Quench Your Thirst

It might be cold now (10 degrees and raining as I wrote this), but last Thursday was a scorcher!!! It was a day to avoid the sun and drink plenty.

The drink your body enjoys most of all is water – and it’s the cheapest!

To encourage you to get a water habit, here is a chapter (one week) from my Health Habits Year Book I’m currently writing. The book builds your health through eating, moving and relaxing habits.

It’s important to feel good about what you’re doing as you build your health habits, so take notice of what you do and give yourself credit. The book uses ticks and stars (which work well for adults as well as kids!), but you could reward yourself in another way that you know works for you.

  • Mental pat on the back, ‘well done me’

  • Having a list you tick off

  • Using a spreadsheet

  • Giving yourself 5 minutes off what you’re doing to rest your eyes, stretch or get some fresh air.

Health Habits Year Book Week 4

This week have a drink of water first thing each morning. We’ll add a few different twists to find out how you most like it.

It’s good to drink 20 minutes before you eat rather than with food or straight afterwards eg have your water before you shower then have breakfast later.

And if you’re desperate for coffee or tea, when you boil the kettle have some water first.

If you think drinking water isn’t a very challenging goal, you’re right, it isn’t. Good health is built of small, easy things that you build into your routine until you don’t think about them at all.

Monday

Give yourself a tick if you had a drink of cool water first thing this morning.

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Give yourself a star if you had another drink of water later on too.

Tuesday

Give yourself a tick if you had a drink of water with herbs this morning.

I like rosemary and thyme; just a few leaves of each. Good for memory and concentration. Mint is also popular.

Give yourself a star if you had another drink of water later today.

Wednesday

Give yourself a tick if you had a drink of warm water this morning.

Tip – you can boil the kettle and mix half boiled and half cold.

 Give yourself a star if you had another drink of water later today.

Thursday

Give yourself a tick if you had a drink of water from a glass.

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 Give yourself a star if you had another drink of water later today.

Friday

Give yourself a tick if you had a drink of water from a favourite cup or mug.

My husband teases me for having favourite mugs for tea, others for water. He can’t see why it makes any difference. For me there’s a change to the overall experience between a chunky earthenware mug and a fine china cup.

Experiment with cups and mugs and notice how you find them.

 Do you have a favourite?

Saturday

Give yourself a tick if you had a drink of water with lemon this morning.

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How did you most enjoy your water?

  • cool

  • warm

  • plain

  • with herbs

  • with lemon

  • in a glass

  • in a mug – which one?

Give yourself a star today if you had some water each day this week.

The good things I did this week were:

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Improvements I notice in my body are:

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What I need to do is:

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Sunday

Relax and Enjoy Your Day

There is nothing I’ll ask you to do today except to enjoy whatever you drink.

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Engage You Cumbria

This week I appeared as a guest on the weekly show

Engage You Cumbria

a community support YouTube channel which Kathryn Jackson and Claire Bull started to keep us all positive, healthy and entertained during lockdown.

In this week’s episode, Claire talked about kindness (but check out her exercise tips in earlier episodes too) and Kathryn led us through how we can reflect on the last 10 weeks and where we are in different areas of our lives.

My message was #EatRealFood with some ideas for breakfasts to keep your blood-sugar stable so you improve your health and reduce your risk of a serious outcome should you catch the dreaded virus.

Here’s the video. Enjoy!

Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

This month was the Public Health Collaboration Conference.

They had to cancel the real one of course and instead did the whole thing on YouTube with the speakers doing their talks from home. What a great idea because now any of us can watch at any time we choose.

Check it out on the PHC’s YouTube channel here. They covered all sorts of things including: coronavirus and diet, cooking demos, diabetes, stress.

Of great relevance in these trouble times was Dr Aseem Malhotra’s message:

Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

The Government’s original “Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives” message was to prevent overwhelm of an already overstretched NHS.

Why overstretched? Britain already has a huge burden of lifestyle-related, chronic diseasesPeople with those diseases suffer much more severely if they do catch the virus.

People with poor blood-sugar control are 10 times (that’s 1000%) more likely to die if they get coronavirus (11% cf 1.1%). Many MPs were diagnosed with the virus but only Boris ended up needing critical care. He cycles every day but he clearly doesn’t eat right and that’s the most important thing for blood sugar stability.

Good things coming out of this experience – Boris had been thinking of removing the sugar tax on drinks – now he won’t. Instead, he’s to launch a war on fat (bodily not dietary). I hope he promotes what works rather than bowing to pressure from food and diet companies.

I and some of the speakers have been angered by TV and newspaper coverage of junk-food companies giving away junk like doughnuts, pizzas and custard creams as a brand promoting opportunity. It’s these very foods that have made Britain more vulnerable than the rest of Europe where they still mostly buy fresh ingredients and cook their own meals at home.

There’s a powerful message of hope in the talks.

Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome – can be improved in days or weeks by eating better so here’s the message the nation needs to hear:

Eat Real Food

All the talks will stay freely available on YouTube so do have a look. The ones I enjoyed most were those by Dr Aseem Malhotra, Dr Joanne McCormack (Custard Creams) and a spoof one by Dr Campbell Murdoch which showed (using bombs and bullets) how you can ruin your metabolic health.

Spread the message

Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

NB – if you watch the talks and switch to low-carb make sure you speak to your doctor about balancing dietary change with any medication.

Coronavirus and Food

Evidence is mounting for the usefulness of Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium all of which boost your immune system. You can make sure you get great nutrients from fresh food by ditching the health-damaging junk food and instead support your body with a bit of time in the kitchen, cooking from fresh ingredients. Supplements can be useful too. And a have a care with alcohol which blocks absorption.

Metabolic Health

Another important thing is your metabolic health (defined as normal blood pressure, low triglycerides, high HDL cholesterol, low waist circumference, HbA1c showing not pre-diabetic).

Poor metabolic health or metabolic syndrome increases your risk of death from coronavirus by 10 times – that’s 1000%.

It’s being driven by our current high carbohydrate, low fat eating style. Baddies include: breakfast cereal, ready meals, snack bars, anything made of flour or containing vegetable oil and other ultra-processed foods with more than 5 ingredients.

Poor metabolic health doesn’t always link to obesity (although the same foods also cause weight gain). And it affects people of all ages. In America 7 out of 8 people are metabolically unhealthy including 6 out of 8 people aged 20-40. I don’t know the number in Britain but looking at diet, many of our young people may well be metabolically unhealthy. The prevalence of diabetes is 3-5 times higher in the black/Asian population and we’ve seen how they are suffering higher death rates from this virus. They may also need vitamin D supplements as there is too little sunlight in Britain for their darker skin to make enough.

You can improve your metabolic health in a few weeks by cooking your own meals from fresh meat, fish, vegetables.

My simple guide for every meal –

Plants, Proteins, Fats

No Substitute

The choice of coffees is dizzying in cafés these days. Not just flat white, cappuccino or Americano but many varieties of milk with which to make them. The supermarket range of milks has grown hugely too. Here’s a look at their nutrition.

Whole milk is rich and creamy with such high quality protein, good fats, high bio-availability minerals and vitamins and digestibility, it rates even better than steak. Dairy appears to protect against heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Jersey gold top is creamier still and hasn’t been homogenised so the cream rises to the top – remember the blue tits pecking through foil bottle tops?

Unpasteurised milk is available from farms around the country and still contains its enzymes and beneficial bacteria. It might reduce children’s risk of suffering from eczema, hay fever and other allergies.

Organic is the gold standard for animal welfare and lack of chemicals.

Reduced fat milk contains good protein, lots of B vitamins and plenty of calcium and phosphorous. It is usually fortified with synthetic vitamins A and D because the natural vitamins are lost with the fat. However, without the fat, it is harder for your body to absorb the vitamins and the calcium.

A common mistake is to think skimmed milk helps weight loss. I call it the skinny latte fallacy. It’s the natural sugar in milk that could cause weight gain so less milk is a better strategy.

Goats’ milk is similarly nutritionally to cows’ and its A2 casein causes fewer allergies than the A1 protein found in most cows’ milk.

Lactose-free milk is really useful if you’re intolerant to the sugar in milk (lactose). In South East Asia and Southern Africa 90% are lactose-intolerant but in Northern Europe it’s only about 3%. This problem has been exacerbated now that most of the milk available is pasteurised which destroys the enzyme lactase you’ll find in raw milk. Another option might be to use the fermented milk kefir which contains hardly any lactose.

Filtered milk has longer shelf life. This comes at the loss of health-beneficial good bacteria. You can make up for this by eating live, natural yoghurt or kefir.

Long-Life milk has been ultra-heat-treated to sterilise it. It’s very handy for a weekend away camping if you don’t have access to a fridge, as is powdered milk.

Flavoured milks are a bit like runny ice cream with their added sugar, flavouring and other chemicals, so don’t ever think of these as healthy. The best I found on sale were from Shaken Udder. My grandfather used to make us milk shakes using Jersey gold top, a few strawberries or cocoa powder and a bit (not a lot) of banana in a blender.

Milk substitutes are helpful if you have allergies. They’re white and they pour but they’re not milk. Most of them have more than 5 ingredients and are therefore classed as ultra-processed. They may have synthetic vitamins and minerals added and most have low protein and fat but you can use other foods to make up for what milk would have provided.

Nut milks generally contain only ~2% nuts and might have more added sugar than that – check the label. It’s easy to make your own. Just soak some nuts in a glass of water overnight. In the morning, rinse well in a sieve and put in a blender with some fresh water. Whizz. That’s it. You can strain out the pulp if you prefer.

Oat milk and rice milk have little to commend them nutritionally and are mainly carbohydrate or as Dr Unwin calls it “soon to be sugar”.

Soya milk has high protein content but this has only a partial set of amino acids. Its calcium comes with the anti-nutrient phytic acid which blocks calcium absorption. I do not recommend consumption of unfermented soya in any form, including milk.

Coconut milk is good for fat and flavour.

Hemp milk is a new one on me and provides some excellent fats.

Top tip – You’ll only get the full nutritional benefits from the real thing but with so many types to choose from, you’ll always be able to put something white in your coffee.

Eat Yourself Well

I’m about to deliver an Eat Yourself Well day for The Create Escape in Milnthorpe, Cumbria.

They run lovely days, each on a special topic like pottery, creative writing, photography, chemical-free cosmetics – plus a cookery demonstration followed by a 2-course lunch, in a delightful farmhouse with an entertaining double act from hosts Angela and Debs.

Some questions I’ll be asking are:

  • how well are you now?
  • how well do you want to be?
  • how high is food in your priorities?

Helen Gerson said there are only two root causes of chronic disease: Deficiency and toxicity.

She was talking about non-infectious things like T2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, aches, pains, digestive woes, skin problems, lack of energy.

Food can boost your health or damage your health.

You can do yourself good by stuffing in lots of untainted goodness.  Think back to the 70s – meat and two veg, cooked at home.  It simplifies your shopping, it’s quick, it’s cheap, it’s satisfying, you can make it tasty and you’ll feel so much better.I fear that marketing is now the number 1 factor governing what we buy rather than the effect on our bodies.

Manufactured food is much more profitable than home-cooked food so it’s thrust under your nose all day long. Sadly it has lower or damaged nutrients and often contains health damaging chemicals. It’s addictive by design, leading to over-eating and leaving many people over-fed and undernourished. If you buy anything with an ingredients list, read it. Avoid sugar, sweeteners, vegetable oil and anything with more than 5 ingredients.

The good news is that you can easily choose to take care of yourself with a quick trip to the butchers and the green grocers.

Your body will say, “Thank You” when you eat yourself well.

TOP TIPS

  • Food is not just fuel. Think about goodness rather than calories.
  • Eat natural, local and seasonal: fresh vegetables and fruit, grass-fed, free-range meat, non-farmed fish, natural fats.
  • Minimise sugar, vegetable oil and processed food.
  • Drink water to quench your thirst.
  • Buy real food, cook with love, eat with gratitude and enjoy!

What would I recommend off these promotional flyers?

Just the eggs on the first one and the beef, chicken and cheese on the second.

Something Soothing for a Cold

Mother always said, “Go out with wet hair and you’ll catch a cold”. Well I came back from the swimming pool without drying it and, sure enough, a few days later, I succumbed.

More recently, research has found that breathing cold air affects how well your defence mechanisms deal with invading viruses, making it more likely you’ll catch something. The Common Cold Centre in Cardiff has experimented on some poor volunteers. The evidence is equivocal but it seems that blood vessels in the nose and throat contract when you are cold and wet which reduces the number of white blood cells available to protect you. That short period of time when your defences are lowered can be enough for the viruses around us to take hold.

I saw it off fairly fast with a combination of rest, bouncing and this concoction:

  • Lemon juice – source of vitamin C and antioxidants
  • Honey (½ tsp) – complex and mysterious with anti-bacterial healing properties, honey is still sugar so use in moderation.
  • ½” chopped fresh ginger root – it’s anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.
  • 3 cloves – anaesthetic properties (ever popped one by your gum for toothache?) They’re also anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and expectorant.
  • 1 tsp coconut oil – it’s anti-bacteria, anti-fungal, anti-viral and soothing.

Pour on boiling water and let it steep for a minute or two to make a tasty, soothing drink.

And the bouncing? It speeds up the flow of lymph around your body. Use an old-fashioned skipping rope or go gentle on your knees with a trampoline.

Top tip – Mum was right; it’s worth spending time drying your hair and getting bundled up with a hat and scarf before going out in the cold.

Quote of the Month – a Calorie is not a Calorie

 

It’s extremely naive of the public and the medical profession to imagine that a calorie of bread, a calorie of meat and a calorie of alcohol are all dealt with in the same way by the amazingly complex systems of the body.

Professor David Haslam

Chairman of the National Obesity Forum

He’s absolutely right –

           – which makes it puzzling that the National Obesity Forum is completely hung up on calories. The main detriment of drinking sweet drinks (sugary or zero Cal artificial) is not the calories they contain but the fact that they make you hungry – and particularly hungry for junk foods.

Soup to cheer your lunchtime

Salads are out and we want a warming soup to cheer our lunchtime.  Luckily it’s easy to make your own with hundreds of recipes on the internet in every flavour you could wish for.

Home made soup is cheap, delicious, nutritious and fresh. It’s good for your health to eat a wide variety of foods and soup is a good way to ‘hide’ those you’re not so keen on and wouldn’t eat on their own. Use your imagination and be a bit free and easy when creating your soup.

My standard recipe goes something like this:

(All ingredients should be cut small before they go in the pan.)

Cook an onion in butter until transparent.

Add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic, a carrot and couple of sticks of celery and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add 1/3 tin of tomatoes, handful each of cabbage stems and cauliflower leaves (for the waste-not-want-not generation you can save these earlier in the year; just wash, chop and pop in the freezer), stock or bouillon to cover, a squirt of tomato puree, salt, pepper, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried parsley (or fresh if you have it in which case you’ll need about 1 tbsp).

I often add saved ‘juices’ from beef stew for a richer flavour. You could even cut up cooked meats to put in. Deli counters often sell cheap mixed offcuts.

Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, add some green beans and peas. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Tip in a small (300g) tin of mixed pulses. Use a stick blender to whizz it smooth. Freeze in portions for use on other days.

Following my principle of plants, protein and fats, to make a more nutritionally rounded meal from this almost all carb soup, skip the bread and serve with a slice of cheese.

This one’s pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup

Just chop the flesh of a 2-3lb pumpkin into cubes, put in a large saucepan with 3/4 pint stock, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and parsley.  Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add a tin of mixed beans and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Whizz with a stick blender then stir in a 1/2 pint tin of coconut milk.  That’s it!

I’ve also looked at what’s available to buy.

As far as possible, try to avoid unhealthy ingredients like sunflower oil, sugar and MSG that are so often used in manufactured food products. Look out too for misleading labels on products containing only tiny amounts of the most appealing bit yet naming it in big letters splashed across the front. (This applies to food, shampoo, you name it.) Always check the ingredients list on the label, they appear in order from most to least.

‘Fresh’ cartons and pouches – found in the cold aisle. The New Covent Garden veg based soups look pretty good but the Smoked Haddock is mostly potato and with only 5% fish has a disappointing nutritional profile for a fish chowder. Similarly, Naked’s Vietnamese Fiery Beef Pho contains no beef, just beef stock (only 5%) plus loads of spices to give it flavour.

Tins – most supermarkets sell a huge array of tinned soups including own-brand and many manufacturers. Usually these have a dozen ingredients (excluding water and any added vitamins/minerals). The best I found was Crosse and Blackwell’s Roast Chicken and Vegetable which has all real food ingredients in respectable amounts, as has Baxter’s Super Good Pea, Broccoli and Pesto soup.

Free and Easy soups – are useful if you have food allergies/intolerances.

Packet soups – can be useful at the office or if out and about but you don’t want your flask tainted with last week’s lunch.  They usually have about 17 ingredients but this varies widely. Surprisingly, Batchelor’s Minestrone Slim a Soup, at a whopping 27, contains 10 more than their Minestrone Cup a Soup. Batchelor’s Chicken and Leek is another misleading name with only 1% chicken. The Morrisons Golden Vegetable with Croutons is one I used to have sometimes but nowadays, for the sake of my health, I prefer to cook than buy.

Top tip: Get soup making.