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5 tips for good gut health

5 tips for good gut health

Good gut health has an impact on our overall health, not only our digestion but also inflammation, our immune system, brain function and could even affect our weight. Here are some tips to help your gut health.

1. Eat more plant-based foods:  

Plant-based food for good gut health

A varied gut microbiome is not only associated with better digestion, but with better health overall. To keep a the bacteria thriving, you need to feed them well. A recent study found that people who ate 30 or more different plant foods each week had a much more varied gut microbiome than those who eat 10 or fewer.

2. Eat prebiotics: 

Prebiotics for good gut health

Prebiotics are fibres found in plant foods that we can’t digest but the bacteria in our gut can. In fact, gut bacteria feed on prebiotics and digests them for us. Our gut health has been shown to benefit from this in several ways such as reducing inflammation in the gut; having a protective anti-cancer effect and influencing the absorption of nutrients.

3. Eat polyphenols: 

Polyphenols for good gut health

Polyphenols are compounds found in fruit and vegetables, cocoa and drinks such as red wine and tea. As well as being though tot have general antioxidant function they may also help gut health by encouraging the growth of “good” bacteria like Bifidobacterium strains, and inhibiting the growth of “bad” bacteria such as C. difficile.

4. Keep hydrated:

Good hydration and good gut health

For food to move through the digestive system and bowels it needs to be properly lubricated and this simply means drinking enough water. Aim for around 2 litres of fluid every day.

5. Eat fermented foods:

Fermented food and good gut health

Traditional fermentation of foods like yogurt and kimchi, grows lactic acid bacteria which colonise the gut when eaten and may have a positive effect on metabolism. Bacteria are able to swap genes with each other so introducing new bacteria to your gut may help bacteria already living there.

To book an appointment to get some of your own good gut health email jo@thelondonnutritionist.co.uk or call 07540305699.

Corporate nutrition workshops help your business

Corporate nutrition workshops

Corporate nutrition workshops: 5 ways they can help your business

Corporate nutrition workshops can help your business day after day, meal after meal. Nutrition is something we all need multiple times a day to survive, and surviving is what humans do extremely well! However there is a big difference between surviving and thriving, and eating well is one thing that can make that difference.

While it’s possible to survive and adapt when you are exhausted, stressed, and suffering from various recurrent illnesses, it’s a long way from being full of energy, focused, feeling calm and in control. Thriving also means having room in your life for growth instead of having just enough capacity to fight the latest fire.

1. Improve your employees’ energy

Corporate nutrition workshops improve energy

Energy is necessary for going for a run yes, but it’s also necessary for engaging in work. Whether it’s digging roads or contributing to a meeting, feeling energised and avoiding the 4 o’clock slump will make your workforce work better.
Corporate nutrition workshops can be guided tour of the best (and worst) foods for keeping buzzing during the working day.

2. Improve your employees’ focus

Corporate nutrition workshops improve focus

What and when we eat has a huge effect on our physical and mental focus. Whether this is concentration on a given task, listening and following instructions or even the number of typos someone makes (our fine and gross motor skills can be affected by poor eating habits), it can mean productivity goes down. Knowing which foods and drinks help and in what portion sizes isn’t always intuitive but nutrition workshops can give them that knowledge.

3. Improve your employees’ health

Corporate nutrition workshops improve health

Heart disease, stroke, cancer, and dementia are the top four causes of death in the UK and are all diet-related. When you add things like IBS and obesity to the list it’s easy to see how the right nutrition advice can improve the health of the majority of people in your workplace.

4. improve your employees’ self esteem

Corporate nutrition workshops improve self-esteem

Diet plays a huge role in poor self esteem, particularly when diet becomes dieting. Weight loss is always one of the top New Years resolutions, but so many diets fail because people don’t know how to lose wight successfully. This can lead to a downward spiral of poor self-esteem as they add ‘failed diet’ to their list. Dieting is horrible but knowing how to eat well can achieve weight loss and health without dieting. Wellbeing days can give your staff the skills to change their eating habits for good.

5. Improve your employees’ mental wellbeing

Corporate nutrition workshops improve mental wellbeing

What we eat can affect the way we feel mentally, in several ways. From the nutrients necessary to make neurotransmitter and brain cells to the fibre feeding the gut bacteria that talk to the brain via the gut-brain axis. Additionally, how we feel has a large influence on what foods we choose! Giving your employees the knowledge of how to avoid common pitfalls and to get the range of nutrients they need, will keep them feeling content.

Corporate nutrition workshops: more information

You can book a workshop on any nutrition topic, for any length from £300. Please click here for some examples of the most popular nutrition workshops. All of these can be in-person or online workshops. You can also download the brochure.

How to book a corporate nutrition workshop

The easiest way to book is to email Jo at jo@thelondonnutritionist.co.uk or to call on 07540 305 699.

Plant based diet? How well do you know the…

Plant based diet? How well do you know the pros and cons?

The benefits and drawbacks of a plant based diet

There’s never been an easier time to follow a plant based diet. Even a few years ago the vegan sandwich option just meant taking out the butter, eggs, meat, cheese or fish leaving dry bread with some limp salad between. Now you can breeze into any high street chain and be pretty confident that there’ll be something tasty flaunting its meat-free credentials. But what are the main benefits and potential drawbacks of the vegan diet? 

Fibre

A plant based diet is high in fibre

Fibre feeds the good bacteria living in our gut keeping our digestive system healthy, helping to lower your risk of developing heart disease, bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes. Sounds good, right? Well the Western diet is notoriously low in fibre. The UK guidelines recommend getting 30g every day but most of us get only just over half of this.

Fibre is found in wholegrains, beans and lentils and fruit and vegetables, all of which are found in good quantities in a healthy vegan diet.

Environment & Feeding the population

Plant based diets are more sustainable

The global population is on the rise and despite innovations in farming practices to make crops pesticide resistant and so on, a third of all the crops grown and a third of all fresh water is consumed by livestock. Over half the World’s available land is used for animals but it provides only 17% of calories eaten globally. It’s an inefficient, resource-heavy industry. Additionally around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions (namely methane) come from animals. If it isn’t already a problem, with a growing population in need of more food, this is likely to end up as one.

Plant based diet proteins

Plant based diet proteins

Protein is made up of amino acids, essential ingredients of cells, the immune system and almost everything in between. Meat, fish, eggs and dairy contain all the amino acids necessary to make new proteins, whereas plant proteins generally don’t. So when you’re following a plant-based diet you need to concentrate a bit harder to get them all. Grains and legumes are each missing a different few, with a couple of exceptions such as soy and quinoa. If you get a mix of the two you get the full range.

Plant-based proteins have the added nutritional advantage of being high in fibre (see above) so do double-duty here, as well as counting as one of your 5 a day.

Although the professional consensus is that properly planned vegan diets can cater for everyone’s protein needs, not everyone finds this in practice. Paralympian David Smith (MBE) tried a vegan diet but found that the high fibre content meant it was difficult to eat enough to support his higher requirements, “I struggled slightly with this during my training as I could not get enough food in during big training blocks and lost too much weight.”

Micronutrients & omega 3

There are a couple of key nutrients that are harder to get from a vegan diet. Iron carries oxygen around the body (it’s pretty important.) Plant sources of iron are not as well absorbed as those from meat, so you need lots of iron-rich plants. Beans, pulses and dark-green leafy veg are good sources.

omega 3 and plant based diets

Calcium is needed for bone health. The main source of calcium in the UK diet is dairy so if you cut this out then make sure to replace it. Milk alternatives like soy or almond are generally fortified with calcium. 

The only natural sources of B12 are from animals so fortified products and supplements are the only way to get enough B12 if you are a vegan. 

Omega 3 is an essential fat that we have to get it through the diet. It’s important for brain cell membranes and has anti-inflammatory properties. The most well-absorbed source is oily fish but this is obviously off the menu if you are on a plant-based diet. Flax and chia seeds, walnuts and their oils are good vegan sources.

So is it worth it?

To many people, absolutely. However for others they find it limiting and difficult to manage. But perhaps there’s a way you can have the best of both worlds. By basing your meals mainly around plant foods but including the odd meal of higher-welfare animal products, you can cover all bases. 

If you’d like more help with a plant-based diet email jo@thelondonnutritionist.co.uk

Want to be more energised and focused?

Want to be more energised and focused?

Of course you do. But how?

Eating well is how. The trouble is, although almost everyone wants to be more energised and focused, not many people -through no fault of their own- actually know how to do it. 

Here’s the headline: Carbs are good for energy and focus but too much or the wrong type are the opposite.

Here’s the detail: Our bodies use the food we eat for energy. In order to fuel all of the metabolic processes, brain function and any movement we make, the energy containing parts of our food (that’s protein, fat and carbohydrate) need to be converted into a useable form of energy. The most efficient source for making this useable energy is carbohydrate so that’s where our bodies like to get the bulk of energy from. 

We store some in our muscles and some in our liver, and we have some in our blood – our blood sugar – which provides a ready-energy source. But because we can’t store a great deal (yet need a lot), we have to eat it fairly regularly. 

When our carb stores are low, our bodies switch to using other forms of fuel: fat and protein. The problem with this is that it’s less efficient to use these two nutrients, and protein is needed for making hormones, enzymes, the immune system and a whole range of other processes, so using protein as an energy source may actually mean that there isn’t enough protein to go around. This in turn means your body- survival machine that it is- will start to slow down metabolic processes and conserve energy. This means you are no longer running on tip top form and can mean you feel lethargic, are more vulnerable to infections, can’t think clearly and so on. If you every feel like this is you or your colleagues, keep reading!

Carbs have had a pretty bad rap over the past decade or so and a lot of my clients come to me having tried to cut them. But because carbs are so integral to the use of energy in our bodies, the constant restriction of carbohydrates often leads to cravings, which often leads to giving in to those cravings, and if those cravings are for refined carbohydrates then that can make the problem worse rather than better.

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Depending on the type of carbohydrate you eat, it enters the blood stream at different speeds and this can have very different effects on energy levels and concentration throughout the day. 

Whole grains, which are high in fibre such as brown rice, granary bread, wholemeal pasta etc take the longest to be digested and are known as slow-release carbohydrates. Things like white bread, sweets, cakes and biscuits contain a lot of refined carbohydrate and this is quick-release, meaning it is very quick to be digested and enter the bloodstream as blood-sugar. 

Blood sugar is a very important consideration when you are trying to improve energy and focus. When you eat carbohydrates your body breaks them down in to glucose, which gets absorbed into the bloodstream as blood sugar. A hormone called insulin is then released which “unlocks” the cells to allow the glucose to enter where it can be converted into useable energy.

Let’s look at an example of how this works in real life. Let’s say you eat some porridge for breakfast. This is a wholegrain carbohydrate so it takes time to be digested and the carbohydrate enters the bloodstream gradually. Your blood sugar rises gradually and your body releases insulin to get that carbohydrate out of the blood and into the cells so it can be converted into useable energy and blood sugar comes back down.  As the sugar gets used up and blood sugar starts to fall, a feeling of hunger, or tiredness is usually triggered. 

If you eat something high in refined carbohydrate like a slice of cake, the sugar enters the blood stream very quickly and will likely cause a sugar spike. If blood sugar does go too high, we have this amazing protective mechanism that brings it back down to a safe level. Your body releases masses of insulin to clear the sugar out of the blood, but instead of converting this sugar to energy as it would normally do, it stores it in fat cells around the middle. 

So that’s one negative consequence of eating refined carbohydrate: we end up storing the excess energy as belly fat. Another is that following this sugar spike, we now have a sugar crash on our hands. Because a lot of insulin was released, we now have low blood sugar and probably feel tired again and feel the need to reach for something sugary as a pick-me-up and the whole cycle starts again.

I have lost count of the number of clients I see who say they crave a sugar hit at around 2 o’clock. Either they have a low-carb lunch or they have eaten too much carbohydrate at lunch. It’s no wonder that by three o’clock they are craving chocolate and doughnuts. 

So how do we avoid these spikes and crashes? What we are aiming for is a nice undulation of blood sugar and we achieve that by eating regularly and including some – but not too much – carbohydrate. The right amount is about a fist-sized portion of bread, rice, pasta, potatoes etc every three to four hours.

To book at consultation email jo@thelondonnutritionist.co.uk or call 07540 305 699.

Inflammation & Diet

Can you prevent inflammation by eating well?

Inflammation pops up in nearly all the conversations I have about long-term health and preventing illness. This is because it is the cause of many of the illnesses that dominate the NHS budgets. However, many of these illnesses are at least somewhat preventable and at the very least can be postponed. By this I mean that by making adjustments to our day to day lives we can improve our health outcomes significantly. This of course is not news. We are told this constantly! We can indeed prevent inflammation and therefore greatly reduce our risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even COVID-19, by eating well.

I have made a short video on inflammation called What is inflammation, anyway? which, if you don’t know much about it, I recommend you watch. In this article I’d like to take a deeper dive into the dietary elements of inflammation, and how this can help you prevent disease.

The ZOE Nutrition Study

A recent study involving 1000 people (that’s quite a lot in nutrition terms) has looked into the inflammatory effects of eating. Yes, the act of eating itself produces a certain amount of inflammatory compounds. And while we have known for some time that some foods seem to be protective and prevent inflammation and inflammatory diseases, this study has shown how. One other thing that this study shows is that the response to different foods varies widely from person to person and really does show that personalised nutrition is going to be extremely useful in the future. Personalised nutrition however involves lots of testing, is quite expensive, and although it can be very valuable it isn’t going to be possible for everyone. But, the study has given us some very useful findings that we can safely say will help most of us. 

The things that increase postprandial (after eating) inflammation are, perhaps unsurprisingly, fat, sugar and processed foods. This, interestingly, includes processed plant-based proteins like Quorn. Over a lifetime, this chronic contact with inflammatory metabolites (including those in our environment) is what leads lead to diseases like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It’s the individual’s response to fat and sugar nutrients that is so highly personalised. However there are some fairly universal things that can dampen this response, and over time can reduce one’s exposure to inflammation.

Preventing inflammation

The advice for some time has been that fruits and vegetables are protective against heart disease, cancer and dementia and the PREDICT study has shown that the polyphenols present in these foods, especially those with vibrant colours like reds, purples and greens (eat a rainbow!) counteract the inflammatory compounds produced as a result of eating. 

We’ve also known that fibre plays an integral role in preventing disease. The study found that some microbiota in the gut increase an inflammatory marker called GlycA. Some beneficial bacteria lower GlycA and some unhelpful bacteria raise it. A reliable way to improve beneficial bacteria is to eat more fibre. Fibre, again, comes from fruits and vegetables and also whole grains. Although I mentioned above that processed plant-based proteins can increase inflammation, this isn’t so for unprocessed ones. Beans, lentils and pulses raise beneficial bacteria and lower inflammation.

As we are talking about post-prandial inflammation, this effect of eating polyphenols and fibre it seems, can lower the inflammatory response of processed foods when eaten alongside them. So if you do want to eat a bowl of Frosties or Krave for breakfast, adding some blueberries might cancel out some of the negative after-effects.

The take home message is eat more fruit and veg, especially purple, red and dark green ones and eat more foods that are close to their original form and less processed ones. And if you do eat junk (which lets face it, who doesn’t on occasion?), have something healthy with it.

Sleep Awareness Week

Sleep Awareness Week

This week is Sleep Awareness Week and, as someone who has at times suffered with insomnia, it’s an awareness week I feel I can really identify with. 

Sleep is something we all need to do if we are to function well the following day, but there are some specific benefits that tie in with nutritional aspects of health too. 

Read more “Sleep Awareness Week”

Eating well for energy

The three pillars of wellness: movement, mindfulness and nutrition!

I teamed up with Re-set to do their nutrition course focussed on improving your energy, which you can find here.