Is Your Waist Circumference Sabotaging Your Immune System?

This week I’m talking about something called Central Adiposity, or the more fancy term being “Belly Fat”.

Why is this important?  

Well, just like high blood pressure, obesity has an inflammatory component which means it can interfere with the immune response and vice versa.

In a review published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2012), researchers stated:

Obesity, like other states of malnutrition, is known to impair the immune function, altering leukocyte counts as well as cell-mediated immune responses. In addition, evidence has arisen that an altered immune function contributes to the pathogenesis of obesity. 

When we’re carrying extra weight, especially around the middle, it shifts our biology out of balance because fat cells release pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines.

In other words, fat cells are a living breathing thing. They’re not stagnant that just sit there and do nothing!

They’re actually endocrine cells because of their ability to secrete hormones and influence cells in other parts of the body, that in many cases, can lead to further weight gain.

Sorry, not exactly the rosiest of scenarios but it’s important that I tell it as it is!

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Needing Help With Sugar Cravings?

The other day it was raining ☔️ here in my hometown of Brisbane, so I thought what better way than to experiment in the kitchen!

Now given the majority of shift workers experience “hangry” moments thanks to blood sugar dysregulation as a result of sleep disruption, I wanted to come up with a recipe that would help to keep sugar cravings at bay.

Meet Mr Macadamia Nut Hummus– the perfect sugar craving antidote whether you’re on an early shift, late shift, night shift or heaven forbid a “normal” shift – lol

Macadamia nuts are high in healthy monounsaturated fats to keep you feeling fuller for longer, and are a great source of magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, vitamins B1, B3 & E, phosphorus and zinc.

Chickpeas are packed with gut-friendly fibre which help to stabilise blood sugar levels (and fend off those “hangry” cravings), as well as making them great for insulin-resistant individuals or diabetics. Health conditions which are becoming increasingly common in those who work 24/7.

In addition, chickpeas are a great source of protein and contain minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and zinc.

What’s in it?

  • 2/3 cup roasted macadamias
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Handful of parsley

How to make it?

Throw everything into a food processor for 10-15 seconds (I like a chunky consistency), or longer until smooth.

Store in a container to bring into work to have with crackers or veggie sticks and share with workmates (maybe?!) It’s also delicious as a base on sourdough toast topped with eggs, mushrooms and/or roasted tomatoes!

Enjoy,

Audra x

Coffee and a Muffin – The Early Shift Breakfast of Champions!

Is this “breakfast” sounding familiar? Now as a former shift worker myself, I’m certainly not going to tell you to never buy that flat white, cappuccino or latte ever again – especially if you’ve been up way before the crack of dawn!

However, if you’re going to combine it with a muffin or two, then I’d definitely recommend bringing in your own home-made muffins into work cause those store bought muffins … well let’s just say their ingredients are often a little questionable, not to mention laden with refined and processed sugars, trans fats, vegetable oils along with a whole host of other inflammatory ingredients.

It’s why I decided to pop the apron on this afternoon, and bake a batch of these Pumpkin, Cinnamon and Cardamom muffins that the shift working hubster can take into work, and are bursting with blood-stabilising goodness.

In other words, they’re going to help you to “get more bang for your meal break buck” by helping you to feel fuller for longer, so that you’re less likely to fall under the ‘magnetic spell’ of the vending machine at work.

What’s great about them?

  • Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients including vitamins K, C and E, potassium, iron, B-vitamins to name a few!
  • They’re high in fiber which means a happier gut and digestive system – super important for shift workers who are often prone to digestive complaints thanks to ongoing circadian disruption.
  • They contain a good dose of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A – a vitamin that plays a role in helping the body to fight off infections. A timely post given it’s officially the first day of winter here in Australia!
  • Cinnamon helps to stabilise blood sugar thereby reducing those blood sugar highs and lows that are synonymous with food cravings.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw pumpkin, grated
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 2 cups organic flour (I use Emmer Wheat by Changing Habits)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 eggs, free range
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

How to make them?

  1. Preheat fan-forced oven to 180 degrees. 
  2. Grate the pumpkin, and then gently combine with olive oil, eggs, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and dates in a food processor.
  3. Transfer into a bowl, and then add the flour and mix through. 
  4. Pour into silicone muffin trays, and bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven, and leave to cool on a cooling rack. 

Pop a couple in the work bag and take into work for your early shift, and refrigerate or freeze the rest to have later.

Whilst I’m not a huge fan of microwaves, muffins always taste nicer served warm with some butter (definitely not margarine!), or a dollop of vanilla or Greek yoghurt on the side :-).

Enjoy,
Audra x

Blood Sugar Stabilising Smoothie:

Liquid Nutrition for Early or Night Shifts!

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.

HSW 64 – Low Carb and High Fat with Sports Nutritionist Steph Lowe

In today’s episode of The Healthy Shift Worker podcast we’re joined by Steph Lowe who is a Sports Nutritionist, triathlete, author and founder of The Natural Nutritionist – a hub for celebrating the importance of real food.

Steph talks to us about the importance of eating more real food – otherwise known as JERF, which encompasses more of a low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) style of eating and it’s associated health benefits including balancing blood sugar.

Given blood sugar dysregulation is common in those who are sleep deprived, adopting more of this “real food” approach can be key for anyone working 24/7 as it can help to mitigate some of the poor health outcomes associated with consuming high amounts of  processed sugars and carbohydrates – which let’s face it, forms a significant part of many shift worker’s diet!

In this episode you’re also going to learn why counting calories and following a low fat diet is not ideal, and how it can contribute in the decline of our mental and physical wellbeing.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Steph’s website – The Natural Nutritionist

The Natural Nutritionist Instagram

Steph’s Build Your Plate Guideline