Tag: beauty

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Overindulged over Christmas? Then read on…


Question: After overindulging, how can I cut back without feeling I am wearing a hair shirt!

If you have overindulged, you are not alone. And you are also not alone in starting the year wanting to get back on track. However, a lot of people give up and often it’s because they try to do too much at once which can feel like torture. One way to see it through is to get a plan…

Breakfast
Start the day with something filling that will keep you going and won’t leave you feeling deprived. For some a bowl of porridge is the ultimate comfort food. Made with skimmed milk and with a handful of raisins or prunes thrown in for sweetness. For others, this is nothing but a punishment! For those who love it, you carry on. This is a great breakfast and will do you no end of good.

If however you would have to force down porridge, then fear not there are other great breakfasts that are not too calorific and will do a good job at keeping you full. A couple of boiled eggs and a slice of granary toast (easy on the butter) is often a breakfast reserved for lazy weekend brunch, but try making time for it before work. Eggs are full of protein and important vitamins and minerals, plus evidence shows that people who eat two eggs for breakfast eat fewer calories throughout the day.

If you don’t think either of these will work for you, stick to high-fibre cereals such as bran flakes, shredded wheat, Weetabix or fruit & fibre. Top with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and add some sliced or dried fruit. If toast is your thing, have a scraping of spread and have a topping such as marmite or a little peanut butter.

Lunch
Lunch can be a killer if you have to buy it work every day. A simple cheese and onion sandwich can contain up to 600kcals depending where you get it. From a supermarket you can check the labels but if you go to a café or restaurant you are at their mercy. Soup is a great lunch. It’s filling, comes in hundreds of flavours, is readily available in supermarkets and can fit nicely into your calorie budget. Beware of the cream-of versions though. If possible buy your soup from somewhere that lets you know what is in it and how many calories it contains. It’s super easy to make a big batch at home and freeze in portions to take into work to heat in the microwave, and there are literally a million recipes to be found online.

If soup doesn’t hit your comfort spot though you could try sushi; filling whole-grain salads such as couscous, barley, quinoa or bean; pitta pockets with low calorie fillings like tuna or salad (easy on the mayo and dressings).

Evening meal
It’s easy to get into bad habits over Christmas and New Year like drinking every day and eating your way through the left over chocolate. Try and have a couple of days off the sauce each week, preferably consecutive days. If you have been drinking over the festive season, the chances are your liver has a back-log to get through and if you don’t give it time to clear it, the alcohol can cause scarring i.e. cirrhosis.

In terms of eating, planning ahead is the best way to make sure you have easy, healthy options for dinner and don’t reach for the takeaway menu. Plan what you’re going to eat on each day before you go to the supermarket. Go for things that are filling but not too calorific: chicken, fish, lean meat, beans, lentils, pulses, vegetables, rice, pasta and potatoes. Try to stay away from full-fat creamy or cheesy sauces and go for tomato based ones instead. If you’re buying ready-made, check the labels to see which are best. If you cook from scratch, limit the oil or fat to one teaspoon per person for the whole meal (whatever the recipe says!). If you’re a pudding person, try looking for the lower-calorie options. Instead of ice-cream, try frozen yogurt or sorbet; fruit salad; meringue and berries; baked apple; low-calorie chocolate mousse. Instead of cream try half-fat crème fraiche or fat free Greek yogurt.

Between meals
For snacks throughout the day, try to limit them to about 100 kcals such as a muesli bar, a pot of low-calorie yogurt, a piece of fruit, a portion of light cheese and a couple of oat biscuits, a small bag of baked crisps.

To figure out roughly how many calories you need to keep your weight the same, there is a nifty calculator on the Dudley NHS website: Calorie requirement calculator
But remember, if you want to lose any weight you have gained over Christmas, you’ll need to take off a few hundred calories from your calorie requirements, but don’t go below 1200kcals a day without the supervision of a specialist. Also remember that slow & steady wins the race: gradual weight loss is more sustainable than rapid.

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Beauty and the Feast?


Can what we eat affect the way we look?

I was recently asked to provide nutrition advice for a beauty bar on Oxford Street and it made me realise that some people really are interested in how food impacts of their body (beyond being able to do up their trousers). So here’s a little bit of insider knowledge.

Most body cells don’t live very long. Not when you consider that the average human in the UK lives for about 80 years. The most longevity you can expect from any of your cells is, of course, a lifetime, and some neurons do live up to this expectation, but most have a transient existence compared to ‘us’.

Some of the most rapid cell turnover comes from the lining of our mouths and stomach; our blood; and from our skin, hair and nails. Our cells are always dying off without us ever really noticing – your body carries on helpfully replacing those that have come to the end of their road. You eat that delicious lunch, your body digests it, disassembles the components, chucks out the waste and recycles the useful bits to power our functions and make new cells. By trying not to align myself with a certain TV – and I use this in the flimsiest sense of the word – “nutritionist”, I have gone a rather roundabout way to say: you actually are what you eat.

Our skin, hair and nails are made of cells consisting of things such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates and water. Different types of cells are made in different ways and require different nutrients for the process to work. Hair and nails are largely made of a protein called keratin, which requires vitamin A for its formation. Skin contains a protein called collagen that provides strength to the structure of cells. The body cannot produce collagen unless there is sufficient vitamin C on hand, and if you have heard of scurvy, then you’ll know what the effects of long-term vitamin C depletion are. Fortunately, scurvy is not common in the UK.

Let’s have a look at a few key players:

Vitamin C:
Many face creams, shampoos, hair treatments and manicures promise you that putting a bit of this and that on your skin will make your skin/hair/nails this that and the other. It is worth noting that the dermis of your skin consists of several layers which the chosen topical ointment will need to battle through before it reaches anything that is in the business of producing new skin cells. So, although vitamin C is in a lot of cosmetics and marketed as “collagen-boosting” it is unlikely to be as effective as getting enough through your diet. It’s also worth noting that, unlike your skin (which is an organ and one of only two that can self-repair – the other is the liver), by the time your hair and nails become visible they are pretty much past it and their constituent cells are certainly beyond improvement. That is why shampoo manufacturers only say that their products will give you “healthy-looking” hair and not “healthy” hair, because dead things can’t ever be considered healthy and advertising regulations (thankfully) prohibit misleading claims.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, meaning that it helps neutralise free radicals. Free radicals are the by-products of various processes in the body and they are known to attack DNA and cell membranes. Some people believe that getting enough antioxidants can offer a bit of protection against the ageing process and preserve youthful, wrinkle-free skin, but others disagree completely so the jury is still out on that one.

Vitamin A:
Vitamin A is important in the growth of epithelial cells (a type of cell found in skin, among many other places) and for the production of keratin. One of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency is rough, bumpy skin around the hair follicles. A word of caution though: too much vitamin A is toxic and large intakes while pregnant can cause miscarriage.

Vitamin B complex:
Riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3) have both been classified by the European Food Safety Authority as being physiologically effective in the maintenance of normal skin as has biotin on the maintenance of hair and nails.

Folate:
Folate (or folic acid as it is know in its synthetic state) is central to the process of cell division. Actively dividing cells need plenty of this stuff to divide properly – your skin cells are dividing all the time.

Zinc
Zinc is a mineral that is sometimes known for its purported aphrodisiac qualities but less often for its role, alongside vitamin C, in collagen production.

So can what we eat really affect the way we look? Well yes it can, but let’s not get carried away. The vitamins and minerals we’ve discussed here are abundant in the diets of the average person in the UK and deficiencies are rarely found here.

Should you take supplements? You probably don’t need to take supplements of these vitamins, with the exception perhaps of folic acid if you are female and of childbearing age as adequate quantities protect against neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Eating a balanced diet is usually better for the average citizen. Take a look at the list of foods below to see the best sources of these micronutrients. You should consult your doctor before taking any supplements, particularly if you are taking any medication or if you are – or are trying to become – pregnant.

Food sources
Vitamin A: Liver, whole milk, cheese, butter, fish, fortified margarine, carrots, watermelon, tomatoes
Vitamin B complex: Whole grains, fortified cereals, meat (B3) liver (biotin), egg yolk (biotin). Biotin is also produced by the body.
Vitamin C: Asparagus, papaya, citrus fruit and their juices, cauliflower, broccoli, green peppers
Folate: Mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, beans, legumes, oranges, liver
Zinc: Red meat, oysters, dairy products, whole grains, leafy vegetables

References
Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism 5th Ed. Wadsworth
National Diet and Nutrition Survey
European Food Safety Authority
UK Office for National Statistics