Autumn apples: can one a day keep the doctor away?.

An apple in a box with 'one a day' written on the lid

Whilst apples are one of our most common ‘go-to’ snacks, they also have a wealth of health benefits. Plus ancient folklore certainly extoled their medicinal benefits. Apples are as popular today as they’ve ever been and even better they’re in season right now!

Clinical Nutritionist shares seven great reasons for grabbing some apples this autumn.

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APPLES HAVE A GREAT NUTRIENT PROFILE

Specifically, they’re high in vitamin C – one of the body’s key nutrients because is delivers so many health benefits. Vitamin C is especially important at this time of year because it’s essential for keeping the immune system in good shape; it encourages production of white blood cells which help fight any unwanted bacteria and viruses.

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also important for the skin, hair and nails, primarily because it helps produce collagen, the body’s most important protein. And as collagen is an intrinsic part of skin structure, therefore it may help prevent wrinkles and fine lines.

THEY ARE RICH IN POLYPHENOLS

Polyphenols are plant compounds that deliver some wonderful health benefits. Most importantly, they’re rich in antioxidants which may help prevent some of our nasty degenerative diseases. There are a wide variety of polyphenols and more are being studied all the time. However, we know there are certainly enough in apples to justify ‘keeping the doctor away’ if you eat one daily!

It’s always better to eat apples in their whole form though, as some of the polyphenol content can be lost through juicing, particularly in shop-bought apple juices.

APPLES ARE LOW GLYCAEMIC

The glycaemic index is a measurement of how quickly foods affect blood sugar levels in the body. In general terms, the lower the food on the index, the better (unless quick energy is needed for intense exercise, for example). The lower the food on the index, the less dramatic the effect on blood sugar levels, which will help provide the body with sustained energy and won’t cause mood and concentration dips.

Apples are very low, mainly because they’re high in fibre, which has the positive effect of slowing down absorption.

THEY HAVE MEDICINAL USES

In herbal medicine, ripe, uncooked apples have traditionally been given to treat constipation, whilst stewed fruit can be eaten to help nasty tummy infections such as gastroenteritis.

Interestingly, apples were also used in poultices to ease skin inflammation. Whilst there’s clearly medicines to help all these ills now, the many wondrous health benefits of apples were clearly appreciated hundreds of years ago!

THERE’S PLENTY OF VARIETY

Whilst there’s literally hundreds of varieties of apples, there are around 50 or so grown commercially in the UK so there’s still plenty of choice to suit all tastes. Depending on your preferences, a red delicious apple will have a very different taste and texture to a granny smith for example.

a selection of green and red apples

Locally grown apples are stored in a cool environment where the oxygen balance has been chemically lowered; this also helps retain most of the nutrients. When they are put on supermarket shelves though, they will quickly go soft under normal oxygen conditions, so it’s always best to eat them soon after purchase.

APPLES ARE USED IN AYURVEDIC MEDICINE

We know apples can help the digestive system. However, in Ayurvedic medicine they also have a big part to play for their nutritional and medicinal properties.

Sticks of cinnamon and a pot of cinnamon powder

Apples are often used with cinnamon for a combined anti-inflammatory action; when stewed together with some cloves and mixed with amaranth porridge, you’ve got a hearty and deliciously healthy start to the day.

THEY HELP GOOD GUT BACTERIA TO FLOURISH

There’s so much knowledge now around the amazing health benefits of friendly gut bacteria and a greater understanding of how essential they are to human health.

It seems that some of the polyphenol content of apples can work their way through the digestive tract to encourage production of gut bacteria. Most importantly, they appear to encourage production of one of our key species of gut bacteria being Bifidobacteria.

Apples are certainly great for digestive health generally, plus their high fibre content ensures that bowel regularity is maintained.

There’s certainly no denying the wonderful health benefits of apples! Try to choose apples that are grown as locally as possible to enjoy their benefits even more.

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Immunity-boosting nutrition tips this spring

Close up of woman with her arms stretched out in sunshine wearing sunglasses

With spring on the way we naturally want to get out and about and certainly don’t want to be dragged down by colds or infections that prevent us from enjoying life to the full. A change in season can often put the body under more stress, so what are the best ways to get your immune system in good shape this spring time?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares FIVE of her top immune-boosting foods!

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PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI

Purple sprouting broccoli has been cultivated since the 18th century but has only risen to prominence in the UK in the last 30 years or so. All green leafy vegetables provide great health benefits but the purple colour means that it also contains higher levels of polyphenols – plant compounds, rich in antioxidants which provide wonderful support for the immune system. Additionally, purple sprouting broccoli contains vitamins A and C, together with a variety of carotenoids – all key for immunity.

Not sure what to do with it? It is great stir-fried with pine nuts, sesame oil and seeds, sweet chilli sauce or just plain steamed as an accompaniment to meat or fish. Grab it now whilst it’s in season – this means it is packed with the highest nutrient content – perfect for giving your immune system a boost.

CRAB

You might not necessarily associate crab with immunity but it’s high in the mineral selenium which is needed to produce our key antioxidant enzyme in the body called glutathione peroxidase. This in turn, helps protect us from infections and disease.

A close up of a bowl of crab salad

The easiest way to enjoy crab is in a salad using the prepared crab meat from the fish counter or from your fishmonger. If you mix the crab meat with a dash of tabasco sauce, lime juice, capers, some black pepper and chopped coriander leaves, you can pair it with some mixed leaves for a delicious spring time salad.

SPINACH

A wonderfully versatile vegetable that will help to keep you bug-free through spring! It can be cooked in a variety of ways, added to dishes or it may be used in salads, raw. In fact it mixes really well with bacon in a salad.

Spinach is in season right now so will be a lovely dark green colour in the shops or markets. It’s great for the immune system because it contains high levels of vitamins A and C. Spinach is probably best known for its high iron content (Popeye knew best!) which helps to give energy levels a great boost; very helpful if you’re wanting some spring time fun.

Close up of Spinach salad with peas, asparagus and radish

There’s so many ways to use spinach; added to soups, casseroles or pasta, lightly steamed and served with a knob of butter, stir-fried with garlic and butter, sautéed with a little olive oil and parmesan, or in a salad with some grilled haloumi and fresh mint.  Why not create a delicious greens salad with spinach, peas and asparagus. Enjoy!

ACAI BERRIES

All berries are great for the immune system but acai are actually some of the best. This is because acai berries have one of the highest antioxidant ratings of any food and they’re rich in fibre too. This means they’re great for the immune system, plus the skin and heart.

Acai berries in a bowl and a spoon of acai berry powder

One of the most delicious recipes for acai berries is an acai berry bowl. You can either use them as a freeze-dried powder or try frozen berries whizzed up with banana, avocado, other berry fruits, and coconut water with a crunchy topping of nuts and seeds to boost your omega-3s.

TEA

It doesn’t matter what colour – black, green or white – all types are rich in immune-boosting polyphenols. However, green tea actually has the highest amount of antioxidants. This is because methods of tea production vary from tea type. For example, green tea leaves are picked and then left out to dry (generally in the sunlight) before being put into hot roasting tins. After being rolled, they are then further heat treated which produces green, slightly withered tea leaves. Green tea is higher in antioxidants because the leaves are not left in the atmosphere to oxidise before they’re harvested.

A glass tea cup of green tea

Green tea is also great for the immune system as it helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Strange as it may seem, balanced gut bacteria is absolutely essential for good immunity. However, it’s best to drink any type of tea in-between meals as the tannin content tends to deplete certain trace minerals in our food.

So keep well this spring and enjoy spending more time outdoors as the warm weather arrives.

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Smooth summer digestion: top tips for a healthy tummy

The combination of longer summer days and holiday plans means barbecues, outdoor eating and socialising with family and friends. But occasional over-indulgence, travelling to different countries and the potential for poorly cooked barbecue food can cause digestive upsets

 Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer provides some top tips to keep your digestion running smoothly all summer long.

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GOOD FLORAL BALANCE

The gastrointestinal tract is home to vast numbers of bacteria, commonly referred to as friendly flora; there are over 500 different types weighing anything up to two kilos in the gut.  Some are good and some not-so-good but there needs to be more good than bad.

The gut flora fulfill many functions but primarily protect the gut from menacing invaders, particularly those that cause food poisoning.  It is therefore a really good idea to take a course of probiotic supplements for a month or two each year, or for longer if you have recently taken antibiotics.

Additionally try adding foods to your diet that help replenish the good bacteria. Asparagus, (great on the barbecue), Jerusalem artichokes, onions, bananas, green tea and fermented foods such as tofu and miso are great, as well as sheep’s or goat’s milk yoghurts.

COMBAT OVER-INDULGENCE

Summer parties and barbecues are ideal opportunities to over-indulge!  However, with a little forward planning, you can wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy the next day. Your liver is the main organ of detoxification and has to work hard if too much fatty food or alcohol is consumed.

However, the herb Milk Thistle is particularly protective of the liver and helps to combat that ‘morning after the night before’ feeling.  Take one or two before you go out either at lunchtime or in the evening.

BEAT THE BLOAT

Many of us will suffer with uncomfortable bloating at times, which is often accompanied by flatulence.  There can be many reasons for bloating; too much sugary or fatty food, poor gut flora, food intolerance or low stomach acid and digestive enzyme production, to name just a few.

Globe artichoke, which can be taken in supplement form, is very effective at relieving painful bloating.  Additionally, sipping ginger tea also helps to expel trapped wind which can often be the cause of discomfort.  Equally, it’s worth writing a food diary to see if there’s a pattern forming after you have eaten certain foods.

