Sleep matters big time. Without enough sleep, you create an uphill battle in so many different ways. Sleep – how much you have and the quality of it – matters even more than you probably realise, and not getting enough is sabotaging your health and any health goals you might have. Today I’d like to share exactly why it matters so much and what to do about it.
SLEEP AND WEIGHT
Sleep and weight are intimately related. If you are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, you are setting yourself up to be hungrier, eat more, weigh more, and have a harder time losing weight. It’s not all in your head.
Busy mums and working women alike, many of you are likely sleep deprived. Scientists now know that, if you are consistently surviving on too little sleep (that’s less than seven hours of good sleep per night), you’re not going to be functioning at your best, focusing properly or thinking creatively. The cherry on top is that you are also sabotaging any attempts to take control of healthy eating and your weight.
Sleep deprivation causes hormone imbalance, and I’m not talking about PMT, but the hormones that directly affect your feelings of hunger. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone that makes you feel more hungry) and leptin (the satiety hormone that tells you when you’ve had enough to eat) are majorly disrupted when you are not sleeping enough. So, after a night of lousy sleep, if you feel like you need to eat a banquet, it’s not all in your head but rather in your hormones. The feast you desire is going to be filled with high-carb, starchy foods and not the lovely healthy ones you might otherwise choose.
STRESS AND YOUR HORMONES
Lack of sleep also messes with stress hormones, and stress messes with your sleep. It’s a vicious circle and one particularly good reason why it is so important to take the time to unwind before hitting the sack. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones. It should follow a specific pattern throughout the day, starting off low (after all, you will have just got up from a ‘restful sleep’), rising to a peak in the morning to get you out of bed and gradually tailing off towards evening time. Prolonged periods of stress can create an imbalance in this daily rhythm that may lead to cortisol levels being high come night-time. Typically, this would leave you feeling tired but wired – absolutely exhausted, but your head is buzzing when you hit the pillow. Not exactly the recipe for success.
The stress placed on the body by lack of sleep also upsets your body’s sensitivity to insulin (the fat-storage hormone), which contributes to weight gain and this, in turn, exacerbates hormonal symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats.
During the perimenopause (the transition to the menopause), those night sweats caused by falling levels of oestrogen are enough to keep anyone from restful slumber. But did you know that oestrogen also allows your body to better use the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, which is the precursor to the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin? And, during menopause, when oestrogen levels fall steadily, progesterone falls off a cliff. This is a problem for women because progesterone helps you fall asleep faster and experience fewer disruptions to your sleep. (A similar scenario plays out during menstruation).
BALANCED BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS = BETTER SLEEP
The more starchy carbs you eat, the more glucose is in your blood and the higher the amount of insulin that your body needs to restore blood sugar balance. If your diet is high in starchy carbs like bread, rice, pasta and sugars, you make more insulin, which creates blood sugar fluctuations at night, and these cause sleep disturbances. A sugar ‘crash’ at night triggers a release of cortisol to wake you up at the wrong time, and this can shift you out of deep sleep into a lighter sleep phase. Moving to a way of eating that balances your blood sugar helps significantly improve the quality of your sleep.
TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
There are a number of things you can do (or not do) to improve your chances of sleeping well.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every day. Your body thrives on routine.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable; not too hot, nor too cold.
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex. This may help you completely switch off.
- Keep the bedroom completely dark, so you’re not disturbed by light, which your brain detects even when your eyes are closed. Eye masks can be useful.
- Spend time outdoors to soak up the sun.
- Try to take some gentle exercise every day. There is evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise. A brisk walk ticks both boxes.
- Make an effort to relax for at least 5 minutes before going to bed – a warm bath, massage, meditation.
- Keep your feet and hands warm. Wear warm socks and/or mittens or gloves to bed if you struggle with cold extremities.
- Consider getting a traditional alarm clock so your smartphone can stay out of the bedroom (see below). Better still, work out how much sleep you need by going to bed 15 minutes earlier until you find that you wake up naturally before your alarm. That’s your personal sleep requirement.
- Engage in stimulating activities – like playing a competitive game, watching an edge-of-the-seat film, or having an important conversation with a loved one. Even using smartphones and tablets can interfere with sleep, because they emit the same kind of light as the morning sun.
- Eat a heavy meal within four hours of going to bed.
- Drink caffeine in the afternoon – including coffee, ‘normal’ and green tea, and colas.
- Use alcohol to help you sleep. Alcohol can make sleep more disturbed.
- Try to avoid daytime naps.
- Try not to get frustrated if you can’t sleep. Go to bed in a positive mood – “I will sleep tonight”.
You will almost certainly have read some of these tips before. Just knowing the information is not going to give you the restful night’s sleep you are looking for. The only thing that counts is action.
If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that lack of sleep is at the root of not getting organised enough to plan your meals ahead of time (which may result in your feeling forced to grab a coffee and croissant on the way to work), has you craving sugary snacks you wouldn’t otherwise eat and feeling like a shadow of your normal self, I invite you to put getting more and/or better sleep at the top of your to-do list this week to see what a difference it can make. You might have a whole list of things on your list already this week but focusing on this ONE thing might be what you need to see a real shift in everything else.
Food intolerance is a series of physiological responses that your body has to certain types of food.
It is thought that over 45% of the population react adversely to foods that they eat.
A food intolerance is occasionally confused with a food allergy. They can often have the same signs and symptoms but are completely different. A true food allergy will cause an immune system reaction that affects many organs in the body, it causes a range of symptoms, in some cases, it can be severe or life-threatening. In contrast, food intolerance symptoms are normally less serious and are often restricted to digestive problems.
One in three people have hidden food intolerances. If you are eating foods that your body cannot tolerate, you are likely to gain weight, feel terrible and even look years older than your actual age. The inflammation going on makes your body resistant to the key chemical messengers that help you burn fat, tolerate stress and regularise any cravings. If you are one of them, you need to find out what you are intolerant to and which foods to eat instead.
You can ‘desensitise’ yourself to foods you’re intolerant to and then reintroduce them three months later to see if you can now tolerate it. You should never eat foods you have a severe response to.
Discovering what you have an intolerance to
Food intolerance can be responsible for many symptoms, especially digestive problems, from bloating to constipation, and diarrhea to abdominal cramps. These are sometimes accompanied by mental and physical symptoms, such as mood changes, chronic tiredness, depression, increased appetite, sleepiness after meals, inability to concentrate and a host of minor ailments from itches and rashes to asthma and sinus problems.
Whilst the effects may not be life threatening, resulting symptoms can have a massive impact on someone’s quality of work and home life.
Download the questionnaire here and check yourself out to see if you have any food intolerance.
Are you still trying to lose weight and shed the extra pounds?
There are different weight loss diets and regimes providing you with different weight loss tips to follow. I am sure you may have heard of the tip: avoid late night snacking and go to bed hungry. So, how effective is this weight loss tip? Let’s take a look….
Avoid late night snacking, go to bed hungry
Studies have suggested that the only thing that matters for weight loss is what you eat and how much you eat, but various studies have now shown that when you eat is just as important in achieving your weight loss goals. Staying awake and eating late is a very recent occurrence in human history; many years ago, we humans never used to eat late at night.
Did you know that you don’t need to eat every 3 or 4 hours to live and be healthy and that you actually burn fat while you sleep?
Your body is inclined to burn fat at certain times of the day and store fat at other times. When you eat a meal or snack, your blood glucose rises, some of the glucose is used up by your muscles and brain for energy, some is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver, and the rest is stored as fat.
When you are asleep, your body is in a fasting state. Your blood glucose drops. As your blood glucose gets lower and lower, your body will use up your glycogen store; the glycogen is converted into glucose to provide energy. If you haven’t eaten anything after dinner, the glycogen store will be used up quickly, then your body will be forced to burn its own fat stores to provide energy to keep you functioning properly. This helps with your efforts to lose weight. If you snack before you sleep, your body doesn’t have a chance to burn its own fat store, it uses the food you eat for energy.
Your body runs on a regular circadian rhythm (an internal clock) that matches with when you wake and sleep and almost every organ in your body also has its own circadian rhythm or internal clock when it is programmed to perform more efficiently. Light is the main cue that sets your body’s internal clock – for example, your liver is scheduled to function more efficiently during the day. The timing of your meals may throw off your body’s circadian rhythm and lead to weight gain.
Numerous studies have shown that weight loss is not just about “calories in and calories out”, but is to a large extent under the control of your hormones
The major hormone here is insulin. Insulin is a fat storing hormone. Higher levels of insulin prevents weight loss. Insulin is secreted in response to eating, so it tends to be raised during the day and fairly low when we are asleep. Insulin levels can be normalised by changing not just what we eat, but when we eat as well. So, avoiding snacks late at night and going to bed hungry will help to keep insulin low and help with your efforts to lose weight.
Ensure you have a routine to live by. Sticking to a meal schedule every day will prevent you from snacking after dinner. It is important to eat your last meal 3 hours before bedtime, so that you spend less time awake.
If you are tempted to snack after dinner, here are 2 things you can do to avoid yielding to that temptation:
1) Brush your teeth after dinner. This will give you the sense that you can’t eat anymore.
2) Drink warm water or a hot cup of caffeine-free herbal tea. Make it hot (not burning hot) so that you can sip it gradually.
1) ScienceDaily (2012) Could high insulin make you fat? Mouse study says yes.
Avocado is known by its botanical name Persea Americana. It is also known as alligator pepper. Today, over 80 varieties of avocado exist most of which is HASS avocado.
Avocado is extremely nutritious.
It is loaded with high amounts of healthy fat, essential minerals and vitamins including fibre, vitamins K, B6, B5, C, E, folate, magnesium and potassium.
Did you know that avocado is one of the few fruits that can provide you with high amounts of good fat and protein? Did you know that avocado offers amazing number of benefits? Let’s take a look…
Here are 21 amazing benefits of avocado
1) Avocado enhances your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from plant food
Enhancing your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from plant food is one of the amazing benefits of avocado.
It is important for your body to be able to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat where they can be used. Some nutrients need to be combined with fat in order to be absorbed meaning they are fat soluble.
A recent research carried out by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that adding fresh avocado or avocado oil to salad increased the body’s absorption of carotenoid antioxidant from the salad.
So, when avocado is eaten with other foods, your body is better able to absorb nutrients such as beta-carotene and lutein.
2) Avocado helps to protect your eyes
Protecting your eyes is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are essential for eye health. They protect the macula area of your eyes responsible for short range vision and detail.
A study published in the Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science Journal showed that lutein and zeaxanthin significantly reduced the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration which is common in the elderly.
3) Avocado helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels
Lowering cholesterol and triglycerides levels is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. A number of blood markers including high total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
A study suggested that a diet rich in mono-unsaturated fats using avocado as their major source reduced the total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels. It also reduced triglyceride levels and increased the HDL-cholesterol level by about 11%.
The soluble fibre in avocado also helps with lowering cholesterol.
4) Avocado helps to reduce your homocysteine levels
Helping to reduce your homocysteine level is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Homocysteine is a consistent marker for cardiovascular disease. High homocysteine is linked to an increase risk of cardiovascular disease. Avocado is high in folate and vitamin B6. Research has shown that vitamin B6 and folate reduces homocysteine level in the blood.
5) Avocado helps with weight loss
Helping with weight loss is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is high in fibre, a plant matter that is not digested by the body.
High fibre foods make you feel full, reduce your hunger and cravings so you do not eat more than you need. This helps with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that a diet high in fibre promotes satiation, prolongs satiety and encourages healthy food choices and eating habits. It also encouraged weight loss and maintenance.
6) Avocado has anti-inflammatory properties
Its anti-inflammatory properties are one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado and avocado oil is high in good fat. It is rich in the healthy mono-unsaturated fat called oleic acid which is also the main component of olive oil.
Oleic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, it has been linked to reducing inflammation. A study published in the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology Journal found that oleic acid reduces the biomarkers of inflammation.
7) Avocado helps to support healthy blood pressure levels
Supporting healthy blood pressure levels is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is very rich in potassium. It contains about 14% of the recommended daily amount compared to 10% found in bananas.
Potassium has been linked to reducing high blood pressure. A systematic review published in the BMJ showed that an increased potassium intake reduced blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
8) Avocado helps to stabilize blood glucose levels
Stabilizing blood glucose levels is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is high in soluble fibre which helps to stabilize blood glucose levels.
9) Avocado helps to nourish and moisturise your skin
Nourishing and moisturising your skin is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is rich in antioxidant carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin which helps to protect your skin from free radicals that can cause damage and aging.
Avocado is also rich in vitamin C and E, strong antioxidants which also prevent free radical damage. Vitamin C is also important for the formation of collagen and elastin which helps to maintain the structure and firmness of your skin and Vitamin E is important for the maintenance of healthy skin.
10) Avocado helps to build healthy bones
Helping to build healthy bones is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is high in vitamin K, an important nutrient for building healthy bones and the proper metabolism of calcium.
11) Avocado is a great conditioner for your hair
Conditioning your hair is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. It’s natural oil acts as a hair mask and helps to revitalise the scalp.
12) Avocado helps to improve your digestive health
Improving your digestive health is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is rich in dietary fibre. About 75% of the fibre is insoluble while the remaining 25% is soluble.
Insoluble fibre helps to prevent constipation. It bulks up your stool and helps to maintain food moving through your digestive tract while soluble fibre helps to feed the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract helping to increase their numbers. This will boost your digestive health.
13) Avocado helps to boost your immune system
Boosting your immune system is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is rich in vitamin C which is important for a healthy immune system. It is also high in antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation as a result boosting your immune system.
14) Avocado may contribute to cancer risk reduction
Contributing to cancer risk reduction is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado contains various bioactive carotenoids.
A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that these bioactive carotenoids are likely to be absorbed into the blood stream, where in combination with other diet-derived phytochemicals they may contribute to the important prostate cancer risk reduction linked with a diet of fruits and vegetables.
15) Avocado helps with balancing your hormones
Helping to keep your hormones balanced is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is rich in mono-unsaturated healthy fat which are essential building blocks for hormone production and keeping your hormones in check.
16) Avocado helps to build lean muscle mass
Helping to build lean muscle mass is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado has a high protein and low sugar content which can help to build lean muscle mass and burn fat.
17) Avocado helps to maintain cellular health
Maintaining cellular health is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is rich in magnesium which is important for maintaining cellular health.
18) Avocado pits can be used for arts and craft
Using avocado pits for arts and craft is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is so flexible, you can use the pit for arts and craft.
19) Avocado can be used as a natural food dye
Using avocado as a natural food dye is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. You can use the ink from the pit as a natural food dye.
20) Avocado helps to improve your mood
Improving your mood is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is rich in the healthy mono-unsaturated fat which can help to improve your mood and your sense of wellbeing.
21) Avocado supports healthy pregnancy
Supporting healthy pregnancy is one of the amazing benefits of avocado. Avocado is rich in folic acid (folate) which is an important nutrient for forming your baby’s brain and nervous system. It is also rich in vitamin B6 which is important for your baby’s growth.
As you can see, avocado’s amazing benefits are great and so is its taste.
1) Fulgoni V, Dreher M, Davenport A. Avocado consumption associated with better nutrient intake and better health indices in U.S. adults (19+ years): NHANES 2001-2006. Abstract #8514. Experimental Biology, Anaheim, CA. April 28, 2010. 2010.
2) Delcourt C, Carriere I, Delage M, Barberger-Gateau P, Schalch W, POLA Study Group (2006) Plasma Lutein and Zeaxanthin and other Carotenoids as Modified Risk Factors for Age-Related Maculopathy and Cataract: The POLA Study. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 47: 2329-2335.
3) Carranza J, Alvizouri M, Alvarado M R, Chavez F, Gomez M, Herrera J E (1995) Effects of avocado on the level of blood lipids in patients with phenotype ii and IV dyslipidemias. PUBMED 65:342-348.
4) Burton-Freeman B (2000) Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. Journal of Nutrition, 130: 272S-275S
5) Basu A, Devaraj S, Jialal I (2006) Dietary factors that Promote or Retard Inflammation. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 26: 995-1001
Do you experience ongoing hunger even if you have eaten so much? Did you know that what you actually eat controls how full you feel? Let’s take a look…
A study published in the Nutrition Research Review 2013 found that there are certain foods that you can eat that will fill you up, avoid the hunger and make you eat less.
Here are three tips to stay full for longer.
1. Eat Protein With Every Meal
Eating foods high in protein with every meal is one of the tips to stay full for longer. Protein is one of three main macro-nutrients required by the human body.
It is broken down into amino acids which your body needs for building muscles, balancing your hormones, neurological and mood support, digestion and many more. Protein helps to keep your body going.
It is the macro-nutrient that fills you up the most.
Your body needs twenty amino acids. It can create 11 of them but you need to get the other nine, which are called essential amino acids, from your food.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008 found that protein increases fullness to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat and makes it easier for you to eat less.
Food sources high in protein include:
– Wild fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.
– Free-range eggs
– Free-range/organic chicken or turkey
– Whey protein/pea protein
– Yogurt – Raw milk[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”2708″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]
2. Eat foods high in dietary fiber
Eating foods high in dietary fiber are one of the tips to stay full for longer. Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate which your body cannot digest; it passes through your digestive system and helps to keep it healthy.
There are two types of dietary fiber: insoluble and soluble.
The two types of dietary fibre in your diet provide bulk; they take longer to move through your digestive system so it will keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition 2000 found that dietary fiber has unique physical and chemical properties that provide early and prolonged signals of fullness and satisfaction.
It is very essential to make sure you are drinking enough water when you are including fiber in your diet. Fiber absorbs water so if you are not drinking enough water you can get constipated.
Food sources high in dietary fiber include:
– Vegetables: broccoli, lettuce, carrot, peas, cucumber, kale etc.
– Fruits: Berries, apple, avocado, etc.
– Legumes: beans, lentils, etc.
– Oats[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”2709″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]
3. Eat Foods With A High Water Content
Eating foods with a high water content are one of the tips to stay full for longer. Nearly all foods contain some water but some foods such as whole, unprocessed foods contain more water for example vegetables and fruits are made up of about 80-98% of water.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999 examined the effects of water combined with food such as soups on fullness. It found out that eating food that has high water content effectively increased fullness and reduced the need for more food.
Healthy homemade soups made with lots of vegetables and good quality protein is an excellent food that is high in water.
The Bottom Line
Foods that are not processed are generally more filling than foods that are processed. Always include protein and dietary fiber with all your meals to help you stay full for longer.
Hetherington M M, Cunningham K, Dye L, Gibson E L, Gregersen N T, Halford J C, Lawton C L, Lluch A, Mela D J, Van Trip H C (2013) Potential benefits of satiety to the consumer: scientific considerations. Nutrition Research Review, 26: 22-38.
Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes R D, Wolfe R R, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M (2008) Protein, weight management, and satiety. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87: 1558S-1561S.
Burton-Freeman B (2000) Dietary fiber and energy regulation. Journal of Nutrition, 130: 272S-275S.
Rolls B J, Bell E, Thorwart M L (1999) Water incorporated into a food but not served with a food decreases energy intake in lean women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70: 448-455