Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Vitamin D ‘De-fish-iency’

Kate Gudorf
We’ve heard it before: that short winter days coupled with less sunlight and more time spent indoors can increase our risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.  But this food loving dietitian has a novel suggestion for you to help you increase your intake of vitamin D – eat more salmon!
Yes salmon, the mighty fish that is packed with nutrition, including vitamin D.   A 150g portion of salmon provides nearly 8 micrograms of vitamin D (320 IU), which is nearly double the adequate intake for adults in Australia, making it an excellent source of the sunshine vitamin.  Natural food sources of vitamin D are limited and include mushrooms and fatty fish, like mackerel and salmon, and small amounts are found in egg yolks. Margarine in Australia is fortified with vitamin D.
But why is vitamin D so important?
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, helps to build strong bones and it enhances the absorption of calcium in the body.  A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults, both conditions lead to a softening of the bones and are rare in developed countries.
We now know that vitamin D plays an important role in the prevention of a variety of health conditions like breast cancer and other types of cancers, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, depression and diabetes and new research suggests maybe even food allergies.  Vitamin D has also been shown to help enhance the immune system, maintain healthy skin and muscle strength.
Even though we live in a country with sunshine abound, Australians are prone to vitamin D deficiency.  A 2012 University Of Sydney study found that nearly one third of the adult population is vitamin D deficient.  That’s quite high.
But why eat salmon when I can get vitamin D from the sun?
Aside from vitamin D, salmon is a source of protein and heart healthy omega-3 fats.  These healthy fats help lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation helping to prevent cardiovascular disease.  And great news if you’re suffering from the winter time blues, the omega-3 fats may also help with brain health and mood.  These healthy fats make up about 15-20% of the brain and some research has shown positive benefits on brain health by including a diet rich in omega-3 fats.  Salmon found in colder water, like the cool Atlantic waters of Tasmania, will be a richer source of the heart healthy fats.
Salmon also contain antioxidants.  It’s the carotenoids, like beta-carotene and  astaxanthin, which give salmon that beautiful pink salmon colour.  Carotenoids are potent antioxidants, which may help fight cancer and inflammatory conditions.
Other nutrients found in salmon include zinc, iron, copper, manganese, selenium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. Salmon truly is a superfood, ranking in my top ten list of nutritional powerhouses.
But enough technical talk.  Let’s get down to business.  Salmon tastes good…no, scratch that, salmon tastes absolutely beautiful!   Salmon has a rich, meaty texture and a delicious, buttery-like creaminess. On a plate, salmon looks visually stunning with its rich pink colour and flaky meat.
I can’t think of a better breakfast than a smoked salmon omelette with capers and fresh dill and a touch of crème fraiche folded in.   And for a simple yet elegant dinner, I love a grilled salmon fillet with sautéed asparagus on the side.  Salmon is beautiful in a salad or tossed through a creamy pasta dish.  It can be eaten fresh, tinned or smoked.
How about a few salmon recipes to get you started?
To demonstrate the versatility of salmon, I hosted a salmon night with my friend and we made two different recipes, supplied by Tasal: salmon tacos and a roast pumpkin, salmon, feta and spinach salad.
You can find our comments about the recipes, below.

Roast Pumpkin, Salmon with Feta & Spinach Salad
Salmon Pumpkin Salad

Reviewers’ Comments: This salad is satisfying, has lots of texture, and is not your same-old boring salad.  The combination of ingredients is well balanced.  And surprisingly, it serves up well as left overs the next day.
Dietitian’s comments: Nutritionally, this salad has it all.  It contains an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, C, E, D, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.  Plus, it contains carbohydrates for energy, lean protein and a good dollop of healthy  fats.
Pre-heat oven to 200C. Cut salmon and pumpkin into 3cm cubes. Place pumpkin and garlic on an oven tray, and season with salt and olive oil. Bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool. Mix lemon and oil together and then add the salmon. Cook salmon in pan on medium heat and then let cool. In a bowl, combine spinach, shallot, almonds, feta, garlic, cous cous, asparagus and pumpkin.
Toss salmon through salad and coat with dressing.
Our salmon salad
2 Tassal fresh Salmon portions, skin-off
400g pumpkin, peeled
4 garlic cloves, left whole with skin on
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemons, juiced
200g baby spinach leaves or rocket
1 shallot, thinly sliced
25g slivered almonds
100g feta, crumbled
100g cous cous, cooked
Bunch of asparagus, blanched & refreshed

Salmon Tacos
Salmon Tacos

Reviewers’ Comments: These salmon tacos are incredibly easy to make and are an excellent twist on a Mexican favourite.  To add freshness, make your own salsa or guacamole or try with a citrusy cabbage slaw on top instead of lettuce.
Dietitian’s Comments: These tacos will save you about 70 calories, 4g of fat and 3g of saturated fat per serve when compared to tacos using mince.  Plus, you enjoy all the health benefits of salmon like  vitamin D and healthy fats.
My salmon cooking for the tacos

Pre-heat oven to 150C. Cut salmon into large chunks. Toss salmon chunks in the taco seasoning. Place taco shells in the oven to warm or place soft tortillas in the microwave covered for 20 seconds on 100% power. Heat oil in a non stick frying pan over a medium heat and pan fry the salmon for 23 minutes until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Fill the base of each taco shell with a little sauce, a lettuce leaf, sliced tomato, sliced avocado and 2 or 3 chunks of salmon. Serve with the taco salsa and wedges of lime.
2 x 170g Tassal Tasmanian salmon portions, skin off
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp taco seasoning
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
10 iceberg lettuce leaves
1 avocado, sliced
cup taco salsa
10 taco shells or soft tortillas
1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve

What about sunshine?
Spending a bit of time in the sun is another way to increase your vitamin D.  The darker your skin pigmentation, the more time you will need in the sun.  To get your vitamin D, about 10-30 minutes of sunshine a day is recommended without sun block.   It may be best to enjoy your sunshine outside of peak sun hours, before 11am or after 3pm.

Dietitians suggestion:

Getting our double dose of vitamin D
Double up on your vitamin D by enjoying a picnic in the park. Pack smoked salmon bites: spread whole meal wrap with goats cheese and lemon juice, top with smoked salmon, capers, rocket and fresh dill, slice wraps into bite-sized pieces and enjoy.

Reposted with permission from

Can dairy help with weight loss?

Jill Ng
Don’t forget to include dairy in your weight loss plans!

A group from the Exercise Metabolism Research Group at McMaster University in Canada has shown that increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet and exercise induced weight loss promoted fat mass loss and lean mass gain.
The 16 week study which was done in overweight and obese premenopausal women, compared three groups of women who were trying to lose weight, into 3 groups – high protein, high dairy (HPHD), adequate protein, medium diary (APMD), and adequate protein, low dairy (APLD). Body composition, muscle and in particular fat loss during the time of the study was measured over different intervals during the course of the study (0,8, and 16 weeks).
All groups lost weight and fat, but the fat loss during weeks 8-16 was greatest for the HPHD group and was related to the increased diary intake. This group also gained lean tissue more quickly than their counterparts. The APMD group maintained their muscle mass and the APLD lost lean muscle mass.

The Australian Guidelines to Healthy Eating recommends having three serves a day which is equivalent to a 250ml glass of milk, 40g serving of hard cheese, or a 200g tub of yoghurt each day. See dairy Australia website for more details. 

Josse AR, Atkinson SA, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM, J. Nutr. 2011 Sep;141(9):1626-34. ‘Increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet-and exercise-induced weight loss promotes fat mass loss and lean mass gain in overweight and obese premenopausal women.’

Staying focused over winter

Jill Ng
‘Because its too cold to lose weight’
Don’t let this be you. Thinking about weight loss is usually very demotivating at the best of times, so its no surprise that when winter rolls in a lot of peoples weight loss and exercise plans grind to a halt. Prevent summer panic and disappointment by staying focused over winter by setting some goals for the season and being realistic about your expectations for the season, and the changes in your routine. I like to think that just trying to make each day count can be a good basic starting point as the days till summer get less and less.

Sensible choices when eating out or at home are also useful as they can help to prevent large changes on the scales as well. 
  • Have warming meals, but be careful about hidden fat and oil.
  • Eat regularly, and swap heavy choices for lighter versions, use different recipes to the ones you have always used, and look for different variations of old classics – ie use filo instead of puff pastry in home made pies, and roast vegetables using an oil spray or a drizzle of olive oil with plenty of herbs instead of butter. 
  • Consider trialling yoghurt in place of sour cream on vegetables, soups and baking for a higher protein, low fat alternative. 
  • Monitor sweets and treats - a normal part of life, they sometimes can increase a lot over winter when the cold drives us to the pantry. Allow yourself a little but try to keep the portion in check. Once or twice a week is probably alright. More frequent intake than this (ie daily) may be one reason your weight loss isn’t going so well. 

Physical activity
Just because its cold doesn’t mean you can’t still go for a walk, no matter how much you feel like hibernating you will feel much better once its done. 
If you are really struggling to get into a good winter exercise routine, set a date, time alarm in your phone to remind you. If you are dragging the snooze button on your alarm – put your trainers near the door or hang your exercise clothes up the night before to remind you what you are going to be doing. 
Choose something you like, like a dance class or something that will give you ‘me’ time. Sit down and write down why its important to you – and the benefits of doing it. Put this somewhere you can see it.
Back it up with a reward or something you have been meaning to do for yourself afterward – ie., after I have done my exercise I will phone a friend to catch up or go to see a movie.

Stay Warm!