February 01, 2020
When you’re trying to eat a better-balanced diet, think less about what you need to cut out and more about the healthier additions you can make. These are my daily add-ons to help satisfy my appetite and nourish my body.
1 Shell out on walnuts
Nuts, including walnuts, are packed with essential fatty acids and omega 3s, which protect cells, limit free radical damage and reduce inflammation in the body which can contribute to cancer and heart disease. Studies show that walnuts may also reduce our risk of dementia – a subject particularly close to my heart as my dad has a rare form of the condition, called frontotemporal lobe dementia.
I like my walnuts as fresh as possible, ideally cracking them out of their shells just before eating, or making sure they have a long eat-by date if I’m buying them ready-hulled, as nuts can easily go rancid if they’re kept for too long or in a warm place, due to their high fat content. That doesn’t just make them taste bad; rancid fat is bad for our hearts, immune system and gut. It’s also a good idea to keep walnuts – or any nuts – in a cool place as kitchens can get overheated.
2 Top up on turmeric
Golden yellow turmeric has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce our risk of developing cancer – so for me, adding a dose of this warming spice to my day is an easy tick on the wellbeing chart. The potent part of the plant is curcumin – in countries where they eat a lot of curcumin-containing foods, incidences of certain types of cancer are lower. I like to grate fresh turmeric and fresh ginger into a shot glass of fruit juice, or to warm half a teaspoon of fresh or powdered turmeric, a grind of black pepper and around 70ml coconut milk in a pan. The pepper works as a catalyst for the curcumin and the fatty acids in the coconut milk help the body to absorb the active ingredient. You can increase the quantities to make a week’s worth of turmeric shots that can be kept in the fridge. Turmeric is wonderful in homemade curries, soups and scrambled eggs, too.
3 Sleep better with milk
A good night’s rest is the foundation to my physical and mental wellbeing, so I like to have a glass of organic milk or one of my Nourish Drinks, which are made with organic milk, at night. Milk is rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps muscles and mind relax, so you’re ready to nod off. I prefer organic for welfare reasons but also because it contains less inflammation-causing omega 6 fatty acids than nonorganic dairy.
Shop Nourish Drinks here
4 Have an apple a day
Stewed apple that is. Cooked apple is soft and naturally sweet and tastes wonderful with Greek yoghurt for breakfast. The fibre in the apple means the sugar from the fruit is absorbed more slowly, for sustained energy as you go about your morning. Apple also contains pectin, a polysaccharide that helps to soothe the gut and is great if you’re feeling stressed or nauseous. Simply peel, core and cube apples, then simmer in a little water, orange or apple juice until soft. I particularly like adding a little cardamon, another spice that’s great for settling the gut. Cinnamon and nutmeg work well, too.
How to make stewed apples for breakfast: recipe
5 A sprinkle of sea salt
So many of us have become scared of salt but it’s only a risk factor (for high blood pressure and heart disease) if we eat too much – generally from eating processed foods, rather than the pinch or two we add to home cooking. Good quality sea salt flakes enhance the flavour of food, helping you to feel satiated so you’re less likely to overeat.
6 Wisely choose and use oils
I cook with organic rapeseed or coconut oil and drizzle olive oil cold on to dishes (a slick of olive oil can’t be beaten on roasted vegetables, just before serving). We’re frightened by fat, thinking it will cause us to become, well, fat, but it shouldn’t be demonised. Of course, if you have a diet full of oily takeaways and ready meals and do very little exercise, you may well struggle with your weight. But some fat is essential in our diet, as it helps us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. Choose oils with a high smoking point, like the ones mentioned above, as they are more stable when heated and produce fewer trans fats which are damaging for our heart and brain.
7 Don’t go low fat
Just as I’m a fan of good fats (see above), I also never eat low-fat products. They’re highly processed, full of additives, preservatives and, often, filled with refined sugar – look at the label and you might be shocked to find your low-fat food actually has a higher calorie content than the full-fat original. Fat also gives us the full feeling that stops us from eating too much – one reason so-called diet foods leave us craving more to eat.
Feel full for longer with our Nourish Drinks, a nutrition-packed meal replacement or healthy snack for when you need an energy boost. Shop here
8 Eat protein twice a day
I try to include protein-rich foods in meals at least twice a day to help my blood sugar stay steady – and also to refuel after a dance class (my passion!). Protein also boosts our immune system and helps repair our body after we’ve been unwell. I feel at my strongest when I enjoy a protein-popping breakfast such as poached eggs, then an evening meal with more protein. It doesn’t have to be heavy or time consuming. A quick stir-fry with prawns or tofu does the trick.
Try this quick and tasty protein-packed frittata to give you sustained energy through the day. Find the recipe here
9 Enjoy your morning coffee fix
Not only do I love coffee and couldn’t start the day without it, there’s also interesting research on coffee reducing dementia risk. Caffeine dilates the blood vessels in the brain, which gets the circulation going and transports oxygen and other nutrients to your little grey cells! Antioxidants in coffee beans help protect blood vessels and they are anti-inflammatory, too. I keep my coffee habit to just one or two cups early in the day, though, so it doesn’t inhibit my ability to sleep.
10 Sip soup in the afternoon
Instead of reaching for the biscuits, why not try my afternoon energy booster – a cup of warming, vegetable soup? It’s full of easy to digest fibre and high in probiotics, both of which are great for the friendly bacteria in our gut. And if you opt for a veggie version, you’ll get lots of antioxidants such as beta carotene, riboflavin and reservatrol, too. I guarantee it will be more satisfying than a cup of tea!
We've a whole section of soup recipes here on the website. Pick your favourite here