November 06, 2012

Autumn 2012 - Childhood Obesity

Obesity is caused by two main factors - an unhealthy diet consisting of too much sugar and fat (not enough fibre and carbohydrates) and not enough exercise to burn off the calories that have been consumed. Around 25% of boys and 33% of girls aged between 2 and 19 years old are in the overweight/obese category. The increased obesity levels have lead to a rise in many related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, which is normally related with much older people.

Many people claim that parents are to blame for their children's diet and weight; however this is not strictly true. Together with parental responsibility, there are many other influences such as the society we live in, the food industry, health care and schools. It is not fair to put the blame all on parents as they do not have complete control of their child’s diet at all times. For example, 8-16 year olds spend £549 million a year on sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks just going to and coming home from school.

Many things can be done to try and reduce the chance of your child becoming overweight. It has been researched that lack of sleep is related to obesity and that tired children pile on the pounds much easier than children who get enough sleep. Tiredness affects 2 hormones that control the appetite and therefore lack of sleep means a higher risk of eating more food. Eating in front of the TV also contributes to overeating as it becomes ‘mindless eating’. Ideally, you should be feeding your children foods that are high in fibre, protein and carbohydrates, low in sugar and fats, natural, not processed. (See table below)

Try to get your child involved in preparing food to improve their interest. Also make sure that they are doing regular daily exercise. Children aged between 5 and 18 should be doing at least 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day and this should include moderate intensity exercise such as walking, vigorous intensity such as running or football, muscle strengthening activity such as sit ups or gymnastics and bone strengthening activities such as jumping or climbing.

Instead of this...
Give them this...
Large bowl of sugary cereal with semi-skimmed milk and a glass of sweetened fruit juice
Medium bowl of oatibix or oat cereal with semi-skimmed milk, a bit of honey and/or fruit.
Or, a boiled egg and wholemeal toast
Morning break
Fizzy drink and a bar of chocolate
A piece of fruit such as a banana or apple
Hot dog with fried onions, ketchup and a fizzy drink
Jacket potato with tuna or baked beans and chunks of cucumber/ carrot and a bottle of water. Can include a homemade muffin.
After school
Large packet of crisps
Small packet of mini chedders or a cereal bar like nature valley and a glass of semi-skimmed milk or yoghurt
Spaghetti Bolognese with white pasta and a slice of apple pie with ice cream
Spaghetti Bolognese with whole-wheat pasta and salad. Plus a piece of homemade cake or apple crumble
Cheese and pickle sandwich with 2 slices of white bread and butter
1 slice wholemeal toast with whole-earth sugar free peanut butter or nutella

WINTER NUTRITION - Keep healthy during winter with these nutrition tips!
Vitamin C for winter colds
Why it’s important – vitamin c is vital for supporting the cells of the immune system as they use it to fight off unwanted microorganisms in the body. High levels of vitamin C need to be maintained in order to protect the cells from free radicals that come from bacteria, parasites and viruses.
Where it can be found – citrus fruits, dark green vegetables and other fruits such as strawberries and tomatoes.
Water for dry skin
Why it’s important – During winter, people tend not to drink as much water as they may not feel hot, or perspire as much as they would in the summer. However, water is important to keep hydrated. As well as not drinking enough water, dry skin can also be caused by cold and windy weather dehydrating the skin. Other signs of dehydration include headaches, lack of energy and feeling lightheaded.
Where it can be found – As well as drinking water, water is found in foods, however we should aim to drink 1.2 litres of fluids everyday.

Serotonin for dark day blues
Why it’s important – Serotonin is a ‘feel-good’ hormone and a normal level of it promotes feelings of happiness. Low serotonin levels can result in chronic fatigue, appetite/sleep disturbance, difficulties focusing and concentrating and low self-esteem.
Where it can be found – high quality carbohydrates such as whole grains - this includes sweet potato, pumpkins and squashes. Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, potato and wholegrain pasta are also effective.

Vitamin D for bone health
Why it’s important – During winter months, there is less sunlight and people do not expose their skin as much as in summer. A lack in vitamin D is related to the increased risk in developing osteoporosis, fractures and particularly hip fractures later on in life. Vitamin D is essential for the proper absorption of calcium, bone development, control of cell growth and immune functioning.
Where it can be found – Fish is a very good source of vitamin D, the best fish is Atlantic Herring followed by salmon. Fortified cereals, oysters, salami, ham and sausages also contain decent amounts of the essential vitamin.
Liver cleansing after Christmas over-indulgence
After drinking too much alcohol or overindulging by eating too much food during the festive period, the liver can become overworked. It cannot process toxins and fat in an efficient way. There are many foods that can help stimulate the liver to clean toxic waste from the body.
Foods that cleanse the liver – Garlic is an excellent food for cleansing the liver as it activates liver enzymes and helps your body flush out toxins. Grapefruit is high in vitamin C and antioxidants that increase the natural cleaning processes of the liver. A glass of grapefruit juice will help the production of liver detoxification enzymes that help flush out carcinogens and other toxins. Other good foods for liver cleansing include beets, carrots, green tea and leafy green vegetables.

