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What I have learned as a freelance nutritionist

What I have learned as a freelance nutritionist

What have I learned as a freelance nutritionist?

These are my learnings as a freelance nutritionist. I started studying nutrition in 2003 at the ripe old age of 25 after years of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. So, my first bit of advice is that it takes some people a little longer to figure out what to do. Once you find your passion, you will find your drive to succeed in whatever you put your mind to.

After completing my degree, I fancied learning more about public health, which interested me most in my course. Despite the financial challenges, I decided to do a master’s degree on the topic as I knew I would never do it if I didn’t strike while the iron was hot. I worked my socks off and took out a bank loan to cover the substantial fees, then worked five nights a week in a restaurant to support myself. After this, I continued to work in hospitality and volunteered at various charities and NGOs focused on nutrition.

I got a lucky break and found a job with a small tech company that developed software that helped schools, care homes and hospitals analyse their menu plans. Being part of a small company, I had to develop software and pitch the software to local authorities throughout the UK as well as talking at events and delivering training sessions. After several years doing this, I was given voluntary redundancy, which allowed me to set up on my own as a freelance nutritionist.

After paying for a website to be built and buying myself a new laptop and various bits of software, I got myself up and running. I contacted everyone I had worked with in my previous company and got work. At the same time, I also set up a small consultancy on the side called HOPE which was Helping Older People to Eat Well. I worked with many care home groups delivering training focused on older people and dementia through this consultancy. I also started to contact personal trainers and nutrition and wellness companies to offer my services while also building my social media profile on Twitter and Instagram. I also bagged a part-time position as head of nutrition with a leading supplement brand called Healthspan.

My position at Healthspan is very media-focused, working with the press office, which has helped me build my profile further in the media. At this time, I was also introduced to Lily Simpson by a contact and worked with her to help develop her business called The Detox Kitchen working on the food and menu planning side of things. Together we wrote a book called The Detox Kitchen Bible, published by Bloomsbury which has since been a very successful book sold in many languages around the world.

This gave me the platform I needed to get more work in this industry. I have since worked around the globe with many wellness brands, retreats, celebrities, and other high-end clients. Further to this, I also followed another interest of mine which is sleep. I wrote another book called The Art of Sleeping which has also been successful and sold worldwide in many different languages. What I love most about being a freelance nutritionist is that I am always learning as I have to cover so many different areas of nutrition in my work.

It all sounds very glamorous on paper, but I still have to work incredibly hard to make ends meet as a freelancer. I still worry all the time about where the next bit of work is going to come from and to be honest even the best of us are always trying to figure things out.

So, what have I learned, and what are my top tips for being a successful freelance nutritionist?

Here goes (in no particular order) and apologies as this blog appears to have become quite epic so you might want to make yourself a nice cup of tea at this point as you could be here for a while!

Set up

This is where the initial costs are involved. You need a website and it doesn’t need to be fancy to begin with. I did my first website myself then got someone else to do one for me when I had a little more money coming in. Think carefully about what you want to include on your site from the start.

The bare necessities will include a home page and then various pages explaining your services and obviously a contact page with a link to your email. I have a blog which to be honest is more for my own benefit than anything else as I can make them downloadable and use them as factsheets or direct people to them on social media. A place to store recipes is nice if that’s your thing and you may want to include a page to showcase any writing or other media work you have done. Make sure there are links on your site to all your social media.

Make sure you have control of the back end so that you can add stuff to your site easily – my website is built in Word Press. I have someone that hosts the server and also helps with the housekeeping which includes updates to the various bits and bobs (as you can see I have no clue what actually goes on in this department!).

Also, get some business cards made up and remember to keep them on you at all times as you never know who you are going to bump into. I have found the most cost effective place is Moo.com.

Join the AFN

As nutritionists you should join the Association for Nutrition. It’s a faff getting your portfolio together but you need to support this charity as they have your back. You have worked so hard to train in your qualification and this charity helps raise awareness of properly trained nutritionists. Without this type of backing and support anyone can call themselves a nutritionist even those that have done a weekend course on the topic so get with the program and be sure to mention them when you can so people understand who they can use as a trusted source in our industry.

Find your vibe 

This is a really tricky one especially as you start out and look for work in many different areas. I have ended up working in many different areas labelling myself as a consultant and a lot of my work is media based (I also cover the topic of sleep) and my work has always included a huge food/recipe element.

However, I know many very successful nutritionists who have focused in on one particular area which could be weight management or gut health for example. While this may make it more difficult at first as you try to get experience it can make it easier in the long run as you build your profile as an expert in your chosen field. Becoming a trusted voice in one area can also make it easier to focus on things like your social media or give you a platform to pitch book ideas to publishers or collaborate with health and wellness brands as well as getting involved in expert working groups centred around your chosen specialism.

Get to grips with some of the basics 

There are a few good skills you should try and get a grip on when starting out and many of these I still use on a day to day basis. Invest in a recipe analysis program as I always get asked to analyse recipes or menu plans and while this work is a little dull the information is useful to include when writing about nutrition and dealing with private clients. I use Nutritics mostly because its web-based.

Keep a note of foods that are high in one or other nutrients. I know this sounds a little rudimentary but I can’t tell you how many times I have to write about something and refer to foods rich in one or other nutrient. On this point it’s also useful to understand the health benefits of foods, nutrients and key conditions where food has been shown to play a role (e.g. fibre reducing cholesterol). I actually have spreadsheets now with all this stuff on as a quick reference and I organise them in my computer files by topic – it saves me loads of time.

It is also useful to develop your writing skills and learn how to translate the science into something everyone will understand. You should also try to include practical advice where possible as this is most useful thing to most people such as what to cook and how to cook it or include more of it in your diet. I have written tons of stuff in the media as well as copy for websites or PR campaigns. You need to understand your audience but at whatever level try to include references to anything science-related you refer to as this is the easiest way to cover your back should anyone question your opinions. Writing on your blog is a good way to get practice.

Develop a good understanding of public health nutrition. I know it’s not particularly glamorous but it is the grass roots of what is going on in the world to help keep the nation healthy and it provides perspective that can keep you grounded. Honestly, this to me is the most fascinating aspect of nutrition!

I know I work with companies that provide supplements and other such products but I try to get them to stick to the science and always give them the perspective of the population as a whole rather than just the worried well. It does leave me little patience with some clients but at the same time you can’t bite the hand that feeds you so you have to find a balance which is why you have to turn some work down from time to time.

Keep up to date with key nutrition papers and nutrition guidelines so you always have your finger on the pulse. The NDNS survey is a good one to keep track of as this has tons of information as to what the nations diet looks like. The EFSA nutrition and health claims are also good to familiarise yourself with if you are working with food companies. I also keep reports to hand from charities like the British Heart Foundation and I also find factsheets from resources such as the British Dietetic Foundation useful to keep as a reference. Also good to keep abreast of what is trending in the world of health and wellness. On this point…. Don’t get sucked into what the media says… You are scientifically trained in nutrition so use this skill to try and see the wood for the trees!

I also have loads of templates to hand that I have created in powerpoint and other programs to give me a quick way to create new presentations, lectures and reports. I also think it’s a really useful skill to learn how to put together an interesting presentation that isn’t “death by powerpoint”. I know you learn this stuff at uni but it took me ages to understand that I could use a picture or other interesting visual in place of endless bullet points. Honestly, there is nothing worse than presenting something to a sea of bored faces! Don’t be shy to let your personality shine through – I use all sorts of funny gifs and video links as I don’t like to take myself too seriously but of course you still need to remain professional and what you choose to use must be sensitive to the topic in hand.

Get familiar with programs like Canva as it is a really easy way to create things like infographics which you can use in your writing or with clients – you can also create some really nice content for your social media with this program.

Last one….I am really annoying in that I love to pick up the phone and talk to people. This gets things done in half the time and talking to someone is a better way to build working relationships than always corresponding via email.

Social media

Mmmmm, I hate it, but it is something you just have to do. Social media has evolved so much since I started out, and to be honest, I tend to focus mainly on Instagram. I dip in and out of instagram posting pictures and writing content in the feed and do some videos. These days the video content gets much more attention than just pictures and text. Posting on stories is also an easier option and always seems to get more views.

You will ask yourself questions such as “what do I post”, “how do I get more followers”, bla bla bla. Don’t stress yourself out and don’t make this the main focus of how you think you will get work. It’s a nice platform but I have come to realise that I can’t compete with those in the wellness industry with 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of followers. I have a moderately OK number of followers, enough to allow me to do what I want to do.

I hate that the number of followers you have somehow defines your worth to some people as a nutritionist especially for me given my qualification and years of experience, but this is the way of the world! Remember that this is just one way to promote yourself for work but it’s not the only one and to be brutally honest you can spend hours every day on Instagram but it is unlikely to significantly improve your chances of getting work.

Put plenty of more valuable time into using your imagination and follow your passion. Get out there and meet people face to face even if this means doing stuff for free to start with and contact people you have a genuine interest in working with

As a 43-year old, I refuse to film gimmicky videos of myself trying to be funny – there is a limit to what I am prepared to do to get work! I would rather use these platforms to highlight stuff about nutrition I am genuinely interested in.

Structure your day

It’s lovely working at home but it’s easy for things to go awry if you have no structure to your day. I don’t work 9-5 as I am an early riser to prefer to start when I get up at around 6am. I hit the gym or go to yoga early to get out of the house then I work through to about 3pm on a usual day at home. I start by answering emails then spend some time going through the news and various websites to see whats going on and if there is anything new and interesting in the world if nutrition (good stuff to post on social media especially Linkedin). After that its about dividing my time between various bits of work I need to get done for clients and prioritising to (try) and meet deadlines.

I always set time aside to think about how I can get more work. This bit is always a bit painful so I tend to set about half a day week to focus on it. I also set a little time aside every day to do some social stuff although I have to admit my interest in this goes in waves!

If its quiet and you have done everything you need to get done then don’t feel guilty about enjoying your free time. I waste a lot of time when its quiet freaking out about work instead of using these periods to do other interesting stuff –  something I regret when it gets busy again. You can also use this time to focus on any reading or watching podcasts/instagram lives/webinars on things that interest you in your field. Also spend some time looking for events you can attend as these are good places to meet people. Try a mix of events – some are nutrition focused and some of these offer CPD points but look at wellness and fitness events as these are good places to meet people. Eventbrite has lots of things going on (and don’t forget your business cards!)

Linkedin

This is my most valuable source of work. I hate talking about myself or blowing my own trumpet, but you just have to do it here and post everything you are doing or have done. This is where people look for professionals, and they need to see what you’re up to, so don’t be shy. Voice your opinions on anything you have come across as potential employers love to see this and it shows you are passionate about what you do. Also, share anything you have done in the media or achievements at work.

Know when to refuse work

I have really struggled with this over the years, but if you feel you are jeopardising your professional profile and if it just doesn’t feel quite right, then just say no. It’s so tempting some times when a company is offering you lots of money but honestly in the long run it’s just not worth it.

Take control

Again, I have struggled with this. Be mindful of where your work is placed, and always get a copy of anything you have written sent to you to be approved. You can charge for quotes and copy but make sure there is a timescale on this. The information you provide for a campaign should not really be rehashed and used by companies in perpetuity. It just dilutes your worth to future clients. It is often quite helpful to have a freelance contract you can give to the client to agree to your terms and conditions.

Rates

This is the biggest challenge as a freelancer. The problem is that there is no recognised fee structure for a nutritionist. I have a set day rate and costs for other things such as quotes or radio days, but these all end up being negotiable. I weigh up the cost of future work with a brand or company, and I reduce my costs if they offer a retainer. I am happy to do lots of stuff for free if it provides a reasonable quid pro quo which may mean a feature in a leading magazine or quote to help maintain my profile and build relationships with health journalists and PR agencies.

Socialising

There is no point in going freelance if you’re unwilling to get yourself out there and meet people, as this is how you get yourself known. As your career progresses, you may have to do less of this as people start to contact you based on referrals, but you have to put the hard work in at the start.

Create a media pack

Suppose you want to work in the media. In that case, you need a media pack that includes a biography and examples of what you have done alongside a structure of fees. A showreel is also helpful to show what you have done on screen.

Control the narrative

This is one of the most important things to help maintain your integrity as a nutritionist. You’re the expert, and you are employed to provide your expert opinion, so if you disagree with what a client wants you to do, then walk away. On the whole, you can generally find a compromise to help companies deliver the messages they need to promote their products or services. Always stick to your guns when it comes to science and things such as health claims – I have learned the hard way with some clients and been pulled up on some bits of work or something I have said in the media.

Deadlines 

I have to admit that I am totally hopeless when it comes to deadlines, but you need to keep clients in the loop if you cannot deliver on time. This is quite important if you want them to come back to you with more work.

Housekeeping

It’s important to keep on top of invoicing and bookkeeping and things such as tax and VAT. If you can’t do it yourself, then employ someone to do it for you.

Public speaking

It took me ages to build up the confidence to do this, but years of training, delivering talks, and cooking demos at events have made me much more confident. This stuff also gives you the confidence to record videos on social media showcasing what you do. If you are going to work as a freelance nutritionist, you need to get to grips with this  skill. I don’t have many tips to offer here but one thing that has always helped me is to socialise with people during the coffees beforehand as you get to meet people in the audience and this can offer a little familiarity and make you more comfortable. My default when I feel nervous or uncomfortable is humour so I always try to add a little humility to my presentations and always relate them where I can to real life experiences or something the audience can relate to.

Diversity

You need to diversify all the time as a freelance nutritionist in order to increase your worth and open up new opportunities. I am just finishing off a post-grad diploma in sports nutrition as this is an area I fancy doing more work in.

Imposter syndrome

All freelance nutritionists succumbs to this at some point when you feel you are crap at your job and that everyone is doing better than you. Stay confident in everything you are doing and continually refer to the scientific literature to support your opinions and work.

Focus on your own thing and try not to compare yourself to what other people are doing. Instagram is a real bugger for this but always remember that people tend to only post the good stuff. My feed is full of lovely experiences showing fancy press trips or videos with clients, but this is just a snapshot of what is going on at that point in time. I’m not going to post a video of me fretting about where the next bit of work will come from or that I am worried about how my age may prevent me from getting a job in the future!

Explore all avenues of work

I always try to think outside the box as a freelance nutritionist and get involved with new start-up companies I believe may have a chance of doing well. Sometimes they feel like they have little to do with nutrition, but I will always give things a go and offer ways I think I can help.

Private clients

I dip in and out of this as a freelance nutritionist, and one of the reasons I have been doing my course in sports nutrition is because this is an area I feel I would be happy to help people with. I’ll be frank in saying I have very little interest in weight loss and don’t feel qualified to help people with specific health conditions. I like sports nutrition because it’s about performance. Those you deal with are fully committed to acting on your advice. My other bit of advice here is that you have to work out of a practice or somewhere you can rent a room for this to work financially. Traveling here, there, and everywhere to see clients in their homes is not economically viable in most cases.

Offer your services for the greater good.

I go through periods of getting a little bored with what I am doing, so I offer help to charities or other groups. I have delivered talks and cooking sessions to charity organisations and care homes, which I find exciting and inspiring. I have also been working with a para-athlete through my course, which has also been helping me to build my confidence in working with athletes on a one-to-one basis. It’s an excellent way to fill the time when you are quiet and learn new skills and, of course, forging new working relationships.

Create a network

As a freelance nutritionist it’s important to make contact with other people in your field. Freelancing can be lonely, and it’s great to have people to talk to in your field for advice on all work areas. I always have time for anyone who wants to get in touch to talk about anything they are working on. There is plenty of work to go around and ditch the idea that we are in some way all in competition with one another. I hate to say that sometimes I get emails from new nutritionists looking for advice but it can slip my mind to get back and respond. Don’t ever be shy to get in touch with people for help or advice.

Chocolate can be good for you

Chocolate can be good for you

Chocolate can be good for you

This week is Chocolate Week!!!!

The History of chocolate 

The history of chocolate dates back over 3000 years to the Olmec civilization.  Cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are harvested from a tree called Theobroma Cacao, meaning ‘food of the Gods’.  Aztecs are thought to have enjoyed cacao beans by making a ‘drink’ called Chicolati, which was believed to increase wisdom, boost energy and act as an aphrodisiac. This brew was seasoned with vanilla, chilli, honey or fruit and whipped into a froth using little sticks.  I love their choice of flavours, which have now become commonplace amongst chocolate bars and puddings.

Since its discovery by Europeans and the vast time through to modern day, millions of people have helped to drive the popularity of this ultimate sweet treat.  The reputation of chocolate has evolved over time from a luxury food synonymous with wealth, to an easily affordable comfort food whilst the association with romantic gesture (food of love) and mood has remained since first discovered.

Global retail sales of chocolate are staggering with estimates of over £75 billion per year and in the UK alone, we spend over £3 billion annually.

Types of chocolate

Chocolate comes in many forms nowadays and is defined by the percentage of cocoa it contains.  Milk chocolate contains a low percentage of cocoa (23% cocoa solids) and is high in sugar and saturated fat.  Darker varieties have a greater percentage of cocoa (anything from 70-90% cocoa solids) and slightly less sugar and saturated fat (although still high).  Cocoa powder contains hardly any sugar, low amounts of saturated fat and is rich in minerals and other compounds that may benefit health.

Nutritional content of cocoa

Cocoa in its raw form is a good source of minerals including iron (helps to maintain healthy red blood cell production), magnesium (helps to maintain healthy bones, promotes muscle relaxation and converts food into energy), phosphorus (healthy bones and converts food into energy), potassium (helps maintain fluid balance and helps the heart to work properly),  zinc (helps to make new cells and enzymes in the body and wound healing) and copper (helps to produce red and white blood cells and with iron usage in the body).

Nutritional breakdown of unsweetened cocoa powder per 2 heaped tsp

Calories         44

Fat                  1.9g

Sat fat             1.8g

Carb                 1.6g

Sugar              0g

Fibre               2.3g

Protein           2.6g

Also contains….

Iron                 1.57mg (11% RDA)

Magnesium    73mg   (19% RDA)

Phosphorus    92mg (13% RDA)

Potassium       210mg (10.5% RDA)

Zinc                 0.97mg (9.7% RDA)

Copper           0.55mg (55% RDA)

Other compounds found in cocoa

Cocoa is richer in antioxidants that almost any other food on the planet.  These antioxidant compounds are called flavanol polyphenols and have been shown to help reduce the risk of disease. Cocoa also contains a compound called theobromine, which acts as a stimulant similar to caffeine but without the jittery side-effects. You will also find phenethylamine (PEA) in cocoa, which is a compound that stimulates the central nervous system to amplify the action of brain chemicals including the ‘feel’ good hormones serotonin and dopamine.  Phenethylamine is also thought to mimic the brain chemistry of someone in love, which is why it’s often thought of as an aphrodisiac.

What are the potential health benefits of cocoa?

In moderation there’s nothing wrong with eating chocolate within the context of a healthy diet, but too much of anything can have its downsides and our reliance on high sugar snacks has been instrumental in the rise of diet related diseases including obesity.

Whilst overindulging on chocolate snack bars and puddings is clearly not great for your health, research has shown that there may be health benefits associated with cocoa, which is the raw ingredient.

Just to be clear, there are no benefits associated with tucking into a few packets of Minstrels and any positive impact on health is linked to cocoa in its raw form of cocoa powder or raw cacao.  The closest chocolate comes to having any health benefits is the dark variety with a high percentage of cocoa solids (70% and above), but this still needs to be eaten in moderation given its high sugar and sat fat content.

Heart disease

The polyphenols in cocoa are thought to dilate the arteries, which improves elasticity and may reduce the risk of heart attack. The effect of these antioxidants is also thought to be similar to aspirin in that they help to thin the blood and prevent unwanted clots with research showing that the effect after drinking a cup of cocoa lasting more than 6 hours (1).  Findings from a large analysis of seven studies carried out by researchers at Cambridge University found that both men and women with the highest intake of cocao were 37% less likely to suffer with coronary heart disease and 29% less likely to experience a stroke compared to those with the lowest intakes (2).

Cholesterol

Studies have shown that cocoa may have a positive impact on cholesterol, raised levels of which are considered to be a risk factor for heart disease.  Findings from a clinical trial published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that the polyphenols found in cocoa powder contributed to a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol, elevation in HDL (good) cholesterol and suppressed the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is thought to be particularly damaging to tissues such as those lining the arteries of the heart (3).   The effect on oxidation may be explained by the antioxidant effect of polyphenols as they help to protect the body from free radical damage (4).

Blood pressure

Research around blood pressure stems from islanders of Kuna that don’t appear to develop high blood pressure as they get older, which is in part attributed to the high amounts of cocoa they consume on a daily basis. It was noticed that once they left the island and consumed less cocoa they lost the protective effect on blood pressure.  The link between cocoa and blood pressure is that the flavanols it contains increase the availability of nitric oxide in the blood, which dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.  Researchers from Adelaide University found that drinking cocoa (rich in flavanols) significantly lowered blood pressure when compared to a flavanol-free placebo drink (5).  Similar findings have also been shown in several other studies although the effect is not that strong (6, 7).

Brain health

Studies have shown that drinking cocoa at least 5 days of the week boosts the flow of blood to the parts of the brain that help with cognition and may improve performance and alertness (8).  The antioxidants in cocoa also help to neutralise the low-grade inflammation associated with ‘foggy’ thoughts. Studies of older people that are mentally impaired have found that those who regularly drank cocoa had greater improvements in memory and verbal reasoning than those who did not (9). It’s for this reason that cocoa has been of interest to researchers investigating dementia.

Chocolate as a functional food?

Advances in innovation have seen a rise in chocolate products with added health benefits.  Companies such as Ombar produce a dark chocolate bar fortified with probiotic cultures.

How to add more cocoa into your diet

Whilst many people enjoy eating chocolate and may understand the potential benefit of choosing dark over milk varieties, less people know how to use cocoa powder beyond a drink.

If you’re not familiar with using cocoa powder, then try these ideas below for a little inspiration:

  • Add 1 tbsp to your protein shake.
  • Add 1 tbsp to porridge.
  • Make homemade energy balls by blending cocoa or raw cacao powder, dates and chopped hazelnuts to a food processor.
  • Combine 1 tbsp with hot milk of choice for a warming evening drink rich in magnesium that helps to promote muscle relaxation and has been shown by research to induce sleep. Try adding cinnamon, ground cardamom or chilli for extra flavour.
  • Add cocoa or raw cacao powder to chilli con carne for richness and intense flavour.

The reality of chocolate and health

The truth still remains that chocolate, even dark chocolate, is never going to be considered a healthy food as it contains high amounts of sugar and saturated fat, which if eaten in excess will counteract any potential health benefits of cocoa.  However, you can reap the health benefits of cocoa by incorporating it into your diet in ways that allow you to control the amount of sugar and saturated fat.  It’s also worth pointing out that the true benefit of nutrition lies in the overall diet and not single foods so whilst the health potential of cocoa is interesting, you still need to focus on eating a well balanced and varied diet.

Try this recipe from my book The Detox Kitchen Bible.  These brownies are still a sweet treat but contain much less sugar than usual recipes and harness the benefits of cocoa.

Beetroot Brownies

Makes 9

Ingredients

150g raw beetroot, peeled and cut into small cubes

50g hazelnuts

100g gluten and wheat-free flour

1 tsp baking powder

60g raw cacao powder

120g runny honey

½ tsp salt

3 eggs

75ml rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line the bottom and sides of a 20cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Put the beetroot in a microwave-safe bowl with 50ml water, cover with clingfilm and cook on a high heat for 7 minutes until soft. If you don’t have a microwave, wrap the beetroot in foil and bake in the heated oven for about 40 minutes until soft.
  3. Put the hazelnuts in a blender and blitz until they are roughly chopped. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cacao powder.
  4. Now blitz the cooked beetroot in the blender for 1–2 minutes until smooth. Add to the dry ingredients in the bowl but do not mix just yet.
  5. Using the blender for the third time, put the honey, salt and eggs in it and blitz for 3 minutes. Pour into the bowl and mix with the rest of the ingredients using a wooden spoon. Be gentle, as you want to keep air in the mixture whilst combining it thoroughly.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the heated oven for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

You can find more delicious recipes from Lilly and the gang at the Detox Kitchen website.

If you liked this blog and want to learn more about chocolate then have a read of these:

Raw cacao and avocado mousse recipe 

Raw cacao and cashew nut milk

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10871557
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21875885
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17513403
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11684527
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19910929
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17609490
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22301923
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16794461
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25733639

 

Time to join the culture club – your guide to probiotics

Time to join the culture club – your guide to probiotics

 

Time to join the culture club (download PDF here The culture club)

So, you’re clean eating, gluten free, fasting, eating avocados like their going out of fashion, chugging down green juices with the latest wonder powders and using coconut oil to cook and apply to every part of the body from top to toe to achieve an enviable state of health and wellness.  But health trends come and go, and whether they stand the test of time is usually based on popularity over real results.

One area of health that has always been popular is the gut and the one thing we know for sure is that an efficient gut equals good health.  Probiotics have been hip for a while now and this is one trend with a lot of research to back up the claims. The discovery of how to sequence the bacteria that live in the gut has widened this area of research and allowed scientists to explore it in a similar way to DNA 20 years ago.

 


“One area of health that has always been popular is the gut and the one thing we know for sure is that an efficient gut equals good health”


 

Good digestion insures that your body can process foods efficiently and deliver all the essential nutrients without bloating or other digestive complaints that can impact on how you feel day-to-day and the role of gut bacteria in this context is well established.  But these clever microbes are not just about good digestion and new exciting research is drawing associations between the microbiome and areas of healthy you may never have considered before. 

 

What’s the deal with bacteria?

The body is full of bugs that make up one of the most complex ecosystems in the world with over 400 different species living in the gut.  Generally, these bugs are not harmful and many have a beneficial role to play in the body. 

Gut bacteria are essential in the process of breaking down food to extract nutrients that are required for our survival.  Bacteria help to synthesize certain vitamins including B12, folic acid and thiamin that are required for energy metabolism, red blood cell production and maintaining a healthy nervous system.   These microbes also teach our immune systems to recognize foreign invaders and produce anti-inflammatory compounds that fight off disease-causing bacteria.  Clever stuff.

 


“Gut bacteria are essential in the process of breaking down food to extract nutrients that are required for our survival”


 

Nurture your own culture club

 The community of bacteria in your gut is specific to you and is referred to as your microbiome.  The diversity of your microbiome is especially important to help maintain a healthy gut as bad bacteria are limited and tightly controlled by the good variety.  If your diet is unhealthy and rich in sugary or processed foods then there’s a chance that the good bacteria in your gut will become weakened, impacting on health as you provide an all-you-can-eat buffet for bad bugs to thrive on and take over.   A buildup of bad bacteria may result in a number of health problems such as food allergies, yeast infections or inflammatory bowel disease. 

 


“A buildup of bad bacteria may result in a number of health problems such as food allergies, yeast infections or inflammatory bowel disease”


 

Interestingly, the trend for carbohydrate free diets could have an impact on the diversity of bacteria in your gut.  A high fat and protein diet is not necessarily the issue as bacteria will find something to live on in the gut but the diversity of bacteria and their activity may change in the absence of carbohydrates.  Like us, bacteria prefer to live on carbohydrates (glucose) and from this they produce short chain fatty acids that are good for your gut.  Once carbohydrates are taken out of the diet, bacteria start to thrive on amino acids that make up proteins, which produces other compounds that are considered more poisonous than beneficial

 

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that contain strains that have been shown to have a positive health benefit.  There seem to be a lot of interesting foods labelled as being probiotics ranging from chocolate through to tea but to get the most benefit you need to look for well researched strains such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium with at least 10 billion bacteria per serving.  Some foods such as kimchi are also touted as being a probiotic and although they may have health benefits for your gut the strains they contain (and there are many strains) are often not well researched and so cannot be classed as such.

 


“Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that contain strains that have been shown to have a positive health benefit”


 

How do probiotics benefit health?

One of the key benefits of probiotics is in maintaining good digestive health and research has shown how they can help with common digestive complaints such as diarrhoea and constipation.  Probiotics have also been shown to be of benefit for people suffering with IBS and food intolerances such as lactose intolerance. 

 


“One of the key benefits of probiotics is in maintaining good digestive health and research has shown how they can help with common digestive complaints such as diarrhoea and constipation”


 

Immunity is also a key area of research.  Around 80% of the immune system resides in the gut and studies have shown that probiotics are successful in preventing upper respiratory tract infections (coughs and colds) as well as reducing the infection time.  Probiotics are also essential for anyone that has had to take antibiotics that have an apocalyptic effect on all the bacteria in the gut.   Taking probiotics alongside medication and for a few weeks afterwards should be a common place recommendation to help restore your microbiota.

 

The future of probiotics

Where things get very exciting is in the research that is starting to put science to the concept of that “gut feeling” by exploring the relationship between gut bacteria and how this may impact on behaviour, metabolism and mood via a signaling pathway called the gut-brain axis with early findings suggesting a possible link to conditions such as obesity and depression.

The future of gut bacteria is also fascinating as researchers at Kings College London predict that we may be able to receive individualized probiotic advice relating to the unique diversity of strains that make up our own personal microbiota.  Researchers have commented that it is naive to think that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to probiotics and that in the future.  Metagenomic testing may be able to map your microbiome by sequencing every gene in every living organism in your gut.  This would provide data on the functions of your microbes as well as viruses, fungi, virulent genes and antibiotics resistance.  Understanding this may help link in with the research around the how certain bacteria strains are associated with specific health conditions.

It may also be time to ditch expensive skin care products in place of probiotics to achieve a healthy, clear, glowing complexion.  Whilst the link between skin and gut bacteria is complicated, it has been shown that the health of your microbiome may be a significant player in the quest for healthy skin.  If your gut is overrun with bad bacteria or yeast then this can increase the permeability of the gut, which can result in inflammation as the immune system produces inflammatory cytokines in response to microbial toxins that enter your system.  Inflammation is at the root of skin conditions such as acne and research has shown how probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum may help to regulate the cytokines.  This doesn’t mean you can just pop a probiotic and expect great skin but there is an association with your microbiota.

 

Do we need to take probiotics?

If you have a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet then their maybe no need to invest in a probiotic but there is certainly no harm in taking them daily.  Probiotics are intended to be used in a therapeutic context as they help to deliver a beneficial dose to the gut that you may not be able to achieve by eating foods such as probiotic yoghurt.

 

What is the best way to take probiotics?

This is up to you really.  Probiotics are available in a capsule or tablet form such as Healthspan Super50 Pro (60 capsules for £28.50).  This form of probiotic is freeze-dried and activated on entering the gut. Other sources of probiotic yoghurt and drinks do contain beneficial strains but these are often not in as greater volume as a supplement or with as much variety.  You also need to be aware of the high sugar content of certain probiotic foods as some brands of ‘shot’ drinks have been shown to contain as much as 2 tsp of sugar. Probiotic foods are a good way to help maintain good bacterial levels but to make a real impact on the diversity of your microbiome you need a supplement.  Like all supplements, the key is to take them regularly to get the most benefit and this is even more important with probiotics as you are essentially trying to increase the amount in the gut.

 

What to think about when choosing and taking supplements

 If you’re considering taking a probiotic supplement then there are a few things you should consider when buying and whilst taking them.

  1. To be effective you need to choose a supplement that contains at least 10 million bacteria per serving.   
  2. Don’t take a probiotic supplement with hot food and drinks like tea or coffee as this can lessen the chance of the bacteria getting to your gut unharmed. Give it 30 minutes after taking them before you reach for the teapot.
  3. Alcohol can also render the bacteria in probiotic supplements useless so avoid knocking back with a glass of pinot!
  4. Research suggests that breakfast might be the best time of day as this is when bacteria have the greatest chances of surviving the acidic conditions in the upper part of the gut.
  5. Make sure you check the check the expiry date because once that’s passed there may not be any live bacteria left in the product.
  6. Choose a probiotic that includes a wide variety of strains to get the most benefit.

 

 Download PDF here (The culture club)

Favourite recipe ideas from home cooking sessions with clients

Favourite recipe ideas from home cooking sessions with clients

 

Favourite recipes that I cook with clients in their homes (Download as PDF  Favourite recipes

 

Chopped salad with pomegranate

Serves two

Ingredients

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped

1 spring onions, finely chopped

½ fennel bulb, finely chopped

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

100g pomegranate seeds

Small handful each of parsley, mint and dill all finely chopped

Method 

  1. Combine ingredients together in a large bowl and serve with one of the dressings below.

 

Honey and allspice dressing

Serves two 

Ingredients

1 medium lemon, juiced

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp honey

¼ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp smoked paprika

½ garlic clove, crushed

Sea salt

Pepper

Method

  1. Combine in a smal bowl and serve with salad  

 

Tahini dressing

Serves two 

Ingredients

200g soya (or low fat) yoghurt

1 heaped tbsp tahini

1 garlic clove, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, chopped

1 lime, juiced

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (best quality)

1 tsp turmeric

Method

  1. Combine in a small bowl and serve with salad

 

Sweet potato and miso dressing

Serves two

Ingredients

100g sweet potato, peeled and diced

15g ginger, finely chopped

25ml lemon juice

25ml rice wine vinegar

35g sweet white miso

10ml sesame oil

75ml olive oil

5g tamari sauce

Method

  1. Combine in a small bowl and serve with salad

 

Turkey and cashew curry

Serves 4

Ingredients

100g cashew nuts

2 vine tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

400g turkey breast, diced

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground turmeric

1 cauliflower, florets

100ml water

200ml reduced fat coconut milk

100g fresh peas

 Method

  1. Place cashew nuts in a blender with the tomatoes, chili, garlic, ginger and lemon juice and blitz to a paste. Transfer this to a large mixing bowl and add in the turkey. Cover with the ground cumin, ground coriander and ground turmeric, cover and leave to marinate for 20 minutes in the fridge.
  2. Meanwhile, place a large saucepan on a high heat and add a drop of oil
  3. Add in the onions and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the marinated turkey and cook for 5-7 minutes until sealed.
  5. Add in the cauliflower, water and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Keep the heat low and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Add in the peas and simmer for a further 5 minutes

 

Kale chips with paprika and cashew

Makes 200g

 Ingredients

30g cashew nuts

1 tsp rapeseed oil

50ml water

500g kale (but big fresh leaves not the prepackaged stuff)

1 tsp paprika

1 pinch of Malden salt 

Method  

  1. Preheat your oven to 50°c.
  2. Soak the cashew nuts in water for 20 minutes. Then drain and place them in a blender with the rapeseed oil and 50ml water. Blitz for 5 minutes until completely smooth. Add more water if necessary; the consistency should be like single cream.
  3. Take the kale leaves off the stalk and break the leaves up into bite sized pieces. Place the kale in a large bowl and pour over the cashew cream, toss with you hands to ensure the leaves are coated well.
  4. Place the kale on a baking tray and sprinkle with the paprika and Malden salt.
  5. Place in the oven for 60 minutes until crispy.
  6. You can store these in an airtight contained for up to 2 days.

 

Roasted tikka cauliflower Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

250g Pearl barley

1 large cauliflower

1 level tbsp tikka curry paste

60g flaked almonds

60g dried cherries (or cranberries)

100g pomegranate seeds

2 tsp nigella (black onion) seeds

1 small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Yoghurt and tahini dressing (see above)

Sea salt 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Cook the barley in boiling water until tender (about 30-40 minutes) then drain and rinse under cold water
  3. In a large roasting tin, break the cauliflower into bite sized pieces and add the curry paste, rubbing in well so all the cauliflower is covered
  4. Place the tin in the oven and cook until tender (about 20 mins)
  5. Whilst the cauliflower is cooking make the dressing by adding all the ingredients to the bender and slowly bending until smooth. It should be the consistency of double cream so loosen with a little water if too thick.
  6. Take out the cauliflower and allow to cool.7. In a large bowl combine the barley, cauliflower, almonds, cherries and pomegranate 8. Drizzle a little of the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with onion seeds

 

Lemon salmon

Serves two

Ingredients

2 salmon fillets

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (also, 4 tbsp for the dressing)

1 lemon, halved

1 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped chives

Sea salt

Black pepper

Method

  1. Heat the grill
  2. Coat the salmon with olive oil and a little salt
  3. Place the lemon halves, cut-side down, next to the salmon and grill for about 4 mins each side
  4. Transfer the salmon to a plate and prepare the dressing
  5. To make the dressing squeeze the lemon juice from the charred lemons into a small bowl and add 4 tbsp olive oil, chopped herbs and season.
  6. Pour dressing over the salmon and serve

 

Quinoa, lentil and chicken salad

Serves four

Ingredients 

250g puy lentils, boiled


250g quinoa, boiled

300g chicken breast, thinly sliced

1 ripe mango, sliced

1/2 red onion, finely sliced

1 handful watercress, stalks removed (or pea shoots)

1 small handful mint, chopped

1 small handful coriander, chopped

Dressing

1 lime juiced

1 tsp curry paste

4 tbsp light olive oil

3 tbsp of ½ fat crème fraiche

Sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Wrap the chicken in foil with a little oil and lemon juice.
  3. Place chicken in oven and bake for 20 minutes until cooked through
  4. Cook the grains, drain and leave to cool
  5. Once the chicken has cooled, thinly slice
  6. Add all the dressing ingredients to the blender and blend for a minute until fully combined (add a little water until it is the consistency of single cream – it should be quite runny
  7. Add the grains, chicken, mango, red onion, watercress, mint and coriander  to a large salad bowl 8. Dress salad with dressing

 

Aniseed green juice

Serves two

Ingredients

1 bunch of spinach, washed

1 bunch of mint

1 cucumber

2 green apples, cored

1 fennel bulb 1⁄2 lemon

Method

  1. Chop ingredients and blend high for 30 seconds
  2. Lay muslin over a bowl, pour in juice then grab the four corners of cloth and squeeze out the juice

 

Green goddess juice

Serves two

Ingredients

1/2 cucumber

3 kale leaves (take soft leaf off the stem)

1 small handful coriander

1 lime (juice only)

1 head Romaine lettuce

2 apples, cored 

Method

  1. Chop ingredients and blend high for 30 seconds
    Lay muslin over a bowl, pour in juice then grab the four corners of cloth and squeeze out the juice

 

Carrot, beetroot, apple and ginger

Serves two

Ingredients

2 carrots

2 beetroot

2 apple
s, cored 

1 inch knob of ginger

1 lemon, juiced

Method

  1. Chop ingredients and blend high for 30 seconds
    Lay muslin over a bowl, pour in juice then grab the four corners of cloth and squeeze out the juice

 

Raw cacao cashew milk

Serves two

Ingredients

150g raw cashews

2-3 level tablespoons raw cacao powder (depending on taste. I like 2)

2 Tablespoons pure Maple Syrup

Vanilla pod

Pinch of sea salt

600ml 
water

Method

  1. Add ingredients to a high power blender and blitz for 1 minute
  2. Add more or less water depending on the desired consistency.

 

Shakshuka

Serves two

Ingredients

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 onion, finely diced 

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 red peppers, cut into strips

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 pinch saffron

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Sea salt

Black pepper

4 eggs

Method

  1. Heat up the oil and add the fennel seeds cooking for 1 minute
  2. Add in the onion, garlic and cook for another 3 minutes
  3. Add in the peppers, spices, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for 25 minutes until the peppers are soft (you will need to add more water as you go)
  4. make small wells in the tomato sauce and drop in the eggs then put the lid on and cook for 5 minutes until the whites of the egg are cooked

 Serve with spinach or toast

 

Cajun chicken

Serves two 

Ingredients

Marinade

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp olive oil

4 skinless chicken breast

Salad

150g spinach, chopped

A handful each of parsley, mint and coriander (finely chopped)

½ red onion, diced

1 tsp olive oil

2 avocados, cubed

Mango salsa

1 mango, diced

5 cherry tomatoes, diced

A handful coriander, chopped

1 lime, juiced

½ chilli, finely diced

Sea salt

Black pepper

Method

  1. Combine marinade spices and chicken in a large bowl then set aside for 10 minute
  2. Heat up a large non-stick frying pan (or griddle)
  3. Whilst the pan is heating up wrap each marinated chicken breast in cling film and seals at the ends then bash lightly to 1 cm thick
  4. Cook each chicken breast for about 5 minutes each side until cooked
  5. Combine salad ingredients together
  6. Combine salsa ingredients together
  7. Serve the chicken with salsa and salad

 

Download as PDF Favourite recipes

For nutrition and cookery videos click here

Can we eat our way to good health? Most definitely yes!

Can we eat our way to good health? Most definitely yes!

Current state of health and nutrient intake in the UK (Download as PDF Current state of health in the UK)

Two thirds of the UK population are now classed as being overweight or obese.  It’s well established from research that eating the right foods that lower your BMI can help reduce your risk of developing a whole raft of diseases from heart disease to cancer.   UK Food surveys also show that a significant number of people have low intakes of certain nutrients, which may impact on areas of your health including tiredness and fatigue, poor skin and digestion. 

Fibre intake in the UK is low as is intake of omega 3-rich foods such as oily fish, both of which help protect against heart disease and certain cancers.  Women in particular are shown to have low intakes of certain minerals in their diets including magnesium and iron (nearly quarter of women have inadequate intakes of iron) both of which can impact on energy levels and fatigue. One in five Brits are also at risk of profound vitamin D deficiency according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey that can impact on bone health which is especially important for the young and older people (research has also linked this vitamin to helping with symptoms of depression).

 Research shows that in some cases, including or removing certain foods from your diet may help to reduce the symptoms and management of certain conditions including high cholesterol, depression, PMS or menopause.

 

Can you heal yourself with food?

 So, it is possible to heal yourself with food?  Yes, absolutely.  Food has the ability to heal and nurture your health and getting your diet at a place of balance is the way to start, from there you can begin to add or remove certain foods according to your health concerns.  Don’t get me wrong, there is no magic food to suddenly cure you of disease and many conditions require medical intervention but diet may certainly help to compliment a treatment or provide a more holistic approach, it’s also just food so why not give it a go.

 

Restrictive diets

There is a growing trend to follow alternative ways of eating that restrict certain foods groups such as paleo and Pegan but do these ways of eating really improve our health and is the approach of cutting out wheat, dairy and sugar make a difference? I don’t believe that cutting out large swathes of foods is the best approach to take unless you are aware of what foods you have to replace them with to still get a balance of nutrients in the diet.  

Too many people embark on highly restrictive, complicated diets and end up suffering nutritionally, whilst diagnosed food intolerances and allergies are relatively rare for some people replacing dairy with calcium-rich alternatives and cutting down on the amount of refined carbs they eat simply makes them feel better and often helps improve digestion which is why we took this approach with the Detox Kitchen Bible cookbook.  Be realistic and be sensible about removing foods from your diet as they have to be replaced with similar foods to maintain a balanced diet. There’s little benefit removing it if it doesn’t cause a problem!”

 

Top tips for taking a food approach to some of the UK’s top health concerns.

 Weight loss

  • Include a mix of healthy fats, protein and  a little wholegrain carb for a balance of nutrients guaranteed to keep you feeling full between meals
  • Mindfulness and intuitive eating can play a key part in maintaining weight so think before you eat!
  • If you are reducing calories then choose high nutrient dense foods
  • Setting realistic goals and avoiding extreme diets are the best approach for lasting results
  • Fill up on veggies at each meal (fresh or frozen)
  • Choose foods with a high water content such as soups, stews and casseroles to increase fullness

Healing foods: aubergine, quinoa, eggs, brown rice, seeds, broccoli, kale

Recipe: Roasted aubergine and pomegranate

 

 

Heart health

  • High fibre diets (especially oats) are effective for reducing cholesterol, weight loss and risk of T2 diabetes
  • Soy foods are shown to be effective at reducing cholesterol
  • Omega 3 fatty acids help to thin the blood, reduce inflammation and increase levels of ‘good’ cholesterol
  • Food high in potassium can help to maintain health blood pressure
  • Plant compounds such as beta-sitosterol found in avocados and olive oil effective at reducing cholesterol
  • High sugar and refined carbs just as damaging if not more so than saturated fat in the diet
  • Antioxidants such as flavanoids and polyphenols affective at reducing free radical damage and reducing inflammation

Healing foods:  Avocados, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, berries, beetroot, edamame, brown rice, salmon

 Recipe:  Salmon, green beans, orange and hazelnut salad

 

 

Women’s health – PMS, Menopause

  • High intake of non-meat iron (pulses, dried fruit) may be effective at reducing symptoms of PMS
  • Limit spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol to help with flushes and night sweats
  • Maintaining steady blood sugar levels is an effective strategy for PMS, PCOS and menopause
  • Ganestien, a compound found in soy foods (especially fermented varieties such as miso) may help reduce hot flushes during the menopause as may other phytoestrogen rich foods such as lentils sprouts.
  • Women suffering with PMS are often seen to have low levels of calcium and affective to treat with calcium and vitamin D supplements 
  • Boost intake of the amino acid, tryptophan to increase serotonin production (along with eating Low GI carbs) – low levels are a result of sensitivity to progesterone during ovulation – affect mood and responsible for PMS cravings

Healing foods:  Edamame beans, miso, pumpkin seeds, lentil sprouts, dried fruit, eggs, turkey, quinoa

RecipeAvocado smash with toasted nuts and seeds

 

 

Skin health  

  • Sufficient intake of zinc may help to regulate the production of sebum
  • Omega 3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation and may help with conditions such as psoriasis
  • In the case of eczema and psoriasis, try avoiding foods such as eggs and dairy that are rich in arachidonic acid (a type of omega 6), which promotes inflammation.
  • Eat plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants to help fight free radical damage from environmental factors.
  • Eat plenty of foods rich in beta-carotene (orange and green vegetables) as this is converted to vitamin A in the body which is essential for the repair and maintenance of healthy skin.

Healing foods:  Kale, butternut squash, mango, salmon, dried figs, berries, prawns, seeds

Recipe: Cajun chicken with avocado salad and mango salsa

 

 

Tiredness and fatigue

  • Low intake of iron responsible for fatigue (23% of women have low intakes in the UK)
  • Low levels of magnesium and B vitamins may also result in tiredness and fatigue
  • Migraine sufferers faced with fatigue – reducing intake of tyramine foods (red wine, pickled foods, chocolate) and increasing vitamin B2 (mackerel, eggs, mushrooms) can help
  • Low levels of magnesium may lead to insomnia, which can impact on tiredness.
  • Combine foods high in vitamin C with iron-rich foods to boost absorption.

Healing foods: Brown rice, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashew nuts, mushrooms, almonds, mackerel, egg

Recipe: Beetroot falafel

 

You can find more information on health and recipes to help health the body in the new edition of the Detox Kitchen Bible.

Download as PDF (Current state of health in the UK)

Top ten tips to beat a hangover

Top ten tips to beat a hangover

How to cure a hangover:  the good, the bad and the ugly (Download as a PDF how-to-cure-a-hangover_website)

It’s that time of year again when many of us wake up after a busy social event muttering those fateful words, “I am never drinking again”.   Even healthy nutritionists like myself have had to deal with some real corkers!  As the festive season looms closer and your diary fills up, it’s a good time to think about some of the good and more infamous hangover cures that may help to relieve your symptoms the next day.

What is a hangover?

 When you drink alcohol, it gets broken down in the liver to a compound called acetaldehyde, which is a toxic compound that contributes to the feelings associated with a hangover.   Obviously, the more you drink the greater the buildup of toxin and hence worse hangover. The main symptoms of a hangover include headaches from the dilation of blood vessels, dehydration from the increased need to urinate, nausea and stomach aches from the increased acidity.  Sleep also plays a major part in the severity of your hangover and the less you get the worse you will feel across the day. 

Try and prep your liver

 If you know December is going to be a whirlwind of parties, then try and be good to your liver when you’re not out on the town.  Try classic herbal remedies such as milk thistle (try Healthspan, 30 tablets for 12.95) or artichoke extract (try Healthspan, 120 tablets for £8.95) that have been traditionally used to support your liver health. 

Eating healthily at all other times is obviously a good idea too and foods such as bitter green vegetables and globe artichokes have been shown to improve bile flow (helping to remove toxins more efficiently) and help with the detoxification process (1).  Beetroot has also been traditionally associated with liver health by way of a plant compound called betaine (2).  Regardless of their potential to promote liver health, brightly colored fruits and vegetables make a valued addition to the diet and help by reducing the damage cause by excess free radicals as well as adding fibre and micronutrients to the diet.

Hangover cures

There are very few hangover cures that will generally work and in reality the only way to prevent one is to stay sober, which is not much fun during the party season.  Try and make sure you eat before you go out and try and keep hydrated by alternating water with alcoholic drinks.  If all else fails, try the tips below, which are some of the best, the worst and downright ugly of hangover cures.

The good 

  1. Rehydrate

Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, irritable, dizzy and generally not well especially when partnered with a drop in electrolytes that may occur after a heavy session.  Drink plenty of fluids the next day but try and avoid very sugary drinks as this can affect blood sugar levels leaving you feeling even more sluggish.  You could also try adding in an electrolyte sachet to help rebalance your system and replace nutrients commonly depleted by alcohol including magnesium, potassium, calcium and B vitamins.

  1. Go Long!

Try opting for drinks made with soda water or low calorie mixers as these will help to dilute the alcohol and give you a longer lasting drink.  Go for single shots of spirits or small glasses of white or rose wine to top up.

  1. Don’t drink on an empty stomach

This is a classic mistake, especially if you’re going straight out after work.  Drinking on an empty stomach can kame you much more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and is often a recipe for disaster.  Alcohol also acts as an appetite stimulant so you’re more like to end up tucking heavily into the buffet or queuing up in MC Donalds on your way home. Try eating something nourishing before you go out that has a good source of protein and fat to help keep you feeling full and soaking up some of the booze.

  1. Eggs for breakfast

Try something light in the morning that will help to get your blood sugar levels back up and bring a little closer to feeling yourself again.  Something like eggs on toast is a great option as these nutritional powerhouses contain a good source of the amino acid,  cysteine that helps to breakdown acetaldehyde in the liver.

  1. Avoid brown drinks

Conjeners are more concentrated in darker coloured alcohol drinks.  These compounds are a toxic byproduct of the fermentation process and are often added for taste and appearance.   Brown spirits and red wine contain a higher amount of congeners than lighter coloured drinks and can make hangovers more intense the next day

The bad

  1. coffee

If you can tolerate it then sure have a coffee.  However, slugging back high caffeine drinks can leave you a bit jittery especially if you do so on an empty stomach.  This can be a disaster if your stomach is feeling particularly sensitive.  Try ginger tea for nausea or peppermint, caraway and fennel to relieve any bloating.

  1. Energy drinks

However bad you feel try and steer clear of energy drinks.  These are often loaded with sugar that will further upset blood sugar levels and the stimulants such as caffeine and taurine are likely to increase spasms in the bowel, which is not great for a delicate gut.  Caffeine can also increase anxiety and suppress appetite, which is last thing you need when food is required to get you blood sugar leves back up.

  1. The greasy fry-up

 Some people swear by a good old greasy fry-up after a big session but this may not be your best option.  Heavy, fatty foods take a while to digest and can be hard going on sensitive stomachs, whilst also increasing the chances of indigestion and heart burn.  These stodgy types of foods will also leave you feeling sluggish across the day, only adding to your lack of vitality.

The ugly

  1. The Prarie Oyster 

This is not for the faint hearted and its recipe goes back to the early 1920’s (think Sally Bowls in the movie, Caberet).  Combine tomato juice, raw egg, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper then enjoy?

  1. Pickled plums (Umeboshi)

 These taste both salty and sour.  Umeboshi are traditionally viewed as a hangover remedy in Japan given their supposed ability to help relieve nausea, dizziness and fatigue. These are definitely an acquired taste and not sure they’re really what you would want to be eating with a sensitive stomach and nausea but feel free to try!

 

Hangover tonic

Try this Hangover Tonic the next morning to get your blood sugar levels back up and replace the vitamin and minerals depleted by alcohol.

Green vegetables like kale help increase bile flow through the liver to remove toxins effectively.  Cucumbers and lettuce are great foods to help hydrate the body after a boozy night and the fruit sugars in pears can help to raise low blood sugar to help you feel yourself again. 

Serves 2

 1/2 cucumber

3 kale leaves (take soft leaves off the stem)

1 small handful coriander

1 lime (juice only)

1 head Romaine lettuce

2 pears

Method

  1. Chop ingredients and blend high for 30 seconds
  2. Lay muslin over a bowl, pour in juice then grab the four corners of cloth and squeeze out the juice

There’s no reason to be a fun sponge during the seasonal festivities and often a hangover is just the price you pay.  It’s important to make sure that you drink sensibly and within the recommended number of units.  For more information go to www.drinkaware.co.uk 

Download as a PDF how-to-cure-a-hangover_website

 

 References 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22010973
  2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/80/3/539.full#sec-4

 

 

 

 

 

Shredded chicken and lemongrass broth

Shredded chicken and lemongrass broth

Shredded chicken and lemongrass broth (Download as a PDF shredded-chicken-and-lemongrass-broth)

Serves 2

 

Ingredients

1 chicken breast on the bone

1 stick of soba noodles

1 red onion, finely sliced

A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 stick of lemongrass, bashed

1 tsp light olive oil

600ml chicken or vegetable stock

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp tamari sauce

1 head of pak choi, sliced lengthways

2 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

A handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish

 

Method  

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the chicken breast on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes.
  2. Cook noodles until tender then drain and rinse under cold water and set aside.
  3. Remove the chicken from the oven and leave to cool slightly before shredding off the bone (you can also use leftover chicken as a quicker option).
  4. Combine the onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, olive oil and a large splash of stock in a large pan and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining stock and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to low and add the chicken, cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the noodles along with the lime juice, tamari and pak choi cooking for 1 minute longer.
  7. Remove from the heat, take out the lemongrass and add spring onions and coriander.

You can try serving with cooked prawns instead of chicken breast

 Download as a PDF (shredded-chicken-and-lemongrass-broth)

 

Foods high in zinc

Foods high in zinc

Highest foods and greatest sources of zinc (download as a PDF Foods high in zinc)

Zinc is an essential mineral so you need to obtain it from the diet as your body cannot make it.  This mineral is involved in approximately 100 enzymatic reactions in the body and plays a role in immunity, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis and cell division.  Zinc is also required for a proper sense of taste and smell as well as growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence.

This mineral is essential for men’s health.  Zinc plays a role in fertility by helping to improve the quality of sperm (1).  Research has shown that men with lower levels of seminal zinc had lower sperm counts as well as more abnormal sperm, which may be due to the protection of zinc against oxidative damage.

Zinc may also help to protect the health of the prostate.  Men with low levels of zinc in their diet tend to have higher chances of developing and enlarged prostate, which is known as benign prostate hyperplasia or BHP (2).

Zinc has long been associated with immunity and the common cold and some evidence points towards the benefits of this mineral in lessoning the symptoms by way of zinc lozenges (3).  Zinc also not only increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection, but also helps them fight more aggressively. It also increases killer cells that fight against cancer and helps white cells release more antibodies.  Zinc increases the number of infection-fighting T-cells, especially in elderly people who are often deficient in zinc and whose immune system may weaken with age (4).

Skin and hair health may also benefit from gleaning enough zinc from your diet.  Zinc plays an important role in overall skin health, and it may also treat eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, burns and boils (5).  This essential mineral also helps skin wounds heal faster.  Low intake of zinc has also been associated with hair loss (6)

Like many nutrients, zinc also acts as an antioxidant in the body.  Antioxidants help to reduce the damage done by excess free radicals that can increase cell aging and build up as a result of a poor diet, lifestyle and environmental factors. Antioxidants also play a role in reducing inflammation in the body.  Prolonged inflammation is thought to be at the root of many serious health conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

 

How much do you need?

UK Adult men require 9.5mg per day

UK Adult women require 7mg per day

 

Average intakes in the UK

Women consume more zinc than men

Most men and women have intakes above 100% of the RNI for zinc

9% of adult men have very low intakes of zinc

10% of teenage boys have very low intakes of zinc

 

Groups most at risk of deficiency  

The bioavailability of zinc from vegetarian diets is lower than from non-vegetarian diets because vegetarians do not eat meat, which is high in bioavailable zinc. Vegetarians and vegans also typically eat high levels of legumes and whole grains, which contain phytates that bind zinc and can inhibit its absorption.

Vegetarians can sometimes require more zinc than non-vegetarians. Certain food preparation techniques can help to reduce the binding of zinc by phytates and increase its bioavailability such as soaking beans, grains, and seeds in water for several hours before cooking them and allowing them to sit after soaking until sprouts form. Vegetarians and vegans can also increase their zinc intake by consuming more leavened grain products (such as bread) than unleavened products (such as crackers) because leavening partially breaks down the phytates; thus, the body absorbs more zinc from leavened grains than unleavened grains.

Alcoholics can have low levels of zinc because alcohol decreases intestinal absorption and increases urinary excretion of zinc.  Alcoholism can also affect food intake, which can limit the amount of zinc consumed.

Be aware that high intakes of zinc intakes can inhibit copper absorption, sometimes producing copper deficiency and associated anemia so be wary of supplement containing very high doses of this mineral.

 

How to increase your intake of zinc 

  • Add seeds as a topping to salads, cereals and porridge
  • Include plenty of dried herbs and spices to your meals
  • Include shellfish in your diet, which can be used to make salads, stews and stir-fry’s
  • Include plenty of pulses and lentils in your diet, which can be added to salads, stews, casseroles, soups or made into dips
  • Cocoa powder is high in zinc so the occasional treat of high cocoa dark chocolate is a good source of try making a cup of cocoa or homemade nut milks flavoured with this ancient ingredient
  • Try switching to wholegrains such as breads, rice and pseudo grains such as quinoa
  • Oats are high in zinc and make great breakfasts or toppings for sweet dishes such as crumbles and even savoury toppings
  • Nuts and seeds are high in zinc so try making your own healthy granola or flapjacks
  • Go veggie a few times each week and swap meat for tofu or Quorn
  • Eggs are the breakfast of champions and also make a great snack when boiled (try serving with smoked paprika, celery salt or tabasco sauce)
  • Don’t skip breakfast! Even a small bowl of your favourite wholegrain cereal can add a useful source of zinc to the diet. You can also use cereals as savoury topping

 

Foods highest in zinc (data taken from McCance and Widdowson)

 

Food Portion size (g) Mg per serving Mg per 100g
Shellfish
Raw oysters 80 47.4 59.2
Boiled lobster 100 5.5 5.5
Boiled lobster 100 2.5 2.5
Cooked mussels 100 2.3 2.3
Boiled prawns 100 2.2 2.2
Sardines canned in oil 50 1.1 2.2
Anchovies canned in oil 10 0.3 3
Meat and offal
Fried calf’s liver 100 15.9 15.9
Lamb neck fillet grilled 100 6.4 6.4
Grilled sirloin steak 100 4.3 4.3
Fried chicken liver 100 3.8 3.8
Grilled pork steak 100 2.9 2.9
Roast turkey 100 2.5 2.5
Grilled gammon steak 100 2.2 2.2
Ham 100 1.8 1.8
Grilled back bacon 50 1.6 3.1
Roast chicken 100 1.5 1.5
Pulses
Cooked aduki beans 80 1.8 2.3
Tempeh 100 1.8 1.8
Cooked chickpeas 80 1.0 1.2
Cooked red kidney beans 80 0.8 1
Cooked pinto beans 80 0.8 1
Cooked lentils 80 0.8 1
Tofu 100 0.7 0.7
Miso 30 1.0 3.3
Grains
Quinoa 180 5.9 3.3
Wheatgerm 30 5.1 17
Wholegrain rice(boiled) 180 3.2 1.8
Wholemeal bread 80 1.3 1.6
Oats 50 1.2 2.3
Oatcakes 40 1.3 3.3
Dark rye flour 30 0.9 3
Cereals
All bran 40 2.4 6
Bran flakes 40 1.0 2.5
Shredded wheat 40 0.9 2.3
Muesli 40 0.9 2.3
Weetabix 40 0.8 2
Special K 40 0.8 2
Fruit n fibre 40 0.6 1.5
Cheese and eggs
Parmesan cheese 30 1.5 5.1
Eggs 100 1.3 1.3
Edam 30 1.1 3.8
Cheddar cheese 30 0.7 2.3
Brie 30 0.6 2
Goats cheese 30 0.3 1
Nuts and seeds
Cashew nuts 25 1.5 5.9
Pecan nuts 25 1.3 5.3
Brazil nuts 25 1.1 4.2
Peanut butter 30 1.1 3.5
Peanuts 25 0.9 3.5
Tahini 15 0.8 5.4
Almonds 25 0.8 3.2
Poppy seeds 5 0.4 8.5
Pumpkin seeds 5 0.3 6.6
Pine nuts  5 0.3 6.5
Cocoa powder 15 1.0 6.9
Sesame seeds  5 0.3 5.3
Sunflower seeds 5 0.3 5.1
Vegetables
Quorn 100 7.0 7
Dried mushrooms 40 1.9 4.8
Frozen peas 80 0.7 0.9
Seaweed (nori) 10 0.6 6.4
Asparagus 80 0.6 0.7
Spinach 80 0.6 0.7
Okra 80 0.5 0.6
Brussels sprouts 80 0.4 0.5
Sundried tomatoes  40 0.3 0.8
Mushrooms 80 0.3 0.4
Parsnips 80 0.2 0.3
Endive 80 0.2 0.2
Herbs and spices
Dried chervil 5 0.4 8.8
Fenugreek 5 0.3 6.9
Dried thyme 5 0.3 6.2
Dried basil 5 0.3 5.8
Mustard seeds 5 0.2 4.7
Dried oregano 5 0.2 4.4
Cumin seeds 5 0.2 4.2
Curry powder 5 0.2 3.7
Dried cardamom 5 0.1 2.6

 

    References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19285597
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114577/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136969/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702361/
  5. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2014/709152/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3870206/

 

Download this document as a PDF  Foods high in zinc 

Glorious greens!

Glorious greens!

Eat your greens

Most of us are more than familiar with the term, “eat your greens”, as a well-used mantra for good nutrition and it seems we can’t get enough of them.  Green is a colour most commonly associated with all things healthy and their position in the current wellness landscape is clear from the popularity of juices, powders and self-proclaimed ‘superfoods’ derived from this group of vegetables.  The social media site, Instagram has become one of the main platforms for people to share their love of food with hashtags for kale revealing over 2 million posts and avocado exceeding 4 million.

 

The green revolution

Foods such as kale, avocado and courgette have become the heroes of the ‘green revolution’ as influential food bloggers showcase innovative ways to serve these vegetables such as spiralised courgette, kale chips or avocado on toast.  The positive press about green vegetables has also resonated with shoppers as market research shows how they choose kale for health in 9 out of 10 occasions.  Other green vegetables also carry a similar message with three quarters of consumers actively thinking about health when eating spinach and broccoli.

 

Popularity of green vegetables

Last year’s sales figures from Waitrose showed that courgette sales were up 13% from the previous year and that spring greens were up 23%.  The popularity of kale, the ambassador for healthy greens, is also continuing to rise with Marks and Spencer reporting that they have sold twice as much as the previous year.  Market research from Kantar Worldpanel echoes these figures by reporting that overall sales of kale in the UK were up by 54% on the previous year.  However, despite their popularity and sales figures, the NDNS survey shows that greens are still not our preferred choice as intake of vegetables such as kale, broccoli, sprouts and cabbages are low compared with more popular choices such as tomatoes.

 

Nutritious greens

So are green vegetables any more nutritious?  Well if you compare vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli with other coloured vegetables then they do contain a richer source of minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium but this doesn’t mean you should be skimping on reds, yellows, oranges and purples.  All vegetables are highly beneficial to health and contain their own unique blend of nutrients and no single variety should be viewed as superior.

Aside from vitamins and minerals that are essential to life, vegetables also contain Phytonutrients.  These compounds are pigments that give plants their vivid array of colours and originally evolved to help protect against diseases and insects.  Research has shown how these plant compounds help to protect our health and reduce the risk of disease.  There are many thousands of phytonutrients and research has only just started to unveil their identity and very complex action in the body. 

Phytonutrients also act as antioxidants that help to prevent against the damage caused by the oxidation of molecules, which is a process that creates free radicals.  Free radicals are a natural byproduct of metabolism but an excess can build up in the body when we are exposed to environmental factors such as too much sun, pollution or smoking.

 

Eye health

Two such phytonutrients found in green vegetables are lutein and zeaxanthin that have been shown to help maintain good eye health.  Both are found in high concentration in the macula, which is an area within the retina of the eye.  One purpose of these phytonutrients is to help filter our harmful light that can potentially damage the eye.  Large studies have shown that these nutrients help to lower the risk and slow down the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness in older people.  Further studies have also shown that people with the greatest intakes of foods rich in lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene, in particular kale, spinach and broccoli, are less likely to develop cataracts.

 

Still not eating enough vegetables

Although green vegetables receive a lot of attention, regardless of colour, the reality is that as a nation we still don’t eat enough of any vegetable.  The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) has shown that on average we are only eating four daily servings of fruits and vegetables and that only 30% of us are eating more than the recommended 5-a-day.

 Research by University College London has suggested that there is a greater benefit to be had by eating more than seven servings daily and that this should include more vegetables as these hold greater health benefits.  They found that those who ate at least seven serving daily were 42% less likely to die from any cause over the course of their study.

 

Include a rainbow of colours!

Green vegetables are undeniably very nutritious and have been widely studied for their health benefits including those related to eye health.  Whilst it’s a good idea to included them in your daily diet you should avoid the hype and eat a rainbow of foods to maximise your nutrient intake. These foods in particular are often labelled with the term ‘superfood’ but this holds little nutritional significance and no single vegetable or any food for that matter can be viewed as a panacea.  The focus should start with increasing overall intake of vegetables as their benefit to health is well proven.

Linguini with crab and chilli

Linguini with crab and chilli

A quick supper idea that reaps the benefits of shellfish

 

Although I regularly preach about the benefits of choosing unprocessed carbohydrates, sometimes nothing quite beats a large bowl of white pasta, especially when teamed with one of my favourite ingredients, crab.  I’ve never been against including carbohydrates in the diet and as an active person I find them invaluable.  I also love food and enjoy eating a wide variety of different foods in my diet, which is a way of eating I fully endorse and a good strategy for gleaning everything your body requires.

White flour in the UK is actually fortified with nutrients such as iron, calcium and B vitamins so whilst they lack the fibre, which is the main benefit of choosing unprocessed varieties, they still offer something nutritious to the diet. White carbohydrates do effect blood sugar levels more aggressively than their high-fibre counterparts, but this effect is counteracted by teaming them up with a source of fat, protein and other high-fibre foods such as vegetables.

This dish is one of my favorites as I love crab.  Shellfish such as crab are a lean source of protein and rich in vitamin B12 and zinc, which makes them a great food choice for men as zinc plays a key role in the male reproductive system.  This dish is also a very good source of iron, which is required to maintain healthy red blood cell production and also a rich source of magnesium and potassium that are both associated with good heart health.

Crab is not an ingredient that makes a regular appearance in most peoples weekly shop but is readily available in most supermarkets as well as your local fishmonger.  If you can’t find crab then this dish also works really well with prawns.

 

Linguini with crab and chilli

Serves 2

Nutrition per serving

485 calories, 16.8g fat, 2.3g sat fat, 55.4g carbs, 4g sugar, 25.9g protein, 2g salt, 4.5g fibre

 

Ingredients

 

150g dried linguini

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2  lemon, juiced

1 lime, juiced

150g white crab meat

1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

Sea salt

Black pepper

 

Method

 

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.  Add the linguini and simmer gently for about 12 minutes until tender then drain.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook gently for about 1-2 minutes, carful not to burn.  If the garlic starts to colour then turn the heat down.
  3. Remove the pan from the hob and stir in the pasta.  Add the citrus juices and stir to combine.
  4. Add the crab,  coriander, chilli and spring onions then combine well.
  5. Season well and serve.

 

Download recipe as a PDF linguini-with-crab-and-chilli