Diet Myths with our Corporate Dietitian

Diet myths with Gemma Monaghan, Corporate Dietitian

When it comes to diet, nutrition and cooking, everyone is an expert!

In a world full of misinformation, it can be hard to find the right information and make the right choice.  When it comes to food and eating healthy, we all know what we need to do, but sometimes new diets come up in mainstream media that we see and need to understand.

Our guest, Gemma Monaghan is an accredited practising Dietitian, with qualifications in low FODMAPs and spends her working week educating corporates on all things nutrition.

In Episode 11 of Well Workplaces Podcast, our guest Gemma shares her insights on:

  • Her journey into Dietetics and Nutrition and love for cooking
  • What Intermittent Fasting is all about and the pros and cons
  • How Keto diet is one of diets she talks with clients about
  • Alternative milks and there nutritional value
  • The future trends in food, dining and nutrition

This was an interesting conversation with some great science to back it up.

About us:

Well Workplaces is a movement by Pinnacle Health Group.  Our vision is for a world where workplaces lead and create healthier communities.  Well Workplaces podcast has been designed to create genuine wellbeing conversations in the workplace and share expert knowledge in practical ways.

Connect with Well Workplaces on LinkedIn or connect with hosts Tom Bosna and Josh Lambert and we would love your feedback so please rate us on Apple podcast so we can be of service to you.

Don’t Just Feed Yourself, Feed Your Gut Bacteria

Woman eating healthy breakfast food

While some bacteria are associated with diseases, others are extremely important for your overall health. In fact, your body is teeming with trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that keep you alive and healthy. These are collectively known as your microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for your immune system, weight, heart, mood and many other aspects of your health.

While our understanding is still limited, we know that our microbiome is influenced for better or worse by certain environments, behaviours and food. Studies also indicate that by consuming food that encourages a diverse array of beneficial microbes, you can improve your overall health.

What is in Your Gut Microbiome?

Humans and microbes have evolved to coexist for millions of years. Over time, microbes have learned to play crucial roles in the human body, so much so that we couldn’t survive without them now. The gut microbiome begins to affect your body the moment you are born and possibly before, as a foetus inside the womb. As you age, your gut microbiome starts to diversify. Having a highly diverse microbiome is healthy.

Our gut microbiome changes rapidly over our first year or two, shaped by microbes in breast milk, the environment and other factors. By the time we’re three years old, it stabilises. However, our environment, our long-term diet, stress and the drugs we take, such as antibiotics, continue to play a role as we grow, meaning our microbiome can change throughout our life.

How to Naturally Increase the Good Bacteria in Your Gut

You can maintain the health of your gut microbiome by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Eating a diverse range of foods, including fermented food and high fibre foods, is key. Some gut bacteria friendly foods include:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Kefir
  • Sourdough bread
  • Almonds
  • Yoghurt
  • Peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Oats
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Artichokes
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Roquefort cheese
  • Kombucha

You should also limit alcohol and avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. Other ways to improve the gut microbiome include reducing meat consumption, breastfeeding for at least six months, taking probiotic supplements and only taking antibiotics when completely necessary.

How Important is Your Gut Microbiome for Your Health?

Over the years, several studies have linked the health of our gut microbiome to our brain, heart and immune system health, as well as our resistance to a plethora of diseases and conditions such as diabetes, autism, anxiety and obesity. The gut microbiome has also been linked to how individuals respond to certain drugs including chemotherapy, how effectively we can fight off infections and diseases, and even how well we sleep.

We still don’t know for sure whether particular microbe species are important, or the diversity of the community as a whole. In some studies, particular strains of bacteria are linked to particular effects or conditions, while others have shown that the diversity of the microbiome or abundances of species is more important.

Health Checks in Melbourne

Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of health services including nutritional therapy, physiotherapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga, general health check-ups and more in multiple locations in Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.


The Evidence and Hype For Probiotics

Close up of woman taking probiotic tablet.

The health of our guts and, by extension, our whole bodies are largely influenced by a diverse community of trillions of microbes living in our intestinal tract. Our diet plays a key role in determining the health of our gut flora and since we’ve come to realise this, health professionals have promoted a variety of foods to maintain our gut health, from fermented to high fibre foods.

Probiotics are another popular food product that is said to improve various aspects of our health. Today, millions of people take probiotics for their gut health and to prevent and even treat some illnesses. But do probiotics live up to the hype? How effective are they? And are some products better than others? We take a closer look at these questions below.

The Potential Benefits of Probiotics

Since the mid ‘90s, studies have suggested that probiotics can help treat several gastrointestinal conditions and delay the development of allergies in children. Research has also suggested that probiotics can be useful in the prevention and treatment of:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Vaginal infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • H. pylori (ulcers)
  • Recurrence of bladder cancer
  • Infection of the digestive tract caused by Clostridium difficile
  • Pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)
  • Eczema in children

However, probiotics don’t always work for everyone. This is because there are so many extraneous factors involved in your gut health such as genetics, diet, age and health. Our health is a complicated system, and there is no such thing as a magic pill.

Why Probiotics Don’t Work

There are a variety of probiotic products available on the market, and not all of them are effective. Probiotics may not work for several reasons such as the dose being incorrect, having the wrong strain, poor product quality or incorrect storage. A significant challenge with probiotics is their fragile nature. They must be able to survive the process of manufacturing, distribution, storage and consumption in your stomach acid in order to actually be effective in your gut.

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

You may also have heard of prebiotics. Like probiotics, they are beneficial to your gut health but the similarities end there. The main difference between prebiotic and probiotic products is that the latter is live beneficial bacteria caused by the process of fermentation. Meanwhile, prebiotic fibre is a non-digestible part of food which can be found in bananas, onions, garlic, artichoke, apple skin, beans, chickpeas, leeks, seaweed, chicory root, asparagus, oats, cocoa, flaxseeds and more.

Research has found that prebiotics help the beneficial bacteria already in your gut flourish. This reduces the risk of disease and improves your general wellbeing. Prebiotic fibre has the advantage of being not as fragile as probiotic bacteria, as it is not affected by heat, stomach acid or time. Another advantage over probiotics is that the fermentation process doesn’t differ depending on the individual. Everyone benefits from consuming these high fibre foods.

Health Checks in Melbourne

Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of health services including nutritional therapy, physiotherapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga, general health check-ups and more in multiple locations in Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.

Sports Nutrition: Eating Your Way Out Of A Sports Injury

Man eating energy bar at gym after a workout

When you’re injured playing sports, one aspect of your recovery that you shouldn’t overlook is nutrition. Athletes may think it is a good idea to cut back on their caloric intake due to decreased levels of activity. However, your body’s natural processes kick into a higher gear when injured.

A body that’s busy with recovery consumes more energy than a body at rest. Eating the right foods will ensure a speedy recovery and return to sporting ability, by fuelling your body’s healing process. It’s just as important as other methods such as rest, ice and stretching when recovering from injury.

Why Food is So Important for Recovering Athletes

From a metabolic standpoint, muscle is expensive real estate. It takes a large amount of energy to maintain this valuable tissue that requires a lot of work to build up in the first place. If you cut too many calories, muscle is one of the first things you’ll lose. It’s better for most athletes to retain their muscle mass, at the risk of putting on some weight by maintaining high caloric intake, when they are injured and resting.

Getting plenty of nutritious food is especially important if you have a lower-body injury that imposes crutches. Using crutches can quickly wear you out and your energy expenditure is much higher than if you’re walking. Getting enough food is essential for the extra work getting around on crutches demands.

What Kind of Foods You Should Eat

While recovering from an injury, you should eat a balanced diet with an emphasis on vegetables and fruit. The dietary habits embraced by athletes during competition and training are also beneficial during injury recovery. The same principles of healthy eating apply. One beneficial adjustment you can make is to reduce carbohydrate intake and increase the amount of healthy proteins and fats you consume.

Athletes tend to eat a lot of carbs, which is great for high-intensity activities as the body rapidly burns carbs to supply energy. When you’re injured, you don’t need quite as many carbs. Instead, you should eat plenty of fish, chicken and lean beef while cutting back on bread, pasta and potatoes. You should also eat sources of healthy fats such as avocado, eggs and nuts.

Hydration is Essential

We all know how important hydration is for intense exercise, but it’s also important for injury recovery. Ensure you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, just like you would if you were healthy and active as you normally would be. Maintaining hydration levels is a crucial component to overall general health as well as resting and recovering.

