How to treat yourself after Lent but keep up the good healthy eating habits!

shutterstock_71854573 woman holding easter egg Mar16With the period of Lent over, you can now officially indulge! However, if you have actually managed to give up certain foods (and many people choose chocolate) it makes sense not to waste all that hard work and throw away the health benefits you’ve gained. So how can you still reward yourself without undoing all that healthy eating?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides us with her five healthiest treats to keep you going after Easter.

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If you’ve not yet discovered how delicious and satisfying raw chocolate can be, then now’s the time to find out! Raw chocolate is actually raw cacao as opposed to normal chocolate which is made from cocoa beans. The nutritional content of cacao is far superior and, because it only contains monounsaturated fats (just like olive oil), it can be eaten regularly and won’t upset your nutrition plans!

shutterstock_184594166 raw chocolate Mar16Cacao is high in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, which is great for stress, iron, which is excellent for energy, plus many of the B vitamins, which are also provide energy. Even better, cacao contains four times the number of antioxidants found in dark chocolate, so it is also great in terms of preventing the ageing process.

You can use cacao powder just as you would cocoa powder in cooking, smoothies, milk shakes and hot drinks. Raw chocolate mousse, as one example, is a real treat: just mix the cacao powder with avocados, desiccated coconut and vanilla extract, and then add some fruit and nuts for decoration. Truly delicious!

shutterstock_269803547 blackberry and coconut squares Mar16BLACKBERRY AND COCONUT SQUARES

Coconut butter doesn’t just make a brilliant body moisturiser, it also makes a great and healthy cooking ingredient. Unlike ordinary butter, the fats in coconut butter are medium chain triglycerides, which are used as an energy source by the body and not stored as fat. Therefore, this little treat can also be relatively healthy.

These lovely squares are made with self-raising flour, oats, coconut butter, eggs and blackberries or blueberries. What’s more, you can sweeten these with xylitol – a natural sweetener – rather than sugar, and they make an excellent afternoon tea treat!

Normal butter can always be substituted for Coconut butter in any recipe, plus it’s one of the healthiest oils to cook with because it has a high melting point, therefore no toxic fats are produced.

shutterstock_208211911 oat biscuits Mar16EASTER BISCUITS

Easter biscuits are a traditional Easter treat. However, a much healthier option is to bake some oaty biscuits, which can be made with energy-sustaining whole grain oats, coconut butter rather than normal butter and xylitol rather than sugar. And for people who are unable to tolerate gluten, they can be made with a gluten-free flour: dare to be different this Easter!

shutterstock_298034351 walnut pesto Mar16WALNUT PESTO

Whilst traditional basil pesto is not necessarily that unhealthy, a quick glance at certain brands of pesto shows that many contain sunflower oil (not the healthiest of oils) plus parmesan cheese (high in saturated fats). So why not make a much healthier and tastier version using walnut oil, olive oil, walnuts, pine nuts, garlic and basil?

All these ingredients contain amazing health benefits, with walnuts in particular being an excellent source of omega 3 fats – great for the heart, bones, joints, hormones, eyes and skin.

Walnuts rank highest amongst all nuts at delivering the greatest number of powerful antioxidants, so they are also great for protecting against free radical damage. Additionally walnuts also help support healthy blood vessels and maintain balanced cholesterol levels.

shutterstock_364988948 strawberries in chocolate Mar16CHOCOLATE FRUIT

And finally, if your post-lent celebration just isn’t the same without some good old chocolate treats, why not make your chocolate treat part of your 5-a-day?

Using dark chocolate to melt over the fruit will provide a greater number of those health-giving antioxidants, together with less fat than milk chocolate. All fruits are suitable to be chocolate coated but I think strawberries are one of the most delicious, plus they have a low glycaemic index, meaning they have a less negative effect on blood sugar balance. Additionally, strawberries boast one of the highest concentrations of Vitamin C of all fruit, so your immune system and skin will be getting a boost at the same time!

So many congratulations on all your hard work and sticking to your resolutions for Lent – but this hard work needn’t be lost and forgotten forever; you can continue to live healthier and feel better well beyond Easter.


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Keep your energy levels high: what to eat to boost your energy!

shutterstock_320326949 woman on bike in autumn Mar16It goes without saying that if we don’t eat the right food, or re-fuel our bodies in the right way, we quickly run out of energy. What we eat has a significant impact on how energetic we feel and particular nutrients have a very important role in helping to manufacture energy in the body. Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top energy-producing nutrients and tells us which foods are best to eat to keep you feeling super-energized!

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The full family of B vitamins – also known as the Vitamin B complex – contains eight in total.

Five of the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12) are specifically involved with energy production in the body. However, because they tend to occur in nature often within the same foods, we always tend to refer to them as a family, plus you’ll generally find them all together in a food supplement.

shutterstock_86346037 B vitamin vegetable shape Mar16To be more specific, these B vitamins actually help the body to release energy; they break down the fats and carbohydrates in the foods that we eat, providing the body with fuel and therefore energy. All these vitamins are widely available in a nutritious, whole food-based diet; that means whole wheat bread, pasta and cereal, meats and a range of fruits and vegetables.

A diet that is high in refined sugars, including cakes, biscuits and pastries, contains very few B vitamins. So whilst you might get an initial ‘hit’ of energy, it will be short-lived and often followed by a slump – you’ll actually be lower in energy if you’ve stocked up on junk food than when you started.

shutterstock_152530931 green leafy veg Iron Mar16IRON

The trace mineral, iron, is essential for energy production. It’s present in the blood as haemoglobin which is the body’s main oxygen-transporting molecule around the body. The haemoglobin molecule actually contains around 60-70% of the body’s iron, hence if your iron stores are low you can find yourself suffering from breathlessness and fatigue.

Pale finger nails and pale skin on the inner rims of the eyes are also signs of a potential iron deficiency. Women are more at risk than men of iron deficiency due to their monthly periods, hence women frequently suffer more from low energy than men.

Red meat contains one of the most absorbable forms of iron, but it’s also found in green-leafy vegetables, dried fruits and fortified breakfast cereals. Interestingly, iron is better absorbed if eaten with citrus fruits because they contain high levels of vitamin C, and this supports its absorption in the body.

shutterstock_281824214 beef and broccoli COQ10 Mar16COQ10

Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, is available in every plant and human cell.

CoQ10’s main ‘claim to fame’ is that it’s found in the energy-producing cells, therefore it’s essential for producing energy. It’s like the spark plug in a car engine: just as a car can’t function without the initial spark, neither can the human body – it’s that important for energy production.

Good sources of COQ10 include beef, chicken, liver, kidney and fatty fish; in terms of vegetables spinach, broccoli and cauliflower are top of the list. Although it’s widely available in many foods, deficiencies can still occur, so taking a supplement containing at least 30 mg of CoQ10 can really help to boost energy levels. Additionally, people that are taking statin drugs for the heart, need to take additional CoQ10 as statins deplete CoQ10, hence people can feel low in energy when taking them.

shutterstock_343188503 food containing magnesium Mar16MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in the human body and, like calcium, is predominantly found in the bones and teeth. However, it also fulfils some vital functions in the human body.

Whilst magnesium is not a nutrient that you would take for quick energy release, such as the B vitamins and CoQ10, it’s really effective in long term cases of fatigue and chronic fatigue. One of the reasons for this is that magnesium is essential for so many different enzyme reactions in the body that are involved with energy production. It, therefore, makes real sense to encourage people to eat more green leafy vegetables because they contain lots of magnesium. And if you’re not keen on eating your sprouts or kale, then nuts and whole wheat are also good sources!

shutterstock_126705143 complex carbohydrates Mar16CARBOHYDRATES

We have to include carbohydrates because, in many ways, they are the most important of the three classes of foods we eat; they’re actually our main source of energy!

Carbohydrates are eventually broken down into glucose, the main fuel for the body’s cells. The brain is also very hungry for glucose, needing around 30% of our intake, hence people often lose concentration and the brain becomes ‘fuzzy’ when they go on a ‘low-carb’ diet.

There are four types of carbohydrates: simple sugars such as glucose, disaccharides such as lactose (the sugar in milk), starches or complex carbohydrates and fibre. The most effective way of ensuring you have sustained energy throughout the day is to stock up on foods that contain complex carbohydrates and fibre; for example, oats, root vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils and quinoa. The simple sugars such as glucose which are often found in sugary snacks can give a very quick energy boost and then a very quick low thereafter.

So now you know how to keep your energy levels up, go and grab some energy-giving foods and live life to the full!


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The facts about fats – what’s good and what’s bad?

shutterstock_228168433 woman holding bottle of cooking oil Mar16Fats are needed as part of a healthy diet – but which types of fats are better than others and where can we find these ‘good’ fats? Never a day goes by without something in the media about fats and what’s good for you and what’s bad for you – it can be very confusing! Thankfully Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer is here to provide an easy-to-understand guide about fats, so you can make some informed choices about what fats you’re putting into your body.

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In simple terms, fats are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Fats are therefore named in different ways, due to the chemical structure of their carbon bonds and it is these particular structures that give them their characteristics – i.e. whether they are good or bad! Interestingly, all fats contain the same amount of calories – around nine calories per gram of fat.

shutterstock_157695506 unsaturated fats Mar16MONOUNSATURATED FATS

These are so-named because they have one double carbon bond in the middle of the structure. These types of fats have long been associated with having health benefits for the heart, particularly in keeping blood pressure within the healthy range.

Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and start to go solid when chilled. Good examples of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil and macadamia oil, plus avocados provide a rich source. Additionally, olive oil is a big part of Mediterranean food, which we also know to be a heart-friendly diet.

The carbon double bond in the middle of the fat’s structure make it chemically stable, which means it doesn’t produce toxic fats when heated; therefore, olive oil is one of the best oils to cook with.

shutterstock_360683672 saturated fats Mar16SATURATED FATS

Saturated fats are found in all food fats and oils, but are especially abundant in hard fats such as butter and lard. Their chemical structure is very simple – it doesn’t contain any double bonds – and they are solid at room temperature.

We need a certain amount of saturated fat in the diet for energy and insulation in the body, but because they are hard fats, they tend to clump together in the bloodstream and this can cause problems for the heart.

Examples of foods containing saturated foods are beef, pork, lamb and dairy products, including butter. These foods, therefore, should be eaten in moderation in the diet, but there’s no reason to exclude them totally. It’s actually trans fats and sugar that are more problematic for our health – keep reading for more information on this.

shutterstock_213779551 omega 6 oils fats Mar16POLYUNSATURATED FATS

Polyunsaturated fats have two double bonds in order to provide flexibility for cell membranes and other vital functions in the body. However, because of these double bonds they are less chemically stable.

Some examples of polyunsaturated oils are linoleic, sunflower oil and hemp, borage and evening primrose oils. They are also known as omega 6 oils. There is some confusion around the potential health benefits of polyunsaturated oils, such as sunflower. Sunflower oils are often heated and chemically altered – this is how margarine is created, for example. The chemical processing and heating of an unstable polyunsaturated oil causes the structure to change and creates something called trans fats.

Trans fats are what can cause many of our more common health problems, particularly heart problems. We are used to seeing the term ‘high in polyunsaturates’ on the packaging of margarine and other refined oils, therefore we can be fooled into thinking they are healthy. This is actually where most of the confusion around healthy and unhealthy oils occurs: oils derived from the polyunsaturated linoleic acid provide many healthy-giving benefits, specifically for the skin and male and female hormones, but not all polyunsaturates can claim the same.

shutterstock_376614814 omega 3 fats Mar16‘SUPER’ UNSATURATED FATS

These are so-called because they contain three double bonds. This makes them more chemically unstable, so they should not be heated, but this triple bond makes them super-healthy!

They are known as omega 3 fatty acids and are derived from alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The body converts ALA to EPA and DHA (two types of long chain omega-3 fatty acids) which provide a wide range of positive health benefits, including supporting our joints, skin, brain, eyes and hormones.

Fish oils naturally contain EPA and DHA, hence the importance of eating oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and to some extent tuna, on a regular basis or taking an omega 3 oil supplement. Omega 3’s are termed ‘essential’ because the body cannot make them; they have to be eaten in the diet or taken as a supplement and because they fulfil so many important functions, they should ideally be eaten on a daily basis.

Ashutterstock_363740588 cakes and pastries Mar16 FINAL WORD ABOUT FATS AND SUGARS

It’s often thought that fat make us fat. However, in simple terms it’s actually sugar that makes us fat.

Whilst it’s true to say that fat contains nine calories per gram, whereas carbohydrate (sugar) contains four calories per gram, it’s the effect that sugar has on the body that causes most of the problems. The biggest issues come from refined foods such as cakes, pastries and biscuits. So what happens to sugar in the body?

Sugar is released very quickly in the body, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. The safest place to put excess sugar that arrives in the bloodstream is in the fat cells as the body cannot store it anywhere else. And it is this process that can cause us the most problems.

Of course too much fat (and indeed too much food in general) is going to make us fat. However, the body needs a certain amount of fat for energy and other essential functions of the body, plus the omega 3’s are completely essential. In simple terms, the diet should contain no more than around 30% of daily calories from fat, and try to ensure that around 15-20% of this intake comes from the essential omegas.

So we hope that these ‘fat facts’ will help you to make more informed choices about which fats you eat in your diet and how to balance the bad with the good. Happy eating!


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Treat your Mum this Mother’s Day with these 5 nutritious foods

shutterstock_276436994 mother and daughter Feb16With Mother’s Day fast approaching, our thoughts turn to our wonderful Mums and what we can do to treat them on this special day. What could be better than preparing a delicious meal that’s not only a real treat for your Mum but is also full of health-giving nutrients? Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top foods that could really enhance your Mother’s health whatever her age!

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If you’re going to choose a fish that has amazing health benefits, particularly for women, then choose salmon.

shutterstock_219318745 salmon and asparagos Oct15Salmon is especially rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for healthy skin, heart, brain and joints. However, omega 3’s also convert into hormone-like substances called prostaglandins which are essential for keeping hormones in balance. And bearing in mind that hormones play a large role in most women’s health and feelings of wellbeing, it makes sense to ensure that your mum is eating the right nutrients to keep hers well balanced.

shutterstock_281476277 hummus and cracker Feb16CHICKPEAS

These humble legumes really pack a punch in terms of their health benefits in the female diet. Chickpeas are rich in a compound called phytoestrogens. These help to balance oestrogen levels at all ages which is both important for helping to combat symptoms of PMS and those caused by the menopause.

The most common food where chickpeas are found is delicious hummus; it’s a great protein snack, so excellent for balancing blood sugar levels and keeping energy stable throughout the day. Hummus is delicious with oatcakes or rice cakes or can be used as a dip with crudités; chopped carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli heads – the list is endless – and your mum will also be getting some Vitamin C alongside these hormone-balancing nutrients!

shutterstock_273933668 cranberry cocktail Feb16CRANBERRY JUICE

Many women suffer from cystitis and it can occur at any age. Whilst it’s often called the ‘honeymoon illness’ cystitis can also become troublesome during the menopause.

Cranberries have long been associated with helping to combat urinary tract infections, so it makes sense for women to include them in the daily diet as much as possible. They contain a substance called proanthocyanidins, which help to prevent the E-coli bacteria from attaching themselves to the lining of the bladder.

Therefore, the best way of getting a high concentration of cranberries is to drink unsweetened cranberry juice, which is readily available in supermarkets. Mum’s can drink this everyday if they’re prone to bouts of cystitis. So for Mother’s Day why not make a cranberry-based cocktail for a bit of a treat?

shutterstock_232565083 dark chocolate squares Jun15DARK CHOCOLATE

If you’re thinking of treating your mum to some chocolate this Mother’s Day, then make sure it’s the dark variety. Dark chocolate has many health benefits over milk chocolate but primarily because it’s high in anti-ageing antioxidants.

Antioxidants prevent free radical damage to the skin so eating dark chocolate helps to curb those troublesome wrinkles, plus they can also help in the prevention of some of our more common degenerative diseases.

Dark chocolate is still quite high in calories, but there’s no harm in eating a couple of squares of 70% or 80% organic dark chocolate every day for that sweet treat and a great health kick!

shutterstock_265206914 boiled egg asparagus Feb16EGGS

There’s no better way for your Mum to start her day than by eating some eggs for breakfast!

Eggs provide one of the most complete forms of protein so she’ll be getting all the essential amino acids she needs which help produce hormones as well as the repair and maintenance of good muscle strength. Plus because they have such a good protein content, they’re great for balancing blood sugar levels which means that energy levels will be sustained throughout the day.

shutterstock_227387746 eggs breakfast Apr15Eggs contain a great profile of vitamins and minerals, specifically all the B vitamins which help the body to produce energy, plus Vitamin A which is a great antioxidant, and Vitamin D which is essential for the bones.

A little known fact is that eggs also contain the phospholipid lecithin which is needed for good brain function. So in so many ways, eggs are one of the best all-rounders when it comes to your Mum’s health – why not start the day by making her a delicious plate of poached eggs, asparagus and some wholemeal toast, washed down with that cranberry cocktail!

Whatever you do this weekend, definitely make a fuss of your mum on Mother’s Day – it’s always the thought that counts the most.


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