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Super Food Smoothie

Super-Food Smoothie 

I love smoothies! 
 
They are such a fabulous way to pack lots of great nutrients into an easy-to-digest snack or light meal. However, the commercially available ones you can buy in the supermarket tend to be just filled with sugar- albeit sugar from fruit. These little sugar shots can spike your blood sugar, leading to the inevitable crash not long after. Really, in this case you are better off just eating the fruit alone. To counteract this, I make my smoothie a “mini meal”, containing both fruit AND vegetables for maximum nutrients and fibre, with the addition of protein and healthy fat to leave you satiated and keep your blood sugar levels stable. 
 
This superfood smoothie has it all- kale (contains iron, vitamin K, antioxidants and fibre), avocado (contains fibre, healthy monounsaturated fat and potassium), pineapple (anti-inflammatory, plus contains vitamin C and bromelain, which aids digestion), pumpkin seeds (protein, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium and zinc), and coconut water (potassium and sodium for electrolyte balance). 

Ingredients 

Put all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Drink and enjoy! Add more liquid if you like your smoothie less thick. If your taste buds are used to something a little sweeter, add extra pineapple, or try adding a few drops of liquid stevia. 
Large handful kale leaves 
¼ large (or ½ small) avocado 
100g frozen pineapple chunks 
2 tbs pumpkin seeds 
250ml coconut water 
Ice as required 
To add even more superfood power to your smoothie- you could include one or more of the following: 
Matcha green tea powder 
Organic powdered greens blend 
Maca powder 
Chia seeds 

Improving Winter Immunity 

It’s a fact of life here in the UK in winter- the nights are long and dark, the days are short and murky, and we inevitably seem to get coughs, colds and more. What can we do then, to improve our immunity in winter? The immune system is a complex web-like network of cells, tissues and organs that work to keep the body healthy by seeking out and destroying harmful pathogens (any organism or substance that may cause disease). The best approach to supporting immune function is a comprehensive plan involving diet, lifestyle, stress management, exercise, and possible nutritional supplementation if deficiencies are present. Good nutrient status is essential for the optimal functioning of the immune system, so the essential starting point is a healthy diet. 

Top Nutrients to Support the Immune System 

Vitamin D: Most people are deficient, since in the UK we are not exposed to sufficient quantities of sunlight during the winter months to promote vitamin D synthesis (Webb, et al., 1988). Your doctor can check your Vitamin D levels if you are concerned. Supplementing this vital vitamin in the winter may be helpful for many people, since it has a critical role in immune functioning (Vanherwegen, et al., 2017). 
Vitamin C: Essential for immune functioning, good sources include papaya, strawberries, broccoli, peppers, oranges and kiwi fruit (Carr & Maggini, 2017). 
Vitamin E: An antioxidant, and important for modulating immune activity. Good food sources are sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard and avocado. 
Zinc: Required for the normal development and function of immune cells. Good sources include grass-fed beef, lamb, spinach, asparagus, sesame and pumpkin seeds. 
Selenium: Another potent antioxidant, and shown to have anti-viral properties. Good sources include most oily fish and meat, eggs, asparagus, sesame seeds and brazil nuts (Hoffman, 2013). 
Probiotics: Found in fermented foods, or take a good-quality, high strength supplement containing a broad spectrum of probiotic strains. 
Garlic: Use copiously in cooking, or take odour-free capsules if you don’t like the taste (or the garlic breath!) 

Additional Tips to Promote Immunity 

Sleep deprivation and stress overload can increase the hormone cortisol, prolonged elevation of which suppresses immune function. Therefore, prioritising sleep and establishing good sleep hygiene habits, plus taking time to consciously relax and unwind can lower cortisol and thus reduce the incidence of infections. Exercise can also help. Regular, moderate exercise, such as a daily 30 minute walk, may help to improve immune function. Beware, however, of long, endurance sessions or intense bouts of exercise, which may suppress the immune system (Gleeson, 2007). 

References 

Carr, A. & Maggini, S., 2017. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients, 9(11). 
 
Gleeson, M., 2007. Immune function in sport and exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 103(2), pp. 693-699. 
 
Hoffman, P. R. B. M., 2013. The influence of selenium on immune responses. Molecular nutrition & food research, 52(11), p. 1273–1280. . 
 
Vanherwegen, A. S., Gysemans, C. & Mathieu, C., 2017. Regulation of Immune Function by Vitamin D and Its Use in Diseases of Immunity. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America, 46(4), pp. 1061-1094. 
 
Webb, A. R., Kline, L. & Holick, A. F., 1988. Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin.. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 67(2), pp. 373-378. 
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