Fire in the belly

Article taken from Psychologies Magazine (January 2020)

Eve Kalinik explores the link between our gut and mood and how the health of our microbiome plays a role in our emotional wellbeing.

Research and a greater understanding of depression have highlighted that it is not solely a disease of cognitive origin. Indeed, studies reveal the role of inflammation as an underlying pivotal development factor. This management process is one that, in part, relies on the health of the gut. Having a healthy microbiome – the trillions of microbes in the gut – helps keep the barrier of the gut functioning well. This means allowing substances that should be moving in and out of the gut to pass by without hassle, while blocking those that should stay within the confines of the gut. If this is breached, it can lead to substances such as bacteria and proteins from food sneaking out of the gut and creating a wide inflammatory reaction from the immune system, which has a more systemic effect.

Somewhere, over the rainbow

That can mean an almost constant state of inflammation which, it is thought, can result in mood disorders. The other way our microbiome manages inflammation is via the production of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that has an anti-inflammatory effect but also provides energy for the cells in the lining of the gut to help maintain a healthy gut barrier. Further to this, it is also important for the blood-brain barrier and butyrate can enter the brain and act as an antidepressant. Mood disorders are multifaceted, so gut health is just one consideration. However, supporting the gut positively contributes to wellness and the more heterogenous our microbiome the better.

A rich, colourful and varied collection of microbes leads to a healthier, stronger and happier gut. Reflect this on your plate with colour and diversity of fibre sources, including vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts and seeds. It sounds like a cliche, but eating the rainbow can provide bountiful joy for your microbes. Try one new veg, fruit and / or whole grain a week. If you usually have potato mash, swap it for sweet potato; mix up your berries, frozen are great as they keep for longer, or have buckwheat or quinoa instead of oats for breakfast. The possibilities are endless and with variety comes the spice of life, not least for our microbiome.

Feelgood food:

A pioneering look at the role of inflammation in mood disorders.

*The Inflamed Mind: A radical new approach to depression by Edward Bullmore.

Eat to treat Endometriosis

Article taken from Psychologies Magazine (October 2019)

Henrietta Norton*, author and leading expert on women’s wellbeing, helps us find the best ways to nourish ourselves to combat disorders of the reproductive tract.

Endometriosis and Adenomyosis are complex disorders of the female reproductive track whereby cells, similar to those found in the lining of the womb, are found elsewhere in the body. However, they develop differently and can have varying symptoms: In adenomyosis, rogue cells grow within the wall of the uterus; in endometriosis they grow outside the uterus. Endometriosis is more common in adolescents and women of reproductive age and adenomyosis in women who have had more than one child. You can have one or both of these disorders and, in fact, 42.3 per cent of women with endometriosis have a dual diagnosis.

You can help yourself

Endometriosis and adenomyosis are both progressive and oestrogen-dependent, influenced by the fluctuation in hormones during the menstrual cycle, which stimulates these cells to grow, then break down and bleed as they would in the lining of the womb, leading to inflammation and pain. Studies demonstrate that nutritional therapy is an effective approach to both conditions – in fact, research shows that it can be more effective at obtaining relief of pain and improving quality of life than medical hormonal treatment after surgery for endometriosis.

Nutrient deficiencies occur if you are not having enough food or having too much of the wrong food. You may be eating well, but not well enough to provide the specific nutrients you need to heal from a specific condition. Some gentle changes can help you make strides in your experience of endometriosis.

Lifestyle support

Consider these tweaks to help your body deal with the symptoms of endometriosis and adenomyosis

  • Eat colour : Women who ate green vegetables 13 times or more a week (roughly twice a day) were 70 per cent less likely to have endometriosis. Carotenoid-rich foods, especially citrus fruits, also positively affected symptoms. Use smoothies, juices and soups to nourish.
  • Befriend your gut : Beneficial gut bacteria can reduce production of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme that remakes oestrogen in the gut and can contribute to its dominance. Add natural, organic yogurt to your diet, either on its own or in dressings and sauces. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir, are excellent sources of beneficial bacteria, or take a pribiotic supplement (minimum 10 billion CFU, or colony forming units).
  • Keep up your minerals : Zinc and magnesium are used up in states of physical imbalance. Women can lose up to half their supply of magnesium during menstruation. Women with endometriosis often suffer from heavy bleeding, which reduces their iron stores.
  • Be conscious of intimate products : Tampons use bleached paper products that contain dioxins, proven to have an adverse effect on the hormonal system.
  • Rethink gluten : Research that categorises endometriosis as an autoimmune condition documents an improved response in those following a gluten-free diet. Three quarters of women on a gluten-free diet for a year reported a significant decrease in symptoms.

