Eat your way to great hydration

Close up of woman on beach with a glass of water to represent hydration

You probably don’t need reminding that the heat is on right now! We all want to enjoy summer months to the full. However, the body needs to be properly hydrated for energy levels to be sustained and the brain to remain sharp. The body is around 70% water, so what’s the best way of keeping water levels right?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her insights on hydration!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Clearly, we lose more fluids when the weather it hot and steamy because, not to put too finer point on it, we sweat more! Plus, exercising during the hot weather is going to require more fluids to be replaced.

The best advice is to try to avoid dehydration. You can tell if you are properly hydrated because your urine should be almost clear. Generally, we need a minimum of the equivalent of eight glasses of water daily, and up to two litres during the really hot weather.   However, there’s lots of water in fruits and vegetables and they also count towards your fluid intake, plus they’ll deliver lots more besides!

The body naturally contains electrolytes, including sodium, and they all help to regulate water balance in the body. Therefore, we know that for effective hydration, water and other essential nutrients are all needed.

Here are five foods that will keep you hydrated all summer long!

CUCUMBER

This is probably the most watery of all vegetables. It contains some great immune-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, but also provides plenty of electrolytes, so if you’re slightly dehydrated in the heat, it will help to get everything quickly back in balance.

Close up of cucumber

One of the great things about cucumber is that it makes a great snack and is particularly good dipped into hummus. Plus it’s so refreshing; keep a chilled jug of water handy with some sliced cucumber, mint and ginger. It makes drinking water much more interesting!

CELERY

Whilst many people find the taste of celery a little strange and over-powering, it’s certainly worth persevering. It contains plenty of vitamins A, C and K plus some fibre. Celery is also a must for helping to alkalise the body; the body prefers to be slightly alkaline rather than acidic. Over-acidity can cause muscle and joint pain, which is certainly not something you want when you’re out and about enjoying the summer.

Chopped celery and celery stalks on a wooden chopping board

Just like cucumber, celery makes a great summer snack or can be added to a smoothie or juice. In fact, having a vegetable juice after you’ve been exercising or sweating a lot in the heat is one of the best ways of re-hydrating the body.

WATERMELON

An obvious and delicious choice for summer! Watermelon needs no accompaniments – it’s just great simply sliced. It’s also perfect added to a jug of chilled water in the fridge and it’ll encourage you to drink more water! Watermelon is just over 90% water and its rich colour means that it’s also a great source of sun-protecting antioxidants.

Watermelon segments on a wooden board

Plus, if you’re planning a steamy night, then watermelon is the fruit to eat! It contain citrulline which stimulates the amino acid arginine that encourages blood flow to the sexual organs!

BERRIES

Strawberries actually contain the highest water content of all berry fruits and summer is the perfect time to be enjoying them all at their very best. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries and blackberries all make great fruit salads, smoothies, crumbles, pies or Eton mess. And because they’re so transportable, they make perfect post-exercise re-hydration snacks.

Blueberries and strawberries in a heart shape on a wooden board

All berries are packed with anthocyanins, which are plant compounds high in age-blocking antioxidants. So, you’ll skin will look fresh and plumped from being properly hydrated and nutrient-loaded.

SPINACH

Whilst it can be very frustrating when cooking with spinach, as it reduces down so dramatically, its high water content makes it an excellent summer vegetable. It’s best added to salads to enjoy all its nutrients, but most importantly, to keep the body super-hydrated.

A pile of spinach leaves

Additionally, spinach is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, both powerful carotenoids which are very protective of the eyes. Whilst you should always be diligent about wearing sun-glasses when the sun is strong, your eyes will be better protected from the blue light that’s emitted from electronic devices, particularly computers.

So, whilst you’re eating your way to optimal hydration, you’ll also be benefitting from a great nutrient boost at the same time.

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Five ways to have a happy and healthy holiday

The holiday season is here! Whether you’re planning to venture overseas or having a staycation, you and your family all want to feel happy and healthy so you can enjoy your summer break to the full.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer offers her five top tips for great holiday health.

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HAPPY TUMMIES

Gut health is still big news and it certainly holds the key to maintaining great all-round health. If your internal systems aren’t working too well then everything else is going to struggle. In order to try and prevent any nasty tummy troubles on holiday, you need to prepare your gut beforehand; about a month before your holiday or planned staycation would work really well but taking helpful measures at any time will be beneficial.

Enter kefir. Kefir is the king of fermented foods and helps encourage the good gut bacteria, which we all need, to flourish. In fact, it seems to encourage a diversity of good bacteria. It may also be that kefir is more resistant to stomach acid than probiotic supplements, so it will be of even more benefit to the digestive system.

Kefir is readily available in supermarkets. The only downside is that it’s quite sour so it’s best mixed with plain yoghurt and berries on top of muesli or granola.

WATCH THE WATER

We’re generally wary of tap water when travelling to countries not always known for their cleanliness. However, it’s surprisingly easy to pick up a germ (such as a parasite) from water anywhere. Sometimes these can live in the body without making themselves known for a while and then they may start to give you digestive problems. Worse, you could pick up something that really upsets your stomach and spoils your holiday.

The best advice is to drink bottled water wherever you are and brush your teeth with water that has been boiled. Alternatively, you can buy water sterilising tablets to use when you’re away – always better safe than sorry.

Drinking sufficient water is also essential when the weather is hot. Aim for around two litres of bottled or filtered water daily during the summer months. You’re going to sweat more when it’s hot plus if you’re drinking alcohol then this will further dehydrate the body. Any holiday hangovers will be lessened too if you’re well hydrated.

DETER MOSQUITOS

Many a holiday or trip can be ruined by mosquitos feasting on unsuspecting humans. As always, prevention is better than cure. Eating foods high in vitamin B1 may deter mosquitos; beef, liver, wholegrains, oats, brewer’s yeast (think marmite) and brown rice are all good sources of vitamin B1. Also, it’s best to avoid eating refined sugary foods; these make the skin sweeter which will further encourage mosquitos. Plus, of course, alcohol is going to further entice them to your skin!

If you’re prone to insect bites, then it’s also worth packing some repellent spray. Whilst you may not like the smell of it, neither do they!

SUN PROTECTION

Whilst sun cream protects you on the outside from sun burn, they’ll often be parts of the body that get missed when applying it, plus the skin still dries out when exposed to the sun. So, it’s really worth protecting yourself from the inside too!

Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that’s found in many fruits and vegetables, especially yellow and orange ones. Sweet potatoes and yellow peppers both contain lots of beta-carotene. Therefore, make sure your diet is packed with vegetables and some fruit all summer long. It’s not always easy to eat everything you need when holidaying abroad, so make sure you’ve eaten plenty before you go.

POST PLANE YOGA

Sitting on a plane for a few hours (or more) can really give you stiff muscles and joints, not to mention digestive issues. The muscles in the back, quads, hips and glutes all contract. However, with some gentle stretching once you reach your hotel room, you’ll soon be feeling back to your normal self.

Forward bends from standing wide legs, extended child’s pose from a kneeling position and then extending forward as far as possible, and the cat stretch – on all fours breathe deeply, back arched on the inhale and rounded on the exhale – can really help. Do all of these stretches a few times and your muscles will be lengthened again and you’ll be ready to really start your holiday!

So with a little forward planning you can better enjoy your well-earned break.

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Barbeque season: top tips for healthy al fresco dining

Group of friends enjoying eating a barbeque outside

One of the signs that summer is truly here is the smell of barbecued food in the air. As a nation, we love our barbeques and what’s not to like? Dining outdoors with friends and family and soaking up some rays is what summer’s all about.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top tips on what’s hot and what’s not on the Barbie!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

THINK BEYOND BURGERS!

Barbequed food has become much more sophisticated in recent times. However, many people still revert to barbeque ‘staples’, such as burgers, without giving it too much thought. Clearly, they have a place on the barbeque table but whole fish, (trout as a great example) is totally delicious cooked in this way.

Trout with lemon wedges and herb

Gutted trout can be stuffed with coriander, lemongrass, garlic and ginger and wrapped in foil or even newspaper and then cooked at a low heat over the barbeque. Trout are high in healthy omega-3 fats and all herbs deliver some wonderful health benefits. Garlic, for example, is great for the immune system and also helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

SWAP COALS FOR GAS

Gas barbeques were once much-maligned! Whatever happened to the traditional way of cooking barbequed food? However, over time people have realised the many benefits of gas. Most importantly, cooking temperature can be much better controlled. One of the problems with barbequed food is that flames burn the outside of the food before the inside is properly cooked. This, of course is a real problem when cooking chicken and many people have fallen foul to food poisoning for this very reason.

Vegetable skewers on a barbeque

In terms of flavour, you’ll still get that wonderful barbequed-tasting food but it will be cooked evenly throughout. Once you’ve invested in a gas barbeque, there’ll last for years and you’ll find yourself cooking everything on it – even the Sunday roast!

HAVE A HAPPY TUM

On the subject of cooking food thoroughly, it’s no secret that many people suffer from an upset tummy following a barbecue. Obviously, this can be caused by improperly cooked food, but imbalanced gut bacteria can also be a culprit.

The digestive tract naturally contains billions of bacteria – some good, some bad. When there is a prevalence of bad bacteria it can cause all sorts of digestive issues, such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and wind. However, certain foods really encourage growth of good bacteria, many of which are perfect for the barbeque.

Tofu skewers with other vegetables on a barbeque

For example, tofu is a fermented food which feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut but can also be deliciously tasty on the barbecue! Tofu needs some strong flavours alongside it, so how about tofu skewers using tofu you’ve previously marinated? Think spring onions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, chillies and a little brown sugar mixed in olive oil. Healthy and delicious!

TURN UP THE HEAT

Obviously, you’re going to be doing this on the barbecue! However, why not add the healthy warming spice turmeric to your barbecue feast? Turmeric is great added to marinades. For example, chicken drumsticks which are marinated with garlic, coconut milk, fish sauce, turmeric and curry powder make a fabulous barbecued Thai chicken dish.

wooden spoon with powered turmeric and turmeric root

However, the best reason for using plenty of turmeric in your barbecue fest is because it can really help alleviate stomach bloating – a common problem after a barbeque.

BALANCE YOUR SUN EXPOSURE

Part of the fun of having a barbeque is to enjoy the summer weather! It’s really important to top up on vitamin D, our sunshine vitamin, during the summer months. Vitamin D is also stored in the body; whilst this won’t be sufficient to get us through the winter months, it’s certainly beneficial during the summer particularly for the bones and immune system.

People enjoying a barbeque outside

Around 15 minutes exposure to the sun without sun cream is recommended. This is not long enough to cause any harm, but just long enough to do some real good. People are often reticent of putting on a high-strength sun cream fearing they won’t tan at all! Unfortunately, many people tend to stay out in the sun for too long, forgetting the strength of its rays at this time of year. However, if you always use a minimum SPF 30 on the body, it will maintain a healthy glow rather than a deep and skin-damaging tan. Plus always wear a hat and protect your eyes with sun glasses.

So make the most of the summer right now and enjoy deliciously tasty and healthy barbecues this season.

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Enjoy fun in the sun with these top summer health tips

After, what seems like a very long winter, summer is finally here! So are you full of energy and ready to enjoy these longer days or feeling a little lack-lustre?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives some top tips on how to best prepare for some summer fun!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

ENERGISING NUTRIENTS

If you’re not feeling super-energised right now, then it may be that you need some more energising nutrients in your diet. A key nutrient to give you that ‘get-up-and-go feeling, is iron; it transports oxygen throughout the bloodstream. People who are slightly iron-deficient often get out of breath easily, particularly during exercise, and other symptoms can include fatigue and pale skin. So how can you increase this important nutrient?

Red meat contains the most absorbable form of iron. However, if you’re a non-meat-eater or vegetarian, foods such as beans, dried fruit, spinach and dark chocolate contain some iron and if eaten with other foods or drinks containing vitamin C, then the iron becomes much more absorbable.

The family of B vitamins are also essential for releasing energy from food. Some of the best food sources are whole grain cereals (some are also fortified with additional B-vitamins), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and lentils.

TROUBLE SLEEPING?

Light mornings often means we wake up earlier than we would like, plus summer nights can be hot and humid. Ideally a bedroom needs to be dark to allow the body to naturally produce melatonin, our sleep hormone. If you find you’re waking up too early, either invest in some black-out blinds or curtains or alternatively try an eye mask.

A warm milky drink before bedtime is not just an old-wives’ tale! Any type of milk, particularly cow’s milk or soya, contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps produce more melatonin. A couple of oats cakes as a snack before bed will also encourage a peaceful slumber.

DRINK FOR YOUR SUMMER SKIN

The hotter it gets, the more hydration your body needs and your skin will really suffer if you’re dehydrated. As a general rule, the body needs at least 1 ½ – 2 litres of water daily (this can include herbal or fruit teas). However, if you’re getting really hot and sweaty, then the body needs its electrolytes replenishing as well: these are salts within the body that are depleted when the body loses fluids. Magnesium, sodium and potassium are examples of electrolytes.

Whizzing up a juice or smoothie is a great way of getting some of these electrolytes back into the body. Think avocado, blueberries, and beetroot with some coconut water for an electrolyte punch. Plus, avocadoes are packed full of skin-loving vitamin E, to give you an extra glow!

DOUBLE UP YOUR EXERCISE

The summer often makes us feel like we want to increase an existing exercise plan or get one started. The best way is to double up your gains is by joining a group or club (think tennis or outdoor fitness) or participating in a team sport.

High intensity training can be tough, especially in the summer heat. However, sessions are often relatively short and when done with other people (or a partner or friend), they can actually be fun too! It will make sticking to the plan much easier.

EAT AWAY STRESS

Stress is our modern day epidemic; long working hours, busy family life, relationship woes or money worries all take their toll. Plus, of course, it can impact on summer fun and enjoyment. Whilst stress is often unavoidable, the body can be fuelled to better cope.

Vitamin C is needed to help produce our stress hormone cortisol. Strawberries (in season right now), red peppers and citrus fruits are all great sources of vitamin C. Plus the B vitamins also play a key role in helping the body to manage the stress response.

Additionally get some walnuts in your life! Why? Because they’re high in the essential omega-3 fats. We frequently forget about them but omega-3’s are key in brain function and in helping the body better manage stress. If walnuts are not your bag, then pumpkin seeds or oily fish are also great sources.

So with a few dietary changes and some lifestyle shifts, you can be enjoying wonderful summer days to the full.

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The health benefits of marvellous melons!

Melons are deliciously refreshing fruits to enjoy in the summer, either on their own or as part of a colourful fruit salad. Packed with nutrients, and full of colour and flavour, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer whets the appetite for three tasty varieties – watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew.

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THE BASICS

Melons come from the same family as squash – part of the gourd family – and were first cultivated around 4,000 years ago, originally in south-east Asia.  They tend to fall into two categories: Citrillus lanatus or watermelons and Cucumus melo which includes honeydew and cantaloupe.

Unlike bananas, melons don’t get any sweeter after they’ve been picked.  To judge if they’re ripe enough to eat, you should tap watermelons and listen for a dull sound, whereas honeydews should be just slightly soft when pressing the skin.  Cantaloupes should give off a strong, fruity aroma.

Melons, as with a number of other fruits and vegetables, are especially good for alkalising the body.  The body is naturally more alkaline than acidic (around Ph 7) therefore, it’s much healthier to maintain its natural state.  Stress and a very high protein diet can cause more acidity and also problems with acid reflux, therefore melons can help to restore natural balance.

Melons are actually digested quite quickly and certainly quicker than a number of other fruits.  For this reason, they’re generally better eaten alone if you suffer from sluggish digestion.  However, they do of course, taste delicious when mixed with other fruits and generally don’t cause any digestive problems for most people.

Summer is certainly the best time of year for eating all varieties of melons; off-season they can be hard and slightly tasteless, so enjoy right now!

WATERMELON

Although containing slightly less nutrients than its counterparts, watermelon is fantastic at rehydrating the body, particularly during the summer months.  In fact, just a two-cup serving of watermelon provides enough daily potassium to keep the body properly hydrated at a cellular level.  This will help to avoid muscle cramps, maintain energy levels but also help to stimulate the kidneys to work more efficiently.  The effect will also ensure your ‘waterworks’ function nicely!

One lesser-known fact about watermelon is that it has been called ‘nature’s natural Viagra’, and for very good reason!  Watermelon is high in citrulline, which is converted in the body to the amino acid, arginine, which helps to dilate blood vessels.  This in turn, can support erectile function.

Watermelons also contain more lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) than tomatoes.  Because lycopene is fat-soluble, it’s always best eaten with healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocadoes, and live yoghurt or with a cheese such as feta.

CANTALOUPE MELON

Cantaloupe holds its wonderful health benefits within its beautiful orange-coloured flesh. It’s the orange colour that provides one of its most important nutrients – beta carotene. Cantaloupe also contains a range of carotenoids which are all powerful antioxidants.  They have been linked to the prevention of free radical damage to cells which leads to some of our most common degenerative diseases.

Cantaloupes are actually the most nutritious of all melon varieties with a 100 g portion providing around half of our recommended intake of vitamin C.  Additionally, they’re a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two other carotenoids which are particularly beneficial for the eyesight.  Cantaloupes are also a good source of potassium and other electrolytes, making them a great post-exercise snack after you’ve worked out!

HONEYDEW MELON

This is the melon most often paired with Parma ham; the salty taste of the ham and the sweetness of the melon make a perfect partnership! Honeydews are the sweetest of all melons when ripe, plus, the alkalinity of the melon helps to balance the acidity of the ham.  They’re also popular in salads and other desserts.

Honeydews are a perfect fresh summer treat and work particularly well in smoothies or as an accompaniment to walnuts and chicken in a salad. Nutritionally, they don’t provide quite as much vitamin C as cantaloupes, but still provide pretty good amounts.

Honeydews also provide a good balance of both soluble and insoluble fibre (and the body needs both).  Soluble fibre helps regulate digestion and insoluble fibre is the roughage the body needs to keep the bowels moving regularly.

So whichever variety you choose, make sure your summer meal plans include some marvellous melons!

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