Healthy teeth in 7 simple steps

teethRecent evidence suggests that we may have been surviving without our teeth as much as 1.7 million years ago. However, in this day and age it isn’t really unusual to enter our nineties with a full set of nashers.  But this isn’t a given. I also didn’t say they would necessarily be our own teeth ;) Even alignment of the jaw is so important for sports performace, but more about that another time. First to teeth :)

I know it isn’t our usual topic but your teeth are incredibly important and sometimes we forget about them a bit, depend on our local dentist to work their magic next time (after a little telling off). But keeping your teeth healthy does not have to take long, maybe ten minutes at tops. Everyone should be able to give this time for something that is incredibly important to their health.

Tips for keeping those pearly whites:

  1. Get a good dentist that you trust… and go there! Purposely I would choose a dentist that fits with my philosophy on health; ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken (or inherently about to break) please’. I have found this in a wonderful place on Harley street called Facial Wellness (the link is at the end of this post). They focus on good quality, trustworthy dental care, with minimal invasive surgery. Facial Wellness don’t just have dentists, they offer a holistic approach encompassing dentistry, ayurvedic wellness, physical wellness and body balancing. Most importantly, they have a real family feel, taking the time to get to know their patients. It’s simple, they do not do work that isn’t necessary.
  2. Don’t believe everything you hear. In the world of ‘natural fitness’, there is a tendency to see modern dentistry as an enemy. A dark force that is secretly scheming to make serious fortunes through questionable techniques. Now… there may be some truth to this. When my father was young, the dentist used to come to the school and they would be paid by the filling! It doesn’t take a shrewd businessman to figure out that his teeth are ALL filled! When I was young(er), my teeth were also filled with amalgams and I later learned (from a most trusted dentist and friend) that there was absolutely no need. The fillings were too shallow to have been necessary and could have been watched. Yes watched because teeth can heal themselves. Unlike what some dentists may have you believe, with the right cleaning regime and nutrition teeth can regenerate. Do I think dentists are evil? No. I think the ‘natural’ dental world has also become a little bit misleading, scaring people and provoking the rise of sub-par products and expensive alternatives. You just need to find the right one for you. A good dentist should answer your questions openly, be able to tell you exactly what they are (or are not) doing and WHY.
  3. Keep that old toothbrush head. It’s perfectly moulded to the shape of your teeth! Just make sure you clean it regularly! Choose a soft brush. You can clean it regularly with vinegar to stop it harbouring bacteria. You will at some point need to change it, but as long as it is clean and still has it’s bristles then it should be okay.
  4. white-on-white_lBrush teeth twice a day. Such a simple piece of advice but how many of us actually do it. Use a circular motion when brushing. More than twice is not necessary and will just cause more wear. Choose a good toothpaste that is approved by a dental association please! The simple fact is that many of the ‘natural’ toothpastes are simply not good enough. I have tried and tested a few and the only one I can really recommend is Kingfisher. Otherwise, take a lesson from our older generation and just using plain baking soda mixed with a bit of coconut oil (my teeth were amazingly white using this method).
  5. Floss daily.
  6. Drink bone broths or gelatine rich soups. The evidence from our pre-farming prehistoric ancestors suggests that they were a fair bit more resistant to tooth decay than we are nowadays. This is most likely due to their diets, very few grains and cooked starches. They instead would have consumed things like fruits and vegetables, marrow and other nutrient dense foods.
  7. Have two teaspoons of coconut oil a day. Coconut oil is antibacterial and has been shown to have potential benefits for tooth care. Bacteria in the mouth can cause cavities and to minimise this you could also use a mouthwash like the Original Antiseptic one from Listerine. You can also use something like a salt water rinse or, as studies show might be effective, try coconut oil pulling.

There is a superb site from the Paleo Hygienist, which I feel is a really balanced, well written blog by someone who can really explain the ‘regular’ and ‘natural’ dental worlds brilliantly. I really recommend you take some time to read it. http://thepaleohygienist.com

If you are interested in finding out about some truly top class dental care then please check out the Facial Wellness centre. http://www.facialwellness.co.uk

Walk the line

It’s been a while since I posted anything, i’ve been re-exploring the world of ‘natural health and fitness’, like we all must at times and now am back with new news, new ideas, new perspectives that I will share over the next few months. It’s important to always be exploring, to not get caught in a specific frame of mind, to not assume that one particular way is right or wrong. We should use this principle in life and also in the way we approach a healthy lifestyle. When you open your mind a little and embrace new ideas, the world becomes bigger, more exciting and it helps you.

I’ve decided to slow it down a bit. I still go for crazy sprints and still rise at 5am for an occasional intense circuit but more i’m enjoying the fun, the social, the unknown and of course those things that involve the great and beautiful outdoors.

So maybe you are a dedicated follower of a fitness religion? Well, it’s time to let go. Hardcore cross-fit junkie? Slow it down and take a qigong class. Yoga is your thing? Get kick-boxing! Marathon runner? Get on the 400m track. Open up to the idea of doing something different once in a while, join a random class that you never normally would. Sometimes it’s good to walk the line.

Recently, I tried slack-lining. At first I was a little apprehensive, it’s a world apart from sprinting around my usual (and now quite monotonous) route or whizzing through the countryside on my racing bike. As soon as I saw how high it was I was already forming a picture in my mind of all the possible embarrassing ways I could fall off.

The other slack-liners were so graceful, light in their movements and doing all sorts of tricks and I gazed at them with a slight sense of alarm. Some of the lines were really ‘slack’, which makes it harder. For a beginner it’s easier if the line is taut. At first it is strange and, I won’t lie, the furthest I got was a while standing on it with one leg and a single step, but with practise it will come. The first bit is hard but it gets easier. This is one of those activities that gets mind and body in sync, the mind must be relaxed and so must your body. It’s also good for focusing and bringing excess energy and stress levels down. But make no mistake, this is a proper workout if you manage to nail it.

But, who cares about the workout? I wasn’t even thinking about that! What about the beautiful setting, in the park amongst the big trees in the evening sun with a small radio playing and a picnic. It’s the experience that goes with this kind of activity. Just gathering a small group of friends, preparing some good food and playing, exploring and trying. This is the type of ‘training’ I want to be doing more of nowadays.

In case you are interested, a decent slack-line can be bought for around 75 pounds, a fairly pricy bit of kit but obviously worth getting a good one. In the morning would be the most amazing time I imagine, when no-one is around in the park. Just set up the line between two trees and it is a kind of morning meditation.

If you’ve tried it then i’d love to know what you thought of it too. Did you nail it first time? Maybe you have some tips for other readers who are thinking of trying it? Leave us your wisdom :)

 

Lemon Raspberry Cake (Gluten Free!)

I really love it when the sun is shining :) It makes me think of beautiful bright yellow lemons and holidays in the mediterranean. So, I wanted to make something that represented the beautiful summer, the local mediterranean produce and a delightful treat that is good for sharing with friends over a sunny picnic in the park.

Lemon and Raspberry CakeThis cake can be made using either raspberries or wonderfully fragrant lavender, which always reminds me of France. It’s your choice, why not try both? It’s gluten free and lactose free, plus it uses agave and honey instead of refined sugar. It was stunning and I got some seriously good compliments from friends who have no business with “healthy foods” :)

 

Lemon and Raspberry Cake Side

 

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 1-1/2 cups olive oil
  • 1/2 cup agave syrup
  • 2 cups raspberries or (2 tablespoons dried organic lavender)
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest and juice of two lemons
  • 1tbsp spoon local honey

Directions:

Super easy, just whisk everything together except for the lemon juice and the honey. Cook in the oven at 160°for around 45 minutes, or until it is lightly golden. While it is cooking, in a saucepan combine the honey and lemon juice. Once the honey has dissolved, remove from the heat. Once the cake is cooked, pour the honey syrup over the top. Beautiful summer nights await us all. Enjoy them… with a hearty slice of this magnificent cake.

Best guacamole recipe ever!

Mashed creamy avocado, smooth luscious green silken flesh spread over a fresh tortilla or a slice of home-made gluten free bread. Or on the side, with some cumin and paprika spiced black beans… yes this is food heaven.

Guacamole. Even the name is brilliant.

But that isn’t all. It’s ingredients are super-foods, all raw and blended together in perfect harmony. What beauty there is in nature’s table.

Here we have our favourite guacamole recipe for you to enjoy this evening with your dinner, it’s quick to whip up and perfect for Friday night entertaining, with some crudités or for a Mexican fiesta party :)

guacamoleIngredients: 

  • flesh of 2 avocados pushed through a sieve.
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed and chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon home-made mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

…we’ll let you work this one out.

 

Chocolate Ganache Cake (gluten and dairy free!)

How about something special this easter? We’ve just the thing; an delicious gluten and dairy free avocado and pumpkin chocolate ganache cake. Can it get any better?

Natalie and her chocolate cake

A couple of  weeks ago I had the opportunity to showcase my secret (wannabe) talent of baking. Now, I’m really not a housewife baker by any means, but there is something about the creativity of mixing, designing and experimenting with ingredients which draws me to this erm, art. What I’m trying to get to grips with, is trying to make my cakes and bakes delicious, and HEALTHY. Under normal circumstances, cakes are loaded with oil, butter, flour, caster sugar and other evil body destroying things, so I thought I’d be somewhat challenged in the tasty department. But alas no …thank goodness. My experimentation process has led to me being called Mrs. Cropley from the Vicar of Dibley- but so long as people are enjoying my cakes, I don’t mind looking like a crazy woman.

So back to last week- I had to create a cake that would impress at a charity cake bake. I was determined to transform the taste buds of my fellow competitors (for in my eyes this means BUSINESS) by giving them a delicious cake that doesn’t make you feel (too) bad about eating it. And I think I found a winner.

So, on this easter weekend, why don’t get a little creative, maybe even add some ingredients that I didn’t use, make this cake and let me know how it turns out.

Here is your ammo;

Base:

1 1/3 cup pecans (or Almonds/Brazil/Hazelnuts)

1/3 cup shredded coconut

1 cup chopped dates

1 pinch of organic Himalayan salt (or Organic Sea Salt if you don’t have)

4 squares dark chocolate. (at least 70%) Shave first.

A drizzle of coconut oil to oil your mould/tin with.

Ganache:

1 very big, ripe Avocado (or 2 medium sized ones)

½ cup pureed pumpkin

1/3 cup dark cocoa powder

1/3 cup agave syrup or raw honey

2/3 cup melted dark chocolate

pinch of Himalayan Salt

1tbspn vanilla extract or beans of 2 vanilla pods

2tbspn melted coconut oil

Plan of attack:

Throw pecans in a blender. Once blended, add dates and chocolate (may need to scrape the sides a little as it will get sticky). Blend until it feels doughy and sticks together. Make your cake base in your mould by pressing the mixture into the mould (I used a silicone mould). Make sure base is even. Now chuck it in the freezer until you’re ready to put your filling on it. (I let mine set for about 1 hour).

Clean your blender.

Melt your chocolate, cocoa powder honey, coconut oil,  in a pan. DON’T let it simmer- you will affect the taste. Literally melt and take off the heat.  Throw the Avo and Pumpkin in a blender until smooth, and add in the chocolate mix and salt. Now is a good idea to taste some of the mixture so see if it needs more honey/chocolate/insert magic potion here.

Once all blended spoon onto your base (which you have just taken out of the freezer) and allow to set in the fridge. Once your ready to show off your healthy cake, add fresh strawberries, raspberries to the top for decoration and taste. I also scattered some coconut shavings on the top for a slight crunch.

Turns out I won the cake bake- whether out of sympathy I don’t know. But the cake tastes pretty darn good, even in the critical eyes of ‘normal’ cake eaters.

We also happened to raise a shed load of money for St. Christopher’s ‘ Hospice, and to top it all off, we’re running a charity ‘bootcamp’ on Tuesday 26th March, in Green Park, London to burn off all that cake. If you want to join us, you can find details here.

Five ways to get outside more

The sun is shining and spring is fast approaching; a perfect time to get outdoors and bask in natural daylight and fresh air. Yet for many of us, finding the time to get outdoors is a struggle, a brief indulgence that must be squeezed somewhere between our city office job and our hectic home life.

outdoorsSpending time outside is important. It clears the mind, promotes brain health, enhances your natural circadian rhythms and gives you exposure to vitamin D. There is no substitute for time spent outdoors and we should all be spending at least an hour outside a day. I can already hear you ask where on earth you might find that time.

Well, the good news is that it doesn’t need to be that difficult. There are simple changes you can make that will extend the amount of time you can spend outside. Here are five simple changes you can take every day:

  1. Get up ten minutes earlier and spend those ten minutes in a quiet outdoor space before starting work. Breath deeply and visualise the day ahead as one filled with energy and drive.
  2. Jump off the tube or bus a stop earlier and walk to your work. Just five minutes will be enough.
  3. Go for a twenty minute stroll Instead of spending lunch in the office canteen. The fresh air will clear the mind and enable you to work more productively. Take your lunch with you or prepare something the night before.
  4. Swap the treadmill for a twenty minute run or walk outside. You can do this before or at the end of your work-out. Or just skip the gym and do your whole work-out in the park!
  5. Spend five minutes before bed outside. Make a herbal tea and go drink it whilst you watch the sun set…

And voila! An hour of your day has been spent outside, in this beautiful natural world that we belong to. Enjoy it ;)

Food Friday: Three superb salads

Some weeks, I love setting myself food experiments. It get’s the creativity flowing and encourages me to try out things that I normally don’t. A couple of weeks ago, my uncle was telling me that my great great grandfather changed his surname into ‘salad’ because he loved salad so much and only ever ate salads. While the other old Greek men were enjoying their wives moussaka and roast lamb, he was drizzling olive oil over fresh plucked purslane, jewelled with black olives.

His love of salad never really translated down to me and I was only left with an eyebrow raising surname. The idea of watery iceberg lettuce and a few stray pieces of colour leaves me a little bemused. Anyway, this week I decided to try Pappou Salad’s methods and set myself an experiment to make salad for every dinner. It was actually pretty fun and I threw in so many ingredients that I haven’t used for such a long time.

The cool thing about salad is, despite what you may believe, there are no rules. Hot, cold, colourful, bland, spicy, sweet, it doesn’t matter. You can throw peculiar things together and then bring them into blissful harmony with the perfect dressing.

Today I will share three of the recipes I made this week:

Apple, raisin and nut salad

Ingredients:

  • Apple and raisin salad6 small apples peeled, cored and chopped  into chunks
  • Handful of raisins
  • Handful of chopped nuts
  • Half a head of endive chopped
  • 1 beetroot
  • Glug of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon home-made mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons beetroot juice

 

Asian sweet potato salad

Ingredients:

  • Asian sweet potato salad2 sweet potatoes, chopped and roasted with olive oil and pepper
  • Handful of snow peas (raw or lightly steamed)
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 150g purslane, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • A few roasted yellow peppers, chopped
  • Handful sesame seeds
  • 3-4 tablespoons, freshly squeezed ginger juice.
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Glug of olive oil
  • 1-2cm piece fresh turmeric, chopped
  • 2 handfuls parsley, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped

Sausage and beetroot salad

Sausage, beetroot & chicory salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 sausages, from a local organic source, cooked and sliced
  • 100g organic bacon, cooked and chopped
  • Handful of cooked chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 chicory, finely chopped
  • Half a head of endive
  • 2 beetroots, chopped
  • A few yellow roasted peppers, chopped

So what’s your next food experiment? We’d love to know! If we like it we’ll join you in it :) Leave your ideas in the comments.

If you’d like to know more about our philosophy on food or food related activities then just click here.

SAID principle: Why it matters.

Specific

Adaptation (to)

Imposed

Demand

The SAID principle is the real reason you aren’t getting slimmer, faster, stronger and more powerful. Fundamental to sports science, it’s a very simple concept that most people are forgetting. That’s a shame because, in my opinion, it is the one most important thing you can apply to your training.

high jumperJust like a high jumper, you need to keep raising the bar. If you aren’t increasing the demand on the body then there will be no adaptation and you will not get results. Though your body initially finds something challenging, it eventually learns to be efficient in it. That plodding 5k run you’ve done every Wednesday evening for the last two years… it’s time to change it.

Increasing demand is good for the brain. It forms new movement patterns appropriate to the new challenges. Your brain also needs to be challenged because, let’s face it, it barely needs to think in most run-on-the-treadmill workouts. Stimulate the brain too in training by looking around at the environment more, transitioning to zero drop shoes, changing terrains or training vision and coordination.

Now that plateau makes sense right?

Change it up, make it harder. Change what you do because essentially the SAID principle means you will improve at that which you engage in.

Way’s to utilise the SAID principle in everyday life:

  • Play with speed. Swap the slow 5k run for a short all out 2.5k
  • Sprint. Go out and do a few hundred meter sprints. Find a long strip of ground, sprint 100m and then walk back. Repeat.
  • Add in some activities that challenge coordination and balance, like volleyball, squash and badminton.
  • Jump. Be explosive in movement. Find a park bench and jump up on it (or over it if you are feeling brave!).
  • Be creative. You don’t need a gym or a fancy pair of shoes. Get out in the garden, the park, the woods. Use a bench, a climbing frame, a tree. Just get going!

 

 

Divorcing Food

Empty plate

Fasting has got to be the coolest thing in the fitness world now. Super trendy, not over-popularized (yet) and only the ‘real’ fitness experts are doing it. So therefore- its cool. Fasting is the bad-guy at the back of the nutrition classroom. It goes against EVERYTHING that we have learnt in the world of fitness and nutrition. It’s a total head f**k. And for that I love it.

If you’ve ever been through an experience (intentional or not) of not eating for long periods of time, you will relate to the grimacing thought process of ‘food obsession overload.’ The items of food that you wouldn’t even give to your dog start to look tempting. Even the soggy, reheated sausage rolls at Clapham Junction station glisten with delectability under the heat lamps. So if this is the torturous process of denying my body food, why do I purposely put myself though this? Call it Self-inflicted mind love.

Coming from a fitness background where everyone in sight was weighing out their food, rationing their almonds and counting their calories of their celery sticks (calorie-negative? YESSSS!!!!) I developed an unhealthy obsession with food since the start of my career. Having the knowledge to understand healthy eating is one thing, but to constantly think about food, obsessing over my carbohydrate/protein/fat ratios, worrying whether I went over my calories in a day, living in an aesthetically driven (aka self-conscious) environment- quite frankly got a little too overwhelming- and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

How has it got to this stage? In a world full of analytics, scientific findings we have worked out how, when, and what to eat to promote certain responses within the body. Finding out that good fats create a better insulin response, or knowing that amino acids (protein) help rebuild and restructure muscle fibres is incredibly useful for understanding the body and is fundamental in development for specific demands. (e.g. developing an athlete). But in my humble opinion, it is still all a little too controlling.

We seem to have forgotten that the human species has survived 2.5 million years without having any of this knowledge. We have adapted, evolved, grown, and gotten smarter without eating a 50/30/20 macronutrient plate every 3-5 hours. We ate what we could find, whether it be a carbohydrate loaded fruit platter one day, a protein heavy meat feast the next, or sometimes a mere morsel of berries. But we are still here. We didn’t die out by not eating for a day. We could still run; chase, climb, crawl or carry the situation arose. So why do I feel as if my world is caving in if I miss a meal?

Because my mind controls my body, and ultimately my mind (and probably yours, too) has been conditioned into thinking I need a Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner to survive. However, through the process of fasting, my body has started to tell me otherwise. I am now in a better place to understand what my body really needs, not what social impact says I need. In nature, we have learnt to rely on taste, desire and physical responses to understand what we need.

Through the process of fasting, I have learnt to understand the difference between emotional hunger, dehydrated hunger, tired hunger, hung-over hunger (yes, it happens), social hunger and REAL hunger. The blood sugar dropping, I-have-the-shakes-dry-mouth-cramping-stomach-I-can’t-think-straight type hunger. I’ve gained so much more energy since fasting (especially the day after, WOW!) I can still train on a fast, I can still focus on work on a fast, and I’ve not lost muscle or strength. I can still rock at my pull-ups with the best of them.

The benefits of fasting have been strongly represented in the media as of late. A recent BBC Horizons documentary by Michael Mosley was an informative insight into the different types of fasting ‘diets’ out there. There are different types of fasting, from the 5:2 diet (eating normally 5 days, fasting on 500kcals on 2 days) the 16:8 diet (fast for 16 hours, eat within an 8 hour window) and the Alternative Day Fast (ADF) diet. They have all been shown to have a massive impact on anti-ageing, weight loss and preventing disease, but ultimately I’m not here to tell you what type of ‘diet’ you need to be on.

You need to figure that one out for yourself. All I want to you do is to start challenging the rule-book and find out what works for you, if it’s not working already. Monitor your energy levels (in training, and at work), your sleep, your physical composition and more importantly, your relationship with food. Make it fun, friendly and colourful, just like with all your relationships, and stop obsessing. No-one likes a stalker.

If you would like to learn more about natural food and eating in a natural and healthy way then click here.

 

Food Friday: Gluten free Dutch Apple Cake

apple cake gluten freeIf you visit the Netherlands then there are three things that you should never pass up the chance to try; raw herring, split pea soup and apple cake. While in Holland I noticed that everywhere you go, you can have coffee and a piece of apple cake.

And who doesn’t love apple cake? Spiced with cinnamon, cloves and orange in those winter months when the snow is falling and you’ve just got back from a nice snowball fight outside, a walk in the winter woodland or a long day battling with the British public transport system. You deserve this.

Now, this recipe is gluten free and it also happens to contain no dairy either because simple fact is, it is sometimes nice to move away from the norm and experiment with other ingredients. We don’t endorse ‘vegan’, or ‘vegetarian’ or ‘paleo’ or ‘high-protein’. We just eat what nature provides us and we use organic ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups gluten free flour: You can either use a ready made mix, such as those available from Doves or, like I did this time, make your own. I used a mix of chestnut flour, almond flour, rice flour, tapioca flour and buckwheat flour (about half a cup of each)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 6 apples peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cloves, ground
  • drop of vanilla essence

It’s pretty simple this recipe, despite the huge list of ingredients. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and lay 2 handfuls of the apple, a handful of raisins and a tablespoon of the walnuts on a sheet of parchment. Bake in the oven until they are golden.

Meanwhile, mix all of the other ingredients together in a bowl (wet first and then add in the dry ingredients) until they are well combined. Grease a cake tin (mine was 20cm) with a bit of extra coconut oil and then pour the batter into the tin.

dutch apple cake gluten freeOnce the apples are baked, remove them from the oven and pop the cake in for around an hour, or until a skewer comes our clean. Leave it to cool and then lay the baked apple, raisin and walnut pieces on top.

Enjoy with a chai, almond milk latte ;)