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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Eating seasonally this May: discover what’s in season and their nutritional benefits

Summer,Salad,With,Potatoes,,Green,Beans,,Asparagus,,Peas,And,Radishes

 

Eating with the seasons is something we nutritionists talk about all the time!  However, whilst we know this to be the best time to eat foods, and as nature intended, we do get used to eating what we want all year-round. 

It’s easy to forget, or not even realise now what’s in season and when. So, here’s a helpful reminder from Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer as to what is in season right now.

 

 

Asparagus

Whilst this vegetable provides plenty of nutrients, asparagus is really worth eating when in season and grown in the UK.  For the rest of the year, it often has a woodier and string-like texture. This is also the reason that you tend to see asparagus on restaurant menus much more during May, but the season is short, so grab some quickly.

Grilled,Green,Asparagus,With,Parmesan,Cheese

Asparagus is especially rich in folate, which is important for many different functions throughout the body including red blood cell formation.  Folate is rich in most green vegetables and including as much of this nutrient in your diet as possible is the way to go!

Asparagus is also a mild diuretic meaning it’s great if you struggle with water retention, especially ladies with PMS.

Enjoy it’s taste, texture, and health benefits this May!

Radishes

Radishes are part of the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family. They are rich in antioxidant minerals such as calcium and potassium which together help lower blood pressure and contribute to reducing risk of many diseases.

Fresh,Summer,Fennel,Salad,With,Pea,Shoots,And,Radishes.,Top

 

Radishes are often popular with dieters as a snack because they are low in calories and fat and have a really delicious peppery taste. They are also great with a plate of crudites and hummus or in an easy summer salad.  If you’ve not ventured to trying them yet, make this month the time!

Sea trout

If you can find some locally to you, you’ll be well rewarded with its taste, texture, and nutritional goodness. Generally, you’ll need to go to the fresh fishmonger’s outlet to find the wild sea trout.  It will be pinker in colour than the farmed variety, because wild trout and, indeed, salmon, naturally eat the algae, astaxanthin, which turns them pink, but also provides amazing antioxidants.

Trout fish fillet with salad

Trout is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for overall health, especially the brain, heart, joints, eyes, hormones, and skin.  Sea trout is delicious barbecued or simply grilled with a little butter.

Spring onions

If you’re struggling with allergies right now, then eating some spring onions could really help.  Onions contain a flavonoid called quercetin which works as a natural antihistamine in the body. Onions also provide benefits to the heart, helping reduce cholesterol levels and keeping blood thin, reducing risk of blockages in the arteries.

Potato,Salad,With,Mayonnaise,And,Spring,Onion,,Selective,Focus

 

Enjoy them in a potato salad, in fish dishes or stir fries.  They’re the perfect ‘easy’ vegetable to rev up your health.

Watercress

Another peppery-tasting salad vegetable, this member of the cruciferous vegetable family is equally nutritious.  Watercress is a rich source of folate and is great for liver detoxification. It also helps to support kidney function, so you can really uprate the health benefits by adding this to salads and sandwich fillings.

Ricotta,Cheese,,Green,Peas,,Watercress,And,Dates,Salad

In addition, watercress is rich in immune-boosting beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E.  It’s definitely a summer vegetable to enjoy, so grab some whilst you can when it’s crisp, fresh, tasty, and nutritious.

Seasonal eating is always best when it comes to flavour and nutritional content.  Try to reward the body as much as possible by eating with the seasons this May and indeed throughout the year.

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Five foods to feed your brain

 

A range of vegetables to represent fibre in the diet

It’s no secret that I talk about vegetables a lot! In fact, I frequently talk about them in terms of their varied and beautiful colours providing the amazing array of nutrients the body needs to stay healthy.

They are actually some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, gifted to us from nature, packed with vitamins and minerals, plenty of antioxidants and many other beneficial plant compounds too.

There are so many to choose from but this National Vegetarian Week I have picked my top five:

Broccoli

Did you know that one cup of broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange? Which is great but it’s not the main reason why I rate broccoli’s health benefits so highly. Broccoli is part of the healthy family of cruciferous vegetables which contain a sulphur compound called sulforaphane.  Essentially, sulforaphane helps the liver to detoxify, is great for supporting brain health and importantly, is known to help protect the body from degenerative diseases.

Broccoli florets on a plate

Broccoli is also rich in folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.  These three nutrients work as a triad in many key biochemical reactions throughout the body, especially when it comes to the brain, hormone, and energy levels.  The list of positives goes on and on with broccoli; try to eat some at least two or three times a week.

Sweet potatoes

Available in both orange and purple varieties, the purple type has even more antioxidants than its orange counterpart.

shutterstock_222440302-purple-sweet-potato-sept16

If you are trying to lose weight but feel the need for some carbs, then sweet potatoes are a great option as they don’t have such an impact on blood sugar balance.  Even better, whatever their colour, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant, and is also turned into immune-boosting vitamin A in the body, as needed.

Sweet potato wedges are a real go-to veggie for me!

Brussels sprouts

I know they’re not enjoyed by everyone, but I genuinely love them!  If you’re not a fan of Brussels sprouts, have you tried them with some bacon bits which helps to reduce some of their slightly bitter taste?

Just like broccoli, being part of the cruciferous vegetable family, Brussels’ health benefits are far-reaching. They are high in vitamin K which is essential for the bones and heart, vitamin C and folate, and are especially rich in fibre. 

shutterstock_179527487 basket of sprouts Nov15

The daily recommended amount for fibre intake is around 30g; most people manage only about 8 grams, which can have an impact on your digestive system not working as efficiently as it could. Many of the plant compounds in Brussels sprouts also help manage pain and inflammation throughout the body which can be caused by many different health issues.  Go on, give them another try!

Onions

Onions are fairly easy to include in the daily diet because they add so much flavour to so many dishes.  They’re especially helpful at this time of year because onions are high in quercetin which helps reduce histamine levels.  Hay fever sufferers, take note!

Red,Onions,On,Rustic,Wood

Onions are also rich in flavonoids – powerful antioxidants which have so many beneficial effects on health and are especially protective against heart disease.

Don’t hold back with onions; add them to stir fries (spring onions have the same benefits), soups, curries, pasta dishes or with other roasted vegetables.

Carrots

Whilst carrots don’t quite contain all the pizazz of the cruciferous veggies, they’re certainly in my top five because they do have great health benefits and they’re so versatile too!  Interestingly, although carrots are often eaten raw, their beta-carotene content is better released when they’re cooked.

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

Whether you eat them raw or cooked, carrots still contain loads of fibre, heart-loving potassium, and immune-boosting vitamin C.  If your kids love raw carrots, you’ll still be providing them with some great nutrients.

I love all vegetables and try to eat as much variety as possible.  And always remember – colour = nutrients.  Enjoy!

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Suzie’s top foods to help increase your energy levels

 

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

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

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

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

 

Whole grain bagels

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

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

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

Eggs

A healthy breakfast of eggs, smoked salmon and avocado

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

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

Sweet potatoes

shutterstock_260427179-baked-sweet-potato-feb17

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

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

Chickpeas

Chickpea salad with feta

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

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

Bananas

Whole bananas and diced banana

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

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

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

Stay well.

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Kick-start your energy levels ready for the New Year with these top energy-giving foods

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

As we move towards the new year following Christmas festivities, many of us may feel low in energy. Getting a good balance between being active and relaxing can help support your get up and go. 

However, there are some great foods that you can add to your diet to help support your energy levels.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top energy-boosting foods.

 

Bananas

Bananas are not only a great go-to, on the run delicious snack, they pack a nutrient punch too.  They’re loaded with vitamin B6 which is essential for energy production. Additionally, they also contain plenty of energising folate and vitamin B2. Importantly, they’re high in the mineral potassium, an electrolyte that can frequently become out of balance, especially if you’re exercising hard and sweating a lot.

Whole bananas and diced banana

Whilst bananas are relatively high on the glycaemic index, meaning they’ll give a fairly instant burst of energy, their high fibre content means they will still deliver sustained energy.  Plus, if you eat a banana with some protein, perhaps a handful of nuts and seeds, then the combined effect will reduce the glycaemic load of the banana and keep your energy levels up for longer.

Sweet potatoes

Whilst they’re called potatoes, sweet potatoes are from a completely different family to the white potato.  White potatoes are good for providing energy, but sweet potatoes have the slight edge as they’re a lower on the glycaemic index, therefore energy levels will be sustained for longer.

A bowl of roasted sweet potato wedges

Just like bananas, sweet potatoes are also rich in potassium so will help balance the body’s electrolytes.  Plus, if you’re diet has been high in salt over the festive period, sweet potatoes will help get everything back into balance.

Sweet potatoes can be served in their jackets, cut into wedges and roasted as a substitute for traditional chips, or simply boiled and mashed with a little butter and pepper. Delicious!

Quinoa

Often referred to as a ‘super food’, quinoa can certainly hold its own in the nutritional stakes.  Quinoa is not actually a grain but a seed, which is great for people who can’t tolerate lots of grains or have allergies to these types of food.

Quinoa and bulgar wheat salad with feta

Quinoa is fairly unique in that it’s a food high in both protein and complex carbohydrates, so it’s going to keep energy levels up. Its uniqueness is further highlighted by the fact that it provides all the essential nine amino acids that make up proteins (and other plant foods are generally lacking in some of them). Equally, quinoa is rich in the family of B-vitamins, needed to release energy from food, as well as the minerals, copper, iron, and magnesium.

Oats

Oats are certainly one of the healthiest grains on earth.  They’re a whole grain and a great source of key vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. However, not all oats are created equal and the rougher and larger the pieces of oat, the lower on the glycaemic index they’ll be, and the more long-lasting energy will be delivered.

Porridge topped with bananas and blueberries

Scottish oats have very little refining so are a good choice but try to avoid quick or instant oats as much of the fibre and nutrients will have been lost in the refining process. Overnight oats for breakfast are becoming increasingly popular, where the oats are soaked in milk (perhaps plant-based) with some fruit such as apple, banana, or melon. Add some Greek yogurt and flaxseeds to the mix and you’ve got the perfect start to the day that will keep you fuelled until lunch time.

Water

How often do we forget about water as being a key energy source?  If the body is dehydrated, you’ll be going nowhere fast! Even mild dehydration of 1-2% can affect energy levels as well as mood and the ability to concentrate.

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

Make a resolution for 2022 to drink at least eight glasses of water daily. Fruit and vegetables also count towards your water intake but however much you’re eating, do keep your resolve on how many glasses you are drinking.

Not only will energy levels improve, but your skin will also glow, digestion will be better, and your liver will certainly thank you!

So, with a few dietary additions you can make 2022 your most energetic year yet!

Stay well.

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Create your healthiest festive menu yet! Top tips for your Christmas Dinner

A family eating christmas dinner

When it comes to Christmas menus, they are often a mix of healthy and not so healthy dishes; it is the season of treats after all!

However, there are so many foods on the traditional festive menus that are great for supporting wellbeing. Even better, they are delicious!

 

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five delicious and healthy festive foods.

Turkey

Turkey has more nutritional benefits than chicken in many respects. Importantly, it is higher in protein and lower in fat than chicken. However, with both meats, it’s important to avoid eating the skin as this is where most of the fat sits and there are no further benefits to eating it (apart from the taste of crispy skin which many of us love!)

Roast Christmas turkey

From an immune-boosting perspective, turkey contains one third more zinc than chicken, and this is especially rich in the dark meat. Turkey also provides all of the energising B vitamins, together with potassium which is great for the heart, and phosphorus which is essential for healthy bones. There’s no need for any guilt when loading up your Christmas meal plate with turkey!

Red cabbage

Any vegetable or fruit that is deep in colour is rich in nutrients, and red cabbage is no exception. Red cabbage is loaded with disease-preventing antioxidants.

Red cabbage stewed with apples

However, all cabbage provides a plethora of nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. Uniquely, cabbage also contains a compound called S-Methylmethionine which has been found to help heal stomach ulcers and soothe pain in the gut. And if you’re struggling with acid reflux during the festive season, which is very common, then drinking raw cabbage juice will certainly help. However, there’s no problem with adding some beetroot and apple to make the juice more palatable and even healthier.

Red cabbage makes a delicious addition to any Christmas menu, prepared with apples, raisins, cinnamon, and bay leaves.

Parsnips

No Christmas menu is complete without the addition of parsnips. This slightly sweet root vegetable can be eaten instead, or in addition to, potatoes and provides a great source of fibre. Parsnips are also rich in folate, essential for the production of healthy red blood cells, and help support lung health. Additionally, they contain plenty of potassium which helps reduce blood pressure.

