Here’s a question for you. If we are what we eat, what does that make you? A large glass of Merlot? A chocolate digestive? A walking wedge of stilton? In a world in which terms like ‘detox’, ‘clean-eating’ and ‘I’m sorry, but is this gluten-free?’ are thrown around more times than a frisbee on a summer’s day, the quest to becoming a healthier, fitter, leaner version of ourselves is becoming more and more baffling – and restrictive. And it can be enough to make you want to throw in the towel entirely and surrender to a life of Dairy Milk and cheese boards instead.
But what if, like me, you don’t want to be a couch potato? How many of you would prefer to be something a little more green instead? A sprightly sugar snap pea? A slender cucumber stick, perhaps? Apparently it doesn’t have to be hard – so long as you have the basics down. No starvation tricks or fad diets; just simple, natural, foods to nourish your insides and fuel you for the day.
One health expert on a mission to make us more food-savvy – and healthier in the process – is Kate Chaytor-Norris, a North East-based nutritional therapist with a passion for good-for-you grub and the science behind eating it.
Having trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London – one of the UK’s leading educational bodies – she’s quite the foodie boffin, practising from both a scientific and holistic perspective to help her clients delve deeper into their diet woes, tummy troubles and overall lifestyle.
Working from her home in Darlington, she works with clients on a one-to-one basis, creating for them bespoke (but manageable) programmes to encourage healthier eating habits and a greater sense of wellbeing.
These can (and often do) include making dietary changes, anything from upping your leafy green and fibre intake to cutting out certain foods completely, but the fun (and most crucial) part involves Kate putting your pesky symptoms under the figurative microscope to figure out which of your body’s systems may be under threat. And in return, you get to learn how and why eating and living better can often turn it all around.
Her recent workshop at Wynyard Hall was quite the eye-opener – and a real treat for foodies and self-confessed health nerds like myself. A mix between a biology lesson and the type of girly chat you’d have (need) at the end of a long week, it touched on topics we could all relate to – things like mid-afternoon sugar hits and how, if we’re not careful, they can jeopardise our health in big ways – like feeding the existing cancer cells we all have in our bodies.
She provided an insight into portion control and how much protein we should be eating per day (FYI – a third of your plate and you should be scoffing it during every meal) and dispelled a few foodie myths that we all seem to fall for. Things like opting for ‘low-fat’ and ‘no added sugar’ foods and drinks (they’re actually full of other additives and worse for you than the full-fat stuff) and avoiding amazing, natural produce such as nuts and seeds, oily fish and avocados because we think they’re ‘full of fat’ (turns out they are, but only the good kind!)
There were plenty of tips and tricks along the way, too, such as which ‘superfoods’ to look out for if you’re battling with digestive dramas (note to self: pick up ground flaxseeds), how to give your poor, toxin-busting liver a break (sulphurous foods such as onion, garlic, cauliflower and leeks help) and, if you must eat fruit, which berries will perk up your skin, defog your brain, soothe inflammation and flood your system with antioxidants (the brighter the better, but blueberries and, oddly enough, prunes both reign supreme).
The damaging relationship the body has with stress was also addressed – how it wreaks havoc in all of our systems (particularly the gut) and can trigger chronic health issues – as well the best ways, in Kate’s opinion, to detox on the daily – both physically and mentally.
After a colourful and nutrient-packed buffet, inspired by the talk’s topics and featuring many of the health-boosting foods Kate loves, and a few ‘detox’ teas down the hatch, the workshop came to a close and we were free to go on as we please, armed with some handy notes and a new outlook on how to release our inner carrot stick.
I’ve since been putting a few of Kate’s tips to the test (those flaxseeds really work – pick some up during your next weekly shop) and am already feeling the benefits, but if you fancy a natter with her in person, then I’d urge any of you – couch potatoes, walking-talking McVities, the lot – to give her a call. Boosting your health for summer can be easy – and fun. And she’ll show you how.
Visit nutritionyorkshire.com for more information about Kate’s services, or call 01325 722453/07889 174297.
KATE’S TOP 5 HEALTH-BOOSTING TIPS
1. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times, but try your hardest to cut down on all forms of sugar. That means your typical kitchen cupboard sugar (the refined stuff), but also honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and molasses. People will tell you they’re healthier than regular sugar, but they actually all have the same effect on the body. Sugar feeds the existing cancer cells we all have in our body and promotes inflammation in the body.
2. Make sure you address any digestive symptoms you may be experiencing – things like bloating, cramps, stomach pain, diarrhoea and constipation. Introducing ground flax seeds into your diet, as well as foods such as miso, tempah and sauerkraut, will help you go to the loo and boost your gut microflora.
3. My diet tips are pretty straight-forward: eat only wholegrain, unrefined carbohydrates (no white potatoes!), make sure you’re eating protein with every meal and ensure that at least half your plate is packed with vegetables – especially if they’re green, leafy or brightly-coloured. Eating organic, wherever possible, is also worth considering.
4. Be mindful of cleaning products, toiletries and external toxins – they all cause our bodies and overall health harm, often without us even realising. Open the windows in your house if you’re decorating so you’re not breathing in paint fumes – the same goes if you’ve just bought new furniture, curtains or carpets, or even a new car. They’re all laden with toxins. Think twice about drifting off to sleep on a brand new sofa, or smothering your skin with non-organic body cream – you’ll just be absorbing toxins.
5. Don’t underestimate the power stress has on the body. Remember to take in some deep breaths – in for four seconds and out for seven – throughout your day. Take time for yourself every day too – no matter how guilty it might make you feel. Make it your mission to get seven hours of sleep in every night and to sit down for meals and focus on your food. Eating mindfully has a positive effect on digestion.