29 July 2013

Is soy safe?

Often I am asked “Are soybeans and their products safe to eat?” It seems some people would have us believe soy is full-on toxic. Others point to the low rates of breast cancer and menopausal difficulties in Asian women, link this to their regular soy consumption and suggest soy is something we would all benefit from.

Wherein lies the truth? Let us go Out on a Limb once more and examine the science behind soy and breast cancer so we can bring some logic and clarity to this often steamy debate. Then I will tell you what Ruth and I actually do, and not shirk from drawing some compelling conclusions and making recommendations.

Also a reminder Meditation in the Desert starts September 6th and we do have a couple of places still available.  LINK HERE. Attached is an amazing aerial shot of the desert taken near to where we go in the Western MacDonnell Ranges. Just like an aboriginal painting. Or is that Fred Williams?! The picture is even more remarkable full screen.

But first

Thought for the day
If information alone could change people, 
Everyone would be skinny, rich and happy.
                                              Les Brown, composer and band leader

Soy products have gained widespread popularity in the West over the last 50 years. The supermarkets are full of them and they are added to so many pre-prepared foods, yet whether they are really safe, and especially what to recommend in regard to breast cancer has been an issue of great contention this last decade. It is an area in which I have taken a great deal of interest. I have read widely, spoken to many authorities and fielded many questions.

What follows then is a major piece in two parts which aims firstly to bring understanding to the soy bean itself. Particularly when it comes to nutrition, I am of the view that if we can understand the principles, then the details follow fairly simply and we will have the confidence to make good choices.

And then next week, how does soy interact with breast cancer? Does it cause or prevent breast cancer? And what of its role for those who have developed breast cancer – does it help or hinder? And what about prostate cancer and our health in general?

As it seems the answers to these questions may well vary depending upon what type of soy foods we eat, let us begin by understanding the bean itself.

THE SOY BEAN (Glycine max)
1. The raw soybean (or soya bean as it is called in the UK) is a legume that originated in East Asia but is now classified as an oilseed rather than a pulse by the FAO. There are 2 main types, those used for eating (which make up about 15% of world production), and those for oil (85%).

Raw soybeans contain trypsin inhibitors that make them toxic to humans and all other animals with a single stomach. Happily, cooking with "wet" heat destroys the enzyme and solves this problem, so all edible forms of soy have been, or need to be cooked.

HINT: Do not sprout soybeans unless you plan to cook them.

2. The traditional use of soybeans fall into 2 categories:
i) Non-fermented foods including tofu, tofu skin and soy milk.

ii) Fermented foods including tamari (traditionally made pure soy sauce), miso (fermented soybean paste), and tempeh. Fermentation does lower the phytoestrogen content found in raw beans. People have claimed that historically soybeans were only used after fermentation, but we shall investigate whether or not this would seem to be a relevant issue.

3. Processed soy products are a more modern phenomena and usually stem from soy flour (made by roasting and grinding the beans) and its products.

One of the most common is TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein – which also can be made from wheat, oats and cotton seeds). TVP is a de-fatted soy flour product that is a by-product of extracting soy oil. It has a protein content equivalent to that of meat and is often used as a meat substitute or extender.

Fat-free (defatted) soybean meal is a significant and cheap source of protein for animal feeds and many prepackaged meals. It is used widely. Processed soy may be found in many things from vegetable sausages to Mars bars.


In 1997, about 8% of all soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States were genetically modified. In 2010, the figure was 93%. Unless a soy product stipulates that it is GMO free, or organically grown, it is almost certain to contain at least some genetically modified beans.

Soy oil 
Soy beans have a high oil content; around 20%; and soy oil accounts for about 65% of all oil used in commercial and home cooking. However, soy oil is low in Omega 3 fatty acids and high in Omega 6s. The ratio is .13 : 1, whereas flaxseed oil is 3.45 : 1; so for all the reasons why flaxseed oil is good for regular use, soy oil is not.

Tofu usually contains under 10% fat, so the oil type is not a major issue when eating it – unless you have very particular needs.

Soy protein
Soy beans are high in protein: around 38–45%.

