Vitamin C and Immune Health

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is necessary for our immune health. Below I discuss steps that you can take for yourself to maintain a healthy, balanced immune system. We don’t want an immune system that over-reacts and turns on your body or one that doesn’t react enough.

We place demands on our immune systems all the time and for the most part we are completely unaware of the tasks it is undertaking to protect us from pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. So in order for that to continue being the case, we need to provide our bodies with the best internal and external environments we can.

Supporting Immune Function

The immune system is highly complex. There are, however, some basic nutrients that have been shown to support its function.

Vitamin C is one of these. I will discuss what it is; why it is important; where we can source it from and how we can optimise the amount of vitamin C we can absorb. It is important to remember that we are what we absorb and not just what we eat.

The environment in the body needs to be functioning well to ensure that the nutrients we take in go to the cells, tissues and organs that need them. We also need to avoid foods like sugars that use up the nutrients in the body without providing any of their own.

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid and is a water soluble vitamin. It cannot be made in the body and this is why we need to ensure that we get enough from the food that we eat. It also isn’t possible to store vitamin C in the body because it is water soluble and excreted easily in the urine. In order to maintain adequate amounts of the vitamin, it is better to spread your intake throughout the day and preferably include foods containing vitamin C in your daily diet.

Why is it needed?

The benefits of vitamin C to protect against bone, cartilage and tooth loss along with protecting against muscle wastage have been known for many years. It is also needed for collagen formation and wound healing; it helps us to absorb minerals such iron and calcium and it is essential for assisting with the functioning of the immune system. 

Vitamin C provides various roles in promoting immune function. Firstly, it protects the epithelial barriers in the body from the external environment (1). Epithelial barriers are found in the skin, the digestive tract as well as the nose, mouth, throat and the respiratory pathways including the lungs.

It also enhances the action of white blood cells in their defence against foreign invaders as well as removing dead cells from the body to reduce tissue damage (1).  

Powerful Antioxidant

Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant by donating electrons to unstable atoms or free radicals (1). Free radicals can be produced as a by-product of normal processes in the body such as breathing, liver and immune functions and exercise. They can alter the structure of proteins, fats and DNA in the body leading to disease (2). Viruses can also generate free radicals in the body. If these processes remain unchecked, the damage can grow and spread causing harmful inflammation.

If you think about how apples go brown when you cut them open and leave the flesh to come into contact with the air. You can slow down the browning process by squeezing lemon juice over the fruit. This works because the ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) in the lemon juice reacts with the oxygen in the air before the enzymes on the surface of the apple get a chance to react with it. The same goes for mopping up free radicals in the body by making sure you eat foods rich in antioxidants.

When we are looking for foods that are high in vitamin C, it is important to remember that we need to eat whole foods because we benefit from the addition of the other vitamins, minerals and fibre contained in these foods as all the components work synergistically together to give us the maximum health benefits.

So what can deplete vitamin C in the body?

A high level of sugar in the diet can lead to lower levels of vitamin C being allowed in to cells. This is because glucose and vitamin C share the same transporters to get into cells (3). If your diet is high in sugar, vitamin C will have to compete with glucose at the transporter sites.

Smoking also depletes vitamin C levels in the body (4).

How do we preserve vitamin C?  

The way we buy, store and prepare food can also affect the amounts of vitamin C we get from our food. So if we are not careful, Vitamin C can be depleted from our food before we can get a chance to eat it.

There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C and ideally you want to include a good diversity of both in your diet. Heat damages vitamin C, so it is a good idea to consume fruit and raw vegetables when you can.

Cooking, storing and preparing Food

When you are cooking, use a steamer to lightly cook your vegetables. If you use as little heat and cook them for a shorter period of time you will preserve more vitamin C (5). Cutting fruit and vegetables depletes vitamin C, so only do this just before you want to eat them.

The same goes for storing them. The longer they are stored, the more of the vitamin is lost. Try to do a few shops when you are buying fresh produce. If this isn’t possible, then frozen fruit and vegetables are an excellent way of getting the maximum amount of nutrients from your food as they are often frozen directly after picking which preserves their freshness.   

Foods rich in vitamin C

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, peppers, chilli peppers, strawberries, lemons, oranges, kiwis, blackcurrants, parsley, thyme.

References

(1) Carr, A.C. & Maggini, S. (2017) Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients, 9 (11).

(2) Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A. & Chandra, N. (2010) Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4 (8), pp.118–126.

(3) Santosh, H.N. & David, C.M. (2017) Role of ascorbic acid in diabetes mellitus: A comprehensive review. Pathology & Surgery, 4 (1), pp.1–3.

(4) Schectman, G., Byrd, J.C. & Gruchow, H.W. (1989) The influence of smoking on vitamin C status in adults. American Journal of Public Health, 79 (2), pp.158–162.

(5) Yuan, G.F., Sun, B., Yuan, J. & Wang, Q.M. (2009) Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli. Journal of Zhejiang University: Science B, 10 (8), pp.580–588.

Corporate Packages from £495

Corporate Nutrition and Lifestyle Course

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Increased productivity; healthy and motivated employees; better communication are all areas that can be address by this Corporate Nutrition and Lifestyle course.

Benefits to your business

Investing in the health and welfare of your staff could help to improve your company performance. With increasing pressure on businesses it is important, now more than ever, to make sure that you look after the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff. This 4 week nutrition and lifestyle course aims to help you do that .

Benefits to your staff

The majority of employees are now being asked to work from home and may have to share their working environment with other family members. Their work load may have increased but they no longer have the immediate support of colleagues. This can lead to overwhelm and reduced productivity. Employees who work from home are also reporting loneliness and isolation.

Key aspects of the course

This is an online, interactive course run in an informal, relaxed manner. Participants are encouraged to actively participate by undertaking tasks during the week which are discussed in the following session. This enables the group to share their successes as well as gain further insight into aspects of their health.

It also gives participants the tools they need to make positive health and lifestyle changes for themselves after the course. Breakout rooms of smaller groups are used within the sessions to allow everyone to participate. This is a good way for colleagues to get together and can also connect people who would not normally be in contact at work.

Course content

7 Key areas:

1. What to eat and why.

2. Strategies to reduce stress.

3. The new “working norm”- optimising the home/ work environment.

4. Energy balance.

5. Why we need to exercise.

6. Digestive health to maintain immune function and reduce inflammation.

7. How to get a great night’s sleep.

A work booklet containing key aspects of the course will be provided.

Cost

 £495 up to 12 people

£795 up to 24 people (in 2 groups)

The courses can be altered to suit different business requirements. Tailor made programmes including aspects of health such as mid-life health, menopause and mental health can also be produced. Please contact me to discuss.

Here is what a recent client had to say:

“I thought it was really comprehensive. It was also very useful and well attended which is a testament to how relevant, informing and concise the sessions were. People were looking forward to learning more in the next session each time.”

Sarah

MSV Housing, Trafford

To discuss a package to suit your business Contact me.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A

What is vitamin A?

Vitamin A is an essential vitamin which means that we need to get if from our diet as it is not made in the body. It is a fat soluble vitamin and is available as preformed vitamin A from animal products and pro-vitamin A in fruits, vegetables and other plant based foods (1).

The levels of vitamin A in the body are dependent on levels of dietary intake; the capacity to absorb the micronutrient; the ability to convert the provitamin A to its bioavailable forms and how well it is taken up by the body’s tissues (2).

Retinol is the active form of vitamin A found in animal products and is easily accessible to the body. Due to its fat soluble properties, excess vitamin A is stored in the liver and adipose tissue (3). It is possible to consume too much vitamin A from animal sources and supplements.

Beta carotene is the most abundant carotenoid used by the body to synthesise vitamin A to its active forms retinol, retinal and retinoic acid. This is regulated by a homeostatic mechanism and is the safest way to consume vitamin A because toxic levels are not allowed to accumulate. Consuming large amounts can turn the skin orange but this is not harmful.

Western societies get more than 70% of their vitamin A from animal sources and less than 30% from plant sources. In contrast, populations in developing countries get more than 70% of their vitamin A intake from plants. 

Sources of vitamin A

Animal sources are liver, liver pate, milk, yogurt, oily fish (3).

Plant sources are pumpkins and squashes, sweet potato, carrots, parsley, green leafy vegetables including spinach and broccoli (3).

Health Benefits

Vitamin A is necessary to ensure the health of epithelial cells in the body. Epithelial cells cover all of the body’s surfaces. This includes maintenance of mucous membranes in the nasal passages, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, bladder, urinary tract and skin (5). Vitamin A is needed for growth and development in reproduction (5). Vitamin A is also necessary for maintaining bone, tooth health and eye health (5).

Immune health

A balanced immune response is also dependent on vitamin A which helps to promote and regulate the body’s innate and adaptive immune systems (5). This enhances the body’s ability to fight infectious diseases.

Recommended amounts

The recommended daily amount (RDA) of retinol is 700mcg for men and 600mcg for women in the 19-64 age range (4).

Toxicity

Supplements which contain more than 1500mcg of vitamin A from retinol should be avoided . High doses can cause birth defects in babies (4). For this reason, liver and liver products should be avoided during pregnancy as well as fish oils. If you are pregnant or trying for a baby do not exceed 1500mcg in total from food and supplements (4). If you are unsure what you should be taking, then consult your GP or nutrition professional. Some studies have shown an increased risk of bone damage and osteoporosis in menopausal women taking more than 1500mcg of vitamin A over several years (6). High dose supplementation is not recommended for smokers and non-smokers (7).

Interactions

Vitamin A can interact with certain medications. See you GP or nutrition professional for more advice.

How do we increase our absorption of vitamin A?

Fat is needed to increase the absorption of vitamin A (3). Foods containing vitamin A should be eaten with healthy fats such as olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado and nuts. Saturated fats such as coconut oil and butter in small quantities are also useful sources of healthy fats as part of a nutritious, balanced diet. Some diseases can result in poor absorption of fat. These include Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, lactose intolerance and ulcerative colitis. As a result, they may deplete levels of fat soluble vitamins in the body.

References:

(1). Albahrani, A.A. & Greaves, R.F. (2016) Fat-Soluble Vitamins: Clinical Indications and Current Challenges for Chromatographic Measurement. The Clinical biochemist. Reviews, 37 (1), pp.27–47. (2). Borel, P. & Desmarchelier, C. (2017) Genetic variations associated with vitamin a status and vitamin A bioavailability. Nutrients, 9. (3). Gilbert, C. (2013) What is vitamin A and why do we need it? Community Eye Health Journal, 26 (84), pp.65–65. (4). NHS.UK, 2020 Vitamin A [Online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/ [Accessed 01/10/2020]. (5). Huang, Z., Liu, Y., Qi, G., Brand, D. & Zheng, S. (2018) Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 7 (9), p.258. (6). SACN, 2005. Review of Dietary Advice on Vitamin A [Online}. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/338853/SACN_Review_of_Dietary_Advice_on_Vitamin_A.pdf. [Accessed 01/10/2020]. (7). Satia, J.A., Littman, A., Slatore, C.G., Galanko, J.A. & White, E. (2009) Long-term use of β-carotene, retinol, lycopene, and lutein supplements and lung cancer risk: Results from the vitamins and lifestyle (vital) study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 169 (7), pp.815–828.

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Soup

Full of flavour. This comforting soup has a creamy, rich texture to enjoy as the nights are closing in.

High in beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A by the body. It also contains vitamin C, potassium, copper, manganese, B2, vitamin E and iron. It addition, small amounts of magnesium, zinc and folate are also present. This is a great addition to a nutritious diet that will help to balance your immune system.

A great reason to eat food that is in season because it provides the nutrients that you need for the coming months. Pumpkin or squash is high in beta carotene (pre-cursor to vitamin A) and vitamin C which are necessary for immune health and could help to support your immune system in the winter months.

Prep: 25 mins

Cook: 20 mins

Easy

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 800g pumpkin/ squash flesh chopped
  • 2 medium white onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.2 litres hot vegetable stock
  • 1.5 tsp turmeric
  • Add 1.5 tsps of cayenne pepper or curry powder if you prefer a spicier flavour.
  • Chopped parsley is optional.

Method

The only thing that takes any time is chopping and peeling the pumpkin. I would recommend using a sharp knife to chop the pumpkin into slices. Lay them flat and then remove the skin. Chop into 1cm chunks.

Heat oil in a deep pan. Add onions and pumpkin and soften over a low heat for 15 mins. Cover the pan to speed up the cooking process and reduce heat loss. This allows you to cook effectively at a lower temperature to preserve as many nutrients as possible.

Add vegetable stock and stir it through for 2-3 minutes without boiling.

If you would like a thicker soup, add more pumpkin or less stock.

Remove from the heat and blend to desired consistency. Serve into bowls and add chopped parsley if you prefer.

The Psychology of Weight Loss and Good Health through Optimal Nutrition – A new SMN Nutrition and Lifestyle Course.

This 8 week course examines how your mind controls what you eat and what you eat may control your mind. It will teach you how to tune in to your body and in turn retrain your appetite. It will also provide ideas to change your environment to help you succeed.

It is ideal if you have been struggling with your weight and would like to try a new approach. Or if you have tried dieting and nothing seems to work. It will give you tools to stay motivated and the knowledge to help you make healthier food and lifestyle choices. The course is designed to help you identify your goals and put you on the path to achieving them. You will be fully supported by a registered nutritional therapist throughout.

The course incudes:

A one-to-one 30-minute appointment at the start of the course. This can be by phone or in person.

Weekly personal coaching in a group setting as well as in a closed social media group.

Contact by email if required throughout the course.

Group members will be coached to set agreed personal goals and asked to commit to these goals.

You will be actively encouraged to complete all tasks and activities on the course.

A proportion of the weekly sessions will be dedicated to the psychology of behaviour change and will include exercises to help you do this.

You will be asked to take part in weekly activities both at home and in a supportive group setting which will help you to reach your goals more effectively. You will receive one-to-one feedback on these activities.

Cost £89

Location: Coppice Avenue Library and Wellbeing Centre, Coppice Avenue, Sale. M33 4ND

Time: 7 pm – 8.30 pm

Dates: Jan 27th; Feb 3rd, 17th, and 24th; March 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd.

In the sessions we will explore:

  • Identifying emotions that may be affecting eating behaviours.
  • Discover how you can you tap into the different body senses to help you to control your eating behaviours?
  • How our behaviour may be affected by what we eat?
  • Learn how to tune into your body in order to retrain your appetite.
  • Eat to control your energy throughout the day and not feel tired.
  • Learn how to make your new healthy habits routine.
  • Learn why dieting causes weight gain.
  • How to get the correct type and amount of nutrients in your diet without gaining weight.
  • Identify the right proteins, fats and healthy low carbohydrate foods to achieve sustained weight loss.
  • Learn why a healthy gut microbiome is vital for our physical and mental health.

Contact me to reserve your place!

Inflammation

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

  • Do you suffer from pain?
  • Do you have digestive issues?
  • Are your symptoms restricting what you can eat and is this impacting on your social life?
  • Do you have issues with mobility or restricted movement?
  • Are you taking lots of medications and still suffering from debilitating symptoms?

The difference between acute and chronic inflammation

Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s healing process. It helps us fight infection and recover from injury or disease. There are two types of inflammation: acute which happens very quickly but usually resolves within two weeks and chronic where the inflammation can last for several months or even years.

Signs of acute inflammation are: pain, redness, swelling, heat and loss of function. You will notice some or all of these symptoms fairly quickly. Blood flow will increase and white blood cells will be sent to the site of damage or infection in order to speed up the healing process. Pain killers such as aspirin and ibuprofen are often effective in the short term but prolonged use may cause side effects, dependency and nutrient depletions. They only address the symptoms and not the root cause.

Signs of chronic inflammation are sometimes less obvious as are their causes. Inflammatory symptoms range from acid reflux, bloating, constipation, back pain and brain fog to arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Additional factors that contribute to chronic inflammation.

These include:

-genetic susceptibility. This may reduce the ability of the liver to remove toxic substances from the body (1).

– poor blood sugar control. Arthritis sufferers who are insulin resistant are more prone to severe arthritis than non-diabetic people who suffer from the disease. (2)

exposure to high levels of toxins, oxidants and chemicals in your environment. These can trigger the inflammatory process in the body leading to the development of chronic disease (3).

– a diet low in essential fats. Lowering your intake of saturated fat and omega 6 seed oils and increasing your intake of omega 3 fats may help to reduce low-grade inflammation as well as benefit patients with diseases such as obesity, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis (4).

  allergies. There is a link between a lack of healthy diversity in the gut microbiome and an increased risk of developing allergic conditions such as allergic asthma.

How can a registered nutritional therapist help you?

A nutritional therapist will help to identify the root cause of your inflammatory symptoms. This natural approach helps the body to heal itself by looking at the body as a whole.

Your nutritional therapy programme will :

1. Identify possible foods that may be causing inflammation by damaging your digestive tract and remove these. Yeast, parasites and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can also damage the gut. It is also necessary to ensure that the body is eliminating toxins effectively to facilitate healing.

2. Restore the health of your digestive system by including nutrient dense foods that are suited to you. It is also essential to ensure that your absorption of these nutrients is optimised to support your immune system. Digestive enzymes may be suggested to aid digestion and natural anti-inflammatory supplements may also be recommended.

3. It is important that your gut contains a healthy balance of bacteria. Foods that introduce or encourage a healthy environment for these bacteria to flourish will be introduced along with pre-biotic foods to feed these healthy bacteria.

4. It is essential that any damage is repaired and so food containing L- glutamine and omega- 3 fatty acids will be considered. It may also be necessary to consider supplements and vegetarian and vegan options are available. These will help to reduce and remove inflammation.

5. Your lifestyle is also an important consideration when reducing inflammation and so stress levels, exercise, social support and quality of sleep all need to be addressed.  

If you suffer from any inflammatory conditions, nutritional therapy will help to reduce or remove the symptoms. If you would like a programme designed specifically for you along with support and coaching to help you to achieve better health, then please Contact me .

References

1. Hodges, R. & Minich, D. 2015 Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application [Online]. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488002/ [Accessed 14/12/2019].#
2. Sokoloff, L. 1985 Endemic forms of osteoarthritis. Clinics in Rheumatic Diseases 11 (2), pp. 187-202.
3. Hussain, T. et al. 2016 Oxidative Stress and Inflammation: What Polyphenols Can Do for Us? [Online]. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2016/7432797/ [Accessed 14/12/2019].
4. Barcelo – Coblijn G. & Murphy, E. 2009 Alpha-linolenic acid and its conversion to longer chain n-3 fatty acids: benefits for human health and a role in maintaining tissue n-3 fatty acid levels. Progress in Lipid Research 48 pp.355–74.
5. Bisgaard, H. et al.  2014 Immune-mediated diseases and microbial exposure in early life.Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 44 pp. 475–481.

Nutrition & Lifestyle Course

Nutrition and Lifestyle Course 4 x 1 hr sessions £28

Would you like to join a group of friendly like-minded people and learn about how simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your health?

I am running Nutrition and Lifestyle courses at Coppice Avenue Library in Sale. They comprise 4 x 1 hr sessions where I will explain how healthy, nutrient dense food and changes to lifestyle can improve your health and give you more energy and vitality.

If, after attending this course, you would like individualised advice on how to enhance your diet, I have a special offer of two sessions ( 1 x 1 hr followed 4-6 weeks later by 1 x 40 minute session) for £69 to meet your specific nutrition and lifestyle needs.

In these sessions we will explore:

  • How to get nutrient dense food into your daily life; what to take out and what nutritious, tasty alternatives you can add in.
  • Easy ways of controlling portion sizes and food to include on your plate.
  • How to eat to control your energy levels throughout the day to allow you to be more active.
  • The knowledge to stop dieting and why dieting causes weight gain.
  • Why what we eat can make us tired and ill.
  • Why a healthy diversity of gut bacteria is so important to our mental and physical health.
  • The benefits of probiotics and prebiotics to our health.
  • How vital it is to get a good night’s sleep and strategies to improve our sleep.
  • Stress busting tips to help us with busy lives and free up time to relax.
  • The benefits of exercise to our health and wellbeing.

Contact me to reserve your place!

The Health Benefits of Beetroot

Beetroot is in season from July through to October. It is not just the root that can be eaten but the leaves as well. You can eat beetroot raw blended in a juice or grated into salads and coleslaws. Beetroot is also delicious roasted in the oven, steamed or in soups.

Picture of Healthy Beetroot

It is a highly nutritious vegetable containing plenty of vitamins and minerals and a useful addition to your dietary intake. Here are some of the key nutrients:

  • Folate, Manganese, Nitrates
  • Magnesium, Potassium, Iron
  • Vitamin C, Zinc, Bioflavonoids
  • Betaine, Betalaine

Health benefits

Beetroot contains betalaines which give it its red colour and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. There is some evidence that nitrates in beetroot may help with cell respiration. This is the rate at which cells converts biochemical energy from nutrients into energy that the body can use for its processes.

Nitrates may also improve the rate at which the body’s tissues receive oxygen. Here, the nitrates in beetroot are converted into nitric oxide in the body which may help to dilate the blood vessels and increase the blood flow. This could potentially help to maintain the health of the heart, blood vessels and nervous system.

Beetroot could possibly help to improve inflammatory conditions such as skin disorders and arthritis caused by an over active immune system. Beetroot contains fibre and there is a link between high fibre diets and reduced risk of heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Fibre adds bulk to the stool and helps to reduce the risk of constipation and diverticulitis. The fibre it contains aids digestive function and provides food for the gut microbiome which help to maintain a healthy gut lining and ensure that nutrients are properly absorbed. When the gut wall is not properly maintained larger particles can be allowed to pass through to the blood stream and trigger an immune response.

I am sure that many people have heard of glycaemic index (GI). This is the amount of glucose that is contained in 100g of a carbohydrate containing food and beetroot has a medium GI of around 6. This might sound quite high to some but it has a low glycaemic load (GL) of around 2.9. The is because the rate that it releases sugar into the blood stream is slow. This is useful for people such as diabetics and pre-diabetics who are trying to keep their blood sugar levels balanced.

The amino acid betaine, found in beetroot, may also help to improve liver function.

There are some obvious side effects of eating beetroot. The red pigment may cause red faeces and urine. So don’t panic!

Is it for everyone?

The leaves of the plant are high in oxalates which can cause joint inflammation and so should be avoided by arthritis sufferers. The oxalic acid can also cause kidney stones and so the leaves should be avoided by people suffering from kidney disease.

Supplements instead?

Research is ongoing into supplementing the compounds found in beetroot for their health benefits. Many of the compounds have been studied individually but the greatest advantage could come from them all working together. Hence there is a benefit from eating the whole food but it should be noted that this is reliant on the body absorbing and processing the nutrients effectively.

If you suffer from any health condition or are taking any medications but would like guidance on how to increase your nutrient intake, then please consult with myself (Contact me) or other health care professional before changing your diet.

We all have different dietary requirements and need different types and amounts of nutrients to suit our lifestyles and health. This can be addressed through nutritional therapy. If you would like advice on the best nutrient dense diet for you then please feel free to contact me for a free 20-minute consultation to find out if this is for you.

Recipe Suggestions

Beetroot and Sardine salad

Beetroot and Butter Bean Soup

Organic & Seasonal Vegetables

Should we all be buying locally sourced organic and seasonal veg to improve our health and protect the environment?

Organic farming prioritises the health of the soil, crops, people, animals and insects. Genetically modified crops are not allowed and there are no artificial fungicides, pesticides or herbicides which damage the ecosystem. Organic farmers are allowed to use a much smaller range of naturally sourced chemicals, the use of which is under strict control. However, some people are unhappy about the use of any chemicals.

Image of a basket filled with fresh vegetables.

Organic farming makes more use of crop rotation and composting. Cover crops are planted in fields that are not being used for cash crops to put nutrients back into the soil and also help to keep weeds down, provide food and shelter for wildlife and reduce soil erosion. Predators such as birds of prey and bats are also encouraged to keep pest numbers under control naturally. Before the advent of mass production, these were common farming methods.

Image of a field of cows grazing among wild flowers.

Some farms use livestock to cultivate and fertilise the land. Cattle help to tear up the weeds leaving the soil exposed to allow a varied plant life to flourish. Their manure is trodden into the soil adding organic matter to improve the soil structure. Sheep graze the land differently and select different grasses helping to increase the diversity of land use. They are also less likely to leave areas of soil exposed to erosion. This mixed land use can encourage wild flowers and insects to flourish and invasive species to be kept at bay.

Organic crops may be more resistant to climate change. This type of farming captures more carbon in the soil and the farmers are less reliant on oil based chemical fertilisers and pesticides which contribute to global warming.

Always Organic?

Whether consuming these products makes a difference to our toxin load will depend on many different aspects of the environment that we are exposed to such as hair and skin products, household cleaners and air fresheners. Do you spray weed killer in the garden or walk or cycle near busy roads? What types of household decorating products are you using? All of these factors expose us to additional toxins.

Organic produce can be more expensive and you may have to restrict how much you buy. The list below shows which produce may be best to buy organic and which contain very few chemical residues.

Shows images of the best versus the worst veg for pesticide residue.

There are many farms that are not classified as organic but are following similarly high standards of crop management and animal welfare. If you are interested in reducing the carbon footprint of the food you eat, it may be worthwhile going to local farmers’ markets and speaking to the farmers in person so that you can find out about how they farm and possibly buy from them directly. There are also farms who deliver direct to your door.

Go Local

It is better to buy locally if you can because you will be buying produce that is in season and hasn’t endured several methods of transport and many miles of travel before it arrives at your door.

Another benefit of seasonal produce is that you will be increasing the nutrient diversity of your diet and you will get to try out lots of new vegetables that you may never have thought of using. Your food will taste good, be much better for you and be more interesting as well.

Overall, it is more important to check that your food has been produced to a high standard, respecting the environment and animal welfare than it is buy all organic produce. Buying locally will reduce the time that it takes for the produce to get from the farm to your plate ensuring that as many nutrients are preserved as possible. Using local farms will allow you to access produce that is in season but, if this is not possible, supermarkets are now providing more information on the origin of their products than ever before to help you make informed choices.

References

English Nature. The Importance of Livestock Grazing for Wildlife Conservation [Online]. Available at: www.publications.naturalengland.org/file/612038 [Accessed 20/8/2019].

Magnificent Meadows.org. Types of Grazing Animals [Online]. Available at: www.Magnificentmeadows.org.uk/assets/pdfs/Types_of_Livestock.pdf [Accessed 20/8/2019].

Pesticide Action Network UK. https://www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen-and-clean-fifteen/ [Accessed 16/8/2019]

Soil Association.org. Organic farming [Online]. Available at www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/organicfarming. [Accessed 16/8/2019].

Nutrition & Lifestyle Course

I’ve moved my Nutrition & Lifestyle course to evenings at Coppice Avenue Library and Wellbeing Centre on Coppice Ave, Sale, M33 4ND. Sessions now start on Monday 1st July at 7 pm running every week for 4 weeks. Hopefully this will make it easier for those of you who are working.

Contact me to reserve your place!

See below for details.