8 reasons why you should drink coffee (and when you shouldn’t)

When I’m asking my patients about what they eat and drink through the day, they often shamefully ‘confess’ that they are coffee drinkers. The good news is that coffee in reasonable amounts might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

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Scientific research shows that in the short term, caffeine increases alertness, concentration, vigilance, improves mood, reduces perception of pain and increases time to fatigue when exercising.

For long term health benefits, coffee has anti-cancer, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.

New research shines some light on the mechanisms behind these health benefits – it seems that there are links between coffee and the health of the gut microbiota. Higher coffee consumption is associated with increased richness and evenness of the gut microbiota in the lining of the digestive system, and higher relative abundance of anti-inflammatory bacteria.

8 fascinating coffee and caffeine facts: 

  1. Caffeine is absorbed rapidly and totally in the small intestine in less than 1 hour
  2. Caffeine is broken down in the liver by an enzyme called cytochrome P450 oxidase. Depending on your genetics, some people have more of this enzyme than others, therefore this affects sensitivity.
  3. It can help the bowel to contract – helpful for constipation, not so helpful if you are prone to diarrhoea!
  4. In women, the metabolism of caffeine is slower during pregnancy, as well as when taking oral contraceptives. This means that the effects of caffeine isn’t broken down by the liver as quickly, so the effects are felt for longer.
  5. Cigarette smoking doubles the rate of caffeine clearance by increasing the liver enzyme activity. This means that the effects of caffeine wear off more quickly. This may be one of the explanations for the higher rate of caffeine consumption among smokers.
  6. Coffee reduces the absorption of Levothyroxine – this is a common medication for hypothyroidism which should ideally be taken on an empty stomach
  7. Excessive caffeine intake may increase ‘unstable’ bladder in women i.e. suddenly being desperate for a wee
  8. The belief that coffee is dehydrating is not true for habitual coffee drinkers. If your body is used to drinking coffee the effect on urine output should be minimal (unless your bladder is sensitive to caffeine – see previous point). Obviously if you drink a lot of any fluid you are going to wee more).
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Any negatives of caffeine to be aware of?

  • Increased anxiety – many people with depression/anxiety/stress find that coffee can make it much worse
  • Insomnia – if you are sensitive to caffeine, you may need to to keep coffee for the morning
  • Abdominal cramping and diarrhoea – common in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

So, it’s best to know your own body and how much caffeine you can tolerate. If you have a good tolerance, limit yourself to 4-6 cups per day (maximum of 2 cups if pregnant). If you suffer with diarrhoea, anxiety or insomnia, then try cutting coffee out for a few days to see if this helps!

Right, time for a cuppa!!!!!

Flattened Lamb Koftas in Pitta

 

Well it looks like summer may finally be here! After 6 months of grim winter weather, the sun is making an appearance. OK, ‘summer’ may be pushing it………..but when living on the Irish coast, if the thermometer reads anything above 15 degrees C then the summer dresses and flip flops will be out. So quick! Before the sun disappears! I’ll be th.jpegcookin a new suitably sunny Greek inspired wee recipe! (NB the word ‘wee’ in Northern Ireland is an affectionate term used for pretty much anything, for example a shop assistant may say: “Uck that is a lovely wee top, would you like a wee bag for it? Just pop your wee card in the wee machine there. OK you can put your wee PIN number in now. Would you like me to put your wee receipt in your wee bag?”)

Here’s the wee recipe for flatttened lamb koftas……seriously, you’ll be totally scundered at how good these are 🙂

How to make them healthier:

  • Lamb is a high fat red meat, so try to buy the lean mince which has a reduced fat
  • Grill rather than fry
  • Add loads of crunchy salad in a pitta, tomatoes, humous etc

 

Ingredients:

  • 400g lean lamb mince
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed/finely chopped
  • pitta bread
  • lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, greek yogurt or hummus
  1. In a bowl, mix the mince, cinnamon, cumin and garlic. Get stuck in and use your hands!
  2. Grab a handful, and mould in to a patty shape, about the same shape as a pitta bread but a bit smaller
  3. Place on some kitchen foil and grill for a few minutes on each side
  4. Put in a pitta (toast the pitta if you prefer), with some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and greek yogurt/hummus

 

 

Anorexia – written by my patient Eli

 

Eli is 19 and came to me in September desperately seeking help with her anorexia. Despite years of hospital stays and outpatient treatment Eli has struggled to recover. I am working with Eli, her psychologist and her family to slowly her move towards a more normal and contented life. Thank you Eli for your hard work, courage and determination.

