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!

 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Feeling blue after your holiday? Try these five tips to set yourself up for the rest of the year

Sad,Woman,With,A,Suitcase,,Independent,Travel

We look forward to our holidays for so long, and especially with everything that’s happened over the last couple of years. However, in a flash they’re gone and it’s back to the daily grind of life! 

If you are suffering with the post-holiday blues, the good news is that there are some lifestyle changes you can make to set yourself up well for the rest of the year.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some inspirational tips

Get back into a healthy routine

Whilst holidays are, hopefully, positive for mental wellbeing, our eating habits whilst we are away from home are not always the healthiest; we’re on holiday after all, and treats are a part of a well-earned break.  Unfortunately, for some of us, once we return, we can feel lacking in energy and sometimes put on weight too, which doesn’t make us feel great.

DOuble exposure image of a woman running and meditating to represent healthy lifestyle

If you have come back feeling sluggish, getting back into an exercise routine, and eating a well-balanced diet can really help our physical and mental wellbeing as well as energy levels.

shutterstock_390988804 green leafy vegetables Dec16Too many sugary foods and alcohol which we may have consumed on holiday can work as depressants by reducing serotonin levels in the gut. Try switching to a diet rich protein and healthy fats (think avocados and olive oil), plus plenty of green, leafy vegetables: this can really help re-set your mind and body.

Re-set your gut

As part of your health and fitness drive, resolve to love your gut.  Since most of our serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone) is produced in the gut, the good gut bacteria we have is essential for mental wellbeing.

shutterstock_271644209-indigestion-tummy-dec16

There are not many of us who can honestly say that our digestive systems work perfectly all the time.  Eating different foods and water whilst away, as well as often an increase in alcohol, can often upset things for a while.

Prebiotic,Products,,Sources,Of,These,Bacteria,,Nutrient,Rich,Food.,Flat

Think of the gut as a garden that needs seeding, feeding, and nurturing.  The seeding process is all about providing the gut with prebiotics, essentially from foods such as chicory, artichoke, asparagus, flaxseeds, garlic, leeks, onions, and bananas. Try to include some in your diet every day and also drink plenty of green tea.  A happy gut helps create a happy mind!

Make self-care a priority

When you return from holiday think about what makes you happy at home, in your own space.  Reading a book, an at-home pedicure, taking a long bath – the list is endless.  When we’re busy, we often put ourselves at the bottom of the pile when it comes to self-care.

shutterstock_252559804 woman in bath Jan16

Most of us don’t have the luxury of lots of time on our hands, but it’s all about prioritising the time we have, to do what’s good for our physical and mental health. Coming back from holiday with a plan in place for self-care is going to massively help relieve the blues.

Plan positively

Whether it’s another holiday, an event, a concert, a physical challenge, or all of the above, make plans on your return so you can start looking positively forward to what’s ahead.

Close up on woman writing in a pad

Whilst it’s important to ‘live in the moment’ and make the most of each day, having events to look forward to is great for keeping a positive outlook and outsmarting any post-holiday lows.

Get plenty of fresh air

With more of us working from home, and the days becoming noticeably shorter, it’s all-too easy to start hibernating.  However, getting some daily fresh air, even if you only have time for a walk round the block is essential for mental wellbeing.

shutterstock_218997220 woman walking trainers Mar18

Getting fresh air, and importantly natural light, into your brain is also essential for good sleep.  The brighter morning-light conversely, helps the body produce more melatonin – our sleep hormone – at night. It’s also important for circulation to the heart and muscles to take daily exercise in some form or another.

So, banish the post-holiday blues by looking forward to a healthy autumn with a renewed diet and exercise plan as well as some fun events in the future.

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Five foods to feed your brain

A plate with a picture of a brain on to represent eating healthily to support a sharper brain

You may be surprised to learn that the brain requires more energy than any other organ of the body. Well, maybe that’s not such a surprise when you think that the brain is always on!

It’s not just energy-dense foods that it loves, but specific nutrients too.  You can often notice the difference in all aspects of brain function when you feed it correctly.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top foods to sharpen the mind.

 

Salmon

Salmon, and indeed all oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, trout, and pilchard, are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids.  The brain contains loads of these fats and therefore they need to be topped up regularly for optimal function.

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

Importantly, the body can’t make these fats, so they need to be eaten in the diet (or supplemented).  If fish is not for you then make sure you’re eating plenty of flaxseeds (they can be sprinkled into yoghurt, cereals or porridge) or go for other nuts and seeds. 

Eggs

Eggs are a great source of many nutrients, but specifically choline, which the brain uses to create a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate memory and mood (amongst other key functions).

Scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes

Eggs are also a rich source of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, also needed for many brain functions, but specifically to produce brain neurotransmitters.  Protein is key for a sharp and balanced brain, and eggs deliver on this front too.  Indeed, starting the day with an egg-based breakfast will tick all the boxes for your brain health.

Blueberries

These beautiful berries are loaded with antioxidants which help protect the brain from damaging free radicals and the aging process.  Blueberries are also loaded with vitamin C which helps support blood flow to the brain, which in turn is going to improve memory and general cognitive function.

shutterstock_270983405 porridge and blueberries Sept15

Blueberries are, of course, very easy to transport, so they make a great snack.  However, they are just as easy to throw over your morning oat-based breakfast or added to natural yoghurt, with some seeds, for a great breakfast option. The great news is that all berries love the brain, so with summer berry season approaching, you’ll have plenty of choice.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is packed with polyphenols, plant compounds that protect the brain from free radical damage but also help memory and overall brain function.  And there’s loads of research to support this too. What’s more, dark chocolate contains plenty of magnesium which helps to reduce stress levels; high levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) are known to adversely affect brain function.

Squares of dark chocolate

Go for dark chocolate (ideally 70% or more of cocoa).  Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not provide the same health benefits and will deliver lots of sugar.  A couple of squares of dark chocolate daily can satisfy any sweet cravings and keep your brain sharp too. 

Water

Dehydration will reduce brain function quicker than nutrient depletion. It’s the often-forgotten piece of the nutritional jigsaw puzzle.  Water is essential for maintaining attention and keeping focus, reducing headaches and memory loss, and improving overall cognitive function. Even just 2% dehydration takes a toll on brain function. Whilst it’s not easy to quantify what this means in terms of volume of liquid, the important point is that even a marginal deficiency will have big impact.

CLose up of a woman holdnig a glass of water

If you aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, and you might need more if you’re exercising heavily, then you’ll be amazed at how much sharper your brain function feels.  And energy levels will soar too!

So, feed your brain by adding some of these elements into your diet and you should start to notice a difference.

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Fuel your walks with energising nutrients

A woman out for a walk in the hills with her arms outstretched enjoying herself

With winter now firmly behind us, hopefully we will all be spending more time in the great outdoors.

For many of us this means enjoying walks wherever the mood takes us!  And eating the right things to keep your energy up means you will get the most out of your walks.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares three great tips for getting the most out of your diet to ensure you’re fuelled and ready to enjoy!

 

Pack in the protein

Most people think that they need to load up on carbohydrates before doing any exercise as this macronutrient provides energy.  Carbohydrates certainly do provide energy and are important but getting your metabolism working correctly will help provide sustained energy to support your walks.

Keeping blood sugar in good balance is crucial to maintaining energy levels throughout the day and, of course, during your walks. This means eating sufficient protein at every mealtime, balanced with some good fats too.  For example, starting the day with an egg-based breakfast with avocado and a slice of whole grain toast, would be the perfect pre-walk meal.  This breakfast provides a great balance of protein, good fats, and carbohydrates.  If you support your blood sugar at the beginning of the day, it sets up the metabolism for the day ahead.

A healthy breakfast of eggs, smoked salmon and avocado

Alternatively, whipping up buckwheat pancakes with some blueberries and natural yoghurt would be another great start, again providing a good balance of macronutrients.

A range of foods containing protein

As a general rule, it’s important to include protein at every mealtime, whether that be from animal or vegetable sources.  For example, meat, beans, lentils, dairy, fish, and eggs are all great choices for that all-important metabolic balance.

Keep it whole

This means eating whole grains. These are grains that haven’t been refined, therefore retain their natural nutritional profile.  Importantly, they contain plenty of B-vitamins which the body uses to extract the energy from the food we eat, making a great partnership. Key foods to include in your diet are wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, and oats, together with buckwheat, quinoa, and rye.

A range of wholegrains in heart shaped dishes to show they are good for the heart

If you’re heading out on a longer walk and need to take a packed lunch with you, then a rice or quinoa salad is the perfect choice.  Simply cook the grains the night before, leave overnight in the fridge and then add some tuna, sweetcorn, chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions for a superfood salad that will keep energy levels up.  This lunch also provides a good balance of macronutrients and will keep blood sugar levels in check.

shutterstock_286876157 tuna and rice salad Aug16

 

Resolve to make eating whole grains rather than refined ‘white’ grains part of your life.  For those slightly resistant to change, your palette will quickly adjust to the more defined flavours and textures. Eating more whole foods will also help banish sugar cravings.

Hydration is key

Just as important as the food you eat, is ensuring your body is fully hydrated.  When we are feeling low in energy, or perhaps are suffering with brain fog and irritability, it’s often because we need to drink more water. 

A close up of a woman holding a glass of water to represent staying hydrated

Have you noticed that the more tea or coffee you drink, the thirstier you become?  This is because caffeinated drinks don’t hydrate the body and only provide ‘false’ energy in the form of a quick high. Many people barely drink any water throughout the day. Consequently, they may not notice their thirst but instead suffer with low energy.  This is because the body is inwardly adapting to the ‘norm’, not that it doesn’t require water; the body will still be dehydrated at a cellular level. From a nutritional perspective, sometimes the simplest of things can make the biggest difference to how we feel (and look).  Aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily.

Woman,Drinking,Water.

Additionally, if you’re walking in hotter weather, it’s imperative that you take plenty of water with you.  Start the walk well hydrated, continue sipping throughout the day, and you’ll find that you can cover off those miles so much easier.

So, follow these simple rules to fuel your walks and enjoy a more energised life overall.

Stay well.

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Seasonal nutrition: what to eat in August

People enjoying al fresco eating in the summer

With so many of us enjoying staycations in the UK this year, it provides the perfect opportunity for us to fully enjoy all the glorious foods currently in season right here.

Everything tastes better when we eat foods at the time of year nature intended.  In fact, foods tend to come into season at exactly the right time for our bodies to gain the most benefits from their nutrients when we need them.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives us a taste of what’s on offer this season.

Runner beans

With so many people now enjoying ‘growing their own’ in allotments or gardens, runner beans are a great ‘go-to’ vegetable.  After the initial work involved of creating a support network for the growing beans, the results are well worth the effort.

A bunch of runner beans on a wooden background

Runner beans are closely related to other beans, referred to as legumes, including black and pinto, but contain less calories.  And whilst they all contain some of the same nutrients, the greenness of runner beans means their chlorophyll content is high.  Chlorophyll is often referred to as the ‘blood of life’ because it helps to naturally cleanse the blood but also provides a range of vitamins and minerals.

Runner beans also deliver a good source of vitamin C and bone and heart-loving vitamin K.  However, their overall strong nutrient content can be easily diminished from over cooking, therefore lightly steaming is always best and will retain their crispness.

Globe artichokes

Whilst not always the quickest of vegetables to prepare, artichokes deliver some wonderful and unique health benefits, so patience will be rewarded.  Globe artichokes need the tough outer leaves removed, together with the inedible fibrous ‘choke’ in the middle, revealing the edible heart. The active compound in artichokes is called cynarin which is great at detoxifying the liver.  Research also suggests they are supportive of heart health, helping reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Close up of artichokes

Importantly, artichokes help replenish the friendly gut bacteria that is so essential for good overall health.  They need around 30 minutes of gentle boiling until softened and when cooled are great simply served with vinaigrette and lemon juice. Alternatively, they’re delicious grilled when cut in half lengthways.

Mackerel

Mackerel is often referred to as a very ‘fishy’ fish because it has a strong flavour. Mackerel is a fantastic source of the super-healthy omega-3 fats.  The body can’t make omega-3s, so they must be eaten regularly in the diet, and we know that as a nation we are incredibly deficient. Omega-3s are needed for a healthy heart, brain, eyes, hormones, and joints so they’re pretty important!  It is recommended that we eat at least two portions of oily fish per week to get what the body needs.

Fresh mackerel with lemon and herbs on foil ready to be baked

Mackerel is often sourced in UK waters or from the North Atlantic or Mediterranean.  It’s strong flavour, and oily texture, means it can be simply served with lemon and herbs or with a fresh salad that includes sweet tomatoes.

Plaice

Whilst plaice is available throughout the year, it is generally much fleshier and tastier at this time of year.  As with all white fish, plaice is a great source of low-fat protein and is great for easy everyday meals grilled with other flavours.  Indeed, since it has a subtle taste, it works well with stronger flavours of olives, tomatoes, spring onions, rosemary, and chives.

Thai fish dish

Plaice is also a good source of the mineral iodine which is often deficient in women and is essential for the growth of babies and children as well as being well utilised for cognitive function.  Plaice certainly provides a low-cost, easy, and nutritious food option this season.

Plums

The season for plums is short so they need to be grabbed and enjoyed whilst they’re around.  There are over 300 varieties of plum available, but it’s always good to choose the sweetest ones to avoid having to add too much additional sugar to a dish.

A bowl full of plums

Their beautiful orange flesh signals plenty of beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A as needed by the body. Plus, they’re rich in vitamin C and also tryptophan from which our body makes our happy hormone ‘serotonin’ – that’s something to smile about for sure! Even better, plums work really well in sweet or savoury dishes; try them in a crumble, with chicken, or simply poached with cinnamon and honey.

Many people perhaps don’t realise that prunes are dried plums, and both are therefore rich in essential fibre.

So, why not visit some local markets or farm shops this August and be sure to enjoy the season whilst it’s here!

Stay well.

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Buying local: what to eat in August

shutterstock_141202630 local farmers market July20

Buying and eating locally sourced fruits and vegetables in season is great for health, the economy, and the environment. Even more importantly, eating food in season generally provides a lot more ‘bang for your buck’ nutrient-wise.

Whether you have a local farm shop, a farmer’s market or locally sourced fruits and vegetables in a shop nearby, eating with the seasons as nature intended is something to consider as we move through the year.

This National Allotments Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five fruits and vegetables in season, ripe and ready to eat right now!

Raspberries

The beautiful deep pink colour of raspberries is what provides a wealth of antioxidants and other plant compounds that are hugely protective of health. Raspberries are also loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body as needed. Eaton Mess never tasted so good!

A punnet of fresh raspberries

Also, of note is ellagic acid which is especially high in raspberries with an overwhelming amount of antioxidant properties.  Even better, it has been found to increase libido. What’s not to like!

Turnips

Whilst we don’t generally think of warming foods during the summer months, turnips are coming into season right now ready for the colder months approaching. However, don’t wait until the weather cools to enjoy these delicious and highly nutritious root veggies.

Rustic,Organic,Turnips,With,Fresh,Green,Tops,And,Roots,On

Turnips were traditionally grown as cattle fodder. However, turnips are part of the highly prized cruciferous vegetable family, rich in indoles that are very protective of health, helping with hormone balancing, together with vitamin B6. Turnips are delicious simply roasted and sprinkled with Parmesan and thyme.

Peaches

Peaches have been grown in the UK for over a thousand years and at their ripest they are supremely juicy! There are hundreds of varieties – nectarines are actually a smooth-skinned peach. As with all fruits and vegetables that are orange, they contain plenty of immune-boosting beta-carotene. This carotenoid is also very protective of the skin, hence it’s no coincidence that they are at their best during the summer months.

shutterstock_297863489 peaches July16

Peaches are also high in potassium which can help support heart health and reduce blood pressure. Peaches actually pair really well with raspberries in a Peach Melba with Raspberry Coulis, or on their own, simply spiced with some cinnamon.

Broad Beans

Whilst they may not be at the top of everyone’s shopping list, partly because they can be bitter and tough, when fresh, and bought from a farmer’s market, broad beans are crisp and delicious. A typical Mediterranean vegetable, they work especially well with pork-based meats such as pancetta or chorizo.

Broad beans in a bowl

As with all beans, they’re a great source of protein and fibre, but also vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and potassium.  And if you’re struggling with low mood, you might want to add some broad beans to your plate as they contain L-dopa, which is used by the body to produce our feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine.

Sweetcorn

Traditionally, sweetcorn was first grown and eaten by the Mexicans and Americans, hence corn on the cob is frequently found on their restaurant menus. Sweetcorn is a form of maize and as such is a staple crop both here and there. And whilst sweetcorn isn’t necessarily the most nutrient dense vegetable, it still provides useful amounts of immune-boosting vitamins A and C.

Fresh,Corn,On,Cobs,On,Rustic,Wooden,Table,,Closeup

Sweetcorn is also rich in fibre so is great for digestive health and, unusually for a vegetable, is high in vitamin B3, essential for good nervous system function. It’s certainly best eaten simply as corn on the cob, rolled in a little butter and black pepper.

Seek out your local farmer’s market or farm shop for the healthiest and freshest fruits and vegetables in season right now.

Stay well.

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Cycle to Work Day: how to boost your energy levels

Close up of a bike's water bottle in situ

With National ‘Cycle to Work’ day being celebrated today, it’s a great time to focus on upping your energy and fuelling your rides. 

Whether you’re going to actually cycle to work, or just want to feel more energised for your workouts or in your everyday life, there are some great nutrient-rich foods that can help.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top foods for feeling more energised.

Blueberries

Delicious and in-season now, blueberries are going to provide great energy and an excellent start to the day, especially if you’re planning on cycling to work. Blueberries are a low glycaemic fruit, meaning they won’t adversely affect blood sugar balance and you’ll enjoy sustained energy throughout the day.

A wooden bowl of blueberries

Blueberries are often referred to as ‘super foods’ because they are packed with nutrients.  Importantly, their beautiful rich, dark colour signifies plenty of antioxidants, which help protect the body against the ageing process and degenerative diseases.  Why not enjoy some with your breakfast with some natural yoghurt and ground flaxseeds for a perfectly balanced start? Alternatively, they make the perfect accompaniment to oats (my next energy-giving food recommendation).

Oats

Another low glycaemic food, partly down to their rich fibre content, oats are loaded with energising B-vitamins.  However, look for ‘whole’ oats that have not been refined to gain full benefit.  Any refining strips out fibre and nutrients.

A bowl of oats

Oats contain plenty of trace minerals, especially magnesium which is also needed for energy production.  In short, they’re real powerhouses!  Oats are great soaked either in some plant or dairy milk and a little apple juice for flavour to make ‘overnight oats’.  Take them out of the fridge the next morning, pop on some yoghurt and berries. Either eat before your journey to work or when you arrive, and you’ve got the perfect start to your day.

Brown Rice

As with all whole grain foods, brown rice is great for encouraging sustained energy.  It’s rich in fibre and high in nutrients, especially those energising B-vitamins.  Brown rice has a much higher nutrient profile than white, because it hasn’t undergone any refining process. Furthermore, it can really help on a weight loss journey because it balances blood sugar levels and is very low in fat.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

The nutrient content of brown rice is equally as impressive with not only high levels of B-vitamins but a great range of essential trace minerals.  Of note is zinc which is needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body to keep it firing on all cylinders. Serve brown rice as an accompaniment to any protein such as fish or chicken or serve cold the next day with plenty of salad vegetables.

Bananas

Bananas are many people’s ‘go-to’ when it comes to the need for quick energy.  Although high in complex carbs, the riper bananas have a higher sugar content, delivering a fast-release boost, hence they are popular with sportspeople.

Whole bananas and diced banana

Bananas are especially high in vitamin B6, much utilised for energy release but they also contain loads of potassium which is great for the heart.  As they are high in starchy carbs, bananas will keep you going all day and will also help you burn up those hills if some happen to be on your cycle route to work.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes have a much higher nutrient profile than traditional white potatoes.  That’s not to dismiss white potatoes from the diet as they still have a place, but sweet potatoes have the edge when it comes to delivering sustained energy.

shutterstock_429273175-sweet-potato-wedges-dec16

It’s all down to the complex carbs which keep blood sugar in balance and energy buzzing. Furthermore, sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body, essential for immune health.

You can eat sweet potatoes in the same way as white potatoes; mashed, chipped, jacketed, take your pick, and enjoy with a topping or foods of your choice.

So, whether you’re cycling to work or just want more energy, add these five foods into your diet and feel your energy soar!

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET 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.

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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