Why are Mediterranean diets so healthy?

Over the past couple of years, I've really focused hard on eating well, or more like, finding balance. I'm always interested to hear of new ways to eat, and like to look into these different ideas to see what parts of them I can take and apply to my life and how I want to eat.

I was invited to review a copy of The Mediterranean Zone written by Dr Barry Sears and jumped at the chance. I'd never heard of The Zone and my knowledge of the Mediterranean diet is probably highly sourced from stereotypes of pasta, pizza and bread!

“Let food be your medicine, and the medicine be your food.” Hippocrates 

What is The Mediterranean Zone? 

The tagline of the book is "For a longer, leaner, healthier life". That's kinda what we're all working to achieve, right?! The book focuses on losing excess body fat, how to reduce inflammation and balancing your plate.

The Mediterranean Zone is a physiological state in your body where you have optimised ability to control inflammation. By reducing inflammation, you lose excess body fat, return to wellness and slow the ageing process. The diet is teaches you how to balance your meals to optimise your hormonal response to food and thus reducing inflammation.

The book suggests that the best way to describe the diet is as a moderate-protein, low-glycaemic-load diet.

What are the health benefits? 

According to the book, increased inflammation leads to increased levels obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer's. Essentially, following an anti inflammatory diet is a way to reverse the current crisis that the human population seems to be in.

The book talks a lot about omega -3 (O3 - good) fatty acids and omega -6 (O6 - bad) fatty acids (in addition to polyphenols). Our diets have seen us increase the amount of O6 and decreased levels of O3 which turn off and resolve the inflammatory response allowing the body to return to normal.

By following The Zone principles you can expect to feel less hungry, increased energy levels, better able to handle stressful situations as well as other markers in your blood chemistry.

How does it work? 

At every meal, you divide your plate into three equal sections; one of low fat protein and two of colourful carbohydrates (primarily non starchy vegetables and and small amounts of fruit). Finally, you add a small dash of fat (mono-unsaturated or low in omega 6 and saturated fats) such as olive oil, guacamole or nuts. If you've balanced your plate correctly, you shouldn't be hungry for the next five hours.

With such simple guidelines, this makes The Zone compatible with all dietary philosophies; think whole30, paleo or even vegan. If you'd like to know more about The Zone Diet, check out their website.

The book is jammed packed with science, recipes and references to back up it's claims and whilst reading it to write this post, I also got a chance to try out some of the snacks which comply with the principles of 40-30-30 (carbohydrate, protein, fat) from EnerZona. I got to try the crispy vanilla snack bars, dark chocolate mini rocks, crackers and a meal nutrition bar (which I haven't eaten yet). I've eaten all the snack bars (and didn't think to take a picture), all the mini rocks (and got the one pic in this post) and am as we "speak" munching on the crackers! So I guess that's a thumbs up from me for taste and knowing that all the thought has already gone into the recipes to make them balanced makes me feel that little bit better!

What's your view of a Mediterranean diet? How does The Zone Diet sound to you?! 

Elle :) 


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Cooking with Chestnuts w/ Merchant Gourmet

A few weeks ago I got to pop along to a Christmas in July event hosted by Merchant Gourmet. Like me, you may know them better for their pre prepared puy lentils which are amazing to add in salads but they have a bigger range of products which include whole chestnuts and chestnut puree. The aim of the event was to inspire us to use chestnuts in our cooking; I first tried a chestnut either last Christmas or the one before and was pleasantly surprised that I actually like them! With such limited experience of them I certainly hadn't considered using them to cook with!

I took some pictures at the event which are enough to get anyones mouth watering! I also have the recipe for my favourite creation from the lunch!

Roast Cod Squash Bacon and Chestnuts with Lemon and Butter

"This is a glorious combination of sweet, succulent and salty with the butter giving it a smooth finish and the lemon adding a sunny smile." By Merchant Gourmet Cook, Alex Mackay

Meal Type: Main
Cooking Time: 30-60 minutes
Dietary Options: Gluten-free

3 tbsp vegetable oil (you could use goose fat for a little treat)
12 shallots, peeled
Half an average sized (1kg) butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, cut to roughly the same size as the chestnuts
1, 180g pouch of Merchant Gourmet Whole Chestnuts, separated
150g bacon lardons
120g unsalted butter
1, 20g-25g bunch (average supermarket size) of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked from the stalks
4 filets of cod, 150g each, skin on (you could also use pollock or hake)
Zest of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp juice
2 tbsp water
Salt, black pepper and sugar


Prep ahead: The shallots, squash and chestnuts can be prepared, up to the point of roasting, hours or even a day ahead.

Pre-Heat your oven to 230C/Gas Mark 8, upper middle shelf. Boil your kettle. Put a bowl next to your cooker to drain fat into. Heat a low sided baking tray just large enough to hold the vegetables with 1 and 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil, for 5 minutes in the oven.

Add the shallots and squash to the baking tray. Season with salt and pepper and toss them until they are well coated with the oil. Roast for 15 minutes, turning the vegetables once and basting with a heatproof brush. Add the chestnuts, a third of the butter and the bacon. Roast for 7-10 minutes more or until golden.

Get a large frying pan very hot with 1 and 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil. Season the cod. Fry on the flesh side over a very high heat for for 2 minutes. Lower the heat slightly, drain the fat into the bowl next to your cooker, add a third of the butter and fry for a further 2 minutes, turn the cod then fry for 3-4 minutes until the skin is crisp and the cod is just cooked through.

Put the cod on top of the roasted vegetables and chestnuts. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and water to the pan. Bring to the boil. Stir in the remaining butter and the parsley. Turn off the heat, season to taste.

Spoon the cooking juices over everything except the cod skin. Serve from the baking tray.

...and Enjoy :) 

Elle :) 


Swim Dem Crew: Katherine's Story

Whilst on my journey to learn to swim so I could take part in my first ever triathlon, I came across Swim Dem Crew. They ended up playing a pretty crucial role in my journey; it was with them that I first entered a 50m pool and a pool with a deep end! Watching their journey inspired me on mine and I wanted to share some of that with you!

Recent research from the Amateur Swimming Association found that one in five adults couldn’t swim. With this insight, Run Dem Crew lynchpin Charlie Dark, and ex-Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere, introduced Swim Dem Crew (based mainly in East London) – an exciting new cultural youth movement launched in January 2015 that set out to get more young people into the pool and overcome their fears of swimming - supported by Speedo. 

My fitness buddy, Katherine, has been a part of the movement from day 1 and kindly scribbled her story down so I could share it with you...

Katherine: When I was younger, at my school in France, we were forced to go to swimming "lessons", which were part of compulsory PE classes. Sadly, these weren't really classes, but more like one-hour slots where a teacher would force kids to jump into the pool and yell at them while they have to swim X number of lengths. I had never had a swimming lesson in my life even though my parents considered I could swim because I knew some sort of underwater breaststroke I kind of picked up from my dad. Everyone thought I looked pro because I would dip my head in the water, even though in reality, I didn't know how to swim while keeping my head above water. The irony. I hated the swimming sessions so much because I was too slow since I couldn't swim freestyle, and was too petrified in the water under the pressure that I ended up always hyperventilating. It got so bad, that I ended up getting a medical certificate to be excused from the swimming sessions.

Katherine asks, "If not today, then when?!"

Nearly two years ago, I met my now boyfriend who had swum competitively for over ten years. When we went to the pool together for the first time, he taught me that my breaststroke wasn't actually a breaststroke. I also tried for the hundredth time to breathe on the side and do some front crawl, but in vain. A few weeks later, I ran into a post on Facebook about a swim challenge with Swim Dem Crew, because I had some friends who were part of Swim Dem and Run Dem. I thought, I got all sort of injuries lately from long distance running, and I really want to prove to myself and to the ones I love that I know how to swim, so that's why I emailed to sign up. Even though I never, ever thought I would actually have the strength to make it from 0m front crawl to one mile in open water in the space of a few months, I said to myself, if not today, then when?

"I never realised how a journey like this about learning how to swim would turn out to be one of the most incredible human adventures I have experienced."

Through the following five months, I learned a lot from the people around me, the coaches, the people making Swim Dem (Nat, Peigh, Danny & the rest of the crew), the Swim Challenge Crew (every single one of you), and Matt from the Stoke Newington Reservoir. I never realised how a journey like this about learning how to swim would turn out to be one of the most incredible human adventures I have experienced. There were difficult times, like when I had a full-blown anxiety attack in the middle of the pool when trying to do timed distances front crawl at the beginning, and shed my first tears in the water. The time when I didn't even manage to swim in the cold water of the Stoke Newington reservoir and had to get dragged out by a lifeguard on a kayak during my first open water swim. But I also remember how after losing faith completely, I went back to the same reservoir a couple of days later, and jumped in and just made myself feel at home in the water. Then there were those times when the people from Swim Challenge were there for me. They showed that they believed in me, and that we were in something huge together, but that most importantly, we, as a team, were bigger than the challenge itself. I saw people give up. I saw people try even harder and prove that giving up was not a way out.

People don't realise how hard this was at times, but regardless, sticking together and being there for each other, we made all of our goals attainable, and at the end of the day, I managed to swim my mile in the open water swim in the Salford Quays, Manchester. I have still been swimming since. I even taught my parents some technique drills coach Harley taught me, and I've been feeling much more eager to go swimming with my boyfriend too, and he was even really jealous he wasn't able to join me in the water on the day of my open water mile - all he needs now is to get a wetsuit. 

Doing a full triathlon has now become a new attainable goal for me, and hopefully I'll be doing that at some point too. Another goal would be to enter some open water swimming event with my boyfriend in the future, if only the wetsuits weren't so pricey/out of reach for students... But until then, I've definitely been swimming much more often, and it feels amazing to be able to work on technique and swim proudly the front crawl in front of my friends when on holiday. 

" If you haven't given it a proper shot, you don't have the right to shoot it down"

So this is to all the people out there who were like me at this point just seven months ago: if you haven't given it a proper shot, you don't have the right to shoot it down, so go jump in the water, and stick with it, you won't regret it.


Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Starting a Fitness Regime

If you are planning on starting a new fitness regime in order to get in shape or to try to reverse a condition that you are dealing with, rest assured that you are taking a major step in the right direction. However, there are certain precautions that you need to take, particularly if you suffer from one or more conditions or if you are currently taking prescription medications. Therefore, you should talk to your doctor before embarking on any new exercise routine. 

What questions should you ask doctor to get the answers you need and the assurance that a fitness regime will truly be beneficial? Continue reading to learn more. 

Does Your Medical Condition Dictate the Type of Exercises You Should Do and Avoid?

The first thing you should do is talk about any current conditions that you are experiencing. You want to be sure that you are healthy enough to take up any fitness routine you desire. Otherwise, your doctor will advise you to steer clear of certain workouts in favour of others that are safer and appropriate to your needs and body. If you were to dive into a workout routine that is not really right for you, you could be putting your health at risk and doing more harm than good. 

Do You Need to Worry About Current Medications Getting in the Way?

In addition to discussing your current physical conditions, you also need to talk to your doctor about any prescription medications or alternative therapies that you are currently taking. Will these interfere with your ability to pursue certain forms of fitness? It is important to know that some medicines will affect the way that your body responds to working out. So if you are taking a medicine that affects the heart rate, as an example, you might need to stick with low-impact workouts rather than high-intensity cardio workouts, and you will probably have to monitor your heart rate throughout the duration of the workout to ensure it remains within safe limits. 

How Often Should You Exercise?

You should talk to your doctor about how often you should exercise, as well as how long your workouts should be. Again, you do not want to overdo it, so asking about what your limits are will ensure your safety and wellbeing. 

Are There Any Symptoms You Should Watch Out For?

Finally, you should ask your doctor if there are any symptoms that you should be aware of and that you should watch out for during your workouts. Some common symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, pain, particularly in the joints, and dehydration. Remember, exercise should not be painful, so do not push yourself too far past your limits. Listen to your body, whether you are doing yoga or going for a jog.  

Talking to your doctor before starting an exercise routine is important, but you need to start with a doctor you can trust, so check out http://www.londondoctorsclinic.co.uk/ to find a GP you'll feel comfortable speaking with and getting advice from.
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