Why I love my local park

I live in a suburb with a big park.  This park adjoins the beach, has 2 kids playgrounds – one with a giant pirate ship built around an old moreton bay fig tree – lots of BBQs, has a coastal track going through it, is home to various yoga schools, boot camps and hundreds of rainbow lorikeets, has several cafes and a newsagent across the street from it.  My park has many personalities, it can be the extroverted socialising park that everyone wants to go to (Australia day, fathers day etc.) and it can be a dark, windswept place that you walk quickly through at night.  But mostly my park is about the people who go there.

Kids love my park.  The littlies love the pirate ship with its slippery dips, gang planks, viewing posts complete with telescopes that don’t work and they love that big old tree.  And mum&dads love it too.  My park looks over a beautiful beach and sits at the bottom of a headland.  Surfers of all ages love this break, its a place where kids learn to surf and where older mal riders can have fun.  When the waves are big, crowds line the foreshore.

I do yoga in the park, I walk my dogs through the park, I spend time with my friends and their kids in the park.  We BBQ here, we have kids birthday parties here.  I love my park because it makes me feel like I live in a community.

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The good oil

OK, I’ll get this off my chest – I’m a dietitian and have been trained to be fearful of fat.  So we know that there are good fats ie. olive oil but we have also been told that all fats are fattening and must be avoided for all manner of health reasons.  Is this true? What do we know and what don’t we know?  How much scientific rigor is there behind our long held beliefs about fat? 

These questions are going through my brain because I’ve just tried some fresh  unfiltered olive oil and I feel inspired to write about this glorious stuff.

 

Unfortunately for me (as a dietitian) a large number of long held nutrition beliefs were based on scientific assumptions.  I’ll give you the classic example:

Early research into cholesterol found that eggs and shellfish were high in it.  So the advice of the day was to avoid these foods because they would increase your blood cholesterol levels.  But, they didn’t actually test whether eating eggs and shellfish contributed to high cholesterol.  When this research was finally done, they had conclusive evidence to show that eating these foods did not contribute to your cholesterol level!  These foods are most likely good for the heart.  (I’m positive that the eggs my own chookies lay are bundle of nutritious goodness)

 So, back to my thoughts on fat.  I have lots of questions in my mind about fat (are all animal fats equally bad with regards to heart disease?) but my big question is this – Have we been barking up the wrong tree with our strong advocacy for low fat diets? 

Recently, there have been several studies which have shown controversial results with regards to fat and health.  A recently published systematic review showed that replacing saturated fats (animal fats) with polyunsaturated fats is beneficial for heart disease prevention whereas replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates (sugars) increases the risk of heart disease.  Interesting stuff!  So lets stop buying low fat foods in which the fat is replaced with sugar!  Some of these foods may even have the heart foundation tick.  I’ve just slapped myself on the wrist – that was naughty.  I have transgressed so let’s get back to my original thoughts about the olive oil I got in the mail the other day.

 After 20 years as a dietitian I now feel confident to trust my instincts about food.  Some foods just make me feel good and these feelings are an amalgam of all my personal food philosophies and experiences.  I love growing my own stuff, I love supporting local growers, I love supporting the little guys who produce foods out of a passion for fresh, beautiful, unique foods, I love foods that feel good inside my body, I love animals and I love the colour green.  Okay, that sounds a little crazy but I love spinach and broccoli and generally all green veg.

 This olive oil that I received via Australia Post arrived on Monday the 23rd May and I think the olives were picked on the 1st May.  How amazing is that, will I ever get the privilege of trying such fresh olive oil again?  Its cloudy (and green tinged) and actually tastes rich and full but fresh.  When you look into the chemistry of olive oil, you find a product rich in polyphenols (naturally occurring anti-oxidants), plant sterols and fat soluble vitamins.  But the biggest reason for me to use this particular oil is the freshness.  Even wonderfoods are not wonderfoods for long, we know that micronutrients are destroyed by light, air, heat etc.  So here is a natural oil (basically unprocessed) that grew on a tree in NSW and is in my kitchen in a cool dark place in a cool dark bottle.  Can you sense my happiness??  I am trying to use this fresh oil as quickly as possible and I am using it raw (ie. not cooking with it).  I am drizzling it over pasta, soups and making sauces like salsa verde to dress boiled potatoes and roasted meats.  Yes, this is what I’m talking about when I say that I love foods that feel good inside my body.  I still don’t have evidence based answers to my fat questions, but I know that I love this oil and will use it with a heart full of joy and respect for this product.