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Chocolate can be good for you

Chocolate can be good for you

Chocolate can be good for you

This week is Chocolate Week!!!!

The History of chocolate 

The history of chocolate dates back over 3000 years to the Olmec civilization.  Cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are harvested from a tree called Theobroma Cacao, meaning ‘food of the Gods’.  Aztecs are thought to have enjoyed cacao beans by making a ‘drink’ called Chicolati, which was believed to increase wisdom, boost energy and act as an aphrodisiac. This brew was seasoned with vanilla, chilli, honey or fruit and whipped into a froth using little sticks.  I love their choice of flavours, which have now become commonplace amongst chocolate bars and puddings.

Since its discovery by Europeans and the vast time through to modern day, millions of people have helped to drive the popularity of this ultimate sweet treat.  The reputation of chocolate has evolved over time from a luxury food synonymous with wealth, to an easily affordable comfort food whilst the association with romantic gesture (food of love) and mood has remained since first discovered.

Global retail sales of chocolate are staggering with estimates of over £75 billion per year and in the UK alone, we spend over £3 billion annually.

Types of chocolate

Chocolate comes in many forms nowadays and is defined by the percentage of cocoa it contains.  Milk chocolate contains a low percentage of cocoa (23% cocoa solids) and is high in sugar and saturated fat.  Darker varieties have a greater percentage of cocoa (anything from 70-90% cocoa solids) and slightly less sugar and saturated fat (although still high).  Cocoa powder contains hardly any sugar, low amounts of saturated fat and is rich in minerals and other compounds that may benefit health.

Nutritional content of cocoa

Cocoa in its raw form is a good source of minerals including iron (helps to maintain healthy red blood cell production), magnesium (helps to maintain healthy bones, promotes muscle relaxation and converts food into energy), phosphorus (healthy bones and converts food into energy), potassium (helps maintain fluid balance and helps the heart to work properly),  zinc (helps to make new cells and enzymes in the body and wound healing) and copper (helps to produce red and white blood cells and with iron usage in the body).

Nutritional breakdown of unsweetened cocoa powder per 2 heaped tsp

Calories         44

Fat                  1.9g

Sat fat             1.8g

Carb                 1.6g

Sugar              0g

Fibre               2.3g

Protein           2.6g

Also contains….

Iron                 1.57mg (11% RDA)

Magnesium    73mg   (19% RDA)

Phosphorus    92mg (13% RDA)

Potassium       210mg (10.5% RDA)

Zinc                 0.97mg (9.7% RDA)

Copper           0.55mg (55% RDA)

Other compounds found in cocoa

Cocoa is richer in antioxidants that almost any other food on the planet.  These antioxidant compounds are called flavanol polyphenols and have been shown to help reduce the risk of disease. Cocoa also contains a compound called theobromine, which acts as a stimulant similar to caffeine but without the jittery side-effects. You will also find phenethylamine (PEA) in cocoa, which is a compound that stimulates the central nervous system to amplify the action of brain chemicals including the ‘feel’ good hormones serotonin and dopamine.  Phenethylamine is also thought to mimic the brain chemistry of someone in love, which is why it’s often thought of as an aphrodisiac.

What are the potential health benefits of cocoa?

In moderation there’s nothing wrong with eating chocolate within the context of a healthy diet, but too much of anything can have its downsides and our reliance on high sugar snacks has been instrumental in the rise of diet related diseases including obesity.

Whilst overindulging on chocolate snack bars and puddings is clearly not great for your health, research has shown that there may be health benefits associated with cocoa, which is the raw ingredient.

Just to be clear, there are no benefits associated with tucking into a few packets of Minstrels and any positive impact on health is linked to cocoa in its raw form of cocoa powder or raw cacao.  The closest chocolate comes to having any health benefits is the dark variety with a high percentage of cocoa solids (70% and above), but this still needs to be eaten in moderation given its high sugar and sat fat content.

Heart disease

The polyphenols in cocoa are thought to dilate the arteries, which improves elasticity and may reduce the risk of heart attack. The effect of these antioxidants is also thought to be similar to aspirin in that they help to thin the blood and prevent unwanted clots with research showing that the effect after drinking a cup of cocoa lasting more than 6 hours (1).  Findings from a large analysis of seven studies carried out by researchers at Cambridge University found that both men and women with the highest intake of cocao were 37% less likely to suffer with coronary heart disease and 29% less likely to experience a stroke compared to those with the lowest intakes (2).

Cholesterol

Studies have shown that cocoa may have a positive impact on cholesterol, raised levels of which are considered to be a risk factor for heart disease.  Findings from a clinical trial published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that the polyphenols found in cocoa powder contributed to a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol, elevation in HDL (good) cholesterol and suppressed the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is thought to be particularly damaging to tissues such as those lining the arteries of the heart (3).   The effect on oxidation may be explained by the antioxidant effect of polyphenols as they help to protect the body from free radical damage (4).

Blood pressure

Research around blood pressure stems from islanders of Kuna that don’t appear to develop high blood pressure as they get older, which is in part attributed to the high amounts of cocoa they consume on a daily basis. It was noticed that once they left the island and consumed less cocoa they lost the protective effect on blood pressure.  The link between cocoa and blood pressure is that the flavanols it contains increase the availability of nitric oxide in the blood, which dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.  Researchers from Adelaide University found that drinking cocoa (rich in flavanols) significantly lowered blood pressure when compared to a flavanol-free placebo drink (5).  Similar findings have also been shown in several other studies although the effect is not that strong (6, 7).

Brain health

Studies have shown that drinking cocoa at least 5 days of the week boosts the flow of blood to the parts of the brain that help with cognition and may improve performance and alertness (8).  The antioxidants in cocoa also help to neutralise the low-grade inflammation associated with ‘foggy’ thoughts. Studies of older people that are mentally impaired have found that those who regularly drank cocoa had greater improvements in memory and verbal reasoning than those who did not (9). It’s for this reason that cocoa has been of interest to researchers investigating dementia.

Chocolate as a functional food?

Advances in innovation have seen a rise in chocolate products with added health benefits.  Companies such as Ombar produce a dark chocolate bar fortified with probiotic cultures.

How to add more cocoa into your diet

Whilst many people enjoy eating chocolate and may understand the potential benefit of choosing dark over milk varieties, less people know how to use cocoa powder beyond a drink.

If you’re not familiar with using cocoa powder, then try these ideas below for a little inspiration:

  • Add 1 tbsp to your protein shake.
  • Add 1 tbsp to porridge.
  • Make homemade energy balls by blending cocoa or raw cacao powder, dates and chopped hazelnuts to a food processor.
  • Combine 1 tbsp with hot milk of choice for a warming evening drink rich in magnesium that helps to promote muscle relaxation and has been shown by research to induce sleep. Try adding cinnamon, ground cardamom or chilli for extra flavour.
  • Add cocoa or raw cacao powder to chilli con carne for richness and intense flavour.

The reality of chocolate and health

The truth still remains that chocolate, even dark chocolate, is never going to be considered a healthy food as it contains high amounts of sugar and saturated fat, which if eaten in excess will counteract any potential health benefits of cocoa.  However, you can reap the health benefits of cocoa by incorporating it into your diet in ways that allow you to control the amount of sugar and saturated fat.  It’s also worth pointing out that the true benefit of nutrition lies in the overall diet and not single foods so whilst the health potential of cocoa is interesting, you still need to focus on eating a well balanced and varied diet.

Try this recipe from my book The Detox Kitchen Bible.  These brownies are still a sweet treat but contain much less sugar than usual recipes and harness the benefits of cocoa.

Beetroot Brownies

Makes 9

Ingredients

150g raw beetroot, peeled and cut into small cubes

50g hazelnuts

100g gluten and wheat-free flour

1 tsp baking powder

60g raw cacao powder

120g runny honey

½ tsp salt

3 eggs

75ml rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line the bottom and sides of a 20cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Put the beetroot in a microwave-safe bowl with 50ml water, cover with clingfilm and cook on a high heat for 7 minutes until soft. If you don’t have a microwave, wrap the beetroot in foil and bake in the heated oven for about 40 minutes until soft.
  3. Put the hazelnuts in a blender and blitz until they are roughly chopped. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cacao powder.
  4. Now blitz the cooked beetroot in the blender for 1–2 minutes until smooth. Add to the dry ingredients in the bowl but do not mix just yet.
  5. Using the blender for the third time, put the honey, salt and eggs in it and blitz for 3 minutes. Pour into the bowl and mix with the rest of the ingredients using a wooden spoon. Be gentle, as you want to keep air in the mixture whilst combining it thoroughly.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the heated oven for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

You can find more delicious recipes from Lilly and the gang at the Detox Kitchen website.

If you liked this blog and want to learn more about chocolate then have a read of these:

Raw cacao and avocado mousse recipe 

Raw cacao and cashew nut milk

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10871557
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21875885
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17513403
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11684527
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19910929
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17609490
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22301923
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16794461
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25733639

 

Ten prebiotic foods you need to know about

Ten prebiotic foods you need to know about

Ten prebiotic foods you need to know about

Gut health has become a hot topic in the world of nutrition and as research evolves it’s becoming very clear that the beneficial role of microbes found in the gut goes way beyond digestion.  The collection of microbes in your gut are referred to as your microbiome and advice about how to protect it has become commonplace.

Your gut microbiome is sensitive to your lifestyle and dietary habits; both  can either promote a good diversity of microbes in the gut or tip the balance in the opposite direction, which may have a negative impact on your health.

The foods that can have the biggest positive effect on your microbiome are those containing beneficial bacteria (probiotics) and those containing indigestible fibres referred to as prebiotics.

Your microbiome is unique like a fingerprint

The term ‘microbiome’ refers to the collection of microbes that live in and on the body, of which there are around 100 trillion, the majority of which are found in the gut.  These bugs form a protective barrier defending the body from foreign invaders, which can be harmful to health.

The microbes in your gut include bacteria, which are essential for efficient digestion.  These bacteria also help to digest antioxidant polyphenols, synthesise vitamins such as B12, D, folic acid and thiamine, and produce short chain fatty acids that provide energy to the cells of your colon helping to maintain a strong gut barrier.  Gut bacteria have also been shown to play a role in immunity and new research is starting to explore the effect on the brain with early findings linking the diversity of bacteria in your gut to mental health and obesity (via the effect on hormones that control appetite).

Like a fingerprint, your microbiome is unique, and its composition is dictated by the world around you and within you.

Cultivation is key to a healthy microbiome

It’s yet unclear what constitutes a ‘healthy’ microbiome but one thing for sure is that it takes a bit of cultivation.  If your gut becomes overrun with bad bacteria then this can upset the balance of your microbiome, which may lead to symptoms such as bloating, excessive gas, abnormal bowels, bad breath and fatigue.

A poor diet is characterised by an over-consumption of sugar and bad fats, whilst lacking in nutritious foods such as vegetables and other wholefoods including beans, pulses and wholegrains.  This type of diet has been shown to promote the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut  (1, 2, 3).

Medication can also impact on gut bacteria as the overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and antibiotics have the potential to destroy them, which can leave your gut vulnerable and increase the risk of infection.

What are prebiotics?

No doubt you will have heard about probiotics, which are friendly bacteria found in foods such as live yoghurt and supplements.  Other foods such as kimchi, kefir and miso also contain bacteria, which are beneficial to health.

The role of prebiotics is less well understood but they’re equally, if not more important than probiotics as these indigestible fibres help the bacteria in your gut to thrive.  Probiotic supplements have the potential to be very beneficial, especially if you need to re-balance the diversity of bacteria in your gut but the same is not necessarily true of prebiotics.

There are many food sources of prebiotics, which include inulin, lignin, oligosaccharides, mucilage gums, non-starch polysaccharides (pectin and beta glucans) and resistant starches.  Foods containing these prebiotics can easily be incorporated into your daily diet and many of which you may already be eating on a regular basis. You’re more likely to be eating prebiotic foods if your diet is healthy and contains plenty of plant-based foods.

Ten top prebiotic foods to include in your diet

There are quite a few prebiotic foods, but I have chosen the ones that are more commonly eaten and easily accessed from your local supermarket.

1.Jerusalem artichoke

This vegetable is now available in larger supermarkets and is in season between October and February.  Jerusalem artichokes contain 2g of fibre per 100g and 76% comes from inulin. You can also glean a good source of thiamine (healthy nervous system and releases energy from food) and iron (healthy immune system, red blood cell production and wards of tiredness) from Jerusalem artichokes.

These are not a commonly eaten vegetable as many people are unsure how to use them.  Jerusalem artichokes have a nutty flavour and can be used in the same way as potatoes in that they can be roasted and mashed, and also work well in soups.

2.Garlic

This vegetable is closely related to onions and leeks. Garlic can form the base of many home-cooked dishes alongside onions, which means it’s easy to add to your daily diet.  Around 11% of the fibre found in garlic comes from inulin and 6% from fructooligosaccharides, which add a slight sweetness to its flavour.

3.Onions

Onions are another food that can easily be included into your daily diet as it acts as a base for many home-cooked dishes.  Around 10% of the fibre found in onions comes from inulin and 6% from fructooligosaccharides.  Onions also contain a good source of vitamin C (protects cells, maintains healthy skin and helps with wound healing) and the flavonoid quercetin, which acts as an antioxidant in the body.

