliai G, Casini A, Sofi F. Mediterranean diet and multiple health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jan;72(1):30-43. 
    11. Benetou V, Trichopoulou A, Orfanos P, Naska A, Lagiou P, Boffetta P, Trichopoulos D, Greek EPIC cohort. Conformity to traditional Mediterranean diet and cancer incidence: the Greek EPIC cohort. Br J Cancer. 2008 Jul 8; 99(1):191-5.
    12. Visioli F, Grande S, Bogani P, Galli C. The role of antioxidants in the Mediterranean diets: focus on cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2004;13:337–343. 
    13. Lipworth L, Martinez ME, Angell J, Hsieh CC, Trichopoulos D. Olive oil and human cancer: an assessment of the evidence. Prev Med. 1997;26:181–190. 
    14. Owen RW, Giacosa A, Hull WE, Haubner R, Spiegelhalder B, Bartsch H. The antioxidant/anticancer potential of phenolic compounds isolated from olive oil. Eur J Cancer. 2000;36:1235–1247. 
    15. Owen RW, Giacosa A, Hull WE, Haubner R, Würtele G, Spiegelhalder B, Bartsch H. Olive-oil consumption and health: the possible role of antioxidants. Lancet Oncol. 2000;1:107–112. 
    16. Psaltopoulou T,  Kosti RI, Haidopoulos D, Dimopoulos M, Panagiotakos DB. Olive oil intake is inversely related to cancer prevalence: a systematic review and a meta-analysis of 13800 patients and 23340 controls in 19 observational studies. Lipids Health Dis. 2011;10:127.
    17. Bassett JK, Severi G, Hodge AM, MacInnis RJ, Gibson RA, Hopper JL, English DR and Giles GG, Plasma phospholipid fatty acids, dietary fatty acids and prostate cancer risk. Int J Cancer; 2013. 133(8):1882-1891.

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Mediterranean Diet and Cancer2019-10-01T23:07:14+00:00

Eat or drink your greens?

Greens powders – are they really vital? Or were our Mamma’s right and should we eat (not drink) our greens?

Not too long ago, we relied solely on real food to obtain nutrients that help our bodies function efficiently. Today, if you find yourself wandering the isles of the supermarket, pharmacy or local health food store, you will be hit with an array of greens powder products. Many of these products claim that you can get your daily fruit and vegetable goodness from a mere scoops of this powder. Sound too good to be true? Is this green powder actually good for us?

What are they?

Let’s get back to basics, what are greens powder supplements? They’re powders that contain a number of ingredients derived from plant foods, such as spinach, kale, spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, holy basil etc. These plants are processed and ground into powdered form where they can be packaged to have a long shelf life and sold to consumers. The specific ingredients used and price will vary depending on the brand.

Sounds great right? Drink your way to health and skip the fruit and veg aisle?  Mmm, not quite. Now you know I’m a science nerd, so let me explain why.

Where’s the science at?

As it stands there are only a few studies that look at the impact of greens powders on health and as I previously mentioned, products will vary depending on the brand. What we do know is that they often contain concentrated doses of antioxidants. Now the science tells us that the antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables have a number of health benefits, however when it comes to greens powder the answer isn’t so simple…

So let’s have a look at the evidence in more depth. One study looked at 10 healthy subjects (FYI this is a tiny study in the science world) who supplemented with 3-6 teaspoons of greens powder per day, over a 4 week period. These participants saw a reduction in oxidation, which is linked to tissue damage, aging and chronic disease risk (1). This study claims that greens powders may play a role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases (such as cancer) that are related to oxidative damage. Whilst that may be a nice theory, unfortunately a small sample size of 10 people makes it very difficult for the researchers to make such a claim. This study also didn’t account for other lifestyle factors, including exercise and diet. A further limitation is that the subjects were not provided with a controlled amount of greens powder, making it very difficult to draw conclusions regarding the dose one requires to experience the proposed health benefits. 

Another study looked at 40 people over a 90 day period who had high blood pressure and supplemented them with approximately 3 teaspoons of greens powder (2). Whilst these patients saw an 8% reduction in blood pressure, the researchers also failed to account for diet, weight, exercise and stress levels, all of which have a huge impact on blood pressure. This was also not a blinded study, therefore participants may have been influenced by the placebo effect. 

The last study I found was over a 3 month period, which analysed 63 healthy females who took again 3 teaspoons of greens powder per day (in this study the greens powder also contained green tea extract of which contains additional antioxidants) (3). They found that the women in the greens powder group reported increased energy levels, compared to the placebo group who reported no change. Again, this is another poor quality study as the addition of green tea extract makes it very difficult to attribute benefits to the greens powder alone. Of note the dropout rate in this study was 40%.

These were the best studies I could find. Sigh. So although there might be some benefits here, as it stands there is insufficient evidence in the literature to support the use of greens powder. 

What about all the good stuff it says it will do for me?

Other claims you may find on the front of the greens powder packaging include the ability to ‘detoxify and cleanse your body’, ‘boost your immune system’ or ‘help your digestion’. Any product that claims to ‘detoxify’ or ‘cleanse’ your body is likely to be full of BS. We are so fortunate as humans to have a liver and kidneys which cleanse and detoxify our bodies for us and it happens without us doing anything! There is absolutely no reason to spend money on powders or tonics as our trustworthy body has us covered!

So the science might not be strong, but what’s the harm? 

If you decide to drink greens powder in lieu of eating your vegetables you will be missing out on important fibre which keeps our bowels regular, feeds our healthy gut bacteria and has been proven to prevent colorectal cancer. This fibre acts as fuel for the good bacteria which inhabit our gut. When our bacteria are healthy and happy, research has shown this can enhance our immune system, improve our mood and prevent a whole host of health conditions (4). There are so many health benefits associated with a diet rich in dietary fibre that I would hate for your to spend your money (and energy) on powders made in a lab rather than plant foods grown on trees! Research has also found that many commercially manufactured supplements contain heavy metals and illegal substances that can be detrimental to health and wellbeing (5). Compare that to a carrot where what you see is what you get…

Bottom line

Greens powders should not replace vegetables in any way! Veggies contain an array of health promoting fibres, vitamins and minerals, many of which we can not always obtain from a commercially manufactured products. Your mum was right – eat (don’t drink) your greens.

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Elise Den

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Rao V, Balachandran B, Shen H, Logan A, Rao L. In vitro and in vivo antioxidant properties of the plant-based supplement greens. Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(8):4896-908
  2. Zhang J, Oxinos G, Maher JH.The effect of fruit and vegetable powder mix on hypertensive subjects: a pilot study. J Chiropr Med. 2009 Sep;8(3):101-6.
  3. Boon H, Clitheroe J, Forte T. Effects of greens+: a randomized, controlled trial.Can J Diet Pract Res. 2004 Summer;65(2):66-71.
  4. Makki K, Deehan EC, Walter J, Bäckhed F. The Impact of Dietary Fiber on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease. Cell Host Microbe. 2018 Jun 13;23(6):705-715.
  5. Or F, Yongjoo K, Simms J, Austin SB. Taking Stock of Dietary Supplements’ Harmful Effects on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2019 June.

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Eat or drink your greens?2019-09-24T23:50:47+00:00

Body Image: how to love the skin you’re in!

Don’t let your mind bully your body… Read on to learn how my trip to India could help mend the relationship between you and your body! 

My time in India was sensory overload! Incredible food, flavours, colours, nature and delightful people. One thing that was apparent to me was how confident and comfortable the women were in their appearance. Regardless of their body shape or size, they had  magnificent sarees draped around their bodies, all unique in their own special way with their stomachs in full sight. It didn’t matter if their stomachs were flat or curved, big or small, abs visible or no abs at all, slim or large arms, they still walked around with an air of elegance and confidence.

As I walked past these many beautiful, confident women with their bodies exposed, it made me reflect on how many women in Western cultures would lack the confidence to showcase their physiques (particularly if they felt they weren’t ‘summer ready’). In fact I know a number of gorgeous women who wouldn’t wear a tight top or jeans because of the way they feel about their image.

I then had a look into the research and found some alarming statistics. The Mission Australia National Youth Survey found that body image has been listed in the top four concerns for young Australians. The 2018 survey revealed that around 30% of young people are concerned about body image (1). Poor body image has been associated with an increased risk of partaking in dangerous dietary practices and weight control methods, excessive exercise and substance abuse (2).

When I got home from my trip I continued to reflect on the attitudes of the Indian women, how they were content, confident and comfortable in their own skin and this was something I truly admired. I came up with the following strategies  that have shifted my thinking and helped me truly appreciate my body for all it is. I wanted to share these with you.

1. Change your mindset

A report produced by The Butterfly Research Institute in 2017 found that an overwhelming 73% of people wished they could change the way they look and that 53.6% of people rarely or never speak positively about their appearance (3). Altering your thinking is really difficult, I mean really difficult! Changing your thought patterns and preconceived notions of yourself takes time and work.

I challenge you to view you body as a sacred vessel. A vessel that can perform incredible things! It can move, eat, feel emotions, exercise, love, remove waste, keep us safe and warm….and I could keep going forever! Being focused on all the wonderful things your body can do, rather than the way it looks, can be very powerful. When you catch yourself looking in the mirror and noticing what you perceive as your ‘flaws’, I want you to say aloud or in your head the beautiful things your body can do, and why you are grateful for that. Practice gratitude and acceptance that your body is unique and yours! No one else has your body, so it should be cherished for all it is.

2. Surround yourself with positive people

Yes, we are all individuals, however we are most definitely a product of the people we surround ourselves with. Try not to surround yourself with people who obsess over their weight or obtaining that six pack or even hitting their macros if it does not serve you. When you choose to surround yourself with positive people who have your best interests at heart, make you feel happy, lift you up and support you when you’re down, this will help to improve the way you feel about yourself, physically and emotionally. Surround yourself with people who make you feel that you are enough and beautiful just the way you are.

3. Unfollow accounts on social media that don’t make you feel good

It is tempting to follow Emily Ratajkowski’s instagram page to admire her ‘flawless’ physique and it’s also human nature to compare yourself (often without awareness). Many accounts on social media portray an unrealistic picture of the way women should look and often without realising we get sucked into those beliefs and standards too. Now I’m not bagging social media, it’s a great platform for connecting the world, however it is very much focused on external validation for one’s appearance, rather than liking a photo for the person’s morals or values. So, if following these accounts affects your self esteem or just makes you feel down about yourself, I recommend clicking the unfollow button. There are plenty of pages that have wonderful content which will uplift and motivate you, for example, entrepreneurship, motivation and evidence-based wellness. Be selective of the content your choose to view on a daily basis.

4. Meditate

Another practice the Indian’s do so well is meditation. This is an effective strategy for clearing away unhelpful thoughts and emotions. It allows you to be present in the moment and has been proven to help calm the mind. Meditation can be different for everyone, for some it may be listening to a guided practice (we’ve developed our very own guided meditation free to listen here), yoga, walking, gym, painting, drawing, writing in your diary, there are so many ways you can meditate and connect to yourself on a deeper level. It can be for 10 minutes, 5 minutes or even 1 minute, if it helps to anchor you to the present moment and calms your nervous system, then it’s working wonders! For some people repeating body acceptance affirmations, such as ‘I appreciate and accept my body as it is now and for all it does for me’, can really help you to manage the negative thoughts that enters your mind. Come up with a mantra that resonates with you.

5. Eat mindfully

Eating in a conscious and mindful way means appreciating the food for what it is and the impact it has on our body’s functioning. These days we are so busy and often eating mindlessly, not listening to how our bodies feel and what they want. When you eat mindfully you listen to your body’s internal cues and deliver it with the food it desires, regardless of stigma. It is eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. If you feel like chocolate, eat it, but in a mindful and appreciative way. When you eat mindfully you are more likely to choose foods which nourish your body and make you feel good about yourself.

Bottom Line

Just remember, we will not always feel good about the way we look, positive body image will forever be a work in progress. What’s important is to try and look beyond your physical features and focus on what’s inside your heart, because true beauty comes from within. Like the women in India, be proud of who you are, turn down the volume on  what anyone else thinks and appreciate the body you were born into.

If you need some guidance on eating mindfully, check out our free guide to take you through it step-by-step, and our free guided meditation to put you in the mood.

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Elise Den

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Carlisle, E., Fildes, J., Hall, S., Hicking, V., Perrens, B. and Plummer, J. (2018), Youth Survey Report 2018, Mission Australia
  2. The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (2010a). Eating disorders prevention, treatment & management: An evidence review. Sydney: NEDC.
  3. Insights into body esteem survey (2017). A survey of Australians’ experience of body image and its impact on day to day life. The Butterfly Foundation.

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We’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions at all, then please reach out!


Body Image: how to love the skin you’re in!2019-06-07T03:09:16+00:00

It’s a miracle! Can this fruit really change our taste?

From sour to sweet: how ‘miracle fruit’ changes our taste. 

What is Miracle Fruit?

How’s the name right? Before you roll your eyes let me just point out that the name comes from the active ingredient, ‘miraculin’. Or at least that’s what got me through my research on it.

Miracle berry, miracle fruit, or my personal favourite, Synsepalum dulcificum, is a West African plant discovered in 1700s by a French explorer. You may have heard about it in the news or media recently, particularly for its ability to change our taste!

Miracle fruit has shown some promise in helping people with taste changes during chemotherapy. Obviously that sparked our interest enormously!

It’s also super sweet and can be used as a low-kilojoule sweetener. It has about a third of the energy (kilojoules/calories) and sugar as blueberries. Some research also suggests it may therefore help improve blood glucose control in diabetes.

But how?

Miracle fruit contains the active ingredient – miraculin (hence the name, they’re not just boasting!). Miraculin is a glycoprotein that binds to the sweet taste receptors on our tongue and alters taste perception from sour to sweet. It’s been found to be effective with acidic, bitter or sour foods and the effects occur for 1-2hrs after consumption but the intensity declines over this period.

Fun fact: it only changes taste in primates, not rodents so mice studies don’t work!

What does the science say?

There have only been really small studies of the impact of miracle fruit on taste during chemotherapy.

One study was done in just 8 people receiving a variety of different chemotherapy agents for a variety of different cancer diagnoses. In this small study, the participants took either 6 miracle berries or 6 placebos (cranberries) per day just before meals and were asked to report on the taste of their meals. Most of the foods consumed after the miracle berry tasted better to the participants, although interestingly, some dairy products including milk and yoghurt were reported to taste worse!

Another study, also with small numbers (28 people this time) was carried out in people receiving a variety of different chemotherapy agents who had reported a loss of taste or metallic taste. The study found that taste was stabilised in 50% of the participants when they took the berries, and taste was improved in 30% who took the berries.

These studies are really small with a number of limitations and it’s therefore really difficult to determine how effective the fruit is. Larger studies are needed to explore if these little gems could be safe and helpful for people with taste changes during or after chemotherapy.

Some other studies have suggested that  miracle fruit may assist in reducing spread of  melanoma cells (test tube studies only), and worked to reduce plasma glucose levels in mice.

Some others may try to tell you that miracle fruit will help with weight loss but there’s no good scientific studies to back this up yet.

Contraindications and Side effects

Miracle fruit is rich in antioxidants. The phenolic and flavonoid compounds of miracle fruit can help to repair cell damage and therefore we recommend caution with taking miracle fruit (or any derivatives) when undergoing radiotherapy or some chemotherapy agents (including doxorubicin and platinum-based therapies such as Cisplatin, Carboplatin and Oxaliplatin).

Some side effects of stomach ache and throat discomfort have been reported although these seem to be rare.

As always, please speak to us, your doctor or health professional before taking any alternative therapies to ensure it’s safe alongside cancer treatment or any medications you’re taking.

Where to get it?

You can find miracle fruit online and there are some farms up in Queensland. Capsules are selling online for approx $2.50 per capsule. The ingredients are generally the miracle berry pulp and a binding agent. We recommend looking for a natural binding agent if you can.  

Do NOT take miracle fruit capsules or supplements if you’re undergoing radiotherapy or platinum-based chemotherapy (check with your dietitian, pharmacist or oncologist). You’ll need to avoid miracle fruit for 2 days either side of these treatments due to the antioxidant load.

Is it worth it?

We might just have to order some and give it a try for ourselves! And we’d love to hear from you if you already have!

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Kurihara K, Beidler LM. Taste-modifying protein from miracle fruit. Science. Sep 20 1968;161(3847):1241-1243.
  2. Inglett GE, Chen D. Contents of phenolics and flavonoids and antioxidant activities in skin, pulp, and seeds of miracle fruit. J Food Sci. Apr 2011;76(3):C479-482.
  3. Wang YC, Hong ZL, Chen HA, et al. Bioconstituents from stems of Synsepalum dulcificum Daniell (Sapotaceae) inhibit human melanoma proliferation, reduce mushroom tyrosinase activity and have antioxidant properties. Journal of the Taiwan Institute of Chemical Engineers. 2011;42:204-211.
  4. Chen CC, Liu IM, Cheng JT. Improvement of insulin resistance by miracle fruit (Synsepalumdulcificum) in fructose-rich chow-fed rats. Phytother Res. Nov 2006;20(11):987-992.
  5. Wong JM, Kern M. Miracle fruit improves sweetness of a low-calorie dessert without promoting subsequent energy compensation. Appetite. Feb 2011;56(1):163-166.
  6. Soares HP, Schwartz MA, Pizzolato JF, et al. Treatment of taste alterations in chemotherapy patients using the “miracle fruit”: Preliminary analysis of a pilot study. J Clin Oncol, 28, 2010 (suppl; abstr e19523).
  7. Theerasilp S, Hitotsuya H, Nakajo S, et al. Complete amino acid sequence and structure characterization of the taste-modifying protein, miraculin. J Biol Chem. Apr 25 1989;264(12):6655-6659.
  8. Koizumi A, Tsuchiya A, Nakajima K, et al. Human sweet taste receptor mediates acid-induced sweetness of miraculin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 4 2011;108(40):16819-16824.
  9. Kurihara K, Beidler LM. Mechanism of the action of taste-modifying protein. Nature. Jun 21 1969;222(5199):1176-1179.
  10. Paladino A, Colonna G, Facchiano AM, et al. Functional hypothesis on miraculin’ sweetness by a molecular dynamics approach. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Jun 4 2010;396(3):726-730.
  11. Paladino A, Costantini S, Colonna G, et al. Molecular modelling of miraculin: Structural analyses and functional hypotheses. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Feb 29 2008;367(1):26-32.
  12. Wilken MK, Satiroff BA. Pilot study of “miracle fruit” to improve food palatability for patients receiving chemotherapy. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2012 Oct;16(5):E173-7.
  13. Misaka T. Molecular mechanisms of the action of miraculin, a taste-modifying protein. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2013 Mar;24(3):222-5.
  14. Du L, Shen Y, Zhang X, Prinyawiwatkul W, Xu Z. Antioxidant-rich phytochemicals in miracle berry (Synsepalum dulcificum) and antioxidant activity of its extracts. Food Chem. 2014 Jun 15;153:279-84.

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It’s a miracle! Can this fruit really change our taste?2019-05-31T05:37:02+00:00

Mindful Eating – come with me

When I was nine, I had a shrine…

My whole life, as long as I can remember I’ve had a chocolate shrine. Growing up, I had an entire shelf of my book case in my bedroom dedicated to all of the most delicious treats that came into my possession. Wedged between my porcelain dolls below and the ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’ series above lived all my wrapped chocolate and lollies. I would display it all beautifully with pride of place in my bedroom. It would look extra lush after Easter and school fetes, and my favourite thing to do was to let me friends from school come over and choose something to enjoy from it. Except that wombat easter egg. That was mine. I savoured my food, often beyond the point of expiry date which was terribly disappointing for a nine year old (but I must admit did not always stop me!).

Over the years, as life got busier, other things entered my world that demanded more of my attention than my wombat easter egg. The shrine was slowly overtaken by magazine cut outs of Chad Michael Murray, followed by pictures of my gorgeous afro-bearing boyfriend and VCE textbooks. My love for chocolate, for sharing and for savouring my food remains, but it’s not shouting as loudly as the competing demands in my world. What was once a bookcase shrine has now transitioned to a very sensible biscuit tin in the cupboard.

And so it goes. The values and behaviours that we naturally and innately possess become shaped by the environment and culture that we live in. So here I am today, fully grown, although still very short, with an ornamental bookshelf garnished with pictures of my grandparents, my wedding day, my pets and my plants (my other pets!), but no chocolate wombat.   

Let’s bring back the wombat. Sadly, I’ve just missed the Easter boat and so the chances of finding a particularly adorable hollow Pink Lady wombat (no, not the apple variety for all you dietitians reading) are quite slim, but fortunately my family has immaculate taste and I have a Haigh’s egg ready and waiting. I’m going to eat this egg like my nine-year-old self would have. Mindfully. Savouring. Every. Single. Moment.

My mindful eating experience. You’re welcome to come along. Even better, try it out with me.

Firstly, I take the time to put my egg, fully wrapped in a bowl. I brew a cup of earl grey (intermittently watching my egg as the kettle boils…as if it’s going anywhere?!) and I sit down at the table. It looks so pretty. The multi-coloured gold and white striped wrapper makes it look so precious and appealing. I think back to the time I went on a chocolate tour, starting at Haigh’s in Melbourne, and the facts they gave about the percentage of cocoa solids and the importance of cocoa butter for the distinctive mouthfeel. I switch off my science brain. Nine year old Lauren wouldn’t have known this (and she probably wouldn’t have cared! That came later). I carefully pull back the foil wrapper to reveal the deep brown, etched shell of the chocolate egg. I wonder if the pattern is unique to this egg or if they’re all uniformly ‘etched’.  Does the Haigh’s factory have many moulds or just one? I take time to consider the team that have worked hard to allow me to enjoy this egg-cellent moment.

I gently pick up the egg with my thumb and index finger and give it a little shake. Silent. I hold it to my nose and sniff it like my inquisitive Blue Heeler would. I smell the rich chocolate scent that makes its way deep into my airways to a point that I feel like I can taste it. I liked that, so I do it again. I crack the egg into the bowl, expecting it to shatter into lovely, uniform pieces, but it ends up only with a dent. I smoodge it into the bowl to bread the shell and peel the chocolate into bite size portions. Generous bites. I wonder if, on a cooler day, it would have cracked with more gusto, or if the cocoa butter content makes it naturally more malleable? I again switch off my science brain. I choose the piece that is shaped vaguely like one of those scoops you see at the pick-and-mix nut station. I hold it with my thumb and index and notice the texture soften over time with the warmth of my fingers. I’m noticeably salivating. Well done Haigh’s. My mind goes to Pavlov’s dogs and I bring it right on back again.

I close my eyes and bring the scoop-shaped piece of chocolate to my mouth, hesitating momentarily before I place it on my tongue. I leave it there, mouth closed, pressing my tongue to my palate to sandwich the chocolate as it melts on my tongue. This is happening right now as I type. Don’t be jealous, this could be you! The intensity of flavour diminishes somewhat so I swish the now half-melted choc around my mouth so spread the flavour around. It rejuvenates. It’s been long enough and hard to resist swallowing. I move my tongue around to clear my mouth and get glimpses of that rich chocolate as I do, although never as strong as the initial taste.

The after-taste is alluring. In itself it’s not particularly pleasant but it’s a tempting reminder of the original and desirable taste and mouthfeel. My mouth feels sweet and I’m left seeking a sip of water to clear the thickened saliva that’s formed alongside the chocolate. I think of the enzyme amylase and its role in digestion and again turn down that thought. I’m left considering the enthusiasm that I entered this egg-perience with, the ideal of a chocolate treat, to the mediocre mouthfeel that I’m now left with.

It seems clear, in this moment, as I sit here with my favourite chocolate in a bowl, a carefully peeled back and discarded foil wrapper, and a full cup of earl grey, that perhaps after all the years I may have got it wrong. You see I always save the best bite till last. I plan my mouthfuls at most, if not all meals, to ensure the very last bite is the perfect combination of all the best bits of the meal combined to form a happy party in my mouth. The last hurrah. But maybe what this chocolate has taught me is that the first bite, of even the very first moment, is just as important as the last.

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Siew Ling Tey S. Nuts Improve Diet Quality Compared to Other Energy-Dense Snacks While Maintaining Body Weight. J Nutr Metab. 2011; 2011: 357350.
  2. Noreen E et al. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7: 31.
  3. Couet C et al.Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997 Aug;21(8):637-43.
  4. Kabir M et al. Treatment for 2 mo with n 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces adiposity and some atherogenic factors but does not improve insulin sensitivity in women with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled study.Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1670-9.
  5. Du S et al. Does Fish Oil Have an Anti-Obesity Effect in Overweight/Obese Adults? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS One. 2015; 10(11): e0142652.
  6. Omra JM et al. Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus as probiotics alter body adiposity and gut microflora in healthy persons. Journal of Functional Foods. 2013 Jan;5(1):116-123.
  7. Sanchez M et al.Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 28;111(8):1507-19. 
  8. Milliona M et al. Comparative meta-analysis of the effect of Lactobacillus species on weight gain in humans and animals. Microbial Pathogenesis. 2012;53(2):100-108.
  10. Laura C Ortinau L et al. Effects of high-protein vs. high- fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women. Nutrition Journal.2014;13:97.
  11. Tannis M et al.Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults. Cochrane Systematic Review – Intervention Version published: 12 December 2012.
  12. Abou-Samra R et al.Effect of different protein sources on satiation and short-term satiety when consumed as a starter. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:139

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Mindful Eating – come with me2019-04-27T01:01:52+00:00

Weight Bias: what are we weighting for?

We’re dietitians but we may not weigh you. Here’s why…

Obesity has been firmly positioned in the public eye as a worldwide public health issue. The links between overweight and obesity to all cause mortality and chronic disease are frequently cited and publicised. Whilst the intention may be well-meaning to improve public health outcomes, the associated stigma that has developed continues to see responsibility and blame being placed on individuals for assumed poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Weight bias, or weight stigma, refers to this associated stereotyping, discrimination and social exclusion based on an individual’s body weight, which, in turn, can lead to poorer health outcomes for our population  [1].

Stigmatisation of any trait, regardless of whether internalised or driven externally, can lead to experiences of low self-esteem, depression, reduced quality of life and discrimination [2-9]. Representative studies have shown that some forms of weight discrimination are even more prevalent than discrimination based on race or ethnicity [10]. Weight stigma has been associated with an increased risk of mortality, chronic diseases and health conditions, including an increased risk of obesity, beyond the risk associated with an elevated body mass index (BMI) [1,10,11]. This presents an interesting juxtaposition to the well-publicised links between overweight and obesity to all cause mortality and chronic disease. It’s an alarming irony that weight stigma can exacerbate the original health concerns that are linked with overweight and obesity in the first place. Elevated caloric consumption, disordered eating and diet cycling are all more common when weight discrimination exists [1]. Perhaps public health policy would be more effectively directed at addressing the stigma associated with obesity and cultivating attitudes conducive to positive health outcomes more broadly.

Weight bias remains particularly prevalent in the medical and healthcare industry. High levels of stigma and bias have been reported amongst health professionals, often resulting in poorer care or reduced health outcomes for individuals of larger size [1,11]. Further, where stigmatisation is internalised, coping mechanisms, including intake of alcohol and substance use, have been reported help manage the associated negative psychology [12].

The field of dietetics is not immune to weight bias. A study of 400 Australian dietitians highlighted clinician reports of frustration with lack of perceived compliance, commitment, motivation and unrealistic expectations with their overweight or obese clients [13]. Similar attitudes were displayed by dietitians in the UK where obese people were considered more responsible for their excess weight than overweight individuals [14]. Studies in dietetic students have shown the majority of student cohorts agreeing with stereotypes that overweight people lack self control, overeat, are inactive or lazy, suffer from poor self esteem and are insecure [15,16].

In order for the culture of weight bias to change, these finding stress the need for education to be included in dietetic and health curriculums. Further education and understanding is required amongst current and emerging health professionals around the detrimental impact of weight stigma, and the evidence regarding the inaccurate assumptions that overweight or obesity shortens lifespans or that reduction in weight will necessarily reverse risk factors of chronic disease.

Training of all health professionals must address weight bias front on, exploring how this pervasive stigma sustains and accelerates the condition and worsens health outcomes for their clients, patients and the population. Public health policy and promotion needs to address weight stigma directly, campaigning widespread awareness as a starting point. Whilst the value of compassion can not always be taught, the strength of evidence of the inefficacy of traditional weight loss interventions can be.

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

    1. The Lancet Public Health. Addressing weight stigma. The Lancet Editorial. 2019 April; 4(4):168.
    2. Link BG, Struening EL, Neese-Todd S, Asmussen S, Phelan JC. Stigma as a barrier to recovery: the consequences of stigma for the self-esteem of people with mental illnesses. Psychiatr Serv. 2001;52:1621–1626.
    3. Phelan SM, Griffin JM, Jackson GL, et al. Stigma, perceived blame, self-blame, and depressive symptoms in men with colorectal cancer. Psychooncology. 2013;22:65–73.
    4. Phelan SM, Griffin JM, Hellerstedt WL, et al. Perceived stigma, strain, and mental health among caregivers of veterans with traumatic brain injury. Disabil Health J. 2011;4:177–184.
    5. Li L, Lee SJ, Thammawijaya P, Jiraphongsa C, Rotheram-Borus MJ. Stigma, social support, and depression among people living with HIV in Thailand. AIDS Care. 2009;21:1007–1013.
    6. Markowitz FE. The effects of stigma on the psychological well-being and life satisfaction of persons with mental illness. J Health Soc Behav. 1998;39:335–347.
    7. Major B, O’Brien LT. The social psychology of stigma. Annu Rev Psychol. 2005;56:393–421.
    8. Link BG, Phelan JC. Stigma and its public health implications. Lancet. 2006;367:528–529.
    9. Myers A, Rosen JC. Obesity stigmatization and coping: relation to mental health symptoms, body image, and self-esteem. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1999;23:221–230.
    10. Tomiyama J, Carr D, Granberg EM, Major B, Robinson E, Sutin AR et al. How and why weight stigma drives the obesity ‘epidemic’ and harms health. BMC Med. 2018; 16: 123.
    11. Phelan SM, Burgess DJ, Yeazel MW, Hellerstedt WL, Griffin JM, van Ryn M. Impact of weight bias and stigma on quality of care and outcomes for patients with obesity. Obes Rev. 2015 Apr; 16(4): 319–326.
    12. Phelan SM, Burgess DJ, Puhl RM et al. The adverse effect of weight stigma on the well-being of medical students with overweight or obesity: findings from a national survey. J Gen Intern Med. 2015;30(9):1251–8.
    13. Campbell K, Crawford D. Management of obesity: attitudes and practices of Australian dietitians. Int J Obes 2000; 24: 701– 710.
    14. Harvey, EL, Summerbell, CD, Kirk, SFL, Hill, AJ. Dietitians’ views of overweight and obese people and reported management practices. J Hum Nutr Diet 2002; 15: 331– 347.
    15. Berryman, D, Dubale, G, Manchester, D, Mittelstaedt, R. Dietetic students possess negative attitudes toward obesity similar to nondietetic students. J Am Diet Assoc 2006; 106: 1678– 1682.
    16. Puhl, RM, Wharton, C, Heuer, CA. Weight bias among dietetics students: implications for treatment practices. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Mar;109(3):438-44.

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Weight Bias: what are we weighting for?2019-04-23T03:07:28+00:00

What’s the deal with collagen?

What’s the deal with collagen (and will it really help me become shiny-haired, nimble and look 20 years younger)?

Is the hype backed by science? We’ll dish you the facts. Read on!

What is this magical collagen?

When I say ‘collagen’ most people will think bone broth, face cream and supplements. For us with OG science brains, we think of the 28 different proteins that make up most (about a third!) of the protein in our body.

(Not so) Fun fact: The name collagen comes from the Greek word “kólla” meaning: glue. The perfect description for the building block of our skin, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and teeth! Collagen quite literally holds us together.

Given our bodies are made up of so much of it, it makes sense that it would have an impact on us physically. Here we’ll digest the science to see if collagen can do all that Dr Google promises:

  1. Reduce signs of ageing
  2. Strengthen hair and nails
  3. Manage joint damage and pain
  4. Build muscle, burn fat and reduce cellulite
  5. Improve gut health

Feel free to skip forward to your favourite. I won’t mind.

1. Reduce the signs of ageing

Collagen provides elasticity in our skin, keeping our skin looking healthy and youthful. As we age, we produce less collagen. This is when things kinda go south…if you know what I mean.

As collagen production declines, we can develop fine lines and loose, dry skin. So it makes sense that taking a collagen supplement could help…

Good news team, the science backs it up! Taking collagen supplements can help our bodies to produce collagen of its own, as well as elastin and fibrillin, two other proteins important for skin structure. This has translated to reports of improved skin appearance, elasticity and reduced wrinkles. Hurrah!  

Supplementing with 2.5-5g of collagen per day has been recommended.

2. Strengthen hair and nails

Shellac and SNS left you with nails that can barely scratch an itch? Good news! Taking collagen CAN help to strengthen your nails by preventing brittleness. It has also been shown to stimulate our hair and nails to grow longer.

Conveniently for those with hair and nail as well as skin goals, the science has seen benefits with a similar dosing of 2.5g per day.

3. Joint pain and damage

Around about the same time we begin to notice our skin going south, we also start to make funny noises when we’re getting up off low chairs. Or start walking that extra bit funny after a tough gym sesh.

The cartilage in our joints weakens and deteriorates with age. We become more prone to stiffness, aches and pains, as well as more serious tendon injuries and osteoarthritis. Collagen is important for maintaining the integrity of our cartilage and there is some evidence to support the use of collagen hydrolysate to help reduce joint damage and pain.

Where smaller doses have been found effective with skin, hair and nails, studies indicate that larger doses of 8-12g per day are needed for joint and tendon pain and repair. For those looking to manage an existing injury, make sure you talk to your doctor or specialist to get their green light (and check it won’t interact with any other medications you’re taking).

4. Build muscle, burn fat and reduce cellulite

We’re on a roll here with the collagen…

Next on the agenda is whether it help us to build muscle or burn fat? We’ve looked at the science through an unbiased lens, and the current answer is: probs not. Sigh.

No sound studies have supported the ability of collagen supplements to promote weight loss or a faster metabolism. But it also won’t cause you any harm (except maybe to your bank account).

Between 1–10% of our muscle tissue is made up of collagen. We need collagen for the structure and function of our muscles. Whilst there is scientific evidence that collagen supplements post exercise might help boost muscle mass in elderly people with a loss of muscle related to ageing, there is little evidence that it makes a significant difference in otherwise healthy individuals.

If someone tries to tell you it will reduce cellulite, this is not backed by science (not even close, sadly a hard “nope”) so don’t get your hopes up! And just know that cellulite effects 80-90% of post-pubertal women. And we reckon the remaining 10-20% were lying (or need a trip to OPSM) :p.

5. Improve gut health

The theory here is good! Collagen is in the lining of our gut and is important for its structure and function.  

Early research tells us that those with inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) may have lower levels of circulating collagen but it’s still not clear whether supplementation with collagen will help in the management of these conditions. We’re really interested to see what comes of research into people with leaky gut syndrome or increased intestinal permeability as it seems really plausible that by adding more “glue” to our gut lining we could improve the integrity of the gut wall.

Jury’s out. Watch this space (or just ask us, coz we’ll be watching it for you!).


So there you have it, depending on your health goals, collagen may well be a worthwhile addition to your diet or repertoire! If you’re otherwise healthy and consume a balanced diet, you may not see any benefits.

Boost your glue: Some ways to add collagen to your diet

  • Collagen is in normal foods: beef, pork, chicken, fish, egg whites. You could stop right there. No need for anything fancy! For vegetarians and vegans, ensure you’re getting a variety of amino acids from a range of plant proteins including tofu, tempeh, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  • Try bone broth. Simmer yourself or buy ready made and add to soups, stews or as a ‘stock’ when cooking grains like quinoa, barley and rice.
  • Powdered gelatin. My clever sister-in-law used to make these delish fruit or coconut jellies – simply just gelatin and fresh fruit. Jelly for adults. So yummy.
  • Collagen peptide supplements – easy and convenient (if your bank account allows), most supplements will contain hydrolysed collagen peptides which means the proteins have been broken down into a form that our body can easily absorb. Add it to your smoothies, bircher, soups or coffee. Make sure you check the ingredients if you have any allergies to fish, shellfish or eggs as some are made from these sources. Side effects are reasonably minor and include unpleasant taste and reflux or indigestion. As always, check with your health professional or make an appointment with us to make sure a supplement is appropriate for you.
  • Aloe vera can help to promote collagen production. It can be applied topically to the skin but don’t consider an oral supplement until you’ve spoken to your medical professional or dietitian as they are NOT suitable for everyone.
  • We need vitamin C to produce collagen from pro-collagen. So don’t skimp on your fruit and veggies!
  • Smoking and too much UV exposure can reduce collagen production so slip, slip, slap and butt out!

As always we’re here to help. In the name of collagen, let us be the glue between you and your best you!

Questions, confusions, areas of interest? We’d love to hear from you. Don’t hesitate.

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Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Proksch E. Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Has Beneficial Effects on Human Skin Physiology: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2014;27:47-55.
  2. Proksch E. Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2014;27:113-119.
  3. Ganceviciene R, Liakou A,Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis C.Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 308–319.
  4. Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis.Skin pharmacology and physiology. December 2013. 27(3):113-119 ·
  5.  Maryam Borumand, Sara Sibilla. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. J Med Nutr and Nutra. 2015; 4 (1): 47-53.
  6. Maryam Borumand and Sara Sibilla. Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen® reduces visible signs of aging. Clin Interv Aging. 2014; 9: 1747–1758.
  7. Bello AE, Oesser S. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature.Curr Med Res Opin. 2006 Nov;22(11):2221-32.
  8. Elisângela Porfírio. Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the
    prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Gustavo Bernardes Rev. Bras. Geriatr. Gerontol. 2016; 19(1):153-164.
  9. Moskowitz RW. Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Oct;30(2):87-99.
  10. Clark KL et al. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain.Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 May;24(5):1485-96.
  11. Schauss AG1, Stenehjem J, Park J, Endres JR, Clewell A. Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Apr 25;60(16):4096-101.
  12. Allison R. Gillies et al. Structure and Function of the Skeletal Muscle Extracellular Matrix.Muscle Nerve. 2011 Sep 1; 44(3): 318–331.
  13. Denise Zdzieblik. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 28; 114(8): 1237–1245.
  14. Luebberding, S., Krueger, N. & Sadick, N.S. Cellulite: An Evidence-Based Review Am J Clin Dermatol (2015) 16: 243.
  15. Amar Surjushe, Resham Vasani, and D G Saple. ALOE VERA: A SHORT REVIEW. Indian J Dermatol. 2008; 53(4): 163–166.

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What’s the deal with collagen?2019-04-06T23:12:01+00:00

The bees knees of cheese

Yes we’re dietitians. But we’re also humans. We love cheese as much as the next guy. Read on for my top five…the bees knees of cheese!

1. Goats cheese

  • More medium chain triglycerides than cow’s dairy, which is better for our weight and cholesterol management, brain and blood sugar control.
  • Low lactose so great for those with intolerance.
  • A2 proteins may make it more easy to digest than the A1 proteins found in most cow’s dairy. A2 proteins have been linked to lower systemic inflammation levels. This is good news for reducing our risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers. 
  • Some contain probiotics, including L acidophilus which has been found to be useful in preventing diarrhoea associated with antibiotics. Fun fact: the fat in cheese helps to protect the bacteria and allow it to flourish until it hits its new home – your gut.

2. Ricotta

  • Made from whey left over from cow, goat, sheep or buffalo milk. Waste not want not. My mum always says that. I’m still not entirely sure I know what it means.
  • Complete protein (all the amino acids that you and your biceps and glutes need).
  • Can swing sweet or savoury. How versatile. Much wow.

3. Mozzarella

  • High moisture…the more water the more dilute the other stuff (which is useful for an energy dense food like cheese!). It also means a milder flavour. 
  • Lower sodium and calories than many other cheeses
  • Probiotic bacteria – Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus fermentum – helpful for our gut health, immune function, respiratory infections, and reducing inflammation.
  • Usually from buffalo or cow’s milk

4. Parmesan

  • STRONG flavour which means you don’t need as much. Which means fewer kilojoules. Unless you don’t actually use less 😜
  • Generally made from cow’s milk that’s been aged for at least a year.
  • Rich in calcium and phosphorous for bone health.
  • Very low in lactose – THE BEST news for those who are lactose intolerant – most can manage a reasonable dose with no symptoms.

5. Blue

  • Made from cow, goat or sheep milk
  • Cured with cultures from mould Penicillium
  • I like blue for it’s high calcium content – cue strong bones – but also the vitamin K2 it contains, which helps to direct the calcium to our bones where we need it rather than depositing in our artery walls where we don’t.

Nutritional Comparison

If you’re into the numbers (like I am) see below. The best of the bunch is bolded for each category. 

Cheese (per 100g) Energy (kJ) Fat (g) Protein (g) Carbs (g) Sodium (mg) Calcium (mg)
Goats 1121 20 20 1 370 140
Ricotta 535 10 7 3 210 170
Mozzarella   1310 23 26 1 460 600
Parmesan 1950 34 41 0 1505 1120
Blue 1570 32 20 0 1090 510

Bottom Line

Cheese. Give it the respect it deserves. Moderation. Savour it.

Sweet dreams are made of cheese. Who am I to dis-a-brie. This info may have been cheesy, but I hope you had a gouda time and thought it was grate. As always, any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian


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The bees knees of cheese2019-03-25T02:23:59+00:00

The GI: Oh Gee I love carbs!

Hugs, sunsets, crispy ciabatta. Just some of life’s greatest pleasures.

In the big world-wide-web world we live in, carbs cop a fair beating. Apparently they can make us put on weight, cause cancer and a multitude of other diseases, make our bodies a fire-pit of inflammation and they seem to be in pretty much ALL the foods! But not all carbs are equal. Read on for the real truth.

What is the GI?

The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a relative measure of the impact a carbohydrate food has on our blood glucose levels.

Carbohydrates with a high GI value are digested, absorbed and metabolised quickly by our body, causing a spike in our blood glucose and insulin levels, followed by a subsequent drop.

Carbohydrates with a low GI value are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised. This provides a slower rise in our blood glucose and insulin levels and a sustained release of energy.

The glycaemic index (GI) measures how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food is digested and absorbed into our bloodstream. Foods can be classified as low, medium or high GI depending on how quickly they elevate our blood glucose levels.

Carbohydrates are classified as low, moderate or high GI. The values for each are shown below.

Why does it matter?

Choosing low GI foods has shown benefit for:

  • Managing weight – lower levels of circulating insulin may improve our body’s ability to use fat for fuel
  • Diabetes control – low GI diets can improve blood glucose control
  • Reducing the risk of developing diabetes or insulin resistance
  • Improving cholesterol levels and reducing risk of heart disease
  • Reducing the risk of developing some cancers including endometrial, colorectal and breast cancer
  • Providing sustained release of energy during exercise
  • Improving concentration
  • Reducing fatigue and improving energy levels
  • Reducing circulating insulin and systemic inflammation

That’s a pretty long list. Gee, thanks GI! 

We rarely eat our carbs solo.

Carbohydrates attract friends. Bread and butter. Spaghetti and meatballs. You feel.

We know this, so while the GI measures the change in blood glucose levels by a certain food, the impact of a group of foods, or a meal, on our blood glucose levels is referred to as the glycaemic load (GL). Having large doses of carbohydrate foods in one sitting will increase the blood glucose (and insulin) spike. Pairing carbohydrate foods with sources of protein, fibre or acidic foods can lower the GL of the meal.

Can’t resist that potato?

Do we have news for you!

Cooked and cooled potato, pasta and rice become high in resistant starch – a type of carbohydrate that isn’t broken down and absorbed by our body i.e what goes in goes out (and feeds the good bugs in our gut on their journey).

Potato salad anyone?

For more info on the GI including more GI lowering hacks and cheeky tips AND a comprehensive GI shopping list to help keep your heart glowing with the best carbs for you, get your hands on our OnCore GI guide today!

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Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Barclay A et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk–a meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):627-37.

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The GI: Oh Gee I love carbs!2019-03-16T23:33:38+00:00

Apple Cider Vinegar – the burning truth

I was on the phone to a friend overseas the other day who was telling me about his current nutrition regimen. One aspect that stuck with me was his ritual of drinking apple cider vinegar (ACV) each morning to ‘help with digestion’. Now this is by no means the first time I have heard this daily practice which prompted me to share some knowledge with you all.

If you type ‘’the benefits of ACV’’  into google you will find the following claims:

ACV assists with weight loss, reduces belly fat, facilitates blood glucose regulation, kills bacteria, reduces inflammation and even prevents (or cures) cancer! Naturally my science mind was sceptical and decided to delve into the evidence behind it all!

Weight management

There has been one study to investigate the effects of  ACV and weight loss in humans (1). This study looked at obese Japanese participants who were assigned to various groups, including ingestion of 15 mL vinegar, 30 mL vinegar or placebo, over a 12 week period.  Now, before we discuss the results, I want you to know this study was poorly designed as the participants self-reported their intake, and trust me from experience, most people will either under or over report what they’re eating! Whilst the group who consumed the 30mL ACV lost the most weight (1.9kg) vs 15mL ACV (1.2kg) vs placebo group (unchanged), what was identified was that when they ceased the ACV they had regained the weight that had been lost. As dietitians, we encourage lifestyle changes that promote sustainable weight loss and healthy living, consumption of ACV was shown not be a practice that promotes these sustainable changes.

Some positive effects on weight loss were seen in animal studies, however if you have read any of our previous blog posts you will be aware that we can’t translate this into practice as the human body is quite different to that of a mouse (thank god!).

One positive effect ACV had was on appetite suppression and increased satiety. But wait for it… The reason it helped suppress appetite was because the ingestion of ACV contributed significantly to nausea (2). Now I don’t know about you but I’d rather hold on to that extra kilo or two and not experience nausea.

Please note that since that Japanese study was undertaken in 2009, there have been no reputable studies showing that ACV assists with weight loss. Therefore we can safely say that although it may increase satiety (through nausea – no thanks!) much more research is needed in this area to confirm if it shows favourable weight loss outcomes.

Improves digestion

Absolutely no evidence, not even in animal models! Sorry guys but if you think that ACV is helping you to digest and absorb your food better (as stated by Dr Google and many others) the literature suggests that this is not the case. What I do often see in practice is the profound impact of the ‘placebo’ effect. People often believe that because they are taking a particular remedy (e.g. ACV) that they are experiencing the desired outcome. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the placebo effect, if it makes you feel better, why stop? Just be aware of the research – knowledge is power!


Now if you haven’t heard of ‘detox diets’ these days, you’re probably living under a rock (a rock I’d like to live under sometimes). I just did a quick google search and uncovered  a specific ‘apple cider vinegar detox program’! This program claims that the consumption of ACV will help to remove dangerous toxins from the body. Now anyone who understands the way the body works will realise this claim is completely ridiculous! An individual with a healthy liver and kidneys will be able to remove toxins from their body, irrespective of their food or drink consumption.

One of my favourite papers that has been published to date (linked here), shows that there is absolutely no diet, pill or supplement that can remove toxins from the body (3)! Amen! Therefore save your money on detox diets, supplements or potions and try to implement some healthy lifestyle changes. Hit us up if you have any questions, we are always happy to help!

Blood sugar regulation

Hallelujah! This is one claim that does have some credibility! And I have underlined the word ‘some’ for a reason.

It has been shown that consuming vinegar (any vinegar, not necessarily ACV) with a carbohydrate rich meal will  lead to a reduction in blood glucose levels (4, 5, 6). This is because vinegar interferes with carbohydrate absorption as the acidity reduces the rate of gastric emptying. This means food takes longer to digest and therefore the release of glucose into the bloodstream is slower. This keeps us feeling fuller for longer and more energised.

Whilst this is one area that shows the positive benefits of vinegar on glycaemic control, it is important to be aware that this benefit is not a result of any special powers that ACV independently has shown, rather it’s vinegar in general!


When I was sick with tonsillitis last year, one common remedy people recommended (with the best possible intentions – thanks everyone) was to gargle ACV because of it’s supposed antibacterial properties which were going to ‘kill the bacteria on my tonsils’. Now I must be honest, I was feeling pretty rubbish and was willing to try anything to help my poor throat, even though deep down I knew it was another Dr. Google recommendation.

The research on the antibacterial effects of ACV has been focused on the bacteria found in food. It’s shown that ACV needed to be consumed at a specific temperature and in combination with sodium chloride in order to have any effect on the bacterial load of the food (7). The way vinegar acts to kill bacteria in food and on a petri dish is very different to its ability to kill bacteria in our bodies.Therefore we can not confidently say that ACV will have an antibacterial effect in the human body.

To date the correlation between ACV and its antibacterial function within the human body is yet to be studied. What is also interesting is that ACV tablets have also been found to cause oesophageal injury (8)! Whilst the acidity may help in some ways, it may also harm. Now I am really happy I didn’t start gargling or swallowing ACV to kill the bacteria in my throat!


The data looking at the benefits of ACV on inflammation is limited. There is currently one animal study looking at colitis (an inflammatory bowel condition) in mice (9), however this has not been investigated in humans. Therefore there is absolutely no way we can insinuate that drinking ACV will reduce any inflammation in our bodies (sorry to burst your bubble to everyone who is drinking their ACV in the morning to help reduce inflammation, I have no doubt there is many).


I’m saving this for last because I had to have a big old LOL when I looked at some of the claims that ACV reduces your risk of cancer, and can also cure cancer! As expected, there is little evidence to support this.

The majority of the research has been in the lab or animal studies (limitations of this explained earlier in the blog). The two studies that have been conducted in humans showed mixed results. One study found that vinegar was associated with an increased risk of cancer (specific to bladder cancer risk) (10) and the other showed a decreased risk (specific to oesophageal cancer risk) (11). What is contradictory is the study I mentioned earlier highlighted that ACV can cause oesophageal injury (8), which makes this topic very confusing to draw conclusions! It also shows us that one small study is not enough to make such generalised claims regarding overall cancer risk and ACV! Please also note the studies mentioned looked at a number of different vinegars from the vinegar family, not ACV specifically.

As these studies both had opposing results and there are no other studies published that looked at cancer and ACV intake, I think we can safely say that at present, there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that ACV reduces cancer risk or can cure cancer.


So in summary, most of the health claims about ACV are not well supported by the current scientific literature. The only substantiated claim is that it can slow gastric emptying, which may assist with glycaemic control. However, be aware there are many ways to control your blood sugar levels, including choosing low glycaemic index carbohydrates, combining protein or fat with your carbohydrates, cooking and cooling starchy foods to increase the amount of resistant starch present, and much more. ACV is not the only solution!

Now I’m not saying to cut out ACV if you enjoy the taste, it is a good idea to dilute it to reduce the risk of eroding your tooth enamel or burning the lining in your oesophagus. And remember… Just because the latest instagram influencer starts her day with ACV, it doesn’t mean you should! When it comes to your health, be skeptical and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Elise Den

Accredited Practising Dietitian

    1. Kondo, T., et al., Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem, 2009. 73(8): p. 1837-43.
    2. Darzi, J., et al., Influence of the tolerability of vinegar as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake. Int J Obes (Lond), 2014. 38(5): p. 675-81.
    3. Klein, A.V. and H. Kiat, Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet, 2015. 28(6): p. 675-86.
    4. Johnston, C.S., et al., Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. Ann Nutr Metab, 2010. 56(1): p. 74-9.
    5. 7. Salbe, A.D., et al., Vinegar lacks antiglycemic action on enteral carbohydrate absorption in human subjects. Nutr Res, 2009. 29(12): p. 846-9.
    6. 8. Hlebowicz, J., et al., Effect of apple cider vinegar on delayed gastric emptying in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study. BMC Gastroenterol, 2007. 7: p. 46.
    7. Entani, E., et al., Antibacterial action of vinegar against food-borne pathogenic bacteria including Escherichia coli O157:H7. J Food Prot, 1998. 61(8): p. 953-9.
    8. Hill, L.L., et al., Esophageal injury by apple cider vinegar tablets and subsequent evaluation of products. J Am Diet Assoc, 2005. 105(7): p. 1141-4.
    9. Shen, F., et al., Vinegar Treatment Prevents the Development of Murine Experimental Colitis via Inhibition of Inflammation and Apoptosis. J Agric Food Chem, 2016. 64(5): p. 1111-21.
    10. Radosavljevic, V., et al., Non-occupational risk factors for bladder cancer: a case-control study. Tumori, 2004.90(2): p. 175-80.
    11. 30. Xibib, S., et al., Risk factors for oesophageal cancer in Linzhou, China: a case-control study. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 2003. 4(2): p. 119-24.

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Apple Cider Vinegar – the burning truth2019-03-07T02:13:55+00:00

Love your pancreas

5 reasons to love your pancreas

1. Without it we can’t digest our food. Particularly protein. Everybody loves protein.

2. It produces insulin. Without it our blood sugar levels would be sky high. 👆🏽

3. It also produces glucagon. Without it our blood sugars can drop dangerously low. 👇🏽

4. It helps to neutralise the acid from our stomach so it doesn’t hurt our small intestines! ☔️

5. It’s shaped kinda like a tadpole 🐸 and some clever scientists are working out how we can use dietary changes to help healthy pancreatic cells regenerate after damage. We’re really excited by this! 🍽

If you end up without one, or it doesn’t work so well, you’ll miss it dearly. People with pancreatic insufficiency will often need to take enzymes in a capsule with every meal to help break down their food. And many will require insulin to control blood sugar levels.

Support #worldpancreaticcancerday through Pancare and please be in touch with any questions. We’re teaming up with Pancare for some empowering events over the next few months so watch this space!

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

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Love your pancreas2019-03-05T06:26:33+00:00

The Fast and the Furious

Is intermittent fasting safe for you?

You may have noticed by now that there are a few things in the nutrition world that get us excited. Coffee is one. Intermittent fasting (IF) is another. But IF is not for everyone and is not effective unless it’s done properly.

Read on to find out if IF is right for you. 

What is IF?

Intermittent fasting is a term for eating patterns that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a specific period. There are several ways to implement an IF regimen, including:

  • 5:2 protocol
  • 16:8 time restricted eating
  • 24 hour fast

For more info on these fasting routines, visit

IF can provide great health benefits if implemented wisely and with support and monitoring
from a trained health professional. It can assist with weight loss while preserving our muscle mass and has been linked to longevity and reduced risk of some chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

If done poorly, not only can IF be ineffective, it can be quite dangerous.

Safety always come first. Then teamwork. Read on for our top 10 tips for fasting safely.

1. Get your baseline diet right first

It’s important to have a steady hand on a well-balanced, wholefood-based diet before contemplating starting IF. This can be the real key to success. Elise and I will always make sure your baseline diet is nutritionally sound and sufficient to meet your macro- and micro-nutrient needs before suggesting an IF routine. Make sure you chat to us first and set yourself up for success!

2. Keep fasting periods short

Don’t be a hero, and don’t set yourself up to fail. Fasting is hard and we all know what hangry feels like. Be realistic with the style of fasting that suits you and your lifestyle, and ease your way in. For example, if you’re working towards a 16 hour fast (including overnight), start with 12 hours, then try for 14 and you’ll feel much more in control when you reach the sweet spot!

Most people find a 24 hour fast is unrealistic and we agree. It’s our least favourite style and not for the faint-hearted. The longer the period of fasting, the increased risk of issues such as dehydration, irritability (AKA hanger), mood changes, fainting and reduced energy and concentration. We encourage anyone game to strive for 24hr fasting to speak to us or their doctor first.

3. Stay hydrated

Avoid dehydration by making sure you meet your fluid requirements. We get 20-30% of our fluid needs from food so we’ve gotta fill the void!

Our daily fluid guide is provided below and if you want an accurate measure tailored to you, hit us up!

Body weight (kg) Fluid needs per day
50 1.8L
60 2.1L
70 2.5L
80 2.8L
90 3.2L
100 3.5L

Fluids allowed during most fasts include:

  • Water
  • Black coffee (no sugar)
  • Black or herbal tea
  • Plain soda or mineral water

Bonus: drinking will help fill in the time so your fast doesn’t draaaaaaag as long!

4. Distract yourself

Avoiding food is hard. We love food. We want and we neeeeed food. But we can survive without it during our fast. We can’t all be like Ghandi and it’s okay to make it easier for yourself. In fact we wholeheartedly encourage it.

Some ideas of how to take your mind off that rumbling tummy…

  • Go for a walk
  • Meditate
  • Read or listen to a podcast
  • Have a bath – ooh la la!
  • Get social – makes plans with friends intentionally when you know you’ll’ be fasting. Just don’t meet at a cafe!

5. Easy there tiger. Avoid the end-of-fast-feast!

This can be the undoing of a successful fast and one of the reasons that we may recommend against IF. You need to have your baseline diet balanced. *Refer to point 1*  

While it can be tempting to eat the entire fridge after your incredible fasting effort (and yes, we’re so proud of you for making it!), try not to undo all your excellent achievements.  Not only can this leave you feeling bloated and fatigued and reduce the likelihood of weight and health benefits, the self-efficacy you gain from reaching your goal can quickly wear off if you lose your sense of control with meal 1.

The good news is we’ve got a foolproof guide to your first meal back after a fast! Find it here!

6. Know when to stop.

Don’t overdo it. You know your body better than anyone and if something feels NQR, stop your fast.

It’s normal to feel a little tired or hungry during your fast, but you should never feel unwell. Signs you should stop your fast and seek medical attention include tiredness or weakness that stops you from carrying out your usual daily activities or unexpected feelings of sickness or discomfort.

Keep fasting periods short when first starting out and ensure you have food and fluids available just in case.

7. Meet your protein needs

One of the great benefits of IF is that it can promote fat loss while preserving our muscle mass. In order to achieve this, it’s important to fuel your body with enough protein.

Include quality sources of protein on your non-fast days including:

  • Fish, poultry, meat, seafood
  • Eggs
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Wholegrains, nuts and seeds (quinoa, chia, freekeh)
  • Legumes, beans and pulses
  • Dairy products (milk, yoghurt, kefir, cheese)
  • Speak to your OnCore dietitian about supplements

Protein can also help to keep our hunger in check so it’s extra important that your getting enough leading up to a fast!

If you have specific dietary needs or you’re keen for more detailed advice on how much protein you need, make a time to chat to us today!

8. Make sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs

Fasting ofen means we’re cutting out meals and this can leave us vulnerable to nutritional inadequacies. Deficiencies in iron, calcium and vitamin B12 are common when we change our diet.  It’s important to include a balanced, whole-food based diet when you’re not fasting, including a range of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes, meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Our gut bacteria still need a good feed and so do all of our bodily systems.

If you’re concerned you’re not meeting your nutritional needs (including vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients) with your fasting routine, make sure you speak to us about the need for specific nutritional supplements.

9. Exercise within your limits

Be aware that, regardless of what exercise you do, you body may be running on empty. We kinda want it to be! Get into those fat stores for fuel please!

Some people find they’re able to exercise without any change when fasting. I actually find it helps pass the time! It’s important to listen to your body and when first starting out be sure to keep the intensity low – think yoga, walks, stretching, gardening – and see how you manage.

10. Fasting is not for everyone

And that someone could be you. If it’s not for you, don’t force it. There are plenty of other strategies we can employ to help you reach your health goals!

Fasting for short periods is generally considered safe but guidance from a health professional is always recommended. Some groups who should not attempt IF without medical consultation include:

  • Those with medical conditions such as cancer, low blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or diabetes (or anyone with difficulty maintaining blood glucose levels, especially if taking insulin), or anyone taking prescribed medications.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women, or women trying to conceive
  • People who are underweight
  • Anyone who has experienced disordered eating patterns
  • Woman with a history of amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation)
  • Older adults
  • Adolescents or growing children

In Summary

Intermittent Fasting can be a powerful tool for our health and longevity but it’s not for the faint hearted and certainly not for everyone. Don’t be a hero (or try to be Ghandi!) when fasting – if in doubt, eat something and seek guidance from us or your doctor.

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Finnell JS et al. Is fasting safe? A chart review of adverse events during medically supervised, water-only fasting. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018; 18: 67.
  2. Runcie J et al. Prolonged Starvation—A Dangerous Procedure. Br Med J. 1970 Aug 22; 3(5720): 432–435.
  3. Harvie M et al. Potential Benefits and Harms of Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Amongst Obese, Overweight and Normal Weight Subjects—A Narrative Review of Human and Animal Evidence. Behav Sci (Basel). 2017 Mar; 7(1): 4.
  4. Popkin BM et al.Water, hydration, and health.Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug;68(8):439-58.
  5. Guelinckx I et al. Contribution of Water from Food and Fluids to Total Water Intake: Analysis of a French and UK Population Surveys. Nutrients. 2016 Oct; 8(10): 630.
  6. Cava E et al. Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss. Adv Nutr. 2017 May 15;8(3):511-519.
  7. Weigle DS et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):41-8.
  8. Calton JB. Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7: 24.

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The Fast and the Furious2019-02-11T02:11:39+00:00

Burn, baby, burn!

 Step awayyyy from the fat burners, pills and potions. Here’s our list of actual real foods that can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Backed by science, not marketing. 

1. Nuts

Just because they’re high in fat doesn’t mean you can’t eat them and still burn it! The high protein, fibre and mono- and polyunsaturated fat content has been proven to help keep us feeling fuller for longer. And therefore less hungry, less often.

One study found that 12 weeks of eating a large handful (42g) of nuts daily led to improvements in diet quality without any weight gain! Go for 25-30g or a small handful each day. You’d be nuts not to.

2. Oily Fish

Similar deal to nuts, our Nemo friends are high in protein and fats that help to keep us satisfied. The omega 3 fats in oily fish are beneficial for moderating our systemic inflammation levels which can help our weight loss efforts and reduce chronic disease risk. A number of studies have found that including oily fish can help to reduce fat stores and waist circumference whilst preserving our lean body mass. Ideal!

3. Greek Yoghurt

The whey and casein proteins in yoghurt can help us feel full and lower our blood glucose and insulin response to the naturally occuring sugars in greek yoghurt. Studies have found that eating high protein yoghurt at brekky or between meals can control our hunger and help manage our mealtime portions later in the day.

Another benefit of Greek yoghurt is the friendly probiotic bacteria it contains. Keeping our intestinal bacteria thriving helps to keep the lining of our gut healthy, which has also been linked to improved weight management. Not all strains are equal, and some probiotic bacteria has been linked to weight gain, including Lactobacillus acidophilus commonly found in yoghurts. So we won’t get ahead of ourselves here.

The yoghurt aisle can be a huge time trap. Before you know it 40 minutes have passed and you’re still not sure if the low fat, blueberry, coconut or kefir is the best choice to dollop on your bircher. Sigh. We feel you.

Check the ingredients list and look for a Greek style with no added sugars. The shorter the ingredients list the better. A little trick: if the nutrition panel shows more than 6g of sugars per 100g then it’s probably got sugar added. We like Chobani and YoPro plain varieties for their protein content and live culture profiles. The best choice for you will depend on your goals, any dietary requirements and of course your taste preference so hit us up if you need some tailored guidance!

4. Eggs

Have we mentioned protein yet? Eggs, particularly the whites, are packed full of it. Studies have shown that including eggs at brekky can manage our hunger and improve our food choices later in the day. Boil and peel a bunch in advance for the week. And don’t stress about the cholesterol. Cholesterol in our diet has only a small impact on our LDL blood cholesterol levels. Go for 6-7 eggs per week and there’ll be no change to your cholesterol levels but a likely reduction in your hunger levels!

5. Chilli and capsicum

It probably gets more credit for ‘fat burning’ potential than it deserves, but that’s Dr Google’s fault, we don’t blame our fiery friends. Chillies and capsicum contain the chemical capsaicin which some studies have linked to an increased ability to burn fat and reduce our appetite. There is more capsaicin in chillies than capsicums, and most of it is stored in the inner white pith of the peppers so eat it all!

6. Green tea

In the same class as chillies – with marketing strategies that perhaps exceed the actual science – green tea gets a big Google gold star. In fact, many weight loss products contain green tea extract! A large, high quality review from back in 2012 does sort of back up these claims, with researchers finding that green tea intake was linked to a small but consistent weight loss in overweight or obese adults.

Regardless, green tea is a good source of antioxidants with plenty of health benefits. Be careful not to overdo it if you’re having anti-cancer treatment (see our Antioxidants vs Anticancer article for more info).

7. Split Peas

It’s a shame to single out these legumes when we simply love them all! But the protein from these little treasures has been studied in humans and shown to have a greater impact on reducing hunger than whey protein. Round of applause for the plants please!

They’re also a good source of fibre, protein and B vitamins and delish added to soups, stews,curries and dahl. Check our our dahl recipe for some inspo for your Meat Free Monday!

Bottom Line

We hope we’ve put some real food winners in the limelight when it comes to keeping us feeling satisfied. It’s okay to keep it simple. In fact, we encourage it.

At the end of the day, when it comes to weight loss we know a cookie cutter approach doesn’t work. One size does not fit every size! If you’re looking for support, find someone who understands you, your unique medical conditions and health goals!