A bowl of roast parsnips

Parsnips clearly deliver on health and taste and are great roasted and flavoured with garlic, Parmesan cheese or coriander. Indeed, they also make a fabulous Boxing Day spicy soup with both turmeric and cumin providing the warming and delicious spices.

Cranberry sauce

Whilst cranberries can be rather sharp and sour in taste, used in cranberry sauce they certainly come alive. And they still deliver on health, providing plenty of anthocyanins – antioxidants that protect the liver from free radical damage. Even better, these antioxidants also have a protective effect on overall health.

CRanberry sauce in small ceramic jug and cranberries on wooden board

Cranberries are also well-known for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections because they stop any bacteria from hanging around internally.

Every turkey needs some accompaniments and cranberry sauce provides a very worthy and healthy partner.

Chestnuts

No nut conjures up feelings of Christmas more than chestnuts! If you’re lucky enough to have an open fire, then you can’t miss out on roasting these delicious nuts. And once they’re roasted, chestnuts are certainly easier to extract from their outer shell.

Chestnuts are naturally rich in immune-boosting zinc, energising iron and bone-loving manganese. They are also rich in complex carbs so will certainly hit the spot if you’re feeling in need of a snack between meals.

Roasted,Chestnuts,On,An,Old,Board.,Selective,Focus.

 

Of course, chestnut is the main event in chestnut stuffing which can quite happily be vegan with the addition of mushrooms, onions, garlic, oregano, and sage. All these additional ingredients provide immune-boosting antioxidants, and plenty of warming herbs to help protect the body against any nasty viruses floating around.

And chestnuts don’t just need to feature in savoury recipes; they work really well with chocolate made into a cake or as a cream to pour over some decadent poached pears (also now in season).

So, enjoy your festive feast and include some of these health-giving foods for an extra wellbeing boost!

 

Stay well.

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Seasonal Eating: What to eat in December

A table laid with christmas foods including turkey, cake, cheese and decorations

The festive season is upon us which brings its own traditional food choices during this period.  However, as always, it’s good to eat foods that are naturally in season as they are at their best.

And some of these can certainly feature as part of your Christmas menu.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods for December.

 

 

Turnips

For some reason turnips don’t seem to get the same accolades as parsnips.  Perhaps it’s because turnips were traditionally grown as cattle fodder in the nineteenth century. And whilst turnips are generally available all year, they are at their tastiest right now.

Rustic,Organic,Turnips,With,Fresh,Green,Tops,And,Roots,On

From a nutritional perspective, they provide a range of nutrients including immune-boosting vitamin C, hormone balancing vitamin B6 and bone-loving calcium and manganese.  Importantly, and just like all members of the brassica family, turnips contain indoles which ramp up liver detoxification enzymes, perfect for this time of year.

Turnips can be baked just like potatoes, with some thyme, and are delicious sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese.

Apples

Whilst the nutritional benefits of apples are never in question, they can be quite confusing to choose from as there are over 7,000 varieties! But which ever ones you choose they provide some great health benefits.

Apples made into a heart shape on a wooden background

Apples are prized for their pectin content. Pectin is a gentle form of soluble fibre hence apples have traditionally been used to treat constipation.  Importantly, pectin helps remove ‘bad‘ cholesterol from the blood stream, making apples a heart-healthy choice.

Apples are also higher in fructose than glucose which means they’re lower on the glycaemic index and help to balance blood sugar levels. This is also important when keeping a watchful eye on the waistband.  Apples are also a rich source of vitamin C to give the immune system a much-needed boost at this time of year.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Interestingly, they are not from Jerusalem and are also not part of the artichoke family! However, I frequently write about Jerusalem artichokes because they are some of the best vegetables to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Close up of artichokes

Just like a garden, the gut microbiome needs to be cultivated and fed and this vegetable is great for the purpose. They are rich in inulin which is known as prebiotic bacteria. As with all vegetables they’re also rich in vitamin C and potassium. Jerusalem artichokes make a delicious side dish simply roasted with or without the skin.

Kale

Interestingly kale is not only in season at this time of year, but also definitely much tastier too! Kale is a member of the Brassica family and provides amazing health benefits, especially in protecting the liver, but also providing compounds to protect future health too.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

From an antioxidant perspective, kale delivers on vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, hence its role in protecting current and future health. It is also rich in key minerals such as manganese, iron, and calcium, all generally lacking in the typical UK diet and essential for the heart and bones, amongst other things.

Kale can be slightly bitter so is best sauteed with a little garlic and soy sauce to make a delicious side.

Potatoes

Potatoes often get bad press, especially from people following the ketogenic diet as they are obviously high in carbs.  However, boiled potatoes are lower on the glycaemic index than jackets, therefore their starch content is less.

a basket of jersey royal potatoes

Importantly, potatoes provide a great and inexpensive energy source so are great for feeding and satisfying families.  They also contain plenty of vitamin C and if eaten with the skin, provide a great source of fibre.

If you’re looking for a festive treat, then dauphinoise potatoes, made with cream, garlic and cheese is one of the most delicious ways you’ll ever eat them!

So, enjoy all that nature has to offer this season and grab some great health benefits too!

Stay well.

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Support your heart health with these five vitamins and minerals

Blueberries in a heart shape

It beats around 100,00 times a day and is a truly amazing organ!  Yes, your heart is incredible, and it needs taking care of just like the rest of the body. 

When it comes to heart-health, there are some key vitamins and minerals that are essential to keep it beating long and strong.

This National Cholesterol Month, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five key vitamins and minerals for heart health.

Vitamin C

When it comes to the heart, vitamin C is certainly an essential nutrient. As one of our key antioxidant nutrients, vitamin C protects the heart from all that life throws at it.

We all have fats circulating within the blood stream.  However, when these levels are elevated (generally caused by a diet high in fat and sugar), these fats (also known as triglycerides) start to attach themselves to the artery wall. Over time this can increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack, as blood flow is blocked. Additionally, fats oxidise and harden the arteries causing a condition known as atherosclerosis.  Furthermore, cholesterol, another type of fat, can be dangerous when not dealt with correctly within the body.

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Vitamin C not only protects the arteries from damaging free radicals, but it also helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, thereby giving the heart a really great fighting chance of being healthy. Interestingly, foods rich in vitamin C such as berry fruits are also high in plant compounds called polyphenols.  These also provide antioxidants and wonderful benefits to the heart.  Ami to eat a handful of berries every day.

Vitamin B3

Part of the family of B-vitamins, Vitamin B3 is a key heart nutrient because its helps raise levels of the healthy HDL cholesterol, whilst reducing overall cholesterol readings. Just like all good families, the Bs do work together but each one has its own specific claim to fame.  That’s not to say the other don’t also have a role to play in heart health (see below).

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

The good news is that vitamin B3 is found in a variety of animal and plant foods including beef, liver, fish, eggs, avocados, whole grains and nuts and seeds.  Oily fish also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fats so eating some portions of salmon or mackerel regularly, will help the heart all ways round.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a key heart mineral, alongside potassium (see below).  Magnesium essentially has two main roles to play. It works as a muscle relaxant, helping relax the heart muscle and arteries thereby keeping blood pressure in the healthy range. Secondly it is a key electrolyte, balancing nerve transmissions throughout cells. Magnesium’s role is primarily enabling essential enzyme reactions that have a direct effect on heart and blood vessel health.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Magnesium is frequently deficient in both men and women due to poor dietary intake.  It’s predominantly found in whole grains and green leafy veg, hence it’s low in the typical Western diet.

Potassium

Just like magnesium, potassium is a key electrolyte but works primarily with sodium helping maintain water balance and the correct acidity levels in the blood.  It also helps regulate nerve and muscle activity.  These are all essential for keeping the heart beating 24/7 as well as maintaining blood pressure at the right levels.

shutterstock_651019798 honeydew melon Aug17

The great news is that potassium is widely available in fruits and vegetables and is especially high in bananas, melons, apricots, grapefruit, and sweet potatoes.  It’s great to include as much colour variety in the diet as possible so you’ll also be getting that all-important vitamin C.

Vitamin B12

Another key member of the family of B-vitamins, Vitamin B12 is as essential but works in a different way to some of the other Bs. Vitamin B12 is needed for the process of methylation, an essential bodily process that happens thousands of times each day.  It helps control production of a toxic amino acid metabolite called homocysteine; high levels have often been associated with cases of heart disease.  B12 works alongside folate and vitamin B6 in this process.

A range of foods high in protein

Deficiency of B12 can cause pernicious anaemia (one symptom being heart palpitations) but can also bring on extreme tiredness.  Vitamin B12 is poorly absorbed in the body so there are times when the GP will recommend injections.  However, for most people, eating plenty in the diet is generally sufficient to keep everything working well.  The only downside is that B12 is generally only found in animal foods, so I would recommend that if you are vegetarian or vegan get your levels checked as you may need to supplement.

Celebrate all that is amazing about your beating heart: take care of it well and it will love you for many years to come.

Stay well.

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Seasonal eating: top foods for September

Ripe,Pears,And,Peaches,On,Table

As a nutritionist, I am frequently talking about eating with the seasons.  This means eating foods at the times nature intended during the year, which generally delivers better nutrient content, enhanced flavours, and greater health benefits.

However, we can sometimes run out of ideas as to what to do with these delicious foods.

Read on for some great suggestions on how best to use my favourite in-season foods right now!

Blackberries

During August and September, the hedgerows are awash with beautiful blackberries, signalling the perfect time for eating this nutrient-dense fruit.

As with all berries, blackberries are loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as energising folate. They also provide a good source of fibre.  Furthermore, they are low on the glycaemic index so won’t upset blood sugar balance and are great if you’re trying to lose weight.

shutterstock_206260981 blackberries Aug15

As vitamin C is degraded by cooking, fruit is generally at its most nutritious when eaten raw, so why not load some up onto your breakfast muesli or simply enjoy with some natural yoghurt.  And if you can ‘pick your own’ blackberries, or scavenge them from the hedgerows, the taste and nutritional benefit is going to be even better!

Beetroot

Another colourful beauty, beetroot scores highly on both taste and nutritional benefits.  Beetroot is rich in potassium which helps regulate blood pressure but also contains betacyanin which is great for cleansing the liver and supporting any detox plan.  However, as beetroots are quite sweet, many people prefer them pickled but this does reduce their nutrient content somewhat.

Whole beetroots

Beetroots are also rich in immune-boosting beta-carotene, which becomes more bioavailable when beetroots are cooked.  They can therefore be boiled in their skins and then peeled and used in a variety of ways.

The taste and texture of beetroot works especially well with goat’s cheese.  Enjoy the last days of summer by making up a delicious and simple goat’s cheese salad, with chopped beetroot and sprinkled with balsamic glaze.

Celeriac

Often, and very unkindly referred to as ‘the ugly one’ due to its knobbly appearance, celeriac redeems itself with its nutritional goodness and likeable flavour.  Part of the celery family, celeriac has a better taste profile down to its nutty flavour rather than being overly salty.  However, just like celery, celeriac is great for reducing blood pressure and is a good source of vitamin C and fibre.

Celeriac on a table

Celeriac makes a great vegetable side, simply mashed with a little pepper and butter, or mashed with potatoes and garlic. Why not try making it into a soup with apples to create a really balanced and delicious flavour.

Pears

Pears are often forgotten and pushed into the shade by their counterparts, apples, although they bare no relation to each other. Just like apples though, pears are also relatively low on the glycaemic index so are great if you’re watching the kilos.  Importantly though, they are one of the least allergenic foods so are perfect for including in allergy-free diets or for weaning babies. Plus, they are high in the soluble fibre pectin, so are great for keeping the bowels running smoothly.

shutterstock_298111103 pears Sept17

As with many fruits, pears work really well with various cheeses, especially the stronger flavoured ones such as gorgonzola. They are delicious poached in red wine (packed with healthy antioxidants) or paired with chocolate as a real treat.

Peaches

Peaches are loaded with vitamin C, fibre, and potassium.  And just like beetroot, peaches are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A as required.  Vitamin A is essential for a healthy immune system and for good vision, especially at night.

shutterstock_297863489 peaches July16

Peaches are delicious when eaten simply on their own as a low-calorie snack.  And it’s worth remembering that tinned peaches, which are highly popular, lose most of their vitamin C in the canning process and are also much higher in sugar.  Fresh is always best!

So, enjoy the seasonal delights that September brings and get creative!

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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