Well-being Through Food

I recently assisted holistic nutritionist and wellness coach Ivana Silva in delivering a series of health food talks and demonstrations as part of the Ritz-Carlton Dubai’s Wellness Week. One of the talks Ivana gave was on ‘Well-being through Food’ and I thought I would share with you some of the key information from it.

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I was most intrigued listening to Ivana speaking about chronic adrenal fatigue, which I learned is a direct result of how one chooses to think. I am a huge believer in positive thinking and mind over matter. If you allow your body to think you are too tired for that run you had planned later in the day – chances are you will actually begin to feel more tired and maybe not go after all.

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Food has the power to make us happy – true; but lack of DHA, a fatty acid found most abundantly in the brain, can make us feel sad so it is vital we are getting sufficient amounts of it in our diets. We can find these omega-3 fats in fish, flaxseed oil (find it in the fridge in health food stores), walnuts and chia seeds. [Ensure when buying salmon that it is wild and not farmed as only wild fish, feeding on the correct nutrients from the sea, contain the essential omega-3s.]

Food with unsaturated fats

Omega-3 fatty acids also excellent for your brain, heart and mood and they have been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for fat storage, particularly around the stomach area. Cortisol is also linked to depression and a lack of sleep.

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Another key message from the talk was recognising foods that physically make us feel better and those that make us feel good on a psychological level – i.e.: comfort foods.

So what foods should you start chowing down on to capture all of this feel-good energy? 

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Garlic
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Raw cacao
  • Olive and hemp oils
  • Beans and pulses
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Kale and spinach
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Green beans
  • Courgettes
  • Mushrooms
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Pears

Finally, fluids – a minimum of 2 litres per day; this includes teas and liquids in foods. 2.5 litres are lost each day through your lungs, sweat and urine that need to be replaced for correct mental functioning, reducing irritability and improving concentration.

Now it’s just a matter of application. Take a screenshot of the above list and have it on-hand the next time you go grocery shopping to help steer you in the right direction. Secondly, give it time. You can’t expect to eat well for a few days or a week and miracles to happen. Anything worth having is worth waiting for. I would say, realistically, after 1 month you should notice a major improvement in your mood, energy, sleep patterns and exercise performance if eating correctly and looking after your body. That means staying active – Check out my Get in Shape & Stay in Shape post! Of course you will notice changes along the way but it is about patience and adopting new lifestyle habits rather than a quick fix solution.

Health is for life!  

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My Favourite Foodies

There are some really awesome people online sharing their stories, recipes, pictures and advice, either through their own blogs or websites or on my preferred site to follow – Instagram. I am without doubt a visual person & I love aimlessly browsing through pictures online, constantly being inspired by what I see. Below I will share with you my favourite foodies from around the globe – kicking off back home in Ireland there could be only one lady at the top of my list..

 

Miss SJ White – aka: The Health Geek. 

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http://susanjanewhite.com/

Susan Jane has penned probably the only cookbook that I genuinely love. Every other cookbook I have is covered in pencil doodles and adaptions to make the recipes suitable for my food intolerances. Whereas with Susan’s book – The Extra Virgin Kitchen; everything is dairy, wheat and sugar free so I almost feel like it was wrote just for me! Definitely get your hands on a copy of it & sign up to subscriptions on her site for regular delicious recipes and exciting events. I attended one such event last year consisting of a three-course meal using recipes from her book in Harvey Nichols in Dublin. Think mackerel pate, flaxseed crackers, superfood salads and decadent chocolate cake to name but a few delicious items – oh and I won best tweet of the night so got a fab prize from Harvey Nichols to take home! Win win!

Susan-Jane White event 2014 (dairy,wheat,sugar free)

 

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Deliciously Ella

Moving across the pond to London this lady has skyrocketed to stardom over the past two years since I began following her. She gives great advice, great recipes and really helpful video tutorials. For anyone in the London area she also hosts workshops and events (you lucky sods!) One of my favourite videos is her Christmas special video and her sweet potato brownies tutorial is a popular favourite. Her new cookbook was released in January 2015 which I am dying to get my hands on but you can also check out her website here: www.deliciouslyella.com

 

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The Instagram Greats 

@talinegabriel – Creator of the app: “Hippie Lane“, making delicious raw and baked goods

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@madeleine_shaw_ 

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@secretsquirrelfood 

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@bananarawpublic 

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@happiness_project

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@theholisticingredient – Ozzie-based; I can’t wait to try her turmeric, goat’s curd & onion seed loaf (pictured below left)

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@templetreetea

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@omniziltoid                                                   @kiaraible

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@sallykrix                                                           @jordanbourke

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@thebarefoothousewife                           @thehealthyindulger

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The accounts listed above are just a small selection of the hundreds of amazing people online sharing their culinary adventures and showing how simple, enjoyable and rewarding it is to care for your body. I hope these people can inspire you like they have inspired me xx

Food as Fuel

I get a lot of messages from people asking me for advice on what kind of foods they should be eating. Some people want to change their habits to healthily lose a few pounds, others want to know what foods to eat when exercising so that they can fuel their bodies but not gain bulk. I decided to put together this post with some advice and information that might help.

First thing’s first, each and every one of us are individuals and what may work for one person may not for the next. I don’t do and never have done diets. Yes all diets work, they make you lose weight because they usually involve some drastic food changes for a short period of time. However, most people usually regain this weight (and more!) once they return to their normal lifestyle. Nutrition and our attitude towards food has to be about a sustainable, healthy way of life that is appropriate for the time and needs You have, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ diet.

Secondly, nutrition and well-being is not just about the food we eat. Sleep, water and exercise are so important. I cannot encourage all three enough. Exercise doesn’t have to be about grueling regimes or running marathons – literally any move will do. It is about leading an active lifestyle. Walking to work, parking the car further away from the shop, cleaning the house or washing your car by hand all count. Additionally surrounding yourself with the right people – those that are positive and uplift you and reducing your stress levels are vitally important. If you are stressed your body produces higher levels of the hormone cortisol which make our bodies cling to fat, particularly around the stomach area.

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It is important not only to eat well but to eat regularly. Snacking at regular intervals, every 2-4hours, throughout the day keeps our metabolism ticking over and avoids getting to a point where you are over-hungry and eat everything in sight. Eating three large meals in the day leaves our metabolism stagnant. Our now slowed metabolism is less efficient at breaking down these larger meals and this inefficiency leads to fat storage as our bodies cannot break down foods quickly enough to use as energy. This usually leads to us feeling sluggish after eating larger meals because our digestive system is under greater strain.

What to cut out? 

Cut out anything processed or chemically altered, e.g.: white rice, white bread. All of these have nasty additives and ‘flavourings’ that are toxic for our bodies because they are man-made and when ingested are identified as foreign-bodies which need to be removed. Our body then has to work extra hard to detoxify itself of these toxins. Be aware that many “healthy foods” are actually packed full of these additivies along with high levels of sugar. Just because something is marketed as healthy or sold in a health food store does not mean it actually is healthy. Case in point – granola/cereal bars. 

Read the labels. If you can’t pronounce or don’t recognise an ingredient on the label neither can your body and it’s going to have a hard time getting rid of it after it’s eaten. Any other refined sugars, sweets/crips, fizzy drinks should be cut out and meat and dairy should be limited. I know this may seem difficult at first but these products are taxing for our bodies to break down.They again slow digestion and suck our energy. Almond milk is the best dairy alternative and actually contains more calcium than cow’s milk. Store bought versions can often contain a lot of extra sugars and very little almond so make sure to read the label first. I like the Rude Health Almond Milk but ideally, making your own is best. Check out my Almond Milk recipe to discover how.

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No matter what you love to eat there are always alternative healthier ways to make these foods every bit, if not more delicious – you just need to learn how. 

What to include? 

