Soup, glorious soup!

IMG_0502While salads are the mainstay of my diet in summer, in the deepest, darkest days of winter the last thing you want to eat is cold food. Your body has to get it up to body temperature to start with – before it can begin digestion. That takes up a lot of energy and effort.

So, we have soup just about every day for lunch at home and I promised a client I would share some recipe ideas. These are not soups for entertaining … these are for everyday lunches or light dinners. It’s more about getting in some good nutrients rather than impressing. So, the absolute best base to start with is bone broth – stock made from the carcass of a chicken or meat bones which have been simmered on very low heat for a long time. See my post on chicken soup here.

IMG_0734Other than that, here are my top tips for healthy, nutritious soups:

  1. If you don’t have time to make stock, then this vegetable bouillon powder is the best start: Marigold Organic Bouillon. (I like the Organic version best as it doesn’t contain as much added salt or any hydrolysed vegetable protein.) A heaped dessertspoon of this powder and a litre or two of cold water from the filter is the start of most of my soups.
  2. Chop vegetables small so they cook quickly. Use a wide variety of veg.
  3. Add onion, garlic, chili, ginger, fresh herbs, dried herbs, etc
  4. Try half a cup of red split lentils for extra protein and body
  5. No need to fry anything … just add raw veg to the stock.
  6. Cook only until the veg is just soft and then blitz with a hand blender.

Some recipe ideas:

  1. Carrot, parsnip, red split lentil, ginger, garlic, chili.
  2. Leek, potato, kale, garlic (blend most but leave some chunks)
  3. Meat stock, finely chopped carrots, beetroot, cauliflower, cabbage, onion, garlic, dried rosemary (don’t blend)
  4. Butternut squash, tin of coconut milk, ginger, turmeric root, red split lentils, garlic.
  5. Rice noodles, finely sliced carrots, peas, broccoli, onion, garlic, chili, ginger & raw king prawns, coconut creamIMG_0747

 

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU – Step 3: LUNGS

woman-570883_1920The lungs are where gas exchange takes place in our body. We breathe air in and exhale waste products and toxins in the form of gases and water vapour.

There’s that stuff again – WATER! It’s incredible how important water is to our body functions! It’s REALLY important for our lungs as they are 90% water. A litre of water is required inside our lungs in order for gas exchange to take place properly. And – when we’re dehydrated, histamine levels go up … a lot of asthma and allergies could be solved by simply being properly hydrated. Imagine that! It’s an almost-free health cure all!

Breathing is under the control of our autonomic nervous system – it’s a vital function and luckily therefore not something we have to do consciously. However, the autonomic nervous system also controls our stress response so breathing changes when we’re stressed (it becomes shallow and rapid). In Chinese medicine’s Law of Five Elements, the lungs are Metal which is melted by Fire (ie, buzzing, stressing, always on the go).

anatomy-117148_1280In this picture, the diaphragm is labelled. The diaphragm is a large flat wall of muscle between our lungs and our digestive organs. It literally cross-sections our body from front to back and side to side. It keeps our digestive organs in place, has a role in pushing food down into our stomachs and along the intestines. Our food tube goes through it. It’s also the best muscle for breathing – and yet lots of us hardly use it. It becomes weak through lack of use and then it doesn’t hold down the stomach and this can cause a hiatus hernia. If you have acid reflux or heartburn, you could well help them without drugs by exercising and strengthening your diaphragm.

So, one of the best ways to quickly de-stress and to improve digestion, is to breathe with your diaphragm (instead of your chest muscles or shoulders). It induces an instant sense of peace and relaxation … and massages your digestive organs as well as keeping them in place. Here’s how to belly breathe:

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the bed or floor
  • Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest
  • Take a deep breath and observe how your hands rise and fall
  • Take another breath – this time focus on only allowing the hand on your belly to rise and fall
  • Keep practising – it takes practice to get this right. You’ll be re-programming your brain and diaphragm to breathe more efficiently.
  • As you breathe in, allow your belly to inflate and push up, while keeping your chest absolutely still. You’re now using your diaphragm to breathe.
  • Once you’ve mastered this, you can use it anywhere, anytime you feel stressed.

Practising belly breathing for at least ten breaths every day will improve gas exchange (oxygen in, toxins out), your digestion AND relaxation.

Your homework for Step 3:

  1. Keep watering that pot plant! See Step 1. By now, you could have increased your water intake by two glasses per day and be well on the way to better hydration and therefore better health.
  2. Practise belly breathing for a minute or two – at least once per day.

 

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU – Step 2: SKIN

girl-1723686_1920Our skin appears to be waterproof, tough and protective. It is … to an extent … but it’s also porous. Think of your skin as lots and lots of layers of finely-meshed gauze. It allows small molecules in and out of your body. In my aromatherapy training, I learned that essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream, and found in major organs like the heart and kidneys, within seconds of application to the skin. I even experimented myself to prove the old adage that a clove of garlic in your shoe gives you garlic breath within minutes. It’s true! Try it!

On the basis that everything we put on our skin is absorbed directly into our bloodstream and carried to our organs, we could think more carefully about the products we use every day. If you wash with a supermarket shower gel, shampoo and conditioner and then apply body lotion, moisturiser, perfume, antiperspirant and make-up … first of all you’re probably blocking your skin from being an elimination route for toxins and, secondly, all (or most of) those chemicals are going straight into your bloodstream. There are a lot of conflicting reports about the effects of the chemicals in personal care products – from harmless to cancer-causing (read this balanced article for more information). I take the view that if my grandparents didn’t use it, then I probably should question it because we don’t actually know the long-term effects yet. However, sweating and body odour are not widely acceptable in the UK in 2017. Here are some of my ideas and product suggestions:

  • Pitrok crystal deodorant – still wet from the shower, I rub my armpits with this salt crystal and it creates a skin environment in which the bacteria that cause body odour cannot grow. You simply don’t get smelly. There’s also a spray version that might be easier for hairy armpits.
  • I use a blend of organic seed and nuts oils as a natural moisturiser for face and body. I sell this skin oil in my clinic.
  • For extra winter moisturising, add a tablespoon of fractionated coconut oil to a hot bath once a week. You could include a few drops of essential oil to make a really luxurious soak!
  • Try sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners such as this UK brand or this one.
  • Wash with a bar of soap … any simple, unfragranced brand will do.
  • Perfumes used to be made from essential oils – now they’re made from thousands of chemicals. Save wearing perfume for special occasions and put it on clothes, not skin.
  • If you wear make-up all day, every day you’re exposing yourself to lots of toxins all day long. Give yourself a break from it when you’re at home and try natural brands from health food shops. Dr Hauschka and Lavera are usually widely available. Read this article for more on make up.
  • Finally, toothpaste – our mouth and gums absorb even more quickly than the skin (sub-lingually is the fastest route into the bloodstream for medication). This is my favourite natural toothpaste.

So our skin is highly absorbent, but it’s also an important elimination pathway. We sweat out water-soluble toxins – especially lactic acid and urea. These are the waste products of glucose and protein use – so we’re producing them all day and all night. If we block this elimination route with antiperspirants and personal care products which form a barrier on our skin, then we are making other elimination routes (especially the kidneys) work harder, and could even potentially cause a backlog of toxins – which the liver then has to handle.

We need two things to help the skin be a good elimination route and therefore support our kidneys … which in turn supports our liver:

  1. See Step One – WATER! It’s what dissolves and carries the lactic acid, urea and other toxins through the skin.
  2. Healthy, supple, unblocked skin.

skin-1648752_1920Our skin cells need fats or oils (as well as water) to keep them supple and porous. We can apply as much moisturiser as we like to the outside layers but it will only help on the surface (fat cells are too big to fit through the layers of gauze). Drinking plenty of water and eating a diet rich in healthy fats and high in vitamin E makes for healthy skin. Read my fats article for more about healthy and unhealthy fats.

Your homework for Step Two:

  1. Add one of the following to your daily diet: half an avocado (or a whole one!); a small tin of sardines or similar oily fish, preferably in olive oil; an egg; a handful of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, or consider supplements with fish oil or a spoonful of flaxseed oil.
  2. razor-414909_1920Go through your face and body products – do you really want those chemicals in your blood stream in seconds? Chuck out any products that are old – they can actually damage your skin cells. Question whether all the products are really necessary – and are they stopping your skin from being porous? Stop using an anti-perspirant now!

*Join my mailing list by emailing me and I’ll send you a discount voucher code to use when ordering the products and supplements I recommend in this article.

 

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU!

new-years-eve-1905144_1920Happy New Year! Wishing you a happy and very healthy 2017!

If you’ve woken up this morning with a groan … and you’re thinking you must do a ‘detox’ this month, here are my thoughts and tips. This is the first article of five I will write. You could take them as a step-by-step approach to a cleaner, brighter, fresher and healthier new year.

What I mean by ‘detox’ in this article, is giving your body’s systems and organs a rest – a break from rich food & drink – so that your cells can regenerate fresher and fitter than ever. This puts a sparkle in your eyes and a spring in your step – you’ll have more energy, better immunity … and looks.

The digestive system
The digestive system

The liver is our powerhouse of detoxification – it filters our blood at the rate of about 3 pints per minute – removing dead and faulty cells, bugs, inorganic chemicals, fat globules, etc. It then detoxifies these by using enzymes to convert them from fat soluble to water soluble – so they can be eliminated from our bodies via urine, sweat and faeces.

So, the first step in giving your liver a helping hand is to help clear the elimination pathways. There are four main exit routes from our bodies:

  1. large intestine (bowel, colon) – faeces
  2. kidneys & bladder – urine
  3. skin – sweat
  4. lungs – respiration (breathing)

urine-colour-chartAll four of these eliminatory organs/systems have one fundamental requirement in order to function – WATER. The lungs require a litre of water at all times in order to exchange gases in and out of the blood (the purpose of respiration). When exercising or in warm weather, our skin can sweat out a litre per hour. Urine is the most obvious watery route and is a good indicator of dehydration – it should be pale, light yellow – almost clear. If it’s yellow, orange or dark and cloudy – you urgently need to drink more water! Few of us meet our body’s requirements of 6-8 glasses (1.5-2 litres) per day of pure water. It’s such a simple yet powerful step towards better health. Read why in my article here.

STEP ONE – your homework today is to drink more plain, pure water – today and every day from now on. Here are a few tips on drinking water:

  1. Like a pot plant that hasn’t been watered for some time, if you drink 8 glasses today it will just go straight through you – you will probably spend most of the day on the toilet. Increase water intake slowly – if you don’t currently drink any water each day, drink one tall glass today, two tomorrow and the next day, then three, etc etc.
  2. Sip water over the course of the day – don’t down whole glasses at a time (think pot plant).
  3. Don’t drink within 20 minutes of a meal – especially before, as this can dilute digestive juices.
  4. Choose bottled mineral or filtered water to avoid added chemicals. I like the taste of the water from these Wellness Carafes which I also sell in my clinic.
  5. Herbal teas count as water. Your liver loves herbs – especially bitter tasting ones such as dandelion, nettle, mint and green tea. Don’t overdo any of them though – vary them throughout the day. You could also drink hot water with a small slice of lemon (if you like the taste – try removing the outer skin if it’s too bitter).

TOMORROW – I’ll be writing about how you can support elimination through your skin. You’ll be amazed by this vital organ – it’s literally the frontline of your body!

 

Don’t blame your gall bladder!

Gall bladder disease is epidemic these days; two of my family members have had theirs removed, our best man is seriously ill with complications following a gall bladder removal, one of our neighbours has had a serious infection caused by the same. It seems as though this little sac is causing a health crisis.

Gall bladder symptoms can include: bloating, burping, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, discomfort on right side of ribs or right shoulder after a meal, low alcohol tolerance, sweating, bad breath, smelly stools, fatigue after eating. If you have any of these symptoms, see my recommendations below or contact me for an appointment to evaluate your diet and nutrition. 

The digestive system
The digestive system

The gall bladder is, in fact, no more than a little storage vessel and pumping station. Its purpose is to store bile produced by your liver and to eject it into your small intestine when food is released from your stomach. Bile is a digestive juice which emulsifies fats – breaks them down so we can absorb them or eliminate them. If we don’t digest fats properly that has consequences all the way through our digestive system. Problems occur in the gall bladder when the bile produced by the liver stagnates, is of poor quality or is inadequate, ie, cannot cope, with the quantity and/or type of food we’re eating.

To sum up: GALL BLADDER HEALTH IS DEPENDENT ON LIVER HEALTH! So, having it removed and not changing your diet or lifestyle is not going to address the underlying cause.

Your liver could be producing poor quality bile because it’s struggling to cope with:

(a) stress – the stress response causes cholesterol to be released by the liver. This makes bile fatty; it stagnates in the gall bladder and then forms deposits (stones).

(b) sugary diet – sugars from carbs (bread, pizza, pasta, biscuits, cakes, sweets, puddings, etc) get stored in the liver = fatty liver = fatty bile.

(c) pharmaceuticals, alcohol, caffeine, food additives, fragrances – all chemicals create work for your liver.

(d) contraceptive hormones or HRT – oestrogen gets the liver to store and produce cholesterol = fatty bile.

(e) constipation – this is a vicious circle. Constipation means toxins and cholesterol are transported back to the liver from the colon for processing or storing; poor bile quality can cause constipation.

My six recommendations to keep your gall bladder (and liver) healthy:

  1. Drink plenty of plain water every day – 6 to 8 glasses or 2L.
  2. Reduce cholesterol production – by cutting out sugar, refined carbs, soft drinks, alcohol, cereals, grains. What should you eat? Vegetables, salads, fish & seafood, poultry, meat and eggs with good fats such as olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.
  3. Eat plenty of good fats but avoid all seed oils, margarine, deep fried food and dairy products. Swap your margarine for butter! Cook only with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. 
  4. Reduce the chemicals in your life. Do you really need those headache pills or are you just dehydrated? Are your skincare products packed with chemicals? Do you need air fresheners in your home? Are your cleaning and laundry products packed with unnecessary fragrances? 
  5. Eat foods/herbs with a cleansing effect – dandelion leaves, chicory, endive, radicchio, fresh mint, globe artichoke, radishes, lemons & limes, rocket, kale, watercress, cabbage, green tea. Take this milk thistle supplement.
  6. Avoid constipation – try this belly massage.

There are lots of other supplements and herbs that can help with gall bladder and liver health. Book in for a kinesiology session with me to find out what your body needs.

Chicken soup (my version of bone broth)

Chicken and veggie soupThe aroma from this bowl takes me straight back to Christmas as a child! The day after Boxing Day (ie, 27 December) we’d always have a version of this soup. The turkey carcass would have been simmering for hours in a pot on the stove and any leftover veg, stuffing and turkey bits would be added to the soup.

My version starts with organic chicken carcasses (from Riverford – currently great value at £2.45 per kg) slow-cooked in water for 24 hours. After a few hours, I remove the meat from the bones and the first extraction of stock. I put the bones back in and pour over more fresh water and simmer them again – usually overnight. I add lots of fresh veggies to the stock to make a really nourishing winter soup. I could also use the stock as a basis for risotto or for cooking vegetables such as leeks, cabbage, kale, etc – sort of steaming them in stock makes a really tasty side dish.

For variety, I grate in fresh turmeric and/or ginger root, add a handful of lentils or fresh herbs. Enjoy!

What is it with crisps?

checkoutI needed some extra income this summer so I’ve been working weekends on the checkout at a supermarket. It has really brought home to me the message that WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. Spend any amount of time looking at people and their shopping and you can clearly see the absolute correlation between health and diet.

One of the things that has shocked me most is the ubiquity of crisps. Just about every shopping basket contains a bag of crisps – of one size and type or another – from posh hand-cooked named potato varieties to strange puffs of something unrecognisable and flavoured like an exotic meal. There is a whole aisle of the supermarket dedicated to these savoury snacks.

CrispsAs a nation, us Brits must be eating our bodyweight in crisps each year. Why on earth do so many people buy sacks of 24 bags of crisps? (The quantity of non-recyclable packaging alone makes me feel queasy.) I wonder … is it because it’s only a small, light bag that we think they don’t count as food? Or that we can get away with eating them? Worse – why do we think every British adult’s and child’s lunchbox should contain a bag of crisps? Why does a supermarket ‘meal deal’ always include a bag of crisps? Do we think they are adding something to our nutrition? Or do we just believe they’re harmless to our health?

Crisps are BAD food. For a start, they wreak dental havoc because they are basically just starch – their digestion starts with the saliva in our mouths and they stick to our teeth better than sweets or chocolate. They are deep-fried at high temperatures in oil. (Don’t be duped into thinking the oils are healthy because they have pretty made-up names!) Any seed oil at high temperature becomes unstable (begins to create free radicals) and re-heating creates even more instability. Free radicals are most definitely a huge threat to our health. The ‘free’ (hanging on by a thread) molecule bits scavenge our body’s cells for a mate – at any price. They will even steal molecules from our very DNA to try to stabilise themselves. This is what causes diseases like cancer. Read the ‘Processes’ part of this Wikipedia article for more detail.

Unrecognisable ingredients!
Unrecognisable ingredients!

Furthermore, the ‘bad fats’ they contain cancel out the ‘good fats’ (omegas) in our diet – and the average UK diet is already very low in these essential fats. Finally, the flavourings they are coated with are high in artificial flavourings, sugar, artificial sweeteners (why??) and of course salt. Artificial chemicals are alien to our bodies and have to be neutralised and processed by our liver. A single serving pack of ready salted crisps contains at least 0.5g of salt. That isn’t a problem in itself but I bet crisp eaters are eating more than one of those little bags a day and I bet they’re also eating plenty of other foods high in salt – preserved meats (bacon, sausages, etc), ready meals, convenience foods (pasta sauces). So one of those little bags could well take them over the 5g recommended daily salt intake – for an adult.

Yes, crisps can be tasty but before you tuck in, please remember they are not food – in fact, they are anti-nutrition! If you’re in great health and your diet usually consists of lots of fresh vegetables and good sources of protein, then you can probably afford to ‘treat’ yourself once in a while. Otherwise, please leave them out of your daily diet!

If you want a salty snack, open a jar of olives or try one of these favourites of mine:

  • Tamari Seeds: put a handful each of (raw) sunflower and pumpkin seeds into a frying pan on medium heat. Stir all the time – do not allow them to brown! You will see the seeds begin to swell and puff up – at this point, remove the pan from the heat and drizzle on a teaspoon of tamari (wheat free soya sauce). Stir quickly and well. Leave to cool before serving.
  • Salt and Pepper Cashews: melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add two handfuls of raw cashew or cashew pieces (they’re cheaper!) – stir continuously – don’t let them burn. As soon as they begin to turn a golden colour, remove from the heat and sprinkle on sea salt and fine black pepper to taste (do NOT stir). Leave to cool before serving.
  • Linseed crackers – get my recipe here.

All of these recipes should be stored in an airtight jar for a few days only (if there’s any left over!).

Banana & walnut muffins (grain-free, dairy free, no added sugar – of course!)

Banana paleo muffins
Banana & walnut muffins

I’m always on the look out for snacks or sweet treats which are nutritional – something I can grab to eat which fills a gap or have with a cup of my favourite earl grey – and know there’s only good ingredients. I’m hooked on this recipe at the moment – big thanks to the Civilised Cavemen for this inspiration! I’ve even served one with garden raspberries and goats yoghurt on top as a dessert and everyone’s enjoyed them.

You will need:

  • 3 large or 4 small ripe bananas
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 140g almond butter (I make mine in a Nutribullet with 140g whole almonds + a dessert spoon of coconut oil)
  • 4 heaped dessert spoons of coconut oil (+ some for greasing the tray)
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (I use Doves Farm)
  • a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon (buy true cinnamon, not cassia bark – it doesn’t have the same health properties. You can find true cinnamon here.)
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 75g coconut flour
  • handful of walnut pieces (optional – or use any nut you like)

I make my muffins in my very ancient (but still going strong) Magimax. Here’s how:

Herbs: how to keep summer flavours alive for longer

Fresh organic basil from Goldhill Organics
Fresh organic basil from Goldhill Organics

Nothing says summer more than a fragrant bunch of basil. Fabulous with tomato salad and added to omelettes. But I don’t eat pasta very often so making pesto with this bagful in my veg box from Goldhill Organics isn’t an option. I’ve come up with two ways to make my bunches of summer herbs last longer … Even into the winter months.

  1. Basil oil – I thoroughly blitzed all the stalks and some of the leaves, two cloves of fresh garlic, some sea salt and a good glug of olive oil in my Nutribullet. This will keep for weeks in the fridge. I use it to drizzle on salads and roasted vegetables. I brush it onto stuffed peppers before roasting them and drizzle it onto steamed fish or roast chicken.
  2. Basil butter – I chopped all the leaves, added a pat of butter, the zest of a lemon and one clove of fresh garlic before roughly blitzing in my Nutribullet. I put teaspoonfuls onto a plate and quickly froze them before bagging them for the winter. A taste of summer melted onto steamed fish, veggies, steak, jackets potatoes, etc.

Raw Slaw – you can live on it!

raw slaw 1This recipe is ideal if you want to (a) get more nutrition from your diet, (b) cut down or cut out carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, etc, and (c) lose weight. It can be made either savoury or sweet. When I first started seeing a kinesiologist and she shared this recipe with me it was to replace breakfast cereals and gluten free bread. I was really sceptical about eating raw veg for brekkie but even my husband loved it and said it was better than muesli because it’s not as dry or bland.

Raw vegetables contain lots of vitamins, minerals and natural sugars – as well as two extra beneficial ingredients: the tiny fibres which feed the ‘good’ bacteria in our guts; and lots of active enzymes which we need for great digestion.

raw slaw basicsI love this recipe so much I probably eat it three times a week – but most often for lunch now, especially on the go. It’s great to pack in a lunchbox with some sardines or mackerel – what a nutrition-packed meal! That won’t give you an afternoon slump!

Here’s how to get some raw slaw in your life. The basic ingredients are nearly always carrots, cabbage (any kind) and beetroot. I get a weekly veg box delivery from the delicious Goldhill Organics so my raw slaw ingredients vary quite a bit. I use my ancient but trusty Magimix processor to grate the root veg and thinly slice the cabbage – but it works fine with a hand grater and a knife. Here’s a list of all the veg/fruit I can remember adding to the basics in my raw slaw:

  • turnip
  • kohl rabi
  • fennel root
  • spring onion
  • peppers
  • red onion
  • apple
  • courgette
  • celery

raw slaw 3When I worked in an office I used to take this for lunch most days. To save time, I grated big batches of carrots and beetroot in advance and kept them sealed in a box in the fridge. Each morning, I then added the extra ingredients and topped and dressed my slaw. If you store it dressed, it gets a bit soggy.

Toppings: add raw nuts, seeds and a little dried fruit for extra nutrition. I always add sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Cranberry and almond was my favourite breakfast version. (Make sure your dried cranberries are not coated with vegetable oil and/or sweetened with sugar!) You could also add walnuts, brazils, pecans, cashews, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, dates, raisins …

Dressing: drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, add plenty of raw cider vinegar and choose from tamari (wheat-free soya sauce), lemon, lime or orange zest and/or juice. You could also add flaxseed oil for extra omegas.

Suggested combinations:

  • breakfast/brunch version = the basics + cranberries + almonds
  • savoury version = the basics + spring onion + seeds + the dressing + tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • the basics + grated apple + celery + sliced dates + walnuts – with goat’s cheese
  • the basics + sliced fennel + cashews – with fish
  • the basics + sliced peppers + seeds – with feta cheese

Let your raw slaw imagination run wild!