• Keeping it Cool

        With temperatures soaring over recent days, staying hydrated has been more important than ever; not only for comfort but to support a range of vital bodily functions.

        Around 70% of our body is made up of water (including our brain), and it has a multitude of roles for our health and wellbeing. Water hydrates our cells, helps removes toxins and waste materials, helps lubricate joints, keeps our kidneys working efficiently, supports digestion by transporting nutrients, and supports critical chemical processes in our metabolism. It is also important for concentration and mood – in fact just a 2% drop in water can reduce our mental and physical performance by up to 20%, and when it’s hot we lose that water through our urine, stools, lungs and over 2 million sweat glands in our skin.

        So how much should we be drinking? On a normal day around 2 litres or 6 large glasses – sipped gradually throughout the day. Herbal teas can count towards this but not caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee or fizzy drinks. When hot or exercising this should be increased, but you can easily check how hydrated you are by checking the colour of your urine, which should be pale and straw coloured. Remember; once you are thirsty you are already dehydrated!

        Top tips for staying cool in the heat

        • Drink water away from mealtimes since water can dilute digestive juices.
        • To make water more interesting, slice lemons, limes or oranges and put in a jug to make a naturally infused flavoured water. These add Vitamin C to your diet as well and help stimulate your liver to help you detox naturally.
        • Make your own ice lollies with simple lolly molds filled with flavoured water.
        • Eat fruits and vegetables high in water content such as watermelon, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, celery, radishes and berries.
        • Chilled soups can also be refreshing when the weather is hot. Look online for ideas using mint, cucumber or even peas and lettuce with crushed ice. 
        • Buy a simple carbon water filter to help purify your tap water. 

      • Grumpy, irritable and comfort eating?

         

        OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week there has been much written in the press about mental health, but something which is less touched on is a SAD; temporary condition which affects millions of people worldwide throughout the winter months.

        SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a condition which can have a profound effect on mood, and mental health from late autumn until the spring. Symptoms can include tearfulness, stress and anxiety, lack of concentration, irritability, feelings of low-esteem and worthlessness and general despair, and in severe cases sufferers can feel suicidal. A lack of sleep can often be a major issue, and it can also influence appetite, immunity and production of feel good hormones such as serotonin, which help us feel positive and motivated.

        The main cause is the lack of sunlight, which causes the brain to produce more melatonin; a hormone which helps us sleep at night. Melatonin production is triggered by the brain as darkness sets in, and then cortisol is produced as daylight emerges to help us feel awake and active, so longer darker days can cause hormone imbalance which can impact on many facets of our well being. This hormone shift can encourage comfort eating and binging, blood sugar imbalance leading to mood swings, and weight gain. Another side effect can be an impaired immune system, which can explain why we are so susceptible to colds and flu at this time of year.

        So what can you do to beat the winter blues?

        • Help support your gut health by cutting back on sugary foods such as refined carbohydrates (cakes, biscuits, pasta, bread and potatoes), and foods we tend to be more intolerant to such as wheat and dairy. Switch white rice and bread for brown rice, grains and wheat germ. Sweet potatoes are a filling and good alternative to white varieties.
        • Reduce stimulants; caffeine, alcohol and chocolate might offer a quick fix when you need a pick me up, but they can trigger cravings and play havoc with your blood sugar levels and brain function in the longer run.
        • Increase your fruit and vegetable portions to boost your vitamin and mineral intake to support your immune system.
        • Boiled eggs brighton hove nutrition wellbeingEggs are the perfect winter fast food. Plenty of ways to cook them; they are cheap, nutritious and rich in Vitamin D and choline and which supports the brain.
        • Essential fats are vital for your brain function so include oily fish, nuts and seeds and olive oil.
        • Look for foods that will help you produce serotonin. Turkey, chicken, fish, avocados, bananas and beans will help. These are also rich in Vitamin D to help make up for lack of sunlight.
        • Get outside in the daylight as much as you can. Take time at lunchtime to leave your desk and go for a walk. If that’s isn’t feasible, look for daylight bulbs to use in your office or home.

        bean soup01

        Finally, comfort eating is fine if you choose the right options. One pot dishes such as bean and vegetable stews, shepherds pies, fish pies, or curries will give you nutritious filling meals to keep you going until the days start getting much longer!

        So, if your friends, family or colleagues are grumpy and irritable this winter, a good place to start is with their diet. After all, as Paul Theroux once wrote “Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.”

         

         

         

         

      • Roll back the years - it's not all about the scales!

        iStock_000019276692XSmall

        Do you know your Metabolic Age?

         Whilst bathroom scales can be a useful indicator of your health and wellbeing, they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Most people know roughly what they weigh, but how many know their Metabolic Age, and the importance of that for their health?

        In clinic, and particularly with my weight management clients, body composition scales are a far more useful tool for tracking progress and achievement. They can quickly give an overview of different health markers including fat mass and fat percentage, muscle mass, hydration levels and Base Metabolic Rate (or BMR; ie the amount of calories your body needs to function at rest). They also show levels of visceral fat; the dangerous sort stored around vital organs which isnt always apparent from the outside.

        Lean muscle mass is an important part of the equation since it demands more energy of the body than fat to function; so doing some physical exercise and building lean muscle helps keep the body engine working and can help burn off the fat more quickly.

        If a client is following a programme including exercise, and sees slow progress in the pounds coming off, it is helpful for motivation to be able to demonstrate muscle mass increases (and then a corresponding drop in fat percentage), which might not immediately translate into net weight loss. Toning and reducing the inches can just as easily get you back into those jeans. It is also a great incentive to be told your body thinks it’s years younger than your chronological age!

        If your Metabolic Age is older than you are, it might be time to make some simple lifestyle changes! If you want to find out, I will have my Tanita body composition scales at my free nutrition workshop next Thursday (22nd January) in Hove. Come along and find out how you shape up. Click here on Events for more information.

      • Is your New Year diet falling apart already?

         

        food on scales hove nutrition

        The majority of us start the New Year resolving to lose weight and kick bad habits from Christmas over-indulgences. Two weeks in and the majority have almost certainly given up by now. Why?

        There’s the temptation to eat up the leftovers, a few straggling parties we couldn’t fit in before Christmas, and the stresses of going back to work in the New Year; not to mention lousy weather which makes us reach for the comfort foods. Crash diets and drastic eating plans can also mess up the metabolism and make it harder to stick to a sensible eating routine. Far better to make small sustainable changes which then become part of a new habit rather than raise unrealistic expectations and feel like a failure when they don’t work.

        Patience really does pay off! By just cutting 500 calories out of your food choices each day (or burning 500 extra by walking further or moving around more), that’s 1lb a week which could be nearly 2 stone by the time you need to fit into your summer wardrobe. More importantly, pay attention to your sugar intake as well – not just from sweets and chocolate but bread, pasta, potatoes and alcohol; all of which metabolise to sugar which, if we don’t burn off,  we readily store as fat.

        By mid January, the mince pies and chocolates will be gone, and normal routines are starting to kick back in again so there’s far more chance of sticking to a new and more nourishing eating programme.

        Here are a few tips:

        • Serve yourself smaller portions – or use smaller plates for your main meal. Side plates work well if you put the protein (meat, fish or grains) on one and the vegetables or salad on the other.
        • Resolve to drink more water to help your digestive system. At least 6 large glasses (2 litres a day) is ideal
        • Keep a food diary – you will be amazed what you are eating without thinking. Even better, take a photo of each meal on your smart phone for indisputable photographic evidence.
        • Avoid thinking about ‘losing weight’. If we lose something normally the impetus is to find it again…which is why so many ‘diets’ fail!

        This month I will be running two free workshops to explore the difference between well known diets to understand the pro’s and con’s of each; and another on the myths are realities behind detoxing, and how to undertake a healthy detox to kick start your new regime and improve your overall health. Click here or on my events link for more information. The are free to attend but please do RSVP so I know you are coming.

         

         

      • Beating the winter germs..with an apple?

        apples Borough market‘Adam and Eve ate the first vitamins, including the package’ so said American pharmacist and MD E.R. Squibb; and he wasn’t wrong!

         It’s that time of year again. The temperature outside is going up and down like a yo-yo, the radiators are going on, and with it the hankies are out;  so how can a simple apple help?

        Winter coughs and colds are generally caused by viruses which can spread rapidly as the weather closes in and we are in closer proximity to one another. Did you know, for example, that infectious droplets from a sneeze can travel at 100mph? Whilst a heavy cold may not necessarily be life threatening, it can make you feel pretty rough, and can have more serious consequences for the very young, the elderly, or anyone with a weak immune system.

        The best way to approach the winter germ season is to build your defences to fight back naturally when you become exposed to these viruses. Your immune system needs around 20 very specific micro-nutrients to function effectively, and Vitamins C and A are just two of particular benefit. Maintaining a healthy gut by eating plenty of fibre is also vital since a large part of your immune system is based in the gut and this immune defence mechanism is controlled by colonies of ‘good’ bacteria.

        So to the humble apple is a rich source of these important immune-boosting nutrients. Here’s what it contains and what it can do for you:

        • Vitamin C – the ‘master’ nutrient which is integral to all parts of the immune system. It helps white blood cells replicate, and these are the cells which form our internal defence army for fighting infection. This clever vitamin is also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and has anti-inflammatory properties.
        • Vitamin A (found in apples as beta-carotene) is also antiviral and antibacterial, and also has antioxidant properties to help scavenge harmful free radicals which can cause damage in the body.
        • Vitamin B; particularly B6, helps support the thymus gland – the gland in the body which produces the immune cells which fight infection.
        • The apple skin also contains pectin – a soluble fibre which helps promote good bacteria levels in the gut; hence why eating the whole package is important.

        sliced apple

        The best bit about apples is, they are also low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat, and can help stabilise blood sugar levels; all important factors in maintaining a healthy weight.

        Different varieties of English apples are grown year round, so you should always be able to find a home grown variety whatever the season.

        So next time you are doing your weekly grocery shop, make sure you include a bag of apples; after all there’s a great deal of truth in the adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

         

        To find out which English apples are currently in season, visit www.englishapplesandpears.co.uk

        For ideas on how to include apples in your cooking, visit my Recipes