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This blog will give you the latest hints and tips to all things health and nutrition related.

By George Rundle, Jan 18 2015 03:39PM

So here we are at week 3 of my 'be kind to your body' series. How are you getting on so far? I hope you have found something to inspire you.


This week I'm going to look at dairy products and question how beneficial they are to include in our daily diet, their effect on our body and why and if we need them all. For years, we've been told we need dairy in our diets to provide calcium for strong and healthy bones. At the other extreme, dairy foods have been linked with health issues in some people. It is worth pointing out that we are all individuals and so a particular food group may affect some and not others. In addition, those that are affected may suffer from very different symptoms so it is always essential for any nutritional plan to be tailored to suit the individual needs.


Dairy products is an umbrella term which includes milk and all foods made from milk. Cow's milk and its products form the backbone of dairy consumed in this country but goats and sheeps products are increasingly popular as demonstrated by their appearance on supermarket shelves. There are also alternatives to dairy in the form of grain based milks e.g. rice, oat, nut based milks e.g. almond and finally there is soya milk.


For most animals, milk is their first source of food. It is this milk that provides essential nutrients for growth and survival and a health blueprint for a newborn baby. Human breast milk contains lactose, a milk sugar, and babies and infants up to 2 years old can produce the enzyme lactase to digest it. Once weaning stops, the levels of lactase may decrease or the body may stop producing it altogether making digestion of dairy products potentially a challenge. Cows and goats milk contain casein proteins which can prove too much for a baby's system to handle and so if they are substitued for breast milk during the nursing period, a milk allergy may result. However, the proteins in goats milk seem to be more easily digestible than those in cow's milk.


As humans, we are the only animal to continue drinking milk beyond childhood as well as drinking the milk of another animal. Dairy products ready availablity and our encouragement to consume them beacuse of the "calcium factor" tends towards our over consumption. Green leafy vegetables are actually a very good source of calcium and consider where the adult cow get's its nutrients from, if it's lucky it will be grass fed and mass produced cattle will be fed grains or hay. It certainly isn't fed milk. For heatlhy teeth and bones calcium isn't the end of the story either, we need magnesium and vitamin D3 as part of a balanced diet for calcium to work effectively in the body.


We also need to consider how milk is produced. Most milk goes through a process of pasteurisation: the milk is heated at a high temperature for a short time which destroys bacteria (beneficial and bad) and 'disease-producing organisms' which improves the shelf life. However, some enzymes, proteins, vitamins and minerals are destroyed. Other proteins are denatured (structure is changed) meaning digestive enzymes can't get to them to break them down. This can tax the pancreas leading to degeneration and allergies. Boiling milk can help to make these proteins more digestible. 50% of vitamin C, about 25% of B vitamins and some vitamin E is lost through this process. Sterilised milk uses a higher temperature than pasteurised milk to kill all organisms and so the level of nutrient destruction increases.


Homogenised milk uses a process which forces the milk through small holes in a metal sheet to break up the fat droplets. The resulting milk no longer separates into cream and skimmed milk making it easier to bottle and once again improves shelf life. It is also supposed to make the digestion of fat easier for our bodies as it is already partially broken down. However, this interferes with the body's natural digestive process and may therefore present new health issues.


There is also the option of raw milk which hasn't been subjected to any of the above treatments but you are unlikely to find this in the supermarket. It retains all the nutrients and can be sourced through local farms or farmers markets. Investigate what is available in your local area.


Milk is sold as full fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed. Skimmed milk removes the cream or saturated fat but as I talked about in last week's blog, low fat foods aren't always the best food of choice. In this instance, the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K will be removed which means the amount of calcium available to the body without the necessary vitamin D to help absorb it will be reduced. Another example where whole foods or foods consumed in their natural state surpass foods that have been tampered with.


