Eat the seasons….

BROCCOLI IN MARCH

Warm winter salad by Jamie Oliver

INGREDIENTS

  • 100g quinoa
  • 250g purple sprouting broccoli
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g mixed-colour kale
  • 30g blanched hazelnuts

 

METHOD

  1. Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions, then drain.
  2. Place a large frying pan or griddle pan over a medium heat.
  3. Trim the broccoli and cook for 8 to 10 minutes (in batches if you need to), turning occasionally, until slightly charred.
  4. To make a dressing, squeeze the juice of 1 orange into a small bowl. Mix in the tahini, red wine vinegar, honey and 2 tbsp oil, then season to taste and set aside.
  5. Remove and discard any hard stalks from the kale, placing the leaves in a large bowl. With your hands, massage in a pinch of salt for 1 minute.
  6. Once the broccoli has charred, add to the kale and tip over half the dressing. Add the quinoa and toss together.
  7. Put the pan you used to cook the broccoli back over a high heat and toast the hazelnuts until golden, then roughly chop.
  8. Add a little more dressing to the salad, toss again, then arrange on a large serving platter.
  9. Peel the remaining orange, slice into rounds and scatter over the salad. Tip over the chopped toasted hazelnuts and serve straight away, with any remaining dressing on the side.

Focus on… Endometriosis

For many women, the monthly cycle is a minor inconvenience to an otherwise amazing life. For others, their period – and the run up to it – can feel like a living hell. They put up with long, very heavy and incredibly painful periods. If this speaks to you, your symptoms could be linked to a number of conditions (which is why you need to talk to your GP about any concerns about your cycle), and one of them is endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a long-term chronic condition that occurs when cells that are normally only found inside the uterus embed and grow outside the uterus, often on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, covering the top of the vagina or else on intestines. Doctors have even discovered endometrial cells in the eyes and brain!

Here’s where the problem is: those cells are hormonally active, just like those that line your uterus, and when womb cells shed every month (your period), the other cells do, too. The blood can’t flow out of the body, and this leads to the build-up of scar tissue and cysts. Because these endometrial cells can grow almost anywhere, women experience different symptoms, ranging (in addition to heavy painful periods) to painful bowel movements, pain during sex, back pain, fatigue and depression.

Endometriosis affects 2 million women in the UK alone. Most are diagnosed between 25 and 40, and it’s more common in women over 30 who haven’t had children.

Some women don’t suffer any symptoms at all and may not even know they have endometriosis until they struggle to have a baby (infertility is a common symptom).

Doctors don’t yet know what causes it. It may be one of a number of causes or a combination of several. We do know that it can be hereditary, and that retrograde menstruation might play a role (this is when the womb lining stays inside the body rather than leaving it as your period). Or it might be an immune system problem. Doctors do know that oestrogen dominance (where there is an excess of oestrogen compared with progesterone) plays a part.

The only way to officially diagnose endometriosis is by laparoscopy, an operation during which a tiny camera is inserted into the pelvis. On average, it can take 7.5 years for a woman to be diagnosed with the condition, so if you have any concerns, you should see your GP right away.

There is currently no cure for endometriosis, but nutritional therapy can be an effective way to help you manage symptoms.

If this is something you have been diagnosed with, I warmly invite you to book a free female hormone health check with me here. During our call, you can tell me about your experience, your diagnosis and we can work out the best next steps for you.

Portion Control

I am often asked by clients – and in fact many other people I come across as soon as they discover I am a nutritional therapist – ‘how much should I be eating?’

This is never a straightforward question but I’m going to give you some general guidance if this is something you’d like answered, too. My experience is what people are actually asking is ‘how much of the different foods stuffs should I be eating’ and my answer is this:

  • Have protein at every meal
  • Eat as much non-starchy veg as you can
  • Think carefully about the quality (the type) and the quantity of starchy carbs like potatoes, pasta, bread and rice.

I ask people to consider filling quarter of their plate with protein, half with non-starchy veg and the remainder (as a maximum) of starchy carbs. This is a good visual guide.

People are frequently surprised because the advice on the starchy carbs goes against what the diet industry and big slimming clubs have been telling us for years. It is also the exact opposite of the ratios you’ll see if you open up a ready meal ­ – the starchy carbs section is usually very generous as this is typically the cheapest part of the meal to manufacture. Even if you’re a little unsure, trust me on it.