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Siew Ling Tey S. Nuts Improve Diet Quality Compared to Other Energy-Dense Snacks While Maintaining Body Weight. J Nutr Metab. 2011; 2011: 357350.
  2. Noreen E et al. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7: 31.
  3. Couet C et al.Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997 Aug;21(8):637-43.
  4. Kabir M et al. Treatment for 2 mo with n 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces adiposity and some atherogenic factors but does not improve insulin sensitivity in women with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled study.Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1670-9.
  5. Du S et al. Does Fish Oil Have an Anti-Obesity Effect in Overweight/Obese Adults? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS One. 2015; 10(11): e0142652.
  6. Omra JM et al. Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus as probiotics alter body adiposity and gut microflora in healthy persons. Journal of Functional Foods. 2013 Jan;5(1):116-123.
  7. Sanchez M et al.Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 28;111(8):1507-19. 
  8. Milliona M et al. Comparative meta-analysis of the effect of Lactobacillus species on weight gain in humans and animals. Microbial Pathogenesis. 2012;53(2):100-108.
  10. Laura C Ortinau L et al. Effects of high-protein vs. high- fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women. Nutrition Journal.2014;13:97.
  11. Tannis M et al.Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults. Cochrane Systematic Review – Intervention Version published: 12 December 2012.
  12. Abou-Samra R et al.Effect of different protein sources on satiation and short-term satiety when consumed as a starter. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:139

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Burn, baby, burn!2019-03-05T06:26:11+00:00

The power of the mind

Can mindfulness can help with weight loss?

January is often a time for new routines, goal setting and healthy habits. If you’re anything like us you might not be feeling quite yourself after the festive season (or in my case I‘m still feeling every bit of my month-long South American adventure*).

The good news is, research is showing that mindfulness can be a powerful tool in helping you achieve your health and weight loss goals.

Mindfulness. It’s gotta be up there on the list of ‘most googled’ and ‘most hash-tagged’ of 2018. But what does it mean?

Mindfulness refers to ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations’. Be present and accepting.

It’s a well established technique for managing stress, anxiety, improving cognition and mental well-being. Its benefits reach beyond this to improvements in immune function, physical health, and more recently, weight loss.

New research from the UK has found that a group of people who undertook a weight loss program, those who attended mindfulness training lost an average of 2.9kg more than those who didn’t.  That’s a significant difference. And what impressed us even more was that those in the mindfulness group also reported improved self-esteem and confidence in self-management of their health. We LOVE this! 

Whether your aim is to feel great, shift some habits, feel more confident or in control, or improve your relationship with food, mindfulness can be a powerful strategy.

We’re looking forward to some programs and tools to be developed specifically for this purpose (and we’ll be sure to keep you posted!).

In the meantime, if you or someone you care about would benefit from some tailored advice and strategies, reach out to us.

*it was absolutely worth it!

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

Hanson P et al. Application of mindfulness in a tier 3 obesity service improves eating behaviour and facilitates successful weight-loss. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, DOI: 10.1210/jc.2018-00578


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The power of the mind2019-01-13T09:33:22+00:00

Sell-ery Juice

Selling you a damn good myth

We have each been asked about celery juice 3 times this week! So we’re here to dish up the facts, origin and evidence around this so-called  ‘powerful cure all remedy’ which has been heavily trending on Instagram.

A quick google search and The Global Celery Juice Movement will tell you  that consuming the juice of an entire bunch of celery each day has the ability to cure cancer, autoimmune diseases, improve mental well being, detoxify the body, reduce bloating and gastrointestinal symptoms, fight acne, reflux, restore the body to it’s preferred ‘alkaline’ state and so much more.

Now it’s possible we may offend some people here, as it appears many are CONVINCED that this miracle juice can help cure everything. And as much as we wish all the above promises were true, the science simply doesn’t back it up.

Wanna know who has made the huge claim to sell-ery this theory? Medical Medium – Anthony William who was born with incredible power to converse with spirits. Mr. William has claimed that consuming a glass of celery juice each morning, specifically ‘on an empty stomach’ is “the saviour when it comes to chronic illness.” Now if that hasn’t made your sceptical, wait till you hear this! What is even more concerning is that on his website where he has made these bogus claims, it has a disclaimer saying – Anthony William, Inc. dba Anthony William, Medical Medium (“Anthony William, Medical Medium”) is not a licensed medical doctor, chiropractor, osteopathic physician, naturopathic doctor, nutritionist, pharmacist, psychologist, psychotherapist, or other formally licensed healthcare professional, practitioner or provider of any kind. Anthony William, Medical Medium does not render medical, psychological, or other professional advice or treatment, nor does it provide or prescribe any medical diagnosis, treatment, medication, or remedy.

Sorry buddy, didn’t you do just that? Feel free to read the full disclaimer on his page here (recommended if you want some LOLs!)

So, as we can see, the man who claims ‘celery juice is magic’ he himself admits he does not have the necessary qualifications or knowledge to dishing up such claims. This becomes dangerous if this information gets into the wrong hands. Combined with this, the literature shows absolutely no evidence that celery juice cures any of the above. It also doesn’t necessarily cause any harm, except the harm that comes from feeling obliged to consume  bulk celery juice everyday in order to be healthy. Guh, do we have to? These claims have a profound impact on people who are vulnerable (especially those with a serious condition such as cancer or autoimmune conditions) and are looking for a solution!

Celery isn’t bad for you, in fact it’s very good for you! Our recommendation is, if you enjoy it, eat it whole. When you juice celery in a juicer (a blender/nutribullter is a slightly different story) you lose much of the bulk and valuable fibre! Feed your but bugs baby! Celery is also rich in folate, potassium and Vitamin K. For people with kidney disorders, consuming a whole heap of celery juice could be potentially dangerous. Celery is also high in FODMAPs (particularly mannitol), therefore high doses may not be a good idea for people with IBS. There are many more examples we could provide here, but the message is that those who are not medically trained or adequately certified could be providing advice that is counterproductive or even dangerous!

So our take home message –  if you want to drink celery juice, go ahead! It’s cheap, accessible and we add it to soups and nutribullet juices on occasion, but on its own it tastes pretty mediocre. Celery is more the 95% water, therefore it will keep you well hydrated, but hey, why cheat on water?

If you are looking to implement specific dietary strategies to support your health and well being, make sure you take advice from a trained medical professional who understands YOUR body and how to interpret and translate research into practice. Ironically, Mr Medical Medium is doing a far better job at marketing his business than we are…but we’re of the strong belief that marketing something that isn’t scientifically or medically justified is unsafe, unfair and unethical.

And remember… just because you saw it on Instagram, doesn’t mean it’s true!

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Elise Den and Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

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Sell-ery Juice2019-01-10T06:01:29+00:00

Getting fizzy with it

 The lovely waiter offers you still or sparkling…what do you choose?

Carbonated water (soda or mineral water) is water with carbon dioxide dissolved in it under pressure. It cops a bit of heat with concerns about reducing bone mineral density and causing tooth decay…

What’s the real 411 on the fizz?

  • Plain, carbonated water with no added sugar or citric acid does not cause tooth decay. Any natural acidity is quickly neutralised by saliva. The American Dental Association confirms it. 

  • Carbonated drinks don’t increase calcium loss in the bones. A study of 2500 people confirms it. The exception: cola, due to the added phosphorus which increases calcium loss. 

  • Some studies show you’ll eat up to 10% less if you fill your tum with a glass of soda right before a meal.

Our tips

Keep it simple with soda or mineral water and flavour with cucumber, ginger, lemongrass, herbs, fresh fruit (try mandarin peel 👌🏾). Go easy on citric acids if you’re concerned about your teeth.

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

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We’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions at all, then please reach out!


Getting fizzy with it2019-01-08T23:30:47+00:00

To fast or not to fast?

Intermittent Fasting and Cancer

Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed that fasting enabled the body to heal itself; and modern research is proving his theory right! The dietary practice of intermittent fasting (IF) is an age old method which has gained much traction in today’s nutrition world!

So let’s go back to basics: what actually is fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet, rather it is a term used for cycling between periods of eating and fasting. There are many different ways to implement an IF regimen. The most common method is the ‘16 hour fast’ which involves fasting for 16 hours on 3-4 days of the week (e.g. 8pm-12pm). There is also the ‘24 hour fast’ once per week, which needs little explanation, however should only be attempted by seasoned fasters.

Another commonly used method known as ‘intermittent calorie restriction’ or ‘The 5:2 protocol’ was developed by well known doctor Michael Mosely. This involves consuming 2100kJ (500kcal) for women and 2500kJ  (600kcal) for men on 2 non-consecutive days each week.

Each of these methods have been validated by research and in our experience have shown fantastic results with our clients! It is, however, important that you are under the guidance of trained medical professional when embarking on your fasting journey. We have written comprehensive guides to help support you and give your tips and tricks to make fasting easier, jump over to our OnCore Store if you’re interested.

What happens to my body while I’m fasting?

In a normal state, the body uses carbohydrates as it’s primary source of fuel.Dietary sources of carbohydrates include grains, rice, pasta, fruit, starchy vegetables, dairy, legumes and sugar. Complex carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and either used by our body for energy, or transported to our liver and muscles to be stored as glycogen.

During a fast this metabolic process changes. After approximately 8 hours of fasting, our liver glycogen stores are depleted and the body switches to using fat to as its primary energy source. This enhances our fat-burning potential.

Potential benefits of fasting

  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Encourages the break down of fat stores for fuel
  • Promotes weight loss while maintaining lean body (muscle) mass
  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer
  • Reduced free radical damage, slowed ageing and enhanced cellular regeneration
  • Some studies demonstrate enhanced impact of some anti-cancer therapies (I will elaborate on this in more detail later on)

According to one of my favourite researchers, Dr. Valter Longo (I recommend listening to his podcasts if you’re interested in fasting research), fasting or calorie restriction, in the absence of malnutrition, is the most effective physiological intervention for prolonging one’s lifespan and protecting against cancer1. It has the ability to reduce levels of stress hormones, growth factors and inflammatory cytokines, reduce oxidative stress, induce autophagy (cell death) and repair our damaged DNA1.

Image source: Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Mattson et al2

Fasting during cancer treatment

One question I get asked regularly in my practice is “should I fast intermittently during chemotherapy or radiotherapy?”

There have been many studies that have investigated the practice of fasting during anti-cancer therapies (e.g. chemotherapy or radiotherapy), however the evidence is still unclear. Some studies have shown that cancer cells become more susceptible to destruction as a result of fasting, therefore making them sensitive to  the cancer treatment. It has been hypothesised that cancer cells are unable to adjust as quickly to altered metabolic pathways which makes them more vulnerable. Other studies have shown a negative outcomes associated with fasting, as the risk of malnutrition and weight loss during treatment far outweigh the beneficial mechanisms of fasting during cancer treatment.

So what is the answer?

The evidence…

Our beloved Dr. Longo and his colleagues demonstrated positive outcomes after 48 to 72 hours of fasting whilst receiving chemotherapy. They proposed that a synergistic effect appears when combining chemotherapy and fasting, rather than chemotherapy alone3.  It’s important to note, this trial used a animal model (mice), and as we are all aware, the human body is vastly different from that of a mouse. Therefore it is difficult to determine if this method of fasting would be beneficial for humans

In 2017, a large systematic review was undertaken to investigate fasting and its impact on cancer treatment4. Fifteen studies identified tumor suppression in the fasting groups (between 48 to 72 hours as established by Dr. Longo) and ten studies showed chemoprotective outcomes4. Most of the studies were conducted using animal models (rather than humans), which as mentioned before, is a huge limitation when making changes to clinical practice.

Fasting has also shown some promising effects against treatment related toxicities.  A small study undertaken in 2010 showed that periods of fasting, followed by recommencing a balanced healthy diet prior to treatment, reduced the severity of side effects from treatment. There was a reported reduction in weakness, fatigue and gastrointestinal symptoms5, all of which have a profound impact on quality of life and overall health. However given this study had a very small sample size, it is again difficult to use this data in clinical practice.

