Has it really been six months?

I was shocked and felt somewhat guilty to find that it is six months since my last blog – life has been very busy. Me, my husband and our dog have just returned from spending the winter in the South West of France, house-sitting for our friends. It was an amazing opportunity, one too good to miss and one we’d love to repeat given the chance!

mountains

Aside from the breathtaking scenery, the dry sunny climate, snow-capped mountains and the fun of trying to speak French, it suited our ketogenic/paleo diet very well, although sometimes perhaps a little too much red wine was consumed! The local markets had some amazing produce, cheeses and saucisse were the mainstay of our diet.cheese

I have also been busy studying whilst away, my science access course now well under way. I am now well and truly committed to a future career as a Nutritional Therapist. Having surprised myself by enjoying and passing my chemistry module, I have since completed biology and am now completely fascinated by the final module on anatomy and physiology. I would love for everyone to be able to absorb the same knowledge on how our bodies work (and don’t work!). If I can pass on my enthusiasm and help others by simply approaching life with good nutrition and well-being then I will have succeeded in my goal.

I was prompted to write this blog whilst watching the news broadcast today with the long awaited news that Public Health England have publishesugard guidelines for food manufacturers to reduce sugar content in foods by 20% in 2020. Are we actually finally waking up to the fact that sugar doesn’t provide any nutritional value but is extremely detrimental to our health?

Figures published suggest that children are currently consuming three times as much sugar per day as is recommended. 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese when they start primary school and 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese when attending secondary school. This greatly increases their risk of going on to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

It’s not just food manufacturers that need to comply with these guidelines but also small cafes, coffee shops and fast food restaurants as 30% of food is consumed outside of the home environment. Foods to be targeted include cereals, breakfast foods, biscuits, yoghurts, ice cream, confectionary and sweet spreads.

Whether healthier alternatives are introduced or whether the products are simply cut in size by 20%, these targets could mean that we consume 200,000 tonnes less sugar in the UK by 2020.

These figures are based only on the foods which are quite obvious in their sugar content, there are so many hidden sugars in other products and foods that we could reduce in our diet but this is a great first step forward in tackling childhood obesity.

I will be back with my blog again very soon, I have lots to share – my latest passion is fermented foods, making my own sauerkraut, coconut milk kefir and recently I’ve make my own cream cheese too. They’re all great gut-healing foods and so easy to make.

Good to be back, sorry it’s been so long!

 

Advertisements

Low Carb Chocolate Cake

cake.jpg

I don’t think I’ve met many people who don’t like a slice of chocolate cake every now and again, some more than others! Even though I am happy to be sugar free and don’t really miss cake, sometimes you just fancy a treat. I looked through a few recipes online and in some of my cookbooks and came up with my own version of a chocolate cake with an indulgent chocolate ganache and pecan topping.

Low carb,  sugar free (almost – a small amount of rice syrup was used) and packed with nutrients (dark chocolate, ground almonds, arrowroot powder – many health benefits including aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol, protein rich, blood sugar regulation and much more besides), this cake is suitable for paleo & gluten free diets.

Ingredients for Base:

  • 225 g ground almonds
  • 30 g raw cacao powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 20-50 ml rice malt syrup (amount to suit taste)
  • 60 ml water

Ingredients for ganache topping:

  • 120 ml double (heavy) cream
  • 100 g dark chocolate 85% or higher, roughly broken/chopped into pieces
  • Sprinkle of pecan nuts (optional)

Method (makes approximately 16 servings):

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 20 cm square or round baking tin
  • Mix together the ground almonds, cacao powder, arrowroot and baking powder in a bowl
  • Whisk the eggs, rice malt syrup and water
  • Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well
  • Pour into baking tin and bake for 20 minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack
  • To make ganache, slowly heat the cream (do not boil) and stir in the chocolate pieces until glossy
  • Spread over the cooled cake and sprinkle with pecan nuts
  • Leave to cool and then cut to serve. Perfect with a scoop of clotted cream or mascarpone.

Heart Healthy Mackerel, Avocado and Eggs

heartWe are all keen to live healthy lives and look after our hearts. Starting the day with a heart healthy meal can help keep cholesterol levels in check and provide an excellent source of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients to keep the rest of our body functioning well too.

Many people are now prescribed statins by their doctor due to raised cholesterol levels but I can’t help feeling that most of these people would benefit from better diet and lifestyle choices rather than simply popping more pills. Of course, you should always seek advice from your GP first but it can’t do any harm to include some of these heart friendly foods regularly in your diet anyway.

My breakfast/brunch today was packed full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients known to specifically target good cardiovascular health.

mackerelSmoked mackerel is an oily fish containing anti-carcinogenic agents. It fortifies the immune system and contains omega 3 acids which enhance both brain and nerve development.

