Articles

How Can I Start Eating More Healthy Snacks?

We’ve all been tempted by the snack section at the supermarket – shelf after shelf of crisps, biscuits and chocolate – stuffed with saturated fat, low on nutrition and completely catastrophic for our waistlines! So what’s the alternative?

In 2019, the UK’s savoury snack sector was valued at £3.2 billion, and crisps were responsible for about a third of this figure.[1] The NHS advises us to avoid fried snacks and opt instead for fruit and vegetable-based ones instead – they even have a page of snack ideas, based mainly around whole foods.[2]

But doesn’t eating between meals mean we’ll put on weight? Well, probably not, because it means we won’t be as hungry at our next meal, and this will lead to reduced calorie intake – and the authors of a report published in the British Journal of Nutrition discovered that the same amount of energy divided over three meals compared with two meals increased feelings of fullness over 24 hours.[3] So let’s take a deeper look at the ins and outs of good snacking….

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Should Seeds Be a Part Of My Diet?

Seeds are a wonderfully diverse and exciting group of ingredients. They provide lovely tastes and textures, and are equally at home in sweet or savoury dishes – but should we be eating more of them?

We’ve all probably had Sesame Seeds on the top of burger buns, and eaten bread full of Flax or Poppy Seeds, but seeds can be the main event too – for example the Middle Eastern sweet treat Halva, which is made mostly of sesame seeds, as is Tahini.

Vegan chefs are well aware of the magical properties of Flax and Chia seeds, which are both used to replace eggs in cakes and bakes. Seeds are also used to provide valuable levels of flavour to many dishes, including curries, where seeds such as Nigella (also called Black Onion or Kalonji), Fennel Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds and Mustard Seeds are used to lend nuance and depth to dishes across large parts of the planet.

So let’s take a closer look at whether we should be using more seeds….

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Why Should We Eat Nuts?

There’s a wonderful variety of nuts on offer these days – they’re one of the most popular snacks, and can also be used as ingredients in a huge amount of exciting recipes. But are they any good for you?

Vegans have embraced the wonderful possibilities of nuts as the base for many types of Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives, and many of us are aware of the extraordinary properties of Cashews, which can be soaked and whizzed up as an essential part of vegan cheese and sauces. It’s worth bearing in mind the difference between nuts as a botanical classification and nuts as a culturally-accepted term which also encompasses a wider range of drupes (such as Almonds), tubers (like Tiger Nuts and legumes (for example Peanuts).[1]

So let’s take a closer look at the constituents, uses and health benefits of nuts….

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How Can I Improve My Diet?

Britain has terrible eating habits. Compared to our European neighbours, we have the highest prevalence of adult obesity, the highest availability ultra-processed food, and the lowest availability of minimally or unprocessed food.[1] Someone dies of heart or circulatory disease every 3 minutes in the UK, and the majority of these deaths are diet-related, with only a third of us eating enough fruit & veg, two-thirds being overweight, and nearly a third of children having a body mass index defined as ‘obese’.[2]

It’s clear we have let big corporations dictate what we eat, rather than science. What ends up on the nation’s plates is largely the result of what will make the highest profit at the same time as hooking customers into repeat purchases by exploiting the hugely addictive power of calorie-dense, nutrient-light products. Over half of what we eat in the UK – 50.7% according to the now is ultra-processed junk.

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Slam-Dunk The Junk!

In June 2021, the UK government announced a ban on the advertising of junk food on television before 9pm, and a total ban online, to be in place by the year 2023. In July, the report they’d commissioned on the nation’s eating habits, The National Food Strategy, was published, and recommended a tax for sugar and salt sold for use in processed food. At Healthy Supplies, we welcome these moves – our children’s health is hugely important, and we need to normalise eating healthy, whole foods instead of promoting the fatty, salty, sugary foods that are leading to an increase in obesity. And with just 2.5% of total food and drink advertising spend going towards fruit and vegetables, this is something that’s long overdue.

However, the tide is against us: childhood obesity is increasing, especially in more deprived areas of the country, and the Covid pandemic has made this worse. After a 2018 visit to the UK, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, expressed great concern that “14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty”. Ultra-processed food has taken over our shopping trolleys, as Dr. Chris van Tulleken discovered in the recent BBC investigation What Are We Feeding Our Kids? Eating healthily has a reputation for being more expensive than eating junk food – but is this actually true? And how can we encourage kids to ditch the junk and take an interest in healthy eating?

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Great Food for Brain & Mood

The brain is an organ, and just like our heart, liver and lungs, it’s at its most efficient and powerful when we supply our bodies with the best nutrition possible. It’s the seat of consciousness, and controls our moods and all our functions, both voluntary and involuntary. It’s essential we look after our brains as they are what makes us who we are, and are the epicentre of all our learning, individuality and knowledge. As Thomas Edison said, ‘The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around’.

