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Category: Eat

Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Tonic

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For the last four years, I’ve had the weirdest bit of joint inflammation in my right index finger. It gets worse when I’m tired, eating poorly and drinking too much alcohol. I never thought about it too much and just chalked it up to a bit of arthritis, unless it was accidentally pushed or I needed to open a jar.

 

Last year, I went to see a naturopath at my college for some general coaching. I happened to mention my ‘dicky’ finger to her and she recommended taking two Pukka Wholistic Turmeric capsules in the morning for a few months to see if that made any difference.

 

And you know what, the capsules made a little difference. I started to wonder if there was more I could do, so started looking into ways of eating and drinking the raw turmeric root. Turmeric root has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and liver detoxification properties through its active compound curcumin, which is why you might have noticed more chatter about this plant in the last year. Research has shown that curcumin from turmeric in its food form is more bioavailable, especially consumed with a pinch of black pepper.

 

So I decided to start drinking a turmeric tonic in the morning to see if I could relieve some more of the sore feeling in my ‘dicky’ finger. After many trial runs, here’s the recipe I use every week.

 

This tonic has made a huge difference to my finger – to the point where I notice when I’ve forgotten to have my shot of tonic in the morning. Try it!

 

NB: please avoid this drink if you are on blood thinners, as turmeric and blood thinning medication can cause excess bleeding.

turmeric-tonic-ingredients

 

What you need

1 grapefruit (exclude this if you are any medication as grapefruit contains naringenin, a phytonutrient that can interfere with CYP450, an important family of enzymes that help break down toxins in phase I liver detoxification. This can cause adverse reactions to medication.)

3 lemons

1-2 orange, if you need to exclude the grapefruit

2-3 thumbs of fresh turmeric root

1 thumb of fresh ginger

1 tbsp raw organic honey

200mL filtered water

Large blender cup / Nutribullet cup

 

How to make it 

1. Cut the citrus fruits in half and squeeze the juice into your blender or Nutribullet cup. Take care to remove the seeds, but to keep the pulp.

2. Wash the turmeric and ginger and drop them in with your citrus juice.

3. Add the honey, black pepper and water.

4. Blend for at least 30 seconds and decant into a glass storage jar.

5. Drink a shot’s worth each morning.

6. Keeps in the fridge for 7 days (if it lasts that long!).

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Curried Cauliflower Soup

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I’ve been a bit fluey the last couple of days. It’s almost like there’s been a dominoes of illness in my house and I was the last one standing. I dislike being ill (does anyone actually like it?) and do everything I can to get back to full health as quickly as possible.

My list of flu remedies always includes: lots of rest (or as much as I can get with a little 3 year old that loves to give Mama rough and tumble cuddles that will “make her feel better”), steaming hot showers, turmeric tonic with added oil of oregano (or this version for a kick!), Pukka lemon and ginger tea and many soups with homemade bone broth.

I tried out a warming cauliflower soup this afternoon, as I was craving soup and I had a massive head of cauliflower I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with. I love food with a little heat, a little kick, so this was exactly what I needed on this cold and rainy day in London.

What you need:

1 small onion, sliced thinly

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

1/2 red pepper, diced

1 tbsp cooking fat (I used ghee)

1 medium / large cauliflower, leaves removed and roughly chopped

2 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp dried coriander

1 tsp salt

500mL bone broth / stock (or vegetable stock for vegans / vegetarians) – you may need to add less broth, depending on the size of the pot you’re using

1 large cooking pot

Optional: 1 tbsp coconut cream or 1 sprig fresh coriander to garnish (per bowl)

How to make it: 

1. Place the pot on medium-low heat and add your chosen cooking fat. Once the oil is heated (this should take 1 minute max), add the onions, garlic and red pepper. If the onions start to brown too quickly, turn the heat down slightly – you’re sweating the vegetables to bring out the flavours. Sweat for 5 minutes or until the onions and garlic are translucent.

2. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp dried coriander, 1 tbsp garam masala and stir until all the vegetables are coated in the spices. Cook for 1 more minute, stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

3. Add the cauliflower, stirring so it is incorporated with the rest of the mixture. Then add 100mL of the stock. This will help the cauliflower soften, rather than fry. Add the rest of the salt and garam masala. Stir and let it cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add the rest of the stock, stir and bring the soup to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes. Taste and if necessary, add additional salt to suit your palate.

5. Stir the soup, reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.

6. Take the soup off the heat and blend with an immersion blender until it is completely smooth.

7. Enjoy!

Serves 4

I Tried It: Making Ghee

Have you ever used ghee? Ghee, a clarified butter, is known as ‘liquid gold’ in some South Asian cultures because it comes from the revered cow. The process of making ghee removes the milk solids and water and leaves you with lovely golden liquid that solidifies as it goes to room temperature.

I started using ghee a few years ago when I started eating paleo. It’s a very versatile fat with an exceptionally high smoke point, which means that it’s great for high temperature cooking – frying, grilling, searing, etc.

My bug bear with ghee is that organic, grass-fed versions can be very expensive. Last week, I was chatting with my mother and she mentioned that she wanted to try making it herself, and I thought, hmmm, why don’t I try it as well. And what do you know, it was so easy that I’ll be making my own from now on!

What you need:

2 blocks of unsalted grass-fed butter

A cast iron pan

A ladle

A ceramic bowl

Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer

A large glass jar to store the ghee

How to make it:

1. Place your cast iron pan onto the stove and put the burner on medium heat.

2. Place the two blocks of unsalted butter into the pan.

3. As the blocks melt, the milk solids will rise to the top. When the blocks have completely melted and the liquid starts to bubble, turn the heat off. This should take about 5-7 minutes.

4. Use your ladle to pass the liquid through the strainer, with the ceramic bowl underneath to catch the ghee. If you end up using a fine mesh strainer rather than a cheesecloth, you may need to strain the mixture twice to completely remove all of the milk solids. Once this step is complete, you should be left with beautiful golden ghee.

5. Let the ghee cool for a few minutes before pouring into your glass container. Stored in the fridge, where the ghee will solidify, it should last for at least a month, if you use clean utensils when cooking with it.

freshly-made-ghee

P.S. When I was making this, I wondered what I should do with the leftover milk solids. I did some quick Googling and found that some people save them and crumble them onto their morning porridge, brown them to add a lovely buttery taste to stewed fruit, pancakes or anything else you would normally use butter in. Some people even spread the milk solids onto toast!

Eating to improve anxiety


Anxiety seems to be a growing problem these days, especially amongst young people. Various pressures – societal, economic, physical, technological, emotional, political – mean that people are being pulled in many directions, increasing their day to day anxiety and decreasing their ability to cope.

 

When you add in increased alcohol intake too, it’s wonder that anxiety is one of the fastest growing self-help categories.

 

The good news, is that there are foods you can eat that can help ease anxiety.

 

First a bit of science: serotonin (the happy hormone) is synthesised from an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which cannot be synthesised in the body. Eating foods abundant in tryptophan throughout the day can naturally help increase / balance serotonin levels and can have a positive effect on your mood and anxiety levels.

 

So what foods are high in tryptophan? With all of these foods, go organic and free-range wherever possible.

 

Almonds: A personal favourite, you can get the benefits through whole almonds, ground almonds, almond butter or almond milk. Buy organic and local wherever possible, as almonds are notoriously resource heavy during farming. Also, when you’re using almond milk, read the ingredients to make sure you’re not buying one with loads of fillers like carrageenan, oils and sugars. I like Plenish or Rude Health Ultimate Almond.

 

Poultry: Poultry is generally high in tryptophan, however the winner in this category is turkey, which has the highest amount. This explains that happy feeling after feasting on turkey during Christmas dinner, right?

 

Avocado: This wonder fruit is also high in B vitamins, which help convert tryptophan to serotonin.

 

Salmon: The ideal choice is wild Alaskan salmon (which is also high in vitamin D!) to avoid the antibiotics and growth hormones in farmed fish. It’s very important not to go overboard with fish (my recommendation is 2 x weekly, maximum) as its goodness must be balanced with the realities of what fish are absorbing from our very polluted water.

 

Organic, free-range dairy products: They are also a good source of healthy fats and B vitamins.

 

Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds: These seeds are also high in B vitamins and zinc.

 

Green tea and matcha: A new favourite of mine, they are both high in l-theanine, a calming amino acid that helps reduce stress.

 

To get more bang for your buck, eat these foods with a carbohydrate food (i.e. fruit and veg, gluten free grains like oatmeal, buckwheat or quinoa), as they will improve absorption of tryptophan.

 

Other ways to manage anxiety

Vitamin D: Make sure to get enough vitamin D, either from the sun or a supplement during the winter. If you’re not sure what your vitamin D levels are, you can get tested for £25 from http://www.vitamindtest.org.uk

 

Deep breathing: Taking a long deep breath, in for three breaths through your nose and out for three breaths through your mouth is a brilliant way to shift your nervous system out of sympathetic (fight or flight) mode, back to the calming parasympathetic rest and digest mode.

 

Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your health & wellbeing and reduce your anxiety & stress.

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The Easiest Frittata Recipe

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Aside from their significance as a major plot point in the Harrison Ford – Rachel McAdams film, Morning Glory, frittatas are one of those recipes that everyone seems to have their own little twist on. And why not? Their versatility means that even the newest of cooks can make a lovely frittata.

 

What you need:

At least 10 large free-range, organic eggs (the more eggs you use, the denser the frittata will be – no bad thing!)

Vegetables of your choice – I chose 1 cup of collard greens and 1 tomato for my version

Protein of your choice – I used 1 cup of diced chorizo in this recipe, but have also liberally used shredded pork, chicken and beef, as well as many varieties of cheese in the past

Chopped herbs of your choice – I used 1 sprig each of fresh thyme and rosemary

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

Non-stick pan

Oven

 

How to make it:

1.  Break all the eggs into a bowl and beat them together, until all the yolks and whites have combined.

 

2. Add your chopped veg, protein and herbs to the egg mixture and stir until everything is combined.

 

3. Turn on your oven to 175C.

 

4. Add the olive oil to your non-stick pan, making sure that there is a light coating of oil across the pan and turn on the stove to low-medium heat.

 

5. Pour the frittata mixture into the pan, stirring so that all the veg and protein ingredients are evenly distributed. Use the tomatoes to create a nice pattern on the top of the frittata.

 

6. Leave to cook for 5 minutes or until the edges of the frittata start to crisp up.

easy-frittata-cooking-on-the-stove

7. Remove the pan from the stove (not forgetting to turn it off!) and place it into the warm oven. Let it cook for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the frittata is firm to the touch and there are no runny areas around the top.

 

8. Remove from the oven. Using a pallet knife or something similar, lift around the edges of the frittata so that it is easy to slide out of the pan, on to a plate.

 

9. Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

easy-frittata-ready-to-serve

Easy Potato Latkes

This is an easy recipe for those mornings when you want something substantial and savoury, but aren’t in the mood for something with eggs or bread.

Latkes are so underrated. They should be on more menus because you can cram so much goodness into them and no one’s the wiser, especially my little three year old!

My version has a bit of apple, garlic and onion in it and you could even make it with grated sweet potato or squash too. The main component just needs to be a starchy vegetable, especially if you’re not using flour as a binding agent.

If you want to save time in the morning, you can make up the raw mixture the night before, put it into the fridge and pull it out 10 minutes before you need to start cooking to bring it to room temperature.easy-potato-latkes-with-greek-yoghurt-and-pulled-porkMakes 10

What you need: 

3 large white potatoes

1/4 onion

1/4 apple

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tsp salt

a sprig of fresh thyme

1 large egg

2 tbsp olive oil or duck fat

a non-stick pan

Greek yoghurt

How to make it:

Grate the potatoes, onion, apple and garlic into a bowl. I don’t bother peeling the potatoes or apple beforehand, as there’s a lot of nutrients in the skin.

Put the grated ingredients into a kitchen towel or muslin.grated-latke-mixture-ready-to-squeeze-outSqueeze out as much moisture as you can. The drier the mixture is, the better it will bind together when it cooks.squeezing-out-the-moisture-from-the-latke-mixturesqueezing-out-the-moisture-from-the-latke-mixture1latke-mixture-all-squeezed-out-with-no-moistureCrack an egg into a bowl and beat until the egg yolk and white are combined.adding-the-egg-to-the-latke-mixturePut the mixture back into the bowl with the beaten egg and add the salt and thyme leaves. Then combine until the egg mixture has covered all of the grated ingredients.latke-mixture-ready-to-fry-upPut your chosen fat into the pan and turn the stove onto medium heat. If the heat is too high, the outside will cook too quickly.

In the meantime, turn your oven on to 50-70C.

Working in batches of 3 latkes, spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture per latke into the pan and then flatten then out with the back of the spoon so that each latke is even. Cook for 3 minutes per side.latke-mixture-pressed-into-the-panpotato-latkes-frying-in-the-panWhen each batch of latkes is cooked, transfer to a plate in the oven so they stay warm while you cook the others.easy-potato-latkesServe with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I also like to eat my latkes with shredded pork or chicken, to make them even more filling. Enjoy!

Just eat more vegetables.

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People like shortcuts. Maybe it’s a symptom of our modern world, where we can get pretty much anything we want at the touch of a button.

 

Speaking of shortcuts, I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues about the fastest ways to get healthy / fit / more energy (delete as appropriate).

 

There are two answers I always give, no matter what their underlying symptoms. Then I ask more questions and give a more detailed, tailored response.

 

The first answer is always – get more sleep or go to bed earlier.

 

I’ve talked about the benefits of sleep before – it regulates your metabolism, allows your various organs to repair and heal and allows your brain to process the events of the day. Don’t give into the current masochism around sleep – most people really need at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to be fully functional.

 

And then my second answer is always – eat more fresh vegetables, especially green leafy ones.

 

I cannot overstate that vegetables are little nutrition powerhouses! Each vegetable has many individual benefits, with its own mix of macronutrients (protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates) and phytonutrients.

 

The greater the variety in your vegetable intake, the more benefit to you. When in doubt, just eat the rainbow!

 

Ideally, everyone would eat at least 7-10 servings of vegetables a day. I know that’s hard, so  you’ll often hear nutritionists, (including me!) say to prioritise cruciferous / brassica vegetables. You know them as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, radish, bok choy and watercress.

 

Not only are they high in antioxidants like vitamins A and C, they are also high in folic acid and vitamin K and have a huge amount of minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

 

Cruciferous vegetables are also high in phytonutrients like glucosinolates which support your liver in clearing excess hormones, alcohol, xenoestrogens and environmental chemicals.

 

So, adding a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie after a big night out will help your liver clear the alcohol from your system and make your feel better a bit faster!

 

In a nutshell, adding more cruciferous vegetables into your diet can help you boost your energy levels, support your liver, balance your hormones, support your immune system and feed the good bacteria in your gut!

 

There are lots of ways to add cruciferous vegetables to your diet:

Add a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie

Make a big pot of soup with broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower

Make a big a*s salad with loads of different veggies in it

Grate up some cabbage for a coleslaw

Make a big tray of roasted veg

Steam some asparagus and eat them with hummus as a snack

 

How do you eat your veggies?

 

Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your health & wellbeing and reduce your stress.

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Food is food – nutritious, cheap and tasty.

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This week, a prominent doctor in the UK talked about the need to reduce the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable intake recommendation because it was ‘unrealistic’ for low-income families to achieve this. She says that lots of families may struggle to afford the recommended amounts and that “many children are being brought up with a culture of not having any fresh fruits and vegetables at all.”

I was shocked when I read this headline (which was repeated across multiple websites) and decided to dig deeper into the story. What she is actually says, is that “in the consultation with patients, it’s vital that GPs sometimes need to tailor the advice to the family in front of them. That may be starting with one or two portions a day and building up to the five portions a day.”

My frustration with this misleading story (tailored advice is a good thing) reminded me of a quote I recently read in a profile of Jamie Oliver.

“It’s quite British, this association with having any degree of thought or love of food being upper class or middle class or whatever you want to class it up as. That’s not the rest of the world. On my travels, the best food has come from the most economically challenged areas.”

It’s easy to understand why there are such strong class associations with food in the United Kingdom – classism persists across all areas of life. It’s really quite remarkable. Even still, there has been a lot of great work by the likes of Jamie Oliver, Jack Munro and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to make food and food preparation more equalitarian and accessible.

It’s remains true that the more fresh fruit and veg you eat, the better for you.

So here are the million pound questions:

How can we continue to spread the message that eating well needn’t cost a lot?

That it is possible to get your 5 to 7-a-day without breaking the bank?

What role do supermarkets play in this? Schools?

I don’t have all the answers, clearly.

What I know, is that it’s our role as nutritionists and health professionals to present simple, easy to understand messages of food and health to our patients and clients. To teach them tasty and nutritious food can be inexpensive.

This lovely warm chickpea and bacon salad (47p per serving!) is a great example of cheap, tasty and nutritious.

Chestnut and caramelised apple and pear pancakes


I’ve been on a massive pancake kick recently. It’s probably because I associate pancakes with the comfort food of my childhood and right now, I seem to like the idea of getting a bit of comfort through food. Analyse that how you will.

 

Other foods in my comfort food list include French toast, macaroni cheese, spaghetti, roast chicken, chocolate cake, reuben sandwiches, guava duff and conch fritters. Every time I eat any of these foods, I get a burst of nostalgia and craving for the comfort of family and friends. What feelings do comfort foods give you?

 

I’m sure there’s lots of science behind why we choose particular foods as our designated comfort foods – the dopamine hit that these carbohydrates, fats and sugars give us, along with the soothing levels of satiety, probably give us the first hint!

 

Do salad or fruit ever factor into someone’s definition of comfort food? I would like to meet you if this is you!


As part of my pancake kick, I’ve been trying to create more nutritious versions that give you all the comfort with all the healthy benefits. And I love these chestnut pancakes. Adapted from an old recipe for Italian chestnut flour crepes, I love topping them with caramelised fruit. Recently, I’ve been doing a mix of pears, apples and plums – generally going for whatever is seasonal.

 

What you need:

Pancakes

180g chestnut flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 large free-range eggs

250ml organic whole milk / almond milk

Caramelised fruit

2 small apples / pears

a pinch of cinnamon

a tab of unsalted butter

 

How to make it:

  1. Sift the chestnut flour and the baking soda into a medium sized bowl.
  2. Crack the eggs and separate the egg yolks and whites, adding the yolks into the dry mixture.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until they are frothy.
  4. Slowly fold the milk into the dry mixture, then add the egg whites.
  5. Fold the mixture until the wet and dry ingredients are combined. Do not over fold!
  6. Leave the batter to stand for at least 10 minutes so the milk and baking soda have enough time to interact.
  7. Chop the fruit into small wedges.
  8. Put a small non-stick pan on the stove on low-medium heat and add a tab of butter.
  9. Once the butter starts to bubble and go brown, add your fruit and cinnamon.
  10. Stir your fruit occasionally and remove from heat once it has gone soft and a bit sticky.
  11. After ten minutes has passed, put another non-stick pan for your pancakes on low to medium heat so it has time to warm up.
  12. Once your pan is warm, use an ice cream scoop to drop the batter in. I like to make pancakes on the smaller side so they are easier to flip.
  13. Once bubbles start to form on the edges of the pancakes (normally after a minute or so), flip them over. Chestnut flour tends to cook a bit faster than wheat flour so you’ll need to keep a close eye so they don’t burn. I learned this the hard way!
  14. Once you’ve made all your pancakes, top with fruit. You can also add raw cacao  and enjoy!

Don’t forget about your gut.

Remember what Hipprocrates said so long ago: All disease begins in the gut.

In our modern world, we’ve forgotten a lot of this and rely on band-aid solutions to get us through whatever ails us.

Our gut and the bacteria within in are so important.  Our gastrointestinal tract has to both absorb nutrients and act as a barrier against foreign organisms and molecules like microbes and allergens, from the day we are born. We need to take care of it!

Did you know?

  • 70% of our immune system is in our digestive tract, so when the gut is unhappy, the rest of the body is unhappy
  • The digestive tract / gut is one long tube that runs from the mouth and runs all the way to the anus
  • Stretched out, the gut would cover a surface of 400 square metres
  • We have over 100 hundred billion bacteria in our gut – more cells than in our body!
  • There are approximately 400 – 500 species of bacteria in the large intestine and 200 species in the oral cavity
  • Bacteria form the basis of our immune system
  • Infants have a special need for stimulation of their gut microbiota because they are born with a sterile intestine – babies that are vaginally born are inoculated with bacteria from their mother’s vagina, whereas c-section babies are inoculated with bacteria from their mother’s skin and the operating room

There are two categories of gut bacteria:

  1. Innate gut bacteria: This is the gut bacteria that we are born with. They help protect us from the time we come out of our mother’s womb. Certain practices such as Caesarean sections, formula feeding and early antibiotic deplete this innate gut bacteria and can lead to some problems in the future, such as frequent illness, skin conditions like eczema and obesity.
  2. Acquired gut bacteria: This is the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) that we start to acquire when we are six months old. GALT is made up of several types of lymphoid tissue that contain immune cells that protect us and are fundamental to our immune system.

Building your child’s gut bacteria with breastfeeding

Breastfeeding and skin to skin contact is the most immediate way of providing your baby with the immune components that help establish and build their gut bacteria, as well as providing protection for their respiratory system and other mucus tissues.

Breastfeeding promotes the growth of beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the baby’s gut flora, which are beneficial to the development of the child’s immune system. The antibodies that are transmitted from the mother through the colostrum have been educated by maternal gut microbes and provide a broad range of immediate protection to the baby.

The friendly bacteria in the gut play multiple roles, including secreting natural antibiotics and competitively inhibiting pathogenic microbes. The more varied the species of bacteria in your gut flora, the more protection you and your baby will receive from them. This protection stays with the baby throughout their life.

If you’re formula feeding, you can give your child’s digestive system an extra boost with probiotic powders or drops, that can be added to their formula. This gives your baby’s gut bacteria the support it needs to develop effectively.

Building your child’s gut bacteria with food 

Once you introduce solid food to your child, it’s important to feed them a nutritious diet, not only to ensure they are receiving the necessary vitamins and minerals to help them grow, but to ensure they continue to be exposed prebiotic and probiotic food that build their gut flora.

Prebiotics are a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.  Probiotics are the good bacteria that come from food and supplements that can support your immune system.

Building your gut bacteria as an adult

Even if you’ve been on loads of course of antibiotics, were born via caesarean section and have been eating a poor quality diet, you can still rebuild your gut bacteria and get your immune and digestive system back in order.

It will take a lot of effort with high strain probiotics and a good quality diet with lots of prebiotic and probiotic foods, but it can be done. And the benefits will be seen very quickly!

What are good prebiotic and probiotic foods? 

Prebiotics: Onions, garlic, bananas, leeks and asparagus are prebiotic foods that you can add to your diet or give to your child, once you’ve established that they are not allergic to any of them.

Probiotics: Fermented foods & drinks like kimchi, sauerkraut & kombucha, coconut kefir and pickles are good options to add into your family’s diet a few times a week. If you’re using store-bought versions of these food and drinks, make sure to read the labels to check for unnecessary extra ingredients like added sugars and preservatives.

Have you taken probiotics or eaten probiotic foods? Have you seen an effect on your gut?

Clean eating? Healthy eating? What about nutritious eating?

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There’s been a lot of chatter in the media this week about the end of ‘clean eating’, with many disavowing this term, saying that it has led to a rise in disordered eating and anorexia.

The denouement of the majority of these pieces tend to call for moderation and for more healthy eating.

I will always applaud anything that helps people get to grips with what and how they eat.

BUT.

It seems to me as health professionals, that we’re suffering from terrible reductionism when it comes to advocating for better quality eating. On one side, there are those that are demonising whole food groups  (i.e. ‘all wheat/sugar/dairy/etc/etc is bad’) and the other side, proclaiming the answer is to simply eat a healthy, balanced diet. Both extremes are very reductionist and don’t offer the nuance that people need. But nuance doesn’t sell newspapers / magazines / books, doesn’t it?

What if you don’t know what eating healthy actually is and what it means for you? What if you’ve picked up the first Deliciously Ella book because everyone was talking about it and you thought it might teach you a few healthy eating tips and tricks? Are you now a part of the clean eating brigade (how I hate that term)?

I’ve discussed this topic before on the blog. The rise of the concept of clean eating isn’t a bad thing. Becoming more aware of what you put into and onto your body is good – we could all benefit from mindfulness when it comes to the way we eat. And with everything, there will always be individuals who have no brakes and take advice and concepts to their limit.

Equally, there will always be charlatans who peddle bad advice. Rather than blame the clean eating bloggers and instagrammers, surely asking people to take some agency around what they put into their bodies isn’t a big ask? Just as we ask people to educate themselves in other areas of their lives (finance is an area that comes to mind), it is not outrageous to expect people to give themselves a broad education into the benefits and drawbacks of the food they feed themselves and their families and to look at what they see on TV and in newspapers and magazines with a critical eye.

I firmly believe that we need to start thinking about food in terms of how nutritious it is. ‘Healthy’ is such a empty, almost meaningless term. Nutritious – the vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats in food – is more meaningful and has tangibles that can be referenced.

And what about flavour? Nutritious and flavourful aren’t mutually exclusive. Just as there’s pleasure in eating rich, indulgent foods, there’s also a lot of pleasure in eating nutritious, flavourful foods. The pleasure of eating these foods should ideally last from the moment of anticipation when you first put it in your mouth through to the lovely feeling of satiety when you’ve finished the meal.

Oh, one last thing. Get rid of the guilt. Enjoy the food you do eat and find pleasure in the making and eating of nutritious, flavourful meals.

Have you tried seed cycling?

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I first heard about seed cycling a couple years ago on a natural health podcast and found it very intriguing.

The basic principle of seed cycling is that it is possible to use the primary micronutrients in a few seeds to help balance female sex hormones.

Infertility, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, PMS, acne, fatigue and other problems that have links with the menstrual cycle and female sex hormones are becoming more common.  Some of this is due to lifestyle and diet choices, which for some women can cause sub-clinical deficiencies in zinc, selenium and B vitamins –  some of the key micronutrients that help build female sex hormones.  Adding these micronutrients back in systematically can help restore balance.

What are the female sex hormones and why are they important?

If you think back to your biology classes in high school, there are four phases to a woman’s monthly reproductive cycle. At each phase in her cycle, a woman’s body produces different hormones to support the different activities that are happening in her uterus and ovaries.

  1. Menstrual phase: Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  2. Pre-ovulatory phase: Estrogen, Testosterone and Luteinising Hormone
  3. Ovulation: Luteining Hormone
  4. Post-ovulatory phase: Progesterone, Estrogen

Good, balanced hormone production is important not only for regular menstrual cycles, but only for stress management. Too much estrogen (known as estrogen dominance) and too little estrogen can both be problematic in their own way.

Some doctors will prescribe the oral contraceptive hormone as a means of hormone balancing. Before going down that route, there are some natural methods, like seed cycling, to consider.

seed cycling to support hormone balance

The nitty gritty of seed cycling

You’ll be using flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, all of which have different micronutrients that support hormone production at different phases of the menstrual cycle.

Flaxseeds and sesame seeds: Both seeds contain lignans, a polyphenol phytonutrient which can block excess estrogen production in the body.

Pumpkin seeds: The zinc in this seed supports progesterone release, which is important for having normal, low pain periods. Zinc also ensures that excess estrogen doesn’t convert to testosterone, which can be very problematic, particularly in PCOS sufferers.

Sunflower seeds: The selenium in this seed supports phase 1 liver detoxification (where your liver begins to clear excess estrogen from the body).  Selenium also helps produce glutathione peroxidase, a very powerful antioxidant.

How to do it

This can take between 1 and 4 cycles to see an effect, so bear with it. If your cycle is longer or shorter than 28 days, just start the second phase the day you ovulate. Day 1 starts the first day of your period. If you aren’t tracking your cycles already with an app or notebook, I strongly urge you to do so. It’s interesting to look back and see how different events can affect the length and strength of your cycle.

Day 1 – 14 (follicular phase): 1 tbsp flax seeds, 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds – these seeds help your liver clear the extra estrogen that can occur during this time of your cycle and the zinc in pumpkin seeds prevent excess testosterone production.

Day 15 – 28 (luteal phase): 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp sesame seeds – these seeds are rich in zinc and selenium which help progesterone production during this phase of your cycle. They are also high in essential fatty acids, which help balance progesterone and estrogen and support the cell membrane (outer layer) of your eggs.

Take the seeds in the morning if possible, try to get organic seeds and with the flax, try to grind them fresh because the oils in the seeds can go rancid if they’re ground and kept out for too long.

There are so many different ways to have the seeds in the morning.

  • Add them to a morning smoothie
  • Mix them up with some organic full fat Greek yoghurt
  • Make an omelette and then sprinkle them over the top
  • Mix them into a morning salad
  • Date balls! Try this recipe and add in the relevant seeds for the respective time in your cycle
  • Or simply take them with some water

Have you tried seed cycling? Did it work for you?

Photo by Unsplash

Foodie things I’ve bought, foodie things I want 

I love my Instant Pot. I got it on Prime Day earlier this year and it has become an amazing addition to my kitchen appliance arsenal. My bone broths are so much more gelatinous because of it and my pulled pork is so flavourful. Get it!

instant-pot

I want to start making my own ferments – kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut. I know there’s a wealth of information about this on the internet, but I couldn’t resist picking up this lovely looking compendium, Ferment, Dry, Pickle to flip through for inspiration.

ferment-dry-pickle

Until I crack making kombucha myself, this is the best kombucha I’ve ever tasted. It’s not too sweet and not too bitter and it comes in lovely looking brown glass bottles.

jarr-kombucha

We’re about to add some new shelves into our kitchen and I love the look of these floating wooden shelves.

I took a knife skills class at Leiths this time last year and improved my cooking immeasurably. Everything just seems so much easier. I’m now eyeing up their food photography course, as improving my food photos, (especially in low light!) is on my to do list.

How can we create a better food culture in the UK?

camber beach

On our trip to Rye, we ventured over to Camber Beach a few times, excited about the prospect of warm late summer days of sand and surf. It definitely felt weird to be on the beach in England (I grew up with summer holidays visiting grandparents in Bahamas, so summers are permanently associated with lots of sun, sea and fish in my mind), but we loved every second of it. We might even head over to the beach in Cornwall next summer – how daring of us! 😊

The beach was packed both days we were there with lots of families taking advantage of the hot days before kids head back to school. I’ve been pondering how to write the next part of this blog post without judgement, so here goes. It was rather alarming to see how many very overweight toddlers, children and teenagers there were and what their parents were giving them to eat – lots of pop, sweets, cakes and crisps.

It got me thinking about food traditions, cooking and how we can teach our children to cook and eat in nourishing, tasty ways.

It’s no secret that food and nutrition education in England is patchy at best. Jamie Oliver’s programme Jamie’s School Dinners ten years ago put a spotlight on this and a follow up interview last year, he said that one of the reasons this initiative failed is that “in Britain, eating well and feeding your kid right and being aware about food is all considered very posh and middle class, but the reality is that in most of Europe some of the best food comes from the poorest communities.

This makes me really sad. Food and nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or defined by class. There are amazing food traditions in European countries that are enjoyed by the rich and the poor. The Greek obsession with fresh ingredients and traditional Greek dishes immediately springs to mind.

In the same article, Jamie Oliver then goes on to say, “we need to make fresh food more affordable than processed food because the most at-risk people right now won’t be my kid or yours [speaking of lower income families]”.

And this is the heart of the issue. We have a class-based food culture that is creating an obesity time-bomb.

In England, cooking habits are seemingly not passed on through families like they are in Italy and France and cooking is generally seen as a chore rather than a pleasure. Without this essential skill, families start to over rely on cheap, processed food, ready meals and takeaways to feed themselves. This lack of food knowledge goes on and on through families – children don’t know where their food comes from, can’t identify fruit and vegetables and are overfed and undernourished.

I wish I was exaggerating.

Cooking and eating delicious, nourishing food is such a pleasure, and this pleasure needn’t have any class based connotations.

How can we get people to start taking a long term view on what they eat, realising that the benefits of spending money on fresh food that will make a few meals vs. buying takeaways each night. Enjoying the savings both financially and health wise in growing your own fruit and veg?

I don’t have the answers, but it seems like that part of the solution could be simple food and nutrition education for parents and children –  using so-called pester power in a positive way.

What do you think?

Sweet Potato & Dukkah Crisps

sweet potato crisps

We’re into the dog days of summer and the weather has gotten exceptionally warm here in London. No complaints here – I adore hot weather and any opportunity to spend some time getting some vitamin D.

Happily, my enforced furlough at work has coincided with this heatwave and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, playing around with new recipes and ingredients.

Last week, I tried the Beetroot Crisps recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, It’s All Easy. It wasn’t successful for me, so I made my own twist on the recipe. I knew it was successful when I got a text from M telling me they were ‘the bomb’. 😊

sliced sweet potatoes with dukkah

What you need:

2 large sweet potatoes, washed. (don’t bother peeling them – the skin has loads of nutrients!)

4 tbsp dukkah spice blend

4 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt

A mandoline

sweet potato crisps just out of the oven

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 175C.
  2. Place your mandoline over a small bowl and use it to make circles of sweet potato. Slice up both sweet potatoes.
  3. Use a baking brush and brush 1 tbsp of olive oil over a large baking tray.
  4. Place the sweet potato circles on the tray, making sure they are evenly spaced and don’t overlap.
  5. Brush 1 tbsp olive oil over the sweet potatoes, making sure they only have a light coating. Too much olive oil and the sweet potatoes won’t crisp up.
  6. Take 2 tbsp of the dukkah spice blend and sprinkle it over the sweet potatoes.
  7. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the sweet potatoes.
  8. Place the tray into the top shelf of the oven for ten minutes.
  9. After ten minutes, move the tray to bottom shelf of the oven.
  10. Take the tray out of the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a bowl and repeat steps 3-10 with the rest of the ingredients.

Enjoy!