Invigorate Nutrition

The Festive Spirit - should we 'rein' ourselves in?

Wednesday 11th January 2017

So it’s the New Year again! Minds turn from work to weather, from schedules to socialising, from frantic to family. Many of us will reflect on the year just been, and set expectations for next year. Christmas and the New Year is a great time for socialising with friends and family, and much of that centres around food.

We are lucky in New Zealand that we have an abundance of summer’s fresh produce to indulge in. Cherries, stonefruit, new potatoes, peas and salad vegetables. Our Christmas food is so different to those in the Northern Hemisphere; it feels fresher – maybe because we are often outside beside the BBQ or down at the lake or beach.

Lately I’ve been looking at beverage alternatives for the festive season. There seems to be two types of beverages around us. One is high calorie and nutrient poor, has a robust marketing budget to drive summer sales. This type I’ll call ‘commercial’. These drinks are formulated to appeal to our demand for taste (ie. sugar) and frequently associate themselves with a well-marketed ‘lifestyle’ or ‘emotion’ so that you choose their product over their competitors.

The other type is low kilojoule (calorie), and are sometimes nutrient rich. These may have a small, if any, marketing budget.  If they are sold in your supermarket they could be on a small section of shelving either way above eye level, or way below (or in the tea section). This type I’ll call ‘energetic’. While they have less ‘energy’ in the calorie sense of the word, you’ll feel more energtic for consuming them! And they are not the ‘energy’ drinks that use funky youth and adventure sport marketing, loaded with caffeine and either sugar or sweeteners (energy for five minutes perhaps).

In fact, because this term ‘energy’ can get confusing in this space, I am going to refer to ‘kilojoules’ when I refer to food energy here. Kilojoules is the term that we use for the energy that you eat in your diet. Americans (on the imperial system) use the term calories. There are 4.18 kilojoules in one calorie (Fact of the Day!).  If I refer to kilojoules as the food energy, I can reserve the term ‘energy’ for how energetic you feel – it should be a positive word!

At this time of year it is easy to get into the habit of drinking more of these high calorie drinks (and more alcohol) than usual. In Table 1 I have put together a list of beverages, their energy content, and their cost. I found this exercise really interesting! Soda water and sparkling water have piqued my interest, and I’ve also been looking for recipe ideas to jazz these up a bit. Some ideas include serving your water with ginger, mint, lemon or herbal/fruit teabags. A good project to do with the kids one day can be to chop up pieces of summer fruit or mint and and pop into ice cube trays to freeze.

One of my favourite websites for recipes is Healthy Food Guide NZ, here is the link for their beverage recipes in case you would like a browse:

Table 1: Approximate kilojoule (kJ) content and price per 200mL serve of various beverages


kilojoules per 200 mL

Price ($NZ)

Water from tap at home

0 kJ


Still water from supermarket

0 kJ


Sparkling water

0 kJ


Soda water

0 kJ


Instant coffee (1 tsp)

8 kJ


Long Black Coffee (café)

8 kJ


Green tea, peppermint tea

11 kJ


Coconut water

120 kJ


Beer – Low alcohol (2.5%)

140 kJ


Beer – regular alcohol (4.5%)

225 kJ


Trim Cappuccino, no sugar

240 kJ


Energy drink

250 kJ


Vodka / Whisky, no mixer added

255 kJ (in 1 nip)


Sports drink

258 kJ


Trim (green top) milk (varying brands)

340 kJ


Orange Juice

340 kJ


Soft drink (varying brands)

360 kJ


Reduced fat (Lite Blue) milk

400 kJ


Flavoured milk

520 kJ


Original (dark blue top) milk

540 kJ


Wine – White or Red (~$18 bottle)

620 kJ



As Table 1 shows, we can quickly add a LOT of extra kilojoules into our diet with certain drinks. This is due partly to the kilojoule content of the drink we choose, and partly due to our drinking habits when consuming them. Some alcoholic beverages contain both alcohol (which provides 29 kilojoules per gram) and sugar (providing 17 kilojoules per gram). A low-sugar alcoholic beverage certainly does not make it kilojoule free – and the higher the percent of alcohol in it, the more grams of alcohol (and thus kilojoules) it will contain. Then you may or may not choose to add more kilojoules via any mixers you add. Thus, the energy content of these drinks can add up quickly! In my experience, drinking less alcohol has been a very effective weight loss strategy for my clients – and might be something you want to consider this summer.

For example, one dozen low alcohol lagers contributes 1,680 kJ. That is almost a meal’s worth of kilojoules – but lower in nutrients. That is also just over eight standard drinks of alcohol content. For optimal long term health the Health Promotion Agency recommends less than three standard drinks a day for men, and less than two standard drinks for women, with two alcohol-free days a week.

A dozen normal strength lagers adds up to 2,700kJ. That is a lunch or light dinner kilojoule equivalent right there. Definitely not a dinner’s worth of nutrients though. 

Six 200ml glasses of red or white wine adds up to 3,720 kJ. That could be the kilojoule content of your breakfast and lunch combined! Would you eat two breakfasts and two lunches in a day and expect to maintain a healthy body weight? Unless perhaps you are in training for the Ironman!

While the trim cappucino has a similar kilojoule content as regular strength beer, not many of us would down six coffee’s in a row would we?

So this social season, help yourselves and your friends get the most out of your summer and boost everyone’s energy levels. Sometimes we can feel that everyone expects to eat and drink this way over festive period, but you may be surprised.  It’s also a great way to show your children a great ‘normal’ too, at a time when family is our focus.   

Three Simple Tips to nourish your body better

Tuesday 1st November 2016

Here in New Zealand it is spring, launching into summer. Elsewhere in the world you may be preparing to hunker down for winter. Any change in season gives us pause for reflection on how we look after ourselves. This blog provides you with three simple tips on how to do that, regardless of which hemisphere you are in!

Seeing daffodils and blossoms bloom and lambs leaping in lush paddocks here in New Zealand inspires reinvigoration. Wherever you are in the world, a change in season gives pause for reflection about how we are living our lives and what positive changes we might want to make. You may be motivated to change the way you eat by wanting to shed unwanted kilo’s. However, sometimes weight loss is achieved at the expense of physical and/or mental health! Why not make some positive changes to what you eat so you can feel better instead?

The real hurdle is not deciding what ‘diet’ to follow (although I love the Mediterranean diet!), but finding a style of eating that you can sustain that makes you feel good, both physically and psychologically. I also have little patience for the negativity and guilt implied in many ‘diets’ that focus on what you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat. I prefer to think about incorporating new nutritious foods into eating to help achieve better health (and explore new flavours too, one of the joys of eating!).

If you do want to nourish yourself better, here are three key pointers:

1.    Know your appetite

2.    Make good snack choices

3.    Make good drink choices.


Know your appetite:

I enjoy helping my clients understand what circumstances precede them making poor food choices. It can happen after skipping meals, or when you feel stressed. You know when you get so hungry that you will eat anything? Or when things are getting on top of you and you crave the reward or indulgence that some foods can bring – and then feel guilty about it afterwards. Don’t feel guilty, acknowledge that for what it is. Maybe you just need a good download with your family and friends – that will probably be more effective! 

If you are prone to hungry snacking on poor quality foods (often before dinner or in the evening) consider that you might not have eaten enough earlier. Perhaps you start your day with a coffee and don’t eat until around lunchtime. There are two fantastic opportunities to add some nutrient-loaded food that will improve your health AND your brain function! Add a nutritious breakfast (it’s fine if it’s small if you are not so hungry in the morning) and a nutritious mid-morning snack (like fruit, nuts, or vegetables).

If you are an emotional eater, for example eating certain foods in response to stress, think about what the circumstances are leading up to that.  Use this information to prepare with alternative stress-busting activities. It might mean getting more sleep, connecting with friends, meditating or going for walks (whatever works for you).  Choosing more nutritious foods also gives you a great sense of empowerment that you are being pro-active in looking after yourself!


Make good snack choices:

Choosing nutrient-dense snacks over processed nutrient-depleted snacks can have a powerful impact on the nutritional quality of your diet. And by nutrient-dense snacks I mean foods that are in their natural form with their nutritional value intact, like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  The middle aisles of supermarkets are loaded with snack foods, many of which contain plenty of kilojoules, fat, salt and sugar, and very little fibre, vitamins and minerals. Choosing foods from the outside ring of the supermarket, the local farmers market, or your garden, can add a significant nutrient boost while at the same time displacing other nutrient-poor but energy-rich foods from your diet. You could, for example, take an opportunity to eat an apple while walking to your destination after parking the car or getting off the train. Apples take a while to chew, and have bulk, thus fill you up well. They are also power-packed with vitamins, antioxidants and fibre!

Another reason that I prefer whole foods is that nutrition is a relatively new science, and every few years we learn about new nutrients in food that are good for us – let’s call it ‘Nutrient X’. A food manufacturer cannot add ‘Nutrient X’ to their food in processing if they don’t know it exists. But it has probably always been in tomatoes, or oranges, or broccoli, or olives, or almonds, or mussels (you get the point)! 


Table 1: Kilojoule content of various snack options

Snack food

Approximate kilojoules per serve

Raw celery – 2 stems


Raw cucumber – 8 slices ½ cm thick each


Carrot – 1 medium


Kiwifruit – 1 green


Green olives – 6 Plain (unstuffed)


Orange – 1 medium


Gingernut biscuit x 2


Apple – 1 medium


Superwine biscuits x 2


Raw almonds – 15 almonds


NZ Greenshell Mussels x 6


Grapes – 1 cup


Nice & Natural Supergrains Muesli bar x 1


Plain Natural Yoghurt – 150g


Raw cashew nuts – 15 cashews


Banana – 1 medium


Vitawheat 9-grain crackers x3 + 3 thin cheese slices (20g)


Nature Valley Crunchy Muesli bar – 2x Apple Crisp


Sausage roll, 140g


Citrus/caramel/choc peppermint slice (160g – café serve, 12cm long x 4cm wide x 2.5m high)



Make good drink choices:

Making good drink choices works along the same lines as snacks, but there is a clear favourite: water! And also teas, which I wrote about recently. Again there are entire aisles of supermarkets tempting us with all kinds of beverage products, many of which provide sugar and kilojoules that we can quite simply do without! Table 2 compares the energy content of a variety of beverages for you to compare them. You will see how the kilojoules from alcohol can quickly add up, especially considering that many people may drink quite a few alcoholic drinks in one sitting. Would you ever drink 3-6 coffee’s in sequence? Worth thinking about.

It might help you drink more water if you keep a jug of cold water in the fridge with some lemon or mint in it for flavour. Being well hydrated helps our body’s cells to message each other and function properly. You can focus on drinking more water through the morning to hydrate yourself for the day. This also avoids frequent nightly trips to the toilet!

Table 2: Kilojoule content of various beverages


Approximate kilojoules per 200 mL


0 kJ

Long Black Coffee

8 kJ

Green tea, peppermint tea

11 kJ

Beer – Low alcohol Lager (2.5%)

140 kJ

Beer – Lager (4.5%)

225 kJ

Trim Cappuccino, no sugar

240 kJ


258 kJ

Orange Juice

340 kJ

Coca Cola

360 kJ

Wine – White or Red

640 kJ


These three tips are really simple changes you can incorporate into your daily routine, that can leave you feeling much better about yourself, as well as leave you feeling more energetic and ready to spring into summer - Bring it on! 

The Sunshine Vitamin

Thursday 13th October 2016

Late winter and early spring, as in right about now, is the time of year when our blood vitamin D levels are typically at their lowest. So as everyone gears up for spring gardening and more outside activities, I thought this would be good timing for this topic!

There are not many vitamins where food is NOT the body’s best source. In fact, there is only one: vitamin D.  Some dietary sources of Vitamin D are listed in Table 1, and it is certainly worth including these foods in your diet. However, what really boosts our vitamin D status is time outside in the sunshine! This is because vitamin D is made in our skin from UVB light exposure and warmth. Being outside in the fresh air is important; UVB light does NOT pass through window glass.

Vitamin D is good for bone health; it plays a significant role in regulating calcium metabolism. Deficiencies in vitamin D lead to rickets in childhood, and osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults, reflecting the loss of calcium from bones. Did you know that if you didn’t have any vitamin D, you would only absorb 10-15% of the dietary calcium you eat into your body?

Vitamin D acts like a steroid hormone -  that sounds exciting doesn’t it! There are vitamin D receptors all around the body, particularly in the small intestine, bone, liver, kidneys and (of interest to a sports dietitian like me) in skeletal muscle. We are still learning about what vitamin D does for us, suffice it to say that supplementing with vitamin D only seems justified if you have low blood vitamin D levels to start with. But there are also other ways to boost your vitamin D status.

Most of us make plenty of vitamin D in our skin over summer, as we take holidays and generally get outdoors under quite strong UV light here in New Zealand. Of course, this sun exposure needs to be carefully balanced with sun-smart behaviours to ensure we don’t increase our risk of developing skin cancer.  You can balance both with the usual sun-smart recommendations regarding when & for how long you are out in the sun from the Ministry of Health and the Cancer Society of New Zealand1. They suggest a daily walk or other activity outside with sun protection around lunchtime in the winter, shifting to the early morning or late afternoon during summer. Given the weather and duration of daylight we experience in those different seasons, that advice is quite practical.

Living in southern New Zealand places us at higher risk of having low blood vitamin D concentrations, particularly in winter. We are further from the sun, so UVB light that has further to travel and is weaker, and we spend less time outside in winter.  The Annual Nutrition Survey of 2008/09 found that a third of New Zealanders living south of Nelson/Marlborough had serum vitamin D concentrations below 50 nmol/L (the level recommended by the Ministry of Health1,2) when assessed over the year, but this jumped to almost two thirds of us in August, September and October2

Table 1: Food Sources of Vitamin D







Egg yolks

Shitake mushrooms (sun dried)


Vitamin D has been associated with many, many different health conditions, and is currently very trendy and enjoying its moment in the sun (pardon the pun!). However, an association does not always indicate a cause and effect. A colleague of mine once used the wonderful analogy that eating more ice-creams in summer does not get you in trouble in the water, although there are also more drownings (unfortunately) in summer. Associations need to be tested out in a randomised controlled trial, where one group gets the vitamin and one group gets a placebo that looks and tastes the same, for a reasonable length of time to see an impact (which can be a long time in nutrition research!). Then the researcher measures the outcomes before and after the trial to see whether the two groups respond differently over that time. This work is ongoing in nutrition research – vitamin D is an exciting nutrient to be watching right now!

Many of these studies will use vitamin D supplements, because it is easier to offer a placebo tablet to compare that with. Consider that supplementing vitamin D is not the only way to improve your family’s vitamin D status. For children in particular, getting outside exercise (in accordance with your child’s abilities and the Ministry of Health and Cancer Council's sun exposure guidelines) might be a much better way to boost their vitamin D status. Exercise gives them so many benefits in terms of physical, mental and social health, and is always worth encouraging. In fact I wonder what impact the Pokémon Go app has had on the vitamin D status of our children? Maybe we were lucky that it was launched in winter here?

If you take high doses of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D frequently, there may be a risk of toxicity because it is more difficult to excrete these vitamins from the body. This is quite different to water-soluble vitamins like B vitamins or Vitamin C – it is easy to just pee out the excess of those! It is quite safe to obtain vitamin D from the dietary sources listed in Table 1, and from the vitamin D that you make in your skin, which occurs naturally in response to internal feedback mechanisms, and according to your body's own needs.

