Reclaiming your life after lockdown
Top diet & lifestyle tips to help you be the best version of you Suzie Sawyer, Clinical nutritionist for Alive! multi-vitamin range - feelaliveuk.com
It’s no secret that lockdowns have taken a toll on our health and wellbeing. Recent research has uncovered a wealth of health issues now prevailing and which are affecting mental wellbeing, weight and sleep with many people relying more on alcohol. Indeed at least a quarter of UK adults reported drinking more during the various lockdowns.
Let’s take a look at some hard facts of how lockdown has had a detrimental effect on health:
Eating habits have become less healthy with the population eating one portion of fruit and vegetables LESS than before the pandemic (and that’s from a low base)
Increased prevalence of sleep disturbances has been reported since lockdown partly due to anxiety around accessing food, and loss of work1
Overall physical activity has reduced increasing risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and mortality1
People living with type 2 diabetes is on the rise, increasing by 100,000 since last year, bringing the total to 4.8 million. Lockdown will not have helped this situation.
And in a survey conducted by Alive!, one of the UKs leading manufacturers of vitamin and mineral supplements, 37% of people questioned said their BMI (body mass index) was over 25, the number indicating you’re overweight and heading towards obesity. With many people now admitting they have put on weight during lockdown, this figure is only going one way.
However, all is certainly not lost, and in this E-News I look at how we can emerge from lockdown fitter and feeling better than ever.
Balance brain and body
When it comes to wellbeing what you eat (and drink) can have a profound effect on how you feel, as well as on anxiety levels. Salmon (fresh, frozen or tinned) is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain function. They also help with the production of brain neurotransmitters that instil feelings of calm, which is especially important as we move out of lockdown.
The bad news is we don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids and the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data shows that as a nation we fall well short on our omega-3 intakes. Government guidelines suggest one portion of oily fish per week which is not being achieved. Look for wild Atlantic salmon but tinned oily fish is fine too and provides a really easy lunch, when life is busy. Try this summery Zingy salmon & brown rice salad which has the ideal combination of slow-releasing carbs, lean protein and heart-friendly fats https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/zingy-salmon-brown-rice-salad Alternatively, if fish is not to your taste, then flaxseeds are a great vegan source of omega-3s.
It’s essential to eat protein at every meal time to help balance blood sugar levels and keep the mind on an even keel. This is also important for managing weight effectively. Protein foods such as eggs, meat and dairy, provide essential amino acids also needed to produce neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine. Specifically, natural live yoghurt helps feed the good gut bacteria which are essential for helping synthesise neurotransmitters, but also balancing mood.
Berry fruits, which are just coming into season, are rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C, both of which have been studied for their positive effects on brain health and their ability to create calm. So, load them onto your breakfast cereal, top them with natural yoghurt, eat them as a mid-morning snack, or use them in one of the many delicious recipes that abound during the summer months such as Juicy Lucy pudding - a fruity dessert that's both delicious and nourishing https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/juicy-lucy-pudding
Turn back time
Many people feel they have lost time during lockdown. Whilst it seems like a long time since life was ‘normal’ time has passed quickly even though not much has been going on. However, you can reclaim back that time in how you look and feel. We all want to hang onto our youth for as long as possible and one of the secrets to this is collagen. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body and especially in the face. However, levels decline in both men and women after 30 and is one of the reasons we start to get wrinkles and joints become achy and stiff.
Firstly, it’s another super important reason for eating protein at each meal from varied sources because then you’ll also be eating a range of amino acids that help produce collagen. Meat, fish, eggs, beans, dairy, whole grains and poultry are your friends and try to vary choices with each meal.
Secondly, vitamin C is one of nature’s powerhouses and is essential for collagen production as well as working as one of our key antioxidants, helping protect the body from free radical damage. Colourful fruit and vegetables are the order of the day. Berry fruits, red peppers, kiwis, broccoli and citrus fruits are the best sources of vitamin C, but all fruits and vegetables are great. People are eating even less fruits and vegetables than previously, which is worrying, since we also know from our NDNS that all age groups fall below the recommended 5-a-day intake.
Taking a supplement can significantly help plug the nutrient gaps we know exist and can turn back time. The Alive! range of multivitamins and minerals, available in one-a-day tables and pectin-based gummies, contains a unique blend of 26 fruits and vegetables which delivers a wonderful top-up to the diet, especially when intake is so low.
A nod to plants
We hear so much about the health benefits of adopting a more plant-based diet in terms of preventing heart diseaseobesity, mental decline and many other degenerative diseases. And that’s not forgetting the potential benefits to the environment of being more plant-based. However, it’s important to eat the right plant-based foods from whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Eating sugary foods made from refined grains is certainly not going to improve health or weight after lockdown so do ensure you choose your plant-based diet carefully. Indeed, being flexitarian (someone who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish) is becoming increasingly popular and provides fabulous health benefits.
And even more from Mother Nature
Mother Nature not only provides a wealth of goodness in foods, but also offers many herbs and spices that can help reduce anxiety, lift low mood and generally promote good brain function. Hopefully, this will improve your wellbeing and help you to feel more confident on first venturing out after lockdown.
The herbs rhodiola and ashwagandha are adaptogenic herbs, meaning they support the body in dealing with stress and can help ease anxiety. As the name suggests, adaptogens literally help the body to adapt, adjust and recalibrate itself depending on our emotional and physical surroundings. So, they can help calm in times of stress and bring peace to a racing mind in the middle of the night. And if you’ve now decided to increase activity levels, rhodiola has also been found to improve exercise tolerance and, in some cases, improve performance, so it might just provide the boost you’re looking for. Try taking Vitano® Rhodiola tablets twice daily, a traditional herbal medicine used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety.
Additionally, the herb turmeric is really hot in more ways than one right now, as research suggests it can help good brain function which in turn stops anxious feelings. Use it liberally in stir-fries, curries and any other dishes that need some additional delicious flavouring. Here’s a delicious recipe including turmeric to whet the appetite and providing the perfect start to the day. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/turmeric-scrambled-eggs
Fire up your soul
Working from home, home schooling, insufficient exercise and poor dietary choices, and you’ve got the recipe for low motivation and energy levels. However, it’s amazing just how much super-charging your diet can really encourage more movement. One of the body’s main motivating hormones is serotonin, also called the ‘happy hormone’. Predominantly produced in the gut, serotonin needs the amino acid tryptophan for its production, found in foods such as turkey, dairy, eggs, soya produce and oats. Additionally, our main energy-producing vitamins are the ever-busy family of “Bs’ (the B-Vitamins), that help utilise the food we eat to produce energy.
You can also super-charge body and soul by eating lots of vitamin-B rich leafy greens, oysters, eggs, dairy, beef, organ meats and whole foods, such as legumes. They are not only essential for energy production but are also used to produce serotonin, so it’s a win-win situation. If you are following a plant-based diet then you could well be lacking in B vitamins, especially B12 - a nutrient that helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia that makes people tired and weak – so it is advisable to supplement daily. Alive! B-Complex Gummies can help plug any nutrient gaps, giving you renewed energy and vitality.
Move more, stress less
In order to fully reclaim your wellbeing after lockdown, it’s important to move more. If formal exercise, such as going to the gym or doing an exercise class is not your bag, this is not a problem. All that’s needed is to be more active generally. There is no point is getting more stressed because you’ve failed in your new exercise programme. This will just become counter-productive.
If you’re working from home, why not invest in a stand-up desk? This automatically burns more calories than being seated all day, but also improves circulation to the brain and body. Dancing around the room, doing some squats every hour, walking round the block, walking a dog (help out a friend, if you haven’t got one yourself); literally anything that will get you moving more will make a difference to how you look and feel. The human body was not designed to be sedentary; think of how our ancestors had to hunt for food. The point being, the body was much more active then and this is what it enjoys the most.
It might be worth investing in a tracker watch or app to track movement. Whilst there’s no real science behind doing 10,000 steps per day, it’s a nice rounded number and certainly provides a goal to aim for. Even running up and down stairs a few times per day can help.
Get sleep back on track
Getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for overall health and wellbeing. Unfortunately sleep can be easily disturbed during periods of stress and uncertainly, and we know lockdowns have severely impacted people’s sleep patterns.
Valerian root, often referred to as “nature’s Valium” is a herb that has been used since ancient times to promote tranquillity and improve sleep. Sleep is vital to how people’s bodies function during waking hours. Plus, a lack of sleep can weaken the immune system. Combining Valerian and Passionflower, Bonuit Sleep Aid is a traditional herbal medicine for the relief of sleep disturbances such as helping people to go to sleep more quickly and sustain quality sleep cycles.
MY TOP TIPS FOR RELCLAMING WELLBEING AFTER LOCKDOWN
Plan ahead – it sounds really simple but if you plan your meals for the week at the beginning of the week, and make sure you’ve got the ingredients you need, you’ll be less likely to make unhealthy choices that are nutrient poor.
Choose frozen as well as fresh– don’t stress if you aren’t able to get fresh fruits and vegetables all the time. Food is generally frozen soon after harvest which helps retain most of the nutrients, sometimes more than produce that has sat in supermarket storerooms for long periods.
Plug nutrient gaps – the body is clever at telling us what it needs. If you’re feeling under par, chances are there’s some gaps in your nutrition, which is where supplementation can be a game-changer. It’s important for everyone to be taking a daily multivitamin and mineral, such as Alive! from Nature’s Way www.feelaliveuk.com . It’s a very cost-effective insurance policy!
Try new recipes – following any recipe doesn’t need to be complicated. If you struggle, start simply. This delicious recipe proves you can eat incredibly healthily without taxing the brain too much! https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/fresh-salmon-thai-noodle-salad
Feed your body, feed your mind – many people have struggled with mental wellbeing during lockdowns. Remember though that what you eat has a direct effect on how you feel mentally. Keeping the diet ‘clean’, cutting down on sugar and keeping caffeine and other simulants to a minimum will see a massive upturn in mood, motivation and feelings of calm.
For more information on daily supplementation and medicinal herbs visit natures-way.com