A new report highlights the extent to which medicines, lifestyle and poor diet are “killing” vitamin and mineral levels, leading to potentially serious health issues for women.
The UK National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) has revealed a marked drop in women’s intake of most vitamins and minerals, with deficiencies being linked to a host of health issues, some potentially very serious.
Adults from across the UK were quizzed on their diets and only 20% said they eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – leaving eight out of 10 failing even the minimum dietary standards. Over one third (37%) said they only managed to eat five portions of fruit and veg for two or fewer days in a week.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer says: “There’s been a marked – and hugely worrying – drop in women’s intake of most vitamins and minerals. This is due to the fact that many people have little time for cooking from scratch and rely on fast food, takeaways and ready meals.
In addition, the trend for popular exclusion or weight-loss diets, together with social media ‘influencers’ pushing potentially unhealthy eating regimes, has meant whole food groups can be missed out on. It’s perhaps no surprise that so many of us are failing to manage an adequate nutrient intake, with gaps and deficiencies in a host of crucial vitamins and minerals.”
The pill and hormone-related issues
Since the pill – the oral contraceptive for women – first became available in Britain in 1961, its use has spread rapidly and it has gained widespread acceptance. However, the new report reveals that many women are unaware of the potential side effects from use of the contraceptive pill or HRT, in particular issues with nutrient status.
Clinical pharmacist and researcher Mike Wakeman says: “Research from as far back as the
1970s clearly demonstrates that oral contraceptives are linked with depletions of a number of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. A variety of reports have also identified these effects might possibly contribute to several common side effects. This aspect is particularly relevant to those women who may not have an adequate diet.
Furthermore, women whose lifestyle is unhealthy and those with problems absorbing or metabolising certain nutrients will also be at risk.” “This means that for many individuals nutrient intake is already sub-optimal, and that taking the pill – with the potential negative impact on nutrient levels – is likely to further compromise the situation. The use of supplements, for women taking the pill – especially those with a poor diet or pre-existing health issues – would appear to play a key role in targeting this issue.”
The use of oral contraceptives can affect oxidative stress and disrupt the way the body metabolises fats and carbohydrates and processes sugars.
Another important fact to take into account is that the use of the pill can negatively affect a woman’s folate status – crucial for protecting against neural tube defects in early pregnancy – and how folic acid supplements can be an important strategy for women looking to become pregnant.
The latest data revealed in the report would seem to be at odds with many women’s knowledge of the risks and issues of taking the pill. Of more than 1,000 women aged 18 to 64 across the UK, every single woman questioned by the researchers had either taken the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or both at some period in their life. Nearly nine out of 10 (88%) had taken the contraceptive pill, a further 5% had taken just HRT and 7% had had both.
Just half (50%) of those quizzed said that they were not given advice on the possible side effects of taking the pill while 94% said they were not told about potential side effects of HRT. Just 4% of those taking the pill and 3% of those taking HRT were advised to change their diet because of worries that vitamin and mineral levels can be depleted. Just 10% said that they had changed their diet to compensate specifically for taking the pill – with only 6% saying the same for HRT.
Changes included a ‘generally healthier diet’ (19%), eating more vegetables (12%) and taking a vitamin and mineral supplement (11%). Most – 70% – of women had either been pregnant or had tried to conceive, and 64% felt their diet and nutrition status were ‘very important’ when planning to get pregnant, and a further 23% felt they were ‘quite important’. Folic acid is essential for the early part of a pregnancy to protect against neural tube defects, yet a third of those questioned (34%) didn’t know this and the same number (33%) admitted they had never taken folic acid supplements.
Spotlight on vitamin D
The last part of the report focused on issues around vitamin D. Vitamin D is synthesised in our bodies from sunlight and plays a huge role in maintaining good health, particularly bones and muscles.
In addition, researchers have found new evidence linking the vitamin with far more than just bone health – it’s thought that heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma, depression and type 2 diabetes, to name just a few, may be associated with poor vitamin D levels. It’s particularly worrying as figures show that nearly a third of adults have intakes so low as to risk deficiency.
A key problem is that the main source of vitamin D is sunshine rather than from food – even in a healthy diet it’s hard to get the recommended amounts of the vitamin. But in the UK we often have poor levels of sunshine, especially in the autumn and winter months, and this can leave vitamin D levels in the body severely depleted.
Such is the concern over the issue, Public Health England changed its recommendations in 2016, saying that all adults and children over the age of one year old should consider taking a 10 microgram vitamin D supplement, especially during autumn and winter when there is limited sunlight. In addition, the DoH says all babies from birth to one year old, all children aged one to four and people who aren’t exposed much to the sun should take daily supplements to make sure they get enough vitamin D.
A recent analysis of UK diet data by the Health Supplement Information Service found:
Only 27% of the 1,000 respondents polled knew that a healthy diet alone does not provide optimum levels of vitamin D, with nearly half (47%) of respondents believing it was a possibility, despite this being almost impossible in practice. There were big gaps in understanding and knowledge in the workings of vitamin D. Half (50%) of respondents didn’t know that some over the counter and prescribed medicines can reduce levels of vitamin D in the body, rising to 71% in the over 60s.
GP Dr David Edwards says: “Healthy levels of vitamin D are key to day-to-day health. However, this is also problematic because many people in the UK (may I add that in Cyprus as well due to many people working in doors and have minimum exposure to sunshine) appear to have low levels of vitamin D – it’s thought that more than 50% of adults have insufficient levels of vitamin D and that 16% have severe deficiency during winter and spring.
The worry is that this shortfall will leave many of these people more vulnerable to health problems, some of which may be very serious. Both the poor level of vitamin D status and the importance of the nutrient in good health mean it would be prudent for many people to take a daily vitamin D supplement, particularly during the winter months when sunshine levels are low. It’s a simple and easy change that may well bring substantial benefits.”
Watermelon is a refreshing and delicious fruit that is ideal in those hot summer months.
It contains only 46 calories per cup but is high in vitamin C, vitamin A and many healthy plant compounds.
Here are some of the top health benefits of eating watermelon.
1. Helps You Hydrate
Drinking water is an important way to keep your body hydrated.
However, eating foods that have a high water content can also help. Interestingly, watermelon is 92% water (1Trusted Source).
What’s more, the combination of high water content and fiber is one of the reasons why fruits and vegetables help you feel full, without eating a large volume of food and it is also low in calories.
2. Contains Nutrients and Beneficial Plant Compounds
As far as fruits go, watermelon is one of the lowest in calories — only 46 calories per cup (154 grams). That's lower than even low-sugar fruits such as berries (2).
One cup (154 grams) of watermelon has many other nutrients as well, including these vitamins and minerals:
Watermelon is also high in carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lycopene. Plus, it has citrulline, an important amino acid.
Here's an overview of watermelon's anti-ageing antioxidants:
Vitamin C: is an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage from free radicals.
Carotenoids: Carotenoids are a class of plant compounds that includes alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A.
Lycopene: Lycopene is a type of carotenoid that doesn't change into vitamin A. This potent antioxidant gives a red color to plant foods such as tomatoes and watermelon and is linked to many health benefits.
Cucurbitacin E: Cucurbitacin E is a plant compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
3. Contains Compounds That May Help Prevent Cancer
Researchers have studied lycopene and other individual plant compounds in watermelon for their cancer preventative effects. The strongest link so far seems to be between lycopene and cancers of the digestive system (1Trusted Source).
It appears to reduce cancer risk by lowering insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a protein involved in cell division. High IGF levels are linked to cancer (3Trusted Source).
In addition, cucurbitacin E has been investigated for its ability to inhibit tumor growth (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
4. May Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide (6Trusted Source).
Lifestyle factors, including diet, may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Several nutrients in watermelon have specific benefits for heart health.
Studies suggest that lycopene may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also help prevent oxidative damage to cholesterol (1Trusted Source).
According to studies in obese, postmenopausal women and Finnish men, lycopene may also reduce the stiffness and thickness of artery walls (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Watermelon also contains citrulline, an amino acid that may increase nitric oxide levels in the body. Nitric oxide helps your blood vessels expand, which lowers blood pressure (9Trusted Source) and boosts performance in athletes.
Other vitamins and minerals in watermelon are also good for your heart. These include vitamins A, B6, C, magnesium and potassium (1Trusted Source).
5. May Lower Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Inflammation is a key driver of many chronic diseases.
Watermelon may help lower inflammation and oxidative damage, as it's rich in the anti-inflammatory antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C (1Trusted Source).
In a 2015 study, lab rats were fed watermelon powder to supplement an unhealthy diet. Compared to the control group, they developed lower levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein and less oxidative stress (10Trusted Source).
In an earlier study, humans were given lycopene-rich tomato juice with added vitamin C. Overall, their markers of inflammation went down and antioxidants went up. Watermelon has both lycopene and vitamin C (11Trusted Source).
As an antioxidant, lycopene may also benefit brain health. For example, it may help delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease (12).
6. May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration
Lycopene is found in several parts of the eye where it helps protect against oxidative damage and inflammation.
It may also prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is a common eye problem that can cause blindness in older adults (1Trusted Source).
Lycopene's role as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound may help prevent AMD from developing and getting worse.
7. Athletes: May Help Relieve Muscle Soreness
Citrulline, an amino acid in watermelon, may reduce muscle soreness. Interestingly, watermelon juice appears to enhance the absorption of citrulline.
One small study gave athletes plain watermelon juice, watermelon juice mixed with citrulline or a citrulline drink. Both watermelon drinks led to less muscle soreness and quicker heart rate recovery, compared to citrulline on its own (13Trusted Source).
The researchers also conducted a test-tube experiment, investigating the absorption of citrulline. Their findings suggest that citrulline absorption is most effective when it's consumed as a component of watermelon juice.
Other research has also looked at citrulline's potential to improve exercise endurance and performance.
Tip: You could blend watermelon with moringa powder a powerful combination for athletes.
So far, citrulline doesn't seem to improve exercise performance in the amounts studied, but it's still an area of research interest (14Trusted Source).
8. Is Good for Skin and Hair
Two vitamins in watermelon — A and C — are important for skin and hair health.
Vitamin C helps your body make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin supple and your hair strong.
Vitamin A is also important for healthy skin since it helps create and repair skin cells.Without vitamin A, your skin can look dry and flaky.
Both lycopene and beta-carotene may also help protect your skin from sunburn (15Trusted Source).
9. Can Improve Digestion
Watermelon contains lots of water and a small amount of fiber — both of which are important for healthy digestion.
Fiber can provide bulk for your stool, while water helps keep your digestive tract moving efficiently, hence combating constipation.
Robert Elias Najemy - Founder of Armoniki Zoi, Athens.
Four points that gave his life meaning:
Evolution: the idea that i could better myself, become more loving, kinder, healthier, happier. It was an interesting challenge, that I could in some way control my life and become a better person.
Creativity: I explored a wide variety of creativity - forms of expression - all of which gave me pleasure and fulfillment.
Service: I discovered the joy of serving others and in some way contributing to their well-being and happiness.
Relationships: I began to perceive relationships as growing opportunities in which I am challenged to be honest, understanding, forgiving, loving and to communicate clearly.
All these purposes gave meaning to my life and still do.
If I asked you to make a list of the top 10 healthy foods, I bet gelatin would not be one of them.
Gelatin is a great health food in its natural form, not the artificially, sugar packed like jelly.
Gelatin may keep osteoporosis at bay, heal your gut if you suffer from IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), leaky gut or acid reflux, may help you sleep better among many other valuable health benefits.
Gelatin is the key ingredient in Jelly and other similar products. It is the ingredient that makes it wobbly.
Gelatin is derived from collagen, the most plentiful protein in humans and animals. Once simmered, the decomposition of collagen into gelatin is irreversible; its long protein fibrils, or tiny fibers, are broken down into small amino acid compounds.
Eating gelatin boosts our collagen levels. Collagen is found almost everywhere in the body, but it is most abundant in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. It holds our tissues together, providing the skeleton with a sturdy yet flexible structure (just as it does wobbly desserts); some types of collagen fibrils are gram for gram, stronger than steel. (1)
Although the gelatin we consume comes from collagen in animal skin, bones, ligaments, and tendons, it increases human collagen stores, which leads to the impressive health benefits below.
It’s Made Almost Entirely of Protein (98 to 99 Percent)
One half-cup of gelatin provides nearly two grams of protein a macronutrient, your body needs to function.
Gelatin Is Rich in Vital Amino Acids
It doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, making it an incomplete protein. But the amino acids it does include are particularly important for health, especially glycine. Other notables include: (2)
Our ancestors ate much more gelatin than we do today. That’s because they widely practiced nose-to-tail eating, meaning they cooked with and consumed the entire animal, including its skin, tendons, and other gelatinous features.
In the Cypriot diet we still have a dish called “Gelatina” which is mostly made of pig’s ears, hooves and is jam packed with gelatin. It is still available in most supermarkets. I for one am not a fan of this and have invented a fruity, yogurt, chia pudding where I add gelatin in powder form to give it a firm texture rather than a runny one.
Six Reasons to Eat Gelatin.
1. Gelatin May Lower Your Risk for Cardiovascular and Other Diseases.
Eggs and muscle meats—as opposed to organ meats and meaty bones—are high an amino acid called methionine. In some people, eating too much methionine can lead to a buildup of a toxic compound called homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for a variety of serious concerns, from dementia and Alzheimer’s to heart disease and it also increases the risk of fracture. (3, 4, 5) This might explain why researchers sometimes find a correlation between high meat intake and chronic disease.
