Avocado-The Better Spread

Avocados are one of my favorite foods. I can eat them morning, noon, and night, savory or sweet, straight with a spoon, and as far as I’m concerned, they go well with anything. The avocados in Sri Lanka have been amazing And sometimes they are called butter fruit. Sadly, butter fruit are no where to be found these days, but I was lucky enough to find two today. One seemed ripe and ready to go but it’s not and the other may take a few days. Hopefully it will be a good one because I haven’t had any yet this year!

Avocados are high in fat which is one of the reasons they have such a creamy texture and not only are they delicious, but they are nutritious! According to the California Avocados website, avocados contain nearly 20 essential nutrients, they are considered to be a healthy fat, and they add flavor and texture to any meal or snack. Avocados are rich in Vitamin E, have a variety of B vitamins, folic acid, potassium, and they are packed with fiber. Because they are high in monounsaturated fats, they help the body absorb fat soluble compounds such as beta-carotene and lutein, making some the other foods we eat even more nutritious.
While I’ve already mentioned avocados can go well with anything, try one, mashed, as a spread in your next sandwich. Many people use mayonnaise, both as a sandwich spread and a dressing base, but a good, ripe avocado can take its place and offer far more nutrition. And you know what’s ironic about this post? I’ve been using a bit of mayonnaise here and there this past week as a source of fat seeing as avocados are out. But anyway, let’s have a look at how they measure up. I ask you, when it comes to avocados versus mayonnaise, who will win?
Avocado (100 g-1 whole small fruit) vs Mayo (2 tbsp)
Calories: 160 calories /188 calories
Protein: 2 g /0 g
Fat: 15 g /21 g
Carbs: 9 g /0 g
Fiber: 6.7 g /0 g
Potassium: 485 mg /6 mg
Sodium: 7 g /175 mg
Monounsaturated fat: 10 g /5 g
As you can see, avocados have more nutrition to offer and all of it comes in a package of the small fruit itself, the mayonnaise is just two tablespoons! More food, more filling, more happiness. Use a ripe avocado in your next salad or sandwich. If you want more tang, like in the mild zing of mayonnaise, add a dash of salt and vinegar, try some lime juice and chili powder, or keep it simple with a spritz of soy sauce. There are many tricks to determine the ripeness of an avocado, but my favorite is the green spot test. The green spot is the small hole in the top of the fruit once the stem has been popped off. If it’s green inside, it’s usually ripe, but not always! Sometimes, you just have to test a few for firmness and go with your gut. If they are too hard, they will take a while to ripen, but if you can put your finger through the skin, it’s past it’s peak. Monitor your avocados at home because once they are ready, they spoil quickly!

If avocados are not already a part of your diet, incorporate them today. While to some, they may not be the most flavorful of foods, they certainly have a lot to offer. And, honestly, I think it’s safe to say most people love them. Make your favorite sandwich, some classic chicken salad, or toast some whole grain bread and add some creamy and dreamy avocado today! If you want more inspiration, look up some recipes on line or check out Pinterest. My feed is always full of delicious, innovative, and creative avocado recipes.

Final Destination: Australia

Australia: Last Stop

After over 30 hours of travel from Sri Lanka, I arrived in Brisbane, Australia on December 19, 2017. I visited my friend Katherine who I’d met in September, 2016 in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was by chance we shared lunch one day in a crowded veg shop and she and her friend had no place to sit. I invited them to join my empty table and we’ve been friends ever since. We explored a bit of chaotic Kathmandu together and traveled north to Pokhara, making a few stops along the way. Back then, I thought I’d finish Asia and be in Australia by April or May, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I extended my time in Thailand by one month back in December 2016, and shortly after I left, as you all know, I tore my ACL and meniscus in Myanmar. My time in Thailand added up and it took me forever to get out of Southeast Asia in general. So, 6-8 months later and 30 hours of travel to get to this, my 6th continent, here I am.

Brisbane, Australia
Katherine and I vivsiting the Christmas markets in Brisbane, Australia

Due to time constraints and the need to get back to life and work, my experiences here are cut short. As I was planning, I just couldn’t justify spending any more money than I already have on this Asian Adventure and furthermore, I’m tired. Spending time in Brisbane with Katherine and her daughter was great. I was able to stay in a home, we traveled around, I saw kangaroos for the first time ever, lorikeets and cockatoos fly freely, and we visited the Gold Coast. What’s even better, after a year and a half of travel, I visited someone I know. Friends-something that’s missing during long term travel. I had a 10 hour overnight layover in Sydney and caught up with a French girl I’d met in Cambodia. That was fun too, not to mention I got to see the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Opera House at Night
The iconic Sydney Opera House at Night.

Melbourne is where it’s at in Australia. It’s like the must see city. It’s definitely a nice place and overall, I feel like I experienced reverse culture shock since I arrived. The development, western amenities, and availability of goods and foods are still shocking at times! Coming from Asia, it’s an expensive place and because I’m not making money here, it’s also quite an adjustment… So much so I think I had a few episodes of heart failure at first, LOL.
I’ve lived for a year and a half with my meager belongings on my back and I’m tired. I don’t want to live out of a backpack anymore. I want some variety. I want to take care of myself. I want to be a productive member of society, I want to eat healthy and get back into fitness. Seeing as so many things are available here, I’ve taken advantage of some shopping and have some extra baggage to carry back to Colombo, but this should tide me over until I make my next visit to the states in April.
So, what to do in Melbourne? I was able to purchase a 2 week pass to a gym in the city. I’ve gone nearly every day, if not two times a day. I met a somehow related family member (there are lots of people here with the name Batsakis), I visited the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, watched a day of “The Ashes” Boxing Day Test Match, partied on New Year’s Eve, hiked 1,000 Steps on New Year’s Day, and was lucky enough to make it out to the Great Ocean Road with my housemate. Southern Australia at its finest and 2,000 miles south: Antarctica. I may never get closer.

The iconic Melbourne Cricket Grounds
The iconic Melbourne Cricket Grounds

Although I did some shopping here, I was able to entertain myself with some otherwise affordable activities. I got into a routine with the gym, exploring the city by foot, and sipping coffee in a variety of cafes while working on meal plans and nutrition focused articles for clients. In a lot of ways, it was a normal two weeks.
I could have written a “Must Do” blog for Melbourne, but there are plenty, so this is my own two week summary.
Australia was great. I’m so thankful for the opportunity and time spent here. My 6t continent, a nice break spent in a developed country, and best of all, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Sri Lanka. Well, not really, but if I ever want to come back it’s a possibility!

The Forum Theater
The Forum Theater

My recommendations? If you come to Melbourne and want to be like me, take advantage of the healthy food available, go to the gym, (Doherty’s has various locations throughout the city), pick up some supplements, and check out the Melbourne Cricket Grounds! And walk, walk, and walk…!

Downtown Melbourne
I did so much walking in downtown Melbourne!

4 Key Nutrients for Active Females

More and more women are getting into health and fitness. That’s great, but so many have questions about nutrition, healthy meal plans, and what they need for their bodies. Because women need fewer calories than men, I always emphasize that what ever diet (or meal plan) is followed, it must be well formulated. While it is important for everyone to consume a healthy diet, there are considerations across different age groups, especially for active people and athletes. Today we are going to look at 4 key nutrients for active females and how they help the body. In addition to the three macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat, active females need to ensure they consume adequate amounts of iron, Vitamin D, calcium, and antioxidants. Let’s have a look at each one.

Iron is a part of our hemoglobin, a protein that allows the body to bring oxygen from the lungs into the tissues. It is also found in myoglobin, which is a protein that supplies oxygen to the muscles, especially important during physical activity. Iron aids in metabolism, growth, development, and it plays a role in the creation of hormones and connective tissue, and it is partially responsible for the normal functioning of our cells. Not only do many people not consume adequate amounts of iron in the diet, but female athletes may have even less of the mineral. Women do lose some iron during their menstrual cycle and some athletes will have greater losses in their sweat, urine, and feces. When iron levels are suboptimal, the functionality of muscles is limited and overall work capacity is thereby reduced.
Iron comes from both animal (heme) and vegetable (non-heme) sources. Meat and seafood, especially oysters, are rich sources. Nuts, beans, certain vegetables, and cereal and grain products that have been fortified are some non-heme sources. Furthermore, heme-iron is more easily absorbed and has better bioavailability than non-heme iron, but the addition of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) enhances absorption. A good habit for vegetarians is to add a Vitamin C containing source of food at mealtime like lime juice on some bean and vegetable tacos, for example. The recommend daily allowance (RDA) for iron varies throughout the lifecycle, but females aged 14-18 need mg/day and women 19-50 need 18 mg/day (more when pregnant and lactating). To give you an idea, 3 ounces of oysters contain 8 mg, 1 cup of canned white beans contains 8 mg, and one half cup of boiled spinach contains 3 mg. Vegetarians and long distance runners (due to “foot strike hemodialysis,” a breakdown of the red blood cells in the blood vessels after repeated force to the foot), may be at a higher risk for iron deficiency and should be screened regularly. According to the Position Statement from the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, these athletes should aim for more than the RDA of 18 mg of iron per day.

Key Nutrients for Females
Iron is good for the body in more ways than one!

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that promotes calcium absorption and helps maintain appropriate levels of calcium and phosphorus, both of which aid in bone mineralization. It helps with bone growth and without it, bones can become brittle and thin. It also helps with cell growth, it plays a role in neuromuscular and immune function, and it can reduce inflammation. Vitamin D can enhance athletic performance and more and more studies show it may help injuries, be effective during periods of rehabilitation, improve neuromuscular function, increase the size of type two muscle fibers, and decrease the incidence of stress fractures.
The body produces Vitamin D through a complex process that involves UV rays from the sun. Females aged 14-70 require 600 IU (international units) per day. In addition to the sun, we get vitamin D from fatty fish like salmon (447 IU/3 ounces), tuna (154 IU/3 ounces, canned), vitamin D fortified milk (120 IU/cup), 1 large egg (41 IU, found in the yolk), and fortified cereals (amounts vary).
Athletes who have had stress fractures or other bone or joint injuries, muscle pain, or weakness, and those who have a low exposure to UVB rays (like those in northern latitudes or who cover up in the sun) may want to be assessed to determine if vitamin D levels are low.

Key Nutrients for Females
You also get Vitamin D from the sun.

Calcium, like Vitamin D, is important for bone health. The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics states “It is responsible for growth, maintenance, and repair of bone tissue.” It also regulates muscle contraction, conducts nerves, and assists in normal blood clotting. If calcium levels are low, bone mineral density can lessen and lead to fractures.
Often, low calcium levels in female athletes is because of an overall low calorie diet and disordered eating. Bone formation is at it’s peak in teenage years, a time when many young women are active and concerned about body image, so this age group requires more calcium than the average adult. As we age, bone formation slows until eventually “breakdown exceeds formation,” as stated by the National Institute of Health in their fact sheet on calcium. Adequate amounts in the formative years is important- it maximizes long term bone health.
Females aged 14-18 need 1,300 mg of calcium per day and women 19-50 require 1,000 mg per day. Dairy products are great sources of biologically available calcium with 8 ounces of yogurt supplying 415 mg and 8 ounces of milk at 300 mg. Canned salmon with bones (they are soft and safe to eat) provides 180 mg for 3 ounces and one cup of raw kale provides 100 mg. Almonds are also a good source and if consuming milk alternatives, be sure to read labels and purchase one that is calcium fortified.

Key Nutrients for Females
Some calcium sources.

Antioxidants protect cell membranes from damage caused by oxidation as a result of exercise (but not the only cause). Researchers have hypothesized that regular training does place constant stress on cells, increasing some of the harmful compounds in the body. Natural levels of antioxidants, however, increase and serve as protectors to the cells. Well trained athletes may naturally create more antioxidants within the body. Athletes do not necessarily need a supplement, but should consume a wide variety of foods to ensure they consume antioxidant rich foods to include fruits like berries, brightly colored vegetables, and fiber filled avocados.

Key Nutrients for Females
Get plenty of fruits and veggies.

Athletes do not need vitamin and mineral supplements to improve performance as much of what is required by the body can be derived through the food we eat. They may be warranted to reverse a deficiency that already exists. If you are concerned, check with your doctor for an assessment, but otherwise, be sure to consume a nutrient dense and varied diet.