Thursday, 16 December 2010

Naughty but nice

NITC will be taking a well earned break over Christmas to eat, drink and be merry and I'm sure most of you will be doing the same. This will undoubtedly be much more enjoyable for all of us without being interrupted with blogs on how we should all be eating our greens and avoiding coffee!! So this is ... somewhat unbelievably ... my last blog for the year! (where did it go ... I feel like it's still March!?)

I'm sure I'm not the only one looking forward to relaxing my usual healthy regime in favour of some Christmas indulgence, and whilst I won't be going on a chocolate/alcohol bender I am looking forward to some Christmas treats such as my mum's pork and apple stuffing (I eat more of that than of the turkey!), a nice big slice of stollen and a healthy dose of champagne!!

So my final thoughts for the year are treat-related, inspired by a friend's question ... why are the foods that are bad for you also the tastiest. My first thought was that this is also true for men ... but that's for another blog! When it comes to food there are some simple answers:

Firstly most tasty treat food contains either sugar or fat or both, why?

- Sugar is addictive and so eating it makes us want to eat more of that food. It is a strong taste on the taste buds and has a drug like effect when eaten producing feelings of euphoria and energy highs ... which are sadly followed by sugar lows.

- Fats are extremely effective flavour carriers making flavours richer and deeper. This is why the fatty cuts of meat, including steak, taste better and why the full-fat muffin will always taste better than the skinny one.

Combine fats and sugar together (ice cream, donuts, chocolate, cake etc.) and you get a super taste hit for your taste buds. This is why sugar is often found in savoury foods you wouldn't expect it to be in (pizza, gravy, soup, crisps) - to provide that super combo to make the food even more moorish.

So the sad truth is the 'tasty' food is often the 'naughty' food, but it is possible to adjust your taste buds to enjoy much healthier foods. However it's Christmas so let's leave that for the New Year and enjoy in a little naughtiness!

I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas and New Year and I look forward to blogging to you all again in 2011.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Powering through

Apologies again for a lack of blog yesterday - I was totally out of it with flu but I'm thankfully pretty much over it now.

Hopefully the rest of you have all been well and making merry! But if you're halfway through the party season and starting to feel a bit sluggish here are some ideas to help you power through to Christmas:

- juice it up: a vegetable juice is a great pick me up to start the day with especially if you're hungover. If you feel the need for a coffee, first have a juice and a big cup of water and then have your coffee. If caffeine is the only way you'll get through the day match it cup for cup with water.

- have a light lunch: stick to soup, sushi or salad at lunchtime to compensate for any evening indulgence and stop you falling asleep at your desk in the afternoon.

- seek out fruit and vegetables: Party buffets aren't exactly waistline friendly but look closely and you'll often find crudites and fruit hidden between the chicken wings and cheese board. The antioxidants will keep the colds at bay and fruit and veg are at least 60 per cent water so they'll help keep you hydrated whilst the salted nuts will do the opposite.

- love your B's: b vitamins are the energy vitamins so you need a lot more of them when you're low on sleep whether it's due to partying hard, working hard or baby induced. They're also leached out the body by alcohol and caffeine so it's super easy to run low in party season. I take a B complex with breakfast everyday (but away from caffeine) to get me going.

- don't abandon the gym ... just yet: you might want a break over christmas but getting your heart pumping for even just 20 minutes a day these last few days will keep your energy levels up and help sweat out a few of the toxins you're taking in.

- don't knock disco naps: there's really no substitute for a good night's sleep but if you're partying all night and working all day, a 20-40 minute cat nap before you go out can be a much needed pick me up. If you work for one of the trendier employers and are lucky enough to have a chill out zone grabbing, forty winks and lunchtime can also be a godsend. Just remember to set an alarm!

- give yourself a break! If you've been running around buying everyone's gifts, getting your work done and being a social butterfly make sure you get at least a ten minute time out each day to sit down and chill on your own. Stop thinking about your to do list or what you're going to wear that evening and just zone out.

- pace yourself: this is Christmas not an endurance event so know when to quit - if you're struggling just slip away from drinks a bit early to give yourself a proper nights sleep, or have a couple of nights out booze free - it's really not as painful as you'd think, you might even enjoy yourself more watching your colleagues disgrace themselves whilst you keep it together!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Here's one I made earlier

First up apologies for the lack of blog yesterday ... I was brought down by a bad case of flu on Sunday and was in no state to string together coherent sentences! After a day in bed I'm not much better placed ... but do have one I prepared earlier ... enjoy!

If your digestion isn't working properly you won't be able to digest and absorb the nutrients form your food, so you won't get the full benefits of improving your diet.  

Digestion starts in the mouth where your food should be broken down into a puree so it's vital to make you sure chew all your food properly until there are no more solid lumps in it, before swallowing.  This may feel strange at first if you are used to eating quickly, but it is essential for proper digestion.  Also put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, only loading up your fork when you have swallowed your last mouthful. This will give you time to chew properly and also slow down the rate at which you take on your food.

Eating too quickly often leads to over-eating as it takes 15 to 20 minutes for your stomach to register that you are full, so if you have eaten a large meal in that time you may not feel full immediately.  It is also important to be relaxed when you eat as stress or anxiety can prevent proper digestion, so make sure you aren't working, watching tv, reading or multi-tasking whilst you are eating.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Pointing out the obvious

Some things may seem like obviously bad ideas to you and not to others ... like wearing 4 inch stilettos in the snow or sporting long side burns (never a good look).

So apologies in advance if this blog falls into the pointing out the obvious category but with everyone off sick at the moment I feel the need to point out that exercising when you're ill is not a good idea!

I guess a lot of us are slaves to the gym, but when you're ill your body needs rest and not stress, and exercise is stressful. Hundreds of years ago if you got a cold you'd take to your bed and stay there til you were better ... now everyone takes lemsip max, goes to work to spread the germs and then does half an hour on the treadmill for good measure!!

All this does is hamper the immune system prolonging your days off work. What you should be doing is staying at home, doing nothing (no getting chores done whilst you're at home) keeping warm, eating hot nutritious food (soup is always great), taking supplements (vitamin C plus olive leaf and echinacea are my favourites at the moment) and sleeping ... lots! If you do this straight away you may be surprised how quickly you bounce back.

I'm also a big fan of drinking freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice in hot water every day during the cold and flu season. It's a good vitamin C hit, directly onto the tonsils, one of the first points of immune defence.

If you're not totally wiped out it can be good to move a little to get your lymph fluid circulating. This is the fluid in your body that clears toxins and carries your white blood cells around the body - but it relies on muscle contractions to move the fluid through the body. A short walk to get some fresh air or some gentle hatha or sivananda yoga would be sufficient ... if you find yourself eyeing up your running shoes immediately hide them in a cupboard and take to your sofa!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Making friends with food

I was discussing my blog with a friend recently, in particular how I was surprised (but delighted) so many of you are reading this every day! He pointed out that everyone is interested in food because we have to eat every day - obvious and logical, but something I hadn't thought of.

For anyone who has an issue with food, whether it's allergies, food phobias, compulsive eating or fear of weight gain this obviously presents a big problem. If you're addicted to cigarettes and want to do something about it you can avoid them for the rest of your life, the same with alcohol and drugs, but you can't go without eating so you have to think about, see and eat food every day.

For compulsive eaters some companies, like Lighter Life, try and address this by putting people on an entirely liquid diet so they don't have to eat properly. Well that's certainly one approach but really it is more important to establish a healthy relationship with food.

That said there are some addictive foods which compulsive or comfort eaters benefit hugely from avoiding totally:

Sugar - some research suggests that sugar in it's refined form is more addictive than cocaine (the lab rats preferred sugary water to cocaine in water when presented with both!). Fortunately fructose is not addictive in the same way as sucrose so fruit and fruit sugars are usually still fine.

Wheat, dairy and gluten - if you're allergic to a food you can crave it and these are three very common food allergens. I know that if I have one slice of regular toast then I can easily finish off a whole loaf! If you have any foods you can't resist it may be worth checking if you're intolerant.

Even if you don't eat compulsively a lot of people still have a love-hate relationship with food.

Food should be enjoyed and give nourishment to the body so make food your friend - eat health giving veggies, wholegrains and lean proteins that will make you feel good but also eat food that you enjoy.

Find healthy recipes for your favourite meals - most comfort foods can be adapted to be both healthy and tasty (although I'm yet to find a healthy dairy free cheesecake recipe that hits the spot!) Reduce the quantities of fat, salt and sugar in the recipe and add in extra veggies and nuts and seeds. Regular yoga is also great for balancing appetite and addressing comfort eating, you can evem benefit from just taking 5 deep cleansing breaths before you eat.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Do it delicious!

You'd think that with such interest in food I'd be a great cook, but infact I'm a pretty lazy cook. With a busy diary and a healthy appetite I rarely cook anything during the week that takes longer than 15 minutes to throw together. So I'm always on the lookout for quick and tasty recipes.

These two are new discoveries from cookbooks by Jessica Seinfeld .. yes as in wife of Jerry Seinfeld! The fast and juicy herb chicken produces a tasty and tender result that usually only comes with slower cooking, whilst the pasta with pea pesto is wonderful winter comfort food. I make it with gluten free pasta and instead of adding the parmesan and pine nuts just blend a generous amount of dairy free pesto with the peas ... sounds odd but it works!

Both recipes are from the Do It Delicious website:


Fast & Juicy Herb Grilled Chicken

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Serves 4
This is a simple and speedy recipe we love—it only takes 3 minutes to cook in a panini press (george foreman grill works fine)! We also show you a no-mess way to pound a chicken breast. You'll want to prepare this yummy chicken dish over and over again, especially on busy nights.

4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (if you don't have fresh to hand then dried herbs work too)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, quartered

Heat a panini press or grill pan over medium-high heat. Wash and pat dry the chicken. One at a time, place the chicken in a plastic bag and pound to an even 1/4-inch thickness (I used a rolling pin to do this). Remove from the bag and coat both sides of the chicken with the herbs, oil, salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the press (you may be able to cook several at once depending on your press) and cook until cooked through, about 3 minutes. If you use a grill pan your cooking time will be longer. Serve with the lemon on the side.
Pasta with Pea Pesto

Prep time: 10 minutes, Total Time: 25 minutes | serves 6

2 cups peas (fresh or frozen, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds and shocked in cold water)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 lbs)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp olive oil
8oz whole-wheat pasta, such as penne or fusilli

1. For the pesto, combine the peas, Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, water, and salt in a food processor. Blend until the ingredients are combined and form a thick sauce.
2. Season the chicken breasts with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the chicken on each side until cooked through, approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Toss together the pasta, pesto, and chicken and serve immediately.


Monday, 6 December 2010

Drying out

This morning I really struggled to get up and felt really tired most of the morning ... I wasn't hungover and I'd had plenty of sleep so what was the problem?

It wasn't til I got to 11:30am and realised I hadn't had my usual 'comfort break' that I realised that I was dehydrated ... one litre of water later and I felt right as rain.

But it's freezing outside so how can someone get dehydrated? Well firstly we lose moisture all the time, just by breathing, secondly whilst it's cold we don't feel so much like drinking cold fluids and thirdly with the heating cranked up to the max it's easy to accidentally create a home sauna. Infact I'd followed a good gym session with a proper sauna and not enough water on Sunday which is why, after a night in a warm room, I woke up dehydrated and groggy.

Fortunately, as I stay off the caffeine, I didn't exacerbate things by starting my day with a cup of tea (a diuretic) ... but this is exactly what most people do when they feel tired.

Instead you should start the day with a large glass of water to replace any fluids lost overnight, and then continue drinking water throughout the day. Your pee should be very pale yellow if you're drinking enough, if it's straw coloured you're dehydrated (although if it's luminous yellow and you've just taken B vitamins don't worry that's normal).

You'd be surprised how much fatigue (and hunger) is caused by dehydration so it's always important to remember to drink enough water ... although it can be easy to forget!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

No free ride

Today I was looking at a flyer for 'free from' products full of gluten and dairy free christmas treats such as mince pies and christmas cake. It brought to mind when I first went gluten free, eight years ago, having to devise my own recipe for a gluten and dairy free christmas pudding.

Back then it was a real trial to buy dairy and gluten free alternatives and now we're spoilt for choice with whole 'free from' sections in the supermarkets.

Whilst this is great for anyone with intolerances it is worth noting that, other than missing the allergens, a gluten free mince pie is no healthier than a regular one - it will still be high in sugar, fat and refined carbohydrates. So going on a gluten or dairy free diet isn't license to start eating packets of 'free from' custard creams and hunks of garlic bread (yes you can now get gluten free garlic bread!).

I save all these foods for treats and infact there are very few items that I buy regularly from the 'free from' sections. These tend to be pesto, pasta, pita or wholemeal bread, and milk.

But when Christmas comes around it's so nice to be able to enjoy the traditional treats ... especially given the shop bought 'free from' Christmas pudding is a lot tastier than my attempt!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Keeping cosy

I do love the snow but when it's this cold I just feel like hibernating in bed all weekend!

If, like me, you find it hard to stay warm then you can get quite uncomfortable in the cold weather and your body can quickly go into 'power save' mode, basically preserving energy and diverting heat to your organs leaving you with super cold hands and feet. This is why climbers have sometimes been left for dead on the mountain, with no detectable pulse, only to revive when the sun came out.

As your metabolism slows your temperature can drop further leading to weakened immune defenses, not what you need this time of year. It can also slow down your digestion and healing and repair.

The problem is that the colder you get the less you feel like moving about, although I did see one crazy guy out running this evening. So given that we sadly can't curl up like door mice and stay in bed for three months, how can we keep our metabolisms up and running?

Keep moving - you might not feel like going for a run (and quite frankly it would be madness) but regular exercise will keep your metabolism and temperature up, whether that's at the gym or at home ... now might be a good time to dust off your exercise dvds!

Heat up from the inside - hot food and drink can help enormously and protein rich meals can keep you warm for quite a while after eating them. You probably won't much feel like cold drinks so regular herbal teas are a good way to keep up water intake.

Spice it up - pepper, chillies and spices not only have a hot taste but also all speed up the metabolism if eaten regularly so now's the time to enjoy some curry!

Turn up the heating! - not very environmentally friendly I know, but your body will have a better chance of fighting off any bugs going around if you keep it warm. Also if you're cold at night your muscles may tense up leading to restless sleep. I'm loving my hot water bottle at the moment and sleeping like a baby.

Sweating it out

I see all sorts of dodgy outfits in the gym, indecent 80s running shorts, midriff baring crop tops, all sorts of lurid dayglo colours. Lately guys seem to be a lot more into their lycra - I think it's all the cycling.

What I don't normally see is gym kit with massive holes in it, and by massive I mean 10 cm squared, but today I saw just that. Anyone who can afford to go to a gym in the city can surely afford a new tee shirt for the gym.

They can also afford to have enough kit to wash it every time they wear it. By not doing so the salts excreted in sweat have time to corrode the material - hence the holes ... grim.

It's not just salts that you excrete through your skin. Your skin is your second excretory organ (after the liver) and so is used to excrete toxins too.

This explains why after a particularly heavy night you can feel (and sometimes even smell) the alcohol coming out of your skin. This is also why eating a high toxin diet can bring you out in spots .

It's worth noting that your skin isn't a one way street - you can also absorb toxins through it as well. This is why it's a good idea to have a good shower straight after the gym or sauna and when you wake up in the morning, as you detoxify overnight so will have excreted toxins in your sweat as you sleep.

To be honest most people know when to wash ... Just apparently not everyone!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Start stockpiling

Today we had our first snowfall this winter. As I'm still a child at heart waking up to a blanket of snow put me in a great mood, although I do appreciate that it can be a nuisance for anyone with a commute, especially when the council doesn't grit your road.

Anyone who lives in London knows that It snows here every year, though not normally so early, but every year transport grinds to a halt and the local authorities struggle to keep the roads clear. Whilst we can only hope that they've anticipated this years snowfall we can do our own forward planning to get us through December in one piece.

Firstly it's worth pointing out the inevitables for every December other than the snow:
- sleep will be in short supply as party season get's in full swing
- alcohol intake is pretty likely to increase
- tempting treats will be everywhere - mince pies in the office, party canapes, advent calendars, numerous christmas dinners
- free time for going to the gym or doing your food shopping will be scarce

So whilst the council stocks up on salt what should we be stockpiling?

- It can be hard to resist the chocolates and mince pies lying around the office if you're peckish so keep healthy snacks to hand. Clemintines and brazil nuts are nice christmassy desk snacks and if you find it hard to resist the chocolates keep some mini dark chocolate bars or some dark chocolate covered Brazil nuts in your desk to have instead.

- The same applies for at home - I don't keep unhealthy snacks around to tempt me but if you have them in the house for your partner or kids then make sure you have something healthy and appealing available to have instead.

- If you don't already I'd recommend keeping some snacks in your handbag (or manbag) - small bags of nuts or soya nuts, healthy snack bars or raw protein balls that you can pick up in most health food stores. It's easy to get stuck at drinks where no food is served and find yourself ravenous so make sure you have emergency provisions.

- Now is a good time to stock up the freezer so you don't get caught without food when you get home. Mine is stocked with lots of frozen veggies which can be cooked in minutes, chicken and fish which can be quickly defrosted in the microwave and frozen fruit, which can be added to muesli or porridge or defrosted with cinnamon for a quick hot dessert. It's also a good idea to freeze some sliced bread and stock your cupboards with pasta, rice and tinned pulses. From these you can easily rustle up a quick dinner leaving maximum time for much needed sleep!

- I think a fair amount of tea drinking in winter months can be put down to keeping warm, especially if your office is as cold as mine, so stock up on herbal teas to keep you warm without the caffeine. I'm currently loving Yogi teas African spice Rooibos and their Choco tea which reminds me of the german iced christmas biscuits.

- Stock up on supplements so you don't run out and start taking them regularly. I always take a multi plus extra vitamin C. For colds and flu I always have echinacea, olive leaf and horse radish supplements in the cupboard and for days when I haven't had enough sleep I have B vitamin and Magnesium powder and Cherry Active to hand (all good for hangovers).

- If you are drinking then Vitamin C and milk thistle can be useful antidotes taken before going to bed and on waking, and you'll need some wholegrains for breakfast to get your blood sugar back on track, so make sure you can get your hands on some no sugar muesli, porridge or wholegrain toast.

- By the end of December we can all start looking a bit worse for wear so it's worth making the extra effort to eat or supplement enough essential fats and drink plenty of water to keep your skin looking plump and fresh.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Staying sharp

I love writing my blog but do sometimes end up writing it in a hurry so many thanks to the NITC reader who pointed out the error in last weeks blog on cholesterol (HDL cholesterol is in fact the good type, and LDL the bad). I hope you'll excuse me - we all have the occasional lapse in concentration!

