Can we boost our grey matter with the white stuff?

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I’ve had mine today, have you had yours? Yes, we all know milk is a great source of calcium which helps build and maintain healthy bones, as well as giving our bodies a vitamin and protein boost. But did you know, a glass of milk a day could also boost your brain power too?

New US research certainly seems to think so. Milk drinkers, irrespective of age and health, performed significantly higher on a range of brain and cognitive tests than those who drank little or no milk in the study of 972 men and women.

Each participant was asked to keep a detailed record on their diets and how often they consumed dairy products, even including milk added to tea and coffee. The research, published in the International Dairy Journal, showed adults who consumed dairy products five or six times per week performed better in a series of tests to check memory, concentration and learning ability.

Interestingly, the study also found those who regularly drink milk also tend to maintain a healthy diet, compared to non-milk drinkers.

So, will this new research make you more likely to reach for a milky drink before tackling a looming work deadline? I’d love to know…

 

Image courtesy of Press Loft/Dotcomgiftshop

Top tips to burn off Christmas calories

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We consume around 7,000 calories on Christmas Day alone as we gorge on a fine feast of foods, drinks and snacks throughout the day and into the night. Not to mention the excess eating, snacking and boozing that happens over the festive season as a whole.

But, fear not. If you want to avoid piling on the festive pounds, help is at hand from York Fitness on how to burn off those extra calories…

One mince pie contains 185 calories – minus additions such as brandy butter or cream, of course. The solution – 15 minutes of press-ups 

Two glasses of your favourite vino contains around 185 calories. The solution – 20 minutes of continuous lifting of kettlebell weights

Did you know just SIX Quality Street or Roses chocolates contain 268 calories – yikes! The solution – 18 minutes of moderate skipping

For the non-vegetarians reading this blog, five mini pigs in blankets equals 375 calories. The solution – get on your exercise bike for 35 minutes

One slice of your mum’s special Christmas cake contains 249 calories. The solution – run or jog on a treadmill or outside at 12kph for 23 minutes

One handful of nuts is equal to 256 calories. To counteract this – work your punchbag for 28 minutes – continuously

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers…

 

 

 

Get healthy: The eat well factor

 

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As part of her role as a mentor on The X Factor, Kelly Rowland brings with her a huge breadth of experience in the music industry and knows all too well that success is not all down to vocal talent, looking good is also key. The superfit star, who leads a focused healthy lifestyle, wants to help her acts look and feel their best by giving advice on nutrition and introducing a strict diet and exercise plan.

By the time the live shows roll around next month, the star wants her acts to be in the best possible shape, mentally and physically, and to help this happen, all fast food is banned. Kelly will be keeping a close eye on them to ensure no naughty snacking takes place.

For advice on how to get your food balance right, the Eatwell Plate is a great at-a-glance guide that shows how much of what you eat should come from each food group. It is suitable for most people – whether healthy, overweight, meat eaters or vegetarian, regardless of ethnic origin. It does not apply, however, to young children as they have different nutritional needs.

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The British Dietetic Association, have very kindly offered Ms Rowland the services of a dietitian to help advise her acts on healthy eating that will give them the nutrition and energy they need to make it through the live shows.

For the rest of us, here is some very helpful advice from Sian Burton, spokesperson for the BDA: “Eating a variety of foods can help you manage your weight, improve general wellbeing and reduce the risk of conditions including: heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis. All you need to do is eat sensibly, choose a range of foods in the correct proportions and have a variety of foods and fluids.”

Keep your eyes on the healthy food supplies…

 

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To keep your diet or healthy eating plan on the right track, the advice from psychologists is simple: putting healthy foods at eye level in the fridge can help you to lose weight (or stay trim) as you eat what you first see.

When faced with junk food temptation in the fridge and in our cupboards, experts say we often absentmindedly eat what is in front of us whether we are hungry or not.  

If your fridge currently resembles a tuck shop, and your cupboards are heaving with crisps and biscuits, putting snacks and sweet treats out of sight, so they are less accessible, can make a big difference, say psychologists. Changing the environment around you and ensuring you see only wholesome healthy food alternatives can help you to eat better without even realising it.

Becoming more aware of what you are eating by opting to use smaller plates and consuming meals at the table, away from TV distractions, can also help you to subconsciously eat less, and lose up to 2lb per month, studies have shown.

It makes perfect sense to me. If I look in the fridge and staring right back at me is a slice of cheesecake, I’d need some serious unswerving willpower not to dive in, whether hungry or not. If, when I next opened the fridge, a tray of blueberries were at my eye level instead, I’d still be happy to munch away, except this time I would have made a far healthier choice without thinking about it all that much.

So, just a load of twaddle or very useful advice for keeping you on the healthy track? Over to you…

 

 

Go bananas for a natural brain power boost

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Inspiration for this week’s blog post comes from Middlesbrough College and its excellent energy-boosting concentration-improving solution for A-Level and AS-level students – bananas.

Yes, the yellow fruit packed with potassium, is a superfood that can help to combat stress and boost brain power. As bananas are also a slow-releasing energy food, this makes them a perfect option for a mid-morning snack to help maintain productivity through the day. Having a banana for breakfast is also a great way to start you on the right track to 5-A-Day.

Students at Middlesbrough College are offered a banana and a bottle of water 30 minutes before exams begin. This was designed to ensure those skipping breakfast do not experience dips in concentration as a result of missing out on the first meal of the day.

The college believes bananas are the ideal antidote to exam fatigue, which can cause students to answer incorrectly as energy and concentration levels begin to drop midway through exams.

Director of A-Levels, Richard Ronksley says: “The theory behind it is not new, bananas have many health benefits. It’s a simple idea but we believe it will be beneficial to students and will hopefully have a positive impact on their exam results.”

Bananas are a great choice for all – potassium is an essential mineral that helps to maintain normal blood pressure and healthy heart function. Other banana benefits include: they are a great source of fibre, are low in salt and high in vitamin B6 making them an excellent mood food. Vitamin B6 can also be highly effective in controlling muscle spasms and strains naturally. Lastly, bananas are low in calories and are easy for your body to digest.

What’s not to love? Bananas rock. Spread the word…

Seven tips to combat hayfever naturally

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Hayfever is a common seasonal allergy that causes discomfort and disruption to one in four people. As peak season is about to start as we move into May, I’ve delved into my previous features research on allergies to put together some handy tips to help you naturally combat your body against hayfever.

1. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine found in a number of food sources such as apples, green and black tea, plus red onion and garlic. The latter two must be eaten raw for maximum effect. 

2. Allicin – garlic has the added boost of its active ingredient allicin and is very effective in easing hayfever, asthma and related allergies.

3. Bromelain is an enzyme found naturally in yummy fresh pineapple that acts quickly to interrupt inflammatory responses and alleviate symptoms quickly.

4. Avoid trigger foods – nutritional expert Jenny Logan advises reducing histamine-rich foods in your diet such as cheese, coffee, red wine, chocolate and beer as they can all aggravate the histamine response and worsen hayfever symptoms.

5. Nettle – drink nettle tea or eat nettle soup to help with clearing catarrh and phlegm.

6. Flower aid – chamomile and elderflower both share a number of anti-allergic properties to help with irritation. Elderflower is anti-catarrhal and helps to dry mucus from inflamed nasal passages, while helping to ease congestion in the head and lungs. Chamomile helps to reduce allergies, anxiety and aids sleep. It can also help to boost the immune system with regular consumption.

Quick relief for itchy eyes: place chilled chamomile teabags onto the eyes to reduce soreness and itching.

7. Acupuncture can also be useful in helping to reduce hayfever symptoms as regular acupuncture sessions can help to stimulate the body’s own healing response.

And from personal try and buy experience, I have found HayMax, the all-natural drug-free pollen barrier balm very effective. Feel free to share any additional natural tips that work for you…

Are you a lunch break skipper?

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I must confess I’m not great at taking daily lunch breaks. I’ll usually stop to grab something from the kitchen, occasionally I’ll even be super organised and prepare it the night before, then usually I’ll hot foot it back upstairs to return to my laptop screen and what I was doing.

The trouble with taking this approach on a regular basis is: it’s bad for your health and your waistline.

Research from Bristol University reveals how eating at your screen can lead to you eating twice as much as the day continues. The reason for this is, not too dissimilar from why it’s bad to eat your dinner in front of the TV too; the distraction of focusing on the screen makes you eat more.

When you decide not to take a break to eat your lunch and choose to cram in eating around reading emails or watching a soap repeat for 30 minutes, your tummy does not realise when it’s pleasantly full. Instead, you continue to feel a little peckish and will be prone to snacking in the afternoon. On this front, I’m guilty as charged, as I’m currently eating a biscuit while typing this.

My next week resolution starting Monday is to start taking a lunch break every day…who’s with me?

 

Sleep – how do I get more?

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Image courtesy of The Sleep Council

New research from the Mental Health Foundation has revealed the huge impact poor sleep can have on our health and happiness. As a sleep addict who becomes unbearable after just a couple of nights of disrupted sleep, my heart goes out to those who regularly face bouts of insomnia.

For those with repeated difficulties sleeping, this deficit can lead to weight gain, erratic moodswings, energy deficiency, and as the MHF’s report reveals, it can also cause relationship difficulties. If problems persist long-term, sleep deprivation can lead to health problems including diabetes, clinical depression, anxiety, immune deficiency and heart disease.

I’d like to share a feature I wrote last year with comment from sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan on the secrets of natural sleep which includes many tips on improving your sleep quota. At the time I spoke with Nerina, I was sleeping poorly for several weeks due to a horrid chest infection (such is the life of an asthmatic) and by following just a couple of Nerina’s suggestions I was sleeping better in no time.

Main things to consider are: always eat breakfast, watch your caffeine intake after 2pm, look at your nightly routine and incorporate more movement and exercise in your life to improve sleep.

For anyone struggling with sleep, I’d love to hear how you get on using some of the tips.

January detoxing – is giving up doing us any good?

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If January is THE month of detox for you and it all started out with high hopes and big restrictions which are now becoming a real struggle to keep up – new research reveals failing your detox resolutions might just do you more good than you think.

The reasoning behind these claims is all down to the food and drink we tend to cut out which can in fact be just what our bodies need. Research from Nescafe reveals how tea, coffee, red wine and chocolate all featured highly on the list of most popular items to give up. Yet, when these food and drink items are consumed in moderation, they all are excellent sources of antioxidants which are fab for protecting the body’s cells from day-to-day damage. Coffee and dark chocolate are two of the highest antioxidant-rich sources.

Healthy eating is all about balance – if you fancy a cuppa or a bite of chocolate, just do it! You’ll feel all the better for being a little kinder to yourself. What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments on this…

Note: Image courtesy of Image Loft/Matalan

 

 

 

Have a very calorific Christmas

New research published this week reveals how the average Brit eats a whopping 4,000 calories on Christmas Day – twice the daily recommended amount for women.

Though Christmas lunch weighs in at a hefty 1,000 calories, it is the snacking we do over the course of the day – tucking into second helpings of lunch, chocolates, crisps, mince pies, leftover sandwiches, pastries plus wine, beer, sherry and any other tipple that tickles our fancy which all add up to send the calorie count soaring.

If you find yourself overindulging and feeling a little too full and sluggish as a result – naturopath Susse Wedel suggests drinking marshmallow and liqourice teas to help with indigestion, acid reflux and to ease away the feeling of over-eating. Another fab tip that Susse swears by is to chew on fennel seeds whenever you are feeling a tad full from one too many food parcels.

Have a very Merry Christmas!