Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sickly sweet

This week I've been buying my lunch rather than bringing it into work with me and being on a veggie diet is making me try some new lunches.

Once again I'm reminded how much sugar is added to preprepared foods ... very healthy sounding salads can have 20g of added sugar in them - yes regular white table sugar. And added sugar finds its way into all sorts of foods you wouldn't expect it to be in .. pizza, salad, pasta sauces, crisps, dried fruit. In a whole shelf of salad dressings in waitrose I only found one without sugar in it ... Paul Newmans french vinaigrette.

There are several reasons food manufacturers add sugar to their food: it's a cheap preservative, it makes the food taste good (and so is used a lot in low fat diet foods) and it makes you want to eat more of it which is good for sales.

However, despite a 90g a day official daily allowance for sugar (how do they come up with these numbers?!) I think sugar should be enjoyed as part of an occasional treat not as a regular ingredient in all your meals. This isn't just to avoid weight gain, eating too much refined sugar can cause a raft of health problems:

- an imbalance in gut flora, causing digestive problems
- glycosalation, the hardening of fats in your body including in cell walls, causing wrinkles, and hardening of the fatty deposits in your arteries increasing the risk of a heart attack
- blood sugar imbalances which can lead to diabetes, weight gain and acne
- reduced immunity, as sugar competes with vitamin c for absorption by your cells

So you might want to start reading the labels on food before you buy it and save your sugar for a sweet treat!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Day one meat free

My first day as a vegetarian was going really well ... right up to the point that I ended up in a seafood restaurant! I love seafood and also think being a piscine vegetarian is the healthiest diet. However it's not the point of this exercise ... so I'll try harder tomorrow!

As I said yesterday being vegetarian has lots of health benefits but there are a few pitfalls which you should be mindful of:

- Insufficient protein: it's easy as a meat eater to get sufficient protein but it can be difficult as a vegetarian. Protein is important for muscle repair, adrenal and thyroid function and blood sugar regulation and I try and have some protein with every meal and snack.
Here are some healthy vegetarian protein options, which are also healthy sources for meat eaters:
egg/egg whites, cottage cheese, protein powder (rice, whey, soya), tofu, seeds, nuts, nut butters, cottage cheese, quark, natural yoghurt, soy beans, quinoa, lentils and pulses.

- Too much cheese: for some reason most vegetarian meals in restaurants are laden with cheese and it's easy to end up eating it a lot as a veggie. This can mean you end up eating a lot of saturated fats and when combined with high GI carbs such as jacket potato is a serious recipe for weight gain.

- Iron: Meat is the main source of iron in the standard british diet and women in particular should be mindful of getting enough iron if they don't eat meat. Vegetarian sources include dark leafy veg, such as spinach and kale, nuts seeds, dried fruit and black strap molasses and it can also be taken as a supplement.

- Omega 3 fats: these are found in their most usable form in oily fish, so pure vegetarians (who don't want to take a fish oil supplement)should incorporate flax seeds and oils (a plant source of omega 3) into their diets.

- B vitamins, particularly b12 which is found in meat and seafood, can be low in a vegetarian diet. This group of vitamins is important for a range of functions including energy production, hormone regulation, nervous system and brain function. Vegetarian sources include eggs and dairy products for b12 and pulses and wholegrains for other b vitamins.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Going veggie

A combination of eating too much red meat over the last week and chatting with a vegetarian friend has inspired me to write on the virtues of vegetarianism and infact have a vegetarian week.

But before all you meat eaters stop reading I should point out that I'm not recommending everyone gives up fish and meat forever! Whilst some people thrive on a veggie diet I find most people feel best in the long run on a diet that includes fish, seafood and lean meats. However I think having a vegetarian week every now and then can be very beneficial for the following reasons:

- It increases the amount of fruit and veg in your diet: vegetarian diets are naturally higher and fruit and veg so higher in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you don't eat enough fruit and veg then going veggie for a whole can help you get into the habit.

- It reduces your intake of saturated fats from meat. Unless of course you start eating a lot of cheese but I'd recommend only having low fat dairy products.

- it increases your intake of fibre. Fruit, veg, pulses and wholegrains are all high in fibre which can help digestion, detoxify the body and regulate hormones.

- It gives your digestive system a rest. Meat is quite hard to digest and can clog up your digestive tract so having a meat free week can give your digestive system some r+r.

