Your gut nutrition


By Andrea Bursey

Nutrition & Mental Wellbeing 

If you thought food was just fuel for your body, think again! Your mental wellbeing is directly linked to the foods you consume, and you can improve mental clarity and wellbeing from simply choosing better and more nutritious options. During times like these (Covid-19), where we have limited interaction with friends and loved ones, it is particularly important to prioritize mental health and self-care. 


The link between the gut and mental health

Unhealthier options that are high in sugar and fat are often seen as indulgent treats which may result in you feeling happier for a short period of time but leave you sluggish and flat afterwards. The effect of highly processed and sugary foods has also been found to influence your gut microbiome, affecting absorption and digestion which has an impact on various other functions in the body. 

Serotonin is a hormone that regulates sleep, appetite, and mood. About 95% of the serotonin in your body is produced in the gastrointestinal tract (gut). The gut contains millions of nerve cells that help digest and absorb nutrients as well as influence the overall bacteria in your gut. 

Having an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria can limit nutrient absorption and reduce your overall immunity. Boosting certain nutrients like prebiotic fibers and probiotics nourishes the good bacteria to improve your overall gut health. 

Examples of foods that may aid the growth of good bacteria include fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and kombucha. A highly processed and high sugar diet unfortunately has the opposite effect. 

Check out this blog to explore more on the topic: THE MIND-GUT CONNECTION – HOW TO UNLOCK YOUR GUT HEALTH POTENTIAL

Fueling your best mental performance


Think about your body like a car. Your car functions better when it is fueled with the correct fuel and breaks down when you forget to add fuel or if you use the wrong type. Your body is similar, holistically functioning optimally when you “fuel” it with high quality foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The human brain is fueled directly by glucose, the by-product of carbohydrates. Foods that provide us with carbohydrates include fruit, milk, sugar, bread, and pasta. 

As we all know, not all carbohydrates are created equally. Diets that are high in sugar upset your body’s regulation of insulin, promoting oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. 

A balanced diet with higher fiber carbs like fruit and wholegrains is great for providing the brain with energy to function throughout the day with less insulin spikes, giving you more mental clarity. The frequency at which you eat may also play a role in your concentration and energy levels. Some people prefer to skip breakfast while others thrive on 6 small meals per day. The key is finding your balance and sticking to a plan that suits your needs and lifestyle. 

Protein plays a role in providing our bodies with amino acids which aids hormone balance as well as mood. Including a variety of high-quality protein sources such as beans, legumes, lean beef, chicken, and fish is a great idea to make sure your productivity is at its peak. A regular intake of healthy fats also comes highly recommended for optional brain function. Include fat sources that are high in omega 3 and 6 to boost brain function and reduce inflammation. 

Check out this blog I wrote on intuitive eating: INTUITIVE EATING – COULD IT BE THE ANTI-DIET PLAN FOR YOU?

Eating a variety of foods from different food groups daily will ensure you have a constant intake of different beneficial vitamins and minerals that play a role in your mental and physical health. Diets that are restrictive and ban certain food groups can result in nutrient deficiencies.  

Shopping right

Next time you’re at the grocery store, take the time to fill up your cart with a variety of foods as well as colourful fruit and veggies and fermented foods. Having nutritious snack options on hand is also a surefire way to make sure you don’t reach for the cookie jar next time you’re feeling peckish. 

The final word

Pay attention to what you put in your body and the way that certain foods make you feel. Remember that everyone is different and finding a way of eating that works for you and helps you function as your highest self is something that will take commitment and time, but at the end of the day, it’s well worth it – your mental wellbeing will thank you for it. 

Healthy Eating


By Andrea Bursey 

In this day and age, we are bombarded by so much information about different diet plans and often, unethical ways to drop weight quickly and reach your goals, including miracle weight loss pills, slimming coffees and teas and starvation diets. The amount of pressure is simply overwhelming. If you are feeling swamped by all of the content out there and not sure which way to turn, which diet plan is best for you and how you can reach your goals, the best method for you might be to turn your back on diets completely and consider intuitive eating. In this blog, I explore what intuitive eating means and how you can adapt this way of eating.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating was developed by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in 1995 as a non-diet approach to nutrition where you tune into and rely on your body signals for hunger and cravings to build a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. The basis of intuitive eating is that we are all born intuitive eaters, as we grow older, external pressures such as rules and restrictions around food shape us into building opinions around eating which may impact on the types and amount of food we choose to consume. 

Focusing your energy on basing food choice and eating on internal cues like hunger, fullness and satisfaction can really retune your mindset and prevent you from feeling pressure to eat and think a certain way. 

Read more: Thriving In Uncertainty: 8 Everyday Anti-stress Tools To Take The Edge Off


Intuitive Eating

Why might Intuitive Eating be a better plan for me?

If you have tried every diet under the sun, and seen good results, but then as soon as you go back to normal eating you end up straight back where you started, this might be the non-diet diet for you. Restrictive diet plans may result in an all-or-nothing mentality where if you’re sticking to the plan you are on track, but as soon as you reach for a chocolate chip cookie, you may as well just eat the whole box! 

Meal plans or diets that demonize certain foods and food groups have been found to result in bingeing which, in turn, can throw you off completely and put you in a bad space mentally. Intuitive eating relies on your internal hunger and satiety signals and allows you to eat whatever you like, whenever you like, without feeling guilty. The important part of intuitive eating is to understand your internal cues, make peace with food and honour your hunger levels.

Principles of Intuitive Eating:

  1. Reject the diet mentality
  2. Honour your hunger
  3. Make peace with food
  4. Challenge the food police
  5. Respect your fullness 
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor
  7. Respect your body
  8. Incorporate exercise
  9. Honour your health through gentle nutrition

Simply put, intuitive eating is not a free-for-all eating method but rather a guide to understand your body and cues to eating. It is about building a positive, mindful, and healthy relationship with food and your body to reach a place where you are happy and comfortable with food and eating. 

While you’re here and we’re on the topic of food, check out these recipes: 

Nut Butter Banana Smoothie

Lemon Garlic Baked Salmon


Until next time, 



By Andrea Bursey (MSc. Dietetics)

These days a trip to the grocery store can be more confusing than anything – you’re faced with so many different food options with an array of exciting and appealing claims. Welcome to the “free from” era, a time when food products display more claims and callouts about what they don’t contain compared to what they do. Examples of “free from” claims are gluten-free, free from sugar, free from colourants, and the list goes on. It’s so easy to notice these claims and overlook the entire nutritional profile of a snack food or ready meal. 

How to read food labels

Food labels and nutrition tables don’t have to be overwhelming. They can be used as valuable tools to guide us in making the best choice. It’s important to understand how to read and interpret food labels and use them to your benefit. When comparing the nutritional content of food, always look at the nutritional content per 100 g – this helps you compare apples with apples. The serving size is also important to look at as this is the recommended amount that you should have in one sitting.

Health claims like “low in fat” and “fat-free” displayed on packaged foods may lead you to believe that these products are great choices, however, these foods are often loaded with fillers like sugar and carbohydrates to improve taste and texture. The ingredient list displays quantities of ingredients from the highest to the lowest amount. The closer “sugar” is to the top of the ingredient list, the higher the sugar content. Sugar is sometimes listed using other words: cane sugar, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, syrup, honey, galactose, lactose, maltose, maltodextrin, rice syrup, corn sweetener and xylitol.

(Looking for a sweet snack, check out this recipe for dark chocolate peanut butter love bites – high in love and low in sugar).

The consumption of excess salt can negatively affect your health as well as result in water retention and bloating. Look out for other names for high sodium ingredients: celery salt, garlic salt, meat/yeast extract, monosodium glutamate, (MSG), onion salt, rock salt, sea salt, sodium, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium nitrate/nitrite, stock cubes, vegetable salt.

Avoid food products that have a very long ingredient list of unfamiliar, processed ingredients. Try to choose products with fresh ingredients and minimal additives and preservatives. A shorter shelf life also shows you that a product is a fresher and healthier option.  


Guideline to understanding food labels

Nutrient (per 100 g) 

Best choice:

Sodium < 400 mg 

Saturated fat < 3 g

Total fat < 10 g

Trans fat Trace/0

Sugar < 10 g

Fibre >3 g