Thursday, 21 August 2014

Watermelon - Could it be the next coconut water?

It’s finally the season for watermelon, so instead of three or four pounds for a slice or a small pot every other time of year, you can now pick up a large whole watermelon for one or two pounds, and why wouldn’t you? The health benefits are endless. In our usual format, we’re going to look at the advantages to eating watermelon, and then add in some recipes.

1. Healthy Heart - Watermelon contains citrulline which boosts arginine levels in the blood, aids relaxation of the blood vessels, decreasing blood pressure and reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. So if high blood pressure is a problem, try some melon!

2. Helps fight infection and aid eyesight - watermelon is rich in beta-carotene with just two cups of watermelon supplying a quarter of our daily needs. Beta carotene plays a vital role in fighting infection and maintaining good eye health.

3. Accelerating healing process - Citrulline found in watermelon is an amino acid thats promotes cell division and wound healing.

4. Great if you're dieting - In two cups of watermelon there are only 96kcal, it’s high in fibre and with it’s high liquid content, it will curb your cravings for longer.

5. Improves Male Fertility - So citrulline, in addition to being wonderful for everything else, is also converted into arginine in the body which has been shown to boost sperm count and motility

6. Boosts energy levels - Watermelon’s high water, vitamin and mineral content make it great mid afternoon boost to your energy levels.

7. Anti-ageing properties  - Rich in lycopene, vitamin A and vitamin C, watermelon is great for healthy hair, skin and nails, maintaining their strength and integrity helping you to look young.

Recipe Time!

Watermelon Mint Lemonade - a delicious and very cool looking drink to serve in the summer heat. Add a little vodka for a great cocktail! Serve in jars for a country-outdoor style

2 ½ pounds of watermelon flesh, de-seeded, chopped into chunks
¼ cucumber skinned and cut into chunks
1 cup of fresh lemon juice
¼ cup of mint leave
Rum or vodka to serve, optional

1. Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth
2. Strain through a sieve to serve, decorate with mint and lemon slices and enjoy!

Watermelon and herb salad with grilled halloumi - absolutely delicious, really healthy and easy to make

2 cups of watermelon flesh, de-seeded and chopped
1 small bunch of coriander
1 small bunch of mint
240g halloumi cut into eight slices
zest and juice of one lemon
4 tbsp olive oil

1. Heat a griddle pan and fry the halloumi slices on each side for 30 seconds. Leave to cool.
2. Pop the melon, coriander and mint in a bowl, adding the halloumi once cooled.

3. Mix together the lemon juice and olive oil, season to taste and add to the salad. Serve with Italian bread such as ciabatta.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Beetroot - could it prove to be the boost to your workout and brain you want?

Beetroot throughout the years has been used to treat ailments and complaints from fevers and constipation, to skin problems and wounds, and sometimes even acting as an aphrodisiac in eastern medicine. It’s leaves have been used in tea and medicine, but traditionally the most delicious part of the plant is the root, which is commonly sold in it’s red version in shops, but can also be yellow, white and striped in appearance. In this article, we are going to look at some of more recent studies that have proved it’s medicinal qualities, teamed up with some easy recipes to get it into your everyday life.

Being August, beetroot is in season, so it’s at it’s most accessible, full of nutrients and cheapest. Beetroot is naturally rich in iron, so can be used to treat anaemia and fatigue; folate, so for any women trying to get pregnant or in their first trimester of pregnancy, it can decrease the risk of serious birth defects; magnesium, vital for healthy bones, muscles and nerves and processing energy from food, and vitamins A, B6 and C. So get munching!

Blood Pressure

Beetroot is rich in nitrates, which when eaten, the body converts into nitric oxide, a chemical thought to lower blood pressure, and a review of all the studies carried out in 2013 of the effect of beetroot juice consumption and blood pressure show a direct link to lowering blood pressure.

Exercise Performance

Another well conducted study carried out in 2013, looked at the effects of beetroot consumption on inactive and moderately active athletes, with marked improvements in performance and stamina, in both cases, however showing little effect on elite athletes. So drop the protein shakes and all hail beetroot smoothies!


Last but certainly not least, this little purpley/red miracle, in a 2010 study, has shown that a diet high in beetroot, can improve blood flow to certain areas of the brain, reducing the risks or further deterioration of dementia in some adults.

So with benefits in there for all age groups, right from before you’re even born to older adults, rich in iron, folate and nitrates, beetroot could be the next superfood. So here are some recipes for you to try at home, all of which have been tested and slightly modified by myself, but originally taken from websites such as ‘BBC Good Food’ and ‘Good Housekeeping’.

Beetroot and Orange Salad

  • 3 large oranges
  • 250g pack cooked beetroot (not in vinegar), cut into slim wedges
  • 100g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 150g bag baby spinach leaves
  • cooked chicken breast, sliced
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  1. Using a sharp knife, remove the peel, then segment the oranges. Squeeze the juice from the pith into a small jam jar
  2. Mix together the orange segments, beetroot, hazelnuts, spinach and cooked chicken breasts in a large bowl
  3. Mix together the remaining ingredients for the dressing with some seasoning. When you're ready to serve, toss the salad and dressing together.
Beetroot and chocolate cake - very easy to make and add to for your own tastes (try an orange cream!)
  • 1 large cooked beetroot, about 175g in weight, roughly chopped
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cocoa powder - good quality
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 100g dark chocolate, not too bitter, about 75% is fine
  • cream to serve

  1. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Tip the beetroot into a food processor and blitz until chopped. Add a pinch of salt and the rest of the ingredients, except the oil and chocolate. When completely mixed, add the oil in a steady stream, as if you were making mayonnaise.
  2. When all the oil has been added, stir in the chocolate, the tip the mix into a lined 900g loaf tin. Cook for 1 hour until an inserted skewer comes out practically clean. Leave the load to cool on a rack. Serve in slices with cream.
The addition of the beetroot will make the cake moist and incredibly rich.