Put away your pout and eat some sprouts…

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It’s a divisive topic in most households – some of us (like me) are firmly in the I love sprouts group, yet others are strangely repulsed by these little green nutritional powerhouses.

Here’s why you should load up on sprouts on Christmas Day…

They’re packed with disease-fighting phytonutrients glucosinolates and anti-cancer properties including sulforaphane. Even the occasional serving can have significant benefits.

Sprouts also contain more vitamin C than broccoli or strawberries to give you a great immune boost to wave away festive colds.

Come on, what’s not to love?

Merry Christmas!

Why do we find chips so irresistible?

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This time last week, I was sat on a local beach blissfully warm and loving the weather. I was pondering whether to get an ice cream, until I caught a whiff of the food of a stranger walking by. While the man in question was eagerly eyeing up his heavenly-smelling chip shop stash, I looked on with envy.

Before I knew it I had hot-footed it to the counter and was lovingly coating my freshly-cooked chips in oodles of vinegar. Thoughts of having an ice cream had vanished. As enjoyable as those lovely chips were, why were they suddenly so irresistible? Did the sea air make them seem all that more delectable?

Well…the overwhelming reason is because chips trigger cravings in the brain, according to new research. US researchers found foods with processed carbohydrates such as chips and white bread, trigger heightened levels of activity in the areas of our brain that are associated with rewards and cravings. Aha, that’s why.

Researchers at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Centre at Boston Children’s Hospital believe the findings of the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, could now be used to help overweight people stop overeating by avoiding those sorts of foods.

How do you keep your processed carbs cravings in check? For me, chip shop chips are a very occasional treat. I think they taste better that way too…

Get heart healthy (and watch the salt)

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As it’s National Heart Month and I seem to be writing an awful lot about salt at the moment, I thought it was high time I whipped up a timely blog post on the topic.

Every day, 26 million of us are eating too much salt and as 75% of the salt we eat is already added to a variety of manufactured foods: we may be eating more than we realise.

The top salty food culprits are: cheese, certain breakfast cereals, processed meat (ham, bacon), stock cubes, sauces, gravy granules, bread, bread products, salted nuts and potato-based snacks.

A diet high in salt can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), which often has no symptoms. Hypertension affects one in three adults in the UK. If you have high blood pressure, this can increase the risk of stroke and heart problems developing.

Making small changes can help to lower blood pressure. Instead of adding salt when preparing meals, add flavour to food using herbs, spices, wine, vinegar, garlic, onion, lemon and lime juice. Reducing the number of processed foods and ready meals you eat will also help.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Natural wrinkle wonder: watercress

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If you thought watercress was simply an accompaniment to liven up an egg mayonnaise sandwich or to add some colour to your plate, think again. New research suggests watercress can not only improve your skin health, leading to fewer blemishes and less visible pores, it can also reduce the spread of wrinkles.

The Watercress Alliance asked a group of female volunteers to eat 80g of watercress every day for four weeks and make no other changes to their diet. The women had their faces photographed before and after using a special complexion-analysing system. 

90% experienced a difference in their skin and over 70% reported a change in the texture of their skin and a remarkable improvement in their wrinkles. Half of the women experienced reduced red and blotchy areas and 81% noticed their pores had become less noticeable.

Watercress is packed with antioxidants such as vitamins C, A and E, lutein, carotene, calcium and iron.

What’s more, watercress is currently in season and is readily available – hooray!

 

Image courtesy of Think Vegetables

Do you know where fruit and vegetables come from?

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If this question has you shrieking ‘of course I bloody do’, you may be surprised to read new research carried out by the Potato Council has revealed many of us have little to no idea.

2,000 adults were questioned as part of the research to celebrate the launch of a new potato classification system. The research revealed:

* Three out of ten adults cannot explain how potatoes are produced

* One in ten thinks tomatoes are harvested from the ground

* One in five believes melons grow on the earth and that parsnips thrive on trees

* One in 20 think a Granny Smith is a variety of potato

* 20% of the 2,000 adults surveyed had never heard of a King Edward or a Maris Piper

One in 20 adults also confessed to feeling embarrassed about their lack of knowledge, with a quarter admitting they regularly have no idea what to say when children ask where food comes from.

Caroline Evans from the Potato Council says: “Our research shows that some British adults need to brush up on their foodie knowledge.”

Quite…

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Five reasons why we should eat more Marmite

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Apparently we all either love or hate Marmite. I don’t actually love or hate it, I’m very much in the ‘it’s okay but I don’t eat it very often’ camp.

My GP recommended I eat more Marmite to try and increase my iron levels, I’m prone to anaemia you see. This provided a catalyst for this post as I wondered what else Marmite can help with and as it is vegetarian-friendly too, it could be a good health boost for many of us. Here’s why…

1. Boosts brain power – as it’s rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid, Marmite can help to improve memory and focus.

2. Tackles anaemia – Marmite is not only a rich source of iron, it also contains iodine which helps our bodies to absorb iron.

3. Can help combat depression – a lack of B vitamins can lead to anxiety and depression. Marmite is loaded with B vitamins and could help to improve low mood.

4. Great hangover fix – we feel so rough after a night on the sauce as a result of our bodies lacking essential nutrients such as B vitamins. Marmite’s sodium content can also help to replenish lost salts.

5. Makes skin glow – vitamin B1, more commonly known as thiamin, helps our bodies to get the most out of the energy and nutrients in our food. This in turn helps our skin to look good. Marmite also contains riboflavin (vitamin B2) which is essential for healthy hair, skin and nails.

I’m making a pact to increase my weekly (currently non-existent) quota of Marmite, who’s with me?!

 

Image courtesy of Press Loft/Prezzybox.

Five ways to tackle your energy slumps

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2.16pm is the most common time for us to experience energy slumps according to research – at this time we are most likely to feel drained and unable to concentrate.

Find out how to beat your energy slumps.

1. Eat more protein – this provides our bodies with long-lasting energy and avoids blood sugar drops that can negatively affect our alertness. Tuck into: oatcakes, wholegrains, lean meat, low-fat dairy options and nuts at lunchtime.

2. Have a mid-afternoon snack – beware that energy boosts from sugar snacks wear off quickly. Opt for fresh fruit, dried fruit or nuts instead as these are a longer-lasting source of energy. If you’re desperate for a chocolate fix – have a couple of squares of good-for-you dark chocolate. I also recently tried a new juice-based organic energy drink, Scheckter’s Organic Energy Lite. It’s made from all natural and organic ingredients and was a perfect pick-me-up from a big energy slump after an early start.

3. Don’t skip meals – having long gaps between meals can cause blood sugar levels to drop – try and eat something every 2-3 hours.

4. Drink water – keep a filled bottle of water on your desk so you’re more likely to have a drink regularly. Water can help you to feel less sleepy and also boosts concentration.

5. Get outside at lunchtime – the fresh air will perk you up and help to improve your concentration when you return to work.

Predictable lunch, anyone?

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When it comes to lunch us Brits can be pretty unadventurous and stuck in our foodie ways. In a recent poll by Whole Foods Market, one in three people admitted to eating the same food for lunch, every day.

The delectable and dependable cheese sandwich was named the most popular option, followed by the equally easy-peasy-to-prepare ham sandwich.

Half of the 2000 people surveyed, confessed to eating the same lunch option every day, with many confessing they had been munching on the same lunchtime fodder for over SIX years. Four out of ten said they stick to the same food because it’s easy and one in ten simply because it’s cheap.  A frank seven out of ten of those people were also quite happy to admit their lunches are dull.

If you’re perfectly happy with your predictable lunches, you’re not alone. But, if you are stuck in a routine and crave a little lunchtime variety, take a look at Love Sarnies, a site dedicated to celebrating 250 years of sandwiches. On there you will find a wealth of mouth-watering ideas for vegetarian, vegan and meat-eating tastebuds.

Lunch need never be dull again, unless you would prefer to keep it that way, of course.

Five reasons to go nuts for almonds

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As today is National Almond Day (no, I never knew it existed either!) – here are five fabulous health reasons why these tree nuts are bursting with good-for-you-ness.

1. Almonds are a great natural source of protein and fibre. They’re also high in essential nutrients including vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

2. Celebrity almond fans include Elle Macpherson, Lisa Snowden, Karren Brady and Gary Barlow who enjoy a handful every day. Rumour has it that Mr Barlow insisted his X Factor contestants incorporated daily snacking on almonds as part of their strict diet.

3. Omega 3 fatty acids are natural providers of good skin health. Though oily fish is often cited as the best source, did you know, flaxseeds and almonds are also excellent vegetarian-friendly sources?

4. Along with dates, almonds are believed to be among the earliest cultivated foods, with both getting a mention in the Old Testament of the Bible.

5. In India, almonds are considered a prized brain food for children.

“When you snack on almonds, you can feel satisfied knowing that you’re eating something you love which is also providing you with the nutrients you need,” says dietician, Kimberly Haider. “That’s positive news on National Almond Day and every day.”

Visit Almond Board for more information including smart snacking tips from Karren Brady, snack suggestions and almond recipes.

Top tips to burn off Christmas calories

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We consume around 7,000 calories on Christmas Day alone as we gorge on a fine feast of foods, drinks and snacks throughout the day and into the night. Not to mention the excess eating, snacking and boozing that happens over the festive season as a whole.

But, fear not. If you want to avoid piling on the festive pounds, help is at hand from York Fitness on how to burn off those extra calories…

One mince pie contains 185 calories – minus additions such as brandy butter or cream, of course. The solution – 15 minutes of press-ups 

Two glasses of your favourite vino contains around 185 calories. The solution – 20 minutes of continuous lifting of kettlebell weights

Did you know just SIX Quality Street or Roses chocolates contain 268 calories – yikes! The solution – 18 minutes of moderate skipping

For the non-vegetarians reading this blog, five mini pigs in blankets equals 375 calories. The solution – get on your exercise bike for 35 minutes

One slice of your mum’s special Christmas cake contains 249 calories. The solution – run or jog on a treadmill or outside at 12kph for 23 minutes

One handful of nuts is equal to 256 calories. To counteract this – work your punchbag for 28 minutes – continuously

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers…