After a gluttonous Christmas month (and I’d love to say it was just a week) I was really ready to get back to basics. In fact while I was purging on cakes and biscuits and wine, I was avidly reading and getting inspiration, ready for the New Year. I’m not one for making resolutions; I like to feel that for me January is about removing excesses, hibernating a little and re-assessing.
This year I did however decide to go a little extreme for me and have a gluten free, tea-total, vegan month. I hadn’t planned to do this. I’d simply decided to have a few days juicing in order to improve energy and feel better. Then I got cold and longed for warm soups and my vegan month was there. Why not, I decided. My reasoning came about simply because I felt so lethargic and was really aware of my joints as I got up in the morning. This shouldn’t be a norm for me and as I’ve so much faith in the healing power of plant foods, I embraced my little clinical study of one!!!!!
So far, three weeks in, I’m over ¾ stone lighter, full of energy and find myself bouncing, although I have to admit, I haven’t yet started any form of exercise routine, apart from dog walking. It’s not been easy especially as I cook dinner in the evening for my carnivorous family but it hasn’t been that tough either. I’ve managed to go out for dinner and find something on the menu, as well as cook lovely meals and make tasty and healthy chocolate and fruity treats. Nut butters and fruit have been my happy indulgences and roasted vegetables along with vegetable soups have made me smile. What I have learnt from this is the appreciation, yet again, of fruit as a beautiful and yet simple snack. Papayas, melons, figs and oranges have been a pure joy to eat and asparagus soup with a little chilli, blended with almonds has been delightful. I’ve discovered new juice and smoothie combinations and found inspiring recipes that are filling and a pure joy to eat. In all it’s been a really positive experience.
Will I carry on with this as a lifestyle choice? No!!! Will I make it to the end of the month? Maybe not. I’m going to a party tomorrow and don’t want to inflict my craziness on any of my friends. I simply want to enjoy my evening, spending quality time with people I care about, being thankful for the food that will have been lovingly prepared. This is far more important to me than any short term food choices I’ve decided to make.
During my hibernation time, I’ve also been reading Anita Moorjan’s books which I can’t recommend enough. In her first book she describes her journey from cancer to near death and then true healing. During this journey, Anita came to the understanding that making diet choices based on fear was detrimental to her health and instead, loving and enjoying what you eat is vital for healing.
We should openly enjoy foods that we feel are good for us, whether we choose a lifestyle that is vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or as a meat eater. I would say however that eating foods that make us feel good, doesn’t include the hollow short-term satisfaction that junk food provides. This I found to my cost yet again in December. Real, wholefoods are the only way to go, but joy in foods you love is what matters!!
This is the time of year when we can all feel a little run down, tired and also move into the cold and flu season. The reason we seem to be getting more susceptible to viruses now is believed to be because we’re spending more time indoors, increasing exposure to germs and viruses, and there’s also no doubt that we have a real lack of sunshine, which diminishes our vitamin D levels. So it’s really worth looking after ourselves. We can support our immunity levels by considering the following:
1) Vitamin D
Not only does Vitamin D support bone health but it also plays a vital role with immune function. We get our main source of Vitamin D from the sunlight, but this is lacking in the winter months in the northern hemisphere. Dr Mercola reported recently that a Japanese study found that children taking a Vitamin D supplement were 58% less likely to catch influenza A. That is a better rate of protection than the flu vaccine, which I find really interesting. It’s important to remember to expose your skin to sunlight when we can and to eat foods containing Vitamin D such as salmon, milk, eggs, mushrooms, tofu and pork. As a rule we don’t tend to talk a lot about supplements because we are predominantly focusing on healthy lifestyle habits, but I want to say that I personally supplement Vitamin D during the winter months to support my bone health and immunity. For other ideas on how to support healthy bones have a look at a previous blog - Healthy Bones. If you do decide to supplement, check your levels with your doctor first and I would recommend speaking to a professional regarding levels and a good source of the vitamin. Particularly with vitamin D it's a good idea to get a spray supplement that goes under the tongue, as the tablet forms are usually too low a dose, and because they go through our digestive system we don't tend to absorb all of the vitamin D available.
I love garlic and add it to everything. Garlic contains a phytochemical called allicin, which is anti-viral anti-bacterial and is therefore essential at this time of year. To get the most out of garlic, you want to crush it first, leave it exposed to the air for a good 5-10 minutes before adding it to food. Also, the less it is cooked, the more goodness it retains. In fact, lots of herbs and spices have great immune-supporting chemicals - have a look here for more details on the wonders of herbs!
3) Vitamin C
Vitamin C is well known to support immunity and is vital at this time of year. We should really be ensuring that we are getting plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Good sources include peppers, berries, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli, peas, papaya and guavas.
Zinc is also essential for immune health so make sure that you’re adding eggs, beef, ginger, red meat, chicken, fish, whole grains, legumes, oysters, sunflower seeds and pumpkins seeds into your diet.
Mushrooms are fantastic immune boosters and I would really recommend adding these to your meals, especially enoki, shitake and oyster mushrooms.
6) Avoid excess refined sugar
Too much sugar suppresses the immune system and boosts pathogenic activity. Enjoy the sweetness of natural fruits and try stevia or xylotil as an alternative to sugar in tea or coffee. Swapping white bread, rice and pasta for wholegrain varieties is also extremely beneficial.
Honey is also really helpful. I’d recommend either raw honey or Manuka honey. Raw honey contains probiotics that boost immunity and Manuka honey, which is produced in New Zealand, contains higher concentrations of a component called methylglyoxal, which gives the honey its high antibacterial quality. Note of caution though, don’t give children under 2 years of age honey because their bodies aren’t developed enough yet to metabolise it.
When we sleep our body has a chance to repair and if you’re depriving yourself of sleep, your immunity will become suppressed. So try and get between 7 -9 hours per night if at all possible.
Stress makes us more vulnerable to illness and disease. This is due to higher levels of cortisol and adrenalin in the body, which suppress immunity. Although stress is often unavoidable, using techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga or walking are great at keeping the body in balance by lowering cortisol levels, which in turn can aid sleep and boost your immunity.
Try this Immune Boosting Chicken and Ginger soup
• 2 split breast free-range chickens (this means bone in breast)
• 6 shiitake mushrooms (you can substitute frozen or dried)
• 6 slices of dried astragalus root (optional)
• ½ onion (large)
• 2 garlic cloves
• 4 carrots
• 4 celery stalks
• ginger root (use about 3 inch slice)
• kale (large bunch)
• dash of dried oregano (add more if sick)
• cup of fresh parsley
• cup of fresh coriander
• sea salt and black pepper
• cayenne pepper (add this to each individual bowl as you like)
Fill the pot up about one third of the way with filtered water and toss in some sea salt, ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. The sea salt and peppers can really be minimal while cooking. You can always add a bit more to each serving. Let the water get hot, just below a boil.
Add the split breast (after pulling off the fat and skin — a little left is fine). Slice up the ginger root into smaller strips and toss in the water. Cook the soup on low, more slowly.
Cut up your carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and shiitake mushrooms, and add to the soup. Let this cook for about 30 minutes.
Add the stem of the kale. Just pull off the leaves from the centre, and chop up the stems. Toss those in the soup. In 30 minutes or so, add the kale leaves. You can let this cook very slowly at a low temperature for another 30 minutes to an hour, and you’ll have a delicious, nutrient-dense soup.
Cut up the parsley and coriander, and put a little on the bottom of your bowl. Scoop out the soup and place it on top.
A really interesting article has been hitting the headlines this week regarding a woman who is able to finally lead a normal life after 25 years of suffering with moderate to severe migraines. Her relief finally came with the help of intolerance testing which showed that she had an intolerance to cow’s milk, corn and prunes. She stated that the process had been life changing. Click here to read the article.
I was really pleased to see this in the media because these tests can be so successful in alleviating health problems and we’ve both seen positive results with ourselves and with clients.
Firstly it’s important to talk about what an intolerance test is. The test shows an antibody reaction to certain foods that may be causing unpleasant symptoms in the body.
“What is food to one man, may be fierce poison to another” Lucretius circa 75BC
However, there are different types of reactions to food. There are reactions that are immune-mediated and those that are non-immune mediated. Only certain immune-mediated reactions will show up on a food intolerance test. We’ll explain this briefly for clarification.
Food intolerances (IgG reactions) can lead to inflammation within the body and the gradual appearance of many symptoms. These symptoms aren’t life threatening like a severe IgE allergic reaction but can have really unpleasant effects on the body.
It isn’t fully understood yet why we develop food intolerances but it is linked to a compromised immune system. When the immune system is overwhelmed, possibly due to poor digestion, stress, infections, medications, a poor diet or high alcohol consumption, it can react to proteins in the food, treating them as foreign invaders and forming immune complexes that deposit in the body causing a variety of symptoms. Examples of these may include:
Gastrointestinal: bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, flatulence
Skin: eczema, spots, hives
Nervous system: migraines, headaches, depression, anxiety, fatigue
Respiratory: asthma, cough, sinusitis, rhinitis
Metabolic: weight gain
Musculoskeletal: joint pains, muscle aches, arthritis
The good news is that as soon as the offending foods are identified and removed from the diet, symptoms may decrease and even disappear. These foods can usually be gradually reintroduced after a period of time. It is believed that the successful reintroduction is due to the fact that the body is no longer overburdened and has had time to recover. However it is important to state that some people may find that they are better off removing certain foods for life.
These tests don’t come cheap and can range from approximately £60 - £200 varying on the number of foods being tested. You may ask why would I spend this much? From experience I can say that it could be near impossible to identify that you are actually reacting to cashew nuts for example or a certain grape in a wines of your choice. Even for some of the more common food intolerances, such as wheat, gluten or dairy it can be really useful to have a very clear indication of how these foods may be affecting your health. How difficult would it be to identify this and how long have you been suffering? Food intolerance tests have moved on in recent years and the best companies are Cambridge Nutritional Sciences and YorkTest Laboritories.
Although these tests can be done independently, I genuinely feel it is beneficial to work with a nutritional therapist who will not only guide you through the process, but will also piece together the whole picture because this is usually only part of the problem.
If you are interested in finding out more and making an appointment, please feel free to contact me directly.
Love Rachel x
I want to talk this week about meditation. This is a practise that I’ve recommenced over the past few months because of the numerous benefits to health and peace of mind. A few minutes of meditation can relax my muscles and calm my state of mind, setting me up for the day. As we all know there are so many things that we can’t control in life, but one thing we can do is control our state of mind and learn how to use our emotions and responses for the better. Meditation is so helpful with positively reinforcing your belief in yourself and your ability to deal with situations.
Now on my journey, on and off, over the past twenty years I haven’t found this easy. I’ve spend time on my own, in meditation groups, Buddhist centres and even in a little room in a busy recreation centre with the sound of balls bouncing off walls and children shouting.
One thing I have learnt with all this is that it can be really infuriating and takes practice and patience, but the benefits are really worth it. Nowadays I find a little time at some point in the day and use an app on my phone called Insight Timer – Meditation Timer. It gives me the option of guided meditations for relaxation, peace of mind, health or anything I fancy I can also just put the timer on with relaxing background music. Now I realise that many of you reading this will think that you just don’t have time, but let me ask, do you spend a few minutes a day looking on social media? A Zen Proverb states “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
Science has now caught up with thousands of years of Eastern practice and studies at Harvard Medical School have found that individuals who used long term relaxation methods like yoga and meditation, in fact had many more active “disease-fighting genes” than those who did not undertake a form of relaxation.
Research has also shown that there are many positive benefits and I have listed a few below:
1. Increased Immunity
2. Emotional Balance
3. Increased Fertility
4. Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
There are varying ways to simply practise meditation. You can start by simply watching you breath. Slowly breathe in through your nose and extend your breath to your abdomen and then gradually exhale whilst being aware of all tensions being released. If your mind wanders whilst doing this, let your thoughts go and return to following your breath. You’ll be amazed at how relaxed you feel.
I’ve found that meditation has the additional benefits of helping me to trust my instincts more. I feel that I’m drawn to go somewhere, do something or say something that is really beneficial not just to me but to others around me. I also feel more able to deal with difficult situations, although not always because let’s face it this thing called life isn’t always easy. But I feel a little more at peace and in control of my responses and decisions.
Give it a go and let me know how it is for you.
Love Rachel x
I remember watching a television programme months ago about a few groups of individuals who were on a quest for longevity. Obviously I always find these shows compelling watching and the groups involved included a restricted eating group and the paleo lifestyle community, along with a couple of others that I don’t really recall.
I remember watching the restricted eating individuals with amusement because, they looked so unhealthy and the food looked really unappealing. The paleo group were interesting and on the whole I like the paleo lifestyle. But what struck me was an interview at the very end of the programme where a 100 year old man lived his life believing in everything in moderation. What he did do though every morning, was make himself a smoothie that included berries and superfoods.
I love superfood powders and they are always a favourite addition to my kitchen. I’ve listed a few below because I think everyone should include a few of these in their diets:
This is a deep purple berry that grows in the Amazon. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E and contains anthocyanins which have been named “beauty antioxidants” and have the reputation of being particularly anti-ageing. It’s also one of the few fruits that contains essential fatty acids. New research has found that it seems to encourage stem cell production and it is considered a primary choice for rejuvenation and recovery with athletes and health enthusiasts alike.
This is a regular addition to my morning smoothie or juice. This superfood originates from the baobab tree in Africa and contains more iron than red meat, six times more vitamin C than oranges and is a fantastic source of calcium, potassium and magnesium. It has a high fibre content and it is believed that it may help increase energy levels, immune function and collagen formation (which supports healthy skin, cartilage, bones and blood vessels). It has high antioxidant properties which are anti-ageing and skin protective.
Cacoa as we all know is where chocolate originates. It is the original product prior to being roasted and therefore still contains it amazing health properties. Cocao is full numerous minerals including high levels of magnesium, the mineral which which may contribute to pain relief and reducing muscle cramps and also enables relaxation. It is also one of the highest antioxidant foods available and these antioxidants in the form of flavonoids have been linked in studies to increased heart health, which includes improved blood pressure. It also contains amino acids and phytochemicals that are beneficial in energizing the body and improving moods.
Chlorella is a blue-green algae that is rich in vitamins and minerals and is a detoxifier of heavy metals and toxins in the body. It is supportive of the immune system and recent trials have shown that it increases levels of “natural killer” cell activity in the body. It has been shown to naturally increase levels vitamin A, vitamin C and glutathione in the body which enables the elimination of free radicals, therefore promoting younger looking skin. It also contains high chlorophyll levels which have been shown to protect the body against ultraviolet radiation treatments.
This originates from South America and has a reputation for increasing energy and stamina. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and numerous studies have shown that it has the incredible ability of being able to balance hormones for males and females and has been called nature’s Viagra. It is thought that it may help menopausal symptoms and skin conditions and is a beneficial adaptogen which is believed to have a positive effect on moods.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that was named as the original superfood. It is nutrients dense and is 60% protein, including all of the essential amino acids. It is rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12 and has a high chlorophyll content. It has been shown to be an excellent detoxifier of heavy metals and is also extremely energizing with the addition benefit helping balance moods.
Wheatgrass is extremely rich in chlorophyll which is a natural cleanser, blood strengthener and energizer for the body. It is rich in vitamins and minerals including high levels of calcium, iron, magnesium along with vitamins A, C and E. It it believed that it may improve immunity and kill harmful bacteria in the digestive system. It is also an excellent detoxifier.
I hope this list will encourage you to try at least a couple of these because they really are a magnificent addition to the diet.
I was hugely influenced by the work of Dan Buettner. I don’t know if anyone is aware of the Blue Zones but basically Natural Geographic explorer, Dan Buettner, lead a group of researchers across the globe in search of regions that held the highest percentages of centenarians to discover the secrets to their long, healthy, full lives. The blue zone regions include Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda in California, Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica and Ikaria, a Greek island. His findings were fascinating and inspiring.
For me it just highlights the fact that we don’t need to be spending a fortune on our health and lifestyle. We just need to move enough, eat well, have a purpose in life and be part of a community. And it’s as simple as that!!!
Jamie Oliver has also recently found the blue zones and mimicked recipes in his recent cookbook which I think is great, although for me personally he has a few too many wheat-based dishes.
Essentially the main dietary principles of those living the longest and healthiest seem to be the following:
It obviously isn’t just food that seems to have an impact on longevity and lasting health. Lifestyle is a huge factor and I’ve listed the key elements found among healthy centenarians because I think at times we all need to take stock. Dan found that the key positive lifestyle habits included :
1. Moving Naturally The world’s longest-living people move constantly without thinking about it and many grow gardens. They don’t run marathons or pump iron but are consistently active. This isn’t so easy for many of us with office-based jobs but it is a reminder that movement is so important
2. Having a Sense of Purpose. The research has shown that having a sense of purpose can in fact add seven years extra life expectancy. Having a reason to get up in the morning is so important and has such an impact on well being
3. Down Shift Basically we all have stress to some extent in our lives, however centenarians have found a way to deal with their problems effectively. Some take time daily to remember their ancestors, others take a nap, whilst Sardinians have a happy hour. This is so important because stress has terrible consequences to health including chronic inflammation and many age-related diseases.
4. 80% Rule Blue zone individuals tend to eat until they are 80% full and this is especially true of the Okinawans. Additionally the centenarians tend to eat the smallest meal at the end of the day.
5. Plant Power Beans seems to be a mainstay for many and meat is eaten sparingly, often only a few times a month.
6. Wine This was good news for me. Alcohol is consumed moderately and often daily but only 1-2 glasses. Interestingly, moderate drinkers seemed to outlive non-drinkers. What is really important to point out, especially in our society today, is that binge drinking is a no!!!
7. Belonging Most centenarians belonged to some faith-based community or have a sense of something greater than themselves.
8. Loved Ones The blue zone centenarians put their families first which includes looking after ageing parents and grandparents and investing time and love into their children as well.
9. Right Tribe I love this. Successful centenarians spend time with positive like-minded friends.
I think we can all take something from this. Life doesn’t have to be complicated and we don’t have to spend a fortune and so much time working on perfection. Living in the moment, eating healthy food and enjoying the company of those we love is what we instinctively know to be part of the purpose of living but we can often forget as we get too busy.
I wish everyone good food and good company.
Sources and further information: Dan Buettner (2010) The Blue Zones, www.bluezones.com
We can get so caught up with buying the best healthy snacks but can often forget those already available, Fruit!!!! I thought I’d quickly highlight a few of the benefits of fruit as a reminder of how highly nutritious and beneficial they are to our bodies.
Apples for example are a source of Vitamins A, C, E and K and a good source of fibre. Studies have shown that apples have high antioxidant activity and can help lower cholesterol levels as well as aiding in the reduction of chronic disease. They also contain high amounts of the phytonutrient quercetin, which is a natural antihistamine. Apples have anti-inflammatory properties and also contain a gel-like fibre called pectin which has been shown to bind to heavy metals, safely removing them from the body. Apple pectin also has the ability to build a barrier which controls the amount of fat that our adipose (fat around the middle) tissues are able to absorb.
Bananas are a good source vitamins C, B6, potassium, copper, and manganese. It is a great electrolyte food for those working out and busy on the go. Bananas contain a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan has been shown to help promote sleep. They also contain powerful anti-fungal and antibiotic compounds and support the natural bacteria in the bowel, which helps promote a healthy and digestion and also supports the immune system. Bananas are also superb for athletes because they help replenish energy and revitalize the body instantly.
Blueberries are a good source of vitamins C and K, along with copper, manganese and fibre. They are packed full of high levels of phytonutrients and have received a bit of a celebrity status as a superfood recently. Studies have shown that blueberries can improve memory and reduce DNA damage. They are useful in fighting urinary tract infections and are essential for eyes and digestive tract health. Blueberries also strengthen the circulatory system and support immune health. Blueberries can be frozen because freezing retains most of their nutrition.
Grapes are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and B-complex, calcium, magnesium, copper, boron, manganese, iron, selenium and potassium. They contain high levels of phytonutrients which are anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-microbial and anti-ageing. Grapes are a low GI food that benefit blood sugar levels by providing great insulin regulation and blood sugar balance. Black grapes are the most nutritious of all varieties.
Raspberries contain vitamins C, A, E, K, B-complex, iron, copper, calcium, and magnesium. They have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties and also contain a compound called raspberry ketone that research has shown increases the metabolism of fat cells. Raspberries are able to be frozen because they retain most of their nutrition.
Juices or smoothies?
Juices and smoothies are becoming more and more popular and I’m so pleased to see that it’s becoming normal now to have a juice or smoothie for breakfast or lunch. They’re an amazing way to quickly pack in an abundance of nutrients into a quick and easy drink, and are in my opinion the ultimate in fast food. I tend to alternate between juices and smoothies for breakfast and sometimes lunch and thought I’d quickly talk about the difference between the two.
Juicing is a process that extracts the nutrients and the water easily from plants. This process allows the body to absorb the nutrients quickly because the digestive system doesn’t have to work so hard at breaking foods down. The nutrients are then easily released into the bloodstream.
I love juicing and would recommend you looking up Jason Vale, aka the Juicemaster. Last January I followed Jason’s 28 day juice plan after a particularly gluttonous Christmas period. I felt really low in energy and bloated at the start of the year, and after an uncomfortable 5 or so days, whilst my body detoxed, my energy levels soared, my skin glowed and I felt great, with the added benefit of losing over a stone. It’s amazing how the body can heal itself when you remove the junk. To this day a favourite breakfast of mine is a Jason Vale recipe:
Jason Vale Oxygen Elixir Juice:
It’s velvety, gorgeous and will keep you going until lunchtime.
My kids are now teenagers and have a passion for every junk food establishment they can find, so I’ll often make them a few tasty blends to make sure they at least have some goodness going in after a weekend of teenage junk heaven with their friends. This also allows me to feel my parenting guilt going down a notch or two on one level at least.
