Tame your taste buds

In sickness and health, we pledge allegiance to that most mischievous of organs: the TONGUE. We crave TASTE. Sweet, salty, fatty, spicy … all combine to make what we eat delicious and “to die for”. Premature death is precisely the result if we continue on the unrelenting path of eating mostly to satisfy our taste buds!

You’ve heard it all before: “You’ll live longer if you limit sugary and diet drinks, eat more veg and fruit, drink more water, and exercise”. And you’ll be thinking, “Why should I? I’m in my prime, work hard, support a family, juggle tasks, do 10K steps daily (sometimes), eat healthy food”. But when you tell me what your “healthy” is, I learn that your reasoning is likely based on what you’ve heard, read and seen.

Conveniently ignored are the facts of how food is digested and processed. We eat in ignorance without the slightest concern that we’re putting on weight and shortening our lives!

Mind the fine print

Wellness experts, media personalities and even celebrities tout their anti-ageing products and endorsements – which, in case you haven’t read the fine print, only “may” work … “and if symptoms persist, see your health-care professional”.

“Age-defying”, “liver-cleansing”, “anti-inflammatory” and “bloating” are words that entice – and you part with your money just as I did. Worse still are the claims of “no added sugar” or “no added hormones”. They don’t say “no sugar” or “no hormones” because there already is sugar and there are hormones. “No added” means they’ve not added any more. Got it??

‘Health’ … Singapore-style

As a curious 9-year-old in the late 1950s, I would browse through my mother’s many books on vitamins (she was a supplements addict) and physiology. Together with her monthly Woman’s Own with its own smattering of health news, I understood how vital food nutrients were for good health. I also learned from grown-ups’ conversations about “high blood pressure”, “diabetes” and “high cholesterol” – all linked to “old age”, it seems. Nothing’s changed!

‘Sampan’ boats on the S’pore River with the city behind, 1960s
(From left) Me, Mum, baby sister Gloria, Ah Chai & Gran, 1955

Apart from that, my life as a Singaporean youngster was, well, blissful. Both parents worked, and we had live-in Malay cooks and maids. But one lady stands out in particular: Ah Chai, my beloved live-in Cantonese nanny (they were called majies or amahs). She was devoted to me and my younger siblings, dressed in her traditional white and black starched samfu uniform. Ah Chai remained with us for over 15 years, a huge part of all our lives.  

I’m carefree in blissful late ’50s Singapore

My parents constantly entertained, never having to worry about household chores. There was lunch, colonial High-Teas with fine porcelain, and dinner. We feasted on Malaysian curries with saffron pilau rice and all things fried, followed by local desserts and the freshest fruit. There was also our fabulously rich, aromatic Iraqi-Jewish cuisine to the delight of our Singaporean friends – my father would goad them to eat even more and ‘drain the plate’.

While not a big eater in my Dad’s footsteps, I still enjoyed the pleasure of having meals laid out for me. With cratefuls of soft drinks and sweet cordials, exotic ice-creams and icing biscuits in large tins, we were oblivious to the damage such ‘food’ was doing to our bodies. And in one way or another, we all paid a price.

An unusually calm family mahjong session, 1960s (nicotine helped!)

In the evenings, my mother’s family team would arrive for high melodrama-mahjong, while my father would talk shares and property with his armchair cronies. After dinner, the men would nod off and snore. I hated the ‘fat’ tag then and more so now, but saw that most of them were just that – though a large man-tummy in Asian culture spelt prosperity. Men proudly patting their distended stomachs bulging over stretched trouser belts was a common sight.

Women didn’t escape from the tummy-bulge either. I would ask my mother: “Is Auntie having a baby?” Mum would smile and say, “No, it’s only wind” (in Asia, this word usually meant any pain below the waist!).

Aged 13, with my parents & Gloria

Really, the only time my family would arise from their seats was to go to the bathroom. This they did in turns, usually an hour after eating. When in a room next to the toilet, burps and farts would often grace my ears. I still squirm at the word ‘fart’, but don’t know why. Maybe it’s because my prudish mother hated it too, and invented the word ‘poot’ as a substitute. So it was either ‘Did you make a smelly poot?’, ‘Who pooted?’, or ‘Why are you pooting so much??’ I laugh as I write this! 

Still, looking back, I’m grateful my parents didn’t drink, apart from a glass or two of whisky-soda or brandy-ginger-ale at dinner parties. Wine was never drunk with meals, except the kosher variety on religious occasions. What’s more, Dad didn’t smoke and Mum only had a few cigarettes a day, insisting she didn’t ‘inhale

Granny Azizah, the family angel

But of all my many relatives, Granny Azizah stood out. She remains an inspiration for me, and even for Shirl’s Pearls. I would see her every day after school, always welcomed with a big hug and smile. We’d have our Milo, and I’d make the milk bubble with a stick frother she called her ‘chop-chop’. Her chicken ‘bone soup’ was glorious – served steamy hot in a blue and white china bowl. Wouldn’t you know, it cured all our coughs and colds. Now we learn it’s rich in collagen too – and so easy to make at home!   

I do visit Singapore often; my taste buds still love the old familiar foods and I make sure that I have just enough to make me happy. But I’ve noticed Singaporeans’ idiosyncratic eating habits haven’t changed much at all, despite the Singapore Government’s frequent health campaigns. 

Singaporeans, like us, love their vitamins and herbs. Most popular are ‘Horny Goat Weed’ for men to boost libidos, antioxidant, fibre and multivitamin supplements for women, caffeine to boost hair growth, and pills to “break up the wind” (i.e. bloating and acid-reflux!).

WELL … the secret to better health is out. Start with Raw REAL LIFE!

Dr Norman Walker: A life-changing message!

In 1980 after I moved to Sydney, I was given books written by Dr Norman W Walker, DSc, PhD. He established the Norwalk Laboratory of Nutritional Chemistry and Scientific Research in New York as early as 1910. His books Raw Vegetable Juices, Diet & Salad and Colon Health (written between 1936 and 1979) were life-changing for me. 

Dr N W Walker in his early 80s

I write this to tell you what all of us should have been told decades ago:

It’s the COLON. Your GUT. Rob it of its function and you rob your life. 

Dieticians and health practitioners constantly quote evidence from medical research – telling us what we should do to lose weight and live longer. ‘Wellness’ is the buzz word – but do we really need social media, manufacturers and celebrities telling us about supplements, wonder herbs and superfoods?  

