Zinc is often mentioned as a good supplement to take when you want to protect yourself from viruses – quite useful at the moment!
But do you really need to supplement with zinc? How do you know you need it? And if you do, how do you take it?
For me, food always comes first. If you eat a varied diet you’re probably fine with your zinc intake. You find a good amount of zinc in pulses, nuts, seeds, raw cacao, oats (and other whole grains), shellfish and meat. It’s best absorbed from meat.
Supplementing with zinc is possible and okay if you do it in low dosage (15 – 30 mg/day) for a couple of weeks max. Over-supplementing with any mineral can create an imbalance. For instance, too much zinc affects our copper metabolism!
Because we’re all different you might need more zinc than someone else. Maybe because you’re not absorbing it very well. In that case you can actually test if you need to supplement, using liquid zinc.
Here’s how testing your zinc levels works:
Buy some liquid zinc sulphate
Take a teaspoon of it.
If it doesn’t have a taste for you, you’re probably deficient. Same if you just taste it a little.
If you do taste it well – it’s not a great taste, metallic! – you’re probably fine.
Yes, it’s that time of year again! It’s cold and dark, we have not been eating too well during the holidays, we missed some sleep maybe… Our immune system could use a boost!
In our community we hold hands very often. So we are often reminded that washing your hands is important – but it’s not enough. Viruses are everywhere. Your immune system needs to catch them in time!
The three most important things to do to prevent illness are:
Go outside and get some movement
Get enough sleep: go to bed earlier and sleep as long as you need
Stay away from sugar
There are some herbs that can help a lot as well. Elderberry is one I take at the first sign – that uh-oh tickle in your throat – together with my own home made tincture for colds. They usually do the trick.
A food-like remedy that really supports you immune health is Fire Cider. It’s a mixture of Apple Cider Vinegar (probiotic!), horse radish (supports sinus health), ginger (warming and anti-microbial), garlic and onion (anti-microbial) and local honey.
You can use it by taking a tablespoon every day. I also like to add some good quality olive oil to it and use it as a dressing.
It is very easy to make your own. I teach this in a workshop on Saturday 18 January. We will make a big batch together and your will take a small bottle home to try it out. And talk about the various herbs you can use to keep colds at bay.
Can’t make it? Or are you curious about other workshops I organise? Have a look here at my other events.
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I make compost from food waste and years ago I started finding small lacy plastic bits in the compost. I found out that they come from teabags. What?! Yes, many teabags that look like they’re made from paper or silk are actually fortified or even made from plastic.
And would that plastic enter your body? Absolutely. A new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that these tea bags shed billions of microplastic particles into your lovely cup of tea!
And while we don’t exactly know what effect drinking billions of pieces of micro and nano-plastics can have, we can certainly make some educated guesses.
First, we know that microplastics act like sponges for other chemicals – so it’s possible that these plastics in tea, that were found at levels MUCH HIGHER than the levels of microplastics in bottled water, are exposing us to even more toxins.
Second, some of these plastics found in tea brewed in the ‘silken’ plastic bags are nano-sized; this means they can enter our cells, much in the way other nano-sized particles can.
Sooo… If you’ve been drinking out of these bags, buy a tea pot with infuser and switch to (organic) loose leaf tea! Or find a brand that doesn’t have plastic. You’ll find an overview for the UK here
It’s the beginning of July now and the greens outside in my garden are thriving! At the moment I have an abundance of coriander, parsley and spring onions and I made them into a green sauce today.
There is a lot of goodness in this sauce. Parsley is very high in vitamin A and C and contains more iron than any other leafy green. It’s a diuretic (it removes excess water from the body), helps with cramping (period cramps!) and supports digestion.
Coriander also contains plentiful vitamin A, B and C and is packed with anti-oxidants. It is a strong antimicrobial and a digestive aid – great for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)! The most remarkable property is that it helps to move heavy metals out of the body.
Of course spring onion and garlic are very powerful antimicrobials and are also used a lot for lowering blood pressure.
You can use this sauce to cheer up any meal. I often use it on my salad. On new potatoes is also very delish. Just tried it on an oatcake with tahini, yum!
You can use the herbs you have and make a mixture: rocket, dill, young dandelion leaves, marjoram, lemon balm… You can make it with a blender or small food processor but also by just chopping finely and then mixing by hand.
1 bunch of parsley (30 gr)
1 bunch of coriander (30 gr) (or another bunch of parsley!)
2 gloves of garlic (or more if you like)
2 spring onions
1/3 – 1/2 cup of your best quality olive oil
2 tbsp of lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp of salt
pepper to taste
optional: add 1/4 tsp of chilli flakes and you’ve made chimichurri!
Chop greens, spring onion and mince garlic. Add the other ingredients and mix well.
Or: add everything to a blender and blend until smooth. That’s what I did. Enjoy!
It’s summer! Well, sort of here in Scotland… But the berries are now coming 🙂
I used to make tons of jam from the berries in my garden. I had a recipe that used only half the sugar. But that’s still a lot of sugar. So I stopped doing that.
Now I make small batches with any kind of fruit available and use chia seeds to thicken it into a delicious jam. And this jam actually helps to keep your gut functioning well.
Berries are just great. They are loaded with anti-oxidants, have a good amount of plant nutrients, minerals and fiber and they help fight inflammation. Plus: the beneficial bacteria in your gut thrive on them.
Chia seeds also pack a nutritional punch. Almost all their carbs are fiber, they have a decent amount of protein ánd are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. I have not tried this yet but I think you could use the cheaper linseeds as well. They are just as amazing. I do think you need to use them freshly ground, so not whole.
2 cups of berries, any kind. They can be fresh or frozen
2 tbps of chia seeds
1-2 tbsp of unrefined sweetener (maple syrup or raw honey work well)
1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon (optional, depending on the tartness of the fruit)
How to do it:
Heat fruit in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the fruit is heated through and begins to break down and bubble.
Use a spoon or potato masher to mash the fruit to your desired consistency.
Stir in the chia seeds and lemon juice.
Now add your sweetener to taste – but in moderation. Start with 1 tablespoon.
Remove from heat and let cool for a bit. The jam will get thicker!
Give the jam another good stir. Then serve or transfer to a jar
It keeps for up to 1 week in the fridge or , up to 3 months in the freezer.
I’ll be going out today to pick a basket full of nettles and make another pot of nettle soup.
Nettles are one of the most useful plants. The young tops are delicious and nutritious, a natural mineral and vitamin supplement. Just what we need in spring!
Nettle tops are best in spring, but if you cut them back repeatedly they will give you fresh shoots throughout the summer.
I use gloves to pick just the top 2 inches, so the plant can easily regrow. You could also use a pair of scissors to snip and then lift them with the into you bag or basket – no gloves needed!
Then you go home, wash the nettles and make the soup. Here’s my trusted recipe:
1 tbsp olive oil 1 medium onion or half a big one 1 leek ¼ cup of oats, can be gluten free ½ litre of vegetable stock (½ a litre boiling water and 2 tsp stock powder) 75 gr nettle tops freshly ground pepper freshly ground nutmeg good quality salt to taste
Chop the onion and leek finely
Heat the oil or butter over medium heat
Add the onion and leek and stir until they start to glaze
Add the vegetable stock and cook for another 7 – 10 minutes
Add the nettles and the oats and simmer gently for 5 more minutes
Use a hand held blender to wizzzz it all up
Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg
Serve and enjoy!
Add a chopped up carrot
Use diced potatoes or leftover rice instead of oats. They all work well as a thickener
I noticed in my practice that there is some confusion about gluten free grains. Many people think that oats are gluten free. And that gluten free oats are more processed than normal oats. So let’s look into that.
One of the first things I advise clients with digestive issues is to eliminate gluten. And many of them start feeling a lot better! But it can be confusing. And hard. Because the rest of the world eats gluten, gluten is in almost every processed food and gluten containing foods are a big part of our social life. Think birthday cake, tea and biscuits and beer…
So what about oats?
Well, technically oats are a gluten free grain. But they are usually grown in fields where they grow oats and glutenous grains (like wheat, rye and barley) in rotation. Which means that when there are still wheat kernels on the field from last year, they will grow wheat plants between the oats. So the oat harvest will probably have quite a bit of wheat in it as well.
Then when the oats are processed in a factory, guess what else gets processed there? Loads of wheat.
So oats in themselves are gluten free but are contaminated with (mostly) wheat. Oats that are marked ‘gluten free’ are the same oats, but they are grown in fields where they don’t grow gluten containing grain and processed away from wheat.
So yay! You can still have your porridge in the morning if you’re following a gluten free protocol. As long as it explicitly says they are gluten free. The same for oatcakes, oat biscuits, oat bars etc. Want to make your own oat bars? Here’s a recipe!
Which is great because oats are a very nutritious grain. They’re a good source of fiber, trace minerals and even plant-based protein. Eating gluten-free oatmeal regularly is a good way to obtain B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium.
A few weeks ago my husband Hugo had to rush himself into hospital because a tiny splinter in his thumb had caused an infection that quickly turned into sepsis.
That was scary. Hallelujah for antibiotics! They probably saved his life.
He was on an antibiotic drip for two days and then on oral antibiotics for a week.
After that his sensitive digestion was off. He was bloated most of the day, had stomach pain and acid reflux. And he was tired.
You know, antibiotics didn’t just kill the bacteria in his thumb, but also disturbed the delicate balance of the bacteria in his gut.
He had already started taking probiotics in the hospital. And on top of that I made sure he ate homemade yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles and a small glass of beet kvass every single day. (by the way, if you want to learn how to make your own fermented foods, come to my Sauerkraut and Pickles workshop!)
Three weeks later he’s feeling fine again.
Kvass is a traditional eastern European beverage that was originally made from fermenting stale bread. Made with beetroot it’s a beautiful deep red drink with a great taste. Here’s how you make it:
For a 1 litre jar:
1 medium organic beetroot
5-6 slices of ginger (you can leave the skin on if organic)
1.5 teaspoon good quality sea salt (so not table salt)
I like to use a fermentation jar because it’s super easy and the kvass doesn’t get moldy. That’s because these jars have an airlock; when the fermentation process starts, the bacteria produce CO2. That pushes the oxygen out of the jar and because of the airlock no new oxygen can come in.
I use Kilner 1 litre jars with regular sized mouth and
special fermentation lids.
See here for the lids, if you already have the jars and here for the lids and the jars. They also have them now for wide mouth jar, which is handy if you want to make sauerkraut and get your hand in there to push the sauerkraut down.
How to do it:
Brush the dirt off the beetroot, no need to peel
Chop the beetroot coarsely; pieces should be around dice size. Don’t grate or cut too finely; than it can turn into alcohol because the sugars are too available!
Cut 5-6 thin slices off a fresh ginger root
Pop beetroot and ginger into the jar and add the salt
Add water up until an inch under the lid. Shake a bit.
Put this on your kitchen top and wait for 4-6 days. Don’t open the lid in between
Strain out the beets and ginger and pour into a clean jar. Drink a small glass once or twice every day and store the rest in the fridge.
If you want a continuous supply, start a new jar every 4-6 days.
Adding a few tablespoons of the kvass of an earlier batch will start the process slightly quicker
We eat 60% of our meals in front of the TV, according to a survey in 2013. The telly – or Netflix – has become a daily companion at our meal times!
But how does that affect your digestion?
Last week I talked about how cooking your own meals can help your acid reflux and IBS symptoms. But if you sit down to eat your meal at the table it gets even better!
If you’re in a calm state your nervous system is in the parasympathetic state. You are in ‘rest and digest’ mode. Your body knows everything is safe, relaxes and focuses on sending more blood to our digestive organs.
However, when you are stressed your body thinks there’s danger. It can’t differentiate between the news on tv and running for a tiger! So it immediately turns the switch to the sympathetic state. It sends more blood to our muscles, heart and lungs because you need to be able to jump up and run away. In dangerous situations it doesn’t make sense to focus on digestion.
When you eat in a stressed state, your digestion only works on half it’s potential – or less!
So what happens if you eat when you’re stressed out, upset, have a difficult conversation or reply to some work emails during your meal? You will not break down the nutrients very well. And feed unhelpful bacteria that like to produce a lot of gas. The gas can than push up your stomach and result in acid reflux, bloating, burping, stomach pain and the like.
The solution? Resist the urge to eat on the go. Don’t watch the tv or check emails while you eat. Set the table with a nice plate. Light a candle. Make this a time to connect with your partner or family. Or with yourself!
And when your meal is on your plate, take a few seconds to look at it, take some deep breaths and appreciate the food in front of you. It doesn’t take more than that to switch to the rest-and-digest mode. Your tummy will thank you for it.
Is your life very busy and do you struggle to eat healthily because of that?
I wrote down some handy tips that take you out of overwhelm. You can download my free ‘Healthy Eating on the Go’ guide by clicking here.
Here is a recipe for something sweet and delicious and satisfying that doesn’t have any refined sugar, gluten or dairy.
I found it in one of the great cookbooks by the sisters Hemsley and Hemsley Good and Simple and I often bring it to parties and potlucks – so I know I can have a really delicious dessert as well 🙂
H&H call it Fridge Fudge but I think it tastes more like halva, but less sweet. Anyway, it has some good fiber, lots of minerals from the sesame seeds and good fats from the tahini and the coconut oil.
It’s a really simple procedure and there’s one important thing to remember: it needs to stay cooled. As soon as you leave it on the table for longer than say twenty minutes, it starts getting too soft and it loses it’s bite. Still great taste though.
You will need a simple food processor. Now you don’t need a big and expensive one; for this recipe I use the one that came with my stick blender. If you don’t have one of these, I think it worth considering. I use it almost every day: to blend soups and sauces, make energy balls and chop onions and garlic very finely.
Makes 12 – 15 small squares
85 gr dates: use the cheaper ones that are a bit harder and dryer, like these. So not the more expensive and squishy Medjool dates…