How important is Vitamin C to health?

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

We’ve all heard of vitamin C. And we really started to understand its importance for our health once the Government campaign of ‘5-a-day’ of fruits and vegetables kicked in.  The more fruits and vegetable you eat, the more vitamin C you’ll get, and hopefully your health will improve.

Interestingly, research shows that since neolithic times, intake of citrus fruits and berries, rich in vitamin C, have fallen by 90%.  So why does Vitamin C matter so much?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives five reasons for making sure your diet is rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin C supports immunity

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This is probably one of the main reasons that people know about vitamin C.  It’s often talked about in the context of colds or flu because it plays a key role in immune mechanisms.

Vitamin C enhances the production of white blood cells which are essential for fighting off unwanted invaders by increasing antibody levels. However, during times of physical or emotional stress, we tend to lose more vitamin C in the urine.  This also happens when we’re subjected to chemical stressors such as pollutants or cigarette smoke, hence a good daily supply of vitamin C is essential.

Vitamin C is a key antioxidant

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Indeed, it’s our primary antioxidant helping to protect the body from free radical damage.  The body is very clever (as we know!) and it has in-built antioxidant enzyme systems to protect the body from the outside world but also what goes on inside the body.  Normal metabolic processes create free radicals; hence we have these systems in place.

These enzyme systems need vitamin C to function correctly.  Since it’s a water-soluble nutrient, the body can’t store it, and so daily intake is essential.

Vitamin C is essential for collagen production

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Collagen is, of course, a hot topic right now, especially in the context of pro-ageing and skin health. However, it’s also the most abundant structural protein in the body, without which we would literally collapse!

Collagen holds the body together and is part of connective tissue, cartilage, tendons and much more besides, making it essential for wound repair, healthy gums, and prevention of bruising. None of this can happen without vitamin C.

Vitamin C is needed for a healthy heart

An apple with a heart shape cut out to show that apples are good for a healthy heart

Vitamin C primarily helps protect against cardiovascular disease down to its role as an antioxidant, plus it strengthens collagen structures of the arteries.  Damage from free radicals is a major factor in atherosclerosis, due to LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol being oxidised and causing blockages.

The good news, however, is that vitamin C helps reduce cholesterol and increases levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, so has a protective effect.  Additionally, it helps reduce blood pressure and keeps blood flowing smoothly through the blood vessels.

Vitamin C helps reduce allergic reactions

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Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine by preventing secretion of histamine by white blood cells (which is actually a normal part of the immune response) and helping detoxify histamine.  Problems occur when we can’t control histamine production effectively, and then the tell-tale unpleasant allergic reactions occur.

Having a higher intake of vitamin C might also help sufferers of asthma by controlling the release of histamine, but also because of its work as an antioxidant in the airways.  Since vitamin C helps boost immunity, any external stressor such as environmental issues which often trigger asthma attacks, may be better controlled.

What are the best sources of vitamin C?

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

Acerola cherries, red peppers, kale, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, oranges, guavas, and red cabbage.  However, all fruits and vegetables contain some so just load up your plate with colour!

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Three nutrients to support your immunity this winter

Close up of a doctor holding a blackboard with Immune System written on it in chalk

It’s feeling decidedly chilly outside!  Unfortunately, winter is not too far away and with that normally comes the round of colds and infections.  And we’re being warned that we could face lots of bugs this winter. 

However, fore-warned is fore-armed in these situations so now is the perfect time to ensure you’re giving your body what it needs to fight off any invaders.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her three top immune-supportive nutrients.

Vitamin D

This one has to be at the top of the list! We’ve learned so much more about vitamin D during and since the Covid pandemic, especially in terms of how essential it is for the immune system.

Clearly, we’ve had a good summer, during which time the body restore its reserves of vitamin D, as the sunlight hits the skin.  However, not everyone is in the sun, and it’s not clear just how much the body stores, and reserves are certainly not going to last all winter.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in eggs, oily fish, mushrooms and dairy produce and some fortified foods.  However, it’s not in sufficient amounts and the body still needs to convert that vitamin D into the active D3 form which takes place in the kidneys.  It’s no surprise therefore that it is recommended that everyone takes a supplement of at least 10 micrograms through the darker, colder months of October to March.  This is the minimum amount to take – you may find you need to take much higher dosages, which is why it’s worth having your blood levels of vitamin D checked.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a real powerhouse within the immune system. It fulfils many functions but essentially supports the production of immune-fighting white blood cells.  Vitamin C is water-soluble which means it leaves the cells quite quickly, hence it needs to feature in the diet very regularly.

