Autumn foodie favourites: what’s in season right now?

A plate with autumn leaves to represent autumn food and nutrition

Whilst it can be a bit confusing as to what’s in season when so much of our food is available year-round, it’s always best to try to ‘eat with the seasons’. So what does October bring us?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five great foods to eat this month.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

CRANBERRIES

Cranberries are traditionally associated with Christmas as an accompaniment to turkey. However, they’re at their best right now and that continues through to December. They used to be known as ‘bouncing berries’ as the fresh ones literally do! Most importantly, there’s a wealth of ways you can use them in the daily diet.

A basket of fresh cranberries

Cranberries are packed with plenty of immune-boosting nutrients to help you through the upcoming ‘bug’ season. They’re loaded with vitamin C, iron and plenty of antioxidants. Plus, they’ve also been proven to help fight urinary tract infections. However, it’s recommended to drink cranberry juice (look for low sugar ones), rather than the whole berries if you’re prone to suffering.

Cranberries are great in a sauce with roasted duck, can be used dried in breakfast muesli, and baked in muffins.

PUMPKINS

The month of October can never pass without mentioning pumpkins! The most famous of winter squashes, they are packed with the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene which the body turns into immune-boosting vitamin A as needed.

A range of pumpkins and squashes

Pumpkin is delicious roasted; in fact it’s probably easiest cooked this way as the skin can stay on. Preparing pumpkins can sometimes be slightly challenging although well worth it as they are delicious in stews, soups or mashed as a vegetable side. The seeds are highly nutritious and can also be lightly roasted with a little olive oil and salt for a healthy snack.

PEAS

Peas are often one of our staple vegetables on the dinner plate, partly because they are a popular frozen vegetable option. Frozen peas often more tender as they are picked and frozen quickly so the natural sugar doesn’t have time to turn into starch.

A bowl of fresh green peas and a pea pod

Peas are high in vitamin B1 which is good for the heart, and supports natural energy and the nervous system, plus they’re a good source of vitamin C.

The versatility of peas means they can be eaten in many different dishes; with pasta, in stir fries and risottos, in soups and as part of a Spanish tortilla, just as a few suggestions!

OYSTERS

Hailed as a luxury food, oysters will always make a statement on any plate! October is actually one of the best months to eat them in season as they are spawning during the summer months and their taste and texture changes.

A plate of fresh oysters

One of the best nutritional facts about oysters is that they’re loaded with the mineral zinc which is needed for healthy reproduction and fertility; this is the very reason oysters are known as aphrodisiacs!

It can be quite challenging to shuck an oyster yourself, so it’s worth buying them already prepared by an expert fishmonger. However, they need to be eaten fairly soon afterwards. Some people like them plain, others squeeze some lemon juice over them, or they work really well with a little tabasco to spice things up a bit!

GOOSE

Not just for Christmas, goose is coming into season right now. Whilst it does contain more fat than chicken or turkey, at 22 grams per 100 grams, goose has an excellent nutrient profile with greater levels of immune boosting iron and vitamin B6. Plus it contains the same amount of protein as turkey, which is even more than duck or chicken.

Roasted goose on a plate

A goose will produce fat when it’s roasting and some people cook it on an open tray and catch the fat as it drains off the bird. Goose fat helps create the best roasted potatoes so if you cook a goose during October, the collected fat will still be great for cooking your roasties on Christmas Day!

So celebrate these healthy and delicious October foods and enjoy seasonal eating this autumn.

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The five best nutrients for eye health

Close up of woman's eyes

What we eat can have a massive impact on the health of our eyes. In fact, so key is vitamin A to the health of the retina of the eye, it’s actually called retinol! Excessive exposure to the sun, without wearing sunglasses, smoking, alcohol and a diet high in refined foods can all adversely affect eyesight.

The good news is that there’s plenty of nutrients that love the eyes and can really help.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five eye nutrients.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

VITAMIN A

Top of the class has to be vitamin A because it’s so key for vision (especially night vision) and all-round good eye health. Vitamin A is only found in animal produce, with liver claiming the top spot. Full-fat dairy produce and eggs are also great sources. However, the body also makes vitamin A as it’s needed from the carotenoid, beta-carotene. It’s the yellow, orange and green pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their bright colours. Indeed, it’s also the reason for the old wives’ tale that ‘carrots help you to see in the dark’.

A selection of foods containing Vitamin A

The good news is that if you’re vegetarian, as long as you’re eating colourful fruits and vegetables such as peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, kale, melon and mango, for example, then you’ll be getting your daily dose of vitamin A.

LUTEIN

There are a number of other carotenoids, alongside beta-carotene, which are equally valuable for healthy eyes, one of these being lutein. Just like beta-carotene, it’s a powerful antioxidant, so it can protect the eyes from ageing and free radical damage generally.

A selection of green leafy vegetables

However, lutein, which is especially rich in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, helps protect the eyes from damaging blue light that’s emitted in large amounts from electronic devices. Have you found your eyesight deteriorating the more you sit at a computer? You need to make sure you’re eating something green every day to help protect your eyesight.

ANTHOCYANINS

What are they? In simple terms they’re a group of plant compounds that are very high in antioxidants, protecting the eye from free radical damage, primarily from sunlight, poor diet and smoking. Specifically, anthocyanins help maintain the health of the blood vessels and cornea in the eye.

A pile of blueberries with a pair of glasses on top

Anthocyanins are high in ‘blue’ fruits such as blueberries, blackberries and bilberries. Although bilberries are not eaten as much as other blue fruits, during the Second World War fighter pilots were made to eat bilberry jam because it was found that their eyesight (particularly night vision) improved enormously.

Certainly all these blue berries are a great ‘go-to’ snack or a fabulous asset to your morning porridge or muesli.

OMEGA-3 FATS

This group of fatty acids are essential within the diet as the body can’t make them. They’re part of our cellular make up and are also part of the eye structure. Indeed, so important are they for eye health that nature cleverly includes DHA (another omega-3 fat) in breast milk.

Omega-3s may also protect eyes from the very common condition of macular degeneration, which is a gradual condition that tends to affect older people. They can also help prevent dry eyes – another side-effect of looking at computer and other electronic screens.

A range of foods high in Omega 3 fats

Oily fish is the best source of omega-3s, but nuts and seeds (especially flaxseeds) are also rich sources. Try to make them a part of your daily diet and your eyes will shine brightly.

SEAWEED

Very much in favour right now, there are some good reasons for seaweed gaining so much in popularity. It’s a rich source of nutrients generally, but also those specifically involved with eye health such as zinc, vitamin A and the essential omegas.

Seaweed is a general name given to a huge number of algae and marine life. Indeed, most seaweed that you can now buy in supermarkets will likely contain a variety. Additionally, dried seaweed can easily be added to stews, soups, salads or munched on as a snack.

Close up of edible seaweed on a plate

As well as its impressive array of nutrients, it has an anti-inflammatory effect and has the potential to help prevent any complications that may occur after cataract surgery; a common operation, particularly in the elderly which helps restore good eyesight.

As you can see, nature has provided us with the wonderful power of sight but has also delivered amazing nutrients to help protect eyesight into old age.

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Autumn wellness: is your body fit for winter?

Happy woman in autumn playing with autumn leaves

As our beautiful UK summer comes to an end, just as night follows day, winter will be upon us before we know it! Sad as it is to feel the cooler days (and nights), it’s also the perfect time to ensure your body is well equipped to prevent any nasty bugs or infections from getting a hold this season.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top tips for winter immunity.

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OVERHAUL YOUR DIET

Whilst it’s often hard to eat the ‘perfect’ diet every day, the more foods you can eat that help boost your immune system on a daily basis, the better. In fact, your diet is the first port of call when it comes to ‘prepping’ your body for winter.

Eating some protein such as fish, chicken, eggs, dairy produce, beans, lentils and wholegrains at every meal is key. The immune system needs these types of foods to produce immunoglobulins – blood proteins that act as disease-fighting antibodies. Plus, many other nutrients such as vitamin C (found in most fruits and vegetables), vitamin E (in wholegrains, nuts, seeds and avocadoes), vitamin A (high in liver, cheese, eggs and sweet potatoes) and zinc (especially rich in pumpkin seeds and lean red meat) are all key immune boosters. So try to keep your diet as varied and colourful as possible to ensure your body gets the spread of nutrients it needs.

Range of foods to show a balanced diet

It is also important to keep sugar to a minimum; try to reduce the amount of refined carbs, alcohol, and fizzy and caffeinated drinks on a daily basis. Sugar in all its forms has an adverse effect on the immune system.

INCREASE YOUR HERBS AND SPICES

There are a wealth of herbs and spices that have strong immune-boosting powers and even anti-viral and antibacterial properties. Plus, they all enhance the flavour of many popular dishes.

For example, garlic is probably one of the best known infection-fighters and works well with so many different foods; meat, fish, and vegetables – the list is endless. Additionally, ginger is equally beneficial to the immune system. Both herbs can be used in easy stir-fries, for example.

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

The herb thyme is delicious added to casseroles or pasta dishes and is great made into an infusion with boiling water and gargled if you’re unlucky enough to get struck down. Thyme tea is recommended for all types of infections, including earache and sinusitis. All herbs and spices will have far-reaching health benefits, so add as many as possible to your dishes!

BOOST YOUR MOOD

A healthy mind is equally important for a strong immune system and can reduce your likelihood of getting struck down with a cold or flu. If you’re suffering from low mood, then you’re more likely to suffer from infections. Sharing problems with friends or family can often help. However, it may also be helpful to seek out some complementary therapies such as massage, aromatherapy and acupuncture to help lift a low mood.

Woman with legs crossed sitting on bed meditating

Equally, self-help strategies can be very powerful. Daily meditation, for example, is very effective for many reasons and may really help alleviate stress. It takes some practice (and obviously a little time, initially), but it is well worth persevering.

However, if low mood persists or there are emotional issues in your life, then it may be helpful to seek the services of a qualified counsellor. Often talking to someone who is properly trained to deal with problems can be very beneficial.

ACTIVITY AND EXERCISE

There are so many positive reasons to get moving! Not only will it support the immune system by boosting infection-fighting white blood cells, it will help relieve stress, release mood-enhancing endorphins and better nourish your body generally by enhancing oxygen to every part of your body.

Close up of two women enjoying a run outdoors together to show benefits of exercise

You may not want to spend hours in the gym, which is fine. However, any form of exercise carried out four or five times a week, for around 30 minutes, is going to be hugely beneficial to the immune system. And don’t forget that a brisk walk every day certainly counts as great exercise. If you haven’t got a dog to walk, maybe ‘borrow’ one from a friend to help with motivation!

SUPPORTIVE SUPPLEMENTATION

If your diet isn’t always as nutrient-dense as you’d like or you’re under a lot of stress, this is going to put a strain on the immune system. It makes sense, therefore, to take a good quality daily multivitamin to help plug any nutrient gaps and to ensure you’re definitely getting the sufficient vitamins and minerals associated with a strong immune system.

Echinacea flower and tea

There are certain herbs, licensed as herbal remedies, which are great to take as a preventative measure. Echinacea is a popular herb, which has been used for many years to help prevent and treat colds and flu. It’s worth starting it now for a few weeks, since it increases white blood cell production. Equally, the herb pelargonium is anti-viral and antibacterial and can be taken at the very first sign of a cold, if you’re unlucky enough to get caught! Both herbs should be a medicine cupboard staple for the winter months.

So with a few simple tweaks to your diet and lifestyle, you can have a bug-free autumn and winter!

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Eat your way to great hydration

Close up of woman on beach with a glass of water to represent hydration

You probably don’t need reminding that the heat is on right now! We all want to enjoy summer months to the full. However, the body needs to be properly hydrated for energy levels to be sustained and the brain to remain sharp. The body is around 70% water, so what’s the best way of keeping water levels right?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her insights on hydration!

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Clearly, we lose more fluids when the weather it hot and steamy because, not to put too finer point on it, we sweat more! Plus, exercising during the hot weather is going to require more fluids to be replaced.

The best advice is to try to avoid dehydration. You can tell if you are properly hydrated because your urine should be almost clear. Generally, we need a minimum of the equivalent of eight glasses of water daily, and up to two litres during the really hot weather.   However, there’s lots of water in fruits and vegetables and they also count towards your fluid intake, plus they’ll deliver lots more besides!

The body naturally contains electrolytes, including sodium, and they all help to regulate water balance in the body. Therefore, we know that for effective hydration, water and other essential nutrients are all needed.

Here are five foods that will keep you hydrated all summer long!

CUCUMBER

This is probably the most watery of all vegetables. It contains some great immune-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, but also provides plenty of electrolytes, so if you’re slightly dehydrated in the heat, it will help to get everything quickly back in balance.

Close up of cucumber

One of the great things about cucumber is that it makes a great snack and is particularly good dipped into hummus. Plus it’s so refreshing; keep a chilled jug of water handy with some sliced cucumber, mint and ginger. It makes drinking water much more interesting!

CELERY

Whilst many people find the taste of celery a little strange and over-powering, it’s certainly worth persevering. It contains plenty of vitamins A, C and K plus some fibre. Celery is also a must for helping to alkalise the body; the body prefers to be slightly alkaline rather than acidic. Over-acidity can cause muscle and joint pain, which is certainly not something you want when you’re out and about enjoying the summer.

Chopped celery and celery stalks on a wooden chopping board

Just like cucumber, celery makes a great summer snack or can be added to a smoothie or juice. In fact, having a vegetable juice after you’ve been exercising or sweating a lot in the heat is one of the best ways of re-hydrating the body.

WATERMELON

An obvious and delicious choice for summer! Watermelon needs no accompaniments – it’s just great simply sliced. It’s also perfect added to a jug of chilled water in the fridge and it’ll encourage you to drink more water! Watermelon is just over 90% water and its rich colour means that it’s also a great source of sun-protecting antioxidants.

Watermelon segments on a wooden board

Plus, if you’re planning a steamy night, then watermelon is the fruit to eat! It contain citrulline which stimulates the amino acid arginine that encourages blood flow to the sexual organs!

BERRIES

Strawberries actually contain the highest water content of all berry fruits and summer is the perfect time to be enjoying them all at their very best. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries and blackberries all make great fruit salads, smoothies, crumbles, pies or Eton mess. And because they’re so transportable, they make perfect post-exercise re-hydration snacks.

Blueberries and strawberries in a heart shape on a wooden board

All berries are packed with anthocyanins, which are plant compounds high in age-blocking antioxidants. So, you’ll skin will look fresh and plumped from being properly hydrated and nutrient-loaded.

SPINACH

Whilst it can be very frustrating when cooking with spinach, as it reduces down so dramatically, its high water content makes it an excellent summer vegetable. It’s best added to salads to enjoy all its nutrients, but most importantly, to keep the body super-hydrated.

A pile of spinach leaves

Additionally, spinach is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, both powerful carotenoids which are very protective of the eyes. Whilst you should always be diligent about wearing sun-glasses when the sun is strong, your eyes will be better protected from the blue light that’s emitted from electronic devices, particularly computers.

So, whilst you’re eating your way to optimal hydration, you’ll also be benefitting from a great nutrient boost at the same time.

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Healthy Halloween foods with nutritious bite!

Two women holding jack-o-lantern pumpkins over their faces

With Halloween falling eerily close on the calendar, it’s the perfect time to think about getting in the spooky mood.  As we know, foods come in all colours, so why not celebrate Halloween by eating deliciously healthy treats with traditional Halloween colours?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us some ideas to make this Halloween the healthiest yet with orange, black and green foods!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

OMINOUS ORANGE!

Top of the list of traditional Halloween orange foods has to be pumpkin!  In fact, it’s almost too nutritious to be put outside the front door and used as a lantern!  However, as with all winter squashes, they’re an amazing source of beta-carotene, which is one of most powerful antioxidants.  They’re also easily digested and rarely cause allergies.

For the pumpkins that you use as lanterns, don’t forget to save and roast the seeds in a little olive oil.  You can spice them before roasting by rolling them in a mixture of salt and dried spices: cayenne, ginger, cumin and cinnamon all work really well together. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fats, minerals and fibre.

Mango is, of course, orange and in season right now!  Mangoes are relatively new to the UK; they were traditionally cultivated in India but are now widely grown throughout the tropics.  As with all orange fruits, they’re packed with vitamin C – great for boosting your immunity now the autumnal weather is starting to bite.

BLOODCURDLING BLACK!

Black is not a very common food colour, but nature has provided us with some black foods to treasure.  For example, blackberries are packed with nutrients including immune-boosting vitamin C.  Their colour is due to the anthocyanins, which are plant compounds that have real health benefits; they’re full of age-defying antioxidants.

Black rice contains as many antioxidants as blackberries and helps to manage inflammatory conditions.  Black rice might not be a top choice when thinking about preparing rice for a meal, but it’s really worth a try; it’s got a distinctive nutty flavour and interestingly, during the Ming Dynasty it was called ‘longevity rice’ and was reserved for the Emperors to give them good health.  Use it in the same way you would any other types of rice.  Why not prepare a black Halloween risotto?

For a real Halloween twist, why not add some jet black squid ink to your own home-made fresh pasta? It’s delicious prepared with garlic and olive oil or alternatively it’s traditionally served with fish, often mussels in white wine and garlic sauce.

GHOULISH GREEN!

You can go very green for Halloween! Green apples spring to mind at this time of year as apples are bang on season right now.  What would Halloween be without some traditional apple-bobbing? And of course let’s not forget toffee apples!  Whilst many toffee apple recipes will suggest using red apples, there’s nothing wrong with using green; they’re often slightly sharper in taste which helps to balance the sweetness of the toffee.  Create some ‘scary’ toffee apples using caster sugar, golden syrup and some red and black food colouring.

Another deliciously healthy Halloween green food is globe artichoke.  Although they look slightly strange, globe artichokes contain some wonderful health benefits; they contain a compound called cynarin which helps to detoxify the liver and aid digestion.  Young globe artichoke buds can be cooked and eaten whole.  Alternatively, they can be prepared by cutting in half and removing the base and top and also the hairy middle.  They can be gently boiled and used in a variety of recipes or as a starter with hollandaise sauce.

However, if you’re looking to ‘up-the anti’ with spooky but healthy Halloween foods, think guacamole as green slime. Green olives with a raisin stuck on using cream cheese make great eyeballs on sticks! Why not create a Dracula mouth by slicing green apples into a mouth shape, adding some peanut butter in the middle and then stick on some monster teeth using sliced marshmallows.

Halloween doesn’t always need to be about sugary sweet and treats; it can still be scary but healthy!  Have fun!

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Five immune-boosting nutrients to get you ready for the cold season

With the winter months fast approaching, the season for bugs looms large. Thankfully nature has provided us with a wealth of nutrients to help fend off colds and flu. Whilst vitamin C and the mineral zinc are well-known as great immune-boosters there are 5 other key nutrients which are essential to keep you fighting fit this winter.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares these five top immune-boosting nutrients!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

VITAMIN D

Vitamin D tends to be associated with healthy bones and teeth, but it is also a key player in the health of the immune system.  Vitamin D is fondly known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin because it’s primarily made on the skin in the presence of sunlight. So during the winter months, people living in the Northern Hemisphere, including the UK, are likely to be deficient.  This is the very reason that Public Health England recommend supplementation of Vitamin D for everyone, particularly during the winter.

So how does it work?  It would seem that vitamin D activates a key part of the immune system – the killer T-cells – that detect unwanted viruses and bacteria.  T-cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate, otherwise they would remain dormant.

As well as taking a supplement of vitamin D this winter, eat plenty of oily fish, particularly those containing small bones such as sardines, pilchards and mackerel.  However whilst they provide some vitamin D, they may not be sufficient to keep your immune system in tip-top shape all winter-long so supplementation is recommended.

FRIENDLY BACTERIA

You may be surprised to know that your gut is home to 70% of your immune system.  It’s actually the body’s largest protective barrier between you and the outside world, and these defences come in the form of beneficial, friendly bacteria or probiotics.

One of the most prevalent strains of friendly bacteria is lactobacillus acidophilus, which is often found in yoghurt with active cultures. Probiotics need feeding to be as efficient as possible. Foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, lentils, oats and bananas will all feed these good guys and boost your immune system at the same time. You can also try a good quality probiotic supplement.

VITAMIN B6

Women in particular may associate vitamin B6 with supporting good hormone balance, but it also plays an important role in the immune system.  Vitamin B6 helps to increase antibody reactions which fight infections, and also stimulates the production of T-cells.

 

The good news is that vitamin B6 is rarely deficient in the diet.  However, increasing intake is going to have a positive effect on the immune system.  Avocados (great on toast for breakfast), bananas (an excellent afternoon snack), salmon (also packed with health-giving omega-3 fats), and foods containing wholegrain flour (such as whole wheat bread) provide excellent amounts of vitamin B6.

BETA-CAROTENE (Vitamin A)

Beta-carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body when needed, which is essential for the health of the immune system as well as vision and cell integrity.

Vitamin A itself is mainly available in animal produce such as meat, liver, eggs, butter and cheese, so vegetarian and vegans may be lacking. However, beta-carotene is widely available in lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables including carrots, butternut squash, broccoli, kale and cantaloupe melon.

Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A when needed but it does require sufficient protein, zinc and vitamin C to do so.  A diet rich in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, plus adequate protein either from animal or vegetable sources, together with some nuts and seeds will ensure beta-carotene can carry out its work most effectively.

VITAMIN E

As with a number of other nutrients, vitamin E improves B-cell and T-cell function (both key parts of the immune system). It also protects white blood cells from damage.  However, just like many other nutrients, vitamin E doesn’t work in isolation; it works hand-in-hand with selenium.

Luckily wheat germ and whole wheat flour both contain good amounts of these two nutrients so try to include these in your diet. Avocados, sunflower seeds and oils are all great sources of vitamin E.

As we know, when it comes to nutrients, nothing works in isolation in nature. Therefore eating a colourful ‘rainbow’ coloured diet every day is going to go a long way to keeping the bugs at bay this winter.

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Switch up your nutrition this autumn with some seasonal food favourites

As the new season arrives, a change in temperature also signals a change in what to eat.  It makes great health sense to eat with the seasons, as nature intended.  However, some of our traditional summer foods can still be eaten, in slightly different ways, as some seasonal ones are introduced.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives some top tips on what we should be eating this autumn!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

As the days get a little colder and darker we may naturally reach for traditionally filling foods such as macaroni cheese or other heavy pasta dishes. Unfortunately these are notoriously difficult for the digestive system to cope with and can leave you feeling bloated and lacking in energy.

Instead, choose foods that are packed with nutrients and loaded with antioxidants.  Prevention is always better than cure and if you can keep your immune system in good shape now, hopefully you’ll dodge the autumn/winter bugs!

BERRIES

We tend to think of berries as being summer fruits.  However, they’re always available and whilst we may eat them just as they are or with a little crème fraiche in the summer, they’re also great in warming recipes.  Think warm blackberry coulis, apple and blackberry crumble, braised red cabbage with blackberries or raspberry muffins.

Whilst some of the vitamin C will be lost during cooking, these dark berry fruits are packed full of anthocyanins – powerful plant compounds that provide protective antioxidants to support the immune system as the nasty bug season starts!

HERBS AND SPICES

As the weather becomes a little chilly, the body craves more warming foods. Warming herbs and spices that are perfect for this time of year include black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and horseradish.

All are really easy to include in everyday dishes. Porridge is a great warming breakfast and works perfectly topped with some cinnamon.  Not only will your body be warmed and ready for the day, the oats will keep you feeling fuller for longer and this effect is also enhanced due to the blood sugar balancing effect of the cinnamon.

Ginger is also versatile in many recipes, particularly stir fries and Thai dishes, and is just as effective used in a tea.  It has thermogenic properties which can keep you warm and also speeds up the metabolism so you’ll burn more calories even whilst sitting at your desk!

And of course the traditional Sunday roast is perfect right now; roast beef with hot horseradish sauce is definitely an autumn favourite!

WINTER VEG

Many delicious vegetables come into season as we move into the autumn months.  Pumpkins, of course, are very seasonal with the approach of Halloween.  But don’t just use them as lanterns; pumpkins are packed with nutritional wonders!  They contain high levels of beta-carotene which the body turns into vitamin A, which is essential for the immune system and also for night vision (perfect for the darker evenings!)   Curried pumpkin soup is a real winner.  You’ve got all the nutritional benefits of pumpkin but you can also include many warming spices such as ginger, chilli, cayenne and cumin.

Swede is great as a vegetable side dish mashed with black pepper or can equally be used in stews. Celeriac often gets forgotten about but makes a great vegetable side dish, and courgettes add colour and taste to any plate.

Why not roast a large tray of root vegetables for a warming supper dish; carrots, beetroot, artichokes, onions and parsnips all work well together and complement roasted cod with garlic perfectly!

So enjoy experimenting with more warming foods this autumn and embrace the seasonal produce!

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Celebrate the summer berry season

The Great British institution of Wimbledon kicks off this week, and whilst in celebratory mood our thoughts tend to turn to strawberries.  Home-grown British strawberries are at their absolute best right now in terms of flavour and the great news is that they also deliver some amazing health benefits. 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the health benefits of these heart-shaped fruit.  And if strawberries don’t ‘float your boat’ there are plenty of other berries to choose from!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

STRAWBERRY NUTRITION

It may surprise you to know that strawberries are not actually a fruit at all!  This is because their seeds are on the outside, not the inside. They are actually part of the rose or rosaceae family!

Strawberries are a very rich source of vitamin C.  In fact, they feature at about number five in the list of foods highest in vitamin C.  They also contain folate, one of the family of B vitamins that delivers great energy.

Strawberries contain manganese, which is great for the joints.  This benefit is further enhanced by the presence of compounds called ellagitannins which help manage inflammation in the body (which ultimately can cause pain). So if you’ve been hard at work in the garden and your back is complaining, you know what to reach for!

Anthocyanins provide the amazing red colour of strawberries, and these plant compounds also deliver some powerful immune-boosting antioxidants.  Strawberries are also high in fibre to help keep the bowels running smoothly and support a healthy heart.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF STRAWBERRIES

As well as their enviable nutritional profile, strawberries are beneficial in a number of health conditions.

With Type 2 diabetes becoming ever more prevalent, one of the best ways to try to avoid its onset, is by eating foods that are known to be low glycaemic (or low GI).  This means that whilst they contain sugar, mainly in the form of fructose, this type of sugar is released more slowly into the body. Therefore, this helps to balance blood sugar levels, an imbalance of which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Strawberries actually have a much lower glycaemic index than other fruits such as bananas, pineapples, apricots and cantaloupe melon.

As previously highlighted, strawberries are rich in antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation in the body, and this too can have positive benefits on brain health.  Even though very limited research has been carried out, it seems that eating strawberries can help re-generate the nerves involved in the area of the brain that processes new information. So summertime, when strawberries are at their best, might be a great time to learn something new; maybe a foreign language so you’ll be well prepared when next year’s holiday comes around!

So, what if strawberries aren’t top of your berry list? No problem – there are plenty of other berries to choose from!

BLUEBERRIES

Ranked second only to strawberries in terms of their popularity, blueberries are often referred to as a superfood.  As with strawberries (and other berry fruits), it’s all about the colour. The deep pigment colour is attributed to anthocyanins, which are very powerful compounds that provide antioxidants.

Part of the reason that blueberries are often termed superfoods, is because they have a wider array of other health-boosting plant compounds than almost any other fruit. They have been found to be great for maintaining sharp brain function, keeping blood sugar levels in balance and supporting the eyes.

CHERRIES

Whilst cherries may be seen as more difficult to eat because of the stone, they more than make up for this inconvenience with their nutritional benefits.

Cherries come in the form of sweet or tart and they actually provide different health benefits.

Whilst they’re a rich source of vitamin C just like the other berry fruits, all cherries have been found to help combat the painful condition, gout, which causes very painful and inflamed joints.  Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood and cherries actually help to reduce this, thereby aiding symptoms.

On the other hand, tart cherries are one of the only natural sources of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone.  They are fairly sharp to eat whole, therefore are best consumed in tart cherry juice which can be sipped morning and evening for best effect.

BLACKBERRIES

If strawberries are closely associated with Wimbledon, then blackberry-picking just shouts ‘summer’! Wild blackberries are abundant on the hedgerows and are an amazing accompaniment to many a dessert, particularly a fresh, fruit salad.

Whilst they contain an amazing array of powerful plant compounds, blackberries also provide an impressive amount of vitamins including vitamins A, E, K and the B vitamins. Blackberries are also high in two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to be highly beneficial to eye sight.

So summer berry season is here!  Enjoy them all for extra health and nutrition benefits and feel energised all summer long!

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In-season: the wonders of asparagus

English asparagus has just come into season and is delicious.  Rich in many nutrients, it is a very versatile vegetable whether boiled, steamed, roasted, cooked on the barbeque or grilled.  Plus, there’s no shortage of foods it can be combined with.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us the reasons why asparagus should be on your weekly shopping list!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Asparagus is a spring vegetable with the most edible part being the tips.  It is often more expensive than some other vegetables, even when in season, because of the work taken to harvest it and the fact that its natural season is very short.

 

As with many fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, asparagus was used in traditional folk medicine to treat a number of symptoms, especially inflammatory conditions.  Whilst it’s no longer part of your GP’s medicine chest, asparagus remains a very good source of fibre to keep the bowels healthy and is also a natural diuretic which could help with water retention: it also helps liver detoxification so might be well-chosen for a hangover cure.  Even better, it feeds the good bacteria in the digestive tract, helping to stop bloating, boost immunity and promote healthy skin.

There’s just one little downside; after eating, our urine does acquire a rather strange smell and this comes from the amino acid, arginine.  However, it’s not a prolonged side effect and it also means that asparagus contains some protein, which is another plus!

NUTRIENT PROFILE

Asparagus is rich in folate – the food-form of folic acid – which is great for energy and producing healthy red blood cells; a 100 g portion of asparagus provides around three-quarters of the body’s requirement for folate each day.  It’s high in vitamins C and E which help to boost the immune system, together with beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body – also great for immunity.

Asparagus is also high in vitamin K which is needed for effective blood clotting, strong bones and a healthy heart. As if that weren’t enough, asparagus also contains the minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, iodine and zinc.  Minerals in general are often deficient in the daily diet, purely because they are not present in highly refined foods which tend to make up a large percentage of the typical Western diet. So in this respect asparagus really is a mineral star!

ASPARAGUS MEAL IDEAS

Asparagus is delicious lightly steamed and served with some hollandaise sauce.  This can either be made from scratch using egg yolks, lemon juice, mayonnaise and a little cream or the shop-bought versions are generally really good.  Even better, it’s on many restaurant menus, so enjoy it as a starter.

Another really easy way with asparagus is lightly roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt, pepper and garlic. Or why not try roasted and tossed with some parmesan cheese, or sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Asparagus works particularly well with eggs.  It’s great steamed and topped with a lightly boiled egg as a starter or as part of a salad with egg, avocado, peppers and spinach leaves.

For the more adventurous, it’s delicious in one-pot dishes such as chicken thighs roasted with garlic and rosemary, in a soup with peas, or in a stir fry with anything you fancy!

So catch asparagus while it’s in season right now; the taste and texture won’t be better!

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Start the day the right way: 5 top breakfasts

 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you start your morning with the right fuel, you’re much more likely to sustain energy levels throughout the day, stay alert and focussed, and successfully manage your weight longer term.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top breakfasts for the healthiest start to the day.

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WARMING PORRIDGE WITH BLUEBERRIES

Even though winter is more or less behind us, porridge is still one of the best breakfasts all year round.

Ideally choose whole grain oats because these are filled with fibre to keep the bowels moving.  Whole grains are unrefined, which means they are packed with nutrients, particularly energising B vitamins.  Oats naturally contain beta-glucans which help to keep blood sugar levels balanced (which is one of the reasons eating porridge helps to keep your energy sustained).  If you have high cholesterol beta-glucans are also very beneficial as they are known to help reduce levels.  To finish off, just add some blueberries or fruit of your choice.

Alternatively, for people who find oats rather hard to digest, then here’s a wonderful and quick solution; soak the oats overnight in either some dairy-free milk or dairy-free yoghurt – they’re delicious the next morning, plus they’re really portable.  Add any fruit or topping of your choice and you’ve a wonderful on-the-run, healthy breakfast.

HIGH PROTEIN QUINOA WITH DELICIOUS SPICES

As a change to traditional porridge, quinoa makes a wonderfully filling and sustaining breakfast; quinoa is naturally high in amino acids so it will keep your energy levels even throughout the day.  It’s also a great source of fibre so will rev up your digestive system, particularly if it’s feeling sluggish after the winter months.

Put the quinoa in a saucepan with either some cow’s milk or almond milk and water and cook the quinoa for around 30 minutes. After 15 minutes add some flavourings of your choice; cinnamon, vanilla essence and orange zest work particularly well.  You can also add a little honey to taste, or  fruit, whilst sprinkling some pumpkin seeds or nuts over the top which will give you some added flavour, as well as some healthy omega 3s!

TASTY BREAKFAST OMELETTES

Any egg-based breakfast is always a great choice; eggs are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin D, and a high protein breakfast will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

There are plenty of omelette fillings to choose from, but tomatoes, mushrooms, red peppers and onions are all good choices.  Just gently fry your chosen filling with a little olive oil.  Meanwhile, beat up a couple of eggs with two tablespoons of milk and pour into the pan.  Add some mixed herbs to serve if desired and you’ve got a winning breakfast!

NOURISHING BAKED BEANS ON TOAST

When time is short, this is a great quick and healthy breakfast option.  Plus, it’s great for kids if you’re having trouble getting them to eat a proper breakfast; baked beans will seem like a real treat at breakfast time!

Baked beans contain protein as well as low-glycaemic carbohydrates, meaning the energy will be released more slowly.  Plus they’re also a good source of immune-boosting vitamins A and C, together with calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Always go for beans without added sugar if you can.

Serve the baked beans on wholemeal brown or rye toast for some additional energy-giving B vitamins and you’ve got a great and quick breakfast all the family will love!

POWER-PACKED SCRAMBLED EGG WITH AVOCADO

Many people shy away from eating avocados and this is partly because they’re fairly high in fat.  However, what’s important to know is that they contain good levels of heart-loving monounsaturated fats.  And don’t forget fat is not always the enemy; we need a certain amount for energy and to keep our metabolism functioning well.

Avocados are also high in vitamin E which is great for the skin; you’ll often see avocado on the ingredient list of home-made face masks.

Avocados work really well with eggs, and this breakfast combination is definitely going to sustain you right up until lunchtime without feeling the need to snack. This is a great ‘power’ breakfast and if you want to add a slice of toast of your choice plus a few baby tomatoes or smoked salmon for even more nutrients, then go right ahead!

So make your breakfast fit for a king and you’ll notice just how much better your feel all day long!

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Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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