Fuel up and feel energised with these seasonal foods

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

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

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

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

Pears

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

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

shutterstock_298111103 pears Sept17

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

Pheasant

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

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

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

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

Brussels sprouts

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

shutterstock_86858659 sprouts and bacon Nov15

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

Chestnuts

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

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

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

Quince

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

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

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

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

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

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How important is Vitamin C to health?

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

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

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

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

Vitamin C supports immunity

shutterstock_69606442-woman-with-cold-immunity-sept16

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

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

Vitamin C is a key antioxidant

shutterstock_268257674 antioxidants crate Apr15

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

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

Vitamin C is essential for collagen production

shutterstock_352168949 beautiful woman skin May16

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

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

Vitamin C is needed for a healthy heart

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

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

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

Vitamin C helps reduce allergic reactions

shutterstock_427985134-allergy-sept16

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

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

What are the best sources of vitamin C?

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

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

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How to reduce your sugar intake

shutterstock_280752443 eat less sugar July16

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

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

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

What is sugar?

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

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

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

Ditch fizzy drinks

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

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

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

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

Avoid fruit juice

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

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

Get used to no sugar in tea or coffee

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

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

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

Become a food label detective

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

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

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

Try to avoid unnecessary sugars

Small,Cakes,With,Different,Stuffing

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

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

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

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Five ways to eat healthily on a budget

An,Elegant,Woman,Is,Reading,The,Shopping,Lists,On,Her

With food prices going through the roof, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to balance the weekly food bill, whilst maintaining a healthy diet.

With nutrition being the cornerstone to health and wellness, it’s one area where we need to find ways of keeping costs in check, without missing out on essential nutrients.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five great ideas for eating on a budget, whilst keeping body, mind, and pocket happy!

Batch-cook for the week

Cooking in bulk is a great way of saving money and it means you’ll always have meals available, rather than having to eat expensive takeaways or grabbing something on the run.

Batch,Cooking,Text,Written,On,Slate,With,Take,Away,Dishes

Meals such as lentil spaghetti bolognaise is high in protein – very filling for a hungry family and can easily be batch cooked and then frozen. Many dishes, especially curries and stews, often taste better after freezing.

Maximise your nutrients

Pasta and rice are often meal staples and can really bulk out other ingredients.  However, it’s all about getting as much bang for your buck when it comes to nutrients, therefore ensuring the pasta and rice are delivering on all fronts.

Whole,Grain,Pasta,With,Cheese,,Tomato,And,Basil

It’s important, therefore, to choose ‘brown’ rather than ‘white’ because you’re going to get so many more nutrients.  Importantly whole grain or brown rice and pasta retain their B-vitamins which are essential for energy production.  Whole grain foods are also rich in much needed minerals such as magnesium which will help us through stressful times.  If the family resist the brown varieties, try going half and half by mixing it with white rice or pasta initially.

Get seasonal and go for roots

Eating foods in season should be cheaper and produce bought in farmers’ markets tend to be better value.  During the winter months, root vegetables such as swede, turnips, potatoes, leeks, parsnips, and butternut squash are all available, are energy dense and great for feeding a family cheaply.

Root,Crops,,Carrots,,Parsley,Root,,Turnip,,Onion,,Garlic,,Jerusalem,Artichoke,

How about a butternut squash curry using plenty of filling root vegetables?  Potatoes always work well in curries and if you add some chickpeas, as an idea, you’ll also be getting that all-important protein.

Buy dried versions rather than tinned

Beans and lentils are great sources of protein which can be purchased ‘dry’ and in bulk and are incredibly cost effective.  Not only are they great sources of protein, but beans and lentils are high in fibre so keep the digestive tract in good working order.

Bowls,Of,Legumes,,Lentils,,Chickpeas,,Beans,,Rice,And,Cereals,On

Many people do have issues with beans and their digestion!  This is because we often lack sufficient amylase enzyme, which helps break down starches.  The more you eat these kinds of foods, the greater the body’s natural production.

Dried beans and lentils just need to be soaked before cooking but by avoiding the tinned varieties, you’ll generally avoid unwanted sugars, salt, and preservatives whilst also saving money.

Look for ‘ugly’ fruit and veg

Many supermarkets have ranges of ‘ugly’ or ‘wonky’ fruits and vegetables.  However, these less attractive specimens are no less nutritious and are considerably cheaper. People often reduce the amount of fresh produce they buy during tough times, but hopefully this will help to stretch the budget further.

