I was discussing with a very famous vlogger recently (yes, I know, look at me down with kids, just call me Hollella) how pretty much everyone who loves their food is also a little bit absorbed in the workings of their digestive tract. To put it more bluntly, what goes in; must come out, and if you care about the quality and flavour of what you’re ingesting, then it’s only natural you want your digestion to work in harmony.
Of course the ‘best’ digestion is when you don’t notice it happening. As with all things health related, it’s easy to take it for granted when everything is going well. We all have memories of a dodgy tummy, whether short term or long term (hello memories of that summer 1998 trekking experience!) to remind us that when things aren’t going well in the tummy department, it really isn’t a case of ‘keep calm and carry on’. Carrying on is quite tricky when you’re preoccupied with your stomach.
So when Activia asked me to get involved in their Feed Your Inner Smile campaign I jumped at the chance. (I’ve long been a fan of Activia). You see, back in my teens I had a few ‘issues’ that led to some pretty big changes in the diet department. To hear the full story of what happened and how I sorted it all out, have a look here.
Anyway, Feed Your Inner Smile is all about celebrating how great you feel, and how much more you get out of life, when you look after yourself – inside and out. I know personally that the days where I eat lots of fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of water, walk more than I drive and eat at the table, calmly and slowly, I feel plain better for it. It’s not rocket science, yet somehow it seems hard to commit to such simple, pleasurable habits. Here are my top 10 ideas to help you look after your digestive health:
- Take the time to eat! Sit down, chew properly and enjoy. Food should be a pleasure and stress at mealtimes does not help digestion. I hesitate to use the word ‘mindfulness’ as it’s really not very me, but hey, if it is ‘you’ then practice it when eating.
- Write down your water intake for a day. Add it up and pour into an empty 2 litre bottle. Space left? I was going to suggest you fill a 2 litre bottle with water but let’s be honest, you will likely forget to take it anywhere and then be annoyed with yourself for barely drinking anything by the end of the day. Well, that’s what I’d do. Sometimes seeing your behaviour by omission is more motivating.
- Exercise doesn’t need to involve lycra or team sports. How about a walk and a chat with a friend? Or perhaps a turbo shopping trip?
- Make sure to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day. They’re high in water content, and are generally high in fibre too.. My favourite way to up my veg intake? Soup of course! Invest in a stick blender if you don’t have one and say goodbye to food waste. Soup is the best for hoovering up anything in the fridge you’re unsure what to do with. It freezes well, is delicious and comforting too. Take a look at some recipes here.
- Stress is not good for digestive health. It’s not especially good for much (apart from when it’s vital, in a flight or fight situation, but we’re not talking life and death here,), but it really does have a negative effect on your digestive tract. I do not have a stress free life. Far from it. I have three sons, a husband who is often away and I am freelance which means I never really know what I’m up to one week to the next. So to combat stress I have taken to writing things down. I have a work list of live jobs on the go, I have a personal/family list of admin that needs addressing and I also have a ‘silly list’ of things that keep me awake at night. Writing it down makes the stress feel off my plate. Try it; it might work for you too.
- Cigarettes and binge drinking are not good for your digestive health. Fags increase your risk of heartburn and are also linked to stomach cancer. I don’t need to go into all the other reasons why smoking is bad for you do I? It’s bad, bad, bad. But if you’re a foodie and need another reason to quit then think about how much better your food will taste once you quit. And binge drinking, as we all know, isn’t the reserve of the scantily clad underage drinker. No, no, binge drinking is happily done at a nice middle class kitchen table using an expensive bottle of red poured into shiny big grown up glasses. Binge drinking is linked to acid related digestive disorders as well as a myriad of other health issues. If that doesn’t motivate then look at the empty calories. Binge drinking = bigger trousers.
- Take time to go to the loo. No really, I’m not kidding. Try not to snigger. I can only speak for Mums (but I imagine this can apply to Dads and frankly anyone who is busy) but it’s a common joke that we’d all like the time to go to the loo without an audience. Respect your digestive health and give yourself time to go to the loo without rushing and if possible (just now and again mind, as a treat) without an audience asking exactly what you’re doing. This is especially important when in public stall style loos. (What? Just me who’s been given a running commentary by a helpful toddler?)
- Stand up straight, sit up straight, whatever you are doing imagine a thread pulling you upright, as if you’re a puppet on a string. Good posture gives your internal organs a chance to do their thing properly. Your lungs will be a big fan of raising those shoulders and your digestion will thank you for standing tall too.
- Take food hygiene seriously. It’s easy to get a bit blasé about it. After all, we’re adults aren’t we? We know not to wipe raw chicken over plates before serving hot food. But there are still over 5.5 million cases each year in the UK (that’s 1 in 10 of us experiencing, at best, a dodgy tummy), so wash those hands, keep the kitchen clean, learn how to store foods before and after cooking and check temperatures. For more advice look here.
- If you have recurring digestive problems, go to the doctor. Don’t be embarrassed. They’re heard it all. They’re seen it all. They’ve likely had every bodily fluid known to man (or woman) on their person at some point. So just go and put your mind at rest. See point 5.
Right, that’s it. Well, apart from the recipe. I thought you might like a handy, healthy granola recipe to get you off to the right start in the morning. Now ginger can be polarising, but I promise it really lifts this granola from good to outstanding.
Apple, cinnamon & sultana granola
Makes 12 servings
- 150g mixed nuts (I used brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts)
- 40g desiccated coconut
- 20g sesame seeds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 65g coconut oil
- 160g porridge oats
- 100g dried apple slices
- 150g sultanas
- 10g crystallised stem ginger, chopped very finely
Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas mark 3 and line a large baking tray with non-stick baking parchment. Mix together the nuts, coconut, sesame seeds, cinnamon and coconut oil in a large saucepan and heat on the hob over a medium heat until the coconut oil has melted and covered the mixture well. Remove from the heat, add the oats, stir well and spread over the prepared baking tray evenly. Bake for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes turn the oven down to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4 and use a spoon to turn the granola a little. Bake for a further 10 minutes until golden brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack.
Once cool, add the apple, sultanas and ginger, stir well and store in an air tight jar for up to 1 month.
Serve over Activia yoghurt, fruit compote or simply with a splash of milk.
NB: This granola makes a great alternative to crumble topping. Simply heat some fruit through, sprinkle granola on the top and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Serve with Activia yoghurt or custard.
This post was supported by Activia. #InnerSmile
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