The importance of hydration: how to stay well-watered

Woman,Drinking,Water.

We’ve heard the word ‘hydration’ plenty of times over the last few weeks, and during the recent heat waves.  It’s been more important than ever to ensure the body is not dehydrated. 

Dehydration makes you feel exhausted.  However, hydration is not just about drinking more water.  Although this is of course very important, there are other measures you can take.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top tips for keeping hydrated and energised.

First things thirst!

Water is of course the most essential nutrient.  The body is around 70-80% water so it makes sense that we can’t live without water.  However, it’s amazing how little water many of us actually drink in a day.

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

Your urine should be pretty clear (apart from the first morning pee!) Urine is a good indicator of how well hydrated you are.  Aim for around 1.5 – 2 litres water daily, ideally from a filtered source.  It also depends on how much exercise you are doing and the temperature outside. And always remember to be ahead of the thirst; if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

Eat vegetables with a high water content

Whilst it’s important to drink plenty of water, especially during the hot weather, certain vegetables are high in water so will also help to rehydrate.  Top of the list are cucumbers and lettuce which are both around 96% water.  Celery is another great contender being 95% water (and is also great for reducing blood pressure), as are courgettes.

shutterstock_332940713 cucumber June16

There are additional benefits to adding plenty of vegetables to your hydration routine because they all contain loads of electrolytes – minerals that are lost during normal metabolic processes and when we sweat.

Eat plenty of fruit too

There are plenty of fruits that are loaded with water too!  Top of the list is watermelon with 92% water content.  As a bonus, watermelon is packed with antioxidants which are very supportive of overall health.  Watermelon makes a very refreshing snack, especially when the heat is on.

CLose up of a hand holding a slice of watermelow with the words hello summer cut out of it

Other great fruit choices are strawberries, peaches, oranges, and melon.  These foods are high in immune boosting vitamin C as well as potassium, which is a key electrolyte, along with sodium, both of which help keep body fluid levels balanced.  Nature has been very clever in providing foods, which, when eaten in a diet containing loads of colour variety, provide so many of the nutrients that the body needs.

Get brewing

Drinking herbal and fruit teas are another great way of increasing water intake without caffeine; caffeine can exacerbate dehydration.  Chamomile tea makes a good choice in this respect and is also great for calming an agitated digestion and nervous system generally.

shutterstock_109015685 camomile tea Mar17

You can also make your own tea or water brew.  Lemon and ginger tea (either drunk hot or cold) is brilliant. Lemon adds some vitamin C to the mix and crushed ginger is a great anti-inflammatory, feeding the good gut bacteria and also helping to alleviate headaches and migraines, which can be more problematic when the temperature rises.

And the wild cards!

The body contains a fine balance of nutrients at a cellular level and, of course, we are not ‘pure’ water as such.  Therefore, drinks that contain electrolytes and carbohydrates can actually be more effective at rehydrating.

Woman pouring a glass of milk

In this respect, milk is great because it contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and sodium so will also help your body retain fluids (without causing fluid retention).  Coconut water is brilliant at hydrating because it’s rich in potassium (a key electrolyte) and is also energising.

And one you may not have thought about is chia water.  Chia seeds are a great source of healthy omega-3 fats, but chia seeds absorb ten times their weight in water, making a great drink.  For a real power up, why not add them to coconut water?

There are plenty of ways to keep well hydrated and bouncing with energy this summer!

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Making the most of seasonal eating in August

Close up of woman holding a bowl of freshly picked plums

Whilst it’s not too difficult to find out which foods are in season and when, it’s not always easy deciding what to do with those foods. 

If you’re lacking in meal ideas, then Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, can help bring some much-needed inspiration to your kitchen.

Venison

Whilst many of us don’t think of venison as being a ‘mainstream’ meat, it’s fantastically nutritious and delicious.  It contains more energising iron than other red meats, provides some healthy omega-3 fats and has less saturated fat than chicken without the skin.

