Wellness/Health

Finding it nearly impossible to lose weight. This might be why!

Remember when you were younger and wanted to trim down for that tropical beach vacay or dazzle in that sexy skin-tight outfit at your friend’s wedding … no problemo, right! A few tweaks on the diet front plus a couple of extra trips to the gym and voila, you were right where you wanted to be.

But as the years tick by, are you finding that those same tried and true diet and exercise plans are no longer cutting it and that losing weight has become a real challenge?

Let me give you ‘the skinny’ on what could be going on.  

It is not an understatement to say that hormonal activity plays a pivotal role in weight gain as we age. So what’s the connection? Well, as our lives evolve, so do our responsibilities and pressures - longer working hours, around the clock raising of kids, taking care of elderly parents, marriage issues, financial headaches … you get the picture. Soon enough we’re just one big ball of stress thanks to our daily grind and that’s when the weight issues can often start. 

One of the major players is cortisol, a hormone produced by our adrenal glands (those two little organs sitting on top of our kidneys). Often referred to as our ‘stress’ hormone, one of cortisol’s jobs is to helps get us out of immediate danger (along with the hormones norepinephrine and adrenaline) by increasing our blood sugar levels, raising our blood pressure and modulating our immune system. That sounds helpful, right?

However, if we stay at a constant (aka chronic) high level of stress, our cortisol levels also stay elevated and this triggers our bodies to lay down fat reserves for what it perceives might be hard times ahead, even starvation. In addition, these chronic high levels of cortisol trigger the release of insulin, our fat storage hormone, contributing to the accumulation of fat cells. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance (a topic for another day). Obviously fat reserves were a necessary part of survival for our ancestors (think fleeing from dinosaurs) but now it’s an unwanted side effect of our modern day, stressful lives.

So where does this fat get stored? You’ve guessed it, face, neck and around our waists where our deep abdominal fat is equipped with FOUR times more cortisol receptors compared to subcutaneous fat - that’s the fat just under the skin that we can pinch. (1)  

So we can start to understand that stress and weight gain are closely intertwined. The imbalance of hormones caused by chronic stress can turn our bodies into virtual fat-producing machines, making it hard not only to take the pounds off but easy to put the pounds on. And that could be one reason we are finding it nearly impossible to lose weight.

Look out for my next Inspiration to discover other daily habits that could be self-sabotaging our weight-loss goals … and yes, they’re hormone related too. 

References

(1) Epel, E.S., B. McEwen, T. Seeman, et al. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosomatic Medicine 62:623-632, 2000.

 

Let's Talk Menopause ... Foods To Embrace / Foods To Kick To The Curb!

For many of us women, hitting the menopause is not exactly the highlight of our lives. We dread the possible onset of common symptoms such as insomnia, hot flushes, sweating, anxiety, impairment of memory(#menopause brain), and feeling tired-out. Some of the longer term consequences aren’t such a thrilling prospect either - a decline in libido (unhappy partner), osteoporosis (there go the skiing trips) heart disease (good god), even dementia (what?) – all linked to a reduction in our estrogen levels.

However, it’s not curtains yet.  One of the best ways to fight back is to adapt our diet, helping to alleviate potentially challenging menopausal symptoms.

Foods to Embrace 

Bring in these fiber-rich foods  

An adequate amount of daily fiber is essential in any diet, but as we head into menopause, we can find ourselves in the ‘Battle of the Bulge’, whilst simultaneously trying not to pull our hair out thanks to fluctuating hormones! So this is where our good friend fiber comes to the rescue. It’s one of the ultimate ways to control our weight as fiber keep us feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer… goodbye tempting fattening snacks. Fibrous foods also keep the bowels moving helping to eliminate any excess estrogens from building up interfering with our natural hormonal balance.

Embrace: Ground flax and chia seeds that are quick and easy fiber foods to add to a smoothie or sprinkle over a smoothie bowl. Add in hearty beans and lentils (great in soups, salads) whole grains (oats, barley, brown rice, millet) and cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, collage greens, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

BRIT BEET Tip: When increasing fiber in your diet, it's always best to start off slowly whilst increasing your water intake, to allow time for your body to adjust. As a helpful tip, begin with one teaspoon each of ground flax and chia seeds, slowly increasing to 1 tablespoon each OR until ‘smooth banana-like' bowel movements are a delightful daily experience. (Note: Fiber can be damaging when there is a compromised digestive tract, so adjust accordingly or talk to a Certified Nutritional Practitioner.)

