An explanation of Anzac Day for our overseas listeners: April 25 is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates the servicemen, women and animals who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. It specifically honours the soldiers who fought in the ill fated Gallipoli campaign during World War I, where Australian and New Zealand soldiers, known as the Anzacs, landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey on April 25, 1915.
This day of commemoration has become synonymous with the Anzac biscuit, a simple sweet cookie-style staple that was sent by wives, mothers, and women's groups to the soldiers who were fighting overseas in World War One. They were easy to make, made to withstand the long journey by sea and provided sustenance for the soldiers. However the modern commercialised version of this iconic biscuit is vastly different from the original recipe. While the original Anzac biscuits were made with simple ingredients like flour, sugar, oats, and coconut, the mass produced version is loaded with vegetable oils, preservatives, emulsifiers, acidity regulators, antioxidants, and “natural” flavourings. But why has this reconfiguration occurred, and what impact does it have on our health?
“We don’t need things in moderation, we need things in balance.” Processed and ultra processed foods hijack our natural regulatory systems and activate the reward system in our brains. Dr Lucy shares that she finds it difficult to moderate ginormous choc chip cookies, while Dr Mary struggles with regulating her intake of ice cream, particularly cookie dough ice cream with different textures that hit her brain’s “bliss point.” Many processed foods are deliberately designed by food scientists to hit the perfect salt, sweet, and fat ratio to hijack the brain's pleasure centres, making it hard for us to moderate our intake.
Take control of your health and wellbeing. For many people, a low carb, real food lifestyle helps restore the ability of the mouth and tongue to savour and enjoy flavours. Over time, excess sweetness is unpalatable and it is possible to ignore products that were once impossible to resist. Dr Lucy and Dr Mary share practical strategies you can use to stop participating in the global food experiment that we did not agree to be part of and which is impossible to control.
You will get so much out of this insightful and thought provoking episode. Dr Lucy and Dr Mary weave their unique insights and combined expertise around nutrition and wellness, making complex brain and body processes so easy to comprehend with their genuine and knowledgeable insights. Tune in for clarity and motivation in reaching your health goals.
If it’s time for you to start healing your physiology with low carb real food and managing your psychology with self compassion and mind management tools, we invite you to join the waitlist for our exclusive 12 Week Mind Body Rebalance Program starting on 27 May. This is our signature program, run by Dr Lucy and Dr Mary focussed on empowering you to create sustainable change and achieve your health and weight loss goals.
https://www.rlmedicine.com/12WMBR to join the waitlist.
Lakanto Monkfruit sweetener, the no sugar sweetener Dr Mary uses when baking at home with her daughter:
Meander Valley cream, Dr Lucy’s much preferred dairy delight over tasteless low carb ice cream confectionary:
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Episode 143 - Anzac Biscuits: How our food has evolved over the last 100 years
Dr Mary Barson: (0:11) Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:15) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of
Both: (0:20) Real Health and Weight Loss!
Dr Mary Barson: (0:23) Hello, lovely listeners, Dr Mary Barson here from Real Life Medicine coming at you on Anzac Day as it is. And I am, of course, joined by my dear friend and colleague, the fabulous Dr Lucy. How are you Dr Lucy?
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:41) I'm well thanks, Mares. I'm very well, it's a sombre day for Australians and New Zealanders. So, I guess we’d just like to acknowledge Anzac Day and recognise that it is a day where we do acknowledge all of those people that have been involved in the armed forces, the ones that have made sacrifices, either with their life or their health, and not just for the actual personnel, but their families as well.
Dr Mary Barson: (1:09) Absolutely. And the sacrifice that you know, men and women in the armed forces have made throughout the years really does affect the whole family, it affects the whole society and when I can say from my own personal experience, my father's father died while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force. And it really does, it reverberates through the generations so I think it's important to spend time acknowledging the bravery, the trauma, the sadness, the sacrifice, everything.
Dr Lucy Burns: (1:49) Absolutely. Yes, fractured families. My dad was the same, his dad was killed in the Second World War. So he as a little boy grew up without a dad. And you know, it is, it's important to acknowledge that these intergenerational traumas and for their sacrifice, we are extremely grateful..
Dr Mary Barson: (2:09) It is interesting as I think about this day on an entirely different level at a far more lighthearted level. I always find myself thinking about Anzac biscuits on Anzac day. It's kind of I can't but help it. I grew up in rural Victoria in Australia and we would make Anzac biscuits, we would eat Anzac biscuits, Anzac biscuits were an important part of the day, they were a fundraiser for, you know, Legacy and the Returned Services League. And, you know, I just associated this day with this sugary thing.
Dr Lucy Burns: (2:52) Absolutely. So I thought it's a great time to be talking about Anzac biscuits and their evolution. Because Anzac biscuits actually, you know, commenced really right back in the First World War. So in the early 1900s. 1915, 1916, was their original birth, the birth of the Anzac biscuit. And it is, the Anzac biscuit of yesteryear is quite different to the Anzac biscuit that is commercially available these days. And I thought we'd just chat a bit about that. So, Mares. Do you know the history of the Anzac biscuit?
Dr Mary Barson: (3:30) I do. I paid attention in primary school, Lucy. I completely know the background history of the Anzac biscuit. I'm going to take a tiny step back and let's just explain what Anzac is to people who aren't from Australia or New Zealand. Yeah, it stands for the Australia, New Zealand Army Corps, and it's a, in the First World War, the Australians and New Zealanders fought together. And that's where the Anzac word comes from. So it’s a combined Australia New Zealand Memorial, day of memory for our combined forces. So that's just quickly what we mean when we say Anzac,
Dr Lucy Burns: (4:13) Yes, good, good point. And in fact, interestingly, because if you think about that acronym of Australian New Zealand Army Corps, it's actually not just the army these days, it really does encompass all the armed forces. So navy and air force as well.
Dr Mary Barson: (4:29) That's right, and all the wars as well. So it is an entire day of appreciation and celebration of the entire armed forces for our two fabulous countries. And the biscuits, so Anzac biscuits.
Dr Lucy Burns: (4:49) It's interesting because one of the phrases that is sort of snuck into Australian culture, so biscuits, again for our American audience, and perhaps even people in Europe and other countries, biscuit is a sweet, it's what we use to describe sweet cookies is the American term. Whereas I think in America a biscuit is what we would call a cracker. So it's a savoury thing, then of course Australians who like to, to shorten everything, it's actually a bikkie. So you have two bikkies with your cuppa, is two biscuits with your cup of tea, and Anzac bikkies. There's a phrase that is sneaking around called Anzac cookies, but that's not really, that doesn’t. It's weird, isn't it? Because that's not really I mean, it's not an Australian-ism.
Dr Mary Barson: (5:38) That feels weird. I don't like it. Stop saying that please. They are Anzac biscuits.
Dr Lucy Burns: (5:44) Anzac bikkies. Absolutely. And the interesting thing is that again, if we just want to go into some legal jargon. So in Australia Anzac day is highly revered. Like you can't open a shop, you can't sell anything on Anzac day apart from pre-approved, usually Anzac related, paraphernalia, so it might be an Anzac pin or something that is usually used as part of fundraising. Anzac biscuits have an exemption. But it doesn't extend to Anzac cookies. So, if you're selling something, you have to call it a biscuit. So that's just another…
Dr Mary Barson: (6:23) Yes, it is a very sombre day. It really is. It's not a day of celebration and waving flags, although that does happen to an extent, but it happens in a very sombre and respectful way. It seems quite different to the Fourth of July celebrations, for example. Yep. All right. So we’re going back to the history of Anzac biscuits, because, like, I'm pretty excited to tout my primary school knowledge here. Let me, let me please. So in the First World War, we have got the Australia New Zealand Army Corps soldiers, they were sent to fight in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey, which was a pretty ill fated campaign. And the conditions in the trenches were very difficult. And, you know, food was scarce. And these soldiers needed food that, you know, could withstand the long journey from Australia and New Zealand, and that, you know, could provide sustenance on the battlefield. And so they were sent these biscuits. And they were made with things that were easily available in wartime Australia and New Zealand. And that was, they were made with flour, with oats, and with golden syrup. And of course, butter as well. And but a bit of baking soda and boiling water. And I have, this is a tradition that has been carried on, certainly in rural primary schools in Victoria at least, and we, very carefully using the boiled water, made Anzac biscuits every Anzac Day, and would use them as fundraisers. So that's, that's what they're made out of and that's the history behind them. And they were baked until they go really, really hard, really, really dry. And then, you know, they're good, basically, you know, they're going to be, you know, around forever. The Anzac biscuits and the cockroaches are going to be around long after we've gone.
Dr Lucy Burns: (8:14) Yes, indeed, indeed. Now, the interesting thing, of course, is the commercialisation of the Anzac biscuit by food companies. And you will find that they are vastly different to the original Anzac biscuit. And now I've just looked up a couple of screenshots from a couple of food companies that make Anzac biscuits and you know, they start with flour, which is similar, which is the same, they have sugar, oats, desiccated coconut, and that's about where the similarities stop. Because then there is a list of vegetable oil, which we all know equal seed oils. This one has preservative 223, emulsifier 322, from soy acidity regulator 330, antioxidant 307b from soy, natural colour 160a, oh there's some butter in there, some raising agents, some salt and “natural flavour,” whatever that is. So I think it's interesting to note that the processing of the simple Anzac biscuit has also occurred.
Dr Mary Barson: (9:28) Yes, you know, the advent of the processed food industry has had probably more of a significant impact on our health at an ecological level than almost anything else. And it's almost, no it is, like we're all living this big scientific experiment that has been performed on us without our consent and without our control. And the processed food industry has a significant deleterious impact on our health, if we let it.
Dr Lucy Burns: (10:08) Absolutely. And the thing that is, I mean, yeah, again, we’re picking on the Anzac cookie today or the Anzac biscuit, it is quite different. The biscuits that you'll find in those packets have a shelf life of forever, which admittedly, so did the original cookies but the original biscuits were also baked within an inch of their life. And most of these days…
Dr Mary Barson: (10:28) Yeah, they were probably harder than your own tooth enamel. Honestly, yeah, and they really kind of stuck to your teeth as well. Yeah.
Dr Lucy Burns: (10:36) And the other thing to be mindful of is that in, particularly, you know, 100 years ago, we didn't have the same insulin resistance problem that we have today. So insulin resistance, you know, obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, type two diabetes indeed, these were all rare diseases. They were almost unheard of. And so as people then eating sugar and flour, without those conditions, meant that their body was able to process that much more efficiently and quickly, so that they didn't suffer from the harms of these types of foods. Compared to our current population, of whom, in some sectors of our community, over 80% of people have insulin resistance. It's a massive, massive problem.
Dr Mary Barson: (11:38) It really is. And the hyper palatable, processed foods that are high in carbohydrates, and often low in nutrient value, they hijack our normal hormonal regulatory systems that would ordinarily, when our bodies are in a nice and natural balance, would normally control when we feel full, when we feel satiated, when we feel hungry. Processed food really takes these over, and also activates the reward system in our brains in potentially really unhelpful ways, robbing us of just like the normal joy we could get out of food, when we can get so much joy, so much more joy out of these hyper palatable processed foods. All of this combines with sort of this perfect storm of a really damaging food system.
Dr Lucy Burns: (12:35) Absolutely. And it's, I mean, this is part of I think the thing that is potentially harmful advice is, you know, just eat everything in moderation. And that works really well, for real food, because we, most real food is moderatable. But once you start processing it, and particularly ultra processed food that is designed to not be moderatable, moderatable, is that a word? I'm loving it.
Dr Mary Barson: (13:05) Moderatable is a word, yeah, take it.
