Eating with the seasons: nutritional foods for January

Fresh,Fruits.,Sliced,Fruit.,Orange,And,Pomegranate

It’s always important to eat with the seasons and as nature intended, to gain the biggest health benefits.  And for many of us, trying to be as healthy as possible during January is very much at the front of our minds.

Nature has provided what the body needs at certain times of year, plus if you buy locally grown produce, nutrient content will generally be better and it’s kinder to the environment too.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five in-season foods for January.

 

Jerusalem Artichokes

Top of my list has to be this amazing vegetable. They are supremely healthy and provide a really useful addition to the diet. 

Jerusalem artichokes are loaded with a prebiotic fibre called inulin which is incredibly healthy for the gut.  The gut houses billions of bacteria (hopefully more good bacteria than bad), but they need feeding with this kind of fibre for the gut to remain healthy. 

shutterstock_541940524 roasted jerusalem artichokes Dec17

A healthy gut supports a healthy mind, the immune system, hormones, digestion, skin and so much more. Jerusalem artichokes are also a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, which are all frequently deficient in the daily diet. Serve them roasted in a little olive oil.

Kale

A member of the super-healthy cabbage family, kale is not always popular, partly because of its bitter taste and often tough texture.  However, this is much improved when eaten seasonally and with some other flavourings such as garlic and soy sauce.

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The health benefits are certainly forthcoming, especially because kale contains a plant compound called sulforaphane, which has been found to help prevent some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  Kale is also a rich source of calcium to help support strong bones and Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E – all important antioxidants.

Pomegranate

Pomegranates are slightly strange to look at because of their mass of tiny seeds.  However, these seeds are nutritional powerhouses, and have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits. This is probably one of the reasons that research has found them to be especially beneficial for brain health; they can help protect this vital organ from free radical damage. Additionally, they are loaded with fibre so are great for the digestive system.

Quinoa,Salad,With,Pomegranate,On,Rustic,Kitchen,Table

Just like many fruits, pomegranates work well in sweet or savoury dishes, and are a particular favourite with salty cheeses and walnuts, making a great salad trio.  Moreover, it’s lovely to see some vibrant colours on the plate when the weather is so grey outside!

Oranges

Clearly the UK climate is not going to support the growing of oranges, but they are certainly at their best at this time of year, imported generally from Spain.  Whilst it’s always best to eat locally grown produce, it’s difficult when we want to gain the wonderful health benefits of a food we simply can’t grow in any meaningful numbers.

A bowl of oranges

Oranges are a great source of vitamin C.  As this vitamin is water-soluble and easily destroyed during storage, preparation and cooking, oranges are probably best eaten in their raw state to gain maximum health benefits. They also contain good levels of folate which will help to give energy levels a boost too.

Oysters

Oysters are available all year round but are certainly good at this time of year, and can be sourced from UK waters, especially around Colchester and Whitstable.

Oysters become especially important coming into February with Valentine’s Day looming.  Oysters are often referred to as ‘aphrodisiacs’ or ‘the food of love’.  The reason for this is that they contain really high amounts of the mineral zinc, essential for healthy reproduction.  There is always some truth behind these ‘old wives’ tales!

A plate of fresh oysters

Oysters also contain other minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and the antioxidant, selenium.  Importantly, they’re a rich source of iodine which is frequently lacking in typical western diets and is essential for cognitive function, especially in the developing foetus. 

So, why not add some of these season foods into your diet this January and reap the nutritional benefits?

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The health benefits of a traditional Christmas dinner

Concept,Of,Christmas,Or,New,Year,Dinner,With,Roasted,Chicken

Eating a traditional Christmas dinner is obviously incredibly popular, especially in the UK.  And whilst many of us will consume more food than usual, the standard Christmas dinner is a well-balanced meal when it comes to nutrition.

From the turkey to the sides, there is much to be revered when it comes to this delicious fayre.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, looks at the key foods in a traditional Christmas dinner and shares their nutritional and health benefits.

Turkey

Turkey has more protein than chicken. It also contains less fat (if you keep away from the skin) and slightly less calories overall.

From a micronutrient perspective, turkey provides an excellent source of vitamin B12 (essentially only found in animal produce), and in fact contains all B vitamins, which fulfil so many key functions in the body, not least energy production.

Roast Christmas turkey

When choosing the turkey meat for your plate, try and mix up light meat and dark meat; the dark meat is a richer source of the mineral zinc, essential for the immune system, skin, hair, and eye health.

Brussels sprouts

Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts generally appear on most Christmas meal plates.  They are really worth getting to like because they’re incredibly healthy and nutritionally balanced.

Tasty,Roasted,Brussels,Sprouts,With,Bacon,On,Blue,Wooden,Table,

As part of the super-healthy family of cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts contain indoles which may help prevent certain nasty degenerative diseases. Indoles are also incredibly effective for oestrogen detoxification which helps women better balance hormones, especially as we go through the menopause. Additionally, Brussels sprouts are high in fibre, which is often lacking in UK diets, and the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene.

As some of us find Brussels a little bitter, they are often more palatable lightly boiled and then stir-fried with some bacon and pine nuts.

Roast Potatoes

Roast potatoes are often given a bad rap due to their fat content but it’s only down to the fat they’re cooked in; unfortunately, traditional goose fat falls into this category but it’s only one day, so enjoy those delicious roasties!

Roasted,Baby,Potatoes,In,Iron,Skillet.,Dark,Grey,Background.,Close

Potatoes are a good energy source and if eaten with protein, such as turkey, have less effect on blood sugar levels.

They’re also a great source of immune-boosting vitamin C, heart-loving potassium and fibre and no-one can deny that they are an absolute essential on the Christmas table, well roasted and crispy – yum!

Parsnips

Parsnips can often be used in dishes as an alternative to potatoes but when it comes to Christmas dinner, they should definitely have their own place.

Parsnips are a traditional root vegetable that come into season during the winter months for very good reason; all root vegetables provide good energy but can also be used in a myriad of hearty, warming dishes.

A bowl of roast parsnips

When planning a traditional Christmas dinner, roasted is certainly the best option, and many of us like to cook them in a little honey for added sweetness.  In the scheme of things, this isn’t a problem and parsnips certainly give back in terms of their nutrients.  They are high in vitamin C and vitamin E, both needed for healthy blood cells, as well as folate, which helps support the nervous system and energy levels.  And let’s not forget parsnips’ very useful fibre content too, supporting our digestion.

Carrots

The biggest nutritional benefit of carrots is that they are an excellent source of beta-carotene. This nutrient is one of our most powerful antioxidants, protecting the body from free radical damage.  This in turn, helps protect us from the ageing process and, hopefully, some of our serious degenerative diseases.

Fried,Carrots,With,Green,Herbs,In,Baking,Tray,,Close,Up

Beta carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body as needed which is essential for sight and especially night vision.  Just one carrot a day can help with poor night vision if this is becoming noticeable.

The good news is that cooking carrots actually improves bioavailability of beta carotene, which means it is more easily converted into vitamin A.

All in all, a traditional Christmas meal is healthy and nutritious and should be enjoyed with great gusto!

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Winter warming dishes for an energy boost

 

Winter,Smiling,Woman

Flagging energy levels are very common at this time of year.  And it often happens when you need more energy than ever especially during the festive season. Eating warming foods is also important as the weather gets colder.  With the Festive Season rapidly approaching, we’re going to need all the energy we can muster to fully enjoy it!

However, help is at hand in the form of some great nutrient-packed foods to send those energy levels soaring!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five great energising foods and how to include them in warming dishes this December.

 

Beetroot

Beetroot really can take a top spot when it comes to energy production. Beetroot is high in dietary nitrates which help improve physical performance, which is not just beneficial for the athletes amongst us, but for a daily boost too. Plus, beetroot is high in the B vitamin folate, essential for energy production, and beta-carotene to help support the immune system.

Concept,Of,Tasty,Eating,With,Borscht,On,Gray,Background

 

Beetroot is in season right now and really is an incredible superfood. Why not make an easy and delicious Borscht, which is a filling, warming and cost-effective traditional soup? It is perfect for this time of year, and also benefits from other seasonal veggies, including red cabbage.

Venison

Venison is not only a great source of protein, which can be used for energy, it’s higher in iron than other red meats.  Iron is frequently deficient in UK diets and is needed for both energy and brain function. Additionally, venison is lower in fat than most other game.

Copper,Pot,Of,Venison,Goulash,Stew,Seasoned,With,Fresh,Herbs

 

Venison casserole is a wonderful winter warmer, which doesn’t take too much preparation time, and also provides the heart-health benefits of garlic, onions, mushrooms, and red wine.

Butternut squash

Often referred to as winter squash, they provide a great source of beta carotene and vitamin E – important antioxidants. Squash provides some complex carbohydrates, delivering plenty of sustained energy.

Butternut,Squash/,Pumpkin,In,Authentic,Thai,Red,Curry,Coconut,Sauce

However, as a winter warmer, any type of squash makes the perfect staple ingredient for curry: just add protein-rich chickpeas, onion, and large tomatoes.  Importantly, the body not only likes foods that are physically warm to eat, but also provide a warming effect.  Coriander is a great herb for the winter months and adds great flavour to any curry recipe.

Interestingly, squash is non-allergenic so makes a perfect weaning food.

Apples

We do, of course, see apples in the supermarkets all year-round, but they are harvested during the autumn months.  Therefore, enjoying a deliciously warming apple recipe at this time of year is a great way to gain maximum nutritional benefits.  Vitamin C is especially rich in apples which provides a good energy source.

Apples,,Cinnamon,And,Chunky,Applesauce,On,White,Background

Another great heath benefit of apples is their high pectin content.  Pectin provides much-needed fibre for the digestive tract; it works as a prebiotic feeding the good gut bacteria and helps reduce cholesterol levels.

Why not use some more warming winter spices which partner so well with apples, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, stewed with some butter and sugar? Combine them either with sweet or savoury dishes, especially pork.

Potatoes

Potatoes are certainly one of our main go-to root vegetables during the winter months; they’re satisfying, energising and partner with everything!  Indeed, mashed potato is probably one of the most favourite vegetable sides at this time of year.

They’re a rich source of carbohydrate, are low in fat and high in vitamin C, which is needed for energy and is one of our key antioxidants.

Roasted,Potatoes,Wth,Zucchini

Why not use them in a warming winter tray bake with chicken pieces, onions, garlic, bacon, and sliced courgettes (another member of the squash family)? That way, you’ll lock in all the nutrients and warm the soul too.

There are so many great ways to warm the body from the inside out this season, all whilst getting a nutrition hit too!

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Fuel up and feel energised with these seasonal foods

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

With the Festive Season rapidly approaching, we’re going to need all the energy we can muster to fully enjoy it!

However, it’s always best to eat with the seasons too, to keep in touch with nature’s cycles and eat more foods that are locally grown, thereby helping the planet too.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five in-season foods that you’ll love and will boost energy levels too.

Pears

Pears tend to be synonymous with Christmas because they’re often poached with delicious spices, such as cinnamon and cloves. And if you’ve haven’t had poached pears before, then this year make it a first!

Pears often play second fiddle to apples, maybe because they tend to be juicier and perhaps less transportable as a snack. However, they are high in fruit sugars (although only 70 calories per pear on average) so provide some quick energy.  Also, they’re loaded with vitamin C, which is not only great for the immune system but is needed for energy.

shutterstock_298111103 pears Sept17

If poached pears aren’t for you, then why not serve them as a savoury starter, which will impress your guests, as griddled pears with goat’s cheese and hazelnuts are delicious

Pheasant

This game bird might not be for everyone but, as with all game, pheasant is very high in energising B vitamins.  We’ve all seen pheasants charging round the fields and flying swiftly above our heads at this time of year.  The fact that they’re so active makes them very low in calories and fat.

Grilled,Pheasant,With,Bacon,And,Spices,And,Vegetables,,On,A

Game birds do tend to have a stronger flavour which may take some getting used to, but if they are hung for long enough to tenderise the meat, then there’s much to enjoy with pheasant.

They also provide a rich source of protein which can be used as an energy source by the body. All in all, you should feel pretty good after eating pheasant.

Brussels sprouts

At this time of year, we can’t fail to notice plenty of Brussels sprouts in the shops.  And for some of us, the Festive Season isn’t quite right without them.

shutterstock_86858659 sprouts and bacon Nov15

The good news is that Brussels sprouts are loaded with both vitamin C and folate, so you’ll really get an energy boost, but they also contain some amazing plant compounds which help protect the body from some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  It’s a win-win for sure.  Some people find them too bitter on their own which is why flash frying them with bacon can often make them much more acceptable in taste.

Chestnuts

If anything reminds us of Christmas, then it’s got to be chestnuts! These guys are higher in carbohydrates than other nuts, so are going to really help energy levels.  However, they do contain slightly less protein and fat than their counterparts.

Roasted,Chestnuts,On,An,Old,Board.,Selective,Focus.

For many Europeans, chestnuts were an important staple food in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such is the greatness of their nutritional profile. Watching Christmas lights, whilst eating a bag of roasted chestnuts seems like a pretty good way of getting into the festive spirit and finding an energy boost too.

Quince

Whilst it seems to be a somewhat ‘old fashioned’ fruit, it is still remarkably popular in jams and jellies and complements both sweet and savoury dishes.  Importantly, you’ll find them in plenty of local farmer’s markets.

Fresh,Quince,Fruits,On,White,Wooden,Table

If it’s energy you’re looking for, then quince is going to provide plenty of vitamin C and energising iron.

What to do with quince?  If you’re looking for inspiration, then they certainly blend well with spicy pears or what about cooking a warming, filling and highly nutritious beef and quince stew?

So, get energy-boosted and ready to fully enjoy the up-coming season by including some of these seasonal foods in your diet this December!

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How important is Vitamin C to health?

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

We’ve all heard of vitamin C. And we really started to understand its importance for our health once the Government campaign of ‘5-a-day’ of fruits and vegetables kicked in.  The more fruits and vegetable you eat, the more vitamin C you’ll get, and hopefully your health will improve.

Interestingly, research shows that since neolithic times, intake of citrus fruits and berries, rich in vitamin C, have fallen by 90%.  So why does Vitamin C matter so much?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives five reasons for making sure your diet is rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin C supports immunity

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This is probably one of the main reasons that people know about vitamin C.  It’s often talked about in the context of colds or flu because it plays a key role in immune mechanisms.

Vitamin C enhances the production of white blood cells which are essential for fighting off unwanted invaders by increasing antibody levels. However, during times of physical or emotional stress, we tend to lose more vitamin C in the urine.  This also happens when we’re subjected to chemical stressors such as pollutants or cigarette smoke, hence a good daily supply of vitamin C is essential.

Vitamin C is a key antioxidant

shutterstock_268257674 antioxidants crate Apr15

Indeed, it’s our primary antioxidant helping to protect the body from free radical damage.  The body is very clever (as we know!) and it has in-built antioxidant enzyme systems to protect the body from the outside world but also what goes on inside the body.  Normal metabolic processes create free radicals; hence we have these systems in place.

These enzyme systems need vitamin C to function correctly.  Since it’s a water-soluble nutrient, the body can’t store it, and so daily intake is essential.

Vitamin C is essential for collagen production

shutterstock_352168949 beautiful woman skin May16

Collagen is, of course, a hot topic right now, especially in the context of pro-ageing and skin health. However, it’s also the most abundant structural protein in the body, without which we would literally collapse!

Collagen holds the body together and is part of connective tissue, cartilage, tendons and much more besides, making it essential for wound repair, healthy gums, and prevention of bruising. None of this can happen without vitamin C.

Vitamin C is needed for a healthy heart

An apple with a heart shape cut out to show that apples are good for a healthy heart

Vitamin C primarily helps protect against cardiovascular disease down to its role as an antioxidant, plus it strengthens collagen structures of the arteries.  Damage from free radicals is a major factor in atherosclerosis, due to LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol being oxidised and causing blockages.

The good news, however, is that vitamin C helps reduce cholesterol and increases levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, so has a protective effect.  Additionally, it helps reduce blood pressure and keeps blood flowing smoothly through the blood vessels.

Vitamin C helps reduce allergic reactions

shutterstock_427985134-allergy-sept16

Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine by preventing secretion of histamine by white blood cells (which is actually a normal part of the immune response) and helping detoxify histamine.  Problems occur when we can’t control histamine production effectively, and then the tell-tale unpleasant allergic reactions occur.

Having a higher intake of vitamin C might also help sufferers of asthma by controlling the release of histamine, but also because of its work as an antioxidant in the airways.  Since vitamin C helps boost immunity, any external stressor such as environmental issues which often trigger asthma attacks, may be better controlled.

What are the best sources of vitamin C?

Healthy,Eating,Concept,,Assortment,Of,Rainbow,Fruits,And,Vegetables,,Berries,

Acerola cherries, red peppers, kale, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, oranges, guavas, and red cabbage.  However, all fruits and vegetables contain some so just load up your plate with colour!

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Three nutrients to support your immunity this winter

Close up of a doctor holding a blackboard with Immune System written on it in chalk

It’s feeling decidedly chilly outside!  Unfortunately, winter is not too far away and with that normally comes the round of colds and infections.  And we’re being warned that we could face lots of bugs this winter. 

However, fore-warned is fore-armed in these situations so now is the perfect time to ensure you’re giving your body what it needs to fight off any invaders.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her three top immune-supportive nutrients.

Vitamin D

This one has to be at the top of the list! We’ve learned so much more about vitamin D during and since the Covid pandemic, especially in terms of how essential it is for the immune system.

Clearly, we’ve had a good summer, during which time the body restore its reserves of vitamin D, as the sunlight hits the skin.  However, not everyone is in the sun, and it’s not clear just how much the body stores, and reserves are certainly not going to last all winter.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in eggs, oily fish, mushrooms and dairy produce and some fortified foods.  However, it’s not in sufficient amounts and the body still needs to convert that vitamin D into the active D3 form which takes place in the kidneys.  It’s no surprise therefore that it is recommended that everyone takes a supplement of at least 10 micrograms through the darker, colder months of October to March.  This is the minimum amount to take – you may find you need to take much higher dosages, which is why it’s worth having your blood levels of vitamin D checked.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a real powerhouse within the immune system. It fulfils many functions but essentially supports the production of immune-fighting white blood cells.  Vitamin C is water-soluble which means it leaves the cells quite quickly, hence it needs to feature in the diet very regularly.

It’s good to know, therefore, that vitamin C is widely found in fruits and vegetables.  In fact, it’s in so many that there’s no real need to over-complicate things by picking and choosing those with the highest amounts!

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

The best advice is to include plenty of colour in your meals and in this way, you’ll be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and therefore essential nutrients. This is so important for health and, especially immunity, because fruits and vegetables are loaded with powerful antioxidants which help to protect the body.

The more stressed you are, the more Vitamin C is burned up by the body so if this sounds like you, you may find that it is helpful to take in even more Vitamin C by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables.

Zinc

One of the reasons why zinc makes its way onto the immune powerhouse list is because it’s involved in almost every aspect of immune function. Without sufficient zinc, many white blood cell functions, critical to immunity, stop working.

Just like vitamin C, zinc possesses anti-viral activity so it can help protect us against colds and flu.  However, the body needs zinc all the time within the body in order to do its work properly.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Zinc is widely available in plant and animal sources but not in the refined foods that many people eat in abundance.  Try to include more whole grains in the diet such as wholewheat bread and pasta, quinoa, and buckwheat, plus beans, nuts, oats, and fish.  Indeed, one of the highest food sources of zinc is oysters. So don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to eat some of these amazing aphrodisiacs!

Interestingly, zinc is involved in so many functions in the body, it can become marginally deficient quite easily.  Common signs of this are white spots on the fingernails, frequent infections, hormonal disruptions, poor taste and smell, and skin problems.

Start your winter immune preparations now and hopefully you’ll have an infection-free season

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Great British food: five top foods produced locally

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

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

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

Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some of her favourites.

Carrots

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

shutterstock_250834906 carrots July16

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

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

Chicken

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

Roast chicken leg with potatoes and vegetables

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

Natural Yogurt

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

Natural yoghurt

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

Beetroot

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

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

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

Spinach

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

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

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

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

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The importance of hydration: how to stay well-watered

Woman,Drinking,Water.

We’ve heard the word ‘hydration’ plenty of times over the last few weeks, and during the recent heat waves.  It’s been more important than ever to ensure the body is not dehydrated. 

Dehydration makes you feel exhausted.  However, hydration is not just about drinking more water.  Although this is of course very important, there are other measures you can take.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top tips for keeping hydrated and energised.

First things thirst!

Water is of course the most essential nutrient.  The body is around 70-80% water so it makes sense that we can’t live without water.  However, it’s amazing how little water many of us actually drink in a day.

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

Your urine should be pretty clear (apart from the first morning pee!) Urine is a good indicator of how well hydrated you are.  Aim for around 1.5 – 2 litres water daily, ideally from a filtered source.  It also depends on how much exercise you are doing and the temperature outside. And always remember to be ahead of the thirst; if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

Eat vegetables with a high water content

Whilst it’s important to drink plenty of water, especially during the hot weather, certain vegetables are high in water so will also help to rehydrate.  Top of the list are cucumbers and lettuce which are both around 96% water.  Celery is another great contender being 95% water (and is also great for reducing blood pressure), as are courgettes.

shutterstock_332940713 cucumber June16

There are additional benefits to adding plenty of vegetables to your hydration routine because they all contain loads of electrolytes – minerals that are lost during normal metabolic processes and when we sweat.

Eat plenty of fruit too

There are plenty of fruits that are loaded with water too!  Top of the list is watermelon with 92% water content.  As a bonus, watermelon is packed with antioxidants which are very supportive of overall health.  Watermelon makes a very refreshing snack, especially when the heat is on.

CLose up of a hand holding a slice of watermelow with the words hello summer cut out of it

Other great fruit choices are strawberries, peaches, oranges, and melon.  These foods are high in immune boosting vitamin C as well as potassium, which is a key electrolyte, along with sodium, both of which help keep body fluid levels balanced.  Nature has been very clever in providing foods, which, when eaten in a diet containing loads of colour variety, provide so many of the nutrients that the body needs.

Get brewing

Drinking herbal and fruit teas are another great way of increasing water intake without caffeine; caffeine can exacerbate dehydration.  Chamomile tea makes a good choice in this respect and is also great for calming an agitated digestion and nervous system generally.

shutterstock_109015685 camomile tea Mar17

You can also make your own tea or water brew.  Lemon and ginger tea (either drunk hot or cold) is brilliant. Lemon adds some vitamin C to the mix and crushed ginger is a great anti-inflammatory, feeding the good gut bacteria and also helping to alleviate headaches and migraines, which can be more problematic when the temperature rises.

And the wild cards!

The body contains a fine balance of nutrients at a cellular level and, of course, we are not ‘pure’ water as such.  Therefore, drinks that contain electrolytes and carbohydrates can actually be more effective at rehydrating.

Woman pouring a glass of milk

In this respect, milk is great because it contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and sodium so will also help your body retain fluids (without causing fluid retention).  Coconut water is brilliant at hydrating because it’s rich in potassium (a key electrolyte) and is also energising.

And one you may not have thought about is chia water.  Chia seeds are a great source of healthy omega-3 fats, but chia seeds absorb ten times their weight in water, making a great drink.  For a real power up, why not add them to coconut water?

There are plenty of ways to keep well hydrated and bouncing with energy this summer!

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Making the most of seasonal eating in August

Close up of woman holding a bowl of freshly picked plums

Whilst it’s not too difficult to find out which foods are in season and when, it’s not always easy deciding what to do with those foods. 

If you’re lacking in meal ideas, then Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, can help bring some much-needed inspiration to your kitchen.

Venison

Whilst many of us don’t think of venison as being a ‘mainstream’ meat, it’s fantastically nutritious and delicious.  It contains more energising iron than other red meats, provides some healthy omega-3 fats and has less saturated fat than chicken without the skin.

A cooked venison steak on a chopping board

I personally love venison and I keep it really simple by cooking it in the same way as a steak.  For this time of year, I would quickly fry the venison (I like red meat fairly rare). Boil some baby new potatoes with some fresh mint and make a large salad – include some spring onion, also in season right now.  That will take no more than 15 minutes and you’ll have a fabulous meal.

Sweetcorn

Fresh sweetcorn (as corn on the cob) may be a little harder to obtain this year with the drought affecting crops in the UK.  However, if you can find some, then grab it straight away.  Corn has always been a food staple and a relatively inexpensive crop to produce. Corn provides beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A in the body as needed, immune-boosting vitamin C, energising folate and that all-important fibre.

Summer,Food.,Ideas,For,Barbecue,And,Grill,Parties.,Grilled,Corn

In terms of what to do with corn on the cob, there really is no better way than boiling the kernels until soft to poke with a fork and serving with butter and plenty of black pepper. Corn is also great on the barbecue, but ideally partially cook it first.

Plums

Plums need to be picked at just the right time so they have a little natural sweetness rather than being too sharp. However, they have an amazing array of antioxidants which are so protective of overall health, so it’s worth getting the timings right. Plums are also high in vitamin C and potassium which are both great for heart health and keeping the arteries flexible, allowing good blood flow.

Bowl,With,Oatmeal,,Fresh,Plums,And,Nuts,On,Table

Again, I keep it really simple with plums as I love them on my overnight oats.  Therefore, I stew them with a little honey, keep them in the fridge and then look forward to eating them in the morning.

Mackerel

Mackerel is a wonderfully healthy fish.  It’s packed with omega-3 fats which are generally very deficient in the UK diet but are essential for our health.  Importantly, the body can’t make omega-3 fats, so we must eat them in the diet, at least two or three times per week.

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

Mackerel does have quite a strong flavour and is also quite rich so any sauces with butter don’t really work.  Much better I find are spicy or citrus flavours.  Again, simplicity is the way forward so serve up a super-healthy meal by just adding some new potatoes or basmati rice with tender stem broccoli.

Aubergine

We often associate aubergines (called eggplant by the Americans) with Mediterranean countries as they frequently appear in Greek moussakas and French ratatouille.  As they’re cooked and eaten with the skin-on, you’ll be getting all the real value from the antioxidant-rich anthocyanins in the colourful skin. Aubergines are also a rich source of fibre, and manganese which is great for the bones.

Vegetable,Stew,,Eggplant,,Onion,,Zucchini,With,Tomato,Sauce,,Garlic,And

I absolutely love a simple pasta ratatouille; chop up an aubergine, courgette, onion, garlic, and roast in the oven.  It’s always great to add the tomatoes later in the roasting process. Then add the mixture to some cooked wholegrain pasta, toss with a handful of fresh basil leaves and top with some Parmesan cheese if desired.  And the best news is that this dish provides all of your 5-a-day!

So, enjoy cooking seasonally this August and reap the healthy benefits as well as the delicious flavours on offer.

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How to have a healthy afternoon tea

Luxury,Porcelain,Tea,Set,With,A,Cup,,Teapot,,Sugar,Bowl

Afternoon tea is a British tradition; the ‘meal’ you don’t always need but the foods on the table are too good to resist!

However, afternoon tea doesn’t always need to be calorie and sugar-laden. There are lots of delicious swaps you can make and still enjoy it.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top ways of making afternoon tea healthier and even more delicious.

 

Beetroot hummus and crudités

Homemade beetroot hummus is delicious and nutritious, whilst bringing life to any chopped vegetables you may eat with it. Beetroot really is a super food, delivering plenty of energy, antioxidants and betaine which helps many conditions, especially high blood pressure. 

Beetroot,Hummus

Beetroot hummus is also incredibly easy to make; cook some raw beetroot, add a can of chickpeas, some natural yoghurt, lemon, and cumin.  You can take your choice of veggies but chopped peppers of any colour and carrots are good choices and both deliver plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C.  You’ll be hooked from the first bite!

Toasted bagels

These may not be on the usual tea table, but bagels are much lower in fat and higher in fibre if you choose the whole grain variety rather than other tea-time breads.

Peanut,Butter,On,Half,A,Bagel,On,Snack,Plate

Choice of toppings is up to you, but almond nut butter is incredibly creamy and contains the omega-3 fats which are great for the heart and hormones. Add some smashed avocado and you’ve created a super tea-time treat.  Avocados are rich in vitamin E which is great for the skin. Healthy certainly doesn’t mean ‘tasteless’ with this dish.

Chewy oat cookies

These provide a sweet treat without too much sugar and contain plenty of fibre to keep the bowels regular. These chewy oat cookies contain whole grain oats as the base ingredient which are full of energising B-vitamins, plus beta glucans which naturally help reduce cholesterol levels.

Homemade,Oatmeal,Cookies,On,Wooden,Board,On,Old,Table,Background.

Just add to the oats some shredded coconut, dried apricots and cranberries and a little milk. Mix, bake, and there’s not much more needed for the healthiest, tastiest cookies ever!

Delicate prawn and lemon sandwiches

These are delicate in both taste and shape but are high in protein, so you won’t need too many to fill you up.  Prawns, when drizzled with plenty of lemon juice, become much more flavoursome.

Prawns,In,Mayonnaise,On,Granary,Bread,With,Salad

Traditionally everything is ‘small’ for afternoon tea, and these can be sliced into bite-sized portions.  It’s much healthier to use whole grain bread rather than white, which is refined and stripped of most nutrients, plus brown bread seems to work much better with prawns in terms of flavour.  As you’ve used plenty of lemon juice, the need for too much mayonnaise is reduced, hence this dish is pretty healthy, and, importantly, enjoyable.

Rainbow wraps

Eating a rainbow diet is what we should all aim for.  This means having loads of colour variety in your diet as colour equals nutrients. Wraps tend to much better tolerated by the digestive system as they are lower in gluten.  There are also plenty of options for gluten-free wraps.

Vegan,Tortilla,Wrap,,Roll,With,Grilled,Vegetables.

So, these rainbow wraps deliver on all fronts and can easily be sliced into small portions and arranged on your tea table.   Simply shred some red cabbage and sprinkle with loads of lemon juice and leave for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop some red peppers, carrot, and spring onion (if desired). Spread the wrap with hummus of your choice, add the cabbage and other vegetables, and you’ve not only added colour to the table, but you’ve ticked some boxes in terms of nutrients too.  All colourful fruits and vegetables naturally provide plenty of antioxidants which help protect the body.

Afternoon tea doesn’t need to contain loads of fat and calories but can still be a healthy treat that all the family will enjoy.

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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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

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