Including the power of red in your daily diet

Red fruit and vegetables have an abundance of vitamins and minerals important for your health and wellbeing. They have high levels of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Lycopene is the coloured pigment in red fruits and vegetables which has been found to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Including tomatoes both fresh, tinned, tomato puree and sun dried all help increase lycopene levels.

Vitamin C important for immune system can be found in strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and watermelon, tomatoes and red peppers. Vitamin C plays an important role in absorbing iron from green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

A glass of red wine a couple of times a week also helps boost antioxidants in your diet. Red wine contains an abundance of different antioxidants that help fight inflammation and heart disease.

Including a rainbow of colours every day in your diet including red, green, orange, yellow and blue ensuring optimal levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support health and wellbeing.

Winter greens on a plant based diet

Ensuring our diet is high in green coloured foods helps boost iron, magnesium, vitamin C , calcium and folic acid. All important micronutrients to help boost energy if you are feeling fatigued this January.

Including spinach, kale, and broccoli every day may help to boost energy levels, improve skin and hair and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Green leafy vegetables form part of non -heme iron rich foods alongside dried fruits like apricots, lentils and pulses. To help non-heme iron absorption it is advised to include vitamin C rich foods with them such as tomatoes. Avoiding caffeine especially at meal times all help improve absorption on non-heme iron.

Following a plant based diet especially a vegan diet may reduce levels of Vitamin B12 increasing fatigue, pale skin and heart rate changes. Including foods high in B12 with a Vegan diet may be more tricky. Ensuring you consume fortified plant based milk and cereals helps to boost B12 intake.

Noticing your food colours and seeing green in your meal times at least once if not more helps to improve health and wellbeing longterm.

Reframing January Blues!

This Monday is typically called blue Monday with many people people noticing their are lower in mood after Christmas. Everyone is different and there may be many reasons why we may feel low mood. If it is persistant throughout the year seeking advice from your GP and or counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy may help.

If it is seasonal (seasonal affect disorder – SAD) lifestyle modification such as regular exercise like a brisk walk in daylight hours, eating foods high in tryptophan that convert to serotonin, mindfulness, feeling socially connected and doing a hobby you enjoy may all help lift your mood.

Reframing how we see blue Monday may also help challenge our beliefs that January is a month to be grey, cold, dark and miserable. We can view our day however we choose to. If we choose to notice the brighter colours of our day in nature and our foods we start to train our brains to think in a slightly different way. Blue can be a cold colour but it can also be seen as calming, relaxing and soothing colour if we choose to focus on it this way.

Being aware of what you feel grateful or thankful each day and writing three positive things you have noticed today helps stimulate the pre frontal cortex that deals with positive emotions. Studies suggest journalling what we are grateful lifts our mood. There are many lifestyle changes that positively affect our mood. Being mindful of if you include them in your day may help improve mental and physical wellbeing long term.

Your centre of strength

The muscles that support the abdomen and pelvis are known as your core stability muscles. They comprise of of 5 deep abdominal, waist and lower back muscles that help to stabilise the spine and pelvis to reduce the risk of back pain long term.

Pilates, Yoga and tai chi are mindful forms of exercise focusing your attention on your breath as you move. Pilates main focus is to develop core strength alongside improving spinal mobility.

Being mindful of your body makes you more aware of what muscles you are using each day. You have to consciously engage your core muscles they don’t automatically work! Being mindful of engaging your core when you sit, lift heavy items (and children), exercise and move may all help improve upright posture and reduce back pain.

How do I engage my core?

  • place your hands on your lower abdomen, just below your belly button like a fan shape with your fingers touching in the centre
  • imagine you are doing up a zip or belt and visualise your hip bones being drawn together even though physically they won’t move
  • as you do this you will feel your belly button start to move towards your spine
  • you should aim to tighten your internal belt/zip a third of the way (30% contraction)
  • It is important you breathe. To maintain the connection to your core breathing wide into your rib cage (lateral thoracic breathing)
  • aim to hold the connection whilst breathing for 10 seconds repeating 10 times building up over the weeks until you can hold for 30 seconds

You could build this into daily activities like brushing your teeth or making a cup of tea!

Pilates based exercises help challenge core engagement, reducing waist size, improving your posture and reducing back pain long term.

Mind-body connection part 3: Finding balance within!

Did you know your gut is called your second brain? Our gut stores high levels of serotonin a chemical messenger that helps us feel good. What we think and feel affects our gut health. Poor gut health also impacts our brain function and how we may view things.

Following a diet high in vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds all help increase prebiotics. These help feed the friendly bacteria in our guts. When our gut bacteria is in balance this has a positive affect on our immunity and mental health. Being under stress, in pain and taking medications all affect intestinal balance.

Eating foods high in tryptophan which the body converts in the gut to serotonin has been found to improve mood and anxiety. These foods include oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, bananas,  spinach, nuts and seeds. They are also high in Omega 3. Low levels of Omega 3 are associated with high levels of anxiety and depression.

Being mindful, regular exercise and a healthy diet all help improve the function of the enteric nervous system improving digestion and reducing IBS, pain and low mood.

Mind-body connection part 3: How to switch to calm!

We can switch on our brakes and reduce the amount of times our alarm bell rings within a minute (longer if you have the time)! Noticing why we are getting, stressed, anxious, angry or irritated and turning our attention to our breathing helps us to come out of automatic pilot and be consciously aware of what we are thinking. Thoughts are transient they come and go. How we feel changes through the daytime. Mindfulness helps us become aware of when we do feel calm.

We only exist right now in the present moment. We don’t exist in the past and we haven’t yet existed in the future. Our minds like to follow our thoughts all of which spiral into overthinking.

Mindfulness has been clinically recognised to help manage stress, anxiety and low mood. If you identify your triggers and you feel ready to take positive action, mindfulness is one step to help improve health and wellbeing. It has been used in combination with other therapies such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy if anxiety and low mood have a significant impact on your life and you are aware what might be trigging it.

Noticing your breathing, the sound, the sensation as you breathe all help reduce a busy overthinking mind. Taking some longer, slower deeper breaths stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. It slows down heart rate, blood pressure and the stress hormone Cortisol. Regulating our breathing helps to reset the internal nervous system quickly by impacting our heart rate variability. We can reduce the affect of the fight or flight response just by changing our breathing.

Being mindful of your body and your breath helps you take control of how your body is reacting to your thoughts and can help you achieve an inner calm.

Taking a deeper breath

By Sharon Elizabeth Best

Mind- Body Connection part 2: Understanding your internal alarm!

Our brains have an internal alarm bell called the amygdala. When we feel stressed or anxious this sets of our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). This alarm and reaction phase is useful historically to run it right lions and tigers. However our 21st lives means work, traffic, bill’s, family, almost anything might set off our inbuilt alarm!!

This causes our bodies to increase heart rate, blood pressure, increase stress hormones Cortisol and Adrenalin and release fat and sugar for energy. At home, work or in the car we are not running from lions and tigers. If this fight or flight response stays elevated are weight, waist size, cholesterol,  blood pressure and inflammation all increase.

Learning to recognize triggers for stress and anxiety is very important. If your alarm bell is constantly triggered this affects your mental and physical wellbeing. 

Mindfulness has been clinically proven to change how the brain works, reducing the connection to the alarm bell. By practising mindfulness each day we may learn to let the small things go that make us angry, irritated, stressed and anxious. We may learn to view each day a little more kindly and react less all of which is good for the mind body connection. Our internal alarm bell rings less and we notice we feel more peaceful and calm!

Take control of your mind-body connection. Part 1: Understanding you!

As we become more mindful of noticing our senses we may also start to become more consciously aware of our breathing. Breathing happens automatically we never have to consciously think about it. But when we do start to notice our breathing we start to become consciously aware of our bodies.

What we think and feel affects the way our bodies react. If we feel stress,  anxiety or pain this affects our internal nervous system known as the autonomic nervous system. This has three branches sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric. We will explore these individually over the next week and coming months, hopefully in a way that doesn’t seem too scientific but with enough information for you to piece together any missing parts that may be affecting your health.

Understanding how the brain affects these may help you understand how to reduce your weight, waist size, blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, anxiety and pain. Being mindful of how the brain affects our body and how the body affects the mind may help you gain and take control! This can help to improve your mood, improve your digestion and improve your immunity.

Over the next few weeks and months hopefully you will gain a greater insight into how your mind and body work together and how small changes in lifestyle can improve mental and physical wellbeing.

If you choose to, take the next few minutes to listen to a mindfulness based breath awareness meditation

Awareness of breath

By Sharon Elizabeth Best

Guided sensory meditation (audio)

Over the past week we have explored what we can see, what we can feel, what we can hear and taste. Which sense do you most connect with each day? Taking just a few seconds to connect to your senses every day all helps build mindfulness into your daily routine, reduce a busy over thinking mind, reduce stress, anxiety and pain. Take the sense challenge and notice how many times you use your senses each day to help improve wellness.

If you struggle to sleep, suffer from a busy over thinking mind, feel pain regularly you may benefit from sensory guided meditation.

I have recorded a guided meditation for you below.

Island of tranquility guided meditation

by Sharon Elizabeth Best

Taste the flavour!

We may all be making small changes to our eating habits in January with the desire to loose weight and or be healthier. Noticing the taste of food is an important part of mindful eating to help maintain a healthy weight and a well balanced diet.

If we notice the taste for a few seconds we start to become more present when we eat. Often we eat in automatic pilot not really noticing what we are eating, why we are eating, when we are eating and how much we are eating.

Being mindful at each meal gives us an opportunity to make sure we are eating for hunger not to soothe emotions or stress. We are choosing foods high in nutrients that make us healthy rather than quick fixes high in sugar, salt and fat. Ensure that we are eating regularly to help maintain energy and an even mood. When we eat regularly we may be less likely to over eat at meal times. Mindful eating helps improve our mental and physical wellbeing.