Ugly,Vegetables,In,Wicker,Basket,,Wooden,Background,,Copy,Space.

And don’t forget frozen fruits and vegetables which can often be purchased in large bags and are cheaper portion for portion.

What’s on the menu?

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes

Eggs are still a very cost-effective and versatile food which are high in protein.  They make one of the best starts to the day.

Lunch

View,Of,Crispy,Fish,Steak,,Fish,Fingers,Or,Strips,Served

Many of us love fish fingers so why don’t you make your own using a cheap white fish such as pollock and some homemade breadcrumbs (just bread, eggs and seasoning).  You’ll also be avoiding any preservatives and E numbers in the frozen varieties.

Dinner

Turkey,Casserole,With,Broccoli,,Rice,And,Crumbled,Crackers

We know that pasta is cost-effective for feeding the family, so why not make a tuna pasta bake and add some fresh or frozen broccoli and peas?  And don’t forget to use brown pasta too! This is a great meal providing your macronutrients and many micronutrients too.

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Eat your way to calm: nutrition and herbal support for anxiety

Close,Up,Of,Calm,Young,Woman,Relax,On,Couch,With

The word ‘anxiety’ seems to be omnipresent in many people’s vocabulary right now. There are, of course, many reasons for this and anxiety affects us all differently.

Feeling anxious can creep up on all of us at some point in our lives. It’s important, therefore, to have tools to deal with these feelings, and we can turn to nutrition for some answers.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top nutrients and herbs that can help to calm the nerves and manage stress.

Magnesium

Known as one of our calming minerals, magnesium can certainly help when life becomes overwhelming.  This is because, as part of its many functions, magnesium is important for a good working nervous system. It is also key in many biochemical reactions related to the production of brain neurotransmitters.

A range of foods containing magnesium

A large percentage of people are deficient in magnesium because it’s found in foods that many don’t eat in sufficient quantities, namely leafy greens, and whole grains.  Plus, magnesium is further depleted when we’re stressed.

Make sure your diet is full of magnesium-rich foods including avocados, nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens such as spinach and kale. It’s good to supplement with the magnesium glycinate form, especially before bedtime, if sleep is an issue for you.

Vitamin B6

Just like the family of B-vitamins, vitamin B6 works extremely hard for us in keeping hundreds of our biochemical reactions in good working order.

Vitamin B6 is essential for keeping us calm because it’s needed to produce our key neurotransmitters, namely serotonin and dopamine.  Serotonin is often referred to as our ‘happy hormone’ because it’s needed for mood and motivation. Dopamine is more about stimulating our reward mechanisms, allowing us to feel pleasure and satisfaction.  These feelings also lead to calm and reduced feelings of anxiety.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 works alongside magnesium in keeping the nervous system in good working order.  Foods that are rich in vitamin B6 include liver, tuna, fortified cereals, chickpeas, poultry, and salmon.  Whilst organ meats aren’t for everyone, liver does provide some amazing nutritional benefits, also being rich in vitamin A, essential for the immune system.  It’s worth a try for sure!

Ashwagandha

An adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha is one that can really encourage those feelings of calm and discourage anxiety. Adaptogens aid the body through stressful times but can also help when energy and mental focus are issues.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

Adaptogens such as ashwagandha have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, a practice that is known to be gentle and healing.

Ashwagandha needs to be taken as a supplement and is readily available in the health food shops.

L-Theanine

L-Theanine is an amino acid which is found mainly in plants and especially in green tea.  It has also been isolated in supplement form in order that we can fully benefit from its great soothing properties.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

L-theanine has been found to stimulate the relaxing neurotransmitter called GABA which is why it helps to instil calm in the body.  Interestingly, it also helps to mitigate some of the more stimulatory effects of caffeine, which can be problematic for some people.  This is why drinking green tea can help to calm the nerves.

Passionflower

Passionflower is a herb that also helps to increase levels of GABA in the brain. GABA appears to reduce activity of certain brain cells that might otherwise be ‘turned-on’, therefore contributing to those feelings of calm.

Close up of Passion Flower

It is, of course, important for us to function as well as possible throughout the day: poor sleep causes all kinds of issues, and also prevents us from enjoying our day as much as possible.  Importantly, passionflower can help support a good night’s sleep and of its many medicinal qualities, treating insomnia is certainly top of the list.

Passionflower can be used as a tea but is also available in supplement form for more noticeable results.

If you’re feeling anxious, then do try these nutrients and herbs.  Nature has provided us with some helpful solutions.

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The wonders of Pumpkin!

Pumpkins carved into lanterns

Pumpkins really come into their own at this time of year with Halloween around the corner. But as well as making spooky lanterns, pumpkins provide great nutritional benefit in two ways.

Whilst the flesh can be used in soups or as a delicious side dish, the seeds are just as nutritious.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the wonders of this amazing vegetable.

Pumpkin is also known as winter squash (one of them being ‘butternut’) and is technically a fruit as it contains seeds (more on this later). Its nutritional value is immense, and its culinary uses versatile in either sweet or savoury dishes. However, these nutritional benefits do very much depend on how the pumpkin is used. Pumpkin spiced lattes may taste great but don’t provide any nutritional value!

Interestingly, pumpkins are often used as weaning foods for babies as they’re non-allergenic, provide good energy and great nutritional value.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, then hopefully lentils will already feature in your diet.  They are an amazing source of plant protein and can easily be incorporated into many dishes.

Nutritional benefits of pumpkin

The flesh of pumpkin is rich in beta carotene which is turned into vitamin A as the body needs it.  Vitamin A is essential for vision, by keeping it sharp and also helping to prevent macular degeneration, which impairs sight. It’s also essential for the immune system, helping the body to fight infections and for protecting the intestinal lining against unwanted invaders. Beta carotene is also an important antioxidant, helping protect the body from the ageing process, especially for the skin. Importantly, since vitamin A can only be found in animal produce, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, then pumpkins can provide a great source of this key vitamin in the form of beta carotene.

a pumpkin cut into pieces

Pumpkin is also rich in potassium, which is essential for the heart and regulating blood pressure. It provides useful amounts of magnesium (essential for the smooth running of most of the body systems) and iron (another super-busy mineral and essential for immunity and energy).

If you’re looking to lose a little weight before the Christmas period starts, then pumpkin could really support your overall plan.  The reason being that it can help keep blood sugar levels in balance, which is a key factor with any weight loss programme.

How to use pumpkin

Fresh,Cooked,Pumpkin,Soup,Served,In,A,Pumpkin.,Stuffed,Pumpkin.

One of the best ways to cook pumpkin is stuffed! The top needs to be chopped off, seeds scooped out and then the pumpkin is rubbed with olive oil and roasted in the over for around 45 minutes.  Once it’s cooked, you can fill it with anything that takes your fancy.  How about rice, chopped walnuts, pomegranate seeds, lemon, sliced apple, and garlic?  The mixture needs to be cooked first and then returned to the oven.  A great vegan Halloween treat!

What about those all-important seeds?

Pumpkin seeds make a great, low-calorie snack. And because they’re high in protein, they help to banish hunger pangs and stabilise blood sugar levels.  Cravings then become less, and energy is more sustained. Indeed, pumpkin seed butter on oatcakes makes a really tasty, satisfying snack.

Importantly, they are high in the essential omega 3 and 6 fats that the body can’t make so need to be taken in via the diet. Both provide many health benefits, especially for the skin and heart.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

However, many of pumpkin seeds’ health benefits germinate from their great vitamin and mineral profile, especially of zinc, which is often deficient in typical western-style diets.  Additionally, pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, which are essential for protecting the body against life’s onslaughts.

Interestingly, pumpkin seeds contain lignans which have antimicrobial properties, therefore are especially protective of the gut.

Pumpkin seeds are very easy to include in the diet; they make a great snack, can be added to salad dishes, or sprinkled on your morning porridge or why not try roasting and sprinkling over vegetable recipes for some added crunch.

Pumpkin makes a very tasty and nutritious addition to your Halloween menu and beyond. 

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Menopause nutrition: what to eat to help support your transition

shutterstock_157003715 middle aged woman smiling Nov15

As with most health issues, they can be multifactorial and sometimes take a while to get to grips with.  This is certainly true when talking about menopause.

With over 30 possible symptoms associated with menopause, finding hormonal harmony in this often-difficult life stage, can sometimes be tough.  However, a change of diet can be very powerful and effective.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five foods than might help to bring hormonal harmony into your life.

Lentils

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, then hopefully lentils will already feature in your diet.  They are an amazing source of plant protein and can easily be incorporated into many dishes.

Importantly, lentils are a rich source of phytoestrogens, plant foods that naturally contain properties that help balance oestrogen levels.  Phytoestrogens are chemically similar to the hormone oestrogen, hence their effectiveness.  Oestrogen levels naturally fall as women approach menopause and beyond, and it’s this issue that takes most of the responsibility for many of the associated symptoms.

Red,Lentils,Dal,In,Black,Bowl,On,Dark,Slate,Table

If you’ve not used lentils before, then why not make some delicious and filling lentil soup, which is great for colder days. Importantly the protein content of lentils will keep you feeling satiated for much longer than a purely carbohydrate-based meal.

Flaxseeds

Also referred to as linseeds, flaxseeds tend to be the ground version which are great to eat during menopause. Why? Flaxseeds are especially rich in lignans which also have phytoestrogenic properties.

A spoon full of flax seeds

Additionally, flaxseeds are rich in the essential omega-3 fats which become even more essential during this life phase. Therefore, flaxseeds are great for hormone balance, can help reduce hot flushes and are very supportive of brain health; brain fog can be especially troublesome for women during this time.  Sprinkle some flaxseeds on your cereal, natural yoghurts or put into a smoothie every day, for best effect.

Oily fish

Oily fish which includes salmon, sardines and mackerel are a great source of those all-essential omega-3s.  However, it’s oily fish with bones, particularly sardines, that also provide a good source of vitamin D, very much needed for the menopause years. Levels of vitamin D really drop in the UK population during the winter months causing low mood, amongst other problems.

A range of foods containig omega 3 fats

Production of vitamin D is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin, our happy hormone, and a big issue for many women going through menopause is low mood and anxiety.  It follows, therefore, that having more vitamin D in the diet is really important for women’s hormonal health, not to mention for the bones and teeth.  However, it’s not possible to get sufficient vitamin D just from oily fish alone during the winter months, so supplementation is essential.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a member of the wonderful family of cruciferous vegetables which provide a myriad of health benefits, too long to mention them all.

However, for women struggling with menopause, broccoli can really come into its own.  Broccoli (and all cruciferous vegetables) can play a major role in the body’s detoxification processes, including of oestrogen.  This is important because the body needs to eliminate ‘old ‘oestrogens at the end of each cycle so toxins don’t build in the body and cause more symptoms.

Fresh,Broccoli,Soup

Broccoli is also very effective at helping the liver to detoxify.  This is hugely important during menopause, as the body needs to expel oestrogens from the environment, known as xenoestrogens, that can cause even more imbalance and severe hormonal disruption.

Enjoy some broccoli (plus cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale) as often as possible.

Natural yoghurt

As with all aspects of our health, the digestive system features at every level.  If digestion is not working correctly, then nothing else will.  This is especially true when talking about hormonal issues. Constipation can be a major problem during menopause, hence digestive health is key.

A bowl of natural yoghurt on a wooden background

Natural yoghurt is rich in probiotics, those all-important friendly bacteria that live within us and fulfil many different functions, including bowel regularity.  They are fed by vegetables which are known as prebiotics.  Another great reason for eating lots of broccoli!

Natural yoghurt is great for breakfast or with some fruit after a meal.  Make sure you choose live yoghurt and especially those varieties without sugar or sweeteners.

Changing your diet is one of the first steps in addressing menopause misery and it can make a real difference to symptoms.

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Nutritional tips to support brain function

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

Having a foggy brain is not uncommon and can affect people at any age.  However, brain function does noticeably decline in our 50s and accelerates as we get older. The good news is that we can do so much to support brain function and the sooner we start the better. 

The brain uses about 25% of all the energy we take in as food. It is a highly complex organ and acts as the command centre for the nervous system; as such it needs a wide range of nutrients to effectively perform its many functions.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares three of her top nutrients to help support your brain.

Omega-3 fish oils

Omega 3s play a key role in brain health.  The brain is made up of 60% fat, much of which are the essential omegas (essential because the body can’t make them, so they need to feature in the diet). In general, the UK population has a lack of these through not eating enough in the diet.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

Deficiency is mainly down to omega-3s only being found predominantly in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines – foods that are not widely eaten.  Omega-3s are also found in flaxseeds, nuts, and seeds but they have to be eaten very regularly to obtain what the body needs.

