Five ways to eat healthily on a budget

An,Elegant,Woman,Is,Reading,The,Shopping,Lists,On,Her

With food prices going through the roof, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to balance the weekly food bill, whilst maintaining a healthy diet.

With nutrition being the cornerstone to health and wellness, it’s one area where we need to find ways of keeping costs in check, without missing out on essential nutrients.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five great ideas for eating on a budget, whilst keeping body, mind, and pocket happy!

Batch-cook for the week

Cooking in bulk is a great way of saving money and it means you’ll always have meals available, rather than having to eat expensive takeaways or grabbing something on the run.

Batch,Cooking,Text,Written,On,Slate,With,Take,Away,Dishes

Meals such as lentil spaghetti bolognaise is high in protein – very filling for a hungry family and can easily be batch cooked and then frozen. Many dishes, especially curries and stews, often taste better after freezing.

Maximise your nutrients

Pasta and rice are often meal staples and can really bulk out other ingredients.  However, it’s all about getting as much bang for your buck when it comes to nutrients, therefore ensuring the pasta and rice are delivering on all fronts.

Whole,Grain,Pasta,With,Cheese,,Tomato,And,Basil

It’s important, therefore, to choose ‘brown’ rather than ‘white’ because you’re going to get so many more nutrients.  Importantly whole grain or brown rice and pasta retain their B-vitamins which are essential for energy production.  Whole grain foods are also rich in much needed minerals such as magnesium which will help us through stressful times.  If the family resist the brown varieties, try going half and half by mixing it with white rice or pasta initially.

Get seasonal and go for roots

Eating foods in season should be cheaper and produce bought in farmers’ markets tend to be better value.  During the winter months, root vegetables such as swede, turnips, potatoes, leeks, parsnips, and butternut squash are all available, are energy dense and great for feeding a family cheaply.

Root,Crops,,Carrots,,Parsley,Root,,Turnip,,Onion,,Garlic,,Jerusalem,Artichoke,

How about a butternut squash curry using plenty of filling root vegetables?  Potatoes always work well in curries and if you add some chickpeas, as an idea, you’ll also be getting that all-important protein.

Buy dried versions rather than tinned

Beans and lentils are great sources of protein which can be purchased ‘dry’ and in bulk and are incredibly cost effective.  Not only are they great sources of protein, but beans and lentils are high in fibre so keep the digestive tract in good working order.

Bowls,Of,Legumes,,Lentils,,Chickpeas,,Beans,,Rice,And,Cereals,On

Many people do have issues with beans and their digestion!  This is because we often lack sufficient amylase enzyme, which helps break down starches.  The more you eat these kinds of foods, the greater the body’s natural production.

Dried beans and lentils just need to be soaked before cooking but by avoiding the tinned varieties, you’ll generally avoid unwanted sugars, salt, and preservatives whilst also saving money.

Look for ‘ugly’ fruit and veg

Many supermarkets have ranges of ‘ugly’ or ‘wonky’ fruits and vegetables.  However, these less attractive specimens are no less nutritious and are considerably cheaper. People often reduce the amount of fresh produce they buy during tough times, but hopefully this will help to stretch the budget further.

Ugly,Vegetables,In,Wicker,Basket,,Wooden,Background,,Copy,Space.

And don’t forget frozen fruits and vegetables which can often be purchased in large bags and are cheaper portion for portion.

What’s on the menu?

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes

Eggs are still a very cost-effective and versatile food which are high in protein.  They make one of the best starts to the day.

Lunch

View,Of,Crispy,Fish,Steak,,Fish,Fingers,Or,Strips,Served

Many of us love fish fingers so why don’t you make your own using a cheap white fish such as pollock and some homemade breadcrumbs (just bread, eggs and seasoning).  You’ll also be avoiding any preservatives and E numbers in the frozen varieties.

Dinner

Turkey,Casserole,With,Broccoli,,Rice,And,Crumbled,Crackers

We know that pasta is cost-effective for feeding the family, so why not make a tuna pasta bake and add some fresh or frozen broccoli and peas?  And don’t forget to use brown pasta too! This is a great meal providing your macronutrients and many micronutrients too.

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Eat your way to calm: nutrition and herbal support for anxiety

Close,Up,Of,Calm,Young,Woman,Relax,On,Couch,With

The word ‘anxiety’ seems to be omnipresent in many people’s vocabulary right now. There are, of course, many reasons for this and anxiety affects us all differently.

Feeling anxious can creep up on all of us at some point in our lives. It’s important, therefore, to have tools to deal with these feelings, and we can turn to nutrition for some answers.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top nutrients and herbs that can help to calm the nerves and manage stress.

Magnesium

Known as one of our calming minerals, magnesium can certainly help when life becomes overwhelming.  This is because, as part of its many functions, magnesium is important for a good working nervous system. It is also key in many biochemical reactions related to the production of brain neurotransmitters.

A range of foods containing magnesium

A large percentage of people are deficient in magnesium because it’s found in foods that many don’t eat in sufficient quantities, namely leafy greens, and whole grains.  Plus, magnesium is further depleted when we’re stressed.

Make sure your diet is full of magnesium-rich foods including avocados, nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens such as spinach and kale. It’s good to supplement with the magnesium glycinate form, especially before bedtime, if sleep is an issue for you.

Vitamin B6

Just like the family of B-vitamins, vitamin B6 works extremely hard for us in keeping hundreds of our biochemical reactions in good working order.

Vitamin B6 is essential for keeping us calm because it’s needed to produce our key neurotransmitters, namely serotonin and dopamine.  Serotonin is often referred to as our ‘happy hormone’ because it’s needed for mood and motivation. Dopamine is more about stimulating our reward mechanisms, allowing us to feel pleasure and satisfaction.  These feelings also lead to calm and reduced feelings of anxiety.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 works alongside magnesium in keeping the nervous system in good working order.  Foods that are rich in vitamin B6 include liver, tuna, fortified cereals, chickpeas, poultry, and salmon.  Whilst organ meats aren’t for everyone, liver does provide some amazing nutritional benefits, also being rich in vitamin A, essential for the immune system.  It’s worth a try for sure!

Ashwagandha

An adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha is one that can really encourage those feelings of calm and discourage anxiety. Adaptogens aid the body through stressful times but can also help when energy and mental focus are issues.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

Adaptogens such as ashwagandha have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, a practice that is known to be gentle and healing.

Ashwagandha needs to be taken as a supplement and is readily available in the health food shops.

L-Theanine

L-Theanine is an amino acid which is found mainly in plants and especially in green tea.  It has also been isolated in supplement form in order that we can fully benefit from its great soothing properties.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

L-theanine has been found to stimulate the relaxing neurotransmitter called GABA which is why it helps to instil calm in the body.  Interestingly, it also helps to mitigate some of the more stimulatory effects of caffeine, which can be problematic for some people.  This is why drinking green tea can help to calm the nerves.

Passionflower

Passionflower is a herb that also helps to increase levels of GABA in the brain. GABA appears to reduce activity of certain brain cells that might otherwise be ‘turned-on’, therefore contributing to those feelings of calm.

Close up of Passion Flower

It is, of course, important for us to function as well as possible throughout the day: poor sleep causes all kinds of issues, and also prevents us from enjoying our day as much as possible.  Importantly, passionflower can help support a good night’s sleep and of its many medicinal qualities, treating insomnia is certainly top of the list.

Passionflower can be used as a tea but is also available in supplement form for more noticeable results.

If you’re feeling anxious, then do try these nutrients and herbs.  Nature has provided us with some helpful solutions.

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The wonders of Pumpkin!

Pumpkins carved into lanterns

Pumpkins really come into their own at this time of year with Halloween around the corner. But as well as making spooky lanterns, pumpkins provide great nutritional benefit in two ways.

Whilst the flesh can be used in soups or as a delicious side dish, the seeds are just as nutritious.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the wonders of this amazing vegetable.

Pumpkin is also known as winter squash (one of them being ‘butternut’) and is technically a fruit as it contains seeds (more on this later). Its nutritional value is immense, and its culinary uses versatile in either sweet or savoury dishes. However, these nutritional benefits do very much depend on how the pumpkin is used. Pumpkin spiced lattes may taste great but don’t provide any nutritional value!

Interestingly, pumpkins are often used as weaning foods for babies as they’re non-allergenic, provide good energy and great nutritional value.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, then hopefully lentils will already feature in your diet.  They are an amazing source of plant protein and can easily be incorporated into many dishes.

Nutritional benefits of pumpkin

The flesh of pumpkin is rich in beta carotene which is turned into vitamin A as the body needs it.  Vitamin A is essential for vision, by keeping it sharp and also helping to prevent macular degeneration, which impairs sight. It’s also essential for the immune system, helping the body to fight infections and for protecting the intestinal lining against unwanted invaders. Beta carotene is also an important antioxidant, helping protect the body from the ageing process, especially for the skin. Importantly, since vitamin A can only be found in animal produce, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, then pumpkins can provide a great source of this key vitamin in the form of beta carotene.

a pumpkin cut into pieces

Pumpkin is also rich in potassium, which is essential for the heart and regulating blood pressure. It provides useful amounts of magnesium (essential for the smooth running of most of the body systems) and iron (another super-busy mineral and essential for immunity and energy).

If you’re looking to lose a little weight before the Christmas period starts, then pumpkin could really support your overall plan.  The reason being that it can help keep blood sugar levels in balance, which is a key factor with any weight loss programme.

How to use pumpkin

Fresh,Cooked,Pumpkin,Soup,Served,In,A,Pumpkin.,Stuffed,Pumpkin.

One of the best ways to cook pumpkin is stuffed! The top needs to be chopped off, seeds scooped out and then the pumpkin is rubbed with olive oil and roasted in the over for around 45 minutes.  Once it’s cooked, you can fill it with anything that takes your fancy.  How about rice, chopped walnuts, pomegranate seeds, lemon, sliced apple, and garlic?  The mixture needs to be cooked first and then returned to the oven.  A great vegan Halloween treat!

What about those all-important seeds?

Pumpkin seeds make a great, low-calorie snack. And because they’re high in protein, they help to banish hunger pangs and stabilise blood sugar levels.  Cravings then become less, and energy is more sustained. Indeed, pumpkin seed butter on oatcakes makes a really tasty, satisfying snack.

Importantly, they are high in the essential omega 3 and 6 fats that the body can’t make so need to be taken in via the diet. Both provide many health benefits, especially for the skin and heart.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

However, many of pumpkin seeds’ health benefits germinate from their great vitamin and mineral profile, especially of zinc, which is often deficient in typical western-style diets.  Additionally, pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, which are essential for protecting the body against life’s onslaughts.

Interestingly, pumpkin seeds contain lignans which have antimicrobial properties, therefore are especially protective of the gut.

Pumpkin seeds are very easy to include in the diet; they make a great snack, can be added to salad dishes, or sprinkled on your morning porridge or why not try roasting and sprinkling over vegetable recipes for some added crunch.

Pumpkin makes a very tasty and nutritious addition to your Halloween menu and beyond. 

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Five foods to feed your brain

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

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

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

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

 

Salmon

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

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

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

Eggs

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

Scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes

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

Blueberries

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

shutterstock_270983405 porridge and blueberries Sept15

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

Dark chocolate

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

Squares of dark chocolate

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

Water

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

CLose up of a woman holdnig a glass of water

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

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

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Five nutrients to include in your diet every day

Funny,Portrait,Of,Young,Woman,With,Banana,On,Color,Background

Nature has provided an amazing array of nutrients.  And it would be unfair to say that one is better than another because they all have a very valid place in helping to provide the body with great health.

However, there are certainly some superstars amongst them which are even more essential for our continued daily wellness.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five of the best.

 

Vitamin D

Called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, we know the UK population is widely lacking in vitamin D, despite an active Government health campaign. 

It’s not easy to get to sufficient vitamin D from sunlight alone, even during the summer, therefore it’s important to take a supplement all year round. With so much robust research on vitamin D, we understand even more about the essential role it plays in our health.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Vitamin D is not just needed for bones and teeth but its part in supporting the immune system is unequivocal.  Furthermore, if you’re feeling ‘sad’ you could be lacking in vitamin D.  It’s important for our mood too.

Vitamin B12

As with all the B-vitamins, Vitamin B12 is needed for many of the body’s biochemical reactions. It’s primarily found in animal produce, making vegetarians and vegans potentially more at risk from deficiency, but anyone can be lacking in B12.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

If you’re lacking specifically in vitamin B12, then you might notice it more than with other B-vitamins. If you’re unusually tired or your nerves are frayed, then you might need more B12.  If you’re vegetarian or vegan, a supplement is recommended, but for others, load up on liver, beef, tuna, sardines or fortified cereals and nutritional yeast.

Magnesium

If you’re suffering from muscle stiffness or poor sleep, the chances are you’re deficient in magnesium.  Since it works in balance with calcium, in areas where the water is especially ‘chalky, many people are lacking magnesium.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Magnesium is an extremely busy mineral and plays an essential role in many biochemical reactions in the body.  It’s needed for muscle relaxation hence poor sleep can result when there is insufficient magnesium in the body. If this sounds like you, then eat plenty of whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds – all healthy foods too!

Zinc

Zinc is involved in around 300 different enzyme reactions throughout the body.  In short, the body can’t function without zinc.  Whilst many people know it to be essential for the immune system (which it is), zinc is very important for hormone balance, the skin, bones, hair, and protection from disease.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Zinc is rich in meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.  Indeed, the best source of zinc is oysters, hence their reputation as being an aphrodisiac, linked to zinc’s role in hormone production. If you’ve white spots on five or more of your nails, you might be deficient in zinc, so do keep a watchful eye on intake.

Iodine

Iodine is a trace mineral so is only needed in small amounts, but it still plays a vital role in the body.  Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones, for cognitive function and supports growth and development in children.  In short, it’s needed from the moment of conception and throughout life.

As part of its role in producing thyroid hormones, it’s needed to control metabolism.  If you’re struggling to lose weight or your hands and feet are permanently cold, you might be lacking in iodine. 

A range of foods containing iodine

Part of the issue with getting sufficient iodine is that it’s not present in many foods.  It can be found in dairy produce and fish such as cod and tuna. Seaweed is also a great source of iodine. Varieties include kelp, wakame and nori and are available in dried, flaked forms, which can easily be added to many dishes, without disturbing other tastes too much.

Take some time to review your diet, and ensure you’re not missing out on any of these essential nutrients.

Stay well.

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Trouble sleeping? Discover some top tips on how to get more zzz’s

Woman asleep in bed

How many of us dream of getting a good night’s sleep?  For at least 40% of the UK population, sleep can often be a struggle, and things have become much more challenging over the last couple of years, for obvious reasons.

However, peaceful slumbers don’t need to just be in your dreams. There are a few things that you can do to help get a better nights’ sleep, which will in turn support your energy levels throughout the day.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

Review your diet

If you want great sleep, it’s important to eat right during the day. A diet that’s rich in low to medium foods on the glycaemic index, which includes whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and starchy vegetables, is the way forward.  These will help to keep the body in good balance and encourage it to rest.

Low,Glycemic,Health,Food,For,Weight,Loss,&,Fitness,Concept

Foods lower on the glycaemic index also provide sustained energy throughout the day, without spiking blood sugar levels.  This means you’ll avoid those highs and lows, but also feelings of anxiety which often accompany blood sugar imbalances. Anxiety is certainly not helpful when you are trying to get to sleep.

Keep it regular

This means adopting a regular routine.  The body loves routine, so keeping regular sleep and waking times is essential for maintaining a healthy sleep pattern.  Generally, we need seven to nine hours sleep per night, therefore think about what time you need to be in bed depending on when you need to get up, in order to achieve this.

CLose up of an alarm clock and a woman getting out of bed to represent getting up at the same time every day

Trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep at weekends tends to push the body out of routine, so this can become a negative strategy.  Once you’ve got a routine going, it’s amazing how well the body will adapt.

Keep calm with magnesium

The mineral magnesium is often referred to as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’ because it has a calming effect on the body, down to its work as a muscle relaxant. Poor sleep, with long periods of tossing and turning during the night is often associated with magnesium deficiency. Plus, stress further depletes magnesium levels in the body.

A range of foods containing magnesium

The good news is that magnesium is found in whole grains and foods that are also low on the glycaemic index. Plus, green leafy vegetables are your friends in this respect too.  So, load up on broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and spinach.  This will help to keep the body calm and balanced and able to rest and relax.

Consider trying adaptogen herbs

Stress is obviously going to impact our sleep patterns.  And whilst we can’t eradicate all stress from our lives, we can take steps to support the body during stressful times by using adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens, as the name suggests, bend and flex to meet the body’s needs. Herbal adaptogens primarily relieve stress by working on the adrenal glands from where the body releases stress hormones.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

The adaptogenic herb ashwagandha has long been studied for its benefits on sleep, with a recent trial further confirming its effectiveness. If stress and anxiety are effectively managed because stress hormone levels are balanced, then many sleep issues can be resolved.  The herb Rhodiola rosea is another adaptogenic herb, which can help the body get through stressful times, and in turn aid restful sleep.

Reduce caffeine and sugar intake

As we all know, caffeine is a stimulant which frequently impacts on getting a good night’s sleep.  For those of us who are especially sensitive to caffeine even having one high-caffeinated drink during the afternoon can have a detrimental effect on peaceful slumbers.  Plus, ‘decaf’ drinks still contain a small amount of caffeine unfortunately.

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

Caffeine, and especially coffee, can cause more anxiety generally; often we don’t realise the overall effect on the body.  If you’re struggling to get some rest, then it’s really worth cutting out all caffeine for a week and seeing if things improve.

Sugar is also a stimulant so be mindful of overall sugar intake too.  Sugary snacks are going to send blood sugar levels up and the body’s overall balance will be upset. Try to keep the diet as ‘clean’ as possible and follow some of these simple strategies.  Improvements can be felt really quickly in many cases.

So, try some of these strategies to help you get a better night’s sleep.

Stay well.

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Suzie’s top foods to help increase your energy levels

 

Vector,Illustrator,Of,The,Fork,And,Spoon,With,White,Plate

Food is of course our main source of fuel and energy.  So, giving your diet the thought it deserves on a daily basis is very important.

The quality and variety of the food we eat is critical to our overall wellbeing which includes energy production.

To help you on your way, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five energising foods to keep you going all day long!

 

Whole grain bagels

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Delicious, versatile, and low in fat, whole grain bagels provide a great energy boost.  Whether you start the day with a toasted bagel with scrambled eggs, or with some low-fat cream cheese and smoked salmon at lunchtime they will really hit the spot!

Whole grain foods are naturally high in energising B-vitamins because they haven’t been highly refined.  They also contain plenty of minerals, especially magnesium, which is needed for energy production too.

Eggs

A healthy breakfast of eggs, smoked salmon and avocado

You might not associate a high protein food like eggs with energy.  However, protein keeps blood sugar levels in check, and so too energy levels.  In fact, having some eggs at breakfast really helps to keep energy levels sustained all-day long. Eggs are not only high in protein but also rich in energising iron and B-vitamins.

The great news is that there are many ways to eat eggs, so you’ll never get bored of having the same meal. Scrambled, fried, poached, as an omelette or frittata, or even as French toast where bread is dipped in egg and lightly fried – the options are endless. 

Sweet potatoes

shutterstock_260427179-baked-sweet-potato-feb17

Whilst all types of potatoes are great for providing energy, sweet potatoes have the slight edge on nutrient content, but also for keeping blood sugar levels in balance. This in turn will provide sustained energy for longer.

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is made into vitamin A in the body, and helps protect the immune system too. And sweet potatoes can be prepared and eaten in exactly the same way as white potatoes.  Plus, if you eat them with some protein, energy levels will soar all day long.  It’s time to enjoy a jacket sweet potato with tuna as an easy, low-fat lunch or quick evening meal.

Chickpeas

Chickpea salad with feta

Chickpeas are a legume which are high in both protein and good carbs.  And they’re certainly a perfect food for vegans.  In terms of energy, chickpeas are great because they’re packed with B-vitamins, especially folate, alongside iron, magnesium, and copper.  Furthermore, they’re rich in fibre so they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer and well as keeping your energy levels high.

If you’re struggling to decide how to eat them, then why not try this delicious and easy recipe for even more energy.  The addition of iron-rich spinach makes it the perfect lunch or dinner choice. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/spinach-chickpea-curry

Bananas

Whole bananas and diced banana

No wonder we often see athletes eating bananas before, during or after an event or match. Bananas provide an instant pick-me-up, especially when energy levels are flagging.  Even better, they’ll keep you fuelled up because bananas are high in fibre so energy levels will be sustained.

Bananas are also a great food for exercise recovery because they provide electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, which are lost during exercise.  The quicker you can recover from a heavy workout, the sooner you’ll have the energy for another session. And if you’re thinking of eating them as an easy breakfast, then do add some protein in the form of natural yoghurt for an even great energy hit.

So, up your energy levels with Suzie’s five easy ways of keeping you fuelled and ready to go for longer!

Stay well.

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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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Veganuary 2022: top 5 vegan foods to try

The word 'vegan' spelt out using plant-based foods

Veganuary has now become the ‘buzz’ word for January!  Going vegan or flexi vegan for January – or even longer – is increasingly popular as we continue to recognise its benefits to health. 

However, with the greater availability of pre-packed vegan and vegetarian meals in the supermarkets, it’s not surprising that people become confused about what’s healthy and what’s not.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five vegan foods to make choices so much easier.

Quinoa

Quinoa is increasingly becoming one of the world’s heathiest foods and not just with vegans.  Quinoa is high in protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, is gluten-free and contains a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Quinoa and bulgar wheat salad with feta

One of the biggest watchpoints for vegans is ensuring you eat sufficient protein, and this means including all nine essential amino acids.  These can’t be produced in the body, therefore need to be eaten daily. Quinoa ticks this box, although, as with all plant proteins, it’s slightly low in a few of the amino acids, hence the need for variety.  That said, it contains a very respectable 8 grams of protein per 185 grams of cooked quinoa.

Its impressive nutrient profile, especially of bone loving magnesium and phosphorus, plus its high antioxidant content, more that warrants its title of ‘superfood’.

Fermented soy

Soy can be very confusing as not all products are created equal! You might see soya lecithin or soya protein isolate in a number of products, especially protein powders.  Whilst foods containing these do provide protein, they don’t have the fabulous health benefits of fermented soy.

Teryaki,Tempeh,With,Rice,And,Roasted,Vegetables

 

Tofu, tempeh, miso, natto, tamari, and kombucha are where it’s at for the real health benefits.  This is because fermented soy has a very positive effect on the gut bacteria (also known as the gut microbiome), which is so essential for overall health. 

Whilst other soy products do provide some health benefits, try to include fermented soy as much as possible.  Tofu and tempeh make great additions to any stir fry dishes.

Legumes

You may have heard the word but what exactly are they? Beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas is the answer.  These foods are great sources of protein, contain plenty of bone-loving calcium, and fibre as well as energising B-vitamins and iron.  And if you’re looking to lose a few kilos during January, legumes can really help as they’re great for blood sugar balance, being low on the glycaemic index.

Legumes,,Lentils,,Chikpea,And,Beans,Assortment,In,Different,Bowls,On

We know from much research that vegan diets are very heart-healthy which is partly down to the quantity of legumes frequently consumed. It seems they help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol and general inflammation, all risk factors for heart disease.

Great recipes to try are Hearty Lentil Soup, Chickpea Salad, Black Bean Burgers or Pasta with Chickpeas – all totally delicious and super-healthy too!

Flaxseeds

Want to give your heart some further love during Veganuary?  Then sprinkle a tablespoon of flaxseeds onto your porridge, overnight oats or yoghurt. Flaxseeds are a great source of the heart-healthy omega-3 fats which are essential and must be taken into the diet very regularly.  The omega-3s are also needed for hormone balance, and eye, brain, skin, and joint health. 

Whole,And,Ground,Brown,Flax,Seeds,Or,Linseeds,On,Wooden

It’s always best to use the ground flaxseeds rather than whole ones (often referred to as linseeds) as they need to be chewed to release the lignan content. Whole linseeds tend to go in and come out whole which means the body isn’t gaining all their health benefits.

Nutritional yeast

It might not sound very appetising but if you think of nutritional yeast as a healthy substitute for Parmesan cheese, you’ve got a great alternative. Nutritional yeast has a slightly cheesy, nutty flavour, is generally found in powdered or flaked form, and is therefore very easy to incorporate into loads of dishes.

Nutritional,Yeast,,Vegan,Cheese.

Importantly, nutritional yeast is rich in vitamin B12, often deficient in vegan diets as it is generally only found in animal produce. Plus, it’s loaded with other B-vitamins so your energy levels will be getting a great boost too!

So why not make this Veganuary the healthiest yet and also continue to add these top vegan food to your diet throughout the year.

Stay well.

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Selfcare: top nutrients to improve your wellbeing

shutterstock_221914774 get organised 4 healthy lifestyle Sept18

We know we need to take care of ourselves, both inside and out, but with so much information out there it can be difficult to know what to focus on or what to eat for the best results.

When it comes to selfcare, what we eat affects our overall health, including mental wellbeing, the skin, and everything else besides.

This World Kindness Day Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three top nutrients to include in your diet to support your own selfcare and provide head-to-toe wellbeing.

 

Vitamin D

There has been so much written and talked about the wonders of vitamin D over the last few years, and especially since the start of the pandemic. There is a wealth of research about vitamin D and its essential role in the health of the immune system, but the research evolved even further during Covid. There has been an inextricable link found between people who fared worse after catching Covid if their blood levels of vitamin D were low.

Woman lunging on a beach with the outline of her bones shown as if x-rayed to represent strong bones

Vitamin D plays an essential role in the formation and health of the bones and teeth, mainly because it helps calcium to do its work in this area. However, research has also found that people with low vitamin D levels can struggle with their mood, even more proof of its essential role in our overall wellbeing.

Vitamin D and a sunshine symbol written in the sand

Whilst vitamin D is found in certain foods including oily fish with bones, mushrooms, milk, meat, eggs and fortified foods, the amounts are not sufficient to support the body’s needs. The main source of vitamin D is from sunlight on the skin, but this is obviously sparce during the winter months and the body doesn’t store enough from the summer. Supplementation is therefore essential, with Public Health England recommending at least 10 micrograms daily but many of us need much more.  If you find your muscles and joints are aching or your mood is low, chances are you’re in need of a vitamin D top-up.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for the nervous system but also for producing red blood cells. It is also important for the immune system and for producing energy. However, it’s only found in animal produce, hence with the rise in vegetarianism and veganism, many people are lacking. You may find that you struggle with low energy or anxiety if you’re low in vitamin B12.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

Such is the importance of Vitamin B12, there is a deficiency disease called pernicious anaemia where the body literally can’t produce sufficient amounts. Symptoms include low energy and problems with the nervous system.

It’s also logical to suggest that vegans and vegetarians may be missing out. Supplementation is therefore beneficial. For those who eat animal produce then most of these foods provide good sources, but offal is especially high in vitamin B12.

Magnesium

Magnesium is one of those minerals that spreads its influence widely throughout the body! Although around 60% of magnesium’s concentration is within the bones, there’s also much found in the muscles with the remainder in the soft tissues and body fluids.

Magnesium is really important within those organs that use the most energy such as the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys.  It’s no wonder then that if we’re not having enough within the diet then insomnia, muscle cramps, low energy, brain fog and high blood pressure can be a problem. Magnesium is also important for mental wellbeing and helps create feelings of calm within the body.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Whole grains, beans and green leafy vegetables are some of the best sources of magnesium.

So, take care of your mind and body by including these important nutrients in your diet as much as possible and consider supplementation if you think you may be lacking.

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

All images: Shutterstock