Eat, Drink and be Merry

It’s the New Year, and the radio in my kitchen is full of presenters chatting about resolutions……..people embarking on health kicks, or the opposite end of the spectrum: rejection of the whole ‘new you’ philosophy.

Whether you thrive with having the starting line of January the First, hate the hype, or fall somewhere in the middle, most of us have something we want to improve about our health. Some of my clients need a complete overhaul for serious health conditions, for others it’s making small changes that can make a big difference to how they look and feel.

No matter what you do, it’s about treating yourself well. Forget the need to achieve a perfect figure on the scales; nourish yourself with what your body NEEDS, move about more, and it will fall in to place. images-2

Looking after yourself is not a chore or punishment. It is being kind to yourself. Making peace with food is a process, just as enjoying eating is key for your health, happiness and well-being.

Here is one thing that doesn’t have to change in the New Year:


Berries improve memory?

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries all contain something rather magical called polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that are found in fruit and vegetables.

Studies show that regular consumption of foods containing polyphenols may reduce the risk of several chronic conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases e.g. Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer.

Brand nimages-10.jpegew research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that feeding rats berries for 8 weeks improved their brain function, memory and the growth and development of nerves. Although the study was in animals rather than humans, these interesting findings help to support eating berries regularly.

The polyphenol/phytochemical research adds to our growing knowledge of why fruit and vegetables are so beneficial to our health. I advise that people should lots of different fruits and vegetables with different colours and hues because these are indicators of different phytochemical profiles. They all contain different things, and they all contribute to your health.


Unknown-12.jpegHere are some easy ways to incorporate berries. Fresh ones can be expensive when not in season, so you can use frozen which are just as nutritious. I buy Sainsbury’s Basics which are £1.50 for a 400g bag. Use them frozen in smoothies or ice-cream, or defrost (can be quickly defrosted in the microwave).


2 Ingredient Pancakes with yogurt and berries


Natural yogurt, berries, oats and honey


Healthy ice-cream (blend natural yogurt with frozen berries)


Super simple breakfast smoothie (milk, ripe banana, handful oats, handful frozen berries)

Avocado Fans – new from Tesco

A perfectly ripe avocado can be difficult to find, and in my experience they can be either rock hard (the one’s from the supermarket) or too mushy (the ones from my local vegetable market). Many people aren’t keen on the messiness that can be involved to prepare them.

Here is a fab new idea from Tesco: frozen avo’s that have been destoned and peeled. They are at a good price too: £2.50 for about 9 halves.


£2.50 – about 9 halves

Although high in calories, avocados are little bombs of nutrition with a multitude of health benefits:

  • monounsaturated fats which lower the bad blood cholesterol and raise the good
  • The fats enhance absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K
  • Fats and fibre are slowly digested, so making you feel full up for longer
  • High in vitamin E, A and B vitamins
  • Twice the potassium of a banana – potassium lowers blood pressure
  • Very low in carbohydrate/sugar
  • people who regularly eat avocado are more likely to have a lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference

So what can you do with a frozen bag of avocados?

Green Smoothie Breakfast – blend 200ml water, 1/2 avocado, a kiwi, a handful of greens e.g. spinach or kale, juice of half a lime, some ginger, and a tablespoon of Total greek yogurt.


Defrost and simply use sliced or mashed and piled on wholemeal toast with some salt and pepper, egg, strawberries or tomatoes.




Rehab Nutrition – 5 ways to speed recovery

We’ve had our fair share of injury in this house, from the 5 year old’s fractured arm while twirling herself around the living room, to my husband’s two anterior cruciate ligament tears while playing rugby images-1(as well as the relentless string of other more minor injuries). A ligament tear may not sound as serious as a fracture, but in reality for him it meant knee operations, 9 months of rehabilitation and not being able to play. As anyone who loves their sport knows, recovery from an injury can be very hard both physically and psychologically.


Luckily, in the professional era of sport, the medical team supporting the imagesrehabilitation is second to none. Surgeons, physiotherapists, rehab specialists, strength and conditioners etc are all trained and experienced in getting players back to fitness ASAP.

