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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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.

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Seasonal Eating: What to eat in December

A table laid with christmas foods including turkey, cake, cheese and decorations

The festive season is upon us which brings its own traditional food choices during this period.  However, as always, it’s good to eat foods that are naturally in season as they are at their best.

And some of these can certainly feature as part of your Christmas menu.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods for December.

 

 

Turnips

For some reason turnips don’t seem to get the same accolades as parsnips.  Perhaps it’s because turnips were traditionally grown as cattle fodder in the nineteenth century. And whilst turnips are generally available all year, they are at their tastiest right now.

Rustic,Organic,Turnips,With,Fresh,Green,Tops,And,Roots,On

From a nutritional perspective, they provide a range of nutrients including immune-boosting vitamin C, hormone balancing vitamin B6 and bone-loving calcium and manganese.  Importantly, and just like all members of the brassica family, turnips contain indoles which ramp up liver detoxification enzymes, perfect for this time of year.

Turnips can be baked just like potatoes, with some thyme, and are delicious sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese.

Apples

Whilst the nutritional benefits of apples are never in question, they can be quite confusing to choose from as there are over 7,000 varieties! But which ever ones you choose they provide some great health benefits.

Apples made into a heart shape on a wooden background

Apples are prized for their pectin content. Pectin is a gentle form of soluble fibre hence apples have traditionally been used to treat constipation.  Importantly, pectin helps remove ‘bad‘ cholesterol from the blood stream, making apples a heart-healthy choice.

Apples are also higher in fructose than glucose which means they’re lower on the glycaemic index and help to balance blood sugar levels. This is also important when keeping a watchful eye on the waistband.  Apples are also a rich source of vitamin C to give the immune system a much-needed boost at this time of year.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Interestingly, they are not from Jerusalem and are also not part of the artichoke family! However, I frequently write about Jerusalem artichokes because they are some of the best vegetables to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Close up of artichokes

Just like a garden, the gut microbiome needs to be cultivated and fed and this vegetable is great for the purpose. They are rich in inulin which is known as prebiotic bacteria. As with all vegetables they’re also rich in vitamin C and potassium. Jerusalem artichokes make a delicious side dish simply roasted with or without the skin.

Kale

Interestingly kale is not only in season at this time of year, but also definitely much tastier too! Kale is a member of the Brassica family and provides amazing health benefits, especially in protecting the liver, but also providing compounds to protect future health too.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

From an antioxidant perspective, kale delivers on vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, hence its role in protecting current and future health. It is also rich in key minerals such as manganese, iron, and calcium, all generally lacking in the typical UK diet and essential for the heart and bones, amongst other things.

Kale can be slightly bitter so is best sauteed with a little garlic and soy sauce to make a delicious side.

Potatoes

Potatoes often get bad press, especially from people following the ketogenic diet as they are obviously high in carbs.  However, boiled potatoes are lower on the glycaemic index than jackets, therefore their starch content is less.

a basket of jersey royal potatoes

Importantly, potatoes provide a great and inexpensive energy source so are great for feeding and satisfying families.  They also contain plenty of vitamin C and if eaten with the skin, provide a great source of fibre.

If you’re looking for a festive treat, then dauphinoise potatoes, made with cream, garlic and cheese is one of the most delicious ways you’ll ever eat them!

So, enjoy all that nature has to offer this season and grab some great health benefits too!

Stay well.

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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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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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Managing your blood pressure: top dietary tips to reduce yours

Woman having her blood pressure taken

Having raised or high blood pressure can significantly increase our risk factors for cardiovascular problems, especially heart attacks and strokes.  However, it can also cause a myriad of other issues and may even affect the eyes.

It’s very important to try to keep blood pressure readings within normal ranges for your age.  But thankfully making some diet and lifestyle changes can have a significant effect.

This Know Your Numbers’ week, clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips for reducing blood pressure naturally.

Grab some garlic

Garlic is one of the most effective botanicals for reducing blood pressure.  Try to include garlic in your cooking as much as possible; it’s also good to take as a supplement.

shutterstock_552242461 garlic Aug17

Garlic really enhances a wealth of dishes, whether they be veggie sides, fish, meat, beans, pasta, or rice dishes.  And green leafy vegetables are also great for helping reduce blood pressure, partly down to their high magnesium content.  Why not stir fry spinach, broccoli, or kale with garlic?

Go for salmon

Salmon contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids which are known to help reduce blood pressure.  However, not all salmon is created equal!  It’s important to try and find wild salmon, which will always look pinker in colour than farmed salmon.  This is down to the natural astaxanthin, an alga that the wild salmon naturally feed on, and which is one of the most powerful antioxidants known to man.  Hence this will also be helpful for reducing blood pressure.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

The UK Government recommends one to two portions of oily fish per week (which we are generally not achieving as a nation).  However, if you have high blood pressure then aim for three to four per week.  Sardines, mackerel, and tuna are also good sources of omega-3s.  However, smoked salmon is high in salt so probably best avoided, as excess salt can lead to higher blood pressure.

Snack on bananas

Bananas are high in potassium which is needed to keep blood pressure in good balance.  Potassium works alongside magnesium and calcium in regulating blood pressure.

Whole bananas and diced banana

The good news is that most fruits and vegetables contain potassium, but bananas, melons, avocados, and apricots are especially helpful.  And they can all easily be incorporated into the daily diet in meals or snacks.  Smashed avocado on seeded sourdough bread makes one of the best starts to the day!

Eat brown not white

Whole grain foods (often referred to as ‘brown’) are loaded with fibre, unlike their refined ‘white’ counterparts.  For example, brown rice retains the outer fibrous husk, whereas it’s been removed in the refining process in white rice.  And the same follows for wheat-based pasta.

shutterstock_585346478 whole wheat pasta June17

Importantly, the fibre in whole grains helps reduce blood pressure.  We need around 30 grams of fibre per day, which is sadly lacking in the typical Western diet.  Whole grain rice, brown basmati rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, buckwheat, millet, and oats are the order of the day if you want to keep blood pressure in check.

Avoid processed meats

There are lots of good reasons for keeping intake of bacon, ham, salamis, meat sausages and other processed versions to an absolute minimum.  These foods are often high in histamine which can raise blood pressure.  Additionally, they are known to raise levels of fats in the blood which will have a negative effect on blood pressure, plus are high in salt, another potential trigger.

Raw,Uncooked,Seabass,Fish,With,Vegetables,,Grains,,Herbs,And,Spices

Instead, try to stick to a more plant-based diet including plenty of whole grains, nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds, fruits and vegetables, legumes with some oily fish.  The typical Mediterranean diet is known to be super heart healthy and will help reduce blood pressure.

It’s not just your blood pressure that will benefit from making a few changes; you’re helping to future-proof your health too! Find out more about Know Your Numbers week by visiting the Blood Pressure Uk Website.

Stay well.

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Top nutrition tips to support your smile

Cloe up of woman smiling brightly with a becah background

A great smile can light up your face (and a room). But what if you’re worried about your teeth or just don’t feel confident enough to really pile on the smile? 

Whatever the reasons, it’s time to change your thought processes and embrace your smile.

This National Smile Month, clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top tips to show you how.

Get the basics right

When we give a big smile, obviously our teeth are one of the first things that get noticed.  This is great if your pearly whites really are white, but not so good if you don’t think yours look great or they are giving you trouble.

Vitamin D and a sunshine symbol written in the sand

As with everything in the body, good nutrition underpins health and teeth need ‘feeding’ with the right nutrients. Top of the list are vitamin D and calcium; both used to build and protect healthy teeth.  Whilst most of this is done during childhood development years, just like bones, the teeth need feeding from within throughout life.

A range of foods containing calcium

Vitamin D deficiency is still widespread as it’s not easy to obtain from food. Supplementation with a minimum of 10 micrograms daily is needed throughout the year.  However, some foods that are rich in calcium. like oily fish with bones  such as sardines, also contain some vitamin D.  Other great sources of calcium are dairy, calcium-enriched plant milks, green leafy vegetables and nuts and seeds.

Love your gums

Just as your teeth need looking after from within, so too do your gums.  And as one gets older, it’s often gums that fail rather than teeth so it’s vitally important to serve them well!

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Top of the list of nutrients is vitamin C; it helps build strong blood capillaries, supports the immune system and generally protects gum health.  It’s time to load up your plates with colourful fruits and vegetables, all of which are rich in vitamin C.

A range of foods high in iron

Additionally, vitamin D and calcium are needed for healthy gums, along with iron.  If eating a juicy red steak is not for you, then leafy greens are a great source of iron, as are dried fruits such as prunes, raisins and apricots.

Glow from within

If you feel good inside, you’re much more likely to give a wide smile!  Again, good nutrition underpins how we look – you can literally glow from the inside out when your diet is right.

A range of foods containing protein

Make sure the basics are solid; enjoy a variety of colourful vegetables, as well as good quality protein from poultry, meat, eggs, legumes, dairy and go for whole foods. Also drink plenty of water (1.5 – 2 litres daily), plus fruit or herbal teas.  Skin will look lacklustre without sufficient hydration.

Importantly, keep refined sugars and stimulants to a minimum as these rob the body of key nutrients.

Body and mind combined

Food not only nourishes the body it also nourishes the mind.  And when the head is in a happy place, then we feel much more like smiling.  Having a varied and balanced diet is obviously essential.  However, many people don’t realise that most of our neurotransmitter production, some of which controls mood and motivation, is made within the gut and only happens with the right nutrients in place.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

Having plenty of fibre from whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds is key to maintaining a healthy gut and, in turn, a healthy mind.  The omega-3 essential fats figure highly in the brain so make sure you’re eating plenty of oily fish (also rich in calcium), nuts, seeds and omega-3-rich oils and butters.

Practice makes perfect

For an extra confidence boost, why not stand in front of mirror and see what others see when you smile.  Clearly, it’s best to have a natural rather than forced smile but sometimes practising in front of the mirror can help build extra confidence.  How much should you open your mouth? Should you have a wide smile?  Does your face crinkle (which is very warming for those on the receiving end)?

Smiling,Beautiful,Young,Woman,Looking,At,Herself,In,The,Bathroom

If you can get your basic health into good order, then this will only but improve the health of teeth and gums, and in turn, your smile.

Stay well.

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Five nutrients to maximise your health this spring

Fruit and vegetables in the shape of a

It’s National Nutrition Month highlighting how important good nutrition is for our overall wellbeing. Eating the right foods containing the right nutrients can really help us to reach optimal health. 

Whilst the body needs 45 different nutrients daily (including water), there are some that really lead the field.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, share fives of the best.

Magnesium

Whilst all nutrients work synergistically, some get involved more than others and magnesium is one such mineral. It is essential for energy production, protein formation and cellular replication (aiding cell renewal) and is involved in 300 different enzyme reactions: it’s certainly busy!

A range of foods containing magnesium

Magnesium is primarily found in bones and muscles, as well as soft tissue and body fluids (it is a key electrolyte).  Interestingly, whilst it’s needed as part of our energy-producing mechanisms, magnesium is also known as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’ helping rest and relaxation. The truth is that magnesium helps the body’s metabolic processes in terms of long-term energy production rather than creating a quick burst.  It’s also essential for the proper functioning of the entire cardiovascular system and can help manage high blood pressure or issues with heartbeat irregularities.

Green vegetables and whole grains are your friends when it comes to upping magnesium levels – the more the better!

Zinc

Zinc competes with magnesium in terms of how busy it is in the body: it is responsible for over 200 different enzyme reactions and is found in every cell.  It’s also essential for the proper action of many hormones throughout the body but tends to gain fame for its essential work within the immune system, keeping white blood cell levels in good order.

Zinc is also essential for both men and women in terms of fertility; women prior and during pregnancy to ensure proper foetal development and in men for testosterone production and sperm formation and motility.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Unfortunately, it’s very often deficient in both men and women, partly because good food sources are seafood and nuts and seeds, which many people don’t eat.  Oysters are the shining light as the best source of zinc, but whole grain foods such as oats, buckwheat and whole-wheat bread still contain acceptable amounts.

Vitamin C

One of our key antioxidant vitamins, it’s also probably the best known.  Vitamin C shot to fame when our famous sailor Captain Cook solved the deficiency disease of vitamin C, scurvy, by giving the crew lemon and lime juice. This also helped better understand the key role of Vitamin C in strengthening blood capillaries.

Vitamin C is essential for immune system function, helping the body manufacture our main structural protein collagen. It also helps fight off free radical damage, protecting us from degenerative disease and premature aging.

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

Being water soluble, it’s not stored in the body and therefore needs eating regularly throughout the day. Luckily though, it’s widely available in many fruits and vegetables with the best sources being red peppers, guavas, kale and broccoli.

Vitamin D

Thankfully, vitamin D is now on the radar for most of us, having been found to play such an essential role within the immune system as researched before and during the COVID pandemic.  The issue with vitamin D is that very little is available in foods. Our main source is via sunlight on the skin, which of course is in short supply during the winter months, especially in the northern hemisphere.  Interestingly, it’s now been discovered that we need much more than originally noted in order to keep us optimally healthy.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Let’s not also forget the essential role vitamin D plays alongside calcium in bone, muscle and teeth health.   We need to take heed of Public Health England advice and supplement with 10 micrograms daily all year round.  Do be aware though, that much research has been carried out on the benefits of higher amounts so take advice on individual needs from your healthcare provider.

Iodine

Iodine is not as well-known as the nutrients discussed above, but equally as important to our health.  Even though iodine is only needed in micro amounts, a deficiency can lead to symptoms, especially involving the thyroid gland and its hormones. However, iodine is also needed for a healthy pregnancy, for the foetus to grow and develop correctly, and for brain function.

A range of foods containing iodine

The best source of iodine is from dairy foods. But if you don’t do dairy it is also found in seaweeds such as kelp and dulse which can be bought in their dried form and added to soups, stews and stir-fries.

So, celebrate National Nutrition Month and aim to get more of these nutrients into your diet every day!

Stay well.

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

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Seasonal foods for springtime health and happiness

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

Spring generally brings lots of positive energy both for the mind and body.  And this Spring is no exception when it looks like we’ll finally have a little more freedom and there’s even more to celebrate! 

It’s always best to eat seasonally in order to enjoy the best tastes, textures and nutritional benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite seasonal foods this Spring.

Celeriac

Closely related to the celery family, celeriac delivers many of the same nutritional benefits as celery.  Despite its rather unkind nickname ‘the ugly one’, celeriac has a slightly nutty flavour without any excessive salty taste.

Celeriac on a table

Celeriac is high in heart-loving potassium and can help reduce high blood pressure, but also contains plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C. The only downside with this vegetable is that it requires a bit of preparation, with a tough outer skin which needs cutting off.  However, it’s well worth the additional effort because celeriac is delicious mashed with butter and garlic or adds a great flavour to soups or stews.

Mussels

Fished in UK waters and at their best at this time of year, mussels never fail to deliver a wonderful taste experience, especially if paired with garlic, onions, chilli or tomatoes.  You can still smell the sea when you eat super-fresh mussels.  However, you should never eat mussels that aren’t opened after cooking.

Mussels in a pot

As with oysters, mussels are rich in zinc. This is one of the busiest minerals, being involved in over 200 different enzyme reactions within the body, so it is a very essential nutrient.  Additionally, mussels are high in selenium, a key antioxidant mineral and also needed for the immune and cardiovascular systems.  You’ll even find small levels of the super-healthy omega-3s in mussels.  And they don’t need too much cooking to produce a really delicious and warming dish.

Jerusalem artichoke

Another slightly strange-shaped vegetable it is totally delicious roasted, plus delivers an array of health benefits.  Importantly, Jerusalem artichokes contain inulin which feeds the beneficial gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria play such an important role in our overall health, especially when it comes to immune, digestive, brain and skin health.  It’s therefore important to feed the friendly guys within the gut so they proliferate as needed.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Additionally, Jerusalem artichokes are rich in energising iron and immune boosting vitamin C. They can be roasted with the skin on to retain maximum nutrients and are delicious as a side to almost anything!

Spinach

As with all green foods, spinach is rich in antioxidants which help protect the body from disease. Specifically, it’s packed with carotenoids that support the immune system and crucially, eye health.

Whilst spinach does contain some iron and calcium, these minerals are not necessarily well-absorbed down to its high oxalic acid content.  However, eating spinach with foods that are rich in vitamin C, including other vegetables, really aids absorption.

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

Importantly, spinach contains plenty of other valuable nutrients, including vitamin C and energising folate. It works so well and easily in plenty of dishes including soups, salads, as a side lightly steamed with butter and garlic or with eggs for breakfast.

Parsnips

We often associate them with other winter root vegetables which they are, but parsnips are still in season right now and are certainly one of the tastiest of roots. Indeed, parsnips don’t really like frost, hence their taste is better at this time of year. They are slightly starchy which means they make a great alternative to potatoes. They provide plenty of fibre and also vitamin C, vitamin E and folate which helps produce healthy red blood cells.

A pile of parsnips

As with all root veggies, parsnips are very versatile and can be included in soups, pasta dishes or roasted on their own sprinkled with a little parmesan. They also make a great roast vegetable medley alongside other vegetables including carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.

So, enjoy some seasonal treats this spring and your body will benefit from the array of nutrients on offer.

Stay well.

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

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Five top veggies to top up your vegan diet

The word 'vegan' spelt out using plant-based foods

It’s January and for many people, that means it’s Veganuary. For some of us, it may just be a continuation of our vegan diet but, for others, it could be the start of a new regime.  

Whether you’re giving it a go for the first time or have been enjoying the wonders of a vegan diet for a while, it’s always good to be reminded of some of the most important vegetables to include in your diet and their great health benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five veggies.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are often one of the mainstay vegetables of a vegan diet as they are a fabulously nutritious and versatile vegetable.  Sweet potatoes are often misunderstood and categorised as ‘another type of potato’ but they are from different plant families.  Whilst both types of potatoes have plenty of health benefits, sweet potatoes are better for balancing blood sugar levels as they are lower on the glycaemic index.

A bowl of roasted sweet potato wedges

However, where sweet potatoes really score is in their high beta-carotene content.  This is turned into immune-supportive vitamin A, as needed, by the body, and is especially helpful at this time of year.  Try them roasted, in their jackets, in curries, stews and soups: there are plenty of easy ways to incorporate them into a vegan diet.

Broccoli

As a member of the amazing cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli’s health benefits are far-reaching.  When it comes to nutrient content broccoli delivers high levels of vitamin C, folate, iron, beta-carotene and potassium and also a range of powerful antioxidants.

Broccoli florets on a plate

Antioxidants soak up free radicals and help protect us from disease and there are many different types.  However, broccoli contains an especially health-giving compound called indole, which has been found to protect DNA from damage, very important for prevention of serious degenerative diseases.  What’s more, it’s so easy to include in the diet. Think of it as a side or use it in stir-fries. Try it roasted with a little soy sauce or simply lightly steamed. It can be included in an array of veggie-based dishes.

Red Peppers

Often called sweet peppers (as they are ripened for longer than green peppers) or bell peppers, they contain three times as much immune-boosting vitamin C as oranges.  Plus, as with other red and brightly coloured vegetables, they are high in beta-carotene, so your immune system is really going to benefit.

Red peppers

Red peppers are incredibly versatile and can be simply grilled or stuffed with savoury rice or other grains. They are great in stir fries, chopped in salads, or grilled, skinned and pureed to be made into a delicious fat-free sauce as a perfect topping to wholemeal pasta.

Kale

Often referred to as curly kale for obvious reasons, it’s another green vegetable with superfood status. Interestingly, there are many different varieties of kale and some are not curly but smooth-leaved!

Kale dish with sesame seeds and ginger

Just like broccoli and brussels sprouts, kale is packed with indoles, but it is the richest source of calcium of all vegetables, so is great for building strong bones and teeth.  Calcium is also a calming mineral so is much needed during these stressful times. A great January vegetable, kale helps cleanse the liver and break down and eliminate ‘old’ hormones therefore helping create feelings of balance and peace.  Kale does have a slightly bitter taste so is often best served lightly grilled with some soya sauce to balance the flavours.

Spinach

Another super-healthy green vegetable, spinach is probably best eaten raw in salads as a substitute for lettuce.  It’s also very tasty in wraps with falafel or avocado and hummus. Spinach can of course be included in cooking or as a vegetable side, but you just need to use a fair number of leaves as it wilts down to very small amounts.  However, it’s delicious when served with garlic.

A bwol of fresh spinach leaves

Spinach doesn’t actually have the highest iron levels (contrary to popular myth) but it certainly scores brilliantly with its carotenoid content.  This includes both beta carotene and lutein which is excellent for eyesight.  Indeed, all carotenoids have powerful antioxidant effects so are very protective of overall health.

So, make your Veganuary the healthiest and tastiest ever – enjoy!

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.

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

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

All images: Shutterstock