Showing posts with label nutrition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nutrition. Show all posts

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Power of Smoothies

How often do we hear about the benefits of eating more fruit and veg? And do we do it? Probably not, most of the time. Of course, we mean to.  But life is a juggle and we often don't make time for the things we know are good for us.

This week on the blog, Zakia helps us to make getting healthier both easy and delicious.

Fruits and vegetables are essential to our well-being, especially if you are pregnant or have recently had a baby or are breastfeeding. Mothers really need to replenish their stores of nutrients as growing a whole little human being and nourshing them takes a significant amount from you.  One of the easiest ways to increase your daily consumption of fruit and veg is to make your own smoothies. And this can also be really great for the rest of the family too.  

How to make smoothies?

You don’t need any fancy equipment, all you need is a hand blender or standard blender.  If you have anything fancier, that's great. But it's not essential.  

You will also need a selection of fruit and veg that you can easily blend. These can be fresh or frozen.  Use good quality ingredients, including seasonal and/or organic if possible.  Consuming fruit and veg in a liquidised form means most of the nutrients are absorbed directly into your blood stream.  So the better-quality stuff you use, the more you are maximising the nutrients you are consuming with each smoothy.

I would avoid putting more than 5 different fruits or vegetables in one smoothie because we don’t want the body to have too many different things to process at once. Simply put your selection of fruits and vegetables in the blender, add a bit of water or almond milk and whizz it in the blender.

When to consume them?

To get the greatest benefits from your smoothies, avoid eating solid food an hour before and after having your smoothie. This is to allow the body to absorb all the vitamins and minerals.

You can make batches and freeze smoothies too.  So when you are busy you can easily defrost and have a quick daily dose of vitamins and minerals when you are on the go. 

If you find some greens too bitter, add an extra banana or mango. For mamas that are breastfeeding, this is a wonderful way for baby to get all the goodness directly. And, don’t forget, Vitamin K is present in most leafy green vegetables.

Some Yummy Recipes

Super green: 3 small bananas, 2 handfuls of spinach leaves, 1 apple and water

Raspberry dream: 2 pears, raspberries, 4 or 5 leaves of kale and water

Kiwi delight: 4 very ripe kiwis, 1 banana, 3 stalks of celery and water 

Stay healthy, stay happy!

Zakia Mance, Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner

Monday, 5 June 2017

That gut feeling!

Research shows the important role that the gut plays in keeping us healthy and happy.

There is a profound dynamic interaction between your gut, your brain and your immune system, starting from birth with baby's development of gut microbiota. Zakia explains this important relationship.

Where does it all begin?

Let's start with a mini biology lesson. Trillions of bacteria live in your child's (and your own) gastrointestinal system, many of which are good bacteria that keep the gut healthy. These bacteria have been there since birth, when your baby's gastrointestinal tract became colonized with good, bad and benign bacteria (known as flora). This happens when baby passes through the birth canal during a vaginal delivery, during which baby picks up some of your microbes.

If you breastfeed your baby, you help your baby build up more good bacteria, because breast milk contains substances known as prebiotics that promote the growth of healthy bugs. Prebiotics are also found in high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Once your child weans and starts on solid foods, the gut microflora will change, and then remain pretty much constant throughout his or her lifetime.

Why is it so important to have healthy guts?

  • It helps the body to digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.
  • It helps with the production of some vitamins (B and K).
  • Scientists have shown that brain levels of serotonin, the 'happy hormone' are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life.
  • It helps us combat aggressions from other microorganisms, maintaining the wholeness of the intestinal mucosa.
  • It plays an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect.

What can disrupt the gut flora?

-        Antibiotics, for instance, can kill both bad and good bacteria in your child's gut flora. "About 20 to 30 percent of kids develop diarrhoea when they take antibiotics," says Daniel Merenstein, M.D., director of research in the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.

-        Various diseases can disturb this otherwise fixed amount of microflora.

-        Poor diet: sugary and processed foods, lack of fruits and vegetables.

How to help your little ones maintain a healthy gut, and trust their gut?

Always start with food. Teaching our children the importance of eating wholesome, unprocessed, unrefined food is crucial to help them develop healthy eating habits. Keep to a strict minimum of sugar, fizzy drinks, processed and salty foods. Increase foods that are gut friendly, including vegetables, good oils, good proteins (fish, lean meat), wholegrains, fruits, fermented foods and drinks, such as Kefir.

Teaching a healthy approach to eating will help your children as well. Teach them about eating slowly and enjoying their food, rather than just scoffing quickly whatever is available. Eating slowly make them more aware of their body and teaches them to recognise when they are full. Explain what different foods can do to their body and mood, by all means give them the odd chocolate bar as a treat, but do also explain why it is an occasional treat.

Science is only confirming what naturopaths and nutritionists have known for years: that good physical and mental health start primarily in your gut. So look after your children’s gut flora, and yours too.  And this will help the whole family live a healthier and happier life.

Stay healthy, stay happy!
Zakia Mance
Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner


Monday, 10 April 2017

The skinny on fat, for you and baby

The skinny on fat, and why good fats are essential 

One of the most important facts you need to know is that the human brain is nearly 60 percent fat, - this helps understanding why some fats are so important and called essential fatty acids aka omega 3, 6 and 9. 

What is fat and why is it important for mother and child?

Fat is a rich source of energy and is made up of building blocks called fatty acids and these are classified as saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated depending on their chemical structure. Some of these are an essential component of the diet but others can be detrimental to our health if too much is consumed. Of the 3 the ones you should be consuming less of are the saturated ones, found in full fat milk, cheese, fatty meets etc. The ones to increase consumption of are the mono and polyunsaturated ones. All these “good” fatty acids are also known as omega 3, 6 and 9. 

We've learned in recent years that fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules that determine your brain's integrity and ability to perform. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are required for maintenance of optimal health but they can’t be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from dietary sources. Clinical observation studies have related imbalance dietary intake of fatty acids to impaired brain performance and diseases.  

The EFAs, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids, are important for brain development during both the foetal and postnatal period. Dietary decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is needed for the optimum functional maturation of the retina and visual cortex, with visual acuity and mental development seemingly improved by extra DHA. Beyond their important role in building the brain structure, EFAs, as messengers, are involved in the synthesis and functions of brain neurotransmitters, and in the molecules of the immune system. 

Why are these lipids so important pre and post pregnancy?

As we have seen, DHA is required for neurological tissue – especially for the development and maintenance of the central nervous system and brain. It is also required for vascular tissue (blood vessels) and for the development of the eye in the foetus and infants and for visual function throughout life.  Countless scientific studies have been done on the roles of DHA in babies, infants and children. Here are some interesting findings from just a few of them:
  • Studies show us that children who were supplemented with DHA were less likely to experience colds and flu or the duration of incidences were shorter (meaning the children recovered faster).
  • Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are often shown to have much lower levels of Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • A review published in Nature scientific journal reported two studies that showed neurodevelopment scores were better in babies whose mothers ate good levels of oily fish.
  • Researchers found that infants born to mothers with higher blood levels of DHA at delivery had advanced levels of attention spans well into their second year of life. During the first six months of life, these infants were two months ahead of those babies whose mothers had lower DHA levels.

The last trimester

The last trimester of pregnancy (week 28 onwards) is a particularly important time for the foetus’s brain – it grows by an astonishing 260% in this trimester. For this reason, it is particularly important for the mother to be taking in adequate DHA during this time. This also raises another issue: what if the baby is premature? The best thing a mother can do is to breastfeed her infant (if possible) and take in plenty of DHA herself so that the baby receives it through her milk.

The growing child

After the baby is born, the brain continues to grow very quickly. In the first year of life, it grows by another 175%, and in the second year of life, by another 18%. After age 2, changes and growth occur throughout childhood but the total size of the brain only increases by another 21%. This shows that keeping up DHA intake is particularly important for the infant in the first two years of life.

There are countless studies to show that infant development is improved from intake of optimum levels of DHA. Therefore, new babies through infancy and into childhood should have access to DHA through food and potentially supplements, as a key component of developmental ‘brain’ nutrition.

Omega 3, 6 and 9 what are they and where can we find them?

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega 3s are polyunsaturated fats, a type of fat your body can’t make -  that’s why they are referred to as “essential fats,” meaning that you have to get them from your diet. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least two portions of oily fish per week, which is rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA.
They support infant brain development and are extremely important for brain development in babies.

Foods high in omega-3: oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines…) flaxseed (linseed)

What Are Omega-6 fatty acids?
Like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids, they are also essential, so you need to obtain them from your diet.

Although omega-6 fats are essential, the modern Western diet contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than necessary.
Foods high in Omega-6 : Nuts and seeds (Walnuts, Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Cashew nuts)

What Are Omega-9 Fatty Acids? 

Omega-9 fatty acids aren’t strictly “essential,” meaning they can be produced by the body. In fact, omega-9 fats are the most abundant fats in most cells in the body. However, consuming foods rich in omega-9 fatty acids instead of other types of fat may have a number of beneficial health effects.

Foods high in Omega-9: Olive oil, Almond and Avocado oil.

Practical Dietary Advice

My advice will be to always buy good quality cold pressed (organic whenever possible) oils; olive, walnut, avocado hemp and drizzle them every day on soups, salads, or use for crudité dipping. Do not cook with these as high temperatures tends to destroy all the goodness. Try to have a varied and mixed diet including loads of seeds, avocados, fish (fresh or in cans) oily ones are the best, mackerel, sardines, salmon, tuna.

As we further unlock the mystery of how fatty acids affect the brain and better understand the brain's critical dependence on specific EFAs, correct intake of the appropriate diet or supplements becomes one of the tasks we undertake in pursuit of optimal wellness.

Stay healthy, stay happy!

Zakia Mance, Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner