Food for thought

Scientists are reporting that high fat food makes you less intelligent.Fat does not mean stupid

But I’m not sure the findings (tests on rats) tell us anything we didn’t already know.  Feed seven people burgers and chips for a week and see if they feel like jogging round a maze or doing mental arithmetic… We all feel sluggish after eating lots of rich food, no news there. And just think of all the extra work your liver has to do getting nutrients out of that dodgy food! You’re bound to feel less energetic.

So what food make us smarter?

Thankfully, for those of us who’ve already had too many chips, it doesn’t take too much thinking about… The kind of foods you need are organic (preferably raw) fruit and veg, proteins, healthy oils (did you know the brain is about 60% fat?), a little salt and lots of water. Just lots of the good stuff.

One brain website gave a brilliant summary, so I copied it:

Essentially, fats build your brain, and proteins unite it. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, and micronutrients defend it.

Iron

Let’s start with vegetables. It’s not just the vitamins, eating dark leafy vegetables stop you being iron deficient. Iron aids your learning, memory and attention.

Protein

Avocados are great, we all know that, they contain lots of protein. Proteins = amino acids = neurotransmitters. They are also a good source of Omega 3 and 6 which enable brain growth.

Spinach, nuts and seeds are good sources of protein too, as are meat and dairy products of course. Eggs also carry choline, a type of B vitamin which keeps neurotransmitters healthy.

Nuts contain plenty of vitamin E (as well as protein and omega oils), which keeps your brains cells functioning. Seeds contain magnesium which supplies power for the brain.

Omega oils

The omega 3 oil found in fish oils like salmon will aid cognition and alertness, it reduces the risk of dementia, increases your memory and mood. Tuna contains lots of vitamin B which is good for calming your mood generally.

Fibre

Oats also have some Omega 3 but more importantly the fibre from oats helps your cardiovascular system which in turn benefits your brain. Beans are full of fibre too and, like oats, are good at slowly releasing energy for your brain. Another food which is good at releasing fibre to your body is, wait for it… coffee. Coffee contains more soluble fibre than orange juice.

Carbs

In the main carbohydrates, like brown rice, are excellent at providing glucose energy for your brain. Thinking takes a lot of energy.

Antioxidants

The antioxidants in blueberries help reduce stress and are thought to improve learning skills. Pomegranates do the same kind of job and supply a good amount of fibre too. Consider also pine bark, ginkgo and tumeric for foods which fight free radicals.

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Joint pain – 80% is from straight forward wear and tear

I have had recent trouble with my knee. Compounded I think, by trying to up the distance I can run without dying – I can only manage a mile (don’t laugh!). With my increased determination to break my 10 minute mile  my knee became more ‘squeaky’ and eventually painful. So, to the research books!

Certain parts of our bodies wear out before others, and one of the most common parts of our bodies for wear and tear is our joint linings. Normally the linings replace themselves, but excess wear and tear  means that our bodies  cannot keep up the replenishment process fast enough.

My research took me to a joint nutrient, Glucosamine. Glucosamine is made in our bodies from our nutrient intake, the glucosamine is then itself made into glycosaminoglycans. These then bond together with proteins to make collagen and you guessed it, the collagen makes the joint lining. So by taking additional  glucosamine as a supplement we give our body the extra materials it needs to lay the foundations for healthy and strong joint tissue. As we age our body is not able to make as much as they once did, so we can give it a little help by taking more.

This type of wear and tear problem is at the root of 80% of joint problems, so as a prevention or a cure, Glucosamine seems worth a try.

For my knee I tried the Optima ActivJuice, Juice for joints.  By the end of my first bottle my pain has totally disappeared. I have continued to take it and am part way through my second bottle for good measure. It makes a really refreshing orange drink too.

Vaginal dryness during the menopause

Vaginal dryness is one of the most common symptoms of the menopause. As it is more than a little embarrassing we are not so willing to talk about it as we are our hot flushes.

Menopause vaginal dryness mainly affects women between 40-65 and as many as 80% of us women entering the menopause are affected by it. Of those 80%, half of us continue to experience vaginal dryness well after all other menopause symptoms have finished.

What’s happening down there?

The mucus membranes of the vagina normally produce a fluid of natural lubricant that keeps the vagina moist, elastic and strong. The Estrogen in our bodies is responsible for producting this lubricant which doubles as an anti bacterial and anti fungal protection too. So, during the menopause when the estrogen ceases it’s duties, all of this function of our bodies ceases too. So we becoem dryer, our tissues lose elasticity and strength, the membranes become thinner, more fragile and sensitive. The result is a proneness to Thrush, itching or other infections, sore or painful intercourse maybe with some bleeding as the membranes are so fragile, and a host of other irritations.

What can I do about it?
HRT will help maintain the function of estrogen in our bodies, or if you want to avoid HRT in general and more local estrogen application is available. There are many personal lubricants on the market specifically for use during sex.  There are also a variety of vaginal moisturisers which not only help with painful intercourse but also alleiviate some itching and general irritation.

Topical applications can be messy and take away the spontaneity in our life.  So is there an alternative?

Omega 7 , Seabuckthorn oil is from the sea-buckthorn berry, a very nutritious berry which gives us both a creamy substance, good for skin, which is used for cosmetics and a nutritious oil, which is 12 times richer in vitamin C than oranges and also contains carotenoids, vitamin E, amino acids, dietary minerals and polyphenolic acids.

As Sea buckthorn oil has not had clinical trials in this area I cannot say more about it, but here is what Lynn Carr, 57 has to say about her experiences:

‘The problems started when I came off HRT. Intimate dryness was just one of the problems I experienced; sex became very painful and I would experience bleeding afterwards.  Our sex life all but fizzled out.’

Lynn was looking for a natural product and came across Maryon Stewart, the founds or the Natural Health Advisory Service (NAHS) and a renowned natural menopause expert.  ‘Mayon was great, ‘ says Lynn, ‘she gave me advice on diet, exercise and natural supplements I should be taking’.  Maryon recommended that Lynn take Omega 7.  ‘ A lot of women I work with are very happy with the results they get from Omega 7, and they find they are back on track in no time.  It is much easier to swallow a capsule than mess around with lubricants, it really allows for spontaneity in your love life, explains Maryon.

Lynn started taking two capsules, twice a day, for the first two months, and one capsule, twice per day, after that. ‘Within a month I had already begun to notice a difference and after three months, our sex life was back to normal.  An extra bonus was that all my friends started commenting on how good my skin and hair were looking.  I have been taking Omega 7 for 3 years now and I recommend it to all my friends.  It shouldn’t just be my secret!’

Omega 7, sea-buckthorn oil, is available as 60 or 150 caps

Yogurt fruit scones

Its strawberry time, as the weather is unpredictable you may find yourself indoors to eat your strawberries rather than out picnicking.  Why not make the use of those indoor moments and knock up some scones.  This recipe from Tim’s Dairy makes rather gorgeous scones and uses their low fat (less than 1%) natural yogurt, which is really creamy and mild.    It does make really light scones which can then be served with some of your own home made strawberry jam.  I’m not joking, it can be so quick to make strawberry jam with hardly any sugar and a little pectin and lemon juice.  It’s so gorgeous you can eat it by the spoonful.  I’ll post a recipe another time, but now for the scones.

* 250g self-raising flour or gluten free self raising flour
* Pinch of salt
* 75g butter or a non dairy spread
* 75g caster sugar
* 150g sultanas or raisins
* 3 tablespoons Tims Dairy low fat natural yogurt or for dairy free use soya yogurt

Set the oven to 200C / 400F or gas mark 6 and grease a baking tray. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar and raisins. Add the yogurt and mix together until it forms a firm dough. Flour a surface then roll out until 1” thick. Using a circular pastry cutter, arrange the scones on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack and serve with fresh strawberry jam and whipped cream or Tims Dairy Greek style natural yogurt.

Makes 8-10 scones.

For more Tim’s dairy recipes take a look at their website

What do you do for more energy?

I used to have a friend who was addicted to Red Bull. He was a lovely, funny guy but he used to drink several cans a day! I think he got off on the buzz. Now, you might say I’m overly cautious, but I don’t think that’s a good way to live. Personally I avoid energy drinks because I don’t like the idea of filling my body with lots of harsh chemicals.

So what am I supposed to think when I come across a drink which claims to boost your energy and be made from natural ingredients?

Here are the ingredients, you can see for yourself:Need energy?

Sparkling spring water, natural fruit sweetener, lemon juice partially from concentrate, yerba mate leaf extract, natural flavours, VITABT™ L-carnitine, barley malt extract, guarana extract, natural caffiene, vitamin c, vitamin B3 niacin, vitamin B5, vitamin B1, vitamin B9 folic acid, vitamin B12, ginger natural extract, lemon grass raw extract.

It’s a drink called Attitude. And it says it’s suitable for people with diabetes and for vegans. But, while the advertising says it’s made from organic ingredients, it doesn’t go so far to claim it’s 100% organic.

There are other more traditional, helpful ways to increase energy, like getting more sleep. My dad used to tell me to make sure I got enough exercise and fresh air as that would help me sleep and I have to say he was right. But I’m still working on other things that are supposed to help, like drinking lots of water and eating the right healthy foods – I’m not very good at that, bananas before I go to bed are definitely a bad idea.

Surely though, exercise, rest, a good diet, all of these things taken together should be enough to give a person the energy they need? No one should have to consume stimulants daily? Once in a while maybe but not daily? And if you do, isn’t it wiser to think about changing your lifestyle?

However, perhaps you know that energy drinks work for you (and, if you’re not scared of high levels of caffeine), then maybe Attitude could be your drink of choice – all those added vitamins certainly sound useful.

I’ve just remembered. There is something I use as a stimulant occasionally when I feel groggy (nope, not coffee, that never worked for me). I drink green tea, it always refreshes me and after about half an hour I can easily notice the difference.

But I guess I’ll throw this one open… What do you do to get the energy you need? Do you nibble on cacao beans? Drink acai berry juice? Or just walk around with bottled water? Or is Attitude just the drink you’ve been looking for?