Five food swaps to boost your energy this January

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

The month of January can often make us feel low in energy, especially after all the Christmas festivities. What you eat right now can really make the difference between flagging during the day and feeling full of life.

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Just like a car needs fuel, the body can’t run on empty, but the food we choose needs to be the right kind of fuel. So how can you get the most energy out of your food choices?

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five energising food swaps so you jump through January!

Swap sunflower oil for coconut oil

Sunflower oil is one of the most popular cooking oils, partly because it’s quite cheap but it’s also promoted as being healthy. However, the reality is that sunflower oil contains a high percentage of polyunsaturated fats which are damaged when heated and therefore turn into unhealthy trans fats.

Coconut oil and coconut flesh

Conversely, coconut oil is stable once heated but, most importantly, contains high levels of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which the body uses as an energy source. They also speed up metabolism and are not stored as fat. You can even use pure coconut butter as a wonderful body moisturiser. Coconut oil can always be used as a replacement for sunflower oil (or other cooking oils), plus it delivers a very subtle coconut taste which is particularly delicious in stir fry dishes.

Swap rice cakes for oat cakes

Rice cakes are frequently suggested as a great low calorie snack but they do very little in terms of providing sustained energy. Moreover, rice cakes are heated to high temperatures during their preparation and this can produce very unhealthy acrylamides which have been linked to a number of degenerative diseases.

Home made oat cakes

Whilst oat cakes contain a few more calories, you’ll eat less overall because you won’t feel hungry as quickly. Oats are slow releasing carbohydrates which means they keep delivering energy for much longer. Oat cakes make great snacks when paired with hummus, nut butters (see below), prawns or bananas. They’re truly versatile!

Swap peanut butter for walnut butter

It’s a common misconception that peanut butter is really healthy. True, it contains a good amount of protein but that’s as far as it goes! Peanuts are not tree nuts; they’re grown in the ground and are very susceptible to picking up unhealthy aflatoxins. However, proper tree nuts, and in particular, walnuts contain the healthy and energising omega-3 fats.

Walnut nut butter in a jar surrounded by walnuts

Walnuts have the highest omega-3 content of any nuts. These essential fats are needed to help boost metabolism and will therefore give your energy levels a boost. They’re also delicious when made into a nut butter, which is available in most supermarkets. Add walnut butter to smoothies for a protein punch, on oatcakes as a snack, on wholemeal toast as a great on-the-run breakfast, or in decadent chocolate brownie recipes.

Swap white bread for brown

Many of us love white bread, especially toasted. However, once you’ve made the swap to brown, you’ll never look back! Your energy levels will be much improved and you’ll also be eating a much greater range of nutrients.

A selection of brown bread loaves

The problem with white bread (and other white products such as pasta) is that the refining process strips them of the all-important B vitamins which the body needs to produce energy. White bread also contains much less fibre. This means that its carbohydrate content is quickly released into the bloodstream and won’t provide sustainable energy.

If you‘re finding the swap tough, then why not buy some half and half bread to ease you into it gently!

Swap veggie crisps for kale chips

Vegetable chips are readily available in supermarkets and many people believe they’re much healthier than potato crisps because they contain colourful vegetables. This is partly true. However crisps are crisps regardless of which vegetable they are made from; they are still deep-fried, deliver very few nutrients and do very little to improve energy levels.

Home made kale chips in a dish

As a quick, healthy and energising swap try kale chips instead. You can even make your own: add a bag of kale to a roasting pan, sprinkle with coconut oil and a little salt and grill until they have turned crisp. Kale is high in iron and folate, both essential for energy production. As an added benefit, kale also contains good levels of vitamin K which is needed for a healthy heart and bones.

So a few simple swaps will get your energy levels soaring this January and hopefully throughout the coming year!

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The top 3 nutrition tips for a healthier 2019

It’s great to kick start your New Year health with a few easy wins! The trick with New Years’ resolutions is to make them achievable and sustainable. There is little point in going ‘all-out’ in January, only to lose motivation totally, as February starts.

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To help you on your journey, Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares three top changes you can make TODAY for long term health results!

 

 

Start the day right

This one is so simple but oh so effective! Start every day by drinking 500ml of warm water (it should be body temperature) with some sliced fresh lemon and crushed ginger. This should be done when you first get up, for the greatest benefit.

Whilst the liver has carried out its normal detoxification processes during the night, some additional gentle cleansing first thing will certainly add a spring to your step. Lemon water will help flush out the digestive tract and also encourage liver enzyme production. Plus it also helps to alkalise the system encouraging energy levels to soar and skin to glow.

Fresh lemons and lemon tea with root ginger on a wooden background

Ginger is a great winter spice that helps rev up the immune system. It also feeds the good gut bacteria aiding digestion, and warms up the body ready to start the day. At this time of year when bugs are rife, both lemon and ginger will help fight any nasty invaders that may cross your path.

Include protein at every meal

Protein is needed to maintain well-balanced blood sugar levels which, in turn, keeps energy levels sustained throughout the day.

Protein is also essential for tissue repair, hormone production, beautiful hair, skin and nails and enzyme function; it’s absolutely key for life. Many people believe they need to eat lots of carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and bread to feel full. However, it’s actually protein that fills you up and stops those cravings for unhealthy sweet treats. So increasing your protein is also going to benefit any weight loss plan (and who wouldn’t want help with that at this time of year!)

A range of foods containing protein

Eggs, fish, chicken, dairy, turkey and meat are all great sources of animal protein. Great vegetarian sources are soya, tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, grains, peas, nuts and seeds. Clearly, there’s a great choice of high protein foods; you just need to include some at every meal time. You’ll feel more energised, fitter, stronger and happier really quickly just by sticking to this simple rule.

Have a daily juice

This is not intended to replace a meal, but having a juice mid-morning provides a great nutritional ‘top-up’ for the day.

Whilst the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables is a minimum of five daily, from a nutritional perspective we ideally need around ten or more, which of course is not easy to achieve within our busy lives. Currently, only around 25% of the population are achieving this recommend minimum level of 5 a day. Therefore, juicing is a really easy way of increasing fruit and veg intake.

A range of fresh vegetable juices

Ideally a juice should contain mainly vegetables with some additional low glycaemic (not too sugar-laden) fruits. A great recipe example would be carrot, apple, celery, parsley and red pepper. Carrots are loaded with immune-boosting beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A. Apples and peppers contain lots of vitamin C. Celery is great for keeping blood pressure in check and alkalising the body, and any green food such as parsley is packed with chlorophyll, also known as the ‘food of life’.

It’s easy to see how many more nutrients you can obtain from having just one juice a day. And by including whole fruits and vegetables at meal times and as snacks, then you’ll still be getting the essential fibre and enzymes that are naturally found in these whole foods.

So put these three easy wins into practise this year to supercharge your health in 2019!

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Nutritional resolutions for 2019: live your best life

 

Woman making soup

The start of a new year is always a brilliant time to make changes and improvements to life generally. However, it’s also the best time to re-think your diet and overall nutrition to see what could work better for YOU!

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It’s not always about re-inventing the wheel; where nutrition is concerned, sometimes the simplest things can have the biggest impact.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some of her favourite foods to fuel you up and keep you warm!

Drink more water

This one sounds so simple. However, you’ll be amazed how much better you’ll feel from just keeping the body properly hydrated. The body carries around 70-80% water. Of course, this is not ‘pure’ water because body fluids are made up of many different solutes; this is one of the reasons why athletes and recreational exercisers often use isotonic drinks to maintain good hydration levels. These drinks contain many of the electrolytes that are found in body fluids.

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

The good news, therefore, is that you don’t need to only drink plain water. Think herbal and fruit non-caffeinated teas. Try water with slices of lemon, cucumber or apple. Give lemon and crushed ginger a go – there’s plenty to choose from. It’s also a great way to help alkalise the body. You can also try blending: add a few green leaves such as spinach, chard and parsley and drink this throughout the day to provide the body with chlorophyll, otherwise known as the ‘food of life’. Aim for around 1 ½ litres of water-based drinks daily. Your brain, skin, digestion, joints and mood will all massively benefit!

Eat more omega-3s

We need to eat omega-3s very regularly in the diet as the body cannot produce them. However, for those of you that don’t eat fish or nuts and seeds, you may be missing out on these essential healthy fats. Early tell-tale signs that you might be lacking are dry skin, constipation, low mood and joint aches and pains – evidence as to why they’re known as the essential fats.

A range of foods containing omega-3 fats

Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are the best sources.   Good vegetarian sources are flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and hazelnuts. However, if you’re not including any of these foods in your diet at least every other day, then you certainly need to take either a fish oil supplement or a vegetarian flax oil or similar.

Make soup

Soups are a really easy and delicious way of bumping up your daily nutrient intake. Various forms of cooking can rob vegetables of their nutrients but soup has the added advantage of retaining most of its nutrients in the ingredients.

Watercress soup

Some popular soup suggestions:

  • Chicken: great for treating colds and blocked noses and packed with protein
  • Lentil: perfect for vegetarians, filling, warming and a great source of fibre and energising B vitamins
  • Minestrone: classic Italian soup made with lots of fresh vegetables containing immune-boosting vitamin C
  • Bouillabaisse: a thick French fish soup containing omega-3s, vitamin C from the tomatoes, together with plenty of iron and protein

You can make up a big pot of soup and it’ll last for a few days when refrigerated or you can freeze it in batches and it can last you even longer! So why not make 2019 the year of the soup – your body will just love being loaded with more nutrients throughout the year.

Take a Vitamin D supplement!

Public Health England recommends that everyone should take a supplement of vitamin D during the winter months and more frequently for some ‘at risk’ groups. However, even though we generally get some exposure to sun (the best source of vitamin D) during the summer, the body may still need a supplement. Think of it as a cheap health insurance policy to make sure you are getting enough.

Vitamin D written in sand on a beach

Vitamin D is essential for the immune system as well as healthy bones and teeth and is especially important for growing bones. Additionally, people suffering from SAD and general low mood, are often low in vitamin D. Taking a daily supplement containing a minimum of 10 micrograms of vitamin D is easy, cheap and very important.

Eat more fibre

Our typical highly refined western diet is normally always low in fibre. We should aim to eat around 30 grams of fibre a day from fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and whole foods such as beans and lentils.

Fibre is absolutely key for maintaining good digestion and to keep the bowels running smoothly. The body retains damaging toxins if it’s constipated. Additionally fibre is needed for heart health (the body eliminates bad cholesterol via the stools), effective weight management and for keeping our skin looking healthy and fresh.

A range of vegetables to represent fibre in the diet

 

Many of us, over the Festive period, will have dined out on sugary, low fibre foods. But with a fresh start to 2019, resolve to include much more fibre in your diet. Enjoy some wholegrain oats for breakfast, some wholemeal rolls or jacket sweet potatoes for lunch and some chicken with quinoa and vegetables for dinner, as a quick example of a healthier, more nutritious day!

So making some healthy nutritional resolutions in 2019 doesn’t need to be complicated but simple changes can be very effective. Happy New Year!

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Fuel your festive walks with these top nutrition tips

MOther and child on her back dressed up in hats and scarves on a winter walk in the snow

Winter walks can take on a magic of their own, whether it’s snowy outside or crisp and dry. Winter weather may make us feel like snuggling up in the warm. But getting outside and taking some brisk walks can have so many health benefits, particularly for the heart and circulation. Plus it gets those feel-good endorphins ramped up!

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So what should you eat to keep you going before, during and after a wintery walk?

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some of her favourite foods to fuel you up and keep you warm!

START THE DAY RIGHT

There’s no better way than to start the day in preparation for your walk than to eat a bowl of porridge. It will keep your energy levels sustained for long periods because it’s packed with slow-releasing carbohydrates.

However, for those who can’t tolerate gluten or find traditional porridge oats too fibrous, then why not change it up with a bowl of amaranth porridge? It can be used in flake-form and is readily available in the supermarket. Most importantly, it’s higher in protein than traditional oats and contains a wealth of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.

Porridge with pears showing a healthy breakfast

Amaranth flakes can be simmered with some coconut or almond milk with cinnamon and nutmeg (also very warming spices), and then cooked through with some chopped pears or banana. It will give your body a warm, healthy glow to set you on your way.

WARMING SNACKS

Whilst the body will be burning calories during a walk, unless you’re going for a long walk you don’t need to eat vast amounts of additional food; the body has plenty of storage. However, if you’re going to be out for two or three hours, you’ll certainly need to pack a snack to keep you going.

Nut butter on rye bread

The best advice is to take something containing fat which will help keep the body warm. Therefore, choose the healthy omega-3 fats that your body can’t make but need very regularly and you’ll be getting plenty of additional health benefits. You can easily pack some almond, pumpkin seed or other nut butter spread on wholemeal or rye bread which will fill you up, warm you up and fuel you up for your bracing winter walk.

WARMING DRINKS

Warming drinks and food are needed during the winter because they help to energise the body and bring blood flow to the skin surface, which improves circulation. If we eat cooling foods such as salads during the winter months the body has to work a lot harder to digest food, which can cause digestive upsets.

A warming drink of honey, lemon and ginger

Some foods, and especially spices, are naturally warming. The most warming of all is ginger. Plus, it contains wonderful immune-stimulating properties, so is great to drink at the first sign of a cold. Why not fill a flask with some freshly grated ginger, lemon juice and a little immune-boosting Manuka honey with boiling water which is sure to keep you warm through the entire walk?

WARM YOURSELF BACK HOME

When you’ve had an amazing walk in the great outdoors, you’ll feel really invigorated! However, you’re probably also hungry and the body will need to be re-fuelled with a warming meal.

One of the best meal suggestions is to cook up a delicious curry. You can add a wealth of warming spices such as turmeric, paprika, chilli, and coriander. As we know, all herbs and spices contain a range of health benefits, but coriander is also good for the digestive tract, which may be really helpful over the Festive period!

A curry surrounded by herbs and spices

There’s no end of choice when it comes to making a curry; try a vegetable curry using sweet potato, chickpeas and other vegetables as a base. Or why not a fish curry with white fish of your choice, onions and broccoli. Another firm winter favourite is a lamb curry with raisins and cashew nuts. If you invest in a slow-cooker, then it can all be thrown into the pot before you leave for your walk and will be ready and waiting on your return.

Leek and potato soup in a bowl

Soups are another great winter warmer that work really following a brisk walk and need very little preparation. Leek and potato, spicy bean or winter minestrone are all excellent choices, particularly for lunch if you’ve been out for a morning stroll, and are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals.

So whatever the weather, get outdoors and with these top food tips you’ll be warm on the inside so you won’t feel too much of the cold on the outside!

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

 

Combat your over-indulgences: how to stay healthy during the festive season

 

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With the festive season in full flow, you might be starting to feel the after-effects of late nights and over-indulgence. But there are some easy ways to support your body not just over Christmas but well into the New Year.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top tips on staying healthy through the yuletide season and beyond.

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CLEAN UP YOUR DIET

This may seem strange advice, particularly at this time of year, but if 80% of your diet is ‘clean’ during the festive period, when you do enjoy some festive treats your health won’t suffer quite as much!  Plan three days during the week when you limit caffeine (try switching to green tea) and avoid processed foods (particularly pre-packed meals), chocolate and sweet treats. You could also consider ditching any extra sugar you consume (i.e. on your cereal or in tea and coffee) and switch instead to natural sweeteners, xylitol or stevia.

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Saturated fats found in red meat and dairy products such as butter can sometimes be more difficult for people to digest. Therefore, cutting down on these types of foods and eating fish or plant-based meals, including lots of vegetables and pulses, also helps to give your digestive system and your liver a break.

shutterstock_115541830 green tea Aug16

The most important aspect of a clean diet is to support your liver as much as possible. Green tea is a great liver detoxifier and can be drunk as much as possible throughout the day.  Certain vegetables, particularly green leafy ones such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are all liver-loving veggies: packed with nutrients they really help in the detoxification process.  The better your liver is ‘fed’ with good foods, the better it will cope when you overindulge.

WATER, WATER, WATER!

This may sound like very simple advice, but the amount of water you take in is absolutely key to your health. You should aim to drink at least two litres of water daily. This will really help to get your bowels moving which in turn gets the body’s cleansing mechanisms revved up!

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If you are planning to lose a couple of pounds, the more water you drink the more effective your weight loss campaign will be.  Even better, your kidneys love to be flushed through with lots of water: dark circles under the eyes can be a sign that your kidneys are sluggish. So keep drinking that water – especially the morning after the night before, and ideally during the night before: try to alternate a glass of water with every alcoholic drink you consume.

GET MOVING

Not only does exercise raise your endorphin levels (which in turn makes you feel happy) but it helps to move lymph within our lymphatic system. Lymph is the fluid that removes toxins from the tissue spaces around our cells and is reliant on exercise to move.  So regular mild to moderate exercise not only boosts a sluggish lymphatic system, but also boosts your mood!

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Fresh air and exercise combined are a great way of combatting the feelings of overindulgence. Try to fit in a 30 minute walk each day over the festive period and you will feel so much better for it.

TAKE MILK THISTLE

Milk thistle is a popular and well-known herb that’s been used for centuries to help support the liver and pick you up the morning after the night before!  As well as supporting liver cells, it can help protect the liver from free radical damage caused by alcohol and it also helps break down fats in food.

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The best advice is to start taking it now and continue to take every day, in order to support you through the Festive season.  Your liver will certainly thank you and any late nights or over-indulgence should be less painful the next day!

RAMP UP THE B VITAMINS!

The family of B vitamins like to work together in the body to generate energy. However, one of their other main functions is to help detoxify the liver.  Therefore, on your 80% days, it makes good sense to eat as many B vitamin-rich foods as possible; chicken, turkey, fish, wholemeal bread and pasta, eggs and wholegrain cereals such as oats are good examples of B-vitamin staples.

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Green leafy vegetables are also high in B vitamins – another great reason for eating them as much as possible!

So, with a little forward planning, you can sail through the festivities and come out the other side feeling better than ever!

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Have yourself a delicious and nutritious Christmas: healthy twists on festive fayre

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Planning a Christmas party? You may not always think ‘delicious’ and ‘nutritious’ are words that go hand in hand with Christmas treats and party food, but it’s actually pretty easy to rustle up some Christmas party snacks that are both!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some of her favourite healthy treats you can make this Christmas time.

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SWEET POTATO WEDGES

A twist on traditional potato wedges, sweet potatoes are delicious and quite different to the traditional spud. Sweet potatoes provide a much greater range of nutrients than its humble potato cousins. They contain beta carotene which makes vitamin A in the body (great for immunity), vitamin C (also great for immunity and the skin), B vitamins (for energy) and an array of essential trace minerals (frequently lacking in the modern diet).  Plus they can actually help you to lose weight as they keep your blood sugar levels balanced, meaning you feel fuller for longer, and discourage your body from storing fat.

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For an even healthier twist, roast them in the over with some coconut oil: coconut oil is one of the best oils for cooking plus it helps provide an extra boost of energy.  Sprinkle a little paprika on the wedges whilst they’re cooking for an extra kick and why not make a quick dip of crème fraiche, dill and chilli to accompany – a great little treat for handing around at your Christmas party!

HEALTHY ROASTED MIXED NUTS

Nuts provide a wealth of health benefits but often the nuts on offer at parties are salted or roasted peanuts – the least healthy nut options!  However, there’s a great alternative – caramelised, sugar-free roasted nuts!

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Try a mix of cashews, Brazils (high in the mineral selenium which is a powerful antioxidant and often lacking in the Western diet) and almonds (high in brain-boosting omega-3’s) to pack a real nutritional punch! Lay a mixture of the nuts on a heated roasting tray and sprinkle with sea salt.  Then lightly sprinkle some granulated stevia (a natural sweetener) over the top and gently roast until all the nuts are nicely caramelised.  Your party guests will be impressed!

CHOCOLATE AND CRANBERRY BROWNIES

With cranberries featuring heavily in traditional Christmas fayre, why not use them to their fullest potential in some delicious but healthy treats to hand around during your Christmas cocktail party?

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These chocolate and cranberry brownies are a healthy alternative to the usual brownies and here’s why: they contain prunes (great for digestion), xylitol (a natural sweetener), plain 70% cocoa solids chocolate (high in antioxidants), chopped pecan nuts (rich in brain-boosting omega-3’s), wholemeal self-raising flour (which contains many more nutrients than refined white flour) and eggs (additional protein and omega 3’s).

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Liquidise the prunes and xylitol with some water. Then melt the chocolate, separate the eggs and stir in just the egg yolks with the other ingredients. Whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks and then fold carefully into the remaining mixture.  Bake for around 20-25 minutes.  A guilt-free party treat!

WALNUT HUMMUS

No buffet table is complete without some crudités and dips!  However, some people tend to shy away from hummus because they fear it’s a bit fattening.  Enter, hummus made with walnuts!

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Walnuts are high in healthy, essential omega-3 fats and also help to reduce blood pressure.  All you need to do is to combine some crushed garlic, a can of chickpeas and the zest of an orange, and whizz in the food processor. Then add around 100 g of walnut butter (readily available in supermarkets) and you’ve created a truly delicious dip.

Serve it with toasted, sliced wholemeal pittas; wholemeal pittas contain much higher levels of energising B vitamins than the white variety – another boost to your party platter!

LOW FAT EGGNOG

Traditionally consumed from Thanksgiving, until after Christmas in Canada and the USA, eggnog has also become a popular festive drink in UK households.  However, many people find the shop-bought varieties are too sweet and also worry about the fat content.

So how about proudly serving some delicious, home-made, low fat eggnog at your Christmas drinks party to really get people into the Festive spirit?

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Traditionally, it is made with milk or cream, together with sugar, whipped eggs and a spirit of choice (usually rum, brandy or bourbon).  Why not create a dairy-free version using coconut or almond milk as both contain a much healthier fat profile?

Add your chosen milk to a saucepan with a split vanilla pod and gently heat.  Mix together some eggs with xylitol (a natural, calorie-free sweetener) and some cornflour, then gradually add this to the heated mixture whisking constantly to ensure they don’t scramble.  The mixture then needs to cook and thicken.  Remove from the heat and when cooled you can add the alcohol of your choice together with a little freshly grated or powdered nutmeg and add a cinnamon stick to flavour.

So why not try making a few of these recipes this festive season, and enjoy a Christmas that is both delicious and nutritious!

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Spice up your life: the health-giving properties of spices

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Spices are aromatic vegetables used mostly in cookery. But spices are not just for enhancing flavour and bringing an extra kick to your favourite dishes. From boosting energy, to balancing blood sugar and maintaining healthy digestion, there are many reasons for adding spices to your daily diet that will actually enhance your health.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares with us her four favourite spices, why they’re so beneficial for your health and how to use them in everyday cooking.

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GINGER

Ginger has a very distinct flavour and can be included in many different dishes, sweet or savoury. Think of fish dishes alongside lemon grass, coconut milk, garlic and lime. Add ginger to a juice made with beetroot, apple and carrot. Bake cookies or make gingerbread men. And of course it’s a classic flavour in stir-fries and Asian cuisine. It’s also very versatile and can be used fresh, dried or ground into a powder.

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But what about its health benefits?  There are two key areas where ginger appears to exert its fiery nature (in a good way!)  Firstly, it appears to be really effective against nausea particularly associated with pregnancy and morning sickness.  Additionally it can help symptoms of nausea and motion sickness commonly associated with travelling.

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What’s more, ginger appears to help areas of inflammation in the body, whether caused by over-exertion in the gym or just from everyday activities.  In cases of osteoarthritis where there is both pain and inflammation, ginger seems to ‘blunt’ the mechanism that causes both of these inflammatory reactions in the body.

TURMERIC

Turmeric has become a rather iconic spice.  This is because it’s been the subject of fairly robust research into its health-giving properties.[1] Clearly, there’s still a way to go, but there are many other great reasons for including turmeric in your cooking, both for its taste and health benefits.

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You’d not be wrong in thinking that turmeric looks a little like ginger in its root form; that’s because it’s actually part of the same family. Whilst it’s available fresh, it’s actually most usable in its powdered form.  It’s used extensively in Indian dishes such as curries and dahls, is a staple of most chilli dishes and makes a great addition to spicy sweet potato soup.  It also gives many chutneys and pickles their distinctive yellow tinge.

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Turmeric has long been used as a tonic for the liver, to help calm digestive problems and also as an anti-inflammatory agent; sports people often including turmeric in their everyday cooking to aid recovery after heavy workouts.

So whether you’re a gym bunny or a party goer (or both), turmeric should feature as much as possible on your plate.  And at this time of year, the combination of turmeric and the herb Milk Thistle are really going to support your liver through the festive period!

CINNAMON

Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of the tree species Cinnamomum, hence its brown colour and slightly rough twig-like appearance when in its raw state.  It can be used exactly as it is in many recipes or in its dried powdered form.  It also contains an essential oil which produces that lovely warm aromatic smell we tend to associate with Christmas and winter time.

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As with most spices, the medicinal uses of cinnamon are many and varied. One of the more recent discoveries around the health benefits of cinnamon is balancing blood sugar, thereby supporting weight management.  A study published in the American Journal of Nutrition[2] found that including cinnamon in a meal delayed the rate that the food passed through the digestive tract.  This, in turn, reduced any blood sugar rise (the main reason for weight gain).

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Cinnamon can be used in a variety of sweet or savoury recipes including curries, stews, fruit crumbles and in its whole state – simmered in milk for a delicious warming drink. And of course it works perfectly sprinkled over the top of your cappuccino!  A great way to start the day is by sprinkling cinnamon onto porridge.  It will help keep you feeling fuller for longer during the day, plus sustain your energy levels.

FENUGREEK

Fenugreek is a perennial plant that produces aromatic seeds.  Although these seeds have a slightly bitter taste similar to celery, their flavour becomes far more pleasant when cooked.  The leaves can be used directly in cooking and the seeds can be either dried or ground into a powder.

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In recent years, fenugreek has become a popular nutritional supplement. Its seeds are rich in minerals such as potassium (good for the heart), iron (great for energy), calcium (to support bones and teeth) and zinc (for immunity), plus it also contains a variety of vitamins.

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As if that wasn’t enough, fenugreek’s key health benefit relates to blood sugar balancing.  As with cinnamon, it helps to keep blood glucose in check but it appears to go further than that; it helps to control glucose in people already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and also moderates cholesterol levels.

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Fenugreek tends to be traditionally used in Indian cuisine. However, if Indian dishes and curries don’t float your boat then fenugreek is readily available in capsule form from your local health food store, so you can still reap the rewards of its many health benefits.

So, why not add some spice to your life and your meals this week – you can boost your health whilst enjoying these amazing tastes and flavours!

[1] Subash C et al. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials AAPS J. 2013 Jan; 15(1): 195-218

[2] Hiebowicz et al.  Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying and satiety in healthy subjects. Am J Clin. Nutr. 2007 Jun; 85(6):1552-6

 

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