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Spinach & Halloumi Salad with Blueberries

The saltiness of the cheese goes perfectly with the tannins in the spinach and the sweetness of the berries. Soaking the Halloumi leaches out its preserving salt, and also softens the cheese nicely.

Serves 2

Ingredients

250g Halloumi cheese

100g Fresh blueberries

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tbsp olive oil

For the dressing

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp lime juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt

Method

Cover the Halloumi and soak in water for a few hours or overnight.

Drain and cut the Halloumi into slices.

Heat the olive oil in either a frying pan or a griddle.

Gently fry the Halloumi until lightly golden on each side. Drain on paper towel.

Mix the salad dressing ingredients.

Place the spinach in a bowl and dress.

Put the Halloumi cheese pieces on top of the spinach and sprinkle over the blueberries.

Season to taste and eat immediately

 

Adapted from Divalicious

Nutrition & Lifestyle Hacks for Hay Fever

What makes spring and summer so beautiful for many people leads to misery for those who suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms. Freshly cut grass, blooming trees and flowers, and weeds release pollen, which can make life unbearable as you battle a runny nose, blocked nose, watery eyes, itchy eyes and uncontrollable sneezing attacks.

Hay fever symptoms are caused when our bodies release histamine in response to an allergen. The body over-reacts to substances like pollen, which are in fact harmless (but the immune system thinks they aren’t), and produces antibodies to attack the substance. This is what causes the symptoms.

The great news is, that your lifestyle and what you eat can have a profound impact upon your symptoms! So read on to find out how you can take back control over your hay fever and better enjoy the season.

Lifestyle

A lack of sleep can make you more prone to allergies because it weakens your immune system.

Studies have shown that stress can exacerbate allergies. It’s not exactly known why, but it’s thought that stress hormones can ramp up an already exaggerated immune-system response to allergens. According to the British Institute for Allergy & Environmental Therapy, once stress is properly managed and relieved, the symptoms of hay fever improve. Meditation, exercise and eating healthily are all recognised ways of managing stress.

It’s a good idea to have a shower  after pollen exposure. Pollen and dust left on your skin and in your hair can make your symptoms worse.

Using a Neti pot during allergy season or after exposure to allergens can help relieve nasal congestion and flush out mucus. Once or twice daily, use warm filtered water or distilled water with a touch of salt to flush your nasal passages for relief.

Diet

Identify Food Sensitivities

Remove foods you are sensitive to, and increase foods that boost your immune system. The purpose of this is to lighten the overall burden on your immune system to allow it to function more optimally.

If you’re not sure what your food sensitivities are, an elimination diet or food diary can help identify foods that worsen your allergies.

Foods and Drinks to Avoid

Dairy products like milk and cheese can thicken mucus, making blocked noses or ears much worse. Matured cheeses also tend to contain high levels of histamine. So, it’s worth trying some alternatives to cow’s milk, such as almond and rice milk and cashew nut based cheeses.

There are also foods that, while they are not high in histamine themselves, are ‘histamine liberators’ and can trigger your cells to release histamine. These include strawberries, pineapple, bananas, citrus fruits and egg whites.

Foods containing high levels of histamine should be avoided and include chocolate (sorry….); aged or preserved foods like vinegar, sauerkraut, yoghurt or canned fish; and wheat can stimulate an allergic reaction in those who suffer from grass pollen allergies.

Lots of caffeine can trigger histamine release which might accentuate your hay fever symptoms. Why not try anti-inflammatory green, white or nettle tea instead.

Beer, wine and liquor contain histamine, produced by yeast and bacteria during the fermentation process. Wine and beer also contain sulphites, another group of compounds known to provoke asthma and other allergy-like symptoms.

Refined sugar found in most cakes, sweets and ice cream can trigger a blood sugar spike which in turn will release histamine. For a natural sugar fix, choose fresh or dried fruit instead- in moderation as these can be high in natural sugars.

Eat Anti-Histamine Foods

Anti-histamine foods contain chemicals which can disrupt or block the histamine receptors in your immune system. By blocking these receptors, it can help to reduce allergy symptoms.

Research has found that raw local honey can help relieve hay fever symptoms in some people because it contains the local pollen that’s causing your allergies. Do not give honey to young children under one due to the risk of listeria.

A fish a day could keep the sneezing away! There’s some evidence that anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish could boost your allergy resistance because they help decrease the narrowing of airways that occurs some cases of seasonal allergies.

By filling your diet with fresh fruit and vegetables, you will have  a steady supply of vitamin C, which will support your nasal lining and reduce the amount of histamine in the blood.

Foods that are rich in flavonoids such as quercetin, vitamin C or beta-carotene, can help to block histamine and reduce inflammation (see below).

Quercetin containing foods

Onions, garlic, goji berries, asparagus, all berry fruits, apples, kale, okra, peppers, plums and red grapes.

Beta carotene containing foods

Sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, red and yellow peppers, apricots, peas, broccoli, dark leafy greens like kale, and romaine lettuce.

Vitamin C containing foods

Blackcurrants, blueberries, peppers, kale, collard leaves, broccoli, kiwis, mango, courgettes, and cauliflower.

Drinks to Include

Water– Stay hydrated. Drink eight to ten glasses of fresh water each day. If you get dehydrated, any mucus you have becomes much more difficult to expel. Staying hydrated on the other hand can help relieve irritation in your throat and also thin the mucous in your nasal passages, helping to  unblock your nose.

Ginger tea– either slice up fresh ginger and steep in boiled water or buy  ginger tea. Ginger has been shown to help reduce allergic reactions by lowering your body’s IgE levels (the antibody involved in the specific immune reaction associated with hay fever).

Green tea is packed full of antioxidants, which are helpful for the immune system generally. It has also been proven to block one of the receptors involved in immune responses.

Peppermint tea contains menthol, a natural decongestant that can offer relief if your nose is congested or your sinuses are blocked.

There are also anti-histamine supporting supplements which have helped a lot of my long- suffering clients.  If you’d like to talk more about this please contact me, I’d love to speak with you!

Carrot Cake Granola

A delicious gluten free granola that is also an immune booster, what’s not to love!  This is also a great way to use up leftover carrot pulp from juicing, if you have it. Using orange juice and xylitol naturally sweetens this granola without the need for added sugars and syrups. You can leave out the xylitol if wished. Make up a batch of this granola and store in an airtight container for up to 2-4 weeks. Delicious served with yogurt and fruit as a healthy breakfast or snack.

Serves 12

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 60g coconut oil softened
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange (about 100ml)
  • 30g xylitol
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g carrot grated or leftover carrot pulp
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 125g cashew nuts or almonds
  • 60g walnuts
  • 125g pecan nuts
  • 60g mixed seeds (sunflower, sesame and pumpkin)
  • 125g gluten free oats
  • 30g desiccated coconut
  • 60g goji berries or raisins

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4 and lightly grease the oven baking tray.
  2. Add the coconut oil, orange juice, xylitol, vanilla, carrot, sea salt and cinnamon to a blender and process until smooth
  3. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir in the orange – carrot paste.
  4. Stir the mixture to thoroughly combine so that the mixture is coated and starts to stick together. You may find using your hands.
  5. Spread the granola in a thin layer on the baking tray.
  6. Cook for 30 minutes until lightly golden stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  7. Allow to cool then stir in the raisins or goji berries. Store in an airtight container.

Courtesy of Christine Bailey

Nutrition To Turbocharge Your Immunity

When it comes to fighting viruses, everyday precautions such as washing your hands often and avoiding sick people are key. But experts say that boosting your immune system may also give you an edge in staying healthy. Here are my top foods to help armour your immune system.

Vitamin C

I’ll be talking more about important vitamins further down but wanted to bring your attention to this big one first. Physicians have demonstrated the powerful antiviral action of vitamin C for decades. There has been a lack of media coverage of this effective and successful approach against viruses in general.

Vitamin C was used back in the 1940s to combat polio, a virus-caused illness. In China, a study is under way to see if high doses of vitamin C can help fight off COVID-19. Scientists at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University are testing its effects on 120 patients who have the virus, giving them daily infusions of 24g of vitamin C for seven days. Results have not yet been published. The government of Shanghai, China has announced its official recommendation that COVID-19 should be treated with high amounts of intravenous vitamin C (https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/shanghai-government-officially-recommends-vitamin-c-covid-19.2)

Foods rich in vitamin C include:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, kale
  • Cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, oranges, papaya
  • Red, green and yellow peppers
  • Sweet potato
  • Tomatoes

Increase Your Antioxidants

You need to stockpile natural antioxidants (and not just the packets and tins of pulses!). When you supercharge this “antioxidant potential” you give your immune system a real boost. And, if you’re wondering ‘where have I heard about antioxidants before?’ they’re the things skincare companies tell you their anti-ageing moisturisers are full of to keep your skin looking youthful.

Viruses and bacteria produce oxidants, which are reactive forms of oxygen that damage cells and also age you faster. Simply put, they are bad news. We’re also getting our fill of oxidants from eating chargrilled/ blackened foods, fried fast foods, and breathing polluted air. And maybe you’ve had a less than great diet over the years. Antioxidants mop up the damaging oxidants to help keep your cells healthy. What can happen is that you can end up in a situation where you have too many oxidants and not enough antioxidants.

Scientists use several tests to measure the antioxidant content of foods. One of the best tests is the FRAP (ferric reducing ability of plasma) analysis. It measures the antioxidant content of foods by how well they can neutralize a specific free radical.

High antioxidant foods include:

  • 70% + dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Blueberries
  • Other berries, especially raspberries and strawberries
  • Dark green veggies like kale
  • Red cabbage
  • Goji berries
  • Beets, also known as beetroot
  • Green tea- look for decaf if you’re sensitive to caffeine
  • Beans

Glutathione – The Master Antioxidant

Glutathione is one of the most important molecules in the body – almost like a magic elixir of health. Too little of it and you’re at risk of developing one of the most feared health conditions facing us today, including stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, and heart disease.

If you’ve got good enough levels, that’s where the gold is…

But when levels are adequate or high, that’s when the magic happens. You’ll not only have protection from the conditions above, but you’ll have amazing energy, glowing skin, healthy detoxification, strong heart and brain function, and possibly even a longer life!

Glutathione is made up of three amino acids called cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid (or glutamate). It’s often called the “master” antioxidant because it helps recycle all the other antioxidants in your body like vitamins C and E, as well as alpha lipoic acid and CoQ10.

The immune system relies on white blood cells that produce antibodies to combat bacteria, viruses, and other invaders. Research shows that glutathione primes the white blood cells of the immune system and helps them produce more infection-fighting substances so they can control both bacterial and viral infections.

Foods to increase glutathione

Eating the right foods to naturally increase glutathione will help keep you fighting fit. There are a small number of foods that naturally contain glutathione. These include:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Garlic, Chives
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Almonds, And Walnuts

Some other foods contain the building blocks needed to make glutathione (they are the pre-cursors – the warm-up act)- the foods containing cysteine and other sulphur-containing foods, and selenium. Good foods to choose are:

  • Onions, spring onions, shallots, leeks
  • Kale, bok choy, rocket, spring greens, watercress, radishes

Some spices such as turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom – have compounds that can also help to restore healthy levels of glutathione and its antioxidant enzymes.

Alpha Lipoic Acid – Glutathione’s Reloader

Alpha lipoic acid (also called ALA) is a critical co-enzyme that helps to recycle many antioxidants, including vitamin C, E and also glutathione. It is well known for its anti-ageing effects on our cell’s energy factories, the mitochondria.

Good food sources of alpha lipoic acid include: 

  • Organ meats
    • Beef
    • Brewer’s yeast
    • Broccoli
    • Spinach
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Peas
    • Tomatoes

Selenium – Building Block Of Antioxidants

Selenium is an important trace mineral that is key in the production of glutathione (it also happens to be great for thyroid function so if yours is a little off, consider getting more of this antioxidant- a double win).

Good dietary sources of selenium include:

  • Seafood
    • Oysters
    • Brazil nuts
    • Eggs
    • Mushrooms
    • Whole grains
    • Organ meats
    • Dairy products

Why You Need To Get In More Broccoli

You’ll often find me extolling the virtues of these little trees in relation to women’s health, where it is an excellent detoxifier of oestrogen. When it comes to boosting immunity, broccoli has good levels of antioxidants sulforaphane, lutein and zeaxanthin. Research has also shown that it reduces markers of viral load in the nose.  It’s also packed with vitamin C, which is undoubtedly an important nutrient for immune function as well as all the vitamin K you’ll need in a day, and decent amounts of folate, vitamin A, potassium, phosphorous and selenium

Here’s one of my favourite recipes… deliciously simple and the sauce can be used over so many different vegetables. Try it, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Broccoli With Olive Oil, Garlic And Chilli

Ingredients

1 head of broccoli, broken up into small florets so that they can be cooked within 3 mins

2 minced garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ -1 teaspoon Chilli flakes, to taste

Sea salt- ½ teaspoon

Method

Steam the broccoli for 3 mins, either in a steamer, or steam fry them by adding 4-4 tablespoons of water to a frying pan with a lid. Drain.

In the meantime, combine all the other ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on a low heat until the garlic becomes fragrant but isn’t browning- keep an eye on your pan as garlic can burn quickly and if you burn the garlic it will have a bitter taste.

Combine everything gently in a bowl and enjoy!

Vitamin D

Loads of research has shown that vitamin D is super important for a healthy immune system and its anti-viral properties have been shown in multiple studies. Getting your vitamin D checked is really important – either your GP can do it or contact me for a home finger prick test.

Vitamin D is often referred to as “the sunshine vitamin” because direct exposure of sunlight onto large parts of the skin is the best source of this nutrient. Your skin has a type of cholesterol that functions as a precursor to vitamin D. When this compound is exposed to UV-B radiation from the sun, it becomes vitamin D. People with darker skin need to spend more time in the sun to produce vitamin D than those with lighter skin. That’s because darker skin has more melanin, a compound that can inhibit vitamin D production.

Food sources include:

  • Fatty fish and seafood
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg yolks

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is involved in the development of the immune system and very important in maintaining the health of the respiratory tract, where viruses enter. It also regulates the growth of viruses and has been effective in the treatment of various infectious diseases.

Food sources of Vitamin A include:

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Oily fish
  • Milk products
  • Liver and liver products such as liver pâté – this is a particularly rich source of vitamin A, so you may be at risk of having too much vitamin A if you have it more than once a week, depending on how much you eat (this is particularly important if you’re pregnant). This shouldn’t however put you off consuming this important nutrient.

 Zinc

Zinc interferes with the four stages of the viral life cycle, including stopping viruses from multiplying, and it may also help stop them from lodging in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose.

The jury is out but Zinc may be more effective when taken in lozenge or syrup form, which allows the substance to stay in the throat and come in contact with the virus.

Food sources include:

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Legumes Like Chickpeas, Lentils And Beans
  • Wholegrains
  • Seeds And Nuts
  • Dairy
  • Eggs

Does it matter if I buy frozen veg?

I’m often asked this question in clinic. In short, the answer is no. It might even be the case that frozen veg actually contains more nutrients than fresh. This is because, once harvested, vegetables start to lose nutrients and antioxidants. Frozen vegetables are usually ‘snap frozen’. This is a pretty instant freezing process that preserves nutrients. When you defrost them at home, it means that there’s been minimal loss of nutrients so even though the produce has been frozen, it’s still nutrient dense.

Special Announcement/Offer

I’ve been inundated with questions about how we can boost our immunity and am supporting the wider community by offering one-off 60-minute immune-boosting nutrition sessions at special reduced fees of £65 (I rarely do one-off sessions as people need long-term support, but when I do, the usual fees are £125 to cover my time spent in analysis and prep).  We will cover diet, lifestyle and supplement recommendations tailored to your needs. You’ll have a short questionnaire to complete in advance.

If you, your family or friends want to turbocharge your immune system and have a personalised programme, please contact me on 07812 163 324 or email me at info@yournutritionalhealth.co.uk.

Speedy Gluten Free Pan Pizza

This is a really easy and quick pan cooked pizza which you can personalise with your favourite flavourings and toppings. Using coconut flour keeps the base gluten free. If you want the whole recipe to be paleo omit the cheese. For those who are dairy free you could always use a dairy free cheese.

Coconut flour is high in fibre, protein and healthy fats and is free from wheat and other grains. It also has a low glycaemic index meaning it won’t disrupt blood sugar levels too much. A great alternative in breads and baking to regular flours.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg white
  • Flavourings – garlic salt, onion powder, dried basil or parsley etc
  • 2tbsp coconut flour
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • Toppings: tomato passata with added dried herbs, spring onions, mushrooms, olives, spicy red pepper flakes, grated cheese etc

Method

  1. Whisk together the eggs and egg white with the spices and herbs.
  2. Tip in the coconut flour and olive oil and whisk to form a smooth thick batter. It should be quite thick – if your eggs are very small then you made need to add a splash of almond/coconut milk to the batter
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. When hot pour in the batter and use the back of a spoon to form a circle. Place a lid over the pan and allow the batter to cook for a couple of minutes until the sides turn golden brown.
  4. Carefully flip over the base and cook for a further minute.
  5. Preheat your grill to high
  6. Scatter over your toppings and place under the grill for a couple of minutes until golden.

Did You Know? 

You can use the same recipe for the base to make a sweet flatbread – add a little xylitol and cinnamon to the mixture.

 

Recipe courtesy of Christine Bailey

Is Too Little Or Too Much Sleep Sabotaging Your Weight & Health?

We tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But this is not the case; sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs. We spend about a third of our lives asleep and how much you have and the quality of it matters even more than you probably realise. Sleep matters. Without enough sleep, you create an uphill battle in so many different ways. You sabotage your weight and any other health goals you might have. Here I’m going to share exactly why it matters so much and what to do about it.

Sleep deprivation and weight gain

Sleep and weight are intimately related. If you aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis, you’re setting yourself up to be hungrier, eating more, weighing more, and finding it even harder to lose that weight you’ve been trying to shift. It’s not all in your head.

We know from research that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, one-year-olds need roughly 11 to 14 hours, school age children between 9 and 11, and teenagers between 8 and 10.  Scientists now know that, if you are consistently surviving on too little sleep, you’re not going to be functioning at your best, focusing properly or thinking creatively. The cherry on top is that you are also sabotaging any attempts to take control of healthy eating and your weight.

Sleep deprivation causes hormonal imbalances, and I’m not talking about PMT, but the hormones that directly affect your feelings of hunger. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone that makes you feel more hungry) and leptin (the satiety hormone that tells you when you’ve had enough to eat) are majorly disrupted when you are not sleeping enough. So, after a night of lousy sleep, if you feel like you need to eat a banquet, it’s not all in your head but rather your hormones turning you into a ravenous beast. The feast you desire is going to be filled with high-carb, starchy foods and not the healthier (yet still tasty) ones you might otherwise choose.

The stress placed on the body by lack of sleep also reduces your body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone that regulates the levels of glucose in the blood. When it becomes less responsive to glucose it can contribute to weight gain.

Sleep deprivation, raised stress hormones and hormonal imbalances

Sleep deprivation also affects stress hormones, and then stress in turn messes with your sleep. It’s a vicious circle. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones and should follow a specific pattern throughout the day: rising to a peak in the morning to energise you and get you out of bed, and then gradually tailing off towards evening time so that you can drift off into sleep. Prolonged periods of stress can create an imbalance in this daily rhythm that may lead to cortisol levels being high come night-time. This can leave you feeling tired but wired – absolutely exhausted, but your head is buzzing when you hit the pillow. That alone is enough to make you feel even more stressed and less able to sleep.

During the perimenopause (the transition to the menopause), those night sweats caused by falling levels of oestrogen are enough to keep anyone from restful slumber. But did you know that oestrogen also allows your body to better use the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, which is the precursor to the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin? And, during menopause, when oestrogen levels fall steadily, progesterone falls off a cliff. This is a problem for women because progesterone helps you fall asleep faster and experience fewer disruptions to your sleep. (A similar scenario plays out during menstruation).

Blood sugar roller coaster and sleep

If your diet is high in starchy carbs like bread, rice, pasta and sugar, it creates blood sugar fluctuations which can lead to significant sleep disturbances. So, If you have blood sugar levels that are either too high or too low overnight, you may find yourself tired through the next day. For example, a sugar ‘crash’ at night triggers a release of cortisol to wake you up at the wrong time, and this can shift you out of deep sleep into a lighter sleep phase. Moving to a way of eating that balances your blood sugar can significantly help improve the quality of your sleep.

Risks of sleeping too much

You always hear about health problems associated with people not getting enough sleep, but what about getting too much sleep? Research has found that for most adults, getting between  7 and 9 hours of sleep a night is ideal. Although a small percentage of people actually need 10 hours, regularly sleeping more than the suggested amount may increase the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, headache, back pain, and heart disease.

TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

Unfortunately, a person can’t just accumulate sleep deprivation and then log many hours of sleep to make up for it (although paying back “sleep debt” is always a good idea if you’re sleep deprived). The best sleep habits are consistent, healthy routines.

There are a number of things you can do (or not do) to improve your chances of sleeping well.

Do:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable; not too hot, nor too cold.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex. This may help you completely switch off.
  • Keep the bedroom completely dark, so you’re not disturbed by light, which your brain detects even when your eyes are closed. Eye masks can be useful.
  • Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
  • Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
  • Try to take some gentle exercise every day. There is evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise. A brisk walk ticks both boxes.
  • Keep your feet and hands warm. Wear warm socks and/or mittens or gloves to bed if you struggle with cold extremities.

Avoid:

  • Eating a heavy meal within four hours of going to bed.
  • Exercising within 4 hours of sleeping
  • Drinking caffeine in the afternoon – including coffee, ‘normal’ and green tea, and colas.
  • Using alcohol to help you sleep. Alcohol can make sleep more disturbed.
  • Eating sugar after 7pm

You will almost certainly have read some of these tips before. Just knowing the information is not going to give you the restful night’s sleep you are looking for. The only thing that counts is action. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that lack of sleep is at the root of not getting organised enough to plan your meals ahead of time (which may result in your feeling forced to grab a coffee and croissant on the way to work), has you craving sugary snacks you wouldn’t otherwise eat and feeling like a shadow of your normal self, I invite you to put getting more and/or better sleep at the top of your to-do list this week to see what a difference it can make.

You might have a whole list of things on your list already this week but focusing on this ONE thing might be what you need to see a real shift in everything else.

Gift Vouchers

What do you buy for the person who has everything? It is not always easy to be inventive and find thoughtful gifts for people we care about. Treat a friend or loved one to a Gift Voucher for Nutritional Therapy to help them take back control over their health and feel at the top of their game again.

I have seen over and over again how simple changes to my clients’ food and lifestyle can help with a range of health problems and transform their lives.

The Gift Voucher can be completely tailored to individual needs- for example you might be looking for a Health MOT, Weight Loss or a Digestive Programme etc.  Please contact me if you’d like to find out more, discuss your specific needs or buy a voucher.

E: info@yournutritionalhealth.co.uk                     M: 07812 163 324

Beat Festive FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Hey, would you like to come to my Christmas party, have a mince pie, my home-made eggnog, warming mulled wine, taste my amazing Yule log…? If everyone else is eating cake and you’re not, you feel deprived. If everyone’s got a drink in hand, you feel like awkward if you don’t and feel like you totally should be too. You feel like if you don’t have all this food and drink, you’re missing out on something (FOMO). And, to make matters worse, the food pushers will insist that you are in fact missing out on something if you aren’t an active food participant.

And you’ll give in because you can’t resist. You’ll feast like you’ll never see another meal, and you’ll consume frightening amounts of festive tipples because otherwise you’ll be missing out on all the fun, right? You’ll worry that this is your only chance to eat turkey stuffing until this time next year so you’ll have to eat it, even though you’re not really hungry! Small wonder. Apparently, the British cram 44% more social occasions into December than any other month.

What is Food FOMO?

FOMO – shorthand for Fear Of Missing Out –is the pervasive and often unjustified apprehension that others might be having way more fun than you, and that you’re somehow being left out of all the said fun. It usually goes along with the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.  We hate feeling that we aren’t there for something important, something epic, something fun, where memories are made and friendships created.  And it reaches its annual high any day now.

But did you know that we also experience food FOMO?

Where Does It Come From?

Food FOMO isn’t our fault as it’s often driven by cultural and biological programming we’re unaware of. Our survival as an individual within a tribe, and thus our survival as a species, once hinged on being “in the know”. To not be aware of a new food source, for example, meant you literally missed out on something that could mean the difference between life and death.

When humans began to create more stable farming communities, being in the know involved paying attention, being in the right places at the right times to get resources and information and engaging in the gossip of the day as it filtered through the community.

We actually have a part of our brain that specializes in sensing if we’re being left out and it activates the stress response. In an attempt to prevent the stress response, which doesn’t feel good at all, some people will (unfortunately) redouble their efforts to not miss out on anything.

Because we are also a species that values and seeks out variety, we feel compelled to partake in it all, lest we miss out on anything. We are also culturally programmed to over-value losses and under-value gains.

Scarcity thoughts lead many of us to have anxiety around food, rather than food being enjoyable. The “lack” mentality also means that we allow food to control us. It’s also very difficult to feel satisfaction when filled with food FOMO because there will be the constant niggling feeling that there’s just not enough to satisfy us. In this way food FOMO leads to eating past the point of what our bodies need or want, causing anxiety, physical ailments and overall malaise, and getting out of tune with what our body really needs.

All of this means we put more importance on the food we may be missing out on, and less on our goals and well-being.

So, FOMO really is not your friend this month (or indeed any month) – especially if you want to maintain your weight, energy, mood and support your digestion over the holidays.

So, how does that festive FOMO usually pan out…

You’re committed to healthy eating during the Festive Season, and you go to just a few buffet parties or events. The food looks delicious, but you are watching your weight, so your deprived mouth can only water. There’s a very subtle fear that you are never going to be able to have any of these delicious treats ever again. The fear of missing out activates your survival instinct to consume everything and anything. And so you go on a binge, and your healthy eating plans are obliterated. The self-recriminations start.

The big question, of course, is what are you are you really missing out on? Nothing. OK, maybe some sweet or high-carb treats, some booze filled evenings and such. But eating and drinking these have a flip side: blood sugar imbalance, energy crashes, irritability, poor sleep, bloating and other digestive issues, and almost certain weight gain (if you consume in excess) – and that’s without mentioning the negative self-talk for having over-indulged.

There’s another thing about this festive FOMO and it’s that it has you giving up taking responsibility for your actions around food and alcohol (you would have been able to resist, right, but it was the party season?)

FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND FOOD

There are several things going on when it comes to food. Your fear of ‘missing out’ on that delicious dessert is the first. But also refusing food (though it should be a basic human right) is mired in emotional meaning both for you and for the host.

The answer is not to find more and more creative ways to say no. If you have to own up to eating healthily around this time or being gluten or dairy free, this seems to compound the original offence of not wanting to eat.

Can you get that it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t want to stuff yourself to the max with the cheese smorgasbord and mince pies? It doesn’t mean anything about your relationship with food, or how you feel about the host. You just don’t want the cheese smorgasbord or mince pies, or not to the extent that you’re so stuffed you feel sick!

Ask yourself what exactly are you missing out on????

Let’s be real, while it’s true that you’re missing out on the opportunity to talk about how good a dessert tastes, sharing a plate of fried mozzarella sticks, or having a third drink, you’re also not battling with your waistline, dealing with fatigue or doubled over with a stomach-ache. So in all reality, what are you missing out on?

Your action plan is this:

  1. INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON WHAT YOU CAN’T HAVE, FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN HAVE. There are amazing flavours, foods and healthy dishes that will totally satisfy your palate and give you something to talk about with your family and friends.
  2. TASTE A BIT, BUT DON’T EAT IT ALL.Instead of eating a piece of whatever, eat a bite instead. You’ll be able to talk about it without feeling guilty about it later.
  3. HAVE AN ACTUAL PLAN Before you go to bed each night, plan out your food for the next day. This is never more true than during the Festive Season, when parties, chocolates, cookies and “treats” are just about everywhere.
  4. DON’T TRY TO DIET JUST NOW Set a maintenance goal instead. This is much more realistic and it is achievable, even at this time of year. It will also give you the freedom to enjoy yourself without feeling deprived, or that you’ve failed, which in turn means you’re more likely to rebel (and this is code for heading straight for the box of chocolates without a second glance).
  5. TAKE A BALANCED APPROACH Manage portions. Eat slowly. Savour each mouthful.
  6. YOU EAT WELL AT OTHER MEALS. Lots of vegetables. Making sure you’re feeling full with smart carbohydrate choices and plenty of protein-rich foods. Then you head to your party, have one or two drinks, a few nibbles and – most of all – enjoy time with the people you love!
  7. OH, AND DON’T GO TO A PARTY HUNGRY If you do, you’ll be fighting a losing battle. Have a low GI snack before you go – just a little something that includes protein and slow release carbs (cottage cheese or unsweetened nut butter on an oatcake, for example).
  8. KEEP FAMILY CHOCOLATES OUT OF SIGHT so you’re not tempted to tuck in just because they’re there. Ever heard of the ‘out of sight, out of mind diet’?
  9. Go from FOMO to JOMO. It’s all right to happily avoid certain activities and have the “Joy Of Missing Out (JOMO).” Learn to get comfortable with the idea of doing what you actually want instead of what you feel like you should do. In the end, you will be much happier if you are following your own urges rather than those of someone else.
  10. KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES Remember that each person has different priorities in life. Know what’s important to you so you can really analyse every opportunity that comes your way. When you treat everything as a priority, nothing is truly important. Remember that you can do a lot of things in your lifetime, but you certainly cannot do everything. You won’t be having a blast during every single moment of your life, and that is all right.

Try asking yourself these questions next time you’re faced with food FOMO:

  1. Is this a real or perceived food scarcity?
  2. Is my body physically hungry right now?
  3. What is driving my decision to eat right now?
  4. Is this food readily available to me or is this a special or seasonal food that only comes around once in a while?
  5. Am I stuck in dieting mentality right now, which is telling me to restrict calories or limit what foods I eat?
  6. What exactly are you missing?

FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND ALCOHOL

Frequently, party goers who are cautious about their alcohol consumption are viewed with suspicion. You can roll out the usual excuses for abstention: I’ve got a hangover from the party the night before, I’m on antibiotics, I’ve got a really important work thing tomorrow, and the like.

If you want to have a few glasses of wine, have a few glasses of wine. But make that decision inside of what you know to be your social schedule over the entire Christmas period.

How does the amount of socialising stack up against your health goals?

To be clear, you absolutely can honour all your social commitments but, in order not to find yourself tempted by the usual crash diet in January, hear this: it IS possible to go out, have fun, eat well and not have everyone notice you are being ‘healthy’.

If you cut back on the amount you are drinking at social events – even choosing not to drink at some events at all – you can feel the improvements almost immediately. On those nights that you don’t drink at all, you’ll sleep better, wake feeling more refreshed, you’ll have much more energy, and your mood will be better. The impact on your waistline will be positive too – alcohol is a big contributor to belly fat and is brimming with unnecessary calories.

Here are a few suggestions for cutting down – if that’s what you choose to do.

  1. Decide how much you are going to drink (maximum) before you go out.
  2. Consider telling someone else who will be there (friend or partner, perhaps), to help keep you accountable.
  3. Don’t feel pressurised by others. It’s your life and you are the one who makes the decisions.
  4. Have an excuse ready when you want to give it a miss (remember ‘no, thanks, I’d rather have …..’ is perfectly OK.

So, you see, the fear around missing out is just an illusion. And, actually (in social media terms, certainly) FOMO is a bit old hat. What’s trending right now is JOMO, the joy of missing out. Think what you will be gaining from taking on board some of my tips, enjoying yourself without over eating or drinking too much…

How to switch off the ‘hunger hormone’

Clients often tell me they struggle to diet because they can’t get their hunger under control. But hunger is not an issue of being more disciplined or having more willpower. It’s a hormonal issue.

When we think of hormones we often think about oestrogen and testosterone and their role in puberty, libido, and the reproductive system. But, our bodies also produce hormones which regulate our appetite.  In this article, I’m going to talk about one of them called ghrelin and tell you everything you need to know about it and how to keep it in check.

All About Ghrelin

Ghrelin controls hunger, food intake and combined with growth hormone, fat storage.  Its main function is to increase appetite. It makes you consume more food, take in more calories and store fat.

This hormone is produced in your stomach and secreted when your stomach is empty. It sends signals to the hypothalamus, the part of your brain which governs your hormones and appetite, that it’s time to eat, by increasing your appetite. The lower your levels, the fuller you feel and the easier it is to eat fewer calories. After eating, ghrelin levels decrease because our stomachs are full and we’re satiated. They don’t rise again until the body starts looking for more energy. Ghrelin peaks every four hours or so–roughly corresponding to mealtimes.

So, if you want to lose weight, lowering your ghrelin levels can be beneficial. On the flip side, if you under-eat or struggle to gain weight, higher ghrelin levels may help you consume more food and calories.

Ghrelin may sound like a terrible, diet-wrecking hormone. However, our hormones have specific jobs to do in the body. If we never felt hungry, would we take as much joy from the food we eat? How would we know when we’re low on nourishment? How would we function at our best? In the past ghrelin played an important role in survival by helping people maintain a healthy level of body fat.

While you might assume obese people have higher ghrelin levels, they may just be more sensitive to its effects. Research shows their ghrelin levels are actually lower than in lean people, and are also associated with imbalances in other appetite controlling hormones. This suggests that over time, overeating can decrease sensitivity to the hormone, meaning we lose this essential control mechanism. Studies have also shown that after obese people eat a meal, ghrelin only decreases slightly. Because of this, the hypothalamus doesn’t receive as strong of a signal to stop eating, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you might be wondering how you can keep your ghrelin levels low.  It doesn’t mean jumping to calorie restriction and starvation as this will increase your ghrelin levels, potentially lead to overeating and storage of fat.

Interestingly, research shows that intermittent fasting can significantly decrease ghrelin, increase the feeling of fullness, and decrease the desire to eat. This has certainly been my experience with the manageable type of intermittent fasting I do with my clients.

I’ve highlighted a few tips here to help keep this specific hormone in check: 

Eat a diet rich in fibre from fruit and vegetables, legumes and wholegrains.  A high fibre intake slows the stomach’s emptying rate, keeping you full for longer, and also stretches the stomach which sends fullness signals to the brain. Foods high in fibre also tend to be lower in calories and higher in nutrient density.

Eat your calories rather than drinking them. Solid calories and liquid ones can affect appetite differently. Solids provide a greater sensation of fullness than liquids. This may in part be because the extra chewing time allows solids to stay in contact with the taste buds for longer, which can promote feelings of fullness. Solids also require longer digestion which keeps you feeling full for longer.

 Indulge in some dark chocolate.The bitterness of dark chocolate is thought to help decrease appetite and diminish cravings for sweets.Researchers also believe the stearic acid in dark chocolate can help slow digestion, further increasing feelings of fullness. Amazingly, one study observed that simply smelling 85% dark chocolate decreased both appetite and hunger hormones just as much as actually eating it!

Eat protein with every meal Incorporating a portion of lean or vegetable protein into each meal (eggs, oily fish, organic chicken or turkey, fermented tofu, beans and pulses) will slow gastric emptying, keeping you fuller for longer. One of the mechanisms behind this is a reduction in ghrelin levels.

Spice Up Your Meals. One small study found that consuming 2 grams of ginger powder diluted in hot water at breakfast reduced the hunger participants felt after the meal. Capsaicin, found in hot peppers, and capsiate, found in sweet peppers can help decrease hunger and increase feelings of fullness.

 Manage stress. Studies in animals have shown that exposure to chronic stress increases circulating ghrelin (Massachusettes Institute of Technology, 2013).  It also interacts with the brain’s reward pathways to increase food intake, including the consumption of sweet food over bland food. This creates a vicious cycle where we begin to see food as a comfort during times of stress and anxiety.  Incorporate yoga, meditation or breathing into your daily routine, get out for a walk or run in nature, find something that works for you to allow you to live (and eat) more mindfully.

Sleep well. Sleep deprivation has been associated with an increase in ghrelin levels, appetite and hunger comparative to sleeping for longer periods. Research shows that individuals who sleep less than seven hours per night rate their fullness levels after breakfast as 26% lower.  Aim for 7-9 hours per night, practice good sleep hygiene by limiting screen time, avoiding heavy meals and alcohol before bed, and try to stick to regular sleep and waking up times to regulate the circadian rhythm.

Exercise. This is an inconclusive area as far as research is concerned. Exercise reduces appetite for some people but not all. Often my female clients tell me they are hungrier after they exercise. Interestingly, a small-scale study of 20 women funded by the National Institutes of Health found that exercise only reduced appetite in lean women. Other research suggests women, but not men, respond to starting an exercise regimen with changes in hormones that lead to appetite stimulation, but it isn’t known if the differences continue over the long term. In terms of types of exercise, some research suggests that aerobic activities such as running suppress appetite more than lifting weights or other forms of resistance training.

My advice is that until we know more of the nuances underlying exercise and appetite control, be mindful of how you feel after exercise. If it does increase your hunger, make sure you have something healthy to eat straight afterwards so you aren’t tempted to binge on unhealthy high carb foods.

If you’re looking for support with weight loss or indeed weight gain, incorporating these diet and lifestyle changes would be a great place to start.  It’s important to remember however, that ghrelin is only one of many interrelated factors which could be impacting on your health and well-being.  That’s why I create bespoke plans specific to my clients’ personal health and fitness goals.

References

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080617142925.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037567/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0026049512002880

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23247700

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015191405.htm

https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/346058

https://www.ncbi.nlm.ni

Fish Curry With Tomatoes And Tamarind

Use a sustainable white fish like hake and serve up this healthy, Indian spice-pot with green beans, cauliflower and brown rice.

Ingredients- Serves 4

  • 1 onion cut into quarters
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 2 cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 red chilli roughly chopped
  • A bunch of coriander, leaves separated from stems
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • a small handful curry leaves (optional)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp  ground coriander
  • 1 tsp  ground cumin
  • 400g plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • sustainable firm white fish (such as hake or pollack) 500g, skinned and cut into 4cm cubes

Method

Step 1 Blend the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and the coriander stems in a blender until it makes a paste. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the black mustard seeds and curry leaves until fragrant. Add the paste. Fry for 2 minutes then add the turmeric, coriander and cumin. Fry for 2 minutes more then add the tomatoes and the tamarind with 200ml of water an cook with lid on until the tomatoes start to break down.

Step 2 Stir in the fish, cover and simmer for 5 minutes until cooked. Serve with brown basmati rice, broccoli and green beans.

 

 

Adapted from From Olive magazine