Dry July – How to regenerate a healthy liver

You might be familiar with one of the following scenarios below:

1)   You’ve woken up for work with a ringing headache and are feeling about as average as Spain did in the World Cup soccer. How did the end of financial year work drinks cascade into a shower of champagne or a steady flowing abundance of delicious beer?

2)   The weather in Sydney had become so bitingly cold that it justifies a good hearty glass of red by the fire – every night. For every degree colder this fosters furthur justification of a) A cheeky glass of port or desert wine to top the night off or b) Some/a block of chocolate to accompany the red wine

Your lovely liver: An under valued vital organ that regulates many processes in your body. However, at this time of the year it’s starting to complain. Battered and bruised its been fighting a little too hard.

The liver has various functions within the body the main one being DETOXIFICATION. That’s right! The liver helps to purify the blood by removing toxins such as alcohol and drugs from the body. But did you know it also helps regulate hormone levels? Can you imagine what happens when it can perform this duty well? Hormones regulate everything from sleep to mood, metabolism, reproduction and immunity - to mention a few!

The liver also works to DIGEST all your food. Fats are digested by bile in the stomach, which is a product secreted by your happy hepatic (liver) cells and transported to the gall bladder. Carbohydrates and proteins are broken down so that these nutrients can eventually be converted to energy for use within the body. 

Also wondering why when your liver has been under the pump you are more likely to come down with some mysterious flu? Well the liver is also responsible for your IMMUNITY.  It plays an important role in capturing and digesting nasties such as bacteria, parasites, worn out blood cells and fungi.

So lets focus on some liver regeneration.

Number 1: Reduce your alcohol intake. Limit alcohol to weekends only or if you can, commit to a month off. Lets face it, a hot milo in front of the fire is going to be lot more nutritious; alcohol is empty calories anyway (contains basically no nutrients). Focus on average 2L of water daily which can include herbal teas such as chamomile to rehydrate and filter the blood.

Number 2: Reduce highly processed foods particularly ones that are not only high in saturated fat but also salt and sugar. For example: processed and fatty meats (sausages, salami, bacon), deep fried take out and fast foods, cakes and biscuits, pastries and chocolate.

Number 3: Increase your intake of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat. This will aid in reducing liver inflammation. Include nuts, seeds (flaxseed particularly) and oils (e.g extra virgin olive oil) as a part of your daily diet.

Number 4: Be smart with your selection of fruits.  Berries, pomegranate and grapes (I know you are already thinking wine again but the alcohol content outweighs the benefits here!) contain ellagic acid and resveratrol, which can help to regenerate liver cells. The bitter in lemon and limes can also break down stagnant material.

After following this for a good month you liver should start to improve all its functions. Hopefully a lot of what I have recommended also becomes habitual!

Also why not actually sign up for Dry July though and contribute some money towards a good cause like cancer prevention? Think of all the money you are saving not consuming alcohol anyway!

Stay happy, healthy and warm.

Ash xx

Banana Crunch Cookies

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This experiment happened on a very rainy and dreary Sunday afternoon after I was thinking ahead for my work week and the fact I was completely over my current snacks! Sick of super sweet muesli bars that are packaged and coat your mouth with sugar? These are quick and delicious! Get baking. The fruit naturally sweetens them, and there is lots of fibre in the oats, seeds and banana to fill you up. Nuts and seeds help balance your hormones between main meals and give these delights a crunchy fabulous texture.

Ingredients

2.5 cups oats

180g pecans (baked at roughly chopped)

1 large banana (mashed)

2 tbsp linseed/flax

1/2 cup maple

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla essence

6tbsp pepitas

1/3 cup dried raisins or cranberries

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp olive oil

Method:

1. Put pecans on baking tray with light drizzle of olive oil, mix to lightly cover with the oil and then leave to cook for 10mins or until golden on 180 degrees celcius

2. Blend 1 cup of the oats in the blender to make some oat flour. Add all oats, cinnamon, linseed, pepitas, dried fruit and vanilla to bowl and mix with spoon

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3. Add maple and honey, mix

4. Lastly add baking soda and mashed banana, mix

5. Line a baking tray with baking paper

6. With a spoon spoon out a small amount that fits in your palm and round it into a ball. Continue until your tray is happily full

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7. Cook for 20-25mins on 180 degrees Celsius or until lightly brown on top

8. Enjoy guilt free :) 

 

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Top Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season

It’s the end of the year. We are all tired, if not exhausted.

My teachers are coming in pulling their hair out after being slammed with reports, candy cane and chocolate presents. Corporates are struggling to meet deadlines with a string of boozy client lunches and parties following. Parents have been up late for one too many school ballet or presentation night. And the university students are about ready to check in to detox programs after all their nights out!

To accompany all this it seems that EVERY person you have ever known in your whole life has decided to catch up… all at once, right now, before Christmas! Your Facebook inbox is flooded with group conversations and you feel like you need a PA to remind you what’s on which night.

DO NOT PANIC. I am here to give you some practical advice to keep you on the straight and narrow just when you thought everything was getting a little overwhelming and pear shaped.

If you are serious about your health, now is not the time to discredit all the hard work you have put in all year. A couple of weeks damage can take you back a couple of months. So not worth packing back on that 6kg!!

This is all is comes down to:

Organisation and Planning

Mindful Eating

Portion Distortion

Organisation

An army doesn’t go into battle without a plan, and neither should you. You need a plan and strategy to navigate your social calendar. Write a list of each social event, potential barriers to you eating well and some ways to attack these barriers. For example:

Event: Work Christmas Party

Barriers: At a Thai restaurant, portions hard as sharing, unlimited alcohol provided, range of desserts available

Strategies: Small snack before dinner so not ravenous when I arrive. Research menu before attending and choosing healthier dish. Get waiter to take plate away when I have finished meal so I can’t eat anymore. Drink vodka lime and soda (less calories) or offer to drive, have a sensible portion of my most favourite dessert and don’t feel guilty about it.

Will you be hosting a party? Why not make it easier and organise a healthy meal?

Smart swaps. Just as delicious!

Smart swaps. Just as delicious!

 Mindful Eating

 Mindfulness includes noticing the colours, smells, flavours, and textures of your food. Studies have shown that people overeat when they neglect to pay attention to what they are eating. Imagine what happens when you introduce a couple of glass of champagne or beer to the mix? Where did those mince pies go? How many did I even have? You should be able to recite exactly what you had for Christmas lunch, this means even if you are being a little more indulgent at least you ARE paying attention.

Some other mindful tips:

Always eat when you are sitting down with minimal distraction

Slow it down: Eat with your fork in your non dominant hand

Use smaller plates and bowls

Use taller glasses, people perceive they are drinking more

 Portion Distortion

Ever heard the expression “French women never get fat?” Don’t worry I am impressed too. For a country that specialises in croissants, pastries, baguettes and cheese I think they are doing well! Want to know their secret? Portion control. They look for QUALITY and control their QUANTITY. This applies at Christmas time even more so when we are surrounded by temptation.

Remember when you have a greater amount of options available; more of those options are going to walk their way happily onto your plate. After they’ve had their own Christmas party in your mouth there is no escape and it’s straight down to the stomach.

With your portions I offer these tidbits of advice. Be reasonable about how much you should have on your plate. At least half should be salads. And if it’s too much don’t feel obligated to finish it! Remove your plate from your reach or clear it from the table. Studies have proven that leaving dishes on the table in group situations leads to men eating 29% more and women 10% more.

 With your desserts. Choose the one you want MOST (your favourite), and have that only without guilt. Savour, savour, savour.

Reality is if you do eat a bit more over Christmas and Boxing Day it won’t have a huge influence on your weight. It’s when you continue to eat huge portions of leftover food and alcohol consistently for the whole month surround Christmas that this becomes a problem. Offload leftovers to guests and try and get back to your usual healthy routine as quickly as you can.

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Enjoy your Christmas everyone!