My Healthy Snack of the Week – almonds

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I don’t know about you, but I’m desperately craving some sunshine and warmth.  As I don’t think I will be getting these anytime soon, I thought I would cheer myself up with some Californian Almonds instead.

These little power houses provide:-

  • Thiamine which helps support heart function
  • Linoleic acid to help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels.
  • Unsaturated ‘good’ fats which also help blood cholesterol levels
  • Riboflavin and zinc which help maintain healthy skin – get the glow!
  • Magnesium, thiamine, niacin and folate which all help maintain the nervous system and brain function, and
  • Iron which reduces tiredness and fatigue

About 23 almonds = 160 calories.  As almonds do contain fats, they are quite calorie dense so don’t have too many if you are watching your weight.

I really enjoy a handful of almonds with a cup of green tea when I hit the mid afternoon slump at 3pm.  Give them a try and let me know what you think of them.

 

Source: http://www.almonds.co.uk

 

My Healthy Snack of the Week – Dried Figs

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myhealthysnacksdriedfigsSo – Dried figs.  Yes, I know, they don’t look that appetising but if you give them a try I think you’ll be surprised.  Just remove the little knobbly stem bit and bite in.  They’re actually very squashy and juicy, with a little bit of texture from the tiny seeds in the middle.  They go surprising well with a cup of coffee so you can imagine you are in a Turkish café or something.

So why are they good for you?

  1. They’re packed with IRON, which is great if you’re a vegetarian and need to find some extra sources of iron.  Even if you’re a meat eater, many people suffer from fatigue and lack of energy,  which is a common symptom of  low iron levels.
  2. They’re a great source of POTASSIUM.  Potassium helps to restore the balance in the body of too much salt and it helps to lower your blood pressure.
  3. They’re a good source of CALCIUM – which is helpful for people who don’t eat dairy.  Figs can also help keep bones strong by reducing the loss of calcium excreted when you have a wee!.
  4. Excitingly they also provide a source of COPPER.  Research from the University of California suggests that copper is essential for breaking down fat cells to be used for energy.  The more copper there is available to the body, the more fat metabolism can take place.  Copper is also needed to form red blood cells, absorb iron, develop connective tissues and help the immune system -important at this time of year!.

Make sure you buy the ready to eat packs of dried figs and not the sort used for cooking and baking.  Alternatively, you could give fresh figs a go.

Tell me in the comments below what you think of them when you’ve given them a try.

 

Sources: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/copper-key-burning-fat

http://www.healthy-magazine.co.uk

 

My Healthy Snack of the Week – Plums

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As the winter nights draw in there’s something very appealing about the deep, rich purple of plums, making them perfect for My Snack of the Week.

So, how are they good for you? plums

  1. They’re low in calories and contain no saturated fats.
  2. They contain iron which is good for red blood cell formation.  This is important to keep your energy levels up.
  3. They contain potassium which helps control your heart rate and blood pressure.  This can reduce your risk of stroke.
  4. The reddish blue pigment (anthocyanins) can help reduce free radical damage in cells, protecting against cancer.
  5. Plums have a low glycaemic index which helps control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  6. They help relieve constipation (think prunes!) as they are a good source of fibre.
  7. They contain Vitamin A and beta-carotene (especially the yellow varieties) which are good for eyesight and skin.

Enjoy one or two plums along with your morning coffee or afternoon tea to give your body a nutritional boost.

Sources: http://www.care2.com,   http://www.nutrition-and-you.com

A word of warning: In my research I found a note suggesting people with a history of kidney stones should avoid eating plums – so check with your doctor.

My Healthy Snack of the Week

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pumpkin seeds

 

As it’s Halloween Week then of course it should be pumpkin seeds!

These little green pips are full of nutritional goodness, packing a power house punch to your snack break.

The green seeds you can see in the photo are the raw, shelled commercial version compared to the larger, white seeds you may have scraped out of your pumpkin for Halloween.

Each seed is packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that fight free radical damage in cells.

So how can pumpkin seeds help you?

  1. They’re high in zinc –  Zinc helps provide healthy brain function, aids fertility, DNA replication and is a critical nutrient for cell function.
  2. They’re high in manganese – Manganese helps provide energy and protects your cells from stress.
  3. They contain phosphorus – Phosphorus helps the body make healthy bones and teeth.
  4. They contain magnesium – Magnesium supports a healthy nervous system.
  5. They contain copper – Copper helps the bodies’ immune system and provides healthy skin and hair.

Now, if you check out the calories and nutritional information label on the packet you may be a bit surprised to find that pumpkin seeds are quite high in calories.  This is because they are dense in protein and fats.  However, the fats they contain are actually beneficial and not to be avoided.  If you are calorie counting for weight loss though, just be aware of your portion size.  The fats they contain are mainly mono-unsaturated fatty acids or “good fats”.  These fats help to lower the bad LDL cholesterol  and increase your good HDL cholesterol.  This all means that they can help prevent coronary artery disease and stroke risk.

How best to use pumpkin seeds?

Well, I like mine sprinkled over yogurt and fruit for breakfast.  You could also sprinkle them over a salad, porridge, granola or just enjoy them as a little handful on their own.  You can also bake them into healthy muffins and cakes.

Enjoy!

Avoid giving pumpkin seeds to small children as they could be a choking hazard.

Sources: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com, http://www.blog.graze.com

Perranporth Beach alters the mind!

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IMG_2346Recently, we took a family day out to Cornwall, primarily to view a university for Son No.1.  After doing the necessary business of tours and lectures, we still had the afternoon free.  A quick look at the map helped us decide to pop into Perranporth Beach.  At first glance, I thought it was just a typical sandy beach, much like the ones we usually visit in North Devon.  However, after a bit of exploring we came across some fantastic caves, tunnels (with grates across them) and rock archways with deep rock pools beneath.  It was all very Rupert Bear/Enid Blyton and the kids had a fantastic time.  Well, in fact, we all had a fantastic time.  Son No 1 had just finished his AS exams, so since March there has been strict revision timetables and intense nagging going on, which turns out to be quite stressful to parents, let alone the kids doing the exams.  The mental benefits of an afternoon on the beach soon became apparent.

Whilst the environments of beaches, waterfalls and mountains are invigorating in themselves, science has found that these natural environments also produce negative ions in the air. Negative ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. Yes, I know it’s very “science-y” – but these negative ions produce biochemical reactions on the body which increases the release of Serotonin – the feel good hormone.  Serotonin helps to relieve stress, depression and increase levels of energy.  That’s why that walk along the beach makes you feel so much calmer and relaxed.

Other research suggests that the sound of the waves on the beach can alter human brain waves, invoking feelings of relaxation. Although, I guess they need to be calm wave patterns and not stormy, crashing waves!.

If you have a paddle or swim in the sea then the salty water should help your body maintain it’s levels of tryptamine, serotonin and melatonin.  These hormones all have a positive effect on your mental outlook.

So, overall a day at the beach has wonderful benefits for helping to calm and relax the mind and body and we as a family certainly discovered this magic at Perranporth Beach.

Let me know in the comments where your favourite beach is for de-stressing with the family and why.

Notes of interest: Apparently the cliffs at Perranporth are full of smugglers caves and tin mine tunnels which aren’t always safe, so take care and watch out for the tide (more info at www.perranporthinfo.co.uk)