If you need a bit more of a reminder, the Portion Plate from Matalan (£3) is a great idea https://www.matalan.co.uk/product/detail/s2670665_c000/healthy-eating-portion-plate-27cm-white

Maybe you’re one of those people who likes to feel they’re having a really good feast at dinner time, especially if they have been trying to curb what they eat during the day.

You’ve probably heard it said that you should eat until you are 80% full, then stop. There is a lot of logic in this because it does take a little while for the stretch receptors in your stomach to pass the message to your brain that you are full.

If you eat slowly, taking care to properly chew every mouthful, your body will thank you for it because you will be digesting your food better, and you may find you eat less than you normally would simply because you’ve given your brain a bit of a chance to catch on to the fact that you no longer need to eat!

There’s usually something else going on, too, and this cunning trick might be what you need if portion control is something you struggle with. Serve yourself a meal on a smaller plate. I’m not suggesting you go from dinner plate to side plate but try swapping from a 12-inch dinner plate to a 9-inch plate. The same serving will look significantly more generous, tricking you into thinking it is actually more food.

Try it, it does work.

Wishing you a happy, healthy week.

10 ways to beat colds and flu

When the temperature drops, the chance of you coming down with a cold or the flu increases significantly. It’s widely accepted you’ll get sick more often in the winter. That’s because you’re likely to be inside more and the common cold thrives better in dry air than where there’s humidity. And, when you spend more time indoors, you’re exposed to more germs.

Here’s something interesting about the common cold: when your core internal temperature falls after exposure to cold, the immune system’s ability to battle the rhinovirus (the virus that causes it) is also reduced. The immune system literally slows down. Cold feet may also play a part. In a recent study, researchers made students sit with their feet in cold water for 20 minutes. These students were found to be statistically much more likely to catch a cold in the next five days than the control group (those who didn’t have to sit with their feet in cold water).

The flu virus is also transmitted much faster when it’s cold out because the lipid (fatty) coating of the virus becomes more resilient the colder it gets.

Your immune system is the most powerful weapon you have against disease. Strong immunity means that the body is better able to fight off viruses and germs.

Fewer colds and sick days this winter would be good, right? There are many diet and lifestyle tweaks you can make to reduce your risk of catching a cold and flu this season (and ensuring it’s shorter and less serious if you do get the lurgi). Here are my top ten tips to keep you fighting fit this month – and beyond.

I print out this list and stick it on the fridge as a reminder to me (and my family) that prevention is better than cure.

  1. EAT REAL FOOD

Your body needs real, unprocessed food to stay healthy and not the processed foods we kid ourselves are OK for us to eat.

Focus on eating natural, unprocessed food as often as possible. Follow the 80/20 rule (for the avoidance of doubt, this means eating healthily 80 of the time – think fresh apples rather than apple juice, or wholegrain bread instead of a white bread butty).

Meat and fish, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains all contribute to a stronger immune system and offset the occasional indulgence.

Following the low GL diet is key to sustainable, glowing health, as it provides your body with a steady supply of energy throughout the day, rather than a high-octane rollercoaster of energy spikes and troughs.

 

  1. ENJOY ‘HAPPY TUMMY’ FOODS

Did you know that up to 80% of our immunity to germs and disease is in the gut? The mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) in the gut is part of the first line of immune defense, so getting the right balance between beneficial, or ‘good’ gut bacteria, and the ‘bad’, or potentially pathogenic bacteria, is key.

How to do this:

The gut environment takes a beating year after year, owing to poor diets, too much sugar, stress, antibiotics and other factors. Even if you have no obvious tummy troubles, digestive health is vital, so it’s worth the extra effort to take care of it.

Add probiotic and prebiotic foods to your diet, as these re-populate the gut with good bacteria and feed them well enough to crowd out bad bacteria.

Here are some gut-friendly choices to get you started:

  • Organic, probiotic, natural yoghurt (such as Yeo Valley or Rachel’s)
  • Always buy full-fat, as the 0% or no-fat options have increased levels of milk sugars – and fat isn’t the enemy, either in life or in weight loss
  • Miso soup or miso bouillon paste (add these to soups and stews)
  • Oats (soak first, as you would to make overnight oats, in order to release the goodness)
  • Onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Cooked, then cooled potatoes

 

  1. SERVE CHICKEN SOUP

Did you hear that chicken soup is great when you’re unwell? If you thought it was just an old wives’ tale, you’d be wrong. Research suggests that a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup can slow the speed at which neutrophils move around your body. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and part of the immune system, protecting your body from infection. When the neutrophils move slowly, there’s a greater chance of them becoming more concentrated in the areas of your body that need the most healing. Studies have shown chicken soup to be particularly helpful in reducing symptoms in upper respiratory system infections like the common cold.

 

  1. TAKE SOME SUPPLEMENTS

Top of the list for immunity are a good probiotic, a multivitamin and extra vitamin C and zinc.

For most people, a daily probiotic will help maintain the right balance of bacteria in the gut. If you have ongoing tummy troubles like IBS or constipation, we should talk – you will need something for your specific symptoms.

A multivitamin bridges the gap between what you are eating and what you should be eating, and takes care of any major deficiencies.

Women need a product high in B vitamins (for hormone balance), but apart from that, everybody has his or her favourite. Just be sure to take it!

Go large when it comes to vitamin C, both in food and supplement form. Broccoli and red peppers contain more C than oranges (contrary to popular belief) and there are loads of other foodie options, too: kale, cauliflower, parsley, spinach, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, pineapple, mango, papaya and citrus fruits.

Top up zinc levels by eating more palm-sized pieces of lean meat (especially lamb, beef, venison and turkey), pumpkin seeds, ginger root, green veggies, oats, nuts, sesame seeds, yoghurt and scallops.

 

  1. COOK WITH HERBS AND SPICES

Adding flavour to food is a smart way to include delicious immune boosters on your plate.

Garlic is a potent superfood. It is antimicrobial, thanks to the active ingredient allicin, which helps fight viruses, and has been used for thousands of years to boost the immune system and prevent sickness.

Most culinary herbs contain anti-inflammatory properties due to their phytonutrients, but oregano and thyme are particularly rich. Spice up your cooking with turmeric and ginger, too, as these are well-documented immune boosters.

 

  1. SAY NO TO SUGAR

Even if you don’t consider yourself a sugar addict, it’s worth taking a look at how much you do consume – and trying to swap sugary treats for something more wholesome.

Sugar fans the flames of inflammation and affects the ability of white blood cells to fend off viruses and bacteria. In fact, the immune system stays depressed for hours after consuming sugar, according to recent studies.

Enjoy raw cocoa or cacao hot chocolate on chilly evenings, adding your favourite milk or milk substitutes (with a little xylitol or stevia to sweeten, if you like). A few squares of pure, dark chocolate will also satisfy – Green & Blacks, or any good chocolate with a higher cocoa content (at least 75%), is ideal.

 

  1. DRINK MORE WATER

Water is a miracle worker. It flushes germs from your system, helps your blood to carry plenty of oxygen to your body’s cells and allows those cells to absorb important nutrients.

Invest in a filter jug or bottle to avoid quaffing high levels of chlorine and fluorine along with your tap water.

Green tea and chamomile tea are also immune system strengtheners, as they contain antioxidants that help battle free radicals.

 

  1. SOOTHE SORE THROATS

There are a variety of different natural ingredients that are backed by research pointing to their usefulness.

Fresh ginger added to boiling water may help sooth a sore throat or cough. Honey (look for raw honey or Manuka rather than the common-or-garden variety) is often teamed with lemon for a soothing drink for sore throats and may also act as cough suppressant. Raw honey should not be given to children younger than one as it may contain botulinum spores.

Sore throats may additionally benefit from gargling with salt water, while saline (salt water) nose drops help clear mucous from blocked nasal passages and soothes tender skin inside the nostrils.

 

  1. HELLO SUNSHINE!

As difficult as this is to achieve in winter, spending sufficient time in sunlight is a vital immune booster.

Vitamin D is made by your skin absorbing sunlight, so planning an hour or two outside during daylight hours is a good reason to leave work early, or take your children to the park when you’d rather sleep late.

Expose as much of your bare skin to the sun as possible and don’t wear sunscreen during that time either, as it inhibits the process.

Supplement your vitamin D levels by eating more of the following foods: oily fish (salmon, mackerel and fresh tuna), beef liver, mushrooms, cheese, egg yolks and vitamin D-fortified foods, such as dairy products and orange juice.

 

  1. GET BACK TO BASICS

An age-old way to boost immunity is by following childhood rules – wash hands, go to bed early and take some exercise.

These simple measures may seem boring (and more difficult to achieve than popping a pill), but science proves that they work.

And your immune system will thank you for it.

If you’re ill more often than not, your immune system could use some support.  There may be an underlying issue, especially if you also have asthma, eczema or allergies.  Does this sound like you?  If you’d like to get in touch to see if we could work together on your path to wellness, drop me an email here and I look forward to hearing from you.

Zzzzz…..

Today’s Tip… A good night’s rest.

Most people know that sleep is really important, literally affecting every aspect of life and health. Despite this knowledge, many don’t prioritise sleep and take the steps they need to ensure that they’re getting enough quality sleep. Sleep hygiene is a hot topic these days, so I thought I’d share some top tips for getting a good night’s rest.

Time in bed. Make sure you are setting yourself up for success by being in bed for 7 to 9 hours per night. In other words, you can’t sleep for 8 hours if you’re only in bed for 6.

Routine. Work on going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This includes weekends, which is when many people stay up and sleep later. This actually leads to something called “social jetlag”, which can throw off your circadian rhythms. No wonder Mondays really stink for some people.

Be active. Being physically and mentally active during the day can help you sleep better at night. In general, regular exercise improves sleep quality; however, some may find that intense exercise close to bedtime may have a negative effect on sleep, which can be the result of increased core temperature and/or nervous system activity.

Block blue light in the evening. Arguably one of the biggest factors disrupting circadian rhythms in today’s society is our exposure to blue light, which is ubiquitous in the forms of fluorescent lightbulbs, cell phones, tablets, computer monitors, TV screens, and more. Blue light suppresses melatonin production, delaying feelings of sleepiness and the onset of our nighttime cycle, disrupting circadian rhythms and sleep. Try the following strategies 2 to 3 hours before bed:

  • Avoid TV and computer screens
  • Use the app f.lux if you must use your computer
  • Use a similar app if you must use your smartphone (i.e., Night Shift for iPhones)
  • Dim your lights
  • Use amber-tinted light bulbs
  • Wear amber-tinted glasses

Bright outdoor light in the morning. On the other side of the coin, getting sunlight exposure first thing in the morning can have a substantial effect on setting your circadian clock and help you feel more awake during the day. In fact, a lack of sunlight exposure may be even more to blame for circadian disturbances than excess artificial blue light exposure at night.

Blackout your room. At night, make your room as dark as possible, using dark curtains and removing all sources of artificial light.

Chill out. The ideal bedroom temperature range, between 60 and 67 degrees, can help your body naturally cool, which helps facilitate sleep.

Watch what you drink. Research shows that drinking caffeine-containing beverages even 6 hours before bedtime can have important disruptive effects on sleep. Thus, it’s best to cut off caffeine more than 6 hours before bedtime. And while alcohol may help you fall asleep, it disrupts sleep quality and reduces REM sleep in a dose-dependent manner.  In other words, the more you drink, the worse you sleep.

Watch what you eat. Obviously, you don’t want to go to bed too hungry or too full. Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid large mixed meals within a couple hours of bedtime. If you need to eat something after that, a small, healthy snack (~150 calories), such as a protein shake, a piece of fruit, or a handful of nuts, can be beneficial for weight management, appetite control, and body composition.

Take a dump. A “brain dump” that is. If you’re the type of person whose wheels start turning uncontrollable as soon as your head hits the pillow, have a notepad handy on your nightstand. Write down ideas, important thoughts, etc. This can help quiet your mind, and you can also take an honest look to see if there’s anything that you HAVE to do at that very moment.

Sweet dreams…

 

Banana Santas

Healthy and quick and fun for the kids too!

BANANA SANTAS

Prep time: 30 mins Makes 8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 bananas
  • Punnet of strawberries
  • Marshmallows (normal size and mini)
  • Chocolate sugar strand sprinkles
  • Smarties
  • Honey (for sticking the eyes and nose on)
  • Wooden kebab sticks

METHOD:

Chop the bananas in half and put a kebab stick through the centre of the banana, leaving some space on the stick to add the strawberry and marshmallows. Lay flat on a plate.Put a marshmallow on the kebab stick at the top of the banana. Then put a marshmallow on the kebab stick at the top of the banana. Then put one on the top of the marshmallow like a Christmas hat.  Add a smaller marshmallow on top of the strawberry. Use the honey to stick two chocolate strands on the banana for eyes, and a Smartie for a nose.