4.Leeks

This vegetable is similar to garlic and onions but less commonly used.  Around 16% of the fibre found in leeks is from inulin.  Leeks are also high in flavonoids, which support the body to respond to oxidative stress.  You can also glean a good source of vitamin A (healthy immune system, eyes, skin and mucosal linings such as the nose), vitamin C (protects cells, maintains healthy skin and helps with wound healing) and vitamin K (blood clotting and healthy bones) from leeks.

You can serve leeks as a side dish, incorporate into soups or a topping for pies.

5.Apples

There’s a lot of truth in the saying about an apple a day keeping the doctor away, and this includes the health of your gut.  Around 50% of the fibre found in apples is from pectin.  This prebiotic not only benefits the health of your microbiota but has been shown to help reduce cholesterol.  Apples are also high in polyphenol antioxidants.

As well as snacking on apples you can use them to make fruit puddings, add to savoury dishes and grate as a topping for yoghurt or soaked oats.

6.Asparagus

This vegetable is now available all year round with supermarkets importing it from countries such as Peru.  To savour the best tasting Asparagus and save on food miles, you’re better to wait until the British asparagus season, which occurs between April and May.   Asparagus is not as rich in prebiotics as other vegetables with only around 5% of the fibre coming from inulin. This vegetable also contains a good source of vitamin A (healthy immune system, eyes, skin and mucosal linings such as the nose), vitamin K (blood clotting and healthy bones) and folate (healthy red blood cells and protection against neural tube defects in unborn babies).

Asparagus is delicious served on its own with a big drizzle of olive oil or topped with a poached egg for breakfast.  You can also add asparagus to pasta dishes, risottos and soups.

7.Bananas

These fruits are one of the most commonly eaten in the UK and contain small amounts of inulin.  Unripe (green) bananas are high in resistant starch and feature as an ingredient in many Caribbean dishes. Bananas are also a good source of vitamin B6 (converts food into energy and helps to form haemoglobin in red blood cells).

Bananas can be eaten as a snack, baked and used in smoothies and fruit puddings.  For something different, try adding to curries.

8.Barley

This grain is not as commonly used as others such as rice but is actually hugely versatile once you know how to use it.  Barley contains around 8g of beta glucan per 100g, which is not only good for your gut but has been shown to help reduce cholesterol. Barley also contains the minerals magnesium (converts food into energy, promotes muscle relaxation and healthy bones) and selenium (protects cells and promotes a healthy immune system).

Barley can be used in place of rice to make risotto, added to soups or salads (cooked).

9.Potatoes

Potatoes are a starchy carbohydrate as are other foods such as grains.  Starches are long chains of glucose, which the body uses for energy.  When potatoes are cooked and then cooled, they develop resistant starches, which the body is unable to break down and as such behave as prebiotics.

10.Flaxseeds

These seeds are hugely healthy and a good source of prebiotics with 20-40% of their fibre coming from mucilage gums and 60-80% from cellulose and lignin.  Flaxseeds also contain phenolic antioxidants and are a useful source of protein. You can also glean a good source of minerals from flaxseed including magnesium (converts food into energy, promotes muscle relaxation and healthy bones), iron (healthy immune system, red blood cell production and wards of tiredness), calcium (healthy bones and teeth) and zinc (converts food into energy, involved in making new cells and enzymes and helps with wound healing).  Flaxseed are also rich in omega 3 and although the conversion to more usable forms of this fatty acid in the body is poor, it’s still a useful source, especially for people following a plant-based diet.

You can add seeds to any dish and also smoothies.

If you’re eating a healthy diet, then many of the foods included will naturally take care of your gut and including the foods listed above will be especially useful to promote the health of your microbiome.

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3493718/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4005082/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4083503/
Are you a sleep hijacker?

Are you a sleep hijacker?

What is sleep?

Sleep is defined as, “A condition of body and mind which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended”.  Modern times are defined by a fast paced and more stressed society, addicted to social media and a level of communication that commands a 24/7 availability. The side-effects of this environment are that many of us find it more difficult to relax, diet has been jeopardized and we have even come up with the phrase ‘FOMO’, which is the fear of missing out.

The cumulative effects of this shift in society has had a huge impact on our ability to relax and sleep, which is also compounded by many other factors traditionally thought of as getting in the way of our time spent in slumber.

The sleep cycle

During sleep your heart rate drops, body temperature falls and complex changes occur in the brain. The first stage of sleep is non-rapid eye movement, which occurs in three stages that become progressively deeper. Stage one and two are light sleep from which we can easily be roused from. The third stage is deeper and we are less likely to be roused from but may feel disorientated if woken. Stage four is known as rapid eye movement sleep, which is the point that dreaming occurs. Each cycle lasts around 90 minutes and all four are needed to wake up feeling rested.

Sleep is controlled mostly by your circadian rhythm, which is your in-built body clock and a 24-hour cycle that regulates both biological and physiological processes. It anticipates environmental changes allowing the body to adapt and is largely influenced by light. When you are in sync you will naturally wake at the same time every day, which explains those weird moments when you wake just before the alarm goes off. After being awake for around 15 hours the pressure to sleep becomes greater as tiredness set in and with the onset of darkness the circadian rhythm drops to the lowest levels to help maintain sleep.

There is evidence to show that it can be perfectly natural to sleep for around four hours then wake and fall asleep again for a few more hours putting question to the perception that you need 8 hours uninterrupted sleep to wake up feeling refreshed. Problems may occur of you wake after four hours and fail to fall back to sleep, which is the case for people suffering with insomnia. Anxiety related to the inability to fall back to sleep can only further lead to sleep deprivation so rather than lie in bed staring at the ceiling it may be better to get up, make a warming drink and sit quietly in the dimmest of light, maybe reading or writing down ideas, stresses or problems to help clear the mind and get you ready to fall back to sleep.

Society of non-sleepers

We are a society that typically does not get enough sleep. The idea of rest and sleep is sometimes viewed as unimportant as people seek appraisal and worth by burning the candles at both ends to appear capable and carve out the time required to achieve their goals. Admitting to feeling tired is sometimes viewed as a sign of weakness but in the long-term, strength and endurance come from the ability to switch off and allow yourself to recoup, which will ultimately help you to achieve both short and long-term goals, whilst retaining your good health.

How much sleep do Brits actually get?

A recent survey commissioned by Healthspan UK showed that 43% of Brits are tired because they can’t sleep. Our lack of sleep is evidenced by further research. According to research carried out by the Royal Society for Public Health, Britons are under-sleeping by an hour every night, which equates to a whole night’s sleep over the course of the week. The optimum number of hours’ sleep is thought to be just under eight, whilst the survey of 2000 adults found the average time we spend asleep is less than seven hours.

Further research by The Sleep Council found that 74% of Brits sleep less than 7 hours per night, whilst 12% say they get less than 5 hours nightly. This survey also showed that for 61% of Brits, between 5-7 hours is considered the norm with 30% getting poor sleep most nights. The top reasons for a poor night’s sleep appear to be stress and worry (around 50%), partner disturbance such as snoring (25%) and noise (20%) with more than one in ten blaming their sleep depravity on an uncomfortable bed.

The health benefits and downsides of sleep

Whilst asleep, your brain processes information, muscles and joints recovery from constant use during the day, production of growth hormone is increased and protein is replenished in all parts of the body. Poor sleep impacts on mood, concentration and alertness and the effects of long-term sleep deprivation have been linked to several serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Research shows that a lack of sleep may also be a major risk factor for obesity alongside physical activity and overeating. Research carried out by the university of Leeds showed that people who lack sleep or have poor quality sleep were more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. Not getting enough sleep is thought to create imbalances in the hormones that regulate appetite and how the body breaks down and utilizes nutrients for energy. These hormones include leptin (appetite regulation), ghrelin (appetite stimulant) and insulin (blood sugar regulation). The impact of these hormones on appetite and the fact that being overweight can result in low energy and lessen the motivation for physical activity may have the potential to lay the foundations for obesity.

Are you hijacking a good night’s sleep?

There are clearly many reasons why people can’t get a good night’s sleep and for many of us we just carry on regardless, waking up complaining of being tired and failing to tackle the issue head on hoping it’s just a passing phase. The reality is that we are just burying our head in the sand and as with any other health conditions, things are not likely to improve until you find a way to break the cycle.

Understanding the many things we do that unwittingly hijack a good night’s sleep is key to getting to the root of the problem and unlocking the path to a blissful, regenerative slumber. Instead of getting on with day to day life with a slightly ‘hungover’ feeling, addressing the issues head on is the best approach.

Keep a sleep diary

It may seem like quite a bit of effort given the many other things we have to get on with in our day-to-day lives but keeping track of your pattern of sleep and the factors that may be keeping you awake by using a sleep diary is a useful tool to identify the reasons and patterns of behaviour and lifestyle that could be getting in the way. The British Sleep Council have produced a morning and evening sleep diary that is worth completing for at least one week to help you to do this. Once written down it is surprising how even the simplest and most obvious of reasons for a lack of sleep are easily overlooked.

Eight sleep hijacks that could be keeping you awake

These are some of the main factors that may need to be addressed. You can use these topics to create your own personal sleep ritual, which can be a useful way to re-set your body clock and promote sleep.

Worry and stress

We have all been kept awake by the many factors that cause worry and stress in our lives. Money problems, relationship issues and work stresses can have you sitting up all night as your brain whizzes in a cycle though different situations and scenarios to come up with solutions.

A useful habit to get into is to download your thoughts at the end of the day. Keep a pen and paper next to your bed and before you go to sleep, write down your thought and worries, create a to-do list for the following day or jot down solutions and ideas that relate to work. If you get up during night, rather than twiddling your thumbs spinning ideas around your head then get up, make a warming drink and sit quietly in dim light and jot down your thoughts to get them out of your head.

For some people that can’t sleep, even the slightest worries can have a major impact such as whether you have locked all the windows and doors or whether you have turned off the oven or switched off the hob. In this case, developing a personal sleep ritual can help. Work through the same pattern of checking before you go to bed. Lock the front door, check the windows are locked and that the cooker is switched off. It doesn’t take much for the smallest of worries to escalate in your mind when you’re finding it difficult to nod off.

Diet and eating patterns

What and when you eat can have a major impact on your ability to sleep. Eating too late or indulging in a rich or spicy meal can keep you awake. These foods take a long while to digest and the after effects of indigestion and heartburn are not going to set you up well for a good quality sleep.

The amino acid tryptophan has been linked to inducing a soporific state that may help you to relax before you sleep. Tryptophan is required to make melatonin in the brain, which is the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. Foods rich in this amino acid include poultry, tofu and dairy foods but you need to team them with low to medium glyaemic carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, pasta and bread) for maximum effect, which puts some truth to the old wife’s tale of milk with honey. Aim to eat your evening meal earlier (up to 4 hours before bed) as the effects of digestion can push your body’s core temperature upwards, which may disrupt sleep.

Some nutrients specifically have been associated with sleep and relaxation. There is a research to suggest that both calcium and magnesium may be linked to poor sleep. Magnesium found in green vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and wholegrains is involved in muscle relaxation and low intakes have been shown to make it harder to stay asleep. Calcium found in dairy foods, soy, beans and green vegetables, helps the brain to use tryptophan to make melatonin and low levels have also been shown to make it more difficult to nod off.

Vitamin B6 may be useful too. Oily fish are a rich source of this vitamin that is also required by the body to make melatonin. Most people get enough vitamin B6 but the effects of stress can deplete the body of this nutrient and disrupt sleep.

Alcohol and caffeine

Tea, coffee and energy drinks contain caffeine that helps to stimulate the nervous system and make you more alert, which is great if you need a pick-me-up (although energy drinks should be avoided given their high sugar content). Dosing up on caffeine during the day can affect your ability to sleep later on in the evening. Try limiting your intake of caffeine to the morning and switch to decaffeinated options such as herbal teas (chamomile and valerian are considered to help with relaxation).

Alcohol is a double-edged sword when it comes to sleep. Whilst a little may help to induce slumber, even in small amounts it can cause fragmented sleep patterns. Alcohol has been shown to exacerbate insomnia and impairs the restorative part of sleep called rapid eye movement. Alcohol also inhibits your anti-diuretic hormone that tells the kidneys how much water to conserve and can have you getting up through the night to use the bathroom.

Mattress and bedding

The findings from the Sleep Council Survey showed that 26% of Brits sleep in an uncomfortable bed and that 27% of people questioned have a mattress that is more than seven years old. Mattresses age can deteriorate by as much as 70% within ten years of use so past seven years you should consider replacing especially if you find it uncomfortable. It’s important to try your mattress before buying as the right level of comfort is down to individual preference.

Changing your bedding regularly is a must to help with sleep as nothing is more relaxing than sinking into freshly laundered bed linen. Certain fibres such as silk provide a breathable barrier between you and the surrounding temperature, which can help you to keep cool and whilst silk bedding is somewhat of a luxury, a single pillowcase may be a useful aid to help you to sleep.

Bedroom environment

Your bedroom should be considered to be a ‘sleep oasis’, reserved purely for slumber, whist being inviting, relaxing and welcoming. Your bedroom should be dark once the lights are switched off because the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin is very light-sensitive and may not be optimally produced if it is not so. Check for ‘light leaks’ and take action by fixing curtains or installing black out blinds, turning off anything that emits and LED light such as phones and clocks and make sure that if your door is open during the night then all other lights around the house are switched off.

