How to fuel your bike rides with these top nutrition tips

View of a woman mountain biking

With some warmer weather now appearing, it’s a great time to get outdoors and do some exercise in the open air.  And there’s no better time to enjoy a bike ride. 

One of the many advantages of cycling is that it’s an activity that can equally be enjoyed as a family or singularly and it’s great exercise for the heart, lungs, and legs.  But how can you ensure you’re your body is properly fuelled and hydrated in order to get the most out of your rides?

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips for hydrating and snacking on your bike rides.


SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


Bananas are a great ‘on-the-go ‘snack!  They are not only high in energising vitamin B6, but they’re loaded with potassium, which is an electrolyte, so helps prevent dehydration.


Most of us can digest bananas well; you can often see tennis players eating them in between sets.  However, they are relatively high in starch which some of us can have trouble breaking down.  The point being, that if you’ve never eaten one previously, perhaps try eating one before you take one on a bike ride as your snack, just to make sure.


Dates are rich in both glucose and fructose so can provide quick energy when needed.  As their sugar content is high (around 80%), they’re best not eaten all the time, but do provide a treat and great energy-boosting snack during your cycle ride.


Dates are also loaded with magnesium and potassium, key electrolytes which help prevent dehydration and are easy to digest, so won’t cause any tummy troubles.


You’ll need all three key macronutrients during the day, and much of this can be provided by the right kind of sandwiches.


An easy and effective way of including protein, fat and carbohydrate into your sandwich is to spread nut butter with some jam.  Peanut butter is of course a favourite for many people, but do remember, whilst peanuts are high in protein, they are not tree nuts, therefore lack any of the advantages of the essential fats.  If you can switch instead to cashew, almond, walnut, or hazelnut butters, your body will be getting many more beneficial nutrients.

homemade hummus with seed sprinkles


Wraps are also an easy to pack option, and cream or cottage cheese, avocados, turkey, or eggs make great fillers and will provide much-needed macronutrients.

Energy bars

You can either buy ready-made energy bars which are high in carbohydrates, therefore providing energy or even better you can make your own muesli, flapjack, or granola slices. 

Homemade flapjacks

Generally, these all contain oats and nuts, as well as seeds which will help support your energy levels. In essence, oats are what’s commonly referred to as slow release, meaning they take longer to be digested in the stomach. They are also rich in energising B-vitamins as well as magnesium which will help electrolyte balance and hopefully avoid any unpleasant cramps.

Importantly, any kind of energy bar will ‘hit the spot’. Bars that are mostly made of dried fruit will provide a quicker boost.  Dried fruits, especially raisins and apricots, are also high in iron which helps with energy, plus vitamin C to support immunity.

The importance of hydration

If you’re planning a long ride, then being properly hydrated the day before is as important as hydrating on the day itself. Make sure you’ve had at least 1.5 litres of water the day before (more if you’re exercising in the heat) and have around 500ml of water with breakfast before setting out.


You’ll probably need to top up with around 200ml just before you start, and then make sure you keep liquid intake high throughout the day – at least every 20 minutes or so.  Again, depending on the length of the ride, you might want to take some slightly diluted water with fruit juice with you as this helps the body to rehydrate quicker. 

If the weather is hot, then hydration becomes even more important.  Essentially, if you’re feeling really thirsty, you’re already dehydrated so try to be ahead of this.

So, load up your backpack or saddle bags with some nutritional goodies, and keep your energy up for those lovely bike rides this summer.



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The five fruits and vegetables that should be top of the list in a vegetarian diet

Blueberries in a heart shape

It’s National Vegetarian Week where we celebrate all that is great about plant-based diets. 

However, whatever type of diet you’re following, it should always be rich in fruits and vegetables because of their endless health benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite fruits and vegetables to help support a vegetarian diet


This wonderful vegetable delivers many nutritional benefits.  Indeed, there are very few people on the planet that wouldn’t benefit from eating some broccoli, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s green or purple!

Whilst broccoli is rich in a range of vitamins and minerals, its exciting claim to fame is that it’s part of the super healthy cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale. These types of vegetables contain indoles which have been found to provide some protection against some of our nasty diseases.

