Dear Coffee, This Is Why We Love You

Wake. Roll. Stand. Walk. Kettle. Water. Coffee tin. Cafetiere. Two spoons. Hot water, not 3445401448_0de5016d5b_b.jpgboiling. Gently stir. Wait……………….and plunge.

So archaic, so basic, so simple. The Coffee Ritual.

But in this era of ‘clean eating’ how can something that is so good not be bad for us? How often do we hear that we should cut out caffeine, because it is a toxin poisoning our bodies?

We all know that coffee wakes us up. Scientific research shows that caffeine increases alertness, concentration, vigilance, improves mood, reduces perception of pain and increases time to fatigue. These effects can be so positive, that in elite and professional sport, we actively harness this potential to legally improve athletic performance.

But is your coffee habit actually good for you? 

Coffee beans, as well as the brew, are a very rich source of polyphenolic compounds, specifically chlorogenic acids (CGA). 
Research shows that CGA has a wide range of potential health benefits: anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity. There is also growing evidence that coffee can reduce or delay the onset of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimers.
CGA is an antioxidant meaning it can help prevent cellular damage from free-radicals that occur with pollution, smoking, eating unhealthy food and drinks, strenuous exercise and as a byproduct of normal metabolism. It’s also thought that polyphenols contribute to the body being in an anti-inflammatory state, which is associated with a lower risk of several chronic diseases.
Based on the evidence from 34 studies from 2010 – 2016, coffee consumption in moderation, is safe and may be beneficial in both healthy persons as well as people with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias and diabetes. Therefore, coffee restriction may not be warranted for these patients, although some caution should be exercised in some people sensitive to caffeine.
cup-latte-coffee

 

Is ‘fresh’ coffee better than instant and decaffeinated coffee?
  • There is a broad range of CGA in coffee that you can buy
  • Coffees which are roasted to a lesser extent or which contain a proportion of unroasted coffee have more CGA 
  • Surprisingly, there was no difference in CGA between instant coffee in a jar and coffee made by a cafetiere
  • Decaffeination seems to have little or no effect on the CGA content 

 

More fascinating caffeine body facts: 

  • Caffeine is absorbed rapidly and totally in the small intestine in less than 1 hour
  • In women, the metabolism of caffeine is slower during pregnancy, as well as when taking oral contraceptives. This means that the effects of caffeine a felt for longer.
  • Cigarette smoking doubles the rate of caffeine clearance by increasing the liver enzyme activity, which may be one of the explanations for the higher rate of caffeine consumption among smokers!
  • Coffee reduces the absorption of Levothyroxine (a common medication for hypothyroidism which should ideally be taken on an empty stomach)
  • Excessive caffeine intake may increase ‘unstable’ bladder in women i.e. suddenly being desperate for a wee
  • Dehydrating effects of caffeine are not likely to have adverse consequences for healthy adults who normally drink caffeine

 

Any negatives? The effects of caffeine in coffee is variable, depending on the sensitivity of each individual. This is because caffeine is primarily broken down in the liver by an enzyme called cytochrome P450 oxidase. Depending on your genetics, some people have more of this enzyme than othersSome people find they get jittery after a few sips. Other side effects include insomnia, irratibility, headache, abdominal cramping and diarrhoea.

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 a maximum of 6 cups per day. Certain groups such as pregnant women and children should limit the amount. Pregnant women should have no more than 200mg of caffeine per day (approximately 2 cups of coffee).

 

 

 

 

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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.

Eat with a spoon!img_1066.jpg

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……

Idiot Proof Poached Eggs

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat: high in protein, omega 3 fats, lutein, choline, all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, and iron.

Poached eggs should be one of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest meals. But it can be hard to not end up with a watery pile of mush. There is a lot of advice out there on how to achieve the perfectly poached egg: the freshest eggs possible, adding vinegar to the water (am I the only one to end up with vinegary eggs?!) or the ‘swirling the water’ method.

For the first time in my 39 years, I came across this genius method for the perfect poached egg. Or for 10 poached eggs if you need that many!! It’s idiot proof, which is a stroke of luck for me.

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Location: a big family brunch at my cousin Wendy’s house in Holywood – that’s Holywood in N. Ireland; rather than Hollywood, California :). There were 13 of us so that’s a lot of eggs to poach! I was a bit skeptical as this clingfilm escapade unfolded in the kitchen, but trust me…..

 

Here’s what you need:
egg(s)

cling film

any cooking oil4820A52D-F11E-49D0-B839-BDF5C02AA2B7

Ramekin, or small bowl

  1. Boil some water in a small sauce pan. Once boiling reduce to a simmer

 

  1. Tear some cling film, about double the width of the ramekin

 

  1. Oil the cling film by dribbling in a few drops of the oil. Spread around with your fingers or a pastry brush

 

  1. Break the egg in to the cling film

 

  1. Gather up the edges of the cling wrap and twist, making sure that you have the egg enclosed well. You can secure it with a little elastic band or something similar.F593DFC8-DBA5-40ED-ACE0-CAEF8944851B

 

  1. Place in the simmering water until the egg white has set. Put as many of these little parcels in the water as needed (use an appropriately sized saucepan to fit them in obvs)

 

  1. Lift the egg out of the water using a spoon and cut away the cling film

TA DA!!!!

A Short Cut Saviour Meal

Nutrition Nuts, Food Evangilisim, Nutritionally Holiness. These are all good descriptions for people who are absolutely convinced (and will try to convince you too) that their way of eating is the only way to health and happiness. Unprocessed whole foods may be the ideal, but in reality, life can get in the way.

A few weeks ago I was working on the cancer wards at Belfast City Hospital, filling a gap inIMG_0095-1 the staff shortage for a couple of months. At the same time I was single parenting three ‘lively’ children, shopping, cooking, cleaning, refereeing sibling rivalries, homeworks etc. etc. blah blah

Sometimes we need food that we can just throw together in minutes, pulling stuff from the cupboard and not requiring a recipe book. This pasta meal is one of my saviours.

 

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Cooked Pasta

Tin of tomato soup

Tin of tuna

Grated carrot, onion and cheese

 

In a frying pan with oil, soften the grated carrot and onion (and what ever extra veg you would like to chuck in). Add the tin of tuna, and the tin of soup. Stir in to the cooked pasta. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

If I was a nutrition nut, I’d say that tinned tomato soup is loaded with salt and sugar. In reality, I use the reduced salt version, and the tin is divided between 4 of us. A wee bit of the ‘bad’ stuff can help the really good stuff go down more easily 🙂

 

 

 

Wee Bytes – Ready Brek

Ready Brek – it’s such a kiddie food, surely no self respecting grown up would be eating
this for breakfast?! And isn’t it loaded with sugar?

Well you could be missing out…….this is pretty great stuff, and doesn’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush as other sugary breakfast cereals.

Ready Brek is simply ground up oats with vitamins added (there is no added sugar). The ingredients are: Wholegrain Rolled Oats (60%), Wholegrain Oat Flour (38%), Calcium, Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B6, Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12. Add some milk, and you’ve a wonderful combination of carbohydrate, protein, soluble fibre and all those lovely vits and minerals.

Two ways with Ready Brek:

In a bowl: Put a mug full of milk in a bowl, microwave for about 90 seconds, or until boiling. Sprinkle in the Ready Brek and mix until you get your desired consistency. Tasty extras to add:

  • cinnamon
  • raisins
  • chopped banana
  • a scoop of protein powder
  • a teaspoon of cocoa powder
  • an egg – yes really, crack one in and mix well while the RB is piping hot

Add more milk if it’s too hot or you like it extra milky.

Smoothie: Blend together 200-300ml milk, 1 banana or some berries, 1/2-1 mugful of Ready Brek, drizzle of honey. Quantities of ingredients depends on how hungry you are, or how hard you training. I came up with this smoothie idea for one of my little GB gymnasts who was struggling with fatigue due to training coming up to the World Championships…… they got a Gold by the way 🙂

Perfect for sport

Because the oats are ground up, Ready Brek is easily and quickly digested, therefore brilliant to have 1 hour before an intentse training session e.g. a swim, run or bike; or after for recovery refuelling.

Before a 6am run or swim, I usually have a ripe banana and milky coffee, and then have a Ready Brek Smoothie as soon as I get home. I need very quick recovery food otherwise I feel very tired later in the afternoon.