Soybeans are an excellent source of complete protein. A complete protein contains in the one food all the essential amino acids in a good balance necessary for human health. Meat is well known as a complete protein and concerns have been raised (probably in a way that is highly overrated) that vegetarians may miss out on some amino acids.

Soy protein has the nutritional equivalent of meat, eggs, and casein for human growth and health. So, as confirmed by the US Food and Drug Administration, soy is a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.

Tofu – how it is made 
Soaked soybeans are ground; water is added and boiled.  The pulp is then removed leaving soymilk. Next, a natural mineral coagulant such as calcium sulfate, magnesium chloride, or a mixture of both is added, causing the soymilk to curdle. The curds are removed, placed in a cloth-lined box and varying amounts of pressure applied to form soft, regular, firm or extra firm tofu.

The firmer the tofu, the higher the protein and fat levels.

Silken tofu is made when either calcium sulfate or glucono-delta-lactone is added to a thick, rich soymilk. The mixture is put into a package that is then heated to activate the coagulation and produce the tofu in the package. 

Typically, tofu contains between 10 and 15% protein and 5 to 9% fat.  It is relatively low in carbohydrates and in fibre (as the pulp was removed), making it easy to digest.

Soy production and the environment
Soybeans produce

   . at least twice as much protein per acre compared to most other major vegetables or grains.

   . five to 10 times more protein per acre than land set aside for grazing animals to make milk.

   . up to 15 times more protein per acre than land set aside for meat production.

Environmental groups have reported increased soybean cultivation in Brazil has destroyed huge areas of Amazon rainforest. However, most of the soybeans  grown contribute to livestock fodder and oil production, so there is still great environmental merit in eating less meat and more soybeans.


How is breast cancer affected by oestrogen? Do the phyto-oestrogens (natural, oestrogen-like substances) in soybeans cause breast cancer, protect from it, help or hinder recovering from it? And what of soy and prostate cancer and our health in general?

Eating Well, Being Well


1. Meditation in the Desert September 6th to 15th

Seven days meditating in one of the world’s best natural meditation environments, followed by several days hanging out with senior local indigenous people. A rare chance to glimpse something of this sadly disappearing, or at least, dramatically changing, traditional culture.

To the right, the view of the Western MacDonnell Ranges from Hamilton Downs where we sit to meditate.

Just a couple of places still available. For enquiries LINK HERE or ring +61 3 59666130

2. Meditation classes in Albury, 6th August 2013
Kaye Ellis is someone I know well and can recommend. Her next meditation course in Albury runs weekly for 6 consecutive weeks beginning on Tuesday 6th August 2013 at 2pm. Each class runs for 1 and a half hours. Kaye does not charge for the courses but asks that if able, participants donate $10 per session which she then gives to the Gawler Foundation.

Details about the course and Kaye’s interest in meditation can be found at meditationalbury.weebly.com. Contact Kaye Ellis: kaye.ellis3@gmail.com

Your genes are not your fate, with Dean Ornish. To find out how to change your genes, LINK HERE

22 July 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: How to access your own inner wisdom

What do we call it? Intuition? Instinct? Gut feeling? Insight? Inner wisdom? We all have times where we seem to access some deeper, more profound aspect of our being that speaks to us with wisdom and guides us towards a good decision, a good choice; that leads us through complexity to do the right thing at the right time.

Now imagine being able to connect and communicate with that inner wisdom at will. For this is the domain of Creative Imagery as taught by Dr Nimrod Sheinman, a world authority with this technique. Ruth and I are delighted to be hosting Nimrod back in Australia in October when we will combine to teach these methods in a residential program in the Yarra Valley: Images, Words and Silence.

So this week, lets go Out on a Limb once more and examine the rationale and techniques behind inner wisdom. But first

Thought for the day
The decisive factor is not the problem, 
But the way we think about it. 
Albert Einstein

Modern neuroscience tells us that our mind’s capacity to store information is pretty well fool proof. It seems that everything we ever learnt, everything we ever saw, heard, read or experienced is actually stored in our memory banks. Storeage is not the problem; remembering it – now there is an issue!

Some people it seems do have almost perfect memories. But for most it is partial recall. We probably all have the experience of knowing we know something, having it “on the tip of our tongue”, but struggling to actually remember it.

Then again, we can all probably observe in ourselves how sometimes we seem to act with real insight, with an inner wisdom that leads us to do just the right thing in a situation where a poor choice could have led to a real mess. Then other times we may have been baffled by the poor choices we did make and the chaos that followed. Ah, the benefit of wisdom in hindsight!

So imagine being able to learn, or even teach others a technique that reliably accessed this bank of stored memory and inner wisdom. Actually, it is not so hard when you understand how the mind works and take the time to develop a simple but profound technique.

Quite simply, wisdom does not exist in the rational, thinking mind. That analytical, deductive, calculating aspect of our mind is useful for many things, but of itself, it contains no wisdom; just thoughts and thinking. No, wisdom dwells in the deeper recesses of the unconscious mind. It is in the unconscious where instinct, intuition and insights are to be found.

So if we are to access our inner wisdom, we need to access our unconscious. It is like we need to communicate between two different systems, the conscious, thinking mind, and the unconscious wisdom mind. This is where it gets easy. For what we need is an interface, a common language that both the conscious and unconscious minds can speak.

Welcome to the world of Creative Imagery. For images are something that the conscious mind can create, understand and communicate with; while images are the natural language of the unconscious.

So we can learn to create an image for our inner wisdom in a form with which we can communicate. The image becomes the bridge between these two aspects of our mind. Then we can enter into a dialogue between the conscious mind and the unconscious. We can pose questions, put problems to that deeper inner wisdom and have it speak to us in simple and clear language; a language we can understand, the language of symbols.

I have to say that having first learnt this technique from Nimrod many years ago, I have taught it to many people over the years and seen them gain major insights that made sense of symptoms of physical illness, that gave direction in life, that did solve burning questions and provided major life lessons and insights.

But given this process could work, how would you know the response you received from this inner wisdom, this inner guidance was real and could be taken seriously? Well happily that too is easy. Sometimes when we sit to contemplate and think something through, we know we are having an inner debate and the conclusions are inconclusive. Sometimes we reach a point of inner certainty.

Where Creative Imagery is so powerful, is that it commonly leads to this inner certainty. Put simply again, if one does an exercise like this and doubt remains, then doubt remains. But if as often occurs, there comes an inner knowing, a conviction; then that leads to the confidence to take the guidance received seriously.

So from October 28th, Ruth Nimrod and myself will lead a 5 day residential retreat at the Foundation’s beautiful Yarra Valley centre and teach this technique. The training is designed for those who seek to use these methods personally, as well as for health practitioners who may like to teach them. We will combine this with an overview of how to learn, teach and deepen the experience of stillness meditation, as the meditation supports accessing inner wisdom and has so many benefits in its own right.

This will be a fabulous program and Ruth and I are very pleased to be able to welcome Nimrod back to Australia and work with him again.

For full details, CLICK HERE, while to book, call the Gawler Foundation on 03 59671730.


The 3 most powerful tools for personal transformation


BOOKS The Mind that Changes Everything – details on how to use Creative Imagery and many other mind techniques

CD: Mind Training – the double CD that details how the mind works and how we can use it to greater effect.

15 July 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: Geeks turn to meditation – the three top reasons why

It is lunchtime in Google’s main office and all is profoundly quiet, bar the occasional sounding of a meditation bell. Yes, the computer whizzes have left their machines silent, taken the lead from the renowned Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh and are enjoying a moments peace; a moment of mindfulness during one of their bi-monthly “mindful lunches”.

This week we investigate why the geeks here at Google, and across the way at the Facebook and Twitter offices, are turning increasingly to mindfulness and meditation and how they are benefiting. Then what to eat to offset Alzheimer’s, while Beyond Blue features meditation against anxiety. But first

Thought for the day
Before one studies Zen,
mountains are mountains and waters are waters;

After a first glimpse into the truth of Zen,
Mountains are no longer mountains 
and waters are no longer waters;
After enlightenment,

Mountains are once again mountains and waters once again waters.
                                                                                    Old Zen saying

Personal peace, company productivity, community altruism. Quite a package. But it does seem that the real purpose of meditation is beginning to dawn in the major hi-tech companies. Sure it helps with inner peace. Sure there is lots of research now that confirms how significantly meditation can improve everything from raw intelligence to creativity, productivity and social behavior in the workplace. But what is the point? Is it only about making more money? Where does it all lead to?

David DeSteno is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University in the USA. Speaking in a recent New York Times article, he comments

Gaining competitive advantage on exams and increasing creativity in business weren’t of the utmost concern to Buddha and other early meditation teachers. As Buddha himself said, “I teach one thing and one only: that is, suffering and the end of suffering.” For Buddha, as for many modern spiritual leaders, the goal of meditation was as simple as that. The heightened control of the mind that meditation offers was supposed to help its practitioners see the world in a new and more compassionate way.”

So in Silicon Valley, where meditation and mindfulness have become the new rage, it is not just about inner peace and getting ahead. There is the realisation that more is on  offer. Meditation is about developing compassion and altruism. It is about finding meaning and purpose at work and in life.

We can all take heart. At Google, more than a thousand staff have been through their "Search Inside Yourself" mindfulness training program developed by Chade-Meng Tan, one of their engineers. Another 400 are on a waiting list and in the meantime take classes like "Neural Self-hacking" or "Managing your Energy". A labyrinth for walking meditation, similar to the one by the river at the Foundation has also been built.

Next, the cofounders of Twitter and Facebook have incorporated contemplative exercises and meditation sessions into normal working hours. Around 1,700 people attended the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco recently, lured by the promise that meditation "can be used to augment individual performance, leadership and productivity". Top executives from Linkedin, Cisco and Ford featured among the keynote speakers.

Examining the question of compassion, DeStano, and colleagues conducted an experiment soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science. They took first time meditators through an 8 week meditation course and found that the meditation increased the compassion response threefold.

DeSteno adds “recent findings by the neuroscientists Helen Weng, Richard Davidson and colleagues confirm that even relatively brief training in meditative techniques can alter neural functioning in brain areas associated with empathic understanding of others’ distress — areas whose responsiveness is also modulated by a person’s degree of felt associations with others”.

So perhaps meditation is coming back to its roots. Sure, all its benefits for very real day-to-day things like training the mind to be better at whatever we do makes every good sense, but there is more on offer – becoming better at who we are, and how we be!

1. New York Times: 5th July 2013, GRAY MATTER: The Morality of Meditation - Focusing the mind makes us more likely to help others in pain.

2. Wired: Enlightenment Engineer

Eat smart, avoid Alzheimer’s
There is a growing body of research that suggests meditation and other mind training exercises can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but now a new study demonstrates that a high-fat, high-glycemic-index diet increases the risk significantly. Happily, a low-fat, low GI diet protected against the disease according to a new study published by the American Medical Association.

Researchers assigned 47 older adults, some of whom already had mild cognitive impairment, to either a high-fat, high-GI diet or a low-fat, low-GI diet.

Within four weeks, the high-fat diet increased the production of lipid-depleted Aβ, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s risk. The low-fat diet had the opposite effect. An accompanying commentary in the journal supports the finding that dietary choices can affect brain chemistry quickly and effectively.

1. Hanson AJ, et al. JAMA Neurol. Published ahead of print June 17, 2013.
2. Blacker D. Food for thought. JAMA Neurol. Published ahead of print June 17, 2013.

Beyond Blue gives Meditation a plug – read the quote and smile! Times are changing, often in rather cute small steps!

Meditation: Studies show meditation can reduce stress, help put you in control of your thoughts, help you find a purpose in life and bring peace of mind. And if it doesn't work for you, at least you'll have yourself a nice nap.

REFERENCE: Beyond Blue Man Therapy: Click here and go to M for meditation

08 July 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: The right foods improve cancer prevention and survival

This week we show how innovative statistics are revealing which ones do the job! Also, Ruth and I are giving talks in Katoomba and Sydney this week, there is another study that demonstrates colorectal cancer survivors who consume the most red or processed meat are around 30% more likely to die over a 7.5-year follow-up, and then a must see video link! But first

Thought for the day
If you do not take care of your body, 
where are you going to live?
                    Karen Duffy, American actress with sarcoidosis

It is an exciting time in cancer research with a rapidly escalating number of reputable articles demonstrating how specific foods can add or subtract years from the lives of people after they are diagnosed with cancer.

We have known for a long time that unhealthy food is the number one item linked to cancer risk. Similarly we know from heaps of research that healthy food provides major cancer prevention.

Yet for so many years I remember hearing cancer authorities telling people diagnosed with cancer and the public alike there was no evidence once you developed cancer that what you ate would make any difference. Anyone who was to say that in this day and age would either be ill-informed or would need to overlook a substantial body of evidence to the contrary. (For just a small sample of some of this evidence, see some of my earlier blogs that bring it together.)

However, there are real challenges for researchers endeavouring to sort out which foods are most destructive, which most helpful. Enter epidemiologist Patrick Bradshaw, PhD.

“One of the major limitations of studying diet is that food nutrients are so intertwined and complex, particularly the way we eat them, it’s difficult to tease apart the effect of a single nutrient,” said Bradshaw.

The traditional method of analysing nutrient data is to examine them one at a time, one analysis for vitamin C, one for vitamin E and so on.

“The trouble is, nutrients tend to be consumed together, so if you see an effect, it’s hard to say which one it was for. If you analyse them simultaneously the statistical models tend to not work well.”

Bradshaw has a background in biostatistics and so he has developed innovative statistical methods that place the focus on dietary patterns rather than individual nutrients. He uses a form of analysis called hierarchical modelling that incorporates biologically plausible actions for each set of nutrients.

“We can apply this methodology to integrate biology into an analysis that looks at a whole lot of things together that can be correlated.” Results are proving to be very interesting.

On the prevention side, a study he led last year found that consuming a dietary pattern high in vegetables, fruits and lean meats was linked to a lower risk of pharyngeal and oral cavity cancers; a diet high in fatty, fried foods, sweets and processed meats was associated with an increased risk of laryngeal cancer.

Then for those already diagnosed, last year he found that breast cancer survivors who gained the most weight post-diagnosis had a greater risk of death from any cause as well as from breast cancer compared to women survivors who remained the same weight at diagnosis.

The reason behind this weight gain among survivors is not well understood, says Bradshaw, and it is something that he is working to understand.

Another area of survivorship he is focusing on is physical activity. Here, the research is consistent, with most studies finding activity benefits survival.

“It looks like women who get physical activity, in particular in those early years of diagnosis, tend to have a better prognosis - they had a reduced mortality rate, which I think could be a powerful message for cancer survivors. I’m really interested in what is happening during those early years. Those are the formative years in terms of breast cancer survivorship.”

 “I would like to hope that my research is informing something that people can employ on a daily basis that can make their lives healthier.”

Reference: May 15, 2013 issue  AICR's Cancer Research Update.


Let food be your medicine - Part 1

Let food be your medicine - Part 2

Please let friends or family in these areas know of this week’s events. Share the links for details:

July 9; Day workshop: Health, Healing and Wellbeing

July 13 - 14, Weekend workshop: A New Way of Living


1. Thirty years presenting annually at the one place. An obsession or a delight? Well, 30 years at the Relaxation Centre have gone very quickly and it has been a pleasure to be a fixture on their calendar. Here is my old friend Lionel Fifield introducing me. He claims we look just like we did 30 years ago. He always was an optimist!!!

2. Foods can make you ill. Oh really!! Well yes, it seems they can, and this is an excellent website whose purpose is to provide you with information and resources on food intolerance and food allergy. From what I read, it does a pretty good job! Worth a visit, LINK HERE


Red and Processed Meat Intake Linked to Death for People with Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer survivors who consume the most red or processed meat are more likely to die over a 7.5-year follow-up, compared with those who eat the least, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society.

Researchers analyzed the diet records of 2,315 participants from the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort and found a 29 percent higher risk of death from all causes and a 63 percent higher risk of death from heart disease for those who consumed the most red and processed meat before diagnosis, compared with those who ate the least.

REFERENCE: McCullough ML, Campbell PT et al. J Clin Onc. Published ahead of print July 1, 2013.

Thanks to Philip Woolen’s mum for this truly beautiful video of a deaf man flying 3 kites accompanied by the sublime Flower Duet from Lakme. When he flies spectators hold their hands up and wave them for applause. He flies 2 with his hands and the 3rd kite is attached to his waist. He is in his 80s.

