Seasonal foods for springtime health and happiness

A happy woman in from of a blossom tree showing spring time

Spring generally brings lots of positive energy both for the mind and body.  And this Spring is no exception when it looks like we’ll finally have a little more freedom and there’s even more to celebrate! 

It’s always best to eat seasonally in order to enjoy the best tastes, textures and nutritional benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite seasonal foods this Spring.

Celeriac

Closely related to the celery family, celeriac delivers many of the same nutritional benefits as celery.  Despite its rather unkind nickname ‘the ugly one’, celeriac has a slightly nutty flavour without any excessive salty taste.

Celeriac on a table

Celeriac is high in heart-loving potassium and can help reduce high blood pressure, but also contains plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C. The only downside with this vegetable is that it requires a bit of preparation, with a tough outer skin which needs cutting off.  However, it’s well worth the additional effort because celeriac is delicious mashed with butter and garlic or adds a great flavour to soups or stews.

Mussels

Fished in UK waters and at their best at this time of year, mussels never fail to deliver a wonderful taste experience, especially if paired with garlic, onions, chilli or tomatoes.  You can still smell the sea when you eat super-fresh mussels.  However, you should never eat mussels that aren’t opened after cooking.

Mussels in a pot

As with oysters, mussels are rich in zinc. This is one of the busiest minerals, being involved in over 200 different enzyme reactions within the body, so it is a very essential nutrient.  Additionally, mussels are high in selenium, a key antioxidant mineral and also needed for the immune and cardiovascular systems.  You’ll even find small levels of the super-healthy omega-3s in mussels.  And they don’t need too much cooking to produce a really delicious and warming dish.

Jerusalem artichoke

Another slightly strange-shaped vegetable it is totally delicious roasted, plus delivers an array of health benefits.  Importantly, Jerusalem artichokes contain inulin which feeds the beneficial gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria play such an important role in our overall health, especially when it comes to immune, digestive, brain and skin health.  It’s therefore important to feed the friendly guys within the gut so they proliferate as needed.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Additionally, Jerusalem artichokes are rich in energising iron and immune boosting vitamin C. They can be roasted with the skin on to retain maximum nutrients and are delicious as a side to almost anything!

Spinach

As with all green foods, spinach is rich in antioxidants which help protect the body from disease. Specifically, it’s packed with carotenoids that support the immune system and crucially, eye health.

Whilst spinach does contain some iron and calcium, these minerals are not necessarily well-absorbed down to its high oxalic acid content.  However, eating spinach with foods that are rich in vitamin C, including other vegetables, really aids absorption.

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

Importantly, spinach contains plenty of other valuable nutrients, including vitamin C and energising folate. It works so well and easily in plenty of dishes including soups, salads, as a side lightly steamed with butter and garlic or with eggs for breakfast.

Parsnips

We often associate them with other winter root vegetables which they are, but parsnips are still in season right now and are certainly one of the tastiest of roots. Indeed, parsnips don’t really like frost, hence their taste is better at this time of year. They are slightly starchy which means they make a great alternative to potatoes. They provide plenty of fibre and also vitamin C, vitamin E and folate which helps produce healthy red blood cells.

A pile of parsnips

As with all root veggies, parsnips are very versatile and can be included in soups, pasta dishes or roasted on their own sprinkled with a little parmesan. They also make a great roast vegetable medley alongside other vegetables including carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.

So, enjoy some seasonal treats this spring and your body will benefit from the array of nutrients on offer.

Stay well.

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Tis’ the season: five seasonal, nutrition-packed foods to eat this December

Woman preparing christmas dinner

Whilst the Festive Season is upon us to hopefully bring a little cheer to what has been a tough year all round, there’s also plenty to celebrate with some delicious seasonal food.

Food generally tastes so much better when eaten at the time of year nature intended.  Plus, it’s generally richer in nutrients.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five foods of the season.

Celery

Whilst not always liked by everyone, celery is certainly synonymous with Christmas buffet tables, and it definitely adds a fresh bite to plenty of other dishes.  And for those not wanting to pile on the pounds over Xmas, celery is incredibly low in calories but high in nutrients, so you get much more ‘bang for your buck’!

Chopped celery and celery stalks on a wooden chopping board

Celery is high in potassium which is great for the heart and also helps reduce blood pressure.  Even eating three sticks per day has been shown to be incredibly effective in this way.  Potassium also helps kidneys excrete waste efficiently which in turn helps with water retention and bloating, both common feelings over the festive season.

Interestingly, celery is often found in recipes such as stews, bolognaise and soups; it’s initially fried with the onions because it’s a strong flavour-enhancer in these types of recipes.

Brussels sprouts

No talk of seasonal December food would be complete without sprouts!  Many of us don’t like them because we may have been subjected to Brussels being over-cooked, making them mushy and unpleasant to eat.

Sprouts dish with ginger

Brussels sprouts are incredibly health-giving, partly down to the presence of indoles, compounds that may help prevent some of our nasty hormonally driven diseases.  Just like other members of the cruciferous vegetable family, they’re high in vitamin C and immune-boosting beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A as the body needs it.

It’s worth persevering with Brussels sprouts, down to their amazing health benefits. Why not try them with chopped chestnuts, fried with bacon. Or enjoy in a traditional Boxing Day ‘Bubble and Squeak’ mashed with all the other delicious left-over veg.

Scallops

At this time of year, queen scallops from UK waters are at their best. They are both delicious and loaded with nutrients. Scallops (and indeed all shellfish) are packed with vitamin B12 which is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells and good functioning nervous system. They are also high in immune-boosting zinc and selenium, both minerals often deficient in the typical Western-style diet. They are also, of course, a good source of protein.

Cooked scallpos on a plate

Both the white and orange roe (coral) of the scallops are to be enjoyed.  They work really well with strong flavours from bacon or chorizo or in Thai dishes with traditional spices such as lemon grass, chilli and ginger.

Parsnips

Another stalwart of the traditional Christmas meal, parsnips are incredibly easy to prepare and have a really distinctive sweet taste.

Parsnip soup in a bowl

All root vegetables are in season right now since nature wants us to be eating warming, starchy comforting foods to protect us against the elements.  Parsnips are another good source of immune-boosting vitamin C and energising folate.  They also provide a useful source of fibre to keep digestion running smoothly.

Whilst parsnips are delicious simply roasted with a little honey to enhance their flavour, they also work well sprinkled with parmesan. Or why not try in soups and stews? They can work as a great alternative to potatoes.

Goose

For many it is the meat of choice for a festive meal, whilst for others it has dwindled in popularity.  This may be down to its relatively high fat content, but in face goose still contains less fat than duck and some cuts of lamb, beef or pork.  Plus, goose fat, produces the best roast potatoes in my opinion!

Roasted goose on a plate

Goose contains nearly as much protein as turkey and is a great source of iron (frequently deficient, particularly in female diets), plus other B vitamins.  It’s certainly worth considering if you want some variety, if not for the Christmas Day meal then over the festive period.  Goose is truly delicious served with traditional chestnut stuffing.

So, grab some seasonal delights and make the most of the food that December has to offer.

Stay well.

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Growing your own: health-giving, home-grown ideas

Close up on waomn in an allotment holding a home graon carrot

Whilst we’re all rather restricted in what we can and can’t do right now. But for those with vegetable patches, pots or allotments, it’s the perfect time to be growing your vegetables.  For those of you without access to outside space, a balcony or even just a windowsill can give you the opportunity to grow some delicious and health-giving herbs.

Growing your own produce has big advantages over shop-bought as the produce is all pesticide-free and additive-free.  Importantly, time from harvest to plate can be swift, helping to keep valuable nutrients intact, and helping the planet at the same time.

This National Gardening Week, Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer suggests a few things to start cultivating right now!

Broccoli

An all-round superfood, broccoli certainly lives up to its acclaim. It is very high in antioxidants provided by its vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content. Plus, it’s great for the heart (it helps reduce cholesterol) and helps to protect the immune system. It can help to keep the digestive system moving smoothly and supports the liver’s ability to detoxify. Broccoli is also packed with lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for healthy eyes and eyesight.

Purple sprouting broccoli

In terms of nutrient content, broccoli is rich in immune-boosting vitamin C, bone-loving vitamin K and energy-boosting folate. There are so many different varieties of broccoli that you can sow right now; the purple sprouting type may have the slight edge in terms of antioxidants, which is down to its beautiful colour.

Carrots

A real mainstay vegetable, no garden should be without carrots. They are best known for their ability to help you see in the dark. This is because they are loaded with beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body, and which is essential for eyesight.

A selection of rainbow carrots

Why not grow a rainbow variety, which means you’ll have a combination of orange, purple and white-coloured carrots?  They will all have slightly different tastes and the varied colours will deliver wonderful healthy phytonutrients.

Beetroot

If you plant some beetroot seeds now, you should have some wonderful beetroot globes available for the traditional summer salad season. However, beetroot is not only great in salads but is delicious roasted, pickled or cooked, and used in juices and smoothies.

Whole beetroots

Another superfood, beetroot is a great liver cleanser. Packed full of antioxidants, it also supports energy and is a good source of iron.  Indeed, this is probably one of the reasons it has traditionally been known as a tonic and given to people whilst convalescing. Needless to say, it’s loaded with great nutrients and is incredibly versatile in many dishes, both sweet and savoury.

Basil

Basil is one of the tastiest herbs you can grow indoors. Plus, it smells beautiful and will always remind you of the Mediterranean.  Basil makes a great accompaniment to any tomato-based dish and is an aromatic addition to salad and pasta dishes. It also great for the digestive system.

A fresh bunch of basil on a wooden board

Basil is a pretty hardy herb that prefers full sunlight and now is the time to plant your pots for readiness by July. It will also happily grow in a pot amongst other herbs if you have room.

Chives

Chives are another great small pot herb which can be grown alone or in a slightly larger pot with other herbs such as coriander and parsley.

Some chopped chives on a wooden board

A member of the onion family, chives are very easy to grow and produce some pretty and edible flowers. Both the stems and flowers are great chopped for garnishing potato salad, in scrambled egg, soups and many other savoury dishes. As with all herbs, they have been hailed for many different health issues over the years, and chives have been used as a tonic and to stimulate appetite after illness.

So, get planting!  And if you’ve never undertaken any form of gardening in the past, now could be a great time to start.

Stay well.

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The wonders of asparagus

Close up of a woman holding a bunch of fresh asparagus

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that when eaten in season is magical. So, as we enter English asparagus season (which is also quite short), grab it, enjoy it and benefit from its wonderful nutritional profile. 

Whether you eat it as a side, as part of a salad or pasta dish or in a soup, asparagus is a highly nutritious vegetable worth adding to your menu right now.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives us the low-down on the wonders of asparagus this National Asparagus Day!

Asparagus was once viewed as a delicacy and also widely used in medicinal folklore as a tonic and sedative, as well as easing inflammatory conditions. Nowadays, it’s widely known as a diuretic vegetable, meaning it helps excrete sodium, an excess of which can contribute to high blood pressure.

Nutritional benefits

Asparagus has now been honoured to be part of its own family, Asparagaceae, further underscoring its uniqueness of taste and nutrient profile.

Close up of asparagus being grilled on a bbq

Around 100 different phytonutrient compounds have been found in asparagus.  These are responsible for delivering many health benefits, including having an antioxidant action.  Asparagus is rich in energising B-vitamins (especially folate, found in higher levels than in any other vegetable) and bone-loving vitamin K. It also contains immune-boosting vitamin C and vitamin E, plus a number of trace minerals including selenium which is frequently lacking in the daily diet.  Indeed, asparagus contains about 22 key nutrients, so it really is a nutritional powerhouse!

Anti-inflammatory action

Past generations were not too far off the mark using asparagus for inflammatory conditions.  Research has found asparagus contains quite a unique profile of anti-inflammatory compounds called saponins.  Inflammation is responsible for many of our degenerative health conditions as well as health niggles such as painful, swollen joints or skin complaints.

Close up of knee representing joint pain

It’s also very high in antioxidant capabilities which protect the body against aging and many serious health concerns.

What’s cooking?

Asparagus has become hugely popular in many restaurant dishes or as a side. Importantly, it needs to be really fresh as it can degrade quickly when stored and become tasteless and chewy.  The spears need to be firm, smooth and vibrant in colour (unless you’re going for the white variety!)  It’s delicious quickly steamed, drizzled with a little olive oil, black pepper and sprinkled Parmesan cheese. Or why not try wrapped in parma ham?

Grilled asparagus wrapped in parma ham

Asparagus is often traditionally served with hollandaise sauce (you can also add a poached egg) or lemon mayonnaise.  However, it works well in a traditional summer salad with Jersey Royal potatoes (also now coming into season), broad beans, peas and shallots.

Asparagus with hollandaise sauce

Asparagus is an easy addition to any stir fry. It also works brilliantly in a quiche with salmon, or in a soup.

The less time it takes from harvest to plate the better as the sugars turn to starch quickly, giving it that tell-tale hardened feel.  Much English asparagus takes only 24 hours to reach us from field to plate, hence the reason it is so sought after during these months.

What about the urine odour?

Most people will notice a distinct smell to their urine after eating asparagus which is perfectly normal and is down to something called asparagusic acid.  Some people will notice it more than others.  However, this compound is also cited as providing one of its amazing health benefits due to its function in the antioxidant pathways, so it is also doing you some good!

So, be sure to enjoy tasty English asparagus at its very best this season as well as the health benefits it provides.

Stay well.

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Seasonal eating: top nutrition this Easter

 

A range of easter foods

Traditionally Easter is a time of getting together with friends and family and enjoying plenty of delicious food. It’s always best to ‘eat with the seasons’ and Easter offers some wonderful food choices.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods for a super-healthy Easter!

 

 

Crab

All shellfish is high in protein, vitamins and minerals but low in calories and crab is now in season.

Most of the calories in crab come from protein (around 75 calories per portion) so it will fill you up and keep you feeling that way for longer. People often think of crab dishes as fatty but this is often because it is served with mayonnaise or Marie rose sauce. It’s also high in the mineral selenium, a very powerful antioxidant. Selenium also binds to toxic metals such as cadmium and mercury helping excrete them from the body.

A close up of a bowl of crab salad

If it’s energy you’re after then crab is loaded with vitamin B12, also important for a healthy nervous system. People are often concerned about crab meat (and other shellfish) because of its high cholesterol content. However, cholesterol is poorly absorbed from foods and crab appears to help reduce rather than raise cholesterol levels.

Lamb

Easter wouldn’t be the same without eating some spring lamb. It’s delightfully tender and a traditional Easter dish.

Roast leg of lamb with trimmings

Lamb, like other red meats such as pork and beef, is fairly high in saturated fat, although racks and loins can have their visible fat removed before cooking. Lamb is obviously a great source of protein, plus energising B vitamins and zinc to help support the immune system. As with all red meat, lamb is a great source of usable iron, which is often deficient in the UK population, particularly in teenagers and young women.

Lamb is best simply cooked with garlic, rosemary and oregano. In fact, oregano is a great herb for the digestive tract, so may help alleviate any associated digestive issues. It works really well with a huge plate of colourful roasted veggies.

Leeks

Leeks partner really well with lamb, either lightly steamed or in a tasty gratin dish! Interestingly, leeks were used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments ranging for sore throats to gout and kidney stones. This is partly down to their high potassium content, making them an effective diuretic and supportive of the kidneys. Leeks are also high in folate, so are good for energy.

Leeks in a wooden trough

Squid

Just like crab, squid is high in protein and low in calories. Plus, it’s cheaper than crab and it’s in season right now. Squid is fished predominantly along the Cornish coast and is therefore popular in many restaurants in that part of the world, certainly at this time of year.

With the increase in popularity of low-carb diets, squid earns its rightful place; however, these benefits are lost if you choose the ever-popular calamari rings. Instead, eat squid lightly grilled with a little olive oil and chilli for extra taste.

Fresh grilled squid on a barbecue

Squid is high in the antioxidants selenium and vitamin E, both great for managing the ageing process and keeping skin looking young and fresh. Plus it’s got good amounts of B vitamins which are protective of the heart. They’re a ‘win-win’ for your Easter menu!

Watercress

The peppery, dark watercress leaves are amongst the healthiest of salad vegetables, being rich in vitamins and minerals and with only 22 calories per 100 grams. Watercress works as a vegetable side and can certainly replace spinach in many dishes.

Just like leeks, watercress was often used to treat kidney disorders in traditional medicine and generally helps support the body’s natural detoxification processes.

Watercress soup

Watercress should certainly feature on your Easter menu; in salads, baked in a salmon quiche, made into soup or as a vegetable side gently wilted with a little butter.

So why not make this Easter the healthiest and tastiest yet? Enjoy!

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Amazing asparagus: in-season, nutritious and tasty!

Close up of woman holding a bunch of asparagus

May is National Asparagus Month because it’s the time when this wonderful vegetable comes into season and tastes at its absolute best. However, it’s not just the taste that’s so amazing.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her thoughts on why asparagus is such a nutritional winner!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

VARIETIES

Asparagus can be found in green, white or purple varieties, although green tends to be the most popular in the UK. White asparagus has been grown in the dark, underground, and therefore doesn’t contain as many antioxidants as the other coloured varieties. It also doesn’t have any chlorophyll as it’s not been exposed to sunlight, hence it tastes slightly different.

A woman holding a bunch of green asparagus and a bunch of white asparagus

THE BENEFITS

Asparagus is a really good source of vitamins A and C so is great for the immune system. It is also very high in energy-giving folate plus it’s got a wealth of trace minerals such as potassium, copper, manganese and selenium. Asparagus is also a good source of chromium so helps with blood sugar balance.

Interestingly, asparagus isn’t on the top of everyone’s list when choosing vegetables. This may partly be because the sulphur-producing elements in asparagus gives most people’s urine a rather distinctive smell! In fact, this is quite normal and asparagus is a natural diuretic, so is actually very cleansing for the kidneys. For some people it can also work as a laxative as it’s high in fibre, so is great for people suffering from constipation.

Roasted asparagus topped with a poached egg

As with most fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, they tend to have traditional folklore use; in the case of asparagus, it was used as a tonic and to treat inflammatory-type conditions such as rheumatism.

IT’S GREAT FOR PREGNANCY

Since asparagus contains high levels of folate (folic acid), it’s great for women to eat either before or during pregnancy (or indeed both). Folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube defects in babies and Public Health England also recommends a supplement of 400 micrograms daily, pre-conceptually and for the first trimester.

We know from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS)[1] that women of child-bearing age are deficient in this essential vitamin. This is despite it being widely available in foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Interestingly, since folic acid works alongside vitamin B12, which is often poorly absorbed, the two vitamins can often both be deficient. So, ladies, now is the time to grab some delicious asparagus!

WHAT TO DO WITH IT

Asparagus is a real regular on restaurant menus at this time of year, either as an appetiser or as a side dish.   Often it’s simply roasted with a little olive oil and lemon or just lightly grilled. It’s also wonderful roasted and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. And it’s superb barbecued!

Another popular recipe is asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham, either as a starter or side. The asparagus is simply wrapped in the ham, sprinkled with pepper and roasted for about 15 minutes.

Roased asparagus wrapped in parma ham and sprinkled with parmesan cheese

If, however, you want to go for the slightly milder, sweeter taste of white asparagus, you can certainly try something different. White asparagus needs to be prepared slightly differently from the green variety; white should be peeled from the bottom as the skin tends to be tough. It is generally better boiled until soft and is traditionally served with hollandaise sauce. If you do opt for green, then it should be so fresh that you can snap it in half; no toughness or stringiness in sight!

The official asparagus season lasts around 8 weeks in the UK so enjoy it as much as possible!

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-results-from-years-7-and-8-combined

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Immunity-boosting nutrition tips this spring

Close up of woman with her arms stretched out in sunshine wearing sunglasses

With spring on the way we naturally want to get out and about and certainly don’t want to be dragged down by colds or infections that prevent us from enjoying life to the full. A change in season can often put the body under more stress, so what are the best ways to get your immune system in good shape this spring time?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares FIVE of her top immune-boosting foods!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI

Purple sprouting broccoli has been cultivated since the 18th century but has only risen to prominence in the UK in the last 30 years or so. All green leafy vegetables provide great health benefits but the purple colour means that it also contains higher levels of polyphenols – plant compounds, rich in antioxidants which provide wonderful support for the immune system. Additionally, purple sprouting broccoli contains vitamins A and C, together with a variety of carotenoids – all key for immunity.

Not sure what to do with it? It is great stir-fried with pine nuts, sesame oil and seeds, sweet chilli sauce or just plain steamed as an accompaniment to meat or fish. Grab it now whilst it’s in season – this means it is packed with the highest nutrient content – perfect for giving your immune system a boost.

CRAB

You might not necessarily associate crab with immunity but it’s high in the mineral selenium which is needed to produce our key antioxidant enzyme in the body called glutathione peroxidase. This in turn, helps protect us from infections and disease.

A close up of a bowl of crab salad

The easiest way to enjoy crab is in a salad using the prepared crab meat from the fish counter or from your fishmonger. If you mix the crab meat with a dash of tabasco sauce, lime juice, capers, some black pepper and chopped coriander leaves, you can pair it with some mixed leaves for a delicious spring time salad.

SPINACH

A wonderfully versatile vegetable that will help to keep you bug-free through spring! It can be cooked in a variety of ways, added to dishes or it may be used in salads, raw. In fact it mixes really well with bacon in a salad.

Spinach is in season right now so will be a lovely dark green colour in the shops or markets. It’s great for the immune system because it contains high levels of vitamins A and C. Spinach is probably best known for its high iron content (Popeye knew best!) which helps to give energy levels a great boost; very helpful if you’re wanting some spring time fun.

Close up of Spinach salad with peas, asparagus and radish

There’s so many ways to use spinach; added to soups, casseroles or pasta, lightly steamed and served with a knob of butter, stir-fried with garlic and butter, sautéed with a little olive oil and parmesan, or in a salad with some grilled haloumi and fresh mint.  Why not create a delicious greens salad with spinach, peas and asparagus. Enjoy!

ACAI BERRIES

All berries are great for the immune system but acai are actually some of the best. This is because acai berries have one of the highest antioxidant ratings of any food and they’re rich in fibre too. This means they’re great for the immune system, plus the skin and heart.

Acai berries in a bowl and a spoon of acai berry powder

One of the most delicious recipes for acai berries is an acai berry bowl. You can either use them as a freeze-dried powder or try frozen berries whizzed up with banana, avocado, other berry fruits, and coconut water with a crunchy topping of nuts and seeds to boost your omega-3s.

TEA

It doesn’t matter what colour – black, green or white – all types are rich in immune-boosting polyphenols. However, green tea actually has the highest amount of antioxidants. This is because methods of tea production vary from tea type. For example, green tea leaves are picked and then left out to dry (generally in the sunlight) before being put into hot roasting tins. After being rolled, they are then further heat treated which produces green, slightly withered tea leaves. Green tea is higher in antioxidants because the leaves are not left in the atmosphere to oxidise before they’re harvested.

A glass tea cup of green tea

Green tea is also great for the immune system as it helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Strange as it may seem, balanced gut bacteria is absolutely essential for good immunity. However, it’s best to drink any type of tea in-between meals as the tannin content tends to deplete certain trace minerals in our food.

So keep well this spring and enjoy spending more time outdoors as the warm weather arrives.

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Five ways to keep your energy levels in tip-top shape!

Many people struggle with energy levels all year round.  Long work days, busy family lives and a hectic social life can all take their toll and leave you feeling drained.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five tips for meeting all that life demands and feel raring to go!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog picTHE ENERGY EQUATION

If you want to have abundant energy for life and to retain that energy rather than burning out, then there are a few simple nutritional tips you can follow:

Eat mainly slow-releasing carbohydrates, otherwise known as low glycaemic (or low GI), such as oats, wholegrains, quinoa and whole foods rather than anything ‘white’.  Foods such as white bread and pasta have been deprived of nutrients, particularly B vitamins which are needed for energy.  ‘White’ foods upset blood sugar balance also leading to low energy.

Ensure your diet is well-rounded giving you a good balance of essential nutrients. Look at the colour variety on your plate at every meal.  Think all the colours of the rainbow!  Obviously this won’t be achieved at every meal, but if you’ve got a colourful meal plate, you’ll certainly be getting the essential nutrients your body needs to create great energy.

Avoid stimulants.  This is key to feeling on top of the world.  Whilst caffeine provides a rapid energy surge, this will be quickly followed by a dip.  Swap to decaffeinated drinks and include ginseng tea to get your body buzzing.  Plus, we all know that tell-tale ‘morning after the night before’ feeling!  Too much alcohol, over an extended period, is just going to drain energy.  Try to have as many alcohol-free days as possible, particularly during the working week.

THE ANTI-STRESS DIET

It’s no secret that stress makes us feel tired. Plus, stress depletes essential nutrients the body needs to produce energy – it can be a vicious cycle.

Adopting a low glycaemic carbohydrate diet is key.  In order to keep the body’s natural stress response on an even keel, these need to be balanced with protein in the same meal or snack.  For example, fish with brown rice; a handful of nuts with an apple; porridge oats with some seeds.

The mineral magnesium is also known as an ‘anti-stress nutrient’.  It’s needed to support the adrenal glands but it’s also used up more quickly during stressful times. Try to eat five servings a day of dark green leafy and root vegetables such as broccoli, watercress, carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, green beans or peppers.  They can be raw or lightly cooked and you can happily use frozen if you’re not always able to buy fresh.

CELERY FOR ENERGY!

It’s all about nitrates!  Nitrates are naturally found in a number of foods and provide many health benefits.  In particular, they help to relax blood vessels and therefore improve blood flow.  This, in turn, creates more oxygen in the bloodstream, which gives you more energy!

If endurance exercise such as running is your thing, then consuming a couple of sticks of celery pre-workout is going to send energy levels soaring. However, if celery is not for you, then beetroot is also high in nitrates and provides equal benefits.  Try drinking a glass of beetroot juice before your morning run and you’ll float through the miles!

ENERGY NUTRIENTS

There are a number of nutrients that are really key in energy production.  For example, vitamin B6 and zinc help insulin to work correctly, which in turn helps to keep blood sugar levels in balance. The mineral chromium is needed to turn glucose into energy.  In fact the whole family of B vitamins (and there are eight in total), are essential for turning fuel or food into energy.

