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There’s a lot of hype surrounding so-called superfoods and their medicinal properties. It seems there’s a new study claiming the cancer fighting properties of exotic fruits almost daily. Take away the questionable “miracle working” claims of superfoods and what you’re left with is a group of vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats and fish that are dense with key nutrients that most of us are deficient in because of our imbalanced Westernised diets.
What exactly classifies one food over another as being super? Not all superfoods are exotic and expensive and certainly not deserving of the title. Most are everyday vegetables, fruits and nuts readily available at our local farmers market or supermarket. Superfood is an unscientific marketing term used very loosely in various misleading contexts. Claims that a certain food, Blueberries in particular will decrease your risk of cancer or that eating Broccoli daily will keep your memory as sharp as a knife. Such foods do indeed come under a special category of those found in nature, which are low in calories and rich in nutrients. Many are superior sources of antioxidants and essential nutrients compared to any other food – hence the term “Super” foods.
None of us can deny the scientific proof that eating a healthy balanced diet correlates directly with increased energy, vitality and overall good mood. Also equally undeniable is the fact that a balanced diet containing these superfoods will decrease the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, strokes, promote brain function, improve fertility and promote an overall healthy lifestyle. But this cannot be achieved from a few berries or nuts alone. If we incorporate plenty of these foods into our diet, increase our vegetable and fruit intake while lowering processed and refined foods, which are high in saturated fats and sugar then our bodies, will thank us in the long run. There isn’t much point in expecting miracles from a few nutrient dense foods fi we continue to smoke and drink to excess and flood our systems with toxins. We must also consider the fact that many superfoods are exotic and probably clock up thousands of air miles and weeks in cargo before finally reaching our shelves. So maybe eating local organically grown fruits and vegetables is every bit as beneficial to us if not better, probably cheaper and doesn’t leave a Carbon Footprint. An example of which is the ridiculously overpriced Goji berry compared to our own humble Blackcurrant, which happens to have a considerably higher vitamin C content.
Below is a list of some of these foods and their health benefits and medicinal properties:
• Berries – dark red variety in particular are very high in antioxidants which may protect us against cancer, heart disease and slow signs of aging.
• Nuts – in their raw state, not the salted MSG coated variety are said to contain “Heart Smart Fat” and keep us satisfied and full for longer than carbohydrate based snacks like crisps, crackers and rice cakes.
• Oily Fish – salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring are a great source of protein and are high in Omega 3 fats which are vital for heart disease prevention and good for the skin and brain because of their inflammation reducing properties.
• Legumes – family including beans, peas, lentils, and soy beans are extremely dense in many key nutrients providing plenty of protein, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins while also being devoid of saturated fats and cholesterol. Beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and cancer prevention.
• Dark leafy greens – cabbages, kale and spinach are all nutritional powerhouses packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Probably the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They provide us with iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins K C E and many of the B vitamins but also beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age related problems among many other effects.
• Kelp and other Seaweeds – all packed with unspoilt minerals straight from the ocean. Used in many forms from supplements to powders or in its fresh state in salads, soups and breads. It’s a powerful source of iodine essential for thyroid balance especially hypothyroidism.
• These are just a few of the many powerful medicines from nature’s edible pharmacy. so whatever we choose to label them, be it superfood or other just remember that we don’t have to travel around the world to a rainforest to obtain them when many of them are growing in our own back gardens.
Hypothyroidism -(Underactive Thyroid)
The thyroid gland, consisting of two large lobes is located at the base of the throat, just below the voice box. It produces hormones essential for the proper functioning and maintenance of all the cells in the body, therefore helping to regulate the body’s growth, metabolism, digestion, body temperature and heart rate.
What is it?
Hypothyroidism or the under activity of the thyroid gland is a condition, which occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. This results in the metabolism becoming sluggish, and can often mimic long-term mild depression. It affects women four times more than men especially those between 35-60 years.
What causes it?
Heredity: thyroid problems can simply run in families.
Iodine insufficiency: its strongly proposed that millions of individuals develop hypothyroid due to lack of adequate iodine intake, which may be due to soil depletion and lack of iodine in our diets. Since iodine is necessary for the synthesis, storage and secretion of thyroid hormones, a deficiency of iodine can result in hypothyroidism.
Auto immune: most cases of hypothyroid result from an auto immune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
Genetic factors, hormonal disturbances elsewhere in the body, surgery, radiation or medication are other possible causes.
Signs and Symptoms
These include: Fatigue, depression, unexplained weight gain, decreased appetite, dry skin, hair loss, disturbed sleep, muscle and joint pain, heavy menstruation, constipation and hoarseness among many more.
Dietary and Lifestyle factors
Exercise is particularly important in hypothyroidism as it stimulates thyroid gland secretion and increases tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormone.
One’s diet must incorporate adequate amounts of iodine, selenium, zinc, copper, vitamin C and E. All of these micronutrients are crucial for thyroid hormone synthesis.
Goitrogens: Must be limited within the diet, these include turnips, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, radishes, peanuts and pine nuts. When eaten these foods should be well cooked to breakdown their goitrogenic constituents.
Soy products: Must also be limited within the diet as they have a definite anti-thyroid and goitrogenic effect. Long term consumption can promote formation of goitres (protruding bulge on the throat) and development of autoimmune thyroid disease.
Irritable bowel Syndrome (IBS)
What is it?
It is important to remember that IBS is not actually a disease but rather a collection of symptoms which are due to impaired function of the gut. We all experience occasional abdominal discomfort or upset from time to time but for IBS sufferers, these symptoms can be prolonged and problematic. This common disorder affects your large intestine (colon) and in Ireland, up to 20% of adults suffer from the condition, with twice as many females to males living with it.
IBS commonly causes abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and alternating constipation and diarrhoea. These symptoms can occur for days, weeks, months or even years. As the symptoms mimic other bowel conditions, IBS is usually diagnosed through the elimination of other ailments with similar symptoms.
What causes it?
There are many proposed causes of IBS. The list of suspects includes:
Bacterial, parasitic or viral infections
Overuse of antibiotics
An adverse reaction or intolerance to a food such as lactose or wheat
One underlying factor in almost all cases of IBS is stress. There is a complex biological interaction between the brain and the gut. No matter the source or level of the stress, our gut will generally react in some way.
What can I do to manage my IBS?
In many cases, you can control your IBS by managing your diet, lifestyle and stress.
Here are a few simple tips to get started:
Identify certain trigger foods that aggravate your symptoms, remove these foods by process of elimination. This can take several weeks but if you can find the offending food then it’s well worth the effort.
Probiotics are cultures of the “Friendly Bacteria” vital for intestinal health, which help to digest food and protect against the growth of harmful bacteria.
Soluble fibre (which dissolves in water) is much better for helping IBS than insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre has a gentle and soothing action on the gut. Dietary sources include:
Psyllium husk soaked in in water or psyllium powder
Flaxseed (linseed) – whole rather than ground
Peppermint oil capsules – very effective in calming abdominal spasms
Gluten – why so many of us react to it?
Gluten has become one of the major dietary components that so many of us have an adverse reaction to. In the last 40-50 years the incidence of coeliac disease and other gluten related illnesses has skyrocketed. This is most likely due to how our grains are grown and genetically modified. Through modifying and hybridising these plants, they have become easier and faster to grow, resistant to harsh environments and ultimately more profitable to produce.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, spelt, oats, rye, barley and products made from them. Gluten sensitivity causes inflammation of the gut, eventually leading to intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut’. This can trigger allergies, sensitivities and inflammation in the body. The lining of the small intestine contains millions of tiny hair like projections called villi which absorb our nutrients from our food. Coeliac disease is a condition, where gluten causes an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system mistakenly attacks itself. This results in the lining of the small intestine becoming damaged, thereby reducing the person’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. The process may damage other areas of the body also and increase the risk for diseases like bone disease, anaemia and intestinal disorders. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can include:
Diarrhoea Constipation Weight Loss Chronic Tiredness Anaemia Indigestion Depression Infertility Mouth Ulcers Abdominal Cramps Vomiting IBS
Research studies cited in many medical journals have linked Gluten Sensitivity to behavioural and developmental disorders in children such as Autism, ADHD, and Asperger’s Syndrome
By Richard Sheehan Nutritional Therapist Dip NT mIANT
mobile 087 3848818
Outwitting the Sugar Addiction
Sugar is a major life force needed to fuel the brain and body. Sugars that are found in whole foods are balanced with the proper minerals. When these sugars break down and are assimilated, the energy produced is stable and long lasting.
When natural sugar is refined and concentrated the balance is dismembered. Refined sugar passes through the blood stream quickly in large amounts upsetting the stomach and pancreas. Overtime, prolonged use of refined sugar leads to an acid condition, consuming the body’s minerals, weakening the digestive system, and throwing the blood sugar out of balance. This quick, high energy producer is unfortunately addictive and contributes to obesity, hypoglycaemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, anaemia, immune deficiency, tooth decay, and loss of bone mass among many other conditions. In fact, sugar is so addictive that many clinical trials involving rats as test subjects, have shown that refined sugar is a more powerful addictive substance than cocaine.
Removing sugar from the diet is no easy task. It is everywhere!
If you try to go cold turkey, be prepared for some nasty withdrawal symptoms. Many experience headaches comparable to a migraine, exhaustion, mood swings and depression. But don’t let that put you off. Sugar withdrawal doesn’t have to be torture.
Before you go crazy trying to throw it out…use these tips and try some of the sugar alternatives offered here. Over time, you may actually prefer them, and your body will thank you.
Tips to Kick the Sugar Habit
Eat Regularly. Eat little and often. Many people have a drop in blood sugar levels when meals are too spaced out, leaving us feel hungry and more likely to crave sweet sugary snacks.
Choose Whole Foods. The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will have.
Try To Incorporate Protein Into Each Meal. This helps to control blood sugar levels. Make sure they are healthy sources. Be sure to start the day with right with a good wholesome breakfast to limit sugar cravings throughout the day.
Get Enough Sleep. When over tired we often use sugar for energy to counteract the exhaustion.
Keep It Out Of Reach. Keep sugary snacks out of the house or place of work. It’s hard to give in to temptation if it’s not there in the first place.
Distract Yourself. Cravings are usually short-lived. If you can distract yourself with something else, it often passes. The more you do this, the easier it gets and the cravings get easier to deal with.
Give Yourself A Break. It is possible to satisfy that sweet tooth with something nutritious. Do avoid artificial sweeteners, which will do little to alter your desire for sweets and have a negative effect on the body. Have a piece of fruit or a square of dark chocolate which actually has many health benefits, in moderation of course!
Written by Richard Sheehan
Dip NT mIANT
WHY QUICK FIX DIETS DON’T WORK
At one stage or another in all of our lives we’ve tried a diet of some description, usually in a desperate bid to shape up for a holiday or upcoming event. If you’ve never found yourself in this dilemma, then you are truly blessed genetically!
While you may lose weight on a quick fix programme, chances are that you’ve put it back on just as quickly. Others will succumb to deprivation, boredom and misery within the first 7-10 days and feel like a failure, so they turn to their reliable friend ‘FOOD’ for comfort and so the vicious cycle continues.
Whether it’s the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit and water diet or some other potion that guarantees rapid weight loss, the results are never long lasting.
The basic science is that the human body needs a variety of food groups to sustain healthy living. When you crash diet, generally you are consuming far fewer calories that normal. You would assume that this should automatically result in weight loss, but actually your body goes into starvation mode. When this happens your metabolism slows down. Your metabolism is your body’s engine, it determines how many calories you burn. That means that if your metabolism slows down, your body has to work much harder to burn the same amount of calories it would if it was functioning normally. For example, let’s say you normally burn 300 calories during a 30 minute session on a treadmill. If your metabolism has slowed down, you may only burn 200 calories for the exact same session. Now you have to work 3 times harder to get the same calorie expenditure to help you lose weight. That really sounds like too much hard work for no good reason.
Rather than obsessing with these quick fix diets, what you really need to do is adapt a longer lasting lifestyle change. Yes, it may take more time to achieve your goals but the results will be more permanent.
A few simple tips to get you on the right track
Do not deprive yourself too much, just have everything in moderation.
Eat at regular intervals and don’t allow yourself to get over hungry.
Keep a daily food diary for a week. It will give you a clear indication of exactly what you are consuming. Sometimes you may not realise just how much you’re eating.
Decrease your intake of alcohol.
Opt for higher fibre wholefoods and decrease the amount of processed foods.
Drink plenty of water in its pure form. Not in the form of dilute fruit squash.
Obviously exercise is a major factor in any weight loss programme. Dieting alone is not sufficient.
If you would like more information on this subject call for an appointment PHONE 0873848818
By Richard Sheehan, Nutritional Therapist Dip NT M.I.A.N.T.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE EATING?
The vast majority of health experts recommend eating a balanced, healthy diet to maintain or lose weight and to optimise your overall feeling of well-being. But exactly what is a healthy diet?
The basic components of a healthy diet include the right amount and balance of:
Protein – found in fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, nuts and beans.
Fat – found in animal and dairy products, nuts, seeds and oils
Carbohydrates – found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes.
Water- the most vital of all nutrients essential for life
So, you may say I’ve got all of those core food groups in my everyday diet but yet I feel unwell, constantly tired and unmotivated or I can’t seem to shift a few stubborn pounds. Well this is where food producing companies globally are managing to fool us through very clever marketing ploys. Let’s take a look at some of the more common foods which may not be as beneficial to our health as we are lead to believe.
Low Calorie Ready Meals
A calorie is simply a measurement, just like a teaspoon or an inch. Calories are the amount of energy released when your body breaks down food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to the body. It’s the source of the calories rather than the amount of calories that we should focus on. For example an apple contains more calories than a chocolate chip cookie but clearly we know which one is healthier. Many ready meals are marketed as low calorie but often contain high amounts of salt and even worse, artificial flavourings and preservatives. The most common of these is MSG (monosodium glutamate). This flavour enhancer is found in most ready meals, packet sauces and soups, crisps etc. It is seen by many experts as a major health concern because it contains a toxin which over excites the cells in the body. This is thought to be associated with digestive distress, behaviour problems, weight gain and a long list of other symptoms.
No Added Sugar Soft Drinks
Every day we see this food labelling marketed as being healthy because the bottle of fizzy drink or dilute squash contains no sugar, therefore lower in calories. But do we stop to think what makes it so sweet instead? No. We continue to allow our children to consume vast amounts of this sweet poison. One of the most controversial artificial sweeteners is called Aspartame. It is found in virtually every ‘no added sugar’ soft drink, but often disguised under a more attractive name. It contains chemicals directly linked to weight gain, depression, neurological disorders, anxiety, heart palpitations and many more.
A good habit for all of us to get into is to start taking note of the ingredients list on food and drink labelling. Generally if you can’t pronounce it you’re better off without it.
Richard Sheehan, Nutritional Therapist
Dip. NT mIANT