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.

shutterstock_488572450-eggs-and-kale-nov16

Kale needs to be cooked well (but not overcooked) otherwise it may be tough.  It can be steamed, simmered or sauteed and stock can be added for some extra flavour.  However, it works really well with strong flavours such as smoked haddock, in a stir fry with garlic, ginger and chilli or in a Caldo Verde soup (a traditional Portuguese recipe), with chorizo, onions, potatoes and garlic.

Swede

Proof that nature intended us to eat swedes at this time of year when the body is looking for additional warmth, is that they’re especially hardy and survive harsh frosts.

Freshly,Picked,Swedes

A member of the healthy cruciferous family of vegetables, swede also contains highly protective indoles which are especially great for balancing oestrogen.  As such, they may well be helpful for women going through menopause.

Swede provides a great source of fibre, plenty of vitamin C and bone-building magnesium, manganese, and calcium, so is a great all-round provider of nutrients.

Often confused with the root vegetable turnip, swede makes an equally tasty vegetable side, mashed with butter and pepper, or added to stews or soups for additional delicious flavour.

Fried,Dices,Of,Carrot,And,Swede,,In,A,Pan,+

Swedes work really well mashed with other root vegetables, especially carrots. They are also great cubed, roasted and sprinkled with cumin, or with leek and potato in a cheese gratin.

Plums

With over 2,000 varieties of plums to choose from, there’ll never be a shortage of colours available ranging from light green to yellow to dark red.

A bowl full of plums

The beautiful colours of plums are responsible for delivering an amazing array of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which are protective of the aging process. Additionally, plums contain one of our key fat-soluble antioxidants, vitamin E, which is great for the skin and heart.  Unusually though, for a fruit, plums also contain tryptophan, an amino acid which helps produces serotonin, our happy hormone.

When plums are dried, they are known as prunes, and contain a higher content of fibre, hence they have been used traditionally for many years to treat constipation.  Equally, prunes work really well in many meat and game dishes, and are often used in traditional French recipes.

Close,Up,Of,Fresh,Juicy,Grilled,Beef,Steak,Served,With

Whilst plums can be eaten raw, with the skin peeled, they work well in sweet or savoury dishes.  They can be simply stewed with a little sweetening agent and used on cereals or porridge or used in a simple crumble with cinnamon.  They are equally delicious in a braised pork dish with apples, potatoes, garlic and thyme. There are endless possibilities and a myriad of health benefits to eating plums right now.

So, enjoy seasonal eating this October and reap the many health and nutritional benefits.

Stay well.

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Vegetable bakes: 3 delicious and nutritious dishes to fuel your autumn

A range of roasted vegetables

Baking isn’t all about making cakes as much as we love them! Vegetables can also feature in a range of delicious baked dishes, and now really is the time to be increasing your vegetable intake.

We know from published data and research that people are eating even fewer vegetables than they were before the pandemic.  With winter around the corner, now is the time to boost your immune system and get some powerful nutrients, delicious flavours, and gorgeous colours into your diet.

This National Baking Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three favourite vegetable bakes.

Roasted vegetables

This is hands down my favourite way of baking vegetables!  Not only do roasted veggies look great on the plate because of their array of colours, the flavours and textures bring out all that is great about them.

Even better, this is not going to take you hours in the kitchen. It will deliver a wealth of nutrients and you can vary the recipe to suit the season, what’s in your store cupboard, and where the mood takes you.

My favourite vegetables for nutrient value, taste and colour are:

Tomatoes

shutterstock_454912315 tomatoes Mar17

Rich in a powerful antioxidant lycopene to protect immunity and future-proof health.

Courgettes

A range of courgettes

Full of lutein and zeaxanthin that are great for eye health particularly if you’re spending long hours in front of screens.

Broccoli

Broccoli florets on a plate

An all-round superfood but especially great for digestion, detoxification, and antioxidant protection.

Red onion

Red,Onions,On,Rustic,Wood

Slightly more powerful in taste than white onion and loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and quercetin.  If you suffer from any type of allergies, then quercetin can really help to dampen things down.

Garlic

shutterstock_552242461 garlic Aug17

Another great all-rounder and a natural antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial botanical.  Furthermore, it’s great for reducing high blood pressure and helping to manage cholesterol.

Carrots

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

High in beta carotene which is great for the immune system.  Beta carotene is turned into vitamin A which is needed for good night vision: it’s no myth that carrots help you see in the dark!

Simply chop up the veggies, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 30-40 minutes.  You might want to add the tomatoes about halfway through, so they are not overcooked.  You can also add some fresh herbs of your choice. Serve with whatever takes your fancy but a tray of roasted vegetables is delicious with any fish or chicken dish or simply served with quinoa.

Autumnal Bean and Vegetable Bake

As seasons change, so does the seasonal availability of fresh vegetables.  The body needs warmth right now, hence nature provides lots of root vegetables at this time of year.

Pumpkins, synonymous with this time of year,  butternut squash, parsnip and beetroot are great roasted with cumin. These veggies are all rich in antioxidants to protect the immune system during the winter months.

Colorful,Blend,Of,Roasted,Potatoes,,Yams,,Carrots,,Yellow,Beets,,Parsnips

While these are roasting, fry some onions, with garlic, paprika, ground coriander and cumin. These are all warming spices giving the body what it craves at this time of year.  Add some tinned tomatoes (rich in lycopene) and cannellini beans.  All beans are packed with essential protein, fibre and vitamin B6, great for hormone balance.

Canned,White,Beans,With,Green,Fresh,Dill,Leaf

Leave to simmer for 20 minutes then put everything together in an oven dish, add some breadcrumbs and roast until crisp.  You’ve produced a highly nutritious and delicious baked dish!

Cauliflower Cheese with a twist

Cauliflower is part of the highly prized cruciferous family.  As with all the family members (including broccoli), these guys can’t put a step wrong when it comes to protecting overall health.  Add some cheese and everything looks brighter.

In this dish the cauliflower florets are roasted, with some vitamin C-rich red peppers and onions, together with mushrooms, which provide some Vitamin D.  Towards the end of cooking make up a traditional cheese sauce using delicious and flavoursome cheddar cheese.

Loaded,Vegetable,Casserole,With,Broccoli,,Cauliflower,And,Leek.,Top,View,

Pour over the vegetables, top with some grated parmesan and you’ll have the most delicious and warming autumn meal, that’s also loaded with nutrients.  For vegetarians, this is great for providing a protein hit.  Simply serve with a side salad if desired to further enrich the colour and nutrient content.

So, enjoy mixing and matching your vegetables in baked dishes this autumn – it’s a win-win for your health too!

Stay well.

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Five health-giving herbs for home-growing

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

As part of nature’s offerings, there are many amazing herbs that can not only support our health, but also add some great tastes to a wide range of dishes.  Even better, you can grow them at home whether you have some pots in the garden or a sunny windowsill.

It’s also great to blend the herbs into homemade teas in order to get a more concentrated effect, as relatively small amounts are used in cooking.

This National Gardening Week Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five herbs you can grow at home.

Bay

Fresh,Bay,Leaves,In,A,Wooden,Bowl,On,A,Rustic

Bay leaves are probably one of the most common herbs grown at home in pots as they are also very decorative.  And you only need a couple of bay leaves in a stew for example, so the bay tree will still retain its beauty!

Fresh,Bouquet,Garni,With,Different,Herbs,On,An,Old,Wooden

Bay is an essential ingredient in the seasoning bouquet garni which is frequently used in soups, stews and casseroles. It is particularly delicious when used in slow-cooked dishes, so the flavours truly permeate though the ingredients. Bay is used to stimulate and aid digestion so can help reduce any potential digestive upsets from a dish that maybe slightly fatty, such as a meat stew.

Chives

Bunch,Of,Fresh,Chives,On,A,Wooden,Cutting,Board,,Selective

Chives are primarily cultivated for culinary uses and are easy to grow in small spaces as long as it’s nice and sunny and you provide them with plenty of water to keep the soil moist.  Chives also appreciate regular trimming, and they certainly provide something pretty to look at on the windowsill.

Potato,Salad,With,Eggs,And,Green,Onion,On,White,Plate

Part of the onion family, chives are great for adding to potato dishes (especially potato salad), egg dishes, salads and soups. Medicinally, chives have been found to help stimulate appetite after illness and but also aid digestion.  They can add some great flavour without causing some of the digestive upsets that onions trigger in some people.

Mint

Fresh,Mint,Leafs,In,Mortar,On,Grey,Wooden,Table

Mint is probably one of the easiest herbs to grow at home as it’s very resilient and is actually better grown in a pot on its own because it really likes to take over other plants. Additionally, it does come back year after year with some light trimming and also provides some pretty flowers.  Mint likes plenty of sunlight but also needs moisture.

Grilled,Lamb,Chops,Marinated,With,Mint,.style,Rustic.,Selective,Focus

Mint is extremely versatile in many dishes but is also really coming into its own with Pimm’s season on the horizon!  However, it’s great added to both sweet dishes (ice creams) or savoury (lamb).  Mint helps with digestion and is great for calming the stomach after food if made into an infusion (just pour boiling water over the leaves).  Mint also stimulates the immune system so may help to ward off a cold.

Rosemary

Rosemary,Bound,On,A,Wooden,Board

With its amazing aroma, you’ll always be reminded of the Mediterranean if you grow rosemary at home.  It’s great added to lamb or chicken dishes but also works well as a flavouring in roasted vegetables, especially potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Selective,Focus.,Rustic,Golden,Baked,Potato.,Sliced,Baked,Potato,With

Rosemary is an amazing antioxidant so helps protect the body from aging and degenerative diseases.  Additionally, it helps to balance and stimulate the nervous and circulatory systems.

Basil

Basil.

Another herb with a wonderful aroma, basil will also remind you of Spanish and Italian cooking, particularly in tomato dishes. It is great grown on windowsills as it doesn’t like frost but can be grown outside during the summer months.

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

Basil is known to be a natural tranquiliser, a tonic that can help calm the nervous system, as well as aiding digestion.  Interestingly, whilst basil really adds flavour to many Italian styled dishes, if used with raw tomatoes and mozzarella cheese (a traditional caprese salad), with a little olive oil drizzled, all the fat-soluble nutrients in tomatoes become much more absorbable for the body.  Therefore, it’s a win-win situation when adding basil.

So, why not start your own herb garden and you’ll have delicious flavours and ready-made health benefits on tap too!

Stay well.

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Get your nutrition into tip top shape this National Nutrition Month

Hands holding the letters whici spell Nutrition

It’s National Nutrition Month highlighting the amazing health benefits of feeding your body with the nutrients it needs to flourish and function optimally. 

With so much information available we can sometimes get confused and side-tracked, which can lead to de-motivation.  It’s about getting the basics right first.  This is the answer to overall and lasting wellness.

 Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips for nutritional health.

Colour it up

When it comes to nutrients, it’s all about colour; the more colour variety you have in your diet, the more nutrients you’ll be eating.  This is because the pigments, especially noticeable in many beautifully coloured fruits and vegetables, are rich in antioxidants and lots of other health-giving plant compounds.

A range of colourful fruit and veg rainbow

We are advised to eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and veg a day.  This is because these foods are some of the most nutrient-dense on the planet.  They are not just rich in antioxidants but loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. Just go for as much colour variety as possible and you’ll be going a long way to giving the body what it needs. Think of the colours of the rainbow and go from there.

Portion control

It seems many of us have put on a few unwanted kilos during lockdown which is completely understandable.  It’s been much more difficult to maintain any structured exercise programme with the constraints on our lives.  However, life is hopefully going to improve so now is a great time to tackle any weight gain.

It’s very common to turn to food for comfort or because ‘we deserve a treat’.  And sometimes, we might not even realise how much we’re eating just in snacks alone, so keeping a food diary is a great idea.

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

One point to note is that it is protein from meat, fish, poultry, soya, lentils, eggs, dairy and beans that keeps us feeling fuller for longer, not calorie-laden carbs.  Therefore, eating protein at every meal gives you much more bang for your buck and you’ll gradually train your stomach to eat sensible portions.  And do remember the balance between energy input (via your food) and energy output (though exercise).

Are you thirsty?

It’s really common to think that we’re hungry when actually we’re thirsty.  When it’s cold outside and we’re maybe not doing as much exercise as normal, we might not feel thirsty.  However, the body is around 80% water so regardless of the weather, it still needs plenty of liquid on a daily basis.

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

Non-caffeinated drinks such as herbal teas, also count towards your liquid requirements but do aim to drink 1 ½ – 2 litres of water daily; you’ll also eat less and have much more energy.

Be kind to your insides

Your digestive system needs to work well for the body to look and feel healthy.  In short, if the gut is not working properly, then nothing else will. The gut microbiome, the wealth of friendly bacteria that naturally reside in the digestive tract, needs loving and nurturing.  These bacteria work very hard for us, boosting the immune system and producing certain vitamins, minerals and brain neurotransmitters. Keeping the digestive system running smoothly and looking after how we feed it will impact how we look and feel generally.

Close up of woman's tummy with her hands making a heart shape in front

Feed it regularly with gut-loving foods (also known as prebiotics) such as garlic, ginger, cruciferous veggies, tempeh, onions, artichokes and bananas.  Foods high in fibre such as whole grains, legumes and fruits and vegetables are all great for gut health too.

Reduce the stimulants

Too much caffeine and alcohol can create anxiety and exacerbate stress, both of which are not helpful especially at the current time. Additionally, caffeinated drinks often contain sweeteners, and alcohol is high in sugar, both of which can act as anti-nutrients, knocking certain vitamins and minerals sideways.  Try to reduce both as much as possible and you’ll feel much calmer and find energy levels soaring.

Mint tea

There are plenty of caffeine-free delicious alternatives such as dandelion coffee and herbal teas, as well as alcohol-free wine, beer and spirits; you can have fun trying out some new tastes.

So, embrace National Nutrition Month and your health will certainly benefit.

Stay well.

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Seasonal eating: five of the best foods for February

Close up of a woman holding a bunch of rhubarb

Working with the seasons and eating foods at their best during the seasonal food year brings many health benefits. 

Nature is very clever and provides foods the body needs for optimal nourishment at the right time throughout the year.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite fruits and vegetables for February.

Leeks

It’s all about roots during the winter months, keeping the body warm and grounded.  Leeks are from the same family as onions and they thrive during colder times because of their ability to withstand frost. Nutritionally, leeks are high in potassium so are very supportive of kidney function, can work as a diuretic and also support a healthy heart.

Leeks in a wooden trough

Their taste is slightly more subtle than onions so they can be used in stews, soups or work well with a cheese sauce. Unfortunately, as with onions and garlic, they do tend to cause some flatulence which is mainly down to their ability to feed the good gut bacteria.  It’s a positive sign and this is great for helping improve the overall balance of friendly flora.

Rhubarb

Whilst not eaten that widely, partly because it’s naturally so sour, rhubarb needs quite a lot of sugar to improve its flavour.  However, making classic rhubarb fool is certainly a great treat for special occasions, whilst delivering a very useful nutrient profile.  However, rhubarb also works brilliantly as a sauce with savoury dishes such as duck.  It’s high in immune-boosting vitamin C and is a great source of fibre and potassium.  To that end, it’s been linked to helping improve cholesterol levels.

Rhubabr stalks and cut rhubarb in a bowl

Rhubarb is actually a vegetable and not a fruit, despite looking like one, and makes a lovely change to eating some of our better-known fruits and vegetables.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Broccoli is well-known for its amazing health benefits.  Purple sprouting has even more, down to its rich colour.  This means it contains greater levels of antioxidant anthocyanins, plus some of our key immune-boosters, vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Purple sprouting broccoli

All types of broccoli contain a compound called sulphoraphane which has been found to help protect us from many degenerative diseases.  Additionally, they provide a great source of relaxing magnesium and bone-loving calcium.  Try and eat some at least three times per week whilst it’s in season, for all its great health benefits.

Oranges

Whilst our climate is clearly not conducive to growing tropical fruits, other countries certainly are. Oranges from Spain are at their best right now and taste better than those imported from further afield. Whilst oranges don’t contain quite as much vitamin C as berry fruits, they still provide a very usable amount.  Plus, if you’re low in iron, then eating iron-rich foods such as meat or green-leafy veg and eggs, with an orange or a little orange juice, helps iron absorption considerably.

A bowl of oranges

As with all fruits and vegetables, oranges provide antioxidants which help protect us from disease and the ageing process.  Oranges are great with fish dishes but are great partnered with dark chocolate in a dessert.

Potatoes

The rise in the popularity of low-carb diets has left potatoes somewhat in the shade.  However, they don’t really deserve some of the bad press they receive: much of the issue around potatoes and potential weight gain is down to cooking methods.  Clearly roasted, creamed and chipped potatoes contain more fat, and therefore more calories. However, who doesn’t love roast potatoes or some deliciously, creamy mash!

A pan of just boiled jersey royal new potatoes

Potatoes actually provide a good level of vitamin C and heart-loving potassium.  Additionally, they are high in fibre so help keep the digestive system running smoothly.  As a vegetable side, they are delicious in recipes containing garlic or cheese; just be aware of portion sizes and then you don’t need to miss out totally.

So, enjoy the wonderful health benefits of eating seasonally.

Stay well.

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Tis’ the season: five seasonal, nutrition-packed foods to eat this December

Woman preparing christmas dinner

Whilst the Festive Season is upon us to hopefully bring a little cheer to what has been a tough year all round, there’s also plenty to celebrate with some delicious seasonal food.

Food generally tastes so much better when eaten at the time of year nature intended.  Plus, it’s generally richer in nutrients.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five foods of the season.

Celery

Whilst not always liked by everyone, celery is certainly synonymous with Christmas buffet tables, and it definitely adds a fresh bite to plenty of other dishes.  And for those not wanting to pile on the pounds over Xmas, celery is incredibly low in calories but high in nutrients, so you get much more ‘bang for your buck’!

Chopped celery and celery stalks on a wooden chopping board

Celery is high in potassium which is great for the heart and also helps reduce blood pressure.  Even eating three sticks per day has been shown to be incredibly effective in this way.  Potassium also helps kidneys excrete waste efficiently which in turn helps with water retention and bloating, both common feelings over the festive season.

Interestingly, celery is often found in recipes such as stews, bolognaise and soups; it’s initially fried with the onions because it’s a strong flavour-enhancer in these types of recipes.

Brussels sprouts

No talk of seasonal December food would be complete without sprouts!  Many of us don’t like them because we may have been subjected to Brussels being over-cooked, making them mushy and unpleasant to eat.

Sprouts dish with ginger

Brussels sprouts are incredibly health-giving, partly down to the presence of indoles, compounds that may help prevent some of our nasty hormonally driven diseases.  Just like other members of the cruciferous vegetable family, they’re high in vitamin C and immune-boosting beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A as the body needs it.

It’s worth persevering with Brussels sprouts, down to their amazing health benefits. Why not try them with chopped chestnuts, fried with bacon. Or enjoy in a traditional Boxing Day ‘Bubble and Squeak’ mashed with all the other delicious left-over veg.

Scallops

At this time of year, queen scallops from UK waters are at their best. They are both delicious and loaded with nutrients. Scallops (and indeed all shellfish) are packed with vitamin B12 which is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells and good functioning nervous system. They are also high in immune-boosting zinc and selenium, both minerals often deficient in the typical Western-style diet. They are also, of course, a good source of protein.

Cooked scallpos on a plate

Both the white and orange roe (coral) of the scallops are to be enjoyed.  They work really well with strong flavours from bacon or chorizo or in Thai dishes with traditional spices such as lemon grass, chilli and ginger.

Parsnips

Another stalwart of the traditional Christmas meal, parsnips are incredibly easy to prepare and have a really distinctive sweet taste.

Parsnip soup in a bowl

All root vegetables are in season right now since nature wants us to be eating warming, starchy comforting foods to protect us against the elements.  Parsnips are another good source of immune-boosting vitamin C and energising folate.  They also provide a useful source of fibre to keep digestion running smoothly.

Whilst parsnips are delicious simply roasted with a little honey to enhance their flavour, they also work well sprinkled with parmesan. Or why not try in soups and stews? They can work as a great alternative to potatoes.

Goose

For many it is the meat of choice for a festive meal, whilst for others it has dwindled in popularity.  This may be down to its relatively high fat content, but in face goose still contains less fat than duck and some cuts of lamb, beef or pork.  Plus, goose fat, produces the best roast potatoes in my opinion!

Roasted goose on a plate

Goose contains nearly as much protein as turkey and is a great source of iron (frequently deficient, particularly in female diets), plus other B vitamins.  It’s certainly worth considering if you want some variety, if not for the Christmas Day meal then over the festive period.  Goose is truly delicious served with traditional chestnut stuffing.

So, grab some seasonal delights and make the most of the food that December has to offer.

Stay well.

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Winter preparation to fuel your immune system

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

We do not need reminding that winter is upon us again!  It’s not just cold, miserable weather that gets us down, but it’s also the onset of the cold and flu season.  And that’s not withstanding other potential health concerns with COVID-19. 

The good news is that nature has our backs by providing a wealth of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals to protect us against unwanted invaders.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top vitamins and minerals to support the immune system all winter long.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of our most important immune-boosting vitamins.  This is because it helps uprate production of white blood cells within the immune system to help fight of viruses and infections.   It’s also one of our key antioxidant vitamins, further supporting overall health and helping bat away those unwanted invaders.

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

Interestingly, whilst citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, they are not the richest sources.  All fruits and vegetables deliver good levels but guava fruit, bell peppers, kiwi fruits, strawberries and broccoli come out tops.

Iron

Iron is very protective of our immune defences.  As its name suggests, disease-causing microbes literally must penetrate its steely wall to cause harm.  One of the main symptoms of iron deficiency is tiredness and fatigue so do get your levels checked with a blood test from your GP if you’re concerned.

A range of foods high in iron

The best food source of haem iron (its most absorbable form) is red meat.  However, for non-meat eaters, green leafy vegetables, all types of beans, dried fruit and fortified cereals are good sources.  And if you eat your fortified breakfast cereal, together with a glass of orange juice, its vitamin C content will further help iron absorption.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 helps ramp up the immune system in a number of ways, making it a clear player when it comes to protecting the body from colds and infections. It’s also needed to help the body produce energy from food so its importance can’t be overlooked.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B6

With Christmas fast approaching, nut lovers will be pleased to know that pistachios are a great source of vitamin B6, although you’d clearly need to eat quite a few!  Fortified cereals, salmon, bananas, beans, cheese and eggs are all rich in vitamin B6.  In fact, it’s found in most whole grain foods so make sure they feature highly in your diet.

Zinc

Often described as one of the hardest working minerals, zinc is needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions within the body.  Essentially, it plays a role in most body systems, especially the immune system, specifically helping to fight off viruses. There is also research to suggest that it can help shorten the duration of colds.  However, prevention is always better than cure, hence it’s a key mineral to eat plentifully.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Oysters are one of the richest sources of zinc.  However, they are not everyone’s bag, so seafood, seeds, wild rice, beef and spinach also contain good amounts of zinc.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is key for immunity, initiating antibody responses as well as increasing white blood cell production to help kill off unwanted invaders.  It also works on maintaining mucous membranes within the body which play a protective role.

A selection of foods containing Vitamin A

Vitamin A is only found in animal foods which can be tricky for vegetarians and vegans.  However, vitamin A is also produced within the body from beta-carotene and this is found primarily in red, orange, green and yellow fruits and vegetables.  Sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe melon, broccoli and apricots are especially rich in beta-carotene.

With so many immunity-boosting foods to choose from, why not make this winter your healthiest yet!

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

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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