So you want to know the latest ‘happenings’ in the world of nutrition, or you fancy impressing your friends with your extensive nutritional understanding? Well you’ve come to the right place. You’ll be able to find the latest nutritional news, hot off the press, here.

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5 Nutrients you may be deficient in

You may have a balanced diet but with everyone being different we all have different nutritional needs. Here are 5 common nutrient deficiencies and what you need to eat to increase your intake.

Vitamin B12 – This nutrient is important for energy production and the normal function of the nervous system. Vegans and vegetarians may find themselves more likely to be deficient as main food sources providing the vitamin are fish, chicken, milk and yogurt. If you don’t eat these foods a supplement may be your best option otherwise foods fortified with vitamin B12 like plant milks, soy products and breakfast cereals.

Vitamin D – even throughout summer time vitamin D deficiency is common. We spend a lot of time indoors with work and then when we do get outside high factor sun creams can stop our skin from producing the vitamin. Vitamin D is vital for bone health and the normal function of the immune system but can be hard to obtain optimum levels when following a vegan diet as the main food sources are eggs and oily fish. Mushrooms can contain some vitamin D but a daily supplement may be needed to be confident you have enough in your body.

Magnesium – Lacking in magnesium can make us tired and can also affect the health of our teeth and bones. To make sure you have optimal levels try including more nuts such as almonds and cashews, green leafy vegetables and wholegrains such as brown rice in your diet.

Calcium – most people are aware that calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth but it also contributes to normal muscle function and other functions within the body. Most people think of dairy products when thinking of calcium intake but other good food sources are dark, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale as well as oranges.

Iron – feeling tired all the time, looking pale and thinning hair can all be signs of an iron deficiency. Good food sources are pulses and beans, eggs and green leafy vegetables such as kale and watercress.

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Vegan Eats – Peanut Butter Breakfast Smoothie

Ever since investing in a better blender, smoothies have well and truly become my breakfast of choice, particularly during the working week. Versatile, delicious and full of goodness, there are so many ways that smoothies can pack a nutritional punch, waking you up good and proper, and providing a solid (or liquid, as it happens) foundation for the rest of the day.

That being said, it’s best to make sure that the ingredients you put in your smoothie will actually give you that energy boost you need. Luckily I’ve been working with Vertese, who have been very helpful in advising me on how to keep my morning momentum going. Nutritionist Samantha gave me a list of breakfast ideas (including scrambled tofu, which makes for the perfect vegan full English!) and offered pointers on how to maintain blood sugar level balance and strive for sustained energy.

I knew a nutty, berry-filled smoothie would work best for me taste-wise, so when I stumbled upon this recipe for a peanut butter and jelly smoothie, I couldn’t wait to try it out. It doesn’t disappoint, and is bursting with nutritious ingredients to set you up for the day ahead.

I start by pouring about a cup full of non-dairy milk into the blender (by a cup full, I literally mean a teacup of liquid). Vertese recommend coconut milk as it is a good source of protein and fat, but I will generally use whichever non-dairy milk I have at the time, so sometimes oat, almond or soya milk. I’ll then add 1 banana, 2 tbsps of peanut butter, 2 handfuls of frozen blueberries, 1 tsp of vanilla essence and 4 pitted dates. I also throw in a heaped tsp of chia seeds for an extra shot of protein, as well as a tsp of maca powder for some added vitamins. After a quick blitz in the blender, you’ll be left with a delicious, naturally sweetened breakfast drink with that signature PB & J flavour.

Smoothie

This smoothie not only tastes great, but is high in vitamins and nutrients, too. The peanut butter is a source of protein, while the bananas, blueberries and dates provide a healthy dose of potassium. Vitamin B – to combat tiredness and low mood as well as to maintain your nervous system – can be derived from the maca powder and fibre from the blueberries. You can customise the smoothie by throwing in any other nuts, seeds and superfood powders you might like; you can never go too far wrong with smoothies in my opinion, so feel free to be adventurous!

Waking up to this smoothie every weekday has really helped to compound the good work that my supplements from Vertese have been doing. Since beginning my course of Ahiflower Oil, Mushroom D and Beetroot B12 and Iron Complex supplements at the beginning of the year, I have found myself with substantially more energy in the mornings. Whereas before I would be struggling to keep my eyes open on the tube, I now feel as though it’s the middle of the day, rather than first thing in the morning. Sensible bedtimes and relaxing evening routines have helped too; a combination of this, the supplements and my go-tobreakfast smoothie will, I’m sure, make for some wonderful mornings to come.

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Vitamins and Minerals that Support Healthy Skin

Having good skin isn’t all about topical creams, nor is it all about genetics. In fact, nutrition is one of the most effective ways to improve skin quality. What we see on the surface of the skin are cells that were made deeper in the dermis. These skin cells are pushed up, layer by layer, until they reach the surface. This process takes around 4 weeks and so changes in the diet that affect skin quality might take a while to be noticeable.

Nearly all nutrients will play a role in skin health but I have picked out a few whose role is especially important;

Omega 3 Fats

Each cell is surrounded by a phospholipid bilayer, which simply means two layers of fats that make up the cell walls, which incorporate dietary fats. The most important of these fats is omega 3, not only as they form part of the structure but also because they have anti-inflammatory properties.

As omega 6 fats can crowd out omega 3 we can tip the balance by focusing on omega 3 foods as well as using less of the omega 6 where possible. Aside from reducing inflammation, omega 3 fats can reduce insulin-like growth factor, also known as IGF-1, which may help to reduce spots and blemishes.

The foods to focus on are walnuts, linseeds, pumpkin, chia, hemp, leafy green vegetables, corn and soya beans. Don’t forget that there is also purslane, which is officially a weed, but can be grown very easily in any garden or window box.

Supplements – Vertese® Ahiflower® Oil and Algal Omega 3.

Biotin

Fat metabolism is enhanced by biotin and so helps reduce the incidence of dry skin. It is rich in hazelnuts, almonds, Swiss chard, tomato, avocado, soy beans and sweet potato. In practical terms, getting enough biotin could be as simple as having a baked sweet potato with tofu and hazelnuts.

Supplements – Vertese® Multivitamin & Mineral offers 100% of the suggested intake of biotin in every capsule.

Vitamin C

The formation of collagen, the flexible structure that helps skin elasticity, relies on vitamin C, which also has antioxidant properties. Found in many foods including berries, peppers, kiwi, citrus, kale and papaya, most vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be naturally rich in vitamin C foods. However, as the nutrient is water soluble and can be flushed away, make sure to eat vitamin C rich foods daily.

Supplements – Vertese® Berry C Complex delivers 600mg of vitamin C in two capsules.

Zinc

Zinc has antioxidant properties and can also help reduce inflammation. It can also help healing, and along with omega 3, can help reduce inflammation in the skin.

For vegetarians and vegans, the best zinc-rich foods to look out for are sesame and pumpkin seeds, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, cashew nuts and quinoa.

Supplements – Vertese® Sea Mineral Complex offers 25% of the NRV of zinc in one capsule.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A can help control sebum production, which in excess can encourage blemishes and break-outs. In addition vitamin A acts as an antioxidant.

Foods that are rich in vitamin A include sweet potato, spinach, carrots, kale, greens and squash.

Supplements – Vertese® Multivitamin & Mineral offers 100% of the NRV of vitamin A in every capsule.

HeartHealth

Eat Your Heart Healthy

The nutritional advice covering how to maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system sits very well with both a vegan and vegetarian diet. But within the foods that we might be advised to eat, there are some that stand out as having really great benefits.

Spinach – Homocysteine is an amino acid produced naturally in the human body usually in response to eating protein. Raised levels are linked with narrowing of the arteries and thus increased blood pressure. Folate, found in spinach (and other dark green vegetables) can help reduce homocysteine levels.

Beetroot – research shows that drinking 250ml of beetroot juice daily supplies a healthy dose of nitrates that can help counteract hypertension. High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease as the increased speed of blood through a weakened artery can lead to aneurysm, or a bulge, in the aorta.

Kiwi fruit – Vitamin C is a major component of collagen and contributes to elasticity of the arteries combatting hardening. Kiwi, peppers, kale, sweet potato and citrus are all useful sources of vitamin C.

Garlic – Polysulfides, found in garlic, help increase flexibility of blood vessels, which can help guard against high blood pressure. Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and so can protect against atherosclerosis, a process in which fats build up in the arteries forming hard plaques.

Nuts – you may be surprised to know that cholesterol levels can be improved by eating 30g of nuts daily. The two main types of cholesterol are both required ideally in the right ratio. The low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, delivers cholesterol to where it is needed whilst another high density version (HDL) mops up the excess. Nuts contain a good balance of fibre and fats that help keep a favourable ratio. Almonds with their skin on are ideal as are hazelnuts, Brazil and walnuts.

Extra virgin olive oil – cholesterol is a fat and as such is more prone to being damaged by free radicals. Olive oil contains antioxidants in the form of vitamin E and phenolic acid that help protect the cholesterol.

Oats – a rich source of beta-glucan, a fibre that binds to cholesterol in the intestines and prevent reabsorption into the blood. Just 3g daily can reduce both total and LDL cholesterol by 5-10% and so one oatcake offers around 1g whilst a small bowl of porridge serves up well over the 3g daily dose.

Tomato puree – tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid with antioxidant capabilities offering some protection to damaged arteries and may also inhibit inflammation of the arterial wall. Lycopene is more easily absorbed after heating and so ketchup or tomatopaste are useful additions to the diet.

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Eating for energy

January can be a tough month to get through and it can be hard to get back into the swing of things especially after the excesses of the festive season. Nutrition is a powerful tool in boosting energy levels so changing the way you eat can be an easy way to beat the January blues.

Everything we eat and drink will be used to provide fuel for energy and nearly every nutrient is involved in the process of making energy somewhere along the line. Many factors can help with maintaining energy levels including regular exercise and consistent sleep patterns. However others can interrupt the process, notably caffeine and refined sugar which might help in the very short term but the benefits can diminish with overuse.

There are a few key nutrients that you might focus on when eating to promote energy levels;

Chromium, the trace mineral, can help with managing blood sugar levels and metabolising carbohydrates. Chromium isn’t widely available in the diet compared to some other nutrients although it is found in raw onions, tomato, black pepper, broccoli and pulses.

The B group of vitamins are utilised in the whole process of making energy. No one B vitamin is more important than others and most are found in a wide range of foods including wholegrains, avocado and dark green vegetables. However vitamin B12 is found in animal sourced foods and so can be lacking in a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Iron is one of the more familiar nutrients but according to the World Health Organisation, ‘iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world’. Iron is required for the formation of red blood cells and so closely associated with energy production. Dietary iron comes in two forms – heam and non-heam. The former, found in animal flesh, is very easily absorbed whilst the latter, found in vegetables and dairy, less so but can be found in chickpeas, beans, peas, Beetroot, chard, spinach, dried apricots, tomato paste and ginger.

Within the Vertese® range there are two standout products that are ideal for supporting energy levels;

Multivitamin & Mineral offers B vitamins, including B12 as well as chromium and iron together with calcium, magnesium and copper, all of which contribute to normal energy yielding metabolism.

Beetroot, B12 and Iron Complex, a supplement specifically designed to support energy levels, offers B12, iron and vitamin C to help iron absorption and support normal energy yielding metabolism.

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How can you tell if you may need to adopt a free-from diet?

There are many reasons why someone might choose to adopt a free-from diet and we do have to remember that for most people who do, it is a choice. That’s not to say that someone doesn’t have a food intolerance but for the time being the biochemical testing methods aren’t that accurate and many are simply unproven and unreliable which is unhelpful, I know.

The first step in this process is not to assume that you do have an allergy or intolerance. That said it does seem that health bloggers and celebrities espouse avoiding this or that, giving the more ‘popular’ ones a bad reputation, often undeserved and that does bring the language of food intolerances into everyday conversation.

As I said, some of the tests are unreliable as well as expensive, but they are very believable and official-looking so how do you find out if you are amongst the tiny minority living with a food intolerance?

The first stop is your GP as what you think might be food related may have other simple explanations. They may order a blood test to check the number of antibodies for specific foods but this is unlikely as even if antibodies are present for a food, it doesn’t mean you are intolerant, simply that you’ve eaten it. In other words, have a handful of, say, walnuts now and then every day for five days, do a blood test and there will most likely be increased numbers of antibodies for walnuts.

You may wish to see a nutrition professional in person who can guide you through the process. But I would be wary of seeing one who thinks everyone has an intolerance, instead try and find a more balanced starting point and feel free to ask them questions by way of an email before you meet.

Intolerances can have a multitude of signs, ranging from bloating and digestive discomfort to dry skin to frequent colds and infections and a nutrition professional is the perfect person to guide you on exactly what to eat, potential pitfalls and easy swaps that you may not have thought of.

There are many resources online and you may find that there is a society or just a Facebook group dedicated to helping you avoid said food. Most of these groups are casually run and so there may be a lot of anecdotal chat but the official websites tend to have added extras such as book recommendations, recipes, travel advice and general support.

If you are about to start a free-from diet then here’s a simple way to keep a track of how you feel. List your most pressing symptoms and grade them from 0 – 10 with 0 being a rare occurrence and 10 being something that is debilitating and happens frequently. Then put the list away and revisit it in ten days, rescoring the symptoms. I find that it helps people gauge any improvements as feeling a bit better’ might be welcome but hard to measure.

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Introducing Free-From diets

We are increasingly aware of what we eat and many people follow a free-from diet. Some people have food intolerance and avoid a common ingredient accordingly whilst others simply choose to avoid some foods. Ten years ago we didn’t seem to hear much about free-from diets but now food products for a variety of free-from plans have their own aisle in the supermarket. Combined with social media, it seems that we all know someone who is avoiding something, but what are the most common free-from diets and what benefits do they have, if any?

Gluten

Gluten is made from gliadin and glutenin, both proteins which, when combined, create a gooey bond that gives baked goods flexibility, volume and texture. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye.

Gluten intolerance is known as coeliac disease which is thought to affect 1 in 10 of us. When a coeliac has gluten the specific proteins aren’t tolerated in the gut and reduce the ability of the body to absorb nutrients. This can lead to diarrhea, bloating and dry skin as well as symptoms often linked to IBS.

A gluten-free diet means having alternatives to regular foods, such as pasta or bread, made from flours that are naturally free from gluten. For example, pasta or breads made from rice or lentil flour.

Wheat

Wheat is the most commonly avoided grain but some people choose to avoid wheat only, not gluten, so they can eat foods that are naturally wheat free such as rye bread rather than the standard loaf, or rye crackers in place of the more familiar wheaten crackers.

Some people feel that wheat ‘irritates’ the lining of the digestive system, which can cause discomfort. Whilst this may be a rare condition wheat free diets are increasingly common. As they are not as restrictive as a full gluten free diet, a wheat free one is easier to maintain as there are more choices.

Dairy

Dairy intolerance can be to the whole food or to the presence of a milk sugar known as lactose. If it’s the latter then they can choose to have dairy made from lactose-free milk but if it’s a wider intolerance to all dairy, then there are now alternatives. Dairy is found in the obvious places but sometimes in confectionery, condiments and prepared foods so avoiding it can be challenging at first.

Dairy-free milks, yogurts and ice creams can now be easily found, made from nut, soy or rice milk, all of which are suitable for anyone on a dairy-free plan.

If you are on a dairy-free diet then do remember that calcium may be in many other foods, but calcium from dairy is in an especially easily absorbed form.

If you get a free-from diet right then there is no reason why it can’t be as nutritious as the best diets, but do take advice from a nutrition professional to guide you through the early stages. And during that period you might want to take a good multi-vitamin and mineral whilst you get used to what you can and can’t eat.

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How to eat healthily this festive season

As much as I enjoy this time of year it can be a little fraught when trying to maintain any chosen eating plan. As a coeliac I obviously have a gluten-free diet but on top of that I like to eat a certain way (not too many carbs, but plenty of lean protein and vegetables for example) and whilst it is good to indulge a little, relying on other people to cater for me can be problematic. But whether you are coeliac, vegan, nut-free for example (or all three), the office party or a festive meal with family can cause anxiety.

Added to this there seems to be so much more to do in the run up to Christmas, what with finishing up work before the break as well as catching up with friends. Managing energy levels can be a problem too with so many commitments, but you can help keep energy levels consistent by taking advantage of how the human body digests different food groups for use as fuel to make glucose.

The digestive system is able to break down simple carbohydrates (such as white bread, pasta, rice or sugars) relatively easily but the denser, more fibrous complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grains, whole fruit rather than juice for example) take a little longer. Protein and fats take longer still. Having small meals and snacks at regular intervals during the day as well as always combining protein with complex carbs every time means that glucose is created in a drip-drip way rather than as a rush of energy, which can leave you fatigued and hungry within the hour.

In simple terms, that might mean a bowl of porridge with some added nuts for protein and a little fat for breakfast, hummus on a cracker mid morning and lentil soup for lunch. A vegan burger would be ideal in the evening along with plenty of vegetables and some quinoa, but any protein will do, be that tofu, beans or Quorn. This way of eating is quite sustainable even in the festive season as any complex carb or protein works and so you should be able to find something to eat even if someone else is in charge of the catering.

Smart supplementation could also be useful – you might consider a multi-vitamin and mineral that contains chromium which helps maintain blood glucose levels (which combines well with the way of eating described above). You might also take a B12, beetroot and iron complex containing iron, vitamins B2, B6, B12 and C all of which help combat fatigue.

Leave room for treats and plenty of fun too. In my case nothing hits the spot like mince pies, by far my favourite festive food and worth waiting all year for.

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How to Support the Immune System this Winter

The immune system is an extraordinarily complex web of components that protect the human body from a vast array of potential threats. From food poisoning to hayfever, sniffles to more serious threats, the immune system is continuously challenged. Our diets should be optimised to provide healthy amounts of the key nutrients necessary to support the specific action of immune cells within the body.

There are several types of immune cells manufactured in various locations in the body, but it is white blood cells that are perhaps the most active as their job is to destroy rogue viruses.  They do so by miraculously changing shape and engulfing a viruse reducing it’s influence on the body little by little. This process is known as ‘phagocytic action’.

White blood cells that have this ability are known as ‘phagocytes’ and a robust immune system will have a large number of them.

Both the number of white blood cells and their action can be influenced by specific nutrients, and hindered by certain foods. To support the immune system it is encouraged that these nutrients be ingested to aid both  the formation and consequently, number of white blood cells, as well as optimising their efficieny or phagocytic action.

 

Which nutrients should be focused on?

Zinc – required to support the manufacture of white blood cells
Found in beans, nuts, brown rice, seaweed and pumpkin seeds

Vitamin C – enhances most areas of the immune system but can’t be stored in the human body so any excess is excreted. Regular topping up of this nutritent is encouraged
Found in berries, sweet potatoes, peppers, kale and cauliflower

Organosulphides – stimulates phagocytic action more efficient
Found in garlic, chives, onions and leeks

Carotenoids – stimulate white blood cell production
Found in carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, green vegetables, red peppers and dark berries

Omega 6 fats – helps red blood cells maintain their shape
Found in walnuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds, almonds and their oils

Selenium is involved in white blood cell and antibody production.
Found in onions, Brazil nuts, kidney beans and cashew nuts

Probiotics should be considered too as they can help with the penultimate stage of digestion as well as combat niggling bacterial and fungal infections, which may be depleting the immune system. Plain yogurt is a good source as are supplements, but get the best quality you can afford as not all probiotic capsules are equal.

Vegetarian Diet

What does it mean to be Vegetarian

Vegetarianism is a term that has been used since the 1800s to describe a ‘vegetable diet’. This seems fairly late considering being vegetarian itself originates from the 7th century BC. The western world may not have caught on to vegetarianism as quickly as maybe other regions but it’s now catching on fast. According to The Vegetarian Society, in 2012 there were 1.2 million vegetarians in the UK; this has since risen to 4 million! A consumer trends report by market research company Mintel found a steady increase in the vegetarian diet with 20% of 16-24 year olds now trending towards saying no to meat.

So why are so many more people choosing a vegetarian diet?

Well interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be just one answer:

  • Health: perhaps unsurprisingly this features high on the list. Vegetarians are thought to have a lower risk of heart disease and some cancersi, something recently highlighted by the World Health Organisation, which draws links between processed meats and colorectal cancer.
  • Ethics: with ever more information at our finger tips via the internet and available through journals and books, we are all becoming increasingly aware of the impact we are having on the planet. Couple this with the increased media attention on topics such as animal cruelty, ethics is thought to be influencing many to make lifestyle and dietary changes.
  • Religion: Hindus and Buddhists tend to follow a vegetarian diet. Some other religions are not as strict, but avoid specific types of meat.
  • Dislike of taste or texture: some people just simply don’t like the taste or texture of meat.

You may be clear on your reason for choosing a vegetarian diet but have you thought about what type of vegetarian you are, there’s quite number of variations?

One size doesn’t fit all, what type of vegetarian are you?

If you follow The Vegetarian Society’s traditional style of the diet you include plant food and avoid any meat, game, poultry, fish and crustacean.

However, there are different styles and adaptations to the vegetarian diet that you may prefer:

Flexitarian/semi vegetarian: combining both plant food and a reduced amount of animal food intake. This is a popular choice as a starting point to ease into a more strict vegetarian diet.

Lacto vegetarian: includes honey and dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese and no other animal based foods. The lacto ovo version would also include eggs.

Pescatarian: includes fish, dairy, eggs and honey but avoids meat.

Whilst vegetarianism is largely considered a healthy diet choose, some food alternatives may include refined or processed foods making them less of a healthy option, so watch out! If you’ve got questions don’t forget to get in touch with one of our experts, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

 


i) Lap Tai Le. Nutrients. 2014 Jun; 6(6): 2131–2147.

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