Latest Nutrition/Food News
A reminder that this list doesn’t try and cover everything but a selection along with some alternative inspirational ways of using them rather than the normal steam, boil, bake...Feel free to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @Ninanutrition, with your ideas, I will try then and then if I use them in future editions I will credit you accordingly. You can also check out my foodie travels by visiting my travelogue www.ninageraghty.word
AUGUST FOODS IN SEASON
This is just to give you a “flavour” of some of the seasonal gems that you could now during August, consider using in your weekly menus. Whilst it is not exhaustive I have tried to keep it realistic with ingredients you may wish to consider trying, coupled with a little nutritional insight to help you make better informed choices and a few different ideas which may inspire you to try something just a little bit different.
APPLES Ever wondered how come the shiniest fruits are on display in your supermarket, well they tend to coat them in a wax which not only keeps the shine but makes them last longer. This however is not good for you so you must always wash them, or better still buy locally grown apples which haven't been “messed” about with. Apples are high in pectin which means they are often used to help set jams, they are a good source of slow release sugars. And to make them more easily digestible to any one convalescing you should grate the apple, allow it to brown slightly which releases the juices and making it easier to digest.
APRICOTS luckily I have just spent some time yet again, in Greece, where I was able to pick the ripe apricots directly from the trees in the garden where we stayed. I can say that the taste is out of this world when they are so fresh and warm in the sunshine.
AUBERGINE another favourite of this time of year. You know that you don’t need to salt this delicious vegetable. All you need to do is slice it lengthways, drizzle with a little oil and place on a baking tray and cook for approx 10 mins till it starts to soften. Then use either in your moussaka or on its own baked with a cinnamon tomato sauce – there is a recipe on my recipe pages that you can use for this. Also you will find that cumin and mint work incredibly well with the flavour of aubergine. This really is a versatile vegetable and can be stuffed, grilled, baked, sliced dipped in flour and fried – often a popular starter in a Greek Taverna. If you are really overrun by aubergine, then consider using one for a dip, mash a cooked aubergine with yoghurt, mint , garlic and cumin then enjoy......
BASIL delicate, peppery tasting leaves that are best torn not cut so they dont oxidise. And what ever you are cooking do not add the basil until the end of the cooking time as it just will wilt, lose flavour and not add the nutritional benefits it is capable of. I dont know if you have ever wondered why many outdoor continental restaurants have pots of basil on and around the tables, this is because it is a natural anti insecticide and keeps the little nibblers away.
BEETROOT don’t just use as a vegetable but use in your chocolate cake recipes, it adds an earthy yet sweet taste and keeps the cake moist. It became quite popular with the lower calorie recipes, yet how very healthy. I do find that when I cook beetroot and I have been known to throw some in the slow cooker with water to cook it, although it does lose some extra colour I find doing it this way, however if you are short of time this may be an option. When you come to peel it remember to pop those rubber gloves on otherwise it can look like a murder has been committed
BLACKBERRIES – Usually starting to ripen as August progresses, its often a very fine line between getting the best crop or leaving it a little too late and missing out. I have often made a chutney or jam when a glut has been handed over, however the popularity of blackberrying isn't what it was. Freshly picked blackberries need a quick soak in salted water this encourages any little creepy crawlies from within are expelled, much better to remove them this way prior to cooking. Then make a blackberry and apple crumble or pie, depending on your preference. If you are “crumbling” then make a nutty oaty crumble and cut the sugar down a bit. Serve hot with cream, custard or ice cream. However you prefer, the satisfaction of knowing you have picked these black jewels yourself will add to the taste!
Or do a nice “nibble” to have early evening by taking 50ml of wine vinegar, mash 4 blackberries into it and serve with goats cheese either on its own or on crostini pieces of toasted bread.
CHERRIES one of the few fruits which doesn't lose its nutritional benefits when cooked, so feel free to jam, make pies, or poach in kirsch! Cherries are a very good anti inflammatory and are often used for the prevention and treatment of gout. Athletes also use a sour cherry drink following exercise to reduce post exercise pain and inflammation.
CHICORY still in season and delicious with cured hams or pork. Cook simply as I have described before, poach to soften, then cover with a cheese sauce and bake in the oven until lightly browned.
