In my last post, I gave a round-up of some great anti-inflammatory foods. One that I personally use every day is turmeric. This golden spice has a warm, peppery flavour and is the main spice in curry. Not only does it look and taste great, it has been said to be the most powerful herb on the planet at fighting and reversing disease.
Why is it a super spice?
Some of the many benefits of turmeric include:
- Blood sugar balance
- Digestive aid
- Cancer killer
- Reduce joint pain and muscle soreness
- Liver detox
- Neutralises free radicals which can lead to wrinkles, cellulite and fatigue
In fact, it has so many healing properties that currently there have been over 6,000 peer-reviewed articles published proving the benefits of turmeric and one of its renowned healing compounds curcumin. Read more about this and how the spice stacks up against medicines – http://draxe.com/turmeric-benefits/
Easy ways to use turmeric every day:
My favourite way to use it on a day-to-day basis is to mix it with olive oil and add some black pepper. Black pepper enhances the bioavailability of turmeric and the oil protects it somewhat from stomach acid.
Usually I mix about a teaspoon of turmeric powder (easily found in the supermarket) with some black pepper and sea salt (optional) with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then I drizzle over veggies and/or meat. Delicious!!
I also like to add turmeric and cinnamon to coconut milk and heat it up in the winter for a lovely warming comforting drink (I like to call it a hug in a mug!). I also like adding it to smoothies – it goes well with banana and coconut. And don’t worry it doesn’t taste like a curry smoothie!!!
So here are some suggestions:
- Add turmeric when you are sautéing vegetables like kale or onions.
- Sprinkle it on roasted root vegetable like potatoes (white or sweet) or try this roasted turmeric cauliflower recipe
- Add it into a carrot and parsnip soup for an earthy winter warmer.
- Add it to a rice dish or try this delicious curried chicken rice stew
- Add it to scrambled eggs with spinach for a great breakfast option.
- These baked turmeric plantain chips look amazing – I’m obsessed with plantains at the moment.
- Lemon is a good companion for turmeric. You could try marinating chicken in turmeric, lemon, oil and black pepper marinade.
- Or you could try marinating chicken with turmeric, coconut cream, fresh ginger and coriander (cilantro)
Do you use turmeric? If so, what’s your favourite way to incorporate it into your meals?
When most people think of inflammation, they think of a sprained ankle, an open wound or a painful tooth abscess. We don’t often equate inflammation with autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or many other illnesses. But the fact is, chronic inflammation can contribute to nearly every major illness out there.
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?
Inflammation is our body’s normal and healthy response to injury or attack on the immune system.
There are two types of inflammation. The first is painful inflammation, which usually shows up in the body with heat, pain, swelling and redness. This sort of acute response is a protector of our health.
The second is silent chronic low-level inflammation, which attacks at the cellular level and isn’t associated with pain. It’s this chronic inflammation that can lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and autoimmune diseases like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis), rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis etc.
Acute inflammation hurts but chronic inflammation kills!
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF CHRONIC INFLAMMATION?
While chronic inflammation isn’t necessarily associated with pain, the body does try to warn us that something is wrong with nagging signs and symptoms such as:
- Gut issues such as IBS symptoms (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea), blood or mucus in stools, abdominal pain, acid reflux etc
- Aching of joints and muscles, low bone density
- High blood pressure
- Rising blood sugars, metabolic syndrome, abdominal obesity (visceral fat)
- Headaches, dizziness, tingling and pain along nerves
- Food intolerances, allergies and asthma
- Skin issues such as rosacea, eczema, hives or psoriasis
- Mood issues such as anxiety and depression
- Difficulty with sleep – either trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Chronic fatigue and low energy levels
- Brain fog, loss of focus or problems with remembering things
If we don’t take any notice of these symptom, the inflammation is left to persist until it becomes so evident (sometimes years later), that it can’t be ignored anymore. Hello autoimmune disease, a heart attack, cancer, stroke etc!
Looking back now I see my body spent the guts (pardon the pun) of 20 years trying to tell me there was something wrong with my stomach. I often think if I had only acted on those niggles (bloating, constipation, fatigue) I may have avoided getting Crohn’s disease. But who knows?
The trouble with these little niggling signs and symptoms is that we have come to think of a lot of them as the norm of modern living and don’t really pay too much heed to them. Especially when a pill can be popped to mask the symptom making it easier to ignore. But while the symptom may be quietened down the root cause isn’t addressed and the chronic inflammation may still persist.
WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC INFLAMMATION?
Poor Diet and Gut Health
Toxic diets that are high in sugar, highly-processed foods, trans fats, alcohol, gluten, refined grains, food additives, dairy etc and that are low in omega 3 fats and other anti-inflammatory foods can take their toll on people’s gut health and lead to inflammation, a leaky gut, gut dysbiosis and/or chronic infections.
Inadequate sleep (going to bed late, using electronics late at night, not getting enough hours of sleep) has been linked to elevated inflammatory markers.
Lack of exercise and movement. We lead very sedentary lives, sitting for most of the day (in work and at home) and a lot of people don’t make time for exercise. This lack of activity has been linked to systemic, glow-grade inflammation.
Too much exercise. Over training without rest and recovery on the other hand is also a form of chronic stress that leads to inflammation.
Lack of down time. Always being busy, always being switched ‘on’ (email, social media etc) isn’t relaxing or rejuvenating and can take its toll on your body.
Second-hand smoke, pollution, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, chemicals and airborne irritants
Modern life can make us stressed-out a lot of the time, whether the stressors are in your workplace, relationships, financial, commuting etc, they (big and small) all add up resulting in a physiological inflammatory response.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE CHRONIC INFLAMMATION?
Ditch inflammatory foods
Cut out the refined sugars, sugar substitutes, soft drinks/sodas, trans-fats, highly-processed carbs (cakes, biscuits breakfast cereals etc), additives, gluten and so on. Eliminate any foods that you may be allergic or intolerant to. You could do an IgG blood test for food sensitivities or try an elimination diet to see which foods you may be sensitive to.
Try to avoid the foods that have a high glycaemic load which may impact your blood sugar levels. Some of the big offenders range from muffins and bagels to sweets and ice-cream to so called “healthy” foods like fruit juice, dried fruit and fruit yogurts.
JERF it out (Just Eat Real Foods)
Crowd out all the crappy inflammatory foods with plenty of real whole foods. If you fill up on the good stuff there’s less room for the bad stuff – your body will thank you for it!
By whole foods I mean the foods that will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, phytochemicals and fibre it needs to combat inflammation. This means large amounts of vegetables along with herbs, anti-inflammatory spices, fruits, nuts and seeds, oils such as EVOO and coconut oil, oily fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel) and grass fed meats. It’s best to purchase organic where possible.
Some great anti-inflammatory power houses are:
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea (especially matcha green tea)
- Wild-caught salmon
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Dark leafy green vegetables
Nutritional supplements can also be used in conjunction with dietary changes. Some supplements I like to use are Vitamin D3, Omega-3 fish oils and turmeric capsules (curcumin).
Avoid toxins as much as possible
Your body goes on the defence when you absorb toxic chemicals and pesticides through your digestive tract and your skin. Cut down on your exposure and give your liver a much-needed break by choosing organic produce when you can and choosing non-toxic personal care and cleaning products.
Support your body with lifestyle changes
When you’re stressed out all the time, you’re also producing more cortisol which is a stress hormone and inflammation’s best friend. Therefore, stress reduction should have the knock-on effect of reducing inflammation also. You can do this by:
- Getting more quality sleep so your body can repair, restore and rejuvenate
- Incorporating exercise and movement into your daily routine
- Meditation and deep breathing does wonders for your nervous system
- Making time for rest and rejuvenation – maybe doing a digital detox, going for a walk out in nature, getting a massage or taking a mini-break
I’ve just come back from a two week trip to Florida which was amazing. We got to travel around a bit so I got to see Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Naples, Marco Island and Fort Myers Beach. It was my first time in Florida but it definitely won’t be my last!
Naturally enough two weeks of travelling around meant more eating out, eating on the go and on the road and navigating menu’s and supermarkets. If you are trying to lose weight or have a restrictive diet due to intolerances or illness like me, this can prove tricky. But I’ve come up with a few tips that helped me and may prove useful to you.
Before I go anywhere I decide on what my non-negotiables are, basically the foods that under no circumstances can I have. For me this is always gluten and dairy along with nightshades like chillies and tomatoes as well as certain FODMAP foods that I know I’ll have a strong reaction to like onions (especially raw). I know that if I have these foods, I’m not going to feel healthy or happy and if I’m on holidays I want to feel good!
Then I decide on what I can have a little more flexibility about. These are usually foods that I know that I could probably have once in a while and not have a bad reaction to but not something I’d have all the time. For me this could be grains like rice, gluten free bread, peanut butter, alcohol, FODMAP foods that I tend not to react badly to like mangoes etc. While they’re not something I’d ideally have, I know that if there are no other options available to me and if I’m in a bind, I could have them without too much trouble as long as I didn’t have them too much.
When we were booking accommodation, we were looking for places that ideally had a kitchen but at a minimum a refrigerator. We were lucky in that three of the six places we stayed had a full working kitchen. It meant that we were able to have at least our breakfast (if not another meal too) there. The other three places had fridges which were great for storing salads, fruits, leftovers from dinners etc.
Before travelling I did some research on what was available with regards restaurants and supermarkets in the areas I was going to stay in. I asked people for suggestions on social media (always good to get a locals recommendations), I looked up google maps to see what was around our hotels and I also googled ‘green juice’, ‘green smoothies’, ‘salads’, ‘healthy eating’ for the areas I was staying to see what would come up. Usually places serving green juice would have other healthy options on their menus too. I also found out what supermarkets were around so I knew where I’d be able to buy fruits and veg etc.
A little pet peeve of mine is that when you book flights you seem to only get one option for meals (i.e. gluten free or vegetarian or dairy free etc). While my travel agent did put down that I was both gluten and dairy free, the airline (Virgin Atlantic) only had a gluten free meal available for me! The only thing that was suitable was a teeny tiny salad of leaves and they offered me a packet of potato crisps (chips). For an eight/nine hour flight!!! Luckily I’ve learnt from previous long haul flights to bring food with me so I had a packed lunch of grilled chicken and steamed vegetables, a tin of mackerel in olive oil (only opened in emergencies due to the strong smell) and lots of healthy snacks (bananas, grapes, nuts, coconut bars etc) so I was fine. The airline rectified my meal for my journey back which was much better (but I still brought a packed meal, snacks and tinned sardines with me just in case J).
A must for the flight is water. It’s really important to stay hydrated. I also brought ginger chews, peppermint tea and peppermint oil tablets to beat the bloat on the flight itself. This all worked a treat.
The two supermarkets we used while in Florida were Publix and Whole Foods Market. We stocked up on fruit like melons and strawberries, eggs, bacon, green tea and other breakfast items mainly. We also bought freshly made sushi and seaweed salads a few times which we were impressed with. While I couldn’t find coconut (dairy free) yogurt in Publix, I picked it up in Whole Foods. The brand was So Delicious which I didn’t find that delicious (it had the texture of wall paper paste). I also was astonished to count that it had 16 ingredients compared to the three ingredients in the Coyo brand I get at home. I did however pick up the So Delicious coconut (dairy free) ice cream in Publix and that was pretty delicious! So thumbs up for the ice-cream and thumbs down for the yogurt!
I was delighted that it was easy to get kombucha in both supermarkets which I had most days when I was chilling out in our hotel before going out for dinner. Not only do I love the taste but it’s a good way to get some beneficial probiotics.
I was really impressed with the range of supplements, natural body care products and healthy snacks available in Whole Foods and picked up a lot of stuff that I find hard to source here in Ireland. I was obsessed with plantain chips and basically wanted to bring a whole suitcase full home with me!
To keep my system working well and to keep things ticking along (if you get my drift) I brought some magnesium citrate (with B6) tablets with me which I took the first few days. I also took my probiotics every day. I bought some DGL (liquorice root) which I took before meals. It’s good for lining the gut. Along with starting every day with warm lemon water and drinking water throughout the day, I feel this all helped my system stay well while away.
While ideally we would have eaten in places that I had researched before going over, this didn’t happen too often. I know what type of restaurants tend to be easier to eat in with intolerances so I usually avoid Mexican, Thai, Indian and Chinese restaurants that serve spicy foods (chillies, paprika, curry etc) and we tended to go with steak houses, Italian, Japanese or bistro-type places.
I’d usually have a look over the menu and see if there any gluten and dairy free options (getting gluten free is much easier than getting both gluten and dairy free) and if there was anything I could work with like salads, vegetables, grilled fish or chicken, steak etc. Once there are options somewhere on the menu I know that something could be rustled up for me. It was very rare that I could have anything straight from the menu but everywhere was pretty accommodating to my needs. It may have meant picking something from the starters with a couple of sides or it could have been a main with some substitutions.
Once I had a look over the menu and had a general idea of what I wanted, I’d make sure to say to the waiter that I had both gluten and dairy intolerances (amongst other things) and would ask them if they could recommend the dishes that could work for me. In one or two places, the chef came out to talk to me about what they could do for me. So together we worked out a meal of salad or steamed vegetables with plain meat and I always specified that I wanted any dressings on the side or just asked for olive oil and lemon on the side.
There were only one or two places that the food came out a little boring. Usually there was enough variety in the vegetables, herbs, olives, added fruit or nuts etc to make the dish interesting. And the portion sizes were always HUGE so I never left anywhere hungry, that’s for sure.
Over the two weeks I had a variety of fish, chicken, turkey and beef dishes and I never felt like I was eating the same thing every day.
On the odd occasion we went out for breakfast. I usually went for fruit with a side of bacon or I’d track down a place for an acai bowl and in one place I had peanut butter on gluten free toast.
As I was on holidays I wasn’t going to worry too much about having a few treats. My treats of choice mentioned before were plantain chips and coconut ice-cream as well as sorbets. In Tommy Bahama’s in Naples I got the biggest most out of this world plate of plantain chips which I’m going to try replicating at home. I loved that Pinkberry is now doing a dairy free option – a yummy mango soft serve (made of mango and ice – that’s it). I also indulged in sorbet any chance I got and when I was in Universal in Orlando, I asked the guys in Ben & Jerry’s to top my berry sorbet with banana which they did no problem!
Here are some of my recommendations for Florida:
Maggiano’s Little Italy – Italian restaurants can be hit or miss (lots of pizza and pastas etc) but I got a huge grilled salmon salad here. It was easy to get substitutions and make up my own salad. The restaurant has a great atmosphere too and was packed as it’s a popular place.
Outback Steak House – I know that this is a chain but these guys get a mention as they were so accommodating to my dietary needs and reassured me how everything was going to be cooked etc. I got a really tasty grilled salmon with crunchy steamed vegetables. Really impressed.
Greens & Grille – This place is a build your own salad bar beside Mall at Millenia. Great selection of vegetables and proteins etc. so a good option if you are at the mall.
Myapapaya – I got the most amazing acai bowl here and I wish I had discovered the place sooner as I pretty much wanted everything on their menu – green juices, green smoothies, gluten and dairy free snacks, salads etc. Next time!
Casablanca Café – I got a yummy kale salad with grapes, prosciutto and pine nuts and freshly grilled sardines plus the setting and atmosphere was fabulous. I’ve made the salad since coming home and think it’ll be one I’ll make again and again. The restaurant itself is in a great location, is always busy so has a buzzy atmosphere and has also been voted the most romantic restaurant in Fort Lauderdale and I can see why! Would thoroughly recommend it.
I loved the Coconut Grove area of Miami. It was such a contrast to the craziness of South Beach. It definitely had a more relaxed vibe. We had a lovely lazy lunch in Green Street Cafe where they made me up a lovely grilled salmon salad. I was totally stuffed afterwards. If I was going back to Miami I’d love to explore Coconut Grove more.
Marco Island is beautiful. The white sandy beaches and turquoise sea blew me away. We went for lunch in the marina at Mangos Dockside Bistro and had a table outside overlooking the boats. I got a really fresh spinach salad with juicy strawberries and grilled chicken. Delicious!
Mercato was a great place for restaurants and bars with a bit of a buzzy atmosphere. We actually ate here every night because of the atmosphere and proximity to our hotel. We tried Italian, steak and burgers here but there’s also Japanese, Mexican, bistro’s and pubs. A good selection of places. There’s also a Whole Foods here too which was handy.
Tommy Bahamas. We went here one lunch time and I was so impressed. As I wasn’t that hungry I went for two sides – roasted broccoli and plantain chips. I was blown away by the plantain chips. Seriously good. As I couldn’t finish them I got them boxed up and enjoyed them as a snack later.
InnerG – All menu items here are gluten free, dairy free and vegan. I opted for an acai bowl here one of the mornings. The acai smoothie itself isn’t made fresh, it’s made by The Bowl and is frozen but it’s topped with fresh fruit, nuts, coconuts etc and is really good. It comes in different flavours. I went for the Key West Bowl. So good!
Do you have any other tips on staying healthy and happy on vacation?
One of my very first blog posts was about the benefits of drinking more water and it’s always one of the first things I get clients to do when I start working with them.
However, it’s something I personally struggle with. I’m a cold creature and find plain old cold water really hard to drink especially in the winter time. But now that we’re heading for summer and the weather is getting warmer I’ll be more open to drinking cold water. And to encourage me to drink more, I like to make infused water to jazz it up and make it more interesting.
The two I make most are cucumber infused water and a citrus blend where I add lemon, lime and oranges to the water.
I’ve been looking online and found some great inspiration:
LEMON AND RASPBERRY
Click here for the recipe
Other fruit infusions I want to experiment with are:
- Mango, lime and pineapple
- Honeydew melon and cucumber
- Watermelon and blueberries
- Kiwi and blackberries
- Pear and fennel
Adding fresh herbs is another twist. Mint on its own is lovely but here are a few other mint combinations:
STRAWBERRY, LIME, CUCUMBER AND MINT
STRAWBERRY, ORANGE AND MINT
Not to mention:
- Melon and mint
- Blueberries, lemon and mint
- Lime, ginger and mint (I like this one in sparkling water).
And then there’s branching out using other herbs such as:
STRAWBERRY AND BASIL
BLACKBERRY AND SAGE
And I think I’ll try these combo’s too:
- Green apple, raspberry and rosemary
- Melon and basil
I’m actually looking forward to drinking more water now and experimenting with different flavour combinations.
Do you drink infused water? What’s your favourite combination?
As a kid I was always a worrier and I believe it’s probably one of the (probably many) reasons I developed IBS and eventually IBD problems. I didn’t realise it at the time but looking back I can clearly see that I totally internalised stress and worries which would result in awful stomach problems (spasms, bloating, food sensitivities, constipation, vomiting etc).
Things didn’t get better as I got older. Whether it was grieving the death of my Mum, worrying about exams, stressing over relationships, the constant chatter from my mind – stress, worry and the noise from my internal judge were a big part of my life in my teens and 20s and it took its toll on my body and wellbeing. My Dad used to do TM meditation every day and would always encourage me to start a meditation practice. I tried it sporadically down through the years but I got bored very easily and it just never stuck.
But when a friend of mine suggested we do an 8-week course of Mindfulness Meditation a few years ago something inside me said to give it a go. It was definitely a tough course (practicing a 45 minute meditation both morning and night time, with homework and reading) but it was really worth it. I learnt that meditation doesn’t mean clearing the mind, having no thoughts, saying a mantra over and over or breathing a particular way. Meditation is a lot kinder and softer and can be done throughout the day as you can bring mindfulness to sitting, walking, eating etc. It’s about being present and being aware of where you are at in the moment.
As much as I would love to say that I practice two 45 minute sessions daily now, I’m afraid I don’t. But I do 10-20 minutes of a seated practice every morning and try to bring moments of mindfulness to my daily routine. I feel it’s key at managing my stress levels and a vital component of the lifestyle elements of managing my Crohn’s disease.
Stress is an epidemic these days and everybody could benefit from some meditation. Here’s how meditation can help you achieve a healthy, happy, glow:
It has been shown to boost your immune system
It can reduce inflammation and feelings of physical pain in the body
Studies have shown meditation can improve your memory and can increase your attention span and focus
Studies indicate that meditation can increase your capacity for positivity and happiness and reduce negativity and depression by increasing your levels of feel-good hormones such as endorphins and serotonin.
It can reduce levels of anxiety and panic and can help you stay calm and centred during stressful times which in turn can increase quality of life and self-compassion.
It can actually make you a kinder, more compassionate person to others.
Even though it is something you do by yourself, it can potentially decrease feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of social connection.
It can have a very beneficial effect on sleep. Not only can it help you let go of chatter that may be preventing you from drifting off at night, it’ll also help you have a deeper more restorative sleep. Which means you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed and energised which is always a good look!
So as you can see a few minutes of meditation a day can have huge benefits to your health, happiness and overall wellbeing.
So how do you get started with a practice? Build it into your daily routine. Get up 10-20 minutes earlier and start your day off on a calm note. I find guided meditations really useful. There are loads of free videos on YouTube and apps so there’s plenty of choice. My two favourite apps are the free Mindfulness app which has a great selection of shorter (3 minutes) and longer guided mindfulness meditations, and then the Headspace app. This app has a free guided ten minutes for ten days challenge with videos to explain meditation. You can then subscribe to the app for a whole host of meditations for better sleep, stress etc. I’ve subscribed for the last two years and haven’t done the same meditation twice.
I’d love to know if you meditate and what type of meditation you do? Do you find it helpful?
In my previous post I talked about why I love matcha lattes so much. While there are more and more options popping up around Dublin, the following are my favourite places as they offer a wide variety of non-dairy milk options (coconut is my current favourite) and I’ve always been happy with my lattes!
Photos: Instagram @ahealthyhappyglow; Facebook @KaphSC, @ThePunnetHealthStore
Alchemy Juice Co. in BT2’s on Grafton Street
A little more expensive but their matcha doesn’t have any added sweeteners. It’s a great place for people watching as you’ve got a bird’s eye view over Grafton Street.
Kaph, Drury Street
Great place for coffee and cake just off Grafton Street. They’ve a great selection of paleo cakes which is perfect for people with gluten and dairy intolerances like myself!
Staple Foods in Temple Bar
The first time I asked for a matcha latte with coconut milk they didn’t use that type of milk. Luckily I had a single serving carton with me which I asked them to use. When I was paying they said that they’d make sure to have coconut milk available in the future and any time I’ve gone in since, they have! Total brownie points.
The Punnet Health Store, Glasthule Village and Lower Mount Street
I’ll often call into The Punnet’s store in Glasthule Village anytime I’m out in Dun Laoghaire while their city centre store on Mount Street Lower is very handy for when I’m working in the city. They also have a loyalty card so for every 10 lattes you buy, you get one free!
Other places that do matcha lattes:
Yogism, George’s Street Arcade and St Stephen’s Green
Cocu, Baggot Street
KC Peaches, Nassau Street and Dame Street
The Food Room, Clontarf
Select Stores, Dalkey Village
I’d probably add some matcha to my green smoothies in the morning to give them an extra punch.
Where’s your favourite place for a matcha latte? Have you tried making one yourself?
I love the idea of coffee – the frothiness of lattes and cappuccino’s, the undeniable rich aroma, the social element of ‘going for a coffee’ and of course the caffeine induced pick me up. Unfortunately I just don’t like the taste of it which is probably a good thing as a cup of joe could have me doubled over in pain given my sensitive stomach.
Although I love herbal teas, green tea in particular, I always feel like I’m missing out on something without the frothiness of a latte. So when I heard of lattes being made out of green tea I knew I had to give it a try. And once I did I was hooked. Matcha lattes feel like an indulgent treat with the added bonus that they’re packed with loads of good stuff! Score!
Matcha is essentially green tea leaves stone-ground into a super-fine powder. The powder is then whisked with hot water until the mixture is frothy (and then milk is added to make a matcha latte). Green tea has been linked to whole load of health benefits from boosting metabolism to improving skin to longevity and even fighting cancer. And as you are consuming the whole tea leaf, matcha green tea may just bring the green tea benefits up to the next level. Supposedly one cup of matcha is supposedly equivalent to drinking 10 cups of green tea.
So what are the health benefits of matcha green tea? Here are just some of its good stuff:
- It’s high in antioxidants
Like all green tea, matcha contains flavonoids (epigallocatechin gallate or EPCG to be precise) which studies have shown to have an antioxidant effect. A 2003 University of Colorado study confirmed that drinking one cup of matcha green tea has 137 times the amount of antioxidant EGCG compared to a conventional cup of green tea. When pitted against other ‘superfoods’ the power-house that is matcha green tea has 6.2 times more antioxidants than goji berries, 7 times more than dark chocolate, 17 times more than wild blueberries and 60.5 more than spinach! Pretty impressive!! Antioxidants are reported to boost immunity, can help fight against cancer, can protect from heart disease and can also slow the aging process and improve the quality of skin.
- It increases the body’s rate of burning calories
A study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999 found that drinking green tea increased thermogenesis (the body’s rate of burning calories) from 8-10% to 35-43% of daily energy expenditure. While a study in 2011 said that exercising immediately after drinking matcha green tea resulted in 25% more fat burning during exercise.
- It can improve concentration and help relieve stress
Although matcha green tea contains caffeine, it also contains up to five times more L-theanine than conventional green tea. L-theanine may help relieve stress by inducing a relaxing effect without drowsiness and may also possess immunologic attributes. Therefore it’s said that matcha can promote concentration and clear thinking (thanks to the caffeine) without producing any of the nervous energy typically associated with coffee (thanks to the L-theanine).
Have you tried matcha yet? What do you think?
Sources of information:
Xin-Xin Zheng, Yan-Lu Xu, et al. Green tea intake lowers fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol in adults: August 2011.
Abdul G Dulloo, Claudette Duret, et al. Efficacy of a green tea extract. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 1999
Spring has totally sprung here in Ireland. I love this time of the year when the place starts to burst with vibrant colours as the flowers begin to bloom.
When I was growing up we had a weeping cherry blossom tree in our front garden and our street was lined with cherry blossom trees so at this time of year there was always a riot of pink hues anytime I looked out my bedroom window. Talk about beautiful!! I love all the colours of Spring – fresh greens and all the pastel yellows, purples and creams – but my favourite has to be pink thanks to those cherry blossoms!
I was playing around in the kitchen last week before Easter coming up with dessert ideas and I decided to take inspiration from the cherry blossoms and make a pink ombre dessert. This has only four ingredients, looks so pretty and tastes amazing! Dairy free, gluten free, refined sugar free, nut free, AIP, vegan, paleo and Low FODMAP! I would easily have this at a brunch either.
Pink Ombre Spring Fool
1 punnet of strawberries
2 ripe bananas
- Wash and drain the strawberries and cut the greens off (except for one)
- Place the strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into the glasses about a third of the way and transfer the glasses to the freezer to chill for a few minutes.
- Add the banana’s to the remaining strawberries in the blender and blend until smooth
- Take the glasses out of the freezer and add the strawberry and banana mixture very slowly so as the two mixtures don’t just merge into one. Fill up to about two thirds of the way.
- Transfer glasses back into the freezer to chill for another few minutes.
- Add coconut cream to the remaining strawberry and banana mixture in the blender. Add the amount to your liking (colour wise and taste and texture wise).
- Once again take the glasses out of the freezer and pour the mixture slowly until it reaches near the top of the glass leaving a little space for the coconut yogurt topping.
- Transfer glasses back into the freezer to chill for another few minutes.
- Take the glasses out of the freezer and top the rest of the glass with coconut yogurt and add a strawberry to the side.
Serve immediately or keep in the fridge to enjoy later.
If there is any mixture left in the blender I put it into an ice cube tray and transfer to the freezer to make ‘nice-cream’ or to add to smoothies at a later date.
Easter is up there with Christmas and Halloween as a holiday with a lot of sweet temptations which may see even the most healthy person over indulge in the hard-to-resist array of chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and other treats on offer. And oh, did I mention all the chocolate?
But it can be easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle and not end up in a sugar-induced coma followed by accompanying hangover and remorse with these few tips:
Preparation is key.
Ideally, how would you like Easter to go? Do you want to avoid sweet treats altogether? If so, why? Do you want to indulge in healthier options and keep your sweet tooth in check? If so, why? What fears, if any, are coming up for you (fear of missing out, fear of being judged for your choices, fear of not trusting yourself to not over indulge etc)? Knowing what you want, knowing why you want it and knowing what fears may arise puts you in a place of control and helps with keeping you accountable.
Know your potential pitfalls.
Are there any situations that will likely cause problems? Are there loads of chocolates everywhere you look in your office? Are you attending a family gathering where you may be faced with some peer pressure to eat things you don’t want to? Do you live with people who aren’t as health conscious as you and so there will be more temptation on hand? Knowing what the potential hazards again puts you in control.
If you find it hard resisting sweet treats when they are in front of you, don’t get them in the first place (way harsh, I know!). Or if you have to have them around the house for other people, keep them out of view (out of sight out of mind?). If you’ve got the Easter eggs, chocolates or hot cross buns etc on tables or counter tops it’ll be easier to give in to temptation and/or eat mindlessly.
In the office
The office definitely used to be my downfall. The sweets at reception calling out to me so I’d end up making excuses to go out there throughout the day (‘I’ve ran out of envelopes’, ‘do you have any paperclips?’, ‘has the post been delivered yet?’ – the sugar monster in me was shameless) and sure while I was passing by I may as well have, ahem, ‘one more’ little treat. The best defence in this scenario is offence. Go to work with your own healthy treats or even better yet, bring some in for all the office to share. If you don’t feel deprived you are better equipped to turn down the junk on offer. Keeping hydrated and having proper meals will also help regulate blood sugar levels and hopefully reduce the afternoon slump and cravings that can have you caving.
Alternative Easter Gifts
Instead of opting for the chocolate Easter eggs, maybe you can ask other people to get you alternative Easter gifts such as flowers, a candle, herbal teas or a donation to your favourite charity for example. I love the idea of doing up Easter baskets of wellbeing treats. This can be a great idea for kids too with the basket being filled with art supplies, books, games etc.
Healthier Easter Treats
So if you do want to indulge in some treats there are loads of healthy options to choose from. Maybe get some really luxurious expensive dark chocolate. Nobody said that chocolate had to be off limits!!! Really good quality dark chocolate has less sugar and tends to be richer so you tend to eat less of it especially if you eat it mindfully and savour every bite. Raw cacao is a great option also (e.g. cacao eggs, cacao covered mulberries, chocolate avocado mousse). Or what about dark chocolate covered organic nuts?
And if you don’t fancy or can’t have chocolate there are many other options too. There are loads of lovely healthy desserts and you can make your own easter eggs from things like carob or even coconut milk or yogurt.
Photo: Instagram @ahealthyhappyglow
Don’t Stress It
When you are overstressed, that’s when you are normally more likely to cave into cravings and over indulge in less healthy choices. Check in with yourself on whether you are stressed (family gatherings, work deadlines, social pressures etc) and see if there are ways you can de-stress that don’t include food. A bath, a manicure, a hug, going for a walk, a meditation, letting go of the ‘shoulds’ and the need to be perfect etc. Be kind to yourself!
I’d love to know your tips for staying healthy this Easter or your favourite healthy Easter treats.
Hope you have a lovely one!
So in my last two posts, I talked about what stress is, what can cause it in modern daily life and how it can mess with your healthy, happy glow.
Chances are you are going to experience some level of stress on a day to day basis unless you decide to become a monk and devote your life to meditation (and even then I’m sure there could be things that could stress your system out).
As someone with an autoimmune disease I have to be diligent with managing stress as stress can cause a flare up of my disease. Here are some of the things I do (or at least I’m working on doing) to help with managing stress while looking after my adrenal glands.
Eat nourishing food that supports your body. Eating over processed, sugar-laden, nutrient-poor foods and drinks uses up a lot of your body’s resources whereas eating nourishing real whole food supports your immune system and your body’s healing system which can in turn help your body cope with other sources of stress better.
Keep hydrated. Again, if you are dehydrated it can put the body under some stress. Drinking water throughout the day is an easy way to avoid this type of stress.
Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity and exercise is one of the best ways to bust some of the tension caused by stress and create energy. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel good hormones. In saying that, training too hard can put your body under stress so listen to your body to see if what you are doing is helping or hindering you.
Get quality sleep. I talked about sleep in a previous post. Your body heals and recharges when you are asleep so getting enough quality sleep is a very easy way to help with stress levels. If you aren’t getting enough quality sleep, figure out why and work on resolving those issues.
Take breaks in work. Get up and walk away from your desk. Not only will you get a mental break and give your eyes a break from staring at the computer screen you’ll also avoid too much sitting which is said to be the new smoking.
Go outside. Even better if you can take breaks outside. It’s thought being close to nature lets you feel removed from the things that cause you stress while being in the sun is a natural source of vitamin D which is a mood booster.
Try meditation. I’ve built a morning meditation into my daily routine. I’m not going to lie, I found it hard to begin with (and still sometimes do….) but those precious moments of inner peace and calm first thing in the morning are priceless. I need to be guided in my meditations so I’ve found a few apps on my iPhone that are great. The one I use most is Headspace which I’ve paid a yearly subscription for but I also use the Mindfulness app which is a great free option.
Relax. Engage in activities that promote relaxation. It could be gardening, painting, playing music or going for a massage, facial or sauna. Now that it’s coming into spring I’m hoping to develop a green finger or two and I’m also intrigued to try an infrared sauna.
Express Yourself. It is said that unexpressed and repressed emotions can be the building blocks of pain and illness so it can be good to vent. I find that sharing my emotions and feelings on a regular basis is an important part of my own stress management and healing process. Writing a journal or doing morning pages are good options if you don’t feel like you can express yourself full to another person.
Find Your Joy. What makes you really happy? Finding the things that bring you joy and prioritising to do those things more is a great way of combating stress. It’s hard to be stressed if you are laughing, having fun and enjoying yourself. I’m still figuring this one out all the time. I write a gratitude journal every night and when I’m reflecting on the day I try to remember those things that made me light up, that brought me joy.
Develop good relationships. Having authentic friends and partners who support you and will listen and advise without judging cannot be underestimated. While being a good friend or partner and showing love can be hugely fulfilling also.
Watch Out for your Mean Girl Bitch Brain. Becoming aware of your inner dialogue can highlight when your ideas or views aren’t serving you and can give you a chance to get curious about them and adapt them. Are you hanging on to old resentments, frustrations or playing victim? Are you critical about yourself, do you give yourself a hard time? Maybe there’s an opportunity to stand back and see the big picture. Is there an opportunity to practice compassion, kindness and forgiveness towards yourself and others? What can you do to find and experience self-worth, self-respect and ultimately self-love?
Digital Detox. Is there a way to tune out from social media, the internet and even electronic devices for even a portion of your day or week? Maybe there’s one day a week when you ban all social media and electronic devices (I’ve just come over in a cold sweat even typing that!). Or if that’s too tough (for me it is!), maybe you have a curfew that you don’t look at emails or your phone in the morning until after you have a cup of tea or do your meditation? Or maybe you turn off all devices an hour before you go to bed to give you that time to totally wind down. This is one I really need to work on!!!
Detox your cosmetics and toiletries. Get to know what you are putting on your body. Are there toxins you are using and don’t realise? This is one I’m constantly working on. I’ve either dumped make-up items or cosmetics or I’ll wait until I’ve finished something and will replace it with a more natural alternative. Some of the big toxins I try to avoid are parabens and phthalates. There are more and more great natural options out there and it’s fun to try new stuff.
Swap out your cleaning products. Just as with the cosmetics and toiletries, I’m always swapping out household cleaning products with more natural versions. A lot of the big supermarkets now have more eco-friendly and natural options so it’s easier than ever to make the switch. Or there are loads of ways to make your own (but I’m too lazy to do that at the moment!).
So there are just a few suggestions on ways to help manage stress and help reset fatigued adrenals. I’d love to hear what works for you as I’m forever looking for new hacks to help me manage stress better.