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.

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Fabulous ‘sides’ to make your barbecue sizzle!

In,Summer.,A,Nice,Couple,Prepares,A,Bbq,To,Welcome

It’s no secret that barbecue season is here – fantastic news for most of us!  However, it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to deciding what side dishes to have with the main event.

Bearing in mind that it’s still important to try and make every meal count from a nutritional perspective, then these sides can really pack a punch on that front too.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite sides for your barbecue this summer.

Delicious summer salad

It’s time to think beyond a few green leaves for a summer salad.  Leaves are great and certainly rocket and watercress have many health benefits, both being high in energising folate. However, this one really brings great taste and nutrition too.

Black,Beans,Corn,Avocado,Cucumber,Tomato,Salad,With,Lime,Dressing.

At this salad’s heart are black beans (tinned are easily accessible).  Beans are an often-forgotten protein, and they also contain lots of antioxidants. Add some avocado which is rich in vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant and great for the skin. Include delicious vine ripened tomatoes, sliced red onion (a rich source of health-giving plant flavonoids), cucumber and crumbled feta. Just pour over some dressing of your choice, and if it’s got olive oil as a base, you’ll be getting some benefits for the heart too.  This salad is nourishing, filling, and energising.

Griddled vegetables

Get the taste and feel of the Mediterranean with griddled aubergine, red peppers, onions, courgettes, and tomatoes.  If ever a salad was competing to be colourful whilst packing a nutrient punch, it would win hands down! Once griddled, the veggies can be sprinkled with herbs of your choice but dried or fresh thyme, olive oil, lemon and chopped parsley work really well.

Grilled,Vegetables,In,A,Cast,Iron,Grilling,Pan,,View,From

We know from lots of research that the people who live in Mediterranean countries, or follow the same diet, tend to live longer, and generally suffer with less disease.  The Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants which helps to protect the body from damaging free radicals and this salad certainly delivers on this aspect.

Spicy cauliflower

If you like tempura vegetables, you’ll love this recipe.  Many people avoid cauliflower because it can be tasteless and have a soggy texture if over-cooked.  However, cauliflower belongs to the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family, which all contain amazing compounds that help with liver detoxification and hormone balance.

Moroccan,Tempura-style,Fried,Cauliflower,Florets,Served,On,A,Black,Plate

Whisk up some batter using flour and milk, and add some garlic, which is great for the digestion and heart.  Coat the cauliflower florets in the batter and then some breadcrumbs (homemade or shop-bought) bake in the oven, and then serve with chopped spring onions and some chilli sauce. You don’t even need a barbecue to serve this one up!

Protein kicker salad

This is another dish that can stand alone but also makes a great side to the barbecue, providing plenty of protein (around 20 grams per serving). Many people would traditionally use rice in this one, as it’s a twist on a curried rice salad, but by using quinoa, you’re upping the protein and fibre content. 

Quinoa,Salad,With,Cauliflower,And,Boiled,Eggs,On,A,Vintage

Simply cook the quinoa in some stock, whilst hard-boiling some eggs and frying some onion. Bring everything together with some raisins, chopped coriander, curry paste and ground turmeric.  This dish not only provides some powerful tastes, but the combination of foods is a balanced meal on its own too.

Potato salad Plus

Potato salad can’t really be left off the menu when it comes to planning barbecue sides.  And it doesn’t need to be!  Potatoes are a rich source of immune-boosting vitamin C and fibre, plus they’ll provide loads of sustainable energy too.

Potato,Salad,With,Mayonnaise,And,Spring,Onion,,Selective,Focus

Why not reduce the amount of mayonnaise and add some natural yoghurt instead?  Natural yoghurt is a great source of probiotics which help feed the gut bacteria and support overall health and wellness, not just in the digestive tract.  Plus, adding some spring onions which are packed with antioxidants and work as a natural antihistamine, provide extra support if you happen to be a hay fever sufferer.

So, why not try one or all five of these super salads? Your barbecue just got a whole lot healthier and tastier!

 

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Eating seasonally this May: discover what’s in season and their nutritional benefits

Summer,Salad,With,Potatoes,,Green,Beans,,Asparagus,,Peas,And,Radishes

 

Eating with the seasons is something we nutritionists talk about all the time!  However, whilst we know this to be the best time to eat foods, and as nature intended, we do get used to eating what we want all year-round. 

It’s easy to forget, or not even realise now what’s in season and when. So, here’s a helpful reminder from Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer as to what is in season right now.

 

 

Asparagus

Whilst this vegetable provides plenty of nutrients, asparagus is really worth eating when in season and grown in the UK.  For the rest of the year, it often has a woodier and string-like texture. This is also the reason that you tend to see asparagus on restaurant menus much more during May, but the season is short, so grab some quickly.

Grilled,Green,Asparagus,With,Parmesan,Cheese

Asparagus is especially rich in folate, which is important for many different functions throughout the body including red blood cell formation.  Folate is rich in most green vegetables and including as much of this nutrient in your diet as possible is the way to go!

Asparagus is also a mild diuretic meaning it’s great if you struggle with water retention, especially ladies with PMS.

Enjoy it’s taste, texture, and health benefits this May!

Radishes

Radishes are part of the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family. They are rich in antioxidant minerals such as calcium and potassium which together help lower blood pressure and contribute to reducing risk of many diseases.

Fresh,Summer,Fennel,Salad,With,Pea,Shoots,And,Radishes.,Top

 

Radishes are often popular with dieters as a snack because they are low in calories and fat and have a really delicious peppery taste. They are also great with a plate of crudites and hummus or in an easy summer salad.  If you’ve not ventured to trying them yet, make this month the time!

Sea trout

If you can find some locally to you, you’ll be well rewarded with its taste, texture, and nutritional goodness. Generally, you’ll need to go to the fresh fishmonger’s outlet to find the wild sea trout.  It will be pinker in colour than the farmed variety, because wild trout and, indeed, salmon, naturally eat the algae, astaxanthin, which turns them pink, but also provides amazing antioxidants.

Trout fish fillet with salad

Trout is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for overall health, especially the brain, heart, joints, eyes, hormones, and skin.  Sea trout is delicious barbecued or simply grilled with a little butter.

Spring onions

If you’re struggling with allergies right now, then eating some spring onions could really help.  Onions contain a flavonoid called quercetin which works as a natural antihistamine in the body. Onions also provide benefits to the heart, helping reduce cholesterol levels and keeping blood thin, reducing risk of blockages in the arteries.

Potato,Salad,With,Mayonnaise,And,Spring,Onion,,Selective,Focus

 

Enjoy them in a potato salad, in fish dishes or stir fries.  They’re the perfect ‘easy’ vegetable to rev up your health.

Watercress

Another peppery-tasting salad vegetable, this member of the cruciferous vegetable family is equally nutritious.  Watercress is a rich source of folate and is great for liver detoxification. It also helps to support kidney function, so you can really uprate the health benefits by adding this to salads and sandwich fillings.

Ricotta,Cheese,,Green,Peas,,Watercress,And,Dates,Salad

In addition, watercress is rich in immune-boosting beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E.  It’s definitely a summer vegetable to enjoy, so grab some whilst you can when it’s crisp, fresh, tasty, and nutritious.

Seasonal eating is always best when it comes to flavour and nutritional content.  Try to reward the body as much as possible by eating with the seasons this May and indeed throughout the year.

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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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Create your healthiest festive menu yet! Top tips for your Christmas Dinner

A family eating christmas dinner

When it comes to Christmas menus, they are often a mix of healthy and not so healthy dishes; it is the season of treats after all!

However, there are so many foods on the traditional festive menus that are great for supporting wellbeing. Even better, they are delicious!

 

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five delicious and healthy festive foods.

Turkey

Turkey has more nutritional benefits than chicken in many respects. Importantly, it is higher in protein and lower in fat than chicken. However, with both meats, it’s important to avoid eating the skin as this is where most of the fat sits and there are no further benefits to eating it (apart from the taste of crispy skin which many of us love!)

Roast Christmas turkey

From an immune-boosting perspective, turkey contains one third more zinc than chicken, and this is especially rich in the dark meat. Turkey also provides all of the energising B vitamins, together with potassium which is great for the heart, and phosphorus which is essential for healthy bones. There’s no need for any guilt when loading up your Christmas meal plate with turkey!

Red cabbage

Any vegetable or fruit that is deep in colour is rich in nutrients, and red cabbage is no exception. Red cabbage is loaded with disease-preventing antioxidants.

Red cabbage stewed with apples

However, all cabbage provides a plethora of nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. Uniquely, cabbage also contains a compound called S-Methylmethionine which has been found to help heal stomach ulcers and soothe pain in the gut. And if you’re struggling with acid reflux during the festive season, which is very common, then drinking raw cabbage juice will certainly help. However, there’s no problem with adding some beetroot and apple to make the juice more palatable and even healthier.

Red cabbage makes a delicious addition to any Christmas menu, prepared with apples, raisins, cinnamon, and bay leaves.

Parsnips

No Christmas menu is complete without the addition of parsnips. This slightly sweet root vegetable can be eaten instead, or in addition to, potatoes and provides a great source of fibre. Parsnips are also rich in folate, essential for the production of healthy red blood cells, and help support lung health. Additionally, they contain plenty of potassium which helps reduce blood pressure.

A bowl of roast parsnips

Parsnips clearly deliver on health and taste and are great roasted and flavoured with garlic, Parmesan cheese or coriander. Indeed, they also make a fabulous Boxing Day spicy soup with both turmeric and cumin providing the warming and delicious spices.

Cranberry sauce

Whilst cranberries can be rather sharp and sour in taste, used in cranberry sauce they certainly come alive. And they still deliver on health, providing plenty of anthocyanins – antioxidants that protect the liver from free radical damage. Even better, these antioxidants also have a protective effect on overall health.

CRanberry sauce in small ceramic jug and cranberries on wooden board

Cranberries are also well-known for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections because they stop any bacteria from hanging around internally.

Every turkey needs some accompaniments and cranberry sauce provides a very worthy and healthy partner.

Chestnuts

No nut conjures up feelings of Christmas more than chestnuts! If you’re lucky enough to have an open fire, then you can’t miss out on roasting these delicious nuts. And once they’re roasted, chestnuts are certainly easier to extract from their outer shell.

Chestnuts are naturally rich in immune-boosting zinc, energising iron and bone-loving manganese. They are also rich in complex carbs so will certainly hit the spot if you’re feeling in need of a snack between meals.

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

 

Of course, chestnut is the main event in chestnut stuffing which can quite happily be vegan with the addition of mushrooms, onions, garlic, oregano, and sage. All these additional ingredients provide immune-boosting antioxidants, and plenty of warming herbs to help protect the body against any nasty viruses floating around.

And chestnuts don’t just need to feature in savoury recipes; they work really well with chocolate made into a cake or as a cream to pour over some decadent poached pears (also now in season).

So, enjoy your festive feast and include some of these health-giving foods for an extra wellbeing boost!

 

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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Dietary support for reducing feelings of stress

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

With a global pandemic still ongoing and Christmas not too far away, it’s no wonder that our nerves may be a little frayed.  We know from ongoing data that many people’s mental wellbeing is not in great shape at the moment, and we could all do with lifestyle advice to help us feel a little calmer. 

What we eat and drink can make a big difference to how we feel and there are some foods which can help support our bodies and our minds feel less stressed.

This International Stress Awareness Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares 3 foods you can start adding to your diet.

 

Start the day with oats

There are a number of reasons why this is a great way to start the day.  Firstly, oats are loaded with the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce our feel-good hormone serotonin.

A bowl of oats

Secondly, oats are rich in the mineral magnesium, often referred to as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’. Essentially, magnesium fulfils many important functions within the body, but it also works on the central nervous system; if you’re nerves are shredded, then it might be time to think about how much magnesium you have in the diet.  Interestingly, it’s very often deficient in the typical western diet.  This is largely because magnesium is found in whole grains, rather than refined ones which dominate western diets such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, white bread, white rice, and white pasta.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

Importantly, your breakfast bowl should contain whole grain oats (the large ones!) which can be eaten in many ways.  For a quick, easy win, why not soak the oats overnight in a little milk and apple juice. The retrieve from the fridge in the morning, top with berries and natural yoghurt and you’ve got one of the best starts to the day!

Opt for fish

There are many good reasons for including fish in the diet.  However, it’s oily fish, including salmon, which has the most health benefits and can help calm the nerves.  Salmon is very high in the omega-3 fats which are critical for brain health; low levels of omega-3s have been linked to anxiety and depression.

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Why not have some delicious smoked salmon with your salad for lunch or with poached eggs for breakfast.  You’ll still be gaining all the wonderful health benefits. Salmon also makes a great dinner option and can quickly and easily be cooked in the oven in foil with some lemon juice, butter, and dill, if you have some. 

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

It’s important to recognise that farmed fish are often contaminated with unwanted. Always try to buy wild Alaskan salmon which has a much more distinctive pink colour.  This is because wild salmon naturally eat an alga called astaxanthin, which turns salmon pink, and which is also an amazing antioxidant, further protecting our bodies and minds.

Go for green tea

Often just having a warm drink can help soothe the nerves.  However green tea is a great option. This is because it contains the amino acid theanine, which can positively impact mood.  Interestingly, there has been much research around theanine and its ability to reduce stress. Theanine works in a number of ways but essentially by raising GABA, one of our calming brain neurotransmitters.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

Just like black tea, green tea naturally contains caffeine which will adversely affect the nervous system.  However, theanine appears to counter any of its negative effects.  Green tea is also rich in catechins which are powerful antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation in the brain, partly responsible for its ageing and degeneration. Aim to drink around three cups daily to enjoy the best effects.

As an aside, and if you’re looking to lose a few kilos before Christmas, green tea appears to have thermogenic effects, meaning it may temporarily uprate metabolism.  Therefore, having a cup of green tea prior to your morning walk, run or workout could provide a wealth of health benefits.

So, if you’re feeling frazzled, try adding some of the above to your daily diet and support your wellbeing from the inside out.

Stay well.

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Support your immunity with these three top vitamins

shutterstock_114498919 woman cold flu Oct16

With the traditional cold and flu season in full flow, and Covid cases rising, now is the perfect time to boost your immune system by harnessing the power of nature. 

We can all strengthen our defences against unwanted viruses by making some positive changes to our diet.  And nature has kindly provided plenty of nutrients that are known to support immunity.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares three top vitamins to help build immunity.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a vital role in many immune mechanisms but specifically in increasing production of virus-fighting white blood cells and antibody levels. Infection is known to decrease the concentration of vitamin C in white blood cells. Vitamin C is also significantly reduced during stressful periods, by alcohol intake, pollutants, and cigarette smoke.  In short, most of us could do with a boost!

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Vitamin C is of course widely found in fruits and vegetables, which is one of the many reasons that we are all encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily. And with it being water-soluble, it’s not stored in the body, therefore needs to be taken in very regularly within the diet.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

It’s a great plan, therefore, to include vitamin C-rich foods at every meal.  Why not start the day right with plenty of berries (strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries) which are high in vitamin C?  Overnight oats topped with berries, natural yoghurt with apple and kiwi and seeds, or an omelette with tomato, red peppers, and spinach.  They all make wonderfully nutritious breakfasts, with plenty of vitamin C.  Lunch might be a salad, or a jacket sweet potato with tuna.  And really load your dinner plate with veggies – think broccoli, cauliflower, and butternut squash – and finish up with some delicious watermelon.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E and Vitamin C are actually perfect partners!  Whilst vitamin C works within the water-soluble part of the cells, vitamin E is an essential nutrient within the fat part of cells.  And as with all perfect partnerships, they look after each other! Vitamin E protects the immune boosting white blood cells from damage, supports the thymus gland (another essential part of immune function) and generally nurtures the immune system, especially during times of stress.

shutterstock_381113728 vitamin E Oct17

And since vitamin E protects fats in the body generally, the higher the diet is in fats, the greater need for vitamin E.  Fortunately, vitamin E is also found in sources of polyunsaturated fats, therefore nuts, seeds and whole grains are great options.

Vitamin E is also found in fruits and vegetables including berries, asparagus, avocado, green leafy veggies and tomatoes.  So, food choices from the list above are not only going to raise levels of vitamin C, but vitamin E too!

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is slightly unusual in that it’s only found in its retinol form in animal produce, but the body can make it from carotenoids in fruits, vegetables, and other foods. The good news is, therefore, that vegans don’t need to miss out.  Effective conversion does also depend on other factors, but especially vitamin C; another example of how everything in nature is designed to work in harmony.

A selection of foods containing Vitamin A

In terms of immunity, vitamin A helps in a number of ways, but primarily by protecting the mucosal surfaces which act as a barrier against invaders. It also helps to increase white blood cell production and antibody response.

The best sources of vitamin A are whole milk, offal, and butter. However, there are plenty of pro-vitamin A carotenes found in dark green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange vegetables. Top of the list are sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, butternut squash, apricots, and mangoes.

Close up of a lobster, oysters and prawns to represent shellfish

Interestingly, we also find carotenoids in various animal foods such as salmon, egg yolks, shellfish, and poultry. Furthermore, carotenoids are incredibly powerful antioxidants, so you’ll be protecting future health from disease too.

So, load up your diet to get the most out of these three vitamins this winter and help support your immune system from the inside.

Stay well.

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October eating: what’s in season right now

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

Eating food at the time of year nature intended is always best.  It makes sense that nature provides us with what the body needs at the right time of year, which includes fruits and vegetables.

As seasons change, so do the body’s requirements for different foods.  And what nature provides in October helps support our nutrition and overall health.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three top fruits and vegetables this month.

Kale

A member of the cabbage family, it is often referred to as collard or curly kale and is also home-grown in the UK. Importantly, kale contains some of the amazing compounds found in broccoli and Brussels sprouts that may block the action of certain harmful carcinogens.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

Kale contains a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals including immune-boosting vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate, and iron, and is one of the richest sources of calcium of all vegetables. It also contains compounds known as indoles which help liver detoxification, so it’s a great vegetable to be eating as we approach the festive season.

shutterstock_488572450-eggs-and-kale-nov16

Kale needs to be cooked well (but not overcooked) otherwise it may be tough.  It can be steamed, simmered or sauteed and stock can be added for some extra flavour.  However, it works really well with strong flavours such as smoked haddock, in a stir fry with garlic, ginger and chilli or in a Caldo Verde soup (a traditional Portuguese recipe), with chorizo, onions, potatoes and garlic.

Swede

Proof that nature intended us to eat swedes at this time of year when the body is looking for additional warmth, is that they’re especially hardy and survive harsh frosts.

Freshly,Picked,Swedes

A member of the healthy cruciferous family of vegetables, swede also contains highly protective indoles which are especially great for balancing oestrogen.  As such, they may well be helpful for women going through menopause.

Swede provides a great source of fibre, plenty of vitamin C and bone-building magnesium, manganese, and calcium, so is a great all-round provider of nutrients.

Often confused with the root vegetable turnip, swede makes an equally tasty vegetable side, mashed with butter and pepper, or added to stews or soups for additional delicious flavour.

Fried,Dices,Of,Carrot,And,Swede,,In,A,Pan,+

Swedes work really well mashed with other root vegetables, especially carrots. They are also great cubed, roasted and sprinkled with cumin, or with leek and potato in a cheese gratin.

Plums

With over 2,000 varieties of plums to choose from, there’ll never be a shortage of colours available ranging from light green to yellow to dark red.

A bowl full of plums

The beautiful colours of plums are responsible for delivering an amazing array of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which are protective of the aging process. Additionally, plums contain one of our key fat-soluble antioxidants, vitamin E, which is great for the skin and heart.  Unusually though, for a fruit, plums also contain tryptophan, an amino acid which helps produces serotonin, our happy hormone.

When plums are dried, they are known as prunes, and contain a higher content of fibre, hence they have been used traditionally for many years to treat constipation.  Equally, prunes work really well in many meat and game dishes, and are often used in traditional French recipes.

Close,Up,Of,Fresh,Juicy,Grilled,Beef,Steak,Served,With

Whilst plums can be eaten raw, with the skin peeled, they work well in sweet or savoury dishes.  They can be simply stewed with a little sweetening agent and used on cereals or porridge or used in a simple crumble with cinnamon.  They are equally delicious in a braised pork dish with apples, potatoes, garlic and thyme. There are endless possibilities and a myriad of health benefits to eating plums right now.

So, enjoy seasonal eating this October and reap the many health and nutritional benefits.

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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Lunchtime nutrition: three ‘Back to Work’ lunches you’ll love

CLose up of chicken salad lunch at desk while working in office

If you’re one of the many people getting ready to go back to the office, one dilemma that hasn’t disappeared during the pandemic is “what to eat for lunch”. 

Many of us prefer, or have to, take lunch with us; therefore, it can become a daily conundrum. Each lunchtime is an opportunity to provide the body with much-needed nutrients to sustain your energy throughout the day, so it’s a good idea to plan in advance.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some much-needed lunchtime inspiration for your return to work.

Wrap up some goodness

Wraps are the perfect transportable lunch that will provide a great array of nutrients without causing any uncomfortable stomach bloat, as they are not a ‘heavy’ as normal bread.  Plus, it’s  really easy to buy gluten-free wraps or those made with sweet potatoes, spinach, or coconut flour.

Chicken,And,Salad,Tortilla

It’s important to include plenty of protein either from animal or vegetable sources.  For example, turkey is high in protein and lower in fat than chicken and therefore makes a great choice.  Why not wrap up some lettuce, turkey, sliced cabbage (red or white are both great for the digestion) and some cucumber strips, with a little mayonnaise?

Tortilla,With,Vegetables,And,Hummus,With,Chickpeas.,Top,View.,Black

As a veggie option, spread the wrap with plenty of hummus and then lay lots of lettuce, avocado slices, cucumber sticks and tomato.  For a little extra pizazz, why not add some cheese of your choice and within minutes you’ve created a colourful and nutritious lunch.  Both of these wrap options contain plenty of protein, vitamin C, energising B-vitamins, and immune-boosting vitamin E.

Zingy rice noodles

Rice noodles are a great lunchtime choice; not too heavy but still providing plenty of nutrients, which can taste even better depending on what you put with them. It’s good to get your base flavours right and garlic is the perfect start; great for the immune, digestion and cardiovascular systems.

Rice,Noodles,With,Chicken,,Mushrooms,Mun,And,Vegetables,,Prepared,In

Fry some garlic and fresh chopped chilli (a great fat-burner), and then add some chicken, prawns, or tofu.  Add some soy sauce, lime juice, chopped carrots and peppers and your base is made.  All you need is to quickly cook the rice noodles, add them to the mixture and then serve into your  transportable pots. It’s a great idea to make up a couple of lunch boxes for your working week as they keep well in the fridge.

Tasty cauliflower rice

If you’re watching your waistline, then this dish is perfect.  It’s high in protein (around 16g per portion) but low in carbs.  Cauliflower is a member of the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family, and contains plenty of antioxidants, protecting the body from degenerative diseases.

Cauliflower,Rice,With,Vegetables,In,Bowl,On,White,Background.,Paleo

Chop up a whole cauliflower and then blitz in a food processor so that its texture becomes like fine grains.  Then mix up some immune-boosting spices including cinnamon and allspice. Coat the cauliflower in the spices and put into a roasting tin to cook in the oven. Once it’s cooled you can add whatever takes your fancy, but chopped onion, mint, parsley, and feta are fabulous accompaniments.

Alternatively, you can quickly grill or stir fry some tofu with teriyaki sauce and chopped spring onion and add to the cauliflower.  Tofu is not only a great source of protein, it is also good for the digestive system and contains lots of calcium.

Three extra lunchtime tips

  • If you’re struggling with hormones, especially during the menopause, throw a good handful of edamame beans into your wrap or lunch box.

Edamame,Beans,In,Bowl,On,Light,Background.,Close,Up,View

  • Any chopped, raw vegetables with a dip such as hummus make great snacks and really improve your daily nutrient status.

Hummus,With,Vegetables,On,Plate

  • Always think about cooking extra portions when preparing your evening meal, such as chicken breast, poached or steamed salmon, or roasted vegetables. These can then be incorporated into your lunches for the week.

Baked,Salmon,Pasta,Salad,With,Spiral,Rotini,Vegetable,Pasta,In

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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

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

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

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