SAY ‘NO’ TO DELHI BELLY

You don’t need to go all the way to India to get sickness and diarrhoea on holiday.  There are many countries in the world where poor water and hygiene are commonplace.  Avoid drinking tap water, and only add ice to your drinks if it’s made from bottled water. In some countries it is advisable to also clean your teeth with bottled water. You may also want to avoid eating salad that has been washed in tap water.

However, the body is more susceptible to infection if the gut flora is not up-to scratch – another good reason to take a course of probiotics, particularly in the two weeks leading up to foreign travel.  Whilst not completely infallible it will certainly provide greater protection and hopefully you’ll enjoy a relaxing, illness-free holiday.

So, embrace the barbeques and foreign food and with these top tips hopefully you can enjoy the summer without any unpleasant side effects!

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Have yourself a delicious and nutritious Christmas: healthy twists on festive fayre

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Planning a Christmas party? You may not always think ‘delicious’ and ‘nutritious’ are words that go hand in hand with Christmas treats and party food, but it’s actually pretty easy to rustle up some Christmas party snacks that are both!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some of her favourite healthy treats you can make this Christmas time.

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SWEET POTATO WEDGES

A twist on traditional potato wedges, sweet potatoes are delicious and quite different to the traditional spud. Sweet potatoes provide a much greater range of nutrients than its humble potato cousins. They contain beta carotene which makes vitamin A in the body (great for immunity), vitamin C (also great for immunity and the skin), B vitamins (for energy) and an array of essential trace minerals (frequently lacking in the modern diet).  Plus they can actually help you to lose weight as they keep your blood sugar levels balanced, meaning you feel fuller for longer, and discourage your body from storing fat.

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For an even healthier twist, roast them in the over with some coconut oil: coconut oil is one of the best oils for cooking plus it helps provide an extra boost of energy.  Sprinkle a little paprika on the wedges whilst they’re cooking for an extra kick and why not make a quick dip of crème fraiche, dill and chilli to accompany – a great little treat for handing around at your Christmas party!

HEALTHY ROASTED MIXED NUTS

Nuts provide a wealth of health benefits but often the nuts on offer at parties are salted or roasted peanuts – the least healthy nut options!  However, there’s a great alternative – caramelised, sugar-free roasted nuts!

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Try a mix of cashews, Brazils (high in the mineral selenium which is a powerful antioxidant and often lacking in the Western diet) and almonds (high in brain-boosting omega-3’s) to pack a real nutritional punch! Lay a mixture of the nuts on a heated roasting tray and sprinkle with sea salt.  Then lightly sprinkle some granulated stevia (a natural sweetener) over the top and gently roast until all the nuts are nicely caramelised.  Your party guests will be impressed!

CHOCOLATE AND CRANBERRY BROWNIES

With cranberries featuring heavily in traditional Christmas fayre, why not use them to their fullest potential in some delicious but healthy treats to hand around during your Christmas cocktail party?

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These chocolate and cranberry brownies are a healthy alternative to the usual brownies and here’s why: they contain prunes (great for digestion), xylitol (a natural sweetener), plain 70% cocoa solids chocolate (high in antioxidants), chopped pecan nuts (rich in brain-boosting omega-3’s), wholemeal self-raising flour (which contains many more nutrients than refined white flour) and eggs (additional protein and omega 3’s).

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Liquidise the prunes and xylitol with some water. Then melt the chocolate, separate the eggs and stir in just the egg yolks with the other ingredients. Whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks and then fold carefully into the remaining mixture.  Bake for around 20-25 minutes.  A guilt-free party treat!

WALNUT HUMMUS

No buffet table is complete without some crudités and dips!  However, some people tend to shy away from hummus because they fear it’s a bit fattening.  Enter, hummus made with walnuts!

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Walnuts are high in healthy, essential omega-3 fats and also help to reduce blood pressure.  All you need to do is to combine some crushed garlic, a can of chickpeas and the zest of an orange, and whizz in the food processor. Then add around 100 g of walnut butter (readily available in supermarkets) and you’ve created a truly delicious dip.

Serve it with toasted, sliced wholemeal pittas; wholemeal pittas contain much higher levels of energising B vitamins than the white variety – another boost to your party platter!

LOW FAT EGGNOG

Traditionally consumed from Thanksgiving, until after Christmas in Canada and the USA, eggnog has also become a popular festive drink in UK households.  However, many people find the shop-bought varieties are too sweet and also worry about the fat content.

So how about proudly serving some delicious, home-made, low fat eggnog at your Christmas drinks party to really get people into the Festive spirit?

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Traditionally, it is made with milk or cream, together with sugar, whipped eggs and a spirit of choice (usually rum, brandy or bourbon).  Why not create a dairy-free version using coconut or almond milk as both contain a much healthier fat profile?

Add your chosen milk to a saucepan with a split vanilla pod and gently heat.  Mix together some eggs with xylitol (a natural, calorie-free sweetener) and some cornflour, then gradually add this to the heated mixture whisking constantly to ensure they don’t scramble.  The mixture then needs to cook and thicken.  Remove from the heat and when cooled you can add the alcohol of your choice together with a little freshly grated or powdered nutmeg and add a cinnamon stick to flavour.

So why not try making a few of these recipes this festive season, and enjoy a Christmas that is both delicious and nutritious!

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Are you prepped for the party season? Top nutrition tips to see you through to Christmas Day!

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Party season is upon us!  And though there are still a few weeks to go before the ‘big day’ itself, party too hard and you could face burn out at Christmas! With so many Christmas menus, cocktails and buffets at your social events, is it really possible to enjoy yourself and still be semi-healthy?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her five top tips to get your body prepared and ready for the Christmas merriment to begin! 

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GET JUICING!

Your body copes better with different foods, late nights and an increase in alcohol consumption if it’s in an alkaline rather than acidic state. Too much acidity in the body creates digestive problems and can result in poor sleep, low energy and mood swings. So the more vegetables you can include in your diet right now, the more alkaline your body will be and the better you’ll feel.  Plus your skin will glow, you’ll feel energised and you’ll enjoy partying even more!

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You can get really creative with your own juicing recipes, but one of my favourites is beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger: beetroot (a great liver detoxifier), carrot (packed with antioxidants to support the immune system), apple (full of vitamin C and adds a lovely flavour) and ginger (the best anti-inflammatory spice around and adds a great ‘zing’ to any juice). All perfect ingredients to prep you for a month of celebration.

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Try to have a juice everyday over the next month.  But if you don’t have much time, or the right equipment, for juicing there’s so many fresh juice shops, cafes and brands on the high street – just grab one during the day!

TAKE MILK THISTLE

Milk thistle has been traditionally used for supporting the liver and gallbladder for over 2,000 years.  Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century pharmacist, described its use as opening ‘obstructions’ of the liver. The numerous benefits for the digestive system have been well-documented: its active component is silymarin which is a powerful antioxidant and protects and supports liver function.

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Milk thistle is great at protecting the body before and after ‘over-indulgence’. So if you start taking it before the party season gets into full swing, your body (and liver) will cope much better once the celebrations really kick in.

EAT GOOD QUALITY PROTEIN

Why is this so important?  The reason is that protein such as turkey, chicken, fish, lentils, beans, eggs and nuts contain specific amino acids that are all key for the health of the liver. And let’s face it – the liver needs all the help it can get at this time of year.

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As your liver is the main organ of detoxification, the more support you can give it, the better your body will cope with partying!  Specifically, the amino acid glutamine converts into several different compounds that help to balance blood sugar levels.  This in turn may help to reduce our desire for substances such as sugar and alcohol, which can be helpful in a party situation!

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The best advice is to make sure you’re including good quality protein at every meal time; for example, have an egg-based breakfast, some chicken at lunch and some fish (oily fish such as salmon  is great for omega-3’s) at dinner. If you can keep to a good routine of regularly eating good quality protein at each meal over the next four weeks or so, you’ll arrive at Christmas Day in much better shape!

DRINK HEALTHILY

Most of us enjoy a tipple at some point during the party season.  But what are the best drinks to choose so that you minimise both the calories and potential for a headache the next day?

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The ‘healthiest’ drink is probably vodka and soda with a wedge of fresh lime.  It’s lowest in calories, is a purer form of alcohol and you’ll also get some vitamin C from the lime!

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But this may get a bit tiresome over the course of several hours, so another option is to use your willpower and drink less but make each drink a totally enjoyable experience!  Whether you’re a prosecco, wine, beer or cocktail person, alternating an alcoholic drink with a glass of water will also help modify how much you drink during the evening. It will also help with overall hydration, and how you feel the morning after!

AVOID THE BUFFET… OR MOST OF IT!

The traditional buffet is not always the healthiest of food options; sausage rolls, vol au vents and sandwiches are all going to be high in calories and may also cause uncomfortable bloating as the night goes on.

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You would do much better avoiding the unhealthy buffet and eating a good quality meal (with protein and vegetables) before you go out. If you don’t have time to cook, you could consider having a protein shake: it will help the hunger pangs and the cravings for sugar-laden drinks and unhealthy snacks.

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The key is not to arrive at a party in hunger mode! Drinking on an empty stomach is also a recipe for disaster, even if you’re taking Milk thistle. But if you really can’t avoid the buffet, then head for the vegetable crudités with hummus, olives, nuts, chicken wings, rice salads and anything ‘green’.

So there’s no need to be a party pooper when you’re an amazing party prepper! Enjoy all your pre-Christmas parties and still arrive at Christmas day feeling fresh and energised!

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‘K’ is for Kale: everything you need to know about this amazing vegetable!

 

shutterstock_232612981-woman-with-kale-nov16Kale is one of a number of superfoods currently ‘on trend’. But the benefits of this green, leafy vegetable have been known for a long time. Packed full of nutrients, Kale is a versatile vegetable, whether steamed, boiled, grilled, stir fried or as part of a delicious soup.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us the ‘low-down’ on what’s so amazing about kale and why we should all be including it in our daily diet.

 

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IN THE BEGINNING…

It is not known exactly when kale was first discovered. What is certain is that the ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed its health benefits although seemingly for slightly different reasons than ourselves: the Romans ate it as a cure for drunkenness for example!

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The Brits actually lead the way in bringing kale into the United States in the 17th century. And during World War 2, the growth of kale was encouraged by the Dig for Victory campaign to help supplement nutrients that were missing from the diet during rationing.

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Kale is a member of the brassica family of vegetables which are renowned for their amazing health benefits. There are several varieties of kale including curly, ornamental, red russian and dinosaur kale. They all look slightly different with varying tastes, with curly kale having the deepest green colour and strongest taste.

IT PACKS A NUTRITION PUNCH!

Kale is an excellent source of two of our most powerful antioxidants – vitamin C and beta carotene.  Beta carotene converts into vitamin A in the body as it’s needed, whilst Vitamin C is great for supporting the immune system. A 100 gram serving of kale provides more than three quarters of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and almost twice the recommended intake of vitamin C!

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Kale also contains good levels of the minerals calcium and iron which we know are widely deficient in many sectors of the UK population.  Plus, kale is a great source of vitamin K (another ‘K’) which is great for the heart and bones, and even contains small amounts of those wonderful omega 3 fats, which are especially good for the brain.

KALE AND CAROTENOIDS

Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant (also known as a carotenoid) which helps to support the immune system.  However, kale also contains some lesser-known carotenoids being lutein and zeaxanthin.

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These nutrients have an incredible affinity for supporting eye health:  In nature, it would seem that lutein and zeaxanthin absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight.  Lutein and zeaxanthin are both found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye. These powerful nutrients appear to protect the eyes from macular degeneration, which is an increasingly common condition found in older people, and which can lead to blindness.

IT’S ALL ABOUT GLUCOSINOLATES

But what are they you may ask?  In simple terms they are sulphur-containing compounds which have been, and continue to be, heavily researched for potential cancer-preventing benefits. Glucosinolates are also found in other brassicas but have the highest concentrations in kale.  Research is continuing, and clearly we can’t expect one food to work miracles; however suffice to say that a very regular intake of kale in your diet is definitely going to benefit your health.

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These glucosinolates are also made into other compounds that support the body’s natural detoxification processes.  The body (and primarily the liver) has two phases of detoxification and kale supports both – further confirmation of the power of the kale and often why it is included in a detox!

IDEAS FOR EATING KALE

As with all vegetables, there are many ways of preparing, cooking and eating them!

One really great way to use kale is to make kale crisps!  All you need to do is to wash and lay plenty of kale leaves onto a roasting tin.  Pour over some olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.  Put them under the grill until the kale becomes crispy.  Delicious, and a perfect mid-afternoon snack!

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Kale is also delicious lightly fried with chorizo to make a tasty vegetable side dish with a little kick!  And it also makes a great side gently cooked with butter and garlic, in a wok.

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Kale also works really well with eggs at any time of day.  Steamed for breakfast with a poached egg on top, or in a goat’s cheese frittata with onions.  As with any vegetable, the lighter and shorter the cooking time, the more nutrients you’re going to preserve.  Therefore steaming is always going to be the healthiest way to enjoy this health-boosting vegetable!

So whether you add kale to your smoothies or salads, soups or stews, you’ll definitely enjoy the health benefits associated with this green super food!

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Keep the bugs at bay: five ways to boost immunity through nutrition

 

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Although the weather has been unusually warm for this time of year, let’s not forget that around the corner is the dreaded cold and flu season.  But catching a cold doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion this winter; take good care of your immune system right now and you’ll benefit all season long!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top five immune-boosting foods and some may surprise you!

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SHELLFISH

Whether you love prawns, clams, crab, lobster, oysters or mussels, all shellfish is packed full of zinc. Zinc is one of the hardest working minerals in our diet and is particularly key in supporting the immune system and preventing colds and other nasty bugs from flourishing!

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Zinc works particularly well with vitamin C to provide great immune support, so squeezing some lemon over your delicious shellfish would also be beneficial!  However, if shellfish doesn’t float your boat, eggs and wholegrains such as brown rice or quinoa also provide good amounts of zinc.

LIVE YOGHURT

Live cultures in yoghurt have a really positive effect on the immune system. Much of the body’s immune system lives in the gut, therefore, a healthy digestive system is the key to strong immunity and live natural yoghurt can really help with this.

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Look for one that highlights high levels of friendly bacterial strains or cultures; the yoghurts that state ‘bio-cultured’ contain lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains which are the most naturally prevalent in the digestive tract and therefore provide the most benefit to health.

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There is plenty to choose from in the supermarkets, but just watch out for the fruit and sugar-laden varieties; sugar destroys the good bacteria that naturally resides in the body so can be counterintuitive. If you really don’t like the taste of plain yoghurt though, try eating it with some fresh blueberries which are high in antioxidants and provide even more support for the immune system.

COCONUT

Coconut is a really hot ingredient right now and for very good reason.  As well as being the healthiest oil to use in cooking, coconut is also great for the immune system.  This is because it contains lauric acid which is turned into something called monolaurin in the body; it is this compound that is known to help stimulate production of T cells which are key in fighting off viruses and bacteria.

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One of the many great things about coconut is that it’s so versatile and therefore so easy to include in the daily diet.  It can be used in stir-fries, raw recipes, smoothies and sweet treats such as brownies or cookies.

PAPAYA

If you’ve never tried papaya you’re in for a real treat!  Not only do papaya taste amazing they contain some of the highest amounts of vitamin C of all the fruits and vegetables.  Vitamin C is probably best known for its immune-boosting properties, particularly enhancing white blood cell production which is key to keeping the body in fighting form.

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Papaya also contains high levels of vitamin A, which is another immune-loving nutrient as well as being a powerful antioxidant.

BANANAS

Go bananas this season!  They are one of the most versatile and portable snacks, popular with all the family and they really help to boost the immune system.

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Bananas are high in vitamin B6 which is key to providing immune support by helping to protect us from infection. Factors such as tea and coffee intake, pregnancy and taking the contraceptive pill all deplete vitamin B6, as does alcohol; with the party season coming up, eating more bananas may well be a factor to consider! Bananas also make a great mid-morning ‘pick-me-up’ or a pre-workout energy booster!

So, by including some of these particular nutrients into your diet, you can boost your immunity as much as possible throughout the winter months and not miss out on the upcoming party season!

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Hauntingly Healthy Halloween treats!

 

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We hardly need reminding that Halloween is just around the corner!  There’s lots of fun to be had around this time of year, and our minds often turn to the sweet ‘treats’ on offer.  But treats don’t have to be unhealthy!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides five great ideas for healthy Halloween foods that the whole family can enjoy this spooky season!

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ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Pumpkin seeds are incredibly nutritious, providing good amounts of the essential omega 3 fats; omega 3 fats play an important role in great skin, balancing hormones and in supporting a healthy heart so eating them provides a wealth of benefits.  Plus your children will have super-sharp brains as omega 3’s also support cognitive function!

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Try gently roasting them with a little soy sauce – they really are quite delicious. You can either buy them ready roasted and slightly seasoned or you can gently roast them yourself in the oven, for around 10 minutes.  Once you and the family have tried them, you’ll be hooked (and so will your neighbours!): they make a great picky snack in place of the usual crisps at a party.

PUMPKIN SOUP

You can’t think about Halloween without pumpkins!  And this big orange vegetable is high in vitamin A, which is great for the immune system and the eyes, plus it contains a good range of trace minerals, which are often lacking in modern diets.

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This pumpkin soup recipe is soup-er healthy because it’s made with coconut butter!  All you need to do is to fry some onions and garlic in coconut butter until they’re lightly browned.  Then add the chopped pumpkin with a bay leaf and fry for around ten more minutes until the pumpkin has softened.  Remove from the heat, put the mixture into a food processor with some milk and whizz until smooth.

This soup can be served with dollop of pumpkin seed butter stirred in for an extra flavour hit; it’s delicious and healthy, packed full of those wonderful omega-3 fats, and you might even convert your children from peanut butter to pumpkin seed butter for the future – an added bonus!

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED APPLES

The famous saying, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ was introduced for a reason: as well as being a healthy fruit, apples are low on the glycaemic index meaning they won’t upset blood sugar levels and are therefore great if you’re watching your weight.  Additionally, they’re high in the fibre pectin, which helps keep the bowels regular, plus they deliver a wonderful array of vitamins and minerals.

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To make chocolate-dipped apples, firstly cut the stem out of the apple and put a wooden stick through the middle (you can buy wooden lollypop sticks from most cookery shops). Melt 70% cocoa dark chocolate and dip the apples until they are fully coated – leave to set.

By choosing this high cocoa chocolate, you’re introducing lots of antioxidants from the flavonoids naturally present in the chocolate. These flavonoids have wonderfully protective effects on the body, so these chocolate-dipped apples make a real treat that all the family will enjoy but will also provide some great health benefits.

GO GREEN FOR HALLOWEEN!

Green is such a traditional Halloween colour, and it also represents healthy foods!  If you’re children are resistant to eating anything green then now’s the time to encourage them to eat some scary-shaped healthy green foods!

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Using Halloween-shaped cutters and moulds you can create a delicious and healthy plate of spider shaped kiwi fruit or ghost-shaped honeydew melon for example.  Both these fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C which provides great immune support, particularly needed as the winter months approach.

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If your children are really resistant to green vegetables, then think celery stick monsters with peanut butter hair and eyes and teeth made from cream cheese dotted on top; scary stuffed peppers; carrots and cucumber arranged into spooky face shapes with some guacamole dip. It’s all in the presentation!

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For a really tasty but healthy spooky green soup, think peas!  Pea soup is delicious, easy to make and can be served in child-friendly small bowls.  You can even use frozen peas (as frozen vegetables are often healthier than fresh because they’ve been frozen so soon after picking).

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Just fry up some shallots, with some chopped cooked potatoes, cook the peas with vegetable stock and blend all together. Why not add some single cream to serve in the shape of a Halloween face on top!

CHOCOLATE HALLOWEEN COOKIE

Believe it or not, you can cook some really healthy chocolate cookies and still make them Halloween-friendly by cutting them into spider’s web shapes, adding a spider or two or creating pumpkin lanterns.

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These chocolate cookies can be made with dates, pecan nuts, flaxseeds (great for omega-3 fats which love the brain), cocoa powder and vanilla.  They’re gluten-free, free from refined sugar and suitable for vegetarians, so real winners all  round!

So, enjoy this Halloween and also enjoy some guilt-free, spook-tacular treats at the same time!

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Kick-start your immunity and fight off those colds: top nutrition tips to prepare for winter

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With a slight chill in the air the seasons have definitely changed and many of you may have already started suffering from the seasonal colds and bugs.  However, catching a cold doesn’t have to be inevitable just because winter is approaching: with some smart lifestyle choices you can boost your immunity and prepare yourself as much as possible for the cold weather.

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Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her five top tips on staying as healthy as possible this season!

AVOID THE SUGAR!

Sugar is actually an immune suppressant.  And we’re talking about sugar is all its forms: table sugar, honey (but not including Manuka honey, which is actually a great immune-booster), fizzy drinks, biscuits, and of course, alcohol. Don’t forget the ‘hidden’ sources of sugar such as in cereals and ready meals when trying to cut down.

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It has been found that drinking two averaged-sized fizzy drinks can suppress the immune system for a minimum of two hours afterwards, and in some cases for as long as five hours, which really highlights the damage too much sugar can do to our bodies. So how can you cut down the sugar?

Try to eat food as close to its natural state as possible (i.e. fewer processed foods). Swap added sugar for naturally derived sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia.  When it comes to fluid intake, there’s nothing better than just drinking plain water – always try to drink a minimum of 1.5 – 2 litres of water per day – more when you’re exercising.

IMMUNE-BOOSTING VEGETABLES!

There’s no such thing as a bad vegetable, but some are overflowing with so many nutrients that they should feature on your plate as much as possible.

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When planning your meals always think about trying to eat a rainbow of colours every day.  Green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, sprouts and cauliflower have amazing immune-boosting nutrients, particularly vitamin C.  Other great green vegetables including spinach, kale and Swiss chard are all high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

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Orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A in the body and is also a great immune-boosting nutrient.

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For even more immune-boosting power seek out the purple: why not add some purple sweet potatoes, beetroot, aubergine or cabbage to some of your meals for an extra boost!

IMMUNE-BOOSTING SLEEP!

Your body needs sleep to restore and repair; lack of sleep can cause an imbalance in the immune system so that it’s less able to fight off any potential infections.

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The body has a natural 24-hour circadian rhythm that never changes even if you’re a shift worker – it likes to be awake when it’s light and asleep when it’s dark.  Shift workers can often find their immunity gets depleted and that they become poorly more often (although this can be conquered to some extent by ensuring decent catch-up on lost sleep).

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Generally, eight hours sleep a night is optimum. However if you’re having trouble sleeping it’s worth getting a good bed-time routine in place. Try a warm bath with some lavender or bergamot drops, a milky drink and a good book: avoid TV and smart phones or tablets just before bed as they are too stimulating for the brain. These are just a few great ways to unwind and get the body prepared for sleep, but whatever works for you try and keep the routine consistent and go to bed at the same time each night.

IMMUNE-BOOSTING HERBS!

Two herbs that are well worth keeping at the ready to boost your immunity: Echinacea and Pelargonium.

Echinacea helps support white blood cell production, which are essential for a healthy immune system. Remember to take this herb for a couple of weeks, especially if you’ve been around people with nasty bugs or your children are in danger of bringing infections home.

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If you’re starting to feel the first signs of a cold – that slightly scratchy throat coupled with a few sneezing fits – the herb Pelargonium is particularly effective and is suitable for all the family. Pelargonium is actually one of the most widely researched herbal medicines and it has been found to have some pretty potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Start taking it at the very first signs that you might be coming down with something for best results.

IMMUNE-BOOSTING EXERCISE

It’s a fact – exercise boosts your immune system. The increase in blood flow to your cells from exercising helps to increase the production of immune-boosting cells, particularly white blood cells.  And you don’t need to be running a marathon every week for your body to benefit. In fact, just raising your heart rate for around 30 minutes a day, four to five times per week is enough to gain the beneficial effects.

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On the flip side over-exercising can actually suppress immunity; this happens soon after an intensive training session and can last for quite a few hours.  You may have noticed friends or family training for an endurance event, such as a marathon, only to end up picking up an infection or multiple infections?  Moderation is the key, and the benefits of regular exercise to your immune system are far-reaching and build over time.

So be well prepared for the cold and flu season before it gets into top gear! Taking a few simple steps can make all the difference to the health of your immune system and your body’s ability to ward off any unwanted germs.

 

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Make the most of blueberries: find out all about this nutrient-rich little berry!

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Blueberries are often called a superfood and for very good reason.  As with all berries, their power is in their beautiful rich colour and whilst they may be tiny, they pack a great nutrient punch!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us why they’re so special and reveals what’s in that vibrant blue colour! 

Three facts you might not know about blueberries:

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  • A blueberry should be dusty in colour. The ‘dust’ protects the fruit and shouldn’t be rinsed off until you’re ready to tuck in!
  • They keep you young: Blueberries are packed with free-radicals, helping to delay the ageing process
  • They’ll keep you regular: Blueberries are filled with fibre, helping everything run a little smoother from a digestion point of view!

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Blueberries have high amounts of special plant compounds called anthocyanins which are present in the lovely blue pigment.  It’s these anthocyanins that actually deliver most of blueberries’ wonderful health benefits.

BLUEBERRIES ARE ANTI-BACTERIAL

Anthocyanins contain anti-bacterial compounds which are particularly effective against some forms of the bacteria E.coli, which can spread into the bladder causing urinary tract infections, such as cystitis.

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These amazing compounds prevent infectious bacteria from attaching themselves to the bladder. These bacteria are also the main culprits of many stomach upsets, so blueberries can also help maintain a healthier digestive tract.

BLUEBERRIES ARE GREAT FOR THE HEART

Anthocyanins are also really beneficial for heart health; they help widen the blood capillaries therefore encouraging healthy blood flow around the body.  The natural fibre in blueberries also helps by encouraging the removal of ‘bad’ cholesterol (known as LDL cholesterol) from the body and as we know high cholesterol is another negative factor for heart health.

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Blueberries are high in vitamin B6 and folate which have a positive effect on reducing homocysteine – a harmful compound that can build up in the body if left unchecked and potentially cause a number of health-related issues.

BLUEBERRIES LOVE YOUR EYES

As we get older, we are more likely to suffer from age-related eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.  Whilst we can be more pre-disposed genetically to these conditions, the traditional Western diet, which is high in refined sugars, certainly doesn’t help!

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Anthocyanins have a really positive effect on the retina of the eye and help to reduce eye strain and vision loss.  In short, they help you to see much more clearly and for longer!

BLUEBERRIES LOVE YOUR FACE!

Whilst blueberries are beneficial for the skin on your whole body, it’s the wrinkles and signs of ageing on our faces that we tend to be most concerned with.

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The anthocyanins in blueberries have amazing antioxidant powers to mop up those nasty free radicals which are responsible for so much of the ageing process.  Free radicals are caused by the sun, pollution, smoking, alcohol and just general living.  The body has its own antioxidant protective mechanisms, but foods like blueberries just encourage those antioxidant processes and provide greater barriers.  So the better you’re protected the younger you’ll look, and who wouldn’t want that?!

BLUEBERRIES ARE SO VERSATILE

Blueberries are fantastically versatile!

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Add them to your porridge or cereal, your favourite cheesecake recipe, muffins (for a special treat), as an additional boost to your salad, with bananas on your pancakes, as part of a homemade muesli or with some other berries, banana and avocado to a smoothie.

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Blueberries also deliver a fantastic array of nutrients; vitamin C for great skin and immunity, vitamin K for strong bones and a healthy heart and B vitamins and copper for endless energy.  So, because blueberries have such an excellent nutrient profile, you’ll be adding a whole load of goodness to your dish.

So, embrace the ‘blue’ on your plate and enjoy all that blueberries can offer your health!

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