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).

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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

Experiments with turmeric

Turmeric rootTurmeric, Curcuma longa, a spice related to ginger, is becoming increasingly popular – with coffee shops offering turmeric latte and turmeric tea, while health foods stores are expanding their ranges of supplements and other turmeric-containing products, 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 the world of medical research, a recent study showed that taking a highly bioavailable turmeric supplement improved memory and attention in a group of older adults. Brain scans done as part of the study suggested that the supplement helped prevent the accumulation of amyloid and tau protein deposits in the parts of the brain linked to mood and memory. The findings led the researchers to speculate that turmeric might prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as well as improving memory in older age.

Turmeric has been used for 4,000 years as a traditional remedy. Research has suggested anti-inflammatory properties can help fight osteoarthritis and prevent cancer – although many of these studies are confined to cells and animal models. It’s long been believed that the active ingredient is curcumin although there are many other compounds in turmeric which may be of equal, if not greater, therapeutic value. The problem is that curcumin is not very easily absorbed by the body so, if you are taking it as a supplement, look for one of the (usually more expensive) ‘bioactive’ brands.

This month, my experiments substitute fresh turmeric root for the usual turmeric powder. Be warned – it really does stain when you grate it. I turned up for a manicure last week, desperate to have the polish cover up my bright yellow nails!

Turmeric Rainbow Juice

I always use ginger in my juices. In this one I add turmeric, rather than substituting it for ginger. I’ve been reading some good things about the therapeutic effects of beetroot recently so I added this as well, along with the usual ‘something green’, carrot and orange.

Serves one
Three oranges, peeled and halved
One lemon
Three carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
One small beetroot, roughly chopped
Handful of kale (or spinach)
Two inches turmeric root, peeled
Two inches root ginger, peeled

Juice everything and drink immediately.

Turmeric lentil soup

I am Up North as I write this and there has been a heavy snowfall. I made this soup last week, but it would be the ideal warm comforter for today.

Makes around three servings
Two onions, chopped
Two inches turmeric root, peeled and grated
Two inches root ginger, peeled and treated
One tsp cinnamon
One tsp cumin
100g red lentils
100g yellow split peas
One 400g tin tomatoes
500ml stock

Fry the turmeric, ginger, onions and spices in coconut oil till soft. Add the lentils and split peas, stir till coated, then add tomatoes and cook gently till the pulses soften. Add the stock and spice up with black pepper and chilli flakes if it needs it. Cook until lentils are done and blend.

Weekend Curry

Experimenting with turmeric root was a good excuse to invent a new curry recipe. This is probably not very original, but it is quick, easy and delicious.

Two to three servings
One red chilli, chopped
Two crushed cloves of garlic
One inch section turmeric root, grated
One inch section of ginger root, grated
One 400g jar curry sauce or, if you’re trying to cut down on processed food, substitute a 400g tin chopped tomatoes
One 400g tin coconut milk
Packet of Quorn mince
200g fresh or frozen peas
200g sliced mushrooms
Two onions, chopped
One tbsp. tomato puree
Squeeze of lemon

Fry the onions, chilli, garlic, turmeric and ginger in coconut oil and add the mince. Cook for about 10 minutes, till mince is brown and then add the coconut milk and curry sauce/tomatoes. Simmer for 30 minutes, then throw in the peas and mushrooms. Finish with the tomato puree and lemon.
Next month – experiments with avocado

Prevent hay fever early

Autumn 2015 1

Start early to prevent hay fever this season with natural health remedies.

Hay fever facts :sneezing newsletter

  • Around 12 million people have hay fever in the UK
  • 95  per cent are affected by grass pollen, but many suffer from the tree pollens that are abundant from the spring.
  • Silver birch is the most prevalent hay fever trigger from trees, and it releases pollen as the temperature goes up.

Nutritional changes

More and more people are getting hay fever and age is no  barrier – you can start getting it at any age.   Ali Cullen, nutritional therapist at A. Vogel suggests some nutritional changes:

• Eat foods with anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties: including carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, avocado, mango, apricots, peaches, nectarines, papaya, pears, pineapples, blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, blackcurrants, prunes, plums, raisins, figs, herring, salmon, sardines, trout, and pilchards.
• Cut down on foods that trigger inflammation such as: caffeine and refined sugar.
• Avoid mucus-forming dairy foods – milk products – to help to reduce catarrh.

The symptoms

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen or mould which the body reacts to as alien substances. It causes numerous symptoms:

• Sneezing
• Runny, red and itchy eyes
• Blocked nose
• Wheezing
• Itchy throat
• Coughing
• Headaches and tiredness
• Sleep problems

Although it’s unpleasant the body is dealing with the alien substance by trying to get rid of it through sneezing and runny nose and eyes. Not surprisingly all this makes people feel very run down and unwell for as long as it lasts.

What else could it be?

Different people react to different pollens such as grass pollen, tree pollen and mould spores. Some weeds like nettle can affect people who are sensitive and often sufferers also react to house dust mites, animal fur and chemicals in household products and furniture.

Where you live

If you live in the south-east, the Midlands, north-east or central Scotland, particularly in a city you are more likely to suffer than people in most of Scotland and Wales, the north and the west country. The pollen season is shorter in Scotland and Wales and places like Devon or the Lake District benefit because of mountains and moorland.

What can you do about it?

Most people use anti-histamines, but they can make you drowsy.  There are some great natural remedies including a nasal wash – with a tiny bit of salt in warm water, or beetroot juice (if you can bear it) to clear out the nostrils. You can buy neti pots that enable you to do this easily – it has a little spout. This isn’t a pleasant experience and you might prefer one of the nasal sprays below.

A few tips

  • Avoid caffeine as it triggers histamine release – green teas and herbal teas are better.
  • Stay away from grassy areas particularly in the early evening when the pollen count peaks.
  • Cut down on dairy as it can increase the production of mucus.
  • Refined sugar makes blood sugar levels rise and fall, resulting in a surge of adrenaline which releases histamine.
  • Inhale steam with a few drops of basil, tea tree in to soothe nostrils.
  •  Rub some olive oil, Vaseline or HayMax on the inside of your nose to trap pollen.
  • Keep windows closed where possible. Net curtains can trap the pollen.
  • Wear sunglasses to keep pollen away from eyes

Herbal Remedies

• Luffa is little known but believed by nutritional experts such as Alison Cullen from Ayrshire to be the ‘number one treatment’. Clears a blocked or runny nose, and watery red eyes but has no side-effects, and children can take it. Start two weeks before the hayfever season is in force.
• Echinacea can be taken from one month before the hayfever season and then combined with Luffa.
• Euphrasia as a herbal tincture can ease watery sore eyes.
• Nettle for people who get skin rashes as well – a natural antihistamine.

Quercetin is a substance found in onions that is believed to stabilise the body’s cells that produce histamine and cause the allergic response (sniffing, sneezing, wheezing). It is enhanced by Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, which is said to help the absorption of quercetin into the body.

Homeopathic remedies for hay fever

Susanne Haar, Nelsons Homeopathic Pharmacist recommends trying a homeopathic consultation. Homeopathy can be used to help with the symptoms of hay fever and useful remedies include:

•    Nux vomica: for a runny nose during the day, which is dry at night; irritable and impatient mood; a person who feels worse in the morning, better in open air.
•    Euphrasia: for watery irritated eyes.
•    Allium cepa: for sneezing; runny nose; irritated eyes; when a person feels better in cool open air.
`

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Experimenting with ‘superfoods’: cider vinegar

Cider vinegarFor 2018, I’m setting the alphabet theme aside and, instead, I’m going to experiment with some so-called superfoods, looking at how to include them in your diet, 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’m not planning to take an in-depth look at the evidence base – just at how to add some fun, imagination and maybe even a bit of healthy input into everyday eating.

So, let’s kick off by experimenting with cider vinegar, which has long been recommended for treating osteoarthritis and high blood glucose. It’s also said to aid weight loss. In an experiment carried out by Michael Mosley for the BBC a couple of years ago, taking cider vinegar did lower blood glucose and cholesterol when taken before a meal (while malt vinegar did not), although there was no impact on participants’ weight.

Cider vinegar is made by fermenting chopped up apples to make acetic acid (also the main component of malt vinegar). Culinary cider vinegar is clear, as it has been filtered and pasteurised. Head for the health food shop and pick up a bottle of cider vinegar with ‘the mother’, which is the cloudy complex mixture of yeast, bacteria, enzymes and so on remaining when the product is neither filtered nor pasteurised. It’s the presence of ‘the mother’ which is said to account for cider vinegar’s therapeutic properties.

Cider vinegar cocktail

Though I’m not keen on the concept of ‘cleansing’ or ‘detoxing’, I quite like to set the tone for the day’s eating by sipping a concoction that is meant to do just that! I like hot water and lemon, but we’ve now switched to a cider vinegar cocktail, drunk sometime mid-morning. At the moment. the recipe is one tablespoon cider vinegar, a teaspoon of Manuka honey, and one vitamin C tablet, topped up with fizzy water. Sometimes I add the juice of half a lemon. Or you could keep it very simple and just have a tablespoon of cider vinegar with hot water.

Orange & Green Juice

Instead of (or as well as?) your daily cider vinegar cocktail, why not add cider vinegar to a healthy juice? This one combines ‘something green’ with ‘something sweet’.

Serves one
Two oranges
One large carrot
Bag of spinach
One inch peeled ginger root
Juice all these ingredients, and add one tbsp. cider vinegar. Drink immediately.

Leafy avocado salad

This is a nice mixture of colours and textures, with a good dose of healthy fats from the avocado and seeds.
Serves two
Bunch or bag of watercress
Other leaves – spinach, baby kale, pea shoots
One avocado, chopped
Two tbsp. pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Two tbsp. pomegranate seeds

Dressing

One tbsp. cider vinegar
One tbsp. extra virgin flax seed oil
Mix all salad ingredients and toss with the oil and vinegar.

Sweet and sour vegan stir fry

Although I didn’t do Veganuary (or, indeed, ‘dry’ January), I am interested in the vegan approach – so I’m going to experiment with some non-animal recipes.

Serves two
100g mushrooms, sliced
One leek, sliced finely
Small white or Savoy cabbage, sliced finely
Half a pineapple, sliced finely
Bunch of spring onions, sliced finely
One tbsp. cider vinegar
Two tbsp. pineapple juice, from the pineapple listed above
One tbsp. soy sauce or equivalent (eg mixed aminos)
One tbsp. tomato puree
Heat coconut oil in a frying pan or wok and add all veg and pineapple and fry for a few minutes. Then add the vinegar, juice, soy sauce and tomato puree and stir fry for another five minutes. Serve with brown rice or wholewheat noodles.

Next month – experimenting with turmeric.