Seasonal eating: Plums

Close up of woman holding a bowl of freshly picked plums

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

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

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

Plums are rich in antioxidants

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

A bowl of plums on a blue wooden table

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

Prunes encourage regularity

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

Prunes can help weight management

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

A bowl of prunes or dried plums

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

Poached plums for breakfast

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

A bowl of poached plums with cinnamon

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

Plums are great in savoury dishes

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

Roasted duck breast with plum sauce on the side

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

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

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Autumn Nutrition: top 5 seasonal foods

A plate with autumn leaves to represent autumn food and nutrition

As with any season, autumn brings its own wealth of foods in abundance. Fruits and vegetables always taste better when they’re eaten seasonally, and meats and fish may even be a little cheaper.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her 5 ‘what’s hot’ this autumn (and some are a little more unusual)!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

CELERIAC

It is often called ‘the ugly one’ because celeriac is so nodular, but once you’ve cut off the skin and the roots from the base, celeriac should be tried because it’s delicious. It’s closely related to celery (which lots of people avoid), but it has a much smoother taste and can be added to lots of different dishes.

Celeriac on a table

 

Celeriac works really well as a vegetable side boiled and then mashed with garlic and potato. It can also be made into delicious soup with Bramley apples (also now in season), a little cream and vegetable stock. Plus, it’s got a good nutrient profile, being high in vitamin C which supports the immune system and it is also great added to soups or stews, both for its taste and health benefits.

RABBIT

Interestingly, rabbit tends to be eaten more in other European countries, particularly Spain, than in the UK. However, it makes a great change to chicken and has a slightly more ‘gamey’ taste. Even better, wild rabbit is very lean because the animals have obviously been able to run around freely. Generally, rabbits are sold whole, mainly from butcher’s shops, and can be used in the same way as chicken. Rabbit is low in fat, high in protein and a good source of energising B-vitamins.

Rabbit stew

Rabbit works well in a one-pot dish. Add some onion, garlic, chicken stock and green olives and cook for just over an hour, for a really tasty and hearty autumnal dish.

MUSSELS

It’s peak season for mussels right now in the UK which will be great news for many people! Whilst we often associate mussels cooked with white wine and garlic as being traditionally French, it’s certainly a very popular dish closer to home.

Mussels should be tightly closed when they’re bought fresh. However, when they’re cooked (don’t forget to add some parsley and a little chopped onion), after about three or four minutes, they should open easily which proves their freshness. Any sauce can be soaked up with soft crusty bread.

Mussels in a pot

The dish itself is low in fat and mussels are high in the mineral selenium. It’s very often depleted in the UK diet and is a very powerful antioxidant, supporting the immune system as well as healthy hair and skin. Maybe a dish to be served at your next autumn dinner party?

WATERCRESS

Peppery, dark watercress leaves are among the healthiest of fresh salad vegetables. These leaves are a rich source of immune-boosting vitamins C and B6, plus beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Watercress is also a good source of iron, just like other dark, green leafy vegetables. In traditional medicine, it has long-been used to treat kidney and liver disorders, plus skin, and respiratory conditions; in short it seems to have wonderful restorative powers so now is certainly the time to be including it in your diet!

Watercress soup

One of the best recipes for watercress is in a soup. Simply fry up some chopped potato and onion, add some chicken stock and milk, boil until the vegetables are tender, then add the watercress and cook for another few minutes. The soup just needs to be popped through the blender and you’ve got yourself and really hearty, seasonal dish.

PLUMS

No autumn menu can be complete without plums! There are few fruits that come with such an array of colour variety. Plus, did you know that prunes are dried plums? Interestingly, they’re both very high in antioxidants although prunes tend to be an acquired taste and are often only used to ease constipation! They’re high in fibre but they also help to feed the beneficial gut bacteria.

Plums are also a great source of vitamin C and have been found to increase absorption of dietary iron.

A bowl full of plums

As with many fruits, plums are extremely versatile but keeping them simple is often the best way of preserving their wonderful flavour. They’re great sliced and added to breakfast cereal, they can be gently stewed and eaten with some natural yoghurt and sprinkled with seeds for an energising and quick breakfast, or served with savoury foods such as goat’s cheese in a salad.

So enjoy the wonderful tastes of autumn and relish the health benefits at the same time!

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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