Broccoli florets on a plate

Additionally, broccoli is high in fibre so it’s great for the digestive system, and all cruciferous vegetables are brilliant for helping the liver to detoxify.

Since its vitamin C content is lost during cooking, it’s best to lightly steam broccoli and perhaps serve with a little butter or stir fry with some garlic and toss in sesame seeds.  It doesn’t need to be complicated to get the most out of this superstar.


Whilst the green, leafy tops of beetroot do contain plenty of nutrients, including immune-boosting beta-carotene, it’s the roots that provide some real gems in terms of nutrients.  

Beetroots are loaded with folate, which is very protective of DNA. They also contain energising iron, and potassium which is great for the heart, plus good amounts of vitamin C.  However, more recently beetroot has been found to help with endurance sports performance.  This is down to its ability to produce nitric oxide which helps open the blood vessels and therefore encourage more oxygen to flow through.

Whole beetroots

Since beetroot is slightly sweet, it works in both sweet and savoury recipes.  As we’re coming into the summer season, why not keep it simple? Fresh beetroots can be easily peeled, diced, and quickly boiled to be used in salads with goat’s cheese. Try them mashed with chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and olive oil to make beetroot hummus. Or make them into chocolate brownies which contain half the fat of regular brownies.


Blueberries are naturally sweet so need no added sugar, unlike some other berry fruits. Just like most fruits and vegetables, berries are rich in immune-boosting vitamin C but it’s the presence of plant compounds called anthocyanins that make them so special.

A wooden bowl of blueberries

Essentially anthocyanins are found primarily in the pigment of the fruit which is what gives blueberries their amazing colours. Anthocyanins contain powerful antioxidants which help protect the body.  Whilst the body does have its own antioxidant systems, it’s these kinds of foods that provide the extra protection that the body really needs.

I love blueberries as a snack with a few walnuts.

Sweet potatoes

This is another ‘go-to’ vegetable for me, all year round. Sweet potatoes deliver more in terms of nutrition than white potatoes and are less starchy which helps with blood sugar balance.

Their main claim to fame above white potatoes is their orange colour which means they’re high in beta carotene. This is not only great for the immune system but helps protect the skin and hair from sun damage and oxidative damage from environmental toxins.


Additionally, sweet potatoes are high in fibre so are great for digestion.  I try and buy organic sweet potatoes if I can, lightly boil and mash them with a little butter and pepper with the skin on, so I get maximum nutrients.  Equally, they make fantastic wedges, roasted in the oven in a little olive oil and salt.


There are many wonderful benefits to carrots, but they are also so easy to include in the diet as a snack or an easy vegetable side. Carrots are high in lycopene which is great for the heart; in a diet without heart-healthy omega-3s from oily fish, this is important.

Carrots are also rich source of beta carotene.  All the carotenoids are powerful antioxidants, but they specifically protect the eyes against free radical damage.  Importantly, beta carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body as it’s needed, which is also essential for eyesight and especially night vision.  It’s the reason why carrots are said to help you see in the dark; it’s not a myth!

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

Unlike most vegetables, carrots provide more nutritional benefit when cooked than raw as it helps to release the beta carotene. Additionally, if carrots are eaten with fats – carrots and hummus make a great snack – or with some meat or fish, the fat-soluble beta carotene is better absorbed.

So why not add some of these delicious fruits and vegetables to your diet and reap the nutritional benefits!



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Seasonal eating in May – five of the best fruits and vegetables



As we come into May and things are really starting to feel like Spring, nature also provides us with an array of seasonal fruits and vegetables to tempt the taste buds and load up the body with nutrients. 

Fruits and vegetables always taste so much better when they’re locally grown and are at their best nutritionally too.  So, what’s on the menu for May?

Clinical Nutritionist  Suzie Sawyer shares her top five recommendations.

Jersey Royal Potatoes

The flavour of Jersey Royals is like no other potato! Their flavour and texture are just magnificent.  This uniqueness is purely down to the growing conditions on the island of Jersey.  Interestingly, around 99% of the crops are exported to the UK; Jersey Royals represent such an important part of the island’s economy.

A pan of just boiled jersey royal new potatoes

Their nutritional value is not really any different to any other potato.  However, all potatoes are rich in vitamin C which is easily lost during storage, hence Jersey Royals are going to retain this nutrient much better when new and in season.  Additionally, potatoes are high in fibre, so are great for keeping the digestion in good working order.


Strawberries look almost too good to eat!  Their beautiful red colour demonstrates the high levels of antioxidants they contain which help protect the body from free radical damage.  Just as important is the great nutrient profile strawberries deliver including vitamin C (another key antioxidant), manganese (great for the joints), folate (essential for energy and protecting DNA) and potassium (good for the heart).

a punnet of strawberriesInterestingly, one of the many antioxidant compounds in strawberries are known as anthocyanins. They are responsible for their lovely colour and also help protect the heart from any damage and keeping it beating strongly.


At this time of year, strawberries are beautifully sweet, so just enjoy them as they are (or with a little cream as enjoyed traditionally at Wimbledon!)


Also called bell peppers because of their shape, they come in a variety of colours including red, orange, yellow and green.  However, it’s the red ones that have most vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Additionally red peppers are especially rich in two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for the eyes and for protecting them from damaging blue light and macular degeneration.


Another great benefit to eating peppers of whatever colour, is that they’re super-versatile.  You can eat them raw as a snack with hummus, roast them, make them into soups (tomatoes work really well alongside) or add them to chillies, stir fries or pasta dishes.


Marrows can often look a little strange because it’s perfectly possible for them to grow to a very large size (just like other members of the squash family), but they’re certainly nutrient loaded. Although marrows are high in water content, which also makes them low in calories and fat, marrows certainly don’t skimp on their nutrients.  It’s important to eat them with the skin on as this contains good levels of immune-boosting beta carotene.

A whole marrow and slices of marrow on a chopping board

Marrows contain calcium which will help to keep bones healthy, plus vitamin C, essential for the immune system.  Marrows are also high in fibre, therefore have been found to reduce cholesterol levels.

How to cook them? They’re delicious stuffed!  Simply slice them in half, scoop out the flesh and then add a pre-prepared mixture of fried onions, peppers, garlic, chopped tomatoes, breadcrumbs and mixed herbs.  Roast in the over for around 40 minutes and you’ve got a delicious dish.

Spring Greens

Essentially spring greens are thick green leaves without the hard core often found in other types of cabbages.  For this reason, they just need to be sliced quite thinly but then there are endless options of what to do with them.

In terms of nutrient content, just like peppers, they’re high in that all important lutein and zeaxanthin but are also a rich source of vitamin K, Vitamin C, and the mineral iron.

A dish of collard greens

Spring greens work well with stronger flavours and with other vegetables, especially purple sprouting broccoli (also in season now). Just shred the cabbage, lightly boil both veggies and then stir fry with some olive oil, garlic, lemon, and sesame seeds.

Enjoy these five seasonal beauties this May!



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How to have a healthy but tasty Easter!


shutterstock_1676194471 easter family Mar21

Easter is traditionally a time for eating delicious food, and, if we’re lucky enough, to be enjoying some down time with family and friends.

Food is a great way of bringing people together, as well as being essential for health too.  So how do we get the best of both worlds?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares here three favourite nutritious and tasty meals this Easter.



Garlicky Lamb

For the meat eaters, spring Lamb is probably one of the top foods we can eat for Easter.  Lamb is naturally tasty and tender – it just needs the right accompaniments.

Whilst lamb is slightly higher in fat than other meats (which also contributes to its flavour), it provides a great source of protein, essential for the immune system, muscles and bones, hormone production and much more.

shutterstock_446946859 roasted lamb Mar21

Garlic is a natural partner for lamb and also provides some amazing health benefits, especially for the all-important gut microbiome.  Having a healthy gut is the key to a healthy mind and body.  Make sure the garlic cloves are pushed into the lamb, so the flavours really infuse well.

Additionally, roast the lamb with some lemons and rosemary, both loaded with antioxidants and will enhance the flavour.  Why not serve the lamb with some mashed potatoes and spring greens, both high in vitamin C and fibre. There’s certainly no need for any guilt with this recipe!

Parsnip and Celeriac Gratin

If you’re wanting a vegetarian Easter treat, then a gratin is certainly going to hit the spot.  It’s sufficiently indulgent to feel special but also healthy too, containing two ‘super’ veggies. 

Whilst parsnips tend to be around during the winter months, there’s still plenty to be had at this time of year, and their vitamin C content is going to keep the immune system in good shape into spring.  Additionally, celeriac is full of potassium which is great for heart health and helping to reduce blood pressure.

Potato,Gratin,-,Graten,(baked,Potatoes,With,Cream,And,Cheese)This dish is also really easy to prepare simply by boiling up both vegetables (the parsnips will need slightly longer cooking).  When tender, then mash with some cream, salt and pepper and all-important nutmeg.  Not only does nutmeg really add some sparkle to a dish when used in this way but, just like any spices, it has many health benefits namely for the immunity, liver detoxification and cognitive function. The parsnips and celeriac can then be put into a dish and covered with homemade breadcrumbs, sprinkled with Parmesan, and roasted in the oven.  Delicious and healthy!

Chocolate Brownies Bites

Easter wouldn’t really be Easter without eating some form of chocolate!  However, for those watching their waistlines, it’s certainly possible to enjoys this treat without blowing the diet. 

Chocolate,Muffins,On,White,Ceramic,Plate.,Homemade,Fluffy,And,MoistThis recipe is a traditional brownie dish but using small muffin cases.  Use flour, beaten eggs, sugar and dark chocolate as per a normal brownie recipe.  Also include some cocoa powder.  Interestingly, cocoa has many health benefits; it’s very high in antioxidants and has also been found to reduce blood pressure.  Incidentally, if you or your friends and family can’t resist a full-blown Easter egg, then choose a dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate one so you get some real health benefits too.


The Easter twist for these brownies is in the decoration; use plenty of mini eggs and enjoy them without any guilt.

Have a happy and healthy Easter!



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Suzie’s top foods to help increase your energy levels


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.


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


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.


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.


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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Eating with the seasons: nutritional foods for January


It’s always important to eat with the seasons and as nature intended, to gain the biggest health benefits.  And for many of us, trying to be as healthy as possible during January is very much at the front of our minds.

Nature has provided what the body needs at certain times of year, plus if you buy locally grown produce, nutrient content will generally be better and it’s kinder to the environment too.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five in-season foods for January.


Jerusalem Artichokes

Top of my list has to be this amazing vegetable. They are supremely healthy and provide a really useful addition to the diet. 

Jerusalem artichokes are loaded with a prebiotic fibre called inulin which is incredibly healthy for the gut.  The gut houses billions of bacteria (hopefully more good bacteria than bad), but they need feeding with this kind of fibre for the gut to remain healthy. 

shutterstock_541940524 roasted jerusalem artichokes Dec17

A healthy gut supports a healthy mind, the immune system, hormones, digestion, skin and so much more. Jerusalem artichokes are also a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, which are all frequently deficient in the daily diet. Serve them roasted in a little olive oil.


A member of the super-healthy cabbage family, kale is not always popular, partly because of its bitter taste and often tough texture.  However, this is much improved when eaten seasonally and with some other flavourings such as garlic and soy sauce.


The health benefits are certainly forthcoming, especially because kale contains a plant compound called sulforaphane, which has been found to help prevent some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  Kale is also a rich source of calcium to help support strong bones and Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E – all important antioxidants.


Pomegranates are slightly strange to look at because of their mass of tiny seeds.  However, these seeds are nutritional powerhouses, and have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits. This is probably one of the reasons that research has found them to be especially beneficial for brain health; they can help protect this vital organ from free radical damage. Additionally, they are loaded with fibre so are great for the digestive system.


Just like many fruits, pomegranates work well in sweet or savoury dishes, and are a particular favourite with salty cheeses and walnuts, making a great salad trio.  Moreover, it’s lovely to see some vibrant colours on the plate when the weather is so grey outside!


Clearly the UK climate is not going to support the growing of oranges, but they are certainly at their best at this time of year, imported generally from Spain.  Whilst it’s always best to eat locally grown produce, it’s difficult when we want to gain the wonderful health benefits of a food we simply can’t grow in any meaningful numbers.

A bowl of oranges

Oranges are a great source of vitamin C.  As this vitamin is water-soluble and easily destroyed during storage, preparation and cooking, oranges are probably best eaten in their raw state to gain maximum health benefits. They also contain good levels of folate which will help to give energy levels a boost too.


Oysters are available all year round but are certainly good at this time of year, and can be sourced from UK waters, especially around Colchester and Whitstable.

Oysters become especially important coming into February with Valentine’s Day looming.  Oysters are often referred to as ‘aphrodisiacs’ or ‘the food of love’.  The reason for this is that they contain really high amounts of the mineral zinc, essential for healthy reproduction.  There is always some truth behind these ‘old wives’ tales!

A plate of fresh oysters

Oysters also contain other minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and the antioxidant, selenium.  Importantly, they’re a rich source of iodine which is frequently lacking in typical western diets and is essential for cognitive function, especially in the developing foetus. 

So, why not add some of these season foods into your diet this January and reap the nutritional benefits?


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What are the health benefits of cheese?


Cheese features highly in many people’s diets.  In fact, more people are often in love with cheese than chocolate!  It not only tastes delicious, in all its various guises, but it provides many health benefits. 

There are a wide variety of cheeses with the only common theme being they are made from the same basic ingredient – milk (except for vegan cheese – more on that later).

Cheese is often given a bad rap from a health perspective because of its relatively high fat content.  However, various studies have found many positive benefits of eating cheese, in moderation!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the various types of cheeses, together with their health benefits.

Let’s start with the basics: what is cheese?

Essentially, cheese making involves coagulating the milk protein, casein, separating the milk into solid curds and draining the liquid whey.  This is the process we often see on TV with the large vats of what looks a lot like cottage cheese with big separators moving the liquid around.


Many cheeses are produced from cow’s milk, but they can also come from other animals such as sheep, buffalo, and goat, all of which produce different flavours. Goat’s milk is higher in water than cows milk so yields less cheese, and the cheeses are usually softer.

Cheeses and their moisture content

The moisture content affects both taste and texture.  An example of a low moisture hard cheese is Parmesan, and medium moisture would be cheddar.


High moisture cheese is soft and an example of this would be mozzarella. A cheese with very high moisture is cottage cheese.


Unripened soft cheeses, such as cottage, have a very light texture with little flavour, and ripened ones such as Camembert have mould added to the outside of the cheese which produces protein-digesting enzymes: these also have a stronger flavour.


Certain hard cheeses such as Stilton have mould added during the cheese-making process and they are then pierced with metal rods, creating air channels, and the mould you see grows within the cheese. This also creates their distinctive flavours.


What about the health benefits?

The nutritional profile of cheese is going to vary depending on the variety. However, all cheese is a great source of protein, with cheddar cheese producing around 8 grams for every thumb-sized wedge and 120 calories. 

For the same number of calories, you can have half a cup of soft cheese which provides 14 grams of protein. Indeed, cottage cheese has a higher protein content than most others, and is lower in calories, hence if appears on many weight-loss programmes.


When it comes to micronutrients, cheese is a great source of calcium (highest in blue cheeses) which is essential for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. Cheese also provides vitamin A (essential for immunity), vitamin B12 (needed for the nervous system and red blood cell production), zinc (important for the immune system and a range of body functions) and phosphorus, which works in tandem with calcium.


Cheese is also known to be high in fat, with halloumi, brie and camembert topping the leader board in this respect.  Additionally, some cheeses are high in sodium so intake may have to be watched if you have raised blood pressure and are salt sensitive.

What about vegan cheese?

With the rise in veganism, many vegans, understandably, don’t want to miss out on their cheese hit.  The good news is there are myriad vegan cheeses available, made from some form of vegetable proteins such as brown rice, nuts, coconut oil, soy, peas, and tapioca; it really comes down to personal taste preference.


However, as nutritional yeast is a great protein and nutrient source for vegans, do try and choose vegan cheeses that contains this amazing food.  Nutritional yeast is rich in protein but also B-vitamins, and essential minerals including iron, and potassium.

Cheese can certainly provide a healthy and nutrient-dense addition to any balanced eating plan so enjoy!



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The wonders of Pumpkin!

Pumpkins carved into lanterns

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutritional benefits of pumpkin

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

a pumpkin cut into pieces

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

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

How to use pumpkin


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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The importance of hydration: how to stay well-watered


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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 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.


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.


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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Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

All images: Shutterstock