Vitamin D levels too low in many Covid-19 patients

Sun skySadly the number of black men who have died in the UK from Covid-19 is the highest of all.  The link between Vitamin D and BAME people has been made, as darker skins absorb less Vitamin D than whiter skin. This is well suited to hot countries, but not for the British climate where it is possible not to spend time in the sun for six months a year. Vitamin D is made in the body when bare skin is exposed to sunlight.

Research into the link between Vitamin D levels and death from Covid-19 has been carried out by Indonesian scientists, and also jointly by researchers at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and the University of Liverpool, UK,  but  findings have not yet been finalised or verified.  The  Indonesian research studies suggest that almost all (98.9 per cent) of the Covid-19 patients  who were deficient in Vitamin D died of the disease. The  Indonesian scientists analysed the hospital records of 780 people who tested positive for Covid-19.  Of those people who had enough Vitamin D in their systems only 4.1 per cent of cases led to death.

In climates like that of the UK, it has been shown that many of us are deficient in Vitamin D by the end of the winter. 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. Therefore, it’s not a question of how sunny it is, but whether you are exposed to it.  If you spend your days inside or if your skin is usually covered up when you are outside you won’t benefit.

In theory, you can ask your doctor about having a Vitamin D test. 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.  If you cannot get a Vitamin D test from the doctor you could pay for one.  Yorktest do an Essential Health Test which includes Vitamin D levels.

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.

Of course this 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.

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),

or tablets/capsules:

Better You DLux 1000 oral vitamin D3 spray 15ml.

FSC Vitamin D 2500Iu 60 Tablets.

Health Aid Vitamin D3 10,000iu, 30 vegicaps.

Higher Nature Vitamin D 500iu, 60 capsules.

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

Healthy highlights for June – cherries and mushrooms

Cherries JuneCherries – a delicious treat, packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals – are coming into season. Last year, as well as ‘just’ eating them, I tried stoning and halving them for a fruit salad. These stoned and halved cherries are also a great addition to a juice, taking advantage of the berries that are also abundant going into the summer months (written by Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

My other healthy food choice for this month, continuing the immunity boosting theme, is mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms are often overlooked as a healthy choice – maybe because they’re not colourful and are available year-round. But they are a good source of minerals and soluble fibre and contain glutamic acid, which gives them a unique rich and savoury taste. Most interesting, though, is that a research analysis carried out in 2016 showed that the form of vitamin D in mushrooms exposed to light can improve people’s vitamin D status, potentially improving immunity.

Cherry & Berry juice

This is a half-and-half juice – with the freshly squeezed ingredient, topped up with a high-quality pre-prepared juice. A handy short cut if you’re juicing for two and don’t want to wash and refill your juicer.

Serves two
400g strawberries, hulled
400g raspberries
Cherries, stoned and halved (as many as you have patience for – this is a fiddly job!)
Two inches turmeric root, peeled and chopped
Two inches ginger root, peeled and chopped

Fresh juice for top up (suggestions: pomegranate, grapefruit, blood orange)
Juice the cherries, berries, turmeric and ginger and top up with your pre-prepared juice from the fridge.

 
Mushroom topping

Added to a pasta or rice dish, or used as an extra vegetable, this mushroom topping adds extra flavour, texture…and vitamin D, as well as including some extra garlic.

Serves two
Three garlic cloves
200g sliced mushrooms (any variety/mixture)
Olive oil/butter
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fry the mushrooms in a mixture of butter and olive oil with the garlic till soft. Top with parsley.

Mushroom salad

Mushrooms lend themselves to marinating in a mixture of good-quality salad oil and balsamic vinegar with finely chopped garlic. This salad is a nice mix of textures, flavours and colours – an ideal summery accompaniment to fish or picnic dips.

Serves two
200g mushrooms, marinated as above for several hours
Radishes, finely sliced
Baby gem lettuce leaves
Two sliced avocados
Fresh herbs (basil, mint, parsley), finely chopped

Mix all ingredients so everything is coated in marinade mix. Top with chopped herbs.

The merry month of May

Spring flowersSpring is here – and so are we! Still in lockdown, so let’s see this as an opportunity to think about healthy eating and try some new things. While I’m not going to make any claims about boosting immunity, this month’s recipes do have that in mind.

Blueberry smoothie

This smoothie contains three immune-boosting ingredients – blueberries, cacao powder and turmeric. Warning – this looks like a muddy sludge, but it is delicious.

Serves one
200-400g blueberries
One tsp cacao powder
One tsp turmeric latte powder
One tsp chia seeds
One tsp linseed meal
Half tsp matcha powder
Whizz all the above with coconut/almond milk in a Nutribullet and drink immediately.

Lockdown pasta

I’ll admit, I’d been planning to share a more original recipe but I looked in the store cupboard and saw – a lot of tins and pulses. So, here’s a simple pasta dish packed with vegetables and protein. The sauce will serve two for two days – on the second day I stirred in a bag of spinach and added a tin of baked beans while re-heating. The vegetables can be varied, of course, but try to find four different ones.

Serves two over two days
Two large carrots, chopped
Two peppers (red/green/yellow/orange) chopped
Four sticks of celery, chopped
Three cloves of garlic, crushed
Two onions, chopped
100-200g dried red lentils
400g tin kidney beans/chick peas
One tbsp. dried mixed herbs
Two tsp. chilli flakes
600g tomato pasta sauce

Cook the vegetables in olive or coconut oil until soft, then stir in the lentils and add the tomato sauce, herbs and chilli flakes. Cook until the lentils are soft (about 20 minutes) and add in the beans/peas. Heat everything together for about 10 more minutes, while cooking pasta. Serve with half the sauce and save the rest to reheat.

Bank holiday salad

There are two bank holidays this month, so let’s celebrate with a healthy seasonal salad. For salad dressings, I’m using triple the amount of immune-boosting garlic. It doesn’t matter – you’re not getting close enough to anyone except your ‘household’…
I am starting a collection of mint plants this year – in this recipe I used a mixture of apple and chocolate mint.

Serves two (with a serving for the next day)
Two bunches of asparagus, cooked and cooled, then chopped
Broad beans (you may need to seek these out a specialty greengrocer – otherwise fine to use frozen) shelled
Four to six carrots (if you’re at that specialty greengrocer, see if you can pick up some purple/yellow carrots to add extra colour),
One bag  lambs lettuce
Peas, shelled
Mint, chopped
Mixed radishes, sliced
For the dressing, bash three cloves of garlic with herby rock salt to make a paste, then whisk with mustard, cider vinegar and flax seed oil.
Mix all the ingredients and toss with the dressing.

Easter healthy treats

MagnoliaWhen I first started planning this month’s blog, I had no idea how life was going to be when it got to actually sending it out. My original thought was how to deconstruct that childhood favourite – the Crème Egg. So, something with eggs and something with ‘ultimate’ – ie 100% cocao solids – chocolate and, of course, the usual seasonal juice.

I don’t want to lay on any detailed health or lifestyle advice for these long days of social distancing ahead – there’s no shortage of that elsewhere. Just a couple of points…

  • More time at home means more time for smoothies and juices. Why not set up a daily habit? There are plenty of immune-boosting recipes out there.
  • Small, local ethnic shops can be a good source of lesser-known pulses and other new foods to try – and they need the business now! Check they’re not crowded and watch out for narrow aisles.

 

Green juice with extras

Spinach is just coming into season, so I combined this with grapefruit and a Bramley apple, throwing in a cucumber to boost the alkalising effect. Then checked the fridge and fruit bowl for any tired old leftovers and threw them in too.

Serves one

Bunch of spinach (from local greengrocers)

One Bramley apple, peeled and sliced

One cucumber, chopped roughly

Three tired celery sticks, chopped roughly

One broccoli stem, from last night’s dinner, chopped

One kiwi fruit from bowl husband keeps to add to his breakfast (I don’t like them on their own), peeled and sliced

One inch turmeric root, peeled and chopped

One inch ginger root, peeled and chopped

Feed everything into the juicer and drink immediately.

Spinach, grapefruit cucumber and apple juice kiwi – stolen from husband’s breakfast fruit bowl – I only like them in juice

 

Mung dhal with eggs and vegetables

This is a highly nutritious and cheap meal. Mung dhal is the inside of green mung beans.  It is cheap and very easy to cook (no soaking) – I got a big bag from my local Asian shop and wondered why people seem to be swooping on the pasta and leaving the pulses behind.  Ring the changes by serving with, or without, eggs, with salad(s), with rice or naan bread, raita and pickles – or even thinned down as a soup. We had it with mixed vegetables one day, peas the next, then I made it thinner and served as a sauce with hard-boiled eggs.

 

Serves six (or two for three days)

Two onions, peeled and chopped

One large red chilli, chopped

Three garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

Two inches ginger root, peeled and grated

One tbps. turmeric powder

One tsp. cumin seeds, ground

One tsp. black mustard seeds, ground

400g tomatoes

400g tin spinach puree

300 to 500g mung dahl

Mixed vegetables, frozen peas

Hard-boiled eggsFry onions, chilli, garlic and ginger with the spices till soft, then add tomatoes, spinach and bring to the boil. Add around 1.25 litres water (adjust liquid depending on if you want a thin or thicker dahl). Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until the dahl is soft. Meanwhile, boil the vegetables/peas till tender, hard-boil the eggs if using. Stir vegetables/peas into the dahl and heat through. Serve over the halved-hard boiled eggs/with rice/bread/raita/salad.

Chocolate peanut brownie  

I’m hearing that people are doing a lot of baking these days, so here’s a recipe I put together. I don’t normally mention brands here, but I’m going to give a shout out to British chocolate company Montezuma’s – high-quality chocolate, with a lovely range of flavours, including the Absolute Black, a 100% cocoa solids chocolate with absolutely no sugar, which I’ve experimented with here. It’s definitely an acquired taste if you eat it as is – dry, rather than bitter. I wondered how it would go down in baking. Here’s how…

80g Absolute Dark with hemp and sea salt and 80g Absolute Dark with Almonds, chopped into chips in a food processor

Sugar (or substitute like coconut blossom nectar – try for as little as you think you can get away with – I added 2 tbsp.)

70g butter, chopped

2 tbsp. water

2 eggs, beaten

125g flour (any flour – I used spelt)

One tbsp. cacao powder

One tbsp. cinnamon

50g salted roasted peanuts

Preheat the oven to around 170˚C. Heat the chocolate chips, sugar, butter and water until melted. Pour into a mixing just and add eggs. Mix well. Then add cacao and cinnamon to the flour in another bowl. Pour in the chocolate mixture, add peanuts and stir well. Add eggs, flour, nuts. Pour the mixture into a baking try and bake for 30 to 40 min. Leave to cool and then cut into squares.

 

 

 

 

Spring forward with greens, turnips and leeks

TurnipsWe’re in Lent. Dry January and Veganuary are behind us – so what to give up now? I grew up with Lent (though I haven’t observed it for many years) and the last thing I remember giving up was sugar in tea – not a bad idea if you want to manage your weight and avoid type 2 diabetes. But let’s think in terms of adding something to our diets, instead of giving up, says Healthy Soul guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

What’s in season, what’s often neglected? I decided to go for spring greens, turnips and leeks ¬– all highly nutritious but maybe overlooked as healthy choices.

 

Spring green juice

Serves one
One head of spring greens, roughly chopped
Two handfuls kale, roughly chopped,
One lemon
One grapefruit, peeled
One cucumber, chopped
Three celery stalks, chopped
One inch turmeric root, chopped
One inch ginger root, chopped

Juice all ingredients except the lemon. I think it’s best to squeeze the juice into the prepared juice before serving.

 

Turnip and butter bean mash

There are many healthier alternatives to traditional potato mash, and turnips and butter beans make a surprisingly delicious combination. Turnips are less starchy than potatoes, if you’re looking for lower carb choices. They have a moderate glycaemic index (GI) at 62 (potatoes have a GI in the high 80, while butter beans have a low GI of 31.

Serves two to three
Around eight small turnips, peeled and chopped
400g tin butter beans, drained
Small piece of butter (or you could use crème fraiche or cream to make the mixture smooth and creamy)
One tbsp. mustard (I used horseradish mustard)
Freshly ground black pepper.
Boil the turnips till tender, then mash with the butter beans, butter and mustard till smooth. Season with black pepper. This reheats well in the microwave.

 

Super stir fry

Serves two
One head of spring greens, chopped
One bunch leeks, chopped
Sliced mushrooms
Two sliced red peppers
One small pineapple, peeled and sliced
One inch ginger, peeled and chopped
Three large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
One tbsp. peanut butter
One tbsp. soy sauce
One tbsp. juice from the pineapple
Lemon grass paste
Fry the ginger and garlic in coconut oil till soft, then add all the vegetables and stir fry for a few minutes before adding the peanut butter, soy sauce, lemon grass paste and pineapple juice to make a sauce. Add more liquid if needed. Stir fry till all cooked and heated through. Serve with high-protein noodles.
Next month: Some healthy Easter treats