Do your Squats!

A group of women doing squats at the gym

Long before squats became an internet meme, they were just an efficient way to build lower body strength. If you’ve been turned off by visions of 80-kilo weights (and buff bodies asking “Do you even lift?”) we don’t blame you – but it’s time to swallow your pride. Why? Because squats are really, really good for you.

The squat is a compound exercise that puts your entire body through a real-world range of motion. Squats develop your glutes, quads and hamstrings, creating a strong and balanced lower body that will help you move safely and efficiently. They also encourage flexibility through the complex hip joint and improve mobility in your knees, ankles and feet. The takeaway? Correct squat technique will not only help tone your core, legs and bum, it will also reduce your risk of injury when running, playing team sports or just lifting boxes around the house.

No matter what your level of strength or fitness, there’s a variety of squat – from bodyweight to single-leg, wall to weighted – that will work for you. But before hitting the squat rack, it’s crucial that you understand your body’s biomechanics and learn proper technique. Get a qualified trainer or weightlifting coach to show you the ropes, and if you’re noticing pain or muscle imbalances while squatting be sure to seek advice from a professional.

Raw Energy is partnered with Gold’s Gym – the worlds leading strength and performance Gym – for all fitness-related content.

Mediterranean Magic

Roasted sardines with rosemary and tomatoes

There’s nothing better for your health than a long, lazy holiday on the shores of an exotic isle. But if sailing around the Greek Islands isn’t on your horizon, you can make the Mediterranean lifestyle come to you, thanks to healthy food that will get you glowing all year round.

The Mediterranean diet has long been touted as one of the healthiest ways to eat. Based on the traditional eating habits of Greece, Southern Italy and Spain, the diet favours fish, fresh produce and healthy fats, and is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and help promote longevity.

To adopt some Mediterranean eating principles in your home, start by increasing your intake of fresh, non-starchy produce. Leafy greens and tomatoes are antioxidant-packed staples, but why not try something more adventurous – eggplant parmagiana, anyone?

Aim for two to three serves of oily fish per week (salmon and sardines are good options), and also stock up on nuts, seeds and legumes. Get your good fats from olives, avocados and quality olive oils, and opt for dairy products made from cultured milk: Greek yoghurt and ricotta cheese provide a calcium boost and contribute to a healthy digestive system.

With layers of grilled vegies and ricotta, fresh spinach and a delish napoli sauce, Raw Energy’s Raw Mediterranean is the perfect introduction to your new island diet. And don’t forget the most important principle of Mediterranean food – eat slowly, enjoy your food and share it with the people you love.

The New Superbowl

Raw Energy's Acai Bowl on a green leaf

Sometimes, the best ingredient is the one that’s most difficult to pronounce. Yep, we’re talking about acai – a small, deep purple berry that has made its way from the swamps and floodplains of South America all the way to the breakfast bowls of tongue-tied foodies like you and me.

If you’ve been hesitant to order this delish superfood for worry of embarrassing yourself, never fear. It’s pronounced ah-sigh-ee, and sighing is exactly what you’ll be doing as you savour the deep berry kick and chocolately overtones that come with every bite. Thought something this yummy couldn’t be good for you? Each spoonful is packed with antioxidants, including anthocyanins, which can promote good heart health. Acai berries also have low sugar content, a good dose of essential vitamins and minerals, and plenty of dietary fibre.

Now, don’t go wasting precious hours hunting for fresh acai berries on your local supermarket shelves – the berries need to be freeze-dried within 24 hours of picking to keep their nutritional value intact, which means that unless your supermarket is in the Amazon you’re guaranteed to leave empty-handed. Frozen acai berries are the go, and lucky for you they’re the perfect base for Raw Energy’s new range of smoothie bowls.

We blend acai berries with frozen banana, fresh apple juice and a bunch of other health-packed ingredients to create a light, filling brekkie that’s as chill as a weekend yoga retreat. Practice saying it a few times in the mirror (“Ah-sigh-ee, ah-sigh-ee”) then get ordering. You can thank us later.

Naturally Sweet

Yellow honey drizzled over a honeycomb

Amid growing concern about the health impacts of refined sugar, many are turning to natural alternatives for their sweet fix. There are a variety of options on the market – so which should you choose? Here’s a quick guide to a few of the most popular sweeteners.

Rice malt syrup is made from cooked brown rice and contains maltose and glucose, which makes it suitable for those avoiding fructose. You can use it to hold together protein balls or energy bars, or to add some sweetness to baked goods.

Dates are high in natural sugar but also contain potassium, protein and fibre. Add them to puddings, scones and cakes for a fruit-based sweetener.

Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut plant and has a mild, nutty flavour. It has a low glycemic index and retains a few nutrients (though not as many as fresh fruits, of course). You can sprinkle it over porridge or substitute for processed sugar when baking.

Honey is composed of fructose and glucose and has around the same natural sweetness as sugar, but a more distinctive, appealing flavour that works well in drinks, smoothies and desserts. To get the most out of your honey opt for unprocessed varieties and support your local producers where possible.

Agave nectar is derived from the agave plant and is often used as a vegan substitute for honey. Around 1.5 times sweeter, it has a lower glycemic index than table sugar but contains high levels of fructose, so keep moderation in mind.

What’s that, B12?

Rows of chicken eggs in an egg carton

B vitamins are some of the most important elements in maintaining optimum health. These eight water-soluble vitamins play a big role in cell metabolism and help to regulate muscle development, the formation of blood and the functioning of the brain and nervous system. However, they can be overlooked in the struggle to maintain a balanced diet. Here’s how to ensure you are getting enough of two key players.

One of the most crucial B vitamins is vitamin B9, or folic acid. It’s needed for normal cell division and is especially important during times of rapid cell growth, notably pregnancy and early infancy. Luckily it occurs naturally in many foods: avocado, spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus and Brussels sprouts are all good sources of dietary folate. Nuts, beans, peas, dairy products and eggs will also help you reach the recommended adult intake of 400 micrograms per day. Pregnant women should aim for 600 micrograms per day, but always speak to your doctor about the right amount for you.

The largest and most structurally complex of the B vitamins is B12, which contributes to DNA synthesis and regulation, as well as amino and fatty acid metabolism. B12 is obtained from bacteria and occurs naturally in most animal products, including meat, fish, milk and eggs. Unfortunately, plants and fungi are not capable of producing B12, which means vegans often struggle to maintain their levels. If you are following a vegan diet it is recommended you supplement your B12 intake accordingly.