Blog : help

Happy brain, hot tongue

Happy brain, hot tongue

There was this Public Service Announcement in 1987 by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Being an American, I remember every joke and mock of that PSA. If memes existed then, it would’ve flooded all our social media channels with fried eggs and breakfasts.

The background: There’s this guy asking if anyone still doesn’t get the dangers about drug use. He holds up an egg, saying, “This is your brain.”
Then a frying pan: “This is drugs.”
Cracks and fries the egg. “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

Effective, right?  

But something else struck me: we know food affects not just our bodies, but also our brain health. For instance, Ketogenic diets have been known in aiding in seizure control for children and adults with epilepsy.

But have you seen your brain on spices?

If you’re feeling down, pick up a chili and relax! Although you might be feeling firecrackers of pain on your tongue and lips, there is a train of messages signaling firecrackers of euphoria in your brain.
There is a conversation that happens in your brain when you eat spicy food. The nerves on your tongue signal danger and pain. Your brain, then, responds by releasing endorphins, which block pain signals, and dopamine, which gives you the feelings of reward and pleasure.
So, spice isn’t just good for your cardiovascular system, but for a happy brain as well!

10 small steps to make a big difference in 2018

10 small steps to make a big difference in 2018

Sugar highs and food comas this Christmas? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. With the New Year looming around the corner and tins of candies and sweets still half full under the tree, it might seem too premature to think about lifestyle overhauls and extreme fitness regimes for your New Year’s resolutions. Don’t worry! This is the New Year’s Lite version: you don’t have to reconstruct a version of your life to live every January 1! Here are 10 easy ways you can begin to make positive changes throughout 2018.

 

1. Wake Up Well

We all know that a strong morning routine really sets us up for the day. But did you know that your bedtime routine is equally important, if not moreso? This nighttime routine is called Sleep Hygiene. Resting your brain as well as avoiding certain foods and stimuli are the keys to having a successful day. Here are some practical things you can do:

  • Avoid screen time at least one hour before bed. That means no more scrolling through Facebook in bed!
  • Avoid caffeine, rich, and spicy foods before bed. These can act as stimuli as well as cause indigestion.
  • Try to get to bed at roughly the same time every night. This helps to train your body clock to drop into your sleep rhythm quickly, maximising your quality of sleep!   

 

2. Sip Smart — The Importance of Clever Hydration

First of all, we need to de-bunk the idea that 8 glasses of water each day is necessary. There’s no research to prove it, however, keeping hydrated is a serious matter. Which is why how we drink is as important as what and how much we drink.

If you gulp your water quickly, it might feel good after a workout, a salty food, or in the morning when your mouth is parched, your body is less able to absorb the gulps than if you sip. Gulping causes the water to pass through your body quickly, leaving less time for absorption. Sipping water allows your body to hydrate fully, and is less likely to give you cramps. If remembering to drink throughout the day is difficult for you, try setting alarms to remind you. Or link your hydration in with the next step!

 

3. Pause Productively

Getting the right work-to-break ratio can benefit you and your workday. Research says that for every hour you are sitting, the last 15 minutes should be a break. Get up, stretch your legs, distract your brain — even drink a few sips of water! The exercise is good for your body, and the mental break from your desk is good for your brain. Your productivity will increase and your waistline might even decrease!

 

4. Protect with Probiotics

We’ve all heard about the importance of probiotics. But it’s more than protecting yourself from embarrassing flatulence or making sure you are digesting your food well. Science has called the gut a “second brain.” The enteric nervous system in the gut communicates with the bacteria inside the gut, and 90% of these cells carry information to the brain, not from the brain. We really are what we eat: as our gut communicates to our brain, the messages from that bacteria, whether good or bad, influence our moods. Be sure to eat wholesome, natural foods and take plenty of fermented probiotics, like kefir, kombucha, or even foods like kimchi.

5. Mind Your Mind

Mindfulness was the trending hashtag of 2017, but for a very good reason! More and more, people are realising the benefits of slowing life down and appreciating the now. Mindfulness is the practice of quieting your mind and being still. Some do a very light version, others recite mantras, while others listen to a guided meditation. One easy way to get started is to clear a space and set the timer for 5-10 minutes. Either sit down or lie down, close your eyes, and listen to your breathing. Try not to think about anything in particular, just be aware of the environment around you and the sound of your own breath. If you’re struggling to focus, or feel that mantras are too hocus-pokus for you, there’s an app called HeadSpace that talks you through how to quiet down. My husband and my kids use it — I usually fall asleep!

