Greens & Broad Bean Shakshuka

Broad beans (also known as fava beans) are packed full of fibre. They contain vitamins K, folate and B6, as well as zinc, copper, iron and magnesium. To save time you can buy them frozen.

  Ingredients  

   1 bunch asparagus spears

    200g sprouting broccoli

    2 tbsp olive oil

    2 spring onions, finely sliced

    2 tsp cumin seeds

    large pinch cayenne pepper, plus extra to serve                                                                                                                                                

    4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

    1 small pack parsley, finely chopped

    50g shelled peas

    50g podded broad beans

    4 large eggs

    50g pea shoots

    Greek yogurt to serve

Method

  1. Trim or snap the woody ends of the asparagus and finely slice the spears, leaving the tips and about 2cm at the top intact.
  2. Finely slice the broccoli in the same way, leaving the heads and about 2cm of stalk intact.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the spring onions, sliced asparagus and sliced broccoli, and fry gently until the veg softens a little, then add the cumin seeds, cayenne, tomatoes (with their juices), parsley and plenty of seasoning, and stir.
  4. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 mins to make a base sauce, then add the asparagus spears, broccoli heads, peas and broad beans, cover again and cook for 2 mins.
  5. Make 4 dips in the mixture. Break an egg into each dip, arrange half the pea shoots around the eggs, season well, cover with a lid and cook until the egg whites are just set.
  6. Serve with the rest of the pea shoots, a spoonful of yogurt and sprinkle over another pinch of cayenne, if you like.

 

 

 

Courtesy of Good Food Magazine

What Cravings Really Say About Your Health

Those cravings you get for sugary or savoury things, are they all in your head- or is your body trying to tell you something? Some might dismiss a ‘wisdom of the body’ theory as quackery.  However, if you think about what biological processes are happening in your body and the factors affecting them, the argument to substantiate a link becomes more compelling. Here’s why.

The body is a wonderful machine, constantly sending you signs and signals about the information (or nutrients) it needs to function at its best. Food is so much more than just calories. It’s also sending information to all your cells and helping to direct their activity. The trouble is, when you fall into unhealthy patterns, you unwittingly train your brain and body to think and crave certain foods.  Often these foods give you a quick fix. You feel great for 30 minutes, yet an hour later your energy levels are on the floor and you need another hit to keep you going. Sound familiar?

This concept applies to everyone, not just women in pregnancy who are typically associated with an appetite for unusual or inedible substances such as clay, coal or dirt (this type of craving is referred to as ‘pica’ by the way).

Are You Craving Foods High In Sugar And Unhealthy Fats?

One of the most common and documented cravings is of course, sugar.  In recent years, articles in the press have suggested sugar is as addictive as class A drugs.  How true is that really? Or, have you been simply making excuses for your lack of willpower? You’ll be glad to know there is more to it than meets the eye and it’s not actually your willpower that’s missing.

The brain needs glucose, or sugar, from the right kind of foods to function optimally.  Glucose comes from starchy and non-starchy carbohydrates like pasta, bread, vegetables and desserts.  When you’re eating in such a way that your body steadily releases glucose into the blood stream throughout the day, this process works as it should. You’re productive, sharp, and full of energy, and you don’t need to rely on willpower to make good food choices.

So, What Causes You To Crave Sugar In The First Place?

Imbalanced biochemistry

Not balancing your biochemistry by having the right distribution of protein, fats and healthy carbohydrates on your plate. I often use a non-invasive genetic test to help identify the ideal ratio, which varies from person to person.

The toxic combination of sugar and unhealthy fat

Too much of the wrong kinds of sugar, as well as fats, can throw things off kilter. Studies have found that increased consumption of sugar and unhealthy fats (like in donuts, chocolate, cake, biscuits and sweets) triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of reward and satisfaction. And that means you now need superhuman amounts of willpower to stop eating these foods that give you a temporary high- and we all know how long that will last for….

By falling into this trap, you train your brain to think, ‘I need to eat this to help me feel better’.  You might use these foods to regulate your mood and lower your stress. But in the long run, this sends you on a rollercoaster – with your energy, your mood, stress levels and sleep. And over time, this rollercoaster can result in the development of chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity, inflammation, immune suppression or chronic fatigue.

Processed and energy dense foods like junk food which are high in both fat and sugar have a higher association with food addiction. You never see this combination of high sugar – high fat foods in nature, but food manufacturers are very aware of the addictive quality of this toxic combination and use it to their advantage.

Feeling tired and the role of emotions

You’re also more inclined to eat these kinds of foods when you’re stressed, anxious, or tired, because your brain is looking for more fuel than it would be when you are relaxed and well nourished. What helps a lot of my clients is EFT or tapping, an evidence-based tool I use to help them manage these issues better on their own, so they don’t have to rely on me or anyone else.

If you’re craving sugar or carb-heavy foods you may also be low on serotonin, the neurotransmitter which helps regulate mood and helps keep you feeling positive, giving you sound sleep and days of productivity. Serotonin is made from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid (or protein) found in almonds, fish, eggs, turkey, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

The challenging bit here is, that in order for tryptophan to release serotonin, it needs to be coupled with the right amount of carbs because it’s a bit tricky getting it into the brain where it needs to be to exerts its positive effects. Get the wrong amount and it can spike your serotonin for a couple of hours making you feel good- but then send it crashing back down, leaving you feeling moody and emotionally unstable.

Similarly, woman can be more susceptible to sugar cravings around the time of their menstrual cycle. That might not come as a huge surprise to you… studies have shown that higher oestrogen levels are associated with greater levels of the hunger hormone, leptin, which triggers stronger cravings for sugary foods.  PMS also causes the stress hormone cortisol to increase and the feel-good hormone serotonin to dip, making you reach for chocolate, chips and sugary snacks to give you a feel-good boost at that time of the month.

What To Do About Your Sugar Craving

Generally, the foods you choose to eat every day can help to regulate or trigger these cravings by helping to balance your biochemistry. Try switching your white bread, pasta, sugary cereals, low fat products and processed foods for lower GL (glycaemic load) alternatives such as wholegrains, pulses, root vegetables and increasing your protein intake at each meal. This can help balance your blood sugar better.

Quality proteins such as eggs, turkey, salmon and nuts and seeds are also rich in tryptophan, which support production of serotonin and dopamine – a much better source than a packet of chocolate digestives or a bag of sweeties.  Making the switch to a more wholesome and nourishing alternative may be a much more sustainable approach to healthy weight loss than crazy diets you might be tempted to try.

DO YOU CRAVE SALTY SNACKS?selective focus photo of french fries

Sugar doesn’t do it for you? Perhaps you are more inclined to reach for savoury, salty foods; crisps, salted nuts, cheese and biscuits.  Generally speaking, this may be a sign that your adrenal glands are under strain, and that hankering for salt could be attributed to stress, fatigue or PMS.  You rely on your adrenals to produce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline whenever you need it to meet challenging situations. That might mean deadlines at work, training for a marathon or gearing yourself up for a big presentation. The adrenal glands also play a big role in maintaining good energy levels and quality sleep.

Chronic demand on the adrenals due to long-term physiological stress (from over-exercising, medications, high caffeine, sugar, alcohol etc) or psychological stress/anxiety can result in fatigue and insufficient secretion of adrenaline and cortisol,  but also the hormones aldosterone, renin and angiotensin which regulate blood pressure by controlling fluid levels and electrolyte balance in the body.

When your adrenals are tired and don’t produce enough aldosterone, your blood pressure can become low and result in salt cravings and these might be accompanied with other symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings including low mood and anxiety, insomnia, brain fog, excessive thirst, headaches and nausea. These are often classic signs of adrenal fatigue, which can result after long periods of psychological/physiological stress which places extra demands on the adrenal glands and results in them ‘burning out’ and not functioning optimally.

Please don’t read this and think that I’m suggesting you need to be consuming salt by the bucket load. Too much sodium (the key element in salt) should be avoided as it can tip the hormone balance in the other direction and contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues.

The good news is that the adrenal glands can be supported through nutrition and lifestyle to help rebalance hormones. Working with a Registered Nutritional Therapist can be a powerful way of equipping you with the knowledge to recognise these signs when they present themselves, and make positive changes to benefit your long-term health and well-being. Please contact me for a complimentary 30 minute Wellness Call if you’d like more information: info@yournutritionalhealth.co.uk or on 07812 163 324.

Nutrition is Powerful Medicine

Food literally changes your biochemistry and gene expression

Did you know that the food we eat is so powerful that it turns our genes on and off, to alter our weight, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, cancer growth, and even our chances of healthy ageing, among numerous other aspects of our health? Until recently, it was believed you were stuck with the genes you were born with. But we know from research  now that your genes get turned on and off and are expressed to greater or lesser degrees depending on your diet and lifestyle factors. The impact of nutrition on our genes is called nutrigenomics.

It may be that our genes load the gun and are responsible for our predisposition to getting certain illnesses, but our diet and lifestyle pull the trigger, and largely influence whether or not we get them. Nutrition is powerful medicine you can use to your advantage.  It can literally change your life.

A healthy diet can make a big difference in your life but what happens if you don’t know how to start? A Nutritional Therapist can help set you on the right path to healthy living and ageing.

How can a nutrition professional help you?

So what’s to understand about good nutrition?! Everyone knows what a balanced diet is, right? There are articles on healthy eating in every newspaper and magazine. Why would you want to go to see someone to tell you what to eat?!! Your mum did that for you, didn’t she?

Most people get – on a conceptual level at least – that they should probably eat a bit better than they do, they should probably move more and take the time for more ‘me time’ to live a long and happy life.

‘Life’ seems to get in the way of achieving that. Many of us are juggling jobs and the complexities of modern relationships, leaving little time to dedicate to the business of ‘being healthy’. Convenience often wins. It’s not that that’s wrong per se, but here’s the thing: all the time we are not eating or moving or living well, we are silently getting unhealthier.

That may actually be going-to-hospital sick or it may just mean having health niggles that bother us greatly but that we have learned to cope with or accept as inevitable. I’m talking about things like IBS or other tummy troubles, PMT, arthritis, skin conditions, stress or anxiety, haywire hormones, or possibly weight that has crept on over the years and you can’t seem to shift it, no matter what you try.

What I want to share with you today is that the food you eat matters more than you can possibly imagine. Research confirms over and over again that every time you eat, you are literally self-medicating because food changes your biochemistry, and can make you feel rotten- or at the top of your game.

