Heating systems in our homes and workplaces create dry air, posing a challenge for skin and mucus membranes.
Protect them with sufficient supplies of vitamin A from fresh vegetables like carrots, spinach and broccoli.
Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, reduces oxidative stress and is one of the requirements for collagen production. Let and abundance of fresh citrus fruits, bell peppers, cauliflower, hawthorn and black currents provide you with an extra boost of this essential nutrient. For maximum benefit these fruits and vegetables should be consumed fresh and raw.
Vitamin D supports calcium household and immune system. While a certain amount can obtained from consuming meat and fish, you should insist on daily exposure to sunlight for the body to synthesise sufficient quantities.
Iron is an important component for the process of oxygen transportation, cell renewal and energy metabolism. Lack of iron can lead to damaged nails and hair, lack of energy and increase the risk of infection. Meat, fish, lentils, red beets, dried apricots and black currents are excellent sources.
Zinc supports healthy hair growth, wound healing and helps prevent infection. Get it from apples, beef, cheese and hazelnuts.
Adequate immune response is based on sufficient supplies of proteins and amino acids from meat, fish, cheese, lean ham, turkey, chicken, plain yoghurt, eggs and nuts.
If your not eating as healthy as you should, it may be best to get the whole family to take a good quality nutritional supplement. They are a great way to obtain the missing nutrients which are of course the vital to an optimum functioning immune system.
Let your creativity run wild and splurge on using these exquisite flavours in foods, snacks and beverages.
Get your senses to indulge in the experience of other places, new sensations and invigorating health.
1. Allspice is the fruit of a West Indian tree and popular in spice mixes for soups, roasts, marinades and mulled wine. It is also known to aid digestion.
2. Cardamom is a pod containing seeds. Its aroma has a hint of eucalyptus and is sweet, strong and heady. The taste is camphor like, a bit lemony, pleasant and warm and pairs well with sweet and savoury dishes, baked goods and tea-spice mixes. It may protect against heart disease and improve digestion.
3. Cayenne is the fruit of a pepper plant originating in Central and South America. The fiery powder infuses lemon or chocolate drinks, soups, meats, rice, vegetables, pastas and fruit with punch and passion. It is highly beneficial for circulation, digestion, and immune defense.
4. Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tree with a sweet and woody aroma. Its warm and delicately spicy taste is equally suited to both savoury and sweet dishes, and beverages. Use it with fruit, desserts, soups, casseroles, pies, breads or enjoy it as part of tea or coffee blends. The numerous health benefits linked to cinnamon include blood sugar management, weight loss, vasodilation, and many more.
5. Cloves have a camphor-like warm aroma and a hot, peppery taste. They bring seasonal spirit to fruits, soups, meats, breads, desserts and tea blends. Their health benefits include immune-boosting, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
6. Coriander seeds are harvested from coriander plant (you may know its leaves as cilantro). They have a mild, warm flavour with undertones of orange peel and are used in soups, spice mixes, with sausages, cured meats, game and in breads. Their numerous health benefits include support of bone health, eye health and management of cholesterol.
7. Cumin comes from the delicate cumin plant and belongs to the parsley family. It’s warm, spicy aroma and pungent earthy taste make a great addition to vegetables, soups, dressings, roasts and stews. Health benefits include increased absorption of nutrients from other foods, stimulation of pancreatic enzymes, relieves bloating and gas.
8. Ginger is a bulbous root with warming pungent flavour, adding zing and zest to water, tea, soup, vegetable dishes, smoothies and juices. It is also the defining ingredient in the gingerbread spice mix. Numerous health benefits linked to ginger include supporting digestion, promoting energy flow, alleviation of colds and flu symptoms and nausea.
9. Nutmeg is the seed of an evergreen Caribbean tree. The original meaning of its name is „nut which smells like musk“. Its warm and spicy, slightly peppery taste is indispensable for creamy vegetable soups, spinach dishes, pumpkin dishes and eggnog. Health benefits include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
10. Saffron is one of the most precious and legendary spices on the market. It comes as thin threads of red and orange, the harvested stigmas from crocus flowers. The exotic, slightly sweet aroma and delicate, mildly bitter taste are exquisite companions for soups, risottos, pastas, fish dishes and cakes. It promotes heart health, digestive function, vitality and memory function.
11. Turmeric the “Golden Goddess” is a bulbous root, dried and ground into golden powder. Aside from its famous anti-inflammatory health benefits it lends an earthy exotic touch to everything from salads, soups, stews, meats, vegetables, fruit and desserts. It is especially beneficial when prepared as a Golden Milk drink.
12. Vanilla is the edible pod of an orchid variety. The most prized kinds come from Reunion Island and Tahiti. Its sweet, indulgent exotic flavour delights in desserts, sweets, baked goods, fish dishes, spice mixes and drinks. Powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol balancing properties some of the numerous health benefits.
Increasing numbers of nutritional experts are praising the incredible effects of an anti-inflammatory diet on long term health. In fact, it’s never been more apparent how powerful overall gut health can be in terms of how we function day-to-day. Gut health also affects how we feel, with our digestive systems responsible for producing a portion of our serotonin – the neurotransmitter which not only helps us feel happier, but also plays a part in mood, quality of sleep, temperature regulation, and more.
Poor gut health then should be avoided, not least because it may lead to chronic inflammation. Long term, chronic inflammation may increase the risk of certain conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, or even heart disease. Signs of inflammation could include constant fatigue, anxiety, depression, and digestive issues like abdominal pain.
What triggers inflammation?
There are many lifestyle attributes that can trigger inflammation – stress, lack of exercise, or over exercising and diet.
Problems in the gut may occur when foods that cause inflammation are regularly consumed. Regularly feasting on irritants like fried foods, refined sugar, and fizzy drinks could aggravate your immune system and may lead to your body working overtime to compensate.
Even those eating an anti-inflammatory diet may unknowingly be increasing their risk of inflammation by eating seemingly harmless foods that they are intolerant to, their bodies then wrongly identifying the food’s proteins as a threat. It’s important to listen to your body and cater your diet to your personal needs in order to avoid inflammation.
What is the fastest way to get rid of inflammation in the body?
While inflammation can be measured by monitoring levels of C-reactive protein, the easiest way to alleviate symptoms and improve gut health is by eating an anti-inflammatory diet packed with natural anti-inflammatory foods and anti-inflammatory herbs.
Inflammation could be greatly reduced by following an approach of eating an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising regularly, minimising stress, and taking supplements that work to fight inflammation such as probiotics and fish oil.
A Mediterranean diet is often recommended by nutritionists due to the fact it is nutritionally dense and balanced, consisting of lots of whole grains, fish, and healthy fats.
Another method of eliminating inflammation is by cutting out foods that you’re intolerant to. If you’re unsure of what these may be, find out more about intolerance tests on my website.
What foods are bad for inflammation?
Foods high in saturated fats should be avoided – these include dairy products, red meat, and many unhealthy snack foods. Eliminate corn, sunflower, and other oils and margarines that are overly processed; favour instead natural anti- inflammatory foods, such as olive oil.
Sugar, artificial sweeteners and certain grains are also foods that may cause inflammation. Nutritionists advise the easiest way to eliminate foods that cause inflammation is to remove anything processed from your diet. It’s important to identify your trigger foods and everyone has a unique food fingerprint.
What is the most effective natural anti-inflammatory?
Here are some natural anti-inflammatory foods and anti-inflammatory herbs that are worth knowing:
Ashwaganda: Alongside food intolerances and eating inflammatory foods, stress can be a huge factor when it comes to inflammation. The ancient anti-inflammatory herb Ashwaganda, used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, has been found to help reduce the negative effects of stress, increase the body’s ability to reduce cortisol levels, and lessen chronic inflammation.
Ginger: Ginger is known to reduce nausea and vomiting, but it also serves another holistic purpose. High in gingerol, it is a strong anti-inflammatory. Add ginger to your food as an anti-inflammatory herb, or drink ginger tea to aid your anti-inflammatory diet.
Moringa: Do you know that inflammation is the main cause of pain and soreness after a workout? Moringa has powerful anti-inflammatory properties owing to its high concentration of isocyanates, biophenols and essential amino acids that reduce inflammation and assist in muscle recovery.
Blueberries: Blueberries garner their status as a superfood from their incredibly high levels of phytoflavinoids, antioxidants, and vitamin C – a powerful combination that may help combat stress in the body.
Broccoli: Research shows that the antioxidants within broccoli work powerfully against inflammation in the body. This natural anti-inflammatory food is also rich with minerals, vitamins, and fibre, making it a nutritious addition to any meal – especially for vegetarians or vegans looking for alternative protein sources.
Cinnamon: High in taste, cinnamon originates from trees that grow bountifully in Asia. The sweet spice is antimicrobial, as well as potent in its anti-inflammatory capabilities. Looking to lower your stress levels too? Cinnamon can be added to hot porridge or tea for a relaxing food experience.
Olive oil: Perhaps the strongest of all-natural anti-inflammatory foods on this list, olive oil is great for your heart and for your gut. Antioxidants and oleocanthal are what make it such a beneficial food for an anti-inflammatory diet, with oleocanthal’s effects having been likened to that of ibuprofen but in natural form.
Spinach: When it comes to natural anti-inflammatory foods, leafy greens are perhaps the best known. Spinach itself is an incredibly versatile vegetable – able to be consumed in smoothies, in salads, or on the side of any meal – containing high levels of water-soluble vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, and flavonoids, omega-3s and carotenoids The nutritional and anti-inflammatory benefits of spinach are hard to beat.
Salmon (Wild-Caught): Omega-3 fatty acids may help ease symptoms of inflammatory diseases, such as pain and stiffness, may help reduce inflammation and could also prevent its onset. Salmon is renowned by experts as the best food source when it comes to incorporating omega-3s into your life, and is a great place to start with your anti-inflammatory diet.
Turmeric: Curcumin, found in turmeric, is thought to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Supplements will often carry more curcumin than turmeric in its ground form, but the bright yellow spice can be easily added to everything, from regular cooking to turmeric lattes, making it an adaptive and flavourful natural anti-inflammatory food.
Avocado’s: Avocado’s are rich in Potassium, Copper, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and more. A great source of healthy fats which reduce the body’s inflammatory response, researchers have been recently speculating about the anti-inflammatory benefits of another part of avocado’s – its seed, which carries high levels of polyphenols.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found naturally within the cells in the body. You need cholesterol to maintain optimum health, but too much in the body may increase your risk of major diseases, such as heart disease. Some cholesterol is found in the foods you eat, but most of it is made in your liver.
If you have a raised cholesterol level, there is an array of treatment options for you, including the use of statins.
Statins are widely used to lower your cholesterol levels and they often work best when paired with a healthy lifestyle.
What is a high cholesterol level?
The NHS recommends that total cholesterol levels should be 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults, and 4mmol/L or less for those at risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease. But there are different types of cholesterol and it can be confusing to establish exactly what your cholesterol reading is.
What types of cholesterol are there?
There are two main types of cholesterol – LDL cholesterol (also known as low density lipoprotein cholesterol and referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’) and HDL cholesterol (known as high density lipoprotein cholesterol and commonly referred to as ‘good cholesterol’).
How do I check my cholesterol?
Your cholesterol can be checked through a simple blood test which can be through a finger-prick or syringe. The test measures for different types of cholesterol and triglycerides, which is another type of blood fat.
It is important your GP or a suitable expert explains the results to you as sometimes they can be confusing to understand.
How to lower cholesterol?
Do you have high cholesterol and looking to improve your health and well-being? Do you have an average cholesterol level but conscious of your health and well-being?
There are simple and natural ways to lower your cholesterol levels. Here are five healthy changes:
• Quit smoking
It is estimated that 7.2 million people in the UK smoke cigarettes. Smoking may cause more of your bad cholesterol to cling to your artery walls, according to Heart UK. Quitting smoking not only helps your overall health but reduces your risk of raised cholesterol and heart disease.
• Increase your physical activity through exercise
It is recommended that adults aged 19 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week. 150 minutes sounds like a long time, but to break this down it is only 30 minutes every day for five days.
Exercise can help improve cholesterol and raise the HDL cholesterol (the good kind). We recommend taking up exercise with a friend or loved one to boost motivation.
• Lose weight
Losing weight may not only be beneficial for your overall health and well-being, but this is one of the most important lifestyle factors to improve your cholesterol levels. In fact, sometimes losing weight alone can be enough.
Use a calorie counting app to track your calories as you can be surprised how quickly calories can add up. You will then be able to see where you can cut back.
For example, you could be drinking a 500ml bottle of coke a day after dinner – that’s 1,421 calories a week! Simple calorie cutbacks could make all the difference.
Other weight loss tips include parking your car further away from work or the shops and use the stairs where possible to increase your activity levels.
• Limit your alcohol
Moderate your intake and stick to the advised limit of no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
• Indulge in heart-friendly foods
Diet forms a vital role in actively making a difference to your cholesterol levels. Now more than ever, there is an abundance of dietary advice online on how to eat healthier.
Want to start now?
There’s no better time to start. After all, simple changes are often the ones which easily form a habit.
For most people, stress is inevitable in certain stages of life – starting a new job, buying a house, leaving home for university. For some, however, a high level of stress can be a daily battle, leading to anxiety or depression. This may lead you to searching on the internet, topics such as ‘stress symptoms’, ‘how can I reduce my mental stress?’ and ways to manage it.
Symptoms of anxiety include:
It’s worth noting that anxiety can be a symptom of depression. If you feel as though you’re currently experiencing a high level of emotional stress in your life and you’re concerned you may have depression, it’s worth checking in with your GP to talk to them about your current well-being.
It may feel daunting to open up but be assured that they will have the knowledge and support to help you.
Symptoms of depression can be especially complex.
However they can include:
Can autumn/winter cause anxiety or depression?
As we progress into the final months of the year, it’s safe to say that summer is long gone. The trees are shedding their final few leaves, the chill in the air is ever increasing, and nights are becoming longer and longer. The turning back of the clocks signals autumn’s transition into winter, and a final effort to maximise on those precious few hours of daylight. Here we take a look at the relationship between food intolerances and low mood.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
For many people, this time of year can be difficult. It’s estimated that around 2 million people in the UK experience signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, or winter depression. For sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, with winter and the lessening of daylight hours comes a lack of interest in life, and a feeling of low mood.
Frequent symptoms include:
Can food trigger anxiety or stress?
The exact causes for SAD are not fully understood, with lack of exposure to sunlight often being suggested as a potential contributor, as well as changes in diet and eating habits during the colder months. The role of diet on mood cannot be understated, and in recent years there has been an increased focus in scientific circles of the relationship between the digestive system and the brain.
Did you know that the gut produces 90% of the body’s serotonin, the hormone responsible for feelings of happiness?
Or that 90% of the fibres that make up the body’s main nerve, the vagus, are responsible for carrying information from the gut to the brain?
This means if the gut is unhappy, it’s likely you’ll be unhappy too. Around a quarter of people will suffer from depression at some point in their life, and according to a leading UK charity* around 45% of people will show symptoms of food intolerance.
Research has discovered that gastrointestinal inflammation, one of the most frequent symptoms of food intolerance, is frequently found in those showing signs of depression. The relationship between gut health and depression has also been suggested to be bi-directional.
This means that if you’re feeling depressed, the health of your digestive system is likely to suffer. Likewise, if you’re suffering from digestive problems, the chance of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety markedly increases.
In the past 5 years, prescriptions for anti-depressants have risen by around 40%...
While these medications may work for many, they potentially represent dealing with the problem of low mood at a surface rather than root level. For those undergoing feelings of anxiety and depression, tackling these problems first hand may be a daunting prospect.
If you find yourself feeling lower than usual at this time of year, it’s a good idea to have a think about what the contributing factors might be, and if changing your diet could help.
What foods cause a reaction for one person may not be the same for another, we refer to this as an individual’s ‘food fingerprint’.
This is one of the main reasons I know offer diagnostic tests to help you find out your own food fingerprint.
I am happy to announce that I now offer tests for food intolerance, intestinal dysbiosis, mineral analysis and many more. These tests have a 94% accuracy level.
There have been studies which show that after changing eating habits after a food intolerance test; mood improvements occurred.
If you notice a low mood, increased feelings of anxiety, or feel tired, stressed and unmotivated at this time of year, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There can be many contributing factors towards the state of your mental health, and it’s always important that you check these out with your GP, but the influence of diet and nutrition is hard to neglect.
If you think food intolerance is having a negative effect on your mood, please contact me to get the process started.
It is painless and only a few cells are collected from your inner cheek and sent away to Daphne Laboratories based in Italy. Results are received in 7-9 days maximum.
Choose the test that's right for you.
Millet adds flavor and nutrition to your diet and work as a versatile alternative to staples like rice and wheat. It is gluten-free, has a low glycemic index, and is a good source of antioxidants. Millet can help reduce the risk of diabetes, prevent heart disease, promote weight loss, lowers cholesterol and fights aging. It may also have a role to play in the prevention and treatment of several cancers.
Millet is a good source of protein, high in fibre and is rich in multiple vitamins, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and magnesium.
One cup of cooked millet contains the following nutritional values:
Millet also contains trace amounts of copper, zinc and manganese.
Thanks to its nutritional profile, millet offers several health benefits and here are some of them:
1. Has Antioxidant Properties
All varieties of millets abound in phytochemicals known as polyphenols, which have strong antioxidant properties. Polyphenols flush out harmful free radicals from the body and prevent several potentially fatal conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer. They also reduce inflammation, up your immunity, and help fight viruses.
Millets even outperform rice in terms of antioxidant power. Pearl millet and finger millet pack in 1478 and 612 mcg of phenolic acid per gram, respectively, whereas different varieties of rice contain 197–376 mcg of the phytochemical.
2. Controls Diabetes
Most millets have a low glycemic index and high amounts of soluble dietary fiber, enabling better sugar control and making them a diabetes-friendly cereal. When it comes to managing type 2 diabetes, finger millet is considered a superfood with its high magnesium content – 408 mg per 100 gm of cooked grain, which pretty much meets the daily requirement of men (400-420 mg/day) and exceeds that for women (310-320 mg/day).
Magnesium significantly boosts the efficiency of insulin receptors and decreases insulin resistance. Studies even indicate that consuming a diet rich in this mineral can reduce the chance of developing diabetes by 30 percent.
3. Is Good for Your Heart
As a good source of magnesium, millets help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by atherosclerosis – a condition where arteries become narrower due to fatty deposits on their inner walls. Millets also contain substantial amounts of potassium, another heart-friendly mineral. Animal studies show that proso and finger millets can even improve the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol.
4. Guards the Gut If You Have Celiac Disease
Some millet breads contain small quantities of wheat flour. So make sure you check for the gluten-free label before picking your millet goodies.
If there is one property that makes millets a nutritional superstar, it is the absence of gluten. Aside from the variety, millets offer the bonus benefits of a host of micro- and macronutrients and phytochemicals. Just the combination you’d want if you are struggling with celiac disease.
5. May Offer Protection against Cancer
Research shows that some of the phenolics found in millets may help prevent the initiation and progression of many types of cancer, including breast and colon cancers. The anti-tumorigenic agents in finger millet have also been found to be particularly effective against chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a rare type of blood cancer.
6. Keeps your Bones Healthy
Finger millets contain 344 mg calcium (which is more than the amount of calcium present in milk) that meets 34% of your DV. Calcium is your body’s bone-building mineral, without which your bones may become brittle and weak. Finger millets are also rich in magnesium, which is another mineral that maintains your bone health. Plus, some studies suggest that magnesium may decrease your risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
7. Helps Digestion
If you frequently suffer from digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, and gas, it might be due to your low intake of dietary fiber. Millets, especially pearl millet, have a significant amount of resistant starch and soluble and insoluble fiber, which regulates your digestion process and prevents the food moving too fast or too slow in your digestive tract. Furthermore, since millets are gluten-free, they also reduce the stomach problems that occur due to the celiac disease.
8. Prevents Gallstone
The fiber in millets is also helpful in reducing the risk of gallstones. Foods rich in insoluble fiber can speed up the transit of undigested food through the colon and also reduce the secretion of bile acids which help form gallstones. In fact, a long-term study found that women who ate a fiber-rich diet were 17% less likely to have gallstones than those who had no fiber.
9. Helps Manage Weight
Whole grains that are rich in fiber also assist with weight loss. Millets are no exception. They also increase your satiety and keep you full for longer periods of time. This decreases hunger pangs and keeps you from snacking between meals. In addition they lower cholesterol and increase insulin sensitivity which helps you manage your weight.
10. Improves Your Mood and Helps You Sleep Better
A standard serving of millets contains about 120 gm of an amino acid called tryptophan, which meets about 42% of your daily requirement. Your body uses tryptophan to make serotonin – a chemical that regulates your overall mood and fights depression. Tryptophan is also shown to increase the quality of sleep and improve morning alertness. Additionally, the amino acid is believed to increase cognitive function by improving memory and facilitates learning.
11. Fights Aging and Improves Skin
Antioxidants and phenolics that millets abound in are renowned for their anti-aging properties. Millets have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce cell damage due to aging. Animal studies indicate that polyphenols found in finger millet and kodo millet may also boost the production of collagen to give you firmer, healthier, and younger-looking skin. Moreover, the benefits of millet for your digestive system as well as your sleep quality are bound to show up on your skin too.
12. Increases Breast Milk Supply
Millets are traditionally used to increase the production of breast milk in breastfeeding mothers. Although there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove that millet can increase breast milk supply; there’s no harm in trying to find out for yourselves, provided you stay within dietary limits.
13. Millet is Good for Babies
Millet is a wonderful grain for your baby. It is gluten free, nutritious, versatile, easily digestible and a less allergenic grain suitable as a solid food for your baby. Also, the size and shape of millet resemble barley which makes it an excellent finger food. The smooth texture ensures its easy digestion. You can introduce it from around 7 months of age.
Wondering how to get your daily fix of millets?
Millet flour can replace wheat flour in your cakes and bakes. Millets can also just as easily step in for rice in your meals. Beyond that, since millets are a staple in several parts of the world, you have a variety of traditional and exotic recipes to choose from.
Don’t Overindulge: Millets May Cause Constipation and Impair Thyroid Function
There's a few simple steps to help you get started:
1. Decide on your motivation – anything you like.
2. Decide on your goal this can be a weight, measurement, clothes size or just to feel better.
3. Start eating sensibly immediately (not tomorrow).
4. Start exercising as soon as possible, just a small amount, as often as you can manage.
Motivation – this should be easy to decide on. There should be plenty of reasons to lose weight.
Here are a few suggestions:
● Improve relationship/sex life
● Gain confidence
● Enjoy more time with kids
● Live longer
● Reduce illness
● Increase energy
● Improve your mind
● Improve mood
Goal – you can use anything for your goal.
It can be easier to use a number such as waist size or weight, but anything can be used to set your goal.
I personally set myself a goal weight, which motivated me to do more to reach the goal quickly yet steadily.
Eating – When choosing an effective diet, you need to consider the following criteria. The diet
● Allow you to eat enough food without being hungry.
● Encourage eating of a healthy variety of foods.
● Be a sensible diet that you can continue for the rest of your life.
Exercising – Try going for a short walk. Perhaps half an hour, maybe more if you
can... or simply aim for 5,000 steps a day to start with and increase to 7,000 or even 10,000 !
A new report highlights the extent to which medicines, lifestyle and poor diet are “killing” vitamin and mineral levels, leading to potentially serious health issues for women.
The UK National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) has revealed a marked drop in women’s intake of most vitamins and minerals, with deficiencies being linked to a host of health issues, some potentially very serious.
Adults from across the UK were quizzed on their diets and only 20% said they eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – leaving eight out of 10 failing even the minimum dietary standards. Over one third (37%) said they only managed to eat five portions of fruit and veg for two or fewer days in a week.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer says: “There’s been a marked – and hugely worrying – drop in women’s intake of most vitamins and minerals. This is due to the fact that many people have little time for cooking from scratch and rely on fast food, takeaways and ready meals.
In addition, the trend for popular exclusion or weight-loss diets, together with social media ‘influencers’ pushing potentially unhealthy eating regimes, has meant whole food groups can be missed out on. It’s perhaps no surprise that so many of us are failing to manage an adequate nutrient intake, with gaps and deficiencies in a host of crucial vitamins and minerals.”
The pill and hormone-related issues
Since the pill – the oral contraceptive for women – first became available in Britain in 1961, its use has spread rapidly and it has gained widespread acceptance. However, the new report reveals that many women are unaware of the potential side effects from use of the contraceptive pill or HRT, in particular issues with nutrient status.
Clinical pharmacist and researcher Mike Wakeman says: “Research from as far back as the
1970s clearly demonstrates that oral contraceptives are linked with depletions of a number of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. A variety of reports have also identified these effects might possibly contribute to several common side effects. This aspect is particularly relevant to those women who may not have an adequate diet.
Furthermore, women whose lifestyle is unhealthy and those with problems absorbing or metabolising certain nutrients will also be at risk.” “This means that for many individuals nutrient intake is already sub-optimal, and that taking the pill – with the potential negative impact on nutrient levels – is likely to further compromise the situation. The use of supplements, for women taking the pill – especially those with a poor diet or pre-existing health issues – would appear to play a key role in targeting this issue.”
The use of oral contraceptives can affect oxidative stress and disrupt the way the body metabolises fats and carbohydrates and processes sugars.
Another important fact to take into account is that the use of the pill can negatively affect a woman’s folate status – crucial for protecting against neural tube defects in early pregnancy – and how folic acid supplements can be an important strategy for women looking to become pregnant.
The latest data revealed in the report would seem to be at odds with many women’s knowledge of the risks and issues of taking the pill. Of more than 1,000 women aged 18 to 64 across the UK, every single woman questioned by the researchers had either taken the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or both at some period in their life. Nearly nine out of 10 (88%) had taken the contraceptive pill, a further 5% had taken just HRT and 7% had had both.
Just half (50%) of those quizzed said that they were not given advice on the possible side effects of taking the pill while 94% said they were not told about potential side effects of HRT. Just 4% of those taking the pill and 3% of those taking HRT were advised to change their diet because of worries that vitamin and mineral levels can be depleted. Just 10% said that they had changed their diet to compensate specifically for taking the pill – with only 6% saying the same for HRT.
Changes included a ‘generally healthier diet’ (19%), eating more vegetables (12%) and taking a vitamin and mineral supplement (11%). Most – 70% – of women had either been pregnant or had tried to conceive, and 64% felt their diet and nutrition status were ‘very important’ when planning to get pregnant, and a further 23% felt they were ‘quite important’. Folic acid is essential for the early part of a pregnancy to protect against neural tube defects, yet a third of those questioned (34%) didn’t know this and the same number (33%) admitted they had never taken folic acid supplements.
Spotlight on vitamin D
The last part of the report focused on issues around vitamin D. Vitamin D is synthesised in our bodies from sunlight and plays a huge role in maintaining good health, particularly bones and muscles.
In addition, researchers have found new evidence linking the vitamin with far more than just bone health – it’s thought that heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma, depression and type 2 diabetes, to name just a few, may be associated with poor vitamin D levels. It’s particularly worrying as figures show that nearly a third of adults have intakes so low as to risk deficiency.
A key problem is that the main source of vitamin D is sunshine rather than from food – even in a healthy diet it’s hard to get the recommended amounts of the vitamin. But in the UK we often have poor levels of sunshine, especially in the autumn and winter months, and this can leave vitamin D levels in the body severely depleted.
Such is the concern over the issue, Public Health England changed its recommendations in 2016, saying that all adults and children over the age of one year old should consider taking a 10 microgram vitamin D supplement, especially during autumn and winter when there is limited sunlight. In addition, the DoH says all babies from birth to one year old, all children aged one to four and people who aren’t exposed much to the sun should take daily supplements to make sure they get enough vitamin D.
A recent analysis of UK diet data by the Health Supplement Information Service found:
Only 27% of the 1,000 respondents polled knew that a healthy diet alone does not provide optimum levels of vitamin D, with nearly half (47%) of respondents believing it was a possibility, despite this being almost impossible in practice. There were big gaps in understanding and knowledge in the workings of vitamin D. Half (50%) of respondents didn’t know that some over the counter and prescribed medicines can reduce levels of vitamin D in the body, rising to 71% in the over 60s.
GP Dr David Edwards says: “Healthy levels of vitamin D are key to day-to-day health. However, this is also problematic because many people in the UK (may I add that in Cyprus as well due to many people working in doors and have minimum exposure to sunshine) appear to have low levels of vitamin D – it’s thought that more than 50% of adults have insufficient levels of vitamin D and that 16% have severe deficiency during winter and spring.
The worry is that this shortfall will leave many of these people more vulnerable to health problems, some of which may be very serious. Both the poor level of vitamin D status and the importance of the nutrient in good health mean it would be prudent for many people to take a daily vitamin D supplement, particularly during the winter months when sunshine levels are low. It’s a simple and easy change that may well bring substantial benefits.”
Watermelon is a refreshing and delicious fruit that is ideal in those hot summer months.
It contains only 46 calories per cup but is high in vitamin C, vitamin A and many healthy plant compounds.
Here are some of the top health benefits of eating watermelon.
1. Helps You Hydrate
Drinking water is an important way to keep your body hydrated.
However, eating foods that have a high water content can also help. Interestingly, watermelon is 92% water (1Trusted Source).
What’s more, the combination of high water content and fiber is one of the reasons why fruits and vegetables help you feel full, without eating a large volume of food and it is also low in calories.
2. Contains Nutrients and Beneficial Plant Compounds
As far as fruits go, watermelon is one of the lowest in calories — only 46 calories per cup (154 grams). That's lower than even low-sugar fruits such as berries (2).
One cup (154 grams) of watermelon has many other nutrients as well, including these vitamins and minerals:
Watermelon is also high in carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lycopene. Plus, it has citrulline, an important amino acid.
Here's an overview of watermelon's anti-ageing antioxidants:
Vitamin C: is an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage from free radicals.
Carotenoids: Carotenoids are a class of plant compounds that includes alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A.
Lycopene: Lycopene is a type of carotenoid that doesn't change into vitamin A. This potent antioxidant gives a red color to plant foods such as tomatoes and watermelon and is linked to many health benefits.
Cucurbitacin E: Cucurbitacin E is a plant compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
3. Contains Compounds That May Help Prevent Cancer
Researchers have studied lycopene and other individual plant compounds in watermelon for their cancer preventative effects. The strongest link so far seems to be between lycopene and cancers of the digestive system (1Trusted Source).
It appears to reduce cancer risk by lowering insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a protein involved in cell division. High IGF levels are linked to cancer (3Trusted Source).
In addition, cucurbitacin E has been investigated for its ability to inhibit tumor growth (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
4. May Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide (6Trusted Source).
Lifestyle factors, including diet, may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Several nutrients in watermelon have specific benefits for heart health.
Studies suggest that lycopene may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also help prevent oxidative damage to cholesterol (1Trusted Source).
According to studies in obese, postmenopausal women and Finnish men, lycopene may also reduce the stiffness and thickness of artery walls (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Watermelon also contains citrulline, an amino acid that may increase nitric oxide levels in the body. Nitric oxide helps your blood vessels expand, which lowers blood pressure (9Trusted Source) and boosts performance in athletes.
Other vitamins and minerals in watermelon are also good for your heart. These include vitamins A, B6, C, magnesium and potassium (1Trusted Source).
5. May Lower Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Inflammation is a key driver of many chronic diseases.
Watermelon may help lower inflammation and oxidative damage, as it's rich in the anti-inflammatory antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C (1Trusted Source).
In a 2015 study, lab rats were fed watermelon powder to supplement an unhealthy diet. Compared to the control group, they developed lower levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein and less oxidative stress (10Trusted Source).
In an earlier study, humans were given lycopene-rich tomato juice with added vitamin C. Overall, their markers of inflammation went down and antioxidants went up. Watermelon has both lycopene and vitamin C (11Trusted Source).
As an antioxidant, lycopene may also benefit brain health. For example, it may help delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease (12).
6. May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration
Lycopene is found in several parts of the eye where it helps protect against oxidative damage and inflammation.
It may also prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is a common eye problem that can cause blindness in older adults (1Trusted Source).
Lycopene's role as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound may help prevent AMD from developing and getting worse.
7. Athletes: May Help Relieve Muscle Soreness
Citrulline, an amino acid in watermelon, may reduce muscle soreness. Interestingly, watermelon juice appears to enhance the absorption of citrulline.
One small study gave athletes plain watermelon juice, watermelon juice mixed with citrulline or a citrulline drink. Both watermelon drinks led to less muscle soreness and quicker heart rate recovery, compared to citrulline on its own (13Trusted Source).
The researchers also conducted a test-tube experiment, investigating the absorption of citrulline. Their findings suggest that citrulline absorption is most effective when it's consumed as a component of watermelon juice.
Other research has also looked at citrulline's potential to improve exercise endurance and performance.
Tip: You could blend watermelon with moringa powder a powerful combination for athletes.
So far, citrulline doesn't seem to improve exercise performance in the amounts studied, but it's still an area of research interest (14Trusted Source).
8. Is Good for Skin and Hair
Two vitamins in watermelon — A and C — are important for skin and hair health.
Vitamin C helps your body make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin supple and your hair strong.
Vitamin A is also important for healthy skin since it helps create and repair skin cells.Without vitamin A, your skin can look dry and flaky.
Both lycopene and beta-carotene may also help protect your skin from sunburn (15Trusted Source).
9. Can Improve Digestion
Watermelon contains lots of water and a small amount of fiber — both of which are important for healthy digestion.
Fiber can provide bulk for your stool, while water helps keep your digestive tract moving efficiently, hence combating constipation.
Robert Elias Najemy - Founder of Armoniki Zoi, Athens.
Four points that gave his life meaning:
Evolution: the idea that i could better myself, become more loving, kinder, healthier, happier. It was an interesting challenge, that I could in some way control my life and become a better person.
Creativity: I explored a wide variety of creativity - forms of expression - all of which gave me pleasure and fulfillment.
Service: I discovered the joy of serving others and in some way contributing to their well-being and happiness.
Relationships: I began to perceive relationships as growing opportunities in which I am challenged to be honest, understanding, forgiving, loving and to communicate clearly.
All these purposes gave meaning to my life and still do.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !