Summer Travel Tips: How to Help Your Digestion

summer travel tips digestion

Any situation that is a break from the norm can throw out your digestion and vacations are no exception! Travelling can upset the delicate balance in your gut before you even get to your destination. And while you’re there, eating different foods and over indulging can put extra stress on your digestive system. Here are some tips for helping your digestive system while you’re away.

Eat Mindfully

Digestion starts from the moment you put food in your mouth and this means that how and why you eat can be really important. Eating mindfully slows down your eating and gives your body more of an opportunity to digest your food. Even if you tend to eat mindfully at home, this can be pushed aside when you’re travelling.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying well hydrated helps to keep your bowels moving. Bottled water is often the best choice as local tap water isn’t always safe to drink. Go for still water over sparkling if you’re prone to bloating and gas.

Herbal teas can also promote good digestion, especially ginger and peppermint. Bonus points if you can get hold of fresh ingredients and make your own teas.

Get Plenty of Fibre

A change of environment can often affect your bowel habits – and not always for the better! If your digestive system is out of balance, you may find that constipation is a bigger problem than normal, especially if you’re eating different foods while you’re away. Eating plenty of fiber will help to keep you regular and make constipation less likely. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, whole grains, seeds and legumes.

Eat Fermented Foods

Kefir and sauerkraut are just two examples of fermented foods that can improve your gut health. They promote the “good” bacteria and help it to thrive so your gut environment is balanced. Probiotics are another smart move if your gut could do with some healing, whether it’s through “live” yoghurt or supplements.

Preventing Diarrhoea

Some of the common culprits for getting diarrhoea and other digestive troubles while you’re on holiday include:

– Staying away from unpasteurised foods and drinks

– Not eating raw fruits or vegetables unless their skin can be peeled

– Using bottled water to drink and clean your teeth

– Not having ice in your drinks if you can’t be sure that it was made from bottled water (rather than tap water)

– Not eating too many foods that are greasy or fatty or going overboard with lots of fibre (which can lead to diarrhoea and gas if you)

– Eat fairly small meals and avoid eating too close to bedtime, especially if you’re prone to heartburn

 

 

How to Make Sure Your Vegan Diet Is As Healthy As You Think

A vegan diet can be great for your health and wellbeing if it’s done in the right way.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to fall into certain traps that make it a lot less healthy than you might think.

Here are some tips to make sure that following a vegan diet really does make you healthier!

The Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Some of the many health benefits that a vegan diet can encourage include:

  • Having more energy

  • Healthier skin, hair and nails

  • Better cardiovascular health including lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

  • Eating less saturated fat (due to the lack of meat and dairy)

  • Lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

  • Eating more fiber, which is great for better digestive health

  • Eating good sources of nutrients that are often lacking in non vegan diets including iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and plenty of antioxidants

  • Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

  • Lower risk of some cancers, including breast,prostate and colon cancers

  • Lower risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration as you get older

  • Lower risk of developing osteoporosis

Potential Pitfalls of a Vegan Diet

There are a few things that can go wrong with a vegan diet so it’s important not to make these kind of mistakes when you go vegan:

Too much fat: Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet won’t lower your fat intake (and bring cardiovascular benefits) if you replace them with lots of high fat alternatives such as nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil and nut milks. These are all great in moderation but they add up to a lot of fat if they’re making up a large part of your diet. Some people find that they actually eat more fat on this type of vegan diet than when they were eating meat and dairy so it’s definitely something to keep a check on.

Not getting a balanced diet: If you’re not eating milk and dairy, it’s really important to make sure that you’re getting vital nutrients such as iron and calcium from plant based sources instead. This can protect against deficiencies and makes sure that your vegan diet is really having the benefits you think. Vitamin B12 is another area to focus on as it’s mostly found in animal sources and can be very lacking in a vegan diet. You may want to look at foods that are fortified with B12 (such as breakfast cereals) to make sure that you get enough of it.

Assuming that all ‘vegan’ foods are healthy: There are lots of vegan options on the market now and unfortunately not all of them are all that healthy. Sticking to unprocessed, wholesome food will help you to get balanced nutrition and will bring a lot more of the health benefits associated with a truly vegan diet.

Making Sure Your Vegan Diet is Really Healthy

How can you avoid making some of these common mistakes? These tips should help you to get the biggest benefits from a vegan diet!

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

You can’t go too far wrong if fruit and vegetables makes up a big percentage of your vegan diet!

Aim for up to 75% and pad this out with things like legumes (such as beans and pulses), potato, whole grains and some healthy fats.

Ideally, healthy fats should be up to 10% of your vegan diet, which works out at around a handful of nuts or a third of an avocado.

Vegan Iron Sources

Non vegans can get iron from their meat intake but for vegans, it’s really important to eat the right foods to avoid iron deficiency anemia – especially for women.

Some good vegan sources of iron include:

  • Dried apricots

  • Raisins

  • Prunes

  • Blackstrap molasses

  • Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, swiss chard and cooked green beets

  • Spirulina

  • Tofu

  • Quinoa

  • Kidney beans

  • Cashew nuts

  • Almonds

  • Sesame seeds

Vegan Calcium Sources

Calcium can come from some surprising sources in a vegan diet so it’s not too difficult to get enough of this nutrient. For example, dark leafy greens are a good source of calcium, especially kale and broccoli.

Other options include:

  • Dried apricots

  • Blackberries

  • Dates

  • Figs

  • Prunes

  • Oranges

  • Orange juice

  • Sesame seeds

  • Pulses

Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12

Vegans can easily become deficient in vitamin B12 as it’s largely found in animal sources and isn’t readily available in a plant based diet.

Vitamin B12 is added to quite a few fortified foods these days, including cereals, vegan spreads and some non dairy milks such as soy milk.

Vegan Sources of Vitamin D

A vegan diet can be deficient in vitamin D, especially if you aren’t getting much of this nutrient from exposure to sunlight.

This is another area where fortified vegan products are a good idea as vitamin D often comes from animal sources such as dairy.

Vegan sources of vitamin D can include fortified vegan spreads, fortified cereals and even soy drinks.

Vegan Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids can help to keep your heart healthy and is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

The jury is still out on whether omega-3 fatty acids from plant based sources offer the same cardiovascular benefits as those from fatty fish but as part of a healthy diet, they can still play a key role when it comes to heart health.

Vegan sources include:

  • Walnuts

  • Soya based foods such as tofu

  • Flaxseed and rapeseed oil (in small quantities)

A vegan diet can be incredibly healthy and protect against a number of diseases and conditions but it does require a bit of planning to make sure that you don’t become deficient in key nutrients. Once you get it right, there are so many benefits to a vegan diet!

 

5 Reasons to Love Chia Seeds

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Chia seeds may be tiny but they really make a punch when it comes to their health benefits!

Chia seeds were highly valued by the Aztecs and the Mayans, mostly because of the energy boost they provided. Even their name bears testament to this as “chia” means “strength” in ancient Mayan.

This is just one of the reasons why they’re now considered a health superfood, and here are 5 more great health benefits of chia seeds:

They’re Full of Nutrients

Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, despite their tiny size. A 28g serving gives you over 10g of fibre, 4g of protein, 18% of your RDA of calcium, 30% of your RDA of manganese and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.

All of this in what basically amounts to a couple of tablespoons!

They’re Packed With Antioxidants

Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, which help to protect cells against the damage caused by free radicals.

Free radicals are linked to a whole range of diseases and conditions, including cancer.

They’re Great for Bone Health

Chia seeds are highly nutritious and this means that they contain a lot of key minerals – including calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.

These are all vital for keeping your bones healthy.

Just a couple of teaspoons of chia seeds gives you almost 20% of your recommended calcium intake, and this is higher than dairy products.

If you don’t eat dairy, chia seeds can be an easy way to make sure that you’re getting calcium in your diet.

They’re Great for Heart Health

Studies have shown that chia seeds have great potential for reducing blood pressure, keeping cholesterol in check and fighting inflammation.

All of this makes these little seeds a great choice for improving your heart health.

As an added bonus, eating chia seeds can also reduce oxidative stress. This makes you less likely to develop atherosclerosis, a condition in which the blood vessels stiffen and over time, the artery walls harden. It affects how well blood can flow around the body and can be a big factor in heart attacks, strokes and even organ failure that happens out of the blue.

They Can Fight Some Cancers

Chia seeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids, especially a type called Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA).

One study in particular has suggested that ALA has the ability to fight breast cancer and cervical cancer and stop these cells from growing further. This was highlighted by a 2013 study published in the Journal of Molecular Biochemistry.

The really significant thing here is that ALA seems to kill cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

How to Use Chia Seeds

how to use chia seeds

Chia seeds are incredibly versatile and can be added to smoothies, soups and porridge, sprinkled over salads or used in baking.

They don’t have a strong taste and are actually quite bland in this respect. This makes them perfect for adding to lots of different things!

5 Foods to Make You Feel Happier

5 Foods To Make You Feel Happier

If you’re struggling with low mood and feeling unhappy, it might be time to look at your diet.

What you eat can have a big impact on your mood, in much the same way that it affects your physical health.

Some foods can have a negative effect on your mood and wellbeing in general but on the plus side, there are also lots of foods that are known to boost mood and help you to feel that little bit better about life.

Here are 5 foods that can give you a natural mood boost:

Dark Leafy Greens

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Dark leafy greens in general are a great way to boost your folate levels. One study in particular has shown a strong link between depression and low folate levels so this is a really important nutrient when it comes to mental wellbeing.

Some of the dark leafy greens you can add into your diet include kale, broccoli, swiss chard and cabbage (the dark green kind).

Lentils

lentils can boost your mood and protect against depression

Lentils are another good source of folate and one cup can give you up to 90% of your recommended daily allowance of folic acid in particular.

Lentils have another important role to play for boosting your mood as they contain L-tyrosine, an amino acid that is used by the brain to make neurotransmitters (including dopamine). Studies have shown some promising results in using L-tyrosine to reduce depression.

Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds contain zinc and are a natural mood booster

Zinc is one of the nutrients that can be lacking in many people’s diets and a deficiency can make you more likely to experience low moods and even major depression.

Pumpkin seeds have another secret weapon for mood though. They also contain L-trytophan, which is a natural mood booster and can help with serotonin synthesis.

Get snacking on handfuls of pumpkin seeds to combat low mood!

Eggs

eggs help the body to produce serotonin and boost mood

Eggs are a great source of nutrition in general but they’re the perfect choice for boosting your mood too.

Amongst other things, they contain essential fatty acids that help your body to produce more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is closely linked to mood.

If you have low serotonin levels, you’re more likely to suffer from anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate with cocoa can make you feel calmer

If you always want to reach for some chocolate when you’re feeling down, here’s some good news! One study showed that dark chocolate can help you to feel calmer and more contented.

There is a catch though – to get these benefits you need to be eating dark chocolate that contains a good amount of cocoa.

The flavanoids in cacao are the key factor and these aren’t present in chocolate that doesn’t have much (or any) cocoa.

Unfortunately this means that milk and white chocolate won’t boost your mood in the same way!

If you’re not already eating these kind of foods on a regular basis, try adding them into your diet and see if they can help you to feel a bit happier!

 

How to Include Mindfulness in Your Day

How to Get Started with Mindfulness

When life gets busy or stressful, it can be easy to get caught up in your thoughts and feelings.

This is where mindfulness can really come into its own. It’s all about being “in the moment” and taking stock of how this makes you feel so that you can take greater control over your mental health and well-being.

How Can Mindfulness Help You?

From a mental health perspective, mindfulness can help you to step back from your thoughts as you become more aware of them. You might be able to see patterns in your thought processes that you weren’t in a position to recognise before ,which you can then work on retraining into more helpful thought patterns.

Another benefit of mindfulness is the opportunity to take back some control over your thought processes. By acknowledging your thoughts but not dwelling on them, you’re taking away most of their power over you. Instead of being  overwhelming, they become easier to deal with.

Tips for Practicing Mindfulness

You don’t need to find a big window in your diary to start including mindfulness in your day-to-day life. It’s something that you can focus on whenever you have some free time, even if this is just for a few minutes at a time.

It can be hard to get to grips with mindfulness at first and you may find yourself feeling discouraged by the thoughts and worries that are likely to come into your mind when you start to focus on the world around you.

The trick is to let them flow over you, rather than trying to make them go out of your mind. Bring yourself “back” when your mind starts to wander.

Examples of Mindfulness in Action

Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated and it’s surprisingly easy to find opportunities to do so. Here are a few easy ways to introduce it into your day:

Be aware of your breathing: When you’re feeling stressed, focusing on your breathing can help to calm you down. It’s also a way to practice mindfulness and can be done pretty much anywhere. For the next few breaths, concentrate on how you feel as you breathe in and out deeply. You may find that you need to alter your breathing pattern as you pay close attention to it and this gives you more opportunity to note the sensations.

Relax your facial muscles: Stress and tension can lead to the muscles in your face becoming tight. Taking a few minutes to relax your forehead and jaw can help to ward off stress induced pain (especially headaches) and can even encourage you to feel calmer as you release the tension.

Listening to music: Mindfulness can also be as simple as listening to music and immersing yourself in the tempo. Music with a slow beat is generally recommended as it is more relaxing. As you listen, think about the sound of the music and how it makes you feel.

Want to learn more about mindfulness? There are various courses you can take (both online and in person) that will teach a broad range of mindfulness skills in more depth.

 

What to Know About …. Flaxseed

What's the Deal With Flaxseed_You’ve probably noticed that flaxseed has become a really trendy health food lately. These seeds are now often added to things like bread, crackers and cakes but how does they benefit your health? Here’s what you need to know about flaxseed for good health!

