Monthly Archives: December 2016

Don’t detox, just eat better.

At this time of the year, newspapers and magazines are filled with weight loss, fitness and detox stories. And I’ll admit, I do enjoy reading them and seeing what nutrition & exercise (mis)information is being passed around.

One of my biggest gripes is seeing articles that talk about needing to detox post Christmas, with claims that a 3, 5, 7, 10 (you choose a number of days!) day detox will cure everything that ails you.

The biological reality is that your body is constantly detoxifying itself – that’s what your liver, kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin are for. And the by-products of this perpetual detoxification are stool, urine and sweat (really! they’re not just annoyances!).

The liver is the body’s waste purification plant and it is perpetually in motion, 24 hours a day. The more toxins you put in, the harder the liver has to work to remove them. By toxins, I mean products and by-products of the digestive system (excess sugar, trans-fatty acids and gut dysbiosis), alcohol, smoking by-products, environmental toxins (lead, chlorine, fluorine, insecticides, herbicides, solvents, metals, mould, pollen, algae) and oxidative stress (free radicals).

Your body really doesn’t want toxins to build up. So much so that the liver has a two stage detoxification process to make sure all the waste is removed – anything from alcohol to heavy metals to pesticides to the by-products of medication to hormones like xenoestrogens. The liver is continuously converting these substances to inactive forms for excretion in urine (via the kidneys) or stool.

How do you know whether your body’s detoxification functions are working correctly? Here are some signs and symptoms are suboptimal detoxification:

If your bowels aren’t functioning well, you’re likely to have bloating, fatty stools, constipation, diarrhoea, an intolerance to fatty foods and bad breath.

If your immune system isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have food allergies, skin issues like eczema and psoriasis, recurring infections and potentially asthma.

If your endocrine system (hormones) isn’t functioning well, you’re like to suffer from high stress, infertility, PMS, mood swings, anxiety and potentially depression.

If your nervous system isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have headaches, poor sleep, lethargy and poor memory and concentration.

So knowing all this, the real question (which is less of a quick fix and not as sexy a ‘detox’): how can I consistently support my liver, lungs, skin, digestive system, bowels and kidneys?

  1. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Most people are slightly dehydrated and often mistake thirst for hunger, so the bare minimum to aim for is 1.5L of water across the day.
  2. Eat green leafy vegetables. These contain the micronutrients and enzymes that support the first stage of liver detoxification and kickstart the second stage.
  3. Eat more nuts and seeds. Seeds like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and nuts like almonds, cashews, Brazils and hazelnuts have micronutrients that help your liver work better.
  4. Eat enough protein. Red meat, nuts, eggs and fish are amongst some of the protein sources that contain the amino acids needed for the second stage of liver detoxification.
  5. Don’t drink alcohol every day. Metabolising alcohol puts pressure on the liver and diverts it from its other important functions, such as bile secretion, which is helps the body digest fats.
  6. Support your gut. A good balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut supports your immune and digestive systems and helps improve the quality of your skin.
  7. Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Sleep is when your body has a chance to repair and regenerate and this supports its detoxification systems.
  8. Get sweaty at least 3 times a week. A good excuse for a run, a spin class or a shag!

Stories I loved this week.

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It’s Christmas Day! Today feels like the culmination of a lot of happy planning and it’s been great to see the day unfold, with a very happy three year old running around.

We had a very slow morning of presents, coffee and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Then an amble down to church for the Christmas Day service and then back home to make Christmas lunch. We’ll probably go for another walk later, to enjoy the quiet local streets and maybe nip into the local pub for a festive drink, before heading home to get cozy in front of a few Christmas films. How’s your Christmas been?

Here are a few links for you to browse in your downtime this week. Have a great Christmas!

Three types of knives for tiny chefs. I love this – J really enjoys helping me in the kitchen so this is a really good way to get him thinking about knife safety. (The Kitchn)

Who else is obsessed with Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa? This is a great profile of her. Very interesting to see her recipe testing process. (Eater)

Have you ever considered making your own tinctures or tonics? This is a lovely starting point. (Lenny)

When did you start making your own Christmas family traditions? We started our own a few years after we started going out, with a Christmas bauble tradition and it’s been really great to see our collection grow over the years.

I really want to try this cider braised pork shoulder recipe. (Carnal Dish)

This cookbook from Jessica Koslow, the owner of Sqirl, looks great.

Behind the scenes of photographing a cookbook. (Chronicle Books)

Easy Potato Latkes

This is an easy recipe for those mornings when you want something substantial and savoury, but aren’t in the mood for something with eggs or bread.

Latkes are so underrated. They should be on more menus because you can cram so much goodness into them and no one’s the wiser, especially my little three year old!

My version has a bit of apple, garlic and onion in it and you could even make it with grated sweet potato or squash too. The main component just needs to be a starchy vegetable, especially if you’re not using flour as a binding agent.

If you want to save time in the morning, you can make up the raw mixture the night before, put it into the fridge and pull it out 10 minutes before you need to start cooking to bring it to room temperature.easy-potato-latkes-with-greek-yoghurt-and-pulled-porkMakes 10

What you need: 

3 large white potatoes

1/4 onion

1/4 apple

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tsp salt

a sprig of fresh thyme

1 large egg

2 tbsp olive oil or duck fat

a non-stick pan

Greek yoghurt

How to make it:

Grate the potatoes, onion, apple and garlic into a bowl. I don’t bother peeling the potatoes or apple beforehand, as there’s a lot of nutrients in the skin.

Put the grated ingredients into a kitchen towel or muslin.grated-latke-mixture-ready-to-squeeze-outSqueeze out as much moisture as you can. The drier the mixture is, the better it will bind together when it cooks.squeezing-out-the-moisture-from-the-latke-mixturesqueezing-out-the-moisture-from-the-latke-mixture1latke-mixture-all-squeezed-out-with-no-moistureCrack an egg into a bowl and beat until the egg yolk and white are combined.adding-the-egg-to-the-latke-mixturePut the mixture back into the bowl with the beaten egg and add the salt and thyme leaves. Then combine until the egg mixture has covered all of the grated ingredients.latke-mixture-ready-to-fry-upPut your chosen fat into the pan and turn the stove onto medium heat. If the heat is too high, the outside will cook too quickly.

In the meantime, turn your oven on to 50-70C.

Working in batches of 3 latkes, spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture per latke into the pan and then flatten then out with the back of the spoon so that each latke is even. Cook for 3 minutes per side.latke-mixture-pressed-into-the-panpotato-latkes-frying-in-the-panWhen each batch of latkes is cooked, transfer to a plate in the oven so they stay warm while you cook the others.easy-potato-latkesServe with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I also like to eat my latkes with shredded pork or chicken, to make them even more filling. Enjoy!

Stories I loved this week.

I’m so excited about Christmas. Are you? It feels particularly poignant this year, as J is getting older and better understands the meanings and traditions around this very special holiday. We’ve planned loads of Christmassy things, like trips to a pantomine and to the Winter Wonderland fair in Hyde Park.

And I’ve finally planned the Christmas day menu and have made a mammoth Abel and Cole and Ocado order for the two day feast. I can’t wait! Have you planned your Christmas menu yet? What have you got planned?

The juice tour of LA made me laugh (a lot). (Lucky Peach)

What a great tip for taking the seeds out of pomegranates. (The Kitchn)

An oral history of why many African-Americans from the South carry hot sauce in their bags (really!). (Eater)

What does normal feel like to you? (LaTonya Yvette)

In praise of the only child. A nice read, especially more of my friends are having their second and third children and I stay resolute in only wanting one. (Tantrum XYZ)

Would you ever join a cookbook club? I love this idea – what a great way to try a cookbook before you decide to buy it. (Serious Eats)

Have you fallen into the current obsession for hygge this winter? This piece goes into the darker side of this Danish lifestyle mantra. (The Guardian)

I’m still using my Instant Pot loads and converting others to the sheer brilliance of it. It will really will change your cooking life. (Bon Appetit)

What are adaptogens?

Have you heard of adaptogens? If you haven’t yet, you will soon. In fact, there are a few you probably already know, but didn’t realise they were called adaptogens – do you recognise maca, ginseng and licorice?

Why do we care so much about adaptogens? In a nutshell, they’re a powerful group of food and herbs that help your body adapt to stress. They also help to boost the immune system and support stamina & energy, two areas that can be significantly depleted by stress.

There are different kinds of stress – physical, emotional / psychological, environmental (noise, temperature, pollution). Hans Selye, a Canadian professor that specialised in stress research, defined stress as ‘the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it’. And to be clear, there is good stress and there is bad stress. Recent research discusses how some stress can be good for you, depending on how you perceive it. And this is a great TED talk on how to make stress your friend.

We can add in adaptogens when the ‘bad’ stress is too much.They help the body get back into homeostasis, or more simply, they help you get back to a status quo, where you can more easily manage whatever is causing the stress.  Adaptogens can help to stabilise the hypothalamus – pituitary – thyroid – adrenal (HPTA) axis, which then helps to regulate hormone production.

Each adaptogen has unique properties, and can help you deal with specific types of stressors. David Winston and Steven Maimes, two of the leading authorities in this area, classify adaptogens into four areas:

Stimulating: red ginseng, white asian ginseng and rhodiola

Calming: schisandra, ashwagandha (Indian ginseng), reishi, cordyceps

Moistening: american ginseng, codonopsis, shatavari

Drying: rhodiola, schisandra

What adaptogens should you consider adding in to your daily routine? It’s always best to get a tailored recommendation from a herbalist or naturopath, as adaptogens are powerful herbs. In clinic, I see these herbs recommended most frequently:

Ashwagandha for adrenal support and cortisol management

Licorice for liver support and as an anti-inflammatory

Maca for hormone balance and sexual function

Reishi, cordyceps and schisandra for immune support

Rhodiola for energy and mitochondrial ATP support

Have you ever used an adaptogen? What did you think?

Just eat more vegetables.

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People like shortcuts. Maybe it’s a symptom of our modern world, where we can get pretty much anything we want at the touch of a button.

Speaking of shortcuts, I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues about the fastest ways to get healthy / fit / more energy (delete as appropriate).

There are two answers I always give, no matter what their underlying symptoms. Then I ask more questions and give a more detailed, tailored response.

The first answer is always – get more sleep or go to bed earlier.

I’ve talked about the benefits of sleep before – it regulates your metabolism, allows your various organs to repair and heal and allows your brain to process the events of the day. Don’t give into the current masochism around sleep – most people really need at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to be fully functional.

And then my second answer is always – eat more fresh vegetables, especially green leafy ones.

I cannot overstate that vegetables are little nutrition powerhouses! Each vegetable has many individual benefits, with its own mix of macronutrients (protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates) and phytonutrients.

The greater the variety in your vegetable intake, the more benefit to you. When in doubt, just eat the rainbow!

Ideally, everyone would eat at least 5-7 servings of vegetables a day. I know that’s hard, so  you’ll often hear nutritionists,(including me!) say to prioritise cruciferous / brassica vegetables. You know them as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, radish, bok choy and watercress.

Not only are they high in antioxidants like vitamins A and C, they are also high in folic acid and vitamin K and have a huge amount of minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

Cruciferous vegetables are also high in phytonutrients like glucosinolates which support your liver in clearing excess hormones, alcohol, xenoestrogens and environmental chemicals.

So, adding a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie after a big night out will help your liver clear the alcohol from your system and make your feel better a bit faster!

In a nutshell, adding more cruciferous vegetables into your diet can help you boost your energy levels, support your liver, balance your hormones, support your immune system and feed the good bacteria in your gut!

There are lots of ways to add cruciferous vegetables to your diet:

Add a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie

Make a big pot of soup with broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower

Make a big a*s salad with loads of different veggies in it

Grate up some cabbage for a coleslaw

Make a big tray of roasted veg

Steam some asparagus and eat them with hummus as a snack

How do you eat your veggies?