COURGETTE. The Vitamin C content and potassium levels are higher that any other squash, add that to it's versatility because you can bake, stuff, fry, grill, barbecue, sauté.... in fact you name it you can cook it in that way. I rather like gratinee courgettes, covered with either a cheese sauce or simply Greek 0% fat yoghurt and some parmesan. Otherwise I stuff them with sun dried tomatoes, almond, spring onions or chives and some feta – recipe on my recipes of the day pages.. So the courgette whilst having a high water content it also has low calories which makes this the ideal choice of vegetable to include in your repertoire at this time of year. Remember to use as fresh as possible to prevent loss of nutrients.
CRAB I know everyone thinks of dressed crab and crab meat, but the poorer relation is the claw meat If you are lucky enough to live near the sea, you will possibly find a fisherman who is keen to hand these over to you. In Budleigh Salterton I was lucky enough to buy from the beach stall of the local fishing boat some delightful sea bass and along with it came a few crab claws. Just bring a large pot of salted water to the boil throw in the crab claws and boil for up to 10 mins dependant on the thickness of them. Drain, remove the meat from the shell and either mix with a little melted butter or mayonnaise and this meat is stunning served on toasted wholegrain bread as a treat. It is a little fiddly but the flavour is well worth it, especially when its so very fresh.
CUCUMBER Use cucumber in your Tzatziki dips, grate and then squeeze out the excess water, chop a handful of mint and mix with a thick Greek yoghurt and a tad of garlic. Leave to infuse, you can also add a teaspoon of wine vinegar and a little freshly ground black pepper. But remember to mix well again just before serving and use with lamb or pork souvlaki [ kebabs], or as a filling for a jacket potato.
FENNEL usually an accompaniment to fish owing to its slightly aniseed flavouring. Always pick a hard and white one with the dark green fern type leaves attached if possible. Slice thinly you can use the white body of fennel raw in a salad, often you seen fennel and orange salad, slight middle eastern feel about it. My favourite way is to quarter the white fennel, drizzle with olive oil and bake till softened then serve to accompany a plain grilled or barbecued meat.
FRENCH BEANS, Having spent quite some time in France, where these were a staple accompaniment to many summer/autumn meals I find my favourite way to use them is to steam them, drain excess moisture and drizzle with olive oil and a good quality balsamic vinegar , then serve them warm with roast pork.
GARLIC Always fresh is best. After crushing or slicing it, allow to stand for 10 mins to allow the allicin [ active ingredient in the garlic] to develop before it is cooked.
DO NOT microwave garlic it kills off nearly all its benefits.
KOHLRABI – peel away the thick skin and the inner fibrous bit till you reach crisp flesh which you can steam, eat raw, stir fry, casserole. If you pick one up with the leaves still attached use the leaves as you would spinach. This veg makes a good alternative to mash it is lower in calories and if you add some 0% fat free yoghurt to it you can really make a substantial creamy mash without the fat.
Alternatively slice into thin rounds, lightly brush olive oil over and dust with ras el hanout spice then cook on a baking tray until crisp and brown.
LETTUCE whilst there are now many different varieties available, I must admit I like to use different ones, dependant on what I am using them for – i.e. different salads. Lambs lettuce - these small leaves pack a punch they are dark green and have a slightly bitter edge to them, try and eat them as fresh as possible because they increase in bitterness after a couple of days. One thing to remember is that the darker the leaf the more nutrients you are likely to benefit from them, also to maximise the absorption drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil.
MINT probably one of my favourite herbs, not only for its healthy digestive properties but for the aroma when you use it in dishes. A favourite is of course with lamb and the recipe pages of my website reflect my use of this herb. I also find it work
NECTARINES and PEACHES I often find some people prefer the slightly furry coat of the peach and others prefer the shiny coat of the nectarine. Either way you can use them in virtually the same way. If you are able to get the white fleshed versions then do give them a try. A slightly unusual way to serve them is to take a toasted bagel, spread some soft goats cheese onto it and then top off with slices of nectarine. These are really a powerhouse of a fruit, In addition to the range of Vitamins they contain they are also rich in potassium – a mineral which helps to remove excess water from the body.
PEPPERS so the biggest decision is often what colour should I buy, if you remember that Green peppers are basically underipe red peppers and read the different benefits below, this might help you to chose.
cooking GREEN peppers lowers the vitamin C levels but increases the beta carotene levels
Cooking RED peppers lowers the beta carotene but increases the vitamin C levels
YELLOW peppers are high in Vitamin C, so perhaps the best choice when using them in cooking to preserve the Vitamin C levels.
PLUMS Obviously after you have made the jam, crumble and eaten a few ripe ones what else are you going to do with them. Well Poached in white wine with a drizzle of honey and a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon makes quite a grown up dessert.
Plums go really well with pork or duck so cook along side your meat and then squash slightly when serving and they blend into the cooking juices.
Plums are a good sauce of potassium, which is useful for regulating blood pressure.
RASPBERRIES – the just perfect breakfast is to take 150g of 0% or 2 % Total Greek yoghurt, mix into it 25g of oats, then stir in 30g of raspberries, leave overnight in a fridge and by morning you have a well balanced breakfast. You can of course use this as a dessert in the evening as well, although not both on the same day!
SCALLOPS quick cooking delicious if slightly expensive fish. Heat your fry pan until the butter in it is hot, add some pancetta cook till browned slightly then add the scallops gently not allowing them to touch each other. Cook for up to 2 mins per side they should have a golden crust each side and the middle slightly translucent. Serve with a slice of lemon and pour the seasoned butter over them........
SEA BASS The fresher the better, just fillet, dust in flour, score the skin side with three cuts to prevent it curling when you fry it in butter. Always cook skin side down first for a few mins then gently turn over and allow the hot butter to set the flesh. You are aiming to retain the delicate white flesh of the meaty side without colouring it too much all you need now is some local new potatoes which you will have cooked in boiling water quickly then drain and sprinkle a little sea salt over to maximise the flavour. Even better if..... you have a little cooking juice from the fish to pour over too.
SPINACH at this time of year just lightly steam, add black pepper then stir in some crème fraiche and serve immediately with a plain roast meat or a fillet of fish. Or if you are making a quiche, add some torn leaves into the filling and cook as normal until the filling is set.
STRAWBERRIES Chose locally grown ones, and if you have a choice and are able get some organic ones, or grow your own. Because of the high water content of this soft fruit any pesticides are likely to penetrate the delicate skin which lets face it you will be eating as we don't peel strawberries. I think simple is best with these seasonal gems, so wash, hull and serve in a large bowl for everyone to help themselves too, then allow the choice of adding a thick cream or an artisan ice cream We have a local ice cream from Red Lion Farm at Haughton and it is delicious, otherwise something like a green and blacks vanilla. You don't want a high flavour you just want the texture and cold of the ice cream to enhance to overall summer experience. Accompaniment could well be a glass of chilled elderflower sparkling , or perhaps prosecco....
SWISS CHARD – this fibre rich great source of vitamin K is better when cooked as it loses some of its bitter taste. An idea is to add a tablespoon of olive oil into a saute pan, sweat off a chopped red onion and some coriander seeds. Add cubes of potato a dash of water and cook for approx 10 mins, then add the chard chopped stalkses, cover and cook for a further 10 mins, adding a little more moisture if it starts to dry out. Now add the shredded chard leaves, cover and leave for about 4 mins till the leaves wilt . Into serving dish sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and a further drizzle of olive oil. Serve Hot.
TOMATOES are unusual because the lycopene is more active in processed tomato products such as tinned, puréed, tomato juice and ketchup rather than in their raw form. However, don’t discard the raw product as there is a way to maximise the lycopene and to help you do this ;-
- the redder and more ripe the tomato is the higher its content of lycopene.
- Vine ripened tomatoes contain more lycopene than those ripened after picking, because they are ripening whilst still taking goodness from the mother plant.
- Tomato peel is richer in nutrients that the flesh and the central seed is high in salicylates [an anticoagulant] so avoid peeling and don’t de seed unless you have too.
The Lycopene in raw tomatoes is better absorbed by the body if its eaten with some oil i.e. olive oil dressing in a salad dressing.
VENISON – A very low fat, high iron and high protein food making it useful to keep your metabolism working efficiently. Many different types of venison are available and at this time of year it is usually the slightly delicate flavoured Muntjac sourced venison that is most popular. Make alternative lean burgers, or just barbeque venison steaks which you could always prepare with a dry rub of spices such as black pepper, thyme, smoked paprika and garlic. You need to make sure you use a little extra oil as it is a very lean meat, but a nutritious one with a high iron content.
WATERCRESS should always come from fresh, flowing water, never from still water. It is related to mustard, coupled with its peppery flavour its certainly gives a warm glow when you eat it. You can use all of stems rather like bean sprouts, so in stir fries. Whilst the leaves add flavour and nutrients to any salad. As a filling with either beef and horseradish or egg mayonnaise to enhance your sandwiches. Watercress is a real nutrient dense food, it is packed with Vitamins A and K, perfect for keeping bones healthy and eyes, helps keep the cardiovascular system healthy and its packed with antioxidants.
Some interesting nutritional articles to give you "food for thought"!
Discover the Benefits of Eating the Mediterranean Way
As you know if you have heard me speak before I am very much influenced by the Greek Mediterranean Diet, not only because it has kept me off medication for many years but because I spend a lot of time there, however, what it does is it shares its principals and ethos of the rest of the Mediterranean. I love Greece and her people, and their approach in the rural communities to the way their lifestyle and food reflects a general well-being.
This plant based nutritional approach suits me and it has been ranked one of the healthiest diets in the world, proven to hep lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of many life changes illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and cognitive ones.
If you google “Mediterranean Diet”, you will find that today there are many versions available but most of them are a watered down, distorted version of what anyone at any point of time, ate in the Mediterranean area. Unfortunately today you will start to find obesity is rising in the Med areas at rates not dissimilar to Western Europe and America this is because the culture has changes as more fast food is introduced and becomes readily available.
But look deeper into the rural/sea communities and you will find the traditional seasonal, local produce based diet and many fit older people living healthy long lives. In fact the Greek island of Ikaria just 10 miles south of Samos is well known for the fact that on average people here live 10 years longer than the rest of Europe, around 1 in 3 live into their 90s, BUT they also have a much lower rate of cancer, heart disease, suffer less depression and dementia, maintain a sex life into old age and remain physically active.
Why, what are the doing differently in Ikaria?
Lots of wholegrains and beans, not too much meat or refined sugar, the locals feast on Horta? Wild greens some of which contain 10 times more antioxidants, red wine, herbal tea and small quantities of coffee. They also take … an afternoon nap, and research conducted extensively across Greece has proved that regular napping reduces occurrences of heart disease by 40%.
Enter any house in Ikaria and you will be offered locally produced red wine and garden grown vegetables, possibly fish or a little meat – hospitality and warmth will greet you as the Telegraph reported "this island isn't a me place it's an us place". Everything is home made from these local/seasonal ingredients.
So for this evening, join me on my own Greek Odyssey and lets investigate the nutrition behind some of the basic ingredients used in the traditional way of eating in the Mediterranean.
MEET THE GREEKS
The ancient Greek Diet can be summarized by four words, bread, wine, olive oil and plants.
For Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner they ate fresh bread baked from wheat or barley, often dipped in wine!! This was served with fruit, vegetables or beans, the latter two seasoned with herbs spices and of course olive oil. The Greeks ate nuts and plenty of seafood, their drink of choice was wine sometimes diluted for certain meals!
Poultry, including pheasant and quail were raised, but more often for their eggs rather than their meat.
Red mead was a rarity and when eaten it would be goat, sheep, or lean game meat like boar and rabbit.
Didn't typically use butter and milk in cooking but they did enjoy cheese, honey, figs and fermented milk products similar to modern day Greek Yoghurt.
Metron Ariston = everything in moderation. Apart from Olive Oil
Olive oil accounted for a third of the intake of calories when a study was commissioned on the Cretan diet – it is the secret to burning body fat, filling you up and increasing the body's metabolism and ability to oxidise fat, all helping to keep your heart healthy and boost overall health.
The Greek diet today is made up of many of the same staples of the ancient Greeks.
Fresh vegetables, fruits beans, whole grains, herbs nuts wine and seafood.
So Why is it unique?
The primary macro-nutrient of the Greek Diet is fat with up to for percent of daily calories coming from the heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats and other lipids found in olive oil.
Yoghurt contains healthy bacteria - pro-biotic known to fuel metabolism and accelerate fat burning.
Seafood contains marine omega 3 fatty acids – accelerates fat burning and prevents disease.
Beans contain natural soluble and insoluble fibre increases fullness and balances blood sugar
nuts contain a variety of micro-nutrients lowering blood sugar while increasing metabolism and the feeling of fullness
Whole-grains – you lose weight eating the type of healthy wholegrain bread, pasta and cereals because these unprocessed grains including 100% whole-wheat pasta and quinoa are high in fibre and lower in sugar than the refined versions.
In Greece, fossilised olive leaves have been found that date back between 50 and 60,000 years.
60% of cultivated land in Greece is used exclusively for Olive Growing
Greece = 3rd largest exporter of olive oil, she even exports to Italy where they mix it into their own olive oil and it gets sold on as Italian.
Not all fats were created equal, and olive oil is among the healthiest known oils. It's a central part of the so-called "Greek paradox" (i.e., people who follow a Mediterranean diet that's high in fats have low levels of cardiovascular disease and obesity).
You've probably heard about the health benefits of fish oil. Extra-virgin olive oil contains the same omega-3 fatty acids associated with everything from lowering blood fat (a primary risk for heart disease) to decreasing joint pain in people with arthritis. You can even triple your intake of omega-3s by cooking fish in extra-virgin olive oil.
Why you should NEVER follow a NO Fat diet?
Consuming Greek olive oil regularly has been shown to
· help maintain body weight and improve blood sugar and insulin control;.
· Olive oil is highest in mono-unsaturated fat, this is the kind of fat that doesn't oxidise in the body and cause the body to age.
Extra-virgin olive oil contains a natural chemical with special properties: the phytonutrient oleocanthal. Oleocanthal mimics the effects of ibuprofen, reducing inflammation. Doctors believe inflammation is associated with -- and may even be the root cause of -- everything from allergies and depression to heart disease and cancer. The oleocanthal in extra-virgin olive oil keeps inflammation from getting out of hand.
Extra Virgin vs. Virgin
We know that extra-virgin olive oil has some specific health benefits as well as a distinctive taste. But what does extra-virgin mean? Extra-virgin oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. They are always cold pressed, meaning no heat or chemicals are used to extract the final product. There are no additives or preservatives either.
The result? An unadulterated oil that retains its natural flavour or aroma.
Virgin olive oil comes from the second pressing and is of a lower quality.
Greece = 80 percent of production is extra virgin [EV]
Italy = 50 percent of production is EV
Spain = 30 percent of production is EV
DOES YOUR IMMUNITY NEED A BOOST??
Certain illness affects your immunity and can leave it lacking the fight and a little weak.
Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are two such illness. This reduced immunity means that a simple cold can turn into a chest infection, a muscle twinge can last months with swelling and pain, what others fight of quickly lasts and lingers.
Inflammation is high in the body with both these forms of arthritis, it is caused because the antibodies produced by the body attack itself as opposed to just fighting infection.
Medication prescribed for such illness help manage the pain but leave the immunity very weak, so one thing you can do is ensure that your nutritional intake maximises the nutrients from the food you eat, so, it might be worth a bit of a food stock-take and some home truths to help you self manage your condition.
Your 5+ a day portions of fruit and veg needs to become far more than this, originally the advice was to have 7-9 a day but it was felt by some that this was not achievable when the averages in Northern Europe fall well short of this recommendation. In fact consider this key information when deciding which lifestyle or food diet to follow;-
In the UK Britons east 258g of fruit and vegetables per day compared with a European Average of 386g [ and this is higher still in Greece – hence my love of the Greek Diet]
So you can guess from this what the first thing is you are going to do;-
Up your fruit and vegetable intake
Concentrate on your vegetable green leafy and ensure it is there every day in one form or another
include garlic and onions
Boost also by using any cooking liquid and make into a vegetable broth to capture every last bit of goodness.
Concentrate on including foods which include the following vitamins and minerals as these are known to have the biggest influence on our immune system, these are;-
Vitamins A, C, D and E
Zinc – helps viruses enter the body
Selenium – acts like a sponge mopping up the free radicals caused by infection once in the body
Some of these help protect the nasal and mouth lining which in turn can prevent nasties entering the body. Others such as a vitamin D rich yoghurt will help to keep the gut bacteria healthy and in turn help with the fighting of illness.
You can see that if you are suffering from any of these immune depleting illnesses one of the worst things you can do is to cut all healthy fats out of your diet, Avocado is a great source of Vitamin E, yet left out of diets owing to its high fat content. This healthy fat along with olive oil is integral to keeping you healthy. Like anything its important to vary your diet, unprocess your diet but not remove any food groups i.e. dairy free, wheat free unless you have a medical need to do so that has been confirmed.
Have a read of my blog to catch up on my recent foodie adventures!.
BBC Radio Shropshire - Invited to be the guest on their Food Programme, where I spent the hour promoting local and seasonal foods, sharing ideas and recipes to get you cooking.
Thank you to all the people who took part in my Mediterranean Masterclasses at Ludlow Food Festival, we had a great time, lots of nutrition tips, cookery ideas and you all had the opportunity to cook with me and create the dishes to eat and enjoy.