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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.

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.

 

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. 

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.

 

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. 

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

 

Thinking of going dairy-free?

Thinking of going dairy-free?

Your guide to a nutritious dairy-free diet (download as a PDF your-guide-to-a-nutritious-dairy)

The trend for eliminating foods from the diet is still going strong with many pseudo health professionals advising dietary regimes that promote the removal of food groups, especially dairy and gluten-containing foods.

There’s a small percentage of the population that have a diagnosed food intolerance or allergy and those with health conditions such as coeliac disease, that require them to exclude certain foods from their diet. Certain dietary beliefs also guide food intake such as veganism, which excludes all foods of animal origin, including dairy foods. Unfortunately, there is a misguided belief by some that going dairy-free is a superiorly healthy way to approach your diet but unless you suffer discomfort when eating these foods there’s little health benefit to excluding them.

I have to come clean that my book, The Detox Kitchen Bible does involve recipes that are dairy and wheat-free, but rather than a regime, the book is intended to provide recipes that are suitable for people who follow many different types of diets.  We have also developed our menu plans and recipes in a way that ensures any nutrients missing as a result of exclusion have been replaced with alternative foods.

 

Dairy foods and health

 

There’s some evidence that cutting out dairy foods may help with conditions such as acne and psoriasis as well as digestive complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome and although this is not definitively proven, anecdotally there are people who have found that cutting out this food group has helped with their symptoms.

Whilst I am trained in the science of nutrition, I have no issue with people trying a food-based approach to treating certain conditions, after all, it’s  just food and as long as it’s approached in a sensible way then why not give it a go. The important thing with exclusion diets is to fully understand the foods that you need to eat in place of those excluded in order to maintain your nutritional status quo.  

 

The role of calcium

 

Dairy foods are a key source of calcium and protein in the diet as well as vitamin B12 and zinc (which is found in cheese).  Calcium is particularly important for young children and teenagers as it helps to lay down strong bone.  Peak bone mass is reached in your mid-twenties and what you have laid down is there to see you through to older age and whilst calcium intake will help to maintain bone mass, it will not increase it.  

Calcium is particularly important for women as they experience bone loss during the menopause as a result of a drop in the hormone, oestrogen.  If you have week bones, then you’re at a greater risk of osteoporosis in later life.  Studies have also shown there may be a beneficial role of calcium and vitamin D in women who suffer from PMS (1).

Calcium works in synergy with vitamin D as it’s required for the absorption of this mineral in the body.  Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D so make sure you get outdoors during the summer months.  Many people have been shown to be deficient in vitamin D during the winter months so consider a supplement as the clacks go back to ensure adequate intake.

 

Non-dairy sources of calcium in the diet

 

Dairy foods are not the only source of calcium in the diet so whilst removing dairy may not be a major issue, it’s important to be aware of the other foods rich in calcium that must be included.  The nutrient reference value (NRV) for calcium in adults is 800mg per day, which can be achieved by eating 3-4 portions of dairy foods daily.  The table below shows some of the alternative sources of calcium that you can include in your diet if you’re cutting out dairy.

 

Food Calcium (mg) per serving
Kale 140mg per 100g
Tofu 400mg per 200g
Tahini 80mg per 50g
Dried figs 130mg per 80g
Canned salmon 277mg per 100g
Cannellini beans 140mg per 150g
Almonds 75mg per 30g
Fortified soya milk 220mg per 180ml
Sesame seeds 280 per 2 tbsp

 

Top tips to boost your intake of calcium

 

  1. Include 1-2 portions of green vegetables daily.
  2. Replace milk with a fortified plant-milk alternative.
  3. Snack on dried fruit.
  4. Include tofu in your diet, which can be used in place of meat in many dishes such as stir-fry’s and curries.
  5. Sprinkle seeds such as sesame on salads and in stir-fry’s.
  6. Add beans and pulses to dishes such as salads, soups, casseroles and curries.
  7. Use pulses and tahini to make dips.
  8. Use fortified plant milks to make smoothies.
  9. Add canned fish such as salmon to salads and sandwiches.
  10. Snack on nuts or use as a topping for porridge, yoghurt and salads.

 

Cow’s milk substitutes

 

As with all exclusion diets, fortified foods can play a beneficial role.  As far as going dairy-free is concerned, milk substitutes are key as this food is commonly used on a daily basis in most peoples diets such as to accompany breakfast cereals and add to tea and coffee.  There are many cow’s milk alternatives available, some of which can be bought at your local supermarket and others that need to be sourced in health food shops.  They do differ in their nutritional composition when compared with cow’s milk, which is mostly in their protein content. 

Many substitutes offer interesting flavours that can add add versatility to the way in which they’re used and are nice to explore even if you still eat dairy.  Some plant milks also offer additional health benefits such as soy, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and may even help with symptoms of the menopause.  I have compiled a brief overview below of some of the popular alternative dairy-free options.

 

Fresh nut milks

 

These are the highest quality nut milk versions and are supplied by brands such as ‘Plenish’ and ‘The Pressery’.  Unlike other similar nut milks, these contain a high quantity of nuts in the recipe, which makes them highly nutritious although they don’t contain the same level of protein as cow’s milk.  They are expensive though, but you can make your own at home by adding nuts and water to a powerful blender.  Cashew nuts work really well and are a rich source of magnesium, which is particularly useful for women’s health, especially conditions such as PMS and the menopause.

 

Soya milk

 

One of the most popular brands is Alpro, which is available in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties.  Watch out for the added sugar in these milks as it can be quite high and always look for a brand that has been fortified with vitamins and minerals, especially calcium.  Soya milk has a similar protein content to cow’s milk and the added benefit of phytoestrogens, which when eaten daily may help relieve symptoms of the menopause.  Soy has also been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and is a key component of the Portfolio Eating Plan.

  

Lacto-free

 

This is the best option for people who still want to drink cow’s milk but are unable to tolerate the lactose.  This milk has added enzymes that help to break down the lactose into simple sugars so reducing the chances of any gastrointestinal disturbances.  This also tastes identical to regular cow’s milk and has a very similar nutritional profile.   Another interesting brand is A2 milk, which is cow’s milk that contains only the A2 protein and is free of the A1 protein that causes inflammation.  Whilst this milk is not suitable for people with lactose intolerance and allergies, it’s a good option for those who experience mild digestive upset when they drink cow’s milk, which is more prominently a result of the A1 beta casein protein that has been shown to cause similar symptoms. 

 

Rice milk

 

This is the most hypoallergenic of all the milk alternatives as it’s free from gluten, dairy, soy and nuts so a good alternative for people who suffer with multiple food allergies and intolerances.  It doesn’t contain a lot of protein when compared with the other alternatives and has a much higher carbohydrate content given it’s made using rice.  Check the carton though as these milks can be high in sugar and opt for a variety that’s been fortified with calcium.  This is pretty watery so only really suitable for drinking or adding to cereals.

 

Coconut milk

 

The texture of coconut milk is really similar to whole milk and it has a similar fat profile (although the fats in coconut milk are medium chain fatty acids that have unique health properties). The coconut taste is delicious but pretty strong so more of a drink than recipe ingredient.  This is not the same a canned coconut milk and widely available brands include Koke.  The protein content is really low so not particularly beneficial if you’re looking for something to drink post-training.  This milk is good for people with multiple food allergies as it’s free of gluten, dairy and soy.  Coconut milk is also high potassium, which is essential for maintaining fluid balance in the body and regulating blood pressure and heart function.  Again, look for a brand that has been fortified with calcium and is low in sugar.

 

Hemp milk

 

The most popular brand that is now widely available is Good Hemp.  The main selling point with this cow’s milk alternative is the presence of omega 3, which is useful for people following a plant-based diet.  Omega 3 has many health benefits, the most widely researched is heart health.  Although the omega 3 found in plants is not easily processed in the body it’s still as useful source.  This milk is very low in protein and you should look for brands that have been fortified with calcium.

 

Final note

 

If you’re looking to cut dairy out of your diet for whatever reason, then be sure to be mindful of the foods you need to be eating more of in order to achieve a nutritionally balanced diet.  Also be aware that if you don’t experience any discomfort or adverse health issues from including dairy in your diet then there’s really little benefit to excluding these foods from your diet as it only adds one more thing to think about when deciding what to eat.

 

References

 

  1. Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Bendich A, et al. Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(11):1246-52.

 

Download as a PDF (your-guide-to-a-nutritious-dairy)

Are you and your daughters lacking iron in your diet?

Are you and your daughters lacking iron in your diet?

Are you and your daughters lacking iron in your diet (download as a PDF are-you-lacking-iron-in-your-diet)

 23% of Uk women have very low intakes of iron in their diet (1)

46% of UK teenage girls have very low intakes of iron in their diet (1)

Iron intake in the UK

Food surveys show that most healthy adults get enough of the vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health but there are still gaps, most of which appear to affect women, especially teenage girls.  A lack of iron appears to be common in a significant number of females in the UK with 23% of adult women and 46% of teenage girls having been shown to have very low intakes. 

 

What is the role of iron?

Iron is a vital component of haemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body.  This mineral is essential for healthy red blood cell production.  Iron is also involved in the immunes system, energy production, DNA synthesis and muscle function.

 

Iron deficiency

 Diagnosed nutrient deficiencies are not that common in our well nourished population and whilst low intakes may not result in deficiency they may still impact on your health and increase the risk of deficiency if not addressed.  Globally, low iron is the most common nutrient insufficiency and has a huge impact on the health of children as it has a key role to play in normal growth and development.  In this same groups of women, around 5% of women have iron intakes low enough to be classified as being deficient, which is a condition called anaemia.

 

Symptoms of iron deficiency

The symptoms of iron deficiency are listed below and if you think you may be at risk then the first course of action is to visit your GP who can run a blood test to assess your status.  If your results show a low level of iron, then you will be advised to take iron supplements such as Healthspan Iron Care (£6.95 for 120 tablets) as well as being given advise about the foods you should be including more of in your diet (listed below).

  • Unusual weakness and fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Pale complexion
  • Brittle nails
  • Muscle soreness
  • Reccurent infections
  • Always feeling cold
  • Breathlessness

 

Iron requirements for women

 Women have a higher requirement for iron, with a daily recommended intake of 14.8mg per day.  This is mostly down to the effects of their monthly cycle.  Pregnant women have a higher requirement for iron across their pregnancy and more so during the third trimester due to the baby’s growth demands.

 

Factors affecting iron status

Like any other nutrient, low intakes of iron can be the result of many different factors including dieting, illness (resulting in a lack of food intake) or following diets that exclude food groups such as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.  Other factors can impact on the body’s requirement for iron such as regular intensive exercise and can be a particular concern for elite or recreational female athletes.

 

Effect of medication and supplements

The prolonged use of certain medications, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) that are used to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, can also lead to iron loss through bleeding in the gut.  Whilst supplements such as a basic multivitamin and mineral can be a good way to ‘top-up’, they should be used sensibly as there are no added benefits to taking more than your body needs.  Excessive supplement use, especially individual nutrients and high strength products can impact on the absorption of iron, particularly calcium and zinc, which reduces the uptake of copper that is required for iron absorption.

 

Good food sources of iron

Maintaining a diet that is made up of nourishing foods as opposed to those that are highly processed is the best approach.  Red meat is the first food that people associate with iron and other animal sources include eggs, liver and mussels.  People that follow plant-based diets can glean iron from foods such as beans, pulses, dark green vegetables, oats, quinoa, tofu and nuts (meat eaters should also include plenty of these foods in their diet).  Other surprisingly good sources of iron that can be added to many dishes are dried herbs and spices that are highly concentrated in this mineral.  Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and plant-milks are also another useful way to boost the amount of iron in your diet.  White flour is also fortified with iron in the UK, which is useful for fussy teenagers that refuse to eat wholegrain foods such as bread and pasta.

 

Foods high in iron (content given in grams per serving taken from McCance and Widdowson)

  • Grilled fillet steak — (2.3mg)
  • Fried calf liver (12.2mg)
  • Black strap molasses (4.7mg)
  • Mussels (6.8mg)
  • Kale (1.7mg)
  • Dried figs (4.2mg)
  • Soya beans (2.3mg)
  • Cooked red lentils (2.4mg)
  • Oats (4.72mg)
  • Cooked Qunioa (1.5mg)
  • Tofu (1.1mg)
  • Eggs (1.9mg)
  • Brazil nuts (2.5mg)
  • Canned Chick peas (1.0mg)
  • Canned Red kidney beans (1.5mg)
  • Curry powder (two tsp = 6g) (58.3mg)
  • Dried oregano (two tsp = 2g) (44.0mg)
  • Fortified breakfast cereals (bran flakes) (24.3mg)

 

 Increasing your absorption of iron

You can give your body a helping hand to absorb iron by combining your intake of non-meat iron-rich foods with a good source of vitamin C.  You can do this by drinking a small glass of fruit juice with your meal or including plenty of vegetables rich in vitamin C such as red peppers, cauliflower and dark green vegetables. You could also finish your meal with a small bowl of fruit, most of which are high in vitamin C.

Some food and drinks can negatively impact on iron absorption.  You should avoid drinking tea with your meals and leave a little time after you have eaten before you reach for the kettle as the tanins can lessen uptake.  Compounds called phytates found in wholegrain foods (such as bread) and beans (especially soya beans) can also impact on iron absorption, although this is really only a concern for people with particularly low iron stores.

 

How to include iron in your weekly diet

Given their increased risk of deficiency, women should try and include plenty of iron-rich foods in their diet to help boost their intake.  Below are examples of how you can introduce more iron into your diet (iron content given in grams per serving taken from McCance and Widdowson).

 

Breakfast

Scrambled egg (add turmeric) on wholegrain toast (4.6g)

Porridge oats (with soya milk) with chopped apricots and hazelnuts (4.3g)

Bran flakes (with skimmed milk) with sultanas and chopped apple (6.1g)

Oat and berry smoothie (3g)

 

Lunch

Chicken and avocado quinoa salad (9g)

Red lentil and tomato soup with wholegrain bread (7.5g)

Mexican tuna mayo (kidney beans, red peppers and chilli powder) wrap (3.5g)

Smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye bread (3.2g)

 

Dinner

 Beef and green vegetable stir-fry with noodles (9g)

Chicken and squash curry with brown rice (7g)

Black bean chilli with sliced avocado and quinoa (5.5g)

Roasted red peppers stuffed with lentils and feta cheese (7.2g)

 

Snacks

Homemade oat and date bars (2.3g)

Dried fruit and nuts (1.8g)

Yoghurt with nut and oat granola (1.5g)

 

References

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey-results-from-years-1-to-4-combined-of-the-rolling-programme-for-2008-and-2009-to-2011-and-2012

 

Check out my blog on iron at Healthista 

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