- It introduces new foods into your diet. Switching to a veggie diet should encourage you to try some different foods which may then become healthy additions to your diet in the long run. Maybe try tofu or soya products, or eating more pulses and grains.

There are some pitfalls from eating a vegetarian diet and I'll cover these and how to be a healthy vegetarian in my next blog, but in the meantime have a think about going veggie, it could do you some good!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Healthy time savers

Working in the city can be a hectic affair - managing to combine a busy working day, social life, gym and somehow turn up at work in a clean ironed shirt can be a bit of a mission.

When time is short it's easy to reach for convenience foods and develop unhealthy habits, so here are some quick and easy ways to stay healthy when time is short.

- Healthy drawer snacks: When you find yourself snowed under at work you may only be able to get as far as the vending machine for a snack. Whilst my office vending machine helpfully stocks Gillian Mckeith snacks you may not be so lucky so keep your drawers stocked with nuts (un roasted), seeds, soya nuts or dried edamame beans, oat rice or corn cakes. Gillian mckeith handy multi-packs of snack bags are also available in some tescos and sainsburies.

- Smoothie/juice bars: if you pass somewhere selling fresh juices or smoothies take advantage and buy one on your way into work. This means you can ebay your juicer that get's used twice a year when you've forgotten how long it takes to clean it! And gives your diet a quick antioxidant boost.

- Eat raw: raw food isn't just quicker to prepare, it can also be better for you as cooking can reduce the nutrient content and denature beneficial enzymes. Keep salad leaves and vegetables in your fridge so that you can always have an instant portion of veg with whatever you're eating.

- Quick dinners: If you really need something instant then Innocent, and M+S fuller for longer and steam cuisine ready meals are pretty healthy. However there are plenty of super quick healthy dinners you can make if you're short on time: omelette or soup with salad, chicken stir fry with rice noodles, or wholemeal or gluten free pasta mixed with spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and grilled chicken or cooked prawns. If you are taking the time to cook then make an extra portion to take into work the next day. Even if you're making a hot dish cook extra chicken or fish and make it into a salad for lunch.

- Use your commute as a workout: I'm usually trying to discourage people from multi-tasking - city folk are addicted to it and it can exacerbate stress, but here is some healthy multi-tasking: take your gym kit into work and jog home - it might take a bit longer than the tube but less extra time than if you went to the gym and then tubed it home. Walk to the post office instead of taking the car. If your friend is late to meet you walk round the block whilst you wait and if you know you're early get off the tube/bus a stop early and walk.

- Train efficiently; if you're short on time then Interval training can provide a useful condensed cardio workout - see for a twenty minute example. For weights try super-setting where you do sets for pairs of different muscle groups, giving each a rest whilst you work out the other.

- Mini stress busters: The busier you are the more important it is to de stress but you don't need to do an hour of yoga everyday - just 10mins stretching or deep breathing before bed will do you a lot of good. Yogazone also do handy 20 minute routines on their dvds.


Sunday, 25 April 2010

Marathon marvels

London was abuzz with the marathon today - the streets full of runners undertaking an amazing feat.

I was actually asked last week by a couple of people if I was running it ... which given the furthest I've run is 8 miles is pretty amusing and sort of flattering!

As it happens I have no intention of running the marathon. I admire people who run it immensely but the training and commitment required is too much for me as well as the level of stress all that training puts on the body. That normal working people clock up some very impressive times is even more impressive when you look at the training regimes of the elite athletes.

Paula Radcliffe, for example, sleeps 12-13 hours each day as well as having an ice bath (which heals microscopic tears in muscle fibres), a sports massage, a glass of wheatgrass juice (full of antioxidants) and a handful of vitamin supplements every day, along with eating a specially designed gluten-free diet!

Whilst this regime is pretty impractical for most people it's still worth noting the amount of emphasis placed on rest, recovery and nutrition by these athletes along with the miles and miles of training.

So if you are inspired to run the marathon or any other endurance events make sure you factor in the extra sleep needed, a higher intake of antioxidants, sports recovery drinks, cold showers (post training) and an extra healthy diet. These will all help reduce the stress load on the body and help you get in top form for your event.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Shape up for summer - part V

Thanks to everyone for their comments on this weeks blogs. It appears I'm not the only one who was jolted into action by last weekends nice weather. 

The final weight-loss tip is in appropriate one for a Friday and something you can hopefully do over the weekend .. and that is to catch up on some sleep.

Ideally you should get a minimum of eight hours per night, maybe more, once you've had enough you should wake naturally. However the work hard, play hard city lifestyle means this isn't always possible. If you can't get enough sleep during the week then take the opportunity on the weekend to catch-up.

Whilst you sleep your body rests, repairs and detoxifies. But how does this affect your weight?

If you don't get sufficient rest and your body can't repair itself properly the body will perceive this as stress and, as per my previous blogs, under stress the body will store more fat as a protective mechanism, particularly around the waistline. It may also up regulate your appetite to increase food intake for the same reason - I certainly notice I'm much hungrier if I haven't slept properly.

As for detoxification, this occurs whilst you sleep and your liver is apparently most active between the hours of 11pm and 3am, so it's important to be asleep well before 11 for optimum detoxification. If your liver cannot detoxify all the toxins in your body it will wrap and store them in fat to make them safe until it can process them. Therefore a high intake of toxins such as alcohol, pollution and artificial food additives combined with a lack of sleep can encourage fat storage.

If you struggle to get to sleep try some yoga or deep breathing before bed (see my blog from 6th April). Make your bedroom as conducive to sleep as possible - get a comfortable mattress, minimise light or sound disturbances and keep your room at a comfortable temperature (I recently got black out blinds and find I wake up a lot later).

Have a nice weekend and try and have a lie in!

Ps for anyone in London looking for a fun way to burn off some calories check out this weekends Nike Grid challenge - very 24!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Shape up for summer part IV

Anyone who's spoken to me about diets will know I'm totally against counting calories and think it's much more important to focus on eating healthy foods than counting points.
However even if you're eating super healthily it is still possible to eat too much.

You don't need a points system or calorie counter to know how much you should be eating - your body can tell you this through your appetite. The problem is a lot of people don't use their appetite in deciding how much to eat.

If you tune into your appetite and eat only when you're genuinely hungry then you will most likely eat less. If, like me, you tend to graze on food or eat when stressed this may be difficult at first, but try it for a week and it will become a habit.

Here's some extra tips to help you tune into your appetite:

- Don't multi-task when you're eating, this will distract you from knowing when you're full so try not to work, read or watch tv whilst you eat. Equally try not to eat on the run.

- Savour your food and eat it slowly. Imagine you've been served a tiny portion of a delicious dessert. You wouldn't wolf it down, you'd eat it slowly savouring each mouthful. Try and eat all your food in this way and you will slow the pace you eat at and likely feel fuller sooner.

- Don't start eating unless you're hungry. Firstly because if you're not hungry it's probably because you don't need any food and also if you start eating you won't be able to use your appetite to know when to stop.

- Practice leaving food on your plate. This can be difficult especially if you've been brought up in a British household where it's common to be told to finish everything on your plate. However it is your appetite that should determine how much you eat, not the serving size you are presented with. By practicing leaving some food uneaten it will become easier to stop eating when you're full rather than when your plate is clean.

- Make sure your hunger isn't dehydration in disguise as per yesterday's blog.

- If you eat when you're bored or stressed find yourself another distraction - have a hot drink, have a stretch, take a break from whatever you are doing. If you eat to treat yourself find a non-food reward such as going for a massage or having a facial.

If you find it difficult not to comfort eat then I'd also recommend reading 'Choosing Weight Intentionally' by Xandria Williams.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Shape up for summer part III

I find most adverts for 'health' products irritating and also often misleading. However, whilst the current volvic campaign is undoubtedly annoying, for once I agree with the message. Drinking water is good for you and most people aren't drinking enough.

But what has this got to do with weight loss?

Well water is one of the inputs into the chemical reaction in your cells that produces energy. Therefore if you are dehydrated you won't produce as much energy in your cells and will therefore burn less calories. The relationship isn't linear - it is possible to drink too much water - but 1.5 litres per day as per the volvic challenge, is a reasonable amount.

Hunger can also be thirst in disguise - the body may crave food for it's water content if you are dehydrated. Therefore if you find yourself reaching for a snack it's a good idea to have a cup of water or herbal tea, wait 15 minutes, and see if you are still hungry before you eat, and you may end up eating less. For the same reason it's a good idea to avoid diuretics such as caffeine and alcohol.

There are other benefits of drinking water too, dehydration can lead to poor concentration, poor sports performance and dry skin, and water also helps detoxification by the liver.

