Sunday 31 March 2013

Pancakes are awesome...fact.

Since it’s a bank holiday, you might find that you have more time than usual to knock up a tasty and nutritious breakfast. Everyone loves pancakes, but they are generally not the healthiest option. These pancakes are adapted from a recipe I found on Mark's Daily Apple, an excellent resource for all things involved in the Paleo/Primal lifestyle (I’ll doing a post on the Paleo Diet soon). They are gluten-free, and contain a great selection of tasty and healthy ingredients. The banana is a source of gluten-free low Glycaemic Index carbs as well as nutrients such as potassium (linked with decreased risk of osteoporosis and possibly diabetes1), while the almond butter is a source of unsaturated fats (linked with reduction of the risk of cardiovascular disease2) and the berries are a great source of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant linked with reduction of blood pressure3.
They also happen to be super-tasty, so give them a go at once!

Ingredients (per person)
1 banana
1 egg
1 tablespoon of almond butter
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
Butter for cooking

½ cup of berries (Sainsbury’s frozen mixed berries are good here)
Splash of water
½ a scoop of protein powder (chocolate or strawberry flavour work well here).

Put the berries in a saucepan with a splash of water, and bring to the boil. Put a lid on, and turn down to the lowest heat while you get on with the pancakes.
Put all the pancake ingredients into the food processor, and whizz until they are a smooth batter. This can be done by hand, but will result in a chunkier texture. Fry tablespoon-sized dollops in butter, flipping once the undersides are firm. Keep an eye on these, since they can burn quite easily. Once all the pancakes are done, take the berries off the heat, and stir in the protein powder. Stir this well, so it totally dissolves and doesn’t give a grainy texture.
Serve the pancakes around the edge of your plate, with a puddle of sauce in the middle as in the picture.

This will give you:
kCalories: 331
Protein: 17g
Carbohydrates: 39g
Fat: 14g

If not using the protein powder, you get:
kCalories: 289
Protein: 8g
Carbohydrates: 38g
Fat: 14g

Enjoy (with not guilt at all)!


1          He, F. J. & MacGregor, G. A. Beneficial effects of potassium on human health. Physiol Plant 133, 725-735 (2008).
2        Jakobsen, M. U. et al. Major types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of 11 cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr 89, 1425-1432, doi:ajcn.2008.27124 [pii] 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27124 (2009).
3          Rodriguez-Mateos, A. et al. Blueberry intervention improves vascular reactivity and lowers blood pressure in high-fat-, high-cholesterol-fed rats. Br J Nutr, 1-9, doi:S0007114512003911 [pii] 10.1017/S0007114512003911 (2012).

Monday 25 March 2013

Good bacteria...

You can’t move at the moment for adverts for products containing bacteria said to benefit your health in all sorts of ways. Since they are the subject of my PhD, I thought I would try to explain what they are, how they work, and how they can benefit your health.

The World Health Organisation’s definition of probiotics is “live organisms, which when administered in sufficient amounts, can have a beneficial effect on the host’s health.” 1 Essentially this means they are bacteria from groups including lactobacillus, bifidobacterium and lactococcus which you eat, usually in the form of yoghurts containing live bacteria, or freeze-dried in capsules, useful if you’re on a dairy-free diet. With the latter type, the bacteria are effectively in suspended animation inside their capsule. Once the capsule is dissolved by your stomach acid, the bacteria find all the nutrients they need inside your body and come back to life. Once inside you, these bacteria colonise your gut. As a note of caution, these are not to be confused with PREbiotics. Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates which can be broken down by your gut bacteria. They are taken with a view to fortifying your existing gut flora. So, simply put:
·         PRObiotics – bugs
·         PREbiotics – bug food

There are several proposed ways in which they work:
·         Prevention of infection, by competing with harmful bacteria (pathogens)  for nutrients;
·         Interaction with your immune system, so that you produce different chemicals (cytokines) which help prevent or improve different conditions;2
·         Prevention of pathogens (such as those that cause food poisoning) from entering your system – the probiotics occupy the sites on the intestinal wall which the harmful bacteria might otherwise use to enter your cells;3
·         Production of antimicrobial compounds such as organic acids, which can prevent the growth and reproduction of pathogens in your system.4
The other great benefit of probiotics is that of improved absorption of nutrients. Gut bacteria are an essential part of your digestion and absorption system, so it makes sense to fortify them so you get the most out of your diet, while preventing all sorts of other illnesses.

There is ever-increasing evidence that probiotics have a number of health benefits. These include reduction of the incidence and duration of colds5, prevention of travellers’ diarrhoea6 and urinary tract infections7 and improvement of inflammatory conditions such as atopic dermatitis.8

It appears the best probiotic strain to take for each health endpoint (be it prevention of certain types of infection, or improving certain chronic conditions) is different. Most recent research – including the research I did for my PhD - suggests that using a probiotic which includes several strains can have an equal, or sometimes greater, effect against several endpoints7,9 suggesting that for overall health, a multi-strain probiotic might give you a greater health effect for your money. (By the way, if you want the full versions of my papers, just shoot me an email to

So that is a very brief introduction to probiotics. Essentially, by taking them you will enhance the good work that the trillions of bacteria already in your gut carry out without you ever noticing. I hope this is useful. If you have any questions, please post them as comments below or contact me at


1          Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Evaluation of Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food Including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria. Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Health Organization. . (2001).
2          Dong, H., Rowland, I., Tuohy, K. M., Thomas, L. & Yaqoob, P. Selective Effects of Lactobacillus casei Shirota on T cell activation, natural killer cell activity and cytokine production. Clinical and Experimental Immunology 161, 378-388 (2010).
3          Gibson, G. R., McCartney, A. L. & Rastall, R. A. Prebiotics and resistance to gastrointestinal infections. Br J Nutr 93 Suppl 1, S31-34, doi:S0007114505000772 [pii] (2005).
4          Tejero-Sarinena, S., Barlow, J., Costabile, A., Gibson, G. R. & Rowland, I. In vitro evaluation of the antimicrobial activity of a range of probiotics against pathogens: Evidence for the effects of organic acids. Anaerobe, doi:S1075-9964(12)00112-6 [pii]10.1016/j.anaerobe.2012.08.004 (2012).
5          Winkler, P., de Vrese, M., Laue, C. & Schrezenmeir, J. Effect of a dietary supplement containing probiotic bacteria plus vitamins and minerals on common cold infections and cellular immune parameters. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 43, 318-326 (2005).
6          Gotz, V., Romankiewicz, J. A., Moss, J. & Murray, H. W. Prophylaxis against ampicillin-associated diarrhea with a lactobacillus preparation. Am J Hosp Pharm 36, 754-757 (1979).
7          Chapman, C. M., Gibson, G. R., Todd, S. & Rowland, I. Comparative in vitro inhibition of urinary tract pathogens by single- and multi-strain probiotics. Eur J Nutr, doi:10.1007/s00394-013-0501-2 (2013).
8          Viljanen, M. et al. Probiotics in the treatment of atopic eczema/dermatitis syndrome in infants: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Allergy 60, 494-500, doi:ALL514 [pii]  10.1111/j.1398-9995.2004.00514.x (2005).
9          Chapman, C. M., Gibson, G. R. & Rowland, I. In vitro evaluation of single- and multi-strain probiotics: Inter-species inhibition between probiotic strains, and inhibition of pathogens. Anaerobe 18, 405-413, doi:S1075-9964(12)00091-1 [pii] 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2012.05.004 (2012).

Thursday 21 March 2013

Mackerel pate

Following hot on the heels of my introduction, I thought I’d kick off with a recipe. This mackerel pâté is a good source of complete protein (more about this in a later post), and chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are big news nutritionally, as increased consumption of oily fish has been linked with reduced risk of heart disease1 and male cancers2, and enhanced recovery from physical exercise by reducing inflammation in the body3. The fact that it’s incredibly tasty means that there are plenty of great reasons to tuck in! Enjoy.

Ingredients (serves 2):
250g smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed
3 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon horseradish sauce
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Take half the mackerel, and puree in the food processor with all the other ingredients. Flake in the other half of the fish, so you have a mixture of smooth and chunky textures. Interesting extras to add another dimension include chopped spring onions, gherkins or capers.
Serves this on a slice of wholemeal toast topped with cucumber slices, with cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks on the side, for a delicious and nutritious lunch. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, use this as a dip for raw veg.

One serving of this pâté, served on wholemeal toast with veg as described above will give you the following nutrients:
kCalories: 714
Protein: 34g
Carbohydrates: 40g
Fat: 48g (of which saturates 17g)

 Hmm, not sure this makes it look as tasty as it is!


1: Mozaffarian D, Appel LJ, Van Horn L. Components of a cardioprotective diet: new insights. Circulation 2011; 123: 2870-91
2: Augustsson K, Michaud DS, Rimm EB et al. A prospective study of intake of fish and marine fatty acids and prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2003; 12: 64-7
3: Gray P, Gabriel B, Thies F et al. Fish oil supplementation augments post-exercise immune function in young males. Brain Behav Immun 2012; 26: 1265-72.


Thanks for visiting my blog. Nutrition is a huge topic, both in size and popularity. Did you know that the most popular use of the internet is for, err, stuff you wouldn’t want to share with your granny, while the second most popular use is nutrition information? While there is plenty of good stuff out there, there is also lots of misleading, or downright false, information. I want to use this blog to spread correct, useful and practical information about the food we eat, the foods we don’t eat, and the foods we perhaps should eat.
I'll be using this to talk about all things nutrition, whether it's to discuss newsworthy issues, simplify complex scientific concepts, recommend products/books/websites, or to post recipes that I've found to be particularly nutritious and tasty. But most of all I’ll be using this to share my passion for food, both in terms of its health benefits and the pleasure you get from eating it!
A little about me: I’m a nutritionist based in West Berkshire, England. Acting on a lifelong passion for food and a keen interest in science, I went back to university as a mature student to study nutrition, and am right now completing my PhD. I work as a freelance nutritionist, helping people attain their athletic and physique goals, as well as working with businesses to formulate or correctly communicate their products. I am a consultant for a Men’s Fitness magazine, and I also love to work with children, having run a science club at my children’s’ school, and given talks to schools and scout groups about healthy eating and more general health topics.
So if there's anything in particular you'd like me to research or discuss, get in touch and let me know!