It’s time to get friendly with FAT

Yep that’s right. FAT is your friend… but wait, before you get carried away this isn’t a hall pass to go and stuff your face with pizza & hot chips.

Dietary trends are funny. For a while carbs were to blame for all our health problems…. Then the focus switched to fat, apparently we ate too much of it? Now it’s sugar (although I think they may actually finally be on the right track).

Fat is a necessary component of a healthy diet & something which many of you probably don’t eat enough of. I think that’s the media’s fault, for way too long now it’s been drilled into us that fat is bad bad bad. Well guess what? It’s all a big FAT lie!

Our muscles need fat. Our heart needs fat. Our nervous system needs fat. Our organs need fat.

Just so we are clear…. We need fat. Now nod your head slowly, have you got the message?

There are a few types of fats. A few we need more of and a few we need none of.

Unsaturated fats known as the ‘healthy fats’ by many can be separated into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated depending on their chemical makeup.

  • Monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as avocados, nuts and olive oil. These fat sources are important for the cardiovascular system, helping to raise our levels of good cholesterol whilst lowering the bad.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are also important for cholesterol control. They are found in foods such as salmon, seeds and fish oil. Unsaturated fats contain omega 3’s and omega 6 ‘essential fatty acids’. Both are particularly important for a healthy heart, normal brain functioning & can also assist with reducing inflammation in the body.

Saturated fats can sometimes get bit of a bad rap, but it’s just another big misunderstanding. There are a whole heap of hfat freeealth benefits that come from the consumption of foods such as eggs, dairy and red meat which contain saturated fat. For one they are more satiating… meaning they will make you feel full for longer. They are packed with lots of great nutrients and play an important role in producing hormones, particularly testosterone.

Then there is trans-fats. The black sheep of the fat family and the one you want to try and avoid at all costs. These fats are found foods such as hot chips, deep fried foods, pastries. Generally these are ‘man-made’ fats. If your food is pre-packaged it’s probably safe to assume it’s filled with trans fats.

The thing to remember about fats is that you want to make them a good friend BUT you don’t want to necessarily hang out with them all the time. Good healthy fats found in nuts, seeds & avocado are high in calories so you don’t want to be going overboard, especially if you are trying to lose weight.

Personally I love the motto ‘Everything in moderation’. If you have a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly and feel like a little treat one in a while a chocolate bar of pack of chips isn’t going to kill you!

Healthy snack ideas? Celery & peanut butter, this is probably my fave snack like ever (don’t knock it till you try it); A tablespoon of almond butter with fresh blueberries or the homemade protein bliss balls with a mix of nuts, seeds, protein and coconut.

 

Have a great afternoon!

PART 2: Eat your way to healthy glowing skin

We have all heard it before…. ‘you are what you eat’. It’s no new discovery that our diet affects our bodies in many weird and wonderful ways. Our skin is one of the big ones but unfortunately one that a lot of people don’t consider when it comes to nutrition.

I have spoken in previous blogs about foods your skin LOVES (check out that blog HERE). As always there are several foods that can play havoc with your skin and leave you with breakouts, blackheads or dry, tired skin.

One of the worst offenders is DAIRY. Removing (or significantly reducing) dairy from your diet could be the single best thing you can do for your skin. Milk contains high levels of a hormone IGF-1 which is designed to make baby cows grow big and strong BUT in humans this hormone contributes to build up of inflammation in your body. Dairy products also increase the production of oil and mucous which clogs your pores and can eventually lead to acne.

The other obvious one is SUGAR. Cakes, lollies, chocolate… all those deliciously sweet foods are bad bad bad for your skin. Sugar disrupts many of the natural processes that occur within the body. Excessive sugar will cause a spike in your blood sugar, high blood sugar increases inflammation levels in our cells causing them to ‘age’ at a faster rate. Sugar also latches onto collagen making it stiff & less elastic eventually leading to wrinkles. Collagen is the connective tissue that keep our skin firm and supple.images

Then there is ALCOHOL. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates you. The more you drink the more dehydrated you become and the more water & vital nutrients are depleted from the skin cells. Our cells live for water, the more hydrated they are the firmer they are (and the better your skin looks). High levels of alcohol consumption can result in the appearance of red spidery vessels on the face, whilst also aggravating other dermatological conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. If you want to enjoy a few drinks (which let’s be honest most of us do) make sure you keep your water intake throughout the night to stay hydrated!

DEEP FRIED FOODS….. fries, chicken nuggets… these foods are cooked in oils at very high temperature. These oils oxidize during this process & go rancid. You then put that into your body. These bad fats are really hard for your body to digest which can impact on circulation and metabolism. Healthy skin relies on the efficient working of these processes for oxygen and nutrient delivery. A lack of oxygen to the skin can effect skin cells and reduce the elasticity of the collagen in our skin.

I think most of us are already probably aware that the above foods aren’t amazing for our health for many reasons. Well now you can add skin to that list!

Healthy glowing skin which screams youthful radiance

OR

Dry, wrinkly, tired skin

Which would you choose?

Have a fabulous week!

Ems

 

Eating your way to healthy, glowing skin

The skin is our largest organ… yes it is an organ, and a very important one. It protects us from the elements, regulates our body temperature & allows us to feel sensations such as hot, cold, sharp or blunt. Given the huge surface area that our skin covers & what we expose it to its no wonder many of us run into skin related problems…. Acne, rashes, dermatitis, skin fungus, scars or eczema. These are not uncommon problems and may of us will be faced with at least one at some stage.

Can you eat your way to better skin? Simply yes you can. What you feed your insides will be reflected on the outside. The
re are other lifestyle factors that can affect your skin such as smoking, alcohol, makeup & skin care products, hormones, stress & in some cases genetic factors BUT your skin can be a whole lot better if you start being a little more conscious of what you put in your mouth.

Want to get the glow? Then include a little more of these foods in your diet.

  • BROCCOLI the most wondrous of all the green vegetables. It’s packed full of things that every part of your body will love. High in vitamin C which helps with the production of collagen & it also contains lots of vitamin E which helps protect your skin against damage from UV rays.
  • ALMONDS speaking of vitamin E, almonds are another great source. Grab a small handful of raw almonds as a snack or add them to your salad at lunch.
  • OILY FISH such as salmon or trout is packed full of omega 3 fats. These are good fats that help to keep the skin soft & supple. If you have issues with dry or inflamed skin you need to get a little more fishy fish in your diet,
  • CARROTS contain an antioxidant called beta carotene… This can be converted into vitamin A in the body and is important for repairing tissues. Not enough vitamin A = dry, cracked skin. Insiders tip… cooked carrots actually deliver higher levels of antioxidants so roast away (just be aware of what you roast them in)
  • PUMPKIN SEEDS are full of zinc which is important in skin renewal and wound healing. Next time you go to bin the pumpkin seeds DON’T. Rinse them in water, place on a baking tray with a little sea salt & roast for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy as am afternoon snack!
  • BERRIES…. especially blueberries are high in antioxidants & vitamin C both of which are great for fighting against cell damage and guarding against premature aging of the skin.
  • WATER, the elixir of life & it’s great for your skin. Being adequately hydrated keeps the cells plump & full which gives your skin a firmer clearer look. Having enough water also ensures your body can expel unwanted waste & toxins whilst maintaining important nutrients within the cells. We all know the number… 8 glasses (at least) every day!

Eating plenty of the right foods is easy enough… but what about avoiding the bad ones? It’s a little more difficult.. and the list is slightly longer…..

Keep an eye out for next weeks blog about what foods to avoid if you really want healthy, glowing skin!

Have a great day

Ems 🙂

Can high heels damage our feet?

Very excited to have a little guest blog from our friends down at PodMed in Double Bay.  We treat alot of women with foot & lower limb problems…. when discussing aspects of their rehabilitation the wearing of high heels is often a question that comes up… So we asked the podiatrists…. they are at the end of the day experts when it comes to feet!

I am asked this questioned nearly every day by women who present with all kinds of different foot pain. There is a common misconception out there that high heels are the primary cause of most foot pain and deformity in women. Yes, I can guarantee you that if your foot is squeezed into a high-heeled shoe eight hours a day, at some stage foot pain and deformity will be the end result. High heeled shoes can do a lot of irreparable damage to the feet and ankles. However when used in moderation some of the pitfalls can be avoided. Many of my patients wear high heels on the odd occasion and as long as it’s only for a couple of hours at a time at a party or out to dinner; it’s generally not a problem. Of great concern to us is the number of young teenage girls presenting in our clinic showing early onset deformities as a result of high heel wearing. Parents need to discourage their teenage daughters from wearing high heels at any time. The developing and immature foot structure does not cope at all well with the excessive forces placed on the foot by the high heeled shoes. High heels put the anatomical structures inside your foot into an unnatural position. With each step the toes are squashed inside the shoe. The pointier the shoe and the higher the heel the more pressure placed on the toes. It’s important not to under estimate the damage this can do to the foot in the long term. Habitual long-term high heel wearers routinely present with problems like clawed toes, bunion formation, metatarsalgia and nerve damage. Foot structure will have some bearing on how resilient the foot structure is to the adverse effects of high heels but as I like to say, footwear is designed to protect your feet, not to hurt you. If your high heels are hurting you, take them off because they have already been on too long. ‘If the pain persists…..see your Podiatrist’. High heeled shoes shift an unnaturally large amount of force onto the forefoot with every step. The natural heel to toe transition is altered and the force moves too quickly from heel to the forefoot where the high loading remains for the duration of the steps. It is the increase in time that the foot is overloaded with every step that does as much damage as the pressure itself.

The postural position high heels places the body has historically and is still considered aesthetically appealing to the human eye. In the leg, the calf muscles protrude more in high heels giving the impression the legs are strong and slender. At the knee, it is bent when the heel is lifted up. Usually with a 3 inch heel, the pelvis is tilted forward 10-15 degrees which leads to a “sexy” curvature in the spine. This makes the buttocks protrude 25% and also lifts the bust (see picture below). That is how a sexy and wavy body posture is obtained and explains why 3-inches high heel is apparently more popular and loved by most women. However, it is also due to these minor postural adjustments that can have negative effects on the body after a long period of time.

imagesUZ8FBV1EWhat steps can you take to minimise the effects of high heels?

Heel height: Wearing a shoe with a lower heel can certainly help. By lowering the heel you can take some of the pressure of the foot structure but you can also help reduce the negative postural effects on knees, hips and low back. Lowering the heel can also reduce the stiffness in Achilles tendon’s and calf muscles that habitual high heel wearers suffer. If the Achilles and calf muscles shorten too much then wearing flat shoes or walking barefoot becomes almost impossible.
Insoles: Insoles or customised orthotics can prove to be a wonderful way to manage foot pain on a daily basis. However, it is best to discuss what type of insoles or orthotic might be right for you with your local Podiatrist.
Wearing well-fitted shoes: When a shoe fits very well it will generally be comfortable for eight hours or one hour. It is important to select the right type of shoes for right occasion. You wouldn’t wear your high-heeled shoes for exercising i.e. a long walk, a run or to the gym. Nor would you choose to wear your exercising footwear or comfortable casual shoesout to dinner or to a cocktail party (unless you had to). Alternating between flats and heels can sometimes prove difficult (see ‘wearing a lower heel’). However, providing that the difference in the heel height between the flats in the heels it’s not too extreme, alternating between the two is a fantastic way to go. Try to make sure that the flats still have some small amount of heel raise in them. Most foot types appreciate a small amount of heel raise in their flats and this makes the transition from high-heeled shoes into to flattish shoes much easier.

Also it is best to buy high heels in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest. Therefore when your legs and feet expand, the shoe size is correct and the toes aren’t cramped.

Stretching: Most of us have been wearing shoes with some form of heel raise in them from a very young age and this somewhat shortens the Achilles tendon’s and calf muscles. For this reason, stretching is very important. Stretching is even more important for long-term high heel wearers because their Achilles tendon’s and calf muscles can become extremely short and tight. To walk normally and without having to make unnecessary compensations is not only important to have a good range of motion in your calf muscles but also in the other important muscles of the leg, thigh and hip. High-heeled wearers typically have very tight planter flexers in the bottom of the foot, short calf muscles, tight hamstrings, quadriceps, ITB’s, hip flexors, gluteals and over time the body over compensates and muscle imbalances and postural issues often arise.
Thanks to Sarah Bongioletti from Pod Med Podiatry Centre for her words of wisdom.

Check out their website HERE

 

 

Don’t eat dairy? Where do you get your calcium?

Calcium is one of the most essential nutrients required by the body. Not only do we need it for strong bones BUT it’s required for many of body’s simple life functions; we need it for our muscles to move; our nerves to transmit vital messages; for the release of hormones & enzymes; for the health of our teeth. That all looks & sounds very important…. Making it relatively simple to see that not getting enough calcium in one’s diet can be problematic.

The amount of calcium required by the body depends on your age, generally peaking during your teenage years when skeletal & bone growth are occurring rapidly.

Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 6 months 200 mg
Infants 7–12 months 260 mg
Children 1–3 years 700 mg
Children 4–8 years 1,000 mg
Children 9–13 years 1,300 mg
Teens 14–18 years 1,300 mg
Adults 19–50 years 1,000 mg
Adult men 51–70 years 1,000 mg
Adult women 51–70 years 1,200 mg
Adults 71 years and older 1,200 mg
Pregnant and breastfeeding teens 1,300 mg
Pregnant and breastfeeding adults 1,000 mg

It’s scary when you look at the statistics and discover that 90% of us are probably not getting enough calcium. Our bodies cannot produce it, we must get it from our diet. If we don’t? We leach it out of our bones, making them brittle & opening up a whole series of health risks that none of us want to deal with.

When most people think calcium they assume milk, yoghurt & cheese; well yes they are absolutely correct, those are very good dairy based sources of calcium. A large majority of the population would get adequate calcium intake from sources such as these. 12% of your daily ccalcium-sourcesalcium requirements are found in 100ml of cows milk. Make it a glass and that’s around 30% of what you need.

What happens to those of us (like me) that can’t tolerate dairy? Those who are lactose intolerant? Where do we get calcium from?

Some of the best sources include

  • Greens & vegetables: kale, broccoli, turnip greens, Asian greens such as pak choi & fennel
  • Beans; soy beans, pinto beans, white beans.
  • Nuts & seeds: chia seeds, sesame seeds & almonds
  • Fruits: blackcurrants & oranges

How much of these foods do you need to eat to get your daily fix?

SPINACH SPINACH SPINACH. Really I think this little gem should get be labelled a ‘superfood’. 1 cup equates to 240mg of calcium. That’s ¼ of what you need on a daily basis. Other greens such as broccoli & kale are also good, but not quite calcium rich, with 1 cup being around 1/10th of what you need per day. So you can see you need A LOT of greens & veggies if they are going to be your sole source of this wonder nutrient.

Canned fish such as sardines, salmon & anchovies can contain up to 350mg per 100g. Not only is this a great source of calcium but contains a lot of other great essential vitamins and minerals. An important note here, you have to buy the fish with bones! That’s where all the calcium is hiding.

If you are anything like me and look for any opportunity to reach into the nut jar go for almonds, a handful of around 20 raw almonds can give you a good 80mg of calcium. They are also a good source of potassium & iron. Watch your intake though, nuts are very very calorie dense, believe it or not it is possible to eat too much of the good stuff.

Sesame seeds are another great one. Add one tablespoon to a salad to create a little crunch and you will ingest around 10% of your daily requirements. Who said sesame seeds were just for hamburger bun decoration?

Like most important minerals in our body calcium doesn’t work alone, rather it works in synergy with vitamin D and magnesium. We need adequate levels of both these minerals to ensure ingested calcium is actually absorbed into our cells.

Where do we get these from? Well vitamin D is obvious… the SUN and then there is oily fish such as salmon or sardines, cod liver oil and prawns. Some magnesium rich foods include nuts & seeds, avocado, broccoli, bananas, spinach & dark chocolate (as if you needed another excuse to have chocolate). There is a fair amount of cross over in terms of natural food sources when it comes to all three of these nutrients.

If taken in high doses, calcium and magnesium will compete for absorption in the body (>250mg), making it more likely for you to be deficient in one or the other. If you are taking supplements be mindful to take them at separate times, for example one in the evening & one in the morning. This isn’t such an issue when it comes to natural food sources as rarely are the doses found in a meal that high.

Factors that can affect calcium absorption include too much caffeine, excessive alcohol, smoking, low levels of physical activity and a diet excessively high in salt.

Logistically it’s easier to consume adequate calcium through a balance of dairy & non-dairy sources. One must work alot harder to get enough through non dairy sources discussed above BUT if you are aware of the right foods it is certainly possible. If you eat a well balanced diet filled with lots of leafy green vegetables, enough of the ‘good fats’ and lots of protein you should have nice strong bones & pearly white teeth!

Want some more information?

This article raises some great points and also lists the calcium levels in many of the common foods that we eat.

http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/paleo-diet-calcium-non-dairy-calcium-rich-foods/

What’s your weirdest food craving?

How odd are cravings….. I always find when I’m seriously craving something it’s usually really bizarre, like totally left field OR it’s something I have denied myself from having for a while… For the last 6 weeks I have had a relentless craving for peanuts. I gave in pretty soon after they started because I legitimately couldn’t stop thinking about it for a large portion of my day.. So I went to town on a bag of salted roasted peanuts. I had tablespoons of peanut butter. I made satay sauce for my chicken salad. I tried EVERYTHING. It’s now been 4 weeks.. at least.. and I still have a lingering craving.. Quite frankly it’s really starting to piss me off.. I can’t spend much longer with my hand in the peanut jar!!!

Curiosity got the better of me so I did a little research into what certain food cravings mean. Our bodies are exceptionally smart & to a certain extent I believe that when we lack a vitamin or mineral it’s sure to be expressed somehow our food choices or food cravings.

What an entertaining exercise, so interesting in fact that I googled a few of my other weirdest & wackiest cravings…

qw

PEANUTS: The top two answers I found (from the most respected sites I could find) were that peanut cravings often indicate a lack of protein and / or a lack of fats in one’s diet. Eating a relatively low carb diet can often result in too few calories being consumed and may leave you with cravings for things like peanuts due to high fat content. Peanuts are a great source of the ‘good fats’. By no means does that allow you to polish off a jar every day. 25-30% of our daily calories should come from fats.

SEAWEED CHIPS / STRIPS: I think this has a lot to do with salt, particularly potassium, magnesium and calcium. I always always crave sushi when I’ve had a few drinks the nights before which is most likely due to higher levels of sugar in your bloodstream so we tend to crave salty foods. These three essential minerals are removed from your average table salt so even though you load your dinner plate with salt & pepper all it’s really doing is momentarily satisfying your taste buds. Seaweed is full of good vitamins & minerals and its far from an unhealthy snack so I would tend to embrace this craving happily.

GHERKINS: Also commonly associated with the need more salt and is a common craving felt by pregnant women. Rule that out & then incorporate some proper sea salt in your diet to ensure you are getting enough of the good stuff.

** On a side note…Craving salty foods can be indicative of stress and hormonal fluctuations in the body. When coping or dealing with a lot of stress the adrenal glands can become worn out and this is sometimes reflected in the desire for salt rich foods

ICE: Some of my friends have a constant craving for ice cubes. Apparently this can be due to a lack of iron in one’s diet. Do you get enough? In my opinion most females don’t eat nearly enough red meat which is one of the richest sources of iron. Girls when was the last time you had a big juicy steak! Leafy greens, chicken and fish are also good sources of iron.

SODA WATER: does your diet lack calcium? Craving soda water or ‘fizzy’ drinks can indicate this. Not being able to eat dairy means mine most certainly does. I have a calcium supplement which I take every other day BUT it’s important to look for calcium in proper food options. Good choices are broccoli, kale, legumes & turnip greens.

BACON: Probably because bacon is probably the most delicious thing EVER. Seriously often people crave bacon for its fat content. If you are on a restricted diet your body may be craving greasy foods that are slightly higher in fat.

COFFEE: For me often this craving is usually purely for the taste, I love my daily coffees…. Some other reasons are lack of sulphur, phosphorus & salt. Generally people crave coffee for its mental ‘pick me up’

CHOCOLATE: if you say you have never suffered severe chocolate cravings you are a liar. If I flew around the world and asked 1 million people if they had ever craved chocolate I think I would have a 90% yes response. How can you not… chocolate in most shapes and forms is sooooooooo damn good. Why the cravings? Lack of magnesium. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. I’ve spoken about its importance before, it’s essential to so many of our daily life processes. The cocoa bean is one of foods with the highest amount of magnesium. Slow down boys & girls that’s only in its purest form. You need to consume chocolate at least 70% cocoa to get any sort of benefit & even then sometimes the calorie / fat consumption may not be worth it. Magnesium can be sourced from other foods such as leafy greens, nuts & seeds.   If you are going to indulge… Coconut infused lindt dark chocolate may change your life a little.

CHEESE ON TOAST: Cheese generally is due to a lack of calcium & essential fats. Craving bread or toast is related to lack of nitrogen. Load up on nitrogen via foods such as fish, meat, nuts & beans.

THE TASTE OF BURNT FOOD: this one is a little odd, but I’ve had days where I really want that charcoal taste you get from the grissle on the bbq. This can indicate a lack of carbon & you should reach for some fresh fruits such as berries, apples and pineapple.

Cravings are usually our bodies way of letting us know we need something & its usually pretty spot on. If you eat a well balanced diet you should get enough of the right stuff to keep the naughtiest of cravings in check. Remember though sometimes we just need to let go and indulge in our favourite sweet treat. For me that’s an almond magnum…. and I just might have one of those this evening!

Happy Friday 🙂

 

Bad moods & breakouts. Are your hormones responsible?

Hormones are wonderful things…. Most of the time. They pretty much keep us ‘regular’. They regulate our menstrual cycle, control our thyroid function & regulate sleep. They dictate our sex drive, mood, what we look like, our digestion & our emotions. It would then make perfect sense that when we feel out of ‘sync’, hormones are the first thing we blame.

Can we really put our bad moods and breakouts down to the happiness of our hormones?

Unfortunately YES we can. I had a ‘hormone’ week this week. I was tired; apparently a little more irritable than usual which in hindsight is probably spot on; & I had what I call a’ best friend day’ where all I wanted was to do was call my girlfriend and cry.

When we are feeling at our best our hormone levels are pretty well balanced BUT beware the roller coaster of emotions when things are not quite right.

hormones

Everyone thinks it’s a girl thing…. when was the last time you heard a group of boys whinging about how they are feeling emotional because their hormones levels are out of whack?

How are hormones regulated? The production of hormones in the body is almost always regulated by a delicate set of feedback relationships. Most of them are negative feedback loops where the amount of a substance in a system regulates its own concentration. When concentration of a hormone rises to above desired levels, a series of steps is taken to lower the concentration. On the flip side if the concentration falls, steps will be taken to increase it.

