Men Have A Biological Clock Too

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For most women the knowledge of the inevitable ticking of their biological clock is drummed into them from a young age and for the large part, fertility is usually a topic targeted towards them. If we want children, we’re actively encouraged to bear them in our prime (and in fertility terms, that’s before you hit your late 30s). Up until now men haven’t had the same age restrictions, but a fresh wave of research is starting to raise questions.  Read More…

Five Nutritional Trends To Have On Your Radar

Nutritional Trends

Confused about celery juice? Tempted to try a new dairy alternative? Between the continuously changing health advice and the latest buzz ingredients we’re encouraged to adopt, the term ‘healthy eating’ can be tricky to balance. To make your life a little easier, health and beauty writer Danielle Fox has spoken to the experts and outlined the key nutritional trends to take note right now… Read More…

Why Changing When You Eat Could Boost Your Health

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With the festive party season about to start some of us might be tempted to enlist in a quick fix diet to burn off the extra calories we picked up on holiday. Cue the endless fad diets and mind-boggling eating habits. The most bizarre one we’ve heard of so far is a diet that consists of just beef, salt and water.

For years we’ve been focusing on what we eat (or what we shouldn’t eat), but new research suggests that we should be just as concerned about when we eat. According to the Salk Institute, eating in a ten hour section during the day can actually help you to lose weight because it works with your body’s circadian cycle.

“For many of us, the day begins with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and ends with a bedtime snack 14 or 15 hours later,” Satchidananda Panda, a professor in Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory and the senior author of the new paper told Science Daily. “But restricting food intake to 10 hours a day, and fasting the rest, can lead to better health, regardless of our biological clock.”

The study found that by working with our circadian cycle and eating when our digestion genes are most active. Impressively, the study found that eating within that time-frame also reduced the chances of obesity, high cholesterol and other diseases.

A similar study found that eating breakfast 90 minutes later than usual and having dinner 90 minutes earlier could also be beneficial to your health and help you lose weight. Over a 10 week period the study found that those who tweaked their eating times tended to have a reduced appetite and snack less throughout the day, compared to those who had unrestricted eating times.

“Although this study is small, it has provided us with invaluable insight into how slight alterations to our meal times can have benefits to our bodies,” Dr Jonathan Johnston, Reader in Chronobiology and Integrative Physiology at the University of Surrey, told Science Daily. “Reduction in body fat lessens our chances of developing obesity and related diseases, so is vital in improving our overall health.”

While restricting your intake of food to 10 hours might not be appealing to some, it’s certainly more feasible than living off beef, salt and water. Regardless of what diet you’re tempted to try, ensuring your body gets the recommended nutrients is essential for it to function properly. Shabir recommends that almost all of us take a good quality multivitamin, such as Alive Multivitamins. Deficiencies in iron and magnesium are fairly common in seemingly healthy adults, so it is also worth looking into these supplements. If you’re unsure of what to take, contact us and Shabir can advise you.

Seven Easy Additions To Your Morning Routine For Glowing Skin

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As a Nutritional Therapist, I like to focus on giving advice to my clients that can be incorporated into everyday life. I’m not a fan of diets or fads and I’m aware that unless the advice is do-able, it’s just not going to be adhered to. That’s why I often suggest ‘adding-in’ helpful practices. Here are some of my favourite small additions that could give you glowing skin if implemented regularly…

Drink a large glass of water upon waking

This is one of the nutrition basics but it’s one that can be so easily overlooked. Dehydration really shows on the skin as your body prioritises the more ‘vital’ organs. Some people love getting up and drinking hot water with lemon and that’s wonderful if you have the time. But, if you don’t then a large glass of water is just as hydrating. I also find it’s a much easier way of encouraging compliance.

Dry body brushing

This is great for lymphatic stimulation, as well as exfoliating the skin. Your lymph can only be moved manually as it doesn’t get ‘pumped’ in the same way your blood does. Practicing dry body brushing has been said to reduce cellulite and improve skin tone. Start at your feet and brush upwards in small circular motions towards your heart. For arms, begin at the hands and work upward. For the stomach, work in a counter-clockwise pattern. I prefer to do this in the morning rather than the evening as it can be quite energising. A couple of minutes before showering is ideal.

