Categories
Anthony William General Health Lifestyle Super Foods

Juices or Smoothies?

I’m pleased to say that juices and smoothies are becoming more and more popular and are no longer relegated to the oddball area of nutrition! They are such a great to pack an abundance of nutrients into a quick and easy drink, and are in my opinion the ultimate in fast food.

Juicing

Juicing is a process that extracts the nutrients and the water easily from plants. This process allows the body to absorb the nutrients quickly because the digestive system doesn’t have to work so hard at breaking foods down. The nutrients are then easily released into the bloodstream.

I love juicing and would recommend you looking up Jason Vale, aka the Juicemaster for some great recipes. One of my favourites is his Oxygen Elixir. I’m not a fan of beetroot but I also know it’s incredibly good for you, so this juice is one of the only ways I can find to get it into my diet in a way that disguises it’s taste:

  • ¼ lemon
  • 1 small beetroot bulb
  • 2 apples
  • 1 celery
  • 1 carrot

You then have the option to blend the juice with 1/2 and avocado and ice cubes. This makes for a really beautiful breakfast or snack.

I love Anthony William, the Medical Medium, and have found his ideas incredibly useful. A lot of people know him as the “celery juice guy”, as he recommends celery juicing for pretty much any ailment. I’ll do a separate post on the wonders of celery juicing soon, but thought I’d say a few words about it here too. I’ve done it for many years – off and on, and definitely feel it’s benefits. However, I have also learned that it can be too powerful, and I did overdo it at one time, to the point where it became unhelpful. So, as with many things in life, it’s about balance. I’d suggest for most people a small glass a day is a good thing – but it’s important to tune into your own needs, as it isn’t for everyone.

Blending

Blending is slightly different in that is also contains the pulp of the fruit and vegetables and this fibre has the benefit of slowing down the release of nutrients in the bloodstream, keeping you fuller for longer and avoiding any sugar spikes. Smoothies are amazing and the variety of recipes is endless. I’ve put together one below that I love and works well for breakfast, and have also attached a handout at the end that you can download with some recipe ideas.

  1. 1 banana
  2. 250ml almond or coconut milk
  3. 1 handful of blueberries
  4. 1 handful of raspberries
  5. 1 handful of baby leaf spinach
  6. 1 tbsp oats
  7. 1 tsp peanut butter (organic, such as Whole Earth)
  8. 1 tsp baobab powder
  9. ice cubes

This is a really easy way to add an abundance of nutrients, antioxidants and not to forget those amazing phytonutrients into your diet. I suggested adding baobab powder but you could add any superfood powder really, such as acai, maca root, lucuma for example. They are just another way to increase the nutrient load. Baobab is an African fruit which is ground into a powder. This fruit has been found to contain six times more vitamin C than an orange, more antioxidants than blueberries, twice the amount of calcium as a glass of milk and more potassium than a banana. What a great way to start the day!

It can be hard to know what blender or juicer to go for, and over the years of advising clients on what to go for I ended up doing a short handout with a few suggestions. You can spend a total fortune on them, but I’ve found it’s not necessary, although some of the really cheap ones are probably worth avoiding too. A happy medium is best!

Olivia

Categories
Exercise General Health Lifestyle Stress and Relaxation Weighty Issues!

Health Benefits of Exercise

So it seems that a lack of exercise may be more detrimental to health than carrying around a few extra pounds – and I’m not talking money here. A large study carried out by the University of Cambridge basically concluded that getting our backsides off the sofa and out into the fresh air is a really important step we can all take to improving our health. If you want to read the study then click here.

So what are some of the benefits of exercise? People often think about it only in terms of weight management, but there are so many other important benefits. One is that it helps keep the cells in our bodies sensitive to insulin. When our cells aren’t as sensitive as they should be to insulin, we can end up with high blood glucose levels, which is associated with type two diabetes. Being active also increases our high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is helpful for maintaining healthy cholesterol balance, and decreases excess triglycerides (fats).

Exercise also affects our mood. It can help with releasing tension as physical activity stimulates lowers cortisol levels (one of the major stress hormones) and increases endorphins. I also think just the action of getting out and about into the fresh air, or hitting the machines at the gym is going to leave you feeling positive about taking active steps to improve your health and fitness, so no surprise if this boosts your confidence and self-esteem.

It’s also a great way to help regulate sleep, just don’t exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energized to fall asleep. It usually takes a couple of hours for your body temperature to cool down fully after exercise, and it is this cooling process and drop in core temperature that can leave us feeling sleepy.

And if all those reasons fail to get you going, exercise can also help spark up your sex life! If you feel tired all the time, or completely out of shape, then it’s not surprising you might not feel all that frisky. But there’s more to it than that. Regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal for women. And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don’t exercise.

But as usual, the problem is that just knowing something is good for us doesn’t necessarily make it easier to do. And let’s face it; did anyone ever really think that a bit of exercise was going to be a bad thing?

So at this point I should probably be thanking my parents for dragging me and my sisters out every weekend for long walks and bike rides. I really did detest going at the time, not because of the effort involved, but because it seemed like a pretty dull way to spend the day. However, like many things in life, if we are exposed to activities enough when we are younger, then when we are old enough to make our own decisions we often find it turns out we actually like doing it! That’s definitely the case with me and walking – I love nothing more than getting out and stretching my legs, whether going for a walk in beautiful countryside or pounding the pavements of Northwest London.

The good news is, for all those people who see it as an effort just to get from the chair to the fridge, exercise doesn’t have to involve hour long workouts at the gym. Great if you want to do this, but one really easy way to get the ball rolling is to buy a pedometer (or check to see if your phone has this function). What you want to be aiming for is 10,000 steps a day as a minimum, and then increase from there. This isn’t going to get you to iron man competition shape any time soon, but it will keep your heart ticking along nicely for a little while longer.

Here’s a smoothie to look forward to post exercise:

  • 1 glass coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 banana
  • 1 handful baby leaf spinach
  • 1 handful frozen berries
  • 5-6 ice cubes

Enjoy!

Olivia

Sources and further information: www.mayoclinic.com, Anita Bean (2009) The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition

Categories
Fats and Protein General Health Lifestyle

Healthy Breakfasts

I’m not a huge fan of breakfast and I’m not sure why, seeing as I am a major fan of lunch, dinner and pretty much constant snacking. I never know what I want to eat, so then I leave it too long, become hugely hungry and usually end up reaching for my fall-back, which is crispbread, hummus and a few cherry tomatoes. It’s not that that is a terrible breakfast, but it’s not making the most of the opportunity to set yourself up for the day and pack in a good amount of nutrients.

The breakfast I grew up on was cereal, milk and a piece of toast. I don’t want to start labelling most people’s breakfasts as “bad”, especially because nowadays you can buy really great bread that hasn’t been overly processed, and also cereals aren’t just about Cocopops anymore. As always, I want to advocate balance. So lets look at what makes up a good breakfast.

One of problems with just sticking to the usual UK breakfast is that it is often lacking in protein. It’s really important to have protein in every main meal, and especially so for breakfast, after 12 hours of fasting. Protein helps ensure that your blood sugar levels rise slowly, whereas a breakfast of a sugary cereal, followed by jam on toast, is just going to spike those blood sugar levels nice and high, send out a corresponding rush of insulin, which then ultimately leads to a crash pretty soon after. Personally I’m usually starving an hour after eating a bowl of cereal or having a piece of toast.

So what can you do to the usual breakfast to make it a little more balanced? Firstly, do make sure you go for cereals or muselis where sugar doesn’t come up as one of the key ingredients – you don’t have to go to a health food shop to buy decent cereals or muselis these days – have a look in the supermarket for a museli with no added sugar and preferably one that contains nuts and seeds for added protein. Add some berries and sliced banana to your cereal or museli to make sure you are getting a bit of fresh food in your breakfast. If you have toast then get decent wholemeal bread, or try rye bread or sourdough. And rather than always going for the jam, why not try nut butters. There is nothing nicer than almond butter or organic peanut butter with sliced banana on sourdough.

You could also go for something totally different. In other parts of the world they tend to go for savoury options in the morning that contain protein. I remember at school, there were quite a number of students from Asia, and mostly they declined what was on offer for breakfast (I was at a boarding school) and made their own soup, with some form of protein and rice. At the time I thought what a gross way to start the day, but looking back I see the logic and actually it seems pretty appealing now.

Do feel free to download the handout at the bottom for a few ideas on how to start the day. Give them a try, and hopefully you’ll find one or two that hit the spot.

Enjoy!
Olivia 

Categories
Fats and Protein General Health In the News Uncategorized Weighty Issues!

Lower Cholesterol through Nutrition

Cholesterol has been given a bad name, and the general public has been led to believe that high cholesterol itself is the cause of heart disease. In the last few years however, there has been a small backlash against this way of thinking – the “cholesterol sceptics”, who say that high cholesterol is nothing to worry about. In fact, both arguments appear to have their flaws.

What is Cholesterol and Why Do Our Levels Increase?

Cholesterol is a natural substance made by the body. It is essential to our survival and needed for basic cellular health, our nervous system, digestive system (cholesterol is needed to form bile) and is also a precursor to steroid hormones and vitamin D.

So why would our cholesterol levels increase? Although eating high levels of saturated fat is thought to cause a small increase in cholesterol, the advice for everyone to lower saturated fat intake as far as possible has been misleading for a number of reasons. Firstly, most cholesterol is actually made by the body and has little to do with cholesterol or fat content in food. Secondly, saturated fats play a beneficial role in our health, when eaten in moderation. For more information on the benefits of healthy fats, read a previous blog I wrote, as it’s too much to fit into one blog! It’s thought that our bodies start making more cholesterol as a protective response to damage or illness. This is why high cholesterol is often seen in conjunction with disease, and can therefore be a good indicator that something is out of balance, but does not mean cholesterol itself causes the disease. This would also imply that lowering cholesterol is not the “cure” for a disease as well.

Cholesterol is carried around our body in little packages called lipoproteins, which contain other substances as well, not just cholesterol. Information can be confusing, because lipoproteins and cholesterol are often talked about as the same thing, when in fact they are not – and people can be told they have high cholesterol, when in fact it’s the lipoprotein numbers that are up. The newest thinking proposes that the connection between cholesterol and heart disease is actually due to damage which occurs to the packages (lipoproteins) carrying the cholesterol around the body. The lipoproteins are delicate and are prone to damage from toxins, infections, high blood sugar levels and also high blood pressure amongst other things. Once the lipoproteins are damaged they cause inflammatory reactions, which create havoc in our blood vessels. This is thought to start the underlying processes leading to cardiovascular disease. There are different lipoproteins doing different jobs, and some are more prone to damage than others, which is why people may be told they have a lot of “bad” cholesterol, and not enough of the “good” type.

So it’s a complex situation. It’s not just about how much cholesterol or lipoproteins are in the blood, but what type of lipoproteins, how long they are in the blood for, and what factors are present that could cause damage to the delicate lipoproteins.

A Word About Statins

There is no doubt these cholesterol-lowering drugs do significantly lower cholesterol, but this has only been shown to be beneficial for a small group of people in terms of reducing mortality, because cholesterol levels aren’t the root cause. And they have side effects too. Taking statins results in lower levels of CoQ10, which is incredibly important for energy production and healthy nerve function amongst other things. For this reason, anyone on statins should always talk to a nutritional therapist about taking a CoQ10 supplement as well.

Natural Ways to Reduce Cholesterol

There are other ways to reduce cholesterol naturally. Certain supplements, particularly vitamin B3 and red yeast rice that have been shown to be beneficial, but this needs to be done under the guidance of your nutritional therapist or doctor and must not be taken in combination with statins. However, the following suggestions are safe for everyone to use. They are aimed at both reducing the amount of cholesterol, and also preventing damage to the lipoproteins.

Eat a diet rich in fibre and antioxidants
Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is the best thing you can do to increase both fibre and antioxidant intake. Fibre is crucial for reducing cholesterol, as it carries the bile out through your gut – and bile contains cholesterol. It is a very important part of reducing your levels, or preventing a rise in cholesterol. The antioxidants from fruit and veg reduce the likelihood of damage to the lipoproteins, so they are less likely to cause cardiovascular problems.

Build up to around 7-8 servings a day. Also include nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes such as chickpeas, pinto beans, navy beans and kidney beans.

Reduce use of vegetable oil
Industrial vegetable and seed oils, such as sunflower oil, as well as their derivative products, like margarine, contain polyunsaturated fats. These are incorporated into lipoproteins and are highly prone to damage. Previous advice was to reduce saturated fats and use polyunsaturated oils instead, but this advice is incorrect. Some polyunsaturated fats are healthy, such as those found in oily fish, but it’s important to ditch the fake butter spreads and the sunflower oil. Use coconut oil for cooking as it’s very stable and not prone to damage like other oils (including olive oil). Good quality olive oil is fine, but use if for salad dressings, and cold meals only.

Protect your liver
A healthy liver is essential for regulating cholesterol levels, because the liver acts as a “packaging factory” for all the lipoproteins. A general pointer would be to make sure you don’t overdo the alcohol and high sugar foods, but also there are some foods that are particularly helpful for the liver. These include artichokes, chicory, chard, endives, cress, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, asparagus, rocket, lemon and grapefruit.

Exercise
Exercise is really important for reducing cholesterol. Although intense exercise has been shown to be particularly beneficial, just walking 10,000 steps a day is a good place to start. Get yourself a pedometer and start counting!

Reduce toxic overload
Start by stopping smoking. It not only contributes to higher toxic levels, but also increases blood pressure, another factor implicated in damage to lipoproteins and blood vessel walls. High levels of glucose in the blood, from a diet overloaded in refined sugar, can also cause damage to the lipoproteins. You don’t have to go completely sugar free, don’t worry! But do pay some attention to how often you eat sweets, cakes, biscuits or drink fizzy drinks. Just make sure you are keeping them in moderation. Also keep an eye on the hidden sugar crammed into processed foods, including savoury foods like ready meals and crisps. Use the free Sugar Smart app if you have access. It can be helpful for some people as a way of getting used to just how much sugar is packed into many processed foods.

Olivia 🙂

Sources and further information:
www.cholesterol-and-health.com,www.chriskresser.com/the-diet-heart-myth-cholesterol-and-saturated-fat

Categories
Foods and Vibration General Health Lifestyle Super Foods

Herbs & Spices: Health Benefits

I’m a big fan of herbs and spices for good reason. They’ve been used for generations both as food and to treat all sorts of ailments, and there is plenty of scientific evidence to support their medicinal properties.

Medicinal Properties

Over the past decade or so, research has shown a diverse range of health benefits from herbs and spices, that is due to their bioactive constituents, including flavanoids, polyphenols, sulfur-containing compounds, tannins, vitamins and minerals. Spices and herbs such as clove, rosemary, sage, oregano and cinnamon are incredible sources of antioxidants due to their high phenolic content and it is evident that frequent consumption of these herbs and spices is linked to a lower risk of death from cancer, ischemic heart disease and respiratory diseases (1).

There is also a growing body of research demonstrating that commonly used herbs and spices have particular antimicrobial properties i.e. they kill off bacterial, viral and other microbial infections (2). This also means they are a good way of keeping a healthy balance amongst the beneficial bacteria and yeasts that live in our gut. As a nutritionist this is of particular interest, as the microbiome really is the centre of our physical health. You can download a handout at the bottom that gives you an idea of which herbs and spices help with which kind of microbes.

Dried or Fresh?

I know lots of people who dedicate a whole area of their cupboards to herbs and spices, and use them haphazardly when cooking. But lets face it, how many of them remain at the back of the shelf collecting dust! It really does takes a concerted effort to add them daily to your food, but I promise you it is worth it.

Aim for fresh herbs wherever possible, as they retain more of their medicinal properties than dried ones. Spices are usually the dried or ground variety – so just try and find organic if you can. With herbs, you can even grow your own – even if you cheat and start with a ready grown pot and just keep it going. They look really pretty in the kitchen! Some are easier than others – I find parsley, mint, chives and rosemary good ones to start with. When you grow your own and make a connection to them, they grow according to your own needs – so will always be better than anything you find in a shop. But if that’s not possible, then just show appreciation for the herbs you have bought and this will still be beneficial. Think of all those reiki experiments, and the effects that showing love has on food and water – the more love and gratitude you hold for the foods you grow and eat, the more the energies of those foods mesh with your own energies – the Law of One in action!

With any herbs and spices – particularly the dried ones, it’s best to start with the ones you know, then slowly branch out and experiment with other flavours. It may mean actually following the odd recipe or two (yawn), but once you understand how the flavours work in cooking, it shouldn’t be too much effort. As I’ve discovered on a number of occasions, you can overdo it with some. Once when I was going through a particular cumin and coriander craze, my poor dad suffered (ever so politely) through a pretty revolting bowl of soup. So definitely its true that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

The Wonders of Garlic!

Probably the two top herbs and spices from my point of view are coriander and garlic – I’ll do a separate post on coriander at some point as there is much to say. But for now I’ll just mention a bit more about garlic – which most people seem to like unlike coriander! Garlic to be fair is hard to classify as either a herb or spice, as technically it’s a vegetable. However, it’s usually listed when we talk about herbs and spices and is used in tiny amounts due to it’s incredibly powerful flavour.

Garlic has always been used for both its culinary and medicinal purposes since the ancient Egyptians. Hippocrates even mentioned using garlic for many conditions, including parasites, respiratory problems, poor digestion and low energy.

So what is it about garlic that makes it such a powerful medicinal food? A whole head of raw garlic doesn’t have a strong smell. However, if you crush or chop it then you really get a powerful odour. In fact, it’s really important to crush garlic before using it. What happens when you crush it is that the cells of the plant are destroyed, which causes a release of a compound called alliin. If the garlic is left for a few minutes, the alliin will react with an enzyme to create another compound, allicin. Allicin is what gives garlic its pungent taste and smell and is thought to be responsible for its healing properties. The strong smell and taste might be off-putting for some people, but don’t forget, the strength of these chemicals is what keeps the bugs away too! When garlic is heated in cooking, or undergoes processing of any sort, some of the active ingredients are lost. The best way to use garlic is to crush the cloves and leave for 6-8 minutes and then add at the end of cooking. Of course there are issues with this, as the odour remains pretty strong. Nice if you are single, not so great if you aren’t!

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30651162/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15180577/

Categories
Fats and Protein General Health In the News

Healthy Fats

Hallelujah! The low-fat revolution finally seems to have come to an end. Although there are plenty of people who have been aware for a long time that low fat diets are not healthy, or even beneficial for weight loss, this has only been talked about in the media for the last few years.

Low-Fat Diets and Health

A scientific paper from 2010 reviewed previous studies which lead to the association between saturated fat and heart disease, and concluded that there is no evidence after all, Click on the link for the actual study if you are interested. AJCN Sat Fat and Heart Disease 

So does this mean we can all go nuts with the butter? Well no, excessive intake of any type of food – including fats – is unwise. But it is vital that we all are aware that extreme, low fat diets are unhealthy. For many years in my teens and early 20s I was sucked into the low-fat myth and felt miserable most of the time I was on them (tired, dry skin, headaches, moody and quite frankly a bit of a pain in the arse to be around). I really didn’t manage to lose much weight either.

However, before you tuck into that greasy doughnut, it’s important to understand that not all fats are created equal and the trick is knowing which ones to go for the majority of the time. Also to realise that the odd treat is not going to kill you. So here is some science for you.

Different Types of Fats

Fats and oils are really one and the same thing, but “fats” is a term used to describe those that are solid at room temperature and “oils” tends to be used for fats that are liquid at room temperature. In addition, they can be broken down into categories depending on the degree of “saturation” – a chemical term used to describe the fundamental structure.

Most sources of fat in the diet have a combination of both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, but usually one predominates. Solid fats are usually comprised of mostly saturated fats. They are more stable and less easy to damage. Oils are predominantly unsaturated fats (both mono and poly- unsaturated) and are much more unstable.

The degree to which a fat is damaged or spoiled is very important, as damaged fats can create havoc in the body. The quickest way to cause damage to oils is via heat, air and light. Before we get into the different types of fats in the diet, let’s firstly look at the important roles they play in the body.

  • Cell structure and function
  • Absorption of fat soluble vitamins
  • Nerve function
  • Maintaining healthy skin and hair
  • Brain health
  • Insulating body organs against shock
  • Energy source
  • Maintaining body temperature
  • Adds to flavour and texture of food
  • Makes meals more satisfying and filling

Saturated Fats

The main sources of saturated fats are meat, dairy, eggs, coconut oil and palm oil. Small amounts of saturated fat can be part of a healthy diet, and contribute to the health benefits listed above. Coconut oil is excellent for cooking and frying. Unlike olive oil, it’s very stable and isn’t damaged when heated at high temperatures, so for this reason is preferable to use in cooking. You can find coconut oil in whole food shops and supermarkets, but don’t go for the cheap stuff, it really isn’t good quality and is full of rancid fats. I’d advise getting organic, extra virgin coconut oil that is usually at least £6 per jar.

In terms of dairy, go for good quality, full fat, organic produce. When buying meat, look for organic, free range meat from grass fed, rather than grain fed, animals. This is not only due to ethical reasons, but also because this meat will contain higher levels of nutrients, in particular omega-3 fatty acids, which as you will see below is a good thing. As organic meat really can be more expensive, have it less often, and increase other sources of protein, such as eggs.

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are two types of unsaturated fatty acids. They are derived from vegetables and plants. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature but begin to solidify at cold temperatures. This type of fat can be found in olives and olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil, walnut and hemp oil, sunflower oil and also avocados and all nuts and seeds. It’s important not to heat them to high temperatures (such as frying), and to keep bottles sealed in cool, dark places. Go for oils that are cold pressed, extra virgin and kept in dark bottles. Use monounsaturated fats in moderation, and either only use them cold, or add at the very end of cooking, in order to lessen any damage to the oils.

Polyunsaturated Fats – Omega 3 and 6

Whilst the body is able to make saturated and mono-unsaturated fats, there are some fatty acids that are essential – meaning they cannot be produced in the body and therefore need to be obtained from our diet. These essential fats are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They support many aspects of our health, including blood pressure, brain function and lowering inflammation. These health benefits are derived from the balance between the two fatty acids.

Originally it is thought our ancestors consumed a diet that was almost equal in terms of omega-3 and 6 intakes. Nowadays, we eat a diet that is extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3. The ratio is thought to be somewhere around 20 to one, in favour of omega-6. In part this is due to the move away from saturated fats to “healthy” vegetable and seed oils such as sunflower oil, which is one of the main sources of omega-6 fatty acids. This skewing towards the omega-6 pathway leads to inflammatory responses, poor blood sugar control, and cardiovascular disease.

What keeps the effects of the omega-6 pathway under control? Omega-3 fatty acids. This is why increasing our intake of omega-3 and reducing our intake of omega-6 is one of the best things we can do for our health. By far the best source of omega-3 are oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies), ground flax seed, chia seeds, walnuts and eggs also contain omega-3, but not in nearly such large quantities. Three portions of oily fish a week is an excellent addition to the diet.

A Word About Trans Fats

Trans fats are actually a form of unsaturated fat that have been heated to high temperatures to keep them more stable and extend their shelf life. You’ll find them in margarine and butter spreads, biscuits, cakes, fried foods and takeaways. The problem is, they are unnatural to the body, and not easily broken down. They become incorporated into the cell structure and can be extremely damaging, having clear links to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and immune dysfunction. The tide is turning against trans fats. Even the World Health Organisation declared them toxic but despite a number of European countries banning their use altogether, and various regulatory bodies in the U.K recommending we do the same, the government is lagging behind. Some supermarkets, such as M & S, Waitrose and the Co-op, declare all their own brands to be trans fat free, but I’d still be on the safe side an avoid the most obvious culprits such as low-fat butter spreads and margarine. Just go for good quality butter!