Excuses aside this does make me think about staying sharp ... If you have a tough city job you're be expected to be on the ball the whole time, no matter how hungover, stressed or sleep deprived you are. However, often with age you start forgetting things, losing words and not making the same quick connections that used to impress your boss.

So what foods can help keep you on the ball?

Oily fish, nuts and seeds: Water and polyunsaturated fats are the two biggest constituents of your brain which is why it is so important to regularly eat foods containing the healthy essential fats such as oily fish, nuts and seeds. Infact omega 3 fats have been shown to slow the progression of alzheimers disease and may help slow other age-related deterioration. Oily fish also contain the nutrient DMAE which the brain can use to manufacture acetylcholine - a vital neurotransmitter for memory.

Green leafy veg, brown rice and oats: These foods are all rich in B vitamins which the brain uses in large quantities. A short term deficiency can quickly affect your mental acuity and B vitamin levels are significantly depleted by alcohol so it's always worth having a B vit supplement in the office to get you through a hangover.

Water: in the same way that dehydration seriously affects sports performance it also impairs mental performance. This is why it's important to stay hydrated to keep both energy and concentration levels up.

CoQ10: CoQ10 is an antioxidant vitamin that is also a key nutrient in energy production in the mitochondria of your cells. Whilst CoQ10 is often supplemented to increase physical energy levels proper brain function actually takes up a lot of energy too so it's important that your brain cell mitochondria are properly fuelled. I actually wrote my dissertation on the use of high doses of CoQ10 to slow the progression of parkinsons disease through improving the function of brain cell mitochondria - not exactly riveting reading but definitely a nutrient worth remembering. Oily fish, nuts and seeds all contain CoQ10 but you need a supplement to achieve therapeutic doses:

When it comes to supplements I'm also a big fan of resveratrol, a potent anti-aging antioxidant found in red wine which studies show can reverse cell ageing. I'm convinced that since taking resveratrol that my reflexes have sped up, although that doesn't quite constitute a clinical trial!

Use it or lose it: I've had friends complain of having 'baby brain' after coming back to work from maternity leave. I think this is partly as when you have kids your focus understandably shifts massively from work onto them. But I also think that if a particular brain function is not used for a long period then like a muscle it needs to be re-trained. This could be done by regularly reading something intellectually stimulating, doing sudoko/crosswords/logic problems, memorising your shopping list rather than putting it in your phone, or even just having a stimulating conversation ... being quick witted needs quick synapses so a bit of banter might just be good for your brain!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

When it's got to be chocolate

Most of my friends think I'm very self disciplined when it comes to treat foods as I usually turn down whatever sugary treats on offer. To be honest, since I dramatically cut down on sugar six years ago, most of the time I just don't fancy it. But I'm not immune and there are some days when only something sweet and chocolatey will do.

That was why I was excited to receive this recipe for vegan brownies which are fat, dairy and gluten free. That for starters makes them sound unappetising, before I tell you that the main ingredient is beans ... yes beans! But they're actually really tasty ... which is why my flatmate demanded I make more of them! So for anyone looking for guilt free chocolate pleasure here's the recipe:

Heat the oven to 180 degrees

Blend 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed with 1.5 cups of agave nectar until smooth.

Add 2 tbsps ground flax seeds, 2tsps pure vanilla extract, half a cup of cocoa powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt, 3/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour (I substituted gluten free bread flour).

Blend again til smooth. The recipe stops there but I then add chopped pecans and dark chocolate chips to add texture.

Pour the mix into 8x8 pan lined with foil and lightly oiled.
Bake for 30 mins/until a toothpick comes out almost clean.

Allow to cool and cut into squares.

ps whilst these are fat free the agave syrup still makes them medium to high GI and the dark chocolate means they contain caffeine ... so don't eat too many or you might end up awake all night!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The good, the bad and the crunchy

Nutrition was so much simpler in the eighties, all fat was bad and to lose weight you just had to count calories.

It was subsequently discovered that there are good and bad fats.

The good fats, that increase 'healthy' LDL cholesterol, play a very important role in the health of most of our systems and can infact speed up our metabolism helping us to lose weight. At the same time excess intake of the bad fats, that increase levels of 'unhealthy' HDL cholesterol, can contribute to the development and acceleration of a whole host of diseases and morbidity.

Now it transpires that we manufacture much more HDL cholesterol internally than we get from food and that this production is influenced significantly by our hormone balance and stress levels and can therefore be increased by eating sugar and drinking coffee ...

Well it's no great wonder that no one knows what they should be eating anymore ... so how do you make sense of it all?

Well the first step is to take the guess work out and have your cholesterol levels checked. It is very difficult to tell from someone's appearance what their levels will be and this is something your doctor can test for you for free so just ask next time you're there.

Once you've got the results then it will give you a guide as to what you need to be focussing on:

If your 'good' LDL levels are high and your 'bad' HDL levels are low then well done you, give yourself a pat on the back.

If you have high levels of HDL cholesterol then it's important to work to lower these through cutting down on foods naturally high in HDL cholesterol (any saturated fats, which are the fats from any meat or animal produce), adding in exercise and increasing your intake of foods that help clear cholesterol from the body (high fibre foods such as oats, pulses and vegetables). You should also work to reduce the amount of stress on the body, to help balance hormone levels, by cutting down on sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine.

If your LDL cholesterol is low then it's time to tuck into some oily fish, seeds and nuts. These foods all contain the health-giving essential fats that are such an important component in all our cells. It's also worth noting that the good and bad fats compete for use in the body so to get the benefits of the good fats you are eating you need to minimise your intake of bad fats.

Whatever your results it's important to note that it's actually fats combined with sugar that create the most serious health problems by causing glycolysation. This is where the sugar hardens the fat, in the same way that icing sugar combines with butter to make icing crunchy.

This crunchiness causes the hardening of arteries which can result in blockages or burst blood vessels which can manifest as heart attacks and strokes. It also makes all the cells in your body stiffer and less flexible contributing to skin conditions and accelerated skin ageing. Good for cakes ... not so good for your health!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Being your own Mr Motivator

There's nothing like buying a new little black dress to get me on the treadmill, especially as the Christmas party season kicks off next week! But it's good motivation to keep me in the gym and off the hula hoops!

I remember reading that Gwyneth Paltrow did 1.5 hours of exercise a day whilst following a very strict low-calorie detox diet for two weeks to get 'in shape' for filming Iron Man 2. This might sound a bit extreme and impossible to stick to ... but if I was worrying about being in a blockbuster movie, rather than going to the office party, then I might find a way!

We all have our motivators and how much we're prepared to give up in terms of bad habits or unhealthy treats for the sake of our health. I know that if what I ate had no effect on my health whatsoever I'd probably live on a diet of pie, cake and champagne, but I also know how good it feels to be healthy and full of energy ... and to not have to buy a whole new wardrobe!

Whatever your goals, whether it's to look your best for a party, have the energy to keep up with your kids, be in peak fitness for a race or just to feel great, keep it in mind when you're making your choices ... I certainly would have preferred to chill out on the sofa when I got home, but by this time next week I'll be glad I hit the gym instead!

ps. I got my dress from my favourite shop Precious, near spitalfields, which has some fab dresses in at the moment and is always worth a look:

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Why you're only as healthy as your digestive system

When I was a kid I got scurvy ... yes you read correctly ... scurvy ... the gum inflammation that pirates used to get when they went to sea for months so couldn't eat any fresh fruit of veg.

Without going into the details I can assure you this was a really unpleasant experience and one that had my doctors scratching their heads. A dose of 100 mg of vitamin C daily should be sufficient to avoid scurvy which is roughly two portions of fruit and vegetables, so given I was eating masses of home grown fruit and vegetables how was this possible?

Infact it was only much later, when I turned to nutritional therapy to address my digestive issues, that it transpired that I must have had malabsorption. This is where the lining of the intestines become inflamed preventing the proper absorption of nutrients. It has a variety of causes and in my case it was food allergies.

The point of this anecdote is that you can have the healthiest diet in the world but if you can't digest and absorb your food properly it won't be doing you any good.

I also think a lot of people with digestive problems suffer in silence, either because they're embarrassed to discuss the condition, or they have spoken to their doctor but not had success with their treatment. In some cases someone may not even realise they have a digestive problem - discussing your bowel habits isn't considered polite conversation so a lot of people don't have a point of reference as to what is normal.

For anyone about to eat breakfast I suggest you stop reading here as I'm about to get very Gillian McKeith about bowels, but for everyone else here is a rough guide as to what is or isn't normal when it comes to your digestive system:

- You should have a bowel movement between. one and three times a day. Three infact is ideal although that's not commonly known.

- It's normal for a bowel movement to be triggered by eating. Your gut is basically one long tube so as you put food in it makes sense for some to come out. If however you don't get much warning and find yourself running to the loo then this may indicate an over-sensitized gut and this should be investigated.

- Constipation can cause a build up of toxins, as well as hormonal imbalances, elevated cholesterol and can damage the intestines so shouldn't be ignored.

- Equally diarrhoea or too frequent stools can be signs of digestive disturbances that should be investigated and may lead to dehydration and nutrient deficiencies.

- I appreciate that most people don't look, but stools should be medium brown (not nearly black or too pale) and formed but soft looking

- Blood in the stools always warrants a trip to the doctors and must be investigated and regular mucus in the stools may indicate gut irritation.

- Occasional burping and wind is normal but this isn't normal if experienced after every meal. Regular foul smelling wind is usually a sign of poor digestion and should be addressed.

- Regular indigestion or heart burn after eating usually indicates insufficient stomach acid rather than too much, as is usually assumed. Excess stomach acid is usually indicated by a warm or burning feeling in the stomach that is relieved by eating.

- It is normal for the abdomen to expand after eating, particularly after a large meal, but if distension is exaggerated or lasts longer than three hours it may indicate a digestive issue.

If you think you might have a digestive problem your first stop should be your doctor, but nutritional therapy can also be very helpful in this area. Remember you're only as healthy as your gut so don't ignore any symptoms.

Monday, 22 November 2010

What are you really eating?

I had an amusing conversation with a friend over the weekend about her and her boyfriend's tesco clubcard vouchers.

For anyone who doesn't have a clubcard, I should explain that you are periodically sent money off vouchers for the foods you often buy. My friends vouchers were for pretty regular healthy food, vegetables, chicken, fish, bread, milk ... however she was amused to see that her boyfriends vouchers included beer, wine and cheesecake!

I loved the diet snapshot these vouchers presented, but you can also tell a lot about someone from their basket at the checkout ... I like to nose at what people are buying and make assumptions about them:

- 1 pint of milk, a few single fruit and veg, ready meals for one: young, single female

- multi-packs of everything, lots of frozen foods, whole chicken, three loaves of bread, six pints of milk: big family

- some fruit and veg, fresh meat or fish, bottle of wine, GU chocolate pud: young couple

- big pack of chicken breasts, brown bread and pasta, pre-prepared veggies, eggs, chocolate bar or biscuits: male gym goer

- kipling cakes, sherry, piece of fish: old lady

- organic fruit and veg, gluten free bread and pasta, mackerel, seeds:, volvic: me!

For those of us who don't do one big weekly shop it can be hard to have an accurate picture of what you're eating over a week - I certainly find with food diaries that people have to write them as they go, as if asked to remember what they've eaten that week a lot gets left out! A food diary is a great way to have a regular check of your diet and whether it's gotten out of balance - have crisps crept in everyday, have you gotten out the habit of eating vegetables?

I always like it on diet programmes where they lay out on a table everything that person ate in a week - I think that would be a real eye opener for most of us, but a more practical alternative is to keep all your food receipts for seven days and then read then all through in one go. See which foods are eaten very regularly and which foods are missing - you might be surprised by what your receipts reveal.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sunday satisfaction

I was treated to a lovely Sunday roast today, the perfect comfort meal on a wintery day. However, unlike a lot of traditional english fare, a Sunday roast can infact be a pretty healthy lunch.

It combines protein, carbs and veggies and the issue of too much fat is easily addressed. Just trim the fat off your pork or beef and take the skin off your chicken or turkey, have boiled new potatoes instead of roasties (if you can bare it!) and avoid the crackling (I couldn't resist today).

If you're having pork apple sauce is also delicious but doesn't need the sugar - just stew and puree some fresh apples. A lot of shop bought gravies also have added sugar or flavourings but it's easy to make your own by thickening up the roasting juices with some corn flour.

I'm afraid I've not worked out a healthy alternative to yorkshire puds but most stuffing mixes are low-fat.

A good roast should always be served with plenty of veg. Today I had peas and braised cabbage with apple but there's a whole host of options. Aim to include a range of colours: orange: sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash; green: leeks, greens, spinach, peas, courgettes; purple: cabbage, cooked beetroot (no vinegar). If you don't cook your veggies to death school dinners style and add herbs, garlic or olive oil to add flavour they can be very tasty.

Huge portions and roast dinners do seem to go hand in hand. Ideally you wouldn't eat a huge mountain of food every Sunday lunch but if you are going to have big meal it's better to have it at lunchtime then dinner.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


I read an article today on about the increasing prices of food. I've certainly noticed my food bill has gone up in the last few months whilst my diet hasn't changed.

Obviously in this time of austerity rising food bills are not what we need, but I wasn't on board with one of lovemoney's suggestions to save money by cutting back on organic food.

Personally I try and buy organic whenever I can, both for my health and to encourage shops to stock more organic food which has already over time reduced the price differential over regular food, so I definitely don't want everyone to stop buying organic.

I also think that health is paramount, especially in more stressful times, and so hate the idea of it being de-prioritized to save money.

Instead I think we should take the same approach to money as to calories - I recommend making every calorie count for your health - so never waste your calories on unhealthy processed foods when you could be eating something fresh and nutrient rich. The same can apply to money - don't waste it buying nutrient devoid processed junk, even it's 2 for 1!

Instead aim to get the most nutrients you can for your buck. This means buying fresh seasonal veggies, lean white meats instead of red meat (interestingly beef prices have risen dramatically whilst turkey is infact cheaper than last year), nuts, seeds and fruit instead of crisps and chocolate and wholegrain carbs instead of refined carbs (which will make you feel hungrier sooner). Meat is always relatively expensive so if you're a big carnivore experiment with introducing a few vegetarian meals a week to cut costs and improve your health.

I appreciate I'm starting to sound like my mother (hi mum!) but eating simply and healthily is better for you ... both your waistline and your wallet.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Know your limits

I'm loving all the feedback and comments on my blog - please keep mailing in any comments or suggested topics and I'll do my best to cover them. One request I've been meaning to respond to for a while is a blog on alcohol.

Now may not seem like a good time to be preaching the virtues of teetotalism, but given that most people drink the most in December now is probably a good time to try and convert some people into cutting down.

I infact drink very rarely, and by that I mean less than once a month. A few years ago I had to give up alcohol for health reasons for six months and when I drank again found firstly that I had become very sensitive to alcohol - having much worse hangovers than previously - but I also realised how much healthier and happier I felt if I didn't drink.

There were two reasons for this, firstly alcohol is a depressive drug. This is a fact - however upbeat you might feel when you're drunk in the long run regular drinking will lower your mood and for some people can infact lead to or exacerbate depression.

Secondly alcohol leaches b vitamins out of your system. This group of vitamins are key inputs into the energy production cycle in our cells which is one of the reasons you feel so tired when you're hungover.

If you're trying to lose weight alcohol can also really hinder progress. It provides empty calories (as in low in nutrients) and it's easy to drink 500-1000 calories in an evening. Alcohol also massively disregulates blood sugar levels leading to carbohydrate cravings both that evening (chips anyone?) and the next day and excess insulin production by the pancreas.

To be honest there are lots of reasons why you shouldn't drink to excess - fertility issues, liver damage, ageing, damage to brain cells, diabetes, heart disease - and I think, like smoking, most people know this but still choose to push these facts to the back of their minds and drink half a bottle of wine a night without thinking anything of it.

If you do drink regularly it's worth checking your intake against the government guidelines of 2-3 units per day for a woman and 3-4 for a man, this works out roughly to be one large glass of wine or two pints respectively.

The first thing to remember is that these levels are suggested as MAXIMUMS - not targets to aim for. You might think they are pretty low but if you regularly drink more than this amount then you ARE damaging your health (whether it's antioxidant rich red wine or not). Secondly you shouldn't drink everyday and equally shouldn't 'save up' your units for a big binge on one night.

When it comes to christmas party season and you're out almost every night, then you'll either have to have some alcohol free social events or get good at just having one or two drinks and then stopping. If you're a big drinker this may seem alien at first but alternating with soft drinks and water makes it easier.

Personally I find that most people are ok with you not drinking at all (although a bit surprised unless your driving) but that if you have just one drink they're much more likely to try and pressure you into having many more. The key is to realise that you can still have a fun night out without needing to be drunk - something I've learnt over the years and to which my friends can attest - particularly after last weekends karaoke!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Yoghurt for everyone!

One of the foods I thought of including in my recent 'Superfoods' series was natural yoghurt. In the end I left it out on the basis that so many people have a lactose intolerance (though may not realise it) that it wasn't universally beneficial enough.

Thankfully, for those of us who don't eat dairy foods, there is now a natural bio soya yoghurt that isn't full of additives. It's called Sojade and os currently available only in health food stores. Like all soya products it doesn't taste as good as its dairy counterpart is totally palatable with some fruit, or low sugar fruit jam (st dalfour) stirred in.

For those who can tolerate dairy foods, plain natural yoghurt is a super easy way to add some protein to your breakfast and also an excellent snack for keeping hunger at bay til your next meal.

Organic natural bio yoghurt is the healthiest - low in fat and sugars and containing live bacteria which can help the functioning of the digestive tract.

Fruit or flavoured yoghurts should be avoided as they're full of added sugar - if you really can't stand yoghurt plain then have it with a teaspoon of chopped dates or sultanas or better still some fresh fruit.

Organic yoghurts naturally taste creamier than regular varieties. Greek yoghurt is also more luxurious tasting and low-fat greek yoghurt with some natural vanilla essence stirred in makes an excellent alternative to serve with puddings instead of cream.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The C word...

The varyingly fetching moustaches being sported around the city reminds us that we're well into Movember! It also reminds me that we're only six weeks away from Christmas!

Now I don't like to bring up the C word for no reason, personally I think decorations, lights and trees shouldn't be seen until the 1st December, but when it comes to health a bit of forward planning goes along way to mitigate the damage of festive indulgence.

I'm all in favour of enjoying the festive season and relaxing your diet and exercise routine, however it's all too easy to end up writing off the whole of December as a month long binge and finding yourself feeling seriously lethargic and under par by January.

Rather than putting yourself through a ridiculously stringent diet and exercise regime in January that you can't possibly stick to, now is a good time to take some pre-emptive steps:

- Stick to your gym routine as close up to Christmas as you can, this will keep you in great shape throughout the party season and make it a lot easier to get back into the gym after Christmas. If you get to Christmas in good shape you'll also feel much less inclined to over-eat.

- Similarly don't let your diet 'go' until the week before Christmas. It's all too easy to start a month of over indulgence from the first Christmas party. Sticking to the 80/20 rule still allows some indulgence and stay conscious of making healthy choices at parties and dinners. Just remember that when you get to Christmas you'll be able to enjoy all the festive fare without needing an elasticated waist band!

- Do enjoy Christmas properly - it's only once a year and usually a chance to enjoy some really good home cooked food. Have the best of everything rather than the cheap junk food that fills the shops this time of year (godiva dark chocolate truffles versus quality streets!) and take time to enjoy your food and be grateful for it.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Are you really relaxed?

After a very relaxing afternoon I feel, somewhat paradoxically, compelled to write about stress.

I often talk to people who if asked would say they are not stressed or anxious, but whose physical signs and symptoms all say otherwise. I don't think these individuals are trying to hide that they're stressed - they just genuinely don't realise that they are. That's because sometimes it takes being very relaxed to realise quite how stressed you are and highly strung people rarely relax properly.

If you're someone who rarely takes time to chill out and do nothing then imagine that you're somewhere you'd consider relaxing ... maybe the beach, or the countryside or the mountains. Imagine you're there on your own for a break, there's no clock to tell you when to get up or go to sleep, no friends, partners or children to take care of or worry about, no one to impress or worry about your appearance with. You can spend your time as you wish, maybe go for a walk or a swim, read, take a nap in the sunshine, and go to sleep as soon as you feel tired.
There are no bills to pay, no deadlines, no to do list, no rushing, no worries ... imagine how you feel? How often in your day to day life do you feel like this?

Obviously you're unlikely to feel totally relaxed all the time as day to day life is stressful, especially in the city, but if you rarely feel that relaxed then you really should do something about it. Stress is implicated in so many health conditions that it's foolhardy to disregard it ... so go to the spa, put your feet up for half an hour or just have a long lie in ... if anyone questions this say it's medicinal!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Perfect pulses

Being brought up on french home cooking it's not surprising that I developed a taste for pulses from an early age. I'm particularly fond of lentils and flagolet beans but I know that pulses aren't so popular in english cuisine.

If you don't regularly eat pulses there are plenty of reasons why you should which is why pulses are the last entry on my superfood list:

- they are rich in fibre helping digestion, detoxification and the balance of hormones

- they are a good source of b vitamins, zinc, iron and magnesium

- pulses have a particularly low glycemic index when compared to other carbohydrates meaning they provide a slower more consistent release of energy and don't encourage the over-production of insulin that can lead to weight gain and diabetes. This makes them a particularly good choice as a carbohydrate side dish when eating red meat or any other fatty proteins.

- pulses are higher in protein than most other carbohydrates, making them more filling and less disruptive on blood sugar levels. If eaten with rice they also make a complete protein, that is to say they provide all the essential amino acids.

Pulses are extremely easy to prepare and cook with. I can't be bothered with soaking and cooking pulses but canned pulses are so readily available there's no excuse not to have some to hand.

Lentils and kidney beans can easily be added to stews, bologneise and chilli con carne to add fibre and reduce the meat content. Chickpeas can easily be made into hummous or this can be shop bought - a great mid-afternoon snack when eaten with crudites or wholemeal pita bread. Lentil dahl is also delicious and easy to make from split red lentils and I always order a portion when eating at an Indian restaurant.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Attack of the not so killer tomatoes

Tomatoes make it onto my superfood list due to their particularly high lycopene content. Lycopene is a potent anti-cancer antioxidant, also found in other red foods such as watermelon, that is particularly protective against prostate cancer.

I love to eat fresh tomatoes but somehow juicing, mashing or cooking the tomatoes makes the lycopene more bioavailable. Consequently tomato puree and passata are better sources of lycopene than raw tomatoes and a good example of why you should eat your veggies both cooked and raw.

As with my other superfoods it's super easy to add extra tomato into your diet:

- use passata with herbs as a quick easy pasta sauce

- add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste to your bologneise or lasagna to give it an extra rich flavour

- top wholemeal toast with a mix of tomato puree and tinned sardines and grill for a quick snack

- make your own healthy pita pizza with a wholemeal pita, spread with tomato puree plus your favourite pizza toppings and grilled for a few minutes.

- when eating out go for tomato based sauces whether it's a pasta or curry dish that you're ordering. These are usually the lower fat healthier options anyway.


Super spinach

I don't remember liking spinach as a kid, but now it's one of my favourite veggies, particularly because it's rich in the nutrients that city life demands: magnesium for relaxation, b vitamins and iron for energy and fibre and chlorophyll (the green pigment) for detoxification.

It's also easily available (it's in season now) and quick and easy to cook so there's really no excuses not to eat it regularly. If you're not already doing so here are some quick ways to add it to your diet.

- The easiest way is to serve it raw as salad. I'm not a fan of plain spinach salad but prefer to mix it in with some other baby leaves.

- Wilt fresh leaves in a pan with a little water for just a few minutes, add a pinch of salt and serve as a side to your dinner.

- For days when there's no food in the house keep frozen spinach portions in the freezer which can be defrosted in a pan or microwave with a little olive oil.

- For a quick and healthy lunch, whisk two eggs with a tsp of oregano or sage and a pinch of salt and pepper. Chop a handful of spinach leaves into thin strips and stir into the egg, cook as an omelette. If you want, top with goat's cheese, mushrooms, peppers or any other filling while it cooks and then fold as you serve.

- If you're into juicing add some spinach to your fruit or vegetable juices for an extra nutrient boost.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Ginger warmer

Wow it was cold today ... I couldn't wait to get home and cosy up on the sofa with a warming cup of Lemon and ginger tea, which brings me nicely onto number six on my superfood list - ginger.

Ginger is a great detoxifier and blood cleanser, stomach soother, and has anti-inflammatory properties so is good for any joint aches and pains brought out by the cold weather. It is also very warming and good for sore throats which is just what you need this time of year.

Like my other superfoods ginger is easy to add into your diet. I cheated this evening and used a Twinnings tea bag but you can easily make fresh ginger and lemon tea by putting a slice of lemon and three slices of fresh root ginger in a tea pot or thermos with hot water for five minutes. Add fresh grated ginger to soups or salads (lovely with carrot for either), blend it or juice it to add to fresh fruit and vegetable juices

If any of you are bakers ginger is a great addition, both for health and flavour, to biscuits and cakes and it's an ingredient in the Sticky Banana & Molasses Cake recipe included in my blog on iron in June. (Just search for molasses on and you'll find it).

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Please excuse the fat finger!

Please excuse my prematurely sent blog this evening ... it should be fairly obvious from it that the next item in my collection of super foods are berries.

I'm a big fan of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and love to eat them fresh when they're in season. However you can enjoy them year round by buying them frozen, available in on their own or in various fruit mixes in most supermarkets.

The reason berries make the cut above other fruits is that they have a higher ration of nutrients to sugars than most fruits and are particularly rich in cancer fighting antioxidants including betacarotene (raspberries and strawberries) and ellagic acid (strawberries).

Another reason to put them on the list is that I think berries are delicious and a very versatile fruit - blend into smoothies, have in fruit salad, add to yoghurt and muesli, or serve with a healthy version of french toast (wholemeal bread dipped in raw egg, fried in v little fat and topped with a little agave syrup or st dalfour jam, fresh blueberries and a sprinkling of cinnamon). Berries are also wonderful for dessert, especially dipped in dark chocolate, or otherwise served with greek yoghurt with a little vanilla essence stirred in ... Yum!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Cinnamon, spice and all things nice

I love the smell and taste of cinnamon, it's so wintery and comforting. Cinnamon also has lots of health giving properties and like nuts and seeds is easy to add in to your regular diet making it an obvious choice for my superfood list.

The main benefit is that it helps regulate blood sugar levels and stave off sugar and carbohydrate cravings and it's also a mild anticoagulant (thins the blood). These effects are so well documented that Nutritional therapists have to exercise caution in recommending cinnamon for individuals on blood pressure lowering and diabetes drugs.

Cinnamon can be sprinkled on coffee, muesli or breakfast cereal, stirred into yoghurt, porridge and stewed fruit, cooked into cakes, biscuits and breads and even added to savoury dishes such as chilli con carne or bologneise to add extra depth to the flavour.

If you're a sugar fiend then add it to any foods to which you usually add sugar to make it easier to wean yourself off.

If cinnamon doesn't take your fancy, nutmeg, turmeric and cloves are also warming spices rich in flavour and beneficial for health.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The benefits of bird food

Mackerel is a wonderful source of essential fats but not so easy to carry around in your handbag for a snack on the go!

This is why nuts and seeds make it onto my 'superfood' list - they're portable, easy to get hold of and rich in essential fats as well as some antioxidant minerals. They also contain roughly equal quantities of carbohydrates and proteins so don't send your blood sugar soaring like some other snacks.

I add them to salads (pumpkin, poppy, sesame and sunflower seeds), yoghurt (chopped hazelnuts), muesli (chopped mixed nuts and sunflower seeds) and stir fry veg (flaked almonds and sesame seeds). I also keep them in my desk and handbag for snacks on the run.