As with most things in life, nothing works in isolation, and it’s true with nutrients; trying to increase one nutrient over another can lead to imbalances.  Thankfully nature has made life much easier for us because the foods we’ve talked about all contain a good balance of these nutrients.  Therefore, if your diet is balanced and colourful, you will be getting what the body needs.

However, taking a daily multivitamin and mineral will help to top up levels and plug any dietary gaps.

COQ10 FOR TOP ENERGY

One nutrient that’s often forgotten is Co-enzyme Q10 (COQ10).  It plays a central role in energy metabolism because it’s present in every cell in the body.

There is no daily recommended amount for CoQ10, hence it can be missed off the list of essential nutrients. However, it is great for increasing flagging energy levels.  CoQ10 is found in sardines, mackerel, pork, spinach and walnuts, but not in large amounts.  Therefore, supplementing with around 30 mg of CoQ10 daily is really going to help.

So with some small adjustments to your diet you can keep your energy levels in tip top shape. If you’re well fuelled, your body will do the rest!

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The goodness of Garlic: health and nutritional benefits of this tasty bulb

Garlic (Allium sativum) has long been regarded as something of a miracle food. It has been used for dozens of complaints ranging from asthma to arthritis and it’s also a versatile ingredient in a wide range of dishes.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides the low-down on garlic.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Garlic’s reputation for providing healing properties, as an antiviral and anti-bacterial agent, are backed up by scientific evidence.  The medicinal properties of garlic are the result of the sulphur compounds it contains, including those that are responsible for the pungent odour released when crushed.

The jury is still out as to whether garlic has the same benefits when eaten cooked versus in its raw form, as some of the compounds are lost in cooking.  If eaten raw then half to one clove daily is a good recommended daily amount.

VITAMIN AND MINERALS

Aside from its wonderful health benefits, garlic is also a great source of vitamin B6 which helps energy levels, manganese for the joints, and vitamin C and selenium which are both very powerful antioxidants.  These nutrients may also be some of the reasons for garlic’s vast array of health benefits.

The only downside to eating lots of garlic is that it makes the breath smell, hence there are many supplements produced using deodorised garlic.  A great tip to reduce the lingering smell is to chew parsley – a natural breath freshener!

A NATURAL ANTIBIOTIC

Garlic is thought to be a natural and broad-spectrum antibiotic; it may help to prevent or treat some bacterial or fungal infections.  Specifically it can be used very effectively to kill some intestinal parasites and fungal yeast infections.

Taking a garlic supplement, or increasing garlic in the diet before travelling abroad, may well help prevent traveller’s diarrhoea or picking up some kind of intestinal infection.

GREAT FOR THE HEART

Garlic has been used really effectively over many years as a natural anti-coagulant; this means it helps to lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol as well as blood pressure.

It seems to suppress cholesterol production in the liver and also helps to raise levels of the beneficial HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol.

IMMUNE BOOSTER

Garlic certainly has some wonderful immune-boosting properties mainly down to its anti-viral and antibacterial properties.  If it becomes a regular part of your diet, added to cooking, and alongside other immune-boosting herbs such as ginger, it can certainly help with treating colds and flu or better still, preventing them occurring in the first place.

A NATURAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY

Garlic appears to exert strong anti-inflammatory properties, hence the reason it’s been widely used for joint problems, including arthritis.

It seems that the four main sulphur compounds within garlic deliver the powerful results, even helping to alleviate the pain associated with various joint issues.

LOVE GARLIC?

There are so many ways you can incorporate garlic into your everyday cooking! There are very few savoury dishes or foods that can’t be improved by the addition of garlic; soups, stews, mashed potatoes, bread, mushrooms, salmon with ginger, as a delicious cream with steak or in tomato-based sauces over pasta.

Here are three of my favourites:

Homemade Aioli

Why not eat the Spanish way!  Homemade aioli is so easy to make.  All you need is two egg yolks, three garlic cloves, some Dijon mustard and olive oil.  Mix the first three ingredients and then add some olive oil to thicken the mixture and a little lemon juice to taste.

It makes a wonderful dip for crackers, breads or crudités.  Alternatively, a popular European way with garlic is to crush it and spread it on bread with olive oil.  This works particularly well with bruschetta.

Stir-fry anything!

Stir-fries are so easy and quick and you can literally make them up as you go along!  However, a couple of cloves of garlic work especially well with prawns, peppers, soy sauce and any other chopped veggies of your choice.

Garlic chicken

A one-pot chicken dish is super-easy, quick and totally delicious.  Garlic cloves can either be stuffed into the carcass before cooking or crushed onto potatoes before roasting.

Garlic also works well crushed onto lamb, with some fresh rosemary, before cooking.

There are so many reasons to include garlic in your cooking, so enjoy experimenting!

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

How to have a healthier, treat-filled Christmas!

shutterstock_232325464 woman in kitchen christmas flour tree Dec15We all like to treat ourselves at Christmas – a mince pie here, a chocolate coin there – and why not? We’ve worked hard all year and Christmas is a time for celebration, merriment and traditionally a lot of food! But if you fancy some healthier indulgence this year there are many nutritious ways that you can treat yourself but feel better for it! Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her five treats with some seriously good health benefits.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog picWith Christmas just around the corner, many of us will be wondering how we can make what we eat a little healthier without feeling ‘deprived’ of some of the traditional tastes of the season. Here are some ideas to give your treat-filled Christmas a slightly healthier boost:

shutterstock_261192740 cacao beans and pod Dec15

 

A CHOCOLATE ALTERNATIVE

It’s Cacao! Cacao is a great alternative to cocoa – it has some of the highest amounts of antioxidants of any food, plus it’s a great source of magnesium which is needed for healthy bones and energy production.

Cacao pods are produced from the Theobroma Cacao tree and part of the fruit is used to make raw cacao powder. It contains more fibre than cocoa as well as protein, vitamin C (great for healthy skin) and minerals, including energising iron. Even better, it’s cholesterol-free!

Cacao is actually one of the purest forms of chocolate you can consume because it’s classified as a ‘raw’ food and is not processed like cocoa-containing chocolate bars. You can use cacao powder in baking recipes and it’s the chocolate of choice if you’re entertaining some vegan guests this Christmas.

shutterstock_179669312 bowl of nuts Dec15GO NUTS FOR THE RIGHT KIND OF NUTS!

Peanuts are often an integral part of any Christmas treat bowl. But did you know that peanuts are actually not nuts at all? They are legumes which are grown underground as opposed to being grown on trees. Whilst they are a good source of protein, they do not contain any of the beneficial omega 3 fats that other nuts do.

So instead, stock up on Brazils, almonds and walnuts, which all contain some essential omega 3 fats. Plus Brazils have an added bonus; they are packed full of selenium – a powerful antioxidant mineral that is so often deficient in the Western diet – for an even more nutritious nut!

shutterstock_347739773 goats cheese and camembert Dec15CHOOSE HEALTHIER CHEESE

A very large percentage of Christmas dinner tables will feature a cheese board – delicious! However, there are certain cheeses that are healthier choices than others. For example, goat’s cheese contains around half the saturated fat content of cheddar cheese; Camembert contains around a third less fat and fewer calories than hard cheeses.

Interestingly, the highest calorie and fat content of all cheeses is found in Swiss cheeses such as Emmenthal. However, Swiss cheeses do slightly redeem themselves by providing good amounts of bone-healthy calcium and zinc – essential for healthy fertility and reproduction.

So, as with all foods, it’s always a question of balance, but if you want to try to keep a watchful eye on calories, then be sure to include some soft cheeses on your Christmas cheese board!

shutterstock_206976145 star mince pies Dec15OPEN-TOP MINCE PIES

Mince pies are a traditional Christmas treat – any Christmas gathering wouldn’t be the same without them! However, if you’re making them yourself – and there’s nothing quite as delicious as home-made mince pies – why not make a slightly healthier option?

If you use filo pastry rather than flaky pastry (which is still equally delicious) you will be dramatically reducing the calorie and fat content. Even better, if you make a little star shaped lid, or leave the top off your mince pies all together, you can reduce the calorie content even further!

shutterstock_289557317 family country winter walk Dec15AND ROUND OFF CHRISTMAS DAY WITH A CALORIE-BURNING WALK!

Instead of slumping down on a sofa in front of the TV after a mega Christmas lunch, why not take you and your family on a brisk walk? It doesn’t need to be a hike – 20 minutes is all that’s required to feel the benefits of fresh air and exercise after a big meal.

It’s not just calories you burn from taking a brisk walk; insulin – which is naturally produced from the pancreas and secreted to balance blood sugar levels when we eat – works more effectively at distributing glucose around the body when we take a walk fairly soon after eating. This means that less glucose is stored as fat – so you might enjoy your Christmas lunch even more if you plan a walk straight after it … it could be considered guilt-free! What a treat indeed!

So enjoy a very merry, treat-filled Christmas with a healthier twist this year – and roll on the New Year!

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

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