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Nutrition Newsletter - October 2013

This month our nutritionist Anna's newsletter includes a super-easy chicken tagine recipe and snippets on keeping the skin young using herbs and spices and also a recent study shows healthy gut bacteria reduces your diabetes risk.

Herbs & spices keep your skin young
In my last newsletter I explained how eating a low GI diet helps you delay wrinkles and other age-related skin damage by inhibiting glycation.  Glycation is a destructive process whereby collagen and elastin (that keep the skin and bones supple) are damaged.  Now science also shows that eating herbs and spices in your everyday diet also impedes glycation.  In this particular study, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, black pepper, and rosemary were shown to be highly beneficial. There are now thousands of high quality research papers showing remarkable health benefits of spices and herbs.  Some easy ways to start boosting your intake are: add a teaspoon of cinnamon to your daily porridge or cereal, black pepper on meals, finely chopped rosemary or thyme in soups and bean salads, and plenty of fresh ginger and other spices in a Thai or Indian curry a few times a week.  Herbs and spices also help soothe and repair the digestive system, keep skin clear, lower inflammation, and keep your brain sharp. Read more

Healthy gut bacteria reduce your risk of diabetes 

A study published recently in Nature shows that having enough beneficial organisms living in your bowel helps protect you from diabetes.  Science already shows that beneficial bacteria help your body eliminate natural and man-made toxins such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs).   POPs directly increase risk of diabetes and hormone driven cancers (breast, prostate, etc).  This is probably why the beneficial bacteria help reduce diabetes risk - by helping clear both natural and man-made toxins.  Many of my clients have an imbalance in their gut bacteria because they eat a lot of grains or sugar, have taken antibiotics, or were not breastfed.  They often make amazing progress when they work to reduce pathogenic (“bad”) bacteria and encourage beneficial ones.  Using herbs and foods that kill “bad” bacteria and selectively encourage “good” ones works really well when you combine it with a healthy diet.  A healthy diet is low in carbohydrates and high in soluble fibre from greens, onions, pulses, oats and flax. Soluble fibre feeds beneficial bacteria. Read more

Eating fruit is better than drinking it

A recent article in the Irish Times ("Taking the rough with the smoothies, 14/9/13") neatly explained why eating fruit does you more good than either drinking fruit juice or smoothies.  It’s really to do with the amount of sugars your body has to process.  Fruit contains sugars, mainly fructose and glucose, as well as vitamins, minerals and healthy fibre.  If you juice fruit (removing the fibre) or blend it into a smoothie, you cause it to be digested really quickly.  This is bad news as it causes a huge sugar dump into the bloodstream, and afterward into the liver, where sugars are processed.  If you frequently consume a large amount of sugars all in one go, even from a “healthy” source, it means you are putting a strain on you liver and pancreas.  This puts you at increased risk of fatty liver and diabetes. Read more

My five top tips as regards fruit are:

  • Eat no more than 2-3 servings of fruit spread over the whole day   
  • Choose low-sugar fruit: berries, apples, plums, stone-fruits, crunchy pears
  • Buy organic if possible, because pesticide residues increase your risk of diabetes, cancer and Parkinson's
  • Enjoy whole fruit rather than drinking juices or smoothies.  If you want to drink the odd smoothie, aim for no more than a cupful of fruit and bulk up the rest with protein and good fats eg. ripe avocados, tinned coconut milk, natural yoghurt or seeds so as to prevent sugar surges.

Chicken Tagine (for 2)
Now the autumn chills are setting in this is a lovely slow-cooked recipe to warm you up.  It's richly-flavoured but really mild.  I usually serve this with some sort of steamed greens or a salad. To stretch things out a bit and save money adding cooked millet to soak up the juices is a winner.  For the full recipe, with photo, where to buy or how to make your own spice blend & preserved lemons or how to cook millet go to my

2 chicken breasts on the bone or chicken legs (organic if possible)
2 mugs (around 450ml) of leftover veg or chickpea cooking water, or water
300g small onions/large shallots (large onions will do if you can't get small)
1 mug home-cooked chickpeas (reserve the liquid) or 400g can of chickpeas
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly quartered or sliced
½ a medium size preserved lemon*, deseeded and roughly cut up into 8 pieces at a pinch you could use ½ a fresh lemon (skin and pith only).  Buy ready-made, or use the simple recipe in my blog at least 2 weeks in advance.
1 heaped teaspoon ras el hanout
Don't forget to consult the blog if unsure how to buy/make ras el hanout and preserved lemons. 

1. Put a heavy bottomed saucepan or cast iron pot on a medium heat to warm with the 2 mugfuls of stock or water.  Put the chicken legs or breasts at the bottom of the pot.  Peel and add the onions, ras al hanout, chickpeas, preserved lemon and garlic.  Put the lid on, give everything a gentle shake to mix everything up.  You want the water to almost cover everything.
2. Simmer gently for 1½ to 2 hours (stirring occasionally to coat everything in the liquid and spices) until the onions are translucent and the chicken is falling off the bone.  Serve with the greens/salad and, if you want, some millet. 

Why this is good for you:
Spices in the ras el hanout are a fantastic source of antioxidants to help your health.  Spices help reduce inflammation in the digestive system.  Research shows that spices also boost liver function and help keep your skin clear and young-looking.  Traditionally, Moroccan dishes are cooked on a low flame for a long time.  Modern, cheffy recipes telling you to brown the meat are neither authentic nor as healthy as the traditional ways.  Cooking foods at low temperature (stewing) rather than at high temperature (frying, roasting or grilling) is better because low temperatures produce far fewer damaging free radicals than high temperature cooking.  Fewer free radicals and more antioxidants from the spices means slowing down the ageing process, reducing the risk of chronic or life-threatening disease, and helping your heart.  Stewing meat on the bone releases substances into the food that help support collagen production.  This helps your digestive system repair itself and also helps maintain good firm skin and bones
as you go through life. 


For an appointment with Anna, contact The Littlejohn Centre on 01-4560300 or for more information see Anna's website

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