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.

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Outdoor adventures: food to fuel your day trip

shutterstock_171654062 woman hiking Oct15

With the summer season now in full flow, some more favourable weather on the way and our freedoms promised, what better time to fully enjoy the great outdoors?  You will be bagging some great health benefits too from spending time outside in the sunshine and fresh air. 

When heading out for the day, what you pack to keep you feeling energised all day long is important to ensure you are able to make the most of your day trip.

This Love Parks Week Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top nutrition tips to help you fully enjoy your day in the fresh air!

Boost your nutrients

If you are out all day and possibly enjoying some hiking or physical activity, then the body is certainly going to need some decent fuel in the middle of the day.  Each mealtime is an opportunity to load up on valuable nutrients the body needs daily, as well as filling up the tank with energy.

Clearly everything needs to be easily transportable therefore wholemeal wraps loaded with protein and vegetables is one of the best options.  It is important to eat protein at every mealtime to balance blood sugar levels and keep energy sustained throughout the day.  Great choices for wraps include chicken, tuna, chickpeas, or grilled halloumi cheese.

shutterstock_461352127 selection of wraps

All choices work really well with some roasted vegetables (prepared the night before) and pesto.  The wrap (ideally wholemeal) will deliver plenty of energising B-vitamins (as will the filling) plus it is a great way of topping up your vegetable intake.

Guacamole,Dip,In,Bowl,Over,White,Stone,Background.,Healthy,Avocado

Another great option is smashed avocado with salad or roasted vegetables.  Avocados are loaded with healthy fats that are needed to absorb our fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E), all of which are required for the immune system.  Avocados also contain some protein, plus vitamin E which is great for the skin. So, be sure to make lunch count so energy levels are not flagging a couple of hours later.

Snacks to keep you walking smart

If you are walking or hiking, then you will need to keep energy levels topped up throughout the day, not just at lunchtime.  Great transportable and energising snacks include cashew nuts (a higher carb nut), raisins (for a quick energy shot) and bananas (the perfect pre-wrapped snack!)

Homemade flapjacks

Why not make some delicious flapjacks the day before full of protein and energising carbs too?  If you make them with agave syrup, porridge oats, raisins, hazelnuts and mixed seeds, you can fully enjoy a perfect, energy-boosting and nutritious snack.

Composition,Of,Green,Olives,,Oil,,Spices,,Gravy,Boats,,On,A

Other great snacks include olives which contain plenty of healthy fats to hold off hunger pangs or some veggie crisps (healthier than the ‘normal’ potato variety!)

Hydrate often

Let us not forget the most important thing to pack – plenty of water to keep you hydrated.  You won’t be walking very far if you are dehydrated.  It is important to keep ahead of thirst; when you feel thirsty the body is already slightly dehydrated so top up regularly. On a ‘normal’ day it’s recommended to drink 1 ½ to 2 litres of water daily.  However, strenuous walking uses up a lot more water in the body, so aim to drink at least 300 ml for every hour you plan on being active.

Woman,Drinking,Water.

Whilst having large quantities of sports drinks is not needed and will only increase daily sugar intake, the body is not pure water.  The body contains electrolytes that need replenishing especially when the weather is hot. So, it’s a good idea to add an electrolyte powder to your water which you can sip throughout the day.  Additionally, having one of your water bottles very slightly diluted with fruit juice will help the body rehydrate quicker.

Sun protection

Sun cream and a sun hat are essential items!  Even when it’s cloudy, the sun’s UV rays penetrate and can cause a nasty case of sunburn if precautions aren’t taken.

Hat,And,Glasses,Lie,On,A,Beach,At,A,Beautiful

It’s worth also noting that if you’re taking a daily multivitamin that contains beta-carotene, this does provide some protection against sun damage but not sufficient to avoid wearing sun cream.  However, it does help protect the skin against free-radical damage caused by the sun and will hold back the ageing process.

So, with the combination of rejuvenating fresh air, beautiful countryside parklands, and nutritious food, you can guarantee a great day out!

Stay well.

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How to destress naturally: top lifestyle and nutrition tips for reducing stress

A woman looked worried sitting on a sofa

Stress is a much talked about subject.  In small doses it can be motivational but frequently it is detrimental to our health and needs to be managed. 

It can be difficult to eradicate stress completely but there are some nutritional and lifestyle changes that you can make which can help.

This Stress Awareness Month Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer tells us how.

Feel alive with Vitamin B5

The family of B-vitamins complement each other really well.  However, vitamin B5 stands out from the crowd when it comes to managing stress.

Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, is needed to effectively produce our stress hormones (namely cortisol and DHEA) from the adrenal glands.  Our natural ‘fight or flight’ response is an essential bodily function, providing us with the motivation and energy to deal with difficult situations. However, the body doesn’t like to be in this state too much.  Too much stress depletes production of these hormones over time, which can make us feel more agitated and stressed.

Foods,Highest,In,Vitamin,B5,(pantothenic,Acid).,Healthy,Food,Concept.

Foods such as mushrooms, meat, dairy produce, beans, lentils and nuts and seeds are great sources of vitamin B5 and can better help the body deal with stressful events.

Cut down on the agitators

We often reach for alcohol or sugary treats when the going gets tough.  However, these are stimulants, which release adrenaline, kicking off the stress response.  This then produces the opposite effect of what we actually need which is to feel calmer.

If life is stressful, then the body needs to be treated calmly. Green tea does contain a little caffeine but also has some theanine, a calming amino acid, so try to make some swaps from fully loaded caffeinated drinks.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

Additionally, there are many very acceptable non-alcoholic beverages around now, so you don’t have to feel you’re missing out. And why not save the sugary snacks for one treat day per week?  Your body will thank you for it.

Make an achievable plan

Many of us write a daily job list and this can feel overwhelming because there is often far too much on the list to be achieved sensibly in one day.  However, why not break each challenge down into much smaller tasks, so that one big task looks much more achievable?

shutterstock_243120193 woman writing in note pad diary Feb17

It’s always a good idea to write things down that either need to be done or that are causing stress.  And then sit quietly with the list and see what is realistic without being over ambitious in what can actually be completed.  Just by listing things rather than it all spinning around in your head, can make everything seem rather more doable and less stressful.  Plus, it’s a great feeling when you can cross things off the list.

Get some help from nature

Nature has provided us with a wealth of health, from nutrient-packed foods to herbal helpers. Top of the herbs list are ashwagandha, ginseng and rhodiola, which are all adaptogenic herbs.  This means they support the body to better cope with stress, helping you feel calmer and more in control.

shutterstock_390988804 green leafy vegetables Dec16

Additionally, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and Pak Choi are great sources of the mineral magnesium, which helps muscle relaxation.  If you find switching off in the evening difficult, then make sure you include some of these veggies in your evening meal to help calm the mind and body.

Exercise your stresses away

Exercise can be a great way of alleviating stress for many people.  And whilst some of us might find doing a big workout in the gym most effective, others may opt for a gentle stroll in the fresh air to blow away stress.  Do whatever works for you: if adrenaline is powering through your veins, it needs an outlet and taking some form of exercise can really do the trick.

shutterstock_218997220 woman walking trainers Mar18

Another effective way to reduce stress is to do some exercise where you have to concentrate on the game (such as tennis or even table tennis). This keeps your mind distracted from any mental issues, helping the brain unwind and re-set.

So, whilst we can’t completely avoid stress in our lives, we can hopefully minimise its impact with a few lifestyle changes.

Stay well.

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Walk your way to health this National Parks Fortnight

Woman walking through a forest glade

Many people have walked much more since the start of lockdown.  In fact, a recent report from Transport for London said that 57% of respondents walk more than they did previously.  And that’s something very positive to come out of the pandemic.

Walking is great for overall wellness. It boosts your metabolism, improves physical health and spending time outdoors is also good for mindfulness and mental health.

This National Parks Fortnight Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares why getting outside and walking is so beneficial for our health.

It burns calories

With so many of us finding life more sedentary than previously, managing weight effectively has also been more difficult.  Whilst there are a number of factors associated with trying to lose weight, there is also an equation of energy input and energy output.  In short, if you take in more calories than you expend, over a period of time, weight gain is more likely.

Close up on woman's feet on a pair of scales with a measuring tape

Brisk walking, especially when you find yourself slightly out of breath, can burn around 80 calories a mile, for an averaged sized person.  And it doesn’t actually take that long to walk three of four miles; you can probably burn off your breakfast or lunch! Regular exercise also helps uprate the metabolism generally, so your body will be more efficient.  Plus, walking after a meal also helps the insulin response, therefore less of the meal is going to be stored as fat.

It’s great for mental wellbeing

When the going gets tough, how often do we say, ‘I need to get out for a while’? We all know that taking in some fresh air can really clear the head and help relieve stress.  There is also much research to suggest that deep breathing helps relax the body generally, pushing it towards the parasympathetic nervous system response.  This is the opposite to the body being in ‘fight or flight’ which is the normal stress reaction. This can cause anxiety, mood swings, digestive issues and poor sleep, if happening too often.

Happy woman in field showing spring time

Use the time you go out walking (try for around 30 minutes a day) to totally switch off.  Avoid looking at your phone, unless to listen to a podcast or some music, and be in the moment.  Make a point of taking in the surroundings or noting what’s going on; it will help you switch off from any current stressful events.

Side profile of a person higlighting their brain functioning

Additionally, walking is great for boosting blood flow around the body, and this includes to the brain.  Good blood flow helps supply the brain with oxygen and nutrients for it to function correctly. Plus, it delivers glucose, the brain’s main fuel.  Interestingly, the brain utilises around 30% of all glucose produced by the body, meaning it requires lots of energy. You’ll be amazed at how much sharper your brain works when given sufficient oxygen and fuel.

It’s great for the joints

Just like your brain, your joints, muscles and bones also need good circulation.  Walking can help lessen stiffness in the joints and often relieve pain too. Plus, good blood flow helps bring nutrients to the joints, muscles and bones which will make them stronger and reduce any inflammation and pain.

Close up of knee representing joint pain

People suffering from persistent knee pain for example, often think that walking and exercise won’t help but the reverse is true; everything will just stiffen up without good movement, making pain worse. Importantly, walking is categorised as weight-bearing exercise so helps keep bones strong and prevents osteoporosis.

Helpful walking tips

Close up on woman's trainers walking in forest

  • Always wear good footwear; trainers or walking boots are ideal
  • If going for a longer distance, take some water with you and a light snack if needed
  • Take your phone so you can always make contact in emergencies
  • Build up your distance slowly if you’ve not exercised for a while to avoid injury
  • Enjoy your surroundings – take time to appreciate the wonders of nature

Stay well.

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Walk your way to health this winter

Woman walking in a snowy woodland

With our wings being somewhat clipped at the moment, many of us have found real pleasure in walking and getting some much-needed fresh air. 

There are lots of health benefits to walking but some of them you may be surprised to hear.  And walking in the cold weather is especially beneficial.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us why and how to get the most enjoyment and benefits from walking.

The benefits of walking in the cold

For those who are brave enough to undertake and appreciate the benefits of swimming in the sea during the winter months, you may already know that the cold water is incredibly beneficial for relieving stress and instilling feelings of calm.  This is because the extremely cold water stimulates the vagus nerve in the neck, responsible for pushing the body’s nervous system into a calming parasympathetic state, rather than revving up the sympathetic nervous system. This can also happen when the neck is exposed to cold generally, hence walking in the snow (without a scarf just for a bit), is a great stressbuster (and very beautiful too).

So, get out there this festive season and enjoy some frosty walks in your local area.

Here are my top tips for an enjoyable winter walk.

Walk after a meal not before

Walking soon after you’ve finished a meal really helps the body better metabolise glucose and insulin, so food is less likely to be stored as fat.  Anyone wanting to lose weight or trying to get blood sugar in balance should walk after the main meal of the day which will really help both situations. Obviously, you’ll have more energy to put into the walk rather than ‘running on empty’.

Dress appropriately

If you’re feeling up to a longer challenge, then why not plan a route that will take a few hours, pack an energising lunch, and enjoy some real time out.  Even though you’re moving and maybe climbing some hills, you can still get really cold when temperatures plummet.  The key to staying comfortable during longer walks is layering.  Always have a close-fitting base layer and then put on as many additional layers as you need and make sure you either wear or pack a waterproof jacket, just in case.  Body temperatures can drop really quickly if clothes and body get drenched so it’s important to respect the weather at this time of year, especially if you are heading for the hills.  Waterproof over-trousers might be another essential item, again depending on the terrain.

Woman in winter gear on a walk

Most body heat is lost from the head so a warm hat is another essential item and can be a real game-changer when body temperature starts to drop.  In terms of keeping the neck warm, then a scarf is important as the vagus nerve doesn’t need to be exposed to the elements for long for the beneficial effects to be felt.

Pack an energising lunch

Obviously, you’re slightly limited in how much you can pack in terms of lunch but clearly you need to re-fuel.  More calories are burnt during the cold weather as the body tries to maintain body temperature.  However, a huge feast is not needed, just a combination of protein and carbohydrate.  Great choices would be egg with a little mayo on wholemeal bread, tinned tuna and sweetcorn wholemeal pittas or haloumi and salad on sourdough bread.

Woman with a hot thermos on a wintery walk

Having a hot drink mid-walk really helps lift spirits and warm the body; it’s easy to get cold really quickly once you stop for lunch.  Pack a flask of your favourite hot drink and maybe a small, sweet treat for when energy levels start to flag at the end of the day. And don’t forget to take some water with you too.

Walking is great for boosting circulation and encouraging blood flow to the brain, burning calories, keeping fit and busting stress.  And winter walking can be even more enjoyable if you’re fully prepared. Enjoy!

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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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