Baked Cods with Puy Lentils
This is a lovely, super-quick mid-week meal - full of good quality protein, and with cheap and easy to find ingredients. This is great with a big side helping of green veggies.
6 shallots, chopped (use 2 small onions, if you don't have shallots)
2 leeks, sliced
4 med carrots, peeled and cubed
2 packets pre-cooked Puy lentils (I use Merchant Gourmet, but you can easily replace with one tin of pre-cooked green lentils)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Herbes de Provence (or any woody, aromatic herb like rosemary or sage)
2 cloves garlic
4 frozen cod fillets
There’s a lot of chat about blood sugar balance, but what does it actually mean? Well, if your blood sugar is out of whack you may be experiencing the following symptoms:
You can’t go for more than three hours without eating something
If you’re hungry, you get irritable, moody or anxious
You find it hard to concentrate
You feel weak or dizzy
You experience trembling or shakiness
You often crave caffeine and need your coffee fix
You have a mid-afternoon slump where you find yourself reaching for the biscuits
You sometimes wake up unexpectedly in the middle of the night
These might be signs that you are suffering with blood sugar imbalance. In today’s busy world, our diets often comprise an array of refined carbohydrates, such as bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, cakes and biscuits, but we may not have enough protein or good fats with each meal. How does this affect us?
Well, this style of Western diet tends to be high in sugar and low in fibre, meaning foods are rapidly digested, converted into sugar and absorbed, and can therefore cause blood sugar spikes. A blood sugar spike can result in a large compensatory release of insulin, as insulin is a hormone which is produced in response to blood sugar levels, allowing it to be taken into cells for energy production. However, a large amount of insulin may temporarily lower blood sugar levels too far, resulting in blood sugar levels falling below normal.
This may cause you to want to eat more food, in turn possibly causing you to overeat leading to possible weight gain. Equally, the brain needs a constant supply of energy for optimal performance, therefore a drop in blood sugar levels may affect brain function leading to symptoms such as lack of concentration, fatigue, racing thoughts, and a need to grab those crisps right away.
If this happens on a regular basis, your body starts to think something has gone awry and see these episodes as a form of stress. So in steps the stress hormone cortisol, as one of its roles is to maintain blood sugar balance to allow enough fuel for the body to fight or flee. Remember getting away from that tiger? By coming to the rescue, cortisol causes the body to generate more energy supplies, as a fuel to escape the stressor (that sabre-toothed tiger again), which may in turn continue the blood sugar imbalance causing a vicious cycle. Regular episodes like this may result in a blood sugar rollercoaster. It is this rollercoaster that leads to many of the symptoms mentioned above.
So how can you step off this unwanted fairground ride, and balance your blood sugar? Check out my free eBook - 5 Steps to Blood Sugar Balance for more information. This is a free gift when you sign up to the newsletter.
Reference: Szablewski L (2020) Blood Glucose Levels Intechopen
This a wonderful quick and easy work-night meal. It doesn’t take very long to prepare and there is minimal washing up, both of which are must-haves in the Allan household during the week. This is also a great recipe for this time of year, as both leeks and mushrooms are in season, therefore abundant and affordable, and I’m still getting good Brassicas like the Romanesco cauliflower in my weekly veg box (thank you @Riverford!).
Miso paste is fairly widely available in most supermarkets. It’s a great ingredient to keep in the fridge, as it gives a wonderful umami flavour to broths, veggie gravy, stews and dressings. The pastes tend to taste much better than the powdered variety, so do opt for those if you can. Miso means ‘fermented beans’ in Japanese and is a nice way to incorporate a fermented food into your diet. Good for you gut!
2 leeks, sliced into rings
1 head Romanesco cauliflower, broken into florets (or use broccoli or cauliflower, if not available)
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp tamari (gluten-free soy sauce, or use regular soy sauce, if that’s what you have)
4 wild or sustainable salmon fillets
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp sesame seeds (garnish)
Brown rice or quinoa to serve
1 tbsp miso paste
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp mirin (rice wine vinegar, or can be substituted with sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar)
½ inch grated ginger or 1 tbsp frozen grated ginger
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced (optional)
Back in caveman times, the stress response was an essential part of our ability to escape danger - say, for example, being attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger. The ‘fight or flight’ response, an innate response designed to stimulate our sympathetic nervous system, makes us alert, focussed and energised – we can escape the danger.
Our body releases certain stress hormones, such as cortisol, which allow our body to respond adequately to the threat by various means, such as increasing available fuel and your respiratory response, whilst dampening down body systems not needed to escape imminent danger, such as the digestive, reproductive or immune systems. In normal circumstances, we experience the ‘fight or flight’ response and its corresponding body effects fleetingly, and then the danger passes, and we can return to normal.
However, today’s stressors tend not to arrive as a sudden, acute danger, but rather exist in a more consistent, ongoing form. Chronic stress like this can be less than beneficial to our health, as long-term exposure to high levels of stress hormones can take its toll. Symptoms of chronic stress include increased irritability, anxiety, headaches, insomnia and depression. Plus, ongoing high levels of stress hormones may continue to affect the digestive, reproductive and immune systems in ways which are not sustainable.
This month’s newsletter covered lifestyle aspects of building stress resilience and ways to encourage lower stress levels. But how can diet help with dealing with chronic stress? Whilst it may be tempting to go for quick, comfort eats and throw out healthy habits, stressful times are when good nutrition can be at its most effective. Aiming for a diet with lots of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, plus good sources of proteins and fats is a good place to start.
Also, don’t forget that stress may not only be psychological, it can also be physical. Being regularly in a state of blood sugar imbalance can be a huge stressor to the body, causing an increase in production of the stress hormone, cortisol, as the body attempts to regulate itself. See my free eBook, 5 STEPS TO BLOOD SUGAR BALANCE for further info. Finally, try and stock up on foods that contain the following stress-supporting nutrients:
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is not stored in the body, therefore we need to try and eat good sources of it every day, such as red and green peppers, kiwi fruit, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, watercress, strawberries and broccoli. Studies show that vitamin C may be considered an essential part of stress management, as early research shows may produce a braking effect on the stress-axis helping to moderate any stress-related disorders (1).
Magnesium can be found in green, leafy vegetables (spinach, chard, rocket, kale) as well as avocadoes, tofu, nuts, and legumes. Magnesium has a lovely relaxing effect on the body, and research shows that it may help with brain functions necessary for stress and anxiety reduction (2).
Vitamin D has a multitude of roles in the body, but one of which is in regulating the stress-axis. Foods such as oily fish, liver, eggs, and mushrooms are sources of vitamin D, as is exposure to the sun during the months from May-October in the UK (3).
In our current climate, stress is becoming an ever-present phenomenon. Learning to include stress-relieving practices each day and eat good foods to support our bodies during this time may help to improve our stress resilience in the long term.
Let me know what your favourite stress-relieving tips are.
Having spent five years knee-deep in textbooks and research papers studying for me BSc and Diploma in Nutritional Therapy, it is easy for me to forget that not everyone is familiar with the term. What does Nutritional Therapy actually entail? And how can it help you?
As defined by our professional body BANT (British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine):
“Nutritional Therapy is the application of nutrition science in the promotion of health, performance and individual care. Registered Nutritional Therapists use a wide range of tools to assess and identify potential nutritional imbalances and understand how these may contribute to an individual’s symptoms and health concerns.”
This basically means that as a Nutritional Therapist I work with you to try and find out what changes can be made to your diet and lifestyle to make you feel better. What foods you eat, what sleep and relaxation you get, your medical and family histories, your environment at work and home, what exercise you get, your stress levels – all of these factors and more can impact how you feel and any symptoms you may be getting.
Nutritional Therapy uses a Functional Medicine approach. This entails a client-centred and science-based approach which allows us to work together to address the underlying causes of any symptoms you may have to promote wellness. By addressing the root causes, via taking personal histories, mapping symptoms, and using functional testing, we aim to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
I keep up to date with scientific research to ensure that I have the latest nutrition science at my fingertips. And, as a complementary therapy, I work alongside your GP and other healthcare professionals to try and give you the best outcomes.
Everyone is different. Everyone has different lives, responsibilities, tastes, amounts of time and money to spend. It’s my job to help find an approach that works for you as an individual.
Please get in touch and find out more - I offer a free 30-minute exploratory call.