Stefano Manfredi’s guide to chestnut preparation
Score chestnuts by cutting a small x on the flat side with the tip of a sharp knife
Some recipes call for chestnuts to be grilled and others boiled, both are easy.
Place on a tray under a moderate to hot grill for about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Parts of them will burn and go black. Don’t worry; this is just the outer shell.
Place in boiling water and cook until tender, if in doubt cut one in half to check it is cooked through.
When ready place nuts in a clean tea towel. Wrap them up for five minutes. Giving them a little squeeze will make them easier to peel.
Unwrap and peel both the outer shell and the pellicle (the extra layer between outer shell and nut) off.
Some recipes don’t require the nut to be whole in which case, cut the chestnut in half (in shell) and use a teaspoon to scoop of out the flesh.
Breathing – it’s a natural process right?
“Breathing may be considered the most important of all the functions of the body, for, indeed, all the other functions depend upon it.” Ramacharaka: Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath
Breathing is an unconscious natural process, as instinctive as swallowing, sneezing or coughing. You breath in and out thousands of times over the course of the day and probably never give it a second thought…until something goes wrong. Millions of Australians suffer from lung disease and for them being able to breathe becomes a central focus of their lives. Asthma alone affects more than 2.2 million Australians and is our country’s most widespread chronic health problem. 1 in 4 children, 1 in 7 adolescents and 1 in 10 adults are affected. By international standards this is high. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the term used for those who have difficultly in breathing air out from their lungs and includes asthmatic bronchitis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD affects up to 1 in 6 Australians over the age of 45 and is the third leading cause of disease burden, after heart disease and stroke. Yet unless you or someone close to you is affected, you probably don’t know much about it. Similarly lung cancer doesn’t attract the same media attention as say cancer of the breast, yet it is the fourth most common cancer in women and the third most common cancer in men. What’s more, lung cancer is particularly deadly; it is the most common cancer to result in death for men, and is second only to breast cancer in women.
Emphysema is the result of damage to many of the alveoli, making it increasingly difficult for the body to absorb enough oxygen. In addition the bronchial tubes become floppy and narrowed, making it hard to breath in and out. The major symptom is breathlessness. This usually starts during exercise or when walking up hill, but as the lungs condition worsens, breathlessness can occur with everyday activities and becomes extremely debilitating.
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed and swollen. Excess mucus is produced as a result and clogs the airways. Sometimes the muscles surrounding the airways also tighten causing bronchospasm and this together with the swollen, narrowed airways makes it difficult to get enough air in and out of the lungs. Symptoms of bronchitis include a persistent cough that brings up mucus, wheezing and shortness of breath.
The overwhelming number one cause of both bronchitis and emphysema (and it goes without saying lung cancer) is smoking and giving up is the single most important step you can take to both prevent and treat the disease. Frequent chest infections are common and so if you suffer from any form of COPD speak to your doctor about a flu vaccination and any other medication that may help. It is also known that emphysema can be hereditary – if you have a family member with the disease you may be susceptible and it is even more important that you avoid smoking and smoky environments since passive smoking can be equally harmful. Dusty environments are also damaging to lungs so wear a mask when working in such conditions.
But putting lung disease aside can how we breathe affect our general state of health? Many Eastern health philosophies and practices have claimed for years that it does. If you have ever practised yoga or meditation for example, breathing is a central focus. The belief is that breathing incorrectly leads to the poor functioning of practically every body system including digestion, respiration, metabolism and the immune system. Furthermore they claim that correct breathing is not a natural process, or has for many reasons been lost into adulthood, but needs to be taught, and once mastered can improve both physical and mental health, increase the ability to concentrate, promote relaxation and relieve stress. Western medicine has until now largely ignored these ideas, but there is an increasing interest in the use of breathing techniques both to assist those with lung disease to breathe more easily and effectively, as well as being enormously beneficial for all, particularly for relieving stress and anxiety.
Sydney-based physiotherapist Anna-Louise Bouvier says that at least 60% of us are poor breathers, and anecdotally (from those she sees in her practice) this figure may be as high as 80%. It seems to be a chicken and the egg scenario whereby stress, anxiety and poor posture affects breathing, while poor breathing likewise increases the level of stress and anxiety, and even contributes to poor posture by utilising the wrong muscles and encouraging slumping. Leon Chaitow, a UK-based holistic health practitioner, lectures and publishes widely on what he terms “breathing pattern disorders” (BPD). He claims that BPDs are extremely common and disturb the blood biochemistry by affecting the balance of oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide elimination, resulting in an altered blood pH. He further claims that this state, produced by incorrect breathing, causes or at least contributes to a vast range of symptoms ranging from muscular pain and tremors, anxiety and associated muscle tension, fatigue and sleep disturbances, to gastrointestinal problems and heart palpitations. It certainly seems physiologically plausible that insufficient oxygen and blood pH change could result in such broad ranging symptoms, but mainstream medical research has yet to concur, stating that there is currently insufficient evidence to support this theory.
How do we breathe?
Our lungs are kind of like giant sponges. When you breathe in air is drawn down the windpipe or trachea, which splits into two smaller tubes called the bronchi, and these carry the air down into the lungs. The bronchi then split into increasing numbers of smaller tubes called bronchioles, a bit like the branches of a tree, finally reaching the tiny air sacs called alveoli, of which there are some 300 million in each lung! The walls of the alveoli are so thin that oxygen can pass through them and enter the bloodstream for distribution around the body. Similarly carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism, can pass from the bloodstream into the alveoli ready to be expired with the next breath. The bronchial tubes secrete mucus to trap dust, dirt and bacteria and stop them from entering the lungs. Millions of tiny hairs called cilia then sweep back and forth helping to shift the mucus away from the lungs and keep them clean. Coughing also plays a vital role in this process. Hence the recent advice in the media concerning children and cough mixtures; paediatricians recommend that these medicines are not given to children with a cough as they should in fact be encouraged to cough to help clear the infection. Similarly those with lung diseases such as bronchitis or emphysema are encouraged to cough to help clear their lungs, particularly first thing in the morning when excess mucus and fluid may have settled in the lungs overnight. It is important to learn how to cough effectively – you ought to be able to clear your lungs in two or three coughs. Your doctor or physiotherapist can teach you how to do this.
So what are we doing wrong and how do you breathe correctly?
At the bottom of the chest cavity is the diaphragm. It is a dome shaped muscle largely responsible for moving air in and out of the lungs. When we breathe in the diaphragm moves down allowing the lungs to fill with air, and when the diaphragm moves up it helps to force air out of the lungs. If you watch a baby breathing their belly rises gently with each breath in as the diaphragm contracts downwards, and falls as they breathe out and the diaphragm moves upwards. Yet somehow many of us as adults have overridden the natural instinct to breathe in this way and instead hold our bellies in (possibly because we are all trying to look slimmer!) and breathe lifting our shoulders with each breath. This “shallow breathing” is what correct breathing techniques aim to rectify. There are numerous versions of how to do it and these too have changed over time. Many yoga techniques still teach a form of “belly breathing” – in yoga they call it the “Complete Breath” or “Dirgha Pranayama” – where the idea is to allow your belly to expand with each inspired breath and contract with each exhalation. This however is not quite correct according to Bouvier. She says this common practice of teaching leads to incorrect muscle use. Instead lie down and place your hands on your ribcage. As you breathe in you should feel your ribcage expand (think of widening your ribs) allowing your lungs to fill completely, and on the expiration pull your stomach in very softly, almost as if the stomach deflates.
Then think about the speed of your breathing. Do you take lots of shallow short breaths, or slow deep ones? Often when we get anxious the muscles around chest tighten and we subconsciously start to breathe in a less effective manner, failing to fill the lungs or fully expire ‘used’ air. When you do feel anxious or stressed take a few minutes to stop and concentrate on your breathing. Try counting to three as you breathe in, pausing for a moment, and again counting to three as you breathe out. If possible do this breathing through your nose as this helps you to breathe more slowly. The nose also plays an important role in filtering out dust and bacteria, preventing them from entering the lungs. Alternatively purse your lips as if whistling while breathing out to slow you down and keep breathing under control. Those who practice this type of breathing for 10 minutes or so once or twice a day, or any time they feel stressed, report great improvements in their anxiety levels and are generally more relaxed.
Can breathing correctly help asthmatics?
Asthma is a kind of allergic response where the airways narrow causing wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty in breathing. Despite popular opinion to the contrary, food and food allergies are not usually linked to asthma. Far more likely triggers are colds and flu, dust mites in bedding, carpets and soft toys, animal fur or feathers, pollen and moulds often found in damp areas in the kitchen or bathroom. The good news for asthma sufferers is that breathing therapy may help. The Buteyko Method, developed by a Russian doctor called Professor Konstantin Buteyko over 50 years ago, is a breathing program that claims to dramatically reduce or even eliminate the need for medications in many respiratory diseases, particularly asthma. The method is gaining support from the medical community with the publication of at least 5 trials in recent years – 2 in Australia, 1 in NZ and 2 in the UK – showing improvements in symptoms and reduced need for medications such as inhaled steroids in asthmatics. While Buteyko’s theories of how the method may work have not been confirmed by the research, the fact that such improvements have been found is immensely promising for asthmatics.
So perhaps breathing is not as unconscious and natural an act as we may at first think. We know that we need to breathe to live, but it seems that we also need to learn to breathe correctly if we are to live to our full potential. For those with any disease affecting the lungs breathing therapies are a must, but indeed the rest of us can benefit. Take 10 minutes now to think about it and see for yourself how it feels.
Create your Winning Team for Great Health
Dr Joanna McMillan and Judy Davie
Mum was right when she said, ‘eat your greens’ – of all the foods we include in our daily diet — there are some foods that are real star performers when it comes to their benefits to our overall health and well-being. These are the foods you want on your team, the Star Foods.
An empowering health book, Star Foods, nominates ‘the best of the best’ across all the food groups — the best vegetables and fruits; the best carbohydrate-rich, protein-rich, and fat-rich foods; the best drinks and even treats to include in your diet. Star Foods aims to help you create your own healthy and winning eating team of star foods to maximise your chances of achieving and maintaining good health.. Joanna’s in-depth of knowledge in the field of nutritional science and Judy’s practical ability to create quick, easy and healthy food makes a dynamic combination.
Includes colour photographs and more than 70 recipes.
Click here to purchase your copy from us and we’ll post to you asap.
“I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful new book. I am one of those who ticked many of the boxes in the questionnaire at the beginning of the book. You have inspired me to totally revamp my diet in a way that is manageable and not guilt-ridden, if I fall short. The analogy of the sports team is just perfect and makes it very easy to strive towards and achieve. Being a mother of young children and a student I tend to put my nutritional needs last but have noticed that I’m suffering with low energy levels and lacklustre skin as a result. However, the way you have written this book has completely changed the way I view nutrition. Previously it was all a bit too hard to figure out; but now I am thinking in terms of eating some 5 star foods each day and it all suddenly makes sense to me. Thank you so much for this.” Laurelle Wishart, Sydney
INNER HEALTH OUTER BEAUTY was the winner of the 2010 Australian Food Media Awards for Best Nutrition, Health or Diet-Related Book.
Supercharge your health and look your glowing best every day of your life.
We all know we should look after our health, but what motivates most women to get to the gym or decline that second helping of dessert is not being healthy so much as looking good. We’ve all heard the message that we should focus on our arteries and blood sugar levels rather than our silhouette – but what we really want is a plan for keeping the weight off and looking our radiant best at all times.
Nutritionist Joanna McMillan knows that appearance is inextricably bound up with physical well-being. The best way to lose weight permanently and develop that attractive joie-de-vivre is to smarten up your habits and live well. In this life-changing book she presents new ways of thinking about food and activity that are easily adaptable into any number of lifestyles and really work.
INNER HEALTH OUTER BEAUTY is a gorgeous and inspiring book for women. In addition to diet, it looks at the full spectrum of food-related factors: appetite, emotional eating and self-sabotage; finding pleasure in food; movement, motivation and activity; planning ahead and lots of divine, contemporary recipes. And it has the hip look and feel to make it an irresistible, pick-me-up publication.
Hard copies of this book are now sold out. You may be lucky and find one with online book sellers or your local book shop. However it is now available as an eBook. Click here to take you to a choice of retailers via Random House.
“I am not exaggerating when I say your book is really great and truly inspirational. Believe me when I say that I have read endless books on this subject in the past year and there is none that is more practical and perhaps more ‘truthful’ than yours…I couldn’t put it down. This is not false praise…just honest words from someone needing some honesty and decent advice.” A.K.
THE LOW GI DIET
Prof Jennie Brand-Miller, Kaye Foster-Powell & Dr Joanna McMillan
The Low GI Diet is not low carb. Or low fat. It’s low GI – by changing the type of carbohydrate you eat you can lose weight, and keep it off. You’ll feel fuller for longer, lower your insulin levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Prof Jennie Brand-Miller, Kaye Foster-Powell & Dr Joanna McMillan
100 delicious low GI recipes to help you lose weight reliably and keep it off! All-day meals, snacks and treats including recipes from renowned chefs and food writers Rick Stein, Antonio Carluccio, Margaret Fulton, Julie Le Clerc, Catherine Saxelby and Luke Mangan.
Available from all good book stores or click here to buy online from Fishpond.
Forget the fads and ditch the out-there theories. Discover how to feed your body well with the everyday ingredients in your supermarket trolley.
This was Joanna’s first book published in 2003. It is now out of print but can still be found in some book stores. Grab one if you see it – they’re hard to come by and still a great nutrition resource!
Inner Health Outer Beauty eBook
My book Inner Health Outer Beauty was an Australian Food Media Award winner a few years ago and since it’s now difficult to find a hard copy I’m delighted to say Random House have produced it as an eBook. You can download it on your iPad, your Kindle or pretty much any reading device you have.
Click here to take you your retailer options via Random House.