Amazingly, in many cases, simply by making changes to your diet, improving the quality of your sleep and exercising correctly, many illnesses can be prevented or the symptoms improved so markedly that there is a really profound shift in how you experience life. I’ve seen it happen many times and it’s actually a lot easier than you might be thinking.

Putting your nutrition knowledge into actual daily practise

Although Nutritional Therapy is evidence-based, and there are hundreds of thousands of research papers on the power of nutrition on health, it used to be referred to dismissively as ‘complementary medicine’. It’s only now that the science of what and how to eat is getting the recognition it deserves and is being actively promoted by a small number of well-known and recently enlightened conventional medical doctors, like Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Dr Michael Mosely.

Essentially, Nutritional Therapists apply the latest research in nutrition and health sciences to you and your symptoms and formulate a diet, lifestyle and (sometimes) supplement plan to support the body’s own healing processes. They also use the latest cutting-edge tests to help pinpoint key imbalances in the body’s functioning, where appropriate. If they’re health coaches too, they will focus on enabling you to put that knowledge into practice. Because what’s the point of having nutrition knowledge if you can’t put the ideas into practice in a meaningful way, or break through whatever barriers have held you back in the past?

Personalised detective work to find the root cause

Nutritional Therapists take a very personal approach. You might hear practitioners talk about people being ‘biochemically unique’. That means that there isn’t a single way of eating (or lifestyle for that matter) that is right for everyone. Isabel might have IBS and you want to lose weight, for example. Isabel might have a history of antibiotic use, while you had your gall bladder out when you were 14. Isabel might have an intolerance to dairy, while you hate strawberries. I could go on, but you can imagine the thousands of different permutations here. And the fact is that your DNA, previous medical history, any current symptoms as well as what you like and don’t like, not to mention your personal circumstances are all important when a Nutritional Therapist creates a plan for you. There is no way the same “protocol” is going to work for Isabel, and for you.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to the doctor, weren’t seen on time and then spent just a few minutes with your doctor before being ushered out? Or perhaps your health care provider sent you home with a few new prescriptions and no real explanation as to why your health was suffering? While most traditional GPs really do their best, unfortunately, they only have a maximum of 10 minutes to spend with you, they treat your symptoms rather than finding the root cause, and often you walk out with a dissatisfied feeling. A Nutritional Therapist invests a lot of time and skill to dig down deep, and do the detective work needed to find contributing factors, thread them all together and find root causes of symptoms.

You could of course download something from the internet – if you knew what you were looking for – but it’s not the same as having someone connect the dots and put everything together for you, and then give you the support you need to make the adjustments fit into your daily life long-term. A Nutritional Therapist may also work with supplements targeted to a specific condition or your own health goal. This can be a minefield – potentially dangerous and inevitably costly – if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Functional Medicine is the way forward: connecting genetic, environmental, diet and lifestyle factors

It’s unfortunate that so many people don’t understand what a huge effect a personalised food and lifestyle programme can have on the symptoms they have or how they experience their life.

Newspapers are full of soundbites about the latest foods, but they don’t really join the dots, and it’s difficult to see what might be possible for you. I’ve been told by GPs themselves (some of whom have been clients) that the vast majority of doctors – even those being trained today – have next to no current knowledge or practical experience of what their patients should be eating or how they might integrate the theory into their actual daily lives. They live in a world, by and large, where the primary solution presented during your 10-minute session lies in a prescription. They have few other options available to them.

Some – like Dr Chatterjee – are taking on training in something much bigger called Functional Medicine, often referred to as the future of 21st century medicine. Most Nutritional Therapists in the UK have been trained in the Functional Medicine approach. This addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms because it views the body as one integrated system, interacting like a web, rather than as a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their clients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, diet and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease.

If you think about it, nearly all medications merely suppress symptoms. Only very few are an actual cure – antibiotics come to mind here, one of the most important innovations in medical history, to which we owe much. The exclusively pharmacological approach conventional medicine so often employs usually does little to uncover the root causes. Metformin lowers blood glucose – but why is it high in the first place? Statins lower cholesterol – but why is it elevated? Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) numb pain – but why are you in pain? These are the questions nutrition professionals will ask before embarking on a quest to find out the root cause.

What happens in a nutrition consultation? 

Your first consultation will last around 60 to 75 minutes. You will have been asked to complete and send back a nutritional therapy questionnaire before you visit. This is in your interests as I analyse it and research where necessary in advance of your visit, so that we can get you moving forward straight away when we meet. During the session we’ll clarify your medical history, your health goals and any other challenges you’re facing, what you generally eat, what you like to eat, what you hate to eat and how you have to eat (on the bus, in a rush at your desk, and so on). It’s a partnership rather than me prescribing what you should be eating and doing (which usually doesn’t work, unless you’re the type of person who works best when someone explains what you need to do and you then just go off and do it come high or hell). I always explain to you why I’m recommending something and then if you’re happy to go ahead we discuss how you can put it into practice.

Nutritional Therapy programmes usually run over a period of months. That’s because most of us need longer term support to help us implement the programme, make changes in a way and at a pace that suits us, and to deal with any challenges or questions that come up.

What if I already know what to do?

Knowing what you should be doing is only part of the problem if you are unhappy with an aspect of your health. Integrating your programme into habitual daily life and staying motivated for the long haul is the hardest part of any plan. The single best way to stay in the zone is to have a buddy or coach who can give you a nudge or call you out if you start to go off piste. I’d say this is the single biggest thing that makes the difference between reaching your goal and actually staying there. That’s where health coaching comes in. It keeps you accountable and on track to ensure all that good work doesn’t go to waste.

If you’d like to know how you can take back control over your health and weight, and see if Nutritional Therapy is right for you, please book in a complimentary call here. I’d love to speak to you!

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Nutrition For Hay Fever

Itchy, watery eyes? Constantly sneezing? Hello hay fever! Now I really know it’s spring and you’re here to stay – like an uninvited guest – for the next six months. But while Mother Nature can be cruel, she is also kind. It might surprise you to know that changing what you eat can have a big impact on the severity of your symptoms. There is a noticeable correlation between what you eat and the severity of your hay fever symptoms. For example, if you are eating food products that contain high levels of histamine, then the chances are that this additional chemical influx will be intensifying your symptoms, making them more prominent and painful than ever before.

According to Allergy UK, as many as 30% of adults and 40% of children suffer from allergic rhinitis (the medical term for the condition), an allergic reaction to pollen. You might start noticing symptoms in March when the tree pollen season starts. Then there’s the grass pollen season, followed by the weed pollen season, which can go on into September.

If this is you, I sympathise: itchy, red or watery eyes; runny or blocked nose; sneezing and coughing; itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears; loss of smell; earache; headache; and feeling exhausted.

What Happens When You Get Hay Fever?

Airborne allergic reactions occur when substances called allergens connect to allergy receptors in the nasal cavity. The body releases a compound called histamine, which in turn causes a itchiness, runny nose, sneezes, watery eyes, and headaches. Histamine acts like a bouncer at a club. It helps your body get rid of something that’s bothering you — in this case, an allergy trigger, or “allergen.” Typical allergens can include dust mites, grass, tree and weed pollen, animal dander, and (shudder) cockroach parts.

When you have allergies, some of your triggers — such as pollen, pet dander, or dust — seem harmless. But your immune system sees them as a threat and responds. Your body’s intention — to keep you safe — is good. But its overreaction gives you those all-too-familiar allergy symptoms.

There are some foods will make the symptoms of hay fever worse, so try to cut these out or reduce them as much as you can during hay fever season. Other foods are naturally anti-inflammatory, so you’ll want to ensure you’re getting plenty of these in your diet.

Foods To Avoid

Foods and drinks containing high levels of histamine can aggravate your hay fever symptoms and include chocolate and alcohol- especially wine, champagne and beer (sorry about that), tomatoes, avocados and aubergines.

Histamine is not always present in certain food products, but it can be present in the bacteria that grows around them. So, food products that are aged, preserved, or fermented like vinegar, cured meats, sauerkraut, yoghurt, miso, soy sauce, and smoked and tinned fish can often end up being a big source of histamine.

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

Foods containing wheat – like bread and pasta, cakes and pastries –can stimulate an allergic reaction in those who suffer from grass pollen allergies.

Dairy products like milk and cheese thicken mucus, making blocked noses or ears much worse. Matured cheeses in particular tend to contain high levels of histamine. Dairy can also be responsible for releasing histamine into your systems. Even dairy alternatives such as soya milk should be considered with caution as soya milk contains a number of proteins that can cross-react with tree pollen, thereby stimulating an allergic reaction.

One of the most overlooked ways in which histamine tolerance can be improved is through the stabilisation of blood sugar levels. In the scientific literature, it is well-established that there is a bi-directional relationship between blood sugar control and histamine levels. This means that unstable blood sugar can increase histamine levels, and that we should reduce sugar intake and also make sure we have balanced meals with protein, fat and fibre rich carbohydrates at each meal.

Foods To Add In Or Increase When You Have Hay Fever

Some foods are anti-histamine foods and disrupt or block histamine receptors in your immune system, helping to reduce allergy symptoms. These include foods that contain the plant chemicals quercetin and beta carotene, and those high in vitamin C (see below)

Local honey also may be helpful because, although it contains trace elements of pollen, over time it may help your body become more familiar with the pollen entering your system and therefore reduce the inflammatory response it makes.

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.

What To Drink

Drink plenty of water. Keeping well hydrated is helpful for all aspects of health. In the case of hay fever, it helps thin the mucous membranes in your nasal passages and reduces that ‘blocked up’ feeling.

Green tea is packed full of antioxidants, which are helpful for the immune system generally. It also contains a compound called EGCG, that is capable of blocking a key receptor involved with triggering an allergic reaction.

Ginger tea 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).
Peppermint tea is worth trying because peppermint contains menthol, a natural decongestant that may help improve sinus symptoms.

Add nettle tea to your shopping list for its ability to relieve inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and ease nasal congestion, sneezing and itching.

An Anti-inflammatory Approach

Hay fever is an inflammatory condition and may be further helped by including other types of food that calm the inflammatory response. Top of the list are foods containing anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, which I often recommend to clients struggling with any inflammatory condition. These include all types of oily fish (like salmon, trout, sardines) as well as flaxseed and walnuts.

Coconut oil or milk is also anti-inflammatory due to being rich in medium-chain triglyceride (MCT’s) and can be used in cooking and baking or added to smoothies.

As well as adding flavour to your food, herbs like parsley, sage, thyme, oregano and basil have anti-inflammatory properties as do many spices, including turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fennel and nutmeg.

While the main problem for hay fever sufferers is the pollen itself, you may also find that hidden food intolerances are making matters worse. I offer a range of testing options at my clinic if this is something you would like to investigate further.

Chilled Radish And Mint Soup

Radishes are in season right now and they add a lovely punchy feel to meals. This is a really unusual and wonderfully refreshing summer soup that makes use of the radish leaves as well as the roots. Rocket or watercress can stand in for leafless radishes, don’t worry.  Although they are a root vegetable, they have very little of the starch of things like potatoes and other root veg, making them a great addition to a low GL, low carb diet that will keep your weight and energy levels balanced.

Serves 4 as a starter.

Ingredients

About 20 radishes and their leaves (or 20 radishes plus two good handfuls of rocket or watercress)

12 mint leaves, plus extra to serve

250ml vegetable stock, chilled

1 small dessert apple, peeled, cored and diced

2 tbsp creme fraiche

1 pinch cayenne pepper

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Set aside two of the radishes. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, plunge in the radishes, their leaves (or the rocket or watercress) and the mint, cook for just a minute, then drain. Refresh immediately by plunging them into a bowl of cold water, or running them under the cold tap in a colander.

Put the blanched radishes, leaves and mint in a food processor with the stock, apple, creme fraiche, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste, add more salt and pepper as needed, and chill.

Courtesy of River Cottage

Keto 101

Burn fat faster than ever! Watch your fat disappear!

Ketogenic (‘keto’) diets have taken the world by storm.

You’ve probably read the headlines and wondered whether you should take the plunge if the results are really that dramatic and that easy. But are they, though?

This article will give you the inside scoop on what the diet involves, whether it’s healthy and even sustainable for ‘normal’ people. Here goes …

What Is Keto?   

The keto diet is the ultimate low carb diet. It’s also moderate in terms of protein and very high in fat.

In essence, it’s pretty much like the Atkins diet, but its fans like to describe it as a more modern version of it with a solid scientific basis. The major differences between the classic keto and the Atkins diet is the former emphasizes healthier keto fats, less overall protein and no processed meat (such as bacon) and has more research to back up its efficacy in the management of numerous health conditions – more on this later.

Although dieters tend to lose weight, there is more of an emphasis of the ketogenic diet as a therapeutic diet, which may improve compliance for those that follow it for health reasons. Like the Atkins diet, the ketogenic diet aims at keeping the body in permanent ketosis. Let’s take a look at what that actually is …

Ketosis

During ketosis, the body uses fat for energy. It doesn’t normally, though. The body’s preferred fuel source is glucose, which is the easiest molecule for it to convert into energy. This glucose comes from dietary carbohydrates.

With the ketogenic diet, you dramatically lower your intake of carbs and increase your intake of fats. As a result of this carb-limiting diet, the body no longer has the glucose it needs for energy. So it has to find an alternative energy source—and that source is fat. Fat starts to get broken down into ketone bodies (ketones for short), which generate food for your cells to produce energy. It will continue to do so until carbohydrates are reintroduced and glucose can once again be used. If that doesn’t happen, it will keep burning fat reserves indefinitely and that forces the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is in fact a natural process that helps you survive when food intake is low.

Benefits

Research clearly shows that the ketogenic diet can be effective for weight loss. It changes your metabolism from burning sugar to burning fat. Because it’s largely based on protein and fat, it’s filling and satisfying which means no hunger cravings and consistent energy levels.

It also helps fight diabetes- by reducing your carb intake you reduce the levels of insulin being released after a meal. This helps reduce blood sugar levels and reverse “insulin resistance,” which is the underlying problem contributing to diabetes symptoms.

It can help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and increasing “good “cholesterol.

It can help protect against cancer- certain studies suggest that keto diets may “starve” cancer cells. The regular cells found in our bodies are able to use fat for energy, but it’s believed that cancer cells cannot metabolically shift to use fat rather than glucose and are therefore starved of their fuel in a ketogenic diet.

Over the past century, ketogenic diets have also been used as natural remedies to treat and even help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairments, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s symptoms, manic depression and anxiety.

Potential Downsides

The diet is very strict. So, you might not be prepared for having to cut back on many fruits, your favourite cappuccino or latte, and alcohol (it’s not cut out entirely – spirits are OK but watch the sugary mixers, and champagne and wine are not so bad in moderation but it very much depends on your sensitivity to carbs).

One of the most important characteristics of any diet or eating plan is not its ability to help you lose weight in the short term, but whether you can easily follow the plan for the rest of your life, and enjoy and thrive on it? And whether it provide all the nutrients you need to stay healthy?

Altering your food group ratio so drastically is really hard to do even short term. So, often when people go off it, they gain the weight back — and maybe even more.

These rapid weight fluctuations can put stress on the heart. Recent research found that people who have the greatest variability in measures like fasting blood glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure and body weight are 2.3 times more likely to die from any cause, and more than 40 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke compared with those who stay more stable. Staying stable in these measurements is healthier than constantly going up and down. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to reach a healthy weight, only that restrictive diets that lead to loss and regain can make you worse off than when you began.

The specific foods you choose on keto matter, too. Make sure you don’t rely too heavily on animal sources of fat and protein such as cheese and meat. The latter is associated with a 43 percent higher risk of mortality compared with those who emphasise vegetable sources such as healthy monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats from olives, avocados, seeds, nuts, and omega 3 fats from oily fish.

Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that genes may affect your ability to metabolise fats. So, the diet shouldn’t be considered a blanket-diet for everyone. Keto isn’t just about weight loss, it’s about our metabolism on a cellular level.

However, having said all of this, there are many variations of the keto diet which can really help meet individual needs and goals.

What Do You Eat?

Included

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs.

Leafy Greens like spinach and kale.

Above-ground vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

High Fat Dairy like hard cheeses, cream, butter, etc.

Nuts and seeds

Avocado

Berries – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries blackberries, and other low GL berries

Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.

Excluded

Grains like wheat, corn, rice, barley.

Sugars: honey, agave, maple syrup.

Fruit like apples, bananas, oranges.

Potato, yams, etc.

Getting into Ketosis

There are no fixed percentages for macronutrient distribution (i.e. not a specific ratio of fats, carbs, etc.) as not everyone is equally sensitive to carbohydrates. This means you’ll have to test where your carb threshold lies by measuring ketone bodies in the urine, blood or breath.

You might be reading this thinking, ‘I can do this’, but the reality can be very testing. It can, in fact, take 4 weeks to get there and during the transition period many experience ‘keto flu’ – flu-like symptoms i.e. digestive issues like constipation, headaches, weakness during workouts, being moody, losing libido and having bad breath. Fortunately, these side effects don’t affect everyone and often only last for 1–2 weeks. This happens when the body runs out of glucose and has not yet learned to switch to using fat for energy – that’s because it hasn’t had to for such a long time. Until you become ‘fat adapted’ (i.e. your body has re-learned to use fat) there is a period of low energy. It is this taxing time that can put people off.

The people that do well on a ketogenic diet are those with a really compelling reason to do it, perhaps one of the chronic health conditions this diet can help.

Broccoli with Chilli, Garlic & Crunchy Almonds

Broccoli is one of nature’s superfoods if ever there was one, bursting with vitamin C and packed with liver-supporting sulphur. Turn up the flavour volume with this delicious simple recipe.

INGREDIENTS  

1 head of broccoli broken into florets

1 red chilli, thinly sliced (deseeded if you prefer less heat)

Handful of flaked almonds

4-6 garlic cloves sliced thinly

Sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil for frying

 METHOD

Lightly steam the broccoli for 3-5 mins until tender.

In a frying pan gently heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add the chilli and garlic and cook for 1-2 mins.

Do NOT take your eyes off the pan here because you don’t want the garlic to burn or it will be bitter and you’ll have to start again. You just want to take the edge off the garlic and soften the taste.

Then add the flaked almonds for 20 seconds.

Finally add the cooked broccoli, season with a little salt and gently mix everything together and serve. Enjoy!

Simplified from Ottolenghi’s Grilled Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic Recipe

Heal Your IBS

 

If you’ve just been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence! There’s a lot that can be done with nutrition and lifestyle to help support you because they are tailored to your individual needs, depending on the underlying causes of your IBS. Each person will have different root causes, unique triggers and struggle with different symptoms so an individualised, holistic approach is especially helpful.

IBS symptoms can include bloating and gas, cramping and abdominal pain, diarrhoea and/or constipation, and changes in poop colour and appearance.

Causes of IBS Symptoms

  1. Imbalances in the composition of the gut bacteria in the colon (large intestine). Specifically, those with IBS tend to have decreased levels of “good” bacteria, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, and increased levels of harmful strains such as E. coli and Clostridia.
  2. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) -a kind of bacterial imbalance where the small intestines harbour an abnormal number of bacteria. Compared to the colon, the small intestine should have a bacterial concentration that is considerably lower.
  3. Increased Gut Permeability (or ‘Leaky Gut’)– the gastrointestinal tract is lined with a single layer of tightly packed cells designed to keep unwelcome visitors and large undigested food molecules out of the bloodstream. If the barriers between cells become permeable or ‘leaky’ undigested protein molecules and bacterial toxins can pass through and trigger immune reactions and inflammation
  4. Gut infections– many studies have confirmed a link between bacterial gastroenteritis and future development of IBS.
  5. Food Intolerances– are extremely common in IBS patients and include gluten dairy, seafood, and soy. But bear in mind that food intolerances themselves are often symptoms of deeper causes like SIBO, gut infections, and/or gut permeability.
  6. Gut-brain Connection– The digestive tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation—all these feelings can trigger symptoms in the gut. That’s because the brain and the digestive system are intimately linked through a two-way communication channel. It makes total sense. When we’re nervous we feel “butterflies” in our stomach. When we’re full, the stomach sends a message to the brain to stop eating.

What You Can Do About It

Here are some of the approaches that have helped my clients who have suffered from IBS symptoms.  

Testing for Root Causes

Testing is extremely useful as it helps identify root causes of IBS, and saves a lot of time.

Stool testing can be very helpful in determining how well you’re digesting your food, whether you have a bacterial imbalance or unwelcome visitors such as parasites or yeast overgrowth contributing to your symptoms.

A SIBO breath test can be done to determine whether there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. 

A simple elimination diet or food intolerance test can be used to help identify potential offending food.

Once testing identifies imbalances, nutritional approaches can be used to help rebalance gut bacteria and support healing of the digestive tract. Below are some of the tools I commonly use in my clinic.

Digestive Support

Digestive enzymes and stomach acid– can be used to help support optimal digestion, which in turn helps reduce IBS symptoms. Stomach acid is vital for protecting against infectious agents and digesting food but also for preventing bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, especially important when addressing SIBO-related IBS.

Probiotics– can help boost levels of friendly bacteria and thereby help support optimal intestinal motility (to reduce diarrhoea and constipation), reduce gut permeability and intestinal inflammation. The most appropriate probiotic will depend on your specific issues- in SIBO for example, certain strains are better tolerated than others.

Low-FODMAP Diet– clinical trials have consistently shown that adopting a diet low in FODMAPs can significantly reduce the severity of IBS symptoms. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols and is a kind of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by humans. These unabsorbed FODMAPs are fermented by intestinal bacteria, resulting in gas, bloating, and abdominal distention. FODMAPs also draw liquid into your intestines, which can contribute to abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea. However, it’s important to realize that a strict low-FODMAP diet is not for everyone, and it is primarily a way to manage symptoms in the short term. Maintained long term, it can lead to reduced bacterial diversity in the gut, which can actually contribute to IBS.

Mind–Body Approaches

As I mentioned above, the digestive system is connected to the brain. Stress signals along the gut-brain communication pathways can actually affect stool transit, increase sensitivity to abdominal pain and discomfort, increase intestinal permeability, and disrupt the delicate balance of intestinal bacteria. Having effective ways of managing mental stress is not only important in itself but also helps other approaches to be more effective- this could be walking in nature, meditation or yoga for example.

Yummy Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Here’s how to make a perfect cauliflower pizza crust, for a healthy and low-carb option. It seems that there are a lot of steps but there aren’t, it’s just to provide clarity. Time-saving tips included!

Ingredients- Serves 4

  • 2 pounds cauliflower cut into floret
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup soft goat cheese (chevre)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  2. If using fresh cauliflower, steam it until very tender and can be pierced with a fork.
  3. If using frozen cauliflower, be sure to thaw it completely, then continue with the following steps.
  4. Pour the completely thawed, or freshly steamed, cauliflower into a large food processor fitted with an “S” blade. (You may have to do this in batches if you have a smaller food processor.)
  5. Process until a rice-like texture is created.
  6. Drain the “rice” thoroughly to get all the excess moisture out! A lot of extra liquid will be released, which will leave you with a nice and dry pizza crust.
  7. In a large bowl, mix up the squeezed-out “rice”, egg, goat cheese, and spices. (Don’t be afraid to use your hands! You want it very well mixed.) It won’t be like any pizza dough you’ve ever worked with, but don’t worry– it’ll hold together!
  8. Press the dough out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (It’s important that it’s lined with parchment paper, or it will stick.)
  9. Keep the dough about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick, and make the edges a little higher for a “crust” effect, if you like.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 200F, until dry and golden, but not burned. Use the parchment paper to flip the crust over, and bake again until the other side is nice and dry, about 10 to 15 more minutes.
  11. Add your favourite pizza toppings to the crust, such as tomato sauce, olives, anchovies, peppers, onions, chicken, cheese and then return the pizza to the 200ºC.  Bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Slice and serve warm.

Recipe Notes

Time-Saving Tip: Make a double-batch of cauliflower pizza crusts to make one for now, and save one for later. After baking the crusts, wrap up the extra pizza crust in foil, and FREEZE it for a quick “frozen pizza” to enjoy another night! All you need to do is add toppings and bake at 200ºC until the cheese is hot and bubbly.

Slightly adapted from https://detoxinista.com

Eat Your Way to Radiant, Healthy Skin

Healthy, beautiful skin starts with nourishment from within. Older cells are constantly shed and replaced by younger ones and a steady supply of key nutrients is essential to support this rapid growth. Skin health can be compromised by overexposure to the sun and tanning beds, strong soaps, chemicals and poor nutrition.

Most people don’t give a second’s thought to their skin – unless they’re scowling at the wrinkles, wobbly bits in the mirror or have an issue like acne, psoriasis, or other skin conditions. Your skin does a fabulous job keeping your insides in, protecting you from infection and radiation, and keeping you warm. There’s also a huge amount you can do to keep your skin looking healthy and fresh and – I’m happy to tell you – stave off the wrinkles without buying that expensive anti-ageing cream. Read on to find out how.

Avoid or Reduce the Bad Guys

Smoking, alcohol, caffeine, food additives like flavourings and colourings, sugar, and tobacco are full of cell-damaging free radicals which play havoc with your skin. Free radicals can damage the skin by trying to grab an extra electron from atoms in the skin. When atoms are taken away from molecules in the skin, it causes damage to our skin’s DNA that can speed along skin aging. Think about where you could cut down.

Be Fat-Friendly

Essential fats found in oily fish, avocados, nuts act as a natural moisturiser for your skin, keeping it supple and improving elasticity by keeping cell membranes soft and smooth – they’re nature’s perfect skin plumpers. Omega-3 fats from oily fish encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds which can help inflammatory skin conditions in particular, such as eczema and psoriasis.

Just in case the word ‘fat’ sends a red flag up for you, I want to reassure you that scientists have finally admitted that the ‘eating fat makes you fat’ mantra was flawed. Eating the right type of fat, in appropriate amounts, is not only not bad, it is really, truly GOOD for your skin and health.

Eat Back the Clock

Stock up on a rainbow colour of fruit and veg- more veg than fruit though. They contain powerful antioxidants that help protect skin from the cellular damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants help reduce skin inflammation and the speed of skin aging and degeneration. These antioxidants are crucial for your entire body – not just your skin. Betacarotene found in carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin, and lutein found in kale, papaya and spinach are potent antioxidants which are important for normal skin cell development and healthy skin tone.

Eat them raw or lightly steamed as cooking for long periods destroys enzymes, minerals and vitamins. Increase your intake step-by-step: make a concerted effort to add at least one extra portion of veg (about 80g) every night this week to your evening meal. You should also aim to ‘eat a rainbow’ over the course of the week – that means picking as many different colours of fruit and veg as you can.

As a very general rule, each different colour group contains a different set of plant chemicals. Scientists now know that bringing a variety of different antioxidants into your diet has a synergistic effect, which means the combined result is more powerful than the individual parts.

Drink Up!

Keep skin cells plump and full or your skin will look shrivelled and dehydrated – a long cry from that radiant glow you’re going for. Cells also need water to regenerate and remove the build up of waste products (toxins). It’s a very simple (and free) step that most people don’t prioritise and yet the results can be striking.

Don’t forget that some fruit and vegetables, such as watermelon, courgette and cucumber, also contribute fluids – the added benefit is that the minerals they contain will increase the rate you hydrate your body and skin.

Aim for 1.5-2 litres a day, depending on weather conditions and your level of exercise. You’ll soon see the benefit for you skin.

Helpful Nutrients For Skin Health

Vitamins A, C, E and selenium are antioxidants that limit the damage free radicals do to collagen (a structural protein which gives skin its firmness ) and elastin fibres (a protein which helps keep skin tight).

Foods to include (aside from the vitamin C and the vitamin A foods below): sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, papaya, mustard greens, asparagus, peppers, Brazil nuts, fresh tuna, some meats including pork, beef, turkey and chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice, sunflower seeds, spinach, oats, mushrooms.

Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen, which strengthens the capillaries that supply the skin with nutrients. And it’s also a super antioxidant.  Foods to include: blackcurrants, red peppers, kale, collard leaves, broccoli, kiwis, oranges, courgettes, cauliflower and spinach, citrus fruit.

Vitamin A stimulates the production of new skin cells. A lack of vitamin A can result in dry, rough skin as well as too much keratin production (a protein which holds skin cells together to form a barrier) in the hair follicles. This can cause small pimples or swelling on the skin, often forming part of a rash. Foods to include: sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, romaine lettuce.

Vitamin D. People today are aware of the importance of maintaining optimal blood levels of vitamin D for their overall health and well-being. What many people do not know is that vitamin D plays an integral role in skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism. We get most of our vitamin D by the action of direct sunlight onto our bare skin. It’s hard to get enough vitamin D from food alone, but try to include more sardines, salmon, tuna, swordfish, eggs, orange juice, fortified cereals – and don’t forget a daily dose of getting out into the sun!

Zinc is involved in the normal functioning of the sebaceous glands in the skin (which produce oil) and helps to repair skin damage and keep skin soft and supple. A lack of zinc can result in poor skin healing, eczema and rashes. Foods to include: venison, fish, ginger root, lamb, lean beef, turkey, green vegetables, oats, nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yoghurt, scallops.

Essential fats for making cell membranes. A lack of essential fats causes cells to dry out too quickly, resulting in dry skin and an increased risk for inflammatory skin conditions. Foods to include: oily fish (salmon, sardines, halibut, scallops), green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, flaxseed, walnuts and tofu.

Watch What You Put On Your Body

The skin is the largest organ in the body with a surface area about the size of a double bed. One of the core principles to remember when it comes to skin care is that whatever you slather onto your skin will be absorbed into your body and enter your bloodstream. You’ll be surprised at the amount of toxins that can enter your body through your skin, especially through cumulative, daily exposure to toxic ingredients found in modern beauty products such as shampoo, cosmetics and lotions.

Women are especially at high risk of this kind of toxic overload. If you use make-up on a daily basis, for instance, you can absorb almost 5 pounds of chemicals into your body each year! These chemicals can cause hormonal imbalances, fatigue, headaches, digestive upsets, flu-like symptoms, and aching joints, which are just some of the symptoms of toxic overload.

Here Are A Few Toxic Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare:

Parabens– Have hormone-disrupting qualities that mimic estrogen and could disrupt your body’s endocrine system.

Mineral Oil, Paraffin and Petrolatum– These petroleum products coat the skin like plastic – clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They can disrupt hormonal activity. When you think about black oil pumped from deep underground, ask yourself why you’d want to put that kind of stuff on your skin…

Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS), also known as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)- SLS combined with other chemicals may become a “nitrosamine” – a potent carcinogen.

Propylene glycol– a common cosmetic moisturizer and carrier for fragrance oils. May cause dermatitis and skin irritation.

 Learn How To Deal With Problem Skin

A targeted nutrition plan can work wonders for skin problems like acne, eczema, psoriasis and so on. This kind of personalised nutrition is often poorly understood and isn’t really talked about in the media. It doesn’t work to just add to your diet a single ‘superfood’. However, a bespoke plan that takes into all of your skin – and health – concerns can make a huge difference. Ask me how. I’d love to help.