W is for watermelon

Water melonIt’s the time of year when big wedges of watermelon start to appear on fruit stalls.  Watermelon is 90% water, so a slice makes a refreshing snack on a hot day, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.  It’s also rich in vitamins A and C, as well as being an excellent source of the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which gives the fruit its red colour.

However, watermelon does have a glycaemic index (GI) of 72, which is considered high, although its glycaemic load (GL) of 2, is low. The GL value reflects the fact that the carbohydrate content of watermelon is low, so it shouldn’t cause a ‘spike’ in your blood glucose after consumption. But if you are bothered by the high GI element, try combining watermelon with other foods, as in this month’s recipes!

Summer watermelon juice

I was curious about how much juice I might get from a watermelon. The answer is 250ml from a whole small watermelon (much less than I was expecting). Here it is used as the basis for a slightly tart and very refreshing juice that will energise you when temperatures soar.

Serves one

One watermelon, quartered with the flesh sliced into chunks

Two red grapefruit, peeled and segmented

400g raspberries

One inch of root ginger, peeled

Pure pomegranate juice

Juice the fruits and ginger and top up with the pomegranate juice.

 

Feta, olive and watermelon salad

In this salad, the salty creamy feta cheese complements the crisp sweet watermelon perfectly.

Serves two

200g pack of barrel-aged feta cheese, cubed

One tub of black, green or mixed olives

One red onion, thinly sliced

One red pepper or Romano pepper, thinly sliced

Watermelon chunks cut from a wedge

Oil

Lemon

Green leaves

Herbs

Mix the cheese, olives, onion, pepper and watermelon and serve on a bed of green leaves. Dress with oil and lemon and top with mint and basil.

 

Watermelon fruit salad

I was invited into a school recently and treated to lunch. I was interested to see what was on offer and very impressed by one of the best fruit salads I’ve had for a long time. It contained sliced plums so I’ve included these in the recipe below. Note, plums and raspberries are low GI fruits, so they balance the watermelon well.

Serves two to three

Watermelon chunks cut from a wedge

400g raspberries

400g strawberries

Six plums cut into quarters

Next month – late summer recipes with aubergines, beetroot and blackberries

White teeth the natural way

teethThese days the majority of celebrities have beautiful straight white teeth because these are part of their image. The dentist suggested I had my teeth whitened to match the new white crown I was having, but I kept deliberating and finally didn’t do it. The idea of having chlorine in my mouth was not good, although most people say that you can’t taste it. I was also concerned about swallowing it, so I decided against it.

The most natural way of whitening your teeth is with activated charcoal which naturally dissolves the discolouration. So initially I bought charcoal powder, which obviously is black. This was a very messy affair so I gave up after a short time.

Now it’s possible to get charcoal based toothpaste which, although black, is far less messy. The Ben & Anna Black Toothpaste  (with activated charcoal) comes in a jar. It contains sea buckthorn and chamomile which protect your teeth, natural mint for a fresh taste and the activated charcoal.

There are other ways of enhancing the look of your teeth and improving your health and that includes having the dental amalgam taken out of your mouth. This is a long and fairly expensive process, but it’s worthwhile to know that you no longer have mercury in your system – one of the most poisonous substances known to man. It can leak into the system and has been held responsible for a variety of health issues such as kidney and mental health problems. See the Healthy Soul article: Mouthful of Mercury. 

J is for July – with nasturtium leaves and runner beans

NasturtiumsUK-grown runner beans should be readily available now – maybe you can even pick them fresh from the garden. You can’t go wrong, health wise, by eating lots of runner beans – they’re a rich source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K, soluble fibre and minerals. Don’t just use them as a side – I’ve come up with a simple pasta dish and a summer potato salad here, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Meanwhile, I’ve planted nasturtiums everywhere this year – in the vegetable plot, in our hanging baskets and in pots. The leaves are flourishing though I’m still waiting for the flowers. Did you know every part of the nasturtium plant is edible? The leaves are a bit like watercress and are high in vitamin C. Add them to a salad for a green boost – here I’ve combined them with watercress, but they go well with any leaves.

Nasturtium and watercress salad

This is super healthy and a great mixture of colours, textures and flavours.

Serves two
Handful of nasturtium leaves, chopped
Bunch or bag of watercress
Heritage tomatoes (I found a box of green, orange, yellow and red), chopped
One tbsp. mixed seeds
Box of alfalfa sprouts
Chopped herbs (I used mint and basil)
Flax seed oil, cider vinegar and lemon to dress
Mix the leaves, seeds and tomatoes. Dress and top with the sprouts and chopped/torn herbs.

Runner bean pasta with chilli oil and pecorino and herbs

I was lucky enough to be invited to pick some runner beans from a colleague’s sunny terrace recently. Took them straight home and made this simple pasta dish – I really noticed the difference between these beans and those flown in to the supermarket from abroad. So, see if you can buy local or, better still, grow your own. I also think it’s good to experiment with tipping the balance towards more beans, less pasta and maybe even try this dish with one of the vegetable pastas.

Serves one
Around 10 runner beans, sliced
50g pasta
Pecorino cheese, grated
Fresh basil

Cook the beans for around 4 minutes and drain. Cook the pasta. Add the beans and finish with grated pecorino, torn basil and a drizzle of oil (I used chilli-infused flax seed oil).

Runner bean and new potato salad

This would be great with freshly picked beans and freshly dug potatoes. Go for as fresh and local as you can find!

Serves two
Around 20 runner beans, sliced
10 to 12 new potatoes
One tbsp. mixed seeds
For the dressing:
Horseradish mustard
Flax seed oil
Greek or other high-protein yoghurt
Fresh mint leaves, chopped.

Cook the beans for around 4 minutes, drain and leave to cool. Cook the potatoes till tender and leave to cool. Combine the dressing ingredients to taste (exact quantities don’t matter). Mix the beans, potatoes and seeds and toss in the dressing. Finish with chopped mint leaves.

Next time. August – bring on the watermelons.

Vitamin D levels low even after summer

Sun skyFor years we have been told that too much sunshine is dangerous and it is, but the sun is also vital to healthy living.  A recent study by The University of Surrey on Vitamin D  showed that most people in UK are deficient even at the end of the summer.

Vitamin D is produced in the body when it is exposed to sunlight. To get enough sun you need to have your skin exposed and be in it frequently.  You can ask your doctor about having a Vitamin D test, because this vital vitamin is responsible for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, effective muscle function, and keeping the heart and nervous system healthy, and enabling the blood to clot properly.  Vitamin D has also been linked to preventing colds and maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Our Vitamin D levels are very low at the end of winter but they are particularly low among Asians living in Britain all the time. In fact there is talk that rickets has returned among some Asian children.

So what is anyone supposed to do? The answer is moderation as usual. If you are like me and you used to go to Greece for the summer, spend hours and hours in the hot sun, you may now have skin damage. We are lucky not to have skin cancer – this is not the way to deal with the sun.

It takes common sense – being out in the sun for hours on end so that your skin is going pink and getting sore is crazy. But having a healthy amount of sunshine as often as possible is good for you. The sun needs to get to your skin so being covered up all the time doesn’t enable your Vitamin D levels to go up. This is why women who wear burkas are particularly deficient in Vitamin D.

You can take Vitamin D supplements, and this is certainly a good idea in winter, and you can get it from food – oily fish, fortified cereal, dairy products and fortified margarine. But it is natural to have sunlight on our bodies. It’s good to be cautious but not extreme!

You can either take a daily spray of Vitamin D: Better You DLux 1000iu D3 spray (15ml), £8.67

or tablets/capsules:

Health Aid Vitamin D3 10,000iu, 30 vegicaps, £10.57

Higher Nature Vitamin D 500iu, 60 capsules, £6.00

To purchase these, go to www.superfooduk.com and put in the Healthy Soul promotion code: HSoul1 to get a 5% discount.

 

See Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sun

June means cherries

cherries for JuneI’ve chosen cherries, peas and broad beans as this month’s seasonal produce. All have a short season, so grab them while you can! Indeed, you might find it hard to get hold of fresh peas and broad beans, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition. If so, these recipes work perfectly well with frozen – though I think they taste a bit better with fresh (as was proved some years ago, the nutritional value of frozen veg is the same, or higher, than fresh as they are frozen – or should be – within minutes of picking, which preserves the nutrients).

Cherries, peas and broad beans are all excellent sources of vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants. Cherries are also a relatively low GI fruit – handy to know if you’re watching your intake of carbs/sugars. Tart cherry juice has also been credited with numerous health benefits, such as helping with gout and joint pain and preventing inflammation.

Summer cherry smoothie

I had not tried tart cherry juice (bought from a health food shop) before. I didn’t much care for it on its own, as it tastes a bit like prunes (reminder of school dinners), but it makes a delicious smoothie with fresh berries.

Serves one
Carton of raspberries
Carton of strawberries, hulled and chopped
One tsp. matcha powder
One tbsp. chia seeds
One tbsp.. raw cacao powder
Tart cherry juice
Blend the berries, powders and seeds with the cherry juice in a Nutribullet or similar device.
Red fruit salad
Here’s an alternative way with berries and cherries.
Serves two
Carton of raspberries
Carton of strawberries, hulled and chopped
Carton of cherries, stoned and halved

Mix the fruits. Delicious with Greek yoghurt for breakfast or as a healthy dessert at a summer barbeque or garden party.

Pea guacamole

This is guacamole with both avocado and peas. The marscapone makes it rich and creamy but for a lower-fat version, I’m thinking you could substitute cottage cheese, quark or thick yoghurt.

Serves two to three
200g tub marscapone
Two avocados, peeled and chopped
200g peas, cooked
Handful of mint leaves
One chilli, deseeded and chopped
Juice of two limes
Flaxseed oil
Sour cream

Blast all the ingredients except the oil and sour cream in a Nutribullet or food processor. Check the consistency and, if too thick, add a little oil and/or sour cream to thin it down. Serves with a colourful selection of crudités and/or seeded flatbreads/interesting bread. This tastes even better after a night in the fridge! Definitely one for sharing at a summer party.

Broad bean salad

Serves two
Bag of your favourite salad leaves (I used pea shoots and a few lettuce leaves from the garden)
Around 200g fresh or frozen broad beans, cooked and cooled
50g pine nuts
Two avocados, peeled and chopped
Dressing: mustard, flax seed oil and cider vinegar with a squeeze of lemon
Chopped mint and chives to finish
Mix all ingredients, dress, toss and finish with the chopped herbs.

Next month: Runner beans and nasturtiums.