Take the veg pledge: 5 top vegetables to eat more of

 

A range of vegetables to represent fibre in the diet

It’s no secret that we are what we eat! Everything we put into our bodies will have an effect, and hopefully a benefit, as well as playing a role in our overall wellbeing.

Vegetables provide many health benefits – some more than others – and are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Including as many as you can in the daily diet is a great way to get a wide range of nutrients to support your overall wellbeing.

 

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourites that are in-season right now!

Broccoli

Broccoli is often referred to as a superfood. Quite simply, it’s right up there when it comes to providing immune-boosting nutrients (essential at this time of year), antioxidants and other compounds which support detoxification and hormone balance.

Broccoli florets on a plate

From an immune health perspective, broccoli is high in both vitamin A and vitamin C, together with the mineral selenium. It’s also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds which help protect against disease. Importantly, some of these compounds have a positive effect on the heart, brain, and skin. Plus, broccoli is loaded with fibre which keeps digestion moving along nicely, whilst protecting overall health.

Loaded,Vegetable,Casserole,With,Broccoli,,Cauliflower,And,Leek.,Top,View,

Broccoli is really versatile in recipes, simply served steamed with a drizzle of pesto or in a mid-week broccoli and salmon bake with some added basil leaves, for great flavour.

Beetroot

Another superfood, beetroot is a great liver detoxifier so is perfect for the upcoming party season! Beetroot contains a compound called betalain, which triggers the body’s key antioxidant and detoxifying enzyme.

Whole beetroots

From a nutrient perspective, beetroot is rich in energising folate, essential for women during pregnancy, plus the minerals calcium, iron, and manganese – all often deficient in the typical western diet. And if you’re struggling with joint pain or need a boost to your high intensity workouts, then beetroot is certainly your friend.

Beetroot and goats cheese salad

Beetroot is great in salads with goat’s cheese or couscous and mint, in soups, roasted as a vegetable side or made into chocolate brownies for an amazing, sweet treat!

Turnips

It’s no coincidence that root vegetables are in season now.  The body needs warming, and energy-dense foods such as turnips fit the bill perfectly. Turnips were one of the main sources of sustenance way back, before the arrival of potatoes.  They are perfect at this time of year and are high in immune-boosting vitamin C.

Roasted turnip side dish

Turnips have a slightly sweet flavour so work really well with lamb and celeriac in a hotpot. However, for a dinner party treat with a twist, how about serving a turnip gratin which includes potatoes, double cream, and garlic – a twist on traditional Potato Dauphinoise.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are in fact not part of the same family as traditional white potatoes and have a different, and better overall nutrient profile. This is mainly because sweet potatoes are high in immune-boosting beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A as needed in the body, but also because they help to better balance blood sugar versus traditional potatoes.

A bowl of roasted sweet potato wedges

Interestingly, sweet potatoes aren’t always orange in colour; purple sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidant-rich anthocyanins.  However, both are great for overall health and, importantly, make a great substitute for potato fries!  Sweet potato wedges, simply roasted in a little olive oil, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese will provide the perfect guilt-free vegetable side!

Brussels sprouts

No list of superfood vegetables would be complete without the mention of Brussels sprouts!  Maligned by many, Brussels should certainly feature regularly on the dinner plate, not just on Christmas Day.

shutterstock_179527487 basket of sprouts Nov15Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin C but also vitamin K which is essential for heart and bone health.  They also protect cells from free radical damage, making them super-protective against some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  They are rich in fibre with just half a cup providing at least two grams of the recommended 30 grams of fibre needed daily. Brussels have also been found to reduce levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, another protective benefit.

shutterstock_332702606 shredded sprouts salad Nov15

 

Their bitter taste can often be a negative factor for people, hence they’re great mixed with bacon.  Importantly, Brussels sprouts shouldn’t be overcooked as it’s the ‘mushy’ texture that many people dislike.  Lightly steam them and then stir fry with bacon and onions or for a traditional Christmas special, add them to fried chestnuts, apples, and celery.

So, try adding these five delicious vegetables into your daily diet and take the veg pledge!

Stay well.

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Selfcare: top nutrients to improve your wellbeing

shutterstock_221914774 get organised 4 healthy lifestyle Sept18

We know we need to take care of ourselves, both inside and out, but with so much information out there it can be difficult to know what to focus on or what to eat for the best results.

When it comes to selfcare, what we eat affects our overall health, including mental wellbeing, the skin, and everything else besides.

This World Kindness Day Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three top nutrients to include in your diet to support your own selfcare and provide head-to-toe wellbeing.

