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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Menopause nutrition: what to eat to help support your transition

shutterstock_157003715 middle aged woman smiling Nov15

As with most health issues, they can be multifactorial and sometimes take a while to get to grips with.  This is certainly true when talking about menopause.

With over 30 possible symptoms associated with menopause, finding hormonal harmony in this often-difficult life stage, can sometimes be tough.  However, a change of diet can be very powerful and effective.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five foods than might help to bring hormonal harmony into your life.

Lentils

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.

Importantly, lentils are a rich source of phytoestrogens, plant foods that naturally contain properties that help balance oestrogen levels.  Phytoestrogens are chemically similar to the hormone oestrogen, hence their effectiveness.  Oestrogen levels naturally fall as women approach menopause and beyond, and it’s this issue that takes most of the responsibility for many of the associated symptoms.

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

If you’ve not used lentils before, then why not make some delicious and filling lentil soup, which is great for colder days. Importantly the protein content of lentils will keep you feeling satiated for much longer than a purely carbohydrate-based meal.

Flaxseeds

Also referred to as linseeds, flaxseeds tend to be the ground version which are great to eat during menopause. Why? Flaxseeds are especially rich in lignans which also have phytoestrogenic properties.

A spoon full of flax seeds

Additionally, flaxseeds are rich in the essential omega-3 fats which become even more essential during this life phase. Therefore, flaxseeds are great for hormone balance, can help reduce hot flushes and are very supportive of brain health; brain fog can be especially troublesome for women during this time.  Sprinkle some flaxseeds on your cereal, natural yoghurts or put into a smoothie every day, for best effect.

Oily fish

Oily fish which includes salmon, sardines and mackerel are a great source of those all-essential omega-3s.  However, it’s oily fish with bones, particularly sardines, that also provide a good source of vitamin D, very much needed for the menopause years. Levels of vitamin D really drop in the UK population during the winter months causing low mood, amongst other problems.

A range of foods containig omega 3 fats

Production of vitamin D is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin, our happy hormone, and a big issue for many women going through menopause is low mood and anxiety.  It follows, therefore, that having more vitamin D in the diet is really important for women’s hormonal health, not to mention for the bones and teeth.  However, it’s not possible to get sufficient vitamin D just from oily fish alone during the winter months, so supplementation is essential.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a member of the wonderful family of cruciferous vegetables which provide a myriad of health benefits, too long to mention them all.

However, for women struggling with menopause, broccoli can really come into its own.  Broccoli (and all cruciferous vegetables) can play a major role in the body’s detoxification processes, including of oestrogen.  This is important because the body needs to eliminate ‘old ‘oestrogens at the end of each cycle so toxins don’t build in the body and cause more symptoms.

Fresh,Broccoli,Soup

Broccoli is also very effective at helping the liver to detoxify.  This is hugely important during menopause, as the body needs to expel oestrogens from the environment, known as xenoestrogens, that can cause even more imbalance and severe hormonal disruption.

Enjoy some broccoli (plus cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale) as often as possible.

Natural yoghurt

As with all aspects of our health, the digestive system features at every level.  If digestion is not working correctly, then nothing else will.  This is especially true when talking about hormonal issues. Constipation can be a major problem during menopause, hence digestive health is key.

A bowl of natural yoghurt on a wooden background

Natural yoghurt is rich in probiotics, those all-important friendly bacteria that live within us and fulfil many different functions, including bowel regularity.  They are fed by vegetables which are known as prebiotics.  Another great reason for eating lots of broccoli!

Natural yoghurt is great for breakfast or with some fruit after a meal.  Make sure you choose live yoghurt and especially those varieties without sugar or sweeteners.

Changing your diet is one of the first steps in addressing menopause misery and it can make a real difference to symptoms.

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Nutritional tips to support brain function

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

Having a foggy brain is not uncommon and can affect people at any age.  However, brain function does noticeably decline in our 50s and accelerates as we get older. The good news is that we can do so much to support brain function and the sooner we start the better. 

The brain uses about 25% of all the energy we take in as food. It is a highly complex organ and acts as the command centre for the nervous system; as such it needs a wide range of nutrients to effectively perform its many functions.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares three of her top nutrients to help support your brain.

Omega-3 fish oils

Omega 3s play a key role in brain health.  The brain is made up of 60% fat, much of which are the essential omegas (essential because the body can’t make them, so they need to feature in the diet). In general, the UK population has a lack of these through not eating enough in the diet.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

Deficiency is mainly down to omega-3s only being found predominantly in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines – foods that are not widely eaten.  Omega-3s are also found in flaxseeds, nuts, and seeds but they have to be eaten very regularly to obtain what the body needs.

Ideally aim for one to two portions of oily fish every week and sprinkle at least one tablespoon of flaxseeds onto your cereal, yoghurt or in a smoothie every day.  Your brain will certainly thank you for it.

Zinc

The mineral zinc is one of the busiest, being involved in around 300 different enzyme reactions in the body.  Zinc is significant when it comes to brain health because it’s needed for the production of those all-important brain neurotransmitters.  These include serotonin, needed for mood and motivation, and melatonin, essential for sleep.  Zinc is also used in the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, essential neurotransmitters for the stress response.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

In short, the brain can’t function without zinc.  Minerals are often referred to as ‘trace minerals’: they are of course needed in small amounts but are crucial to overall health.  Therefore, the diet should ideally be rich in foods containing zinc – think wholegrains, fish, meat, nuts, seeds, and eggs.  The best source of zinc is oysters, so never worry about enjoying them more regularly rather than as a treat.

It’s not that difficult to be slightly lacking in zinc, with white spots on the nails being a tell-tale deficiency sign.  General hormonal disruptions can also be a nudge that you need to eat more zinc-rich foods.

Vitamin B12

The family of B-vitamins all work together but vitamin B12 does stand out as one of the key members when it comes to brain health.  This is because it plays a role in one of the body’s most important biochemical reactions known as methylation.  Whilst it’s not necessary to understand methylation, it’s important to know that it can’t happen without vitamin B12, nor can the brain work correctly.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

As part of this biochemical process, memories are formed, and concentration and focus are achieved. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal produce, and in some fortified foods such as cereals.  Meat, fish, dairy, and eggs are the best sources, so vegetarians and vegans should consider taking a supplement to ensure the brain’s not missing out.

If your brain is feeling foggy or you’re lacking in energy (another sign you may be deficient in B12) then it might be time to increase your intake.

The brain is certainly a nutrient-hungry organ, but eating enough of these three nutrients is a really good start.

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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.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

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