Paleo, 5:2, Atkins, quitting sugar, juice cleanses: the glut of conflicting information about the latest and greatest diets has left many Australians confused when it comes to finding the right health path. But a new book, written by leading Australian naturopath Karina Francois, proposes that making a permanent change to one's health doesn't come with a fancy name or a celebrity endorsement: it comes down to clean eating and a change of mindset.
Clean Food, Clear Thinking goes far beyond providing facts about healthy and unhealthy foods and recipes, educating the reader on the basic fundamentals required for health and weight-loss. "Often we know what foods are in line with what our body needs, but then the mind gets involved and sabotages the commitment to our health. Clean Food, Clear Thinking goes beyond the food we eat and how our body uses it, teaching the reader how to change their thinking to eliminate habits that have a detrimental effect on our health," says Karina.
Based on naturopathic principles, Karina's approach eliminates the need to ever go on a "diet" or try the latest fads. "My book aims to empower the reader with an understanding of what our cells need to function optimally. Given that our DNA hasn't changed in over 150,000 years, it follows that our cellular needs remain the same," says Karina.
"One of the main issues with the latest diets such as 5:2 and Paleo are that they are a one-size-fits-all approach, and while people might see results in the short-term, they simply can't sustain these extreme diets in the long-term. Clean Food, Clear Thinking is about making a long-term change to your eating habits."
A leading naturopath, health educator and public speaker, Clean Food, Clear Thinking was inspired by Karina's experience overcoming health issues in her teenage years, and watching clients struggle with behaviours around food. After overcoming eating disorders in her teenage years, Karina again fell ill and lost sight in her left eye. Fearing she had multiple sclerosis, she consulted a naturopath, who assisted her back to health. That experience proved to be the catalyst for Karina to complete her training in naturopathy and open her own practice.
In following with Karina's approach to sustainable weight loss, the book is broken down into three easy to digest sections: clean food nutrition, mindset: the psychology of weight loss, and recipes and an eating plan. For example, a sugar craving can indicate low magnesium and chromium levels, which can be resolved by taking supplements. But on a mindset level, these cravings can indicate a person may not have enough pleasure in their life, hold deep-seated emotions they haven't dealt with, or could mean that you do not honour yourself through the day, so at the end of the day a bar of chocolate satisfies this need. In this case, the book helps the reader to examine the balance between work, self, family and pleasure.
Clean Food, Clear Thinking is available from Angus & Robertson, and online at www.amazon.com.au and www.booktopia.com.au, RRP $29.95.
Karina Francois is a leading Australian naturopath, health educator and public speaker with over 14 years experience running her own clinic in Melbourne, Infinite Health Practice. She is also an international author, releasing her first book, Clean Food, Clear Thinking in 2015. After visiting a naturopath who assisted her back to health following a period of illness, Karina was inspired to help others to achieve optimal health, and pursued a career in naturopathy.
Phone: (03) 9707 5745
Question: What inspired your passion for naturopathy?
Karina Francois: After overcoming an eating disorder in my teenage years, I again became ill and actually lost sight in my left eye during a stressful period. Fearing that I may have multiple sclerosis, I decided to consult a naturopath, who finally assisted me back to health. That experience proved to be the catalyst for me to enroll at university as a mature student and complete my training in naturopathy. Today, I consider myself blessed to be working as a professional naturopath in my very own practice. Last year, I published my first book, Clean Food, Clear Thinking, inspired by my experience overcoming health issues in teenage years, and watching many clients struggle with damaging food behaviours.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you, with your clients?
Karina Francois: As a naturopath, every day is different as I work with a number of different clients across a range of areas including hormones, menstrual cycles, weight loss, skin complaints and many other conditions. I treat thousands of people each year who travel to my clinic, The Infinite Health Practice based in Beaconsfield, Melbourne. A typical day in the clinic will involve meeting with new clients for initial consultations, conducting follow up appointments and bodywork therapies (a technique that focuses on mindfulness and energy). My role could be compared to that of a teacher in the sense that it requires me to teach naturopathic techniques and advise my clients on nutrition, herbs and supplements designed to help their overall health. In addition, Infinite Health Practice also hosts a wide range of workshops and activities including massage, yoga, Pilates, hormone testing, homeopathy and meditation.
Question: Why do we gain weight in winter?
Karina Francois: The old adage that suggests we gain more weight during the winter months is still very much alive. However, it may surprise you that most of us actually eat more in spring and summer. So why do we gain an average of 2 kilos in winter? Well, it's usually due to the type of food that we crave changing in autumn and winter. In winter, we tend to develop a lower level of happiness, called ennui. This is basically low level boredom or dissatisfaction, which we get when it's cold, wet and dark. In winter, we naturally opt for energy-dense, calorific foods, which often tend to be sweeter or fattier. Unfortunately, these calorific sugary snacks will inevitably lead to a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, leaving you craving more energy. You then experience a rollercoaster of highs and lows, the body will naturally store the surplus calories as fat leading to subsequent weight gain.
Question: What can we do this winter to beat weight gain?
Karina Francois: As the nights draw in and the days get darker, we often comfort eat which results in weight gain. However, comfort food doesn't always have to be high in calories. For example, you can buy fresh root vegetables and blend your own healthy soup, or prepare a slow-cooked casserole in advance to keep you warm on those cold winter evenings. You should always make sure you eat breakfast to ensure that your body is fulfilled and your blood sugar levels are balanced. In addition, regular exercise is very important and will also help to keep your immune system up and running, even if it's just a quick brisk walk to cheer up those mundane mornings.
Question: What foods should we be turning to, to nourish our bodies, in the colder months?
Karina Francois: The main suggestion would, of course, be getting enough sleep and eating a clean balanced diet – no sugar, processed foods, alcohol or coffee. However, it is true that sometimes we need a little assistance no matter how healthy our diets are, especially during winter when the viruses seem to thrive.
Fish Oil – Omega 3 Supplement
The high levels of Omega 3 in supplements can help to reduce inflammation in the body as well as supplying naturally occurring Vitamin A and Vitamin D which both help to boost immune health. A dose of 1gm a day or more depending on the persons health history and weight is what is generally recommended. Always remember to choose purified fish oils that don't contain heavy metals.
Coconut oil is high in lauric acid which the body converts to compounds that have amazingly potent anti-microbial properties. A dose of one tablespoon of coconut oil a day taken either directly or melted into a cup of tea or in food is recommended.
Garlic has natural antifungal and antibacterial properties to help ward off viruses. I would recommend including 1-2 cloves a day to your diet. A good way to do this is to add garlic to a sauce in a Vietnamese chicken salad - it tastes great when combined with lime juice and sesame oil.
Question: Can you share your natural cold and flu remedies, with us?
Karina Francois: Winter Gem tea is an antibacterial tea that works as a natural stimulant for your immune system. It has warming properties and can be used to support the immune system during times of respiratory upset and can aid in the prevention of cold and flu. The ingredients include:
I like to add Manuka Honey to this tea for its immune and antimicrobial properties, and also because it makes the tea taste even more delicious!
Question: Why will herbal teas help us beat stress?
Karina Francois: Herbal tea has been used as a stress remedy for centuries and is often considered to have a calming effect on the mind, body and soul. The process of drinking the tea itself is relaxing and the heat of the beverage works to soothe you from within. However, whilst the latter can be applied to almost any warm beverage, some herbs have been scientifically proven possess healing qualities which are thought to alleviate anxiety and stress. For example, the main ingredient in green, oolong and black tea that helps you relax is the amino acid theanine. In fact, research shows that this amino acid promotes alpha waves in the brain, which are linked to relaxation.
Question: What mistakes are we making with our -healthy' smoothies?
Karina Francois: These days, you can't turn a corner without seeing a green smoothie or juice bar. Health conscious meal plans are laden with various smoothie recipes and people can't wait to get their hands on the next NutriBullet. But while people have fired up their blenders full of good intentions, they could be inadvertently filling their smoothies with large amounts of sugar and artificial ingredients.
However, when made with the right ingredients, smoothies are natural nutritional powerhouses. They are easily digestible and full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fibre, they also provide an easy way to meet your daily fruit and vegetable intake.
I have three main rules I provide to my patients for nutritious smoothies. Firstly, include a balance of protein, essential fatty acids and carbohydrates to meet your dietary needs. Secondly, limit your sugar intake by having more vegetables than fruit. Thirdly, include proteins to satisfy your appetite.
Remember that smoothies need to include essential fatty acids, complex carbohydrates and protein to satisfy your appetite
Less is more: stick to 70% vegetables and 30% fruit to avoid a sugar overload
Add coconut water, milk or crushed ice instead of artificial fruit juices
Question: Can you share a smoothie recipe?
Karina Francois: Coconut Green Smoothie
150g Spinach leaves, fresh
1 cup Coconut water
2 Bananas, ripe, frozen
1 tsp vital greens
1 tsp Coconut oil
Instructions: blend until creamy and smooth and enjoy!
Question: And lastly, what vitamins may we need to include in our diet if we're travelling, a lot?
Karina Francois: Magnesium – great for relieving sore stiff muscles on long flights, and it can also aid sleep and keep your bowel regular.
Celtic Sea Salt – this will help keep you hydrated. Add ¼ of a teaspoon to your water every day.
Activated Charcoal – a potent natural treatment used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so the body doesn't reabsorb them. This is also a natural remedy to treat symptoms of food poisoning, stomach bugs, gas, bloating and diarrhoea, so make sure you pop these in your travel first aid kit! You can find this at your chemist - but I always recommend you check with your doctor first as charcoal can affect the absorption of medications.
Digestive Enzymes – if we don't have enough digestive enzymes, we can't break down our food which means even though we're eating well, we aren't absorbing all the nutrients. A supplement will help to break down the array of different foods that you may be eating whilst travelling. Enzymes also prevent gas, bloating, constipation and inflammation.
Multivitamins – take a good quality multi-vitamin everyday to help keep you energised.
Interview by Brooke Hunter