Flu Buster Shot

‘Tis the season to be germy, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. If you’re suffering from the sniffles, have a throat that feels like you swallowed a cactus or have contracted the dreaded man-flu, try this juice which is packed with potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory ingredients to get you feeling well again.

Pineapple Juice: A source of vitamin C which is an antioxidant and helps support the immune system, and bromelain, and enzyme which may help to break down mucus, supporting healthy nasal and respiratory airways.

Turmeric: Turmeric is a bright yellow spice commonly used in Asian food that is a member of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family. Turmeric contains a variety of biologically-active constituents, such as curcumin, and is currently being researched for the treatment of many diseases and chronic conditions including cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and depression. Turmeric has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects and stimulates the immune system. It is commonly used in the treatment of bronchitis and respiratory infections. Fresh turmeric root is becoming more widely available – try your local farm shop (Riverford often have it) or large supermarket.

Ginger: Ginger is another of natures’ antiviral herbs. It contains nearly a dozen antiviral compounds. Ginger is pain relieving, antiseptic and antioxidant. It is valuable for preventing and treating colds, sore throats and inflammation of mucus membranes.

Horseradish: A pungent, peppery root that is related to mustard, broccoli and cabbage. Its peppery flavour is due to volatiles oils which will help to clear your airways when ingested.

Lemon Juice: Another source of vitamin C and used in many traditional cold remedies.

Honey: Honey has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Look for raw honey to ensure that the honey hasn’t been heat-treated as this reduces the effectiveness. The sweetness of the honey also counteracts some of the bitterness in this recipe!

Black Pepper: Contains the compound piperine, which significantly improves the absorption of turmeric. The black pepper must be freshly ground as piperine degrades quite quickly once exposed to the air.

Recipe (makes about 500ml) 

  • 1 large pineapple, topped, tailed and peeled 
  • 40g fresh ginger root 
  • 20g fresh turmeric root 
  • 10g fresh horseradish root 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 1 tbsp honey (preferably local honey) 
  • Black pepper

Pass the turmeric, ginger and pineapple through a juicer. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze into the juice. Add the honey and stir well. Freshly grind a little black pepper on top. Sip throughout the day.

Energy balls

Energy Balls

These little treats feature on my Surf Fuel series for 110% Surfing Techniques. They’re naturally sweetened with dried fruit, and make a great addition to packed lunches, with a cup of tea, or before or after exercise. Experiment with different variations – these are flavoured with cocoa powder but you could add other flavourings such as cinnamon or orange zest. Kids love helping to roll the little balls!

Makes 16-20 balls 

  • 200g dates or other dried fruit
  • 200g nuts e.g. walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon desiccated coconut, for rolling

Put the dates, nuts, and cocoa powder into a food processor, and process on full speed until a stiff paste forms (you may need to stop and scrape down the bowl of the food processor once or twice). Sprinkle the desiccated coconut onto a large plate. Take heaped teaspoons of the date mixture, use the palm of your hands to roll into balls, then roll each ball in the desiccated coconut to coat. Place in the fridge for an hour to firm up. These keep well in the fridge for up to a week.

Oat slices

Oat Slices

These oat slices are featured on my Surf Fuel series for 110% Surfing Techniques. They’re a good source of slow-release carbohydrates and protein, and make a great snack or breakfast on the run.

Makes 12-16 slices

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 250g oats
  • 50g mixed seeds (e.g. sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. Mix the oats and seeds together in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil and peanut butter together over a low heat. Once melted, take off the heat and stir in the mashed bananas.  Pour the banana/oil/peanut butter mixture into the oats, and stir well until a sticky mixture is formed.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin, pressing down well. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting into slices. They keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

10 Ways to Increase Your Vegetable Intake

We all know that vegetables are good for us. They contain fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that have beneficial effects on our health. People who eat lots of vegetables tend to have a lower risk of many diseases including obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Ideally, we should be consuming at least 5-7 portions of different vegetables a day, but many of us struggle to consume 2 or 3! Children in particular can be fussy about vegetables, understandably preferring sweeter vegetables such as peas, carrot and sweetcorn to the more bitter tastes of spinach, Brussel sprouts or cauliflower. But by eating the same vegetables day after day, it is more likely that we’ll be missing out on the valuable health benefits of a wider range of vegetables. Here are some ways to sneak more vegetables into your daily diet:

1)   Grate vegetables into soups, sauces and curries. Try grating some courgette and carrot into a Bolognese or chilli towards the end of cooking. They will add a natural sweetness to the sauce but you won’t notice them there!

2)   Eat vegetables for breakfast. Veggies are a great addition to an omelette or traditional cooked breakfast. Try sautéed mushrooms and spinach, grilled tomatoes, or a sweet potato rosti. Leftover vegetables from dinner the night before can be sautéed in a pan and topped with a poached egg.

3)   Swap traditional chips for some vegetable wedges. Root vegetables such as sweet potato, swede or parsnip make great wedges. Cut into wedge shapes, toss in a little oil, put on a baking tray and bake in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes. You can add flavourings such as smoked paprika, thyme, garlic powder or sea salt if you like.

4)   Ditch the bread and get creative! Instead of wraps, try a large lettuce or cabbage leaf to contain your sandwich filling. Serve a beefburger on a Portobello mushroom that has been baked with a little garlic and a knob of butter, instead of the usual bread roll. Sweet potato toast is the newest foodie’s favourite – slice a sweet potato lengthways into ½ inch thick pieces, and pop in the toaster or under the grill. Serve topped with nut butter and banana, sardines or scrambled eggs.

5)   Drink your vegetables! If you have a juicer, juice one or two vegetables with once piece of fruit for a healthy combination that won’t send your blood sugar rocketing. Try beetroot, celery and apple or carrot, orange and cucumber. Or add vegetables to smoothies – baby spinach has a mild flavour that you won’t notice, whilst avocado added to a smoothie makes a really creamy texture and is especially good in chocolate smoothies!

6)   Add to home baking. We’ve all heard of carrot cake but there are other varieties of vegetables which make delicious, moist cakes too. Try red velvet cake (beetroot and chocolate), courgette or parsnip cake.

7)   Serve steamed vegetables with a generous drizzle of olive oil or knob of butter and some fresh herbs. This not only makes them taste better, but increases the availability of fat-soluble nutrients such as beta-carotene, which can’t be absorbed without fat!  

8)   When you need a snack, reach for cherry tomatoes, celery, or sweet pepper strips. Many supermarkets carry small packages of carrot sticks or mini cucumbers in their produce sections. They make good lunch box (or briefcase) snacks for kids of all ages. If you don’t like them plain, try dipping them in hummus, guacamole or salsa.

9)   If you must resort to the occasional ready meal, boost the nutritional content by adding in extra veg. For example, throw a handful of baby spinach into a curry or add some extra mushrooms and sliced peppers to a pizza, and serve with a side salad.

10) Swap a packet of crisps for some homemade vegetable crisps. Try curly kale, torn into pieces and tossed with a little olive or coconut oil. Bake in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes until crispy, and sprinkle with sea salt. Or slice sweet potato or beetroot into thin rounds and bake until crisp. You can also use your vegetable peelings in this way – carrot and parsnip are great – the possibilities are endless!

The Link between Diet and Asthma

If you or any of your loved ones suffer from asthma, I hope you find the information below helpful. Let me know if you’d like the links to the studies mentioned or if you have any questions in the comments below. Evonne xx


In the UK, around 5.4 million people are receiving treatment for asthma.

What is Asthma?
Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. It is characterised by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction and bronchospasms (contractions of the airways). Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, a tight chest and shortness of breath.

What Causes Asthma?
The causes are not completely understood, but appear to be a combination of complex environmental and genetic interactions. The study of epigenetics is shedding more light on how lifestyle and environmental factors influence the expression of our genes. Environmental triggers include: smoking; air quality; chemical exposure (such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde and phthalates); indoor allergens such as dust mites, animal dander and mould; viral infections and paracetamol use (including use by the mother whilst pregnant). The hygiene hypothesis has been proposed as a significant contributor to the rise in allergies in recent years. This means that our increasing use of household cleaning products, our increased sanitation and less time spent outdoors getting dirty have reduced our exposure to bacteria and viruses, stripping our immune systems of the opportunity to build up ‘tolerance’ in childhood. In addition, use of antibiotics in early life and birth by Caesarean section lead to a reduction in the numbers and diversity of the beneficial gut bacteria that have significant positive effects on the immune system.

