Top nutrients for a tip-top smile

Cloe up of woman smiling brightly with a becah background

A lovely smile brightens up the face and healthy teeth are key to having a smile that engages the world! Good teeth are often built in the early years from having sufficient nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamin D in the diet. But what other nutrients are important?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the five most important nutrients for a lovely smile.

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CALCIUM

It’s the most abundant mineral in both the bones and teeth, therefore it’s important to have sufficient in the diet. If you missed out during childhood, for whatever reason, it’s never too late to make sure your diet is calcium-rich. Whilst dairy foods are some of the richest sources of calcium many people are intolerant or have an allergy to dairy foods.

The good news is that there are many dairy alternative milks which are naturally rich in calcium or are fortified such as soya, coconut and almond. There are also a great variety of dairy-free yoghurts to enjoy. Green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, fish with bones such as sardines and tinned salmon, beans and lentils are all rich sources. Kale contains some of the most absorbable calcium around! The best advice is to include a variety of foods containing calcium in your diet.

VITAMIN D

Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D actually goes hand in hand with calcium when it comes to healthy teeth and bones – in fact calcium needs vitamin D to do its job properly. Even though summer is on its way, with hopefully more sunshine, sunscreen and lack of time out in the sun means we’re often still vitamin D deficient. If you want healthy teeth, you should ideally be taking a vitamin D supplement all-year round containing at least 10 micrograms. And Public Health England supports this recommendation.

Interestingly, foods such as oily fish with bones that are high in calcium, also contain some vitamin D, so get that barbeque lit and cook up some sardines!

COQ10

CoQ10 is a vitamin-like substance that is naturally produced in the body but diminishes with age and is frequently deficient. In fact, CoQ10 is a very powerful antioxidant working hard throughout the body holding back age-related diseases. However, it’s also been found to be very effective at reducing gum disease through supplementation1.

CoQ10 is found in many foods including organ meats, beef and pork, oily fish, leafy greens such as spinach and cauliflower as well as oranges, although not in great amounts. It’s been found that as little as 50 mg of CoQ10 in supplement form, daily, can help reduce the severity of periodontal disease. It’s actually the gums that can be problematic as the years roll by, leading to pain, bleeding from the gums and loss of teeth, all detrimental to a healthy smile!

VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is key in the production of collagen. Since collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, it make sense that teeth will also contain some. Plus vitamin C is our key antioxidant helping to fight damaging free radicals that attack all parts of the body, and unfortunately, the gums are no exception.

Eating plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, particularly strawberries (in season right now and delicious with some calcium-rich cream), cherries, sweet red peppers, kiwi fruits and leafy greens are also teeth and gum-friendly. Certain fruits, particularly citrus fruits are acidic and may attack tooth enamel. If you do eat them (and they’re particularly rich in vitamin C), rinse your mouth out with water afterwards and don’t brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after eating to allow the enamel to settle.

MAGNESIUM

Magnificent magnesium is one of the other key minerals for healthy teeth and gums2. It’s as essential as calcium; magnesium helps to develop hard enamel that covers the teeth. Foods which contain magnesium include nuts and seeds but the good news is that it’s rich also in foods that are abundant in vitamin C, particularly green leafy vegetables. For a real ‘green’ hit, why not whizz up a green juice containing cucumber, pear, parsley, spinach and some mint for a really summery twist!

Magnesium is frequently deficient in the daily diet, partly because of our over-reliance on convenience foods and it’s depleted by stress. However, with some careful planning and also including wholegrains and nuts and seeds in your diet, you’ll have plenty to smile about!

So make sure to build a healthy smile this summer with these top teeth nutrients!

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Boost your energy from within with these top nutrients

The mind may be willing but the body’s saying NO! A common feeling! You want to get off the sofa or jump out of bed but every bone and muscle in your body is disagreeing with your mind. Sounds familiar? Unfortunately, many of us suffer with low energy levels much of the time (whatever age) and some of us feel tired all the time, also known as TATT. So what changes can you make to your nutrient intake to give your energy a boost?

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares the top nutrients we need to get that ‘leap out of bed’ feeling!

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IRON

The trace mineral iron is critical to human life. It plays a pivotal role in the production of red blood cells, transporting oxygen from the lungs around the body, but is also key in energy production. Unfortunately, it’s often depleted, particularly in teenage girls and women of child-bearing age, partly due to monthly menstruation but also down to the typical Western diet. Deficiency symptoms can lead to anaemia and tiredness.

The most well absorbed form of iron, known as heme iron, is found in animal foods particularly red meat, which many people don’t eat. However, non heme iron is found in plant foods such as nuts, Jersusalem artichokes and green leafy vegetables. Interestingly, even a small iron deficiency can cause fatigue and reduced physical performance, and this will be really noticeable if you’re a keen exerciser. It’s therefore worth getting a blood test from your doctor if you think you could be low in iron.

The good news is that even though plant-based foods do not contain heme iron, absorption can be considerably improved if they’re eaten with other foods containing vitamin C. Green leafy vegetables naturally contain a lot of vitamin C but drinking a small glass of orange juice at the same time can really make a difference.

MAGNESIUM

One of our most abundant minerals in the body, magnesium is essential for energy production as well as muscle function. Indeed, it’s key in producing our main energy producing molecule, ATP – Adenosine triphosphate – an energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things. However, as with many other nutrients, magnesium is often deficient due to low intake from the diet, plus magnesium and the B vitamins are also depleted by stress, our modern-day epidemic.

Magnesium is found in whole foods such as whole wheat cereals and bread, beans and pulses, as well as green leafy vegetables, avocados, bananas and sweet potato. It’s also good news for seafood lovers as a portion of halibut supplies around a third of the body’s daily needs.

Magnesium can be a confusing mineral. Whilst it’s essential for energy production because of its role in enzyme production, it can also help people to sleep: this is because it aids muscle relaxation and as such is known as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’. So the best advice is to ensure you’re eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods throughout the day but if you need help sleeping then it’s best to take a supplement of magnesium around an hour before bedtime. Plus, the more sleep you have, the more energised you’ll feel!

B VITAMINS

These are a family of 8 nutrients that all work together in perfect harmony. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Folic acid and biotin all play key roles in energy production. They’re sometimes found in combination together in foods but they certainly all club together and work in unison in the body.

So where can you find them? If you’re having a varied and colourful diet, you’ll certainly be getting some B vitamins. However, vitamin B12 is only found in animal produce such as liver, fish, red meat and cheese. Therefore, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’re more than likely to need a supportive supplement. A lack of vitamin B12 will definitely cause energy levels to be low.

Biotin is often referred to as the beauty vitamin as it supports your hair and skin, but its presence is also essential for energy production. Another reason to be stocking up on nuts, rice, whole wheat cereals, liver and soya beans. And if none of these foods float your boat, then taking a supplement is a really good idea.

So fuel up with these top nutrients and energise yourself for a life with more get-up-and-go!

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The amazing benefits of Vitamin C

Many mammals produce their own vitamin C, but humans lost that ability many years ago, through lacking a specific enzyme within the body. Fortunately, as always, nature has come to the rescue since vitamin C is readily available in many foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. However, it’s quickly lost during food preparation, cooking and storage which is why it needs to be eaten very regularly.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer tells us everything we need to know about Vitamin C.

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WHAT IS IT?

Vitamin C is probably one of the most well-known vitamins. Whilst James Lind recognised during the 1700’s that lemons and limes could prevent the deficiency disease of scurvy, no-one realised it was actually down to a lack of vitamin C. It was first discovered by a Hungarian Biochemist, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi in 1928 and further work was then carried out to fully understand its chemical structure and its wonderful health benefits to the body.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is water-soluble. This means it is not stored in the body, unlike vitamins A, D, E and K, and so needs to be consumed every day. Researchers and experts may differ in their views of how much vitamin C we need to consume daily, but one thing’s for sure: it plays an essential role in our daily nutrition.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

One of the most important functions of Vitamin C is the formation and maintenance of collagen which is essential for growth, skin health and repair of bones, tendons and cartilage. This is the reason why vitamin C is often known as the ‘beauty vitamin’ and why it’s found in skin preparations. Eating sufficient vitamin C will certainly help keep the skin looking young.

Additionally, vitamin C is our primary water-soluble key antioxidant and our first line of antioxidant protection. It works alongside vitamin E, our key fat-soluble vitamin, and the two complement each other at cellular level.

Vitamin C also plays a critical role in immune function by enhancing white blood cell production and providing antiviral properties.

WHERE IS IT FOUND?

Vitamin C is rich in most fruits and vegetables. However, it’s especially high in kiwi, papaya, citrus fruits, strawberries and sweet peppers. In fact, the easiest way to ensure you’re getting plenty into your diet is by looking at the colour on your plate. Have you eaten a fruit and vegetable rainbow?

It is quite difficult to eat all the colours of the rainbow in one meal but it’s certainly possible over the course of a day. Fruits and vegetables with their rich and vibrant colours are packed with vitamin C, as well as other antioxidants and beneficial nutrients, so include as many as you can every day.

HOW TO EAT MORE

Whilst vitamin C is lost during cooking, it does leech into the water if you’re boiling or steaming. So using the ‘vegetable water’ to make a sauce or gravy, or refrigerate it to use in a juice or smoothie at a later date. Alternatively, eating fruits and vegetables raw is a great way of retaining all their wonderful nutrient content.

An easy way to boost your vitamin C intake during the day is to snack on fruits and vegetables; for example, eat crudités with hummus or blueberries as a morning snack or try a few slices of apple before bedtime (which can also help with sleep). Take a leaf out of the Mediterranean diet: they may not eat lots of vegetables at meal times, but they eat them at other times of the day or often as a starter to a meal.

It’s good to get into the habit of having vegetables with every meal, whatever you’re eating. For example, you may have prepared a delicious chilli con carne with rice, but what’s wrong with having a side of broccoli with it?

NEED TO KNOW

Around 70-90% of vitamin C is absorbed fairly rapidly and excreted through the urine after about 30 minutes. For this reason, the body can’t absorb large amounts of vitamin C in one dosage, when taken in supplement form, hence the often-heard advice to take it in divided dosages throughout the day.

It’s also worth remembering that freshly sliced cucumbers, if left standing, lose around 45% of their vitamin C content within the first three hours. So, with all fruits and vegetables, prepare, chop and eat as quickly as possible!

So with a little thought and planning, it’s not difficult to eat good levels of vitamin C every day and you’ll quickly notice the benefits to your health.

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Improve your skin from within with these top nutrients

We hear the saying ‘beauty comes from within’ frequently. And, indeed, this is absolutely true; your skin can only ever be a reflection of your inner self. Even with all the potions and lotions that are available, they can only help so much.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares three of her top skin-loving nutrients for inner and outer beauty!

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Your skin is the largest organ in the body and everything that goes on inside shows on the outside. For example, if you’re stressed, it will show in the face and often new lines and wrinkles appear. If you’re suffering from food allergies or intolerances, you’ll often see dark circles around the eyes, and a lack of nutrients generally will lead to lack-lustre skin. So how can you achieve beautiful skin from the inside out?

BIOTIN

Often referred to as the ‘beauty vitamin’, biotin is one of the family of B-vitamins that are all incredibly busy in the body. They are primarily involved in breaking down food for energy but biotin also plays a role in cell growth and replication. The body is constantly renewing cells and of course this also happens in the skin.

As well as obtaining biotin from certain foods in the diet, it’s also produced by beneficial bacteria in the gut. However, if gut flora is not optimal (which is common) then less biotin will be produced. This is one of the reasons that good gut bacteria is so key for skin health.

A lack of biotin will make itself known and this deficiency can display itself as dry, scaly skin, nausea, or seborrheic dermatitis (a common skin condition causing scaly, red skin and dandruff). All B-vitamins are needed for the body to correctly metabolise essential fats (also important for healthy skin). Therefore, packing in some biotin-rich foods such as cheese, liver, soy beans, mushrooms, nuts and some whole-wheat cereal, together with oily fish, which is rich in omega-3 fats, could be one of the secrets to fabulous skin!

ZINC

Zinc is probably one of the busiest minerals in the body. It’s involved in over 200 different enzyme reactions, so it’s not surprising it plays a key role in encouraging healthy skin. The skin contains high levels of zinc as do the bones, liver, kidneys, male prostate and the retina of the eye.

It’s interesting to note that some of the signs of zinc deficiency are poor wound healing of the skin and the onset of skin disorders such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. Indeed, one of the reasons that teenagers often suffer from acne is due to a zinc deficiency. However, one of the easiest ways of knowing if you’re zinc deficient is when you see white spots on more than three finger nails. Obviously, be aware that damage to the nail bed can also cause similar marks on the finger nails.

The best source of zinc by far is oysters which are not for everyone! However, zinc is still relatively high in other fish, shellfish and red meat, as well as pumpkin seeds, ginger, nuts, and whole wheat foods. The importance of having sufficient zinc in the diet can’t be over-emphasised if you want beautiful, blemish-free skin.

VITAMIN E

Vitamin E is one of our most powerful antioxidant nutrients, thereby protecting every cell in the body from free radical damage. In fact, it’s our key fat soluble antioxidant working within the fatty portion of every cell membrane.

So, it naturally follows that vitamin E is really important when thinking about the skin. How much we actually need on a daily basis is often difficult to quantify because a lot depends on the amount of polyunsaturated fats in the diet. These are found in many types of oils, often ones we use for cooking that can become damaged by high heat.

Fortunately, in nature where there are high levels of polyunsaturated fats, there’s also high levels of vitamin E. Some of the best food sources are vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, wholegrains, berries and green leafy vegetables. Additionally, avocados are some of the richest sources of vitamin E which is why you’ll often see avocados in beauty smoothies and face packs!

So by looking after your skin from the inside with good nutrition, you’ll be sure to find that outward glow!

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Amazing asparagus: in-season, nutritious and tasty!

Close up of woman holding a bunch of asparagus

May is National Asparagus Month because it’s the time when this wonderful vegetable comes into season and tastes at its absolute best. However, it’s not just the taste that’s so amazing.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her thoughts on why asparagus is such a nutritional winner!

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VARIETIES

Asparagus can be found in green, white or purple varieties, although green tends to be the most popular in the UK. White asparagus has been grown in the dark, underground, and therefore doesn’t contain as many antioxidants as the other coloured varieties. It also doesn’t have any chlorophyll as it’s not been exposed to sunlight, hence it tastes slightly different.

A woman holding a bunch of green asparagus and a bunch of white asparagus

THE BENEFITS

Asparagus is a really good source of vitamins A and C so is great for the immune system. It is also very high in energy-giving folate plus it’s got a wealth of trace minerals such as potassium, copper, manganese and selenium. Asparagus is also a good source of chromium so helps with blood sugar balance.

Interestingly, asparagus isn’t on the top of everyone’s list when choosing vegetables. This may partly be because the sulphur-producing elements in asparagus gives most people’s urine a rather distinctive smell! In fact, this is quite normal and asparagus is a natural diuretic, so is actually very cleansing for the kidneys. For some people it can also work as a laxative as it’s high in fibre, so is great for people suffering from constipation.

Roasted asparagus topped with a poached egg

As with most fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, they tend to have traditional folklore use; in the case of asparagus, it was used as a tonic and to treat inflammatory-type conditions such as rheumatism.

IT’S GREAT FOR PREGNANCY

Since asparagus contains high levels of folate (folic acid), it’s great for women to eat either before or during pregnancy (or indeed both). Folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube defects in babies and Public Health England also recommends a supplement of 400 micrograms daily, pre-conceptually and for the first trimester.

We know from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS)[1] that women of child-bearing age are deficient in this essential vitamin. This is despite it being widely available in foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Interestingly, since folic acid works alongside vitamin B12, which is often poorly absorbed, the two vitamins can often both be deficient. So, ladies, now is the time to grab some delicious asparagus!

WHAT TO DO WITH IT

Asparagus is a real regular on restaurant menus at this time of year, either as an appetiser or as a side dish.   Often it’s simply roasted with a little olive oil and lemon or just lightly grilled. It’s also wonderful roasted and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. And it’s superb barbecued!

Another popular recipe is asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham, either as a starter or side. The asparagus is simply wrapped in the ham, sprinkled with pepper and roasted for about 15 minutes.

Roased asparagus wrapped in parma ham and sprinkled with parmesan cheese

If, however, you want to go for the slightly milder, sweeter taste of white asparagus, you can certainly try something different. White asparagus needs to be prepared slightly differently from the green variety; white should be peeled from the bottom as the skin tends to be tough. It is generally better boiled until soft and is traditionally served with hollandaise sauce. If you do opt for green, then it should be so fresh that you can snap it in half; no toughness or stringiness in sight!

The official asparagus season lasts around 8 weeks in the UK so enjoy it as much as possible!

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-results-from-years-7-and-8-combined

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Spice up your life with spring herbs and spices

Close up of woman with her arms stretched out in sunshine wearing sunglasses

Turmeric has certainly hit the headlines in recent times and for very good reason. We hear the word ‘superfood’ often but turmeric really doesn’t disappoint in this respect! It can be used in so many different recipes, alongside some other wonderful herbs and spices.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her thoughts on some of her favourite herbs and spices to be using this spring time!

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TURMERIC

Few spices offer turmeric’s wealth of benefits which is why it has become such a hero. It exerts very positive effects on the liver, helping to cleanse and detoxify the body. This, in turn, helps with digestion and immunity. Additionally, turmeric delivers some great anti-inflammatory effects, so really supports any joint issues; it’s particularly good for people who do lots of exercise and frequently experience aches and pains.

The active ingredients in turmeric are compounds called curcuminoids of which curcumin is key; it has very powerful antioxidant effects to support the immune system and is a strong anti-inflammatory. There have been many positive and robust studies around turmeric but a recent review1 has looked at research into a number of health complaints. These studies certainly confirm it to be an active scavenger of free radicals which are responsible for many of our degenerative diseases.

The studies also confirmed strong anti-inflammatory effects with Turmeric helping to modulate our main inflammatory enzymes. Many of these studies have been undertaken using higher doses of turmeric than can naturally be eaten in food, therefore supplementation would be advisable for best effect, as well as using it frequently in the diet.

Turmeric is not easily absorbed by the body so the best way of enjoying its full nutritional benefit is to include it in the diet, little and often, in the form of ground turmeric. Additionally, eating turmeric with a fatty meal or including it in a recipe containing some fat really helps absorption.

A great recipe using turmeric is to marinate salmon fillets or a side of salmon with turmeric, black pepper and lemon juice. Marinate it overnight for best effects and then the salmon can be lightly baked in the oven for around 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of the salmon).

CORIANDER

This is a pungent herb that is frequently used in curry dishes. It makes a great spring time accompaniment because it can potentially help with allergies; unfortunately these start to make themselves known at this time of year!

Coriander is also great for the digestive system and for fighting infections. Indeed, medical herbalists use both the leaves and seeds to help urinary tract infections. Coriander also kills bacteria and fungi found in meat, which is why you’ll often find it in meat dishes in India.

Coriander works well in any curry dish but one of the easiest recipes is coriander chicken; mix onion, chilli, freshly chopped coriander and some garlic together with some water. Gently fry some chicken strips in coconut oil and then add the spices! This is great served with rice of your choice.

SAFFRON

Although saffron is one of the most expensive spices, it’s actually worth its weight in gold in terms of health benefits and it only needs to be used sparingly. It’s thought that saffron helps flush out toxins, purifies the blood, cleanses the skin and also seems to help with the assimilation of other nutrients in the recipe.

It adds amazing colour and a distinctive taste to a range of dishes such as paella, Bouillabaisse and risottos as well as desserts.   And for an interesting twist on your egg-based breakfast, why not cook up some scrambled eggs and add a pinch of saffron and chilli flakes together with some mushrooms? It will certainly be a powerful start to your day!

So enjoy trying these delicious and health-giving herbs and spices this spring time.

1 Arshad Husain Rahmani et al. Role of Curcumin in Disease Prevention and Treatment. Adv Biomed Res. 2018;7:38

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Immunity-boosting nutrition tips this spring

Close up of woman with her arms stretched out in sunshine wearing sunglasses

With spring on the way we naturally want to get out and about and certainly don’t want to be dragged down by colds or infections that prevent us from enjoying life to the full. A change in season can often put the body under more stress, so what are the best ways to get your immune system in good shape this spring time?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares FIVE of her top immune-boosting foods!

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PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI

Purple sprouting broccoli has been cultivated since the 18th century but has only risen to prominence in the UK in the last 30 years or so. All green leafy vegetables provide great health benefits but the purple colour means that it also contains higher levels of polyphenols – plant compounds, rich in antioxidants which provide wonderful support for the immune system. Additionally, purple sprouting broccoli contains vitamins A and C, together with a variety of carotenoids – all key for immunity.

Not sure what to do with it? It is great stir-fried with pine nuts, sesame oil and seeds, sweet chilli sauce or just plain steamed as an accompaniment to meat or fish. Grab it now whilst it’s in season – this means it is packed with the highest nutrient content – perfect for giving your immune system a boost.

CRAB

You might not necessarily associate crab with immunity but it’s high in the mineral selenium which is needed to produce our key antioxidant enzyme in the body called glutathione peroxidase. This in turn, helps protect us from infections and disease.

A close up of a bowl of crab salad

The easiest way to enjoy crab is in a salad using the prepared crab meat from the fish counter or from your fishmonger. If you mix the crab meat with a dash of tabasco sauce, lime juice, capers, some black pepper and chopped coriander leaves, you can pair it with some mixed leaves for a delicious spring time salad.

SPINACH

A wonderfully versatile vegetable that will help to keep you bug-free through spring! It can be cooked in a variety of ways, added to dishes or it may be used in salads, raw. In fact it mixes really well with bacon in a salad.

Spinach is in season right now so will be a lovely dark green colour in the shops or markets. It’s great for the immune system because it contains high levels of vitamins A and C. Spinach is probably best known for its high iron content (Popeye knew best!) which helps to give energy levels a great boost; very helpful if you’re wanting some spring time fun.

Close up of Spinach salad with peas, asparagus and radish

There’s so many ways to use spinach; added to soups, casseroles or pasta, lightly steamed and served with a knob of butter, stir-fried with garlic and butter, sautéed with a little olive oil and parmesan, or in a salad with some grilled haloumi and fresh mint.  Why not create a delicious greens salad with spinach, peas and asparagus. Enjoy!

ACAI BERRIES

All berries are great for the immune system but acai are actually some of the best. This is because acai berries have one of the highest antioxidant ratings of any food and they’re rich in fibre too. This means they’re great for the immune system, plus the skin and heart.

Acai berries in a bowl and a spoon of acai berry powder

One of the most delicious recipes for acai berries is an acai berry bowl. You can either use them as a freeze-dried powder or try frozen berries whizzed up with banana, avocado, other berry fruits, and coconut water with a crunchy topping of nuts and seeds to boost your omega-3s.

TEA

It doesn’t matter what colour – black, green or white – all types are rich in immune-boosting polyphenols. However, green tea actually has the highest amount of antioxidants. This is because methods of tea production vary from tea type. For example, green tea leaves are picked and then left out to dry (generally in the sunlight) before being put into hot roasting tins. After being rolled, they are then further heat treated which produces green, slightly withered tea leaves. Green tea is higher in antioxidants because the leaves are not left in the atmosphere to oxidise before they’re harvested.

A glass tea cup of green tea

Green tea is also great for the immune system as it helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Strange as it may seem, balanced gut bacteria is absolutely essential for good immunity. However, it’s best to drink any type of tea in-between meals as the tannin content tends to deplete certain trace minerals in our food.

So keep well this spring and enjoy spending more time outdoors as the warm weather arrives.

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