Here Comes the Sun! Four reasons to love Vitamin D – the ‘sunshine vitamin’!

From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyer

shutterstock_253023556 sunshine over beach Mar15

Just in case it has slipped your mind, the clocks move forward one hour this weekend; so we may lose some precious sleep, but we are set to gain so much more!

Everyone definitely feels more uplifted at the start of British Summer Time, and with good reason.  Our days are gradually getting longer and the grey skies of winter are becoming a distant memory.   And, fingers crossed, we should be seeing some more of the sun!  Apart from the obvious benefits of longer, brighter days, the sun is essential for making the wonder vitamin D.

Vitamin D, otherwise known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’ is predominantly made on the skin, in the presence of sunlight, and is frequently deficient in the UK population.  It plays a very positive role in our health and therefore lack of sunlight can have a detrimental effect.

We know how vital Vitamin D is in protecting against bone-related diseases, particularly in later life. But as new research emerges, it has also been discovered that vitamin D plays a really important part in supporting the immune system, as well as potentially reducing the risks of metabolic syndrome and also SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Four reasons why Vitamin D is so important:

shutterstock_111524120 thumbs up xray Mar151. It helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth

Vitamin D’s key role is in the building and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, partly because it’s essential for regulating the minerals calcium and phosphorous in the body.

2. It helps to metabolise glucose, reducing the risks of metabolic syndrome (a pre-cursor to Type 2 Diabetes)shutterstock_126015788 blood glucose monitor smiley Mar15

More recent research has found a protective link against the onset of metabolic syndrome: Vitamin D helps to metabolise glucose, which regulates insulin levels, and this is the key mechanism for keeping blood sugar levels controlled. However, metabolic syndrome can still be stopped in its tracks with the right diet and lifestyle changes, and, of course, sufficient vitamin D.

shutterstock_143422087 heart and shield Mar153. Vitamin D supports the immune system and fights infections

The discovery of Vitamin D Receptors (VDR’s) in immune cells, has established its role in helping to fight bacterial infections. Vitamin D has also been positively linked with higher concentrations of the good HDL cholesterol, which is protective against heart disease.

4. This wonder vitamin helps to stop us feeling SADshutterstock_137699207 woman smiling in the sun Mar15

It is common to feel ‘lower’ in mood during the winter months, and this can be partly attributed to the lack of sunshine and frequent, grey, darker days. Vitamin D has been found to influence serotonin levels in the brain – the ‘happy hormone’ – so a lack of Vitamin D can really affect your mood. And that’s why we all love a sunshine-filled holiday – more sunshine equals more Vitamin D which equals more happiness!

How to get Vitamin D into your body:shutterstock_98586479 vitamin D foods Mar15

Although Vitamin D is made on the skin in a reaction to sunlight, it is also found in oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals and margarines.   However, these are not generally foods that people eat in high quantities. Therefore, it’s mostly down to the sun to get the body producing meaningful levels of Vitamin D.It is virtually impossible for the body to produce Vitamin D in those people living at sea level and in countries situated in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months – hence deficiency is very widespread.

Symptoms are often very subtle, and can be missed, but generally start with muscle weakness and bone pain. Long term deficiencies can make people prone to more serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes, as well as bone related illnesses.

So what’s the answer?shutterstock_232282363 vit D letter in tablets Mar15

Certainly supplementation is key, particularly during the winter months. However, busy lives mean that people are still spending long periods indoors, or behind a desk, therefore it’s advisable to supplement all-year round as well as getting out into the natural daylight as often as often as you can.

The Department of Health is currently recommending supplementation for ‘at risk’ groups: pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and young children under five years, people aged 65 and over, people with no exposure to the sun and those who have darker skin (because darker skin has more pigmentation, making it difficult for the sun to penetrate). However, many other sectors of the population will be at risk of deficiency, for obvious reasons.

Sun exposure versus sun damage:shutterstock_197966453 hand and suncream smile Mar15

Clearly, we all need to be mindful of the potentially damaging effects, on the skin, of having too much sun exposure. However, did you know that having just 15 minutes a day without sunscreen is all you need to produce sufficient Vitamin D? We tend to liberally ‘slap’ on the sunscreen before we go out into the sun, but by applying high strength sun cream the skin won’t actually be able to make Vitamin D.

Indeed, the children’s bone disease rickets, which had almost been completely eradicated, has started to become more prevalent since people have started using high strength sun creams, such as an SPF 50 on children. Just a short time without protection – 15 minutes – is all it takes to bring enormous benefits, particularly for your bones and immune system, but do make sure you cover up and apply that sunscreen after the 15 minutes are up!

So do enjoy the longer (and hopefully) sunnier days ahead and get your boost of Vitamin D everyday – outside in the sun, in your diet and via supplementation – you’ll certainly feel happier and healthier!



Go Green for St. Patrick: 4 gorgeous greens to add to your diet

From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyer

shutterstock_126508760 shamrock chain Mar15As the Irish celebrate their Patron Saint Patrick by wearing the green shamrock, we also have much to celebrate around the colour green.

In the world of healthy diets and lifestyles, all green foods provide amazing nutritional benefits

Here are 4 Gorgeous Greens that you should try to include in your diet:

1. CHLORELLAshutterstock_200447561 chlorella Mar15


Chlorella is a green algae which is one of nature’s superfoods!  It’s rich in chlorophyll known as the ‘green blood of life’ and is loved for its detoxifying properties.  This fresh water algae also contains a whole host of nutrients which are particularly beneficial to the skin bringing a wonderful healthy glow.  Its nutritional power includes high levels of protein, a range of trace minerals including calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron, some of the essential omega 3 and 6 fats, plus lots of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E – impressive!  Chlorella can be used in powdered form and added to smoothies or juices, or taken as a food supplement.  It’s also particularly useful where diets are deficient in green vegetables or fruit.

2. BROCCOLIshutterstock_192514484 Broccoli two florets Mar15


Broccoli provides so many health benefits, with its rich array of minerals, vitamins and fibre.  Just like chlorella, it can also play an important role in ‘kick-starting’ the body’s natural detoxification processes.  It’s all in the compounds known as glucosinolates, found in some plant foods, but not in such combinations or high concentrations as are found in Broccoli.  And for those people who struggle to eat their greens, half a cup of broccoli a day is all that’s needed to get the most out of its amazing health benefits.  Why not sprinkle a little parmesan cheese over the top or add some cashew nuts for some variety? Even more tasty!

3. KALEshutterstock_226084132 kale Mar15


Often described as one of the world’s healthiest foods, kale has become much more ‘at home’ in many households since we have found more creative ways of enjoying its delicious taste.  The best way of retaining its vast nutrient content is to steam rather than boil the leaves.  However, if you want to be more creative, why not add some chopped apple, balsamic vinegar and walnuts, or some roasted pine nuts and feta cheese?  Kale is packed full of vitamin C and many antioxidant nutrients, but also contains quercetin, which is a natural anti-histamine.  It’s therefore a great time of year to be including kale into your meal planning, with the allergy season approaching.

4. GREEN TEAshutterstock_77253961 green tea Mar15


This should be a store cupboard staple!  Green tea naturally contains catechins which provide high levels of antioxidants.  And what’s more, it makes a great digestive aid by promoting the number of beneficial bacteria your body naturally stores.  Known as ‘friendly bacteria’ for very good reason, they encourage healthy digestion, as well as supporting the immune system.  Green tea also contains theanine which helps relaxation, making this a great ‘wind-down’ drink at the end of the day.

It’s not just eating green foods that are important for health; we can be green and healthy in other ways too by trying to eat organic where we can.

shutterstock_88954528 Organic label Mar15EAT ORGANIC

Many of us like to feel we are ‘doing our bit’ to help protect the planet by trying to maintain a ‘green’ lifestyle where possible.  The same respect can also be awarded to our bodies by trying to avoid chemicals, and feeding the skin as naturally as we can.  A good first step is to eat organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible, and where budget allows.  This lessens the toxic burden on the body and reduces exposure to damaging free radicals, which are partly responsible for the aging process.

Research suggests that organic fruits and vegetables have a better nutrient profile and contain greater amounts of antioxidants.  Amongst other things, antioxidants help to counter the damaging effect of UV light which leads to premature skin aging and those dreaded wrinkles! So eating organic is good all round – nutrients from the inside give you an even better outside!

So Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all. And make sure you celebrate the colour green all year round – your body will thank you for it!








More energy, more purple, more confidence: your inspirational life starts here

From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyer


Calling all inspirational women across the world – the 8th of March is International Women’s Day.  It’s an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and also a great excuse to become more inspirational in our own lives:  there’s never been a better time to re-focus on your diet and lifestyle choices.shutterstock_174553253 woman jumping over sunset Mar15

Feeling alive is all about having great energy.

As a Nutritionist, one of the most common in-clinic symptoms people complain of is low energy.  There are many people, particularly women, trying to cope with low levels of energy on a daily basis, whilst juggling the demands of home, family and work.

As one particularly inspirational woman, Ellen Macarthur, the round-the-world yachtswoman said:

“Courage is not having the energy to go on; it’s going on when you do not the energy”

She was pushing her body to the limits, but many women find that just getting through the day to day can be a battle when  energy levels are so low.

The good news is there are nutrition and lifestyle changes that we can make to get more out of life and feel more alive:

shutterstock_115505815 no to biscuits yes to fruit Mar15Cut out the energy sappers

That means foods high in sugar including biscuits, cakes and pastries.  The body uses B vitamins, calcium and magnesium to digest these foods but these nutrients also provide the body with energy.  So we don’t want to waste these energy-giving vitamins and minerals on processed foods which are no good for us.

Avoid the afternoon energy slumpshutterstock_155071907 sweet potato baked Mar15

Try eating a baked sweet potato at lunchtime with some tuna.  Sweet potato is high in sustained energy-giving carbohydrates and the tuna will provide some protein to stop those hunger pangs later in the day.

shutterstock_192072407 wholegrains in sacks Mar15Up your intake of energy-producing B vitamins

Wholegrains, such as oats, brown rice and quinoa, are packed full of these nutrients which provide the body with energy, so try to include some in your diet every day.

The colour purpleshutterstock_156233402 purple fruit and veg Mar15

The colour purple represents International Women’s Day and the colour purple in nature also brings us some inspirational foods:

Purple fruits include purple grapes, figs, passion fruit, raisins, plums and dried plums and many berries such as blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, cranberries and bilberries.  The purple pigmentation provides us with some of the richest sources of anthocyanins, which have amazing health bearing qualities, such as the antioxidant protection they provide.

Additionally the anthocynanin compounds in bilberries, have been the subject of much research over the years, regarding their potential to improve vision.

Purple vegetables such as purple cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli are packed with vitamin C and are a great source of carotenoids (colourful pigments that provide powerful antioxidant protection), iron, folic acid, calcium, fibre and vitamin A.  And the good news is that between February and April, purple sprouting broccoli comes into season, so it’s at its best in terms of taste and nutrient content.

shutterstock_53130070 grapes make wine Mar15And let us not forget purple grapes or as I like to call them by their alternative name – red wine! 

Have you heard of ‘The French Paradox’? It’s a catchphrase first used in the late 1980’s which summarises the somewhat paradoxical fact that the French generally have a low incidence of heart disease despite seemingly having a high intake of saturated fats, such as meat and cheese.

The key to this appears to be in the compound, resveratrol, found naturally in purple grapes and some berries, which contains antioxidant properties and may also provide some protection of the heart.  The evidence is mixed but there’s certainly no reason not to include grapes and berries in abundance in your diet – and of course the odd glass of red wine!

Body confidence = body beautiful

Now is a great time to think about getting in shape for the spring and summer season.

Inspirational women such as the ultra-successful Oprah Winfrey, who has famously and publicly battled against her weight problems, knows that this isn’t always easy.  However, she has made no secret of the fact that the three key elements to her weight loss campaign were nutrition, exercise and sleep.  It may seem obvious, but making your life more active in general will help you to lose weight and, more importantly, maintain where you want to be from a fitness and size point of view – and this all supports a more confident, happier and inspirational you.

shutterstock_100258688 woman with weight and plate Mar15Many women will shy away from weight training in the gym. However, increasing lean muscle tissue, from repetitive strength training will keep the body more metabolically active, meaning that you will burn more calories at rest which is a bonus.  In short, it can make your weight loss target a whole lot easier to obtain.

shutterstock_156584522 woman sleeping Mar15To sleep, perchance to dream… of a healthier you!

Oprah Winfrey also said that sleep was an important part of successful weight loss.  There are a number of reasons for this; firstly, when we are tired, we tend to reach for sugary snacks to keep energy levels up – they give us a quick boost but in the long term are no good for us nutritionally.  Secondly, one of the hormones that signal fullness, called leptin, is secreted less when we are sleep-deprived, which means that we will tend to feel more hungry and therefore eat more.

And thirdly, the  hormone, cortisol, which is released through stress and lack of sleep, causes the  body to conserve fuel during waking hours, hence you will be more prone to storing fat.  A good bedtime routine is essential, just as we did during childhood.  For us, that means turning off the TV, tablet, mobile and laptop, taking a nice warm bath and reading a good book to fully relax and prepare us for a good night’s sleep.

So, be inspired to take control of your fitness, diet and lifestyle. Follow your goals and be inspirational to yourself and those around you.  And, as Oprah Winfrey once said:

“Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher”