Nutritional tips to support brain function

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

Having a foggy brain is not uncommon and can affect people at any age.  However, brain function does noticeably decline in our 50s and accelerates as we get older. The good news is that we can do so much to support brain function and the sooner we start the better. 

The brain uses about 25% of all the energy we take in as food. It is a highly complex organ and acts as the command centre for the nervous system; as such it needs a wide range of nutrients to effectively perform its many functions.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares three of her top nutrients to help support your brain.

Omega-3 fish oils

Omega 3s play a key role in brain health.  The brain is made up of 60% fat, much of which are the essential omegas (essential because the body can’t make them, so they need to feature in the diet). In general, the UK population has a lack of these through not eating enough in the diet.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

Deficiency is mainly down to omega-3s only being found predominantly in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines – foods that are not widely eaten.  Omega-3s are also found in flaxseeds, nuts, and seeds but they have to be eaten very regularly to obtain what the body needs.

Ideally aim for one to two portions of oily fish every week and sprinkle at least one tablespoon of flaxseeds onto your cereal, yoghurt or in a smoothie every day.  Your brain will certainly thank you for it.

Zinc

The mineral zinc is one of the busiest, being involved in around 300 different enzyme reactions in the body.  Zinc is significant when it comes to brain health because it’s needed for the production of those all-important brain neurotransmitters.  These include serotonin, needed for mood and motivation, and melatonin, essential for sleep.  Zinc is also used in the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, essential neurotransmitters for the stress response.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

In short, the brain can’t function without zinc.  Minerals are often referred to as ‘trace minerals’: they are of course needed in small amounts but are crucial to overall health.  Therefore, the diet should ideally be rich in foods containing zinc – think wholegrains, fish, meat, nuts, seeds, and eggs.  The best source of zinc is oysters, so never worry about enjoying them more regularly rather than as a treat.

It’s not that difficult to be slightly lacking in zinc, with white spots on the nails being a tell-tale deficiency sign.  General hormonal disruptions can also be a nudge that you need to eat more zinc-rich foods.

Vitamin B12

The family of B-vitamins all work together but vitamin B12 does stand out as one of the key members when it comes to brain health.  This is because it plays a role in one of the body’s most important biochemical reactions known as methylation.  Whilst it’s not necessary to understand methylation, it’s important to know that it can’t happen without vitamin B12, nor can the brain work correctly.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

As part of this biochemical process, memories are formed, and concentration and focus are achieved. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal produce, and in some fortified foods such as cereals.  Meat, fish, dairy, and eggs are the best sources, so vegetarians and vegans should consider taking a supplement to ensure the brain’s not missing out.

If your brain is feeling foggy or you’re lacking in energy (another sign you may be deficient in B12) then it might be time to increase your intake.

The brain is certainly a nutrient-hungry organ, but eating enough of these three nutrients is a really good start.

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Three nutrients to support your immunity this winter

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

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

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

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

Vitamin D

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

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

A range of foods containing vitamin D

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

Vitamin C

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

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

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

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

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

Zinc

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

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

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

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

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

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

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Three nutrients for supporting your skin health this summer

Close up of a woman's head and shoulder from behind on a beach to represent summer skin

Skin is the largest organ of the body and having glowing, blemish-free skin is created from within and is mainly down to your diet.  Some people clearly have an easier time than others in terms of managing any skin conditions and there are of course genetic elements involved when it comes to how it behaves and how it ages.

There are some key nutrients that can really help improve the overall health and look of your skin. And at this time of year, when we tend to have more skin on show, it’s a great time to focus on the vitamins and minerals that can help support yours.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her three top nutrients to support your skin.

 

Biotin

The B-vitamin, biotin, has actually become a celebrity over the last few years, in the skincare stakes!  We are finding out more and more about its essential functions in skin health and how we can easily include more biotin into the daily diet, to great effect.

Foods containing the b vitamin Biotin

In terms of how it works, biotin essentially functions in the body as a co-factor helping to produce enzymes.  It’s these enzyme reactions that underpin everything the body does. Biotin is used in cell growth and replication which is why it can be so helpful for the skin.  Interestingly, a deficiency of biotin often presents as dry, scaly skin or dermatitis (an inflammatory skin condition).

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Biotin is predominantly produced by the gut bacteria but if our good bacteria levels are not optimal (and that’s most of us) then it’s down to the daily diet (and supplementation) to give us what we need. Biotin is very rich in liver (which many of us don’t eat) but can also be found in soy-based foods, nuts, wholegrains, and lentils.  Just like all the B-vitamins, it’s water-soluble so isn’t stored in the body, which makes supplements even more useful, especially if your skin isn’t behaving as you would like.

Zinc

Zinc is one of our busiest minerals, being involved in over 200 enzyme reactions.  It’s also found in very high concentrations in the skin and is involved in almost all body systems in some way, hence we can use it to very good effect for skin health.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Just like biotin, skin changes are often a sign of zinc deficiency and improvements in skin health can be quickly noticed when this deficiency is plugged.

A range of seeds on spoons

Zinc is rich in many plant-based foods which is great news for vegetarians and vegans.  Wholegrains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are good sources, but seafood (especially oysters) and red meat are great too.

Vitamin A

There are various forms of vitamin A, the most active being retinal and retinoic acid.  As with all vitamins, vitamin A provides many essential roles in the body including growth and repair, specifically of cell membranes, and this includes skin cell membranes.

Products,Rich,In,Vitamin,A.,Top,View

Forms of retinoic acid have now been developed and are used very effectively in treating skin conditions but also in anti-ageing skin products.  However, vitamin A plays a key role in overall skin health (and much more besides) so we need to ensure there is sufficient in the diet.

Another complication with vitamin A is that it’s only found in animal produce.  The good news is that the body can convert beta-carotene found primarily in red, yellow and orange foods (carrots are great) into Vitamin A. However, some people have a genetic tendency not to convert as effectively as others.  Deficiency symptoms can often be noted as poor immunity, since vitamin A plays an essential role, as well as troublesome skin conditions and problems with the mucous membranes generally.

A range of colourful fruit and vegetables

Vitamin A is a very powerful antioxidant which helps protect the skin from sun damage and also supports the ageing process.  All in all, it’s going to be of great benefit to the skin inside and out!

Use the power of nature by increasing your intake of these vitamins and minerals in your diet and help your skin to glow from the inside out!

 

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Five nutrients to include in your diet every day

Funny,Portrait,Of,Young,Woman,With,Banana,On,Color,Background

Nature has provided an amazing array of nutrients.  And it would be unfair to say that one is better than another because they all have a very valid place in helping to provide the body with great health.

However, there are certainly some superstars amongst them which are even more essential for our continued daily wellness.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five of the best.

 

Vitamin D

Called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, we know the UK population is widely lacking in vitamin D, despite an active Government health campaign. 

It’s not easy to get to sufficient vitamin D from sunlight alone, even during the summer, therefore it’s important to take a supplement all year round. With so much robust research on vitamin D, we understand even more about the essential role it plays in our health.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Vitamin D is not just needed for bones and teeth but its part in supporting the immune system is unequivocal.  Furthermore, if you’re feeling ‘sad’ you could be lacking in vitamin D.  It’s important for our mood too.

Vitamin B12

As with all the B-vitamins, Vitamin B12 is needed for many of the body’s biochemical reactions. It’s primarily found in animal produce, making vegetarians and vegans potentially more at risk from deficiency, but anyone can be lacking in B12.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

If you’re lacking specifically in vitamin B12, then you might notice it more than with other B-vitamins. If you’re unusually tired or your nerves are frayed, then you might need more B12.  If you’re vegetarian or vegan, a supplement is recommended, but for others, load up on liver, beef, tuna, sardines or fortified cereals and nutritional yeast.

Magnesium

If you’re suffering from muscle stiffness or poor sleep, the chances are you’re deficient in magnesium.  Since it works in balance with calcium, in areas where the water is especially ‘chalky, many people are lacking magnesium.

A range of foods containing magnesium

Magnesium is an extremely busy mineral and plays an essential role in many biochemical reactions in the body.  It’s needed for muscle relaxation hence poor sleep can result when there is insufficient magnesium in the body. If this sounds like you, then eat plenty of whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds – all healthy foods too!

Zinc

Zinc is involved in around 300 different enzyme reactions throughout the body.  In short, the body can’t function without zinc.  Whilst many people know it to be essential for the immune system (which it is), zinc is very important for hormone balance, the skin, bones, hair, and protection from disease.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Zinc is rich in meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.  Indeed, the best source of zinc is oysters, hence their reputation as being an aphrodisiac, linked to zinc’s role in hormone production. If you’ve white spots on five or more of your nails, you might be deficient in zinc, so do keep a watchful eye on intake.

Iodine

Iodine is a trace mineral so is only needed in small amounts, but it still plays a vital role in the body.  Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones, for cognitive function and supports growth and development in children.  In short, it’s needed from the moment of conception and throughout life.

As part of its role in producing thyroid hormones, it’s needed to control metabolism.  If you’re struggling to lose weight or your hands and feet are permanently cold, you might be lacking in iodine. 

A range of foods containing iodine

Part of the issue with getting sufficient iodine is that it’s not present in many foods.  It can be found in dairy produce and fish such as cod and tuna. Seaweed is also a great source of iodine. Varieties include kelp, wakame and nori and are available in dried, flaked forms, which can easily be added to many dishes, without disturbing other tastes too much.

Take some time to review your diet, and ensure you’re not missing out on any of these essential nutrients.

Stay well.

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Show your body some love this Valentine’s Day with these nutrient-rich foods

Blueberries in a heart shape

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or not, this is a great time to show your body some love by feeding it a wide range of nutrients.

Cold, dark days and lots of bugs flying around take their toll on mental wellbeing and the immune system at this time of year.  So, fuelling yourself with the right nutrients is a good way to support your health as much as possible.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five foods to try this February.

 

Acai berries

Beautiful acai berries are loaded with powerful antioxidants which have health benefits for the brain, heart, and immune system. Unusually for berries, they also provide some of the healthy omega-6 fatty acids – great for the skin – and oleic acid which is good for the heart.

Acai,Breakfast,Superfoods,Smoothies,Bowl,With,Chia,Seeds,,Bee,Pollen,Acai bowls are still on trend and frozen berries are perfect with toppings of granola, nuts and seeds or desiccated coconut (or anything else you fancy!)

 

Buckwheat

This food often confuses people as it’s not actually wheat! Just like quinoa, it’s actually a seed and is a great source of protein.  For those who struggle with digestive issues, especially when eating gluten and wheat, buckwheat is a great alternative and is easily incorporated into the daily diet.

Close up of buckwheat pancakes with raspberriesIts high protein content includes the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce the happy hormone serotonin.  If you’re wanting your partner in a good mood for Valentine’s Day, then buckwheat could be a great choice!

Why not treat yourself (and your partner) to a delicious breakfast of buckwheat pancakes with a dollop of natural yoghurt and berries of your choice, for a powerful start to the day.

 

Beetroot

If winter has left you feeling out of sorts, then including beetroot into the daily diet on a regular basis could really kick-start your immune system.  Plus, beetroot is a great liver detoxifier.  It has often been used as a tonic after illness because it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals.  If raw beetroot juice isn’t for you, then try adding some carrot juice to make it slightly more palatable.

Beetroot and goats cheese saladBeetroot has a great flavour and makes a lovely accompaniment to goat’s cheese in a salad, in soups, roasted as a vegetable side and even cooked into chocolate brownies.  Maybe your Valentine’s Day treat can deliver some great health benefits too!

Broccoli

A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli delivers plenty of health benefits. It contains plant compounds called indoles which help protect DNA from damage, hence can help provide protection against disease.

Fresh,Broccoli,SoupBroccoli is also a great source of beta carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A in the body, plus energising folate, and vitamin C.  If you can’t always find fresh broccoli when you want it, then do keep some in the freezer.  The nutrient content of frozen vegetables is very good as they are generally frozen and packaged very soon after harvest. 

How about cooking up some delicious broccoli and stilton soup for Valentine’s Day or just include broccoli on your dinner plate frequently, in order to enjoy its fabulous health benefits.

Chia seeds

 

 

These tiny seeds are packed with nutritional goodness, are incredibly versatile and can be used in many recipes including smoothies.  One of their main claims to fame is that they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial for the heart, skin, hormones, joints, and brain.

Acai,Berry,And,Chia,Seed,Pudding,With,Blueberries,And,BlackberriesHowever, they also fare really well on the mineral front with good levels of iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and phosphorus.  These are all minerals that are frequently deficient in the typical western diet, deficiencies of which can have a negative impact on health.  Chia seeds have also been found to help with weight management, which is down to their high fibre content.  They swell in the stomach which then helps to regulate appetite and feelings of fullness.  Chia seeds are so easy to add to your daily diet and can really get health on track in readiness for Spring.

 

 

So, show your body some love this Valentine’s Day – and every day! It will certainly reward you with improved health.

Stay well.

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How to boost your immunity this Christmas

 

Christmas,Wishes,Concept,-,Key,With,Inscription,Health,On,Tag

Whilst it’s traditionally the season to be jolly, Christmas is also the time of year when colds and nasty bugs proliferate.  And this year is no exception, plus there is the ongoing risk of more Covid infections. 

It’s certainly time to boost defences this festive season and there are many ways that you can support your health through diet and lifestyle changes.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top ways of boosting immunity this Christmas.

 

Take a Vitamin D supplement

In terms of supporting the immune system, this is probably one of the best defences you can employ.  With so much research on vitamin D now emerging, the essential role this vitamin plays within the immune system is unquestionable.

Yellow,Pills,Forming,Shape,To,D,Alphabet,On,Wood,Background

Whilst Government guidelines recommend a minimum supplementation of 10 micrograms daily, many people need more than this.  If possible, it’s worth having your blood levels checked by the doctor.  However, if you have lots of aches and pains or are suffering with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), chances are you may need more vitamin D for a while. In terms of diet, mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D so try to add these to your festive menus. 

Eat plenty of colour

Vitamin C is another essential nutrient to help support the immune system and it’s rich in most fruits and vegetables.  If you’re eating plenty of colour, then the chances are you’re getting sufficient vitamin C.

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

However, vitamin C is quickly lost from the body and is also utilised more during stressful times; unfortunately, as we know, Christmas can be challenging for many of us.  Why not give your vitamin C levels a boost by enjoying a daily vitamin C-rich juice including apples, celery, carrots, and parsley to really get the day off to a healthy start?

Try to ensure that as many meals as possible contain green leafy vegetables, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash.  These vegetables contain beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A, as needed, as well as providing loads of vitamin C.

Enjoy some R & R

Stress raises cortisol levels which in turn can suppress the immune system – definitely not what you need right now! It’s important, therefore, to try to keep everything balanced and take some time out to rest and recuperate.

A woman relaxing at christmas with her eyes shut in front of a christmas tree

This is often difficult if you have a really busy life and/or have young children demanding your attention.  However, just taking 10 minutes out to lie on your bed and do some deep breathing, meditation or listen to some music, can work wonders. 

Having a warm bath before bedtime and adding some Epsom salts which are rich in relaxing magnesium, can also have an amazing restorative effect.  Try to find what works for you and practice it every day.

Take some exercise

Moderate exercise helps to increase production of viral-fighting immune cells.  This doesn’t mean spending hours tormenting yourself in the gym, but just taking regular exercise that raises the heart rate.

Winter,Snow,Walk,Woman,Walking,Away,In,Snowy,Forest,On 

Walking is an incredibly effective form of exercise. It helps to maintain strong bones and supports your mental wellbeing.  It’s also important to do some form of resistance exercise, which is especially key for ladies during and after the menopause; women can lose as much as 30% of their bone mass after menopause. Lifting a few hand weights, doing some weighted squats, or using your own body weight in postures which form part of a yoga practise such as plank can really help.

Support your mental wellbeing

There’s so much being discussed right now around mental wellbeing which is a positive change.  However, many people are still unwilling to admit they’re struggling.  If this sounds like you, then are many walking and talking groups, or online forums you can join, which can provide much needed support. The most difficult part is admitting that you have a problem.  If you reach out, there is plenty of help available.

Team,Holding,Building,Blocks,Spelling,Out,Support

If anxiety is a problem for you, then both the herbs Rhodiola and Ashwagandha are incredibly effective at calming the nerves.  They are known as adaptogenic herbs, which means they help to manage the stress response and reduce cortisol levels.  Both are available in supplement form.

Prevention is always better than cure so ramp up your immunity defences this festive season and enjoy a healthy Christmas.

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 in November

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

In the same way that we feel the outer effects of the changing seasons, especially when the temperature drops, the body also feels the disruption internally.

For this reason, nature has very thoughtfully provided seasonal foods to support the body the best way that it can.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares three delicious seasonal foods, perfect for now.

 

Goose

Whilst there may be a ‘run’ on turkeys early this year, there has been little mention of goose. So, it may be worth changing things up a little this year, both for traditional Christmas fayre, and for pre-Christmas celebrations.

Whilst goose meat is much higher in fat than turkey, much of it is lost during cooking.  However, the fat content is still comparable to many cuts of red meat.

Roasted goose on a plate

In terms of nutritional content, goose is a rich source of iron, which is frequently deficient within the UK population, especially in young women.  Plus, protein content is the same as turkey (really good) at 20 grams per 100 grams. From a mineral perspective, it’s high in bone-loving phosphorous, plus goose delivers plenty of energy-giving vitamins B1 and B6.

Roasted goose is delicious. Consider including roasted chestnuts both for their wonderful, slightly sweet taste but also rich nutritional value. Chestnuts are particularly high in trace minerals that are essential for overall health.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash is probably one of the most popular of the squash family, with other members including pumpkin, cucumber, and courgette. As with all root vegetables in season at this time of year, butternut squash provides a great source of sustained energy, plus it’s low in fat and high in nutrients.

shutterstock_226218175 butternut squash Dec15

As with all the orange-coloured vegetables, they’re a rich source of beta carotene which is turned into vitamin A as needed by the body.  Vitamin A is essential for good vision (especially night vision), the immune system, healthy skin, and protecting mucous membranes, especially those associated with the lungs.

What to do with butternut squash?  There’s certainly no shortage of options.  They add an amazing flavour to risottos, soups, pasta, and curries. They are also simply delicious baked and mashed with some cinnamon or nutmeg and a little cream, for a real treat.

Mackerel

With the UK population being wildly deficient in the essential omega-3 fats, mackerel could really help improve the nation’s health in this respect.  Mackerel is not only a great source of omega-3s but also the minerals zinc and selenium (both also lacking).  Selenium is essential for good heart health as are the omega-3s. Plus, mackerel does provide some much-needed vitamin D, especially through the winter months. Even better, mackerel is often fished from UK waters.

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

Of all varieties of fish, mackerel probably has one of the strongest flavours, therefore works really well with other equally strong ones, including various spices. Sharp flavours such as lemon complement well. Because mackerel is fairly rich down to its fat content (predominantly the omega-3s), then rich, buttery sauces are certainly not recommended.

So, enjoy some wonderful flavours and amazing health-giving nutrients by eating seasonally this November.

Stay well.

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Cycle to Work Day: how to boost your energy levels

Close up of a bike's water bottle in situ

With National ‘Cycle to Work’ day being celebrated today, it’s a great time to focus on upping your energy and fuelling your rides. 

Whether you’re going to actually cycle to work, or just want to feel more energised for your workouts or in your everyday life, there are some great nutrient-rich foods that can help.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top foods for feeling more energised.

Blueberries

Delicious and in-season now, blueberries are going to provide great energy and an excellent start to the day, especially if you’re planning on cycling to work. Blueberries are a low glycaemic fruit, meaning they won’t adversely affect blood sugar balance and you’ll enjoy sustained energy throughout the day.

A wooden bowl of blueberries

Blueberries are often referred to as ‘super foods’ because they are packed with nutrients.  Importantly, their beautiful rich, dark colour signifies plenty of antioxidants, which help protect the body against the ageing process and degenerative diseases.  Why not enjoy some with your breakfast with some natural yoghurt and ground flaxseeds for a perfectly balanced start? Alternatively, they make the perfect accompaniment to oats (my next energy-giving food recommendation).

Oats

Another low glycaemic food, partly down to their rich fibre content, oats are loaded with energising B-vitamins.  However, look for ‘whole’ oats that have not been refined to gain full benefit.  Any refining strips out fibre and nutrients.

A bowl of oats

Oats contain plenty of trace minerals, especially magnesium which is also needed for energy production.  In short, they’re real powerhouses!  Oats are great soaked either in some plant or dairy milk and a little apple juice for flavour to make ‘overnight oats’.  Take them out of the fridge the next morning, pop on some yoghurt and berries. Either eat before your journey to work or when you arrive, and you’ve got the perfect start to your day.

Brown Rice

As with all whole grain foods, brown rice is great for encouraging sustained energy.  It’s rich in fibre and high in nutrients, especially those energising B-vitamins.  Brown rice has a much higher nutrient profile than white, because it hasn’t undergone any refining process. Furthermore, it can really help on a weight loss journey because it balances blood sugar levels and is very low in fat.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

The nutrient content of brown rice is equally as impressive with not only high levels of B-vitamins but a great range of essential trace minerals.  Of note is zinc which is needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body to keep it firing on all cylinders. Serve brown rice as an accompaniment to any protein such as fish or chicken or serve cold the next day with plenty of salad vegetables.

Bananas

Bananas are many people’s ‘go-to’ when it comes to the need for quick energy.  Although high in complex carbs, the riper bananas have a higher sugar content, delivering a fast-release boost, hence they are popular with sportspeople.

Whole bananas and diced banana

Bananas are especially high in vitamin B6, much utilised for energy release but they also contain loads of potassium which is great for the heart.  As they are high in starchy carbs, bananas will keep you going all day and will also help you burn up those hills if some happen to be on your cycle route to work.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes have a much higher nutrient profile than traditional white potatoes.  That’s not to dismiss white potatoes from the diet as they still have a place, but sweet potatoes have the edge when it comes to delivering sustained energy.

shutterstock_429273175-sweet-potato-wedges-dec16

It’s all down to the complex carbs which keep blood sugar in balance and energy buzzing. Furthermore, sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body, essential for immune health.

You can eat sweet potatoes in the same way as white potatoes; mashed, chipped, jacketed, take your pick, and enjoy with a topping or foods of your choice.

So, whether you’re cycling to work or just want more energy, add these five foods into your diet and feel your energy soar!

Stay well.

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Celebrating tomatoes

shutterstock_454912315 tomatoes Mar17

It’s British Tomato fortnight, acknowledging everything that is great and healthy about tomatoes.

Known as the ‘Apple of Love’, tomatoes are technically a fruit rather than a vegetable, with the affectionate name originating from the Italians.  However, it was actually the Mexicans that first made the discovery of this wonderful fruit.

So, what is so fabulous about tomatoes?  Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer tells all.

Nutritional low-down

Whilst tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, they are a great source of many of our essential nutrients.  Tomatoes provide a very good source of immune-boosting vitamin C, one of our busiest vitamins. They also contain he B-vitamin biotin, often called the beauty vitamin because of its beneficial effects on hair and skin, plus heart loving vitamin E and potassium. Indeed, they have a wide and varied nutritional profile.

shutterstock_203320249 tomato salad June15

You can find red, orange or yellow tomatoes and whilst all colours have nutritional merits, it’s red tomatoes that deliver on all fronts.

Antioxidant power

Tomatoes are rich in conventional antioxidants vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E (in the form of carotenoids) and zinc and manganese. But it is carotenoids that really deliver antioxidant power.

shutterstock_186831911 tomatoes in heart shape Feb20

There has been much research carried out on the carotenoids that are abundant in tomatoes, namely lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein. And it’s specifically lycopene that has been found to have wonderful benefits for heart health. It appears that lycopene can help reduce levels of harmful fats in the blood, a major cause of cardiovascular issues.  Tomatoes can help reduce levels of cholesterol, an accumulation of which is a major cause of atherosclerosis, as well as managing platelet activity in the bloodstream, helping fend off blood clots.

Lycopene has also been much studied in relation to male prostate health, again with very positive outcomes, and huge quantities of tomatoes don’t need to be consumed to gain some real benefits. Plus, the antioxidant power provided by beta-carotene is great at protecting the skin from sun damage.

How to eat them

The carotenoids are fat-soluble nutrients which means they are best absorbed with other fats.  The Italians certainly understood how to get the best out of tomatoes by eating them with olive oil.  Interestingly, lycopene is very well absorbed when tomatoes are made into a sauce or paste that contains some olive oil.

shutterstock_175597250 soup June15

One of the healthiest recipes is to make soup from ripe tomatoes. The soup can be made with carrot, celery, and onions (fried in some olive oil), vegetable stock and tomato puree.  It has all the right ingredients for producing one of the best ways of gaining all that’s great about tomatoes nutritionally.

shutterstock_663551029 spaghetti and tomato sauce Sept17

If you want the real taste of Italy, then spaghetti with tomato sauce including some chillies, shallots and basil, with some torn mozzarella to serve, is really going to make the mouth water.

So, celebrate this wonderfully nutritious jewel in the fruit basket and get creative with tomato recipes!

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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