Archives for category: Health

It’s been a while since my last post. I’m sorry for the long pause. I hope you haven’t all given up on me just yet. Life (moving house) got in the way of writing for a while but I’ve still been thinking and reading about healthy foods and recipes and health related topics.

A couple of months ago I read a blog post on the Soya Bean and how it disrupts hormones.

I’ve known for a while that soya isn’t the healthy alternative it’s supposed to be, but I must admit I wasn’t really sure why. I’ve never been a massive fan of soya based foods like soya milk or tofu so I didn’t worry too much about it, but when I read this piece I was surprised at just how much it is used in shop-bought foods, as well as baby formulas. I wanted to share it with you all immediately, but it took me a while to get around to it! It’s taken me 2 months, but finally here it is:

The Soy Bean and Other Hormone Disrupting Foods and Products

Almond milk:

If you’re looking for a dairy-free substitute for milk, Hayley Hobson tells you how to make your own almond milk on her blog, here. I tried it a couple of weeks ago and it seemed to work pretty well. I still love my cow’s milk, but I would definitely recommend it for anyone who’s off dairy.

If anyone tries it, please let me know. I’d love to hear how it works for you.

x

Ps. I promise I won’t be leaving it so long between posts next time. Expect more from me very soon…

Advertisements

me dancing

Having recently returned to work after 10 months on maternity leave, I’ve found myself lacking my normal motivation to exercise and eat healthily. I’m not stuffing junk into my mouth, but neither am I eating the variety of fresh protein and vegetables I would like, and whilst I’ve still been playing netball 3 times a week and going out for the odd run, I haven’t felt up to my usual exercise routine.

I don’t think any of this is unusual for a new(ish) mum returning to work. In fact, any sort of major life change – a change in job, a house move, a new relationship, for example –  can make it difficult to stay focussed on staying healthy, even if it’s usually something that comes naturally to you.

To get myself back on track, I’ve been making a list of things that will help me get motivated and stay motivated in all areas of life, and I’ve decided to share them in case any of you ever need a bit of help getting your diet, fitness or mental well-being back on track.

1.       Do what you love

Doing what you love makes you happy and the happier you are, the more motivated you’ll feel. It may be that you love sewing or drawing or reading. Find out what it is that makes you tick and make time for it on a regular basis.

My passions are dancing and writing but in the past year, I’ve barely danced. Last week I decided enough was enough: I went into my lounge and started doing my favourite modern dance warm-ups, followed by a ballet DVD. I instantly felt happier, more inspired and more positive about life in general so the next day I called up a local dance school and went along to a dance lesson. I was supposed to be going on a run that night, but I went dancing instead and guess what, I felt much better for it.

You might like to read this post on doing a 30-day happiness challenge.

2. Sign up for something…anything

This might be a marathon or a triathlon; it might be The Three Peaks Challenge; it might be a weekend away at a health and well-being retreat; it might even be a painting or writing course if that’s what inspires you. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you want to do and will look forward to rather than something you feel you should do.

Some of my favourites are:

  • The Aspire Channel Swim: The aim is to swim the distance of the channel in 12 weeks to raise money for Aspire, a spinal injury charity. I like swimming and find it quite satisfying to just keep on going once I start so I decided to set my own personal goal of swimming the distance in 3 weeks rather than 3 months.
  • Fitness Fiesta: A weekend of fantastic exercise classes to suit anyone’s taste. Check out the website and book up a weekend away with friends.
  • The Wolf Run: My training for this hasn’t gone exactly to plan (oops!), but I’m doing it in about 2 weeks and I can’t wait.

3. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself

This doesn’t mean sitting back and watching TV every night of the week, but it does mean being kind to yourself every once in a while.

Sometimes I get into a bit of a state because I think I should go and do a hard gym session when all I really want to do is curl up on the sofa and eat rubbish food. Rather than giving in to the latter, I often find that if I let myself off the hook and do a stretch or a gentle Pilates session I feel a lot better. Even if it isn’t the hard core training session I’ve planned, at least I’ve moved, which brings me to my next point….

4. Just move

Having gone back to my desk job, I’ve suddenly become very static. I can sit for hours in front of a computer screen and the more I sit, the worse I feel. My muscles seize up, my head hurts, I get grumpy and the thought of doing an exercise session only makes me grumpier!

I often find the less I move, the less I want to move and the less motivated I feel in other areas of my life too (especially healthy eating). As hard as it is, the only way to get out of this cycle is to just get up and MOVE. You could force yourself out for a run and come back feeling loads better, or you could put on some music and dance around the house, or maybe you could just do a bit of yoga in your pyjamas and see how much more positive you feel.

5. Find out what’s blocking you and do something about it

Everyone is different and it could be any number of things that are stopping you from achieving your goals. The thing that blocks me most of all is guilt: I feel guilty for not eating the right foods or guilty for not exercising enough or guilty for not writing enough or guilty that the house is a mess or….breathe! Calm down!

Recently, I’ve been feeling guilty about not using my gym membership enough, but the truth is I’d rather do a dance class, play netball, run outside or do a fitness session at home. For a while, my guilt about this was actually stopping me from doing any exercise at all until I realised just how stupid that was. So, I’m going to cancel my gym membership and do what I want to do without feeling guilty.

6. Make a commitment

I know I’ve just talked about cancelling my gym membership so that I can focuss on what I enjoy, but you might need to do the opposite. Making a commitment to something is a good way of keeping motivated. Some ideas are:

  • Book a class
  • Join the gym
  • Join a club
  • Join a team
  • Arrange regular workout sessions with friends

I recently found an amazing site called www.instructorlive.com where you can do live or archived fitness, dance, yoga and Pilates classes from the comfort of your living room. It’s well worth checking out. I love it. In fact, I’m about to do a Pilates class any minute.

I hope you’re all feeling inspired and motivated, or at least a little bit more positive. I know I am.

Have a great weekend.

x

Last Thursday, I started back at work after 10 months on maternity leave. To say it’s been a shock to the system would be an understatement and it’s meant I haven’t had much time for baking or writing this week. I haven’t even done as much exercise as I normally would, which has left me feeling a bit grumpy and lacking in energy.

I have, however, found a couple of brillaint articles/posts that I want to share with you so over the next few days I’m going to let other people do the writing for me.

Don’t worry, I’ve got loads of new recipes and ingredients I want to experiment with and lots more health and fitness tips to share in the next few weeks.

Today’s post is by Hayley Hobson, one of my favourite bloggers. In this post , Hayley writes about 10 foods that prevent Alzheimer’s. This is a subject very close to my heart as my gran has the disease. It might be too late to help her but it’s good to know that by eating the right foods I might be able to protect myself and my family from the same fate.

x

Added 27/02/13: to find out more about how coconut oil may be used to treat Alzheimer’s, see here.

IMG_1671

I have some good news. Chocolate is good for you. Hurrah!

This doesn’t mean you can go to the shop, stock up on all your favourite chocolate bars and munch your way through them. Chocolate itself (cocoa) is good for you, but what’s added to it is generally bad: refined sugar, preservatives, emulsifiers, flavourings, vegetable fat, whey powder…etc. etc. All of these ingredients plus cocoa might make something that tastes nice, but they don’t do you any favours.

How to enjoy chocolate the healthy way:

You can enjoy chocolate and feel good about it if you find the right stuff. The higher the cocoa content the better because cocoa is packed with antioxidants. It is also high in magnesium: headaches, fatigue, low energy, disrupted sleep, PMS and even cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) are all symptoms of magnesium deficiency. These symptoms might be all too familiar, especially if you’re a woman. Hormones have an impact on levels of magnesium in your body so your magnesium levels might drop around the time of your menstruation every month, which is why you start craving chocolate.

So I think we’re all agreed: we want chocolate; we need chocolate; chocolate is good for us. But how can we get our antioxidants and magnesium without loading sugar, additives and unhealthy fats down us? Here are a few ideas:

  • Only eat dark chocolate and look for the stuff that’s 70% cocoa solids or higher;
  • Check the ingredients. There will still sugar added to most chocolate you buy but the less sugar and fewer ingredients, the better;
  • Cook with or flavour your food with pure, unsweetened cocoa powder;
  • Check these cocoa wafers out from one of my favourite websites: www.changinghabits.com.au.

And now for my top tip of the day: buy yourself some cocoa nibs.

If you want to get all the benefits of chocolate without any sugar at all, you need to get cocoa nibs. I’ve recently discovered them and I think I’m addicted.

Cocoa nibs are cocoa beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks and broken into smaller pieces. For an excellent explanation of all the health benefits of eating cocoa nibs (and there are a lot more than I’ve touched on here), see here.

I’ve only just begun to experiment with cocoa nibs, but here are a few ways to enjoy them:

  • Stir them into your porridge for added crunch;
  • Yogurt, blueberries and cocoa nibs with a bit of organic honey makes an amazing pudding;
  • Bake with them. I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve seen some recipes where you can use cocoa nibs instead of/alongside chocolate chips;
  • Mix cocoa nibs with nuts and sultanas for a healthy snack to pick at throughout the day. The cocoa nibs themselves can be quite bitter when eaten on their own, but as soon as you add the sweetness of a sultana they’re delicious.
  • Add them to ice-cream. OK, so this is a bit of a naughty one but I only did it once and it was a real treat. It inspired me to find some clean eating ice-cream recipes like this one.

Happy chocolate eating, gang. x

In some of my recipes, I have been using alternatives to refined sugar such as fruit and dates. I have a very sweet tooth and I love to bake but I am also aware of what refined sugar can do to the body, so I’m determined to find healthier alternatives that still taste good. I ordered some coconut sugar last week, which has just arrived and I’m excited about trying it out. I’m going to have to wait a while to use it though because I’m on day 1 of my 2-week sugar-free challenge. You can join me and do the challenge yourself: for more information, see The Sugar-Free Challenge page.

If you have any of the following symptoms, it could be that sugar is the culprit:

  • Aching joints
  • Permanently blocked sinuses (you know that feeling when you think you’re going down with a cold, but it never quite happens?)
  • Always tired
  • Lethargic
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry skin
  • Thrush
  • Bad digestion
  • Fuzzy head
  • Forgetful
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Prone to mood swings

So, why is refined sugar so bad for us?

There is so much information out there about how sugar damages your health, so I’m going to stick to the basics and leave it you to find out the specifics if you want to. Let’s start off with the obvious.

Sugar is quite bad for you because

  • It leads to tooth decay;
  • It is high in calories and completely lacking in nutrients, which leads to weight gain and malnutrition.

Ok, you probably already knew those 2, but that’s just the start.

Sugar is terrible for you because

  • It supresses the immune system;
  • It promotes inflammation;
  • It speeds up the ageing process;
  • It raises insulin levels. In the short term, this means sudden energy slumps and food cravings. In the long term, this can lead to diabetes;
  • It robs the body of B vitamins, which are basically needed to keep your nervous system, muscles and tissues healthy and functioning. See here for more information.

For more information on the list above, there’s a great article here at www.nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com.

For a truly terrifying list of how sugar damages your health, see 141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health at www.nancyappleton.com.

Now for the worst part:

The problem with sugar is that it’s just too tasty. No matter how much we want to hate the stuff, it’s very difficult to give up and that’s because sugar is a drug; it is addictive. There is an amazing lecture about this on YouTube called Sugar: The Bitter Truth by Prof. Robert Lustig, which I really recommend you watch if you are at all interested in the subject. Be warned, it’s over an hour long though!

What are the alternatives?

It’s important to remember that alternatives to refined sugar are still high in calories and will still raise insulin levels, so we shouldn’t go crazy and eat loads of them. However, it’s nice to have a sweet treat here and there and the alternatives in the list below contain more vitamins and minerals than refined sugar, meaning they nourish our bodies when we eat them rather than stripping the nutrients from us.

  • Fruit
  • Dates
  • Rapadura sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

Alternatives to avoid:

In my opinion, sweeteners are even worse than refined sugar and should be avoided at all costs. But that’s a huge subject in itself, so I won’t go into it now.

By now you’re probably beginning to hate me a little for making you feel bad about eating sugar, but please don’t!  I wish I could eat lots of sugar too. As I said in my very first post, “I love food…especially cake. It makes me happy”  and I like nothing more than enjoying yummy food with family and friends. Emotional health is just as important as physical health so I’ve had to find a balance that is reasonable and sustainable: I try to eat healthily most of the time, if I have treats at home I try to use the healthier alternatives, but I’m not going to beat myself up about the odd indulgent meal at a friend’s house or a delicious, sugar-laden pudding at a restaurant. Life is for living and enjoying after all!

X

IMG_1655

This is the easiest recipe ever. It took me 5 minutes to make and then 30 minutes in the oven. There are other more exciting versions of this recipe all over the internet so if you fancy being a bit adventurous, have a look around, but this is a good one to make when you have nothing but the basics in the house.

Ingredients:

350g (12 oz) organic wholemeal spelt flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

½ pint milk (either fresh or slightly gone off)

Juice of ½ a lemon

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

If you’re using gone off milk, you don’t need the lemon. If you’re using fresh milk, add the lemon juice to make it curdle. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, add the salt and mix it all together. Make a well in the middle and add the milk. Quickly mix it all together and knead it briefly. Place it on a greased and floured baking tray and cook for 30 minutes.

To test whether or not it’s cooked, turn the loaf upside down and tap it on the bottom. If it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Cool it on a wire rack.

Why I love it:

I love making my own soda bread because it’s quick and easy, because I know exactly what’s in it and because, unlike normal bread, it isn’t made with yeast.

So what’s the problem with yeast?

We all have a certain amount of yeast in our digestive systems but when we eat too much processed food, refined sugar and bread this yeast (Candida albicans) can get out of control and cause us all sorts of health problems such as digestive problems, bloating, aching joints, fatigue, headaches and thrush to name just a few. Taking a course of antibiotics can also cause an overgrowth of Candida albicans.

Doctors will often deny any link between yeast overgrowth and health problems but interestingly, patients with certain chronic ailments such as chronic fatigue syndrome are often successfully treated by cutting yeast out of their diet. It’s worth doing your own research into this but I certainly find I feel better if I cut yeast and sugar out of my diet: I feel less lethargic and sluggish and my digestive system feels a lot healthier.

If you want to find out more, here are some interesting articles to start you off:

x