4 Crucial Nutrients Lacking in a Vegan Diet

Our April Lifebox Classic includes a full size Better You Vegan Health Oral Spray, which is scientifically formulated to provide fast, effective absorption of nutrients typically underrepresented in vegan and vegetarian diets.

Read on to find out about these vital minerals and the role they play in our bodies.

There are 600,000 vegans in Great Britain or 1.16% of the population according to The Vegan Society and with 28% of Brits identifying as meat reducers, how can those following a plant-based diet ensure optimal health?

On average, vegans live three and a half years longer than omnivores, but with vitamin and mineral absorption from plant products being lower than that of animal products, supplementation is essential to ensure optimal levels of key nutrients to support health.

While following a vegan diet has its advantages, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing or removing food groups within your diet can also impact vitamin and mineral levels. If you are vegan or considering a lifestyle change, here are four crucial nutrients you need to know about…

Iron

This essential element is a vital component of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to transport it throughout the body. A lack of iron in the body can cause tiredness, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Owing to a diet rich in wholegrains, vegans consume similar amounts of iron as omnivores. However, the body doesn’t absorb iron effectively from plant-based sources, which means that vegans need to pay attention to ensuring that sufficiency is prioritised.

Vitamin B12

B12 helps the body’s ability to reduce the onset of fatigue, supports energy levels and increases concentration levels as well as contributing to normal homocysteine metabolism. Low levels of vitamin B12 can lead to tiredness, weakness and loss of appetite as well as constipation and weight loss.

Vegetarians and vegans are often deficient in B12 as it is found in meat, fish and some dairy products. However, unlike some B vitamins, B12 is not found in any plant food other than fortified cereals so this makes it difficult for people following a plant-based diet to get the necessary amount. This vitamin is also notoriously difficult to absorb in the gut. At most, only 1% of our dietary intake will be absorbed by the body.

A research review has suggested that vegans should consume 6 μg of supplemental B12 per day.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D’s main role within the body is to regulate the intake of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous which are essential minerals required, among other things, for the formation of healthy bones. Low levels of the sunshine vitamin can manifest as common symptoms such as low mood, headaches and aches and pains to name just a few.

80-90% of our vitamin D stores are provided by the sun, with few foods providing meaningful quantities of this vital vitamin. The only foods which provide vitamin D at a meaningful level are eggs (but only hens that are fed vitamin D), as well as fatty fish such as mackerel and herring, meaning those following a plant-based diet are at increased risk of having low levels.

Iodine

The body uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. These hormones help keep cells and your metabolic rate healthy as well as aiding proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy. A lack of iodine can cause symptoms such as weakness, fatigue and feeling cold and can lead to an under-active thyroid.

Dairy products and seafood, such as shellfish, are the only food sources which provide consistent levels of iodine. The amount found in plant-based foods, such as cereals and grains, is inconsistent and depends on how much iodine is in the soil the plant is grown in.

When following a vegan diet is can be difficult to ensure adequate levels of essential nutrients from plant-based sources of food alone, therefore testing your levels and supplementing accordingly is the best way to ensure good health.

Foods and eating habits to help you unplug and sleep better

To know how to de-stress is to be able to recharge for the day ahead and optimise your mental and physical wellbeing. And believe it or not, it is yet another journey that starts on your plate. Motion Nutrition guides us through key nutritional strategies for unplugging, de-stressing and re-charging for next day. So slow down and listen up, folks!

Let’s be honest. We are all living in stress. We are ambitious people, we worry over deadlines, we multitask. We are active, run to work every morning, sweat out in the gym later, keeping our bodies action-ready all day long. These high levels of stress are terribly damaging to our nervous, hormonal and digestive systems. As a couple of examples, when we are stressed, we naturally produce less stomach acid, this then means we don’t absorb minerals and cannot break down protein particularly well. This can cause bloating and nutrient insufficiencies. So consequently, imbalances here can affect things like our energy levels. mood, sleep cycle and weight.

Sounds familiar? One of the first things you can do to mitigate these risks is to make sure you do not cause any extra internal body stress. A fundamental point here is to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Crashes and hikes in blood glucose cause internal stress as our bodies struggle to balance our energy levels and make us more likely to reach for less healthful foods, caffeinated beverages and other stimulants, which again in turn cause that internal stress we’re looking to avoid.

A key strategy here is to start your day with a breakfast that is rich in protein. This will keep your energy on an even keel, supplying the body with a steady release throughout the morning and avoiding a rollercoaster situation happening later in the day. A quick tip here: look out for the Motion Nutrition Fresh Blueberry Morning Protein available in April boxes! It’s got just the right amount of protein to kickstart your day along some energising antioxidants and balancing herbs.

Another very important strategy is to reduce the amount of stress that is already in our bodies. Flushing out the excess of the stress hormone – cortisol – and of other excreted waste is absolutely key to make us thrive and feel good! This is where we need to focus on our liver and really make sure we are supporting our elimination pathways through food and exercise. As a general rule, you should consume plenty of water, vitamin C rich foods and fibre to prevent the circulation of excess waste and cortisol. Think parsley for vitamin C and oats for fibre.

Stabilising your blood sugar levels and helping to flush out the build-up of stress from your body will make a huge difference to the quality of your sleep. Another thing you can do is increase your dietary tryptophan intake for a more restful sleep cycle as this essential amino acid is the precursor to our neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan rich foods include oats, dates, turkey and chicken and organic whey protein which when we’re looking to increase serotonin in the brain is the most bioavailable source!

In addition to thinking of what we put on our plates, there are also certain supplementation tricks that can make a huge difference. Supplementing with magnesium provides the body with the cofactors to make those sleep-inducing neurotransmitters, and Montmorency Cherry contains natural melatonin which can also be helpful. If you need extra help, try Motion’s Unplug formula, which is a super smart blend combining all the vitamins and minerals your nervous system needs to function optimally with herbs that very effectively calm the nervous system and promote restful sleep. The combination of L theanine, Montmorency Cherry and Brahmi powder will not only improve your sleep cycle but also have you waking up feeling far more rested.

The history & benefits of turmeric

Drink Me Chai have put together this blog post about the history of turmeric and its amazing health benefits, including aiding digestive disorders, lowering cholesterol and even the prevention of some cancers. Find their delicious Turmeric Superblend in March’s Classic box, and find out more about Drink me Chai here.

Turmeric Latte blend is now available on the Drink me Chai website and you can get 20% off using the code TURMERIC20.

As with chai itself, turmeric has a deep connection with India and its holistic healing properties are truly embedded within their culture. From a spoonful of turmeric powder & honey acting as a childhood medicine to a turmeric mask applied onto the bright faces of Indian brides-to-be, the use of turmeric in everyday Indian life has happened for centuries. But only recently has it inspired those outside of India.

A component of turmeric, named curcumin, has been found to be the ‘essential’ element that has given rise to turmeric’s popularity and its enchanted claims. Curcumin itself is seen to be a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as antibacterial; and it is the combination of these qualities that have truly given result to its rise.

But have you ever wondered what it can really do for you – and more importantly, whether all these health claims are true?Here are just some of the amazing health benefits of turmeric:

Digestive disorders

Curcumin has been studied as a therapy for inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In both cases, curcumin appears to be effective in improving symptoms when used in conjunction with other medications, and has even allowed for a decrease in the dosage of the corticosteroids used in treatment. If larger trial studies were to be conducted and proved successful, curcumin could be a less-expensive replacement for conventional medicines.

Cancer

Curcumin has been and still is being studied in vivo and in vitro for prevention and treatment of certain types of cancer. Its anticancer property stems from the belief that it is able to prevent angiogenesis, or the forming of cancer cells by altering cell signalling pathways.

Studies have looked at the effects of curcumin on cancers including lung, breast, colon, leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma, multiple myeloma, neuroblastoma, osteosarcoma, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate. 

Interestingly, many studies show non-specific mechanisms of curcumin’s action on cancerous cells, which is very different to traditional chemotherapeutic medicines that target only one (or very few mechanisms.

While this multiple-mechanism-of-action approach has resulted in divergent opinions in literature as to the usefulness of curcumin as a therapeutic agent, the association of curcumin combined with conventional anticancer drugs has shown to be useful in improving treatment. Different groups worldwide are conducting several clinical trials aiming to investigate the beneficial effects of curcumin in humans, which makes a strong case for curcumin’s potential usefulness in treating cancer.

Osteoarthritis

Is the most common degenerative joint disease worldwide and is characterised by a progressive loss of joint cartilage and subsequent bony changes. Because of curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation, it can aid in reducing cartilage breakdown, improve cartilage cell survival and reduce pain, as several studies have shown.  While these results are promising, researchers should consider more well-planned randomized controlled trials with larger sample sizes and longer treatment periods on curcumin to justify its use in treating osteoarthritis.

Cholesterol

Curcumin lowers cholesterol levels via two mechanisms; firstly by stimulating conversion of cholesterol into bile acids and secondly by inhibiting cholesterol absorption in the intestines.  Furthermore, curcumin has shown to increase HDL cholesterol, which is the healthy cholesterol . While these properties demonstrate a cardiovascular protective role, i.e. they may aid in reducing risk of heart disease, a reduction in

From reviewing research that has been conducted on turmeric, it is possible to see that its impact is indeed promising. Turmeric may not give you eternal life, but it may be a useful component of your diet for more reasons than just its yellow pigment!

Magnesium and its role in our wellbeing

Stressed? Tired?  Anxious?  Poor sleep? Muscle cramps?  Restless legs?  Bloated?  High blood pressure?  Difficulty concentrating?  High cholesterol?  Irritable? These and many other symptoms indicate you may be magnesium deficient.

Magnesium is essential for health.  In fact, not only is it the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, but it is responsible for over 600 enzymatic processes in your body.  In layman’s terms, there are over 600 functions that your body can’t properly perform without adequate magnesium. 

The problem is you can’t produce it – you rely on it from food, and thanks to modern farming practices, it’s not available in the soil like it was for our ancestors. Add to the fact that sugar, processed foods, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, alcohol, physical and mental stress, fluoride and more deplete your magnesium, and it’s no wonder that experts estimate that more than 80% of the population – both young and old – are deficient.

Many people are deficient and don’t even realize it until they take a look at the symptoms they are experiencing.  It is very hard to tell with a blood test since only 2% of your magensium is found in your blood stream.  

The easiest solution is to supplement, but when you go to the store, you’ll see a wall full of magnesium supplements staring at you.  How do you know which one is right for you?  Not all magnesium supplements are created equally, and many forms have a low absorption rate – as low as 4%.  This means you’re quite literally flushing your hard earned money down the toilet.

When it comes to high absorption, the best form is an ionic citrate powder.  Ionic means that when you add it to hot water, it activates and fizzes.  This fizzing is an important part because this is where each magnesium molecule binds to a carrier, which essential predigests it in your glass.  This means that by the time you drink it, your stomach acid doesn’t have to digest it and it goes right to your cells. 

MAG365 offers an all natural powdered citrate formula that is free from fillers and safe for all ages.  Their range includes plain or flavoured, a kids powder, and their highly sought after proprietary BF line.  Originally said to stand for Bone Formula, many people changed it to mean Best Friend after feeling relief from hormonal imbalances including PMS symptoms and menopause in women and testosterone balancing in men.

Magnesium needs vitamins D3 and K2 in order to properly be utilized in the body, and BF offers both these vitamins as well as an additional 5 vitamins and minerals for optimal health.  Although you can get it with calcium, most people like the version without.  Almost everyone has enough calcium in their bodies, but they lack the proper nutrients – magnesium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2- to help the calcium get from their blood to their bones and teeth where it is needed.  Symptoms of calcium in your blood include hardening of the arteries, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone spurs, arthritis and more.  Weak bones and poor teeth health might also indicate your calcium is stuck in your blood.  MAG365 BF is the only bone formula on the market that has no added calcium – which is super important because too much calcium can cause the issues mentioned above.

If you prefer a pill form, try PrizMAG, a brand new supplement that is the only pure magnesium bisglycinate on the market, free from fillers, magnesium stearates, and magnesium oxide.  Magnesium bisglycinate is the best absorbed pill on the market.  It is bound to the amino acid glycine, which is small enough to pass through your cells so that your body can absorb it fully.  Users of PrizMAG report fantastically deep sleep, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take ono the day.

Whether or not you think you need magnesium, I suggest you try some – chances are you’ll be surprised at how wonderful it makes you feel.

This World Mental Health Day, let’s do something to make a difference!

The principle is simple; coming together to share something delicious that will do us some good, in a space where we can ask questions, feel supported, see new inspiration and be heard.

As the year has gone by, I’ve been connecting with the amazing work going on in the realms of mental health whilst developing a practical idea to support and inspire better mind health for all. I’m feeling more inspired than ever as momentum is building in creative ways in terms of support, but people are still rapidly losing their lives due to mental illness.

You may have read my post here earlier this year where I share my experiences with my own mental healthdating back to 2011/12 and supporting those I love going through some darker times.

I hadn’t really known about mental health issues, then at uni my boyfriend was diagnosed with Bipolar and I learned the hard way how crippling this illness can be. After a difficult time trying to support him, searching for answers, managing crazy moods and desperately trying to understand confusing traits of the mind we discovered there was nowhere to turn or any information to be found; the amazing campaigns out there now just weren’t as visible at that time and others suffering didn’t yet have a voice.

After a long trail of events, he took his life. This was devastating for everyone around and for me, my life turned upside down. A year of sleepless nights, painful grief and flashbacks followed and I started to get very sick. As a distraction from the pain I became obsessed with food; all consumed by a concoction of eating disorders and depression I isolated myself from the world and turned the one thing I had always loved into something very dangerous.”

In 2012, the year I started to get better I came up with an idea, which started as a book “The Recipe For Wellbeing” where I documented my own recovery and tips through illustration, information and design.  I was so determined to regain my life and pour my passion into something creative. This time was extremely healing and led me to rediscover my passion for food, which was when I started to train as a chef.

Long story short; here we are in a time when wellness is a hot topic on so many levels. We understand that meditation and yoga can help with both physical and mental wellbeing, but even though we may know that food can do the same, if we wanted to eat for our mental health would we know what to do?

We know having a conversation can be a massive help to people going through tough times, but if that conversation came about over a shared meal, especially with food created to nourish our brains – think what ideas we could ignite!

To coincide with World Mental Health Day I’m launching ‘Feed your Mind Candy’ to support and inspire better mental health, combining what I started with A Recipe for Wellbeing with actual knowledge on brain-nourishing food. Starting with a series of delicious Mind Powered Supper Clubs in east London this November, I want to build on a creative year in terms of solutions and support for our brains.

Mental health in 2018

Mental health has been a well reported topic in 2018 as we’ve already seen some big changes and it feels like the conversation is really opening up.

For me Calm’s Project 84 was a tipping point. A campaign which placed 84 figures on top of the ITV building in London. These figures signified the 84 men that take their own lives EACH WEEK! The figures were designed by families who had lost someone.

To stop people in their tracks, make them pay attention and inspire much needed conversation and action around suicide

This figures is shocking and each year it pains me to say I am directly attached to another loss which never gets easier to deal with. We are all thinking why is this happening? And wondering how on earth we can do something to help.

We have also recently seen the launch of Heads Together, the mental health initiative spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, which combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health with fundraising for a series of innovative new mental health services.

There’s also been the Mental Wealth Festival, talks about art and the mind by Grayson Perry and initiatives like Sanctus who are making mental fitness ‘a thing’ and doing their bit in the workplace to really make an impact.

Mind Candy’s contribution is though food, something we can all understand and connect with in our own way. The principle is simple; coming together to share something delicious that will do us some good, in a space where we can ask questions, feel supported, see new inspiration and be heard.

The Supper Clubs

A supper club that showcases the power of food with practical ideas to nourish our minds. On 15 and 16 November I invite you to join me for an evening of food that feeds our minds in the only way I know how.

I’ll be cooking up an experience that uses brain-nourishing ingredients, targeted herbs and creativity that can empower you with practical information that boosts your mood and feeds your mind.

Click here to find out more and get your tickets.

Gone off-roading

In breast cancer awareness month we’d like to introduce Sarah, a young adult who unexpectedly found herself in need of support from our charity partner, Trekstock:

“In August 2017, aged 33 I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. I admit I never checked my breasts and underarms for changes; I believed I wouldn’t ever have breast cancer, especially not at my age. To be honest I didn’t realise how many different breast cancers there are; not only that, I didn’t understand cancer as a whole. I only discovered what was actually a large dense lump as my dog jumped on that area repeatedly, almost telling me to check my breast. Although my cancer was aggressive, I caught it early and it was treatable. I was fit and healthy, but since my diagnosis I have learned to really take care; not just physically but also mentally. During seven months of chemotherapy, followed by surgery and five weeks of radiotherapy I experienced some of the worst days of my life, but I learned the incredible importance of self-care and love. Cancer may have shaken my world, however it awakened me to what really matters in this life.

“I also decided to follow a plant-based lifestyle through chemo, I gave myself so much nutrient goodness. I decided to take back control at a time when cancer felt like it was taking control of me. I fell in love with cooking and nutrition all over again and I felt empowered because I knew that no matter what, I was giving my body the best, I wanted to help my immune system that was taking such a beating from the treatment. Taking control through this time is so very important and aids your physical and mental strength. I needed to create a positive environment to protect myself.

“Trekstock to me were like a comfort blanket. There will be times when you are sat alone at home feeling isolated from the world and confused about what to do, asking yourself time after time, “is it normal to feel this way?” and this is where Trekstock come in. Being diagnosed with breast cancer in my 30’s came at a point when I thought I had my life worked out; I was planning marriage and children, a great career was in full force. But cancer stormed in and started to attack not just my body but my dreams too. The Trekstock community remind you that you aren’t alone, and because they focus on young adults in their 20’s and 30’s their support is tailor made so to speak. One conversation with the guys at Trekstock and I feel instantly lifted and most importantly, I don’t feel alone. I’m reassured that how I am feeling is all very OK. They understand and understanding is key to working your way through this journey, not just through active cancer treatment but after too, when you begin to rebuild your new normal.

“If you are reading this and you don’t check your breasts and under arm area, please do. Check once a month, get to know your body and be proud of it, learn it and if at all you ever feel something isn’t quite right get in touch with your doctor. Take control, your body is the most important machine you will ever operate.”

You can get to know Sarah better on her blog, Working Girl Life, where she not only shares her experiences dealing with cancer but also some seriously delicious vegan recipes!

Website: workinggirllife.co.uk
Facebook: /workinggirllife
Instagram: @working.girl.life

Every Lifebox sold helps us to support Trekstock

Trekstock is a UK charity that supports young adults living with cancer. Living with cancer in your 20s and 30s is a lonely experience. Trekstock believes that no young adult should face cancer alone. By providing social and practical support right across the UK, they aim to tackle social isolation, improve quality of life and provide young adults with the tools they need to get moving again after cancer.

Every day in the UK over 34 young adults are diagnosed with cancer. With over 12,000 young adults in their 20s and 30s diagnosed each year, the money we donate from each box sale will help Trekstock provide much needed support to get young adults moving again after cancer and improve their quality of life. We have chosen Trekstock to be our charity partner until 2020 and with your help, we want to make sure no young adult has to face cancer alone.

To find out more, visit www.trekstock.com or one of the following:

Facebook: /trekstock
Twitter: @trekstock
Instagram: @trekstock

Registered charity number 1132421

Intermittent Fasting. Should we all be doing it?

We have evolved to get lots of benefits from fasting as those who performed well in a fasted state were more likely to survive and pass on their genes. Being able to use our body fat for fuel was the key to early survival and the body put complex systems in place to help store and lock it down to give us the best chance of life. Burning fat for fuel also triggered our bodies to shift into cellular repair mode where we give our cells a spring clean of sorts.

In contrast, being in a fed state was also critically important.  When food was available we feasted, using glucose for fuel and switching to growth mode. This allowed us to build stronger muscles and larger organs giving us more chance of out-running or out-manoeuvring predators.

Consequently, our bodies have evolved to perform best using glucose as a short-term fuel following a meal and our body fat for fuel the rest of the time. This balance also supports our health overall by providing useful levels of growth and repair.

Fast forward to today and we are living in feasting mode much more than fasting mode. This is an important factor in some of the biggest health challenges we are currently facing – obesity, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation and many modern ageing diseases. At its core this is happening because our lifestyles have changed dramatically but our genes have not.

Today food is constantly available and three meals a day plus snacks is considered pretty normal. Stress, once a short-term response to a threat, is now a constant unresolved state for many of us.

Constant feasting and chronic stress push us to use glucose as our main source of fuel rather than fat. Over the years this can manifest as metabolic dysfunction which we may recognise as weight gain (especially around the tummy), insulin resistance and a feeling of less energy.

Given that we are living longer too, we are in growth mode far more than nature intended. This is associated with chronic inflammation and many of the ageing disease states we see people regularly dying from today, diseases that simply weren’t common a few hundred years ago.

The good news is that there is a lot we can do to give ourselves the best chance of living and ageing well. Science is now showing us that intermittent fasting and other forms of fasting can be part of the solution due to their ability to switch us from burning glucose for fuel to fat burning mode.

Fasting is defined as periods of not eating without nutritional deficiencies. For most people, fasting is very hard to stick with. Intermittent fasting regimes were developed to achieve the same kind of results as fasting but are widely regarded as more achievable than longer fasts. Popular regimes you may have heard of are 5:2 and 16:8.

5:2 is a form of ‘periodic fasting’ where you have a period of eating normally (5 days per week) and a period of fasting with or without a small calorie allowance (500-800kcal 2 days per week in this case). 16:8 is a form of ‘time restricted eating’ where you eat your daily food within a set time frame (8 hours in this case).

Although almost everyone can benefit from having some shorter periods where they don’t eat, intermittent fasting regimes are not for everyone. They are not suitable for children, during pregnancy, for those who have/had an eating disorder such as anorexia/bulimia, have or are recovering from adrenal fatigue or for type 1 diabetics.

For those with type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions and nursing mothers or other underlying medical conditions please seek medical advice first before attempting to fast. If it is a useful protocol for you, consider seeking advice from a nutritional therapist or other health professional as careful monitoring will be key.

If intermittent fasting is right for you, the best plan is one you can stick with over the long term so consider which plan fits best with your life style and goals.

Read more about the Lifebox crew use intermittent fasting here.

Even with the introduction of intermittent fasting regimes, fasting fans report that plans can be difficult to stick with, especially when life gets in the way. Scientific studies are backing this up too acknowledging that adherence can be tough and that it can take a month for the body and brain to adapt.

Until now, staying on track with your intermittent fasting plan has come down to black coffee and willpower and for the well informed few, a bullet proof coffee or the odd tablespoon of coconut oil.

Now you have an extra tool to use to help you meet your fasting goals, FASTING+ by Nutritionist’s Blend. These fasting sticks are a tangy blend of healthy fats and foods rich in specific polyphenols, which work with how your body naturally fasts to support your own efforts, in a convenient sachet format.

By supporting the common side effects of fasting such as hunger, moodiness and a grey pallor while protecting muscle mass, you should find it easier to achieve your fasting goals. Being able to stick with your fasting plan of choice over the long term you will be helping your body get back in balance by promoting metabolic flexibility and supporting the body’s natural repair system, just as nature intended.

For most plans simply add up to 4 sticks per fasting day, based on individual need, in addition to any other allowances. Start with 1-2 sticks initially.

For ‘time restricted eaters’, such as those following 12:12, 16:8 or 20:4, where some of the benefits are derived from syncing eating patterns with your circadian clock, use FASTING+ to transition to a shorter eating window or to improve your eating habits within it.

“FASTING+ was developed to make Intermittent Fasting achievable for more people. By supporting the symptoms of fasting we believe you will have a better chance of being able to stick with your plan of choice, even on the most hectic of days.”  Amanda Swaine, Founder and Nutritionist.

It is important to keep in mind that lots of factors, including for example your sleep, stress levels and diet may affect how you feel during your fasting period so be kind to yourself.  If you experience any of these more serious symptoms such as day-time tiredness, dizziness or you just don’t feel right, listen to your body and eat something to break your fast. You can always try again another day.

Happy fasting x

Our experiences with intermittent fasting

Fasting is probably a word that you have heard more and more in and around the wellness scene recently as it is a method of eating that is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. However many have differing opinions about the potential benefits as well as the restrictions that some feel it puts on people undertaking IF.

Lifebox was designed to bring you an ever evolving selection of healthy food, supplements, drinks, recipe ideas and information to enable you to find new products you like to enhance your healthy lifestyle. In a nutshell….”here’s a load of delicious healthy goodies, see what you like and what works for YOU”! To make sure our boxes are always innovative and bringing you the hottest and most exciting new products, our fabulous box curation guru Alicia is constantly on the prowl for the latest health and wellness products. We also like to provide you with a hub of information and evidence where possible so you can be informed regarding the products we include and be able to make the choices that are right for you.

The Fasting + that we have included in our October boxes has really caused a stir in the LB office and we thought as part of our informative blog series we would put together a little collection from the LB crew about our own experiences and opinions on fasting alongside an informative piece from the founder of the brand FASTING+ for you to read and hopefully be enable to form your own opinions!

