Experiments with low carb

raspberries low carbsWithout getting too heavily involved in the low carb, low sugar, low glycaemic index debate, I’d like to offer up just a few suggestions…My first thought was to look for lower carb versions of favourite pasta, rice and potato dishes. But I couldn’t face fish pie or shepherd’s pie with ‘alternative’ mash in this weather (I’ll be back with those in a couple of months) – so I’ve gone for a refreshing fruit smoothie instead. And when I say sugar, I generally mean a simple natural carbohydrate like fructose rather than added sugar, which is usually sucrose.

Our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three fabulous recipes right here:

Refreshing raspberry smoothie

All fruit contains some sugar but the amount varies quite dramatically. Check these amounts in grams per serving:
• Lime – 1.1
• Raspberries – 5
• Kiwi – 6
• Orange – 12
• Banana – 17
• Mango – 46

I’d usually make up a smoothie with hemp/almond/coconut milk, but the presence of the lime will make it go lumpy, so I used cactus water, which is lower in sugar than coconut water. I’ve added the matcha and cacao, as I do to all my smoothies for an extra healthy boost. The result has a refreshing sharpness that I think you’ll love!

Serves one
Four limes, juiced
Large carton of raspberries
Four kiwi fruit, peeled and halved
Cactus water
One tsp matcha powder
One tsp cacao power
Add all ingredients to your blender/Nutribullet, using the cactus water to make up the volume. Blend and drink immediately.

Protein pasta

You can find pasta made with a wide variety of grains, with lentil and spelt pasta being the most readily available. The one with the highest protein/carb ratio I discovered was edamame fettucine.
For comparison, per 100g.
Wholewheat fusilli 30.2g carb 5.2g protein
Edamame fettucine 15g carb 44g protein

I made up my favourite sauce to serve with the pasta…substitute your own.
Serves two

Large carton cherry tomatoes, halved
One large red chilli, finely chopped
Two cloves garlic, crushed
400g tin tomatoes
One tbsp. tomato puree
One tsp. mixed herbs
Fresh basil
Grated pecorino cheese

Fry the garlic and chilli till soft in olive oil then add the other ingredients and simmer until thick. Cook the pasta as per instructions on the packet, drain and serve with the sauce. Finish with torn basil and grated pecorino. Makes a good pasta salad when cold, or reheat.

Summer vegetable risotto

Use quinoa instead of rice, and twice as many green veg as in a traditional risotto recipe.
Serves 3–4

600g broad beans/peas/tenderstem broccoli/asparagus
250g quinoa
Bunch spring onions, chopped
Carton cherry tomatoes, chopped
Fresh herbs
Grated pecorino cheese

Cook the green veg and quinoa. Mix together and add the spring onion and tomatoes. Finish with chopped herbs and grated pecorino cheese.
Next month. Discovering chia seeds

Experiments with cacao

CacaoIf you love chocolate, it’s worthwhile starting to include cacao powder in your daily diet. Unlike chocolate, raw cacao is naturally fermented, unprocessed and free of sugar, milk and other additives. This concentrates the true chocolate and coffee flavour compounds, allowing for a deeper taste experience, writes Dr Susan Aldridge,  Healthy Soul’s  guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Cacao contains over 700 different phytochemicals. Some of these have powerful antioxidant properties; cacao compares favourably with dark chocolate, green tea and blueberries as a source of antioxidants. It is also rich in magnesium. Research suggests that cacao might help prevent blood clots, improve cognitive function and insulin resistance and lower blood pressure.

These recipes use an organic cacao powder that is pressed from raw cacao beans, and has no additives.

Cacao smoothie

A luxurious, tasty and nutritious drink
Serves one
One punnet of strawberries
250mul almond milk
One tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp cacao powder
Blend everything in a Nutribullet or similar device and drink immediately.

Vegetarian chilli

I replaced the mince with a packet of quinoa with seeds (many other varieties of packet quinoa available!)

Serves 2–3 (reheats well and great for a summer party if you scale up)
Two cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Two chopped red chillis
One red onion, chopped
One yellow Romano pepper, chopped
One red Romano pepper, chopped
400g tin tomatoes
400g tin mixed beans
Two tbsp. tomato puree
250g pack quinoa, ready cooked
One tbsp. raw cacao powder
Fry the onion, peppers, garlic, chilli and cacao powder in olive oil till the vegetables are soft. Then add the tomatoes, beans, tomato puree and quinoa. Cook for 15–20 minutes.
Serve with grated cheese/sour cream/finely chopped chillis/sliced avocado. Drizzle with chilli oil if you like it hot.

Cacao peach melba

A healthy take on this classic dessert.
Serves two
250g of the thickest, most luxurious yoghurt you can find
Two tsp raw organic cacao powder
Two peaches, sliced
Handful of raspberries
Stir the cacao powder into the yoghurt and divide between two dessert glasses. Top with the sliced peaches and raspberries and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

Next month. Experiments with fermented foods

Experiments with pineapple

PineappleWhen I heard that sales of pineapple are booming in the UK, with one buyer claiming that it might start to rival avocado in popularity, I just had to put together a pineapple blog to follow on from last month’s avocado blog, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I’ve got bad memories of pineapple from the 1960s. Tinned pineapple chunks, soggy pineapple rings with evaporated milk and pineapple and cheese cubes on cocktail sticks. Time for a re-think, because pineapples are rich in vitamin C (one serving supplies more than your daily recommended intake), potassium and the enzyme bromelain, which can reduce inflammation. One word of caution though – a serving of pineapple contains 16g sugar (compared with raspberries, which contain 5g sugar per serving). So, rather than eat it on its own, try the three recipes below where the sweetness is balanced by lots of other healthy ingredients.

Green pineapple juice
Serves one

The addition of pineapple lifts this classic green juice.

One cucumber, roughly chopped
Three sticks of celery, halved
Two handfuls of spinach leaves
Half a pineapple, sliced
One inch peeled ginger, chopped
Juice all ingredients and drink immediately.

Crunchy salad
Serves two

Three types of green leaves – I used a bag of pea shoots, two baby gem lettuce and a bag of watercress

50g pomegranate seeds
100g pineapple, cut into small chunks
Handful of mixed seeds (linseed, pumpkin and sunflower)
One sliced avocado
Toss all ingredients in a dressing of flaxseed oil, cider vinegar and lemon. To make more of a main meal of this salad, add an extra avocado and some prawns.

Fruity curry
Serves two to three

Two onions, chopped
One inch grated ginger
Two Tbsp curry paste
100g oily toor dhal (or red lentils or similar pulse)
400g coconut milk
400g tin tomatoes
400g mushrooms, sliced
100g frozen peas
one-quarter pineapple, chopped
half mango, chopped

Fry the onion and ginger in coconut oil till soft and add the curry paste and dhal. Stir and add the coconut milk and tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the mushrooms and peas. Stir for a few minutes, then add the pineapple and mango and heat through.
Next month – experiments with cacao

Experiments with avocado

avocadoAvocado is used increasingly to make dishes vegan – instead of butter on toast and in main course salads instead of ham or chicken. But avocado is far more than an animal product substitute, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition..

The fruit of the Persea Americana tree is rich in vitamins, including vitamin E, and contains more potassium than a banana.  It has a glycaemic index of zero and contains more fat than any other fruit. This is ‘heart healthy’ monounsaturated fat – specifically, oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil. Here are three easy ways to include more avocados in your diet.

Avocado green smoothie

This is a lovely, creamy drink which is rather like a super-healthy chocolate milk shake.

Serves one
50g Spinach
One avocado, peeled, stoned and sliced
Cacao
50g strawberries
50g raspberries
300ml hemp, almond or coconut milk (or a mixture)
Blend all the ingrdients in a Nutribullet or similar device. Drink immediately.
Avocado on toast

This is my version of avocado on toast, where I replace the traditional poached egg with a version of the classic Italian dish insalata tricolore, which combines avocado with tomatoes and mozzarella.

Serves one as a light main, or make double quantities/add salad for a main for two. You could also cut this into smaller pieces for a party canape dish.

Thick slice of interesting bread (I used walnut, but you could use olive or sourdough), toasted
One sliced avocado
Sundried tomatoes
Soft cheese (I used Cornish brie, but mozzarella or feta would also work well)
Chopped mint/basil/microgreens to finish.

Layer the avocado, tomatoes and cheese on the toast and heat under the grill until the cheese has melted. Finish with the herbs/microgreens.

Avocado hummus

This spread is packed with healthy fats from the avocado and the oils.

Makes around four servings

Tub of hummus (suggest going for an ‘artisan’ or home-made version with extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil, rather than standard supermarket product)
One avocado, peeled and sliced
One tbsp. flax seed oil (I used the chilli-steeped version, but the plain version is just as good)
Juice of one lemon

Blitz all ingredients in a Nutribullet or food processor. Serve with crudites and/or pitta bread. Keeps for a day or two in the fridge.
Next month: Experiments with pineapple

All about cholesterol

Prescription of statins for lowering cholesterol has become more and more widespread, but latest recommendations are that healthy people should not routinely be taking them. NICE (The National Institute for Clinical Excellence) recommends them for people who have a 20 per cent greater chance of developing heart disease within 10 years.

The latest study published in The Cochrane Library claims that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that statins should be taken by those who aren’t at risk.  Statins bring a variety of side-effects with them which have been reported as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, swelling of the ankles,  liver problems, kidney failure and muscle weakness.

 Vinciane Ollington,  one of Healthy Soul’s experts, explains the role of cholesterol in the body:

‘There are many myths that portray fat and cholesterol as one of the worst foods you can consume. These myths are actually harming your health.’

What is cholesterol, and why do you need it?

Cholesterol is a lipoprotein – fats combined with proteins which is found in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids. It is also vital for neurological function. Your liver makes about 75 percent of your body’s cholesterol.

According to conventional medicine, there are two types of cholesterol:
1. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, removes excess cholesterol from your arteries.
2. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, circulates in your blood and may build up in your arteries, forming plaque that makes your arteries narrow and less flexible. If a clot forms in one of these narrowed arteries leading to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may result.

When HDL, the “good” cholesterol, takes cholesterol from your body’s tissues and arteries, it brings it back to your liver. It goes back to your liver because your body is trying to make and conserve the cholesterol for the precise reason that it is so essential to life. If the purpose of this was to eliminate cholesterol from your body, it would make sense that the cholesterol would be shuttled back to your kidneys or intestines so that your body could remove it.

Cholesterol and inflammation – what’s the connection?

If your arteries are damaged, cholesterol is necessary in order to replace your damaged cells. This results in a “scar” forming in your artery which is known as plaque. This plaque, along with the thickening of your blood and constricting of your blood vessels that normally occur during any inflammatory process, can indeed increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks.

It is sadly quite common for damage to occur in your body on a regular basis. In this case, you are in a dangerous state of chronic inflammation. Instead of looking at the cause of chronic inflammation, conventional medicine looks at the effect (the increased cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream to repair your arteries) and conclude that cholesterol is the cause of heart attacks.

Where is the wisdom in lowering cholesterol?

If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to do a job: help your body heal and repair. It does not seem very wise to merely lower the cholesterol and forget about why it is there in the first place. It would seem much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol, the reason for the chronic inflammation.

As cholesterol is essential for the good functioning of your body, all kind of nasty things can happen if your cholesterol is too low. These range from depressive symptoms and violent behaviour to higher risk of various chronic diseases. An optimum level of cholesterol would be around 200 mg/dL (5.12 mmol/L).

The adverse effects of statins
Statin drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme in your liver that is needed to manufacture cholesterol. Side effects of statins include an increased risk of polyneuropathy (nerve damage that causes pain in the hands and feet and trouble walking), dizziness, memory loss, decreased function of the immune system, depression and liver problems, including a potential increase in liver enzymes.

Statins also happen to deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), beneficial to heart health and muscle function. This depletion can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, soreness, and eventually heart failure.

It makes more sense to lower inflammation, and thereby the risk of heart disease, naturally by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. Sadly rather than educating their patients, doctors choose the easier option of prescribing a cholesterol lowering drug….. for life.    Vinciane Ollington, MSc, LCH, MARH  www.completehomeopathy.co.uk

Supplements that lower cholesterol

Dr John Briffa in his book, Ultimate Health A-Z, and renowned nutritionist Patrick Holford suggest that  Niacin (a form of Vitamin B3) can be helpful in  lowering cholesterol, but you need the ‘no blush’ niacin or you can get a kind of ‘hot flush’ in your face when taking it.  Eskimos are very healthy despite their high cholesterol diet, so eating fish all the time is obviously good for your health –  Omega 3 fish oils can have the effect of lowering LDL cholesterol. Patrick Holford also claims in his book, New Optimum Nutrition Bible, that statins block the production in the body of COQ10 (Co-enzyme Q10) which is essential for the healthy functioning of the heart.  These books are available at Amazon (see below).

Featured products
Antioxidant Plus COQ10 Nature’s Own 30 tablets £11.85
Efamarine Omega 3 fish oils Efamol 90 capsules £9.99
Flaxseed oils Nature’s Own 60 veg caps £9.25
No Blush Niacin Patrick Holford 60 £16.59
To get a 5% discount go to www.superfooduk.com and use the Promotion Code: HSoul1

See our article on Soya Good for Cholesterol

Further reading


– Trick and Treat by Barry Groves
– The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth about what really causes heart disease and how to avoid it
by Malcolm Kendrick
– Put your heart in your mouth by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride

Click on the Amazon carousel on the home page to order these books