Stress and anxiety: natural ways to support feelings of calm

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

It would seem there has been a dramatic rise in anxiety and stress levels generally, especially since the pandemic started.  Whilst it can be hard to change the way we are feeling, the body’s response to it can be supported. 

There are certain nutrients and herbs that are great for working with the stress response, helping to alleviate feelings of anxiety, and encouraging feelings of calm.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five recommended nutrients and herbs to help calm the body.

 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and has much robust research to support its use especially for anxiety.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

It is an adaptogenic herb, meaning it supports the body through the stress response and adapts to its needs.  Ashwagandha is a gentle, but effective herb and is great for alleviating anxiety, aiding restful sleep, and calming the nervous system generally.

It’s not available in foods, so needs to be taken in supplement form.

Vitamin B6

As with all nutrients, they perform several roles in the body.  Vitamin B6 is responsible for over 100 different enzyme reactions. Crucially B6 is responsible for helping to produce two key neurotransmitters and hormones which help stabilise mood: dopamine, and serotonin.  From serotonin, the sleep hormone melatonin is made, so vitamin B6 plays a key role in helping to instil calm.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B6

As with all B vitamins, they’re water soluble and therefore not stored in the body.  The good news, however, is that vitamin B6 is found in many different foods including beef liver, tuna, salmon, chickpeas, dark leafy greens, and poultry. This list is by no means exhaustive, so having a varied diet will certainly help to ensure you’re having sufficient vitamin B6.

Lemon balm

Officially called Melissa officinalis, lemon balm provides a very gentle sedative and calming effect. It might also help to fight certain bacteria and viruses.

shutterstock_395549032 glass of water with lemon Apr16

As with many herbs, it has been traditionally used, especially in its native Mediterranean region since at least the 16th century. Today, it’s mainly used as both a sleep aid and digestive tonic and can be taken as a supplement, in a balm or lotion, but frequently as a tea.

Some research seems to show that lemon balm works on the calming brain neurotransmitter GABA, helping alleviate anxiety and mood disorders. 

Magnesium

We can’t talk about calming nutrients without a big nod to magnesium. Often referred to as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ magnesium is known to support the stress response in the body and helping calm the central nervous system. Magnesium works in tandem with vitamin B6 in many biochemical reactions within the body, but particularly in producing our calming neurotransmitters.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Interestingly, signs of magnesium deficiency include panic attacks, brain fog, feeling tired but wired, insomnia and lack of concentration; all symptoms we would frequently associate with being stressed. Magnesium also helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

There are a number of different forms of magnesium which can make it confusing when choosing supplements, but the glycinate form is especially great for sleep and anxiety.  However, magnesium is frequently deficient in the heavily refined typical western diet but is rich in dark leafy green. So, load up your plate with kale, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.  Magnesium is also found in beans, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.

Passionflower

The herb passionflower is incredibly effective at bringing calm to the brain and helps lower brain activity generally, which in turn, aids sleep.

A common symptom of anxiety is a nervous stomach and passionflower seems to really help.  Indeed, in ancient times it was often use for digestive upsets perhaps before they realised stomach problems were often caused by anxiety.

Close up of Passion Flower

It’s possible to find some passionflower tea, but it’s much easier to take in supplement form, especially if you’re really on the edge.

Clearly nutrients all work synergistically together so there is no problem with having a wide range in the diet or in supplement form, such as a high-quality multivitamin.  When it comes to herbs, it’s always best to try one first to see how it suits you.  And always remember that what works for one person, may not work for another, so keep trying the many options available until you find relief from your symptoms.

Stay well.

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Top tips for a healthy Easter

 

shutterstock_1676194471 easter family Mar21

For many of us, Easter can often be a time of more food indulgence than Christmas!  With a long weekend, school holidays, plus much-needed holidays planned, it can all amount to a lot more eating.

However, enjoying Easter fayre doesn’t have to mean making unhealthy food choices during the break. Here are many healthy swaps you can make which will be just as tasty.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top ways of enjoying healthy Easter food.

 

Delicious asparagus sprinkled with Parmesan

Whilst all vegetables taste much better when eaten seasonally, asparagus stands out from the crowd in this respect.  Asparagus that has travelled halfway around the world to the supermarket storeroom is often tough and tasteless.  However, English asparagus is now just coming into season this Easter, and it is delicious!

Grilled,Green,Asparagus,With,Parmesan,Cheese

Asparagus boasts many health benefits. It’s high in energising B-vitamins, especially folate, vitamin C and other antioxidants.  Importantly, asparagus helps feed the good gut bacteria that is so critical our overall health.

Even better, it’s so simple and quick to cook.  Roast in the oven for around 10 minutes in a little olive oil and serve either as a starter or side sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. 

Easter pancakes for all the family

Children and adults alike love pancakes whatever time of year, so Easter is a great excuse to enjoy them.  What’s more, pancakes are great for fussy eaters because they provide an energy dense, protein-rich breakfast to keep sugar levels in check. It’s also another great way of encouraging the whole family to enjoy more fruit by adding some bananas and blueberries.

Pancakes,With,Berries,And,Maple,Syrup,For,Breakfast,On,A

And for those with sensitivities to gluten (or just wanting a different taste), why not make them with buckwheat? Despite its name, buckwheat is gluten-free and produces some very delicious, slightly nutty-flavoured pancakes.  Enjoy with fruit and a dollop of natural yoghurt.

Chocolate

It’s no surprise that there’s lots of chocolate around at Easter!  However, many people don’t realise that dark chocolate contains some great health benefits. Dark chocolate is packed with super-healthy polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants.  The polyphenols also help manage high blood pressure, as well as providing other health benefits.

Chocolate,Strawberries,With,Chocolate,Syrup,Close,Up

If you’re not quite ready to ditch the traditional milk chocolate Easter eggs, why not serve a slightly healthy dessert using strawberries dipped in melted chocolate.  That way, you’ll be doubling up on antioxidant power with the fruit and chocolate and will be supporting the immune system too.

Cruciferous vegetables

The family of cruciferous vegetables include Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.  Whilst many will be happy to hear that Brussels are not in season right now, the traditional Easter Day roast could really benefit from some delicious cauliflower.

Baked,Cauliflower,Steaks,With,Herbs,And,Spices,On,Baking,Sheet

Cauliflower is a very healthy vegetable, containing loads of fibre, vitamins, and minerals, together with plant compounds that help protect the body from serious disease.

What to give your cauliflower some extra flavour?  Why not toss the heads in olive oil, lemon and crushed garlic and roast in the oven? Garlic is another superfood and is especially healthy for the heart and immune system.

You can have turkey at Easter too!

Many of us have been programmed to have turkey at Christmas time and rarely throughout the year.  However, over recent years, many people have taken the opportunity of enjoying turkey over the Easter holidays too.  And it will bring plenty of health benefits.

Stuffed,Turkey,Breast,With,Baked,Vegetables,And,Spices,On,A

Turkey is naturally low in fat, so it wins hands down when put alongside traditional Spring lamb. Plus, turkey is slightly lower in calories but higher in protein than chicken. It also contains much more of the immune-boosting mineral zinc than chicken. A turkey crown is an even lighter option, with very little fat and no wastage.

Have a wonderfully, healthy Easter and enjoy some of these delicious and nutritious foods along the way!

Stay well.

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Five ways to eat better and care for the planet

World,Vegetable,Day,,Vegetable,On,The,World,,Fresh,Vegetable,,Vegan

We are all very much aware of the need to be more environmentally conscious, and this is becoming more critical than ever.  Equally, our health is very important too.  The great news is that we can look after both

The environment and our health are certainly linked and there a few things that you can do to support your diet and the planet.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five ways to eat for a healthier planet and body too!

 

Buy local

If you can, it’s always best to buy from your local farm shops or farmer’s markets.  This way, the carbon footprint of foods will be much reduced.  And whilst it’s not always easy to find organic fruits and vegetables (plus they are often more expensive), there’s no doubt that the less pesticides used on foods, the better for your body and the planet.

Cartoon,Outdoor,Store,On,Green,Background,In,Flat,Style

Produce that has been mass-produced, shipped around the world, and then stored for long periods in supermarket warehouses, loses nutrient value.  The quicker the harvest to mouth the better, plus fruits and vegetables are much tastier when freshly eaten. Furthermore, you can generally buy these foods at local farmer’s markets or in farm shops free from plastic packaging which is also a massive plus for the environment.

Go for seasonal colour

Eating a diet that’s rich in colourful, in-season fruit and vegetables not only means you’re focussing on plant-based meals, but colour equals nutrients, which in turn brings better health.

Set,Of,Fresh,Healthy,Vegetables,,Fruits,And,Berries,Isolated.,Flat

It’s not always easy to eat the recommended 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day.  So, instead just look at the colour on your plate. Adding roasted veggies to a bowl of quinoa provides a colourful and highly nutritious meal which includes plenty of protein too.

Love your plants

There’s certainly been a massive increase in people opting for vegetarian and vegan diets.  Indeed, around 7.2 million people in the UK are currently following a meat-free diet.  There are also many more people following a flexitarian diet, meaning some meals are only plant-based and others contain products from animals.

Set,Vegan,Sources,Of,Protein,Fresh,Organic,Vegetarian,Food,Collection

Whichever way we cut it, including more plant-based foods in the diet is great for the environment and the body too.  Just as one example, plant-based foods are rich in polyphenols; antioxidant-rich foods that are nutrient-dense.  Eating more plant-based meals is going to help the body to both fight illnesses and protect it from some of our most common degenerative diseases.

Foods such as beans and grains are high in fibre which not only helps with weight management but keeps the digestive system running smoothly too.  If you’re not quite ready to give up all animal produce, why not have at least three days a week of just eating plant-based foods?

Be sustainable

We hear the word ‘sustainable’ used very often.  It’s frequently associated with fresh fish and fish products.  Our fish stocks are diminishing, partly because they are not being caught in a sustainable way.  It’s important, therefore, to look for products and produce that are sustainable to protect food sources for future generations.

Green,Energy,Concept,,Tiny,People,Saving,Earth,Environment,Together,,Cartoon

The foods we eat, and how much we eat, directly affects food sustainability and as the population increases, demand will increase on food production. It’s also worth bearing in mind that beef and fish production produce many more greenhouse gases than certain plant-based foods, which is having a huge impact on the environment and, consequently, food sustainability.

The more mindful we can all be as individuals, and the more steps (however small) we each take, we can all make a difference to help future generations.

Eat as nature intended

One of the many issues associated with the typical western diet is that it is heavily processed.  This is not only bad for the environment, but also for the body.  Processed foods are lower in nutrients, have reduced fibre, and are often high in sugar, salt, and sweeteners.  This provides the body with more challenges when having to deal with chemically processed foods.

Vegetables,On,Blue,Background,,Top,View,,Healthy,Food,Concept,,Round

The nearer we can eat foods to their natural state the better.  Try to plan meals using fresh ingredients in their natural state.  As an example, always choose whole grains rather than white processed ones such as white rice, white pasta, or white bread.  Include as many colourful fruits and vegetables as possible and steam or stir fry them. And resist buying ready meals which often contain additional ingredients which provide little nutritional benefit.

So, look after your body and the environment with a few simple tips for a more sustainable diet this season.

Stay well.

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Seasonal Eating: what to eat this spring

Fresh,Ripe,Asparagus,With,Sunny,,Vivid,,Hard,Light,And,Shadows.

Spring is my favourite time of the year!  Everything feels fresh and new, the days are longer and brighter and there is a great sense of looking forward to summer and being outdoors more.

Importantly too, spring brings some great foods, and they are some of my favourites.

Let me share these delicious spring foods with you as well as the nutritional and health benefits they provide.

 

Strawberries

Whilst we tend to associate strawberries with the summer and Wimbledon, they actually start coming into season during springtime.  Not only do they taste delicious, especially if you buy them freshly picked from a farmer’s market, they have some amazing health benefits too.

Strawberry.,Pattern,Of,Strawberrys,On,Colored,Background.

The rich dark pigments of strawberries signal that this fruit is loaded with protective antioxidants. Whilst they offer a wide range of benefits, they’re especially good for heart health.  Additionally, they help regulate blood sugar balance so are great if you’re wanting to lose weight, and their polyphenol content helps prevent unwanted diseases.

I love them just as they are but they’re also great with a little natural yoghurt, making a perfect breakfast and start to the day.

Asparagus

For some reason, asparagus isn’t everyone’s favourite vegetable.  Perhaps it’s because I know the wonderful health benefits of asparagus that makes me love it more! It’s high in antioxidants, immune boosting vitamin C and vitamin E, plus vitamin K which is needed for healthy bones and blood.

Fresh,Green,Asparagus,Pattern,,Top,View.,Isolated,Over,Green.,Food

I often recommend including asparagus in your diet because of its prebiotic fibre, feeding all the good bacteria that works so hard in the gut to keep us healthy. However, I also love the taste of asparagus, but only when it’s in season, otherwise it can be tough and tasteless.

Asparagus is great barbecued with halloumi cheese, or simply steamed, drizzled with a little butter, and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Celeriac

Whilst I adore celeriac, I don’t eat it often enough because it’s not that easy to prepare!  In fact, its often called ‘the ugly one’ because of its knobbly appearance.  However, if you’ve got a sharp enough peeler, preparing celeriac is not difficult. It can then be boiled and mashed or blended into soups or casseroles.  Whilst it’s closely related to celery, the taste of celeriac is much more palatable and nuttier.

Celeriac

Celeriac has an impressive nutrient profile, being low in fat, but high in immune-boosting vitamin C and vitamin B6, together with vitamin K and manganese for great bone health. What’s not to love!

Crab

Crab is, of course, a strong-flavoured fish but is very versatile, so can be used in many ways.  Freshly caught and prepared, it is a real treat, especially if you eat it in places traditionally known for their crab. Cromer crab is a certainly one of my favourites!

Crab,Meat,Fried,Basil,On,Orange,Color,Background

Whilst it’s fairly low in fat, crab does contain good amounts of the super-healthy omega-3 fats which are essential for the heart, joints, heart, eyes, hormones, and skin. Crab also contains plenty of vitamins, minerals, and protein so it will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Spring Lamb

Whilst I don’t eat much red meat, lamb is certainly top of my list and the taste of spring lamb is especially delicious. As with all red meat, lamb is a great source of iron, so really helps my energy levels. Plus, it’s high in B-vitamins, again great for energy, but also immunity and is a fantastic source of protein.

Lamb

Eating sufficient protein throughout the day, from a range of sources, is essential to keep blood sugar levels in balance.  Protein becomes even more important as we get older to help keep bones strong and prevent muscle wastage.  Losing muscle mass doesn’t need to be a ‘given’ as we age if we take good care of protein intake.

Easter is synonymous with lamb and is certainly a popular choice in many homes as a traditional roast on Easter Sunday.  Cook with plenty of fresh rosemary which is loaded with protective antioxidants, and garlic which is great for digestion and the immune system too.

I really hope you’ll love these spring foods as much as I do!

Stay well.

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Five greens to fuel your body this spring

A,Woman,Is,Cutting,Spinach,On,A,Kitchen,Board.

Spring is finally with us which always brings a smile to our faces.  Coupled with the fact that spring also provides us with some amazingly healthy foods, everything just feels much more positive.

Top of the food list for spring are greens. They are super-healthy and with a little bit of flavour can be delicious too.  You won’t need to be ‘forced’ to eat your greens ever again!

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite greens for spring.

 

Spinach

Spinach doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, partly because its taste can be slightly bland if not cooked correctly.  However, gently wilted in a frying pan, with a little butter and crushed garlic and your plate will come alive!

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

Spinach is extremely nutritious.  And whilst it’s often talked about in the same breath as Popeye, spinach is actually as rich in bone-loving calcium as it is iron.  Additionally, spinach is a great source of immune-boosting vitamin A and vitamin C.

Kale

A member of the cabbage family, kale is also a great source of two key antioxidants – vitamin C and beta-carotene. And just like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, kale contains indoles which stimulate liver detoxification and can also help protect us from diseases.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

Kale can taste a little bitter so ideally needs to be balanced with strong flavours. Simply stir-frying with garlic, soy sauce and oyster sauce is all it needs to bring your plate to life!