It’s good to know, therefore, that vitamin C is widely found in fruits and vegetables.  In fact, it’s in so many that there’s no real need to over-complicate things by picking and choosing those with the highest amounts!

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

The best advice is to include plenty of colour in your meals and in this way, you’ll be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and therefore essential nutrients. This is so important for health and, especially immunity, because fruits and vegetables are loaded with powerful antioxidants which help to protect the body.

The more stressed you are, the more Vitamin C is burned up by the body so if this sounds like you, you may find that it is helpful to take in even more Vitamin C by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables.

Zinc

One of the reasons why zinc makes its way onto the immune powerhouse list is because it’s involved in almost every aspect of immune function. Without sufficient zinc, many white blood cell functions, critical to immunity, stop working.

Just like vitamin C, zinc possesses anti-viral activity so it can help protect us against colds and flu.  However, the body needs zinc all the time within the body in order to do its work properly.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Zinc is widely available in plant and animal sources but not in the refined foods that many people eat in abundance.  Try to include more whole grains in the diet such as wholewheat bread and pasta, quinoa, and buckwheat, plus beans, nuts, oats, and fish.  Indeed, one of the highest food sources of zinc is oysters. So don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to eat some of these amazing aphrodisiacs!

Interestingly, zinc is involved in so many functions in the body, it can become marginally deficient quite easily.  Common signs of this are white spots on the fingernails, frequent infections, hormonal disruptions, poor taste and smell, and skin problems.

Start your winter immune preparations now and hopefully you’ll have an infection-free season

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Super salads for summer

 

shutterstock_179802641 healthy summer salad Aug16

It’s nearly summer which for many of us means salad season!  We tend to associate warmer weather with eating more salads, which is great.  Lots of salad vegetables are in season right now, so it makes sense to be eating plenty.  

It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut with salads; however, this doesn’t need to be the case. Give your salads some love with new ideas, and you’ll love them more too! 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top super salads.

 

Whilst some people may be lucky enough to be travelling to the Mediterranean this summer, for those with other plans, we can all still enjoy the region’s delicious salad recipes, and which bring great nutritional benefits too. Here are two ideas:

Greek Salad

shutterstock_133631465 greek salad Aug16

It’s hard to beat a traditional Greek Salad; it’s easy to prepare, provides a wealth of nutrients and is delicious too. You just need some beautifully sweet cherry tomatoes, cucumber, green peppers, onions, olives, feta cheese and plenty of mixed herbs to sprinkle.

There’s lots of reasons why there are many populations with longer life expectancy in Mediterranean countries.  Eating these types of foods regularly which are rich in colour and antioxidants, fibre, protein, and immune-boosting nutrients, provides so much of what the body needs and loves on a daily basis.

Bean salad

shutterstock_226518142 bean salad Aug16

Beans of all types are part of the typical Mediterranean diet and are nutrient powerhouses, hence a Mediterranean Bean Salad really hits the spot. Beans are high in protein, fibre, antioxidants, energising B-vitamins and a wealth of minerals that are frequently deficient in the UK population.  It’s much better to choose dried beans and soak them overnight before using, to avoid the additional salt and canning processes if possible. Other than that, it’s a free ride!

Cannellini and kidney beans are great for salads, so just chop plenty of cucumber, peppers, onions, olives, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and some feta or mozzarella to partner. Equally, you can add tinned tuna for a real protein hit as well as providing brain-loving omega-3s. And don’t forget plenty of herbs including fresh basil and dried oregano.

There are so many salad combinations which provide a wealth of nutrients – here are another three of my favourites:

The Liver Lover

Beetroot and goats cheese salad

This salad contains beetroot which is effective for liver detoxification.  Beetroot also helps to provide heart-healthy nitric oxide, which is also helpful for performance athletes, as well as providing energising iron and folate.

Delicious halloumi or goat’s cheese creates the perfect partnership and provides protein too. From there, you can let your imagination run wild.  Beetroot always works well alongside some other sweetness – why not try pomegranate and sliced oranges, both full of immune-boosting vitamin C. If you fancy some chopped onion, then go for it but also try adding some fresh mint and your choice of dressing.

Tomato and mozzarella

Delicious,Caprese,Salad,With,Ripe,Tomatoes,And,Mozzarella,Cheese,With

A simple tomato and mozzarella salad, using vine-ripened tomatoes for greater flavour, is a fantastic salad choice. Eating tomatoes with cheese provides fat for the health-boosting carotenoids to be better absorbed.  Lycopene is especially rich in tomatoes and is a powerful antioxidant, great for male prostate health too.  This dish just needs a drizzle of good quality olive oil, some fresh basil torn and scattered on the top, and plenty of salt and pepper to enjoy at its best.

Salmon Salad

Grilled,Salmon,Fillets,With,Lemon,And,Caramelized,Bacon,Served,With

A delicious salmon salad is really going to power up your brain because of the health-boosting omega-3 fats that are rich in salmon. The brain is made up of lots of omega-3 fats, hence you need to eat plenty as the body can’t make them. Try to find wild salmon if you can as this provides more antioxidants and less pollutants.

The salmon fillets can marinate with teriyaki sauce and then be lightly grilled. Meanwhile, fresh rocket leaves, sliced onion and cooked and cooled French beans or asparagus are the order of the day. You can also add tomatoes and Jersey Royal potatoes (in season now). This salad makes a great and easy midweek summer recipe that’s full of vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants which help protect skin against sun damage (amongst their many other amazing health benefits).

Love summer – love summer salads!

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Seasonal Eating: what to eat this spring

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

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

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

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

 

Strawberries

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

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

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

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

Asparagus

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

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

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

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

Celeriac

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

Celeriac

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

Crab

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

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

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

Spring Lamb

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

Lamb

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

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

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

Stay well.

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Five greens to fuel your body this spring

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

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

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

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

 

Spinach

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

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

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

Kale

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

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

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

Watercress

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

shutterstock_601599119 watercress Apr17

 

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

Purple sprouting broccoli

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

shutterstock_420677122 purple broccoli Apr17

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

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

Spring greens

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

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

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

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

Stay well.

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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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Three soups to help support your immunity

A range of bowls of soup

There’s so much being talked about in terms of immunity currently, and for obvious reasons. The immune system needs to be fully supported at this time of year and especially right now.  Whilst it’s never ‘one thing’ that cures all, taking a combined approach is always best. 

What we put into our body nutritionally is very important.  Enjoying an immune-boosting soup is an easy, delicious, and effective way of protecting the body against unwanted invaders.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three favourite soups to help support your immunity.

The rooted soup

Push back against the same old recipes for chicken broth soup and get the body rooted where it loves to be!  All root vegetables are in season right now and this is no coincidence.  Nature knows what the body needs and provides it at the right time of year.

Root vegetables including turnips, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, parsnips, and onions all work really well in soups.  You can blend them as much as you like, either to create a smooth texture or enjoy as a thicker broth.

A bowl of warming butternut squash soup

Root vegetables are a great source of energising B-vitamins, immune-boosting vitamin C and beta-carotene as well as a range of other antioxidants to help protect the body. You don’t need to over think what you put into the mix with this soup as all the vegetables work superbly together.  And if you haven’t got them all in the larder, that’s no problem either; just use what’s to hand. Spice them up with other roots such as garlic and ginger to really super-charge the immune boost.

The detox soup

Whilst the body has its own, very effective methods, of detoxifying, if the remnants of Christmas over-indulgence are still putting extra stress on the body, then the immune system may be under more threat.  Helping the body to detoxify is going to be really beneficial right now.

A bowl of watercress soup

Foods that encourage liver detoxification include broccoli, garlic, turmeric, and onions.  These ingredients work really well in a soup – you can also add celery which is a natural diuretic.  Additionally, carrots are loaded with beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A within the body.

You’ve got the perfect range of ingredients; you just need to boil them up with some vegetable stock and add seasoning.

The East meets West soup

Coconut milk is a staple ingredient in many eastern cultures.  It’s generally well-tolerated by all digestive systems and contains plenty of compounds that help to naturally cleanse the body. A coconut curry soup is great for supporting detoxification but also contains many warming spices to naturally support immunity during the winter months. Furthermore, the super-healthy brassica vegetables, cauliflower and kale play a starring role in this tasty soup.

Leek and potato soup in a bowl

You’ll need onions, garlic, vegetable stock, chopped cauliflower and kale, curry powder, ginger, turmeric, and coriander leaves, plus, of course a can of coconut milk. As with most soups, the ingredients just need to be gently simmered until cooked and then the soup is best blended to bring all the delicious flavours together.

A word about spices

Nature has provided an amazing treasure chest of delicious and warming spices which are especially beneficial to the immune system at this time of year.  Why not experiment with their flavours?  Cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, ginger, garlic, coriander, various curry powders, and garam masala all have a place in daily cooking. 

CLose up of a pestle and mortar surrounded by herbs and spices

They all provide disease-fighting, blood-sugar balancing, digestion-soothing and internal cleansing benefits, so fill up your store cupboard with dried versions so they’re always available.  Also look to use fresh herbs as much as possible.  Your body will certainly thank you for it!

So, enjoy these delicious soups and give your immune system a helping hand at the same time.

Stay well.

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How to boost your immunity this Christmas

 

Christmas,Wishes,Concept,-,Key,With,Inscription,Health,On,Tag

Whilst it’s traditionally the season to be jolly, Christmas is also the time of year when colds and nasty bugs proliferate.  And this year is no exception, plus there is the ongoing risk of more Covid infections. 

It’s certainly time to boost defences this festive season and there are many ways that you can support your health through diet and lifestyle changes.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top ways of boosting immunity this Christmas.

 

Take a Vitamin D supplement

In terms of supporting the immune system, this is probably one of the best defences you can employ.  With so much research on vitamin D now emerging, the essential role this vitamin plays within the immune system is unquestionable.

Yellow,Pills,Forming,Shape,To,D,Alphabet,On,Wood,Background

Whilst Government guidelines recommend a minimum supplementation of 10 micrograms daily, many people need more than this.  If possible, it’s worth having your blood levels checked by the doctor.  However, if you have lots of aches and pains or are suffering with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), chances are you may need more vitamin D for a while. In terms of diet, mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D so try to add these to your festive menus. 

Eat plenty of colour

Vitamin C is another essential nutrient to help support the immune system and it’s rich in most fruits and vegetables.  If you’re eating plenty of colour, then the chances are you’re getting sufficient vitamin C.

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

However, vitamin C is quickly lost from the body and is also utilised more during stressful times; unfortunately, as we know, Christmas can be challenging for many of us.  Why not give your vitamin C levels a boost by enjoying a daily vitamin C-rich juice including apples, celery, carrots, and parsley to really get the day off to a healthy start?

Try to ensure that as many meals as possible contain green leafy vegetables, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash.  These vegetables contain beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A, as needed, as well as providing loads of vitamin C.

Enjoy some R & R

Stress raises cortisol levels which in turn can suppress the immune system – definitely not what you need right now! It’s important, therefore, to try to keep everything balanced and take some time out to rest and recuperate.

A woman relaxing at christmas with her eyes shut in front of a christmas tree

This is often difficult if you have a really busy life and/or have young children demanding your attention.  However, just taking 10 minutes out to lie on your bed and do some deep breathing, meditation or listen to some music, can work wonders. 

Having a warm bath before bedtime and adding some Epsom salts which are rich in relaxing magnesium, can also have an amazing restorative effect.  Try to find what works for you and practice it every day.

Take some exercise

Moderate exercise helps to increase production of viral-fighting immune cells.  This doesn’t mean spending hours tormenting yourself in the gym, but just taking regular exercise that raises the heart rate.

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

Walking is an incredibly effective form of exercise. It helps to maintain strong bones and supports your mental wellbeing.  It’s also important to do some form of resistance exercise, which is especially key for ladies during and after the menopause; women can lose as much as 30% of their bone mass after menopause. Lifting a few hand weights, doing some weighted squats, or using your own body weight in postures which form part of a yoga practise such as plank can really help.

Support your mental wellbeing

There’s so much being discussed right now around mental wellbeing which is a positive change.  However, many people are still unwilling to admit they’re struggling.  If this sounds like you, then are many walking and talking groups, or online forums you can join, which can provide much needed support. The most difficult part is admitting that you have a problem.  If you reach out, there is plenty of help available.

Team,Holding,Building,Blocks,Spelling,Out,Support

If anxiety is a problem for you, then both the herbs Rhodiola and Ashwagandha are incredibly effective at calming the nerves.  They are known as adaptogenic herbs, which means they help to manage the stress response and reduce cortisol levels.  Both are available in supplement form.

Prevention is always better than cure so ramp up your immunity defences this festive season and enjoy a healthy Christmas.

Stay well.

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Support your immunity with these three top vitamins

shutterstock_114498919 woman cold flu Oct16

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

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

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

Vitamin C

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

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

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

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

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

Vitamin E

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

shutterstock_381113728 vitamin E Oct17

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

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

Vitamin A

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

A selection of foods containing Vitamin A

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

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

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

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

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

Stay well.

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October eating: what’s in season right now

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

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

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

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

Kale

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

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

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

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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.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

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