How to be a healthy vegetarian: the nutrients you need

Happy woman holding a brown paper bag of vegetables in her kitchen

Vegetarianism is becoming ever-more popular and for very good reason.  There’s much research to suggest that vegetarians are less prone to heart disease and degenerative diseases such as cancers, particularly of the bowel. 

The success of this way of eating, in terms of maintaining overall health, is in the meal planning, ensuring all essential nutrients the body needs are being obtained.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer highlights key nutrients for vegetarians and where to find them.

Vitamin B12

First up is vitamin B12 because it’s only found in animal produce, much of which is not eaten by vegetarians.  Vitamin B12 is essential for the health of the nervous system, the brain and, most importantly, energy production.

However, the good news is that vitamin B12 is found in eggs, dairy produce and fortified foods such as cereals.  Many people struggle to absorb enough vitamin B12, hence it can be deficient in meat-eaters too.

Range of dairy products

Some Vitamin B12 can be made in the gut by the beneficial bacteria naturally living there, but only if that’s in good shape too.  Eating natural yoghurt will potentially help both issues by feeding the good bacteria AND providing some B12.

Consider taking a daily supplement containing vitamin B12 to ensure you’re not missing out.

Essential fatty acids

There are a group of fats known as essential fatty acids (omega-3s and 6s) which must be eaten as they can’t be made in the body.  In fact, it’s the omega-3s that provide most health benefits and are frequently deficient in the western world.

They’re called ‘essential’ because omega-3s are one of the key nutrients that control inflammatory processes in the body.  Inflammation is the primary cause of many things that go wrong in the body. For example, degenerative disease, skin problems, stiff joints and dementia.  The great news is that oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, pilchards and to some extent tuna, are rich sources of omega-3s. If you do eat fish these should feature somewhere in the diet three times per week.

However, if fish is not for you, then flaxseeds, which are easily sprinkled onto cereal, and other nuts and seeds (nut butters are great) are also good sources.  If you’ve got dry skin, are constipated, have difficulty concentrating, have hormone imbalances or are frequently thirsty, then you may need a top up of omega-3s. Again consider taking a daily supplement.

Iron

We know from the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) that a large percentage of women of child-bearing age are deficient in iron.  Women are obviously more prone to iron deficiency because of their monthly periods. Iron is also an important nutrient for pregnant women as deficiency can cause learning difficulties and growth problems in the unborn child.

The richest source of absorbable iron is red meat.  Clearly, you are not going to eat this if you’re vegetarian!  However, there are plenty of other great sources of iron. For example, green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils and egg yolks are rich in iron. However ideally, they need to be eaten with vitamin C to aid absorption.  So, a perfect start to the day would be an egg-based breakfast with a small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Scrambled egg breakfast with toast, tomatoes, mushrooms and a glass of orange juice

If you’re feeling very low in energy or are easily out of breath, then it’s worth getting your iron levels checked. The only way to know for sure if you’re iron-deficient is to ask your GP to check your serum ferritin levels.

Protein

Protein is the body’s main building blocks. It is an essential macro nutrient needed to build hormones, produce cells for the immune system, maintain a strong skeletal frame and for the hair, skin and nails

Protein is made from amino acids from foods and those produced in the body.  However, just like the essential fats, there are also essential amino acids which must be eaten.  These are generally obtained from animal produce (including fish).  However, by combining grains and beans every day (not necessarily at the same meal), you should be getting your quota if your diet is well-balanced.

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

Additionally, soy protein does contain all these essential amino acids, albeit in slightly lesser amounts.  Think tofu, tempeh, organic soya milk and yoghurt which are not only low in fat but high in bone-loving calcium and magnesium.

With the range of foods on offer, it is easy to embrace vegetarianism and ensure you are getting all the essential nutrients your need.

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Lunchbox nutrition: top ideas to keep that holiday feeling going

Happy woman at desk eating her lunch

Whilst many of us have already returned from our summer holidays, there’s no reason not to hang onto that summer feeling for as long as possible. And this includes keeping a holiday-theme going in our lunchtime menus.

By planning your ‘back-to-work’ lunches so that you’re never without something nourishing and energising during the day, it can really help banish the post-holiday blues.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top lunch-box tips to keep you in the summertime mood!

Thoughts of the Mediterranean

Packing up a chicken salad with a Mediterranean theme doesn’t need to take long in the morning.  As with everything, it’s all about planning.  If you roast a large enough chicken on a Sunday, then you’ll have plenty left-over for your Mediterranean chicken salad on a Monday and beyond.

chicken salad with spinach and tomatoes

Simply slice the chicken, then add some spinach leaves, chopped spring onions, baby tomatoes and chopped red cabbage with some French dressing drizzled over, and you have your lunch right there.

It’s especially important to have enough protein at lunchtime in order to avoid the 3pm slump, which chicken more than delivers.  Additionally, spinach is rich in energising iron and tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene, to help protect the body from the upcoming ‘bug’ season.

Satisfyingly Spanish

There are lots of reason to love Spain and one of them is the Spanish omelette.  It’s a great option to make the night before and it also serves as a satisfying dinner.  Plus, eggs are one of the best sources of protein, as they contain all the essential amino acids.

Sliced spanish omelette

Traditional Spanish omelette is so easy to make; it needs chopped potatoes and onion lightly fried until soft, with beaten egg cooked until the mixture is completely ‘set’.  You can also add tomatoes and parsley for extra flavour and nutrition. Throw in a few salad leaves as well and this is an excellent lunchtime re-fuel that will keep you going all afternoon.

Summertime wraps

Wraps are some of the quickest and easiest packed lunch choices.  Plus, if you fill them right, you’ll be serving yourself some nutritional powerhouses.

Great fillings are:

Beetroot (in season right now and a nutritional powerhouse), with feta (excellent low, fat protein), and a choice of crunchy leaves.

Avocado (a great source of skin-loving vitamin E), hummus (vegetable protein) and cucumber

Tuna, which provides low-fat protein, sweetcorn and energising spinach

All are nutrient-packed and delicious; just remember to use wholemeal wraps which are rich in B-vitamins and will also help keep energy levels sustained through the rest of the day.

Sunshine noodles

Cooked egg noodles can be eaten hot or cold and can simply be put into a lunchbox with whatever happens to be in your store cupboard.  The great thing about egg noodles is that they’re light so won’t make you feel heavy and bloated later in the day.

Salmon and noodle stir fry

Why not add some tinned wild salmon, grated ginger, soy sauce, red peppers and spring onions to keep thoughts of sunshine not too far away? You will have created a perfectly balanced lunch-time meal, full of protein and immune-boosting vitamin C.

A Mexican theme

Talk of beans and thoughts often turn to Mexico; beans are one of Mexico’s staple foods.  They’re also one of the best sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans, as well as for meat eaters.  Even better, they’re easy to put into a lunchbox.

Mexican bean salad

Simply use a tin of black beans and add some feta cheese, spring onion, chopped tomato and avocado.  You can then choose how much ‘heat’ you want to add.  This dish is always delicious using chopped coriander and parsley, but you can also add some cumin, for a real Mexican feel.

There will certainly be enough here to last for a couple of days, and you’ll feel completely satiated until dinner time.

So keep that holiday feeling alive in your lunchbox for as long as you can – you’ll also be benefitting from some great nutritional choices too!

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Seasonal eating: Plums

Close up of woman holding a bowl of freshly picked plums

Did you know that there are more varieties of plum than any other species of stone fruit – about 200 or more!  Plums come in many colour varieties, but all are jam packed with nutrients and are in season right now, so grab some and enjoy!

Prunes are dried plums – something not everyone is aware of. And prunes can also play a part in a balanced diet.

 Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares why they are so great for health as well as some tips on including them in the diet.

Plums are rich in antioxidants

We know from the wealth of research available that antioxidants hold one of the keys to a healthy, disease-free life.  Whilst the body has many antioxidant enzyme systems to help prevent disease, foods are also needed to feed these systems and to provide additional antioxidant protection.  And this is where plums can stand proud! They have some of the highest amounts of antioxidants, especially vitamin C, even in their dried prune form.

A bowl of plums on a blue wooden table

Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron, and plums are especially good in this respect. Plus, vitamin C is great for overall health and helps protect the immune system.  Don’t forget children are returning to school soon and that’s when the ‘bug’ season really gets going!

Prunes encourage regularity

If you’re suffering from sluggish bowels, then prunes are your best friend in this respect.  Prunes are high in insoluble fibre which feeds the friendly gut bacteria, helping solve digestive issues.  Good levels of friendly bacteria are also needed to help form stools. Additionally, prunes provide bulk which also helps to get things moving.

Prunes can help weight management

Although prunes taste quite sweet, their soluble fibre content helps balance blood sugar levels, which in turn can aid successful weight management.  It’s very difficult to lose weight when blood sugar is imbalanced as excess glucose is merely sent to fat cells for safe keeping.

A bowl of prunes or dried plums

Soluble fibre also promotes a feeling of fullness, making it less likely you’ll overeat.  Why not include some, with an oat-based breakfast?  Tinned prunes generally contain sugar-laden syrup, therefore look for those sold in transparent containers, generally in health food stores.  If they’re too dry for you, then soaking them in a little hot water for a few minutes will work or in some light apple juice, to bring them back to life.

Poached plums for breakfast

Plums work really well on their own (straight from the tree is great), in jams or chutneys, or simply poached.  Plus, they can be enjoyed in this way at any time of the day, to give you a nutrient boost.

A bowl of poached plums with cinnamon

Plums pair well with various spices, especially cinnamon. The great news is that cinnamon helps balance blood sugar so together they’re a perfect breakfast choice.  Use natural stevia or xylitol if you need to sweeten them whilst they’re being poached in the oven, and you’ll avoid any sugar-rush.

Plums are great in savoury dishes

Whilst there are many ways plums can be enjoyed in sweet recipes, they also work well in savoury dishes, especially with duck. For a quick and easy meal, simply slice the plums into small pieces, add a cinnamon stick and a little honey to a pan and simmer for a few minutes.  Then simply fry the duck breast in a little olive oil until cooked medium rare, slice on a plate and serve with the fruit mixture.

Roasted duck breast with plum sauce on the side

Plums are also delicious chopped into a salad with goat’s cheese or made into a versatile plum sauce that can be mixed with soy sauce, ginger and garlic and poured over chicken breasts.

Whichever way you decide to eat them, plums or prunes, they’ll provide wonderful health benefits and amazing flavour.

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Healthy and home-grown: the top 5 nutrient-rich foods for growing at home

Close up on waomn in an allotment holding a home graon carrot

The popularity of growing your own fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices is on the rise and having an allotment or growing patch is appealing to more and more people. 

Urban living can make it difficult to grow your own food with a lack of outdoor space. But there are plenty of options for growing in pots on a small balcony or even on a windowsill.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five home-grown nutritious favourites.

Bean sprouts

Sprouted beans certainly have plenty to shout about from a nutritional perspective. Plus, they don’t need much space because they can be grown in jam jars.

The sprouting process actually increases nutrient levels. Bean sprouts are high in protein so will fill you up, plus they have plenty of bone-loving minerals and immune-boosting vitamin C.  They’re a great way of increasing the nutritional content of any meal and are low in fat and calories. They can be easily added to any vegetable dish, salad or smoothies.

A couple of beans sprouting

You can sprout any type of bean: black beans, mung beans, lentils and soy beans are all good for starters.  Rinse them well and then place them in jam jars with double the amount of water and cover the tops with muslin and an elastic band. Keep them at room temperature and drain them and re-fill with water twice a day for about four or five days.  You’ll soon have some nutritional powerhouses ready to eat!

Rosemary and Thyme

The perfect herb combination!  They are both ‘staples’ in any herb garden.

Rosemary is a delight in both lamb and chicken dishes and is very popular throughout Mediterranean countries. This may be partly due to it being a powerful antioxidant so can help protect the body. It also adds a delicious flavour to roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes wedges.  Rosemary may also act as a stimulant in both the nervous and circulatory systems and can help to soothe the digestive system, relieving indigestion and flatulence.

A bunch of fresh rosemary and dried rosemary in a pot

Thyme has an amazing aromatic flavour so is widely used in cooking, especially in casseroles and soups. Thyme has also been traditionally used as a decongestant to soothe coughs and catarrh.

A fresh bunch of thyme

Salad leaves

These can also be grown indoors all-year round in simple seed trays.  In fact, they’re probably the easiest of all vegetables to grow.  The dark green colour of rocket means that it’s rich in energising iron and carotenoids which are powerful antioxidants.  Rocket also has a lot more taste than some other salad leaves and can be used in many recipes as well as simple salads.

A bowl of mixed salad leaves

You can also grow crunchy lettuce leaves so you should never be without some quick go-to greens when you’re on the run. Plus all salad leaves can be picked over and over and they just keep growing back.

Beetroot

If you’re quick, there’s just about time to plant some beetroot seeds now and they’ll be ready for eating in the autumn. Beetroot is actually one of the UK’s best-selling seeds.  This is partly because home-grown beetroot is absolutely delicious but also because it’s a superfood.  Its rich dark colour delivers a wealth of antioxidants to protect the body from serious diseases.

Whole beetroots

If it’s energy you’re looking for then having some more beetroot in your diet can really give you a boost.  Beetroot juice is very popular with athletes and recreational exercisers because it helps the body better sustain endurance activity.  Beetroot is also rich in energy-giving iron and folic acid. If you start to sow beetroot seeds now, they should be ready for eating in about 90 days’ time.  Beetroots can also be grown in lines or pots.

Marrow

Marrows are traditionally sown during May and June.  However, the soils are warm right now so if you’re quick you’ll get a crop harvested before colder weather shows it face.

As marrow is very high in water, its nutritional content is not as good as some vegetables, but it’s great for alkalising the body.  The body prefers to be in a slightly alkaline state generally, and many vegetables and fruit help this process along; marrow can certainly do this too.

A whole marrow and slices of marrow on a chopping board

It doesn’t have too much taste on its own but comes to life when stuffed with other vegetables, sprinkled with cheese and roasted in the oven, or filled with a chili con carne mince. Marrow can also be turned into chutney and makes a great addition to your ham or cheeseboard.

Growing anything even in a small way, is very therapeutic and great for relieving stress. So get growing this season and enjoy the fresh nutrition it provides.

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Summer nutrition: the best foods on offer this season

Woman holding up frshly grown beetroots

When the sun shines, it inspires us to prepare fresh, healthy meals. With a wealth of wonderful foods in season, there’s no excuse not to make the most of what nature is delivering right now.

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Whether you’re creating deliciously crispy salads or and fresh and fruity desserts, summer foods are packed full of colour and flavour.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite and super-healthy foods currently in season.

Raspberries

Often forgotten and sometimes overshadowed by another red berry fruit (aka the strawberry) raspberries have plenty to be nutritionally proud of, as well as their delicious taste. Raspberries are one of our classic summer fruits and at their absolute best at the moment. Interestingly, most raspberries currently in our shops are grown in Scotland.

They are high in one of our key antioxidants, vitamin C, and their overall antioxidant content is increased the riper the berries. Plus, raspberries are high in something called ellagic acid which is an anti-inflammatory compound that seems to be especially helpful in cases of Crohn’s disease.

A punnet of fresh raspberries

Raspberries have leapt to fame in more recent times with the discovery of raspberry ketones, a phytonutrient which may increase metabolism in fat cells, thereby reducing the risk of obesity. Whatever your reason for choosing them, you’ll not be disappointed in any respect. Enjoy raspberries with your morning cereal or with some natural yoghurt. Try them as a topping to pancakes or made into a coulis that can be drizzled over savoury dishes or sweet desserts.

Watercress

Watercress makes a great staple salad ingredient with a distinctive peppery taste so it really adds some flavour. Even better it’s highly nutritious, containing vitamin C, calcium for healthy bones, plus energising folic acid and iron. Watercress is also a great tonic for the liver and kidneys. Furthermore, it contains high levels of vitamin K for great bone health and beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A and is great for vision.

A bunch of watercress on a wooden board

Watercress actually makes a great soup ingredient, alongside onions, celery, diced Jersey Royal potatoes (also in season) with some chicken stock and takes no time at all to prepare. Its lovely fresh taste makes a perfect soup ingredient even during the summer months.

And did you know that watercress has more vitamin C per 100 grams than oranges!

Mackerel

This is an ocean fish that lives in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean waters and has some very distinctive grey stripes. Most importantly, it’s an oily fish that’s very high in those essential omega-3 fats we talk so much about.

A fillet of grilled mackerel

Omega-3s are absolutely essential for healthy hormones, bones, joints, eyes, heart and the brain and can’t be made in the body, so have to be eaten very regularly. Indeed, oily fish should be eaten three times a week to get what the body needs. The oils make mackerel quite rich to eat, so it’s often best simply grilled with some spices or sharp citrus flavours.

Aubergines

Whilst aubergines were native to India, they’ve become a very popular food the whole world over. They’re especially popular in Greek moussaka, French ratatouille, and in African folklore to treat convulsions. Aubergines are also known as ‘eggplant’ because of their egg shape. And interestingly they’re technically berries and not vegetables!

A colourful grilled vegetable salad with aubergine

As with all fruits and vegetables that have gorgeous, rich colours, aubergines are packed with anthocyanins – plant compounds with powerful antioxidant properties. Plus they contain plenty of fibre and energy-boosting folic acid.

Whilst they taste delicious added to the popular dishes I listed above, they’re great simply griddled alongside some peppers with just a small pasting of oil. Aubergines are very low in calories but they do soak up oil like a sponge, therefore are best not fried.

Beetroot

Another vegetable with an amazing colour, highlighting its rich nutrient content, beetroots really add to salads at this time of year. In fact, they’re the perfect addition to a goat’s cheese salad, making a great starter or main course dish.

In ancient times, only the leaves were eaten, which can be cooked in the same way as spinach (gently wilted in the pan) but these tend to be less popular now, although they’re a great source of calcium and beta-carotene.

Whole beetroots

Beetroots are loaded with nutrients, especially vitamin C, folate, iron and heart-loving potassium to help reduce blood pressure. They also make a great tonic juice with carrots. They are brilliant for restoring health if you’ve been under the weather (yes it can still happen during the summer months). It’s best to enjoy beetroot either grated raw or cooked rather than pickled, which destroys some of the nutrients.

So enjoy a wonderfully healthy summer by adding these delicious and nutritious seasonal foods to your plate.

 

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Holiday nutrition: delicious European dishes to try this summer

A beach restaurant overlooking the sea

With the holiday season in full flow, many of us will be looking forward to some delicious new dishes to try at our holiday destination. Eating local fayre is an important part of any holiday and it’s always good to try local or new tastes.

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There is plenty of delicious and nutritious food on offer around Europe – be brave with your food choices and you’ll be rewarded!

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite dishes from around Europe.

Menemen in Turkey

I always like to start the day right on holiday and this meal really does the trick! Although it’s not always seen on restaurant menus, it’s a quick breakfast dish that’s basically up-market scrambled eggs. For me, eggs are always the best breakfast because the protein keeps me going for longer so I’m not tempted to keep snacking through the morning.

Menemen Turkish egg breakfast dish

Even better, menemen is cooked with onions, peppers and oregano. This means I’m enjoying a great taste, some additional vitamin C from the peppers to keep my immune system strong and digestive support from the oregano. Oregano can help to keep nasty tummy bugs at bay – just what’s needed whilst on holiday.

Gazpacho in Spain

Whilst cold soup may not appeal to everyone, this traditional dish from southern Spain definitely needs to be tasted to be fully appreciated. It’s essentially a tomato soup with garlic, onions, red peppers, vegetable stock and plenty of olive oil. The key to having the best tasting gazpacho is to use vine-ripened tomatoes (even better if you’ve got home-grown ones).

Gazpacho

This dish is super-healthy as tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Red peppers contain some of the highest amounts of vitamin C of all vegetables, and garlic and olive oil are both great for a healthy heart. Plus it can be made really quickly and stored in the fridge for a few days. Whilst you’ll certainly be wanting to be make your own on your return, traditional food always seems to taste even better when enjoyed on its home soil!

Moules in France

No visit to France would be complete without a bowl of moules mariniere (mussels) served with some fresh crusty bread, to soak up all the lovely juice. The traditional way of preparing French moules is with onion, garlic, chopped parsley, some white wine and a little double cream.

A dish of moules mariniere French Mussels

Whilst I absolutely love this dish, I also know just how nutrient dense it is. Interestingly, mussels have the most impressive nutrient profile of all shellfish, being a fantastic source of protein and low in fat. Plus they contain plenty of energising B vitamins, vitamin C and iron. Parsley is great for liver health, so you don’t need to feel too guilty about enjoying these with a small glass of white wine too.

Dolmades in Greece

I’ve often struggled in Greece with food that is overly heavy and fat-laden, particularly moussaka. Thankfully, there are actually plenty of other healthy and fresh dishes to be enjoyed around the mainland and islands. And if all else fails, then traditional Greek salad with feta cheese and vine-ripened tomatoes, olives, cucumber and onions never fails to delight!

Sufed vine leaves from Greece

However, a real Greek treat is dolmades which are grape or vine leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, mint, onions, dill and lemon juice. They are very time-consuming to make so I’m not sure I would ever try them at home, which is another reason to enjoy them, generally as part of a meze plate, whilst away.

The combination of the varied herbs makes for a great taste but they also help the digestion, which is often helpful whilst on holiday.

Tagliatelle marinara in Italy

Whilst I would generally steer away from eating pasta in the UK, mainly because it can taste pretty bland, in Italy pasta takes on a whole new meaning! In fact, every trip to Italy should feature trying an array of freshly made pasta dishes with range of delicious sauces.

A plate of tagliatelle marinara

One of my favourites is tagliatelle with a marinara sauce. This is basically a very tasty tomato-based sauce with onions, garlic and olive oil and it really makes the pasta come alive. Clearly, the Italians love their sauces, and as delicious as they are, the creamy-based ones are very high in fat and calories. So enjoy these in moderation and instead opt for something a little less calorific so you’ll be able to enjoy pasta on more days throughout your holiday.

So enjoy eating abroad this summer and try as many local dishes as possible to really tickle the taste buds and boost your nutrition at the same time.

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Seasonal nutrition for May

A bowl of delicious spring salad

Eating seasonally is always best for health because foods contain more nutrients when eaten fresh and haven’t sat in a supermarket store rooms for many months. Plus, the taste and texture of foods in season is vastly improved when they’re eaten at the time of year nature intended.

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May brings us deliciously fresh greens to bring colour to our plates as well as other salad staples.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods this May.

Asparagus

Now prized by chefs around the world for its delicate taste and texture, and also within traditional medicine, asparagus is certainly a great vegetable of the season.

Grilled asparagus wrapped in parma ham

Medicinally, asparagus is an effective diuretic so works well within any detoxification programme. It’s also used by weight trainers and body builders because it’s a low calorie, fat-free food that helps eliminate excess water from the muscles. However, for those just wanting to enjoy a delicious and healthy food, asparagus contains plenty of energising folate, immune-boosting vitamin C and vitamin E plus beta-carotene.

Steam or boil asparagus gently. It is perfect sprinkled with parmesan cheese, wrapped in Parma ham or served with hollandaise sauce.

Watercress

Watercress has gained much credence over recent years and has often been hailed as a ‘superfood’. It was used in traditional medicine to treat liver and kidney disorders and is also a natural antibiotic. However, much of its acclaim stems from it being a member of the super-healthy crucifer family. Watercress is certainly in good company alongside Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower.

A bunch of watercress on a wooden board

Watercress is a healthy salad vegetable so it makes sense to include it every time you’re preparing a salad. It’s a great source of vitamin C as well as iron, which is so often deficient in our daily diets.

These dark green, peppery tasting leaves are not only great in salads but also in a super-easy lunch dish with tinned cannellini beans, lemon zest, mixed sun-dried tomatoes and olives.

Jersey Royal New Potatoes

A real British staple for so many people, Jersey Royals have a unique taste and texture and they’re in season right now.

With the increased popularity of low-carb diets, potatoes have often been ditched from the daily diet. However, it’s the free sugars that are most problematic for people and can hi-jack a weight-loss plan rather than nutrient and fibre-rich foods such as potatoes. That said, it’s generally best to eat carbohydrates earlier in the day. Potatoes often get forgotten when discussing nutrients, but they’re a great source of vitamin C and heart-loving potassium.

A pan of just boiled jersey royal new potatoes

Jersey Royals need nothing more than lightly boiling, served with a little butter and fresh mint and are the perfect accompaniment to any fish or chicken dish. Equally, they’re great eaten cold so can be added to your lunch-time salad for a delicious treat.

Sea trout

We talk about salmon as being a rich source of omega-3s but trout often gets forgotten. However, just like wild salmon sea trout is a great option. It has a darker colour due to the astaxanthin-rich algae the fish naturally eat; astaxanthin is an amazingly powerful antioxidant. Plus it tastes so much better than the slightly bland supermarket farmed trout.

Trout with lemon wedges and herb

Trout is a great source of the omega-3 fats which are essential for the heart, eyes, joint, hormones and skin. Plus it can be eaten in much the same way as salmon, although sea trout particularly lends itself to barbecuing, served with a shallot and lemon sauce.

Radishes

Whilst eating radishes may be a slightly acquired taste, it’s well worth getting to like them as they’re another member of the health-giving cruciferous family of vegetables. They make a great snack or salad vegetable for the summer months. This is because they’re high in vitamin C which is needed for collagen production, helping prevent lines and wrinkles that are often more noticeable when skin is at its driest. However, vitamin C is also a very powerful antioxidant so it will help protect the skin against sun damage.

A bunch of radishes on a wooden background

Radishes are low in calories so are very popular with those watching their weight. However, they’re also great added to a tray of crudités served with hummus and taramasalata.

So enjoy these five healthy, tasty and versatile foods that should be eaten right now whilst in season.

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How to be a healthy vegetarian: top dietary tips

Woman in kitchen holding bottle of olive oil wutg basket of peppers on work surface

It’s nearly time to celebrate National Vegetarian Week. Vegetarian numbers are on the rise in the UK and there are many reasons for this. They include health, a concern for animal welfare and the environment, or simply a change in taste.

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A vegetarian is anyone who does not eat meat, fish or poultry or foods containing them, but the term is often used in a much wider context. For example flexitarian (flexibly vegetarian), pescatarian (happy to eat fish), lacto-vegetarian (eats dairy, but not eggs) and ovo-vegetarian (eats eggs but not dairy).

 Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer shares her top tips on how to be a healthy vegetarian.

Plan your protein needs

It can sometimes be hard for vegetarians to meet protein needs, as well as requirements for certain trace minerals. Protein is essential for hormone production, the immune system and strong muscles and bones, particularly, as we age.

Plant foods don’t contain all the essential amino acids found in animal produce. But the good news is that you can combine grains and beans to get all the essential amino acids the body needs. For example, a bean-based chilli con carne with rice is a great choice and satisfies this requirement.

Bean and rice salad stew

Most animal produce, including eggs, milk and dairy, contain all the essential amino acids. Therefore, if you’re eating these regularly you should be able to meet the body’s needs. It’s important to eat protein at every meal, to ensure the body gets what it needs but also to keep blood sugar and energy levels sustained throughout the day.

There are also plenty of vegetarian protein powders, made from whey, pea or hemp, which can be added to smoothies. These are especially useful to top up protein needs if you’re very active or stressed (when the body needs more support generally).

Top tip: eat plenty of pulses, soya products, nuts and seeds, eggs and cheese.

Plan your micro nutrient needs

Vegetarians may be more susceptible to low levels of certain minerals such as the easily absorbable heme-iron found in meat. However, iron can be found in vegetarian sources such as pulses, nuts, seeds, cereals, green leafy vegetables, tofu, dried fruit, molasses and fortified foods.

Vegetarian sources of iron

Vitamin C helps boost uptake of iron, so eat a piece of fruit or some vegetables at the same time. Alternatively, go for a glass of orange juice with your breakfast or a fresh fruit salad as a dessert or starter.

Zinc is essential for the immune system and many other key body functions. Therefore, put milk and dairy products, eggs, sourdough bread, cereal products, green leafy vegetables, pulses and pumpkin seeds on the menu. Healthy snacking is another way to help increase levels – try eating seed mixes or sprinkle them over salads and fruit. Try making pulse-based dips such as hummus.

homemade hummus with seed sprinkles

Vegetarians can run the risk of being low in vitamin B12 which is essential for energy production, although vegans are at greater risk since it’s only found in animal produce.

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth and can help to protect against osteoporosis in later life. Non-dairy sources can be sourced from foods such as tofu, fortified soya and rice milk, almonds, dark green vegetables and sesame seeds.

Top tip: Include milk, dairy products and eggs if they’re still part of your daily diet.

Plan your omega-3 needs

The essential omega-3s can often get forgotten by vegetarians, particularly if you’re not eating fish. They are called ‘essential’ because omega-3s support hormones, eye health, the heart, joints and skin but the body cannot make them and so these need to be included in your diet.

A range of seeds on spoons

The good news is the body can convert something called ‘ALA’ found in flaxseeds, rapeseed oil, soy oil, pumpkin seeds, tofu and walnuts, into the beneficial essential fats. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines already contain plenty of these beneficial fats, so if you’re a pescatarian you are more than likely including these types of fish regularly in the diet.

Plan your supplement needs

Even though you’ll hopefully be planning your diet well, it’s always good to cover all bases with a high-quality, daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement as well. It’s like having a really cost-effective health insurance policy! You can also take vegetarian omega-3 supplements to ensure you’re meeting your daily needs.

There are lots of health benefits to being vegetarian and with a little planning you can make sure that you have the healthiest vegetarian diet possible.

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

Seasonal eating: top nutrition this Easter

 

A range of easter foods

Traditionally Easter is a time of getting together with friends and family and enjoying plenty of delicious food. It’s always best to ‘eat with the seasons’ and Easter offers some wonderful food choices.

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Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods for a super-healthy Easter!

 

 

Crab

All shellfish is high in protein, vitamins and minerals but low in calories and crab is now in season.

Most of the calories in crab come from protein (around 75 calories per portion) so it will fill you up and keep you feeling that way for longer. People often think of crab dishes as fatty but this is often because it is served with mayonnaise or Marie rose sauce. It’s also high in the mineral selenium, a very powerful antioxidant. Selenium also binds to toxic metals such as cadmium and mercury helping excrete them from the body.

A close up of a bowl of crab salad

If it’s energy you’re after then crab is loaded with vitamin B12, also important for a healthy nervous system. People are often concerned about crab meat (and other shellfish) because of its high cholesterol content. However, cholesterol is poorly absorbed from foods and crab appears to help reduce rather than raise cholesterol levels.

Lamb

Easter wouldn’t be the same without eating some spring lamb. It’s delightfully tender and a traditional Easter dish.

Roast leg of lamb with trimmings

Lamb, like other red meats such as pork and beef, is fairly high in saturated fat, although racks and loins can have their visible fat removed before cooking. Lamb is obviously a great source of protein, plus energising B vitamins and zinc to help support the immune system. As with all red meat, lamb is a great source of usable iron, which is often deficient in the UK population, particularly in teenagers and young women.

Lamb is best simply cooked with garlic, rosemary and oregano. In fact, oregano is a great herb for the digestive tract, so may help alleviate any associated digestive issues. It works really well with a huge plate of colourful roasted veggies.

Leeks

Leeks partner really well with lamb, either lightly steamed or in a tasty gratin dish! Interestingly, leeks were used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments ranging for sore throats to gout and kidney stones. This is partly down to their high potassium content, making them an effective diuretic and supportive of the kidneys. Leeks are also high in folate, so are good for energy.

Leeks in a wooden trough

Squid

Just like crab, squid is high in protein and low in calories. Plus, it’s cheaper than crab and it’s in season right now. Squid is fished predominantly along the Cornish coast and is therefore popular in many restaurants in that part of the world, certainly at this time of year.

With the increase in popularity of low-carb diets, squid earns its rightful place; however, these benefits are lost if you choose the ever-popular calamari rings. Instead, eat squid lightly grilled with a little olive oil and chilli for extra taste.

Fresh grilled squid on a barbecue

Squid is high in the antioxidants selenium and vitamin E, both great for managing the ageing process and keeping skin looking young and fresh. Plus it’s got good amounts of B vitamins which are protective of the heart. They’re a ‘win-win’ for your Easter menu!

Watercress

The peppery, dark watercress leaves are amongst the healthiest of salad vegetables, being rich in vitamins and minerals and with only 22 calories per 100 grams. Watercress works as a vegetable side and can certainly replace spinach in many dishes.

Just like leeks, watercress was often used to treat kidney disorders in traditional medicine and generally helps support the body’s natural detoxification processes.

Watercress soup

Watercress should certainly feature on your Easter menu; in salads, baked in a salmon quiche, made into soup or as a vegetable side gently wilted with a little butter.

So why not make this Easter the healthiest and tastiest yet? Enjoy!

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Three deliciously nutritious breakfast treats for Mother’s Day

Three generations family Grandmother, mother and daughter

With another Mother’s Day just around the corner, why not serve up a delicious and highly nutritious breakfast to really put a smile on her face? Or why not treat yourself? In many ways, breakfast is the most important meal of the day; the body has been ‘fasting’ for a number of hours and blood sugar levels are low. The body’s natural circadian rhythm is saying it’s time to grab the day and get moving, so it needs some high-quality fuel.

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So what better way to start Mother’s Day than with a really healthy treat-filled breakfast?

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyers shares three healthy breakfasts to serve your mum, or yourself, this Mother’s Day.

Have another Pancake Day!

Pancakes with syrup and blueberries

Officially, Pancake Day has just passed. However, pancakes are a really great breakfast choice for a number of reasons and a real treat for you or your Mum.

This recipe uses:

Egg – great for protein

Wholemeal flour – low glycaemic for sustained energy

Banana – loaded with heart-loving potassium and hormone-balancing vitamin B6

Almond butter – for protein and skin-loving omega-3 fats

Coconut oil – which has a higher smoke point making it healthier for cooking

Blueberries – packed with antioxidants

Maple syrup – as a special treat!

All the ingredients, apart from the fruit, maple syrup and coconut oil, should be whisked up and then added to a pan of melted coconut oil. The batter needs about a minute a side to cook. Once on the plate (after they’ve been tossed) add sliced banana, blueberries and maple syrup. Then rush straight up the stairs and put a smile on your mum’s face! Or enjoy yourself. A delicious start to the day.

If you mum’s a chocolate-lover, try adding 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder to the batter mix.

Veggie-packed frittata

Spinach and mushroom frittata

 

Frittata is a delicious, super-healthy breakfast and loaded with energy giving nutrients to really get the day off to a brilliant start. Eating ‘5-a-day’ may not be top of you or your Mum’s list of priorities today but you will be pleased to know this one provides at least some of these.

This frittata includes:

Spinach – great for energy-giving iron

Cherry tomatoes – which contain the antioxidant lycopene

Potatoes – loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C

Mushrooms – great for energising B-vitamins

Eggs – packed with protein

It’s always best to have protein at breakfast time, whatever your choice of meal, as it helps stabilise blood sugar and maintains feelings of fullness for longer.

For this delicious Mother’s Day treat, the mushrooms should be gently fried and then set aside. The diced potatoes and tomatoes are then fried separately. Two eggs can then be added to the pan, along with the mushrooms and spinach. Cook gently for around 10 minutes and then brown under the grill.

This might take a little longer to prepare, but you and your Mum are certainly worth the effort. It’s a wonderfully nutritious start to the day.

The loveliest smashed avocado

Smashed avocado, cherry tomatoes and feta on toast

Smashed avocado is very popular right now so why not treat you or your Mum to some today? Many people avoid avocados, fearing they’ll help pile on the pounds. Whilst they are fairly high in calories, they’re packed full of healthy fats, and so can still be eaten regularly.

Avocados have some protein but most importantly are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which will also keep hunger in check. Plus they’re loaded with vitamin E so you or your Mum’s skin will glow!

For this you will need:

Avocado

Cherry tomatoes

Lime Juice

Balsamic Vinegar

Feta Cheese

Rocket

Sourdough bread

Toast some sourdough bread (it’s much lower in gluten so potentially less disruptive to the digestion). Smash the avocado in a bowl with some lime juice and salt and pepper. In another bowl, mix a few chopped cherry tomatoes with some balsamic vinegar. Then spread the avocado mixture on the toast and load it with the tomato mixture, crumble over some delicious feta cheese and finish with some rocket. A truly delicious treat on Mother’s Day.

So enjoy making one of these three great breakfasts either for your Mum or for yourself and your family this Mother’s Day.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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