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


Close up of a woman holding a bunch of fresh asparagus

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

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

So, what’s in season right now?

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



shutterstock_552099742 rhubarb Apr17

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

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

shutterstock_577640623 strawberry and rhubarb crumble July17

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

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


shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

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

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

Home made kale chips in a dish

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


A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

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

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

Spinach omelette in pan on breakfast table

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

Passion Fruit

Passion fruits

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

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


Close up of a woman holding a bunch of fresh asparagus

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

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


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

Enjoy exploring seasonal fruit and veg this Spring!



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Five dietary tips to increase your energy this spring

A happy woman in from of a blossom tree showing spring time

As we come into spring, there’s generally a sigh of relief that winter is over, there’s more light and generally more warmth too.  Hopefully, this also encourages energy levels but with many people suffering from ‘tired all the time’ (TATT) and still lots of nasty bugs floating around, many of us are not feeling our best. 

However, there are many dietary changes that you can make to help get your energy levels back on track.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top nutritional tips for getting ready for spring.


Keep it clean

There’s much written about ‘clean eating’, but what does that actually mean?  Essentially, it means eating foods as close to their natural state as possible. The body needs nutrients to fuel its biochemistry which all come from the food we eat.  Food is not just about fuelling us: the individual micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – each play an essential role in keeping us well.  It makes sense, therefore, that the more nutrients we take in, the better we will feel.

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

Eating cleanly can take a little more planning, but it’s important to think about each meal as an opportunity to take nutrients on board. If you think about grains, those that haven’t been processed are going to yield far more nutrients than those that have, especially the all-important B-vitamins which provide essential energy. Therefore, avoid anything processed and white such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, and white sugar.

Stay well hydrated

It’s such a simple thing, but it’s one that we often miss.  If you’re dehydrated at a cellular level, you’re likely to feel sluggish, plus the brain will not be firing as it should.

Aim to drink around 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily if possible.  It’s great to drink fruit and herbal teas but water, perhaps with fresh lemon or ginger, tends to hydrate us better.  If you’re doing lots of exercise, then it is even more important to keep well hydrated.

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

Try to get into the habit of having a glass of water on your desk or taking bottled water with you wherever you go.  If you keep sipping throughout the day, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll meet the target.

Cut down on caffeine

Whilst caffeine gives us a quick boost of energy, the rate that energy levels drop afterwards is surprisingly quick, which is why we then reach for another caffeine hit and the cycle continues throughout the day.  Essentially, caffeine upsets blood sugar levels which ideally need to be stable throughout the day, rather than rocking and rolling. Over time, if we’re constantly challenging this mechanism, the body tends to feel more and more exhausted. 


Try to keep a lid on the caffeinated drinks and limit them to one in the morning and then change to decaf or other drinks through the rest of the day.  As your body regulates, you’ll find less reliance on caffeine.  Plus, if the body is better nourished generally, energy levels should improve as well.

Feed the inner you

We obviously can’t see what’s going on inside, but we can see and feel the effects of poor nutrition on the outside.  The body produces energy in the mitochondria of the cells – think of them as a spark plugs in a car! Clearly our cells need a wide range of nutrients to work efficiently, but one key nutrient is CoQ10 which we can obtain from foods.


Whole grains, organ meats and oily fish are especially rich in C0Q10 so try to include them in your diet regularly.  Obviously, energy production is not just about one nutrient which is why it’s important to keep the diet as varied as possible.

Keep it colourful

As a nutritionist, I’m always talking about eating a colourful and varied diet.  This is because when there’s more colour on the plate, there are also more nutrients and nutrients mean energy!


Fruits and vegetables are especially rich in nutrients, so do try to include as many different ones as possible throughout the day.  They are rich in those all-important B-vitamins which we need for energy, but also vitamin C, also used for energy and keeping the immune system in good shape.  How about including some dark berries for breakfast, carrots, peppers and celery at lunchtime and broccoli and sweet potatoes for dinner?

So, get fired up and ready for Spring with some of these energy-giving dietary tips.


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Can changing my diet and lifestyle help my sleep?

Woman asleep in bed

The short answer is yes! Getting a good nights’ sleep is an omnipresent problem for far too many people. 

There’s much research to suggest the importance of getting between seven to nine hours sleep per night which, for many, is difficult.  However, sleep patterns can be improved by making some diet and lifestyle tweaks.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top sleep hacks.


Cut the caffeine

We all know that caffeine is a stimulant and for many of us, it’s something that helps us get through the day.  However, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a cycle of having a poor nights’ sleep, and then using more and more caffeinated drinks the next day to get you through.

If you’re struggling with sleep, then caffeine is not going to help.  And we can often become more sensitive to caffeine as we get older.  Women going through menopause can certainly suffer more by having caffeine. So how can you consume less?


Over a period of a couple of weeks, gradually cut down and then cut out caffeinated drinks.  Switch to decaf tea and coffee, which does still have a small amount of caffeine but is greatly reduced.  The coffee shop shots often contain vast amounts too! Even though you may not have been drinking caffeinated drinks before bedtime, having them at any time of the day influences the nervous system and consequently sleep.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

Ideally, try and go for herbal teas. Green tea can help with sleep as it contains an amino acid called theanine which has a calming effect.

Avoid cardio exercise in the evening

Exercise is a very important part of daily life but it’s often difficult to fit in during the day with work and other schedules to juggle. However, heavy cardio exercise stimulates cortisol which can then take a while to settle, which may mean you’re counting sheep into the wee small hour afterwards.

shutterstock_249902236 woman running and smiling Sept15If possible, try to do exercise in the morning.  There is another very good reason for this: exercising outside in the bright morning light stimulates the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone, later in the day.


Eat to support your sleep

The body essentially produces the sleep hormone, melatonin, from the amino acid tryptophan found in foods.  When planning your evening meal think about including some chicken, eggs, oats, fish, pumpkin seeds, almonds, or eggs.

Chicken breast with side salad representing balanced mealHowever, it’s also important to have foods throughout the day that keep blood sugar levels in balance.  When blood sugar is out of whack then it can trigger the release of cortisol. This is our stress hormone, which can create more anxiety, restlessness, and irritability, none of which are conducive to a good night’s sleep! 


Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberriesSo, think about having an oat-based breakfast, such as overnight oats which is quick and easy to prepare the night before. Go for a salmon or tuna salad for lunch and grilled chicken breast with veggies for dinner.  If you’re vegan, soy is also a good source of tryptophan, so a tofu stir fry would be a great option.

Get into a routine

The body loves a routine.  It has a natural circadian rhythm, and all body processes happen in a routine too.  For example, the liver carries out most of its detoxification processes at around 2 am whether you’re asleep or not. Therefore, having a bedtime routine is important too. 

CLose up of a woman relaxing in the bath reading a book, surrounded by candlesTurn off and don’t look at electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.  Decide what works for you in terms of having a warm bath with some lavender oil, reading a book, meditating or other relaxation techniques.  The important point is to stick to a routine and try to keep regular bed and waking times too. And whilst alcohol might seem like a sedative, it is known to disrupt sleep patterns and is often the cause of early morning waking.

Practice deep breathing


Of all the relaxation practices, deep breathing is probably one of the most effective.  Plus, it costs nothing, and it doesn’t take much time either!

Woman with legs crossed sitting on bed meditatingDeep breaths need to start from the belly.  You might want to lie down and put your hand on your belly to ensure this is happening until you get used to the feeling.  Initially, just try breathing in for four seconds and breathing out to the same intensity for four seconds. In essence, you are regulating your breathing in and out.  As you get more practice, then try to do this for 6 seconds each way.  The important point here is not to over think it – just concentrate on the breath.  After a couple of minutes, you’ll certainly start to feel calmer.  Try doing this for five minutes every day before settling down to sleep – you’ll be amazed by the results!

Try these tips and hopefully you will sleep well tonight.


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The importance of eating more vegetables this National Nutrition Month

shutterstock_583532458 nutrition word cloud heart Mar21

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

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

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


Why vegetables?

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

A range of vegetables to represent fibre in the diet

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

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

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

Super spinach

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

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

Stir fries

FResh vegetable stir fry in a wok

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

Go for the wonky vegetables


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

Try frozen

shutterstock_295634081 frozen veg Nov15

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

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

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

Vitamin C

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

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


A range of foods containing magnesium

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

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

How to make vegetables more appealing


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

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



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Three top nutrients to support your energy this winter


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

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

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


Vitamin B12

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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Take care of your heart this Valentine’s Week

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

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

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

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


Load up on vitamin C

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

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

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

Keep the heart well oiled

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

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

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

Cut down on sugar

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

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

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

Show your heart some gratitude

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

A close up of a typewriter with the word gratitude typed

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

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

Breathe some fresh air every day

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

shutterstock_218997220 woman walking trainers Mar18

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

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

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


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Suzie’s top foods to help increase your energy levels


Food is of course our main source of fuel and energy.  So, giving your diet the thought it deserves on a daily basis is very important.

The quality and variety of the food we eat is critical to our overall wellbeing which includes energy production.

To help you on your way, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five energising foods to keep you going all day long!

Whole grain bagels

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Delicious, versatile, and low in fat, whole grain bagels provide a great energy boost.  Whether you start the day with a toasted bagel with scrambled eggs, or with some low-fat cream cheese and smoked salmon at lunchtime they will really hit the spot!

Whole grain foods are naturally high in energising B-vitamins because they haven’t been highly refined.  They also contain plenty of minerals, especially magnesium, which is needed for energy production too.


A healthy breakfast of eggs, smoked salmon and avocado

You might not associate a high protein food like eggs with energy.  However, protein keeps blood sugar levels in check, and so too energy levels.  In fact, having some eggs at breakfast really helps to keep energy levels sustained all-day long. Eggs are not only high in protein but also rich in energising iron and B-vitamins.

The great news is that there are many ways to eat eggs, so you’ll never get bored of having the same meal. Scrambled, fried, poached, as an omelette or frittata, or even as French toast where bread is dipped in egg and lightly fried – the options are endless. 

Sweet potatoes


Whilst all types of potatoes are great for providing energy, sweet potatoes have the slight edge on nutrient content, but also for keeping blood sugar levels in balance. This in turn will provide sustained energy for longer.

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is made into vitamin A in the body, and helps protect the immune system too. And sweet potatoes can be prepared and eaten in exactly the same way as white potatoes.  Plus, if you eat them with some protein, energy levels will soar all day long.  It’s time to enjoy a jacket sweet potato with tuna as an easy, low-fat lunch or quick evening meal.


Chickpea salad with feta

Chickpeas are a legume which are high in both protein and good carbs.  And they’re certainly a perfect food for vegans.  In terms of energy, chickpeas are great because they’re packed with B-vitamins, especially folate, alongside iron, magnesium, and copper.  Furthermore, they’re rich in fibre so they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer and well as keeping your energy levels high.

If you’re struggling to decide how to eat them, then why not try this delicious and easy recipe for even more energy.  The addition of iron-rich spinach makes it the perfect lunch or dinner choice.


Whole bananas and diced banana

No wonder we often see athletes eating bananas before, during or after an event or match. Bananas provide an instant pick-me-up, especially when energy levels are flagging.  Even better, they’ll keep you fuelled up because bananas are high in fibre so energy levels will be sustained.

Bananas are also a great food for exercise recovery because they provide electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, which are lost during exercise.  The quicker you can recover from a heavy workout, the sooner you’ll have the energy for another session. And if you’re thinking of eating them as an easy breakfast, then do add some protein in the form of natural yoghurt for an even great energy hit.

So, up your energy levels with Suzie’s five easy ways of keeping you fuelled and ready to go for longer!

Stay well.


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Winter wellbeing: how to support your health this season

Close up of woman's hands holding a bowl of warming soup

It’s that time of year when we often feel slightly under par, or worse, succumb to an infection of some kind.  The winter months can take their toll on the body in more ways than one. 

However, if we pay good attention to the body’s nutritional needs during this time, we can sail through and spring into the next season in better shape, both mentally and physically.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five ways of keeping healthy, strong, and positive during the winter months.


Keep the body warm internally

Obviously, when it’s cold on the outside, we need to warm the body from the inside.  This not only makes life more comfortable, but it provides what the body naturally craves.  If it’s not provided, the body will become more stressed if its needs aren’t met.


Nature is of course very clever, and provides plenty of nutrient-dense, carbohydrate-rich root vegetables during the winter months to support energy levels and provide the wealth of nutrients the body needs.  It’s the very reason why we tend to crave warming soups and stews when it’s cold outside.  Parsnips, turnips, white potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are all readily available and waiting to be eaten.

shutterstock_512603368 chilli con carne Mar17

Additionally, there are plenty of warming herbs and spices the body loves at this time of year too, including ginger and garlic which are great for the immune system. Turmeric is excellent for the liver and joints and chilli peppers certainly provide internal warmth.  

So, get the slow cooker out from the back of the cupboard, and chop as many root vegetables as you can into your stew or soup, to really support your body this winter.

Eat plenty of Vitamin C rich foods

Vitamin C is an especially hardworking vitamin and is essential for protecting the immune system. We certainly need to be supporting immunity as much as possible through the winter months in order to avoid the myriad infections floating around us.

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Vitamin C naturally helps encourage production of white blood cells (one of the main parts of the immune system) but is also antiviral and antibacterial.  The good news is that it’s widely available in most fruits and vegetables (including root vegetables), but especially in red peppers, citrus fruits, berries, and green leafy vegetables.

A green smoothie

So, load up your plate with lots of colour variety – the more the merrier.  You might also want to consider juicing to increase vitamin C intake; apple, beetroot, ginger, spinach, and carrot make a tasty, nutrient-packed combination.

Get some herbal help

We know that nature has provided some amazing herbs in its medicine chest.  Top of the list is the herb echinacea which has been used for thousands of years to help fight off colds and infections.  However, it’s much more effective when used as a preventative of colds and flu and many people take it throughout the winter months, especially if they find themselves around lots of unwell people.

Echinacea flower and tea

Echinacea has many modes of action, but essentially, it increases the number of natural killer cells in the immune system, helping the body fight off unwanted invaders. Try these effervescent tablets.

Take exercise in the fresh air

It’s important to take exercise all year round; it not only uprates the immune response, but helps lift our mood, which is very important during the dark, winter months.


When it’s cold and wet outside, it’s often difficult to get motivated.  However, the benefits of exercising in the cold, whether running, walking or cycling, are not only going to make you feel better, but you’ll also burn more calories as the body tries to maintain its normal body temperature.

Additionally, if you can face the hot/cold ‘medicine’, then research is very clear that using a sauna and then plunging into a cold pool can be really beneficial for the immune system.

Protect yourself with red, green, and orange foods

Why?  Because they are all rich sources of carotenoids.  These are a group of nutrients which includes probably one of the more well-known, beta-carotene.  The carotenoids are powerful antioxidants so not only keep us looking younger but support the immune system too.

A range of colourful fruit and vegetablesThere are plenty of carotenoid-rich foods around at this time of year including spinach, kale, pink grapefruit, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and carrots.  Try to include at least one in your diet every day during the winter months.  And the carotenoids also protect against sun damage, so eating more of these foods now can help to protect you through the summer months too.


And finally, don’t forget to take your vitamin D supplement throughout the winter for great immune support too!


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The essential Vitamin D – why is it so important?

Vitamin D and a sunshine symbol written in the sand

Over the last couple of years, there’s been an increasing buzz around vitamin D.  And for very good reason. 

We’ve always known that vitamin D works with calcium to support healthy bones and teeth but we’re only really understanding just how essential it is for the immune system too.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares why vitamin D is so important for so many aspects of our health.


What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it’s primarily produced on the skin in the presence of sunlight.  However, The Department of Health have acknowledged that a massive 40% of the UK population are deficient in vitamin D, which is putting the nation’s health at risk. 

CLose up of two hands making a heart shape with the sun in the backgroundCountries located in the Northern Hemisphere who lack sunshine, such as the UK, all have populations that are equally deficient.  And, whilst a sunny holiday can certainly boost levels, because the body can store it, high factor sun cream can block its absorption and we simply don’t get enough Vitamin D throughout the year.


What does it do?

Interestingly, vitamin D’s most important function is the metabolism of calcium; both calcium and vitamin D are vital for the health of bones and teeth.  Sunlight on the skin activates a pre-cursor to vitamin D and then it’s converted to the most active form of the vitamin – D3. 


However, it’s not just the bones and teeth that need vitamin D – it also helps to regulate the body’s immune responses, protecting us against infections such as colds and flu. Not only that, more and more great things are being discovered about vitamin D; it’s also important for muscle strength, mood and healthy blood pressure and new research is being carried out all the time.  Indeed, when the COVID virus appeared, there was so much more research on vitamin D and how it protected against poor health outcomes.  Doctors are now unequivocal about its importance for the immune system.

Can I find it in food?

The most active form of this vitamin (D3) is the one produced by the sunlight on the skin.  However, there are some food sources of vitamin D (D2) which, interestingly, are also foods high in calcium, which is very helpful. Plus, both forms of vitamin D are available in supplement form. 

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Top of the list of foods to eat are oily and bony fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and pilchards.  However, egg yolks and butter also contain vitamin D. Milk contains a little vitamin D but lots of calcium. 

There is a small amount of vitamin D in green leafy vegetables, but again, they’re a good source of calcium.

Am I getting enough?

Around 40% of the UK population are thought to be deficient in vitamin D.  This can manifest itself in a number of ways; rickets in children is becoming more prevalent, partly because of parents using strong sun cream, which is completely understandable.  However, in order to improve levels of vitamin D within the body, just exposing the face for 15 minutes a day during the winter, can help. 

Close up of a woman by the ocean

Other conditions that are worsened by a lack of vitamin D are loss of bone mineral content, making fractures more likely and also an increase in bone pain and muscle weakness.  Osteomalacia, or soft bones, is another condition on the increase in a younger age group. Women going through menopause tend to feel achier generally if they haven’t sufficient vitamin D. However, the strength of the sun is still not going to make sufficient vitamin D during the winter, so supplementation is encouraged during October to March as a minimum.

Does it keep you young?

Interestingly, research carried out in 2010[1] found that vitamin D may hold the key to long-lasting physical function.  It would seem that of those studied (around 2,788 people in total) people with higher levels of Vitamin D had much better physical function as they aged, than those with lower levels. 

Group of retired women in their 60's walking on a beach

Those with the highest levels of vitamin D were able to lead more active lives, demonstrating that it’s not just the bones that need vitamin D, but it’s needed for muscle strength and generally being able to keep physically active. Another great reason to supplement through the winter months.

Vitamin D is certainly one essential nutrient that should be shouted about so do make sure you are getting enough every day.


[1] Houston D et al, Better vitamin D status could mean better quality of life for seniors.  Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 2010 (April 26).


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Eating with the seasons: nutritional foods for January


It’s always important to eat with the seasons and as nature intended, to gain the biggest health benefits.  And for many of us, trying to be as healthy as possible during January is very much at the front of our minds.

Nature has provided what the body needs at certain times of year, plus if you buy locally grown produce, nutrient content will generally be better and it’s kinder to the environment too.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five in-season foods for January.


Jerusalem Artichokes

Top of my list has to be this amazing vegetable. They are supremely healthy and provide a really useful addition to the diet. 

Jerusalem artichokes are loaded with a prebiotic fibre called inulin which is incredibly healthy for the gut.  The gut houses billions of bacteria (hopefully more good bacteria than bad), but they need feeding with this kind of fibre for the gut to remain healthy. 

shutterstock_541940524 roasted jerusalem artichokes Dec17

A healthy gut supports a healthy mind, the immune system, hormones, digestion, skin and so much more. Jerusalem artichokes are also a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, which are all frequently deficient in the daily diet. Serve them roasted in a little olive oil.


A member of the super-healthy cabbage family, kale is not always popular, partly because of its bitter taste and often tough texture.  However, this is much improved when eaten seasonally and with some other flavourings such as garlic and soy sauce.


The health benefits are certainly forthcoming, especially because kale contains a plant compound called sulforaphane, which has been found to help prevent some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  Kale is also a rich source of calcium to help support strong bones and Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E – all important antioxidants.


Pomegranates are slightly strange to look at because of their mass of tiny seeds.  However, these seeds are nutritional powerhouses, and have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits. This is probably one of the reasons that research has found them to be especially beneficial for brain health; they can help protect this vital organ from free radical damage. Additionally, they are loaded with fibre so are great for the digestive system.


Just like many fruits, pomegranates work well in sweet or savoury dishes, and are a particular favourite with salty cheeses and walnuts, making a great salad trio.  Moreover, it’s lovely to see some vibrant colours on the plate when the weather is so grey outside!


Clearly the UK climate is not going to support the growing of oranges, but they are certainly at their best at this time of year, imported generally from Spain.  Whilst it’s always best to eat locally grown produce, it’s difficult when we want to gain the wonderful health benefits of a food we simply can’t grow in any meaningful numbers.

A bowl of oranges

Oranges are a great source of vitamin C.  As this vitamin is water-soluble and easily destroyed during storage, preparation and cooking, oranges are probably best eaten in their raw state to gain maximum health benefits. They also contain good levels of folate which will help to give energy levels a boost too.


Oysters are available all year round but are certainly good at this time of year, and can be sourced from UK waters, especially around Colchester and Whitstable.

Oysters become especially important coming into February with Valentine’s Day looming.  Oysters are often referred to as ‘aphrodisiacs’ or ‘the food of love’.  The reason for this is that they contain really high amounts of the mineral zinc, essential for healthy reproduction.  There is always some truth behind these ‘old wives’ tales!

A plate of fresh oysters

Oysters also contain other minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and the antioxidant, selenium.  Importantly, they’re a rich source of iodine which is frequently lacking in typical western diets and is essential for cognitive function, especially in the developing foetus. 

So, why not add some of these season foods into your diet this January and reap the nutritional benefits?


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

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