Incredibly, mushrooms constitute approximately 14,000 different plant species. This beneficial fungus is high in selenium, copper and vitamin B, so important in treating and managing stress, exhaustion and chronic fatigue. But mushrooms (shitake, reishi and others) have been used medicinally in Asia for centuries to support the liver, to boost immunity and for their anti-inflammatory properties. More commonly known in the West, the button, white, chestnut and Portobello mushrooms also have health benefits.
Shitake, otherwise known as the ‘king of medicinal mushrooms’, is truly versatile. It is widely acknowledged in hepatic health as supporting liver function and protecting the liver. The liver processes and filters all the body’s blood. It works hard to detoxify. This impacts on inflammation (and its movement as vs. being stored in joints) throughout the body. It is now being used in the treatment of arthritis, gout and rheumatism. Given its impact on inflammation its not surprising that it also supports vascular health and circulation. It is high in vitamin B, so important to adrenal function and a healthy metabolism. As mentioned above, vitamin B is also used to treat exhaustion, chronic fatigue and stress related illnesses.
Does it get any better? Yes it does. The Reishi mushroom is beautifully named ‘the mushroom of eternal life’. This is primarily because it regenerates and detoxifies the liver. Consequently, a healthy liver produces well-filtered blood, which is re-circulated through the system. The Reishi supports immune health and is particularly affective against viral infections such as herpes. Used in Asian and Western societies as an anti-inflammatory, it inhibits histamine production and is used in the treatment of mucosal and skin allergies. Benefits have also been seen in cases of fibromyalgia.
While shitake and reishi mushrooms need to be sourced from specialty shops (sometimes dried or in powdered/capsule forms), the mushrooms that we are most familiar with - button, white, oyster, chestnut and Portobello, also come with their health benefits. Like their Asian counterparts they are high in vitamin B, used in stress and exhaustion, as well as adrenal and thyroid health. They have a balanced and equal amount of copper and selenium and a good amount of potassium per 100 gram serving. They are a good protein source (particularly for vegetarians and vegans) and are high in dietary fibre, always great for bowel health. Oyster mushrooms are anti-inflammatory and reduce joint pain and muscle fatigue. They are high in iron and useful in cases of anemia. Button mushrooms are proving effective with hormonal rebalancing and may prevent hormone-influenced cancers as estrogen blockers.
Mushrooms of all fungal types absorb ultra violet light from the sun and store it as vitamin D, specifically vitamin D2, D3 (best used by us) and D4. Consumed, we can then utilize this vitamin D helping with mood balance, bone density loss and lower the risk of heart disease. Put your mushrooms on a sunny windowsill before eating them.
Mushrooms have been used to treat cancer in China for centuries and are becoming more acceptable here for the same use. Used in conjunction with cancer treatments, as preventative cancer medicine or as a stand-alone option, mushrooms are considered an ‘anti-cancer food’. This means certain mushrooms can inhibit tumour formation, protect DNA and stop cell mutation. For more information, please consult a practitioner.
The mushroom IS a beneficial fungus; it tastes great and can act as preventative medicine and natural medicine to secure our optimal health. It’s an easy fungal win/win.
Do you remember the children’s rainbow acronym, ‘ROY G. BIV’? Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet – the seven colours of the rainbow, the seven-chakra points of the body and the seven different colour’s of our food. I love it when Nature’s voice is heard so clearly.
Like a rainbow, colours are considered by many as 'frequencies of light and energy' and as such hold individual vibrations. As energetic beings we respond to colours, some more positively than others, during different seasons and different times of our lives. This is beautifully outlined by the Indian chakra system (Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism). Scientifically, colour influences our moods and emotions via the hypothalamus, which in turn affects the pituitary gland and therefore the whole endocrine (hormonal) system. For example, visually we can feel better wearing one colour more than another - I love wearing pink, red and orange. We can also, consciously and/or unconsciously choose food based on colour. Green and red colours are the most popular food choices and the most abundantly found in nature. However, less naturally occurring are blue and purple foods.
Young children are excellent at expressing their food choices through colour – “I want to eat … red”. Hearing this out of the ‘blue’ can mean anything to an adult from tomatoes to cherries, but to a small child it has an intuitive connection to how they’re feeling or want to feel. RED produce is packed with potassium, magnesium, sodium and vitamins A & C. A snack of red pepper, cherry tomatoes, red apple slices and strawberries and you’ve met their request AND given them a bowl full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Beetroot, the richest of red colours is great for the blood and evidence suggests useful for heart health. Red is the colour of the root chakra and symbolizes safety, grounding and nourishment, a lovely connection to the blood running through our veins, moving and removing products as necessary. It is considered to be very earthy, by name (root chakra) and nature. Red colour is also an appetite stimulant to the brain, Christmas over indulgence springs to mind.
For me, rich ORANGE brings connotations of sweet potato and turmeric soup, a bowl of liquid sunset. Both warming and nourishing in the colder weather, and easy on the digestive system. Orange is the colour of the sacral chakra, which is positioned over the abdomen. It is associated with creativity and emotions. We have so many sayings associated with this area – “my gut instinct” or “gut wrenching”, with deep sadness. Orange vegetables, carrots, squash, pumpkin and all the orange citrus fruits, are full of vitamins B and C, for immune health, beta-carotene (and therefore vitamin A) and antioxidants. The squash and pumpkin family also have good levels of Omega 3 and 6 important to the cell membrane and reparation. As the whole vegetable and fruit they are also fibrous, all of the above supports the digestive tract of which the second chakra sits.
YELLOW is a happy colour and immediately the joy of buttery corn on the cob comes to mind. Yellow citrus (lemons and grapefruit), yellow peppers and corgettes have a high quota of a vitamin C. The solar plexus, under the rib cage and over the stomach, resonates yellow. It is connected to intellect, mental activity and will power – “I can/can’t stomach it” comes to mind in a difficult situation. Lemons are also alkalizers for the body and nowhere are more acidic than the stomach.
The heart chakra is GREEN and harmonizes with love, relating, integrating and compassion. Magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, vitamin A, B, C, K and iron rich GREEN leafy vegetables are available all year round. We associate green produce with being fresh, healthy and good for us. It is the most abundant colour of vegetables and fruit available and they are high in soluble and insoluble fibre ‘green means GO’ for most people – energetically and digestively. The alkalizing ability of green vegetables helps to balance pH levels within the body and therefore moves toxins out through proper elimination routes. Generally slightly bitter or tangy, green fruit (kiwi fruit, granny smith apples and green grapes) and vegetables support the digestive process from mouth salivation through to alkalizing stomach acid and encouraging a healthy gut and ‘exit’.
Interestingly, BLUE and INDIGO vegetables are rare. Seaweeds with their blue shades are high in iodine for thyroid support. The throat chakra is positioned above the thyroid and is connected to the colour blue. The throat chakra holds the meanings of communication and self-expression. The third eye or sixth chakra is INDIGO meaning intuition and extra perception. Fruit that I would classify as indigo coloured are far more available than vegetables. Blueberries, plums, black grapes and blackberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamins C and K and manganese. (NB: Human perception, and often rightly, is quick to associate food that is blue or black as having spoilt or gone off).
VIOLET/WHITE foods are high in flavonoids and antioxidants like aubergines, purple carrots, purple broccoli, onions, garlic and cauliflower. The seventh chakra or the crown chakra connects us with the concepts of spirituality and consciousness. While a lot of violet foods are newer to our food group, white fruit and vegetables are not. - the old and the new coming together to feed us.
This is a brief touch on colour and foods connecting both to chakra points. Gripping to me is how the microcosm can be connected to the macrocosm. We are part of a bigger picture and yet are the bigger picture. We know to eat a rainbow of foods; can we eat seven different colours a day? Colours are highly emotive on many levels and are integrated with our senses and sense of self. Take note of the food colours you choose and why – how do they make you feel? Light, nourished, grounded, energized? Colour Therapy recognizes that each colour has a vibration, a musical note, a chakra point and a healing quality. Imagine mindfully consuming food for its colour AND it’s antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and fibre? Give it ago there is healthy gold at the end of this rainbow.
A huge volume of micro-minerals and vitamins stored by the plant!
I love the synergy of vegetables and fruit. By this, I mean the skin, seeds, flesh and all. The pumpkin and squash family show this beautifully. Roasted pumpkin in its skin is tasty and full of textures. Roasted pumpkin seeds added as a snack or on a salad are delicious and BINGO the whole vegetable has been consumed with all of its nutritional benefits – zinc, beta-carotene and omega 6.
Seeds can be likened to a power pack! Singularly, a seed has produced a plant, a flower, a specific vegetable and therefore more seeds (for the next generation of plant or our consumption). The flesh is fibrous, flavoursome and nutritious. And the skin, this is where we see Clever Food - just under the skin a majority of nutrients and photo-chemicals are stored.
Potatoes and their skins are another great example of how consuming the entire vegetable can give us so much more (and reduce household waste). The skin (and just under it) is rich in zinc, soluble fibre, vitamin C, potassium, iron and zinc. A quick nutritional win is to roast, mash, stuff, chip or wedge your potatoes with skins and eat. The same can be said about eating the stalk of the broccoli as well as the florets. The leafy surrounds of the cauliflower and carrot stalks. Chopped finely these last two can be mashed or added to a curry, soup or casserole etc.
As we can see, Nature has provided us with food that harnesses the nutrients from the soil, the weather and the water it is fed – The slogan, ‘Food is what It eats’ springs to mind. If we grow produce in an organic, magnesium rich soil we will produce organic, magnesium rich food. And the opposite is also correct. If we harvest fruit and vegetables from a soil conditioned with commercial fertilizers and pesticides they too will be rich with these chemicals.
There is some common sense to this for example, grated citrus rind is fabulous for flavouring but difficult to consume otherwise.
So, how best to eat our produce.
If it’s organic, eat it all (or as much as possible).
If its not organic, peel it (by removing the skin, we also remove some of the stored chemicals).
If its soft fruit or vegetables like strawberries, blueberries, grapes, stone-fruit and mushrooms, eat organic.
Nature provides whole food, it depends what we do with it as to whether we eat whole food.
With the onset of Spring, our spirits lift and things ‘seem a little brighter’ and they really are. In September, I wrote about the Autumn Equinox and the energetic changes most people feel - a contraction of energy and the need to hibernate and to be snug at home. With the Spring Equinox on Monday, the (20th March 2017), this energy has changed direction! It’s started moving up the chest and over the head and shoulders and down the back giving us the feeling of expansion (and often relief that winter has passed). This shift welcomes a feeling of POTENTIAL in daily life and optimism as our days are longer and we are full of new ideas – lets take up a hobby, start an evening class or sport, catch up with friends, possibly move house or change job, book that adventure destination – that fabulous Spring feeling.
Spring (the Chinese Wood Element) is associated with green colour and resonates with sour and tangy foods. These cleanse the palate and are readily available. Spring brings a bounty of vegetables, which are light in texture, grown above ground (thus harnessing the energy of the sun), full of chlorophyll and a rainbow of colours. Instead of our heavier and nourishing winter casseroles and soups our bodies and taste buds opt for lighter food such as leafy salads, vegetable croudites, spirilized corgettie and quick stir-fries. To nourish seasonally reconnects us to the rhythms of the earth. Despite busy lives and long working days, this is a simple way to regroup and feel better in ourselves.
The adage, ‘a spring clean’ doesn’t just refer to the house, but also ourselves. Many people come into Spring and quickly catch a cold or have a cough that will not budge. Skin complaints can flare up or feelings of sluggishness and being unhappy can be difficult to move. This is all associated with the body undertaking a natural detoxification. Moving out sluggish winter mucus and stagnant lymph via the lungs, the skin and the gastro-intestinal tract. The organs associated with Spring are the liver and gall bladder and after a winter of contracted energy, these can be overloaded causing health and emotional flare-ups in unexpected parts of the body and feelings. If these sound familiar seek advice from a Nutritional Therapist.
Great spring and early summer vegetables to watch out for and there benefits are;
Asparagus contains more folic acid than any other vegetable. It’s a good source of fibre, potassium, vitamins A and C and glutathione.
Beetroot loves the liver and kidneys. It is high in manganese, potassium and vitamin C. A great supporting food to ward of the colds and coughs of Spring while also supporting the liver and kidneys while it naturally detoxs.
Broccoli is flavonoid rich and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is high in vitamins C, A and K. Unsurprisingly it also helps the body to detox with a specific combination of phytonutrients. It is a super food of the first order!
Purple sprouting broccoli contains vitamins C and A and is a source of caretenoids, iron, folic acid, calcium and fibre. The photochemical sulphoraphane is thought key in cancer prevention and a resistance to heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
Fennel aids digestion and is high in iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and Vitamin K. A great immune boaster and good for bone health.
New potatoes are sources and vitamin C.
Radishes are considered to be another cancer deterrent and have significant levels of vitamin C.
Spinach is full of vitamins A and C and folic acid. It’s also high in iron and calcium.
Spring onions are high in flavonoids (another cancer and heart disease preventative), also vitamins B and C.
Use your food to nourish your body and harness the Spring energy. Use the Spring energy to detoxify and move on from the Winter.
My family have a love/hate relationship with carrots. One will eat them covered in honey, one will eat carrots raw, my teenagers under pressure and my husband will eat carrots if they’re on his plate (he never requests them!). But what does the simple carrot bring to our bodies?
As you know, I am interested in food’s medicinal qualities. Nature’s abundance does provide for humanity and carrots easily represent this. Extremely high in Vitamin A, carrots support eye health and improve night vision. Besides there fibre quality they are also have the correct ratio of Vitamin K and the mineral manganese. These two have a symbiotic relationship and work together for bone and tissue health, calcium regulation and play a role in correct brain function. So strong is there relationship, that one without the other will scavenge it from elsewhere in the body. Carrots are full of Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and folate. These B vitamins have a big part to play throughout the body, but especially adrenal health. The adrenals work hard during periods of daily stress and can easily become fatigued.
Carrots are more than orange vegetables. They can be purple, red, yellow and white. This rainbow spectrum is also Nature’s ways of showing us how full of antioxidants (particularly Vitamin C) carrots are. They can fight bacteria and are extremely antiseptic; this is great for gut and colon health. While chewing a raw carrot stimulates salvia in the mouth for good gum health. The combination of high fibre and high antiseptic quality is useful as it proceeds through all stages of digestion (mouth to ‘out’).
Carrots are extremely useful in our diet. They are sweet in flavour and calorically very low. They, like so many other leafy green (carrot stalks are great in a stock or salad, stews or casseroles) and colourful vegetables have the trace minerals copper (for brain development and heart health) and iron (required by haemoglobin). The essential mineral potassium also has a presence (heart health and blood pressure regulation) . This is not new news to many people, but it’s a good reminder about how important good eating is as preventative medicine.
A carrot, an apple, a bunch of kale … a day will keep the doctor away.
Our bodies are made up of 70% fluid. The list of what these fluids are is extensive and ranges from blood and lymph to gastric juices, mucus, salvia and ear wax right through to breast milk, sweat and tears. There is more, but I’ve set my scene. Although we understand that hydration is important, many of us are chronically dehydrated. This is for many reasons, we simply do not drink enough water, we drink too many diuretics (coffee, tea, fizzy drinks), our bodies may have lost the ability to hydrate (after years of chronic dehydration) and stress.
As a Nutritional Therapist, I see many clients (including children) who are showing symptoms of dehydration. As a general rule of thumb, an adult should consume 1.5 to 2 litres of clean water a day. No more than a pint an hour, we don’t want to overload the kidneys. While a child (5 to 11 years) needs to drink between 300 – 900ml a day (depending on their age, size and physical activity). This is water, not juices, squash, milk or soda drinks - plain water.
The brain registers thirst only when IT is about to be impacted. Often this manifests as hunger not the thirst we feel after exercise or exertion. Instead of reaching for a snack, try a glass of water first. If the brain registers dehydration last on the body’s hierarchy, this means that every other organ is working on minimal hydration levels. Some physical side affects of this is constipation, muscle aches, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, lower back pain and headaches. Research is now linking dehydration to other health issues which include urinary tract infections, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, some allergies, forms of depression and STRESS.
Stress has become a part of daily life. To combat this many exercise, take Mindful moments, read and listen to music. While some drink heavily, eat fish and chips and go shopping. There are many strategies that people use. Obviously, some have longer-term physical and mental upsides than others! Seldom, do I see a stressed person reach for a glass of water. However, I want to propose the following –
Stress leads to dehydration and dehydration leads to stress.
Dealing with stress and experiencing dehydration leads to the same physical response pattern in the body, that of fight or flight. Both mobilise and release hormones (endorphins, cortisone release factor, prolactin and vasopressin) to deal with the situation (whether, socially called for or not). Road rage is a common example of this. On a journey, we don’t drink enough because we don’t want to stop. Driving does throw up unusual (stressful) situations that the body can quickly turn into a fight or flight issue. Whether we feel it and act on it (with bad language, thumping the steering wheel or something more aggressive), deep down we often realise the irrationality of it (even if it is later) and can’t control it.
A dehydrated person may find it difficult to cope with more than one thing and will lose concentration easily. They are more than likely quick to anger. My children respond to dehydration in the following way – they become tearful and angry. They lose perspective and become tunnel visioned. My teenagers lose motivation, they are quickly angry and irrational. A glass of water (and a cuddle) later, they are back on track. I am the same!
If you would like more information or would prefer a consultation please contact me.
The festivities and indulgences of December have wound down and with the new year there is often a sense of renewed purpose and ‘things to get on with’. A new year, a new you! So is the ‘January Detox’ the right approach to January?
After the December late nights, the extra portions, the joyous Christmas goodies and the flow of alcohol we want to feel a freshness and vitality that a raw food diet or a green juice cleanse or even a short fasting period can give us. The question I offer up is ‘why is this so hard to stick to in January?’ Because TIMING is key to detoxing the body and spring-cleaning our systems.
In September, I wrote about the Equinox and the shift in energy from Summer to Autumn and Winter. This is a time of contraction when the body needs to slow down, warm up and regroup. The Yule time, the Winter Solstice and Christmas are traditionally ‘festivals of light’ and colour to break the darkness of winter and give celebration to a turning point in the calendar (as well as our religious and family beliefs). From the 21st December our days are getting lighter by a minute until we reach the 21st June, our longest day, and our days ebb again.
So what can we do to in January to recover from an exciting December? Rest, recover, nourish and rejuvenate and the key elements for January.
If you can, sleep more than 6 hours a night. Reduce your acidity by reducing your heavy meats, alcohol and caffeine and support your liver with zinc and vitamin B supplements. A raw food diet and green juicing can be very unappealing in January, but as the year warms up, people typically incorporate this into their meals. Instead, nourish with casseroles, stews, slow cooked foods, soaked rice and soups. The root vegetables of this season fit the needs of the body - parsnips, carrots and squashes while the greener vegetables, cabbages, cauliflower and leeks support the immune system. These hardy vegetables are appropriate for Winter and teamed with onions, garlic and aromatic herbs provide an extra nutritional boost to fight off colds and flu’s. Moreover, go gently through January and be kind to yourself.
Learn more about how to gently nurture the body and mind through the colder months and prepare to detox at a workshop hosted by Julie Walshe and I in the evening of 24th January - Women’s Nutrition and Meditation Workshop. Contact me for more details.
Your immune system is your body’s first line of defence, especially as the colder seasons approach. Most people imagine the immune system to be made up of an army of white blood cells, which go into battle when bacteria or viruses ‘invade’. However, your whole body is effectively your immune system. Your skin, your digestive tract, your stomach acid, your lymphatic system, the hairs in your nose and ears … and, yes your leucocytes, the fighting white blood cells. There is no doubt that autumn and the return to school and work brings a cacophony of illnesses; colds and flu’s, stomach bugs and chest infections. To support our immunity we need to consume zinc-rich foods, like green beans and brussels sprouts and uber zinc packed pumpkin seeds. Roast them, don’t waste them.
But the true STARS of autumn and winter are the alliums, most importantly, the humble onion and garlic. In there organic form they are packed tightly with anti -inflammatory phytonutrients and flavonoids, these detoxify, are highly anti-inflammatory and work as natural antibiotics for colds and flu’s. Onions hold there qualities when cooked (unlike many other vegetables where phytonutrients are leached out during cooking), while garlic is better used raw! Instead of cooking your onion and garlic together at the start of a dish, leave your garlic until last, use a garlic press and squeeze it into your soups, stroganoffs and casseroles. The flavour is just as rewarding and the benefits are far more medicinal.
My family are prone to winter coughs so I’m including our cough medicine recipe, this tastes much better than pharmacy bought syrups and you know exactly what is in it, definitely no preservatives!
Onion & Honey Cough Medicine
1 organic onion
Raw runny honey – to cover
An airtight jar
Slice your onion into rings. Put these into the jar. Cover with raw honey. Seal the jar tightly. Leave at room temperature over night.
Dosage: 1-2 tsp hourly or as required.
This cough medicine will last for 2 days.
Enjoy the autumn and the winding down this season brings, but support your immune system so bacteria and virus’ have no place in your body to manifest into nasty illnesses.
We have many traditions surrounding the start of autumn, the Harvest Moon, the Harvest Festival and the Autumn Equinox. All are tied delightfully together with producing food, harvesting food and celebrating the abundance of summer. This year the Harvest Moon was the 16th September. Thought to be the brightest and clearest of the full moons it allows farmers to mark their calendar and extends their day light hours to gather the crops before the weather changes. The Harvest Festival follows soon after to mark the end of one season and its hard work and the start of another. This movement into autumn is clearly denoted by the Autumn Equinox, this year on the 22nd September. This day is of equal day and night and gradually daylight decreases until the December Winter Solstice. And, so marks our cooler seasons. The food that is grown and seasonally available during autumn transitions from leafy and green; like broccoli and corn to hardy and starchy; like carrots and squash. This is reflective of what our bodies need and crave during the colder months; we want to eat warming, nourishing foods like soups, stews and casseroles. Chinese philosophy links the changing seasons and human energy beautifully. In the summer our energy is expansive and extraverted, while in the winter it contracts and closes as if to hibernate. To visualize this, imagine expansive spring and summer energy running from your toes, up your torso, over your head and down your back. While in autumn and winter it switches and runs from your heals, up your back, over your head and down to your toes in a closing down and conserving way. Similarly, the vegetables we consume during autumn and winter are generally grown under the ground (parsnips, carrots, turnips, onions, garlic) or are of a hardy nature to endure frosts and extreme cold (pumpkins, squash, leeks, kale, cabbages). Most are extremely immune boasting, (full of vitamin C, zinc, iron, calcium, potassium vitamin A and vitamin B), they are fibrous and all are nourishing and filling. Enjoy the harvest that autumn provides.
Paula is an avid writer and enjoys working with food and words.