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.


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.