Slow-Cooked Mushroom Soup: The Perfect Night Shift Sustenance.

Night shift. It’s such an incredibly ruthless shift in more ways than one as it requires us to be alert and ready to make decisions when all our body instinctively wants to do is sleep!

Working night shift also raises our risks of developing certain chronic health conditions (due to a myriad of reasons) including things like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – to name a few.

One of the key drivers is that our body digests and metabolises foods inefficiently during the night – even if we’re awake!

In other words, eating food during the night as opposed to during the day, can have a negative impact on the body. In the scientific literature, this is referred to as “chrononutrition” which takes into consideration not only what we’re eating, but also when. 

Of course I’m not telling you to not eat during the night, although that does work for some people. It’s more about being selective on the types of food to help minimise blood sugar, digestive and hormonal disruption.

So how can we nourish our bodies in a way that is going to help maximise our alertness, but without adding to digestive discomfort which plagues many who work through the night? 

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Blood Sugar Stabilising Smoothie:

When it comes to shift work nutrition, there are four things that we need to focus on when working nights or early shifts:

  1. Consuming foods that will help to sustain us through the shift, as our bodies struggle to remain alert as a result of both sleep disruption and deprivation.
  2. Foods that will help to stabilise our blood sugar levels so we don’t fall under the hypnotic spell of the vending machine which is often filled with sugar-laden, man-made “foods” that not only add to the waistlines, but increase inflammation in the body too.
  3. Consuming foods that are easy on the digestive tract given sleep disruption can make us prone to intestinal permeability, otherwise known as ‘leaky gut’.
  4. If on nights, consuming foods that aren’t going to interfere with our sleep when returning home from our shift.

This is why I like home-made smoothies, as they’re a great source or “liquid nutrition” as the body is able to absorb the nutrients much more effectively and efficiently, without making us feel even more tired as the body tries to break down and absorb hard-to-digest food particles.

In addition, when we include a good cross section of ingredients – as in a serving of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates it becomes an all-in-one “macronutrient balanced meal”.

This means it will help to keep us feeling fuller for longer, and help to stabilise our blood glucose levels so we’re less likely to fall “victim” to the not-so-healthy processed-food-laden vending machines.

Here’s one to get you inspired!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon protein powder (I use Pea or Inca Inchi)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup of ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or ½ teaspoon nutmeg

How to make it!

Throw all of the ingredients into a blender and enjoy immediately, or transfer into a small thermos and store in the fridge at work to enjoy mid-shift!

 

References:

Ali, T, Choe, J, Awab, A, Wagener, T & Orr, W 2013, ‘Sleep, immunity and inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders’, World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 19. no. 48, pp. pp. 9231-9239.

Crispim, C, Zimberg, I, Gomes dos Reis, B, Diniz, R, Tufik, S & Tulio de Mello, M 2011, ‘Relationship between food intake and sleep pattern in healthy individuals’, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 659-664.

Wehrens, S, Hampton, S, Kerkhofs, M & Skene, D 2012, ‘Mood, alertness, and performance in response to sleep deprivation and recovery sleep in experienced shiftworkers versus non-shiftworkers’, Chronobiology International, vol. 29, no. 5, pp. 537-548.

Nourishing Night Shift Jelly Cups!

These Nourishing Night Shift Jelly Cups are perfect for sensitive tummies that have to be up in the middle of the night, thanks to night shift.

In other words – anyone who has to work night shift, or those crazy early shifts starting at 4am or earlier!

What’s great about them?

  • These little jars of goodness contain gelatin which is made from cooking collagen, and is extremely high in protein.
  • It is the richest food source of the amino acid glycine, which can help to improve memory and attention – another struggle we face when having to be awake in the middle of the night!
  • Gelatin contains glutamic acid, which is converted to glutamine in the body which studies have shown can help to improve the integrity of the gut wall, and help to prevent “leaky gut”.
  • “Leaky gut” is something Shift Workers are quite prone too as sleep disruption can alter the delicate balance of the gut microbiome or microbiota, which can lead to intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”.  This phenomenon allows food particles to enter the bloodstream, triggering an immune response.

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Stress Busting Night Shift Puddings!

Shift work is undeniably stressful on our mental, physical and emotional well-being, and is often one of the reasons why we reach for the comfort food to help calm our frazzled nervous systems down – particularly during a hectic shift at work.

However when we think of comfort food, one of the first things to come to mind for many of us, is that deliciously decadent ‘I’m-not-allowed-to-have-it’ treat called chocolate.

Until now!

These stress busting night shift puddings are not only easy to make and super tasty, but unlike most store bought chocolate mousses and puddings, they don’t contain loads of processed and refined sugars, so your waistline will be happy with them too.

What’s great about them?

  • They are perfect for night shift as they’re really easy to digest, and can be made the night before.
  • Cacao is high in magnesium which helps to support the adrenal glands which bare the brunt of our stress.
  • Cacao helps to boost neurotransmitter production, which can enhance our mood.
  • Avocados are high in oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid which can reduce inflammation.  They are also high in fibre which helps to fill the void when you’re feeling ravenous at 3am in the morning!

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Nourishing Night Shift Jellies:

The Perfect Gut Healing Snack for Night Shift!

gelatinjellies

After spending a year in clinical practice chatting with shift workers from an array of different occupations, one of the things I noticed when undergoing individual dietary assessments, was how many of my clients would succumb to eating ‘comfort foods’ whilst on night shift.

Now if you’re a night shifter, then I’m sure this is something you can relate to.

And I completely understand why.

Night shift is tough.  Really tough.

So when everyone puts money in to order a pizza, brings in a bag of lollies or cake to share, this ‘party food’ or ‘comfort food’ brings a bit of fun into the workplace, and helps to jazz up an often long and tiresome shift.

But nocturnal eating, or more specifically, eating out of sync to the body’s natural circadian clock can actually make us more susceptible to gut disturbances.

Things become even worse when we consume foods that are low in fiber, and high in simple carbohydrates (such as white flour, white bread and white rice), because the body converts these foods into sugar very quickly, leading to blood glucose dysregulation.

Sleep loss or circadian disruption is also a form of physiological stress that can disrupt the gut microbiota leading to intestinal permeability, otherwise known as ‘leaky gut’.  This imbalance of gut microbiome can lead to low grade inflammation which, over time, can increase our susceptibility of developing chronic conditions such as autoimmune disease.

So gut health is absolutely key for anyone who works 24/7, which is why I’ve included this great gut healing alternative to take into night shift.

Introducing my heart-centred ‘Nourishing Night Shift Jellies’ … because every shift worker needs a hug – particularly when on night shift!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of organic gelatin powder (I use the brand – Changing Habits)
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon of organic honey

Method:

Mix gelatin with half of the coconut milk and leave to become gelatinous.  Warm the other ingredients together in a pot on the stove, but on low heat.  Don’t let it get to a boil.

Then mix the warmed milk in with the gelatin mix and give it a good stir with a metal spoon.  Pour in to molds of your choice, and pop into the fridge to set.   Keep stored in an air-tight glass jar in fridge.

Enjoy!

Audra x

 

Recipe inspired and adapted from @anourishingnook.

Reference:

Reynolds, A, Paterson, J, Ferguson, S, Stanley, D, Wright, K & Dawson, D 2016, ‘The shift work and health research agenda:  Considering changes in gut microbiota as a pathway linking shift work, sleep loss and circadian misalignment and metabolic disease’, Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 2016, p. 1-7.