Inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism and plays a role in the healing process.
When the body detects an intruder, it launches a biological response to try to remove it.
The attacker could be a foreign body, such as a thorn, an irritant, or a pathogen. Pathogens include bacteria, viruses, and other organisms, which cause infections. Exercise also causes low grade inflammation.
Sometimes, the body mistakenly perceives its own cells or tissues as harmful. This reaction can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.
Experts believe inflammation may contribute to a wide range of chronic diseases. Examples of these are metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity.
People with these conditions often have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their bodies.
Diet and lifestyle changes are key to reducing chronic inflammation.
Some healthy steps you can take to decrease inflammation are getting daily exercise, reducing stress, and getting quality sleep, regularly.
One of the most powerful tools to protect against chronic inflammation is to eat a diet rich in plant-based whole foods rich in anti-oxidants.
Dr. Varinthrej Pitis, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic in Carmel Valley in a Scripps article stated that “Making good choices in our diet to include fresh vegetables and fruits as well as reducing refined sugar intake can make a big difference."
Studies have shown that there is a link between the role of a whole-foods, plant-based diet in reducing chronic inflammation: A 2019 study published in Nutrients found a relationship between the Mediterranean diet and cancer incidence, demonstrating that the key nutrients in the diet can help fight chronic inflammatory cells.
Another 2019 study published in Nutrition and Aging found that an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce the force of neuroinflammation, resulting in a lower likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.
Below are the top 11 plant-based foods that will reduce inflammation and nourish your body.
1. Avocados: are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and healthy fats. A 2020 study found that avocado is beneficial in reducing obesity, which activates low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress. The study found that avocados “induce antioxidant and anti‐inflammatory effects by improving enzymatic activity and modulating obesity‐related impairments in the anti‐inflammatory system in different tissues, without side effects.”
2. Berries: are abundant in antioxidants that can reduce your risk of disease. A 2017 study published in Molecules examined the healthy properties of berries, finding that they are neuroprotective, meaning that they protect nerve cells from further damage. This effect may be linked to lower toxicity and inflammation, which are associated with chronic diseases.
3. Cocoa: is a powder of ground cacao beans, heavily concentrated in dark chocolate. It is rich in flavanols that reduce your body’s oxidative stress, according to a 2019 study published in Nutrients. Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. High levels of oxidative stress can cause chronic inflammation, leading to damaged cells, proteins, and DNA in the body.
4. Extra virgin olive oil: a Mediterranean diet staple is a healthy fat-filled with nutritious benefits. A 2019 study published in Nutrients found that extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols that decrease the amount of inflammatory markers in the body. The study also suggests that it is an important dietary tool in preventing chronic diseases like obesity.
5. Grapes: have important nutrients like vitamin K, copper, and manganese. It is also a great source of resveratrol, a key compound that has been found to prevent and mitigate intestinal inflammation, according to a 2017 study published in Nutrition Research Reviews. This could alleviate symptoms with chronic gastrointestinal diseases like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and perianal infections.
6. Green tea: is made from the camellia Sinensis plant filled with a large number of antioxidants. A 2017 study published in Nutrients found that this tea contains polyphenols such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which reduces the surge of inflammatory markers like cytokines.
7. Mushrooms: This fungus is low in calories and is a great source of selenium, copper, and B vitamins. A 2018 study found that reishi mushrooms protected against gut inflammation due to a reduction in the inflammatory cytokines. This vegetable could be incredibly helpful for people with sepsis, a condition caused by the body’s response to infection.
8. Peppers: have high amounts of vitamin C, similar to what is found in citrus fruits. They are filled with capsaicin, which has anti-inflammatory properties, according to a 2017 study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine. The study found that the consumption of capsaicin-rich foods, such as chili peppers, can reduce the inflammatory effects in muscle-related diseases such as myotube atrophy.
9. Tomatoes: are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and folate. They supply the antioxidant called lycopene, which has been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory compounds causing heart disease, according to a 2017 study. This has been linked to many health benefits, such as a low risk of contracting cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
10. Turmeric: is a spice-filled with curcumin, a nutrient known for its many health benefits. A 2018 study published in The Journal of Immunology found that curcumin in turmeric inhibits inflammation through suppressing the pathways that active it in the body. This points to the potential use of turmeric as a herbal supplement in helping alleviate symptoms with inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
11. Moringa: has powerful anti-inflammatory properties owing to its high concentration of isocyanates, biophenols and essential amino acids that reduce inflammation and assist in muscle recovery.
Barbara is a qualified Holistic Nutritionist, and author of the 'The Med Life Diet , 12 Essential Steps to Creating Healthy Eating and Healthy Lifestyle Habits and Attitudes for Life !' who promotes an authentic Mediterranean diet, teaches healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !
Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter or take my course.
Seven lunch break foods that could supercharge your productivity at the office or home with the kids
Food… it can consume every aspect of a person’s life! It is a powerful mood enhancer, can support a better night’s sleep and can work to supercharge the mind and keep the body healthy. That being said, an active business environment can often create poor choices when it comes to choosing a suitable lunch break meal.
Keep in mind that the meals you consume can make everyday tasks a little easier, so why wouldn’t you want to pay more attention to the lunch-break foods you consume? There are certain ingredients and products that can strengthen the way our brain functions, give energy and enhance focus.
Here are 7 lunch-break foods that could supercharge your productivity in the office or running around with the kids.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in the health of your brain. Eating salmon and similar fish helps improve communication between cell membranes (increasing brain function), and can improve your mood. As an antidote against depression, a salmon salad or a salmon and rice dish for lunch can boost productivity.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you should consider omega-3 rich alternatives like flaxseed, seaweed, chia, walnuts, kidney beans and edamame.
Not only are berries low in calories and excellent in maintaining a healthy weight, they’re also packed with antioxidants and provide energy when working from home or in the office. As well as this, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cranberries improve memory! Why not try adding them to your afternoon snack with a handful of walnuts or almonds.
Coconut Oil and MCT
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides oil. This is a form of saturated fatty acid that’s most commonly extracted from coconuts and also found in coconut oil. Other sources include butter, cheese and most kinds of dairy products. Recently, MCT oil has been labelled as a brain superfood!
Spinach and green leafy vegetables
Spinach and other green leafy low-carb vegetables rank among the staples of a healthy diet. They are a potent source of many micronutrients and vitamins that you can’t obtain from other food.
In addition, they are an excellent source of antioxidants that protect the cells against the harmful activity of free radicals. Regardless of your age, you should have a spinach salad at least a few times per week at work.
Nuts and seeds
Graze on nuts and seeds throughout the day. Eating a bunch of almonds and cashews as a snack can support feeling satiated, replenish energy and repower your brain after lunch. Fun fact: almonds and sunflower seeds are filled with types of fats that make your brain function at a healthy level!
Fresh fruit is an absolute must within the workplace, and for all the obvious reasons. The likes of apples, bananas and satsumas are fundamental to a healthy diet and help to soar productivity levels. You could also make a smoothie using frozen fruits or ready smoothie packets which are super convenient to use.
A daily cup of moringa tea can benefit your health in multiple ways. As a caffeine free beverage, moringa is extremely nutritious loaded with iron, magnesium, selenium, calcium and many other nutrients to help keep you supercharged, nourished and healthy. If you want an added kick – add a pinch of matcha or green tea leaves– the caffeine will increase your alertness when feeling sleepy.
Those living with hypothyroidism may experience fatigue, depression, and constipation along with other symptoms that are more serious health concerns. That little gland in your neck plays important roles in how well, or not, your body works, luckily consuming certain foods may help to boost the effectiveness of your thyroid.
The butterfly shaped gland produces hormones that help to regulate your mood, metabolism, energy levels, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and energy levels. When the thyroid is not producing enough hormones hypothyroidism can occur when the body’s needs are not being adequately met. Hypothyroidism if left untreated can increase the risks for heart disease as a result of higher levels of LDL bad cholesterol.
Medications can help to restore hormone levels and manage symptoms. But in addition to thyroid hormone replacement therapy you can boost thyroid function by consuming a well balanced diet that includes a lot of produce and protein according to Gregory B. Dodell, MD, who is an assistant clinical professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Omega-3s that are found in fish can help with combating inflammation and boosting immunity. Fatty fish like wild caught salmon, tuna, trout and sardines are good sources for omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are known to decrease inflammation, help with immunity, and lower the risk for heart disease. Fish is also a good source of the nutrient selenium, which is most concentrated in the thyroid and helps decrease inflammation.
Nuts are an excellent source of selenium which can help to boost thyroid function. These handy little snacks can be taken just about anywhere, but make sure to control portion size as nuts are high in fat.
Hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts are particularly high in selenium according to a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology. Also, keep in mind that walnuts can interfere with thyroid hormone absorption, meaning it is best to avoid consuming them at the same time you take any medications.
Whole grains can help to ease the constipation which is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Whole grains in cereal, bread, pasta, rice, quinoa and oatmeal are great sources of nutrients and the ever important fiber that can help with bowel regularity. But fiber can also interfere with synthetic hormones, meaning that some people may be best to avoid whole grains completely.
Those that do eat whole grains make sure to take any thyroid medication a minimum of several hours before consuming or after eating foods that are rich sources of dietary fiber.
Fresh produce can help to manage weight gain; low calorie and high density fruits and vegetables are the mainstay of every successful weight loss program. Weight gain can be an early symptom of hypothyroidism, including fresh fruits or veggies at every meal is typically recommended. Blueberries, cherries, green peppers, and sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients that have been shown to help lower the risks for heart disease.
Those with hypothyroidism may do well to limit the intake of cruciferous veggies to 142g per day, as they can block the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine which is essential to normal thyroid function.
Iodine, which can be found in high concentrations within seaweed, is essential for normal thyroid function. "Iodine is the precursor for the production of thyroid hormone," Dr. Dodell explains.
Seaweed, packaged as nori, wakame, and dulse, can be used in sushi, soups, and salads to offer the nutritional benefits of fiber, calcium, and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
According to the American Thyroid Association it is possible to have too much iodine which can worsen the condition, but the likelihood of this is greater when taking iodine supplements, as such consult with your physician before increasing intake.
Vitamin D, the gift of sunshine, is essential to a thyroid friendly diet. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism vitamin D supplements helped to improve TSH levels in those with hypothyroidism as well as thyroid antibodies in those with autoimmune thyroiditis.
Certain foods can be found that have been fortified with vitamin D such as milk that also carry significant amounts of calcium, protein, and iodine.
Hashimoto’s can lead to changes that contribute to gut problems including heartburn, consuming foods like yogurt that contain beneficial bacteria may help to regulate other bacteria to help with gut problems.
Beans may help to maintain energy levels for those that are feeling drained because they contain protein, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates, along with an assortment of vitamins and minerals. As an added plus beans are a rich source of fiber that can help with constipation.
Beans are available in an assortment of types which can be used as the base for entrees, side dishes, soup, salads, or stews. It may be best to limit how much you eat as excess fiber can interfere with hypothyroidism treatments, guidelines recommend 20-35 grams of fiber a day.
As always it is best to consult with your physician or certified medical professional before beginning any new regime to avoid any possibility of unwanted complications, and to work out a plan that is best suited for your individual needs and requirements.
There’s the common and well know saying “you are what you eat”… this saying applies to many aspects of health. Choosing the right foods can also help support mood, sleep, and even the ability to focus and concentrate.
As a Holistic Nutritionist and a mother, I know that there are many factors that play into a child’s ability to focus. I also know that there are no magic foods that will get any child to laser-focus on their maths or reading when they want to zombie out in front of the TV or play electronic games.. so chill out time is also an important part of their daily routine.
What I do know is that there are certain brain-boosting foods that could potentially support proper brain development, cognitive skills and concentration. Foods which will help kids to concentrate on their schoolwork, project or other task in conjunction with quality sleep, daily activity and exercise and minimal electronic distractions.
These seven foods can help kids stay sharp. Hopefully, these suggestions give some lunchtime inspiration too!
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends eggs as a first food for babies and toddlers as eggs are a rich source of choline and because early and sustained exposure to eggs may help reduce the risk of developing an egg allergy. But the benefits of eggs continue well beyond the first two years of life. Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse that contribute to health and well-being at every age and life stage.
Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of dietary choline, a nutrient that helps brain cells produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in cognition. Plus, eggs have the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health and may help protect the eyes from harmful blue light from computers and phones. New research shows lutein may also play an important role in brain health, too.
Eggs are easy to prepare and easy to love at any age, and at any meal. Enjoy an egg as part of breakfast, make an egg salad sandwich for a quick at-home meal or pack in a lunch box for a portable meal, or pre-make hard-boiled eggs for simple grab-and-go snacks to satisfy hungry tummies after a long day of learning. Another favourite are pancakes made with oats, bananas or wholemeal flour.
Thank goodness beef is a favourite in many households, because eating it may help keep your kiddo's head in the game. Beef is a source of two important nutrients, iron and zinc. Both have been shown to play a role in cognition and restlessness in children.
Fish and seafood are rich in a slew of brain-boosting nutrients that can help your little one in many ways. Having your kids enjoy those fruits of the sea can result in some seriously amazing outcomes. In one study, for example, children who ate fish at least once a week slept better and had higher IQs by an average of 4 points versus kids who were not fish eaters. Good quality oven cooked fish sticks or homemade fish cakes, anyone? Try these simple salmon cakes or a more gourmet version.
Avocados can easily be added to sandwiches for a healthy fat boost. Why is fat important? Eating fat with carbs helps slow the digestion and helps kids feel fuller longer – AKA no tummy rumbles to distract them from their studies. Shoot for healthy fats found in avocados and nuts instead of trans or saturated fats when feeding your precious little ones.
Avocados also fuel your child's belly with tyrosine, an amino acid that is the precursor to dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that plays a role in memory function.
Strawberries offer a slew of benefits to kids, one being that it contains natural vitamin C. This vitamin plays a role in producing norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in increasing attention. Your little one doesn't care for strawberries? No sweat! Kiwi, citrus, and red peppers can be swapped out for a vitamin C boost. Strawberries can be added to a smoothie with bananas and some calcium rich yogurt.
Although conducted on adults, data from a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Ageing suggests that eating a handful of walnuts every day may help support memory and concentration. While the same study was not conducted on children, eating walnuts certainly won't hurt anything, assuming your child is developmentally ready to eat this nut.
Try some walnut butter on a piece of fruit for an afternoon snack or, for a decadent treat, dip shelled walnuts in dark chocolate. Tell your kids they are chocolate covered brains for a creative story. (Errrm.. walnuts do look like little brains !)
I know … breakfast is not a specific food – yet it is the most important meal of the day and needs to be a focus if parents are trying to support their child's ability to focus in school or otherwise. According to researchers who reviewed from 45 articles focusing on the effects of skipping breakfast, tasks requiring attention, executive function, and memory were made more effective by eating breakfast.
While it may be an overly ambitious goal to get your kids to eat a well-balanced breakfast every morning before school – let’s be realistic that eating breakfast that early in the morning is not for everyone – myself included !
It would be good if you could get them to eat a boiled egg with some toast or yogurt topped with granola or fruit and then they could take with them a nutritious sandwich and some healthy snacks to tuck into at school.
Avoid giving them a packaged juice to take to school every day as they are high in sugar and will interfere with their concentration.
It’s better to get them to eat something rather than nothing – even if that means grabbing a healthy granola bar on the way out the door.
As the saying goes - any breakfast is better than no breakfast when trying to support concentration.
As a nutritionist, I love smoothies and if you start incorporating them in your diet, I am sure you will fall in love with them too. There is a smoothie recipe to suit every taste or dietary preference and are an excellent way of increasing your consumption of fruits, vegetables and other nutrient dense foods.
Smoothies have become an ever increasingly popular wellness food and are always best when made from scratch as the commercial varieties are often loaded with added sugars or other unhealthy ingredients.
There are many types of smoothies that range from fruit based, green vegetable smoothies and one of the latest trendy smoothies in New York and London is the hummus shake where chickpeas is one of the ingredients.
Let’s discover the world of smoothies by first finding out what is a smoothie, their health benefits, their negative side, whether they can help with weight loss and of course some smoothie recipes.
What are smoothies?
Smoothies are thick, creamy beverages usually blended from frozen or fresh fruits, vegetables, juices, yogurt, nuts, seeds, dairy, plant milk, water or cooled herbal teas.
Many smoothies include frozen produce or ice cubes to give the final product the cool, icy consistency of a milkshake. However, their flavour profiles vary tremendously depending on the ingredients.
Popular ingredients in homemade and store-bought smoothies include:
The Different Types of Smoothies.
There are three main categories of smoothies although they often overlap between them:
The Health Benefits of Drinking Smoothies
Smoothies are a fantastic way of increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. These foods are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Together, these nutrients may reduce inflammation, improve digestion, combat constipation, and lower your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, age-related mental decline and not to forget that these foods also reduce wrinkles, diminish dark circles and keep your skin hydrated and healthy.
Athletes can also benefit from drinking smoothies as they can be drunk as a pre-and post workout, muscle building and carb-loading, offering the essential ingredients at the right time to complement workouts and fuel the body.
When making smoothies at home, use whole fruits, such as a ripe banana, to add sweetness instead of honey or maple syrup.
Do smoothies aid weight loss?
Smoothies are frequently marketed as a weight loss tool. Research suggests they may be effective for this purpose as long as they’re not causing you to exceed your daily calorie needs.
If you prioritize ingredients low in calories and high in protein and fiber, your smoothie may keep you full until your next meal. Whole fruit, vegetables, nut butters, high protein cottage cheese and plain yogurts are all excellent weight-loss-friendly ingredients.
Keep in mind that your nutritional needs and ability to lose weight vary depending on many factors, including age, activity level, medical history, and lifestyle habits.
Made Just for You !
What I like most about smoothies is that they can be tailored to suit your needs, especially if you have a specific health or fitness goal in mind. They can become a healthy snack or meal replacement.
There’s a common misconception that smoothies are inherently low calorie snacks, but some smoothies pack over 1,000 calories depending on their size and ingredients.
Generally, a 200–300-calorie smoothie with 10 grams of protein is a great snack, whereas a 400–800-calorie smoothie providing at least 20 grams of protein is better suited as a meal replacement. It’s best to assess your goals and calorie needs to determine your specific needs.
The difference between the two may be as simple as adjusting the serving size.
When making smoothies at home, be sure to control your portion size. Fats like nuts, seeds, nut butters, full fat yogurts, and avocado will provide more calories but increase nutrient density. Avoid using sugary add-ins like syrups or chocolate sauces as they will provide more calories without quality nutrients.
The Fat Burning Banana Ginger Smoothie
Serves: 1 Prep Time: 5 minutes
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 cup frozen Ardo blueberries or Ardo fruitberry mix from Foodsaver
One frozen medium ripe banana or frozen Ardo banana puree from Foodsaver
One tablespoon grated ginger or frozen Ardo diced ginger from Foodsaver
½ cup of spinach leaf from Foodsaver
ADDITIONAL: for a hit of protein add a serving of your favourite protein powder
High Protein Smoothie
Serves: 1 Prep Time: 5 minutes
This smoothie is high in protein, lower in carbohydrates and is a great one for weight loss and also as a recovery drink after a workout.
Blend, drink and enjoy !
The Trendy Hummus Shake !
Serves: 1 Prep Time: 5 minutes
What I really love about hummus shakes is that they are so"creamy" and smooth.
Tip: Frozen chickpeas can be used. They are usually in packs of 1 kg. Boil about 3 cups at a time and store them in the fridge for easy access. They are very convenient, because they only need about 15 to 20 minutes of boiling.
Variation: Strawberries, apple or pear is a great substitute instead of banana. You can also turn it into a chocolate shake by adding a tablespoon of cacao.
There are some key foods that individuals should minimize or eliminate from their regular meals in order to shed pounds quickly and safely.
Overeating and poor habits are hard to change but easy to develop. Changing habits is hard, especially at first, requiring determination, discipline and dedication (the three D’s) to make long lasting permanent changes.
One of the basic problems regarding weight loss is a fatal mix of dietary confusion with an increasingly inactive yet stressed lifestyle. Our diets and eating habits are highly imbalanced. Our level of physical exercise is generally not enough to keep pace with what we eat and with the stresses we bear.
The key to weight loss success is to develop healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !
We are what we eat.
The first steps that you can take is to avoid eating refined foods, processed carbohydrates, sugar, excess fatty rich foods, fried foods and foods with additives or synthetic colouring. Avoid genetically engineered foods. You may also take it a step further and opt for organic foods versus conventional ones.
Examples of foods to avoid are:
A simple rule to keep in mind when supermarket shopping is: “The brighter and more colourful the packaging of a product is, the more you should stay away from it !”
Boosting Metabolism Naturally…
The top four foods that I like to recommend which boost your metabolism, improve the digestive process and speed up the weight loss process are:
Spirulina: This superfood is amazing, it is rich in vitamins E, B12, C, B1, B5, and B6 as well as beta-carotene, and the minerals zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. All these substances play a part and are critical to being able to perform exercise and burn a maximum amount of calories. The reason it assists with weight loss is due to the fact that it is approximately 60% protein.
Protein slows down how fast food moves through the digestive system and stabilizes blood sugar levels, which, for most people, means feeling full longer, as well as not reaching for additional snacks or eating huge amounts at subsequent meals.
Seaweeds: Seaweed helps you lose weight by inhibiting the action of an enzyme that controls the digestion of fat. Seaweed fiber also blocks the absorption of fat by the body as it contains a substance called alginate. Research has shown that among a variety of foods tested, seaweed fiber was the most effective in helping people lose weight. Seaweed also curbs your appetite and makes you feel full thereby decreasing your intake of food. It controls levels of blood sugar and this in turn decreases your food cravings. This also can also assist you in weight loss.
Lemons: Start your day with lemon water. Add juice of half lemon to a large glass of water. Lemons strengthen your immune system, aids digestion, is a diuretic, clears the skin and helps with weight loss.
Carob Powder: Carob inhibits digestive enzymes because it contains chemicals known as tannins. It has also been reported to help with weight loss, diabetes and manage cholesterol levels. Carob may assist with weight loss by helping to burn fat and calories in the body and also increasing the metabolism. Add 1 teaspoon of carob powder to hot water. Enjoy as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon beverage. Beware as it has mild laxative qualities so don't overdo it ! You are now on your way to flat tummy kingdom
There are some meal-planning strategies and dietary tips that individuals can use to maintain an active metabolism. These are:
Exercise in the Morning: Studies show that an early-morning workout will boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories than if you exercise later on in the day.
Breakfast: Without an ounce of a doubt, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives your body essential nutrients, jump starts your brain, gives your metabolism what it needs to get working for the day and keeps you slim.
Studies have found that what you eat for breakfast tends to influence what you eat the rest of the day.
Also, people who eat breakfast are significantly less likely to be obese and have diabetes than those who don’t.
People can enhance the weight-burning potential of their diet that go beyond making nutritional food choices by adding in fat burning herbs, spices and exercise.
Fat burning supplements can be added to your weight loss regime although I do not recommend them as most of them are high uric acid-forming and damage the kidneys and liver.
You could add thermogenic herbs to your diet. Most of these mentioned are found in pill form or drink them as teas – have at least 3 mugs a day to get an effect !
Thermogenic herbs help the body generate heat that burns fat. They help reactivate the metabolic rate thereby promoting weight loss. They also increase the energy and boost athletic performance. Apart from burning excess fat in the body, some thermogenic herbs also may help improve digestion
Herbs and Spices
Spicy foods, especially the ones that contain capsaicin, are especially thermogenic and can raise your metabolic rate for up to three hours after eating. Hot peppers including, the more common cayenne peppers, all contain capsaicin. Other thermogenic herbs and spices are: cinnamon, green tea, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, ginseng, guarana, horseradish, kola nut, ma huang, mustard seed, parsley, and turmeric.
Few weight-loss programs are effective without increasing physical activity. To lose weight or mass, we need to reduce intake and increase output.
Reducing fat stores and adding muscle improves energy utilization by using more calories for active metabolic tissues. Exercise also improves general metabolism and vitality and lowers that important “set point” allowing us to maintain lower weight and body fat with the same food intake.
At a good level of exercise, the body will burn more calories than usual, even 12 hours afterward. Regular exercise is clearly needed to keep fat off.
Based on a chart taken from the Mayo Clinic, running clearly comes in first. Exercise should be fun and enjoyable so it would be best to choose an activity that you like.
Calories burned per hour*
Based on a 72kg person
The best exercises over the summer season are the ones that you can do by the beach such as swimming, walking, cycling, light jog or run and definitely some kettle bells in an air-conditioned room !
There are many more watersports that you can take advantage of such as peddle boats, SUP, windsurfing and for the adventurous some water skiing.
The mountains also offer a "cooler" version where you can enjoy some hiking, cycling and swimming in lakes or pools.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a lot of information about the virus and its effects on mental health.
That’s because coronavirus and the social, financial and psychological implications it carries can seriously impact one’s mental wellbeing.
Government legislation, mass media coverage, and the increasing global death toll will cause a lot of stress, especially for the older population, children, and people with a history of mental health problems.
It’s of the utmost importance that we try to remain as composed as we can during this time.
The fear and anxiety that is gripping the nation are as contagious, if not more so than the illness itself.
To continue reading ....
A useful guide about guarding mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
Another useful resource page is 'COVID-19 and Substance Abuse'
Summer is here and there’s nothing quite like the sizzle of the grill !
Eating healthy certainly doesn’t have to be boring. It’s especially important now more than ever due to Covid-19, to eat quality foods for wellness and avoid ultra-processed foods.
People who eat a well-balanced diet tend to be healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases.
Here’s ten delicious and nutritious barbecue ideas to enjoy:
1. Grill up some fish
Grilled fish can be a delicious, healthy alternative to red meat on the barbecue. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fish has been linked to a number of health benefits, including supporting your heart, brain, immune and mental health. Choose fresh fish like salmon, sea bass, cod and whole perch and enjoy a tasty protein hit.
2. Get creative with salads
Fresh, light and full of flavour, salads are the perfect way to balance out your barbecue meal. Serve up green leafy salads with nutritious ingredients like this quinoa superfood mix and add in some grated raw carrot. Other options are chickpea and rice salads or a classic Greek salad topped with feta.
3. Choose healthier cuts of meat
You can make a big difference in lowering the fat content of your barbecue by choosing leaner cuts of meat. Choose loin or round cuts of red meat and pork, look for choice or select grades of beef rather than prime, and trim off the excess fat before cooking. Red meats are higher in red iron and zinc which support the immune system.
If you’re cooking chicken, a good trick for lightening it up is to remove the skin first – the skin soaks up all the juices and fat while it’s cooking. Choose chicken breasts instead of the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs).
4. Burgers (meat or veggie)
If you love burgers, you could go for the pre-made variety or attempt to make your own super healthy versions. The trick is to buy lean minced meat either, beef, chicken or turkey (or lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans for a filling vegetarian option).
5. Skip heavy marinades and condiments
Lighten up the salt, sugar and fat content of your barbecue by swapping heavy, preservative-filled marinades with simple ingredients like olive oil and fresh herbs and spices.
6. Corn on the Cob
A barbecue isn’t quite a barbecue without corn on the cob with a little quality butter and salt. Say no more.
7. Serve healthier snacks
Ditch the bag of potato chips and try raw veggies like carrot, cherry tomatoes, capsicum and celery sticks served with a yummy, nutritious guacamole, yogurt or salsa dip.
8. Infused Colourful Waters
Skip the fizzy, sugary soft drinks or beers and drink plenty of water. If you want something a little more exciting, try some unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water or infused colourful waters with slices of lemon, oranges and a few berries.
9. Grilled Halloumi
A Cypriot barbecue has got to have some halloumi cheese ! Serve with sliced tomatoes and pita bread. Heavenly ! Halloumi is a great source of calcium, but it is high in fat and salt – so a little slice will do.
10. Barbecued Shrimp Kebabs With Garlic and Herbs
Shrimp are the ideal choice for weight loss. They pack a protein punch for very few calories. Four large shrimp (30g) have about 30 calories, 6 grams of protein and minimal fat. Shrimp are a good source of vitamin D, selenium, omega-3’s the antioxidant astaxanthin and even contains several energy-boosting B-Vitamins.
If you would like to purchase any products from Foodsaver, here is a link to their online foody store: https://foody.com.cy/en/menu/foodsaver or visit their stores found island wide.
Did you know that ninety per cent of serotonin is made in the gut ?
Serotonin is the happy hormone which helps to stabilize our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone affects your whole body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating and digestion.
By eating well and feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut, the body's ability to generate serotonin is significantly increased, helping you feel more relaxed, happy, and confident.
The digestive system is now seen as fundamental to our overall health in most traditional medicine systems. Digestion has a strong influence on our nervous, hormonal and immune systems. The role of foods is now increasingly recognised in conditions not previously associated with diet: auto-immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis; mood and behaviour problems such as autism, ADHD and depression; degenerative disorders such as Alzheimers's and arthritis; allergic conditions including asthma and eczema.
Inflammation underlies these and most chronic disease like obesity, heart disease and cancer. We can modify these destructive inflammatory responses by the kinds of food we eat and how we eat them. Common problems like heartburn, indigestion and constipation can be managed with understanding how to use foods, herbs and spices in self-care.
There are obviously other factors that affect our digestive health, such as our stress load: sleep, diet, alcohol, smoking, weight, liver function, circulation, mood, exercise, chemicals, food quality etc, but you can begin to support your digestive health by understanding the basic digestive functions and being mindful of your body.
Here are some common digestive herbs, along with their health benefits which you should experiment with in your cooking, or drink them as herbal teas:
1. Ginger: Ginger is warming and calming to the digestion, anti-nausea and anti-microbial to many common stomach bugs. Warms cold hands and feet.
2. Turmeric: Turmeric is carminative - meaning it can relieve bloating, liver supporting, an anti-microbial and a powerful anti-inflammatory.
3. Fennel: Fennel can also help relieve bloating and is stimulating to the liver. It improves appetite, increases milk production and eases colic. It expels upper respiratory catarrh, is an eyewash for conjunctivitis and has a balancing estrogenic action.
4. Caraway: Caraway is a supreme herb for the digestive system, eases stomach cramps and nausea, helps expel gas from the bowel and prevent fermentation in the stomach.
5. Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a warming stimulant to appetite and circulation. Antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal. Helps reduce blood sugar and ulcer causing Helicobacter pylori.
6. Garlic: Garlic is anti-microbial, and probiotic due to its inulin and other compounds, which supports cardio-vascular health. Onion, shallot and leek belong to the same Allium genus family and have similar actions.
7. Rosemary: Rosemary is a stimulating carminative that helps to clear your liver and head.
8. Peppermint: Peppermint is refreshing as well as antispasmodic, cooling and anti-microbial. It's useful in coughs and colds, supports liver function and helps stop itching when used topically.
9. Dill: Dill is calming and can be used as a sedative. It's useful to promote restful sleep, dispel colic and cramping pain. It's a key ingredient in gripe water.
10. Allspice: Allspice is warming and settling to the gut. The eugenol content promotes digestive enzymes, is analgesic and antiseptic. Most beneficial when drank as a tea after a meal.
11. Tulsi (Holy Basil). Is a herbal plant traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce fever, strengthen the immune system, calm nerves, and act as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Studies have shown that Tulsi (Holy Basil) can lower cortisol the stress hormone and blood sugar levels to help our bodies cope with stress. Research has also shown that ursolic acid and triterpenoic acids both of which are found in Holy basil effectively improve the body’s response to stress and reduce the amount of cortisol released during stress. It’s no coincidence that Tulsi has been nicknamed “nature’s stress reliever”
Modern living in large cities have had a negative impact on our physical and mental health.
Stress and modern living for most people go hand in hand and has been scientifically linked with various diseases but also with bad life decisions such as bad nutrition, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and stressful relationships.
For mental health, research has proved that exercise, praying and meditation can help us better control our lives, focus, and solve our problems. They also contribute to our feeling blessed with what we have, which reduces anxiety.
Gratitude is a wonderful trait to develop. A well know exercise to remind ourselves of all the things that we can be grateful of, is to have a gratitude notebook or diary. Once a day write down three things you are grateful for. It could be as simple as the running hot water you have in your house or the beautiful smile your child gave you. It’s a great exercise to remind ourselves of how many good things we can be grateful for in our daily lives.
It is relevant now more than ever our greeting and toast ‘stin ygeia mas’ – to good health, as we wish our fellow human beings to be strong and healthy and full of life !
All over Cyprus and Greece, there are a great variety of cuisines, practices, and recipes, often connected with Christianity and fasting (called ‘nistia’ which I see as a great opportunity to detoxify the body) and connected with meditation, praying, good deeds, and positive thoughts about our fellow humans.
But the context is always the widespread Mediterranean diet – with local variations based on the available seasonal ingredients and location.
Ancient traditions also connect food with the environment. The rocky hills of Cyprus, Epirus and Crete are better for goats and sheep, where people made cheese from their milk. And in Macedonia’s rich valleys near Lake Kerkini, water buffalo have survived and give us their delicious products.
The same applies to plants – we have a large variety of wild and domesticated edible plants rich in nutrients that we can add into our diets including fruits like figs, oranges, lemons and pomegranates grown in coastal regions right up into mountainous areas where apples, pears, cherries, apricots and so many other fruits are found.
There is a consensus on what constitutes the Mediterranean diet, which nutritionists believe is best reflected in traditional Greek food: Meals are rich in fruits and vegetables and sprinkled with many different herbs and spices which add to the antioxidant content of the food.
The key to long term health is to create healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life ! The Greek Mediterranean Diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating and living.
In the Mediterranean diet pyramid, every meal is ideally based on fruits, vegetables and mostly whole grains. These form the base of the pyramid, along with olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices. Next are fish and seafood, which should be eaten often – at least twice a week. Poultry, cheese, eggs and goat’s yogurt follow next; moderate portions of each are acceptable daily or weekly.
At the very top of the pyramid are meats and sweets; these foods should be enjoyed less often, only on occasion.
In times of Covid-19 – avoid sweets made with sugar and use raw unprocessed honey, carob or grape syrup in small amounts. Sugar has been known to depress the immune system.
Mediterranean cuisine is naturally vegetarian-friendly and appeals to all ages and nationalities. The sheer variety of ingredients create dishes that are both comforting and yet have rich, complex flavours.
The most important component of the Mediterranean diet might very well be social, with an emphasis on enjoying meals together with family and friends… make a point of sitting down as a family to eat or prepare meals together whenever possible and hopefully in the near future we will be eating with friends too.
In people found in well know Ikaria, Okinawa and Sardinia we can see that they are connected in common nutritional principles of eating a mostly unprocessed plant based diet which is the key to longevity and to keeping your immune system working healthily and in addition they all live a lifestyle free from stress, live closer to nature and have naps !
Enjoy the videos. Ikaria nutrition and Ikaria Siesta.
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 !