October in a nutshell

Nuts OctoberIf you want to add one healthy small change to your lifestyle this October, can I suggest you include more nuts in your diet? Nuts may be high in calories, but they’re good calories with the fat content being of the unsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 variety. They are also high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Only two Brazil nuts a day will give you your daily dose of selenium, a mineral which is essential for good immunity (especially relevant with the cold and flu season coming up), while almonds are rich in vitamin E, hazelnuts in folate and walnuts are packed with heart healthy antioxidants.

There has been no shortage of research into the health benefits of nuts. The biggest health benefit of all is, of course, living longer, so I will quote just one study. A 2013 report from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study and Healthcare Professionals Follow-up Study, covering nearly 120,000 people showed that in 30 years of follow-up, those who ate nuts every day had a 20% lower mortality rate.

Including nuts in your diet couldn’t be easier ¬– just treat yourself to a handful (30g a day would be about right to enjoy the benefits) or use peanut butter on toast, slices of apple or celery or in a smoothie. In the following recipes, I’ve taken it a bit further by using nut milks, nut oils and I finish with the ‘ultimate’ nut burger.

 

Nutty pink smoothie

Serves one
One carton of raspberries or strawberries
One tsp matcha powder
One tbsp. linseed meal
One tsp. raw cacao powder
One tbsp. chia seeds
One tbsp. turmeric latte powder
One tbsp. nut butter
[the above list is my current mix of smoothie additives]

Add all the above to your blender or Nutribullet, then top up with hazelnut milk. Blend and drink immediately.

 

Autumn salad with walnut oil dressing

A friend gave me some cucumbers from her garden. So fresh and delicious, I made them the basis for a salad that contains nuts and uses a walnut oil dressing.

Serves two
Three carrots, shredded
One cucumber diced
Handful of nuts (I used flaked almonds)
One tbsp. mixed seeds
Two spring onions, finely chopped
Dressing
One tbsp. walnut oil
One garlic clove
Sea salt
Lemon juice
One tsp mustard (I used horseradish mustard)

Mix all the salad ingredients. For the dressing, bash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle to make a puree and then whisk in the lemon and oil. Dress and serve.

Vegan nut burgers

So lots of restaurants and pubs are doing vegan burgers now. I’ve never made a burger in my life, so I thought it was time to jump on this particular healthy bandwagon. These are dead simple – just nuts and red onion. No rice, chickpeas, spinach, halloumi…

Serves four
100g mixed nuts, ground to a coarse powder
Egg replacement _ one tbsp. flax seed meal whisked in three tbsp water and left till it forms a beaten egg-like gel
One red onion, finely chopped
Herbs and spices to flavour – I used cinnamon, chilli powder and freshly ground black pepper
Two tbps. tomato puree

Place the nuts, onion, herbs and spices into a bowl. Now, my big worry was that this mixture would not stick together with the vegan egg (of course, use a real egg if you prefer – I’m not vegan myself and this would have been fine). I added the tomato puree as well for a bit more moisture and the consistency was just right. Shape into patties and fry in coconut oil for about five minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time, which should leave both sides lightly browned. The mixture keeps well in the fridge (I had this over three days).

Now for the fun bit…building your burger. When eating out, I’ve found that even if the vege/vegan burger is good, the dish is let down by being wedged inside a plasticy, tasteless white bun. So try wrapping this in pitta bread, a decent fresh wholemeal roll or even toast…Obviously there are lots of things you can use as a base and topping for your burger. We had sliced avocado and tomato on the base and jalapenos and spicy mayo on the top.

Next months. November is seed time.

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

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. 

Going purple for September

aubergine beetroot blackberriesThe A, B&B trio (Aubergine, Beetroot and Blackberries) group are all in season now. They’re high in fibre, low in calories, rich in minerals, vitamins and the antioxidant phytochemicals that given them their deep colour writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition. The purple of aubergine skin comes from nasunin, a potent antioxidant which was found (in lab experiments only, to be fair) to protect brain cell membranes from damage.

Back to School juice

There are still plenty of blackberries around, so pick them while you can. Blended with frozen berries and grapefruit, this makes a delicious healthy juice with just the right acidity balance. Amounts of berries can be varied.

Serves two

Fresh picked blackberries
Bag of frozen berries, defrosted
Two red grapefruit
One inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
Pomegranate juice
Juice all berries, grapefruit and ginger and top up glasses with pomegranate juice.

Ratatouille

I have been studying ethnobotanist James Wong’s new book 10-a-day The Easy Way and wondered how many veg I could add to my aubergine in a ratatouille recipe. Here goes…

Serves four

One aubergine, chopped
One red pepper, chopped
One green pepper, chopped
One yellow pepper, chopped
Three courgettes, sliced
Handful of runner beans, sliced
Two red onions, chopped
Two red chillis, chopped
Two garlic cloves, diced
Two 400g tins of tomatoes
Two tbsp. tomato puree
One tbsp. dried mixed herbs
100g pot of mixed olives
Fresh basil, torn
Fresh parsley, chopped

Heat some coconut or olive oil and fry the onions, garlic and chilli for a few minutes till soft. Stir in all the other vegetables and soften. Then add tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs and simmer till all the veg are tender. Add the olives. Finish with the fresh herbs and maybe a drizzle of olive or flax seed oil.

This is incredibly versatile. Serve with rice, pasta, baked potato or sweet potato, hot or cold. I put this recipe into my nutrition calculator and it ‘only’ contains 2.5 portions of fruit and veg per serving. Now my challenge is to adapt this recipe to up this total. Fancy joining me in this challenge?

Beetroot and horseradish hummus – new food processor

I have just bought a new food processor. So, to celebrate, I put together a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for a while.

Serves four

Three boiled beets, chopped
One 400g tin chick peas, drained
Two tbsp horseradish
Two tsp spices (many hummus recipes call for cumin, but I used ras el hanout and sumac)
Flax seed or olive oil as required

Process the beets, chick peas, horseradish and spices. Add oil to create the consistency you want.

This beautiful deep pink-purple dip is great with pitta bread, crackers and crudites and keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Next time: Going nuts in October.

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.