If you are concerned about your vitamin D status, please see your doctor. People who are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency include people who do not get outdoors much, people who prefer to wear lots of clothing to cover their skin, the elderly, pregnant women and people with darker skin (it takes more UVB exposure to make an equivalent amount of vitamin D in darker skin). You can have a blood test to know whether your vitamin D levels are adequate; this should be done through your General Practitioner.

In the meantime, round up your children, dogs, friends and family and get outside for some exercise as the weather gets better! Spring is here – get out and enjoy it! 

Sports Nutrition - Extracting those precious seconds

Thursday 15th September 2016

Oh my goodness I have been totally distracted this past month or so, because I love watching sport. Luckily for me we have lots of live coverage of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games at home - although I'm not getting so much work done! Sports Nutrition is my bread and butter practice, so what better time to write a blog on how to eat to optimise your performance, be it in sport, study or life in general! Read more below! Enjoy :-) [Photo: Me with two lovely Paralympic clients Yip Pin Xiu & Theresa Goh - in the Singapore Sports Institute's amazing Sports Nutrition Laboratory. Photo taken by : Ang Sin Hwee, Sports Dietitian, SSI]

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are such a festival, with such incredibly close margins deciding the outcome of years, and years of focus, dedication and training – some sessions good and others bad. The perseverance of picking yourself up and trying again, for it all to come down to a decision or a millisecond, in one event.  I speak like I know it, but I cannot profess to great athletic ability. I know it only as a member of the support crew.  My career has involved helping both recreational and elite athletes eat in the right way so they can perform again and again.  When you demand so much from your body, you get more out of it if you invest back in. That applies to all of us, not just athletes!

New Zealand has a strong sporting culture, we embrace and enjoy sport. We are very talented, and we like playing sport not only to win but to spend time with friends. Picture our rural communities socialising around the netball court, cricket pitch or rugby field. The good news is that whether you are an Olympian, a weekend warrior, or a gym goer, there are some nutrition tips to help you get the best out of your body – in both sport and in life!

There are three main points to emphasise in sports nutrition:

1.       Eating well around training delivers much greater benefits than just eating well around competition

2.       Timing is important

3.       If you don’t have the right food with you, you won’t be eating it. Pack your food with your sports gear.

That’s right, sports drink is not on my ‘critical’ list. Neither are supplements! More on that another time perhaps.


Sportspeople put in hours of training so that they get better at their sport, or at least so that they feel better when taking part (as in my case!). The purpose of all that training is to create ‘adaptations’ – changes in how your body works to help it deal with the stress of exercise. Exercise is a stress, but it is good for our bodies to feel that and to adapt to it. That adaptation makes us healthier as well as stronger, faster, and able to sustain better concentration for longer. Some training adaptations are listed in Table 1 below.


Table 1: Examples of Training Adaptations to exercise

Adaptations the body makes in response to regular exercise:

Build more fuel burning engines (mitochondria) inside the muscle cells

Improved ability to burn both fat and carbohydrate as fuels

Improve blood supply throughout muscle

Stronger heart, pumping blood more effectively

Improved ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles (and brain)

Able to exercise at a higher intensity before lactate is produced

Improved glucose uptake into muscle

Greater muscle strength and power


The goal of sports nutrition is to make food choices that help the body improve itself.

To adapt, our bodies need to refuel, restore and rebuild. They need to get the materials to do that from our diet. The human body might seem adaptable and resilient, whereby it feels like you can feed it whatever you want and it will keep delivering (externally at least, and especially when you are young). However, over time, making poor food choices will start to show in how well you can perform and concentrate. Over the long term, you might gain weight, or succumb to lifestyle related diseases.

For sportspeople, we think “from the inside out”. What stresses is the athlete placing on their body? What nutrients will their body need to restore itself and adapt well to that stress? And where to we get those nutrients from? We need clear understanding of exercise physiology and biochemistry to understand the demands being placed on them, and a great understanding of the food supply to know where to get those nutrients from and when our athletes should eat them. This does mean that nutrition advice should be individualised, tailored to each athlete and their training schedule.


Eating well before training helps you get better bang for your buck from the time you invest in exercise.

Going into a session tired or dehydrated means you can’t train as well as you could have otherwise.  Also, eating well after training helps provide your body with the nutrients it needs to restore itself and create those adaptations you are looking for. Different types of exercise cause different types of stress, hence require a focus on slightly different nutrients. Most types of exercise burn carbohydrate, hence carbohydrate is the go-to – preferably fruit and wholegrain sources: brown rice, wholemeal pasta, wholegrain bread and wholegrain muesli. This is as much about providing good useable fuel to your body as it is about training your taste buds to like the right kind of diet for a long, healthy life. Nearly all types of exercise would benefit from antioxidants afterwards, which come via fruit, vegetables, tea, shellfish and nuts. Antioxidants are best to come from food, as using high dose antioxidant supplements may compromise your adaptation to the exercise in the long-term.


When you should eat depends on how long you have between sessions.

If you have 12 hours or more, making sure that you eat enough carbohydrate through your day will be enough to restore your fuel stores before the next session. You don’t need to shovel down extra calories for recovery’s sake immediately after training. Although, if you usually have a meal at some point afterwards or healthy snack during the day, you could shift the timing of that snack to within 40-60mins of your workout if you want.   If you have two training sessions within 4-8 hours of each other, then you would benefit from a carbohydrate rich snack within 40-60 mins of the first session to optimise the restoration of your muscle glycogen (fuel) stores.   If you have done resistance exercise, adding some protein to that snack will help your muscle fibres rebuild themselves into stronger ones too. Good snack ideas are listed in Table 2, but remember, every individuals needs are different!


Table 2: Post-exercise recovery snack ideas

Carbohydrate foods

Protein included

Wholegrain sandwich with honey

Wholegrain sandwich with peanut butter or cheese

Small can of creamed rice

Small can of tuna

A banana or large pear

Small can of baked beans (+/- wholegrain bread)

2 tubs of yoghurt

300-500mL flavoured milk

A handful of dried fruit (wash down with water)

A handful of nuts


Of course, you cannot reap the benefits of improved nutrition supply to your hard working body unless you have the food with you! I have seen many athletes fall over at this hurdle by forgetting to take food with them. Hours later they are so hungry that they walk into a shop and want to eat everything in there! These poor food choices then compromise the return on investment from the previous session. Don’t let that happen to you!

If you want more advice on how to eat around your exercise, no matter what kind of exercise you like to do or what level you 'perform' at, I would be happy to help you:

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  • Dunedin Clinic: Eclipse Health, Wellness and Performance, 266 Hanover Street, Ph (03) 474 0030 to make an appointment.


This blog has also appeared in the Otago Daily Times, Lifestyle Section:

Embracing the humble cuppa

Monday 25th July 2016

We often hear about what NOT to eat or drink, so I love hearing about the value of a food or beverage that is already part of our daily lives. Such is the case with the humble cup of tea. For me, tea brings back fond memories of my grandparents. As I write, looking over a cold and stormy ocean, a cuppa calls me.

Tea is an ancient beverage, originating in China before the birth of Christ.  Did you know that India is the greatest tea exporting country, but even they only export half of their tea due to high local demand!1 In the modern era, tea is grown and consumed all around the world.

New Zealanders also love their tea. Indeed, Dunedin has had a special role to play in the consumption of tea in New Zealand, as the Bell Tea Company supplied the New Zealand market out of Dunedin for over 100 years, from 1898 until 2014. When Bell Tea began operating in Dunedin, New Zealanders were consuming over 3kg of tea per person per year2. Now there are many other beverage choices available, and tea consumption has dropped to around 1kg per person per year, although 77% of New Zealand households still drink tea1.

Should we be in such a rush to ditch our cup of tea? In fact, tea maybe gaining popularity again, with black, green, white, and herbal and fruit teas making a strong claim for our attention. The variety of teas available now provide a wonderful opportunity to experiment, and add valuable nutrients to our diet easily. Of all the beverage options available in contemporary New Zealand, tea is a comfortable, nutritious and low-calorie choice (when you skip the sugar & use trim milk).

Tea has less caffeine than coffee; most herbal or fruit teas have none – but always check the label. Table 1 shows some typical caffeine contents for some beverages.

Table 1: Caffeine content of various New Zealand caffeine-containing beverages:


Mean caffeine content

Range in caffeine content (if provided)

Herbal or fruit tea3

0 if no cocoa (cacao), coffee, tea (camellia sinensis), mate, guarana or kola nut present.

Drinking chocolate powder4


0.27-0.92mg per tsp powder depending on brand

Decaffeinated coffee powder4

1.9mg per tsp powder


Kola-style soft drinks3


25-35mg per 250mL serve depending on brand

Black tea4

57mg per 250mL


Green tea4

31mg per 250mL


Energy drink5


35-120mg per 250mL depending on brand

Instant coffee, from powder4

83mg per 250 mL


Plunger-prepared coffee4

100mg per 250 mL


Café-prepared espresso / short black

www.stclair120mg per single shot4

25-214mg per serve6

Energy shot5


10-300mg per shot (30-120g shot serve size)


White tea has varying caffeine content, similar to that seen in green and black teas.

The Ministry of Health recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women limit their caffeine intake to under 300mg per day (if any) and check with their Lead Maternity Carer before consuming any herbal teas7. The rest of us are advised to consume caffeine in moderation, and limit caffeine intake to under 400mg per day. Due to concerns that children might be more sensitive to the adverse effects of caffeine (anxiety, headaches, trouble sleeping and irritation to the gastrointestinal tract), caffeine is not recommended for them3.

Tea can provide a good fluid source in our diet. If you feel tired and lethargic, you might not be consuming enough fluid. Tea is also a valuable source of particularly strong family of antioxidants called polyphenols. White and green teas contain a high content of a polyphenol called catechin. Black tea has a different polyphenol profile due to different processing, but remains a good source. Polyphenols help our body protect itself against free radical damage, linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease. The production of free radicals increases with age, exposure to pollution, sun damage and smoking. Antioxidants like polyphenols help mop up these free radicals and prevent the ensuing damage. Brewing tea (either fresh leaf or a teabag) for three minutes in boiling hot water maximises the extraction of antioxidants into your cup of tea.

It is worth remembering that food contains the perfect amount of antioxidants to keep your body fighting fit.  Too many antioxidants can have the opposite effect, so get good (impartial) advice before taking any antioxidant supplements. Instead, as the weather cools, tea is ready to rise to the forefront of our minds.  Given that much of the added sugar in New Zealanders diets comes from beverages like soft drinks, fruit juice, cordial and energy drinks, switching to tea to warm those bones is a positive move that many of us would happily make for our health.

Here’s to that cuppa!

Dr Kirsty Fairbairn is a Health, Wellness and Sports Dietitian at Invigorate Nutrition ( Her practice is based at Eclipse Health, Wellness and Performance, 266 Hanover Street, Ph. 474 0030.


1    The Bell Tea Company;

2    Sarah Wilcox. 'Food and beverage manufacturing - Tea and coffee', Te Ara - the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, updated 20-Apr-16.

3    Ministry of Health, 2012. Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (aged 2-18 years): A Background paper. Partial revision February 2015. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

4    The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 11th Edition, 2014.

5    Thomson and Schiess, Risk Profile: Caffeine in Energy Drinks and Energy Shots. Institute of Environmental Science & Research Limited, 2010.

6    Desbrow et al. An examination of consumer exposure to caffeine from retail coffee outlets. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2007; 45: Pages 1588-1592.

7   Ministry of Health, 2006. Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women: A background paper. Wellington: Ministry of Health.