Readers of this blog will know that I have always been an advocate of avoiding artificially produced ‘Trans Fats’ which are shown on food labels as ‘partially hydrogenated fats/oils’ (see 5 Fat Facts)
Good news last week is that the European Union has passed legislation to limit the presence of these fats in all products where they are artificially added (note that naturally formed trans fats are present in some animal based products) - this means in biscuits, pastries, cakes, margarines…
The limitation will be to 2g per 100g (following the line taken by Denmark in 2003).
This reduction will have immediate health benefits across all of our societies - in Denmark they calculate the reduction of trans fats has saved 700 lives per year (source: ScienceNordic (2015) Danish ban on trans fat saves two lives a day)).
I wonder why it has taken 16 years to do what Denmark already did?
Of course we know why, the lobbying of the food industry is very powerful. Trans fats are cheap to produce and make products last a long time on the supermarket shelves… sadly bottom line figures of the few had a lot of power on the health of the many.
It tends to be the poorest people in our societies that are targeted with foods high in trans fats as they are foods that are cheap for the industry to produce and therefore widely available at low cost.
This is why this reduction is so important.
Peanut butter containing ‘hydrogenated fats’ - not even clearly labelled as ‘trans fat’
The downside of the legislation is that companies have until April 2021 to put this law in place. If people are being effected on a similar rate as in Denmark, across Europe that would be another 140,000 prematurely dying due to the food that is being pushed at them.
Take the steps for yourself and your own health:
Read the ingredient labels and avoid any food with ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated fat’ - this is trans fat;
Avoid buying ‘edible products’ from companies that use trans fats (most large multinational industrial food companies) - they are responsible for it not being a complete ban and for such a long lead in time to implementation
Talk to people around you - especially in the supermarket, the school … people do not know
We don’t have to look far in social media or our inboxes for news of the devastating effects of plastic pollution. We can no longer ignore it.
What do we know?
That plastic NEVER disappears… all it will do is break down into tiny microbeads that will eventually find their way into our food chain.
That plastic is not even healthy in it’s first use - never mind its second or third and when it gets into our waste system. Storing food in plastic, drinking water from plastic, heating food in plastic will all mean that molecules of plastic will seep into our food and drink and therefore potentially damaging.
That recycling plastic is not the answer. Still too much ends up in places where it shouldn’t be and at the moment the cost of recycled plastic is so high that companies are not using it…
So we need to re-design our lives with less plastic and give a strong message to our food producers that we do not need plastic around the cucumbers, grapes in plastic boxes and everything covered in cling film!
Here are a just 3 very easy (food focussed) steps that can help lower the plastic use:
1) Get yourself a water gourd and a reusable coffee cup (if you buy your coffee to takeaway!) - make it a point not to buy a bottle of water in a plastic bottle or a coffee with a plastic lid. Even in a cafe if they will not serve me water from a glass bottle (or even better from the tap), I will not buy their water.
2) Choose to store your food in glass or metal containers. I use jars from my beans and chickpeas or store soup in a bottle that was once passata. Re-use as much as possible before you re-cycle.
3) Find shops where you can buy foods and put them in paper or cloth bags or your own containers. They are popping up more and more. If you do not have access to this kind of shop then ask to see your supermarket manager and say that you are a customer that wants to see change - if no one is asking, no one is acting!
There are so many great inspirational ideas out their on how you can reduce your plastic use. If you have done something that has reduced your plastic use - please share your ideas in the comments below.
Have you ever downed an entire package of crisps, crackers, or biscuits? Ate pizza or cake until you felt sick? Drank more coffee or wine than your body wanted?
Do you remember how you were feeling at the time?
I ask because sometimes we overeat to help distract us from emotional pain. Have you noticed that sometimes when you overeat you’re not hungry at all? What you are is lonely. Or angry. Or sad. Or resentful. Or frustrated. Or something else… or all of them…
Eating can give many people a temporary ‘escape’ from their feelings - but it does not make the feeling go away and more likely than not joined by a lot of extra ‘guilt’ for whatever you decided to use as comfort.
Tap into what is really happening
Wouldn’t it be more effective to address your uncomfortable feelings?
