Beauty sleep

A lot of my female clients ask me which foods are good for healthy looking or “glowing” skin. Although certain nutrients like essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins C, A and E, zinc are associated with healthy skin and overall good health, most of the time women are neglecting one very important factor: SLEEP.

Of course there are also other factors besides not getting enough sleep or nutrients that reduce the quality of your skin, such as;

• Not drinking enough water. You should be drinking at least 1.5 – 2 litres a day

• Not wearing sunscreen; even if you live in a cloudy country like England and think there’s no point of wearing sunscreen during winter, the damaging UV rays are still there. Sunbathing is a sure way to age and damage your skin and as we all know is directly linked with skin cancer

• Smoking

• Drinking excessive alcohol

• A diet high in sugar

But why is sleep so important for healthy looking skin? From experience we are all familiar with not getting enough sleep and dealing with the consequences – from eye bags to dark circles, puffiness to a sallow complexion. But not getting enough sleep can damage your skin in the long run too. Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine showed a correlation between inadequate rest and accelerated skin ageing. Science has proven that poor sleepers exhibit increased signs of skin ageing when compared to good quality sleepers – it all comes down to the weakening of our skin’s ability to repair itself at night. 

Unfortunately, this especially applies to us women. Researchers from Duke University have discovered that, compared to men, women experience far more mental and physical consequences from inadequate rest. Ageing skin isn’t the only price our skin is paying for this lack of sleep either. 

A lack of sleep has been proven to influence women to make poor food choices. One recent study showed  that follow 2 nights of sleep restriction, subjects had an 18% drop in leptin– a satisfactory hormone that controls our appetite. So it makes sense that you are more likely to crave food high in fat and sugar with these low levels of leptin. 

There are a multitude of factors contributing to our ability to fall asleep, such as personal life demands and stress levels. However, "lucky" for us, a woman’s sleep is also affected by her hormone levels. Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle, pre-menopause, pregnancy and after having a baby, all affect your sleeping pattern and not in the good way.  

There is plenty information out there when it comes to having a good night’s sleep, from sticking to a routine to mediating and keeping your bedroom temperature below 20 degrees. However, when it comes to helping you sleep better through your diet here are a few things you could try:

1

Have more protein for your breakfast and lunch and complex carbohydrates and vegetables for dinner. It takes over three hours to break down and assimilate proteins. 

2

Avoid spicy food late in the evening; it increases your metabolism and makes it harder for you to fall asleep. 

3

Alcohol is known to disturb sleep for a lot of individuals so try to have a few alcohol free evenings or if you are planning on drinking then decrease your intake and have it at least 2 hours before going to bed.

4

Magnesium deficiency plays big role in insomnia. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium. Try to eat more beans, nuts and seeds, like almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds. Another great source of magnesium is avocado.

The Big Breakfast Question: to have or skip it?

We are constantly hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – but is it? The government currently recommends that people eat breakfast and some research supports numerous claims that starting the day off with a meal actually aids weight loss.  However, a recent study opposes this idea. Only last year, researches are Columbia University assigned people to one of three groups; one group ate basic oatmeal for breakfast, one ate a high in sugar meal of frosted flakes, and the last skipped breakfast altogether. Surprisingly, overweight people who skipped breakfast were the only group to lose weight.

But nutritional epidemiology is a very difficult disciple. It’s well known that research results are highly unpredictable and studies with positive results have a higher chance of getting published. Ironically, a lot of these nutritional studies are actually funded by the supplement manufacturers they are trialing. Whilst another problem with these studies is that a lot of the time the groups are too small or the study is done over too short of a time period to be viable.

However, it’s important to focus on the nutritional facts we know to be true.

I think the more important question is not whether you should have or skip breakfasts, it’s about what you are having for breakfast. If you tell me that you have a Starbucks caramel latte with a muffin or pastry then I would definitely tell you to skip it! When we wake up in the morning our blood sugar is at its lowest (of course that depends on when you had your last meal as well as what and how much you ate) so you should aim to have your breakfast within the first two hours of being awake. Firstly it’s important to start off with a glass of water, preferably with lemon, to rehydrate and alkalize your body after your nights sleep – it’s important to do this before you have any tea or coffee. Stay away from breakfast foods containing simple carbohydrates and sugar, such as white toast or cereal, as having too much sugar in your blood will switch your body to “storage” mode, so you’ll store more glucose.

The ideal breakfast should contain a mix of protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates. Here are some examples;

Poached eggs on sourdough bread with avocado or spinach

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon

Plain probiotic yogurt with fresh berries

Porridge (with an option small serving of raw honey for sweetness) 

All of these are great breakfast options, but lets be honest, we don’t always have time to cook eggs - or sometimes we feel eating something a little different.

If you have a blender at home then the quickest and easiest way to have a yummy, nutritious breakfast is by making a smoothie.  You can use almond, oat or coconut milk as your base. For sweetness you can use bananas, berries (go for the frozen ones, they are full of nutrients and you won’t waste them if you change your mind in the morning and decided to have eggs). And you can add ingredients that are high in nutrients and taste great such as flaxseeds and chia seeds, which are high in of Omega 3. Hemp protein is another great option and is fantastic for getting your protein from a vegan source and is gluten free. Green Matcha has 130 times more anti-oxidants than a standard green tea and it also boosts your metabolism and energy. You can always add Bee Pollen, Acai powder (made from dry Acai berries), Chlorophyll etc. All these products listed can be found in your local health store such as Holland and Barrett and are packaged and produced in a way that’s easy to add to smoothies, mostly in resalable powdered forms.

Here are a few recipe ideas:

Simple starter smoothie:

1 cup coconut milk

1 banana

1 handful of frozen raspberries

2 tspn flaxseeds

Blueberry acai smoothie:

1 cup almond milk

1 banana

1 handful of frozen blueberries

1tblspn freeze-dried acai powder

1tblspn chia seeds

Blended for 30 seconds.

Acai powder is very high in antioxidants, and its concentrated powder means a little goes a long way. You can make this into a drink or pour it into a bowl and add toppings.

Super green smoothie:

1 cup oat milk

1 banana

2 tbsp Primrose’s kitchen smoothie booster cleanse mix (chlorella, wheatgrass and barley grass)

1 tbsp matcha powder

Smoothie mixes or boosters like the one mentioned are a great way to get nutrients into your smoothie in a quick and easy way. They come in a blender friendly powdered form and don’t change the texture or the flavour too much. This ratios can of course be altered to your taste.

Banana Ice cream:

It has a very similar texture to ice cream, minus the dairy and sweeteners. As it’s only made from bananas, the flavor options aren’t limited and you can add anything from more fruit to peanut butter. It’s quick and easy to make and can be a delicious breakfast or even dessert. Chop bananas and keep them in the freezer overnight, blending them in the morning before further blending them with the flavors of your choice

 

See more great healthy breakfast ideas here

 

All or Nothing

No matter what new diet trend the New Year brings, one thing always repeats itself every: Dry January

Giving up alcohol entirely for a month sounds perfect in theory, and what a better way to start the new year healthily. However, every time I read yet another article about some becoming tee-total and praising this new lifestyle, I’m completely (or at least 99%) sure that this person had a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol in the first place. They don’t have to be a diagnosed alcoholic, but usually their history with alcohol goes along the lines of drinking too much too often and from an early age too. So if this applies to you, then yes going tee-total is the best way forward. However, if you’re able to go days or even weeks without craving a glass of wine then doing dry January is not going to change anything in your life (apart from proving your strong will power).

Instead think about changing your attitude towards drinking in general as this is much healthier change in the long run than just having one alcohol free month. How about not drinking during the week and then having a glass of your favourite wine with you Sunday roast? Or spend the money you saved from not drinking 3 nights in the row at the pub and purchase a quality champagne instead.

The problem with banning something completely from your diet, be it alcohol or carbs or dairy, is that you start to crave it even more – especially if you go cold turkey. Of course it’s a different story if you’re allergic or intolerant.

But what can you do to help your liver on a day to day basis?

Having a warm glass of water with freshly squeezed lemon first thing in the morning will helps to alkalise your body and stimulate your liver. Eating the following foods is the best way to keep your liver healthy:

1. Artichokes are liver-cleansing food.  This plant is a great source of silymarin, active ingredient in Milk Thistle (you can buy it as a supplement). Silymarin helps protect and nourish the liver.

2. Green leafy vegetables (high in chlorophyll)

3. Dandelion (in tea or salads). The Arab physicians of eleventh century were the first to write about this miracle plant. It is one of the top fifty "power herbs" of the world. Dandelion is great for liver detoxification. One of the chemical component of dandelion is taraxacin help promote the liver and gallbladder to realise bile.

5. Eggs are perfect source of choline. Choline is essential part of a phospholipid phosphatidylcholine, which helps prevent the accumulation of cholesterol and fat in liver.

6. Turmeric gives a significant liver protection and also recommended for people who has hepatitis
(it lowers elevated liver enzymes)