Wednesday, 18 November 2009


And so the Scientific Advisory Committee On Nutrition is suggesting that the current UK recommendations for daily calorie intakes needs increasing?! Hey, hey, great news; license to eat more .Isn't that just what we all need to hear?

At the minute we're 'allowed' 2000 calories for women and 2500 calories for men and the increase is suggested as 16% - 2320 for women and 2900 for men.

At a time when we already have rapidly rising obesity levels in this country it really doesn't seem wise to me for so called Nutritional experts to suggest we eat more. Are they crazy?

Do they assume the general public will eat these extra calories in healthy nutritious energy-giving foods that will serve their bodies well - or is it more likely people will think ,ok, so I can eat another couple of biscuits, have an extra slice of pizza, or swig down another pint in the pub. My guess would be the latter! Sorry if I'm doing any of you a disservice.

And anyway, surely the whole calorie thing should be relative to your body size, weight, frame and activity levels. There is a major difference in calorie requirements for a five foot nine women with a petite frame weighing 9 stone and exercising 6 days a week, and a five foot four female couch potato with a large frame weighing fourteen stone! Not difficult to work out that their needs from food are VERY different.

And this really is how we should view food, in terms of our bodily needs and not randomly eating whatever we choose which encourages cravings,obesity, and other health problems.

It's all about conscious awareness. It's so easy to eat your way through a packet of biscuits whilst watching your favourite TV show without thinking. Or drinking ten pints in the pub with your mates, or overdoing it with a large takeaway pizza. Does your body really NEED all of this food or could you quite easily live without it.

I advise clients to keep a food diary, to write down EVERY single morsel that passes their lips - this is a great exercise in conscious awareness. It's really scary to read through at the end of the week. You can bet your life you'd forgotten about a lot of it, and its usually the bad stuff, as mentioned above!

Our diets, however many calories we consume and it's not something I've ever been into or ever advise clients to do, should be made up of what I call 'clean food' i.e. fruit, vegetables (these two are top of the list), eggs, fish, oils, and lean meats, and complex carbohydrates. And yes, you're allowed a little of 'what you fancy' but make this 20% of your total food and not more.

For anyone who IS interested in calorie counting here are some scary statistics! A pint of beer averages 200 calories,a small bar of Dairy Milk is 255 calories (God knows how many are in the giant bars!), Toffee Crisps are 220 calories, a snack sized Mars bar (which is just 32grams, so basically you could probably eat four) is 175 calories, and last but not least a slice of pizza is approx 300 calories - yes that's just one slice!! Scary - and not only that but you get a mouth full of saturated fat and/or sugars in most of these too. Oh our poor bodies!

My recommendation is to cut out the processed stuff in the main (which generally equates to the most calories anyway!) (80/20 rule) and take a look at your metabolic type. Metabolic Typing works based on questions on your dietary, physical and physiological traits and provides you with a food list to pick from, with no calorie counting, no portion control, and no traffic light systems. Simple to follow and effective in reducing cravings,assisting weight loss, improving digestion,raising energy levels and generally improving the way you feel.

Try it and judge for yourselves.And if you don't just EAT CLEAN. RX

Monday, 9 November 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

Do we have any idea how much salt we're eating?

The food Standards Agency have finally cottoned on to the fact that the likelihood is we have no idea whatsoever. This is because so many of the foods we buy in boxes and packets now have salt added, even breakfast cereals and bread! Why?

Apparently a total of 75% of the salt we eat comes from our everyday foods, take that as processed, by the way. This is because the foods that contribute most salt to our diets are not necessarily the saltiest but the ones we eat most often - processed again. Half the time I think we'd be hard pushed to actually taste the salt in these foods - sweet breakfast cereals??

The recommended salt intake for the average adult is 6g a day. We are currently averaging 8.6g. In view of this the Food Standards Agency are currently running an ad campaign that you may already have heard (I've heard it lots on the radio), asking us to pay closer attention to the salt levels in our food.

To find out more about it you can log on to, but here's a bit more general information that may be useful on salt and why we DO need some in our diets.

Salt comes in the form of sodium chloride, two elements that combine to create something unique and useful to our bodies. We need it for the following reasons:

- salt helps to balance blood sugar levels
- salt is a strong, natural antihistamine
- salt can help prevent muscle cramps (and we all know how painful they can be)
- salt is needed in order to make the structure of the bones firm
- salt helps to clear the lungs of sticky, yakky mucuousy type stuff
- salt is needed for the absorption of food particles through the intestines
- salt stops excess acidity in the body

Having cleared the fact that yes we do need salt in our diets there is a big difference in the types of salt we need. Most of the salt in commercially produced processed food is refined table salt.

Refined table salt often contains other 'things' to bulk it up such as anti caking agents (which potentially are aluminium based), dextrose (a sugar) , sodium silicoaluminate and sodium acetate - the latter two are thought to be associated with kidney disturbances, mineral malabsorption and water retention.

Eating too much refined table salt is surrounded by differing medical opinions but the general view is that it can lead to high blood pressure and increased chances of heart disease.

On the other hand natural, unprocessed sea salts can be beneficial to an already healthy diet - they contain many trace minerals necessary for nutrition and regulating our bodily systems.

So for a healthy salt intake ;

- check the labels of processed food particularly bread and breakfast cereals. You may be shocked at the levels of salt contained in them.Try adding up your consumption in a day.

- use unprocessed sea salt - the best kind is from New Zealand if you can get it.

- always taste foods before adding salt. You may find they really don't need any more adding.

- If you eat a generally, healthy diet full of organic fruits and vegetables and quality meat and fish, adding sea salt will enhance your diet by adding nutrition.

- Adding a pinch of sea salt to a bottle of water will help keep electrolyte and energy levels up , if you are already drinking enough water(don't do this if you already salt your food liberally and eat heaps of processed foods)

- reduce your intake of unnecessary salt by reducing your processed food consumption. This includes fast food outlets where salt is used in vast quantities.

Reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet will help in all areas, not just salt reduction - they contain way too much sugar, wrong types of fats and plenty of chemicals too.Why would you want excess amounts of all of those swimming around inside you?

Hope this was useful.


How dull would life be without chocolate? However healthy most people are, and I like to include myself here, a piece of chocolate or even a bar, every now and again can be just yummy.

And it can actually be good for us too! If you eat the right stuff - apparently some Swedish researchers have been looking into the effects of eating chocolate and heart disease and have discovered that chocolate eaters (2-3 times a week) are up to three times less likely to die of heart problems than those who avoid it. Isn't that the best news you've heard in a while??!!

The thing to remember before you all rush out and stock up on the sweet sugary stuff is that all chocolate is NOT created equal! Although the Swedish study did not actually distinguish between types of chocolate, most research indicates that it's only the dark kind that's good for your heart.

Dark chocolate, ideally go for the 70% cocoa solids or higher (90% is fabulous, an acquired taste that's worth acquiring!) still contains sugar, around 12g per large bar, but the cocoa packs a healthy punch that may counteract the detrimental effects of the sugar. How cool is that? The key ingredient in cocoa are flavonoids. These are natural antioxidant plant compounds which have been known for some time to have healthy heart effects.

Chocolate also contains fat but much of it is present in stearic triglycerides (dark still by the way, milk contains other fats which are not so good!) which is good HDL cholesterol. The fat also slows down the rate at which the sugar is released into the bloodstream so you won't get the blood sugar 'spike' which you WILL get from the other varieties of chocolate.

Dark chocolate eaten in small doses but regularly can help prevent diabetes too, as it improves insulin sensitivity - again please note this is only the DARK variety. Other types will have the opposite effect.

Dark chocolate bars are now largely available in most supermarkets and even small convenience stores mainly thanks to Green and Blacks (Bournville has been around for a while but its cocoa solid content is too low for it to be included as a 'healthy' treat). Also, Green and Blacks is organic so you can avoid unnecessary chemicals.

Seeds Of Change have a great range, some of which include berries and nuts and spices, and is also organic, and exceedingly tasty.

Raw chocolate is becoming more prevalent now ,too, and is well worth a sample. Available on the Internet, and in larger health food shops it's worth trying but beware that tastes vary enormously.

I've conducted a major study over the years (very pleasurable) and have recently come across a range that is made on my doorstep in Wetherby, and sold through the Good Life in the market place. It's called Sweet Revolution and comes in a range of flavours, but all made from 100% natural ingredients and with no high temperature heating so the nutrients reach us virtually untouched. Worth a try - for guilt free indulgence, and for the kids no sugar spike that sends them crazy for half an hour!

100% cocoa bars and blocks are available in Hotel Chocolat and also Waitrose, and work very well when grated onto berries with coconut milk with a bit of cinnamon for a sweet dessert. Also great for cooking with.

So there you have it, it really is OK to eat chocolate - great news to my ears. But please avoid those great big tins of Quality Streets and Celebrations they're selling as 'buy one get one free' for Christmas, in Salisbury's at the moment; they'll do you NO favours however nice they taste.

Choose 70% plus and enjoy!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


How difficult can it be to lie down in a lovely, snuggly warm bed (if you're lucky, with someone you quite like next to you) in the dark and fall asleep, and stay that way for eight hours. Sounds like bliss doesn't it, and so it should be, and we wake up feeling totally refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Why is it then that so many of us cannot do this? Or we go to sleep quite readily only to wake up a couple of hours later and toss and turn for most of the rest of the night.

This is me at the moment. I've now joined the x million people in this country who have INSOMNIA. Aaaaaaaaaagh, it's horrid. I hate it; it makes me feel sluggish, lethargic, foggy, irritable, impatient and increases cravings for foods that are not healthy just to get me through the day.

INSOMNIA is big business; approx 16 million presciptions are written in the UK each year for sleeping pills. And no doubt several million other products are bought over the counter with a view to obtaining that blissful nights sleep.

I know whats causing my INSOMNIA; it's stress, which again is big business. We live in a busy, stressful, 24/7 world and seem to have lost our ability to relax, in the main. We have computers,texting, I phones, Blackberrys,TVs with hundreds of channels,late night shopping etc. etc. all of which encourage us to keep going and going despite being exhausted. We end up with a situation where our brains are tired but wired; unable to switch off.

I have a client who frequently wakes in the early hours, gets up and does a few hours work to 'catch up' and then sleeps again. Another clients husband wakes in the night and tosses and turns due to stresses at work. My father also suffers from insomnia, as does his wife, and he has been known to watch ships crossing the Atlantic on the Internet to pass some time!

Our body's need sleep; fact. It is productive; it is necessary for our survival. It gives our minds and body's a chance to recharge. It enhances performance, learning and memory and inproves creative ability to generate those 'aha' moments.

We should aim to be in bed by 10.30pm, and between then and 2am our physical repair takes place followed by mental repair between 2-6am. If we miss out on sleep at these times, we cannot get the repair cycles back even if we slept all day long. This is the way we are hard wired. These are part of our circadian rythmns - mess with these and our body's are in trouble.

Our circadian rhythmn is the internal clock that guides our daily cycle from sleep to wakefulness and back to sleep again. When this is interrupted ie. with things like shift work, it can throw everything out. Over time if we constantly abuse our wake/sleep cycles illness and disease can occur.

I just need to point out that alcohol and drugs can also cause insomnia - whilst you may collapse comatose in bed after a night out drinking, the quality of sleep you are getting is far from ideal, and you may find you wake a few hours later and not be able to get back off to sleep again leaving you feeling dreadful the following day.

So how can we help ourselves to achieve that enviable eight hours sleep a night. Well, sleeping pills are NOT the answer. Whilst they may work in the short term it is easy to become addicted and lose your natural rythmn. Generally they have side effects (read the small print) such as headaches, confusion, nightmares, memory problems, and nausea, and who only knows what the build up of chemicals is doing to your liver. They are also likley to leave you feeling 'fuzzy' during the day.

There are natural alternatives, such as Valerian tea, available at health food shops. I'm trying this at the moment. You drink it an hour before going to bed, and are advised not to drive or operate machinery, like with sleeping pills.Chamomile is also a relaxing, calming tea but can be an aquired taste.

Eating foods containing tryptophan can be helpful as it is a relaxant. These include chicken, turkey and milk. Warm milk is a good thing, but not hot choclate as choclate is a stimulant!

Try relaxing for 30-45 minutes prior to going to bed.A warm bath is a good idea, and lavender oil added is a great relaxant. A read of a calming book can help, as can some gentle exercise such as yoga or pilates (anything energetic is not advisable as it releases cortisol which will wake you up) or try asking your partner or a friend to give you a relaxing massage with some calming oils. My friends Ian and Dan are the best masseurs I know, and can guarantee me a great nights sleep - if only I could win the lottery and employ them full time!

Vitamin D supplements can help sleep, and help our organs stay healthy and decrease our cancer risks.

Hypnosis is another natural therapy that can help with relaxation and sleep.

To clear your head if you are suffering from stress, keeping a journal by your bed can be helpful. Before sleep, and also if you wake in the night, write down any negative thoughts you are having leaving your head free and empty to sleep.

Tonight I'm going for it, starting with some yoga. I have my journal at the ready, I have lavender oil for my bath, I have Valerian tea to drink in my bath - all I need now is a volunteer to come and massage me. Any takers?

If you have any tips on how to get a good night sleep please, please leave a comment.