Maybe begin by trying to name them. I like to use the technique of saying ‘There is something in me that is…. sad/angry/frustrated’ - those three words of ‘something in me’ make the feeling not as overwhelming as when we say ‘I am…’ which makes it feel like it is the whole of you.
Simply recognising these feelings is a very powerful first step.
Sometimes we can feel this somewhere physically in our body. I know that when I am anxious about something I have a fist sized knot right in the middle of my solar plexus. I know when that happens that I need to slow down and be with whatever is happening and what I am feeling. Burying it down and pretending that it is not there simply won’t make it go away.
However e-motions are exactly what they say they are - they have motion in them. They are not called e-stucks! When we give them some attention and acknowledgement they can start to shift - the knot can start to untie.
It is important to acknowledge yourself - forgive yourself. “Wow no wonder that packet of biscuits was looking so interesting when I was trying to espace from all that,” “No wonder I think that my answer could be found at the bottom of the wine glass.” However maybe this time I am going to choose what I am going to do next with a bit more forgiveness and awareness of how I really feel…?
If this post speaks to you in a way that you sometimes find hard to deal with - you are not alone. If you would like time to talk about it with someone trained in dimensions of emotional eating, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
Christmas with all its excesses is over… New Year celebrations with all the different friends and family starting to be complete… ok what now?
For many people the year starts with a set of resolutions which seem like a great idea for the first few days and then work gets busy again and they get lost.
I used to do my resolutions every year (well twice actually as September also feels like a New Year to me!). I would even (annoyingly) insist that other people did them with me and could offer them some ideas for resolutions if they could not find them themselves!! ;-)
However these last few years I have taken a gentler approach each year…
I have sat with a paper and coloured pens and made a picture of words and ideas that I would love to see more of in the year ahead… nature, creativity, hope, slowing down, connections, making memories. I put it on the wall of my office and check in with it from time to time… just a little reminder of what is important for me when life gets crazy.
Instead of heading into a detox - why not start to gently cleanse your liver with lemon juice and warm water in the morning and a green smoothie to start the day? Simply putting some nuts, seeds, fruit, spinach/kale and water in a blender can give you a great boost in the morning.
Rather than heading for a crazy exercise schedule - look how you can become more active in your day. How can you actively move around the city - walk, bike, scooter? Take the stairs… then add in something you really love… dance, yoga, run (if you love it!)
Rather than heading for diet - try out coaching… make changes that will last you a lifetime without relying on willpower and denial…
How do you want to feel by the end of 2019? Light, relaxed, fun, happy…?
Well start feeling it now… that feeling is already in you… it just wants some permission to come out!
This is the average recommendation for all adults – even more if you are doing heavy exercise, its hot or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Simple water is the best drink you can possibly have. It not only truly quenches thirst but it keeps our skin and body young, helps us maintain our body temperature, helps with memory and concentration (80% of our brain is water!) and transports all the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients around our bodies…. Not bad!
Not getting enough on the other hand makes us dehydrated, tired, can result in stomach and headaches, lack of concentration, bad breath, urinary infections, constipation…
Which water should I drink?
Tap water is the most controlled and tested substance that we consume… 60 criterion of quality - therefore it is absolutely no problem to drink the water from your tap.
Tap water is a natural product whose taste can vary. Sometimes an inoffensive amount of chlorine is added to stabilise bacteria and it may have a slight chlorine smell. But chlorine is volatile and evaporates off when the water is poured into a jug or carafe with a large opening, so try pouring your water out a few minutes before you drink it.
Also water can differ in levels of calcium, magnesium, iron etc. – this will have an influence on taste (same with bottled water). Careful - bottled water also contains much more salt (sodium).
If you need some time to adjust to the taste (taste buds change very fast), add a slice of lemon or cucumber or a few mint leaves to your water.
My tap water looks milky
Milky coloured water comes from tiny air bubbles and depends on the pressure and temperature of the water. Again leave for a minute and they will disappear.
Should I filter?
Filtering water reduces its quality… the filter, if not changed regularly enough, can become a bacteria nest, that could irritate stomach and intestines.
Water in Brussels is so hard – should I use a softener?
Softeners on taps take out the magnesium and calcium and replaces with sodium – not good for heart, arteries and blood pressure. Don’t worry your body temperature is not the same as the temperature you heat your kettle to - your insides will not look like the inside of your kettle! Hard water is high in magnesium and other minerals and actually is much better for your health than soft water.
Not yet convinced?
Drinking 1,5 litres of tap water per day costs you less than 2 euros PER YEAR!!
How does that compare to buying bottled water? A 1,5 litre bottle of water will cost on average 2 euros (depending on whether in the supermarket or in the restaurant). Drinking from your tap is saving you over 700 euros a year - not to mention the added costs on the environment of all that plastic.
For a family of four - that’s a pretty big budget!
So go on - why not make that switch to the wonderful tap water?
Fat has had a hard time over recent years... all bunched together it had been pushed out of many products. Low-fat, fat-free, 220% less fat have become a major headline on anything from cereals to yoghurts!
But what does it all mean? What are these things we call 'fats'? Do they really make us fat?
The fact is that in a world with so many fat-free products, people have never been bigger... there must be something going wrong.
Fats come in four main types: Saturated, Mono-unsaturated, Poly-unsaturated and Trans-Fatty Acids (or hydrogenated/ partially hydrogenated fats)
Here's five simple fat facts which may help you find your way between them:
1) The only one to completely avoid is Trans-Fatty Acids or Hydrogenated Fats/Oils. These are oils that have been created industrially in order to make products last a long time on a shelf (think homemade biscuits could not last until 2020!). They raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol and raise risk of heart disease. These are found in packaged foods - margarine, crisps, pastries, biscuits, cakes, fizzy drinks... read the labels!
2) On the other side - poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats raise the good cholesterol and lower the bad... Bingo! This is what we want! Therefore more avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish.
3) Poly-unstaurated fats are also known as the Omega fats! There is Omega 3, 6 and 9. Number 3 is the key one that we miss... great for brains, concentration, mood, for the heart... oily fish, walnuts, linseeds all great sources.
4) Animal products (meat and dairy) are mainly saturated fat. It is recommended to limit these, especially if you have heart issues in the family.
5) Good fats add taste to meals and fill you up - meaning that usually you need less to feel full... therefore eating less. Low fat products usually have something else in them or you need more to feel full... Better to eat full fat and enjoy less.
Maybe this is not what John Lennon had in mind when he wrote "all we are saying... is give peace a chance", but so many people are living highly stressful lives (I've been there too) and we all need to be reminded sometimes that we are not at war!
Mobile phones, constantly checking emails, internet, rushing to meetings, skipping meals or eating on the run... sound familiar? Sadly this is the daily reality and 'normality' for a lot of people. There is a constant expectation that we should be available 24 hours, 7 days a week otherwise.... otherwise what exactly? Disaster? War? Famine? Societal breakdown?
Adrenelin, norepinephrine and cortisol are our three major 'fight and flight' hormones. Adrenaline gives us that surge of energy to run away from a threatening situation and also focusses our minds. Norelinephrine gets the blood flow into the muscles to give us the best chance of escape. Cortisol takes a little bit longer to release from the adrenal glands - it maintains fluid balance and blood pressure by taking away from some 'non-essential' functions during crisis - reproduction, immunity. digestion and growth & repair.
You can see how this is all really useful when faced with a ferocious lion, a natural disaster or being attacked... but as a response to an email?
If you stay in a constant stressed state the body continuously produces cortisol... those 'non-essential' functions (which are really essential in the long run) get neglected and the result is suppressed immune system (therefore illness), increased blood pressure, decreased libido, skin problems, disgestive troubles - including holding on to weight and more...
So what can we do? Here's a few simple tips:
1) Take some deep breathes - when you get up, before you turn on your computer, before you tackle big tasks... this helps to regulate the body and tell it you are not in the war zone.
2) Have regular meals - eat at regular times and give your body a break to digest in between meals. It will start to trust that it is getting nutrients at certain times and therefore let go of what it doesn't need
3) Disconnect - make sure you have some time every day without the phone, computer, tv... just some time out. Schedule some 'unavailable' time?
The years go by but some things stay the same - I am still a big kid when it comes to 'back to school' time and I cannot resist buying some new pens!
This is really my favourite time of year. Feeling the energy from the sun and a long summer holiday, the mornings just that bit cooler and crisper, the markets an abundance of colour of harvest time and the basil and tomatoes amazingly tasty!
The last part of our summer holiday we spent with my sister-in-law and enjoyed the pool and the garden of vegetables that we love every year...
Abundance of basil which we turned into pots of pesto (used in the recipe below)
However, lets face it getting back into the rhythm of school and work can also be tough.
The first day that I was sitting down for hours on end just felt so unnatural - and yet very soon we get used to it and it becomes normal :-(
We have had to set the alarm clock every morning this week (something we never usually do as the kids are just as reliable to wake us up at 7.15am every morning)... that beep beep as the first thing I hear every day is not my favourite!
The kids, although so happy to be back at school, are more tired and more irritable and mornings and evenings lose their gentle flow...
We all got soaked in the amazing storms on Wednesday....
I like to take a moment during the first week of September to write some words or wishes for the coming academic year... something that will make me feel that the year will progress in a way that will make me feel good and feel that I am moving on.
I make it fun and colourful and light - not full of 'shoulds' but full of what I want to do or how I want to feel...
This year (among many other things) it is back to my wonderful yoga class (home practice really does not work for me!), not over-scheduling, keeping running and testing out more and more yummy recipes to share with you!
I had a request this week from a friend to write a bit about seeds - what they do for us and how we can use them. This fits well with last week's fat facts blog as seeds are full of omega 3s and 6s and are really good option for healthy fats...
... so here you go!
Pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy, hemp, chia, flax (linseeds), mustard, cumin, coriander... the list is long and no matter which seeds you prefer they are all little powerhouses of goodness and make a great addition to any meal.
Many of them can be processed into oils, but the process involves heat and quite a bit of effort, so personally I like to use a cold pressed oil such as olive oil and eat the seeds in their whole form.
A seed is no small thing. Each and every one has the potential to grow into a plant and produce fruit with more seeds in it. If that is not a 'living' food! Just imagine what that does in terms of energy for your body.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and then press firmly into the base of an oiled cake tin. Bake in the oven at 150 degrees for 1 hour.
Enjoy with a nice cup of tea!
Putting a few seeds to soak in water overnight and then draining them and leaving them to sprout (keeping slightly moist) is a great way to see how fast a seed springs to life... fun to do with kids and great to eat them. For more tips on sprouting seeds and beans, see here
What are your favourite seeds and how do you eat them?
When your tummy is not feeling so good and digestion not functioning as well as you like, reaching for spices may not be the first thing on your mind... but did you know that many spices have amazing healing properties and some are particularly kind to digestion...?
Help could be at hand in your store cupboard!
Black pepper: This common spice has a stimulating effect on digestive organs, and can help increase the flow of saliva and gastic juices. Grind freshly cracked pepper on just about anything.
Cardamom: A slightly sweet spice, it helps boost your digestive fire and removes flatulence. Sprinkle with cinnamon over hot breakfast rice or add to cooked beans for an exotic Indian flavor.
Coriander: This seed contains oils that offer high levels of cell-protecting antioxidants. It also works like an antispasmodic drug, relaxing the contractive digestive muscles that cause discomfort from disorders such as IBS. Use coriander in hearty stews or in spice rubs on roasts.
Cumin: Commonly used in Indian and Mexican foods, it helps relieve flatulence. For nearly instant relief, chew a spoonful of seeds, or brew a tea from seeds and drink after a meal.
Ginger: Fresh root ginger is best. Has amazing digestive properties - reducing stomach cramps and discomfort, help overcome nausea and great for coughs and colds.
Turmeric: This root has anti-inflammatory properties, and is traditionally used to help heal cuts, bruises and burns. Raw turmeric juice can also be used to treat hyper-acidity and indigestion. Its also a great one for sore throats.
Here's to happier tummies and spicier lives... what's your favourite?