5 Super Foods for Super Skin this winter!

shutterstock_287082125 woman with face pack Oct15Your skin is the body’s hard-working barrier to the outside world. And at this time of year it may be getting battered by wind and rain, as well as being irritated by the colder temperatures and even the cosy clothes we wear which tend to be rougher on the skin. This is also the time of year when we are most likely to come down with colds and flu – and being unwell shows in our skin too. Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top super foods for beautiful, glowing skin this winter!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Beautiful skin starts from within! It may seem an obvious thing to say, but your skin really is a reflection of what’s happening inside your body. We all know that if we’re not well, our skin can look dull and lifeless. However, if you’re not feeding your body the right nutrients all the time, this will always be reflected in your skin.

So here are 5 super foods that can give your skin a boost this winter.

Ashutterstock_196052645 avocadoes Oct15VOCADOS

Avocados should be top of your list of foods to include in your diet if you want your skin to glow! Avocados contain lots of Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps to stop free radicals and halt the ageing process. However, its benefits are even more far-reaching. Vitamin E also helps stop the fats in your body being oxidised which in turn accelerates the ageing process. So a double whammy for ageing!

Avocados contain good levels of Vitamin C which is needed for collagen production – the protein that gives your skin structure and reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles on the face. Even better, you can use mashed avocado as a face mask – it will make your skin feel wonderfully soft because of the naturally occurring fats in avocadoes which help to moisturise the skin.

shutterstock_219318745 salmon and asparagos Oct15SALMON

Oily fish, and, in particular, salmon contains high levels of omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for healthy skin. They help retain moisture in the body at a cellular level and are also an integral part of cellular structure; if you’re low in essential fats, your skin will become very dry and however much water you drink, your skin will still be dry because the body cannot absorb the water sufficiently.

You should be aiming to eat salmon at least a couple of times a week.

shutterstock_262597205 sweet potato Oct15SWEET POTATOES

Sweet potatoes provide many health benefits and are super-charged with nutrients. One of the main reasons for their skin benefits is that they are high in beta carotene which is converted in the body to Vitamin A: Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin but is also a powerful antioxidant helping to push back the ageing process.

The highly pigmented purple skins of the sweet potato contain anthocyanins which help increase antioxidant activity. So cooking sweet potatoes as you would ordinary jacket potatoes, and eating the skin, is an excellent way of obtaining their wonderful nutrients.

Sweet potatoes are also rich in lutein which naturally protects the skin from sun damage as well as helping to increase hydration and elasticity of the skin. Another great all-rounder!

shutterstock_320126546 pumpkin Oct15PUMPKIN

No Halloween would be complete without a pumpkin! But instead of just using them just to light up the garden for your Halloween party, make sure you eat them too – they’re great for the skin!

As well as being a very low calorie vegetable, they contain all the key vitamins which are particularly beneficial for the skin – namely Vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins all provide a wealth of antioxidants and have a particular affinity for skin health. Plus, pumpkins contain a great range of B vitamins, which as well as maintaining healthy-looking skin, are needed for liver detoxification. The liver plays a significant role skin health: a sluggish liver can manifest itself as quite grey, dull-looking skin.

As well as eating the pumpkin flesh, pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc – a trace mineral that is particularly good for the skin but also essential for treating any skin problems such as acne or eczema. Plus they contain good amounts of protein – used for structure and repair throughout the body, but especially the skin. They are great sprinkled on salads, used in granolas or mueslis, lightly roasted or enjoyed raw.

shutterstock_147729977 3 brazil nuts Oct15BRAZIL NUTS

Their main claim to fame of Brazil nuts is that they are high in the powerful antioxidant selenium. Selenium helps to produce one of the body’s most important antioxidant enzymes, glutathione peroxidase – essential for liver detoxification. As with all antioxidants, selenium also helps protect the skin from sun damage.

Selenium can also help to counter dry skin: It is often deficient in the diet because our soils are becoming so mineral-depleted due to over-farming. So combat this by eating just three Brazil nut’s daily; they make great snacks and the protein content will help to reduce hunger pangs!

