I grew up a dairy farmers daughter during the seventies and eighties. We ate from the land - meat, potatoes and veges. Mum always had baking in the cupboard and there was always dessert. Living in a remote rural community take aways were very rare and usually only when we were holiday away from the farm.
School lunches were pretty much the same thing most days - sandwiches (marmite and cheese), some fruit, baking and a drink of “cordial” (flavoured sweetened drink if you have never heard that word before!).
I became interested in nutrition as I went through my teens and started a battle with my weight. And from those days onwards was often on some form of diet or exercising to lose or control weight.
I headed to University of Otago to study Human Nutrition. In the early 90’s it was all about fat and in particular saturated fat. I can remember sitting in a lecture and hearing my lecturer say we only need two grams of fat a day of the essential fatty acids (that our bodies can’t make for themselves), and we don’t need to eat any more than that and that the way to control body weight was by cutting out as much fat as possible and eating a high carb, moderate protein diet. So that is what I did.
And it worked while I was in my late teens, early 20’s. I was fit and active and my weight remained stable. I ate bowls of pasta with a tomato based sauce cooked in a non stick pan with half a teaspoon of vegetable oil to sauté the onion – because I didn’t want to add “unnecessary” fat to my meal. I ate two weetbix with a sprinkle of sugar and trim milk for breakfast – remember sugar was considered ok then because it was a carb and not fat.
However then came the time to start a family, I came off the pill and all of a sudden I had acne, not super bad, but always there, and I couldn’t get pregnant. Off for tests we went and I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Initially I didn’t change much but then I started to learn about glycaemic index of carbohydrate based foods and that this could affect your hormones. This was the first time I learnt that what we eat can affect not only our blood glucose levels and the hormone insulin but can affect our reproductive hormones too. So I decided to change my diet to see what would happen. I went from eating a high carb, mixed GI (glycaemic index) diet to a high carb, low GI diet. My breakfast changed to a mix of Special K and All Bran with trim milk and low fat yoghurt. I changed my lunch from a wholemeal bread sandwich to a Vogel’s sandwich. Dinner I cut out the potatoes and switched to basmati rice, chickpeas and pearl barley. And it made a huge difference. Within a week my acne disappeared, my cycles reduced from 40+ days to 30 day cycles. And I became pregnant.
This period of time opened my eyes that how we eat significantly affects more than just nutrient sufficiency or deficiency and body weight. This was before what we also know now about (for example) the importance of gut health, inflammation and of the effects of too much circulating cortisol on our hormonal response to foods.
The next period of change for me was reading more and more about carbs and the insulin response causing weight gain and the addictive nature of sugar and refined carbs. (When at Uni the Aitkins approach had always been considered dangerous and not based on real science, but I can remember thinking back then that it made sense to me but I wasn’t prepared to challenge the establishment!). So in an effort to control my weight I decided to go low carb.
No more high carb cereal based breakfasts for me. Instead, it was eggs. I remember the first time I served myself up two fried eggs without toast and they looked so lonely sliding around on the plate! However, I didn’t get hungry an hour and half after eating them and lasted easily through to lunch time without getting hungry. And that’s the power of maintaining stable blood glucose levels and not causing insulin to drive your blood sugars down and making you hungry soon after eating. And so I have continued to eat relatively low carb (most of the time!) since then.
I now eat mostly foods based on whole or real food because of an increasing awareness in the benefits and importance of maintaining good gut health, they are rich in nutrients sustaining the body for general good health and disease prevention such as preventing diabetes or heart disease, a realisation that the body doesn’t utilise substances that aren’t food and that often what was previously thought to be ok with further research and time we find out isn’t so good for us after all.
And so Wholo Foods was born because I wanted to make healthy foods and healthy snacks convenient for busy people and families. We make ready to eat foods and snacks that are based on whole foods, are 100% natural with no additives or preservatives and are also gluten free and dairy free. Much of what we make is also low carb (or keto) like our Vitality Wraps, Seeded Crackers and some of our Amazeballs (Vanilla Bliss and Choc Cacao Crunch). We have some treat foods (and these are based on whole foods too) but most of what we make is for eating every day.
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