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Take 5

5 Reasons to eat Beetroot..... They are in season Full of Vitamin K - Essential for proper blood clotting Loads of Vitamin B6 - Necessary for red blood cell production Folate (Vitamin B9) - Essential for making neurotransmitters Iron - Vital in our energy production       Fiona Stephen is a nutritional therapist based in Barnet, North London. Find out about the nutritional therapy packages available or contact Fiona Stephen Nutrition to discuss your requirements.

Purple Power

Tired of the grey wintery days?  Can't wait for the sun to come out?  Well, if you cannot control the sunshine then try controlling the sunshine on your  plate! I am a lover of green vegetables but after a long hard winter a bit of brightness on on your plate can really cheer you up.  You cannot get much brighter than beetroot. I am not suggesting you open a jar of the 'crinkle cut'.  But to start adding it to your meals. Beetroot can be eaten cooked or raw and one of the easiest ways to cook it is to peel, chop in half, cover in a little olive oil and roast for 40-60 minutes.  Job done.  You can also chop it into chunks and add to your shepherds pie, casserole or curries.  Going raw?  Try peeling spirals on to the top of your normal veggies or into a salad.  If you have a little more time on your hands then finely chop the beetroot and six it into rice, quinoa or a portion of peas. So apart from the colour why beetroot?  It is jam packed full of nutrients and fibre, especially vitamin C, potassium and folate.  Research has shown that it can help lower blood pressure, increase stamina and supports the liver in detoxifying the body.  So what is not to like? Possibly one thing.......be careful when preparing it and do not wear your best outfit as it can easily stain your clothing. Finally, nothing to worry about but if you eat a lot of beetroot your wee will turn pink.....so do not panic if that happens to you. Fiona Stephen is a nutritional therapist based in Barnet, North London. Find out about the [...]

Take 5

5 Reasons to eat leeks..... They are in season Full of Vitamin K - Essential for proper blood clotting Loads of Vitamin B6 - Necessary for red blood cell production Folate (Vitamin B9) - Essential for making neurotransmitters Iron - Vital in our energy production Leeks are so easy to cook, either pan fry or steam them.  You can use them instead of onions for a slightly different flavour to any dish from a curry to a stir fry.  Just remember to wash them well (especially the loose leaves near the top)       Fiona Stephen is a nutritional therapist based in Barnet, North London. Find out about the nutritional therapy packages available or contact Fiona Stephen Nutrition to discuss your requirements.

Green is the New Black!

No, I am not writing about a follow up to TV series Orange is the New Black.  I am writing about all the fabulous green vegetables that are in season right now; cabbage and kale.  Do not worry, I know the TV series is set in a jail, but eating these greens is definitely not a prison sentence. Its a life line. Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods available. Packed with vitamins and minerals including; vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamin K1.  It if full of dietary fibre and antioxidants.  What more could you ask from one of the cheapest vegetables in the market? We are right in the middle of flu season and we have all heard that vitamin C helps the body to fight coughs and colds.  But did you know that a cup of kale has more vitamin C than an orange? 60g of kale has more than your daily requirement of vitamin K1 a really important nutrient for blood clotting regulation. Kale contains substances that work with our bile acids and helps you to lower your cholesterol levels.  A study found that consuming kale juice daily for 12 weeks increased HDL (your 'good' cholesterol and lowered your LDL ('bad cholesterol'). Worried about your bone health?  100g of kale has 150mg of calcium compared to 120mg of calcium in 100ml of semi-skimmed milk.  It is also high in magnesium another important nutrient in making healthy bones. There a plenty of ways you can get more kale into your diet, it can go into a smoothie.  I like to keep it simple and my personal favourite is to chop it up and steam it for 5 [...]

Pumpkins are not just for Halloween!

I know what you’re thinking – pumpkins are for carving, right? Well, they may be good for that, but they’re much better for eating! Packed with vitamin A, dietary fibre, vitamin C, potassium, zinc, and plenty of other goodness, pumpkins are worth way more than being relegated to a Halloween decoration. Roast pumpkin is especially delicious – slice your pumpkin into thick wedges or peel it and cut into cubes (keep the seeds, we’ll get to them in a sec), drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in the oven until soft. Add cumin, garlic powder or paprika before roasting to boost the flavour even more. Back to the seeds – you didn’t forget about them, did you? Pumpkin seeds are amazing, they contain magnesium for your heart, zinc for your immune system, tryptophan for restful sleep and healthy fats and antioxidants for loads of other health benefits. Roast the seeds in a low oven, sprinkled with salt or spices, for about 15 minutes, to get a tasty, health snack. If you’re feeling adventurous, try pumpkin seed butter. That’s right, I said pumpkin seed butter. The same way you blend peanuts to make peanut butter, you can make pumpkin seed butter. Be warned, it looks a bit like sludge, but don’t let that put you off! Honestly, it tastes fantastic. Try scooping it up with veggie sticks, for an even more nutritious snack.   Meridian Foods produce a lovely one so you do not have to blend your own.  Alternatively add a tablespoon of Linwoods flax, sunflower & pumpkin to your porridge or smoothies. Pumpkins are not the only vegetable to consider in this range though – butternut squash is another to add to your [...]

Squirrels Know a Thing or Two!

As autumn approaches and the squirrels are frantically scavenging nuts and storing them for the winter because they fully understand that  “good things come in small packages” – they’re packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as a whole load of heart-healthy fats. Yes, I did say fat, and it’s true that nuts do contain fat. That doesn’t make them the enemy, our bodies need healthy fats they help our brain to function, heart to beat and our knees to bend.  But it is a good idea to choose wisely when you’re standing at the supermarket’s dazzling array of different varieties, and choose the ones with the most bang for their buck. The protein will help you “keep fuller for longer” and is the key to balancing your blood sugar levels and avoiding the big dips in your energy levels which often happen mid-morning and mid-afternoon and have you reaching for the cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit. I would advise you to avoid peanuts and cashews, they’re too easy to eat by the bagful! Also avoid anything roasted in oil – choose raw, smoked or dry roasted every time – you want the good fats from the nuts, not a load of added fat. And steer clear of chocolate coated, candy coated or honey roasted nuts, they’re pretty much sweets at that point (and don’t even think that a peanut-containing chocolate bar counts!) Your best bet is to choose nuts that pack a punch in terms of flavour and nutrients, but that you won’t eat a whole bag of in one go – so Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and walnuts are great options.  A (small) handful goes a long way with these tiny [...]

Go Fish!

How often do you go fishing? Never? Occasionally? Often? And which answer also matches how often you should eat fish? That’s right, it’s “often”! Most health organisations recommend at least 2 portions of fish a week, although there are different recommendations for pregnant/breastfeeding women and children. Fish and shellfish provide us with protein, vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential for our health. And talking of essential, oily fish contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, and those are seriously important – there’s a reason they’re called “essential”! So, what are omega-3s actually good for? Well, they are a type of fat that our bodies can’t produce on their own, and we really do need them. They’re a key part of our cell membranes, all throughout the body, which is why they’re important from heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes…  Sorry, head to toe! Just some of the areas that omega-3 fatty acids are good for are:   Heart health, preventing heart disease and helping maintain normal heart rhythms Normalising cholesterol levels, lowering triglycerides, and lowering blood pressure Learning and development, and potentially reduction in ADHD symptoms Brain function - increasing growth of neurones in the frontal cortex, increasing circulation, and keeping your dopamine levels high Bone health and osteoporosis Autoimmune disorders Rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain Although people take supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, scientists agree that consuming them through food is highly preferable. And oily fish is one of the best sources. So you can see why we’re encouraged to eat more fish in our diets. What’s the catch? Well, we’re not talking about a trip to the fish and chip shop a couple of times a week, I’m afraid. Steamed, baked [...]

I should coco!

The holiday season might be upon us but it does not mean we need to slide down the slippery slope of having a cocktail after a long day on the beach. So look beyond the Pina Colada and find a fruit that is fantastically nutritious, and very versatile? Look no further than the coconut. Hard and hairy and difficult to get into, the coconut is worth more than being knocked off a stand at the fair! There’s a good reason that coconut is a huge part of the diet of people across the world, and it’s not just the fact that it’s tasty (although that’s probably a factor too). Do you know your way around a coconut? Think the liquid inside is coconut milk? Think again – it’s actually the coconut water, and it’s incredibly refreshing and filled with electrolytes, minerals and enzymes that help digestion. Great news! The white fleshy part – that’s the coconut meat and you can eat it raw or cooked into main dishes and desserts. Shredded or toasted, it’s delicious and a fantastic source of healthy fats as well as protein, vitamins, minerals and the important saturated fatty acid lauric acid (which increases good HDL cholesterol levels). Coconut and curry are a classic combination, and ginger, chilli and lemongrass are all flavours that pair really, really well. For desserts, carrot cakes benefit from a hint of shredded coconut for a “secret ingredient” flavour that adds a little something. Pineapple is another flavour that’s a match made in heaven. And don’t forget to “put the lime in the coconut” – it’s a classic for a reason! So coconut milk… Yes, we’ve moved on from the water and the flesh, but there’s [...]

Anyone for Tennis?

Summer brings us the unforgettable sounds of Wimbledon , with aces served up on Centre Court, and strawberries served left, right and centre. The sweet smell of strawberries always brings to mind the sun, so it’s no wonder that they’re one of the most popular flavours – not only in fruit but also in sweets, snacks, drinks and even cosmetics. Don’t be fobbed off by strawberry flavouring though, there’s nothing quite like the real deal. Whether it’s a punnet being enjoyed while you watch the tennis, a picnic in the park, or a decadent champagne and strawberries breakfast, you simply can’t beat them. Low in calories and high in flavour, the sweet and juicy strawberry is more than just a tasty treat. They’re a good source of manganese, which is important for our metabolism and antioxidant system. Even better, 100g of strawberries contains over 70% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and everyone knows how important vitamin C is… But it bears repeating – vitamin C is an essential nutrient for us. It helps protect our cells, helps with wound healing, and is vital for maintaining healthy connective tissue – which keeps our organs in the right places! So, while you watch the tennis players connect their racquets with the little yellow balls, why not join in with the atmosphere and have yourself some strawberries too? You can grow them yourself in your back garden, and give yourself “strawberry fields forever”, and if you’re lucky enough to get a glut of strawberries, don’t forget they can be frozen to keep you going later in the year. Lay them out individually on a tray before popping them in the freezer – once they’re frozen you [...]

Pasta la vista baby

The immortal words of The Terminator, aka Arnie Schwarzenegger, mean “see you next time”. But does there have to be a next time when it comes to eating pasta or, more specifically, gluten? Being wheat free is not the same as being gluten free, so you need to work out what it is that you wish to avoid, and why, and then make a plan. When cutting ‘the carbs’, avoiding bread and pasta is often the key to losing those extra pounds, so replacing them with gluten free versions is not going to support you with weight loss – so if that’s your goal, you need a different approach. So try replacing the pasta on your plate at supper with extra green vegetables and having salad at lunchtime.  If you are one of my ‘plate spinners’ and do not have time to make your lunch in advance, try to add a bit more protein to a shop bought salad as this will help you to feel  full and stop you reaching for the mid-afternoon biscuit tin. Most supermarkets have single portions of chicken, turkey or prawns, and you can keep a tub of mixed seeds in your desk drawer such as the ones by Munchy Seeds  to sprinkle on top your salads for a little extra vegetarian protein and an extra burst of flavour. When it comes to breakfast, forget the TV adverts - you don’t have to reach for the cereal box.  If you tend to be in a rush in the morning, you can hard boil a couple of eggs the night before or try a protein shake similar to the one mentioned in my January nutrition blog. For a slight change I have drained [...]