Kick off the year the right way with these top healthy diet tips

The New Year provides the perfect backdrop to make changes to your life and, most importantly, your diet. The good news is that even making small changes nutritionally can have a really big impact on your overall health.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top tips on how to revamp your diet this year!

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Sometimes, the simplest changes can have the most impact. If you’re dehydrated (and a lot of us are), you’ll feel sluggish, your brain will be fuzzy, energy levels will be lowered and your skin may look tired and less luminous.

The body is around 75% water, therefore it makes sense to be well hydrated.  Optimal water intake is around 1 ½ – 2 litres daily which you can sip throughout the day; always keep a water bottle close at hand.

If you’re exercising, then you’ll need more.  The body is not ‘pure’ water which is why isotonic drinks, which are recommended during and after exercise, provide additional electrolytes and solutes which help re-hydrate the body more effectively.

We can often confuse hunger for thirst, so making sure you’re getting enough water is a daily essential and may prevent you from reaching for snacks you might not really need.


One of the most unpleasant aspects of adjusting your diet and eating less is the feeling of hunger and food cravings. This is because our blood sugar levels are imbalanced so it is important to sustain energy levels by eating the right foods even when you’re trying to eat less.

The trick here is to always eat protein at every meal.  For example, eggs for breakfast, some chicken or turkey with your lunch and some fish, for example, in the evenings.  There is a misconception that it is carbohydrates that fill you up; the reverse is actually true.  Protein provides feelings of fullness and helps to keep your blood sugar levels balanced, your energy levels sustained and those hunger pangs in check. Protein all the way!


When we’re trying to make changes to our diet, whether it be for health reasons, to lose weight or just to ‘change things up a bit’, many of us seem it as too big a challenge.  But by changing your mind set and looking at food as one of life’s pleasures, you can have a much more harmonious relationship with your nutritional plan.

So, if you want to improve your diet, always make sure that you resolve to replace the foods you know you shouldn’t be eating but really enjoy (high fat, low nutritional value foods such as biscuits, cakes, sweets) with foods you enjoy.

Many people choose a new diet plan but really don’t like the foods they are being asked to eat and this is just not sustainable long term.  I often advise people to try removing dairy from their diet for health reasons, but I will always suggest alternatives to dairy that people will enjoy to fill the gap.  For example, replacing cow’s milk: many people find soya milk unpalatable but they like coconut or almond milk. Therefore by choosing an alternative they like, they don’t feel deprived about not having traditional cow’s milk in their diet.

So, you may need to avoid the cakes in the office, but you might have a bar of delicious raw chocolate in your drawer at work and can eat a piece as a sweet treat. It is not about having a life of denial, but finding healthy alternatives, and most importantly, enjoying the food you’re eating.


We know that eating protein at every meal is going to help you to feel fuller for longer.  However, there are going to be times when you’re away from a kitchen and direct access to healthy food may be limited.  This is where problems can start and you may grab something unhealthy because you’re hungry!  However, it’s all about planning and this is where healthy snacks come in.

If you plan your week in advance – may be even write a menu – you’ll be much more likely to stay on track.  More importantly, you can ensure you have healthy, portable snacks on hand.  For example, protein bars containing natural ingredients, where possible. Oat cakes, pots of seeds, almonds or Brazils, fruit such as blueberries … all these are easy to keep in your bag or in your desk drawer.  It’s best not to go without food for longer than three or four hours, therefore healthy snacking is an essential part of any balanced diet.

So get the New Year off to a flying start nutritionally and the rest will follow!  Good luck!


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Banish the bloat for 2018: top digestion tips

For many of us, Christmas over-indulgence may have negatively impacted on our digestion leading to uncomfortable bloating. But with the Christmas festivities behind us, and a New Year on the horizon, what is the best way to prep your body so you can start the New Year energised and ready to go?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top tips for beating the bloat this New Year!

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The humble dandelion plant delivers some wonderful health benefits; most importantly it is a natural liver cleanser and helps to detoxify the blood. Since the liver is crucial to digestive processes, if it’s working well then the digestive system will automatically run smoother.

Dandelions also aid digestion by encouraging the flow of bile which primarily breaks down fats, thereby reducing any likelihood of bloating. Dandelion can be drunk as a tea or coffee, both of which are readily available in health food stores.


Whilst talking about the liver, there’s no better way to start the day than with a glass of lemon water with ginger.

Lemon is a liver detoxifier and ginger feeds the friendly gut bacteria, which helps to reduce any bloating. Start with a large glass of warm water, add a couple of slices of fresh lemon and some crushed ginger. Apart from cleansing the liver, your skin will also glow after a week or so and your digestion will run a whole lot smoother!


We have billions of friendly or good gut bacteria, living quite happily in the digestive tract. However, sugary foods, alcohol, stress, refined foods and caffeine all have an impact on how happy they are! Over-indulgence during the festive period will certainly have impacted on the natural balance in the gut, which can lead to tell-tale bloating and wind.

Natural live yoghurt provides good amounts of friendly bacteria. Whilst it’s great to include this regularly in the diet, your digestive tract will benefit hugely from taking a course of probiotics (readily available in health food stores) for at least a month, to get everything back on track. You may initially experience a little more bloating, which is normal, but it should settle quite quickly. The end results will be worth it!


Globe artichokes may look slightly strange and can be a little fiddly to prepare, but they are packed full of digestive benefits. Artichokes have been used as a liver tonic for centuries because they contain two antioxidants, namely cynarin and silymarin. These help to cleanse and repair over-worked livers, which naturally improves digestion.

Moreover, cynarin is one of the active ingredients in globe artichokes that helps soothe digestion. Artichokes are also high in fibre which helps improve bowel movements and this in itself provides relief from bloating.

To prepare them, cut the body of the artichoke in half and remove the stem whilst pulling out the fibres. Snap the leaves from the edges and cut the remaining leaves away. Then you can slice the tip of the artichoke away, scrape out the hairy middle and lightly steam or gently roast the leaves in a little olive oil.


Gluten is the protein found in wheat and other grains such as oats, rye and barley. It’s a sticky protein, hence breads are quite dense in texture. It’s precisely for this reason that many people have a problem digesting gluten. And if you think about it, you’ve probably consumed lots of gluten over the Christmas period! Canapes, stuffing, cakes, pastries, Christmas pudding, bread, sausage rolls … the list goes on!

Why not start the new year being gluten-free for a couple of weeks to help relieve any bloating? It may sound difficult but there are so many alternatives available now in the supermarkets. Plus, you’ll naturally reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase your protein, which is always going to be beneficial for weight management.

Just be wary of gluten-free biscuits or cakes; they’re generally very high in sugar which is certainly not going to help any new year detox!

So try these top tips to feel more energised and beat the bloat this year, and get ready for an even healthier 2018!


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Five nutritious food swaps for a healthier Christmas

A table laid with christmas foods including turkey, cake, cheese and decorations

Christmas is not always known for being the healthiest time of year! However, wouldn’t it be marvellous to still enjoy wonderful festive food but with a healthy twist this Christmas?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top healthy Christmas food swaps!

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Serve up some delicious Parma ham wrapped around asparagus instead of pigs in blankets this Christmas. Whilst those traditional pigs are often one of the mainstays of the Christmas table, there’s around 800 calories per 100 grams , so there’s nothing wrong with changing it up a little and enjoying a choice.

Asparagus is packed with energising B vitamins, plus it feeds the friendly bacteria that naturally live within the digestive tract and this is going to really help reduce digestive upsets which are common over the Christmas period. Treat yourself to some traditional Italian Parma ham and wrap a slice around three asparagus sprigs. Gently roast in the oven and sprinkle with a little fresh Parmesan cheese and those little pigs will be a dim and distant memory!