For anyone who's averse to nuts and seeds (including fussy kids) they're also quite easy to hide in your food. You can blend nuts and seeds into soups and smoothies and replace some flour with ground nuts in cakes, breads, pastry and crumble toppings.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A lime a day keeps the colds at bay

I enjoyed dressing up as a pirate for halloween but in the old days of the high seas being a pirate wouldn't have been particularly pleasant.
Pirates and seafarers used to have very poor diets due to the inability to store fresh food on a boat for long periods. As a result they often contracted scurvy, caused by a serious vitamin C deficiency. To counteract this the boat would stock up on lemons and limes before a voyage which would provide vitamin C and last longer than other fruit.

Limes are still relevant for health today as a great source of vitamin C and drinking the juice of a lime can do wonders to clear up a cold or keep your colds at bay.

Obviously pure lime juice is a bit tart to drink straight! I tend to dilute it with hot or cold water and also like it mixed with some diluted cherry active for extra antioxidants. If you really can't take it without some sweetness add it to some freshly squeezed fruit juice or stir in a little honey or agave syrup, but it's worth noting that sugar competes with Vitamin C for uptake into the cells so don't oversweeten it.

Lime juice can also zing up your cooking - I use fresh lime juice in both pad thai (delia's recipe) and in this super easy Mary Berry coconut and lime chicken recipe:

Serves 6,
Whisk together 200ml of coconut cream, 2 tbsp runny honey, 3tbsp thai red or green curry paste (whichever you prefer - I like Thai Taste curry paste which has no added sugar) and the juice and finely grated zest of 2 limes. Season well with salt and pepper and toss 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the marinate until evenly coated.

Cover with cling film and leave to marinate overnight (or for a minimum of 30 mins).

Preheat a non-stick frying pan to a high heat, add 2 tbsp sunflower oil (I prefer to use coconut fat) and brown the chicken thighs (leave the marinade in the bowl) for approx 3 mins on each side until golden brown. Lower the heat, cover and cook through for 10-15mins til the chicken is cooked through and then remove to a serving dish.

Pour the marinade into the same pan, bring to the boil and reduce for a minute to thicken the sauce, pour over the chicken. Serve hot with brown rice, lime wedges and stir fry pak choi or other veg,

Monday, 1 November 2010

Mighty mackerel

I'm conscious I've been blogging alot about lifestyle lately, but this is driven by the fact I find a lot of people don't realise what an impact their lifestyle has on their health and think that as long as they're having their five a day they'll be fine!

But enough of that for now, time to get back to talking about food...

One of the nutrition trends of the last few years has been using the 'Superfood' label. It's been used for regular foods such as spinach and blueberries to the latest food fad such as acai and pomegranate and is often used as a marketing tool.

There certainly are foods that are more nutritious than others but I think it's a bit dangerous to be faddy with food and suddenly eat lots of the superfood of the moment.

Over the years I've developed my own list of top foods for health that I eat regularly and which are all normal foods you can buy in the supermarket at a reasonable price. So for the next few blogs I'm going to talk about these foods and why they're on my top food list, starting with mackerel.

Mackerel happens to be one of my favourite oily fishes from a taste perspective and is also full of goodness. Primarily it's rich in essential fats which are beneficial for memory, mood, fat burning and the condition of your skin to name a few. I once ate mackerel every day for two weeks (as an experiment) and whilst I'd never recommend that anyone does that I must admit my skin never looked so good!

Mackerel is also a good source of some B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and zinc and is a healthy source of protein which is important for so many of the body's functions.

I'm not a great cook, mainly because I don't have a lot of time for cooking (at least that's my excuse!), so I tend to have my mackerel smoked or out of a can both of which I enjoy, but it's not a patch on a grilled mackerel that's just been caught.

If you're not a mackerel fan sardines are another great oily fish to try - being so small they have much less toxin accumulation than the bigger fish like salmon or tuna, as do anchovies although it's hard to eat a lot of those in one go!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The secret to sleeping like a baby!

The other day I noticed a lady doing laps of the car park for my block with a baby in a pram. I checked back later and she seemed to be doing this for almost an hour.

Whilst this might seem odd to some of you, getting a baby out in the fresh air for an hour a day used to be one of the rules of parenting. The babies sleep better and seem to thrive better for the fresh air.

But it's not just babies that need their fresh air - adults need it too. Getting out in the fresh air increases our intake of oxygen, which is essential for energy production, and also allows our skin to manufacture vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. Plus if you go for a brisk walk this improves your circulation and burns calories. A walk can be also be very relaxing, particularly if you have a nice park or canal or river path nearby.

Sadly I'm sure most of us don't have time for a daily 60 minute stroll outdoors, but it's worth making the effort to get outdoors on the weekend especially now the clocks have gone back so we won't be seeing much sunlight. You might not feel like venturing out as the days get colder but wrap up warm and stick a reward at the end (take a long walk to the pub or a favourite cafe) and you'll find it more enjoyable!

Being outside all day is something I particularly love about holidays and I always feel better for it, especially when I'm sailing ... when I always sleep like a baby!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Eating with the seasons

We are now firmly in autumn/winter and as usual I've totally lost my taste for healthy salads and am craving more hot food and drinks and eating more meat in particular.

Changing our eating patterns with the seasons makes sense - the changes in our environment change our nutritional requirements and how our bodies react to food. In the colder months food needs to be warming and easy to digest .. hence favouring hot food and a higher protein intake as protein is slow to digest and holds it's heat the longest keeping you warm from within.

The body will also naturally store more fat to keep you warm so there's nothing to fret about if you gain a couple of pounds, these should come off naturally in the spring.

Another reason to change your food with the seasons is that the nutritional content of food varies with the seasons as does the flavour. A tasty ripe in season tomato is a million miles away in taste and pleasure from a watery unripe one. Eating your fruit and veg in season will mean a higher nutrient intake and more enjoyment making you more likely to eat more fruit and veg.

The best fruit and veg for this time of year are:
Apples, plums & pears: I like to lightly stew them with some cinnamon and serve with natural yoghurt topped with chopped hazelnuts. EAT currently has a nice seasonal fruit salad with all these plus pomegranate which is also in season.

Figs: a lovely addition to an orchard fruit salad or bake and serve topped with melted dark chocolate

Squash: easy to roast either on its own or with other root veg to go with your Sunday roast

Mushrooms & Leeks: both lovely in soup or risotto, or just wilted down in a pan with a lid

Cabbage & Celariac: I'm not a big fan of cabbage but grated celariac makes a great substitute for cabbage in coleslaw and is also lovely boiled and mashed with apple.

Lamb's lettuce, watercress & spinach - ditch the iceberg and eat darker green salad leaves in the winter months.


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Getting specific

If you work in the city it's more than likely that at some point you'll be
sent off for some training which may turn out to be a total waste of time or
actually be rather helpful. I recently went on a course on improving
productivity at work that thankfully proved to be the latter.

I picked up lots of helpful tips that I'll be using at work, but afterwards
I got thinking about the application of some of these in terms of health. I
think in the world of work, especially with performance appraisals and
regular reviews, most of us are now used to setting goals or targets but
when it comes to our personal lives, including our health, I think the
majority of us don't do this explicitly.

One of the main points in the seminar was that most people's to do lists
don't actually list actions or things to do, more broad objectives, and so
this slows down actually achieving anything. The same probably applies for
people's health goals - whilst focusing explicitly on your goals for your
health is a very worthwhile exercise, it needs to be done in a way that will
get you to take action!

For example you may write down your objective is to improve your health, but
that doesn't tell you where to start so you could quite easily get nowhere
with it. You could break it down into more specific areas, for example:
Have more energy, improve the condition of my skin, have a leaner body,
however even then these objectives don't tell you where to start. To really
be effective, against each goal you must identify what you can actually do
about it, then pick one action and do it!!

I've put some examples below to get you started:

Have more energy:
- Buy some healthy snacks to take into work
- Eat every three to four hours
- Eat some protein with every meal and snack
- Go to bed at 10:30pm to get eight hours sleep

Improve skin condition:
- Buy a bottle of water every morning to drink through at work
- Buy some oily fish to eat this weekend
- Book a facial
- Read labels to avoid all added sugar

Have a leaner body:
- Resist the biscuits and chocolates at work this week and then reward
myself with a treat on the weekend
- Go to the gym three times this week
- Find a no sugar muesli to have for breakfast
- Only drink alcohol on two nights this week

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A bit of gratitude

Whilst perusing the bbc website I found an article about poverty in Britain 100 years ago including the food diary of a poor family who were part of a unique investigation into the lives of the poor by Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, who ran the family chocolate company.

The food diary is quite staggering - the head of the family ate a diet of almost only bread and tea with one meal of a meagre portion of meat and vegetables in the whole week.

Here's one day from the food diary:
* Breakfast - Tea, bread and margarine
* Dinner - Tea, bread and margarine
* Supper - Tea, bread

It's a heart breaking idea that people lived for weeks and even years only such impoverished diets and makes the huge food waste in today's society seem totally obscene.

Fortunately with the subsequent introduction of benefits very few in this country will eat even close to as poorly as this family, but it's good to remember how fortunate we are to be able to eat well given that some of our grandparents and great grandparents would have struggled to afford proper meals. It still is shocking that there are many millions of people outside the UK who are unable to provide enough food to properly feed themselves and their families.

So next time you're about to tuck into a tasty meal maybe pause for a second and remember how lucky you are to have that food to eat.

For those interested here's the article, and I promise a more upbeat blog tomorrow!


Monday, 25 October 2010

Camel mentality

I got a mail from a NITC reader in response to yesterdays blog explaining that the puddings in her office canteen, mainly comforting favourites like fruit crumble and pecan pie, were so cheap (pennies not pounds) that they were very difficult to resist.

This kind of difficulty in turning down a free, or nearly free, feed is very common in British culture and is easily observed in the gluttony at all you can eat restaurants that you wouldn't see if people were paying by weight of food!

But I don't just think it's about the money - I think a lot of it is due to camel mentality - the desire to enjoy an over indulgent splurge with the idea that we can burn that food off later.

Some people just find food an inconvenience and would rather have only one meal a day (cooking and eating properly does take up a lot of time).

Infact we can store excess food very effectively as fat for use later but our camels hump usually materialises as a beer belly or muffin top which is not good both aesthetically and from a health perspective. Also most people find it hard to follow the splurge with the necessary self-restraint to burn off the stored calories so their 'hump' just gets bigger and bigger! Even if you manage the self-restaint, it is quite stressful on the body to repeatedly gain and lose weight.

One of the difficulties is when you're faced with food not ordinarily available to you ... a delicious discovery on holiday, a delicacy brought into the office by a colleague back from holiday or even your mum's home cooking when you go home for a weekend.

In these cases it's best to savour your food and exercise damage limitation. Serve yourself a small portion of a treat food and you'll make sure your savour each taste, rather than wolfing it down, and feel more satisfied and less gluttinous as a result. Also don't fall into the trap of 'Off the Wagon' mentality - you've had one slice of cake so you might as well have a blow out as you've already fallen off the wagon ... this kind of thinking can easily lead to regular over-indulging and unhealthy eating habits. Over-eating at any meal is bad for your waistline and your health - just remember if you don't want to look like a camel it's best not to eat like one!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Enjoying your favourite foods

I think a lot of people are deterred from taking a first step to eating
healthily by visions of having to live on a diet of brown rice and
vegetables and missing out on their favourite foods.

I'm a firm believer that food should be a source of pleasure so the best
approach is to adapt your favourite foods to make them healthier so you can
still enjoy them.

Ok so I sadly haven't found a healthy alternative to pies! But there are a
lot of English favourites that can easily be adapted:

Roast chicken dinner .. Actually a pretty healthy meal if you don't eat the
skin on the chicken and have boiled new potatoes or roasted sweet potato
wedges instead of roasted potatoes.

English fry up ... Skip the fried bread and hash browns, have some wholemeal
toast, poached or scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and some
grilled trimmed bacon.

Bacon buttie ... Have a wholemeal or granary roll, grilled trimmed bacon and
a few slices of grilled tomato instead of ketchup which is laden with sugar
- giving up the ketchup might be tough but if you cut down on sugar your
taste buds will adapt and you'll soon be happy to skip it.

Spaghetti bolognaise .... Make it with less than 10% fat mince and drain the
fat off once you've browned the mince. Add lots of veggies and make the
tomato sauce yourself or use some passata with herbs.

Curry ... A Friday night take out favourite but can be laden with sugar and
cream. Skip the sauces and the naan and go for grilled chicken tikka with
rice or a chapati and some veggie side dishes. Or if you want a curry with
a sauce check with the restaurant that it's not been made with sugar or
cream (yoghurt is fine). Waitrose also do some good readymade curries with
a 'clean' list of ingredients.

English puddings aren't so healthy ... all the pastry, sponge and custard
... but a hot pudding is such a comfort on a cold evening. Try stewed fruit
with cinnamon, baked apples stuffed with chopped walnuts and dates, grilled
bananas (grill with some honey on top) served with some natural or greek
yoghurt or even make a crumble but with a topping of oats, ground almonds
and fructose instead of the usual flour, margarine and sugar.

And if any of you have any favourite meals you can't live without but don't
know how to adapt send them in to NITC and I'll see if I can come up with a
healthy version!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Time to chill out!

I was going to blog about food diaries today but having watched the edge of your seat acrobatics of 'Traces' which is now showing at the Peacock theatre I'm inspired to write about eustress.

The word stress rightly has negative connotations, it's how you feel when your boss shouts at you, your car get's broken into or some muppet treads on your toe on the tube.
Eustress on the other hand is stress that feels good, euphoric even, ... the excitement of getting married or starting a new job or the thrill of a rollercoaster, sky dive, skiing a black run or watching acrobats drop six foot head first towards the floor and stop with only inches to spare! You're enjoying yourself so you don't think of these feelings as negative.

However any stress, whether negative or positive, when accumulated over time can be negative to your health. It encourages a faster heart rate, raised blood pressure, suppression of your digestive and immune systems, disturbed sleep patterns and central weight gain. So with busy city lives if you 'unwind' by playing a game of squash, watching a scary movie or taking part in extreme sports then you're simply adding to your stress load and not reducing it.

When you're truly relaxed your heart rate and breathing should slow and your mind become calm, you should feel unaware of time or deadlines and in a state in which you could stay in for a long period.

If you find this difficult then you might want to try assisted relaxation through meditation, yoga (hatha), massage, aromatherapy, reflexology or acupuncture. And if the whole idea of spending time relaxing is alien to you then you probably need it more than most!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wrapping up

Wow the temperature has really dropped this week. I've swapped my mac for a coat and I've even spotted a few scarves being worn around the city varying from the posh pashmina to some stripy 'Where's Wally' red and white numbers.

Whatever your style choice a scarf isn't just a fashion accessory, it's also a weapon against the winter colds and flus that will start appearing.

You see most bugs will enter your system through your throat - either inhaled or ingested - so the mucosal lining of the throat is a first line of defence against bacteria and viruses. This is why there is such a concentration of immune tissue in your neck including your tonsils (if you still have them!) and lymph glands - the ones your Doctor feels for if you're ill.

Your immune defence is more effective at a higher temperature, which is why your body generates a fever when you're ill, so by keeping your throat nice and toasty you can help keep your immune system primed and ready to kill of any bugs before they make it into your system.

However, if whilst the rest of your body is kept cosy in your coat your throat is left exposed to the elements then it may get cold reducing the effectiveness of your immune defences. So now might be a good time to dig out your winter woollies.


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Liquid lunch

During an evening of cocktails and gossip I ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail which was delicious, but super sweet and sugar laden. This well earned break followed a day at a nutrition conference where the lecturer said that in America soft drinks contribute more calories to the average american diet than any other food type.

This is pretty scary ... but it's easy to drink your way to obesity and ill health without going anywhere near an alcoholic drink.

However, you should aim to eat a high percentage of your caloric intake rather than drinking them as the body is designed to digest solid food and so drinking most of your calories can disrupt your appetite cues and affect your digestion.

A cocktail should therefore be an occasional treat not an everyday drink and the same goes for fizzy drinks, squashes and fruit juices. The French certainly drink plenty of wine and coffee but their main drink is water, served up with every meal. Scarily there are plenty of English people who never drink any plain pure water!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Buying some time

One thing us city folk are always short on is time which means that healthy activities such as exercise, sleep, relaxation and eating properly often get sacrificed in order to fit in our work, family and friends.  Add to that the day to day chores of keeping your house and finances in order and it's easy to feel overwhelmed.  
Luckily city types are also often fortunate enough to have some spare cash to buy them some time ... but what if you've already got a cleaner, get Tesco to deliver to your door, buy your clothes and shampoo online, buy your lunches instead of bringing a packed lunch to work ...  and you're still struggling for time??
Well thankfully there's more that you can delegate than you may realise... an entrepreneurial friend of mine has setup a venture to help busy city folk claw back some of their precious free time and it's a brilliant service that I can't recommend enough.   
Instead of letting your to do list get longer and longer and stressing about it just send it to LMES and for a very reasonable fee they'll take care of it, leaving you with more time to do the more fun things in life!   Things you can farm off to LMES include making dinner reservations, ordering gifts, booking appointments, finding cleaners, doing your online shopping, downloading music for parties, buying and selling on ebay, organising a car service and even lettings and property management ... you name it ... although sadly they can’t go to the gym for you and burn off the doughnut you just ate!    

There's no sign up fee ... it's just pay as you go.  If you're interested send them a mail or give them a call 07872 396010 and they can send through more info and answer any questions you have.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Monday mash

To cheer up your Monday I thought NITC readers might enjoy this article from the daily mash on food labelling!

It's the usual irreverent daily mash fare but I think it's true that food labelling has gone a bit crazy over the last few years, with various confusing health labels, guidelines, traffic lights and dubious health claims. The 'recommended daily amount for sugar' is one that tickles me. For optimum health you would cut refined sugar out of your diet altogether so how can there even be a 'recommended intake' is beyond me!

If you find yourself confused as to what to buy ask yourself these two questions:
1) Is this food rich in health-giving nutrients, so any vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, lean protein or essential fats?
2) Is this food high in any anti-nutrients/unhealthy ingredients, so any added sugar, saturated or hydrogenated fats, refined flour, excess salt, artificial preservatives, additives or sweeteners?

If the answer to 1) is yes and 2) is no then you're making a healthy choice.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The autonomic appetizer

Our autonomic nervous system controls many unconscious bodily functions such as heart-rate, breathing and digestion. It can either be in the 'fight or flight' mode, ready for a tiger attack, or in the 'rest and repair' mode when digestion, detoxification and cell repair take place.

Digestion is suppressed in the 'fight or flight' mode so it is therefore important to be relaxed when you eat. When relaxed your digestive processes aren't inhibited, allowing complete digestion, and your brain can register when you're full, which is why you may keep eating without feeling satisfied when stressed.

With busy city jobs it's easy to shovel down your lunch whilst emailing, listening to a conference call or thinking about all the work you have to do. All of this means you're unlikely to be relaxed. To keep your digestion running properly and to get the most out of your food you need to snap out of this mode, and the best way to do this is through conscious breathing.

This is the easiest form of meditation and can be done anywhere. It basically involves taking slow, deep breaths whilst emptying your mind of thoughts. But worry not, you don't have to spend 15 minutes sat at your desk in lotus position!

Just five deep breaths can make all the difference. Breath in slowly and deeply letting your belly and rib cage expand. Count to three as you breathe in, then breathe out, again counting to three to keep the two breaths the same length. Keep your mind clear other than counting and enjoy these few moments of peace. Keep a still mind whilst you savour your lunch, and then when you're finished you can go back to work mode.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A lesson from the iron lady

During the blur that was this evening's speed dating one of the more interesting questions I was asked was if I had an extra hour in the day what would I do with it. My not so interesting, but truthful answer, was that I'd spend it sleeping!

There are clearly more interesting things to do with an hour but I know I'd feel so much better for the extra sleep. This is why I am both envious of and bemused by those who sleep only a few hours a night and still bounce around full of beans.

One such person is Margaret Thatcher who was well known to only have 3-4 hour sleep a night. What is less well known is that she had a little help in this with regular vitamin B12 injections.

Whilst B vitamins are no substitute for sleep they can really help keep your energy up if you're feeling a bit sleep deprived. I like to supplement with extra Bs when I'm feeling tired, but it's also worth eating foods rich in b's such as wholegrains, fish and eggs (which Maggie T ate frequently).

B vits are also important for brain function so it may be helpful to up your intake when revising for or taking exams or just to help you function better at work be it working in a bank or running the country!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Why being yourself is good for you

Working in the city you see a whole array of fashions - sharp suited corporate financiers, hot to trot secretaries, kagoolled tourists and retro shoreditch types. This afternoon I spotted a shoreditch styled girl wearing a waistcoat that was quite frankly beyond description - I just wish I'd had a decent camera phone to share it with you!

Besides admiring this girls confidence to wear such an item (it had three dimensional crown shaped shoulder pads - see what I mean about hard to describe) it got me thinking about individuality.

Alot of us spend our youth trying to copy other people - dress, act and look like people we think are cooler or in some way better than us. Then somehow with age we realise how futile and silly this and start expressing our true individuality in how we dress, act and spend our time and money.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who wishes I'd realised the futility of trying to be cool much earlier! However it's a shame that not everyone extends the same attitude to their health - middle aged women trying the latest ludicrous diet being followed by some twenty something starlet, overworked stressed out city workers following intensive triathlon training schedules, busy mums trying to stick to Madonnas macrobiotic regime and even food stalkers (copying what your super skinny friend/colleague eats in the hope you'll end up the same size).

You see just in the same way that I have a totally different dress sense to the girl I saw today I am also likely to have a very different biological make-up. This is why if we ate the exact same food one of us might feel great and the other one might feel rubbish. This is part of the art of nutritional therapy - working out an individual programme that is best for your client rather than telling everyone to eat the same food.

On the plus side you don't necessarily need a nutritional therapist to help you work this out - a bit of experimentation and trial and error can be very illuminating. Try cutting out/cutting down the usual suspects one at a time (dairy, wheat, gluten, caffeine, alcohol. sugar) and see how you feel, try varying when you eat and whether you have fewer bigger meals or more frequent smaller meals.

You can do the same with your exercise regime - do you feel better working out in the morning or evening, are you exhausted the next day after a long session but full of beans if you make it shorter? You might be surprised at what works for you and save yourself alot of disappointment when you have to give up the latest fad diet or exercise regime because you feel totally awful on it!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Following the sun

Along with regular tea drinking, my days as a child were also punctuated by daily doses of radio 4. Having listened to this channel so much as a child I developed a taste for it and often tune in whilst in the car or doing chores at home. This evening I tuned in just in time to hear an episode of 'A history of the world in one hundred objects' which this week was talking about clocks.

This might not sound that interesting to most of you, but the advent of time keeping had a profound effect on daily life. Instead of structuring a day based on sunrise and sunset, schedules became based on time which doesn't vary with the seasons, with the exception of the silly one hour adjustment for british summertime. For most people this meant rising, retiring and eating all meals at the same time every day.

Whilst the advent of time keeping was a huge step forward, I think the resulting disconnect between our activities and the sun, and therefore seasons, was a negative consequence.

During the winter, when the days are shorter and colder, our energy is less, our bodies are less relaxed and we are more prone to infections so we'd all benefit from getting more sleep. Whilst in the summer most people tend to feel more relaxed and energised by the sun and are less likely to get ill.

Once the clocks go back you'd have to have a pretty understanding boss to be getting up after sunrise, but I do think it is beneficial to try and rise and retire as closer to sunrise and sunset than most of us do. In winter this means getting more sleep but in the summer you may want to try getting up half an hour earlier than usual (and going to bed half an hour earlier) - without changing the amount of sleep you may find you feel more energized.

Coincidentally next week the programme covers a tea set and the origins of the English tea drinking tradition!


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Cup of tea anyone?

I was at a seminar on diagnostic testing this weekend and one of the
speakers mentioned that their results showed a much higher incidence of slow
metabolisms for British individuals than for those in other countries. No
conclusive reason for this had been identified but the speaker speculated
that this may be down to the fact that we drink so much tea!

It's certainly true that tea is a large part of British tradition and seems
to be served up in response to every situation ... just woke up, just got
home, bored at work, it's 11 o'clock, it's 5 0'clock, have guests over, time
for a gossip, to cheer someone up, .. it's quite easy to have five or six
cups a day.

So what's so wrong with something us Brits have been doing for centuries and
why could it affect our metabolisms?

Well the tea itself isn't the problem - it's the caffeine that's harmful.

Caffeine improves concentration and energy levels in the short-term by
provoking the body's stress response, however repeating this through regular
caffeine intake, in the long-run leads to reduced energy levels and
fluctuating blood sugar levels. Drinking caffeine also encourages the
excretion of certain vitamins and minerals from the body, including B
vitamins which are vital for energy production, so all this can combine in
the long run to lower energy levels and a slower metabolism. 

Aside from the effects on metabolism, caffeine also encourages the leaching
of calcium from the bones into the bloodstream, weakening bones and
potentially leading to osteoporosis, whilst the raised blood levels of
calcium can lead to calcium deposits in joints contributing to

Despite the downsides tea drinking is often an ingrained part of daily life
and quite hard to give up. I come from a tea drinking household and found
myself unable to break the habit of regular cups of tea, so quit caffeine by
switching to herbal/caffeine free varieties rather than missing out on tea
altogether. My cupboards are stocked with a whole host of herbal blends and
when I go on holiday I always pack some tea bags so I can enjoy a hot drink.
These days most restaurants and cafes have a good range of herbal teas and I
find that most people have some chamomile or peppermint lurking in the back
of the cupboard. Even The Ritz offers Rooibos (redbush) caffeine free tea
with it's very traditional British afternoon tea so it's totally possible to
enjoy the British tea tradition without the downsides.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Tweaking the timing

So first step you've started taking a multivitamin, bravo I applaud you ... please keep it up!

But what if this weeks blogs are wasted on you - like me you're already taking a plethora of supplements - so many it's a surprise you don't rattle!

Well by tweaking the timing of when you take them, you can make sure you're getting the most benefit from them. Here are my top tips for timing your vits:

Generally you should take your supplements with food, rather than on an empty stomach - this is when your stomach will have the highest levels of stomach acid helping you break down and absorb your supplements.

Stagger your Bs and Cs - most vitamins and minerals are excreted after a few hours so it pays to spread out your intake. I have vitamins C and Bs in my multivitamin with breakfast and then take an extra B complex and vit C with lunch.

Don't take supplements with your morning coffee or evening glass of wine - both caffeine and alcohol encourage the excretion of vitamins whenever you have them, but you can reduce the effect by taking them away from each other.

Take vitamin C and iron together - the vitamin C helps you absorb the iron.

Top up your antioxidants before bed - you do your detoxification and repair whilst you sleep. Some extra antioxidants can support the liver and help restore your cells from the days stresses.

Take magnesium before bed or after exercise - it is a natural muscle relaxant, helping your body unwind.

Finally, unless you enjoy extremely vivid dreams (and possibly nightmares), don't take B vitamins before bed!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

How taking your vits can keep you slim

Supplements are great for keeping you in tip top health, keeping bugs and
colds at bay and keeping your energy levels up ... but your multivitamin can
also double up as a diet pill!

So how does taking a bundle of vitamins and minerals keep you slim?

Without getting too techy, a lot of vitamins and minerals go into the
biochemical process of producing energy in your cells. If you're deficient
in these nutrients it can slow down your energy production slowing down your
metabolism and rate of burning calories. So topping up with a multivit can
help you burn more calories. Nutrients are also essential to the health of
your adrenal and thyroid glands which are both involved in fat burning.

I'm also a strong believer that your nutrient intake is a driver your
appetite, so if you're eating a diet low in vitamins and minerals your body
will up your appetite to increase food intake in a bid to increase nutrient
intake. A nutrient rich diet will therefore keep you more satisfied and
reduce your appetite and food cravings. Taking vitamin and mineral
supplements can therefore have a similar effect ... satisfying your nutrient
needs and thereby controlling your appetite.

So rather than reaching for a diuretic or stimulant diet pill to keep in
shape you might want to try a multivitamin.