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!

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How to kick start your immune system with exercise and nutrition

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From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyershutterstock_209236522 trainer made out of vegetables Feb15Want to avoid the usual round of colds and flu this winter?

Then get those trainers on and go for a gentle jog!  You may be surprised to learn that moderate exercise helps to support the immune system so that you’re less susceptible to infections.  Moderate exercise of around 30-60 minutes, several times a week, increases the amount of killer cells that are naturally present in the immune system, helping to fight off potential invaders.

Conversely, more intense exercise perhaps undertaken whilst training for a marathon, can potentially suppress the immune system for 24-36 hours after the event, but the right foods and lifestyle changes can help to negate any potential downsides.  So, as with most things in life – it’s all about balance!

Regular, moderate exercise has many positive benefits:

shutterstock_237220609 smling woman jogging Feb15Your energy input and output is better controlled, therefore so is your weight.

Increased lean muscle means that more calories are burnt at rest, again making weight management easier.

Exercise increases endorphins which can lift your mood.

Energy levels generally will be improved.

You are likely to be less susceptible to infections due to enhanced immune system functioning.

Increased blood flow and oxygen around the body will help you to look healthier and possibly younger as your skin will glow.

You’ll feel so much better generally – and that’s a promise!

So, you’ve bought the gear and your trainers are ready and waiting by the front door.  Fantastic start but what else do you need to know?

It goes without saying that you should ensure you’re supporting your body nutritionally.  Ask yourself: what are the main reasons you have decided to adopt a more active lifestyle?  Often, the motivation stems from a desire to lose weight so it is really important to remember that just because you have started to exercise, doesn’t mean you can eat lots more calories!  A 30-minute gentle jog will burn around 300 calories – that’s generally less than you would eat in a lunchtime sandwich.

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It’s great to be enthusiastic about a new exercise programme but build up slowly to avoid the risk of injury. For example, if you’ve taken up running recently, simply try and go that little bit further every couple of weeks rather than pushing yourself too hard from the start.  This will be much more sustainable in the long term and will also help to keep the immune system well-balanced.

And, as we have already mentioned, it’s fantastic if you have decided to commit to any type of endurance event, like a charity run or half marathon, but be mindful of your diet so that your immune system is supported, and your recovery after training is optimal.

Here are five key ways to keep your immune system in tip top condition:shutterstock_233995030 woman juggling peppers Feb15

Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables with as much colour variety as possible. Challenge yourself to eat all the colours of the rainbow!

Avoid sugar, alcohol and fried foods which can all suppress the immune system.

Try to eat a generally low glycemic diet; this means one that is one low in refined foods (such as white bread, pastries and sugary snacks) but rich in wholegrain foods, such as wholewheat bread and pasta, quinoa, beans and pulses.

If you’re regularly training for 90 minutes or longer, you will need to keep topped up with a carbohydrate-rich sports drink during the sessions. This helps to minimise any negative effects on your immune system during prolonged exercise regimes and provides sustained energy.

Eating sufficient protein is also key, as it is used to make many types of immune cells, including antibodies. Good sources are eggs, chicken, turkey and all kinds of fish.

Eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables is important for a number of reasons; these foods naturally contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, the B vitamins as well as magnesium, iron and zinc – all important for the immune system.

shutterstock_247851763 antioxidant veg tower Feb15Fruits and vegetables are also packed with antioxidants.  Exercise causes the body to produce more free radicals; therefore the body’s requirement for antioxidants is increased.  The body is naturally equipped with protective antioxidant enzyme systems, but increasing intake of fruits and vegetables provides the nutrients needed for the body’s systems to function, and also delivers greater antioxidant cover.  This can really help to keep the immune system supported.

How can supplements help?

It is not always easy to get everything the body needs from the daily diet, particularly when you’re putting it through its paces.  This is where supplementation is key; but which nutrients or herbs are especially important to keep your immunity levels up?

Vitamin C: a well-known and well-researched nutrient when it comes to providing immune protection.  It supports several types of immune cells within the body and also helps speed up the time taken to recover from infection.

Zinc: an important mineral, essential for maintaining many functions of the immune system, and a constant supply is required to keep producing all types of immune cells.

Selenium: Frequently depleted in the diet due to modern farming methods, this is an essential mineral for enhanced immune cell response.  It is also needed for the production of one of the body’s most powerful antioxidant enzymes, known as glutathione peroxidase which, amongst many other functions, helps protect the body from premature ageing.

Rhodiola: a powerful ‘adaptogenic’ herb, meaning it adapts to the body’s specific needs.  It has been found to increase overall performance in terms of exercise, as well as supporting the immune system.  It is also a great mental enhancer, particularly protective during life’s stressful times.

Echinacea: traditionally used for many centuries, this is now one of the most well-known immune-supporting plants.

Get the perfect balance of work, rest and play – and stay positive!

shutterstock_160528004 woman laughing in bed Feb15When it comes to immunity, down time is just as important as getting the blood pumping. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can take its toll on the immune system.  Many people find that when they reduce their intake of caffeine and alcohol, their sleep patterns improve enormously.

And lastly – always try to think positively no matter how hard the day may be!  Laughing out loud has extremely positive effects on your mood and the happiest people tend to live the longest.  Negative thinking can have a detrimental effect on the immune system so finding positivity wherever you can in your world will be hugely beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing.