It’s a divisive topic in most households – some of us (like me) are firmly in the I love sprouts group, yet others are strangely repulsed by these little green nutritional powerhouses.
Here’s why you should load up on sprouts on Christmas Day…
They’re packed with disease-fighting phytonutrients glucosinolates and anti-cancer properties including sulforaphane. Even the occasional serving can have significant benefits.
Sprouts also contain more vitamin C than broccoli or strawberries to give you a great immune boost to wave away festive colds.
Come on, what’s not to love?
If you’re stuck for gift ideas and growing ever panicky with each ‘it’s…days to Christmas’ notification – relax for a moment, grab a cuppa and take a look at my top three wellbeing-inspired present suggestions…
Healthy Back Bag – if your mum, sister or friend regularly complains about having back pain, this one strap bag, which is very kind to the spine, could be just what they need. HBBs are designed to distribute weight asymmetrically and contour to the spine, thus reducing stress on the neck and shoulders. They come in stacks of different colours and designs, from sporty to snazzy, with prices starting at £29. I’ve had one for a while now and they really are as good as they sound.
Fitbag – it can be tricky to find the get-up-and-go to keep fit in the winter, no matter what recent research suggests. It’s cold, it’s dark and those two factors alone can be a big deterrent for some of us. The Fitbag is a tone-up-at-home kit with a difference. The bag contains six items: skipping rope, dumbbells, ab roller, resistance band, resistance tube and a thigh master. It also includes a detailed workout plan and costs £37.99. Fitbag live classes are also being introduced – simply turn up with your Fitbag and get into your first class for free.
M&S Luxury Fruit Basket – put down the box of chocolates you’ve earmarked for a loved one and give the gift of fresh and seasonal fruit instead. On average, we consume an astonishing 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone. In addition, all our extra festive nibbles can add up to a weight gain of 5lb. You can choose from the luxury option (£39.50) or a traditional basket priced at £29.50. If your recipient has overdone it on the party food front (which most of us will), they could be very thankful for this healthy treat!
Main image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos
Tis the season to eat plenty, drink until we’re merry and ease off on our usual healthy habits. Sleep – pah! Yet, this breakdown in our usual routines – less sleep, more party foods, stacks of booze, plus the pressure to be the perfect host and gift giver – can create a very real risk of the festive season making us ill, according to new research.
“At Christmas, when we’re trying to do everything, or get everything finished at work before the break, there can be a dip in desirable events and a rise in negative mood, caused by the varying pressures we all find ourselves under, such as financial worries, time constraints and a lack of support from friends or family,” says Dr Anna Phillips, a reader in behavioural medicine at the University of Birmingham.
When these kind of worries build up, Dr Phillips warns they can quite literally make us ill, as the stress affects the balance of the body’s hormones. This is due to a link between stress and a deficiency in secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), a type of antibody that protects against infections at the mucous membranes of the mouth, airwaves and digestive tract. If we become deficient in this vital antibody, we are at greater risk of infection and generally feeling ugh.
So, what can we do to lower our risk of getting ill over Christmas?
“People need to look after themselves,” says Dr Phillips. “Ensure you have plenty of good quality support from friends and family, and ensure you continue to maintain some healthy behaviours – get some exercise and plenty of sleep. Listen to your body’s slow down signals and obey them. Most of all, make a holiday exactly that; a relaxing break.”
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This may sound like a ridiculous question – after all don’t we all exercise to benefit our health? Not according to the results of a recent poll, we don’t.
Nurofen polled 2,000 fitness fanatics and asked why they exercise. Four in ten admitted they keep fit to look good and feel attractive. 44% said they had only started exercising to stop them from looking overweight, while 28% believed regular exercise would help them to look younger and fight the first signs of ageing. The most depressing stats from the survey (for me) were: 18% admitted they exercise just to impress their partners and one in ten said their main motivation when going to the gym was the hope of meeting someone there and falling in love. Really?
This daft approach to exercise had also resulted in four in ten injuring themselves while working out. In addition, more than half said they don’t warm up before exercise and 60% said they don’t bother warming down either. This is crazy: warming up and warming down are essential to prevent unnecessary pains, strains and injuries.
As we all know: exercise is fantastic for our health. Regular exercise is a powerful weapon in reducing our risk of developing serious and potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease, stroke, numerous cancers and type 2 diabetes.
Whatever your reasons for keeping fit: please don’t forget the most attractive thing about regular exercise is that you’re benefitting your health enormously.
We all have days where our memory retention skills could do with a boost, whatever our age. US researchers feel the answer may lie (quite literally) in our own hands.
Scientists at the Montclair State University have found clenching the right hand for 90 seconds helps with memory formation, while the same movement in the left hand improves memory recall. In the experiment, 50 students were given a list of words to remember and found they performed better when using fist clenches. The researchers feel the fist clenching movements activate specific brain regions that are associated with memory processing. Further research will continue.
If you’re rubbish at remembering names or always forget at least one thing you want to pick up from the supermarket (like me), it’s certainly worth a try…
Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos
If you answered yes to the above, you could be at risk of nutritional deficiency, warns Allergy UK.
New research from Alpro has revealed 44% of people that class themselves as dairy intolerant are relying on the internet and general guess work to self-diagnose. 72% of those suffering from dairy intolerance symptoms have removed all sources of dairy from their diet, the main source of calcium in the UK. A further 25% have cut out some dairy food groups. Gut problems including stomach pain, bloating and diarrhoea were cited as the most common reasons for cutting out dairy: eczema and nasal/sinus congestion were listed fourth and fifth.
Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth; it also regulates muscle contractions including the heartbeat. Calcium is particularly vital for women as low levels can increase your risk of osteoporosis. It’s found in foods including milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli and cabbage, dried fruits such as apricots, tofu and sesame seeds.
Over half of the people surveyed felt there was not enough advice out there for dairy intolerance sufferers. They would like to see more information on calcium, recipes, suitable dairy swaps and ideas for eating out. A huge 75% said they would prefer to be diagnosed by a face-to-face consultation.
If you are concerned you may have symptoms that indicate dairy intolerance, Allergy UK advises: “to help identify whether a food is a cause of symptoms, a food/symptoms diary can help to identify a pattern. We would always recommend taking the diary to your GP or allergy specialist who can diagnose what may be causing the symptoms or refer you to a dietitian.”
Whether you are dairy intolerant or a dairy lover, make sure you maintain a good calcium intake in your diet…
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If you want to avoid feeling too down in the dumps on Blue Monday (Monday 21st January), wear bright clothes, Mental Health Research UK advises.
January as a whole can be a month when many of us feel pretty miserable, yet researchers claim that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. This is due to bad weather, reduced daylight, debt, the need for Christmas detox and poor motivation.
MHRUK hopes to brighten up Britain with its campaign, Blooming Monday. The charity aims to raise awareness of depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and hopes to encourage people participating in brightening up their attire for the day to donate £2 to MHRUK to fund research into treatments.
If you’re wearing bright colours on Monday and want to make a voluntary difference, you can donate £2 to MHRUK by texting BLOO22 to 70070.
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As someone that always feels the cold, new research that looks at how nostalgia can help us to feel physically warmer has really piqued my interest.
Studies conducted by the University of Southampton discovered a link between nostalgic feelings and our perception of temperature. Volunteers reported feeling warmer when they were asked to reflect on sentimental memories or music that made them feel nostalgic. The studies also found that volunteers were able to withstand putting their hand in ice-cold water for longer when they focused on a nostalgic memory or event from their past.
Dr Tim Wildschut, a senior lecturer at the university and co-author of the study, said: “Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort. Our study has shown that nostalgia serves a homeostatic function allowing the mental stimulation of previously enjoyed states, including states of bodily comfort, in this case making us feel warmer or increasing our tolerance of cold.”
I’m prescribing myself a regular dose of my favourite and much-loved Christmas films to help forget how chilly it’s becoming. I’m feeling a little warmer already…
Male readers, this year’s Ask Your Pharmacist Week (5th-12th November) is all about you.
The aim is to help you feel more at ease walking into a pharmacy and chatting about your health and making better use of the free professional help that is available. Ask about anything that is concerning you, from health worries, information on medication side effects or insight on long-term medical conditions. You can also ask for tips and advice on general health and wellbeing such as boosting immunity, cutting down on smoking or improving sexual health.
Leicestershire-based Mistry’s Pharmacy also offers an online pharmacy facility which is used by people across the UK. Typical men’s health issues they advise on include product recommendations for sports injuries, muscle strains and enquiries on sexual health matters such as erectile dysfunction, which requires GP-prescribed medication.
“No matter how trivial or embarrassing your concern, pharmacy teams are well-trained to offer confidential advice,” says Sanjay, one of the pharmacist’s at Mistry’s. “Pharmacists are very approachable and can guide you through any problem you may have, ensuring you leave with the right advice or product you need. There is no need to suffer alone – it’s imperative to get professional advice as soon as possible, don’t let a nagging problem get worse.”
Go on, just ask…
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If you thought watercress was simply an accompaniment to liven up an egg mayonnaise sandwich or to add some colour to your plate, think again. New research suggests watercress can not only improve your skin health, leading to fewer blemishes and less visible pores, it can also reduce the spread of wrinkles.
The Watercress Alliance asked a group of female volunteers to eat 80g of watercress every day for four weeks and make no other changes to their diet. The women had their faces photographed before and after using a special complexion-analysing system.
90% experienced a difference in their skin and over 70% reported a change in the texture of their skin and a remarkable improvement in their wrinkles. Half of the women experienced reduced red and blotchy areas and 81% noticed their pores had become less noticeable.
Watercress is packed with antioxidants such as vitamins C, A and E, lutein, carotene, calcium and iron.
What’s more, watercress is currently in season and is readily available – hooray!
Image courtesy of Think Vegetables