What About Supplements?

Large doses of vitamins and minerals don’t necessarily do much to speed up the body’s healing process. Overnight quick fixes don’t exist. Instead, you must focus on providing the body with the building blocks it needs through a healthy diet and an appropriate calorie intake to support the healing process. Anti-inflammatories should also be avoided as they can deter healing.

Need Nutritional Advice in Melbourne?

Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of services including nutritional therapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga and more in multiple locations in Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.

The Verdict On The Keto Diet

Ketogenic diet foods with a ketogenic diet food planner

You may have heard the buzz about the almost zero-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.

Depending on whom you talk to, it’s either a revolutionary way to curb appetite, improve both your brain’s ability to focus as well as your body’s ability to burn fat reserves, and enhance performance – or a total scam. So, what’s the verdict? What does the science say? Like many debates in nutrition, the answer isn’t simple. Depending on specific factors, a keto diet could either be beneficial for you or completely unsuitable.

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic or keto diet involves drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which supplies energy for your brain.

What are Ketones?

Your body produces ketones when you don’t have enough sugar derived from carbohydrates in your diet, or not enough glucose in your body to convert into energy. You need another source, so your body uses fat instead. Your liver turns this fat into ketones, a type of acid, and sends them into the bloodstream. Your muscles, brain and other tissues can then use them as fuel.

Different Types of Ketogenic Diet

There are a few different versions of the ketogenic diet, including:

  • Standard ketogenic diet – A very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
  • High-protein ketogenic diet – Similar to a standard ketogenic diet but incorporates more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet – This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
  • Targeted ketogenic diet – This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.

Only standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical and targeted ketogenic diets are generally more advanced approaches used by athletes or bodybuilders.

Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet

Switching to a keto diet can offer a few benefits including:

  • Weight loss – In a normal diet, your body burns carbohydrates for energy. By burning fat for energy instead, you can lose body fat more quickly. Consuming foods that are high in fat can also eliminate cravings and feelings of hunger.
  • May prevent some diseases – Some studies have indicated that a keto diet may have benefits against cancer, epilepsy, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Possibly better suited to a sedentary lifestyle – If you spend most of your time sitting at a desk without participating in regular, intensive exercise, you may not need as many carbs and could function on a keto diet while preventing weight gain.

Many proponents of the keto diet also report increased focus and energy throughout the day. This may be because eliminating carbs can help control and stabilise blood sugar levels.

Downsides of Keto Diet

The keto diet is highly restrictive, meaning your food choices are much more limited. This makes sticking to it difficult for a lot of people dieting for their health. For example, you can’t have:

  • Most dairy (except high-fat ones like butter and certain cheeses)
  • Fruit
  • Grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Starchy vegetables (such as potatoes)
  • Most processed foods
  • Alcohol
  • Sugary foods
  • Many condiments and sauces
  • Slightly sweet vegetables such as winter squash, beets, or carrots

Fewer carbs also isn’t necessarily a good thing. Some people, especially athletes, need to consume a lot of carbs to keep their bodies in shape for their exercise routines. A keto diet could result in less energy and endurance in athletes.

Ketogenic Diet Side Effects

You may also have to deal with some other keto diet side effects, including bad breath from high levels of acetone in your blood and digestive issues like constipation and diarrhoea. Many people find the transition process to a keto diet to be unpleasant. Your body takes time to adapt to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. People often report brain fog, tiredness and feeling sick when starting a keto diet. This is termed the keto flu.

The keto diet can be a great way to lose weight and though some people flourish on it, others find it unpleasant. If you’re curious about what a ketogenic diet could do for your body, it may be worthwhile to consult with a healthcare professional.

Find out Whether the Keto Diet is Right for You in Melbourne

Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of services including nutritional therapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga and more in multiple locations in central Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.

5 Simple Tips to Spring clean your diet!

Healthy nutrition

1. Clean out your cupboards and freezer– get rid of the junk food that has crept in over the colder months. Get rid of chips, chocolate, lollies, ice cream, desserts and other packed food that have a high calorie content and low nutrient value. If you don’t want to waste food give it to your neighbours, colleagues or family and friends.

2. Reintroduce seasonal fruit and vegetables; are you getting your 2 and 5? Aim to have 2 pieces of fruit and 5 serves of veg/ salad daily. Berries are a great low calorie, low GI, high antioxidant fruit available now. Spring vegetables include capsicum, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. Aim for a variety of different coloured vegetables to ensure a range of antioxidants are consumed.

3. Keep hydrated; as the weather gets warmer we need to increase our fluid intake. The sun and air con can dry out your skin. Increased fluid losses through sweat will also ensure you need to increase your water intake. Aim for 35mL/ kg of body weight for adequate hydration. Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger and will result in people eating more.

4. Be mindful of eating out; as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer be mindful of how often you are eating out. Not only is there always more salt and fat added when eating/ ordering out but also an average of 300-500 more calories consumed per meal.

5. Be organised! Have nutritious portion controlled snacks available at work; think fruit, unsalted nuts, cottage cheese and grainy biscuits, yoghurt and boiled eggs. Keep away from the office temptations of cakes, biscuits, lollies and chocolate. Remember just because they are ‘home made’ doesn’t mean they are healthy!

Make the most of the increased available of nutritious foods in spring. Set yourself up for success by setting aside some time for food shopping and preparations so you always have nutritious food available.

What Should You Look Out for When Trying to Change Your Lifestyle?

Close up of woman on scale holding fresh piece of fruit green apple and a doughnut in the other

Changing your habits can be a difficult task. The information about what to do is more prevalent than ever, with social and commercial media both understanding how well nutrition and lifestyle rates. However, how to change your behaviours and what mistakes to avoid are often overlooked. Having worked within the Nutrition and Fitness Industry for 8 years, I often see a few mistakes that are repeated by lots of clients across many demographics. Take a read below and make sure you aren’t following in the same footsteps.

Taking Education or Advice from the Wrong Places

From personal trainers, to celebrity chefs, to Instagrammers, to parents, to friends, to the back of cereal packets, many of my clients come in seriously misinformed as to how food and their body actually works. I can’t emphasise enough to apply some critical thinking as to where you get your nutritional advice from. Make sure you talk with a qualified professional to only receive information you can trust to be true.

Lack of Planning

How are you meant to change your behaviours or what you eat, if you don’t plan ahead? Waking up on a Monday and saying, “I’m going to eat better this week” or “I’m going to bring in lunch from home this week” doesn’t provide any framework for you to be able to change what you are doing. Simple ideas around planning can provide some basic framework for you to stick to. This could include doing a reconnaissance mission for some healthy and nutritious lunch spots around work, or writing a shopping list for your meals and snacks for the week.

Being Too Strict

Nutrition is not an exact science. Behavioural science is definitely not an exact science. Out of the last 10 years and with the rise of technology, so many of my clients feel that they need to track everything they do, from eating, to exercise, to sleep. Not only that, many feel that if they aren’t perfect then they shouldn’t bother with change, or that if they are being perfect, and they have one meal or snack that doesn’t meet their self imposed, unrealistic high expectations, then they may as well not bother. An idea that I try to get across to my clients is that improvement is improvement, no matter where you are. 50+1% is still more than 50%.

Falling at the First Relapse

Relapse is a natural part of behavioural change. It happens to everyone, and it happens often. So many of my clients fall after a hurdle, and never get back up. You will fail, everyone will fail. It is part of being human. Understanding that is the key to making long lasting change. Do some introspection, try to figure out why you failed, then plan accordingly.

Not Setting the Correct Goals

What goals you set will play a big part in defining your success in changing behaviours. Clear, realistic, and achievable, behaviour based goals are a great tool to use to allow you to focus on what you want to change, to solidify your ideas into something you can grasp onto. Behaviour based is key. Setting outcome-based goals, such as improving fitness or energy levels, is a good long-term strategy, but the day-to-day goal setting needs to focus on specific behaviours.

Not Learning from Previous Mistakes

I’ve seen so many clients fail in their attempts at long term, sustainable change. Just like relapsing, failure is part and parcel with trying to change your behaviours. However, if you fail, at least do some introspection, a review of what you were doing and the true reasons as to why it may have failed. Don’t just hop straight back into what you were doing previously. Tried going to the gym, hated every second of it, and only lasted a few weeks? Then maybe the gym isn’t the answer this time around!

