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Your life is incredibly busy, but you want to take care of your health, and your family’s health too. There’s so much information out there on what you should, and shouldn’t be eating that you feel utterly confused. Relax, you’re in the right place! As the months go on, the Foodie Advice page will fill up with a broad range of health focuses to give you the facts on everything from the best daily diet to how to calm a bloated belly or deal with hormone havoc. With information, tips and tricks in bite size, easy to understand chunks, you’ll have everything you need to put positive change into action.
So, to begin, let’s start at the beginning. Exactly what does really great daily eating look like, and why does it need to look like that? In this month’s health focus, I’ll give you the information you really need to make more informed choices, plus a lovely recipe and demo on a very healthy chocolate brownie. What could be better? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin….
The best diet for energy and vitality is one based around slow-release carbs, with some protein and a small amount of mono/polyunsaturated fats, avoiding stimulants and refined foods as far as possible – white bread, sweets, breakfast cereals or anything containing added sugar, white flour, trans fats or hydrogenated fats, saturated fat, sweeteners (especially aspartame and asculefame-K), additives, and chemically altered/processed products (eg instant coffee) should be avoided like the plague!!
We reap what we sow!
These factors are all crucial to all round health, weight and vitality, especially on the psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinological level:
- specific nutritional support (eg. for stress)
- blood sugar balance
- boosting immunity and digestion/absorption
- food and environmental allergies/sensitivities
- reducing intake of, and expelling, toxins
plus non-nutritional factors –
- mind and spirit
The Diabolical Duo – put these two things together and you have a recipe for health disaster, an accident waiting to happen:
bad diet (blood sugar imbalances and nutrient deficiencies like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, EFAs) + stress (lifestyle, environmental or life events causing nutrient deficiencies, inflammation and toxic load) = bad news for health!
What are the basic building blocks of meals that you need to include to make sure that your body and brain are getting everything they require to avoid imbalances and deficiencies? Take a look at this gallop through the essentials:
Not always pasta, bread and potatoes, carbs are actually fruit and veg as well as grain products. Refined carbs like white flour, sugar, etc release glucose quickly into the bloodstream causing blood sugar highs then slumps, so carbs that release their sugars slowly (like fruit, whole grains, etc) and provide energy gradually are far better for our bodies. Ideally, every day you should be aiming for:
- 3 plus servings of fresh (preferably organic) dark green leafy and root vegetables (eg watercress, carrots, sweet potatoes, tenderstem, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, green beans, green peppers – lightly cooked/steamed/raw)
- 3 plus servings of fresh (preferably organic) fruit (especially apples, pears, berries, melon, citrus)
- 4 plus servings of whole grains (eg millet, rice, oats, rye, wholewheat, corn, quinoa, as cereal, bread, pasta) and pulses.
We need only 35 grams of protein every day, and good quality animal sources like meat and eggs should be limited to 3-5 servings a week, the remainder being made up by non-animal sources like pulses, and fish. Daily you need:
- 2 servings of vegetable protein (many vegetables eg spinach, seed vegetables like peas/runner beans/corn/broccoli; seeds; lentils/beans; soya) or 1 small serving of animal protein (eggs, fish or meat)
- 1 serving daily, preferably as cold-pressed nut/seed oils, nuts, and seeds – as salad dressings; a handful of mixed nuts and seeds sprinkled over live natural yogurt or eaten as a snack. Coconut oil or rapeseed oil should be the cooking oils of choice, or grass fed butter, with olive oil only used for dressings.
Live natural yogurt is good for the digestive system, and a good replacement for cream/milk with cereals or fruit, so 3 or 4 servings a week should be included. Try to use nut, Koko/coconut milk, oat, rice milk, or organic cow’s/goat’s milk. Can also be used in savoury dishes in a number of ways, though heat kills probiotic bacteria, so use live yogurt as a topping/condiment only.
It’s not difficult to eat well; it just means following a few guidelines. Try to stick to these if a broad overview is the best way for you to start making real food your daily healthcare:
- eat wholefoods like wholegrains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and veg, and good quality protein;
- avoid refined, white and overcooked food;
- eat at least 7 servings of fruit and vegeat 4 or more servings of wholegrains;
- avoid sugar!
- eat protein and carbs together with healthy fats to help the absorption of brain-friendly nutrients and co-factors.eat fish;
- eat eggs – free range and/or organic are higher in omega 3,eat seeds and nuts, especially hemp, flax, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin;
- fried food and processed food should be avoided.dairy products are a great source of tryptophan and other nutrients, but should be organic where possible. Milk should always be organic – higher in omega 3, no hormones or contaminants to add to toxic load/block receptor sites.
So, what does an ideal day look like? An example of a good daily eating plan looks like this:
Breakfast – base around fruit/yogurt/ flax sprinkle/nuts; or porridge with flax sprinkle/seeds; or eggs and a carb source like pitta /soda bread plus a layer of greens (like spinach, rocket or watercress); or a smoothie made with a couple of pieces of fruit, milk/water, and yogurt, with a tablespoon of flax sprinkle or chia seeds added.
Morning snack – brown rice cakes or oatcakes with hummus, tzatziki, a slice of lean meat, peanut/cashew/pumpkin seed butter or a guacamole, with crudités like carrot batons, cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices.
Lunch – wrap or pitta with veg, salad and protein filling – this could be lean meat, tuna, eggs (if not had for breakfast), cheese; or a bean/chickpea/ couscous/rice/pasta salad with veg and a protein source (feta, tuna, chicken, egg) Another option is soup with pitta or soda bread. All of these can be relatively easy to take to work, or cook up batches to use through the week.
Afternoon snack – fruit with a handful of seeds and/or nuts, or a home made healthy cake – see the recipe and video demo below.
Dinner – Good quality protein source with organic brown rice/pulses/noodles and a wide variety of veg. Fruit.
Get as close as you can to mirroring these kinds of meals and how they are balanced with carbs, protein and healthy fats, including treats – cake can be healthy, and there’s no clearer way to do that than to demonstrate the inimitable chocolate cake in the form of a cacao coconut brownie. It’s a favourite with my nieces, my son, and adults and children everywhere – give it a go, and enjoy!
Gluten Free Cacao Coconut Brownies
60g/1/2 cup raw cacao powder
75g/1/3 cup coconut oil
160g/1 cup coconut palm sugar
6 organic free range eggs
50-60g/1/2 cup approx coconut flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Get the oven heating to 180º, and line a square 20×20 cm tin with greaseproof paper, also greasing the sides of the tin. Gently melt the coconut oil and cacao powder together in a pan until just melted – don’t overheat. Set aside and allow to cool until barely lukewarm, but still liquid.
Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla, then add the cacao and oil mixture, combining well. Gradually add the coconut flour until the batter reaches the consistency you achieve with normal flour – coconut flour is very absorbent so you need comparatively little. Add the 60g for a dense cake, 50g for a squidgy brownie, and so on – we each have our favourite squidginess level!
Cook for around 30 minutes – a skewer inserted into the middle coming out clean signifies a cake, but slightly gooey means a brownie. Again, the choice is yours, so experiment!