Soup to cheer your lunchtime

Salads are out and we want a warming soup to cheer our lunchtime.  Luckily it’s easy to make your own with hundreds of recipes on the internet in every flavour you could wish for.

Home made soup is cheap, delicious, nutritious and fresh. It’s good for your health to eat a wide variety of foods and soup is a good way to ‘hide’ those you’re not so keen on and wouldn’t eat on their own. Use your imagination and be a bit free and easy when creating your soup.

My standard recipe goes something like this:

(All ingredients should be cut small before they go in the pan.)

Cook an onion in butter until transparent.

Add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic, a carrot and couple of sticks of celery and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add 1/3 tin of tomatoes, handful each of cabbage stems and cauliflower leaves (for the waste-not-want-not generation you can save these earlier in the year; just wash, chop and pop in the freezer), stock or bouillon to cover, a squirt of tomato puree, salt, pepper, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried parsley (or fresh if you have it in which case you’ll need about 1 tbsp).

I often add saved ‘juices’ from beef stew for a richer flavour. You could even cut up cooked meats to put in. Deli counters often sell cheap mixed offcuts.

Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, add some green beans and peas. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Tip in a small (300g) tin of mixed pulses. Use a stick blender to whizz it smooth. Freeze in portions for use on other days.

Following my principle of plants, protein and fats, to make a more nutritionally rounded meal from this almost all carb soup, skip the bread and serve with a slice of cheese.

This one’s pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup

Just chop the flesh of a 2-3lb pumpkin into cubes, put in a large saucepan with 3/4 pint stock, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and parsley.  Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add a tin of mixed beans and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Whizz with a stick blender then stir in a 1/2 pint tin of coconut milk.  That’s it!

I’ve also looked at what’s available to buy.

As far as possible, try to avoid unhealthy ingredients like sunflower oil, sugar and MSG that are so often used in manufactured food products. Look out too for misleading labels on products containing only tiny amounts of the most appealing bit yet naming it in big letters splashed across the front. (This applies to food, shampoo, you name it.) Always check the ingredients list on the label, they appear in order from most to least.

‘Fresh’ cartons and pouches – found in the cold aisle. The New Covent Garden veg based soups look pretty good but the Smoked Haddock is mostly potato and with only 5% fish has a disappointing nutritional profile for a fish chowder. Similarly, Naked’s Vietnamese Fiery Beef Pho contains no beef, just beef stock (only 5%) plus loads of spices to give it flavour.

Tins – most supermarkets sell a huge array of tinned soups including own-brand and many manufacturers. Usually these have a dozen ingredients (excluding water and any added vitamins/minerals). The best I found was Crosse and Blackwell’s Roast Chicken and Vegetable which has all real food ingredients in respectable amounts, as has Baxter’s Super Good Pea, Broccoli and Pesto soup.

Free and Easy soups – are useful if you have food allergies/intolerances.

Packet soups – can be useful at the office or if out and about but you don’t want your flask tainted with last week’s lunch.  They usually have about 17 ingredients but this varies widely. Surprisingly, Batchelor’s Minestrone Slim a Soup, at a whopping 27, contains 10 more than their Minestrone Cup a Soup. Batchelor’s Chicken and Leek is another misleading name with only 1% chicken. The Morrisons Golden Vegetable with Croutons is one I used to have sometimes but nowadays, for the sake of my health, I prefer to cook than buy.

Top tip: Get soup making.

Magnesium

The days are shorter, the sun slants at a shallower angle and we won’t be able to make vitamin D until next March/April. At this time of year I usually remind you that a vitamin D supplement is a good idea. And since with all micronutrients they work together, something you’ll need for your Vitamin D to work is magnesium (plus vitamins K2 and B6).

Magnesium is important for your heart, for your brain, for energy production, for insulin sensitivity and so much more. It’s essential if you take calcium. Deficiency is linked to: acid reflux, anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD and depression, constipation, fatigue and insomnia, muscle problems like cramp, fibromyalgia and post exercise soreness (the dreaded DOMS).  I heard in July from Dr David Unwin about how it helped a patient whose fitting had not responded to medication and turned out to be magnesium deficiency caused by other medication.

Having suffered with for years, I was thrilled that it also helps with Raynaud’s. As soon as there was a cool, damp day (even in summer), I’d touch something cold and the circulation in my fingers would just switch off. I’ve even had to warm up cutlery before eating and have occasionally been in so much pain with it that I cried. But since I started taking magnesium a year ago, my fingers have stayed pink.

Most people are deficient but it doesn’t show up with a simple blood test because your body will keep levels constant, even scavenging from your bones and muscles for the sake of your heart.

The main food sources are kelp, wheat (only wholegrain), nuts, soya (best only eaten fermented) and coconut. You could also take tablets, soak in an Epsom salts bath or spray an oil mixture on your skin.  There are different compounds of magnesium available as supplements.  Dr Mercola discusses their merits here.

Check out The Magnesium Miracle by Caroline Dean or her blog.

Top tip – Boost your health with magnesium

NB There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t take magnesium

  • if you have kidney failure,
  • very slow heart rate,
  • bowel obstruction
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • and check with your doctor about any medication.

Quote of the month – our little effort

I don’t know what the future’s going to be but this is my little effort.

Sir Clough Williams Ellis

We went to Portmeirion while on holiday this year and saw how this inspirational man used a “light opera approach to architecture” to demonstrate that you can develop a naturally beautiful location without defiling it.

We still don’t know what the future’s going to be and it looks rocky just now but we can all contribute our own little effort to make a better world.

Real Food Rocks

Saturday 20th July dawned (just about) dark and wet. It didn’t look good for Real Food Rocks at Brathay, Ambleside. The promise of sessions with some of the country’s leading food and exercise visionaries had more than doubled expected ticket sales and bookings had to close at 700.  David Unwin and his wife Jen organised the event, bringing top quality speakers and vendors (check out the Horned Beef Company and Hunter & Gather avocado oil mayonnaise), music and family fun. Was it a gamble holding a prestigious nutrition event in the lake district in summer?

I arrived early and got a seat in a room already almost full, to which were added a couple of dozen standing, more sitting on the floor and some listening to Dr Michael Moseley from outside through the open window. This set the pattern for the day but I managed to squeeze my way in to hear Ivor Cummins, Jenny Phillips, Dr David Unwin (an award-winning GP from Southport who is putting his diabetic patients into remission with diet) and Emma Porter whose low-carb recipes I am enjoying very much.

Here are just a few of the key messages from the day:

Michael Moseley

The Mediteranean Diet (the real one with lots of fats and oily fish, not the one on the NHS website which looks suspiciously like the standard, bad dietary recommendations) helps with severe depression.

Disappointingly, he told us that when his son did medicine at university recently, in the 5 years there was nothing at all on diet or exercise due to lack of time!!! The students organised their own study group. Change is coming as a grass roots movement but the NHS is as hard to turn round as a tanker.

Michael’s wife Dr Claire Bailey (GP) demonstrated fermented food for good gut health. There are as many brain cells in your gut as the head of a cat. Michael said they have a smart cat.

Commenting on exercise, he revealed that the 10k steps a day is not evidence based but came from Japan and was started by a company that makes pedometers!

Ivor Cummins

Ivor talked about ‘healthspan’ rather than lifespan. Bad lifestyle choices can rob you of your health as many as 10years too early. Good lifestyle choices can increase your healthy time by 10years.

Choosing to address your diet, exercise and stress can give you 20 extra quality years.

David Unwin

David spoke affectionately about the many different animals he has owned from the mallard ducklings he nearly killed with a vitamin deficient diet of porridge to a cow.

He was told he must feed the cow magnesium so that it would not have fits because cows really need to eat wild flowers like buttercups not just nitrogen-rich green grass (see the Horned Beef Company). This turned out to also be the remedy for a patient’s severe fitting which had been not helped by drugs. Modern medicine often fails to consider nutrition even though we know how to look after livestock.

Emma Porter and Dr Ian Lake

Emma and Ian spoke about real food and carbohydrate restricted diets for type 1 diabetics so that less insulin is needed. (This must be done in partnership with your doctor.) Other results are boundless energy, weight loss, mental clarity, better teeth and stable blood sugar. Dr Ian Lake pointed out that although the short term results are fabulous, there are no long-term studies of a low-carb diet. However he said we do know for sure that if your follow the usual high carb guidelines you will come to a sticky end. Emma and Dr David Cavan have written The Low-Carb Diabetes Cookbook – it’s not just for diabetics.

Jenny Philipps

Jenny spoke about metabolic health. Her key messages were quality (real food), intermittent fasting and using David Unwin’s sugar equivalent infographics to choose low impact foods. If you are metabolically healthy, you’ll be fine eating the odd piece of cake. If your health is poor, it’s very important to avoid high sugar foods.

And the dodgy weather?  The sun came out, the scenery glowed and a good day was had by all.

Top tip: Real Food Rocks!

Eggstraordinary!

Happy Hens, Great Eggs

Eggs nutritional gold in their own little packages.
They're good value, easy to prepare, versatile, 
satisfying and delicious.  We certainly eat a lot of them
36 million a day!


Does anyone remember the slogan 'Go to Work on an Egg'?
The original Tony Hancock adverts are on YouTube.
It's much sounder advice than breakfast cereal ads today.

There was a time when we were advised to eat fewer eggs;
now the Food Standards Agency says they're good for
everyone, even raw.
The British Lion mark was launched in 1998 and shows when
hens have been vaccinated against salmonella.

So what’s in them?
  • Protein - including all the essential amino acids
     and against which all other 
    protein sources are measured.
  • Fats – including mono-unsaturated
    and essential long-chain omega 3 fatty acids.
    They famously contain cholesterol
    but this will not affect your blood levels.
  • Vitamins - A, B2 (riboflavin), B5, B9 (folate), B12
    and D.
  • Minerals - rich in selenium, phosphorous and iron.
  • Other - choline (the only other food rich in this essential
    nutrient is liver)
    - lutein and zeaxanthin (needed by your eyes).
    
How good your eggs are depends on how the hens
have lived.

Could you keep your own hens?
If that’s not an option and you haven’t any
hen-keeping friends, buy the best of what’s available
Organic eggs are the most expensive at ~30p each.
They have the best animal welfare standards and are 
always free-range.  Hens are naturally inquisitive
creatures, happier when free to forage outside.

Free-range eggs have better animal welfare than hens
kept inside and a superior nutritional profile with double
the amount of vitamins and omega 3 fats.


Sainsbury’s sells woodland eggs from hens free to forage
among trees as wild ones would.

Barn eggs come from hens kept inside, up to a maximum
of 6000, with space to move around.  They eat only the
food provided.

Omega 3 eggs have feed supplemented by flaxseed
oil and/or fish oil.

The cheapest eggs come from hens in cages.

Beware marketing tricks – is the idyllic farm in the picture
a real farm?  Each egg has a number stamped on it
where it came from.
When factory hens are crammed together there’s a greater
likelihood of disease so they get daily antibiotics.  This
adds to the danger we’ll lose the use of these
life-saving drugs one day.

14 year old Lucy Gavaghan's petition resulted in a huge,
national shift away from hens in cages.  Barren, battery
cages are now banned under EU law, so all Lion Marked
eggs come from enriched cages.

Caged hens are fed just on grains without all the good
plants and little critters they would grub up if they were
outside.
Having said that, even cheap eggs (~12p each) are
good for you and far better than many of the processed
foods for sale.

Local farm eggs are often for sale in your local butcher's
or supermarkets and could come under any of these
categories.  You might see signs on country lanes too.
Some of these eggs are superb but if they do not bear
the Lion Mark there are no guarantees of quality.

Find out more at egginfo.co.uk

Top Tip – Eat eggs laid by happy hens!

Quote of the month – top books

Britain’s biggest seller is cookbooks. The second is diet books. How not to eat what you’ve just learned to cook!

Brian Turner, chef

In Britain we sell more cooking books per capita than any other country – but we cook less.  Have we made it all too complicated?  As a friend of mine said “Cooking is common sense and the application of heat.”

This is the scrummy one-pot chicken from my recipe booklet Eat Well and Save.