HEALTH & BALANCE

Helping you live a healthy happy life


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WHY CHOOSE ORGANIC?

organic-farming-busy-bee-holistic-healthIt’s ‪#‎OrganicSeptember‬. Let’s go ‪#‎organic‬. It HEALS you. It SUPPORTS Mother Nature. In this short post, I would like to tell you my key reasons for going organic.

Many of my clients don’t see the reason behind this VITAL change in their shopping habits. They consider themselves ‘healthy’ just because their fridge is full with vegetable and fruits. Well, if they come from toxic farming, then guess what – their goodness is almost killed by the way they have been grown. Many chemicals use oestrogen based ingredients which work as the ‘pill’ (stopping the bug from making babies). But did you know that this oestrogen then enters our body, creating an increase in our natural levels of oestrogen which in turns stimulates fat storage and even ‘breasts type’ chest in men. Yes, that’s right, guys, maybe the food you eat is giving you that feminine look;) Same applies to women, we might be struggling to lose weight, because there is too much oestrogen in the body which is also responsible for irregular periods.

Then what about fertilizers? Plants goodness comes from the soil. If it is devoid of minerals then the plants will be without minerals too. The fertilizers are the killers of soil goodness meaning that
THAT BANANA is actually A SILENT KILLER, bringing you more BAD than GOOD. UGLY TRUTH, I KNOW;(

Here’s my TOP TOP: It’s not about having many vegetables and fruits so you can call yourself ‘healthy’. It’s about the right quality. Choose less and buy ‘more’ for your health. It’s better to have just a few of the good ones than many of the bad ones – this way the budget will stay the same too:)

TRY IT THIS MONTH AND FEEL THE DIFFERENCE. Even if it is just buying one thing, every step helps. I recommend choosing vegetable & fruit boxes from Bonativo. If you prefer supermarkets, Sainsbury’s supermarkets have a good range. My favourite is Ocado as I can get both my meats and fresh produce at great prices and they do £20 off for your first order.

I would love to hear your experience with going organic and your reasons behind it. Share in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter :).

In Health & Balance,

Maya xxx

 


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HEALTH IS THE NEW WEALTH

The health and fitness industries are now the centre of wealth for many companies which have eagerly jumped on the bandwagon of creating the next superfood product or breakthrough exercise plan. Unfortunately, despite this booming health focus, our nation is still battling with obesity, cancer and diabetes. The medical industry is not doing us any good either. Preventable medical errors rank as No. 3 killer in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer while in the NHS hospitals medical staff errors lead to nearly 12,000 patients dying every year.

Being hugely disappointed by the medical industry and many of the new ‘healthy’ trends, I am now on a mission to discover of discovering the underlying beliefs that stop us from taking care of ourselves. In this post, I will share my findings and what I think is necessary to have TRUE HEALTH AND WEALTH.

Health-System

What are the main obstacles to Health?

Medical-driven thinking

Our government has taught us that our healthcare system will keep us healthy and turning to doctors is all we need to live happily and healthily ever after. Many of us see doctors as authority figures who know more than we do about our bodies. However, according to a report from the University of California, 50% of doctors do not have a personal physician – something that they advocate to patients, 20% don’t exercise, and only 7% believe that they drink too much alcohol. And we regularly give control of our health over to these imperfect models of unhealthy living.

Our culture and addictive medical system believe technology and testing will save us. We think that everything scientific must be true. However, I believe science must leave room for the wisdom of nature.  Thoughts and consciousness influence our lives. What we believe today shapes our tomorrow. Thus healers and doctors must recognise our emotional individuality and dig deeper in our past, childhood and present thinking to uncover the root causes of disease.

Damaging information

Much of the information online follows a ‘one-size fits-all’ approach. I experienced this when healing my digestive issues by reading websites and magazines, trusting ‘healthy-looking’ models. But it’s not about the looks. The pressure of body appearance has created this wave of ‘fit sick’ people who look healthy but suffer health issues on the inside. When I started bodybuilding, despite my improved physic, my digestion went on a downward spiral, my period disappeared and my sleeping got disturbed. That’s because we follow diets that work for others. We follow training programmes without paying attention to the body’s feedback. Therefore, I believe the diet and exercise of the future are bespoke. When I work with clients, no diet is the same but tailored to individual goals and lifestyle needs.

Damaged beliefs about health

Many still think that eating veggies and fruits is enough to be healthy. Sadly, health is viewed as time consuming and not involving tasty foods. The word treat still relates to junk food. But how can something so nutritionally poor, made at the expense of our health, be a treat?

This is worse in the corporate world. Pastries and cakes are prevalent, even at places like the staff food corners of Google and Mozilla where the sweets and crisps outnumber the fruits and nuts. Not even that but the quality of the healthy foods is poor too. No organic and local farmers support. So how can these companies be claiming  to be committed to staff wellbeing when they are feeding people garbage food? Our bodies are like cars whereby the  (no need the as no specific) food is the fuel. So if we want our petrol car to perform well, would we put diesel in it? Nutrition is what must take to improve our performance.

global-healthcareWhat is the new Health?

My dream is for people to realise that we are only as good as our Health is. We can’t achieve our personal and business goals without it. We would be of no good to our employers, family and friends, and most importantly ourselves if we become ill or have no energy.

But how do we start the healthy living in this jungle of confusing information?

  • Don’t be just another Patient

We should see Health as Bespoke and Holistic whereby the human body and mind are seen as a unity which needs to be healed not just cured. We need to address the imbalances that underline the symptoms because Illness occurs to show us that we are not living life well. The symptoms have their root causes often in emotions, beliefs, past stressful situations and childhood. When we take medication just to cover them up we don’t necessarily address the factors that led to the symptom in the first place.

  • Believe what you want to Experience

Our Beliefs are energetic forces that create the basis for our health. It is not stress itself that creates immune system problems. It is the perception that the stress is inescapable and we can’t prevent it. This perception suppresses the immune system because our bodies are influenced and structured by our beliefs.

Our subconscious holds the key to our healing. Many left-brain mainstream practitioners still regard this as woo-woo and do a test after test. However, we need to firstly analyse the thoughts, emotions and beliefs. They (insert comma) along with our brain communicate directly with our immune, nervous and endocrine systems and with the organs in our bodies.

  • Create Health Daily

Every day is a new opportunity to create health for the mind, body and spirit. Our bodies constantly renew and repair. Our red blood cells, for example, regenerate every 28 days and we get a new liver every 6 months. That’s why we need to include daily practices and take it one step at a time. Here are my first steps for better mind, body and spiritual health:

Body health – reduce the No. 1 killer – sugar and processed packaged foods – support your local farmers and switch to organic farming. It’s about time to start paying the farmer, not the doctor.

Mind health – practice being present and breathing for 5 min a day – give your mind a break and watch how your intuition gets stronger and you make better decisions.

Spirit health – start loving and accepting yourself the way you are. Often what we think of as wrong with us are only our expressions of our own individuality. Nature never repeats itself. We are meant to be different. There are people out there looking for exactly what you have to offer. Let them know you exist. Take care of yourself and life will do the same for you:).

With health & balance,

Maya xxx

 

 

 


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HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES TO COFFEE

black coffeeCoffee has a long history of being linked to many health issues, such as heart disease and cancer. At the same time, there are many studies, showing its benefits for brain health, antioxidant protection and improved performance. Where is this contradictory thinking coming from then? It comes from the fact that many studies didn’t consider that high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and lack of exercise, tended to be more widespread among coffee drinkers. These factors are more dangerous to our health than a small cup of coffee. However, coffee consumption still needs to be in moderation. As with all healthy foods, eating too much of any good ones can still do you harm, especially if you consume it at the wrong time. In this post, I will summarise the scientific dangers of high coffee consumption and offer you my favourite tasty alternatives.

Coffee contains cafestol which is considered a potent stimulator of LDL cholesterol levels. Cafestol is found in the oily part of coffee, and when coffee is brewed with a paper filter, the cafestol gets left behind in the filter. Other methods of preparation, such as the boiled coffee, French press coffee, or Turkish coffee, are much higher in cafestol. Therefore, people with high cholesterol levels or who would like to avoid this substance, should choose paper filtered coffee or instant coffee, since they have lower levels of cafestol. Espresso is usually in the middle.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health also concluded that if you’re drinking so much coffee that you experience sleeping problems, or feel stressed and anxious, then you should reduce your consumption. Keep in mind that in most studies, a “cup” of coffee has 100 mg of caffeine, not 330 mg which you would get from a grande Starbucks coffee. Another study also found that drinking two or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart disease in people with a specific — and fairly common — genetic mutation which slows the metabolism of caffeine in the body. Thus since we are all biologically different, some of us maybe too sensitive to caffeine which in turn will cause digestion problems and stomach pain.coffee beansWhat about the effects of coffee on food absorption rates? Here is what science says and what I personally support. When it comes to digestion, caffeine is believed to speed up gastric emptying which occurs when the undigested contents of your stomach move too rapidly into the small bowel. This means that the food would not be digested properly and when entering the small intestines, the vital nutrients would not be absorbed. Thus it’s best to drink coffee, an hour prior or after your meal – give your stomach enough time to digest the food.

And finally, as much as we like the rush of energy after the golden cup, this may be harmful in the long-run. Caffeine stimulates our adrenal system which controls stress levels and anxiety. If we overstimulate this system, then our stress levels will increase which in turn will reduce the benefits of exercise and fitness, leading to weight gain and performance deterioration.

In conclusion to get a healthy balance, I believe it’s best to often Have a Coffee Break and Try other Alternatives.

1. Cocoa Powdercacao powder

According to a study at Cornell University, cocoa powder has twice as more antioxidants than red wine, and three times more than green tea, especially when it’s hot as this is when the antioxidant are released.  A cup of hot cocoa is also rich in flavonoids which improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and improve heart health. The American Association for the Advancement of Science also recommends it for brain health as the flavonoids increase the blood and oxygen to the brain, helping us concentrate better. Cocoa is also a prebiotic and can increase the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, making it great for gut health. Bear in mind though that you should only buy 100% cocoa powder where no sugar is added.

2. Barley DrinkHEALTHY ALTERNATIVES TO COFFEE

Barley is a cereal plant which can be roasted and made into a drink. It is rich in fiber and phosphorous that is required for cell production and repair. It contains copper which is necessary for the metabolism of vitamin C, detoxification and joint health. Barley gives you a good blend of B vitamins to ensure brain health and high energy levels. I love this one which is a blend of malted barley, roasted figs, rye and chicory.

3. Dandelion Coffee healthy coffee

Made from roasting dandelion’s root, this type of coffee is believed to promote digestion and reduce stomach pain through its gentle laxative effect. It is a great detox alternative which also contains vital nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamins A, C and D, zinc, potassium and iron.

Give them a go for a Healthy Variety in your Diet. And if you still want to enjoy a cup of coffee, it is okay too but bee smart about it – have organic filtered coffee, preferably 40 minutes after a meal or if between meals add 1 tsp organic coconut oil or ghee. People with sensitive stomach or IBS, pleased do your best to avoid it.

With health & balance,

Maya xxx

 


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CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD – WHEN FOOD MEETS TRADITION

christmasChristmas is a magical time of the year when problems seem to disappear. It is a spiritual day when family and home matter the most and happiness seems so simple and real. I am sure you all know that feeling and even writing about Christmas brings nostalgic memories and a wish to be a kid again. Inspired by this magical time, I decided to find out more about the ways people celebrate around the world so if you fancy a change this Xmas, there are some great ideas to try.

Argentina

Floating lanternThe traditional dinner is usually served in the garden and the deliciously healthy meals include roasted turkey or peacock and stuffed tomatoes, with the popular treats of mince pies, Christmas’s bread and puddings. The Xmas drink is made of chopped fruits, mixed with juice and cider. A beautiful tradition is to light “globos”, colourful paper balloons that take off into the sky when lit from inside – a great way to add sparkle to your Xmas.

When it comes to presents, unfortunately, children have a long wait to go – they receive their presents on January 6th, known as “Three Kings Day”. On the eve of that day, kids place their shoes outside the front door to be filled with gifts by the Magi (the three wise men who visited Jesus after his birth). They also leave hay and water beside for the men’s horses. Many kids have adopted a more modern tradition of keeping their shoes underneath the Christmas tree or under their bed. So if you have forgotten to buy someone a present, you can always use the ‘Argentinian’ excuse :).

ScotlandChristmas in ScotlandIn some more traditional regions, the day is called ‘Sowans Nicht’ which comes from the word ‘sowans’, a dish with oat husks and fine meal steeped in water, usually eaten on this day. A famous tradition on Christmas Eve is burning the branches of a rowan tree to show that bad feelings between friends or relatives had been put aside . It is believed that if the fire goes out on Christmas Eve, the household would suffer bad luck in the coming year. Many children hang up stockings at their beds believing that Santa would come and fill them overnight. Some kids use pillow cases instead of socks, maybe hoping to give Santa more space to fill :).

The healthy meals on the Scottish Xmas dinner usually include Black buns (cakes made from fruits, almonds, spices and whisky) and Bannock cakes (made of oatmeal). Other delicious dishes are plum pudding, mince pies, spiced roast duck, smoked salmon coronets with prawns and seafood bisque (served with brandy sauce). A relatively healthy feast with the treat of proper Scottish Whiskey – seems like the Scottish Xmas is a real winner.

If you are not yet convinced, wait till I tell you that apparently Father Christmas has two addresses, Edinburg and the North Pole. If someone writes a letter and wants to send it to “Toyland” or “Snow land”, the letter goes to Edinburgh. But, if someone sends the letter to “The North Pole”, then it has to go to the North Pole because there is a place called North Pole. Now you know how to get Santa to your home – a glass with whiskey (not milk) and oatcakes (not cookies) are likely to please his Scottish nature :).

Ukrainechristmas in ukrainePeople believe that if you find a spider web in the house on Christmas morning, good luck will follow you throughout the year. According to an old Ukrainian folk tale, there once lived a woman so poor that she could not afford Christmas decorations for her family. One the morning of Christmas she found that spiders had trimmed her children’s tree with their webs. When the sun shone on them, the webs became silver and gold. Thus, people now often put artificial spider webs on their Christmas trees. If you want to try your ‘luck’ in the Ukrainian way, dig your Halloween decorations and give it a go – silver and gold might follow :).

 Greece

kallikantzaroi_free_christmas_by_gpapanto-d5or453The Greeks also enjoy Halloween motives at Christmas. According to their legend, malicious creatures called ‘Kallikantzaroi’ play pranks at Christmas and people must burn salt or an old shoe to make them go away. Other mysterious methods include hanging a pig’s jawbone by the door and keeping a large fire so they can’t sneak down the chimney.With the same aim, another well-known custom is hanging a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross in a shallow wooden bowl. During the day, the mother dips the cross and basil into holy water to sprinkle each room and keep the ‘Killantzaroi’ (mischievous spirits) away. Gift-giving takes place on St. Basil’s Day (January 1). On this day all water jugs in the house are emptied and refilled with new “St. Basil’s Water’’ a ritual, known as the “renewal of waters”.

Bulgariabulgarian christmas foodStaying within Eastern Europe let me tell you how we do it in my home country, Bulgaria. The most iconic traditions happen around Christmas Eve. During the day we prepare a special, nutrient-rich dinner of an odd number of dishes (7, 9 or 11). Some say it is because there are seven ancient Gods in Bulgaria or 7 days in the week while nine symbolises the nine months of pregnancy.

Our dinner is vegetarian and includes cooked beans, a meal from rice and spices wrapped in cabbage, or vines leaves, different kinds of salads, cheese, dried fruits and my favourite Christmas bread, called “pita”. We put a coin inside and the person who gets it will be blessed with luck throughout the year. Another fortune telling trick is to crack walnuts and if the kernels are rotten, then a hard year might be expected.

The Christmas Eve dinner table is not cleared until the next morning to provide sustenance for the ghosts of ancestors who may visit before Christmas morning. Here is you excuse for not cleaning the table after dinner then :).

This meal marks the end of the fast and on Christmas day meat is presented on the table.  It’s time to eat ‘Banitza’ a traditional cheese pie, along with roasted poultry or pork.Bulgarian Christmas traditionsIn certain small regions, boys and non-married young men, called koledari (Xmas carolers) visit the houses, singing songs for wealth and health for the hosts who in return reward them with money and food. They also carry long sticks where they put ‘kravai’ (round breads with holes in them).

GermanyChristmas in GermanyGermany is probably the most Christmas-obsessed country in its preparations and traditions. Preparation starts with the arrival of the advent calendar, on the first Sunday after November 26th (December, 6th) or St. Nicholas Day. On the night of 5th December (St. Nicholas Eve) children put their shoe or boot outside the door as the German legend holds that St. Nicholas spirit, the patron saint of children, goes from house to house, with his book of sins, containing children’s actions of the year. He will then fill the shoes of all good kids with delicious treats and leave twigs for all the naughty ones. A real excitement for the kids is it the advent calendar with pictures beneath each window to count the days until Christmas – a well-known Xmas tradition that we owe to the Germans.

The Christmas tree tradition also started in Germany.  Interestingly, kids are not allowed to decorate the tree as it holds a mysterious spell for all young eyes looking at it before Christmas Eve. Hence, the Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve, prior to the dinner. The father usually keeps the children in a separate room while the mother brings out the Christmas tree from a hidden place and decorates it with apples, candy, nuts, cookies, cars, trains, angels, tinsel, family treasures and candles or lights. Next to the tree, beautiful plates are laid for each family member and filled with fruits, nuts, marzipan, chocolate and biscuits. Once, the decorations are completed, a bell is rung as a signal for the children to join.German christmas foodThe Christmas Eve menu is not as healthy as the tree’s decoration through. It traditionally includes suckling pig, white sausage, macaroni salad, and “reisbrei” (a sweet cinnamon). The Christmas Eve is also called “Dickbauch” (meaning “fat stomach”). This comes from the myth that those who do not eat well on Christmas Eve will be haunted by demons during the night. So those of you who want to have that ‘cheat meal’ on Xmas, celebrating it like the Germans is your way forward – at least you have an honourable excuse – who wants to be haunted by demons all year around?! :).

These are the traditions I found most interesting to share with you, Xmas bees. If you come from any of these countries or know of any other interesting Xmas customs, feel free to share them. Sure we would all love something different on our Xmas menu this year.

HO HO HO from Me and Hope you all have a magically buzzing Xmas! Whatever way you celebrate, make sure YOU keep alive  the Xmas spirit of LOVE, FRIENDSHIP and FAMILY.

With health & balance,

Maya xxx

 


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THE HISTORY OF HEALTHY YOGHURT

natural yoghurtYoghurt is often named a miraculously healthy food, eaten by the Gods and believed to prolong life and protect from dangerous diseases. Unfortunately, not all of these benefits can be achieved from the majority of mainstream yoghurts. Its ‘good for you’ reputation has attracted thousands of food companies to jump on this ‘wonder food’ bandwagon, turning yoghurt into a money-making machine whose benefits are usually compromised at the expense of cost-savings and high market share.

Coming from Bulgaria, which is believed to be the birthplace of yoghurt, I decided to dedicate a few posts on revealing the history of this milky treat and the ways to recognise the right type from the supermarket shelves.

Creation Process

Yoghurt is made when cow’s milk is mixed with the live, active bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. The blend ferments and the microorganisms alter the milk’s sugar (lactose) into lactic acid, which gives yoghurt its tart, tangy flavour and firm, custard-like texture.

Greek YoghurtHow to make yoghurtGreek yoghurt is different than regular one as it is made by straining off the whey, [the watery part of milk that remains when milk is curdled] which makes it thicker and creamier.  As a result, Greek yoghurt contains less sugar, fewer carbohydrates, and more protein than regular yogurt.

History of yoghurt

Evidence suggests that yoghurt dates back to the 3rd millennium B.C., when goatherds fermented milk in sheep-skin bags to conserve it. Analysis of the bacteria genome points that the bacteria may have originated on the surface of a plant. The fermenting process was probably discovered spontaneously and unintentionally when milk got into contact with plants. Another theory suggests that the bacteria may have been transferred via the udder of domestic milk-producing animals.

The oldest evidence mentioning yoghurt came from Pliny the Elder, who lived in the 1st century A.D. and wrote about ancient barbarous nations that knew how “to thicken the milk into a substance with an agreeable acidity.” “Thickening” was actually used three millenniums before Pliny’s time by Anatolian goatherds to conserve milk by drying it out in the sun and transporting it in sheep- or goat-skin bags. The result was called “yoghurt”, derived from a Turkish verb that means “to be curdled or coagulated; to thicken.”

In the records of ancient India and Iran, the combination of yoghurt and honey was called “the food of the gods” while Persian traditions hold that Abraham owed his fecundity and longevity to the regular consumption of yoghurt. In Europe yoghurt’s healing power appeared in French clinical history, describing that Francis I suffered from severe diahorrea which allegedly got cured only with yogurt.

Bulgarian Yoghurtbulgarian yogurtYoghurt is a symbol of pride in Bulgaria as it is considered the country’s exclusive invention and heritage that has been part of the nation’s diet for centuries. With a mildly sour-taste, the Bulgarian yoghurt, called kiselo mlyako or sour-milk is considered the healthiest of all dairy products that are available to consumers today.

What is unique about the Bulgarian type is that only in Bulgaria it preserves its qualities in further generations of the same strain, which means that you can use your previous yoghurt to start a new batch. Scientists still haven’t found an explanation to this phenomenon but many believe that it is due to the country’s unique climate which creates the perfect conditions for Lactobacillus Bulgaricus to develop. Thus for yogurt to be considered Bulgarian, it should be made with two specific cultures – Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus. The bacteria that contributes to transforming milk into yogurt, giving it its unique qualities, Bacillus Bulgaricus, grows only in Bulgaria and hence it is difficult to make Bulgarian yogurt anywhere else in the world without having the proper Bulgarian yoghurt starter culture.the history of yoghurtBulgaria’s relationship with yoghurt started when the stock-breeders from the Thracian tribes, ancient inhabitants in the Bulgarian lands 4000 years B.C., placed sheep’s milk in lambskin bags around their waists and fermented yoghurt through their body heat. Another theory is associated with the “Proto-Bulgarians” (ancient people who inhabited the territory of Central Asia and present Bulgaria). It is believed that yoghurt came from the lactic sore drink “koumiss”, that Proto-Bulgarians used to prepare from mare (horse) milk. After Proto-Bulgarians settled down on the Balkans, they started breeding sheep and making “koumiss” from sheep milk, too. They also produced yoghurt under another name – “katak” (puree) by adding “diluted ” cheese into the fresh sheep milk. This product was usually made at the end of summer, when the milk from the animals had higher concentration of dry matter.the inventor of yoghurtLater in 1905, Stamen Grigorov, a Bulgarian student of medicine in Geneva, examined the micro flora of the Bulgarian yoghurt, discovering an agent causing the fermentation process – a specific bacillus. He also found two more bacteria: a Streptobacillus and a harmful Streptoccus thermophilus which blended with that Lactobacillus created a perfect symbiosis. These two bacteria are not part of the micro-flora in the human intestinal tract but are very beneficial to the digestion processes inside. Interested in Dr. Grigorov’s findings, professor Ilya Mechnikov, a Russian Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology and Medicine, discovered that more people lived to the age of 100 in Bulgaria than in the other 36 countries he studied. He attributed this phenomenon to the country’s unique traditional food – yoghurt.

 Commercial Yoghurtthe first yoghurtYoghurt was industrialised by Isaac Carasso who in 1919 started a small yoghurt business in Barcelona, giving it the name Danone (“little Daniel”) after his son. He used a modernised method that relied on the same principle used by the shepherds of Anatolia: bacterial fermentation of milk. The brand later expanded to the United States under an Americanised version of the name: Dannon. A variety of yoghurt dishes emerged afterwards. In Bulgaria, a summer favourite was Tarator – a cold soup made of water-diluted yoghurt, cucumbers, dill, garlic, walnuts and sunflower oil. Yoghurt with fruit jam was patented in 1933 by the Radlická Mlékárna dairy in Prague. In America it was first introduced in 1929 by an Armenian immigrant family who founded Colombo & Sons Creamery in Andover, Massachusetts using a traditional Armenian recipe. This business was bought by General Mills in 1993, but yoghurt is still made at the same location today. In 1950 health guru Gayelord Hauser pushed yogurt into the public consciousness when he published “Look Younger, Live Longer” which coined yoghurt as a wonder food. As a result, by 1968, sales of yoghurt had increased by 500%.shopping for yoghurtToday yoghurt is present in almost everyone’s food plan, with a huge variety of brands offering their yoghurt treats, ranging from 30p to £2 or even more for a small pot. Bombarded with ‘good for you’ advertising messages and enticing packaging, consumers often feel perplexed by the abundance of choice in today’s supermarkets. However, as with many other foods, left by our ancestors, today’s yoghurt is not what it used to be. Being brought up with homemade yoghurt, I know the real taste and only just recently have discovered two mainstream brands that ‘get it right’. In the next post, I will reveal their faces and tell you why yoghurt is so vital for our health.

With health & balance,

Maya xxx

 


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14 FOODS TO GET YOU IN SHAPE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

As the romantic scent of Valentine’s Day is filling in the air and the shops are starting to bombard us with love hearts and fluffy teddies, screaming ‘‘Hug me’, ‘‘I am yours’, many of us may still not feel prepared for the frenzy of this day.

