You’ve probably heard that antioxidants are really important for your health but do you know exactly what they do? There are lots of different antioxidants and some of them are known for giving fruits and vegetables their distinctive colors. For example, lycopene is found in red fruits and veggies and beta carotene is what gives carrots and other orange and yellow fruits and veggies their color.
They’re not just there to make things pretty though. The benefits of antioxidants extend to pretty much every area of your health and they can protect you against some pretty scary stuff.
Here’s what you need to know about what antioxidants can do for your body and why you need to make sure you eat lots of foods that contain them!
Fighting free radicals
One of the most important roles that antioxidants play involves free radicals. When cells use oxygen, free radicals are a natural byproduct. They may be natural but unfortunately, they can be pretty dangerous if they are enough of them in your body. They’re linked to lots of health conditions, including the likes of heart disease and cancer.
You’ll hear a lot about oxidative stress in relation to antioxidants. This is what happens when there is an imbalance between the number of free radicals that are roaming your body and the ability that your body has to cancel out their effects. Antioxidants give your body more power to affect this balance and make free radicals less damaging.
The real problems start with oxidization. This is the same process that helps cuts to heal and turns apples brown when they’re exposed to air but it’s a lot more of a problem where free radicals are concerned.
When oxidized cholesterol gets a “hit” from free radicals, it is much more likely to find its way into the walls of your arteries. From there, it sets the scene for plaques to become an issue and that raises the risk of blocked arteries and heart attacks.
Antioxidants help to give this story a happier ending as in big enough numbers, they can mean that less cholesterol is oxidized.
Cutting your cancer risk
Because free radicals are so unstable and volatile, they can be very harmful to cells and can damage cell DNA. This can encourage them to become cancerous.
Fighting free radicals can also mean that antioxidants reduce your risk of some cancers. Carotenoids in particular are a great choice and studies are continuing to find anti-cancer qualities linked to them. You’ll find these in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.
Keeping your eyes healthy
Several antioxidants are really important for keeping your eyes healthy. While they won’t help you to see better, they can play a role in protecting against macular degeneration and other conditions that can affect your vision.
Carotenoids are important here too. This includes beta carotene (which the body turns into vitamin A) and lutein. Both of these help to protect your eyes against the damaging effects of free radicals, which can otherwise be a factor in your eye health.
Studies have shown that women aged under 75 could as much as halve their risk of macular degeneration if their diet includes plenty of carotenoids, especially antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Carrots, leafy greens, kiwi and honeydew melon and peas are all great choices, along with eggs.
Keeping your skin healthy
Tart cherries are a great source of melatonin. We often associate this with sleep but it can also have antioxidant qualities that protect your skin against the effects of UV rays from the sun. If you do get sunburnt, it also helps skin to heal more quickly by triggering production of new skin cells.
Protecting against arthritis
Oranges, mangoes, peaches and watermelon are all rich in an antioxidant called beta cryptoxanthin. According to a study from the UK, this antioxidant can help to protect against arthritis and can make you up to 40% less likely to be affected by it.
What to eat to get antioxidants into your diet
Lots of fruits and veggies are packed full of antioxidants but you’ll also find them in other foods too. These are some of the foods to eat more of to reap the benefits of antioxidants:
● Red grapes
● Oranges and other citrus fruits
● Melon and watermelon
● Goji berries
● Leafy greens
● Dark chocolate
● Spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and cayenne pepper
● Herbs such as oregano, parsley, basil and thyme
Combining certain foods can make antioxidants even more powerful. Eating raspberries, pomegranates or cranberries with apples or grapes helps to make the antioxidant, quercetin, have stronger effects against cancerous cells, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
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Our bodies need plenty of water to be able to function properly, which isn’t too surprising when you consider that so much of it is made up of water. We lose water every day every time we breath, sweat, go to the bathroom and even blink. If you don’t replace what you’re losing, it can lead to dehydration.
Even being just a little bit dehydrated can make you feel tired and affect your concentration levels. You’ll probably first notice it if you get headaches or a dry mouth.
If you’re dehydrated more often than not, it can affect your health and well-being in other ways too. Here are some of the things that could happen if you don’t drink enough to maintain good health.
How to tell if you’re dehydrated
How can you spot the signs that you might be dehydrated? A few of the things that may signal this include:
Feeling dizzy or light headed
Feeling tired and fatigued
Having dark colored urine that may also have a strong smell
A dry mouth and dry lips
Not going to the bathroom much and not passing much urine when you do go
You could be more likely to be dehydrated if you have diabetes, aren’t very well, have spent a while out in the sun, got sweaty after working out or are taking diuretics that make you go to the bathroom more.
Dehydration and inflammation
Dehydration can increase the amount of inflammation in your body. As you probably know, inflammation is heavily linked to a lot of illnesses so this isn’t something you want to encourage! High blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, arthritis and even cancer are just a few of the health problems that have inflammation as a big culprit.
Dehydration and immunity
If you’re dehydrated, it’s a lot harder for your body to get rid of toxins and waste products. And if this is the case, it can affect how well your body can fight off infections and other illnesses. Higher levels of inflammation in your body can also have a negative effect on your immunity.
Experts also think that chronic dehydration can make your immune system more likely to turn in on itself and attack healthy cells as well as threats. This is a key factor in autoimmune conditions.
Dehydration and kidney health
When it’s hard to remove waste products from the body, it can result in them building up and causing uremia, an overload of toxic waste products.
Not drinking enough water can also activate a system designed to hold onto the water that is currently in your body. This tells your kidneys to produce less urine and also constricts capillaries in areas such as the brain and heart. This can cause kidney damage if it’s a chronic problem.
Dehydration and heart health
Not being properly hydrated can have an effect on your cardiovascular system too. In particular blood flow can be affected. To begin with your blood pressure is likely to drop, which is why you’re prone to feeling dizzy. As your body tries to raise it again, it can put a lot of strain on your heart.
There’s another factor too and that involves the production of a chemical that encourages the blood vessels to be more constricted. This also increases your blood pressure as your body will find it harder to pump blood. Again, your heart will be under more stress.
Dehydration and brain health
Headaches and concentration problems are some of the signs of mild dehydration but the effects on the brain can go far beyond this. Your brain needs a fair amount of water to keep it functioning at its best - even more so than the rest of your body. This is why even slight dehydration can have a big impact on your cognition and energy levels. It’s also been linked to depression.
Dehydration and digestive health
Usually, you’ll lose a decent amount of water in your stool and this helps it to be passed more easily. If you’re not very hydrated, your body will try to hang onto more water and tries to extract it water from digested food in your small intestine. The end result? Constipation is a lot more likely. Your stool will be harder and drier, which can be a lot more difficult to pass.
Dehydration and joint health
Your joints need a certain amount of lubrication to stop them rubbing against each other and not drinking enough water can upset this delicate balance. If you’re well hydrated, any cartilage that does start to wear away will be replaced by new cartilage but if you’re dehydrated, this is can take a lot longer to happen. The nutrients that you need for repair and renewal find it much harder to get to their destination and joint problems can become a problem.
So there you have it - staying well hydrated can help your immunity and digestion, and keep your heart, kidneys, joints and brain healthier. Have you had enough water today?
Smoothies and juicing have become a popular way to make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and getting the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that you need for good health. If you’ve not started getting the benefits yourself yet, it’s time to learn why smoothies and juices can help you to live a longer, healthier life and get some tips on what not to do with them to ruin the health effects.
Why Smoothies and Juices Are Healthy
Smoothies and juicing have a few plus points working in their favor and one of the biggest is the ability to pack a lot more fruit and veggies into your life. If you’re someone who could do with getting more helpings of fruit and veg every day, smoothies and juicing can be an easy way to bump up your intake and chances are, you’ll be consuming far more than you would if you ate the whole food versions. It’s also a great way to broaden your horizons with the type of vegetables you eat and get nutrients from ones you wouldn’t normally eat whole.