Jen (director + founder)

In a nutshell IF basically means, not eating at strategic times. I began using IF when I was on a career break from the police and travelling the world in 2013. I had been guided towards it by a colleague who was incredibly dedicated to his physical fitness and used IF on a daily basis. As a keen cyclist and gym goer at that point, after some dubious discussion and some experimentation, I found it to be a useful tool when busy at work and found that if I trained “fasted” that I actually felt stronger and more energised than when I had eaten some pre training “fuel”. I also saw benefits in relation to fat loss. I would usually follow a 16:8 regime where I perhaps finished eating by the latest 9pm and then ate again within an 8 hour window 1pm-9pm the following day; whether this be 2 large meals or a few more smaller meals. I felt I was eating the same amount of calories however it fitted well with my life and I could see “gains” during and following exercise. (despite breakfast being my favourite meal of the day – I tended to just still eat a breakfast style meal as my first meal in the afternoon!) I then found IF incredibly beneficial whilst travelling as I tended to save money not eating at 3 or more times during the day and found it fitted into to a “travellers lifestyle”. I would only drink water and black coffee during fasted hours. I had not read any research at this point bar a few articles on fitness websites and I literally just found that it worked for me specifically.

Since returning from travelling I have tended to stick to IF but for only 2-3 days per week depending on my schedule. Obviously since starting Lifebox and gaining more experience and knowledge in the area through personal reading and research I can understand fully why some nutritionists are a little sceptical of any type of IF as it might be seen as a “restriction” and therefore it is a DIET (that dreaded word!). I however find that it suits my body as well as my brain, but that does not mean that would be the same for everyone as each person is different.

The way you feel whilst fasting also depends heavily on your general wellbeing – how much sleep have you had? what are your stress levels like? How active are you? As with everything my personal opinion would be:

  • Do your own research
  • Try it for yourself and see if it suits YOU
  • If it doesn’t suit you and you don’t get on with it….don’t carry on doing it just because you feel pressure from yourself, others etc. You do you!

Monique (logistics & customer service)

Our physical and mental health are daily news and I think that it must be worth considering not just what we eat, but how, when and why we eat and how this could influence our overall wellbeing.

I am new to intermittent fasting and over the last couple of months, I have been experimenting with the 16:8 approach – fasting from 8.30 pm to 12.30 pm. As a keen long distance runner, I have learned that when I eat can be as important as what I eat in terms of performance, but I am even more fascinated by the effect that our diets and exercise have on the brain. I know that running helps to keep my mental health in check, which got me curious about any potential health benefits on the brain mood from intermittent fasting.

Although it is still unclear if intermittent fasting can prevent cognitive decline or dementia, some research suggests that it may improve concentration, focus and mood and potentially even aid in neurogenesis (the growth and development of neurons).

Here is my verdict:

I thought that I would struggle through a morning without any food, that I would find it difficult to concentrate – however I have not found this at all. I undoubtedly drink more water, which is a good thing and it has made me realise that at times I definitely mistake thirst for hunger. I am a firm believer that because we are all different we need to discover what suits us best depending on our day / lifestyle / beliefs, in the same way that we dress each day depending on our mood, weather, etc. Personally, if I am set to run 26 miles, I wouldn’t skip breakfast – but I know that some people would. I guess the same rules apply to intermittent fasting; it won’t be for everyone and many studies are inconclusive, but it’s a very interesting subject indeed!

Alicia (box curation and in-house nutritionist)

My experience of intermittent fasting has been a very positive one. After travelling around the Philippines whilst taking antibiotics, my body was very much in need of a reset. I started reading up about intermittent fasting when my tutor at CNM recommended it, saying it lifted his pervasive brain fog and that he did it every day.

I initially tried 5:2 but struggled – as a very active person, I found myself unable to fall asleep or I would wake up in the night hungry. So I moved to the 16:8 fast instead and have never looked back. I have a black coffee first thing in the morning then eat a late lunch and early dinner. Despite cutting out breakfast, my cravings have definitely decreased and often by the time lunchtime rolls around I’m still not that hungry. I make sure to eat a wide variety of foods to make sure that I’m not lacking in any nutrient.

It’s a great option for people that are busy and who don’t want to have what they eat dictated by a diet. It is a lifestyle choice that has so many benefits it’s unbelievable, giving your body the time it needs to reset itself.

Remedy’s Kombucha truth bombs

Contrary to those who might try to tell you it’s some hipster fad, kombucha has been around for yonks. Like, thousands of years-type yonks. However, with this history comes a fair bit of mystery… and more than a few myths!

Fear not, truth seekers! Our friends at Remedy have done the hard work to gain the deepest possible understanding of the golden liquid goodness that is kombucha, and they have shared with us some of their ‘Truth bombs’.

Read on and learn…

Truth bomb #1: You can drink as much as you damn well please

Well, the team at Remedy Kombucha have given this challenge a fair crack.

Sure, everyone’s bodies are different. Which is why our best advice on how much to drink is to go hard on the puns and say, “trust your gut”, as with anything you put into your body. We do recommend incorporating kombucha into your daily diet, but we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all prescription for how much.

From a health perspective, there is one thing to watch-out for. Check the sugar content before you go chugging too many down. Remedy naturally contains no sugar, so you don’t have to worry with their booch, but this isn’t the case for all kombucha. Which brings us to…

Truth bomb #2: Not all kombucha is created equal

Given the whole “been-around-forever-yet-also-not-really situation”, one of the biggest misconceptions for people just discovering kombucha is that it’s all the same.

Think of it this way. Would you lump an instant coffee into the same boat as a single origin pour-over made in one of London’s finest cafes by a barista with such concentration you’d think their life depended on it? No way José! Same goes for kombucha.

We can’t speak for other kombucha, but we can assure you that Remedy use the best ingredients and long-age brew in small batches to make a kombucha that’s both tasty and good for you, packed full of goodness and naturally free from sugar.

Truth bomb #3: Not all live, raw kombucha needs to be kept in the fridge

This one’s not completely straightforward. Once again, it’s important to firstly know that not all kombucha is created equal.

When it comes to Remedy, their kombucha is fine out of the fridge because they’ve brewed out all of the sugar and done the hard work with comprehensive shelf life testing that shows their live cultures are safe, happy and super healthy both in and out of the fridge.

However, this is not the case for all kombucha. If kombucha is raw, live and unpasteurised and still contains sugar (not Remedy!), then it could referment if left out of the fridge (= exploding bottles and/or boozy booch).

When it comes to Remedy Kombucha, ALL of the sugar is brewed out during their small batch, long-aged fermentation process. Leaving none in the bottle. De nada. Zilch. Which means there’s no risk of refermentation.

Truth bomb #4: Good bacteria won’t turn bad in our booch

The good bacteria that works its magic in Remedy Kombucha is 100% safe – this applies in or out of the fridge (see truth bomb #3).

There is never any risk of the good bacteria in our kombucha turning bad, it just won’t happen. Our live culture thrives in our low pH fermented tea environment and it inhibits the growth of bad bacteria. Because, science.

Truth bomb #5: Live cultures don’t need sugar to survive in kombucha

Warning science nerd info ahead! The live cultures in every bottle or can of Remedy Kombucha are extremely strong, healthy and happy. This is because we follow an old-school, long-aged brewing process using a relative of the same live culture that our fearless founders Sarah and Emmet started with on their kitchen bench.

Sugar is an essential initial ingredient in kombucha. However, during our long-aged brewing process, the live culture eats up all the sugar to create energy for itself (and healthy organic acids for us!). This energy keeps our live cultures perfectly happy in the bottle without sugar, which has been fully consumed during the brewing process.

Our testing has shown the live cultures survive right throughout shelf life, in or out of the fridge.

Recipes for the secret trimester

Weeks 1-12

Hiding vegetables in soup

Chicken, broccoli and carrot soup with a parmesan toast

Early one January my wife Anni peed on a stick in our small, cramped bathroom whilst I looked on nervously. Eight small and impersonal letters, PREGNANT from a flimsy piece of plastic and our lives changed forever. Anni excitedly downed a glass of water and did another test just to make sure, and also because they were buy one, get one free at Boots and it seemed a shame to waste it. The same answer came back, PREGNANT. As we danced around the boxes (we were moving in two weeks, was she just trying to get out of any heavy lifting?) she told me how happy she was. And I, in between the feelings of surprise and ever-increasing panic began to smile at the thought of becoming a Dad.

I told her that I got this, even though I have absolutely no idea what ’this’ is.

See I’d always wanted to become a father, just as she had always wanted to become a mother, but this moment put us on two very close, but also very different paths that were set to intertwine over the next year or so. I didn’t want my role in her pregnancy to be over before it really got started and I didn’t want to be a bit-part player. I resolved to be there for all of the tests, classes and appointments not just because I was there for Anni, but because this new life growing inside her affected me too.

So I decided to stay actively involved by sorting the food. Whatever she wanted, I’d make, but I also made sure she got what she needed so that Anni and the wonderful life that she was creating felt good.

For a few weeks after we found out that Anni was pregnant, nothing changed. I mean, of course everything was different, but everything was also the same. And because life just went on I couldn’t get my head round the fact that by autumn I’d become a father. I kept looking up how big the life growing inside her was, continually surprised at how this microscopic collection of cells was set to take charge and change everything.

In terms of food nothing also changed for a few weeks. Anni carried on in her usual calm way whilst I began to freak out and inspect the sell by dates of every bit of food we had, turn our steaks into pieces of rubber and boil our eggs for 7 hours minimum. After doing a bit of research into what women can and can’t eat during pregnancy we both discovered that pretty much all advice was contradictory, and the vast majority of foods recommended to avoid were based on guesswork, not fact. Just don’t eat raw food, don’t have too much mercury-rich fish and don’t give yourself salmonella. Anni and I had a combined age of 68 and had managed to never get salmonella before in our lives, so I thought that we were going to be ok.

Instead I chose to focus on all of the great food she could eat, and how each ingredient can be of benefit not only to her, but to our unborn child. I’ll admit, now that my principal role in child creation was sadly over (and boy was it over) I was feeling pretty redundant. At least by taking charge of what we would eat over the coming year I could feel like I was involved, and it was one less thing for Anni to worry about.

However, a few weeks into pregnancy, everything changed.

Anni began to find the thought of vegetables pretty unappealing and if I didn’t make food for her that was basically beige in appearance, she would have none of it. She also began to crave salt so I had to act fast before she started eying up the salt pot at 11am each day. My challenge therefore was to make appetising dishes that I knew she would eat in those first few weeks, but also provide enough of the good stuff for our growing baby.

So I started to hide vegetables in food. I started to do this a lot.

Soup was my number one way of hiding vegetables for Anni in her first trimester. It was the middle of winter, nights were cold and dark and so a warming bowl of goodness and some cheese on toast went down really well. I made a lot of soup in those first few weeks, they are so easy to make, require minimal preparation, are a great way of using up lots of vegetables and also freeze really well. This particular dish is packed with broccoli which due to its high folate, fibre and vitamin content, is a fantastic pregnancy superfood. The parmesan toast also satisfied her salt cravings.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts
6 carrots
One onion
One head of broccoli
Handfuls of thyme, sage and rosemary
400ml chicken stock
Two slices of brioche bread
60g grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Method

Boil the stock in a pan and then reduce to a simmer. Peel and finely slice the carrots and place in the pan.

Roughly tear up the rosemary, sage and thyme and add.

Finely slice the chicken and add to the pan before roughly chopping the broccoli and also adding in.

Bring the liquid back to the boil and cook for at least five minutes (you want to ensure that the chicken is completely cooked through.

Meanwhile place 2 slices of brioche bread under the grill, toast slightly then remove.

Using a stick blender, mix the soup thoroughly. Reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the brioche and place back under the grill for 1-2 minutes until the parmesan has melted.

Pour the soup into bowls and place the toast on top of the mixture.

Why is this good for mum and baby?

Chicken Protein, vitamin B, zinc
Brioche Fibre, protein
Parmesan Protein, calcium, vitamin A
Carrots Vitamin A, C, potassium, fibre, calcium
Broccoli Vitamins A, B, C, E, K, folate, potassium, fibre
Rosemary Vitamin A, B, C, folate
Thyme Fibre, Vitamin B, C, calcium
Onion/shallots Fibre, Vitamin B, C, D, K, Zinc, Iron, Folate, Magnesium, potassium

About At Dads Table:

I’m a passionate chef, new Dad and recent graduate from Leiths School of Food and Wine in London who is on a mission to overhaul the way we think about food in pregnancy and early parenthood. When my wife first became pregnant I couldn’t wait to start researching what were the best dishes to make for her to ensure both her and our baby were getting enough of the good stuff. I was dissapointed to see that most advice centered on what you can’t have, rather than on what you can. I therefore decided to write my own recipes to accompany her through the differing stages of her pregnancy. When we both became parents i began to then focus on dishes that were quick to make, would give us energy and could, in most cases be eaten with one hand.

For more recipes see www.atdadstable.com and find me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/at_dads_table.

We are absolutely loving chickpeas right now

Not only are they super delicious and able to lend themselves to many different flavourings these nutty beans are also rich in a number of important nutrients that support a healthy lifestyle.

So aside from being yummy chickpeas are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals — and may play a role in reducing your risk of a number of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer!

So here are our top reasons for eating handfuls upon handfuls of these delicious beans!

1) They’re a high fibre food

Fibre is one of the reasons you may want to add chickpeas to your menu. Depending on your age and gender, fibre needs range from 21 to 38 grams a day. A 1-cup serving of chickpeas provides about a third of your daily fibre needs!