1. OESTROGEN & PROGESTERONE

Ah the seesaw of female reproductive hormones, and what an intricate relationship it must be. Oestrogen builds up the lining of the uterus during the initial 14 days of your cycle, progesterone then kicks in from days 14-28, & when progesterone begins to drop we get a period. When the balance is disrupted we say hello to reduced libido, severe PMS (the rise of the Grinch), issues with weight control, fatigue & a variety of reproductive issues.

What can be done? Maintain a balanced diet & control your weight. Excess body fat will store oestrogen while if you are too thin you won’t produce enough; both scenarios signal the body to hold onto extra kilos particularly around the waist, thighs & arms.

2. TESTOSTERONE

We need testosterone it to pump up our sexual desires, muscle & metabolism. Females only produce 10% of the testosterone of males BUT this small amount is critical! Too little and you will be a little on the disinterested side…. Too much and you may become prone to facial hair & acne.

What can be done? Ensure you get enough shut eye and have a little fun in the sun. Both of these have been linked to helping regulate testosterone levels.

3. CORTISOL

The ‘stress hormone’. It raises your heartbeat & unleashes energy stores. All good things when experienced at the right time like for the morning rush to help us wake up and give us energy throughout the day. Problems arise when this system stays ramped up ALL THE TIME, you become constantly wired & you can begin to suffer sleep disturbances & feel generally worn down. Ladies high levels of cortisol also stimulates storage of unwanted kilos on your love handles… which is not where we want it right?

What can be done? CHILLLLLLLL out a little more. Take things in your stride and go with the flow. Learn to recognise when you are more stressed that usual & take positive steps to change it such as mediation, deep breathing exercises or regular physical activity. Stimulants such as caffeine may not be the drink of choice if you are a bit of a stress head.

4.THYROID HORMONE

Healthy skin, hair & nails? Apparently all we need to do is keep our thyroids happy. Chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies and inflammation can leave this hormone out of whack. Too much and you may notice weight loss, absent periods & mood swings. Too little and you may notice your hair becomes brittle & you begin to feel sluggish, tired & gain weight.

What can be done? If you smoke… quit. Be wary of some nasty chemicals that lurk in things like re-usable plastic coffee cups & high levels of heavy metals found in some farmed fish as these can both disrupt thyroid function. Ensure a balanced diet with lots & lots of vegetables. They are packed full of vitamins & minerals that your thyroid craves. You may consider taking a multivitamin supplement to increase your vitamin C, E & B complex vitamins.

5. OXYTOCIN- The LOVE hormone

Ever wonder why ‘hugging it out’ actually makes you feel instantly better.  Human ‘touch’ whether it be by a friend or a lover triggers the release of oxytocin. High levels of this amazing hormone will lower blood pressure, increase your sex drive & lower stress…. (Ummmm where can I get more of this…?!?!)

What can be done? MORE HUGS. Cuddle your partner every day! Hug it out with friends whenever you can. The best solution? Have regular sex… Oxytocin levels skyrocket after orgasm… well hey if it’s good for your health why not!

The scary part about all this is that I have only touched on the mere basics of just how much control hormones have over who we are & how we feel.

Hormones really are wonderful things when they work well…. But as we can see it’s a very delicate balance and with so many chemical reactions going on simultaneously it’s no wonder they occasionally slip up and we are left feeling down in the dumps, lethargic and reaching for an extra cream bun!

If you think your hormones all over the place, visit your medical practitioner whether it be your GP or naturopath. Have some tests done. Some people have no idea how good their bodies are designed to feel, but we all deserve to find out!

Want to know hormones control your hunger & your happiness? Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog next week!

 

Why breakfast matters

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’

We have all heard it, read it, seen it written somewhere; if you’re a parent chances are you preach it to your kids;  health professionals advocate it; & fitness magazines write about it ALL THE TIME.

So why it is that 1 in 4 people still skip breakfast during the week? Or worse 1 in 6 adults never even eat breakfast?

I have never quite been able to get my head around it because when I roll out of bed at 5:15am every morning my stomach is growling in desperation for SOMETHING TO EAT; and after an hours workout I’m like an impatient toddler lining up for a slice of birthday cake as I wait for my eggs & bacon to cook.

People skip breakfast for a handful of reasons… lack of time; some claim they ‘can’t stomach food so early’; while other are ‘generally just not hungry’; my personal favorite to limit their daily calorie intake. In my opinion these are all terrible terrible excuses. If you have time to blow dry your hair and make sure your scarf matches your shoes & pants then you have more than enough time to prepare something of nutritional value for breakfast. FYI a triple shot latte does not count as breakfast.

The name says it all for you… BREAK – FAST. Quite literally breakfast is the meal that essentially ‘breaks’ the 7-8 hour fast your body has had while you sleep. So the longer you hold out on getting some fuel into your body the longer you are in the fasted state.
breakfastThose in the know will have heard some chatter lately about ‘intermittent fasting’ where people consume their daily calories in a narrow 4-8 hour window and fast for the remainder of the day. I won’t go into the finer details but basically it’s a conscious decision to skip certain meals and often its breakfast that’s forgone. The purpose? During the fasted state the body doesn’t have a recent meal to draw on for energy so it uses up fat stores for energy. This ‘dieting pattern’ works for a select few BUT I’ll discuss this further in an upcoming blog as it’s not something I would readily advocate.

Why do we need breakfast?

To kick starts your metabolism. You have gone 8-10 hours with no food intake. The brain needs energy to function and allow you to walk, talk and generally get your sh*t together; this comes in the form of glucose, a readily usable energy source that we can get from a hearty breakfast. You skip breakfast the brain has to look for another energy source usually by drawing on carbohydrate & fat stores. Meanwhile while all this goes on you are lacking concentration, feeling irritable and being pretty unproductive at 9am on a Monday morning.

A wholesome breakfast with a good source of lean protein & packed with nutrients will leave you satisfied and less likely to reach for sugary snacks mid-morning when you feel sluggish at work. Those who skip breakfast tend to consume a larger lunch and on a whole probably consume more calories throughout the day. Pretty much it can make or break your weight loss goals.

I’m hoping you have all now been convinced, by my words of wisdom :p, that breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. BUT I haven’t yet divulged the most important pieces of information. To actually reap any benefits at breakfast time you need to make sure you make smart food choices. News flash ladies the granola bowl with yoghurt, fresh berries & honey is not the healthiest & most nutritional option on the menu, in fact it’s probably the highest in sugar, contains the least nutrients & trust me you will have your hand in the cookie jar well before morning tea!

Breakfast must include a source of protein… think eggs, bacon, turkey, chicken, steak (if you’re hardcore), smoked salmon. It’s the satiating factor and will blunt your hunger for longer than sugary choices like banana bread & bagels. I personally love the addition of avocado & mushrooms too! Don’t worry coffee can still be the sidekick.

Join the breakfast club & set the stage for the rest of your day. Shake up your wake up.

Happy Monday! 🙂

Why go nuts for coconuts?

If I were to compile a list of my top 10 foods that I LOVE LOVE LOVE and could eat all day every day, there would be no question that coconuts would appear in the top 5. I’m quite literally obsessed.  I’m referring to ‘young coconuts’ here not the rock hard brown furry things you often see scattered on tropical beaches.. but on second thoughts they are pretty delish too!

On a hot, humid Australian summer’s day, nothing beats an ice cold coconut water straight from a young coconut. So much so that I usually slurp mine down in a matter of seconds… but that still leaves the best part.. you can then spend a good 10 minutes scooping, scraping and sucking out the delicious sweet flesh from inside. It just makes me so excited.

Coconuts have been around for years and years; however in the last 12 months they have ‘come into vogue’ in the health industry with many health professionals and scientists now beginning to sing their praises. You only have to trace it back to its ‘roots’ to find out there is something pretty special about this nut.. In ancient India coconut trees are known as kalpa vriksha which is sanskrit for “the tree that supplies all that is needed to live’

I only discovered young coconuts about 18 months ago, and I laugh when I think back on my first attempt to open one. I’m pretty sure I tried at the wrong end, coconut skin was flying around the kitchen, and the hole I managed to make was barely big enough for a straw.. and that in itself was a 15 minute ordeal. Well now I’m pretty damn efficient at doing it; breaking into a coconut is a strangely satisfying thing.. Anyway now that I have finished discussing the intricacies of my love for coconuts I should probably actually start to make a point…

Is coconut really a superfood? Can it really prevent and cure heart disease? Does coconut actually have health benefits when it comes to weight loss and insulin stabilisation? We don’t have all these answers in black and white BUT what we do know is there are multiple health benefits to be gained from the array of coconut products on the market.

Let’s talk a little about coconut oil. This seems to be the topic that has all the health big wigs talking. Coconut oil is the safest and healthiest oil to cook with. Yes it is exceptionally high in saturated fat BUT they aren’t your ‘run-of-the-mill’ fats like you find in cheese, steak and other foods we readily consume. Coconut oil contains a lot of medium chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently in the digestive system and have been proven to have therapeutic effects on several brain disorders including Alzheimer’s. I think medical professionals may begin to see the light on this one. SATURATED FAT IS NOT THE ENEMY.

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Coconut water…easily my favorite part of the coconut. It’s one of the purest drinks you can get if consumed straight from the coconut itself. Packed with electrolytes makes it the ideal drink choice to stay hydrated or even rehydrate following a hard workout. Add it to smoothies or protein shakes to give them a delicious sweet burst that will leave you happy as larry on a hot summer’s day. Or chef up a delicious coconut water based cocktail, pour it back in the shell and you have a little piece of tropical paradise.

Coconut cream and milk: great additions to heaps of curries and sauces especially for those like me that can’t eat dairy. Go one better and make coconut milk based ice cream.. The best thing I have tasted since vegemite toast…. My mum makes a killer avocado, coconut and lime version; I pretty much have to stick my head in the bowl to make sure I lick it allllllll up!

So that covers the food side of it… what about skin care? Yes coconut oil and creams derived from coconuts are amazing for your skin. They replenish the skin giving it a healthy radiant glow.

What about dry sun damaged hair? Cocounut oil can help restore moisture and prevent against further hair damage

Skin protection? Yes coconut oil blocks out 20% of the suns UV rays. (I still probably recommend 30+ in Australia, especially if you burn easily)

Have you got the message yet? Did I mention that I LOVE coconuts.

Happy Monday!

Here are some good websites if you want some more information about why you should also start going nuts for coconuts!

http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

http://coconutoil.com/

Tips to have a ‘stress free’ holiday

I’m far from your typical ‘girly’ girl. I hate champagne; I never get my nails done; my makeup selection is actually a joke; I don’t even own a hairdryer; and on average I think I get ready to go out quicker than my boyfriend! BUT the one thing I love, along with most females is some good old GIRL TIME.

This weekend I am heading to Singapore for a ‘girls weekend’ with my mum and sister.. I can hardly contain my excitement!!! This is not a typical Esslemont family activity, the last family holiday we went on was about 10 years ago and we haven’t been away together since; I think traveling through Europe for 6 weeks with 3 kids and 13 suitcases was slightly more stressful than my parents envisaged.

Travel, whether for work or pleasure is often not all bells and whistles. It is change after all and not many of us deal well with change; different time zone, unfamiliar environments, different bed, unusual foods. Yes it’s exciting seeing new sites and new cities but it’s actually quite a stressful transition for your body.

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There are a few simple things that can be done to minimise unnecessary stress. There is no point going on a holiday if you return more frazzled than you were when you left… right?

  1. Pack your own food: I’m not trying to be high maintenance here BUT seriously airport and aeroplane food doesn’t exactly excite my taste buds and most of the meal options are pretty unsatisfying. Having a few snacks in your bag at least gives you have an option other than McDonalds or Burger King.
  2. Check in on-line: Most carriers let you do this 24 hours prior to departure especially if you are traveling with carry-on bags only as you can skip all the queues and head straight for security. Internationally most of you have luggage but I’d still recommend checking in prior it just saves a little extra time.
  3. Dress for comfort: Nothing entertains me more than when I see women strutting around the airport with 6 inch stilettos, perfectly styled hair and caked with makeup.. Did you forget that you are about to be packed like a sardine into a tiny plane seat for 9 hours? Don’t dress like a slug either but comfort is key. Pack a change of clothes and some basic toiletries so you can freshen up if needed.
  4. Look after your body: Flying can play havoc with your body physically. Economy class seats weren’t ergonomically designed for comfort (or spine health). Have you ever walked down the aisle at night and seen some of the wacky positions people fall asleep in? Hilarious. Get up, walk around and have a little stretch regularly, especially on longer haul flights.
  5. Pack good footwear: Here comes my physio orientated mind. We do a lot more walking when we are in foreign cities and you don’t want to miss out on seeing the sites because you have sore feet from crap shoes! I learnt this the hard way; walking for 8 hours around the streets of Peru in thongs = acute case of plantar fasciitis = nightmare; really affected my dance moves at the pub that evening. Might not be a fashion statement but caring for your feet is so important!
  6. Be mindful of your health: I love nothing more than to try local cuisine and often this leads me to street karts and local markets. Usually not the best idea; exercise a little bit of intelligence and choose wisely. The bbq duck that’s been roasting in the direct sunlight all morning may leave your guts in disarray (holiday spoiler right there). Get suggestions from people who have traveled there before and if in doubt look for ex-pats or other tourists.
  7. Allow some down time: Do not be one of those people that has every minute of your trip mapped out. Sure have a few key things you want to achieve but leave your inner control freak at home and relax! You shouldn’t be left feeling guilty about spending a few extra hours lazing by the pool with a pina colada because you haven’t made it to the 20 different art galleries you planned to see that afternoon. BORING.. Spontaneous activities are usually the best anyway!

Traveling is meant to be fun and sometimes the chaos and drama create some of the funniest memories. Be organised, relax and go with the flow; a delayed flight isn’t the end of the world just an opportunity to some extra duty free shopping!