Spring forward with greens, turnips and leeks

TurnipsWithout wishing to follow the example of a minister in government, suggesting that we eat turnips instead of tomatoes (because of food shortages),  this is a blog by Susan Aldridge which is very seasonal.

We’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

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.

Vitamin D: must eat foods

Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D. However, between October and March, the shorter days, weaker sun and more time spent indoors means our vitamin D levels begin to fall.

Health experts at Forth*have compiled advice on how people can maintain their vitamin D levels this winter. Between the months of September and March, our levels of vitamin D will drop, but by eating the right foods and taking a supplement can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels.

A study carried out by Forth found that 74 per cent of their customers were in the lower quarter of the range or below for their vitamin D levels, with 27 per cent of customers who tested their vitamin D levels actually falling below the normal ranges. Forth’s study also identified that 77 per cent of female customers had inadequate vitamin D levels, compared to 72 per cent of male customers.

Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles as we are growing but also as we get older. A lack of vitamin D in children can lead to rickets, while older adults, especially women, will be at greater risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis, especially post-menopause.
Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to more frequent colds and illness, low energy levels and even depression.

Foods rich in Vitamin D

• Egg Yolk -rich in vitamin D so worth incorporating eggs into your diet either as a breakfast option, or brunch.
• Oily Fish – trout, sardines, salmon and mackerel are all rich in vitamin D.
• Dairy products
Milk, cheese and yogurt are all good sources of vitamin D. Milk alternatives such as almond and soya milk are often fortified with vitamin D but check before buying.
• Meat – red meat, offal and liver are a good source of vitamin D, but eat as part of a balanced diet incorporating other leaner meats such as chicken and turkey.
Cod liver oil – one of the best supplements for vitamin D, cod liver oil is extremely rich in the nutrient, so much so that one tablespoon equates to the daily requirement of vitamin D.
Fortified foods – such as breakfast cereals, bread or soy milk are all great sources of the vitamin. This is because fortified foods have added nutrients making them the perfect supplement.
Tofu – fret not vegans and vegetarians, as fortified tofu offers an easy way of maintaining vitamin D. Nutrient levels can vary from brand to brand but fortified tofu remains a strong option for sourcing vitamin D.
• Oysters – considered a delicacy, the seafood is extremely rich in vitamin D. Oysters are also a great source of magnesium.

While ensuring our diets include food that contains vitamin D, as the main source is from sunlight, during winter months the NHS recommends that all adults take 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplement.

*Forth with Life: Home blood tests to check levels of Vitamin D (and other vital vitamins and nutrients).

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.

New Year health-conscious recipes

Not much partying going on this year, so you can indulge yourself for New Year without overdoing it

Bounty Bites
Bounty Bites

with Leisa Cockayne’s Sugar Free Recipe’s.  So if one of your resolutions is to shed weight (and whose isn’t?) here’s a starter, a main and a sweet one.

Parmesan Crisps with Guacamole

180 grams of parmesan cheese

This is really so simple!
Finely grate the parmesan and place in little portions on to grease proof paper.
Flatten the portions down, but leave a space between each portion.
Cook at 180 degrees for 20 mins.
When the cheese starts to bubble, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
When they’ve cooled down, they’re ready to eat!
Alternatively, you could bake a giant crisp and then break it up into smaller pieces once it’s cooled.
I’ve added cheddar and chia seeds into this one…


Fried Black Beans


1 400g Can of Black Beans, drained
1 chilli chopped
3x garlic cloves minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 pint chicken/veg stock
Pinch of salt
Knob of butter



Heat the butter to the frying pan and add the onions.
Saute for 3-5 minutes until they’re lightly browned.
Add the garlic, chilli, parsley and coriander and cook for more minutes.

Add the drained black beans. Cook for a couple more minutes until the beans start to gently stick to the pan, then add the stock.
Put a lid on the pan and let it simmer away stirring occasionally to ensure the they don’t burn.

When the liquid has reduced and the beans start to get starchy and mushy, take them off the heat and serve with a dollop of guacamole (see the recipe), sour cream and a wholemeal wrap or pitta.

Bounty Bites / Bounty Bliss Balls

1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup cashew butter
1/2 cup almond meal
8 dates
1/4 melted coconut oil
For coating – Homemade sugar free chocolate (editor’s note: you try vegan or real chocolate)

Add all the ingredients to the processor and combine.
When well mixed, roll in to balls and place in the fridge to set.
Melt the sugar free chocolate
Dunk each one of the bounty bites in the melted chocolate.
Return back to the fridge for the chocolate to set.
They’ll last a few days in the fridge in an airtight container (of you don’t end up eating them all in one go!).

See Leisa Cockayne’s blog