The wonders of Pumpkin!

Pumpkins carved into lanterns

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutritional benefits of pumpkin

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

a pumpkin cut into pieces

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

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

How to use pumpkin

Fresh,Cooked,Pumpkin,Soup,Served,In,A,Pumpkin.,Stuffed,Pumpkin.

One of the best ways to cook pumpkin is stuffed! The top needs to be chopped off, seeds scooped out and then the pumpkin is rubbed with olive oil and roasted in the over for around 45 minutes.  Once it’s cooked, you can fill it with anything that takes your fancy.  How about rice, chopped walnuts, pomegranate seeds, lemon, sliced apple, and garlic?  The mixture needs to be cooked first and then returned to the oven.  A great vegan Halloween treat!

What about those all-important seeds?

Pumpkin seeds make a great, low-calorie snack. And because they’re high in protein, they help to banish hunger pangs and stabilise blood sugar levels.  Cravings then become less, and energy is more sustained. Indeed, pumpkin seed butter on oatcakes makes a really tasty, satisfying snack.

Importantly, they are high in the essential omega 3 and 6 fats that the body can’t make so need to be taken in via the diet. Both provide many health benefits, especially for the skin and heart.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

However, many of pumpkin seeds’ health benefits germinate from their great vitamin and mineral profile, especially of zinc, which is often deficient in typical western-style diets.  Additionally, pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, which are essential for protecting the body against life’s onslaughts.

Interestingly, pumpkin seeds contain lignans which have antimicrobial properties, therefore are especially protective of the gut.

Pumpkin seeds are very easy to include in the diet; they make a great snack, can be added to salad dishes, or sprinkled on your morning porridge or why not try roasting and sprinkling over vegetable recipes for some added crunch.

Pumpkin makes a very tasty and nutritious addition to your Halloween menu and beyond. 

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Great British food: five top foods produced locally

Plate,,Fork,And,Knife,On,Grunge,Uk,Flag

We talk frequently about the health and financial benefits of eating seasonally.  Eating with the seasons provides foods at the time nature intended, meaning they are at their best in terms of nutritional content and flavour.

When it comes to foods that are produced here in the UK, there are many ‘traditionally British’ foods to choose from. 

Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some of her favourites.

Carrots

One of the greatest nutritional benefits of carrots is their richness in beta-carotene.  Beta-carotene is a very powerful antioxidant, helping to protect us from free radicals which can contribute to some of our nasty degenerative diseases.

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A which is needed for healthy vision as well as the maintenance of mucous membranes.  Vitamin A can also help protect us particularly from respiratory infections.

Carrots when in season (and organically grown if possible) taste so much better than at other times of year; they are packed with flavour! However, as carrots do absorb pesticides, always peel and top and tail them if they are not organic.

Chicken

Thankfully there are many farms around the UK that are ‘free-range’. Again, organic is preferable, although the birds are noticeably smaller because they contain less water.

Roast chicken leg with potatoes and vegetables

Either way, chicken is a great source of protein, and the dark meat contains twice as much iron and zinc as the light meat.  In terms of vitamins, chickens contain all the B vitamins (around 85% of the daily recommended intake).  Importantly, chicken is a super-versatile meat and easier on the digestion than red meat.

Natural Yogurt

There are some very well-known yoghurt brands around the UK that produce some great natural products.  For people not allergic or intolerant to dairy, then natural yoghurt that contains live friendly bacteria cultures is great for feeding the gut with probiotics.  These friendly guys are so essential for our overall health and wellbeing.  In fact, every day, there’s new research into our internal gut microbiome and what it needs to keep it healthy.

Natural yoghurt

Yogurt is so easy to add into the daily diet and is especially great for breakfast, maybe on some overnight oats with a few blueberries.  And the good news is that oats are generally produced in the UK too, so you’ve got a very British (or Scottish) breakfast.

Beetroot

One of my all-time favourite vegetables, I could wax lyrical about the health benefits of beetroot all day long!  Essentially, beetroot is great for the immune system (it’s very rich in vitamin C) but also protects the body against carcinogens.

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However, more recently beetroot has been found to help reduce blood pressure and also promote better performance during endurance exercise. Beetroot provides a great natural source of iron and also betaine which is great for liver detoxification.  In fact, there’s not much it doesn’t do!

If you’re feeling below par, you could do a lot worse than have a daily tonic of beetroot juice for a couple of weeks – it’s my ‘go-to’.

Spinach

Contrary to popular belief, spinach isn’t as good a source of iron as folklore has led us to believe.  However, it still contains some, but importantly provides a high concentration of carotenoids, especially beta-carotene and lutein both great for eye health.

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

Spinach is also a great source of folate, essential for women pre-pregnancy, but useful for all of us in terms of supporting energy levels.  Even better, spinach can easily be added to your daily diet: go for a morning omelette, a lunchtime vegetable soup or gently wilt in a frying pan with a little olive oil, garlic, and nutmeg, as a delicious vegetable side.

It’s always great to support the local economy where possible whilst grabbing some health benefits from British produce at the same time.

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Seasonal nutrition: what to eat in July

 

 

shutterstock_404009245 courgette salad July16

The year, as ever, is racing by! However, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy those foods that we associate with summer and that are in season right now.

From delicious fruits to flavoursome vegetables there is nothing better than eating foods as nature intended and at the time of year they are at their most nutritious.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five foods this July

 

Raspberries

Their beautiful pink colour just shouts summer! Interestingly, most of the raspberries sold in the UK at this time of year are produced in Scotland, a place we don’t always associate with summer weather!

Raspberries are a very rich source of vitamin C which is essential for the immune system but also for the muscles, skin, and bones too.  Collagen, the body’s main structural protein needs vitamin C to do its work properly.  It’s a fact, raspberries can help in the fight against the ageing process!

A punnet of fresh raspberries

Raspberries are also high in fibre and antioxidants. Enjoy them with just a light dusting of icing sugar, have some with your morning cereal or overnight oats, add to natural yoghurt or make into a raspberry sauce by pushing them through a sieve.

Runner Beans

Runner beans always seem to be a staple crop for the keen gardeners amongst us.  Despite the initial seed sowing and structure being slightly labour intensive, they seem to be pretty hardy and grow well in our soils. Or maybe they’re so popular down to the beautiful flowers they produce.

A bunch of runner beans on a wooden background

Runners are high in vitamin C and energising folate.  However, when boiled (which is how most people cook them), much of their nutritional value is lost. So always go for steaming to retain more of their nutrition. When fresh, they are also deliciously crunchy eaten raw in salads.

Sea Trout

This needs to be distinguished from river trout which is farmed and not nearly as tasty and nutritionally rich.

Wild sea trout is often referred to as salmon trout, but their flavours are slightly different with sea trout being a little subtler.  In terms of nutritional value, wild sea trout are much pinker than farmed versions because they naturally feed on algae that is loaded with astaxanthin.  It’s what makes them pink but also is one of the most powerful antioxidants known to man. 

Trout with lemon wedges and herb

By eating wild sea trout, you’ll be enjoying all its health benefits. That’s not forgetting that it’s a great source of the amazing and essential omega-3 fats which are needed for the heart, brain, hormones and much more besides. Enjoy sea trout simply plain grilled with lemon butter and Jersey Royal potatoes (also in season).

Turnips

We often think of turnips as winter root vegetables (which they are). However, they tend to be available pretty much all-year round and have a summer harvest too. Turnips make a great vegetable side and can be used instead of parsnips, perhaps roasted with Parmesan and rosemary.

Rustic,Organic,Turnips,With,Fresh,Green,Tops,And,Roots,On

Turnips are rich in fibre so help keep bowels regular, plus they contain the all-important vitamin C.  Even better, turnips are low in fat but provide good energy, together with a bucketful of essential minerals, including calcium for that all-important bone health.

Courgettes

Also known as zucchini to the Americans and Italians, courgettes probably work best when put with some stronger flavours such as feta, tomato and basil or garlic. Courgettes have a high water-content, so can certainly taste rather bland without some flavours to perk it up!

A range of courgettes

Courgettes are a rich source of beta carotene which is a powerful antioxidant.  It’s also turned into immune-boosting vitamin A in the body as needed. They are a good source of the antioxidant lutein which is great for eye health.  With the increase in screen usage over the last few years, we are seeing a real demise in our ability to see long distance, and this is especially noticeable in children and the younger generation.

Why not tempt them with some courgette and mint potato cakes or zucchini fries to help them to like courgettes?

Have a fabulously healthy July and enjoy creating dishes with all the seasonal foods on offer.

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Three nutrients for supporting your skin health this summer

Close up of a woman's head and shoulder from behind on a beach to represent summer skin

Skin is the largest organ of the body and having glowing, blemish-free skin is created from within and is mainly down to your diet.  Some people clearly have an easier time than others in terms of managing any skin conditions and there are of course genetic elements involved when it comes to how it behaves and how it ages.

There are some key nutrients that can really help improve the overall health and look of your skin. And at this time of year, when we tend to have more skin on show, it’s a great time to focus on the vitamins and minerals that can help support yours.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her three top nutrients to support your skin.

 

Biotin

The B-vitamin, biotin, has actually become a celebrity over the last few years, in the skincare stakes!  We are finding out more and more about its essential functions in skin health and how we can easily include more biotin into the daily diet, to great effect.

Foods containing the b vitamin Biotin

In terms of how it works, biotin essentially functions in the body as a co-factor helping to produce enzymes.  It’s these enzyme reactions that underpin everything the body does. Biotin is used in cell growth and replication which is why it can be so helpful for the skin.  Interestingly, a deficiency of biotin often presents as dry, scaly skin or dermatitis (an inflammatory skin condition).

shutterstock_355672364 nuts June17

Biotin is predominantly produced by the gut bacteria but if our good bacteria levels are not optimal (and that’s most of us) then it’s down to the daily diet (and supplementation) to give us what we need. Biotin is very rich in liver (which many of us don’t eat) but can also be found in soy-based foods, nuts, wholegrains, and lentils.  Just like all the B-vitamins, it’s water-soluble so isn’t stored in the body, which makes supplements even more useful, especially if your skin isn’t behaving as you would like.

Zinc

Zinc is one of our busiest minerals, being involved in over 200 enzyme reactions.  It’s also found in very high concentrations in the skin and is involved in almost all body systems in some way, hence we can use it to very good effect for skin health.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Just like biotin, skin changes are often a sign of zinc deficiency and improvements in skin health can be quickly noticed when this deficiency is plugged.

A range of seeds on spoons

Zinc is rich in many plant-based foods which is great news for vegetarians and vegans.  Wholegrains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are good sources, but seafood (especially oysters) and red meat are great too.

Vitamin A

There are various forms of vitamin A, the most active being retinal and retinoic acid.  As with all vitamins, vitamin A provides many essential roles in the body including growth and repair, specifically of cell membranes, and this includes skin cell membranes.

Products,Rich,In,Vitamin,A.,Top,View

Forms of retinoic acid have now been developed and are used very effectively in treating skin conditions but also in anti-ageing skin products.  However, vitamin A plays a key role in overall skin health (and much more besides) so we need to ensure there is sufficient in the diet.

Another complication with vitamin A is that it’s only found in animal produce.  The good news is that the body can convert beta-carotene found primarily in red, yellow and orange foods (carrots are great) into Vitamin A. However, some people have a genetic tendency not to convert as effectively as others.  Deficiency symptoms can often be noted as poor immunity, since vitamin A plays an essential role, as well as troublesome skin conditions and problems with the mucous membranes generally.

A range of colourful fruit and vegetables

Vitamin A is a very powerful antioxidant which helps protect the skin from sun damage and also supports the ageing process.  All in all, it’s going to be of great benefit to the skin inside and out!

Use the power of nature by increasing your intake of these vitamins and minerals in your diet and help your skin to glow from the inside out!