Poor diet has been shown to foster the environment for many degenerative chronic brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. An analysis of several research papers from 2012 concluded that obesity in midlife increases the risk of dementia by a whopping 90%.[1] Excess weight seems to be disastrous for our brain’s functioning power – medical research published in 2018 found that obese participants showed broad impairments in executive function, including task completion, cognitive flexibility, working memory, decision-making, verbal fluency and planning.[2] An article from 2015 in the scientific journal Ageing Research Reviews called ‘Does the brain shrink as the waist expands?’ found that heavier weights were associated with accelerated decline of the brain’s matter.[3] Many medical papers have shown that weight loss is associated with a big improvement in cognitive function.[4] Many medical studies have also concluded that healthy diet patterns are significantly associated with reduced odds of depression.[5] But are there any foods we can eat which are especially good for our brain and mood? Happily, yes! Here are some of our favourites….

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Here’s Why Xylitol Is Completely Awesome

Xylitol is commonly used as a healthier substitute for sugar. But what is Xylitol? How is it made, and is it really better for us? What exactly are the health benefits of Xylitol?

Xylitol is a white, crystalline powder, identical in appearance, sweetness and taste to normal refined white cane sugar. However, it has 240 calories per 100 grams, contrasting very favourably with the 387 calories found in the same amount of cane sugar. It was first discovered by Emil Fischer, a German chemist, in 1891. It rose to prominence again during the Second World War, when sugar was in short supply.

As more and more people are waking up to the health dangers of cane sugar, and as rates of type 2 diabetes soar to a level twice what it was in 1996, Xylitol has massively increased in popularity, to an extent where the global market is approaching a worth of $1 billion.

So join us as we take a closer look at some amazing Xylitol facts….

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Sprout for Victory!

You may have been to a fancy restaurant where meals have been served topped with a little tangle of colourful microgreens, very young plant shoots that have just emerged from their seeds. They certainly look great, but are they there just to make your meal more pretty, or is there any nutrition in them?

We’re very happy to say these eager little fast-growing sprouts are superstars when it comes to packing a nutritional punch. Dainty and delicately-flavoured they may be, but in terms of vitamins, minerals and all kinds of fantastically beneficial plant compounds, they’re hugely robust, and offer more goodness than the vast majority of plant foods.

So let’s take a closer look at the wonders of sprouting and investigate why everyone should get their own sprouting operation up and underway!

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What Is the Gut Microbiome, and How Can I Make It Work For Me?

There are bacteria living just about everywhere in our bodies – on the surface of our skin; in our ears, nose and mouth, and – in vast numbers – inside our digestive system. Many people might regard bacteria as dirty, and something we should rid ourselves of – but the ones in our gut actually work in harmony with us, and we couldn’t survive without the benefits they bring. They’re essential for a huge array of bodily processes connected with our health and wellbeing, including our happiness levels, our skin, our hormone balance, our energy levels and our immune system.

Each one of us has a complex, thriving microcosm of bacteria within our gut, and the happier they are, the happier and more healthy we are. For this reason, it’s important for us to foster the most favourable conditions we can for them, and this involves making sure we eat the things we know they like!

In recent years, research has uncovered increasing evidence that the bacteria that end up in our gut can be transferred to and from the people we spend our time with.[1] For this reason, it’s a good idea to ensure our nearest and dearest also eat a gut bacteria-friendly diet too! So let’s look at how we can create the finest conditions for a healthy, happy gut ecosystem….

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Get Your Monthly Cycle To Go Down A Gear

Period pain is crippling for many women. It can involve tummy cramps, pain in the back and thighs and intensely painful spasms. These can profoundly affect mood, and have a negative effect on family life and relationships. 90% of women report having painful menstrual cramps.[1] Researchers from the British Medical Journal found that menstrual cramps cause women to lose an average of 9 days’ productivity at work every year.[2]

During periods, the womb wall contracts vigorously so the lining can be shed. This puts pressure on the blood vessels surrounding the womb, which in turn cuts off the supply of oxygen-enriched blood momentarily, setting off a chain reaction causing womb tissue to release pain-triggering chemicals. Other chemicals called prostaglandins are also released, which cause the womb muscles to contract even more, which takes the pain level higher.

It’s important to have a supply of good sanitary towels – reusable ones are excellent – as well as mood-improvers such as some Essential Oils in an Oil Burner, some lovely crisps (Eat Real‘s range is good), and some good quality Dark Chocolate (which contains plant compounds that can also help the body form more nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow). Other popular options are having a relaxing massage or a long, luxurious soak in a hot bath, with some lovely bubblebath.

There are some lesser-known ways you can reduce the effects of period pain too, though – so let’s take a look at a few of these….

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