Monday, August 30, 2010

Indonesian Food - Love It!

I'm sure most people have eaten (or at least heard of) the staple Indonesian foods of Satay (skewers of meat with peanut sauce) and Nasi Goreng (fried rice with vegetables, chicken and prawn topped off with a fried egg). Sometimes the way local foods are prepared overseas turns out to be better than the local preparation since the overseas method is adjusted to suit foreign tastebuds. Was that the case with Indonesia? NO! The food was amazing and I discovered there is a lot more to it than just sate (that's how they spell satay) and nasi goreng. I loved it so much I bought an Indonesian cookery book in the airport and have already made my first sate and homemade peanut sauce.

If you have a peanut allergy then Indonesian food won't be great for you since I found nearly every dish I ate had peanuts in it. Also, if you're Muslim then Bali may not be the best place to visit since there was little separation between pork and other meats. Although Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, Bali has retained its original Hindu religious beliefs - over 90% of its population are Hindu and its national dish is the suckling pig. On buffets we found that you used the same tongs for all the meats - including pork - and it is pretty much guaranteed that all meats are cooked on the same grill in the kitchen. For the rest of us though...once you try real Indonesian food you will be hooked.


I have to admit that I ate sate pretty much every day of the holiday - I absolutely LOVE IT. I didn't realise before going to Indonesia that there are different ways of preparing it. The world-famous way is small pieces of meat grilled on a skewer but there is also sate where the meat is minced up, mixed with spices and sauce and then moulded around the skewer. I think that sate campur is the pieces of meat served over a small BBQ on the table but then in other restaurants it seemed the sate campur was served minced up. With English not always being restaurant staff's strong point, I resigned myself to not getting to the bottom of it. The minced sate (sate lollipops I was told) did not make my list of great foods since it's the flavour of meat and peanut sauce that I adore with sate. Fish sate (sate lilit) is of the lollipop variety and is served moulded around sticks of lemongrass, a nice touch but I was expecting prawns and fish on a skewer and the sate lilit was quite spicy with no real taste of fish. Many dishes automatically come with a couple of sate skewers so even if you weren't planning on eating sate, you will do.

Sate on a sizzling platter at Punchuk Pass, Java (about 2 hours from Jakarta)

Sate on a little charcoal BBQ with traditional accompaniments at Rama Beach Hotel, Kuta, Bali

Sate on a different style of BBQ at Kunyit Bali, Kuta, Bali

Sate lollipops at Bebek Bengil, Ubud, Bali

Sate Lilit (fish on lemongrass sticks) at Gabah Restaurant, Kuta, Bali

Bebek (Roast Duck)

The most famous Asian roast duck is of course Peking Duck, in Indonesia the duck itself is similar but they don't make pancakes with it. In Jakarta we had our first taste of Indonesian bebek and it was served on a platter with 'dirty rice' which is a mixture of different types of rice with coconut, fried onions and nuts mixed in - delicious. Although the duck is dry, mixed with the moist rice it was fantastic. The following week in Ubud, Bali we again ordered duck but this time we were served a plate with a quarter duck sat on it, a mound of rice and a random piece of watermelon. Simon tore the duck apart but it was really dry and the sambal (chili) sauce provided was too hot for us to eat so dry rice and dry duck...not our best meal.

Bebek with dirty rice, Harum Manis, Jakarta

Bebek at Bebek Bengil, Ubud, Bali

Gado Gado

Gado gado is a salad dish made up of cold steamed vegetables (cabbage, beans and other available veg). Our first taste of this was in Jakarta where the vegetables were mixed with a spicy peanut sauce - hot but delicious. We then ordered it at our hotel in Ubud in Bali where it was served as a plate of cold steamed vegetables with peanut sauce on the side. For some reason, dipping the vegetables in the sauce just wasn't the same as the Jakarta version and the end result was very bland cold cooked vegetables. Probably healthier, but definitely not as tasty.

Gado gado with sate at Harum Manis, Jakarta

Gado gado at Maya Ubud, Ubud,Bali

Nasi Goreng / Bihun Goreng

Nasi goreng is fried rice with vegetables, prawns and chicken. We ate it a couple of times as it is a core meal item and it never disappointed. An entire meal in a bowl: rice, meat and vegetables - simple and satisfying. However, once I discovered Bihun Goreng then the nasi goreng was out in the cold. Bihun is rice noodles and so bihun goreng is fried rice noodles - same as nasi goreng but noodles instead of rice. There are others as well such as Mie Goreng which is with egg noodles and I'm sure there are more that I don't know about. I'm attempting to make my own bihun goreng tonight, but doubt the presentation will be have as good as I saw in Bali!

Nasi goreng, Bebek Bengil, Ubud, Bali

Bihun goreng, Rama Beach Hotel, Kuta, Bali

Beef Rendang, Suckling Pig and More

The only time I've eaten beef rendang was when I made it once - minus the chilis the recipe called for. When I tasted it for the first time in Jakarta it nearly blew my head off! My sister loves it and it was her dish of choice in any Indonesian restaurant, so I will have to take her word for it that it's delicious - great for all of you who love spicy food.

Beef rendang at Gabah Restaurant, Kuta, Bali

I mentioned at the start of this article that suckling pig is the Balinese national dish. We were lucky enough to be able to sample one at our hotel in Ubud since it's an entire spit-roasted pig and so not something you can just order off the menu. The presentation was impressive, unless of course you're against eating animals in which case you probably wouldn't have liked the look of it and shouldn't look at the below photo! Sadly, our hotel in Ubud hadn't mastered the concept of keeping buffet food hot so the chef was carving a 'not very roasting hot' pig - I was hoping to get some meat fresh off the spit, hot with juices dripping out of it so was quite disappointed with my cold and rather fatty piece. I am sure that it is amazing when it's done properly though.

Suckling pig, Maya Ubud, Ubud, Bali

Other Indonesian dishes that we tried included mixed vegetables wrapped in a tofu omelette / pancake - at least I think it was tofu. I was served with a dish that looked like an egg omelette with vegetables inside but was assured it was not egg although the waitress couldn't tell me what it was. The pancake was a bit chewy but the vegetables were crispy and fresh. In terms of local soups, Indonesian pumpkin soup is delicious and is made with coconut milk rather than cream and cramcam ayam is a slightly spicy chicken noodle soup that is almost a meal in itself.

