Walk your way to health this National Parks Fortnight

Woman walking through a forest glade

Many people have walked much more since the start of lockdown.  In fact, a recent report from Transport for London said that 57% of respondents walk more than they did previously.  And that’s something very positive to come out of the pandemic.

Walking is great for overall wellness. It boosts your metabolism, improves physical health and spending time outdoors is also good for mindfulness and mental health.

This National Parks Fortnight Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares why getting outside and walking is so beneficial for our health.

It burns calories

With so many of us finding life more sedentary than previously, managing weight effectively has also been more difficult.  Whilst there are a number of factors associated with trying to lose weight, there is also an equation of energy input and energy output.  In short, if you take in more calories than you expend, over a period of time, weight gain is more likely.

Close up on woman's feet on a pair of scales with a measuring tape

Brisk walking, especially when you find yourself slightly out of breath, can burn around 80 calories a mile, for an averaged sized person.  And it doesn’t actually take that long to walk three of four miles; you can probably burn off your breakfast or lunch! Regular exercise also helps uprate the metabolism generally, so your body will be more efficient.  Plus, walking after a meal also helps the insulin response, therefore less of the meal is going to be stored as fat.

It’s great for mental wellbeing

When the going gets tough, how often do we say, ‘I need to get out for a while’? We all know that taking in some fresh air can really clear the head and help relieve stress.  There is also much research to suggest that deep breathing helps relax the body generally, pushing it towards the parasympathetic nervous system response.  This is the opposite to the body being in ‘fight or flight’ which is the normal stress reaction. This can cause anxiety, mood swings, digestive issues and poor sleep, if happening too often.

Happy woman in field showing spring time

Use the time you go out walking (try for around 30 minutes a day) to totally switch off.  Avoid looking at your phone, unless to listen to a podcast or some music, and be in the moment.  Make a point of taking in the surroundings or noting what’s going on; it will help you switch off from any current stressful events.

Side profile of a person higlighting their brain functioning

Additionally, walking is great for boosting blood flow around the body, and this includes to the brain.  Good blood flow helps supply the brain with oxygen and nutrients for it to function correctly. Plus, it delivers glucose, the brain’s main fuel.  Interestingly, the brain utilises around 30% of all glucose produced by the body, meaning it requires lots of energy. You’ll be amazed at how much sharper your brain works when given sufficient oxygen and fuel.

It’s great for the joints

Just like your brain, your joints, muscles and bones also need good circulation.  Walking can help lessen stiffness in the joints and often relieve pain too. Plus, good blood flow helps bring nutrients to the joints, muscles and bones which will make them stronger and reduce any inflammation and pain.

Close up of knee representing joint pain

People suffering from persistent knee pain for example, often think that walking and exercise won’t help but the reverse is true; everything will just stiffen up without good movement, making pain worse. Importantly, walking is categorised as weight-bearing exercise so helps keep bones strong and prevents osteoporosis.

Helpful walking tips

Close up on woman's trainers walking in forest

  • Always wear good footwear; trainers or walking boots are ideal
  • If going for a longer distance, take some water with you and a light snack if needed
  • Take your phone so you can always make contact in emergencies
  • Build up your distance slowly if you’ve not exercised for a while to avoid injury
  • Enjoy your surroundings – take time to appreciate the wonders of nature

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

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New Year Goals: how to have a healthy and happy 2021

A 2021 note book to show goal planning

New year, new start as the famous saying goes!  With 2020 having been such a difficult year, most people will be welcoming a new year with open arms.  And with that comes new resolutions around health and fitness goals. 

If you’ve got into some bad habits during 2020 (and let’s face it, who hasn’t!), then make this year the one where you get back on track both mentally and physically.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us why good nutrition is the cornerstone to health, and how you can feel better than ever this year.

Set realistic goals

Being realistic about what you can achieve is so important.  If you’ve developed a bad sugar habit during 2020, then don’t tell yourself you’ll never eat cake again, for example.  This leads to feelings of despair and it’s not sustainable.  However, why not allow yourself one treat day a week when you can eat cake, or indulge in your favourite guilty pleasure?  A life of constant denial is not going to make anyone happy and is unnecessary.

A note book with 2021 goals list

It’s also worth thinking about adopting the 80/20 rule: eat a healthy and well-balanced diet 80% of the time.

Prioritise mental wellbeing

Issues with mental health are going to be very front focussed during 2021 for all the reasons we know.  Achieving mental well-being should be top of your priority list for and that also means getting your nutrition right.

A plate with a picture of a brain on to represent eating healthily to support a sharper brain

The brain needs to be nourished with nutrients to provide the right fuel to keep hormones in good balance but also to produce brain neurotransmitters that affect mood and motivation. Brain-loving nutrients include the full family of B-vitamins, zinc and magnesium so make sure you’re eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fish and legumes (all rich sources).

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

The brain also needs essential omega-3 fats to work correctly, with the best source being oily fish, but flax or chia seeds are also good if you’re vegetarian or vegan.  They are called ‘essential’ as the body can’t make them, so ensure they feature in your diet a few times each week or more.

Stimulants such as highly caffeinated drinks, alcohol and sugar (in all its forms) are not great friends of the brain, so be honest about your consumption and take steps to reduce if this refers to you (remember the 80/20 rule).

Love your gut

Everything that goes on in the gut affects the brain, mainly down to the connective tissue flowing back and forth. Gut health is critical to overall wellness so start being kind to it.  It’s important to feed the beneficial gut bacteria to enable them to flourish, since their role is key to good gut heath.  Foods such as asparagus, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, legumes, bananas, flaxseeds, turmeric, green tea and dandelion coffee are all great.

Close up of woman's tummy with her hands making a heart shape in front

It’s also important to drink plenty of pure water to help keep the bowels regular otherwise toxins can build and this affects mental wellbeing.

Fermented foods are also great for the gut so include some natural yoghurt, tofu, kimchi and kombucha regularly.

Be honest about your weight

Winter weather is not conducive to peeling off the layers, hence many of us have piled on the kilos, plus the festive season is always challenging for the waistline.  When we know we’re overweight, this can often affect mental health, but we all need to be realistic about what is achievable and, most importantly, sustainable.

Close up on woman's feet on a pair of scales with a measuring tape

Rapid weight loss generally leads to rapid weight gain when normal eating is resumed.  Better to set yourself a realistic target (around 1-2 lbs per week weight loss is good) and a sensible time frame.  Many people find that once they have taken control of their eating and they start to see some weight loss this is a great incentive and they’re more able to achieve targets.

Maintain a good work/life balance

The lines between work and social time have become very blurred during 2020 and this is not set to change that much for a while.  Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge that we all need sufficient downtime, rest and recuperation, so make this a priority during 2021.

Ven diagram with work, life, and health crossing and leading to the word balance

Make a clear plan for work time each day (whatever that needs to be for you) and how to fill your free time.  Maybe 2021 is the time to learn a new skill or find things that fulfil and stimulate the brain. This way mind and body will both be in better balance.

May 2021 bring you health, happiness and fulfilment.

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

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Five health-boosting seasonal foods for November

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A range of roasted vegetables

With winter rapidly approaching and the ever-present need to protect our immune system, why not add some wonderfully colourful and health-giving foods to your daily diet? 

Eating seasonally means you are getting the best out of these foods and if you can buy locally, even better.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five foods in-season right now and awaiting arrival onto your plate!

Turnips

Now is the perfect time to be eating root vegetables and it’s no coincidence that many are in season during autumn and winter. At this time of year, we need to be grounded within ourselves to help protect the body from unwanted illness.  Turnips fit the bill perfectly.

Roasted turnip side dish

Turnips are part of the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family, which includes Brussels sprouts and kale. They provide plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C as well as calming minerals including calcium.  They’re also packed with fibre and contain a small amount of protein.

Turnips are not always top of the shopping list because people are unsure what to do with them.  They have such a delicious naturally ‘rooty’ flavour, they need no more than to be peeled, cut, and placed in the oven to roast with a little olive oil and the tasty herb, thyme.

Beetroot

If you want to brighten up your plate whilst enriching your health, beetroots are the perfect answer. Often termed ‘super foods’ they really live up to their name.  Their rich red/purple colour means they are packed with anthocyanins – plant compounds high in antioxidants which help protect us against disease. They are also rich in energising folate and heart-loving potassium, as well as being great for detoxifying the liver.

Roasted sliced beetroot

Whilst you might not want to eat them cold in a salad right now, why not cook them and serve them warm with sliced pears, goats’ cheese and toasted walnuts?  They’re also delicious roasted in the oven and served with other root vegetables as a side.

Venison

A sometimes-forgotten meat, and not as readily available as other red meats, venison is lower in fat and slightly higher in protein.  Because deer are predominantly ‘free-range’ their meat is intrinsically lower in fat, including cholesterol.

A cooked venison steak on a chopping board

Essentially deer are only fed on grass, wildflowers, clover and legumes, all naturally rich in essential nutrients, making it a great food choice.  This also makes the meat super-tasty and tender, therefore it only needs lightly cooking as a steak and can be served up with a choice of vegetable sides. 

Oysters

Whilst we often talk about oysters in February, specifically around Valentine’s Day, they are in season right now.  It is their richness in the mineral zinc, essential for fertility and reproductive health, that has given them their claim to fame as an aphrodisiac. However, zinc is also essential for immune health.

A plate of fresh oysters

Oysters are also rich in protein and low in fat, making them a great meal choice or decadent starter.

Apples

Their list of health benefits is nearly as long as the number of varieties of apples!  Whatever the variety, they all contain some wonderful nutrients and provide benefits especially to the digestive tract.  They help feed the good bacteria that naturally reside in the gut and which are essential to overall wellness.

Apples made into a heart shape on a wooden background

Apples contain an abundance of polyphenols – plant compounds that provide so many health benefits, especially antioxidant protection. They have also been found to help reduce cholesterol levels, and this is mainly down to their high fibre pectin content.  This fibre also helps to keep the bowels moving smoothly. And for those watching their waistline, apples have a stabilising effect on blood sugar levels, which is key in maintaining weight in the healthy region.

So, enjoy some variety and colour and look for foods in season right now for the greatest health benefits.

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock