The Slim Down

Eat yourself better

The grim summer means there's a good chance you're experiencing an unseasonal bout of illness. But the weather needn't rule your health — or your mood. Y! Lifestyle's nutritionist Rachael Anne Hill looks at what to cut out and what to add in to your diet to improve some common ailments …

PMS
Cut Out:

Refined flour and sweet foods such as chocolate, cake and biscuits.  Cravings for these foods can increase when you are premenstrual but they'll only make you feel worse so avoid them and reach for a piece of fresh fruit, a low fat yogurt or a handful of mixed nuts and seeds instead.
Add in
Flaxseed oil and flax seeds.  Flaxseed (also known as linseed) is a great source of omega 3 which can help to prevent a whole host of hormone-related ills such as PMS, prostate problems and some hormone sensitive cancers such as prostate and breast cancer.

Cold Sores
Cut Out:

Meal skipping, especially breakfast.  Cold sores are much more likely to appear when your immune system is run down.  Breakfast is a great opportunity to bank a whole load of immune strengthening vitamins and minerals.  Fortified breakfast cereals, oats, wholegrain breads, low fat yogurts, fruit, nuts, seeds and fresh juices are all packed full of the nutrients your body needs to fight infection.

Add In:
Foods such as garlic, onions, ginger and thyme are all natural immune boosters.  Black and green tea are also useful as they contain quercetin and catechins which have been shown to be anti-viral.  And don't forget lamb, fish, chicken and milk as these all contain the amino acid lysine which helps to block the herpes virus.

High Cholesterol
Cut Out

Cream, full fat cheeses, butter, sausages, burgers, fried foods, chocolate, cakes and biscuits.  These foods are all high in saturated fat which in turn will increase cholesterol levels.
Add In:
Oat bran and rapeseed oil.  Oat bran is rich in betaglucans, substances that act like filters through your blood, helping to remove excess circulating cholesterol.  Rapeseed oil is a good source of essential fatty acids 3, 6 and 9 which can all help to improve heart health.

Dry, Flaky Skin
Cut Out:

Alcohol, which increases the risk of dehydration and processed foods as these can be low in all the essential nutrients needed to feed the skin.

Add In:
Dry skin can be caused by dehydration coupled with a lack of vitamin A and essential fatty acids so drink at least two litres of water a day and aim to eat oily fish at least twice a week.  Apricots, milk, liver and egg yolks are all good sources of Vitamin A which helps the body to produce more keratin, a substance that protects the skin from the elements.

Headaches
Cut Out

Alcohol, tea, coffee and sugary drinks as well as foods high in salt such as curries, bacon, cured and processed foods.  These can all dehydrate you and research shows that being dehydrated by just 2 per cent will give you a 50 per cent greater chance of experiencing headaches.
Add in
Herbal teas, very diluted fresh juices, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and water.
These will all help to keep you hydrated, healthy and as a result, headache free.

Bad Teeth
Cut Out

Sugary drinks, sweets, chocolates, cakes biscuits and eating in between meals.
Add In
Cranberries, prunes and cinnamon.  They all contain benzoates, which protect your teeth from ugly dental cavities.  Studies on rats at the University of Rochester, New York showed that the rats given a mixture of benzoates and fluoride had a much higher resistance to tooth decay than those that received fluoride alone.

Bloating
Cut Out:

Excess salt intake.  Feeling swollen and bloated is often caused by an increase a in the amount of fluid surrounding your cells which in turn can result in sore breasts, swollen ankles and abdominal bloating.  Too much salt in the diet can make these symptoms much worse.

Approximately 75 per cent of the salt we eat is hidden in our food.  It is in everything from our breakfast cereals to our bread so we certainly don't need to add it to our food.  Processed foods such as biscuits, ready meals, curries, crisps and other snack foods are often particularly high in salt so try to prepare as much of the food you eat as possible yourself.

Add in:
Fluids.  Make sure you drink at least eight glasses of water a day.  This may be just the opposite of what you feel like doing when you are bloating up like a puffer fish but it is this increase in fluids that you need to help your kidneys to do their work in effectively flushing out your body.

Mood Swings
Cut Out

Caffeine and excess sugar can both exacerbate mood swings leaving you feeling wrung out, stressed and emotional.
Add In:
Wholegrain foods.  Wholegrains are a good source of magnesium which has been found to be effective at lifting mood, particularly in premenstrual women.  Unfortunately, many women within the UK have a low magnesium intake.  Other magnesium rich foods include nuts, pulses, green vegetables and dark chocolate.