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Health Check: five must-have foods for your shopping trolley

If you eat to improve your health, here are five foods to put in your supermarket trolley every week. All pack a proven punch in terms of health gains if you have them regularly. 1. Oats Oats are a wholegrain…

You are what you eat: these five foods are proven to improve your health. bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

If you eat to improve your health, here are five foods to put in your supermarket trolley every week. All pack a proven punch in terms of health gains if you have them regularly.

1. Oats

Oats are a wholegrain cereal usually eaten for breakfast as porridge or in muesli. They have more soluble fibre than other grains.

A soluble fibre found in the outer endosperm cell wall of this cereal known as beta-glucan reduces absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. Eating enough oats so you get around three grams of beta-glucan daily reduces your total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol in both people with high and normal cholesterol.

Half a cup of raw rolled oats (50 grams) contains about two grams of beta-glucan and four grams of fibre. Oat bran is a bit higher with eight to 12 grams of beta-glucan in every 100 grams.

Oats reduce cholesterol absorption. Allie Coremin/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Put another way, three bowls of porridge a day gives you enough soluble fibre and decreases your total cholesterol so much that if everyone started eating rolled oats, then the incidence of heart disease would drop by about 4%.

Clearly, oats for breakfast are a must. And there’s an added bonus – they’re cheap, at $4 to $5 a kilogram.

2. Salmon

Salmon is an unusual fish because it’s so high in fat; at about 13 grams of fat per 100 grams, it has double the fat content of lean steak. But put it on your menu every week anyway because it contains highly specific polyunsaturated fatty acids called omega-3s (1.7 grams per 100 grams fish), which are components of every cell membrane in your body.

Omega-3s, and another group of polyunsaturated fatty acids known as omega-6, get converted into a host of powerful compounds that regulate important body functions, including blood pressure, blood clotting, the brain and nervous system, and the production of molecules that regulate the inflammatory response.

Salmon is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. [puamelia]/Flickr, CC BY-SA

A systematic review of 11 placebo-controlled, double-blind randomised trials, with 15,348 patients who had heart disease, measured the impact of taking one gram of omega-3s daily for at least one year. It found significant protective effects on cardiac death rates, sudden death and heart attacks, even though there was no protective effect for all-cause mortality or stroke.

We need to get the major omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from food because our bodies cannot manufacture them. To keep inflammatory processes under control you need a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids of about four to one.

Unfortunately, typical Western diets have a ratio of 15 to one due to use of vegetable oils high in omega-6s. So reduce these and increase the good sources of omega 3s, such as oily fish, soybean and canola oils, flaxseed, walnuts and omega-3 fortified foods, such as eggs.

3. Tea

Tea is good for your brain and good for your heart. Laurel F/Flickr, CC BY-SA

We all know that sharing a cuppa is a great way to feel better. A 2013 review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found drinking tea regularly improves your attention and self-reported alertness, while population studies suggest it’s associated with better cognitive function in the elderly.

Tea constituents thought to have neuro-protective effects include L-theanine, caffeine and catechins.

The most powerful data dictating that green and black teas should definitely be in your shopping trolley comes from a Cochrane systematic review of tea and prevention of heart disease. Across 11 randomised controlled trials and a total of 821 healthy adults, including people at high risk of heart disease, drinking black and green teas led to significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

So, put the kettle on and drink up.

4. Soy foods

A range of health benefits have been attributed to soy foods, although not all the promises hold up to scientific scrutiny.

A review of soy products containing a compound called isoflavones, evaluated the impact of soy protein on heart disease risk. One risk factor is how easily blood flows though your arteries.

In a meta-analysis of 17 randomised trials researchers found a small but significant improvement in blood flow of 0.72% in studies using soy foods, such as soy milk, pasta, soya beans or flour for four to 24 weeks.

Soy foods have been attributed to a range of health benefits. luxomedia/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

The biggest nutritional pay off from eating soy beans or other soy foods regularly is their fibre and protein content. They are low in saturated fat, contain some omega 3s and are a good source of folate, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, zinc and magnesium.

Supermarkets carry a range of soy foods from soy milk, cheese and yoghurt to canned or dried soy beans, tofu, fresh beans, soy “meats” and textured vegetable protein. Experiment until you find the products you like best.

5. A variety vegetables and fruit

Vegetables and fruit can help ward off type 2 diabetes. A 2012 meta-analysis of five studies involving over 179,000 people found a 7% lower risk ratio of developing type 2 diabetes in those with the highest fruit and vegetable intakes compared to the lowest.

A closer look at specific types of fruit and vegetables, found the relationship was strongest for green leafy vegetables (bok choy, spinach, cabbage, choy sum, all lettuce varieties, rocket, broccoli, silverbeet, watercress). And the longer the studies ran, the stronger the protective relationship.

While a meta-analysis of three studies on fruit intake found that for every three pieces eaten weekly, the hazard ratio for developing type 2 diabetes was 0.98, meaning a small risk reduction.

To protect against type 2 diabetes, the more colour the better. Honolulu Media/Flickr, CC BY

Some fruits were better than others. The most protective, in descending order were blueberries, prunes, grapes and raisins, apples and pears, bananas and grapefruit.

Add a vegetable and fruit you have not had for a while to your shopping trolley every week. This variety will boost your fibre, vitamin and mineral intakes. The more colour the better, as it maximises your intake of plant phytonutrients that contribute to good health.

If you fall short of getting 2+5 serves a day, then a target of three fruit and four veg may be easier to start with. Learning to prepare meals that include lots of vegetables or fruit and how to hide them in your favourite recipes will be worth the effort.

Join the conversation

106 Comments sorted by

  1. Suzy Gneist
    Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

    I'm a little surprised at the order - I would have placed the last one first and foremost, then followed on with others.
    I also would have thought there are better legumes than soy to provide the same benefits (isoflavones and fibre), since raw soy can be harmful to human health (as other raw beans can be if not soaked, cooked or fermented).

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    1. Reema Rattan

      Health + Medicine Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Hi Suzy,
      The order doesn't indicate importance as such.

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    2. Clare Collins

      Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy. They are not in any order.

      Have alook at thi slist fro food sources of isoflavones, other legumes haev some but you will see that soy foods are highest http://www.isoflavones.info/isoflavones-content.php

      For fibre - yes all other legumes (chickpeas, lentil, kidney beans, baked beans) and other are all high in fibre.

      When preparing dried beans you need to soak and / or cook them to remove some naturally ocurring toxins. You can read more abou tthat at this site
      http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/pulses.aspx

      Canned versions have already been soaked and cooked.

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    3. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I agree. I don't think any non fermented soy products should be on any list of desirable foods.
      Here are some contra indications:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ij14ET-8Fg
      http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/04/superweeds-arent-only-trouble-gmo-soy
      With regard to salmon, are you recommending farmed salmon?
      Since they don't eat a natural diet, I believe farmed salmon is low in omega 3 fats'They are also fed a colouring compound in their food to avoid the grey colour of farmed stock
      So wild caught salmon it must be.
      Personally I would avoid all "vegetable oils"-[so called]. Here I mean industrially processed types. Those heat and chemically treated ones on supermarket shelves. Avoid like the plague!
      Like olive oil only cold pressed virgin oils could be recommended.
      Otherwise, fair enough.

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    4. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to John Doyle

      John

      The CSIRO and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation have analysed every variety of Australian seafood, including Atlantic salmon produced in Tasmania. The total oil content of this salmon is listed in their books 'Seafood the Good Food' as 2.7% with total omega 3s as 689mg/100g. That makes this fish a good source of omega 3s. All Australian fish have enough omega 3s to be officially declared as a 'source' of these important nutrients.

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    5. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Thanks Rosemary. Better than none for sure. Do you have data on wild caught sockeye salmon which it seems is considered the gold standard for Omega 3. Does Omega 3 oils get into farmed fish when the source of that fat is vegetable matter like sea grasses? I believe they are fed a lot of land based feed as well as minced fish. Craig Carter [below] is clear on that.
      Do you agree that producers add a red dye [I can't recall the name] to the feed to get the flesh to be the right colour?

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    6. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I agree Suzy and despite posts saying the order doesn't matter, I think most people would assume that number one on the list means it is the most important. I avoid soy because so much of it is GM.
      And as for omega 3's, don't walnuts, as well as fish, have omega 3? Also easier to catch :)

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    7. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      "Atlantic salmon produced in Tasmania."
      This is where I get off the bus and state that some of you do not know what you are talking about - and if the moderators object then they need to reconsider whether they are living up to the academic standards that are expected of me.
      There is a lot of worthwhile stuff in Ms Collins' post BUT
      A 95% confidence interval of -1.39% to +2.9% does *not* show "a statistically significant improvement of 0,72%" to heart disease as a result of eating soya - it is…

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    8. Craig Carter

      Healthy Nutritionally Dense Food Producer

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Hi Jane
      Omega 3 can be obtained from lots of different sources mostly fed with product that is derived from photosynthesis - grasses and algae etc. Because it appears to be politically incorrect to criticise CAFOs the nutritionists avoid suggesting grassfed beef, lamb and pork. Pigs and Chickens being omnivores can have more grain in their diet, but ruminants will only provide Omega 3 if they are on a pasture based diet, similarly milk will only have omega 3 if the dairy runs on grass.

      To wit have you ever seen the colour of butter in the US where the dairies are for the main part grain fed and the butter is white, this is the reason why supermarket pork is white whereas pastured pork is a redder colour.

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    9. Clare Collins

      Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

      In reply to John Borgars

      John
      Thankyou for pointign out an error in how the meta-analysis data is presented.

      Here are the full results from the merta-analysis of 17 studies included in the systematic review.

      When all 17 studies were included then mean treatment effect on flow mediate dialation of interventions that used isoflavone-containing soy products (ICSP) was an improvement of 1.15% (95% CI:
      -0.52, 2.75). When the effect was broken down into 2 categories of intervention the mean treatment effect of soy isoflavone…

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    10. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Clare Collins

      Thanks - particularly for your honesty which adds credibility for all your other comments.
      It provides a little support for the idea that adding soya to the diet provides health benefits, but only to those at risk of prostate cancer. I feel that a range that starts at 0f.07% - i.e. one in 14,000 stretches the definition of statistically significant.

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    11. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to John Doyle

      John

      We don't have any wild caught salmon in Australia. In the US, data for wild and farmed salmon show the latter have a much higher fat content (13.4% fat, including 3.9g polyunsaturated fatty acids/100g) compared with the wild at 6.3% fat, including 2.5g polyunsaturated fatty acids/100g). I don't have access to a breakdown of the poly fats at the moment, but the higher level probably includes some omega 6s but possibly also more omega 3s. The British food tables give an average value for farmed and wild caught salmon.

