Food Nutrition

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Vitamin C

Winter time is normally when most people catch common colds and flu. Vitamin C can help ease the pain by reducing the symptoms and shortening the length of time that you are sick. Yes we all know orange is a great source of vitamin c but there are actually other foods that have more vitamin C that oranges. So if you are starting to feel under the weather then simply load up your diet with the following foods.



A cup of this super fruit contains 84.7 mg of vitamin C, plus healthy doses of folate and other compounds shown to promote heart health. Another unexpected benefit of strawberries? They may help whiten your teeth naturally.


Whether you roast it, steam it, or mash it, eating a small head of cauliflower gives you a 127.7 mg dose of vitamin C, plus 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.


In addition to 78.9 mg of vitamin C, pineapple contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps break down food and reduce bloating. Bromelain also acts as a natural anti-inflammatory that can help you recover faster after a tough workout.


One NLEA serving of kiwi (about 2 fruits) boasts 137.2 mg of vitamin C. The fuzzy fruit is also rich in potassium and copper.


Taste the tropics for a 122.3 mg boost of vitamin C. Mango is also a great source of vitamin A, which like vitamin C plays a key role in immunity and additionally keeps your eyes healthy.

Chili peppers

A half-cup of chopped or diced chili peppers delivers 107.8 mg of vitamin C. Plus, researchers from the University of Buffalo found that capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers hot, may help relieve joint and muscle pain.

Red bell pepper

A cup of chopped red bell pepper contains nearly three times more vitamin C than an orange—190 mg. Red peppers are also a great source of vitamin A, which promotes eye health.

Read the full list here,,20745689_3,00.html

Lecture on vitamin C by brilliant Suzanne Humphries

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crash diets

We have all at some point fallen for the attraction of the January crash diet. Endless rounds of mince pies, mulled wine and Terry’s chocolate orange has left you feeling “bloated”, to put it lightly – and it’s likely that the constant question of New Year’s resolutions has resulted in many of us promising ourselves this year we WILL lose two stone.

Unfortunately we are not all programmed to be gym-bunnies and live off green juice, so come the first of February the gym regulars tend to get their normal routine back, while many of us might find ourselves with a glass of wine in one hand and a piece of pizza in another, not really understanding how it happened. It feels as though you’ve failed, but you’ve really just been unrealistic.

A big part of the problem when it comes diet-related disease is the pressure associated with weight. Somewhere along the line, the desire has moved from being healthy to being thin, and I think this is a very damaging idea.

In many societies there is an association made between weight and success from a very young age. “Thin” people tend to be perceived as “successful”, whereas someone bigger is likely to be thought of as being greedy. The part that is missed out from this argument is that many people being admitted to hospital with diet-related disease are of normal weight, while many people who might be labelled “overweight” are perfectly fit and healthy. I’m not saying there isn’t a global problem with lifestyle and diet, but if we were all slightly more honest with ourselves, made small changes that are achievable in the long term and try and take the stress away from food, we might all have a better chance of being the healthiest versions of ourselves.

As part of my research I went to a mindful-eating course that changed my perception of food. I have always struggled to leave food on my plate, as if every meal was my last. The course made me realise that craving food and overeating is often a result of restricting oneself – take away the guilt of having something naughty and become more in-tune with what the body actually wants, and you will find that over time we crave things that are healthy purely because they are the foods that make us feel good.


crash dietIf we eat a whole pack of biscuits it’s not because our bodies needed them – it won’t make us feel good (and I guarantee the first one tasted better than the ninth), but let it go and move on. Try to understand if there was a stress associated with the behaviour and target the source of the stress, sit with the feeling so that you’re less likely to do it again, and try not to cure the feeling with another packet. By doing this over time you can start to eat intuitively, something that I believe is the key to people really changing their attitudes towards food.

Recent research* is showing that weight-cycling and crash-dieting is actually very damaging to our bodies, and that the biggest association with the pursuit of dieting is, in fact, weight gain. It makes sense: if we have a natual weight that we are meant to be and we continuously try to defy this by lowering the number of calories we consume, our bodies are going to try to adjust. We can go all-out on the cabbage soup diet, and it is likely that we will lose weight initially, but we all know that we won’t be a very nice to be around while we’re doing so and as soon as we return to eating normally our bodies will put the weight back on. Why? Because our bodies are designed to conserve energy. For generations food has been scarce and so our bodies have adapted to accommodate to this. So if you starve yourself, your body is going to do everything it can to hang on to the energy it’s given.

And how long is that cabbage soup diet achievable for? Say you managed to keep it going for two weeks and each day you were in a daily calorie deficit of 700 calories; over the course of two weeks this would account for 9,800 calories. However, by making small, achievable changes you will avoid messing with your metabolism and be more likely to continue maintain that change in the long term. Say you were to drink one less fizzy drink a day, but managed to do this for 1 year, you would save yourself 50,735 calories. Or if you were to walk up the stairs once a day every day for a year rather than stand you would burn about 10,000 additional calories. The likelihood of you eating cabbage soup for the rest of your life is slim to none. I believe small changes like this can make a real difference – you will hardly notice the difference but accumulatively your body benefits hugely.

My final piece of advice would be to let go of any fixation on the newest “superfood”, or one particular vitamin or mineral. We eat food, not nutrients. Focusing on how a new super-berry from the Amazon will solve all your problems will waste time; time that could be spent learning how to prepare fresh, beautiful, healthy dishes that are good for you, and those around you. For more information on simple basic principles to help you live a healthy lifestyle, click here.

The best thing you can do is swap your New Year crash diet with the New Year resolution to take the stress out of eating – enjoy good food and exercise – and remember, small changes can make a huge difference over time!


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saturated fat

There is a lot of controversy around saturated fat right now. Is it actually bad for you? Is polyunsaturated fat now bad for you? Is coconut oil a superfood?

The great but tiring thing about the world of nutrition is that research is constantly evolving, so you have to keep up to date with the most significant bodies of evidence. Sometimes it can contradict what came before.

The 2014 Annals of Internal Medicine published a metanalysis (basically a big review of studies) on the effect of saturated fat on coronary risk. It concluded that eating less saturated fat doesn’t lower a person’s risk of heart disease. This has caused uproar in the media, because it flies in the face on national public health recommendations that have been around for years.

But is the study representative? Well, no. When Walter Willet, the chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), was asked his opinion on the metanalysis he said: “I knew something was fishy”. He requested a data supplement from the journal and noticed that the authors had pulled incorrect numbers from some of the original studies. He also noted that the authors had left out some important studies from their analysis.

As scientists we pull conclusions from the most relevant data. As Bruce Griffin, professor of nutritional metabolism and expert in Lipid metabolism at the University of Surrey, said in response to the metanalysis: “The recommendation to reduce saturated fats and replace them with polyunsaturated fats is based on 60 years of cumulative evidence, it is far more likely to be right.”

Although this metanalysis raises some important questions, an analysis is only as good as the studies it is based upon, and if part of the argument is missing, it is misleading. The evidence for a relationship between reducing saturated fat and heart disease is complicated; it depends on what you replace that fat with, as Walter Willet, chair of the HSPH department of nutrition explains.

“People don’t just remove saturated fat from their diets. They replace it with something else. Exchanging a hot buttered cheesecake for half a dozen donuts does not help your heart; swapping it for grilled salmon with greens and olive oil does.”

So the research can often be taken out of context by the media and exaggerated. In fact, Emanuele Di Angelantonio, the senior author of the Annals’ metanalysis, believes that the message of his study has been distorted:

“It was reported as ‘butter and burgers’ and that’s not what our paper said. What the paper said was that the story on saturated fat is slightly more complicated than we thought.”

Fat versus sugar

Some scientists argue that sugar has caused the problems with obesity in the world, and that cutting out saturated fat has, in fact, made us fat. I think it’s extremely narrow-minded to blame one factor for such problems. There is no doubt that too much sugar in our foods is detrimental for our health, and that if saturated fats were replaced with sugary foods and refined grains it would also have a detrimental effect. However, I believe it is a combination of this and a lack of physical activity that has resulted in the obesity epidemic we face, not a reduction in the population’s saturated fat intake. Guidance around the world is unanimous in suggesting limiting sugary foods, and that carbohydrate intake should come from wholegrain sources wherever possible. It has never been the public health’s advice to replace saturated fat with refined carbohydrate. As boring as it may seem, it comes back down to the age-old guidance of a varied and balanced diet.

Thomas Saunders, head of diabetes and nutritional sciences division at Kings College London, recently carried out a review of the evidence in this area. He found that saturated fat intakes have fallen and are now close to guideline amounts, and supports evidence that shows that replacing the saturated fat with unsaturated fat lowers the levels of bad cholesterol in our blood.

Sadly, the media reports around the Annals of Internal Medicine’s metanalysis is effectively encouraging people to up their saturated fat intake again. To solely blame carbohydrates and promote saturated fat is a not only dangerous for our diets but also for the planet.

What about coconut oil                  ?

In my blog “Is a vegan diet healthy?” I mentioned coconut oil as high in saturated fat, and it actually contains about 85-90% saturated fatty acids. Many believe that coconut oil can raise our levels of good cholesterol. In fact, saturated fat increases our levels of both good and bad cholesterol, but it is believed that coconut oil increases the levels of good cholesterol more than bad.

What is missed out from this argument is that unsaturated fats (like those in olive oil) lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, so they’re doubly beneficial. Therefore, although there is an argument that coconut oil isn’t as bad as the saturated content of it suggests, more research is needed. You are better off choosing an oil rich in unsaturated fats such, as olive oil or sunflower oil, and making sure you get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet from recipes like Jamie’s mackerel, tomato & quinoa salad.

Although the world of nutrition is rife with debate, there is one area that the majority of people agree on: we need to move the emphasis away from nutrient-based recommendations and replace it with food-based recommendations. How our diet interacts with our bodies is a hugely complex process and we need to look at the overall picture rather than focusing on the impact of one nutrient. Public nutrition advice should always be questioned, but we need to remember it is based on a collective of good evidence, created over a long period of time, looking at the whole picture. You can find more information on how to follow a healthy diet here.


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Iron is a mineral essential for the production of blood. Iron in the blood is called hemoglobin, and it transports oxygen throughout the body. Iron in the muscles is called myoglobin; it is responsible for storing, releasing and transporting oxygen. It is best to get dietary iron from meat, or heme, sources, instead of plant sources or supplements. However, the advantage of getting iron from plant sources is that it is regulated by the body better and causes less damage. The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, of iron is 8 milligrams for men 19 and older. For women in the same age range, the RDA is 18 to 27 milligrams — the higher end is for women who are pregnant or lactating.


Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods

The liver is an organ rich in blood, making it high in iron. A 4-ounce piece of pork liver contains 26.33 milligrams of iron, which is 146 percent of the daily value, or DV. One chicken liver contains 5.67 milligrams of iron, and one slice of fried beef liver has 5 milligrams of iron, or 28 percent of the DV.

Beef and Lamb

Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods

Beef and lamb are good sources of heme iron. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef or lamb tenderloin contains 3.1 milligrams of iron.


Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods

A serving of 10 clams contains 26.5 milligrams of iron. That is 147 percent of the DV. One medium-sized oyster contains 2.3 milligrams of iron, which means that a serving of 10 contains 23 milligrams of iron. Octopus, also considered a mollusk, has 8.11 milligrams of iron in a 3-ounce serving, providing 45 percent of the daily value.

Dark, Leafy Green Vegetables

Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods
Photo Credit Elizabeth Allam/Demand Media

Spinach, Swiss chard and turnip greens contain a lot of iron. One cup of cooked spinach has 6 milligrams of iron, or 36 percent the daily value. There are 3.96 milligrams of iron in 1 cup of cooked Swiss chard, providing 22 percent of the DV, and 1.15 milligrams in a cup of cooked turnip greens.

Pumpkin Seeds

Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods

A handful of 142 pumpkin seeds has 23 percent of the DV of plant iron. A 1-ounce serving of pumpkin or squash seeds has 4 milligrams of iron.

Beans and Lentils

Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods

Beans are a source of plant heme. White beans contain 1 milligram of iron in 2 tablespoons. Chickpeas, lima beans, kidney beans and pinto beans contain approximately 4 percent of the daily value of iron in a 2-tablespoon serving.

Whole Grains and Fortified Cereals

Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods 

Whole grains and fortified cereals also contain iron. One cup of cooked oatmeal has 12 percent of the DV of iron. A cup of cooked quinoa has 2.8 milligrams of iron, or 15 percent of the daily value. Many of the fortified cereals on the market have up to 140 percent of the DV of iron in a 1-cup serving.

Dark Chocolate

Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods

Iron can be found in your favorite chocolate bar, provided it is the dark variety. Your average candy bar, at 1.5 ounces, provides 6 percent of the daily value of iron. A square of dark chocolate, a more concentrated piece, has 5 milligrams of iron, which is 28 percent of the DV.


Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods

Eighteen cashews, which is about 1 ounce, have 1.7 milligrams of iron, which is 9 percent of the daily value. Hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds and pistachios provide 7 percent of the DV in 1 ounce.


Tofu is a nonmeat iron source as well. One-fourth of a block of tofu has 2.2 milligrams of iron, which is 12 percent of the DV of iron.

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iron in food

Iron is an important mineral to include in a healthy balanced diet. It has many important functions in the body, but its most important role is in preventing anaemia.

Red blood cells need iron to make haemoglobin, the substance that helps them carry oxygen around the body. Haemoglobin production falls if insufficient iron is available. With less haemoglobin inside them red blood cells can no longer carry as much oxygen, and so delivery to the cells is reduced, causing the typical effects of tiredeness and fatigue.

The size of red blood cells can be measured by blood test to see if they contain enough haemoglobin. In iron deficiency your red blood cells are smaller as they don’t contain as much haemoglobin, giving rise to the official name ‘microcytic anaemia’ (small cell anaemia). Inadequate iron intake over a couple of days has little effect on red cell haemoglobin levels as the body maintains a store of iron (called ferritin) to call upon when needed. Long term deficiency over weeks or months depletes our ferritin stores leading to anaemia and its symptoms of fatigue on exertion, tiredness, breathlessness and forgetfulness.

During pregnancy it’s common for women to become slightly anaemic, but it’s not usually treated unless the mother has symptoms of anaemia. The extra blood volume of both mother and baby contributes to ‘haemodilution’ and a natural fall in red cell blood levels, and the lower viscosity of the blood may help reduce the risks of blood clots occuring during pregnancy.  Women whose haemoglobin falls too low are advised to take iron supplements, but this should only be on the advice of your doctor or midwife.

How much iron do I need?

Women need on average around 14.8mg of iron daily to prevent anaemia. Men and post- menopausal women require around 8.7mg iron daily. The amounts remain unchanged in pregnancy as hormonal changes help improve iron uptake. It doesn’t matter if one day you have more iron, and less on the next. These values refer to a value averaged out daily over a period of time.

Women with heavy menstrual periods may need more iron than average to help replace haemoglobin caused by blood loss.

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