Last week in my yoga classes I decided to talk about the breath and why it is so important for us to stop and take a moment to focus on our breath… Here are five reasons why….
- Become present – by focusing in on the breath we become present. Our breath is something that is always with us. We miss so many of the wonderful moments in life by forever living in the past or thinking about the future. Becoming aware of our breath brings us back to the moment we should be living in. I heard in a yoga class the other day that on average we have 16,000 and 96,000 thoughts a day….That’s a heck of a lot of thoughts to try and switch off from!
- Monitor your feelings – by tuning into the breath we can become more aware of how we feel. If we are feeling anxious or stressed then perhaps our breath has become short and restricted. By becoming aware of your breath patterns you can start to find ways of using the breath to look after yourself and create mental and emotional stability.
- Meditate on the breath – if you haven’t tried meditation before, focusing on your own breath is a really good place to start. Using the breath to meditate can help us see more clearly. It can help us create more space to become aware that whatever we are feeling right now will pass, that emotions are constantly changing and that we are not stuck in this moment.
- Relinquish control – we are not in control of our breath, breathing just happens. Our breath is automatic, just as blood pumps through your veins, just as we aren’t in control of the weather or every single emotion that comes to pass. By focusing on the breath we start to slow down and realise that we can’t always fix or change things. That sometimes it is better to simply let go.
- Create a bit of calm and peace – by concentrating on the breath, and in particular your exhalation, your parasympathetic nervous system starts to kick in. This is our “rest and digest” mode which helps us feel more centered, more calm, more relaxed and content.
So next time you have a spare moment, just breathe!
Image curtesy of Flickr and Michal Huniewicz
A while ago when I was really struggling with exhaustion I went to T2 and asked them for a tea that would give me energy and a boost but without the caffeine crash that comes with coffee. They suggested Matcha Green Tea. Matcha green tea can come in tea bags but the best way to drink it is in a powdered form as then you are drinking the actual leaf and effectively consuming a whole food.
5 Reasons Why….
- Matcha Green Tea is full of antioxidants – as you know from my other posts, antioxidants are clever things that help us fight the free radicals that cause cancer and help slow down wrinkles. Matcha green tea contains a very powerful and potent antioxidant – epigallocatechin gallate (ECGG).
- Matcha Green Tea gives you an energy boost – it has caffeine in which acts as a stimulant but without the highs and lows that coffee gives you. The caffeine binds with the phytonutrients in the tea which slows the body’s absorption of the caffeine giving you a gradual release of energy.
- Matcha Green Tea has a relaxing effect whilst keeping us mentally alert – Green tea has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress due to the presence of L-theanine. This amino acid stimulates the production of alpha brain waves which creates not only a relaxing effect but improves our memory, focus and concentration.
- Matcha Green Tea has been shown to lower bad cholesterol – the ECGGs decrease our low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels – the this in turn helps protect us from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
- Matcha Green Tea helps prevent obesity – the caffeine and ECGG combined increases energy expenditure. They also have a thermogenic effect which causes an increase in the body’s ability to metabolise fats and use them for energy.
Simply add half a teaspoon of Matcha to boiling water and stir!
Check out my recipe for a Matcha Latte here.
I used to be a milk chocolate girl all the way but when I was told I had bacteria growing in my stomach (SIBO) causing all sorts of problems and that I should try and avoid sugar I was completely gutted. However my dietician told me that I could eat dark chocolate (ideally above 75% cocoa.) Having not been the biggest fan of dark chocolate I have to say I am totally converted. I would choose dark chocolate every time now.
5 reasons why….
- Dark chocolate helps prevent cardiovascular disease – it is naturally rich in flavonoids which are thought to lower blood pressure. It may reduce the risk of athereosclerosis by keeping the arteries flexible and preventing plaque formation in your arteries. Dark chocolate helps lower bad cholestorol (LDLs) and increase the good cholestorol (HDL). Good all round for our hearts.
- Dark chocolate contains a ton of antioxidants – antioxidants are so important as they look after cell membranes, protect DNA, fight the free radicals that may cause cancer and they also slow down those wrinkles.
- Dark chocolate enhances your mood – by tasting great! It also improves the blood flow to the brain and contains numerous chemicals that act as a stimulant and have a positive effect on our moods. Phenylethylamine encourages the brain to release endorphins and makes us feel more lively!
- Dark chocolate is rich in vitamins and minerals – magnesium (healthy bones and teeth), calcium (healthy bones), iron (protects against anaemia), riboflavin (helps metabolise fats and protein), copper (keeps immune system healthy), potassium (healthy function of all cells), phosphorous (healthy bones), sulphur (healthy joints, nails, hair and skin) and vitamin C (helps heal wounds).
- Dark chocolate has a low Glycemic Index – which means that it’s a great snack as it won’t cause big spikes in blood sugar levels. You will feel fuller and satisfied for longer as it is a slower burning energy source.
Once again remember that balance is key and eating a ton of chocolate is not going to be great for you as ultimately it is a fat! Everything in moderation! The best way to get the benefits of dark chocolate into your diet would be to use raw cacao powder. This is the purest way of eating cacao and the most nutritious way to get all these wonderful little antioxidants into your belly!
For a yummy cacao smoothie simply whizz up 1 banana, a tablespoon of cacao powder, ¼ of a courgette, and almond milk to the consistency you like.
People have been very skeptical about coconut oil due to its high calorie count and the fact that it is a saturated fat. However studies are now showing that not only are saturated fats not as bad for us as we once thought, but that coconut oil is immediately converted into energy rather than stored as fat.
- Coconut oil is great to cook with – it has a high smoking point and is the least vulnerable oil to oxidation and free radicals which means that it is the safest for cooking at higher temperatures.
- Coconut oil can help fight infections – including: viruses, bacteria, fungal infections, parasites, dental decay and can help stop the development of Alzheimers. The free fatty acids FFA give coconut oil this medicinal effect – 50 percent of the fatty acid content is lauric acid which is converted into monolaurin which is an antiviral.
- Coconut oil has a detoxifying effect – it can stimulate the immune system and help the body get rid of any stored toxins and germs.
- Coconut oil can help you lose weight. This is for 2 reasons:
- Coconut oil can help you burn more fat. The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil can increase energy expenditure and boost metabolism compared to the same amount of calories from longer chain fats (found in most oils, dairy and meat.)
- Coconut oil reduces your appetite. This could be related to the way these fats are metabolized. The ketone bodies, which the liver produces when you eat coconut oil, can have a powerful appetite reducing effect.
- Coconut oil can reduce the risk of heart disease – it is true that trans fats and long chain fatty acids found in saturated fats can be a cause of arteriosclerosis, however this is not the case for the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil. Unlike many other saturated fats, the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil reduce the risk of clot formation and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease.
However, it is important to remember that everything should be eaten in moderation and my suggestion would be to swap your cooking oil with virgin (make sure its virgin) coconut oil when you can!
I have recently started to experiment with fermenting food. So far I have made my own sauerkraut and I have a tomato salsa in the process of fermenting. I have struggled with various digestion issues for a long time and had been reading a lot about how fantastic fermented food is for gut health… so I thought I would give it a try!
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage – fermentation is the ancient method of preserving food. By adding salt to cabbage, the production of lactic acid bacteria is encouraged – turning the cabbage into sauerkreaut.
5 reasons why you should eat sauerkraut:
1. Sauerkraut improves our gut health – the fermentation process produces probiotics which aid the breakdown of food and nutrient assimilation. Basically probiotics help us digest our food and enables the gut to get the most out of the various nutrients in our diet.
2. Saurekraut improves our mood – a healthy gut means a healthy mind. Research has shown that the gut flora communicates with our central nervous system and therefore our brain. Our gut flora can influence our behavior and our moods – hence why the stomach is called the 2nd brain and we use the term ‘gut feeling.’
3. Sauerkraut is full of antioxidants – antioxidants help fight free radicals that cause certain cancers.
4. Sauerkraut stimulates the immune system and is an antimicrobial substance. This helps fight infection such as inflammatory bowel diseases and gastrointestinal disorders. Fermented foods can also help relieve the symptoms of IBS.
5. Sauerkraut is a good source of – dietary fiber, vitamin A (important for vision), vitamin C (important for absorbing iron), vitamin K (important for blood clotting) and B vitamins (important for growth and healthy skin).
It’s so easy to make:
- Slice 1 medium cabbage
- Add 1 tablespoon of salt
- Massage the salt in with your hands
- Put the cabbage and the liquid that has been produced by the salt in a jar (if there isn’t enough liquid then add a little water mixed with salt)
- Submerge the cabbage in the liquid – I place a glass in the mouth of the jar on top of the cabbage
- Place a tea towel over to protect from flies, dust etc
- Leave for 3 – 10 days depending on how strong a flavor you like
- Place in the fridge – it will keep for several months!