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Whole foods! Fruit and veggies in every shape, colour and size. Whole grains such as quinoa, brown or wild rice; beans and legumes like chickpeas and lentils; potatoes – sweet and regular, nuts, seeds and dried fruits in moderation. Plus as many superfoods as possible. Top superfoods to include should be cacao, spirulina/chlorella, bee pollen, goji berries (known as the ‘longevity berry’ in Chinese medicine – *Tip* get this guy much cheaper in Asian markets rather than health food stores), maca, hemp, flax and chia seeds. All of which I will be regularly using in my recipes so you can understand their benefits and find out how to use them in really delicious ways!

 When Exercising..

Pre-exercise you should be eating low GI (glycemic index) food. These provide slow release energy and won’t spike your blood sugar levels. A great example is porridge before a morning workout.

Post-exercise: Contrary to popular belief we don’t need massive amounts of protein post-exercise. You need simple carbohydrates along with some protein. Approx 4 or 5 to 1 ratio. Foods should be high GI to replenish depleted glycogen stores – this is the name given to stored carbohydrates in our body that we take in from food and is readily available to use as fuel when needed. Good examples of high GI foods include bananas and brown rice.

Great Workout Snacks:

  • Rice/buckwheat cakes with mashed avocado, a squeeze of lemon and black pepper & boiled eggs (Pictured below is buckwheat cake with mashed avo, dried cranberries, za’atar and sprouts)

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  • Hummus and veggies or My Wheat-Free Bread with hummus or mashed avocado (see avo with za’atar & beetroot hummus below)

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  • Add a poached egg to the above recipe to increase protein and make it extra filling

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Banana date smoothie, figs & oat ball snacksPictured above is a Joyful-Almond Smoothie with fresh figs and homemade oat-balls

  • Coconut/greek yoghurt with berries and cinnamon (ensure its 100% greek yoghurt and not greek style) I added some mint leaves and cacao nibs to my cacao flavoured Coyo coconut yoghurt – available in health food stores; pictured below.

Coconut cacao yoghurt with mint & berries

  • Apple/pear slices with nut butter
  • My ‘Cleantella’ recipe or nut butter on my ‘Wheat-Free’ bread with banana (and some mashed raspberries & cinnamon as seen below)

Toast with mashed raspberries & banana

  • Oats with berries

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  • Eggs with a sprinkle of cayenne/turmeric (see information below for why); Place a slice of lean turkey breast in a bun-tray mould and fill with one egg then bake until the white is set for a real protein punch.

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  • Quinoa with veggies

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  • Chia seed pudding (chia seeds soaked in milk) with cinnamon banana, berries and some nuts

Chia pudding

  • Chocolate milk (post-exercise)- contains simple carbohydrates and protein for recovery; caffeine in chocolate also helps to relax and dilate blood vessels
  • Self-popped popcorn from whole kernels – not store-bought bag; seasoned with some cayenne, paprika or nutritional yeast for a cheesy taste (see my sweet potato falafel post for more info on this)

Snacks

  • If after exercising late at night – hot milk with cinnamon and a banana with almond butter is an excellent choice. Almonds, milk and bananas all contain chemicals that help boost sleep and it has a great mix of calcium, magnesium and fatty acids to aid muscle repair and joint pain.

Top Foods for Optimal Health:

Fruit & Veg:

  • Spinach/Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado – high in healthy fats for muscle repair, keeps you fuller for longer and aids digestion
  • Sweet potatoes – higher in nutrients and lower in calories than regular potatoes
  • Beetroot – increases red blood cells, dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to muscles
  • Berries – antioxidants that help remove free radicals in the body that form after physical activity
  • Bananas – approx. 100 calories, easy to digest sugars, natural electrolytes & potassium to prevent muscle spasm/cramping make these a great choice for athletes
  • Cherries for muscle pain & inflammation and they boost sleep
  • Pineapple – muscle pain & inflammation, plus they help to reduce swelling/bruising; *Mangoes are also good

Grains:

  • Lentils, quinoa, brown/wild rice, amaranth, beans
  • Quinoa is actually a sprouted seed rather than a whole grain. It is a complex carbohydrate with almost twice as much protein as other whole grains. It is one of the only foods to contain all 9 amino acids our bodies need to build lean muscle and it helps to relax muscles and blood vessels making it ideal for post-exercise recovery.

Beans & Legumes:

  • Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peas – great sources of plant-based/vegetarian forms of protein; they also contain no saturated fat (unlike meat) and are a great source of fibre, keeping you fuller for longer

Meat, Fish & Eggs:

  • Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein and reduce inflammation. Aim to eat these twice a week to reap their benefits
  • Eggs –  great low calorie source of protein
  • Lean meats such as vension, turkey and chicken are good low-fat options

Dried Fruits, Nuts, Seeds & Oils:

  • Nuts in any shape or form (but never more than a small handful at any one time) or try them in nut milk or nut butter form – each provides wide and varied benefits but all contain protein and healthy fats.
  • Walnuts are calories dense which would make them more suitable for longer, endurance sports
  • Dried fruit (figs, prunes, cranberries, dates) are a great alternative to sugary sweets – they’re like nature’s candy! Enjoy them with nuts by making your own lunchbox trail mix and keep it in your bag/car for when hunger strikes and you need a quick snack on the go!

Homemade trail mix

  • Chia seeds – high in fibre, fatty acids, protein, calcium & anti-oxidants; they keep you fuller for longer and are great for hydration thanks to their expansion and absorption properties; they can also help stabilise blood sugar levels
  • Hemp – one of natures richest sources of complete protein, bettered only by spirulina; anti-inflammatory, fatty acids and fibre.
  • Tahini – made from ground sesame seeds which are a good source of iron
  • Coconut oil – cook everything with this. A little goes a long way. This superfood can actually boost metabolism and increase the energy our bodies use despite being high in saturated fat. **It also makes a great hair mask or body moisturiser.

Spices:

  • Cinnamon – helps control blood sugar levels and decrease fat storage
  • Ginger – anti-inflammatory, reduces muscle pain **Add ginger oil to a hot bath**
  • Cayenne – can help with joint pain and weight loss as it has been found to boost metabolism *Also chili/paprika
  • Turmeric – a powerful anti-inflammatory; I love adding this to omlettes, curries and even warm milk with some cinnamon, bee pollen and fresh grated ginger! *Liquid gold*

Baking alternatives:

  • Quinoa, brown rice, almond, coconut and buckwheat flours all make great baking alternatives

Natural sweeteners: 

  • Dates, honey, pure maple syrup, stevia (health food stores) and ripe bananas

Drinks:

  • Green tea – provides caffeine for performance and contains flavonoids for recovery
  • Coconut (water/milk) – one of the highest sources of electrolytes to help replace salts lost through sweat when exercising. It also improves digestion, increases metabolism and coconut milk is high in healthy fats.

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Supplements:

  • Supplements such as spirulina or chlorella  are great additions to smoothies to provide iron especially if you are a female athlete as our red blood count tends to be lower and this means a reduction in the amount of oxygen being carried to our cells. **Spirulina contains the highest concentration of protein on the planet. It is anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, amino acid containing and all round super-duper-food!
  • Maca – has a milk nutty taste and is excellent energy source (add to morning smoothies rather than later in the day so it doesn’t disrupt sleep patterns)
  • Cacao – yes chocolate in it’s unprocessed form is the number 1 antioxidant in the world! Found to boost energy and aid weight loss.
  • Fish oil tablets for joints – especially if not a fish fan

 

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At the end of the day – enjoy your food!  Don’t try and adopt all these changes at once. Small steps are key. Try one new superfood at a time and see what suits your body. Embrace whole foods and throw away anything with additives. When you do you won’t believe how quickly your body can metabolise what you eat and by being able to do this – how much energy you’ll have!

 

*Extra Info  & Helpful Diagrams*

This link I think is fantastic. I would strongly recommend having a look at it. It has 24 really nice easy to follow diagrams that are educational and make eating healthy very achievable. Check it out: Diagrams To Make Eating Healthy SuperEasy

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