P is for Purple (and Blue)

Purple grapesBlack grapes are a rich source of anthocyanins, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Of all the superfood colours, purple is perhaps the best known. The deep colour of black grapes, purple cabbage, blackcurrant, blueberries, pomegranate and aubergine is attributable to a group of phytochemicals called anthocyanins. Many studies link a high intake of anthocyanins to improved cardiovascular health and prevention of cancer and dementia.

You may remember a recent BBC documentary that looked at the contribution of large amounts of purple sweet potato to the longevity and low dementia rates among the people of Okinawa. If you’re interested, read more about the work of Professor Craig Wilcox and his brother Dr Bradley Wilcox here. I went looking for purple sweet potato and came back with purple carrots (see below)! Why not also try purple versions potato chips, tortilla chips, and ordinary potatoes, if you can find them?
Purple power juice

In this juice, the sweetness of the grapes is perfectly balanced by the astringency of the pomegranate and cranberries, while the lemon and ginger add a seasonal touch.
Serves one

200g black grapes
200ml pure pomegranate juice
100g fresh cranberries
One lemon, halved
One inch peeled ginger
Juice all ingredients and top up your glass with the pomegranate juice.

Braised red cabbage

We had our Christmas dinner on 31 December last year and we always use this recipe for the red cabbage to go alongside the nut roast.

Serves four (leftovers heat up well the following day)

One small red cabbage, finely shredded
One large (or two small) Bramley apples, chopped
Two red onions, chopped
Handful of dried cranberries
One tsp cinnamon
Fresh grated nutmeg
1tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp cider

Preheat oven to 150℃. Mix everything in a big casserole dish, put on the lid and cook slowly for two to two and a half hours.

Purple carrot salad

I make up a snack mix that currently consists of cranberries, goji berries, almonds, soy-coated sunflower seeds (sometimes it also contains pumpkin seeds and/or wasabi peanuts). The idea is to get a nutritious sweet/savoury mixture with lots of crunchy texture. It works well in a salad with any ingredients and here I try it out with purple carrots.
Serves one

Two purple carrots, grated
Cranberry, nut and seed mix
Mix the carrots and snack mix and dress with flaxseed oil and cider vinegar. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh chopped herbs.

I will be giving the ‘alphabet’ a rest in 2018 and carrying out some experiments on ingredients with a ‘healthy’ reputation. Experiment 1 will be on cider vinegar. Watch this space!

Soothe your cough

lemonsJust when you need a lot of sleep to make you feel better when you’ve caught a cold you get a cough which definitely gets worse at night.  Coughs can be painful and debilitating and make your stomach muscles ache with the effort.  To try and get a restorative night’s sleep you need to quell the coughing, so here we offer a few tips.

One of my safeguards is to dilute a teaspoonful of honey (preferably Manuka honey) in a glass of  warm water and have it by the bedside in case you start hacking in the night. If  it starts as soon as you lie down it’s a good idea to prop yourself up on pillows, which means you might get at least some sleep.  I always like to massage Vicks Rub into the chest area before going to sleep. It contains eucalyptus oil, but for a completely natural remedy a few drops of Eucalyptus or Olbas oil in a carrier oil (almond, calendula, etc.) has the same effect.

Steaming: You can’t beat steaming either – morning and night and even in between, but especially before you go to sleep.  If you put a few drops of essential oil into a bowl of steaming hot water so much the better.  Cover your head with a towel and breathe in the pungent vapours. I can recommend Olbas oil (a combination of oils), eucalyptus, tea tree, and lavender oils dissolved in water. But be careful – if they are too strong it can be quite overpowering so start with a couple of drops and add more if necessary.

Olbas Decongestant Oil, 10ml, £6.79

Absolute Aromas Organic Tea Tree Oil, 10ml, £7.58

Absolute Aromas Lavender Oil, 10ml, £11.95

Absolute Aromas Eucalyptus Globulus Oil, 10ml, £7.23

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

Gargling

When I was a child we gargled with TCP which was horrible!  Now I prefer something more natural – if you’ve got Himalayan salt crystals put a pinch in a glass of warm water. Or if you’re prepared for another strong taste a couple of drops of Tea Tree Oil in warm water works well on a sore throat/cough.

I also swear by Echinacea and A. Vogel’s Echinaforce Echinacea Throat Spray moistens your throat and can prevent coughing.

A. Vogel Echinaforce Echinacea tincture, 50ml, £10.95

A. Vogel Echinaforce Echinacea tablets, 42, £7.41

Dr Jen Tan of A. Vogel, recommends plenty of hydration with hot drinks and water, but avoiding mucus-forming milk.  He also endorses lemon and honey which can be mixed together and sipped, and plenty of Vitamin C.

Thyme and pine are also cough relievers and they are included, with honey,  in A. Vogel’s Bronchosan Syrup and Cough Spray.

Find out more about these products atwww.avogel.co.uk 

Some other favourites: 

Comvita Propolis Herbal Elixir with Manuka Honey & Propolis, 100ml, £11.99  has a soothing effect on throats.

A. Vogel Echinacea  lozenges, 30g, £5.36

Potter’s Chest Mixture with Lobelia, 150ml, £6.39

Cherry Active liquid made from Montmorency cherries. Delicious and packed with Vitamin C, Concentrate, 473ml, £17.15;  30 capsules, £12.11

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

 

 

Y is for yellow (and O is for orange)

fruit and vegetablesThe autumn colours we’re currently enjoying are the ‘big reveal’ of the yellow, orange and red pigments that are normally masked, in summer, by the green of chlorophyll, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

In autumn, chlorophyll molecules break down. So, for the next two months, let’s look at the health benefits of the yellows, oranges and reds in fruits and vegetables and make the most of them in my new juice, main and salad recipes.

The yellow, orange and red pigments belong to a family phytochemicals called the carotenoids. They all have strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cancer protective properties. The best-known carotenoids are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene, but there are over 600 different pigments in the family, so lots more research to do!

Within the carotenoid family there are two broad groups – the xanthophylls (the yellows) and the carotenes (the oranges). Lutein and zeaxanthin are xanthophylls and are both important for eye health, with research suggesting that a high intake may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Yellow fruits are a particularly good source of these phytochemicals. Another of the xanthophylls is beta-cryptoxanthin, which is found in yellow peppers and sweetcorn. Some studies have suggested that beta-cryptoxanthin may be effective in preventing lung cancer.

Carrots are rich in beta-carotene as are mangoes and sweet potatoes. One study suggests that beta-carotene may help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. Meanwhile, alpha-carotene has been linked to a reduced risk of death from cancer, heart disease and diabetes, with carrots and tangerines being good sources. We’ll take a closer look at lycopene, a red pigment, in next month’s post.

Super Orange Juice
Serves One

Two oranges
Three carrots
One yellow (or orange) pepper
One inch peeled ginger

Yellow split pea dahl
Serves four

100g red lentils
100g yellow split peas
two onions
three cloves garlic
Spices include a mixture of black mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, all blasted in a Nutribullet miller or ground in a mortar and pestle, one tsp each of ground turmeric and ground cinnamon
Tbsp chilli jam
Two tbsp. tomato puree
Bag frozen peas or mixed veg

Fry onion and garlic in coconut oil, add spices, tomato puree and chilli jam. Cook for around 10 minutes, until soft. Then stir in the lentils and split peas and add the water. Cook until soft and then add the mixed vegetables, cooking for a few more minutes.
This is a good dish to serve over two days. Day one, add a baked sweet potato and the next day, re-heat and serve with a packet of microwaveable basmati microwave rice (or similar) with some interesting additions (I used one with pinto beans, chilli and lime – there are lots of options). A dollop of mint and cucumber raita and some mango chutney wouldn’t go amiss either.
Sunny salad

Serves two

This is an (almost) all-yellow salad, packed with nutrients and a sweet addition to grilled salmon, smoked salmon or halloumi.

Pineapple
Sweetcorn
Grated carrot
Yellow pepper
Almonds
Seeds
Yellow and orange tomatoes
Nasturtium flower

Mix all ingredients with flaxseed oil and cider vinegar, and decorate with the nasturtium flower.

G is for Green

GreensEat your greens – it’s one of the simplest ways of improving your health! Forget boiled cabbage and tired lettuce – green vegetables (and fruits) can be tasty and satisfying (as I’ve tried to show in the recipes below), according to Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives green plants their colour and it is the most abundant pigment in nature. Research has shown that chlorophyll can prevent the absorption of carcinogens in the diet and is capable of killing cancer cells. Chlorophyll’s intense colour masks the presence of other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pigments, like carotenoids, in green fruits and vegetables.

Greens are also high in potassium, vitamin C and magnesium and leafy greens are rich in folic acid (the word ‘folic’ means ‘leafy’ in Latin). Finally, greens also low in calories, high in fibre and have a low glycaemic index. So why not challenge yourself to eat something green every day, if you feel your diet could do with a nutrient boost?

CKC juice

Couldn’t be easier and the kiwi adds a touch of sweetness.
Serves one

Two big handfuls of kale
One inch piece of peeled ginger
Two peeled kiwi fruits
One cucumber, chopped into big chunks
Juice everything and drink immediately.

Green Curry
Serves two

Jar of green curry sauce
One tbsp grated ginger
One chopped green chilli
Two cloves crushed garlic
Two heads of pak choi, chopped
Two leeks, finely chopped
One pack tenderstem broccoli, chopped
One green pepper, finely chopped

Stir fry everything for five minutes in coconut oil, add curry sauce, turn down the heat and simmer till tender (about 15 mins). Serve with a ‘healthy’ grain, like red rice, freekeh, amaranth, quinoa…

Super Green Salad
Serves two to four

Assemble as many green ingredients as you can – e.g.

Cooked French beans
Cooked runner beans
Cooked/raw peas
Watercress
Lettuce
Chopped cucumber
Kiwi fruit, sliced
Diced celery
Watercress
Baby kale….
Serve with avocado dressing

For the avocado dressing

One avocado
Two tbsp flax seed oil
Two cloves garlic
One red chilli
Handful of mint leaves
Juice of one lime

Blast the above in a Nutribullet to make a dressing of mayonnaise like consistency. Add more oil or lime juice if it comes out too thick. Scale up as needed to dress the amount of salad greens you have.

Autumn health tips

gingerAyurvedic and Chinese medicine put a lot of emphasis on the change of seasons and how it affects the body.   For instance, eating right for the time of year is very important so that you eat salads in summer and soups and stews in winter to warm up your body.

Other issues at this time of year: 

  • Lack of exposure to the sun leads to Vitamin D. deficiency as the winter goes on.
  • Darker days can mean that people feel depressed or get SAD – see Winter blues or SAD?
  • Colds and flu are most prevalent before Christmas.  Read Prevent Colds.
  • Sleep can also become disrupted – see Sleep problems and it’s often hard to get up in the morning!

Winter tips:

Vitamin C will help you to stave off colds – a good dose is 1,000mg and any excess is peed out.  Try Cherry Active or Viridian Ester C.

Warming foods such as stews casseroles and home-made soups help to keep the body warm in cold weather.  Include plenty of herbs and spices to keep the digestive system healthy –- ginger, cumin, basil, mustard, cardamom, black pepper, basil, turmeric, and of course garlic!

Exercise outside when it’s sunny and dry so that you get some exposure to sunlight.   According to Mind, the mental health charity, what they call ‘ecotherapy’ can positively affect your mood.

Take plenty of Vitamin D – there isn’t  enough sun in the UK in winter for your body to make Vitamin D.  So try taking a supplement such as Viridian’s Vitamin D, or Better You’s D-Lux spray.

Sleep well – sleep is as vital as exercise and healthy eating for our wellbeing. To see some tips for sleeping well in winter read: Sleep problems.

Drink spicy teas that are cleansing and warming – those containing cardamom, cinnamon and ginger are particularly good.

Hot water with lemon a slice of lemon first thing in the morning is very cleansing to the liver.

Tip from Sebastian Pole of Pukka Herbs: if the change of season affects your digestion, gives you insomnia, constipation or anxiety, try the Ayurvedic remedy: Ashwaganda ((Withania somnifera). He also suggests a delicious cup of milk simmered with a pinch of nutmeg and cardamom to settle in for a blissful night’s sleep!

You can buy these products at www.superfooduk.com  and get 5% discount by putting in the promotion code: HSoul1 .