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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Seasonal eating: what to eat in April and May

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

Many of us like to know what’s on trend. Likewise, keeping up with what’s in season when it comes to food can have a great impact on our diet and health. 

Unlike other consumer goods, these foods come back into season year after year so that nature can provide the body with what it needs at the right time of year.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five favourite in-season foods this Spring.

Asparagus

From a nutritional perspective asparagus is particularly rich in folate, the food-form of folic acid, which is great for energy and producing healthy red blood cells.  In fact, a 100g portion of asparagus produces around three-quarters of the body’s requirement for folate each day, so your energy levels will be supported.

Additionally, asparagus is rich in vitamin C and vitamin E which help support the immune system, together with beta-carotene, also great for immunity.  It’s high in vitamin K which is needed for blood clotting, strong bones, and a healthy heart.

Grilled asparagus wrapped in parma ham

Asparagus is delicious lightly steamed and served with some hollandaise sauce. Another really easy way with asparagus is lightly roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic or tossed with some parmesan cheese.  And for real simplicity, just pop it onto the barbeque sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.

Even better, it’s on many restaurant menus right now, so enjoy it whilst you can!

Spinach

Spinach has a slightly bitter taste which can be off-putting for some people. However, it’ what you put with it that makes all the difference. Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse and can also be added to many dishes to increase nutrient content without being too overpowering.  A good example of this might be a lemon risotto with prosciutto, where other flavours are strong, and spinach doesn’t conflict.

Dish,With,Delicious,Spinach,Risotto,On,Wooden,BoardNutritionally, spinach is packed with immune-boosting beta-carotene and vitamin C (and we need to protect the immune system all year round), plus energising folate. It also contains iron and plenty of health-protective antioxidants.

Plaice

 

Whilst it’s a fairly humble white fish in terms of taste, plaice is still as popular as ever in the UK.  Hopefully you can find some that’s been caught in our waters at this time of year.

Sea,Bream,Fillet,With,Tomatoes,,Green,Olives,And,Capers

Plaice is tasty, moist, fleshy, and high in protein.  As with all white fish, it’s also low in fat and rich in the trace mineral iodine which is frequently lacking in the UK diets and is essential for thyroid function.

For a super-easy and nutrient-rich meal why not tray bake plaice with spinach, olives and tomatoes, for a real Mediterranean treat.

Jersey Royal potatoes

The people of Jersey certainly know a thing or two about growing the most delicious potatoes as they’ve been doing it for over 140 years! It’s all about the soil, climate and careful farming methods that make these potatoes so unique in terms of taste and texture.

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

From a nutritional perspective, they are no different to any other potatoes being rich in vitamin C, the B vitamins and fibre.  Plus, the skin is generally eaten with Jersey Royals as it’s so soft, so the fibre content increases.

For the simplest of recipes, enjoy them with a fresh tuna steak salad with hard boiled eggs and, of course, some spinach leaves!

Spring onions

As with all onions, spring onions are packed with flavonoids – plant compounds that provide much nutritional goodness, including antioxidant support. They’re also high in vitamin C, B-vitamins, and fibre.

Pile,Of,Fresh,Spring,Onion,On,Wooden,Table

Spring onions can be added to many dishes to provide some additional flavour without overwhelming the recipe, as can often happen with larger onions.  For example, they’re great added to mash and cheese. Spring onions are also great in stir fries and work really well with ginger, garlic, chopped veggies, and any type of protein.

So, why not get into the habit of eating more seasonally and benefit from eating flavoursome food at it’s best when nature intended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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Take the veg pledge: 5 top vegetables to eat more of

 

A range of vegetables to represent fibre in the diet

It’s no secret that we are what we eat! Everything we put into our bodies will have an effect, and hopefully a benefit, as well as playing a role in our overall wellbeing.

Vegetables provide many health benefits – some more than others – and are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Including as many as you can in the daily diet is a great way to get a wide range of nutrients to support your overall wellbeing.

 

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourites that are in-season right now!

Broccoli

Broccoli is often referred to as a superfood. Quite simply, it’s right up there when it comes to providing immune-boosting nutrients (essential at this time of year), antioxidants and other compounds which support detoxification and hormone balance.

Broccoli florets on a plate

From an immune health perspective, broccoli is high in both vitamin A and vitamin C, together with the mineral selenium. It’s also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds which help protect against disease. Importantly, some of these compounds have a positive effect on the heart, brain, and skin. Plus, broccoli is loaded with fibre which keeps digestion moving along nicely, whilst protecting overall health.

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

Broccoli is really versatile in recipes, simply served steamed with a drizzle of pesto or in a mid-week broccoli and salmon bake with some added basil leaves, for great flavour.

Beetroot

Another superfood, beetroot is a great liver detoxifier so is perfect for the upcoming party season! Beetroot contains a compound called betalain, which triggers the body’s key antioxidant and detoxifying enzyme.

Whole beetroots

From a nutrient perspective, beetroot is rich in energising folate, essential for women during pregnancy, plus the minerals calcium, iron, and manganese – all often deficient in the typical western diet. And if you’re struggling with joint pain or need a boost to your high intensity workouts, then beetroot is certainly your friend.

Beetroot and goats cheese salad

Beetroot is great in salads with goat’s cheese or couscous and mint, in soups, roasted as a vegetable side or made into chocolate brownies for an amazing, sweet treat!

Turnips

It’s no coincidence that root vegetables are in season now.  The body needs warming, and energy-dense foods such as turnips fit the bill perfectly. Turnips were one of the main sources of sustenance way back, before the arrival of potatoes.  They are perfect at this time of year and are high in immune-boosting vitamin C.

Roasted turnip side dish

Turnips have a slightly sweet flavour so work really well with lamb and celeriac in a hotpot. However, for a dinner party treat with a twist, how about serving a turnip gratin which includes potatoes, double cream, and garlic – a twist on traditional Potato Dauphinoise.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are in fact not part of the same family as traditional white potatoes and have a different, and better overall nutrient profile. This is mainly because sweet potatoes are high in immune-boosting beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A as needed in the body, but also because they help to better balance blood sugar versus traditional potatoes.

A bowl of roasted sweet potato wedges

Interestingly, sweet potatoes aren’t always orange in colour; purple sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidant-rich anthocyanins.  However, both are great for overall health and, importantly, make a great substitute for potato fries!  Sweet potato wedges, simply roasted in a little olive oil, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese will provide the perfect guilt-free vegetable side!

Brussels sprouts

No list of superfood vegetables would be complete without the mention of Brussels sprouts!  Maligned by many, Brussels should certainly feature regularly on the dinner plate, not just on Christmas Day.

shutterstock_179527487 basket of sprouts Nov15Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin C but also vitamin K which is essential for heart and bone health.  They also protect cells from free radical damage, making them super-protective against some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  They are rich in fibre with just half a cup providing at least two grams of the recommended 30 grams of fibre needed daily. Brussels have also been found to reduce levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, another protective benefit.

shutterstock_332702606 shredded sprouts salad Nov15

 

Their bitter taste can often be a negative factor for people, hence they’re great mixed with bacon.  Importantly, Brussels sprouts shouldn’t be overcooked as it’s the ‘mushy’ texture that many people dislike.  Lightly steam them and then stir fry with bacon and onions or for a traditional Christmas special, add them to fried chestnuts, apples, and celery.

So, try adding these five delicious vegetables into your daily diet and take the veg pledge!

Stay well.

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Seasonal nutrition: what to eat in August

People enjoying al fresco eating in the summer

With so many of us enjoying staycations in the UK this year, it provides the perfect opportunity for us to fully enjoy all the glorious foods currently in season right here.

Everything tastes better when we eat foods at the time of year nature intended.  In fact, foods tend to come into season at exactly the right time for our bodies to gain the most benefits from their nutrients when we need them.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives us a taste of what’s on offer this season.

Runner beans

With so many people now enjoying ‘growing their own’ in allotments or gardens, runner beans are a great ‘go-to’ vegetable.  After the initial work involved of creating a support network for the growing beans, the results are well worth the effort.

A bunch of runner beans on a wooden background

Runner beans are closely related to other beans, referred to as legumes, including black and pinto, but contain less calories.  And whilst they all contain some of the same nutrients, the greenness of runner beans means their chlorophyll content is high.  Chlorophyll is often referred to as the ‘blood of life’ because it helps to naturally cleanse the blood but also provides a range of vitamins and minerals.

Runner beans also deliver a good source of vitamin C and bone and heart-loving vitamin K.  However, their overall strong nutrient content can be easily diminished from over cooking, therefore lightly steaming is always best and will retain their crispness.

Globe artichokes

Whilst not always the quickest of vegetables to prepare, artichokes deliver some wonderful and unique health benefits, so patience will be rewarded.  Globe artichokes need the tough outer leaves removed, together with the inedible fibrous ‘choke’ in the middle, revealing the edible heart. The active compound in artichokes is called cynarin which is great at detoxifying the liver.  Research also suggests they are supportive of heart health, helping reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Close up of artichokes

Importantly, artichokes help replenish the friendly gut bacteria that is so essential for good overall health.  They need around 30 minutes of gentle boiling until softened and when cooled are great simply served with vinaigrette and lemon juice. Alternatively, they’re delicious grilled when cut in half lengthways.

Mackerel

Mackerel is often referred to as a very ‘fishy’ fish because it has a strong flavour. Mackerel is a fantastic source of the super-healthy omega-3 fats.  The body can’t make omega-3s, so they must be eaten regularly in the diet, and we know that as a nation we are incredibly deficient. Omega-3s are needed for a healthy heart, brain, eyes, hormones, and joints so they’re pretty important!  It is recommended that we eat at least two portions of oily fish per week to get what the body needs.

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

Mackerel is often sourced in UK waters or from the North Atlantic or Mediterranean.  It’s strong flavour, and oily texture, means it can be simply served with lemon and herbs or with a fresh salad that includes sweet tomatoes.

Plaice

Whilst plaice is available throughout the year, it is generally much fleshier and tastier at this time of year.  As with all white fish, plaice is a great source of low-fat protein and is great for easy everyday meals grilled with other flavours.  Indeed, since it has a subtle taste, it works well with stronger flavours of olives, tomatoes, spring onions, rosemary, and chives.

Thai fish dish

Plaice is also a good source of the mineral iodine which is often deficient in women and is essential for the growth of babies and children as well as being well utilised for cognitive function.  Plaice certainly provides a low-cost, easy, and nutritious food option this season.

Plums

The season for plums is short so they need to be grabbed and enjoyed whilst they’re around.  There are over 300 varieties of plum available, but it’s always good to choose the sweetest ones to avoid having to add too much additional sugar to a dish.

A bowl full of plums

Their beautiful orange flesh signals plenty of beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A as needed by the body. Plus, they’re rich in vitamin C and also tryptophan from which our body makes our happy hormone ‘serotonin’ – that’s something to smile about for sure! Even better, plums work really well in sweet or savoury dishes; try them in a crumble, with chicken, or simply poached with cinnamon and honey.

Many people perhaps don’t realise that prunes are dried plums, and both are therefore rich in essential fibre.

So, why not visit some local markets or farm shops this August and be sure to enjoy the season whilst it’s here!

Stay well.

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Back to basics: everyday nutrition tips

shutterstock_335465993 nutrition words Mar21

The whole topic of nutrition has been highly glamorised in recent years, partly down to social media.  Whilst this is great in many ways because good nutrition is the cornerstone of wellness, it has left many people confused about what is right and what is wrong.

When it comes to a balanced diet there are a few simple rules which we can all follow to ensure we are getting the optimum nutrition we need.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, takes us back to the basics of daily nutrition.

What are macros?

As the name suggests, they are big, and in this case refer to the groups of food that we eat most of.  Essentially, there are three macronutrients: proteins,  carbohydrates and fats. Some people also talk about fibre as being another macro such is its important in overall health, although technically fibre is a carbohydrate.

Protein – essential building blocks for life

All macros form an essential part of the daily diet, so any restrictive diet is going to lead to nutrient deficiencies somewhere along the line.  Protein is literally the building block of life. It is essential for every bone and muscle in the body, as well as producing hormones, neurotransmitters and supporting the immune system.

A range of foods containing protein

There are nine essential amino acids that must be eaten in the diet (there are other amino acids that are essential, but these can be produced in the body). These nine amino acids are found primarily in animal produce including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy and plant sources quinoa, buckwheat, and soybeans.  If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet you should combine grains and pulses to get sufficient amino acids, although this does not need to be in the same meal.

Carbohydrates – energy and nutrient providers

Carbohydrates, including fibre, provide an essential energy source for our muscles and brain.  Indeed, the brain requires around 30% of all carbohydrate the body intakes. Carbs are not all created equally in that slow releasing ones (essentially whole foods and fruits and vegetables) provide sustainable energy throughout the day. Conversely, fast release carbs primarily found in processed and refined foods give an energy boost then an energy crash due to their adverse effect on blood sugar.

Foods,Highest,In,Carbohydrates.,Healthy,Diet,Eating,Concept.

Carbs are often maligned but this food group contains some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and are loaded with antioxidants, so the body is missing out if they are not being consumed.

Fat – protecting and sustaining

Another maligned food group is fat.  However, fat provides the second energy source for the body, and it is essential for absorbing our fat-soluble vitamins vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

There is often confusion around good and ‘bad’ fats.  Essentially, good fats are the omegas 3 and 6 which must be eaten in the diet as the body cannot make them.  The omega 3s are crucial for hormones, joints, the heart, brain and eyes. Oily fish and nuts and seeds are your friends in this respect.

shutterstock_196052645 avocadoes Oct15

Monounsaturated fat found in avocados and olive oil is great for the heart and should be included in the diet.  However, try to avoid the damaged fats; the trans fats found in margarines and refined foods.  The body cannot deal with these and trans fats are known to raise cholesterol levels, so try to be aware of not overeating the foods that contain them.

Fruits and vegetables – overflowing with goodness

As nutritionists we talk endlessly about getting sufficient fruits and vegetables into the diet.  Why? Because quite simply they are loaded with nutrients, especially the trace minerals that are so often deficient in the typical western diet.  It is all about colour and variety and not over thinking it.  Try to have plenty of colour on your plate at every mealtime.

A range of fruits and vegetables

There’s also confusion as to whether juicing is good or bad.  Juices are a great way of getting more nutrients into the body.  You might lose the fibre content, but juices are still loaded with nutrients.  Try to include more vegetables than fruits in your juices or blends to keep fructose (a fruit sugar) content to a minimum.

Water – pure and simple

We talk about the body being around 80% water.  Of course, this is not pure water because it is made up of solutes and everything within cellular tissue.  However, the body still needs plenty of plain water to keep it sufficiently hydrated.  It will quickly complain if dehydrated and you’ll feel low in energy, suffer brain fog, plus constipation may be problematic.

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

Our water needs vary depending on activity levels.  However, as a general rule, if you are having around 1 ½ – 2 litres of water daily you will be doing ok, plus fruits and vegetables can count towards this target since they’re high in water.

The body’s needs are relatively simple so there is no need to overcomplicate diets; just try and stick to the basics for well-balanced nutrition.

Stay well.

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How to pack a healthy picnic

A picnic basket on a wodden table overlooking a beautiful countryside scene

It’s a National Picnic Week which means it’s a great time to celebrate everything we love about picnics as well as spending time outdoors in green spaces.

There’s always a great temptation to pack too many ‘treats’ into the picnic basket but there are some great ways to get nutrition without missing out on flavours.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five healthy picnic swaps, but which don’t swap out the taste!

Swap white for brown

This includes using brown bread or wraps rather than white if you’re packing sandwiches, but also wholemeal pasta rather than white. White bread and pasta have been refined, meaning much of the healthy fibre, essential for good digestion,  been stripped away. So too have many of the nutrients, especially energising B-vitamins and essential minerals such as chromium.

Sandwich,With,Ham,tomato,,Cucumber,And,Arugula,On,The,Wooden,Cutting

Brown pasta has a much fuller flavour and more of a texture than white.  And pasta salads are great for taking on picnics.  Why not try beetroot and cold poached salmon wholemeal pasta, adding some avocado, cucumber, dill and a little natural yoghurt.  This is a really delicious super-food pasta salad.

Swap potato crisps for veggie crisps

Most picnic baskets include crisps in some shape or size. Unfortunately, potato crisps are generally high in fat and low in nutrients.  So, why not swap potato crisps for veggie crisps? Think beetroot, parsnip, or carrot (or all three?) – there are a lot of veggie ‘crisp’ options available in supermarkets.

Home made kale chips in a dish

Even better, make your own kale crisps.  Kale belongs to the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family which are high in heart-loving vitamin K, relaxing magnesium and are loaded with antioxidants.  Simply pull off the leaves and rub them in a little olive oil and salt. Then roast in the oven for around 10 minutes and once cooled, you’ll have some of the healthiest veggie crisps to take on your picnic.

Swap ham for turkey

If you’re taking sandwiches, then what you put into them can make all the difference.  Ham sandwiches are often popular in the picnic basket.  However, ham is a processed meat and generally also contains high levels of preservatives.  Ham also contains saturated fats which are best minimised in the diet.

Grilled,Turkey,Breast,With,Salad

A far better choice is to use turkey meat instead. Turkey is very low in fat and high in protein (at 31 g per 100g, more than chicken). Why not cook up some turkey breast steaks the day before, which can be quickly grilled.  If you cook a few extra, they’re delicious eaten with Jersey Royal potatoes (now in season) and salad.  For the picnic, turkey steaks can be chopped, mixed with a little pesto and tomatoes, and made into delicious brown bread sandwiches.

Swap cheese spread for nut butters

There is a plethora of ready-made cheese spreads in supermarkets.  Whilst they might taste good, they are high in fat and are not especially nutrient dense.  Why not swap these for some delicious omega-3 laden almond butter.  Omega-3 fats are essential and whilst we need to be mindful of the amount of saturated fats we consume, the omegas are seriously deficient within the UK population and are essential for the heart, brain, eyes, skin and hormones.

Nut butter on rye bread

Almond butter is also high in protein so will keep energy levels sustained throughout the day. Why not add some watercress (one of the healthiest salad vegetables around) for colour and a nutrient blast?

Swap fizzy drinks for kombucha

Fizzy drinks are always popular on picnics.  However, they are certainly not the healthiest of drinks.  Sugar-free versions are packed with sweeteners which have a detrimental effect on mood, but also encourage cravings for sweet food so you still end up eating all the wrong things!

Kombucha,Second,Fermented,Fruit,Tea,With,Different,Flavorings.,Healthy,Natural

Kombucha, however, is a great alternative. It’s a fermented, lightly effervescent, green or black tea drink, which is low in sugar but high in health benefits.  Fermented foods and drinks provide probiotics which are great for feeding the good bacteria and are essential for healthy digestion, good mood and effective weight management. Once you’ve tried them, there’ll be no turning back!

So, get outdoors and celebrate National Picnic Week with these super-healthy food swaps.  Enjoy!

Stay well.

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Five breakfast boosts for a healthier start to the day

Healthy,Breakfast,Set,On,Grey,Background.,The,Concept,Of,Delicious

As we approach mid-year, with hopefully the promise of some summer sunshine, now is a great time to overhaul your breakfast to ensure it’s as nourishing and energising as possible. 

Each mealtime is an opportunity to fuel the body with some of the 45 nutrients it needs every day, and a well-balanced breakfast is very important. 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five breakfast choices to super-charge your day!

Avocado on wholemeal bagel

Cream,Cheese,And,Avocado,Bagel,Against,A,Black,Background

Avocados are really ‘on trend’ food wise, and for very good reason.  And whilst many people avoid avocados because of their high fat content, this is actually one of their plus points. The body needs a certain amount fat in the diet, not least because it’s essential for absorbing our fat-soluble nutrients, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Avocados are also rich in monounsaturated fats which are help support heart health. Choosing a wholemeal bagel as opposed to white will deliver lots more energising B-vitamins, in a balanced way, and sprinkling a few pumpkin seeds will top up protein levels and essential omega-3 fats too.

Chia seed porridge

Vegan,Breakfast.,Oatmeal,With,Chia,Seeds,,Berries,,Seeds,And,Caramel

Porridge is another breakfast staple. It can be eaten hot or the oats can be soaked overnight in a little apple juice and then eaten cold the next day.  Either way, oats are packed with fibre, so are great for digestive health, plus they naturally include beta-glucans which help reduce cholesterol levels.

It’s great to mix chia seeds with flaxseeds as a topping as both are rich sources of the essential and healthy omega-3s. Then add some vitamin C-rich berries and delicious oat yoghurt.  This is a great option for vegans and will help you power through until lunchtime.

Eggs and mushrooms

Poached,Egg,With,Spinach,,Portobello,Mushrooms,And,Vine,Tomatoes

Eggs make one of the best starts to the day because of their high protein content.  This helps balance blood sugar levels and, in turn weight, mood and energy.

Button mushrooms, which are a source of immune-boosting vitamin D, are gently cooked, sprinkled with thyme, in a little olive oil with chopped tomatoes for additional antioxidants and flavour.  Spread them over the plate and poach one or two eggs and pop on the top.

Gluten-free buckwheat pancakes

Buckwheat,Pancakes,With,Berry,Fruit,And,Honey.selective,Focus

Despite its name buckwheat contains no wheat at all.  This makes it the perfect base for the many people who find they can’t tolerate gluten which predominates in wheat-based foods.  This is because gluten is rather ‘sticky’ and tends to cause digestive problems for people even if they’re not allergic or intolerant to wheat.

Buckwheat is also high in protein and low on the glycaemic index, meaning energy levels will be sustained through till lunchtime. These pancakes can be made with egg if desired, and your choice of milk with a little butter and sugar to suit your tastes. Top with fruit and natural yoghurt for a wonderfully delicious and nutritious start to your day.

Protein-powered oats

Oatmeal,Porridge,With,Berries,In,A,Bowl,On,Rustic,Wooden

Whilst oats do contain some protein, if you want a powerful re-fuel after your morning workout, then this breakfast is a great choice.  All nuts are high in protein and although peanuts are not actually nuts in the true sense of the word, they still deliver on the protein front and help repair worked muscles.

If you’re short of time after a workout (or just generally pushed for time), then why not soak some oats overnight in some water with frozen berries of your choice.  It’s always great to have some frozen fruit to hand and it’s just as nutritious as fresh, so there’s no need to worry if getting to the shops is an issue.  Simply stir in some peanut butter or other nut butter such as cashew, and you’re super-charged and ready for your day.

Try not to skip breakfast, as this can often lead to poor food choices later in the day and instead enjoy one of these recipes to charge up your day.

Stay well.

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Seasonal nutrition: what to eat in August

People enjoying al fresco eating in the summer

Eating seasonally offers many benefits, mainly because produce is tastier when eaten at the time nature intended.  Indeed, British strawberries have been particularly delicious this year. 

So, what’s in season right now which will also deliver some amazing nutritional benefits?

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top seasonal foods to enjoy now.

Runner beans

A perennial favourite for any keen gardener, the best time to eat runner beans is freshly picked otherwise they can become tough and chewy.  And whilst they might seem like a British traditional late summer vegetable, runner beans are actually native to Mexico and Central America.

A bunch of runner beans on a wooden background

As with all beans, runners’ deliver some good quality protein and dietary fibre, plus useful amounts of magnesium and copper (great for the muscles and joints), and energising iron.  Unlike many vegetables, they are not especially rich in vitamin C but do provide plenty of other powerful antioxidants including various carotenoids.

From an enjoyment perspective, there’s simply nothing better than pairing runner beans with some delicious roast lamb (also on good form right now).

Aubergine

Also called eggplant, they are loaded with vitamins, minerals and polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants, helping scavenge free radicals. Interestingly, latest research has focussed on a particular antioxidant found in aubergines called nasunin, which is found to be especially protective of the brain.  Aubergines provide good sources of vitamin B6, useful for hormone-balancing and vitamin K, great for heart health.

A colourful grilled vegetable salad with aubergine

In terms of preparation, aubergines can generally be eaten with the skin-on so are super-easy to roast, along with red peppers and onions. They can be made into the ever popular babaganoush with garlic, lemon and tahini or used in many traditional Mediterranean dishes, including ratatouille.

Watercress

Watercress was a favourite of the famous Greek doctor, Hippocrates, due to its high mineral content; it has more calcium per 100 grams than a glass of milk (although you’d need to eat a fair amount!)

Just like spinach with its powerful green leaves, watercress delivers plenty of health-giving chlorophyll (otherwise known as the green food of life), plus immune-boosting vitamin C and the mineral manganese for a healthy nervous system.

A bowl of watercress soup

Watercress adds a delicious peppery taste to salads, helps balance the richness of a steak or makes a delicious soup.  Enjoy!

Beetroot

Truly a vegetable where you get plenty of ‘bang for your buck’, beetroot is low in fat but high in wonderful nutrients. Interestingly, whilst the edible leafy tops were used medicinally in ancient times, it’s generally the red root that’s eaten.  And unlike many other vegetables,  freshly boiled beetroot has higher levels of most nutrients than raw, including heart loving potassium.

Beetroot and goats cheese salad

However, fresh raw beetroot juice does provide a great source of vitamins and minerals and is often used as a tonic.  It’s also useful for athletes and has been found to help aerobic performance.

At this time of year, when they’re freshly harvested, there’s no better way than eating beetroot grated in salads with some feta cheese to compliment the flavours.

Raspberries

Second only to blackberries in terms of their health benefits, raspberries provide very high levels of vitamin C. Raspberries became super-famous when it was discovered they could possibly help with weight management, hence raspberry ketones were developed.  It was found that they helped stop the production of our fat-digesting enzyme, lipase, hence less fat was digested and absorbed.  Raspberries certainly help balance blood sugar levels which will also help with weight management.

A punnet of fresh raspberries

Why not get your day off to a flying start by adding some to your low-sugar morning muesli with some natural yoghurt?  Raspberries are also great on their own as a dessert with some freshly chopped mint.

So, make the most of the this seasonal and nutritious produce whilst you can!

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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

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