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Healthy Lifestyle

Coffee: 4-5 cups allowed

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Coffee has had a bad name in health circles for a long time due to outdated science. I am here to help you enjoy your coffee and feel confident that you are starting your day in a healthy way! Drinking 4-5 cups (cup = 8 ounces or 230ml) throughout the day is a good thing and if you like your coffee should be enjoyed, not disregarded as another thing on the list of things to try to change.

Hydration

It’s a myth that coffee is a diuretic. Coffee promotes hydration. Depending on how hydrated you are the body will retain almost all of the fluid contained in your cup. Healthy guidelines from around the world all advocate coffee as being a drink which can contribute to your fluid intake for the day.

Cognitive Function

When we are tired and feeling low this is when coffee holds most benefit for raising our levels of alertness, as well as feelings of positivity and wellness.  Having a quick coffee break at work can help you be more alert and productive.  All that advice from road safety organisations about stopping and having a coffee break if you are tired, is based on sound scientific evidence.  It really does work.  Everyone responds slightly differently to caffeine though.  Some people will be more sensitive to caffeine than others. If you find it difficult to sleep after a late night coffee either change to a decaffeinated version or don’t have coffee late at night.   I am a first thing in the morning , but not after 6pm drinker, unless I’m staying up late.

Blood pressure

Some people think coffee is associated with an increase in blood pressure. If you don’t normally drink coffee and suddenly start drinking quite a lot, your body will respond with an increase in blood pressure, but will also accommodate the increase after about a week.  Unless you have been specifically advised not to drink coffee by a health professional there is no reason for you to drink other drinks if you prefer coffee.

Type 2 diabetes

Brewed coffee is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Coffee contains chromium and magnesium both of which help the body use insulin; these may be the mediating factors. As diabetes carries an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, drinking your coffee means you simultaneously reduce your risk of these conditions.

Cancers

Historically people thought coffee led to cancer but this is old science and associated with imbibing ridiculous amounts of caffeine on a daily basis – not the 4-5 cups that we talk about here.  Drinking coffee is associated with a reduced risk of many different types of cancer including breast and endometrial cancer, liver cancer and liver cirrhosis, bowel and aggressive prostate cancers.

Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease

Coffee has been shown to reduce incidence of Parkinson’s Disease and reduce risk of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  For those who have already developed Parkinson’s Disease it may in some cases even reduce the ‘shakes’.

Coffee is a complex drink containing many thousands of different compounds and the health benefits of coffee are numerous and varied.  It’s difficult to link particular compounds with particular effects but the benefits are associated with moderate  drinking of 4-5 cups per day, and throughout the day.  Brewed, no-sugar, Americano, espresso, and non-fat versions preferred.

Healthy Lifestyle

Skinny cappuccino and more willpower please!

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If you have made any new year’s resolutions this year you may be calling upon your willpower right now to keep you on track.

We wake refreshed and ready to take on the world, be productive, and make healthy decisions about what we eat and how active we are.  By eleven o’clock some of these decisions have been scuppered as we find ourselves walking into some coffee-house lured by a ‘skinny cappuccino and (‘willpower, willpower’) blueberry muffin please’!  So how can we make our willpower work better?

Researchers believe that by structuring our lives so that many of our decisions are automatic rather than active,  we can strengthen our resolve around goals. We spend about a quarter of our waking hours making decisions, using up our well of willpower.  When  tempting decisions come along we may already have reached ‘decision fatigue’, where we choose the easiest option. This may of course be ‘blueberry muffin and no exercise with that thank you’!

Learning how to work with your willpower will help keep you on track for actually achieving your resolutions.

1. Avoid tempting situations.  Out of sight and out of mind really does work.  So if you are cutting down on biscuits then don’t buy any.  Or keep them in an opaque container in the back reaches of the cupboard. Or only buy the ones which your children or partner love but which you don’t favour.  Make it easy to say no.

