Category Archive Blog

Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotic foods?

Yes! They’re the food that we feed our probiotics, the friendly gut microbes that are oh so important for good health.

Our gut microbes are alive, and they need to eat too. Their favourite foods are called “prebiotics” and include dietary fibre and resistant starch. The same fibre that keeps us feeling full slows down digestion and provides roughage that keeps us regular. Resistant starch helps promote healthy blood lipids. Both of types of prebiotic foods (fibre and resistant starch) are linked with many health benefits.

Technically-speaking, a prebiotic has three qualities:

It needs to be undigested and reach the colon intact;

It needs to be digested by our gut microbes; and,

It needs to stimulate our health-promoting good gut microbes.

Now that we know what prebiotics are let’s dive into their health benefits.

Health benefits of prebiotics

Prebiotic fibre helps keep us regular by bulking up our poo. It gives it substance and form, so it’s not too runny or liquid. In fact, more fibre is often recommended to help with symptoms of diarrhoea. Prebiotic fibre used to be thought of like a broom that sweeps food through our guts, but we’re learning more about its health benefits beyond this role.

For example, prebiotics can also help to maintain normal bowel structure and function, and even enhance blood flow to the cells of the colon.

Those are some of the health benefits of prebiotics themselves. But we get even more health benefits when our friendly gut microbes eat and digest them.

For one thing, our gut microbes use prebiotics to make short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs (e.g., butyrate) can feed the cells of our colon to keep them healthy. SCFAs also inhibit the growth of bad gut microbes, and can even increase mineral (e.g., calcium and magnesium) absorption. These effects are all linked to the slight acidity caused by the acids in those SCFAs.

Dietary fibre also binds to healthful phytonutrients (phyto = plant). These phytonutrients are lost when the fibre is removed from the food. But, when we eat the prebiotic fibre, our gut microbes release these phytonutrients so we can absorb and use them.

Food more information on gut health, contact Kate for a free 15 minute nutrition consultation.

Where to get prebiotics

Dietary fibre and resistant starch are the main sources of prebiotics.

Prebiotic fibre is found mostly in plants; both fruits and vegetables. 

Resistant starch is any starch (a type of carbohydrate) that goes through most of our digestive tract without being digested. It’s not broken down by our digestive enzymes because it’s “resistant”… until it gets to our gut microbes in the colon. Resistant starch is found in starchy foods like whole grains and potatoes.

One of the big differences between fibre and resistant starch is that all of the fibre we eat is indigestible. All of it reaches our colons. Resistant starch, on the other hand, is just a small percent of the starch we eat. Most starch is digested and absorbed along our digestive tract, and that part is not considered to be prebiotic. Only the small amount of starch that is resistant to digestion and makes it down to the colon to feed our probiotics is prebiotic.

Prebiotic fibre is found in fibrous fruits and vegetables. It’s essentially what’s removed when we make juice – the pulp. It’s one of the reasons why eating whole fruits and vegetables is more healthful than replacing them with juice.

Here are some great sources of prebiotic foods fibre:

Onions

Asparagus

Bananas

Berries

Pears

Prebiotics foods resistant starch is found in:

Whole grains (e.g. oats)

Potatoes

Corn

Seeds

Legumes

Green bananas

Starches can be made resistant by cooking and cooling these foods before eating them. The cooling process allows the starches to re-shape themselves into a structure that is harder to digest (i.e., more resistant).

Conclusion

Prebiotics are fibre and resistant starches that feed our gut microbes. And when we feed our gut microbes, they help keep our gut healthy and have other health benefits too.

Do you ever juice your amazingly healthy fruits and vegetables and have a ton of leftover pulp? What do you do with it? I have a great recipe for using that oh so healthy prebiotic foods in a delicious way.

Recipe (Juice pulp): Brownies

Serves 12

Ingredients

¾ cup cacao powder (prebiotic)

3 tbsp coconut flour (prebiotic)

1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups juice pulp, firmly packed (prebiotic)

½ cup coconut oil, melted

½ cup maple syrup

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8”x8” baking tray with parchment paper.

Add cocoa powder, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl. Stir to combine.

Whisk eggs, pulp, oil and maple syrup. 

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine well. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the baking dish.

Bake for 30 mins until the top is firm and edges just start to pull away from the dish. 

