It's Real Bread Week this week! No better time to go out, find a proper baker and get some. But what is 'real bread'? Read on to find out.
Throughout life, our nutrient requirements change as our body changes. As we get older, muscle mass and stomach acid levels, for example, naturally decline. You can support your body by providing the nutrients it requires and by adding in some exercise. Don't worry, there's no need to run a marathon, just don't stop moving.
It’s not something most of us in the west grew up with, but sea vegetables – or ‘seaweed’ – is something we should all consider incorporating into our diets. It enhances our diet from a culinary as well as a health perspective. In Japan, sea vegetables have been eaten for thousands of years, but even here in the UK – where we are surrounded by water after all – seaweed is part of a traditional dish: Welsh laverbread.
Sea vegetables contain virtually all the minerals found in the ocean, and there are no other plants that carry more nutrients, trace minerals and minerals. As a group, sea vegetables are known for their ability to detoxify environmental toxins and heavy metals, such as cadmium, from the body. Not only are sea vegetables rich sources of iodine – a mineral required for proper thyroid function – but also calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. They also supply some B vitamins, such as folic acid, riboflavin (B2) and pantothenic acid (B5). Moreover, they contain lignans – a chemical compound from plants – that is thought to provide protection from cancer and helps alleviate menopausal symptoms – as well as fucans, which can help reduce inflammation. Lignans (another great source are flaxseeds) block the hormonal signalling of oestrogen-related cancers. In addition, seaweed appears to impair angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels for the nutrient supply to tumours. Fucoids, another component of sea vegetables, a polysaccharide (carbohydrate) that is particularly rich in kombu and wakame, is believed to be cancer-protective, too, but is easily destroyed even by light cooking. To benefit from it, kombu or wakame need to be consumed in their raw or dried form.
The sea vegetables most commonly used for food are from the family of brown seaweeds (arame, hijiki, kelp, kombu, wakame) and red seaweeds (nori, dulse).
This wiry Japanese sea vegetable has a sweet and mild flavour. It contains 100 – 500 times more iodine than shellfish and is a great source of iron and vitamin A. Arame has ten times more calcium than milk.
Another Japanese sea vegetable, which is the highest in calcium, but also a good source of iron (eight times more than beef) and vitamin A. It has a stronger flavour than arame. Both hijiki and arame are available dried (long strands, similar to pasta) and will expand when rehydrated.
Kelp – like arame is a rich source of iodine and has four times more iron than beef. It is often sold as a powder or flakes.
Kombu is sold dried in wide strips or sheets. Adding a strip of kombu to dried beans and lentils during cooking helps them cook faster and alleviates digestive problems (flatulence, bloating) some people suffer when eating pulses. It contains potassium, calcium, iodine and vitamins A and C.
Nori is probably the best known sea vegetable as it is used to wrap sushi. It is usually sold in shiny, black sheets that are made in a similar way to paper, from nori pulp, but is also available as flakes. Nori is rich in calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin A.
Dulse has a reddish brown colour and a chewy texture. It is available in pieces (dried) or as flakes. Although all of the above contain protein, dulse and nori are particularly rich sources of it, with 20 – 30 per cent of their dry weight consisting of protein.
Most health food shops sell dried seaweed, either as long, dried strands, sea vegetable salad (dried pieces) or flakes. It is also available as a condiment, mixed with sea salt. Some supermarkets sell seaweed, too, but mainly nori for sushi making. It is also a component in some healthy snack foods such as crackers or savoury biscuits. Note that ‘crispy seaweed’ in Chinese restaurants or the ready meals aisle in the supermarket is not usually made from seaweed, but cabbage. Delicious as it may be, it is also deep-fried and covered in sugar and salt, so it really has nothing in common with the sea vegetables discussed above.
For ideas on how to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet, read tomorrow’s Nutrilicious News. It is not too late to subscribe!
They’re here at last: British strawberries! All berries – including strawberries – are excellent low-sugar food, which is very rich in nutrients. They are high in vitamin C and K, fibre and – the best thing about them – flavonoids.
Flavonoids are phytonutrients (plant nutrients), which have a wide range of health benefits. The most powerful flavonoids in strawberries are anthocyanins. They are what give them their rich, red colour. Anthocyanins have been found to be protective against inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. The anti-inflammatory properties of these phytonutrients mean that they can impair the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). Some painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, work by blocking COX, but they come with side effects such as intestinal bleeding. Anthocyanins do not cause any side effects.
Strawberries are also a good source of manganese, a mineral that helps protect bones and supports the thyroid gland.
To get the full load of flavonoids from strawberries, they need to be ripe. A perfect strawberry is red, shiny, plump and firm and of course free of mould. I only buy strawberries when they are in season, and then only British ones. Although many other countries grow perfectly good strawberries, I avoid foreign ones because transport means that they have been picked too early, before they have had a chance to develop their nutrients, flavour and fragrance. The more local your strawberries, the fresher they are. If there is a ‘pick your own’ field near you, then that’s what you should take advantage of. Those will be the ripest, yet freshest strawberries you can get.
Unfortunately – like all berries – strawberries are very delicate. They are prone to disease and fungal attack and therefore get heavily sprayed with pesticides and fungizides. Strawberries always end up among the Dirty Dozen. So, if you can find (and afford) organic strawberries, they’re the superior choice. As with most fruit and veg, you can get a much better deal at the farmers market or greengrocer than you will at the supermarket. Those places may also have the tastier varieties, as supermarket fruit is grown for durability and looks rather than flavour.
Thanks to air transport, strawberries are now available all year round, if necessary from far flung countries. For reasons stated above, however, they do not taste all that good, but are very expensive. It really is worth waiting for the British season. Eating seasonally has the added advantage that the food in question – in this case strawberries – becomes more special, because there are times of year where I have to go without.
If you can’t get organic ones, spray them with diluted additive-free soap or commercial produce wash before eating or freezing. Strawberries are great for freezing, but they won’t retain their shape once thawed. They’ll look a bit soggy. I like to use frozen strawberries in shakes and smoothies or blend them with frozen banana for instant dairy- and sugar-free ice cream. If you freeze them straight after purchase, they’ll preserve most of their vitamin C.
Strawberries contain moderate levels of oxalates. If you are prone to kidney stones, it is advisable to limit your consumption. Unfortunately, strawberries are also one of the most common food allergens.
What to do with strawberries?
If you love strawberries, you probably won’t need any recipes and just eat them straight out of the punnet. That’s fine, but here are some ideas, just in case:
- Whip up some fresh cream with a teaspoon of powdered vanilla and dip your strawberries in it.
- Chop into quarters and stir into yoghurt or quark.
- Mix chopped strawberries with cinnamon, lemon juice, and maple syrup and use as a topping for pancakes (e. g. coconut flour pancakes).
- Gently melt some dark chocolate and dip your strawberries in it. Leave to cool and for the chocolate to harden.
- Add sliced strawberries to a mixed green salad.
- For the more adventurous: Blend strawberries with 2 – 3 basil leaves, 2 tbsp of xylitol, Greek yoghurt, and a grinding of black pepper.
My tomorrow’s newsletter will have an easy recipe for a delicious strawberry-based breakfast shake. It’s not too late to subscribe!
With Christmas and the Christmas Party Season behind us, most of us have by now had their fill with rich food and alcohol. But one great party night – New Year’s Eve – is still ahead of us. Yes, most of us will have a few drinks – again -, but armed with a few tips, you may be able to welcome 2016 as fresh as a daisy anyway. Probably the most common symptoms of a hangover are headache and thirst, closely followed by tiredness, listlessness and sensitivity to light and/or noise. Many feel nauseous and dizzy, some experience diarrhoea. Other possible symptoms are anxiety, depression, moodiness and irritability, not to speak of the very common ‘blackout’ – alcohol induced temporary amnesia. Altogether not a pretty picture. Nobody wants to feel like this, and yet we keep inflicting this avoidable condition on ourselves time and time again.
Needless to say: The only true cure is not to drink alcohol in the first place. You could volunteer to be the designated driver – although it can sometimes be taxing to be the only sober person in a group of revellers who are getting more and more inebriated …
If you are going to drink – and let’s face it, most of us do like a few drinks on New Year’s Eve – try the below.
On New Year’s Eve
Eat before you drink. Alcohol is absorbed straight through the lining of the stomach. If your stomach is empty, that process is very fast. So, have a proper dinner first, ideally one containing fat and protein.
Drink water throughout the evening. Alcohol makes us go to the toilet more often and we can end up dehydrated. Did you know that hangover headaches are caused by your shrinking – dehydrated – brain tugging at its tendons? Apart from helping us to stay hydrated, alternating alcoholic drinks with water means that we will drink less alcohol.
You may come across advice to take a painkiller, such as aspirin or paracetamol before bed in order to avoid a hangover the next morning. However, aspirin can irritate the intestinal lining and therefore make gastro-intestinal symptoms more likely and/or worse. Paracetamol puts extra strain on the liver, which will be busy enough trying to process the alcohol. So, my advice is to stay away from such drugs. It might be a good idea, however, to support your liver with milk thistle (e. g. by A Vogel) on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
When you go to bed, take make sure that there is water by your bedside.
The morning after
You will have heard of ‘the hair of the dog’ as a hangover cure. You won’t need me to tell you that drinking more alcohol is not the way to relieve a hangover. You’ll only suffer for longer.
While many crave caffeine to wake them up after a night of drinking, this is just another toxin you are asking your liver to handle. Take a break from caffeine today and stick to water or herbal teas.
All those trips to the toilet the night before didn’t just mean a loss of water, but also of ‘electrolytes’. Electrolytes are minerals that control nerve and muscle function, blood pH, hydration, and the repair of tissue after injury. Both dehydration and over-hydration lead to imbalanced electrolytes and some of the symptoms of hangovers are attributed to them.
Top up your magnesium by tucking into green leafy vegetables. A green smoothie would be a perfect drink. Just this once, add a pinch of good quality sea salt to replenish sodium levels as well.
Other nutrients you lose with water are water-soluble vitamins: vitamin C and those of the B-complex. B vitamins are involved in energy production, and low levels can leave us feeling dizzy and tired. Foods rich in B vitamins are eggs (also a good source of magnesium), avocados, mushrooms, brown rice, wholegrain bread, cauliflower, fish, seafood and nuts
A great breakfast would be a slice of wholegrain rye bread topped with eggs Florentine (eggs on a bed of wilted spinach) or a spinach and mushroom omelette. If you are really hungry – and hunger can be another symptom of hangover – you may find room for some avocado there as well.
After breakfast, go back to bed if you can and rest. Sleep and rest is the best cure for a hangover.
Maybe on New Year’s Day you’ll resolve to give your body a break and take it easy for a few weeks in January. Chances are, you won’t really like alcohol much after the party season anyway. If you would like some extra support, why not join me for my Gentle Online Detox ProgrammeGentle Online Detox Programme beginning on 17 January (Day 0 – with meal plan and shopping list)? You will be receiving one email per day with valuable nutrition and detox information for just £1.50 per day. That’s less than even the simplest coffee from a fancy coffee shop!