Precautions and safety

Fasting can be dangerous and is most definitely not a recommended practice for everyone, in particular cancer patients. If this is a practice you wish to partake in, it is important to do so under guidance from a trained medical professional. Implementing a fasting regimen under certain circumstances can be dangerous and can have a negative impact on the patient and their ability to tolerate cancer treatment.

Malnutrition and weight loss can have a profound negative effect on treatment tolerance and both short and long term outcomes6. What’s also important to note is that some drugs (particularly pain medication) will often require patients to have food prior to their administration. Many oral chemotherapy drugs can not be taken on an empty stomach, as taking in conjunction with food helps to increase  absorption. Other medications require specific amounts of fats, proteins and carbohydrates to achieve the desired therapeutic outcome.

Our recommendation

Ongoing research is needed to establish if fasting is a safe and effective method to be implemented during chemo and/or radiotherapy. There are multiple studies currently underway and we can’t wait to see the results. This is a very exciting area with huge potential and as we will continue to update you as new literature and recommendations are released. As mentioned above, fasting is not a safe practice for everyone, in particular those who are malnourished, at risk of malnutrition, underweight or acutely unwell. If undertaken for long periods, fasting can do more harm than good, which can result in treatment dose reductions, treatment delays and increased toxicities. Ensure you ask your oncologists or dietitian before commencing a fasting regimen.

In the context of reducing the risk of cancer or cancer recurrence (post treatment and acute recovery phase), intermittent styles of fasting may be beneficial; feel free to reach out or book an appointment if you think this may be a suitable method for you.

OnCore’s healthy tips 

  1. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
  2. Include lean proteins – poultry, fish, meat, tofu, beans, legumes, dairy.
  3. Select low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates – see our OnCore Nutrition GI resource for a comprehensive guide on how to make carbs your friend! 
  4. Include healthy fats,such as nuts, seeds, fish, avocado and extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Aim for less than 500g red meat per week (That’s approximately 2 servings per week).
  6. If intermittent fasting is a practice of interest to you, this should only be implemented under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner, so feel free to reach out if you need!

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Elise Den

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Longo VD, Fontana L. Calorie restriction and cancer prevention: metabolic and molecular mechanisms. Trends in pharmacological sciences 2010;31:89-98.
  2. Mattson MP, Longo VD, Harvie M. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Research Reviews 2017; 39: 46-58
  3. Lee C, Raffaghello L, Brandhorst S, et al. Fasting cycles retard growth of tumors and sensitize a range of cancer cell types to chemotherapy. Science translational medicine 2012; 4:124-27.
  4. Sun L, Li YJ, Yang X,Gao L, Yi C. Effect of fasting therapy in chemotherapy-protection and tumor-suppression: a systematic review. Translational Cancer Research 2017; 6.
  5. Raffaghello L, Safdie F, Bianchi G, Dorff T, Fontana L, Longo VD. Fasting and differential chemotherapy protection in patients. Cell cycle 2010;9:4474-6.
  6. Bauer JD, Ash S, Davidson WL, Hill JM, Brown T, Isenring EA, Reeves M. Evidence based practice guidelines for the nutritional management of cancer cachexia. Nutrition & Dietetics 2006; 63: S3-S32.

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To fast or not to fast?2019-01-07T01:54:12+00:00

Bittersweet – does sugar feed cancer?

Does sugar feed cancer?

The irresponsibly short answer is ‘yes’.

An equally irresponsible, dismissive answer is ‘no’. The more reasonable (but somewhat dissatisfying) longer answer is ‘yes, but cancer feeds off everything and sugar feeds everything’.

Read on for the full story.

What exactly do you mean by sugar?

When we think of sugar, most will think of white grains in a bowl or on a teaspoon. The term ‘sugar’ can be used for a range of molecules shown in the image below. Scientifically speaking, all sugars are carbohydrates; simple sugars are the links in a carbohydrate chain. The white stuff in the bowl is the disaccharide sucrose. All carbohydrates from food, whether from a cookie, milk or a carrot, will eventually be broken down by our digestive systems to release glucose, fructose and/or galactose.


Carbohydrates can be classified, in simple terms, to 3 main groups. Monosaccharides are single sugar units, disaccharides are 2 units joined together and polysaccharides are more complex carbohydrates made up of many sugar units.


Carbohydrate containing foods

  • Grains, breads, cereals

  • Pasta, rice, noodles

  • Fruit

  • Vegetables

  • Dairy products

  • Legumes and pulses (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peas)

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Honey, syrups

  • Malt, beer

  • Sweets, biscuits, cake, pastries, ice cream, lollies, cordial, juice, soft drinks, cordial

Sugar feeds everything

Carbohydrates, particularly in the form of glucose, are our body’s preferred fuel source. Some cells – red blood cells and cells in our brains – use glucose almost exclusively. Our bodies like carbs so much that if we don’t have carbohydrates coming in from our diet, we have very sophisticated pathways that can generate glucose from other substrates (including amino acids and lactate in a process known as gluconeogenesis).

What this means is that if there is an insufficient energy supply coming in from carbohydrates, our bodies will switch to breaking down fat and muscle stores for fuel. In someone undergoing cancer treatment, protein is the preferred source of fuel. This can lead to weight loss, muscle wasting and malnutrition. And it doesn’t slow the cancer growth.

Cancer cells are greedy. They divide rapidly and grow faster than most healthy cells. This means they require and use more nutrients to grow than the healthy cells that are dividing at a regular rate.

Simple sugars fuel our bodies in a very efficient way. Combine this with the fact that cancer cells are greedy, and it’s no surprise that sugar fuels cancer cells more efficiently than our healthy cells. Anyone who’s had a PET scan explained to them will know that oncologists can use this phenomenon to assess for the presence and spread of cancer. It’s no wonder people ask the question if avoiding sugar would hinder cancer growth. We wish it were that simple.

Cancer cells are greedy

Cancer cells are experts at thriving. Yep. Cancer sucks.

Anyone who’s asked me this sugar question would have undoubtedly endured one of my drawings. What I would have attempted to draw (with much enthusiasm but quite poor artistic execution) is something a little like this…

Angiogenesis is a process of new blood vessels forming from pre-existing vessels.  Image source: National Cancer Institute.

You’ll see in the picture above the increased blood supply in the second image. Angiogenesis is a process of new blood vessels forming from pre-existing vessels. This phenomenon is seen in cancer cells as a means of increasing their supply of nutrients, oxygen and other factors to enhance their growth. Angiogenesis enables cancer cells to thrive more so than healthy cells. Us oncology clinicians hate it. And some very clever medical scientists have developed many anti-angiogenesis therapies (such as bevacizumab (Avastin®)) to use in cancer treatment.

What this means is that even if there is minimal energy and nutrients available within the body, there is more of a chance it will make it to cancer cells than healthy tissue.

Denying your body of carbohydrate foods is likely to have more of an impact on your healthy cells than it will on the cancer. With our brain and our blood cells relying on glucose for fuel, you can imagine the impact on energy levels, mood and performance.

Cancer feeds off everything

Cancer likes carbs. But what many Dr Google’s neglect to mention is that cancer cells will also use protein and fat for fuel in the absence of sugar. This includes your body protein (muscle) and fat stores.

If cancer cells, with their superior nutrient supply, can no longer source sugar from our body, they start to break down our muscle and fat stores for fuel. This means unintentional weight loss. Not good. During cancer treatment and recovery this means muscle wasting. Even worse.

So what do we do?

It’s been proposed that the growth of cancer cells may be slowed by starving them of sugar. The problem with that is there’s currently no method of cutting off the supply to cancer cells while keeping it open to normal cells.

Our best suggestion is to ensure the following:

  1. You’re eating enough quality protein foods to help preserve you lean body mass
  2. Include low glycaemic index carbohydrates in serves about the size of your fist at meals. Fuel your body and your mind.  
  3. Include plant-based fats from nuts, seeds, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil and fish oils. Love Nemo. Be liberal with these if you’re losing weight.
  4. Reach your vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient requirements from a variety of foods, negating the need for supplements.
  5. Keep well-hydrated.

Meeting your nutritional needs from mostly whole, unprocessed foods will help meet your nutritional needs and reduce your intake of added sugars.

What about cancer prevention and recurrence?

The World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting intake of sugar sweetened drinks, ideally avoiding them entirely. Sweetened drinks have been linked to weight gain. Excess body fat increases our risk of 13 different cancers.

Image source: Cancer Research UK


There is also increasing evidence that high glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates can increase our risk of certain cancers. The good news is, by selecting lower GI and glycaemic load carbohydrates we can lower our risk. Check our our comprehensive Glycaemic Index Guide for more details, a savvy shopping guide and tips on how to tailor your plate.

Whilst it’s a good move to limit sugary foods and drinks as part of a healthy diet to avoid excess body fat, it’s less likely to have a meaningful impact on the growth or spread of cancer cells already present.

The bottom line

The statement that ‘sugar feeds cancer’ is an oversimplification of a highly complex process.

It suggests that cancer relies solely on sugar for growth. This is inaccurate.

It implies that by avoiding sugar, and therefore all carbohydrates sources, we can starve cancer cells. This may happen in a test tube when there’s no other fuel options, but in a complex human body with muscle and fat stores up for grabs, this simple statement can lead to dangerous food restrictions that can weaken our bodies physically, physiologically and mentally.

For specific advice for you, reach out to us today.

Tailor your plate with OnCore – your oncology nutrition experts.

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

  1. Angiogenesis insights from a systematic overview. New York: Nova Science. 2013.
  2. McDougall SR, Anderson AR, Chaplain MA. Mathematical modelling of dynamic adaptive tumour-induced angiogenesis: clinical implications and therapeutic targeting strategies. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 2006 Aug. 241(3):564–89.
  3. Spill F, Guerrero P, Alarcon T, Maini PK, Byrne HM. Mesoscopic and continuum modelling of angiogenesis. Journal of Mathematical Biology. 2015 Feb. 70(3):485–532.
  4. Sieri S et al. Dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, and cancer risk: results from the EPIC-Italy study.Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 29;7(1):9757.

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Bittersweet – does sugar feed cancer?2019-06-30T06:36:43+00:00

OnCore’s 6 tips for navigating festive feasts

Don’t let anything kill your festive spirit this year.

Here are our 6 Top Tips for navigating festive feasts…drum roll please…

1. Don’t overthink it. So you ate too much cheese. Acknowledge it then move on. 😊

2. Move when you can. A brisk walk with the fam is a wonderful way to pull yourself out of a pudding nap. 🚶🏽‍

3. Food envy? Have a little bit of everything. But just a little bit. Recruit a friend and remember sharing is caring 👫

4. Eat mindfully. Listen to your body. Stop when you’re satisfied. 🧠

5. Savour every mouthful. The festive season is delicious. Enjoy it with your loved ones! 🕯🎄💝

6. Refer to point 1. 🧀😉

T A I L O R  Y O U R  P L A T E   |   B U I L D  Y O U R  B E S T  Y O U 

Lauren Atkins

Accredited Practising Dietitian

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OnCore’s 6 tips for navigating festive feasts2019-01-05T04:30:18+00:00