The Role of Diet in Asthma
Many dietary factors have been investigated in their link to asthma and other inflammatory diseases. A dietary basis for inflammatory diseases can be explained by the interaction between food and nutrients with molecular pathways that promote gut health, mediate immune tolerance, modulate inflammation and gene expression (Thorburn et al, 2014).

Sugary drinks (including soft drinks and fruit juices)
Consumption of sugary drinks has been found to be associated with increased incidence of asthma in 2-9 year olds. In one study, children who consumed over 5 sugary drinks per week had 5 times the incidence of asthma compared with children who consumed less than one per month (De Christoper et al, 2016). It is hypothesised that the free fructose in these drinks leads to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which are highly inflammatory.

Fast Foods
A study in the journal Thorax (Elwood et al, 2013) found that fast food consumption was correlated with an increased risk of severe asthma. Fast food is often high in omega 6 fatty acids and trans fats which promote inflammation. Fast foods also often contain too much sugar and salt.

Dietary salt (sodium chloride) is associated with an increased risk of exercise-induced asthma (Mickleborough et al, 2011). Sodium and/or chloride may have a direct effect on airway smooth muscle, trigger the release of bronchoconstrictor mediators from airway cells, and influence vascular volume and pressure leading to a narrowing of the airways. High levels of sodium are found in processed foods such as breakfast cereals, tinned soups, baked beans, ready meals, crisps and baked goods.

A diet high in fibre increases the number and diversity of beneficial gut bacteria, increasing short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production. SCFAs are anti-inflammatory and increase the regulatory T cells (Tregs) which regulate inflammation. Asthmatics have been found to have fewer Tregs (Thorburn et al, 2015).

Vitamins A, C and E have all been found to have beneficial for asthmatics. Antioxidants help to counteract the oxidative stress associated with inflammation which leads to tissue damage, airway inflammation and abnormal immune responses, all of which increase asthma severity. A high intake of dietary vitamin A has been associated with a decrease in asthma incidence and severity. Vitamin C reduces inflammatory markers in the blood such as C reactive protein (CRP). Reduced plasma concentrations of vitamin C have been found in children with asthma. Vitamin E counteracts oxidative stress, reduces airway inflammation and decreases Th2 immune response. A low dietary intake of vitamin E has been correlated with increased asthma severity (Han et al, 2013).

Vitamin D
Vitamin D has important roles to play in the regulation of gene expression, immune response, lung development and preventing viral illnesses which may trigger an asthma attack. Reduced concentrations of vitamin D have been found to be associated with decreased lung function and poor control of asthma (Han et al, 2013).

Methyl Donors
Nutrients that act as methyl donors help to regulate gene expression and therefore immune response (Han et al, 2013). Methyl donors include folate, vitamin B12 and choline. Having a mutation of the MTHFR gene may reduce the efficiency of your methylation pathways.

Magnesium sulfate is used intravenously in hospital to treat severe acute asthma attacks. Several studies have found low serum magnesium levels in asthmatics. A 2014 study (Hatipoglu et al) found that serum magnesium is significantly lower in children presenting with asthma attacks. A second study (Shishimorov et al, 2015) gave children with uncontrolled asthma 144mg of magnesium per day for 3 months and compared them to a control group of asthmatic children given a placebo. Those children who had been given the magnesium halved their frequency of asthma attacks, had fewer symptoms and needed less medication than the control group. Magnesium is an antagonist of calcium and therefore promotes smooth muscle relaxation. It also suppresses excitability of muscle fibres, inhibits the production of inflammatory mediators, and stimulates nitric oxide production (a potent vasodilator).

Fish Oil
The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil (DHA and EPA) have been found to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect by competing for enzymes with pro-inflammatory substrates (Mickleborough et al, 2011).

Recommendations for Relieving the Symptoms of Asthma

If you smoke, quit. Now!

Aim for at least 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (of which at least 5 should be veg). Focus on eating a rainbow by including green vegetables (such as spinach, rocket, watercress, brocolli and sprouts) and red, orange and yellow fruit and vegetables such as carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, cantaloupe melon and mango). This will ensure that you are eating plenty of fibre to feed those good bacteria and top up your levels of antioxidants and folate.

Eat the best quality meat and animal products that you can afford, even if this means that you eat meat less often. Grass-fed, organic and free-range meat contains higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids and lower levels of pro-inflammatory arachadonic acid. Good quality animal products such as meat, poultry, liver, eggs and butter are rich sources of vitamin A, vitamin B12 and choline.

Cook with olive oil or coconut oil instead of vegetable or sunflower oil. Vegetable oils are high in pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids and can form trans fats when cooked at high temperatures. Use light olive oil or coconut oil for cooking, and save your extra virgin oilve oil for drizzling over your salads or vegetables. This will also increase absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A and E.

Eat oily fish 2-3 times per week or take a good quality fish oil supplement if you don’t like fish to optimise your levels of anti-inflammatory DHA and EPA.

Eat fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha. These can be made quite easily at home and contain high levels of beneficial gut bacteria.

Eat food sources of magnesium daily. These include dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. Top up your magnesium levels by taking a bath with Epsom salts 2-3 times a week and/or using a magnesium oil spray.

Use spices and herbs liberally. A 2012 study (Percival et al) found that ginger, turmeric, cloves, rosemary, paprika, sage and cumin decreased oxidation and inflammatory markers even when eaten in small amounts.

Cut out added sugar. This includes all soft drinks, fruit juices and sugar added at the table to hot drinks and cereals etc. As well as the more obvious sources of sugar such as cakes, biscuits, sweets and cholocate, watch out for ‘hidden’ sugar in ready-made pasta and curry sauces, ketchup, tinned soups, baked beans, ready meals and stock cubes. These go by the names of sucrose, glucose, fructose, glucose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, honey, dextrose and raw cane sugar amongst others. The easiest way to avoid these is to cook from scratch whenever possible.

Limit take-aways/fast food to once per month or less as these are almost always high in salt, sugar and omega 6 fats.

Minimise use of cleaning products, air fresheners and scented candles around the home. In particular, avoid products containing limonene as this converts into formaldehyde once in the atmosphere. Use natural products instead such as vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils, and don’t feel compelled to clean up every bit of dirt! Do, however, get rid of any mould in your home.

Get plenty of fresh air – preferably by the sea or in the woods whenever possible. This will top up your vitamin D levels and reduce exposure to air pollution. Consider wearing a face mask if you exercise near busy roads.

How to Beat the Winter Blues

The clocks go back an hour this weekend, and many of us (me included!) will be dreading the thought of several long months ahead of getting up in the pitch black and coming home from work in the dark. We slip into ‘hibernation’ mode – struggling to get up in the mornings, craving comfort food and spending our evenings on the sofa in front of Strictly and X Factor with a tub of Pringles.

The truth is, it is quite natural to have less energy in the winter. This is a normal, seasonal adaptation that, in evolutionary terms, would have been useful in reducing our activity at a time when food was scarce. A few hundred years ago, we would have had no choice but to adapt our behaviour in winter. Most people would have worked outside, so the working day would have started later and finished earlier to coincide with daylight hours. Without electricity, our ancestors would have carried out quiet evening activities by candlelight before retiring to bed early. We would have relied on seasonal produce growing in our garden or from the farmer down the road and food that we had stored or preserved during the more abundant months. Now, with electric lights, cars, communications technology and imported food, we fight this natural instinct to slow down and attempt to continue our normal routines throughout winter, even though our evolutionary biology may not have quite caught up yet.

Whilst most of us find that our energy dips once Autumn arrives, some people seem to be more affected by the change in seasons than others. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder in which people whose mental health is normal during the rest of the year regularly experience symptoms of depression during a specific season (most commonly autumn and winter). Symptoms of SAD include difficulty waking up in the morning, a tendency to sleep more and overeat (particularly craving carbohydrates), low energy, difficulty concentrating and withdrawing from friends, family and social situations.

Whilst scientists haven’t yet established the cause of SAD, individuals with SAD have been found to have lower levels of Vitamin D (the ‘sunshine’ vitamin), lower serotonin (a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of wellbeing and regulates hunger), lower cortisol (an adrenal hormone responsible for waking us up in the morning), and increased levels of melatonin (the neurotransmitter that initiates and maintains sleep).

Here are my top tips to beat the winter blues:

1) Eat plenty of protein – ideally at every meal. Meat, poultry, eggs, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds contain the amino acid tryptophan which your body converts into mood-lifting serotonin.

2) Choose your carbohydrates wisely. It makes sense that we crave carbohydrates when our mood is low, since eating carbs triggers insulin production, which helps to transport tryptophan into the brain, where it can be converted to serotonin. However, some carbs are better than others. Choose carbs with a low glycemic load (GL) that provide a steady and sustained release of glucose into the blood stream. Good swaps include pumpernickel or rye bread instead of white bread; porridge oats instead of sweetened cereals; basmati rice or couscous instead of white rice; baby potatoes, sweet potato or butternut squash instead of baked potato or chips.

3) Eat oily fish 2 or 3 times a week. Oily fish is a good source of the omega 3 fats DHA and EPA which have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression.

4) Get as much natural daylight as you can. This will help to supress melatonin during the day and keep your circadian rhythm (‘body clock’) in check.

5) Use a sunrise clock. These mimic the effect of sunrise by gradually increasing the level of light, helping to supress melatonin and trigger cortisol production which helps to gently wake you up in the morning.

6) Top up your Vitamin D levels. If you can’t get away for a week somewhere sunny and warm, consider taking a supplement in the D3 form. Ideally, get your vitamin D levels tested first. You are more likely to be vitamin D deficient if you are older, have dark skin, avoid tanning, are pregnant, or are taking cholesterol-lowering medication (since cholesterol is the raw material that your body uses to make vitamin D).

7) Avoid bright lights and computer screens for an hour before bed, as these can supress melatonin production and make it more difficult to get to sleep.

8) Go to bed earlier. You probably find that you feel tired earlier in the evening in the winter. If at all possible, listen to your body and go to bed when you start to feel tired. Trying to fight through tiredness in the evening can trigger cortisol production which will make you feel alert and awake when it is time to go to bed.

9) Celebrate the change in the seasons! Build a bonfire, visit the Christmas markets, go for a walk in the woods and admire the autumn leaves, curl up in front of a log fire, buy a new hat, scarf or winter coat. Doing this will build up positive associations with autumn and winter and leave you looking forward to this time of year next time around!

Nighty night!

You probably already know that drinking coffee in the evening isn’t the best way to get a good night’s shut-eye, right? If you’ve already reduced your caffeine intake but still have trouble getting to sleep at night, try some of these tips to help you slip off into slumberland:

1) Spend some time outdoors in natural light each day if possible – this helps to regulate your circadian clock (your internal day/night rhythm).

2) Make your bedroom as dark as possible – light can suppress the production of melatonin, which is needed to signal to your body that it is time to sleep.

3) Avoid sources of “blue” (short-wave) light for an hour before bed (this includes TV, computer screens and mobile phones!) – research has shown that blue light is the most melatonin suppressive. If you really can’t avoid using your laptop or smartphone before bed, you can download the f.lux app which gradually reduces the amount of blue light emitted by your screen throughout the day.

4) Exercise! The oft-quoted advice is to avoid exercising in the evening if you want a restful night’s sleep. However, exercise in the evening is likely to be better than no exercise at all. Yoga, pilates or a gentle walk would be ideal exercise before bed.

5) Address the stress in your life – constant worrying will keep the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol, high. Cortisol blocks the production of melatonin. Talk to someone, practice saying no, learn mindfulness or meditation, delegate some tasks – whatever works for you to bring your stress levels down.

6) Have a bath before bed – preferably with a cupful of Epsom Salts. Epsom Salts contain magnesium, which is well absorbed transdermally (through the skin). Magnesium acts as a relaxant, not just for your muscles, but for your nervous system too!

7) Balance your blood sugar throughout the day – this means minimising your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar. A blood sugar high is usually swiftly followed by a low, and this triggers your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline which will make you feel jittery and set your mind racing.

8) Have a cup of calming herbal tea in the evening – chamomile, lemon balm, valerian, passion flower and lavender are all good choices. Pop the saucer over the top of your cup while your tea is cooling down to prevent those precious essential oils escaping in the steam.

9) Eat plenty of foods rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which the body converts first to serotonin (which gives you a feeling of wellbeing), and then to melatonin. Good sources of tryptophan include turkey, chicken, brown rice, nuts, fish, milk, eggs, cheese and pumpkin seeds.

10) Drink your melatonin. Monterey cherry juice is naturally rich in melatonin and participants in a 2012 study given cherry juice concentrate slept better and for longer. Monterey cherry juice concentrate is available in health food shops.

Please do let me know what works for you!