Five dietary tips to increase your energy this spring

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

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

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

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

 

Keep it clean

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

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

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

Stay well hydrated

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

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

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

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

Cut down on caffeine

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

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

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

Feed the inner you

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

Salmon,Roasted,In,An,Oven,With,A,Butter,,Parsley,And

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

Keep it colourful

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

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

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

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

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Three top nutrients to support your energy this winter

Happy,Girl,With,A,Red,Scarf,On,The,Sky,Background

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

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

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

 

Vitamin B12

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

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

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

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

CoQ10

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

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

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

Magnesium

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

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

 

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

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

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Take care of your heart this Valentine’s Week

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

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

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

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

 

Load up on vitamin C

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

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

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

Keep the heart well oiled

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

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

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

Cut down on sugar

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

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

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

Show your heart some gratitude

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

A close up of a typewriter with the word gratitude typed

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

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

Breathe some fresh air every day

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

shutterstock_218997220 woman walking trainers Mar18

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

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

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

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Suzie’s top foods to help increase your energy levels

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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The health benefits of winter walking

Woman walking in a snowy woodland

With the cost-of-living escalating, which will be even more noticeable over the Christmas period, many of us turn to nature for some free health in the form of fresh air!

We naturally tend to spend more time indoors during the colder months which is not ideal for our physical or mental wellbeing.  So, this festive season, why not seek the great outdoors, enjoy plenty of walks and be rewarded with amazing health benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the benefits of winter walking and how to fuel your body before, during and afterwards.

What are the health benefits of walking?

Even walking for 20 minutes (brisk walking is always best), will deliver health benefits in terms of improved circulation, better mental wellbeing, and blood sugar balance.  Indeed, if you’re trying to lose weight, there’s much research to suggest that walking for 20 minutes after your evening meal, helps the insulin response. This in turn helps to balance blood sugar and encourages less of any excess calories eaten, to be stored as fat.  It’s free and it works!

Winter,Snow,Walk,Woman,Walking,Away,In,Snowy,Forest,On

Obviously, if you can walk for at least 30 minutes, or longer, the health benefits will increase.  If you’re struggling with high blood pressure, then it’s a great exercise option.  Furthermore, in terms of mental wellbeing, just being out in the fresh air and connecting with nature is great for managing stress and anxiety.

shutterstock_329275235 woman sleeping in bed Jan16

If you’re struggling to sleep, it’s also super-important to get outside into the light, especially in the morning.  Research suggests that being outside in the morning light encourages better production of melatonin, our sleep hormone, at night.

What should I eat?

Unlike some forms of exercise, no special diet is needed.  However, if you’re heading out for a longer walk, then you need to be fuelled up and ready to go. 

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberriesOne of the best starts to a long walk in the winter months is a bowl of porridge, made with whole grain oats, some berries, and a spoonful of natural or plant-based yoghurt.  Oats are slowly digested in the digestive tract, so energy levels are sustained, and they also provide plenty of energising B-vitamins.

 

Sandwich,With,Ham,tomato,,Cucumber,And,Arugula,On,The,Wooden,Cutting

Pack up some protein-filled sandwiches on whole grain bread, featuring ham, chicken or tuna, with some home-made energising coconut and peanut protein balls, and both will keep you strongly striding all day long.  I love this recipe and it’s really easy and quick to make. 

How can I get warm after my walk?

Brisk walking keeps you warm but when the light starts to fade, temperatures plummet, and you can start to feel distinctly chilly.  There’s nothing better than returning home to some wonderfully warming and filling soup.  Root vegetables are in season during the winter months for very good reason; they are naturally energy and nutrient-dense and will help to get some much-needed warmth back into the body.

Leek and potato soup in a bowl

Parsnip soup is a traditional Christmas dish so why not add some other winter vegetables such as apples, potatoes, garlic, and onion and top with delicious goat’s cheese and walnuts?

Butternut,Squash/,Pumpkin,In,Authentic,Thai,Red,Curry,Coconut,Sauce

Other warming winter favourites are casseroles or curries. Investing in a slow cooker is a great idea since they use very little power, and you can put all the ingredients into the pot without too much preparation before the walk.  The long slow cooking time ensures you’ll never be disappointed with the taste. It makes winter walking even more worthwhile.

So, get out there and enjoy some festive walks this season. And one last reminder: always wear a hat as a large percentage of body heat escapes from the head!

 

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The health benefits of a traditional Christmas dinner

Concept,Of,Christmas,Or,New,Year,Dinner,With,Roasted,Chicken

Eating a traditional Christmas dinner is obviously incredibly popular, especially in the UK.  And whilst many of us will consume more food than usual, the standard Christmas dinner is a well-balanced meal when it comes to nutrition.

From the turkey to the sides, there is much to be revered when it comes to this delicious fayre.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, looks at the key foods in a traditional Christmas dinner and shares their nutritional and health benefits.

Turkey

Turkey has more protein than chicken. It also contains less fat (if you keep away from the skin) and slightly less calories overall.

From a micronutrient perspective, turkey provides an excellent source of vitamin B12 (essentially only found in animal produce), and in fact contains all B vitamins, which fulfil so many key functions in the body, not least energy production.

