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Colour code your health by eating the rainbow!

Colour code your health by eating the rainbow!

Colour code your health by eating a rainbow of foods (download as PDF Colour code your health with rainbow foods)

It feels as though we are continually being told to eat more fruits and vegetables to maintain good health and keep diseases at bay, with current research suggesting that eating five-a-day is not enough to reap the health benefits they have to offer.  So, what exactly is it about these nutritious colourful allies that makes them so great? 

The protective effect of antioxidant micronutrients such as the ACE vitamins and selenium have been understood for some time now.  These antioxidants are essential to help reduce free radicals in the body (unstable molecules produced from digestion and exposure to pollution, sunlight and cigarette smoke) and they have have been attributed to lowering the risk of many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.  However, research has now moved forward to discover the beneficial effects of compounds known as phytonutrients that are responsible for colouring fruits and vegetables, and how they too can have a powerful effect on our health and reduce the risk of disease.

 


“The protective effect of antioxidant micronutrients such as the ACE vitamins and selenium have been understood for some time now”


 

Phytochemicals originally evolved to help plants protect themselves from diseases and insects and research is beginning to demonstrate that in the same way they can also help to protect us from disease.  There are thousands of phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables and as the research is new we’re only just starting to unveil their identity and extremely complex action within the body.

Although the science is complex, the message is simple; eat a wide variety of different coloured foods.  As nutrients in foods work in synergy and different phytonutrients can be more freely absorbed depending on their make up within the structure of the food, it’s also a good idea to not only mix colours and types of fruits and vegetables but also cooking methods combining raw with cooked (such as adding roasted sweet potato or tomatoes to salad).

 


“Although the science is complex, the message is simple; eat a wide variety of different coloured foods”


 

By dividing different fruits and vegetables by their hue you can see how mother nature has allowed us to colour code our health by eating a rainbow of foods.

 

Red and pink 

 

 

Foods:  watermelon, pomegranate, red peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, pink grapefruit, cranberries, red grapes, raspberries, rhubarb, red chillies

Benefit: Most red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene, which is a member of the carotenoid family which are converted into vitamin A within the body.  This vitamin along with vitamins C and E help to protect the body from free radical damage.  Studies show that Lycopene* may reduce the risk of prostate cancer as well as helping to promote good colon health.  Red berries contain ellagic acid (helps to support the immune system) and anthocyanins, which research suggests reduces inflammation and help preserve memory whilst helping to slow down the degenerative processes of ageing.  These are also considered to be protective against certain cancers and cardiovascular disease as well as showing antiviral and antibacterial properties.

*Lycopene is more freely available in processed or cooked tomatoes.  Try roasting cherry tomatoes with balsamic and a little olive oil, which helps with the absorption of lycopene.

 

Yellow and orange

 

 

Foods: Yellow peppers, orange peppers, cantaloupe melon, carrots, sweetcorn, butternut squash, mangoes, grapefruit, peaches, pineapples, oranges

Benefit: The key antioxidant found in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are carotenoids (also found in green leafy vegetables). These are converted to vitamin A in the body, which is essential for healthy skin and eyes.  Beta-carotene has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers as well as playing a role in the immune system, reducing cognitive decline and possibly dementia risk.  You will also find a group of compounds in this hue known as bioflavonoids which studies suggest reduce inflammation in the body and may also work to slow down the development of cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Combining your orange foods with healthy fats found in avocados or oils will help with the absorption of carotenoids.  Try drizzling olive oil over roasted butternut squash.

 

Green

 

Foods: Peas, kale, broccoli, kiwi fruit, avocado, mint, gooseberries, grapes, asparagus, artichokes, pak choi, honeydew melon, green peppers, Brussles sprouts, cabbage, green beans

Benefit: Lutein (found also in yellow fruits and vegetables) and zeaxanthin found in green vegetables are major pigments in the eyes and important for the maintenance of healthy vision.  Studies have shown that people who eat higher amounts of these compounds in their diet have a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which is a major cause of blindness as we age. Zeaxanthin may also help to reduce the risk of breast and lung cancers, and play a role in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. Leutiolin is another antioxidant found in green peppers and celery which has been found to lower inflammation in the brain and central nervous system. Green foods also contain quercetin which also has an anti-inflammatory effect within the body.

