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The Power of food

Runny noses, raging PMS… you might not know it but what you eat can help combat all manner of common complaints. So harness the amazing power of food right now and eat yourself healthy…

FOODS TO BEAT PMS

Q I get terrible premenstrual syndrome and find myself shouting at anyone in my vacinity. Plus, I expand like a balloon. Can I tackle it with my diet? Lynne Roberts, 45, a finance executive from Brighton

A Feeling bloated and cranky eh? Chances are that you’re among the 40% of women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. It’s caused by a hormonal imbalance – oestrogen levels rise and progesterone levels slump. Here are some foods to help kick your symptoms into touch:

Powerfood: Watermelon
If you think nothing can be done about PMS bloating, think again. ‘Potassium-rich foods like watermelon can help PMS by reducing water retention and therefore bloating,’ says Dave Gibson, naturopath.
Try also: Bananas or tomatoes.

Powerfood: Soya
Pass the soya! It seems that this food has a special hormone-balancing role to play. ‘Soya bread and soya margarine contain phytooestrogens, which bind to oestrogen receptors in the body and block the effect of high oestrogen levels,’ says Dave.

FOODS FOR healthy skin

Q I’ve heard that what you eat can keep skin looking young and healthy – any tips? I’m starting to notice a few lines and am after all the advice I can get.
Olive Birkett, 33, a writer from Kent

A Beauty junkies take note: even the most expensive pot of A-list cream won’t give you a perfect complexion if you don’t feed your face with the right foods. Here’s how.

Powerfood: Brazil Nuts
‘Brazil nuts are great for healthy skin because they supply zinc, which helps repair damage, and essential fatty acids which help replenish collagen,’ says Dave Gibson, naturopath. Four a day are all you need to fight those wrinkles.

Powerfood: Salmon
Want glowing, soft skin? Then reach for salmon. This oily fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids (as well as omega-6), which can only be a good thing for skin. ‘Omega-3s help reduce inflammation and flaking, and they’re also essential fatty acids for natural skin moisture,’ explains Dave.

Powerfood: Turkey
Another goodie to pack into your diet for healthy skin bursting with radiance is the cancer-protecting, antioxidant, selenium. ‘Selenium works in combination with vitamin E to appear to slow down the ageing process,’ says Dave. ‘You can find it in turkey.’ Research has even suggested that people super-charged with selenium don’t get as damaged by the sun.
Also try: Tuna

FOODS TO BOOST IMMUNITY

Q I’m forever getting coughs and colds, and seem to feel constantly run down. What foods should I be eating to boost my immune system?
Angela Braithwaite, 33, an office manager from Newcastle

A: If you normally catch every germ that wafts by, your immune system might be flagging. But a lot of what our bodies need to fight-off infection can be sourced from food – we just need to know what to eat. Here’s the necessary info.

Powerfood: Carrots
Bugs Bunny was right – not only can munching on carrots help you see in the dark, it can also put a spring back in a flagging immune system. So, what’s the magic ingredient? According to Dave Gibson, naturopath, it’s beta-carotene.

‘Beta-carotene boosts immunity by increasing the number of T-cells, which are the key immune cells in our bodies,’ he explains.
Try also: Apricots, spinach and canteloupe melon.

Powerfood: Shiitake mushrooms
Stock up on your shiitakes as much as you can – apparently they also help produce white blood cells, which are needed to fight disease as it enters the body. According to recent research, shiitake mushrooms might also encourage white blood cells to fight foreign bacteria. It’s all to do with an active compound, lentinan. ‘Lentinan has strong anti-viral and anti cancer properties,’ reckons Dave.

FOODS to aid FERTILITY

Q I’ve been trying to get pregnant for ages but with no luck. Can I boost my chances of conceiving with a change of diet?’ Nikki Washington, 23, an accounts assistant from London

A Learn how to give nature a helping hand along the way with some fertility-friendly magic ingredients.

Powerfood: Watercress
If you’re trying to get pregnant, chances are you’re popping folic acid pills every day. But you can also get this all-important mineral from your diet. ‘Folic acid is essential in developing the embryo’s neural tube very early on helping with the conception process’, says Dave Gibson, naturopath.’

Try also: Bovril, spinach and parsnips.

Powerfood: Kiwi fruit
‘Kiwi fruit is particularly good for male fertility because it’s a rich source of vitamin C,’ says Dave.
‘And that stops sperm from clumping together making it difficult to reach the egg.’
Try also: Broccoli and peppers.

FOODS TO BANISH INSOMNIA

Q Getting to sleep is a nightmare at the moment. I take hours to drift off and then feel dreadful in the morning. Help! Sheila McNaulty, 49, a retail manager from Surrey

A Before you pop a sleeping pill, take a good, long look at your diet. Some food and drinks, like caffeine-rich coffee, cola and chocolate, can leave you too wired for slumber. These foods below could kick-start your snoozing, though.

Powerfood: Bananas
If counting sheep just isn’t working for you, grab a night-time banana instead. ‘Bananas are good for insomnia as they contain an essential amino acid called tryptophan,’ says Dave Gibson, naturopath. ‘Tryptophan is converted in the body to melatonin, which aids sleep.’
Try also: Cottage cheese, houmous and peanuts.

Powerfood: Lemons
A squeeze of lemon juice in some hot water makes a soothing night-time (as well as morning) drink as lemons can help calm the mind. ‘It may be because they aid muscle relaxation’, explains Dave.

SIMPLE FIGHTING DRINKS FOR LIFE

Powerdrink: Water
You might think you need to avoid drinking water if you’re worried about water retention, but actually it’s a smart move.
It helps flush the body out and reduces bloating. Aim for eight glasses a day.

Powerdrink: Detox juice
Try flushing and detoxing with this powerful juicing mix: 6 carrots, 2 celery sticks and 1 apple – great for the liver!

Powerdrink: Warm lemon
Adding a healthy squeeze of lemon to some warm water goes straight through to the bowels, helping to expel faecal matter from the day before.

THE MIRACLE OF Flaxseed

Flaxseed has become an exciting topic for newspapers, television and Hollywood. It boasts great nutritious and health benefits and is not expensive to buy. What more could you ask for!

What exactly is flaxseed?
Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is the seed of the flax plant, grown in places like North America and Canada. It is an ancient crop, highly unsaturated and healthy for the heart. Flaxseeds contain copious levels of omega-3 and omega-6 – essential fatty acids (EFAs) and in perfect combination. EFAs are involved in energy production and oxygen transfer.

How are the benefits of flaxseed harnessed?
Flaxseeds have a pleasant, nutty flavour and can be added to cereals, yoghurt and salads or featured in breads, bagels and biscuits. Although flaxseed can be eaten whole, ground flaxseed is easier to digest. The seeds are either swallowed whole with water or they are ground up and sprinkled on food. Some people prefer to soak their seeds in water overnight and then drink the mixture in the morning.

Where is flaxseed sold?
You can buy flaxseeds and flaxseed oil in health stores and most leading supermarkets.

What are the nutritious benefits?
As more and more people become aware of their diet, there’s growing interest in the benefits of flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is rich in a type of fat known as omega-3 and in fibre, which effect levels of hormones that are involved in the progression of cancer. Oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are also good sources of omega-3 but flaxseed oil is a great way to boost your daily intake.

What are the health benefits?
Flaxseed is said to prevent conditions like arthritis, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, it improves the condition of your hair, skin and nail quality and aids weight loss. It has also been recommended for constipation because flaxseeds contain a high percentage of fibre. The seeds swell up when they are in water to form a jellylike substance that can moderate bowel movements and allow waste food to pass through easier. Therefore flaxseeds may also be useful to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a common condition affecting many people.

A recipe for healthy living
Bran, hemp & flaxseed porridge Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

250g of mixed oat bran, oat groats and porridge oats
125g of flaxseed
2tbsps shelled hemp seeds
1dsp malt barley syrup (optional)

How to make it:
Place the grains and 1.5 litres water (or rice milk for extra flavour) in a medium-sized saucepan.
Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring regularly, until the porridge is thickened.
Turn off the heat, stir in the flaxseed and allow to stand for a few minutes.
Before serving sprinkle some raw hemp seeds on top and drizzle over the malt barley syrup, if using.

Beautiful, disease-busting berries

Beautiful, tasty berries are the jewel in the crown of those fruits that help us to combat disease and keep us healthy all year round. Best of all, berries deliver super-charged amounts of antioxidants that help boost our immune systems and fight-off all manner of disease.

Studies have shown that just one cup of berries of your choice provides all the disease-fighting antioxidants you could possibly need in a single day. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries have ranked highest amongst fruits studied for health-giving, natural content.

Lack of oxygen clearly plays a major role in causing cells to become cancerous. In the absence of a normal oxidation process, cells are incapable of burning cellular waste, which contributes to disease. A small percentage of cells can become damaged during oxidation and can turn into what are known as ‘free radicals’. These can start a chain reaction leading to the harming of more cells and possible disease. Eating berries provides a powerful means of preventing this process from kicking in. They are also one of nature’s most delicious fruits – perfect to be eaten alone, in fruit salads or sprinkled on all manner of desserts.

Gillian Says…
“Even a minor shift in your eating habits can transform your whole sense of wellbeing. My emphasis is not about telling you what not to eat but in turning you on to hundreds of new foods that you may never have known about.”

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