Food & Mood – The Afternoon Show

I was invited to speak about what foods can affect our mood and thought some of the tips might be useful….if you are eeling a little low? this article will help to give you some dietary tips to help imporve your mood….

What many people do not realise is that despite depression being thought of as a strictly emotional or biochemical disorder an unhealthy diet can play a role in depression and mood swings. Patterns that may aggravate our moods include skipping meals, poor appetite, and cravings for sweets.

Carbohydrate rich foods trigger the production of serotonin and tryptophan which are chemicals that the brain produces that promote a feeling of well-being. However the type of carbohydrate you consume can influence your mood. Refined carbohydrates, primarily sugar and sugary foods, tend to provide immediate, but temporary relief. Once the benefit is gone, you may go looking for more foods to bring up your mood and energy level. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, cereals, breads, pastas, and fruits and vegetables, are more likely to supply a moderate, but lasting effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy level.

For example look at chocolate. Many people crave chocolate when they feel down. This can be attributed to certain alkaloids that have been isolated in chocolate that may raise brain serotonin levels. Some researchers now speculate that chocoholics may actually have a real biological basis with serotonin deficiency being one factor.

Beneficial Nutrients;

The B-Complex Vitamins

We know that B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They are considered essential vitamins. This means the body cannot make them, so we depend on our daily diet to supply them. B vitamins can be destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people in Ireland may be deficient in these.

Good dietary sources of B vitamins include oats, rye flour, eggs, bananas, meat, dairy products and wholegrains

Recent research has also indicated the importance of essential fatty acids omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in helping protect against depression and helping those already suffering from depression. Good sources include oily fish, nuts and seeds, functional foods like omega milk and omega-3 spreads.

Negative nutrients for depression include sugary foods which can aggravate mood swings, alcohol which is a natural depressant and caffeine which can deplete your stores of B vitamins.

Energy Boosting Foods – The Afternoon Show

How many of us feel drained in the evenings or ready for a nap mid-afternoon? Many of us regularly complain ablout feeling tired but few of us realise that our diets maybe effecting our energy levels…The Afternoon Show invited me to chat about which foods can help boost our moods…

Eating or drinking certain things puts your body under chemical stress and robs you of valuable energy. Some of the worst offenders we consume on a daily basis e.g. caffeine, sugar, alcohol and nicotine. If you wish to boost your energy stores you need to incorporate regular activity in your routine and rewrite your shopping list!

Now , we all now how hard it is to break old habits so instead on focusing what you need to take to take out of your routine start focusing on making some new habits.

1. Iron deficiency anaemia and poor B vitamin status are two common nutritional deficiencies in the Irish diet which can lead to tiredness and lethargy. The most common cause of iron deficiency is inadequate dietary intake. Great sources of iron include green leafy vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, green beans, kale, spinach and brussel sprouts.

2. B vitamins are required for the processing of dietary fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to convert these nutrients to energy. Basically we need B vitamins to convert food into energy. Good sources include meat, dairy products, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, grains and legumes. One particularly great source is wheatgrass. Wheatgrass is often described as a green superfood and contains all of the B vitamins, protein and immune boosting vitamins A, C and E. It can be taken in juice, powder or tablet form.

3. Oats are high in soluble fibre, low in calories, fat, salt and sugar and have a low glycaemic index which means they provide a slow steady release of energy which will keep you feeling full for longer and supply you with enough energy to keep you going until your next mealtime. Porridge is the most obvious way to eat oats but other options include muesli with added oats, oatcakes and oat based breads.

4. A great source of vitamin B6 and potassium bananas also supply magnesium which is thought to help regulate our mood. Incorporating a carbohydrate snack food with vitamin B6 is a great way to keep your energy levels up. Bananas are frequently avoided by people because of misconception that they are a high calorie food. This is not the case at all. Because of their high fibre they have a slow release of energy and their natural supply of vitamin B6 will help boost your mood and energy levels.

5. Oily fish, nuts and seeds provide essential vitamins, minerals and the all important Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential components of brain cell membranes, and their role in cell structure is thought to improve the powers of concentration and enhance our mood. Nuts are full of protein also considered a low GI snack so will provide you with a slow steady supply of energy.

6. Don’t forget adequate hydration is imperative for adequate energy. The first symptom of dehydration is tiredness not thirst! Make sure you drink plenty of water. The general guidelines are to include 1.5 to 2 Litres a day and it is best to hydrate yourself between mealtimes.

Farmers Health

I recently visited the Listowel Food Fair which I really enjoyed. I met some of the nicest warmest people in the country and even had a chance to meet up with some of the kids in the local schools. I spent one day at the local cattle mart meeting with the local farmers offereing a few dietary tips. It was actually filmed by RTE’s Ear to the Ground and we had a great day. Read on to see what words of wisdom I had for the local farmers….

Farmers enjoy one of the most physical and demanding jobs around. In fact you could almost refer to it as a way of life as opposed to a job. With long hours often from sunrise to sunset and for most a seven day working week it is hardly surprising that many Farmers health may suffer…and it appears to predominately heart health that does suffer. One study reported in the Irish medical journal found that 70% of men aged between 50 and 70 in the Cork and Kerry area had high cholesterol and half had high blood pressure. It is estimated that half of the Irish male population are overweight in Ireland and less than half of Irish men partake in regular physical activity.

The main risk factors for heart disease include lifestyle, diet, being overweight and inactive. Because of the physical demands in farming being overweight and inactive may not be as big a concern but as farming becomes more modernised it is not as physical as it once was but many diet habits haven’t altered with reduced activity…Smoking is another serious heart disease contender along with high fat and high salt diets.

The first port of call is to look at weight…when we focus on weight it is important to look at
fat distribution…e.g. body fat that accumulates around the waist and stomach area (abdominal fat) poses a greater health risk than fat stored in the lower half of the body. A high waist circumference is associated with an increased risk for certain diseases including diabetes and heart disease. Waist circumference needs to be measured 1 cm below the belly button after having slowly breathed out.

Substantial Health Risk Increased Health Risk
Men >94cm (37″) >102cm (40″)
Women >80cm (32″) >88cm (35″)

Carrying weight around your middle is often referred to as an apple shape and if you fall into this category you need to take extra care with your diet and lifestyle…So where do we start? Let’s concentrate on encouraging 5 key heart healthy habits for the Irish farmer…

1. High intakes of saturated fat can directly raise your blood cholesterol. Saturated fat tends to be hard at room temperature and come from animal sources e.g. fat on meat, butter, hard cheese and cream. We need to reduce our intake of these types of fats and replace them with good fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats in small quantities can actually help reduce our cholesterol. Good fats include olive oils, rapeseeds oil, fish oils and the natural oils present in nuts and seeds. Try replacing your butter with an olive based spread and use minimal amounts of fat in cooking. Ideally we should avoid using fat in cooking as much as possible and opt for grilling, steaming and baking our food instead. Research also indicates that eating oily fish in the diet at least twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease. Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and fresh tuna.

2. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will provide plenty of heart healthy vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins are called aantioxidants, which are substances that are known to help protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Make sure every meal contains some colourful vegetable, salad or fruit and try steaming vegetables where possible to maintain maximum nutrition. It is a good idea to include some green vegetables in the diet daily which provide the heart healthy vitamin folate. This vitamin converts in to folic acid after it is eaten and is known to protect the heart.

3. Fibre is an essential component in a heart healthy diet. Good sources of fibre include wholegrains, potatoes, beans and oats. Oats are high in soluble fibre which can help reduce blood cholesterol. So starting the day with a bowl of porridge will not only provide you with a slow release of energy throughout the morning but will also help reduce your risk of heart disease.

4. There are also functional foods available nowadays that promise to help reduce your cholesterol levels. The most popular of these are plant sterols. Plant sterols are phytosterols, essential components of plant membranes. They have a similar structure to cholesterol. Plant sterols help to block cholesterol absorption from the intestine by competing with dietary cholesterol and cholesterol made by the body for absorption. As the body does not require plant sterols it returns them back to the intestine. The result of this process means that less cholesterol is absorbed by the body.

With regular use, plant sterols can result in a reduction in blood Cholesterol levels. There are functional foods available where plant sterols have been added e.g. spreads, yogurts and milk.

5. Keeping your heart active…Physical activity has many health benefits including decreasing stress, lowering blood cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, helping maintain a healthy weight and protecting your heart. We should aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily. The best way to do this is to incorporate as much physical movement into your usual daily activities as you can.

Top Ten Healthy Heart Tips
1 Increased intake of fruit & vegetables
2 Aim to include oily fish in the diet twice a week
3 Try to include oats, seeds and pulses in your diet
4 Reduce intake of bad fats e.g. butter, fat on meat,
5 Chose low fat dairy products
6 Cut back on salt intake
7 Avoid smoking and excess alcohol intake
8 Exercise regularly
9 Watch portions sizes
10 Enjoy Food!

Shopping on a Budget

With lots of talk about doom and gloom and recession I thought a few healthy diet tips on a budget maybe useful…read on to see how you can maintain a healthy diet without stretching the purse strings.

The shopping basket during the height of the Irish economy saw some new sophisticated additions; fresh coffee beans, expensive wines, pre-prepared gourmet meals and much more. But with all this talk of budgeting and taming down our spending what new additions from our shopping basket should be tailored down and which should we keep? We shouldn’t lose focus of the ultimate issue…our health. The old cliché ‘we are what we eat’ is very true so the challenge is to ensure that any cost saving measures made to our shopping trolleys now do not ultimately result in higher health costs in the future…

So let’s look at some cost saving activities firstly…Be prepared, before you enter the supermarket sit down and write a list. Making a list will help you plan what you are going to cook, eat healthier and importantly save money by not grabbing foods that aren’t on the list. Secondly, never shop when you are hungry…you are much more likely to buy more food than you need. Be wary of special offers like ‘Buy One Get One Free’. They can be good value but often they can tempt you to buy more than you need or can actually use. Also, avoid convenience foods like frozen dinners or precooked deli foods, as they tend to be more expensive.

The next step is to ensure nutritional balance and choosing economical foods that will benefit not only your wallets but your health too. Your shopping basket should contain something from each of the food groups.
Carbohydrate rich foods are the stable of a healthy diet. This is one area where we can really help ensure a good daily intake of fibre by choosing whole grains, high fibre no added sugar low salt cereals like unsweetened muesli, shredded wheat or porridge. The unsweetened cereals can sometimes cost more but the extra fibre and lower sugar content means you get a slow release of energy throughout the morning and it will help you resist snaking and spending money on snack foods mid morning! Likewise choosing high fibre wholegrain breads at lunchtime instead of white bread will help provide you with a slow steady release of energy and minimise the risk of having a three pm slump and more nibbles.

Fruits and vegetables are often the first thing to go from a person’s diet when on a budget. This is an area where we need to ensure an adequate intake and reach the recommended intake of 5 or more portions per day. Some cost saving methods include buying lose fruits and vegetables which will save a few cents and buying fruit and vegetables in season.

With osteoporosis a very real issue in Ireland we need to ensure that we include calcium rich foods in our diet on a daily basis. Choosing yogurts with added probiotics can really help maintain a healthy bowel too. Look out for low fat yogurts with an added probiotic but not one that is filled with sugar. When it comes to cheese we should reduce our intake to about two times a week as it is considered a high fat food. Avoid the more expensive pre-sliced and pre-portioned cheeses which add extra cost.

Protein rich foods should be included at two meals or more per day to ensure an adequate intake. The source of protein you choose can really impact on the cost of your shopping basket. Meat, fish and poultry are all great protein staples but we should take guidance from the World Cancer Research Fund who recommend that we eat plant sources of protein at least three times per week in our diet. Pulses like chickpeas and kidney beans are low fat sources of protein that are high in fibre and importantly are reasonably priced. Try opting for a vegetarian night a couple of times per week and use a low cost but super healthy plant based protein.

Oily fish like salmon, trout, sardines and fresh tuna are great dietary sources of omega-3 and we should try to include them in our diets twice a week. Fresh versions of these fish can be a little expensive but you can opt for tinned options…tinned sardines, mackerel or salmon offer you the benefits of an oily fish without an expensive price tag.

