Everyone’s talking about how bad sugar is for you. There are even entire documentaries on the topic such as “That Sugar Film”.
Obviously sugar is not a health food. And “added sugars” (ones that are not naturally found in whole foods like fruit) are particularly bad. They’re not only bad for diabetes; but, also for your waistline, mood, and energy levels.
Organizations and governments are (finally) declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake although many of them don’t actually agree on what that maximum number should be.
The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.
Let’s discuss the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.
Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.
“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, sweets, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.
So, “Total sugars” = “Naturally occurring sugars” + “Added sugars.”
Tips to reduce your sugar intake
For one thing, ditch as much processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period.
Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don’t get too much:
There’s no doubt that what you eat can have a big impact on how you feel, right?
Mental health and brain health are complex. So are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods. While we don’t know the exact mechanisms how food and nutrition help, we do know a few ways food impacts our moods.
First, what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters” are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate (ever heard of serotonin, the happy hormone?). They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health.
Second, what we eat affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings.
Let’s talk about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods.
Some nutrient deficiencies can look a lot like mental health problems; this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. So, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies. Including those that create neurotransmitters. So make sure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest.
Also pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.
Second, make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body’s main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the fundamental building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar. I recommend eating protein with every meal; this includes dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, and meat.
Third, complex carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your “happy hormone”) and melatonin (your “sleepy” hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.
Fourth, fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely “brain food” and may help to ease some symptoms.
FUN FACT: One study showed that giving one multi-vitamin and one omega-3 fish oil tablet per day to prison inmates reduced the incidence of violent behavior by 50%!
Last but not least, make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well.
You won’t be surprised to hear me say processed foods are mood-busters, right? One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems.
“But it makes me feel good!”
Yes, some of these mood busters can make you feel better temporarily. Some big food companies study how to maximize the “pleasure” centers with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good… in the short term.
A few other things to avoid are:
Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
And remember, sometimes “feel good” junk foods, only make you feel good temporarily.
Lot’s of people avoid fat in their diets believing it will make them fat, raise their cholesterol and cause heart disease BUT…
Not all fats are created equal!
Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and others are super-health-busting.
Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods) so are best avoided.
As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?
So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to avoid.
Health-boosting fats are from:
You probably already know, virgin oils are the best option. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).
According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius:
“Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”
For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:
Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!
Just be little careful when choosing your oil because often the bottle will appear to contain virgin olive oil but when you look closely it’s been mixed with more processed oils to bring the price down.
Health-busting fats are from:
Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!
Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods, most of which contain them.
How to get more health-building fats
First, ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by Americans, so you can imagine it’s a popular product in food manufacturing in the UK too.
Second, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado and/or olive oil in your cooking, and coconut oil in your baking.
Third, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. We’ll help out with a recipe later in the week that contains healthy fats.
Now tell me: What’s your favorite fat and why? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you ever feel a bit “overextended” in the belly after a meal? Perhaps “gassy?” Have you ever carried a “food baby?”
Well, bloating is common. Up to 25-30% of people experience it regularly. It happens when you have trouble digesting. The symptoms come from excess gas, reactions to foods, or food not moving through you as well as it could.
There are many possible reasons you might experience these symptoms. Maybe because of a medical condition, a food allergy or an intolerance to what you’ve eaten.
It can also result from how you eat.
If you have a serious digestive issue like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), then you should have been given some dietary advice so make sure to eat accordingly. Same goes if you know certain foods give you gas. Simply avoid them.
If you’re already doing those things, and still experience bloating, here are some great tips for dealing with it naturally.
1 – Don’t overeat
If you overeat at a meal, then you’ll feel bigger around the mid-section. You’ll feel more pressure in your abdomen. Plus, you’re giving your digestive system a hard time. It’s better to eat until you feel almost full and not overindulge. Grab an extra snack or small meal throughout the day if you have to. Just don’t over-stuff yourself in one sitting.
2 – Avoid sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners made from sugars. In an ingredients list, they end in “-ol,” and include things like sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol. They’re found in some chewing gums and sugar-free foods. Some people experience bloating after eating foods with these. So, try avoiding them and see if that helps you.
3 – Avoid swallowing air
Sometimes the gas that causes pressure in your digestive system is from swallowing air. Things like carbonated drinks are the biggest culprit here. You can also swallow air if you eat with yoru mouth open, when you chew gum or when you drink through a straw, so try avoiding these and see if it helps.
You can also swallow air when eating too quickly or while talking when you eat. Which leads me to…
4 – Eat slower, more mindfully, and less stressed
Eating too fast isn’t doing your digestive system any favours. Digestion starts in the mouth so take time to really chew your food. It should be liquid before you swallow it. A secondary benefit of this is you will naturally find you eat less and may lose weight. Be mindful and enjoy the time you are spending eating your meals. Savour them.