2. Plan. And plan some more. Make an action plan as to how you will achieve this particular goal.  Write down all the steps to get you to where you want to be.  Walking more? Buy the trainers, the pedometer, the kit (including the waterproof jacket, the hat and the gloves). Schedule the activity into your diary.  Know the route you intend to take. Is anyone going with you?  Make it so walking more is no longer a decision, it’s just what you do Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings.  Keep a record and feel proud.

3. Pin it.  Whatever you are trying to do write it down and pin somewhere you will see it regularly.  Remind yourself all the time why you are trying to achieve this particular goal. Your goal can be your screensaver on your electronic devices.  It can be on the inside of your filofax; a note in your wallet or purse, in your make-up bag. You can pin it to your family calendar.  Wherever you are likely to see it, pin it. Reminding yourself regularly what it is you are trying to achieve, and why, will strengthen your motivation and your ability to get there.

4. Think your way there. Be confident of your goal. Be confident you will achieve it. Rehearse what you will say if others are trying to tempt you from your good intentions. Prepare your answers in advance e.g. “I no longer drink during the week.  I save it all for the weekend.”  It doesn’t matter if this is a goal you are working towards for the hundredth time.  Believe this time is the right time.

5. Eat regularly.  Though food may have nothing to do with what you are trying to achieve eating regularly will help you get there. Because your brain runs on glucose skipping meals and trying to resist temptation can leave your brain depleted of its willpower.  By eating regularly we not only fuel our brains we also fuel our willpower too.

6Choose wisely. Really think about what you are trying to achieve with your healthy lifestyle. Then choose one great habit to work on to begin with. Focus on this particular habit within your bigger picture to improve your chances of being successful.  Consider how this habit will fit with your daily life. Break it down into really small steps.  When you feel this habit has become part of your normal routine, you can move onto the next habit for the bigger picture.

“Skinny cappuccino please”.

Healthy Lifestyle

A litre or more of water

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Fulfilling a 2012 New Year’s resolution by the skin of my teeth. About 8 hours to go till 2013. Hurrah!

As a dietitian I am often asked questions regarding fluids e.g. how much should I drink? Does tea and coffee count? And what about carbonated beverages? Where do they fit in? So I thought my first blog post should be all about this very simple thing: fluid.
How much fluid should we drink every day?
We are all somewhat different and what we need is determined by 3 things. How much we eat. What the weather is like. How much activity do we do. The American Institute of Medicine gives guidelines suggesting women need approximately 2.5 litres per day of fluid and men need just under 3 litres. But this is not all from drinking liquids as we get some of our fluids from the foods we eat – around 20%. So working backwards this leaves women generally needing about 2 litres of fluid and men needing around 2.5 litres of fluid.
So now what should we drink?
Considering the options we have water, tea, coffee, milk, juices, and carbonated beverages as drinks which could contribute to our daily intake of fluids. The Harvard School of Public Health has helpfully put these into a list in just the above order. Ideally, we should drink about half of our fluid requirements as plain and simple water. So if we can all drink a litre or more of water everyday we will be well on our way to healthy hydration. Tea and coffee come next on the list with interesting evidence coming out regularly around the healthy benefits of these delicious drinks (but that’s for another post). Lower fat milks are an excellent way of getting fluid and other nutrition with a suggestion of one to two servings per day (250ml – 500ml) helping to meet calcium needs too. No more than one small glass (100ml) of juice per day is a good idea, particularly if weight management is topping your priority list. Lastly we have the carbonated beverages which although some may imbibe and consider delicious should really be drunk as a treat. The reality is that these fizzy drinks (diet and ordinary) are not contributing anything to your healthy diet and in fact may be doing some harm.  It is possible that fizzy drinks may stimulate high sugar cravings encouraging us to seek out sugary and high carbohydrate foods.

So drink and be merry this New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow is the first day of 2013. A day to consider water as a wondrous thing!