We need to take care when choosing oil and pick an unsaturated fat. A great way of controlling your oil intake is to use a spray oil or buy a spray container yourself and then distill your chosen oil into the spray container. By using your oil like this your will not only reduce your overall oil intake and therefore expense on oil but also reduce your overall fat in take offering many dietary benefits. Go for rapeseed oil, olive oil or sunflower oil.

When it comes to treats this is where we can make real savings. If buying treats for the family the most cost efficient thing to do is buy the ingredients and do some home baking. Baking can be a fun thing to do at home with the kids and you can ensure that you are using healthy ingredients.

So eating healthier on a tighter budget can be easy, meals will still be tasty
and you will probably end up eating healthier food too!

So when it comes to going to the supermarket there are 10 top cost saving tips that will keep your diet balanced and healthy;

1. Choose whole grain products for the increased fibre and mineral content.
2. Avoid rice and pasta dishes that come with their own sauce.
3. Buy lose vegetables and fruits as opposed to pre-packed ones
4. Buy seasonally. E.g. try buying fresh berries in season and freeze them for later.
5. Buy tinned fruit in its own juice for a nutritious dessert options
6. Buy a variety of fresh and frozen vegetables
7. Tinned tomatoes are inexpensive and are great for pasta sauces
8. Meats are usually the most expensive food item. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and then marinate
them or cook them at a lower temperature for longer. But remember less expensive forms of
protein can be equally nutritious
9. Tinned fish provides essential omega-3 for cognitive function and healthy hearts. Plain frozen fish
is often less expensive than fresh fish.
10. Use dried or tinned beans, peas and lentils as often as possible. These are excellent sources of
protein and can be added to soup, casseroles and stews.

Nutrition in Pregnancy – The Afternoon Show

Being pregnant is definately a time to focus on nutrition. I did this for the Afternoon Show last May and again this January. Hopefully it helps you along….

Pregnancy is such a magical and exciting time for a woman. One of the most important factors during this time is our diet. During pregnancy a baby will get all of their nutrients from the mum’s diet so all mums need to take extra care to ensure they have a healthy diet. Healthy food choices before, during and after pregnancy will help your baby grow healthy and importantly keep you healthy too. Healthy eating during pregnancy may also help to protect your baby against diseases in later life. The baby will take all the nutrition it needs to help it grow but you need to ensure there are enough nutrients left to keep you strong and healthy too for both during the pregnancy and afterwards when the baby has been born.

Increasing your intake of certain vitamins and minerals such as folic acid and iron is necessary at this time and also increasing your calorie intake a little too. Remember every mouthful you take will also feed your baby so try to limit your intake of junk food which will provide lots of calories but little nutrition.
One of the biggest myths surrounding pregnancy is that you are ‘eating for two’. However this is not the case, your body actually becomes more efficient when you’re pregnant and makes even better use of energy and nutrition from food. You only need about 200 extra calories per day for the second and third trimester. Your own appetite is the best indication of how much food you need to eat and you may find it fluctuating during the course of your pregnancy but probably the most important thing is to eat if you are hungry.

Weight gain and pregnancy

It is good to start your pregnancy at a healthy weight. Never try to lose weight during your pregnancy. You will need to put on at least 7kg (15 lbs) while pregnant to cover the growth of your baby. The average weight gain during pregnancy is 11.5 to 12.5kg (25 to 28 lbs). Most of this weight gain will take place in the second half of your pregnancy. If you are underweight, you may need to gain more weight than outlined here. If you are overweight, you may need to gain less. Your doctor, midwife or dietitian will be able to advise you.

Nutrients that need special attention during pregnancy

Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of the B group of vitamins B9. Folic acid is an important vitamin for a healthy pregnancy. It helps prevent conditions such as spina bifida and other neural tube defects that can affect the baby’s spine. It is important to take a folic acid supplement along with a good dietary supply pre-pregnancy and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. You need 400 µg per day. All women of child bearing age should be taking a folic acid supplement daily whether planning a pregnancy or not. About 50% of pregnancies are unplanned.

Good dietary sources of folic acid include;
Green vegetables, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts & spinach
Beans and peas
Some fruits, such as oranges
Yeast or malt extract e.g. ovaltine
Some brands of bread, breakfast cereal, milk and other foods may have folic acid added to them.

Iron and vitamin C
Iron is important to help make the extra blood needed by you and your baby and is needed for the growth of your babies brain. It is estimated that your blood volume increases by up to 50% during pregnancy. As you go through pregnancy your baby will build up a store of iron which will last them until they reach six months. In Ireland 75% of women do not eat enough iron. Vitamin C is helps your body absorb iron from plant sources of iron. Try to include an iron rich food in your diet daily.

Good sources of iron
Red meat e.g. beef
Breakfast cereals with added iron
Pulses, such as beans, peas and lentils
Dried fruit, such as prunes
Dark green vegetables e.g. broccoli and spinach
The need for vitamin C increases by 33% during pregnancy. Choose rich sources of vitamin C daily.
Good sources of vitamin C
Fruit e.g. oranges, berries, tomatoes, juices.
Try including a glass of juice with breakfast.

Calcium and vitamin D
Your baby’s teeth will begin to develop as early as the sixth week of pregnancy and calcium is also needed for bone development. The baby will generally take enough calcium from the mother so it is important that the mother includes enough calcium rich foods in her diet to ensure she maintains good bone health too. We have an increased requirement for calcium during pregnancy so a good dietary intake is imperative for good bone health.

Good sources of calcium include;
Dairy including milk, cheese and yogurt. Only use pasteurised dairy produce when pregnant.
Soya milk fortified with calcium.
tinned fish,
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and good sources include;
Oily fish
Some fortified milks and margarines

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for developing your baby’s brain and eyes.
Good dietary sources include;
Oily fish, such as herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines & trout
Seeds, such as linseed, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame
Try to eat 1 portion of oily fish each week.

Drink water regularly – at least 8 glasses a day.

Food Safety, it is very important to practise good food hygiene

• Buy, store and prepare food correctly
• Always wear gloves when gardening or handling cat litter
• Always wash your hands before a meal
• Avoid salad bars or open display food areas

Food Safety – foods & drinks to avoid
• Lightly cooked or raw eggs
• Unpasteurised dairy produce
• Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish and shellfish
• Paté
• Excess vitamin A & liver
• Peanuts if there is a family history of allergy

Food Safety – foods & drinks to limit
• Marlin, swordfish or shark
• Keep tuna to 2 medium sized cans or 1 fresh tuna steak per week
• Alcohol
• Caffeine – max of 4 caffeinated drinks per day
• Herbal teas – max of 2 cups per day. Use teabags and avoid drinking it too strong
• Herbal remedies – avoid these unless a qualified professional has advised they are safe. Always
check with your doctor

Common pregnancy complaints;

1. Morning sickness…
• Eat small carbohydrate based snacks
• Aim to eat 6 times per day instead of big meals
• Drink plenty of fluids especially between mealtimes
• Get plenty of fresh air
• Ginger can help reduce nausea so try ginger nut biscuits or ginger ale
• If sickness is very bad seek professional help

2. Constipation…prevention is better than cure!

• Diet – including high fibre foods in diet; wholegrain bread, high fibre cereals, porridge, linseed,
dried fruit, fruits, vegetables
• Fluid – increase the amount of fluid everyday. Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
• It may also help to try prune juice if constipated
probiotic yogurts may help promote reagular bowel activity
• Exercise – regular gentle exercise will help
• Medicine – never without medical supervision during pregnancy

3. Heartburn…generally happens nearer the end

• Eat small regular meals, avoid big meals
• Eat slowly and chew food really well
• Avoid fried, fatty or spicy foods
• Avoid fizzy drinks and caffeine
• Don’t lie down for an hour after eating
• If very severe symptoms seek medical advice

1. Food cravings…
An American survey on cravings during pregnancy showed that 85% of women reported at least
one food craving. Of those; almost 40 per cent of women craved ’something sweet’, 33%
something salty, 17% something spicy & 10% craved citrus fruit, green apples and other tart or
sour foods.

You should acknowledge pregnancy cravings but don’t necessarily give in to them…make sure that it’s food you want and not a hug! Try to incorporate your craving into your mealtime. If craving a non-food item seek professional advice.