Eat yourself well: Five immune system boosters

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It’s definitely Winter. That means lots of sniffles, sneezles and wheezles as A.A. Milne once wrote. If you want to stop your sneezles turning into phleezles? Read on.

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  1. Vitamin C. Humans and guinea pigs are the only mammals which cannot synthesize their own Vitamin C. Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and since we cannot store it we need to take it on board daily to fight the attacks of viruses. Vitamin C needs to be taken in a consistent fashion though and when ingested daily it reduces inflammation in the body. Best sources – citrus fruits, red peppers, kiwi fruits and all berries are Vitamin C loaded.
  2. Vitamin E. This is a fat soluble vitamin which is absorbed into cell membranes to protect them from damage. It also is important if you are having vaccinations as it helps the immune system respond more efficiently to the injected virus. Best sources: Spinach, nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, plant oils and broccoli.
  3. Zinc. Diets low in zinc suffer compromised immune system functioning. Zinc supports the development of bacteria fighting white blood cells and can be particularly important for the elderly. best sources: Beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and lentils
  4. Beta-carotene. The orange colour of foods is attributable to beta-carotene but the orange colour is cleverly ‘hidden’ in foods rich in chlorophyll which is why leafy greens like spinach are less well known for their beta-carotene strength. Beta-carotene is not an essential nutrient in itself but it is converted into Vitamin A (retinol) in the body which is essential for healthy mucus membranes and a strong immune system. Best Sources: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and spinach.
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. They can protect the lungs from respiratory infections. Best Sources: flaxseeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon and oily fish like mackerel or herring.
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Recipe: Naturally Sweet Smug Muffins

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Naturally Sweet Smug Muffins

Naturally Sweet Smug Muffins

Ingredients

  • Wet ingredients
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 4 tbsp clear or runny honey
  • 150ml low-fat natural yogurt
  • 50ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 125ml pot of fruit puree (I use Aldi's baby food pots; apple, peach and apricot puree)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Dry ingredients
  • 200g wholemeal flour (you can use plain)
  • 50g rolled oats
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon
  • 100g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Topping
  • 2 tbsp milled seeds (I use Aldi's milled seed and dried fruit mixes)

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 180/160 fan/Gas 4
  2. Line a 12 muffin tin with muffin cases
  3. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a jug (refridgerate if making ahead)
  4. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (cover if making ahead)
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mix well but do not over mix as this will make the muffins 'heavy'
  6. Divide the mixture between the paper cases
  7. Sprinkle with seeds and extra oats if preferred
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean
  9. Leave to cool

Notes

Will keep for three or four days in a sealed container or freeze and warm through once defrosted but before serving

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http://www.thisisnotadiet.uk/2015/11/25/recipe-naturally-sweet-smug-muffins/

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Who is in control? Your chronic condition or you?

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The immune system underpins all health outcomes. We frequently bandy about the term “immune system” but do we really know what it is? Broadly speaking, it can be split into numerous sites and all components assist the body to fight bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites whilst also helping to prevent tumours. The white blood cells produced by bone marrow fight infection, lymphocytes are who-s-in-control-1550706-640x480immune system warrior white blood cells, including T and C cells, and are produced in the thymus, the spleen filters out invaders like bacteria or viruses and the lymph nodes, located round the body also filter out then attack foreign or unwanted bacteria and viruses.  Basically, the immune system produces antibodies (fighters) which attack the antigens (invaders). There is a lot more to the immune system than this but these are the key areas of immune functioning.

Put simply, the stronger the immune system is the more resilient the body is to illness, infection and disease progression. Irrespective of the condition, being in optimal health is beneficial.

A surprising number of common diseases are autoimmune. This means that the body has reacted against its own cells pathologically. Whilst boosting the immune system is unlikely to prevent a disease once it has become established, it can certainly help with the management of the condition in numerous ways. I’ve illustrated two examples of chronic condition management using foods with known immune system boosting properties.

Diabetes:

In Type 1 diabetes, the body has generated T cells which have killed off its own insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is different with inflammation in the body leading to a rise in cytokines and the increased inflammation causes fat cells to be less able to respond to insulin.

In both cases diabetes is a metabolic disorder which affects the ability of the body to use food for energy. One of the additional difficulties with diabetes is the elevated risk of infection and the prolonged recovery time which often occurs. Infection fighting foods can help protect the diabetic and these include garlic and onions which are key infection fighters. Vitamin C rich foods; citrus foods, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers, and kiwi fruits. Pro-biotic yoghurts (obviously avoid the high-sugar options), ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and mushrooms are known to have anti-viral properties.

Lung Conditions:

The bane of the chronic lung condition sufferer is often mucus. Mucus is a defence against toxins, bacteria and viruses and is designed to protect our bodies. In certain conditions, however mucus is over produced and can be problematic to expel from the body. If you start to notice excess mucus – there’s an ongoing attack and it’s time to take action. There is good news though, there are foods which help reduce mucus in the body and help fight any ensuing infection namely, onions, pineapples, honey, pumpkin seeds, grapefruit, ginger, cayenne pepper and agar. Onions can help attack inflammation and are useful in mucus reduction thus alleviating chronic airwave disorders. The bromelain in pineapple is also found in most throat lozenges and reduces throat mucus. Pumpkin seeds and honey both have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties offering a double whammy of mucus reducing power. Grapefruits contain salicylic acid, known for its antiseptic properties. Ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory powers and can help de-toxify the mucus load and cayenne pepper can help ‘flush’ mucus and phlegm expelling it from the body. Finally agar, which is a vegetarian gelatine alternative and made from seaweed and can actually dissolve phlegm!

Mucus sufferers should avoid dairy where possible and substitute calcium rich alternatives like soya, rice and nut milks. Drinking chamomile tea can reduce inflammation which often leads to excessive mucus production.

The Bottom Line: Doing something and being pro-active can reduce stress, increase feelings of self-efficacy and bring a sense of increased control to the chronic condition sufferer. All of these are psychological outcomes and all can impact positively upon a stronger immune system and improved health and wellbeing.

 

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Recipe: Lentil Bolognese

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Recipe: Lentil Bolognese

Recipe: Lentil Bolognese

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100g red lentils
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Chop the onion and celery
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and celery and fry for about 10 minutes until soft
  3. Grate the carrots and add to the pan, followed by the tomatoes, lentils and stock
  4. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 40 minutes until the lentils are soft and have absorbed the liquid
  5. Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Notes

Serve with pasta, jacket potatoes or as a filling for stuffed vegetables. Freezes well.

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http://www.thisisnotadiet.uk/2015/11/13/recipe-lentil-bolognese/

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Think Shrink!

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So I have a return of my tumour and, because of various difficulties with biopsies, we do not know the status of the tumour unless he is removed, other than gauging size change by MRI scanning from a baseline scan. Seems he really likes me, however, and wants to stay around. I’m a lot less keen on him and, with the Doctor’s blessing, am trying to shrink him down to size!

Fact is, the immune system underpins all health outcomes. Immunologists study the link between the immune system and cancerous cells and whilst this is a less common or well known branch of cancer research, the results can be really encouraging. Immunoediting is the process by which cancer growth can be altered, slowed or protected against, using the body’s own immune system. The immune system is hugely complex and I can’t pretend to know a fraction of the processes involved. I do know that researchers are hopeful that this can be a viable method to protect against tumour development.

Could our own immune health really be the elusive cure for cancer we all dream about?

Maybe not in all cases but just maybe the foods we eat contain the vital ingredients which can fight cancer. If we give them a chance. Serious journals like nature are reporting foods with anti-cancer agents.  Here the language gets very scientific. Some foods are thought to be metatastic blockers. These work epigenetically. This means, the foods work with the body at a genetic level to stop the metastsis gene from allowing the cells to multiply. More info can be found here.

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What to eat: leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, celery, parsley, asparagus, tomatoes, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, leeks, shallots, mushrooms, lentils, peppers, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, apples, berries (especially blueberries), pomegranates, mango and tangerines.

So why aren’t we all eating them daily? All of the listed foods are delicious, healthy and produce an alkaline environment in the body. There is substantial research to support the idea that diseases do not flourish in alkaline environments. An interesting review of the role alkaline diets an play in disease progression can be found here.

So why isn’t this message being promoted more thoroughly? There is no risk involved to switching to a plant rich diet? There is no cost? There is no potential damage? Why isn’t it being promoted? Because there is no money to be made from it! No company will get rich urging you to eat your greens. Cancer research funding is focussed upon mega-rich pharmaceutical companies who often then sell the drugs back to the system at great profit.

Why have treatment as the ‘only’ option for cancer if we can protect and prevent to a large extent using simple foods?

Will my plant-rich, animal-free, non-sugar, caffeine and alcohol restricted diet reduce the size of my tumour? I do not know but I’d rather try to positively impact upon my own health rather than passively accept fate. Other people can make their own decisions based upon their own beliefs. I cannot say mine is the right approach but it’s certainly right for me!!

 

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Recipe: Moroccan Spiced Stew with Cauliflower Couscous

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Moroccan Spiced Stew with Cauliflower Couscous

Moroccan Spiced Stew with Cauliflower Couscous

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Harissa or Ras el Hanout paste
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 400g chickpeas
  • 2 x 400g cherry tomatoes
  • 150ml vegetable bouillon
  • 2 courgettes, diced
  • bag of baby spinach
  • handful of chopped coriander

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large, wide pan
  2. Fry the onion and garlic for 7-8 minutes or until turning golden
  3. Add the spice paste and ground coriander
  4. Add the stock and chickpeas, stirring well
  5. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes
  6. Mash half the chickpeas into the sauce to thicken
  7. Add courgettes and tinned tomatoes
  8. Cook for 10 more minutes until courgettes have softened but retained their shape
  9. Add the spinach and coriander leaves, allowing time for it to wilt
  10. Take off heat for a few moments before serving.

Notes

Cauliflower couscous

Break a large cauliflower into florets and rinse Blend in a food processor until it resembles couscous Heat a large frying pan to a high temperature, add olive oil and toss in the cauliflower in the hot oil for 3-5 minuts. It should cook very quickly, add the juice of half a lemon and some chopped coriander, season and serve.

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http://www.thisisnotadiet.uk/2015/11/06/recipe-moroccan-spiced-stew-with-cauliflower-couscous/

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Ban Plus Sized Models!

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Why is a plus sized model a plus sized model? Why is there a separate category for ‘plus’ sizes? The only other model categories which spring to mind are: male model and perhaps child model or supermodel. We don’t differentiate models along lines of race, colour or religious beliefs. We don’t have a separate category for black models or Jewish models or any other commonly applied category distinction, so why by their size and/or weight?

Isn’t the very term ‘plus sized’ rather sizeist?

The models are still beautiful. They still look marvellous in their photographs so why the distinction?

I suppose it feeds into the Westernised concept of beauty and fashion. Slender thin and willowy. The very term plus sized indicates that the model is additional to society’s standards in terms of their weight. We don’t say minus models for those who model petite lines? For me, the very idea of plus sized indicates that there is a standard or accepted size for a model. Limited at probably about 8 or 9 stone, above that is ‘plus’. Perhaps the models who are referred to thus have no issue with it, perhaps it’s only hyper-critical types like me who see a problem but I find it a derogatory term. Why can’t they just be models?

Furthermore, many successful ‘plus models’ are only a UK size 12 or 14. Isn’t that actually the ‘norm’ for ladies dress sizes in the UK? Does that mean that we should start referring to the majority of the adult female population as ‘plus sized’ and if they are the majority why are they ‘plus’? Plus what? It makes no sense!

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Of course, our attitudes to beauty correlate with food availability. When food is plentiful we tend to hold thinner people in esteem, when food sources are scarce, people carrying more weight are considered more beautiful. Which is a bit tricky. We live in an obesogenic environment, fat and sugar rich foods are readily available and often the most advertised foods. In such an environment it is easy to gain substantial weight. Conversely, as more of the population gain weight, demand grows for clothing sizes over size 12. Ergo we are likely to have more ‘plus sized’ models to advertise the lucrative and growing clothing market for those UK size 12/14 upwards and the standard model Uk size 4/6/8 becomes rarer.

My point? If the majority of British women are over size 12 and according to a YouGov poll in 2013, the ‘ideal’ size is thought to be around a 12 whilst the average dress size is around a 16 why are we labelling plus sized models? They’re actually not ‘plus’ anything. They are the norm and maybe if we stopped categorising people by their weight, perhaps we could get to a point where the average woman could feel confident in their own size, whatever that size is and without comparison to a model size which, for most, is completely unobtainable!

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Recipe: Bonfire Beans

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Bonfire Beans

Bonfire Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp of sun-dried tomato paste (or some sun-dried tomatoes blended down or, indeed, standard tomato paste if that's all you have)
  • 300g cherry tomatoes
  • a 400g can of borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
  • 150g fine green beans, chopped into quarter lengths
  • 300ml vegetable stock or bouillon
  • Vegan cheese either grated or cut into fine strips
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 25g pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan
  2. Add the chopped onion and fry for 5 minutes or until golden
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute
  4. Preheat the oven to 200/180 fan/Gas 6
  5. Add the tomato paste, the cherry tomatoes, both beans, and the vegetable stock, season
  6. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes
  7. In a bowl, mix the cheese with the chilli and the pumpkin seeds
  8. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or individual oven-proof dishes or cups and sprinkle over the cheese, chilli and seed topping
  9. Will serve 4-6 people easily. (Can also be made in one larger dish, a small casserole dish for example but may take longer to cook)
  10. Place the ramekins upon a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and bubbling on top
  11. Serve on a saucer or side plate with a teaspoon

Notes

When she knew I was doing this blog, one of my eldest's friends asked if I'd be posting this recipe. She had bonfire beans at my house a whole four years ago and has remembered them since! I really hope these live up to her expectations and her memory!

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http://www.thisisnotadiet.uk/2015/11/03/recipe-bonfire-beans/

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Aloe aloe. What have we here?

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So the last 24 hours have been ‘interesting’.

One of my earlier blogs which disparaged a popular cleanse brand generated a bit of consternation. To put it mildly.

A while back I approached a FB friend who was posting before and after pictures in an effort to sell an expensive cleanse programme. I felt that this was irresponsible marketing and I told her about my concerns. I explained, politely, that showing normal tummies and then offering a ‘fix’ can lead to people being dissatisfied with their bodies and can be viewed as ‘thinspiration’ or body shaming. Leading people to feel ashamed of their normal tummies compared to some which are less than normal. Most women do not have perfectly flat, trim or toned tummies. Lots do but statistics on obesity would indicate that there are less and less of the trim toned types out there.

I highlighted these images, taken from publically shared marketing pages to exemplify my point and I commented that the weight loss was so dramatic in only 9 days that it was potentially neither safe nor sustainable.

These ‘cleanses’ or ‘detoxes’ or herbal type meal supplements typically create a calorie deficit.

This leads to stored glycogen being utilised and the storage carrier for stored glycogen is water. That’s why people seem to lose weight fast. Water isn’t weight though. Some actual tissues will also be lost, muscle and fats but the rapid loss is mostly water. The safe, recommended weight loss is only 2lb per week. I’ve seen people claiming to lose half a stone in a few days, way above what is recommended to be safe.

The issue here is that such rapid weight loss impacts negatively upon your metabolism and can have lasting detrimental effects.

You can’t switch your metabolism on and off, you can’t have a metabolic functioning holiday while you are undergoing a calorie deficit. Your body wants to protect you and, as a result of the cleanse/fast, your body will simply be more likely to store fat when ‘normal’ eating is resumed.

Turns out that the bodies I shared are known and the bodies owners contacted me accusing me of theft of images and property and demanding their removal. Of course, my intention was never to personalise nor to offend and I have removed the images immediately. I made no negative comment about the bodies, purely the extent of the weight loss. Unfortunately, I have now been personally attacked on my private FB – seems it’s ok for someone to divulge my personal details but not for me to share an already public domain image. I have been called “scorned, bitter, heartless, angry and full of rage” and “uneducated”. I have been told I have no knowledge, no quality of information, no right to criticise, no need to make comments and some of this on my personal FB account not my Thisisnotadiet FB account. There is no link between the two pages. How did my personal details become public knowledge? It also transpires that I am “well known” in their community of aloe brand selling (there are actually several MLM – multi level marketing aloe brands out there). That I’ve ‘done this before’. Except I haven’t. I had a nice polite concerned chat with a friend once. Obviously I cannot prove where the leak of my personal details originated, nor would I accuse but I am a bit suspicious. And it’s not awfully pleasant to have been targeted in this way. I’m a big girl though 🙂

So what have I learned?

  1. Don’t share an image that is not my own or free stock.
  2. Be very wary of the strategies of some MLM companies.

Most importantly, when I asked the following questions I was either attacked personally or advised there wasn’t any point (meaning, I suspect, they haven’t got the required information to hand).

You have the choice to follow one of these plans if you wish. If you do, ask the following questions:

  1. Is there scientific, peer-reviewed, clinical evidence base which has no funding conflict of interest? Is it published in a respected journal?
  2. Is there evidence that the product, aloe vera for example, can actually assist in a cleanse process or is it a gimmick?
  3. Which organs are being cleansed and how?
  4. Will there be a calorie deficit and, if so, how will the metabolic rate be protected?
  5. Are blood sugar levels held constant, how?

I’m still waiting for any sort of answer.

When I designed my pseudo-cleanse, I took a great deal of data on board, I did my research. I evaluated and critiqued. It’s what us ‘uneducated’ science types are trained to do…

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