Watercress

Another member of the cruciferous vegetable family, watercress is one of the healthiest of all salad vegetables. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants and contains only 22 calories per 100 grams. Interestingly, in traditional medicine, watercress has long been used to treat kidney disorders and liver malfunctions.

shutterstock_601599119 watercress Apr17

 

The distinctive peppery flavour of watercress makes it a great addition to any salad, especially with stronger flavours such as salmon or ham.  For a really easy mid-week meal why not try a creamy pea, watercress and pasta recipe with some mascarpone cheese, tarragon, garlic, and lemon. Delicious!

Purple sprouting broccoli

Whilst it’s a mixture of green and purple, this amazing vegetable is still a spring green!  This type of broccoli is higher in nutrients than other varieties of broccoli and is especially good to eat when young and tender. The darker the colour of the florets of purple sprouting broccoli, the richer the amount of immune-boosting vitamin C and beta-carotene. Boiling broccoli, however, almost halves its amount of vitamin C, so lightly steaming or stir-frying is best.

shutterstock_420677122 purple broccoli Apr17

As with all cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains indoles which help protect DNA from damage and therefore may offer protection from some of our degenerative diseases.

Purple sprouting broccoli will partner well with almost any recipe but is also great stir-fried with some chilli sauce and sesame oil, for a really quick, simple, and healthy vegetable side dish.

Spring greens

The stars of the show, spring greens are so called because they are the first cabbages of the year. They are different to collard greens, which come later in the year, and are a darker green.  Spring greens look more like cos lettuces and don’t have the tough heart of other cabbage varieties.

Stewed,Young,Cabbage,With,Dill,,A,Traditional,Polish,Spring,Dish.

Spring greens are also less bitter in taste and don’t need much else other than some light steaming and drizzling with melting butter.  However, they’re also great in soups and casseroles.  And from a nutritional perspective, they certainly don’t disappoint.  As with other members of the brassica family, they will support your immune system, build and maintain strong bones, and help protect your body against free radical damage, responsible for the ageing process.

You’ll certainly be springing into the next season with these nutritional greens – pack as many as you can into your diet this season.

Stay well.

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Five nutrients to include in your diet every day

Funny,Portrait,Of,Young,Woman,With,Banana,On,Color,Background

Nature has provided an amazing array of nutrients.  And it would be unfair to say that one is better than another because they all have a very valid place in helping to provide the body with great health.

However, there are certainly some superstars amongst them which are even more essential for our continued daily wellness.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five of the best.

 

Vitamin D

Called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, we know the UK population is widely lacking in vitamin D, despite an active Government health campaign. 

It’s not easy to get to sufficient vitamin D from sunlight alone, even during the summer, therefore it’s important to take a supplement all year round. With so much robust research on vitamin D, we understand even more about the essential role it plays in our health.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Vitamin D is not just needed for bones and teeth but its part in supporting the immune system is unequivocal.  Furthermore, if you’re feeling ‘sad’ you could be lacking in vitamin D.  It’s important for our mood too.

Vitamin B12

As with all the B-vitamins, Vitamin B12 is needed for many of the body’s biochemical reactions. It’s primarily found in animal produce, making vegetarians and vegans potentially more at risk from deficiency, but anyone can be lacking in B12.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

If you’re lacking specifically in vitamin B12, then you might notice it more than with other B-vitamins. If you’re unusually tired or your nerves are frayed, then you might need more B12.  If you’re vegetarian or vegan, a supplement is recommended, but for others, load up on liver, beef, tuna, sardines or fortified cereals and nutritional yeast.

Magnesium

If you’re suffering from muscle stiffness or poor sleep, the chances are you’re deficient in magnesium.  Since it works in balance with calcium, in areas where the water is especially ‘chalky, many people are lacking magnesium.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Magnesium is an extremely busy mineral and plays an essential role in many biochemical reactions in the body.  It’s needed for muscle relaxation hence poor sleep can result when there is insufficient magnesium in the body. If this sounds like you, then eat plenty of whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds – all healthy foods too!

Zinc

Zinc is involved in around 300 different enzyme reactions throughout the body.  In short, the body can’t function without zinc.  Whilst many people know it to be essential for the immune system (which it is), zinc is very important for hormone balance, the skin, bones, hair, and protection from disease.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Zinc is rich in meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.  Indeed, the best source of zinc is oysters, hence their reputation as being an aphrodisiac, linked to zinc’s role in hormone production. If you’ve white spots on five or more of your nails, you might be deficient in zinc, so do keep a watchful eye on intake.

