Eating with the seasons: nutritional foods for January

Fresh,Fruits.,Sliced,Fruit.,Orange,And,Pomegranate

It’s always important to eat with the seasons and as nature intended, to gain the biggest health benefits.  And for many of us, trying to be as healthy as possible during January is very much at the front of our minds.

Nature has provided what the body needs at certain times of year, plus if you buy locally grown produce, nutrient content will generally be better and it’s kinder to the environment too.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five in-season foods for January.

 

Jerusalem Artichokes

Top of my list has to be this amazing vegetable. They are supremely healthy and provide a really useful addition to the diet. 

Jerusalem artichokes are loaded with a prebiotic fibre called inulin which is incredibly healthy for the gut.  The gut houses billions of bacteria (hopefully more good bacteria than bad), but they need feeding with this kind of fibre for the gut to remain healthy. 

shutterstock_541940524 roasted jerusalem artichokes Dec17

A healthy gut supports a healthy mind, the immune system, hormones, digestion, skin and so much more. Jerusalem artichokes are also a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, which are all frequently deficient in the daily diet. Serve them roasted in a little olive oil.

Kale

A member of the super-healthy cabbage family, kale is not always popular, partly because of its bitter taste and often tough texture.  However, this is much improved when eaten seasonally and with some other flavourings such as garlic and soy sauce.

shutterstock_488572450-eggs-and-kale-nov16

The health benefits are certainly forthcoming, especially because kale contains a plant compound called sulforaphane, which has been found to help prevent some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  Kale is also a rich source of calcium to help support strong bones and Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E – all important antioxidants.

Pomegranate

Pomegranates are slightly strange to look at because of their mass of tiny seeds.  However, these seeds are nutritional powerhouses, and have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits. This is probably one of the reasons that research has found them to be especially beneficial for brain health; they can help protect this vital organ from free radical damage. Additionally, they are loaded with fibre so are great for the digestive system.

Quinoa,Salad,With,Pomegranate,On,Rustic,Kitchen,Table

Just like many fruits, pomegranates work well in sweet or savoury dishes, and are a particular favourite with salty cheeses and walnuts, making a great salad trio.  Moreover, it’s lovely to see some vibrant colours on the plate when the weather is so grey outside!

Oranges

Clearly the UK climate is not going to support the growing of oranges, but they are certainly at their best at this time of year, imported generally from Spain.  Whilst it’s always best to eat locally grown produce, it’s difficult when we want to gain the wonderful health benefits of a food we simply can’t grow in any meaningful numbers.

A bowl of oranges

Oranges are a great source of vitamin C.  As this vitamin is water-soluble and easily destroyed during storage, preparation and cooking, oranges are probably best eaten in their raw state to gain maximum health benefits. They also contain good levels of folate which will help to give energy levels a boost too.

Oysters

Oysters are available all year round but are certainly good at this time of year, and can be sourced from UK waters, especially around Colchester and Whitstable.

Oysters become especially important coming into February with Valentine’s Day looming.  Oysters are often referred to as ‘aphrodisiacs’ or ‘the food of love’.  The reason for this is that they contain really high amounts of the mineral zinc, essential for healthy reproduction.  There is always some truth behind these ‘old wives’ tales!

A plate of fresh oysters

Oysters also contain other minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and the antioxidant, selenium.  Importantly, they’re a rich source of iodine which is frequently lacking in typical western diets and is essential for cognitive function, especially in the developing foetus. 

So, why not add some of these season foods into your diet this January and reap the nutritional benefits?

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

What are the health benefits of cheese?

Various,Types,Of,Cheese,On,Rustic,Wooden,Table

Cheese features highly in many people’s diets.  In fact, more people are often in love with cheese than chocolate!  It not only tastes delicious, in all its various guises, but it provides many health benefits. 

There are a wide variety of cheeses with the only common theme being they are made from the same basic ingredient – milk (except for vegan cheese – more on that later).

Cheese is often given a bad rap from a health perspective because of its relatively high fat content.  However, various studies have found many positive benefits of eating cheese, in moderation!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the various types of cheeses, together with their health benefits.

Let’s start with the basics: what is cheese?

Essentially, cheese making involves coagulating the milk protein, casein, separating the milk into solid curds and draining the liquid whey.  This is the process we often see on TV with the large vats of what looks a lot like cottage cheese with big separators moving the liquid around.

A,Cheesemaker,Prepares,A,Form,Of,Parmesan,Cheese,Using,Fresh

Many cheeses are produced from cow’s milk, but they can also come from other animals such as sheep, buffalo, and goat, all of which produce different flavours. Goat’s milk is higher in water than cows milk so yields less cheese, and the cheeses are usually softer.

Cheeses and their moisture content

The moisture content affects both taste and texture.  An example of a low moisture hard cheese is Parmesan, and medium moisture would be cheddar.

Parmesan,Cheese,On,A,Wooden,Board,,Hard,Cheese,On,A

High moisture cheese is soft and an example of this would be mozzarella. A cheese with very high moisture is cottage cheese.

Cheese,Collection,,White,Mozzarella,Cheese,Balls,For,Salad,Or,For

Unripened soft cheeses, such as cottage, have a very light texture with little flavour, and ripened ones such as Camembert have mould added to the outside of the cheese which produces protein-digesting enzymes: these also have a stronger flavour.

Camembert,Cheese

Certain hard cheeses such as Stilton have mould added during the cheese-making process and they are then pierced with metal rods, creating air channels, and the mould you see grows within the cheese. This also creates their distinctive flavours.

Slice,Of,French,Roquefort,Cheese,With,Walnuts

What about the health benefits?

The nutritional profile of cheese is going to vary depending on the variety. However, all cheese is a great source of protein, with cheddar cheese producing around 8 grams for every thumb-sized wedge and 120 calories. 

For the same number of calories, you can have half a cup of soft cheese which provides 14 grams of protein. Indeed, cottage cheese has a higher protein content than most others, and is lower in calories, hence if appears on many weight-loss programmes.

Cottage,Cheese,And,Mint,In,A,Wooden,Bowl,On,An

When it comes to micronutrients, cheese is a great source of calcium (highest in blue cheeses) which is essential for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. Cheese also provides vitamin A (essential for immunity), vitamin B12 (needed for the nervous system and red blood cell production), zinc (important for the immune system and a range of body functions) and phosphorus, which works in tandem with calcium.

Grilled,Halloumi,Cheese,On,White,Plate

Cheese is also known to be high in fat, with halloumi, brie and camembert topping the leader board in this respect.  Additionally, some cheeses are high in sodium so intake may have to be watched if you have raised blood pressure and are salt sensitive.

What about vegan cheese?

With the rise in veganism, many vegans, understandably, don’t want to miss out on their cheese hit.  The good news is there are myriad vegan cheeses available, made from some form of vegetable proteins such as brown rice, nuts, coconut oil, soy, peas, and tapioca; it really comes down to personal taste preference.

Vegan,Cheese,With,Cashew

However, as nutritional yeast is a great protein and nutrient source for vegans, do try and choose vegan cheeses that contains this amazing food.  Nutritional yeast is rich in protein but also B-vitamins, and essential minerals including iron, and potassium.

Cheese can certainly provide a healthy and nutrient-dense addition to any balanced eating plan so enjoy!

 

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

How to keep up a healthy diet this year

A chalk board with the words Healthy Lifestyle written on alongside other words which represent this

So, you’ve made the resolution to eat healthier during 2023. But what does this mean, and importantly, what is the best way to stick to a heathier diet?

Many of us don’t feel at our best after over-indulgence during the Festive period and so kick starting the New Year with good intentions for a healthy diet is a common goal.

And Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer is on hand to say “you can do it” as she provides inspiration and motivation with her five top tips for maintaining a healthy eating plan.

 

Be realistic

Firstly, and, most importantly, be realistic about what you are prepared to change but also will still enjoy eating. There is no point in picking a fad diet plan that includes foods that you don’t like; you will quickly fail and become demotivated. 

Range of foods to show a balanced diet

Instead, don’t be a slave to the scales; if you’re eating healthier, the chances are weight loss will happen, as processed foods cause digestive, hormonal and mood disruptions which all have a negative impact on weight loss.

Always remember, this plan is a new start for the rest of your life.  It’s important to aim for a nutritionally balacned diet in order to achieve the best outcomes and also, hopefully, protect future health and longevity.

Choose colour

We’ve all heard of the Government recommendations to eat five portions of fruits and veggies a day.  This is great advice and has bundles of research to support it (indeed the more fruits and veggies the better).

However, it can be confusing and time-consuming to know how much a portion of each fruit and vegetable is; a portion of tomatoes is different to a portion of berries, for example.  Therefore, just look at the amount of colour on your plate at every meal.

Healthy,Eating,Concept,,Assortment,Of,Rainbow,Fruits,And,Vegetables,,Berries, 

Choose fruits and vegetables that you enjoy and that you are happy to eat daily, and then have fun with the number of different colours you can get onto the plate.  As I always say, colour equals nutrients, so the more colour you have, the more nutrients you will be consuming. Make the process enjoyable rather than a chore.

Be aware of portion sizes

If weight loss is part of your heathier plan, then you do need to be looking at portion sizes.  Whilst calorie-controlled eating is not sustainable and has research to suggest it may be detrimental to a weight loss programme, it’s very important to be aware of how much you are eating. And if you are snacking throughout the day, you may not actually be eating loads of calories, but it will affect your metabolism, making fat storage more likely.

A balanced meal of chicken, rice and vegetablesIt’s good for the body to feel hungry sometimes too.  We have got very used to the availability of food in the developed world and it’s in front of us throughout the day.  Once you start to take control of the situation, rather than food controlling you, changes will start to happen.

 

Become a label guru

Always look at food labels which show you the amount of fat, sugars and salt in food. When reviewing the full ingredients list, if you don’t know what something is on the label, then try to avoid it completely.  One of the big issues we have in our foods is that the processing and packaging of them frequently requires other chemicals to be used, including artificial flavourings, as well as sugar in many different guises.

Food,Nutrition,Information,Label,For,Front,Of,Pack.,Front,Of

The problem with chemicals is that they are gut disruptors and once the good gut bacteria become imbalanced, an inflammatory cascade starts within the body, which not only affects health but also the ability to control weight.  Aim to become much more mindful about what you are putting into your body; the nearer the food is to its natural state – how it started life – the healthier and more nutritious it will be.

Ditch the junk

If you’re starting a healthier eating plan, then junk food really needs to be out of the diet completely or as a treat only.  Maybe you have one day a week where you eat what you want and enjoy it.  However, this needs to be limited and controlled for the best outcomes.

A woman kicking away donuts to represent cutting out junk food

Fizzy drinks, especially the diet kind, are some of the worst offenders.  The chemicals in them disrupt mood, encourage weight gain, discourage retraining our taste buds to want less-sweet foods, and can cause damage to the bones and gut. 

Many people are literally addicted to them, so there may need to be a weaning off period, but the rewards are there.  Equally, ultra-processed foods are not going to serve your health well.  Try to redress the balance in your diet, so they don’t predominate.

Changes won’t happen overnight, but they WILL happen if you’re consistent.  Always remember, not every day will be perfect but keep going – you can do this!

 

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

Make your Veganuary the healthiest yet!

The word 'vegan' spelt out using plant-based foods

It’s January and traditionally the month when we look to change or improve our diets as we start a new year. 

Moving to a vegan diet is also very popular during January. But what should you be eating on a vegan diet to remain healthy and ensure you are getting all the nutrients that you need?

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares the five key nutrients you need to maintain a healthy vegan diet.

 

Protein

A lack of protein in the vegan diet is probably one of the most common mistakes people make.  Whilst it’s very possible to have sufficient protein, it takes some work and planning and essentially you have to eat more food for it to be achievable.

shutterstock_492453151 vegetarian vegan protein sources Jan17

Vegan protein sources include beans, chickpeas, peas, nuts, seeds, seitan, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and quinoa. Whilst plant-based proteins contain some of the essential nine amino acids, they are often lacking or low in one or two.  These essential amino acids are termed ‘essential’ because the body can’t make them, so they must be eaten in the diet or supplemented.  However, by eating a wide range of these foods, and at every mealtime, you should be getting what you need.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for energy, red blood cell production and functioning of the nervous system, so it’s pretty important.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

Essentially vitamin B12 is only found in animal produce, so it needs to be supplemented in the fully vegan diet. Vitamin B12 is available in nutritional yeast, which vegans’ often use as a protein source, and some may be made by the good gut bacteria. However, supplementation is advised to ensure you are getting enough.

Iron

Iron is also essential for healthy red blood cell production, energy, and cognition but its most easily absorbed form is in red meat.

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

 

However, iron is also rich in plant sources including green leafy vegetables, quinoa, lentils, dried apricots, and tofu.  Plus, if you eat any of these foods with vitamin C, then the iron content is better absorbed.  Thankfully, nature has already provided plenty of vitamin C in vegetables but having a little orange juice at the same time (or eating an orange, or other fruit) can really help too.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not just a ‘watchpoint’ for vegans, it’s essential for the whole population.  However, there is some vitamin D is foods, but mainly in eggs, dairy, and oily fish.

Vitamin D and a sunshine symbol written in the sand

The main source of vitamin D is from the action of sunlight on the skin so obviously this is challenging during the winter months.  We do store vitamin D from the summer months, in the liver and kidneys but not in sufficient amounts to last the whole winter, hence deficiency is widespread amongst all age groups in the UK.

Public Health England recommend a daily supplement of 10 micrograms for everyone during winter.  Many people need more than this, so if you’re feeling low in mood, have achy muscles, joints, and bones, then you might need more.  Often people need a minimum of 25 micrograms daily through the winter months.

Calcium

Calcium is essential for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles but also for the heart and nervous system.  Dairy produce is one of the richest sources of calcium although it’s important for everyone not to have too much dairy as it can become acidic in the body, which then is counterproductive.

Broccoli florets on a plate

On a vegan diet, include pak choi, kale, broccoli, sesame seeds, tofu, and chickpeas, all being rich sources of calcium.  Interestingly calcium needs vitamin D to do its work in the body so don’t forget your Vitamin D supplement!

Healthy veganism is about being mindful of each food groups and what it brings to the nutritional table.  With a little extra planning, you’ll be able to benefit from all the positive health benefits of plant-based eating, whilst avoiding the pitfalls.

 

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

The health benefits of winter walking

Woman walking in a snowy woodland

With the cost-of-living escalating, which will be even more noticeable over the Christmas period, many of us turn to nature for some free health in the form of fresh air!

We naturally tend to spend more time indoors during the colder months which is not ideal for our physical or mental wellbeing.  So, this festive season, why not seek the great outdoors, enjoy plenty of walks and be rewarded with amazing health benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the benefits of winter walking and how to fuel your body before, during and afterwards.

What are the health benefits of walking?

Even walking for 20 minutes (brisk walking is always best), will deliver health benefits in terms of improved circulation, better mental wellbeing, and blood sugar balance.  Indeed, if you’re trying to lose weight, there’s much research to suggest that walking for 20 minutes after your evening meal, helps the insulin response. This in turn helps to balance blood sugar and encourages less of any excess calories eaten, to be stored as fat.  It’s free and it works!

Winter,Snow,Walk,Woman,Walking,Away,In,Snowy,Forest,On

Obviously, if you can walk for at least 30 minutes, or longer, the health benefits will increase.  If you’re struggling with high blood pressure, then it’s a great exercise option.  Furthermore, in terms of mental wellbeing, just being out in the fresh air and connecting with nature is great for managing stress and anxiety.

shutterstock_329275235 woman sleeping in bed Jan16

If you’re struggling to sleep, it’s also super-important to get outside into the light, especially in the morning.  Research suggests that being outside in the morning light encourages better production of melatonin, our sleep hormone, at night.

What should I eat?

Unlike some forms of exercise, no special diet is needed.  However, if you’re heading out for a longer walk, then you need to be fuelled up and ready to go. 

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberriesOne of the best starts to a long walk in the winter months is a bowl of porridge, made with whole grain oats, some berries, and a spoonful of natural or plant-based yoghurt.  Oats are slowly digested in the digestive tract, so energy levels are sustained, and they also provide plenty of energising B-vitamins.

 

Sandwich,With,Ham,tomato,,Cucumber,And,Arugula,On,The,Wooden,Cutting

Pack up some protein-filled sandwiches on whole grain bread, featuring ham, chicken or tuna, with some home-made energising coconut and peanut protein balls, and both will keep you strongly striding all day long.  I love this recipe and it’s really easy and quick to make. 

How can I get warm after my walk?

Brisk walking keeps you warm but when the light starts to fade, temperatures plummet, and you can start to feel distinctly chilly.  There’s nothing better than returning home to some wonderfully warming and filling soup.  Root vegetables are in season during the winter months for very good reason; they are naturally energy and nutrient-dense and will help to get some much-needed warmth back into the body.

Leek and potato soup in a bowl

Parsnip soup is a traditional Christmas dish so why not add some other winter vegetables such as apples, potatoes, garlic, and onion and top with delicious goat’s cheese and walnuts?

Butternut,Squash/,Pumpkin,In,Authentic,Thai,Red,Curry,Coconut,Sauce

Other warming winter favourites are casseroles or curries. Investing in a slow cooker is a great idea since they use very little power, and you can put all the ingredients into the pot without too much preparation before the walk.  The long slow cooking time ensures you’ll never be disappointed with the taste. It makes winter walking even more worthwhile.

So, get out there and enjoy some festive walks this season. And one last reminder: always wear a hat as a large percentage of body heat escapes from the head!

 

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

The health benefits of a traditional Christmas dinner

Concept,Of,Christmas,Or,New,Year,Dinner,With,Roasted,Chicken

Eating a traditional Christmas dinner is obviously incredibly popular, especially in the UK.  And whilst many of us will consume more food than usual, the standard Christmas dinner is a well-balanced meal when it comes to nutrition.

From the turkey to the sides, there is much to be revered when it comes to this delicious fayre.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, looks at the key foods in a traditional Christmas dinner and shares their nutritional and health benefits.

Turkey

Turkey has more protein than chicken. It also contains less fat (if you keep away from the skin) and slightly less calories overall.

From a micronutrient perspective, turkey provides an excellent source of vitamin B12 (essentially only found in animal produce), and in fact contains all B vitamins, which fulfil so many key functions in the body, not least energy production.

Roast Christmas turkey

When choosing the turkey meat for your plate, try and mix up light meat and dark meat; the dark meat is a richer source of the mineral zinc, essential for the immune system, skin, hair, and eye health.

Brussels sprouts

Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts generally appear on most Christmas meal plates.  They are really worth getting to like because they’re incredibly healthy and nutritionally balanced.

Tasty,Roasted,Brussels,Sprouts,With,Bacon,On,Blue,Wooden,Table,

As part of the super-healthy family of cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts contain indoles which may help prevent certain nasty degenerative diseases. Indoles are also incredibly effective for oestrogen detoxification which helps women better balance hormones, especially as we go through the menopause. Additionally, Brussels sprouts are high in fibre, which is often lacking in UK diets, and the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene.

As some of us find Brussels a little bitter, they are often more palatable lightly boiled and then stir-fried with some bacon and pine nuts.

Roast Potatoes

Roast potatoes are often given a bad rap due to their fat content but it’s only down to the fat they’re cooked in; unfortunately, traditional goose fat falls into this category but it’s only one day, so enjoy those delicious roasties!

Roasted,Baby,Potatoes,In,Iron,Skillet.,Dark,Grey,Background.,Close

Potatoes are a good energy source and if eaten with protein, such as turkey, have less effect on blood sugar levels.

They’re also a great source of immune-boosting vitamin C, heart-loving potassium and fibre and no-one can deny that they are an absolute essential on the Christmas table, well roasted and crispy – yum!

Parsnips

Parsnips can often be used in dishes as an alternative to potatoes but when it comes to Christmas dinner, they should definitely have their own place.

Parsnips are a traditional root vegetable that come into season during the winter months for very good reason; all root vegetables provide good energy but can also be used in a myriad of hearty, warming dishes.

A bowl of roast parsnips

When planning a traditional Christmas dinner, roasted is certainly the best option, and many of us like to cook them in a little honey for added sweetness.  In the scheme of things, this isn’t a problem and parsnips certainly give back in terms of their nutrients.  They are high in vitamin C and vitamin E, both needed for healthy blood cells, as well as folate, which helps support the nervous system and energy levels.  And let’s not forget parsnips’ very useful fibre content too, supporting our digestion.

Carrots

The biggest nutritional benefit of carrots is that they are an excellent source of beta-carotene. This nutrient is one of our most powerful antioxidants, protecting the body from free radical damage.  This in turn, helps protect us from the ageing process and, hopefully, some of our serious degenerative diseases.

Fried,Carrots,With,Green,Herbs,In,Baking,Tray,,Close,Up

Beta carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body as needed which is essential for sight and especially night vision.  Just one carrot a day can help with poor night vision if this is becoming noticeable.

The good news is that cooking carrots actually improves bioavailability of beta carotene, which means it is more easily converted into vitamin A.

All in all, a traditional Christmas meal is healthy and nutritious and should be enjoyed with great gusto!

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

Winter warming dishes for an energy boost

 

Winter,Smiling,Woman

Flagging energy levels are very common at this time of year.  And it often happens when you need more energy than ever especially during the festive season. Eating warming foods is also important as the weather gets colder.  With the Festive Season rapidly approaching, we’re going to need all the energy we can muster to fully enjoy it!

However, help is at hand in the form of some great nutrient-packed foods to send those energy levels soaring!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five great energising foods and how to include them in warming dishes this December.

 

Beetroot

Beetroot really can take a top spot when it comes to energy production. Beetroot is high in dietary nitrates which help improve physical performance, which is not just beneficial for the athletes amongst us, but for a daily boost too. Plus, beetroot is high in the B vitamin folate, essential for energy production, and beta-carotene to help support the immune system.

Concept,Of,Tasty,Eating,With,Borscht,On,Gray,Background

 

Beetroot is in season right now and really is an incredible superfood. Why not make an easy and delicious Borscht, which is a filling, warming and cost-effective traditional soup? It is perfect for this time of year, and also benefits from other seasonal veggies, including red cabbage.

Venison

Venison is not only a great source of protein, which can be used for energy, it’s higher in iron than other red meats.  Iron is frequently deficient in UK diets and is needed for both energy and brain function. Additionally, venison is lower in fat than most other game.

Copper,Pot,Of,Venison,Goulash,Stew,Seasoned,With,Fresh,Herbs

 

Venison casserole is a wonderful winter warmer, which doesn’t take too much preparation time, and also provides the heart-health benefits of garlic, onions, mushrooms, and red wine.

Butternut squash

Often referred to as winter squash, they provide a great source of beta carotene and vitamin E – important antioxidants. Squash provides some complex carbohydrates, delivering plenty of sustained energy.

Butternut,Squash/,Pumpkin,In,Authentic,Thai,Red,Curry,Coconut,Sauce

However, as a winter warmer, any type of squash makes the perfect staple ingredient for curry: just add protein-rich chickpeas, onion, and large tomatoes.  Importantly, the body not only likes foods that are physically warm to eat, but also provide a warming effect.  Coriander is a great herb for the winter months and adds great flavour to any curry recipe.

Interestingly, squash is non-allergenic so makes a perfect weaning food.

Apples

We do, of course, see apples in the supermarkets all year-round, but they are harvested during the autumn months.  Therefore, enjoying a deliciously warming apple recipe at this time of year is a great way to gain maximum nutritional benefits.  Vitamin C is especially rich in apples which provides a good energy source.

Apples,,Cinnamon,And,Chunky,Applesauce,On,White,Background

Another great heath benefit of apples is their high pectin content.  Pectin provides much-needed fibre for the digestive tract; it works as a prebiotic feeding the good gut bacteria and helps reduce cholesterol levels.

Why not use some more warming winter spices which partner so well with apples, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, stewed with some butter and sugar? Combine them either with sweet or savoury dishes, especially pork.

Potatoes

Potatoes are certainly one of our main go-to root vegetables during the winter months; they’re satisfying, energising and partner with everything!  Indeed, mashed potato is probably one of the most favourite vegetable sides at this time of year.

They’re a rich source of carbohydrate, are low in fat and high in vitamin C, which is needed for energy and is one of our key antioxidants.

Roasted,Potatoes,Wth,Zucchini

Why not use them in a warming winter tray bake with chicken pieces, onions, garlic, bacon, and sliced courgettes (another member of the squash family)? That way, you’ll lock in all the nutrients and warm the soul too.

There are so many great ways to warm the body from the inside out this season, all whilst getting a nutrition hit too!

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

Fuel up and feel energised with these seasonal foods

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

With the Festive Season rapidly approaching, we’re going to need all the energy we can muster to fully enjoy it!

However, it’s always best to eat with the seasons too, to keep in touch with nature’s cycles and eat more foods that are locally grown, thereby helping the planet too.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five in-season foods that you’ll love and will boost energy levels too.

Pears

Pears tend to be synonymous with Christmas because they’re often poached with delicious spices, such as cinnamon and cloves. And if you’ve haven’t had poached pears before, then this year make it a first!

Pears often play second fiddle to apples, maybe because they tend to be juicier and perhaps less transportable as a snack. However, they are high in fruit sugars (although only 70 calories per pear on average) so provide some quick energy.  Also, they’re loaded with vitamin C, which is not only great for the immune system but is needed for energy.

shutterstock_298111103 pears Sept17

If poached pears aren’t for you, then why not serve them as a savoury starter, which will impress your guests, as griddled pears with goat’s cheese and hazelnuts are delicious

Pheasant

This game bird might not be for everyone but, as with all game, pheasant is very high in energising B vitamins.  We’ve all seen pheasants charging round the fields and flying swiftly above our heads at this time of year.  The fact that they’re so active makes them very low in calories and fat.

Grilled,Pheasant,With,Bacon,And,Spices,And,Vegetables,,On,A

Game birds do tend to have a stronger flavour which may take some getting used to, but if they are hung for long enough to tenderise the meat, then there’s much to enjoy with pheasant.