It is known to improve the condition of the blood – fatty acids help thin blood, improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol whilst maintaining the good cholesterol.

Avocado contains oleic acid (this is also found in olives) which is known to reduce cholesterol. It contains heart healthy folate and also has fibre and lutein, an anti-oxidant to help protect against eye disease.

eggsAnd finally eggs – these are a high quality source of protein, vitamins, minerals and good fats. They also contain lutein for eye health but are also responsible for raising the good cholesterol.

So before you reach for that bowl of cereal or toast and jam, think about treating yourself and your heart to a delicious nourishing meal instead.

No need to scour the supermarket aisles, checking labels for added sugar, gluten, nuts etc – these are all good foods as nature intended and will keep you feeling full and energised for the day ahead.

 

Quick and Easy Sugar Free Chia Seed Jam

We have been extremely lucky this year with a bountiful supply of fresh raspberries from the garden and blackberries from the hedgerows. Our freezer is now becoming full of berries which we use most days to defrost and add to our yoghurt breakfasts or cream cheese pancakes but I thought it might be nice to try something different.

jam.jpgI saw a few posts for chia seed jam online but in the end I just decided to ad lib and try my own recipe. I literally filled the small kilner jar with a mixture of the frozen raspberries and blackberries, added about a teaspoon of water and microwaved them for a couple of minutes. I did take them out to stir a couple of times until they seemed a little thicker. I then added about 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and gave a final good stir before leaving to cool in the fridge.

The result was good! I didn’t need to add any sweetener as the fruit was sweet enough for my tastebuds but you could add a little rice malt syrup or similar sweetener. It tasted delicious mixed with some Greek yoghurt and clotted cream!! I was pleasantly surprised at how well it set and how quick and easy it was to make. Definitely a regular recipe for me from now on.

Even better of course is that it is packed full of goodness from the berries and chia seeds. Protein, omega 3, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, fibre, stabilises blood sugar and lowers blood pressure, vitamins and anti-oxidants – the list goes on….!

 

 

The Award for Best Gluten Free Carrot Cake Goes To…

The Woods Café at Cardinham Woods in Bodmin! This is a favourite spot for us – my husband cycles the mountain bike trails while I go for a 6 km jog with the dog and then we reward ourselves with coffee and cake in one of the prettiest cafés to be found in Cornwall . There’s a fire to sit by in the winter indoors and plenty of seating outside too for those warmer days.

woods cafe cake

They always have a couple of gluten free options, my husband loves the carrot cake, it’s so delicious, you wouldn’t believe it’s gluten free! The gluten free brownies are also a strong contender. Recently they started baking some vegan options (also suitable for a paleo diet) and I just can’t resist the chocolate coconut balls (you can see them just on the left of the photo). At our last visit I tried the vegan chocolate nut bar which was delicious too.

It’s so nice to see somewhere catering for all sorts of dietary needs with home-baked goodies. They don’t just bake cakes, there are plenty of savoury options if you don’t have such a sweet tooth but it takes someone extremely strong-willed not to be tempted with such an amazing cake counter!

 

 

 

Sugar Free September

The Noakes Foundation have come up with this great guide to how much sugar is hiding in some of our favourite regular meals. Who would have thought that an apparently healthy bowl of muesli for breakfast would be one of the worst offenders?!

Hidden sugar

There are many times in the year where we are encouraged to give up our addictions, “Stoptober” always proves popular for those trying to give up smoking. Sugar is just as addictive so why not join in and try a Sugar Free September? If you manage to stick to it and get yourself through those initial cravings and withdrawals, I can guarantee you will question whether you really want to go back to your old sugar habit! Being sugar free opens up a whole new world of exciting and delicious foods and you will experience a new-found energy, no longer suffering hunger and sugar crashes.

How about starting with some eggs and bacon for breakfast? Or perhaps you are more of  scrambled eggs and salmon person? Add some avocado on the side. And don’t forget the butter.

For a snack have some full fat Greek yoghurt with berries, nuts and seeds. For dinner swap the spaghetti for spiralised courgetti (see my earlier post for details on Courgetti) or cauliflower rice and add some 10-20% good quality mince to transform your spaghetti bolognaise into a much more satisfying meal.

I purposely missed out the lunch swap because I’d be amazed if you could manage lunch after such a hearty breakfast!

 

Glutamine Rich Foods to Help Heal Coeliac Damage

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune condition in which gluten causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the delicate lining of the bowel, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients and vitamins from food. The intestinal villi are damaged and the body is unable to absorb the essential nutrients and vitamins required to maintain good health.

coeliac

L-Glutamine is a natural amino acid which speeds up healing of the intestines and the intestinal villi damaged by coeliac disease. It is also known to increase muscle mass and boost immune function which can be beneficial for athletes as well as for recovery from illness and surgery, particularly patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. This can be given in supplement form but there are many foods which are a natural source of glutamine.

  • Grass-fed meat and poultry
  • Seafood
  • Organ meat, particularly liver
  • Dairy – meat, yoghurt and cheese but particularly ricotta and cottage cheese
  • Free range eggs
  • Raw or fermented red cabbage (cooking it destroys the glutamine)
  • Nuts
  • All types of beans and legumes
  • Beet (swiss chard), spinach and parsley (eat raw, not cooked)

If a coeliac sufferer followed a ketogenic, paleo or primal type diet then the majority of these glutamine rich foods would be eaten on a regular basis and they should experience an improvement in symptoms and healing of their damaged intestine.

Once again, a diet filled with good quality natural produce makes much more sense than one full of carbohydrates and sugar!

 

Back To School!

After much deliberation, I have finally committed and decided to go back to school after 24 years!! Time to dust off any remaining brain cells that I might have left (if any) and see if I can put them to use!back to school

I have been a medical secretary for nearly 25 years in the NHS but this career has gone through many changes over the years and I feel it is time for something new. Starting this blog has helped me realise my enthusiasm in nutrition could perhaps be put to better use, although it remains to be seen as to which path this will ultimately lead me down. I have certainly benefited from my sugar free lifestyle and would love to be able to share this with others along with the accreditation and qualifications to enable me to do this on a completely different level.

I have enrolled on a course to study from home and become a Nutritional Therapist with the Institute for Optimal Nutrition. Unfortunately, I went straight to college from school and didn’t study A-levels, so I have to do a science access course for a year first. Trying to figure out chemistry is going to be particularly interesting!!

I have no doubt it will be a very steep learning curve, I shall need plenty of those MCTs from coconut oil to help kick start my brain and memory into action again but I am hoping that pure determination, willpower and enthusiasm will get me through somehow!

So, the school books will be out in October …. wish me luck!! I hope I’m up to it!

 

 

Six Foods for a Good Night’s Sleep

The Royal Society of Public Health in the UK undertook a study of 2000 people and revealed that on average the UK adult sleeps for 6.8 hours a night but this falls short of the optimum amount of sleep by 50 minutes. This can lead to a negative impact on health and well-being. Losing just 50 minutes sleep each night means that we lose the equivalent of one whole night’s sleep every week!

There are many contributory factors which disrupt our sleep but nutrition plays an important role and is a natural way to help regulate sleep. There are some foods which contain essential nutrients and minerals to help achieve optimum sleep if eaten regularly.

Almonds – 80% of us are lacking magnesium in our diet which helps achieve good quality sleep and almonds provide a rich source of this, one of the most powerful ‘relaxation’ minerals.

Avocados – containing high quality fats, they contain plenty of potassium which, in combination with magnesium, works to improve sleep.

Chamomile tea – this isn’t just a myth – if you drink a cup of chamomile tea about an hour before bedtime, you will have a rise in the chemical glycine which is a natural sedative and encourages muscle relaxation.

Cherries – these are another excellent source of magnesium, just a handful of cherries an hour or two before bedtime will help promote good quality sleep.

Green leafy vegetables -again packed with magnesium, rich in calcium and loaded with minerals and vitamins proven to help you sleep.

Walnuts – these contain a good supply of tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps the body to make melatonin. Melatonin regulates the sleeping and waking cycle and other circadian rhythms, it triggers chemical receptors in the brain to encourage sleep.

Sweet Dreams!!!

 

Kale Crisps

P1010156I love Kale. In fact, I love all green and leafy vegetables, I’m sure I feel instantly healthier once I’ve eaten them! I know though that my love of all things green isn’t shared by everyone but because kale is so nutritious, I tried to find a way of making it more appealing and came up with my own quick and easy version of kale “crisps”. If you get the munchies in the evening you can eat these with absolutely no guilt, in fact quite the opposite!

  • Kale is low in calories, low in fat and high in fibre and sulphur making it a great detoxifying food, good for your liver
  • Very high in iron – contains more iron than beef per calorie!
  • High in vitamin K
  • Contains anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids
  • Lowers cholesterol so is great for heart health
  • Contains vitamin A and vitamin C
  • Good source of calcium – more  calcium than milk, so a good addition to your diet if you can’t tolerate lactose/dairy products

How to make kale crisps (chips):

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  • Grab a bunch of fresh kale, I used cavalero nero, one of my favourites
  • Cut into good-sized 1-2 inch pieces (it will shrink slightly in the oven)
  • Place in a plastic bag or bowl, add 2-3 tablespoons of cold-pressed rapeseed oil along with a generous sprinkling of smoked paprika and sea salt and mix well (you can experiment with other spices to replace the paprika)
  • Lay the kale pieces on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until crispy
  • Take out of the oven and leave to cool before eating