S is for Spanish: the Mediterranean Diet Part Three

peppersThere is more good news about the Mediterranean Diet. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer in March, and reported in the Telegraph showed that women who adhered most closely to the Mediterranean style of eating had a 40 per cent reduced risk of oestrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, which is one of the most deadly forms of the disease. The research tracked women aged between 55 and 69 for 20 years, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy eating habits of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – Spain, France, Italy and Greece. It is typically high in cereals, fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, low in red meat and moderate in dairy products, fish, poultry and wine. For more details, see the Mediterranean Diet Foundation.

For this instalment of the Mediterranean diet blog, we visit Spain. Spanish cooking contains three of my favourite healthy food choices – olives, peppers and tomatoes. Olives contain high amounts of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid which lowers cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. They are also packed with a wide range of phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, peppers and tomatoes are both rich in antioxidant carotenoids (the phytochemicals that give them their bright colours).

Gazpacho Smoothie

Make your smoothie into this classic, refreshing Spanish soup.
Serves two
400g cherry tomatoes
One cucumber
One red pepper
100g yoghurt
One tbsp. cider vinegar
One tbsp. flaxseed or olive oil

Whizz the above in a Nutribullet. Put in the fridge overnight. Add an ice cube to each serving and then serve with little bowls of diced cucumber, tomato, red and green pepper, red onion or shallots.

Rainbow Peppers

Padrón peppers are famous in Spain. Here, I combine this classic dish with stewed red, orange and yellow peppers.
Serves two
One red, one yellow and one orange pepper, halved and sliced into strips.
Three garlic cloves, crushed
One red chilli, diced
Jar or tub of sun dried tomatoes
One carton cherry tomatoes
One tub mixed olives
One tbsp. your favourite spice(s) – I use cinnamon and paprika
One tbsp. rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil and cook the peppers, chilli, garlic and spices for one minute so everything is covered in oil. Lower the heat and cook gently with the lid on the pan till the peppers are soft. Now add the tomatoes, turn up the heat and cook with the lid off until most of the liquid has evaporated. Eat hot or cold, alone as part of a Mediterranean buffet or as a topping for pasta (not Spanish, I know, but perhaps with a sprinkling of grated Manchego cheese to add an extra Spanish accent). If serving the peppers cold, try adding a slug of flaxseed oil for an omega-3 boost.

Vegetable Tortilla

A classic tortilla contains potatoes, but if you are looking for a no-carb version, use peppers, shallots/red onions, peas and asparagus with the eggs.
Serves two
Six eggs
One red pepper, diced
Two shallots/one red onion, diced
100g peas
100g asparagus
Olive or rapeseed oil

Fry the onions and peppers in the oil till soft. Cook the peas and asparagus, beat the eggs and mix. Add the egg mixture to the frying pan and, when it just starts to solidify at the edges, take the pan off the heat and place it under a medium grill. Cook until the omelette has solidified.

Coming next: M is for Mint

G is for Greek: the Mediterranean Diet Part Two

Greek saladEating a diet with a higher ‘Mediterranean diet’ score reduces the risk of further heart problems in those with established (but stable) coronary heart disease, according to a new study, writes HS guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

The research covered 15,482 people in 39 countries. In lifestyle questionnaires, they were also scored on their consumption of a ‘Western diet’ (refined grains, deep fried foods, sweets and desserts, sugary drinks). Surprisingly, perhaps, the study showed no link between the Western diet and the risk of further heart problems. This finding led lead researcher Ralph Stewart of the University of Auckland to comment. “The research suggests we should place more emphasis on encouraging people with heart problems to eat more healthy foods, and perhaps focus less on avoiding unhealthy foods.”

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy eating habits of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – France, Spain, Italy and Greece. It is typically high in cereals, fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, low in red meat and moderate in dairy products, fish, poultry and wine. For more details, see the Mediterranean Diet Foundation.

Greek olives
Restaurant and ready meals from the Mediterranean countries are, of course, readily available in the UK. But how healthy are they? Think greasy kebabs, pizzas with thick crusts stuffed with cheese….

So, I’m going to visit each of the four Mediterranean countries and come up with three new healthy recipes for any of you that want to start (or continue with) the Mediterranean diet. And I’ll include a new piece of research with each one. This week we are in Greece.
Extra protein hummus

Add some texture with the chick peas, and protein with the nut butter.

Serves 4–6 (and keeps for up to a week)

400g tin of chick peas
200g tub of your favourite/high-quality hummus
Two tbsp. nut butter (look out for mixed nut/seed butters and butters with different nuts – I used mixed peanut, almond and cashews but there are lots of other options)
Flaxseed/olive/rapeseed oil – whatever high-quality oil you like
Lemon juice
Garlic cloves, crushed

Mash the drained chick peas and then mix with the hummus and nut butter to make a smooth paste. Add oil, lemon juice and garlic to taste. Serve with crudites, pitta bread and my special Greek salad. Add the falafels (recipe below) for a Greek feast!

Special Greek salad

I’ve added some healthy pomegranate seeds and chunks of watermelon for sweetness and texture to this classic Greek salad.

Serves 4 and keeps well

100g pomegranate seeds
Quarter watermelon, cut into chunks
Half cucumber, chopped
One or two chopped red onions
Bag or bunch of watercress
Handful of pumpkin/sunflower seeds
220g cherry tomatoes, halved
200g mixed olives
200g barrel-aged feta cheese, cut into chunks
Cider vinegar
Lemon juice
Flaxseed or olive oil
Fresh chopped herbs

Mix main ingredients in a big bowl and toss with oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Dress with herbs.

Baked falafels

I like the idea of baking falafels rather than deep or shallow frying them. First, I’ll confess I’m not good at frying stuff – I tend to over or underdo it! Second, baked has fewer calories than fried. This is a good chance to experiment with different herbs and spices in the falafel mix (I noticed the Moroccan spices hadn’t had an outing for a while).

Makes 16

One small onion, finely chopped
One garlic clove, crushed
400g can chickpeas
Two tsp ground cumin
One tsp sumac
One tsp ras el hanout
One tbsp finely chopped mint
One beaten egg, beaten

Fry the onion in the oil till softened and then add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes (watch that the garlic doesn’t go too dark). Remove from heat. Cool and transfer to a mixing bowl. Drain the chickpeas and add to the onions and garlic. Mash up the mixture to a rough paste. Add the herbs and spices (plus salt and pepper to taste, if you like). Now mix in the egg. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and shape into falafel-size balls on a baking tray. At this stage, pop the falafels in the fridge for a bit and heat the oven to 200C. Then bake for 25 minutes, till brown and crisp and golden-brown, turning from time to time.

Coming next: S is for Spanish

The superfood myth

So-called superfoods are some of the simplest and healthiest foods we can eat,  and we are  great believers in  them. However, the marketing hype has caused prices to be inflated by some suppliers and stores and this interesting graphic exposes some of the myths about superfoods.  Read more about our favourite superfoods in Superfoods.

 

superfoods1.3

 

 

 

 https://www.vouchercloud.com/resources/the-superfood-myth

 

I is for Italian: the Mediterranean Diet Part One

mediterranean dietA recent report from the ongoing European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) Norfolk study has shown that people adhering more closely to a Mediterranean diet were less likely to suffer from heart disease, writes our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,   freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

The effect was small – but significant. Lead author, Dr Nita Forouhi of Cambridge University, said: “We estimate that 3.9% of all new cardiovascular disease cases or 12.5% of cardiovascular deaths in our UK based study population could potentially avoided if this population increased their adherence to the Mediterranean diet.”

[By the way, EPIC Norfolk is not just about cancer – it’s a long-running, highly respected investigation into the impact of diet on health]

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy eating habits of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – France, Spain, Italy and Greece. It is typically high in cereals, fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, low in red meat and moderate in dairy products, fish, poultry and wine. For more details, see the Mediterranean Diet Foundation.
Restaurant and ready meals from the Mediterranean countries are, of course, readily available in the UK. But how healthy are they? Think greasy kebabs, pizzas with thick crusts stuffed with cheese….

So I’m going to visit each of the four Mediterranean countries and come up with three new healthy recipes for any of you that want to start (or continue with) the Mediterranean diet. And I’ll include a new piece of research with each one.

Healthy Minestrone Soup

At least two servings of vegetables, and protein and carbs from the beans and pasta, makes this a main course soup. It’s also one that you can re-heat or freeze for another day.

Serves two
One onion, chopped
Three sticks of celery, chopped
Three carrots, diced
Half a green cabbage (the greener the better), shredded finely
Handful of frozen peas
One litre vegetable stock or water
400g tin of cannellini beans
80g any kind of fine/small pasta
One tbsp dried mixed herbs
Tomato puree

Fry the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until soft. Add the stock/water and herbs with the beans. Simmer everything for about 20 mins and then add the pasta and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add the cabbage, peas and enough tomato puree to give the soup a nice orangey/red colour. Don’t blend – this is a chunky soup! Add more water/stock if it seems too thick.

Pitta Pizza

This recipe aims to invert the crust/topping ratio of the chain store/restaurant pizza by using pitta bread as a thin base and a thicker than usual vegetable topping. Again, each serving provides at least two helpings of veg – more if you serve with a salad!

Serves two
Two wholemeal pitta breads
Tomato puree
One pack mushrooms, chopped
One red pepper, chopped
One yellow or orange pepper, chopped
One red onion, chopped
One tbsp. mixed herbs
100g black/green olives
One chopped red chilli
Grated mozzarella cheese

Prepare the vegetable topping by frying the peppers and onion in olive oil till soft, then adding the mushrooms for a further 10 minutes. Set aside and warm the pitta breads on one side under the grill. Spread the other side thickly with tomato puree and then layer on the fried vegetables. Top with olives, chilli and cheese. Grill until the cheese has melted and everything has warmed through. (tip – the bread goes hard if you grill for too long!). Serve immediately.

Watercress Pesto

The basic ingredients of a pesto sauce are: something green and leafy (traditionally basil), nuts, oil and hard Italian cheese. Why buy pesto in jars, when it’s so easy to make it fresh in a blender or Nutribullet? This is a particularly nutrient-dense sauce, with omega-3 fatty acids from the oil and walnuts and lovely antioxidants in the watercress!

Serves two
One bag watercress
100ml flaxseed oil
50g walnuts
One finely chopped red chilli (optional)
One tbsp fresh grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
Blend all ingredients. Serve with pasta of your choice.

Coming soon – G is for Greek. The Mediterranean Diet Part Two

Prevent hay fever

Autumn 2015 1

Hay fever facts :

  • 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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