Digestion Basics

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “you are what you eat”. It’s a great way to motivate us to eat healthier. However, a more concise way of looking at this proves that you are not what you eat, you are what you digest, absorb and are able to utilize.

So no matter how perfect your diet is, if your digestion isn’t working properly, not only won’t you be able to absorb all the nutrients you think you’re feeding yourself but you’ll be setting yourself up for a host of digestive problems such as heartburn, dysbiosis (the proliferation of abnormal gut flora), IBS, etc. Gas, burping and bloating are not normal!

When Hippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut” he was really on the spot. Today, digestive disorders affect millions of Australians. That’s why digestion is foundational to Nutritional Therapy and is the first thing I address with pretty much every client I work with.

I’d like to leave you with a few facts about digestion and several simple tips to help you improve yours.

Did you know that digestion actually starts with your brain? It starts when you start to think about what you’re about to eat. Digestion is also parasympathetic process. This means you must be in a state of calm and relaxation for digestion to work. If you’re on the run, stressed out, in an argument, you are in sympathetic mode. If you eat in this state, you’re behind the eight ball. All the complex parts of digestion just won’t work. It puts you in a state of fight or flight. When you’re in this state, your body thinks it’s in danger (from our hunter gatherer days) and digestion takes a back seat to other bodily processes designed to get us out of dodge.

So do yourself a favour and chew well (when your food is physically broken down properly, it takes some of the pressure off of other parts of your digestive system so it doesn’t have to work so hard) and let your salivary juices start to flow. These juices in your mouth contain enzymes that start to digest carbohydrates. They also set into motion a chain of events in the rest of your digestive system to prepare for the food that is coming down the pike (they signal for the release of enzymes and hormones necessary to break down and absorb your food) . Here are few more simple tips for you try to help improve your digestion.

• Eat your meals sitting down. Take a few deep breaths to relax and calm your body and mind before you take your first bite. This helps you get into a parasympathetic state prior to eating.

• Try starting your meal with ½ tsp raw apple cider vinegar in ¼ to ½ cup warm water as another digestive tonic.

• Chew your food! It should actually liquify in your mouth before you swallow. A good rule of thumb is to chew your food 20-30 times as a goal.

• Include fermented foods with your meals. This could be a small glass kombucha or water kefir, 1-2 tablespoons of fermented vegetables or sauerkraut to boost your ability to digest your meal. Fermenting foods makes their nutrients more bioavailable (your body doesn’t have to work so hard to make the nutrients available as the fermentation process has done some of the digestion for you). Start slow and build up your tolerance. You can also start with a teaspoon of the brine or “juice” from the kraut if you can’t yet tolerate the vegetables at first.

• Digestive bitters can also help boost HCL (hydrochloric acid in your stomach that helps you digest proteins) levels. They also stimulate the digestive system to produce digestive enzymes and secrete bile which helps you digest your fats.

 Need some help with digestion and nutrition? Get in touch for a consultation.

Weekend Rest & Recovery Slice

For me, the weekends are for recharging and recovering from the demands of the week.

Many of us lead busy lives with fitting in exercise either before or after a day’s full of work, as well as running a busy household.

I am dedicating this slice to my fellow gym-going, inspirational superhumans who are consistently performing at their peak and living their best lives. Because sometimes, you just need a good cuppa and a slice of this gorgeous sweet potato, apple and blueberry cake to recover and recharge for the week ahead.

Raw Sweet Potato in the food processor

Ingredients

300 grams raw sweet potato

3 free range eggs

2 Tbs honey (3tbs if you prefer sweet)

2 Tbs peanut butter

1 Tbs Vanilla extract

2 Tbs ground cinnamon

1 Tsp baking powder

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup shredded cococnut

1/2 cup almond meal

1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen)

1 large diced apple (I used Pink Lady)

Handful of chopped walnuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170Degrees. Line your baking tray with baking paper. I used a 16cm x 26cm slice tin
  2. In a food processor, process the sweet potato into fine pieces.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (without the apple and blueberry) and combine well in the food processor. The mixture will be a bit runny and grainy. That’s fine.
  4. Dice the apple skin on and fold apple and blueberries and walnuts through the sweet potato mix.
  5. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until golden brown (depending on how hot your oven gets, check at 35mins). Test with a wooden skewer.
  6. Cool it down before slicing.

Enjoy your recovery slice!

What is coaching anyway?

Let’s play a game. Can you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions?

There’s a gap between where I am now and where I want to be

I can make and keep appointments to work on my goal(s)

I’m committed to do the work required and take action to get to where I want to be

I’m willing to change any self-defeating behaviours and beliefs that limit my success

I am willing to try new things, even if I’m not yet 100% convinced they will work

More than three yes’s? Then coaching is what you need.

So what is coaching anyway?

Essentially, coaching is a future-focused conversation with a trained professional. A conversation that’s 100% about you and helping you think differently about things you’ve previously felt stuck or unclear about. It’s action-oriented. Coaching gets you results.

Why do I need a coach?

Continue reading “What is coaching anyway?”

Grain Free Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

The school holidays are the perfect time to get in the kitchen with the kids and get creative. And we all know how hungry the kids are during the holidays!

These chocolate brownies have been a hit in our house this weekend.

Slightly tweaked recipe from previous brownies and it has taken a bit of trial and error – but that’s what baking is all about for me. I love experimenting with flavours and recipes.

Ingredients

Continue reading “Grain Free Chocolate Zucchini Brownies”

Magnesium – are you getting enough?

Magnesium is a mineral essential for over 300 enzymatic systems in the body, many of which relate to brain and nervous system function. Inadequate intake of magnesium is linked to cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases, skeletal disorders and neurological abnormalities.

Magnesium and mental wellbeing

Magnesium comes up a lot when talking about muscle cramp relief, exercise recovery and sleep. However, magnesium is also a very beneficial mineral when it comes to supporting your body to adapt to stress and promoting mental wellbeing.

Magnesium has been shown to help reduce the release of hormones, which lead to over activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which plays a role in our stress response. Over activation of this axis is associated with increased stress and lower stress tolerance, which can lead to poor mental health such as increased anxiety and low mood.

Magnesium is also an important co-factor necessary to help synthesise neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, a deficiency in either of these can lead to symptoms of depression, nervousness, inability to concentrate and anxiety.

Continue reading “Magnesium – are you getting enough?”

Intermittent Fasting – is it right for me?

Intermittent fasting is the voluntary abstinence from food for a prolonged period of time.

Traditionally many cultures and religions have used fasting in their practises.

Some Christians follow lent.  The Muslim religion has Ramadan where fasting is observed for 29-30 days during the daylight hours.

Buddhist monks and nuns following Vinaya rules commonly do not eat each day after the noon meal, aiding in meditation and good health.

Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term for various eating diet plans that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting over a defined period. Intermittent fasting is under preliminary research to assess if it can produce weight loss comparable to long-term calorie restriction.

Many believe that fasting is the most ancient secret to good health.

There have been many studies on various intermittent fasting diets that show that intermittent fasting can improve health and successfully aid in weight loss.

For the purpose of this paper I would like to further explore:

  • Periodic fasting (where, once every few months you cut your food intake down for 5 days in a row)
  • The 5:2 approach (where you restrict your calories for 2 days a week)
  • Time Restricted Eating (where you restrict your eating to a narrow time window)
Continue reading “Intermittent Fasting – is it right for me?”

GRAIN FREE VEGAN ALMOND COOKIES

Everyone loves a cookie (or two).

That morning coffee indulgence, or 3pm (or even midnight) snack.

These cookies are packed full of almonds. And with the added Tahini which is also rich in healthy fats, amino acids as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Tahini is packed full of all the goodness as well as being high in calcium.

Tahini can also help to balance hormones. Hormones plays an important role in managing our weight, sleep, hunger cues, libido, mood and our sanity! When our hormones are off balance from poor lifestyle habits and food choices we feel it pretty quickly. 

If balancing hormones is your #1 priority this is the most delicious place to start, full of good fats, protein and nutrients your hormones (and taste buds) are going to love you for this!

Here is my recipe for the simplest & easiest minimum effort  

5 I N G R E D I E N T Grain Free Vegan Almond cookies with Tahini.

Continue reading “GRAIN FREE VEGAN ALMOND COOKIES”

Moist and Decadent Vegan Chocolate Cake

This cake is the moistest most decadent chocolate cake you will ever eat. There is nothing healthy about this cake – I think if you want to have chocolate cake then you should have chocolate cake!

I am replacing our family chocolate cake recipe with this one – it will be at every birthday party from now on. Not because it is vegan (we have one vegan in our house) but because it was minimal effort for an amazing cake! Noone even knew it was vegan (except my daughter).

The kids thought it was the best chocolate cake ever and devoured it. We were all eying off the last slice.

If you wanted to be fancy and show off or needed a dinner party dessert you could always decorate with raspberries and toasted coconut.

Ingredients

375g dark (70% or darker) chocolate, chopped

2 x 400ml cans coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour (or can replace half of this quantity with almond meal)

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 tablespoons cocoa

Method

Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 20cm round cake pan. Line base and side with baking paper.

Place 150g of the chocolate, 2½ cups of the coconut milk and the vanilla in a microwavesafe bowl. Microwave on HIGH (100%), stirring every 30 seconds, for 1 minute 30 seconds or until mixture is smooth.

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and cocoa into a large bowl. Make a well. Add chocolate mixture. Whisk to combine. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of cake comes out clean. Stand in pan for 10 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Place remaining chocolate and coconut milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH stirring every 30 seconds, for 1 minute 30 seconds or until mixture is smooth. Stand for 2 hours to thicken slightly.

Split cake in half horizontally. Spread 1/2 the ganache over bottom half of cake. Top with remaining half. Spread remaining ganache over top of cake.

Healthy Thai Green Curry

I NEVER want my clients eating a boring, monotonous diet. Eating the same mundane food day in and day out is only going to intensify those cravings and lead you back to square one.

Life is about flavour. It’s about enjoying your meals.

This Thai Green Curry recipe is a great way to spice up your weekday meals while still eating healthy.

Green curry paste is usually spicy. You can substitute for yellow paste which is a bit more mild.

If you’re feeding kids that don’t like chilli, you can always sprinkle the chilli on your own dish when you serve.

Here’s what you need:

Continue reading “Healthy Thai Green Curry”

Plant Based Diet

What does “plant-based diet” mean? Is it the same thing as being vegetarian or vegan?

What Does Following a Plant-Based Diet Mean Exactly?

Some people use the term ‘plant-based diet’ as a synonym for the vegan diet. Others may use the term in a broader way that includes all vegetarian diets, and I’ve also seen people use ‘plant-based’ to mean diets which are composed mostly, but not entirely, of plant foods.

The main idea is to make plant-based foods the central part of your meals.

Think vegetables as the main part of your meal, with a little grains or complex carbs and some protein (plant or animal depending on how strict you decide to be).

So, rather than thinking ‘We’re having steak and 3 veg for dinner’ think we’re having veggies and some steak on the side.

A plant-based diet emphasizes foods like fruits, vegetables, and beans, and limits foods like meats, dairy, and eggs. From there, more restrictions could be put in place depending on how strict you want to be. It may completely eliminate foods from animals or just limit intake depending on the individual’s interpretation.

That means meat and seafood don’t necessarily need to be off-limits — you might just decide to cut down on how frequently you eat those items.

In my Plant Based cooking workshops for both adults and kids I use only plant based ingredients to cater for vegans.

https://eatinginmind.com.au/plant-based-cooking-workshop-for-kids/

https://eatinginmind.com.au/plant-based-cooking-workshop-for-adults/

Current Research

Most people who adopt this way of eating do it for the potential health benefits. There have been many cardiac benefits linked to Plant Based diets, like reduced cholesterol. Some studies suggest that eating a plant-based diet may improve fertility, and it also may reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

One study linked diets rich in healthy plant foods (such as nuts, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and oils) with a significantly lower risk of heart disease.

Another study found it can also help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, and it cites research that suggests this diet may help reduce the risk of other chronic illnesses, including cancer.

What to Eat and Drink

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Lentils

What to Limit (or Avoid Entirely, Depending on How Strict You Decide to Be)

  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Meat and poultry (like chicken, beef, and pork)
  • Processed animal meats, such as sausages and hot dogs
  • All animal products (including eggs, dairy, and meat if you’re following a vegan diet)

Scientifically proven benefits of a Plant Based Diet

A diet that promotes whole foods and plant-based ingredients can reduce the likelihood that you’ll need medication, lower your risk of obesity and high blood pressure, and maybe even help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

A plant-based diet can also help you manage your weight and may lead to weight loss if you follow it in a healthy way. Most people also start to feel like they have more energy.

To set yourself up for success your grocery list should mainly list fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, and plant-based proteins to make sure you have plenty of options to reach for when you get hungry.

Are there any potential disadvantages of a Plant Based Diet?

Simply sticking with plant-based foods doesn’t set you up for good health.

Particular attention will need to be paid to the quality of the foods you’re consuming, because there are plenty of unhealthy foods that qualify as plant-based, such as potato chips and french fries. In fact, a visit to the vegan markets can prove this theory as there were plenty of battered and deep fried options!

Choosing unhealthy plant-based foods can increase your risk of weight gain and health conditions such as heart disease.

Also, if you decide to take the plant based diet to the next level and go vegan (completely off all animal products) you will need to keep an eye on your B12 and choline levels. Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal sources, and the two best sources of choline are egg yolks and liver.  

So, instead of a diet centred on meat and dairy, the starring roles are played by vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. It’s an approach to eating and lifestyle that has been shown to have significant health benefits, including weight loss and disease prevention.