A Great Source of Vitamins and Minerals

Flaxseed contains a number of nutrients that are important for health, including vitamin B1, copper, magnesium and phosphorous.

An Alternative to Gluten

If you’re coeliac or can’t tolerate gluten, flaxseed is an ideal substitute as it’s gluten free.

Heart Healthy

Flaxseed is a great source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha linolenic acid (ALA). In fact, it’s second only to chia seeds for this.

Our bodies don’t create this essential fatty acid so we need to get it from our food instead.

Flaxseed oil is the best source of ALA but you can get a good amount from ground flax too.

Flax also contains plant compounds known as lignans. These are linked to cardiovascular health and can lower your blood pressure and improve the condition of your arteries.

Flax is high in fibre too, which may go a long way in explaining its positive effects on cholesterol.

Good for Digestive Health

The fibre content in flaxseed also helps to improve digestive health. You’re unlikely to be constipated if you’re eat flax on a regular basis!

Healthy Skin and Hair

Essential fatty acids are also good for helping your skin and hair to stay in tip-top condition.

If your skin and hair is currently dry and dull, upping your intake of fatty acids can be a game changer. Flax is a great source of these and the B vitamins.

Fighting Cancer

Studies on animals have shown that flaxseed could have a big role to play in the fight against cancer.

A 2010 study found that hens who were fed a diet containing flaxseed had big decreases in the size of late stage ovarian tumours.

The results were so impressive that the study’s researchers believe flaxseed could be used as a treatment for ovarian cancer in the future. There’s still a long way to go before that could become a reality but it shows the potential power that flax can have on our health.

As you can see, these seeds may be small in size but they pack a real punch from both a nutrition and a health perspective!

The Health Benefits of Matcha Tea

the-amazing-health-benefits-of-matcha-teaMost of us know about the health benefits of drinking green tea but in recent years, this has been somewhat overshadowed by the growing popularity of Matcha, a type of green tea that has been popular in the Far East for a long time (and for good reason!).

If you’re not yet familiar with Matcha, you’re probably wondering how it differs from ‘normal’ green tea, and whether it has superior health benefits?

Here’s what you need to know about Matcha tea!

Where Matcha Comes From

Matcha green tea is made from leaves picked from the Camella sinensis plant, which is also where traditional green tea comes from.

The main difference between them is in the growing and production processes.

With Matcha, the leaves of the plant are shaded from the sun in the weeks leading up to harvesting so that their chlorophyll levels can go up and this is what gives Matcha tea its vivid green colour.  It also helps to retain the key health benefits of Matcha tea.

The stems and veins are then removed from the leaves, which are then stone ground into a very fine powder. In fact, “Matcha” literally means “powdered tea”.

It’s Full of Antioxidants

Matcha tea is packed full of antioxidants … much more than most other foods or drinks!

In particular, it contains organic compounds called catechins. These are the most powerful antioxidants. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) is known for having the potential to fight cancer and can also improve heart health and reduce inflammation. And it just happens to be a lot more abundant in Matcha green tea than even traditional green tea – 137 times more, to be precise!

It’s So Healthy

As if being full of antioxidants isn’t enough, the catechins also have antibiotic effects. Plus, drinking a bowl of Matcha green tea gives you a good dose of vital vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and potassium.

It’s Detoxifying

Matcha has strong detoxification properties and can even help the body to get rid of heavy metals and chemical toxins.

It Protects Your Heart

The antioxidants in Matcha green tea have the ability to improve heart health. This includes reducing LDL cholesterol , which can be a major factor in developing heart disease.

It Gives You More Energy

Green tea provides a caffeine hit but Matcha green tea goes a step further and offers an energy boost that can last for hours.

It can also counteract the negative effects that you normally get from caffeine such as feeling jittery and high blood pressure. It’s basically a much more natural way to feel more energetic without any of the downsides associated with a more traditional caffeine rush.

It Can Improve Your Memory

The amino acid, L-Theanine, is found in Matcha green tea and this encourages the production of dopamine and serotonin. Both of these chemicals help to improve your memory and concentration, and can also be great for boosting your mood too. Studies have suggested that it can even potentially protect against Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.

It Burns Fat

Matcha green tea can speed up your metabolism and encourage your body to burn fat up to four times faster.

How Much to Drink

Matcha green tea definitely has some great benefits for health but there is a limit on how much you should look to drink per day.

It’s generally recommended not to drink more than 1-2 cups per day. This is largely because you also consume the leaves (unlike with traditional green tea) and this can mean that you’re exposed to things like lead and flouride through the soil they were grown in.

Due to the amount of caffeine, it can also be a bad idea to drink Matcha green tea on an empty stomach. This can make you more likely to get associated side effects such as headaches, insomnia, indigestion and diarrhoea.