They also provide a rich source of protein which can be used as an energy source by the body. All in all, you should feel pretty good after eating pheasant.

Brussels sprouts

At this time of year, we can’t fail to notice plenty of Brussels sprouts in the shops.  And for some of us, the Festive Season isn’t quite right without them.

shutterstock_86858659 sprouts and bacon Nov15

The good news is that Brussels sprouts are loaded with both vitamin C and folate, so you’ll really get an energy boost, but they also contain some amazing plant compounds which help protect the body from some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  It’s a win-win for sure.  Some people find them too bitter on their own which is why flash frying them with bacon can often make them much more acceptable in taste.

Chestnuts

If anything reminds us of Christmas, then it’s got to be chestnuts! These guys are higher in carbohydrates than other nuts, so are going to really help energy levels.  However, they do contain slightly less protein and fat than their counterparts.

Roasted,Chestnuts,On,An,Old,Board.,Selective,Focus.

For many Europeans, chestnuts were an important staple food in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such is the greatness of their nutritional profile. Watching Christmas lights, whilst eating a bag of roasted chestnuts seems like a pretty good way of getting into the festive spirit and finding an energy boost too.

Quince

Whilst it seems to be a somewhat ‘old fashioned’ fruit, it is still remarkably popular in jams and jellies and complements both sweet and savoury dishes.  Importantly, you’ll find them in plenty of local farmer’s markets.

Fresh,Quince,Fruits,On,White,Wooden,Table

If it’s energy you’re looking for, then quince is going to provide plenty of vitamin C and energising iron.

What to do with quince?  If you’re looking for inspiration, then they certainly blend well with spicy pears or what about cooking a warming, filling and highly nutritious beef and quince stew?

So, get energy-boosted and ready to fully enjoy the up-coming season by including some of these seasonal foods in your diet this December!

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

How important is Vitamin C to health?

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

We’ve all heard of vitamin C. And we really started to understand its importance for our health once the Government campaign of ‘5-a-day’ of fruits and vegetables kicked in.  The more fruits and vegetable you eat, the more vitamin C you’ll get, and hopefully your health will improve.

Interestingly, research shows that since neolithic times, intake of citrus fruits and berries, rich in vitamin C, have fallen by 90%.  So why does Vitamin C matter so much?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives five reasons for making sure your diet is rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin C supports immunity

shutterstock_69606442-woman-with-cold-immunity-sept16

This is probably one of the main reasons that people know about vitamin C.  It’s often talked about in the context of colds or flu because it plays a key role in immune mechanisms.

Vitamin C enhances the production of white blood cells which are essential for fighting off unwanted invaders by increasing antibody levels. However, during times of physical or emotional stress, we tend to lose more vitamin C in the urine.  This also happens when we’re subjected to chemical stressors such as pollutants or cigarette smoke, hence a good daily supply of vitamin C is essential.

Vitamin C is a key antioxidant

shutterstock_268257674 antioxidants crate Apr15

Indeed, it’s our primary antioxidant helping to protect the body from free radical damage.  The body is very clever (as we know!) and it has in-built antioxidant enzyme systems to protect the body from the outside world but also what goes on inside the body.  Normal metabolic processes create free radicals; hence we have these systems in place.

These enzyme systems need vitamin C to function correctly.  Since it’s a water-soluble nutrient, the body can’t store it, and so daily intake is essential.

Vitamin C is essential for collagen production

shutterstock_352168949 beautiful woman skin May16

Collagen is, of course, a hot topic right now, especially in the context of pro-ageing and skin health. However, it’s also the most abundant structural protein in the body, without which we would literally collapse!

Collagen holds the body together and is part of connective tissue, cartilage, tendons and much more besides, making it essential for wound repair, healthy gums, and prevention of bruising. None of this can happen without vitamin C.

Vitamin C is needed for a healthy heart

An apple with a heart shape cut out to show that apples are good for a healthy heart

Vitamin C primarily helps protect against cardiovascular disease down to its role as an antioxidant, plus it strengthens collagen structures of the arteries.  Damage from free radicals is a major factor in atherosclerosis, due to LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol being oxidised and causing blockages.

The good news, however, is that vitamin C helps reduce cholesterol and increases levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, so has a protective effect.  Additionally, it helps reduce blood pressure and keeps blood flowing smoothly through the blood vessels.

Vitamin C helps reduce allergic reactions

shutterstock_427985134-allergy-sept16

Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine by preventing secretion of histamine by white blood cells (which is actually a normal part of the immune response) and helping detoxify histamine.  Problems occur when we can’t control histamine production effectively, and then the tell-tale unpleasant allergic reactions occur.

Having a higher intake of vitamin C might also help sufferers of asthma by controlling the release of histamine, but also because of its work as an antioxidant in the airways.  Since vitamin C helps boost immunity, any external stressor such as environmental issues which often trigger asthma attacks, may be better controlled.

What are the best sources of vitamin C?

Healthy,Eating,Concept,,Assortment,Of,Rainbow,Fruits,And,Vegetables,,Berries,

Acerola cherries, red peppers, kale, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, oranges, guavas, and red cabbage.  However, all fruits and vegetables contain some so just load up your plate with colour!

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock

How to reduce your sugar intake

shutterstock_280752443 eat less sugar July16

The fact that sugar appears so much in our daily diet in many different forms makes it all the harder to avoid or cut down intake.  However, sugar doesn’t provide any nutritional value and often brings negative effects to health.

Whilst it’s difficult to ditch sugar totally from the diet, there are great ways that you can cut down intake and feel much better for it.  Importantly, sugar adversely affects blood sugar balance, so the more you consume, the more energy levels will be erratic, and you can also suffer from mood swings and brain fog.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides five great tips for cutting down overall sugar intake.

What is sugar?

Seven,Teaspoons,In,A,Line,With,Different,Types,Of,Sugar

Firstly, we just need to understand what it is! It’s not always written as sugar on food packaging. Dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose maltose and sucrose are all sugar in varying forms.  Sugar is also honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, locust bean gum, malt syrup and treacle.

Unfortunately, sweeteners such as stevia, sucralose, sorbitol, and aspartame may be calorie-free, but they still upset blood sugar balance, which is not helpful for weight loss.  Plus, you’ll never ‘train’ your pallet to want less sugar whilst still consuming sweeteners.  It’s tough for sure but don’t despair as there are some easy wins when it comes to reducing sugar intake.

Ditch fizzy drinks

Saraburi?-thailand,february?,17,2021?:popular,Soft,Drink,Coke-fanta-sprite,In,A,Bottle,Showing,Shelves

For all the reasons above, fizzy drinks may taste great, but they are unhelpful when it comes to brain function, weight management, sustained energy, bone health and nutritional balance – quite a list!

These guys upset gut bacteria which is so important for our overall health, plus the phosphoric acid depletes the bones of much-needed calcium too.

There’s no easy way on this one but the benefits of cutting down or cutting out completely are huge.  Go ‘cold turkey’ or just have one for an occasional treat.

Avoid fruit juice

Variety,Of,Fruit,Smoothies,,With,Their,Ingredients.

Fruit juice does provide some health benefits but if you’re drinking a large glass every day, you’re getting a big hit of sugar.  Much better is to eat the fruit ‘whole’ as the fibre content slows down the sugar rush to the blood stream.

Get used to no sugar in tea or coffee

Coffee,And,Tea,In,Cup,On,Table

If you’ve always drunk your tea and coffee with added sugar, your tastebuds have got very used to receiving it this way.  And so many of us believe we could never enjoy another cup without it!

Your taste buds can be re-trained in a week not to expect the taste of sugar.  It’s not going to help switching to sweeteners. Whilst they will provide the taste, sweeteners are chemicals which can’t be processed by the body. They also add to the chemical load already in the food chain, much of which we can’t avoid.

Become a food label detective

Food,Nutrition,Information,Label,For,Front,Of,Pack.,Front,Of

As you can see, sugar isn’t always labelled ‘sugar’.  It comes in many different guises.  And whilst food manufacturers have to make nutritional declarations, these can be confusing for some, especially in the way they’re worded.

Have a quick scan over the ingredients list and see what you can find.  Often, you’ll see some form of sugar high up on the ingredients list.  Ingredients lists are published in weight descending order with the largest ingredient amount top of the list.

Try to avoid unnecessary sugars

Small,Cakes,With,Different,Stuffing

We all know that there are large amounts of sugar in sweets, cakes, and pastries so it’s a question of managing intake.  Maybe think about having one treat day per week where you enjoy some cake or a desert. It’s all about balance.

It’s worth thinking about total sugar intake over a month rather than just thinking about one day. And don’t forget cereals which are often packed with sugar, even ones you think are ‘healthy’ so look out for those sugars on food labelling.

Sugar is everywhere in our food chain.  Once you become more aware of it, then intake becomes easier to manage.  Good luck!

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock