Undeniably in the modern health movement, sugar has become the super villain.
But, the truth is... not all sweeteners are bad. Believe it or not, there are some sweeteners that can offer health benefits to the body like essential vitamins, minerals, energy, and more.
The flavour and experience of sweet foods creates a pleasurable experience that’s ingrained in our human brains. Sweet tastes team up their abilities to alleviate stress and even reduce feelings of pain, which makes it very difficult for some people to control their sugar intake.
Despite the psychological benefits, the key to having a healthy relationship with sugary foods is mindfulness and moderation.
Overeating the wrong kinds of sugar can be linked to a whole host of health problems related to weight management, heart health, skin issues, and diabetes.
Sugar comes in a few forms, namely sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Sucrose is the scientific name for table sugar, which is made up of fructose and glucose. Glucose and fructose are the sugars found in foods ranging from fruits and vegetables to dairy, grains, and processed foods.
Sugars like fructose, glucose, and sucrose are found naturally in foods that humans have always eaten, modern foods often contain refined, processed sugars that are anything but natural.
All three of these compounds are considered ‘sugar,’ however, their chemical structures vary, and the way that your body digests and metabolizes them dictates how they affect your well-being.
Understanding the different types of sugars and their impact on the body is crucial to knowing how to add some sugary goodness into your life without harming your health.
Is All Sugar Bad?
In terms of the health benefits, sugar can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on where it’s derived from, how it’s processed, and how much is consumed.
When sugar from unhealthy sources is eaten in excess, it can definitely lead to negative health impacts such as metabolic issues and weight gain.
On the other hand, healthier forms of sugar, when consumed mindfully, moderately and at the right times, can contribute to a balanced diet, and can even be used to support athletic performance and recovery.
There are a few factors which makes a sweetener unhealthy. Glucose and fructose are both monosaccharides, the building blocks of carbohydrates, and they are usually found in natural whole foods like fruit, honey, and starchy vegetables. Although they can have varying levels of fructose and glucose, all whole foods naturally contain a combination of the two sugars.
Glucose and fructose are also found in processed foods, but often in their refined, isolated forms (like high-fructose corn syrup, which is a highly concentrated fructose from corn).
These highly-processed, isolated versions of sugar don’t naturally exist in whole foods and are typically associated with certain health issues. For example, too much pure fructose consumption can impact cholesterol levels, liver health, blood sugar management, and cause diabetes.
Also, when these sugars are highly-processed, they lose much of their nutrition, which means you’re left with all the calories and few (to none) of the health benefits.
When white sugar and coconut sugar are compared, both of which are processed sugars, but the degree of processing creates products that have very different impacts on the body.
For example, coconut sugar has a glycemic index nearly half of that of white sugar (35 vs. 65) and is loaded with minerals and vitamins that are lost in the processing of white sugar.
Coconut sugar also has a fiber called inulin which makes blood sugar spikes less likely after meals.
Unfortunately, white sugar is stripped of much of its fiber, so it doesn't offer the protective benefits of inulin like coconut sugar. In other words, your best bet is to put down the heavily processed sugars and pick up the ones that still contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
In general, healthier sweeteners are very close to (or are still in) their natural form. They’re minimally processed, whole food sugar sources that keep many, if not all, of the natural minerals and phytonutrients intact. This also has a big impact on the glycemic index, as we see in the example comparing coconut sugar to white sugar.
By preserving the nutrients, these sugars become more than just a sweet buzz. Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients and help the body perform hundreds of healthy functions.
By supporting the immune system, converting food into energy, and helping cells remain healthy, opting for nutrient-dense sugars offers a much wider range of positive effects on the body, with far fewer negative consequences.
Some of The Healthiest Sweeteners
Fruit has been demonized in low-carb and Paleo communities with the “sugar is sugar” rhetoric—when actually, refined sweeteners and fruit have completely different metabolic impacts on the body.
The fiber and water content in fruit increases feelings of fullness and can slow down the insulin response. Studies of ancestral cultures like the Kuna⁵ demonstrate how high amounts of fruit consumption can lead to better health markers and leaner body compositions.
The natural fructose in whole fruit is often picked apart by anti-fruit advocates but has not been found to have a detrimental effect on health compared to its more refined counterpart.
Stevia has gotten a full endorsement from some people in the health industry and has gotten heat from others. Factoring in both sides of the debate, it seems that stevia may not only be virtually harmless in small doses but possibly even beneficial.
The key, again, is moderation. Preliminary studies suggest that having a sweet taste with almost no intake of calories (stevia contains almost zero calories) may actually cause an insulin response.
However, in moderation, the sweetness of stevia without the caloric intake may actually improve blood sugar control⁷ and promote a healthier relationship with sweet foods.
Honey has a unique metabolic effect on the body in that it’s far different from refined sugars, despite its high fructose content. Raw honey contains enzymes, proteins, trace minerals, B vitamins, antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, flavonoids, and other polyphenols.
Studies show that the consumption of honey is not associated with the same metabolic effects as table sugar, and may actually have ‘obesity protective’ effects.
One human study showed that supplementing with three to five tablespoons of honey per day increases antioxidant levels⁹ in the body which include a greater presence of vitamin C.
The key with honey is to only use real honey. Studies have demonstrated that artificial ‘honey’ has the complete opposite effect on the body, including raising triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels. Artificial honey is a cheap, honey-tasting substitute made from various ingredients including corn syrup, white table sugar, and artificial flavours.
This honey impostor is commonly found on grocery store shelves and in restaurants, so it’s important to read the label. The healthiest source of honey that contains most of the beneficial enzymes and nutrients is organic, raw, and unpasteurized.
Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you can also use less in recipes to get the same sweetness.
For these reasons, I believe that real honey is one of the best natural sweeteners you can find.
Here are some ways to incorporate sugar into your life that will not only benefit your taste buds but also your health and performance.
Sparingly And In Moderation
The hardcore anti-sugar dogma that’s sweeping the health community is extreme, and these forms of strict dieting can be problematic for some people.
No-carb extremes can often result in yo-yo dieting, where depriving oneself of sugar can quickly slip into a sugar binge. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, there are reasons to incorporate moderate amounts of healthy sweeteners into your life.
A responsible amount of sweetener would depend on your level of activity and lifestyle, as well as your goals.
Someone who is more active can typically take in more sugar, as they’re depleting glycogen stores from frequent physical activity.
As a general guideline, the American Heart Association¹¹ recommends staying under 100 calories per day of sugar for women (six teaspoons, 20 grams) and 150 calories per day for men (nine teaspoons, 36 grams).
To find your ‘sweet’ spot, consistently check in with your energy levels and cravings.
Intense sugar cravings, energy spikes and crashes, weight gain, and acne can mean too much sugar is being consumed.
If you’re concerned, you can test your own blood sugar with a blood glucose monitor, or work with a doctor to check metabolic markers such as fasting glucose and HbA1c.
Replenishing Glycogen After Exercise
Glycogen is a form of glucose that is stored in your liver and muscles. This stored energy is depleted throughout the day simply by living, but it can get depleted even faster when you exercise vigorously. When glycogen stores are depleted, exercise becomes more difficult as fatigue sets in.
Sugar is one of the quickest ways to replenish glycogen stores. Consuming a high GI food like watermelon when glycogen is low can actually speed up glycogen restoration in the muscle after exercise.
This means you can get up and running again faster with a little bit of healthy sugar, than you would with a low-GI food like beans after exercise.
Incorporating sweeteners into your diet post-workout is one way to harness the power of sugar to enhance performance.
Supporting Carb Refeeds and Diet Variation
Although low-carb diets are all the rage, newer evidence suggests that long-term, strict low-carb diets tend to lose efficacy and can even be harmful.
For the same reason that you want to cross-train, incorporating diet variation can prevent a plateau in keto or low-carb dieting. Incorporating more carbohydrates (i.e. natural sugar from whole food sources) into your diet in a mindful way can prevent “keto stalling” and ensure progression towards body composition and health goals.
Diet variation can be done in a number of ways:
The following sweeteners can offer a substantial amount of healthy benefits:
When used mindfully, sugar can actually be a tool for healthy individuals to improve their athletic performance, sustain the benefits of a long-term low-carb diet, and most importantly, live an enjoyable, well-balanced life.
The use of medicinal mushrooms dates back thousands of years because of the varied and uniquely adaptive benefits for health. Now, in recent times with functional medicine and holistic nutrition going mainstream, we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in these marvellous superfoods.
Most medicinal mushrooms are never meant to be eaten whole, they are to be taken as powders, tinctures, supplements or drunk as teas.
Medicinal Mushrooms’ Health Benefits:
Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses with a myriad of health benefits including the following:
Keep in mind that each mushroom is unique and provides its own distinct health advantages.
But before we jump in, let me help you to demystify the most common medicinal mushrooms which exist in the marketplace, so you can ultimately make well-informed decisions when choosing the best products for your health.
So here goes …
Reishi: Take the edge off with reishi, which is also known as the mushroom of Immortality
Think of reishi as nature’s Xanax. Reishi can help with sleep, anxiety, depression and focus, thanks to a compound called triterpene. It may even help with weight loss and has been shown to fiercely fight cancer cells. Much of the polysaccharides in reishi mushroom are associated with immune functions, and if taken over time can significantly support the immune system.
It is also known to improve sleep, reduce stress and fatigue.
Try it: Use a spoonful of reishi powder to make a hot, healing cup of tea, or add it to your favourite chocolate desserts (Some gourmet superfoodists really, swear by this combo.)
Lion’s Mane Mushroom: The Mushroom for the Mind
Bad case of brain fog ? Lion’s mane can help with cognition, memory and concentration. It is packed with antioxidants and strengthens the immune system like most medicinal mushrooms.
Lion’s mane is rare, in the fact that it fosters the production of the bioprotein nerve growth factor (NFG) and myelin (an insulation around nerve fibers).
Both NFG and myelin are absolutely crucial to brain health. An imbalance in them can contribute to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.
That makes lion’s mane incredible brain food! This miraculous mushroom has also been shown to improve cognition, increase concentration, and alleviate anxiety and irritability.
Chaga: Get your antioxidant dose with free radical-fighting chaga
Chaga can help with aging, inflammation and lowering LDL. Chaga is rich in antioxidants, and supports immune function, liver health, brain health and increases longevity.
First medicinal uses seem to have come out of Russia around the 16th century when used as a tea to treat stomach ailments.
After 1966, Chaga gained more exposure after its healing powers were written about it in the great classic book written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s, Cancer Ward.
Chaga mushrooms are an antioxidant powerhouse, making them excellent contenders for fighting free radicals and inflammation.
This dark black mushroom combats oxidative stress (which is linked to skin aging), may prevent or slow the growth of cancer, and has been found to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol.
Shiitake Mushroom: Good for the Heart.
If you’re already cooking with shiitake in your kitchen, keep it up. These mushrooms are particularly good for the heart. Shiitakes have been shown to lower LDL in mice, and they contain compounds that inhibit the absorption and production of cholesterol in the liver, prevent plaque build-up, maintain healthy blood pressure and circulation.
Turkey Tail: Help fight cancer with turkey tail
Most medicinal mushrooms have anticancer properties due to their high amounts of antioxidants. But turkey tail takes it one step further.
Turkey tail contains a compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK) that stimulates the immune system. PSK is so effective that it’s an approved anticancer prescription drug in Japan.
Turkey tail has been shown to improve the survival rate of people with certain cancers, fights leukemia cells, and improves the immune system of people receiving chemotherapy.
Cordyceps: Need a pick-me-up?
In a nutshell, cordyceps improves lung capacity and increases energy.
Cordyceps increases your energy because of its ability to increase ATP production through pre-cursor compounds like adenosine and cordycepin. ATP is the compound that gives our cells energy. This is why Cordyceps is recommended when it comes to physical performance. In transitional care management , cordyceps is also used for lung-related issues like asthma or even seasonal allergies.
This mushroom can be especially helpful for athletes or those who regularly work out as it has been shown to not only improve exercise and athletic performance, but also speed up post-workout muscle recovery.
If you are feeling low on energy or need a pre-workout boost, then this mushroom is for you. I shall also add that it comes with an added advantage of boosting your libido.
Warning: Always talk to your doctor beforehand to confirm if adding medicinal mushrooms to your diet is safe, especially if you’re using certain medications or are pregnant.
Ultra Cordyceps Plus
Doctor's Best Ultra Cordyceps Plus contains pure cultivated Cordyceps sinensis, an herb used for centuries in China as a rejuvenating tonic that improves energy and supports function of various organs and systems. The strain of Cordyceps in this product is recognized by the Chinese government as similar to wild Cordyceps sinensis, a rare fungus that grows above 15,000 feet in the Tibetan Highlands region of China.
Ginkgo biloba and artichoke leaf extracts are added to support the rejuvenating effects of Cordyceps.
Suggested Adult Use: Take 1 capsule daily with or without food, or as recommended by a nutritionally-informed physician.
Modified cellulose (vegetarian capsule), microcrystalline cellulose, magnesium silicate.
Cordyceps and Ginkgo biloba have mild blood-thinning properties. Use with caution when taking blood-thinning medications. Use with caution when taking MAO inhibitors.
Store in a cool dry place.
A lot of recreationists like myself will testify to the benefits of being outdoors, especially in natural settings. I always feel better after a weekend camping away from the urban sprawl of the city – physically and mentally.
But it’s not just anecdotal. There’s plenty of research to back up the claim that spending time in the great outdoors is good for your health and well-being.
And whilst this is good news, there’s a flip side to this story. Americans spend 93% of their lives indoors. Rapid urbanization is seeing people move away from rural, green spaces and into built-up, high-traffic cities.
Enjoying the great outdoors is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
There are many potential benefits to going outside:
This article is compliments from James Black. Wilderness Redefined
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'
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 !