ARE SOME FOODS ‘SUPER’? – Baobab powder

In the second post about so-called ‘super foods’ I’ll be looking to see if there are any benefits to adding baobab powder to your diet.

 

The baobab tree is found naturally in dry areas of Africa, with its products having various food and medicinal uses.

Baobab powder that is sold in the UK in health food shops tends to be from the fruit pulp, but the leaves and seeds are also edible. It has a slightly sherbet-y flavour and you may see it recommended to be added to smoothies and porridge.

It is fairly high in vitamin C, with average reported values of 283mg/100g (1). This would equate to 2.8mg/10g serving. The reference nutrient intake for the average adult is 40mg per day (2). But an orange normally provides about 52mg of vitamin C (3) so it is unlikely that you need to supplement your vitamin C intake with baobab powder.

There are claims that baobab is high in calcium. It contains 30mg calcium per 10g serving (1), which adds to your calcium intake for the day, but should not be seen as a substantial contribution to it. (The average adult should consume 700mg calcium per day (2)).

The bottom line is; feel free to add baobab if you like it – I’ve tried it in smoothies and it’s pretty good – but don’t feel that you have to go out and stock up – it’s not an essential!

 

Sources

1. Chadare F, Linnemann A, Hounhouigan J, Nout M, Van Boekel M. Baobab Food Products: A Review on their Composition and Nutritional Value. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2008;49(3):254-274.

2. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom (1991). Department of Health.

3. McCance & Widowson’s Composition of Foods (2015). Public Health England.

ARE SOME FOODS ‘SUPER’? – Chia & Flaxseeds

The term ‘superfood’ is very popular now and seems to be bandied around a lot by the media and nutrition and wellness bloggers, but very rarely used by dietitians and nutritionists. This is because no one food should be thought of as the ‘holy grail’ of healthy living – a healthy diet includes a wide variety of foods from the different food groups. It’s also important to remember that the consumption of one, perceived, particularly healthy food is not going to repair the damage done by other unhealthier habits and vast overconsumption of one type of food could even cause adverse effects.

But I have always been intrigued by the idea that some foods are particularly nutrient-dense so I have tried to look into the research behind the (sometimes outlandish) health claims.

I have decided to review some research on various foods which have been branded as ‘super’ over the next few blog posts.

 

*Remember;

  • If you need to make essential additions to your diet, a doctor or dietitian will advise you to make these changes.
  • Never feel as though you should go out and bulk buy a particular food just because it is deemed to be especially healthy. Many of these foods would have to be eaten in huge (unrealistic) amounts to provide many of the health benefits often proclaimed.
  • Many of these foods are often pretty pricey. This is because the term ‘superfood’ is really just a marketing ploy!

 

Chia seeds

This grain has a long history of use in its native Mexico and Guatemala, but you can now find it in health food stores and some supermarkets, either as dried seeds or in the form of ‘puddings’ or similar products.

Chia seeds are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid (which means our body can’t produce it). Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health and shown to be cardioprotective. (1)

They are also relatively high in protein, with 1.7g protein per 11g serving of dried chia seeds.

You could add them to smoothies or porridge, but just remember that they do contain calories even though they’re so small, so don’t overdo it – there are 53 kcals per 11g serving.

(It is shown that chia seeds do not increase weight loss or disease risk factors in obese individuals (2).)

 

Flaxseeds (linseed)

Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, are from a blue flowering crop first identified in Eastern Turkey as early as 6000 BC. Its popularity in the Western diet has increased in recent years because of the perceived health benefits.

They have a similar energy and omega-3 content to chia seeds, and are also high in fibre (1). Due to the fibre content, flaxseeds have been shown to decrease the rate with which we absorb glucose from our food (3), and so improve our glucose tolerance (how well our bodies respond to the amount of glucose in the blood), although more research is needed. Fibre is also beneficial for digestive health, and current recommendations suggest that we should be consuming 30g fibre per day. (The average UK adult only consumes about 18g per day).

Flaxseeds could be added to flapjacks or sprinkled on top of your cereal in the morning to boost your fibre intake.

 

Adding a few of these foods to your diet here and there would increase your intake of certain nutrients, but remember not to put a huge focus on one food or nutrient in your diet – you always need to look at your diet in an all-rounded way.

 

Photo: @lauraheck

Sources

  1. Salvia Hispanica L.(Chia) Background [Internet]. PEN: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition. 2017 [cited 17 January 2017]. Available from: http://www.pennutrition.com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=21548&trid=8653&trcatid=38
  2. Nieman D, Cayea E, Austin M, Henson D, McAnulty S, Jin F. Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutrition Research. 2009;29(6):414-418.
  3. Bloedon LSzapary P. Flaxseed and Cardiovascular Risk. Nutrition Reviews. 2004;62(1):18-27.

 

New kid on the block

Hey everyone! 

I’ve just moved back up to London to be closer to university and my upcoming placement this summer. It’ll be a change from the sleepy Sussex coast but I’m going to throw myself into exploring my new area and fully embrace being a London gal again! 

Do you have any tips for foodie places to try, lovely walks or areas to explore in south east London? Write them in the comments sections below or leave them on my Instagram page: @jess_rann.

Fitness for you!

So many of us set ourselves fitness-related resolutions in a bid to kick-start the New Year. Incorporating exercise into our lives is an excellent way to stay healthy, reducing our risk of developing major illness such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Current recommendations for adults state that we should aim for;

  • 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) per week

AND

  • Strength exercise which work all the major muscle groups 2 or more days a week

 

Moderate exercise includes;

  • Fast walking
  • Riding a bike on level ground
  • Hiking
  • Rollerblading
  • Pushing a lawn mower (once it’s warm enough for the grass to grow again!)

It should make you feel warm and increase your breathing rate a little, but you should still be able to talk to somebody whilst doing it.

 

Vigorous exercise includes;

  • Jogging or running
  • Fast swimming
  • Skipping rope
  • Aerobics
  • Rugby
  • Football

It makes you breath hard and fast, so that you won’t be able to say much without pausing to catch your breath.

 

Strength exercises include;

  • Lifting weights – always get a gym instructor or personal trainer to check your technique the first time so that you don’t injure yourself
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Yoga
  • Body weight exercises such as squats, press-ups and sit-ups

 

Incorporating this into your life

Adding moderate exercise into your daily routine could be walking or cycling to work (or part of the route) or getting out of the office during your lunch break (if possible) and going for a brisk walk.

You could also try some more active hobbies at the weekend like cycling, playing football in the park or trying out some exercise classes in your local area.

The NHS Choices website has a good page to help you find fitness activities in your local area: http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Fitness%20activities%20and%20classes/LocationSearch/671

 

Finding your favourite

I’m a firm believer that there is a form of exercise out there for everyone! I had to try quite a few different sports and activities before I found my favourites. At school I swam and played netball and golf, I tried numerous aerobics classes whilst working at a sports club, and tried volleyball out at university. At the moment, I love circuit training as it incorporates a mixture of aerobic exercise and strength training and I do it at a high intensity to really get a sweat on! However, I have also learnt to listen to my body. Sometimes I can tell that it wouldn’t benefit me to do such an intense workout, so instead I might go for a gentle swim or book into a yoga class. (I should probably do this more often as my flexibility could be improved!)

See what trial offers there are at gyms and sports clubs near you and try out a lot of different types of exercise and classes – maybe take a friend and turn it into a social activity as well!

 

Just remember to find something that you enjoy as you are far more likely to continue doing it!

I’d love to hear about your current favourite fitness activities – comment below to give others a little inspiration!

 

P.S. This pic of me cycling along Venice Beach on my trip to California last summer makes me seriously wish for warmer weather again!

A Happy New Year…

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas season.

I love the feeling of starting a new year, even though it is just another day when you think about it. It has always given me the feeling of a new page and I get rather excited about setting myself a couple of goals or resolutions for the year ahead.

It is often joked that by next week most resolutions will be given up, and this might be the case if you set yourself to give up chocolate or stop buying coffee on the way to work indefinitely. I find it harder to give something up than to incorporate something positive into my lifestyle. Or I also think about my long-term goals for the year – one of mine will be to continue working hard at and enjoying my degree (with less than 18 months to go!).

Here are a few tips in case you decide to set yourself a couple of resolutions this year.

  1. Reflect

Take time to think about how the last year went for you – the good and the bad, but mainly the positives! Maybe you can learn from some of those experiences. But remember to focus on looking forward – I love this picture from Kindred blog.

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  1. Start gently

Most people make an exercise-related resolution which is a fantastic idea as incorporating exercise into your lifestyle provides so many health benefits. Where some people seem to fall down is by giving themselves impossibly gruelling fitness regimes after a whole Christmas season of overdoing it on food and alcohol and probably not doing much exercise at all. If this is you it might be better to start off small, for example saying you’ll run 5km twice a week to start with and gradually build it up.

Gentle exercise is also a known stress reliever and getting some fresh air after all the partying that may have taken place recently will definitely help pep you up and welcome in the New Year with a clearer head!

  1. Nourish yourself

You may feel that you have overdone it over Christmas but seriously restricting your diet and trying to compensate isn’t the way to go. Restricting foods can create fear about eating and may make you fixate on and crave these foods. Instead try to focus on incorporating healthy habits such as getting your 5-a-day, including more oily fish in your diet or trying to pack your lunches for work the night before. The theory is that if you try and include good habits, there is less space for the not-so-good ones!

  1. Be happy

Most importantly, I’m trying to learn to be content to enjoy the process and be happy where I am now instead of constantly thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else. A few months ago, I stumbled across this TED talks and have been trying to get everyone I know to listen to/watch it because it really resonated with me. It focusses on tapping into our hard-wired happiness.

 

I hope you all have a lovely New Year x