*Henrietta Norton is a nutritional therapist, women’s wellbeing writer and co-founder of food-grown supplements brand Wild Nutrition. wildnutrition.com; @wildnutritional.

Eat your way to a more positive state of mind

Article taken from Psychologies Magazine (November 2019)

Leading expert in women’s wellbeing Henrietta Norton tells us how to nourish ourselves for improved mental health and emotional balance.

Three and a half million people in the UK take antidepressants and the potential side effects range from gut problems, drowsiness, insomnia and painful menstruation to hives, tremors, confusion, anxiety and impotence. An increased risk of suicidal behaviour in children and adolescents has also been documented. Nutritional medicine has made developments in exploring the link between mental and physical health and research shows depression is more common in those with compromised immune function.

Take back a level of control

Evidence indicates that our sensitivity to stress, anxiety and depression is programmed in infancy, sensitising us to a certain level of adversity. Hypersensitivity to stress and depression may occur due to changes in our stress-response network. Of great clinical interest is that the group of inflammation-sensitive depressives tend not to respond well to antidepressants.

The B vitamins are essential for functioning of the nervous system, and vitamin B5 in particular for production of hormones such as cortisol. Sources include whole grains, eggs, beans and lentils, veggies, fish and meat. A vitamin B complex can be supportive and one that includes vitamin C, magnesium and ashwagandha will help regulate cortisol. Magnesium, rapidly used up when we’re stressed, is essential for the production of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. The best sources are nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin and hemp), buckwheat groats or flour (buckwheat is a seed and not related to wheat), greens such as spinach and kale and seafood. If sleep is an issue, try an extra 80mg of food-grown magnesium at night.

Foods for happiness

Following is a guide to feeding ourselves to best support our hormones, brain chemicals and, ultimately, moods.

  • Eggs. Rich in zinc and tryptophan, eggs can boost serotonin levels. Dip steamed asparagus into boiled eggs as a morning mood enhancer.
  • Wild Salmon. This fish is full of healthy fatty acids to support our hormones and libido. Mix with horseradish and plain yogurt to make a salmon pate for a quick mood-supporting snack.
  • Avocado. These are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids which have an array of health benefits. The acids DHA and EPA may help to improve brain function, regulate vision and contribute to normal heart function. These acids are also used as ‘taxis’ to ferry hormones around the body, including libido-charging testosterone in men and women. For a boost of healthy fats, slice chunks of avocado into your salad or onto your morning toast, drizzle over extra virgin olive oil and add flakes of wild salmon.
  • Quinoa. This whole grain is rich in protein, magnesium and B vitamins, which are needed to produce anti-anxiety brain chemicals, including GABA. Use as an alternative to rice or wheat pasta for managing anxiety and stress.
  • Lean proteins (fish, chicken and lamb). These proteins provide a complete mix of the amino acids required for the building blocks of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Ideas with Ryvita

Recipe ideas from advert by Ryvita in Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021)

Chicken & Avocado

A classic combo, but who knew avos were so high in fibre? Combine 80g of fibre from half an avo with 2 Multigrain Crunchy Rye Breads and you have a filling snack with 6.3g of fibre. For added protein, top with chicken.

Ingredients :
2 Ryvita Multigrain Crunchy Rye Breads
1/2 avocado
Cracked black pepper
Cooked Chicken

  • Cut the avocado in half and mash the flesh. Reserve the other half.
  • Spread the mashed avocado on 2 Ryvita Multigrain Crunchy Rye Breads, add the chicken and season to taste with black pepper.

Hummus & Cherry Tomatoes

Hummus and rye breads make for easy high-fibre meals. Add roasted on fresh cherry tomatoes to get 9.4g of fibre over 4 slices.

Ingredients :
4 Ryvita Red Quinoa & Sesame Protein Crunch Rye Breads
100g cherry tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp hummus

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C / Gas Mark 6.
  • Toss the tomatoes in the olive oil, season and bake for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes start to burst.
  • Spread the hummus on the rye breads and top with the tomatoes.

Peanut Butter & Banana

Nuts are a great source of fibre and the average banana gives you 1.7g of fibre per 80g serving. Combine these with crunchy rye breads and you have a delicious snack with a whopping 6.6g of fibre – in less than 5 minutes!

Ingredients :
2 Ryvita Multigrain Crunchy Rye Breads
1 tblsp peanut butter
1/2 banana
1 tsp toasted, chopped peanuts

  • Top the crunchy rye breads with the peanut butter.
  • Slice the banana and place on top.
  • Sprinkle on the peanuts.

Fruitful breakfast

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021)

This refreshing, original acai bowl from ‘Plant Over Processed‘ by Andrea Hannemann is a great substitute for hot porridge as the days get warmer.

Serves : 2

Ingredients :
2 cups frozen blueberries
3 frozen ripe bananas
2 acai superfruit packs of 1 scoop acai powder
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup plant milk

For the toppings
Sliced banana, granola, shredded coconut, goji berries or blueberries

  • Place all the ingredients except the toppings in a high-powdered blender.
  • Blend, starting on medium speed and gradually making your way up to high, for 1-2 minutes, stopping every 20 seconds to mix the ingredients and push them down with a smoothie stick.
  • Once you see the ‘swirl’, you will know it’s done. Pour your smoothie into your favourite bowl and add your choice of toppings.

The Benefits of Ferments

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021) and taken from Happy Gut, Happy Mind: How to Feel Good From Within by Eve Kalinik.

As research into fermented foods gains traction, Eve Kalinik explains how to easily include them in our diet and reap the healthful rewards.

Some might say the benefits of fermented foods are anecdotal, but they have been eaten for millennia for their health-giving properties. You could look at them as a demonstration of a long-standing give-and-take relationship with our microbial world. We feed microbes their preferred food, depending on the ferment, and they reciprocate by producing positive substances. These include compounds such as organic acids that can help us by supporting energy, detoxification and the production of neurotransmitter chemicals that benefit both gut and brain.

Fermented foods are also higher in both concentration and absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, biotin, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. The fermentation process also means that proteins are, to varying degrees, ‘pre-digested’, including casein in milk and gluten in bread, which can make them easier to digest and absorb. This is why fermented dairy in cheese and yoghurt can often be better tolerated if someone has issues with straight-up milk, and why sourdough can be easier on the gut than non-fermented bread. Fermented foods also contain prebiotics, which has a positive feeding effect on our existing gut microbiota.

Probiotics a la carte

The other, more obvious benefit of eating fermented foods is the ingestion of a high source of gut-boosting microbes. Think of them as probiotics in food form. In addition, fermentation increases lactic acid production, which makes it tricky for many other microbes to thrive, therefore the beneficial acid-loving bugs win out, which is a quid pro quo for our resident gut microbiota.

Last, but by no means least, there is a depth of flavour in fermented foods, derived from their natural umami. Once you foray into fermentation, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner, and how the simple addition of a spoonful of sauerkraut or kimchi can elevate the simplest of sarnies.

Sourdough depends on a live culture starter. Baking destroys most of these, but transforms the bread into a prebiotic, feeding microbes in our gut.

Kim-cheese toastie

Turn lunch into a main event with this easy recipe taken from the book ‘Happy Gut’ by Eve Kalinik.

Ingredients :
2 slices sourdough bread
Organic butter, to spread
Few slices hard cheese, such as Cheddar or Manchego (try to get unpasteurised if you can); 2 tblsp kimchi

  • Toast the bread on both sides. Spread with butter.
  • Lay the cheese on one slice (don’t melt it), top with kimchi and the second slice of toast. Cut into quarters and crunch into the goodness.

Summer Fruits – Smooth operator

Recipe courtesy of The Co-operative Food Magazine.

Nothing evokes summer quite like the taste of plump and juicy summer berries.  Whether you’re planning a weekend picnic, making a fruit tart or a healthy smoothie.

Berry smoothieIngredients :
115g blueberries
115g raspberries
150ml apple juice
2 tblsp natural yogurt
Some crushed ice
Extra blueberries and raspberries to garnish

Method :

Bullet logo Pop all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth.  Pour into a glass and garnish with the blueberries and raspberries.

Salted Vanilla and Walnut Smoothie

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (February 2018) and taken from ‘Well Being’ by Danielle Copperman .

Enjoy this energising drink, which is more like a milkshake than a smoothie, in the morning, or before or after a workout to aid muscle repair.  Add raw cacao powder for a chocolatey version.

Serves : 2

Vanilla and walnut smoothieIngredients :
20g raw almonds (with or without skin)
2 tbsp hemp seeds or golden linseeds
30g raw walnuts
110g banana, sliced and frozen
2 tbsp avocado flesh
200ml filtered water or plant-based milk
1 tsp maca powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 – 1g salt
20g tahini or nut butter
2g vanilla powder
1 medjool date
6-8 ice cubes

Method :

Bullet logo Put all the ingredients, apart from the ice, in a blender and whizz on a medium to high speed for 1-2 minutes, until everything is combined.

Bullet logo Scrape down any mixture on the sides, add the ice and then blend again on the highest speed, until the ice has fully broken down and you have a silky smooth, creamy texture.

Serve immediately.

Mocha Morning Buzz

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (July 2016).

This chilled smoothie take on a cappuccino is sweetened with dates, and the rolled oats keeps you fuller for longer.

Mocha morning blitzServes : 1
Nut-free

Ingredients:-
3-5 soft dates, pitted
2 teaspoons cacao powder
3 tablespoons rolled oats (choose certified gluten-free if allergic)
250ml (1/2 fl oz / 1 cup) unsweetened plant milk
1-2 shots espresso (approximately 2-4 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon cold-pressed coconut oil
2 ice cubes

Method:

Bullet logo Put the ingredients in a blender and blast on a high speed until smooth.

Bullet logo Taste and adjust the sweetness and coffee flavour to your liking by adding dates, espresso or milk.  Pour into one medium-size glass or cup and enjoy straight away.  Stir in a splash of extra plant milk, if you fancy it.

Flax to the max

IMG_1828

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine and written by Eve Kalinik.

These tiny seeds may fall short in size, but they’re big in terms of benefits.

One of the most notable facts about flax is that the seeds are considered to be one of the highest sources of ALA, a type of plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid.  These are necessary for myriad processes in the body, including helping to manage inflammation and support cardiovascular health.  This type of omega-3 is different to the ones in fish oil that contain EPA and DHA fatty acids.  Studies show that, depending on your gender, you may convert more or less ALA into EPA or DHA components – women seem to have higher levels than men.  It is crucial that we get enough of these and we should try to obtain them from different sources.

From a gut perspective, flaxseeds give a welcome boost, as they provide fibre that feeds our beneficial gut microbes.  This has a positive knock-on effect, as the microbes can produce more anti-inflammatory substances like butyrate and, as research is starting to show, potentially increase out output of positive mood neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

The mucilage gel-forming fibre that flaxseeds provide helps keep things moving along nicely in the bowel too.  Flaxseeds are a good source of lignans and are considered a phytoestrogen foods, which means they may have an influence on hormones, mimicking and moderating the effects of oestrogen in the body.  This can be beneficial during menopause, although, if you have any type of hormonal condition, you may need to check with a practitioner before you introduce flax regularly into your diet.

When it comes to eating flaxseeds, and to really tap into their benefits, it is best to grind or sprout them.  In their whole raw form, the seeds pass through the gastrointestinal tract undigested, so try to grind from fresh using a coffee or spice grinder, and store in the fridge as they can go rancid.  Flax is brilliant in Bircher muesli or stirred into yogurt with a lick of raw honey, but they also work as an excellent substitute for eggs if you need to bind in a vegan or egg-free dish.

Suggested products:-

Grind – Use a De’Longhi Coffee Grinder that can give you freshly ground flaxseeds in a flash.  Remember to store your ground seeds in an airtight container in the fridge.

Baked – Flaxseeds can give a delicious boost of flavour in a simple loaf.  Try Biona Organic Rye, Chia and Flaxseed Bread.

Seeds – You could buy whole seeds from the supermarket and grind at home but, for pre-ground, try Linwoods Sprouted Milled Organic Flaxseed.