Orange, Almond and Chia Smoothie:

A Great Energy Smoothie For Night Shift!

What’s great about this smoothie?

  • Almonds contain healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin E.  The proteins and healthy fats provide a slow source of energy release, and also help to slow down the release of simple carbohydrates or sugars into the bloodstream.  This helps to keep our blood sugar levels steady thereby reduce sugar cravings – something almost every shift worker struggles with thanks to ongoing sleep deprivation.
  • The oranges are bursting with immune boosting benefits including vitamins B and C, along with Flavonoids, Folic Acid, Carotenoids, Potassium and Dietary Fibre.  Vitamin C is also critical for adrenal function, one of our stress regulating glands which bear the brunt of a sleep-deprived lifestyle.
  • The Chia seeds are also high in protein and fibre, both of which help to keep us feeling full and have been shown to aid weight loss.

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Breakfast Nutrition:

Chia Pot with Mango, Crushed Walnuts and Maple Syrup.

It was brekky on the deck this morning to soak up the winter warming rays of sunshine, before heading off to my local organic farmers markets.

These little chia pots are great for breakfast (or anytime really), as chia seeds are loaded with fibre, protein, healthy omega-3 fats, calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.

They also contain high amounts of antioxidants plus certain micronutrients including zinc, potassium, vitamins B1, B2 and B3.

From a shift work nutrition perspective, what I absolutely love about these tiny little black seeds is they help to provide sustained energy which is super important when you’re faced with ongoing tiredness as a result of working 24/7.

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The Circadian Diet – What to Eat and When?

A Question I Get Asked a LOT in Clinic!

Food clock. Healthy food concept

One of the most common questions I get asked by shift workers in our student clinic at Endeavour College of Natural Health in Brisbane is – “What should I eat and when?”

This is a great question given shift workers rarely eat breakfast at “breakfast time”, nor do we necessarily eat dinner at “dinner time”.

I mean “breakfast” for anyone who happens to work 24/7 could be at 4am, or it may not be until midday – depending on your shift.

Given our body is carefully orchestrated by our natural circadian rhythms (the fancy word for our sleep/wake cycles), any variation from these rhythms can play havoc on our body temperature, blood pressure, mental alertness, hormone and neurotransmitter production along with countless other body functions including our gastrointestinal system.

This influence on our gastrointestinal system includes our metabolism, digestion, and absorption of nutrients from the food that we eat.

So in addition to what we eat, along with how much we eat, when we eat is also critical to our overall health and wellbeing.

This was illustrated in an 8-week clinical trial showing how eating mostly carbohydrates at lunch, and mostly protein at dinner, had damaging effects on glucose homeostasis (Alves et al. 2014).  This disruption to our blood glucose regulation can lead to an increased risk in the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Which brings us to the “Circadian Diet”, or as it’s also referred to as “Chrononutrition”.

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Protein Smoothies: Are They Good For Us?

Whey protein scoop. Sports nutrition.

A few weeks ago I did a post about protein being an important macronutrient for shift workers because it helps to build a strong immune system, balances our blood sugar levels and helps to sustain us so that we don’t get hungry.

But what about protein powders?

Whilst protein in our food keeps us feeling full and less likely to binge or snack on high-sugared snacks from the vending machine, I’m not a huge fan of protein powder smoothies – particularly if they are used as a meal replacement.

Why?  Because protein powders shouldn’t replace real food.

They can be a great snack option, but they’re not ideal when used as a meal replacement because they’re a synthetic substitution for real food.

And I say this as an ex Herbalife consultant (from many years ago) which are renowned for their protein shakes.  Back then I had no idea about the importance of reading food labels but if they read something like a chemical experiment with lots of numbers and unpronounceable words – you really want to avoid them.

Many protein powders are also made up of fillers which can cause hormonal, skin and digestive disorders.  Depending on the brand, they can also contain lots of sugars, additives and artificial sweeteners which can lead to inflammation.

Still keen on consuming protein powders?

Don’t worry – they’re not all bad.  There are some good ones out there – in particular Pea Protein Powder.

Pea Protein Isolates is a vegetable protein derived from, you guessed it – peas!

I really like pea protein for a number of reasons:

  • It’s a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians because it is a “complete protein”.  That is, it contains all of the 10 essential amino acids which the body is unable to produce.
  • They are easily digested and absorbed.
  • They are less likely to cause allergies because they are gluten, dairy, soy and lectin free.
  • They are not genetically modified (GMO).

So keep enjoying your protein smoothies because they’re a great way to get some extra sustenance into your body when you work 24/7.   They’re also a far healthier option than choosing a chocolate bar from the vending machine, but just choose your protein powders wisely – do your research.

P.S:  I love adding fruit into my smoothies for extra flavour, in particular bananas for added fibre (which helps to keep us regular), vitamin B6 (which increases energy) and potassium (which helps to lower blood pressure).

Protein: An Important Macronutrient For Shift Workers

Food high in protein on table, close-up

As a veteran of working 24/7, one of the things which I noticed in my own diet over the years along with my fellow shift workers is that many of us are overfed and undernourished.  Undernourished that is in certain nutrients and overfed because we tend to eat our meals when we’re not necessarily hungry – or the complete opposite when we’re so hungry that by the time we get to our allocated meal break we inhale it in great haste!

Our diets also tend to contain high amounts of processed and highly refined foods as a result of wanting to find something which is easy and quick to take into work, or perhaps because we’re feeling too tired and exhausted to cook something after work which is going to nourish and support our sleep-deprived bodies.

So today’s post is going to be on one nutrient in particular and that’s protein.

From a nutritional perspective, we want to aim to have at least one source of protein included in every meal.

Why?

Well protein is particularly good for shift workers for the following reasons:

1.  It helps to build a strong immune system – one of the biggest struggles we have when working 24/7 is we’re constantly getting sick however studies haven shown that a deficiency of high-quality protein can result in depletion of our immune cells, as well as reducing the body’s ability to make antibodies which bind with bacteria, viruses and other toxins to help to keep the body healthy.

2.  It helps to balance our blood sugar levels and keep us full – protein helps to sustain us so that we do not get hungry.  As shift workers we need food which is going to help to keep us feeling full so we are less likely to binge and reach for an unhealthy snack.  Due to our erratic shifts, we also tend to eat at strange times and can end up going for long durations without eating which is another reason why protein can be so good for us when working 24/7.

So what foods contain protein?

The following are great sources of protein:

  • Meat – chicken, beef, lamb, fish, pork and organ meats (heart, kidney, liver)
  • Dairy – milk, plain yoghurt and cheese
  • Other – beans, lentils, eggs, seeds, nuts, tofu, and tempeh

I’m off to make myself some barramundi with coriander, snow peas and jasmine rice for dinner tonight.  After reading this post I hope you get to enjoy some protein in your breakfast, lunch and dinner tonight too!