We talk frequently about the health and financial benefits of eating seasonally. Eating with the seasons provides foods at the time nature intended, meaning they are at their best in terms of nutritional content and flavour.
When it comes to foods that are produced here in the UK, there are many ‘traditionally British’ foods to choose from.
Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some of her favourites.
One of the greatest nutritional benefits of carrots is their richness in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a very powerful antioxidant, helping to protect us from free radicals which can contribute to some of our nasty degenerative diseases.
The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A which is needed for healthy vision as well as the maintenance of mucous membranes. Vitamin A can also help protect us particularly from respiratory infections.
Carrots when in season (and organically grown if possible) taste so much better than at other times of year; they are packed with flavour! However, as carrots do absorb pesticides, always peel and top and tail them if they are not organic.
Thankfully there are many farms around the UK that are ‘free-range’. Again, organic is preferable, although the birds are noticeably smaller because they contain less water.
Either way, chicken is a great source of protein, and the dark meat contains twice as much iron and zinc as the light meat. In terms of vitamins, chickens contain all the B vitamins (around 85% of the daily recommended intake). Importantly, chicken is a super-versatile meat and easier on the digestion than red meat.
There are some very well-known yoghurt brands around the UK that produce some great natural products. For people not allergic or intolerant to dairy, then natural yoghurt that contains live friendly bacteria cultures is great for feeding the gut with probiotics. These friendly guys are so essential for our overall health and wellbeing. In fact, every day, there’s new research into our internal gut microbiome and what it needs to keep it healthy.
Yogurt is so easy to add into the daily diet and is especially great for breakfast, maybe on some overnight oats with a few blueberries. And the good news is that oats are generally produced in the UK too, so you’ve got a very British (or Scottish) breakfast.
One of my all-time favourite vegetables, I could wax lyrical about the health benefits of beetroot all day long! Essentially, beetroot is great for the immune system (it’s very rich in vitamin C) but also protects the body against carcinogens.
However, more recently beetroot has been found to help reduce blood pressure and also promote better performance during endurance exercise. Beetroot provides a great natural source of iron and also betaine which is great for liver detoxification. In fact, there’s not much it doesn’t do!
If you’re feeling below par, you could do a lot worse than have a daily tonic of beetroot juice for a couple of weeks – it’s my ‘go-to’.
Contrary to popular belief, spinach isn’t as good a source of iron as folklore has led us to believe. However, it still contains some, but importantly provides a high concentration of carotenoids, especially beta-carotene and lutein both great for eye health.
Spinach is also a great source of folate, essential for women pre-pregnancy, but useful for all of us in terms of supporting energy levels. Even better, spinach can easily be added to your daily diet: go for a morning omelette, a lunchtime vegetable soup or gently wilt in a frying pan with a little olive oil, garlic, and nutmeg, as a delicious vegetable side.
It’s always great to support the local economy where possible whilst grabbing some health benefits from British produce at the same time.
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