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.


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


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

The Truth About Healthy Eating – Does Healthy mean Expensive?

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healthy eating

Did you get to see The Truth About Healthy Eating on the BBC with Fiona Phillips?  I thought it raised some interesting points about whether healthy eating needs to be expensive.  We all get fooled by marketing hype into thinking a particular food will do us good but it this true?


Firstly, Fiona compared the nutritional value of “superfoods” to ordinary supermarket staples.  The results were that highly expensive goji berries had the same levels of Vitamin C as fresh strawberries (which I prefer), pearl barley and quinoa had no major difference in their release of energy, coconut oil and rapeseed oil had the same properties, as did cabbage compared to kale.

So basically, none of us should fall for the marketing and advertising hype of food companies naming products as “superfoods”.  Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive.  Supermarket basics and local fresh produce can provide all the nutritional goodness that the body needs through a balanced diet.

Are supplements a waste of money?

The programme also examined whether there was actually any scientific benefit from taking supplements i.e. multivitamins etc.  The programme’s test results failed to find any significant difference in Fiona’s blood results after two weeks of maximum supplement intake. The scientist involved even suggested that for some people it can be harmful to take supplements.  Personally, I have always wondered whether popping a few pills can really make up for a diet lacking in nutrients.  The body processes nutrients in a very complicated way. Often one nutrient can only be absorbed or work effectively if it is eaten at the same time as another nutrient.  In my opinion, the cost of purchasing supplements would be better spent on fresh fruit and vegetables.

Can Smoothies give you a boost?

The hype around high antioxidant smoothies was also tested in the programme.  Unfortunately, the results weren’t favourable for this expensive healthy boost either.  The body likes to keep itself in balance, so it will only utilise a small amount of antioxidants and ditch the excess.  Whilst I can understand that drinking smoothies excessively could be a waste of money, I still think that if you aren’t good at getting your five a day, then at least one smoothie a day will offer you some nutritional benefit.  Perhaps the body just doesn’t absorb the nutrients in liquid form in the same way as when they are whole fruit or vegetables.  Could these be higher in fibre and therefore pass through the intestine slower?  Any nutritional scientists out there who can answer that question?

Detox Diets

Lastly, the programme tested whether detox diets provided any health benefits.  It turned out that the students who just ate a balanced diet* showed much better liver, heart and weight levels at the end of the test than those who did the detox diet.  Again, fancy detox supplements and foods appeared to have no real value.

So overall, I think the programme was very effective at pointing out that a balanced diet has far more benefits than supplements, detoxing and stocking up on “superfoods”, which are all extremely expensive.  Healthy eating shouldn’t cost more, so don’t be fooled by the marketing hype.

Go eat your VEG!

*the programme’s balanced diet included meat/fish, pasta/rice, fruit/veg, eggs/dairy, wholemeal bread and small amounts of coffee and alcoholic drinks – sounds good to me!