Get intimate with foods high in B vitamins

 Any change in our lives can bring added stress and for many, going through menopause ranks right up at the top! To make this transition easier on ourselves, we need to eat foods rich in B vitamins that help fortify our nervous systems and keep our energy levels high.

Embrace: Eggs, beans and lentils, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, nuts (almonds and pecans) romaine lettuce, bell peppers, asparagus, crimini mushrooms, chicken, sardines, shrimp and scallops. 

Indulge in fats … just the healthy ones!

 I know – it sounds counter-intuitive to indulge in foods rich in fats when we’re trying to avoid the ‘muffin top’. However to be clear, we need to focus on the healthy fats like Omega-3’ s and stay clear of the Omega-6 fats (corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, peanut and cottonseed oils). These anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats help keep our hormones balanced, our metabolism boosted and our weight under control. Now that’s a helping hand that sounds extremely appetizing!

Embrace: Avocados, wild salmon, eggs, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and grass-fed butter.
 

Dust off your soccer boots … here’s the foods we need to kick to the sidelines!

You’re no longer my sugar, sugar!

Sugar is my no.1 recommended food to avoid / reduce during menopause as it worsens every menopausal symptom out there from weight gain to fatigue, mood swings to hot flashes, low libido to memory fog … need I go on! To add insult to injury, sugar and sugary foods provide us with zero nutrients and in order to break them down, we have re-deploy the nutrients intended for other vital menopausal tasks. 

Kick out: Simple carbs such as bagels, bread, rice, enriched pasta, juice, candy, baked goods, chips, syrups and alcohol (more later).

BRIT BEET Tip: When you’re shopping, start checking sugar amounts on food labels and figure out how much added sugar is contained in a serving. As a guide, The World Health Organization’s (WHO) daily sugar recommendation is 6 teaspoons or 24 grams, so aim to keep in this range. After all if that one sinful chocolate cookie contains 15 grams of added sugar, it might be more than half your day’s recommended amount, but at least you’ll know to stop there!

Keep alcohol on the back burner

Ladies … lean in, as this is important. Alcohol is a diuretic (#more trips to the bathroom) leaving our tissues and cells (like vaginal walls) drier and more likely to feel irritated, a definite thumb’s down for the sex life. If you need an added incentive in order to put the cork back in the bottle, did you know that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of 4 glasses of wine per week for breast cancer prevention? 

Kick out: Nightly drinks of your beloved tipple and make it a treat on Friday or Saturday night. Better still, load up on the ultimate drink of all - water!

Cut down on the spicy foods, sister!

Who doesn’t like some spice in their lives! Sadly, when it comes to the menopause, spicy foods can stimulate nerve endings and dilate blood vessels, and hey presto – a hot flash. Experiment with spicy foods (at home!) to avoid embarrassing hot flashes in social situations.

Kick out: Curries, spicy Buffalo wings, hot peppers and Nona’s spicy spaghetti

Reduce or eliminate your caffeine… I know, you love your coffee

As a stimulant, caffeine can hype-up our already depleted nervous system impacting much-needed sleep and general mood.  You've might have heard that caffeine is also a diuretic (removing water from the body just like alcohol) and as such, it dries out our skin leaving it dull and flat looking. What our skin (and our whole body) really thirsts for is water, so hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Kick out: Coffee, caffeinated drinks, ice cream, tea, chocolate bars

BRIT BEET Tip:  If you’re craving a warm drink, try a chicory root ‘coffee’ substitute such as Dandy Blend or a herbal tea such as ginger, mint, lavender or chamomile tea, which are all caffeine-free and will make you feel just wonderfully calm and at ease. I know, it's not coffee, but it’s a good next option.

Bottom line

No woman is likely to say that going through menopause is an easy journey but by using these dietary guidelines, we can give ourselves the best chance to sail through with grace and ease. And I say, amen to that! 

If you are looking for more hands-on, practical culinary help, join me for my Meals to Ease You Through Menopause  nutrition + cooking class at BRIT BEET HQ. Email me for details: joanna@ thebritbeet.com

Jumpstart Your New Year's Detox with this Superfood

Chlorella Pond: Courtesy of Sun Chlorella Company 

Chlorella Pond: Courtesy of Sun Chlorella Company 

With SO many superfoods being touted daily by the mainstream media, it's hard to keep up!

But have you paid attention to one of my favorites - Chlorella? 

Sure ... it's not as sexy as cacao, or as on-trend as kale, but this velvety green whole food has unreal nutritional superpowers that you need to know about.    

What is it exactly?

This superfood is a single-cell, water-grown algae (sounds gross, but don't be put off) that contains a nutrient vital to our health - Chlorophyll, not to be confused with Chloroform - a toxic substance that can seriously depress the respiratory system and heart.

Do you know that Chlorella is:

  • One of the most ancient forms of life - it has been in existence for nearly 2 billion years. (2)
  • Currently being investigating by NASA as a source of nutrition for its astronauts. (1)   
  • Used daily in Japan as a food supplement by 4 million people, to such an extent that the Japanese government has declared it a functional food of national interest. (2)
  • A superfood because it contains an almost complete range of vitamins (apart from vitamin D), all the main minerals, large amounts of iron and calcium, 19 amino acids and 50-60% of vegetable protein. (2)
  • Mighty, with 10 times more vitamin A than beef liver per gram, 40 times more protein per gram than soya, rice and wheat. (2)
  • The champion in the chlorophyll world, with the highest amount of chlorophyll of any plant in the world. In fact, that's how it got its name!
  • An algae that quadruples itself every twenty hours, growing faster than any food crop know to man (8)

According to *Paul Pitchford, M.S., author of the landmark nutrition book, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition (2002),  these are just some of Chlorella’s many amazing benefits: (3, 4, 5,6,7)

  • Detoxification of the body (heavy metals, PCB’s, some pesticides/herbicides).
  • Stimulation of the immune system (stimulates production of our immune ‘T’ cells).
  • Improvement in bowel and digestive function (causes the Lactobacilli bacteria in our stomachs to multiply at four times their normal rate and helps reduce constipation).
  • Promotion of longevity without desirable side-effects (Highest known food source of RNA).

How To Consume Chlorella?

It's a potent detoxifier, so it's best to introduce Chlorella very gradually into your diet to allow your body to adjust. A slow introduction helps avoid unwanted headaches, lethargy and brain fog - if you get these symptoms, reduce your dose. It's your body's way of telling you that you are detoxing too fast. 

You'll find Chlorella in tablet and powder form (1 teaspoon of powder is equal to 5 grams).
Tablets – Chew them up thoroughly at the end of your meal for optimal digestion.
Powder – Great in smoothies but be pre-warned - Chlorella has a ‘fishy’ taste so best to mix it with citrus flavors or chocolate to mask the taste.  

Dosing

3 grams daily is a generally recommended as a good maintenance dose.

For detoxification purpose, I recommend you consult a Certified Nutritionist as it's vital that all your detox pathways are ‘open’, with your bowels moving well and that you are well hydrated.  
Note: Since Chlorella is high in iron, it is not recommended for those with elevated iron blood levels.

What Do I Look For when Buying Chlorella?

Chlorella is ubiquitous – however some products have been known to contain substantial quantities of contaminants such as mercury and aluminum. Also be aware of chlorella products that contain fillers, binders and other preservatives; these only lessen its nutritional effectiveness and rob your wallet.  

Instead, look for companies that offer ‘organic, broken cell’ chlorella that improves digestion and assimilation.

*Paul Pitchford, M.S.,  recommends Prime Chlorella TM, and uses it clinically for its ‘unsurpassed purity and effectiveness’.  I have not used it in my practice so I cannot guarantee it authenticity.

References

(1) http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1813.html

(2) http://chlorellagrowthfactor.co.uk/research-on-cgf/

(3) Yamaguchi, Shimizu, et al.  "Immuno Modulation by Single Cellular Algae (Chlorella Pyrenoldosa) and Anti-tumor Activities for Tumor-Bearing Mice," a paper presented at the 3rd International Congress of Developmental and Comparative Immunology, Reims, France, July 1985.

(4) Yamada, Yoshio, et al.  "School Children's Growth and the Value of Chlorella." Nihon III shimpo, No. 2196, 1988.

(5) Frank, Dr. Benjamin, "Dr. Frank's No-Aging Diet." B of A Communications Co., Baton Rouge, LA (1981).

(6) "Changes induced by Chlorella on the Body Weight and incidence of Colds Among Naval Trainees." Midorf, 1, 1970.

(7) Yamagishi, Yoshio.  "The Treatment of Peptic Ulcers by Chlorella." Nihon III Shimpo. No 1997, 1962.

(8) David Wolfe, “Superfoods. The Foods And Medicine Of The Future”. Pg. 234

Your Essential Holiday Health Guide

For a Happy Holiday Season ...

For a Happy Holiday Season ...

Your Essential HOLIDAY HEALTH Guide
 
It’s that time of the year when we’re dragging ourselves to the finish line. The revolving door of holiday parties, shopping madness, entertaining and work deadlines can mean a lot of extra stress on our bodies! So here’s my Essential Holiday Health Guide to keep you rolling right through this crazy season in the merriest of spirits. 
 
Keep your Immune System Strong
If you’re not already taking a multi-strain probiotic (#beneficial bacteria) start now! Over 70% of our immunity is in our gut, which is where these beneficial organisms live.  Good olde holiday cheer, cookies, cakes, candy canes and general stress all deplete these immune-boosting organisms, making us vulnerable to seasonal viruses, so let’s bring in the reinforcements. I recommend: http://www.seroyal.com/hmf-intensive.html . With 25 billion multi-strain CFU’s (colony forming units) per capsule, it’s intended for quick replenishment of our beneficial gut flora and can also be continued for long-term health maintenance. 
 
On the food side, add in some fermented foods that contain these beneficial bacteria, such as kimchi (find it in the fridge section), dark chocolate (no issue there), miso (makes a tasty addition to soups), tempeh and sauerkraut (so delish on left-over turkey sandwiches - also buy from the fridge section).
 
Liver Support
It’s an extra hectic time for the ‘CEO’ of the body - our liver, which is working overtime to process all the deliciousness of the holiday season – sugar, alcohol (more sugar) fat and protein.  Give it some love in the form of a Milk Thistle herbal supplement. It’s an excellent source of silymarin, an antioxidant extracted from the plant leaves that may help repair liver cells that have been damaged by alcohol, fructose and environmental pollutants. Milk Thistle is widely available at any health food store.
 
If you prefer to rely on foods for liver support (love it), fill up your shopping cart with dark green leafy veggies, broccoli sprouts, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) avocados, garlic and onions, sea vegetables (clean, organic source only) and berries. If you plan to cook up a tasty roast or some warming stews over the holidays, the best liver-friendly meat choices would be grass-fed beef or lamb, or organic poultry.
 
Keep the Added Sugar under Wraps
We all tend to go overboard during the holiday season (#seriously) but if you have this formula in your back pocket, you’re be more likely to avoid the post holiday weight blues. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) daily sugar recommendation is 6 teaspoons or 24 grams, so start checking sugar amounts on those food labels and figure out how much sugar that one sinful chocolate cookie contains, before devouring the whole pack! It might be more than your whole day’s recommended amount, but at least you’ll know you need to stop there! 
 
Hydrate, Hydrate and Hydrate Some More
Of course we like to drink a little more around the holiday season so be smart and always follow the ‘One For One rule’ - one glass of water with each alcoholic drink. This helps to keep our kidneys happy and help prevent those unwanted UTI’s or thumping headaches that can really impact the joyfulness of the season. 
 
Always start your morning off with a glass of filtered water to flush your kidneys after their night of detoxing (put it by your bed before you go to sleep) and keep hydrating throughout the day. Not only will your skin be glowing, you’ll have more energy to squeeze out every festive drop of the season.
 
Prioritize Sleep
I know … not always easy but seriously, shut off that computer or late night TV show and get some healing sleep. You’ll be impressed with how much better you cope with the ups and downs of the season. As an addition bonus, you’ll be looking radiant when you arise like sleeping beauty from that deep, rejuvenating 9 hours of heavenly slumber – sleep is the gift that keeps on giving!
 
Treat yourself
… to a professional massage session and let those knots melt away. Sometimes we don’t even realize how tight our muscles are until we get that hammering headache, crick in the neck or sore back.  So don’t be sidelined this season; book that preventative massage session and float into this season of goodwill with nothing but good vibes.   
 
So, that’s a wrap from this festive BRIT BEET. Remember, I’m always happy to answer your health and wellness questions, so please don’t hesitate to contact me at joanna@thebritbeet.com or follow me@thebritbeet for health advice and chef inspired recipes.
 

Anti-Inflammatory Healthy Breast Daily Diet Guide

This anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, nutrient-dense daily diet includes healing foods that help prevent breast cancer or the recurrence of breast cancer, such as omega-3 fats, fibre, probiotic-rich fermented foods, sea veggies, phytonutrients, and cancer-busting phytochemicals.   

  • Pre Breakfast: Glass of green veggie juice: kale, carrots, bitter greens, beets, apple, lemon
  • Breakfast: Plant protein smoothie, kefir, ground flax/chia/hemp, flax oil, turmeric, cinnamon
  • Snack: 1 cup berries/apples/cherries (remember to eat the 'rainbow')
  • Lunch: 1 cup beans/lentils, dulse, raw veggies, sauerkraut, kimchi, pumpkin seeds, sprouts
  • Snack: 1-2tbsp raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds
  • Supper: Wild salmon, whole grains, stuffing mushrooms, leafy salad with avocado, brassica veggies
  • Liquids: Green tea, herbals teas - dandelion, milk-thistle or ginger,  clean water. Reduce/eliminate coffee!

Inflammation is at the root of disease so by increasing your consumption of these anti-inflammatory foods on a daily basis, the better protected you will be from developing breast cancer or from breast cancer recurrence. 

Why I Love the F Word

carrot-kale-walnuts-tomatoes-medium.jpg

I’m a big fan of the F word – I use it all the time. My kids don’t like it, my husband just ignores it and often friends don’t want to hear me say it anymore.

That’s right … Fiber. I’ve said it and I'm not taking it back. 

But you may be wondering why I am such a fan? 

You see, for years I had the stoggy English diet – think meat pies, scones, cornflakes and heaps of potatoes and gravy and very little fibre.  I was constantly constipated- my stomach stuck out like I was 4 months pregnant; I felt tired and uncomfortable. 

As I discovered the wonderful world of nutrition, and my diet naturally became more fiber-intensive with beans, seeds, whole fruit, heaps of veggies and nuts, these issues receded. However, I continued to find if I was traveling or out of my routine, some of the same issues would come back. 

My hallelujah moment came when I started adding ground flax and chia seeds to my morning smoothie bowl.  It took everything to a whole, new level! 

Now that I've discovered the magic of fiber in the form of flax and chia seeds, I never start my day off without them. 

I buy the seeds in bulk, store them in a glass container in the cupboard, then once a week, grind about one cup of each into a powder and store them in a glass jar in my fridge.  That way, they’re ready for my smoothie bowl every morning!

Of course, I make sure I keep eating all those wonderful plant foods that continue to provide  my foundational fiber source. 

7 Great Reasons for YOU to love FIBER, especially GROUND flax and chia seeds! 

  • Goodbye constipation:  Hello flat stomach! Yes, we need fiber to end our days of constipation, which can have a negative effect on our mood, energy and overall health.
  • Hello Radiant skin:  Fiber helps move toxins out of our bodies instead of through our skin, which can means less acne, rashes or itchy skin conditions and more glow!
  • Yes to Weight Loss: Fiber helps slows down our digestion, making us feel fuller for longer so we are not reaching for those quick ‘hits’ like chips, candy and muffins!
  • Mood stabilizer: Soluble fiber helps to slow down the digestion of simple carbs/sugar helping control our blood sugar levels, so we are not on that sugar ‘rollercoaster’.
  • Heart health: An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.
  • Stroke: Researchers have found that a greater dietary fiber intake is significantly associated with lower risk of a first stroke. (1)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: Diverticulitis/Hemorrhoids: Increasing your dietary fiber intake helps with a number of gastrointestinal disorders, including, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, duodenal ulcers and of course, constipation. (2)

Quick Fibre Facts
Did you know that there are 2 types of fiber?

Soluble

This fibre dissolves into a gel-like consistency and slows down our digestion helping us feel fuller for longer. Found in foods like berries, pears, winter squash, cucumbers, beans and nuts.

Insoluble fiber

  • This fibre adds bulk to our stools and helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots.

Ground/unground chia seeds:  Mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre

Whole flax seeds: Insoluble fiber only, due to their hard outer shell. 

Ground flax seeds: Mixture of soluble and insoluble 

BRIT BEET Tip: When increasing fiber in your diet such as chia and flax seed, it's best to start off slowly, whilst increasing your intake of water.  Begin with one teaspoon amounts, increasing every 3 days until 'smooth banana-like' bowel movements are a daily experience. (*Note: Fibre can be damaging when there is a compromised digestive tract, so adjust accordingly or talk to a Holistic Nutritionist.)