Maintaining the right temperature can also help with sleep as a room that is too hot may prevent your core temperature from going down, which is essential for switching on the sleep mechanism within the body. Your body temperature falls to its lowest level around 3-4 hours after falling asleep so keeping your bedroom temperature cool may help keep you asleep. A warm bedroom can also dehydrate you and this may have you waking up to get a glass of water.

A cluttered bedroom can be an energy drainer. Psychologically, you know it’s there even if you choose to ignore it and it can leave you questioning why you haven’t dealt with it. Clearing clutter means organization and can help you to achieve peace of mind, which helps with restful sleep.

Blue light

Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain called the hypothalamus, where a special centre called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) initiates signals to other parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide awake.

We live in a technological world but the type of light that is emitted from phones, TV’s, computers, tablets and other gadgets called blue light can disrupt your ability to sleep. Research has shown that light from these sources for up to two hours before bed can significantly suppress the production of melatonin causing sleep disturbances. A study from the Lighting Research Centre in New York showed that two hours of exposure to this light before sleeping caused a 22% suppression in melatonin production.

Digital devices can also stimulate the brain and add to worry and stress as you receive and read emails, texts or social media relating to work or personal issues. Try initiating a digital detox as part of your sleep ritual, tuning out and switching off communications at least two hours before bed.

Chilling out

There are many ways to relax before bed that include stretching, guided imagery and breathing, which can be done with the help of meditation apps designed to help you to sleep. Breathing exercises are the simplest way to induce relaxation and centre the mind. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing as you feel the air enter and leave your nose and mouth. Visualize the flow of air as it passes through your mouth, airways, down into your belly, and back out again. Survey your body for any tension, and as you exhale, feel the tension leave that part of your body. Visualize your breath reaching your forehead, your neck, your shoulders, your arms… and then releasing the tension as you exhale. If your mind wanders to another worry or thought, let it go and gently redirect your attention back to your breath.

Research has shown that bathing or showering before bed can help you to drift off but you need to time it right. You don’t want to raise your body temperature to close to bedtime as temperature has a key role to play in regulating the circadian rhythm. The cooling down of body temperature is a signal to the body that we should be ready to sleep so interrupting this process by raising your body temperature too close to bedtime can be counterintuitive. Showering or bathing early in the evening gives your body time to cool and off and can help to trigger sleep. Try and time you shower or bath so you’re out about an hour and a half before you hit the sack as by then your body will be cool, dry and ready for sleep. Adding magnesium salts to your bath may also help as this mineral is absorbed through the skin and relaxes the muscles.

Experts consider sleep to be just as important to your health as diet and exercise. Getting the right amount and sufficient quality is necessary for the body to regenerate and repair itself and not getting enough could have serious health consequences in the long term. If you do have difficulty sleeping then it shouldn’t be ignored and identifying the factors that may be keeping you awake can help you to create your own personal sleep ritual and establish a good level of sleep hygiene that will get you back on track to a restorative and restful slumber.

The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

 

The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

Download free PDF here The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

Whilst I may now be a well-respected nutritionist, it would be hypocritical to deny that I haven’t done my fair share of partying.  Having lived my teenage years with complete abandon through the 1990’s and drunk my own body weight in cosmopolitans at the Met bar during the early noughties, I will honestly confess to three day benders, raves in open fields and muddy festivals that were just part of the course during this era.  Unlike your ‘clean eating’ millennial’s, I feel fully qualified to impart my forty years of knowledge on the best way to survive the festival season unscathed!

Forget trying to keep up with the young ‘uns!

My first word of advice for anyone over the age of 25 is to forget trying to keep up with the teens. Those lucky buggers can do three days with a rucksack full of booze and get up fresh as a daisy after 2 hours’ sleep, but let me tell you, this just doesn’t work for the rest of us!

So, how do you survive Glastonbury and still look great in a pair of denim hot pants and Hunter wellies?

Preparation is the key

For those ‘clean eating’ disciples, this a time to let yourself go and live in the moment as your search for a green juice and kale salad is likely to fall on deaf ears! The modern health hedonist thrives on burning the candle at both ends whilst still retaining their well-being with dignity and coolness.

 


For those ‘clean eating’ disciples, this a time to let yourself go and live in the moment as your search for a green juice and kale salad is likely to fall on deaf ears!


 

Save some space in your luggage for key essentials and that means packing a few food items and supplements to give you the energy to wake up on day two and three, ready for the party ahead! It’s rock and roll after all!

 

Essential festival survival kit

 

 

Best choice of drink

Well this is a difficult one and from experience I can only say that you should stick to one type of drink. I know it’s tough in the throes of the moment but mixing drinks is a sure-fire way to end up with your head down a portaloo or confessing your darkest secrets to some unsuspecting stranger (we have all been there!).

Don’t frontload your fun!  Try watering down the booze as the coolest partygoer stands the test of time and still looks like sparkly into the early hours of the morning.  Add fizzy water to wine or serve your spirits with extra mixers.  If you want to avoid the king of hangovers than my advice is to steer clear of red wine or brown spirits that are high in congeners, which are substances known to intensify the effects of a hangover.

 


“Don’t frontload your fun!  Try watering down the booze as the coolest partygoer stands the test of time and still looks like sparkly into the early hours of the morning”


 

Breakfast

It’s important to eat regularly during the day to soak up the booze and there’s no better way to start than a good breakfast.  Whilst lunch and supper might involve less than healthy food (you may even skip these meals), breakfast is likely to be the only meal you’re going to get to cook or prepare for yourself and is the easiest thing to pack.

Try and avoid the temptation of a greasy bacon and egg sandwich.  Far be it from me to tell you what to eat but whilst this may offer instant gratification you’re more than likely to be left feeling bloated and possibly suffering from a dodgy tummy for a few hours afterwards as your delicate stomach battles with the digestion of excess fats.

If you have access to boiling water then pack plenty of quick cook porridge sachets.  You can boost their nutritional impact by topping with dried fruits that will help to balance blood sugar levels after a heavy night of drinking and dancing.  Adding nuts and seeds will help to boost the prolonged energy supply by adding healthy fats and fibre.

 


“If you have access to boiling water then pack plenty of quick cook porridge sachets”


 

You can also pack hard boiled eggs!  I know this is a bit of effort but they will last a while once cooked.  Eggs contain the amino acid, cysteine that helps the liver to breakdown alcohol.  If you pack rye bread and avocado then teamed with sliced boiled eggs you have the breakfast of champions that will keep you going until lunch.  Eggs and avocado also supply the body with B vitamins that are required to help the body breakdown alcohol and convert food into energy.  This combo also looks pretty sophisticated as a hangover breakfast!

Healthy snacks

It’s not a bad idea to chuck a few healthy snacks into your backpack before you leave the house. The easiest things are dried fruit and nut bars. You can make your own energy balls if you’re feeling particularly prepared. They’re easy to take with you as you venture out into the crowd and can provide a valuable energy source and pick-me-up during your favourite band sets.  Bananas offer a brilliant source of potassium, which is an electrolyte required for fluid balance and nuts are rich in another essential electrolyte, magnesium.

 


“It’s not a bad idea to chuck a few healthy snacks into your backpack before you leave the house. The easiest things are dried fruit and nut bars”


 

Nuts, seeds and fruit are also easy to pack and can be a great option to fill the gap between meals.

After party munchies

Depending on the weather and your ability to store food, cold meats and cheese teamed with pitta bread and crackers such as Ryvita (www.ryvita.co.uk) offer a good nutritious meal when you get back to your tent.  You can also pack dips such as hummus or even nut butters and dare I say Nutella (tastes amazing with sliced bananas after a few drinks!).  Canned tuna and pulses can also be used to rustle up a quick nutritious meal after the party if you can navigate the can opener! Pack a few fresh herbs, lemons, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to complete the meal.

 


“Canned tuna and pulses can also be used to rustle up a quick nutritious meal after the party if you can navigate the can opener!”


 

Hydrate

It goes without saying that the most important thing after a heavy night is to re-hydrate.  Try packing as much water as possible if you can’t get it at the festival.  Watery fruits are also great for the morning after.  Melons are particularly cool as they have a high-water content and are rich in fruit sugars to balance out blood glucose levels.  Sometimes after drinking, still water just doesn’t hit the mark so try packing fruit and herbal teas, as these can be a little easier to face as can a good old cup of builder’s brew!

For the more refined partygoer, packing fresh herbs and spices can make for an ace hangover cure.  Fresh mint with lemon and a little honey works well.  Mint helps to alleviate bloating and gas.  Another brilliant combination is pouring boiling water over freshly squeezed lemons, ground turmeric, ground ginger and honey.  This spicy combination works well to perk you up and the ginger can help settle delicate tummies.

Try this soothing tea recipe.

Supplements

We’re all aware of the mantra that food should come first but in some cases a supplement can work wonders when you know you’re going to be drinking a lot of booze.  Either an artichoke extract or milk thistle supplement taken before, during and after the festival can help your liver to cope with the excesses of partying.  A good effervescent vitamin C tablet such as Healthspan Ruby Breakfast (£11.95 for 4×20 tablets) can help to replace this vitamin that is also required for the breakdown of alcohol.  A good B vitamin complex may also help as this group is rapidly depleted in the presence of excess alcohol.

My ultimate hangover cure is Dioralyte (https://www.dioralyte.co.uk) as it helps to replace the electrolytes lost through excess sweating and unfortunate instances of overdoing it on the booze! In emergencies take before bead and when you wake up!

My hidden party animal urges you to make having fun top of your list at festivals but there’s no need to suffer the next day.  Make space for a few key foods and supplements that can help to keep you going and ease the pain the next day. Also, importantly, make sure you try to drink wisely and keep in close contact with your fellow partygoers to ensure you stay safe.

 

Food and supplement checklist

 

 

Porridge sachets

Bananas

Avocados

Herbal teas

Honey

Lemons

Ryvita

Nut butter

Extra virgin olive oil

Canned tuna

Canned pulses

Spices (turmeric, ginger)

Effervescent vitamin C tablets (supp)

Milk thistle (supp)

Artichoke extract (supp)

Diorolyte (supp)

Fresh mint

Melons

Dried fruit

Nuts

Seeds

Boiled eggs

Dried fruit and nut bars

 

Download free PDF here The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

 

Can we eat our way to good health? Most definitely yes!

Can we eat our way to good health? Most definitely yes!

Current state of health and nutrient intake in the UK (Download as PDF Current state of health in the UK)

Two thirds of the UK population are now classed as being overweight or obese.  It’s well established from research that eating the right foods that lower your BMI can help reduce your risk of developing a whole raft of diseases from heart disease to cancer.   UK Food surveys also show that a significant number of people have low intakes of certain nutrients, which may impact on areas of your health including tiredness and fatigue, poor skin and digestion. 

Fibre intake in the UK is low as is intake of omega 3-rich foods such as oily fish, both of which help protect against heart disease and certain cancers.  Women in particular are shown to have low intakes of certain minerals in their diets including magnesium and iron (nearly quarter of women have inadequate intakes of iron) both of which can impact on energy levels and fatigue. One in five Brits are also at risk of profound vitamin D deficiency according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey that can impact on bone health which is especially important for the young and older people (research has also linked this vitamin to helping with symptoms of depression).

 Research shows that in some cases, including or removing certain foods from your diet may help to reduce the symptoms and management of certain conditions including high cholesterol, depression, PMS or menopause.

 

Can you heal yourself with food?

 So, it is possible to heal yourself with food?  Yes, absolutely.  Food has the ability to heal and nurture your health and getting your diet at a place of balance is the way to start, from there you can begin to add or remove certain foods according to your health concerns.  Don’t get me wrong, there is no magic food to suddenly cure you of disease and many conditions require medical intervention but diet may certainly help to compliment a treatment or provide a more holistic approach, it’s also just food so why not give it a go.

 

Restrictive diets

There is a growing trend to follow alternative ways of eating that restrict certain foods groups such as paleo and Pegan but do these ways of eating really improve our health and is the approach of cutting out wheat, dairy and sugar make a difference? I don’t believe that cutting out large swathes of foods is the best approach to take unless you are aware of what foods you have to replace them with to still get a balance of nutrients in the diet.  

Too many people embark on highly restrictive, complicated diets and end up suffering nutritionally, whilst diagnosed food intolerances and allergies are relatively rare for some people replacing dairy with calcium-rich alternatives and cutting down on the amount of refined carbs they eat simply makes them feel better and often helps improve digestion which is why we took this approach with the Detox Kitchen Bible cookbook.  Be realistic and be sensible about removing foods from your diet as they have to be replaced with similar foods to maintain a balanced diet. There’s little benefit removing it if it doesn’t cause a problem!”

 

Top tips for taking a food approach to some of the UK’s top health concerns.

 Weight loss

  • Include a mix of healthy fats, protein and  a little wholegrain carb for a balance of nutrients guaranteed to keep you feeling full between meals
  • Mindfulness and intuitive eating can play a key part in maintaining weight so think before you eat!
  • If you are reducing calories then choose high nutrient dense foods
  • Setting realistic goals and avoiding extreme diets are the best approach for lasting results
  • Fill up on veggies at each meal (fresh or frozen)
  • Choose foods with a high water content such as soups, stews and casseroles to increase fullness

Healing foods: aubergine, quinoa, eggs, brown rice, seeds, broccoli, kale

Recipe: Roasted aubergine and pomegranate

 

 

Heart health

  • High fibre diets (especially oats) are effective for reducing cholesterol, weight loss and risk of T2 diabetes
  • Soy foods are shown to be effective at reducing cholesterol
  • Omega 3 fatty acids help to thin the blood, reduce inflammation and increase levels of ‘good’ cholesterol
  • Food high in potassium can help to maintain health blood pressure
  • Plant compounds such as beta-sitosterol found in avocados and olive oil effective at reducing cholesterol
  • High sugar and refined carbs just as damaging if not more so than saturated fat in the diet
  • Antioxidants such as flavanoids and polyphenols affective at reducing free radical damage and reducing inflammation

Healing foods:  Avocados, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, berries, beetroot, edamame, brown rice, salmon

 Recipe:  Salmon, green beans, orange and hazelnut salad

 

 

Women’s health – PMS, Menopause

  • High intake of non-meat iron (pulses, dried fruit) may be effective at reducing symptoms of PMS
  • Limit spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol to help with flushes and night sweats
  • Maintaining steady blood sugar levels is an effective strategy for PMS, PCOS and menopause
  • Ganestien, a compound found in soy foods (especially fermented varieties such as miso) may help reduce hot flushes during the menopause as may other phytoestrogen rich foods such as lentils sprouts.
  • Women suffering with PMS are often seen to have low levels of calcium and affective to treat with calcium and vitamin D supplements 
  • Boost intake of the amino acid, tryptophan to increase serotonin production (along with eating Low GI carbs) – low levels are a result of sensitivity to progesterone during ovulation – affect mood and responsible for PMS cravings

Healing foods:  Edamame beans, miso, pumpkin seeds, lentil sprouts, dried fruit, eggs, turkey, quinoa

RecipeAvocado smash with toasted nuts and seeds

 

 

Skin health  

  • Sufficient intake of zinc may help to regulate the production of sebum
  • Omega 3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation and may help with conditions such as psoriasis
  • In the case of eczema and psoriasis, try avoiding foods such as eggs and dairy that are rich in arachidonic acid (a type of omega 6), which promotes inflammation.
  • Eat plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants to help fight free radical damage from environmental factors.
  • Eat plenty of foods rich in beta-carotene (orange and green vegetables) as this is converted to vitamin A in the body which is essential for the repair and maintenance of healthy skin.

Healing foods:  Kale, butternut squash, mango, salmon, dried figs, berries, prawns, seeds

Recipe: Cajun chicken with avocado salad and mango salsa

 

 

Tiredness and fatigue

  • Low intake of iron responsible for fatigue (23% of women have low intakes in the UK)
  • Low levels of magnesium and B vitamins may also result in tiredness and fatigue
  • Migraine sufferers faced with fatigue – reducing intake of tyramine foods (red wine, pickled foods, chocolate) and increasing vitamin B2 (mackerel, eggs, mushrooms) can help
  • Low levels of magnesium may lead to insomnia, which can impact on tiredness.
  • Combine foods high in vitamin C with iron-rich foods to boost absorption.

Healing foods: Brown rice, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashew nuts, mushrooms, almonds, mackerel, egg

Recipe: Beetroot falafel

 

You can find more information on health and recipes to help health the body in the new edition of the Detox Kitchen Bible.

Download as PDF (Current state of health in the UK)

Top ten tips to beat a hangover

Top ten tips to beat a hangover

How to cure a hangover:  the good, the bad and the ugly (Download as a PDF how-to-cure-a-hangover_website)

It’s that time of year again when many of us wake up after a busy social event muttering those fateful words, “I am never drinking again”.   Even healthy nutritionists like myself have had to deal with some real corkers!  As the festive season looms closer and your diary fills up, it’s a good time to think about some of the good and more infamous hangover cures that may help to relieve your symptoms the next day.

What is a hangover?

 When you drink alcohol, it gets broken down in the liver to a compound called acetaldehyde, which is a toxic compound that contributes to the feelings associated with a hangover.   Obviously, the more you drink the greater the buildup of toxin and hence worse hangover. The main symptoms of a hangover include headaches from the dilation of blood vessels, dehydration from the increased need to urinate, nausea and stomach aches from the increased acidity.  Sleep also plays a major part in the severity of your hangover and the less you get the worse you will feel across the day. 

Try and prep your liver

 If you know December is going to be a whirlwind of parties, then try and be good to your liver when you’re not out on the town.  Try classic herbal remedies such as milk thistle (try Healthspan, 30 tablets for 12.95) or artichoke extract (try Healthspan, 120 tablets for £8.95) that have been traditionally used to support your liver health. 

Eating healthily at all other times is obviously a good idea too and foods such as bitter green vegetables and globe artichokes have been shown to improve bile flow (helping to remove toxins more efficiently) and help with the detoxification process (1).  Beetroot has also been traditionally associated with liver health by way of a plant compound called betaine (2).  Regardless of their potential to promote liver health, brightly colored fruits and vegetables make a valued addition to the diet and help by reducing the damage cause by excess free radicals as well as adding fibre and micronutrients to the diet.

Hangover cures

There are very few hangover cures that will generally work and in reality the only way to prevent one is to stay sober, which is not much fun during the party season.  Try and make sure you eat before you go out and try and keep hydrated by alternating water with alcoholic drinks.  If all else fails, try the tips below, which are some of the best, the worst and downright ugly of hangover cures.

The good 

  1. Rehydrate

Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, irritable, dizzy and generally not well especially when partnered with a drop in electrolytes that may occur after a heavy session.  Drink plenty of fluids the next day but try and avoid very sugary drinks as this can affect blood sugar levels leaving you feeling even more sluggish.  You could also try adding in an electrolyte sachet to help rebalance your system and replace nutrients commonly depleted by alcohol including magnesium, potassium, calcium and B vitamins.

  1. Go Long!

Try opting for drinks made with soda water or low calorie mixers as these will help to dilute the alcohol and give you a longer lasting drink.  Go for single shots of spirits or small glasses of white or rose wine to top up.

  1. Don’t drink on an empty stomach

This is a classic mistake, especially if you’re going straight out after work.  Drinking on an empty stomach can kame you much more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and is often a recipe for disaster.  Alcohol also acts as an appetite stimulant so you’re more like to end up tucking heavily into the buffet or queuing up in MC Donalds on your way home. Try eating something nourishing before you go out that has a good source of protein and fat to help keep you feeling full and soaking up some of the booze.

  1. Eggs for breakfast

Try something light in the morning that will help to get your blood sugar levels back up and bring a little closer to feeling yourself again.  Something like eggs on toast is a great option as these nutritional powerhouses contain a good source of the amino acid,  cysteine that helps to breakdown acetaldehyde in the liver.

  1. Avoid brown drinks

Conjeners are more concentrated in darker coloured alcohol drinks.  These compounds are a toxic byproduct of the fermentation process and are often added for taste and appearance.   Brown spirits and red wine contain a higher amount of congeners than lighter coloured drinks and can make hangovers more intense the next day

The bad

  1. coffee

If you can tolerate it then sure have a coffee.  However, slugging back high caffeine drinks can leave you a bit jittery especially if you do so on an empty stomach.  This can be a disaster if your stomach is feeling particularly sensitive.  Try ginger tea for nausea or peppermint, caraway and fennel to relieve any bloating.

  1. Energy drinks

However bad you feel try and steer clear of energy drinks.  These are often loaded with sugar that will further upset blood sugar levels and the stimulants such as caffeine and taurine are likely to increase spasms in the bowel, which is not great for a delicate gut.  Caffeine can also increase anxiety and suppress appetite, which is last thing you need when food is required to get you blood sugar leves back up.

  1. The greasy fry-up

 Some people swear by a good old greasy fry-up after a big session but this may not be your best option.  Heavy, fatty foods take a while to digest and can be hard going on sensitive stomachs, whilst also increasing the chances of indigestion and heart burn.  These stodgy types of foods will also leave you feeling sluggish across the day, only adding to your lack of vitality.

The ugly

  1. The Prarie Oyster 

This is not for the faint hearted and its recipe goes back to the early 1920’s (think Sally Bowls in the movie, Caberet).  Combine tomato juice, raw egg, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper then enjoy?

  1. Pickled plums (Umeboshi)

 These taste both salty and sour.  Umeboshi are traditionally viewed as a hangover remedy in Japan given their supposed ability to help relieve nausea, dizziness and fatigue. These are definitely an acquired taste and not sure they’re really what you would want to be eating with a sensitive stomach and nausea but feel free to try!

 

Hangover tonic

Try this Hangover Tonic the next morning to get your blood sugar levels back up and replace the vitamin and minerals depleted by alcohol.

Green vegetables like kale help increase bile flow through the liver to remove toxins effectively.  Cucumbers and lettuce are great foods to help hydrate the body after a boozy night and the fruit sugars in pears can help to raise low blood sugar to help you feel yourself again. 

Serves 2

 1/2 cucumber

3 kale leaves (take soft leaves off the stem)

1 small handful coriander

1 lime (juice only)

1 head Romaine lettuce

2 pears

Method

  1. Chop ingredients and blend high for 30 seconds
  2. Lay muslin over a bowl, pour in juice then grab the four corners of cloth and squeeze out the juice

There’s no reason to be a fun sponge during the seasonal festivities and often a hangover is just the price you pay.  It’s important to make sure that you drink sensibly and within the recommended number of units.  For more information go to www.drinkaware.co.uk 

Download as a PDF how-to-cure-a-hangover_website

 

 References 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22010973
  2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/80/3/539.full#sec-4

 

 

 

 

 

Linguini with crab and chilli

Linguini with crab and chilli

A quick supper idea that reaps the benefits of shellfish

 

Although I regularly preach about the benefits of choosing unprocessed carbohydrates, sometimes nothing quite beats a large bowl of white pasta, especially when teamed with one of my favourite ingredients, crab.  I’ve never been against including carbohydrates in the diet and as an active person I find them invaluable.  I also love food and enjoy eating a wide variety of different foods in my diet, which is a way of eating I fully endorse and a good strategy for gleaning everything your body requires.

White flour in the UK is actually fortified with nutrients such as iron, calcium and B vitamins so whilst they lack the fibre, which is the main benefit of choosing unprocessed varieties, they still offer something nutritious to the diet. White carbohydrates do effect blood sugar levels more aggressively than their high-fibre counterparts, but this effect is counteracted by teaming them up with a source of fat, protein and other high-fibre foods such as vegetables.

This dish is one of my favorites as I love crab.  Shellfish such as crab are a lean source of protein and rich in vitamin B12 and zinc, which makes them a great food choice for men as zinc plays a key role in the male reproductive system.  This dish is also a very good source of iron, which is required to maintain healthy red blood cell production and also a rich source of magnesium and potassium that are both associated with good heart health.

Crab is not an ingredient that makes a regular appearance in most peoples weekly shop but is readily available in most supermarkets as well as your local fishmonger.  If you can’t find crab then this dish also works really well with prawns.

 

Linguini with crab and chilli

Serves 2

Nutrition per serving

485 calories, 16.8g fat, 2.3g sat fat, 55.4g carbs, 4g sugar, 25.9g protein, 2g salt, 4.5g fibre

 

Ingredients

 

150g dried linguini

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2  lemon, juiced

1 lime, juiced

150g white crab meat

1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

Sea salt

Black pepper

 

Method

 

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.  Add the linguini and simmer gently for about 12 minutes until tender then drain.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook gently for about 1-2 minutes, carful not to burn.  If the garlic starts to colour then turn the heat down.
  3. Remove the pan from the hob and stir in the pasta.  Add the citrus juices and stir to combine.
  4. Add the crab,  coriander, chilli and spring onions then combine well.
  5. Season well and serve.

 

Download recipe as a PDF linguini-with-crab-and-chilli

 

Raw cacao and cashew nut milk

Raw cacao and cashew nut milk

Raw cacao and cashew nut milk

Serves 2

This milk is an absolute luxury and a great alternative to traditional sugar-laden chocolate milkshakes. It can taste a little watery to first timers and its richness relies on the amount of raw cacao powder you add (I love the lightness of it). The milk is dairy-free which is great news for vegans, those intolerant to lactose or children with a dairy allergy.

Not only does this drink taste great it’s loaded with magnesium (a single serving provides over half the recommended daily intake for adults). UK food surveys have shown that average intakes of this mineral are below the the recommended daily intake and especially in women, eleven percent of whom have very low intakes.

Magnesium is required for hundreds of chemical reactions in the body and is especially important for healthy bones, muscle and nervous system. Low intakes are associated with depression, anxiety and insomnia. Studies have also shown low levels of magnesium as being associated with symptoms of PMS.

Aside from cashew nuts, other magnesium-rich foods include seeds, dried fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, fish (especially halibut) and pulses (lentils and beans).

Given the quantity of nuts this milk it’s quite high in calories so serve as a sweet treat. However, this also means it makes a healthy nourishing snack for those lucky souls trying to gain weight! I often have this as a post-training snack or after a long event as it contains a source of carbs and protein (magnesium is a muscle relaxer so may also help with any cramping).

Ingredients

150g raw cashew nuts
800ml water
3 level tablespoons raw cacao powder
1-2 tbsp honey (or maple syrup if vegan)
Vanilla pod
1 pinch sea salt

Method

1. Soak cashews in water for 3 hours (you could soak overnight before bedtime).

2. Drain cashews and add to the blender with water.

3. Add remaining ingredients and blend for a minute on high or until completely smooth.

4. Store for a few days in a glass bottle or serve immediately (best served really chilled)

If you can’t find raw cacao powder then try using a good quality cocoa powder.