16 Aug

Adaptogens – Supporting the Stress Response


Adaptogens – Supporting the Stress Response

What are they?

An adapatogen is a herb or substance that improves the ability to adapt to stressors.

How does that work?

Typically, these herbs or substances grow and or live in extreme conditions where their environment is particularly stressful, no that doesn’t mean they have a demanding boss, they have a long commute to work or they are experiencing the trials of parenting teenagers or toddlers. It means their physical environment is so harsh they find ways to adapt to the extreme conditions in order to survive. For example: Rhodiola a well-known adaptogen grows in mountainous regions of the world, where the temperature is extremely cold in high altitudes.

The unique properties of adaptogens due to their harsh living environments and their ability to adapt and survive can be extracted and used in supplements. Adaptogens help support the adrenal and nervous system helping the body adapt and respond more effectively to challenging situations. These may be good and bad stressors, the stress reaction can happen in good and bad times as well. For example, sitting exams and receiving good results will both trigger a stress response. In todays world we are constantly challenged and it can be difficult to regulate and normalise the stress response. As adaptogen substances adapt to their harsh environments they may help the human body adapt to theirs.

What are the common ones to look out for?

Ashwagandha  contains many properties that contribute to its ability to help the body adapt to challenging situations.

A small double blind trial found that the group of volunteers who were picked because they were feeling particularly stressful improved in their mood and their ability to cope when they took ashwagandha for 60 days as opposed to the placebo group.

It is known to energise and refresh the nervous system. It may prevent stress related disorders and the stress related depletion of vitamin C and cortisol, a stress hormone. A long with supporting immunity it also may help with physical fatigue as well as helping with sleep.

Rhodiola there has been many studies on this herb and it has been proven effective in the resistance to stress. It’s action on the regulation of the body’s biochemical response to stress has been shown to be beneficial. It supports the nervous and adrenal systems of the body. Evidence has supported the view rhodiola supports physical and mental well-being. It is advised to take earlier in the day as it can be stimulating.

Blue Ling Fish also known as its extract name Garum Armerilium has been found to promote anti-stress activity. My daughter took Stabillium, the trade name for this adaptogen during her exams and we all noticed a dramatic effect. Mainly, her approach, language and body language changed, she was assured and we noticed this difference in her. This is an interesting adaptogen as it was discovered a long time ago by ancient Celts and was given to Roman legionnaires during war time to help them cope with the emotional and physical stressors of war. Again it contains properties to support the nervous and adrenal systems. It contains high levels of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Substance within these fatty acids are involved in regulating the nervous system. A couple of very small trials held in France found a marked improvement in patients with symptoms of stress who took garum armerilium for 3 months.

From a food and supplement angle mushrooms could also be argued to be adaptogens. Reishi, maitake and cordyceps also known as caterpillar mushroom have been found to influence the body’s ability to adapt in response to stressors. They have also been found to support the immune system, regulating inflammation. Inflammation if left uncontrolled is a continued stressor on the body. For more reading on adrenals and ways to support check Mark Hyman’s blog.

There are other adaptogenic substances that may be useful in supporting the body when it is challenged such as panax ginseng again know for its adrenal strengthening and immune support. It is very important to check with your GP or professional nutritional therapist for any drug-nutrient interactions if on any medications. They are not quick-fix pills but they may just give the body that extra support it needs when it is not finding the ability to adapt and cope itself.

Ultimately supporting these systems through diet, exercise (but sometimes not too much if you are in an exhaustive state), adequate sleep and finding ways to relax are the best ways to approach, however sometimes an extra hand can go a long way to helping with reducing symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, insomnia, irritable bowel and headaches which may be due to life overload.

A very big thank you to Aidan Craig, nutrition student at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh who contributed to researching the information to this article. 



10 Aug

Quick Pesto

If you are struggling for dinner choices tonight or want a quick easy midweek recipe try this:

Serve with 500g packet of pasta for 4, top up with serving extra vegetables – either roasted aubergines, salad, roasted broccoli and or cauliflower

1 bag organic kale, torn into pieces, remove stalks (if not organic soak in vinegar and water, then rinse)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed

1 tsp barleygrass, chlorella (optional)

30g cashew nuts

handful parsley

In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and add garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes

Add kale, add 2 tablespoons of water, salt and black pepper, put the lid on and heat at a medium temperature, until soft but still retaining its green colour – should take about 5-8 minutes

In a food processor add cashews and parsley and blend, then add cooked kale and more olive oil, approx 1-2 tbsp. more if needed. Blend to a pesto consistency.

Done and easy, I am serving with Dove’s Farm Buckwheat pasta, (I recommend this pasta as a gluten free alternative, it really is a good substitute for the real thing) and roasted aubergines.

Get children involved in making, washing and tearing up kale, pushing the button on food processor – get them involved in tasting for seasoning – anything to encourage them to eat their greens – this is very green





01 Jun

How, When and What do I Eat and Does it Matter to You?

There is not a week goes by where there is a health/scare story on food, what we should eat, what we shouldn’t eat, what we were told to eat years ago is wrong and we now should eat this. Last week it was fat. This week the dangers of clean eating.

I subscribe to The Times newspaper and every Sunday they feature a chef/cook and their cooking in one of their supplements, more often than not its a healthy “clean eating” blogger with their gluten free, sugar free (but features dates quite a lot), spiralised courgette recipes. Then this Sunday they had quite a hefty article on clean/healthy eating and the dangers, demonising these cooks. Hey wait a minute your Sunday supplement promotes them usually, I am confused. And if I am confused then you will be even more.

I think the clean eating movement is partly born out of the junk food movement, people have seen an opportunity to get the mass onto a healthy bandwagon in a trendy doable way. Many have swapped toast with jam for chia puddings. My 16 year old daughter follows similar health gurus on Instagram showing her how to make avo on toast (I can do that), one person she follows has her own online business selling healthy snacks, I had a look, I was quite impressed, so not all to be frowned at better than the Graze craze, the ingredients in these snacks are questionable regarding health and at the end of the day what’s wrong with an apple?

What is the difference between my daughter and the people described in The Times supplement who are underweight, depressed with no periods due to eating clean? She is a healthy weight, loves food, eats healthy but also doesn’t, sweetie wrappers are found in her blazer pocket (all normal), she takes what she wants from social media regarding eating and health but doesn’t let it takeover so that her health starts to suffer. I think because she knows quite a lot about food, and she is in tune with her body, if she is going through a hungry phase as teenagers do, she eats more. She also has always had home-cooked meals and we eat as a family at a table every night, instilling a good feeling around food. It’s not always about what you eat it is about HOW you eat.

How do I eat?

I eat slowly. Never used to, so it is not always easy but I really try. Eating slowly gives your body time to digest food, if you eat too fast, you may eat more as you have not given enough time for your body to know it is full. It is also easier on digestion, we need to eat when we are relaxed, if we eat on the go or in a hurry, digestion will be impaired because it is not in the right zone. I chew my food. Again never used to but I am more conscious of this now and one thing I have noticed I enjoy my food more when I do this. I often ask clients to count the amount of bites it takes them to eat an apple – if it is 1 or 2 you are not chewing and taking your time – as the rabbit in Cadbury’s caramel said – slow down, take it easy. I always eat at a table without television, at breakfast and lunch if I am on my own I might read, I am thinking of ditching this habit though. I eat with people at night, we share the day, my son and husband often says how delicious the food is, making me feel good.

When do I eat?

I have 3 meals a day, at regular times mainly. Breakast is usually about 7am, lunch about 12-1pm and dinner at 6:45pm. I don’t eat after dinner and try leave 12-13 hours between dinner and break fast, yes this is a mini fast, giving my digestion a break. Interestingly a recent study showed a reduction in developing breast cancer for people that had a 13 hour or more fast between dinner and breakfast, worth trying. I have a couple squares of dark chocolate with a cup of green tea about 10am and in the afternoon about 3pm I will have couple of oatcakes with nut butter and sometimes half a banana, or some nuts and a apple, or humus on oatcakes.

What do I eat?

I would describe my food as clean if that means whole food, unprocessed as much as possible, 80% organic , minimal sugar, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I also describe myself as a family cook so I do eat red meat – 1-3 times a week. With kids, cottage pies, casseroles, chilli and bolognaise are all really handy, easy meals, you can batch cook and it is a great way to get the vegetables in. I eat fish 1-2 times a week, and oily fish at least once if not twice. I also have a vegetable night and aim for grain free nights as well. I do eat quinoa – a demonised food in The Times article, I am wheat free it’s a good alternative so I am not depleted of nutrients that wholewheat may give me, for example B vitamins. I am also dairy free so I eat lots of green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, fish with bones, sometimes a little organic soy yoghurt and chickpeas – these foods have good sources of calcium. I love eggs, but can’t eat too many, I have 2-4 a week. I don’t eat wheat and dairy for health reasons but everyone is an individual so do not recommend this to everyone. Food choices and health depend on a variety of reasons: health circumstances, health history, genes, diet and diet history, if a food group is being excluded alternatives need to be put in place to make sure you are getting enough nutrients with a plan to reintroduce where possible. I eat protein at each meal and I include good sources of fat in my diet: nuts, ground seeds, oily fish, grass fed beef, olive oil, flaxseed oil and coconut oil. I love avocado, I sometimes juice but not often and have green smoothies. I like red wine but don’t drink Mon-Thurs and will have a glass on Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday. I don’t drink coffee but again this is a personal choice, studies have shown coffee can be good for you. A lengthy but interesting review on it here.


I am reading Novak Djokovic’s book and he claims his success in tennis had been down to changing his eating habits. His parents have owned a Pizzeria for years, he was brought up on it and after seeking advice from a naturpath, he found he was intolerant to gluten, he cut it out for 2 weeks and found 3-4 days in he felt lighter, faster and free from a bunged up nose that he had suffered with for years. Not only that his game dramatically improved. His parents in turn opened up a chain of gluten free pizzerias called ‘Novak’. How cool is that. However again whether it’s a tennis player, a top chef, a food blogger telling you what to eat, like my 16 year old daughter – listen first to your body and what it needs and seek professional advice from a nutritionist or dietician.

Do not just follow the tennis players, food bloggers, chefs, cook book writers without professional guidance as it might not be the right thing for YOU!


20 May

National Vegetarian Week – Vegetable Crumble

  • Vegetable crumble recipe for National Vegetarian Week, a hearty almost one pot meal, I sautéed courgettes separately because one member of the family is fussy about them but you could add to the dish with the rest of vegetables. Use any vegetables you have in the fridge for this dish, onions and garlic are your base.
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed or chopped and another 2 crushed but to add at the end
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped into chunks
  • 1 sweet potato, chopped into chunks
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp. of tomato paste
  • herbs – basil, parsley time
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika

Crumble topping

  • 150g Oats (gluten free if avoiding)
  • 75g wholemeal, chestnut or buckwheat flour
  • 5 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  • Sauté onions garlic, leeks, celery, carrot and sweet potato in pan with 1 ½ tbsp. of olive oil, cook for 8-10 minutes at a medium heat
  • Add tomatoes
  • Fill tin with water and add 1 and ½ of water to pan
  • Add paste
  • Add smoked paprika
  • Add chickpeas
  • Bring to boil
  • Simmer at a low-med heat with lid on for 20-25 minutes

Preheat oven 180C

Crumble topping

  • 150g oats
  • 75g of wholemeal, chestnut or buckwheat flour
  • 5tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl until breadcrumb texture

When sauce is cooked through, add to a square oven dish similar to cooking lasagne, sprinkle the oat topping on the top, if you eat dairy, you can sprinkle some cheese on the top.

Cook in oven at 180C for 15 minutes

Serve with Crispy Kale and sautéed courgettes.

crumble sauce 1 crumble sauce finished crumblecourgettes






19 May

National Vegetarian Week – 5 Ways to Cook Cauliflower

Another vegetable to celebrate in National Vegetarian Week – the humble cauliflower can be use in so many recipes.

  • In NYC I had the most delicious dish called a cauliflower steak, they sliced the cauliflower into steak like pieces, par boiled or steamed it then grilled and served it with a chilli tahini dressing – it was delicious.
  • Roasted cauliflower with curry spices and coconut oil is also delicious and use some of the leaves as well as they crisp up like crisps.
  • Mash cauliflower, steam or boil, then put in a food processor, add seasoning, olive oil and tahini.
  • Steamed cauliflower with a plain salad dressing works well – make up a dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, grain mustard, salt and black pepper and drizzle of the cooked cauliflower.
  • A recent recipe I have tried and it works really well with fish is cauliflower rice. Chop cauliflower up and add to food processor -raw, then whizz it up so it looks like rice, add to a pan with some olive oil, sautéed garlic and onion, let it cook off for 2-3 minutes then add liquid – water, veg stock, almond or normal milk, put the lid on and cook over a medium heat. Remember to season as well. Keep an eye on it, and add more liquid. The trick is to cook it though enough to get flavour and a softer consistency but not so it goes mushy.

Why Cauliflower?

  • Rich in a substance called glucosinates, studies have shown they have cancer protective properties, protecting the body from cell damage and oxidative stress (a process similar to rusting)
  • Good source of vitamins and minerals – C, K Folate, B6 and manganese, magnesium, potassium and copper – nutrients needed for healthy bones, immunity, electrolyte balance and a healthy pregnancy
  • Anti-inflammatory properties – may be helpful for cardiovascular health, obesity and joint health and diabetes
  • Contains a substance that may help with oestrogen dominance, indole-3 -carbinol may assist excess unhealthy oestrogen out the body. This may support symptoms such as PMS and heavy periods.



17 May

National Vegetarian Week – Beetroot Humus

It is National Vegetarian Week so here is an easy and simple recipe using beetroot. Beetroot with it’s rich purple-red colour that will stain your hands but don’t worry it washes off, is rich in antioxidants, colour in foods mean they may have protective effects against cell damage. Love your liver AND love beetroot. Beetroot contains substances that may support the liver – betain, fibre and pectin. The fibre, folate and betain may support our hearts. Beetroot also contains nitrites which help with the production of nitric oxide, this contributes to the dilation of blood vessels, and some studies have found they may be useful in sport and even brain support. In fact research has shown nitrites found in beetroot can help with blood flow and  and oxygen transport, think brain and heart again. To read more on these studies click here and on other links in this article. You can eat raw grated in salads, juice them, add to soups and casseroles, roast them and serve with sweet potato for a change to potatoes.

Beetroot Humus

2 beetroot

½ tin of chickpeas (200g)

1 clove of garlic

2 teaspoons of tahini (I used black sesame seed paste here but normal tahini works as well)

Sprig of fresh thyme

2 tbsp. of olive oil

Chop beetroot into wedges, place on a baking tray, drizzle with 1 tbsp. of olive oil and season with salt and black pepper

Place in oven and cook for 35 minutes

Let them cool

In a food processor, add all the ingredients and blend till smooth.

Serve with a salad or delicious on oatcakes or on a sandwhich.




29 Mar

Food and Mood

I recently talked to the Limekilns, Charleston and Pattiesmuir Scottish Women’s Institute on food and mood. Lots of questions came up and what was apparent was gut health is strongly linked to what people can and cannot eat as you age. So while the following article focuses on the raw materials for brain function, it is important not to ignore the digestive system. As this is such a big topic I will cover it soon in another blog. These ladies had a great knowledge of food and it was a pleasure to talk to such a long established group. It was lovely to see a group get together once a month and socialise ranging from young to old.

Food and Mood

Food will be high in nutritional value or low or even contain ingredients that will have a negative impact on mood. Symptoms of mood imbalances are: depression, low mood, low energy, anxiety, insommnia and poor memory and concentration.

A typical adult has 100 billion brain cells. Every thought, action and emotion involves communication between these cells that are triggered by special chemicals called neurotransmitters. Rather like texting, neurotransmitters are sending messages from one cell to another to tell you how to feel, move, learn, remember, get up in the morning, sleep and think. An imbalance or dysfunction in neurotransmitters can impact your mood.

What are these Neurotransmitters?

  • Serotonin keeps us happy and improves our mood
  • Dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline are our get up and go chemicals and also give us that good feeling when we experience something we enjoy such as dancing, being in love, seeing your children laugh and succeeding.
  • GABA helps us relax and keeping us cool, calm and collected.
  • Acetylcholine keeps us sharp and improves memory and mental alertness
  • Endorphins – give us a sense of euphoria, especially after exercise or something you enjoy.

Protein is very powerful nutrient when looking at mood health. After we eat a protein rich food like an egg the digestive system breaks it up into amino acids, it then links up into a new sequence and forms a neurotransmitter.

Good protein sources are: chicken, fish, beans, pulses, peas, avocados, nuts and seeds, red meat, game meat, plain natural yoghurt, cheese, quinoa, eggs and even green leafy veg such as broccoli and cauliflower.


60% of the brain is made out of fat. Omega 3 and omega 6 fats are essential fats and a deficiency may result in depression, fatigue and memory problems.

What fats are good for you?

Oily fish – organic or wild salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines; nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado’s and butter. Grass fed meat is also another good source of omega 3 fats. If you are vegetarian flaxseeds and walnuts are a good source of omega 3.

Fat is still linked to diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular health and the wrong fats can impact mood. Avoid inflammatory fats – trans, hydrogenated – includes margarines and frying/heating vegetable and seed oils at high temps as they can be damaging to the nerve cells and brain function.


Carbohydrate is the brain’s main source of fuel but it has to be finely balanced and be in the right form. White refined, processed sugars such as white sugar, rice and flour impact blood sugar levels dramatically affecting mood. If you have too much you feel wired if have too little you feel faint, tired and irritable. Try to eat complex carbohydrates and eat protein and fat with each meal to avoid problems with blood sugar.

Vitamins and Minerals needed for mood

Vitamins and Minerals Deficiency signs Sources
B vitamins Poor concentration, memory loss, low mood and energy Wholegrains – brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat. Vegetables, meat, fish nuts, seeds and dairy
Choline Memory loss and anxiety Eggs and fish


Vitamin D Memory and cognitive thinking Sunshine, salmon, dairy and eggs
Zinc Depression, anxiety, hyperactivity


Pumpkin seeds, meat, fish, seafood, seaweed, nuts and seeds
Iron Foggy thinking, fatigue and low mood Red meat (grass fed), fish and eggs. Vegetarian sources: beans, pulses, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, avocado, seeds and dried apricots. Eat these foods with foods rich in Vitamin C to increase the absorption – salads, broccoli, parsley, and fruit


Magnesium Muscle cramps, irritable, sleep problems, anxiety Swiss chard, spinach, pumpkin seeds, butternut squash, dark chocolate and green leafy vegetables: broccoli, kale and cauliflower. Epsom salt baths are another effective way of increasing magnesium levels. Try to have a bath twice a week with 2 cups of Epsom Salts, lie for 20 minutes, pat yourself dry for maximum transdermal absorption


Calcium Sleep problems, irritable and anxiety Dairy, sesame seeds, humus and green leafy vegetables


Antioxidants for protection

Rainbow coloured fruit and vegetables are needed for protection of brain cells.

Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, inflammation may be a reason for poor brain function. Incorporate as much colour on your plate as you can – using fruit, vegetables, spices and herbs. Blueberries and dark coloured fruits have been found to help with memory and mood. Bananas are a good source of dopamine. Green tea contains l-theanine, which may have a calming effect on mood. Try drinking 1 cup a day.

What to avoid

Foods that may have a negative impact on brain health may be because they cause inflammation or they cause a reactive process similar to rusting – when this happens it is damaging to our cells and can cause a further inflammatory process.

  • Burnt meat and fish – studies have shown that chemicals made by overcooking meat and fish are toxic to the body.
  • Trans or hydrogenated fats – inflammatory to the body
  • High consumption of dairy and or meat that has been farmed intensively – aim for organic and grass fed products – grass fed also contains higher amount of omega 3
  • Processed foods – foods that contain additive and chemicals that you cannot pronounce
  • Heavy metals – they can be associated with mood swings, aggressive behaviours, low concentration levels, apathy, disturbed sleep and impaired memory. Food that may help eliminate heavy metals from the body are: sulphur containing foods such as eggs, onion and garlic and foods containing pectin – apples, carrots and citrus fruits – a good tip is to put the rind of lemons and oranges on top of porridge, salads, curries, fish, deserts and chicken.
  • Food intolerances and allergies notice any foods that disagree with you and pay attention then professional help from your GP or a Nutritional Therapist.

With the right diet food can have a remarkable effect on mood, eating good quality protein, complex carbohydrates and quality fats with lots of colour of the rainbow foods you will support your brain and in turn your mood.


11 Mar

Chocolate Oatie Bites

Chocolate Feast

Chocolate is a great source of magnesium and craving chocolate may mean you are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is needed for many many systems in the body and due to depletion in the soil, many people find they are deficient. It can help you relax and may aid sleep, it can be used for supporting muscles during exercise and is useful for cardiovascular health, the largest muscle in the body is the heart. It is needed also for helping calcium get into the bones and also supports brain health, PMS and migraines.

Chaga mushrooms have many health benefits. Mushrooms are adoptogens this means they help support your body and adapt accordingly when faced with challenging situations. They support the immune system, digestion, cardiovascular health and hormones. Making Chaga tea daily may help support the body’s health in many ways. It is pleasant tasting and because it looks like tea or coffee it is an ideal alternative to coffee when trying to give up. You can use the mushrooms again, simply pop them in the freezer and use again when needed. You know when you have used all the nutrients from them as your tea stops being brown. The following recipes give you a magnesium boost while supporting the whole body:

Where to buy Chaga mushrooms: Indigo Herbs

Chaga Hot Chocolate (serves 2)

2 tsp. of broken up chaga mushrooms

2 cups of water

1 cup of almond, coconut or dairy milk

2 tsp raw cacao or 70% cocoa drinking chocolate

1 tsp palmyra jaggery or brown sugar

sprinkle of cinnamon

sprinkle of turmeric

Brew the mushrooms in the water for 20-30 minutes with lid off at a low heat

Strain once the water has taken a brown colour

Put the liquid back in the pot

Add milk

Add raw cacao, spices and sugar

Turn up the heat to a gentle simmer, then lower for 5 minutes and serve.

Chocolate oaties

200g of dark chocolate 70% or higher, broken into solids

125g, rough oatcakes (gluten free)

50g raisins

50g pumpkinseeds

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. turmeric

2 teaspoons of hemp protein powder (optional)

50g tahini or coconut butter or butter (optional)


Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water

In a bowl break up the oatcakes into small pieces and stir in the raisins, seeds, protein powder and spices

Stir in the nut butter if using into melted chocolate

Add the chocolate to the broken oatcake mixture

Spread mixture over a baking sheet and put in fridge or freezer to harden. When ready break into bite size pieces and serve.




01 Feb

Ready, Steady – Cook!

Are you ready, steady to cook? Does cooking give you pleasure or do you see it as a daunting, time-consuming messy chore? Why is it important to love cooking?

The essence of what I do really is about helping people to eat better to feel better. Food is information, it tells your body what to do and how to function. If you eat junk you will feel like junk, if you eat fresh, unprocessed food rich in nutrients you will feel fresh, vitalised and good. I teach clients why they should be eating or not eating certain foods and the education part can be powerful because they then start to understand the “whys” not just because “its good for you”. Cooking is then key to be able to eat the foods that give your body good information.

I post recipes on my blog, Instagram and give clients handouts in the hope these will give them and anyone else out there interested the necessary tools to go away and start eating well. However I realised at the weekend it’s not always as simple, more on this later.

My cooking background

I have cooked for years, my mum cooked; my husband loves to cook so it is in my blood and heart. I did have to learn; when I first got married our staple meal was pasta with tomato sauce or bought chicken kieve, salad and bought croquette potatoes. At some point we must have decided we had to do more, so I bought books on how to make soup and invested in The Naked Chef – Jamie Oliver books and my repertoire expanded. I then had children and back then I never actually thought about food as information but still had a strong desire to feed my children well. I was a stay at home mum so I had time to work on my dishes, so they grew to casseroles, cottage pies, curries, risottos and more. I was lucky I had the time and I also had the ability to try my hand at most meals. It was also my escapism.

Reality moment

I say all this because I realised actually for a lot of people, cooking is a really daunting process. Whether it’s because you are just starting to cook, or you have never seen anyone cook, you don’t like cooking or you have had bad experiences with it can seem like a chore to some, like ironing is to me.

At the weekend, my daughter cooked herself and her brother a meal. She decided to make a tomato sauce with chickpeas and serve with buckwheat pasta. I said to her I have a recipe on my blog. I then duly went upstairs for a bath, she text me…..”How many cloves of garlic and and kind of heat is it good to sauté oil in?” My first reaction was does my recipe not say? And how does she not know that? I then thought about it and I have been doing this for 19 years, she is just beginning. Turns out I had not put how many cloves of garlic – note to self be more exact with recipes, don’t take it for granted everyone else knows and showed her what temperature to sauté at. I left her to it after that and her brother said it was really tasty, just like mine, so she managed and felt incredibly proud of herself as well.

With all that in mind here are some tips, benefits and advice on cooking:

  1. KISS – not literary but Keep It Simple Stupid – try making tomato sauce for pasta, then advance to a bolognaise, then advance to a curry – once you learn to sauté garlic, onions, carrot and celery in some olive oil you can really cook any kind of sauce based dish, its just about adapting the flavours – adding pasrley, basil, rosemary for Mediterranean dishes and stews, or turmeric, cumin and smoked paprika to Indian or Mexican food.
  2. Put some music on – it really helps, especially when batch cooking.
  3. Start where you are – if you have never cooked or you don’t have a lot of time, start with buying pre-chopped vegetables, ready made quinoa and brown rice packs. You can move on to the next steps when you feel ready. My next step is learning how to ferment foods!
  4. Take a course or ask a friend or family member to teach you a few recipes.
  5. Don’t be scared to experiment and don’t give up when it doesn’t work out. I have had many disasters, I learn from them or I don’t make it again! Baking can be a challenge for me at times.
  6. My daughter was doing one thing at a time, she was watching the garlic cook, yes do this but, if you can do other things while you are waiting for something to cook, so open the tin of chickpeas and rinse them under the sink or wash your herbs. This becomes easier the more time you spend in the kitchen.
  7. Cook extra for lunches and leftovers so that you are not always having to cook.
  8. Buy some good cookery books that can help get you started, look through them first, find ones with straightforward easy recipes.
  9. Find some good websites with recipes, like mine 😉 or others like: food matters, bbc/food, my new roots and Totally Nourish.
  10. This tips was from a client: YouTube – it has some brilliant clips on how to’s such as cooking chicken, chop an onion.
  11. I find cooking therapeutic, if I have not been well, I often find myself cooking – I think this is probably my way of nourishing myself. If I have had a bad day cooking helps, so try to find pleasure in it and use it as a way to distract you from the digital, busy world we live in.
  12. Cooking is good for digestion! It is giving your body a sign you are going to be ready to eat. If you don’t cook, set the table, have pre mealtime rituals that signals your body you are ready to eat.

Finally here is my tomato sauce recipe again in as much detail as I can think of – give it a try and let me know how you get on and if you have any other great tips to become an inspired, healthy and happy cook, let me know:

Tomato Sauce for Pasta, rice, fish, meat or chicken.

  1. 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  2. 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  3. 1 tin of chopped tomatoes for silky smooth sauce 😉
  4. 2 tbsp. olive oil
  5. 200 ml of liquid, either chicken or veg stock or water will work as well ( I fill the tin of tomatoes with about half the water)
  6. tsp. dried oregano
  7. handful of chopped basil or parsley or both
  • Gently heat olive oil in a pan at a low-med heat
  • Add the garlic and let it gently sizzle, but watch to make sure it does not burn
  • Add the tomato paste
  • Add the tomatoes
  • Cook for a few minutes, then add the liquid
  • Bring to the boil then bring down heat to a simmer
  • Add the herbs and seasoning
  • Cook for 25 minutes with lid on, keeping an eye on the heat.
  • The chickpeas are for added protein, so you could add them when you add the tomatoes.


22 Jan

Folate – To Fortify or Not Fortify?

Folate – To Fortify or Not Fortify?

The Scottish Government are thinking about fortifying flour with folate because the population appear to be deficient.

Folate is important during pregnancy as it is vital for nerve cell formation and development. Studies have shown that a daily supplement of 400mcg of folate may prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It may also help prevent premature births. It must be taken at least 3 months before conception and I actually encourage clients to start thinking about this before 3 months, 9-12 months before conception is a good time to start preparing for a healthy pregnancy.

What about the rest of the population, what impact does folate deficiency have?

Folate is essential for the formation of red blood cells and the production of energy. It also is vital for healthy cell division and replication. It is involved in the metabolism of protein and may also be helpful for depression and anxiety.


Folate may be one of the most important nutrients in regulating homocysteine.

What is this and why is it important to be regulated?

It is an amino acid that is formed naturally in the body after the breakdown of another amino acid methionine. Studies found high levels of homocysteine have been connected with a high risk of developing heart disease and cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s and may even be linked with osteoporsis. The body should convert homocysteine back into a non harmful substance but without the right nutrients this does not happen. B12 and B6 as well as folate are needed to keep homocysteine levels low.

Signs and Symptoms of Deficiency

A sore red tongue may be a sign of deficiency, as is anemia, apathy, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, memory problems and paranoia.

Folate deficiency may be caused by poor diet and a poor conumption of fruit and vegetables. Cooking vegetables can destroy folate, so lightly steaming vegetables and eating raw on occasion can help increase levels.


Asparagus, brown rice, chicken, dates, beef, green leafy vegetables, lentils, milk, mushrooms, organise, root vegetables, salmon and whole grains.


Fortifying –  is it a good idea?

The reason the Scottish Government is considering fortification  is because levels in foods like breakfast cereals has lowered over the years and they are concerned about an increase in neural birth defects.

Why are producers reducing the amounts? Could it be because there is a risk of consuming too much? People might be led to believe it’s a cost issue but it might be that too much folate could be putting people at risk of other diseases. Studies indicate an overconsumption of folic acid, leading to possible toxicity.

Some people genetically also do not have the ability to convert folic acid into at the active form once in the body, this means it is not broken down and a build up can happen leading to over-toxicity. Visit mthfr.net for more on this.  Too much folate can be just as bad as too little.

Problems with too much folate?

Too much folic acid mask B12 deficiency – this may be a concern for the older population who may be at more risk of this. It can also mask anemia, this can lead to symptoms such as dementia and irreversible, severe damage to the nervous system.

There has been a small amount of evidence to suggest too much may be linked to increase in cancer tumours.

Natural formed folate through foods are metabolised differently in the body and do not have this effect. Natural food is also works synergistically with other vitamins and minerals.

What is the alternative?

The key here is to promote eating healthy foods that are naturally high in folate and optimising digestion, you are what you absorb. I know this is difficult for all aspects of society but starting with keeping the price of vegetables low and educating children and families on the effect food has on the body may all be positive steps forward to preventing disease.  Supplementing with an active form of folate pre-conception may also prevent birth defects.


Improve diet first and in special circumstances such as pre-conception, pregnancy, heart disease risks and supporting brain function consider a supplement. The Government may be better to spend money on education and employing more nutritional therapists who can educate, motivate and encourage people to eat better.