Hear are a few ideas for basic recipes with added content that can help make the recipe more nutritious.
BREAKFASTS – Breakfast is important and often missed by many people with our ever more busy lifestyles. Even so you can do something. If you only grab a slice of toast on the run then make sure it is a slice of brown/wholemeal toast. If you don’t even have time for that grab a banana – it is better than nothing.
Cereals are probably the most popular breakfast. There are all sorts of cereals and most appear healthy but often contain a lot of added sugar and salt. The healthier option is probably oats. You can make porridge but that is not the only solution. There are oat based muesli bars (again good if you breakfast on the move!) You can even get Oatabix. Oats also have the benefit of providing energy to start the day but are low glycaemic.
My favourite cereal recipe for breakfast includes oats. I get a bag of muesli (sugar fee or low sugar), add a bag of oats and mix together in a large tub. Then mix in added seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, linseed etc and dried fruit.
For breakfast take a serving of the mixture and add enough milk to moisten and leave to soak. Do this when you get up while you are getting washed and dressed. When you are ready for breakfast add more milk as required and enjoy a healthy tasty start to the day. You can also top the dish off with half a kiwi fruit chopped or some other fresh fruit.
If you are against milk use water for the first stage to soak the cereal mix and then when ready to eat add some natural yoghurt drink. Delicious!
COLESLAW – Not the insipid carrot and white cabbage sitting in a watery white liquid as sold in supermarkets, but a healthy mix of vegetables. The following recipe is just an idea to get you thinking about changing an everyday item and adding variety to the diet. Maybe you have your own ideas.
Ingredients: Start with the basic grated carrot and white cabbage or crisp heart cabbage. Then add a small courgette finely chopped , add a handful of sunflower seeds and a handful of raisins, you could also add a few pieces of walnut. Stir together and add mayonnaise to taste. Season with a pinch of cayenne if desired – cayenne is good for the circulation as well. If you like you can add a slug of olive oil to the coleslaw as well.
Delicious with a baked potato or piece of quiche or even roast chicken!
SALAD - Another meal that is not always done with imagination. Not just lettuce, cucumber and tomato. but a meal that can be varied and full of different ingredients. Take the basic lettuce. Add rocket, spinach, a sprinkle of parsley and finish with a covering of grated carrot. You can still add seeds and nuts to taste and sprinkle with a simple dressing of apple cider vinegar, olive oil and black pepper. By the time you add tomato, green or red pepper and cucumber to the plate you have a nutritious salad with different tastes and simple to prepare. Of course there are many more delicious foods to add, radishes, cress, chickpeas, sweetcorn, beetroot, etc but I only mention a few and just want you to think variety, after all variety is the spice of life.
GARLIC. We all know the health benefits of garlic especially its anti bacterial properties. It is widely used in cooking especially with stir fries, pasta dishes, curries etc. You can buy garlic pills and also eat it raw which gives the best effect. Many people are put off raw garlic by the strong taste and the smell left behind but I find that adding chopped raw garlic to a finished meal gets round this. I have found it goes well with broccoli and brussel sprouts and I chop a clove of garlic and sprinkle it on the vegetable as you would salt or pepper. You can experiment and sprinkle garlic on other things like chicken and baked potato. Delicious and healthy.
PASTA – The ever popular pasta can be a varied and different dish and this is one of my favourite concoctions that adds nutrient value to any pasta dish.
Ingredients: Onion, garlic, mushroom, courgette, broccoli, spinach or rocket and jar of Sacla Tomato and Parmesan pasta sauce. Salt and pepper to taste and mixed mediterranean herbs or italian seasoning herbs and parsley.
Chop the onion mushroom and courgette into small pieces, chop the garlic and stir fry the onion, garlic, mushrooms and courgette together for a few minutes. Add the spices and continue to stirfry until tender. Add the Sacla tomato and parmesan sauce and simmer. While this is cooking steam or boil the broccoli until just tender, drain and put aside BUT KEEP THE WATER from the broccoli. Put the broccoli water and additional water together in a pan and cook your pasta. Just before the pasta is ready roughly chop the broccoli and add to the stir fry. Drain the pasta and serve with the sauce. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and parmesan cheese.
For an added nutrient value take a handful of spinach or rocket and chop roughly and add to the pasta as it is boiling in the saucepan. When you drain the pasta the reduced greenery will be mixed with the pasta. It is all easier than I make it sound. For another variation on the content, this time in the sauce, swop the broccoli for beans. Instead of adding broccoli to the stir fry mix, open a tin of red beans and stir in sufficient for your taste. Again it makes a change in nutrition content and variety is a plus.
SOUP – Soups are many and varied and always popular. They are also nutritious as any vitamins and minerals which would normally be lost when boiling vegetables in water remain in the soup. In fact vegetable water can be used as stock for the soup. A good variation on a vegetable soup which also provides the ’5 a day’ recommended for you diet is filling without being fattening. Again use quantities to suit and even add or change ingredients.
Ingredients: carrots, onion, celery, potatoes. tomatoes (or a can of tomatoes), a handful of red lentils, red beans or butter beans, cabbage, Vegetable stock and garlic. Dice the carrots, onions, celery and potatoes. Shred the cabbage and finely chop or crush the garlic.
Put the carrots, potato, onion, celery into a pan and stir fry in olive oil for a few minutes before adding the tomato and garlic and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then turn down heat add the lentils and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and beans and cook for a further 5 or 10 minutes or until all the ingredients are cooked to your liking. When ready either mash the soup with a potato masher or pour half into a blender and blend before putting it back in the pan with the unblended part. Serve with crusty wholemeal bread. Add small macaroni pasta for a more filling meal.
RATATOUILLE – A version that is easy to use. Ingredients include courgette, onion, tomato, aubergine, red pepper, green pepper, garlic, mixed herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Chop a large onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and stir fry gently in a pan with olive oil until softened. Add two medium size courgettes diced and continue frying. Add a small to medium aubergine chopped and diced and red and green pepper to tast. The peppers can be left out if not keen. Continue stirring and then add a large tea spoon of mixed herbs and two or three tomatoes, skinned. Mix all together, add salt and pepper to taste and cover the pan with the lid and cook on low heat for 20 or 30 minutes stirring occassionally. It is delicious served with a baked potato, white fish and even on toast. Again you can vary the dish depending what is in your cupboard – add mushrooms or beans. You can also make a large amount when the vegetables are in season and freeze portions for later use. You can also base the changeover to The Nutrition Diet on your current diet.
Begin by changing the way you do things before changing the content of your diet if that is easier to begin with. Make simple changes such as cooking only with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Steam vegetables instead of boiling them. Reduce the size of meat portions and increase the size of vegetable portions to compensate – or add another vegetable.
The latter idea of adding something to your present diet or meals and recipes is one way of improving meals without having to think up brand new meals and new shopping habits. Again you are changing things gradually based on your current habits. Further changes will come as you find these simple changes give you more variety and additional flavours to meals. You will want to try more of your own ideas! As you eat more and more in line with The Nutrition Diet you will find your taste buds changing and you will enjoy healthy eating more and more.
So we are talking about a healthy diet and the things that affect the nutrient uptake. Do we need a vitamin and mineral supplement.? In theory we should get all our nutrients (vitamins and minerals) from our diet. In practice that may not be as easy as it sounds – even if you eat a relatively healthy diet.
The level of nutrients in the food we finish up eating is dependant on a variety of things, some already mentioned in previous sections. Organic or non-organic foods are different in nutrient quality. The state of the soil food is grown in, transportation, storage, pest control, food processing, cooking, etc. all affect the vitamin and mineral levels in our food.
Modern farming methods relying on fertilisers to produce more crops more often from the same soil mean minerals are depleted, so though a vegetable may grow and look good it may well be missing important nutrients such as selenium or boron. Where are we going to get them from if not supplements. Selenium like all nutrients has its role to play in our health. In the case of selenium, it is needed to help prevent cancer and heart disease.
Foods are often picked before they are ripe so are not fully developed in nutrient value. Transport and storage further reduces the amount and quality of vitamins and minerals. So again how do we counter this – take a supplement or try to eat better quality food and more of it.
Then cooking adds to the loss of vitamins and minerals, especially boiling. The vitamins in greens or carrots etc finish up being thrown away with the water they were cooked in. (You could use the water for soup stock of course!) Or even throw it on the garden.
That is not the end of it. Stress affects the absorption of nutrients into our body. Just at a time when we perhaps need more nutrients. It is not just stress. Old age affects nutrient absorption as well. As the body’s metabolism slows and changes with age nutrient absorption is affected. And vitamins and minerals are particularly important as we age.
Then everyday things like coffee, alcohol, sugar, and smoking all affect absorption of vitamins and minerals. Other outside things such as traffic fumes, prescription and over the counter medicines all add to the problems. All affect nutrient absorption or metabolism.
This is further complicated by interactions between vitamins and minerals. Lack of one vitamin can affect absorption of another. You can’t just say ‘oh that’s alright it doesn’t matter if I miss one or two nutrients, there are plenty more.’ For example magnesium as well as having its own tasks such as helping with healthy bones and teeth and muscles and working on relaxing muscles including the heart muscles, also plays a part in calcium uptake. Vitamin C also helps calcium absorption.
All the other nutrients also have interactive requirements. Another reason for having a wide and varied diet. So just having a reasonable diet may not be enough as if only one or two nutrients are missing they may be important and other processes can be affected.
There are strong arguments then for a good quality multi-vitamin to be taken daily. Equally the arguments for using high doses of single vitamin supplements in certain circumstances may be wrong as this could also upset the balance of vitamins. Just because you read that a high dose of something is beneficial and the latest health fad don’t be tempted to follow the trend. At least consult a qualified nutrition expert or doctor as you should always do if considering a single supplement or herb for medicinal purposes.
You may think well I am healthy, eat well, etc, so why worry. But whatever the nutrients you take the body uses what it gets to first maintain the status quo and do the immediate work necessary to maintain every day body functions. Made harder if you are not living the healthiest of lives. Other long term requirements that the nutrients should be tackling come second. This is done at the expense of old age. Many illnesses of aging, from cancer to heart disease are linked to vitamin and mineral deficiency. Often during our younger years. A recent study has shown that folic acid shortage is linked to alzheimers and dementia. Shortages of other vitamins are linked to diseases of old age.
Low magnesium is linked to bowel cancer and also high blood pressure. Calcium deficiency is not only involved in bone disease, but also diabetes and lack of Vitamin D is associated with certain cancers including breast cancer and prostate cancer.
All this uncertainty may lead us to the conclusion that a good quality multivitamin is the answer and I would agree with that, especially at vunerable times – the young growing up, women during pregnancy, and for the elderly. Good quality multivitamins are available to match your needs according to age. Sensible, because different groups have different nutrient requirements.
I would go slightly further and recommend taking Omega 3 fish oil as well. We eat less oily fish and what omega 3 we get is partly destroyed by cooking and food processing. Omega 3 oil is essential for the heart and for brain function. It is also felt important enough for the government’s health advisers to consider recommending that omega 3 fish oils be given to people with heart disease.
There are other occasions when a single supplement may be necessary but as I said if you feel that is necessary consult your nutrition therapist for proper advice. The exception I would say are probiotics (seen everywhere in bio yoghurts and drinks.) Some people take probiotics on a daily basis, but they are certainly needed after a course of antibiotics. The antibiotics kill off healthy gut flora as well as the infection being treated. Probiotics are also a good remedy to help with a stomach upset or digestive problems. If you take bio-yoghurt don’t waste your money on the fruit flavoured ones as they are full of sugar. Get used to plain bio yoghurt.
I take a multivitamin (for the over 50′s!), Omega 3 fish oil and as necessary probiotic supplements. I also eat bio yoghurt regularly. I would recommend that action to anyone as a basic support to help maintaining health. I find that with the healthy diet I advocate and the addition of these supplements I stay well and in fact can’t remember the last time I had to go to the doctors other than for routine check ups. Everyone is different though so it is still wise to get your own advice by consulting the appropriate expert.