Health and Wellbeing, Nutrition, nutritional therapy, stress, Wellness

Stress and Negative Health Effects


I’m currently reading ‘When the Body Says No’ by Gabor Mate. It’s an interesting and readable book about the effects of stress on our health outcomes. It describes not just the stresses we feel on a day-to-day basis, but also how our responses to stress might become hyper-reactive due to certain childhood experiences. Many people don’t even recognise their stress because it becomes part of who they are. This doesn’t mean it’s any less damaging however. He connects chronic stress (and our responses to it) as an underlying factor in every disease, including Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, Heart Disease, Cancer, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diabetes and Arthritis.

Gabor Mate's book "When the Body Says No" describes the detrimental effects stress has on our health outcomes - from heart disease to Motor Neurone Disease - stress is at the foundations of every health issue.

The problem with chronic stress is that over time it starts to negatively affect the body. Constant cortisol release puts the body in ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means the body is in a state where it is ready to escape, so the focus is taken away from important systems such as:

– the immune system
– the digestive system
– the reproductive system

As a result, our body is:

– unable to digest food and absorb nutrients as efficiently as it should; 

You might begin to suffer from more

– colds, allergies, food intolerances and other immune-related issues; 

Or you might experience symptoms connected with hormone imbalances.

In high levels, cortisol becomes inflammatory, and chronic inflammation is linked with poor health outcomes. 

Cortisol is also linked with energy and the sleep cycle. When it becomes dysregulated through stress you may start to experience symptoms such as insomnia and fatigue.

Taking more time to relax, meditate, and sleep well all have a beneficial effect on your stress levels, and ultimately your health. Put away your gadgets 90 minutes before bedtime too. You may use them as a way to relax, but they have proven detrimental effect on our stress levels.

There are also dietary factors that impact cortisol release, so remember, reducing stress is not only about what you do, and how you perceive and respond to stressors, but also include the quality of the foods (and drinks) you put into your mouth.

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Ways To Up Your Greens – Part 2

In the last two posts I’ve talked about the nutritional benefits of green leafy vegetables, and how to get more of them into your diet.  Today, I finish off this topic with a few more suggestions of when and how you can enjoy these as a part of your daily diet.

  1. Make a rocket soup!  It’s absolutely packed to the brim with leafy greens yet you’d never know it.  It’s also so easy, yet so fresh and delicious.
  2. Pack a wrap with some hummus and broken walnuts, and a handful of spinach, rocket or watercress.  Whatever floats your boat!
  3. Mashed potatoes or smashed new potatoes are great with a dollop of wholegrain mustard and some chopped watercress.  It adds a whole new dimension of peppery-ness that you’ll love!
  4. One thing I really love to do is have a delicious plant-based cooked breakfast with some freshly wilted spinach on the side.  It’s really fresh, and looks gorgeous on the plate with the roasted vine tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms, beetroot falafel, avocado and beans (sorry, but you’ve got to have beans!)
  5. Steam a large head of broccoli (or two) until cooked but with some bite.  Rinse under cold water to keep the fresh green colour, then keep in the fridge to add as a side to meals, or throw into stir fries, or use as a crudite in hummus or dips.  Broccoli is also delicious roasted, as it really seems to intensify the flavour.

So, there’s plenty there to keep you going.

Remember, try to gradually increase your intake to 2-3 portions a day.  To keep to it, plan in advance,  and when you’re on the go, take your greens with you.

And I’m not just talking about salad vegetables… there’s no reason why you have to eat your cooked greens hot.  Take them in your lunch box mixed in with noodles or in a quinoa salad.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

Next time, I’ll be talking about exactly what a portion is, and how many portions a day you should be eating each day for optimal health.

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please post in the comments below.

Sally

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Ways To Up Your Greens – Part 1

Getting more green leafy vegetables into your diet needn’t be difficult.  Personally, I find it’s all in the  planning, so that I’m not having to overthink it, or spend all my free time preparing and cooking.  (Please see my previous post if you want more information about what exactly a green leafy vegetable is, and what benefits they offer).

  1.  Chop up a salad and store it in the fridge for a few days.  Use rocket, spinach, watercress, romaine and, if you’re feeling adventurous, even kale!  Herbs such as parsley and coriander (if you are a fan) also offer a new flavour dimension. Add salad portions as a side to your meals, or even better, eat it before your meal to kickstart your digestion.
  2. Stir-fry spring greens, broccoli, pak choi, sliced Brussels sprouts or savoy cabbage with onions, garlic and your favourite spices to make a delicious side.  It’s also great with added soy sauce or tamari.  If you make a large batch you can store it in the fridge and add it to your meals.  I really like greens stir-fried this way with added cashews or as a bed for a home-made fat spicy bean burger to sit on.
  3. I find a really quick way to get in the greens is to add them, finely chopped, at the end of cooking.  They add texture and colour to soups, stews and casseroles.  I particularly like adding a big bunch of spinach to a sweet potato and chickpea curry.  Or kale or spring greens are great in a chilli.
  4. Make a green smoothie.  Fill up the blender beaker with at least half leafy greens (I like kale and spinach the best for this purpose), then top up the rest with other vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds or anything else you enjoy or will satisfy you.
  5. Finely chopping parsley and/or coriander is a highly effective way to add nutrients, colour and flavour to a pilaf made of brown rice or quinoa. You could also boil up some wholewheat or red lentil pasta, or buckwheat noodles for a change, stir-fry some onions and garlic, then add in a chopped bunch of gorgeous herbs (or other greens, such as spring greens, savoy cabbage, or pak choi) for a really nutritious but simple meal.

Next time I’ll be giving you some more tips on how to up your green leafy intake. See you then.

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please post in the comments below.

Sally

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Eat Your Greens!

Greens come in all shapes and sizes, each offering a unique combination of nutrients and phytochemicals, that not only work independently of each other to offer your body a multitude of health benefits, but also synergistically, in ways we have yet to fully discover.

One thing people really struggle to get into their diet is green leafy vegetables. This is a shame because they are extremely nutrient-dense.  Rich in vitamins A, C, K and many B vitamins, as well as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and fibre, these nutrients are an important component for many of our body’s processes, and play a huge role in our mental and physical wellbeing. Nutrients in greens also repair damage from free radicals, help to balance  blood pressure, help protect against cancer, and support our gut health.  Green leafy vegetables also have a high omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, which is exactly what our bodies need to fight inflammation.

Examples of green leafy vegetables are spinach, kale, broccoli, swiss chard, savoy cabbage, spring greens, Brussels sprouts, rocket, pak choi, watercress, romaine lettuce, beetroot tops and even herbs like fresh coriander, basil, chives, and parsley.  It’s also important to vary the types of greens we eat because each type also offers a different balance of nutrients and phytochemicals that help our bodies maintain health in a variety of ways.

There are various ways of getting more of these highly nutritious vegetables into your diet, which I’ll talk about in my next post.  As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend 2-3 portions per day, especially if you are on a dairy-free diet (green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium and magnesium – important for bone health!)  If you can’t manage this at the moment, start with 2-3 portions a week.  Simply eating more of these nutrient-rich vegetables will make a huge difference to your wellbeing then, if you can, build up more portions as you get used to your new routine. 

In the next post we’ll be looking at exactly how to introduce more greens into your diet.

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please post in the comments below.

Sally