23 Nov

Winter Wellness Part 3 – Skin

We are entering the cold depths of winter and as the last leaves fall off the trees our skin can resemble what has fallen on the ground.

Cold weather with biting winds and the added dimension of central heating can contribute to dry, tired looking skin. Nourishing your skin from inside and out will help it look and feel radiant, glowing and youthful.

At this time of year we are tempted to eat more sweet, comforting foods – it’s cold outside and cakes and chocolate are too tempting to take away the woes of winter.  At the same time it’s the party season, the season of excess, Christmas party nights start earlier and finish later. Then we have Christmas and New Year, more eating, more booze and less sleep. All these factors can play havoc with our skin. So what can you do to give it the extra support it needs at this time of year:

Think colour!

Eat lots of colourful foods. I know I keep saying it… eat a rainbow but it is true.  Why? They are rich in antioxidants. The skin is at most risk of damage from the elements, cold freezing air and biting winds and dry homes. Antioxidants are helpful in limiting the damage. They come in and soak up any damaging substances reinvigorating the skin.

What to eat?

Include beetroot, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, red onions, leeks, green vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and winter greens into your diet. Fruits that are in season are apples, pears, oranges, clementine’s, plums, Sharon fruit and pomegranates. A very recent study found pomegranates might protect muscles as we age, so an added benefit. Add fruit to your breakfast. Stew apples and have as a comforting desert with some plain natural yoghurt. Pomegranate seeds can sweeten up salads and even add to vegetables, sautéed spinach is lovely topped with pomegranates. Make mocktails – cranberries are popular just now, blend in a blender with some apple juice and ginger for Christmas mocktail – or add some to your glass of Prosecco or Champagne.

Spices are useful for adding colour – add cinnamon, turmeric and ground ginger to your porridge or soak chia seeds in some milk and the contents of a chai teabag overnight. Use turmeric, cumin, ground coriander in your cooking – they don’t always need to be used in curries. Turmeric and smoked paprika are delicious sprinkled over vegetables before roasting. Use herbs as well, rosemary on your roast potatoes. Rosemary contains antioxidants that may protect the skin from damage it also has been found to stimulate hair growth!

Vitamin E is essential

Avocados are a great skin food as they are a good source of healthy fats and vitamin E. Vitamin E one of the better-known antioxidants. It is involved in protecting cells from damage and also protects fats in the body from being damaged as well. I believe stocks are running low of avocado as its popularity has grown so much so other good sources of Vitamin E are: olive oil, dark green leafy vegetables, seeds, wholegrain such as brown rice, eggs, liver and herbs such as alfalfa and rosehips. Rosehip tea can be a useful addition.

Healthy fats for healthy skin

Your skin cells are surrounded by a cell membrane and this is made of two layers of fat called a phospholipid bilayer. You need fats from your diet to keep these layers healthy. Omega 3 is one of the fats that make up the layers. The best sources of omega 3 are in oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. Blitzing up some tinned pacific salmon in a blender with some olive oil and a teaspoon of tomato paste can make a delicious pate for lunch; serve with a salad and or oatcakes.

If you are not a fan of fish you can in a roundabout way get omega 3 from flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. However the roundabout way is not always easy for some as your body has a bit of work to do to make the omega 3 fat and not everyone can do this. They are still good sources of fat to eat however. Include ground seeds on your breakfast porridge daily or sprinkle over soups and vegetables. Grass fed beef also has a good quantity of omega 3 fats, as do omega 3 eggs.

Beauty vitamin

Biotin a member of the B vitamin family, known as the beauty vitamin is also a key skin nutrient. It assists the body in breaking down fats and carbohydrates. As fats are so important in skin health this vitamin is vital. Signs of deficiency are: dry, inflamed and pale skin. You can find it in eggs, butter, oats, beans and whole-grains.

C for collagen

Increase your vitamin C through food. Vitamin C is involved in making collagen. Collagen is the key component for skin structure. Parsley is an excellent source; try making a pesto with this herb.

Protein power

Eating protein is essential for growth and maintenance of all cells and as skin is continually renewing itself, protein is essential. It also contains essential amino acids that help make collagen. Good quality sources of protein are: fish, grass fed meat, organic chicken, turkey and eggs. Vegetarian sources are beans, pulses, lentils, peas, broccoli, nuts and seeds.

Making a broth from bones to increase protein and you hydrate your self at the same time. Freezing the broth into small containers means you can add to your cooking on a daily basis.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Finally hydrating yourself  to keep skin moist and radiant is important– drink water, herbal teas, soups, smoothies, and juices and eat your fluid through increasing fruits and vegetables.



15 Nov

Winter Wellness Part 2 – Immune Support

Last week I spoke about sleep and the importance it has on health, sleep also supports your immune system, many times I have not had as much sleep and then I am struck down with a cold. Subsequently this weeks winter wellness blog is on the immune system. Below are other tips that can support immunity at this time of year. Key takeaway is to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure you are receiving all the nutrients needed to help with developing a healthy immune system.

  • Make warm comforting, filling recipes such as soups and casseroles. Use warm spices such as turmeric, ginger, coriander and cumin. Ginger can be added to cold dishes to add heat and warmth. Invest in a flask so you can take to work.
  • Eat colour of the rainbow foods that are rich in antioxidants.  Key antioxidants are Vitamin A, C and E as well as the mineral selenium. They have immune supporting properties to help fight of the bugs and viruses floating around at this time of year. Beetroot, carrots, butternut squash, berries, apples, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables are good examples. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, if you are not a fan, broccoli, chicken, dairy, garlic, salmon and seafood are other sources. Brazil nuts are meant to be the only true concentrated natural source, try a Brazil nut butter or milk.
  • How are your  Vitamin D levels? Good food sources are: cod, halibut, dairy, eggs and even mushrooms dried in the sun and sprouted seeds
    • However the best source of vitamin D is sunlight and it is absorbed through the skin. As there is very little of that at this time of year, deficiency is more common in the winter months. Therefore supplementing is another option. I recommend testing Vitamin D levels first to know how much to supplement.
  • Reduce sugar consumption –this time of year we are drawn to sweet comforting foods so don’t deprive yourself however sugar has been found to reduce immunity and the ability to fight of an infection. Subsequently opt for healthier options to satisfy sweet tooth, dark chocolate, dried fruit and fruit. Stewed fruit with some raisins and or dried apricots and cinnamon make a comforting breakfast, snack or desert.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol – alcohol can increase your susceptibility to infections. Enjoy celebrations but try to limit and have some days off from drinking. Make some mocktails with fresh cranberries and apple juice. Drink green tea, it contains theanine, an amino acid that helps relax and calm the mind and body.
  • Zinc plays a really important role in immunity.  It is involved in the development and function of many important immune cells. Research over the years have found the zinc deficient people are at more chance of catching infections. Zinc rich foods include sunflower and pumpkin seeds, crab, seafood, eggs and ginger. Fresh ginger tea first thing in the morning is a good habit to develop because it will support your immune system, rehydrate after sleep and also support digestion.
  • Foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics may support the immune system:
    • Probiotics are good bacteria in the stomach and one of the first lines of defence when the body is faced with an infection. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria and help keep them living in the gut.
    • Plain natural yoghurt, fermented vegetables and kombucha are good sources of probiotics and oats, onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, apples, sweet potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes are good sources of prebiotics.
  • Mushrooms and oats contain beta-glucans, these are substances called polysaccharides that have been found to have immune supporting capabilities. Porridge for breakfast or how about mushrooms on toast?
  • Reducing stressors and finding ways to relax can help with immune function. The mind and emotions can have a huge effect on immunity and so be kind to yourself. Indulge in warm long baths, meditate, go for long walks, watch your favourite film and enjoy time with friends and family. Several studies have shown negative emotions suppress immune function and so find opportunities to laugh.
  • Exercise boosts immunity. Ultimately aim to increase activity levels, take 20-minute walks outside or try a new class, or do some gardening. Christmas(yes I said it) shopping can count.
  • Keep hydrated. Increasing vegetables and fruits are a great way to increase fluid as are soups. Water is important but can be a struggle at times, try herbal teas, Pukka teas are my favourite. Pukka Turmeric Gold has been shown in a study to support the immune system and also contains a high level of antioxidants. It tastes good as well.

Immune support recipes

Chicken Soup

  • 4 carrots – washed and chopped in half, you can use the whole of the carrot
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic unpeeled and washed
  • 1 onion cut in half unpeeled and washed
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 whole chicken or chicken bones
  • Place ingredients in a large pot of water
  • Bring to boil – skim the froth of the top
  • Simmer on a low heat with lid on for as long as you can at a low heat and I try to do this for at least 4-5 hours.
  • Once cooked transfer stock to a container and refrigerate. After some time the fat will form on the top, you can skim this off if you prefer. I use this for stocks and soups. I freeze in small containers so I can add to sauces and larger ones for soups. I don’t use the cooked vegetables, but you can do if you prefer, peel the onions and garlic if you do.

Can be eaten as a clear soup add seasoning to taste

If boiling a whole chicken, it can be then used for making curries, adding to soups, salads, chicken pie and sandwiches.

Sweet Potato and Ginger, Turmeric Spiced Soup

Serves 4

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic crushed (keep crushed for 6 mins before cooking to benefit from immune supporting properties)
  • 2cm piece of ginger
  • 5 ml turmeric
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chop onion
  • Crush garlic
  • Grate ginger
  • Sauté all 3 in 2 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil for a couple of minutes
  • Peel and chop sweet potatoes into chunks
  • Add to onion mixture
  • Add turmeric
  • Add stock
  • Bring to boil
  • Simmer with lid on for 30 mins
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • When potatoes are soft, pour into a blender and blend until smooth.


Supplements to consider (but advice from a professional is always best)

A good quality multi-vitamin is recommended especially if you are struggling with eating a wide variety of foods.

Vitamin C and zinc can be supportive at this time of year.

Probiotics support digestion and immunity

Echinacea if you are not allergic may support you when a virus hits

Black elderberry may also be supportive.

























07 Nov

Winter Wellness – Part 1 – Sleep

At this time of year we are entering into a long winter ahead and by all accounts the coldest! Viruses increase in the winter, nights are longer, we have less exposure to natural daylight and we generally can start to feel more fatigued. Sleep is disrupted for some. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can embrace winter! In fact many people prefer this time of year, people who love skiing and winter outdoor sports would not swap a hot, sunny beach for anything. If you are not in this camp and find winter hard there are ways to help you through it.

There is a lot of hype about the Danish approach to winter, Hygge. Google it and an abundance of books come up first on your search page – The little book of Hygge, The Art of Hygge, How to Hygge. So what is this all about? It’s about being snuggly, warm and cosy in the winter. It is also about being with people and enjoying company and the simple pleasures. So can we get through the winter with this concept? It is about embracing the season, it gives an excuse to cuddle up in front of a warm fire and to do nothing, read a book and just chill but stay warm.

If you struggle with all of this there are food and lifestyle choices you can make to help you through the cold winter months. Over the next few weeks I will talk about different winter health topics that will support you over the next few months. I will cover sleep, immunity, skin, energy and seasonal foods..


Good quality sleep is important for all aspects of health. Research suggests that poor sleep or lack of may increase your risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Melatonin is our sleep hormone. We produce more of it in darkness and production stops in daylight. Sometimes it can be become out of balance and this may affect sleep.

Try to make sure you expose yourself to natural daylight in the winter. The best way to get is apparently to see light first thing in the morning, here in Scotland this is impossible. A light box or alarm clock may come in handy but also a brisk afternoon walk will make sure you have your daily daylight exposure. According to an academic article on sunlight and the benefits to health, in order to have optimal nocturnal melatonin (sleep hormone) being out in natural daylight is really helpful.

Phones, tablets, computer screens and TVs give off blue light this is similar to daylight but natural daylight is better for your circadian rhythms, blue light suppresses melatonin. In todays world we are constantly exposed to blue light, which again in turn can muck up our levels. Switch to orange light on devices when it starts to get dark. Switch off phones etc. 1 hour before bed, not only the blue light will disturb sleep patterns, it is stimulating your thinking so close to bedtime. Same goes for TV, if you do watch it before bed, watch something calming, not scary movies or something that really makes you think. I recently enjoyed watching the Robbie Coltrane Drama National Treasure but it was not a pre bedtime programme.

You can purchase blue light blocking glasses really cheaply also. If you really struggle with getting to sleep these might be a good investment. Though this is not an excuse to be on your computer all night.

Create a good sleeping environment, Dark room, bath or relaxation before bed, Try to eat 2-3 hours before retiring. Wind down and prepare your body for sleep.

Tryptophan is the amino acid that makes serotonin, the happy, good mood chemical in the brain. Serotonin is converted into melatonin – the sleep hormone. Eat foods rich in protein to make sure you have enough tryptophan to help with sleep. Good sources of tryptophan are: beef, chicken, eggs, beans, dairy, fish, legumes, lentil, oats, nuts and seeds. Unlikely food such as banana also contains tryptophan as does new potatoes. I was taught in College if someone was really struggling to sleep before bed advise them to eat 1 new potato, definitely worth a try.

Cherries also contain melatonin and may be useful as a light pre-bed snack or a small desert served with plain natural yoghurt at night.

Magnesium is a calming and relaxation mineral. Epsom Salt baths are recommended. They contain magnesium, which is absorbed through the skin. If you don’t have a bath you can but magnesium sprays. Good sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables such as steamed broccoli. Halibut is is season just now and is at its tastiest, it is also a good source of magnesium.

I have had some clients who work night shifts and this can really impact your circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. I advise them similar advice to above but switching it around. For example, a blue light during the night shift may help your body with sleeping during the day. Wearing sunglasses as you approach the morning, the blue-light blocking ones may be particularly helpful.

The most important thing about sleep is to try and address what might be causing the problem. If it is a racing mind, write tasks down before bed, that way you have dealt with it. Keep a diary on food and activities – is there a correlation between them and sleep. Identify triggers and drivers – is it too much screen time or are you not eating enough protein? Seek professional advice if you feel you need to. Nutritional therapy can certainly provide good advice and perhaps a sleep clinic might also be able to help.