 

Vitamin D

There has been so much written and talked about the wonders of vitamin D over the last few years, and especially since the start of the pandemic. There is a wealth of research about vitamin D and its essential role in the health of the immune system, but the research evolved even further during Covid. There has been an inextricable link found between people who fared worse after catching Covid if their blood levels of vitamin D were low.

Woman lunging on a beach with the outline of her bones shown as if x-rayed to represent strong bones

Vitamin D plays an essential role in the formation and health of the bones and teeth, mainly because it helps calcium to do its work in this area. However, research has also found that people with low vitamin D levels can struggle with their mood, even more proof of its essential role in our overall wellbeing.

Vitamin D and a sunshine symbol written in the sand

Whilst vitamin D is found in certain foods including oily fish with bones, mushrooms, milk, meat, eggs and fortified foods, the amounts are not sufficient to support the body’s needs. The main source of vitamin D is from sunlight on the skin, but this is obviously sparce during the winter months and the body doesn’t store enough from the summer. Supplementation is therefore essential, with Public Health England recommending at least 10 micrograms daily but many of us need much more.  If you find your muscles and joints are aching or your mood is low, chances are you’re in need of a vitamin D top-up.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for the nervous system but also for producing red blood cells. It is also important for the immune system and for producing energy. However, it’s only found in animal produce, hence with the rise in vegetarianism and veganism, many people are lacking. You may find that you struggle with low energy or anxiety if you’re low in vitamin B12.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

Such is the importance of Vitamin B12, there is a deficiency disease called pernicious anaemia where the body literally can’t produce sufficient amounts. Symptoms include low energy and problems with the nervous system.

It’s also logical to suggest that vegans and vegetarians may be missing out. Supplementation is therefore beneficial. For those who eat animal produce then most of these foods provide good sources, but offal is especially high in vitamin B12.

Magnesium

Magnesium is one of those minerals that spreads its influence widely throughout the body! Although around 60% of magnesium’s concentration is within the bones, there’s also much found in the muscles with the remainder in the soft tissues and body fluids.

Magnesium is really important within those organs that use the most energy such as the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys.  It’s no wonder then that if we’re not having enough within the diet then insomnia, muscle cramps, low energy, brain fog and high blood pressure can be a problem. Magnesium is also important for mental wellbeing and helps create feelings of calm within the body.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Whole grains, beans and green leafy vegetables are some of the best sources of magnesium.

So, take care of your mind and body by including these important nutrients in your diet as much as possible and consider supplementation if you think you may be lacking.

Stay well.

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Dietary support for reducing feelings of stress

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

With a global pandemic still ongoing and Christmas not too far away, it’s no wonder that our nerves may be a little frayed.  We know from ongoing data that many people’s mental wellbeing is not in great shape at the moment, and we could all do with lifestyle advice to help us feel a little calmer. 

What we eat and drink can make a big difference to how we feel and there are some foods which can help support our bodies and our minds feel less stressed.

This International Stress Awareness Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares 3 foods you can start adding to your diet.

 

Start the day with oats

There are a number of reasons why this is a great way to start the day.  Firstly, oats are loaded with the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce our feel-good hormone serotonin.

A bowl of oats

Secondly, oats are rich in the mineral magnesium, often referred to as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’. Essentially, magnesium fulfils many important functions within the body, but it also works on the central nervous system; if you’re nerves are shredded, then it might be time to think about how much magnesium you have in the diet.  Interestingly, it’s very often deficient in the typical western diet.  This is largely because magnesium is found in whole grains, rather than refined ones which dominate western diets such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, white bread, white rice, and white pasta.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

Importantly, your breakfast bowl should contain whole grain oats (the large ones!) which can be eaten in many ways.  For a quick, easy win, why not soak the oats overnight in a little milk and apple juice. The retrieve from the fridge in the morning, top with berries and natural yoghurt and you’ve got one of the best starts to the day!

Opt for fish

There are many good reasons for including fish in the diet.  However, it’s oily fish, including salmon, which has the most health benefits and can help calm the nerves.  Salmon is very high in the omega-3 fats which are critical for brain health; low levels of omega-3s have been linked to anxiety and depression.

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Why not have some delicious smoked salmon with your salad for lunch or with poached eggs for breakfast.  You’ll still be gaining all the wonderful health benefits. Salmon also makes a great dinner option and can quickly and easily be cooked in the oven in foil with some lemon juice, butter, and dill, if you have some. 

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

It’s important to recognise that farmed fish are often contaminated with unwanted. Always try to buy wild Alaskan salmon which has a much more distinctive pink colour.  This is because wild salmon naturally eat an alga called astaxanthin, which turns salmon pink, and which is also an amazing antioxidant, further protecting our bodies and minds.

Go for green tea

Often just having a warm drink can help soothe the nerves.  However green tea is a great option. This is because it contains the amino acid theanine, which can positively impact mood.  Interestingly, there has been much research around theanine and its ability to reduce stress. Theanine works in a number of ways but essentially by raising GABA, one of our calming brain neurotransmitters.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

Just like black tea, green tea naturally contains caffeine which will adversely affect the nervous system.  However, theanine appears to counter any of its negative effects.  Green tea is also rich in catechins which are powerful antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation in the brain, partly responsible for its ageing and degeneration. Aim to drink around three cups daily to enjoy the best effects.

As an aside, and if you’re looking to lose a few kilos before Christmas, green tea appears to have thermogenic effects, meaning it may temporarily uprate metabolism.  Therefore, having a cup of green tea prior to your morning walk, run or workout could provide a wealth of health benefits.

So, if you’re feeling frazzled, try adding some of the above to your daily diet and support your wellbeing from the inside out.

Stay well.

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Support your immunity with these three top vitamins

shutterstock_114498919 woman cold flu Oct16

With the traditional cold and flu season in full flow, and Covid cases rising, now is the perfect time to boost your immune system by harnessing the power of nature. 

We can all strengthen our defences against unwanted viruses by making some positive changes to our diet.  And nature has kindly provided plenty of nutrients that are known to support immunity.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares three top vitamins to help build immunity.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a vital role in many immune mechanisms but specifically in increasing production of virus-fighting white blood cells and antibody levels. Infection is known to decrease the concentration of vitamin C in white blood cells. Vitamin C is also significantly reduced during stressful periods, by alcohol intake, pollutants, and cigarette smoke.  In short, most of us could do with a boost!

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Vitamin C is of course widely found in fruits and vegetables, which is one of the many reasons that we are all encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily. And with it being water-soluble, it’s not stored in the body, therefore needs to be taken in very regularly within the diet.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

It’s a great plan, therefore, to include vitamin C-rich foods at every meal.  Why not start the day right with plenty of berries (strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries) which are high in vitamin C?  Overnight oats topped with berries, natural yoghurt with apple and kiwi and seeds, or an omelette with tomato, red peppers, and spinach.  They all make wonderfully nutritious breakfasts, with plenty of vitamin C.  Lunch might be a salad, or a jacket sweet potato with tuna.  And really load your dinner plate with veggies – think broccoli, cauliflower, and butternut squash – and finish up with some delicious watermelon.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E and Vitamin C are actually perfect partners!  Whilst vitamin C works within the water-soluble part of the cells, vitamin E is an essential nutrient within the fat part of cells.  And as with all perfect partnerships, they look after each other! Vitamin E protects the immune boosting white blood cells from damage, supports the thymus gland (another essential part of immune function) and generally nurtures the immune system, especially during times of stress.

shutterstock_381113728 vitamin E Oct17

And since vitamin E protects fats in the body generally, the higher the diet is in fats, the greater need for vitamin E.  Fortunately, vitamin E is also found in sources of polyunsaturated fats, therefore nuts, seeds and whole grains are great options.

Vitamin E is also found in fruits and vegetables including berries, asparagus, avocado, green leafy veggies and tomatoes.  So, food choices from the list above are not only going to raise levels of vitamin C, but vitamin E too!

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is slightly unusual in that it’s only found in its retinol form in animal produce, but the body can make it from carotenoids in fruits, vegetables, and other foods. The good news is, therefore, that vegans don’t need to miss out.  Effective conversion does also depend on other factors, but especially vitamin C; another example of how everything in nature is designed to work in harmony.

A selection of foods containing Vitamin A

In terms of immunity, vitamin A helps in a number of ways, but primarily by protecting the mucosal surfaces which act as a barrier against invaders. It also helps to increase white blood cell production and antibody response.

The best sources of vitamin A are whole milk, offal, and butter. However, there are plenty of pro-vitamin A carotenes found in dark green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange vegetables. Top of the list are sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, butternut squash, apricots, and mangoes.

Close up of a lobster, oysters and prawns to represent shellfish

Interestingly, we also find carotenoids in various animal foods such as salmon, egg yolks, shellfish, and poultry. Furthermore, carotenoids are incredibly powerful antioxidants, so you’ll be protecting future health from disease too.

So, load up your diet to get the most out of these three vitamins this winter and help support your immune system from the inside.

Stay well.

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October eating: what’s in season right now

Vegan,Diet.,Autumn,Harvest.,Healthy,,Clean,Food,And,Eating,Concept.

Eating food at the time of year nature intended is always best.  It makes sense that nature provides us with what the body needs at the right time of year, which includes fruits and vegetables.

As seasons change, so do the body’s requirements for different foods.  And what nature provides in October helps support our nutrition and overall health.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three top fruits and vegetables this month.

Kale

A member of the cabbage family, it is often referred to as collard or curly kale and is also home-grown in the UK. Importantly, kale contains some of the amazing compounds found in broccoli and Brussels sprouts that may block the action of certain harmful carcinogens.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

Kale contains a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals including immune-boosting vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate, and iron, and is one of the richest sources of calcium of all vegetables. It also contains compounds known as indoles which help liver detoxification, so it’s a great vegetable to be eating as we approach the festive season.

shutterstock_488572450-eggs-and-kale-nov16

Kale needs to be cooked well (but not overcooked) otherwise it may be tough.  It can be steamed, simmered or sauteed and stock can be added for some extra flavour.  However, it works really well with strong flavours such as smoked haddock, in a stir fry with garlic, ginger and chilli or in a Caldo Verde soup (a traditional Portuguese recipe), with chorizo, onions, potatoes and garlic.

Swede

Proof that nature intended us to eat swedes at this time of year when the body is looking for additional warmth, is that they’re especially hardy and survive harsh frosts.

Freshly,Picked,Swedes

A member of the healthy cruciferous family of vegetables, swede also contains highly protective indoles which are especially great for balancing oestrogen.  As such, they may well be helpful for women going through menopause.

Swede provides a great source of fibre, plenty of vitamin C and bone-building magnesium, manganese, and calcium, so is a great all-round provider of nutrients.

Often confused with the root vegetable turnip, swede makes an equally tasty vegetable side, mashed with butter and pepper, or added to stews or soups for additional delicious flavour.

Fried,Dices,Of,Carrot,And,Swede,,In,A,Pan,+

Swedes work really well mashed with other root vegetables, especially carrots. They are also great cubed, roasted and sprinkled with cumin, or with leek and potato in a cheese gratin.

Plums

With over 2,000 varieties of plums to choose from, there’ll never be a shortage of colours available ranging from light green to yellow to dark red.

A bowl full of plums

The beautiful colours of plums are responsible for delivering an amazing array of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which are protective of the aging process. Additionally, plums contain one of our key fat-soluble antioxidants, vitamin E, which is great for the skin and heart.  Unusually though, for a fruit, plums also contain tryptophan, an amino acid which helps produces serotonin, our happy hormone.

When plums are dried, they are known as prunes, and contain a higher content of fibre, hence they have been used traditionally for many years to treat constipation.  Equally, prunes work really well in many meat and game dishes, and are often used in traditional French recipes.

Close,Up,Of,Fresh,Juicy,Grilled,Beef,Steak,Served,With

Whilst plums can be eaten raw, with the skin peeled, they work well in sweet or savoury dishes.  They can be simply stewed with a little sweetening agent and used on cereals or porridge or used in a simple crumble with cinnamon.  They are equally delicious in a braised pork dish with apples, potatoes, garlic and thyme. There are endless possibilities and a myriad of health benefits to eating plums right now.

So, enjoy seasonal eating this October and reap the many health and nutritional benefits.

Stay well.

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Vegetable bakes: 3 delicious and nutritious dishes to fuel your autumn

A range of roasted vegetables

Baking isn’t all about making cakes as much as we love them! Vegetables can also feature in a range of delicious baked dishes, and now really is the time to be increasing your vegetable intake.

We know from published data and research that people are eating even fewer vegetables than they were before the pandemic.  With winter around the corner, now is the time to boost your immune system and get some powerful nutrients, delicious flavours, and gorgeous colours into your diet.

This National Baking Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three favourite vegetable bakes.

Roasted vegetables

This is hands down my favourite way of baking vegetables!  Not only do roasted veggies look great on the plate because of their array of colours, the flavours and textures bring out all that is great about them.

Even better, this is not going to take you hours in the kitchen. It will deliver a wealth of nutrients and you can vary the recipe to suit the season, what’s in your store cupboard, and where the mood takes you.

My favourite vegetables for nutrient value, taste and colour are:

Tomatoes

shutterstock_454912315 tomatoes Mar17

Rich in a powerful antioxidant lycopene to protect immunity and future-proof health.

Courgettes

A range of courgettes

Full of lutein and zeaxanthin that are great for eye health particularly if you’re spending long hours in front of screens.

Broccoli

Broccoli florets on a plate

An all-round superfood but especially great for digestion, detoxification, and antioxidant protection.

Red onion

Red,Onions,On,Rustic,Wood

Slightly more powerful in taste than white onion and loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and quercetin.  If you suffer from any type of allergies, then quercetin can really help to dampen things down.

Garlic

shutterstock_552242461 garlic Aug17

Another great all-rounder and a natural antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial botanical.  Furthermore, it’s great for reducing high blood pressure and helping to manage cholesterol.

Carrots

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

High in beta carotene which is great for the immune system.  Beta carotene is turned into vitamin A which is needed for good night vision: it’s no myth that carrots help you see in the dark!

Simply chop up the veggies, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 30-40 minutes.  You might want to add the tomatoes about halfway through, so they are not overcooked.  You can also add some fresh herbs of your choice. Serve with whatever takes your fancy but a tray of roasted vegetables is delicious with any fish or chicken dish or simply served with quinoa.

Autumnal Bean and Vegetable Bake

As seasons change, so does the seasonal availability of fresh vegetables.  The body needs warmth right now, hence nature provides lots of root vegetables at this time of year.

Pumpkins, synonymous with this time of year,  butternut squash, parsnip and beetroot are great roasted with cumin. These veggies are all rich in antioxidants to protect the immune system during the winter months.

Colorful,Blend,Of,Roasted,Potatoes,,Yams,,Carrots,,Yellow,Beets,,Parsnips

While these are roasting, fry some onions, with garlic, paprika, ground coriander and cumin. These are all warming spices giving the body what it craves at this time of year.  Add some tinned tomatoes (rich in lycopene) and cannellini beans.  All beans are packed with essential protein, fibre and vitamin B6, great for hormone balance.

Canned,White,Beans,With,Green,Fresh,Dill,Leaf

Leave to simmer for 20 minutes then put everything together in an oven dish, add some breadcrumbs and roast until crisp.  You’ve produced a highly nutritious and delicious baked dish!

Cauliflower Cheese with a twist

Cauliflower is part of the highly prized cruciferous family.  As with all the family members (including broccoli), these guys can’t put a step wrong when it comes to protecting overall health.  Add some cheese and everything looks brighter.

In this dish the cauliflower florets are roasted, with some vitamin C-rich red peppers and onions, together with mushrooms, which provide some Vitamin D.  Towards the end of cooking make up a traditional cheese sauce using delicious and flavoursome cheddar cheese.

Loaded,Vegetable,Casserole,With,Broccoli,,Cauliflower,And,Leek.,Top,View,

Pour over the vegetables, top with some grated parmesan and you’ll have the most delicious and warming autumn meal, that’s also loaded with nutrients.  For vegetarians, this is great for providing a protein hit.  Simply serve with a side salad if desired to further enrich the colour and nutrient content.

So, enjoy mixing and matching your vegetables in baked dishes this autumn – it’s a win-win for your health too!

Stay well.

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Heart health: Eat your way to the right cholesterol readings

Cholesterol,Word,Written,On,Slate,With,Stethoscope,On,Wooden,Table

Most of us are aware of cholesterol and understand its relationship to heart health. However, as with everything in life, it’s all about balance between good and bad.

There are two types of cholesterol – HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol’ and LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol.

This National Cholesterol Month Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer explains the highs and lows of good and bad cholesterol. 

Essentially there are two types of cholesterol: high density lipoprotein (HDL, known as good cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, also known as bad cholesterol).

The HDL transport cholesterol out of the arteries, where too much can cause blockages, and takes it back to the liver for recycling. The LDLs however deposit cholesterol into the arteries.  Therefore, it makes absolute sense that we need higher levels of HDLs and lower levels of LDLs.  The good news is that these readings can be highly influenced by the food we eat.

Raising the good with berry fruits

Berry fruits are rich in vitamin C which not only drives down HDLs but protects the artery walls against oxidative damage.  This can happen if there’s too much fat circulating in the blood and the fats become damaged.

Blueberries and strawberries in a heart shape on a wooden board

Therefore, berries are your friends in this respect so enjoy them as much as possible.  Why not add them to your morning cereal or porridge, eat them on the run with some natural yoghurt or enjoy them just as they are, as a snack.

Get fishy with the oily variety

Salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines are some of the oiliest fish and the most heart protective.  Specifically, the long-chain fatty acids in these fish (EPA and DHA) help raise levels of HDLs and reduce LDLs, and the research is very clear about this. Ideally oily fish needs to be eaten two or three times a week for best effects.

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

Salmon, for example, is very easy to cook quickly in the oven with some lemon juice and dill and can either be eaten with veggies and rice or as tomorrow’s lunch, cold with salad.  Tinned sardines on wholegrain toast also make an easy lunch.  In fact, tinned sardines provide dual benefits for your heart and bone health so they’re worth adding to your diet.

Snack on some black or red grapes

It’s no secret that red wine (in moderation) can be heart-healthy down to its high antioxidant content which protects the arteries against fat damage.  This is because the grapes that are used to make red wine contain special types of antioxidants.  It’s actually the grape seeds and skins that contain the most health benefits.

shutterstock_53130070 grapes make wine Mar15

Whilst red wine is the favourite tipple for many people, having too much is certainly not a good idea.  However, eating plenty of dark grapes really is a smart plan. Even better, they are one of the most transportable fruits if you need snacks on the run.

Eat fermented foods

Heart disease is not common in Japan which may, in part, be down to their high consumption of fermented soy protein foods, specifically, miso, tempeh and tofu.  Soy protein helps balance HDLs and LDLs in the right way and is therefore deemed very heart healthy.

A,Set,Of,Fermented,Food,Great,For,Gut,Health,-

As many of us are thinking about the environment when we make our food choices, eating plant-based protein is a good option.  The great news is that these foods are very easy to incorporate into your meal planning: tofu and tempeh can be quickly added to stir fries or as some protein in a smoothie.  Miso soup also makes a great low-calorie, low-fat snack, providing a quick energy boost when most needed.

Avoid trans fats

Of all the triggers for raised cholesterol and lipoproteins, eating trans fats primarily found in processed foods and margarines, are the main culprits.  They may be listed on the labels as ‘trans-fats’ or ‘hydrogenated fats’ and should be avoided as much as possible.

These fats (generally polyunsaturated fats) are chemically unstable and when processed and heated, are altered to the extent that the body can’t deal with them effectively.  Unfortunately, they’re a massive driver for raising cholesterol levels.

Assortment,Of,Unhealthy,Food,,Top,View,,Copy,Space.,Unhealthy,Eating,

The biggest problem foods are generally margarines, biscuits, cakes, cereal bars, and many processed meals so minimise these foods in your diet or avoid altogether.

With a little planning, HDLs and LDLs can go in the right directions to help improve your cholesterol status and support your overall health.

Stay well.

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Support your heart health with these five vitamins and minerals

Blueberries in a heart shape

It beats around 100,00 times a day and is a truly amazing organ!  Yes, your heart is incredible, and it needs taking care of just like the rest of the body. 

When it comes to heart-health, there are some key vitamins and minerals that are essential to keep it beating long and strong.

This National Cholesterol Month, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five key vitamins and minerals for heart health.

Vitamin C

When it comes to the heart, vitamin C is certainly an essential nutrient. As one of our key antioxidant nutrients, vitamin C protects the heart from all that life throws at it.

We all have fats circulating within the blood stream.  However, when these levels are elevated (generally caused by a diet high in fat and sugar), these fats (also known as triglycerides) start to attach themselves to the artery wall. Over time this can increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack, as blood flow is blocked. Additionally, fats oxidise and harden the arteries causing a condition known as atherosclerosis.  Furthermore, cholesterol, another type of fat, can be dangerous when not dealt with correctly within the body.

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Vitamin C not only protects the arteries from damaging free radicals, but it also helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, thereby giving the heart a really great fighting chance of being healthy. Interestingly, foods rich in vitamin C such as berry fruits are also high in plant compounds called polyphenols.  These also provide antioxidants and wonderful benefits to the heart.  Ami to eat a handful of berries every day.

Vitamin B3

Part of the family of B-vitamins, Vitamin B3 is a key heart nutrient because its helps raise levels of the healthy HDL cholesterol, whilst reducing overall cholesterol readings. Just like all good families, the Bs do work together but each one has its own specific claim to fame.  That’s not to say the other don’t also have a role to play in heart health (see below).

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

The good news is that vitamin B3 is found in a variety of animal and plant foods including beef, liver, fish, eggs, avocados, whole grains and nuts and seeds.  Oily fish also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fats so eating some portions of salmon or mackerel regularly, will help the heart all ways round.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a key heart mineral, alongside potassium (see below).  Magnesium essentially has two main roles to play. It works as a muscle relaxant, helping relax the heart muscle and arteries thereby keeping blood pressure in the healthy range. Secondly it is a key electrolyte, balancing nerve transmissions throughout cells. Magnesium’s role is primarily enabling essential enzyme reactions that have a direct effect on heart and blood vessel health.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Magnesium is frequently deficient in both men and women due to poor dietary intake.  It’s predominantly found in whole grains and green leafy veg, hence it’s low in the typical Western diet.

Potassium

Just like magnesium, potassium is a key electrolyte but works primarily with sodium helping maintain water balance and the correct acidity levels in the blood.  It also helps regulate nerve and muscle activity.  These are all essential for keeping the heart beating 24/7 as well as maintaining blood pressure at the right levels.

shutterstock_651019798 honeydew melon Aug17

The great news is that potassium is widely available in fruits and vegetables and is especially high in bananas, melons, apricots, grapefruit, and sweet potatoes.  It’s great to include as much colour variety in the diet as possible so you’ll also be getting that all-important vitamin C.

Vitamin B12

Another key member of the family of B-vitamins, Vitamin B12 is as essential but works in a different way to some of the other Bs. Vitamin B12 is needed for the process of methylation, an essential bodily process that happens thousands of times each day.  It helps control production of a toxic amino acid metabolite called homocysteine; high levels have often been associated with cases of heart disease.  B12 works alongside folate and vitamin B6 in this process.

A range of foods high in protein

Deficiency of B12 can cause pernicious anaemia (one symptom being heart palpitations) but can also bring on extreme tiredness.  Vitamin B12 is poorly absorbed in the body so there are times when the GP will recommend injections.  However, for most people, eating plenty in the diet is generally sufficient to keep everything working well.  The only downside is that B12 is generally only found in animal foods, so I would recommend that if you are vegetarian or vegan get your levels checked as you may need to supplement.

Celebrate all that is amazing about your beating heart: take care of it well and it will love you for many years to come.

Stay well.

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Protein: what to eat to fuel your workouts and day to day diet

A range of foods containing protein

With National Fitness Day on the calendar this week, it’s the perfect time to review your protein intake to ensure it is meeting your body’s needs with or without exercise. 

Whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan, protein intake is an essential part of a well-balanced diet and helps to fuel your activity.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top protein tips.

For the meat eaters

Animal produce is a great source of protein and contains all the essential amino acids. Importantly, meat is a rich source of leucine, isoleucine and valine, the branched-chain amino acids and key muscle builders and repair instigators.  Whilst many people, especially those doing more strength training exercise or body building, eat these after a workout, it’s also really important to be having sufficient quantities of all essential aminos throughout the day.

Roast chicken leg with potatoes and vegetables

Depending on body weight and activity level, aim to get around 20 to 30 grams of protein into each meal.  This may not always be possible depending on your schedule; hence protein shakes can be particularly helpful to plug the gaps if you’re very active.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

Start the day right with a protein-filled breakfast such which includes two eggs (18 grams of protein total), with an omelette being a great choice.  Lunch could include some low-fat fish such as canned tuna in a wrap, with dinner containing turkey or chicken.  Both are lower in fat than pork, lamb, or beef: try to eat these meats no more than twice a week.

For the vegetarians

Vegetable sources of protein generally don’t contain all essential amino acids, although there are notable exceptions such as hemp protein.  Some vegetarians eat fish (pescatarians) and some don’t.  However, eggs and dairy contain all essential amino acids, therefore it’s important to eat these foods in order to get the quota of these key amino acids.

With so many egg-based options for breakfast, you need never get bored of the same dish! Eggs with hollandaise sauce and spinach, frittata, or, poached eggs with smashed avocado on sourdough or wholemeal toast are great options.

shutterstock_716903197 avocado and poached egg Dec17

When it comes to grains, then quinoa is one of the best, boasting all essential amino acids, albeit slightly low in some.  However, quinoa makes a great base to any salad, with goat’s cheese, beetroot and walnuts being a great addition, whilst also supplying more protein.

Quinoa and bulgar wheat salad with feta

There’s certainly no shortage of options for dinner recipes with stir fries winning the day and fermented forms of protein such as tempeh and tofu making great choices.  Add some grated ginger, spring onions, soy sauce and a little honey with some chopped veggies and you’ve made a fabulous protein-filled meal. Enjoy the stir fry with some whole grain brown rice or basmati and you’ll be fuelled for your next morning workout!

For the vegans

It’s important for vegans to be aware of protein intake purely because vegetable proteins can be lacking in all essential amino acids and are also low in some.  Therefore, it’s important to include a good combination of grains and beans in your diet, though they don’t need to be in the same meal.

Porridge topped with bananas and blueberries

Porridge makes one of the best starts to the day, especially if you’re planning on doing some exercise, such as a longer run, a couple of hours later.  And you can really power up the protein content by adding some nut butter, almond milk and stirring in some cacoa nibs.  Cacoa nibs are the less processed part of the cocoa bean and have a higher protein content.

Pre or post work-out lunch is a great time for including some energising beans in some form, and there are plenty to choose from.  Lunch could be something as simple as some haricot beans, mixed with tinned tomatoes, rosemary and garlic on sourdough bread or making up an easy chickpea salad.

Chickpea salad with feta

For dinner, lentils provide another fabulous source of protein with one cup providing about 18 grams.  Lentil bolognese therefore delivers on taste, protein content and energy.  Add in some thyme and other mixed herbs, tinned tomatoes, onions and celery and you’ve got some powerful antioxidants to boost immune health too.

So, whatever your diet preferences, power up your work-outs and overall nutrition with good quality protein choices.

Stay well.

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Seasonal eating: top foods for September

Ripe,Pears,And,Peaches,On,Table

As a nutritionist, I am frequently talking about eating with the seasons.  This means eating foods at the times nature intended during the year, which generally delivers better nutrient content, enhanced flavours, and greater health benefits.

However, we can sometimes run out of ideas as to what to do with these delicious foods.

Read on for some great suggestions on how best to use my favourite in-season foods right now!

Blackberries

During August and September, the hedgerows are awash with beautiful blackberries, signalling the perfect time for eating this nutrient-dense fruit.

As with all berries, blackberries are loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as energising folate. They also provide a good source of fibre.  Furthermore, they are low on the glycaemic index so won’t upset blood sugar balance and are great if you’re trying to lose weight.

shutterstock_206260981 blackberries Aug15

As vitamin C is degraded by cooking, fruit is generally at its most nutritious when eaten raw, so why not load some up onto your breakfast muesli or simply enjoy with some natural yoghurt.  And if you can ‘pick your own’ blackberries, or scavenge them from the hedgerows, the taste and nutritional benefit is going to be even better!

Beetroot

Another colourful beauty, beetroot scores highly on both taste and nutritional benefits.  Beetroot is rich in potassium which helps regulate blood pressure but also contains betacyanin which is great for cleansing the liver and supporting any detox plan.  However, as beetroots are quite sweet, many people prefer them pickled but this does reduce their nutrient content somewhat.

Whole beetroots

Beetroots are also rich in immune-boosting beta-carotene, which becomes more bioavailable when beetroots are cooked.  They can therefore be boiled in their skins and then peeled and used in a variety of ways.

The taste and texture of beetroot works especially well with goat’s cheese.  Enjoy the last days of summer by making up a delicious and simple goat’s cheese salad, with chopped beetroot and sprinkled with balsamic glaze.

Celeriac

Often, and very unkindly referred to as ‘the ugly one’ due to its knobbly appearance, celeriac redeems itself with its nutritional goodness and likeable flavour.  Part of the celery family, celeriac has a better taste profile down to its nutty flavour rather than being overly salty.  However, just like celery, celeriac is great for reducing blood pressure and is a good source of vitamin C and fibre.

Celeriac on a table

Celeriac makes a great vegetable side, simply mashed with a little pepper and butter, or mashed with potatoes and garlic. Why not try making it into a soup with apples to create a really balanced and delicious flavour.

Pears

Pears are often forgotten and pushed into the shade by their counterparts, apples, although they bare no relation to each other. Just like apples though, pears are also relatively low on the glycaemic index so are great if you’re watching the kilos.  Importantly though, they are one of the least allergenic foods so are perfect for including in allergy-free diets or for weaning babies. Plus, they are high in the soluble fibre pectin, so are great for keeping the bowels running smoothly.

shutterstock_298111103 pears Sept17

As with many fruits, pears work really well with various cheeses, especially the stronger flavoured ones such as gorgonzola. They are delicious poached in red wine (packed with healthy antioxidants) or paired with chocolate as a real treat.

Peaches

Peaches are loaded with vitamin C, fibre, and potassium.  And just like beetroot, peaches are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A as required.  Vitamin A is essential for a healthy immune system and for good vision, especially at night.

shutterstock_297863489 peaches July16

Peaches are delicious when eaten simply on their own as a low-calorie snack.  And it’s worth remembering that tinned peaches, which are highly popular, lose most of their vitamin C in the canning process and are also much higher in sugar.  Fresh is always best!

So, enjoy the seasonal delights that September brings and get creative!

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

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

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