Do yourself a favour. Chill out for 5 minutes and stay to watch to the end so you see the amazing landing of that last kite! LINK HERE

01 July 2013

Clean Food – and the 4 elements of gourmet health food

I am sitting in the dining room at Gaia, looking out on a golden evening as the landscape rolls away over serene hills and on into infinity. But amidst the calm and the beauty, my thoughts go to “What will the food be like?”

Will it be a disappointment, or a pleasant surprise? For this is Olivia Newton-John’s luxury spa retreat where I am due to give some talks and where people come to be pampered and treated with gourmet meals that are intended to be healthy. This week we find out, prepare for talks in Coffs Harbor, Katoomba and Sydney and share a short video link that is well worth a look. But first

Thought for the Day
To keep the body in good health is a duty,
otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear
                                                                                 The Buddha

Gaia. The luxury spa retreat in the hinterland near Byron Bay in the far north of New South Wales that I have heard about from my old friend Olivia (who is not so old at all!) and who I know to be genuinely passionate about good food and a healthy lifestyle.

Olivia’s hand is evident everywhere, whether it be in the beautiful setting, caring, discreet and friendly way the staff conduct themselves, or in the quality of Gaia’s facilities with their earthy, natural décor, or the excellent standard of the massage therapists, hand-picked to work in the day spa. There are thoughtful touches of care and beauty everywhere.

But what will the food be like? Gregg Cave, the resident manager who treats each and every person like a personal guest, a personal friend, is with us when the dinner arrives.

It is immediately apparent. More than a pleasant surprise, it is wonderful! True gourmet health food. A chef who knows how to cook good food well.

“I like to call it clean food” says Gregg. “We start each meal from raw ingredients and we make every effort to use organic produce for its environmental and the health benefits as well as the enhanced flavor."

"Then we keep it simple. We stay away from salt and sugar so that again, the natural flavours are not swamped and guests get to really taste what they are eating.”

What I notice is the clean taste and the lightness that accompanies eating such food. You finish the meal feeling satisfied, clean and light. So different to many meals we eat when out that in one way taste OK, but leave you feeling heavy and feeling like another meal at home would have been a better choice.

Here, every meal is delicious and delightful. And clean!

Gaia does believe in choice so at different meals they do present chicken, seafood and some straight vegetarian meals. You can choose to leave cheese or other ingredients out of the meals that are offered; with vegan and gluten free options reliably and easily catered for.

So, the four 4 elements of clean food?

1. Start with top quality raw ingredients

2. Use organic produce wherever possible

3. Avoid salt and sugar

4. Keep it simple. Allow the ingredients and the naturally enhanced flavours to speak for themselves and do not complicate things with heavy, overbearing sauces and too many complicated flavours.

Oh yes, and to add that gourmet touch, do what Gaia have done - hire a top chef or 2 or 3 who are really into this style of cooking! And support them with top staff.

Simple really.

So if you are fortunate enough to have the time and money to go to a top-quality health retreat in Australia, and if you are seeking a place where you choose what you do, where there is no set formal teaching program, where you can go when it suits you, with oodles of pampering, excellent regular optional Yoga, Chi Gong and fitness classes, then Gaia comes very highly recommended.

Organic food – good for fruit flies, good for you

Eating well, being well


Ruth and I were in Brisbane this last week where for the 30th year in a row I presented at the Relaxation Centre. Quite a milestone really and what a fabulous volunteer driven centre. See the recent blog : One remarkable man, one great lesson.

This weekend we are in Coffs Harbor being organized for a day workshop through another old friend and colleague David McRae. David and I worked closely together in the Foundation way back in the eighties and so we look forward to spending more time with him and his wife and speaking in Coffs.

Then the following week, Katoomba and Sydney

Coffs Harbour
July 6; Day workshop: Medicine of the Mind

July 9; Day workshop: Health, Healing and Wellbeing

July 13 - 14, Weekend workshop: A New Way of Living

Not sure whether to laugh or cry, whether it is politically incorrect or not, but here is a short video that is definitely worth a few minutes. Check it out:

It’s not about the nail