Feeling Great Tasting Good - balanced energy through considered nutrition

Our Wednesday evening contribution to the Sheffield Food Festival week (Monday 4th July – Sunday 10 July) was a classroom based session with the expert nutritionist Claire Gillis.

Claire Gillis from Integrate Nutrition

We chose to focus on a practical session with some recipe demonstrations around the topic of eating to maintain steady levels of energy through avoiding peaks and troughs of sugar.

We started the evening with some nibbles including blanched hog weed shoots (locally picked Heracleum sphondylium), celery and new season carrots with a herbed Longley Farm bioactive yoghurt.  We drank a carrot, orange and ginger juice and fresh picked Yarrow tea (Achillea millefolium) which was a beautiful golden colour with an almost oily weight to it.  Yarrow is a member of the Asteraceae or Compositae family (daisy family) and is extremely common certainly around the East side of Sheffield where I live and I have found can be picked during most of the year.

The picture shows that when in flower (as it is around this time of year) yarrow can be easily confused with plants in the potentially dangerous Umbelliferae family including hemlock and fools parsley both very poisonous.  Interestingly Hogweed flowers are also similar and sometimes confused as well not surprisingly as this plant is also a member of the Umbelliferae family.  So we had the potential to cause serious harm before progressing past the nibbles!

Yarrow leaves are distinctive

Fresh made juices are currently enjoying another boost of popularity with endorsements from celebrities such as Simon Cowell who says his daily juice containing chokeberry is the secret to his youth?  Chokeberry contains high levels of anthocyanins which as one of the flavanoids is thought to be nutritionally important for their antioxidant activity.  However, as an example of how progressive research develops and changes nutritionists views of what is good, bad or better for us this link to research in 2007  show that good old vitamin C may be 1,000 to 3,000 times more active as an antioxidant than flavonoids.

It’s true that made fresh rather than bought pre-packaged juices are likely to contain double the vitamin C content as they have avoided preservation techniques such as heat treatment.  The exception to this rule could be our own Citrus Hits which being a short shelf life fresh product have not been pasteurised or had added preservatives (and are pre-packaged in reused J2O bottles!).  You can buy these at our shop at 249 Glossop Road.

But back to our classroom session.  After nibbles Claire gave some background to the wide-ranging health benefits which come from ensuring our blood sugar levels are balanced.  Heres a summary:

“Often energy slumps throughout the day can be attributed to keeping blood sugar levels balanced. In terms of general health, this is essential as over time, imbalanced blood sugar levels can be attributed to complaints such as sleep problems, difficulty loosing weight and even affects stress levels due to hormonal imbalance.

Balancing out protein and carbohydrates is key as this naturally will help keep a balance of glucose being slowly released into the blood.   Snacking (often feared by those watching their weight) is good, obviously the choice of snack is key eg a piece of fruit with a small handful of nuts or power bar!
Avoid excess caffeine and sugary drinks and snacks which will spike up blood sugar levels, what goes up, must come down! After blood sugar levels rapidly rise, they will rapidly fall, creating a vicious cycle as you will then crave more sugar or caffeine”.

To illustrate some of this theory we demonstrated some simple recipes which although delicious contribute balanced energy.  Seemingly illogically we started with dessert (they needed a little time to set).  So we made two versions of chocolate mousse – chocolate and avocado and a lovely chocolate mousse made with ground nuts and no added sugar (apart of the amount already blended within the chocolate we used).  All recipes are below.

Peter in cookery demonstration mode

We followed this by looking at breakfast, a meal which Claire said is often the hardest to tackle as the danger is that a quick simple carbohydrate fix is the closest to hand.  Big culprits here are many mainstream breakfast cereals which as well as being based on refined wheat also contain added simple sugars, sometimes in the form of sugar-coating on the added fruit.  Claire brought five supermarket cereals and surprisingly the one with the highest sugar content at 43% was the premium example marketed as a healthy option.  Claire recommended that it pays dividends to scan the ingredients label, looking at the percentages of carbohydrates, protein, fat and fibre in order to make comparisons.  A useful guide is theglycemic index (GI) and glycemic load concepts which rank how quickly and to what extent foods increase blood glucose levels.  Eating foods with a low glycemic index such as whole grains, nuts and seeds and oats ensures that the glucose energy os released slowly.  So an example of a good breakfast could be porridge combined with a sprinkling of nuts and seeds with perhaps a probiotic natural yoghurt for additional added protein.  This combination of protein from the nuts, seeds and dairy input helps slow down the glucose release from the carbohydrate.  The corollary from this is that a piece of mass market white bread toasted with jam is actually nutritionally poor and unlikely to satisfy hunger for long after the sugar spike caused quickly wears off.

