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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Five ways to have a happy and healthy holiday

The holiday season is here! Whether you’re planning to venture overseas or having a staycation, you and your family all want to feel happy and healthy so you can enjoy your summer break to the full.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer offers her five top tips for great holiday health.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

HAPPY TUMMIES

Gut health is still big news and it certainly holds the key to maintaining great all-round health. If your internal systems aren’t working too well then everything else is going to struggle. In order to try and prevent any nasty tummy troubles on holiday, you need to prepare your gut beforehand; about a month before your holiday or planned staycation would work really well but taking helpful measures at any time will be beneficial.

Enter kefir. Kefir is the king of fermented foods and helps encourage the good gut bacteria, which we all need, to flourish. In fact, it seems to encourage a diversity of good bacteria. It may also be that kefir is more resistant to stomach acid than probiotic supplements, so it will be of even more benefit to the digestive system.

Kefir is readily available in supermarkets. The only downside is that it’s quite sour so it’s best mixed with plain yoghurt and berries on top of muesli or granola.

WATCH THE WATER

We’re generally wary of tap water when travelling to countries not always known for their cleanliness. However, it’s surprisingly easy to pick up a germ (such as a parasite) from water anywhere. Sometimes these can live in the body without making themselves known for a while and then they may start to give you digestive problems. Worse, you could pick up something that really upsets your stomach and spoils your holiday.

The best advice is to drink bottled water wherever you are and brush your teeth with water that has been boiled. Alternatively, you can buy water sterilising tablets to use when you’re away – always better safe than sorry.

Drinking sufficient water is also essential when the weather is hot. Aim for around two litres of bottled or filtered water daily during the summer months. You’re going to sweat more when it’s hot plus if you’re drinking alcohol then this will further dehydrate the body. Any holiday hangovers will be lessened too if you’re well hydrated.

DETER MOSQUITOS

Many a holiday or trip can be ruined by mosquitos feasting on unsuspecting humans. As always, prevention is better than cure. Eating foods high in vitamin B1 may deter mosquitos; beef, liver, wholegrains, oats, brewer’s yeast (think marmite) and brown rice are all good sources of vitamin B1. Also, it’s best to avoid eating refined sugary foods; these make the skin sweeter which will further encourage mosquitos. Plus, of course, alcohol is going to further entice them to your skin!

If you’re prone to insect bites, then it’s also worth packing some repellent spray. Whilst you may not like the smell of it, neither do they!

SUN PROTECTION

Whilst sun cream protects you on the outside from sun burn, they’ll often be parts of the body that get missed when applying it, plus the skin still dries out when exposed to the sun. So, it’s really worth protecting yourself from the inside too!

Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that’s found in many fruits and vegetables, especially yellow and orange ones. Sweet potatoes and yellow peppers both contain lots of beta-carotene. Therefore, make sure your diet is packed with vegetables and some fruit all summer long. It’s not always easy to eat everything you need when holidaying abroad, so make sure you’ve eaten plenty before you go.

POST PLANE YOGA

Sitting on a plane for a few hours (or more) can really give you stiff muscles and joints, not to mention digestive issues. The muscles in the back, quads, hips and glutes all contract. However, with some gentle stretching once you reach your hotel room, you’ll soon be feeling back to your normal self.

Forward bends from standing wide legs, extended child’s pose from a kneeling position and then extending forward as far as possible, and the cat stretch – on all fours breathe deeply, back arched on the inhale and rounded on the exhale – can really help. Do all of these stretches a few times and your muscles will be lengthened again and you’ll be ready to really start your holiday!

So with a little forward planning you can better enjoy your well-earned break.

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Pea power: discover the nutrients and health benefits

A bowl of fresh green peas and a pea pod

Peas are in season right now, so they’ll be tasting their very best and will deliver wonderfully healthy nutrients. They are a great summertime food and can be included in lots of different recipes. Moreover, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes as we’ll find out!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us the low-down on peas.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

VARIETIES OF PEA

From the family known as Fabaceae, we are all acquainted with the traditional green pea. However, they also come as mange tout (often known as snow peas) and sugar snap peas. Peas can also be dried and are then usually called split peas. Peas are legumes, which are plants that bear fruit in the form of pods. Of course sugar snap peas and mange tout contain edible pods, whereas green or garden peas have a much tougher outer pod which isn’t usually eaten.

Green peas are very often eaten from frozen and are a ‘staple’ vegetable that most of us have in the freezer. From the moment they are harvested, peas start to lose their vitamin C content and their natural sugar content starts to be converted into starch. As freezing usually takes place very quickly after the pods have been picked, their chemical changes will be minimal. Frozen peas still contain far more nutrients than tinned peas, providing plenty of fibre, folate (great for the heart) and the bone-loving mineral, phosphorus.

OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS OF PEAS

All richly coloured fruits and vegetables contain wonderful health benefits, in particular, a wealth of antioxidant nutrients to prevent disease and to help hold back the years. However, peas in particular also contain high concentrations of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These two nutrient jewels are known to protect eye health; they seem to block blue light from reaching the retina which can lead to macular degeneration. Moreover, these carotenoids promote good eye health generally and help maintain good eye sight long into old age.

Peas are also very low in fat, high in vitamin K (also good for the heart and bones), as well as energy-giving vitamin B1.

HOW TO ENJOY PEAS

Peas are most often eaten as a vegetable side dish, as are mange tout and sugar snaps, but they’re also great added to a summer frittata, which can be eaten hot or cold. Peas make wonderful soups either combined with ham or mint, and are an excellent addition to a summery seafood risotto. Sugar snaps are wonderful added to any green salad and mange tout is a great addition to stir-fries.

WHAT ABOUT SPLIT PEAS?

Split peas are actually dried peas; they split naturally once the skins are dried and removed and are often yellow in colour. They sometimes get forgotten when up against green peas, but they are still wonderfully nutritious. Clearly, enjoying fresh foods is certainly best but split peas provide really high amounts of fibre, so they help to keep the bowels moving.  Additionally, their high fibre content makes them very effective at reducing cholesterol levels. Furthermore, as with all legumes, they’re low on the glycaemic index meaning they keep blood sugar levels in check; this is especially helpful for those trying to lose some pounds.

Something about split peas which is not widely appreciated is that they are high in the trace mineral molybdenum, which helps detoxify sulphites. Unfortunately sulphites are widely used as preservatives in a variety of foods, particularly salads and prepared meats. People allergic to sulphites may suffer from headaches and other unpleasant ailments. However, having sufficient molybdenum stores in the body, will hopefully negate any of these problems.

WAYS WITH SPLIT PEAS

Split peas are great when used to make thick soups, stews, curries or broths containing strong flavoured foods such as chorizo. Importantly, as with other legumes, they are a very good vegetarian source of protein so can be used as a main meal in a dahl dish, for example.

Dahl can be made using tinned tomatoes, turmeric, onions, vegetable stock and curry leaves. It’s wonderful eaten on its own or as a side with some grilled fish or chicken.

So add more peas to your diet this season and enjoy the health benefits of this versatile vegetable.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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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 Herbfacts