How to combat hay fever through nutrition: what to eat and why

shutterstock_454844614 woman hay field summer Aug16With around one in five people suffering from hay fever in the UK, how can you get the best out of the outdoors this summer without feeling terrible?! There are a number of over-the–counter remedies which may help alleviate some of the symptoms, but some of these can cause drowsiness – not great when you want to enjoy the summer days to their fullest! However there are some very powerful nutritional ways of helping to combat hay fever.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her three key tips for getting you through the allergy season with a smile on your face! 

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With everyone rushing to the great outdoors right now, let’s spare a thought for those whose summer is blighted by hay fever. The tell-tale symptoms of itchy eyes, sneezing, a blocked and runny nose, coughing and wheezing can be very troublesome for a number of months. So here are my three tips for combatting hay fever through nutrition this season.


An allergic response happens when your immune system, which usually protects you from attack from foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria, reacts to harmless substances. When this happens, histamine is released in the body, which is responsible for the uncomfortable, red, watery eyes, sneezing and an itchy, runny nose.

shutterstock_90052969 citrus fruits Aug16One of the best nutrients to include in your diet is quercetin which is found in onions, citrus fruits, tea and apples. It provides great immune support but also helps to manage the release of histamine. It might also be worth getting a supplement so that you can start taking it at the beginning of the hay fever season for best effects.

shutterstock_395395753 pineapple Aug16Another nutrient – Bromelain – is found in pineapples, and actually helps the absorption of quercetin therefore helping to support the immune system. So, try to include pineapples in your diet as much as possible (not just in summery Pina Coladas!)

shutterstock_115541830 green tea Aug16Whilst all tea contains some quercetin, green tea also contains powerful antioxidants which provide even more support to the immune system. In fact, green tea has so many great health benefits, it’s worth including two to three cups daily into your diet.

shutterstock_69391129 fruit and veg pile Aug16Vitamin C, known for supporting immunity, should be included in your diet every day whether you suffer from hay fever or not! Including as many fruits and vegetables as possible in your daily diet is going to ensure you’re getting some good amounts of vitamin C. Colourful fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamin C so think about eating all the colours of the rainbow in one day if you can! Even better, it works alongside quercetin and bromelain, so you’ve got a trio of great support!


shutterstock_439914103 omega 3 foods Aug16Essential fats are called omega-3s and your body cannot make them – they have to be eaten in the diet. They are called essential for very good reason as they have so many important functions in the body including having a beneficial effect for people suffering with allergies: they primarily help to calm the airways and reduce any inflammation in the body, which helps to further alleviate the allergic response.

The best sources of essential fats are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines (sardines taste amazing on the barbecue), or nuts and seeds – in particular flaxseeds (which can be easily be sprinkled onto your cereal or salad).


shutterstock_209198680 woman hay field eyes Aug16One of the most uncomfortable aspects of suffering from hay fever is that your eyes become red, irritated and watery, which can really dampen your summer fun! However, help is at hand, in the form of some powerful nutrients called carotenoids. Two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin are both found in the macular of the eye and they are really supportive of eye health, including general vision, but also help to soothe some of the symptoms associated with hay fever.

shutterstock_78764272 spinach kale chard Aug16Think kale, spinach, chicory, cress, red peppers and Swiss chard for the best sources of these powerful nutrients. And frozen is just as good as fresh if you’re time-poor – add these to salads, stir- fries and soups.

shutterstock_169643426 salmon raw Aug16Astaxanthin, another member of the carotenoid family, also supports the eyes and can be very useful when your eyes are irritated. Astaxanthin is an algae eaten by salmon (generally wild salmon), therefore you also get the benefits of it from eating this fish – another great reason for including salmon in your diet at least twice a week if you can.  Astaxanthin is also available in supplement form – you need four milligrams a day for best effects – and as a powerful antioxidant, also helps protect the eyes and skin in the sun.

So enjoy the summer to its fullest without the tears by eating the right things, and you’ll be loving the outdoors instead of cursing the pollen!


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Get healthy outdoors: making the most of the UK summer

shutterstock_294812558 woman hiking Aug16

With summer now finally here, it’s a great time to grab every opportunity you can to be outdoors. Enjoying the warmer days and evenings with friends and family means being out in the fresh air as much as possible – so why not create some new and healthy habits whilst you’re at it?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares 5 ways you can really benefit from the outdoor life and enhance your wellbeing.

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There are so many ways to enjoy exercise outside during the summer months. And for those of you that really hate the gym (or just don’t want to be inside on a beautiful day), now’s the time to switch it up and get moving outdoors.

shutterstock_84770905 family cycling Aug16

One of the most accessible forms of exercise, which is great for all the family, is cycling. And of course it’s becoming more and more popular, particularly with our recent Olympic successes! Hiking is also a great way of getting out and about, whether it’s a circuit or two of your local park or a day hike in the hills.

shutterstock_175401323 fitness in park Aug16

If you want to keep fit and raise your heart rate then burpees (squat down, jump your legs out behind you, and then jump back up into the air) and walking or alternating lunges are two of the best exercises you can do. Try to see how many burpees you can do in 3 minutes. If you’ve only just started, it won’t be very many initially but this will quickly improve as your fitness levels increase. Even better join a class in the park – there are so many popping up all over the country and all levels of fitness are welcome.


shutterstock_399216388 bbq Aug16

There’s nothing better than the wonderful taste of food freshly cooked on the barbecue, with all those delicious aromas in the air! However, it’s very easy to do the basics and throw a few sausages on the barbecue, served with a traditional lettuce-based salad but it’s not the healthiest. Instead, why not try something different, where you’ll still get your barbecued meat ‘fix’ but with the added benefit of some vegetables for extra vitamin C!

Homemade burgers produced with lean beef mince, roasted red peppers and shredded carrot are really tasty and easy to make: Pre-roast some de-seeded red peppers for around 15 minutes and then finely chop. Then mix up the lean mince, some breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, the roasted peppers and some shredded carrot. Make them into rounds and you’ve got delicious and healthy burgers to go straight onto the barbecue. Serve them with some chopped vine tomatoes, mixed with basil leaves, cucumber and onions and you’ve got a really healthy meal, packed with vitamin C!

shutterstock_93536554 herb garden Aug16

Whether you’ve got a garden, a patio, a balcony or just a windowsill, there’s always room for a herb garden!

As well as providing some wonderful flavours to your recipes, culinary herbs also provide some amazing health benefits. Rosemary, which is the perfect accompaniment to roasted lamb, is really good for the digestive system, but also protects the gut against any nasty invaders; it’s therefore, great to eat before traveling to foreign countries.

Sage, which really gives stews and pork dishes a real lift, is often used in mouthwashes but can also be made into a tea, which helps support the immune system.

Thyme, with its distinctive aroma and taste, is a great addition to soups and meat dishes, and is packed with essential oils which support the digestive system plus have beneficial antiseptic properties.

No space is too small for your personal herb garden and both your culinary skills and your health will reap the rewards!


shutterstock_379857400 tapas mezze Aug16

Just because you’re planning to eat outside doesn’t mean you always have to barbecue. It’s really relaxing just to be able to sit outside on a warm evening and enjoy your usual home menu. But why not evoke a Mediterranean vibe and prepare a traditional mezze plate?

For example, lay out some griddled aubergine (also called eggplant), roasted artichokes, fresh vine tomatoes, cucumber, Parma ham, cubed feta cheese, chopped fresh figs, olives and hummus with some warmed olive ciabatta bread. There’s something for everyone on this plate and you’ve got a great balance of nutrients, protein and carbohydrates so everyone will feel replenished. You can sit and pick at this varied mezze for hours and it also makes a great party platter!


shutterstock_407642230 woman relaxing outside Aug16

Just because you’re outside, doesn’t mean you’ve got to be racing around! You can just sit and enjoy the outdoors, taking in the scenery and watching the world go by or just have some quiet time to yourself reading a book in the open air.

Vitamin D deficiency continues to be a real problem in the UK, so sitting in the sunshine for around 15 minutes a day without sun cream will really boost your vitamin D levels. This in turn will boost your mood and your immune system as well as help support your bones.

Everyone seems happier when the sun comes out. And living in our fast-paced digital age has its benefits but it also means we never fully switch off. Just taking a gentle stroll outdoors and really absorbing the world around can be incredibly therapeutic. Most importantly, make some time for yourself outside, without distractions such as mobile phones or tablets.

So while the weather holds, grab every opportunity you can to get out and about and enjoy the many benefits outdoor living can bring!


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It’s a summer salad extravaganza! 5 nutrient-packed salads to try


shutterstock_179802641 healthy summer salad Aug16

With summer well and truly here, we all tend to eat more salads than during the winter months. However, if the thought of yet another plateful of leaves fills you with boredom, or even dread, then think again!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top five salad recipes with a difference.

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Depending on how many you want to feed, you’ll need some brown rice, eggs, large tomatoes, a green pepper, olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, mint leaves and black olives and some canned tuna in brine.

shutterstock_286876157 tuna and rice salad Aug16

This is a variation on a Tuna Nicoise salad. All you need to do is to cook the rice as per the instructions, hard boil the eggs and chop the tomatoes, pepper and olives. Add everything together with the tuna, olive oil, lemon juice and chopped mint and you’re ready to go. This recipe is high in protein with the tuna and egg, so you’ll feel fuller for longer, plus the addition of the rice makes it a sustaining and tasty meal.

Brown rice contains so many more B vitamins than white rice, which are great for energy levels, and the salad vegetables, with their lovely dark colours, contain a wealth of nutrients, particularly antioxidants, to keep you looking young. So it’s a super-salad all round!


There are so many varieties of beans and all of them provide great health benefits, so you can mix and match whichever beans you like in this recipe!

Beans provide some good levels of protein, so are really popular with vegetarians, as well as containing good levels of minerals. Even better, they contain phytoestrogens which are especially helpful for women to keep their hormones in good balance.

For this recipe use canned mixed beans, a large tomato, one finely chopped fresh red chilli, some chopped coriander and some fresh green beans which should just be lightly steamed. Then mix all the ingredients together with a dash of soy sauce, salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Eat it on its own or add some meat of your choice for an extra protein hit. This makes a great lunch time dish which is easily transportable and will keep your blood sugar levels balanced all afternoon.


For those who feel the need for leaves, and there’s plenty of good reasons to eat them, then try being a bit more creative.

Think baby spinach, small trimmed broccoli florets, shredded white cabbage, sliced cucumber and rocket. For a little twist, you can also crumble some blue cheese over this and maybe some chopped walnuts. This salad also works really well with a pesto dressing – use pesto, lemon juice and olive oil – and you’ve created something truly amazing!

As Popeye knows, spinach is a great source of iron but broccoli is a true ‘superfood’. The fact that you’re eating it raw helps to retain more of its nutrient content, particularly the vitamin C, which is often destroyed during cooking.


This dish is really colourful and great to eat all year round. You can either keep it as a mixed roasted vegetable salad or add some rocket to get the ‘green’ hit!

The mainstay of this salad is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes contain many more nutrients than the traditional white potato, partly due to their deep colours. They are also rich in carotenoids which produce vitamin A in the body – great for the skin, eyes and immune system.

Slice the potato and roast in the oven with some red peppers and onions if you fancy it. Leave to cool and then mix some chopped beetroot, rocket, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper and add to the mix. Delicious!


There’s almost nothing better than the taste of ripe, on-the-vine tomatoes! You can get some really tasty ones from supermarkets, or why not try your local farmer’s markets? Tomatoes are rich in lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant and they’re also packed full of a range of vitamins and minerals. One helpful buying tip is to give them a good sniff before you buy them to make sure that scent is just perfect and then they’ll taste wonderful too!

For this tasty salad, all you need to do is to slice some tomatoes, add chopped basil and crushed garlic, with some rocket leaves and mix together with some olive oil and salt and pepper. It really is as simple as that but it’s actually all about the taste of the tomatoes. This also makes a great side salad to pretty much anything you might want to eat!

So, why not get creative with your salads this season and you’ll never get bored of this summer staple!


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Eat in season for more nutrition and energy: what to eat right now

shutterstock_141607918 woman with strawberries Aug16Eating food has one main role – to provide us with energy. But some foods are better than others at providing sustained energy as well as a range of health-giving nutrients. Better still is to eat seasonally: eating fresh ingredients at the right time of year will give you even more nutritional benefits as well as keeping your energy up.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five foods to eat right now and boost your energy levels through the summer months.

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As Nutritionists, we often recommend that people eat foods that are in season, and for very good reason. They are at their most fresh and therefore packed full of nutrients. It’s not always easy to know exactly what’s in season though when so much variety is available all-year round in the supermarkets. One tip is to see what’s on sale at local farmer’s markets – and if you can buy locally sourced foods in season, the nutritional value will be even better.

So here are my top 5 in-season foods to tempt your taste buds this summer and give you that extra boost of energy:

shutterstock_129834233 beetroot Aug16BEETROOT

Beetroot is rapidly becoming known as a ‘superfood’ but its credentials as an energy producer are widely acknowledged. There has been extensive research carried out on its ability to improve exercise performance: a recent study found that eating beetroot increased exercise performance and decreased blood pressure[1]. And how does it do this? It’s all about the nitrate content of beetroot (nitrates help blood vessels to dilate, thereby supporting oxygen flow). And it’s for this reason that it’s become so popular with athletes as well as recreational sports people. Beetroot also contains other energy-producing nutrients including vitamin C, B6 and the mineral magnesium.

shutterstock_234819385 jacket potato and tuna Aug16POTATOES

The good old spud has been around for about four centuries and has become the staple diet in some countries. Indeed, it’s the world’s fourth largest crop and for good reason: potatoes are actually fairly high on the glycaemic index meaning that they deliver energy quickly. They are high in carbohydrates, particularly starch, and the level of energy they provide can vary depending on preparation and what you eat potatoes with.

For example, a jacket potato will deliver energy really quickly but if eaten with some protein, for example tuna, the energy release will be slower and more sustained, which is ideal. Potatoes also contain a good range of the energy-producing B vitamins but because they don’t contain a great many other nutrients, they’re not included in the recommended ‘five a day’. However they still remain a great energy-booster and at this time of year, new potatoes make a delicious addition to any meal.

shutterstock_237716656 peach Aug16PEACHES

Fabulously juicy, peaches are in season right now and there’ll certainly give you a little shot of energy when you need it! Whilst they’re packed with nutrients, particularly antioxidants which support the immune system and help stop the ageing process, they also contain some iron which is great for energy production.

Peaches are low in sugar but do contain some carbohydrate to support energy levels. They make a great snack any time of the day but are also excellent in fruit salads, tarts, pies, jams and jellies, which may be slightly high in calories but always make a great a summer treat!

shutterstock_406836427 trout fish Aug16SEA TROUT

Perhaps a more unusual entry on the list, but sea trout is bang on season and will help give you sustained energy. Its taste and texture is similar to wild salmon and provides really good levels of protein, which keeps blood sugar levels in check to give you sustained energy throughout the day.

Why not try eating some cold for lunch in a salad – you can cook it the night before and you’ll find it will help you push right through that 3 pm energy slump! Its other main claim to fame is that it contains high levels of the essential omega 3 fatty acids, which are needed for metabolism and tend to be eaten in higher amounts by sports people and recreational athletes for this very reason. Even better, sea trout tastes completely delicious when barbecued, so when the sun’s shining you’ve got a real meal-time treat in store!

shutterstock_55997587 strawberries Aug16STRAWBERRIES

Summer is synonymous with strawberries! Did you know that because strawberries have their seeds on the outside, they are actually part of the rose family? Their nutrient content rates highly amongst other fruits (and some vegetables) and their deep red colour is part of that reason; they are packed with anthocyanins or plant compounds that deliver lots of health benefits particularly to the immune system.

Their energy content mainly comes from the fructose, which provides slower-release energy, and  this makes them an ideal snack at any time of day because they won’t upset your blood sugar levels and cause energy dips. Of course, they’re great to eat on their own, particularly right now when they are in season, but are equally delicious with cream or ice cream, or as part of an Eaton Mess for a real summer treat!

So, the summer season is delivering some real food ‘gems’ right now, and as an added bonus the right foods can help give you the energy you need to enjoy the long, summer days and nights!


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[1] Berry MJ et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation improves exercise performance and decreases blood pressure in COPD patients. Nitric Oxide 2015 Aug 1; 48:22-30


Create your holiday menu at home: bring a taste of Europe to your kitchen this summer

shutterstock_216988255 woman cooking in kitchen Aug16Whilst many of us may be travelling abroad this summer, some of us with be sticking closer to home with a ‘staycation’. And if that’s you, why not create the tastes of holiday by making traditional holiday food at home? From tapas to mezze, seafood to pasta, European countries provide a wide range of delicious and nutritious dishes which taste just as good at home!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her favourite foods from five of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations!

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Ever popular on the destination list, Spain also provides a wealth of delicious recipes. The traditional Spanish tortilla can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner either with some salad and warmed olive bread or just on its own. Its main ingredient is eggs (you’ll need about six eggs to feed four people), a fantastic ingredient in any dish as it is one of the most complete sources of protein. This means you’ll feel fuller for longer and energy levels will be sustained throughout the day because blood sugar levels are stable.

shutterstock_217423210 spanish omelette tortilla Aug16Dice and cook some potatoes and then fry until lightly brown. Remove them from the pan and fry off some onions and garlic in olive oil. You can also add other vegetables such as peppers and mushrooms and fry alongside the onions and garlic. Put the beaten eggs and potatoes back into the pan and cook slowly for around 20 minutes. It will be well worth the wait, and you’ve produced a delicious and satisfying meal that can be enjoyed any time of day!


A lovely, fresh Greek salad is always a welcome treat and this one is ridiculously easy to create at home, plus the health benefits are immense. All the ingredients provide a wide range of antioxidants to support your immune system and to help keep that ageing process at bay.

shutterstock_133631465 greek salad Aug16All you need is some crisp lettuce, ripe vine tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, peppers, feta cheese and olives, all chopped and mixed together. Mix up some dressing using olive oil, red wine vinegar and a little oregano and you’ve just brought some wonderful Greek spirit a little closer to home!


If you’re looking forward to eating ‘al fresco’ this summer, then serving a traditional Turkish mezze is always going to be popular – there’s something for everyone. It’s up to you how complicated you want to make it so here are some ideas to start you off.

shutterstock_107711207 aubergine and pepper salad Aug16Have a large plate filled with some cold meats, hummus, tzatziki, some lovely fresh olive bread or crispbreads, plus of course a range of olives. In Turkish cuisine, aubergines (also known as eggplants) feature heavily, so why not make this delicious aubergine salad. For this particular recipe, roast the aubergines whole in the oven with some whole red and yellow peppers, for around 30 minutes. Once they have cooled, cut them open, remove all the seeds and then chop or slice. Add some chopped parsley, together with some salt, crushed garlic and some vinegar and mix all together. This is a delicious addition to your mezze plate and you’ll be getting plenty of fibre, vitamins, C, K and B6, together with some trace minerals to boot. Delicious and good for you!


There are two dishes that we always associate with Italy – pasta and pizza. However, fresh pasta can be tricky to make, and the British summers are not always that warm, so another suggestion is to create minestrone soup – a typical Italian dish which is super healthy, filling and easy to make at home.

shutterstock_81711964 minestrone soup Aug16All you need to do is to fry some carrots, onion, celery, chopped potatoes and garlic for around 10 minutes until lightly browned. Then add some tomato puree, a tin of tomatoes and vegetable stock and cook until all nicely bubbling and soft. To finish off add a tin of cannellini beans, and some cut spaghetti, lightly boil until the pasta is cooked through and you’ve got a really healthy lunch, or starter for your evening meal, that the whole family will love. Minestrone soup is packed full of vitamins, and it’s also a great way of getting children to eat more vegetables in a more appetising way.


French cuisine is full of gastronomic delights; there’s certainly no shortage of ideas for French dishes that can be easily made at home. A well balanced diet supports a healthy lifestyle, and whilst we should be following a healthy diet most of the time, we should always allow ourselves a little food treat now and then – and what’s more decadent than a traditional French crepe?

shutterstock_286031603 crepes Aug16The basic recipe follows a normal pancake mixture using flour and eggs, but try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a little twist. Cover the bottom of a frying pan with a thin layer of the mixture and cook on the hob for a couple of minutes per side, then transfer to a warm plate. In France, they often use Chantilly cream with a fruit filling of your choice – how about sliced banana and raspberries? If cream is too much of a guilty pleasure, you can always swap this for some almond nut butter which is equally delicious and also provides you with some healthy omega 3 fats at the same time.

So, if you’re at home this summer enjoy your ‘staycation’ and make it a real foodie ‘vacation’ by mixing up your usual weekly menu and cooking up your favourite European holiday dishes. As they say in Spain, Salud!


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