Whilst scrambled eggs and smoked salmon is a delicious Christmas morning breakfast, it can often sit heavily on the stomach. Farmed smoked salmon is especially high in fat and scrambled eggs are frequently made with milk and butter which can be more difficult to digest.

The other downside to eating any smoked foods is that they contain a high salt content; salt is added to reduce the moisture content of the food and help prolong shelf life, prior to smoking. For people who have to be mindful of high blood pressure, eating foods loaded with salt will often exacerbate the problem.

Much easier on the digestion would be a lightly poached egg on wholemeal toast with some avocado slices. Avocado is a wonderfully healthy fruit, packed with skin-loving vitamin E to help you glow through the festive season.


Crème fraiche will provide a wonderful partnership to your Christmas pudding! As we know, traditional Christmas pudding is notoriously packed with sugar, and whilst the day could never be the same without its presence, brandy butter is equally sweet and very high in fat.

The combined taste of sweet Christmas pudding with the slightly sour crème fraiche is a real treat. In terms of fat content you’ll be more than halving your intake with crème fraiche as there’s nearly 200 calories per serving in brandy butter as opposed to around only 50 in crème fraiche.


Christmas lunch or dinner often kicks off with some canapes. However, goat’s cheese tarts, mini quiches, vol-au-vents and smoked salmon blinis might look lovely but they can negatively impact on the digestive system. And that’s before we even consider any impact on the waistline.

You can still enjoy some pre-dinner drinks and nibbles but why not serve up a plateful of fresh crudités with hummus or guacamole? A plateful of chopped vegetables including celery (great for reducing blood pressure), cucumber (excellent internal cleanser), carrots (packed with vitamin A for the immune system) and peppers (loaded with vitamin C) is colourful and appetising and even better with some delicious dips.

Moreover, you’ll be better able to enjoy the main event without feeling bloated before you start!


Whilst the chocolate yule log might look very Christmassy, it is a very heavy dessert. We also tend to eat a lot more gluten-containing foods over Christmas which can really contribute to bloating and flatulence, and the traditional yule log is one of these you could do without.

A lemon polenta cake still looks great on the table, can be dusted with icing sugar to look like snow, and is gluten-free. Plus, you can even make it dairy-free by substituting the butter for mild olive oil if you like. Even better, lemons provide powerful antioxidants so you’ll be supporting your immune system at the same time.

So why not try these easy swaps and make this your healthiest Christmas yet without losing any of the pleasures!


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Shout about sprouts! Everything you need to know about nutritious Brussels sprouts.

Plate with traditional Christmas dinner and a delicious turkey on the table in the background

Brussels sprouts are synonymous with Christmas and will always appear on any traditional Christmas menu. However, just like marmite, people love them or hate them even though they deliver wonderful nutritional benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer stands up for sprouts and also suggests alternatives if you really can’t stomach these little green vegetables!

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Did you know that Britons eat more Brussels Sprouts than any other country in Europe, even though they originated from Brussels? The area dedicated to sprout fields in the UK is equivalent to around 3,240 football pitches so there must be more lovers than haters? So what’s so good about sprouts?


Brussels sprouts are bursting with nutrients and actually contain more vitamin C per 100 grams than oranges.  Plus they’re a great source of folate – a B vitamin which helps energy production and red blood cell production – and vitamin A for a strong immune system. Even better, they’re full of fibre which keeps the bowels in smooth working order.  The only down side is that they can produce unpleasant wind, but this can be reduced by cooking them as quickly as possible in fast-boiling water in an uncovered saucepan.

One often-forgotten nutritional fact about sprouts is that they are actually rich in protein; they provide around 4 grams of protein per cup, which is high for a vegetable.


It may not be the time of year we traditionally think about detoxing, but why not give a helping hand to the body and help it to cope better with any excesses of the festive season?

Brussels sprouts are high in glucosinolates which help activate other detoxing compounds, plus they are high in sulphur, which is key in activating the liver’s natural detoxification systems.


It has been proven that some people have a gene that can make certain foods, most specifically sprouts, taste bitter, which may explain why some people dislike them.  However, this bitter taste can be overcome by adding other flavours. It is often over-cooking sprouts that produces the rather unpleasant smell that can pervade the whole house so why not try steaming them instead?


There are so many positives to eating Brussels sprouts regularly in the diet, so how can you make them even more appealing?  Sprouts work really well with bacon, onions and raisins which will compliment your Christmas meal perfectly.  They can also be sautéed with garlic and shallots.

Plus, if you want to be sure of avoiding sprout cooking smells, then why not roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes with chorizo, garlic, paprika and a little olive oil.  If you wanted to make them into more of a main meal, then why not add some small sausages?


If Brussels sprouts really don’t ‘float your boat’ then there’s plenty of healthy alternatives.  They come from a family of vegetables called the brassicas which are very well-known for their health benefits.  They’re also better known as cruciferous vegetables and are all super-foods in their own right.

Think kale, cauliflower, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli and turnips.  You can put broccoli in stir fries, kale into pasta dishes and cauliflower can be mashed or made into the all-round favourite cauliflower cheese. Try sautéing some greens with garlic and add turnips to a slow-cooked stew.

Whatever you decide, always try to select sprouts that are fresh and bright green with tightly-packed leaves and no patches of yellow.  Make this Christmas the year to start loving sprouts!


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How to get your five-a-day during December

Close up of a woman's hands holding a pile of cranberries

Our healthy diet can sometimes go awry during December. Festive functions and busy diaries mean that eating healthily becomes, potentially, more difficult, and that includes getting the recommended ‘five-a-day’ of our fruits and vegetables. However, there are some delicious ways of eating foods in season right now to maximise their health benefits. 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some of her favourites!

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Maybe not top of everyone’s ‘wish-list’ but Jerusalem artichokes provide some wonderful health benefits.

One of their top ‘claims to fame’ is that they boost our beneficial gut bacteria. This helps to improve mood and motivation because it stimulates the production of serotonin, our ‘happy’ hormone. It may also help to avoid winter SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which affects so many people, making them feel low through the cold, dark months.

Jerusalem artichokes are delicious simply chopped lengthwise and roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.


Not surprisingly, cranberries are in season right now!  But don’t just eat them once a year with your turkey; cranberries can offer some wonderful health benefits throughout the winter months.

Cranberries are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamin C so are great to eat at this time of year when the immune system needs a boost.  Plus, cranberries are brilliant at fighting urinary tract infections; they stop bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

If you’re prone to bladder infections, then the best advice is to regularly drink sugar-free cranberry juice and include dried cranberries in granola or muesli recipes, or your other favourite cereals.


Often called ‘the ugly one’ because of its very rough physical appearance, celeriac’s rich nutritional benefits and distinct taste means it is quite an interesting vegetable!

It is part of the celery family and, just like celery, is rich in potassium which is great for the heart.  Both vegetables are particularly helpful in reducing blood pressure.

Celeriac is quite difficult to peel but once prepped it’s great as a vegetable side mashed with butter and black pepper.  Even better, celeriac can be roasted whole in the oven which means it doesn’t even need to be peeled!  Wash the outer skin and cut off the top.  Sprinkle with some olive oil, garlic, herbs and seasoning.  The celeriac should then be wrapped in foil and cooked in the oven for around two hours.  Once cooked, it’s easy to spoon it out of the skin and serve with some butter.


‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ as the old wives’ tale goes, and apples certainly deliver some great health benefits which can be enjoyed during December.

Apples are packed with pectin fibre which helps to keep cholesterol levels under control.  Additionally, they contain a flavonoid called quercetin, a natural antihistamine that helps to calm allergies.

Apples are also used to make cider vinegar, which provides even more health benefits; it helps the digestion, eases joint pain, helps with weight loss and is great for the skin.  Indeed, its health benefits are as valuable as eating an apple a day.  Have a dessertspoonful before each meal.


Kale, with its rich dark green leaves, is in season right now and is great to add to your five-a-day. It’s packed with vitamin K, which is heart-protective, and folic acid and iron which support high energy levels.  It’s also full of fibre and low in calories and fat – a real winner!

Some people find kale’s fairly strong flavour slightly off-putting!  However, its makes an excellent addition to any pasta dish, such as chicken and bacon rigatoni, where there are also some other strong flavours, which combine really well.  Add a sprinkling of parmesan and black pepper and you’ve got yourself a wonderful mid-week meal to keep you running up until Christmas!

So even though time might be pressured over the next few weeks, you can still give your body plenty of nutrients to ensure you’re fully able to enjoy this Festive period.



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Top tips for banishing the winter bugs this season

As winter gets into full swing, so too can winter bugs. Many of us have already suffered from colds this season and the trend will inevitably continue over the coming months.  However, catching a cold doesn’t have to be a given every winter: there are many ways of reducing your chances of catching a cold.

The good news is that Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tell us just how we can do this with her five top tips!

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Vitamin C is probably best-known as a cold remedy.  However, it can also prevent a cold happening in the first place. Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, wrote a revolutionary book called Vitamin C and the common cold which looked at using large doses of vitamin C.  Whilst the clinical evidence is still fairly mixed, we do know that vitamin C increases white blood cell production, which strengthens immunity, and therefore many people have found that taking good levels of vitamin C throughout the winter has kept them sniffle-free.

Vitamin C is very easily destroyed by cooking, storage and food preparation.  So, whilst it’s essential to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C, such as strawberries, peppers, broccoli, mango, guavas, kiwi and oranges (all fruits and vegetables will contain some vitamin C), it’s just as important to take a daily supplement. Taking an additional 1000 mg of vitamin C daily can really help.


There’s a wealth of mushrooms now available in the supermarkets.  However, shitake mushrooms stand out as having some really beneficial effects on the immune system. They seem to improve gut immunity which is obviously beneficial to the whole body, but they also contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamins D and B6, which both help to boost the immune system.

Not sure how to eat shitake mushrooms?  Prepare them by simply washing and slicing and then use them in a Singapore Noodle recipe. They work really well with chillies, turmeric, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce and garlic with some chicken and noodles. Delicious!


Perhaps the most widely used Western herb for enhancement of the immune system, and therefore a great defence against colds, is Echinacea.  It even strengthens the immune system in healthy people so it’s certainly worth using as a preventative measure.  Indeed, there have been many scientific investigations on the immune-enhancing effects of Echinacea.

Look for registered Traditional Herbal Remedies (THR’s) containing Echinacea purpurea root for best effects.


Of all dietary changes that could be most beneficial in keeping you cold-free this winter, it’s ditching the sugar. Sugar in all its forms (glucose, sucrose, fructose, to name a few) can significantly reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy viral invaders to the body. In fact the negative effects of having a sugar overload can start within 30 minutes and typically last for over five hours.  This can mean a 50% reduction in the ability of our white blood cells to deal with foreign invaders.

After a sugar-hit such as sweets, pastries, alcohol and fizzy drinks, blood sugar levels will rise.  This will cause elevated insulin levels, and vitamin C and insulin appear to have opposing effects on white blood cell production.  Even fruit juice can be a problem because it has a direct effect on blood sugar levels.

Try to make a conscious effort to really look at your sugar intake and reduce it as much as possible over the coming months.


The mind has a profound effect on health and disease; our mood and attitude have a tremendous bearing on immunity.  When we’re happy and optimistic, our immune system functions much better.  Conversely, when we’re depressed, our immune system tends to be depressed.  If you want to have a healthy immune system, you need to laugh often, view life with a positive outlook and relax on a regular basis.

Easier said than done?

Positive thinking actually takes practice, particularly if you’re prone to being a ‘glass half-empty’ type of person.  However, take each day as it comes and actively try to banish negative thoughts.  It’s also a great idea to think of at least one thing every morning that you’re grateful for.  It could be something as simple as drinking a wonderful cup of coffee.  After a while, your mind set will switch to being more positive.  And the more positive you are, the stronger your immune system will become.

So with these top tips hopefully you can stay happy and healthy all winter long!


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The top three vitamins to future-proof your health

We all know we need to eat healthily and lead an active life to give us the best chance of staying well into old age.  Obviously, we don’t have a looking glass to see what’s going on inside our body but for starters why not prioritise those vitamins that could really help support your health as the years go by?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top three vitamins for future-proofing your health.

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A popular remedy for the common cold, and possibly the most well-known of all the vitamins, the health benefits of Vitamin C are far-reaching.  Vitamin C was first discovered many years ago by sailors in the British Navy trying to stave off the deficiency disease of scurvy by eating citrus fruits. In fact, it’s the very reason us Brits are often nicknamed ‘limeys’ because of the high vitamin C content in limes that were consumed.

Since then, it’s been found that vitamin C is used by the body in many different ways. Its primary function is in the manufacture of collagen, the main protein in the body.  Vitamin C is needed to join together the amino acid proline to form a stable collagen structure. As collagen is so important for holding our body together, vitamin C is actually crucial for healthy skin. Therefore, whilst your body might be quietly ageing, outwardly you’ll be looking younger!  Most importantly, you’ll be taking very good care of the inner structure of your body, which of course you can’t see.

Whilst vitamin C is readily found in many fruits and vegetables, it’s quickly used up by the body, so you need to be eating these foods every day.  Think peppers, guavas, kale, broccoli, strawberries, oranges and lemons, mangoes and asparagus. With such an amazing variety to choose from you’ll never be short of ways to increase your vitamin C intake.


Affectionately known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it’s made on the skin in the presence of sunlight, vitamin D is a key player in your healthy future.

The main role of vitamin D is to stimulate the absorption of calcium – our main bone and teeth-building mineral.  Although it’s fat-soluble, not much is stored in the body, hence, during the winter months in the UK, around 40% of the population are deficient.

As with many nutrients, deficiency symptoms can often be unspecific and not noticed until there is potentially something more serious afoot.  This is certainly true when it comes to our bones; peak bone density is reached at around 25 to 30 years of age, therefore it’s key to ensure the body has the right nutrients in early years to build strong bones for the future.

New benefits of vitamin D are being discovered all the time.  Optimal vitamin D levels in the body are also associated with better mood throughout life.  A recent large study[1] showed that increased levels of vitamin D may help prevent depression in later life – yet another good reason to take a supplement through the winter months when sunlight is scarce.


As part of normal daily life, the body is under constant attack from free radicals; pollution, poor diet, smoking, excessive sunlight and stress can all take their toll.  Whilst the body does have internal mechanisms for coping with free radicals in the form of antioxidant enzyme systems, it is difficult to know when the body is being overwhelmed.  Thankfully nature has provided us with a wealth of antioxidant nutrients, in particular, vitamin E.

Vitamin E is actually the collective name for a group of biologically active compounds which help prevent any damage caused by free radicals. It would seem that many of our serious degenerative diseases are associated with free radical damage, so whilst we might not know whether the body is coping, it’s certainly worth future-proofing with this vitamin.

Vitamin E also future proofs us in other ways; it helps improve fertility in both men and women.  The best food sources of vitamin E are polyunsaturated oils, seeds, nuts, whole grains, avocados, berries and green leafy vegetables.

As with anything, prevention is better than cure, so it’s certainly worth backing these three vitamins for the best chance of a healthier life, well into old age.

[1] De Oliveira et al.  Asscociations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in later life: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).  J Gerontol A Biol Med Sci 2017 June 22



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For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts