Diet & Nutrition

Ask Dr Kerryn Phelps

This month, we're launching a new service, in partnership with our medical expert Professor Kerryn Phelps, called Ueathealthy. Developed by Kerryn and her partner, Jackie Stricker, Ueathealthy is an online health food store catering to those suffering from food allergies, such as Coeliac disease, wheat intolerance and diabetes. It offers a range of healthy products, including organic, gluten-free and biodynamic whole foods, with delivery to anywhere in Australia. To order, visit www.ueathealthy.com.au.
In conjunction with the launch, Dr Kerryn will be online this month to answer your questions about health foods and allergies. Just email DrKerrynPhelps@acpmagazines.com.au and she'll answer them on our website.
Here are some questions she's already received:
What's all the hype about antioxidants? How are they beneficial and how do I increase my intake?
Antioxidants are natural substances produced in our bodies or obtained from the foods that we eat — in particular, plant foods such as fruits and vegetables and wholegrains. They act by helping the body rid itself of harmful free radicals which attack the body's cells and are produced by normal bodily processes such as aging and by external sources such as pollutants. Free radicals may cause damage leading to heart disease, cancer, cataracts and arthritis, and the consumption of antioxidants can slow down this process.
Vitamins C, E, Beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A) and folate are all antioxidants. You can also find them in some minerals, such as selenium, copper, zinc and manganese. Phytochemicals, the chemicals found in plant foods, also have antioxidant properties.
What are omega-3 fatty acids and how can they improve health?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats found in fish and seafood and in several plants and plant oils (such as canola, linseed and walnuts).
Several studies have shown that omega-3 fats can be beneficial in helping to reduce risk factors of heart disease such as triglyceride levels and blood clotting.
Omega-3 fats have also been shown to be beneficial in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and are important for brain and visual development in babies.
Recent studies have also found evidence of the potential therapeutic benefits of omega-3 fats in the treatment of depression, so the regular inclusion of fish in the diet (two-three serves/week) or omega-3 supplementation can be very beneficial to your health.
Is there any evidence for greater nutritional value of organic foods compared to conventional foods?
Organic food refers to food which is grown and produced without the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers. Organic foods are not genetically modified and are free from pesticides and growth promoting substances such as steroids, hormones and antibiotics. Organic farming is also concerned with protecting the environment by conserving water, soil and energy, and using renewable resources and natural farming cycles.
There have been a number of studies comparing nutritional content of organic and conventionally grown foods and most have shown no significant differences in key vitamin and mineral contents. However, research has shown that, although the differences are small, organic food may have nutritional benefits over conventionally grown foods. These include:
  • lower levels of harmful nitrates
  • higher vitamin C levels (although this may be because of lower fluid concentrations in organic foods)
  • higher levels of phytochemicals such as lycopenes, flavonols, and polyphenols (naturally occurring plant chemicals that have several health benefits and protect against chronic disease)
  • higher levels of selenium
Other benefits of organic foods include improved taste (particularly in apples, carrots and tomatoes) and environmental benefits.

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