Posted by Jo on May 31, 2012
With the recent spell of sunshine, I thought it might be timely to write a piece about vitamin D. Heralded as the wonder-vit but somewhat misunderstood as to the what-where-how much we need, I aim to provide you with a bit of clarity.
Vitamin D deficiency is an important health issue. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 90% of the population have an ‘insufficient’ amount of serum circulating vitamin D. This vitally important vitamin (which is actually a steroid hormone) can help to support immune function, healthy bones and teeth, inflammation and balance hormone levels. Low levels are linked to a wide range of health problems, from cancer and cardiovascular disease to cognitive impairment and auto immune conditions. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include age, pregnancy and darker skin pigmentation.
The major source of vitamin D is sunshine as it is manufactured in the skin on contact UV rays. The risk of skin cancer from excessive sunlight or sunbeds opens up an important debate as to whether it is beneficial to spend more time in the sun to increase vitamin D levels. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fortified milk, egg yolks and oily fish are the best sources, but you can’t really rely on food to provide you with optimal amounts of vitamin D on a daily basis. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and trout are particularly rich sources with wild salmon providing 500-1000IU vitamin D per 100g. To put this into perspective, an adult would have to eat 2-4 servings of wild salmon a day to maintain daily vitamin D requirements. Fortification of foods with vitamin D is limited to margarine, some breakfast cereals, some cheeses and yoghurts but the amounts are negligable.
Supplementation is seen by some as the safest and most effective method of achieving optimal vitamin D status. If you are choosing a supplement, it is important to consult a qualified healthcare practitioner who can advise on the appropriate dose for your individual requirements. Supplements should contain vitamin D in the form of D3 (cholecalciferol) since this is the form naturally produced by the skin.
“Vitamin D deficiency is now recognised as a pandemic, with more than half of the world’s population currently at risk” (Pizzorno J., 2010) but why is this so? Sunlight’s ability to help us produce vitamin D is hampered by season, latitude, time of day and sunscreen (SPF8 and above). Not to mention evolutionary and behavioural changes such as wearing clothes, working inside and the anxiety around sun exposure and skin cancer which means that during the winter months, many of us are simply not getting enough. Skin will naturally produce approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D after 20-30 minutes summer sun exposure (April – October). The current recommended daily requirement for 19-70 year olds is 600 IU, however researchers now suggest that an average daily maintenance dose of 5000 IU is more realistic to promote optimal vitamin D levels.
Posted by Jo on May 22, 2012
A couple of months ago I was approached by the project manager of Old Vic New Voices, the community part of the Old Vic theatre. Over the past 18 months they have been busy researching, planning, writing and rehearsing a musical called Epidemic which addresses the pubic health issues of mental health and obesity.
It’s a wonderful, lively production; both humorous and poignant in equal measures. The set, song, dance and music performed by the ‘Gastric Band’ is catchy and fun and it’s hard to believe some of the actors are amateurs. I was humming one of the main chorus tunes all the way home. There are tickets on re-release each night and it’s being shown in the Old Vic Tunnels - an experience in itself.
I met some fantastic people involved both on stage and behind and was really honoured to be involved with such a dynamic production, addressing very real health concerns. The Guardian ran a piece about it in yesterday’s G2. You can read all about it here
Posted by Jo on May 10, 2012
Jane Clarke is one of my nutritional heroes. Her ethos, much like my own, is to keep things simple. I was given her latest book ‘Nourish’ last year and it has remained an almost permanent fixture by my bedside and in the kitchen; one of those classics you dip in and out of when you need both inspiration and education. Nourish is designed for busy people in mind so you wont find anything fiddly or lengthy to prepare. JC believes that time is much better spent savouring totally delicious food and enjoying the social aspects of eating. Can’t say fairer than that.
‘Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity’ ~ Voltaire
With the weather stuck in a never-ending hole of grey wetness, I have found myself eating like it’s winter again. Today I decided to make this soup and had forgotten how yum it is. It took 45 mins from start to finish. You can mix up the ingredients (see below) as you like, the secret to the taste is in the mixture of spices.
750g butternut squash (or any squash or pumpkin, or mixture – I have used sweet potatoes and carrots in the past)
Olive oil (for drizzling)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
seeds from 6 cardamon pods
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
500g sweetcorn, rinsed and drained (i have omitted this in the past or replaced it with a handful of red lentils)
275ml semi skimmed milk
750ml veg/chicken stock
ground black pepper
To serve: wholemeal croutons/toasted sourdough bread and a swirl of natural yoghurt (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180. Put the squash on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 25 mins
2. Meanwhile, dry roast the cumin, coriander and cardamon seeds in a small frying pan for 2-3 minutes until they change colour and start to jump in the pan. Crush them with a pestle and mortar.
3. Melt the butter in a large pan, then add the onion and garlic and cook until soft.
4. Add the ground seeds with turmeric, ginger, celery and leek and stir well. Cook for a further 3 minutes then add the squash and sweetcorn.
5. Season with black pepper. Stir well, then cover and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the milk and stock, replace the lid, bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Take the soup off the heat, whizz with a blender or in a food processor.
Posted by Jo on Apr 23, 2012
I’ve just learnt that it’s Depression Awareness Week so I thought it would be timely to write a little post about the link between food and mood.
Feeling good in your body, mind and soul requires balance across all aspects of your life, including your diet. Symptoms that can result from a poor diet include mood swings, irritability, tiredness and poor concentration; all classic signs that your brain and body may not be receiving the nutrients they need.
Our moods and energy levels are influenced by neurotransmitters and it is suggested that the consumption of certain foods can affect the levels of neurotransmitters made in the brain. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that are made from protein. Examples include: serotonin, dopamine & acetyl choline. Serotonin is the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter needed for healthy moods, sleep and appetite control.
Tryptophan is a specific amino acid (type of protein) that makes serotonin. There is a suggestion that by consuming foods rich in tryptophan you can influence levels of serotonin made in the brain. Food sources high in tryptophan:
|Cottage Cheese||Turkey||Chicken||Eggs||Soybeans||Kidney Beans||Avocadoes||Figs|
10 TOP TIPS TO SUPPORT YOUR MOODS:
1. Choose fresh, unprocessed, nutrient rich foods
Highly processed and overcooked foods are robbed of their nutrients. Be careful not to overcook food, as heat destroys nutrients. Try to steam or stir fry rather than boiling. The closer a food is to its natural state, the more nutrients it will provide.
2. Keep blood sugar balanced
When we wake up, our blood sugar levels are low as we have had a long time without food. If you then choose to eat a high sugar breakfast (such as a croissant/sugary cereal), blood sugar levels rise rapidly. Such a sudden rise in blood sugar triggers the release of insulin – a hormone that monitors the level of sugar in the blood. A surge in sugar leads to a big release of insulin which rapidly brings blood sugar levels right down. The sudden ‘high’ and ‘low’ can leave us feeling irritable, lacking energy and craving sweet snacks.
Get off to a good start with slow release carbohydrates (brown wholegrains) which take longer to digest and release sugar into the blood, producing lasting energy. Combine carbohydrates with protein for an even slower release of sugar e.g. cereal with yoghurt, eggs on toast. This prevents your blood sugar – and your energy and mood – from plummeting mid morning.
3. Cut back on anti-nutrients
Fizzy drinks, sugar, coffee, tea, alcohol and cigarettes interfere with our body’s ability to absorb minerals. By reducing your consumption of these ‘anti-nutrients’ you can increase the intake of health and mood enhancing nutrients.
4. Choose healthy fats
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) play a vital role in brain function. Increasing your intake of these ‘good’ fats and eating less of the ‘bad’ fats can have a noticeable impact on your moods. Omega-3 are found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, pilchards, sardines, salmon and fresh tuna as well as pumpkin seeds, walnuts and flax seed oil. Try to eat oily fish at least 3 times a week. Avoid processed oils and look out for ‘hydrogenated fat’ on ingredients lists.
5. Eat a rainbow! Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day
The colours in fresh fruits and vegetables largely come from the variety of antioxidants they contain. Antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E, selenium and zinc help regulate important body processes. Use juices, smoothies, salads or soups to get a portion easily. A fresh fruit juice (not from concentrate) counts as one portion per day. Soup is a really easy and cheap to make at home or buy served with a sandwich/roll for a warming lunch.
6. Snack sensibly
If by mid morning you are reaching for the biscuits or a can of coke, think again! The blood sugar rollercoaster of highs and lows will continue during the day and into the evening sometimes affecting quality of sleep. It can play havoc with energy levels, concentration and mood during the day. Caffeine (in tea and coffee) and cigarettes have the same effect.
Swap mid morning biscuits for fruit, nuts or a healthier flapjack/nut bar. Try cutting back on coke and no more than 3 cups of tea (especially those taking sugar). A standard 330ml can of coke has 35g of sugar in it, a 500ml (bottle size) has a whopping 53g of sugar.
7. Eat whole grains
Whole grains (brown grains) are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and plant chemicals all of which are beneficial to our overall health. During processing, these ‘brown’ grains are turned ‘white’ e.g. white flour in cakes, biscuits, pastries etc. This process depletes the grains of vital nutrients, especially the B vitamins and fibre which we need for energy production, our hearts and a healthy digestive system. Swap ‘white’ for ‘brown’ or multigrain bread, brown rice, brown pasta and oatcakes. Try to choose a wholegrain breakfast cereal such as porridge, weetabix or branflakes.
8. Watch the caffeine, remain hydrated
Water is vital for all the body’s functions. Too little water leads to dehydration which can make you tired, lose concentration and deplete energy levels. Caffeine dehydrates you so watch the number of teas/coffees you drink each day and opt for decaff/herbal varieties if you think you are drinking too many. Aim to drink at least 1.5 litres of water throughout the day.
9. Mindful eating
Digestion starts when we think of, smell and see food. Our body then begins to secrete enzymes and digestive juices which aid the breakdown of food. Chewing food well is an essential part of digestion. The smaller the food particles the more easy it is to digest and access all the nutrients.
Chew well and take time to eat in a relaxed environment. Try to sit down and take time out of whatever you might be doing to enjoy your food. Eating infront of the computer/TV means your brain is not engaged on digestion and you may experience discomfort. You are also more likely to overeat.
Remember that buy combining protein and carbohydrate in a meal (or snack), sugar is released more slowly into the blood stream. Try:
- Soups: shop bought, containing vegetables and protein (such as lentils, beans)
- Sandwiches: why not make your own! Buy a loaf of bread with sandwich fillers such as cream cheese, ham, tuna, houmous with loads of salad
- Salads: aim for as many different colours of fruit and vegetables as possible. Beetroot, carrot, tomatoes, cucumber and leaves with chicken, tuna, prawns or feta cheese
- Snacks: oat or rice cakes with houmous, cottage cheese or a slice of turkey, a small pot of natural yoghurt with chopped figs/dats, piece of fruit with handful of pumpkin seeds
- Jacket potatoes can be a filling option for lunch. Good toppings are tuna, cottage cheese, baked beans and cheese. Try and accompany with a salad
- Keep takeaways to a minimum. The oils used are usually hydrogenated oils. They are dangerous and offer no health benefits.
Posted by Jo on Mar 28, 2012
Some of you may have noticed my absence for the last month or so. Fret not, I’m back.
Armed with an extensive artillery of new material from a month of travels in Vietnam and Cambodia (which, to be honest centered mainly around eating and getting a tan) and current lack of full time employment, I endeavor to scribe a number of informative and interesting (here’s hoping) blog posts and piccies for you to enjoy.
Posted by Jo on Feb 12, 2012
It’s simply not the time for salads when it’s so darn cold outside. Here’s a recipe for a hearty, delicious vegetarian chilli, perfect for a frosty winter’s evening. The heat from the chilli is tempered by the yoghurt and avocado. YUM. It’s cheap, mega healthy and easy as pie to make. You can use any veg/lentils/beans you have lurking in the cupboards and you could add meat if you wanted to. I made it last Monday for the sisterhood and they loved it so much they asked me to share the recipe. So here it is…… Serves 4.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
125g dried lentils
680g jar passata sauce
500ml hot vegetable stock
1 large red pepper, desseded and diced
500g sweet potato/pumpkin/squash
400g can of kidney beans (or any other bean)
2 teaspoons hot chilli sauce
200g spinach leaves
Fresh coriander, chopped sliced avocado and greek yoghurt to serve
1. Heat the oil and fry the onion, garlic, spices and s&p for about 5 mins.
2. Add the lentils, passata and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20mins
3. Add the red pepper, sweet potato, kidney beans and chilli sauce. Return to the boil, cover and simmer for another 20 minutes until the vegetables and lentils and tender.
4. Stir in the spinach and remove from the heat.
5. Serve the chilli with rice or warm flatbreads topped with avocado and a dollop of greek yoghurt.
Posted by Jo on Jan 30, 2012
As a nation we are getting fatter. We’ve heard it. We’ve seen it. We are well aware we are supersizing at an alarming rate. Over the next two decades, the UK will become home to a whopping 11 million obese adults, costing the NHS £2 billion per year. Brits are the fattest in Europe, we’re basically guzzling gastric bands. And as for the kids… we’ll they are certainly not alright. It’s the fault of fast food outlets, video games and our ever increasing portion sizes. Fingers are pointed at advertising agencies, teachers and parents. Although we are brainwashed with cookery programmes on the TV, left alone in the kitchen too many of us are stumped when it comes to making a healthy meal. No time, no money, just deliver me a pizza and leave me alone…..
It is estimated that we spend approximately 217,175 hours asleep in our lifetime. Interestingly in 1960, we slept on average 8.5 hours per night and obesity rates were around 12%. By 2011, the average number of hours had fallen to 6.5 and obesity rates had increased to around 30%. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that a lack of quality sleep is contributing to the obesity epidemic. The study in question was focused on children aged 3-5 and it found that those who slept longer were 61% less likely to be overweight aged 7. A positive correlation between lack of sleep and increased body weight was apparent even when accounting for confounding factors such as household income (not only the poor kids with crap food got fat), fruit and vegetable intake, television watching (not only the couch potatoes got fat) and the mother’s education.
So how is sleep related to weight gain? Can it really be possible for an adult to sleep themselves thin? No more diets and exercise? Sounds too good to be true. Well let’s start by highlighting the obvious. Less sleep means more time awake = more time scoffing. Less sleep also means greater tiredness during the day = less likely to be active and more likely to make poor food choices (sugary fast releasing energy fixes). But interestingly the key link is that sleep deprivation triggers a hormonal response, sending appetite control haywire.
The hormones in question are call leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is produced by fat cells and plays a role in the regulation of appetite and metabolism – important functions for weight management. As a messenger, leptin communicates directly with the central nervous system, decreasing the “hunger signal” that the hypothalamus in the brain sends to the body. Leptin, in effect, is your body’s own natural appetite suppressant. When your leptin levels are optimal, you tend to consume less food, as well as make healthier food choices. Great. Additionally, leptin increases your metabolic rate, or energy level, so it increases thermogenesis (fat-burning capability) therefore more calories are burned up. Double great. The hormone ghrelin does the opposite of leptin; it tells the brain that we are hungry and surprise surprise, levels of ghrelin increase when sleep is restricted.
Studies at The University of Chicago and Stanford University have proven that subjects who had trouble sleeping had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin than those who received optimal amount of sleep. When you sleep well at night, one of your body’s many jobs is to re-calibrate the levels of your hormones, including leptin and ghrelin. After a good night of restful sleep, leptin, ghrelin and many other important hormones have had enough time to be replenished and are more likely to be back to optimal levels.
- Aim for 7-9 hours per night
- Try to go to sleep at the same time every night
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and eating large meals before bed
- Limit use of internet and TV watching in bed as it tends to stimulate our senses
- Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and natural sedative. Foods rich in magnesium are legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, and whole grains.
- Tryptophan is an amino acid (from protein) that makes the brain chemicals serotonin and melatonin involved in sleep. Snacks containing carbohydrates and proteins rich in tryptophan such whole grain crackers with warm milk or cottage cheese before bedtime may help to promote sleep.
Posted by Jo on Jan 17, 2012
I think one of my new year’s resolutions should have been to not tell people – when out in social situations – that I am a nutritional therapist. I guess that means to become a liar? As soon as I admit my vocation, I frequently find myself listening to people’s nutritional woes, practically giving mini consultations when I’m effectively ‘off duty’. And quite frankly there is a time and a place to talk bowels and bloating. More often I’m asked quick fire questions such as ‘can cherry juice really help my insomnia?’ or ‘will green tea help me loose weight?’ or ‘what foods are real superfoods?’ So here is a little note about the latter.
The term ‘superfood’ is applied to foods with an above average number of disease-fighting-antioxidants. Experts believe that a diet rich in these foods will improve your overall health. The sentiment is true – antioxidants are important in disease prevention and overall health – but when most of the products heralded as superfoods are charged at premium prices, are we right to be slightly dubious as to whether the actual claims such as (‘broccoli may undo diabetes damage’) are legitimate or is it all just a clever marketing ploy?
In 2007, EU legislation banned the use of the term ‘superfood’ on packaging unless it is accompanied by convincing research. But this ban hasnt stopped the media continuing to hail a new superfood on an almost weekly basis. If we believed everything we read, we might think that a diet of curry, wine and chocolate is the secret to eternal life!
The facts about the latest dietary discoveries are rarely as simple as the attention grabbing headlines imply and to accurately test how one food may affect our health is arduous and complex. There is no real harm in the superfood claims if they get us eating more nutritious food but it’s important to remember that the studies behind the claims are riddled with limitations, bias and confounding factors. For example, the effects of a particular potent property is likely to have been carried out in a test tube or on an animal. Our bodies act very differently to a test tube or a mouse. Certain vitamins, such as Vitamin C for example, are water soluble and any excess our body does not require is excreted in our urine. Therefore once you have hit your daily remit, it doesnt matter how many blueberries you guzzle, the vitamin C will be flushed away. Much like the £4 you spent on the punnet of them in the first place.
Here is the lowdown on a few of the classics.
GREEN TEA: there is some evidence that green tea helps heart health but the links to weight loss and cancer are contradictory. It will certainly help you remain hydrated and as it’s calorie free it’s a good alternative to tea with milk if you are dieting.
- GOJI BERRIES: The test that marked Goji berries No1 on the antioxidant scale (ORAC) were done in test tubes and doesn’t reflect what happens in the human body. The vitamin content of Goji berries are high but you would have to consume a huge quantity to make a significant difference.
COCONUT WATER: Claims to be more hydrating than water. There are some vitamins and minerals in coconut water but it is not a particularly rich source. And as for being more hydrating than water – that’s actually impossible.
EDAMAME BEANS: There is no evidence that they can help you loose weight. They are high in fibre, especially soluble fibre, which can help lower cholesterol levels.
The message is really this: it’s great to include these foods as part of an all round healthy diet as long as you dont expect any overnight miracles. Eat a balanced diet with a range of foods to ensure you get enough of the nutrients your body needs. Limiting your intake of alcohol and high fat, high sugar, salty and processed foods and regular exercise are also important.
Posted by Jo on Jan 2, 2012
Perhaps it should be less surprising that it is this week, the last fling of a fading year leading into the pristine promise of a new one, that the determination to turn over a new leaf is fuelled so powerfully given the excess that preceded it. A time when we are as replete with resolutions as with turkey, booze, chocolates and guilt – the latter being a factor, of course, of the former. Yet resolve we do, with steely determination and the wide, gleaming eyes of the newly converted. This year, goes the dogma, will be the one.
For all those good intentions, only 20% of New Years resolutions make it to the end of January. But if you are depressed by this doom mongering statistic, don’t be. Rather than declaring that in 2012 the plan is to drop to a size zero, run the marathon and swim the English Channel, try to get to the heart of what is really needed by setting bite-sized, realistic and achievable goals.
Nutritional goals commonly feature on the resolution list, none more so than weight loss. It is important to begin by accepting a truism: If it’s taken a while for the weight to creep up, it is likely to take a while for it to slip back down, especially if it is to be maintained. So here are a few starting suggestions that might help to actually achieve the shinier, happier, healthier you in 2012.
Keep it simple to start with. Goals such as reducing sugar and increasing fruit and veg may seem overly simplistic but such simple swaps can have a wide reaching effect in almost all areas of our health, including waistlines. For example try swapping tea time cakes and biscuits for a piece of fruit, or trying a new vegetable every week.
Where caffeine is key, or indeed a crutch, start by gradually cutting back. Try one less drink per day for the first couple of weeks, gradually building up to halving the number consumed daily by the end of January. Alternating between full strength and de caff/herbal varieties may also be helpful, while going full-on cold turkey can actually lead to symptoms of withdrawal, so try to make the change gradual.
Equally, if that morning coffee is more often than not accompanied by a pastry on the go, try replacing it with a proper breakfast. Skipping breakfast entirely leaves the body open to a blood sugar imbalance that leads to the sweetie drawer before you can say “sugar rush.” But while making sure to eat breakfast, check the sugar content of cereals, if sugar is one of first few ingredients listed, put it back. Swap instead to a sugar-free muesli or porridge sweetened with a little honey, fresh or dried fruit. Equally, try adding a handful of nuts or seeds to cereal or porridge or opt for yoghurt or eggs with wholemeal toast – protein makes us feel fuller for longer and therefore less likely to snack and a balanced breakfast is integral to weight management.
Instead of giving up carbohydrates altogether, as so many try to do in the dash to make drastic January changes, how about making the swap from white to brown in the form of pastas, bread, cereals and grains? Brown varieties have higher fibre content (keeping us fuller for longer) and release glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, staving off sugar cravings. Try laying off the refined carbohydrates at lunch or dinner and swap them for beans, lentils or more vegetables instead.
But resolutions don’t have to be simply giving things up or omitting them forever, how about introducing new foods, exercises or hobbies? Try a new recipe each week to increase confidence in the kitchen. For waterphobes, try setting a water challenge starting with drinking one 500ml bottle per day and gradually increasing to 1.5l. Thirst can be mistaken for hunger so hydrating fully is important, vary the options by drinking sparkling water with a slice of lemon or diluting fresh fruit juice.
Exercise can spark new found strength and self control in other aspects of our lives and the benefits are immediate. If you haven’t done any exercise for a while, set yourself a realistic goal of once a week for the first month, working up to three times per week by the end of month two. There are a huge number of apps available now for novice athletes that can be really useful if you don’t want to go to the gym. Get Running, for example, sets the target of couch-bound to 30 minutes continuous jogging in 9 weeks. Alternatively try brisk walking or join a yoga or zumba class. Finding a friend to exercise with can also help maintain momentum.
If it’s the sweet tooth you are trying to beat, and it so often is post-Christmas, look for alternative treats such as a couple of squares of good quality 70% dark chocolate. The flavour is so intense even the most avid chocolate lover would struggle to finish a bar. Sweet tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, papaya) can be bought in tubs from most lunch spots while, if you need a sweet fix at the end of a meal, they offer a healthier option. Or try stuffing medjool dates with cashews or almonds. Medjool dates have a fudgey, caramelly sweetness about them that might just hit the spot if you’re in a bind.
It is this cumulative effect of creating and achieving a set of small, self imposed goals that is likely to lead to an increase in willpower to tackle larger, long-term resolutions. Don’t be put off if, by the middle of January, said resolutions already seem like a distant memory. Acknowledge the setback and start again. And don’t feel guilty, remember that we are only human and one small change that can be stuck-to is better than none at all. Then, once January is over, why not try setting some new goals for the following months, there are eleven of them before the excess begins again, after all.
Posted by Jo on Dec 15, 2011
We Brits love to talk about the weather, and right now the constant natter revolves around how cold it is. The winds on Monday night made my windows rattle and the heating has been on full blast for the last week or so now. Its cosy inside but the constant change in temperature is playing havoc with my skin. Mine has taken a real battering: dry red patches around my eyes and chapped lips mean that a tube of moisturiser is always at hand. Plus there is the Christmas challenge for our skin to contend with. The season of good will, merriment and excessive eating and drinking has begun (well it begun on the 1st of December for some). Office parties, drinks parties, mince pie parties, call them what you like, they’re all the same and their results are too: hangovers, dehydration, jaded complexions and ultimately, exhaustion – just in time for the big day!
Enjoying a drink is part of the fun and should not be denied – after all it is Christmas… but remember this:
Alcohol dilates the blood capillaries near the skin’s surface. Each time you drink the blood capillaries continue to be enlarged until they lose their quality and tone which is why red faces are associated with heavy drinkers. Skin conditions such as acne rosacea or psoriasis are made worse by drinking too much alcohol and blemishes and blotchy bumps may appear. A lot of the body’s water is held in the skin and alcohol is a powerful dehydrating substance. If you’re dehydrated, your skin will shrivel and age much more quickly than normal, causing wrinkles. Additionally, overindulgence of alcohol can decrease levels of important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A. Vitamin A is a very important antioxidant that supports body and skin health.
So here’s a few suggestions on what you can eat and drink to achieve glowing skin during the festive season:
- Stay properly hydrated. It will leave your skin looking brighter and younger and (hopefully!) less wrinkly in the long term. Aim for 1.5litres of water per day and try and drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink if you are out at a party.
- Try to monitor alcohol, fizzy drink and caffeine consumption as they dehydrate your skin leaving it looking dull and dry.
- Try to avoid greasy, high fat fry ups the day after. Instead opt for a combination of wholegrain carbohydrates, protein and fat such as poached eggs on rye toast or porridge with yogurt and a few nuts.
- Nibble on nuts: brazil nuts are the best natural source of selenium, thought to be a wrinkle-zapping antioxidant and almonds, packed with vitamin E which helps skin heal and prevents scarring.
- Satsumas, a Christmas classic, are great for topping up vitamin C needed for collagen production (giving skin elasticity). Other brightly coloured fruit and veg are also great.
- Dried fruit such as figs and dates are full of iron which helps prevent anaemia and pale skin, dark eye circles and weak nails.
- Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which help to support the skin and reduce inflammation.
- If you skin is really dry, try putting some lavender oil in your bath or shower and don’t forget to moisturise. Don’t forget to look for one with SPF or UVA protection if you want to beat the wrinkles. Olive or almond oil has been suggested as a tonic for very dry skin.