In season: February

Some of us may start to feel bored with winter food (me!), but look, the days are getting longer and here and there hide the first signs of Spring.
Plus, February is the peak season for delicious fruits and vegetables! Here is a local selection valid for the UK and most northern Europe countries.

seasonal fruit veg february

Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, kale, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, shallots, swedes, turnips, wild mushrooms, cabbage, winter squash…
End of season: beetroot and celery.
Beginning of season: rhubarb.

Apples, pears, clementines, lemon, oranges, kiwis, passion fruit, pomegranate…

Fish and seafood
Haddock, mussels, oysters, salmon…

Are you cooking this weekend? I will make an apple and rhubarb crumble, my daughter and I love it.



Fearmongering refers to using fear to influence the opinions, beliefs, or actions of others. It often involves spreading exaggerated or misleading information, sensationalising situations, or highlighting potential dangers in a way that evokes strong emotions of fear, anxiety, or panic.
Fearmongering can be employed for various reasons, such as gaining support for a particular agenda, promoting a certain viewpoint, or manipulating public opinion. It can be seen in politics, media, advertising, and other spheres where the intention is to manipulate perceptions and behaviours through instilling fear.

Fearmongering is widespread in nutrition, where people often use it to sell products (useless but expensive food supplements) and services (fad diets that will mostly slim your wallet). These people have a very loud voice and huge influence, their opinions can be watched on Netflix (typical examples include the Game Changers, Seaspiracy and most food related documentaries), their « quick and easy diets » to lose weight seduce thousands on social media. It is in fact very hard to resist the pseudoscience and numerous magical claims that circulate online.

Here is a short list of typical fearmongering techniques in nutrition to help you identify them:

  • Labelling foods or food groups as « toxic » without any evidence to back this up. A typical example is sugar, some people make a lot of money demonising glucose. They will refer to in-vitro or animal studies to support their extraordinary claims, and present them as a scientific truth.
  • Claiming some foods cause cancer, again is totally wrong, and sugar is a typical example of this.
  • Asking to avoid an ingredient if you can’t pronounce its name. About this I share this Wikipedia article about the dihydrogen monoxide parody. I personally find it quite funny, and invite you to play this trick on your friends.
  • Banning foods has no scientific grounds, unless you are allergic to it.
  • Putting foods in categories: healthy/unhealthy, good/bad (as if food had a moral value), etc. Food is meant to be enjoyed, some with moderation, but restricting food on the basis it it « bad/harmful/toxic » often leads to obsessing over it and can trigger eating disorders.
  • Sciency buzzwords such as « clinically tested », « medical grade », « special formula » are meaningless, this is marketing not science.
  • Can you think of anything else?

A difficulty is that providing nutrition advice is poorly regulated in many countries. You can declare yourself a diet expert and sell meal plans to anyone with no or little training. I am sure you can think of a few celebrities recommending unachievable and potentially harmful diets. And even people with credentials may use fearmongering to sell you something.

How to navigate those shallow waters?
First learn to recognise fearmongering, it will also help you beyond nutrition (remember the Covid vaccines!). Then find reliable sources of information such as registered dietitians and nutritionists. Be mindful that a blue mark or huge following is not an indication of quality nutrition advice, neither is a medical degree. Indeed, most GPs/MDs have little knowledge in diet and nutrition because this is a very very small part of their training. Your own GP remains, however, the first person you need to contact if you have medical concerns. Likewise, a competent dietitian or nutritionist will ask you to see a GP if they have any concern about your health.

In a future article I will share a few diets myths to stay away from.


The role of fats in your diet and health

Lipids often get a bad reputation, but they are an essential part of a healthy diet and play crucial roles in human physiology and metabolism. In this blog post, I explore the functions and roles of fats in your body, shedding light on why you shouldn’t fear them but rather embrace the right kinds of fats for overall well-being.

1. Energy source: Fats are an efficient source of energy. They provide 9 calories/gram compared to 4 calories for carbohydrates or protein. When your body needs energy, it can break down fats, releasing a steady supply of fuel.

2. Nutrient absorption: Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) require dietary fats for absorption. Fats help transport these vitamins from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, where they can be utilised by the body.

3. Cell structure and function: Fats are essential components of cell membranes. They help maintain the integrity and flexibility of cell structures, allowing cells to function properly.

4. Brain health: The brain is primarily composed of fat, and it requires dietary fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, for optimal function. Omega-3s are associated with cognitive function, memory, and mood regulation.

5. Hormone production: Fats are involved in the synthesis of various hormones, including sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone) and stress hormones (cortisol). Balanced hormone production is crucial for overall health.

6. Insulation and protection: Subcutaneous fat (the fat beneath your skin) serves as insulation, helping regulate body temperature. It also provides a cushioning layer to protect vital organs.

7. Long-term energy storage: Excess energy from the food you consume is stored as triglycerides in fat cells. When energy intake is reduced (as in fasting or between meals), these stored fats are broken down and released into the bloodstream for energy.

8. Immune function: Fats play a role in the body’s immune response. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, have anti-inflammatory properties and can help support the immune system.

9. Skin and hair health: Dietary fats help keep your skin and hair healthy and glowing. They assist in maintaining moisture and skin elasticity.

10. Flavour and satiety: Fats add flavour to foods, making them more enjoyable. They also contribute to a sense of fullness and satiety, helping to control appetite and prevent overeating.

Lipids are not your enemy but essential allies in maintaining a healthy and well-functioning body. However, it’s important to choose the right kinds of fats. Opt for unsaturated fats like those found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil while limiting saturated and trans fats. By incorporating healthy fats into your diet in moderation, you can harness their numerous benefits and promote overall well-being.

Remember, balance is the key to a nutritious and satisfying diet.

For personal advice, please contact me!


Understanding the need to increase protein intake: reasons and considerations

A year ago I published a post on Protein and ageing, where I quickly explained the many roles of proteins in human physiology. Several reasons may lead individuals to increase their protein intake, depending on their specific health goals, lifestyles, and circumstances. Here are some common examples:

  1. Muscle building and strength training: People who engage in regular strength training or resistance exercises often require more protein to support muscle growth and repair. Athletes and bodybuilders may have higher protein needs.
  2. Ageing: As people age, there can be a natural decline in muscle mass and protein metabolism. Older adults may benefit from increased protein intake to maintain muscle mass, strength, and overall health.
  3. Weight management: Protein has a satiating effect and can help control appetite and reduce calorie intake. Including more protein in the diet can be beneficial for weight loss and weight management efforts.
  4. Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Pregnant and lactating women require extra protein to support the growth and development of the fetus or infant. Protein is essential for the formation of tissues and organs in the baby.
  5. Wound healing and surgery: After surgery or injury, the body needs additional protein to repair damaged tissues and promote wound healing. Healthcare providers may recommend increased protein intake during recovery.
  6. Chronic Illnesses: Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and certain gastrointestinal disorders, may increase protein requirements or alter protein metabolism. Healthcare professionals can provide guidance on individualised protein needs in such cases. Always consult your GP when you consider changing your diet and have a chronic condition.
  7. Vegetarian and vegan diets: Individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets may need to pay closer attention to protein intake to ensure they are getting enough essential amino acids. Plant-based protein sources can be lower in certain amino acids, so variety is key.
  8. Active lifestyles: People with physically demanding jobs or active lifestyles may need more protein to support their energy expenditure and overall health.
  9. Recovery from illness or infection: During illness or infection, the body’s protein needs can increase due to immune system activation and tissue repair. Adequate protein intake can help with a faster recovery.
  10. Malnutrition or undernutrition: Individuals who are malnourished or undernourished, whether due to poverty, food insecurity, or other factors, may need increased protein intake to address nutritional deficiencies.
The different functions of proteins

It’s important to remember that individual protein requirements can vary widely based on age, gender, activity level, health status, and other factors. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can help determine the appropriate protein intake for specific needs and goals, ensuring a balanced and healthy diet.

Blog In season

Berry bliss: harnessing the health bounty of blackberry season

I’m thrilled to welcome the arrival of blackberry season. These plump and juicy gems not only tantalise our taste buds but also offer a host of health benefits that make them a must-add to your summer menu. Let’s explore the scientific evidence that highlights the remarkable health advantages of indulging in these seasonal delights.

Antioxidant Powerhouse: Blackberries are bursting with antioxidants, which play a crucial role in protecting our cells from oxidative stress and preventing chronic diseases. The presence of compounds like anthocyanins gives blackberries their deep hue and delivers potent antioxidant properties.

A study published in the « Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry » emphasised the significant antioxidant capacity of blackberries, attributing it to their rich anthocyanin content. These antioxidants have been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Heart Health Hero: Including blackberries in your diet can be heart-smart. Their fiber, potassium, and antioxidant content contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and supporting overall cardiovascular function.

A study in the « Nutrition Research » journal discovered that regular consumption of blackberries was linked to improved blood pressure levels due to their anthocyanin content, which promotes healthy blood vessel function.

Gut-Friendly Fiber: Blackberries are a fantastic source of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, promotes regular bowel movements, and supports a healthy gut microbiome. A healthy gut is crucial for overall well-being and disease prevention.

The « Nutrients » journal emphasized the role of dietary fiber in maintaining gut health and preventing gastrointestinal disorders, highlighting the importance of including fiber-rich foods like blackberries in your diet.

Cognitive Wellness: The antioxidants in blackberries help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, potentially supporting cognitive function.

A study published in « Molecular Nutrition & Food Research » reported that the anthocyanins present in blackberries have neuroprotective effects, suggesting a positive impact on cognitive function and a potential reduction in cognitive decline.

To conclude, embrace the bounty of blackberry season not only for their delectable taste but also for the wealth of health benefits they bring to the table. From their antioxidant prowess to their heart-protective qualities, gut-friendly fiber, and potential cognitive support, blackberries truly earn their status as a superfood. Incorporate these delicious berries into your meals, snacks, and desserts to savour the seasonal goodness while nurturing your well-being.


Sugar and cancer risk

TL, DR: sugar is not a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance.

The idea that sugar fuels cancer cells is a fallacy that unfortunately thrives on the Internet. No studies in people have shown that reducing sugar intake prevents or treats cancer. No studies have shown that eating too much sugar causes cancer.

There is no direct link, and therefore no causality, between sugar and cancer.

All cells, including cancer cells, require energy to survive and grow, this energy is glucose. When we eat sugary foods (simple carbohydrates), glucose gets absorbed straight into the bloodstream ready, for cells to use. When we eat starchy food (complex carbohydrates), like pasta, the digestion process breaks them down into glucose. When there are no carbohydrate in our diet, cells can turn fat and protein into glucose as a last resort, because they need glucose to survive. This means that replacing sugar with other energy sources won’t affect the growth of cancer cells.

Remember that a healthy diet includes carbohydrates, for the energy, fibre, minerals and vitamins that they contain. Avoiding healthy, nutritious foods is not a science-based method to prevent any disease. Avoiding sugar will not prevent cancer, as consuming sugar won’t cause cancer. « Cancer » is a group of different diseases triggered by a huge variety of genetic and lifestyle factors.

The only link between cancer and sugar is indirect: excessive sugar intake can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, which may in turn increase the risk of cancer.


Cooked vs raw: how to get the most vitamin A from your carrots

Vitamin A is a group of fat-soluble retinoids involved in immune function, cellular communication, growth and development, and male and female reproduction. It is essential to vision.

It is found as retinol in animal foods, and carotenoids in plant foods, like carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, mangoes, oranges, spinach…. To say that vitamin A is fat-soluble means that it can dissolve in fats and oils, it is therefore absorbed with fats during meals and stored in the body’s fatty tissue and in the liver.

Several studies have found that carotenoids are better absorbed when eaten with fats (because of the fat solubility) and from meals containing cooked, pureed vegetables than from meals containing the raw vegetable. Cooking the vegetables helps the absorption of the vitamin.


Tips and tops against food waste

It is estimated that nearly one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, with considerable environmental impacts, aggravating ecosystem damage.

Polyphenols in plants are particularly concentrated in leaf tissues, they aid in plant defense, against ultraviolet radiation or aggression by pathogens. They contribute to the bitterness, astringency, colour, flavour, odour and oxidative stability. The more colourful a plant is, the more polyphenols it contains.

pesto herbs
Herbs pesto

A small change in your cooking habits can help decrease your food waste and increase your polyphenol intake. Because they are part of a plant defence system, polyphenols are concentrated in outer leaves or stalks, so don’t throw them away.

Here are a few ideas to increase your polyphenol intake and reduce waste:

  • eat the out leaves of salads,
  • roast the cauliflower leaves,
  • use carrot leaves, courgette stems, leftover herbs and greens to make pesto,
  • sautée beetroot leaves with EVOO, garlic and chili,
  • use grated broccoli stems in fried rice, pasta sauce, soups…

Green or ripe: how do you like your banana?

We usually eat bananas when they are yellow, that is when they start to ripe. Green bananas and yellow, ripe bananas have distinct health effects, that you may be interested to know.

Green banana for your gut

Unripe, green banana have the highest proportion of resistant starch, a form of carbohydrate that acts like a fiber. Green bananas contain prebiotics beneficial to gut bacteria. Green bananas have a lower glycaemic index, which means it takes longer to digest and triggers a lower, slower increase in blood sugar.

The drawback: they can be harder to digest and cause bloating.

Anti-oxidant yellow banana

Riper bananas are easier to digest, the starch is more rapidly converted into glucose and released into the bloodstream. On the other hand, the riper the banana, the higher the anti-oxidant content.

The drawback: with time, the content in vitamins and minerals decrease, to minimise that, you can store bananas in the fridge.

Blog Food vegetables

How to get the most from… garlic!

Garlic is thought to have a lot of potential health effects, it is rich in antioxidants and compounds with powerful antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact garlic has been used since ancient times for its flavour and possible therapeutic effects, for example in Chinese medicine. Studies are still trying to understand better the mechanism of action of garlic metabolites.

One of garlic’s magic compound is called allicin, and this is what gives garlic its distinctive smell and taste. When garlic is chewed (raw), chopped, crushed or minced, a heat sensitive enzyme called alliinase will transform the protein alliin into allicin. Allicin has an antimicrobial activity and helps regulate the immune function.

The 10 minute garlic rule

To get the most of your garlic, you want to increase its allicin content. And there is a very simple way to do so: crush, mince, slice your garlic 5 to 10 minutes before cooking it. You can then add it to your tomato sauce, stir fry etc.