Welcome to Croí’s weekly Q&A series, Croí Connects
Through this new series, Croí will connect with medical experts each week for a questions and answers session to help answer your questions on heart disease, stroke, COVID-19 and lots more. Our Croí Connects video series will be shared here and on our Facebook page.
Each month we will announce our upcoming guest expert on Croí Connects. You are invited to submit your questions the week in advance. Your questions can be submitted using the form below, or you can call Croí on 091-544310.
Croí’s Dietitian, Aisling, has designed the perfect recipe for Energy Ball Bites! These tasty and healthy treats are the perfect little snack to give you a quick but light energy boost. Try them out and, if you’re doing Croí’s Couch to Wild Atlantic Way challenge, pack them up and bring them with you for a mid-walk snack!
The natural sugars from the dates provide energy and sweetness, while the healthy fats and protein in the nuts satisfy that peckish feeling. However, because they are small, they are a perfect pre-workout snack as they won’t fill you up too much but will give you an energy boost for your session.
There are so many varieties and flavour combinations from chocolate, orange zest, coconut or peanut butter, but the basic ingredients of dates and nuts always remains the same so, once you’ve made these yourself once or twice, don’t be afraid to get experimenting!
Croí Energy Balls – Basic Recipe
100g medjool dates (or regular dried dates pre-soaked in water)
50g nuts (I used hazelnuts but you could also use almonds or Brazil nuts)
1 tsp cocoa powder, plus extra for coating
1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
1 tsp honey
Blend the nuts finely.
Add in the dates and blend again until completely mixed. You may have to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times to make sure everything gets blended.
Add in the chia seeds, cocoa powder and honey and blend again.
Take out tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls.
Coat in some cocoa powder
For other varieties, try out some of these recipes below!
This Tuesday, the frying pans won’t know what hit them with all the pancakes that will be made! Although a popular and tasty treat, pancakes and the toppings that come with them are often high in sugar and saturated fats.
This year, why not opt for the healthy choice and try Croí’s heart healthy pancakes, featuring soaked oats and banana. These delicious pancakes are full of heart-friendly ingredients, with the same great taste as traditional pancakes – the kids won’t even know the difference. Croí’s Lead Dietitian has also suggested some healthy toppings that just taste like more! Check out the ingredient list here and follow along with the video above for the method:
150g soaked porridge oats
150g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 large, free-range eggs
100ml skimmed milk
2 tsp rapeseed oil
Sunflower & Pumpkin seeds
Learn about the ingredients in the pancakes and the benefits they have for you!
Just because we can’t eat out this Valentine’s Day, does not mean we can’t make it special at home! Our Croí Dietitian, Aisling, has gathered some quick, delicious and heart healthy recipes for you to try on Valentine’s Day, next Sunday, February 14th!
Begin your meal with a simple bruschetta. Easy to prepare but packed with flavour. Tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion and basil are staple foods in the heart healthy, Mediterranean diet. Onion and garlic are known as ‘prebiotics’ and they promote healthy gut bacteria. Try this simple Tomato Bruschetta Recipe.
Oily fish, such as salmon, are a great source of the heart healthy, fatty acids, so, what could be better to have as a main course on Valentine’s Day! Give this Sautéed Salmon with Citrus Salsa a try!
If you’re looking to spice things up this Valentine’s Day, why not try these Tomato and Chilli Mussels. Mussels are a good source of protein, fatty acids and contain a range of vitamins and minerals.
With the recent cold snap, if you’re looking for something more heart warming, try a Chicken Madras. The mix of herbs and spices, combined with a tomato base, makes this a very tasty and low saturated fat meal to warm you up!
If your idea of Valentine’s Day involves spending the minimal amount of time in the kitchen, then why not try this Spanish Style Chicken Stew. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare, and 25 minutes to simmer. How you spend that time is up to you…
Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate, so why not go all out with these mouth-watering Chocolate Molten Cakes? Dark chocolate has been shown to have some health benefits and is lower in fat and sugar than milk chocolate.
Bring the restaurant experience to the comfort of your own home with these delicious dishes! Put on some nice clothes (or your pyjamas and slippers, if that’s what you prefer), light some candles, and tuck in and enjoy your lockdown Valentine’s dinner date!
Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is essential for your body to function day to day. A certain amount of cholesterol is healthy, as it forms part of the cell walls and is also necessary to make hormones.
What are the Different Types of Cholesterol?
There are two main types of cholesterol – LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is beneficial to the body. However, if there is too much LDL cholesterol, it can be deposited along the walls of arteries, forming atheroma (fatty material) and causing blood vessels to become narrowed or blocked. Over time, a gradual build-up of atheroma can narrow the arteries that supply the heart with blood. This process is called atherosclerosis and may eventually cause symptoms of angina or result in a heart attack or stroke. One cause of high LDL cholesterol is a diet high in saturated fat.
What Should My Cholesterol Levels Be?
Total cholesterol: Less than 5.0mmol/L
LDL cholesterol: Less than 3.0mmol/L
HDL cholesterol: More than 1mmol/L for men and more than 1.2mml/L for women
Triglycerides: Less than 1.7mmol/L
If you have a history of heart disease, stroke or diabetes or, you are at high risk because of multiple risk factors, then your target levels for LDL cholesterol are lower:
LDL cholesterol: 1.4-2.5mmol/L
Your cholesterol can be high for a number of reasons. High cholesterol can be genetic or due to an under-active thyroid, but in most cases, high cholesterol is due to eating too much saturated fat. Following a healthy diet and reducing saturated fat is one of the best ways to lower cholesterol.
Click to Download our Cholesterol Booklet
Fat in Foods
A small portion of fat is needed in our diet, but fat is considered to be less healthy than other nutrients as it can raise our blood cholesterol, increase our risk to heart disease and is high in calories, which can lead to weight gain. Some fats are healthier than others. There are three main types of fat in food: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. A diet high in saturated fat can increase our ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats is an important dietary change to reduce cholesterol levels. You should avoid saturated fats wherever possible as these can raise your blood cholesterol level.
The Different Types of Fat
1. Saturated Fat
Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products such as fatty meats, processed meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, coconut oil as well as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and many processed foods.
Low-fat options have less saturated fat.
2. Monounsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated fats should be used in moderation.
Using this type of fat may help reduce cholesterol levels.
It is found in oils, such as olive oil and rapeseed oil, olive oil based spreads as well as nuts and seeds.
3. Polyunsaturated Fat
Polyunsaturated fats should be used in moderation.
Using this type of fat may help reduce cholesterol levels.
It is found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, nuts and seeds, polyunsaturated spreads, oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and herring.
Note: All types of fat are high in calories and can lead to weight gain.
Tips to Help Lower Cholesterol Levels
If you are overweight, aim for 1-2 pounds weight loss per week.
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can be broken down into 30 minutes on 5 days per week, or bouts of 10 minutes accumulated over the day.
Choose wholegrain varieties of cereal, bread, rice and pasta.
Aim for 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
Limit red meat to maximum three times per week. Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, veal and venison and ham. 1 portion of red meat should be no bigger than the palm of your hand. Make sure the red meat is lean and well-trimmed of visible fat.
Replace red meat with chicken, turkey, fish, eggs or beans.
Choose fish twice per week, with at least one day being oily. Examples of oily fish include sardines, mackerel, trout, herring or salmon. These foods are high in omega 3 oils which are good for your heart.
Choose low-fat dairy products e.g. low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese. Remember low fat dairy has the same amount of calcium as full-fat dairy. Focus on getting your calcium from low-fat milk and yoghurts, as opposed to cheese.
Limit cheese to less than two matchstick box size of cheese (approx. 30g) per week.
Eat no more than 4-6 eggs per week.
Choose healthier cooking methods – bake, boil, poach or grill food rather than fry.
Choose heart healthy oils when cooking e.g. rapeseed oil and use sparingly.
Choose a low-fat polyunsaturated or monounsaturated spread and spread it thinly.
Limit foods and drinks high in fat, sugar or salt (crisps, biscuits, chocolate, soft drinks).
If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation by keeping within the recommended weekly limits, which are 17 units for men and 11 units for women. Excessive alcohol can increase a type of cholesterol called triglycerides. Alcohol intake should be spread out over the week, aiming for at least two alcohol-free days per week. One standard unit of alcohol is:
– One-half pint of beer, stout or lager
– A small glass of wine (100mls)
– One Irish pub measure of spirits
If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Croí Health Team on 091-544310 or email email@example.com.
While Christmas doesn’t have a reputation for being the healthiest time of the year, there are a few ways that you can make it that bit healthier and maintain some healthy habits over the festive season.