For any good foodie lunch cannot come quickly enough but the message that snacking is good is even better.  But again a carefull choice of snack pays dividends.  Fruit is great so apples, grapes, peaches and pears are good with bananas containing a bit more quickly absorbed sugar so not quite as good (bananas have a higher glycemic index).  Nuts, seeds and perhaps a PJ taste powerbar containing oats, organic Yorkshire hemp seed and nuts, are also good.  It’s interesting that following the session I will review using dates as the main binding ingredient for our Powerbar and perhaps substitute prunes as I have learnt that these have a much lower glycemic index.

We looked next at lunch and how the choice of a salad containing say an oily fish, poached salmon or mackerel with a variety of colourful green vegetables and herbs is a great alternative to a traditional sandwich.

Finally it was time to taste the puddings with the chocolate and nut based mousse getting the delegates vote over the avocado based alternative although they both demonstrated that a delicious finale to the meal does not have to be a nutritional disaster!

Claire Gillis and PJ taste would like to thank the participants of our classroom session and theSheffield Food Festival for creating the opportunity to host this event.  Now heres some recipes:

PJ taste Wheat Free Noodle Salad – makes 4 portions

 1 bags King Sorba Brown Rice Noodles

Quarter bunch fresh coriander
1 inch piece of root ginger peeled
2 dried red chillies
1 stems of Lemon Grass
Spring onion tops
Mixed seeds or toasted sesame seeds

Mix in a bottle:
200ml light olive oil
150ml wheat free soya sauce
20ml sesame oil
2 tsps runny honey
50ml lemon juice, or lime juice

1)    Cook and refresh noodles in plenty of boiling salted water.
2)    Chop coriander, ginger, chillies and the tender parts of lemon grass very finely together.
3)    Make up dressing by mixing and shaking well.
4)    Chop noodles and mix with dressing and coriander mix.
5)    Divide into bowls and then either:
a)  Add half a chicken breast or 75g of cubed smoked Tofu.  Finish with a little more dressing, sprinkle of chopped spring onion, ¼ wedge of Lime (any seeds removed), spring onion split in half and a sprinkle of mixed seed mix.

Seared Salmon Steak

150-200g piece of Salmon skin on (preferably wild salmon or Alaskan Salmon to benefit from higher ratios of Omega 3 to Omega 6 oils than are formed in farmed salmon)

To prepare the fish score through the skin into the flesh.  You can flavor with fresh herbs like parsley, mint, coriander, chervil (and/or spices) by rubbing into the skin/flesh.  Some salt will help the skin crisp up.

To cook get a little olive oil nearly smoking in a frying pan and add the fish skin side down.  Leave to cook and sizzle until you can see that the flesh has changed colour and become translucent two-thirds of the way through.  Turn decisively with a fish slice and cook the remaining third.  This whole process should only take say 3 or 4 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet.

Chocolate avocado mousse

Blend an avocado with tablespoon (or more depending on taste) of pure, raw cacao powder and some natural yoghurt and a little agave syrup.  Put into a dish and leave to set if you can wait!

Chocolate and Nut Mousse

serves 2
75g good quality dark chocolate
50g hazelnuts, ground
2 eggs, separated

Melt chocolate then stir in ground nuts and egg yolks (one at a time). Beat egg whites and fold into chocolate mixture.  As this recipe contains raw egg its worth deciding whether you use pasteurised egg to guarentee that no bacteria such as Salmonella is introduced.  Ensure that your eggs are in date and are stamped to confirm they are from a Salmonella free flock and have been stored in the refrigerator.