Category: Articles

Enjoying the Summer Grill… The Guilt-Free Way


By Dr. Antonella Grima

Summer is round the corner and the smell of those fabulous summer barbecues is already in the air. Follow these practical tips to join in the summer fun in a healthy and low-calorie way.

Choose your cuts. When it comes to meat, fish or white meat such as chicken breast are the healthier options as they are lower in saturated fats and hence lower in calories. If you must have red meat, go for leaner cuts, such as fillet, as this is mainly muscle and contains less fat than other cuts.

Eyes on the marinade and sauces. These can drastically increase the calorie content of your meal. Steer clear of oils, mayonnaise and ready made sauces or gravies and instead opt for wine, herbs and lemon to marinade your meat, and vegetable-based sauces, such as hummus or bigilla.

Stick to one main plate. Nibbling on snacks and starters, such as nuts, crisps, cheese, ham and sausages before your meal may add on hundreds of extra calories to your barbecued meal. Try and have one main plate and skip nibbles and starters if you can.

Do not shy away from vegetables. Barbecued vegetables, such as aubergines, peppers or corn on the cob taste divine and usually contain less calories than their animal-derived barbecue counterparts. You may also wish to prepare a cold and crispy vegetable salad to serve as a side dish.

Eyes on that glass. The wine or beer somehow goes down easier while savouring a good grill. One drink for the ladies and two for the gents per day are more than enough. Alcohol is a source of extra calories and causes harm to your liver if consumed in excess. While on the topic of drinks, water or diet soft drinks are low-calorie alternatives to juices and sugary drinks.

When it comes to the dessert dilemma, it is always better to skip or choose a healthier option such as fruit, or opt for a small portion if you really must taste the ice cream or gateau.

Go slow on the charring! Barbecuing releases unhealthy free radicals and oxidizes the food. While a few barbecues here and there will cause minimal harm, one should refrain from having a barbecue on more than one or two days a week and try not to char food beyond the cooking point, while making sure it is well-cooked, of course. Counteract the effect of oxidation by consuming plenty of antioxidants, such as Vitamin C or E or Beta carotene during the day. Excellent sources are colourful fruits and vegetables, especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. Supplements are not necessary.

And finally, enjoy the company, the food and the exquisite Mediterranean climate we have been blessed with!

Article as appeared on 23rd May 2015 on

That Nasty Orange Peel

By Dr. Antonella Grima

Cellulite, the appearance of that nasty orange peel on the skin, plagues many women worldwide. The bad news is that, yes, there is a genetic tendency to have it and it does affect thinner women, too. The good news is that there are various ways in which you can keep it at bay or, at least, limit its extent or severity.

What causes cellulite? Collagen fibres which are present in the skin are pushed up by underlying fat. These, in turn, pull on the superficial skin, causing dimpling and making the skin uneven or bumpy, thus bringing about an irregular appearance. The presence of cellulite in itself starts a vicious cycle by putting pressure on tiny capillaries in the skin, making them permeable, and on the lymphatics, resulting in water retention and inadequate drainage of water and toxins from the skin. This brings about increased skin engorgement and unevenness.

What can I do about it?

There are various ways in which one can prevent cellulite from forming and which will go a long way to reduce it once it occurs.

  • Water plays an essential role in keeping our skin healthy and smooth. Drinking at least two litres of water a day will help you combat cellulite, whilst also keeping the rest of your body healthy.
  • Reduce the amount of processed foods you consume – this will help you reduce cellulite. These contain a considerable amount of salt and contribute towards fluid retention and the engorgement of the skin in cellulite-prone areas. The same goes for avoiding salty foods and reducing the amount of salt used in food preparation as much as possible.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight will also help you reduce the severity of cellulite in areas where fat is naturally deposited, such as the thighs and buttocks. Having a larger amount of subcutaneous fat in these areas will make cellulite more conspicuous by pushing on the collagen fibres and increasing dimpling. Losing weight will result in a loss of fat and will lead to an improved skin appearance.
  • Exercise can also help combat cellulite. By increasing muscle tone, overall flabbiness diminishes, thus giving thighs and buttocks a smoother appearance. Exercise also improves our circulation and blood flow to the skin, as well as having many other benefits. This may help in the elimination of retained fluid from cellulite-prone areas.
  • A healthy lifestyle is known to have an effect on the skin’s appearance. Lifestyle factors that may affect the skin include smoking, stress and poor sleep. These may also have an effect on cellulite.
  • Cosmetic treatments play a role in helping you combat cellulite. Numerous technologies are available so be sure to choose a reputable clinic where treatments are performed by trained professionals using safe and approved equipment.

And finally, keep in mind that cellulite tends to return. Keep it at bay by being consistent in your healthy habits.

As appeared on 9/6/15 on

Categories: Food for Health

When Bacon is no Longer an Option


By Dr. Antonella Grima

On the 26th of October 2015 The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research agency of the World Health Organization, issued a press release stating that it had evaluated the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat and classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans and processed meat as carcinogenic to humans. The main cancer associated in both cases was colorectal cancer. Needless to say, this statement made headline news on all the leading international newspapers and became a topic of discussion among opinion leaders, policy makers, heads of government and social networks both locally and internationally.

​As the dust made by this culinary storm started to settle, controversy ensued. There were those who compared the risk of consuming processed meat to those posed by cigarette smoke and felt reassured that, after all, it is not that bad. Others pointed towards health food lobbyists, health enthusiasts, environmentalists, and a myriad of other organizations and blamed them for creating this ‘hype’. There were articles that claimed that consuming fruit and vegetables was also responsible for causing cancer, while others invited us to focus our efforts on environmental pollutants rather than on processed meats.

However, having said all this, the writing has been on the wall for a quite some time now. Over the past few years, there has been the accumulation of a mounting body of evidence against the consumption of processed, as well as red meats. What has changed now? The IARC, via a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries, re-evaluated the evidence and grouped findings from a number of independent studies into a meta-analysis, thus increasing the strength and significance of the link between these food products and cancer. The link between processed meat consumption and cancer has now changed from probable to definitive.

The working group was not able to show such a strong association between red meat consumption and cancer, and the association still remains probable.
Putting the cancer perspective aside, one must keep in mind that these food products have already been implicated in a number of other conditions that cause ill-health. Health agencies nowadays discourage the consumption of red meats, stating that their high saturated fat content leads to high blood cholesterol, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, among others. Processed meats are rich in salt and fats, and are usually poor in nutrients. Apart from the health concerns posed by saturated fat, salt is a known culprit for high blood pressure and must be consumed judiciously. One must not ignore the fact that diseases of the circulatory system are the leading cause of death in Malta, causing 40% of all mortalities. In addition, leading experts in the fields of longevity and disease prevention promote a diet rich in plants and fibre, and low in meat and refined sugar consumption, among other things.

Where does this leave us? While the one-off hot dog or bacon fry-up will have little effect on our individual risk of developing cancer, given the evidence, one would be unwise to consume these products on a daily basis, especially since the risk has been shown to be dose-related. There are healthier, and tastier, alternatives to a ham sandwich and yes, children will happily eat other foods instead of sausages or chicken nuggets if these are presented from a young age and often enough.

Categories: Food for Health

HDL: The Neglected Good Cholesterol


By Dr. Antonella Grima

We are often all-too-aware about the foods that contain LDL – the bad cholesterol and we try to avoid them, religiously. However, most of us forget all about our ally – HDL, the good cholesterol – that mops LDL out of our arteries and keeps them clean and healthy, thus preventing problems such as heart disease or stroke.

By consuming foods that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, we help our body increase its HDL levels as well as keep inflammation, which plays a role in cardiovascular disease, at bay.

Here are a few foods that are packed with the good stuff:

Oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon are an excellent source of Omega 3 oils. Consuming oily fish once or twice a week instead of red meat or poultry is recommended.

Nuts, such as almonds and cashews, contain healthy oils as well as fibre, both playing a role in increasing the HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio in our bodies. Seeds, such as flax (linseeds), sunflower and pumpkin seeds are also a good source of healthy oils. These seeds can be sprinkled on your breakfast cereal, pasta or salad, giving it a tasty crunch.

Vegetable oils or spreads containing monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as rapeseed (or canola), olive, flax or sunflower should be used instead of butter or cream. When choosing oils, avoid those that are high in saturated fats (such as palm oil or coconut oil). When selecting vegetable spreads, go for brands that are free from harmful trans fats as these increase your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL.

In general, any product containing trans fats should be avoided. These include processed fried or baked foods, such as crisps, ready-made pies, pizza, biscuits and cakes. If you must consume these products, go for those that are clearly labelled as being free from trans fats.

Studies have shown that consuming fibre decreases the amount of LDL in our body. Excellent sources of fibre include oats, peas, beans and lentils, chickpeas, fruit and vegetables. Plant sterols and stanols are naturally found in plant-derived foods. They are also added to certain products, such as yoghurts, milk and spreads. These plant derivatives contribute towards lowering blood LDL and may also increase the level of blood HDL.

One should keep in mind that, although the food mentioned above is good for your health, it also contains calories and thus, like all other food, must be consumed in moderation to avoid weight gain.

Article as appeared on on 12/04/2015

Categories: Food for Health

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