Firstly, try not to stress if your exercise or healthy eating routine goes out the window. It’s 2 weeks out of 52 in the year and after the year we’ve had, it’s time for a bit of a celebration! However, be mindful that the celebration doesn’t stretch out to a month or more..
Be wary of how early you stock up on your favourite boxes of Christmas chocolates, biscuits and sweets. While we may have the best intentions of leaving them unopened until Christmas week, does that ever really happen? And with us all likely having a lot less visitors and guests calling to our houses over the festive period, we probably don’t need to have as many treats in stock ‘for the guests’…
Watch out for the high levels of salt and saturated fat in common finger foods such as pastries, sausage rolls, quiches, spring rolls, mini pizzas, cheeses and cured meats. If in doubt, use our handy traffic light card to read your food labels or have a look at our healthier canapé suggestions. Excess salt in our diet can lead to raised blood pressure while high intakes of saturated fat lead to raised cholesterol levels and weight gain.
Be mindful of how much alcohol you consume. Alcohol can negatively effect our physical and mental health and can impact on our relationships. With Christmas 2020 bound to be a different one for many reasons, be mindful of how much alcohol you are having and how it affects you. Why not try some of the many alcohol free beers, wines, spirits and sparkling wine that are available in most supermarkets now or try some of these tasty mocktail recipes? For more information on alcohol click here.
Try to keep some sort of routine. Whether that be sticking to a healthy breakfast rather than the leftovers from the selection box, getting out for a daily walk or scheduling in a quick home workout, make sure you have some structure to your day and take some time out to focus on you. Why not have a look at some our Croí at home workouts.
While Christmas generally isn’t the ideal time for focusing on a healthy diet, there are some ways you can ensure that you maintaining healthy habits and nourishing your body. For example, make sure you include some fruit and vegetables every day. Why not add some lovely winter berries or fruit salad to your breakfast or have a fruit based dessert. Make the most of the lovely in season vegetables on offer this time of year. Not sure what’s in season? Click here.
Be mindful of your portion sizes. Because there are so many tasty foods on offer during Christmas, it can be hard to resist sampling a bit of everything. A simple way of being able to have a bit of what you fancy but still being mindful of your waistline is to watch your portion sizes. This goes for everything from the portion size of your dinner, to the amount of chocolates you have while watching your favourite Christmas movie to the glass of wine you have in the evening. Try to be mindful of your portion sizes and your hunger levels – check out our feature on mindful eating here.
Tired of endless scrolling, looking for inspiration for the perfect recipe for finger food? Or, trying your hand at cocktail making, but can’t seem to find the right recipe? Don’t worry!
Croí have compiled all of our favourite recipes for you to try over the Christmas season. We are bound to have every recipe you need for any dish you desire! Oh, and did we mention? They’re also healthy and delicious!
Crudités and Dips
Why not change things up a bit this year and instead of the usual fat and salt laden finger foods, experiment with a selection of healthier crudités and dips. Here’s some links to some of our favourites from the internet:
This year, lots of people are trying alcohol free alternatives to their favourite beers, wines and spirits and there are so many different options to choose from. Why not get creative and whip up an alcohol-free cocktail at home? From virgin mojitos to alcohol free passionfruit martinis, we’ve linked some our favourites below:
*Cocktails and mocktails are high in sugar, so avoid or use sugar free mixers if you have diabetes.
Arguably, the best meal of the year. So, even if you are trying to keep it relatively healthy and keep the salt and fat content to a minimum, there is no reason to skimp on flavours. Luckily, turkey is a lean meat, low in saturated fat and the typical side dishes of potato and vegetables do not need to be cooked in butter, goose fat or covered in gravy to be tasty. Play around with flavours and take some inspiration from the recipes linked below, such as these paprika roast potatoes, chill charred brussels sprouts, lemon thyme carrots and mulled red cabbage with clementine’s.
Why not mix up your Christmas dessert offerings and include some slightly healthier ones. Think delicious fruit based desserts, such as grilled pineapple, baked apples, lighter crumbles and fruity pavlovas.
Not sure what to make with your leftover turkey? Sick of turkey curry? This year why not get creative and whip up a Vietnamese Turkey Pho, Fruity Moroccan Turkey Tagine or even a Korean Turkey Rice Pot. Just because you can’t travel doesn’t mean your tastebuds can’t!
Congratulations! – you have taken the first step to a healthier lifestyle by signing up for the 6th Annual Croí Night Run/Walk/Jog. Not only will you be helping us lead the fight against heart disease and stroke, but you will also be making a positive change to your lifestyle! It has been proven that regular exercise assists with maintaining a healthy weight and lowers your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Engaging in regular, routine exercise will also contribute to positive changes in your mental health and overall well being.
So join our 10-week training programme to get you running, jogging or walking across the finish line!
Where to start?
Our aim is to get you successfully across the finish line! You may be a total beginner or indeed you may have completed this challenge with us in the past. To meet everyone’s needs, we have developed two training programmes to suit your needs. The programme you choose depends on how you want to complete the 5 kilometers (jog/run or walk). The duration of both programmes is 10 weeks and will prepare you for the finishing line by gradually building up your ability week by week.
Let’s begin by setting your goal. The key is to set a realistic goal!
Each week you will need to allocate 3 sessions per week, ideally having a day of rest in between allowing your muscles and joints to recover.
Click the table below to enlarge/print.
Week 10 - Event Day, Oct 9th!
Always include a 10-15-minute warm-up of a light-intensity walk (feels comfortable, you can still hold a full conversation)
A jog/run is at a speed faster than walking where both feet are not in contact with the ground at the same time.
Always include a 10-minute cool-down walk at light intensity (feels easy, no shortness of breath and can have a conversation easily) at the end of each session incorporating some stretching into the cool-down.
Training Programme 2 – walk:
Each week you will need to allocate 4 or 5 sessions per week, ideally having a rest day in between training days. See pace descriptions at the end of this page.
Click the table below to enlarge/print:
Week 10 - Event Day, Oct 9th!
If you need to take a break, be sure to keep the feet moving to ensure a constant steady flow of blood around the body.
Take a break during the walks only if needed.
At the end of each session, always include a 10-minute cool-down walk at pace: light, incorporating some upper body and lower body stretches into the cool-down.
Walk/Run with a friend or family member as you can motivate each other.
Wear comfortable footwear ideally a running shoe that has some support around the heel and cushioning underneath.
Always keep hydrated during your sessions and throughout the day (aim for at least 2/2.5l of water throughout the day, build up to this over time).
Plan for rainy days, if you don’t wish to get wet, plan on training indoors when it’s raining outside (a treadmill can be used or an indoor track) however, if you have never experienced a walk/jog/run in the rain you may be surprised how reviving it is (ps. just wear your raincoat).
To prevent injury, it is essential to warm-up and cool-down. A warm-up of a walk for 10-15 minutes at a light pace will help warm-up the muscles, open your arteries and prepare you for the exercise session and a 10 minute cool-down, incorporating some stretches will help you cool-down.
Include rest days between sessions but if this is not possible just listen to your body as the week’s progress.
Sometimes it is common to experience calf pain or pain in the shins the day after the session, if this occurs, apply a cold press for 15-20 minutes.
If you miss a day or week, do not fall off the wagon, start working from where you left it.
This programme is designed to ensure you will be able to complete your walk/jog/run even if you miss a week.
Print off your training programme and have it somewhere where it is at eye-view (e.g. on the door of your fridge) so you can mark off each week as you complete the sessions and track your progress.
International Men’s Health Week takes place from June 15 – 21, and it aims to raise awareness of preventable health problems; encourage the early detection and treatment of health conditions in men; and support men and boys to engage in healthier lifestyle choices / activities.
Men still die on average about 4 ½ years younger than women. They also have a higher incidence of death rates for virtually all of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke and suicide. The overall theme for 2020 is ‘restoring the balance’ as we start to emerge from the limitations of COVID-19. During the week, we are encouraging men to do something positive to restore the balance in their lives.
Men’s Health Week 2020 – Be Part Of The Solution
HSE Health Promotion and Improvement has funded the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland (MHFI) to coordinate International Men’s Health Week (MHW) 2020 in Ireland. This runs from Monday June 15th until Sunday June 21st, Father’s Day. This year the theme is: ‘Restoring the Balance, Be part of the solution’. 2020 has been an exceptional year in many ways. All aspects of life in Ireland continue to be shaped by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It has had a major impact on men’s health.
Individuals across Ireland are trying to re-build their physical health, emotional resilience, relationships, jobs, finances, connections and routines and everyone is asked to be part of the solution and do something realistic and practical, no matter how small, to help restore some balance and stability to all our lives.
This annual week aims to raise awareness of preventable health problems; encourage the early detection and treatment of health conditions in men; and support men and boys to engage in healthier lifestyle choices / activities. Men still die on average about 4½ years younger than women. They also have a higher incidence of death rates for virtually all of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke and suicide.
In the West, the HSE is collaborating with Croí and many other voluntary organisations to provide information and to assist men throughout the region to be more aware of their health. Themes that will be promoted during the week include mental health, heart health, cancer prevention, physical activity and rethinking what you drink.
Two pre-recorded virtual panel discussions focusing on healthy lifestyles, chronic disease prevention and mental health and wellbeing will be promoted. These sessions will be broadcast during men’s health week on Croí website www.croi.ie and shared across various social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter. They will include expert advice and tips, as well as personal stories from some well-known personalities from the region.
In Mayo, Tommy Marren of Midwest Radio is supporting the week and says, “This week is an opportunity to encourage all men to lead healthy lifestyles, to be more aware of preventable health problems and to seek early detection and treatment for any health problems. This is now more important than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I urge all men to become involved in the week and access the many supports and services that will be available.”
A new free “Challenges and Choices” Man Manual is available. This covers a variety of men’s health issues including alcohol, food, physical activity, smoking, stress, blood pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, skin cancers, back care and help seeking behaviour. This manual which was funded by the HSE is available to download or can be ordered from www.healthpromotion.ie please click on search publications under men’s health. It is also available on www.mhfi.org.
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke as well as many other serious conditions including cancer, respiratory and reproductive diseases. These conditions can affect people of all ages and tragically one in two smokers will die of a tobacco related illness.
Therefore, all efforts to support a smoke FREE society must be supported and we welcome the ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes from May 20th 2020. The pleasant taste from these cigarettes masks the true taste of tobacco and makes it easier for people to start smoking and to stay smoking.
If you are a smoker, the single most important thing you can do for your health is to give up! If there was ever a time to quit, now is it.
How does smoking increase the risk of COVID 19?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more important than ever to quit. Smoking can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of developing COVID-19 and suffering complications if you do get infected. The most recent evidence from the World Health Organisation highlights that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers.
Tobacco smoking affects the function of the heart and lungs making it harder to respond to an acute infection. This happens as the natural barriers in the lungs are weakened and may make it easier for coronavirus to attach itself to the lung surface and infect lung tissue.
People who smoke are more likely to get the flu and are more likely to have a worse infection than people who don’t smoke. And just like the flu, a coronavirus infection may be more severe in people who smoke and will take longer to recover from the illness.
Hand to mouth
The virus can be transferred by hands, objects such as a cigarettes/vapes or surfaces. This why people are advised to reduce the amount of times they touch their face. This risk is increased when you smoke, as you are more likely to touch your face. Bringing your hands to your mouth frequently when smoking, can transfer the virus into your body.
Smokers who share cigarettes or vaping devices are also increasing their exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
How can I reduce my risk?
Stopping smoking or vaping now will lower the risk of severe symptoms and improve your outcomes if you contract the COVID-19 virus.
When you stop smoking the benefits are immediate:
the natural hairs in your airways (cilia) begin to work again which helps build your natural resistance to all types of infections
within 20 minutes your blood pressure and heart rate lower
after 8 hours the oxygen levels in your blood improve
after 72 hours your breathing and energy levels increase
after 2-3 months your lung capacity can improve by as much as 20-30%. All of these benefits will help reduce your risk and put you in a good position to fight the virus.
Don’t share cigarettes or vapes as you are potentially transmitting and spreading the virus between people.
Avoid smoking around others, as second hand smoke affects the airways and weakens the body’s immune system. Second hand smoke is particularly dangerous to children as their breathing rate is faster than adults so their lungs are exposed to more smoke.
Advice for quitting
Your own willpower and determination are essential components for quitting and getting the right help can double your chances of success. There are various treatment options available to help you quit and these include:
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) – can help to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. People who use NRT to help them quit smoking are twice as likely to succeed compared to those who don’t. NRT is available at all pharmacies, without prescription.
Medication on prescription – examples include: Champix (Varenicline HCL) and Zyban (Bupropion HCL SR). These medications can double or triple your chances of quitting successfully. Your GP will help you decide which medication is right for you. However be sure to speak to your GP well in advance of your quit date as these medications are often taken for a period of time prior to quitting.
If you are thinking about quitting smoking or would like further information about the different support methods available visit the HSE website or call the HSE quit line on 1800 201 203. Both services are still operational throughout COVID-19 pandemic.
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