Healthy diet for a healthy mind and body

Some of the many potential benefits of eating a well-balanced, wholesome and nutritious diet include greater longevity and better overall health and fitness. By taking the few easy steps in this blog post, you can be in great shape in no time!

Green leafy vegetables are particularly beneficial, as they are high in some of the nutrients your body needs most. Broccoli and brussels sprouts, for example, belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables, and are known to be helpful in promoting health and vitality. Broccoli is also high in vitamin C, a vitamin which is most notable for supporting the immune system.

Fruit also has an abundant supply of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Most fruits are also high in antioxidants. Nutritionists recommend you consume at least four or five servings of fruit each day, and the raw, ripe kind is the best – particularly in terms of alkalising the body. Apples are a great fruit to eat. They provide vitamins A, C, E and folate, along with a good amount of fibre.

Eat the rainbow – seek out brightly coloured fruits and vegetables to ensure a regular intake of beneficial antioxidants, phyto-nutrients and digestive enzymes.

When you are looking for whole wheat products, also look for products which specify that they are whole grain. If you see 100% whole wheat on the label, that can mean that whole wheat flour is used and you are not necessarily getting the benefit of the whole grain. Whole grains are nutrient-dense with more fibre, complex carbohydrates and vitamins, and are therefore of greater benefit to the body. Similarly, a product claim that something is “high in fibre” does not necessarily speak to the quality of the fibre. Some fibre (such as extracted bran) is actually irritating to the gut. Whole grain fibre, in contrast, is not.

Refined sugar, saturated fat and man-made chemicals are to be eliminated from the diet as far as possible. While ocassional treats are fine, processed foods and drinks are nutrient-poor (and can even be anti-nutrients, i.e. actively drain your body of nutrients) and should therefore be avoided if you are looking to improve your overall health, vitality and mental focus. The result of eating and drinking these kinds of food-stuffs is poor nutrition, higher toxic load plus weight gain.

Hydration is another very important, and often forgotten, aspect of health and nutrition. Water keeps your digestive system working properly and flushes out toxins from your body. The rule of thumb is to drink 8 glasses of water each day, but drinking more than that is a good idea if you are exercising or perspiring heavily.

Natural yoghurt and other probiotic foods make for great snacks. If efficient digestion is the cornerstone of good health, maintaining (and even building) levels of friendly bowel bacteria in the gut can only be a good thing.

Unfortunately, the foods that make up the average daily diet in the modern world do not supply the range of nutrients they once did. This is due, for example, to poor farming methods (including the use of pesticides etc), long-distance transportation of fresh produce, extended shelf-lives and synthetic ingredients. The only ways to offset this is to opt for organic produce wherever possible and supplement your balanced diet with high quality, food form nutrients.

It is essential that you get all the nutrients your body needs to perform at its full potential on a daily basis. Use the information in this article to make sure your mind and body are the best they can be.

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Meal shakes and protein powders

Shakes – can they help with weight loss?

Tricky meal planning

Meal planning, as part of a slimming or ongoing weight management programme, which ensures that you are receiving optimal nutrition and a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients every day, can be difficult for a number of reasons:

  • you may be limited to a certain number of calories per day, making it problematic to eat high amounts of even fruits and vegetables
  • you may not be entirely clear on what nutrients you need, in which quantities and/or where to find them
  • you may not have the time to plan and prepare all meals in advance, particularly if you are eating up to 6 times a day
  • you may not have the budget to purchase the required amounts of fresh, organic produce every day, needed for optimum nutrient intake
  • you may not have the time to, for example, prepare fresh juices every day, which can help with the digestion of large quantities of fresh, raw produce and can be a good source of nutrients
  • you may have a medical condition, digestive complaint, food allergy or intolerance, which means that your choice of foods is limited
  • you may be a vegetarian or vegan, making it more difficult to eat a high protein diet which can support weight loss.

Making life easier

If one or more of the above applies to you, don’t worry! There are ways to ensure that you still get the nutrients you need to secure healthy weight loss for the long-term.

High quality meal shakes and protein powders can be an invaluable slimming tool because, not only are they quick and easy to prepare and drink, if you pick the right product they are also packed with nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre) and are naturally low in fat.

They provide a convenient and reliable way for you to access high levels of nutrients every day, without having to worry about the calories.

Organic superfood shakes (or “green shakes”), for example, allow you to take in nutrient-dense, fibre-rich fruits and vegetables in quantities that would otherwise be unrealistic on a daily basis.

Vegan-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free light meal shakes can provide a healthy breakfast or snack on the go, even for those people with specific dietary requirements. These types of healthy snacks can help to keep you fuller for longer, staving off cravings and bingeing.

Protein shakes, made from complete, natural and balanced plant-based protein sources (such as hemp, pea or rice) can make it far easier to implement a high-protein diet that supports slimming, because you do not have the high fat content of meat and other animal products.

The convenience offered by these daily food supplements means that there is no longer any excuse to skip meals. It couldn’t be easier for you to meet your optimal nutrient intake on a daily basis, while still sticking to your healthy weight management programme.

Ensuring your weight loss success

When it comes to healthy slimming, finding the best approach can be often be daunting and can sometimes lead to “information overload”. There are so many, often conflicting, information resources on weight loss and the weight management process.

But slimming needn’t be complicated – there are some basic rules that you need to follow. However, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health practitioner before changing your diet, implementing a new exercise regime or taking health supplements.

Firstly, knowledge is power.

Losing weight in a healthy way and for the long-term involves you taking proactive steps to better understand:

  • your own body and how it works
  • how your body reacts to what you put in it
  • the ways in which existing medical conditions and/or allergies or intolerances can affect the weight management process
  • your metabolism
  • your daily nutritional requirements
  • how health supplements, including meal shakes and protein powders, can support the slimming process.

Nobody is going to lose weight for you and nobody knows your body and how it feels and works better than you. While the above may sound daunting, it really isn’t. The more information you have, the better placed you will be to achieve your health and weight goals. The fact that you have the power to make the desired changes yourself should be empowering!

Take it slowly – you won’t learn everything you need to know in one week. Start by finding a product you like, carry out additional research on the ingredients yourself through reliable online resources. It can also be useful to use high quality meal plans in the early stages, to guide you while you are still learning about how to eat a balanced diet.

Here’s to your long-term weight loss success.

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Healthy blood sugar levels

What is your blood sugar level?

A person’s blood sugar level (also known as serum glucose level or plasma glucose level) is the amount of glucose (sugar) present in their blood at any given time.

Why is glucose important?

Glucose (also known as dextrose) is a simple sugar that is made by the body using carbohydrates from the diet. It is necessary for a wide range of essential bodily functions. In particular, it is important because it provides energy to tissues, the nervous system and the brain.

Glucose is transported from the intestines or liver to body cells via the bloodstream, and is made available for cell absorption via the hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas.

Glucose that is not directly used as an energy source by brain cells, intestinal cells and red blood cells are sent to the liver, adipose tissue and muscle cells, where it is absorbed and stored as glycogen. The glycogen stored by the liver can be converted back to glucose and returned to the bloodstream whenever insulin is low or absent.

How is blood sugar level measured?

Blood sugar is normally measured in molecular count, the unit for which is mmol/L (millimoles per liter). It is also sometimes measured as a weight in grams, the unit for which is mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter).

What is a healthy blood sugar level?

Normally, the body keeps its blood glucose level at a reference range of between 3.6 and 5.8 mmol/L (or 64.8 and 104.4 mg/dL).

The mean normal blood glucose level in humans is around 4 mmol/L (or 72 mg/dL), although the level obviously fluctuates throughout the day. As you might expect, glucose levels tend to be lowest in the morning, before the first meal of the day and spike after eating for 1 – 2 hours by a few milliMolar.

However, when it comes to diabetics, blood sugar fluctuates more widely.

How can blood sugar levels affect your health?

As glucose provides your body with the energy that it needs to carry out important physiological functions, too little sugar / glucose (a low blood sugar level) or too much sugar / glucose (a high blood sugar level) can lead to serious health problems.

Blood sugar levels outside the normal range may also be an indicator of an underlying medical condition, where this is not caused by the diet.

Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia

A persistently high blood sugar level is referred to as hyperglycemia, whilst low levels are referred to as hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia is a potentially fatal condition. Symptoms include lethargy, impaired mental functioning, irritability, shaking, twitching, weakness in arm and leg muscles, pale complexion, sweating, paranoid or aggressive mentality and loss of consciousness. In extreme cases, brain damage is possible.

By contrast, hyperglycemia can involve the appetite being suppressed in the short term, with longer term health problems including heart disease, diabetes and eye, kidney, and nerve damage.

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is characterised by persistent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. It is the most common disease related to failure in blood sugar regulation.

For those with diabetes, it is particularly important to keep blood sugar levels within normal ranges, otherwise serious health complications can occur. For example, nephropathy (kidney disease), neuropathy (nerve disease), retinopathy (eye disease) and cardiovascular diseases (heart diseases).

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is another example of a condition where blood sugar levels are important. In this case, the body does not recognise the consumption of sugars and carbohydrates and this means that it continues to pump out insulin which is not needed. If this continues for a prolonged period of time, the pancreas can shut down and cease to produce insulin altogether. If care is not taken by those who have this condition to ensure a healthy diet and balanced blood sugar levels, it can eventually lead to type two diabetes.

What other factors can affect blood sugar levels?

Many factors can affect a person’s blood sugar levels. For example, it can be temporarily elevated as a result of severe stress (such as trauma, stroke, myocardial infarction, surgery or illness) or as a result of medication use, which can cause glucose levels to increase or decrease.

Alcohol intake also causes an initial surge in blood sugar, which later tends to cause levels to fall.

Keeping your blood sugar levels healthy

Making positive and healthy lifestyle choices (and, if necessary, changes) is a good first step to keeping your blood sugar levels under control. For example, taking regular exercise and (if required) losing weight in a sensible and healthy way.

Dietary changes, in particular, can be incredibly helpful in keeping blood sugar levels within normal ranges. For those with restricted diets (such as diabetics), it can often be a challenge to ensure an optimum intake of nutrients on a daily basis. Many people therefore also find that high quality, nutrients fortified meal shakes, as well as other health supplements designed to help keep blood sugar levels stable, can help with this.

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How does diabetes affect your health?

What is diabetes?

The technical bit

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, where the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is required to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. The human body has to maintain its blood glucose level within a very narrow range. This is done by using insulin and glucagon. The function of glucagon is to cause the liver to release glucose, which provides the body’s cells with the energy that they need.

What it means in practice

Simple put, this means that the body is unable to properly use the energy it gets from food. Normally, most of the food we eat is broken down or digested into sugar or glucose. Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, helps the glucose get inside the cells where the glucose is then burned for energy. For people with diabetes, their bodies cannot make enough insulin or they are resistant to the insulin their bodies make. As a result, their blood glucose becomes much higher than usual.

Types of diabetes

There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes: An autoimmune process in which the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells and the pancreas therefore fails to produce any insulin.  

Type 2 diabetes: This type of diabetes occurs when the pancreas either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells fail to respond to insulin. It has previously been called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).

Between 90% and 95% of people who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

How is diabetes diagnosed?

A normal fasting blood glucose range is about 65 -100. When your blood sugar is 126 or higher after fasting for eight hours, a diagnosis of diabetes is made.

Type 1 diabetes is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults. However, it can develop at any age.

Symptoms of diabetes

The classic symptoms of diabetes are:

  • extreme thirst (and a feeling like dry cotton balls in the mouth)
  • frequent urination
  • weight loss (despite increased appetite)
  • fatigue and drowsiness
  • blurred vision
  • nausea
  • skin infections
  • and recurrent vaginitis.

These can come on quite quickly in a Type 1 diabetic, but can develop slowly (taking years in some cases) in a Type 2, which makes it more difficult to diagnose.

Causes of diabetes

Although the precise cause or causes of diabetes are unknown, both genetic and environmental factors appear to play key roles. For example, it is now generally accepted that high-sugar diets, obesity / being overweight, lack of exercise, family history and stress all increase the risk of contracting diabetes.

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes can be caused by an autoimmune disorder or many other factors that could affect the pancreas. For instances, people have been known to contract this type of diabetes because of medical treatment for another problem, which has then resulted in damage to the pancreas as a side-effect.

It is thought that Type 1 diabetes is partly inherited and then triggered by certain infections, with some evidence pointing at the Coxsackie B4 virus. There is a genetic element in individual susceptibility to some of these triggers which has been traced to particular HLA  genotypes  (i.e., the genetic “self” identifiers relied upon by the immune system). However, even in those who have inherited the susceptibility, Type 1 diabetes mellitus seems to require an environmental trigger.

Those suffering from this type of diabetes are required to take insulin by injections or insulin pumps in order to survive. Most people who develop Type 1 are otherwise healthy and are not generally overweight or inactive. As such, treatment must usually be continued indefinitely.

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is associated with older age, obesity, poor diet, family history, history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. Clinically-based reports and regional studies suggest that Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents, although still rare, is being diagnosed more frequently. This could be linked to, amongst other things, the rise in childhood obesity.

People who carry excess weight, especially in their middle section, are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes because the fat in their tissue causes an imbalance of insulin in the body.

Other health complications linked to diabetes

Diabetes is a serious condition, which can have devastating effects on the whole body. It is an autoimmune disease that can play havoc with the body’s organs and circulatory systems.

When a person’s blood sugar levels are continuously high, it can lead to kidney failure, the need for amputations, skin problems, heart problems and neuropathy (nerve damage). In fact, those with diabetes are up to four times more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and stroke. Similarly, diabetes is the leading cause of end stage renal disease (ESRD), where the kidneys shut down and a transplant is usually required.

Diabetes can also affect the eyes, ultimately leading to blindness. In fact, it is the number one cause of blindness in adults in the US. This damage is caused by a lack of oxygen. Diabetes can also cause leaking of blood vessels in the eyes, which leads to scarring and loss of vision.

Living with diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease, without a known cure. Unfortunately, cases of diabetes are also on the rise. Yet, in many instances (particularly in the case of Type 2 diabetes) the disease is preventable through healthy lifestyle choices. Even once contracted, it is possible to mitigate and manage the effects and symptoms. In some cases, symptoms can even be reversed. Weight loss, physical activity and a balanced diet may be all that is needed to stop the progress of the disease.

Everyone who has diabetes (whatever the type) is at increased risk of the health issues mentioned above. It is therefore never too early to take responsibility for your health, including taking aggressive preventive measures by changing your lifestyle.

The good news is that you have greater control over your health than you may think. It is empowering to know that you can make a difference by taking some proactive steps, such as  eating a healthy and balanced diet, managing your weight, taking regular exercise, reducing alcohol and sugar intake and stopping smoking.

Weight management

80% of people with diabetes are overweight or have abdominal obesity. If you are overweight or obese, fat deposits are making your body produce excess insulin in order to properly carry out bodily functions. Losing weight can therefore help to reduce the need for insulin and other diabetes medications, as well as it will lower your blood pressure and decrease your risk for heart disease.

For those with Type 2 diabetes, if they can eliminate the fat that is responsible for the imbalance of insulin in their bodies by exercising and limiting carbohydrates and alcohol, they may be able to drop their glucose levels (perhaps even into the normal range).

In one study, overweight adults who lost a modest amount of weight (even as little as 5 – 10% of initial body weight) and exercised regularly reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 58% percent.

Exercise

Physical activity can not only help to keep blood sugar levels low, but can assist your body to better use the insulin it produces to convert the food you eat into energy. Arguably one of the best types of exercise is cardiovascular activity.

While it may not be completely curable, these changes allow many people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in particular, to live a healthy and full life. People with type 2 diabetes who exercise regularly have been shown to lose weight and gain better control over their blood pressure, thereby reducing their risk for cardiovascular disease (a major complication of diabetes). Studies have also shown that people with Type 1 diabetes who regularly exercise reduce their need for insulin injections.

30 to 60 minutes of modest intensity exercise 3 – 4 times a week is a good start. Intensity should be increased gradually. However, of course everyone’s circumstances and health conditions differ, so if you have diabetes or a heart disease, it is important to consult your doctor before undertaking a new exercise regime. They can help you to determine the most appropriate level, type and frequency of exercise.

The bottom line

Your health is your responsibility, so take control now! Skip “fad diets” and make healthier choices. By excluding or strictly limiting a particular food group, you may be giving up essential nutrients. Instead, think variety and moderation as part of an overall well-balanced diet and sensible exercise regime.

If you are uncertain what is best to eat to suit your condition and particular medical circumstances, you can always speak to a qualified health professional (such as a nutritionist or dietitian).

Many diabetics also find that health supplements can be beneficial. For example:

  • nutrients-fortified sugar-free meal shakes can provide a convenient and readily-available source of essential nutrients (such as fibre, vitamins and minerals) on a daily basis
  • high quality weight management products (derived from natural ingredients) can support their wider weight loss plan.

For more information, visit our main website

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