Research suggest a strong an association between a higher intake of fibre and lower risk of certain types of digestive cancers, including stomach and colorectal.

2) Chickpeas are folate-rich

Folate is a critical nutrient during periods of rapid cell growth, especially during the development of a fetus. Folate also plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and DNA. One cup of chickpeas meets more than 70 percent of a woman’s daily folate needs and almost 50 percent of the daily needs of a pregnant or nursing woman.

3) A Great Source of Iron

As you may already know iron helps make red blood cells and certain hormones, and it’s important for cell function and normal growth. One cup of chickpeas meets more than 25 percent of a woman’s daily iron needs and more than 50 percent of a man’s needs!

As the iron in chickpeas is nonheme iron you can improve the amount of iron your body absorbs from the beans if you combine them with a food rich in vitamin C. For example, add chickpeas to your tomato soup, or use red peppers to eat your hummus!

4) Support Blood Sugar Control

Chickpeas have several properties that may help manage your blood sugar levels.

First, they have a fairly low glycemic index (GI), which is a marker of how rapidly your blood sugar rises after eating a food. Diets including many low-GI foods have been shown to promote blood sugar management. As we have already covered chickpeas are a good source of fibre and protein, which are both known for their role in blood sugar regulation.

This is because fibre slows carb absorption, which promotes a steady rise in blood sugar levels!

5) Protect against Chronic illnesses

As we have covered above chickpeas are great at helping manage blood sugar, which is vital in preventing and managing Diabetes. Research also shows that eating chickpeas can help reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.

Studies suggest that eating chickpeas may promote the body’s production of butyrate, a fatty acid that has been studied for its potential to reduce inflammation in colon cells, possibly decreasing the risk of colon cancer!

Chickpeas are a great source of several minerals, such as magnesium and potassium, which have been studied for their potential to boost heart health!

Enjoy!

From Niche to Norm: The Financial Power of the Wellness Industry

The wellness industry is one of the fastest growing and financially lucrative movements to take the world by storm. According to a report conducted by the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness market is now three times larger than that of the worldwide pharmaceutical industry. As of 2015, the global wellness economy was reported to be worth $3.7 trillion. Moreover, this number is growing at an average of 10% per year! Let’s explore how and why the wellness industry is booming like never before.

From Beauty to Real Estate: A Comprehensive Industry

What in the world is wellness? The World Health Organization defines wellness as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being… that goes beyond mere freedom from disease or infirmity and emphasises the proactive maintenance and improvement of health and well-being.” It comes as no surprise that the wellness industry incorporates various lucrative sectors – ten to be exact. They include beauty & anti-ageing, nutrition & weight loss, wellness tourism, fitness, preventative & personalised medicine, alternative medicine, wellness real estate, spa industry, thermal/mineral springs, workplace wellness. Okay, now that $3.7 trillion makes sense!

From Scarce to Standard: Wellness as a Mainstream Success

Although statistics reveal that there has been an overall increase in interest from the general public in personal growth and health, particular age groups stand out amongst the rest. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) are the group that have vehemently shoved wellness into the spotlight. According to a survey conducted by Goldman Sachs, millennials value their health above friendship, second only to family. This survey also revealed that millennials are the first generation to define ‘healthy’ as a daily commitment to eating right and exercising, which drastically differs to that of Gen X and Boomers who define ‘healthy’ as “not sick”. As we can see, the way we talk about health is fluid from one generation to the next. Another example of this change in discourse is evident in a 2015 food and health survey conducted by Food Insight which asked millennials to define what makes food “healthy”. According to the study, millennials defined “healthy food” as foods that are “natural, organic, locally sourced or sustainable”. This study illuminates why farm-to-table restaurants and health-conscious brand’s such as Lifebox are both relevant and increasing in popularity. Still not convinced? Take a look at the skyrocketing figures in athletic apparel. In the last nine years, the worldwide sportswear market has increased $148.51 billion! With a figure like that, no wonder journalists such as Alexandra Kirkman interchangeably use the phrases “health is wealth” and “wealth is health” to describe the economic profitability behind the wellness movement. According to a study conducted by MyProtein, the average male millennial in Britain spends £110 per month on their health and fitness, £35 of which is spent solely on athletic apparel. Brands such as Lululemon – who made nearly $1 billion in net revenue last January – have reaped the benefits of millennial spending power. These statistics illustrate how millennial buying power is propelling the wellness industry in an upward trajectory, from niche to norm.

Some may perceive the wellness industry to be built on fads. However, the numbers, statistics, and generational shift in spending power reaffirm the fact that the wellness industry is booming and here to stay for good.

This article came from our intern, Lorna Shirley. If you are interested in stepping up your health and wellness game, sign up for a Lifebox subscription here.

What’s all the fuss about… activated charcoal water filters?

We are thrilled to feature an amazing Black + Blum binchotan charcoal filter in our Classic and Energy boxes this month.

The whole team here can get enough of this little wonder stick, (which is worth £6.95 alone!) but is there more to this nifty little filter system than just making ordinary tap water taste incredible? Well, we asked the folks themselves to give us a run down of why activated charcoal is good for us…


Water infusion has been hotting up the health and wellbeing industry for a while now, with a range of infusion and filter water bottles on offer. In recent years, more and more people are turning up the tempo by using activated charcoal as a way of filtering and infusing their water.

Not to be confused with the stuff you put on your barbeque, activated charcoal has a wide range of reported health benefits. It is also one of the most effective ways of removing water impurities such as chlorine, which is commonly found in tap water.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal consists of a substance – usually wood, coal, coconut shell or bamboo – which has been burned without oxygen to create char. This is then heated to a high temperature and exposed to certain gases. The multi-step process makes it extremely porous, this is what we refer to when we say ‘activated’.

Once the charcoal has been activated, the increased surface area can bind to any substance. It acts as a powerful magnet, adsorbing any toxic molecules it comes into contact with. Adsorption, not to be confused with adsorption, is when molecules are drawn to the surface of the adsorbent rather than being absorbed into it. Activated charcoal is odorless, tasteless and nontoxic.

How does a charcoal water filter stick work?

Activated charcoal sticks, known as binchotan charcoal, have been used as water purifiers in Japan since the 17th century. They have an incredibly porous surface, which attracts contaminants found in tap water. These contaminant are then held in the surface of the carbon.

As well as filtering the water, the activated charcoal also infuses the water with minerals.

What are the health benefits of charcoal infused water?

  1. Added energy – any time the body is rid of toxin and oxidants, it responds by giving more energy and a better feeling of overall health. By removing toxins from your water, as well as the strong cleaning properties the activated charcoal puts into the water, it works as a filtration system in your body, as well as your water bottle
  2. Hangover cure – Due to the strong cleansing qualities mentioned above, activated charcoal can help to remove toxins from the liver after a night on the town
  3. Flatter tummy – activated charcoal helps to cleanse the intestines and colon, which can help people debloat. However, it doesn’t aid weight loss

How are Black+Blum charcoal filter water bottles different?

Most filter water bottles that use activated charcoal hide the filter by design. The Black+Blum charcoal filter water bottles, sold within the Eau Good range, use binchotan charcoal sticks in their raw state.

We believe this incredible source of power shouldn’t be hidden, and our water bottles are designed to showcase the filter while using it to its best potential. The design allows the filter to slot into the side of the bottle, ensuring it is always in contact with the water. Our water filters last up to six months if used daily.

Charcoal filter water bottles and keep your eyes peeled for our latest release, the Eau Good Duo, which has been specifically designed for our more active audience.

Head over to Black + Blum to find more  about their lovely brand, plus they share informative blog content and recipes too!

Immunity Boosting 101

Oh, that dreaded summer cold! Don’t be fooled by the warm weather, it doesn’t have to be chilly outside to catch a cold. Here are some tips to keep you feeling fine all summer long.

Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system. We rely on our intricate and complex immune system to protect us from bacteria and viruses AND an incredible fact is that it also impacts virtually every other system in our body, from your hormones to your nervous system. The majority of our immune system is actually found in the digestive tract and thus what you put into your mouth has a direct impact on the support or challenge you put onto your body’s overall immunity. Finding ways to support your immune system can completely revolutionise your health and even a tiny change can make a huge difference and dramatically influence the way you look, feel and think.

A few of the most common factors challenging our immune systems today are heavy metals, pesticides/herbicides, hormone imbalances and poor digestive health (as Hippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut”). Therefore when it comes to boosting the functioning of our immune systems, optimising digestion and nutrition are key. For example, eating a healthy, plant-filled diet contains plenty of immune protecting chemicals. One serving of veg can contain over one hundred different phytonutrients (see blog post 1 below for further information) and there is good evidence that the phytonutrients found in plant-based foods like veg, nuts, fruit, seeds, whole grains and legumes are able to support and boost our immune systems. Think carrots, sweet potatoes, beans, berries, seeds, mushrooms, oats & whole grains, green beans, broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower….the list is rather long!

Ensuring your digestion and nutrition are as strong as possible can be the key to boosting your immune system and feeling your best self! Keeping our gut happy and healthy is key!

1. Increase your intake of Prebiotic and Probiotic foods
Prebiotics are found in foods such as rye, wheat, garlic, onions, broccoli + cauliflower. They are also formed when starchy foods such as potatoes /rice are cooked and cooled down. Probiotics refer to foods that contain live organisms, fermented vegetables like kimchi/sauerkrautkraut, cultured yoghurts and fermented drinks such as kefir and kombucha. You might also consider taking a probiotic: (We adore Potion London) Consuming a multi-strain probiotic supplement can help to keep the good bacteria balanced and support a healthy immune response to the stresses and strains put on our bodies during the colder months.

2. Sleep
It is widely known that sleep deprivation can hinder your immune responses thus increasing your risk of picking up seasonal colds and feeling under the weather. Get some quality shut-eye!

3. Add ginger & garlic to your diet
Both have been widely used for centuries in many parts of the world to prevent/treat bacterial and fungal infections in traditional medicine. Add ginger to your morning lemon water or add ginger to your smoothies or stir-fry!

4. Eat more mushrooms!
We love the foursigmatic range of mushroom coffees, hot chocolates and drink sachets to easily incorporate more mushrooms into your diet. Evidence has suggested that daily intake of mushrooms is thought to boost immunity…boom!

5. Indulge in some “me time” and get on that self-love train with a steamy hot bath or shower
Why not add some essential oils – open up those airways and give your mind and body some love.

6. Massage
Yes, it can destress but massage also boosts circulation and thus increases naturally occurring antibodies leaving you well equipped to ward off bacteria and bugs!

7. Take regular exercise
Exercise is a core component of any healthy lifestyle.

Eating with Intention: Mindful Eating

“Eating with intention while paying attention”

There is always so much discussion about WHAT we eat and far less attention is paid to HOW we eat. Here at Lifebox, we prioritize healthy snacks. However, there is a growing body of research that suggests that our attitudes around meals and our mealtime rituals and practices might just be every bit as important as being considered in what you are actually choosing to put into your mouth.

Mindful or intuitive eating as it is also known stems from ancient Buddhist teachings, aiming to connect us more deeply with the whole experience and enjoyment of eating. It is based upon the idea that there is no right or wrong way to eat but instead varying degrees of consciousness about what we are eating and why. Our friend Laura Thomas PhD once told us to try and sit in a quiet corner with something that you are really looking forward to eating – (for us it was a square of Chilli Lindt Dark Chocolate) and really focus on biting into it, chewing, feeling the textures and bringing your awareness to all the flavours and the whole experience of consuming that food. This challenge really brought a whole new meaning to the term Mindful Eating and I urge you to go and give it a try for yourself.

The object of being mindful around your eating it to base your meals on physical cues such as our body’s own hunger signals rather than emotional ones which many of us are incredibly prone to.

It does not, however, have to be an all or nothing affair and do not in any way put pressure on yourself that it is just another “fad” that you need to try. Perhaps you can aim to incorporate little morsels of it into your everyday life and see if you notice a difference. Trying to find ways of slowing down your eating and truly eating with intention rather than just wolfing something down in a rush to make your next meeting or appointment…we personally feel that it is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle and can help edge you towards a good healthy relationship with food. Have a read of our healthy hacks for a few little tips to get you started!

Eat slowly
Take time to really savour each mouthful. This means you are more likely to notice when you are full and also aids the digestive process too!

Pay attention to flavour
Taking a little more time to observe the individual flavours of your food can be a great way to start eating with your mind a little more.

Prepare your meals from scratch
Knowing how the food we are eating is produced and the flavours and ingredients that have gone into making your meal delicious can really help in the process

Try and avoid skipping meals
This can make it harder to make considered food choices when you are ravenous and may lead to just grabbing whatever you can. Try and set aside time in your daily routine for regular mealtimes where you can totally stop what you are doing and put your full attention into that mealtime. Its an incredible break from work too and helps get some “you time” in the crazy headspace called LiFE that tends to consume.

Meet Hollie: The Pilates Queen Behind ‘The Model Method’

Although healthy snacks are our forte here at Lifebox, we like to take the time to spotlight some of the foremost movers and shakers within the wellness community. This week, we would like to introduce you to Hollie!

Hollie Grant is the founder of The Model Method and owner of PilatesPT. A trained chef and award-winning personal trainer and experienced Pilates instructor, Hollie is passionate about encouraging women to think of their bodies not by dress size, but by their function and ability to withstand illness.

After training with STOTT and teaching over 5000 classes, Hollie began to feel that more could be added to the Pilates discipline to improve the effects. This led her to experiment with various combinations of Pilates and HIIT, which is where The Model Method training plan originated.  

Now owning a very successful personal training studio in London, Hollie has earned an impressive client list through her innovative method. This includes the likes of Ella Woodward, Jourdan Dunn, Millie Mackintosh and Melissa Hemsley.

Hollie is passionate about the lifestyle and fitness benefits of Pilates and is a huge advocate of the #strongnotskinny movement. Her training technique reflects this philosophy, and her dedication means her clients never fail to leave happy, healthy and strong.    

Hollie is also due to release her first book ‘The Model Method’, a super lead title for Piatkus. The book is scheduled for publication as a trade paperback and e-book in January 2018. Divided into three parts, The Model Method teaches readers how our bodies function and perform, rather than how they look, to encourage a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

The Model Method Online

The Model Method Online is the first truly personalised female focussed holistic exercise, nutrition and wellbeing online plan available. It is an 8-Week programme that combines Pilates & HIIT videos (specifically tailored to each client based on their initial consultation) a Starter Box (curated in collaboration with Lifebox) containing a range of Hollie’s favourite foods, her nutrition guide ‘Nourish’ (written with health coach Jenny Millichip), ‘Eat Sweat Play’ by Anna Kessel (a book which hugely influenced Hollie and her view of exercise), a resistance band (to be used with the videos) and a range of other useful items. Furthermore, all clients will receive a 2-month subscription to Headspace and access to exclusive wellbeing content written and collated especially for the plan covering topics such as body confidence, intuitive eating, mindfulness, and sleep by industry experts such as Laura Thomas, Emma Mills, Melissa Hemsley, and Chloe Brotheridge.

 https://www.pilatespt.co.uk/model-method-online/
@themodelmethod
@thepilatespt

 

5 Tips for Glowing Summer Skin

Summer is here and holidays and travels are at the forefront of our minds! Whether its a day trip to the coast, a staycation camping or you are jetting off to satisfy that wanderlust you can never be too prepared for healthy travel. Travelling can often throw us out of our routine, whether its a change in climate, alteration in body clock or just being without access to our kitchen gadgets, gym or well stocked and considered kitchen cupboards! Travel does NOT need to mean that our nutrition has to go out of the window. Here are just a few tips to stay on track with your health and nutrition while still enjoying the spontaneity and excitement of travelling to new places.

1. Stay hydrated

Choose a BPA free bottle, water is your best friend especially during travel. Flying can be dehydrating due to lack of humidity in the air and additionally maintaining your hydration levels will keep you energized as well as aiding the elimination of waste and optimal functioning of our cells and organs. Drink up!

2. Be prepared with healthy snacks

Pack whole fruit and snacks: Fruit is a go-to travel snack providing a plethora of vitamins, nutrients and fibre. Fruits are also high in water which helps with the above hydration issues! You can’t go wrong with apples. We love to take carrot and celery sticks in our failsafe tupperware with a dollop of hummus or try whipping up some energy balls, dried fruit and nut trail mix, crackers or granola to keep handy in your hand luggage. Anything that doesn’t need refrigeration is clearly a winner.

3. Stock up 

Stock up on sachets of your favourite teas, protein powders, mushroom powders, superfood blends, mini snack bars or whatever YOU use in your everyday life to take on the road with you…..this always helps if you are ever a bit stuck for snack options or want to give your body a little boost while you’re exploring far off climbs!

4. Stay active (It’s free!)

If you’re anything like the Lifebox crew you won’t travel far without your activewear and trainers! Make room for your favourite yoga leggings, running or gym gear so that you can always get out and about…..running is free and available ANYWHERE…..it can also be an incredible way to explore new surroundings and find the next restaurant you want to try out!

5. Remember to still enjoy yourself

Don’t be afraid to try new foods! Most importantly do not stress about your food while you’re away. The main reason we go on holiday is to have fun, enjoy ourselves and de-stress and if you are constantly worried about the food you are eating this can play havoc with your cortisol levels and in turn your gut……EAT THE FOOD THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY and RELAX!

 

Top 10 tips for Optimal:Health

By expert Nutritional Therapist, Maxine Sheils

We are so excited to share with you these easy and simple tips for Optimal:Health by Maxine Sheils, a registered Nutritional Therapist empowering clients every day to regain control of their health. Here at Lifebox, we aim to achieve optimal health through healthy, gluten free snacks!

Maxine is the founder of Optimal:Health, and takes great pride in championing clients; allowing them to flourish with education and support to achieve their health goals.

The Quest for Optimal:Health

We’re all in search for the quick fix that will take away those niggling health concerns we feel on a day to day basis; from wanting to lose those extra few pounds, feel more energised, be able to run up the stairs without feeling out of breath, to wanting to feel truly happy and as though you’re getting the most out of life. Add to this that we’re faced with conflicting views on a day-to-day basis from ‘specialists’ on TV, over-night experts on social media, and of course, the extremely opinionated views of those around you, it’s not hard to get lost in what really is the best way to be healthy. Whilst unfortunately there is no quick-fix to transform you from feeling sluggish to taking on the world, there are many things that you can do that will all work together to support the body in achieving Optimal:Health.

1. Stay hydrated

It’s astonishing the amount of clients I see that simply do not drink enough water throughout the day. We need water to help keep the cells of the body hydrated, to keep bowel movements regular, for the blood to carry nutrients and oxygen to the body, to regulate the body’s temperature, and so much more. Remember, the body is made up of roughly 60% water, so we need to ensure that we’re providing an adequate and regular supply to support these functions.

Tip: I like to keep a large glass of mineral water next to my bed to consume on rising. The body will not have received any fluids for many hours, but will have lost fluids through sweating, and simply breathing, so now is the optimal time to rehydrate the body.

2. Eat a rainbow

I often get asked which foods are the most nutritious, but the truth is, all natural foods are nutritious, containing a wide range of nutrients to varying degrees, from vitamins and minerals, to phytonutrients and orthomolecular nutrients. It is therefore really important to vary your diet as much as you can so that you can benefit from a wide range of these nutrients. I see far too often that many people get stuck in a rut with their diet and often eat the same two or three options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if these meals are highly nutritious, you’re still limiting the amount of nutrients in your diet by not providing enough variety. Healthy, vegan snacks are an excellent way to diversify your daily nutrients. Aim for maximum variation.

Tip: I recommend clients print out a rainbow chart of foods and try to eat at least one food from each colour on a daily basis.

3. Get your essential sleep

No good diet will ever undo poor sleep habits. Sleep is required to support so many different aspects of health, I think we can all agree that after a bad night’s sleep, we simply do not feel our best. Sleep is the essential time for the mind and body to repair from both the mental and physical stressors of the day, leaving us feeling refreshed and ready for a new day. Aim for an average of 8 hours sleep per night which can be made easier by having a routine bedtime and wake time.

Tip: If you struggle to fall asleep easily as your mind is still active, try listening to a bedtime story, available on the apps like Calm.

4. Love your macros

Those ‘diet’ recommendations are changing all the time, leaving us a nation scared to eat fats because they make us fat, carbs because they make us fat, and protein because the protein and gym industry will have you believe this is all you need. Fear not, they are called ‘macro’-nutrients for a reason, they are each an important source of nutrition, and energy, for the body.

Contrary to popular belief, fats do not make you fat, in fact, they’re required to help produce our hormones, protect the vital organs of the body, keep you skin and hair healthy, and even support cell function and structure. I know I’d quite like my cells to be able to function thank you!

Protein is required to build and repair tissue, make neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that can make us feel good) and to build bone, muscle, skin and blood. It can be confusing working out how much, or how little, you need but so many of my clients don’t even reach the minimum requirements required to sustain the bodies most basic needs. You can work out your minimum requirement for protein by multiplying your ideal body weight in kilograms by 0.8 to give you your minimumprotein requirements in grams.

Tip: Start reading labels and noting how much protein you are eating on a daily basis. I’ll be surprised if many of you are reaching the minimum requirement. Lifebox energy is the perfect subscription gift for those looking for a protein boost.

Carbs get a bad wrap but let me assure you, they are the bodies preferred source of energy. The difference you need to be aware of is between simple carbs (cakes, biscuits and white bread) which provide a quick burst of energy but then leave you craving more to boost your energy again; and complex carbs (starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains) which provide a slower release of energy to the body to help sustain energy levels for longer. Don’t fear carbs, simply make wiser choices.

5. Stay curious

We are by nature, creatures of habit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what happened to that inner child who used to question everything. As a nation, we learn to silence that inner child and accept the things we do not understand. However, it’s ok to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’,especiallywhen it comes to health. We become so used to feeling mediocre that we just learn to accept it rather than asking ourselves, our GP, or a healthcare practitioner, ‘whydo I feel like this?’. Many people often also accept what they’re told rather than applying the same principle of being curious. I have seen many clients who have been to see their GP and told that their results are all clear, but this doesn’t mean that your GP is your only option. Stay curious, ask questions, do some research, ask others. You never know what you might discover.

Tip: The curious inner child can be applied to all areas of your life. If you’re not happy about something, ask yourself why, and think about ways in which you can change your situation for the better.

6. Look after yourself, you deserve it!

You really do! I often see in clinic that clients know exactly what they need to do to change their health for the better because they practice it on a daily basis, cooking up extremely nutritious meals for their children, only to grab a quick bite to eat with not much nutritional value for themselves. Or the client that’s too busy dealing with everyone else’s problems, and doesn’t have time to deal with their own. Don’t forget, you can’t pour from an empty cup, you must take care of yourself first.

Tip: Do one thing for you each day, whether it’s taking time to make the dentist appointment you’ve been putting off, or simply having twenty minutes to read your favourite book and enjoy a cup of tea, you really do deserve it!

7. Move more

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that we were not born to stay still. You only need to look at a baby to understand that, from kicking their legs, to stretching their fingers, they even wriggle away in their sleep. And yet, many of us have become so still, but leading a sedentary lifestyle can have multiple implications on your health. You don’t have to be running marathons or at the gym every day to move, you can do it wherever you are, you can do it right now, no equipment required. Dance around the kitchen, run around the park, squat whilst you’re brushing your teeth. It doesn’t need to be arduous, you just need to move.

Tip: Think about times in your day when you could move more, from a quick run up and down the stairs, to a walk around the block, or even starting to cycle to and from work.

8. Find calm

We do not switch off. From the moment the alarm wakes us up in the morning, to the moment we fall asleep, the mind is constantly receiving data. Whether it’s from social media accounts, emails, the TV, radio, checking banking, paying bills, organising your weekend, planning when you’re next going to visit your Mum, and that’s before we even step into the office. No wonder we have become a nation in the grip of a stress epidemic. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we’re constantly doing something, but just for a moment, do nothing, absolutely nothing. I imagine most of you have forgotten how to simply do nothing, and the thought of trying is enough to send you to the notes section of your phone to write another ‘to do’ list. Seek out ways to find calm, a relaxing bath or even a foot soak, being in nature, having a massage, play soothing music, and most importantly, learn to breathe properly.

Tip: There are so many apps available now to help you calm the mind, mediate, or even teach you breathing techniques. My favourites are Calm, Breethe and Headspace.

9. Keep your glass half full

The mind is the most powerful tool you have, and you have the power to change the way you view everything. This is so important when it comes to health. How many of you indulge in a piece of cake/glass of wine/a whole pizza, and then simply feel awful about yourself afterwards? Is this you? Don’t be surprised, most people are guilty of this, but it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of your health, and not the bad. Yes maybe you did have a pizza on Friday night, but if your meals for the rest of the week were healthy, then focus on how much you have nourished your body at these times. With everything, it’s simply about balance, and I like to keep that balance at 80:20 so if 17 out of 21 meals in a given week are healthy, of course you can have 4 meals that are slightly less healthy. I also prefer to not call these meals ‘cheats’ or ‘treats’, they’re simply meals that form a well-balanced diet when put into perspective.

Tip: Allow yourself a moment of pride for the times you have nourished your body.

10. Learn to love yourself

Ok, this might sound a little crazy but being able to take a more positive view applies to all areas of life. Again, how many of you focus on the one part of your body that you dislike rather than appreciating the other parts of your body that you’re quite proud of? We spend far too much time comparing ourselves to others, who are also comparing themselves to others and so on and so forth. In doing so, we’re all striving to become something that doesn’t exist.

When we start to take a new view on things, we start to feel better about ourselves and life becomes more enjoyable.

Tip: When you are ready for your day, look and the mirror and tell yourself something positive. This can seem daunting to begin with so start by simply smiling at yourself and wishing your reflection a good day. You’ll soon get the hang of it and be stepping out the door feeling good about yourself rather.

 

As previously mentioned, there is no quick-fix to achieving Optimal:Health as being healthy simply doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build healthy and sustainable habits, but a few tips will definitely get you heading in the right direction.

You can find out more about Optimal:Health on Instagram, Facebookor by subscribing to the Optimal:Health newsletter via the website here.

So what puts the energy in a gluten free, vegan snack ball?

Power balls, energy balls, bliss balls.  Anyone else confused? We caught up with Kitchen & Soul to get to the bottom of this healthy snack trend once and for all!

Nadra Shah is the founder of Kitchen & Soul which aims to support mental wellbeing through nourishing food. Her SoulBalls; natural energy balls blended with Ayurvedic spices are available to buy online and a select number of independent retailers in Buckinghamshire, Oxford and Bath. These little guys make the perfect gluten free and vegan snacks!

She is a graduate from the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, and is a registered Nutritional Advisor with the Naturopathic Nutrition Association (NNA) / @kitchensoulfood

Holly Miles is a registered nutritional therapist and health coach. She holds an MSc in Personalised Nutrition from Middlesex University and has a Nutritional Therapy Practice Diploma from the Centre of Nutrition Education and Lifestyle Management (CNELM).  She is also a member of the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

Okay, so let’s break it down and go back to the basics.  What makes something an “energy” food?

Firstly, there needs to be a good balance of macronutrients – or proteins, carbohydrates (including fibre) and fats.  Carbohydrates are the body’s favourite source of energy, but a healthy energy food such as our Kitchen & Soul Soul Balls, will also contain protein and fibre as these can slow the rate by which the carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.  This reduces the risk of elevated blood sugar and the subsequent energy rollercoaster which can contribute to dips in energy and turn us from fun loving human beings to hangry monster beings.

However, there is a lot more to energy than macronutrients; you also need a whole host of micronutrients which include vitamins and the all-important but lesser known not so widely spoken about minerals. Say what?

I work alongside the very knowledgeable Nutritional Therapist and out and out guru Holly Miles and I consulted her on the micronutrients and their benefits. She had this to say on the subject.

“Micronutrients are substances which are required in very small amounts in the diet but are vital for life, including vitamins which are organic compounds and minerals which are inorganic elements which originate from the earth’s soil. Some minerals are needed in larger amounts than others, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and potassium, whereas others such as iron, zinc, selenium, manganese and copper are only needed in very tiny amounts and are therefore often referred to as trace minerals. They may be small, but they are still vital!”

Kitchen & Soul SoulBalls are a rich source of two trace minerals which play a key role in energy production; copper and manganese.

“Copper serves as a catalyst for many enzymes in the body and is involved in a whole host of processes, including connective tissue development, the formation of red blood cells and the metabolism of cholesterol and glucose.  The last point is particularly important for energy production. So what does that actually mean? Inside every cell in our body are tiny organelles called mitochondria.  These are responsible for turning the glucose in our food into a something called Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short.  ATP is the fuel that powers all the energy requiring processes in our body – so practically everything!  More specifically, copper is an important component in the last enzyme in the electron transport chain, a vital final stage in the production of ATP”

Mind bogglingly complex stuff if you look at the details but suffice to say copper definitely has a place in a healthy snack energy ball.

But there is more! 

“Like copper, manganese is involved in many processes in the body, including bone formation and energy metabolism, as well as being a constituent of an antioxidant enzyme which helps prevent free radical damage to cells.  In terms of energy production manganese is a vital cofactor in the Krebs cycle, an important step in the conversion of glucose into ATP (the stuff that gives energy)”

So there you go.  An energy ball cannot be called an energy ball unless it has all these very carefully constructed nutrients contained inside.

All this talk of energy got me thinking, how can you get these micronutrients into your diet and into a nourishing meal and not just a ball shaped healthy snack?

My go-to all time favourite dish is Dhal.  I grew up on it.  I believe it has all the components of a nutrient loaded meal.  You can also use a gorgeous mix of spices, something as a student of Ayurveda I feel passionately about.

May we present the Spinach & Moringa Dhal – a really simple and delicious recipe that is rich in manganese and other energy yielding nutrients.

As the title suggests this dish contains Moringa.  Moringa is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, and is now widely cultivated in the tropics as it is both cheap to grow and really versatile.  The leaves can be prepared like spinach however in the West it is most commonly sold dried and powdered

Moringa is a great source of protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids, iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin E.  It is also a source of magnesium which is another nutrient which is key for energy production.

Another key ingredient of our Dahl is lentils.  Lentils are a great source of plant protein, with one cup of cooked red split lentils providing 15gProtein is not only vital for growth and repair, but also the production of neurotransmitters which play a key role in mood.

Mental wellbeing is at the heart of Kitchen & Soul and our aim to create delicious interesting food that support you to feel balanced and mentally nourished.

“Lentils are also a great source of fibre which is really important for gut health as well as helping you feel fuller for longer after a meal, plus they are a source of the copper, magnesium and iron, all of which are really important for energy production”

Lastly, Spinach is also a source of fibre, as well as magnesium, vitamin C and a range of B vitamins including the all-important folic acid which among other things is needed for the production of neurotransmitters.  Folic acid is definitely a really good reason to eat your greens!

Beware hidden sugars !

Founder of Nut Blend Nut Butter Gabriella Block discusses hidden sugars lurking in “healthy snacks”

Whether it’s 4pm in the afternoon or straight after dinner, I always like to ‘indulge’ in a healthy snack. To you that might mean chocolate, to others it could be a piece of fruit – but in any case, it is usually a healthy craving of energy, satisfaction and happiness. Unfortunately, these feelings are often associated with consuming sugary foods.

In 2015, I struggled to find a naturally flavoured food product on the market that had zero added sugar or sweeteners – including “healthy” sugars (unrefined) and those from dried fruit, such as dates.

I started experimenting with 100% natural nut butters and a range of unique ingredients; and watched them transform into a velvety smooth spread – although it never went further than my spoon. I felt zero guilt or anxiety and avoided empty energy and sugar lows.

I could – and still do – eat the entire jar and feel simply amazing!

This is what inspired me to set up a business and launch Nut Blend Nut Butters.

Nut Blend’s mission is to provide guilt-free indulgence and ‘feel good’ flavour without any type of added sugars, sweeteners, salt or oils. Did we mention, our nut butters are the perfect addition to vegan snacks and/or gluten free snacks! By blending a specific combination of ingredients, we strive to satisfy your sweet tooth in the healthiest way.

In the current UK market, 89% of nut butter brands enhance the taste of ‘flavoured’ variants, such as chocolate hazelnut, with added sugar or naturally sourced sweeteners, such as dates; stevia; rice malt; maple syrup; agave syrup; coconut nectar; honey or fruit juice concentrate – and these are all just code names for sugar.

  • One date contains 18g of sugar.
  • Agave syrup is highly refined and contains almost 90% fructose (the sugar we want to avoid). It is metabolised by the liver and has more chance of being stored as fat.
  • Honey, along with maple syrup, agave nectar and rice malt syrup, lacks nutrients like fibre, which prevents you from feeling full and thus can lead to excess calorie consumption.

This is why our ingredients are different.

Nut Blend contains a very small amount of naturally occurring sugar, an average of just 0.75g per serving and 5.1g per 100g; zero salt and is free from added oils. We celebrate high-quality ingredients and provide you with total product transparency. For example, Indulgent Nut Butter starts with rich cacao and ends with crunchy cacao nibs. We soften cacao’s bitterness with a touch of coconut – so as not to overpower the flavour – and for depth and creaminess add sunflower seeds, almonds and cashew nuts. That’s it. Lifebox is proud to feature healthy snacks like Nut Blend in our various subscription gifts.

  • Praline Nut Butter contains raw maca, which derives from a Peruvian vegetable and adds sweet caramel notes.
  • Perfect Nut Butter adds a pinch of rich, spicy cinnamon and pure vanilla.
  • Coconut is naturally sweet and silky smooth – and we use it in Golden Nut Butter for a tropical flavour.

Nut Blend grew out of passion – for the ingredients, the taste and the overall uplifting experience – and we promise to make you feel good.

Find out more about healthy snack brand Nut Blend here

Why Raw Cacao is a Healthy Snack by Ombar

Here at Lifebox, we are constantly on the search for the most delicious healthy snacks. So it comes as no surprise that we are obsessed with Ombar’s raw cacao that both satisfies our sweet tooth while remaining a healthy, vegan snack!

Cacao is the main ingredient in chocolate, and at Ombar we think cacao is pretty incredible. A superfood in its own right, this magical plant is packed full of nutrients and essential minerals1. For centuries cacao has been linked to numerous health benefits which have been reconfirmed by modern researchers, including improving your heart health, mood, energy, and even memory!2

But the natural goodness in cacao is reduced when the cacao beans are roasted, as they are in conventional chocolate-making3. So in order to preserve as much of the beneficial nutrients and minerals in cacao as possible, at Ombar we keep it raw.

What is raw chocolate and how is it different?

In making conventional chocolate, cacao beans are usually roasted at high temperatures to remove the husks around the beans before further processing. But as we mentioned, this roasting process reduces the natural goodness of the cacao. So in order to keep as much of that goodness in-tact as possible, at Ombar we don’t roast our beans or heat them to high temperatures. Instead, we dry our beans gently in the sun to remove the husks, and we keep our chocolate below 45°C at all points in the manufacturing process.

So what are the health benefits of raw cacao?

Antioxidant Effect on the Body

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of cacao is its apparent protective effects, including for our heart, brain, skin, and immune system. This protective activity is thought to be thanks to the high concentration of flavanols found in cacao4. Flavanols are a type of polyphenol, a broad group of natural compounds found in plants. Many polyphenols, including flavanols, play a protective role for plants and when we consume them, they’re thought to have a protective or antioxidant effect for us too.

Mood Boosting Nutrients

Cacao contains many natural, active chemicals which help release ‘feel good’ emotions. Theobromine, one of these active chemicals, increases the release of dopamine, or the ‘pleasure’ hormone, to the brain5. Phenethylamine, the chemical that is released in the body during emotional euphoria, is also found in cacao and is known to help relieve stress or depression1. So eating raw chocolate as a healthy, vegan snack could help boost your mood!

Energy Boosting

Cacao also contains a number of essential minerals that can help boost our energy levels. One of these is magnesium, which plays an important role in our cells’ ability to make energy from our food, but can be difficult to get in adequate amounts from our usual diet. So a lack of magnesium can be a cause of fatigue and low energy.

Pure cacao may contain as much as 499mg of magnesium per 100g6, which is more than 130% of our recommended daily intake. So a 35g chocolate bar containing 90% cacao as a healthy snack, could provide up to 40% of our recommended intake!

Want to find out more about Ombar and raw cacao? Head here  AND enter OMLB18for an exclusive 10% off your entire order! (*Offer valid until May 31 2018)

References

  1. University Health News. (2017). Surprising Cocoa Benefits Include Heart Health and Prediabetes Improvement. [online] Available at: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/heart-health/surprising-cocoa-benefits-include-heart-health-and-prediabetes-improvement/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2018].
  2. Dillinger, T., Barriga, P., Escarcega, S., Jimenez, M., Lowe, D. and Grivetti, L. (2000). Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate. The Journal of Nutrition, 130(8).
  3. Hitti, M. (2006). Why Cocoa May Help Heart Health. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20060118/why-cocoa-may-help-heart-health#1 [Accessed 1 Feb. 2018].
  4. Barns, C. (2017). Cacao: the mineral marvel. [online] Ombar. Available at: https://www.ombar.co.uk/blogs/news/cacao-the-mineral-marvel [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
  5. Warrington, R. (2015). FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE: WHAT IS A CACAO CEREMONY? – The Numinous. [online] The Numinous. Available at: https://the-numinous.com/what-is-a-cacao-ceremony/ [Accessed 1 Feb. 2018].
  6. Nutritiondata.self.com. (2018). Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened Nutrition Facts & Calories. [online] Available at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5471/2 [Accessed 11 Apr. 2018].

April is IBS Awareness Month

As you may know April is IBS Awareness Month – a time to raise awareness and talk about what life is like with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here at Lifebox, we believe healthy snacks are a critical component of a functional gut. 

It’s thought one in five of us could suffer with it at some point during our lifetime, and it is incredibly important to be in the know when it comes to what you can do to get your gut happy again.

We were lucky enough to catch up with founder of Happy Tummy Co; having suffered with tummy issues since she was a baby, Karen O’Donoghue has been developing healthy snack recipes for the past 7 years which are scientifically proven to stimulate better gut health.

My Battle with IBS

Growing up the daughter of two horticulturists on a farm in the south coast of Ireland was idyllic. There were so many fields of long grass to play in, so much nature to become transfixed by and so much fresh air and space to breathe in. Later in life I would come to discover that my childhood home was intrinsic to my mental state of mind.

The eldest of 3 children my role often became that of a mini diplomat. Breaking up fights between my sister and brother and often playing the role of listener whenever my parents had the odd rant about one other. My home was full of love, music, sport and drama.

As I got older however, I noticed a difference in my body to the bodies of my family. My Mum, Dad, Sister and Brother were all slim with good metabolisms. We ate large portions and food was a huge source of joy and togetherness.

As I grew from a child into a teenager I couldn’t understand why my tummy was so big when compared to the rest of my family. I found it really difficult to pass stools and would sit on the toilet for anywhere up to half an hour. It became a huge source of embarrassment and pain. I began to think I hadn’t been blessed with a healthy functioning metabolism and thought I should probably cut back on food to loose the constantly bloated tummy I walked around with.
And thus began a 2 year eating disorder in which I still ate a lot of food but swam every day and didn’t do desserts and snacks. I became so skinny my Mum began to cry one day and took me to a Dietician. I was still suffering really badly with bloating and as skinny as I got, I always had a “tummy.”

When Mum and I spoke about it, it had gotten so bad that she offered me the laxatives she was on as a cancer patient to keep her bowels moving from all the chemo and radium treatment she was on.

The Dietician addressed my eating disorder but had nothing to say on the topic of my toilet behaviour. And so I went into my young adult years simply accepting the fact that I would never feel happy in a bikini, never mind naked!
I love movement and good food and so continued to move every day and eat with a healthy appetite. However there was always a huge part of me that intuitively knew that if I didn’t address my digestive health the chances of me getting seriously ill in later life would increase drastically!

My Mum who never smoked, never drank, ate a super healthy diet and adored laughing and her family died young. This affected me deeply and motivated me to investigate how we should eat for a longer, healthier life.

Moving to London in my early 20’s triggered a lot of emotion and loneliness and what I then understood was IBS began exasperating my mental health. I went from being a confident woman to one with anxiety, had a couple of anxiety attacks in the underground and I lived with constant shoulder pain. I was still always bloated.

I decided once and for all to take the time, patience, study and discipline to recipe develop my way into good gut health thereby relieving me of my physical and mental turmoil. And thus began the journey to creating The Happy Tummy Co.

I spent 18 months reading science papers every day, fermenting bowls and bowls of dough at any one time and immersing myself in a vision that one day I would be able to eradicate the world of IBS and hopefully prevent the development of colon cancer and other forms of cancer in you and I.

Today I am now on that journey with my deeply special friend and co-founder Amy Clinkard.

If The Happy Tummy Co. had existed when I was a little girl I would have had access to education and products that work. Amy and I are now on a mission to make sure those suffering or those that will suffer with IBS never have to. We are on a mission to make you happy and feel hugely happy in the body you own!

Today I am very happy to walk around my bathroom and bedroom naked and have, over time, come to really appreciate my body. It didn’t happen overnight but it did happen! If you are suffering with low self-esteem, if you don’t like the shape of your tummy, if you’re body is in pain start to really listen to it and go on a healing journey so that you stick around for a good time and a long time. Our bodies are precious. Let’s nurture them and treat them with kindness, love and support.

We’re here for you anytime you need us.

Big love, Karen xxx

If you are interested in finding out more about Karen’s story then please head over to the amazing Happy  Tummy Co, where you can find healthy snack recipes and fermented probiotic food to stimulate good gut health.

The yacon – not just a strange little root from South America

Sometimes, choosing to eat healthily or mindfully can feel like a luxury only for the time rich and, well, rich rich. This is one of the many reasons we created Lifebox, to provide an easier solution to living a balanced lifestyle through delicious healthy snacks.

We all know that it sometimes seems easier to grab something in a small plastic box than to cook from scratch, but what effect does this have on both our mind and bodies?

We are always interested in learning from our peers and the leaders in the industry, and when the founder of G B CHEW, Lucy Ponsonby, wanted to share with us her knowledge about a certain “wonder plant” we couldn’t wait to hear more.

Lucy is a graduate of the prestigious Leiths School of Food & Wine and she began her company from the Green Bean Coffee Van, feeding people with busy and active lives. It was always compact, filling, on-the-go food, which was convenient while out and about.

Lucy believes that snacks don’t have to be full of salt and sugar to be satisfying and wants to spread the word of prebiotic yacon, a Peruvian root vegetable that is great for binding her vegan snack chews! Locals have also been cooking with it for years, thanks to its incredible health properties and versatility.

The yacon plant, a species of perennial daisy which traditionally grows in the northern and central Andes, has been eaten by the people of South America for thousands of years and is known for its sweetness and texture, similar to a pear or potato. The roots are very low in calories as most of the carbohydrate is in the form of indigestible fructooligosaccharide (FOS), which functions as a prebiotic, perfect for nourishing friendly bacteria in your stomach.

Here, Lucy discusses her love for the strange little root from South America…

“One of the most interesting things about the yacon plant is that despite originating in the Andean highlands, they grow really well here in the UK.  Recently, I have been growing my own yacon plants and have had some great success and was pretty excited to harvest our first batch of yacon roots!

After a year of growth, the tallest area of the plants were standing up to two meters high and I had noticed that a little yellow flower had blossomed. Knowing that we were about a week away from our first frost, it was time to get the fork, gloves and bucket out, and start digging under those roots!

Over the past couple of months, I have been showing our homegrown yacon roots – or tubers, as they are more commonly known – to my customers at events and explaining the many health benefits of both the plant and the syrup.

I have tried the yacon many different ways – I have eaten it raw, straight from the ground, I’ve boiled it, roasted it and even infused it into a gin and tonic! Raw, it has a crisp and crunchy texture with a sweet flavour similar to apple. Boiled, the skins peel off easily, ready to chop or mash.

I find the best way to store the yacon plants is in a cool potting shed, where they seem to grow quickly and abundantly. I have planted the rhizomes – which are little bulbs and samplings – into pots to start another year of growth. After a month in pots they will be ready to be planted into the ground.

Something I’m looking forward to trying when they are large enough is making a malty syrup to be used in cooking and both hot and cold drinks.”

If you want to find our more about GB Chew then please visit the website here and grab yourself 20% off when you enter LIFEBOX at the checkout!

How in touch are you with your gut?

Did you know that a multitude of stomach and health problems can be linked to the balance of flora in your digestive system?

If you’re ready to try something which truly works, then Symprove may just be the game-changing healthy snack you’ve been searching for.

Non-dairy, live activated bacteria, Symprove (known as Golden Nectar in our office!) is a 70ml shot of yellow liquid which is to be drunk first thing in the morning before food, and is designed to reset the bacteria in your intestinal tract.

Unlike other probiotics, it has been proven to reach the intestines and colonise there, if taken for the full 12 weeks. The bacteria in Symprove are water based and naturally occurring, with the only additional ingredients being vitamin C, sorbate and trisodium citrate, which are all found in natural everyday food.

Symprove will arrive the very next day after ordering and there are various options for buying, but we strongly recommend the 12 Week Programme for full effect. This programme is designed to help you successfully balance the bacteria in your gut. In fact, the team over at Symprove will reward you for committing to the programme by giving you the last 4 weeks free.

Flavour-wise, it isn’t unpleasant at all. The original has a distinctive malty taste and the mango and passionfruit – their most popular flavour – is sweet without being sickly. It’s also a completely gluten free snack which is pretty much the proverbial cherry on top. Yes, it’s a vegan snack, gluten free, healthy gut inducing wonder syrup right there!

The only thing to remember is that if you are travelling somewhere warm, remember to keep your Symprove refrigerated or, if a fridge isn’t available, in a sink full of cold water.

Many IBS sufferers worldwide have alleviated their symptoms by trying Symprove – why not give it a go and see if it can change your life too?

Our founder Jen is an utter Symprove champion – here is what she has to say about our favourite “Golden Nectar”:

“I first tried Symprove after a wonderful nutritionist friend suggested it would be beneficial to help my gut during a rather prolonged period of disc prolapse back pain prior to an operation that I was scheduled to have. I was taking a horrendous concoction of anti inflammatories and pain relief to ensure that I could stay operational at work and it was playing havoc with my digestive system… bloating, constipation… you name it. After just a few days of taking Symprove in the morning (and this was back in 2014) I felt like a new woman! My bowel movements became more regular and my bloating considerably reduced… the positive effects were so great that I have continued to take Symprove regularly since that horrid time! It is also the reason that I continue to support Symprove as a brand AND why I will always recommend it to friends and Lifebox customers to try it out for themselves or purchase it as a subscription gift… it always make something so much easier to promote and shout about when you have experienced the benefits of a product first hand!  All hail Symprove.“

For more information or to kick start your gut recovery please visit Symprove here!

Boostballs extol the virtues of the humble date

Why are we at Lifebox obsessed with dates as the sweet go-to ingredient in most of our healthy snacks? When it comes to the number of minerals, vitamins, and health-benefiting phytonutrients in dates, suffice it to say there are a lot of them. First and foremost, they’re easily digested, allowing your body to make full use of their goodness.

Dietary fibre in dates helps to move waste smoothly through your colon and helps prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol absorption by binding with substances containing cancer-causing chemicals. The iron content, a component of haemoglobin in red blood cells, determines the balance of oxygen in the blood. Potassium, an electrolyte, helps control your heart rate and blood pressure. B-vitamins contained in dates, such as the carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin, absorb into the retina to maintain optimal light-filtering functions and protect against macular degeneration.

Want more? They contain vitamins A and K. Vitamin A protects the eyes, maintains healthy skin and mucus membranes, and even protects the lungs and mouth from developing cancer. Tannins, which are flavonoids as well as polyphenolic antioxidants, fight infection and inflammation and help prevent excessive bleeding (anti-haemorrhagic). Vitamin K is a blood coagulant that also helps metabolise your bones.

Copper, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin are also present in dates and provide their own unique preventative and healing functions.

Together, these co-factors help your body metabolise carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Eating dates in moderation as part of a healthy snack can contribute to many health benefits, such as protecting against damage to cells from free radicals, helping prevent a stroke, coronary heart disease and the development of colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.

A bit about Boostballs

When we set out to change the healthy snack world with our Boostballs, we wanted to make sure we kept to our idea of ‘Less Ingredients, More Protein’ but we also wanted to make sure the ingredients that we did use were natural, healthy and beneficial to our bodies.  Our balls are packed into hand size packs with 3x 14g balls.  They are high in protein which is the building blocks for muscle growth. They contain only natural sugars found in fruits and plants.  They are a perfect healthy snack as an after-workout protein replenishment or as an energy booster during exercise.  Like all good protein bars, our balls also contain a rich source and wide variety of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, B, E, B12, Calcium, Iron and Zinc.  Our balls are made with raw cold pressed ingredients so there is no baking and no refining, just pure healthy protein bliss with every bite.

We have 4 variants available which include 2 vegan snack offerings:

  • Peanut Butter Cookie Dough
  • Coconut Fudge Cake
  • Maple & Cinnamon Roll (V)
  • Lemon Drizzle Cake (V)

Health Benefits of Adding Coconut to Healthy Snacks with Ape Snacks!

We settled in for a chat with the marvelous folks at Ape, those guys seriously know their stuff when it comes to healthy snacks, so naturally we asked them to tell us why they are so nuts about coconuts

The benefits of coconut are undisputed; many believe that it is the cure for any ailment, Pacific Islanders actually call the palm tree the ‘tree of life’. They may be on to something here so with out further ado here are Ape Snacks’ top health benefits of coconuts:

It’s an Energy Booster
Coconut flesh is high in Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MFCA), which are metabolised in our liver quickly and efficiently, making you feel more energetic.

Say hello to your new Hunger Buster
In need of a healthy snack to curb that mid-afternoon craving? Coconut flesh is high in fibre, hence keeping you fuller for longer and helping with digestion.

Want a Killer Smile?
Eating coconut helps whiten your teeth – grab your sunglasses.

Need a Skin saviour?
With its antioxidants properties, coconut slows down the ageing process. Who says you need botox?

It’s the perfect kitchen companion
Looking to be more creative in the kitchen? Coconut is a great cooking tool. Super versatile, it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, as well as a multitude of phenomenal healthy snacks!

Go ahead and ditch the detox
Not really into green juice cleanses? The saturated fat found in coconut plays a key role in your body’s detoxification system and is anti-inflammatory.

Listen to that old proverb, “health is wealth”
Coconuts can be your own medicine – with antimicrobial and antiviral properties, eating coconut is a great way to support your immune system.

Build strong bones
Ditch the cow’s milk; coconut milk packs a punch in calcium. Coconut makes the ideal addition to sweet vegan snacks.

Welcome to the hydration station
If you’re a busy monkey and struggling to stay hydrated during the day, eating coconuts has proven efficient in rehydrating your body by providing needed electrolytes.

Science fans, here is your nerd alert
Coconuts are rich in manganese, potassium and phosphorus, and are high in vitamin A, D, E and K.

So, in summary, coconuts are antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic, which makes them fantastic at fighting off disease. They are also full of electrolytes, making it great to drink after a workout or when recovering from an illness! The wonders of coconut never cease to amaze! Make sure to buy extra virgin coconut oil for the greatest coconut oil benefits.

Eating Organic Food, The Big Debate

 

We need to speak to you about organic food. Does it have a place in healthy snacks? There seem to be so many different pieces of advice about how to eat healthy, and to be honest it can get a little confusing.

Do you buy organic food yourself, or perhaps just for certain products as budget won’t allow for you to go fully organic? Maybe you are not sure eating organic will bring you anything different?

Although we do know our stuff when it comes to healthy snacks, we do not profess to be experts when it comes to organic food. However, we sought the advice of our very knowledgeable friends over at Onist who really do know their stuff.

Onist is an amazing team, fully registered Food Nutritionists, accredited by the Association for Nutrition, fronted by registered nutritionist extraordinaire Mary Lynch (she used to advise the rather big deal that is Jamie O) so what they don’t know about food, well it’s not worth knowing.

Okay, so what is organic food?

What determines whether a food is organic or not is how it is produced. Organic food production in the UK is currently bound by EU regulations, meaning that production cannot involve the use of artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms. Organic produce is also free from artificial food additives including sweeteners, preservatives, colouring and flavouring.

Is organic good for me?

Many of the foods available in supermarkets today contain man made chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides. We currently know little about the effects these synthetic chemicals have on our bodies in the longer term. However, organic fruit and vegetables have been found to contain higher levels of antioxidants (up to 60% higher than non organic crops), which have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.

And is organic good for the environment?

Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Social Association has explained the numerous benefits of organic produce on farming practices and the environment. Organic farming uses less fossil-fuel based fertilisers, and is the best available method for reducing green house gas emissions as it stores higher levels of carbon in the soil. Organic farms also attract more wildlife, providing a home for bees and butterflies to allow nature to thrive.

Isn’t buying organic expensive?

Organic food has often had a bad rep in the past for being over priced and pretentious. However, dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and butter are an easy organic swap to make at very little price difference. Fruit and vegetables often doesn’t cost anymore than non-organic, especially when you buy in season, which also encourages more sustainable farming practices.

I’m sure organic meat definitely is more expensive . . .

Yes, organic meat is more expensive that its non-organic counterparts, it’s important to recognise that quality over quantity is important here. We should all be aiming to eat less meat, for our health and the environment. The money that you save eating more vegetables, lentils and pulses can be used to buy the best meat when you do decide to eat it. Organically reared animals have also led a longer healthier life, which surely means healthier tasting meat!

What can I do to go organic?

As mentioned before, some simple easy organic food swaps are dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and butter. There is also a wide range of organic fruit and vegetables in many supermarkets. However, the Environmental Working Group has devised two lists containing fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest pesticides residues, which may help influence which produce you choose to buy organically:

The Dirty Dozen: Strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes.

The Clean Fifteen: Sweetcorn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onion, sweat peas, papaya, asparagus, mango, aubergine, honeydew melon, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit.

According to the lovely folks at Onist, as a general rule of thumb, the thinner and more delicate the skin, the more likely it is to be affected by chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers.

So why not buy organic to support your health, sustainable farming practices and the environment. You can find out more about this topic, and many others over at Onist, or for more information about eating organic food please visit The Soil Association.

How much is too much protein?

Is there such thing as too much protein in healthy snacks? Forming a better understanding about nutrition with Form Nutrition

As with most nutrition questions, the answer is more complex than you’d imagine when you start to dig deep. At Lifebox, our mission is to provide healthy snacks that fuels the body, and protein plays a massive role in that process. We were lucky enough to catch up with Form Nutrition to discuss the pros and cons of high protein consumption:

The simple answer is that in a single dose, about 0.5g per kg body weight is probably a sensible upper limit. Long term, there is no evidence of kidney or other organ damage, or effect on mortality with high protein intakes.

That doesn’t mean to say an excessively high protein diet isn’t bad for you – rather, no studies have been conducted to prove it is (or isn’t). As ever, strive for a balanced diet, with sensible use of supplements if required, and you won’t be pushing at the boundaries of what may or may not be bad for you.

The more complex answer is this: You need to consider protein over-consumption on two levels.

  1. The acute effect, i.e. short term or single dose. Here, what can happen with over-consumption is that the protein ends up being oxidised. Metabolically, this means that it is turned to glucose and/or fatty acids and contributes to your body’s fuel. Hence excess protein (contributing to excess fuel overall) is still potentially going to make you, or keep you, fatter if you’re in a calorie surplus. The deamination of the amino acids as part of this protein catabolism also means dealing with the amino groups (ammonium ions) NH4 which may lead to point 2.  An excess amount of protein is likely to be around 0.5g/kg in one go, if in a meal, but if taking supplements, it is probably lower and more likely that anything over 0.3g/kg will be oxidised.
  2. The chronic, or long-term effect. Here the effect of excess protein is a demand on processing the nitrogen (NH4 ammonium) produced through protein deamination. This excess will need to be excreted via the kidneys by urea production. In addition, there may be alterations in acid-bases balance as a by-product, which may impact bone resorption, in order to buffer this shift in homeostasis (i.e. by liberating calcium from the bones). However, the evidence for this is not entirely clear. Protein consumption may actually be slightly protective to bones. There is no strong or consistent evidence on kidney damage or morbidity/mortality with high protein intakes.  But then again, it is difficult to longitudinally prove, as no one has performed longitudinal studies (over several years) where you can satisfactorily attribute effects directly to protein alone. Nor are there any studies looking at long term (years) protein supplementation.

The Lifebox Energy is designed to support activity and recovery for both men & women and therefore features various protein-packed vegan snacks such as Motion Nutrition organic roasted peanut vegan protein. If you are a gym bunny or have a protein enthusiast in your life, the Lifebox Energy is the ideal subscription gift for anyone searching for a protein-packed healthy snack.

1 ‘Dietary protein and bone health: a systematic review and meta-analysis’ Darling et al, 2009  

Oats: The Bulletproof Ingredient to Gluten Free Snacks with nom

Here at nom, we love oats as the cornerstone ingredient for our healthy snack bars. They’re often overlooked, seen as the boring option amongst other more fashionable grains, but we want to give them the spotlight we think they deserve! Their ability to hold other flavours makes them a perfect base for healthy snacks, breakfast and dessert recipes, and they come with some great nutritional benefits too. They’re a diverse and delicious grain that we just can’t get enough of, which is why we use them as the base for our range of gluten free snack nom bars!

So, what are the benefits of eating oats? First of all, the high fibre content of oats slows digestion and the absorption of sugar into the blood, meaning slower energy release. Paired with their protein content, oats should keep you feeling fuller for longer – perfect for a healthy snack on the go! They also contain a range of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, iron and vitamin B1, as well as phenolic compounds and phytochemicals that can act as antioxidants, thought to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health.

Oats are a naturally gluten free grain, however they can be cross-contaminated during processing. Oats that are labelled as gluten-free are produced following strict procedures to ensure that cross-contamination does not occur. This is why we make sure our bars are the safest and healthiest gluten-free snacks – so they can be enjoyed by as many people as possible! Oats do contain a protein called avenin, which is similar to gluten and so this can cause concern. According to Coeliac UK, research has found that Coeliacs are generally safe to consume avenin. However, it is always a personal choice as to whether you wish to have oats as part of your gluten free diet.

Oats are pair really well with a range of flavours because of their mild, nutty flavour: our favourite combinations that we use for our bars include cacao and raspberry, and banana. This also means that we can use our bars for other recipes when we want some added flavour, especially for vegans out there looks for a substantial vegan snack! We use our banana nom bars as the base in our banoffee pie recipe, and our original bars for our raw chocolate tarts – they give the desserts a substantial texture, so are a great treat!

For more oat-based healthy snack recipes, or to try our oat bars, you can head over to our website: www.nomfoods.co.uk/

And check out our social media for recipes, giveaways and more:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nomfoods

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nom_foods

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nom_foods_/

If gaining muscle is your goal, how much rest is best?

Another simple question with a complex answer. Here, we chat with Form Nutrition about some of the studies that investigate this and come up with some useful guidelines…

We’re lucky in that recently a team including Brad Schoenfeld carried out a systematic review on this very question. For those that don’t know, a systematic review looks at all the studies on a particular question that meet some criteria. In this case they looked at all published studies longer than 4 weeks that measured muscle mass and compared rest intervals less than 60 seconds to rest intervals greater than 60 seconds where subjects were healthy and injury free. From an initial cohort of over 1000 studies the criteria narrowed it down to just 6.

So what did they find? At a very high level it looks like longer rest periods, i.e. more than 60 seconds, seem to favour hypertrophy (muscle growth) when compared to rest periods shorter than 60 seconds. Why? Simple really; more rest enables a higher total volume.

Digging deeper, results are more nuanced when you look at trained and untrained people. Trained people (those with a decent amount of strength training under their belts) are almost certain to benefit from longer rest periods. Untrained people, i.e. newbies, seem to make good progress regardless of rest period. Perhaps not surprising when you consider the concept of ‘newbie gains’.

The final piece of the puzzle to understand is intensity. Working to failure (the concept of repeating an exercise to the point where you reach your limit and have to stop), the research favours longer rest periods simply so you can recover and lift heavy again next set, keeping total volume high. The corollary being if you’re not working to maximum intensity or failure, shorter rest periods are sufficient.

So how to implement in your training?

  • if you’re relatively new, don’t worry too much, rest as you need, lift and gain experience.
  • if you’re well trained, lift to failure and use longer rest periods, 2-3 minutes.

A final note on structuring workouts, the researchers suggest:

“The best approach to a hypertrophy based resistance training session may be to focus on training volume by performing complex, multi-joint exercises and incorporating longer inter-set rest intervals in the first part of the training session, and then shift the focus to inducing a greater metabolic stress by performing isolation exercises and incorporating shorter inter-set rest intervals towards the end of the training session.”

Happy resting (and lifting)!

Grgic, Jozo & Lazinica, Bruno & Mikulic, Pavle & Krieger, James & Schoenfeld, Brad. (2017). The effects of short versus long inter-set rest intervals in resistance training on measures of muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review. European Journal of Sport Science.

The Healthy Snacks and Wellness Hot List for February 2018

Jodie Brandman BSc, DipION, mBANT is a nutritional therapist based in London. Her specialties include female health and digestion, using functional medicine & DNA testing to support clients on the path to optimal wellbeing.  This month she gives us the low-down on her top healthy snack wellness finds:

What’s the Deal with Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal has been used for thousands of years in Eastern and Western medicine, yet thanks to teeth whitening selfies and black latte art, we’re starting to see a lot more of this magical ingredient! Activated charcoal is totally different to what you would find on a BBQ, and is made by burning wood or coconut shells, which create tiny, negatively charged pores. These pores then attract and trap positively charged toxins and heavy metals, helping to remove them from the body. Whilst the jury is a little bit out on the effectiveness of this black powder, studies have shown that it can be fantastic at reducing gas, and could even protect against cardiovascular issues. Some companies are even looking at this ingredient as the antidote to our polluted London air!

Note: The trick is to ensure you take charcoal away from other supplements and any medication as it can bind and stop them from working!

My favourite charcoal products: Activated charcoal deodorant from Native Unearthed, and Mini Mighty Me from Purearth.

A New Restaurant, Created Especially for Gut Nourishment!

High Mood Food is an amazing new café designed by Masterchef contestant and veggie lover Joey O’Hare. After running many successful supper clubs and a gorgeous pop-up in Chelsea this summer, a permanent location has just opened in Marylebone, boasting mouth- watering recipes for all your digestive needs! From activated sprouts on sourdough, to a build-your-own fermented bowl of goodness, this café is a game changer amongst the London food offerings! In their own words the café is a celebration of natural, fermented, and living food… which is exactly what the world needs!

Find High Mood Food at 25 Duke St, Marylebone, W1U 1LD

Why Period Tracking Apps Are Your New Best Friend

Period tracking apps are my new favourite tool with clients, and something that I wish every female had on their phone. Gone are the days of questioning your moods, bloated-ness, energy levels and lower twinges, there are now amazing apps that tell you exactly where you are in your cycle, why you may be experiencing certain symptoms and how you can adjust yourself accordingly. With much more awareness of the dangers of hormonal contraceptives, these apps are also a great way of learning when you’re most fertile and when you’re not, so you can get to know your body without any nasty side effects. Not only that, but some apps even have food and lifestyle recommendations for each stage of the cycle, so you can nourish yourself appropriately along the way!

My favourite app is MyFLO by hormone guru Alisa Vitti; and for tracking fertile (or non-fertile) signs, Natural Cycles is great!

Jodie Brandman BSc, DipION, mBANT
Nutritional Therapist specialising in female health
@jodiebrandman
www.jodiebrandman.com