Dr Lucy Burns: (13:06) Excellent. I'm taking it. So we've got food that's designed not to be moderatable. And then we're told you must moderate this unmoderatable food. And so when you, when we fail at that, it's like, well, we didn't tell you to eat that many. We didn't tell you to eat a whole packet, you’re a guts, you're greedy, it's your fault. Stop doing it. Just shut your mouth. And it's like, hmm interesting, interesting isn’t it?
Dr Mary Barson: (13:30) It is. From an evolutionary standpoint, we've got multiple overlapping mechanisms that allow us to hang on to our stored body fat. Mechanisms that will induce insulin resistance so that we can store fat and hold on to it because this is what we needed as animals in the wild to survive. And we don't have nearly as many mechanisms to help us let go of body fat or reduce body fat. So already the cards are stacked against us. But when you throw in these excess quantities of sugary foods that our bodies are literally designed to want to overeat. And then to say, if you overeat them, you're weak willed, is somehow immoral failing on your behalf, is exceedingly unfair. It's like it's blaming the victim. And it's not okay.
Dr Lucy Burns: (14:22) Yes, you're right. It is. it is completely victim blaming. So this is just, it's unacceptable. And I just think that, you know, it's almost like some of these food should have a warning on it like smokers do you know? That this food is and again, we'll have to craft our own label, but it might be you know, this food is hard to moderate or this food has been designed so that you can't stop eating it. You know?
Dr Mary Barson: (14:47) Definitely. It's literally been engineered to be extremely rewarding to your brain’s pleasure centres.
Dr Lucy Burns: (14:55) Yeah. And it's interesting because there are food companies, as we know, that actually are excited about this. The Pringles ad, once you pop, you can't stop, you know, they have no shame. But they use that sort of in jest, you know, you're gonna love this so much that you won't be able to stop eating it. And it’s like, absolutely your brain will. And it's like, Holy hell, what is going on here? It is, I think harmful to advise people to have everything in moderation when the food is unmoderatable.
Dr Mary Barson: (15:30) It is. It absolutely is. We don't know, this is a beautiful phrase of yours, Lucy, “we don't need things in moderation, we need things in balance.” Our bodies are clever, they are cleverer, perhaps, than we give them credit for. And if we allow our bodies to get back into their own natural balance, our bodies will naturally be healthy, our bodies will naturally regulate our own weight, our bodies will naturally move back towards health, if we can remove the things that are preventing that. And a big block that is preventing us from being in balance is these highly processed hyper palatable foods created by food scientists in laboratories to be so rewarding and unregulatable.
Dr Lucy Burns: (16:31) Absolutely. I mean, and the thing I think that is tricky, is it's like some foods, you know, you can moderate some foods. So I think, you know, there's again, we humans don't know everything about ourselves. If we think that then we're kidding ourselves. But there is particular foods that particular people find particularly hard. And it may be that you can moderate. As an example, I can moderate hot chips. No problem. I could have a plate of hot chips. I could have one or two hot chips, and I couldn't care less about the rest. I cannot do that with other foods. And you mentioned Mares, you know, brownies, brownies for you.
Dr Mary Barson: (17:10) Mm. Talking about brownies. Offline we were talking about brownies. Yeah, absolutely.
Dr Lucy Burns: (17:15) And for me one of the things that I find very difficult to moderate are those ginormous choc chip cookies that come from like Mrs Fields. Same thing, there is something about them that has the perfect salt, sweet and fat ratio. So it's sugar, salt, carbs, sugar, salt, fat, carbs, all that, together. That just is my brain's, you know, bliss point. Other people might think, I couldn't care less about those, but I can't regulate chocolate croissants. Or I couldn't care less about chocolate croissants, but I can't regulate hot, warm bread or whatever it is.
Dr Mary Barson: (17:59) For me, it's ice cream. Can't regulate ice cream. Yep. Particularly like ice cream that’s got different textures in it. So like cookie dough ice cream, because it's got the salt in the cookie dough. And it's sweet. And the different textures, particularly textures that don't necessarily exist in nature, really hit my reward systems in my brain. And I just yeah, that's not something that I can regulate. Hence I regulate that by not regulating it, by just not exposing myself to situations where people, where I you know, have access to tubs of cookie dough ice cream.
Dr Lucy Burns: (18:34) Yeah, I tell you what's interesting. So, I had, it’s a little while ago now, my husband or one of my kids, brought home a box of low carb ice creams. So they were single serve, on a stick, chocolate coated something or others. And so my brain goes, good, you know, again, back sort of in diet land where I go, you can have those, you know, they're allowed. That's a whole, another episode. But anyway, look, I did one, I had one and I thought, it's interesting. I'm not getting the thing that I would normally get from ice cream, the hit, the hmm, the something. And then I compared it to, I had some fresh, beautifully fresh, quite ripe, raspberries. And I had some Meander Valley cream, which, again for our audience. Meander Valley is a valley in Tasmania. It's beautiful. They make magnificent dairy products. Thick, you know, and again, I don't have a problem with dairy. So I had, again, just a blob of that with, I don't know maybe a dozen raspberries. So like a little dance on my tongue. The combination of the zing from the raspberry, the taste, the sweetness, the furriness of the raspberry, they just got that funny little furry texture that, the mouthfeel of the cream and I just thought to myself, Why the hell would I eat this chemical concoction? Just because it's kind of got the name ice cream. It doesn't do it for me. So consequently, I haven't had it since.
Dr Mary Barson: (20:10) So good. I've noticed that my tastes have definitely changed. I probably still would have difficulty regulating cookie dough ice cream, I really do think I would. But for other things, now that you know, my days of riding, you know, the hideous throes of sugar addiction are behind me, I can walk past foods that I previously couldn't regulate, and just like oh, no, I just know that you're not helpful and I can leave them behind. And when I occasionally do have something a bit sweet, I don't like it. Like super sweet foods actually aren't particularly nice to me. And this happens sometimes, like, you know, if I'm maybe baking with my daughter, and
Dr Lucy Burns: (20:52) Yeah, you lick the spoon or something, yeah.
Dr Mary Barson: (20:54) Lick the spoon. Yeah. So we do low carb baking most of the time. Not all the time, but most of the time, and even then I don't like, it just tastes too sweet to me. Even when it's low carb with reasonably okay, alternate sweetness.
Dr Lucy Burns: (21:08) Oh, absolutely. And in fact, this happens in my house all the time. I make something for the family and I think oh, well, you know, I'll put some sweetener in it. And I think oh my god, that's so sweet. And I give it to them. They go, Oh my god, Mum, it's disgusting, you need more sugar or it needs more sweetener in it. And I go oh.
Dr Mary Barson: (21:24) That's what's happening with our brownies in the fridge right now. I made these with Lakanto. You know, it's monkfruit sweetener. And I made it to the point where it was just so sweet I can't handle it. And my daughter's like, hmm it's not very yummy, Mummy.
Dr Lucy Burns: (21:41) So yeah, so one of the benefits, therefore, of going low carb for a considerable amount of time is that your taste buds, they literally, your taste for the type of foods, it changes. Your palate, you know, palate changes, because you can now start to taste things that you couldn't before. Because your whole mouth, tongue, tastebuds, all of that system was just, as you use the word, hijacked, by processed food.
Dr Mary Barson: (22:09) That's it. And that processed food robs your joy of real food. And when you just get away from the processed food and you divorce yourself from this. Say I'm not going to subject myself to this hideous global experiment. And you eat real food. It's delicious.
Dr Lucy Burns: (22:27) Absolutely. Absolutely. All right, gorgeous ones. Well, on this day, again, thanking our members of the armed services for all their sacrifices. And we wish you all a wonderful day, wonderful week ahead, and we will catch up with you next week. Bye for now.
Dr Mary Barson: (22:45) Bye guys.
Dr Lucy Burns: (22:52) So my lovely listeners, that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns…
Dr Mary Barson: (23:00) and I'm Dr Mary Barson. We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us, please visit rlmedicine.com
Dr Lucy Burns: (23:10) And until next time…
Both: (23:12) Thanks for listening!
Dr Lucy Burns: (23:14) The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide, individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.