Not Acknowledging Progress

An important aspect of long-term change is recognising where you have come from. Of seeing where you have come from and making sure that you congratulate yourself for every small piece of improvement. It’s so important to look back at where you have come from as opposed to only looking at where you want to go. The latter can get daunting; the former can make you appreciate how hard you have worked.

Need Extra Support?

Contact Pinnacle Health or use our online system to book an appointment with one of our experienced nutritionists.

Going with your Gut

By Edwina McDonald


How often do we hear the saying- use your gut instinct. There is no doubt that there is a link between your digestive system and your mind/ mood.

In today’s fast paced, stressful society there has been an explosion of food intolerances and digestive issues, suggesting the link between our mind and gut is strong.  So with the gut commonly being referred to as our second brain how do we promote a healthy gut microbiome?

  1. Minimise the use of antibiotics; antibiotics upset the good bacteria in our gut. Try and limit your use of antibiotics so you only use them when necessary. This is also important to avoid antibiotic resistance. Always consult your Dr before starting or stopping a medication.
  2. Probiotics; these are the live microorganisms of the good bacteria that help balance gut flora to bring about a healthy gut environment. Food rich in probiotics include yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso soup and blue and aged cheeses. While there is minimal harm for healthy individuals taking a probiotic in supplement form, there is insufficient evidence as to the required dosage and type of probiotic to have a  positive impact on gut health
  3. Prebiotics; these are the food for probiotics. Prebiotics are a kind of fibre that pass through our colon undigested and act as fuel for probiotics and maintain the activity of the good bacteria. Aiming for the recommended 25-30g of fibre daily will help promote a healthy gut environment. Foods high in prebiotics include; chick peas, legumes, artichokes, cashews, garlic, onion, beetroot, peas, corn, asparagus, barley, rye, soy beans and pistachios to name a few.
  4. Reduce processed foods; packaged and processed foods are often high in saturated fat, salt and low in fibre. Common additives in processed foods that prolong shelf life and improve texture may also inflame the gut

To promote a healthy gut and avoiding symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, wind and constipation make sure your diet contains minimal processed and high sugar foods and that you are consuming your 25-30g of dietary fibre daily. It is also important to exercise regularly, drink plenty of water and minimise stress.



Edwina McDonald is available for appointments at 120 Collins and Docklands.

What is the Low FODMAP Diet?

By Dietitian Edwina McDonald


Our gut plays an important role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients from foods. Food intolerances are becoming increasingly more common. While fructose and lactose are two of the more common intolerances. FODMAPs refer to a group of dietary sugars including; fructose lactose, ploys, fructans and galactans.

So, now knowing that FODMAPs are a group of poorly absorbed sugars, who will actually benefit from following a low FODMAP diet?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects 1 in 7 adults. IBS symptoms can include diarrhoea, GI pain/ discomfort, flatlets’, bloating, constipation and generally feeling tired and unwell.  Recent research investigating causes and irritants of IBS has focused on these carbohydrates. The limited research available is showing that the low FODMAP diet does provide an effective approach for the management of patients with functional gut symptoms.

Who malabsorbs FODMAPs? We all malabsorb some FODMAPs to some extent. Most of us however will only notice mild bloating, discomfort and changes to bowel habits if we eat them in excess.

Do we all need to follow a low FODMAP diet? NO, one only needs to trial a low FODMAP diet (under the guidance of a dietitian) if they are hypersensitive to FODMAP containing carbohydrates.

Can I do a test for malabsorption? Currently you can only do a physical hydrogen breath test for fructose, lactose and sorbitol. If you suspect a FODMAP intolerance you should always consult an accredited practising dietitian to assist with the diagnosis.

Do I need to follow a low FODMAP diet forever? NO, a low FODMAP diet is not a long-term diet and should only be trialled for a limited time followed by a review by a dietitian to see which foods and in what quantities can be reintroduced.

The low FODMAP diet can bring relief to those suffering from IBS symptoms. This diet should always be trialled under the supervision of a dietitian who can guide you through the process from elimination, reintroduction and tolerance of these carbohydrates.  



Edwina is a Dietitian at our 120 Collins and Docklands Clinics.