Vegetable pancake, Cafe Batavia, Jakarta

Although we had some disappointing meals, I think that was more the restaurant each time than Indonesian food itself. Indonesian food is reknowned as being spicy but we found that with many dishes the sambal is served in a separate dish so you can make it as spicy as you want. The only thing that was lacking for me was vegetables because they were almost always served with lots of chilis mixed in, making them inedible for my delicate tastebuds. Now that I'm writing this blog it does make me far more aware of what I'm eating, as well as encouraging me to try foods I would maybe not have tried before. For the first time after a holiday I have actually craved the food I've eaten whilst being away so that has to be a great sign.

My research has shown there are only 3 Indonesian restaurants in Dubai: 1 in the Raffles hotel (extremely expensive, the write up wasn't great and I'm sure the food will be fusion style, not the real mccoy), 1 in Bur Dubai that had a terrible review on Time Out and 1 in Karama which was apparently recommended by the chef at Rhodes' Mezzanine - Betawi I come.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Away for 2 Weeks

I'm off on holiday so there'll be no new postings for the next 2 weeks. Lots to write about when I get back though: Jakarta and Bali here we come!

On a footnote, we just had dinner at Cucina again and it was even better than last time. We were welcomed back by various members of the team (don't know if that's as a result of my comments last time?) and the hostess remembered exactly when we'd last been. Very impressed - huge improvement in terms of guest satisfaction. The meal was speedy again and was fabulous. I had the red snapper and scallops with a saffron sauce (same as last time) - I love this dish! Simon had one of the specials which was chicken on mashed sweet potato - really tender chicken, moist potato and full of flavour. I think Cucina is on its way to being our favourite restaurant - it's location within walking distance certainly helps too!

Dubai Restaurant Review: Summer Place, Metropolitan Hotel

In a nutshell: decent Chinese food but wouldn't race back.

Summer Place was one of our favourite restaurants growing up, although in those days it was called Summer Palace - when the chef moved on then the name was altered to Summer Place. The decor is the traditional red and black style favoured by Chinese restaurants. We were given a table by the window looking out onto the Metro, as there were 5 of us we had a round table with a lazy susan - vital to easily share dishes although leaving the spoon handles sticking out meant we had a couple of casualties as the susan was turned around.

I wasn't blown away by the food, although my parents and brother Struan thought it was amazing. Struan thought my score should reflect a group vote, but the point of my scores is to compare the various restaurants that I've eaten at so the 5/5 they all wanted is not what I've given. I'm torn between a 3/5 and a 4/5 but will go with 4 since the food itself was good but just lacked the wow factor. My starter of iceburg lettuce leaves with minced chicken, waterchestnuts, vegetables and plum sauce were really nice - a totally wheat-free pancake. The soups (hot & sour and chicken & sweetcorn) were both as would be expected. The appetiser platter with 8 different starters was as Simon and I expected: full of breaded and fried foods. Prawn toast, breaded prawns, spring rolls, crispy chicken wings, crispy dim sum and more. A basket of steamed dim sum was also part of the platter, but these are again a wheat dumpling. We also ordered a quarter crispy duck to share but the pancakes were more like tiny Iranian breads and were not rice paper pancakes, the duck itself was tasty but a bit dried out and tough.

We had a variety of mains including beef with cashews and oyster sauce (not on the menu but I requested it), shredded chilli beef, salt & pepper prawns, lamb with a black bean sauce and sweet & sour chicken. All the dishes were well presented and flavoursome but I've realised that Chinese restaurants must really add a lot of corn flour to their sauces since I found they were all quite gelatinous. Summer Place used to serve fantastic baby BBQ pork ribs but they lost / gave up their pork licence so no pork is now available; a real shame. There was a limited choice of desserts, none of which appealed to me, but others had deep fried ice-cream and toffee bananas/pineapple (fruit caramelised with the toffee and then set hard) which were a bit different although quite rich and so a little sickly.

I was disappointed with the service. Although our waiter was very friendly and was able to explain the menu items really well, my drink arrived a good 10 minutes after everyone elses', my Mum wasn't given a wine glass and had to ask for it, we were given hot plates but then no food arrived until the plates had gone cold and the food was delivered to the table in dribs and drabs rather than all at the same time. A bit more work on the service delivery is needed I would say. Nevertheless, as always, a meal is made by the company you eat it with so it was a great evening despite the fact my review may not sound like it!

In terms of cost, a meal for 5 with a bottle of wine was just AED 1,200 so just AED 240 a head - not bad considering we each had 3 or 4 courses (including the duck). We actually only paid AED 1,080 since we had 2 free main courses thanks to The Entertainer vouchers. There are 'banquet' options with set menus ranging from AED 220-270 per head which are also good value if you like everything on the set menu. Overall, I would eat here again if invited but I wouldn't choose to visit Summer Place again - sadly the memories are better than the current reality.

Dubai Restaurant Review: Sports Cafe, Jebel Ali Golf Resort

In a nutshell: good food and great views onto the marina.

The Sports Cafe at Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa (it used to be plain old Jebel Ali Hotel when we used to go there as children but they've gone a bit more upmarket now) is located within the Club Joumana complex. Club Joumana is the clubhouse for both the marina and the golf and also offers squash, table tennis, air hockey and table football. In keeping with the sporty, casual theme the furniture inside and outside at Sports Cafe is all rattan, there are sofas all round the walls and bean bags on the floor. Everywhere you looked there were TV screens - the quintessential sports bar.

The staff were very friendly and the manager seemed to know many of the diners personally. The menu is quite limited and included the usual array of salads and sandwiches with some hot dishes. I always find restaurant salads are 90% lettuce which drives me crazy so seeing they had a ceasar salad with grilled prawns and a grilled hammour with steamed vegetables and rice, I asked if I could have grilled prawns with steamed vegetables and rice. No problem! The dish was simple, but exactly what I wanted and it tasted great. Simon's bangers and mash were also really good, but could you really go wrong with such a straight-forward dish?

It is quite a drive to get to the hotel but it does mean you feel that you've really got away from Dubai. The restaurant looks out onto the marina and in cooler weather it would have been nice to have a wander round. Club Joumana offers annual memberships which include access to the hotel's beaches and pools, I could be tempted...

Dubai Restaurant Review: Flavours on Two, Towers Rotana

In a nutshell: cheap and cheerful, good food but not great alcohol.

Flavours on Two is the sort of place to go to with a group of friends when you want a relaxed dinner with a few drinks at a reasonable price. It is not the place to go for a romantic meal or with people you want to impress! As the name suggests, Flavours is on the 2nd floor of the Towers Rotana Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. Every night the 'all you can eat buffet' has a different theme; Thursday is Italian night.

When you enter the restaurant from the lifts you are straight into the buffet area as all the tables are around the outside near the windows. It felt very small because having the bar and buffet area in the middle doesn't seem to have left much room for tables. We were a group of 7 and were seated at a c-shaped sofa (5 of us on there - pity the person stuck in the middle, Simon in this case!) with individual chairs filling the sofa-free section. It was comfortable but we realised that the shape of the sofa seemed to catch sounds so it was quite noisy - although the wooden floors and seriously wasted group sat next to us helped with that!

The starters included soup and various salad items. I nearly had the cream of courgette soup until my friend pointed out that it would be full of dairy - she can't eat dairy and yeast either (although hopefully I'm only off them for a few more weeks) so was able to give me some great pointers and ideas. Simon did have the soup (actually the bowl that I had taken for myself) and said it was fantastic - he actually went back for more before he got his dessert! The salads included cold roasted vegetables, melon with bresaola plus the usual suspects. The live cooking station was all pasta so sadly I had to avoid that - the effect pasta has on my stomach doesn't even make me crave it. There was a great variety of foods in the serving dishes though, including chicken, beef, fish and lamb. The fish and chicken I had were both very tender and the potatoes and vegetables were luckily not presented covered in black pepper. Dessert-wise, I settled for fresh fruit although the chocolate fountain and sticky toffee pudding were extremely tempting! Whilst the food didn't blow me away, it was all very tasty and fresh which is exactly what you want from a buffet.

The only disappointment of the evening was some of the drinks - cheap vodka and cheap wine. For AED 169 per person for unlimited food and drink, you can be sure that you aren't going to be served top quality brands but there should still be some sort of minimal standard. My brother, Struan, was on gin and said that was fine so maybe stick to that. The staff were friendly but we had minimal interaction since it was a buffet and I pity them having to work there with some of the seriously drunk people they need to deal with. One good thing was that they automatically served water (local) - I remember going for a buffet years ago where alcohol was free but water had to be paid for!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fat Does Not Make You Fat

The word FAT naturally makes people think of being overweight and all the associated health problems that brings. However, dietary fat is not the same as body fat. As discussed in my carbohydrates article, it is carbohydrates that cause the release of insulin and it is insulin that traps excess sugar in the body and stores it as body fat. Dietary fat is a vital food component that we need to eat daily.

Health benefits of dietary fat

The brain is made up of 60% fat and dietary fat is needed to help with:
protein absorption;
carbohydrate absorption;
breakdown of nutrients;
manufacture of hormones and much much more.

It is fat that triggers the brain to recognise that you are full, once you've eaten a certain amount of fat then it sets off a chain reaction that tells your body to stop eating. Carbs and protein do not have the same effect which is how you can easily overeat them, particularly carbs.

It is fat that stimulates the release of bile from your gall bladder. Bile is a vital part of the digestive process as it helps break down food so it can be absorbed and used by the body. Skimmed milk does not contain enough fat to trigger the release of bile, if no bile is released then the milk can't be broken down properly and the calcium in the milk can't then be absorbed. Low-fat milk has enough fat in it to trigger the gall bladder so it is a much better option than skimmed milk.

What happens if you don't eat enough fat?

A deficiency of fat in the diet can cause carbohydrate cravings (which then leads to putting on more weight), mood disorders, depression, infertility, insomnia and brittle nails / dry skin / thin hair.

Oestrogen is needed for various bodily functions and it also raises HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels. A low-fat, high-carb diet depletes oestrogen levels and this can therefore lead to higher levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. See below for more about cholesterol.

Which fats are healthy?

All natural fats are good for you. Your diet should be 30% fat.

You will get enough fat in your diet if you eat olive oil on your salads, a moderate amount of butter (real butter - not margarine), eggs, red meat, poultry, fish, avocado, low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds.

Omega 3 is a vital fat - plus it is highly anti-inflammatory as discussed in the Anti-Inflammatory Diet posting. It is found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines), olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. It also boosts metabolism, so you burn up the food you eat more efficiently.
Omega 6 is also important and is found in leafy greens, pulses and grains. As Monica Reinagel discovered, meat and factory farmed salmon have higher levels of Omega 6 than in the past due to the fact they are fed on a grain diet nowadays and too much Omega 6 leads to inflammation.

Oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado are very good fats and should be eaten regularly - they contain Omega 3 and essential fatty acids.

Butter, cheese, mayonnaise and meat/poultry are important fat sources so they should be eaten often but in moderation.

Excess meat fat, lard and heated cold-pressed oils (i.e. cooking with olive oil) should be eaten minimally because they contain bad fats.

Trans-fats, deep fried foods, margarine, buttermilk, non-dairy creamers and processed foods using hydrogenated / partially hydrogenated oils should be avoided. Why?
- Vegetable oils are extracted using heat and this changes their molecular structure to create poisonous trans-fatty acids. Trans-fats clog the arteries and can contribute to serious conditions including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
- Margarine is man-made and cannot be properly digested, plus most contain trans-fatty acids. Liquid oils are hydrogenated to make them solid but many are only partially hydrogenated (so they melt with heat) and it is these partially hydrogenated oils that contain high levels of trans fats.
- Olive oil is cold-pressed so it is safe to eat but even olive oil changes its molecular structure if you cook with it and this could contribute to health problems.

Cooking with a little butter is a much better option since this is a natural fat that the body can break down and digest properly.

According to wikipedia, the most health-damaging oils are those that contain high levels of poly-unsaturated fats (soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil) as they can lead to the formation of cancers. Oils high in mono-unsaturated oils (olive oil, canola / rapeseed oil, peanut oil) are much safer to eat. Palm oil and coconut oil have been found to be the most dangerous oils for your health. If you read this entry (click link above) then it will really put you off vegetable oils!

What about cholesterol?

Cholesterol is needed by the body to build hormones, membranes and other internal structures. The liver uses cholesterol to manufacture bile acids which are required to digest and absorb nutrients from food. Cholesterol also insulates the nerves and if this is lacking then nerve disorders can result. Cholesterol also protects against ageing of the brain and heart. A lack of cholesterol can lead to weaker cell membranes and a weak immune system which can increase the vulnerability of the cells to diseases such as cancer.

Judy Cole found in her patients that often when they had a virus, their cholesterol levels would rise as a protection mechanism. Once the virus had passed, the cholesterol went back down. In the case of long-term or chronic illness, she found that cholesterol levels stayed high as a protection for the body and that taking medication to reduce the cholesterol could then leave the body open to more damage from the virus.

There is bad cholesterol (LDL) and good cholesterol (HDL). LDL can accumulate along and clog your arteries, HDL takes LDL back to the liver to be excreted and so the HDL helps keep your arteries clear.

If you do not eat enough cholesterol then your body will release an enzyme which then begins to over-produce cholesterol - this is because your body cannot function without some cholesterol. It is believed that it is this self-made cholesterol that leads to artery plaque which results in heart attacks and strokes. As long as you eat enough cholesterol then this enzyme won't be activated / will switch off.

The best sources of cholesterol are: eggs, meat, avocado, shellfish and dairy products. Cole recommends that if you have high cholesterol then you need to shut off the dangerous enzyme that is over-producing cholesterol. The way to do this is to eat 2 eggs a day, 5-7 days per week (i.e. a total of 10-14 eggs a week). Cholesterol levels will rise initially but then the body will recognise that it's receiving enough cholesterol (after about 3 months) and it will shut off the enzyme. I have personally heard of one man who tried this and his doctor could not believe how much his cholesterol had fallen by.

In the last century people ate a diet much higher in saturated fat (high in cholesterol) such as butter but there was a much lower incidence of heart disease then than there is now. Saturated fats contain both LDL and HDL but trans fats (cooking oils, margarine) contain LDL and cause the lowering of HDL (good cholesterol) levels. It is widely accepted in the medical community that trans-fats contribute to heart disease. There are suggestions, not fully researched, that they also contribute to Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, obesity, infertility and liver disfunction. See wikipedia for more info.

Research by the Harvard School of Public Health found that in the 1960s 13% of Americans were obese, today 34% of Americans are obese and Type II diabetes has risen from less than 1% of the population to 8%. This is despite people eating less saturated fat and choosing to eat vegetable fats instead. Their findings show that it is not the presence of cholesterol in your food that causes high cholesterol, it is the type of fats being eaten - trans fats in particular since they raise LDL and lower HDL. They also found that eating fat-free products often means eating more carbohydrates / sugar because manufacturers have to replace the fat content with something and so this leads to weight gain. Following a low fat diet means that good fats as well as bad fats are not eaten and this has negative consequences for your health, as seen above.

So the bottom line is - good fats are not just good for you they are vital to your health. As with everything though, moderation is the key!

Dubai Restaurant Review: Chop Chop, Mall of the Emirates

In a nutshell: lukewarm food, not quite fresh fish and no discount!

I wanted to try something different from my usual Japengo's so decided to try Chop Chop since the menu looked really nice. The restaurant is right next to the ski slope in Mall of the Emirates but it faces away from the snow which I found a little strange. I ate here a few years ago when they were having a ventilation problem (so I left stinking of food) but they seem to have fixed that now. It is open onto the mall concourse - same as most of the restaurants - so you can people-watch as you eat.

As the name suggests, Chop Chop is a Chinese restaurant. It is owned by the same group that owns Biella and sadly this experience was on a par with that disastrous one! They have an extensive tea menu, with the tea served in little Chinese teapots. A nice touch but the service lacked a smile and whilst the staff weren't rude, they were clearly just doing their job and that was it. We started with crispy spinach with carmelised cashew nuts. Sounded great, but there was a huge mound of crispy spinach and only a tiny sprinkle of nuts.

Mum and I both decided to go for the red snapper: mine steamed and hers crispy with a black bean sauce. The crispy one had vegetables cooked with it, the steamed one was literally just the fish in a sauce - luckily we had ordered stir-fry vegetables to go with it. As I picked up my first mouthful of fish I thought it smelled very fishy (fresh fish really has no smell and it certainly doesn't smell strongly of fish), then that it tasted strange. After sniffing at it for a while (maybe I was a dog in a past life since I seem to have such a sensitive nose!) I decided the smell was like smoked fish and that it was definitely not fresh. I sent it back and ordered sweet & sour prawns instead since I needed something quickly and prawns cook in minutes. The prawns were actually very nice with mango and pineapple mixed in with them, however they weren't hot. If they had just come out of the wok then how could they not be 'burning your mouth hot'? Mum's snapper was also not piping hot and we couldn't understand how. Is it all pre-made and they just warm it up in the microwave?

Real Chinese food shouldn't pose any problems to me in terms of intolerances. However, this food all seemed very much the fast food variety with packeted sauces full of wheat and MSG. The sauce on both the crispy snapper and the prawns tasted really good, but I just got a strong feeling that the kitchen had not made those sauces from scratch. I didn't suffer any negative consequences from eating them but I wouldn't go there again. The one good thing I took away from the meal was the idea of cooking prawns with pineapple and mango - lovely combination.

When we ordered the bill I expected that my meal would at least have been taken off, by which I mean the snapper (of course since it was off) and the prawns as a gesture of goodwill / apology. I was wrong. The snapper had been taken off (there would have been a real scene if it hadn't) but nothing else had. I didn't say anything but thought this was a prime example of the lack of customer service evident throughout the restaurant. The manager did come to apologise about the fish but a gesture - even offering us a free dessert or tea/coffee - would have gone a long way.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Benihana, Amwaj Rotana

In a nutshell: great food, great service and great vibe.

Last night we had our second Japanese meal of the week but what a difference from Sakura! Benihana is an international chain but they do provide a fantastic Japanese experience - I've eaten at them in Seattle (USA), Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Amman (Jordan) and never been disappointed. The Amwaj Rotana has just opened in Jumeirah Beach Residence. We weren't sure where it was so we drove the whole length of the cobbled Walk and it was of course at the opposite end to where we started. It's almost opposite the Sheraton Jumeirah which is down the last crossroad on the main road if you're coming from Dubai (1st one from Jebel Ali). They also have an Italian restaurant (Rosso) that looked really good so we will try that next time.

The layout of Benihana suits solo diners as well as groups. The drinks bar is combined with the sushi bar where the chef makes sushi more or less fresh to order. If you're dining alone then you can sit at the drinks/sushi bar, alternatively the walls of the kitchen are all glass and they have a bar along the full length of the window into the kitchen so you can watch the cooking action as you eat. At the far end of the room, shielded by screens is the teppanyaki area with 3 large teppanyaki tables and of course diners all have to sit next to each other around the hot plate which can be a great way to get to know your fellow diners. We chose to sit at a regular table since the noise from the teppanyaki, plus sitting in a row around the cooking station make conversation a bit difficult at times. Sometimes you can leave a teppanyaki restaurant smelling of oil and food, but the screen separators meant that we weren't affected by the live cooking at all.

The menu is very comprehensive and includes a huge array of sushi, sashimi and maki as well as other Japanese staples such as yakitori, tempura, soups, salads and of course teppanyaki. We had some edamame and a single portion of california rolls (6 pieces) to whet our appetites - the edamame were a little undercooked but the california rolls were extremely fresh and we were asked if we'd like to have them rolled in sesame seeds since we didn't want roe. It is possible to choose a variety of starter dishes to share and then follow this with teppanyaki (the price includes grilled vegetables and rice) but we went for the teppanyaki specials which include miso soup, Japanese salad, your choice of teppanyaki with rice and vegetables plus dessert. At AED 170-210 (depending what you have) that is fantastic value for 4 courses.

The miso soup was nice, but the same as anywhere. The salad was also fine (lettuce, carrot and a mustard dressing) but nothing special. It was the teppanyaki that was the show-stopper. Simon and our friend Dara went for the Surf 'n' Turf which was beautifully presented with a lobster tail on top of the lobster and steak and the mixed vegetables layered underneath the meat. Both the lobster and steak had been sliced so they could be easily eaten with chopsticks. Louissa's chicken and steak was similarly beautifully presented. My assorted seafood was gorgeous. A medium sized piece of salmon with 2 large prawns and 5 scallops...melt in the mouth, juicy and divine! There was more than enough vegetables to go with all the fish and the rice was served separately - as with most places, brown rice was sadly not an option and that is the only thing I would say would have made the meal even better. For dessert we were offered a choice of banana tempura, tempura'd ice-cream, a scoop of ice-cream, a scoop of passion-fruit sorbet or fruit salad. Simon, Dara and I all had the sorbet which was delicious and tasted like freshly squeezed passion-fruit whilst Louissa had vanilla ice-cream.

I will definitely go back to Benihana, although first we'll have to try Rosso. Some of the staff didn't speak very much English, possibly because the hotel has just opened and they are still learning. Our waitress, Dimple, was the epitome of great customer service and the real WOW factor: she used my name throughout the meal! Since I'd made a reservation they had my name and both she and the manager made a point of personalising the service by using it - now that makes you feel special.

We had our voucher from our last Rotana meal (Channels) so with that and the 25% Rotana Rewards discount we had a total of AED 560 taken off our food bill. We did have quite a lot to drink but ignoring that, the meal itself for 4 people came to AED 850 (before discount) which is just over AED 200 a head for 4 courses. We then received another discount voucher for AED 400 plus we were given a scratch card and we won a free night's stay in the Amwaj Rotana! The free night's stay and the discount vouchers are all part of Rotana's summer promotion and it really works. If we hadn't got the voucher from Channels we wouldn't necessarily have looked to go to Rotana again last night and with our 2nd voucher we now plan to go to Rosso before the expiry of the voucher in September. The free night stay doesn't include tax, service or breakfast and when staying the night we'll also have to have dinner and lunch so it is a great way to get people into the hotel spending money they wouldn't otherwise have spent. Simon and I won't actually be using the Amwaj night because we have another one for the Bustan Rotana from dinner at Flavours on Two - I'll have that review up very soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Carbohydrate: Friend or Foe?

When we hear of carbohydrates we think of bread, pasta, potatoes and other 'solid' foods. These are carbohydrates but vegetables and fruit are also carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are basically SUGAR and they can be measured in terms of how many equivalent teaspoons of sugar they provide your body with once digested. As an example, a small apple once digested gives you the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar and an average serving of pasta gives you the equivalent of 18 teaspoons (yes, eighteen - not a typo) of sugar!

What are carbohydrates?

There are 3 groups of carbohydrates:
1. Monosaccharides are simple sugars (i.e. glucose and fructose).
2. Disaccharides are 2 simple sugars linked together (i.e. sucrose and lactose).
3. Complex carbohydrates are thousands of simple sugars linked together (i.e. starch and fibre).

As mentioned above, carbohydrates include fruit, non-starchy vegetables (lettuce, mushrooms, spinach), starchy vegetables (carrots, turnip, leeks) and grains / starch (wheat, oats, rice).

What do carbohydrates do?

1. Provide energy.
The body needs energy in order to function so carbohydrates are vital but starch and concentrated sugar (fruit is concentrated sugar) should be eaten in moderation.
Refined carbohydrates (white rice, most breakfast cereals, white bread etc) have almost no nutritional value and provide energy and nothing else. Ideally they should be avoided completely.
Fruit, vegetables and wholegrains provide vitamins, minerals and other nutrition that we need in addition to the energy from the carbohydrates they contain.

2. Aid in digestion.
Carbohydrates break down fat in the liver and they assist in the digestion of other foods.

3. Provide fibre.
Fibre cannot be broken down by the body so it passes through the digestive system intact. Fibre helps to slow down the rate at which the stomach empties (so slows down the release of glucose) and it encourages efficient bowel movements.

What happens to the carbohydrate when it's eaten?

The body can only use simple sugars for the energy it needs so all carbohydrates that are eaten need to be broken down into simple sugars. Once the sugars in the carbohydrate are broken down, they are absorbed into the blood through the small intestine and carried to the liver. In the liver the sugars are changed to glucose and this then re-enters the bloodstream as energy for all the body's cells to use.

A small amount of the glucose created in the liver is stored as glycogen as an emergency energy source. All extra sugar that the body can't immediately use is stored as BODY FAT. So if you eat too many carbohydrates then your body stores this excess as fat and you begin to put on weight.

Carbohydrates are also addictive (and pastries, breads, doughnuts etc are all so tasty!) so the more carbs you eat, the more you crave - so you can easily overeat carbohydrates. Explains the massive weight issues in a lot of the world.

Carbohydrates should always be eaten with protein and fat in a balanced meal / snack. This means that all the various digestive enzymes triggered by each of the different food groups will be released at the same time and this will slow down the release of the carbohydrate's sugar. If the sugar is released slowly then more of it will be used by the body and less will be stored as body fat. As my Protein post explains, if you're eating enough protein then your metabolism will increase and this will therefore burn up the sugar at a quicker rate so that there is less excess floating around to be made into body fat.

Carbohydrates and blood sugar.

As explained above, carbohydrates are broken down to make glucose. This is needed by the body but an excess of glucose (sugar) in the blood is dangerous for the brain. To protect the brain, the pancreas releases insulin if there is too much glucose in the blood and the insulin removes the excess glucose from the blood. How does it do this? It attaches to the glucose and basically locks it up inside your cells (puts it in jail, as it were) - this is then seen on your body as body fat.

So excess carbohydrates, due to the insulin, make you fat. It is not dietary fat that makes you fat, as I will explain in my next posting.

Many people as they get older develop blood sugar problems, insulin resistance and potentially Type II Diabetes. Following a high-carb diet means that excess sugar is stored in the body (as body fat) and in time the body's cells become saturated and can't hold any more sugar. This means the pancreas secretes even more insulin to try and overcome the problem and some sugar remains in the blood because there is nowhere to store it. Type II Diabetes is purely diet related because the affected person is eating too many carbohydrates and has too much sugar in their system.

If a person with blood sugar issues reduces the amount of carbohydrates they eat then there will be less sugar entering their system which means less insulin will be required. The body needs energy to function so if little new sugar is entering the system then the body is forced to remove sugar from its stores (your body fat). What does this mean?

1. Excess sugar is not being eaten so it is not entering the bloodstream.
2. Excess stored sugar is removed from the body tissues to give the body the energy it needs to function.
3. The resistance to insulin reduces because there is 'storage space' in the body again because the stored sugar has reduced.
4. The body's use of insulin becomes effective again so the pancreas can return to producing normal levels of insulin.
5. The blood clears of sugar because there is little excess entering the body and where there is excess sugar, the body's cells are empty enough to be able to hold the sugar.

Sugar problems don't happen overnight - they happen after years (decades) of poor eating habits. Sugar problems cannot therefore be solved overnight and Judy Cole advises that following the above low-carb diet would take at least 3 months to show a result in your blood.

How much carbohydrate should I eat?

Non-starchy vegetables can be eaten in unlimited amounts by everyone as they do not create too much sugar in your system and they are full of nutrients and fibre.

Fruit is not a health food as it digests very quickly and releases a high amount of sugar into the system - fruit diets are extremely bad for you as they flood the body with sugar and therefore insulin. Fruit should only ever be eaten with protein because protein helps to slow down the release of the sugar in the fruit. So eat fruit after a meal as a dessert (a good idea since fruit contains digestive enzymes which help with digestion) or eat it with a piece of cheese or meat as a snack.

Fruit juice has even more sugar than a piece of fruit - a glass of apple juice contains about 4 or 5 apples so that is 12-15 teaspoons of sugar! It is always best to water fruit juice down so there is 1/3 juice and 2/3 water. Limit yourself to a maximum of 2 portions of fruit / watered down fruit juice per day. If you are overweight then DO NOT EAT FRUIT because it is very fattening with all that sugar.

Starchy vegetables should be eaten in small portions (if you want to lose weight then try to have no more than 1 portion of starchy veg a day). They contain important nutrients so should not be cut out completely, just eat them in moderation. The following contain 15g of carbohydrate and are the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar:

1 cup beetroot
2/3 cup butternut squash
1 cup carrots
2/3 cup corn
1/2 cup peas
1 cup leeks
1 cup okra
2/3 cup parsnips
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup turnip

Starch (grains) should not be eaten at all for the first 2 months of a weight-loss programme since they are complex carbohydrates and so they release the most sugar. They should then be added to the diet in very limited portions (i.e. 1 portion per day) until you have gained your ideal weight. If you are trying to follow a low-starch diet as I am (since it has been found that starch can trigger the immune system to attack the joints in Ankylosing Spondylitis) then this helps to identify what needs to be limited / avoided. The following contain 15g of carbohydrate and are the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar:

1/3 cup cooked brown rice (1/3 cup uncooked rice will give you almost 1 full cup of cooked rice)
1/3 cup buckwheat
2/3 cup oats
1/3 cup quinoa (pronouned keen-wa)
1/4 cup rye
1.5 tbsp whole wheat
1 tbsp white rice
1/4 cup wild rice (wild rice is actually a seed not a grain)
1 large slice of spelt or rye bread
2 ryvitas
2 oat cakes
3 brown rice cakes

Although they are technically starchy vegetables, potatoes and sweet potatoes should be considered as starch and so avoided in the first 2 months of a weight-loss programme. Remember that all the nutrients in a potato are under the skin so if you remove the skin then you remove ALL the nutrients - even if you're having mashed potato, make it with the skin in there.

If you are on a weight-loss programme Cole recommends that you can still have up to 6 ryvita (or 4 ryvita and 1 slice of wholegrain spelt bread) with all other starches avoided completely.

On your plate you should therefore have about 1/3 covered by protein, 1/2 (or more) vegetables and a little starch (rice / potato / pasta).

For those of us in Dubai, the Organic Foods & Cafe sells wholegrain spelt bread (great for toast but not so great for a sandwich), brown rice pasta (tastes the same as wheat pasta) and on a Tuesday they sell a range of yeast-free, wheat-free products; I'm going to check it out next week.

What is the best source of fibre?

Non-starchy vegetables are the best source of fibre as not only do they provide the fibre your body needs, they also release minimal sugar into your system and are full of nutrients.

Wholegrain wheat products are often cited as an excellent source of fibre. However, modern day wheat has been so selectively bred and modified that it has become extremely difficult to digest and is one of the most common food intolerances. Spelt flour is closer to the original wheat grain that was eaten up until the 19th century and is much easier to digest. Wholegrain rye is also far less modified than modern day wheat and so is easier to digest. Judy Cole advises to eat no foods containing wheat and to only have 100% wholegrain rye (Ryvita) and 100% wholegrain spelt products.

The next food group is fat. As I said above, it is carbohydrates not dietary fat that make you gain body fat. So more about fat and why it is GOOD FOR YOU next time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Protein: What is it? Why do you need it?

The Body Talks by Judy Cole gives a great explanation of the various food groups and why you need them. I thought it would be useful to share this with everyone since I'm sure most people won't be buying her book but understanding food groups is the key to understanding healthy eating.

What does protein do?

1. Builds new tissue.
Your body is made of protein (your brain, heart, liver, skin, muscles, hair, nails etc) and your cells are constantly dying and being renewed. You need to eat enough protein to enable your body to build new bodily tissue / grow new cells - if you don't then your body will take the protein it needs out of your muscles so you basically cannibalise yourself.

2. Forms hormones.
Hormones need to be constantly created and they control countless functions within the body. A lack of protein can result in mood disorders / depression / infertility and other hormone inbalances.

3. Controls your metabolism.
Metabolism is controlled by hormones, which are built by protein so by not eating enough protein, your metabolism slows down which means that you burn your food off more slowly resulting in possible weight gain.

4. Helps eliminate toxins.
Toxins are created in your body all the time through the food you eat, breathing in pollution, chemicals that you put on your skin and more. These toxins are filtered by the body and excreted but protein is needed by the body to enable it to do this effectively.

5. Helps in digestion.
When you eat protein this triggers the release of hydrochloric acid, when you eat carbohydrates this triggers the release glycogen. Hydrochloric acid works against the glycogen so that your food is digested more slowly. By digesting food slowly, your body receives a slow and steady release of energy instead of a peak of energy followed by a huge dip once the energy is all used up.

Where does protein come from?

Protein is made up of amino acids: 9 essential ones and 13 non-essential ones. The essential ones must be provided by your food. The non-essential ones are produced by the liver itself.

Animal proteins (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products) contain all 9 essential amino acids.
Pulses and legumes (i.e. lentils, beans) and nuts, grains and seeds contain protein but each item alone does not contain all 9 essential amino acids. Pulses/beans have to be combined with nuts/grains/seeds to get all 9 essential amino acids.

If any single essential amino acid is missing or low then the body can't process the protein properly. This means that the body will start to break down your muscles in order to get the protein it needs to function.

The body needs a regular supply of protein because amino acids can only be stored for a few hours but the body is building new tissue, hormones etc 24 hours a day. The average man will use about 14g of protein every 2-3 hours and the average woman will use about 14g of protein every 3-4 hours. If your body is not getting enough protein to carry out all its functions then it will start to break down your muscles.

If the body is breaking down muscles to get its protein then you will have less muscle mass and therefore a slower metabolic rate which in turn will mean less energy, vitality and health - plus probably weight gain. If you have a high muscle mass then your metabolic rate will increase, you will then naturally burn more calories which means you can eat more because your body is using up the calories you take in and doesn't store them as fat.

Can you have too much protein?

Yes. If you consume too much protein then this can cause calcium loss from your bones as well as an imbalance in potassium levels which is dangerous for the heart.

A high protein diet is not balanced or safe for the body - it is a moderate amount of protein consumed at regular intervals during the day that is vital for your health.

How much protein should I have?

The average woman should have about 80-90 grams of protein per day.
The average man should have about 100-110 grams per day.

Protein should be eaten at every meal so that the body gets the amino acids it needs regularly. It is vital to eat protein for breakfast since your body will have gone 10 hours or so without any food or any protein. If you eat toast and jam for breakfast then you are not giving your body any protein - have egg on toast or add a yoghurt or glass of milk to your breakfast.

Protein should form about 30-40% of every meal. You can judge this on your plate - about 1/3 of your plate should be protein and the rest should be vegetables and starch.

Some examples of the amount of protein in different foods:
28g of meat/poultry/fish has just 7g of usable protein.
1 egg has 7g protein.
1 cup of low-fat milk has 8g protein.
1 cup of plain yoghurt has 12g protein.
28g of cheese has 8-10g protein (depends on the cheese).
1/3 cup of cooked lentils has 6g protein.
1/2 cup of broad beans has 6g protein.
3/4 oz of cashew nuts has 5.7g protein.
2 tbsps of peanut butter has 8g protein.

A day's protein for a woman could include 2 eggs for breakfast, 140g of meat/fish for lunch (or 50g meat + 50g cheese), 140g of meat/fish for dinner plus snacks of a handful of almonds and a babybel cheese.

A day's protein for a man could include 2 eggs and 3 rashers of bacon for breakfast, 170g of meat/fish for lunch (or 75g meat + 50g cheese), 170g of meat/fish for dinner plus snacks of a handful of almonds and a babybel cheese.

All pulses/beans/nuts/seeds contain about 1/3 protein and 2/3 carbohydrate so they should be eaten in moderation (unless you're vegan and they are your only protein source). More about carbohydrates and starch in my next posting though...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Sakura, Crowne Plaza

In a nutshell: good food but no atmosphere.

It has been about 5 years since I visited the Crowne Plaza but it hasn't changed at all in that time, or even in the last 15 years maybe. When you walk into the strange little shopping centre on the ground floor it smells old and somehow brings back memories of the old Dubai. It doesn't smell dirty, just a smell that really took me back and made me feel we were in the 90s - hard to explain! Going up the very long and almost vertical escalator to the lobby my first impression was that the hotel's looking a bit tired and could do with a refurb, it was one of the first hotels on Sheikh Zayed Road and it still has that 90s look about it. We went up to the 4th floor and found that we had to go through Oscar's Vine Society (a French wine bar) to get into Sakura. Very strange, did we go up the wrong lifts?

A small aside on Oscar's before continuing with Sakura. Oscar's used to be a piano bar and it is where Simon and I went with some friends (before we became a couple) and I accidently knocked an entire glass of white wine down his front! The piano, low seats and carpet are now gone, replaced by high wooden tables with bar stools, slate floors and a huge chalkboard with all the wines by the glass listed. Very small and very empty - even when we left Sakura there were only about 4 people in the bar. Oscar's does a themed evening on a different area of France each night, serving up a buffet for AED 99. I looked at the Saturday buffet (Normandy night I think) and there was really nothing there for AED 99 - some soup, cheese, biscuits and that was about it. Disappointing.

Now back to Sakura...the restaurant is fairly large with regular tables, tatami tables and teppanyaki tables available. We chose the teppanyaki and until about 9pm we were the only diners in the entire place - hence the total lack of atmosphere. My experience of teppanyaki is that you normally have a choice of set menus (beef / chicken / seafood) which then includes miso soup, Japanese salad, whichever teppanyaki you've chosen with rice & veg and finally dessert. Not the case here where you have to order and pay for everything separately. We hadn't realised until we sat down that they are doing a special offer during the summer which gives you 46% off your food bill - the 46 is linked to the average Dubai summer temperature. So almost half off, not bad at all!

Our chicken yakitori starters (only AED 20) included 3 BBQ'ed chicken skewers which were really tender and juicy. The chef then came out to cook our teppanyaki, he wasn't Japanese but he was very good and provided all the knife throwing entertainment that you expect when you go for teppanyaki. As always, it was quite loud so it's definitely not somewhere to go for a romantic dinner. My seafood plate (AED 125) included 2 jumbo prawns, a decent-sized salmon steak plus a large hammour steak and I ordered vegetables to go with it. The prawns were delicious, as was the salmon although part of it had missed the heat and so wasn't cooked enough for me. I couldn't manage the hammour (plus I don't like hammour that much) so I passed that over to Simon to give him a surf 'n' turf with his steak. Simon and both our friends had the steak teppanyaki (AED 180) and were really impressed with how tender the steak was, cooked enough to not be pink but not over-cooked to the point of being dry.

In terms of food, we couldn't fault it. However, in terms of atmosphere it was sadly completely lacking and we wouldn't go back to Sakura. They also only offered imported water, not local, which I always find extremely annoying - why fly water in from half way round the world and charge a fortune for it when you have just as good water choices here in the UAE? An interesting point to note, the Paulaner beer that our friends had was AED 40 in Oscar's and only AED 34 in Sakura. So if you do go then I'd suggest you have your beer in the restaurant - or drink wine since they had a buy-1-get-1-free offer on glasses of wine ordered before 7pm.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Channels, Media Rotana

In a nutshell: limited but adequate menu, tasty food but very slow service

The Media Rotana Hotel in Al Barsha has 2 restaurants: Channels and Prego's. We were at Prego's last week for dinner and on a Friday they do a 'bubbly brunch' which we decided was too much food and too much money (AED 199 non-alcoholic and I think it was AED 299 alcoholic) for a small simple lunch. That left us with Channels where we were the only diners. In the evenings and I expect for breakfast, Channels is a buffet restaurant but at lunch time (probably due to the total lack of guests) they offer an a la carte menu. The restaurant is laid out around the central marble buffet station so without any buffet laid out it felt extremely clinical since everywhere is bright white and cold marble. We were sat along the window looking out on to the road and hotel entrance (not the best of views) and the midday sun was blazing in on us so we closed the blinds - almost breaking them in the process.

The menu is small but it offers a good selection and our choices included spaghetti bolognese, lamb biryani, Lebanese mezze and grilled hammour. Simon's biryani came in an authentic tiffin box with a variety of white, yellow and red rice plus the spiced but not too hot meat (off the bone) and the various condiments. It's not what he would usually go for but he said it was really tasty and the meat was tender. Nowhere can go wrong with spag bol and this was no exception. My friend Kathy had asked if the mezze was just for 1 or was for sharing and she'd been told it was for 1 person - as it turns out it must be for 1 really huge person with an equally really huge appetite! I reckon it would have done the 5 of us as a starter or 2 (maybe even 3) people as a main course. She said it was all lovely but just far too much.

Louissa and I both had the hammour and would have both prefered to have had brown rice but that wasn't an option. When will restaurants realise that white rice has ZERO nutritional value but brown rice has 4 times more fibre and twice as many nutrients so it should at least be offered to guests?! Apart from that, the hammour was a bit tough so had maybe been a little overcooked or maybe it's just that I'm not a big hammour fan (it was the only fish option on the menu though). Although the fish was placed on a bed of spinach and mushroom and there were some lettuce leaves on top of it, there still wasn't quite enough veg to match the size of the fish. Since I always like to have a bit of everything on my fork, I left the last bit of fish because I had nothing to eat it with. Not a bad dish, it just needed a bit more veg.

The piece de resistance of the meal was the desserts. The carrot cake had tiny little icing sugar carrotts on! Fantastic look and apparently a fantastic taste (no cakes for me just now unfortunately). The blackcurrant cheesecake was also a hit, although when we ordered a 2nd one we were told they had all finished. The cakes didn't actually come from the restaurant but from the cafe in the lobby and they are all made in-house.

The only real let-down of the meal was the service. Most of the staff were, I think, from Myanmar and whilst eager to please and very smiley, their English was minimal and they all appeared to still be in training since the service was very slow. Whilst I wouldn't race back and couldn't rank Channels up there with Toshi, the food was very nice and the price (even without our Rotana Rewards 20% discount) was reasonable at around Dhs 80 for a main course.

Food Elimination = Detox Downer

I have now been on my intolerance-free diet for 2 weeks. The main difference to what I was eating before is that I'm not having my daily eggs, dairy and yeast. What I hadn't realised is the effect that removing those intolerances can have on your system and the ups and downs you will feel as your body clears out the built up intolerances. Last week was not a great week!!

When you have been regularly eating something you're intolerant to, not only does this trigger a reaction by your immune system to fight the 'bad' food but your digestive system is also not able to digest the 'bad' food properly and this leaves a toxic residue which is stored in your body's cells. Once your cells reach saturation point and can't hold any more residue, the toxic residue stays in your bloodstream and causes health issues such as IBS, arthritis, headaches and allergies. When you stop eating the foods you're intolerant to then your immune system is not constantly being activated to deal with 'bad' foods and within 5 days of not having those foods, your brain will register that it is safe to start clearing out the toxic residue. When the cells start releasing their stores of residue, this flood of toxins into the blood can make you feel really ill for about 4 days until the residue has been cleared from the blood. Once the blood is clear again, this triggers the brain again and more residue is released and so on until it's all out of your system. This can apparently take up to 2 months, although you don't feel as ill with each successive 'toxic dump'.

I hadn't realised that this could happen so last Sunday when I started to feel totally spaced-out, achy and feverish with indigestion and an upset stomach I just presumed I'd picked up a virus from somewhere. When no cold developed by the next day I started to wonder if it was related to the food elimination and then remembered a book I have called The Body Talks by Judy Cole. How could I have forgotten this book? Judy Cole's research found that many health problems and weight issues stem from food intolerances and not eating nutritionally balanced meals, plus she advocates a low starch diet which is exactly what I have been following for the past 3 years since I read that immunology researchers at Middlesex Hospital in England had found a low-statch diet could help Ankylosing Spondylitis. Cole's book clearly explains the impact of food intolerances (which is where my brief summary above comes from) and the symptoms of Cellular Detox (detox of your cells). It was reassuring to read not only that what I was feeling was part of process but it also clearly demonstrated that the foods I've cut out must have been damaging my system otherwise I wouldn't have had any toxins to expel!

The Cellular Detox should last up to 2 months by which time your immune system should be starting to heal because it's not being overloaded on a daily basis by foods it needs to fight. The complete healing of the immune system can take up to 3 months but if at any time in your life you start to regularly eat your intolerant foods again then the whole residue build-up and ill health will start again. It doesn't mean I can never eat eggs or dairy again, but once I've finished the 2 months I can try them and see how my body feels. If I have no adverse reaction, I should still never have them more than once in 5 days because that is how long it can take foods to be digested, pass all round the body and then be excreted. By leaving a minimum of 5 days between having eggs (for example), I can be sure that my system is clear of any tiny amount of toxic residue before having them again - by having them more often, there won't be time for the previous residue to clear before more is added, then more, then more....back to square 1.

The past 2 weeks have gone very quickly so the next 6 will fly by. I really miss butter for cooking since it is more natural and safe (in moderation) than cooking oils which contain artery-clogging trans-fats and I miss eggs with my bacon on a Friday morning but apart from that the new diet is not a major issue. One thing that could really interest a lot of people is that by losing all the toxins you also lose weight and cellulite. After I stopped eating wheat / cereal products 3 years ago all my cellulite disappeared. That alone is a good reason to try it out!