Category Archives for "Health"

Stop “shoulding” all over yourself!

should exercise more

You know you do it.  We all do it.

We’ve all got them – shoulds!  I should exercise more.  I should do some stretching. I should stop eating crisps and cake. I should be nicer to my husband/child/parent.  I should drink less wine. I should get up earlier.  These are just mine! 🤣🤣

What do you tell yourself you should be doing?

We need to stop.  They don’t do us any favours, in fact, they’re not good for us at all.

Yes, it’s useful to realise that you’ve got more potential than you’re actually using and that life and health can often be improved if we’re willing to make some changes but deciding to make a positive change and constantly telling yourself you should but doing nothing about it are two very different things.

You know your brain and body listen to your internal chatter, don’t you?  So constantly telling yourself you SHOULD be doing something that you’re not is constantly telling yourself you’re not quite good enough as you are.  On top of that, each time you tell yourself and then don’t do something about it there’s a little part of you that loses trust in yourself.  You gradually lose the belief that you’re capable of making change.  Even though you haven’t even tried and failed, you’ve failed to try and your brain and body noticed even if you didn’t.

Take a moment and try out this little exercise.  Think of one of your shoulds, for instance, “I should start stretching.”  It’s a great idea but really think about why you think you need to.  How does that thought make you feel?  A little deflated?  Fed up because you’ve been thinking it for ages and still not done it?  Shoulds drain energy and don’t bring anything positive to the party.

Now, try something a little different.  With the same SHOULD, imagine that you are doing it.  Imagine a way of fitting it into your day.  What does that look like?  And how does it make you feel?

It’s a totally different energy isn’t it?

So now you need a way of changing your shoulds to action and luckily there’s a step by step process for doing that.

First of all, go back to thinking about your should and why you think it’s necessary, then take it a step further and tell yourself why that reason is important to you.  For instance:

“I should start stretching.”

Why? – “Because I’m stiff and achey a lot of the time”

Why is not being stiff and achey important to you? – “Because I see my parents with limited mobility and I don’t want to be like that plus I struggle to get on the floor to play with my grandkids”

So now you’ve got a solid, emotional reason for taking action.

Let’s take it a step further and think about whether it’s realistic and possible to do the thing you’re think you should.  Are you physically able to?  Can you find the time in your day?  If you’re thinking you should run 5k every day and you’ve got children to look after and a full time job plus you’ve never run before it’s unlikely that you’re going to manage it however good your “why” is but you could downsize it to something that is more manageable such as a 10 minute walk after dinner every evening with a plan to increase the time or add a jog when you can.

And when you’re doing this bit of the exercise be honest about what’s an excuse and what is a legitimate reason for not being able to do it right now.  You’ll know if you’re telling yourself you’re too busy but really you just don’t want to.  Perhaps you need to just forget about that “should” right now and find something that resonates a bit more with you.

At this stage you might even find out that it’s not your “should” in the first place.  Perhaps someone else has convinced you that you should be doing something.  In this case you might be able to just move on and stop beating yourself up about it.

What the next step?

Working out what it looks like when you’re actually doing it.  Perhaps you can’t manage a 20 minute stretch routine every morning before getting the kids off to school and getting to work yourself but could you manage one stretch before bed and another in the morning before you get in the shower?

Downsize your SHOULD until it’s doable and then take action.  That means actually start doing it.  A tiny action that you’re doing is much more powerful than the perfect programme that never gets done.  Your brain and body will notice, not just that you’re doing something good but that you’re a person who takes action so next time you decide on a change in behaviour, you’ll be even more likely to succeed.

How Do You Get Enough Vitamin D And Why Should You?

How Do You Get Enough Vitamin D

We know all vitamins are super-important for health, right?  But vitamin D is special.

It’s common for vitamin D to be deficient in people because it’s difficult to get enough of it.

The three ways to vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements. 

Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?

Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal effective disorder so you can see it’s really important for our health.

Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia, which is a condition where the bones are soft and weak. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The “official” minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.

To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.

How to get vitamin D from the sun?

Your skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun; that’s why it’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.  “How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun.

The recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week but between the months of October and April it’s unlikely that the sun is strong enough for you to get the right exposure.  Of course, you should always avoid sunburn. 

So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?

How to get vitamin D from food?

Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Also, if you leave mushrooms in the sun (say on a window sill) they’ll increase their vitamin D naturally.

Some foods are “fortified” (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course).  Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.

How to get vitamin D from supplements?

It’s easy enough to just “pop a pill” or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.  Older people should take extra care to always use a “senior” range of supplements to avoid taking too much of any one vitamin as requirements change with age.

Before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won’t interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking.  Always read your labels and ask a healthcare professional for advice.

Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.

The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day.  Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.

The best thing, if you’re concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.

Conclusion:

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which many people find difficult to maintain adequate levels.  There are three ways to get enoug: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.

References:

https://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_vitam_tbl-eng.php

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-vitamin-d

https://authoritynutrition.com/vitamin-d-101/

https://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-sardines

Adrenal Fatigue – What is it and what to do about it

adrenal fatigue

There’s lots of focus in the media at the moment about stress and the implications it has on our health.  We live in a go-go-go culture where being busy is the norm and many of us deal with stress levels way higher than is good for our health or sense of well-being.

Do you find you’re stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives.

Your adrenal glands, which look like walnuts and live on top of your kidneys, produce many hormones, including the stress hormones Adrenaline and Cortisol.   When you’re living with chronic stress, these glands become “overworked” and that leads to Adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”).

You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?

Adrenaline and cortisol are the hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body’s “fight or flight” response.

Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body’s normal reaction to stress.  Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.

After a short time, the fight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.

But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress? This happens a lot in our society with so many pressures and demands on our time

It wouldn’t feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) “rush,” anymore would it?

And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?

They’d get fatigued, right?

Do I have adrenal fatigue?

When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.

Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

First off, there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.

However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).

What to do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.

Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. Exercise has been shown to help reduce stress although you need to be careful about the intensity and duration of the exercise you do. Too much or too hard will just increase your stress levels but strength training, short bursts of higher intensity cardio or some form of restorative exercise like yoga or Tai Chi will give the body and outlet for the stress. Other favourites are meditation, walking in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or taking a bath relaxing bath.

Of course, at Inspire Fitness we also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So, go ahead and do it.

Conclusion

Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.

Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.

The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. Ensure you strength train twice a week and try to do your cardio, or some of it in nature. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, more sleep, or even a lovely bath.

References:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/adrenal-fatigue-pt-1/

The Gut-Brain Connection: How To Feed Your Brain

Gut-Brain Connection

Got a “gut-feeling”?  It’s more than just an old wives’ tale.  There’s research now that shows a direct connection between your gut and your brain and that you’ve even got a “second brain” in the gut.

 If there was ever a call for “digestive health,” this is it!

And with new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no longer a wonder that what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.

What exactly is the “gut-brain connection.”

It’s incredibly complex and there seems to be multiple things going on.  Things like:

  • The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain
  • The “enteric nervous system” (A.K.A. “second brain) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain;
  • The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;
  • the huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body; and,
  • The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Vagus nerve

There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain.

And after reading this so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission is…

Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!  There’s that old “gut-feeling”!

The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

Did you know that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord?  How amazing is that?

 And that’s why it’s referred to as the “second brain.”

After all, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty “smartly”…don’t you think?

And guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called “neurotransmitters.”

In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! e.g. a whopping 95% of serotonin (the happy hormone) is made in your gut, not in your brain!  So if you’re feeling a bit down, think about what you’re eating.

The immune system of the gut

 Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Seventy-five percent of our immune system is in our gut!

And you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?

Well, if they’re “activated” by something in the gut that they don’t like, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.  And you already know that inflammation is the precursor to many diseases.

Gut microbes

These are your friendly neighbourhood gut residents, or sometimes, not so friendly. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And providing you’re feeding them right so you have a higher balance of the good guys, they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!

More and more evidence is emerging though, to show that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.

How do these all work together for brain health?

The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don’t know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.

But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!

So, how do you feed your brain?

Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.

But two things that you many consider eating more of are fibre and omega-3 fats. Fibre (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-probiotics

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/fix-gut-fix-health

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

The Coconut Oil Craze – Should You Believe the Hype?

healthy oils and fats - coconut oil

Confused by all the hype out there about what foods to eat and what to avoid?  You’re not alone.  Take coconut oil.  One minute it’s a super food and the next it’s not good for you.  

Well, lets clear this one up for you.

What exactly is it about coconut oil that makes it so healthy? And which type is best?

Let’s dive into some of the fascinating research and find out.

Coconut oil is a special kind of fat

Coconut oil is fat and contains the same 9 calories per gram as other fats.

It is extracted from the “meat” of the coconut. Coconut oil is a white solid at room temperature and easily melts into a clear liquid on a hot day.

The idea of adding coconut oil to your diet is NOT to add on to what you already eat but to substitute it for some of the (possibly) less healthy fats you may be eating now.

And here’s why – Because not all calories or fats are created equal.

Coconut oil contains a unique type of fat known as “Medium Chain Triglycerides” (MCTs). In fact, 65% of the fat in coconut oil are these MCTs.

What makes MCTs unique is how your body metabolizes them.  They’re easily absorbed into the bloodstream by your gut, where they go straight to the liver to be burned for fuel or converted into “ketones.”

This metabolic process, unique to MCTs, is what sets coconut oil apart from other fats.

Coconut oil MCTs may help with fat loss

Coconut oil’s MCTs have been shown to have a few different fat loss benefits.

First, it can help to increase feelings of fullness, which can lead to a natural reduction in the amount of food you eat.

Second, because of their unique metabolic route, MCTs can also increase the number of calories you burn; this happens when you compare the calories burned after eating the same amount of other fats.

In fact, a few studies show that coconut oil may increase the number of calories you burn by as much as 5%.

Third, some studies show that eating coconut oil can help reduce belly fat (a.k.a. “waist circumference”).

Just remember not to add coconut oil to your diet without reducing other fats and oils!  Calories are calories and you still need a deficit if you want to lose weight.

How much coconut oil should I eat?

Many of the studies that showed increased fullness, increased metabolism, and reduced belly fat only used about 2 tablespoons per day.

Using our simple portion control methods, use one thumb sized portion per meal and see how that goes in terms of moving towards your goals.

What kind of coconut oil is the best?

There are so many coconut oil options available in grocery stores these days that it can make it difficult to know which is best.

Our recommendation would be to stay away from “refined” ones, and opt for “virgin” coconut oil. That is because it is processed at lower temperatures and avoids some of the chemical solvents used in the refining process; this helps to preserve more of the oil’s natural health-promoting antioxidants.

Pro Tip: Always (and we mean ALWAYS) avoid “hydrogenated” coconut oil. It can be a health nightmare because it contains the infamous “trans fats.”

One thing you should also consider is that each oil has a specific high temperature that you should avoid surpassing (e.g. its “smoke point”). For virgin coconut oil, that temperature is 350F. That means you can safely use it on the stovetop on a low-medium setting, as well as in most baking.

Conclusion:

Substitute some of the fat you eat with virgin coconut oil.  This could help you to lose weight and belly fat by naturally helping you to eat less, as well as slightly increasing your metabolism.

Oh, and it tastes great too!

References:

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

https://authoritynutrition.com/coconut-oil-and-weight-loss/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-most-weight-loss-friendly-foods/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/coconut-oil/

https://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-brain-coconut-oil

The truth behind artificial sweeteners

Sugar or sweeteners

Without doubt you’ll be aware of the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially “added sugars” like in fizzy drinks, sweets, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store as you’ll already know if you did our recent “Sugar Free Me” 7 day challenge.

Ingesting too much refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin and increases your risk for a whole host of issues including type II diabetes and obesity.

One of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still satisfy our tastebuds was artificial sweeteners.

The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet drink” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

But, it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will…

Types of artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.

Today we’ll specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.

They’re also known as “non-nutritive sweeteners,” and include things like:

  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low),
  • Acesulfame potassium,
  • Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet), and
  • Sucralose (Splenda).

Health effects of artificial sweeteners

Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, there are others that don’t. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Heart disease? Maybe yes, maybe no. Personally, I’d prefer not to take the risk but everyone has to make their own decision on this.

There is one ironic thing though, to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.

One study found that people who tend to drink diet drinks have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn’t.

Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.

While these results don’t apply equally to everyone, they are concerning and somewhat ironic aren’t they?

How do artificial sweeteners affect our bodies?

Now that’s a million-dollar question!

There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.

  • Is it because people feel that they can eat the cake because they’re having diet coke and not the full-fat variety?
  • Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible?
  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?
  • It can be that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.
  • Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it.
  • Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.  There is more and more research emerging to suggest that the gut microbiome is negatively affected by artificial sweeteners.

Conclusion:

Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace with artificial sweeteners.

I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet.  This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.

Try to stick as much as possible to whole-foods and avoid processed foods.  Read food labels and avoid added sugars whenever possible. Try having ½ teaspoon less of sugar in your hot morning drink. Try reducing a ¼ cup of the sugar called for in some recipes. Try diluting juice with water.

Your body will thank you!

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030

https://authoritynutrition.com/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar-insulin/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-splenda-is-it-safe

https://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners/

Raw vs. Cooked – Which Contains More Vitamins and Minerals?

Best for a healthy diet

Fed up of cooking every day?  Then perhaps you like what the advocates of a raw food lifestyle suggest, that we should be eating all our food raw to get the most nutrition from it and that cooking destroys some of the goodness.

So, let’s have a bit of a closer look at the debate of raw vs. cooked.

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn’t that critical for most people because they’ll be reaching their nutrition targets anyway.

Where this can become a consideration is for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or “insufficiencies”). These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, for instance in an older person, or where there is avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice).

And, as you probably suspect, the answer isn’t as simple as “raw is always better” or “cooked is always better.”  As with most nutrition science, it depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb (a.k.a. more “bioavailable”).

Here’s a bit more info on vitamins and minerals in raw foods versus cooked foods.

 Foods to eat raw

As a rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw.

The reason why is two-fold.

First, when these nutrients are heated, they tend to degrade; this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more “delicate” and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients.

Of course, the obvious way to combat these nutrient losses is to eat foods high vitamin C and B vitamins in their raw form (like in an awesome salad) or to cook them for as short a time as possible (like quickly steaming or blanching).

Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach. (Although that’s not the whole story so keep reading!)

The second reason why foods high in vitamin C and the B vitamins are best eaten raw is that they’re “water soluble.”  So, guess where the vitamins go when they’re cooked in water?  Yes, they’re dissolved right into the water; this is particularly true for fruits and veggies that are boiled and poached but even for foods that steamed as well.

Of course, if you’re a savvy health nut, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.

And the losses can be significant, sometimes as low as 15% but you can lose up to 50%. 

To sum up, the water soluble vitamins like C and the B degrade with heat and some of what’s left over after they’re heated dissolves into the cooking water. So be sure to cook your fruits and veggies as little as possible and keep that cooking water to use in your next recipe.

Soaking nuts and seeds

Regarding raw nuts and seeds, it may be beneficial to soak them. Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become “unlocked” from their chemical structure, so they’re more absorbable.

Foods to eat cooked

Cooking certain orange and red “beta-carotene rich” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, & sweet potatoes) can help make this pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable.

Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!

Of course, eating your fat-soluble vitamins with a bit of fat will help you to absorb more of them, so that’s another factor to consider.

One vegetable that’s great both raw and cooked

Spinach!

And I’m not just saying this to get everyone to eat it any way possible (although, I would love for this to happen…unless you’re allergic, of course).

Spinach contains so many beneficial compounds that it’s really beneficial eaten both raw and cooked.

Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins we’ve said.

But eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron, to be better absorbed. Not to mention how much spinach reduces in size when it’s cooked, so it’s easier to eat way more cooked spinach than raw spinach.

Conclusion:

The old nutrition philosophy of making sure you get a lot of nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet holds true. Feel free to mix up how you eat them, whether you prefer raw or cooked just make sure you eat them.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/cooking-nutrient-content/

www.precisionnutrition.com/10-ways-to-get-the-most-nutrients

Is My Pooh Normal?

digestion and pooh

Yes, I’m serious! (And don’t you sometimes wonder anyway?)

Lots of things change as we age including our digestive system and unfortunately for many people this particular change can lead to discomfort and sometimes life-affecting outcomes.  Keeping an eye on your pooh generally will give you a heads up if there’s trouble brewing so that you can do something about it early.

Your pooh shows the health of your digestive system which can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health.

You may get constipation or have diarrhoea when you eat something that “doesn’t agree with you,” or when you’re super-nervous about something.

And what about fibre and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your poop.

What about the all-important gut microbes? If they’re not happy, it’ll probably show in your pooh.

Here’s a trivia question for you:

Did you know there is an “official” standard for pooh? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Meet the Bristol Stool Scale

The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997.

You can see the chart here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_stool_scale

The scale breaks down type of pooh into seven different categories ranging from type 1 which is very constipated, to type 7 which is diarrhoea:

1 – Separate hard lumps (very constipated).

2 – Lumpy and sausage-like (slightly constipated).

3 – Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface (normal)

4 – Smooth, soft sausage (normal).

5 – Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (lacking fibre).

6 – Mushy consistency with ragged edges (inflammation).

7 – Liquid consistency with no solid pieces (inflammation).

Other “pooh” factors to consider

You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for pooh health.

Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day is pretty good. Less than one, or more than three can mean there is something going on.

What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible.

And the colour? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest.

And if it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine.

But if you see an abnormal colour, like red or even black, that you can’t explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.

What do you do when you have “imperfect” pooh?

Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that? Once in a while things aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s OK.

If you know you need to get more fibre or water, then try increasing that.

If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them such as fermented foods or start taking a probiotic supplement but make sure it’s a quality multi-strain version.

If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath.

Oh, and don’t forget the two most basic pieces of nutrition advice:

  • First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fibre in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also feed those millions of amazing helpful critters that live there (your friendly gut microbes.)
  • The second piece of advice is to eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly.

These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect pooh!

Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don’t suffer from pooh issues for too long before seeking help.

References:

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

Is walking enough?

walking for health

“I don’t really need to exercise, I walk a lot!”

We hear this quite a lot and it’s fabulous that people are moving/walking regularly.  Walking is a safe, accessible form of activity that has numerous health benefits including:

Stronger heart and lungs so reduced risk of heart disease
Better management of high blood pressure
Reduced risk of high cholesterol
Better blood sugar management so reduced risk of Type II diabetes
Stronger bones
Improved endurance
Reduced body fat

We’re delighted when people tell us they walk every day and we’d encourage those that don’t already to take it up.  It’s something nearly everyone can do even if you start with short walks and build up over time.

BUT

And you knew a but was coming, didn’t you?

The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity a week (there’s your walking) AND resistance exercise 2 times a week using the major muscle groups.

It’s not an either/or, it’s as well as.

So unless you’re adding walking lunges, squats, lifting heavy gates open and closed and doing the odd pull-up on convenient branches then you do need to add some exercise to your activity routine.

As great as it is to have a strong heart and lungs to keep you alive, they’re not going to stay that way for long if you don’t have the muscle strength to get out of a chair and keep walking.  Or if you were to fall because you don’t have the reaction speeds you need to right yourself when you stumble (down to lack of muscle strength) and you can’t get back up because you’re not strong enough, or worse, you break a hip because you don’t have the muscle padding to protect your bones!

Ok, we’re painting a bit of bleak picture here but if you don’t do some form of resistance training on a regular basis then that’s your future!  It’s very easily avoided though.  Just two sessions a week and you can ensure you’re strong enough to stay independent and active.

You might be thinking you don’t need to worry about this yet but the simple truth is that the sooner you start building your muscle strength, the easier it will be to maintain it.  Having said that, it’s never too late to start.  You can make positive changes at any age.

We naturally start losing muscle mass as we age and from about age 50 onwards we’re losing approx. 1% a year.  It’s really, really simple to prevent that loss though.  Two strength training sessions a week and you can protect and even improve your lean muscle mass.

If you’re already in your 60s or 70s and you haven’t been strength training then the sooner you start, the better and the more you can improve your future outlook.  If you’re much younger, then lucky you, you can start avoid the natural process of sarcopenia (muscle wasting) that occurs.

Two half hour sessions a week, for a future that’s stronger, more active, independent and just plain better! 

Choose a stronger future.

The Importance of Active Ageing

active ageing active aging dynamic ageing

The UK population is getting older.  According to the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS), almost a fifth of the country (18%) is now aged 65 and over and the percentage is rising. 

Unfortunately, the older population is also largely inactive.  According to the NHS website many adults aged 65 and over spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary age group in our population.

As a result, they’re paying a high price with higher rates of falls, obesity, heart disease and early death relative to the general population.  In a recent report, ukactive estimated inactivity in this age group costs the already struggling NHS around £11bn per decade.

At Inspire Fitness we’re trying to encourage more of the older population to swap a sedentary lifestyle for a more active one.  Maintaining health and functionality for as long as possible will have a profound effect on an individual’s quality of life.

In a piece published in the Sunday Telegraph, ukactive Borad Member and Advisor to Public Health England Professor Dame Carol Black, stated that: “Physical activity in older age is associated with improved overall health.”

The type of physical activity matters too.  Over the last decade a wave of scientific studies have documented the hugely positive impact regular strength training can have on an array of health and wellbeing indicators including: mobility, strength, bone density, mental health and long term metabolic conditions such as diabetes. In fact, the NHS website now recommends at least two strength training sessions per week for those aged 65 and over.

Our eGym circuit is ideally suited to the needs of older adults.  Each individual is prescribed a programme based on their individual capabilities and identified training goals making it incredibly safe with the resistance set at exactly the right level and ensure progression is made with the reassurance of not over doing it.  In addition, it’s easy and fun.  Individuals don’t need to have any previous training experience and only need to focus on following the eGym curve on a large visual display to perform optimal movement patterns using the full range of motion and at the right speed.

Also, there are no clunky weight stacks that need to be adjusted by the user.  Once logged in the system automatically adjusts the resistance using an advanced electromagnetic system which makes it smooth and silent.

Inspire owner Ruth Green said “Having watched my mother deal with frailty, falls and a quality of life that’s shrinking with increasing age, I really want to help as many people as possible stay independent for as long as possible.  It was a key factor in my decision to invest in the eGym equipment.”

Motivation can be a key barrier to activity for an older population but members at Inspire Fitness use the free fitness app which shows their biological which they can then compare with their chronological age.  Watching their biological age drop as they get stronger is hugely motivating.

Age does not have to mean ill health and a lack of mobility.  Keeping physically active is scientifically proven to positively impact both mental and physical health in older adults.  With eGym’s intelligent training system, Inspire Fitness is ideally placed to support the health of an aging population and encourage more people to choose a stronger future.

Like our facebook page to learn more about active ageing and our Dynamic Ageing Workshops.