The Wonders of Pineapple: nutritional benefits and secret ingredients


shutterstock_123971212 woman drinking pineapple Aug15Dramatic in appearance, pineapples certainly make a statement on the supermarket shelves! However, they also hold some great secrets when it comes to their nutritional benefits. And if you’ve ever wondered why cheesy pineapple sticks became such a popular party snack in the 1970’s, you’re about to find out! Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some interesting nutritional facts about pineapples.

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Delicious pineapples always make me think of tropical beaches and sun-filled holidays. Pineapples are very versatile and can add a unique taste and texture to sauces, curries, chicken dishes and salads. And of course they offer some great nutritional benefits.

shutterstock_191500784 pineapple cut Aug15


Many people may ‘shy’ away from pineapples because of their perceived high sugar content. Whilst they contain slightly more natural sugars than pears, they are much less ‘sweet’ than mangoes for example and are only categorised as ‘medium’ on the glycaemic index chart (the scale that measures the effect of food on blood sugar balance). They are in fact low in calories with zero fat and cholesterol, but rich in the fibre pectin, making them a great inclusion for any weight-loss plan.

Pineapples contain more vitamin C than pears, which helps keep our immunity up. Vitamin C is also needed for the production of collagen, abundant in our skin and therefore essential for preventing wrinkles and the ageing process.

They are also an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, which is an important co-factor in many of the body’s crucial enzyme reactions, and also needed for energy production and healthy bones. Additionally, they are rich in vitamin B1, again important for energy.

shutterstock_184642397 pineapple zigzag Aug15PINEAPPLE SECRETS UNLEASHED

Pineapples contain a unique proteolytic enzyme called bromelain. In broad terms, this  enzyme breaks down proteins, hence the cheese on your cheesy pineapple stick will be much easier to digest because it’s combined with the pineapple! As a result, pineapples are frequently used as a digestive aid, and bromelain is often added to digestive enzyme formulas alongside other important digestive enzymes such as lipase, and maltase.

Bromelain also offers other amazing health benefits; it exerts powerful anti-inflammatory effects which can be used in cases of gout, joint inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. This makes it an effective natural remedy. It also acts as a blood thinner, so is great for keeping the heart healthy.

As well as breaking down food proteins, proteolytic enzymes help facilitate the breakdown of ‘rogue proteins’ (often responsible for many of our degenerative diseases) that the body also has to deal with in the bloodstream and soft tissue – they really do offer a wealth of health benefits.

Remember, if you’re taking bromelain to aid digestion or within a digestive formulation, make sure to take it with your meal. But if you want to take advantage of its many other health benefits, then you should take it between meals, which is another reason why pineapple makes such as brilliant mid-meal snack!

 RAW, GRILLED OR SMOOTHIED!shutterstock_53410000 pineapple juice Aug15

There’s so many ways you can incorporate pineapple into your meal or snack planning. Pineapples work really well in spicy dishes, but particularly sweet and sour recipes; indeed it’s a favourite ingredient in Chinese cooking.

It also works really well when griddled, so is great on the barbeque, and can be added to smoothies and drinks: it is an excellent addition to anything made with coconut. And a top tip: proteolytic enzymes prevent gelatine, which contains protein, from setting, so if you wanted to make a pineapple jelly you would need to cook the pineapple first.

So, if you see the classic cheese and pineapple sticks at a retro buffet near you, don’t forget to tuck in and enjoy the benefits!


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7 healthy energy-boosting breakfast hacks.

shutterstock_298560638 woman with breakfast Aug15We all know how important breakfast is to kick starting our metabolism first thing in the morning. There are many ways to ensure you have a good, healthy and nutritious breakfast that sees you through till lunch, but are there any tricks we are missing? Suzie Sawyer – Consultant Nutritionist – shares her top seven tips for an even better breakfast boost!  

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog picIn many ways, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Technically you have been ‘fasting’ for perhaps seven or eight hours; blood sugar levels are low and the body is calling for fuel to get you through the day.  Time is often of the essence in the mornings so what can you do to make your breakfast healthier and easier to prepare?

Here are my top seven quick and nutritious tips to boost your breakfast!

shutterstock_105191090 goats milk Aug15TIP 1: Happier Milk!

Ideally, we’d all like to start the day feeling happy and less stressed.  So, why not swap the traditional cow’s milk in your cereal for some goat’s milk?  The amino acid ‘tryptophan’, present in goat’s milk, metabolises in the body to make mood-boosting serotonin – our happy hormone.  Goat’s milk helps to boost levels of serotonin more than cow’s milk, making it a happier way to start the day, plus it’s a great alternative for people who have digestive issues or an intolerance to dairy.

shutterstock_194509649 porridge Aug15TIP 2: Cinnamon Porridge

Tuck into a bowl of porridge made from wholegrain oats, but sprinkled with some cinnamon.  Good old fashioned porridge never falls out of favour with nutritionists because it’s low in fat, high in fibre, high in energy-yielding B vitamins and keeps you feeling fuller for longer, without upsetting blood sugar levels.

By adding some cinnamon, you’ll not only be giving the porridge a great taste, but you will also be increasing the body’s ability to burn fat and reduce its propensity to store fat.  It’s an all-round winning combination.  All you need is one teaspoon of cinnamon added to your porridge for that extra fat-burning benefit.

shutterstock_130199339 Rye bread Aug15TIP 3: Try Rye

Rye bread has one of the lowest glycemic index values of all bread; this means that it will provide you with longer, more sustained energy throughout the morning rather than the quick burst of energy followed by a low that a lot of other breads will do.  This also means that hopefully you’ll be able to go for longer without reaching for a snack.

Toasted rye bread is delicious topped with cashew or almond nut butter for that extra hit of quality protein – it’s a very quick and nutritious breakfast.

shutterstock_184219730 boiled egg Aug15TIP 4: Great Eggs-pectations!

If porridge isn’t for you, then eggs are one of the best ways to start the day.  Boiled, scrambled or poached (not fried), with a side of tomatoes, and you’ve got some excellent protein together with the antioxidant lycopene (which is associated with preventing damage to the cells in our body) from the tomatoes.

Eggs are a complete protein, meaning that they contain all the essential amino acids needed for building and repairing the body, the production of hormones and maintaining good lean muscle.  Having a protein-based breakfast will ensure that your blood sugar levels start the day on an even keel so you’ll feel better balanced and less hungry throughout the day.

shutterstock_193263086 blueberries Aug15TIP 5: The Benefits of Blueberries

If you’re really pushed for time in the mornings, rather than stopping by a high street coffee house for a high calorie breakfast muffin, why not pack a small pot of natural soya or live yoghurt, together with a few seeds and a punnet of blueberries? You’ve got yourself a nutrient-dense breakfast which includes protein, essential omega 3 fats and the antioxidant powerhouse that is the blueberry.

You can continue to snack on the punnet during the day and before you know it, not only have you had a great start to the day, you’ve also made a great start to getting the minimum ‘five-a-day’ of your fruit and vegetables.

shutterstock_185196485 quinoa porridge Aug15TIP 6: Keen on Quinoa

Many people find eating foods containing gluten makes them feel bloated; however, it’s not always easy to find cereals that are gluten-free and many of the alternatives are sugar-laden.  Enter quinoa – the grain that is topping the superfood list and is now available as a porridge breakfast.

Quinoa is a low fat, high protein, non-allergenic, nutrient-dense grain and is currently flying off the supermarket shelves.  It can readily be purchased as porridge flakes which can be prepared in the normal way.  However, if you serve it with coconut milk, it will also help to ‘rev up’ your metabolism, helping you to burn fat and elevate muscle strengthening – a great pre-workout breakfast.

shutterstock_200121440 make your own museli Aug15TIP 7: More Muesli

If the mornings are always a rush for you, why not make a large batch of homemade and healthy muesli. By making it from scratch, it will generally be lower in sugar than the shop-bought variety, and will be always be readily available to your tastes straight from the cupboard. It’s a healthy breakfast that’s also packed with fibre and iron and it will certainly give your energy levels a boost first thing.

Try mixing together some porridge oats, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds, and add some chopped apricots and raisins.  The mixture can be soaked in a little sugar-free apple juice overnight or you can just grab it from the cupboard and serve with some milk, natural yoghurt and fresh fruit of your choice.

So there we have my 7 top tips. Breakfast is far too important to miss, even if you’re short on time: it doesn’t need to be a chore to prepare and by having a few staples available in your kitchen you can put some of these top tips into action every week. And believe me when I say that your energy levels will definitely be better for it!


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They’re ‘berry’ nutritious: 4 berries that pack a healthy punch!

shutterstock_223104823 woman with cherries Aug15Summer is often the time we associate most with eating berries: strawberries at Wimbledon; blueberry pies on picnics; blackberry and apple crumble for a delicious summer dessert. Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us more about why berries are so good for us whatever the time of year.

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Berry fruits are abundant at this time of year.  They always look so appetising in the shops due to their beautiful dark colours and it’s partly due to these rich colours that they deliver such amazing nutritional benefits. But there’s also more to them than meets the eye…

shutterstock_275528870 berries Aug15FIVE INTERESTING BERRY FACTS:

  • Berries are all low on the glycemic index, making them a great snack when watching your weight – much better than bananas!
  • Freezing berries doesn’t affect their nutrient content and they’re easy to whip out of the freezer at a moment’s notice!
  • Many of the antioxidants in berries help prevent the ageing process, particularly in the skin
  • They’ve all been around for hundreds of years; in fact strawberries were first used as a medicinal herb in the 13th century
  • They are all super-charged, immune-boosting foods and are rich in fibre to ensure a smooth digestion

shutterstock_165452462 strawberries Aug15Strawberries

Apart from being the only fruit that wears its seeds on the outside, strawberries are a nutritional powerhouse.  As well as being a great source of vitamin C which helps keep the immune system in great shape, they contain lots of vitamin A for healthy hair and skin.  They are also high in potassium which is great for heart health.

Interestingly, strawberries, along with blackberries, have the highest levels of phytoestrogens, literally ‘plant oestrogens’ acclaimed for their hormone-balancing activities, useful for both men and women.  Strawberries were also regarded as an aphrodisiac in medieval times which is perhaps why strawberries and cream are frequently on the menu of a romantic dinner for two!

shutterstock_300718592 bilberries Aug15Bilberries

Although not eaten as frequently as some of the other berries, partly due to their slightly sour taste, bilberries are often used in nutritional supplements, and for very good reason.  They have been the source of more research than their counterparts, particularly with their ability to improve eyesight.

Research was first carried out on Royal Air Force pilots during World War II which showed improved night vision after eating bilberries. Later research has also confirmed bilberries have the ability to improve cases of glaucoma, cataracts and other conditions where vision is impaired.

It is thought that the powerful anthocyanins or antioxidant plant compounds found in high amounts in bilberries, are partly responsible for their positive effects on health.  And for anyone over the age of 40, who may be starting to struggle with what used to be perfect vision, taking a bilberry supplement may well be the answer!

shutterstock_206260981 blackberries Aug15Blackberries

Mention the word ‘blackberries’ and our thoughts often turn to midsummer wild blackberry picking.  And of course, they need to be black and ripe to be sweet, otherwise they can make our lips pucker ever so slightly!  However, they do have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all the berry fruits and are best eaten in their fresh, raw state, although are completely delicious with apples in a fruit crumble!

They make a great low-calorie snack, delivering around 62 calories a cup with zero fat.  They are also an excellent source of ellagic acid, which occurs naturally in certain foods, but particularly blackberries.  Ellagic acid provides many great health benefits, being particularly helpful in blood sugar balance, aiding weight control and the possible prevention of some of our more serious degenerative diseases.

So, maybe getting our hands stained and sticky from some blackberry picking has more benefits than we first thought!

shutterstock_193263086 blueberries Aug15Blueberries

Of all the berry fruits, blueberries seem to receive most column inches in the media. In fact, they are very often termed a ‘superfood’ and for good reason. Although perhaps slightly lower in vitamins A and C than their ‘peers’ they are still packed with nutrients.

Specifically, their wonderful purple and blue colour provides anthocyanins that are pretty spectacular in terms of the health benefits they bring. New research is being carried out all the time, but it seems that the studies carried out on  benefits to the cardiovascular system, which includes reductions in LDL (the ‘bad’) cholesterol, the raising of HDL (the ‘good’) cholesterol and reduction in overall blood fats, seems to be unequivocal.

Add to that the improvements seen in memory, eye health and blood sugar balance it is no wonder that they have gained their reputation.

Blueberries do retain their nutrient content when frozen but are so delicious eaten raw, why not enjoy them on your cereal or porridge, with some crème fraiche or just on their own as a snack?  Their low glycemic index and fibre content makes them a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up!

So, there are my four stars of the summer berry show – enjoy them as often as you can!


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Vitamin D: why we all need more sunshine in our lives

shutterstock_177395282 woman in sun by pool Aug15We all know that the UK is not famous for its sunny weather. Only this week, The Guardian featured an article highlighting that we do not get enough sun in the UK for healthy Vitamin D levels. So why is it important and what can we do about it? Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, looks at the many functions of Vitamin D in the body and what we can do to keep our levels topped up.

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Hardly a day goes by without a news story being released about Vitamin D, and for good reason; it fulfils a number of very important health functions. It is known as ‘The Sunshine Vitamin’ because it’s primarily made on the skin in sunlight, but unfortunately many people living in the Northern Hemisphere can often suffer from a deficiency, particularly during the dark winter months, but more worryingly throughout the year in these less sunny countries. And this includes the UK.

shutterstock_115649197 vitamin D Aug15WHAT DOES VITAMIN D DO?

Vitamin D actually functions as more of a hormone than a vitamin because of its action on the skin.  Other than sunlight, it’s found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, eggs, butter, milk and sprouted seeds.

There are actually two forms of Vitamin D: Vitamin D2 is produced by plants but is not as effective at raising blood levels as Vitamin D3, which is synthesised by the sun or obtained from the animal sources listed above.

Vitamin D’s main ‘claim to fame’ is its ability to facilitate calcium absorption and regulation, thereby building and maintaining strong bones and teeth.  It also plays a key role in the regulation of the body’s immune responses, helping to fight off infections all-year round.

Although it is made by sunlight, conversely it’s unstable to light and, therefore, is lost during any processing. So foods in their natural states are much more effective at raising blood levels of Vitamin D than processed equivalents.

shutterstock_271645694 jogger with bones higlighted in leg Aug15VITAMIN D AND BONES

Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones.  Recent research, presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s Experimental Biology conference, indicated that Vitamin D may also hold the key to long-lasting physical function.  It seems that higher levels are needed for the preservation of muscle strength, good bone health and greater mobility as people age.

It may surprise you to hear that peak bone mass is generally achieved around 18 years of age, after which time there will be a very gradual decline. This decline can accelerate with age when there is insufficient Vitamin D in the body and, indeed insufficient calcium (found in dairy foods and green leafy vegetables).  It’s no wonder then, that there’s so much emphasis on getting sufficient amounts of Vitamin D from the very early stages of life.

shutterstock_200010890 smiling woman in sunshine Aug15VITAMIN D AND MOOD

We know that being in the sunshine generally makes us feel happier, but this may also be attributable to having higher levels of Vitamin D.

A Finnish research study[1] has shown that people with higher blood levels of Vitamin D have a lower risk of depression.  This large study involving over 5000 individuals aged 30-79 were found to have a lower incidence of depression; this was particularly noticeable in those making better lifestyle choices, confirming that both aspects were important in improving people’s mood.  Those with higher levels of Vitamin D also had better metabolic health in terms of blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels, suggesting that this group generally ate better, and included Vitamin D either within their diet or by taking supplementation.

 shutterstock_244939462 hands making a heart around sunshine Aug15VITAMIN D AND THE HEART

There have been many research studies evaluating the importance of Vitamin D and the prevention of a number of heart-related conditions.[2]  The results have, generally, been very positive in support of higher levels of the vitamin being protective, although there is still a bit more clarity needed around the various mechanisms responsible.

For example, Vitamin D appears to be involved in blood sugar control and the prevention of metabolic syndrome; the correction of markers that cause inflammation; keeping arteries free-flowing, thereby reducing blood pressure. The impact of Vitamin D levels in the body suggest that it is indeed involved in many functions with regards to keeping the heart healthy.

shutterstock_19511227 woman blowing nose with lake background Aug15VITAMIN D AND IMMUNITY

It is now well accepted that vitamin D is an important immune system regulator.  The active form of Vitamin D known as ‘D3’, plays a crucial role in a number of aspects of immune function, but specifically supports increasing the body’s T cells that help to fight unwanted bacteria and viruses.

These cells rely on Vitamin D to activate them and are actually ‘dormant’ when there is insufficient Vitamin D in the blood.  The link between immunity and Vitamin D is so conclusive that the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) have approved a nutritional claim linking the two; you’ll often see this now on foods and, specifically, food supplements. ‘Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system’

shutterstock_167633765 bottle of capsules Aug15VITAMIN D AND SUPPLEMENTATION

The UK Department of Health issued specific guidelines for those population groups requiring supplementation; children up to the age of five, pregnant and breast-feeding women, those 65 years or over and dark-skinned people who don’t produce as much Vitamin D on the skin.

However, a recent report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), an independent advisory body to the government, has formulated draft proposals that supplementation is advisable for the entire population in the UK.

SACN have apparently recognised that we can’t rely on sunshine in the UK to meet the Vitamin D requirements.  The proposals are only currently in draft stage, but with more than one in five people having low levels of Vitamin D, and bearing in mind its importance in so many health conditions, it seems likely and, indeed, prudent, that these recommendations are adopted.

You only need to spend 15-20 minutes per day in the sun with the skin unprotected (i.e, without sun cream) to make sufficient Vitamin D, so enjoy the sunshine whilst you can and boost your body’s health at the same time.


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[1] T Jaaskelainen et al.  Higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations are related to a reduced risk of depression.  British Journal of Nutrition.  Published online doi:10.1017/S0007114515000689

[2] S Judd et al.  Vitamin D Deficiency and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease.  Am J Med Sci 2009 Jul:338(1):40-44