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!

Five reasons to love brussels sprouts

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Much-maligned and loathed by many yet sprouts are the best seasonal veg around in the month of December and are loaded with healthy goodness. Read on to find out why you really should eat your sprouts this festive season.

1. Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C containing more than four times the levels of oranges. Just one small cup of sprouts contains an adult’s daily allowance of this essential cold-buster

2. They are also rich in vitamins A, K, B1 and B6 – great for healthy skin and increasing energy

3. Sometimes described as small leafy mini cabbages – brussels are also rich in calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, lutein and fibre

4. Sprouts are low in fat and high in protein

5. Finally, sprouts are high in folate (folic acid) which makes healthy blood cells. Folate is a crucial nutrient for healthy cells and is essential for children, pregnant women and those planning to conceive.

Did you know: If the thought of green sprouts turns you off – a new red version of the vegetable is now available which is milder and sweeter (yet still contains all the nutrients listed above) could be the solution for you.

Are brussels sprouts loved or loathed by you? I’m firmly in the thumbs up camp. I’d love to hear your comments…

Relieving pain naturally

From tackling headaches, migraines and sinus pain to alleviating allergy symptoms, relieving muscular strains, painful menstrual symptoms or for a helping hand when we’re having trouble sleeping – popping a pill is often our first thought for quick-acting respite from common health complaints. Yet, health experts advise that natural alternatives to over-the-counter options are often the best solution. Expert naturopathic advice is provided by Susse Wedel.

 

 

 

 

 

Gizzi Erskine Q&A (celeb health)

Rather than endlessly telling you what I’m working on – I thought I’d share some of the features I have already written starting today. So, hopefully (if I have done this right!) above you should find my chat with the very lovely and inspiring Gizzi Erskine…

Getting to grips with dietary fat

Yesterday’s post looked at research from The Fat Panel which reveals when it comes to dietary fat, most of us are baffled.

It’s easy to see why too. While watching BBC Three’s 5 Really Disgusting Foods last night, Alex Riley looked into the truly disgusting range of ingredients certain low-budget brands will use to produce food as cheaply as possible. The subject came up of the use of trans fats such as hydrogenated fat in foods and my other half immediately popped up with ‘I’ve never understood what trans fats actually are’, lucky for him, I was able to tell him exactly what they were as a result of the research I’ve been doing for my latest blog posts – handy eh!

So, back to the topic in hand…

Let’s look at the bad fats first. The main culprits are: Saturated Fat & Trans Fats

Saturated fat is typically found in foods derived from animals such as full fat dairy products including butter, full fat cheese and cream, fatty meats and meat products. Baked goods such as cakes, biscuits and pastries are also high in saturated fat. Excessive intakes of saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease. Current figures suggest that, on average, we are consuming 20% more saturated fats than experts recommend.

Trans fats or trans fatty acids in our diet are mainly derived from two sources. Trans fats are formed when liquid oils are hardened by a process called partial hydrogenation. The other source of trans fats is naturally occurring in some meat and dairy food. The most common dietary sources of trans fats in the UK are: biscuits, cakes, meat pies and pastries. Trans fats raise bad blood cholesterol and reduce good blood cholesterol – this again increases the risk of heart disease. And to think a quarter of those surveyed by The Fat People thought they should be eating more trans fats!

Some fat in the diet is important for good health.

The good fats are: Polyunsaturated Fats and Monounsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are classified in two types – Omega 3 and Omega 6. Considered essential because they cannot be made in the body, therefore these fatty acids must be obtained through the diet. Omega 6 fats are mainly found in sunflower, corn and most other pure vegetable oils, and products made with these oils such as nuts, seeds and oils. Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats help lower bad blood pressure when it replaces saturated fats in the diet, which helps reduce the risk of developing heart disease. There are two types of Omega 3 fats: one type is via vegetable oils such as flaxseed oil and rapeseed oil and some nuts, the other type is found in oil-rich fish such as sardines and salmon. Like Omega 6, Omega 3, particularly from fish oils, is known to help keep the heart and circulation healthy.

The second good fat is Monounsaturated fats which are found in most types of nuts, avocado pears, rapeseed oil, olive oil and products made from these. Monounsaturated fat does not raise cholesterol and evidence shows that it can help lower bad cholesterol levels when it replaces saturated fat in the diet.

By following a balanced healthy diet with the occasional treat thrown in and learning to become a little more savvier with what you are regularly putting in your body – these small steps could go a long way to better health.

I hope this post has proved informative and simplified the murky waters of dietary fat for you.

Please feel free to comment away on this one – be great to hear from you…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dietary Fat – What does it all mean?

New research by The Fat Panel has revealed that when it comes to knowing the difference between good and bad fats, and understanding why dietary fat is important for our health – us Brits find it all a little too confusing.

One in five of us thinks that saturated fat is a good fat, while one in four thinks we’re eating the right amount of saturated fats. And when it comes to trans fats we are completely baffled. More than a third of us think trans fats (TFAs) are good fats, and just under half of us worryingly think that TFAs are essential fatty acids. And as if that wasn’t bad enough – one in four actually think they should be eating more TFAs.

More than a quarter of the 1,000 people questioned by The Fat Panel did not understand that polyunsaturated fats are good fats, just under half realised that monounsaturated fats are good fats and one in five surveyed did not realise that we need some fat as part of a healthy diet.

Why do we need fat? Dietary fat in sensible amounts is essential for tissue repair, healthy skin, protecting our internal organs, delivering and transporting vitamins around the body, hormone metabolism plus aiding normal growth and development. 

I’ll look more closely at what each type of fat is, where good fats can be found, and which bad fats and their associated foods should be minimised for better health in my next blog post tomorrow. Otherwise this post will go on for miles and miles…!

 

 

 

 

Vitamin B12

Recent scary reports in the press and on TV have suggested vegetarians and especially vegans should give their dietary options a rethink as Vitamin B12 can only be found in meat as a food source. As a vegetarian who could never go back to eating meat again, I wanted to look further into this and find out where Vitamin B12 can be found and also why the vitamin is fundamental to good health.

The Food Standards Agency says: “If you eat meat, fish (salmon and cod) or dairy foods then you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet.”

Other recommended food sources which are vegetarian-friendly include: milk, cheese, eggs, yeast extract plus fortified breakfast cereals. As the vitamin is not found in vegetables, fruit or grains – vegans can become deficient and may require a daily vitamin b12 supplement. However, many vegan foods are supplemented with vitamin B12 so it is important to check food contents to ensure you are getting the right daily amount.

Vitamin B12 has a number of important functions and is an essential nutrient in our diet: it makes red blood cells which keep the nervous system healthy, helps to release energy from the food we eat and is also needed to absorb folic acid.

Food for thought indeed.