But is there a role for nutrition in the rehab process? In my experience of working individually with professional and elite sports, specific nutrition advice for aiding the rehab process is nearly always over looked. For athletes immobilised or severely restricted in level of training by their injury, I have found that many can go in one of two directions. Both are detrimental to the recovery, healing and return to full fitness process:

  • Weight and fat gain: Overeating due to carrying on with the usual nutritional intake without adjusting quantities to compensate for a reduction in activity. Comfort eating is also very common due to feeling very down/depressed about the injury and the physical pain, lack of certainty about the recovery, exclusion from training etc.
  • Weight and muscle loss: under eating to compensate for the immobilisation and reduction in training, or as a method of controlling the situation (can result in disordered eating patterns)

Is there a better way? Can nutrition actually speed up the rehabilitation process? A review of research published last month in Sports Medicine (Tipton, 2015), as well as some other sport nutrition research has come to some important conclusions. As well as stimulating the muscles as early as possible post injury with pool work or electrical stimulation, these 5 nutrition points should be considered:

  1. Stay in ‘energy balance’. i.e. eating the right amount of calories to keep weight stable. Under eating has detrimental effects on wound healing and increases muscle loss.
  2. Protein intake needs to be high to prevent muscle loss and to stimulate muscle synthesis (0.3g/kg/meal or 2-2.5g/kg/day). Protein foods should be at EVERY meal
  3. Omega 3 fatty acids may be helpful to reduce long term inflammation and prevent muscle loss
  4. Creatine may encourage muscle growth – 10g/day for 3 weeks, then 2g/day after this
  5. Calcium and Vitamin D is needed for optimal healing of bone fractures

Food during the days, weeks and months of rehab should be the cornerstone of recovery nutrition and should be as wholesome as possible. There should be some consideration for specific supplementation if necessary and appropriate. For example, in the UK during the winter months it is not possible to get enough vitamin D from the sun, so supplementation is needed; if oily fish isn’t eaten an omega 3 supplement should be taken. Ensure Unknown-1supplements are certified by Informed Sport.


A Sports Dieititan specialises in assessing the athlete and in making specific adaptations and recommendations for the diet to ensure return to fitness ASAP. Psychological support by a dietitian can prevent or reduce binge eating/under eating/disordered eating behaviours.  We provide tailored advice on calorie requirements; and the amount, timing and best sources of protein, omega 3 fats, creatine, calcium and vitamin D.


Anti-inflammatory Shopping List

You would think that a wisdom tooth extraction on Thursday, followed by a painful knee injury during a 9 mile run on Sunday, would have left me reaching for the ibuprofen and  paracetamol. But there was no pain from the tooth after the anaesthetic wore off (I promise you, none!), and the knee was completely better with in days.

Can what you eat reduce inflammation and pain, allowing you to recover more quickly than expected? Food can have a surprising impact on injury recovery, as well as on the development of long term health conditions………..

Inflammation can be acute or chronic.

Acute inflammation is a normal and short-lived response (lasting minutes to days) to injury, irritation, or infection, and leads to redness, swelling, heat, and pain at the affected site.

Chronic inflammation is a long-term response (lasting weeks, months, or years) to factors such as poor nutrition, stress, and processes related to ageing. It is a contributing factor in heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin conditions and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as numerous cancers eg. colorectal, gastric, esophageal, pancreatic, breast, endometrial, ovarian.

Athletes & Inflammation Increased muscle stress and inflammatory responses among athletes have been reportedDeclan+Danaher consistently in research. Athletes are also more susceptible to longer term injuries often requiring surgery. In order to train and compete without pain, it is not unusual to take anti inflammatory medication daily. The problem with taking this medication long term is that it can cause harm to the digestive system e.g. stomach bleeding, kidney problems and potentially the development of allergies.

Is it possible that a high intake of anti inflammatory foods, coupled with a low intake of inflammation provoking foods, can reduce tissue inflammation? Before my wisdom tooth extraction and after the knee injury, I made sure that I increased my intake of anti inflammatory food (sardines, salmon, flaxseed, ginger, veg and omega 3 supplements). Is it possible that this food reduced the inflammation and pain?

Nutrition and Inflammation – the evidence

Nutrients play a key role in both promoting and reducing inflammatory processes. There is a wealth of scientific studies linking nutrients with inflammatory processes coming from laboratory, clinical, and epidemiologic studies.

In a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, scientists found that diets high in refined starches, sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats appear to turn on the inflammatory response. But a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids along with regular exercise and not smoking, seems to cool down inflammation.

Evidence links traditional dietary patterns such as the Japanese and Mediterranean diets with lower disease rates. Both diets have characteristics linked with lower inflammation levels. The traditional Japanese diet is low in fat, sugar, flour, and dairy and high in fish, vegetables, sea vegetables, rice, green tea, fruit, and soy foods, while the Mediterranean diet is low in meat and sugar and high in fish, whole grains, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables.

Causes of inflammation:

  1. Too many calories – eating too much and being over weight

    Trans fats (hydrogenated oil)

    High Glycaemic Index carbohydrates

  2. Excess high glycaemic index carbohydrates – sugar, white bread, white rice, white pasta, cakes, biscuits
  3. Trans and omega 6 fats – processed foods, soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower oil
  4. High ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats – too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 fats


So what can you eat to help to reduce inflammation? Here’s an excellent list!

Anti inflammatory shopping list 

Oily fish (omega 3): absolutely top of my list: salmon, mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna. If you don’t like oily fish, then take omega 3 supplements (1000mg EPA/DHA per day)

images-2Fruits – any!

 – Brown rice, 
Bulgur, Oats, 

Quinoa, Whole grain stone-ground breadsimages-6 copy

Spices – tumeric, ginger, garlic,

Legumes and Seeds 
- Chickpeas,
 Beans, Flaxseed,
Lentils, Pumpkin seeds, 
Sesame seeds,
 Sunflower seeds, 

Oils – olive oil, 
Vegetable (rapeseed) oil, 
Flaxseed oil, Walnut oil


Vegetables – any!image

Miscellaneous Items
 Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
 Red wine (in moderation)
 Tea (green, white, or black)

Anti inflammatory Menu:

Breakfast: Seriously Healthy Pancakes or Summer Oatspancakes-with-berries-and-cream

Lunch: Tomato & Lentil Soup or Burgen Bread with smoked salmon & avocado

Dinner: SuperFood Salad or Jacket Potato with Beans & Coleslaw


Buyken A, Goletzke J, Joslowski G, Felbick A, Cheng G, Herder C, Brand-Miller J. (2014) Am J Clin Nutr 99(4):813-33 Association between carbohydrate quality and inflammatory markers: systematic review of observational and interventional studies.

Calder P.C. (2012) Proc Nutr Soc. 71 (2):284-9 Long-chain fatty acids and inflammation.

Giugliano D, Ceriello A, Esposito K. (2006) The Effects of Diet on Inflammation: Emphasis on the Metabolic Syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiology 48(4):677-685.

Kim W, Lee H. (2013) Nutrients (11):4305-15 Advances in nutritional research on regulatory T-cells.

Kim J, Lee J. (2014) J Exerc Rehabil 31;10 (6):349-56. A review of nutritional intervention on delayed onset muscle soreness.

Palaska I, Papathanasiou E, Theoharides TC. (2013) Eur J Pharmacol. 15;720 (1-3):77-83

Use of polyphenols in periodontal inflammation.

Salas-Salvadó J, Garcia-Arellano A, Estruch R, Marquez-Sandoval F, Corella D, Fiol M, Gómez-Gracia E, Viñoles E, Arós F, Herrera C, Lahoz C, Lapetra J, Perona JS, Muñoz-Aguado D, Martínez-González MA, Ros E (2008) Components of the Mediterranean-type food pattern and serum inflammatory markers among patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease.Eur J Clin Nutr ;62  (5):651-9.

Salas-Salvadó J, Casas-Agustench P, Murphy MM, López-Uriarte P, Bulló M. (2008) The effect of nuts on inflammation. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr;17 Suppl 1:333-6.

Simopoulos, A. P. (2008) Exp Biol Med 233(6):674-88. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.

Athletes – how to stop getting sick

For the professional sports person or amateur athlete, feeling unwell can reduce the ability to perform during training and competition, and can lead to poor recovery and poor performance. Ultimately, feeling chronically below par can affect the long term career.

There are numerous reasons for lowered immunity during training:

  • repeated cycles of heavy exertion
  • exposure to germs and bugs
  • mental stress
  • lack of sleep
  • poor nutrition
  • weight loss

Nutritional immunology is a rapidly growing area, and four key principles have emerged:

1. Almost all nutrients in the diet play a crucial role in immunity. Eating a wide variety of foods in your diet provides all these nutrients in most healthy adults, and mega doses of vitamin/mineral supplements do not “boost” immunity above normal levels. There may be one exception…..current research suggests that vitamin C when unwell can shorten the duration of the common cold.

2. Poor energy and nutrient intake can reduce the immunity and susceptibility to germs and bugs. Poor protein intake reduces immune function and strongly increases risk of various types of infections.

3. Some nutrients (glutamine, arginine, fatty acids, vitamin E) provide additional benefits to immunocompromised persons (e.g. the frail elderly) or patients who suffer from various infections. Currently there is a lack of evidence to support the use of these in preventing exercise-induced immune suppression and protection from infection.

4. Some supplements may prove useful in countering immune suppression for healthy adults during unusual mental and physical stress e.g. omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils reduce inflammatory responses.


Of the various nutritional countermeasures that have been evaluated so far, ingestion of carbohydrate before, during, and after prolonged or intense exertion has emerged as the most effective way to ensure less of a negative effect on the immune system. Athletes intent on reducing body fat by avoiding carbohydrates should be aware that this may impact on their immunity.

shutterstock_85815004Strategies to ensure good carbohydrate stores to optimise immunity:

  • Have a carbohydrate-based snack before you start high intensity training, particularly hard morning training.  If you are unable to tolerate something before you start exercise, have a source of carbohydrate during the session such as a sports drink (6-8% carbohydrate)
  • Have a carbohydrate & protein based snack shortly after training to start the recovery process.  This is of particular importance for athletes training more than once a day with limited time to recover for the next session.
  • Base meals around nutrient-rich carbohydrate-containing foods and fluids.  Rice, pasta, bread, cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables and low-fat milk and yoghurt are nutrient-packed carbohydrate-containing choices. The aim is to match daily carbohydrate needs with an appropriate amount of carbohydrate-containing foods and fluids throughout the day.


Probiotics may benefit athletic performance indirectly by maintaining gut function and health, preventing the immunosuppressive effects of intense exercise, and reducing susceptibility to illness. Substantial evidence exists indicating that probiotics can reduce susceptibility to acute infectious diarrhoea (athletes may be particularly susceptible during foreign travel). Lactobacillus probiotics may also reduce coughs and cold incidence.



  • Wash hands regularly, before meals, and after direct contact with potentially contagious people, public places and bathrooms.
  • Use disposable paper towels and limit hand to mouth/nose contact when suffering from respiratory or gastrointestinal infection symptoms. Use alcohol-based hand-washing gel.
  • Do not share drinking bottles, cups, towels, etc with other people.


A balanced and nutrient rich diet is fundamental to avoiding illness for those undergoing intense physical exercise. Current opinion is that athletes should invest in nutrient-rich foods and fluids that provide sufficient energy and a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other important chemicals, such as phytochemicals, found naturally in foods. When this is not possible the use of supplements such as multi vitamins, omega-3 fish oils, and probiotics may be advised.

A dietitian with experience in sports nutrition is ideally placed to advise on the specifics of food, fluid and supplements, taking in to account variables such as type, intensity, duration of exercise, time available for recovery between sessions and body composition goals during training and competition.

4 Foods to Boost Gut Bacteria

Just when we thought we knew everything about our digestive system, the complex universe of gut bacteria is slowly being unveiled by scientific research. Experts agree that what we currently know is just the tip of the iceberg. Here is the story so far!

Gut bacteria fast facts:

  • there are 100 trillion bacteria in your gut made up of at least 500 different types
  • during the natural delivery of a baby (not cesarean section), and breastfeeding, a baby’s digestive system is populated with the beneficial bacteria
  • there is a mix of good and bad bacteria in your gut, the balance of these can significantly affect your health
  • antibiotics kill the bad AND good bacteria in your body, disturbing the balance.
  • a diet high in processed foods encourages the bad bacteria
    Processed food - not good for the good bacteria!

    Processed food – encourage the ‘bad’ bacteria

    Whole foods good!

    Whole foods encourage the ‘good’ bacteria


  • whole grains, fruit and vegetables ‘feed’ the good bacteria
  • some foods (see below) actively contain good bacteria. You can encourage good bacteria in your gut by including these foods in your diet.


How improving good gut bacteria can affect health:

There is a huge amount of scientific interest in the role that gut bacteria has on health. Watch the headlines over the next few years for how they can make big positive impacts on your waistline, brain and immune system. Here is what the science is starting to show:

  • helps gastrointestinal problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas
  • reduces inflammatory conditions such as some cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • obesity – overweight people have a different balance of gut bacteria
  • immune system – there is good evidence that our guts provide much of the body’s immunity
  • better absorption of nutrients


Natural sources of probiotics (good bacteria) you can include everyday:

As well as eating lots of prebiotic foods such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains which feed the good bacteria, here is a list of foods which actually contain the good bacteria to boost the levels in your system.

Yogurt – The easiest and most popular source. Choose any yogurt that has ‘bio’, ‘bio live’ or the specific strain of bacteria on the label. Sometimes you need to look very carefully, as it
can be in small print on the back. e.g. Yeo Valley, Activia, Rachel’s, Onken. If you have lactose intolerance, yogurt should be easier to digest than milk as the fermentation process reduces the amount of lactose. People sometimes worry that dairy products are fattening or will raise cholesterol. Eaten in moderation this is not the case, and can in fact help with weight loss.


Kefir This can be harder to find in the shops and is not as popular as yogurt. Kefir is a Turkish word meaning ‘long life’ or ‘good life’. With billions of friendly bacteria, Kefir is a drink made from Unknown-8milk and kefir cultures. It has the consistency of a drinkable yogurt but is much more tart and has a slight fizz (I found this very odd!). Drink it plain (an acquired taste) or add it to a smoothie. It can be bought in Tesco’s in the Polish section, Wholefoods or in some independent health food shops. The culturing process reduces the amount of lactose, therefore may be suitable for people with lactose intolerance.


UnknownMiso A staple seasoning in Japanese kitchens, also may contain probiotics. While it’s most often used in miso soup there are other ways to incorporate this protein-rich seasoning into meals. For an easy between meal snack, mix the Miso paste with warm water as a drink. If you have high blood pressure you probably should avoid as it is high in salt.



Unpasteurised Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut – pickled cabbage in a jar. The pickling process produces the live probiotics. To get the benefit from Saurkraut, it is important to buy it unpasteurised as the heating process kills the probiotics. Unpasteurised jars can be found in the fridge in health food shops. If it is in a jar on the supermarket shelf it is likely to be pasteurised. Some people eat it straight from the jar, or add to salads, stew or soup. I’ve been told by a client that it is easy to make, so here’s a recipe (it’s one of the next things on my list to try!)


Probiotic supplements – there are a vast array of probiotic supplements available and it can be confusing to know which one to choose. Here is a good article as guidance on the specific strains of bacteria to look for for different health issues. Most people have heard of Yakult or Actimel which can be bought in most supermarkets. I usually recommend more potent forms such as Unknown-2Symprove, Biokult and VSL 3 (click on pictures for more info).41cytGYzHHL._AA160_images-3