 

Purple and blue

 

Foods: black grapes, beetroot, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, red onions, aubergines, purple potatoes, purple cabbage, plums

Benefit: Anthocyanins are present in this colourful group of fruits and vegetables.  These compounds are thought to reduce inflammation, which may help with preservation of memory and reduced risk of certain cancers. Blueberries have been the focus of research into the effects of anthocyanins and reduced mental decline (including Alzheimer’s).  Purple grapes are especially high in a type of polyphenol known as resveratrol, which has been shown to protect against heart disease and promote a healthy circulatory system by reducing the levels of bad blood fats and blocking the formation of blood clots (which can cause heart attack and stroke).  Blackberries contain ellagic acid and catechins, which may help to protect against cancer.

 

White

 

Foods: Mushrooms, garlic, onions, cauliflower, endive, parsnips, turnip, taro, celeriac

Benefit: Although not strictly a colour of the rainbow, white vegetables also contain a variety of phytonutrients that can have a protective effect on your health.  Onions and garlic contain quercetin and allicin, which are known to kill harmful bacteria and protect capillaries (smallest of the body’s blood vessels).  You will find powerful polyphenols in mushrooms which can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.  Glucosinolates and thiocyanates found in cauliflower may also help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer as well as help with digestive disorders.

 

Just adding a few more colours to your meals each day can make a big difference to the nutritional quality of your diet.  Here are my top five tips to adding a little extra colour to your diet:

  • Try to include at least two different colour vegetables with each meal, this could be a salad with tomatoes and cucumber, roasted squash and beetroot or peas with baby onions
  • Smoothies and juices are a great way to combine lots of different coloured fruits and vegetables such as beetroot, carrot and apple
  • Homemade soups are an easy way to combine colours as are stews and casseroles
  • Snack on a variety of chopped veggies (perhaps with a dip such as hummus) such as courgette, red peppers and carrot
  • Throw a handful of mixed berries over porridge, breakfast cereal or yoghurt;  you could even combine them with sweet apples to make a antioxidant-rich fruit compote

 (download as PDF Colour code your health with rainbow foods)

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)

When is the best time to eat?

When is the best time to eat?

Mindful eating

I was recently asked by the Daily Mail Online about my favourite go-to breakfast?

This had me thinking a little bit about how my view of breakfast and eating in general has changed over the years.  There was a time when I conformed to the view that breakfast was the most important meal of the day and that you should eat as soon as you get up.  However, as i’ve gotten a little older (heaven forbid I am nearly 40!! – cringe) my food taste and lifestyle has changed.  I’m no longer dashing to the gym at the crack of dawn as stressful deadlines and lack of organization skills have me up early, frantically typing to meet overdue deadlines and for some reason the last thing I feel like doing when I’m stressed or distracted is eating.  Coffee is the only thing that’s going to hit the spot at 6am.

Forget the old adage of eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper.  Who even came up with this anyway! I now firmly believe that eating should be more intuitive.  Not that you should throw regular meal times out of the window but I do think that we need to learn to listen to our body and eat when we genuinely feel hungry.

Understanding your own hunger and fullness is probably the best thing you can do to help maintain a healthy weight and work in sync with your body.  This doesn’t mean starving yourself because you’re too rushed in the morning to make breakfast or cant be bothered to cook, but satisfying the need for food when your body asks for it.

There’s a whole raft of information out there dictating when, how and what we should be eating, but understanding and listening to your own body is always going to be the best option.  There was a time when we had to hunt for our food and mealtimes were dictated by what you managed to forage or catch.  Although you cant draw comparisons as we have come a long way since then, eating for the sake of eating or at a set times during the day just doesn’t seem to make sense.

It’s really flippant to think this is an easy way to eat as there are wider issues around food that influence how and what people eat but learning to adopt basic mindfulness and intuitive eating skills can help.  Don’t be put off by the sound of these concepts as they really are just common sense.

Whilst a healthy balanced diet is key to good health, the idea of what this is has become very blurred as we have so much access to nutrition advice and media attention on the latest superfood or wonder diet.  Just getting back to basics about healthy eating and focusing your attention more on how you eat and not what you eat will help you to tune into your basic cycle of hunger and satiety.

Tips for mindful eating

Eat slowly

Eating is not a race.  Taking your time to eat and enjoy your food will help you to recognize when you’re full.  Chew your food slowly as this will help with digestion and give your body time to recognize that you are full.  Eating too quickly also leads to indigestion and bloating.  Many fast eaters have adopted these habits from childhood and they often come from large families so trying to educate your children on the idea of eating slowly may go some way in helping to prevent this habit from being passed on.

Switch off! 

Try and make food and eating the main attraction at the dinner table.  Turn the TV off and make dinner time an electronic-free zone.  This doesn’t mean forgoing the Saturday night take-away and movie but just making all other evening meal times about the food without distraction.

Savour the flavour

Eating slowly and savoring every mouthful of food allows you to appreciate the flavours and textures of food, which adds to the enjoyment of eating.  If you wolf down you meal in five minutes then it’s likely you won’t even notice what you’re eating and this can lead to a lack of appreciation making food and eating a mechanical process of eating to live rather than living to eat.

So after all that, what was my favorite breakfast?  Well it was chopped egg and avocado on toast that I actually ate at 11am when I finally felt hungry after a morning of deadlines and coffee.

 

Chopped egg and avocado on toast 

Serves 1

300 calories per serving 

 

Ingredients 

1 egg

1 small avocado

1/2 yellow pepper, deseeded and finely diced

1 spring onions, finely sliced

2 chives, finely chopped

1 small handful of coriander, finely chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

Sea salt

Black pepper

1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

1 slice of granary bread, toasted

 

Method

  1. Place the egg in a small pan of water set over a high heat and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 8 minutes then take the pan off the heat and place under cold tuning water to cool.
  2. Once cooled (about 2 minutes), peel the shell from the egg.  Quarter the egg.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (except the granary toast) to a medium-sized bowl and combine well.
  4. Serve the egg on a plate with the avocado mixture and granary toast.

 

Download recipe here Chopped egg and avocado on toast 

 

 

 

Quorn, cauliflower and sultana curry

Quorn, cauliflower and sultana curry

Cauliflower, Sultana and Quorn Curry

Serves 4

535 calories per serving

Rich in: potassium, iron, zinc, B6 and vitamin C

This curry is a brilliant example of how you can replace meat for Quorn.  Using Quorn offers a rich source of protein as well as a source of zinc, which has been shown to help maintain a heathy immune system.  Cauliflower is also one of the most humble superfoods.  Although it may not be the most colorful of foods it is packed with vitamin C and sulphur compounds that hep to protect the body against diseases such as cancer. 

 

Ingredients

300g brown rice

1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

1 tbsp curry powder

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 pinch sea salt

1 pinch black pepper

200g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

350g Quorn pieces

3 tbsp sultanas

1 medium cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets

½ can of coconut milk (reduced fat)

1 lime, juiced

1 small bunch of mint

1 small bunch of coriander

 

Method  

  1. Set a medium saucepan of water to boil. Once the water is boiling add the rice.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes until tender.
  2. Heat a large deep-sided non-stick pan over a medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook gently for 5 minute until softened.
  3. Add the spices to the pan and cook for 1 minute until they become fragrant.
  4. Add 200ml of water to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes. Now add the chilli, salt, pepper, chickpeas, Quorn and sultanas then simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Add the cauliflower florets and a further 150ml of water then simmer for another 5-8 minutes until the cauliflower is tender (keep the cauliflower tender to add texture)
  6. Pour in the coconut milk and add the lime juice, mint and coriander then cook for a further 2 minutes. Check for seasoning and then take off the heat.
  7. Drain the rice and serve in bows with the curry.

 

 Download PDF here Cauliflower curry

 

 

 

How easy is it to get your 10-a-day?

How easy is it to get your 10-a-day?

How easy is it to get 10-a-day? (download PDF How easy is it to get 10)

So, just when you thought you were managing to eat your 5-a-day, new research by Imperial Collage London shows that we should be eating 10-a-day to get the best benefits for our health.  Evidence shows that eating fruits and vegetables can help to protect against diseases such as heart disease and cancer.  The benefits of these plant foods lie in their high fibre content as well as the vitamins, minerals and other plant compounds they contain. 

 

What makes fruits and vegetables so beneficial for health?

As well as vitamins and minerals that are essential for life, fruits and vegetables also contain a good source of fibre, which is lacking in the average UK diet.  Fruits and vegetables also contain phytonutrients, which are not essential to life but have an added health benefit.  These plant compounds are responsible for their bright colours and act as antioxidants in the body that help to reduce inflammation and the damage caused by excess free radicals that can build up because of a poor diet, environmental factors and stress.   Such compounds include beta carotene (found in orange and green varieties), anthocyanins (found in blue and purple varieties) and lycopene (found in red varieties).  Certain phytonutrients have also been linked to specific conditions such as lutein and zeaxanthin (found in yellow and green vegetables), which have been shown by research to help protect against age related macular degeneration (leading cause of blindness in older people.

The other significant factor here is that if you’re eating 10-a-day then the chances are you have a very heathy diet, which of course will protect you against diseases as well as help you maintain a healthy weight (a risk factor for many diseases).

 

How much do we currently eat?

The last National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS 2016) showed that the average intake of fruits and vegetables is 4 serving per day.  If you take fruit out of the equation, then this drops to 3.4 servings per day.  On average, it seems that only 27% of adults manage to eat 5-a-day.

The key benefits lie in vegetable intake so it’s this that we need to focus on to glean the greatest benefit to health. 

 

So what counts?

A serving of fruits and vegetables is 80g (40g of dried fruit).  All fruits and vegetables count and some portions may be heavier than 80g such as a whole pepper (160g) or half an aubergine (150g).   Smoothies are classed as 2 servings and juices as 1 serving but only once in the day.   A single portion of pulses and beans (even baked beans!) are classed as 1 serving but only once in the day.  Cook-in-sauces can also count if they’re tomato-based so if you chuck in a few handfuls of frozen peas to your pasta sauce you’re already getting 2 servings.

 

Is 10-a day completely unachievable?

Absolutely not! You could even be eating more than you think.  In relation to the 5-a-day guidance, the NHS says, “evidence shows that there are significant health benefits to getting at least five 80g portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. That’s five portions of fruit and veg in total, not five portions of each.”  So, the new 10-a-day goal is 800g of fruit and vegetables not necessarily 10 individual servings of each, although including lots of different varieties can means a wider range of nutrients.

This may help to ease the daunting thought of 10-a-day as composite dishes add up.  A simple chilli could in fact provide you with 2-3 servings when you count the canned tomatoes, red kidney beans, peppers, onions and garlic.  Serve with guacamole or a tomato salad and you could get as much as 4 servings in one meal.

Some people may feel that cost is an issue but frozen vegetables can provide a cheaper way to add these foods to your diet.  Canned pulses are also a cheap way to add a serving of vegetables as well as bulking out meals and adding protein and key minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc. to your diet.  You can also source cheaper vegetables from local markets and buying in season helps as well.

 

Top ten tips to achieving 10-a-day 

  1. Keep frozen vegetables and canned pulses to hand as they’re a quick way to add a serving of vegetables to your dishes.  Just remember to grab a few handfuls when you’re cooking.
  2. Dried fruit makes for a great healthy snack and 40g counts as one of your five-a-day.
  3. Get creative with toppings at breakfast by adding fresh or dried fruits to cereal or yoghurt.
  4. Toast can either be a breakfast option or a snack and you can add a serving of fruit and vegetables by topping with mashed banana or guacamole (try jazzing this up with lime juice, chillies and spring onions or even a sprinkle of chill powder).
  5. Potatoes don’t count but sweet potatoes do.  Swap them for your usual baked potato or add them roasted and chopped to salads.  They also make great dips!
  6. If your trying to make a dish go further or reduce your food bill by cutting down on meat then replace half the meat in a recipe with canned lentils, which are a good source of protein and key minerals as well as adding a serving of vegetables to your daily intake.
  7. Remember it’s the sum weight of the vegetables that count.  Homemade soups and stir fries can add as much as 3 servings to your daily intake.
  8. Choose vegetables that are the least hassle to prepare.  There’s no point buying squash and beetroots if you don’t know what to do with them and they just end up going off in the fridge.  Green beans, Tenderstem broccoli, frozen peas or soya beans are easy to chuck in a pan of boiling water.
  9. If you find vegetables boring, then explore cuisines such as Indian that make the most of vegetables by using tasty spices.  Dried spices also help to boost your intake of minerals such as iron and have been shown to hold some interesting anti-inflammatory properties.
  10. Get creative!  If you have picky eaters, then try blending vegetables before adding to dishes.  There are also lots of recipes on the internet that provide inventive ways to add vegetables to dishes such as parsnip muffins or beetroot and chocolate cake.

Meeting the new guidance is not as difficult as you think and using the simple tips above can help.  Also, try searching the internet for recipe ideas that float your boat using your favourite flavours and cuisines.

For more information on how to get more vegetables into your diet go to NHS choices.  You will also find lots of recipe ideas at BBC food.

 

Download as a PDF How easy is it to get 10

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.

Black garlic

Black garlic

Black garlic is the new kid on the block when it comes to health foods, is it worth the hype?

Black garlic is having a moment as one of the new on-trend ingredients, not only for flavour, but the health benefits that have been attributed to this member of the onion family. Whilst it may seem like a new addition to the UK supermarket shelves, this ingredient has been around for a very long time and a traditional staple in East-Asian countries such as China and Korea.

The production of black garlic is done under controlled conditions of high temperature and humidity for at least 3 weeks. This natural fermentation process converts the pungent sulphurous compounds that give garlic its distinctively strong flavour and odour, into odourless substances. The black colour of this garlic is the result of new amino acids that are generated during the process along with dark pigments called melanoidins that darken the cloves.

Black garlic cloves are soft and chewy with a savoury-sweet taste that is reminiscent of molassess, balsamic and prunes. This variety of garlic works particularly well in dressings, sauces and marinades but has also been used in sweet recipes such as brownies and Ice-cream by creative food manufacturers on the Isle of White, who produce a large quantity of British garlic. Some people even like to eat the cloves straight from the bulb given their less pungent odour and taste when compared to traditional white garlic.

The majority of research around garlic and its extracts has involved traditional white garlic which is thought to benefit many areas of health including the heart (blood pressure, circulation and cholesterol) and immunity as well as possessing anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. These benefits are thought to be down to the array of plant chemicals contained in the bulbs that work together to produce a variety of responses. Garlic is able to synthesise the powerful antioxidant called allicin from two other compounds found in the bulbs. Many of the healthy benefits associated with white garlic are thought to be attributed to its high level of allicin.

Black garlic contains similar nutrients and other plant compounds to white garlic but their antioxidant capacity is thought to be four-fold. Below are a some of the health benefits associated with black garlic.

Health benefits of black garlic

• Black garlic contains vitamin C and B6, manganese and selenium

• Black garlic contains a sulpherous compound called S-allycysteine (SAC), which research suggests may help to inhibit cholesterol synthesis.

• S-allycysteine assists with the absorption of allicin, helping to metabolise it more easily. Allicin acts a powerful antioxidant the body, which helps to fight free-radical damage. This plant compound is also thought to posses anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties that may help to ward of infections within the body.

• Research suggests that black garlic extracts can increase the activity of white blood cells, which help the body to fight infections and viruses. This increase in activity may help to improve the immune targeting of abnormal body cells.

• According to cell studies, extracts found in black garlic are able to inhibit the growth of certain cancers such as stomach and colon, by triggering their natural destruct mechanism known as apoptosis (cell death). Whilst this does suggest a positive role of black garlic, much more research is required to directly link it to the prevention of cancer.

This recipe has been taken from my good friend Lily and the Detox Kitchen (www.detoxkitchen.co.uk)

 

Raw vegetable salad with black garlic dressing (download as a PDF raw-vegetable-salad-with-black-garlic-dressing)

210 calories, 12.7g fat, 2.3g sat fat, 112.4g carbohydrates, 8g sugar, 8.5g protein, 1.5g salt, 5.5g fibre

Serves 2

Ingredients

4 cloves black garlic, finely sliced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp malden salt
1 handful radishes
2 courgettes
½ red onion
½ green pepper, finely diced
1 handful cashew nuts, roasted and chopped to garnish
Micro coriander and edible flowers to garnish

 

Method

  1. Place the black garlic in a pestle and mortar with the lemon juice, oil and salt and gently bash the cloves until the liquid has turned a dark brown colour. The tough texture of the black garlic does not lend itself well to being broken down so the pieces will remain intact. This is fine as the flavour will still infuse with the lemon juice and rapeseed oil.
  2. Finely slice the radishes and using a peeler, create long thin strips of courgette.
  3. Place them in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  4. Serve the salad in large bowls and dot the pieces of black garlic, from the dressing, around the vegetables.
  5. Sprinkle with the cashew nuts and lemon zest and garnish with the coriander.
  6. Serves with dressing and edible flowers.

Download as a PDF  raw-vegetable-salad-with-black-garlic-dressing

 

Padron peppers with smoked paprika and flaked sea salt

Padron peppers with smoked paprika and flaked sea salt

Great way to up your (at least) five-a-day

This super-quick dish is a tasty way to get a serving of veggies into your daily diet. I love to make these peppers as a snack whilst working at home during the day or when peckish after supper. Peppers are one of the richest sources of vitamin C, which acts a powerful antioxidant in the body, protecting cells from free radical damage. Vitamin C is also essential for the formation of collagen, which is a key component of connective tissues in the body as well as that of the skin (provides support and elasticity), and also helps with wound healing. Most of us get more than enough of this vitamin from fruits and vegetables in the diet. A single serving of these peppers provides over 150% of the RDA as well as a source of B6 and folate.

Serves 2

70 calories per serving

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g Padrón peppers
1 tsp flaky sea salt
½ tsp smoked paprika

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over a high heat until just smoking.
  2. Add the peppers and toss occasionally until the skins blister and the peppers are softened. They should be well coloured all over.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the salt and paprika.
  4. Serve on a plate or wooden board along side the salt/paprika mix. Eat by dipping the peppers in the paprika salt.
Moroccan butternut squash and red lentil soup

Moroccan butternut squash and red lentil soup

High fibre soup

Butternut squash is a very rich source of beta-catorene, which is pant chemical that gives its bright orange colour.  This pigment also acts as a profile antioxidant in the body that helps to reduce oxidative damage from free radical (caused by environmental factors). This soup is also high in fibre that helps maintain good digestion and has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, control blood glucose levels as well as help with weight maintenance.

Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice made from a blend of coriander, ginger, paprika, allspice, cardamon, cloves and rose petals.

 

High vis soup

Serves 2 (generous servings)

Ingredients

1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut in to chunks

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

100g red lentils

2 tsp Ras El Hanout

Small pinch of dried chillies

800ml vegetable stock

Sea salt

Black pepper

 

To serve

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Pomegranate arils

Fresh mint, finely chopped

 

Method

  1. Pre heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Season the squash with salt and pepper then wrap in foil with the garlic. Place the foil package on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 20 minutes until tender then remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion.  Fry for 5-8 minutes until soft.  Add the Ras El Hanout and dried chillies then cook for a further 1 minute.
  4. Add the squash, garlic and lentils to the pan and stir.  Pour in the stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Once boiled turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils are tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Take the soup off the heat and blend with a stick blender until smooth.  If the soup is too thick then add water until you get your desired consistency (soup should be a thick consistency).
  8. Divide the soup between two bowls and garnish with seeds, pomegranate and chopped mint.

 

Soup in a row