Iodine

Iodine is a trace mineral so is only needed in small amounts, but it still plays a vital role in the body.  Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones, for cognitive function and supports growth and development in children.  In short, it’s needed from the moment of conception and throughout life.

As part of its role in producing thyroid hormones, it’s needed to control metabolism.  If you’re struggling to lose weight or your hands and feet are permanently cold, you might be lacking in iodine. 

A range of foods containing iodine

Part of the issue with getting sufficient iodine is that it’s not present in many foods.  It can be found in dairy produce and fish such as cod and tuna. Seaweed is also a great source of iodine. Varieties include kelp, wakame and nori and are available in dried, flaked forms, which can easily be added to many dishes, without disturbing other tastes too much.

Take some time to review your diet, and ensure you’re not missing out on any of these essential nutrients.

Stay well.

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Trouble sleeping? Discover some top tips on how to get more zzz’s

Woman asleep in bed

How many of us dream of getting a good night’s sleep?  For at least 40% of the UK population, sleep can often be a struggle, and things have become much more challenging over the last couple of years, for obvious reasons.

However, peaceful slumbers don’t need to just be in your dreams. There are a few things that you can do to help get a better nights’ sleep, which will in turn support your energy levels throughout the day.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

Review your diet

If you want great sleep, it’s important to eat right during the day. A diet that’s rich in low to medium foods on the glycaemic index, which includes whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and starchy vegetables, is the way forward.  These will help to keep the body in good balance and encourage it to rest.

Low,Glycemic,Health,Food,For,Weight,Loss,&,Fitness,Concept

Foods lower on the glycaemic index also provide sustained energy throughout the day, without spiking blood sugar levels.  This means you’ll avoid those highs and lows, but also feelings of anxiety which often accompany blood sugar imbalances. Anxiety is certainly not helpful when you are trying to get to sleep.

Keep it regular

This means adopting a regular routine.  The body loves routine, so keeping regular sleep and waking times is essential for maintaining a healthy sleep pattern.  Generally, we need seven to nine hours sleep per night, therefore think about what time you need to be in bed depending on when you need to get up, in order to achieve this.

CLose up of an alarm clock and a woman getting out of bed to represent getting up at the same time every day

Trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep at weekends tends to push the body out of routine, so this can become a negative strategy.  Once you’ve got a routine going, it’s amazing how well the body will adapt.

Keep calm with magnesium

The mineral magnesium is often referred to as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’ because it has a calming effect on the body, down to its work as a muscle relaxant. Poor sleep, with long periods of tossing and turning during the night is often associated with magnesium deficiency. Plus, stress further depletes magnesium levels in the body.

A range of foods containing magnesium

The good news is that magnesium is found in whole grains and foods that are also low on the glycaemic index. Plus, green leafy vegetables are your friends in this respect too.  So, load up on broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and spinach.  This will help to keep the body calm and balanced and able to rest and relax.

Consider trying adaptogen herbs

Stress is obviously going to impact our sleep patterns.  And whilst we can’t eradicate all stress from our lives, we can take steps to support the body during stressful times by using adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens, as the name suggests, bend and flex to meet the body’s needs. Herbal adaptogens primarily relieve stress by working on the adrenal glands from where the body releases stress hormones.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

The adaptogenic herb ashwagandha has long been studied for its benefits on sleep, with a recent trial further confirming its effectiveness. If stress and anxiety are effectively managed because stress hormone levels are balanced, then many sleep issues can be resolved.  The herb Rhodiola rosea is another adaptogenic herb, which can help the body get through stressful times, and in turn aid restful sleep.

Reduce caffeine and sugar intake

As we all know, caffeine is a stimulant which frequently impacts on getting a good night’s sleep.  For those of us who are especially sensitive to caffeine even having one high-caffeinated drink during the afternoon can have a detrimental effect on peaceful slumbers.  Plus, ‘decaf’ drinks still contain a small amount of caffeine unfortunately.

Coffee,Cup,Behind,Red,Forbidden,Sign.,No,Caffeine,Before,Bedtime.

Caffeine, and especially coffee, can cause more anxiety generally; often we don’t realise the overall effect on the body.  If you’re struggling to get some rest, then it’s really worth cutting out all caffeine for a week and seeing if things improve.

Sugar is also a stimulant so be mindful of overall sugar intake too.  Sugary snacks are going to send blood sugar levels up and the body’s overall balance will be upset. Try to keep the diet as ‘clean’ as possible and follow some of these simple strategies.  Improvements can be felt really quickly in many cases.

So, try some of these strategies to help you get a better night’s sleep.

Stay well.

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A balanced diet starts with a balanced plate: top nutrition tips for every meal

PLate to show balanced diet 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbs and 1/2 vegetables

As we often say, life is all about balance.  And this completely resonates when talking about nutrition and having a balanced diet.  But what exactly does this mean, and how can it be achieved?

It is all about macronutrients, how each benefits the body, and, therefore, how to combine these to create well-balanced plates at every meal.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her nutrition tips and what a balanced plate of food looks like.

 

Macronutrients

There are three key macronutrients: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. In addition, fibre is often referred to as a macronutrient, such is its importance in the diet and overall health. Water is of course essential for life, and we should be drinking around 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, depending on activity levels.

Protein

Protein fulfils a wide range of functions and it’s an integral part of our body’s make up.  Protein forms much of the skeletal frame, primarily as collagen but also in muscle. Protein is also needed to produce immune cells, hormones, brain neurotransmitters, enzymes, and many biochemical reactions. It can also be used as an energy source.  There are 20 amino acids that help form the thousands of different proteins in the body.

A range of foods containing protein

Essentially, protein is sourced from both animals and vegetables. Animal sources include meat, dairy, fish, and eggs, whilst vegetable sources from plants, include legumes, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.  Many plant sources do not contain the full complement of amino acids; hence a wide range of foods need to be eaten, but it is possible to obtain sufficient protein from plants alone.

Such is protein’s importance to our health; we should eat it every day and ideally at every mealtime in some form or another.

Fats

Nothing in life is simple and the different types of fats can be confusing. We need some fat in the diet but ideally not too much saturated fat.  Ideally the diet should contain around 20-30% fat with no more than 10% coming from the saturated kind found primarily in red meat and high fat dairy produce like cheese and butter. However, fat is essential for the body to utilise our fat-soluble vitamins – Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K. It is also essential for insulating the body and is used as an energy source.

shutterstock_376614814 omega 3 fats Mar16

We often see the word ‘polyunsaturated’ on foods. Care is needed with these because once heated polyunsaturated fats are turned into trans fats which can be damaging for the heart and arteries.  Eating too much margarine is certainly not a good idea.  However, essential omega-3 and 6 fats are super-healthy and must be eaten regularly in the diet.  To this end, oily fish and nuts and seeds are your friends.

Carbohydrates

This macronutrient includes many foods such as fruits and vegetables as well as grains.  These are used to produce starchy foods such as bread and pasta.  It’s important to favour complex carbs found in whole grains over the refined variety which contain little fibre and nutrients.  Refined grains are frequently used to produce white bread, pasta, cakes, and pastries. Non-refined carbohydrates are found in whole grain rice, wholemeal bread and pasta and other grain-based food such as buckwheat.

Foods,Highest,In,Carbohydrates.,Healthy,Diet,Eating,Concept.

Carbohydrates provide the body’s preferred energy source, glucose, since the body can produce this easily from foods.  Glucose is also loved by the brain, and it uses a whopping 30% of what goes into the body.

Fibre is a carbohydrate and is high in fruits, vegetables, and non-refined grains; another great reason for them featuring highly in the daily diet.

What does a balanced plate look like?

Much depends on individual lifestyle and activity levels.  If you do a very physical job, you will need more carbohydrates.  However, a balanced plate of food should contain all macronutrients in varying amounts.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

As an example, a typical dinner plate might contain a medium-sized piece of wild salmon, a small amount of carbohydrate (say a clenched fist size) and two or three different portions of vegetables. This could be a few sprigs of broccoli, a handful of peas and a carrot, sliced and cooked. This plate therefore provides all macronutrients, including fibre, plus some of those important essential omega-3 fats.

