The low-down on Depression and Diet

April is here and the month of April features not only Easter, but also World Health Day. The theme this year for World Health Day, which falls on Friday the 7th, is Depression. So without dampening the mood of Easter and the hype of long weekends, quality family time and delicious foods, I thought it best to give you the low down on diet and depression.

Depression is a topic most people shy away from but knowing the cold, hard facts can only be beneficial. The more you know, the easier it becomes to understand and once you’ve mastered the skills of understanding depression, you’ll realise in actual fact, it cannot be understood but there are actions we can take to lessen the risk of suffering from depression.

The World Health Organisation has a wonderful factsheet that gives information on the types of depression, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Worth a read.

I am no expert in the field of depression itself, so I am going to stay within my area of expertise and speak about the relationship between diet and depression. A diet rich in the following nutrients has been proven to decrease the risk of depression.

Anti-oxidants: A good balance between oxidative stress and antioxidants is very important. Inflammation and oxidative stress are major contributors in the pathogenesis of depression. When I refer to anti-oxidants I mean vitamin E, vitamin C, Beta carotene and selenium (amongst others). Foods high in these antioxidants include: Pumpkin, apricots, mangoes, carrots, spinach, parsley, seafood, lean meat, whole grains, oranges, berries, kiwi fruit, broccoli, peppers, vegetable oils, nuts, avocados and seeds.

Folate (also called 5-MTHF): Folate is crucial to synthesise the neurotransmitters—dopamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin—all of which have antidepressant effects. So, without enough of the 5-MTHF form of folate, serotonin levels decrease in the brain, contributing to depression. Folate-rich foods include: eggs and leafy green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, swiss chard.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D modulates the part of the brain which regulates adrenalin, noradrenaline and dopamine production. Vitamin D protects against the depletion of dopamine and serotonin centrally. Simply speaking, low vitamin D levels can be a contributing factor to depression. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, liver and egg yolks (not forgetting sun exposure).

Tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. Tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), which is then converted into serotonin. So, tryptophan and 5-HTP both act as precursors to the production of serotonin in the brain. As you can already tell, it is very important to include this amino acid in your diet. Foods containing tryptophan are: turkey, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Omega 3: People with depression may have low blood levels of brain chemicals called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which play an important role in brain function. Food sources of Omega 3 (EPA and DHA) are: sardines, salmon, herring, trout and tuna.

5 Eating tips to brighten your day

  1. Include folate rich foods daily: foods containing folate are amongst others eggs and leafy green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, swiss chard etc
  2. Get your dose of vitamin D: monitoring the amount of time you spend outdoors is important, but also make sure to get in enough eggs and fatty fish.
  3. Protein, protein, protein: we already mentioned the very important tryptophan. Aim to have protein at every meal and remember to incorporate plant-based proteins (lentils, beans, quinoa, soya) into your diet too.
  4. Variety is key: eating a variety of foods ensures you are getting in all the very important micronutrients, amino acids and trace minerals.
  5. Enjoy your food: eating can boost your mood, not in the obvious physiological response, but in the enjoyment of taking 30 minutes down time, or enjoying the company of a friend or family member so sit, chew, relax and be grateful for all the positives in your life.

Not quite food related, but advice none-the-less. Remember how important it is to get 7-8 hours of sleep every day, to rest and recuperate on weekends, to spend quality time with loved ones and last but not least, to take some “me-time”.

10 Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat For Digestive Health

Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut which leads to a healthy digestive system.



Garlic gives great flavour to your foods and provides you with prebiotic benefits. It has been shown to help promote good bacteria and prevent harmful bacteria from growing.


Onions are rich in inulin and FOS, which can help boost your immune system, provide fuel for your gut bacteria and improve digestion.


Leeks are often used in cooking for their distinct flavour. They are high in prebiotic inulin fibre and vitamin K.


Asparagus is a spring vegetable rich in prebiotic fibre and antioxidants. It promotes healthy gut bacteria and may help prevent certain cancers.


Bananas are rich in fibre. They’re also great at promoting healthy gut bacteria and reducing bloating.


Barley is high in beta-glucan fibre, which promotes healthy bacteria in the gut. It also seems to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.


Whole oats are a grain rich in beta-glucan fibre. They increase healthy gut bacteria, improve blood sugar control and may reduce cancer risk.


Apples are rich in pectin fibre. Pectin promotes healthy gut bacteria and helps decrease harmful bacteria. It also helps lower cholesterol and reduces cancer risk.


The fibre in flaxseeds promotes regular bowel movements, lowers LDL cholesterol and reduces the amount of fat you digest and absorb.

Wheat bran

Wheat bran is rich in AXOS, a type of fibre that has been shown to increase healthy gut bacteria and reduce digestive problems.


Kirby’s Pantry

Here are 10 things to always keep in your pantry, these things are always in mine!


  • Healthy grains including brown rice, quinoa, and lentils
  • Healthy proteins: Turkey, chicken, salmon, sardines and eggs
  • Healthy Fats: Avocado, olives, coconut, oils (grape seed, olive, coconut, canola), seeds (chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin or sunflower seed)
  • Healthy snacks: Nuts, seeds or nut butters, lean biltong, boiled eggs and sardines
  • Fresh fruits including pomegranates, apples, pears, berries (raspberries, blueberries and blackberries!), passion fruit and avocado
  • Fresh veggies: My favourites include rainbow chard, asparagus, kale, arugula, beets, and cabbage
  • Fresh herbs like chives, parsley, coriander, rosemary and basil
  • Freezer must-haves including: Flash frozen nutrient dense veggies, frozen berries, and extra protein like fish and chicken
  • Pantry staples such as canned beans (chickpeas, kidney, and black), gluten-free minimally processed crackers, lean biltong
  • Tasty condiments, spices and sauces to add flavour and health to your best dishes: turmeric, sea salt, cayenne, curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, dried herbs, miso, kimchi, tamari


*Note: Try and keep it seasonal and buy what is available to you throughout the year.

Happy Shopping!

Nourish yourself to a glowing skin

Afternoon Express Show asked Alex what to eat to get a healthy skin. Here is her professional take:

How is eating a healthy diet going to give you healthier looking skin?

A healthy diet and lifestyle is the cornerstone to staying young and this is reflected in every cell of your body especially your skin.

– A healthy diet provides the vitamins and minerals that the skin cells require for proper structure and function

– Antioxidants to prevent damage from the environment

– Hydration and anti-inflammatory factors that prevent redness and puffiness.

Can you say that if you have healthier looking skin, that your skin will automatically look younger, take years off my looks?

If you have healthy skin which is less inflamed and red and more hydrated it will definitely look younger.

Some of the worst foods to eat for your skin?

-Sugar and processed foods that are high in chemicals

-Dehydrating foods and beverages (sugar, coffee in some people who are caffeine sensitive, alcohol, salt)

-Inflammatory foods (those high in omega 6’s, from certain cooking oils)

Best foods to eat to give us younger and healthy looking skin?

-Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli),

-A variety of brightly coloured fruits (berries, melons, guavas and citrus)

-Eggs, Nuts and seeds and oily fish like sardines, salmon and pilchards.

How good is water in helping with healthier skin, and should it be a certain amount, still, or sparkling, what is true when it comes to water?

-Water is very important for two main reasons. Firstly, well hydrated skin is less wrinkled and damaged and secondly, drinking lots of water flushes the toxins out of the body which gives the skin a healthy glow.

-You need 30-35ml/kg.

-Sparkling and still are the same in terms of hydration.

What are some of the important vitamins and minerals found in foods which are easily available?

– Antioxidants: mop up free radicals that cause skin damage and wrinkles.

– Vitamin A (effects the actual physiology of the epidermal layers in the skin. green leafy vegetables, carrots, peppers, Liver, eggs)

– Vitamin C (maintains the collagen in the skin. Citrus fruits, peppers, berries, guavas),

– Vitamin E (powerful antioxidant protecting the cell membranes of the skin cells. sunflower seeds, nuts, eggs, green leafy veg)

Anti-inflammatory foods:

– Omega 3s / precursors to omega 3: oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds

– Green tea, turmeric, ginger

– Zinc: improves structure of skin cells and helps with wound healing. It is found in red meat, seafood

– Selenium: improves tissue elasticity. It is found in brazil nuts, whole grains, eggs

In today’s times so many women, be it working moms, career women just can’t find the time to take care of their needs, be skin, eating healthy, what are some of the most important tips that are easy to follow, that is affordable to all women that will improve, maintain healthy and younger looking skin? 

Throw out all the processed sugary foods. Avoid convenience or fast foods. Keep fresh veggies and fruits chopped and ready to snack on. Make the base of your meals green leafy veggies.

Easy Daily Tips to Boost Immunity and Prevent Flu and Colds

Never underestimate the importance of good nutrition to boost your immune system.

The best way to get all the vitamins and nutrients into your system is through juicing and smoothies, eating a wide variety of vegetables, that are fresh and organic, and boosting your body with the supplements that you might need.

Boost your vitamin C intake – that is the obvious one. All your orange and red veggies are the best for this one. Include guava and peppers especially.

Vitamin D is incredible for immunity – get safe sunlight and potentially take a vitamin D supplement. I take one religiously.

Zinc – eat shellfish, seafood and nuts to get this little mineral.

Omega 3’s prevent inflammation – oily fish DAILY! Otherwise a supplement is on the cards!

Garlic has been shown to be an antifungal and natural antibiotic. So add this where you can.

Probiotics are FANTASTIC for immunity – drink kefir or kombucha and try some sauerkraut. Otherwise, again, get yourself a top quality Probiotic.

Keep warm and eat your oranges (and garlic, and kefir, and peppers, and sardines… you get the drift 😉



Shrug off the Flu this winter

I write this while snuggling under my blanket in bed, nursing a cold. Some say it is inevitable that you will get a cold or flu during winter! This is not ideal in any way, shape or form! So to try avoid this I want to pass on some nutritional knowledge to keep you from ending up like me sniffing and spluttering.

The main way to avoid a cold this winter is to keep loaded with Vitamins and Minerals – eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables every day and healthy lean proteins. With vegetables, make sure they are different colours, as each colour contains a different phytonutrient (e.g. tomatoes with lycopene). Here’s a bit more detail:

  • Grapefruit: The Red or Pink ones are high in Vitamin C and contain bioflavonoids that give the immune system a big boost.
  • Cauliflower and Broccoli: cruciferous vegetables are high in antioxidants such as glutathione which helps to fight off infection. They also contain choline which keeps the cells functioning efficiently.
  • Carrots: are high in Beta-carotene which protect the mucous membranes of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract and prevent bacteria from crossing over into the blood stream causing infection.
  • Eggs: contain zinc, selenium and of course protein which boost immunity
  • Cinnamon: has been labelled an anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. These properties help keep disease at bay
  • Mushrooms: contain lots of zinc to boost immunity
  • Spinach and kale: are high in vitamin C and folate to prevent infection
  • Tomatoes and Watermelon: are high in lycopene that reduce respiratory inflammation and prevents infection
  • Yoghurt: contains probiotics that improves gut barrier preventing bacteria from entering the blood stream

See TIPS for practical ways to boost immunity!

Keep COSY!!

Kicking the sugar habit

Are you addicted to sugar? Has your sweet tooth taken over your life?

Here are some easy, quick things you can do to avoid this white powder of choice…

  1. Never allow yourself to get too hungry (hangry): When you starve yourself for too long, your blood sugar level dips leaving you scratching for refined sugary snacks to boost your sugar level back up. The trick is to eat small meals or snacks consistently to maintain a stable blood glucose.
  2. Drink sweet herbal teas: Fruit teas and rooibos blends are the best because they trick your mind to think that your addiction has been put to rest, but you are actually only giving your body the tannins that it thrives on.
  3. Eat enough protein: If you aren’t eating enough protein you start to crave! Everything, especially sugars. Rather snack on a boiled egg or cottage cheese and carrot sticks to supply your body with what it actually needs.
  4. Burn incense like vanilla and rose: This sweet smell works like the tea, tricking the brain to think that sweet tooth has been satisfied.
  5. Have sweet alternative snacks likes smoothies and date balls: see my recipes for these sugar free, guilt free recipes.

Give these 5 tricks a try and see how the addiction melts away.

Good Luck!

Success Story – How Brendon ate his way to weight-loss

One of my dear clients, Brendon, has done superbly well on his diet plan. He lost a whopping 17kg! He shares the good, the bad and the ugly of the diet and his AMAZING transformation!
Alex: How much weight have you lost in total?

Brendon: I was 85kg at my heaviest just before I saw you…I am currently around 68-70kg (lets take the pre-holiday weight 😉 )

Alex: What was the most difficult part of the diet plan?

Brendon: The hardest part was learning to cut down on portion sizes, stopping eating constantly just for the sake of it as well as being disciplined to eat healthier when having/going out for dinner such as ordering salad or veg instead of chips with a burger/steak. Also being disciplined to maintain ones weight/eating plan once weight goal has been reached.

Alex: What was the easiest?

Brendon: The easiest part was watching the weight loss become consistent once the diet plan had become routine. It was also great to see each week drop in pant size/belt notches.  Also once a certain amount of weight had been lost and the diet was able to be adjusted it was nice to start having cheat meals such as pizzas, cake etc…

Alex: Can you share some tips and give advice to others in your shoes, just starting the diet plan?

Brendon: In terms of any tips…don’t think that by going to dietitian you will be made to starve and not be allowed anything such as carbs, good bread etc…portion control is what I found to make the biggest difference. Try setting an end date/goal for trying to achieve the weight loss…as you know I wanted to lose weight for my sister’s wedding so I made this my goal. Further tips (excuse the essay) would just be to do things smartly and healthily and don’t try starve yourself  to reach your goal quicker.

 Keep it up Brendon!!! 
Before and After 2

Yoga in the City


My name is Linda, I’m Italian and I’m a Yoga Teacher.

I have been practicing Yoga for many years, never constantly, but Yoga has always been a part of my life since I was 20. It has slowly become my everyday lifestyle. It affects most of my daily decisions: from the groceries I buy, to the food I cook, people I meet, mood I’m in, clothes I wear…. It started being my personal compass.

When I moved to Cape Town last year I signed up for a yoga teacher training course at Yoga Life Studio in De Waterkant. It wasn’t easy, especially from an emotional point of you, but it was worth the challenge. Yoga makes me a happier, healthier and stronger person. It’s what connects me to myself. It’s the light I look for when I’m lost & confuse.

Through Yoga I want to bring the same magic to as many people as possible.

I also believe everyone should have access to it.

I teach yoga at my home in Cape Town, organize private yoga events and collaborate with local NGOs to bring Yoga to disadvantaged communities in the Western Cape.

I’m currently also busy creating a Travel Company that Specializes in Yoga retreats around the word.

For more updates you can check my Website or my Facebook page:

How to stay trim over Christmas

Prepare yourself for the holiday season! The run-up to Christmas is often a time for endless party nibbles, alcohol and lack of exercise…

The sooner you try out these tips, the more prepared you will be for the holiday foods.

1.   Exercise 
Give yourself the gift of 30 minutes of exercise a day. In addition to burning calories, exercise also helps to relieve tension – so you are less likely to eat to control holiday stress.

2.    Stay hydrated! 
A little water goes a long way – small sips throughout the day is a smart way to keep well hydrated. Even better, water has no fat, no calories and no cholesterol 🙂

3.   Portion Alert! 
Try to keep your portions small and make only one visit to the table. Choose the smallest plate possible. Pile greens and other tasty veggies on your plate first, leaving just a little room for those high-calorie treats like sweets and cheeses. Eat small, lower-calorie meals during the day so you can enjoy a special treat later – just make sure you do not starve yourself for the party and overeat later.

4.    Step away from the table 
If you don’t put your choices on a plate, you have no idea how much you are really eating. The worst thing you can do at a party is stand around the table dipping into the bowl.

 Drink smart 
Alcohol is a double whammy during the holidays.  It tends to weaken your resistance when it comes to eating, and the calories in drinks add up quickly.

6.    Zen Yourself
Holidays can be stressful. Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Organise your time and make a list and prioritise the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. And don’t forget to schedule some down time to relax.

7.    Slip, don’t slide
If you eat three helpings of mashed potatoes and half a pie, all is not lost.  Rather than polishing off the rest, learn from your slip-up. Next time, eat a salad first, start a conversation, and park yourself far from the danger zone. The next time starts today.


Remember to avoid missing meals in the busy period running up to Christmas. This easily leads to overeating, when you’re faced with temptation.