Just over a week till its magic entirely hits us, it always seems to be a day when even if you are not in a relationship, you start questioning your love life trying to find ways to improve it. Meanwhile, some girls make promises to get into perfect shape and record this as part of their Valentine’s present. Whatever the reason, it is proven that a fresh start or a relationship rejuvenation require you to prepare your body for that change.  Therefore, I believe the way to freshness and energising starts with purifying your body, cleansing it from all bad habits.

In this post, referring to my own experience I want to offer you my 14 Best Foods for a great start of February, 14th.  I have also listed the places where you can find some of the ingredients, along with my favourite recipes.

1 . Citrus Fruits

Fruits detox

  • Lemons – aid the restoration of the body’s acid-alkali balance, keeping your insides at a steady pH. This means that your body is better able to support healthy bacteria and assist the removal of environmental and dietary toxins. Try drinking the juice of one lemon in a mug of hot water before breakfast to aid digestions. Use it as a salad dressing as well, instead of vinegar – some great bitterness, packed with vitamin C. You can even try to eat it separately with a bit of honey for an extra metabolism uplift.

  • Grapefruit and Kiwiboth metabolism-boosting, their high vitamin C attacks free radicals and eliminate the body toxins. Try as a snack or with yoghurt. Their sour taste goes well with protein-rich foods, such as cheese and fish as it provides the enzymes necessary to digest them.

2. Berries – beat 39 other fruits and vegetables in their antioxidant power.Goji berries

  • Acai berries – one of the most potent forms of antioxidants in the world – and powerful metabolism boosters. Antioxidants protect the body from the over-production of free radicals – chemicals which can cause damage to proteins, fats, carbohydrates and DNA in the body.

  • Goji berries – the husky red fruits, which can often be found in a dried form in health food shops, are like little bombs of vitamins, iron and beta carotene – a compound which has been linked to aiding the body fight cancer and heart disease. Pick up a bag as a healthy afternoon snack, or sprinkle a handful over your porridge cereal in the morning for a serious antioxidant boost.

3. Green vegetables

  • Broccoli, brussels sprouts, and leaves like spinach and kale, are not only high in dietary fibre, which aids digestion and therefore the excretion of toxins, but also contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, E, iron, beta carotene and calcium, all of which are essential nutrients, aiding the body’s natural detoxification process. To get the most out of your vegetables, eat them raw in a salad or boil them lightly. Be careful not to soak them in too much water as it absorbs the majority of their vitamin content. I use a microwave box for stewing which can be found very cheap in Asda . Do not overeat on broccoli and sprouts though as they may lead to bloating and gases.
  • Asparagus is a diuretic, and can help your body get rid of unwanted toxins faster. It is also great at reducing bloating and inflammation in the digestive system, so get steaming for a flatter tummy in a flash.

4. The Kissers’ Favourite Vegetables

  • Garlic – It might cause your love one to keep a distance for a bit, but there’s no denying the good garlic will do for your health. Each clove is packed not just with toxin-battling antioxidants, but also a naturally occurring chemical called allicin. When digested, allicin reacts with the blood to create a product capable of killing off many harmful bacteria and viruses that your body may be harbouring. Garlic is also thought to be effective in lowering cholesterol, regulating blood pressure and encouraging a healthy heart. Add a finely chopped raw clove to a salad, or pop into a hot meal toward the end of cooking time to make the most out of it. And a little secret to combat the breath effect – chew some coffee beans or parsley and you get a free and healthy teeth clean.
  • Onions – particularly red and green ones – are packed with sulphur-containing amino acids, which help your body to flush toxins out of your system by making them water soluble. They also contain the building blocks for an essential liver compound called glutathione, which it needs in order to carry out your body’s natural detoxification process. Fry some in a coconut oil (the best oil for frying as it has a high smoking point and hence it won’t cause heat toxins on your food but give it a nice sweet flavour). If you include it in fatty meals it also reduces cholesterol levels.

5. Antioxidant Teas

  • White Tea – when it comes to cleansing, white tea is definitely a number one choice. White tea is made from the young bud of the tea plant, which is when the leaves are at their most potent. The leaves are then dried naturally, helping to preserve their natural properties. As such, white tea is incredibly high in polyphenols, antioxidants used to fight off free radicals in the body and catechins have been found to reduce cholesterol in the body. Swop out your usual builder’s brew for a cup and allow the cleansing to energise your body. My favourite is Clipper’s Organic White Tea from Holland & Barrett or the London Tea Company White Tea and Elderflower from Sainsbury’s.

  • Green Tea – the Chinese are famous for their slim and healthy bodies and they are the biggest green tea consumers. Its consumption also reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 28 % and if you start drinking it regularly before 25, it can even delay breast cancer. However, avoid having it with a meal as it inhibits iron absorption by 90%. For best results add lemon or honey as they enhance its absorption and protect the healthy ingredients from degradation in the stomach.

6. Flaxseeds

Flax seeds detox

Just two tablespoons of flaxseed is enough to provide you with over 100% of your daily allowance of omega 3 fatty acids; good fats which, support healthy cell development and promote a healthy heart. The seeds are also packed with metabolising dietary fibre, which aids the body’s natural detoxification process by helping digestion. Add 1 tbs to your morning porridge or sprinkle over salads. Aim to drink 150 ml of liquid at the same time to aid their absorption.

7. Herbal Teas

  • Nettles – taken in a tea, capsule or soup, nettles are one of the most detoxifying dietary supplements. Not only are they full of antioxidants, but they also have an anti-inflammatory effect, calming skin complaints like eczema and acne, and aiding digestion. Meanwhile, their diuretic properties help to eliminate waste products from the body and prevent fluid retention. They are also particularly high in iron and the easiest way to get these benefits is to pick a nettle tea and drink it after a meal.

8. Water – making up 70% of our bodies, it helps the body eliminate pesky toxins while keeping our brains hydrated and fully functional. Be sure to drink your recommended eight glasses of water a day, and remember to drink more if you exercise. To get easily used to this habit, try adding a slice of lemon/lime or even cucumber for a great fresh taste, packed with vitamin C.

9. Herbs and Spices

  • Turmericthe golden spice contains a naturally occurring chemical called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and infection-fighting properties, helping our body eliminate unwanted bugs and accelerate toxin removal. Combine some green vegetables, garlic and legumes with with a teaspoon or two to make a healthy curry. Serve with brown rice for some extra vitamin B which looks after the brain and will keep you in a good mood – a vital ingredient for a happy Valentine’s recipe :-).
  • Parsley – its high levels of vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C and K parsley make it an excellent cleanser and a great anti-inflammatory remedy for the kidneys and bladder, too. It is a great addition to every salad or you can sprinkle it over roasted vegetables.
  • Cinnamon – metabolism-boosting cinnamon is great for stimulating the body’s natural detoxification process due to its high levels of antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Sprinkle on cereal or drink in tea to reap the benefits.
  • Ginger – If you’re feeling a bit run down, ginger is a great remedy. It is anti-inflammatory, can help to boost your metabolism and speed up your body’s natural detoxification process. It also has a warming and stimulating effect on circulation and can prevent nausea. Get it in some tea variations or grate some in meals.

10. Chillies – packed with antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, of which it contains the highest amount out of all the food groups. They’re great for boosting your metabolism, too, and speeding along the detoxing process. If you take 2 teaspoons  a day, your fat burning rate increases by 25 %. If its hotness becomes too much to handle, calm it down with some yoghurt.

11. Wheatgrasswheatgrass juiceA popular ingredient in detox juices and smoothies, wheatgrass is thought to have unique and powerful cleansing abilities thanks to the scores of different vitamins and minerals it contains. Benefits range from flushing out the liver and blood to curing acne, promoting youthfulness and even preventing grey hair. Recent studies show that wheatgrass juice has a powerful ability to fight tumors without the usual toxicity of drugs that also inhibit cell-destroying agents. It also works as a sleep aide. Merely place a tray of living wheatgrass near the head of your bed. It will enhance the oxygen in the air and generate healthful negative ions to help you sleep more soundly. And drinking its juice sweetens the breath and firms up and tightens gums. I buy mine in a powder form from Real Foods and mix it with some yoghurt and a tint of honey for a morning detox. You can also add a piece of fruit to neutralise its slightly bitter taste.

12. Cabbage

Ever heard of the Cabbage Soup Detox Diet? Cabbage is heralded for its powerful cleansing and metabolising properties, thanks to its potent balance of sulphur, vitamin C and iodine. If you opt for Sauerkraut you will aid your digestive health due to the ‘live bacteria preserved in the jar’ – a great probiotic source. Have it with chicken or fish as its sour taste improves protein digestion. If you eat it raw try my ‘Vitamin Mix Salad’ – grated carrots, beetroot or turnip, cabbage and parsley. All flavoured with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

13. Almonds

If you’re feeling sluggish after a heavy season of partying and overindulgence, then almonds are a great go-to snack. Just a handful of these super kernels contains half the amount of your recommended vitamin E, 8% calcium and 19% magnesium. Pick 24 of them, wash them as water expands fibre in nuts which helps you feel fuller. Spray a baking tray with olive oil, bake for 5-10 minutes and sprinkle some cinnamon – a brilliant metabolism boost and treat to the brain. Or you can buy some almond butter and spread it on a slice of bread or combine with fruit. Try it Raw and Organic from Real Foods.

14. Pro-Biotic Yoghurt – eating natural, pro-biotic yoghurt for breakfast with citruis fruits is one of the best ways to battle the bloat. It contains natural bacteria which promotes healthy digestive function as it restores the gut microflora in the intestines. However, its good bacteria disappears under heat, so stay away from such interventions.

Finally, remember one important rule when cleansing – Do Not Overdo It!  Just introduce these steps gradually in your diet and try to keep them for longer to get the full benefits – more energy, eased digestion and a happy stomach:)

With health & balance,

Maya xxx


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THE TRUTH ABOUT PROTEIN DIETS

Protein-rich foodsSince we were born Mother Nature has provided us with abundance of high-protein foods to ensure our growth and cell regeneration.  A primary building block of the body, this vital nutrient has been an integral part of the human diet for decades, but in recent years, many people have taken its benefits to extremes by either consuming too much of it or excluding its animal sources completely, trusting vegetarian recommendations.

Delving into rigorous scientific research and medical publications, supported by my personal experience, I decided to discuss the purpose of protein in our diet while looking at some misconceptions and incorrect recommendations.

Protein is the building block of our muscles, organs, bones and connective tissue.  It comes form the Greek word ‘protus’, meaning ‘prime importance’ for a reason. All enzymes are proteins that control digestion and energy production. Some proteins also function as hormones, such as insulin, oxytocin, and somatotropin. Insulin transports glucose to our cells where it can be used for energy, oxytocin stimulates contractions during childbirth while somatotropin is responsible for muscle growth. The hemoglobin protein also transports oxygen to cells while actin and myosin are involved in muscle contraction and movement. Another vital function of protein is its ability to protect us from infections in the form of antibodies. These proteins are located in the blood stream and are used by the immune system to defend us against bacteria and viruses. They work by immobolising the ‘bad invaders’ which allows the white blood cells to destroy them and fight off  diseases.

However, one of its subsidiary benefits has made it the perfect panacea for obesity – its ability to keep us feeling full for longer, suppressing our appetite. And this is how the success of the Atkins diet found its gimmick.The atkins dietThe diet recommends eating as much as you can, regardless of calories as long as you only consume high-protein, fatty meals, and no sweet fruit and vegetables. The book became a best-seller, knocking Harry Potter off the shelves, turning Dr. Atkins into the new Messiah of Fitness. With its success came the criticism from the medical community, proclaiming its principles as a scientific heresy whose recommendations were ultimately against the long-term human health.

In 2008, a BBC Horizon Documentary commissioned its own scientific investigation to deduce evidence that the Atkins diet’s success came from protein’s properties to suppress appetite, making people consume fewer calories. The additional benefit further goes into the body’s dynamics to burn more calories using protein as energy, called the thermic effect of eating – when the body expends almost twice as more energy to break down protein than carbohydrates.whole grainsThus, the Atkins diet is just a restrictive eating plan that offers short-term success, turned into a food craze that guarantees long-term health problems. Increasing protein is smart, but eliminating other foods vital to our health is pure idiocy – high intake of saturated fat causes heart problems and the exclusion of carbohydrates leads to deficiency in B vitamins, fibre and phytonutrients that support the immune and nervous systems. Our brain runs on glucose and this is its best energy source. When we don’t consume enough carbohydrates, we are literally starving the brain.

In fact, the Atkins diet, also known as the ketogenic diet was created in 1920s to treat children with epilepsy since this way of eating can reduce the development of seizures in the brain. The body starts producing ketones which are made when fat is used for energy. However, ketones are toxic and create extra burden to the liver and the kidneys, further damaging the brain and the muscle tissues. This can also lead to water retention and migrane and make our blood acidic, leading to amonia build-up. Ammonia is a waste compound that is excreted in the urine. When its levels increase this indicates problems with our waste-removal organs –  the kidneys and the liver and if the accumulation continues, our cells will be severely damaged by this poisonous substance.

The problem is not in the protein content but in the exclusion or very low levels of carbohydrates and the high amount of saturated fat. Our body is not designed to live on a restricted diet. It must receive a variety of nutrients that meet the individual’s lifestyle needs. Generic recommendations, such as 50% of daily calories must come from carbohydrates, 30% from protein and 20% from fat are not valid anymore because we are all different in relation to metabolism, energy requirements, daily activities and body composition. Protein should never be compromised in our diet. Considering its vital role in the body, this would be detrimental to our skin, muscles, bones, immune system and digestion.osteoporosisMany studies link a high-protein diet to lower blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes. In elderly, protein increases the circulation of IGF-1 – the human growth hormone – which can protect from hip fracture and prevent the development of osteoporosis. Moreover, this vital nutrient improves the liver function as two amino acids – methionine and choline participate in the transformation of fat into lipoproteins that are then removed from the liver. Therefore, if we were to reduce our calorie intake, it should be at the expense of saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, not protein.

Here you will probably ask the vital question of how much protein we need to take then. It’s simple – depends on your fitness goals and lifestyle needs. For example, I take around 260g of protein per day because I am currently training for a fitness figure competition and my aim is to build muscle. If your goal is to loose fat, protein must also be high as you don’t want to loose any muscle during your fat loss programme. If you are moderately active, I would probably say around 2g per kg of body weight.

The quality of protein is also paramount as this defines its biological value which is the rate of retention and utilisation of protein in the body. Thus the higher the biological value, the better the body will use it. Milk and egg protein rank high along with all meat sources. Vegetable protein is unfortunately not complete – it doesn’t contain all amino acids needed by the body. However through food combining, a complete profile can be obtained. In addition, vegetarians need to eat higher amounts of certain nutrients to obtain the same amount as per 100g of chicken, for example. Therefore, when choosing your protein sources, free range eggs and poultry, fish and extra lean red meat, preferably organic are your best choices. Free change means better developed animal muscles and hence a better quality protein. Extra lean cuts guarantee you less saturated fat while organic feeding means no antibiotics and toxins for the body.

As you can see I highly support the need of more quality protein in our diets. In subsequent posts, I will tell you more about the building blocks of protein – amino acids – so you can fully see its vital functions in the body.

Hope you all start getting more in your diet and let me know what you think on this topic.

With health & balance,

Maya xxx