Of course there is also the choice of organic or non-organic milk. Dairy cattle are often given medicines, anti-biotics, growth hormones and grain containing fertilisers and pesticides which then form part of the food chain. The chances are that they are raised in un-natural conditions too. On the other hand organic milk will be derived from cattle which are naturally reared, grass fed and are not given any artificial medicines or stimulants for disease prevention or growth.


Other dairy products include cheese (milk curd or solids which generally have lots of salt added), buttermilk (the liquid remaining from the cream after making butter), cream (the saturated fat of milk), whey (milk liquid), evaporated and condensed milks (pure sugar) and ice cream (high fat and sugar content). They all inherit the problems that milk presents. Natural yoghurt on the other hand is easier to digest because the lactose in the milk is already partially broken down through fermentation. It uses 'good bacteria' for this process hence why it has been marketed as a 'gut healthy' product.


Butter although a saturated fat has many health giving properties. It contains short and medium chain fatty acids which are absorbed directly by the small intestine without the need for emulsification and so can be used immediately for energy. They also have anti-microbial, anti-fungal and immune stimulating properties. It also contains Conjugated Linoleic acid which is linked with anti-cancer properties, muscle building and general immunity. As well as containing the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and it also has good levels of the minerals chromium (good for blood sugar balancing), iodine (needed for the thyroid gland), manganese, selenium and zinc (both good anti-oxidants). Margarine is also a dairy derivative however, check out last weeks blog on Fat for more information as it is essentially a processed food and should be avoided.


The milk protein casein and caseinates are also readily found in processed foods, ready meals and convenience foods acting as binders and fillers e.g. sausages. They are generally poorly absorbed.


So although milk has high protein levels and high calcium levels and would therefore be considered a beneficial product in your diet, these perceived benefits can be outweighed by the detrimental effects that dairy has on the body.


Poor absorption can occur due to the result of partially digested proteins making their way into the gut. This leads to the production of mucus as the body tries to digest the protein. The mucus lines the gut wall and may become caked with food residues and this can block nutrient absorption. As well as causing gut problems (bloating, discomort etc), the mucus production has been linked to sinus and lung issues, particularly asthma.


As the proteins that milk contains are formed from a cows diet not a humans, the body may not recognise them and therefore struggle to digest them. This can result in skin conditions, eczema, ear infections and hyperactivity.


Milk contains 10 times more calcium than magnesium and given that magnesium is key to calcium regulation and they act as partners in the body, this may cause other unwanted health issues.


The way in which dairy is produced may also cause sensitivity in our body, so a dairy product which is raw (un-treated), organic, unprocessed and in its natural state as nature intended will be much kinder on our systems and will retain and provide its healthful aspects.


Just a reminder that all dairy product are also acid forming in the body so eating them as part of a diet which includes a high level of alkalising foods (e.g. vegetables, some fruits, almonds, apple cider vinegar) is essential to avoid increasing acidity levels in the body. Acidity can lead to inflammation, dehydration and ultimately degenerative health conditions.


Those with dairy intolerances can consume grain milks made from fermented grains or grain flours. because they don't contain the lactose and casein proteins. Although, they do have a lower protein and higher carbohydrate content and often contain added calcium, B12 and sometimes sugars or sweeteners, something to watch out for.


Some people find that they cannot tolerate cows milk but find that sheeps and goats products are less stressful on their bodies.


Soya milk is another alternative although I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as research has shown that foods made from soya can disrupt our hormonal system, for both men and women.


Unless you have an allergy to nuts or seeds, my milk of choice would be a home made nut or seed milk. It provides all the beneficial properties of the nut or seed (good fats, vitamin and minerals) whilst avoiding the problems associated with an intolerance to dairy or grains. You can also buy very tasty, raw and organic nut and/or seed butter which can be used as a spread or in smoothies or sweet treats.


So I've tried to present enough information to enable you to decide whether to include dairy in your diet and if so how much, where it comes from and how it's been treated. I myself choose to avoid dairy products as much as possible but do include the occasional bit of goats cheese and goats butter. Instead I make almond milk, the recipe for which is below along with a recipe for dairy free banana ice cream.


Almond Milk


Soak 1 cup/150g of raw almonds (ideally for 4 hours) and then drain.

Place in a blender with 750ml to 1 litre of filtered water.

Strain the resulting liquid and place it in a glass container in the fridge for 2/3 days.


Banana Ice Cream


Slice 2/3 ripe bananas and spread them out on a baking tray and place in the freezer for 2 hours minimum. Place in a blender and start to add almond milk slowly until you reach the desired consistency. Make sure all the banana is blended in. If by any chance you have any left, place it back in the freezer in a container.


Option: You can try adding frozen berries of your choice and maybe sprinkle with some finely chopped or lightly ground pecans/walnuts or macadamias.


Next week in the final instalment of my "be kind to your body" series, I look at grains and gluten.


Until then, have a great week and hope that this provides more food for thought!



By George Rundle, Jan 11 2015 06:18PM

Hello everyone. Hope you found last week's info on sugar useful and I hope it empowered you to start making some changes, however small. This week I'm focusing on another subject that has been given harsh treatment: FAT!


We have been subjected to many mixed and incorrect messages concerning fat and its impact on our health. We have been told that saturated fat is bad for us, we have been encouraged to eat low fat foods, which as I pointed out last week contain sugar to replace the fat, and until fairly recently we have been encouraged to eat margarines or spreads that emulate butter, and the list goes on. It is a vast area to cover so I'm going to try to give you some information which will hopefully dispel the myth that fat is bad for you and that actually we need it for our boides to function and survive!


So firstly why do we need fat? Fat has many functions within the body:

It insulates the body, it protects our organs and it acts as a carrier for the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat provides energy, in fact it provides the largest amount of energy per gram, 9kcal per gram to be precise, more than carbohydrate. Fat is required for cell membrane structure and hormones. For example, cholesterol forms the core of steroid hormones produced in the body. Fat also satiates hunger, it provides a protective cover for our nerve cells and so is crucial for nervous system health and is also a critical part of brain and eye health. The essential fatty acids (EFA's), essential because we cannot make them in our bodies and must obtain them from food, are needed to make prostaglandins, a hormone like substance which is necessary for the correct functioning of the endocrine system.


So clearly we need fat, in both saturated and unsaturated forms. What we really need to consider is where has the fat come from, how has it been treated, how has it been prepared and how much fat is the correct amount to eat.


For instance, is it fresh, has it been exposed to heat, light, oxygen etc, how old is it?, has it been prepared appropriately, what balance of different fats do we get in our diet and its source: is the fat in its natural form or has it been synthesised, does it come from a grass fed or grain fed animal, animals that are reared naturally or pumped with growth hormones, anti-biotics and vaccines, an organic or non-organic source etc. If we consume the right amount and balance of fats and prepare with the correct cooking methods, they build health and keep us healthy.


Saturated fats are predominantly found in animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs but are also derived from plant sources such as coconut/coconut oil and palm oil. We do need some of this in our diet but it's better to consume in small amounts and increase the amounts of unsaturated fats to fulfil our requirement for fat. Saturated fats are very stable and retain their chemical structure when heated so are best used for cooking especially frying e.g. organic butter, cold pressed coconut oil, duck/goose or any other animal fat and ghee (clarified butter). Conversely, oils (e.g. olive, sunflower, rapeseed) produce trans fats and change their chemical structure when heated. This means the body doesn't recognise them and can disrupt the biochemistry and ultimately affect our health. They can be used for dressings on salads or vegetables or added to smoothies where they help to create that nice 'smooth' consistency but I would encourage cooking with saturated fats rather than oils


When buying animal fats (in fact any animal products), try to source those that are organic, pasture fed and naturally reared and avoid those that are artifically fed and pumped with growth hormones, anti-biotics and hormones.


The process of hydrogenation to create margarine, shortening and some refined oils results in a product which contains trans fats and other altered fat substances and so once again, the chemical structure has been changed resulting in a disruption to the normal biological processes. These products are best avoided completely.


Essential fatty acids (EFA's) are polyunsaturated fats and are a necessity in our diet. They come in the forms of Omega 3 and Omega 6 and getting the balance right between these two is key to our health. Omega 3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect in our bodies whereas Omega 6 cause inflammation. When they are balanced, they regulate the inflammation response in the body. However, western diets tend to include too much of the latter with our high consumption of meat. This has implications for our health, inflammation being a pre-curser to many diseases. Other sources of Omega 6 include nuts and seeds.


Generally we need to try and include more Omega 3 in our diet. Oily fish provides the best source of Omega 3 in the parent form of ALA but an even better source is the supplement Krill Oil. This provides Omega 3 in the broken down form called EPA & DHA. This means it can be absorbed very easily in the body. Vegetarian souces of Omega 3 include flax seeds or flax-oil and chia seeds or chia-oil. However, the Omega 3 here is once again in the parent form of ALA and so needs to be broken down in the body before it can be used as EPA & DHA. Unfortunately, all too often we lack or don't have enough of the enzymes required to carry out this process so a well sourced Krill Oil supplement is the best source. It also has the added benefit of containing the anti-oxidant Vitamin E which helps prevent the oil from perishing.


All unrefined EFA based oils are detrimentally affected by heat, light and oxygen and so it is very important that they are fresh, derived from organic seeds and stored in dark glass containers in the fridge to prevent them from becoming rancid. They must not be used for cooking purposes and exposed as little as possible to oxygen to prevent oxidation. Ensuring good levels of anti-oxidants such as vitamins C, E and A as well as the minerals zinc and selenium can help to counteract the effects of oxidation of damaged oils.


Monounsaturated fats are very beneficial to include in the diet too. Good sources include olives, organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and avocados. Contrary to many high profile TV chefs, I would not recommend using olive oil to cook with for the same reasons stated above.


Cholesterol has been given a bad press over the years and has been connected to heart disease and narrowing of the arteries amongst other things. We have been encouraged to eat low cholesterol foods to look after the health of our hearts but our bodies make cholesterol from the breakdown of sugars, fats, proteins, especially if we are eating more than we need. However, we do have a feedback mechanism in the body which prevents excess cholesterol being made if we have eaten enough or are eating too much but if this isn't functioning cholesterol levels may rise. Cholesterol can't be broken down so an excess is sent to the liver and is excreted as bile acids through the bowel. It is key then that the liver and bowel are working effectively in order for cholesterol to be removed. A diet high in nutrient rich fresh whole foods, fibre, good levels of water, higher levels of essential fatty acids and other unsaturated fats along with decreasing or preferably avoiding sugar laden and processed foods will assist in helping to reduce cholesterol levels instead of just cutting out foods that contain cholesterol completely.


Phew, that's a lot of information and it's just scratching the surface! To summarise, I would recommend increasing your levels of Omega 3 fats and unsaturated fats, include a little saturated fat and use only these fats for cooking, especially frying, and importantly make sure you do eat fat as part of a nutrient rich diet.


Below is a recipe that focuses on providing a balanced range of healthy fats. The egg yolk contains lecithin which helps to emulsify the fat in the flaxseed oil, needed for good digestion.


Breakfast Smoothie


1/2 Avocado

1tsp flaxseed oil

1 Egg yolk

handful of almonds (ideally soaked)

almond milk (amount to give the consistency you like)

1 tbsp of raw cacao nibs or cacao powder (optional if you want a chocolatey flavour)

raw, local honey to taste


Blitz all the ingredients in a blender for a super duper yummy smoothie!


You can add or substitute any other ingredients you like e.g.

1 banana if you want more sweetness

1 tbsp protein powder e.g. hemp, pea

cinnamon - good blood sugar stabiliser

ground ginger - good for circulation

turmeric - great anti-oxidant

wheatgrass, spirulina or chlorella powder - great alkalisers and protein providers. Use 1tsp of each.

fresh bee pollen to sprinkle on top - full spectrum of B vitamins and protein provider. 1 - 2 tsps.


Have a play to find the taste and consistency that suits you.


Enjoy!!


By George Rundle, Jan 1 2015 08:00AM

Happy New Year everybody and welcome to 2015. I'm sure the excesses of Christmas have taken their toll on our bodies both physically, mentally and emotionally. So why not make this January your personal springboard for the start of a long term commitment to nourishing, nurturing and supporting your body inside and out!


I'm not a fan of new years resolutions as they tend to be short term fixes and are associated with the danger word "diet" but it is a good time to focus your mind on new endeavours. Shifting the focus to improving general health and wellbeing often leads to lifestyle changes which are more manageable. They may be small to start with but over time these building blocks develop and become part of your daily routine.


Every week in January I am going to share a small tip of something you can do right now to change your relationship with food and help you to begin feeling more energised, motivated and start you on your health and well being journey. For those of you already on this road, its some timely reminders and ideas to help you on your way. I'm also going to include one of my favourite recipes to give you some inspiration.


For this first week, the focus is on SUGAR. Sugar is one of the hardest habits to kick, primarily because it is addictive, and also one of the most detrimental to how you feel. For years we have been told that we should eat less fat for health reasons, meanwhile levels of sugar consumption have been on the increase. Many supposedly "low fat" foods often contain sugar to provide flavour e.g. low fat fruit yoghurts, and sugars are hidden in so many processed foods e.g. cakes, biscuits, sweets, pre-packed meals, sauces and canned food.


More and more people are becoming aware that sugar is actually the cause of many health related issues. It is a contributory factor in many of today's modern illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and that's just for starters. However sugar can impact our health in many other ways e.g. digestive problems, candida, fatigue, stress, skin problems, brain fog, menstrual issues, emotional problems, blood sugar imbalance issues and relying on adrenal glands when we need energy etc Some people have switched to using sweeteners such as aspartame as a sugar replacement in their food and drink but this can have other detrimental health consequences.


So for some, it can seem like a minefield when trying to find foods without sugar. However, it can be done if you apply the following general guidelines:


Avoid adding sugar to foods e.g. teas, coffees, cereals etc. If you do find it hard to start with, consider the following alternatives: coconut sugar, raw local honey, xylitol and maple syrup. However do use sparingly.


Avoid eating cakes, sweets and biscuits. If you do love baking though, consider using ingredients such as dates, butternut squash and sweet potatoes as they provide the sweetness naturally and create good textures.


Try to make your meals from scratch using fresh ingredients instead of buying ready made or processed food.


Check labels on products you buy as you will be surprised at the amount of foods that contain sugar. Look out for any ingredient on a label ending in 'ose'. This indicates that it contains sugar i.e. sucrose, glucose, maltose, fructose etc Also check for corn and rice syrup and avoid golden syrup.


Although fruit, vegetables and grains are made up of sugar molecules, these food types do provide other beneficial nutrients and the body can generally tolerate these better than white refined sugar which has no nutritional value at all. Having said that, there is a rise in the number of people who struggle to tolerate grains, vegetable and fruit sugars and will need to avoid all or some of these in their diet.


It won't take long to feel the benefits of reducing or omitting sugar completely from your diet. You may feel more energised, more motivated, sleep may improve amongst many other things. It might be worth keeping a journal to note how you feel. This can provide useful feedback on your journey and is a good way to remind you how far you have come.


Here's a recipe for Date & Carob balls that I was given by my nutrition lecturer and it has become one of my firm favourites.


2 cups of dates (substitute with dried apricots or raisins if you wish)

2 cups of any seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame etc)

2 cups of nuts (brazil, almonds, walnuts, cashew, pecan, macadamia)

1 - 2 cups of carob powder (optional, good alternative to chocolate)

1 cup of dessicated coconut (optional)

fresh root ginger chopped

grated rind of orange or lime

1 dessert spoon coconut oil to bind it together (add a little filtered water if needs more to bind)

Mixed spice, ginger or cinnamon are nice additions


Method:

1. Whizz up all the ingredients in a blender.

2. Shape the mixture into balls.

3. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or freeze.


Top tip: Take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and shape with hands. Place ball on plate. Dip teaspoon into a pre-prepared cup of hot water before making next ball.


Hope this gives you some ideas and it would be good to hear how you get on.


Coming up next week, FAT: friend or foe!


If you would like to explore any of these things in more detail, please do contact me for a personal natural nutrition consultation.


A very Happy New Year to you all and all best wishes for a healthy 2015!


George xx


By George Rundle, Dec 19 2014 07:25PM

As the Winter Solstice approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on what this actually means and how we transition through the winter period once the excitement and ‘busy-ness’ of Christmas and New Year passes.


The Winter Solstice occurs this Sunday 21st December and marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. From this point on, days will slowly begin to get longer and nights will get progressively shorter until the Spring Equinox on March 20th 2015 when the hours of light and darkness will be of equal length.


Winter can be a challenging period for a lot of people. When the shorter, darker days arrive, the temperature starts to dip and the air turns colder. The energy changes to one of an expansive nature through the summer to an energy that turns us inward. There is a tendency for the body to contract with the colder temperatures, reflecting the yearning to turn in and hibernate, something which animals naturally do at this time. We find it more difficult to go out in the darker evenings and would rather stay warm and cosy inside. This is our body’s natural response to the universal energies and rhythms and often we don’t tune in to what the body is asking of us or we choose to ignore its messages. We can also feel less energised, more tired and a bit heavier as the opportunity to stay grounded and a bit more earthbound overwhelms us. It’s a time when coughs, colds and flu’s can proliferate and we can feel a bit ‘under the weather’.


Our emotional and mental body can also be challenged during the Winter season. Seasonal affective disorder or SAD affects many people. The decrease in light hours seems to be the cause which is no surprise, given our bodies require light energy to function. People with SAD can experience quite severe depression, extreme tiredness, have low energy, experience changes in appetite or food cravings amongst other things.


So what can we do to support, nourish and nurture our bodies so that we can transition through this period with ease, flow and appreciate the beauty in the Winter months?


Our diet, what we eat and drink, can help or hinder us. Eating homemade soups, stews and casseroles provide warmth for the body during this cold period and they also help to keep us hydrated at a time when it can become more difficult to drink water. It is important to keep a sense of flow in our bodies so that we feel like we can flow through the season, adapting to and dealing with any challenges as they arise without discomfort physically, mentally or emotionally. When our body is hydrated and all its systems are working well and in balance this process is much easier. Drinking water is therefore still important, especially since 70% of our body is made up of water, or so it should be!

Eating seasonally is another way in which we can nourish and support our bodies. Dark green leafy veg, brussel sprouts and their leafy tops, mushrooms, parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, leeks, garlic, chestnuts, winter salads and slaws, beetroots, apples, pears, dates, clementines, oranges, venison, beef, lamb, mackerel, seabass, bream, oysters, mussels, nuts, seeds etc. can provide much needed sustenance. Animal and dairy produce and many grains are acid forming in the body so to balance that with an alkaline food, ‘eat your greens’!


Meditation can also be a helpful technique reflecting the natural tendency to look within.


Epsom salts baths are a great way of warming up the body, relaxing the muscles and the mind.


And finally, be kind to yourself. Listen to and implement what your body is telling you it wants and needs. A very Happy Winter Solstice everyone!



By guest, Dec 14 2014 02:49PM

Hi everyone! I've just revamped my site and added a few new features. First of which is this new blog post. Come back regularly to get hints and tips on all things pilates and nutrition related

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