Learning and Leading a Healthy Lifestyle with John

How is everybody after the most wonderful time of the year! Can’t have enough of those delicious mince pies courtesy of Delicious, but the jury is out now whether it is custom to eat mince pies in January as well as December!  I suggest weaning off them this month and go cold turkey for January.  Speaking of cold turkey, who’s fed up of that!? Brussell sprouts though, they should be eaten all year round and you will find out why later in the blog..

I hope ye all had a great holiday and are ready to attack those Christmas free radicals with some anti-oxidant rich foods.  We will list the top ten super antioxidant foods in this month’s blog, along with top five tips for a healthy diet and lifestyle combo for 2014 and all the years that follow.  We will also talk about sugar in the diet and its connection with energy levels and food choices. 

 So here is the top ten antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables to get stuck into asap..

Top Ten Fruits

Top Ten Vegetables






Brussel Sprouts


Alfalfa Sprouts






Red Bell Peppers







Sugar : A Tale of Two Cities Now for the Sweet Section…


The City of Sun :  Lets first look at the brighter side of sugar, we see that it is a carbohydrate, naturally present in fruits and vegetables.  It is present in fruits and vegetables because plants use the sun’s energy and carbon dioxide to produce sugar and water, as a food source for growth.  And what is the name of this incredibly important reaction, Photosynthesis.  Not surprisingly, judging by their names, the two plants that are outstanding in their field at producing and storing sugar are Sugar beet and Sugar cane.  These two are harvested to give us table sugar, called sucrose, which is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

Glucose, the stuff used by our bodies as energy for our cells, is extracted from the carbohydrates that we eat and is constantly being transported to the brain because our brains are choosy when it comes to food, they only want glucose and they want it all the time.  The reason for this constant calling is because the brain cells cannot store glucose, unlike the rest of the bodies cells.  This is why our blood always contains sugar, because our brain never stops.  No one can doubt the importance of our brain to us, and so follows the importance of sugar to us also.

The City of Sin :  When in the wrong hands, sugar can be deadly.  Who here reading this has experienced feelings of fatigue, feeling spaced out and unable to think straight after cheap pizza and chips with coke or an over-indulgence of jelly beans.  To then crave more sugar in order to lift you back up from the daze.  My sister told me a funny story over the christmas holidays about her 1 and a half year old daughter who got her hands on too much sugar one day, resulting in a crazy run-around baby closely followed by a mute, just wanting to lie down baby.  This is a good time to try and explain what is going on in these cases.

There is a time and a place for eating lots of sugar, and willynilly throughout the day is not one of them.  Directly following exercise is, and we will explain this in a bit.

Lets look at the the level of glucose in the blood and go from there.  The body wants to keep this level at 4mmol per litre of blood (equal to 1 gram of sugar per litre or a teaspoon of sugar in circulation throughout the entire bloodstream) to keep it running smoothly.  In order to do this, the body employs a glucose sales team who work for Insulin Inc.  The glucose sales team are ready and waiting at their company headquaters, aka the pancreas.  Once the digestive system releases glucose from food into the bloodstream, the brain sounds an alarm in the pancreas and the sales team get to work.  They visit the bodies cells, especially the liver and muscle cells, and sell glucose to the cell owner.  This is turing into a bit of a tongue-twister!  The act of selling glucose is performed by insulin binding to the insulin receptors on the cell, which then open the cell’s door to glucose, thereby removing it from the blood.  This act of glucose storage in cells is vital, as it is from these stores that the body can release glucose to feed the brain if blood sugar becomes low from not eating all day for example.

The sales-team work at their best when there is a manageable influx of glucose after eating, simply because the pancreas does not need to release extra insulin to manage the job successfully.  For example, on eating an apple where the sugar is in its natural form alongside plenty of fiber, the digestive system breaks this down and releases glucose gradually due to the fiber slowing down the digestive process.  The same can be said for  a balance meal, with carbohydrate, protein and fat.  The fat and protein slow down the release of glucose into the blood and so the insulin team can cope with the demand and not require all their staff and effort at once.

What happens after drinking a 500ml bottle of coke containing more than ten times your blood’s sugar content, or eating a packet of skittles or anything loaded with sugar and not much else?  Alarm bells ring louder in the pancreas as the brain detects a huge wave of glucose entering the blood at a speedy rate.  The sales team recruit the entire office to get out and shift the glucose into the cells.  This results in a much higher then usual insulin level in the blood and even when the glucose has been stored away, the insulin levels remain high, because the liver may be unable to remove the circulating insulin fast enough.  The sales-team are working overtime, which results in a blood sugar dip below the bodies ideal level.  This has a knock on effect, since it interferes with the usual steady supply of glucose to the brain, and can result in fatigue,  poor decision making or in my niece’s case, not wishing to engage in conversation or activity!

And how do most of us react to this drop in blood sugar level, by eating more sugar.  Thus causing a repeat of the above and subsequent poor blood sugar control throughout the day.

I mentioned earlier about a licence to eat sugary foods after exercise.  This is because exercise uses up the glucose stores in our muscles and therefore the muscles crave glucose following a bout of activity.  On eating within one hour after exercising, the muscles replenish their glucose levels without having a negative effect on the blood glucose levels and brain function.  Some may say, eating after exercising is undoing all the good.  But exercise offers so much more then just calorie expenditure.  We will discuss all this in up and coming blog entries.



How to avoid the honey trap :  We will look into this more so in February’s blog.  Keep your blood sugar levels steady by avoiding refined carbohydrates eaten on their own, e.g. a plate of chips or toast and jam with tea for breakfast.  This is why beans belong to toast so that the glucose is released at a steadier rate due to the protein content of the meal.  Next months blog will look at ways of controlling your blood sugar levels and will go into more detail on food choices to keep energy levels from fluctuating.

Top 5 tips for a Healthy Lifestyle in 2014

1.    Exercise your Mental Health.  Using self-help informative sources such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfullness can really make a difference.  If this option does not help, speaking to friends, family or GP is a must.

 2.  Watch your Posture.  Im not just talking about how you stand or sit, but more about how much you sit.  More and more studies are sifting through showing the health dangers of prolonged sitting.  These studies are showing better blood glucose levels in people who sit less and stand more, aswell as other health benefits.  We will look at this incredibly interesting topic in the blogs to come, but for now, listen to your bum, when it becomes uncomfortable, don’t ignore it and turn the other cheek, stand up, move around a little and sit back down again.  Repeat regularly.  Stick a sticker on your computer to remind you!!

Check out this interesting link on the topic of sedentary lifestyles – click here

3.   Five a Day and keep hydrated.  We hear it daily but do we practice it daily.  Get prepared, ensure you buy enough fruit and vegetables in the weekly shop to make this daily challenge achievable.  Have a bottle of water with you at all times, if possible.

Try This: Make vegetables tastier, myself and my girlfriend Aisling tried Kale crisps for the first time last weekend.  Stick some kale drizzled with olive oil and some salt in the oven for ten minutes, delicious and an easy way to tick off the top anti-oxidant vegetable on the list.

 John Kale

4.   Cut down on smoking and binge drinking.  I just had to include this very common New Years resolution in my top 5 tips.  Smoking is the single most destructive thing you can do to your body, full stop.

With regards to binge drinking, ever notice after a heavy night, your food choices the next day are not exactly brilliant, this is somewhat down to poor blood glucose control as the liver is unable to regulate insulin and maintain normal blood sugar levels because it is busy detoxifying alcohol.

5.   Relaxation and Diaphragmatic breathing.  We all breathe, but some better than others!

Todays lifestyles can be very hectic and exhausting, which can lead to stress. And stress is something everbody can do without.  Relaxation is very important for a healthy mind.  Even taking 15 minutes out of your day to relax and focus on your breathing can have a positive effect on stress.  Try the shoe trick to work on your diaphragmatic breathing, I think this 1 minute you-tube movie was a clever way to show deep breathing, to watch it click here 

If you are struggling to grasp this technique, throw away the shoes, pop three or four pillows under your hips and lie back with knees bent and feet on the floor.  Just breathe and you will notice your tummy expanding with every inhalation and dropping with every exhalation.  Aim for 11-14 breaths per minute.

So that concludes the “Delicious” Nutrition Corner entry for January 2014.

I wish all of you the very best for this year and hope you find this blog and all the up and coming ones useful.

Cheers for reading.