Protein: what to eat to fuel your workouts and day to day diet

A range of foods containing protein

With National Fitness Day on the calendar this week, it’s the perfect time to review your protein intake to ensure it is meeting your body’s needs with or without exercise. 

Whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan, protein intake is an essential part of a well-balanced diet and helps to fuel your activity.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top protein tips.

For the meat eaters

Animal produce is a great source of protein and contains all the essential amino acids. Importantly, meat is a rich source of leucine, isoleucine and valine, the branched-chain amino acids and key muscle builders and repair instigators.  Whilst many people, especially those doing more strength training exercise or body building, eat these after a workout, it’s also really important to be having sufficient quantities of all essential aminos throughout the day.

Roast chicken leg with potatoes and vegetables

Depending on body weight and activity level, aim to get around 20 to 30 grams of protein into each meal.  This may not always be possible depending on your schedule; hence protein shakes can be particularly helpful to plug the gaps if you’re very active.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

Start the day right with a protein-filled breakfast such which includes two eggs (18 grams of protein total), with an omelette being a great choice.  Lunch could include some low-fat fish such as canned tuna in a wrap, with dinner containing turkey or chicken.  Both are lower in fat than pork, lamb, or beef: try to eat these meats no more than twice a week.

For the vegetarians

Vegetable sources of protein generally don’t contain all essential amino acids, although there are notable exceptions such as hemp protein.  Some vegetarians eat fish (pescatarians) and some don’t.  However, eggs and dairy contain all essential amino acids, therefore it’s important to eat these foods in order to get the quota of these key amino acids.

With so many egg-based options for breakfast, you need never get bored of the same dish! Eggs with hollandaise sauce and spinach, frittata, or, poached eggs with smashed avocado on sourdough or wholemeal toast are great options.

shutterstock_716903197 avocado and poached egg Dec17

When it comes to grains, then quinoa is one of the best, boasting all essential amino acids, albeit slightly low in some.  However, quinoa makes a great base to any salad, with goat’s cheese, beetroot and walnuts being a great addition, whilst also supplying more protein.

Quinoa and bulgar wheat salad with feta

There’s certainly no shortage of options for dinner recipes with stir fries winning the day and fermented forms of protein such as tempeh and tofu making great choices.  Add some grated ginger, spring onions, soy sauce and a little honey with some chopped veggies and you’ve made a fabulous protein-filled meal. Enjoy the stir fry with some whole grain brown rice or basmati and you’ll be fuelled for your next morning workout!

For the vegans

It’s important for vegans to be aware of protein intake purely because vegetable proteins can be lacking in all essential amino acids and are also low in some.  Therefore, it’s important to include a good combination of grains and beans in your diet, though they don’t need to be in the same meal.

Porridge topped with bananas and blueberries

Porridge makes one of the best starts to the day, especially if you’re planning on doing some exercise, such as a longer run, a couple of hours later.  And you can really power up the protein content by adding some nut butter, almond milk and stirring in some cacoa nibs.  Cacoa nibs are the less processed part of the cocoa bean and have a higher protein content.

Pre or post work-out lunch is a great time for including some energising beans in some form, and there are plenty to choose from.  Lunch could be something as simple as some haricot beans, mixed with tinned tomatoes, rosemary and garlic on sourdough bread or making up an easy chickpea salad.

Chickpea salad with feta

For dinner, lentils provide another fabulous source of protein with one cup providing about 18 grams.  Lentil bolognese therefore delivers on taste, protein content and energy.  Add in some thyme and other mixed herbs, tinned tomatoes, onions and celery and you’ve got some powerful antioxidants to boost immune health too.

So, whatever your diet preferences, power up your work-outs and overall nutrition with good quality protein choices.

Stay well.

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Lunchtime nutrition: three ‘Back to Work’ lunches you’ll love

CLose up of chicken salad lunch at desk while working in office

If you’re one of the many people getting ready to go back to the office, one dilemma that hasn’t disappeared during the pandemic is “what to eat for lunch”. 

Many of us prefer, or have to, take lunch with us; therefore, it can become a daily conundrum. Each lunchtime is an opportunity to provide the body with much-needed nutrients to sustain your energy throughout the day, so it’s a good idea to plan in advance.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some much-needed lunchtime inspiration for your return to work.

Wrap up some goodness

Wraps are the perfect transportable lunch that will provide a great array of nutrients without causing any uncomfortable stomach bloat, as they are not a ‘heavy’ as normal bread.  Plus, it’s  really easy to buy gluten-free wraps or those made with sweet potatoes, spinach, or coconut flour.

Chicken,And,Salad,Tortilla

It’s important to include plenty of protein either from animal or vegetable sources.  For example, turkey is high in protein and lower in fat than chicken and therefore makes a great choice.  Why not wrap up some lettuce, turkey, sliced cabbage (red or white are both great for the digestion) and some cucumber strips, with a little mayonnaise?

Tortilla,With,Vegetables,And,Hummus,With,Chickpeas.,Top,View.,Black

As a veggie option, spread the wrap with plenty of hummus and then lay lots of lettuce, avocado slices, cucumber sticks and tomato.  For a little extra pizazz, why not add some cheese of your choice and within minutes you’ve created a colourful and nutritious lunch.  Both of these wrap options contain plenty of protein, vitamin C, energising B-vitamins, and immune-boosting vitamin E.

Zingy rice noodles

Rice noodles are a great lunchtime choice; not too heavy but still providing plenty of nutrients, which can taste even better depending on what you put with them. It’s good to get your base flavours right and garlic is the perfect start; great for the immune, digestion and cardiovascular systems.

Rice,Noodles,With,Chicken,,Mushrooms,Mun,And,Vegetables,,Prepared,In

Fry some garlic and fresh chopped chilli (a great fat-burner), and then add some chicken, prawns, or tofu.  Add some soy sauce, lime juice, chopped carrots and peppers and your base is made.  All you need is to quickly cook the rice noodles, add them to the mixture and then serve into your  transportable pots. It’s a great idea to make up a couple of lunch boxes for your working week as they keep well in the fridge.

Tasty cauliflower rice

If you’re watching your waistline, then this dish is perfect.  It’s high in protein (around 16g per portion) but low in carbs.  Cauliflower is a member of the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family, and contains plenty of antioxidants, protecting the body from degenerative diseases.

Cauliflower,Rice,With,Vegetables,In,Bowl,On,White,Background.,Paleo

Chop up a whole cauliflower and then blitz in a food processor so that its texture becomes like fine grains.  Then mix up some immune-boosting spices including cinnamon and allspice. Coat the cauliflower in the spices and put into a roasting tin to cook in the oven. Once it’s cooled you can add whatever takes your fancy, but chopped onion, mint, parsley, and feta are fabulous accompaniments.

Alternatively, you can quickly grill or stir fry some tofu with teriyaki sauce and chopped spring onion and add to the cauliflower.  Tofu is not only a great source of protein, it is also good for the digestive system and contains lots of calcium.

Three extra lunchtime tips

  • If you’re struggling with hormones, especially during the menopause, throw a good handful of edamame beans into your wrap or lunch box.

Edamame,Beans,In,Bowl,On,Light,Background.,Close,Up,View

  • Any chopped, raw vegetables with a dip such as hummus make great snacks and really improve your daily nutrient status.

Hummus,With,Vegetables,On,Plate

  • Always think about cooking extra portions when preparing your evening meal, such as chicken breast, poached or steamed salmon, or roasted vegetables. These can then be incorporated into your lunches for the week.

Baked,Salmon,Pasta,Salad,With,Spiral,Rotini,Vegetable,Pasta,In

Stay well.

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Seasonal nutrition: what to eat in August

People enjoying al fresco eating in the summer

With so many of us enjoying staycations in the UK this year, it provides the perfect opportunity for us to fully enjoy all the glorious foods currently in season right here.

Everything tastes better when we eat foods at the time of year nature intended.  In fact, foods tend to come into season at exactly the right time for our bodies to gain the most benefits from their nutrients when we need them.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives us a taste of what’s on offer this season.

Runner beans

With so many people now enjoying ‘growing their own’ in allotments or gardens, runner beans are a great ‘go-to’ vegetable.  After the initial work involved of creating a support network for the growing beans, the results are well worth the effort.

A bunch of runner beans on a wooden background

Runner beans are closely related to other beans, referred to as legumes, including black and pinto, but contain less calories.  And whilst they all contain some of the same nutrients, the greenness of runner beans means their chlorophyll content is high.  Chlorophyll is often referred to as the ‘blood of life’ because it helps to naturally cleanse the blood but also provides a range of vitamins and minerals.

Runner beans also deliver a good source of vitamin C and bone and heart-loving vitamin K.  However, their overall strong nutrient content can be easily diminished from over cooking, therefore lightly steaming is always best and will retain their crispness.

Globe artichokes

Whilst not always the quickest of vegetables to prepare, artichokes deliver some wonderful and unique health benefits, so patience will be rewarded.  Globe artichokes need the tough outer leaves removed, together with the inedible fibrous ‘choke’ in the middle, revealing the edible heart. The active compound in artichokes is called cynarin which is great at detoxifying the liver.  Research also suggests they are supportive of heart health, helping reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Close up of artichokes

Importantly, artichokes help replenish the friendly gut bacteria that is so essential for good overall health.  They need around 30 minutes of gentle boiling until softened and when cooled are great simply served with vinaigrette and lemon juice. Alternatively, they’re delicious grilled when cut in half lengthways.

Mackerel

Mackerel is often referred to as a very ‘fishy’ fish because it has a strong flavour. Mackerel is a fantastic source of the super-healthy omega-3 fats.  The body can’t make omega-3s, so they must be eaten regularly in the diet, and we know that as a nation we are incredibly deficient. Omega-3s are needed for a healthy heart, brain, eyes, hormones, and joints so they’re pretty important!  It is recommended that we eat at least two portions of oily fish per week to get what the body needs.

Fresh mackerel with lemon and herbs on foil ready to be baked

Mackerel is often sourced in UK waters or from the North Atlantic or Mediterranean.  It’s strong flavour, and oily texture, means it can be simply served with lemon and herbs or with a fresh salad that includes sweet tomatoes.

Plaice

Whilst plaice is available throughout the year, it is generally much fleshier and tastier at this time of year.  As with all white fish, plaice is a great source of low-fat protein and is great for easy everyday meals grilled with other flavours.  Indeed, since it has a subtle taste, it works well with stronger flavours of olives, tomatoes, spring onions, rosemary, and chives.

Thai fish dish

Plaice is also a good source of the mineral iodine which is often deficient in women and is essential for the growth of babies and children as well as being well utilised for cognitive function.  Plaice certainly provides a low-cost, easy, and nutritious food option this season.

Plums

The season for plums is short so they need to be grabbed and enjoyed whilst they’re around.  There are over 300 varieties of plum available, but it’s always good to choose the sweetest ones to avoid having to add too much additional sugar to a dish.

A bowl full of plums

Their beautiful orange flesh signals plenty of beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A as needed by the body. Plus, they’re rich in vitamin C and also tryptophan from which our body makes our happy hormone ‘serotonin’ – that’s something to smile about for sure! Even better, plums work really well in sweet or savoury dishes; try them in a crumble, with chicken, or simply poached with cinnamon and honey.

Many people perhaps don’t realise that prunes are dried plums, and both are therefore rich in essential fibre.

So, why not visit some local markets or farm shops this August and be sure to enjoy the season whilst it’s here!

Stay well.

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Back to basics: everyday nutrition tips

shutterstock_335465993 nutrition words Mar21

The whole topic of nutrition has been highly glamorised in recent years, partly down to social media.  Whilst this is great in many ways because good nutrition is the cornerstone of wellness, it has left many people confused about what is right and what is wrong.

When it comes to a balanced diet there are a few simple rules which we can all follow to ensure we are getting the optimum nutrition we need.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, takes us back to the basics of daily nutrition.

What are macros?

As the name suggests, they are big, and in this case refer to the groups of food that we eat most of.  Essentially, there are three macronutrients: proteins,  carbohydrates and fats. Some people also talk about fibre as being another macro such is its important in overall health, although technically fibre is a carbohydrate.

Protein – essential building blocks for life

All macros form an essential part of the daily diet, so any restrictive diet is going to lead to nutrient deficiencies somewhere along the line.  Protein is literally the building block of life. It is essential for every bone and muscle in the body, as well as producing hormones, neurotransmitters and supporting the immune system.

A range of foods containing protein

There are nine essential amino acids that must be eaten in the diet (there are other amino acids that are essential, but these can be produced in the body). These nine amino acids are found primarily in animal produce including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy and plant sources quinoa, buckwheat, and soybeans.  If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet you should combine grains and pulses to get sufficient amino acids, although this does not need to be in the same meal.

Carbohydrates – energy and nutrient providers

Carbohydrates, including fibre, provide an essential energy source for our muscles and brain.  Indeed, the brain requires around 30% of all carbohydrate the body intakes. Carbs are not all created equally in that slow releasing ones (essentially whole foods and fruits and vegetables) provide sustainable energy throughout the day. Conversely, fast release carbs primarily found in processed and refined foods give an energy boost then an energy crash due to their adverse effect on blood sugar.

Foods,Highest,In,Carbohydrates.,Healthy,Diet,Eating,Concept.

Carbs are often maligned but this food group contains some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and are loaded with antioxidants, so the body is missing out if they are not being consumed.

Fat – protecting and sustaining

Another maligned food group is fat.  However, fat provides the second energy source for the body, and it is essential for absorbing our fat-soluble vitamins vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

There is often confusion around good and ‘bad’ fats.  Essentially, good fats are the omegas 3 and 6 which must be eaten in the diet as the body cannot make them.  The omega 3s are crucial for hormones, joints, the heart, brain and eyes. Oily fish and nuts and seeds are your friends in this respect.

shutterstock_196052645 avocadoes Oct15

Monounsaturated fat found in avocados and olive oil is great for the heart and should be included in the diet.  However, try to avoid the damaged fats; the trans fats found in margarines and refined foods.  The body cannot deal with these and trans fats are known to raise cholesterol levels, so try to be aware of not overeating the foods that contain them.

Fruits and vegetables – overflowing with goodness

As nutritionists we talk endlessly about getting sufficient fruits and vegetables into the diet.  Why? Because quite simply they are loaded with nutrients, especially the trace minerals that are so often deficient in the typical western diet.  It is all about colour and variety and not over thinking it.  Try to have plenty of colour on your plate at every mealtime.

A range of fruits and vegetables

There’s also confusion as to whether juicing is good or bad.  Juices are a great way of getting more nutrients into the body.  You might lose the fibre content, but juices are still loaded with nutrients.  Try to include more vegetables than fruits in your juices or blends to keep fructose (a fruit sugar) content to a minimum.

Water – pure and simple

We talk about the body being around 80% water.  Of course, this is not pure water because it is made up of solutes and everything within cellular tissue.  However, the body still needs plenty of plain water to keep it sufficiently hydrated.  It will quickly complain if dehydrated and you’ll feel low in energy, suffer brain fog, plus constipation may be problematic.

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

Our water needs vary depending on activity levels.  However, as a general rule, if you are having around 1 ½ – 2 litres of water daily you will be doing ok, plus fruits and vegetables can count towards this target since they’re high in water.

The body’s needs are relatively simple so there is no need to overcomplicate diets; just try and stick to the basics for well-balanced nutrition.

Stay well.

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Five breakfast boosts for a healthier start to the day

Healthy,Breakfast,Set,On,Grey,Background.,The,Concept,Of,Delicious

As we approach mid-year, with hopefully the promise of some summer sunshine, now is a great time to overhaul your breakfast to ensure it’s as nourishing and energising as possible. 

Each mealtime is an opportunity to fuel the body with some of the 45 nutrients it needs every day, and a well-balanced breakfast is very important. 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five breakfast choices to super-charge your day!

Avocado on wholemeal bagel

Cream,Cheese,And,Avocado,Bagel,Against,A,Black,Background

Avocados are really ‘on trend’ food wise, and for very good reason.  And whilst many people avoid avocados because of their high fat content, this is actually one of their plus points. The body needs a certain amount fat in the diet, not least because it’s essential for absorbing our fat-soluble nutrients, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Avocados are also rich in monounsaturated fats which are help support heart health. Choosing a wholemeal bagel as opposed to white will deliver lots more energising B-vitamins, in a balanced way, and sprinkling a few pumpkin seeds will top up protein levels and essential omega-3 fats too.

Chia seed porridge

Vegan,Breakfast.,Oatmeal,With,Chia,Seeds,,Berries,,Seeds,And,Caramel

Porridge is another breakfast staple. It can be eaten hot or the oats can be soaked overnight in a little apple juice and then eaten cold the next day.  Either way, oats are packed with fibre, so are great for digestive health, plus they naturally include beta-glucans which help reduce cholesterol levels.

It’s great to mix chia seeds with flaxseeds as a topping as both are rich sources of the essential and healthy omega-3s. Then add some vitamin C-rich berries and delicious oat yoghurt.  This is a great option for vegans and will help you power through until lunchtime.

Eggs and mushrooms

Poached,Egg,With,Spinach,,Portobello,Mushrooms,And,Vine,Tomatoes

Eggs make one of the best starts to the day because of their high protein content.  This helps balance blood sugar levels and, in turn weight, mood and energy.

Button mushrooms, which are a source of immune-boosting vitamin D, are gently cooked, sprinkled with thyme, in a little olive oil with chopped tomatoes for additional antioxidants and flavour.  Spread them over the plate and poach one or two eggs and pop on the top.

Gluten-free buckwheat pancakes

Buckwheat,Pancakes,With,Berry,Fruit,And,Honey.selective,Focus

Despite its name buckwheat contains no wheat at all.  This makes it the perfect base for the many people who find they can’t tolerate gluten which predominates in wheat-based foods.  This is because gluten is rather ‘sticky’ and tends to cause digestive problems for people even if they’re not allergic or intolerant to wheat.

Buckwheat is also high in protein and low on the glycaemic index, meaning energy levels will be sustained through till lunchtime. These pancakes can be made with egg if desired, and your choice of milk with a little butter and sugar to suit your tastes. Top with fruit and natural yoghurt for a wonderfully delicious and nutritious start to your day.

Protein-powered oats

Oatmeal,Porridge,With,Berries,In,A,Bowl,On,Rustic,Wooden

Whilst oats do contain some protein, if you want a powerful re-fuel after your morning workout, then this breakfast is a great choice.  All nuts are high in protein and although peanuts are not actually nuts in the true sense of the word, they still deliver on the protein front and help repair worked muscles.

If you’re short of time after a workout (or just generally pushed for time), then why not soak some oats overnight in some water with frozen berries of your choice.  It’s always great to have some frozen fruit to hand and it’s just as nutritious as fresh, so there’s no need to worry if getting to the shops is an issue.  Simply stir in some peanut butter or other nut butter such as cashew, and you’re super-charged and ready for your day.

Try not to skip breakfast, as this can often lead to poor food choices later in the day and instead enjoy one of these recipes to charge up your day.

Stay well.

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Suzie’s five top tips to support your health

shutterstock_583532458 nutrition word cloud heart Mar21

We all want great health and to look and feel well.  Good nutrition is the cornerstone to health; there is so much truth in the adage ‘You are what you eat’. 

But when it comes to the right nutrition where should we start and what should we prioritise?

This World Health Day we ask clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer, to help simplify things by sharing her top five health tips.

Routine creates balance

Stressful and busy lives can negatively impact our eating patterns.  Eating at erratic times, missing meals and grabbing food on the run will just create more stress on the body.  When we’re stressed, the body naturally shuts down the digestive organs by diverting blood flow away, which in turn interrupts absorption of essential nutrients.

Range of foods to show a balanced diet

Additionally, the body likes to know when it’s going to be fed otherwise it will start storing fat for survival and naturally slow metabolic rate. Keep eating times regular, chew mindfully, savouring every mouthful (you’ll also naturally not overeat) and take some pride in what you have prepared.  Food is one of life’s amazing pleasures, so use it to feed your amazing body as it deserves. Put eating a varied and balanced diet at the top of your priority list.

Take vitamin D all year-round

If your joints and muscles are stiff, you’re feeling low in mood or sugar cravings are off the scale, chances are you’re low in vitamin D.  Public Health England advise we should be taking a supplement all year round, (and don’t stop just because the sun’s come out!).  It is advised that we should all take a supplement of 10 micrograms daily as a minimum, such is the level of deficiency in the population: in fact, ongoing research telling us we need more. Interestingly, upper safe levels for supplementation of vitamin D are 75 micrograms daily.  If you’ve still got any of the above symptoms, or blood tests reveal you’re low in vitamin D, then do increase the dosage.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Oily fish with bones, eggs and mushrooms are good food sources of vitamin D so eat these but you’ll still need to supplement as well.

Eat the colours of the rainbow

I talk so much about eating a rainbow of foods and it’s one of the best insurance policies you can choose for protecting health.  The colour of foods, especially in fruits and vegetables, all represent nutrients, and especially antioxidants in many different forms. All are essential for protecting the body against free radical damage.

A range of colourful fruit and veg rainbow

If counting portions of fruit and vegetables is a bit too much (and let’s face it we can’t always know what an individual portion size is), then just aim for meals that are full of colour.  Without even counting, you will be eating a rainbow every day and your health will love every mouthful.

Don’t fear fat

Fat is not only essential for providing energy and keeping us warm, it’s also needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin D. Healthy fats include the omegas 3 and 6, which can’t be produced in the body, as well as olive oil, walnut oil, sesame oil and a variety of other nuts and seeds with their oils.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

In short, the body needs them every day, and eaten in the right quantity, healthy fats are not going to cause weight gain.  On the contrary, without sufficient healthy fats in the diet, the body will start craving sugar causing blood sugar imbalances and often consequential weight gain.

Prioritise protein

Many people wrongly think that starchy carbohydrates fill you up.  And for a time, they will. Carbohydrates from whole grain sources such as oats and whole wheat bread and pasta are slow-energy releasing, keeping everything balanced.  However, it’s protein that keeps you feeling fuller for longer.  Most importantly, protein is essential for numerous body functions such as maintaining healthy immune and hormone systems, building and repairing muscle and bone, and essential detoxification processes.  Ideally it needs to be eaten at every meal where possible.

A range of foods containing protein

The good news is that there’s plenty of choice when it comes to food sources; eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, beans, legumes, soya, nuts, seeds and all foods produced from them. An average-sized person needs a minimum of 50-60 grams daily and most people need much more, especially if they’re active.  You’ll be amazed just how much stronger and energised you’ll feel just by putting protein on the priority list when meal-planning.

So, embrace these five tips and hopefully you will really feel the health benefits.

Stay well.

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A day in the life of a Nutritionist: top tips for daily health

A chalk board with the words Healthy Lifestyle written on alongside other words which represent this

For many of us a new year means a new start and a revamp of our diet and exercise. And then there comes another lockdown. For some of us this is motivating and increases our focus on our own wellness, getting out for our daily walks and trying new dishes at home. For others we may have lost our motivation to keep moving and eat well.

So, with this in mind we thought we would ask Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer to share her daily routine and provide us with some insights and inspiration.

Take it away Suzie!

I’m frequently asked about my own eating and lifestyle habits.  And I always answer by saying that I am certainly not ‘perfect’ 100% of the time but aim for 80-90%.  This has become even more important to me during the pandemic because keeping ourselves as healthy as possible is certainly the best protection we can have.

Morning

I normally start the day with a small amount of apple cider vinegar and a glass of warm water with fresh lemon to help cleanse the liver and kickstart the digestive system. Plus, it helps alkalise the body. After about an hour I’ll generally have some porridge oats (from whole grain oats) with some oat or almond milk, topped with berries.  I also sprinkle a tablespoon of flaxseeds on the top for additional omega-3 healthy fats and fibre.

Bowl of warming porridge with spoon of dry oats next to it

As an alternative, or if I’ve done an early workout, I’ll have a power smoothie. This is made mainly with protein powder (usually pea protein, as whey protein can cause digestive upsets later in the day) and not too overloaded with fruit – I just choose a couple.

I generally take most of my supplements after breakfast too.  A daily multivitamin and mineral should be taken early on in the day in order to enjoy its energising benefits.  I’ll always take omega-3s from fish oil which are great for skin, joints, the heart and brain. In fact, I definitely notice the difference with my memory when I don’t take them! I’ll generally include either some probiotics or prebiotics such as inulin (depending on how well my digestion is working).

Vitamin D and a sunshine symbol written in the sand

I also take additional vitamin D.  Quite apart from it being essential for the immune system, vitamin D is important for supporting normal bone health and for helping stiff joints, which I tend to get if I’ve been overdoing the workouts.

Lunch

I’m a great fan of eggs; they are a brilliant source of protein and brain-boosting phospholipids. Therefore, lunch will often be a spinach and mushroom omelette which will keep me feeling full for a good few hours and stop the classic ‘3 pm slump’!  Alternatively, I’ll have a smoked mackerel salad or avocado on sourdough bread.

Spinach and mushroom om

Depending on how the day’s running I might do a workout before lunch. I’m so lucky living in Brighton and being able to work out on the beach with a trainer a couple of times a week, which keeps me motivated.  Fitness apps are a great way to get moving at home but for me personally I dislike jumping around in my lounge!  During the working week I will always take a walk, even for half an hour, to get out in the fresh air.  It’s great for clearing the mind and also brilliant exercise.  I also try and do longer and more challenging walks at the weekends.

Close up of woman's trainers to represent walking

Dinner

During the week, I tend to keep things really simple: wild salmon or chicken breast with sweet potato and veggies.  I’m also a great fan of venison steaks as they are very low in fat, high in protein and tend to be more free-range than other meats.  I cook them as I would any piece of meat so they’re soft and tender, not chewy at all.

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

I absolutely love chocolate and allow myself a few squares of dark chocolate each day as it’s packed with antioxidants. Because of its strong flavour, I find that I don’t need to eat too much.

Sleep

Close up of a woman asleep in bed

I struggle to get to sleep, so I try to have a warm bath about an hour before bedtime and I’ve found Epsom salts to be really helpful.  Plus, they make my skin feel super soft and smooth.  I’ll also take some L-Theanine about half an hour before bedtime.  It’s an amino acid that stimulates GABA, one of our calming neurotransmitters, which helps stop a busy brain. It does need to be taken on an empty stomach though.  However, sometimes I change things up a little and use the herbs passionflower and valerian, both of which have plenty of research for helping sleep.

Final thoughts

The body loves routine, and whilst most of us are out of our usual routine at the moment, I certainly find that the more I can fuel my body with plenty of nutrients, the better I’m able to weather the storm, both physically and emotionally. I hope my ‘day in the life’ has given you some motivation and ideas for including some more healthy habits into your daily routine.

Stay well.

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Five ways to improve your fitness through nutrition

Woman in work out gear pausing to drink a bottle of water

We’re all in a slightly strange world right now and everyone has been affected in some way or another.  However, by keeping physically fit, you’re more likely to be able to cope better with what life throws your way.

It’s amazing how much we can influence fitness levels just by making a few dietary tweaks along the way.

This National Fitness Day clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top tips for improving your fitness through nutrition.

Protein

Many people associate carbohydrate foods with fitness and endurance.  Whilst carbohydrates are clearly very important (they are one of our key macro nutrients), protein is key.

Woman lunging on a beach with the outline of her bones shown as if x-rayed to represent strong bones

Protein is essential for repair and for building bones and muscles, as well as hormone and immune function.  All these factors are key when improving fitness levels and overall wellness.  Eating too little protein can cause the body to ‘break down’ rather than build stronger, leaner muscle mass.  Indeed, the more muscle you have, the more metabolically active the body is, and the more calories are burned at rest.  That doesn’t mean by eating lots of protein, you’re going to look like pop-eye!  You’ll simply be building a strong base.

A range of high protein foods

So how much protein do we need?  Clearly it depends on exertion levels and those undertaking serious body building sports will need much more.  However, for overall great health, ensure you’re eating some protein at every meal.  Eggs are great for breakfast; chicken, turkey, fish, soya produce, beans, meat, dairy and nuts are all good sources of protein for lunch and dinner. A bowl of white pasta with a tomato-based sauce is not going to cut it from a protein perspective, so try to plan your meals around protein.

Ditch the junk

Refined foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries and ready meals are all sources of carbohydrates, but they don’t provide any nutritional benefits, just empty calories.  In fact, these foods upset blood sugar balance and deplete rather than enhance energy levels.

A woman kicking away donuts to represent cutting out junk food

Alcohol, fizzy drinks and too many caffeinated drinks also have the same effect.  There is research to suggest that exercising after having a strong coffee does help improve fat burning which is great.  However, if you’re a caffeine junkie, consuming lots of coffee throughout the day, then you’ll get that ‘tired but wired’ feeling, and anxiety levels will increase; certainly not what’s needed especially at the moment.  Be mindful of how much you’re consuming overall.  The odd treat is fine but not every day.

Nutrients for sleep

Rest and peaceful sleep are essential for improving fitness levels and for wellness generally.  The body repairs, detoxifies and absorbs nutrients whilst we’re asleep so it’s important to ensure yours is as good as it can be.

Close up of woman sleeping

A good bedtime routine is essential.  Turning off all electronic devices around two hours before bedtime is also important as blue light affects the brain and will keep you awake.

A basket of almonds and a glass of almond milk

Additionally, foods containing the amino acid tryptophan helps produce melatonin, our sleep hormone; great foods to eat are oats, bananas, soya produce, eggs, chicken, turkey, nuts and dairy.  The ‘old-wives tale’ recommends a warm, milk drink before bedtime and this rings true.  Half a cup of either milk or soya milk with a few almonds about an hour before bedtime is one of the most effective and easiest ways of getting a good night’s sleep.

Hydration

All athletes know that being properly hydrated can make all the difference when it comes to performance.  Whilst we’re not all about to run a marathon, it’s important to keep well hydrated throughout the day.  Your body will retain water making you look puffier if you’re not drinking enough.

CLose up of a woman holdnig a glass of water

 

Herbal and fruit teas can count towards the target of 1 ½ – 2 litres daily but there is no substitute for plain water for keeping everything running smoothly and energy levels in good shape.

Energy-dense foods

Whilst protein is essential for fitness, eating energy-rich foods are also needed for keeping everything in good balance.  For healthy carbohydrates think whole grains in the form of oats, quinoa, wholegrain rice, wholemeal bread, beans, as well as green leafy veg and energy-dense vegetables such as sweet potatoes.

A bowl of sweet potato wedges

It is, however, important to be mindful of portion sizes; we all know when our plate is overly filled.  As with everything, it’s all about balance!

So, follow the above 5 steps in order to improve your fitness levels through good nutrition and overall wellbeing.

Stay well.

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Managing Migraines: natural support and nutritional advice

Close of woman in black and white with red pain showing in forehead to represent migraine attack

Migraine Awareness Week always brings the pain of migraine into sharp focus.  Indeed, there are around six million sufferers in the UK dealing with this difficult and sometimes, debilitating, condition. 

However, we understand much more about migraine now and, importantly, how certain foods can help.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top migraine food and lifestyle tips.

Increase magnesium-rich foods

The mineral magnesium is very calming and is often found to be deficient in migraine sufferers.  When deficiency has been rectified, the condition often improves.  Top of the list of magnesium-rich foods are green, leafy vegetables especially broccoli and spinach, so try to include some in your diet every day.  Importantly, try to eat a range of colourful fruits and vegetables which help to manage inflammation generally throughout the body.

A range of foods containing magnesium

All nuts and seeds (and even peanut butter), whole grains, including oats and brown rice, soya products (not soy sauce) and bananas are magnesium-rich so there’s plenty of choice.  Why not mix up some pumpkin seeds, cashews, peanuts and almonds as a great on-the-go snack?

Keep blood sugar balanced

Fluctuations in blood sugar can often trigger migraine attacks.  Eating protein at every meal is important for keeping everything in good balance.  Great protein foods include chicken, turkey, eggs, all fish (ideally not tinned), quinoa, beans and nuts.  You will also find energy levels are sustained much better throughout the day by eating protein regularly.

A range of foods containing protein

On the flip side, certain foods, especially aged cheese, contain amines which are a known migraine trigger.  In fact, it’s best to avoid all cheese.  Other amine-containing foods to watch out for are fermented meats, mushrooms, miso, soy sauce, chocolate, wine and beer.

Steer clear of wheat

It would seem that wheat can often be a migraine trigger, even if you’re unaware of any digestive upsets it might be causing.

A blackboard with the words wheat free written on next to some wheat

Wheat-containing foods include bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits and cereals.  However, the great news is that there are plenty of wheat-free alternative grains including oats, quinoa, buckwheat, rice, rye and barley.  And because so many sweet, refined foods contain wheat, by avoiding those you’ll automatically be reducing sugar-load (another trigger) and will be helping your waistline at the same time.

Get moving

Keeping good blood flow around the body is key for helping prevent migraines with lack of exercise being a known trigger for an attack.  Whilst very intensive training might not be a good idea, gently elevating the heart rate with some brisk walking, cycling, or dancing is great for the body, but also the mind.

Close up of woman's trainers to represent walking

Stress is a definite migraine trigger and many people will certainly have been dealing with some difficult situations over the last few months.  If you can find an exercise or activity that you enjoy, the benefits for your body and soul will be enormous.  Even a brisk walk around the block can clear the head and encourage good blood flow around the body.

Take the herb Feverfew

Feverfew can be incredibly effective at helping reduce both frequency and duration of migraine attacks.  It can take about two to three months to really work, but it’s well worth embracing the power of nature to find a solution.

Feverfew flowers

Extensive research around feverfew has found that it contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory compounds, plus it reduces the body’s ability to produce histamine (an amine).  Additionally, feverfew contains parthenolide compounds which may help reduce blood vessel constriction as well as encourage production of serotonin: this is in the same way traditional migraine medication works.  It’s certainly worth turning to nature for some herbal help.

So, if you’re struggling with migraine, resolve to try some new natural and nutritional approaches to help to ease the pain.

Stay well.

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Five ways to simplify your life

Relaxed woman looking happy sitting outside at a table overlooking a garden

It’s National Simplicity Day this weekend which is actually very timely.  Many of us have realised during lockdown that life can be a lot simpler and that’s totally fine!

Perhaps we have become too used to our rather over-materialistic lifestyles and are now noticing the great value in enjoying the simpler things in life.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips for nutritional and lifestyle simplicity.

Mealtime ease

Whilst many of us have enjoyed using the take-away or meal home delivery services over the last few weeks, many have also realised that home-cooked meals can be surprisingly tasty and, hopefully nutritionally beneficial.

Whilst the body needs 45 nutrients daily (including water), it would be impossible to do a quick analysis of each days’ intake in sufficient detail.  Therefore, keep meal planning simple and varied and nature will deliver what the body needs.

PLate to show balanced diet 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbs and 1/2 vegetables

In broad terms the body requires macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  At every meal, think about the protein content.  There are plenty of sources; eggs, meat, poultry, dairy produce, beans (including soya bean produce) nuts or fish.  Then think about adding some carbohydrate in the form of pasta, rice, fruits, vegetables, or other grains.  Healthy fats include those found in avocados, the omegas 3 and 6s (primarily found in fish, nuts and seeds), and olive oil.

You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen if that’s not your bag – keep it simple.  Here’s a great example of simplicity which just needs a side of rice and a few veggies if desired. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/spiced-salmon-tomato-traybake

Create a rainbow

We all know about the recommendation to eat a minimum of five fruits and veggies daily.  However, this creates confusion because people can’t always remember (understandably) what constitutes a portion for each fruit or vegetables.

A range of colourful fruit and veg rainbow

Instead, just try and create colourful meals; the above is a great example.  The more colours you can eat from a rainbow in one day, the more nutrients you’ll be eating.  Life suddenly becomes so much simpler!

Skincare nutrients

Many of us will have simplified our skincare routines, partly because shops haven’t been open but also because we’ve been going out far less.  It may have surprised many of us just how little we actually need.

It’s also worth remembering that great skin is created from within; skin is generally a reflection of overall health.  Good skin relies on having sufficient nutrients on a daily basis, managing stress (both externally and internally), having plenty of sleep and being properly hydrated.  However, there are a couple of key nutrients which are synonymous with great skin.

Foods containing the b vitamin Biotin

The B-vitamin biotin, known as the beauty vitamin, can be found in eggs, organ meats, sweet potatoes, tuna, salmon and natural yoghurt. Avocados are high in skin-loving vitamin E, which is also a skin-loving favourite. So, add some more of these foods into your diet and your skincare routine from the inside out will be off to a great start.

Clear your mind

Life has been difficult over recent months and it’s easy to let your mind run away with worries about everything.  However, if you can master doing some daily mediation or just taking yourself to a quiet space for 10 minutes a day, then it can really help to calm and clear a busy brain.

Woman with legs crossed sitting on bed meditating

It takes practice and commitment to make this time for yourself, but however stretched you are, everyone deserves 10 minutes (or more) of down time.  Try to block any unwanted thoughts coming into your mind during this time and just listen to the outside world (whatever those sounds may be).

Detox your life

Our lives are generally frenetic, for many different reasons.  However, many people will have realised that taking the pace down a notch or two can have a very positive effect on body and soul.  During Simplicity Week, maybe spend less time on social media. Accept you can manage very well with fewer clothes in the closet. Don’t run yourself ragged making excessive plans.

Sign saying less is more

Pace yourself, plan how to feed your health sufficiently, and resolve to give plenty of time to loved ones. Make simplicity a daily ritual.

When you go back to basics and take some time to think about what is most important, simplicity can become the ‘new normal’.

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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