They’ve failed to explain how our digestive systems process the foods we are eating. So we continue putting on weight, and rely on drugs to regulate high blood pressure, diabetes, unclog arteries and fix diseases in our immune systems. The excuse? “It’s old age, dear”, or “Just bad luck, I guess.” 

Here are 2 key extracts from Dr Walker’s Diet & Salad

… the very purpose of the colon as an organ of elimination is to collect all fermentative and putrefactive toxic waste from every part of the anatomy and, by the peristaltic waves (contractions) of the muscles, removes all solid and semi-solid waste from the body.  

“The best of diets can be no better than the very worst if the sewage system of the colon is clogged with a collection of waste. … or can I dare describe it as … ‘impacted faecal matter.’ ” (my emphasis)

Walker, N.W. (1940/1970). Diet & Salad, pp.11–12. Norwalk Press: Summertown, Tennessee.

Simply put, the colon is the body’s sewage system. Dr Walker’s diagram shows a colon ‘in trouble’:

A diseased, putrefying colon (Walker, Diet & Salad, p.13)

The source of our existence – apart from oxygen and water – is the quality of your food. The 3 essential components in it that we should look out for are:

  1. Phytonutrients
  2. Phytochemicals
  3. Polyphenols

Simply, they are nutrient-rich compounds and chemicals found only in PLANTS – and are absorbed more efficiently only when eaten RAW, and not when cooked, canned and processed. They help us fight diseases naturally, without depending on drugs for a cure.  

Nature has made the colon extremely efficient: in fact, it’s our very own garbage disposal unit. How do we keep it unclogged if, in Dr Walker’s words, ‘impacted faecal matter’ gets stuck in there? I’ll summarise his findings:

  1. Processed, fried and overcooked food, sugar and excessive salt all starve the colon of its ability to nourish nerves, muscles, cells and tissues within its walls. 

  2. Cooked and canned foods, bottled drinks, processed cereals and flour-laden foods expose the body to sickness and disease. Such foods actually starve the colon. 

  3. We need BULK (or fibre), which is essential for proper and complete digestion of our food; this is only derived from raw foods. Fibre acts like a MAGNET when passing through the intestines, retrieving residue of undigested food. This is what the colon depends on for its proper function as our ‘intestinal broom’.

  4. To replenish and re-invigorate our cells and tissues, we need more raw LIFE-GIVING foods whose ultimate purpose is to cleanse and remove dead cells and tissues. The resulting waste matter can then be carried to the colon for evacuation.

I’m 73 this month (May 2022). I’m physically fit, mentally fresh, motivated and hungry for the next challenge. I have a healthy weight, strong bones, and no chronic diseases. I wake up each morning with a song in my head and in my heart! 

For nearly 40 years now, I’ve learnt what to eat and when, to move and not stay still, to make new friends, to spend more time in the kitchen preparing fresh food. And I’ve been eating superfoods for all of that time: have you heard of plain old raw fruits and veg, grains, nuts, eggs and oily fish?

So everyone: Please spend your money on fresh food and at the gym – not on the advertising juggernaut. I can’t guarantee the results as we’re all different … but there is NO question in my mind that the food you eat and when you eat it holds the key to leading a good life!

Federal Budget update: 2022

A lot has happened since my last column for Shirl’s Pearls. A new COVID variant, floods, war, and an election campaign … and we’re not even halfway through the year!

Case numbers surged on Australia’s east coast in December and January due to the Omicron COVID variant, resulting in a “shadow lockdown” – many people opted to stay home in spite of state governments easing restrictions.

In my last post, I compared the decision to enforce COVID safety measures to a “real option”. While these safety measures do carry a cost, remember what we learned: options are more valuable when there is more uncertainty, and this is exactly what we saw at the start of the Omicron outbreak. Even without a lockdown, people still changed their behaviour in response to the added uncertainty, with mass cancellations reported at restaurants due to virus concerns. As The Motley Fool’s Scott Phillips wrote on Twitter at the time:

Keeping things open, and dropping restrictions sounds good … until people vote with their feet.
More restrictions and fewer cases would have meant more business!

Also, because lots of people were off sick at once, businesses had to cope with staff shortages and supply chain disruptions (which are continuing to bite due to the war in Ukraine), with even less government assistance than in previous outbreaks. (Spare a thought for your local small business owners having to deal with all of this!)

Not surprisingly, consumer confidence fell as a result. In another tweet from Phillips: “When government abandons the field (restrictions, support) confidence plunges.

With NSW still reporting over 10,000 cases a day, it looks like the virus is going to be with us for some time. While Omicron appears to cause less severe illness in most people once they have had their booster shot, it might pay to remain vigilant, particularly as we head into winter, given that hospitals are still stretched.

But on to the main topic of my post. The federal budget was handed down on 29 March, and I must admit, I found myself less motivated to read the budget papers compared to previous years. Perhaps this was due to the war in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis that is still unfolding there as we speak – how fortunate are we to be living on the other side of the world, observing the conflict from the safety of our homes.

Apart from the usual “sweeteners” that you would expect to find in an election budget, there was little in the way of major tax-related changes. The announcements that are likely to be of the most interest to individuals and businesses are the increase in the low and middle income tax offset (LMITO), bonus deductions for small businesses that invest in skills, training and digital adoption, and changes to the employee share scheme rules.

In this post, I’ll look at the LMITO and the small business deductions. I’ll review the changes to the employee share scheme rules in more detail in my next post.

LMITO increased by $420 for 2021/22 only

The LMITO has been around for a few years now, and applies to individuals with a taxable income of up to $126,000, with the maximum tax offset (before the budget announcement) of $1,080 going to taxpayers earning between $48,001 and $90,000. (“Taxable income” refers to the taxpayer’s income from all sources – including salary and wages, ABN income, and any income from investments – less any deductions that they are able to claim.)

On budget night, the government announced that the LMITO would be increased by $420 for the 2021/22 financial year for all eligible individuals with taxable income up to $126,000, to help with cost of living pressures.

This means that the maximum tax offset for taxpayers earning between $48,001 and $90,000 will increase from $1,080 to $1,500.

This change is now law, so if you are in this category, this means that you can expect a bigger tax refund this year.

Importantly, the government has confirmed that 2021/22 will be the last year that the LMITO will be available, so taxpayers can expect a smaller tax refund next year.

20% bonus deduction for small business: skills and training and digital adoption

One quite interesting announcement in the budget relates to a 20% uplift of the amount deductible for expenditure incurred by small businesses on external training courses and digital technology. The 20% uplift will take the form of a bonus deduction, and applies to businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million.

No legislation is available yet, so the devil will be in the detail, but eligible expenses could include training courses provided to employees, portable payment devices (such as “contactless” card readers), cyber security systems, or subscriptions to “cloud-based” software.

Because the benefit is a bonus deduction, not a tax offset, businesses that make a loss won’t be able to benefit unless they paid tax in previous years. These businesses may be able to “carry back” the loss to a previous financial year, and obtain a refund of taxes that were paid previously.

If the business has been in a loss position for the past few years, it is out of luck here, as the only way it can benefit from the bonus deduction is by carrying forward the tax loss, which can be offset against future profits, reducing the amount of tax that is paid in future years.

For a profitable business, the tax benefit is worked out by applying the relevant tax rate – which for most small businesses will be 25%.

Example: Say a café owner decides to go out and buy a contactless card-reader for $100. Normally, she would deduct $100 from her taxable income, which would reduce her tax payable by $25. With the 20% uplift, however, her deduction will be increased to $120, reducing her tax payable by $30.

This doesn’t sound like much, but the 20% uplift could provide you with a useful incentive to invest in your business, either by providing your staff with additional training, or by upgrading software or equipment.

Of course, before you rush out and spend money, it’s important to consider how the investment will benefit your business. For example, will the additional training result in increased sales, or improved productivity? For digital adoption, how will the new tools be used in your business? 

If the announced measures do become law, they could be a boon for training providers and purveyors of digital technology. Needless to say, with the government now in caretaker mode as of May 2022, the measures will be subject to consideration by the new government, so watch this space.

If you have any questions about how the information in this post applies to you, please speak to your tax agent or accountant.

Plant-based milks: which is best?

Baristas now have cartons of oat, almond and soy milks ready for your order. So which do you choose if you’d like to ditch full-cream dairy for any of these? 

[Information for this post was sourced from Sophie Aubrey’s article ‘Plant-based milks: which one is better for you and the planet?’, Sun Herald, June 6, 2021]. 

Good (old) dairy

One of the best sources of Vitamins A and D, zinc and calcium vital for bone health. But it’s higher in saturated fat than plant-based milk, so reduced fat dairy milk is an option. 

Goat’s milk

Sophie Aubrey’s article didn’t mention goat’s milk – but I’ve heard good reports about it. My research in WebMd and Healthline found that 65% to 72% of all dairy consumed worldwide is in fact goat’s milk. It’s creamier and easier to digest than cow, soy or nut milks, and is a good source of calcium, potassium and vitamin A. Importantly, it also has higher, more easily digestible protein (9g) in a single cup serving. Those intolerant to cow’s milk may find that goat’s milk doesn’t trigger allergies, and is lower in lactose when cultured into yoghurt. (However, it’s best to check with your doctor if you’re allergic to lactose.)  


It’s low in kilojoules and saturated fat, but has very little protein. If you look at the labels, some products contain as little as 2% almonds! Look out for sugars as some are sweetened. Buy almond milk that is calcium-fortified and has added vitamins. I say – make it yourself – all you need are raw almonds, water and a blender!


The oldest plant-based milk on the market and the most popular. A 2017 study found soy was nutritionally the best alternative to cow’s milk when compared with almond, rice and coconut.

Sophie Aubrey cites dietician Jane Freeman who ranks soy milk as “the better of the dairy-free options” – and recommends we only consume milk made with Australian soybeans. 

It contains similar protein levels to cow’s milk with much less saturated fat. Look for the organic brands (with no-GMO soybeans) that’s fortified with calcium and vitamins, and avoid any added sugars. 


It’s now overtaking soy milk in the US to become the second-biggest plant-based milk. It’s low in saturated fat and the only milk to contain fibre which can help lower cholesterol. (I hope you’re now having rolled oats for breakfast instead of processed breakfast cereals!)

Freeman says it has slightly higher protein than almond milk, but it’s still low. Unsweetened oat milk has 50% more carbohydrates than dairy. Look for brands fortified with calcium and vitamins.


Freeman doesn’t “rate rice milk highly”, and says the only benefit is that it’s lowest in allergens. 

This is made from milled brown rice blended with water, with almost no saturated fat. It’s very low in protein, has the highest carbohydrates (more than double the amount of dairy), with a high glycaemic (GI) index – meaning it can cause blood sugar spikes. Again, it’s best to buy calcium fortified brands.


It’s generally not liked with coffee, and it’s the last of the current plant-based milks on offer. Comprising flesh of the coconut and water, it’s perhaps best for only the “odd smoothie rather than as a daily staple”, according to Freeman. It has less saturated fat than full-fat dairy, but double that of low-fat dairy – far more than any of the other plant-based varieties. But it’s very low in protein and naturally low in carbohydrates; some brands add sugar to it.  

It’s important to know that plant-based milks are processed foods: their nutritional value depends on the formulation methods and the extent to which additional nutrients are added. The vast majority of products on the market contain a variety of thickeners and gums to create a creamier texture.

What do I drink?

Full-fat dairy – but only half a cup with my cappuccino and with my 2 daily cups of tea. Rather than dairy or plant-based milks with my oats, I have nutritious kefir yoghurt, with its abundance of probiotics. Some brands of kefir like the one at left include prebiotics like inulin.

I get my calcium and protein from cheese, raw vegetables, eggs, fish and moderate amounts of red meat and chicken

SO HERE’S MY TIP: If it’s fortified, modified or emulsified, LEAVE IT ON THE SHELF!

Overcoming Loneliness

You don’t need to be lonely! 

I’d like to introduce you to my cousin Efrem. He’s is in his ’50s, and an MA Honours graduate in English, Literature and Anthropology. He has taught in high schools and coaching colleges in Sydney for over 20 years. Observing psychological aspects of education has helped him to better understand people and address their needs. His professional career and lengthy volunteering experience have given him the necessary empathy to positively impact people’s lives. 

Efrem now works for a major Sydney charity, helping people with chronic illnesses. We both share the same interest in people; we love to know how they tick. We have talked over this for hours at his favourite Surry Hills café in Sydney – with our extra large cappuccinos, cheese toasties and a jug of water. I have yet to meet someone with such an infinite understanding of human nature, rich knowledge of history, literature, philosophy and religion. I don’t need reference books or Google, I just call Efrem!

So I’ve asked Efrem to talk about loneliness (so prevalent at this time), explain its causes and what we can do to avoid pitfalls of depression, anxiety and hopelessness which can result.

Efrem discusses ‘Loneliness’ in the first of his talks on Shirl’s Pearls
As Efrem says, ‘loneliness’ is defined by psychologists as “feeling lonely more than once a week”
The 3 forms of loneliness – existential, emotional & social, can hugely undermine our health

What a pet can do for you by Jeff

I’d like to show you the benefits of living with a pet. I’m a single pensioner in my 60s, and I absolutely LOVE dogs! (sorry, cat people). You really couldn’t ask for a better companion!

Dogs love you unconditionally: you’re their life, and they are yours. They just want to be with you. Apart from their obvious gestures of love towards you, just look into your dog’s eyes their love for you is obvious, and they recognise your love for them in return. It becomes a privilege to care for this most loving and loyal creature. Make the most of this precious gift! To me they are family – period.

Rosie’s last months on her pram
My Rosie as she was – snug on her bed

But alas, dogs don’t live as long as us. In early 2021, my beloved Shih Tzu, Rosie, had to be put down due to cancer after 12 years of us bonding together. We had the most perfect 12 years – she chose me at the pound, not the other way around. I was blessed to have her in my life. Rosie was initially given a month to live, but my love and care and the doggie pram I pushed her around in, extended her life by 2 years and a month. The cancer then got worse, and I had to do the right thing (by her, not me) to have her put down.

My grief was overwhelming. I’ve felt a loss of purpose in life and felt more alone. I no longer had a loving companion, no snoring in my room at night, no Rosie chasing her teddies or sitting happily at my feet. And then the COVID lockdown reared its ugly head.

The loss was such that for my own health and wellbeing, I needed another dog-companion. I knew my Rosie, whose presence I felt, wouldn’t want her Daddy suffering like that. With so much love left within, I really needed to love a new companion! 

Before the lockdown, I tried every pound and animal rescue place imaginable, both up and down the coast and out west to Dubbo in New South Wales – but to no avail. I was exhausted just trying … filling out application forms in case there was a suitable dog for adoption – only to be then told I was No. 30 in line. 

It was all due to the 2020 lockdown – there were absolutely no small dogs available. I was told the cost for a Shih Tzu, poodle or Cavalier Spaniel puppy was as high as $5000 and even $6500, which I simply couldn’t afford. Whilst I knew my problem was minor compared to the toll of lockdown on others and the horrible loss of life, in my own sphere, it wasn’t. I was simply not travelling well.

Pet insurance?

Adopting a rescue dog or puppy may also mean getting pet insurance – as your dog may have or develop future health issues. 

Pet cover? Think twice

My Shih Tzu Rosie was a rescue dog, and within 3 weeks of adopting her, she needed intestinal surgery due to maltreatment from her previous owners (including feeding her the wrong food). It cost $3K, but I paid $2K with insurance. No pet insurance company offers 100% coverage. Over the years, Rosie developed more health problems (e.g. a kidney issue which costs $4K, but $2.5K with insurance). But by then my faith in pet insurance began to wane.

When Rosie turned 10, my insurance premium rose from $90 to $130 a month! But because she was insured earlier, she was still covered for existing ailments. You can’t get insurance if your dog turns 10 without previous cover. Some conditions are excluded, and the disclosure statement is often not very clear in this regard. For example, teeth are not included, and there are yearly limits on some procedures depending on your level of insurance. Most insurers offer 80%, 70% or only 50% coverage. I thought my insurance would help when Rosie was diagnosed with cancer, but NO. Most of her new ailments were not covered; not once in the 2 years of her cancer did I actually use my insurance. I decided to cancel it, save money and self-fund her care. And it made a huge difference. 

Some clinics such as ‘Greencross Vets’ in Sydney offer their own pet plans, which I took up; I kept that going until her death. The $16 monthly plan gave free vet visits, saving about $80 a visit. Vaccinations were free, with formal appointments rather than lengthy walk-ins.

Overall, I think insurance can be important early on, but a total waste of money after that. You’re far better putting money aside to fund your pet’s healthcare. Insurance doesn’t offer value for money. Rosie meant everything to me and wanted for nothing – and I felt no guilt cancelling her insurance. We love our dogs, but in reality have to consider what we can actually afford.

I persisted – and found my beautiful boy, Elroy

So for those of us who are alone and lucky enough to have a canine, feline or bird companion, I wish you all well. To those of us who don’t, hang in there and keep trying to find one – as I eventually did, in my lovely little Elroy (also a Shih Tzu). In the meantime, it won’t be easy – but I know the memories of our lost loves will tie us through!

Closing words from Shirl

Many years ago I attended a seminar where the speaker talked about affirmations. We had A4 sheets and a pencil on our chairs, and were told to write what we wanted to “be”, “have” and “become”. I was in my late 30s then, extremely shy and lacking in confidence. But I knew exactly what to write. At the top of my list was “I want to have many friends, and be a public speaker.”

I still have that list today, 40 years on. We were told “nothing changes if nothing changes … take action!” So I did. I read books on personal development, joined a business network, visualised and verbalised the list everyday on my morning walks. And you know what? Eighty percent of my affirmations have come true! Today we have so much more expert support.

We CAN overcome loneliness. Efrem and Jeff have helped us understand what it’s all about, and what we can do to manage it. If this sounds like you, please reach out to professionals and friends who can help. Use the tools. Be consistent with your action plan, and rewards will come sooner than you think.

Plant-based foods: Research, please!

There seems to be a craze for plant-based foods, with manufacturers and restaurants serving vegan products tasting like meat having a wonderful time promoting them!

Alex Ruani, researcher in Nutrition Science Education, University College London and Chief Science Educator at UK’s Health Sciences Academy says: 

“Protein is known to be the most satiating of all macronutrients and helps to assuage hunger pangs and cravings. But it is easy to become fixated with the latest trendy protein sources, restricting your intake to the detriment of your health.”

(Bee, P. (2022, March 31). More Protein? How to Eat for Heart Health. The Australian.)

Whatever your reasons for not eating ‘animal food’ including dairy, eggs and fish, I hope you’ve done your research to make sure you’re getting enough protein. Protein is VITAL to the health of our cells, tissues, muscles, bones and skin – it even regulates our moods! 

Children especially need protein; it’s essential for their growth. And from the age of 60, we too need more because our bodies become less efficient at using it and muscle mass starts to decline. 

The authors of Eat Like the Animals in years of research found that compensating our natural protein appetite with calorie-rich, inexpensive fats and carbs where fibre has been removed, results in obesity: 

“High protein foods from a variety of animal (poultry, meat, fish, eggs and dairy) and/or plant (seeds, nuts, legumes) sources to both reach your intake target and ensure a balanced ratio of amino acids, will satisfy the protein appetite most effectively. 

“If you are vegetarian, which is no bad thing, you will need to make greater efforts to eat a variety of foods, given that single plant proteins tend to be less well-balanced in their amino acid content than many animal-derived protein.”  

(Raubenheimer, D. & Simpson, S. (2020). Eat like the Animals, pp.194–5. HarperCollins Publishers: Sydney.) 

Legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and grains, rolled oats and leafy green vegetables (better raw) must make up for the higher ratio of protein that’s found in dairy products, eggs, red meat, chicken and fish. 

It certainly is a challenge. But I fear that the hype – this ‘fad’ – is clouding our logic. 

Beware! Labs are producing plant-based foods (PBFs) at a rapid pace, claiming they are “natural” and “preservative free”. When you’re tired and hungry, and haven’t stocked up your fridge or pantry, you will certainly be tempted. Grab a frozen plant-based pizza? Why not? 

Protein bars and shakes are options only if you’re an active sportsperson. But check the labels: excessive sugar, sodium, additives, trans fats have a negative impact on the health of your colon

Heard about those restaurants serving PBFs with rave reviews? I tried an animal-free burger claimed to taste like meat on a doughy bun. It was much too salty and left me feeling uncomfortable. More nutritious and tastier is a cheese toastie on sourdough, tomatoes and lettuce! 

Personally, I believe an ideal diet should include raw fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and grains with a variety of protein rich foods sourced from eggs and dairy foods, meat, chicken and eggs. If you want a healthier alternative to red meat, turkey or chicken breast will give you high-quality protein, as well as many B vitamins and several minerals.

Any processed and preserved meat (or cold cuts) is not meat itself, and what you should totally avoid. It’s extremely high in sodium, with evidence it may be linked to colon cancer. If you want a thorough and easy-to-read guide with nutrient composition, i.e. the actual proportion of protein, fat, carbs, calories, saturated fat and sodium in foods we’re eating, read Chapter 14, ‘Putting Lessons into Practice’, in Eat Like the Animals cited earlier.  

However, a plant-based diet has its merits. It makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight, lowers cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. It also limits our easy, off-the-counter grabs of ‘animal based’ and most fast foods. And herein lies the answer:  When you remove the bad stuff your health improves!

In her book Food as Medicine: Cooking for Your Best Health, dietician Dr Sue Radd reflects on what she observes in her Sydney practice: 

“I see a big difference in their wellbeing once women start eating more vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains – and that doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a vegan or vegetarian.”

(Goodyer, P. (2022, April 17). Prepping for Menopause – the Power of Plant Food. The Sydney Morning Herald.)

With better diets, some women report their hot flushes are better too. 

So let’s get back to the basics:

  • Rolled oats, yoghurt and ground nuts for breakfast instead of cereal
  • Egg or baked beans on toast instead of a muffin or crumpet
  • Avocado and lettuce on sourdough/turkish bread for lunch instead of a burger or overloaded sandwich
  • Dried figs with walnuts – or fruit or yoghurt as a snack
  • A large salad with greens before dinner
  • Less meat and starches, and more vegetables for dinner.

Maybe my video on plant-based foods will convince you? And I give you a healthy, daily food regime in my earlier post ‘Your natural detox’. 

Sound simple enough??

April 2022

While a country was being invaded, the stockmarket actually went up!

With buildings pummelled, lives destroyed, and women and children fleeing to safety in the freezing cold – how did we watch all this horror and still say, “It’s a good time to buy gold” … or “oil” … or “lithium”??

We also had floods twice in the same month impacting parts of NSW and Queensland – leaving families homeless and businesses in crisis. But shares in dumpsters, fertilisers, Coles and Woolworths rose with the waters. 

TIP: The market is heartless. It senses opportunities from calamities and rewards those who sniff them out! 

I kept to my routine of researching, making notes and reading through investor updates – but the images of the suffering and devastation in Ukraine kept flashing through my mind. But for the first time in years, I lacked my usual enthusiasm. 

In spite of 2 World Wars, civil wars, terrorist attacks and natural disasters, the sharemarket survived. At the end of each disaster, it climbed higher. Will Ukraine survive as well? 

In times like these, my granny Azizah would encourage us to pray. Her faith was unyielding and unshakeable. She was our shining light of hope and we turned to her for reassurance. Dad’s approach was different. “Don’t waste time on what you can’t control – work on things you can and be there for the people who need you!”, he’d say. (I took in a bit of Gran and a bit of Dad.) 

So let’s look at what’s happened since our February 2022 investment update. 

I believe that agriculture stocks – the term is now ‘agribusiness’ – will grow and do well, with technology (e.g. sensors for efficient water use and to detect weather patterns) to boost production and minimise risk in the event of crop failures and natural disasters. Demand has never been greater for Australian cattle, milk, cotton and wool, water, cereals, vegetables and fruit.

If this interests you, I suggest you look at the top 50 Agribusiness list in the AgJournal (their magazine was included with The Australian on March 26th). Companies from 1 to 50 were listed with their ASX codes, with financials for the 2020 and 2021 financial years. Commodities included eggs, potash, goat milk, ginger and macadamias, olives, hemp, and rice. Companies included: 

  • A2 Milk (#3)
  • Bega Cheese (#7)
  • Bubs (#18)
  • Maggie Beer Holdings (#20).

I closed my eyes and pictured hectares upon hectares of land … lush with green, golden wheat, grazing cows and sheep and beautiful fruit trees. We have so much to offer!

AgJournal also mentioned fertilisers. There’s a world shortage: demand is high and prices are soaring. Recent floods have all but swept away nutrients in the topsoil which must be replenished. Here’s an excerpt: 

“Deep in the remote mining areas of Australia, a quiet revolution in precious minerals is evolving. It’s not the gold that has captured fossickers’ imaginations going back 170 years or the modern day hot property of lithium or rare earths … it’s the farmer’s version of gold: Fertiliser. … 

“A number of Australian mining companies are working towards developing local sources of potash, urea and rock phosphate fertilisers – products which Australia largely had to import … ”

(Agjournal, p.12, March 2021)

Something else I read that was interesting: a serious supply shortage for an additive called ‘Adblue’ – “A diesel exhaust fluid used in vehicles with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology to reduce harmful gases being released into the atmosphere … ” 

Incitec Pivot (ASX: IPL) makes AdBlue in Australia. We learn from the web page that with federal government support, it’s … committed to mobilise its expertise and assess the expansion of AdBlue production at its Gibson Island plant in Brisbane to meet Australia’s needs, following limited supply from overseas markets”. Established in 1919 and Australia’s largest supplier of fertilisers, it’s #2 on Agjournal’s top 50, and is now up on our watchlist! 

Lithium, copper, nickel, gold and uranium stocks are still making headlines, but please be wary of those still in the exploration and development stages

SAM’S COMMENT: While higher commodity prices will certainly make some mineral deposits more attractive, which will lead to higher share prices, beware of what mining analyst Mickey Fulp refers to as ‘frogs masquerading as princes’ in this space, as these stocks are still quite high risk!

April share updates

(Thank-you to Sam who helped compile the Table)

My comments

  • AAC: One of my favourite agribusiness stocks, still at a price that’s attractive. Their half yearly financial report was released on 18 November 2021. 
  • CWY: Continues to grow with a small dividend. Their half yearly results were released on 17 February 2022.
  • HUM: Made a half-yearly profit of $27.8m (see their interim financials that were released on 22 February 2022) – the only BNPL company to do so. Look out for further ASX announcements in relation to the sale of its consumer finance business to Latitude.
  • POS: My fling with a cheapie. So far, no announcements on production. Good results from nickel samples which continue to be analysed. I’m patient!
  • TLS: Still my favourite. We need 5G and all the devices that go with it. Plus, the dividends keep me happy. 

Sam’s comments

  • Don’t be put off by the “red ink” in April’s table. Remember the lesson from the start of this post – the market is heartless and will savage stocks at the first sign of bad news. Investing is not for the faint of heart. However, if you have the right temperament to be able to grab opportunities when they arise, then it can be rewarding. Above all, know thyself.

  • HUM’s share price has been underwhelming, but all BNPL stocks have been hit hard of late. There is a good reason for this – the market is likely concerned at the number of “bad” loans in this space. The consumers who turn to BNPLs often do so because they are experiencing financial stress. These consumers are also more likely to default on their loans, which is bad for business.

  • The good news, however, is that despite HUM’s share price being dragged down with the other BNPLs, it appears to have less exposure to these “bad” loans. (Apart from its BNPL arm, HUM also operates profitable credit card and commercial lending businesses.) To illustrate, HUM’s “30+ days arrears” rate fell by 28% in the six-month period ended 31 December 2021, from 2.9% to 2.1%. This means that the number of customers who are late in making payments is falling, which is a good indicator of the creditworthiness of HUM’s customers.

  • I believe that BNPL companies that employ responsible lending practices will be rewarded by the market in the long-term. HUM is a signatory to the BNPL code of conduct, which is a great start, but I would still like to see more protections for consumers in this space. Fewer BNPL customers experiencing financial hardship means fewer bad loans, which is better for business (and for society).

  • Also, remember that “growth” stocks such as VHT and POS are valued based on their potential to generate future “IPD” (remember stockbroker Alec’s advice from Invest 1.0!), meaning patience is often required. Picking winners in mining and technology stocks is hard, as the path to profitability is long. But the payoff can be worth it if the business succeeds. Small bets are preferred here. 


Most tech stocks fell since our last update in February. Were they too high to start with and were we unrealistic in thinking they would keep going up? Is there an opportunity now to buy? Maybe not yet.

Last year, on-line shoppers spent $62b out of the total $350b that was spent on retail. Companies delivering quality goods via efficient delivery networks with a friendly refund policy will grow and grow. Who wants to spend hours in traffic and spend more time looking for a park? We’re saving money on petrol now, and only shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables at our local supermarket. 

My advice as always is BE CAUTIOUS. Though many ‘finfluencers’ have good intentions, they may not always have your best interests at heart. Analysts’ newsletters can be useful. Opt for a free trial, don’t forget to cancel your credit card payments if you change your mind. The ASX website is excellent and always free

Your best investments will be made on what you have observed, read and researched. Please read (and re-read) my 6 ‘About Investing’ posts. 

(Not always true, as we know … )

Be patient. Everything that’s worth building takes time. In between times, even if you’re not feeling lucky, a $2 lottery ticket wouldn’t hurt. 

Well, did you like this post? Please leave a reply – I always love reading your comments! 

Retiring WELL!

After what seemed like an endless year, I finally made the trip to Noosa, Queensland in early March. 

It was sad this time. My three aunts who moved from Sydney almost 30 years ago are no longer with us. My dear aunt Margaret and singing partner of the ’70s, was the last to pass away in August last year. I usually stay with my uncle-in-law Hans (he married Margaret’s sister Poppy), and he lives in a retirement village.

Hans’ calm, serene retirement village

Hans and I get on well. He loves my cooking, supports the Sydney Swans (only when they’re not playing against the Brisbane Lions!), and we laugh a lot. This time, I bought him a smartphone as I thought it was about time he had one. Amazingly he adapted to it quickly, though found it very frustrating at first.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed long walks along the Noosa River, using the park exercise equipment provided along the way. I especially love the walking tracks in Noosa National Park. There’s also Noosa Heads along popular Hastings Street, with its beautiful riverfront cafés. Sitting there with nothing else to do but sip a cappuccino in a huge mug remains one of my delights. 

… and the lovely Noosa River & foreshore

But my favourite ‘thing’ is to walk around Hans’ village talking to residents. Almost all are retired, though some are professionals over 50 who still work. There are ex-pilots; trauma nurses; doctors; accountants; architects; engineers; software developers and electricians. Each has a story. Their lives, fulfilled or otherwise, contain important lessons we could all learn from. 

I ask myself if they could have been happier, wealthier or healthier than they are now. Could we use their experiences while we’re still young to plan how we’d like to live in our retirement? 

People in the village can access activities and outings almost every day of the week. The local bus drives them to a choice of shopping centres at least twice a week. The ‘Outlook’ retail centre is within walking distance – with a supermarket, medical centre, hairdresser, butcher, market garden, a delicious bakery brewing beautiful coffee, pies (try the beef and cracked pepper!), croissants, and my favourite: ‘banoffees’ (banana and caramel pies)! To those hosting Friday happy-hours in the village, there’s fish and chips and pizza for delivery and takeaway. Sounds like heaps of fun, doesn’t it?

But as in life, scales can tip the other way. There’s also the heartbreak of often living alone after a partner has passed away, and dealing with illness that may come with age (which really shouldn’t!). Sadly, death may come from chronic disease, depression, or simply ‘giving up’ because of loneliness and finding no-one to talk to or confide in.

Again, I see insidious bad diets taking over – now in the form of pre-cooked meals. It seems preparing raw salads and fresh food is “too much of a bother” when you’re older. It’s such a shame that the motivation just isn’t there. There’s no need to shop for food, spend time in the kitchen, or wash-up after – all you need is one cutlery set. Your time on a comfy armchair or at the computer is so much more appealing.

I saw heaps of these in Noosa and in the village. Remember what I said before about the benefits of WALKING?

But you have a choice. I joined a gym at 68 – I’m now stronger, more stable and feel more alive than ever. So you too can get moving – NOW!! 

I also couldn’t also help but notice in cafés everywhere that each person had coffee with an oversized pastry/muffin/scone on their plate. I suggest sharing or keeping the other half for another day. I always have a sandwich bag handy for this. You’ll lose many kilos a year – and besides, the milk in your cappuccino will fill you up anyway! 

This is the era of fast food. From an early age, we buy into the “Why-cook-get-takeaway”? philosophy. This inevitably continues into retirement, and is a cause of declining health. 

Of course, the first thing I did after I arrived was to stock up on fresh salad vegetables, lemons, grapefruit and my favourite red papaya – all from a marvellous local grocer. I stuck to my morning regime of having my grapefruit and papaya first thing in the morning, before my walk and before breakfast.  

The importance of this came home to me holidaying in New York a few years ago. I thought “It’ll only be for a few days, it’s not worth going into a serviced apartment … we’ll just eat out.”

Wrong. After only 2 days of bottled fruit juice, cereal for breakfast, bistro meals and snacking between hop-in-hop-out coach tours, I was tired and irritable. Drinking more tea and coffee didn’t help one bit. I made a firm resolution after that: when I travel I must stay where there’s a kitchen and a supermarket or grocery store nearby.  

I now cook without extra salt, sugar or flavour enhancers, and enjoy every morsel. I drink coffee and tea when I feel like it and not because I need energy. 

Eating out? Here’s some good advice:

  1. Have a raw salad.
  2. Size of meals vary, so ask before you order. If it’s large, share it or take away half. 
  3. Don’t have gravy or thickened sauces with your dish.  
  4. Drink only water – or dilute a lemon-lime and bitters (yes, you may get laughed at!).
  5. Skip dessert. If it’s simply irresistible, pack it up and have a portion at least 2 hours later. 

This may be boring to many, and you might think I’m strange (not seasoned Pearlers, I hope). Isn’t life uncertain? We could all do the right things and still die prematurely! I agree – but I’m prepared to make this prediction regardless:

Medical research will continue to provide evidence of how the colon controls your physical and mental health and will protect you from chronic diseases. The 1001 diets we hear about in a nutshell? Have food that’s fresh, raw, rich with enzymes and fibre.

Timing them correctly is my secret to a Good Life!

Workplace Relations #5

Efrem’s comments in Workplace Relations #4 summed up the “chill” of modern human relations beautifully – and deserved a special response. But they also made me think … what really happened in the 90s “that made people lose their feeling for their fellows”?

Strangely enough, I believe one answer could be the introduction of … Microsoft Windows. At the hospital where I worked, typewriters and ‘dummy terminals’ were removed and replaced with bulky monitors and keyboards, with an instruction book and perhaps 3 hours of ‘personal’ instruction with trainers who were best left to their own devices (very few had teaching skills).

Months before this changeover, I enrolled in a MS Word evening course. I didn’t have the slightest idea of what it was about but I knew that it was important. I told my friends and colleagues to do the same but they were insistent “They will train us at work”. 

Well, “they” didn’t. The result was frustration, stress and longer work days. One night a week at a TAFE college for 3 months wasn’t really enough, but at least the icons on my monitor became friendlier and more familiar. It took weeks before anyone was comfortable with “cutting and pasting”, changing fonts, creating tables … and months before Excel no longer terrified us.

But in the meantime, I noticed we weren’t talking to each other, or asking “how are you” as often, or meeting up with friends for lunch. There was only: “How am I supposed to get this done before 4?” … “I feel like throwing this out the window”, or “Please show me how to create a header and footer!” The only thing that mattered then was to master this “monster”. Staring at the screen for hours, we were totally spent by the time we got home. 

Now this is true: We couldn’t stop laughing when a colleague pressed the ‘Help’ key and wondered why the IT person didn’t show up!!

As years passed, our confidence and proficiency grew. Computers and printers were upgraded every few years; they became faster and had more applications. And emails took the place of talking. New expressions began to replace simple words. I hated one in particular: “Please cascade this report to your team” (i.e. “please forward”). 

I was so fortunate to have “teened”  in the 60s – where we helped each other with our homework, shared our lunches and played hopscotch. In 1969, as a cadet journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald, our editor would yell: “Don’t give me a story without who, what, when and why!” Our chief-of-staff would pass by my desk with a reassuring hand on my shoulder. We’d laugh with senior reporters at our typos, and there was always someone who offered to walk me to Sydney’s Central Station when my shift finished at 11pm. 

By stealth, technology stole our sense of humour, our chats over backyard fences and our time. Now, it’s all about ‘AI’. Our future, our very existence, depends on artificial intelligence totally and completely. 

News travels in seconds. Journalism has become sensationalist and partisan, with important facts left out. Politicians have make-overs, voice coaches and speech-spin doctors. Anything that helps to win an election. What happened to good old “Tell it like it is!”, and hands-on troubleshooting? Advertising is in your ear every second, and is everywhere … “Buy this NOW!” … “Click here to lose weight” … “Remember to gamble responsibly” … 

Of course I do love my laptop and iPhone – where I watch, listen, learn, write and communicate anytime, anywhere. But my hands aren’t only used to clutch my phone and to text: they’re also used to console and reassure. I haven’t stopped smiling. Whatever we’re doing, thinking or worrying about, we can always smile. Try it. Frowning just strips your energy. I look at people and listen when they talk. 

I sing all the time; it relaxes me. I’d use music even at work. Our favourite song was ‘Manic Monday’ … 2 minutes before we took our phones off voicemail (guess when!). We sang ‘We Gotta Get Out of this Place’ after a bad day, and left work laughing. When my PC started to play up, I’d sing and groove to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Yesterme, Yesteryou, Yesterday’. Music has such amazing power – use it.

So let’s get over all this “selfism”. And THANK YOU, Efrem. The world we knew has changed, but we can make it better! 

Now if only ‘Apple’ meant that lovely, crunchy fruit that keeps doctors away …

The obesity epidemic

The authors of Eat Like the Animals, David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson, wanted to test their theory that our protein appetite has driven us to consume excess calories in a world where the food supply is dominated by fats and carbs. David and Stephen recruited a nutrition scientist, Alison Gosby, to design special menus to test their theory. She found that those on the lowest protein diets consumed 12% more calories:

[Extra calories] … come “not from people consuming bigger meals but instead through snacking … you might expect that sweets was to blame, but the increase came almost exclusively from the savoury-flavoured snacks that tasted of umami … on the high-carb/fat and low-protein diet, subjects were fooled into eating things that only tasted like protein but in fact were highly-processed carbs. … That 12% total calorie increase is more than enough to explain the entire global epidemic.”

(Raubenheimer, D. & Simpson, S. (2020). Eat like the Animals, pp.54–55. HarperCollins Publishers: Sydney.)

I see all this when I’m out shopping. The “coffee and a pastry” combo is now a fave option at cafés as being value for money. You’ll see at least one muffin, cake or croissant on every table. Shopping at the supermarket? Let’s grab a pack or two of chips while we’re at it (“love that new seasoning!”).

Fancy a browse through supermarket shelves? 

  • Biscuits: Laden with sugar, fats and ‘artificial flavours’ … but now with ‘Murray River Pink Salt’ (or ‘Himalayan salt’). Salt is salt, folks. And if you read the labels, they’re adding much more of it.
  • Rice crackers and rice puffs: ‘Sweet and Salty’ inside separately portioned ‘snacks’. Wow, what a perfect combination – you’re hungry, a portion wouldn’t hurt. 
  • Marinated meats: You’ll find them in chicken, meat and fish said to make for ‘easy cooking’. But please read the label. ‘Sodium’ is there, more than necessary. 
  • Ready-to-eat frozen and canned foods: You’ll need a full minute to read the ingredients. Among them will be modified starches, reconstituted fruit juices, soy and vegetable protein extracts, vegetable oil, food acids and of course ‘flavour enhancers’ (aka salt).
  • Chips, chips, chips: “ … artificial flavourants to make cheap, starchy and fatty foods such as potato chips taste savoury like protein.” (Raubenheimer & Simpson, p.153)
  • Fizzy drinks: Just have a look at the sugar content in plain old soda. 
  • Plant-based packaged foods: Now on dedicated shelves (I checked them out). I heard one Mum ask her 2 children (aged about 10–12), “Which one would you like for dinner?” I was so tempted to take one of those off the shelf and read the poisonous list of ingredients aloud

“ … increasing market share – sometimes known in food industry circles as stomach share – is a powerful force that shapes our food environment … Cocktails of chemicals are added to improve the color, texture, flavour, odour, shelf life … and the mixtures are packed with cheap fats, carbs and salt.”

(Raubenheimer & Simpson, pp.152–3)

Everything in the list above, if eaten regularly, will slowly destroy your colon’s ability to protect you from viruses and chronic disease. Your metabolism will slow, your moods will fluctuate, and weight gain is inevitable. And here we are, in this technology-charged age of abundance, consuming trolleyfuls of cheaply-produced foods to satisfy our protein appetite. 

To me, the key point here is BALANCE. According to Raubenheimer and Simpson, we have 5 appetites

  1. Protein 
  2. Carbs 
  3. Fats 
  4. Sodium
  5. Calcium.

“These nutrients have been singled out by our evolution for special reasons. One is that they are needed in our diet at very specific levels – neither too much or too little.” (p.25)

But what about the other essential nutrients? The entire range of vitamin groups plus minerals like potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium? Our natural diets are rich in these. By eating the right amounts of the ‘Big 5’ – especially with raw fruit and vegetables – you automatically get enough. Be mindful that supplements don’t work as well, if at all, if you keep eating rubbish

Here’s how you can properly balance your diet, keep your colon happy and your weight down. I’ll use breakfast as an example of foods with each of the Big 5: 

  1. Lots of water, citrus or any preferred fruit. Wait 25 minutes. 
  2. Then have either rolled oats, kefir yoghurt, honey, sultanas, almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds (nuts can be ground together). Take this to work if you need to rush out. 
  3. Or have toasted Turkish or sourdough bread with a good slice of cheese or an egg. 

You’ve made your Big 5. For more meal suggestions, read ‘Your natural detox’ in Diet & Your Colon menu. This is critical to your well-being, so be prepared. When you’re out, take an insulated bag with you filled with at least one of these items: 

  1. A cheese sandwich
  2. Scrubbed apple (if pre-cut, squeeze lemon juice to prevent oxidation) 
  3. A peeled carrot ready to chew 
  4. A container of almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds with a fig, date or dried pear. 

In fact, the carrot is my favourite vegetable. It’s nature’s all-in-one’ most valuable and complete food. Click here for my short video on it. 

If you see me at the supermarket before dinner time, I’ll be munching and crunching. Hope you will be too – but if your feet still take you to biscuits and chips, read the labels

Satisfy what your body needs and your cravings for these awful foods will slowly disappear. Have your muffin and cake if you feel like it, but share half with a friend or wrap it up for another day.