Nutrition myths, and a lemony chicken stew recipe

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Coming into the Winter months, I like to spend some time looking at my diet & ways to improve it so that I can boost my immune system as the weather starts to get a bit colder.

I think this is more important than ever this year, so I wanted to discuss some things to consider if you’re thinking about making changes to your diet.

This week I am going to be talking through different myths in relation to nutrition.

I will also share a delicious recipe for Chicken & Lemon Stew, which is perfect for making in big batches to keep the whole family well fed this Autumn.

I chat to various experts in the nutrition field regularly and I found the 5 areas below really interesting in terms of what their clients ask them about to help improve their health.

I’ve shared the answers below.

Should I ditch dairy?

Unless you have a medically diagnosed intolerance, dislike the taste of it or don’t agree with it for ethical reasons then no.

Personally, I consume dairy in a balanced way. I’ve always consumed dairy. I find milk really useful for post workouts plus I use moderate amounts of cheese.

I love a good-quality yogurt and you’ll nearly always find it in my fridge.

According to research dairy is associated with:

  • A decrease or no change in risk for most cancers, eczema, fracture risk and inflammation.
  • Improved appetite control, fat loss, weight loss and gains in lean muscle mass.
  • To add to these benefits it is packed with nutrition including calcium, phosphorus, protein, B12, iodine and vitamin D.

Are food intolerance tests reliable?

In short, this is not an evidence-based area of research. The IgG pinprick tests being offered in some shops or online are essentially not backed by research.

They test for IgG antibodies in your blood and claim a positive result means a food intolerance. However, it doesn’t because most of us develop IgG antibodies to foods over our lives. It is an indicator of repeated exposures not clinical symptoms.

Our preferred method is to keep a food and symptom diary to identify foods that might be causing your symptoms. Try restricting these foods for a short period of time and then reintroducing them while monitoring symptoms.

Note: Food allergies are a serious and potentially life-threatening condition and are not what I am talking about here. If you are experiencing unexplained symptoms then speak to your GP or another health care professional.

Is gluten-free healthier?

I see a huge amount online and hear people talking about giving up gluten as they feel it is healthier to do so. There has been no increase in the number of genuine allergies to gluten; there is a perception of it being healthier that’s driving this trend.

A study in Britain showed that 24% of gluten-free shoppers did it to lose weight and 28% to increase their energy levels, neither of these health goals are evidence-based. Unless you have been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease there is no need to demonise an otherwise healthy food.

Losing weight because you cut out gluten is probably because you’ve actually introduced restrictive food rules and decreased the amount of food you are eating overall.

It’s important to remember that being located in the ‘free from aisle’ does not automatically make a food healthier. Many gluten-free foods are pumped with sugar and fat to make them palatable. If you consider that people are eating them out of the perception of health then this makes little sense.

If you are experiencing symptoms you think may be related to a gluten intolerance please speak to your GP or another health professional. Be careful of following a diet trend without medical advice.

Are superfoods essential to be healthy?

Firstly, ‘superfood’ is a marketing term, not a nutritional classification. It’s used to sell products to people at a premium price.

Yes, acai berries, chia seeds and wheatgrass may be loaded with nutrients but so are blueberries, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.

When reading claims like ‘Goji berries cure cancer’ please remember that no one food is going to have major health effects. It’s your whole diet over extended periods that is key. Enjoy superfoods if you can afford them but don’t feel like you need expensive food to be healthy and well. It’s extremely doable to eat healthily on a budget without forking out for very expensive products.

Is organic food worth the price?

Anything labelled ‘organic’ is bound by strict rules regulating the use of hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms.

In an ideal world, I would choose locally sourced, organic and seasonal vegetables/fruit but the reality is that is expensive and difficult to find. In terms of meats and fish I try to consume a balance and be conscious of sourcing.

The reality is I’m busy juggling work and home life, plus I don’t have an endless budget to spend on food.

The research is ongoing into organic foods and their health benefits. Some is positive and some is not as conclusive. I’ll continue to have a balance in my food sources.

Most of us are super busy and trying to live our best lives which makes it understandable that we can be susceptible to what often looks like quick fixes.

Try to get your information from reliable sources and be sceptical of things that seem to be too good to be true. You won’t go too far wrong if you remember the basics.

Fitness Tip: Plan when you are going to exercise this week – whether it’s a workout class, walk or a run.

When you’re doing these workouts, set yourself the goal of drinking at least 2 pints of water (during & just afterwards).

This is a great way to increase your water intake & also keep you hydrated so you’ll feel your best post-workout.

Wellness Tip: Set some time aside this week to upskill.

You can choose something work-related, or something a little fun, like a makeup tutorial, or a calligraphy video. This is a very productive way to spend your free time, and is a nice change to watching TV.

Recipe:

Lemony Chicken Stew

This is a great stew to make if you feel a head cold coming on  — the garlic will work wonders! It’s bright, zingy and full of flavour.

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 50 min

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 4 skinless chicken breast fillets, cubed
  • 2 peppers, deseeded and diced
  • 10 dried apricots, halved
  • 10 stoned green olives, halved
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • ½ courgette, chopped
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • a handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • brown rice, to serve

METHOD:

Heat the coconut oil in a large casserole over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for five minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cumin seeds, and paprika and cook for two minutes. Stir frequently and add a splash of water if the pan gets dry.

Add the chicken and cook for five minutes. Stir in the peppers, apricots, olives, lemon, courgette, and stock. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

When you are ready to serve, season to taste. Ladle the stew into warmed serving bowls and sprinkle over the mint. Serve with brown rice.

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