So, with winter heading our way, don’t forget that the more you look after your body from the inside the better you’ll look on the outside. And always remember to moisturise!


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Five reasons why apples should be part of your daily diet



shutterstock_278571083 woman with apple Oct15‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ so the famous saying goes; or should it be the dentist? Maybe it’s both! Consultant Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us why both your doctor and your dentist will appreciate you eating apples!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Apples belong to the Rose family of plants as do apricots, cherries, peaches, pears and raspberries, so their heritage is good! But what makes them so special? Discover below 5 reasons why apples should always be one of your 5 a day:


shutterstock_127653116 apple and tooth Oct15APPLES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH

As with all fruits, apples are slightly acidic, which means that the residue can remain on the teeth after eating them, and attack the enamel. However, the benefits of eating apples for your teeth far outweigh the negatives because they actually have a mild cleansing effect.

The fibre, particularly in the skin, helps to remove plaque from the teeth and gums, as well as helping to remove stains as well. Just remember to drink a glass of water after eating an apple and this will wash the acidity away.

As with all fruits, you shouldn’t brush your teeth too soon after eating as the acidity will rub against the teeth and can start to remove the enamel. You can also eat some cheese with the apple to help negate some of the acidity.

shutterstock_141856093 doctor holding apple Oct15APPLES ARE GREAT FOR DIGESTION

Just as the fibre in apples is good for your teeth, it’s also good for your digestion. One unpeeled apple contains around 3.6 grams of fibre: the average recommend daily intake of fibre for adults is 18 grams, so just one apple will go some way to achieving this target.

Fibre is essential for smooth digestion and apples contain soluble and insoluble fibre, both needed to keep the bowels regular. It is important, therefore, to eat apples unpeeled to gain the full beneficial effects of the fibre.

Always try to eat organic apples where possible; the wax skin still tends to absorb chemicals and pesticides which are routinely used during the growing process and this, of course, is minimised when eating organic apples.

shutterstock_169654550 apple with a heart shape Oct15YOUR BLOOD FATS WILL LOVE THEM!

Having healthy levels of blood fats in the body, and in particular cholesterol, is very important for a healthy heart. Apples contain a form of fibre called pectin which appears to bind with other phytonutrients and helps keep blood fat levels in check.

If you’re suffering from high cholesterol, one of the ways of reducing this is by eating a high fibre diet that contains pectin. Pears, plums, oranges and other citrus fruits also contain good levels of pectin. The presence of the fibrous pectin then allows the body to eliminate excess cholesterol via the stool.

shutterstock_153193070 apples and measuring tape Oct15THEY’RE GREAT FOR WEIGHT-LOSS

Apples are a great snack to include in your weight-loss campaign. Not only are they relatively low in calories (around 95 per apple), they are also low on the glycaemic index of foods. This means that they help to keep blood sugar levels in check, and it has bene proven that it is difficult to lose weight when blood sugar levels are not balanced because of the insulin spikes that cause the body to store fat.

The fibre content of apples also helps to keep the body feeling fuller for longer – another great way to stop you over-eating when on a weight-loss campaign. However, this beneficial effect is not found if you drink apple juice – you need to be eating the whole apple, with the fibrous peel.

It also seems that some of the phytonutrients found in apples help lessen absorption of glucose from the digestive tract – another positive for effective weight control.

Some of the ‘newer’ varieties of apples now found in our shops such as the Pink Lady or Gala, taste sweeter than the traditional Cox, leading us to believe that maybe they contain higher levels of sugar. In fact, it’s just that the acidity of these newer apples is lower, hence they have a sweeter taste; the calorie and sugar content would be the same. Of course, cooking apples contain less sugar than regular apples, but sugar is then often added back in when they’re used in a crumble for example, to make them palatable!

shutterstock_258157253 apples in heart shape Oct15APPLES HAVE AN EXCELLENT NUTRIENT PROFILE

Apples are a great source of vitamin C; they contain higher levels than bananas or apricots, for example. However, most of the vitamin C is contained just under the skin, hence another reason for eating apples unpeeled.

They are low in sodium or salt but high in potassium, which has many beneficial effects for the heart. And they are a great source of polyphenols – plant compounds that act as antioxidants helping to ward off those dreaded free radicals.

Finally they also contain good levels of quercetin – a plant pigment that helps to reduce allergenic tendencies, particularly hay fever, and also helps boost immunity.

So, both your doctor and dentist are right. And the good news is that apples are currently in season, so munch away! It’s all about balance so remember to eat a wide variety of fruits, but did you know there are around 7,500 varieties of apples grown worldwide? With this many to choose from you can never grow tired of the good old apple!


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There’s a lot of life in these Multi-Vitamins! Find out about new Soft Jells!

shutterstock_242759494 multi generational family Oct15We are very excited to tell you that this week we have launched our new range of Multi-Vitamins – Alive! Soft Jells! We have listened to you, our customers, and created a range of delicious, fruity soft jells which are packed full of key nutrients for you and your family. Consultant Suzie Sawyer, who was involved in the development of these products, tells us why she wanted to get involved and why she supports the Alive! brand.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Following on from the success of the Alive! tablet range of multi-vitamins and minerals, it’s been a great pleasure for me to be at the forefront of the complex formulation process for the Alive! Soft Jell Multi-Vitamins and Minerals range – the exciting and latest addition to the brand in the UK.

Following on from the success of the Alive! tablet range of multi-vitamins and minerals, it’s been a great pleasure for me to be at the forefront of the complex formulation process for the Alive! Soft Jell Multi-Vitamins and Minerals range – the exciting and latest addition to the brand in the UK.

FullRangePerspectiveShot_wgummiesThere’s something for everyone with products for all the family at every life stage, plus a specialist immune formulation which is suitable for both adults and children aged 3 years and over.

As a Consultant Nutritionist, my challenge was to develop a range of multi-vitamins with meaningful levels of a broad spectrum of nutrients, but within a great-tasting Soft Jell format. The other challenge was to create a range of products that were the best in class; we wanted to create optimised formulations that provide great health benefits and could stand up against less efficacious formulations already in the market.

But why should we take a multi-vitamin?

  • Taking additional nutrients will help energy levels, encourage vitality and support optimal wellness – who wouldn’t want some of that?!
  • The body needs around 50 different nutrients on a daily basis – it’s almost impossible to achieve anywhere near that in most households, even with the best of dietary intentions
  • Stress, the scourge of modern-day living, depletes the body of many nutrients, particularly the B vitamins
  • Many prescription medicines frequently deplete the body of essential nutrients
  • Modern farming methods optimise the use of agriculture land, but exhaust it of vital nutrients, particularly trace minerals, such as selenium
  • The typical Western diet is high in sugar and ‘white’ refined foods: these are low in vitamins and minerals and also deplete the body of essential nutrients

So having established why we need to take a multi-vitamin, why try Alive! Soft Jells?

Womens Energy_wgummiesEach Alive! Soft Jell formulation contains optimised levels of the most important vitamins and minerals. With this unique Soft Jell format, taste is absolutely key, as is the mouth texture – in other words how it feels when you chew it. Immune_wgummiesOn both counts I really feel like we have achieved top marks: we have created delicious orange and berry natural fruit flavours and by using a pectin-based formulation we’ve achieved a great melt-in-the-mouth feel.

Womens 50_wgummiesPlus the Soft Jell format is a completely vegetarian formulation – it is free from gelatine.

So, with perfectly balanced nutritional solutions for all the family, what’s special about each specific product in the Soft Jell range?

Mens_wgummiesThe Alive! brand is all about ‘feeling alive!’ and represents vitality, inspiration and healthy living. We encourage everyone to eat a rainbow diet which includes as many fruits and vegetables as possible but we also advocate topping up the daily diet with Alive! Childrens_wgummiesEach Soft Jell contains our unique dried blend of 26 fruits and vegetables – something no other range can boast.

Here’s a quick fire guide to each of the products – you can find out much more on the Alive! website http://www.feelaliveuk.com

shutterstock_49925380 group of women sitting Oct15Women’s Energy Soft Jells

  • Specially optimised for women of all ages to maximise energy production
  • Specific nutrients to help hormone balance including iodine and Vitamin B6
  • 400% NRV of Vitamin D for bone and immune support
  • With biotin, which is needed for luxuriant hair, together with healthy skin and nails

shutterstock_46989997 family in the snow Oct15Immune Support Soft Jells

  • A great all-round immune support with black elderberry being the key nutrient
  • It includes the combined immune-supporting nutrients of Vitamins A, C, D, B6 and Zinc
  • Perfect for the whole family starting from three years and upwards
  • A great product to take ahead of, and throughout, the winter months and beyond

shutterstock_150359354 group of women over fifty Oct15Women’s 50+ Soft Jells

  • Specially balanced for women over 50 years of age and includes all key supportive nutrients for this age group
  • With Vitamins B12 and Biotin for great energy production and Vitamin B6 to help maintain hormone balance
  • Contains 400% NRV of Vitamin D for bone health
  • Plus there’s the complete family of B Vitamins to provide great energy

shutterstock_72617749 men father and son Oct15Men’s Energy Soft Jells

  • Formulated for men of all ages to optimise health and vitality
  • Providing enhanced levels of Zinc and selenium, essential for fertility and reproduction
  • With Vitamins C, B5, B6 and Thiamin specifically for energy production
  • Also containing Vitamins A and B2 for normal vision

shutterstock_289525484 children group Oct15Children’s Soft Jells

  • Specially formulated for all children from 3 years
  • With 200% NRV of vitamin D for bone health – crucial in growing children
  • Also providing optimal levels of Vitamin C and zinc for immune support
  • Including Iodine needed for normal growth in children
  • Superb tasting orange and berry fruits flavours your children will love!

So, with something for everyone, we’ve worked really hard to ensure that the body’s nutritional needs are fully supported and enhanced, and that you’ll actually enjoying taking your daily top-up!


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You and your diet – it’s all about balance!


shutterstock_91767632 woman balancing Oct15

How often do we hear the phrase “We need to eat a balanced diet”? But what does it actually mean and what constitutes a truly balanced diet? Of course, we’re all individuals, and therefore our diet should also reflect our individual needs and lifestyle. But there are some general guidelines we should all follow: Consultant Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, takes us through the basics.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog picThe body needs a vast array of nutrients on a daily basis – around 50 in total. Whilst vitamins and minerals are very important the body also needs a balance of macro nutrients such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates, together with other compounds frequently found in plant-based foods, such as antioxidants.

By following a few basic ‘rules’, making sure you get what your body needs on a daily basis can be a whole lot easier!

shutterstock_88218493 fruit and veg basket Oct15ACID-ALKALINE BALANCE

Since our body tissues and blood are slightly alkaline, we need to eat foods that break down into alkaline elements to support this.

It’s actually the residue or ‘ash’ that a food leaves behind when it’s broken down in the body that’s important. For example, lemons are acidic fruits, but when digested leave an alkaline ‘ash’.

Generally, the more fruits and vegetables you eat the better. The only exception to this is cranberries and dried fruits, which tend to be more acidic.

Additionally, grains such as millet, buckwheat, corn, as well as almonds and sprouted seeds are alkaline. On the other hand, meat and animal products, together with white refined foods, especially sugary treats, will all create acidity. Try to aim for around 60-70% of your diet to be made up of alkaline foods.

shutterstock_164214956 protien fats carbs dice Oct15MACRONUTRIENT BALANCE

Proteins (meat, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds, beans and fish), fats (coconut oil, butter, meats, bacon, vegetable oils and their seeds) and carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, grains, breads and pasta, and all refined flour-based foods) make up the macronutrients you should have in your diet.


As a general guide:

  • 15% of the diet should come from proteins
  • 25% from fats (10% of which should be the essential omega 3’s and 6’s; 15% other fats)
  • 60% from carbohydrates – mostly fruits and vegetables

Don’t forget however that fat has twice the calories of protein and carbohydrates, but as most of your carbohydrate intake should primarily come from fruits, vegetables and whole grains these are are all low in fat.

Make sure to get your 10% of fat from the omega 3’and 6’s found in oily fish and nuts and seeds as these help to speed up the metabolism and are essential for healthy hormone balance. If you have to prioritise any fats, prioritise these!

shutterstock_157882724 autumn harvest veg Oct15SEASONAL BALANCE

Eating seasonally should generally be more economical and also provide the nutrients that nature intended at the right times.

For example, in summer the juiciest freshest fruits are more readily available, and conversely during winter, the foods that need more cooking such as root vegetables are the ones that are more in season. Makes sense, right?

As we move into Autumn, this normally signals a big shift in terms of our dietary mix; it’s the official harvest time of nature. Firstly, watery fruits and vegetables are harvested such as apples, blackberries (particularly good for the immune system, which needs supporting right now), spinach, marrow and cabbage.

Later in the season, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots and cauliflower dominate. The diet tends to shift towards eating more cooked foods – it’s also more warming during the colder months – and complex carbohydrates should become the mainstay of the diet.

shutterstock_186902615 stones balanced in water Oct15WATER BALANCE

The body is about 70% water which constitutes all our bodily fluids; blood, lymph, digestive juices, tears and sweat – lovely!

Water is involved in almost every bodily function and it makes up all the mineral salts such as potassium and sodium that are essential for nerve transmission as well as other important functions. However, with so much water available, both from the tap and on the supermarket shelves, does it matter what type we drink, as long as we’re drinking enough?

The quality of tap water will vary from region to region. Many minerals including chlorine are used for purification but the water may still contain environmental pollutants. Bottled spring water is generally less contaminated and most people think that it tastes a lot better than ordinary tap water.

Mineral waters generally contain good levels of trace minerals as one would expect; however, it’s worth remembering that sparkling mineral water will have carbon dioxide injected back into it and too much of this type of water can upset the body’s acid/alkaline balance.

Filtered water is favoured in many homes because it’s cheap and convenient. Obviously it depends on the quality of the filter, which is normally a carbon block, as to how many contaminants are removed.

So how much water do we need? We should certainly drink at least one or two glasses of warm water when we first wake up and then regularly throughout the day, in between meals. Water should not be drunk with meals as it dilutes the digestive juices and therefore nutrient absorption. Try to aim for a minimum of two litres daily.

And remember caffeinated drinks do not count towards this, but herbal and fruit teas do!

shutterstock_58711744 food circle balanced Oct15FOOD ROTATION BALANCE

Food rotation means getting lots of variety in your diet! The wider the range of foods we have in the diet, the more likely we are to be achieving the ideal number of daily nutrients.

It will also reduce your potential for food intolerances: when people experience what they think of as food intolerances, particularly to wheat, it’s sometimes not an intolerance but your body’s reaction to eating too much of the same food group (i.e. cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner). You get the picture!

One of the easiest ways to get variety into your diet is to get colourful – the more colours you have on your plate or in your sandwich, the more nutrients you will eat! But remember that ‘white’ foods do not really count – sugar and white bread are real no-nos! So if you embrace the colour rotation on your plate, your diet will automatically be far more varied and full of nutrients as a result.

So those are my top tips for the best approach to a well-balanced, healthy diet. But don’t forget to throw in the odd treat or two – after all, we are here to enjoy life albeit a healthy one most of the time!


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Love your heart: 5 tips for taking care of yours

shutterstock_169249814 woman with heart over eye Sept15At our beating centre, the heart is arguably the most important organ of the body. Taking care of such an important organ should be a daily job: your heart works so hard for you, you should work hard to take care of it! Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some of her top tips of how to take good care of your body’s hardest working organ!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog picshutterstock_293096687 blueberries in punnetBERRY GOOD BERRIES!

Much is written about blueberries and their health-giving benefits, and for very good reason. Recent research[1] has further confirmed that colourful berries, specifically blueberries, not only protect the heart but also help prevent other degenerative diseases.

The heart benefits of berries are mainly attributed to the presence of anthocyanins which are the pigments that provide the beautiful rich colours of many fruits and vegetables – and these are found particularly in blueberries.

Blueberries are easy to eat on their own, are great in a fruit salad and can provide the ‘wow’ factor to your morning porridge or other cereal, so they really are a versatile heart-booster.

shutterstock_157278356 garlic Sept15LOVE GARLIC!

Garlic or Allium sativum, is part of the onion family and provides some very real and well-researched benefits for the heart. Whilst it may not be the best thing to eat on a date, taking a garlic supplement is a good way of getting the benefits whilst still remaining sociable!

Recent research[2] has found that garlic supplementation reduced high cholesterol particularly where eating habits were the main reason for excess amounts of the bad or LDL cholesterol. High cholesterol levels are generally produced from diets that are high in sugar and hydrogenated fats such as those found in refined foods such as pastries and cakes.

Garlic also has many other health benefits: it boasts immune-stimulating properties as well as digestive benefits, and is particularly effective in treating fungal and bacterial infections.

shutterstock_90650398 walnut Sept15HARNESS THE POWER OF WALNUTS!

Of all nuts, walnuts have been found to contain the most powerful antioxidants. When consumed regularly, walnut oil may also support healthy blood vessels and balanced cholesterol levels. This is because they are rich in polyunsaturates, especially the omega 6 essential fatty acid linoleic acid.

They also contain good amounts of omega 3’s which are great for the brain, hormones, joints and eyes. Walnuts are high in fibre and also contain other heart-friendly minerals such as calcium. And if that’s not enough to convince you, walnuts have also been found to lower both resting blood pressure and, most surprisingly, blood pressure under stress.

Try to eat a few each day and drizzle some walnut oil onto your salads whenever you can, to gain the greatest benefits.

shutterstock_227797585 Green tea Sept15REDUCE YOUR CAFFEINE

It is quite well known that caffeine is linked to high blood pressure. This is because it acts as a stimulant, hence the reason people drink lots of caffeinated drinks as a ‘pick-me-up’ throughout the day. However, once it’s provided a quick boost, you’ll quickly get a drop in energy and concentration levels.

Interestingly, decaffeinated tea and coffee still contain a little bit of caffeine but not nearly as much as the regular caffeinated drinks in the same quantities. It is much better to change to completely caffeine-free drinks such as herbal or fruit teas. Green tea is incredibly heart-friendly because it contains a range of antioxidants which are heart-protective and it has also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.

shutterstock_212531809 woman hiking in autumn sun Sept15GET ACTIVE!

Whilst it’s hugely important to look after your heart nutritionally, taking some exercise comes a very close second in terms of heart-healthy benefits.

Being more active encourages better balancing of blood sugar levels, a key factor in weight gain; and, of course, being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease.

If going to the gym doesn’t ‘float your boat’ then there are many other options, all of which provide great benefits to the heart, and also your waistline. One of the best all round forms of exercise is cycling – it’s suitable for all ages and abilities and it doesn’t need to cost very much at all. It’s also great to do as a family.

Why not try salsa classes, doing some exercises at home with a DVD or using YouTube (there are so many to choose from) or invest in some walking boots and explore some of the wonderful countryside all around us a couple of times a week.

Exercise needs to be planned into a weekly routine – make a diary note if it helps you to stick to it! But whatever you do, pick an activity that you really enjoy and will continue to keep you motivated.

And even if you haven’t had the best habits in the world up until now, it’s never too late to start looking after your heart: it will certainly love you for it!


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[1] Chen L et al. Phytochemical properties and antioxidant capacities of various coloured berries. J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Jan 30;94(2): 180-8.

[2] Ebrahimi T et al. High doses of garlic extract significantly attenuated the ratio of serum LDL to HDL level in rat-fed with hypercholesterolemia diet. Diagn Pathol. 2015 Jun 20;10:74.