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

Celebrate February with celery

celeryFebruary marks the end of the British celery season (although imported celery is, of course, available year round), so grab some while you can, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Celery is 95% water – and the rest of it is rich in vitamin C, minerals, soluble fibre and anti-inflammatory antioxidant phytochemicals. It’s valued in traditional Chinese medicine for treating high blood pressure. Of course, celery is an ideal healthy snack – portable, crunchy and with a handy groove that you can fill with peanut butter, cream cheese or a dip. Here are a few more ideas for adding more of this low-calorie (10 calories a stick) nutrient-dense vegetable to your 5-a-day (or more!) fruit and veg a day intake.

Classic celery juice

Celery has an alkalising effect so, so look no further for a lovely green juice recipe if you’re interested in this potential health benefit. By the way, I’ve started to add turmeric root alongside ginger root to all my vegetable juices.
Serves one
One cucumber, roughly chopped
Several sticks of celery, chopped
Big bunch spinach
One inch of turmeric root, peeled and chopped
One inch of ginger root, peeled and chopped
Juice all ingredients and drink immediately.

Celery and lentil soup

This main meal soup is a great winter warmer. I got the idea from a talk by Professor Mike Lean of the University of Glasgow about a ‘traditional Scottish’ low-calorie diet consisting of porridge and lentil soup (which he hopes will put type 2 diabetes into remission). You can keep it simple with just celery and lentils, or add any other vegetables you happen to have hanging around (I found a parsnip at the back of the fridge).

Serves four
250g red lentils
One head celery, chopped
One tbsp. dried mixed herbs
One tsp. chilli flakes
One litre of vegetable stock (you can use more, or less, depending on how thick you would like your soup to be)
Tomato puree

Cook the celery with the herbs till soft, then add the lentils and stock. Cook until the lentils are soft, then liquidise and add tomato puree to taste.

Crunchy salad

The point of this salad is to combine celery with some other crunchy ingredients. I was going to add peanuts for even more crunch, but decided to use them in the dressing to give an Oriental kick.

Serves four
Celery sticks, finely chopped
One red pepper, finely chopped
Two carrots, grated
Small white cabbage, grated
One cup of pomegranate seeds
One pineapple, sliced and diced
Dressing
One tbsp. peanut butter
Flaxseed oil
Soy sauce

Whizz the peanut butter, oil and soy sauce in a food processer to make the dressing. Mix the other ingredients and toss with the dressing.

Next month: Spring forward with greens, turnips and leeks

December: Some healthy comfort food for the festive season

Cranberries ChristmasHad enough of Christmas food ads already? Let’s plan ahead and make sure to include some healthy home-cooked dishes amid the festive frenzy. I recently had some very delicious mulligatawny soup at a posh Indian restaurant and decided to recreate it (particularly as I’ve just been at a conference where the health benefits of lentil soup were being promoted), writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition. At the same restaurant, I had some amazing spiced roast potatoes, so decided to recreate those too, with a healthy twist. And, as always, let’s kick off with a seasonal juice recipe.

Winter boost juice

If you’re partying a lot – be it the office do or a family dinner (or, of course, both), it’s a good idea to juice a lot as well. Fresh cranberries are in the shops now, grapefruit is in season and it’s always good to top up with pure pomegranate juice.

Serves two
Three red grapefruit, peeled and segmented
One carton fresh cranberries
Two inch ginger root, peeled and chopped roughly
Pure pomegranate juice
Juice the grapefruit, cranberries and ginger, pour into two glasses and top up with pomegranate juice.

Swede and Leek Mulligatawny soup

Serves two to three
Parsnips, swedes and turnips are in season and are a great source of fibre, vitamin C and antioxidant phytochemicals, while leeks are prebiotic, which support the health of the gut microbiome.
Half a swede chopped (or substitute turnips, parsnips)
One large leek, chopped
One large onion, finely chopped
100g or so of lentils (reduce or omit for a thinner soup)
Two inch piece of root ginger, grated
Four cloves of garlic, chopped
One tbps. curry powder
500ml (or more to top up) vegetable stock

Tomato puree

Cook the swede, onion, garlic, ginger and leek in coconut oil until soft and add the curry powder and lentils. Cook for a further five minutes, then add the stock. Simmer until everything is soft then add tomato puree to taste, liquidise (add more stock if too thick).

Turmeric and rosemary roasties
Serves two

Serve with a roast/Christmas dinner or in wedges with dips for a buffet.
500g roasting potatoes, whole, halved or cut in wedges
One tbsp. turmeric powder
One tbsp. chopped rosemary
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Boil the potatoes till tender, drain and shake them around a bit in the pan. Heat one tbsp. coconut oil in a saucepan. Toss the potatoes with the turmeric and rosemary in the oil till coated. Cook in a foil lined tray in the oven for 30 minutes or until they’re crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
Next time: It’s a citrus New Year…

Pears, apples and citrus fruits – welcome to 2020

pearsPears – rich in soluble fibre

Pears, apples and citrus fruits are all in season this month, so I’ve highlighted them for a healthy start to the year, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.  A recent study from the University of Reading showed that eating two apples a day, over an eight-week period, can lower LDL-cholesterol. The decrease was not as large as that brought about by statins but could be very significant over a long period of time and in combination with other healthy habits.

Meanwhile, pears are a rich source of soluble fibre, which can also lower cholesterol, as well as lowering blood glucose. There are several varieties of apples and pears, of course, but if you check the origins and go for fruit grown in England (Conference and Comice pears for instance), you’ll also be helping the environment by saving on air miles.

All citrus fruits are nutrient dense – being rich in soluble fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. If you only buy tangerines at Christmas, maybe try including them in your diet from now on?

Here’s a quick and easy health tip for the New Year – get into the fruit habit. At the start of the day, put out a pear, some easy peel tangerines, and a couple of apples on your desk, if working at home, or pop them into your bag if you’re going out. It’s a good way to push 5-a-day to 7 and beyond!

Total citrus juice
Serves two
The sweetness of the oranges and clementines perfectly balances the sharpness of the grapefruit and limes. And I’ve found that I get more juice from lemons and limes by using a glass squeezer rather than the juicer.
One net of clementines, peeled and segmented
Four large oranges (I used Emperor, which are easy to peel), peeled and segmented
Three red grapefruit, peeled and segmented
Two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Two limes
Juice everything but the limes. Halve the limes and extract the juice with a glass squeezer and use to top up the mixture. Give a quick stir, to blend in the lime juice, and drink immediately.

Spinach, pear and Bramley juice
Again, this is a nice blend, where the sweetness of the pears nicely counteracts the taste of the apples and the spinach. I like Bramleys in juice because they’re not too sweet. In fact, in her anti-cancer non-dairy programme (The Plant Programme by Professor Jane Plant and Gill Tidey) Jane Plant recommends juicing Bramleys rather than other varieties because of their high vitamin C and folic acid content.
Serves two
200g spinach
Three Bramley apples, cored and chopped roughly
Three pears, chopped roughly
Two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Two lemons
Juice everything but the lemons. Halve the lemons and extract the juice with a glass squeezer and use to top up the mixture. Give a quick stir, to blend in the lemon juice, and drink immediately.

Pear and Bramley crumble
Serves four
500g Bramley, cored and roughly chopped
500g pears, roughly chopped
Sugar and cinnamon to taste
For the crumble mixture
100g nuts, chopped
175g flour
85g butter, chopped into small pieces
25g sugar
One tbsp. cinnamon
First cook the fruit. Add three tablespoons of water to the apples and bring to boil in a saucepan. Cook on a lower heat for about five minutes and then add the pears. Cook for a further five minutes or until the fruit has softened. Set aside while you prepare the crumble mix. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a crumb-like texture. Top the fruit with this mixture in a baking dish and bake at 190˚C for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown.

Next month: Celebrating celery

Spotlight on seeds for November

Seeds NovemberSeeds are probably more nutrient-dense than any other food – after all, they contain everything a plant needs to grow to maturity. They are rich in protein, essential fatty acids, fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Here are just a few reasons why my recipes this month are all about seeds, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

• Pumpkin seeds ¬ – rich in zinc
• Chia seeds ¬– high in fibre
• Linseeds or flax seeds ¬– an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, which is important for cardiovascular health
• Sunflower seeds ¬– a good source of vitamin E
• Hemp seeds – contain a healthy 3:1 ratio of omega-6: omega-3 fatty acids.

Along with the seeds themselves, sprouting seeds are also rich in nutrients. High in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, they are useful for adding texture to salads, soups and pasta dishes.

Hemp and raspberry smoothie
Three types of seeds in one delicious pink smoothie. Hemp seed milk is made from pulverized hemp seeds blended with water – it’s creamier than nut milks and worth a try if you’re experimenting with non-dairy milks.

Serves one
One carton of raspberries
One tsp. ground linseeds
One tsp. chia seeds
One tsp. cacao powder
Half tsp. matcha
One tsp. turmeric latte powder
Hemp seed milk.

Mix all ingredients, using enough hemp seed milk to make a smoothie of your desired consistency. How many seeds can you pack into a juice?

Insalata tricolore with pumpkin and sunflower seeds

This dish is inspired by a delicious snack I had in a café recently – avocado on sourdough toast, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. The smoothness of the avocado contrasts very nicely with the crunch of the seeds. So, I’ve translated this idea into one of my favourite Italian dishes – insalata tricolore.

Serves two
One large avocado, sliced
Six tomatoes, sliced
100g mozzarella or burrata, sliced
One tub of sundried tomatoes
One tbsp. pumpkin seeds
One tbsp. sunflower seeds
Olives (optional)
Fresh basil leaves
Flax seed oil, balsamic vinegar to dress

The classic way of serving this dish is to layer the green, white and red elegantly together – but you could just mix them up. Add a bit of extra interest by scattering sundried tomatoes on the top, then the seeds. Finish with the torn basil and a drizzle of flax seed oil (more seeds!) and balsamic vinegar (for that real Italian flavour). You could also add in some olives to make it extra special!

Sprouts, seeds and salad

This is super healthy. A recent study showed that regular consumption of asparagus improved insulin production and lowered blood glucose – so could help protect against Type 2 diabetes. And I don’t need to remind you of the health benefits of broccoli. Combined with seeds, sprouts and a flax seed oil dressing, this salad ticks all the boxes…

Serves two
Two bunches of asparagus
Two bunches of tenderstem broccoli
One tbsp. mixed seeds
Two handfuls of mixed sprouts (alfalfa, broccoli, mung bean and so on)
Dressing: one clove of garlic, crushed with herbed rock salt to a puree, then whisked with flax seed oil and lemon juice
Cook the broccoli and asparagus, set aside to cool and chop into small pieces. Mix with the seeds and sprouts, then dress with the oil and lemon mixture.
Next month: Some Winter comfort food