The Sweet Potato: why you should eat more of this superfood!


When it comes to nutritional value, sweet potatoes are streets ahead of the traditional spud. Bursting with vitamins and better for your metabolism, sweet potatoes are very different from ‘normal’ potatoes – and far better for you!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides some fabulous facts about sweet potatoes, and why you should be including them on your weekly shopping list!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


There are three colour varieties of sweet potatoes –  white, orange and purple.  Whilst they all deliver great nutritional benefits, the orange variety delivers slightly more vitamin A and the purple variety contains more anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants.  Purple sweet potatoes are also said to be beneficial for cognitive function.


However, all sweet potatoes are great if you’re on a weight loss programme because they are low to medium on the glycaemic index(GI), meaning they release energy slowly without upsetting blood sugar levels.


(Picture: Carbohydrates with a low to medium GI)

Because sweet potatoes really do taste so sweet, there is often a misconception that they should be avoided by diabetics or people trying to lose weight. However, the reverse is actually true with these amazing vegetables: they seem to encourage the release of a protein which helps to manage insulin levels in the body, so are great for anyone worried about blood sugar control.


Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre which is important for your digestive tract in order to keep everything moving along!


They are particularly high in Calcium (which supports strong bones and teeth), Potassium (which helps support a healthy heart) and Vitamins C and B6 which are great for the immune system.

When it comes to Vitamin A, sweet potatoes have one of the highest levels of all vegetables. This Vitamin A is in the form of beta-carotene (just like in carrots), which is converted by the body as needed. Vitamin A is also really supportive of a strong immune system, plus it’s great for the skin.



One of the best things about sweet potatoes is that they make the most amazing fries!  Sweet potato fries are just perfect: chop them into chip shapes, drizzle with olive or coconut oil, add some ground salt and then roast in the oven.  For a really indulgent treat, roll them in truffle oil before serving and sprinkle with parmesan cheese – delicious!


If you’re reluctant to give-up your well-loved jacket potato, then fear not!  A sweet potato makes an even-tastier jacket, with a tuna and mayonnaise topping – why not add some mashed avocado, sour cream or hummus?  Whichever you choose, you can rest-assured that you’ll be getting a much greater array of nutrients than if you had chosen a standard potato.


One interesting fact about beta-carotene (Vitamin A) is that it is fat-soluble: this means that the body absorbs it much more efficiently when eaten with other foods containing fat (such as avocado and hummus) – so always add a healthy fat option to your sweet potato!


Sweet potatoes also make a great vegetable side. They’re delicious, cooked and mashed simply with a little butter and black pepper. You can also top with some chopped walnuts: the omega-3 fat content of walnuts will help with the absorption of beta-carotene, and they make a fabulous addition to this side dish.

There are a few special recipes where sweet potatoes can really make their mark because they are so wonderfully sweet in taste. They work really well with lamb recipes, as part of any Indian-style cuisine, and added to oven baked dishes which include ginger, garlic, onions and garam masala.


And have you ever tried a sweet potato brownie?  You can whip up an amazing gluten-free version using just mashed sweet potatoes, cashew nut butter, cocoa powder and maple syrup – and throw in some chocolate chips for that extra chocolate hit!

So why not make sweet potatoes part of your weekly meal planning – this is one delicious superfood that you won’t believe you ever went without!


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Can what we eat affect our mood? Top nutrition tips to keep you feeling happy!

shutterstock_384995470-happy-woman-smiling-sept16Can what we eat affect our mood? The short answer is ‘absolutely’! 

Many people suffer from low mood, have difficulty concentrating or find remembering simple things a struggle. Everything that happens regarding how you think and feel, as well as mental energy and focus, requires an optimal supply of nutrients – and this means eating a well-balanced and healthy diet. But are there some foods which may have a more dramatic impact on how you’re feeling?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares with us which foods to eat for a happier you!


You may be surprised to know that your brain is around 60% fat and much of this is made up of the ‘good fats’ or the omega-3s and 6s (the essential fats).  It makes sense, therefore, that these fats need to be replenished to support good brain function.


In the brain, these fats regulate the release and performance of neurotransmitters – one of them being our ‘happy’ hormone, serotonin. Higher levels of essential fats in the brain mean higher levels of serotonin which in turn means a happier mood.

shutterstock_439914103 omega 3 foods Aug16So what to eat?  Oily fish, including salmon, mackerel and sardines are key.  However, if you’re vegetarian, or don’t like fish, then walnuts, soybeans and wheatgerm are great sources of both the omega 3’s and 6’s (and the brain needs both).  Flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds are also good but you can also look for a good quality supplement that contains both these omegas and take this daily to keep your levels topped up.


Serotonin, your happy hormone, is made from the amino acid tryptophan.  So it makes sense to eat foods which contain this amino acid from which the body then makes serotonin.


Porridge made with soya milk, eggs with wholemeal toast, grilled chicken breast with baked potato and green beans, salmon fillet with quinoa and a green salad – a few good examples of foods to try.  Tryptophan also promotes sleep, so any of these foods should help you to get some rest – eat a couple of hours before your planned bedtime.


Did you know that your brain consumes more energy (or glucose) than any other organ?  Without a constant supply of glucose to the brain, you’ll experience fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, but most of all mood swings.  Your brain needs a constant supply of ‘slow-releasing’ carbohydrates to keep functioning at its highest level. This means that keeping well balanced blood sugar levels is critical to keeping a well-balanced mood.


Eating complex carbohydrates like wholegrains, vegetables, beans or lentils release energy steadily and gradually throughout the day, therefore your mood stays even.  You can further balance your blood sugar by eating some protein such as salmon, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs or nuts at the same time as the complex carbohydrates, and ideally this combination should form the basis of every meal (alongside fruits and vegetables).


If you really want to keep your mood as even and balanced as possible it is a good idea to avoid refined sugars and foods that create a sharp increase in blood sugar levels. Although they might make you happy at the time, biscuits and cakes along with white toast, fizzy drinks and rice cakes, should all be avoided or significantly reduced for optimal and sustained happiness!



Food allergies can provoke mental and emotional changes which in turn can affect your mood.  This is because there is a physical link between the gut and the brain, and one inevitably affects the other. This is also the case with food intolerances, where the body’s reaction can often be delayed after eating the food, but can be quite distressing and more difficult to detect.


One of the most common allergenic foods in our everyday diet is wheat: this is because wheat contains a protein called gliadin which can irritate the gut wall.  Dairy produce can also cause allergic reactions in some people often due to the lactose content, but some people can tolerate sheep and goat’s milk but not cow’s milk.

If you have a history of mood swings, eczema, asthma, ear infections, or frequent colds then it might be worth having your allergies and intolerances checked by a Clinical Nutritionist or other qualified healthcare professional.  If any foods are identified as problematic, the changes to your mood by avoiding them can be incredible!


There’s no doubt that if you’re stressed, this will adversely affect your mood.  This is partly because stress reduces serotonin levels and we know we need serotonin to be happy! Low oestrogen levels can also reduce serotonin, making women more susceptible to low moods, particularly when under stress.


There are many different reactions going on in the body during the stress response but a helpful amino acid called taurine helps to produce GABA – one of our calming neurotransmitters.  So, if there was one good mood food I would recommend above all else it would be eggs!  They’re packed full of tryptophan, they encourage GABA production, they are high in protein (so balance blood sugar levels) and they also contain phospholipids – another group of fats which are great for brain function! So the humble egg can really be a great little mood-booster all on its own – and there are so many ways to eat them!

So it is indeed true that you are what you eat! And hopefully with these tips you can easily build these mood-boosters into your everyday diet for a happier you!




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[1] Rimer EG et al.  Acute dietary nitrate supplementation increases maximal cycling power in athletes. Int J Sports Physiol. Perform. 2015 Dec 2


Fall in love with Beetroot: why this superfood is such a nutrient powerhouse

shutterstock_363944324-woman-holding-beetroot-jan16Beetroot is finally ditching its ‘pickled vegetable in a jar’ image! With its wonderful deep purple colour and distinct flavour, beetroot makes a great addition to any salad, roasted vegetable medley, smoothie and even cakes!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her seven reasons why we should all be eating more beetroot in our diet as well as a few recipe ideas.



shutterstock_262701575-woman-blood-pressure-sept16Beetroot is packed full of nutrients, and is a particularly rich source of folic acid, fibre, vitamin C and potassium, all of which benefit the heart. Drinking beetroot juice can have a positive effect on the reduction in blood pressure.  This is partly due to its nitrate content: nitric acid encourages dilation of blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure.


shutterstock_69606442-woman-with-cold-immunity-sept16Beetroot is an excellent source of vitamin C which is one of the hardest working nutrients in maintaining immunity in the body.  However, it’s the plant pigment betacyanin, which gives beetroot is beautiful rich, purple colour and this really contains all the power; it provides an excellent source of antioxidants which are also essential in supporting the immune system.


shutterstock_285214598-woman-running-sunset-sept16Beetroot is widely used by athletes because of its well-researched ability to enhance exercise performance, particularly endurance exercise.  Again, it’s down to the nitric oxide effect, which encourages dilation of the blood vessels thereby increasing oxygen flow.  Numerous studies have confirmed this finding; one in particular followed power cyclists and found their performance to be enhanced after drinking beetroot juice.[1]


shutterstock_86000653-beetroot-juice-detox-sept16Beetroot naturally helps to detoxify the liver; it actually encourages phase 2 of the liver’s detoxification processes which is where toxins are excreted from the body.  It’s therefore a really popular vegetable in any juice-based detoxification programme, but also for anyone wanting to keep their liver super-cleansed!


shutterstock_369077771-woman-eyes-sept16This is primarily down to the rich sources of beta-carotene in beetroot.  This is an excellent nutrient for helping to slow down macular degeneration which is quite a common condition especially as we age, and is associated with free radical damage to the eyes, which can result in some loss of vision.  Beta-carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body which helps to defend the eyes against the damaging effects of these free radicals.


shutterstock_224093191-woman-good-digestion-heart-on-stomach-sept16Beetroot is rich in fibre, which means it’s great for the digestive system and bowels.  And don’t forget the green stalks and leaves of the beetroot – these are rich in iron and can be cooked just like spinach; very lightly steamed to retain as many nutrients as possible.


shutterstock_370121381-woman-sun-beach-sept16With so many dreaded free radicals bombarding us every day from air pollution, smoking, drinking, toxins in the food chain, the sun (the list is endless!), your body can always use some help in increasing its naturally protective antioxidant systems.

Beetroot appears to increase one of the most powerful antioxidant enzymes in the body, glutathione peroxidase, which keeps a good check on those free radicals and also helps us to stay looking (and feeling) young.


So those are my top 7 reasons why beetroot is such a winner! And here are some ideas on how to include it in your diet:

Super salads:

shutterstock_384500149-beetroot-and-goats-cheese-salad-sept16One of the tastiest and easiest ways to use beetroot is in a salad and it works particularly well with goat’s cheese.

So make up a traditional dressing using Dijon mustard, some honey, olive oil, crushed garlic and lemon juice.  Then slice the beetroot very thinly and arrange overlapping slices on the plate.  Drizzle a little of the dressing over the beetroot.  Slice the goat’s cheese and place on top of the beetroot and then pile a handful of mixed leaves (containing rocket) on the top.  Drizzle some more dressing and you’ve got yourself a delicious lunch or fabulous starter!

Brownies, bakes and blitzes!

shutterstock_387461188-chocolate-and-beetroot-cake-sept16Other great ways to use beetroot are roasted with carrots and sweet potato, adding balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey. Try baking with white fish, lemon, basil and serve with crème fraiche. Use beetroot to make brownies with eggs, sugar, cocoa powder and butter. Or why not simply blitz into a juice with carrot, kale and ginger.

Whatever you do with beetroot, it’s always going to bring you amazing nutritional benefits so get creative!


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[1] Rimer EG et al.  Acute dietary nitrate supplementation increases maximal cycling power in athletes. Int J Sports Physiol. Perform. 2015 Dec 2


Love lunch: how to get back into a healthy routine after the summer

For many of us, it’s now back to work after the holiday season. It can be hard to get back into a good lunchtime routine following a summer of treat-filled barbecues and delicious holiday cuisine. So kick those post-holiday blues into touch and start afresh with a new and exciting healthy lunchtime routine.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tell us how to get back into the swing of things and feel motivated, positive and energised with these top lunchtime tips!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


Whilst you may not have time to prepare a creative meal to take to work every day for lunch, there are a few simple rules you can follow to make sure you eat something satisfying and leaving you feeling energised throughout the afternoon.

shutterstock_364428101 protein sources Sept16It’s all about avoiding the 3 pm slump! So your lunch should always contain some protein and there are so many options to choose from. Mix it up with eggs, fish (salmon, tuna or prawns are good choices), chicken or turkey, pulses or beans. Additionally, quinoa is high in protein and makes a great base for any salad.

shutterstock_80804287 halloumi salad Sept16Your choice of meal may depend on the availability of fridge storage or cooking facilities at your place of work. So always think about how you can use leftovers from the night before; grilled salmon can be added to salad leaves and other salad veggies; quinoa is great with some tuna, cucumber and tomatoes; grilled vegetables are delicious with some halloumi cheese added.

shutterstock_72809221 jacket potato with tuna Sept16

If you have access to a microwave why not bring in a homemade bean soup with a wholegrain roll, or knock up a quick jacket potato with tuna and salad – as long as you follow the protein rule your nutritious lunch should last you through till dinner time!


Unfortunately, there tends to be a culture in many UK workplaces that if you take time out for a ‘proper’ lunch break, then you’re a part-time worker. This, of course, is not the case and does not promote a healthy work lifestyle.

shutterstock_173838809 woman at work desk indigestion Sept16

Most people experience some level of stress throughout the working day and it is shown that the digestive system slows down during stressful times. If you are eating at your desk it is more likely that you will not be digesting your food well and this is more likely to cause discomfort during the afternoon.

shutterstock_289351961 team work eating lunch Sept16

Taking some time away from your desk to eat your lunch means you can switch off from work if only for a short time. You are more likely to rush your food whilst sitting at your desk, so moving away from your workspace means you will probably eat more slowly: this in turn means that your digestive enzymes can do their work properly, and should ensure you have less bloating throughout the afternoon.


Well, a walk at least! Once you’ve eaten your lunch away from your desk, take a 15 minute brisk walk. Not only will this make you feel much more energised, it will also clear your head so you’re ready to return to your desk feeling refreshed. And while the sun still shines, just 15 minutes of sunshine a day will give you a good boost of vitamin D which will not only help your bones and teeth, but support your immunity throughout the coming months.

shutterstock_180940427 business woman walking park Sept16

Taking a walk shortly after eating also helps the glucose that has just been released to be better metabolised. This means you will have sustained energy for the rest of the day and that this glucose is less likely to be stored as fat. So, it’s a win-win situation!


Whilst eating away from your desk, it’s a great opportunity to plug into something completely different, something that will take your thoughts away from work: this could be listening to music, a podcast or an ebook, or engaging in an interesting topic online.

shutterstock_427841113 woman on ipad Sept16

‘Ted’ talks are really popular and there are so many that can be watched in around 15/20 minutes – great for anyone who really can’t spare a full hour for lunch. Why not use it as an opportunity to learn a new language, or engage in trending videos that day? Get up to date on the latest digital trends, explore new fitness ideas, discover recipe blogs. By turning your attention to new subjects, your mind will be more refreshed when you return to your desk after lunch.


Many workplace environments offer exercise facilities of one sort or another, whether on-site or somewhere nearby. If there is any opportunity to use your lunchbreak for exercise (whilst still leaving time to eat right) then grab it!

shutterstock_251393422 woman jogging close up trainers Sept16

Exercising at lunch time helps to reset you for the afternoon. Your body responds well at this time of day, due to its natural circadian rhythms. It’s a great time to do some kind of endurance exercise such as jogging or cycling, but any form of exercise that raises your heart rate will be beneficial not just to your physical health but also for your creativity and thinking ability for the rest of the day.

And if all else fails, that 15 walk around the block gets your body moving and ensures you get some much needed fresh air.

So as you return to work feeling refreshed and energised, seize the moment and keep that great feeling going with a new and energising lunchtime routine.


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Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and wellbeing tips.

Visit us at for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie