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 foods to feed your brain

A plate with a picture of a brain on to represent eating healthily to support a sharper brain

You may be surprised to learn that the brain requires more energy than any other organ of the body. Well, maybe that’s not such a surprise when you think that the brain is always on!

It’s not just energy-dense foods that it loves, but specific nutrients too.  You can often notice the difference in all aspects of brain function when you feed it correctly.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top foods to sharpen the mind.

 

Salmon

Salmon, and indeed all oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, trout, and pilchard, are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids.  The brain contains loads of these fats and therefore they need to be topped up regularly for optimal function.

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

Importantly, the body can’t make these fats, so they need to be eaten in the diet (or supplemented).  If fish is not for you then make sure you’re eating plenty of flaxseeds (they can be sprinkled into yoghurt, cereals or porridge) or go for other nuts and seeds. 

Eggs

Eggs are a great source of many nutrients, but specifically choline, which the brain uses to create a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate memory and mood (amongst other key functions).

Scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes

Eggs are also a rich source of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, also needed for many brain functions, but specifically to produce brain neurotransmitters.  Protein is key for a sharp and balanced brain, and eggs deliver on this front too.  Indeed, starting the day with an egg-based breakfast will tick all the boxes for your brain health.

Blueberries

These beautiful berries are loaded with antioxidants which help protect the brain from damaging free radicals and the aging process.  Blueberries are also loaded with vitamin C which helps support blood flow to the brain, which in turn is going to improve memory and general cognitive function.

shutterstock_270983405 porridge and blueberries Sept15

Blueberries are, of course, very easy to transport, so they make a great snack.  However, they are just as easy to throw over your morning oat-based breakfast or added to natural yoghurt, with some seeds, for a great breakfast option. The great news is that all berries love the brain, so with summer berry season approaching, you’ll have plenty of choice.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is packed with polyphenols, plant compounds that protect the brain from free radical damage but also help memory and overall brain function.  And there’s loads of research to support this too. What’s more, dark chocolate contains plenty of magnesium which helps to reduce stress levels; high levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) are known to adversely affect brain function.

Squares of dark chocolate

Go for dark chocolate (ideally 70% or more of cocoa).  Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not provide the same health benefits and will deliver lots of sugar.  A couple of squares of dark chocolate daily can satisfy any sweet cravings and keep your brain sharp too. 

Water

Dehydration will reduce brain function quicker than nutrient depletion. It’s the often-forgotten piece of the nutritional jigsaw puzzle.  Water is essential for maintaining attention and keeping focus, reducing headaches and memory loss, and improving overall cognitive function. Even just 2% dehydration takes a toll on brain function. Whilst it’s not easy to quantify what this means in terms of volume of liquid, the important point is that even a marginal deficiency will have big impact.

CLose up of a woman holdnig a glass of water

If you aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, and you might need more if you’re exercising heavily, then you’ll be amazed at how much sharper your brain function feels.  And energy levels will soar too!

So, feed your brain by adding some of these elements into your diet and you should start to notice a difference.

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Stress and anxiety: natural ways to support feelings of calm

Close,Up,Of,Calm,Young,Woman,Relax,On,Couch,With

It would seem there has been a dramatic rise in anxiety and stress levels generally, especially since the pandemic started.  Whilst it can be hard to change the way we are feeling, the body’s response to it can be supported. 

There are certain nutrients and herbs that are great for working with the stress response, helping to alleviate feelings of anxiety, and encouraging feelings of calm.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five recommended nutrients and herbs to help calm the body.

 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and has much robust research to support its use especially for anxiety.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

It is an adaptogenic herb, meaning it supports the body through the stress response and adapts to its needs.  Ashwagandha is a gentle, but effective herb and is great for alleviating anxiety, aiding restful sleep, and calming the nervous system generally.

It’s not available in foods, so needs to be taken in supplement form.

Vitamin B6

As with all nutrients, they perform several roles in the body.  Vitamin B6 is responsible for over 100 different enzyme reactions. Crucially B6 is responsible for helping to produce two key neurotransmitters and hormones which help stabilise mood: dopamine, and serotonin.  From serotonin, the sleep hormone melatonin is made, so vitamin B6 plays a key role in helping to instil calm.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B6

As with all B vitamins, they’re water soluble and therefore not stored in the body.  The good news, however, is that vitamin B6 is found in many different foods including beef liver, tuna, salmon, chickpeas, dark leafy greens, and poultry. This list is by no means exhaustive, so having a varied diet will certainly help to ensure you’re having sufficient vitamin B6.

Lemon balm

Officially called Melissa officinalis, lemon balm provides a very gentle sedative and calming effect. It might also help to fight certain bacteria and viruses.

shutterstock_395549032 glass of water with lemon Apr16

As with many herbs, it has been traditionally used, especially in its native Mediterranean region since at least the 16th century. Today, it’s mainly used as both a sleep aid and digestive tonic and can be taken as a supplement, in a balm or lotion, but frequently as a tea.

Some research seems to show that lemon balm works on the calming brain neurotransmitter GABA, helping alleviate anxiety and mood disorders. 

Magnesium

We can’t talk about calming nutrients without a big nod to magnesium. Often referred to as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ magnesium is known to support the stress response in the body and helping calm the central nervous system. Magnesium works in tandem with vitamin B6 in many biochemical reactions within the body, but particularly in producing our calming neurotransmitters.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Interestingly, signs of magnesium deficiency include panic attacks, brain fog, feeling tired but wired, insomnia and lack of concentration; all symptoms we would frequently associate with being stressed. Magnesium also helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

There are a number of different forms of magnesium which can make it confusing when choosing supplements, but the glycinate form is especially great for sleep and anxiety.  However, magnesium is frequently deficient in the heavily refined typical western diet but is rich in dark leafy green. So, load up your plate with kale, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.  Magnesium is also found in beans, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.

Passionflower

The herb passionflower is incredibly effective at bringing calm to the brain and helps lower brain activity generally, which in turn, aids sleep.

A common symptom of anxiety is a nervous stomach and passionflower seems to really help.  Indeed, in ancient times it was often use for digestive upsets perhaps before they realised stomach problems were often caused by anxiety.

Close up of Passion Flower

It’s possible to find some passionflower tea, but it’s much easier to take in supplement form, especially if you’re really on the edge.

Clearly nutrients all work synergistically together so there is no problem with having a wide range in the diet or in supplement form, such as a high-quality multivitamin.  When it comes to herbs, it’s always best to try one first to see how it suits you.  And always remember that what works for one person, may not work for another, so keep trying the many options available until you find relief from your symptoms.

Stay well.

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Seasonal Eating: what to eat this spring

Fresh,Ripe,Asparagus,With,Sunny,,Vivid,,Hard,Light,And,Shadows.

Spring is my favourite time of the year!  Everything feels fresh and new, the days are longer and brighter and there is a great sense of looking forward to summer and being outdoors more.

Importantly too, spring brings some great foods, and they are some of my favourites.

Let me share these delicious spring foods with you as well as the nutritional and health benefits they provide.

 

Strawberries

Whilst we tend to associate strawberries with the summer and Wimbledon, they actually start coming into season during springtime.  Not only do they taste delicious, especially if you buy them freshly picked from a farmer’s market, they have some amazing health benefits too.

Strawberry.,Pattern,Of,Strawberrys,On,Colored,Background.

The rich dark pigments of strawberries signal that this fruit is loaded with protective antioxidants. Whilst they offer a wide range of benefits, they’re especially good for heart health.  Additionally, they help regulate blood sugar balance so are great if you’re wanting to lose weight, and their polyphenol content helps prevent unwanted diseases.

I love them just as they are but they’re also great with a little natural yoghurt, making a perfect breakfast and start to the day.

Asparagus

For some reason, asparagus isn’t everyone’s favourite vegetable.  Perhaps it’s because I know the wonderful health benefits of asparagus that makes me love it more! It’s high in antioxidants, immune boosting vitamin C and vitamin E, plus vitamin K which is needed for healthy bones and blood.

Fresh,Green,Asparagus,Pattern,,Top,View.,Isolated,Over,Green.,Food

I often recommend including asparagus in your diet because of its prebiotic fibre, feeding all the good bacteria that works so hard in the gut to keep us healthy. However, I also love the taste of asparagus, but only when it’s in season, otherwise it can be tough and tasteless.

Asparagus is great barbecued with halloumi cheese, or simply steamed, drizzled with a little butter, and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Celeriac

Whilst I adore celeriac, I don’t eat it often enough because it’s not that easy to prepare!  In fact, its often called ‘the ugly one’ because of its knobbly appearance.  However, if you’ve got a sharp enough peeler, preparing celeriac is not difficult. It can then be boiled and mashed or blended into soups or casseroles.  Whilst it’s closely related to celery, the taste of celeriac is much more palatable and nuttier.

Celeriac

Celeriac has an impressive nutrient profile, being low in fat, but high in immune-boosting vitamin C and vitamin B6, together with vitamin K and manganese for great bone health. What’s not to love!

Crab

Crab is, of course, a strong-flavoured fish but is very versatile, so can be used in many ways.  Freshly caught and prepared, it is a real treat, especially if you eat it in places traditionally known for their crab. Cromer crab is a certainly one of my favourites!

Crab,Meat,Fried,Basil,On,Orange,Color,Background

Whilst it’s fairly low in fat, crab does contain good amounts of the super-healthy omega-3 fats which are essential for the heart, joints, heart, eyes, hormones, and skin. Crab also contains plenty of vitamins, minerals, and protein so it will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Spring Lamb

Whilst I don’t eat much red meat, lamb is certainly top of my list and the taste of spring lamb is especially delicious. As with all red meat, lamb is a great source of iron, so really helps my energy levels. Plus, it’s high in B-vitamins, again great for energy, but also immunity and is a fantastic source of protein.

Lamb

Eating sufficient protein throughout the day, from a range of sources, is essential to keep blood sugar levels in balance.  Protein becomes even more important as we get older to help keep bones strong and prevent muscle wastage.  Losing muscle mass doesn’t need to be a ‘given’ as we age if we take good care of protein intake.

Easter is synonymous with lamb and is certainly a popular choice in many homes as a traditional roast on Easter Sunday.  Cook with plenty of fresh rosemary which is loaded with protective antioxidants, and garlic which is great for digestion and the immune system too.

I really hope you’ll love these spring foods as much as I do!

Stay well.

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Boost your mood naturally this January: top nutrients to support your mood

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

It’s that time of year again when we all tend to feel low in mood and generally lack-lustre.  Grey skies and post-Christmas blues all contribute to these feelings.  However, all is not lost! 

There is an unequivocal link between what we put into our body nutritionally and how we feel and there are some important nutrients that can contribute to your mood.

This Blue Monday Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top mood boosting nutrients and natural herbs, to help put a smile back on your face.

Omega-3 fats

We might not want to see the word ‘fat’ in January but, trust me, these are the good ones!  The omega-3 essential fats are part of the brain’s cellular make up and are essential for mental wellbeing.

A range of foods containing omega-3 fatsIf you’re following ‘Veganuary’ or are already vegan, then you might want to add at least a tablespoon full of ground flaxseeds to your morning cereal as they are a very rich source of omega-3s.  However, if you can eat fish, especially the oily kind, then omega-3s from these sources tends to be better absorbed by the body. As an example, wild salmon at least three times a week is recommended for you to notice an improvement in mood.

 

Vitamin B6

As with all the busy family of B-vitamins, Vitamin B6 fulfils many key functions within the body.  As well as helping with hormonal balance, thereby improving mood, vitamin B6 is needed to produce serotonin, our ‘happy’ hormone. 

A range of foods containing Vitamin B6

B-vitamins are water-soluble so need to be eaten really regularly. Food which is high in vitamin B6 includes fish, liver, bananas, starchy vegetables, and other non-citrus fruits.  Why not cook a delicious root vegetable casserole including sweet potatoes, onions, parsnips, white potatoes, and broccoli. Add some vegetable stock, coriander and serve with cheddar cheese on the top. Root vegetables are all in season currently and this dish is certainly going to put a smile on your face.

Vitamin B12

If you’re vegan or just starting Veganuary, then do take particular note of vitamin B12.  It’s only really found in animal produce and is essential for the production of serotonin.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

Interestingly, some vitamin B12 can be produced in the gut and fermented foods may encourage this process.  Foods such as tempeh and tofu (great in a delicious Thai curry or stir-fry), miso soup and sauerkraut are your friends in this respect and will also provide plenty of other health benefits. However if you follow a vegan diet, a B12 supplement is recommended.

Vitamin D

Known as the sunshine vitamin because it’s produced on the skin in the presence of sunlight, vitamin D is deficient in the UK population especially during the winter months.  As well as being essential for healthy bones, teeth, muscles and immunity, research has also found it be essential for mood.  So, there’s certainly a physiological reason why we often feel low during January.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Whilst you can get some vitamin D from a few foods, namely oily fish, milk, and mushrooms, it’s not nearly sufficient for the body’s needs.  Therefore, it’s important to supplement with vitamin D (at least 10 micrograms daily) if you want to feel brighter.

Ashwagandha

The herb ashwagandha is known as an ‘adaptogenic’ herb. This means it helps the body better cope with stress and improves energy levels.  However, this effect also helps improve mood (it’s often recommended for people suffering from depression), and generally encourages people to feel more balanced.  It’s found only in supplement form.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

However, it’s also worth noting that if you’re feeling low, it’s generally not just one food or herb that makes all the difference: it’s generally a cumulative effect.  Nutrition also needs to be combined with lifestyle changes; why not write down a list of things that make you happy and things that you are grateful for.  Even if it’s only having clean sheets on the bed more often, small changes can have big effect.

So, help your mood naturally by including these nutrients more frequently into your diet.

Stay well.

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Kick-start your energy levels ready for the New Year with these top energy-giving foods

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

As we move towards the new year following Christmas festivities, many of us may feel low in energy. Getting a good balance between being active and relaxing can help support your get up and go. 

However, there are some great foods that you can add to your diet to help support your energy levels.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top energy-boosting foods.

 

Bananas

Bananas are not only a great go-to, on the run delicious snack, they pack a nutrient punch too.  They’re loaded with vitamin B6 which is essential for energy production. Additionally, they also contain plenty of energising folate and vitamin B2. Importantly, they’re high in the mineral potassium, an electrolyte that can frequently become out of balance, especially if you’re exercising hard and sweating a lot.

Whole bananas and diced banana

Whilst bananas are relatively high on the glycaemic index, meaning they’ll give a fairly instant burst of energy, their high fibre content means they will still deliver sustained energy.  Plus, if you eat a banana with some protein, perhaps a handful of nuts and seeds, then the combined effect will reduce the glycaemic load of the banana and keep your energy levels up for longer.

Sweet potatoes

Whilst they’re called potatoes, sweet potatoes are from a completely different family to the white potato.  White potatoes are good for providing energy, but sweet potatoes have the slight edge as they’re a lower on the glycaemic index, therefore energy levels will be sustained for longer.

A bowl of roasted sweet potato wedges

Just like bananas, sweet potatoes are also rich in potassium so will help balance the body’s electrolytes.  Plus, if you’re diet has been high in salt over the festive period, sweet potatoes will help get everything back into balance.

Sweet potatoes can be served in their jackets, cut into wedges and roasted as a substitute for traditional chips, or simply boiled and mashed with a little butter and pepper. Delicious!

Quinoa

Often referred to as a ‘super food’, quinoa can certainly hold its own in the nutritional stakes.  Quinoa is not actually a grain but a seed, which is great for people who can’t tolerate lots of grains or have allergies to these types of food.

Quinoa and bulgar wheat salad with feta

Quinoa is fairly unique in that it’s a food high in both protein and complex carbohydrates, so it’s going to keep energy levels up. Its uniqueness is further highlighted by the fact that it provides all the essential nine amino acids that make up proteins (and other plant foods are generally lacking in some of them). Equally, quinoa is rich in the family of B-vitamins, needed to release energy from food, as well as the minerals, copper, iron, and magnesium.

Oats

Oats are certainly one of the healthiest grains on earth.  They’re a whole grain and a great source of key vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. However, not all oats are created equal and the rougher and larger the pieces of oat, the lower on the glycaemic index they’ll be, and the more long-lasting energy will be delivered.

Porridge topped with bananas and blueberries

Scottish oats have very little refining so are a good choice but try to avoid quick or instant oats as much of the fibre and nutrients will have been lost in the refining process. Overnight oats for breakfast are becoming increasingly popular, where the oats are soaked in milk (perhaps plant-based) with some fruit such as apple, banana, or melon. Add some Greek yogurt and flaxseeds to the mix and you’ve got the perfect start to the day that will keep you fuelled until lunch time.

Water

How often do we forget about water as being a key energy source?  If the body is dehydrated, you’ll be going nowhere fast! Even mild dehydration of 1-2% can affect energy levels as well as mood and the ability to concentrate.

A close up of a woman holding a glass of water to represent staying hydrated

Make a resolution for 2022 to drink at least eight glasses of water daily. Fruit and vegetables also count towards your water intake but however much you’re eating, do keep your resolve on how many glasses you are drinking.

Not only will energy levels improve, but your skin will also glow, digestion will be better, and your liver will certainly thank you!

So, with a few dietary additions you can make 2022 your most energetic year yet!

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.

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Vegetable bakes: 3 delicious and nutritious dishes to fuel your autumn

A range of roasted vegetables

Baking isn’t all about making cakes as much as we love them! Vegetables can also feature in a range of delicious baked dishes, and now really is the time to be increasing your vegetable intake.

We know from published data and research that people are eating even fewer vegetables than they were before the pandemic.  With winter around the corner, now is the time to boost your immune system and get some powerful nutrients, delicious flavours, and gorgeous colours into your diet.

This National Baking Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three favourite vegetable bakes.

Roasted vegetables

This is hands down my favourite way of baking vegetables!  Not only do roasted veggies look great on the plate because of their array of colours, the flavours and textures bring out all that is great about them.

Even better, this is not going to take you hours in the kitchen. It will deliver a wealth of nutrients and you can vary the recipe to suit the season, what’s in your store cupboard, and where the mood takes you.

My favourite vegetables for nutrient value, taste and colour are:

Tomatoes

shutterstock_454912315 tomatoes Mar17

Rich in a powerful antioxidant lycopene to protect immunity and future-proof health.

Courgettes

A range of courgettes

Full of lutein and zeaxanthin that are great for eye health particularly if you’re spending long hours in front of screens.

Broccoli

Broccoli florets on a plate

An all-round superfood but especially great for digestion, detoxification, and antioxidant protection.

Red onion

Red,Onions,On,Rustic,Wood

Slightly more powerful in taste than white onion and loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and quercetin.  If you suffer from any type of allergies, then quercetin can really help to dampen things down.

Garlic

shutterstock_552242461 garlic Aug17

Another great all-rounder and a natural antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial botanical.  Furthermore, it’s great for reducing high blood pressure and helping to manage cholesterol.

Carrots

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

High in beta carotene which is great for the immune system.  Beta carotene is turned into vitamin A which is needed for good night vision: it’s no myth that carrots help you see in the dark!

Simply chop up the veggies, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 30-40 minutes.  You might want to add the tomatoes about halfway through, so they are not overcooked.  You can also add some fresh herbs of your choice. Serve with whatever takes your fancy but a tray of roasted vegetables is delicious with any fish or chicken dish or simply served with quinoa.

Autumnal Bean and Vegetable Bake

As seasons change, so does the seasonal availability of fresh vegetables.  The body needs warmth right now, hence nature provides lots of root vegetables at this time of year.

Pumpkins, synonymous with this time of year,  butternut squash, parsnip and beetroot are great roasted with cumin. These veggies are all rich in antioxidants to protect the immune system during the winter months.

Colorful,Blend,Of,Roasted,Potatoes,,Yams,,Carrots,,Yellow,Beets,,Parsnips

While these are roasting, fry some onions, with garlic, paprika, ground coriander and cumin. These are all warming spices giving the body what it craves at this time of year.  Add some tinned tomatoes (rich in lycopene) and cannellini beans.  All beans are packed with essential protein, fibre and vitamin B6, great for hormone balance.

Canned,White,Beans,With,Green,Fresh,Dill,Leaf

Leave to simmer for 20 minutes then put everything together in an oven dish, add some breadcrumbs and roast until crisp.  You’ve produced a highly nutritious and delicious baked dish!

Cauliflower Cheese with a twist

Cauliflower is part of the highly prized cruciferous family.  As with all the family members (including broccoli), these guys can’t put a step wrong when it comes to protecting overall health.  Add some cheese and everything looks brighter.

In this dish the cauliflower florets are roasted, with some vitamin C-rich red peppers and onions, together with mushrooms, which provide some Vitamin D.  Towards the end of cooking make up a traditional cheese sauce using delicious and flavoursome cheddar cheese.

Loaded,Vegetable,Casserole,With,Broccoli,,Cauliflower,And,Leek.,Top,View,

Pour over the vegetables, top with some grated parmesan and you’ll have the most delicious and warming autumn meal, that’s also loaded with nutrients.  For vegetarians, this is great for providing a protein hit.  Simply serve with a side salad if desired to further enrich the colour and nutrient content.

So, enjoy mixing and matching your vegetables in baked dishes this autumn – it’s a win-win for your health too!

Stay well.

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Buying local: what to eat in August

shutterstock_141202630 local farmers market July20

Buying and eating locally sourced fruits and vegetables in season is great for health, the economy, and the environment. Even more importantly, eating food in season generally provides a lot more ‘bang for your buck’ nutrient-wise.

Whether you have a local farm shop, a farmer’s market or locally sourced fruits and vegetables in a shop nearby, eating with the seasons as nature intended is something to consider as we move through the year.

This National Allotments Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five fruits and vegetables in season, ripe and ready to eat right now!

Raspberries

The beautiful deep pink colour of raspberries is what provides a wealth of antioxidants and other plant compounds that are hugely protective of health. Raspberries are also loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body as needed. Eaton Mess never tasted so good!

A punnet of fresh raspberries

Also, of note is ellagic acid which is especially high in raspberries with an overwhelming amount of antioxidant properties.  Even better, it has been found to increase libido. What’s not to like!

Turnips

Whilst we don’t generally think of warming foods during the summer months, turnips are coming into season right now ready for the colder months approaching. However, don’t wait until the weather cools to enjoy these delicious and highly nutritious root veggies.

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

Turnips were traditionally grown as cattle fodder. However, turnips are part of the highly prized cruciferous vegetable family, rich in indoles that are very protective of health, helping with hormone balancing, together with vitamin B6. Turnips are delicious simply roasted and sprinkled with Parmesan and thyme.

Peaches

Peaches have been grown in the UK for over a thousand years and at their ripest they are supremely juicy! There are hundreds of varieties – nectarines are actually a smooth-skinned peach. As with all fruits and vegetables that are orange, they contain plenty of immune-boosting beta-carotene. This carotenoid is also very protective of the skin, hence it’s no coincidence that they are at their best during the summer months.

shutterstock_297863489 peaches July16

Peaches are also high in potassium which can help support heart health and reduce blood pressure. Peaches actually pair really well with raspberries in a Peach Melba with Raspberry Coulis, or on their own, simply spiced with some cinnamon.

Broad Beans

Whilst they may not be at the top of everyone’s shopping list, partly because they can be bitter and tough, when fresh, and bought from a farmer’s market, broad beans are crisp and delicious. A typical Mediterranean vegetable, they work especially well with pork-based meats such as pancetta or chorizo.

Broad beans in a bowl

As with all beans, they’re a great source of protein and fibre, but also vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and potassium.  And if you’re struggling with low mood, you might want to add some broad beans to your plate as they contain L-dopa, which is used by the body to produce our feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine.

Sweetcorn

Traditionally, sweetcorn was first grown and eaten by the Mexicans and Americans, hence corn on the cob is frequently found on their restaurant menus. Sweetcorn is a form of maize and as such is a staple crop both here and there. And whilst sweetcorn isn’t necessarily the most nutrient dense vegetable, it still provides useful amounts of immune-boosting vitamins A and C.

Fresh,Corn,On,Cobs,On,Rustic,Wooden,Table,,Closeup

Sweetcorn is also rich in fibre so is great for digestive health and, unusually for a vegetable, is high in vitamin B3, essential for good nervous system function. It’s certainly best eaten simply as corn on the cob, rolled in a little butter and black pepper.

Seek out your local farmer’s market or farm shop for the healthiest and freshest fruits and vegetables in season right now.

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.

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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