Roast Christmas turkey

When choosing the turkey meat for your plate, try and mix up light meat and dark meat; the dark meat is a richer source of the mineral zinc, essential for the immune system, skin, hair, and eye health.

Brussels sprouts

Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts generally appear on most Christmas meal plates.  They are really worth getting to like because they’re incredibly healthy and nutritionally balanced.

Tasty,Roasted,Brussels,Sprouts,With,Bacon,On,Blue,Wooden,Table,

As part of the super-healthy family of cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts contain indoles which may help prevent certain nasty degenerative diseases. Indoles are also incredibly effective for oestrogen detoxification which helps women better balance hormones, especially as we go through the menopause. Additionally, Brussels sprouts are high in fibre, which is often lacking in UK diets, and the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene.

As some of us find Brussels a little bitter, they are often more palatable lightly boiled and then stir-fried with some bacon and pine nuts.

Roast Potatoes

Roast potatoes are often given a bad rap due to their fat content but it’s only down to the fat they’re cooked in; unfortunately, traditional goose fat falls into this category but it’s only one day, so enjoy those delicious roasties!

Roasted,Baby,Potatoes,In,Iron,Skillet.,Dark,Grey,Background.,Close

Potatoes are a good energy source and if eaten with protein, such as turkey, have less effect on blood sugar levels.

They’re also a great source of immune-boosting vitamin C, heart-loving potassium and fibre and no-one can deny that they are an absolute essential on the Christmas table, well roasted and crispy – yum!

Parsnips

Parsnips can often be used in dishes as an alternative to potatoes but when it comes to Christmas dinner, they should definitely have their own place.

Parsnips are a traditional root vegetable that come into season during the winter months for very good reason; all root vegetables provide good energy but can also be used in a myriad of hearty, warming dishes.

A bowl of roast parsnips

When planning a traditional Christmas dinner, roasted is certainly the best option, and many of us like to cook them in a little honey for added sweetness.  In the scheme of things, this isn’t a problem and parsnips certainly give back in terms of their nutrients.  They are high in vitamin C and vitamin E, both needed for healthy blood cells, as well as folate, which helps support the nervous system and energy levels.  And let’s not forget parsnips’ very useful fibre content too, supporting our digestion.

Carrots

The biggest nutritional benefit of carrots is that they are an excellent source of beta-carotene. This nutrient is one of our most powerful antioxidants, protecting the body from free radical damage.  This in turn, helps protect us from the ageing process and, hopefully, some of our serious degenerative diseases.

Fried,Carrots,With,Green,Herbs,In,Baking,Tray,,Close,Up

Beta carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body as needed which is essential for sight and especially night vision.  Just one carrot a day can help with poor night vision if this is becoming noticeable.

The good news is that cooking carrots actually improves bioavailability of beta carotene, which means it is more easily converted into vitamin A.

All in all, a traditional Christmas meal is healthy and nutritious and should be enjoyed with great gusto!

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Winter warming dishes for an energy boost

 

Winter,Smiling,Woman

Flagging energy levels are very common at this time of year.  And it often happens when you need more energy than ever especially during the festive season. Eating warming foods is also important as the weather gets colder.  With the Festive Season rapidly approaching, we’re going to need all the energy we can muster to fully enjoy it!

However, help is at hand in the form of some great nutrient-packed foods to send those energy levels soaring!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five great energising foods and how to include them in warming dishes this December.

 

Beetroot

Beetroot really can take a top spot when it comes to energy production. Beetroot is high in dietary nitrates which help improve physical performance, which is not just beneficial for the athletes amongst us, but for a daily boost too. Plus, beetroot is high in the B vitamin folate, essential for energy production, and beta-carotene to help support the immune system.

Concept,Of,Tasty,Eating,With,Borscht,On,Gray,Background

 

Beetroot is in season right now and really is an incredible superfood. Why not make an easy and delicious Borscht, which is a filling, warming and cost-effective traditional soup? It is perfect for this time of year, and also benefits from other seasonal veggies, including red cabbage.

Venison

Venison is not only a great source of protein, which can be used for energy, it’s higher in iron than other red meats.  Iron is frequently deficient in UK diets and is needed for both energy and brain function. Additionally, venison is lower in fat than most other game.

Copper,Pot,Of,Venison,Goulash,Stew,Seasoned,With,Fresh,Herbs

 

Venison casserole is a wonderful winter warmer, which doesn’t take too much preparation time, and also provides the heart-health benefits of garlic, onions, mushrooms, and red wine.

Butternut squash

Often referred to as winter squash, they provide a great source of beta carotene and vitamin E – important antioxidants. Squash provides some complex carbohydrates, delivering plenty of sustained energy.

Butternut,Squash/,Pumpkin,In,Authentic,Thai,Red,Curry,Coconut,Sauce

However, as a winter warmer, any type of squash makes the perfect staple ingredient for curry: just add protein-rich chickpeas, onion, and large tomatoes.  Importantly, the body not only likes foods that are physically warm to eat, but also provide a warming effect.  Coriander is a great herb for the winter months and adds great flavour to any curry recipe.

Interestingly, squash is non-allergenic so makes a perfect weaning food.

Apples

We do, of course, see apples in the supermarkets all year-round, but they are harvested during the autumn months.  Therefore, enjoying a deliciously warming apple recipe at this time of year is a great way to gain maximum nutritional benefits.  Vitamin C is especially rich in apples which provides a good energy source.

Apples,,Cinnamon,And,Chunky,Applesauce,On,White,Background

Another great heath benefit of apples is their high pectin content.  Pectin provides much-needed fibre for the digestive tract; it works as a prebiotic feeding the good gut bacteria and helps reduce cholesterol levels.

Why not use some more warming winter spices which partner so well with apples, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, stewed with some butter and sugar? Combine them either with sweet or savoury dishes, especially pork.

Potatoes

Potatoes are certainly one of our main go-to root vegetables during the winter months; they’re satisfying, energising and partner with everything!  Indeed, mashed potato is probably one of the most favourite vegetable sides at this time of year.

They’re a rich source of carbohydrate, are low in fat and high in vitamin C, which is needed for energy and is one of our key antioxidants.

Roasted,Potatoes,Wth,Zucchini

Why not use them in a warming winter tray bake with chicken pieces, onions, garlic, bacon, and sliced courgettes (another member of the squash family)? That way, you’ll lock in all the nutrients and warm the soul too.

There are so many great ways to warm the body from the inside out this season, all whilst getting a nutrition hit too!

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Fuel up and feel energised with these seasonal foods

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

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

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

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

Pears

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

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

shutterstock_298111103 pears Sept17

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

Pheasant

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

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

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

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

Brussels sprouts

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

shutterstock_86858659 sprouts and bacon Nov15

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

Chestnuts

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

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

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

Quince

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

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

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

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

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

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Fuel your exercise: nutrition to support your fitness regime

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

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

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

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

Protein

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

A range of foods containing protein

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

Healthy fats

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

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

Carbohydrates

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

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

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

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

Hydration

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

Top exercise foods

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

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

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

A spoon full of flax seeds

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

Roasted pumpkin seeds

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

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Five foods to feed your brain

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

You may be surprised to learn that the brain requires more energy than any other organ of the body. Well, maybe that’s not such a surprise when you think that the brain is always on!

It’s not just energy-dense foods that it loves, but specific nutrients too.  You can often notice the difference in all aspects of brain function when you feed it correctly.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top foods to sharpen the mind.

 

Salmon

Salmon, and indeed all oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, trout, and pilchard, are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids.  The brain contains loads of these fats and therefore they need to be topped up regularly for optimal function.

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

Importantly, the body can’t make these fats, so they need to be eaten in the diet (or supplemented).  If fish is not for you then make sure you’re eating plenty of flaxseeds (they can be sprinkled into yoghurt, cereals or porridge) or go for other nuts and seeds. 

Eggs

Eggs are a great source of many nutrients, but specifically choline, which the brain uses to create a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate memory and mood (amongst other key functions).

Scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes

Eggs are also a rich source of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, also needed for many brain functions, but specifically to produce brain neurotransmitters.  Protein is key for a sharp and balanced brain, and eggs deliver on this front too.  Indeed, starting the day with an egg-based breakfast will tick all the boxes for your brain health.

Blueberries

These beautiful berries are loaded with antioxidants which help protect the brain from damaging free radicals and the aging process.  Blueberries are also loaded with vitamin C which helps support blood flow to the brain, which in turn is going to improve memory and general cognitive function.

shutterstock_270983405 porridge and blueberries Sept15

Blueberries are, of course, very easy to transport, so they make a great snack.  However, they are just as easy to throw over your morning oat-based breakfast or added to natural yoghurt, with some seeds, for a great breakfast option. The great news is that all berries love the brain, so with summer berry season approaching, you’ll have plenty of choice.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is packed with polyphenols, plant compounds that protect the brain from free radical damage but also help memory and overall brain function.  And there’s loads of research to support this too. What’s more, dark chocolate contains plenty of magnesium which helps to reduce stress levels; high levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) are known to adversely affect brain function.

Squares of dark chocolate

Go for dark chocolate (ideally 70% or more of cocoa).  Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not provide the same health benefits and will deliver lots of sugar.  A couple of squares of dark chocolate daily can satisfy any sweet cravings and keep your brain sharp too. 

Water

Dehydration will reduce brain function quicker than nutrient depletion. It’s the often-forgotten piece of the nutritional jigsaw puzzle.  Water is essential for maintaining attention and keeping focus, reducing headaches and memory loss, and improving overall cognitive function. Even just 2% dehydration takes a toll on brain function. Whilst it’s not easy to quantify what this means in terms of volume of liquid, the important point is that even a marginal deficiency will have big impact.

CLose up of a woman holdnig a glass of water

If you aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, and you might need more if you’re exercising heavily, then you’ll be amazed at how much sharper your brain function feels.  And energy levels will soar too!

So, feed your brain by adding some of these elements into your diet and you should start to notice a difference.

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

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

All images: Shutterstock