Category: Health and well-being

Tricking your brain

Tricking your brain is easier than you think. You’re smart enough to see through so-called “influencers” and reality shows. But, tricking your brain on other levels is easier than you may expect…

Sensory manipulation can get to you without you knowing it

Tricking your brain…

There is a large volume of research out that is especially used by marketing companies. Mostly, this research looks at ways to tricking your brain into making extra purchases. That’s the stuff you didn’t plan for. Furthermore, it looks into creating sensations that influence your behaviour. Really, this is fascinating stuff, and also shows that it’s easier to fall for deception than you realise. So how do they do it…?

The tricks, the basics…our senses

The human senses are easily fooled. The eyes connect to the brain, so how stuff looks often influences how we feel about it. Let’s have a look (pun intended!)…

Firstly, there’s the research that evaluates appearance : It showed than thin sliced beef and fanned-out avocado slices were perceived as tasting better!

Not only the way it’s served matters, but even colour comes into play. Things that are pink are regarded as more sweet, even if they contain up to 10% less sugar! Even more baffling is the fact that drinks served in blue glassware were regarded as more refreshing than the same drinks served in a red glass. How’s that for tricking the brain…

Secondly, it was shown that 88% of people respond to aromas. Obviously, smell is another major one of our senses. You may notice that shops use nice smells to make you stay longer (and thus spend more), and we all know that when you have an open-for-inspection for your house, you should have the smell of freshly baked cookies to entice the prospective buyer!

Of course, hearing is part of our senses too. High-pitched music enhances sweet and sour flavours, while low-pitched sounds enhance the bitter flavours. This seems to be especially important in cocktail bar environments, where your cocktail will taste different depending on the music played. Mind-blowing, right?

Other Influences

Ever been to a restaurant that used elaborate and detailed descriptions on its menu? Regional names and rustic wording are appealing, but these chef-tricks don’t dazzle anymore. UK research shows this; the same foods, presented in two different menu styles, one elaborate and descriptive, the other plain and simple, proved that more than 60% of guests chose to go for the simpler descriptions.

Price is another influencer. For instance, when expensive wine and cheap wines had their labels swapped, 86% of people did not detect it and vouched that the more expensive one was the better wine! So, next time you have guests, you know what to do…

To finish off all this hilarious wisdom, research looked at the environment, and found that whiskey tasted best in a wood-panelled room… so, does that mean chilled vodka should be drunk in an igloo?

The final word on marketing

The final word on smart marketing sits with the supermarkets. Have you noticed how the things you really don’t need, such as special offers on chocolate and biscuits, are often found at the top end of the isle? And, have you noticed how many supermarkets have rounded end-of-isle blocks? This makes you slow down, and turn around the slight bend at just the right speed so that these eye-catching “savers” (that were never on your grocery list) will end up in your trolley!

Now that you know all these tricks, you’ll be well equipped to “steel yourself” and not let “tricking your brain” cost you extra when you shop or go out!

Are you hydrating enough in winter?

Drinking enough water is as important in winter as in it is in summerAsk yourself: Are you hydrating enough in winter? It’s easy to forget this very important aspect of your health when the temperature drops. So, have a think…when was your last glass of water? How well did you hydrate today?

The appeal of water in winter

The appeal of water in winter is low. In summer, we guzzle heaps of the stuff; we are hot, we are active and we are thirsty. We drink without needing to be reminded. In winter it’s different. You have to remind yourself to drink. Otherwise, the question really is a clear one: Are you hydrating enough in winter?

Why do you need water in winter?

Why do you need to be reminded that you need water in winter? Well, simply because, first of all, it’s easy to forget. Secondly, in the colder days, the appeal of a cold glass of water isn’t all that tempting. And finally, you don’t realise how dehydrating heating is. Heaters at home, in the car, at work…the list of heat sources is aplenty. And, all that artificial heat dries you out. Not only that, cold air outside also is dehydrating. So, all in all, the risk of dehydration is probably as big in winter as it is in summer.

How do you know if your body is well hydrated?

How do you know? Well, first of all, you may have been good at keeping up your usual intake. If that’s the case, good for you. Perhaps, you may have a certain drink bottle you always use, so you know your intake. If not, an easy way to test your hydration levels is to press on the inner top of your thumb, where the skin is round, and where your fingerprint is. Does the skin bounce back up into its rounded shape immediately? That means your hydrating well, and your body contains good water levels. If the thumb stays flat, you’re dehydrated

How do you increase water intake in winter?

Well, there are some tricks to increase water intake in winter. First thing to remember is that coffee doesn’t count, and is actually a diuretic. That means it dehydrates you more. Same for black tea. However, green tea is hydrating. Same for any herbal tea. Generally speaking, a lot of your water intake in winter can come from warm water with ginger slices for instance. Good for your digestion, calming to the nerves and a brilliant anti-inflammatory. Not a fan of ginger? How about peppermint? Or chamomile? Both soothing and calming to the nervous system and the digestive system.

A good trick to increase your water intake in winter is to ensure that each time you put the kettle on for a cuppa, you have a glass of warm water first. That way, you will be sure to have at least 4-6 glasses a day. And drink water while you commute as well. Also, remember to drink in the evening; most people only drink water in the daytime. However, at night, you still need to top up those hydration levels.

So, will you be hydrating well this winter? Of course you will! Now you know how to, and what to be aware of.

10 Minute Meal: Quick, easy, healthy

A delicous pasta, spinach and canned salmon or tuna meal. Ready in 10 minutes, with 5 ingredients and one pot.
Quick, easy, healthy: 10 minutes, 5 ingredients, one pot. Perfect!

Busy day? Rushing home? Here’s a 10 Minute Meal that’s quick, easy and healthy, and only requires five basic ingredients and one pot. It doesn’t get much better than that!

10 Minute Meal ingredients

Fresh fettucine, 1 pack of 375 grams, a little olive oil, 1 tub of herb and garlic cream cheese, 250 grams washed baby spinach, and 1 can of salmon 410 grams (or tuna, whatever you like best).

How to make this 10 Minute Meal

First of all, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Then, drop in the fettucine and cook for around 3 minutes, or until al dente, as per your preference. Next, drain the water. Toss the pasta with a little olive oil. After that, place the cream cheese on top of the pasta, and place spinach on top of that as well. Just for good measure, add 2 tbs. of water and stir. Now, put the lid on pot and set on lowest heat possible.

Meanwhile, clean the can of salmon by draining the liquid, and removing dark skin and bones. However, if using tuna, just drain the liquid. Use a fork to cut the canned fish into smaller pieces, but don’t mash it. Mix the fish through the pasta. By now, your spinach will have wilted and the cream cheese will have melted. Stir everything through well, and use some salt and pepper to finish off.

There you go, your 10 Minute Meal is now ready to be enjoyed!

You can make it more fancy by adding some cut smoked salmon through the pasta as well, or using more tuna (add an extra can).

Enjoy your 10 Minute Meal: Quick, Easy, Healthy

Don’t be SAD this winter

SAD or ‘the winter blues’

Let’s be real…summer is over. Winter woolies are out and we embrace the cold. Hearty stews, wild weather walks and crackling fires all have charm. However, there’s a little catch this season… Don’t be SAD this winter.

Globally, around 10% of people suffer from SAD. This is short for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a form of (seasonal) depression.  SAD is also know as “winter depression” or “winter blues”. It seems linked to a lack of sunshine.  With SAD, symptoms start to develop in autumn. Then, they gradually worsen as winter progresses. So, get equipped so you won’t be SAD this winter

Winter’s subtle changes: Cravings and doonas

Winter changes our needs and bodies. You’ll want more sweet and starchy foods. Gaining weight is not uncommon. Sleeping becomes more important; all you want to do is snuggle up under your doona. Science thinks this dates back to how our ancestors hibernated in winter. After all, this was a season of hardship in ‘Caveman’ times.  Of course, you conserve energy by sleeping when foods is scarce. More weight and more sleep reduced the need for hunting and gathering. Now, we don’t have to worry about lean times. However, that ingrained, ancient pattern of behaviour stays.

Don’t be SAD this winter

Apart from wanting to stay “in your cave”, you may feel unmotivated, lethargic and more tired than usual. You may not understand why, and neither does your doctor. SAD is under- or misdiagnosed, potentially even more so in Australia. After all, we’re “the country where the sun always shines.” In northern areas of Europe, the United States and Canada, SAD affects an estimated 5-23% of the population.

Sunlight, where are you?

In Australia, data about affected people is unknown. However, it may well match these numbers. This is especially likely for the southern states. The amount of winter sunlight in Victoria and Tasmania is amazingly low. It can be as little as 3.8 hours per day. Not as bad as the United Kingdom, but still… There, from December to February an average of 2.1 hours of sunlight is common. But still, just over 3 hours isn’t much. Imagine you’re stuck indoors at work during those few hours. You’ll get no direct sunlight at all, perhaps for days on end.

Old knowledge, backed up by modern-day research

Hippocrates, the forefather of modern medicine, was smart. He mentioned lack of sunlight as a cause for lethargy, back in 400 BC. Before him, the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs practiced “sun worship,”. South American Incas did the same. Without research, they recognized the importance of sunlight. 

In modern medicine, SAD was first and formally recognized in 1984, by Norman Rosenthal. This professor at the American National Institute of Mental Health suffered his own ‘winter blues’.  Miraculously, he found that Light Therapy helped. Further research was done in ‘cold’ countries. There, grey skies are dominant for six months of the year.

It’s all in the science of sunlight

First of all, lack of sunlight contributes to SAD. The pineal gland, located behind the forehead, reacts to sunlight. It is responsible for the production and release of hormones such as melatonin. This hormone is produced and released under the influence of light: made during the day, and released when darkness surrounds us – this hormone facilitates sleep.

Brain biochemistry

Secondly, biochemical pathways convert melatonin to serotonin. Serotonin makes us feel good and levels are closely linked to mood changes. This is why antidepressants such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are sometimes used for SAD patients. These prescription medicines curb depression and SAD by keeping serotonin levels balanced.

Sun, sun, oh glorious sun

Finally, sunlight also assists with the formation of vitamin D in the body. Low exposure to sunlight encourages low vitamin D levels. Science proves a link between low levels of vitamin D and forms of depression. Modern-day lifestyles may not enable outdoor activities, especially in winter. Low vitamin D can also occur when dietary intake is inadequate.

Don’t be SAD this winter

The medical world often treats SAD with anti-depressants. As mentioned, light therapy is effective. Want to be pro-active to avoid these winter blues? Firstly, eat plenty oily fish or take cod liver oil. Both will provide vitamin D. Even better, make an appointment and get your needs assessed properly. That way, you avoid the need for chemical antidepressants. After all, these may destabilise overall health. Vitamin D and other specific nutrients can be more effective, without side effects. On a final note, be relieved to know that symptoms of SAD disappear in most people once spring starts. Book now, and don’t be SAD this winter

Experience ASMR, the new food sensation!

Get ready for ASMR, or the latest onslaught on your senses…

Get ready for a sensory experience…

ASMR , or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is slowly becoming mainstream. ASMR you say…what on earth is that? In plain English, this means that you get a tingling sensation after exposure to something particular. Food and drink for instance. That sensation starts on the scalp and makes its way down the neck and spine. It is a feeling generally experienced as pleasurable. It plays on your senses of hearing, feeling, seeing, smelling or touching, and impacts your mood. It’s a response far more powerful that you know.

Tingle like a Pringle

For starters, we get a sense of ASMR when we get something to eat. Those chips you’re eating have just the right crunch to them. That chocolate has just the right density and bite to it. The cellophane wrapper crinkles in just the right way to get you exited about what you will shortly eat. The pop on the beer bottle is just loud enough. And so forth…

With fresh food, it is no different. Just like the chips, your fresh apple is crunchy, and juicy, and that’s what you like about it. If that apple sits in the fruit bowl for three weeks, it loses its crunch, and at best, you will cook with it, or perhaps compost it. It’s lost its appeal, it has lost its ASMR.

ASMR and Marketing

Do you think those chips have that crunch by coincidence? No way! As a matter of fact, deep science has gone into every manufactured food or drink product that is not essential to your survival. That means snack foods, impulse foods, fast foods. Teams of sensory experts and psychologists work on this behind-the-scenes, to create tempting experiences for foods and drinks you don’t need. Now, however, it is coming to the forefront as shown by the many You Tube videos available. Furthermore, the first ASMR TV ad went viral when it was played during the USA Super Bowl 2019. If you missed it, have a look here

ASMR in overall life

In reality, ASMR is used far more than you may realise. There are tricks such as the way certain shops light their fitting rooms, even the curvature of the mirror, right down to scents and music. All these tricks ensure that you linger longer in a retail space. The sensory experience is what counts. It’s even often age-appropriate; shops that sell clothes for young people have a totally different atmosphere than shops that cater to upmarket older clientele. Two extremes, but you get it.

Furthermore, another angle for ASMR use is the “whispering” audio and videos available online. You Tube has thousands of them. Some have a very calming effect, with soft whispering voices, and sounds of water, rain and so forth. As a result, some people find these effective for relaxation and sleep. Other offers are slightly weird (eating sounds only) or creepy (there’s a nurse doing ASMR head lice checks!). No matter what, the sense of ‘inclusion’ is really stimulated, and it’s easy to get dragged into the sensation. Have a look for yourself if this phenomena interests you; plenty on offer online. Please note that these videos may not all have appropriate content.

ASMR and the future

No doubt, ASMR is going to grow in the future. For example, your next TV will come with AI, or Artificial Intelligence, so it will know what you like. Potentially, it may be so smart, it will offer you targeted ASMR advertisements. You’ll have bigger screens with incredible pixilation. ASMR will ensure that all your senses are engaged when you watch an ad on your 8K supersize 92 inch screen. See how that Super Bowl beer would look on that! Of course, it’s all in the name of progress, and of course, it drives your consumer dollar into the right hands: the large multi-global juggernauts who can afford a team of specialists to tempt you beyond your wildest dreams.

Meanwhile, ASMR can be an exciting new experience, and lead to discovery of new-found sensations. It can help you relax, it can make you laugh, or it can just get to you, without you being aware. Now you know!

ASMR is exciting and stimulating, but the greatest ASMR trigger is nature itself

Charcoal: hype or benefits?

The latest trend is Charcoal…

From BBQ fuel to facial scrub and internal “magic” detox, charcoal is the latest trend

In the world of natural health, there is always a new trend, a “new kid on the block”. In this case, it’s actually an old kid, but rebranded and well marketed… the latest trend is Charcoal. What is it, why would you use it and what does it do? Read on and find out.

Charcoal: the basics

Once used as fuel for heaters, or for artists as a drawing tool, now charcoal is popular for different reasons. Charcoal is the end product of solid fuel burns. That can be things like wood or coconut husks. Technically, this is a slow process, done in the absence of oxygen, in a contained environment. No air means the very slow burning of wood allows charcoal to form. Uniquely, the slow-burn process means that water and gases are removed from the wood. This so-called “activated charcoal” is now porous, like a sponge with millions of tiny holes in it. These pores can capture, bind and remove toxins, heavy metals, and poisons.

Charcoal commercialised

Of course, having a natural “toxin sponge” that is relatively cheap to produce, and is widely available, leads to commercial exploration of such a product. Until now, charcoal was used mostly by savvy travellers who had heard about its ability to help with travel bugs such as “Bali Belly”. A few days of charcoal caps usually solves the problem efficiently, without harmful effects. As such, charcoal has been used for decades, and this is not a new find. Yet now, charcoal is the latest trend in self-medication for health and beauty…

What you need to know about charcoal

Charcoal is natural. That’s great. In gastric upsets, it binds the toxin or bug, and removes it naturally. However, charcoal also binds essential minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Therefore, charcoal intake should be limited to a maximum of 3-4 days at the most, at any given time. Unfortunately, the current new products come to market as Detoxifiers, a magic buzz word that sells products really well! Charcoal is a magnificent detoxifier, but only in the gut. Charcoal will do nothing for toxins circulating in the body, or trapped in organs such as the liver, lungs, kidneys and brain. So, that claim makes it a hype.

Moreover, even though these commercial health products may have a small printed warning about extensive use, you may not notice this. If you buy it in a supermarket, nobody will tell you, and if you buy it in a pharmacy, it all depends on whether someone advises you on the harm of using charcoal long-term.

The latest trend is charcoal…

To be honest, charcoal is really useful. You’ll find it in facial and body washes or masks, to purify the skin. You can buy charcoal toothpaste, for whiter teeth (claim unsubstantiated). It is great for a few days use for upset stomachs, bloating and travel bugs. But now, according to advertisements, you can use it in capsule form for detoxifying and beauty from within…and those claims makes it both a trend and a hype! So, beware of this, and use it sensibly. If you are after a total body detox, contact the clinic for a proper treatment plan at

Don’t add charcoal to smoothies, as it will prevent the absorption of the nutrients of that smoothie. Same goes for juices; if you make you own, don’t add charcoal, now matter how trendy it is. Research shows commercial apple juice with added charcoal has a reduced vitamin C, B1, B2 and B5 content. Adding charcoal to health foods is a waste of time and money, and reduces absorption of those magnificent nutrients in that health food you just spent a fortune on. Be wise, use charcoal only when needed!

Charcoal…make it your friend but not your permanent companion!

USA declares war on eggs

Eggs are in the news again…let me unscramble the myths for you

Oh no…the decades-long debate about eggs has just flared up again. A new study from the USA declares war on eggs due to cholesterol content. However, reading the actual study (which I have!), I’d say this is open to interpretation. Let’s unscramble what the media outlets spew out, and put it in perspective. War on eggs. Really?

Good egg, bad egg

How do you like your eggs? Soft boiled? By all means, that’s a good egg. Fried in oil, with bacon? Unfortunately, that’s a bad egg. Why, you ask? Because of the cholesterol, that’s why. Frying…bacon…it all adds up. However, there’s so much more to it than counting milligrams (mg) of cholesterol in an egg in order to declare war on it. Let’s face it, eggs are one of the most debated foods in our daily diet, and guidelines keep changing. That doesn’t help you, and you feel confused. For this reason, I’m giving you all the key scientific facts. Then we’ll get back to the debate.

Egg facts

  • Eggs contain cholesterol in the yolk only
  • A large egg can contain up to 186 mg of cholesterol in the yolk
  • If you dry-fry an egg (no oil), the cholesterol content is about the same as for boiled, poached or scrambled.
  • Eggs contain vital nutrients: they are a superb source of protein, and have plenty minerals, vitamins and good fatty acids that are essential for vision, brain function and … heart health!
  • Raw, lean Sirloin steak contains around 100 mg of cholesterol per 100 grams. A strip of (uncooked) bacon contains around the same( average 1 mg for every gram)

The birthplace of cholesterol

First of all, your body makes cholesterol. It is a hormone. In fact, it’s the Mother of all Hormones, and essential to human survival. Under stress, the body produces more cholesterol. As a result, that vital, fatty, unwanted molecule helps produce cortisol and adrenaline. We need these hormones to cope with stressful situations. In cave-man speak: These are our fight-or-flight hormones. It’s natural for cholesterol to go up when stress is present. However, the cave folk did not have eggs and bacon for breakfast and perhaps a burger and fries on the way home to the cave. Oh no…they burnt up their cholesterol by utilising the provided hormones to fight or run.

We don’t engage in physical fights anymore. Our stress-cholesterol has nowhere to go. Instead, we add to it by not-so-good food choices at times of stress. Burgers, fries, donuts; those are the foods we go for when we need a ‘stress fix’. Nasty bosses, horrible traffic, too many bills, emails, and grumpy teens…high fat, high sugar is what the body craves at such moments. All high-cholesterol foods.

Back to the egg…

In short, the findings that stood out in this latest research looked at egg consumption over 17 years, and involved around 30.000 people. That’s a good study set-up in itself. Risk factors for heart disease went up in 27% of the group at two eggs per day. However, critics of the study, and even the authors, point out that many other foods are unaccounted for. Red meat, processed meats and high-fat dairy such as butter and whipped cream also have high cholesterol content. In other words, do we declare war on the egg? Not necessarily. Furthermore, according to Harvard and other medical powerhouses, the link between dietary intake of cholesterol, and heart disease is hard to prove. And that’s why the egg debate will rise…and fall…and rise…and fall.

Enjoy your eggs responsibly!

Of course, you’re sensible enough to not eat two eggs daily. Not only that, try something new. Swap bacon for wilted spinach, or grilled mushrooms and tomatoes. Have them scrambled with chives, and use low-fat milk. Poach to top navy beans and a bit of chilli sauce for a high protein, high fibre filling meal. Whatever you do, don’t cut out these healthy gifts of nature, jam-packed with healthy nutrients

For an assessment of your dietary cholesterol intake, why not do a three-day Foodzone? Then you’ll know exactly where you’re at.

Shrinkflation…smaller food sizes, same old price


These delicious mini tomatoes are the best form of avoiding manufacturer’s Shrinkflation

We have a new buzzword…Shrinkflation! What does it mean? Well, simply put, shrinkflation is what you experience in the supermarket. Smaller food sizes, smaller packaging. Not only do we see this in ready-to-eat meat products like sausage rolls, but also in confectionery and in snack foods. Smaller size, but at the same price. Generally speaking, it may only be a 10 or 15 gram reduction, but in some cases it can be up to 17% of the original size. No doubt, you have noticed this yourself. And you probably were not too impressed…less bang for your buck, that’s shrinkflation for you.

Shrinkflation, the good side…

Being offered a smaller portion size is good for our health. Recently released statistical data from the UK shows that by reducing portion size, it helps curb the obesity trend. In that case, with Australia being at the top end of the World Obesity Ranking, that is probably not a bad thing. Considering that 1 in 4 Aussie kids is obese, and that 68% of adults carry too much weight, shrinkflation may help us in a subtle way. Not great for your hip pocket, but better for your waist.

Less calories, less sugar, salt and fats, that’s Shrinkflation!

The media can come across with messages about smaller sized products in different ways. Mostly, it’s negative, and focuses on the “rip off” aspect to the consumer. However, data now shows we actually benefit from these reduced serves of foods we shouldn’t really have anyway.

Fresh foods never suffer from shrinkflation

When choosing a healthy and balanced diet, make sure at least 80-90% of your daily intake is made from scratch. That means fresh, seasonal and home cooked. This way, you avoid manufacturer’s shrinkflation, and you eat much better. Fresh foods come in “shrunk” sizes too these days, but not as a rip-off. Mini cucumbers are the latest rage, and are rich in minerals, water, fibre and other nutrients. Mini tomatoes are readily available in many varieties, from cherry to Roma, and contain vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. 

So…snack away on mini natural foods and you will beat Shrinkflation by a mile. Good for your hip pocket, great for your waistline, and better for the planet too! 

Summer Salmon Salad

Summer Salmon Salad

Salmon Salad, a delicious meal for hot days….eat it with fresh, crusty sourdough bread, or, as shown, use Cos lettuce leaves for scoops of mouth-watering, healthy summer food with added crunch

Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves 4-6


2 medium potatoes 
1 can pink salmon, 415 g.
1 can red salmon, 105 g.
2-3 tbsp. whole egg mayonnaise, soy-mayonnaise or an egg-free substitute
3-4 tbsp. of good quality real, natural yogurt (Greek style, thick)
1/2 tbsp. of tomato sauce
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
fresh lemon juice

Cos lettuce leaves
Boiled eggs

How to make it (even for low level cooking skills)

Peel and boil potatoes. Drain, mash with fork, set aside to cool.
Drain the liquid from the cans of salmon. Mix red and pink together; the red salmon adds depth of flavour while pink salmon keeps costs down.
Clean salmon: remove black skin parts, etc., but keep bones in the mixture. Mash with fork or with blender to ensure bones are completely emulsified (the bones provide excellent calcium, so why throw them out?).

Mix cleaned salmon in with potatoes. Set aside.

Mix mayo (or substitute), tomato sauce, mustard and yogurt in a bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to own liking. 

Mix sauce into potato and salmon mix. Mash together, but keep a level of texture in it; don’t “puree” it. Store in fridge for 1 hour before serving.

Serve as desired:  add boiled eggs, tomatoes, etc as per your own liking. See photo. Serve with fresh breads, in a wrap, on a Cos leaf or as a dip with crackers.

This Salmon Salad can be stored in the fridge for maximum 48 hours.

TIP: Do not mix tomatoes and cucumber into the Salmon Salad mix. The liquids from these vegies will make the mixture go quite soggy, and it will diminish flavour and texture.

What are manufactured meats?

A plate full of quality cold cuts is preferable to many other products

Manufactured meats…mystery foods with strange ingredients

Almost everyone will have some form of manufactured meats in their fridge. (Unless you are vegan or vegetarian). Manufactured meats are a common staple food. Your family likes them, is used to them and expects them. But, do you know what is in them? Generally speaking, manufactured meats are mystery foods with strange ingredients. Read on, and be prepared to be shocked.

Ham, kabana, salami, sausages…

Of course, ham is a favourite for sandwiches. Kabana or salami cannot be missing from any decent party platter.
Not only that, but your BBQ is simply not complete without a dozen humble sausages sizzling away. Manufactured meats are everywhere, are a common part of the Australian diet, and can be of a good, or a terrible quality. Which meats are okay for your family, and what should you avoid, or at least be aware of?

What can you expect in manufactured meats?

What can you expect in manufactured meats? Good question. It all depends on the manufacturer, the type of meat, the quality and its shelf life.

Meat products ingredients are governed by regulations. However, regulations use the term “meat” loosely. Meat can be anything that is connected to an animal, except for offall. Unfortunately, everything found between the nose to the tip of the tail is regarded as meat, apart from the heart, tongue, liver, kidneys, brain and tripe. That leaves a lot of body parts you don’t really want not eat! Manufactured meats need to have a minimum of 50% “meat”, and no more than 50% fat.

In general, products that are hand-made or from an artisan source (such as special salamis, Polish sausages, and other delicatessen) may potentially have the best( i.e. cleanest) ingredients. Most often, these products are made with care, love and traditional recipes. However, be aware that salt will always be high. Sodium works as a preservation agent, and seals moisture in the product. Ask about the use of preservatives; real craftspeople won’t mind.

Not just sausages…

Sadly, it’s not just sausages filled with the cheapest and nastiest body parts permitted. The same goes for Frankfurters, hot dogs, cocktail sausages, Devon, Spam and the so-called “Smiley” or “Thomas the Tank Engine” sliced meats you can buy at any supermarket. Not only is the meat content of extremely low quality (that’s why it’s cheap), these products are also full of additives. The colours of the meat (red, pink, and mixed in the Smiley) stand out as quite un-natural. That’s because they are! Bright pink hotdogs look like that because of the use of nitrites/nitrates. Same for the patterns in kids’ cold meats. Other additives will be present too, making these foods very undesirable. Meat pies have come under scrutiny too, as they are well-known to contain huge amounts of fat; some pies only contain 23% meat! The rest is…you don’t want to know…

Nitrates, sulphates and sodium

Generally speaking, manufactured meats contain Nitrates/Nitrites, Sulphites and Sodium. Nitrites give meat a bright, fresh, red colour. Nitrates occur naturally in plants and foods and pose no risk. Chemical nitrites do. They are regarded as potential carcinogenic. Sulphur is a naturally occurring chemical too, and does no harm. In fact, it is an important component of the anti-inflammatory effect of foods such as cabbage and broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. It is also in eggs. However, sulphur dioxide (SO2) is approved as a preservative. As a result, sulphites can cause severe allergic reactions in those who are sulphur sensitive.

Shape, colour, texture…your clues to manufactured meat choices

Let’s be real. The shape, colour and texture of the manufactured meat can tell you a lot. Is it a natural ham-off-the-bone? Great. If you like ham, enjoy! Is it a square, pre-sliced piece of meat, in exactly the right size to fit a sandwich? Run as fast as you can…Surely, no pig is born with a square bum the size of your bread. This is not real. This is compressed meat. Highly likely, it’s injected with salty water. Water increases weight, (increases profit) and salt holds the water! Furthermore, expect preservatives for long shelf-life(sulphites) and nitrites to give it colour. The same applies to the Smiley and Thomas sliced meats. No meat is born that way!

Being smart about manufactured meats

Being smart about manufactured meats will help you determine what you permit in your body. Want some bacon on a Sunday morning? Of course, not really a great food, full of sodium and the above-mentioned preservatives, but view it as a treat. Not too often, then it’s (sort of) okay. Serving a party platter? Look for alternatives to pre-packed mass-produced hams, etc. Try Prosciutto or Parma ham( expensive but worth it) or local ham-off-the-bone. Same for salami; good quality hand-made, but accept some sulphites and nitrates as well. Ask your local butcher or deli if you can read the label of the product if available. Avoid hot dogs, cocktail sausages, Devon, Smileys and the lot. After all, you can live without those!

Choose wisely, look for quality over price, and enjoy your occasional manufactured meats as a treat

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