An apple a day… and other simple tweaks to improve your diet

Blog

An apple a day… and other simple tweaks to improve your diet

By Jane Clarke

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.

Find out more about the benefits of turmeric…
Turmeric on trial: can it really prevent cancer?
My turmeric shot recipe

turmeric and cancer prevention

 

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

stewed apple recipe for healthy gut 

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.

 sea salt and heart health

 

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.

 olive oil healthy fats smoking fat trans fats

 

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

frittata recipe sweet potato and eggs


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. 

For an extra-creamy coffee, mix a shot of espresso with our Nourish Vanilla Drink. Or for a rich mocha, swirl your coffee shot into our Nourish Chocolate Drink. Delicious!

 

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

roasted butternut squash and parmesan soup

Explore more like this

Read our blogs for helpful advice and Nourish knowhow

View blog
pistou soup gut-friendly recipe

5 ways to improve gut health

How healthy your gut feels has an enormous impact on how you feel. A sluggish or sensitive gut – one that’s not able to digest food properly and move waste through the body – ca...

View blog
How to beat migraine pain

How to beat migraine pain

I have a sense of dread when I feel a migraine coming on. I suffer from cluster attacks – intense, recurrent periods of pain usually centred over one eye or temple. They’ll rece...

View blog
poached nectarines recipe

Join the breakfast club!

Now that sweet and tender nectarines are in season, this recipe for poaching the fruit in apple juice is one of my favourites. You can make a batch and keep them in the fridge f...