Stress can also affect digestion and cause increased bloating. Stress-reducing techniques can help. Try meditating or deep breathing (but not while you’re eating). 🙂
5 – Try peppermint
Peppermint oil has been shown to improve bloating. It’s thought to increase transit time by relaxing the stomach muscles and increasing the flow of bile. Try steeping fresh peppermint leaves, or a peppermint tea bag, and drinking it slowly. See if that helps reduce your symptoms.
There are a bunch of natural ways to deal with bloating.
First, avoid it by not eating things that give you gas or aggravate a digestive issue. Try not to overeat, consume sugar alcohols, or swallow air. Also, eating more mindfully and reducing stress can help too. Finally, if you are experiencing bloating, enjoy a cup of peppermint tea.
If you do all of these, and still experience bloating, then you may have a food intolerance so try tracking what you eat and your symptoms to see if you can recognise a pattern. If you have a major concern, then please see your doctor.
If you always seem to feel hungry, you are not alone!
There are many reasons to feel hungry. Of course, the most obvious one is that you are actually physically hungry. Perhaps your stomach is empty, your blood sugar has dropped, and your hunger hormones are having a party.
But other times, the hunger may not be physical hunger. It may be a craving or an emotional trigger. These are common reasons why some people eat too much. It could be brought on by a certain type of diet, stress, boredom or a myriad of other things going on in your life.
It’s easy to mistake “psychological” hunger for “physical” hunger.
Let’s talk about the difference between both of these types of hunger, and give you some tips on how to figure out which is which.
Physical hunger vs. psychological hunger
Your “physical” hunger is regulated by the body through your hunger hormones to ensure your survival. You don’t want to be completely drained of fuel and nutrients for a long time because you might get so weak that you’re unable to go hunting (yep, your physiology still thinks you hunt Wildebeast!) So, you’re programmed to seek food when your body physically needs it. This can be triggered by your stomach being empty or your blood sugar dropping too low.
“Psychological” or “emotional” hunger is eating to overcome boredom, sadness, stress, etc. It’s based on a thought or feeling. It’s what happens when you see a great food commercial or smell a bakery. It’s not from your empty stomach or low blood sugar.
So, here’s how to tell which is which.
Six steps to figure out if you’re physically hungry or not
1 – The first thing you need to do is stop! Take a pause to evaluate. Scarfing down that protein bar at the first sign of hunger isn’t necessarily going to help you.
2 – Now that you’ve stopped. Pay attention to where this hunger is coming from. Can you actually feel or hear your stomach growling? Did you skip a meal, and haven’t eaten in hours? Or are you seeing and smelling something divinely delicious? Perhaps you’re bored, sad, or stressed? Are you using food as a diversion from a task you don’t want to do? Take a peek into all these areas and really pay attention.
3 – Have a big glass of water. Wait 5 minutes and see if you still think you’re hungry?
4 – Now observe your hunger feeling for at least a minute. If your feelings are the source of the hunger then you may be using food to avoid an uncomfortable feeling, admitting that you’re sad or lonely isn’t a great feeling but being uncomfortable doesn’t hurt you, covering those feelings in chocolate and ice-cream just might!
Sit with the uncomfortable feeling for a minute, acknowledge it and let it pass. It will, I promise. Try some deep breathing or go for a walk and think about the emotion. The more you do this, the weaker that signal to swallow your emotions with food will get.
5 – If you’re sure it’s not emotion and your body really physically needs food then take the time to find something nutritious and healthy to eat. If you’re craving something processed and full of sugar it’s a clue that it’s not physical hunger but back to those emotions again.
To fill you up the food you eat should be high in protein, fibre, and water. Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew well and savour every bite of it.
6 – Rinse and repeat at the next sign of hunger.
The feeling of hunger can manifest for many reasons. Of course, if you’re physically hungry and need the food and nutrients, then this is what it’s for!
But often, there can be an underlying psychological or emotional reason you might feel hungry.
Use this process over and over again to feed your body what it actually physically needs and you’ll find it easier to manage your weight and eat for good health.
There are lots of different kinds of salt: pink, iodized, kosher, sea, etc. They either come from salt mines in the ground, or from evaporating the water out of salt water and what all salts have in common is they contain the mineral sodium.
Salt has been a popular additive in food for centuries, both for flavour, and as a preservative. It preserves the food by drawing out the water that bacteria and mould need to grow so it doesn’t spoil as quickly.
When we talk about salt, most of us think of our salt cellar, or what we add to vegetables that we’re cooking but actually, 75% of our salt intake comes from foods we buy. These can include the obvious ones such as snacks like crisps, and salted nuts but also bread and biscuits, ready- made sauces, packet sauces, stock cubes, breakfast cereals, canned foods, pickled foods, boxed foods, deli meats, restaurant food, and fast food. In the same way that savoury foods often, surprisingly, have sugar added, sweet foods can often have some salt!
Salt is actually “sodium chloride.” It’s about 40% sodium and 60% chloride; this means that one teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) contains about 2,000 mg of sodium.
Sodium itself is not that bad! In fact, it’s an essential mineral and an essential electrolyte in the body. It helps with fluid balance, and proper nerve and muscle function. But too much sodium can begin to cause problems! Regularly getting too much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, stomach cancer, and kidney stones.
That one teaspoon with about 2,000 mg of sodium should be pretty much your entire days worth but anyone who eats pre-made, packaged foods tend to eat far more than that. And, if you’re at high risk for those conditions, then you should probably restrict your intake closer to 1,500 mg of sodium each day.
You might be wondering what role salt plays in increasing blood pressure? And why it makes you thirsty?
When you eat salt, it quickly gets absorbed into the blood. Your body recognizes that the blood is too salty, so tries to dilute the blood with more water (i.e. with thirst signals to make you drink more). More water in the blood means more volume of fluid your heart needs to pump and more fluid pushing against the walls of your vessels. It also sends more blood to the kidneys so the sodium can be filtered out into the urine.
As you probably realise, increased blood pressure also puts a strain on your kidneys and other sensitive vessels, including critical vessels in your brain and heart.
Limiting salt intake can help reduce blood pressure.
Pro Tip: You can reduce high blood pressure by eating more whole foods, and more mineral-rich plant foods.
If you are healthy and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, then you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake. Feel free to add a bit of salt during cooking or at the table for flavour.
If your doctor has told you to reduce your salt or sodium intake, then you can do this by reducing your intake of processed foods, adding less salt to the food you make, and eating more plant-based foods.
It can feel harder to eat healthy at this time of year. We think of salads and light meals in summer but come the colder weather we start to think of heavy, stick-to-your-ribs, warming foods and often our calorie consumption creeps up.
But, there are some simple swaps you can make that help you stay on track.
Use Pumpkin in Cake Mixes
One of the easiest healthy food swaps you can do with your autumn treats is to use pumpkin puree in your cakes. Use pumpkin puree to replace fat and eggs. This goes really well in spiced cakes but don’t be afraid to experiment.
If you want to follow a recipe instead of adjusting one here’s a lovely spiced pumpkin cake recipe: Spiced Pumpkin Cake
Sweet Potatoes Instead of White Potatoes
Many people enjoy potatoes, especially in the autumn when you want something a bit more filling but they can lead you to overeat carbs. Instead of having traditional white potatoes in your dishes, try sweet potatoes. These are filled with nutrients. You can have stuffed sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, or even sweet potato soup.
Use Cauliflower for Low-Carb Options
If you are on a low-carb diet, then you should be very familiar with cauliflower. The bland taste and slightly rough texture of cauliflower makes it perfect as a substitute for many of the carb-rich foods we tend to love. You can use it to make mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes, use it instead of rice with it, or even make cauliflower steaks. Be creative and find different ways to substitute the higher-carb ingredients with cauliflower.
Quinoa Instead of Rice
One more substitution you can make for a healthier meal is to replace your rice with quinoa. Rice is fine, particularly brown rice but quinoa has higher protein levels and is more nutritious. As it’s autumn why not go for a harvest quinoa side dish with squash, pumpkin, roast brussels sprouts and spices, which would be really healthy!
Multivitamins are exactly what they sound like: multiple vitamins. They’re supplements, usually in tablet or capsule form, that contain a range of different vitamins. They can also contain several minerals and other ingredients like amino acids or fatty acids. Because there are multiple ingredients, there are usually low doses of each ingredient.Continue reading
You’ll have noticed that “anti-ageing” is big business. There’s no end of creams and serums being marketed as the new best thing for keeping you looking young. But it is possible to take a much more natural approach to brighten your skin and keeping wrinkles away.
Micronutrients are a great option and in fact, a lot of the signs of ageing are in fact, lack of nutrients due to changes in how the body processes and digests foods and in the diet overall. So, before you go spending a lot of money on expensive creams that might, or might not work, try making sure you don’t have a micronutrient deficiency.
Which Ones You Need
While you’re out shopping, you should be on the lookout for specific food and drinks that contain calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin C, zinc, or potassium. Each one of these has the exceptional ability to fight off skin problems that are associated with aging.
What Calcium Can Do for You
Always having a sufficient supply of calcium is necessary. Without it, your body will actually go out of its way to take away the calcium that’s already present in your bones. Consequently, they experience a major loss, and this is what causes them to become increasingly weak over time. The good news is you can prevent this from happening, by simply paying closer attention to your daily food and drink intake. If you know where to look for it, you can easily make sure you’re always getting enough calcium. Kale, Tofu, Beans, Nuts and Seeds are all great natural sources of calcium.
The Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is known for its effective anti-ageing properties. A sufficient amount of it can help fight off several chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Both of these are typically associated with the elderly. For this reason, they’re often thought of as the more severe signs of ageing. Vitamin B12 can be taken in the form of a supplement or you can sprinkle nutritional yeast on your food.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast which is sold commercially as a food product. It is sold in the form of yellow flakes, granules or powder which has a nutty or cheesy flavour. It’s usually fortified with Vitamin B12.
How Vitamin C Can Help
When it comes to caring for the skin, vitamin C has a lot to offer. Not only will it brighten your skin tone, but it’ll also stimulate collagen. Because it can be found in broccoli, oranges, and bananas, it proves to be a simple solution. If you want to look younger for longer, you should start incorporating a good dose of vitamin C into your daily diet.
Why Zinc Is Necessary
Likewise, zinc plays an important role in staving off the signs of ageing since it makes the immune system significantly stronger. Furthermore, zinc is responsible for the successful production of protein.
Beef and cashews are excellent sources of this mineral.
So if you want to stay looking young for longer then focus on your diet before buying expensive creams and serums. Micronutrients are as close as it gets to naturally fighting off the various signs of ageing. Incorporating more of these into your diet can make a noticeable difference in your appearance.
Deciding to change your diet and improve your nutrition is an admirable step, but it can be difficult to stick to a new eating plan if you find healthy food “boring.” You’ll soon begin to lose interest in eating meals loaded with fruits and vegetables while limiting the foods you used to crave.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways that you can keep your new diet interesting and enjoyable, so you’ll be more likely to continue the diet long-term.
Here are a few ways that you can keep a balanced diet interesting and prevent yourself from becoming bored.
The thought of adding fruits and especially vegetables to every meal might make you shudder, but there are simple ways to get your vitamins and minerals. The easiest and best way to get all those important nutrients is by making shakes and smoothies that are loaded with all the vitamins and minerals you need to live a healthy life.
We’re not talking shop-bought ones here, they’re usually loaded with more fruit than veggies and are super-sized, loading you up on calories more than nutrients!
What’s great about making your own shakes and smoothies is the serving size. Rather than having to eat several cups of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, you can get the same amount of nutrients in an 8 or 16-ounce beverage.
You also have full control over the ingredients you’re using and the nutrients you’re taking in. That means you can try out new recipes with your favourite fruits and vegetables without getting bored of the same old thing every day.
A monotonous diet is bleugh! One of the most common reasons that people give up on their diets is because of the monotony of it all. Though there are certain foods and beverages that’ll help to improve your health and nutritional intake, it can be incredibly boring to eat and drink the same few items every day.
That’s why variety is so important! There’s no shortage of healthy foods and beverages and there are practically unlimited recipes to keep you interested in your diet and health, all at the same time.
The best way to implement variety into your diet is by doing your own research and compiling a comprehensive list of healthy recipes. In addition to learning about new foods that you didn’t even know you liked, you’ll always have something new to look forward to on your diet!
Starting a new, healthy diet usually means leaving your favourite foods in the past, especially if they were full of salt, fat, or sugar. While you know it’s for your own good, it’s completely normal to crave these foods every once in a while, even if you’re on a strict diet.
Your body requires food and beverages to stay alive, but as humans, we also get an enormous amount of enjoyment in what we’re eating and drinking. So allow yourself a little indulgence occasionally. A new diet doesn’t always mean you have to eat healthy 100% of the time.
Though you should do so in moderation, you should leave some room for fun when it comes to your new diet. That means allowing yourself to eat some of your favourite foods, as long as you’re not doing so every day or seriously setting your goal back.
When you think about nutrition, you probably think about swapping out your entire current diet and replacing it with nutrient-dense foods. Though doing so will undoubtedly improve your health, it can be a bit boring and negatively impact your relationship with food. That’s why it’s so important to keep your new diet interesting and something you can stick to.
If you want some pointers to get you started then we can help you out at Inspire Fitness. If you just want some ideas then we’ve got recipe packs which consist of healthy, nutritious but delicious recipes. You can even subscribe and get a new recipe pack each month with 15 super, healthy recipes including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options. Every recipe has the macronutrient breakdown, simple instructions and MyFitnessPal barcodes if you’re tracking your intake.
If you’d like a bit more help, then perhaps our 21-day transformation is for you? 3 weeks of meal plans, grocery lists, coaching, and daily check-in to provide accountability. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.