Tag Archives: healthy fat

You CAN Enjoy the Party Season – without rolling into January feeling and looking rubbish!

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I couldn’t believe it when immediately after Halloween I noticed Starbucks had their Christmas cups out already! The sugar laden Christmas flavoured lattes are out and adverts for mulled wine and Bailey’s, and Christmas party food are all over our screens. Party season has landed!

Whilst its great to have an entire month when you just let it all go and enjoy 4 weeks of guilt-free living (I’m all for that), its also undeniable that we roll (literally) into January feeling bloated, tired, and overweight, making a vow to turn things around now that it’s the New Year.

You CAN enjoy the parties, your work team Christmas lunches, the Christmas dinners with friends, and then the inevitable day itself, and still feel and look great all the way through….bounding into the New Year having still had a ball!

Here are my 5 Smart Tips for Feeling Fabulous all Season Long

  1. Keep your blood sugar balanced at all times
  2. Stay hydrated throughout
  3. Make smart alcohol choices
  4. Be choosey about your celebration days
  5. Don’t totally snub your exercise routine

1) Keep your blood sugar balanced at all times

Balancing your blood sugar levels really is the key to sustained energy and weight management. If your blood sugar is fluctuating up and down throughout the day then so is your energy, and you can bet that fat is being stored on your body, mainly around your middle. You can of course enjoy extra treats and sweets in during the party season, I know I certainly will be, but it doesn’t have to cost you your energy and weight if you do it right.

Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to a smart Christmas and New Year:

Eat protein with every meal and snack, including the treats! So that means including a piece of meat or fish, eggs, or tempeh (a healthier version of tofu), nuts and seeds, good quality clean protein powder, legumes, with each meal and snack, and when the cakes or chocolates get passed around in the office enjoy yours in the presence of some protein, so with your lunch or a snack rather than on an empty stomach. This will help to slow the release of sugar from the treat into your blood stream, which can help to minimize the insulin spike (our fat storing hormone).

Include healthy fats with every meal and snack such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, coconut milk/oil/cream/butter/yogurt, grass-fed butter.

Eat good quality carbs only with meals and have them make up one quarter of your plate. Examples are brown rice, quinoa, brown pasta, sweet potato, squash.

Include plenty of what I like to call ‘nutrient-dense’ carbs, which are non-starchy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, chard, leeks, cauliflower….basically any vegetable that isn’t a root vegetable or a potato, and have these make up half of your plate.

Aim to leave no more than 3-4 hours between meals and snacks, so that might look like eating 4 times a day (3 meals and 1 snack), or sometimes 5 if needed. If you feel irritable, get cravings or feel your energy dipping then this is a sign that your blood sugar is dropping quite low, so make sure you are actually eating every 3-4 hours and that you’re including enough protein and healthy fats, whilst keeping carbs (especially refined and sugary foods) to a minimum (only as treats).

2) Stay hydrated throughout

Sip filtered water from morning, and include herbal teas, you’re aiming to take in a good 2 litres of water each day, even when you’re drinking alcohol, you’ll need a bit more in this case. It’s so important to be hydrated throughout the party season (and all year round please!) in order to keep toxins flushing through the body and to hydrate all your body’s cells. If the body isn’t hydrated it simply cannot burn fat. Also, help to fen off unwanted hangover headaches, which are basically due to dehydration.

 3) Make smart alcohol choices

Alcohol causes rapid spikes in blood sugar levels in much the same way that refined carbs and sugary foods do. So the trick here is to avoid sugary choices and stick to the lowest sugar choices, and stay hydrated by having a glass of water in between each drink. Avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach and aim to eat protein beforehand. Stick to these 3 principles:

  • If wine is your tipple then go for a good quality red and avoid white if you can. Dry and sparkling is also a better choice (an excuse to go for a good quality champagne then!)
  • Use pure spirits such as vodka and gin and preferably with ice, soda water and fresh lime as this really limits your sugar intake. Use pure whiskeys and sip it on the rocks and pass on the mixers.
  • Stay away from cocktails, mixers like coke, Fanta, lemonade (including the diet versions) etc., Baileys and other creamy drinks, and liqueurs – these are all laden with sugar.

4) Be choosey about your celebration days

During the party season it can be so easy to say “right I’m going to let everything go for the entire month” (or even 6 weeks for some people), and this is when we really can ‘roll’ into January feeling and looking pretty rubbish! It really doesn’t have to be like this. We can have a lot of fun and still feel and look good, and give ourselves a pat on the back in the new year when we don’t have to go searching for the nearest detox programme or start training for the nearest half marathon just to feel better about ourselves. These really are extreme measures that just don’t need to be taken if we keep things balanced. Look at diary for the week ahead and decide the days when you’re going socialize and the days when you’re not, on the days that you’re not then keep things clean (follow these points), sleep well, stay hydrated, no alcohol or treats. Then on the days that you decide you are socialiazing – keep things clean (follow these points), stay hydrated, whilst also including some alcohol and treats, if that’s what the event entails. Just because there’s a box of Celebrations at the end of your desk at 10am on Monday doesn’t mean you have to take any, if you fuel yourself properly with a protein based breakfast and have a protein based (an healthy fat) snack at hand for mid morning then you will feel immensely proud of yourself for not following the crowd! Then reward yourself in January with something non-food related like a new outfit, a day at a spa, a ticket to a match or the theatre with a friend….but only if you’ve gone through the party season like a superstar and followed these tips!

5) Don’t totally snub your exercise routine

You don’t have to use December as an excuse to totally shun any exercise with the intention to go mad in January to make up for it. Again this is an extreme measure that just doesn’t have to be the case, and nor should it. If you wont manage to get to your usual 3-4 gym sessions a week that’s fine, but how about managing 1-2 sessions instead, rather than none? You can increase walking but getting off the bus or tube a stop earlier to walk to and from work. You can also download the Tabata Timer app on your phone, pick a pair of body weight exercises and do a 4 minutetabata session some mornings before hitting the shower, go get your heart rate and metabolism up ready for some fat burning!

I hope these tips have been useful and that you will take them on board and come out of the party season feeling great, and proud of yourself!

Let me know if you have any questions!

With love,

Francesca x

You’ve just got to love EGGS!

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Eggs!! They really are a wonder food in my book, but so many of us think we should avoid them because they are “high in fat” or “don’t they raise cholesterol?”. After years of being given the wrong advice from our government and health officials, its time we turned things around and started including all the great foods we’ve been told to avoid, and start to become a healthy nation!

Some questions you might have are “how many eggs should I consume in a week?”, “What about my cholesterol?”, “Should I discard the yolk?”

Let me help you get some answers.

Eggs are a great source of a complete, high quality protein with few calories (although we don’t count those here ;-)). One whole medium size egg has around 5-6 grams of protein and contains all the 9 essential amino acids, making eggs perfect for muscle growth,repair and recovery. They are a ‘nutrient dense food’ and one worth having on the menu for breakfast, snacks, lunch, or dinner!

Eggs are rich in choline, which is an essential nutrient that the human body can indeed make itself in small amounts but it still needs to be consumed in the diet to maintain good levels. Choline is important for our brain, nervous system and cardiovascular system.

Eggs contain Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health as they can help prevent macular degeneration. These 2 nutrients are more readily available (absorbed better) from eggs than any other foods.

The white of the egg has about 57% of the total protein in an egg, which is why some people like to load up on whites, and they usually discard the yolk due to its fat andcholesterol content, let’s look at this in more detail.

Ok, so yes it’s true that egg yolks contain cholesterol, fat and saturated fat. But, only 1.6g of the total 4.5g fat in an egg yolk is saturated fat, so the rest is the good type of fat that our bodies and brains need so desperately, and we are most likely not getting enough of. These good fats are also needed to help our body burn fat. Some saturated fat in the diet is fine, and necessary, its trans and processed fats that we should be avoiding. There are also some really important nutrients in the egg yolk that we are depriving our body off if we discard the yolk such as essential fatty acids and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E, essential fatty acids, then there is the 2.7 grams of protein you’d be leaving behind too.

The table below (taken from the USDA) compares the nutrients of the egg white with the yolk, and shows the percentage of total nutrition found in both. You can see from this that the yolk is the most nutritious part, so please please don’t leave it out! 

Nutrition of Egg Yolks V’s Egg Whites

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New research shows that moderate consumption of eggs does not have a negative impact on cholesterol(1). ‘New’ is the key word here. Mainstream media and parts of the NHS are still clinging onto outdated research (which was very much flawed in the first place(2)), it’s important to keep up to date with research when making dietary recommendations and claims to the masses that may even be damaging their health rather than improving it. Recent studies have shown that regular consumption of two eggs per day does not affect a person’s lipid (cholesterol) profile and may, in fact, improve it, and suggests that it is bad fats and overconsumption on sugar that raises cholesterol rather than dietary cholesterol such as that found in eggs.

So, hopefully by now you are happy to include (whole) eggs in your daily diet (unless of course they cause you digestive upset of any sort). When buying your eggs always go for free range and organic if you can, you can also look for the ‘omega 3 enriched’ kind. Free range and organic ensures you’re eating the eggs from healthy happy chickens that roam around free and are fed the right food so they can produce great eggs. Eggs from battery farmed (caged) hens are a no-no, so don’t go for the cheapest option as these are most likely to be from caged hens, always read the label!

On a typical day, I have 2 whole eggs, but sometimes more, and I’ve been doing this for many years now. I love them scrambled with smoked salmon and spinach on a crunchy piece of rye toast with some real butter, or poached with some grilled asparagus, or boiled and mixed into a salad or as a snack during the day. My cholesterol levels are fine and I don’t struggle with my weight (not since about 10 years ago). Even if the dietary cholesterol in egg yolks DID, have an effect on the cholesterol levels in your blood it would be very minimal. Enjoy eggs and enjoy everyday! They are a handy, practical, and healthy addition to a whole foods healthy diet.

I hope this has been helpful, for further reading on the subject of cholesterol and food have a read of this insightful book, and also this one, sometimes you have to take your health into your own hands and dig a little deeper.

Francesca x

 

 

 

 

Make fat your friend! It isn’t the cause of weight gain!

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Before I became a Nutritional Therapist I used to believe, like most of us still do today, that foods containing fat simply made us fat, and unhealthy. I would be forgiven for believing it because since the 1950’s, when research came out linking saturated fat and cholesterol with heart disease mass media (and medical industry) have been pushing that message every single day and when you walk into any supermarket you are bombarded with ‘low-fat’, ‘zero % fat’ and ‘fat-free’ products with the low fat food industry flourishing around us. It’s so deeply ingrained in us that most of us cringe at the thought of using lard, and even butter! Some of us even avoid avocados and nuts for fear of getting fat!  And we never touch the skin on the chicken!

To totally avoid fat has to be some of the worst heath advice we’ve had over the years! Sadly the message we’ve been given is wrong, that research from the 1950’s that started this whole thing off has been invalidated and saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease, nor do healthy fat foods such as nuts, avocados, butter, full fat yoghurt, etc, make us fat. In fact, low fat diets have been shown to reduce levels of ‘good’ (HDL cholesterol) and increase triglycerides, which are risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. This is likely due to our over-reliance on carbohydrate foods whilst on a low fat diet as well the hidden sugars in low-fat products.

Since we all started cutting fat from our diets obesity, heart disease and cancer rates have all increased with heart disease being the number one killer in men and women. The rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly is increasing and children are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes younger and younger, and all this is despite cutting out fat from our diets. In actual fact low carb diets have consistently shown better results for weight loss than low fat diets and this is because eating lower carbs and not excluding fat has a balancing effect on your blood sugar which means that your metabolism is supported and will work more efficiently for you, burning fat rather than storing it.

So should we all start eating higher fat diets again?

Yes, fat does not make us fat or sick; it is necessary for our health, and for weight management. Make peace with fat not war! 

The body simply works better when we allow fat in. One of my aims as a nutritional therapist is to help people to understand this and most of all to accept it, embrace fat, eat it every day, with every meal and snack, and lose the fear!

Sugar and refined carbohydrates makes us fat! Every time we eat a carbohydrate food it turns into sugar in the bloodstream. Our pancreas then secretes insulin (our fat-storing hormone) to bring the sugar to our cells so that we can use it as energy. If we have excess sugar in our body (which we most likely will after any high sugar or refined carb food we eat), it gets stored as fat.

Protein and fat act as carbohydrate “buffers” by keeping our blood sugar level from spiking to high too quickly (which is what causes excess sugar in the blood), and allowing our pancreas to secrete glucagon (the fat-burning hormone). So fat/weight gain isn’t a result of consuming too much fat—it’s a result of too many carbohydrates in too little time, too often. We need carbohydrates so I’m not saying to cut them out, I’m saying to consider your types of carbs, for example you should focus on low sugar fruits such as apples, pears and berries, and vegetables, as your main carbohydrate sources and include whole grains only like brown rice, quinoa, rye bread, and oats, but consume your carbohydrates with a protein and a fat source. This combination helps keep blood sugars stable, allowing those extra fat stores to be burned and the weight to come off. Excess body fat doesn’t stand a chance of being burned if we eat too much or the wrong types of carbohydrates, and don’t include fat and protein everyday.

However, fats are not equal, there are good and bad ones (see below), it’s just about knowing which ones we can and SHOULD eat everyday and which ones we shouldn’t.

Here are some reasons why we must lose the fear of fat:

Fat keeps us full and reduces cravings. Fat is highly satiating and energy giving, it sends a signal to our brain that we’re full which helps us in our quest not to overeat. As mentioned above it helps to slow the release of sugar into the blood stream from a carbohydrate food and therefore helps to balance blood sugar levels, this in turn as a positive impact on reducing cravings.

When fat is removed from a product, sugar (or artificial sweeteners, which are no better) is added to replace it. ‘Low fat’/’zero % fat’/’fat free’ such as milk and yoghurt, has had its nutrients stripped out along with it’s fat, the absence of the fat has now made the (naturally occurring) sugars more readily available to the blood stream, causing a higher spike of sugar in the blood stream, go for the full fat option, plus it tastes so much better. So all this restricting of fat in favour of low-fat products has just increased your intake of sugar massively, unknowingly for most people. In turn this has added to our cravings for more sugar as once the sugar has been moved from the blood stream we just want more to pick us up again. Little did a lot of people know that low fat and zero % fat products have just put us on a blood sugar, fat-storing, sugar-craving, low energy roller coaster for years!

In our calorie-counting culture fat is the first thing to be removed from the diet in a quest to lose weight because it’s higher in calories than carbohydrates or proteins. But, the whole ‘calories in, calories out’ theory is a myth because if it were true why on earth would so many people be struggling to lose weight or get the body they want? We’d all be slim, toned and healthy if it was as simple as that. When we eat fat, we send a signal to our brain that we’re full and can stop eating. Low-fat diets leave us feeling deprived, hungry and often times with intense food cravings.

Adding fat back into your diet can cause your sugar cravings to disappear. It really is that powerful! Always go for the full fat instead of the low-fat or fat-free version, please trust me!

Fat supports our brain. Our brains are made up of 60% fat, so it needs fat for fuel! When we eat a low-fat diet we are not giving our brain the raw materials it needs to function at its best. You may have noticed that when you cut out fat you’re not able to think as clearly, feed your brain the fuel it needs.

Fat reduces inflammation. Inflammation is at the root cause of all chronic diseases. We’ve been told for years that saturated fat causes heart disease, but new research shows that saturated fat is not the problem and actually never was. Its things like refined carbohydrates, sugar, trans-fats, processed oils, constant stress, lack of sleep and over-exercising that can have the biggest impact on our overall health. When we have inflammation, our body focuses on healing that inflammation instead of doing what we want it to do — like rid the excess weight. Fat helps the body heal the existing inflammation and helps to get the body onto a good metabolic path.

Sources of good fats, to include a source with every meal and snack, these types of fat help heal your body and support your metabolism the most:

  • Avocados
  • Real butter
  • Coconut oil and butter
  • Cheese
  • Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel
  • Hemp seed and hemp oil
  • Flaxseed/linseed
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Olive oil
  • Cream

Sources of bad fats, these are the ones that cause damage and inflammation in our body:

  • All trans fats (referred to as ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated oil’ on the product info label)
  • Refined/processed oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower, or vegetable oil
  • All margarine, yes even the ones that say they reduce cholesterol and have a lovely picture of a heart on the label.
  • Shop bought baked goods such as biscuits, cakes, buns, donuts, some types of crackers etc
  • Deep fried foods
  • Crisps and chips

The Scoop on Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fats

These fats are ‘essential’ because the body cant make them itself, so we need to provide them in our diet. Both 3 and 6 should be in balance but the trouble is its much easier for us to obtain omega 6 fats (mainly from vegetable oils, margarine, and animal products) from the diet than it is omega 3 fats (mainly from oily fish, and some nuts and seeds).  This has resulted in an increase in the ratio of omega 6:3 fats so they’re not in balance in our bodies. If this ratio gets too high it can result in inflammation in the body, which is a pre-cursor for most disease and obesity, and not to mention the havoc it plays on our hormones!

So what should you do?

Make sure you’re getting enough omega 3 fats in your diet. The plant sources like flaxseeds, chia and walnuts for example, have to go through a rather complex conversion process in order to become EPA & DHA omega 3 fats, the form of omega 3 that the body can actually use. So look more to oily fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout and if you aren’t eating enough of these or you’re vegan or vegetarian then consider taking a good quality EPA and DHA supplement.

Here are some tips on how to incorporate good fats into your day:

  • Add butter to your vegetables or melt a good tbsp of coconut oil over them and your choice of seasoning
  • Use half an avocado in a smoothie, with your scrambled eggs, in salads, or make guacamole yourself to have with oatcakes or as a side
  • Cook with unrefined virgin coconut oil, light olive oil (NOT extra virgin), lard, butter, goose/duck fat (imagine roast potatoes in goose fat, yum!)
  • Add coconut cream, tbsp of nut butter or coconut oil and coconut butter to smoothies
  • Use nut butters like cashew, almond, hazelnut, mixed nut etc, have on oat cakes, rye bread, in smoothies, mixed with coconut yoghurt eg COYO or just eat off the spoon for a quick pick me up.
  • Use cream in your morning coffee instead of sugar-loaded and processed coffee creamers.
  • Use coconut milk for your smoothies. I like to add 2-3 parts water to one can of full fat coconut milk and store in the fridge for my smoothies.
  • Cook your eggs in butter, use about a tbsp. (the real stuff). The processed stuff is detrimental to health, and does not favour weight management.
  • Treat alert! Add half a banana, some coconut cream, and 1 tbsp of raw cocao powder as an anytime snack. Also try half a frozen banana with ½ an avocado and 1 tbsp of raw cacao powder for some super healthy chocolate ice cream
  • Drizzle olive oil and or hemp oil over salads, greens, or any other dish you want to add oil to! Keep it cold though never heated, or you damage the delicate bonds the oil is made up of and turn them unhealthy.
  • For a healthy tuna mayonnaise mix eggs with olive or hemp oil then add to tinned tuna or salmon and serve with mixed green leaves.
  • Enjoy cashews, pistachios, brazils, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts etc, great with sliced apple or pear

We have to overcome our fear of fat make friends with it, everyday—you will be surprised how much better you feel as well as the positive effects it can have on your weight!

My favourite tip is to add a tablespoon of coconut oil to your morning coffee or cup of green tea to kick start fat burning for the day.

One last thing…..coconut helps our body to burn fat!

Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which is a type of fat that is digested quickly and known for it’s great energy and metabolism-boosting effects. Lauric acid is the main form of MCT in coconut oil. It has been shown to be antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral and increases HDL cholesterol (the good kind). It can promote healthy thyroid function, blood sugar regulation, and help fight off yeast, candida, and fungus.

Basically coconut oil can boost your metabolism and give you more energy. It can reduce inflammation, which as mentioned above is the route to all evil including weight gain.

I hope this has been helpful and you take some of the points on board and start to feel great :-)

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