Sugar and your happiness

Have you ever felt completely “addicted” to chocolate, or completely powerless to resist cake? What is it about these food that make even the most determined dieter lose willpower?

It turns out, that you have spent an entire lifetime developing unconcious preferrences to foods that give us the most calories for the least ammount of effort. Its not your fault, its just the way our brains work, and sugar in particular is a main feature of the most unhealthy foods that your brain has detected provide this.

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Sugar activates reward pathways in your brain, similar to drugs, alcohol and other fun activities like being in love. The main chemical, or neurotransmitter involved in this process is called dopamine. In people that experience dependency on alcohol, nicotine or drugs the dopamine receptors are over stimulated causing a flood of happy feelings and the result can be addiction. Sugar activates similar pathways, and although not as extreme as these other substances, the effects on your mental and physical wellbeing are just as destructive. The unfortunate fact is that the more sugar you have, your tolerance levels increase and  the more you are going to need to reach this same happy state – leading to cravings and over consumption.

 

When dopamine is raised, serotonin, another brain chemical is lowered. Serotonin is responsible for feeling balanced, motivated and generally stable, also involved in higher decision making processes. Elevated levels of dopamine and lowered levels of serotonin are hallmarks of both anxiety and depression. This is how sugar can decrease your happiness, and affect your mental wellbeing.

sugar-addiction

If you strugle with eating sugary foods, the best ways to reduce the cravings are to slowly reduce the amount of sugar in your diet and build up an intollerance to it. For example if you were to add 3 sugars to your tea or coffee start by lowering it to one and a half over a week or two. Then look at things like your breakfast in particular. If you’re eating a sugary breakfast cereal, swap it for one with whole grains, or bran. The most ideal swap here would be porrige which you can add a teaspoon of honey to. Adding protein to meals is a good way of sending signals to your brain that you are full, and reduces the cravings. Last and most importantly, dont be too hard on yourself, the reasons behind sugar consumption are complex, and are largely beyond your control both by physiological desgin and manipulation of mass produced food by the food industries.

How stomach acidity affects your health.

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Why is the acidity of your stomach so important for your health?
Stomach acid plays an incredibly important role in your general health and wellbeing, by ensuring adequate nutritional status and immune system function.

Your stomach has specific cells that secrete gastric acids, cells that secrete a protective barrier and cells that secrete digestive enzymes. These cells work together in a feedback loop with each other to ensure that food gets digested but your stomach lining doesn’t.

Unfortunately, your oesophagus doesn’t have the cells that secrete the protective barrier, so that is why you can experience intense pain with gastric reflux – usually resultant of too high stomach acid. This in turn can change the cells in your oesophagus and is a risk factor for oesophageal cancer. You can avoid high stomach acidity by balancing high protein/fatty meals with leafy greens and legumes.

Low stomach acidity is also detrimental as it disruptive to the digestive process, and even impair immune system function. The ph. of your stomach is very acidic, so any bacteria or pathogens should be neutralised at this stage but if your stomach is not acid enough these pathogens can go on to the intestinal tract where they can cause a lot of trouble, from food poisoning to triggering onset of IBS and worsening inflammatory bowel diseases. This will also sequester a good deal of your immune cells leaving you vulnerable to other viruses and bacteria.

Gastric acid is the start of the digestive process for proteins and some vitamins and minerals, if these aren’t properly prepared in the stomach then they won’t be properly digested in the intestine. If the food isn’t properly digested, then it will not be properly absorbed which can then lead to nutrient deficiencies and protein malnourishment. For example, iron requires high gastric acidity, and with around 40% of the population already low or deficient in this mineral low stomach acidity can compound the problem. Iron deficiency anaemia can lead to feeling or fatigue and depression (WHO, 2016). You can also be taking in enough protein, but if it isn’t prepared in your stomach first then you will not be absorbing it.

Beneficial gut bacteria live in your large intestine, and they mostly feed on undigested carbohydrates such as fibre which keep your gut healthy. However, if you aren’t digesting your food properly first, it can provide these bacteria with too much, leading to gas, bloating and abdominal pain. (Beasley et al; 2015)  Low acidity can also be caused by eating too much food at once, which dilutes stomach acid and caused specifically by too much protein and or fat in one meal.  A good way to increase the enzymatic potential in your stomach and acidity is to take some apple cider vinegar with your meal, even better to use it on a salad, or to take a digestive enzyme tablet. Caffeine also increases stomach acidity, but this is not recommended as a long-term solution, and generally suppresses appetite anyway.

The best solution to both low and high stomach acidity, is to balance your meals well – with low fat/protein ratio and include lots of leafy greens with every meal. And if you are going to have a really big meal, or a big Sunday lunch – a digestive enzyme could help.

 

 

  1. http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/ida/en/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4519257/

 

 

 

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How much protein do I need?

How much protein do you need?

Without getting into too many technicalities, recommended protein intake for a sedentary person is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound.

This amounts to:

56 grams per day (man)
46 grams per day ( woman)

If you’re recovering from illness, in a physically demanding job, or trying to gain muscle mass;

Most studies suggest that 0.7 – 1 grams per pound of lean mass* (1.5 – 2.2 grams per kg) is sufficient.

This amounts to;
56-91 grams per day (male)
46-75 grams per day (female)

The best strategy is to stagger your protein intake throughout the day at around 15-20g at a time, this allows time for  physiological processing and avoids it being stored as fat. Studies also show that protein intake beyond around 95g is not utilised and again you run the risk of storing the excess as fat and putting a burden on your kidneys.

*Lean mass is muscle mass minus total body fat. Most gyms have a machine that can measure this for you.

strategies for a long and healthy life for your pet

IMAG0696A few years ago my little friend Pushkin got so sick from some comercial pet food, (and/or some additive in it) that we almost lost him. Thankfully due to all the amazing vets at the RSPCA he did survive and is now back to normal. We still don’t know what exactly in the food triggered the illness – but the only thing he ate for a year was boiled or raw chicken and mince meat. I learnt 3 important lessons from this experience;

1. Even thought I bought top quality and mostly natural packaged pet food, his health and the look of his coat was never healthier than when he ate just plain fresh meat.

2. Feeding my pet fresh meat from either the butcher or the supermarket worked out less expensive than buying commercial food.

3. Not buying pet food that has been grown, processed and packed into paper and plastic, I managed to reduce the environmental burden of feeding my pet. Of course animal agriculture has its own enviromental burden, but that is for another post entirely.

As well as feeding him fresh whole food, I also started feeding him pro-biotics to help restore his digestive system and to restore his gut flora after all the antibiotics he had while in the hospital. Studies have also shown that giving your pet pro-biotics can help with defending their digestive systems from pathogens, which can be especially helpful when they are recovering from illness and courses of antibiotics.

Did you know that the biggest health problem facing humans in the majority of western countries is obesity? Well the same is true for pets.

Overweight pets run a significantly higher risk of developing serious debilitating diseases including arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, hypothyroidism, respiratory problems, and kidney disease. Any one of these can result in a significant reduction in both the quantity and quality of your pet’s life.

So what strategies will work?

1. Feeding your pet with fresh meat, helps you control what exactly they are eating. Dogs will be able to have rice or similar mixed in, but cats are obligate carnivores, so meat only for them! Traditional weight loss strategies for pets included high fiber diets, which for the felines can lead to further health problems.

2. Calorie restriciton

For example, if you have a 15-pound kitty whose normal daily calorie count is 220, you could reduce that amount by 25 to 30 percent and feed only 154 to 165 calories per day. You feed the same food, just less of it.

Long-term calorie restriction has been shown to have beneficial effects on free radicals, which decreases oxidative stress. It is the inflammation resulting from oxidative stress that is thought to be the primary cause of age-related degenerative disease.

In a study of 48 Labrador retrievers from 8 weeks of age until death, 24 dogs were fed a 25 percent CRD and 24 control dogs were not. The results:

“Compared with control dogs, food-restricted dogs weighed less, had lower body fat content and lower serum triglycerides, triiodothyronine, insulin, and glucose concentrations. Median life span was significantly longer for dogs in which food was restricted. The onset of clinical signs of chronic disease generally was delayed for food-restricted dogs.”

The dogs also had a lower rate and severity of osteoarthritis in joints and lived an average of 2 years longer than the control dogs.

 

 

 

red beets green smoothies

2015-03-04_Food_0076-1920x1280Red beets green smoothies!

Red smoothies contain about 90% more antioxidants than green smoothies, thanks to the red pigment contained in berries, grapes and beets. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation, improve skin elasticity and skin tone, improve heart health and help you to feel more energised. Recent studies show that inflammation is associated with depression, so if antioxidants can reduce inflammation they can greatly improve your mental and physical well-being.

The benefits of red smoothies are not limited to antioxidant activity, but contain many important vitamins, mineral and other compounds to improve iron levels and arterial health.

Here is a recipe for a classic green smoothie, next time you make a green smoothie, you can turn it into a red smoothie with the following ingredients;

-Frozen or fresh berries, blackberries are the best.
-Black grapes
-Beetroot
-Pomegranate seeds
– Optional : superfood powders that contain, powdered berries like acai, blueberries, pomegranate.

walnut and maple granola

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Walnut and Maple granola

This fabulous recipe has been adapted from this one from The Sprouted Kitchen. It is very crunchy, not overly sweet and totally delicious!

INGREDIENTS

2½ T olive oil (I use melted coconut oil)
½ tsp. sea salt
¾ tsp. chai spice (or equal parts ground ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon with a dash of allspice)
⅓ cup Grade B maple syrup
⅓ cup pumpkin puree
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (certified gluten-free if you’re sensitive)
½ cup roughly chopped raw walnuts
3 T sesame seeds / flax seeds
½ cup golden raisins (I use dried cranberries as well)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, salt, Chai spice, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree until smooth. Add in the oats, pecans, and sesame seeds and stir until well-coated — but NOT the raisins/cranberries.

3. Spread the granola evenly onto a large rimmed baking sheet, trying to keep as many granola clusters intact as possible. Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until the granola is dry and golden-brown in color, stirring every 10 minutes or so by scooping the granola on the edges back into the centre and then spreading back out into an even layer.

4. Let the granola cool for a few minutes, then stir in the dried cranberries. Allow to cool completely on baking sheets before transferring to an airtight container for storage. Finished granola will keep for about a week — if you don’t eat it before that!

super sprouts

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Sprouted seeds and grains contain a good deal of nutrition despite their tiny size!

When a little seed sprouts, it converts some of its sugar content into vitamin C, to act as an antioxidant in the new open air environment. It also begins to synthesize a variety of new enzymes, many of them necessary to handle oxygen metabolism in the world above the soil. On a gram for gram basis, sprouts are richer in vitamin C than the older, more mature plants they eventually become, because this moment in their lifecyle calls for a high level of vitality.

I choose to use cress seeds because:

  • According to the study published in Centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) journal, researchers at William Paterson University at New Jersey, watercress is labeled as the most nutrient dense food, and for the same reason, it tops the list of “powerhouse fruits and vegetables”.
  • Cress leaves and stem contains gluconasturtiin, a glucosinolate compound that gives the peppery flavor. Research studies suggest that the hydrolysis product of gluconasturtiin, 2-phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), is believed to be cancer preventing by inhibition of phase I enzymes (mono-oxygenases and cytochrome P450s).

How to make your own.

I use an old sushi container like this sushi container, you can also get sprouting trays.

Paper towel

Cress seeds, or any other green leafy seeds or even broccoli seeds will do

Water

Method.

Line the bottom of the sushi container tray with paper towel ( you could use a shallow dish, but the lid of the tray is important)

Soak the paper towel with water

Sprinkle the seeds on top

Place on a sunny windowsill

put the lid on the tray and keep the paper towel soaking wet everyday

wait until the sprouts are about 1 cm high, then you can remove the lid, but make sure that the paper towel is always soaking wet.

 

5 ways to get your 5 a day

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Do you find it hard to get your 5 a day? Sick of salad and steamed broccoli? Here are 5 easy ways to add more fresh produce into your life;

1. Smooth operator.  The best way to add more fruit and veg if you are pressed for time is a smoothie. Tip: add some oats for extra fiber to help you feel fuller and to slow the absorption of the fruit sugars.

2. Added value breakfast. Add berries to your cereal, mash some banana on your toast (extra yummy with nut butter) add tomatoes and mushrooms to your full English.

3. Snacks. Fruit like apples and satsumas make great snacks because they last through the day and withstand your commute to work – great for a mid afternoon energy boost.

4. Easy like Sunday morning. Roast as many veg as you can with your Sunday lunch, think carrots, parsnip, swede, sweet potato, beans, aubergines, cauliflower and beetroot! Tip: the softer the vegetable the less time it needs in the oven, so stagger your roasting from potatoes that need the most time to green beans that need the least.

5. Crisp it. Get slicing those apples, beets and carrots and bake on a medium heat until crisp.

Roasted tomato chicken and bean soup

  • Preparation time:25 minutes, plus cooling
  • Cooking time:1 hour
  • Total time:1 hour 25 minutes, plus cooling

Serves: 6

Ingredients

1.5kg ripe tomatoes, halved widthways

6 echalion shallots, halved or quartered if large

4 garlic cloves, peeled

2 whole red chillies, stalks removed (deseeded, if liked)

25g pack basil, leaves and stalks separated

1 tbsp vegetable oil

8 chicken thighs

400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C, gas mark 6. Toss the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, chillies and basil stalks with the oil; season. Scatter in one layer over a baking tray. Top with the chicken thighs, skin-side up; season. Roast for 45-55 minutes, until the veg are soft and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, with no pink meat and the juices run clear.

2. Set the chicken aside, cool and shred; discard the skin and bones. Blitz everything else in a food processor until smooth, in batches, if needed.

3. Transfer the soup to a pan and add 200-300ml water until smooth. Add the beans and most of the chicken; simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in most of the basil leaves. Serve, topped with the remaining basil and chicken.

Nutritional Info

Typical values per serving:

Energy 1,249kJ
298kcals
Fat 14.5g
Saturated Fat 3.7g
Carbohydrate 14.4g
Sugars 9.3g
Protein 27.5g
Salt 0.3g
Fibre

Original recipe here

red smoothie for glowing skin


Red smoothie for glowing skin.This smoothie is so jam packed full of nutrients you will be wondering why you ever bothered with a green smoothie. It contains antioxidants, vitamin A, iron, folic acid, potassium and blood pressure lowering compounds. In addition to all this, it tastes fantastic! Beetroot increases the amount of an antioxidant made by your body called Glutatione peroxidase, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants around!

Serves 2 generously

1/4 cup cranberries
small handfull of raspberries
Small bunch of black grapes
1 red apple.
1/2 beetroot
1 small bannana
Add some fibre, like oats or rice bran
4 cups water.

Blend and drink!