By Eli………….
Eating disorders are sadly on the rise and are a very complicated mental illness to help cure or manage. I’m writing this blog post to raise awareness about eating disorders but particularly Anorexia Nervosa; something that anyone at all can suffer from. I find it a bit strange because eating disorders aren’t actually about food – instead food is used as a means of coping with something much deeper that is causing emotional trauma that needs controlled and for some reason and in my case that’s avoiding or restricting my dietry intake.
Eating disorders don’t just appear one day and don’t just dissapear either – they also aren’t caused by one event or situation but many that have collated together and caused your body to need to develop this vile illness. Eating disorders have many disadvantages and also some advantages for people which makes it so hard to let go, they are controlling, manipulating, a bully but they also provide a sense of security and power.
Eating disorders are so hard to fight against and we all need a little support along the way both from a therapist and a dietician. Sometimes these people are suddenly some of the most valuable and most trusting in your life – certainly for me.
This blog post is a bit random! But i did it as a means of giving a brief summary of eating disorders from my view and hopfully I will write more and share more about different aspects within living, coping and recovering from Anorexia.
Thanks 😀

Chia Seeds

There are hundreds of potential ‘super foods’ out there, and they’re not what you think they are. They can be every day basic foods, such as fruit, vegetables, oats, fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt, eggs…….and the more variety of these you can get, the better.

Chia seeds are a terrific source of fibre and a good source of omega-3 fats which are essential for a healthy brain. People with neurological conditions such as ADHD tend to have low levels of omega-3s, so increasing dietary intake can help with brain function.

Chia Seeds – worth the hype?

Here are some of the health claims:

Gluten free – true, so good for people with Coeliac Disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

High in Omega-3 fats – true, but not the ‘best’ kind. Chia seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, the omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in plants. This is not the same as the very beneficial omega-3 fats that are found in oily fish. Our bodies cannot use the chia seed version of the omega-3 very well, so won’t have the same potency as the fish oil or supplements.

High in Protein – falseChia seeds are 16% protein and do have a good range of essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). However, they are not high in protein per se. To obtain a decent amount of protein from chia seeds, you would need to eat a lot of them. One portion of chia, about 30g dry weight, only has about 5g of protein.

High in Fibre – true, there’s no disputing the excellent fibre content. A whopping 13g per portion. The seeds absorb a high volume of liquid, and become quite gelatinous (just like flaxseeds), so fabulous for helping with constipation, and they are low in fermentable carbohydrates so shouldn’t cause bloating.

Chia Seed Banana Breakfast

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Ingredients
  1. 300ml vanilla soya milk
  2. 1 banana, ripe
  3. 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  4. 1/4 cup Chia Seeds
Instructions
  1. In a medium size bowl mash or slice the banana.
  2. Add the remainder of the ingredients and stir until combined.
  3. Cover and put in the fridge overnight – or at least 2 hours
  4. (Try to) enjoy!

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KFC – can fast food be fit food?

Call it a mid life crisis, but I’ve recently started stoking up the social life with a night out every fortnight or so. With only weeks to go until my 39 turns to in to forty, and with significantly more childcare on hand (thank you parents, sister and cousins!) it would be silly not to.

Usually a conversation in the pub eventually gets to “what do you do?”, or hilariously (well, it seemed the funniest thing I’d ever heard after a few Bushmill Mojitos): “What is your role in life?”

When I tell people that I am a dietitian, a lot of people ask the ‘Which Is Better’ question e.g.  “gin with slimline or fat tonic?”, “Guinness or beer?” or “what’s the least bad thing to have from the take-away”.

So takeaways: can fast food be fit food?

Purely for research purposes, today, I attended one of the best fast food joints Bangor Ring Road has to offer: KFC@Balloo.

What was the healthiest/least ‘bad’ thing on offer?

I had been slightly terrified that I was going to have to get one of those great big buckets that used to be advertised on TV in the 80’s. How things have changed! It felt like a chorus of angels had descended when I spotted the KFC Rice Box. It looked remarkably similar to the boxes you can get in Leon – a healthy fast fast food mecca in snazzy London.

 

 

Original Recipe Rice Box: in a box, there was a large portion of rice, a crispy chicken fillet, some salad (lettuce and tomatoes), a dollop of tomato chutney on the rice, and a splash of creamy dressing on the lettuce.

 

KFC Rice Box Adult Recommended Intake per day
Calories 500 2000
Fat 17 70
Saturated Fat 2.3 20
Carbohydrates 64 260
Protein 28 50
Salt 2.5 6

 

  • Taste: It was quite tasty indeed. The chicken wasn’t at all dry, the rice was flavoursome, the lettuce was crispy and the tomatoes great too (I am clearly not a food critic with extensive foody vocabulary!)
  • Nutrition:
    • the rice provides a good source of carbs (although there was a bit too much for me so I left about half).
    • great amount of protein from the chicken
    • the chicken has been deep fried so higher in fat than a grilled fillet, unfortunately KFC doesn’t have this option. I guess that’s reasonable as the joint is has ‘fried chicken’ in it’s name.
    • the salad provides about one of your five a day of fruit/veg
    • Horribly high in salt, giving you almost half of your recommended daily salt intake. The salt is probably what makes the rice so tasty.

KFC Nutrition Guide

How to ‘health it up’:

  • add a bottle of water
  • add a side of corn on the cob to double your veg intake
  • only eat half the rice, unless you’re very hungry or have just been working out
  • remove the crispy skin from the chicken
  • DO NOT add any more salt
  • DO NOT add chips or Coke

As a post sport/exercise/workout recovery meal, this is pretty good. It provides a decent amount of carbs, protein, and veg. The salt can be a good thing if you are a heavy sweater.

So how does it compare to healthy restaurant Leon’s box? Well, Leon has lots of different versions, but typically, there isn’t a massive amount of difference when comparing calories and overall fats. The KFC one is higher in salt and carbs (probably due to the big portion of rice), but as a positive KFC is higher in protein. Leon’s usually also contain healthy fats from avocado, olive oil and seeds.

Would I get this again from KFC? Yes, sure I would. Thumbs up 🙂

First Triathlon, and My Thoughts During It (mainly *$!%&*@*)

Five years ago, not long after my youngest was born, I sat in the cafe at Virgin gym in Kingston chatting to one of the personal trainers about coming along to their Triathlon Club. But with three young kids, and later on two jobs, there was no way I could ever commit to the training.

One year ago, my circumstances changed massively. A move to my home town of Bangor, Northern Ireland in July 2016, somehow gave me the drive to focus on this ambition that had only grown since that initial conversation. I bought a road bike in August, and in September a turbo trainer was delivered to my door (a surprise present from my awesome sister!). This made it possible for me train on the bike every morning at 5am before the kids woke up. Running and swimming were fitted in around the school drop offs/pick ups and work, with longer weekend sessions made possible by my Mum and Dad (and their never ending patience with me and my looney 3!).

June 2017: I had no excuse for not entering the Peninsula Sprint Triathlon. Especially as it was from beach at the end of my road. My sis flew over to look after the children – thank you, and thank you for having them the night before so I could get my ‘race head’ on.

Here is an account of some of the things that were going through my head during the race. It is a VERY cleaned up version. If you can imagine in real life, every other word was very sweary. Very, very sweary.

 

The 750m Sea Swim “Booooof, aiooooo, elbow in my face…..I’m seeing stars! I’m fine, keep going, no problem.

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I’m in there somewhere, mainly getting cracked on the head. Nutters.

Mmmmm, I can’t move my jaw, it hurts. Keep going you’re fine. All part of the experience! Just try not to get kicked in the head……that could be worse. What are all these people doing here??? Move out of my way! Not far now. Where’s the next buoy. Yellow, yellow, yellow, look for the yellow buoy. Over there, FFS it’s that way!”

Transition 1: Exiting the water to get on the bike. “Wwwwaooooo, the world is spinning. Waaaaooooo, don’t fall over. Smile at my 3 little people. High five, Mummy’s

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Why is the world spinning??

feeling great, amazing!!! Waaoooo………focus, don’t fall over. Ok, you’ve got this! Oh jeez, I should be running to the bike!……..pick up your legs…….one two three four five six seven eight. Bike. Where’s my bike? Here you are! Ok, legs out of wetsuit. Why is everything still spinning…….find something to hold on to. You know how to peel a wetsuit off, you’ve done this a million times! Ok bike shoes on, good well done. I really shouldn’t be cycling in this state, I feel like I’m totally drunk. It will be fine. Helmet and glasses on. Run with the bike to the line, don’t slip over…….. clip shoes in, don’t fall off, for goodness sake don’t fall off!!!! High five Me, you didn’t fall off! Ahhhh my lovely bike and a smooth road. Sea swims are for nutters.

The 20 km Cycle: This is funnnnnnnn, hey there are police holding up the cars! Thank you! I love you!!! Oh s***, that guy’s come off his bike. He’s lying on the road. What am I doing?!!! Why am I here? Never mind, I sure he’ll be fine. This is fun again! Legs are feeling good, I’m catching that bike in front. What do I do?? Seems a bit rude to overtake. **** it, I’m going to it anyway. Next!!  Oh there’s a girl to over take, BOOOOOM, go legs……..is it a girl? Top half looks like a bloke………….suspiciously smooth legs though. It’s a bloke! Ha ha, lovely hair free legs, must get some tips, tee heee!

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Get off the bike and don’t fall over!

Marshalls in your yellow vests. I love you, you make me so happy when you clap and say I’m doing really well. I think we should be best friends, you are soooo lovely. You tell me I can do this and it’s not far now. Thank you!! They said it’s not far now! Hang on, that was 2 minutes ago, I’m still not at the end of the bike leg……you lied to me!! Waaaaaaaah! I’m dying here! Waaaaaaah!

 

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Transition 2 – the bike falls off the rack.

Transition 2: Bike to 5 km run: Yellow line!! Off the bike, run to the bike rack. DO NOT skite on your arse in these slippy shoes. Bike in to rack. Yikes!! How do I hook the bike on to the rack. Focus concentrate, quickly QUICKLY, you’ve rehersed this. There we go back of saddle over the bar. Nooooo!! *$!*!% The bike’s fallen off and taken the next one with it! I’m going to pass out, my eyes are all weird and my hands won’t work because. I’ve spent 37 minutes gripping the handle bars for dear life! Ok, focus. Front of saddle on the bar. Fix the other bike. Good, well done, you’ve got this. Shoe change, work hands work!! Mouth swill of Lucozade. Ha ha! The advantages of being a sports dietitan and knowing the carb mouth swill secret! Don’t swallow any, you know it will make you want to puke. Swill it around, spit it out. Ok where can a spit this gob full out. S***, there’s a photographer…………I can’t spit out now, that would be so disgusting to have that on camera! Abandon nutrition strategy! Swallow the Lucozade. Hope I don’t vom. Jesus my legs.

Final stretch of the 5km run to the finish. “Nearly done, just a few steps on the beach then

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Nearly there. Don’t puke!

through the finish line. Hang on a minute, I’ve got to go to the end of the beach and back again? Jesus no.
I am actually going to puke. Walk 10 steps. Thank you marshall for cheering me on, I’m so sorry for not running, but I’m going to puke. Run again, toughen up, do not walk, it’s like the Marathon Des Sable, if those guys can run 250km over Sahara sand, I can do 500m of Ballyholme Beach! I can see the finish line!! OMG the sand has turned all soft and fluffy, this is cruel! The race briefing said this is a flat course, not a fluffy sandy flat course! Just look at the ground, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, focus on the ground, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Up the ramp………I’m there! Finished! Sit down, heave, deep breaths, don’t throw up on your children.

10 minutes later: I could SO do that all over again. Olympic distance NO PROBLEM!!

24 hours later: my body feels like a sack of potatoes and my mind is somewhat catatonic. But in a good way 🙂

 

Thank you to http://bradleyquinn.com for the photos.

Instagram: bradleyquinn1

 

 

 

 

 

Smoothie Bowl

6216be92664c268834e07ac1a29edd4aThis is something I make in seconds for my kids as a very healthy pudding. They love it. It’s somewhere between ice-cream and a smoothie. For me, I sometimes have it as a breakfast. I add a handful of oats, and if I’ve just had a bike or run, a scoop of protein powder.

Why it’s great:

Yogurt: calcium, protein, good bacteria for the digestion Berries: antioxidants,
phytonutrients and fibre. Oats: for slow release energy, soluble fibre, B-glucan cholesterol lowering, carbs for replacing muscle glycogen stores post workout. Protein powder: 20g extra protein post workout for muscle recovery and maintenance, also keeps you feeling full up for longer. 

Ingredients:

  • frozen berries: 1 big handful per person
  • Oats: 1 small handful per person (about 30g)
  • Natural yogurt: 3 tablespoons per person
  • Honey: 1/2-1 teaspoon per person

Method: whizz up in a blender, in my blender I’ve to give it a shake every few seconds to get all the ingredients down to the bottom.

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If you use a flavoured yogurt, there’s no need to add honey as it should be sweet enough already.

 

Here’s what I used this evening……