So if you want to lose weight and are not drinking enough water, in the strange words of Jimmy from the volvic ad, maybe 'give it a bash'!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Shape up for summer part II

Well I pretty much stuck to the food guidelines today apart from the medjool dates I just inhaled! But that was a pre-running snack so I'm letting myself off. This also brings me nicely onto part II of this weeks series, which is exercise.

I know ... I know 'a combination of healthy and eating and exercise is the key to weight loss' ...boring, boring, boring. But the reason you hear it so much is because it works. You have to be extreme with either for them to work alone, but combining the two is much more civilised and a lot better for you.

Now I'm no personal trainer so this is not advice, just what I've found works over the years:

- Don't be extreme: as per my blog last week intensive exercise can in fact encourage fat storage so if weight-loss is your goal then I wouldn't recommend a crazy regime or doing hours of exercise at a time. 30-40 mins exercise 3 to 5 times a week will be beneficial without being stressful. It is also more manageable to fit into a busy schedule and if you can find a regular time for exercise it will quickly become a habit.

- Don't just do weights or cardio. Most people prefer one or the other but both are important. Cardiovascular exercise burns more calories whilst you workout and doing it regularly can speed up your metabolism. Whilst weights encourage muscle tissue development which also increases your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories even when you're not doing anything, whilst improving your tone. If you don't want to bulk up I'd recommend the BodyDoctor programme ( and if you do I'd recommend the pyramid training used in the Body for Life programme (

- Do something you enjoy. I know that my love of the gym is slightly unusual and a lot of people find it a chore. But there are lots of other ways to exercise - dance classes, martial arts, boot camp/circuits, body pump, boxing, horse riding, even pole dancing - so find something you enjoy. Not only are you more likely to keep it up but it will also lift your mood.

- Exercise even when you're not down the gym. The typical city job involves sitting still at your desk for hours on end - not exactly conducive to weight loss. Look for opportunities to move in your day to day life - take the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus a stop early, use the bathroom furthest away from your desk and whilst your less healthy colleagues take a cigarette take a 5 minute walk around the block. This will burn calories and help you de stress.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Shape up for summer

Well the sun really came out this weekend, it was even warm enough to wear a bikini on the balcony. But there's nothing like trying on your swim suit to make you conscious of the extra winter pounds!

Now the weather's warmed up it's also a more natural time for weight loss than earlier in the year, so all this week my blog will focus on the healthy way to lose weight.

I'm starting with some food ground rules:

- Combine protein and carbs in every meal and snack. Protein keeps you feeling full, is important for muscle building and repair and helps balance blood sugar levels, reducing the likelihood of sugar cravings so eating protein with every meal and snack can help weight loss. For example have eggs, smoked salmon or natural yoghurt with your breakfast, lean poultry, seafood or tofu
with lunch and dinner and nuts, seeds, edamame or soy beans with your snacks.

- Eat low GI carbohydrates such as brown rice, bread and pasta, oats and pulses rather than white refined carbs. These are higher in fibre and nutrients, keeping you fuller and releasing energy more slowly.

- Eat your fruit and veg. If your diet is low in nutrients your appetite will up regulate and you'll crave more food to try and increase your intake of vitamins and minerals. Therefore eating more fruit and veg can help regulate your appetite as can taking a multivit/mineral supplement. I try and have a portion of fruit or veg with every meal and snack.

- Don't eat sugar. In my opinion sugar is more of an enemy to weight loss than eating fat. Sugar encourages insulin production which encourages fat storage so cutting out added sugar is a great way to lose weight. Cut out confectionery, cakes and biscuits, honey and sweet drinks, and start reading labels avoiding food with added sugar or syrups.

- Eat a big breakfast and a small dinner. Starting the day with a substantial breakfast speeds up your metabolism helping you burn more energy during the day. You also burn most of your calories during the day so not eating much during the day and then having
a big dinner in the evening before you go to bed is a sure way to gain weight.

- Eat healthy fats. Very low fat diets will make you hungry as fat keeps you full and is also needed for many functions in the body. The key is to eat healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, olive oil and oily fish.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Getting a bit of variety

When it comes to health everyone agrees on the importance of eating a balanced diet. The problem is that peoples interpretation of a balanced diet can be very different!

For some people it means having a Macdonalds once a week, and not every day! For me it means eating a variety of different whole unprocessed foods without too much emphasis on one particular food or food group.

Eating a varied diet ensures a good intake of the full range of nutrients, which is especially important as the different vitamins and minerals work in synergy with each other.

When it comes to fruit and veg the different colours represent different nutrients so aim to eat a range of colours. Rotate different sources of carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, corn, wheat, quinoa etc.) and healthy fats (different types of nuts, seeds and oily fish) and try not to eat the same type of poultry or fish everyday.

Not only does this ensure you're getting the full range of nutrients in your diet but it also reduces your chance of developing food intolerances which can occur if you eat the same food everyday. So next time you're out food shopping try something new!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

When is a diagnosis not a diagnosis?

This month is the very un glamorous sounding 'IBS Awareness Month'.

IBS really is just a way of describing a group of digestive symptoms when your doctor cannot make a positive diagnosis for the cause of your symptoms having ruled out the usual suspects - such as coeliacs or chrons disease.

Without identifying a cause makes treatment difficult with most doctors offering fibre supplements and antidepressants as a treatment. Consequently I'm sure there are lots of individuals out there experiencing painful and often embarrassing digestive symptoms with no hope of getting better. There are also probably a few people too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms with their doctor.

In my opinion there is always a root cause for digestive problems and, whilst it can sometimes be tricky finding out what that is, it is worth the detective work to put together an effective treatment plan. It's also important not to put up with digestive problems as if you're not digesting your food properly this can cause other health problems.

So if your doctor sends you away with an IBS diagnosis and some peppermint capsules what can you do to help yourself?
- According to a recent Patrick Holford newsletter ( 40% of IBS sufferers benefit from cutting out a food they are intolerant too, so it's worth cutting out the most common gut irritants (gluten, dairy and caffeine) for two weeks to see if you get an improvements. Also keeping a food diary including your symptoms can help identify problem foods.

- Cutting out sugar from your diet can also provide insight - a dramatic improvement in symptoms points to a likely imbalance in gut bacteria.

- Eating a diet lower in additives and processed foods can also help as these artificial foods can be hard to digest.

- If you can't pinpoint the problem and need further help a nutritional therapist should be able to help identify the causes of your symptoms and put together an effective treatment plan.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The exercise trap

A friend and I were talking about exercise today and he complained that if he really ups the intensity of his exercise he ends up gaining weight as his appetite increases a lot. I'm sure this is something others have experienced and thought the explanation and solution I gave him was worth sharing, so for all the gym bunnies out there here it is:

High intensity exercise is physically stressful on the body and when the body feels threatened it can up regulate appetite and store more fat, particularly around the middle, as a protective mechanism.

The other effect is that long bouts (40mins+) of cardiovascular exercise deplete the muscles glycogen levels. The body will then try and refill these stores, which it is most effective at doing immediately after exercise. Therefore if you don't refuel straight away your appetite will up regulate to get you to eat more carbs later on than you would have needed straight after exercise.

This is where sports nutrition comes in: within 30 minutes of finishing a high intensity work out you should have a snack comprised of high GI (glycemic index) low fat carbs such as sweets (yes Haribo can be good for you!), white bread, jam, breakfast cereal, sports recovery drinks, tropical or dried fruit or fruit yoghurt combined with some protein for muscle recovery. As a rough guide for every 60 mins intense cardio exercise you should eat 1 gram of carbohydrates per kg of body weight.

If you refuel properly immediately after exercise you shouldn't then be craving a lot of food later on and your body should recover quicker improving sports performance and encouraging fat loss.

Monday, 12 April 2010

13 going on 30

I got ID'd today in tesco buying wine!

Infact it's not unusual for me to be ID'd dressed down when doing my weekend food shopping, but somehow, even in a smart suit and high heels, I still look young enough to not be able to buy alcohol.

Not that I'm complaining - when you're 16 you're desperate to look 18, but coming up to 30 I'm delighted to be mistaken for a 25 year old.

A certain element of how people age is down to their genes but nutrition and lifestyle has a huge part to play. It is also important to remember that ageing skin reflects an ageing body, so by keeping yourself looking young you're also keeping your body in good health.

Here are my top picks for what helps and hinders the ageing process:

The bad stuff:
Sugar - I don't think many people realise the full extent of the negative health effects of eating sugar, one of which is the hardening of the walls of your skin cells, leading to wrinkles.

Alcohol & Cigarettes - both of these put stress on the liver, who's health is often reflected in your skin. They also produce free radicals, which age your skin cells.

Too much sun - as per my blog yesterday a little sun is beneficial for health, however the sun's rays also cause oxidative damage to your skin cells, ageing the skin.

And now for the good stuff:
Healthy fats - the walls of your skin cells are mainly made up of fat, and this fat holds water in the cells keeping them plump and supple. Therefore following a very low fat diet can make the skin appear thin and age the skin prematurely. This is why essential fats found in oily fish, nuts and seeds are all beneficial.

Antioxidants - found mainly in fruit and veg these help fight free radical damage and help the liver process toxins. If you drink, smoke, have a lot of stress or live in a big city you're likely to need a higher dose and may want to supplement with vitamin c and other antioxidants.

Water - water keeps your skin cells plump, keeping your skin healthy looking and hydrated, as well as helping your liver flush out toxins.

Red wine - a well known contributor to the longevity of people from the mediteranean, red wine is beneficial due to the anti-ageing antioxidants contained in the skin of the grapes. As mentioned above alcohol is also ageing, but fortunately the most beneficial antioxidant (resveratrol) is available as a supplement.

Exercise - it's all well and good eating a healthy diet and taking supplements but once digested the nutrients need to get to your skin cells - this is where exercise comes in - pumping blood round the body, and into the face to help you cool down, at the same time carrying nutrients to your skin cells.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The sun has got his hat on...

Finally some sunshine - not quite bikini weather but warm enough to make use of the sun lounger! But before I slap on the factor 40 I'm going to have 10mins in the sun and write a related blog.

Given the well-documented rise in skin cancer, unprotected sunbathing is generally accepted as foolhardy, and I totally agree. However there has also been a rise in Vitamin D deficiency in the UK quite possibly linked to our newly found responsible sun-bathing (spf protection blocks the suns rays that stimulate vitamin D manufacture in the skin).

Vitamin D has numerous roles and benefits in the body including increasing bone density, slowing age-related mental decline and, somewhat ironically, cancer prevention so it's an important nutrient for good health.

Good food sources include oily fish and eggs, whilst vitamin d supplements are a good idea for vegans, those who are super sun sensitive and the rest of us over the winter months.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Ice-cream sandwiches for lunch anyone?

The other day I heard a radio 4 interview with the well-known comedienne Joan Rivers, on her attitudes towards food and life-long battle with her weight.

In this extremely candid interview she revealed that her usual diet consisted of Cherios with some kind of cream substitute for breakfast, two diet ice cream sandwiches for lunch, cooked chicken with cottage cheese and tomato for a snack and fish for dinner. Yes that's right ... Ice cream sandwiches for lunch! This was down to the fact they tasted good and were less than 300 calories together.

Although Joan is an extreme case I think her example illustrates a common fear, particularly in women, of food in relation to weight gain and the bizarre eating habits this can lead to. Celebrity diets reported in the media exacerbate the problem - often dangerously low calorie and with insufficient variety to provide a full range of vitamins and minerals. Joan herself attributed the fact she is still fit and well to the 36 different nutritional supplements she takes daily (and I thought I was bad)!

Very restrictive diets are often counter-productive, leading the body to think it is in famine, slowing the metabolism and leading to more fat storage. The sad truth is that Joan, along with millions of other dieters out there, could probably eat a much more varied and enjoyable diet without gaining weight, but will probably never try due to a fear of food and mistaken obsession with calories.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Sniffles and sneezes

There seem to be alot of coughs and colds around at the moment, or at least there were on my DLR carriage this morning! So I thought it may be a good time to share my favourite natural cold remedies.

- Vitamin C: Well documented for it's anti-viral and immune boosting properties. I take a high dose supplement at the first sign of a cold - but also worth increasing your fruit and veg as these come with the added benefits of live enzymes and other antioxidants.
- Lemons and limes: Hot lemon and honey is an old-fashioned cold remedy with some truth to it. Unlike taking a supplement, which has to be digested in the stomach, drinking a source of vitamin C, such as lemon juice, allows some absorption directly into the affected tissues (throat). I like the juice of half a lemon or a whole lime with hot or cold water (sweeten with honey or agave nectar if you can't take it straight).
- Echinacea: Well known as a preventative measure but I also find it useful to shift a cold once I have one and always have Echinacea tincture in stock at home.
- Olive leaf: Less well known anti-viral which I find effective in a supplement combined with Echinacea.
- Cat's claw: Not some illegal feline based chinese remedy, but infact a brazilian plant with anti-viral properties. Worth keeping the capsules in your desk and taking at the first sign of a cold/flu.
- Horse radish: A natural decongestant, I take it as a supplement to dry up a cold but eating horseradish should work too.
- Curry: I live in the right part of town for a good curry and it's just the thing for a cold - and not just because it clears the sinuses. Many of the herbs and spices used in curry have been shown to have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
- Keeping warm: There's good reason to curl up under the duvet if you're ill - the immune system works better at a higher temperature, so when you get a fever that is your body deliberately raising the temperature to help fight an infection.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Take a deep breath...

Oxygen is one of the inputs into the chemical reaction that creates energy in our cells ... and yet so few of us ever actually think about how we breathe. Mainly because we don't have to - it happens automatically - but poor posture, stress and habit means that most of us fill less than half our lungs with each breath.

I find the exercise below is useful to get in the habit of deep breathing, oxygenate the body and provide a pre-bed relaxation for restful sleep. However it's also a good idea to take a few deep breaths whenever you're feeling tired or stressed.

Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or a chair - with a straight back. You may find it helpful to sit with your back against the wall to support a weak back.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath in filling your lungs which should bring your chest up and your belly out. Count as you breath in and then take the same number of counts to breath out. Repeat for 30 breaths and as you breath try and keep your mind still and focus just on how the breath sounds and feels. Over the 30 breaths your breathing should slow and your mind become quiet. When you've finished open your eyes and enjoy the feeling of relaxation you've induced. Enjoy!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Making use of your freezer

At the risk of sounding like a fifties housewife/home-ec. teacher I want to talk about making use of your freezer.

There's lots of talk of cutting down on food waste for environmental reasons but if you aim to eat your food by the 'display until' date (which is best for maximum freshness) you'll soon see that you've only got a couple of days to eat most fruit and veg and can easily end up with a drawer full of out of date veggies that need to be thrown away.

For the maximum health benefits you want to eat your fruit and veg as soon as possible after being picked and this is where the freezer comes in - most frozen veg is frozen straight after picking retaining a lot of their nutrients. The same applies for fish, usually frozen within a few hours of being caught.

Having a stock of frozen veg and fish means you can always put together a healthy nutritious supper, and there's a huge variety to choose from so no reason to get bored ... spinach, chopped peppers, broccoli, winter veg mixes, okre, berries, apples, pears and a whole range of fish and seafood. And when buying fresh make sure you check the 'use by date' before putting it in your trolley, to save wasting food and money.


Friday, 2 April 2010

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The morning after the night before ...

Today feels like an appropriate day for me to talk about hangovers ;-). Also, given it's the first day in a four day bank holiday weekend I imagine it may be topical for some readers!

Some lucky people experience no ill effects the day after drinking alcohol, but most of us, to differing degrees, will experience a foggy head, headache, lack of energy, inability to concentrate and sense of humour failure!

Patrick Holford (the most high profile UK nutritional therapist and founder of ION where I studied) once said that the best cure for a hangover was not to drink in the first place! Whilst this is undoubtedly true, most us do enjoy an alcoholic drink every now and then and so more helpful advice is on damage limitation!

On the day:
- Alternating your alcoholic drinks with water tends to mean you drink less, and also keeps you hydrated, mitigating the diuretic effects of alcohol and helping the liver detoxify. Also have a large glass of water before bed.
- Having your alcohol with sugary mixers anecdotally seems to reduce hangovers. I am always recommending people avoid sugar, but if minimizing your hangover is your goal then having some lemonade between drinks, or a sweetened cocktail or lager top may be worth a try.
- Take the supplements mentioned below before you go out and/or before you go to bed as a preventative measure.

The morning after:
- Drink plenty of water to rehydrate.
- Vitamin C is a great help, hence why orange juice is such a popular hangover cure, so fresh fruit or vegetable juices can be helpful along with a vitamin C supplement.
- Dandelion coffee is a great detoxifier, either buy instant (Symingtons) or boil up the root (Cotswolds from and drink all day until you feel better.
- Milk thistle, either drops or capsules, help the liver detoxify.
- B vitamins are washed out the body by alcohol. They are also used in energy production, hence why you usually feel tired the day after drinking. Caffeine also leaches B vitamins and is a diuretic, exacerbating dehydration, so avoid regular tea and coffee and instead take a B vitamin supplement and have some herbal tea.

Happy Easter! Enjoy your easter eggs and the long weekend.