A cooked venison steak on a chopping board

I personally love venison and I keep it really simple by cooking it in the same way as a steak.  For this time of year, I would quickly fry the venison (I like red meat fairly rare). Boil some baby new potatoes with some fresh mint and make a large salad – include some spring onion, also in season right now.  That will take no more than 15 minutes and you’ll have a fabulous meal.

Sweetcorn

Fresh sweetcorn (as corn on the cob) may be a little harder to obtain this year with the drought affecting crops in the UK.  However, if you can find some, then grab it straight away.  Corn has always been a food staple and a relatively inexpensive crop to produce. Corn provides beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A in the body as needed, immune-boosting vitamin C, energising folate and that all-important fibre.

Summer,Food.,Ideas,For,Barbecue,And,Grill,Parties.,Grilled,Corn

In terms of what to do with corn on the cob, there really is no better way than boiling the kernels until soft to poke with a fork and serving with butter and plenty of black pepper. Corn is also great on the barbecue, but ideally partially cook it first.

Plums

Plums need to be picked at just the right time so they have a little natural sweetness rather than being too sharp. However, they have an amazing array of antioxidants which are so protective of overall health, so it’s worth getting the timings right. Plums are also high in vitamin C and potassium which are both great for heart health and keeping the arteries flexible, allowing good blood flow.

Bowl,With,Oatmeal,,Fresh,Plums,And,Nuts,On,Table

Again, I keep it really simple with plums as I love them on my overnight oats.  Therefore, I stew them with a little honey, keep them in the fridge and then look forward to eating them in the morning.

Mackerel

Mackerel is a wonderfully healthy fish.  It’s packed with omega-3 fats which are generally very deficient in the UK diet but are essential for our health.  Importantly, the body can’t make omega-3 fats, so we must eat them in the diet, at least two or three times per week.

Fresh mackerel with lemon and herbs on foil ready to be baked

Mackerel does have quite a strong flavour and is also quite rich so any sauces with butter don’t really work.  Much better I find are spicy or citrus flavours.  Again, simplicity is the way forward so serve up a super-healthy meal by just adding some new potatoes or basmati rice with tender stem broccoli.

Aubergine

We often associate aubergines (called eggplant by the Americans) with Mediterranean countries as they frequently appear in Greek moussakas and French ratatouille.  As they’re cooked and eaten with the skin-on, you’ll be getting all the real value from the antioxidant-rich anthocyanins in the colourful skin. Aubergines are also a rich source of fibre, and manganese which is great for the bones.

Vegetable,Stew,,Eggplant,,Onion,,Zucchini,With,Tomato,Sauce,,Garlic,And

I absolutely love a simple pasta ratatouille; chop up an aubergine, courgette, onion, garlic, and roast in the oven.  It’s always great to add the tomatoes later in the roasting process. Then add the mixture to some cooked wholegrain pasta, toss with a handful of fresh basil leaves and top with some Parmesan cheese if desired.  And the best news is that this dish provides all of your 5-a-day!

So, enjoy cooking seasonally this August and reap the healthy benefits as well as the delicious flavours on offer.

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Summer just became simpler! Five easy and nutritious dishes to fuel your summer

Healthy,Diet,Eating.,African,American,Young,Female,Preparing,Salad,In

When it comes to food and meal planning, it’s easy to forget that dishes don’t have to be complicated to be nourishing and, importantly, delicious.

We all want to enjoy the warmer weather rather than spend hours in the kitchen and there are some great dishes that don’t take too long to prepare that will keep your energy up this season.

This National Simplicity Day, Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five simple, but nutritious dishes to help you enjoy summer even more!

Summer salmon with spicy noodles

Salmon is an oily fish, loaded with the essential omega-3 fats.  They’re essential because the body can’t make them but also because they’re needed for the health of the hormones, joints, eyes, brain, and heart.

Somen,Noodle,With,Teriyaki,Salmon,Sprinkle,With,Scallions,And,Sesame

Simply mix up some miso sauce (great for gut health), balsamic vinegar and paprika, spread over the salmon and grill for around six minutes.  Meanwhile, stir fry some chopped ginger and garlic, and quickly cook the noodles in boiling water.  The drained noodles can then be tossed in the garlic and ginger with some sweet chilli sauce and served with the salmon.  Add some steamed broccoli and you’ve got a perfect meal in around 10 minute

Tasty mushroom pasta

You can use crème fraiche in this recipe as a protein source or oat crème fraiche as a vegan option. Always try to use wholemeal pasta because its nutrient content is far higher than white pasta, especially when it comes to the energising B-vitamins.

Farfalle,Pasta,With,Champignon,Mushrooms,And,Garlic,Creamy,Sauce,On

Fry some onions and garlic, which are loaded with fibre and antioxidants, with mushrooms (a good source of vitamin D).  Once soft, then add either form of crème fraiche with some fresh baby spinach and cook until wilted (about one minute). Spinach is a rich source of iron and folate, essential for DNA repair.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta, combine it all together and you’ve got a delicious meal in around 15 minutes.

Quick beetroot salad

Summer is of course synonymous with salads.  However, it’s always worth bearing in mind that salad vegetables tend to naturally have lots of water and are not as nutrient dense as vegetables.  Therefore, try to add some ‘heavy weights’ into the mix!  Enter beetroot!

Baked,Beetroot,Salad,With,Blue,Cheese,And,Avocado,,CloseupBeetroot delivers so many amazing health benefits especially for the liver and brain health too, down to its betaine content. You can mix and match with this salad but add cooked chopped beetroot to some rocket, with sliced pear, soft goat’s cheese, and a dressing of your choice.  Anything with an olive oil base is going to be great for heart and joint health too. Even better, this dish will only take around 10 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

 

Posh beans on toast

Certainly not the normal ‘beans on toast’ you’d expect, this one contains plenty more nutrients. Use ready-podded broad beans (ones that are free from the tough outer coating) and which are easily bought frozen.  These are then cooked with some green beans. The beans can then be tossed with some pesto and added to toasted ciabatta, spread with either cream cheese or almond nut cream butter (either are great). Finish off with some lightly dressed rocket leaves.

Smashed,Avocado,On,Soda,Bread,With,Broad,Beans,,Coriander,And

This dish really is a nourishing and super quick summer meal. Beans are a great protein source, are packed with fibre and immune-boosting vitamin C.  However, some slices of prosciutto add even more flavour and protein. 

Quinoa and pomegranate salad

This dish is actually much more than a salad, providing plenty of protein and much more besides. I talked about beetroot being a heavy weight vegetable; this dish really brings in the full cavalry!

Quinoa is not actually a grain, but a seed and therefore doesn’t upset those of you how may have issues with gluten.  Plus, it’s very high in fibre and protein and quick to boil up with a stock cube.  It takes the same time as rice.  However, when you add plenty of pomegranate seeds, it steps up a level.  Pomegranate is great for heart health but also feeds the beneficial gut bacteria.

Quinoa,Salad,With,Pomegranate,On,Rustic,Kitchen,Table

Simply add these with some chopped coriander, lemon juice, raisins and chopped red onion to the quinoa. Onions also work as a prebiotic fibre, providing great benefits to gut health.

After that, it’s up to you!  Feta, pine nuts, goat’s cheese and walnuts will all provide excellent additions.

Summer cooking has never been so easy and nutritious – enjoy!

 

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Suzie’s 5 Favourite Picnic Snacks

A picnic basket on a wodden table overlooking a beautiful countryside scene

Great news – it’s picnic season again! When planning a picnic, we often default back to the same foods. 

However, it’s super-easy to create a picnic basket full of health and taste – no curly sandwiches here!

Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five picnic favourites which are nutrient-packed, full of flavour and will help keep your energy levels up during your day out.

 

Thai Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks are a great addition to picnic menus because they are easy to cook and transport (as long as you have a cold box).  Chicken is high in protein so will help keep blood sugar levels in balance and energy levels sustained, therefore you can enjoy the day. Plus, they are great to snack on because they will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Roasted,Spicy,Chicken,Legs,On,A,Plate,Over,Black,Slate,stone

These drumsticks take on a Thai feel using Thai green curry paste, zest and juice of a lime and a little bit of honey.  Marinade them overnight if you can for a fuller flavour and add some more of the marinade halfway through the cooking.  Make sure they are fully chilled before transporting. These drumstick delights offer a great twist to a popular picnic food.

Beetroot Dip

No picnic is complete without some delicious dips. And it’s a great opportunity to get some really healthy nutrients onboard too!

Beetroot,Hummus

Any dish containing beetroot is a winner in my book.  Beetroot offers so many health benefits, including supporting the liver in its key detoxification processes and providing energising folate and iron.  Simply whizz some cooked beetroot in a blender, and add some spring onions, natural yoghurt, lime juice and garlic.  The combined effect of all these ingredients provides some great antioxidants to support overall health. And don’t forget to bring some cruidites with you for dipping (carrot, cucumber and celery sticks)

Mini Frittatas

Any recipe containing eggs has my vote!  They are one of the best sources of protein so will keep everything (including mood) in balance, especially if eaten earlier in the day.  These frittatas can be used as a mid-morning snack or as part of the main event.  Plus, they are really easy to prepare.

Mini,Quiches,2

They are more like muffins because you can make them in a muffin tin for ease. These frittatas will provide a great protein and vegetable hit by using crumbled feta, chopped roasted peppers, diced chorizo, and chopped spring onion, with the beaten egg poured over. Once cooled, they are easy to transport, and most people love them!

Vegan Spring Rolls

These vegetable rolls are just like posh crudites! You can basically add any vegetables that take your fancy.  All you need is spring roll paper (rice paper), thinly sliced carrots, cucumber, lettuce leaves and celery plus some herbs of your choice.  And then wrap them up!  The more colour variety you have in the roll, the more antioxidants you will be getting.  Plus, it’s a great way to top up your daily intake of vegetables.

Vegetarian,Vietnamese,Spring,Rolls,With,Spicy,Sauce,,Carrot,,Cucumber,,Red

Spring rolls certainly benefit from a slightly spicy dipping sauce. You can easily make your own sauce using garlic, chilli, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

Fruit and Nut Flapjacks

Flapjacks are often very heavy on sugar.  However, these fruit and nut flapjacks contain agave syrup, which is sweeter than sugar, meaning you need to use less.

Healthy,Protein,Granola,Flapjack,Snack,Bars,With,Seeds,And,Nuts

Another positive is that these flapjacks contain plenty of other health-giving ingredients including hazelnuts and seeds which provide the essential, healthy omega-3 fats, as well as raisins and apricots that are rich in the frequently deficient mineral, iron. Plus of course porridge oats, packed full of energising B-vitamins. They’ll take you about 10 minutes to prepare and provide the perfect sweet, but healthy treat for your picnic.

Picnics can be fun and healthy too!  And with these delicious options you’ll have the energy to enjoy your day to the full.

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Seasonal Eating: what to eat this spring

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

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

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

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

 

Strawberries

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

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

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

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

Asparagus

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

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

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

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

Celeriac

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

Celeriac

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

Crab

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

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

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

Spring Lamb

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

Lamb

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

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

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

Stay well.

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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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Heart health: five foods that support this hard-working organ

 

Organic,Raw,Rolled,Oats,In,Heart,Shape

February is often referred to as the ‘month of love’, for obvious reasons.  However, putting romance aside, we should be loving our hearts all year round. 

Our hearts beat around 100,000 times in a day, working incredibly hard for us.  And there are some great heart-loving foods which support its ongoing health.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five top foods that support your heart health.

 

Salmon

Salmon is an oily fish, rich in heart-loving, essential omega-3 fats.  The word ‘fat’ often sends alarm bells when people are talking about the heart.  However, the omega-3s are polyunsaturated, with a very different chemical structure to saturated fats, and are absolutely needed for heart health.  The body can’t make omega-3s, hence they need to be eaten regularly in the diet.  The recommended intake of oily fish is two to three portions per week.

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

Can’t face fish?  Then it’s important to supplement with fish oils, or to eat flaxseeds which are also rich in omega-3s. 

Oats

Oats are loaded with a type of fibre called beta-glucans.  Much research over the years has found that beta-glucans help reduce cholesterol levels.  So much so, that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has authorised this claim that can be used on beta-glucan containing foods, especially oats.

Porridge topped with bananas and blueberries

Fibre is important for the heart for many reasons. As an example, high cholesterol and fats must be excreted from the body in the stool, so having the bowels working well is also great for the heart.  With February still being rather chilly, there’s no excuse not to enjoy a delicious bowl of warming porridge.  And you can even sprinkle some flaxseeds on the top to really give your heart some love.

Lentils

Quite simply, lentils are rich in potassium, fibre, and folate, all providing support for a healthy heart. Fibre is important for keeping bowels moving and ensuring blood fats are under control.  Importantly lentils are rich in gentle soluble fibre, so they won’t irritate the digestive tract.

Red,Lentils,Dal,In,Black,Bowl,On,Dark,Slate,Table

Folate is important for a process known as ‘methylation’ which the body carries out hundreds of times every day; poor methylation is associated with higher risks of heart disease.  And potassium is really important for encouraging a healthy heart rhythm and keeping blood pressure in check.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating homemade dhal, then you’ve missed a treat!  It’s so easy to make and provides an incredible number of heart-loving nutrients too. 

Blueberries

Blueberries are often referred to as a superfood, and for very good reason. Their rich, dark colour means they’re packed with anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants which help protect the heart. Blueberries are also rich in vitamin C, another antioxidant which is very heart friendly. 

A wooden bowl of blueberries

The body is constantly bombarded with environmental free-radicals and from the food we eat.  Hence, nature has provided antioxidants to help protect the body from whatever life throws its way.  Vitamin C can also help reduce cholesterol levels.

Soya beans

Soya beans are also known to reduce cholesterol levels and raise HDL’s (the ‘good ‘cholesterol).  However, not all soya products are created equal, and the greatest benefits come from fermented sources.  In this respect, tofu and tempeh are your friends.  Whilst soya milk and yoghurts, for example, are fine, fermented products have a very beneficial effect on the gut microbiome, which in turn is great for heart health.

Soya milk and solid

It’s important to ensure that any soya products are from non-GMO sources although this isn’t an issue when choosing fermented produce.  Tofu and tempeh are also very low in fat, another plus when thinking about the heart.

So, enjoy the month of love and start introducing more heart-loving foods into your diet.

Stay well.

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Seasonal eating in November

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

In the same way that we feel the outer effects of the changing seasons, especially when the temperature drops, the body also feels the disruption internally.

For this reason, nature has very thoughtfully provided seasonal foods to support the body the best way that it can.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares three delicious seasonal foods, perfect for now.

 

Goose

Whilst there may be a ‘run’ on turkeys early this year, there has been little mention of goose. So, it may be worth changing things up a little this year, both for traditional Christmas fayre, and for pre-Christmas celebrations.

Whilst goose meat is much higher in fat than turkey, much of it is lost during cooking.  However, the fat content is still comparable to many cuts of red meat.

Roasted goose on a plate

In terms of nutritional content, goose is a rich source of iron, which is frequently deficient within the UK population, especially in young women.  Plus, protein content is the same as turkey (really good) at 20 grams per 100 grams. From a mineral perspective, it’s high in bone-loving phosphorous, plus goose delivers plenty of energy-giving vitamins B1 and B6.

Roasted goose is delicious. Consider including roasted chestnuts both for their wonderful, slightly sweet taste but also rich nutritional value. Chestnuts are particularly high in trace minerals that are essential for overall health.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash is probably one of the most popular of the squash family, with other members including pumpkin, cucumber, and courgette. As with all root vegetables in season at this time of year, butternut squash provides a great source of sustained energy, plus it’s low in fat and high in nutrients.

shutterstock_226218175 butternut squash Dec15

As with all the orange-coloured vegetables, they’re a rich source of beta carotene which is turned into vitamin A as needed by the body.  Vitamin A is essential for good vision (especially night vision), the immune system, healthy skin, and protecting mucous membranes, especially those associated with the lungs.

What to do with butternut squash?  There’s certainly no shortage of options.  They add an amazing flavour to risottos, soups, pasta, and curries. They are also simply delicious baked and mashed with some cinnamon or nutmeg and a little cream, for a real treat.

Mackerel

With the UK population being wildly deficient in the essential omega-3 fats, mackerel could really help improve the nation’s health in this respect.  Mackerel is not only a great source of omega-3s but also the minerals zinc and selenium (both also lacking).  Selenium is essential for good heart health as are the omega-3s. Plus, mackerel does provide some much-needed vitamin D, especially through the winter months. Even better, mackerel is often fished from UK waters.

Fresh mackerel with lemon and herbs on foil ready to be baked

Of all varieties of fish, mackerel probably has one of the strongest flavours, therefore works really well with other equally strong ones, including various spices. Sharp flavours such as lemon complement well. Because mackerel is fairly rich down to its fat content (predominantly the omega-3s), then rich, buttery sauces are certainly not recommended.

So, enjoy some wonderful flavours and amazing health-giving nutrients by eating seasonally this November.

Stay well.

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Dietary support for reducing feelings of stress

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

With a global pandemic still ongoing and Christmas not too far away, it’s no wonder that our nerves may be a little frayed.  We know from ongoing data that many people’s mental wellbeing is not in great shape at the moment, and we could all do with lifestyle advice to help us feel a little calmer. 

What we eat and drink can make a big difference to how we feel and there are some foods which can help support our bodies and our minds feel less stressed.

This International Stress Awareness Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares 3 foods you can start adding to your diet.

 

Start the day with oats

There are a number of reasons why this is a great way to start the day.  Firstly, oats are loaded with the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce our feel-good hormone serotonin.

A bowl of oats

Secondly, oats are rich in the mineral magnesium, often referred to as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’. Essentially, magnesium fulfils many important functions within the body, but it also works on the central nervous system; if you’re nerves are shredded, then it might be time to think about how much magnesium you have in the diet.  Interestingly, it’s very often deficient in the typical western diet.  This is largely because magnesium is found in whole grains, rather than refined ones which dominate western diets such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, white bread, white rice, and white pasta.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

Importantly, your breakfast bowl should contain whole grain oats (the large ones!) which can be eaten in many ways.  For a quick, easy win, why not soak the oats overnight in a little milk and apple juice. The retrieve from the fridge in the morning, top with berries and natural yoghurt and you’ve got one of the best starts to the day!

Opt for fish

There are many good reasons for including fish in the diet.  However, it’s oily fish, including salmon, which has the most health benefits and can help calm the nerves.  Salmon is very high in the omega-3 fats which are critical for brain health; low levels of omega-3s have been linked to anxiety and depression.

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Why not have some delicious smoked salmon with your salad for lunch or with poached eggs for breakfast.  You’ll still be gaining all the wonderful health benefits. Salmon also makes a great dinner option and can quickly and easily be cooked in the oven in foil with some lemon juice, butter, and dill, if you have some. 

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

It’s important to recognise that farmed fish are often contaminated with unwanted. Always try to buy wild Alaskan salmon which has a much more distinctive pink colour.  This is because wild salmon naturally eat an alga called astaxanthin, which turns salmon pink, and which is also an amazing antioxidant, further protecting our bodies and minds.

Go for green tea

Often just having a warm drink can help soothe the nerves.  However green tea is a great option. This is because it contains the amino acid theanine, which can positively impact mood.  Interestingly, there has been much research around theanine and its ability to reduce stress. Theanine works in a number of ways but essentially by raising GABA, one of our calming brain neurotransmitters.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

Just like black tea, green tea naturally contains caffeine which will adversely affect the nervous system.  However, theanine appears to counter any of its negative effects.  Green tea is also rich in catechins which are powerful antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation in the brain, partly responsible for its ageing and degeneration. Aim to drink around three cups daily to enjoy the best effects.

As an aside, and if you’re looking to lose a few kilos before Christmas, green tea appears to have thermogenic effects, meaning it may temporarily uprate metabolism.  Therefore, having a cup of green tea prior to your morning walk, run or workout could provide a wealth of health benefits.

So, if you’re feeling frazzled, try adding some of the above to your daily diet and support your wellbeing from the inside out.

Stay well.

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Managing your blood pressure: top dietary tips to reduce yours

Woman having her blood pressure taken

Having raised or high blood pressure can significantly increase our risk factors for cardiovascular problems, especially heart attacks and strokes.  However, it can also cause a myriad of other issues and may even affect the eyes.

It’s very important to try to keep blood pressure readings within normal ranges for your age.  But thankfully making some diet and lifestyle changes can have a significant effect.

This Know Your Numbers’ week, clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips for reducing blood pressure naturally.

Grab some garlic

Garlic is one of the most effective botanicals for reducing blood pressure.  Try to include garlic in your cooking as much as possible; it’s also good to take as a supplement.

shutterstock_552242461 garlic Aug17

Garlic really enhances a wealth of dishes, whether they be veggie sides, fish, meat, beans, pasta, or rice dishes.  And green leafy vegetables are also great for helping reduce blood pressure, partly down to their high magnesium content.  Why not stir fry spinach, broccoli, or kale with garlic?

Go for salmon

Salmon contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids which are known to help reduce blood pressure.  However, not all salmon is created equal!  It’s important to try and find wild salmon, which will always look pinker in colour than farmed salmon.  This is down to the natural astaxanthin, an alga that the wild salmon naturally feed on, and which is one of the most powerful antioxidants known to man.  Hence this will also be helpful for reducing blood pressure.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

The UK Government recommends one to two portions of oily fish per week (which we are generally not achieving as a nation).  However, if you have high blood pressure then aim for three to four per week.  Sardines, mackerel, and tuna are also good sources of omega-3s.  However, smoked salmon is high in salt so probably best avoided, as excess salt can lead to higher blood pressure.

Snack on bananas

Bananas are high in potassium which is needed to keep blood pressure in good balance.  Potassium works alongside magnesium and calcium in regulating blood pressure.

Whole bananas and diced banana

The good news is that most fruits and vegetables contain potassium, but bananas, melons, avocados, and apricots are especially helpful.  And they can all easily be incorporated into the daily diet in meals or snacks.  Smashed avocado on seeded sourdough bread makes one of the best starts to the day!

Eat brown not white

Whole grain foods (often referred to as ‘brown’) are loaded with fibre, unlike their refined ‘white’ counterparts.  For example, brown rice retains the outer fibrous husk, whereas it’s been removed in the refining process in white rice.  And the same follows for wheat-based pasta.

shutterstock_585346478 whole wheat pasta June17

Importantly, the fibre in whole grains helps reduce blood pressure.  We need around 30 grams of fibre per day, which is sadly lacking in the typical Western diet.  Whole grain rice, brown basmati rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, buckwheat, millet, and oats are the order of the day if you want to keep blood pressure in check.

Avoid processed meats

There are lots of good reasons for keeping intake of bacon, ham, salamis, meat sausages and other processed versions to an absolute minimum.  These foods are often high in histamine which can raise blood pressure.  Additionally, they are known to raise levels of fats in the blood which will have a negative effect on blood pressure, plus are high in salt, another potential trigger.

Raw,Uncooked,Seabass,Fish,With,Vegetables,,Grains,,Herbs,And,Spices

Instead, try to stick to a more plant-based diet including plenty of whole grains, nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds, fruits and vegetables, legumes with some oily fish.  The typical Mediterranean diet is known to be super heart healthy and will help reduce blood pressure.

It’s not just your blood pressure that will benefit from making a few changes; you’re helping to future-proof your health too! Find out more about Know Your Numbers week by visiting the Blood Pressure Uk Website.

Stay well.

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

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