 

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Five foods to feed your brain

 

A range of vegetables to represent fibre in the diet

It’s no secret that I talk about vegetables a lot! In fact, I frequently talk about them in terms of their varied and beautiful colours providing the amazing array of nutrients the body needs to stay healthy.

They are actually some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, gifted to us from nature, packed with vitamins and minerals, plenty of antioxidants and many other beneficial plant compounds too.

There are so many to choose from but this National Vegetarian Week I have picked my top five:

Broccoli

Did you know that one cup of broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange? Which is great but it’s not the main reason why I rate broccoli’s health benefits so highly. Broccoli is part of the healthy family of cruciferous vegetables which contain a sulphur compound called sulforaphane.  Essentially, sulforaphane helps the liver to detoxify, is great for supporting brain health and importantly, is known to help protect the body from degenerative diseases.

Broccoli florets on a plate

Broccoli is also rich in folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.  These three nutrients work as a triad in many key biochemical reactions throughout the body, especially when it comes to the brain, hormone, and energy levels.  The list of positives goes on and on with broccoli; try to eat some at least two or three times a week.

Sweet potatoes

Available in both orange and purple varieties, the purple type has even more antioxidants than its orange counterpart.

shutterstock_222440302-purple-sweet-potato-sept16

If you are trying to lose weight but feel the need for some carbs, then sweet potatoes are a great option as they don’t have such an impact on blood sugar balance.  Even better, whatever their colour, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant, and is also turned into immune-boosting vitamin A in the body, as needed.

Sweet potato wedges are a real go-to veggie for me!

Brussels sprouts

I know they’re not enjoyed by everyone, but I genuinely love them!  If you’re not a fan of Brussels sprouts, have you tried them with some bacon bits which helps to reduce some of their slightly bitter taste?

Just like broccoli, being part of the cruciferous vegetable family, Brussels’ health benefits are far-reaching. They are high in vitamin K which is essential for the bones and heart, vitamin C and folate, and are especially rich in fibre. 

shutterstock_179527487 basket of sprouts Nov15

The daily recommended amount for fibre intake is around 30g; most people manage only about 8 grams, which can have an impact on your digestive system not working as efficiently as it could. Many of the plant compounds in Brussels sprouts also help manage pain and inflammation throughout the body which can be caused by many different health issues.  Go on, give them another try!

Onions

Onions are fairly easy to include in the daily diet because they add so much flavour to so many dishes.  They’re especially helpful at this time of year because onions are high in quercetin which helps reduce histamine levels.  Hay fever sufferers, take note!

Red,Onions,On,Rustic,Wood

Onions are also rich in flavonoids – powerful antioxidants which have so many beneficial effects on health and are especially protective against heart disease.

Don’t hold back with onions; add them to stir fries (spring onions have the same benefits), soups, curries, pasta dishes or with other roasted vegetables.

Carrots

Whilst carrots don’t quite contain all the pizazz of the cruciferous veggies, they’re certainly in my top five because they do have great health benefits and they’re so versatile too!  Interestingly, although carrots are often eaten raw, their beta-carotene content is better released when they’re cooked.

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

Whether you eat them raw or cooked, carrots still contain loads of fibre, heart-loving potassium, and immune-boosting vitamin C.  If your kids love raw carrots, you’ll still be providing them with some great nutrients.

I love all vegetables and try to eat as much variety as possible.  And always remember – colour = nutrients.  Enjoy!

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Five greens to fuel your body this spring

A,Woman,Is,Cutting,Spinach,On,A,Kitchen,Board.

Spring is finally with us which always brings a smile to our faces.  Coupled with the fact that spring also provides us with some amazingly healthy foods, everything just feels much more positive.

Top of the food list for spring are greens. They are super-healthy and with a little bit of flavour can be delicious too.  You won’t need to be ‘forced’ to eat your greens ever again!

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite greens for spring.

 

Spinach

Spinach doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, partly because its taste can be slightly bland if not cooked correctly.  However, gently wilted in a frying pan, with a little butter and crushed garlic and your plate will come alive!

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

Spinach is extremely nutritious.  And whilst it’s often talked about in the same breath as Popeye, spinach is actually as rich in bone-loving calcium as it is iron.  Additionally, spinach is a great source of immune-boosting vitamin A and vitamin C.

Kale

A member of the cabbage family, kale is also a great source of two key antioxidants – vitamin C and beta-carotene. And just like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, kale contains indoles which stimulate liver detoxification and can also help protect us from diseases.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

Kale can taste a little bitter so ideally needs to be balanced with strong flavours. Simply stir-frying with garlic, soy sauce and oyster sauce is all it needs to bring your plate to life!

Watercress

Another member of the cruciferous vegetable family, watercress is one of the healthiest of all salad vegetables. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants and contains only 22 calories per 100 grams. Interestingly, in traditional medicine, watercress has long been used to treat kidney disorders and liver malfunctions.

shutterstock_601599119 watercress Apr17

 

The distinctive peppery flavour of watercress makes it a great addition to any salad, especially with stronger flavours such as salmon or ham.  For a really easy mid-week meal why not try a creamy pea, watercress and pasta recipe with some mascarpone cheese, tarragon, garlic, and lemon. Delicious!

Purple sprouting broccoli

Whilst it’s a mixture of green and purple, this amazing vegetable is still a spring green!  This type of broccoli is higher in nutrients than other varieties of broccoli and is especially good to eat when young and tender. The darker the colour of the florets of purple sprouting broccoli, the richer the amount of immune-boosting vitamin C and beta-carotene. Boiling broccoli, however, almost halves its amount of vitamin C, so lightly steaming or stir-frying is best.

shutterstock_420677122 purple broccoli Apr17

As with all cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains indoles which help protect DNA from damage and therefore may offer protection from some of our degenerative diseases.

Purple sprouting broccoli will partner well with almost any recipe but is also great stir-fried with some chilli sauce and sesame oil, for a really quick, simple, and healthy vegetable side dish.

Spring greens

The stars of the show, spring greens are so called because they are the first cabbages of the year. They are different to collard greens, which come later in the year, and are a darker green.  Spring greens look more like cos lettuces and don’t have the tough heart of other cabbage varieties.

Stewed,Young,Cabbage,With,Dill,,A,Traditional,Polish,Spring,Dish.

Spring greens are also less bitter in taste and don’t need much else other than some light steaming and drizzling with melting butter.  However, they’re also great in soups and casseroles.  And from a nutritional perspective, they certainly don’t disappoint.  As with other members of the brassica family, they will support your immune system, build and maintain strong bones, and help protect your body against free radical damage, responsible for the ageing process.

You’ll certainly be springing into the next season with these nutritional greens – pack as many as you can into your diet this season.

Stay well.

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A balanced diet starts with a balanced plate: top nutrition tips for every meal

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

As we often say, life is all about balance.  And this completely resonates when talking about nutrition and having a balanced diet.  But what exactly does this mean, and how can it be achieved?

It is all about macronutrients, how each benefits the body, and, therefore, how to combine these to create well-balanced plates at every meal.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her nutrition tips and what a balanced plate of food looks like.

 

Macronutrients

There are three key macronutrients: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. In addition, fibre is often referred to as a macronutrient, such is its importance in the diet and overall health. Water is of course essential for life, and we should be drinking around 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, depending on activity levels.

Protein

Protein fulfils a wide range of functions and it’s an integral part of our body’s make up.  Protein forms much of the skeletal frame, primarily as collagen but also in muscle. Protein is also needed to produce immune cells, hormones, brain neurotransmitters, enzymes, and many biochemical reactions. It can also be used as an energy source.  There are 20 amino acids that help form the thousands of different proteins in the body.

A range of foods containing protein

Essentially, protein is sourced from both animals and vegetables. Animal sources include meat, dairy, fish, and eggs, whilst vegetable sources from plants, include legumes, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.  Many plant sources do not contain the full complement of amino acids; hence a wide range of foods need to be eaten, but it is possible to obtain sufficient protein from plants alone.

Such is protein’s importance to our health; we should eat it every day and ideally at every mealtime in some form or another.

Fats

Nothing in life is simple and the different types of fats can be confusing. We need some fat in the diet but ideally not too much saturated fat.  Ideally the diet should contain around 20-30% fat with no more than 10% coming from the saturated kind found primarily in red meat and high fat dairy produce like cheese and butter. However, fat is essential for the body to utilise our fat-soluble vitamins – Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K. It is also essential for insulating the body and is used as an energy source.

shutterstock_376614814 omega 3 fats Mar16

We often see the word ‘polyunsaturated’ on foods. Care is needed with these because once heated polyunsaturated fats are turned into trans fats which can be damaging for the heart and arteries.  Eating too much margarine is certainly not a good idea.  However, essential omega-3 and 6 fats are super-healthy and must be eaten regularly in the diet.  To this end, oily fish and nuts and seeds are your friends.

Carbohydrates

This macronutrient includes many foods such as fruits and vegetables as well as grains.  These are used to produce starchy foods such as bread and pasta.  It’s important to favour complex carbs found in whole grains over the refined variety which contain little fibre and nutrients.  Refined grains are frequently used to produce white bread, pasta, cakes, and pastries. Non-refined carbohydrates are found in whole grain rice, wholemeal bread and pasta and other grain-based food such as buckwheat.

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

Carbohydrates provide the body’s preferred energy source, glucose, since the body can produce this easily from foods.  Glucose is also loved by the brain, and it uses a whopping 30% of what goes into the body.

Fibre is a carbohydrate and is high in fruits, vegetables, and non-refined grains; another great reason for them featuring highly in the daily diet.

What does a balanced plate look like?

Much depends on individual lifestyle and activity levels.  If you do a very physical job, you will need more carbohydrates.  However, a balanced plate of food should contain all macronutrients in varying amounts.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

As an example, a typical dinner plate might contain a medium-sized piece of wild salmon, a small amount of carbohydrate (say a clenched fist size) and two or three different portions of vegetables. This could be a few sprigs of broccoli, a handful of peas and a carrot, sliced and cooked. This plate therefore provides all macronutrients, including fibre, plus some of those important essential omega-3 fats.

Poached egg on brown toast

When it comes to breakfast, eggs are a great option, providing you with protein and fat, with a slice of wholemeal toast. Add a side of mixed berries to provide additional healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

It will not always be easy to get the perfect balance with every meal, but over the day, it can be achieved with a little planning.  Importantly, enjoy the food on your plate; food is one of life’s biggest pleasures!

 

Stay well.

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Suzie’s top foods to help increase your energy levels

 

Vector,Illustrator,Of,The,Fork,And,Spoon,With,White,Plate

Food is of course our main source of fuel and energy.  So, giving your diet the thought it deserves on a daily basis is very important.

The quality and variety of the food we eat is critical to our overall wellbeing which includes energy production.

To help you on your way, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five energising foods to keep you going all day long!

 

Whole grain bagels

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Delicious, versatile, and low in fat, whole grain bagels provide a great energy boost.  Whether you start the day with a toasted bagel with scrambled eggs, or with some low-fat cream cheese and smoked salmon at lunchtime they will really hit the spot!

Whole grain foods are naturally high in energising B-vitamins because they haven’t been highly refined.  They also contain plenty of minerals, especially magnesium, which is needed for energy production too.

Eggs

A healthy breakfast of eggs, smoked salmon and avocado

You might not associate a high protein food like eggs with energy.  However, protein keeps blood sugar levels in check, and so too energy levels.  In fact, having some eggs at breakfast really helps to keep energy levels sustained all-day long. Eggs are not only high in protein but also rich in energising iron and B-vitamins.

The great news is that there are many ways to eat eggs, so you’ll never get bored of having the same meal. Scrambled, fried, poached, as an omelette or frittata, or even as French toast where bread is dipped in egg and lightly fried – the options are endless. 

Sweet potatoes

shutterstock_260427179-baked-sweet-potato-feb17

Whilst all types of potatoes are great for providing energy, sweet potatoes have the slight edge on nutrient content, but also for keeping blood sugar levels in balance. This in turn will provide sustained energy for longer.

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is made into vitamin A in the body, and helps protect the immune system too. And sweet potatoes can be prepared and eaten in exactly the same way as white potatoes.  Plus, if you eat them with some protein, energy levels will soar all day long.  It’s time to enjoy a jacket sweet potato with tuna as an easy, low-fat lunch or quick evening meal.

Chickpeas

Chickpea salad with feta

Chickpeas are a legume which are high in both protein and good carbs.  And they’re certainly a perfect food for vegans.  In terms of energy, chickpeas are great because they’re packed with B-vitamins, especially folate, alongside iron, magnesium, and copper.  Furthermore, they’re rich in fibre so they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer and well as keeping your energy levels high.

If you’re struggling to decide how to eat them, then why not try this delicious and easy recipe for even more energy.  The addition of iron-rich spinach makes it the perfect lunch or dinner choice. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/spinach-chickpea-curry

Bananas

Whole bananas and diced banana

No wonder we often see athletes eating bananas before, during or after an event or match. Bananas provide an instant pick-me-up, especially when energy levels are flagging.  Even better, they’ll keep you fuelled up because bananas are high in fibre so energy levels will be sustained.

Bananas are also a great food for exercise recovery because they provide electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, which are lost during exercise.  The quicker you can recover from a heavy workout, the sooner you’ll have the energy for another session. And if you’re thinking of eating them as an easy breakfast, then do add some protein in the form of natural yoghurt for an even great energy hit.

So, up your energy levels with Suzie’s five easy ways of keeping you fuelled and ready to go for longer!

Stay well.

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Seasonal Eating: What to eat in December

A table laid with christmas foods including turkey, cake, cheese and decorations

The festive season is upon us which brings its own traditional food choices during this period.  However, as always, it’s good to eat foods that are naturally in season as they are at their best.

And some of these can certainly feature as part of your Christmas menu.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods for December.

 

 

Turnips

For some reason turnips don’t seem to get the same accolades as parsnips.  Perhaps it’s because turnips were traditionally grown as cattle fodder in the nineteenth century. And whilst turnips are generally available all year, they are at their tastiest right now.

Rustic,Organic,Turnips,With,Fresh,Green,Tops,And,Roots,On

From a nutritional perspective, they provide a range of nutrients including immune-boosting vitamin C, hormone balancing vitamin B6 and bone-loving calcium and manganese.  Importantly, and just like all members of the brassica family, turnips contain indoles which ramp up liver detoxification enzymes, perfect for this time of year.

Turnips can be baked just like potatoes, with some thyme, and are delicious sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese.

Apples

Whilst the nutritional benefits of apples are never in question, they can be quite confusing to choose from as there are over 7,000 varieties! But which ever ones you choose they provide some great health benefits.

Apples made into a heart shape on a wooden background

Apples are prized for their pectin content. Pectin is a gentle form of soluble fibre hence apples have traditionally been used to treat constipation.  Importantly, pectin helps remove ‘bad‘ cholesterol from the blood stream, making apples a heart-healthy choice.

Apples are also higher in fructose than glucose which means they’re lower on the glycaemic index and help to balance blood sugar levels. This is also important when keeping a watchful eye on the waistband.  Apples are also a rich source of vitamin C to give the immune system a much-needed boost at this time of year.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Interestingly, they are not from Jerusalem and are also not part of the artichoke family! However, I frequently write about Jerusalem artichokes because they are some of the best vegetables to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Close up of artichokes

Just like a garden, the gut microbiome needs to be cultivated and fed and this vegetable is great for the purpose. They are rich in inulin which is known as prebiotic bacteria. As with all vegetables they’re also rich in vitamin C and potassium. Jerusalem artichokes make a delicious side dish simply roasted with or without the skin.

Kale

Interestingly kale is not only in season at this time of year, but also definitely much tastier too! Kale is a member of the Brassica family and provides amazing health benefits, especially in protecting the liver, but also providing compounds to protect future health too.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

From an antioxidant perspective, kale delivers on vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, hence its role in protecting current and future health. It is also rich in key minerals such as manganese, iron, and calcium, all generally lacking in the typical UK diet and essential for the heart and bones, amongst other things.

Kale can be slightly bitter so is best sauteed with a little garlic and soy sauce to make a delicious side.

Potatoes

Potatoes often get bad press, especially from people following the ketogenic diet as they are obviously high in carbs.  However, boiled potatoes are lower on the glycaemic index than jackets, therefore their starch content is less.

a basket of jersey royal potatoes

Importantly, potatoes provide a great and inexpensive energy source so are great for feeding and satisfying families.  They also contain plenty of vitamin C and if eaten with the skin, provide a great source of fibre.

If you’re looking for a festive treat, then dauphinoise potatoes, made with cream, garlic and cheese is one of the most delicious ways you’ll ever eat them!

So, enjoy all that nature has to offer this season and grab some great health benefits too!

Stay well.

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Seasonal eating in November

Vegan,Diet.,Autumn,Harvest.,Healthy,,Clean,Food,And,Eating,Concept.

In the same way that we feel the outer effects of the changing seasons, especially when the temperature drops, the body also feels the disruption internally.

For this reason, nature has very thoughtfully provided seasonal foods to support the body the best way that it can.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares three delicious seasonal foods, perfect for now.

 

Goose

Whilst there may be a ‘run’ on turkeys early this year, there has been little mention of goose. So, it may be worth changing things up a little this year, both for traditional Christmas fayre, and for pre-Christmas celebrations.

Whilst goose meat is much higher in fat than turkey, much of it is lost during cooking.  However, the fat content is still comparable to many cuts of red meat.

Roasted goose on a plate

In terms of nutritional content, goose is a rich source of iron, which is frequently deficient within the UK population, especially in young women.  Plus, protein content is the same as turkey (really good) at 20 grams per 100 grams. From a mineral perspective, it’s high in bone-loving phosphorous, plus goose delivers plenty of energy-giving vitamins B1 and B6.

Roasted goose is delicious. Consider including roasted chestnuts both for their wonderful, slightly sweet taste but also rich nutritional value. Chestnuts are particularly high in trace minerals that are essential for overall health.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash is probably one of the most popular of the squash family, with other members including pumpkin, cucumber, and courgette. As with all root vegetables in season at this time of year, butternut squash provides a great source of sustained energy, plus it’s low in fat and high in nutrients.

shutterstock_226218175 butternut squash Dec15

As with all the orange-coloured vegetables, they’re a rich source of beta carotene which is turned into vitamin A as needed by the body.  Vitamin A is essential for good vision (especially night vision), the immune system, healthy skin, and protecting mucous membranes, especially those associated with the lungs.

What to do with butternut squash?  There’s certainly no shortage of options.  They add an amazing flavour to risottos, soups, pasta, and curries. They are also simply delicious baked and mashed with some cinnamon or nutmeg and a little cream, for a real treat.

Mackerel

With the UK population being wildly deficient in the essential omega-3 fats, mackerel could really help improve the nation’s health in this respect.  Mackerel is not only a great source of omega-3s but also the minerals zinc and selenium (both also lacking).  Selenium is essential for good heart health as are the omega-3s. Plus, mackerel does provide some much-needed vitamin D, especially through the winter months. Even better, mackerel is often fished from UK waters.

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

Of all varieties of fish, mackerel probably has one of the strongest flavours, therefore works really well with other equally strong ones, including various spices. Sharp flavours such as lemon complement well. Because mackerel is fairly rich down to its fat content (predominantly the omega-3s), then rich, buttery sauces are certainly not recommended.

So, enjoy some wonderful flavours and amazing health-giving nutrients by eating seasonally this November.

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

All images: Shutterstock