Healthy eating plan: foods that will 'restart' your health
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We all need to hit the reset button now and again, especially after the hard-hitting festive season. Here's how to eat to give your health a kick-start.
2013 is here and the calorific onslaught of the festive season is now a distant memory. However, we still bear the scars; all those mince pies, hot toddies and late, alcohol-fuelled nights mean many of us go into the new year looking, and feeling, a little bit worse for wear.
Thankfully, it's never too late to start again, and certain foods allow us to undo the damage done during the holiday season. And here's a clue - not one of them comes with a serving of brandy butter on the side.
MSN Him spoke to nutrition consultant Claire Harper (thenutritionguide.co.uk) to find out which foods allow us to hit the re-start button and get back to our best.
Reset: alcohol consumption
Full of antioxidants and energy, raw almonds (salt and sugar free, of course) can fight the sluggish effects of too much holiday booze. Harper says: "As with all nuts, raw almonds are densely nutritious. Particularly high in minerals calcium, magnesium and zinc, plus they are a good source of protein and fibre. The most interesting discovery about almonds in recent years is that they were found to reduce cholesterol levels."
Reset: skin damage
Avocados are loaded with good fats that not only boost liver function, but give your skin and hair added sheen. Harper says: "This is one of the most nutritious foods in the world. Too often derided for its fat content, many people are missing out on this wonderfully antioxidant-rich and alkalising fruit. High in vitamin E and omega-6 fats, it is particularly helpful if you’re looking at nutrients to improve the health of the skin."
Chili contains capsaicin, which is said to help speed up the fat-burning process while also working as an appetite suppressant. Harper says: "Chilli peppers are a good inclusion when kick-starting a health regime. They are circulation and metabolism boosting, meaning they help to open up blood vessels which deliver nutrients and oxygen to the cells for energy. Also, if you want to lose weight, they can be a good tool to help you eat less, because it’s difficult to over-eat spicy food."
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Reset: man flu
Once you get past its pungent aroma, raw garlic can help fight a stuffy nose and cough. Harper says: "This is only likely to be of interest if you enjoy raw garlic, for instance in a home-made salad dressing, or if you’re really ill and want to fight off an infection naturally, without drugs. Garlic is a powerful antibacterial agent. It also thins the blood, which is great for lowering blood pressure. (Don’t take high quantities if you’re already on blood-thinning medications or daily aspirin)."
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Reset: overall health
Beetroot is a powerful natural detoxing agent, working to repair all the damage from the inside out. Harper says: "In terms of ‘re-starting’ health, beetroot is a good choice because it is a powerfully cleansing food, increasing bile flow, which helps the liver and digestive system do a good job of removing toxins and waste from our bodies. It is also high in nitrates, which have been found to lower blood pressure and increase stamina and performance."
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Reset: immune system
Packed with amino acids, anti-oxidents and vitamins, raw honey - avoid the processed stuff - can sweeten up your morning porridge while also keeping the norovirus outbreak at bay. Harper says: "Raw honey has immune-boosting properties, it is antiseptic and can help to clear up infections both internally and externally, and promote wound healing. It is high in vitamins and minerals, so is a nourishing choice for someone recovering from an illness."
Reset: blood sugar levels
Between all the wine and Christmas pudding, most of us have a little excess sweet stuff floating through our blood stream in early January. Just sprinkling a bit of cinnamon on toast can help get things back to normal. Harper says: "Cinnamon is known to increase our sensitivity to insulin, meaning it can help regulate blood sugar levels, and keep us on an even keel. It has also been found, together with turmeric, to reduce triglyceride (blood fat) levels when taken before a fatty meal. A great choice if you’re concerned about heart health and wish to maximise your defences against disease."
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Reset: Nicotine damage
Whether you had a few cigs over the holidays or inhaled too much of your uncle's secondhand smoke, kale helps reverse the damage. Harper says: "Kale helps neutralise compounds found in cigarette smoke and contains a substance that jump-starts the liver’s production of cleansing enzymes. Along with all other dark, green, leafy vegetables, kale is highly nutritious. Rich in vitamins, minerals, liver-supportive sulphur compounds, it is protective against disease (specifically cancer) and alkalises the body. It has a high vitamin K content, which is helpful for bone support – K is a fat-soluble vitamin, so for best absorption, eat with some fat-containing food or drizzle over some olive oil when you serve up."
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