Let us help you control those Bad Behaviours!

donal blog image

Donal – Pharmacist Aylesbury

The more i read from the latest research articles the more it seems that the old sayings we’ve heard repeated again and again about food, sleep and exercise are true. We should go to bed early, eat natural foods and exercise every day.

But often in the media we see people who break these rules idolised and celebrated. People who work around the clock, who party through the night, people who binge and diet in repeated cycles. These behaviours are enticing and misleading. Often we believe we can accomplish something greater, meet deadlines by pushing through walls of fatigue, or that we can make up for bad eating behaviours afterwards by upping our exercise regimen.

I  will often hear people relate and discuss behaviours such as late night snacking, insatiable appetites and craving snacks, remarking on them as inexplicable and unavoidable. Night binging can leave a person with low energy levels the next day. People who regularly do this often have high insulin levels which can lead to diabetes and they find it difficult to exercise from fatigue and lack of sleep. Without knowing how our bodies work it can be difficult to understand where these cravings come from. Being now in my thirties some of these bad habits have already caught up with me and I see the effects of poor diet and snacking in my energy levels and some of my blood tests. Not a good scenario to be in at such a “young” age. LOL.

What I have found helpful in trying to control my own bad behaviours is an understanding of what exactly is going on in my body to drive these unhealthy habits I seem drawn to constantly repeat. In this blog I will briefly discuss one aspect of the body’s many mechanisms that control appetite, weight fluctuations and as researchers are currently finding out potentially a lot more.

Ghrelin is an appetite stimulating hormone released from the empty stomach. It signals our brain to encourage anticipatory and goal-directed behaviours. This basically means it makes us look out for our next meal, make us think about food and it affects what we crave in terms of sugar, fat, protein and carbohydrates. On its own ghrelin seems to direct us toward a more nutritious meal than we might choose without its influence. This might sound familiar if you think of what you crave when you are really hungry. Usually the ice cream, chocolate or biscuit treat (my personal favourites!) doesn’t seem sufficient and we actually want a heart slap up meal with more nutritious ingredients. This is actually a good effect of the hormone.

However studies have shown that as ghrelin levels rise, the amount of eating it encourages rises dramatically. This makes sense in the natural world. The longer the period between eating the more our body is going to want to stock up on energy the next time food is available. However this effect is contributing to our modern day obesity problem. We have such busy lives that people are often jumping from the bed out the door skipping what the old maxim calls the most important meal of the day. Breakfast. Breaking the fast.

As we sleep our bodies are stilling whirring away with countless processes like a laptop on standby. In fact the energy our body would use if we were to simply lie on the couch all day accounts for up to 60 to 70% of the energy we spend each day even when we move around and work as normal. That is why it is so important to supply your body with a source of healthy energy soon after waking up in the morning. Otherwise the body will demand an even greater meal off you later in the day.

Studies have shown that  ghrelin, the hunger hormone, will not be suppressed without a proper breakfast. People who skip breakfast think they are cutting out part of their day’s calorie intake but it is proven that those people eat more for lunch, dinner AND supper partly due to higher ghrelin levels the skipped breakfast causes.

Also sleep deprivation has been shown to increase cortisol (our stress hormone) and in doing so mimic starvation and hunger. Both stress and cortisol increase our hunger hormone ghrelin which increases our cravings and likelihood to overeat. Poor sleep is another of the factors linked to increasing obesity in Ireland.

There are several ways we can affect our ghrelin levels. One large egg provides varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin yet regular consumption of eggs is still met with uncertainty. In the 1970s excess cholesterol in our blood was linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Many scientists assumed that eating high-cholesterol foods like butter, red meat and eggs must then be bad for our health. In fact sugar, trans fats or excessive saturated fat is more harmful to use and produces more cholesterol in our blood that dietary cholesterol.

In a study comparing eating eggs for breakfast versus a bowl of healthy oatmeal on the symptoms of heart disease (a change in the cholesterol and lipid balance in the body) there was not a huge difference between the two. The eggs did raise cholesterol levels somewhat compared to the oatmeal but not in an unhealthy amount and the sugar levels, liver function and fat levels in the body were the same. The eggs did seem to keep the person eating them fuller for a longer time than the porridge. I have tried alternating both porridge and a boiled egg into my breakfast regime and from my experience I can see how an egg can help space out meals across a day and prevent the urge to snack in between. But the benefits of porridge on health are also proven so if anything I would recommend fitting both into your morning diet if possible.

Being a daily porridge devourer I want to explain how it can benefit you. When food enters the stomach it lowers your ghrelin but it doesn’t stop you from eating. The signal for satiety and to stop eating is actually located twenty two feet or almost seven meters into the intestine! Naturally it takes time for food to travel this far. The Japanese have a saying which is “eat until you are 80% full” which is basically allowing your food time to reach this point. Alternatively trying to eat with chopsticks will get you there! The best way to get food moving faster through the intestine is through fiber.

Ever notice how a plate of pasta or chips and cheeseburgers doesn’t always make you feel full? This is because fast food and processed cereals have had their fibre stripped away to improve taste and shelf life. They sit into your stomach instead of moving into the intestine where they should be signalling the brain that the stomach is full. Anything that speeds food transit through the gut will make you feel fuller faster and reduce hunger and the amount eaten. The insoluble fiber in porridge does this. Its soluble fiber also helps by forming a sticky gel that delays stomach emptying which makes you feel fuller faster. Processed foods and cereals contain little of these or have it artificially added back in which doesn’t seem to work as well as when it is in its original form.

There was a study I found interesting on how water, milk, a yogurt drink and fruit juice drunk either before or with a meal would affect appetite, satiety (feeling full after eating) and the amount of food eaten. Milk reduced the overall  food intake and appetite while increasing the satiety (feeling full after meal) compared to a sweetened yogurt or fruit drink. But in all cases drinking water meant the overall calorie intake was less before and after the meal. One esteemed dietician in America suggested keeping to milk, water and tea only as the beverages of choice and leaving the rest out of our diets. Sugary beverages and even fruit juice are thought to be unnecessary additions to our diet that we might be better avoiding. Fruit it appears is best eaten whole rather than juiced or pulverised into a smoothie. Also I will add in here that fructose which is known simply as sugar when it comes to talking about our modern processed foods does not affect ghrelin release unlike other carbohydrates and proteins which lower ghrelin levels. So sweets and sugary drinks in the morning will not reduce the amount of food you are likely to consume later for lunch and dinner compared to the egg and porridge discussed earlier.

Is it better to spread out calorie intake over a period rather than breaking the day into say three solid meal times? One study used liquid meals of protein, fat and carbohydrates taken in a single go versus splitting it up into five smaller portions taken every half hour to examine this idea. No difference was found in how the food was burnt off meaning that splitting meals up across the day has little effect on avoiding hunger later in the day or keeping up your energy. In fact where the food was consumed in a single go the people reported great and longer lasting fullness.

We often hear about losing weight by different approaches (intermittent or irregular dieting versus continuous dieting). A study tried to determine the effect of this on the body’s systems and discovered little difference in how the body was reacting to the weight loss. The people who achieved the same weight loss by dieting on and off seemed to be under no greater or lesser drive by their bodies to regain weight than those who had dieted in a more consistent manner. To me this study shows the power of habit. Studies have shown that consistent dieting has a greater chance of success but this study shows there is no biological measurement (in terms of hunger hormone, insulin levels) to account for it. Making lifestyle changes your everyday practice is the way to sustain weight loss because the likelihood that all lost weight will be regained is simply the reflection of how likely you are to return to old habits if you haven’t been practicing new ones.

So in summary breakfast is still the main meal of the day. Don’t skip it and try to have healthy oats and maybe an egg as a large part of it, though don’t forget your daily intake of whole fruit. We in LloydsPharmacy are here to support you in attaining a healthy lifestyle and so we can advise you on your diet, help motivate you and supply a range of products that will boost the positive changes you make in your daily life. Chromium is supposed to aid in reducing cravings by enhancing insulin function and effect in the body. Our pharmacies can supply this in more than one brand (Sona or Pharmanord). Products such as Miss Fit Skinny Tea and XLS Medical have proven popular among customers who are making healthy changes in their diets. We have Change Your Health Direction experts in each store so please pop in and tell us how you are doing and ask us how we can help.

 

 

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MY BIG FAT GREEK YOGURT BOWLS – BREAKFAST

Greek yogurt or ‘the yogurt of the Gods’ is a superfood in itself with more than double the amount of protein and gut-friendly probiotics than regular yogurt.  It makes an ideal breakfast as the protein and fat content keep you fuller for longer.  I recommend using an authentic full-fat Greek yogurt such as ‘Fage Total’ which is simply milk and live active bacteria – no preservatives, no powdered milk or powdered anything!

For breakfast I like to customise my yogurt with a variety of toppings. Try fresh orange chunks with chopped 85% dark chocolate and chopped almonds, strawberries with pistachio nuts or walnut, fig and cinnamon.

Superfood Add-Ons: I don’t use the word ‘superfood’ lightly. Any food listed here has pretty hard evidence to suggest its particularly beneficial to our health. Here’s a line up of some evidence-based options….

  • Spirulina powder: a powdered blue-green algae that contains 55% to 70% protein. There is firm evidence that spirulina can improve fat (lipid) and sugar (glucose) metabolism, whilst reducing liver fat and protecting the heart! Spirulina has also been shown to reducing sneezing and stuffy nose. It can taste like pond water on its own but its great in smoothies or stirred into yogurt with a little honey and dried fruit.
  • Hulled Hemp Seeds: contain all the essential fatty acids (omega 3, 6 and 9), are high in fibre and contain about 33% protein. Because of their rich nutrient profile, hemp seeds may reduce the risk of heart disease, improve skin health and reduce symptoms of PMS or Menopause, making them a great little all-rounder.
  • Raw Cacao: I love when science justifies my love of a particular food! Cacao is rich in fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorous and zinc. It is listed amongst the Top 10 most nutrient dense foods on the planet and is a powerful source of antioxidants. Dig in!
  • Blueberries: Dark berries are rich in anthocyanins that have antioxidant properties found to reduce damage to our cells. They have been shown to improve memory in older people and are rich in fibre whilst having low levels of natural fruit sugars.
  • Raw Honey: A tablespoon of honey contains about 17 grams of sugar but it hands-down beats refined table sugars when it comes to its antioxidant content and plant compounds found in high quality honey such as Manuka honey or unpasteurised raw honey that hasn’t been exposed to heat. Go easy on serving sizes, a teaspoon should suffice!

YOU WILL NEED: Full fat plain Greek yogurt (about 125g per person) or 100g dairy-free alternative such as CoYo; a selection of nuts, seeds, nut butters, berries and ‘superfood’ add-ons.  Featured bowls…..

MANGO + SPIRULINA:

  • 125g Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tbsp spirulina powder or Superlife Superfood Mix*
  • 1 tsp raw honey or Manuka honey
  • 1 ounce dried mango (I like ‘Crazy Jacks’ with no added sugar or preservatives such as sulphites)
  • 1/2 tbsp Nua Naturals hulled hemp seeds*

Instructions: Combine the yogurt, spirulina powder and honey to create a creamy-green consistency. Add toppings.

COCONUT YOGURT, MACA + BLUEBERRY (V)

  • 100g vanilla coconut yogurt (I use Coyo)
  • 1 teaspoon nua naturals maca powder*
  • 1 ounce coconut chips*
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Instructions: Combine the coconut yogurt and maca powder. Add toppings.

BANANA, CACAO + COCONUT BUTTER: 

  • 125g plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Nua Naturals raw cacao powder*
  • 1 tsp Nua Naturals raw cacao nibs*
  • 1/2 sliced banana
  • 1/2 – 1 tbsp melted coconut butter (or peanut / almond butter)*

Instructions: Combine the yogurt and cacao powder.  Add toppings.

CACAO-QUINOA-CHIA CRUNCH (more preparation required!)

To make the Cacao-Quinoa-Chia Crunch topping: in a bowl combine 40g quinoa pops, 20g chia seeds*, 35g cacao powder*, 2tbsp cacao nibs*, 40g coconut chips*. Melt 6 tbsp coconut oil* with 4 tbsp maple syrup and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Spread onto a baking tray and let set in the fridge until hard and crumbly. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 10x 40g servings.  Serve sprinkled over your Greek yogurt or as a cereal with your favourite nut milk (I like hazelnut milk for this).

NUTRITION INFORMATION
Option Calories Fat Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre
Mango + Spirulina 275 7g 15g 43g 21g 1g
Vanilla Coyo, Blueberry + Maca 367 30g 5g 19g 11g 5g
Banana, Cacao + Coconut Butter 318 19.4g 13g 24.1g 14g 4.1g
Cacao Quinoa Crunch 278 18g 14g 17g 10g 3g

PAMELA RYAN | NUTRITIONIST | CORPORATE NUTRITION + YOGA

Website: www.thehealthonist.com

Instagram: @the_healthonist

*Available in LloydsPharmacy Stores

 

SUPER-GREENS SKILLET-EGGS: MAIN

If you’ve been following my recipes over the last six weeks you’ll have read before that I tend to recommend a low carbohydrate, higher protein and fat breakfast; in particular for clients with goals to lose weight or regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.

I understand this can be a challenge, and cooked breakfasts often seem to take longer than a bowl of cereal. However I guarantee this recipe should take no longer than 10 minutes tops, and you will benefit from more stable energy levels throughout the morning and less sweet cravings as the day progresses.  I also like to recommend introducing some vegetables at breakfast, either in smoothie form or with eggs and avocado (it just makes that ‘5 to 7-a-day’ target less daunting!).

Eggs are such a great source of protein and micronutrients such as vitamin B12 and choline.  Poached, scrambled, fried or baked are all great. This is a one-pan recipe, and you can easily add more eggs if feeding a family.

Hardy winter greens such as kale, chard, cabbage and cavolo nero are cheap and easy to find at this time of year as well as being packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Serve straight from the pan with some sliced avocado or a tablespoon of plain natural yogurt, chilli flakes and a squeeze of vibrant lemon juice for a morning metabolism boost!

Serves: 2

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil*
  • 100g brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 big handfuls of spinach or chard, roughly chopped
  • 1 big handful of curly kale (purple or green), roughly chopped
  • 4 free range eggs
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • To serve (optional): Juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 avocado, peeled and halved or 2tbsp full-fat natural yogurt (unsweetened)

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet melt the coconut oil over a medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook for 3 minutes and add the spinach/chard and the kale as well as a tablespoon of water.
  2. As the greens begin to wilt, make 4 little ‘gaps’ in the greens for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the pan, cover with a lid and cook until the whites are set and the yolks still runny.
  3. Sprinkle with chilli flakes, sea salt and pepper and serve with sliced avocado or a dollop of natural yogurt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
NUTRITION INFORMATION
Serving Calories Fat Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre
per serving 241 17.4g 17g 4.5g 2g 4.2g
per serving with avocado + lemon 360 28g 18.4g 11.3g 2.8g 9.2g
per serving with yogurt + lemon 280 19.3g 19.1g 8.3g 5.2g 4.2g

PAMELA RYAN | NUTRITIONIST | CORPORATE NUTRITION + YOGA

Website: www.thehealthonist.com

Instagram: @the_healthonist

*Available in LloydsPharmacy Stores

‘CHIA-LOVE’ BREAKFAST BOWLS – BREAKFAST

Everyone says they don’t “do” St. Valentines Day but secretly we all kind of buy-in to it, if not only to indulge in a little self love. Its not V-Day for another week yet,  but it’s good to be prepared so Im sharing this shamelessly pink breakfast recipe with you in advance.

Truthfully, only after I put the ingredients together did I realise that pomegranate fruit and maca powder are considered in many cultures as natural aphrodisiacs, and have been associated with hormonal health and fertility.  In the interest of science, there is some evidence that can attest to pomegranate juice increasing salivary testosterone levels in men by about 24%; whilst the ingestion of Maca root appears to increase libido in both genders, with three notable studies showing fairly consistent results.

A 30g serving of chia seeds contains 11 grams of fibre, 4g of protein and 5g of omega-3 fatty acid as well as providing almost a third of the recommended daily intake magnesium, manganese and phosphorous. This is particularly impressive when you consider just 30g has only 140 calories, making chia seeds highly nutrient dense.

This fibre and protein rich recipe is an ideal breakfast option and will provide sustained energy and keep you satisfied well into the day whilst the antioxidants and phytonutrients found in raspberries and pomegranate support the immune system and help to repair cell and tissue damage caused by free radicals.

RECIPE

(makes 2 breakfast servings or 4 small, snack-size servings)

  • 2 cups (475 ml) of unsweetened almond or coconut milk (I use Ecomil or Oatly brands)
  • 1/2 cup (6 level tbsp) whole chia seeds*
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of maca powder*
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder*
  • 1 cup (about 125g) raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (about 4 tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp light tahini (I use Meridian)

To serve

  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • A few raspberries and some pomegranate seeds

Instructions:

  1. Put the chia seeds, milk, maca, vanilla and ashwagandha (if you’re using it) into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously, ensuring the chia seeds are well combined. Leave aside either overnight or for 10-20 minutes until the mixture thickens (it will look like frog spawn!).
  2. Transfer most of the raspberries and pomegranate to a blender cup (reserve some of the fruit for a topping). Add the tahini and a splash of water. Pulse the fruit until completely mixed.  It will be quite thick which is fine. If you don’t have a blender you could mash the fruit and tahini together with a fork or use a hand-held blender.
  3. When the chia seeds thick and gloopy, combine them with the fruit mixture and stir well.
  4. Transfer to bowls or airtight glass jars (for portability) and top with coconut and fruit. Enjoy!
NUTRITION INFORMATION
Servings Calories Fat Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre
Per half portion 420 29g 11g 42g 14g 21g
Per quarter portion 105 7.25g 2.75g 10.5g 3.5g 5.3g

PAMELA RYAN | NUTRITIONIST | CORPORATE NUTRITION + YOGA

Website: www.thehealthonist.com

Instagram: @the_healthonist

SUPERFOOD SCRAMBLE – BREAKFAST

Whilst plain scrambled eggs are delicious on their own, adding turmeric, chia seeds and greens is a great way to increase the nutritional density of your breakfast with higher fibre, omega-3 fats, essential minerals, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Truth be told these scrambled eggs are just as good for a quick lunch, brunch or dinner but I find them particularly great for breakfast as they are high in protein and omega-3 fats which sustain energy throughout the day and reduce cravings for sweet, sugary foods.

There is mounting evidence that eating a lower carbohydrate breakfast is an effective way to control blood sugar levels, particularly for people with Type 2 Diabetes. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eliminating carbohydrates in the first meal of the day after an overnight fast significantly lowered blood-sugar levels after the low-carb breakfast1.

As elevated blood sugar and blood sugar imbalances may also be responsible for a range of other symptoms and diseases such as inflammation, PCOS, endometriosis and obesity, a low carbohydrate breakfast might also be an effective way to manage symptoms and reduce body fat.

(serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Chia Bia Whole Chia Seed*
  • 1-2 tablespoons almond cream or almond milk (unsweetened)
  • A good pinch of sea salt flakes
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric*
  • 2 teaspoons Optima Raw Virgin Organic Coconut Oil*
  • 2 large handfuls spinach leaves

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, chia seed, almond cream, salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the spinach. Cook gently until wilted and remove the spinach from the pan.
  3. Heat a second teaspoon of coconut oil in the same pan and add the turmeric. Stir with a wooden spoon for a minute (be careful not to burn the turmeric).
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and as the eggs start to “catch” the sides, gently pull them across the pan to form soft folds. Add the wilted spinach back into the pan and continue to fold gently for a minute. When the eggs are almost set but still soft, remove the pan from the stove. The residual heat will finish the cooking.
  5. Serve with freshly chopped herbs if you have some available.
NUTRITION INFORMATION
Calories Fat Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre
364 28g 21g 9g 0.3g 4g
An excellent source of protein, omega-3 ALA, magnesium, choline, iron.

Reference:

  1. 1. Pedersen, E., Lange, K. and Clifton, P. (2016) ‘Effect of carbohydrate restriction in the first meal after an overnight fast on glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes: A randomised trial’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 104(5), pp. 1285–1291. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.135343.

PAMELA RYAN | NUTRITIONIST | CORPORATE NUTRITION + YOGA

Website: www.thehealthonist.com

Instagram: @the_healthonist

*Ingredients available in LloydsPharmacy Stores

ENERGISING GREEN SMOOTHIE – BREAKFAST

This smoothie will “give you wings”. So grab your halo and prepare to fly through your day!

For a nourishing boost I used one of my favourite supplements, Superlife Smoothie Mix (Energy Boost), available from your local Lloyds Pharmacy. It is packed with exotic-sounding organic superfoods such as maca, hemp, cacao, spirulina and chlorella. This unique blend offers an abundance of antioxidant nutrients, iron, calcium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and protein.

Combined with fibre- and vitamin C rich greens, over 11g protein per serving and essential fats from creamy avocado, this smoothie is an ideal breakfast and it takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients

  • 50g cucumber, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 medium celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 2 handfuls leafy greens e.g. baby spinach or rocket leaves
  • 1 small handful fresh parsley
  • 1 banana, peeled and chopped (or 1/2 for less sugar)
  • 1/2 avocado, stone removed and flesh scooped out
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of Superlife Smoothie Mix Energy Boost*
  • 1 cup water or coconut water
  • 2-3 cubes of ice

Instructions

Put all the ingredients into a high-speed blender and whizz until silky smooth. Enjoy!

Tips:

  • Prepare your vegetables the night before and pack them into the smoothie cup. Store in the fridge. The next morning just add water and ice cubes and blend.
  • Divide the mixture into 3 or 4 small glasses and serve to your kids as a snack or as a nourishing accompaniment their normal breakfast.
  • If you don’t have fresh parsley to hand, just add an extra handful of greens. Choose from spinach, rocket, chard, lambs lettuce or chicory leaves.
  • Instead of ice cubes, peel and dice a few bananas and store in a sealed container in the freezer. Use these in place of ice cubes (but as part of your fruit portion).
Nutrition Information per Serving.
Calories Fat Protein Carbs Sugar Fibre
326 11.9g 11.4g 48g 25g 16
A source of vitamin C, vitamin A, Iron, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids.

PAMELA RYAN | NUTRITIONIST | CORPORATE NUTRITION + YOGA

Website: www.thehealthonist.com

Instagram: @the_healthonist

*Ingredients available in LloydsPharmacy Stores