Ginger is a fabulous spice for digestive health. It has a long history of traditional use for easing nausea, wind, bloating, and indigestion, and promoting the secretion of digestive juices that help breakdown food. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to ignite the “digestive fire” to aid sluggish digestion and support healthy metabolism.
This simple recipe for ginger pickle comes form nutritionist and Ayurvedic practitioner Sabine Horner at Asana Nutrition. There’s only 3 ingredients – fresh ginger, lime juice, and salt – and it keeps for up to a week in the fridge. If you’re experiencing bloating, indigestion, wind, or a sluggish digestion, enjoy a slice of this pickle before each meal to give your digestion a helping hand.
Preparation time: 5 minutes Ingredients:
approx.. 2 inch of fresh ginger (peeled)
2 pinch of mineral salt
Instructions Slice the ginger into long, thin strips and place in a jar. Cover the slices with the juice of half a lime and sprinkle with some salt to marinate. Shake well and keep in the fridge for up to a week. Eat one slice of pickled ginger before lunch and dinner.
Find out more about why and how these ingredients work so well together to support digestion in this short video from Sabine. And to find out more about Sabine’s work, catch her at email@example.com or 07539347643 or on:
It’s that time of year again…the ninth month… it’s Sourdough September!
This month-long celebration of all things sourdough is a national event run by the Real Bread Campaign with the aim of encouraging people to enjoy genuine sourdough products and support the independent bakers who produce them.
Now I’m certainly no baker. I can talk about food, write about food, and on the whole, produce tasty nutritious meals – but baking? No. No. And again no. My skills are seriously lacking. But this doesn’t stop me enjoying the occasional slice or two of a good quality sourdough bread. With butter. Natch.
True sourdough bread contains only flour, water, salt, and the starter culture that triggers the fermentation process and natural leavening. Compare this with the litany of ingredients in mass produced breads: emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilisers, improvers, bleaching agents, acidifiers, colourings – the list is looong.
Why are all these ingredients used?
Because of the Chorleywood process. Since its creation in 1961, the vast majority of bread made in the UK is done so by this process. It’s a time-saving method of producing dough with minimal fermentation time, and is needed to meet our (apparently) insatiable demand for processed bread. The process requires all these extra goodies in order to work. Plus preservatives and mould inhibitors to give the loaf a longer shelf-life.
Baking a sourdough loaf requires time and patience and brings with it an understanding of what real food – slow food – truly is. The process cannot be rushed, the end results are different every time, but the flavour and taste are worth the effort!
A potential nutritional advantage of true sourdough is the way the fermentation process reduces gluten levels. The natural bacteria in the starter culture ferment and breakdown a lot of the wheat proteins, including gluten, making them easier to digest.
Italian research from 2007 explored the gluten-degrading powers of fermentation microbes. The study results show how bread made by the sourdough fermentation process had residual gluten levels of 12ppm (parts per million). Anything below 20ppm is classed as ‘gluten-free’. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every sourdough loaf out there contains such tiny amounts of gluten, but it does illustrate the gluten reducing powers of natural sourdough fermentation.
When buying sourdough do watch out for what the Real Bread Campaign call ‘sourfraux’ – fake sourdough bread. Thanks to the rise in popularity of artisan breads like sourdough, many supermarkets and bakers are producing imitation sourdoughs that still include additives and haven’t gone through the full fermentation process. It is worth asking how the bread has been made and whether the proper starter culture has been used, so you can be confident of buying a genuine sourdough loaf.
Care to share any marvellous bread baking tips?
Do you have a sourdough starter you’d like to pass on?
What is gluten, and what does it do when we eat it?
Gluten is a type of protein found in the grains of wheat, barley, and rye. It’s made up of several different protein fractions, and can be difficult for some people to digest.
Haven’t we been eating wheat, barley, and rye for thousands of years? Surely we’re used to it by now.
Well, yes and no. Yes, we have been eating grains for thousands of years, but not the sorts of grains we have now. Modern varieties of wheat for example contain much higher levels of gluten due to the cross-breeding of grains and the pursuit of varieties of wheat that are shorter, easier to harvest, and more glutinous for bread making.
As a result, many people struggle to digest gluten. And for some, it can play a critical role in triggering increased intestinal permeability (aka ‘leaky gut’) and auto-immune conditions.
January 2019 is set to be the most popular Veganuary yet, with over 14,000 people pledging to stick to a vegan diet and lifestyle for the next month.
Whatever your reasons are for cutting out meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, and all other animal derived products, the sudden swap to a vegan diet can have a significant impact on your body, especially if you’re used to eating animal produce every day. Digestion and energy levels are frequently affected: let’s explore why…
Digestion:a sudden increase in fibre and indigestible starch from vegan staples like pulses, beans, nuts and seeds can cause bloating and wind. Our gut bacteria are influenced by what we eat, and it can take time for them to adapt to a different way of eating. They thrive on fibre, fermenting it in our gut, which is why one of the side effects of a vegan diet can be uncomfortable wind and bloating!
Bowel movements may also change: some people experience constipation whilst others find stools become loose and more frequent. Again, this is down to the change in fibre intake.
If you’re suffering with wind and bloating try using a plant-based digestive enzyme formula to support the breakdown of tough plant fibres and starches. Look for one containing alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme proven to reduce gas and bloating.
Soaking pulses before cooking and using fermented soya products like miso and tempeh can aid digestion.
Sprouting beans in a seed sprouter can make them easier to digest.
Soak nuts overnight then allow to dry before eating; this can aid digestability.
Be mindful of your fluid intake, especially if constipated. Fibre soaks up fluid in the gut, so remember to drink more water throughout the day, and opt for hydrating foods like soups and stews that combine fibre-rich beans and pulses with fluids.
Energy levels: switching from being carnivore to vegan means your body has to adapt to different nutrient sources. This can affect energy levels, particularly if you’re a pre-menopausal woman with regular periods as you are now reliant on plant-based or non-haem iron sources.
The main nutrients to consider are;
Iron: non-haem iron absorption is helped along by vitamin C so aim to combine these nutrients where possible:
Zinc: red meat, poultry, and seafood are packed with easily absorbed zinc, so your body has to adapt to deriving it from plant foods on a vegan diet. Nuts and seeds – especially pumpkin seeds – are good sources, but they also contain phytic acid which can impair zinc absorption. Soaking the nuts and seeds before eating helps to breakdown phytic acid and improve zinc bioavailability.
Vitamin B12:most plant forms of B12 are not readily used by humans with the exception of purple & green nori, fortified yeast (and other fortified foods), and shiitake mushrooms. You may have enough B12 stores in your system to manage Veganuary, but if veganism is a long-term plan, consider using a B12 supplement or B-Complex containing B12.
Protein: protein is present in varying amounts in foods, which is where the term protein quality comes from. Eggs are an example of high quality or perfect protein as they contain the right ratio of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to match our human needs. On a vegan diet it is important to combine different protein sources at each meal so that over the course of the day you get all the amino acids you need.
Vegan protein sources include:
– Nuts (whole or as nut butters)
– Pseudo-grains like quinoa and amaranth
– Legumes and pulses
Omega-3 fats: the omega-3 oils found in oily fish are DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). We can use these straight away with no need for conversion: they help regulate inflammation and support heart health and mental wellbeing.
Plant foods contain ALA (alpha linolenic acid) which is the ‘parent’ of DHA and EPA. It goes through several conversion pathways in the body to become EPA and DHA and we lose some of it along the way. Because of these conversion losses, it’s important for vegans to include ALA sources everyday.
The richest concentrated source of ALA is flaxseed oil; this can be drizzled over cooked vegetables, salads, granola, coconut or soya yoghurt, included in smoothies – the ideas are endless! I know a lady who adds it to her gravy! It can be added to hot foods but don’t cook with it as high temperatures affect the oil structure.
Other sources of ALA include walnuts, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, hemp oil, and chia seeds.
Plant-based diets can be as varied and nutritious as meaty-fishy ones, but they do require thoughtful planning, especially at the outset. Browse these recipe blogs for meal inspiration and remember to join the Facebook group and follow me on Twitter where I share a #MeatfreeMonday recipe each week.
Ever wondered why doctors and nutrition-people (like me!) keep talking about how important it is to ‘eat a rainbow’? (A phrase which is dangerously close to the slogan for Skittles – ‘taste a rainbow’- which will have quite the opposite effect on your health!).
It’s because brightly coloured fruits and vegetables contain an array of natural compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that are all bound up with what colour they are.
So for example, orange and yellow veggies like peppers, carrots, and butternut squash are rich in beta-carotene, an immune-bosting antioxidant compound that’s a member of the carotenoid family, whilst dark bluberries and red grapes contain cyanidin – another protective antioxidant compound.
Including at least 1 food from each colour group everyday means you will be nourishing yourself with a vast range of naturally powerful ingredients, giving your body the support it needs to cope with modern life!
Pick any one of these top 10 practical tips to start increasing the colour, variety and nutrient load of your diet;
Green powders are helpful if you struggle to get enough greens into your day: mix spirulina, chlorella, barley grass or wheatgrass powder into pesto to boost the antioxidant and protein levels.
To support blood sugar stability and reduce reliance on refined carbohydrates, swap to higher protein alternatives. Mung bean pasta, lentil pasta, quinoa, or wild rice are good alternatives.
If you’re dealing with intestinal yeast overgrowth (and this is best confirmed with a stool test rather than trying to guess), think foods before supplements: natural anti-microbials such as garlic, ginger, oregano and marjoram can be added easily to salads, soups, casseroles – even herbal infusions.
The anti-inflammatory actions of turmeric and cinnamon are well documented; these spices blend well with warmed almond milk to make a simple chai-style beverage.
Seaweed flakes can be sprinkled into salads, soups or casseroles, and Nori sheets make a good alternative to wheat wraps, instantly increasing the iodine, zinc and magnesium content of your meal – perfect for thyroid support.
Mixing a tablespoon of olive oil into 25g of butter creates a spreadable butter rich in oleic acid – with none of the negative effects associated with margarine or poorly processed vegetable oils.
Encourage children to explore different coloured vegetables by using a picture colour chart and negotiating which coloured veggies to try next.
Nourish your friendly gut bacteria with pre- and probiotic food. Add a tablespoon of sauerkraut to grilled salmon and roasted vegetables; use unfiltered apple cider vinegar in salad dressings with lemon juice and fresh herbs; or mix kefir into a morning smoothie.
Green vegetables can be problematic for many people, especially supertasters. A basic smoothie made from baby spinach, banana and almond milk is a gentle option to begin with, and is packed with folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, and the antioxidant compound lutein. If you’re managing IBS, add fennel or caraway seeds when steaming brassica greens as this helps to soften the taste and aid digestion, reducing bloating and wind.
To eat different foods you have to buy different foods. A vegetable or fruit box delivery scheme is a hassle-free way to have new ingredients delivered direct to your door. Many schemes offer inspiring recipe ideas too.
Remember, the idea behind #1 Small Step is to encourage steady change and growth whilst side-stepping overwhelm. So pick 1 new idea to try, and build up those changes gradually!
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