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Ask Giulia 02/10/11

We're delighted to welcome the very knowledgable Giulia Criscuolo onboard as a health and diet expert on Veggie Buntch.

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Giulia Criscuolo is our new Veggie Buntch expert. Welcome!

Welcome Giulia!
Giulia Criscuolo is a qualified pharmacist, has a diploma in homeopathy worked for some time at Weleda Pharmacy ( a group of pharmacies specialising in homeopathic, herbal and many other types of complementary medicine modalities). Since 2004, she has been involved in education and training, and issues related to supplementation, health and wellness. As of last year, Giulia assumed the role of Responsible Pharmacist at OTC Pharma head office in Cape Town, which involves overseeing the pharmaceutical compliance of the company to all GMP related matters. She is still involved in education and training and also runs a Health & Wellness programme at OTC Pharma. Giulia is also passionate about spending time in nature and hikes regularly. She loves dance and movement, trail running, mountain biking, adventure racing and yoga.

With the background out the way, we’re thrilled that Giulia has joined us to offer us advice on keeping our bodies healthy! She’s here to answer your questions about everything and anything in making sure that you are getting the nutrients you need.

Send through your questions to and we’ll be sure to get Giulia’s advice.

Q: Is it necessary to take supplements as a vegetarian?
The answer depends on how well you eat as a vegetarian – are you eating from a broad range of food groups, such as legumes, nuts and seeds, quinoa, tofu, and fruits and vegetables? If you are not, you may be short on essential nutrients and essential fatty acids.
But whether you are a vegetarian or not, I still feel that it is really important to supplement with a good food-form multivitamin every day – one which is natural and derived from a food source. I would also add in a daily dose of omega 3 fish oils. (Ed’s note: Obviously this would only apply to pescetarians.)

Q: Do you have any suggestions for long term immune boosting support? How do you keep your immune system in good shape.
A. The basic foundation of building a strong immune system is three-fold:

  • Good, wholesome food, as close to nature as possible and free from additives, with as little processing as possible. Lots of water.
  • Moderate exercise combining cardio, strength and flexibility.
  • Rest and managing stress by taking time out to pursue activities that are enjoyable and relaxing and fulfilling.

Over and above these basic building blocks, I would also suggest the following supplements: a good food-form multivitamin that contains the full spectrum of essential vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, anti-oxidants and amino acids; omega 3; extra vitamin C; herbs such as rhodiola, echinacea, astragalus, elderberry, cordyceps and olive leaf.

Q: What are some of the warning signs to look out for if your child is raised on a vegetarian diet and you are concerned they aren’t getting enough from their diet?
A:If your child shows signs of extreme fatigue, tiredness, listlessness and lack of energy, it could be that he is not getting enough iron and vitamin B12 and is anaemic, especially if he is a strict vegetarian (no animal products). These two nutrients are essential for blood and haemoglobin formation and may be lacking in a vegetarian diet.
Any weakness in muscle or bone could also be a sign of insufficient vitamin D, but by ensuring that your child is exposed to some sunlight every day, you can avoid this deficiency.
Another danger of vegan diets is insufficient energy intake (calories), especially during infancy and early childhood, so if your child is not growing at an appropriate rate for his/ her age group, then he/ she may not be eating enough calorie dense food.

Q: Is it necessary to drink milk, eat cheese and other dairy to avoid osteoporosis? At what age should women start taking calcium supplements, and is there any other alternative.
A: The prevention of osteoporosis has to do with good genes, a wholesome nutritious diet, weight-bearing exercise and also a good dose of daily sunshine (vitamin D). To build strong, healthy bones, one needs a daily intake of calcium and a host of other nutrients, such as magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, boron, silicon, manganese and copper. Dairy is not the only source of these nutrients, and they can also be found in the following foods: molasses, nuts and seeds, legumes, green leafy vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, fish, tahini and whole grains.

The window period for building strong bones in a woman, closes in the early 30s and so it is important to eat a balanced diet in order to maximize the potential of laying down healthy bone in her teens and twenties. A general food form multivitamin that contains all these essential nutrients (some of which I have mentioned here) should be taken, beginning in childhood. In older women, who are peri-menopausal, the dosage of these nutrients can be increased, especially if there is a family history of osteoporosis.

(Please note: All suggestions are purely advisory and you should always seek professional help when undertaking any health decisions.)

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Laura Cooke is the editor and creator of the Veggie Bunch website and community.

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