Hello! Vicky Thornley here with a blog post for B.fresh on one of my favourite subjects…food!
This quote by Hippocrates, the Greek physician, is as true now as it was in 400 BC. As reported by The Telegraph “Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes now account for 90 percent of deaths each year. NCDs are not driven by infections and viruses but by behaviours such as poor diet, smoking, moving too little, alcohol and drugs.” Thinking of food as medicine and how it can either harm or heal us, can play a huge part in reversing these statistics. As an athlete I am acutely aware of the types of foods I put in my body and how a good diet powers my training and aids my recovery. Here I share my top nutrition tips to help you eat well and feel great!
Fruit and vegetables contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals, which have countless functions in the body. I strongly believe that the recommended five-a-day should be more like 10-a-day. You can’t eat too many plants; they have serious nutritional power!
So what does the science say? In simple terms, the colours of fruits and vegetables are determined by the polyphenol compounds within them. These polyphenols are rich in antioxidants and other compounds, which help fight inflammation and help prevent illness and injury. They also reduce the damage done to your cells (via oxidative stress) during exercise.
Wholefoods are natural or very close to their natural state, where nothing will have been added or removed. Therefore, they retain the highest levels of nutrients; including vitamins, minerals and fibre. Think fresh vegetables, sustainably sourced meat, beans, legumes and nuts. Wholefoods will support your body to work at its optimal level.
On the other hand, highly processed food such as sugary cereals, pastries and microwave meals may have higher amounts of preservatives, chemicals, added sugar and unhealthy fats. This may cause inflammation, oxidative stress and a weakened immune system – none of the things we want! On top of that, eating processed foods may influence numerous health concerns, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. They certainly won’t make you feel at your best!
Carbohydrates are our main energy source. We break them down into glucose, which is either used immediately as fuel or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen to be used at a later date. The type of carbohydrates you choose is very important, as some are healthier than others. Healthy grains, such as wholewheat bread, rye, quinoa and wild rice are my preferred choice over the refined alternatives like white rice and pasta. They will keep you satisfied for longer, help avoid you hitting that mid-afternoon slump in energy, when you may reach for a coffee and the biscuit tin!
These healthy grains, unlike the refined grains, contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals and fibre. In the UK most people don’t eat enough fibre. The recommended average intake is 30g/day*, however, the average intake is 17.2g/day for women and 20.1g/ day for men. Some less common grains to try are amaranth, millet and buckwheat. I like to substitute white flour for buckwheat or spelt flour in my baking.
There is growing evidence around the role that our microbiome (the combination of good and bad bacteria in our body) has in creating a strong immune system and governing overall health.
The B.fresh Gut Healthy Smoothies are a great and easy way to give your gut a daily boost! The chicory root is prebiotic to nourish the good bacteria already in your gut. The active cultures are the probiotics that increase your microbiome and so support healthy digestion naturally.
As well as incorporating these gut healthy smoothies into your daily diet, here are some other simple tips to help maintain a healthy microbiome:
■ Eat more probiotic foods. My go-to options include live yoghurts and fermented milk drinks. Foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut (unpasteurised) and miso all encourage a diversity of bacteria in the gut.
■ Eat a diverse range of foods.
■ Eat fibre-rich foods. Fibre promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria.
■ Reduce refined sugar consumption.
Fat has a vast array of functions. It makes up part of every cell in our body, provides energy, and assists in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, to name just a few! We simply can’t live without it.
Back in the 1970s, fat was vilified and the public was told to cut fat consumption right back because saturated fat was thought to influence heart disease. This led to people cutting out fats and even the healthy and essential fats were removed from foods, rather than just the saturated fats.
The good news is, you should be eating healthy fats! I enjoy eating creamy avocados, use butter, not margarine, drizzle salads in extra virgin olive oil, eat eggs daily and embrace a handful of nuts. The essential fatty acids – Omega-3 and Omega-6 – are, as their name suggests, essential. To ensure that I consume enough Omega-3 and 6, I eat two to three portions of oily fish per week, such as mackerel or salmon. If you aren’t a fan of fish, chia seeds and flaxseeds added to porridge or granola at breakfast is another of my favourites.
Sugar is added to many foods and drinks, so reading labels and being conscious of our sugar consumption is important. Excess sugar may promote unwanted inflammatory responses and over time can lead to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. Refined white sugar also provides zero nutrients and ‘empty’ calories, and can be linked to tooth decay.
Sugar can be highly addictive because it releases feel-good chemicals in your brain which can encourage you to eat more. Like most people, I enjoy something sweet, so I am not saying never enjoy a brownie – just not every day! I am aware of the damage too much sugar can do, so I try to monitor my intake. To enjoy some sweetness in your diet, concentrate on eating natural sugars such as fresh or dried fruit or even maple syrup and raw honey, in small quantities. One of my favourite post-dinner sweet treats is dates stuffed with almond butter. Delicious!
Food should be a source of energy but also of enjoyment and part of our everyday happiness. There is a lot of power, good and bad, in the food we eat.
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