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Alex Allan Nutrition
By Alex on 04/06/21 | Recipes

I am a huge fan of asparagus – particularly British asparagus, you really can’t beat it! So, I am super excited that it’s currently in season! 

But did you know that as well as being completely delicious, asparagus is a real powerhouse of a veggie. Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals especially folate and vitamins A, C & K. Plus, it is a great source of both insoluble and soluble fibre making it the perfect partner for a healthy gut and good digestion.

Ingredients

4 fillets cod

1 large bunch asparagus, cut into 3-4cm pieces, tough ends removed

1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced

½ white onion, very thinly sliced

1 lemon, very thinly sliced 

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

Seasoning to taste

Serves 4

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • On a flat oven tray, lay out a large piece of foil (larger than the tray) and line with grease-proof paper (also larger than the tray.
  • Arrange the asparagus, sliced fennel, onion, lemon and garlic along the bottom of the tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
  • Nestle the fish fillets into the veg evenly and season.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and 1 tbsp lemon juice.
  • Wrap up the paper and foil so that the veg and fish are encased. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes. Fish should be cooked through and asparagus tender.
  • Serve with new potatoes and steamed greens.

By Alex on 24/05/21 | Gut health

THE MICROBIOME – HOW IT KEEPS US HAPPY AND HEALTHY

An adult human has around 2kg worth of microbes in our large intestine comprised of bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi… and sometimes parasites.  In fact, our guts are so well populated that we actually have more bacterial cells in our bodies than our own cells. And as odd as this may sound, this tiny ecosystem in our gut plays an essential role in our health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.

When the bacteria in our gut are living in balance, with the right combination of good variety of types of bacteria, we have a wonderful symbiotic relationship with them, where we feed them fibre and, in return, they fulfil a number of roles for us:

  • They help us digest and draw nutrients from different foodstuffs, even allowing us to draw extra energy. 
  • They provide special chemicals called Short Chain Fatty Acids, which act as food for the cells of our gut lining. 
  • They produce vitamin K and help us create vitamin B12 in our guts by providing the necessary enzyme.
  • Research shows that having a balanced microbiome may be protective of certain chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune conditions and even certain types of cancer.
  • Immune tolerance as about 80% of our immune system is in our gut, and our bacteria work alongside our immune system to help recognise what is friend and what is foe.

Finally, our microbiome plays a key role in our mental health. This may be no surprise when you think about getting butterflies when you’re nervous or needing the loo when you’re frightened – the connection between our gut and our brain is very real indeed. Research shows that a happy gut is a happy brain and vice versa. 

Sometimes called the Microbiome-Gut-Brain axis, the connection via the Vagus Nerve allows two-way communication between our brains and our guts, and scientists believe that this is to allow and monitor integration of gut signals into the emotional and cognitive centres of the brain. This allows our brains to have up-to-the-second information on our immune system, our gut function, plus production of certain gut-derived neurotransmitters, such as the feel-good serotonin. In turn, the brain supplies the gut with information to control immune function, motility and the permeability of the barriers.

Working alongside the central nervous system in such a way means that the microbiome and gut may have real influence over our emotional states, particularly when it comes to stress responses, anxiety and memory function. And this can often be seen in action with people with altered gut function, such as IBS, where other symptoms may include anxiety and low mood.

Looking after our microbiomes is therefore key to our overall health and mental wellbeing.

By Alex on 01/05/21 | Recipes


 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 fillets cod or other white fish

  • 2 packets Merchant Gourmet pre-prepared Puy lentils

  • 1 large bulb fennel

  • 2 red peppers

  • 3 small leeks

  • 2 tbsp Rose Harissa paste

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 bag baby leaf spinach


Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

  2. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized chunks and scatter in an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and season. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until starting to caramelise.

  3. Remove veg from oven, stir through the Puy lentils and the Harissa paste. Return to the oven.

  4. Now, pan fry the cod in olive oil for a couple of minutes each side until the fish is fully cooked through. The lentils and veg will now be ready too.

  5. Serve with the baby spinach at the bottom of the bowl, topped with the spicy lentils and veg, and top with the pan-fried cod. Dinner in less than 30 minutes!

By Alex on 01/04/21 | Recipes

Blood Orange and Almond Cake

This is a delicious, moist cake, which works perfectly as a dessert or treat for guests. Both gluten and dairy-free, but you would not notice! 

Blood oranges are rich in antioxidants, which help reduce the stress of oxidation and lower your risk of chronic health problems like cancerheart disease, and diabetes.  Due their fantastic pigment, they have 9 x the antioxidant capacity of Navel oranges, as well as 3 x the polyphenol content.

Oh, and they are really tasty!

Ingredients

3 medium blood oranges

6 eggs, separated

150g honey

265g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground cardamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

4-6 tbsp flaked almonds

Pinch salt

Serves 8-10

23cm springform tin, greased and lined

Method

  • Wash the oranges and put in a pan. Cover fully with water and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 2 hours or until very soft. Watch the water level. Drain and leave to cool completely.

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees fan / 180 degrees normal.

  • Chop up the oranges, remove any seeds, and put the rest into the blender (skin and all). Blitz to a puree and put to one side.

  • In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

  • In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the honey and vanilla essence until fully combined. Stir in the pureed oranges.

  • Fold in the ground almonds, ground cardamon, pinch of salt and baking powder.

  • Gently fold in a couple of spoonfuls of the egg whites, before then folding in the rest of the egg whites.

  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Bake for 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too quickly then cover with foil for the remaining time.

  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes as it will be too fragile to remove at this point.

  • Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve in slices with whole Greek yoghurt.

By Alex on 24/03/21 | Female Health

Xenoestrogens are environmental pollutants with chemical structures that can mimic oestrogen in the body. These chemicals can lead to detrimental effects to our bodies, therefore awareness of xenoestrogens and avoidance where possible are the key to good health. 

For example, research shows that pollution by xenoestrogens can affect:

  • Reproduction in many different animal species
  • Deterioration of human sperm count
  • Reports of contaminated waterways and rivers affecting the sexual characteristics of fish and other creatures
  • Environmental xenoestrogens such as organochlorine pesticides have been shown to promote the growth of uterine fibroids in vivo and vitro.  Studies have found high levels of organochlorine pesticides in fibroid tumours and blood samples of women suffering from uterine fibroids.

By mimicking the action of our own oestrogen, xenoestrogens can affect our bodies and alter our hormone activity. Currently, approximately 70,000 chemicals have been registered as having hormonal effects. These chemicals have been seen to increase the oestrogen load in the body over time and are sometimes more difficult for the liver to detoxify and clear from the body.

 

These chemicals can be found in our water, air, soil and food chain, as well as in many cosmetic and household products. The human body is being bombarded with these harmful chemicals every day which may over-burden the liver, weaken our immune systems and disrupt our delicate hormonal balance. 

So, where can we find them? And how can we avoid them?

  • Agricultural chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides and herbicides or hormones fed to cattle, pigs, poultry, and other livestock found in meat, dairy and eggs, are one of the biggest sources of xenoestrogens.
  • Try and eat organic foods as much as you can afford, or check the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen to see the worst perpetrators.
  • Choose organic meat, eggs, and dairy products. Or better still, choose 100% grassfed meat and dairy products, and pastured pork and poultry.
  • Avoid the common food preservative in processed foods - BHS: butylated hydroxyanisole.
  • Avoid non-organic coffee and tea. They are highly sprayed with pesticides. 
  • Look to use natural pest control in your home/garden, avoiding synthetic flea shampoos, flea collars, and flea pesticides for your pets and home.

  • Household Cleaners and products

Many household products contain xenoestrogens, but specifically look out for laundry detergents and fabric softeners, as they may leave residues on clothing, towels, and things that touch our skin.  Air fresheners and insect repellents are also major sources of xenoestrogens.

  • Use old-fashioned household cleaners like baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar whenever possible. 
  • Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets entirely and use a simple laundry detergent with few chemicals. 
  • Be aware of gases and vapours that comes from photocopiers and printers, carpets, fibreboards, or new carpets. 
  • Do not inhale and try and protect your skin from: electrical oils, lubricants, adhesive paints, lacquers, solvents, oils, paints, fuel, industrial wastes, packing materials, harsh cleaning products, fertilizers. 
  • Air your house well when you can and avoid the use of air fresheners, insecticide sprays, and other products that release chemicals into the air. 
  • Try safer insect repellents such as citronella or cedar.

  • Cosmetics and Toiletries 

Xenoestrogens absorbed by the skin are thought to be ten times more potent than those eaten or drunk, as they travel directly to the tissues instead of passing through the liver. Therefore, be careful with your choices – look for natural plant-based products and check the ingredients carefully. Some things to avoid are: 

  • Nail polish and sunscreen are more common sources of xenoestrogens, including phthalates, benzophenone-3, homosalate, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC), octyl-methoxycinnamate and octyl-dimethyl-PABA. 
  • Other products, including body lotions, toothpastes, soaps, gels, hairsprays, and more may contain xenoestrogens in the form of parabens, phenoxyethanol, phthalates, stearal konium chloride and other compounds. Try and choose organic or natural brands insteads.
  • Phthalates are commonly found in baby lotions and powders. 
  • Many perfumes, deodorizers, air fresheners have artificial scents and contain phthalates and are petrochemically based. Go for essential oils or natural, organic scents instead.

  • Plastics

Plastics, especially soft plastics, contain many compounds that are considered to be xenoestrogens. One type are phthalates, which are a kind of plasticizer which are often used to make plastics soft and flexible. These compounds can leach out over time or in response to heat or light. Unfortunately, phthalates are used in a range of products from food containers and packaging to children's toys and bottles. 

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is another offender that is used for food storage or to line tin cans for canned goods. Although this protects the consumer from a metallic taste in the foods, BPA is a known xenoestrogen that can leach into the food when exposed to hear or acid.

  • Never heat food with plastic in the microwave, even if it claims to be microwaveable. Use glass or ceramics instead and cover with a paper towel. 
  • Use cling wrap that does not contain DEHA and replace cling wrap on meats, cheese and other foods as soon as you get home from the store. Storing food in ceramic or glass containers may be another option. 
  • Avoid Teflon and other non-stick cookware. Cast iron, ceramic or is an inexpensive, durable, and healthful alternative. 
  • Buy drinks in glass bottles instead of plastic. 
  • Don't drink hot liquid or eat hot food from Styrofoam cups or containers. 
  • Use a stainless-steel water bottle for regularly drinking rather than plastic bottles. 
  • Go for long-life products in glass jars rather than tins if you can.

  • Water 

Unfortunately, water treatment plants are not currently designed to remove hormonal pollutants, and agricultural and pharmaceutical runoff have created a curious epidemic among fish and frogs in many waterways in the developed world. 

  • Don't switch to bottled water, which is unregulated and may be more polluted than tap water. Instead, install a reverse osmosis water system if you can. These can include under sink or whole house systems. 
  • Look for tabletop water filters, such as the Berkey water filter, which are able to remove hormones from drinking water.
  • Drink from a stainless steel or glass container, or choose safer plastics if you need to drink from a plastic water bottle.

Have a look at the products you use, food you eat, water your drink, plus storage and containers, cleaners and cosmetics. Think about what you can afford to change, and maybe put in a plan to replace things gradually over time. Each small change you make will be a benefit to your health in the long term.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

By Alex on 20/03/21 | Recipes

INSTANT KIMCHI

This is a popular, spicy condiment that can be used in a variety of way – side dish to a curry, stir-fry or salad, as an element of a sandwich or wrap, or to spice up any dishes that need it.

It’s also a great way to get some of the delicious Hisby cabbage into your diet! Slightly sweeter than your traditional cabbage, it is sometimes known as sweetheart cabbage or pointed cabbage. Cabbage is part of the Brassica family and as such is a superhero in the nutrition world! Rich in vitamins K, C and folate, it also packs a fantastic fibre punch. Cabbage is excellent for gut health – the soluble fibre it contains make a great meal for the microbes in our gut, which in turn keep us healthy. And it is fantastic for hormone health.

Ingredients

1 Hisby or pointed cabbage

1 tbsp sea salt

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp grated ginger (fresh or frozen)

2 tbsp chilli sauce (hot not sweet)

2 tbsp fish sauce or veggie fish sauce

1 tsp honey

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar, if you don’t have this) 

2 carrots, grated

1 onion, finely sliced

Makes 1 x 1 litre jar

Method

  • Chop the cabbage into 1-inch slices, pop in a bowl and cover with 1 tbsp sea salt. Leave to sit for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the garlic, ginger, chilli sauce, fish sauce (if using), honey and vinegar into a bowl and whisk to mix thoroughly. Leave to stand for flavours to combine.
  • After an hour, transfer the cabbage to a colander and rinse thoroughly to remove the salty layer. Dry in a salad-stirrer or thoroughly with a clean tea-towel.
  • Tip the cabbage into the bowl with the sauce you made early and mix thoroughly, so all the leaves are covered in the paste.
  • Pop it into the jar. This can be used straight away as a side for a meal, or it will keep in the fridge for maximum a fortnight. The flavour will strengthen as time progresses.
  • Enjoy!

 

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