Pumpkin is Awesome!

With Halloween just around the corner, pumpkins are abundant in supermarkets and in pumpkin patches. I went to a pumpkin patch today and all of the bright orange hues of the pumpkins contrasting against the brown and tan hay barrels and corn stocks filled me with a warm, fall glow. It was beautiful! But pumpkins are not just good to look at. They are also great to eat!

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Pumpkin is amazing. It is so versitle and easy to use. You can simply roast a pumpkin and then cook with it immediately, or you can use it to make pumpkin anything- ice cream, muffins, pie, soup-  you name it, you can pretty much make it with pumpkin!

Pumpkin is a widely grown but underused and under appreciated vegetable. Is is incredibly rich in vital antioxidants, and vitamins; containing vitamin A, C, E,  flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as leutin, xanthin, and carotenes in abundance.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

  • Pumpkin is a low calorie vegetable. A 100g serving provides just 26 calories. IMG_2147It also contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. However, pumpkin is rich in dietary fibre, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. It can help with cholesterol control and weight reduction.

  • There are 7384 mg of vitamin A per 100 g, which makes pumpkin one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of this vitamin. One serving provides about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight.
  • Pumpkin is a very good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
  • Pumpkin is rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.pumpkin
  • In addition to the flesh, the seeds can be eaten. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. In addition, the seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein,110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan.

Recipe Ideas

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Ice

  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 can regular coconut milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • ½ teaspoon whole cloves
  • ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1 cup roasted pumpkin puree (you could use canned pumpkin)
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk and spices. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat immediately to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Strain mixture into a bowl to remove the whole spices. Stir in the pumpkin. Cover with cling film. Make sure to press the plastic wrap directly on the liquid, so there is no condensation (this prevents the ice cream from becoming too icy).
  3. Put mixture into the fridge and chill until cold (2 hours).
  4. Remove from the fridge and add the vanilla extract.
  5. Use an  ice cream maker and process the chilled ice cream mixture.
    1. If you don’t have an ice cream maker then chill the mix for another 20 minutes. As the edges start to freeze, stir the mixture rapidly with a whisk or spatula to break up the partially frozen ice cream. Return to the freezer.
    2. Stir ice cream vigorously every 30 minutes until it is firmly frozen. This may be repeated 4 to 5 times until mixture is smooth and creamy. If ice cream becomes too hard, place it into the refrigerator until it becomes soft enough to beat and continue the process.
  6. Put the ice cream into an air tight container. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream so freezer burn doesn’t occur. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.
  7. To serve, leave at room temperature for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and pumpkin seeds.

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Paleo Pumpkin Smoothie 

  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ frozen banana
  •  ½ tablespoons maple syrup
  •   ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup ice
  1. Blend all ingredients together until you get a smooth smoothie.
  2. Pour in a glass.
  3. Top with anything you like! Cinnamon and walnuts work well.

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‘Being Healthy’

Something which I see a lot, especially with the girls at university, is people thinking that eating salad leaves is being ‘healthy’. Many of my friends often order a salad when we are out for dinner, or I hear them saying that they are going to be healthy and “cook a salad” for lunch. I know and understand that salads are a good part of a healthy diet, but are they really enough to allow a person to be truly ‘healthy’?

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This topic came about again when I saw a quote. I thought this was interesting as it touched on the very topic of salads. It said:

“Healthy doesn’t mean a salad, healthy isn’t a measure or a weight. Being healthy involves your mind, spirit and heart just as much as it involves your body. Each person’s version of healthy is different. Sweets don’t make you unhealthy but sadness will”

Healthy living is a lifestyle choice. It involves eating healthily i.e. meeting your individual nutritional needs, but also living a life that you love. This is something which counting calories, meal replacements and constant worrying is not part of, and will never be a part of. Being healthy is not a diet nor is it a short term fix.

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Instead, if you want to become ‘healthy’ then you  should make a lifestyle change. This should be maintainable and doable for the long term. You must not judge your ‘healthiness’ by a number on the scale or a dress size. Instead you should assess your healthiness by how you feel. Healthy is being fit and active, living a happy and enjoyable life.

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Too many people spend their lives on constant diets or restricting themselves without being able to enjoy themselves. Healthy food does not have to be boring or restrictive, you can get full and energy from delicious whole REAL foods! This is something that people should really think about next time they are in the supermarket and are considering buying the ‘low-cal/ low’fat meal replacement bars or shakes’.

Further to this, I have noticed that meal supplements and replacements are becoming more and more available. Far too many people are relying on these as their sole daily nutrient source. This is not how humans are meant to live. All nutrients and needs are found in real foods.

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Personally I don’t think that supplements are needed, however I do think that some protein shakes and bars are good as a transportable, convenient snack or post workout addition, but even these should not be relied upon daily.

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There are many people who are becoming too reliant on such bars and shakes with the mentality that this is the only way that you can get fit and stay healthy, rather than embracing the lifestyle change and realizing that there are other methods and ways to be healthy that involves eating delicious and nutritious food.

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So if you are trying to be healthy, or looking to change your lifestyle, look into how you can work this into your routine and around your life. Change your lifestyle for the better, and forever – don’t try and get a quick fix!

Take a look at our blog, instagram and twitter feed for more ideas.

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is based upon eating natural, wholesome foods that would have been eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors over 2.6 million years ago. It has been thought that hunter gatherers did not suffer from conditions such as obesity, cancer, acne or type 2 diabetes and as we share many of our genes with these hunter gatherer ancestors, it is thought that the lack of these chronic conditions is likely due to differences in diet (although I am sure that the high activity levels of the hunter gatherers would also have gone some way to prevent the conditions.) As a result, the Paleo diet was devised. The followers of this diet eat a ‘very healthy’ diet composed of natural foods such as fresh meats, fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and oils and by cutting out dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods.

1. Higher protein intake

In the typical western diet protein makes up 15 % of the calories. Whereas in the Paleo diet protein makes up between 19-35 %. Staple protein sources include fresh meat, seafood, and other animal products such as eggs.

2. Lower carbohydrate intake and lower GI (glycaemic index)

Non-starchy fresh fruits and vegetables make up the main carbohydrate source in the Paleo diet. These foods make up 35-45 % of daily calories. These foods have low GI’s and as a result are slowly digested and absorbed, and do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

3. Higher fibre intake

Dietary fibre is known to be essential for good health and followers of the Paleo diet say that whole grains are not the (or the only) place to find it. Followers of the diet have stated that non-starchy vegetables actually contain more than eight times more fibre than whole grains and so are a much better source of this fibre.

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4. Moderate to higher fat intake (mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with balanced Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats)

It is known that it is not the total amount of fat in the diet that raises blood cholesterol levels and increases risk for heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, but rather the type of fat. Followers of the Paleo diet have to cut out the trans fats and the Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats that are in many western diets, and they increase their intake of monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats. These fats were the mainstays of Stone Age diets.

5. Higher potassium and lower sodium intake

Unprocessed, fresh foods naturally contain 5 – 10 times more potassium than sodium. Our bodies, like those of people in the Stone Age are adapted to this ratio. Potassium is essential for the heart, kidneys, and other organs to work properly and if there are low potassium levels then there is a risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke (typically also the same problems linked to excessive dietary sodium.) Today, the average westerner consumes almost twice as much sodium as potassium- which is not the ratio our bodies are adapted to.

6. Net dietary alkaline load that balances dietary acid

This aspect is based on our internal chemistry. It is known that, after digestion, the foods that have been eaten present either a net acid or alkaline load to the kidneys. Typical acid producers are meats, fish, grains, legumes, cheese, and salt, whereas alkaline-yielding foods are fruits and veggies. A lifetime of excessive dietary acid has been thought to promote bone and muscle loss, high blood pressure, and increased risk for kidney stones, it is also though that a high acid diet may aggravate asthma and exercise-induced asthma.

7. Higher intake of Vitamins & Minerals 

Whole grains are not a part of the Paleo diet, and they are not a good substitute for lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. Whole grains contain no vitamin C, vitamin A, or vitamin B12. In addition, any of the minerals and some of the B vitamins whole grains do contain are not well absorbed by the body. Therefore cutting them out, and replacing them with other foods allows more minerals and vitamins to be absorbed.

So, to me it all sounds pretty good. I can see how following this diet would be tough, for example eating out in restaurants might be tricky, and you would have to wave good bye to many typical western foods such as pizza, burgers, chips or pasta. However I can see why someone who is looking to be as healthy as possible might follow this diet.

On the Paleo diet you can eat fresh meats (preferably grass fed), fish/seafood, fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds and oils such as olive oil, flaxseed oil or coconut oil. However on this diet you can not eat cereal grains, legumes (which include peanuts), all dairy products, refined sugars, potatoes (some followers of the Paleo diet allow sweet potatoes), all processed foods, added salt and refined vegetable oils.

Paleo Recipes To Try 

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 green apple, sliced and cored
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 3 cups chicken broth

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 Celsius.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, olive oil, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp cumin. Mix together, coating the squash well.
  3. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Next, in the same bowl that the butternut squash was in, toss the apple slices, onion, and carrots to coat with the remnants.
  5. Place on a second rimmed baking sheet and add both baking sheets to the oven.
  6. Roast for 35-40 minutes until soft, stirring once.
  7. Heat up ghee over medium heat in a large pot on the stove.
  8. Add the roasted ingredients and then the chicken broth. Add 1 teaspoon each of salt, cinnamon and chili powder.
  9. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  10. Using an immersion blender, combine the ingredients until smooth, or transfer to a blender to puree.
  11. Serve warm.

Butternut squash soup

Grain Free Drop Scones

 Ingredients:

  •  1 organic medium banana
  •  1 tbsp organic coconut flour
  •  1 organic large egg
  •  ½ tsp organic cinnamon powder
  •  1 tsp organic vanilla extract
  •  1-2 tsp organic coconut oil for cooking

 Method

  1. Put all of your ingredients into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
  2. Leave to sit for 10 minutes so that the coconut flour expands and absorbs the egg.
  3. Meanwhile heat a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the coconut oil.
  4. Now divide the mixture into 4 equal portions in the frying pan to form mini pancakes.
  5. Cook for a few minutes then flip and cook for a few minutes on the other side.
  6. The pancakes should be golden and firm on the outside, moist and springy on the inside!
  7. Serve with a little melted coconut oil and raw honey or whipped coconut cream.

pancakes

 

Pecan & Banana Paleo Ice Cream

Prep: 10 min  Freeze: 3 hrsgelitin hyrdo

Ingredients:

  •  4 large organic bananas
  •  4 tbsp raw organic pecan butter
  •  2 tbsp Great Lakes Gelatin hydrolase
  •  2 tsp raw organic honey

 Method

  1. Chop the bananas into slices and put into a glass bowl.
  2. Freeze until solid (around 2 hours)
  3. Remove the banana slices from the freezer and add to your food processor along with all of the other ingredients.
  4. Blend until smooth.
  5. Decant the mixture back into your glass bowl and re-freeze until semi solid.
  6. Remove from the freezer and enjoy!

Paleo-icecream

 

 

Caffeine and Exercise

A morning cup of coffee, a mug of tea before bed, an energy shot before a workout or chocolate bar as a treat- all of these items contain caffeine. As it is found in so many food, drink and medicinal products we are all consuming this energy giving stimulant, whether knowingly or not. As a result caffeine is probably the most widely used stimulant in the world.

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In the USA, the average caffeine consumption  is approximately 200 mg, which is equivalent to 2 cups of coffee, but there are many people globally who have much more than this. In fact, over 10% of the population ingests more than 1000 mg per day.

Caffeine has many effects, but at the end of the day it is a stimulant, and as it is consumed so readily it could be considered the worlds most socially acceptable, legal drug.

There is research that was largely conducted in the 1970’s that suggested that caffeine enhanced endurance performance by increasing the release of adrenaline into the blood stimulating the release of  free fatty acids from fat tissue and/or skeletal muscle. The released fat can be used by the working muscles early in exercise. This reduced the need to use muscle glycogen and so more muscle glycogen is available later in exercise to delay fatigue.

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More recent research found similar results. It was reported that ingestion of 3-9 mg of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight one hour prior to exercise increased endurance running and cycling performance in the
laboratory. In real life terms- 3 mg per kg body weight equals approximately one mug or 2 regular size cups of coffee, and 9 mg/kg = approximately 3 mugs of 5-6 regular size cups of coffee.

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 Although this research is great, it should be remembered that coffee and/or caffeine are often reported to be diuretics, suggesting that ingestion of large quantities could lead to poor hydration status prior to and during exercise. So be careful!

For more information have a read of this: http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/caffeineandexercise.pdf

Review: Team Sky Breakfast Porridge and Smoothies


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Team SKY have teamed up with CNP Nutrition to create a highly nutrition protein packed breakfast including porridge’s and smoothies. Both these are individually packaged and perfect for a quick, easy and portable breakfast or snack.

High Protein Smoothies

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These smoothies are a perfect on-the-go snack packed with 26g protein, low fat and under 200 calories. The flavours on offer include:

Blueberry & Raspberry

Orange & Mango

Pineapple & Coconut

The RRP is £2.75

 

 

High Protein Porridge

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The two delicious flavours that Team Sky have are:photo 2 (7)

            Fig & Honey

            Super Fruits.

The RRP for these porridge is £3 and i would say that this price is extremely suitable and worth it providing a healthy and filling breakfast perfect for before or after a workout.

 

 

 

Baked Super Fruits Porridge

This was a great alternative to the average porridge. Try baking your porridge topping it with bananas and adding extra fruits for an equally filling delicious and nutritious breakfast.

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Ginger and GI Distress

Digestive health is usually overlooked until indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation occur and force us to take notice.

When it does occur most people reach for the range of bottled, strange colored liquids that promise to ease discomfort available in the shops. But there is a far better, more natural, way to deal with digestive distress- ginger.

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The use of ginger dates back hundreds of years. Ginger is one of the most powerful foods associated with alleviating gastrointestinal distress, such as bloating. It can also help to ease nausea and motion sickness.  Ginger can help to eliminate intestinal gas and it can also act as an intestinal spasmolytic which means a substance that relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract.ginger

anti gas

But why would you go for ginger when there are so many medications available? Well, most medications have negative side effects and also only mask symptoms. They do not, in most cases, resolve them.

Ginger is different, it has no negative side effects and even has some extra benefits. Gingerol is a compound in ginger which acts as a potent anti-inflammatory- it can reduce inflammation that can cause aches and pains throughout the body.

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Ginger can also help to soothe nausea in for pregnant women who suffer from morning sickness and can also act as a source of folic acid, which is a key vitamin in preventing birth defects.

I still wasn’t sure about ginger, as I am not the worlds biggest fan. But, a study done by the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology helped to change my opinion. The study found that ginger stimulates the movement of food through your stomach into your small intestine by assisting with the muscle contractions associated digestion.  They also found that ginger could stimulate enzymes to break down food so nutrients could be more easily absorbed.

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40% of people suffer from motion sickness and as I said, ginger can help with that too.  In a recent study, it was found that ginger was shown to be more effective than many commonly used over the counter drugs for motion sickness. So why not keep some ginger sweets in the car next time you go on a long trip.

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However not all ginger is the same. It is available fresh year round and so there is no excuse not to buy it fresh ginger rather than the dried form. Pure ginger contains higher levels of gingerol. When selecting your ginger, it is best to look for firmness and smoothness. In addition there should be no mold. There is no need to worry about ginger going off as fresh ginger can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks if unpeeled.

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It is important to remember, especially if you haven’t cooked with ginger before, that adding ginger in the beginning of the cooking process will subtly add flavor but adding it at the end will result in a very strong, evident taste. So if you don’t like the strong taste of ginger try add it at the start of cooking.

Weights

Hitting a plateau with your cardio workouts? Spending hour upon hour on the treadmill or cross trainer? Not getting the results your after?

 

Hit the weights!

 

Strength training has many benefits for both cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance and overall strength.

 

2-3 weights sessions a week could seriously change your body shape and give you a variety of other health benefits including stronger bones.

 

Not only does weight and strength training burn as much if not more calories as isometric training but your muscles continue to work and burn the calories post workout.

Stop wasting your time for hours a day on the treadmill, elliptical or other cardio machine. Yes cardio has it’s place but if a lean physique is what you are aiming for then get off the machine and hit the weights!