Alternating hot/cold shower

Again, this is great for your lymphatic system. It also helps to improve blood circulation. Blood flow to the surface is what carries the nutrients from your diet to the skin. I suggest alternating between hot and cold right at the end of showering, sticking to each temperature for about 20-30 seconds before switching (it’s meant to feel a little bracing but there’s no need to push it to where you feel uncomfortable). Then repeat this in total about three times.

Have an antioxidant-rich breakfast

Antioxidants are an essential part of the diet for healthy skin. They help protect against damaging ‘free radicals’ (the unstable chemicals in our environment that can cause premature ageing). They protect our collagen and elastin, vital proteins that maintain elasticity as well as increasing blood flow to the surface of our skin to help achieve that glow! They can be found in fruit and vegetables so it’s important to eat a wide variety (especially focus on ‘eating a rainbow’). Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants include blueberries, cherries and strawberries (or any seasonal berry in fact). That’s why I advocate including them in your breakfast in some way – either in a smoothie or as a topping for porridge or granola. My all-time favourite antioxidant-rich breakfast is an Açaí bowl.

Don’t forget about including ‘good’ fats

I think people are less scared nowadays about including fats in their diets (the bottom line: ‘good’ fat doesn’t make you fat). I encourage my clients to incorporate either avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, chia seeds, hemp seeds or flaxseeds into their breakfasts. The omega-3 fats found in these foods help keep skin plump as well as keeping you satiated for longer so less likely to eat sugary snacks. Omega-3 is also a great anti-inflammatory.

Vitamin C

Topical vitamin C is big news these days. As well as being an antioxidant, it also plays a key role in collagen formation and synthesis (that’s the protein that keeps skin looking bouncy and youthful). I recommend both topical and dietary sources for maximum effect. Our bodies can’t store vitamin C so it’s important to regularly include sources of it in our diet. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits and berries.

Take your supplements with breakfast (and save the coffee for mid-morning)

You’re much more likely to remember to take supplements if you take them at the same time every day. Most supplements can be taken alongside your breakfast so it’s easier to remember. Try to avoid drinking coffee at the same time, however, as caffeine can inhibit nutrient absorption. It’s best to save coffee until mid-morning if possible.

Frances Phillips is a Nutritional Therapist and Health & Beauty Writer, www.thenaturaledit.com.

Is Coconut Oil Good Or Bad For You?

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Over the past few years, nutritionists, wellness experts and clean living advocates have been championing coconut oil. It’s been dubbed the healthier oil and is now widely available in pretty much every supermarket. According to the research group Kantar, UK sales of coconut oil have shot up from £1m to £16.4m in the past four years.

Yet not everyone is quite so fond of the ingredient though. In her lecture ‘Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors’, Harvard professor Karin Michels called it “pure poison” and “one of the worst foods you can eat”.

Michels isn’t the only one pointing out the flaws in coconut oils healthy reputation. Last month, the American Heart Association (AHA) warned that it contained the same levels of saturated fat as beef dripping. In fact, it contains more than 80 percent of saturated fats, which is over twice the amount found in lard.

High amounts of saturated fats can raise your levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein), also known as bad cholesterol, which can in turn increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. “There has been speculation that some of the saturated fat present in coconut oil may be better for us than other saturated fats, but so far there is not enough good-quality research to provide us with a definitive answer,” says British Heart Foundation dietitian, Victoria Taylor.

With this in mind, there is some truth to the superfood claims celebrities and clean-eating Instagrammers make about coconut oil. There is research to suggest that eating coconut can help increase your amounts of HDL (tktkt), aka good cholesteral thanks to the high amounts of lauric acid. It’s also often referred to as a good source of antioxidants. Although some experts still argue that it’s low in essential fatty acids and vitamin E.

There is still a lot of research to be done around coconut oil, but most experts are unwilling to tout it as a health food as the pros don’t outweigh the potential cons at the moment. In the meantime, it might be worth looking to vegetable oil, olive oil and sunflower oil instead as all three have higher amounts of unsaturated fats than saturated.

Why Your Diet Could Be Affecting Your Sleep

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As we lie awake at night with a million thoughts running round in our heads, it’s easy to blame our busy minds for stopping us sleeping. On the surface that might be the case, but of course many things influence how we sleep from the natural such as daylight – to what time we switched off our screens that evening. In truth, there is still much mystery surrounding the science of good sleep and the brain, but one of the most interesting areas of research at the moment is how the gut biome (the vast community of bacteria, fungi and yeasts which populate our digestive tract) could be a big influencer on quality and quantity of shut eye.

We already know that the gut biome affects the hormones which control our appetite, and now a recent study by scientists at University of Colorado suggests that prebiotics (a particular type of fibre which encourages the growth of good bacteria in the gut) can promote Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep, which is restful and restorative as well as helping to increase Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep after being exposed to a stressor. While the researchers say more studies are needed, this seems to indicate that regular intake of prebiotics could be helpful in supporting sleep patterns after periods of stress.

Gut biome aside, most of us are aware that what we eat affects how we sleep through experience – think of that old saying about cheese and nightmares. There’s some truth in that since heavy, fatty foods are more difficult for the body to process, therefore eating them late at night is not a good idea. Makes sense when we consider that good sleep relies on the release of a complex cascade of chemicals and hormones, and that eating well and allowing the body to absorb proper nutrients provides the brain with what it needs for this to happen.

Various studies suggest eating at a time when we’d naturally be sleeping could have adverse effects on weight and metabolic health and it’s all inter-connected via our circadian rhythm.  Our circadian rhythms are what keep our body clock running on time, which in turn keeps all of our bodily functions running on schedule — such as falling asleep at night, waking up in the morning, feeling hungry when we need energy and metabolising the food we eat. What, when and how we eat can help regulate this roughly 24-hour cycle our body follows each day.

Looking at things from a wider perspective often brings us back to ancient holistic wisdom. For example, in the yogic system of Ayurveda it’s believed that digestive fire – known as Agni – is at its most powerful when the sun is highest in the sky, therefore the best time to eat your biggest meal is around midday. And yet how many of us eat our main meal in the evening? This was always my habit – after all, going out for dinner is one of the most enjoyable ways we socialise these days. But, coming in late at night from eating a large meal would inevitably keep me awake, and even if I hadn’t drunk anything, I’d feel like I had a hangover next morning.

Having swapped timings in favour of main meal at lunch or more often brunch, I’ve found eating light in the evening to be a catalyst for better digestion and sleep. That’s not to say I never go out for a big dinner in the evening – it’s just I make it the exception rather than the rule. As always, it comes down to balance, and here are some suggestions for subtly adjusting eating habits in favour of good sleep.

  • Introduce prebiotic foods into your diet. These include lentils, chickpeas and hummus, butter beans, globe artichoke, leeks – all of which are a source of the particular type of fibre which encourages the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
  • Re-think meal timings considering dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) which is when the body winds down in preparation for sleep and starts producing the sleep hormone melatonin. For most of us, our DLMO usually begins around 8pm so it would be good to time eating before then. Or, allow two hours between eating and bedtime to allow time to unwind and digest.
  • Ayurvedic thinking suggests warm, liquid foods are the most easily digested in the evening. So for example, lentil dahl, which tastes great when made with leek; root vegetable soups or stews including lentils or chick peas; sweet basmati rice pudding made with dairy or non dairy milk with cardamom, grated ginger and dates.
  • Keep in mind it’s not great to go to bed hungry, considering that our bodies use energy at night when it goes into repair mode. Rather than reaching for typical midnight snacks (crisps, chocolate etc) try hot milk. At one of the best retreats I’ve stayed in in India they brought a pre-bed small cup of locally sourced organic milk, heated with a little saffron. To my surprise, it was the most satiating, satisfying sleep-inducing thing – not to mention delicious.