Natural live yoghurt for a healthy gut
Why it’s important – Natural live yoghurt contains active and living bacterial cultures (probiotics), which contribute greatly towards keeping a healthy gut. As well as aiding the gut, the bacterial cultures help to boost the immune system. The health benefits of the probiotics in natural live yoghurt are that they improve digestion, fight infection, have anti-cancer properties, promotes clear skin and improves cholesterol levels.
Where it can be found – most yoghurts say ‘made with live cultures’ however they need to be active. Look for yoghurts that have ‘contains live cultures’ or ‘contains live probiotic cultures’ in the ingredients. The specific cultures should also be listed, look out for: lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium longum, streptococcus thermophillus and lactobacillus bulgaricus

October 25, 2012

Summer 2012 - working towards better health

Now summer is nearly over we need to continue the sun's good work by keeping up our vitamin D levels. Vitamin D helps to keep our serotonine levels topped up and this helps us to feel calm and also stops us over-eating. So, having enough vitamin D is essential for losing  or maintaining your optimal weight. Vitamin D, sometimes known as the sunshine vitamin, is synthesized by our bodies under the skin in reaction to summer sunlight. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight but there are a small number of foods that contain vitamin D naturally. Good sources include oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. I've put together some tasty recipes for you to enjoy, improve your health and bring sunshine to your plate!


 Super Powered Mackerel Couscous (serves 3-4) 

200g Couscous(preferably wholewheat)
2 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 Lemon
1/2 head Broccoli, cut into florets

5 Fillets Smoked Mackerel
80g Hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
75g Dried Apricots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp toasted seeds (sunflower, pumpin, sesame)
2 tbsp finely chopped dill

  • Put the couscous in a large bowl and stir in the oil, cumin and the zest and juice of half a lemon. 
  • Stir in 300ml of boiling water, cover and leave for 10 minutes.
  • Blanch the broccoli for 3 minutes in boiling water and then run under the cold tap until cool.
  • Remove the skin from the mackerel fillets and flake it through the couscous.
  • Mix in the hazelnuts, apricots, seeds, dill and rocket.
  • Stir through the remaining lemon juice and season with black pepper, to your taste.
This meal is great for dinner parties!

 Salmon with a sundried tomato and goats cheese crust (serves 2) 

2 Salmon Fillets

125g Soft Goats Cheese

2 tbsp Sundried Tomato Paste

3 tbsp Breadcrumbs

1 tbsp Grated Parmesan

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
  • Place the salmon fillets skin side down on a baking sheet.
  • Spread 1 tbsp of sundried tomato paste over each fillet.
  • Mix together the breadcrumbs, goats cheese and grated parmesan and cover each fillet with the breadcrumb mix.
  • Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.

 Grilled Tuna Steaks with Mango and Green Pepper Salsa (Serves 2) 

2 Tuna Steaks
Half a Fresh Mango, diced

1 Green Pepper, diced

Handful Fresh Coriander, finely chopped

Juice of 1 Lime 

  • Grill the Tuna under a medium heat to your taste. 2 minutes on each side will cook it rare.
  • Mix the diced mango, diced green pepper, chopped coriander and lime juice together in a bowl.
Serve together!


Salmon, Mackerel and Tuna
 as well as being rich dietary sources of vitamin D, are excellent sources of protein and rich in beneficial fish oils, known as omega 3 fatty acids. Protein contains amino acids and is necessary in the diet for muscle growth and maintenance. The beneficial fish oils help to regulate and reduce infammmation in the body. In addition, these fish are rich in vitamins and minerals which are essential for optimum health. Salmon is a good source of phosphorous, selenium and vitamin B12. Phosphorous is important for healthy bones and teeth, as well as good kidney function. Vitamin B12 is essential for nerve function, DNA synthesis and energy metabolism. Whilst selenium is a potent antioxidant. Mackerel, also rich in selenium, is a good source of magnesium. Magnesium is key for muscle relaxation as well as maintenance of good cardiovascular health. Tuna is also a rich source of vitamin B12, as well as containing niacin (vitamin B3). Niacin has a key role in energy metabolism.
Mango is an excellent source of vitamin C which has a wide range of health benefits attributed to it. These include strengthening the immune system, the maintenance of healthy bones, joints and skin, helping the body to protect against cancer and heart disease and energy production in the body. Mangos are also a useful digestive aid as they contain enzymes that are beneficial in the correct digestion of protein.
Rocket is a peppery tasting vegetable. Bitter foods, such as rocket, are beneficial for the digestion. It stimulates digestion by enhancing the production of digestive fluids in the stomach and the production of bile. An increase in bile production will hep digestion and absorption of fats.

Broccoli is rich in phytonutrients and its role in cancer prevention has been extensively studied. It is thought that these phytochemicals protect the body from cancer by regulating the way in which cells respond to environmental changes that can potentially trigger cancerous changes within the DNA of the cell. They do this by enhancing the cell's natural defence mechanisms to damage, making it more able to resist changes.

Goats Cheese is a very good source of calcium. Calcium is best known for its role in maintaining strength and density of bones.

NUTRITIONAL RESEARCH - What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D is best know for its essential role in aiding calcium absorption and therefore maintenance of healthy bones. Calcium is vital in the formation of the bone matrix and thus the development of strong bones in children, and the maintenance of bone strength in adults.
Over the last 10 years vitamin D has been the subject of extensive research and multiple roles for the sunshine vitamin are being uncovered in overall body health. Postulated roles include strengthening the immune system, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system.
There is increasing evidence that vitamin D has a pivotal role in the immune system, both activating our white blood cells that fight infection, and reducing inflammation levels within the body.
Vitamin D has also been shown to regulate insulin secretion within the body and support the uptake of glucose into body cells, thus reducing circulating blood sugar levels.
Finally, evidence suggests that vitamin D has a role in preventing high blood pressure, through its actions on the kidney.

Zitterman A (2003) Vitamin D in preventative medicine: are we ignoring the evidence? British Journal of Nutrition, 89: 552-572.
Cannell JJ & Hollis B (2008) Use of vitamin D in clinical practice. Alternative Medicine Review, 13: 6-20.