      There's info on the carotenoid content of the feed for one brand of Tassie Atlantic salmon at http://www.huonaqua.com.au/about/myth-busters/

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    12. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to John Borgars

      John

      Not sure what you mean, but I think your quote about soy studies is for Clare Collins, not me.

      The recommendation to eat 5 serves of vegetables (and a serve is a small 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw) and two pieces of fruit came from evidence showing health advantages when that level of vegetables is consumed. Legumes are included, so not sure what you mean about the peas and beans.

      Also not sure where you got the 3 bowls of porridge a day, but the man with whom I live has eaten 100g (raw…

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    13. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      My diatribe wasn't aimed at you or anyone else in particular - it was just triggered by the description of "Atlantic Salmon" in Tasmania as seafood when they never see the sea.
      Where did I get "three bowls of porridge"? from "Put another way, three bowls of porridge a day gives you enough soluble fibre and decreases your total cholesterol so much that if everyone started eating rolled oats, then the incidence of heart disease would drop by about 4%."
      I do not question that one can eat 100 gm of…

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    14. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      > . . .but the man with whom I live has eaten 100g (raw weight) of oats every morning for breakfast for the last 50 years and is exactly the same weight now as he was 50 years ago >

      The man I live with (my husband) doen't eat oats for breakfast, and is just about the same weight that he has been since I met him 53 years ago.
      (I have to admit that he does eat Anzac Biscuits -- the packaged ones from the Supermarket, but that only started when they discontinued his favourite favourite Players choc-chip ones.)

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    15. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to John Borgars

      John

      What do you think 'black tea' is? In all studies of tea, black tea is simply conventional tea without milk added.

      Our dietary guidelines advise vegetables and legumes. Peas, beans, broad beans are all included in either of those categories.

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    16. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Evelyn

      Doesn't that just illustrate that a healthy diet can include a wide variety of different foods. Apart from breast milk for the first 6 months of life, no single food is essential in our diet.

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    17. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      I looked up salmon dyeing in Wikipedia. The first link shown is the Huonaqua one which says no to dyeing. The others all say yes but by adding a carotenoid compound to their pellets. The amount of such dye is regulated by authorities, but the colour wheel "Salmofan" from Roche allows the exact tint to be supplied.
      The "Cracked" website link also shows up the fake olive oil industry, very profitable for the mafia.

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    18. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Black tea?

      Yes and no.

      We use it to mean 'without milk'. But the tea prodicng countried distinguish between black tea -- fermented and green tea -unfermented.

      Thn I've read that the healthiest tea is "green tea consumed black" -- a paradox, a paradox a most ingenious paradox.

      Then there's white tea which can also be drunk black! (I'm not certain but i think it might be a different varety of 'tea', unlike herb teas which aren't 'tea' at all! Not to mention beef tea which is always drunk 'black' :-)

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    19. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Absolutely!!

      Which means though that oats consumption is a choice, not a requirement for a healthy diet.

      It is only the silliness of maintaining that 'oats' *should* be in 'our trolleys' that i have a problem with.

      I don't even care I other peple want to eat soy or olive oil -- just that neither of these are requirements for a healthy diet.

      In fact the ONLY thing on this silly 'list' that is a necessity is 'fresh fruits and vegetables'.

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    20. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to John Doyle

      " Yi, Yi, TYi!

      So THAT's why it tends to tast like rancid oil with flavoured with some cooked asparagus!

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    21. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      There was one Australian olive oil which didn't pass the authenticity test, but most do. I'd be very wary of the European oils. Names and fancy descriptions are more like a masking exercise, so one has to research the companies. Dud olive oil in the USA is in the order of 80% of sales. The extra virgin stuff is distinctively green, which is a start.
      If you looked at "cracked" they said the mafia got as much money from fake oil as from an illegal drug trade.

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    22. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Hi Evelyn,

      You're right - teas are unfermented (green) or fermented (black) or a bit fermented (oolong) and orange pekoe is black.

      I lived in China for a few years and the phrase 'white tea' was a sort of joke - it referred to a cup of plain hot water! (meaning you were too poor to afford tea).

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    23. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      "Or Atlantic Salmon is a different species to th six different species of "Pacific Salmon" and the one species of Australan Salmon"
      Precisely - and one that prefers colder waters than Tasmania - their natural habitat is offshore Greenland. So if you let them loose in the waters around Tasmania, surely they will swim away south.

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    24. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      If you use quotation marks then "black tea" has a technical meaning but if you do not, then I regard Assam or Darjeeling as black tea and Lapsang Souchon as yellow.

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    25. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to John Borgars

      > . . . if you let them loose in the waters around Tasmania, surely they will swim away south.>

      Which is totally irrelvant to what species they are.

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    26. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      PS
      > . . . if you let them loose in the waters around Tasmania, surely they will swim away south.>

      They probably wouldn't. They's swim off, one presumes to an environment where they could find food. They's need to report back to a likely river to spawn, and I think that if the smolts had been released into a Tasmanian River, that is where they'd return to.

      http://www.atlanticsalmontrust.org/ocean/index.html

      http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/63/7/1218.abstract

      http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/63/7/1211.full.pdf

      Enjoy :-)

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    27. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      > 'white tea' was a sort of joke - it referred to a cup of plain hot water! (meaning you were too poor to afford tea).>

      Out is satiable cursiosity I Googles for 'White tea" and found that it refers to tea produced from the very young/immature shoots of the 'Camellia sinenses' and is unfermented.

      I have some and it has a slight honey overtones.

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    28. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      No, of course it is not irrelevant. Atlantic salmon swim towards colder water than you have in Australia *because* they are a species that prefers the cold water around Greenland to the warmer water around Spain. Look at the map of their natural distribution, with the southern part relating only to the northern hemisphere winter. The so-called Australian salmon is said to like "the cooler waters around Australia and New Zealand" but those are still warmer than the Atlantic salmon's natural habitat.

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    29. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Why should they return to Tasmania, rather than spawn in a nice cool river is southern Chile? It is a myth that salmon always return to their birthplace to spawn. None of the Salmon in the Thames spawned there.
      FYI the last native salmon in the Thames died in 1833; 18 years after the Corporation of the City of London got the world's Clean air Act passed (and other people followed by cleaning up their own acts) a wild salmon was spotted in the Thames in 1974; ten years later the river was artificially restocked with salmon, mostly from Ireland: some came back to spawn, others did not and the failed colony died out by 2006, but wild salmon from England Scotland Ireland and France have been found there recently.
      http://www.science20.com/anthrophysis/salmon_river_thames_result_restoration_or_recolonization-82285

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    30. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to John Borgars

      The "so-called Australian Salmon" ('Arripus trutta / truttaceus') is not of the same species, not closely related to the Pacific and Atlantic.

      Australian Salmon ('Arripus trutta / truttaceus')
      http://www.fishingwa.com/species/australian-salmon/
      They are NOT farmed -- they are considered 'game fish' basically.

      Atlantic Salmon ( 'Salmo salar')

      Pacific Salmon -- genus 'Oncorhynchus'
      Species 'tshawytsch' (Chinook), 'keta' (Chum), "kisutch' (Coho), 'gorbuscha' (Pink), 'nerka' (Sockeye), 'masou' (Masu).

      Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salmon

      In Tasmania, it is 'Salmo salar' that is 'farmed'. Or in other words,"Atlantic Salmon".

      (I dunno why -- I always thought that Sockeye was the best Salmon -- mybe it just doesn't lent itself to being farmed!)

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    31. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      If you look at the wikipedia page you will see that Sockeye is found "as far south as the Columbia river" 46 degrees north - Hobart is 42 degrees south. So Tasmania is too hot for Sockeye.

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    32. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      PS
      "('Arripus trutta / truttaceus') is not of the same species, not closely related to the Pacific and Atlantic"
      why do you think I said "so-called"?

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    33. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Borgars

      "Farmed Salmon" in Tasmania is spawned in the highlands I believe, but then put in sea cages in Macquarie Harbour (estuarine) and the sea bays near Pt Huon. Just because they are farmed doesn't mean they on landlocked plots and fed on artificial rations.

      The pigment in Salmonoids I think is Anthrocyanin and derives from eating crustaceans.

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  2. Neville Mattick
    Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

    Great article thank you.

    For my family we have been long term Rolled Oat people, in 20KG packs, organic and as rough as possible. Every day and twice sometimes in Winter.

    Not so keen on the fruit, I have "maxed out" on the farm apples from our orchard and fructose has limited my passion for them, Oranges from our orchard I can without any problem due their better balance of fibre.

    Don't touch sea food much, am concerned about harvesting from our Oceans but do enjoy Salmon on the odd occasion.

    Yes Cholesterol is low from what I read above, despite a regular diet of mutton.

    If consumers' could divert their wasteful habits onto the headline food in this article, our Medical system would be a lot quieter.

    I see Health as two energy streams; Physical and Mental, so often the desire for processed food and addictive rubbish (for the Mental desire) destroys the Physical machine all too often.

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    1. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      " we have been long term Rolled Oat people, in 20KG packs, organic and as rough as possible. Every day and twice sometimes in Winter"

      Is that porridge in the mornings and Anzacs in the afternoons?

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    2. Neville Mattick
      Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Thanks Russell; well, I do eat and make Anzac biscuits regularly and they have a good GI so it seems.

      I do also eat porridge at night if I am very cold; say I have been out in rain and snow with livestock, it is very satisfying sticky stuff!

      I reckon my Scottish ancestors used to cool it for later in slices with butter!

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  3. John Borgars

    Senior Investment Analyst

    I have been given to understand that herring provides more omega-3 than wild salmon, which provides more than farmed salmon, which is what you are likely to get in a supermarket because the supply is more predictable and uniform.

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    1. Clare Collins

      Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

      In reply to John Borgars

      John
      The omega-3 content of fish varies depending on the species and where it is caught. To get 1 gram of omega-3s from fish (roughly the same amount as in a standard fish oil capsule) you need to eat approximately the following amounts of fish; up to 70 grams of Atlantic salmon, 87 grams sardines or rainbow trout or about 320 grams canned tuna.

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    2. Jan Burgess

      Retired

      In reply to John Borgars

      John, I'm with you on this one.

      Not only the omega-3s, but the convenience. Living in a country town, fresh salmon is not always available or nice. I keep half a dozen tins in the cupboard, because kippers on toast are such a nice breakfast or early tea, particularly in winter.

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    3. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Clare Collins

      "The omega-3 content of fish varies depending on the species and where it is caught." So you should recommend herring bought from a fishmonger, rather than salmon from a supermarket! Mackerel is also far superior to farmed salmon.
      If you really want to buy your fish in tins, then sardines are the best choice - tuna comes way down the list.

