Tag Archives: nutrients

Why calories should be ignored…

It has been months since I did a lesson on my course. My excuse is that I have been busy, and while that is definitely true, I feel the need to get back into the studying groove.  This morning, I picked up my next Nutrition lesson to discover… it is all about calories.


Reading through the study lesson, it soon became clear that my attitude to calories (I don’t think they tell you the whole story and frankly are nothing more than numbers in a chart)  is absolutely right.  Did you know that the calorie data on the sides of the packets are calculated by either burning the food in a vacuum and measuring the energy output (ummm…. Our bodies are not in a vaccuum… and my body might not use the food like your body does.  Hell, I have conclusive proof that my body doesn’t work like ANYONE else’s body does!), or by estimating the calories on the basis of the weight of protein, carbohydrates and fats in the food.  Hang on.  Estimates?  People are making decisions about how much to eat on the basis of this information.  I want actual figures thank you very much.  And anyway… won’t one sort of carbohydrate burn differently than another type of carbohydrate?  Calories are inherently garbage and should be ignored.  Entirely.


So, yes, needless to say I am a little hot under the collar about all this calorie garbage.  I know it is fashionable to use calories to dictate your food intake.  But proper nutrition is about more than the number of calories in and the number of calories you use.  Whilst I agree that there needs to be a deficit of calories in order to lose weight, just ensuring that you get 1700 calories a day is not a sure fire success guide to weight loss.  If it was, I would look very different.


No, proper nutrition is about using your noggin, using your own knowledge and working out what works for you.  For example, I know that for me, fat is rarely the issue.  Usually the problem is more likely to be sugar.  Hey, I am pre-diabetic and have been for 2 decades now, so that isn’t too weird.  It is almost to be expected.  So, I take very careful note of the sugar content of low fat foods.  Quite often food manufacturers will take out fat and add in sugar in order to make them taste better.  Sneaky swines that they are.  I also know that my body likes to have fruit and vegetables.  My body objects to having too much bread and yeasty or malty things in there too.  So, in the end, I eat a healthy and nutritious diet because I know what my body likes and what it doesn’t.  It is pretty simple when you get right down to it, isn’t it?

calories meme

But calories?  No.  Calories are a measurement used by scientists and they have no relation to eating properly or not eating properly.

No I have got that off my chest, perhaps I can get on with my lesson and answering the questions properly?  Here’s hoping anyway!


It might be Autumn… but I am thinking of butterflies…

Every self respecting butterfly will have headed for warmer climes by now, I am sure.  In the UK, it is cold, damp and pretty miserable today, and I am not sure about everyone else, but my summer wardrobe has been retired until sometime next year.  My autumn/winter “Let’s wear layers” wardrobe is out and now heavily in use.  Yet I am still thinking about butterflies.


Here’s why.  After my self administered bahookie kicking on Friday, I took a critical look at my eating of late and I was not that impressed.  In fact, it would be safe to say that I was much less than impressed and I know my eating habits need an overhaul.  This is not unusual.  Every 6 to 7 months, I need to check out what I am eating, appraise it and then tweak it to make sure I am getting the nutrients I need and I am not snarfing too much. Also, I don’t know about you, but after holidays, I find the relaxed eating patterns often stay around a little too often.  I need to get back on track.

Then I looked at the amount of exercise I take.  I am much, much better now than I was when I was stranded in an office for 10 hours a day… but I know I can squeeze more exercise into my life somewhere, somehow.

And then, in the shower this morning, the idea came unbidden into my head.  Operation Chrysalis.

You know that the life cycle of the caterpillar culminates in the Chrysalis, right before it transforms into a butterfly?  Well, that is what I want to do over autumn and winter.  After being wrapped up in layers and woollies for 6 or 7 months, I want to reveal myself in spring/summer as a butterfly.  Rather than the big hungry caterpillar.  Again.


So how am I going to do it?  Faddy diets?  No. They wind me up and are rarely effective. Never eating anything?  No.  Not sustainable, and very, very bad for you, plus I am not good at depriving myself of food.  In fact I suck at it.  So, the only way is to be sensible.

I hereby commit to eating only food my grandmother and great grandmother would recognise.  I also commit to eating slightly less of them, because I need to retrain my body to recognise when I have had enough.  Also, I am going to let myself eat what I want on Sundays.  This has to be sustainable, and being incredibly virtuous for 7 days a week is not just impossible, it is impractical.  I am also going to avoid artificial sweeteners and lots of fats.  I will still use fats, because you need them for proper nutrition, but not loads of them, because that is bad for you.  If I want biscuits, or ice cream, or cake, then I will make some.  If I go off the idea because I have to expend the energy of actually going and making it then I wasn’t that committed to the cause in the first place, was I?

ggrandmother food

I also commit to drinking no diet soft drinks.  If I really want a soft drink then I will drink the full sugar variety.  As I don’t like the taste of most full sugar varieties, it will mean I will drink more water, which has to be a good thing.  Despite my protestations to the contrary, I do not drink vast quantities of coffee, so I will keep my coffee intake the same, and instead drink more fruit and spice infusions and proper tea.  I would say I will drink green tea, but I can’t stand the taste, so I am not going to do that.  This is about enjoyment as well.

And finally, I commit to doing more exercise.  I have MASSES to do in the garden over the winter to get it ready for the growing season next year, so that will definitely add to the exercise regime.  Add to that the housework and all the painting and stuff I want to do in the house and that is quite a bit already.  But if this caterpillar wants to be a butterfly then I am going to need to step it up a bit more.  So, I have exercise DVDs that need to be used.  There is also the Wii Fit Plus.  I need to work out a plan of using them.

weighing scales

Of course, one thing I haven’t mentioned is how I am going to track my progress.  Generally speaking I am anti scales and weighing, though that is a handy way of doing things.  So, instead, I am going to measure my body as well as weigh it.  I think weigh in day will be Wednesday and I shall measure myself at the same time.

Who else wants to play along?

Why Water? The reasons to stay hydrated…

Everyone knows that the human body is mostly made of water.  Which is really amazing when you consider what we do with our bodies every day.  We also all have heard the repeated proclamations that we need to drink enough water for health, but that got me thinking.  How much is enough, and why is it so important?

water drop

In order to calculate how much water you need to drink, I found this formulae in my research.  Take your body weight in pounds, divide it by two, and the result is the number of US fluid Ounces you need to drink.  As I am in the UK, we tend to use a mix of Imperial and Metric, so I then changed it to Litres.  Apparently, I need to drink 4 litres of water.  Per day.  Wow.  I need to up my water intake, considerably!!  In doing so, I shall also be upping my visits to the smallest room in the house.  Thank heavens we have a downstairs toilet!


So, why is water so important?  Taking in enough water helps to lessen the burden on kidneys and your liver by flushing out waste products, so those very important filtration organs can function more easily.  Water also dissolves minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to the body and water also carries those nutrients and oxygen to the cells in the body.  This function basically protects the organs from damage and harm and keeps the tissues moist and working.  Water is essential for the happy functioning of the eyes, mouth and nose.

tap water

Water makes up 75% of your brain.  When you are hungover, the reason you often get a headache is due to dehydration, that is, you have less water than you actually need for appropriate functioning.  It has been said that brains work better if you are properly hydrated, which is very important for children at school, and anyone taking important exams.


It also regulates your body temperature.  There are those who say that if you drink ice cold water, you might burn a few more calories, because your body has to work harder to get the water up to body temperature.  I am not sure that actually is the case, but I prefer drinking cold water than room temperature water!  Drinking water before you eat a meal helps you control the amount you eat and therefore helps control calorie intake.  Water also lubricates the joints, so if you are exercising (or going back to exercising like I am) you need to drink your water.


Water also helps prevent constipation, decreases fatigue, helps you burn fat and keeps your skin looking young.  What is there not to like about all that?

glass of water

Well, to be honest, sometimes the taste.  Water shouldn’t taste of anything, but invariably it does due to water treatment processes or even the rock the water has percolated through on the way to the reservoirs.  So, do you have to drink your hydration quotient in just plain water?  No, you can also have it as herbal teas.  However, unfortunately, the caffeinated drinks can’t be counted because the caffeine is a diuretic and therefore gets rid of hydration, not adding to it.  I am also not a fan of using water in plastic bottles and containers.  Plastic has chemicals in it which are effectively fake oestrogens which can mess with our reproductive health.  We are lucky because our tap water comes from the same source as one of the popular mineral waters in the UK, but, I would still use tap water in preference to water bottled in plastic.


So, today I will be finishing off some painting in my house, going to the gym and pool, and drinking water.  A lot.  Lets see if I feel better afterwards.  Will you be joining me?




What can Ginger do for you?

In response to my blog post about cinnamon, a friend asked if I could do a post about Ginger.  As I feel about cinnamon, she feels about Ginger, and as I know it is a real herbal superstar, I didn’t need much convincing.

from healthyreader.com

from healthyreader.com

In Indian traditional medicine, called Ayurveda, Ginger is considered to be an essential, a virtual medicine chest in and of itself.  Ginger is used liberally in Indian cuisine, Ginger-infused chai is a household favourite as well as being a great remedy for cold and flu.  Apparently, it is also considered to be an Ayurvedic aphrodisiac, so you have been warned!!

Ginger is great for pepping up your appetite.  This is really good if you are recovering from one of those horrible vomiting and diarrhoea viruses which seem to be flying around at this time of year, and eating a bit of ginger will fire up your digestive juices and get you back to normal.  Ginger is also a traditional remedy for helping with nausea, however it is caused, from travel or pregnancy or viruses.

ginger tea

Ginger can also help decrease flatulence and relieves stomach cramps, and it also helps to clear the micro-circularity channels of the body, including the sinuses.  How many people know someone or indeed are suffering themselves with a sinus infection?  Ginger can also help with throat and nose congestion.  This kind of complaint is EVERYWHERE at the moment, and if Ginger can help, bring it on!!

Ginger is anti-inflammatory in nature, and putting some ginger essential oil in your bath can help soothe joint pain.  These anti-inflammatory properties also can ease some asthma symptoms, it can help migraines, and can assist in reducing blood pressure.  It has been shown to help soothe exercise induced muscle pain as well, and it also improves the absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients in the body.

ginger powder

One of the most exciting things I discovered in my research about Ginger was that apparently, a study has found that exposing ovarian cancer cells to powdered ginger, causes those cells to either die, or to cannibalise one another!  How amazing!

There is a word of warning though.  As with all things, ginger must be taken in moderation.  If you have too much Ginger, it can cause diarrhoea, upset stomach, heartburn and mouth irritation.  Also, if you are taking aspirin or warfarin to thin your blood, don’t have too much ginger.

As always, moderation is the key.

Heart Healthy Diets

This blog post has been inspired by a very good friend of mine who recently had a heart attack.


In researching this post, I have found a host of information with tells me that if you include these foods in your diet, it will really help to reduce your risk of heart issues.  Here is my list of foods to eat, as well as a supplement which might help matters.


from stockfresh.com

from stockfresh.com


High fibre foods keep cholesterol levels in check.  So, this means that bowl of All-Bran in the morning is a good thing (despite tasting like twigs) but you can also have barley, oats, brown rice, lentils and beans.  I love all those things.  You can also add bran to your baking, if you like making breakfast muffins for example.


from livingcivil.com

from livingcivil.com


Olive oil is always trotted out as being heart healthy, and it is, because it is a source of mono-unsaturated fats.  Obviously you need to be moderate in your use of it.  Good fat is still fat.


from anuts.com

from anuts.com


Apparently, 2 tablespoons of Peanut Butter will provide you with a third of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E intake.  Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, and has been indicated as important in heart health.  Again, be moderate with Peanut Butter, because it is calorie heavy.  Other nuts are healthy too.  Pecans, a personal favourite of mine, are high in Magnesium which is great for the heart.  One ounce of pecans drizzled over a spinach salad can deliver a third of your daily requirement of the mineral, and taste fantastic okay.


Whole-wheat bread is a no-brainer.  1 slice has 11 mcg of selenium.  Selenium is an important anti-oxidant which works with vitamin E to protect your heart.


red wine


How about a glass of wine?  Yup.  A 5 oz glass of red wine each evening is great for your heart.  But no more.   I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to stop at just one glass of a nice red wine.  I usually try and find heart health somewhere else.  Apparently a 1.5 oz glass of Whisky  offers the same effect.


Again, it turns out that your Mother was right.  Eat your Broccoli!  It has Calcium in it.  Also Kale, figs, pinto beans and okra are great calcium sources, without the dairy fats we are all used to hearing about.  Turns out Popeye was onto something as well.  Spinach is a great source of Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid and all these help prevent heart disease.  Plus, if you replace boring old lettuce with spinach in your salads, they taste so much more interesting.  Sweet potatoes are great too because they have lots of Vitamin A in them.  Let’s not forget about fruit though.  Strawberries  are full of Vitamin C, are a great source of fibre and potassium which are all important for heart health.


Eat chicken and salmon.   3 ounces of chicken provides a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin B6, and Salmon is loaded with those Omega 3 fatty acids.  They lower your triglycerides and reduce blood clots that could block the arteries.  In addition, it has Vitamin B12 in it too.  Oh, and it tastes good too!


Garlic has been used for years and years.  Turns out it is chock full of antioxidants, and it is also a mild anti-coagulant.  You need to a couple of years of eating garlic daily to get the heart benefits from it, but on the upside, you shouldn’t be bothered by vampires!


The supplement which is recommended is Co-enzyme Q10.  It apparently re-energises your heart cells.  In trials it has also been shown to block the process which creates plaque build up in the arteries and helps to lower blood pressure.  When I take it, I get an upsurge in energy too.


The most obvious advice is, don’t smoke, do exercise, watch your weight and eat a healthy diet.


And to my friend?  Get better soon!

Nutrition for the developing brain…

Last night, my husband and I attended our first group session for prospective adopters.  Not only did we see a rather harrowing DVD about the  sort of children in care, but also we had a session about something called “brain parenting”.

from national geographic

from national geographic

Brain parenting is cutting edge neurology promulgated by Dr Daniel Hughes and Dr Jonathan Bayling (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brain-Based-Parenting-Neuroscience-Interpersonal-Neurobiology-ebook/dp/B005LW5JQ2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390384260&sr=8-1&keywords=brain+parenting).  The work that these gentlemen have done in essence shows how human interaction can have a huge effect on how brains develop and function.  We were so intrigued we came home and bought the book!  I can’t wait for Friday when it is due to be delivered.


As we drove home though, my husband casually asked “What sorts of nutrition can help brain development in our prospective children?” I immediately thought of Omega 3 fatty acids and folate in the form of good old green leafies, but after that, I drew a blank.  Cue research this morning.


A Google search unearthed an academic paper by Michael K Georgieff entitled “Nutrition and the developing brain: Nutrient priorities and measurement”.  A rather dry title perhaps, but really interesting.  Basically, the brain needs various nutrients to grow and function properly, but one thing which came through from my reading of the article is that it is a fine balance.  Overdosing on the nutrients can cause problems just like deficiency can.  Having said that, the article is also very clear that early deficiencies when in utero will still result in brain dysfunction even after the nutrient has been reintroduced and got back up to the appropriate levels.


Once again, Nutrition is clearly vital.

from the food advice centre

from the food advice centre

The brain requires a lot of different nutrients for proper development, and some are more surprising than others.  Obviously, the first thing you need to Protein and Energy.  Protein is obviously found in meat and fish, but it is also present in dairy product, Tofu, Beans, Eggs, and nuts and seeds.  Energy in the body is usually in the form of glycogen and it is garnered from the metabolising of foods.

oily fish

There are also certain fats which are good for brain development which are referred to as Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids.  These are basically the Omega 3 and 6 fats which you will no doubt have heard of.  Dietary sources of Omega 3 fats are walnuts, flaxseed oil, soybean and canola oil, fatty fish and fish oils and algal oils.  Omega 6 fats can be found in corn, safflower oil, cottonseed, Evening Primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant seed oil, as well as meat, poultry and eggs.

iron and zinc

The brain also needs Iron, Zinc, and Copper.  Dietary sources of Iron are Molluscs, Liver, Squash, Beans and pulses, whole grains, dark leafys, beef and lamb and dark chocolate.  To get Zinc in your diet eat seafood, wheatgerm, spinach, seeds, Mung beans and Mushrooms.  Copper can be found in liver, oysters, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, nuts, lobster and sundried tomatoes.


The final section of nutrients required by the brain are Selenium, Vitamin A, Choline and Folate.  Selenium is actually tricky to find enough in the modern diet, but it is available from Brasil nuts, seafood, wholewheat bread, rye and mushrooms.  Vitamin A can be found in Liver, Paprika and other red peppers, dried apricots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, squash and dried herbs.  Choline can be found in soy beans, egg yolk, butter, peanuts, cauliflower, lentils and oats.  Folate, or the soluble Vitamin B, can be found in fruits, beans, peas, asparagus and brussels sprouts.


That is a long list of foods we need to eat for optimum health.  I think it is safe to say that what we need to do is be moderate, be sensible, and eat a wide variety of foods.  I plan on introducing any child I might adopt to as many flavours and foods as I can depending on any intolerances or allergies, of course.

dark chocolate

I am however, DELIGHTED that dark chocolate is on that list!  From the foods above, which is your favourite?