 

6. Swap the Sweets

By now, we should all know that sugar is linked to weight gain and diabetes. But there are more nasties that lie behind the candy stripes. Here are a few more reasons to wipe the white stuff from your diet:

  • Sugar raises blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of heart attack.
  • Sugar can impair cognitive function and reduce proteins that are necessary for memory and responsiveness. It also lowers BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which puts sugar-eaters at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
  • High-sugar diets are more likely to cause you to suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Here is a cheeky alternative to the sweet stuff, but is equally indulgent: Healthy Dark Chocolate. It’s velvety smooth and delicious!

 

7. Keeping Up With the KCals:

So many New Year’s diet plans focus on cutting calories and opting for light alternatives. But these light alternatives are light on the health as well. Where fats and calories are slashed, sugars and additives are increased, making your “healthy” option a serving of rubbish! Why not try to focus less on cutting calories and aim to consume more nutrient-dense calories instead? If you’re cutting things like sugar out already, add a few nutrient dense foods like:

  • Leafy green vegetables (like kale, collard greens, spinach, bok choy, cabbage and romaine lettuce)
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts
  • Carrots, parsnips, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, and bell peppers
  • Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and other berries
  • Sea vegetables

 

8. Breathe Better

Here’s a test: exhale completely. Place your hands over your belly button. Take a big breath in. Does your belly button expand? Mine doesn’t. My breath stops at my diaphragm. I’m a shallow-breather and this is why that’s not a good thing:

Shallow breathing has been linked to increased anxiety and raised blood pressure, as well as preventing oxygen to reach the lowest portion of the lungs, where blood vessels that carry oxygen to the cells are found.

Deep breathing has been called the foundation of health. Here’s how to help yourself breathe better.

  • Check your posture. Make sure you are sitting or standing tall. This allows your breath to reach the lower lungs easily.
  • Breathe in slowly, relaxing your shoulders and expanding your abdomen naturally. Think of how you breath when you are almost asleep — slow, heavy, full.
  • If you are going to try mindfulness this year, deep breathing is a great technique to practice with it!

 

9. Teach an Old Dog a New Trick

This is the art of distraction: glean the benefits of learning a new hobby or skill this year! The pace of life seems to be increasing at alarming rates. Studies have shown that with the high levels intensity you might face at work, drive that stress and energy into a hobby. Not only is simple, inconsequential productivity good for your brain and emotions, it is also beneficial for your productivity at work. When we have something to distract our minds, our subconscious continues to work without the pressure of producing results in the conscious state. Ever wonder why you suddenly have the answer to a problem the next morning after a long sleep? This is the same thing. So stop living vicariously through your Pinterest boards and Netflix binges and get out there and enjoy your life!

 

10. You Do You

Lastly, Don’t sign up to a health regime or diet plan if it doesn’t work for you. Pick and choose from this list. Find your balance and make healthy changes that work for you!

V/V Keto: The Night Before…

V/V Keto: The Night Before…

Tonight starts the prep for my one week vegan/vegetarian keto diet experiment. As some of you know, I follow a moderate ketogenic diet along with my husband, as it has been helpful at managing his epilepsy [Here is a journal article about the benefits of the keto diet on not only epilepsy, but many other heath conditions as well]. Although I completely love meat, I also love vegetables, beans, and grains, and could easily enjoy meat-free recipes many days of the week. Also, I think varying any diet’s intake is healthy for the body and fun for the tastebuds.

Herein lies my difficulty.

After seeing so many delicious vegan/vegetarian recipes, I’ve had to bypass them for fat-filled and [animal] protein-filled meals to fit in with our keto diet. But. I. Love. A. Challenge. So, for dinners only, I decided to try out a vegan/vegetarian keto diet for a week to see how practical it is to follow under keto specifications, and to encourage others if they are interested in keeping up a high fat-low carb lifestyle without meat. And I’m starting tomorrow…!

We’ll be making fajitas with a base of mushrooms, aubergines, paneer, and walnuts. Recipe and ingredients will be provided tomorrow — please check back in! I’m away now to eat my weight in meat!

 

 

Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola Bars

I’ve had a few requests for this recipe, so here it is! Granola bars are perfect for a grab-and-go breakfast, snacks for the family, picnic treats on the go, and even as a homemade foodie gift for friends. They’re delicious, while still being deemed healthy, so it’s a win-win in my book. I have a base recipe I use and then go mad with add-ins based on cravings, requests, or usually, what we have [or don’t have] in the cupboards.

I’ve made these for breakfast for the kids, as they’ve been getting bored of eggs, toast, cereal, EVERYTHING, etc………. . These look like treats because they’re sweet and biscuit-like, but they’re packed full of fibre, vitamins, protein, and iron, so they kids are starting the day off right with a body full of nutrients!

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup seeds [If you don’t have/want seeds, you can use coconut flakes, cereal, flax, wheat germ, or any other dry ingredient.]
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 6 1/2 ounces mixed dried fruits
  • Chocolate for the drizzle on top or chocolate chunks to add in. [Optional]

Method

  • Heat oven to gas mark 4|180*c|350f and butter a 9×9 pan.
  • Place the oats, seeds, and nuts on a baking tray and bake 10-15 minutes until toasted, stirring every few minutes. If you’re using cereal instead of|along with seeds, don’t toast them. Add them in after combining the oats with the honey a few steps later.
  • Over medium heat, melt the honey, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt until it simmers, stirring often until it starts a low simmer, then stir constantly for approximately 5 minutes. Then take it off the heat. This heating process not only combines the honey, peanut butter, and other ingredients well, but also will thicken and caramelise the sugars to help your bars stick together, so don’t over heat! Or you’ll make granola brittle.
  • Take the baking tray out of the oven and combine the toasted ingredients with the honey peanut butter mixture and stir.
  • Add in fruits, cereal, and any other add ins here.
  • Pour the blended ingredients into the buttered 9×9 pan and press it firmly into the pan. I used a sheet of baking paper on top of the mix and spread it without getting my hands sticky. Sticky, gooey hands with kids running mad around the house is not a good combination!
  • Bake for 20 minutes and let cool completely before slicing into bars.
  • These should last a week if stored properly, which means hidden away from sight in our house. These were eaten in 2 days! So much for breakfast.

For the chocolate drizzle on top, you can use this easy chocolate recipe. I used 1/4 cup of the melted chocolate to drizzle on top and set the rest as the bark per the recipe. Or you can just buy some chocolate, melt it up, and drizzle away. I won’t judge.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Some like it hot! …And others don’t.

Some like it hot! …And others don’t.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it’s a great idea to start looking up recipes to cook for your date. But in the throes of [cooking] passion, it’s easy to over-season a new dish with a bit too much spice.
But, there is a way of ensuring there isn’t too much heat in the kitchen so you can get hot and heavy outside of the kitchen.

If you have over-spiced your dish and your love life is depending upon the success of this one meal, don’t panic! Stop and think. If you can identify the heated culprit, you can easily tone down the spice to a palatable taste and save Valentine’s Day! I mean, your dinner. You have three main options to help tone down the heat: water, fats/oils, and alcohol. Sugar and other ingredients can help to distract from the heat, but won’t necessarily lessen the heat. Find your overindulging ingredient below and get fixing!

  • Black Pepper: This is one of the mildest and most common spice ingredients. Water and fat won’t do much to touch the heat here. Try a splash of alcohol and you will save the pepper flavour, but lose the burning heat.
  • Ginger, Onions & Garlic: These foods produce a spicy “bite” that is less heat-hot and more stingingly hot. The best way to soften the burn of too much ginger is to cook it down. Water will help but will also dilute any other flavours already in your dish, so be prepared to season again, but do so carefully and very slowly! Cook down the ginger until your desired taste then build up your flavours again.
    Onion & garlic break down the best in a combination of both alcohol and fats. Add a splash of alcohol and a drizzle of oil, and that roaring bite will soften to become a complex, delicate blend of flavours that will compliment your dish well.
  • HOT Peppers! These are the big mambas! Their heat is quick and strong. If you’ve ever had a momentary lapse in judgement, being egged on by ego and friends, and have eaten a hot chilli on a dare, you’ll attest that the jug of water you gulped down after did absolutely not a thing to touch the unrelenting venom coursing through your digestive tract. It’s the same in cooking. Water will dilute your sauce, but preserve the spicy fire. Oil fats are best for lessening this heat, either in whole pepper form or the dried, powdered version. Sugar can also help to distract from the ear-burning heat, but fat will actually take a bit of the heat away. These peppers are make or break for your Valentine’s dinner! The right amount of heat is exhilarating and satisfying; too much and the date is over for both of you to spend the rest of the night on the toilet with a bottle of Rennie’s.

 

So that’s it! The fate of your future love life lies in your kitchen… And if it’s beyond repair, bin it all and order in a Chinese!