Poached egg on brown toast

When it comes to breakfast, eggs are a great option, providing you with protein and fat, with a slice of wholemeal toast. Add a side of mixed berries to provide additional healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

It will not always be easy to get the perfect balance with every meal, but over the day, it can be achieved with a little planning.  Importantly, enjoy the food on your plate; food is one of life’s biggest pleasures!

 

Stay well.

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Suzie’s top foods to help increase your energy levels

 

Vector,Illustrator,Of,The,Fork,And,Spoon,With,White,Plate

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.

Eggs

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

shutterstock_260427179-baked-sweet-potato-feb17

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.

Chickpeas

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. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/spinach-chickpea-curry

Bananas

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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Show your body some love this Valentine’s Day with these nutrient-rich foods

Blueberries in a heart shape

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or not, this is a great time to show your body some love by feeding it a wide range of nutrients.

Cold, dark days and lots of bugs flying around take their toll on mental wellbeing and the immune system at this time of year.  So, fuelling yourself with the right nutrients is a good way to support your health as much as possible.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five foods to try this February.

 

Acai berries

Beautiful acai berries are loaded with powerful antioxidants which have health benefits for the brain, heart, and immune system. Unusually for berries, they also provide some of the healthy omega-6 fatty acids – great for the skin – and oleic acid which is good for the heart.

Acai,Breakfast,Superfoods,Smoothies,Bowl,With,Chia,Seeds,,Bee,Pollen,Acai bowls are still on trend and frozen berries are perfect with toppings of granola, nuts and seeds or desiccated coconut (or anything else you fancy!)

 

Buckwheat

This food often confuses people as it’s not actually wheat! Just like quinoa, it’s actually a seed and is a great source of protein.  For those who struggle with digestive issues, especially when eating gluten and wheat, buckwheat is a great alternative and is easily incorporated into the daily diet.

Close up of buckwheat pancakes with raspberriesIts high protein content includes the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce the happy hormone serotonin.  If you’re wanting your partner in a good mood for Valentine’s Day, then buckwheat could be a great choice!

Why not treat yourself (and your partner) to a delicious breakfast of buckwheat pancakes with a dollop of natural yoghurt and berries of your choice, for a powerful start to the day.

 

Beetroot

If winter has left you feeling out of sorts, then including beetroot into the daily diet on a regular basis could really kick-start your immune system.  Plus, beetroot is a great liver detoxifier.  It has often been used as a tonic after illness because it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals.  If raw beetroot juice isn’t for you, then try adding some carrot juice to make it slightly more palatable.

Beetroot and goats cheese saladBeetroot has a great flavour and makes a lovely accompaniment to goat’s cheese in a salad, in soups, roasted as a vegetable side and even cooked into chocolate brownies.  Maybe your Valentine’s Day treat can deliver some great health benefits too!

Broccoli

A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli delivers plenty of health benefits. It contains plant compounds called indoles which help protect DNA from damage, hence can help provide protection against disease.

Fresh,Broccoli,SoupBroccoli is also a great source of beta carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A in the body, plus energising folate, and vitamin C.  If you can’t always find fresh broccoli when you want it, then do keep some in the freezer.  The nutrient content of frozen vegetables is very good as they are generally frozen and packaged very soon after harvest. 

How about cooking up some delicious broccoli and stilton soup for Valentine’s Day or just include broccoli on your dinner plate frequently, in order to enjoy its fabulous health benefits.

Chia seeds

 

 

These tiny seeds are packed with nutritional goodness, are incredibly versatile and can be used in many recipes including smoothies.  One of their main claims to fame is that they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial for the heart, skin, hormones, joints, and brain.

Acai,Berry,And,Chia,Seed,Pudding,With,Blueberries,And,BlackberriesHowever, they also fare really well on the mineral front with good levels of iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and phosphorus.  These are all minerals that are frequently deficient in the typical western diet, deficiencies of which can have a negative impact on health.  Chia seeds have also been found to help with weight management, which is down to their high fibre content.  They swell in the stomach which then helps to regulate appetite and feelings of fullness.  Chia seeds are so easy to add to your daily diet and can really get health on track in readiness for Spring.

 

 

So, show your body some love this Valentine’s Day – and every day! It will certainly reward you with improved health.

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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