Ideally aim for one to two portions of oily fish every week and sprinkle at least one tablespoon of flaxseeds onto your cereal, yoghurt or in a smoothie every day.  Your brain will certainly thank you for it.

Zinc

The mineral zinc is one of the busiest, being involved in around 300 different enzyme reactions in the body.  Zinc is significant when it comes to brain health because it’s needed for the production of those all-important brain neurotransmitters.  These include serotonin, needed for mood and motivation, and melatonin, essential for sleep.  Zinc is also used in the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, essential neurotransmitters for the stress response.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

In short, the brain can’t function without zinc.  Minerals are often referred to as ‘trace minerals’: they are of course needed in small amounts but are crucial to overall health.  Therefore, the diet should ideally be rich in foods containing zinc – think wholegrains, fish, meat, nuts, seeds, and eggs.  The best source of zinc is oysters, so never worry about enjoying them more regularly rather than as a treat.

It’s not that difficult to be slightly lacking in zinc, with white spots on the nails being a tell-tale deficiency sign.  General hormonal disruptions can also be a nudge that you need to eat more zinc-rich foods.

Vitamin B12

The family of B-vitamins all work together but vitamin B12 does stand out as one of the key members when it comes to brain health.  This is because it plays a role in one of the body’s most important biochemical reactions known as methylation.  Whilst it’s not necessary to understand methylation, it’s important to know that it can’t happen without vitamin B12, nor can the brain work correctly.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

As part of this biochemical process, memories are formed, and concentration and focus are achieved. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal produce, and in some fortified foods such as cereals.  Meat, fish, dairy, and eggs are the best sources, so vegetarians and vegans should consider taking a supplement to ensure the brain’s not missing out.

If your brain is feeling foggy or you’re lacking in energy (another sign you may be deficient in B12) then it might be time to increase your intake.

The brain is certainly a nutrient-hungry organ, but eating enough of these three nutrients is a really good start.

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Three nutrients to support your immunity this winter

Close up of a doctor holding a blackboard with Immune System written on it in chalk

It’s feeling decidedly chilly outside!  Unfortunately, winter is not too far away and with that normally comes the round of colds and infections.  And we’re being warned that we could face lots of bugs this winter. 

However, fore-warned is fore-armed in these situations so now is the perfect time to ensure you’re giving your body what it needs to fight off any invaders.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her three top immune-supportive nutrients.

Vitamin D

This one has to be at the top of the list! We’ve learned so much more about vitamin D during and since the Covid pandemic, especially in terms of how essential it is for the immune system.

Clearly, we’ve had a good summer, during which time the body restore its reserves of vitamin D, as the sunlight hits the skin.  However, not everyone is in the sun, and it’s not clear just how much the body stores, and reserves are certainly not going to last all winter.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in eggs, oily fish, mushrooms and dairy produce and some fortified foods.  However, it’s not in sufficient amounts and the body still needs to convert that vitamin D into the active D3 form which takes place in the kidneys.  It’s no surprise therefore that it is recommended that everyone takes a supplement of at least 10 micrograms through the darker, colder months of October to March.  This is the minimum amount to take – you may find you need to take much higher dosages, which is why it’s worth having your blood levels of vitamin D checked.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a real powerhouse within the immune system. It fulfils many functions but essentially supports the production of immune-fighting white blood cells.  Vitamin C is water-soluble which means it leaves the cells quite quickly, hence it needs to feature in the diet very regularly.

It’s good to know, therefore, that vitamin C is widely found in fruits and vegetables.  In fact, it’s in so many that there’s no real need to over-complicate things by picking and choosing those with the highest amounts!

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

The best advice is to include plenty of colour in your meals and in this way, you’ll be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and therefore essential nutrients. This is so important for health and, especially immunity, because fruits and vegetables are loaded with powerful antioxidants which help to protect the body.

The more stressed you are, the more Vitamin C is burned up by the body so if this sounds like you, you may find that it is helpful to take in even more Vitamin C by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables.

Zinc

One of the reasons why zinc makes its way onto the immune powerhouse list is because it’s involved in almost every aspect of immune function. Without sufficient zinc, many white blood cell functions, critical to immunity, stop working.

Just like vitamin C, zinc possesses anti-viral activity so it can help protect us against colds and flu.  However, the body needs zinc all the time within the body in order to do its work properly.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Zinc is widely available in plant and animal sources but not in the refined foods that many people eat in abundance.  Try to include more whole grains in the diet such as wholewheat bread and pasta, quinoa, and buckwheat, plus beans, nuts, oats, and fish.  Indeed, one of the highest food sources of zinc is oysters. So don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to eat some of these amazing aphrodisiacs!

Interestingly, zinc is involved in so many functions in the body, it can become marginally deficient quite easily.  Common signs of this are white spots on the fingernails, frequent infections, hormonal disruptions, poor taste and smell, and skin problems.

Start your winter immune preparations now and hopefully you’ll have an infection-free season

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Fuel your exercise: nutrition to support your fitness regime

Woman in work out gear pausing to drink a bottle of water

We all know how important it is to take regular exercise.  It is recommended that we aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week, which equates to 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. And hopefully some fresh air too!

Fuelling ourselves with the right nutrition will help produce the best results when it comes to fitness.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five nutrition tips for fuelling your activity.

Protein

When talking about exercise and protein in the same sentence, it often gets muddled with ‘body building’. However, protein is not just for those throwing lots of steel around, it’s for all of us!  Protein is essential for building strong muscles and bones but is also very important for repair after exercise too.  Interestingly, we often underestimate the amount of protein required for optimal wellness. So how much do we need?

A range of foods containing protein

It does really depend on the amount of exercise you’re doing.  If you lead a reasonably active life, then aiming for 1.2g of protein per kg of body weight is a good average.  Some days it may be more, some days a little less but it’s important to try and eat protein at every meal.  The good news is there are plenty of options: meat, fish, cheese, eggs, lentils, beans, dairy produce, nuts, seeds and poultry are all good options.

Healthy fats

Seeing the words ‘healthy’ and ‘fat’ in the same sentence can often be confusing. True, having a diet that is high in saturated fats such as meat, cheese and butter is not recommended but it’s important to have plenty of healthy fats in your diet (aim for around 20-30% of overall calorie intake).

shutterstock_417907156-healthy-good-fats-oct16

Healthy fats are the essential omegas found in fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, nut butters and eggs.  Fat is needed for the body to absorb our fat-soluble nutrients, especially the all-important vitamin D, essential for muscles and bones. It is also an important energy source for the body.  When it comes to exercise, fat is an important part of nutritional balance, so include some healthy fats in your diet every day.

Carbohydrates

In broad terms, carbs are broken down into glucose, which is used as our main energy source, especially for the brain.  However, the body can run pretty much exclusively on fat in the case of ketogenic diets but does need some training to be efficient.

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When it comes to general exercise, carbohydrates provide great fuel and often in the form of easy snacks.  We often forget that fruits and vegetables are carbs and of course these should feature highly in the daily diet.  Plus, the more you exercise, the more free radicals are produced, so we need plenty of antioxidants in the diet, which fruit and vegetables provide.

If you’re going for a long walk or run, for example, then you may need to take a snack to keep you going.  Bananas are great snacks because they provide glucose and some fructose, that can be quickly absorbed.

Hydration

We so often forget the importance of being properly hydrated, not just for exercise but for daily life.  In a ‘normal’ day, we should really be drinking 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, as a minimum. However, if you’re going to exercise, try to drink around 500ml in the couple of hours before you start.  Dehydration can be a big issue when it comes to exercise performance.

Top exercise foods

Whilst a varied, balanced diet is essential for a healthy lifestyle, and especially if you’re exercising, we can always harness the power of nature by eating more foods that give you some extra energy.

First up is beetroot which specifically helps to power endurance exercise.  It’s primarily down to beetroot’s ability to produce nitric oxide in the body, which dilates the blood vessels allowing more oxygen to pass through.

shutterstock_86000653-beetroot-juice-detox-sept16

Flaxseeds are another winner to sprinkle onto your morning cereal or oats; they are loaded with omega-3s which help manage inflammation in the body, therefore reducing the risk of injury and improving exercise recovery.

A spoon full of flax seeds

Lastly, why not load up with some pumpkin seeds?  They’re a great source of zinc and iron, both needed for immune support. Iron is also essential for the production of red blood cells, essential to transport oxygen around the body.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

So, fuel your body well and get the most out of your exercise!

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

All images: Shutterstock