How to fuel your bike rides with these top nutrition tips

View of a woman mountain biking

With some warmer weather now appearing, it’s a great time to get outdoors and do some exercise in the open air.  And there’s no better time to enjoy a bike ride. 

One of the many advantages of cycling is that it’s an activity that can equally be enjoyed as a family or singularly and it’s great exercise for the heart, lungs, and legs.  But how can you ensure you’re your body is properly fuelled and hydrated in order to get the most out of your rides?

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips for hydrating and snacking on your bike rides.


SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


Bananas are a great ‘on-the-go ‘snack!  They are not only high in energising vitamin B6, but they’re loaded with potassium, which is an electrolyte, so helps prevent dehydration.


Most of us can digest bananas well; you can often see tennis players eating them in between sets.  However, they are relatively high in starch which some of us can have trouble breaking down.  The point being, that if you’ve never eaten one previously, perhaps try eating one before you take one on a bike ride as your snack, just to make sure.


Dates are rich in both glucose and fructose so can provide quick energy when needed.  As their sugar content is high (around 80%), they’re best not eaten all the time, but do provide a treat and great energy-boosting snack during your cycle ride.


Dates are also loaded with magnesium and potassium, key electrolytes which help prevent dehydration and are easy to digest, so won’t cause any tummy troubles.


You’ll need all three key macronutrients during the day, and much of this can be provided by the right kind of sandwiches.


An easy and effective way of including protein, fat and carbohydrate into your sandwich is to spread nut butter with some jam.  Peanut butter is of course a favourite for many people, but do remember, whilst peanuts are high in protein, they are not tree nuts, therefore lack any of the advantages of the essential fats.  If you can switch instead to cashew, almond, walnut, or hazelnut butters, your body will be getting many more beneficial nutrients.

homemade hummus with seed sprinkles


Wraps are also an easy to pack option, and cream or cottage cheese, avocados, turkey, or eggs make great fillers and will provide much-needed macronutrients.

Energy bars

You can either buy ready-made energy bars which are high in carbohydrates, therefore providing energy or even better you can make your own muesli, flapjack, or granola slices. 

Homemade flapjacks

Generally, these all contain oats and nuts, as well as seeds which will help support your energy levels. In essence, oats are what’s commonly referred to as slow release, meaning they take longer to be digested in the stomach. They are also rich in energising B-vitamins as well as magnesium which will help electrolyte balance and hopefully avoid any unpleasant cramps.

Importantly, any kind of energy bar will ‘hit the spot’. Bars that are mostly made of dried fruit will provide a quicker boost.  Dried fruits, especially raisins and apricots, are also high in iron which helps with energy, plus vitamin C to support immunity.

The importance of hydration

If you’re planning a long ride, then being properly hydrated the day before is as important as hydrating on the day itself. Make sure you’ve had at least 1.5 litres of water the day before (more if you’re exercising in the heat) and have around 500ml of water with breakfast before setting out.


You’ll probably need to top up with around 200ml just before you start, and then make sure you keep liquid intake high throughout the day – at least every 20 minutes or so.  Again, depending on the length of the ride, you might want to take some slightly diluted water with fruit juice with you as this helps the body to rehydrate quicker. 

If the weather is hot, then hydration becomes even more important.  Essentially, if you’re feeling really thirsty, you’re already dehydrated so try to be ahead of this.

So, load up your backpack or saddle bags with some nutritional goodies, and keep your energy up for those lovely bike rides this summer.



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What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?



Female,Make,Shape,Of,Heart,With,Her,Hands.,Light,SummerYou’ve probably heard the words, but you may not be too sure of the differences or what they do. 

Probiotics and prebiotics play essential roles in our overall health, especially when it comes to digestive health.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives us the low-down.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

What are probiotics?

A word cloud around Probiotics

The word probiotic literally means ‘for life’ such is their importance in our overall health.  They are live bacteria and yeasts that live inside the body, mainly in the digestive tract. The exact number of probiotic strains is thought to be around 400 but more research is being carried out all the time.  Much current research tends to be around some of most prevalent strains being Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Probiotics are often referred to as ‘friendly bacteria or flora’.

What are prebiotics?


Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fibre that help feed the friendly bacteria. They are found in many different types of foods, especially specific fruits and vegetables. Prebiotics are sometimes referred to as the ‘fertiliser’ of the digestive tract because they stimulate growth and wellbeing of probiotics, and crowd out disease-causing bugs.

What do they do and how do they work together?

Essentially, probiotics do most of the work, but prebiotics are no less essential in providing their fuel (and they have big jobs to do too!)

Probiotics are crucial for human health and the more we know, the more we realise just how critical they are to our wellness.  They fulfil many different functions throughout the body, including encouraging healthy digestion and helping normalise constipation and diarrhoea. They also help to control and limit the production of parasites and pathogenic intestinal yeasts.

Close up of woman's tummy with her hands making a heart shape in front

Probiotics help to produce vitamins including vitamin K, Vitamin B12, folic acid and biotin, hence they have a big role to play in skin, bone, brain, and hair health.  They are essential for keeping the immune system in good shape and are needed to produce hormones, aid detoxification, and play a key role in mental wellbeing too.

We know that if probiotics aren’t correctly nourished then they can’t flourish, hence prebiotics being essential too.  Prebiotics not only help to feed the good guys, but research has found they aid calcium absorption, hence they are important for bone density. They play a key role in brain health, help the body process carbohydrates and have a role to play in balancing blood sugar levels. Prebiotics are often used on their own or alongside probiotics in supplements, to great effect, in cases of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease.

Where can you find them?

Probiotics are primarily found in fermented foods, which are widely eaten in traditional Asian diets.  They are naturally found in kefir from goat, cow, or sheep milk with kefir grains, and in kimchi made from fermented cabbage, cucumber, and radish. Sauerkraut, produced from fermented cabbage, miso, produced from fermented soya beans, and natural live yoghurt are other good probiotic choices.  Whilst they are not always the first-choice foods in traditional western diets, more and more people are realising their health benefits so are including them in recipes.


Prebiotics are widely found in bananas, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, green vegetables, onions, garlic, soybeans, chicory, and asparagus.  And if you’ve ever wondered why you may have more flatulence after eating these foods, it’s because they start a feeding frenzy in the gut.  However, once the gut is in better shape, the effects of eating these foods will be much less noticeable.

A range of onions

How often should you eat them?

They can actually be incorporated into the daily diet quite easily since there’s a good choice of foods containing probiotics and prebiotics. You don’t necessarily need to have probiotics and prebiotics in the same meal. Natural yoghurt is often part of the daily diet and kefir is readily available in drink form or in yoghurts, in supermarkets.  

A bowl of natural yoghurt on a wooden background

And whilst there are certain foods that contain plenty of prebiotics, all fruits and vegetables will encourage the good bacteria to flourish.  Eating a colourful diet will really encourage the diversity of live strains and prebiotics that keep the all-important gut microbiome super healthy.



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Get the perfect smile: top tips for taking care of your oral health

Cloe up of woman smiling brightly with a becah background

A lovely smile can light up the room!  But what if your teeth aren’t as lovely as you would like?  Having healthy teeth and gums is very important for overall health and can sometimes be neglected.

This National Smile Month, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five top tips for getting a smile to be proud of!


Have a healthy gut

Whilst daily brushing is essential for healthy teeth and gums, it’s just as important to look after your nutrition, and especially your gut health.

The good bacteria in our gut needs to outweigh the bad bacteria in the mouth that can be the cause of issues with our teeth and gums.  As an example, the bacterium that causes peptic ulcers and the H. pylori infection actually lives in the mouth. 


Feeding the good guys in the gut, especially with live natural yoghurt, can really help crowd out the bad guys.  Additionally, any fermented foods are great including tofu, tempeh, kombucha and sauerkraut.

Nutrition is key

As with everything in the body, good nutrition underpins health, and teeth need ‘feeding’ with the right nutrients.  Top of the list are vitamin D and calcium; both essential to building and protecting healthy teeth.  Whilst most of this is done during childhood development years, just like bones, the teeth need feeding from within throughout life.

A range of foods containing calcium

Vitamin D deficiency is still widespread in the UK as it’s not easy to obtain from food.  Therefore, supplementation with a minimum of 10 micrograms daily, is needed throughout the year, even through the summer months. However, some foods that are rich in calcium like oily fish with bones (sardines) also contain some vitamin D.  Other great sources of calcium are dairy, calcium-enriched plant milks, green leafy vegetables and nuts and seeds.

Keep it colourful

Compounds in fruits and vegetables, called flavonoids, have been found to target the bacteria that cause tooth decay.  This means including lots of colourful fruits and vegetables into the daily diet will certainly benefit your oral health.  Top of the list are dark cherries, prunes, blueberries, raisins, and blackcurrants, but all fruits and vegetables are going to deliver benefits.


Another great reason for eating lots of fruits and veggies is that they’re all high in vitamin C which helps build strong blood capillaries, supports the immune system, and helps protects gum health. 

Iron is another key nutrient for gum health which is not only rich in meat but found in dark, green leafy veg too.

CoQ10 is great for oral health

Fully named coenzyme Q10, it’s literally our spark plug as it’s found in every body cell, within the mitochondria, where energy is produced.  Whilst we naturally make CoQ10, production reduces with age (which may explain one of the reasons why our energy levels decrease as we get older), and it’s very important for oral health.

Composition,With,Food,Contains,Coenzyme,Q10,,Antioxidant,,Produce,Energy,ToCoQ10 is one of our key antioxidants, so it’s needed for the immune system and also for keeping bad bacteria in the mouth at bay.  Interestingly, there is also a connection between gum disease and heart disease, hence another reason for really looking after oral health.  It’s also the reason that CoQ10 is often taken as a supplement. If your dentist has noted some declining gum health, then it might be worth considering taking a supplement of CoQ10.  It should also help energy levels.


Keep them clean!

It may sound obvious, but it’s essential to be fastidious with your brushing routine; it’s surprisingly common for this to be overlooked!  Regular visits to the hygienist will help flag if your brushing routine is not up to scratch and will also encourage the use of small brushes to clean in between the teeth and protect the gums too. Your teeth should feel very smooth as you run your tongue over them.


If you haven’t already invested in one, an electric toothbrush is certainly your friend in this respect, enabling a much more thorough clean than using a manual toothbrush. And don’t forget flossing and using a mouthwash too.

Good teeth and gum care is important not just to feel great about smiling but for overall good health.

So, keep on smiling with these top tips to keep your oral health in tip top condition!



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The five fruits and vegetables that should be top of the list in a vegetarian diet

Blueberries in a heart shape

It’s National Vegetarian Week where we celebrate all that is great about plant-based diets. 

However, whatever type of diet you’re following, it should always be rich in fruits and vegetables because of their endless health benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite fruits and vegetables to help support a vegetarian diet


This wonderful vegetable delivers many nutritional benefits.  Indeed, there are very few people on the planet that wouldn’t benefit from eating some broccoli, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s green or purple!

Whilst broccoli is rich in a range of vitamins and minerals, its exciting claim to fame is that it’s part of the super healthy cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale. These types of vegetables contain indoles which have been found to provide some protection against some of our nasty diseases.

Broccoli florets on a plate

Additionally, broccoli is high in fibre so it’s great for the digestive system, and all cruciferous vegetables are brilliant for helping the liver to detoxify.

Since its vitamin C content is lost during cooking, it’s best to lightly steam broccoli and perhaps serve with a little butter or stir fry with some garlic and toss in sesame seeds.  It doesn’t need to be complicated to get the most out of this superstar.


Whilst the green, leafy tops of beetroot do contain plenty of nutrients, including immune-boosting beta-carotene, it’s the roots that provide some real gems in terms of nutrients.  

Beetroots are loaded with folate, which is very protective of DNA. They also contain energising iron, and potassium which is great for the heart, plus good amounts of vitamin C.  However, more recently beetroot has been found to help with endurance sports performance.  This is down to its ability to produce nitric oxide which helps open the blood vessels and therefore encourage more oxygen to flow through.

Whole beetroots

Since beetroot is slightly sweet, it works in both sweet and savoury recipes.  As we’re coming into the summer season, why not keep it simple? Fresh beetroots can be easily peeled, diced, and quickly boiled to be used in salads with goat’s cheese. Try them mashed with chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and olive oil to make beetroot hummus. Or make them into chocolate brownies which contain half the fat of regular brownies.


Blueberries are naturally sweet so need no added sugar, unlike some other berry fruits. Just like most fruits and vegetables, berries are rich in immune-boosting vitamin C but it’s the presence of plant compounds called anthocyanins that make them so special.

A wooden bowl of blueberries

Essentially anthocyanins are found primarily in the pigment of the fruit which is what gives blueberries their amazing colours. Anthocyanins contain powerful antioxidants which help protect the body.  Whilst the body does have its own antioxidant systems, it’s these kinds of foods that provide the extra protection that the body really needs.

I love blueberries as a snack with a few walnuts.

Sweet potatoes

This is another ‘go-to’ vegetable for me, all year round. Sweet potatoes deliver more in terms of nutrition than white potatoes and are less starchy which helps with blood sugar balance.

Their main claim to fame above white potatoes is their orange colour which means they’re high in beta carotene. This is not only great for the immune system but helps protect the skin and hair from sun damage and oxidative damage from environmental toxins.


Additionally, sweet potatoes are high in fibre so are great for digestion.  I try and buy organic sweet potatoes if I can, lightly boil and mash them with a little butter and pepper with the skin on, so I get maximum nutrients.  Equally, they make fantastic wedges, roasted in the oven in a little olive oil and salt.


There are many wonderful benefits to carrots, but they are also so easy to include in the diet as a snack or an easy vegetable side. Carrots are high in lycopene which is great for the heart; in a diet without heart-healthy omega-3s from oily fish, this is important.

Carrots are also rich source of beta carotene.  All the carotenoids are powerful antioxidants, but they specifically protect the eyes against free radical damage.  Importantly, beta carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body as it’s needed, which is also essential for eyesight and especially night vision.  It’s the reason why carrots are said to help you see in the dark; it’s not a myth!

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

Unlike most vegetables, carrots provide more nutritional benefit when cooked than raw as it helps to release the beta carotene. Additionally, if carrots are eaten with fats – carrots and hummus make a great snack – or with some meat or fish, the fat-soluble beta carotene is better absorbed.

So why not add some of these delicious fruits and vegetables to your diet and reap the nutritional benefits!



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Hike your way to health this National Walking Month

shutterstock_171654062 woman hiking Oct15

It’s National Walking Month and a great time to celebrate the amazing benefits of this wonderful outdoor activity.  Whether you call it a walk or a hike, being on the move outdoors has many benefits for both your physical and mental health.

To get the most out of your walks, supporting yourself nutritionally, especially where your joints and bones are concerned, is so important so that they carry you along the miles without complaining.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips to ensure you can keep moving, however tough the hike may be!

Put the nutrients in

There are many nutritional components that make up our skeletal frame and support its strength, growth, and repair.  However, there are a few essential nutrients to be aware of.

Vitamin D and a sunshine symbol written in the sand

One of the key nutrients is vitamin D.  Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is made on the body when the sun is shining (and skin is exposed to it). However, deficiency within the UK population is still widespread.  Importantly, one of vitamin D’s main functions is to metabolise calcium, a key mineral in our bones.  It’s certainly worth continuing to supplement with vitamin D through the summer months too, especially if you’re active.

A range of foods containing calcium

Calcium-rich foods include dairy (natural Greek yoghurt is great), leafy green vegetables, sesame seeds, tofu, and other soy products, so ensure your diet is rich in these.  Magnesium is also important for the bones and is found mainly in whole grain foods, avocados, legumes, nuts, and leafy greens. These are all foods that are going to help put some power into your walk.

Herbal helpers

We know that nature has provided us with some amazing herbs and one that is especially good for supporting joints and bones is Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum). It has been found to help decrease any swelling in the joints, and generally reduce inflammation, which could certainly stop the enjoyment of your hike.

Close up of knee representing joint pain

Devil’s claw is frequently used for back pain which can also be a common problem amongst keen walkers, partly because you’re often walking off balance on rough ground or going up and down hills. If you’re suffering, then it’s certainly worth a try; anything that keeps you moving.

Resistance training

Keeping the bones and joints strong by doing some resistance or weight training can really help support the body, and reduce the likelihood of injury, when you’re out walking.

Close up of woman working out at home

You certainly don’t need to become a body builder!  It’s just about doing movements such as squats, bicep curls or walking lunges with some weights to suit your ability.  For women, during and after the menopause, this is especially important, as reducing oestrogen levels mean our bone density is also reducing.  This negative effect can be reversed by doing resistance work.  It’s certainly a ‘win-win’ situation for a more comfortable walk.

Don’t forget to stretch

If the weather is a little chilly and your body is not really warmed up, this is the time when you can easily sustain an annoying injury.  A calf tear, or jolt to the knees is common.  However, you can help prevent problems by doing some gentle stretching before and after your hike.

CLose up of woman exercising and stretching outside

Before you start, get the blood pumping around the body by doing some shoulder rolls, body twists and body weight squats.  Then you can do some stretching of the knees, calves, ankles, hamstrings (back of the leg) and quadriceps (front of the leg) and repeat when you return from your walk.  It doesn’t need to take long but could save you grief further down the line.

Put out any fires

Not literally (hopefully)!  However, if you sustain any kind of injury or have an inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, then the body is effectively on fire within.  This can cause pain and may prevent you from getting out and about.


Obviously, all the measures above will help but it’s also important to ensure your diet is rich in colour overall.  Colourful fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants which help support the body’s inflammatory processes naturally. We know that leafy green vegetables are rich in several key minerals so make sure you have plenty in the diet.  Equally, red, orange, yellow, purple, and red fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants, so try to include some every day in your diet.

Celebrate National Walking Month and keep moving  – your health will thank you for it!



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How to have a healthy but tasty Easter!


shutterstock_1676194471 easter family Mar21

Easter is traditionally a time for eating delicious food, and, if we’re lucky enough, to be enjoying some down time with family and friends.

Food is a great way of bringing people together, as well as being essential for health too.  So how do we get the best of both worlds?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares here three favourite nutritious and tasty meals this Easter.



Garlicky Lamb

For the meat eaters, spring Lamb is probably one of the top foods we can eat for Easter.  Lamb is naturally tasty and tender – it just needs the right accompaniments.

Whilst lamb is slightly higher in fat than other meats (which also contributes to its flavour), it provides a great source of protein, essential for the immune system, muscles and bones, hormone production and much more.

shutterstock_446946859 roasted lamb Mar21

Garlic is a natural partner for lamb and also provides some amazing health benefits, especially for the all-important gut microbiome.  Having a healthy gut is the key to a healthy mind and body.  Make sure the garlic cloves are pushed into the lamb, so the flavours really infuse well.

Additionally, roast the lamb with some lemons and rosemary, both loaded with antioxidants and will enhance the flavour.  Why not serve the lamb with some mashed potatoes and spring greens, both high in vitamin C and fibre. There’s certainly no need for any guilt with this recipe!

Parsnip and Celeriac Gratin

If you’re wanting a vegetarian Easter treat, then a gratin is certainly going to hit the spot.  It’s sufficiently indulgent to feel special but also healthy too, containing two ‘super’ veggies. 

Whilst parsnips tend to be around during the winter months, there’s still plenty to be had at this time of year, and their vitamin C content is going to keep the immune system in good shape into spring.  Additionally, celeriac is full of potassium which is great for heart health and helping to reduce blood pressure.

Potato,Gratin,-,Graten,(baked,Potatoes,With,Cream,And,Cheese)This dish is also really easy to prepare simply by boiling up both vegetables (the parsnips will need slightly longer cooking).  When tender, then mash with some cream, salt and pepper and all-important nutmeg.  Not only does nutmeg really add some sparkle to a dish when used in this way but, just like any spices, it has many health benefits namely for the immunity, liver detoxification and cognitive function. The parsnips and celeriac can then be put into a dish and covered with homemade breadcrumbs, sprinkled with Parmesan, and roasted in the oven.  Delicious and healthy!

Chocolate Brownies Bites

Easter wouldn’t really be Easter without eating some form of chocolate!  However, for those watching their waistlines, it’s certainly possible to enjoys this treat without blowing the diet. 

Chocolate,Muffins,On,White,Ceramic,Plate.,Homemade,Fluffy,And,MoistThis recipe is a traditional brownie dish but using small muffin cases.  Use flour, beaten eggs, sugar and dark chocolate as per a normal brownie recipe.  Also include some cocoa powder.  Interestingly, cocoa has many health benefits; it’s very high in antioxidants and has also been found to reduce blood pressure.  Incidentally, if you or your friends and family can’t resist a full-blown Easter egg, then choose a dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate one so you get some real health benefits too.


The Easter twist for these brownies is in the decoration; use plenty of mini eggs and enjoy them without any guilt.

Have a happy and healthy Easter!



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Five seasonal fruit and veg stars to add to your diet this Spring


Close up of a woman holding a bunch of fresh asparagus

Eating seasonally means eating foods, especially fruits and vegetables, when in season, just as nature intended.  Nature is of course extremely clever, and it knows what the body needs at what times of the year. 

It also makes sense to eat seasonally from an economic and environmental perspective too.

So, what’s in season right now?

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite fruits and vegetables to enjoy.



shutterstock_552099742 rhubarb Apr17

Interestingly, whilst we might think of rhubarb as being a fruit, it’s actually a vegetable!  Obviously, that doesn’t change its nutritional offerings which are certainly worth exploring.

As with all fruits and vegetables, rhubarb is packed with immune-boosting vitamin C, also needed for energy production.  Vitamin C is also one of our most powerful antioxidants which helps protect the body from free radical damage and in turn, the ageing process.

shutterstock_577640623 strawberry and rhubarb crumble July17

Rhubarb is a great source of fibre which is essential for keeping the digestive system running smoothly.  It’s quite sharp in taste so if it’s going to be used in sweet dishes, it might need a lot of sugar.  A rhubarb and apple crumble is great as a treat, but it might be worth thinking of using rhubarb in savoury dishes, perhaps as a tart sauce with duck.

If you’ve not tried rhubarb before then it’s health and taste benefits are well worth exploring.


shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

A member of the cabbage family, kale is often referred to as a superfood for this reason.  This super healthy family of foods contain a compound called sulphoraphane, which is very beneficial for liver detoxification.  Research also shows sulphoraphane is very protective against some of our nasty degenerative diseases.

Kale can be slightly tough if not treated kindly during cooking! The younger leaves tend to be more tender and then it can be steamed, boiled, or stir fried and used in a myriad of dishes. 

Home made kale chips in a dish

Kale makes a great snack as kale chips, grilled in a little olive oil and sea salt, or made into a soup with any vegetable of choice.   Additionally, it’s great in a stir fry or cooked on its own with garlic and toasted pine nuts.


A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

Whilst we often think of spinach as being the best source of iron, it’s probably better for its calcium content.  Either way, spinach remains a rich source of these key minerals, essential for energy and the bones, and are best absorbed when spinach is cooked.

The good news, therefore, is that spinach is so easy to add to almost anything, as it reduces down massively when cooked.  This makes it a great vegetable to add to dishes when you’ve got vegetable ‘avoiders’ in the family!  Spinach can even be added to a spaghetti bolognaise and won’t be noticed too much.  It’s also great added to soups, stir fries, omelettes or vegetable curries.

Spinach omelette in pan on breakfast table

Spinach is also a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C which work together as antioxidants, as well as folate, essential for energy and healthy DNA.  From a cook’s perspective, it’s very versatile too.

Passion Fruit

Passion fruits

Passion fruit doesn’t exactly meet the criteria for being a local fruit but it is in season in the southern hemisphere.  Plus, it’s great for the soul to be eating foods that remind us of warmth and sunshine at this time of year. And these summer fruits are also packed with antioxidants which naturally help protect the skin from sun damage, so you’ll be getting all those health benefits too.

Passion fruit is just sweet enough to be eaten on its own, as a delicious snack or dessert treat.  However, it can be made into a coulis with other fruits, especially mango (mango chunks are easy from the freezer) or simply pureed and poured over your favourite chocolate cake as a lovely sweet treat!


Close up of a woman holding a bunch of fresh asparagus

As we come into April, so we come into English asparagus season.  Eating asparagus out of season you may find a lack of taste and often tough texture.  So, grab some quick because the season is short!

Asparagus is a nutritional highlight, containing more folate than any other vegetable.  Folate is essential for energy production, the nervous system, healthy red blood cell production and DNA repair.  Furthermore, asparagus, is packed with glutathione, which is essential for powering our key antioxidant enzyme system.


Even better, asparagus doesn’t need to be complicated in terms of preparation; simply steam and toss in olive oil and salt, roast the same way, or serve as an impressive starter with hollandaise sauce.

Enjoy exploring seasonal fruit and veg this Spring!



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The importance of eating more vegetables this National Nutrition Month

shutterstock_583532458 nutrition word cloud heart Mar21

It’s National Nutrition Month which highlights the importance of good nutrition and is a great time for us all to take stock of our daily diets.

It’s sometimes easier said than done to eat a varied, healthy diet every day, but there are ways we can make it simpler for ourselves, especially when it comes to eating more vegetables. 

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her insights on the topic and why eating more vegetables is so important.


Why vegetables?

In our time-poor, budget-stretched busy lives, it’s often easier to adopt the ‘grab and go’ way of eating.  Unfortunately, any kind of processed food is going to be lacking in nutrients.  And whilst us nutritionists bang on about eating more vegetables, there are some very good reasons why.

A range of vegetables to represent fibre in the diet

The body needs around 45 different nutrients every day to work at its best.  Every single vitamin and mineral fulfils a range of functions in the body, without which our intricate body biochemistry just wouldn’t work. 

Vegetables (and many other plants too) contain so many of these micronutrients which are essential for life. Importantly, their bright and varied colours means they are loaded with antioxidants which protect the body from free radical damage, a major driver of the ageing process. 

If we can just get them into the diet on a more regular basis, we could take some bigger steps to becoming healthier. So how can we include more?

Super spinach

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

Spinach is rich in energising B-vitamins, iron, and antioxidants and whilst a bag of spinach might look like a lot, it reduces massively when cooked.  Spinach can be added to pasta dishes, stews, soups or bolognaise without affecting the taste or texture of the meal but would significantly uprate its nutrient content.

Stir fries

FResh vegetable stir fry in a wok

Stir-fries are really quick and easy and are a great way of including more vegetables.  A stir fry meal is always going to look more appealing if it has loads of colour, and the more colour, the greater and wider variety of nutrients.

Go for the wonky vegetables


Many shops are now selling ‘wonky’ vegetables which are slightly cheaper.  Why not boil them all up with some stock and seasoning to create a delicious, filling soup?  The soup can then be liquidised or hand-blended to create a smooth texture and can be stored if the fridge to eat over a few days.

Try frozen

shutterstock_295634081 frozen veg Nov15

Getting to the shops regularly can be difficult for many time-stretched people.  This Is when frozen vegetables can be a great and convenient option. They are often richer in nutrients than fresh as they’ve been picked and frozen quickly, which retains those all-important nutrients.  Plus, they’re generally a bit cheaper. 

What are the key nutrients and where can you find them?

Vegetables are packed full of nutrients including B-vitamins (needed for energy and brain function), iron (essential for energy and healthy blood), potassium (great for a healthy heart) and calcium (essential for strong bones), to name but a few. But here I am calling our vitamin C and magnesium:

Vitamin C

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the most widely available nutrient in fruits and vegetables. It’s essential for the immune system, brain function, collagen production and keeping blood vessels strong and free flowing. Plus, it’s one of our most powerful antioxidant vitamins which means it’s going to help protect us against the ageing process and everything that comes with it. 


A range of foods containing magnesium

Magnesium we know is widely deficient in the UK population.  This is potentially problematic because magnesium has many key roles in the body but is important for regulating mood, blood pressure, the nervous system, producing energy, bone health and muscle function.  It’s also great for helping us to sleep. 

It’s widely available in leafy green vegetables including broccoli, sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage, all of which can be ‘disguised’ in many different dishes. 

How to make vegetables more appealing


If you or your family members push back from eating leafy greens, it may be something to do with how they are served.  No-one likes overcooked mushy sprouts or cabbage, but instead why not try them stir fried with some garlic and bacon; they become a whole lot more attractive.  Or perhaps try some broccoli tossed in sesame seeds? 

Why not resolve this month to try adding at least one new vegetable to your weekly diet and see where the journey takes you!



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Three top nutrients to support your energy this winter


Winter weather and grey days can really zap our energy levels. 

Whilst traditionally the worst month of the year, January, is now behind us, it’s not uncommon to continue feeling decidedly lacklustre and in need of an energy boost through the colder months.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her three top nutrients for getting that much needed refuel this winter.


Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important from the first moment of life because it’s needed for DNA synthesis, production of red blood cells and is essential for normal nerve transmission.  However, just like all 8 vitamins within the family of B-vitamins, B12 has many other jobs too, including energy production.

Vitamin B12 is unusual from a soluble nutrient perspective, (and unlike the other B-vitamins) because it can be stored in the liver, kidneys, and other tissues, so deficiency can often be missed for a while.  That doesn’t mean that levels will be optimal, and frequently people are lacking, partly because it’s essentially found only in animal produce.

A plate with a picture of a brain on to represent eating healthily to support a sharper brainVitamin B12 is also required for brain function, therefore it’s important to ensure intake is optimal, especially if you want a sharper brain as well as more fuel in the tank.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12The best food sources are liver, meat, oysters, sardines, Swiss and cheddar cheese. A warming macaroni cheese might just hit the spot when it’s cold and grey outside. Interestingly, some B12 can be produced in the gut, but this varies from individual, so a supplement is often a good idea especially if you follow a vegan diet.


Coenzyme Q10 is found in the mitochondria of every cell in the body, which is the part that produces energy.  So, if you’ve not got enough Co10, energy levels are likely to be low. Its role is similar to a spark plug in a car! It’s especially needed for a healthy heart, as well as energy, because the heart is one of the most metabolically active organs in the body.

Blueberries in a heart shapeAlthough CoQ10 is found in every plant and animal cell, dietary sources can sometimes be limited, but it seems that vegetarians tend to preserve it better within the body. However, best food sources are liver, fatty fish, meat, soybeans, and vegetables, especially broccoli, so a varied diet is certainly going to help. A bean casserole with loads of vegetables added would be a great meal choice for this time of year and won’t break the budget either.

A bowl of mixed bean soupProduction of CoQ10 in the body does diminish as we get older, plus certain medications, especially statin drugs cause its depletion, hence supplementation is often needed.


The mineral magnesium is often misunderstood as it’s used for energy production but can also help us to sleep! In truth magnesium is needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body, including energy production, and is used very successfully in cases of chronic fatigue.

Close up of a woman asleep in bedThere are different forms of magnesium, which can be confusing to decipher. Magnesium malate (often used for chronic fatigue) and magnesium citrate are used in the Kreb’s cycle (the body’s main way of producing energy).  However, magnesium bound to the amino acid glycine can help relieve anxiety but is also effective for aiding sleep.


A range of foods containing magnesiumMagnesium is frequently deficient in the typical western diet which includes lots of processed foods.  This is because magnesium is mainly found in whole grains, avocado, green leafy vegetables, and beans including soy produce.  A tofu stir fry which includes loads of chopped veggies would make a great, magnesium-rich meal.

So, there’s no need to feel low in energy during the winter months with these energy-boosting nutrients!


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All images: Shutterstock


Take care of your heart this Valentine’s Week

CLose up of two hands making a heart shape with the sun in the background

Valentine’s Day brings into focus all our loved ones.  However, whilst Valentine’s Day tends to be about our romantic hearts, it’s also a great time to look after the physical wellbeing of our heart too. 

Our hearts work very hard, beating around 100,000 times every day, so making sure you are doing what you can to keep yours in great shape should be top of the list when it comes to health.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top ways of looking after your heart physically and emotionally.


Load up on vitamin C

One of our hardest working vitamins, this nutrient has a great affinity for the heart.  Why? Because it’s one of our key antioxidant vitamins and therefore helps protect the heart from free radical damage, which is responsible for the ageing process and our degenerative diseases.  Vitamin C also helps protect the artery walls to enable blood to keep flowing freely through them.

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Vitamin C is readily available in most fruits and vegetables but purple sprouting broccoli and oranges from Spain are in season now and are both rich in this amazing nutrient.  However, try to get as much colour on your plates as possible and you’ll also be getting plenty of vitamin C.

Keep the heart well oiled

That means eating foods containing the essential omega-3 fats which are also essential for a healthy heart.  Omega-3s primarily help regulate blood pressure, protect the arteries from damaging inflammation and also help to keep blood flowing smoothly.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

Omega-3s are mainly found in oily fish such as sardines, pilchards (tinned are fine), salmon (wild, not farmed is best) and mackerel.  The best vegan sources are flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. But if none of these are your bag then give your heart some love by taking a daily supplement of fish oil or a vegan DHA, omega-3 product.

Cut down on sugar

That means sugar in all its forms.  Ideally, we should cut out all refined sugar in the diet, much as that may sound harsh!  However, sugar appears in many different guises; the issue is that it can cause inflammation throughout the body, attack the delicate artery walls, and help pile on the kilos, making your heart work even harder.

A pile of sugar with the words 'no sugar' in

Try to check food packaging and remember that whilst sweeteners are low in calories, they ‘feed’ your sweet tooth and are chemicals that the body doesn’t understand, and which can cause other health issues.  I know that it is very hard to cut all forms of refined sugar out totally but try to be more aware of how much you’re eating from various food sources.

Show your heart some gratitude

Your heart works very hard for you, so it’s a great time to acknowledge this and gently offer praise and thankfulness. Gratitude is also a great daily practice to help mental wellbeing. 

A close up of a typewriter with the word gratitude typed

If you’re finding life a struggle, then try to think of three things each day for which you are thankful for, however small.  It’s sometimes good to write these down so you can refer back to them.  When you start doing this, you’ll be amazed at how much is in your life which is good or for which you are grateful; even if it’s simple things in nature such as seeing flowers grow over time or hearing the birds tweeting, anything that makes you happy increases your levels of gratitude.

By offering gratitude daily, it can help re-frame any negative thought processes for the better.

Breathe some fresh air every day

It’s amazing how much being outside in the fresh air can help mental wellbeing.  With so many people working from home and/or working long hours, the days can fly by without us realising that we’ve not seen the light of day.

shutterstock_218997220 woman walking trainers Mar18

This is not good for the mind or body (especially the heart).  Breathing air and regulating your breathing whilst doing this is great for reducing stress.  Additionally, if you can fit a brisk walk into your daily schedule, then the exercise is certainly going to benefit the heart and mind too.

When you’re busy, you might want to actually write this into your diary as an event, so it’s not forgotten.  It’s all part of your self-care routine, which is important, not just during the month of love, but every day of the year!

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and love your heart more than ever this month!


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 Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at 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