Friday, 16 February 2007

What’s your number? (cholesterol)

We’re talking cholesterol – the good news is that not all cholesterol’s bad for you – here’s why you need a certain amount in your diet.

Did you know that having cholesterol in your body is actually a good thing? It’s needed to strengthen cell membranes and make hormones, vitamin D and bile acids, which aid digestion. But too much cholesterol can signal that there is too much fat in the blood which can lead to blocked arteries in your body, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft waxy substance found in your body’s cells. It comes from two sources - most of it is made by the liver and the rest, dietary cholesterol, comes from food. Animal food sources such as meat, seafood, dairy products and any foods made with animal products contain cholesterol although plant foods are cholesterol-free.
There are two types of cholesterol: ‘good’ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Cholesterol is an essential part of every cell and is needed to make certain hormones.
However, too much LDL cholesterol in the blood leads to ‘furring’ of the arteries and the development of plaques that can result in heart disease and stroke. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the tissues and deliver it to the liver, which dumps it from the body. LDL cholesterol accounts for most of the cholesterol in the blood and this is the real culprit behind heart disease.

Who does it affect?
People with Type 2 diabetes or existing heart disease may need to lower their cholesterol right away. Obesity has also linked to high cholesterol and increases LDL levels because of high fat levels in the body.

How to fight high cholesterol
Cholesterol-lowering drugs - statins - have been found to lower the risk of heart attacks but unless your cholesterol levels are sky-high experts agree on diet guidelines to reduce the amount of saturated animal fats (like high-fat meat and dairy) and trans fats (hydrogenated oils) in foods we eat.
A recommended diet should have less than 35% total fat with less than 7% of that as saturated fat and minimal trans fat. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains and unsaturated fats, such as those found in nuts, can also help lower your LDL levels and boost the amount of HDL cholesterol.
Dietary cholesterol - found in egg yolks and shellfish is no longer seen as the problem it once was. Studies show it has a minimal effect on blood cholesterol since the body takes as much as it needs. One problem with fighting high cholesterol with diet only is that even if LDL levels decrease, HDL levels may drop too. And low HDL levels can cause an increase in heart disease. However, doing aerobic exercise along with making diet changes can prevent or decrease a drop in HDL levels.

Lifestyle changes to beat cholesterol
Get active
While following a low-fat diet will lower LDL levels, combine it with aerobic exercise and it will fall even further. But what really gives exercise the edge is its ability to keep HDL level high. Just 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week can jump-start your HDL in the right direction.
Lose the pounds
Studies have found that a modest loss of just 10lb reduces harmful LDL cholesterol by 12% but actually increases beneficial HDL cholesterol by 18%. A great reason to lose weight!
Cut back on simple carbs
Cakes, biscuits and highly processed cereals and breads are high-glycemic foods that can lower your HDL and raise the levels of another harmful fat in your bloodstream, triglycerides.
Choose better fats
Cut down on the saturated and trans fats in your diet. These substances increase the bad cholesterol while decreasing your good cholesterol. Instead, switch to products containing unsaturated fats (olive, canola, flaxseed, etc). These may raise your HDL levels. However you still have to watch the number of calories you consume.
Eat more fibre
Stocking upon high-fibre foods such as oats, fruits and vegetables can help bring your LDL levels down even more than a low-fat diet alone. A diet that gets more than a third of its calories from high-fibre foods has been found to lower LDL cholesterol by 33%, according to studies.
Avoid lots of alcohol
It can raise HDL levels so drink in moderation and make sure you don’t go over recommended levels
Say no to smoking
By quitting, you can raise your HDL levels by about four points.

So how healthy are you?
Do you know your cholesterol number? If not, get it checked out soon.
Desirable <200 mg/dl Any number below 200 is good news!
Borderline 200 to 239 mg/dl Check out your levels every six months
High Risk >240 mg/dl Follow your GP’s advice on lowering your levels


How many times have you said ‘never again’ the morning after the night before? Here’s what to do to prevent your hangover happening all over again!

Let’s face it, we all over-indulge from time to time and there’ nothing wrong with alcohol consumption – in moderation. Anyone who has suffered a hangover knows the trauma of a sore head, feeling nauseous and dehydrated. The good news is that there are ways to prevent a hangover – as well as ways to speed up your recovery process.

Before you drink…
Fill up on water
Alcohol is a diuretic and encourages your body to lose fluids. One of the main reasons for feeling so awful after drinking is dehydration. So before, during, and after your night out, you should try and drink at least two litres of water – you should drink this amount every day anyway. Water really is the elixir of life and will help to hydrate your body in preparation for excess drinking as well as flush through the alcohol and eliminate toxins.
Eat something
Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Go for carbohydrate-based options as these will absorb the alcohol much better than nibbles such as nuts or crisps which are often high in salt and will cause you to drink more.
Liven up your liver
In the day or so leading up to a big night out, try some of the following liver tonics – these will help keep your liver cleansed and refreshed: black grapes, beetroot juice, carrot juice and fennel tea.
Get moving
Regular exercise and improving your fitness will go a long way to building your body to the peak of perfection – both inside and out.

The morning after…
Say no to a fry-up

No matter how tempted you are to grab a fry-up, don’t! Oils, fats and grease are not cleansing for the body.
Eat your oats
Porridge will settle your stomach by decreasing its acidity. Stir in some honey or slice up a few bananas to put on top.
Drink sparkling water
Fizzy water will reoxygenate your blood allowing your body to get on with the recovery process.
A bitter pill to swallow
Painkillers are acid-forming and will make your stomach feel much worse.
Say no to caffeine
A steaming mug of coffee may be what you think you need but caffeine is a stimulant and after a momentary high, you’ll feel even lower.

The best thing you can do the day of a hangover is eat regular, nutritious, small meals. Drink plenty of water, get some fresh air with a short walk outside and have an early night.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Help yourself for life at Sainsbury’s with the ‘2 a week’ healthy eating fish campaign

Sainsbury’s ‘2 a week’ campaign is leading up to Seafood Week, from 6 to 13 October, recommending that we eat one portion of oily fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and one white fish each week.

2 a week for life
This is only the beginning, as there are endless fish recipes and preparations, to enable you to build ‘2 a week’ fish into your diet all the year round.

Oily Fish
Oily fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel, trout and salmon are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease. These fatty acids are also important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding because they help a baby’s nervous system to develop. Oily fish is also a good source of vitamins A and D. It is also believed that oil rich fish can help boost your brain power, keep your joints supple and even assist in good eyesight.

White Fish
White fish, such as sea bass, cod, haddock, plaice, to name but a few, are the perfect low fat choice. White fish tastes wonderful and is so flexible and easy to prepare that it challenges many other ‘fast foods’.

Healthy Eating for Babies and Children

Giving your toddler a healthy diet needn’t be mission impossible – even if he or she is a fussy eater. Follow these tips to encourage good eating habits for your child.

1. Set a good example
Make sure you’re giving your toddler the right messages. Your own eating habits, as well as your attitude to food, should be healthy. Try to have family meals as often as possible and give your toddler the same food as everyone else is eating when you can. Remember though, it’s important not to give your toddler food containing too much salt or sugar, and its probably best to avoid spicy foods as well.

2. Watch that shopping list!
Only buy the foods you want your toddler to eat – if there’s something in particular you don’t want your child to have, don’t put it in your shopping trolley. Try to make sure that any other carers - grandparents or childminders - know not to give him the foods you specify.

3. Keep calm...
Your toddler will quickly learn that refusing to eat can easily wind you up, so try to keep calm and not make food a big issue. Create a relaxing atmosphere for all the family at mealtimes. You could play soft music - or even some of your toddler’s favourite nursery rhymes - in the background.

4. Make meals a family affair
Try to see mealtimes as quality time for all the family. Meals should not be rushed, so leave plenty of time for them. Encourage conversation - even your baby’s babble. It can help to take your toddler’s mind off food that is normally refused. If your toddler feels part of it all, he or she will be less likely to play with food.

5. Avoid mealtime battles
If your toddler becomes upset and aggravated, he or she certainly won’t want to eat well. So if food is rejected, don’t force your little one to eat it - calmly take the plate away. Try not to give your child a large plateful of food as this ma be seem as just too off-putting - too much of an ordeal. Instead, offer a small portion and give lots of praise and encouragement if even a little is eaten.

6. Offer non-edible rewards
Try to avoid using sweet foods as a reward for finishing savouries. To your toddler, this simply says, ‘here’s something nice after eating those nasty greens’ - and is likely to make sweet foods seem even more attractive to eat. Instead, reward your child with a trip to the park or allow him or her to watch a favourite video. You’ll be amazed how well this works and the positive way your toddler come to view eating chose healthy green foods.

7. Keep snacks healthy
Limit snacking - the fill up your toddler… If you do allow a small snack, try healthy options rather than biscuits s or crisps. For example: a drink of milk and a small cracker with a slice of cheese; a plain yoghurt with a banana sliced into it; a slice of toast with yeast extract, a piece of cheese or a slice of ham; some crackers, a breadstick or rice cake with cheese or a piece of fruit. Drinks can also be tummy-fillers, so make sure our toddler doesn’t have a drink just before mealtimes. All in all, if you stick to your guns and keep snacks healthy, mealtimes will be better.

8. Jazz up those veggies
When most parents think of vegetables and their toddler, they tend to think of battles! Don’t let vegetables become a burden or a battle-ground – if your toddler is reluctant to eat them, try cutting them into different fun shapes. Use vegetables to add colour to meals and keep the portions you serve small. Introduce lots of different vegetables and if one is refused a particular day, simply leave it for a few days before offering it again. You may be surprised...

9. Spot hidden sugar
There’s no denying that it can be hard to completely avoid giving your toddler sweet food and drinks. Many supposedly healthy foods, such as breakfast cereals, contain lots of sugar, and fruit squashes often have a high sugar content. Try giving your toddler cereals that aren’t sugar-coated and avoid squashes, offering water, milk or diluted fruit juices instead. If your toddler isn’t given the opportunity to get used to the taste of sugar, he or she will be less likely to crave it.

10. Home and away - stay in the habit!
Explain to well-meaning friends and family that although giving sweets to your toddler might he the easiest way, it’s not the best way. This may not be easy, but it’s important to he firm. If friends and relatives want to give your child a treat, try suggesting books, pencils or a little pocket money. If you are going out for a family meal, pick a restaurant that offers healthy choices for your toddler - the good eating habits you establish don’t have to stop when eating out.