Blending is slightly different in that is also contains the pulp of the fruit and vegetables and this fibre has the benefit of slowing down the release of nutrients in the bloodstream, keeping you fuller for longer and avoiding any sugar spikes.
At home we often give the kids a smoothie for breakfast as it’s such a good way to start the day and I know that some good has gone in before they buy chips and whatever teenage junk heaven they find in secondary dinner halls and college canteens.
As for myself, I also love them and this morning for example I quickly threw together a smoothie containing the following:
You may have noticed that I added baobab to the mix. It has been getting a fair amount of press lately as another of the “superfoods”. It’s an African fruit which is ground into a powder. I first tried Baobab a couple of years ago whilst working as a nutritionist for a supplement company and found a new love. This fruit has been found to contain six times more vitamin C than an orange, more antioxidants than blueberries, twice the amount of calcium as a glass of milk and more potassium than a banana. What a great way to start the day.
I’m a real gadget queen and have two juicers and two blenders but to be honest whatever you use is great. I watched a juicing expert say that the best juicer to have is the one that you’ll use and I think that is so important to remember. So take your gadgets out of the cupboard and make yourself amazing fast food for breakfast this spring!!!
I was absolutely fascinated by the BBC documentary How to Stay Young with Angela Rippon and Dr Chris van Tulleken and would recommend everyone looking it up.
One fascinating aspect showed Angela looking at an exercise that is currently being used to determine how long we are going to live. In the exercise you take off your shoes, cross your legs and lower yourself to the ground without using hands or any other body part. After this, you have to stand up again in the same way. The purpose of this exercise is to determine your muscle strength and balance.
You are scored by starting at 10 and losing a point for each body part used to help you, with half a point if you wobble. It has apparently been found that these scores indicate how long you're going to live. Scoring 8-10, indicates a long, healthy life, 6-7.5 indicates a much shorter life, and 3.5-5.5 shows your lifespan quite dramatically decreased. The good news however is that this score can be increased with exercise. I tried the experiment myself and found it surprisingly hard. I managed to get down and stayed there for a while stuck, before using my knee to get up. We’d been on a really long walk the day before and I used that as my excuse, but it definitely gave me cause for thought. Apparently my kids have been shown this in school and completed it without any effort. Not funny!
The documentary also showed an experiment with German pensioners which was carried out over six months. This compared muscle strength of two groups who were either going to the gym or dancing. The dancers won hands down which made sense because so many muscles are used but the interesting fact was that the dancers saw an increase in muscle strength by 15%. Muscle wastage (sarcopenia) starts in the body around the age of 30-40 and from here in, if you don’t use it you lose it. I used to think that as I got older I’d really slow down with exercise and this was a huge wake up call, that you can’t ever stop.
Another really important and interesting area concerned stress. Dr Chris Van Tulleken and his identical twin were tested to see their chronological age compared to their biological age. His twin had previously had a diet consisting of fatty and sugary foods and had been over weight, whereas Chris on the other hand had been much healthier with regards to nutrition but had a much more stressful lifestyle. Interestingly both twins had the same biological age but both were shown to be years older than their actual age. Both nutrition and stress had obviously had an impact on their bodies.
Another set of identical twins were also assessed and again the twin with the highest stress levels, despite a healthier diet, had the higher biological age. It’s known that excess cortisol in the body, due to ongoing stress has a really damaging effect on the ageing process and can shorten your life by up to five years and in fact can be fatal. It’s really worth taking a look at your lifestyle and making any changes possible. Dealing with stress is easier said than done as life can be so tough at times but when possible adding yoga, meditation, a walk in nature ordeep breathing exercises can be extremely effective in reducing cortisol levels and improving general health.
My favourite part of the programme involved the lifestyle of the inhabitants on Loma Linda, who live 60 miles from California. You may recall I wrote about the blue zones a few weeks ago and Loma Linda is one of these regions. The inhabitants are Seventh Day Adventists, and their faith encourages vegetarianism. These inhabitants live on average 10 years longer than the average Californian, with vegans living even longer. A retired doctor of 100 (nearly 101), who had been vegan for 50 years was still very active, had no pain in his body and had in fact completed his last heart surgery on a patient at the age of 95. Amazing!! Now I’m not saying that we should all become vegan and join a church, but cutting down on meat and increasing fruit, vegetable and nut intake can have a tremendous effect on health, reducing the risks of cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
I would urge you all to watch this captivating programme and also the second part which involves brain health.
Keep healthy, happy and stress free.
Love Rachel x