What helps keep methionine and homocysteine levels in a healthy balance? Glycine, a compound found in gelatin and for which it accounts for roughly 27 percent of gelatin’s composition, making gelatin the richest food source of this amino acid. Although your body can make glycine, you usually don’t produce enough to cover your needs, meaning you need to obtain ample amounts from your diet. (6, 7)
2. It Protects Your Bones and Joints
Bone is living, growing tissue, comprising mostly of collagen which is the glue that holds our tissues together, hence getting more collagen in the form of gelatin is good for bone and joint health.
Research shows that gelatin may have a beneficial effect on cartilage metabolism and inhibit the breakdown of collagen in bone. It may be effective in treating both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. (8, 9, 10) Its amino acids glycine and proline are anti-inflammatory and are likely responsible for research results finding gelatin effective in reducing arthritis-associated joint pain.
Lysine, also in gelatin, strengthens bones by helping the body absorb calcium and form collagen. The body can’t make this amino acid, so it must come from diet. Lysine has also been shown, in animal studies, to quicken fracture healing. (11)
3. It Preserves Your Muscle Mass
Glycine is the hero again here: research has found that increasing glycine intake, either through supplementation or high-glycine foods such as gelatin, can help slow or reduce the age-related loss of muscle. Supplemental glycine can protect muscle in a variety of wasting conditions brought on by serious illness such as cancer or due to reduced calorie intake. (12, 13)
4. Gelatin Is Good for Your Gut
Thanks to the amino acids glycine, proline, and glutamine, gelatin can improve gut integrity and digestive strength by enhancing gastric acid secretion and restoring a healthy lining in the stomach. (14, 15) Gelatin also absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the digestive tract, promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel movements. (16)
5. It Makes Your Skin Shine and Your Hair Long and Lustrous
Collagen is one of the primary structural elements of skin. As we age, we naturally lose collagen, causing our skin to sag and wrinkle. Gelatin provides glycine and proline, building blocks for collagen, and can help your body create enough of this important protein to improve your skin’s health and appearance.
In particular, several studies have shown improved skin elasticity and hydration, as well as a reduction of deep wrinkles, with collagen hydrolysate supplementation. (17, 18) A diet rich in gelatin may also protect against the aging effects of sunlight, preventing wrinkles in the future. (19) And gelatin appears to induce hair growth and even lead to thicker, fuller locks. (20, 21)
6. It Can Help You Sleep
Gelatin has been found to help with sleep due to its abundance of glycine. Just a few tablespoons can provide roughly three grams of glycine, which is enough to cause measurable improvements in sleep quality. (22, 23) Glycine is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it can decrease anxiety and promote mental calmness to let you sleep through the night. (24)
7. Other Benefits : Research suggests that gelatin may also aid in weight loss, help control blood sugar, improve cognitive and mental health, slow the growth of certain cancers, and much more. (25, 26, 27, 28, 29)
While gelatin isn’t acceptable to vegans, who shun all animal products, it may be to vegetarians who are open to eating some animal-derived foods, such as eggs and dairy.
Vegetarians Often Have Low Glycine Levels
Some Paleo followers who eat mainly muscle meats and ignore the nose-to-tail philosophy can also be susceptible to low glycine intake.
You Might Be at Risk for Cardiovascular Problems
Studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans have significantly higher homocysteine levels, on average, than omnivores, putting them at significant risk for cardiovascular trouble. (30) This is possibly due to nutrient deficiencies in vitamin B12 and choline, which help keep homocysteine in check.
How to Incorporate Gelatin into your diet ?
An important note: Some people report a histamine reaction after consuming gelatin or gelatin powders and supplements, so gelatin may not be appropriate for those with severe histamine intolerances.
One of the worst single ingredients in the modern diet is added sugar.
It provides calories with no added nutrients and can damage your metabolism in the long run.
Eating too much sugar is linked to weight gain and various diseases like obesity, type 2-diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease.
But how much is too much?
Can you eat a little bit of sugar each day without harm, or should you avoid it as much as possible?
It is very important to make the distinction between added sugars and sugars that occur naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables.
These are healthy foods that contain water, fiber and various micro-nutrients. Naturally occurring sugars are absolutely fine, but the same does not apply to added sugar.
Added sugar is the main ingredient in sweets and is plentiful in many processed foods, such as soft drinks and baked products such as bread, cakes and biscuits.
The most common added sugars are regular table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup.
If you want to lose weight and optimize your health, you should do your best to avoid foods that contain added sugars. Sugar that’s added to processed foods is much worse than natural sugar in whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
How Much Sugar is Safe to Eat Per Day ?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. Some people can eat a lot of sugar without harm, while others should avoid it as much as possible.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are (7Trusted Source):
Personally I believe the above guidelines are still too much for a daily allowance !
To put that into perspective, one 12-oz can of Coke contains 140 calories from sugar, while a regular-sized Snickers bar contains 120 calories from sugar.
In contrast, the US dietary guidelines advise people to limit their intake to less than 10% of their daily calorie intake. For a person eating 2,000 calories per day, this would equal 50 grams of sugar, or about 12.5 teaspoons (8Trusted Source).
If you are healthy, lean and active, these seem like reasonable amounts. You’ll probably burn off these small amounts of sugar without them causing you any harm.
But it’s important to note that there is no need for added sugars in the diet. The less you eat, the healthier you will be.
If you are overweight, obese or diabetic, you should probably avoid sugar as much as possible.
In that case, you should not be consuming sugar every day, more like once per week or once every two weeks (at most).
If You're Addicted to Sugar, Perhaps You Should Avoid It Completely
Sugary junk foods stimulate the same areas in the brain as drugs of abuse.
For this reason, sugar can cause people to lose control over their consumption.
That said, sugar is not nearly as addictive as drugs of abuse, and “sugar addiction” should be comparatively easy to overcome.
If you have a history of binge eating, failure at setting rules about your eating (like cheat meals or days) and repeated failures with the "everything in moderation" approach, then perhaps you are addicted..
In the same way that a smoker needs to avoid cigarettes completely, a sugar addict needs to avoid sugar completely.
How to Reduce Sugars in Your Diet
Avoid these foods, in order of importance:
Drink water instead of soda or juices and don't add sugar to your coffee or tea.
Instead of sugar in recipes, you can try things like cinnamon, nutmeg, almond extract, vanilla, ginger, lemon or stevia (which is a natural zero-calorie alternative).
Just be creative and find recipes online. You can eat an endless variety of amazing foods even if you eliminate all sugar from your diet.
What About Sugar in Processed Foods?
The best way to cut back on sugar is to simply avoid processed foods and satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit instead.
However, if you're simply unable to stick to unprocessed foods, then here are some tips on how to make the right choices:
Warning: You MUST read nutrition labels! Even foods disguised as "health foods" can be loaded with added sugars even if they are “organic”.
At the end of the day, it's important to figure out the sugar intake that’s right for you.
Some people can handle a little bit of sugar in their diet, while for others it causes cravings, binge eating, rapid weight gain and disease.
Every individual is unique and you need to figure out what works for you.
We are in an epidemic of osteoporosis. There can be no doubt about that.Ten million Americans have it, and one in three older women will get it. We urgently need public health strategies to maintain bone health throughout the life cycle and to prevent osteoporosis in later life.
Might fruits and vegetables be the unexpected natural answer to the question of osteoporosis prevention?
Evidence from a variety of studies strongly points to a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and indexes of bone health, such as bone mineral density, and the size of the effect in the older women is impressive: doubling the fruit intake is associated with a 5 percent higher spine mineralization. The same relationship exists with young women, too. And, eating lots of fruit in childhood may protect bones throughout life—something that was not found for milk intake.
Bone health isn’t just about calcium. There are several key nutrients found in vegetables, fruits, and beans that are associated with better bone mineral density, but does that translate into lower hip fracture risk? The Singapore Chinese Health Study found that a “diet rich in plant-based foods, namely vegetables, fruit, and legumes such as soy, may reduce the risk of hip fracture.” But,why?
“The underlying mechanism in postmenopausal osteoporosis (PO) is an imbalance between bone resorption [disappearance] and formation,” and oxidative stress may play a role in this balance.
There are two types of bone cells: “the bone-forming osteoblasts and the bone-dismantling osteoclasts.” Osteoblasts are continually laying down new bone, while osteoclasts chisel away old bone, using free radicals as the molecular chisel to chip away our bone. Too many free radicals in our system, though, may lead to excessive bone breakdown. Antioxidant defenses appear “markedly decreased in osteoporotic women,” and “elderly osteoporotic women had consistently lower levels of all natural antioxidants tested than controls.”
“Because excessive [free radicals] may contribute to bone loss, it is important to elucidate the potential role antioxidant-rich fruits play in mitigating bone loss that leads to the development of osteoporosis.” The thought is that fruits up-regulate the bone building cells, and down-regulate the bone-eating cells, tipping the balance towards greater bone mass. So, let’s put a fruit to the test.
Which one do we pick? Dried plums were chosen because they have among the highest antioxidant ranking among commonly consumed fruits and vegetables—and because the researchers received a grant from the California Dried Plum Board!
When you think of prunes, you think of bowels the classic constipation buster, not bones, but, over a decade ago, researchers at Oklahoma State tried giving a dozen prunes a day to a group of postmenopausal women, using a dozen dried apple rings as a control. After three months, only the subjects who consumed the prunes had significant elevations in an enzyme marker of bone formation, although prunes didn’t seem to affect markers of bone breakdown.
So, prunes may help more with building bones than preventing bone loss. However, the reverse was found with almonds, so maybe a little prune-and-almond trail mix is in order.
With this bump in bone formation indices, one might expect that if they did a longer study, we would actually see an impact on bone mineral density. And nine years later, just such a study was done: 12 months on dried plums versus apples. Both dried fruit regimens appeared to have “bone-protective effects,” though the prunes seemed to work better in the arm bone and spine.
So, the dried plum marketing board wants everyone to know that dried plums are “the most effective fruit in both preventing and reversing bone loss,” but only two fruits have ever been tested: plums and apples. If this pans out for other plants, though, “a ‘fruit and vegetables’ approach may provide a very sensible (and natural) alternative therapy for osteoporosis treatment, one that is likely to have numerous additional health-related benefits.”
All we have to do is convince people to actually do it !
Most of us are very busy people and we don’t always have time to prepare very complicated and fancy foods.
Here are some healthy snacks which are quick, simple and easy to prepare yourself, but before I do, I also want to tell you the benefits of these snacks so that you know the “why” you are eating them and how they’ll impact your body.
What's the best snack you can get?
Let’s get started. One of the best snacks that you can get is a combination of nuts and seeds and dried fruits.
These are absolutely great. They’re little powerhouses of energy and nutrition.
Walnuts look like little brains are wonderful for brain function. They contain omega-3 which are also great for your hair and your skin.
Brazil nuts are great for general repair, they are really good for your hormones, and they’re great for your skin. These are your anti-aging nuts, if you like.
Almonds are higher in protein, they also have vitamin E which is great for your skin. Almonds are also high in calcium and magnesium, so they’re going to be really good for your teeth, bones, nail and hair.
Hazelnuts are full of fiber. These are really good for you if your bowels are a little bit sluggish and for your hair and skin as well.
We’ve got pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds which are full of good oils that are going to help your joints, going to help brain function, and they’re also full of magnesium, calcium and zinc. Zinc is especially beneficial to your immune system keeping you healthy.
We’ve got dried fruit, just a little bit of dried fruit. Don’t have too much, because these are full of sugar. This is a great little handful. What you can do is you can put it in a little container and take it to work or carry it around in your handbag.
I am sure a lot of you are thinking about the calorie content 'oh nuts and seeds they’re really high in calories', but there will be less calories in this little handful than there will in a jam doughnut or a couple of chocolate biscuits. You’re not actually getting good nutrition from those junk foods – yet this handful of trail mix is going to be so nutritious with just about everything you need to keep you going until your next meal.
A savoury choice
If you fancy something a little bit more savoury, what you can do is roast them. Put them in a bowl, add a tiny drop of olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt or soy sauce and spread them on a baking tray.
Have your oven reasonably hot. Spread the nuts and the seeds on the tray. Roast them in the oven maybe for about 15 to 20 minutes until they’re dry and crispy. You can then cool them. These will keep in the fridge for a good number of days. Again, this is something if you fancy more of a savoury snack rather than something sweet.
What about vegetables?
We’ve got raw vegetables. We call them crudités. Use a nice little jar, which is easy to carry. Add in the humus on the bottom and then chop things like celery, cucumbers and carrots. Put them in the jar standing upright where the bottom part is in the dip. It’s an absolutely fabulous snack, and the hummus has lovely oils and fats which will keep your blood sugars stable.
Nut butters are a favourite quick afternoon or morning snack. Have one or two teaspoons of peanut butter. You can also use other nut butters such as almond butter or cashew nut butter as well. Again, you can just take them off the spoon. Don’t have too many. You can actually go a little bit overboard so try and keep to a couple of teaspoons full.
If you’re going for things like peanut butter, make sure there’s no sugar and hydrogenated fats in it and low salt. You can also use these on oat cakes. Just spread a little bit and stick them together. Have a little bit of a peanut butter sandwich, if you like.
At this particular point, I wouldn’t recommend rice cakes purely because they are very high carbohydrate. They will break down very quickly, and they’ll give you a bit of a sugar hit, which is not what you want. Oat cakes are great because they release energy really, really slowly.
This is a fabulous snack to take with you. It’s full of protein, will help to keep you going. I usually hard boil mine. You can either slice the eggs , place them in a little container with some sliced tomato and a little bit of salt and pepper, or you can mash it up with a little bit of organic mayonnaise, a sprinkle of curry powder and just eat it off the spoon. This is quite a filling snack and can be quite handy especially when you have a long time to wait before your next meal.
Having snacks at night before you go to bed is really important especially if you are not sleeping well and if you’re waking up in the middle of the night maybe with a little bit of palpitations. This is very often due to the fact that your blood sugar levels are so low that your body is waking up in a panic.
They are best to eat about one hour before you go to sleep.
Full fat Greek yoghurt or sheep’s/goat’s yogurt (strained) together with some cocoa powder. Don’t use a low fat version because you need the full fat to help keep your blood sugars level for as long as possible. Cocoa powder has only 25 calories per teaspoon so this is a great indulgent snack.
All you need is 2 tablespoons of the yoghurt and a heaped teaspoon of the cocoa powder. This will taste like chocolate mousse. It’s an ideal snack if you’re getting the sweet munchies at night, maybe if you’re watching TV or reading and you just feel like a little bit of chocolaty something. The other good thing about this snack is that cocoa powder is high in magnesium which will actually help you sleep.
2 tablespoons full fat Greek yoghurt
2 teaspoon cocoa or cacao powder
½ teaspoon honey
How to make:
1. Add Greek yoghurt and cocoa/cacao to bowl.
2. Stir slowly.
3. Ready to serve.
Little energy balls
They’re great to carry with you. They’re great for that mid-afternoon slump.
Cinnamon and Chia Seed Energy Balls
250g pitted Medjool dates
4 – 6 tblsp of water
2 handfuls of sunflower seeds
2 tblsp of chia seeds
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of vanilla extract
How to make:
1. Simmer dates in a saucepan with water on a low heat for 5 minutes.
2. Whizz all other ingredients, in a food processor for a couple of seconds, until they’ve almost formed a flour-like consistency.
3. Drain and add dates to the food processor – making sure no water from the saucepan goes in.
4. Blend until a sticky paste is formed.
5. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture, and roll into balls with your hands.
6. Store refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.
Don’t go overboard with these. They are, as I say, little energy balls. They’re powerhouses of nutrition. One or two would be more than enough to actually see you through the break until your next meal.
Whether you flaunt your every move on the dance floor or sway to your favorite songs in the car, dance is an activity that everybody enjoys, in one way or another. Luckily, dancing is something that will not only bring a smile to your face, but can also help improve your physical and mental health. It is great exercise that gets your mind and muscles working no matter who you are.
When you move to certain rhythms, your body becomes synchronised with them, which is great for releasing all kinds of neurochemicals, some of which can help to inhibit all those things that make you feel stressed.
With so many different ways to dance from jumping around with the kids to some good music, shaking it out at a party or dance lessons, you’ll be gaining all these great benefits with every step that you take.
# 1: Increase Strength and Overall Health – Dancing is exercise so, naturally, it will assist in strengthening your bones and muscles. As your strength increases, you will have more energy to continue dancing. Your increased level of physical activity and exercise can help prevent illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease and reduce the risk of osteoporosis as your bones become stronger.
#2: Boost Memory – When you exercise, the levels of chemicals in your brain which encourage nerve cells to grow are increased and since dancing requires you to remember various steps and sequences, your brain power is boosted which helps to improve your memory. Dancing incorporates several brain functions at once- kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional. Utilizing all of these at the same time can further increase your neural activity, helping to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
#3: Improve Flexibility – Stretching before and after dancing is very important to getting the most out of your movements and avoiding injury. As you continue dancing you will be stretching more consistently and will notice how each stretch will become easier to complete. As the stretches become easier, you will be able to go farther into each stretch, creating longer lines as you permanently lengthen your muscles and become more and more flexible. With this increased flexibility you will notice you have a wider range of motion and your dancing will become much easier.
#4: Increase Balance – In order to execute each move and sequence correctly, you will need to be able to maintain a strong center of gravity. As you learn each movement and begin to gain increased flexibility and strength, your posture, balance and spatial awareness will naturally begin to improve, making each step easier for you to complete.
#5: Healthy Heart and Lungs – Dancing is great cardiovascular exercise. As you continue to dance and notice your strength and grace improving, you will witness an increase in your stamina.
#6: Reduce Stress – When you are dancing, your body is fully in that moment, focused on the music and your surroundings. Being around friends or that someone special to enjoy dancing to your favorite music can help you focus on strictly the moment you are in and aid in reducing the amount of cortisol your brain produces (the hormone that is associated with stress), lowering your stress and tension levels.
#7: Diminish Depression – You appear to get a much bigger release of endorphins when you dance than during other forms of exercise; it also connects with the emotional centres in the brain. For many people, dancing prompts an emotional release – often that’s uncomplicated happiness, while for some it can make them cry. It’s cathartic – a letting go of pent-up emotions.
# 8: Lose Weight – The consistent movement that dancing provides utilizes multiple muscle groups at the same time, helping to tone your entire body. A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that an exercise program of aerobic dance training is just as effective as jogging or cycling in order to improve body composition and aerobic strength. You may even notice a natural shift in your eating habits as you begin to feel healthier from your dancing, which also will aid in weight management.
# 9: Increase Social Improvement & Confidence – Everybody enjoys meeting new people. Dancing provides a fun environment to meet people who have the same interest as you. ! This type of environment is perfect to either utilize your social skills if you are outgoing or to help strengthen your social skills if you have a quiet personality. Dancing is a great way to meet new friends and improves your social outlook while in an atmosphere where you can feel safe and comfortable.
So put on your dancing shoes, put on your favourite dance music and dance away with some smiles and laughs ! You deserve to have some fun !
We deprive ourselves of things we love for fear of bingeing, then we over-exercise so as not to feel guilty about slip-ups. What happened to the fine art of moderation ?
From the woman who won’t have a biscuit in case she ends up eating the whole packet, to the running fanatic who won’t stop until she’s done her allotted distance, I see many people trapped in cycles of excess and deprivation.
Some of us, it seems don’t know how to achieve consistent moderation in our lives.
Any kind of extreme or obsessive behavior is unhealthy for your body, mind and soul.
We certainly know that eating nothing but sweets and refined carbs is unhealthy, but we fail to recognise that too much unhealthy behavior can do damage too.
Too much of a good thing- For example, while regular exercise is, of course, good for us, over exercising is not. While normal exercise gives most people a boost, excessive exercise can lead to obsessive and solitary behavior, leading to exclusion from family and friends. It almost equates to addiction.
Treat yourself - A little of what we fancy appears to do us good, even if the benefit of a piece of cake or a glass of wine is simply the feel-good effect of a treat.
If you are going to indulge in something, you should do so joyfully and not guiltily. Constantly depriving ourselves of little indulgences is a fast track to feeling awful.
And cutting out certain foods because you don’t trust yourself to have just one will often trigger binge-eating, the thing you tried so hard to resist. Stretches of deprivation followed by excess also causes our health to suffer, especially our immune system, not to mention the psychological impact of veering between extremes.
There are plenty of things that you can enjoy – dark chocolate, red wine, a nice steak – that are good for you as well. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so fixed in definitions of what is good and bad for us. Exercise, fruit and green tea (good). Carbs, saturated fat and chocolate (bad). We tend to label things in very black and white terms, yet all we need is to start seeing things in shades of grey.
Balancing act-We don’t need to resign ourselves to a lifetime of all or nothing – learning the fine art of moderation is possible…
Flex Your Self-Control – learning to exercise self-control is crucial. Practice small acts of self-control regularly and you become better at self-control in the long run. Practising self-control in one area of your life can have a positive spill-over effect into other domains. If you can be more moderate with your emotions, your family, your working life, you will take a more moderate approach to your health and wellbeing, too.
Control your impulses – recognise that our drive to indulge isn’t a moral failing. It’s not your fault, it’s how our brains are designed. You need to take responsibility by recognizing that. Professor Paul Gilbert suggests treating impulsiveness by creating a space between first noticing the impulse and then indulging in it. If your problem is overeating, put a note on your fridge saying ,“Do you really need to eat me?” Give yourself 10 seconds where you can knock out the impulsive tendency and give the thinking brain a chance to kick in. Your emotional brain’s reaction is instant, your rational brain needs slightly longer.
Develop a compassionate attitude towards yourself - create a friendly understanding voice in your head which can forgive you and strengthen your determination instead of making you feel terrible.. Use language which empowers rather than critical talk. As Louise Hay would say, “Love Yourself !”.
Change your language – The terms good or bad aren’t helpful. A woman will say she has been good when she’s eaten just 500 calories in a day or done excessive exercise, but that’s extremely bad for you. It’s important to educate yourself before applying definitions.
Use your senses – The key to being satisfied with just one glass or portion is to be mindful of what and how we eat and drink. Savour every mouthful and enjoy every last taste and smell and feel.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !