Simple Suggestions to Beat Stress

Stress is something that I talk about quite regularly on my blog as I feel it is such an important thing to avoid if we are to maintain optimum health! The statistics as to how many people are seriously stressed out are pretty shocking, with a recent survey suggesting that as much as 80% of America is experiencing stress of some sort! Experts will now tell you that stress, especially stress caused by the workplace, is as bad for your health as second hand smoke is!

The detrimental effect that stress has on your long term mental health is quite serious but it can also extend to your physical health. The most common mental impacts are depression and anxiety whereas common physical complaints associated with stress include heart disease, digestive trouble and autoimmune problems.

If stress is something that you are all too familiar with then the idea of eradicating it or lessening its impact might sound absurd to you. However, before you resign yourself to this way of life forever, check out my following tips for finding some relief!

First of all, create a very practical yet reasonable to-do list for yourself. This should consist of just main tasks that you aim to achieve in the next few weeks. Don’t worry yourself more with long term plans that you want to work towards and similarly don’t concern yourself with the small things that don’t really matter. At the end of every day, take a moment to relax and consider the points on your list. If you find that they are no longer relevant then strike them off as not all of your plans need to be met! Also, of course, if you have achieved any tasks during the day then cross them off also. Try to keep the same list, with any additions, for a few weeks so that you can look back over time and see all that you have accomplished.

Secondly, the way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. So instead of setting your alarm to get you up right before you have to be at work, set it a little earlier and give yourself time to enter the day slowly. As soon as you start to feel awake, stretch your arms and legs and think of three things that you are grateful for. This will help you to get going on a positive note and will also encourage you to show gratitude for those things during the day!

Mindful breathing is a great way to bring some focus back to your day and can be done in any place for any amount of time! When you start to feel the stress seeping in, take yourself to a quiet spot and do some deep breathing exercises with your eyes closed. Allow the calm to regain control and then attempt to continue with your day. If you find that this wasn’t enough to clear your mind then try taking a short walk outside away from other people.

Finally, a huge point of stress in the modern day world is the constant bombardment of technology and social media. If one of the first things you do in the morning is check your Facebook or Twitter feed then you are more than likely to see a scrolling list of other people’s ambitions and achievements. Looking at pictures of your friend’s babies and posts about their job promotions might be a great experience when you are in the right mood but it can also cause feelings of inadequacy to appear. Try to limit your social media use and focus on your own life away from the computer!

Roasted Celeriac, Mushroom & Chestnut Soup

This meal is the perfect winter warmer and is also an amazing soup to go with your Thanksgiving dinner! To make it, I have combined all of my favourite Thanksgiving flavours with an extra ingredient here and there. And I’m glad I did because it created this super heart warming and hearty soup!

Chestnuts are massively under appreciated in western cooking, especially when we consider the wealth of nutrition that they yield. These little treasures contain an abundance of vitamin C, potassium, copper, magnesium and amino acids! They are also prized for containing a compound that helps to prevent kidney stones from forming, as do the majority of nuts!

You can serve this soup as a starter for Thanksgiving and then keep the leftovers to warm up the next day!  YUMMY!

To make your own for four to six people you will need the following ingredients:

1 large celeriac, trimmed, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 portabello mushrooms
250g of pre-cooked chestnuts
2 heaped tsp. of sweet paprika
2 garlic cloves
1 litre of veggie stock (or just water is fine)
1 small apple, roughly chopped
Coconut oil

Optional:

A small handful of walnuts, toasted
A scattering of fresh thyme

Soup2So the first thing you will need to do is pre-heat your oven to 200C. You must then thoroughly rub the mushrooms and chopped celeriac with the coconut oil. I like to melt my coconut oil first and then drizzle it over the ingredients before rubbing in. Next, place the mushroom and celeriac onto a large backing sheet and sprinkle the sweet paprika over the mushrooms and celeriac to coat.

Roast the vegetables for 10-15 minutes or until they become soft. You can then remove them from the oven and place in a large pot along with the pre-cooked chestnuts, veggie stock, garlic and apple chunks. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes until the apple is soft. Finally, scoop the mixture into a food processor or high-speed blender and whizz until somewhat smooth.  Of course, if you like a chunkier soup, then be sure not to blend the mixture too much.  You can then pour into bowls and top with toasted walnuts and fresh thyme. Delicious!

For more hearty meals and nutrition advice, head over to The Flexi Foodie Academy!   

Plant Based Foods to Beat Anxiety

Anxiety is a worldwide problem and manifests in many different shapes and forms. It can range in seriousness from slightly inconvenient to completely debilitating and relief is sought in many different places. Approximately 40 million adults in the United States currently suffer, have suffered or will suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. This equates to over 18% of the population! That huge number demonstrates just how many of us are afflicted with this condition.

Many people immediately turn to medication to manage their anxiety but in some cases it can be addressed through diet and exercise. Medication can cause some unfavourable side effects so if it is possible to avoid it then it is always worth exploring alternative options. Additionally, medication often only masks the root of the anxiety and as soon as treatment stops the problem can resurface. Finding ways to naturally treat imbalances in the body is the optimum way to move towards better long term mental health.

So let’s take a look at the things you can aim to include in your diet to combat the causes and symptoms of anxiety.

Green tea is cheap, simple and delicious. It is generally calming for the mind and when consumed regularly can work to decrease anxiety overall. Some variations of green tea are believed to have a positive effect on cortisol production in terms of balancing levels of this stress hormone in the body.

Turmeric is an amazing spice, both in terms of colour and taste and is known to enhance your mood. This spice contains antioxidants called curcuminoids which has neuroprotective qualities. Studies into the effectiveness of turmeric to combat depression have yielded encouraging results.

Avocados are an all round super food and can be useful for tackling anxiety. They contain high levels of potassium which works to control blood pressure, which in turn can help to keep your mood balanced. Avocados also contain a wealth of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which help to keep your brain functioning as it should!

Finally, asparagus can also be consumed regularly in an effort to reduce feelings of anxiety. This is because it contains folic acid which is connected to the health of your neurological function. Impaired neurological function can be an underlying cause of anxiety and it is always worth making sure you get ample amounts of folic acid in your diet. As an added bonus, asparagus contains a small amount of potassium too, which as mentioned previously helps with that all important blood pressure!

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

This salad looks fantastic as a side dish to a main meal at a dinner party but can also make an indulgent meal for one! Not only does it look amazing but it will also do great things for your body due to the wealth of goodness found within! Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables that contain a unique range of antioxidants. They are super low in calories at just 28 calories for half a cooked cup! Brussels sprouts are also full of fibre which makes them perfect for digestive health as well as preventing constipation and keeping your colon healthy.

The addition of raisins to this salad not only helps to make it look more interesting but also gives the flavour a nice twist. Raisins are known to improve eye health and the health of your bones so double bonus!

To make a huge portion of this for yourself, you will need the following ingredients:

For the salad:

450g of uncooked Brussels sprouts
2 large handfuls of rocket
A large handful of parsley
100g of toasted pine nuts
A large handful of raisins
A large handful of dried cranberries
1 avocado, sliced or cut into cubes

For the dressing:

Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. of honey
1 Tbsp. of olive oil

Using a hand grater or mandoline, grate the Brussels sprouts and then add the shaved Brussels sprouts to a large salad bowl. You can then add the rocket, parsley, toasted pine nuts, raisins and cranberries into the bowl too. And, of course, the avocado. Next, in a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour them over the salad. 

This is wonderful and delicious salad where you and your guests will be surprised that Brussels sprouts make such a wonderful meal!  I also find that it is perfect for American Thanksgiving too!

For more healthy recipes like this one plus some great nutrition advice, head over to The Flexi Foodie Academy!

How to Make Flora Spread!

Last week I was invited to the Flora Blend Bar in Hertfordshire to create my very own spread using a range of healthy and natural plant-based ingredients! It was a fantastic experience and I’m now super excited to share it with you! You can use this spread for cooking and all of your baking needs. You can even use it as a replacement drizzle on your salads and other meals!

Flora is a popular household name in the UK and they generally make their soft spread with a range of simple ingredients, including buttermilk, plant oils, seed oils and just a pinch of salt! The seed oils which go into flora are mostly rapeseed, linseed and sunflower seed oil! These seeds are an amazing source of omega-3 and omega-6 fats which, as we know, are great for the health of the heart. These fats are also essential in our diet as they help our children to grow and develop properly. They also help the whole family to keep their cholesterol levels low. Flora spreads are also a rich source of vitamin E which is exactly what we need to keep ourselves looking young!

Making the spread with Patrick at Flora was so quick and simple and you can all absolutely do this at home. So, the first ingredient was a combination oil of linseed oil, rapeseed oil and sunflower oil. This was then flavoured with oil made from hazelnuts and almonds as well as some water and carrot juice for colouring. Lemon was also added for freshness and a tiny little bit of salt for additional flavour! Finally, there was a very small amount of cream (regular or plant-based) and just a drop of palm oil.

All you have to do is whip out your hand blender and pour the oil mix into a large jug. You can then turn the hand blender on and pour the water in too. As you continue to blitz, squeeze in the lemon and then a dash of salt. Keep the blender turned on and include the palm oil and cream. Finally, the carrot juice can be included as you continue to blend.

After a few minutes you can stop and then leave in the fridge in an airtight container to cool. Alternatively, if you happen to have an ice cream maker to hand then you can pour your spread into this and let it do its thing!

Banoffee Pudding

This pudding is my healthy twist on the traditional Banoffe Pudding. It is easy to make but seriously good too! If you need cheering up or you need to cheer someone else up, then I absolutely suggest that you make this as there is no way a smile won’t appear after just one bite!

The addition of the pecans is great for the texture of this dessert but they also pack a powerful punch of nutrition! These nuts, which are native to North America and Mexico, contain a range of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This impressive selection of health boosting compounds contribute to cardiovascular and digestive health as well as aiding in weight loss and reducing the risk of breast cancer. When eaten regularly pecans also provide a range of anti-inflammatory benefits and work to lower blood pressure.

To make enough for two servings you will need the following ingredients:

1 large ripe banana
1/2 an avocado
2 Tbsp. of raw cacao powder
8 pitted dates
2 ice cubes
2 Tbsp of cashew butter
400ml of coconut milk
60g of pecans, save a few to use to garnish

As I said, making this dish is incredibly easy! To get started all you need to do is blitz all of the ingredients together in your blender or food processor until they are smooth. You can then spoon this mixture into two separate bowls before you place these bowls in the freezer for just ten minutes. Once the ten minutes are up, remove the bowls from the freezer and garnish with the remaining pecans which you can chop into smaller pieces if you prefer!

This dish is then ready to serve and should have taken less than 20 minutes from preparation until you serve!