I discovered this yummy recipe when I was looking for ideas to use up a pack of beans that was about to expire. The beans are an excellent source of fibre and together with the cocoa powder make a perfect meal for our gut microbes. Other than being beneficial for our microbiome, this recipe is also mineral and protein packed - both from the beans and eggs as well as the protein powder. Oh, and those gooey melted chocolate chunks are just heavenly delicious!
Tips: These brownies can actually freeze pretty well! Just cut them into individual servings and pop into a freezer bag. Using canned beans which are softer will make the batter more smooth & consistent.
1 1/2 cups black beans (canned or pre-cooked)
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp chocolate pea protein powder
2 tbsp vanilla protein powder (I used Dr. Amy Myers beef protein)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks (dairy-free)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Blend black beans in food processor into a rough paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add eggs and melted coconut oil. Mix well.
Mixing well after each ingredient add cocoa, protein powders, baking powder and salt one by one into the mixing bowl. Then stir in chocolate chunks (you can just crush 1/3 of a dark chocolate bar).
Using extra coconut oil, grease a 25x10cm loaf tin, then line with baking paper. Pour in batter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the edges are visibly cooked and the center doesn’t jiggle much when you shake the tin (if using the a toothpick test, it may still come out a little wet and that’s ok – we want these brownies moist!).
Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool before cutting into individual brownies.
Per Serving: 175 calories; 10g fat; 8.5g carbohydrates; 13g protein; 5g Fibre; 24% DV for copper; 17% DV for iron; 18% DV for manganese; 16% DV for phosphorus.
Have you ever thought how impressive and intelligent our bodies are? Constantly ticking away, sensing and adapting to a whole host of internal and external inputs, and in the processes sending us a myriad of signs & clues about our state of health. Fascinating isn’t it?
In this new series of posts called ‘Body Signs’ we’ll learn how to decode our bodies’ messages from a nutrition perspective (and you’ll be surprised with some of the things we’ll uncover!) But why is learning to read our bodies important? Well, being aware of what is happening in our bodies can help steer our health in the right direction, ease our anxiety, motivate us to take better care of ourselves and build a better relationship with our bodies.
So let’s start with the tongue. It is often one of the first areas of the body to show signs of nutrient deficiencies. Although this sign may not tell us exactly what’s out of balance, it can help guide further assessments.
Both iron and B vits are necessary for energy production, hormone and neurotransmitter function, immune health and DNA repair. All of which are critical processes for our overall health.
Blood tests are usually used to determine iron deficiency, whereas B vitamin levels can be assessed either through blood (standard) or urine (functional) testing. The advantage of a urine test is that it tells us whether your body has enough nutrients to function optimally (vs. a set reference range on a blood test).
Of course, such assessments should never be viewed in isolation – there are a lot of tools we can use in combination to build a clear picture of our nutrition status (including these physical signs and biochemical assessments).
Did you know that there are 13 vitamins essential for life? They are essential because each one of them serves a whole host of important functions in the body.
Take for example Vitamin A. It is needed for:
Optimal gene expression
Red blood cell production
This fat-soluble vitamin is found in animal foods as preformed vitamin A and in plant foods as its precursor – carotenoids.
Top sources include:
Dark coloured veggies (spinach, kale, collards, etc.)
Vitamin A status can be tested through a simple serum (blood) test and deficiency can produce notable symptoms such as vision problems, poor immune function, skin and hair conditions, thyroid dysfunction + more (we’ll explore some of those in our Body Signs series).
Zinc and iron deficiencies are often associated Vitamin A deficiency (zinc is needed for vit. A metabolism, whereas vit. A is needed for iron metabolism).
These salmon patties are great for entertaining family and friends. They are gluten-free and dairy-free, and work wonderfully well as a healthy main dish with a side of steamed or roasted veggies. I love that they can be batch-cooked and frozen, making meal prep deliciously easy!
Tips: You can save time by using canned or pre-cooked salmon, pre-boiled potatoes and pre-diced frozen onions, carrots, garlic and parsley. Swap white potatoes with sweet potatoes for a lower glycemic index.
500g white potatoes
2 fresh salmon fillets (450g)
5-6 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sunflower or almond flour
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Fill a large saucepan half-way with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to boil. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes, bring to boil, and then cook on medium heat for 10 mins (until cooked through). Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool off.
As the potatoes boil, preheat oven to 220°C. Place salmon on unbleached baking paper and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 10-13 mins (until cooked through).
Meanwhile, dice and chop vegetables. Once the salmon is cooked, place it in the fridge for 5-10 mins to cool off.
In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, onion, garlic and peas; cook on medium heat for 6-8 mins. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Mash the cooled potatoes with a masher, add olive oil if necessary.
In a large bowl flake the salmon (without the skin) and add the cooked onion, garlic and peas, as well as the potato mash, fresh herbs, flour and eggs. Mix well with a wooden spoon or with your hand.
Make small patties from the mixture and place on a plate. In the same large pan used earlier, heat the rest of the olive oil on medium heat. Add the salmon patties and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
When removing the patties from the pan, place them on a plate with a few paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
Serve them warm or cold – your choice!
Per Serving: 218 calories; 13g fat; 10g carbohydrates; 13g protein; 1g Omega-3s; 68% DV for vitamin D; 49% DV for vitamin B12; 36% DV for vitamin A; 37% DV for selenium.
If you have had even the tiniest of experiences in weight loss or ‘toning’ your body (i.e. building muscle) you would have been told to stick to your daily calorie target. You would also have been told about the concept of ‘calories in’ vs. ‘calories out’. In order to lose weight the calories consumed should be less than the calories used up.
Although this concept is very true and correct, simply looking at calories is not automatically going to give you good health (even if you’re achieving your fitness/weight loss targets!).
Why is that? Because each calorie has its own nutritional value. That means that, depending on its source, a calorie will have a different composition of nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water). And so calories from fat will function differently in the body compared to calories from sugar.
Sugar, the simplest form of carbohydrates, requires very little digestion and goes straight into the bloodstream. Now, the body can only process the sugar at a certain rate and it also has a limit as to how much sugar should be circulating in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can cause a range of serious metabolic derangements in the body and so our bodies try really hard to remove excess sugar from the bloodstream (in fact, our bodies work best when we have less than 1 teaspoon of sugar circulating in the bloodstream). And so the body will first use as much sugar as it can for energy and then the rest will be stored as fat.
On the other hand, calories from fats are released more slowly because fats take longer to digest and absorb (some say up to 8 hours!). This allows the body to use up the energy released from the fats in small batches, avoiding the flood of energy which then has to be stored as fat.
To make things more complicated, it is not just about the macronutrients (those required in large quantities) – proteins, fats and carbohydrates. We can think of these macronutrients as the fuel and building blocks of the body. However, it is the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which act as the gears that enable the body to use the fuel and function properly. Thus, a calorie which contains mostly macronutrients but little or no micronutrients is also of little use to the body.
And so we go back to the beginning – not all calories are made equal. If you’re just interested in weight loss, eating anything within your calorie target could still help you lose weight. However, in addition to losing weight you may also deplete the body of the vital minerals and vitamins, the gears of the body, which affect how your body functions and ultimately your health!
Oh, by the way, did you also know that calories from different food sources are burnt differently? We’ll talk about this and the various factors which affect how we burn calories in part 2 of this post. Stay tuned!
Instagram makes it seem like everyone is smashing through their workouts and joyfully gulping down their protein and detox shakes, as if they have magically erased all memory of the delicious smell of pizza and the rich taste of burgers…
But the reality is often different (for me, and I hope for many others). One week in to the new year and I have come to realize that going back to a healthier lifestyle is easier said than done. All the talk about sticking to new year’s resolutions, makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong (and why I’m still eating burgers at 10pm)…
Well for starters, I didn’t really make any resolutions… Yes, of course, like everyone else I planned to go back to being healthier. But there wasn’t any specific resolution or timeframe. The truth is after months of free eating (following my exit from competing) and weeks of not working out, I knew I had to make some changes sooner or later.
However, I didn’t want to make any new year’s resolutions because they rarely seem to work. In fact, research shows that people generally fail at all of their resolutions by the 15th of February. Not really effective for long-term lifestyle changes, right? So may be I’m not doing anything wrong after all…
Here’s what I’m thinking: if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing now. Date, time and place become irrelevant to your goal, or at least as to when you start working towards your goal. I say this from experience. For months, if not years, I struggled with digestive issues until one fine autumn day I woke up and started eating a clean, plant-based diet. Boom. No more waiting and wondering when is the right time (that time will never come, fyi). I felt so much better and wondered why I didn’t start sooner.
But before we can start making any external changes, we need to reconsider our own beliefs and motivations. Sometimes it is necessary to reframe our internal view in order to find meaning and worth in those new goals we have set for ourselves. Because if you don’t truly see the value in changing your lifestyle you are already setting yourself up for failure.
And it is here that I, and many others, struggle the most. The mental battle is a tough one, no matter what level of fitness you’re at. But instead of dragging our feet and curling up with fear, it is time to pull ourselves together and take baby steps.
There’s nothing wrong with falling off track multiple times or slowing down the pace of change. As long as you’re moving forward towards your goals & dreams, you can give yourself a pat on the back and keep moving 🙂
First of all, I hate the word diet. It is terribly close to the word “die” and exudes connotations of great struggle and suffering. Oh, and I love food.
The poor word has been so badly abused by the media and health & food industry that it has now become our second nature to associate it with hunger, unpleasant meals and unhappiness.
Yet, it still feels like we are obliged to follow a “healthy” (definition: TBC) diet of some sorts. Apparently doing that can solve many personal and global problems. Problems such as:
Eliminating waste (buy only what you can eat, often misinterpreted as eat all you can and throw away nothing)
Ending hunger (similar to above, but with an extra dose of guilt)
Saving the planet (reduce environmental impact by eating local & seasonal foods)
Saving the animals (no explanation needed here)
Getting your body the nutrients it needs
Preventing disease and curing existing health problems
Getting in shape, losing weight
Maintaining a state of happiness and mental health
There’s probably more claims out there, but I believe these are the main ones.
Now do you see the problem? There are specific diets for each of these problems and there are diets which cover more than one problem. In fact, there are over 100 recognized diets!
However, I am yet to find a diet that can fix it all and keep you happy. You know what I mean?
If you eat meat, you are a merciless killer who’s likely to suffer some digestive issue due to the high acidic profile of animal products. Of course, the alternative is not eating meat and fighting a slow battle with pernicious anemia (B-12 deficiency) or trying to keep your kidney alive due to long-term supplement usage (ok may be I am a bit harsh, but you get the picture).
And there are many more examples…
So I think it’s time to move away from the word diet and take a closer look at our lifestyles. Fitting food around the way we live and the preferences we have will make things much easier. At least in theory.
We are all unique individuals with different needs and likes, so it’s only natural to adopt a lifestyle that feels healthy to you, makes you happy and energetic.
Have you found what works for you? Share your story in the comments below 🙂
Starting a gym friendly diet doesn’t need to be daunting – you just need to understand the basics and be prepared to do some food preparation.
Firstly, you need to get back to eating real food: in other words the stuff that grew out of the earth or on a tree, swam in the sea, ran on the ground or flew in the sky. Avoid things that have been processed and come in packaging, ready meals or fast food deliveries. It is time to get back to cooking so you understand just what is going into that body of yours. Losing weight and feeling healthy is 80% down to diet.
Avoid the fad diets, detoxes and juice cleanses. All these will do is cause fluctuations in your body weight and health. They aren’t sustainable and a lot of the time you end up putting back on all the weight that has been lost. What we want to do is create a diet/meal plan that is sustainable for you and keeps you healthy.
A lot of people focus on calorie counting, yet this shouldn’t be your only focus. You should also be taking note of the macronutrients that you are ingesting. The below explains the three macros:
Protein: Every time you exercise your muscles break down and then use protein to rebuild and become stronger. This is why protein needs to be the main component of every meal. You should be aiming for one gram of protein per pound of body weight (for example, if you are 120 pounds you should be having 120 grams of protein minimum per day). Stick to lean high quality protein sources like beef, poultry and fish.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are converted into glucose (sugar) when ingested which is then used to provide energy. When you consume more carbohydrates than are being used up as energy the excess is being stored as fat. You want to avoid simple carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cakes, etc.
Fat: Unfortunately, fat is the most misunderstood macronutrient in diets. Fat, contrary to popular belief, is absolutely necessary for your body and should make up the majority of your calorie intake.
Your macro split is down to what fitness goals you are trying to achieve. You need to firstly determine the number of calories your body requires in order to calculate your macros. Your required calorie intake is based on your age, gender, weight, rate of metabolism, activity level and goal. There are a number of calculators online which will calculate this for you however I would recommend using the following site http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/
The standard split for macros is 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 20% fats. Don’t get too caught up on the ratios as long as you are roughly sticking to this. I promise it does get easier over time!
Now that you know your base metabolic rate and a rough guide of your macro intake you have an understanding of the number of calories you should be ingesting. So you can start planning meals based around this.
The easiest way to stick to your meal plan is to prep your meals – this eliminates any temptation or picking up food that is unhealthy on the run. For more information on meal prep please check out my previous article here.
Good luck and once you start the process of a gym friendly diet things will become easier and a second nature.
Simple, quick and easy to make. With just 3 ingredients, these pancakes are healthy and sweet with no sugar added.
They come together in a few minutes and make the perfect breakfast or sweet – tooth satisfying dessert.
The flavour will vary, depending on the flavour of your protein powder. I used organic chocolate powder (made with with cacao and stevia). The banana itself gives enough sweetness so no need for any extras.
If you like your pancakes fluffy add in some baking powder, however I prefer it simple and go by the “less is more” approach.
1 medium banana
1 scoop of protein powder
1 egg white
Toppings (optional) as in picture:
Splash of dark chocolate sauce
Handful of blueberries
Handful of pistachios
Place all the ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth and creamy
Heat a pan over medium heat and melt a about ¼ teaspoon of butter or coconut oil into the pan.
Pour the batter in the pan: Drop roughly 2 tablespoons of batter onto the hot griddle.
Cook for 1 minute or until the bottom looks browned and golden when you lift a corner.
Gently flip the pancakes and cook for another minute on the other side.
Transfer the cooked pancakes to a serving plate and continue cooking the rest of the batter.
I managed to get 9 pancakes out of this recipe and it was perfectly satisfying. Talking about toppings, feel free to add whatever toppings you wish. Get creative 😉
In the past few years of my career I came across many people suffering with digestive disorders. Our fast paced lives cause us to reach for convenient foods, which are damaging our gut lining.
I decided to look closer for alternatives to drugs and possible diet changes which may help with those problems. The epidemics of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn are caused by not having enough stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and intestines (not as commonly believed too much acid).
It doesn’t matter how much acid there is in the stomach. Even a small amount can cause serious damage. Unlike the stomach, the lining of the esophagus has no protection against acid. Reflux is caused by an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. Common causes would be overeating, obesity, bending over after eating, lying down after eating, and consuming spicy or fatty foods.
But it is also suggested that low stomach acid can contribute to both bacterial overgrowth (independently of carbohydrate intake) and carbohydrate malabsorption. Therefore it is crucial to restore adequate stomach acid production and eliminate bacterial overgrowth.
So what you can do? Read the 8 points below to find out how you can help your gut:
The theory is that the longer chain carbohydrates (disaccharides and polysacharides) are the ones that feed bad bacteria in our guts, while short chain carbohydrates (monosacharides) don’t. All grains, legumes and starchy vegetables should be eliminated, but fruits and certain non-starchy root vegetables (winter squash, rutabaga, turnips, celery root) can be eaten.
2.Fructose and artificial sweeteners
These have been shown to increase bacterial overgrowth. Artificial sweeteners should be completely eliminated, and fructose (in processed form especially) should be reduced.
High fiber diets and bacterial overgrowth don’t mix. Carbohydrates that escape digestion become food for intestinal bacteria (that is 15-20%). Fibre can also bind with nutrients and remove them from the body before they have a chance to be absorbed.
Another way to stimulate acid production in the stomach is by taking bitter herbs. “Bitters” have been used in traditional cultures for thousands of years to stimulate and improve digestion.
Here is a list of bitter herbs commonly used in Western and Chinese herbology:
It is best to see a licensed herbalist who can prescribe a formula containing several of the herbs above as appropriate for your particular condition.
Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, raw sauerkraut and pickles are traditional remedies that often relieve the symptoms of heartburn and reflux. They are packed with good bacteria.
6.Drinking during meals
It is also important to avoid consuming liquid during meals. Water is known to dilute the concentration of stomach acid and hence slows down digestion.
Restoring a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria is a must due to bacterial overgrowth. Probiotics protect against potential pathogens and are effective in reducing bacterial overgrowth.
Fermented foods have been consumed for their probiotic effects for thousands of years. Small amounts of yogurt and kefir generally have a much higher concentration of beneficial microorganisms than probiotic supplements do. If possible, make kefir and yogurt at home, because the microorganism count will be much higher otherwise go for organic version.
Another option as mentioned before is to eat non-dairy products like sauerkraut and pickles and/or drink a beverage called kombucha (a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea). It is produced by fermenting tea using a “colony of bacteria and yeast”.
Commercial probiotics contain strains (like Lactobacillus acidophilus) that also produce D-lactic acid, so if you are opting for taking probiotic supplements make sure it doesn’t contain this acid.
Homemade bone broth soups are effective in restoring a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach. Bone broth is rich in collagen and gelatin. It’s also high in a non-essential amino acid that is important for the formation of collagen.