Allow the brownies to cool.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: I like to blend the wet ingredients in my blender to make cleanup easier.

References:

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/juicing-removes-more-than-just-fiber/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/resistant-starch-colon-cancer/

https://extension.psu.edu/prebiotics-how-to-feed-your-good-bacteria

https://www.monash.edu/medicine/ccs/gastroenterology/prebiotic/faq

Creating a Mindset for Health

So much of health is all about habits and actions, but where do these all stem from? What if we don’t have to make as many changes as we think we do? What if there was one powerful thing that makes a lot of difference?

That thing is mindset.

Mindset is sometimes called “the story we tell ourselves.” It’s our attitude toward things in our life. And we have control over our mindset.

And research is showing that it may be far more powerful than we thought.

Very interesting health mindset study

Here’s a quick story about a fascinating study.

Researchers at Stanford University looked at a bunch of people’s health and wellness lifestyle habits, as well as health markers.

What they found was that the people who thought they were a lot less active than they actually were, had a higher risk of death than the general public. And, they also had up to 71% higher risk of death than people who thought they were more active. Even if the story they told themselves about being “not very active” wasn’t true!

How is this even possible that people who simply thought they were less active had higher risks, even if it wasn’t true?

There are a couple of ideas why. Firstly, one is that maybe if we feel like we’re less active, it may make us feel more stressed. And stress isn’t good for our mental or physical health. Secondly, there may be a bit of a mind-body connection where the body embodies what the mind visualises.

Researchers don’t know why, but what matters is that there is a good mindset.

This means that our mindset, the way we think about ourselves and our habits is extremely important…just as important as actually having good habits.

So, let me give you a couple of strategies to boost your mindset for health.

Health mindset strategy 1 – Aim for good enough

Almost no one eats perfectly seven days a week (not even me, and I’ll be the first to admit it). It’s inevitable that obsessing over the quality and quantity of everything we eat or drink isn’t necessarily a great mindset to have.

It can bring on binging, shame, and guilt – none of these are great ways to get healthy. We want to get healthier by making better choices and building better habits. And these are usually best done incrementally – one step at a time.

So, instead of having a black and white approach where everything is good or bad, why not try aiming for good enough to empower ourselves to make better choices, instead of perfect choices.

If it helps, tell yourself that you’re doing an experiment. Allow yourself to try out a new habit or way of eating and give yourself permission to experiment with it, instead of aiming for perfection. Sometimes you need to use this mind trick to get yourself over the hump of getting started and sticking to it.

Health mindset strategy 2 – Stop making trade-offs

When you try to “earn” a gluttonous weekend by eating clean during the week, you’re making a trade-off. You’re telling yourself that, as long as you’re good most of the week, you can go wild on the weekend.

And that’s not awesome because the mindset is jumping from one extreme to the other. You’re controlling what you do all week, and possibly thinking about how to indulge over the weekend. A better mindset is to live as though you’re trying to do well every single day. Like you care about your health and wellness. Caring about your health can still include the occasional treat. When you’re consistently doing your best, that’s good enough.

For support in creating a mindset for health contact Kate for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Conclusion

Creating a mindset for health can be a powerful tool for better physical health. There’s a proven mind-body connection that research can measure.

Thinking positively, and dropping the black/white and good/bad labels, can help you reach your health goals.

How is your mindset for health? Which of these tips resonate with you the most? How are you going to implement them in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Hydrating mindset refresher): Chia Berry Water

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 tbsp chia seeds
¼ cup raspberries
¼ tsp mint
2.5 cups water

Instructions

Add the water, mint & raspberries to your blender and blend until combined (add ice, if desired). Fill your favourite water bottle with the mixture and add chia seeds. Shake before drinking.

Serve & enjoy! This is a great source of fiber and a refreshing tasty drink to have during the day.

References:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/weekend-overeating

My Timeline to Recovery from CFS/ME

Today I wanted to share with you my timeline to recovery from CFS/ME.

CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) is a chronic illness with extreme exhaustion and flu-like symptoms that is difficult to recover from. Many people suffer from CFS/ME for many years.

Some people with ME/CFS can recover in a few years (like me), some people recover in decades, and sadly some people never recover. Everyone has a different recovery time.

I first got ill in December 2008 which I when I had to stop working and move back with my parents. I was able to go back to work full-time in December 2011. So my recovery time took 3 years.

The key to recovering is finding all of your root causes with symptom diagnosis and functional testing and pulling them out. You may have multiple root causes and it can take time to find them all and treat them.

Below I share with you my timeline to recovery from CFS/ME so you can see how long it took me to recover from my CFS from the time I went to see a Nutritionist, to the time I was able to work full-time again. I’ve also shared other things I tried that helped me on my recovery journey. I hope it gives you hope.

My Timeline to Recovery from CFS/ME

2010

JulyNovember

Nutritionist, Supplements & diet change – I went to see a Nutritionist, at the recommendation of my Acupuncturist. This was the best thing I ever did for my ME recovery. She used a Vegatest Bioresonance machine to detect that I had Candida overgrowth, Epsteinn Barr virus and cytomegalo virus. She gave me a course of natural supplements to kill off the infections. Also I was deficient in Vitamin C, iron and Omega-6-fatty acids and she gave me vitamins to take. Additionally she discovered that I was intolerant to cow’s milk, yeast, sugar and beef. So I immediately cut all these foods out of my diet. I felt much better after doing this, especially after cutting out sugar. I began eating healthier, experimenting with cooking new foods. After removing my food intolerances andtaking these supplements for a few weeks, I had a lot more energy. I could concentrate for longer, my mind was clearer; I could do more physical activities around the house such as cooking and washing my hair.

July

Fluconazole – the nutritionist advised my to visit my doctor when she detected that I had a yeast infection. He prescribed me fluconazole for my thrush.

Anti-Candida Diet – I felt weak and shaky the morning after cutting out sugar from my diet. This is the body’s normal response of withdrawal symptoms to suddenly stopping taking a drug. I replaced the processed white sugar with fruit.

August

NHS Pacing Programme – I went once but did not like it as they were very patronising and only talked about the managing the symptoms and not things that might help cure them. They made us sit on hard, uncomfortable chairs which for people with ME who have aching bodies is not very comfortable. I felt that they didn’t understand ME.

September

Relaxation Music – as I was housebound I would spend most of the day sitting in the conservatory watching the nature outside and reading and spent the evenings listening to relaxation music from Global Journey where you can get 25 free downloads. This really helped to slow down my overactive nervous system and get me out of fight-or-flight mode and into the rest-and-digest parasympathetic nervous system. The gentle sounds, calmed and relaxed me and left me feeling so peaceful and content.

October

Positive Affirmations – I also read the most amazing book ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ by Louise L. Hay. She taught me how to change my negative thinking habits into positive ones and how positive thoughts attract positive experiences and it brought miraculous events into my life.

2011

January

Holosync Meditation – I discovered Holosync Audio meditation. This is another one of the best things I have ever done. Whilst resting for an hour everyday laying on my bed, I listened to the audio meditations on my iPod and allowed my body to get into the healing state. It quietened my over-active mind. I became a more peaceful, calm and happy person. My stress tolerance improved and I now don’t get upset about the things that I used to. I remain calm under pressure.

Reduce ElectroMagnetic Radiation (EMR) – I turned my bedroom into a tranquil paradise and removed most of my electrical appliances such as my TV and computer to reduce nasty EMFs that affect my sleep.

February

Massage – I started having massage at a beauty clinic using essential oils which warmed and relaxed my tense and aching muscles and left me feeling so peaceful and calm. It is a shame the effects wear off after a day!

May

6 Month Check-Up with Nutritionist – I had a 6 month check up with the Nutritionist. All my results on the Bio-resonance machine were good. I told her about a past trauma I had had and she recommended that I went to go and see a counsellor and hypnotherapist.

May – August – every 3 weeks

Counselling & Hypnotherapy – It was helpful to talk about traumas that happened in the past and my current problems. She gave me some great advice such as encouraging me to join a ballroom dancing club to be around people again and to learn to drive to get more freedom and independence. She did guided visualisations to get me into a relaxed state and then put positive messages into my subconscious mind.

Learn to drive – I started having driving lessons once a week for an hour. I found it mentally and physically exhausting, using muscles that I hadn’t used before to press the clutch and accelerator. However I had a great driving instructor who made me laugh! I passed my driving test the second time around in August and bought a car. This gave me freedom and independence.

September

University – my counsellor encouraged me to leave home and go back to university. As I was interested in Nutrition I enrolled in a Dietetics degree. I got a place at the University of Plymouth. However after a 4 hour drive, when I got to the room I would be staying in, I realised I couldn’t stay there. It was cold and horrible with squeaky floor boards and an unforgiving landlord. In the end I returned home. It was a big trauma and I had to pay for the room rent for a year as I had signed the contract. This left me with no money and I had to sign on for job seekers allowance and look for a job.

October

Volunteering – I started on job seekers allowance and volunteered at the British Heart Foundation Furniture & Electrical shop to get back into society. I regained my confidence, made friends and had a lot of fun.

December

Full-time job – I started working in a full-time job on a contract as an administrator in an office. This is the point that I began to call myself fully recovered as I was able to work and function in society again.

If you would like to work with me to get your energy back and recover from CFS/ME, contact me HERE for a free 15 minute phone call.

Healthy Salad Dressing Recipe

I often get asked by my clients for a healthy salad dressing recipe. So here is a tasty and healthy salad dressing recipe to make your salads zing!

In the hot summer days it’s nice to having a hydrating, fresh salad for lunch with seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, rocket and cucumber.

Make sure you add a portion of protein such as chicken, sardines, mackerel anchovies, eggs, tofu, walnuts or feta.

Also you want some healthy fats to help you absorb the fat-soluble nutrients including vitamins A, D, E and K such as avocado, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and your healthy salad dressing! The olive oil in the salad dressing also helps you to absorb fat-soluble nutrients.

Healthy fats and protein also keep you feeling full for longer and prevent the urge to have a sugary snack a hour later!

Check out this yummy and healthy salad dressing recipe below:

Ingredients

2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1tbsp apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic crushed

1tsp dijon mustard

¼tsp sea salt

¼tsp black pepper

Instructions

Add the olive oil, vinegar, crushed garlic, mustard, sea salt and black pepper to a glass jar and shake well to mix.

If you would like more guidance on what foods to eat and avoid in a healthy diet, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss how I can help you.

For more healthy recipe inspiration click HERE.

How to Reduce Stress Hormone Levels Naturally

STRESS!!!

Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to show you how to reduce stress hormone levels naturally!

Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre.

To learn more about foods and nutrients to reduce stress hormone levels, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation.

Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.

Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways of how to lower stress hormone levels naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

Recipe (High fibre prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

3 ripe avocados

¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 dash salt

Instructions

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/ways-to-lower-cortisol/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol

https://authoritynutrition.com/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

How To Keep Your Blood Sugar Level Stable

Oh, the words “blood sugar level.” 

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections? 

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles. 

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot. 

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches (“carbs”), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy.

Many people with ME/CFS have a blood sugar imbalance that is leading to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, dizziness and sugar cravings. When I was ill with my CFS and went to see a Naturopathic Nutritionist, her test revealed that I was on the edge of being diabetic! I was able to balance my blood sugar level with nutrition.

Why keep my blood sugar stable? 

Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you’re not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body isn’t scrambling to remove excess from the blood. 

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as “hypoglycaemia.” 

When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycaemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycaemia) can lead to “insulin resistance.”  

Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high. 

Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycaemia can eventually lead to diabetes type 2. 

So let’s look at how you can optimise your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable. 

Foods for stable blood sugar 

The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert. 

Eating more fibre is helpful too. Fibre helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the “spike” in your blood sugar level.  Fibre is found in wholegrain, plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removed fibre).  Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fibre intake.  

Also eating protein and healthy fat foods which break down slowly and don’t cause blood sugar spikes. Foods like meat, fish, eggs, tofu, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below) 

To learn more about how to use foods and supplements to balance your blood sugar level, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.

Lifestyle tips for stable blood sugar 

Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don’t ignore insulin’s call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn’t you? 

Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the “fight or flight” stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to “fight” or “flee”? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you’re under and manage it more effectively. Simple lifestyle tips are regular meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement. 

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority – it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good. 

Conclusion 

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant).  Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble. 

There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimising excessive refined sugars, and eating more fibre, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health). 

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples 

Serves 4 

Ingredients

2 apples, chopped 

1 tbsp coconut oil

½ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon

⅛ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp vanilla extract 

Instructions

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed. 

Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.  

Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so. 

Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well. 

Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness! 

Serve and enjoy! 

Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fibre, which is even better for stabilising your blood sugar. 

References: 

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-blood-sugar

Foods to Avoid if you Get Migraines

Migraine headaches can be terrible. The pain, vision problems (including aura), nausea, etc. can be debilitating; especially if they stick around for hours or even days.

Migraines affect about 15% of adults, so they’re fairly common. Many people with CFS/ME get regular migraine headaches. And, while the exact cause is not known, there are lots of known triggers. Many foods and drinks are common triggers of migraines. You may have noticed certain foods, and drinks trigger your migraines. Sometimes the migraine comes on within an hour of the food/drink. Other times it may happen several hours, or up to a day later. Avoiding these triggers can help.

One of the main ways these foods and drinks trigger migraines is by their action on the blood vessels in the brain. When the brain’s blood vessels constrict and then dilate (widen), this seems to cause migraines. Many of the foods I’m listing below affect the constriction and dilation of blood vessels during a migraine

If you or someone you care about suffers from migraines, this post lists common triggers. Avoiding these can be a great tool to reduce these uber-painful headaches. You may be sensitive to one, or many of these foods and drinks. They act as migraine triggers in some people, but not all. You can find out by eliminating them and seeing if avoidance helps you.

Foods to avoid if you get migraines

The first food that commonly triggers migraines is hard cheese like cheddar and Swiss cheese; this is because they contain “tyramine” which is from an amino acid in the protein found in cheese. Other foods high in tyramine include those that are aged, cured, dried, smoked or pickled. These include sauerkraut and tofu.

The second most common migraine-triggering foods are cured or processed meats. Things like hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon are in this category; this is because of their nitrates and nitrites that can dilate those blood vessels in the brain. Even if these are not a trigger for you, it’s best to eliminate them from your diet because of the other health issues they’re associated with like colon cancer.

I wish I had better news, but the third common migraine triggering food is chocolate. The evidence is conflicting, as some studies show a link and others don’t. You may or may not be sensitive to chocolate’s effects on the brain; you have to eliminate it to find out.

Artificial flavours like monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also trigger migraines. MSG is often found in Chinese food and is a common migraine trigger. There is not a lot of research on this, but it’s something to consider eliminating from your diet to see if it makes a difference.

If you would like more information of foods to avoid if you get migraines, contact Kate for a free 15 minute call to see if we’re a good fit to work together.

Drinks to avoid if you get migraines

Alcohol is a common trigger for headaches and migraines. Red wine and beer seem to be the most common culprits. We’re not sure why, but it may be red wine’s compounds such as histamine, sulfites, or flavonoids. Also alcohol is dehydrating which could contribute to headaches.

Ice and ice-cold water have also been shown to trigger headaches and migraines. So try not to eat or drink things that are too cold.

Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame are another common trigger. Aspartame is in diet coke and other processed foods to make them taste sweet without adding sugar. As with MSG, there is not a lot of research on its effects with migraines. But again, it is something to consider eliminating from your diet and see if that makes a difference.

Conclusion

There are many common food and drink triggers for migraines. Maybe one, or more of these trigger migraines for you. The best way to know is by eliminating them from your diet for a few weeks and see how that works.

The list includes hard cheeses, processed meats, chocolate, alcohol, ice water, and artificial flavours and sweeteners.

Do any of these trigger migraines for you (or someone you care about)? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (migraine-calming tea): Migraine-Calming Fresh Herbal Tea

Serves 1

Ingredients

5 washed mint leaves (or a tea bag)

2 cups of boiled water

Instructions

Steep mint leaves (or tea bag) for 5-10 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Let the tea cool down a bit before drinking it.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/9-common-migraine-triggers/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27714637
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet-infographic
https://examine.com/nutrition/scientists-just-found-that-red-meat-causes-cancer–or-did-they/
https://examine.com/nutrition/does-aspartame-cause-headaches/

Healthy Fats and Dangerous Fats

All fat is NOT created equal! There are healthy fats and dangerous fats.

Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods). So, this is why the information I’m sharing today is so important.

Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and, others are super-health-busting.

Also you need healthy fats to absorb fat soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E and K.

As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?

So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to ditch.

Health-boosting fats

Health-boosting fats are found in:

  • Nuts and seeds (hemp, flaxs, and chia)
  • Oily fish e.g. salmon, sardines and mackerel
  • Pasture-raised/grass-fed animals
  • Eggs
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Coconuts.

I love “virgin” oils, and here’s why. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).

According to the World Health Organisation’s Codex Alimentarius:

Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”

For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:

  • Be cold pressed
  • Not contain any refined olive oil
  • Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

Don’t you think these standards ensure higher quality? I sure do!

Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!

Health-busting fats

Health-busting fats are found in:

  • Seed and vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, soybean and corn oils
  • Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
  • Margarine.

Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation and belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!

Finally don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods that contain them.

How to get more health-building fats

Firstly, you have my permission to ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil.

Secondly, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flaxseed oil or extra virgin olive oil in your salad dressing, coconut oil in your cooking, and rapeseed oil in your baking.

Finally, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. I’ll help you out now with my super-simple mayonnaise recipe below. It’s way better for you than the unrefrigerated stuff you find at your grocery store.

Recipe (healthy fat): Mayonnaise

Makes about 1 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 large or extra large egg

2 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic

1 cup olive or avocado oil

Instructions

Add all ingredients except oil to your food processor. Process until creamy (about 10 seconds).

With the food processor running, add a few drops of oil into the egg mixture. Every few seconds add a few more drops. Continue until the mixture starts to thicken.

Now you can do a slow drizzle. Stop pouring, every once in a while checking that the oil gets fully incorporated.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this in place of mayonnaise for egg, salmon, chicken salads, etc.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-healthy-fats

https://authoritynutrition.com/extra-virgin-olive-oil/

https://authoritynutrition.com/saturated-fat-good-or-bad/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/fats-and-oils/eng/1392751693435/1392751782638?chap=5

https://eatingrules.com/cooking-oil-comparison-chart/

3 Must Eat Breakfast Foods

Do you love your breakfast? Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes? Would you like a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again? Check out my 3 must eat breakfast foods.

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, sustaining energy levels through the day and weight loss. This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and releases energy slowly through the day. So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats that will be your soon-to-be favourite new “go-to” breakfast foods.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food. And for good reason!

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton. I mean actual whole “eggs”.

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses. Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilise blood sugar and insulin.

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases.

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidised. It’s the oxidised cholesterol that’s unhealthy for the heart.

The healthiest way to cook eggs is to poach them in boiling water for 5 minutes so the egg yolk is still runny. Frying, scrambling and boiling are also ok too.

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

You won’t be fooled by “sugared” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings. Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.

They’re also great in granola or muesli, or chopped up on your porridge.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter. Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies. You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right?

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre, and water. You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast!

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can! You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal. Including breakfast.

If you like me to look over your diet and give you more healthy breakfast ideas, book an appointment on the contact page here.

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customise) for your next breakfast.

Recipe: Veggie Omelette

Serves 1

1 teaspoon coconut oil

2-3 eggs

¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)

Pinch salt, pepper and/or turmeric

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).

In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.

Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil. Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favourite vegetable. Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/eggs-worse-than-fast-food

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/eggs/

https://authoritynutrition.com/eating-healthy-eggs/

https://authoritynutrition.com/12-best-foods-to-eat-in-morning/

Does Mindfulness Really Work to Reduce Anxiety and Stress?

Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practising “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.

The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction

Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors’ visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!

So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.

Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduces anxiety and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

Next I’ll briefly go over the research in two main areas: mood, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Mindfulness for Mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.

In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.

Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Mindfulness for Gut Health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion). In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes such as Candida overgrowth.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.

To learn more about how nutrition as well as mindfulness can improve gut health, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.

Conclusion

Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For your mood, gut health, and more.

Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?

Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe: Relaxing Herbal Teas

There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.

Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:

  • Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)
  • White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)
  • Rooibos tea
  • Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)
  • Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.

BONUS Guided Meditation “Recipes” (videos, apps & podcasts)

How to Meditate video

How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day video

Calm App

https://www.calm.com/

Headspace App (free 10-day trial)

https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

Hay House Meditations Podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hay-house-meditations/id955266444?mt=2

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm

https://authoritynutrition.com/mindful-eating-guide/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4454654/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26186434