Vegetable based juices can be a super easy way to make sure you’re absorbing lots of the nutrients you need for good health. If you’ve not been eating great until now, your digestion may not be as efficient as it could be and can mean you don’t absorb vitamins and minerals as well.
One of the great things about smoothies in particular is the chance to use different combinations of fruit and vegetables to boost your intake. Green smoothies are a perfect example of this as they usually have a fruit in there too (often blueberries or banana). You can tailor them to include ingredients that offer more nutrition. For example, blending leafy greens, berries and avocados will give you vitamin C, vitamin E and a huge range of vitamins and minerals that you may not otherwise get from your diet.
Getting Started with Juicing and Smoothies
If you’re totally new to the idea of juicing or making smoothies, it’s often best to start small and build things up. Try juicing and creating healthy smoothies once a week to begin with and look to build up to doing it every day. It can help to only juice smaller amounts at first and drink it throughout the day rather than all at once.
This can be really important with juicing, especially if you’re trying out new foods that you didn’t eat whole in case they don’t agree with you in reasonably large amounts. Start off with fruits and vegetables that you already like to eat whole and gradually branch out into other options.
Some of the veggies that are usually easy to digest include celery and cucumber. The next step up is red and green lettuce, Romaine lettuce and spinach. From here, you can work your way towards leafy greens. These are more dense and can be a lot harder to digest so although they’re super healthy, they’re not always the best way to ease yourself into juicing in particular. If you’re not keen on the taste of juices, try adding a bit of ginger to help your taste buds get used to it.
What to Include in Your Smoothies
One drawback of juicing is the lack of fiber content. Smoothies keep the fiber content of fruit and vegetables intact as you’re blending the food as a whole but it tends to be lost when you’re just extracting the juice. This means you can’t rely on juicing to give you fiber so you’ll need to make sure you’re getting plenty from elsewhere in your diet. Smoothies are a great way to do this as you can easily add ingredients that bump up your fiber intake. You can pack in more fiber through oats, chia seeds and flax seeds.
It’s also easy to blend healthy fats and protein into smoothies too. Some fruits are a natural source of healthy fats, including avocado, or you can add chia or flax seeds. For protein, you can include Greek yogurt, nut butters, cottage cheese, hemp and pumpkin seeds, almonds and kale.
What Not to Include
Just be careful not to add in too many sugary ingredients into smoothies. This can quickly turn an otherwise healthy smoothie into a sugar bomb that spikes your blood sugar levels. Stick to a balance of fruits, veggies, protein and healthy fats, which will give you a nice balance of nutrients. Lots of fruits are naturally sweet and can satisfy cravings for something sweet without needing to add too much else. You can also keep the sugar content down by opting for more greens in your juices or smoothies.
I would love to hear from you on your thoughts on juices and smoothies.
No doubt you know that you need a wide range of vitamins and minerals in your diet but you might not be so clued up on why they’re so important and what they can do for your health. Vitamin C is an obvious one but there are lots of others that play important roles in your body and we don’t always get enough of them in our diet. Here are 6 essential vitamins and minerals that will help you to stay healthy.
If you want to keep your eyes and skin healthy, you definitely want to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A in your diet.
There are two types of vitamin A: retinoids and carotenoids. Both are important for keeping skin, eyes, cells and tissues healthy and increasing immunity. The main difference is where you get them from. Retinoids are more readily found in animal products while carotenoids are usually plant based.
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll find vitamin A in lots of orange foods, including carrots, sweet potato and cantaloupe melon. Some of the less obvious sources include kale, spinach, liver, eggs, milk, red peppers and mangoes.
Most of us will get enough vitamin A in our diet if we eat the right foods but be wary of supplementing as too much vitamin A can be dangerous, especially if you’re pregnant. Your body stores it rather than flushing out any excess and if it gets too high, it can be toxic. Stick to getting your vitamin A intake from foods and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about!
This sweet potato salad is the perfect mix of sweet and spicy:
Vitamin E is more of an antioxidant than a vitamin and can help to protect your body against the damaging effects of free radicals. Without this, oxidative stress is a problem and this has been linked to lots of health issues, including serious ones.
Almonds are a great natural source of vitamin E. You can also eat sunflower seeds, soybeans, spinach, kale, asparagus, celery, cucumber and tomato to boost your vitamin E intake.
Here’s a nice recipe for an almond and raspberry shortbread:
If you’ve been lacking in energy and feeling out of breath lately, it could be a sign that you’re not getting enough iron. Women can be particularly prone to iron deficiency anemia, thanks to the blood we lose at “that” time of the month! Iron helps hemoglobin, the pigment in red blood cells, to transport oxygen around the body.
Liver is a really good source of iron but if you don’t eat meat, you’ve still got plenty of other options. Spinach, beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds can also give you an iron boost. Bonus points if you can team these with a vitamin C rich food so that the iron is absorbed more easily.
A good example of this combination is this sweet potato curry recipe is full of iron boosting chickpeas and spinach, plus vitamin C to help with absorption:
If chronic fatigue and muscle cramps are common problems for you, it may be a sign you need to up your magnesium intake. This is a mineral that lots of people are deficient in, which is bad news given how many key roles it plays in the body. From heart health to protecting against osteoporosis, this is one mineral you really don’t want to be lacking in!
Worried you’re not getting enough magnesium? You can get more of it through bananas, dark chocolate, leafy greens and pumpkin seeds.
These raw chocolate bars are a yummy, natural way to boost your magnesium levels:
Potassium is another mineral that can cause a lot of problems if you’re not getting enough of it in your diet. It’s involved in keeping muscles and nerves healthy and is also important for your kidneys and digestive system.
Good sources of potassium include avocado, bananas, potato, sweet potato, prunes and raisins. You can also drink coconut water, which often also contains other minerals such as magnesium and zinc.
These Banana and Sweet Potato Muffins are a great way to combine two potassium rich ingredients and is totally delicious:
Chromium is a mineral that lots of people have never heard but it’s really important for making sure every cell in your body gets vital energy. If you don’t get enough chromium, you may get sugar cravings.
You don’t need to eat much different to get enough chromium as whole grains, meat, most vegetables and some herbs all contain it.
This chicken curry recipe gives you a healthy dose of meat and veggies and is super easy to make too!
Eating a balanced diet full of whole foods is definitely the way to go for getting essential vitamins and minerals into your diet. Eating the rainbow and loading up your plate with lots of different colors every day will go a long way towards making sure you don’t become deficient in key nutrients.
What you eat can affect many areas of your health from your mood to how well you sleep. As you’ll see in this article, your body needs a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep you in great physical and mental condition so it’s important to nourish it with the right foods and drinks. Here’s how your food can affect your mood, sleep, concentration and even your chances of developing depression.
How Food Affects Your Mood
If your blood sugar fluctuates too much, it can leave you feeling tired and irritable. Ideally, you want to be eating foods that keep your blood sugar stable which includes complex carbs such as brown rice, oats and whole grains. Nuts and seeds are also great for this.
Some foods can have a direct effect on your mood too. Fatty fish is packed with omega 3 fatty acids that affect the production of neurotransmitters in your brain, especially serotonin and dopamine. Both of these have a really strong link with your mood and low levels are linked to mood disorders. Fatty fish isn’t the only food that gives you an omega 3 boost; flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts also count. For dopamine, make sure you’re getting plenty of poultry, fish, eggs and leafy greens in your diet.
Protein is another nutrient that can affect your mood. A lot of foods with protein contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help your body to produce more serotonin and dopamine. Chicken and turkey are good sources but if you’re a vegetarian, you can eat beans, lentils and quinoa to reap the benefits.
What you’re not eating can also be important. According to studies, not getting enough folate or B vitamins in general can make you more prone to depression and have a negative impact on your sleep and energy levels. Greens are a great source of folate so be sure to include plenty of leafy greens, broccoli and peas if you’re struggling with low mood. Low selenium levels are also linked to fatigue, anxiety and even depression. Snack on walnuts or a handful of Brazil nuts to get your selenium levels up.
Depression may be linked to chemical imbalances in the brain but some nutrients are thought to make this more likely, especially if you’re deficient in them. For example, low levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher risk of depression and experts believe that getting enough vitamin D can be crucial for a healthy mind. Natural sunlight is the best option but you can also get vitamin D from your diet through fatty fish, eggs and liver. This is the better option when the sun isn’t out in colder climates.
How Food Affects Sleep
You might not realize it but what you eat can have a big impact on how well you sleep. Some foods are known to encourage sleep because of the nutrients they contain and anything containing magnesium is a good bet, according to studies. Need a magnesium boost? Go for leafy greens (especially spinach), almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and a high quality dark chocolate.
Another important nutrient is vitamin B6, which your body uses to make both melatonin and serotonin. If you’re not aware of melatonin and its role in the body, it’s known as the “sleep hormone”. This gives you an indication of how important it is for sleep! Our melatonin levels can be disrupted by “blue light” from screens and devices and as low levels of melatonin can make it hard to sleep well, it’s definitely something you want to be producing a decent amount of.
When it comes to melatonin, tryptophan helps here too (not just with mood!) as it helps your body to make more melatonin. Chicken, turkey, milk, nuts and seeds all contain tryptophan and can help more melatonin be produced. You can go a step further than this though as walnuts actually contain melatonin, according to a study from the University of Texas.
How Food Affects Concentration
If you find yourself struggling with concentration and focus, it’s time to look at your diet and whether you’re eating foods that are known to help.
A 2013 study found that people who were drinking 2 cups of cacao every day for a month were able to improve blood flow to their brains, which led to better results in memory tests. If you’d rather not drink a cup of cacao, a square of high quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao) can have a similar effect as long as there aren’t high sugars or other additives.
In a 2012 report, drinking blueberry juice daily for two months also led to better performance on memory and learning tests. This means that snacking on blueberries can be perfect if you need a focus boost!
And of course, there’s always water! Dehydration can cause tiredness and concentration problems, even if you’re only slightly dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water could be all you need to get more focused, if dehydration is the problem.
Food wise, the omega 3 fatty acids in salmon can reduce cognitive decline and keep your brain sharp and focused. Another good reason to eat fatty fish a couple of times per week!
Now that you know how food impacts your mood, what did you notice you might need to add to your diet this week to counteract your nutritional imbalance?
As a whole, we consume massive amounts of sugar in our diet each day even though it has been linked to a slew of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer just to name a few.
Sugar is a carb that is naturally found in many foods, including lactose (in milk) and fructose (in fruit). These aren’t necessarily the big problem for your health; it’s the processed and added sugars that pose the biggest dangers and it’s not as easy as you may think to avoid them.
Sugar is in so many foods - much more than you may realize. Soda and other soft drinks are the obvious culprits, with just one can of soda having as much as 7 teaspoons of sugar - but that’s not all you need to watch out for.
Low fat “diet” meals often contain plenty of sugar to make up for the lower fat content and to stop it tasting bland. Processed foods in general have added sugar, including canned soups and ready-made sauces. You may not realize, but even bread can be a victim of sugar! This is why checking your food labels is key to ensure your diet isn’t falling victim to sugar.
What Does Sugar Do to Your Health?
Too much sugar essentially spikes your blood sugar levels and then leads to a big dip. You might get a sugar high in the short term but it’ll be followed by a crash that affects your mood and makes you crave more sugar. This vicious cycle is one of the main reasons why sugar is so heavily linked to obesity as it encourages you to keep eating more sugar.
The health problems associated with sugar can go far beyond this though. One of the main concerns is focused on high fructose corn syrup. Fructose in fruits isn’t all that bad and this can fool you into thinking that high fructose corn syrup can’t be that dangerous either. In reality, it’s one of the worst types of sugar you can consume. It’s a major ingredient in a lot of foods these days as it’s cheap to produce, so it’s definitely one to watch out and stay away from as much as you can.
Why is it a problem? Our ancestors didn’t eat fructose other than the amount that was naturally included in fruit and some vegetables. Your liver can metabolize fructose to a large extent but when it reaches the tipping point, it starts turning it into fat instead and this is where the health problems begin. In the modern world, a lot of us eat more fructose than the body can handle.
Eating too much fructose can make your liver inflamed and start building up fat. It also encourages uric acid to be produced, which raises your blood pressure and even lead to gout. More worryingly, it also affects blood lipids and cholesterol levels, which can lead to cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes.
Even fruit juice can contribute to this as it is high in fructose. According to studies, its fructose content can encourage the body to store abdominal fat, especially the type that surrounds organs.
You’re better off choosing whole fruits (rather than fruit juices) or juice your own fruits as the fructose in these is naturally occurring and in no way a danger to your health. You’ll also get more fiber from whole fruits and you’d have to eat an unrealistic amount for their fructose content to become a cause for concern.
TIP: Mix natural sugars with protein to balance your blood sugar levels and to stop the sugar being absorbed into your bloodstream as quickly. For example, team a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts or some yogurt. This can also help to curb cravings too.
What to Look For
Sugar often won’t be included on the ingredients as sugar. Food manufacturing companies are getting crafty when it comes to labelling their products. Sugar can be labelled as a long list of other names and it can be hard to really understand what you’re eating. Anything ending in “ose” is an obvious giveaway, including glucose, sucrose (better known as table sugar), fructose and maltose.
Less obvious signs that something contains sugar are syrups such as rice syrup and corn syrup. And then there’s the big one - high fructose corn syrup.
“Sugar free” foods generally contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame. Studies have suggested that these don’t do a lot to satisfy sugar cravings and may actually make you overeat. There are also concerns that they may pave the way for health problems.
If these type of ingredients are high up on the list, meaning they are in the first few ingredients listed, then you know that there’s a good amount of sugar hiding in the food!
Today, go through your pantry and check your labels. What has hidden sugar in it?
If you notice your weight starting to creep up once you hit 30, your lifestyle could be having more effect than you think. We all know the obvious triggers such as eating too much and not doing much exercise but there are some sneakier factors that can play a big part in weight gain. Here are some of the most common ones to avoid so that you can keep your tummy trim and within a healthy weight range.
Too Much Stress
Struggling to keep your stress levels under control? There’s a good chance that it’s affecting your weight - especially for women. Your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, during stressful periods and this can send your blood sugar levels haywire. According to studies, high cortisol production leaves you craving sweet foods and means you’ll probably eat more calories.
Cortisol also changes how your body uses glucose, makes it harder to burn fat and makes it easier to store fat. Women are more likely to store fat on their stomach but this can also be true for men. Abdominal fat has been linked to health issues so it’s definitely something you want to keep to a minimum!
Falling Into Emotional Eating Habits
Not taking care of your well-being can mean that you eat in line with your emotions rather than when you’re genuinely hungry. Feeling sad, stressed, lonely, bored or disappointed can lead you to eat to fill an emotional void and crave particular foods (usually the unhealthy kind!).
You might feel a little bit better in the immediate aftermath but in the longer term, this type of emotional eating can have a big effect on your weight. Most of the time, you won’t get a signal to say that you’re full and it’s all too easy to find that you’ve eaten a lot more than you planned in a very short space of time. And you probably won’t feel any better afterwards. In fact, you may well feel a whole lot worse as it’s common for emotional eating to make you feel guilty and ashamed of your food choices.
Not Sleeping Well
Poor sleep quality makes you more likely to eat more calories and gain weight. This is because it disrupts hormones that control your appetite. Lack of sleep increases production of ghrelin and decreases leptin levels, which means it’s harder to manage your appetite.
Sleeping well is one of the underrated ways to keep your weight in check as your levels of these hormones will be a lot more balanced.
Not Building Muscle Mass
If you spend a lot of time sitting down and aren’t very active, you probably don’t have much muscle mass. This might not seem like a big deal but it’s a common weight gain trigger.
Lean muscle boosts your metabolism and makes it that little bit easier to burn calories. If you don’t have much lean muscle, your metabolism doesn’t get this benefit and it’s harder to burn calories.
One of the best ways to build more muscle mass is through strength training. Don’t worry- you won’t end up looking like a bodybuilder! The idea of strength training is to build a toned body with minimal body fat rather than the bulky look we often associate with weights.
Not Eating Enough
Being on a diet more often than not means you’re definitely going to lose weight, right? Not always! Restricting your calorie intake too much slows down your metabolism and encourages the body to go into “starvation mode” so that it can run on fewer calories. This also means you burn fewer calories too as your body uses most of your intake to survive.
These kind of diets are very hard to stick to in the long term. Chances are, you’ll go back to a less restrictive way of eating but your body can still be more likely to store fat. This is why many people find that they gain weight after coming off a low calorie diet.
Eating “Low Fat” Foods
Just because a food claims to be “low fat” doesn’t always mean that it’s going to help you to stay in shape. A lot of supposedly “low fat” options are often high in sugar and salt to make them more tasty and can also contain a lot of calories. Eat too many of these “low fat” foods and you’re probably going to put weight on!
Tips for Avoiding These Triggers
So, what can you do to avoid these common triggers and get your body in the best shape?
-Below I go into why getting enough sleep is so crucial for your health and wellbeing, and why diet alone can’t undo the effects of not sleeping well.
Sleep Duration Versus Sleep Quality
We’re always being told how many hours we should be sleeping each night but is it definitely enough even if we can manage to achieve it?
Sleep quality refers to how well we sleep and is a completely different than how long we sleep. It’s pretty easy to tell how long you sleep but the quality of it is a bit harder to determine.
Poor sleep quality means that you’re not sleeping in line with your circadian rhythm or going through all of the important sleep phases (particularly with REM sleep).
Some of the signs that your sleep quality isn’t as good as it could be include:
Sleep and Health
What exactly does your body experience when you don’t get enough sleep? Pretty much everything is affected but here are some of the more serious effects that poor
sleep patterns can have on your health:
Sleep and Cognition
You’ve no doubt heard that eating the right foods can boost your brain health but it’s not just diet that can affect your memory and concentration.
Sleep is an important factor too, and lack of sleep has been shown to impair them. In fact, one study has suggested that even moderate sleep issues can be as damaging as alcohol in affecting performance!
The deeper stages of sleep are particularly vital when it comes to clear thinking, focus, memory and learning. This is when your brain does a lot of its mental ‘sorting’, such as filtering out information that isn’t really needed right now. This adds up to better cognition and performance.
Sleep and Weight Gain
If you don’t sleep well, it can be a lot harder to maintain a healthy weight. The main problem? It sends your metabolism a little bit crazy and can ruin your good intentions for eating well.
Lack of sleep has a big effect on hormones that are linked to appetite - namely leptin and ghrelin. Leptin helps to keep your appetite in check while ghrelin does the opposite.
Ideally, you want to have more leptin and less ghrelin but not getting enough sleep throws this balance out and effectively switches them around. This means you’re a lot more likely to overeat, even when you’re technically full. And you’ll find it harder to shift stubborn fat on your stomach, as sleep deprivation encourages fat to build up in this area in particular.
Improving Your Sleep Quality
Some of the things you can do to try to get better quality sleep each night include:
If you haven’t been seeing sleep as a key part of your wellness routine, it’s definitely time to change that! How well do you sleep?
Comment below I’d love to know more about your situation.