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    4. Jan Burgess

      Retired

      In reply to Clare Collins

      Clare

      I'm a little confused. A standard fish oil capsule contains 1g of fish oil, but only about 300 mg of EPA and DHA.

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    5. Fraser Drummond

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to John Borgars

      I aim for tinned sardines twice a week - stick it in a salad or on top of left over stir fried veg or with some nice bread.

      They are cheap, wild and at the bottom of the food chain so hopefully don't have concentrations of heavy metals.

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    6. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Jan Burgess

      Jan

      There are also many studies now showing no great advantages for fish oil capsules, although they remain a good way to decrease blood triglyceride levels.

      The studies continue to show value from fish. Fish is much more complex than a mere source of omega 3s. There is also the advantage that we don't eat rancid fish, whereas many fish oil capsules are rancid.

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    7. Fraser Drummond

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      I would think they are similarly healthy (just a reasonable guess) - only difference is portion size, you could easily eat more than a tin of sardines or good sized bit of salmon, but would you eat a jar of anchovies?
      I'd only use them as a little addition to a meal (e.g. in a sauce) rather than one of main constituents of a meal.

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    8. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Fraser Drummond

      > but would you eat a jar of anchovies? >

      I COULD, but haven't yet :-)

      I try to practise moderation :-)

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    9. Jan Burgess

      Retired

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary

      Yes, I'm aware of the limitations of supplements and do esat a lot of fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines mainly). They are however very useful for inflammation (they help me a lot with rheumatoid arthritis).

      However, I was querying Clare saying "To get 1 gram of omega-3s from fish (roughly the same amount as in a standard fish oil capsule) ..." I wondered if she really meant that and which fish oil capsules she was referring to.

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    10. Clare Collins

      Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Jan Burgess

      Jan
      this is the article I was referring to

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20500789

      Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C. Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Nutr Rev. 2010 May;68(5):280-9.

      The EPA and DHA (omega 3) data com from the UDSA nutrient database and this reference :- PM. Kris-Etherton, WS. Harris, LJ. Appel, for the Nutrition Committee. Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease

      which you can acess freely at http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/21/2747.full

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  4. Pera Lozac

    Heat management assistant

    Maybe is better to say what one should not have in its shopping trolley - or basket. Maybe firstly that IS the most important fact - replace trolleys with baskets - consume less - eat less.

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  5. Jan Burgess

    Retired

    Great article. I'm pleased to see that we indulge ourselves in these foods everyday.

    Oats are great in so many ways, it's a shame to restrict them to porridge. Russell may joke about porridge at breakfast and Anzacs with afternoon tea, but it's a regular habit at our house.

    I am however a little confused about your calculations of beta glucan and cholesterol. You say "Eating enough oats so you get around three grams of beta-glucan daily reduces your total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol…

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    1. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Jan Burgess

      A cup of tea and half a dozen Anzacs (who can stop at one?) combine two of Clare's must-haves in one calming snack. Perfect.

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  6. Craig Carter

    Healthy Nutritionally Dense Food Producer

    It is interesting to note, that in both the article and the comments the lack of understanding about the natural source of Omega 3 fats. The nearest response to almost acknowledge it is Neville Mattick - our mutton consumer. Animals that consume the grasses, herbs and forbs that Mother nature provides are a great source of Omega 3 as well as the wild caught fish. The issue with most beef is that it is often grain fed - which like farmed fish has the Omega 3 fats diminished by the grain based diet. So the issue isn't really the breed or species of protein but the way that it has been fed.

    You can bet that Neville's mutton doesn't get any grain

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    1. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Craig Carter

      NO, NO, NO
      Most beef is not grain-fed - unless you live in Chicago.That is an American urban myth, supported by a handful of south-of-England beef cattle producers who feed their cattle grain in winter. Look at the data: the grazing area is more than four times the area for all cereals, most of which are eaten (or drunk as beer, whisky etc) by humans http://www.ukagriculture.com/statistics/farming_statistics.cfm?strsection=Land%20Use.
      and
      http://www.ukagriculture.com/statistics/farming_statistics.cfm?strsection=Crop%20Areas

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    2. Craig Carter

      Healthy Nutritionally Dense Food Producer

      In reply to John Borgars

      As a grass fed beef producer who is active in Australia - our domestic disappearance beef - i.e. that which isn't exported - is mostly supplied to our big supermarkets is grainfed at least 90 day.

      Very little beef is available in the US that is not grain fed similarly their milk and butter.

      UK stats don't work for Australia or the US

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    3. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Craig Carter

      So maybe,Oz beef differs from Aberdeen Angus but is 90 days a majority of the life of your beef? I feel that 90 days is grossly excessive but you obviously know better than I
      Veal is suckled for the first few days so one struggles to visualise how much beef can be majority grainfed. A lot of US beef is grainfed for a few days. Some vegan campaigners want us to believe that all beef consumes grain that would otherwise be eaten by humans - well NO, most farmers are not morons (since those have starved to death) cattle graze where the land will not reliable sustain crops or is lying fallow and sheep graze where the grass is not good enough for cattle

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    4. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Craig Carter

      > our domestic disappearance beef - i.e. that which isn't exported - is mostly supplied to our big supermarkets is grainfed at least 90 day.>

      That's what i understood -- most of our cattle now go to the 'feed lots before slaughter.

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    5. Craig Carter

      Healthy Nutritionally Dense Food Producer

      In reply to John Borgars

      Hi John,
      Veal is milk fed calf, mostly derived from dairy bull calves. Supermarket weight cattle are approx 400-420 Kgs at slaughter and as mentioned previously, mostly grainfed for 90 days, These local trade cattle are approx 12-14months of age. Grain fed export cattle can be on feed for up to 360 days - if they are targetted for the high end Japanese market.

      I'll leave the vegan argument aside as it clouds the issue.

      Where we are located on the Liverpool Plains in NSW there are two large feedlots and a few small ones, they source their grain from mainly sorghum grown locally. Yes, they could grow cattle, but the almighty dollar is better for those who grow grain. You are welcome to come up and have a look.

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    6. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to John Borgars

      Aberdeen Angus are a black breed of cattle originally from Scotland. They have them here as well as Herefords and many other breeds. A steer usually gets slaughtered at about 15 months. In Australia, most cattle are grass fed. In the northern hemisphere cattle are usually 'finished' on grain because farmers want to get them off pasture paddocks for reasons of soil compaction etc once it gets cold and the ground gets covered in snow. Even if a steer spends 90 days on grain, most of its weight will have been put on in a free range environment. I don't agree that 'sheep graze where the grass is not good enough for cattle'. Grass in Australia only grows for 5-7 months of the year and cattle have a 12 month of the year feed requirement, which probably explains Australian farmers preference for sheep. They fit into our operations much better

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    7. Neville Mattick
      Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Craig Carter

      True Craig true; "You can bet that Neville's mutton doesn't get any grain"

      Not a plough in site on mountain country like this. The whole landscape is Native Grasses.

      There would be benefits of Omega 3's in our food, we are about to have a pair of milkers' calves off to the slaughterhouse and we have our own first cross Border Leicester hogget wethers for our rations.

      Last hogget leg cooked on Sunday weighed in at about 3Kg.

      As you say Craig, the sad fact is that the health of our livestock is diminished in a few days if they go to a feedlot, so it is time the paddock to plate recognised a market advantage for the healthier choice, something which is absent from the choices I have to sell into.

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    8. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Will Hunt

      The haystack was invented to provide feed for cattle (and other animals) in winter. This is hay (from grass) not grain. There are a variety of other food for cattle grown as part of crop rotation, such as lucerne and kale, so it is not necessary to feed them grain.
      If you look at an English, Scottish or Welsh hillside or moorland you can see sheep grazing on the higher poorer areas while the cattle are grazing lower down.

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    9. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to John Borgars

      The trouble with hay is that it has low metabolisable energy (ME) which an animal needs to keep warm in cold weather. Grain is good for that. It is ridiculous to talk about feeding grain as if it's the only thing. Farmers feed a ration, which will be some hay, some grain, some silage, molasses, straw, any amount of stuff, which is usually done in conjunction with a laboratory that does the feed tests.
      IN Australia we generally supplementary feed a bit of grain pre lambing in the autumn, before the break of the season to keep the energy levels up to pregnant ewes. Sheep usually do better in colder conditions because they have the advantage of 50-120mm thick woollen pullover which cattle don't have.

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    10. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Will Hunt

      " It is ridiculous to talk about feeding grain as if it's the only thing." I am not the one who says it's the only thing. I am the one who pointed out that in the UK the area of grazing land is four times the area for *all* crops.

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  7. Tim Crowe

    Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University

    Nice article Clare. My 'Top 10' list which has been unchanged for some years includes your 5 foods plus lean red meat, yoghurt, cruciferous vegetables (they're actually my 'Number 1'), tomatoes and dark chocolate

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  8. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    Here we go again, reductionist nutritionism with only partial information.
    What kind of salmon? Those farmed using antibiotics? What kind of soy? Products made from whole beans or soy isolates?

    Of course we should be eating vegetables and fruit. But mainly we should be eating a wide variety of foods.

    And enjoying them.

    I'm disappointed to find this kind of listism on The Conversation

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    1. Clare Collins

      Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

      In reply to John Newton

      John
      I love lists
      1. Theyhelp people plan healthy home cooked meals ahead of time
      2. Write a grocery list based on the plan
      3. Follow the list - it reduces impulse buys
      4. It helps saves time
      5. It saves money
      6. You get more done

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    2. Jan Burgess

      Retired

      In reply to Clare Collins

      One of the problems with lists is that if it's not on the list it doesn't get done (or bought).

      No seriously, I do appreciate the value of lists. I get much more done when I make and stick to a list - but they do tend to narrow the mind. Sort of like putting on blinkers.

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  9. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    The Australian production of salmon is 31,000 tonnes per year ... ~3.8 grams per person per day if I'm not mistaken. The Cochrane collaboration study on omega-3s found nothing. If it was a super food why has evidence of its impacts been so hard to establish?

    On the other hand, what is blindingly obvious is that production of salmon in the kinds of quantities required to make it a regular part of the diet of anybody except the rich is impossible. So why not look for foods that can be produced sustainably and compassionately that have the same effect? It's not hard, vegetarians and vegans manage to have lower rates of heart disease than the norm without demonstrating any particular dietary genius. And they can do even better if they try. So why recommend a cruel and unsustainable food when there's no shortage of alternatives which can achieve the same goals?

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    1. Monika Merkes

      Honorary Associate, Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing at La Trobe University

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      "The Cochrane collaboration study on omega-3s found nothing. If it was a super food why has evidence of its impacts been so hard to establish?" --- The many reports on the cardioprotective effects of the “Eskimo diet” may have been based on shaky evidence, according to this article:
      Fodor, G. J., Helis, E., Yazdekhasti, N., & Vohnout, B. (2014). “Fishing” for the origins of the “Eskimos and heart disease” story. Facts or wishful thinking? A review. Canadian Journal of Cardiology(0). Available at…

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    2. Clare Collins

      Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Monika Merkes

      Monika

      Here is a link to the systematic review abstract http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23958480

      Casula M, Soranna D, Catapano AL, Corrao G. Long-term effect of high dose omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for secondary prevention of cardiovascular outcomes: A meta-analysis of randomized, placebo controlled trials. Atheroscler Suppl. 2013 Aug;14(2):243-51.

      In 11 placebo controlled, double-blind randomized trials that included 15,348 patients who had heart disease evaluated the effect of taking 1 gram of omega-3 supplements daily for at least 1 year.
      There was a significant protective effect for cardiac death rates (RR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.56 to 0.83), sudden death (RR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.52 to 0.87) and heart attack (RR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.63 to 0.88).

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    3. Monika Merkes

      Honorary Associate, Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing at La Trobe University

      In reply to Clare Collins

      Thank you Clare. This review looked at outcomes for patients with a history of cardiovascular disease. Can we then generalise and assume that the benefits also apply to people without cardiovascular problems?
      Unfortunately I can't access the full text of the Fodor et al. article, not available at my university. I've only seen the abstract and what's written about it (opinion pieces). I'd love to make sense of it. Has anyone here read the article and can comment?

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    4. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Monika Merkes

      Monika, ther is one very serious problem with this 'study' and its conclusions.

      The "Eskimo Diet' was based on sea-food, yes. But Seal and Whale derived. Being mammals I don't know what the ration of differnet fats i these animals woul have been -- but a ny conclusion that a diet based on Salmon woud have any effect on health could not be drawn from it.

      Where Salmon was available it would have been nothing more though than a seasonal food.

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    5. Nat Eiser

      Abolitionist Vegan

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Well said Geoff. As one of those vegans demonstrating no particular dietary genius, I would question why Salmon was included as a "must have" item. Salmon are often contaminated with mercury and other toxic pollutants including fecal bacteria. Salmon consumption also appears to be linked to atrial fibrillation. The safest source (for both us and the Salmon) would be algae or yeast derived EPA/DHA together with flaxseeds. There is of course that other consideration of the so called "need" to consume…

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    6. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Nat Eiser

      Oooh. No NO no.

      No flaxseed!!
      I get a serious allergic response to flax in even the tiniest amounts.

      And when I decided to supplement my dogs with flaxseed oil as opposed to fish oils, their coats deteriorated markedly.

      Then I just cannot imagine HOW flax (alongside with salmon) would ever have been incorporated in the general human diet over the years we evolved our dietary needs :-(

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    7. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Nat Eiser

      >If you think it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering on animals, you already believe in Veganism.>

      Not at all!!

      The sticking point is the word "unnecessary".

      Then also consider that veganism is not really at all considerate to animals. It is all about saving one's own soul.

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    8. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      When I was at Uni they taught that the "Eskimos" had an additional enzyme to us, that's why the can eat a lot of fat.

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  10. Gary Cassidy

    Monash University

    Hi Clare, thanks for the article.

    RE Oats and reduced cholesterol absorption - I thought that dietary cholesterol doesn't correlate well with blood cholesterol levels? Do our bodies make less if we consume (absorb) more?

    Personally I like suggestions 1,2,3 & 5 - They are not fake foods and also taste great.
    Suggestion 4 I don't like so much - more likely to be fake foods, and not so tasty to me. Often developed into an imitation product containing refined ingredients. What (proven) end benefit is there if your blood flow is a tiny amount higher?

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    1. Henriette Vanechop
      Henriette Vanechop is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Quite interesting.. "but" I would appreciate more help, please.

      Oats every morning, plus hidden in soups, vegetable stews, turkey mince loaf.. Triglycerides = 1.2 Goodie.

      HDL = 2.3 LDL 4.5 In the last two months, I strongly resented my alembic and fed it exclusively soy milk, oats, celery, sardines, sweet potatoes roots and green tips, dandelion leaves, apples, pears, grapes, bananas, monstera delicioso, weekly treat of turkey mince, avocado. Result : LDL still 4.5. Puzzled.

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    2. John Borgars

      Senior Investment Analyst

      In reply to Henriette Vanechop

      Some years ago, my father was given a list of foods that he should eat to reduce the risk of another heart attack: after a couple of weeks he decided not to eat Flora margarine.
      I do not know whether Henriette Vanchop is real but I have some time ago thoughtfully designed a balanced diet that overlaps his with small amounts of pears and bananas.

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    3. Clare Collins

      Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary
      the beta-glucan (a type of soluble fibre) is able reduce the absorption of some of the bile acids which are part of "raw materials" needed by the body to make blood cholesterol. To help lower blood cholesterol it is good to haev kess of the 'raw materials' i.e. saturated fat adn also try and remove more from the digestive and circulation pool.

      Here is a link to good plain language summary of that http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Cholesterol_explained

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    4. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to John Borgars

      Butter I believe is NOT a baddy.

      I am sure thaat it is better for you than that slimy stuff, full of artificial colours and vitaminsprobably made from maize, that 'they' make of processed fats and oils that is sold as 'margarine'

      http://authoritynutrition.com/grass-fed-butter-superfood-for-the-heart/
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2274747/At-truth-Butter-GOOD--margarine-chemical-gunk.html

      If you don't want pbutter, go for cream or cream cheese.

      Baby Boomers, Bellies & Blood Sugars
      http://www.babyboomersandbellies.com/

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    5. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Henriette Vanechop

      I wonder if soy 'milk' has any healthful effects at all. As far as far as cholesterol goes I thought that it was the fibre in the pulses that was the goody.

      I would be thinking of upping my intake of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre, and cutting down on refined starches and sugars.

      For myself, I find that I MUST have brewers Yeast. Its has a lot more in it than just B Complex. Chromium an selenium as well as nucleic acids.

      Then 'exercise' I am told is supposed to help as well.

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    6. Henriette Vanechop
      Henriette Vanechop is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to John Borgars

      Yes, Mr. Borgars (unfortunately) I am real.. In 1985 I had a T.I.A. and was in hospital for a week.. Don't worry, said the Doctor, we open up carotids and scrape them, but first we'll do some tests to make sure. Then, "you have he cleanest carotid i've ever seen in a woman your age." He seemed determined to find the cause, but after 6 days I was sent home. "Could have been low blood pressure." Memory much impaired, specially short-term memory.

      I would prefer no recidive (LDL now 4.5). Bananas + pears + ??

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    7. Henriette Vanechop
      Henriette Vanechop is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Hello again, Evelyn.. I LOVE milk, but have been told it's a NO- NO (cheese and cream idem) (plus I suffer with the cows whose babies are taken away too soon - in my view) so I console myself with soy milk. Starches and sugars ? triglycerids = 1.2...

      My main grouch is : I can't keep awake. i'll take up your suggestion : Yeast. Thank you.

      Exercise ? I walked and cycled until all the "old little hurts" caught up with me.. now vertebrae pinch.. All the best. H.

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    8. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Henriette Vanechop

      > I walked and cycled until all the "old little hurts" caught up with me.. now vertebrae pinch >

      Thse 'little old hurts' are a bummer.

      I try to get my exercise now-a-days by thinking. :-) They say it uses up a LOT of energy.

      Definition of Old Age: "When the injuries of youth come back to haunt you!"

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    9. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Henriette Vanechop

      Henriette

      Triglycerides of 1.2 is normal and I consider anyone with an HDL of 2.3 doesn't need to be concerned, as long as blood pressure is normal, weight is in the normal range and you get some exercise.

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    10. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Yeast wall has beta glucans (a chain of mainly glucose, some mannose). Mannose is an important molecule for the system but not represented in the western Diet.

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  11. Will Hunt

    Farmer

    Having changed our cropping programme over the last 4 years to put oats and beans at the top of our list, I feel quite smug having read this article. One crop that we have put at the bottom of our growing list is bread wheat (as distinct from pasta wheat). On a personal level, having minimised wheat products in my diet, I have shed many kilograms and feel so much better for it. Wheat is the product which is most manipulated by hedge funds and their ilk,so it is a most impersonal crop to grow. I like being able to negotiate direct with our local oat miller, it's a very civilized way of doing business
    As for the beans, they aren't soy beans but faba beans, and in my opinion they are better. And our sheep do very well on the bean and oat stubbles after we've reapt them.

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  12. Evelyn Haskins

    retired

    Hmmm. I wonder how all thse poor people from counties where they don't grow oats manage! Or how the inland peoples ever survived without salmon. Or we Brits manage to survive before Tea was imported from Indai/China.
    Not to mention how we all survived before the advent of ubiquitous soy.

    Personally I gave up oats when I was 15 an announced to my Mum that I was now old enough to know what i liked and didn;t like. (I also gave up rice pudding and brear pudding at the same time :-)

    Apart from…

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  13. jane abercrombie

    writer

    How about ditching your 'shopping trolley' altogether, along with crappy over-proccessed, over-packaged supermarket products? Cut down on food-miles at the same time as supporting your own health and that of your local economy , and the environment : buy local, in-season, organic produce from farmers' markets.

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  14. Dianna Arthur

    Environmentalist

    Thanks for interesting guide.

    I would like to add (genuine) free range eggs as still affordable even for the likes of me and so adaptable.

    In addition to anchovies that someone mentioned, recommend fish sauce in stir-frys, casseroles, marinades.

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  15. vansk

    logged in via Twitter

    It would be great to see this article updated to include substitutes for some of these foods to account for their high environmental impact, or at least some information about how you can source them ethically.

    There are so many articles that focus on the health benefits of certain foods or the problems with over fishing, energy consumption, water consumption, soil degradation, etc. but I've never come across one that selects the most ethical produce that meets dietary needs or delivers health benefits.

    Relevant questions include: Which plentiful fish species are high in omega 3? Which soy products are produced with the lowest water and energy inputs? Which grains are best suited to Australian soils?

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    1. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to vansk

      As mentioned elsewhere above Omega 3 is produced by photosynthetic organisms, grass or micro algae. It is fish eating microalgae or fish that eat fish that eat microalgae, that you look for, so they are often fast swimming preditors.
      Another area you could look at is marine macro algae, since none of them are toxic round Australia at least.

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    2. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to David Maddern

      David
      'Omega 3' is a class of many fatty acids so it's not valid to talk of it in the singular, any more than it's valid to talk about 'vitamin'.

      The major omega 3 fatty acid found in plant foods is alpha linolenic acid (often abbreviated to ALA). In grass-fed beef, the major one is docosapentaenoic acid (often abbreviated to DPA). In seafood, the major ones are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

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