Nutritionist’s 2024 Wellness Habits
Happy 2024! The beginning of a new year marks not just the turning of a calendar page but also a chance to embark on a journey towards a healthier, more vibrant version of ourselves. I am excited to share my nutritionist top wellness habits for the year ahead—inspired by small, easy hacks you can do to help you on a journey to a healthier you…
NUTRITIONIST’S TOP HABITS
SAY YES TO COFFEE
Ahh coffee…many of us think we need to cut out caffeine to feel our best. However, coffee, especially good quality coffee, can be beneficial for our health! Coffee contains a significant amount of antioxidants, which play a key role in protecting our cells from damage. (1)
Caffeine may also enhance cognitive function and improve overall alertness. It works by blocking the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter responsible for promoting sleep and relaxation. Talking of neurotransmitters, caffeine can also trigger the release of our feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with improved mood. (2)
Consuming coffee in moderation can be a delightful addition to your daily routine, however, it’s essential to be mindful of individual tolerance levels, as excessive coffee intake can lead to an increase in cortisol levels—the body’s primary stress hormone. Understand and respect your limits!
Stick to 1 coffee a day to reap the benefits, or consider making the switch to matcha.
But what is the difference in the benefits of matcha vs coffee? Coffee can provide you with an instant energy boost, helping reduce fatigue, but it reaches its peak blood concentration 15 minutes after intake.
Matcha boosts energy at a slower pace, and due to it containing l-theanine, it can help to reduce stress by increasing alpha waves in the brain. (3)
Whether consuming coffee or matcha, avoid having it on an empty stomach as this can increase cortisol and glucose levels, putting your body into an increased state of stress and thus impacting insulin. Try to consume your caffeine after or with your meal. (4)
AIM FOR 30G OF PROTEIN PER MEAL
Protein is the building block of tissues, muscles, enzymes, and hormones, playing a crucial role in the repair and growth of cells. Consuming an adequate amount of protein, around 30 grams per meal, has numerous benefits for overall health, including muscle maintenance,overall satiety, and metabolic function.
Some easy hacks to get in 30g of protein at each meal:
-Lean proteins: 1 palm-sized fillet of poultry, fish, tofu, tempeh at each meal
-Legumes: Add extra beans, lentils and legumes to your meals for a protein boost
-Greek yoghurt: Very high in protein, have as breakfast, a snack or add into savoury dishes instead of cream or creme fraiche
-Eggs: Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein but aim to have 3 eggs at meal times, as 1 egg = 6g protein, and consider pairing with another protein such as smoked salmon or cottage cheese to get to 30g
-Good quality protein powder: Consider investing in a good quality protein powder such as Form
Protein’s impact on appetite can also be powerful. One study showed that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of total energy intake made overweight women eat less throughout the day without intentionally restricting anything. (5)
If you have taken on the gym as part of your 2024 self-care regime, upping your protein can also increase muscle mass and strength. However, it’s important to avoid overly processed protein bars and pre-made shakes as they often contain artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and other additives to improve taste, texture, or shelf life. Artificial additives may also have a negative impact on our gut health by impacting the balance of the gut microbiota.
Opt for natural wholefood sources of protein such as eggs, edamame and hemp seeds.
NUTRITIONIST BREAKFAST – START THE DAY SAVOURY
That first meal of the day is fundamental to setting up your blood sugar levels for the day ahead. Whilst a bowl of berry porridge or apple overnight oats may feel as though it’s giving you a short boost of energy, this sweet and starchy breakfast may result in a glucose spike, followed by a drop leaving you feeling tired and hungry again soon after.
As a nutritionist, I am to break my fast with a savoury, high-protein breakfast. Scrambled tofu, an omelette, avocado, and smoked salmon on toast or leftovers from dinner make the perfect blood sugar-balancing breakfast.(6)
TRY NEW FOODS THE NUTRITIONIST WAY
Diversity in our diet is fundamental, particularly when it comes to incorporating a variety of locally sourced and seasonal foods, which is crucial for promoting a healthy and diverse gut microbiota. The gut microbiota is a complex community of trillions of microorganisms that play a vital role in digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, and overall well-being.
A lack of diet diversity can lead to the proliferation of unhelpful or harmful bacteria in the gut, also known as dysbiosis. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome can lead to changes that can impact the functionality of the gut microbiome, triggering all sorts of gut symptoms.
Choose a new veggie to try each time you go to the supermarket, incorporate new herbal teas, try mixing it up with different herbs and spices and avoid eating the same meals each day.
SPICE UP 2024
Find yourself eating the same meals over and over again? Yes, it may be a nutritious meal but it can also get boring. Even as a nutritionist, I can often reach for similar meals – especially during the working week! But why not spice things up a little? Spicing up a simple meal is good for your taste buds and your gut, as herbs and spices count towards plant points too! They also contain a good punch of antioxidants, so spice up the new year with…
Cinnamon- Cinnamon may help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. Plus it is a great way to add natural sweetness without using sugars. It’s important to note that there are different forms of cinnamon and some are better options than others. Opt for Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “sweet” cinnamon, which is often considered to be of better quality than Cassia cinnamon.
Try mixing ceylon cinnamon into ground coffee, sprinkling it over stewed apples, adding it into smoothies or even stirring it into a curry.
Turmeric- Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric, which has potent anti-inflammatory properties. It may help reduce inflammation in the body whilst also being a rich source of antioxidants. Consuming turmeric with black pepper, which contains piperine, may enhance the absorption of curcumin in the body.
Curcumin is also fat-soluble, which means it dissolves in fat. When turmeric is eaten with a source of fat, the curcuminoids attach to the fats. This makes them more easily absorbed by the gut. (7,8)
Think of adding it to curries, lattes, marinades and dressings.
Saffron- Saffron, derived from the flower Crocus sativus, is a spice known for its vibrant colour but it also has numerous potential health benefits.
Saffron contains compounds such as crocin, crocetin, and safranal, which have antioxidant properties, helping to neutralise free radicals in the body, and protecting cells from oxidative stress and inflammation. Some studies also suggest that saffron may have mood-enhancing effects, by influencing neurotransmitters in the brain. Why not try incorporating this super spice into a curry, risotto, porridge or even baking? (9)
Fenugreek- Fenugreek is a herb that has been used for centuries for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It offers a range of potential health benefits due to its nutritional content and bioactive compounds. Fenugreek may help support the menstrual cycle and provide relief from menstrual discomfort.(10)
Some studies have also shown a reduction in appetite and fat intake with the consumption of fenugreek, with one 14-day study finding that participants spontaneously reduced their total fat intake by 17%. (11)
So, what is the easiest way to consume this spice? Fenugreek seeds can be ground into a powder and added to spice blends or used as a seasoning for various dishes.
GREEN TIME BEFORE SCREEN TIME
Getting outside before sitting at a desk all day offers a range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Here are some key reasons why getting in green time before a day of screen time is key….
Natural light: Work on regulating your sleeping patterns and energy levels by getting exposure to natural light every morning. Natural light is also a powerful mood enhancer, this light will trigger the release of endorphins –> helping you kick off your day with a nice boost of uplifting energy. (12)
Try setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier, to get a pre-work walk each morning. And yes, through the dreary cold winter months, this can be challenging, but try to change your mindset! Walking in the rain can be rather cosy as you know you are heading home for a warm shower and a yummy nutritious breakfast.
Vitamin D synthesis: Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in bone health, immune function, and overall well-being. Spending time outdoors allows your body to produce vitamin D, especially important for those with limited sun exposure during the workday.
Enhanced mood and reduced stress: Being in nature has been linked to improvements in mood and reductions in stress. The sights and sounds of the outdoors, along with physical activity, can contribute to a sense of calm and relaxation.
Movement: Going for a walk, jogging, or engaging in other outdoor activities before work is an opportunity to move your body before sitting down all day. Regular physical activity is associated with numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and enhanced cognitive function.
Improved productivity: Exposure to nature has been shown to improve concentration and cognitive function. Taking a break outdoors before starting work can enhance focus and productivity throughout the day.
If you’re interested in working with me or wanting to learn how to adapt and implement your own health habits for the best 2024, reach out and book a free discovery call here.