Smorgasbord Health Column – Recipes that Pack a Punch – Breakfasts – Wholegrains – Meusli Porridge by Sally Cronin


In this series I will be sharing recipes that pack a punch of nutrition and still taste delicious. By now you know that I believe in a ‘cook from scratch’ approach to preparing meals and I have followed that philosophy for over forty years. In my mid-20s I was cooking food for 110 growing children three times a day, and the focus had to be on the nutrition as well as the taste. As a nutritional therapist for the last 25 years, I have shared these recipes with my clients to ensure that they never went hungry or deficient in the essential nutrients their bodies needed to be healthy.

Breakfast – A good start to the day.

When your body has been asleep for eight hours it has had a chance to repair and drop its activity levels to maintenance levels. Your major organs are still functioning but in standby mode. This is why it is important to eat your last food of the day at least three hours before you go to bed so that your digestive system has had a chance to process the food and is not running at full speed when you are trying to get to sleep.

Breakfast is important, particularly for children who are growing and using up calories at an enormous rate. They need food that will give them the energy to get through the morning until break time and then lunch. The temptation with the busy schedule in the morning of getting up, dressed and ready for school is to give them a bowl of breakfast cereal as the quickest way to do this.  However, today the shelves are filled with boxes of cereal that provide more than just calories, they also contain high levels of sugar and salt as well as preservatives and additives.

Adults who have active lifestyles and a long working day in front of them also need to wake the body up with a nutritional punch, not just a slug of caffeine, or even a 600 calorie fancy coffee picked up on the way to work.

Today’s recipe is very simple and quick when made in the microwave – a bowl of porridge with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, and some whole fat milk or yogurt.

Wholegrains are an essential part of our diet and even more so for children and adults with active lifestyles. As part of a balanced diet they provide vital B-vitamins plus release energy slowly rather than refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice and some cereals which release a quick sugar hit. They also provide us with fibre an essential element in our food that not only move foods more effectively through our guts, but also help prevent diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Organic oats have a great deal going for them including Vitamins Vitamin B1 Thiamin and B6 Pyridoxine – Blood Health and Depression

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

Recipe for one portion of porridge in the microwave – prepare the night before and then ready in four minutes for breakfast.

  • 40gm of oats (cholesterol, fibre, heart disease, cardiovascular and immune system)
  • 200gm water, skimmed milk or full fat milk. (bone health, heart health)
  1. Put in a large microwaveable bowl (it does froth up so make sure it is a big enough)
  2. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
  3. Cook in the microwave for 2 minutes, stir and then for another 2 minutes
  4. Pot of natural live yogurt if porridge made with water (bone health, gut health, immune system)
  5. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (anti-bacterial, blood sugar, blood clotting)

Once cooked add the following

  • 1 oz of sliced almonds (Immune system, depression, fibre, cholesterol )
  • 1 oz of chopped walnuts (anti-inflammatory, asthma, arthritis, cholesterol, heart)
  • Blueberries, raspberries, fresh apple, banana (immune system, heart health)

Adding the following to your breakfast will add an extra nutritional punch to your day. If you are in a rush, take your tea with you in a thermal mug…

  • Green Tea (protects against heart disease, cancers, cholesterol, strokes, blood pressure)
  • Fresh squeezed unsweetened orange juice (Immune System, Cancer, cholesterol, fibre, ulcers, kidney stones)

Next time – go to work on an egg or two

©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2021

Thanks for joining me for this series and as always delighted to receive your feedback… keep young at heart… thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Health Column – Food Therapy – #Asparagus – Nutrient Packed and Delicious by Sally Cronin


As a follow on from the recent series on the Weekly Grocery Shopping List of foods that contain the nutrients the body needs that contain the nutrients the body needs I am going to repeat my series from 2017 on the health benefits of some of our most common foods.

Food therapy is a broad term for the benefits to the body of a healthy, varied and nutritional diet of fresh foods.

Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine. A robust immune system, not only attacks external opportunistic pathogens, but also works to prevent rogue cells in the body from developing into serious disease.

NOTE If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor. If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.

The history of Asparagus

Asparagus is a member of the lily family and the spears that we eat are shoots grown underground. The ancient Greeks used the word asparagus to describe any young tender shoots that were picked and eaten. It was cultivated over 2,000 years ago in that part of the Mediterranean and the Romans then picked up a liking for the delicacy eating fresh and dried out of season.

Asparagus became such a delicacy that the Romans went one step further in their desire to eat fresh all year round. Chariots would race to the Alps to freeze the tender shoots in the year round snow for six months and then race back with it in time for one of the major events of the year – The Feast of Epicurus. Fleets of galleons took the shoots to all corners of the Empire and over the centuries other countries adopted this delicacy and it now grows in many parts of the world.

There are huge health benefits from eating asparagus on a regular basis and it is packed with the important Vitamin K.

Vitamin K1 is is the form of the nutrient found in plants and is essential for efficient blood clotting but recently research has identified that it has many other roles within the body. It may help prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. It is a stronger anti-oxidant than Vitamin E or Coenzyme Q10 and it may also inhibit the growth of certain cancers such as breast, ovary, colon, stomach and kidney cancer.

As an antioxidant it has been approved for the treatment of osteoporosis in Japan due to its action in the synthesis of osteocalcin which attracts calcium to the bone matrix. It has also shown benefits in other areas such as preventing calcification of arteries and soft tissues which can lead to heart attacks. As well as preventing calcification it helps regulate the body’s calcium which is extremely important in organs such as the brain or kidneys that are vulnerable to calcium deposits leading to damage or the formation of stones.

A link between levels of Vitamin K and brain disease.

The brain is a fascinating part of our bodies with relatively little known about certain areas that remain uncharted. Research is particularly active in areas such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as this more than any of the degenerative diseases, leaves us so vulnerable and in need of total care.

IL-6 is a chemical transmitter for the immune system, which promotes inflammation. As we age this process gets out of control and it results in excessive inflammation throughout the body, including the joints and the brain. Alzheimer’s patients have very high levels of IL-6 in their brains. Vitamin K is thought to prevent this and if the link can be proved then eating asparagus as part of a healthy eating plan could be an easy way for everyone to increase this vital vitamin.

Other parts of the boy affected by a deficiency of Vitamin K

A deficiency of this vitamin K has been linked to elevated levels of blood sugar, as the pancreas, which makes insulin normally, contains the second highest amount of vitamin K than anywhere in the body.

Whilst on the subject of Vitamin K if you add grass fed butter to your asparagus you are also getting the vitamin in another form.. as K2.

One of the problems today of obtaining sufficient Vitamin K2 is that animals need to be grass fed to produce it. As much of our lifestock, including chickens are corn or grain fed, the amount of this important component of our complex nutritional requirements is missing from the food chain. Including eggs for example, if they are produced by mass farmed chicken without access to grass areas and their naturally foraged foods. which is why buying free range is better. Do check the packaging however, as free range comes in a number of formats too. Sometimes they are let out for an hour a day and that is not free range!

Only grass fed dairy or animal protein contains sufficient amounts of Vitamin K2 which is an important component of our complex nutritional requirements.

This applies to real butter – I eat the real thing but make sure it comes from grass fed dairy again. A scrape goes a long way and tastes so much better than margarine.

Research into Vitamin K2 is ongoing and is very exciting.

Dementia including Alzheimers and neurological diseases including Parkinsons with the vitamin being identified as deficient in patients suffering from irregularities in brain chemistry.

Kidney disease – Most patients with stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD) suffer from extensive vascular calcifications.4 Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is a powerful inhibitor of vascular calcification, and requires vitamin K2 to be fully activated

CancerIn recent years, various reports have shown that vitamin K2 has anti-oncogenic effects in various cancer cell lines, including leukemia, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and hepatocellular cancer. Although the exact mechanisms by which vitamin K2 exert its antitumor effect are still unclear, processes, such as cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, appear to contribute to the therapeutic effects of vitamin K2.

To read the full report on the research: Vitamink2.org

Other nutrients Asparagus offers us.

As well as Vitamin K, asparagus also contains the following nutrients in varying amounts.. whilst it looks like a great deal more information than you might need; I hope it reinforces how nutritionally important the food is that I feature.  I could just tell you that asparagus contains Folate, Vitamin C, A, B1, B2, B3, B6, Tryptophan, Manganese, Copper, Phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and calcium.  But does that really mean anything?

I think that it helps you appreciate the food you eat differently if you can associate it with a more comprehensive look at its various elements and the amazing combinations of nutrients contained in just one food source.

Asparagus has a huge number of key nutrients that boost and maintain the immune system.

Folate: Folic Acid; Folic acid is a B Vitamin essential for cell replication and growth. It helps form the building blocks of DNA the body’s genetic information which is why it is recommended prior to conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to ensure the rapidly growing and replicating cells of the foetus are normal. It is essential for transporting co-enzymes needed for amino acid metabolism in the body and is necessary for a functioning nervous system

Vitamin B1: Thiamin; This vitamin is essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates and for the strength of the nervous system. Every cell in the body requires this vitamin to form the fuel that the body runs on ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate).

Vitamin B2: Riboflavin; Also essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP, and also fats, amino acids and proteins too. It is necessary to activate Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid. It works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins. It is water-soluble

Vitamin B3: Niacin; Also needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates (ATP), fats and proteins. Needed to process Alcohol. Niacin form of B3 helps regulate Cholesterol. In addition it is essential for the formation or red blood cells and the hormones. It works with Tryptophan in protein to form Serotonin and Melatonin in the brain

Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine The Master Vitamin for processing Amino Acids – the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It assists in the formation of several Neurotransmitters and can therefore help regulate mood. It has been shown to help lower Homocysteine levels in the blood linked to heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. It produces Haemoglobin the Oxygen carrying pigment in the blood. It helps the release of carbohydrates stored in the liver and muscles for energy. It is involved in the production of antibodies and it helps balance female hormones. It is needed for the production of serotonin along with tryptophan and B12.

Tryptophan: Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is the lowest in terms of levels needed by the body. It is responsible for normal sleep patterns. Vitamin B6 is needed for the formation of tryptophan, which affects serotonin levels. These serotonin levels influence sleep and mood.

Vitamin C: Ascorbic Acid; An antioxidant that protects LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) from oxidative damage, leading to hardening of the arteries. May also protect against heart disease reducing the hardening of arteries and the tendency of platelets to clump together blocking them. Vitamin C is necessary to form collagen, which acts like glue strengthening parts of the body such as muscles and blood vessels. It aids with healing and is a natural anti-histamine.

It is essential for the action of the Immune system and plays a part in the actions of the white blood cells and anti-bodies. It protects other antioxidants A and E from free radical damage and is involved in the production of some adrenal hormones.

Manganese: Needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as glucose tolerance. Also forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, which helps prevent free radical damage.

Copper: Copper is an essential trace element needed to absorb and utilise Iron. It is needed to make ATP and is also to synthesise some hormones and blood cells. Collagen needs copper, as does the enzyme tyrosinase, which plays a role in the production of skin pigment. Too much copper in the diet can depress levels of zinc and effect wound healing.

Phosphorus: Essential for bone formation and production of red blood cells. Also needed for the production of ATP fuel for energy. Small amounts are involved in most of the chemical reactions throughout the body.

Potassium: This is the main cation (positively charged electrolyte). It reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect working environment in and around each cell. It allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain the correct fluid balance in the body. It also regulates levels of acidity and alkalinity in the body. It is also required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It is connected to normal heart rhythms.

Iron: The main function of iron is in haemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component of blood. When someone is iron deficient they suffer extreme fatigue because they are being starved of oxygen. Iron is also part of myoglobin which helps muscle cells store oxygen and it is also essential for the formation of ATP

Zinc: A trace mineral that is a component in the body’s ability to repair wounds, maintain fertility, synthesis protein, cell reproduction, maintain eyesight, act as an antioxidant and boost immunity. It can be used topically for skin conditions. It is essential for a functioning metabolism and hormone production such as testosterone. It is also needed for the production of stomach acid. Too much zinc will depress the copper levels in the body.

Magnesium: It is essential mineral needed for bone, protein and fatty acid formation, forming new cells, activating the B vitamins, relaxing muscles, clotting blood and forming ATP the fuel the body runs on. The secretion and action of insulin also needs magnesium. It is needed to balance calcium in the body and too much can result in very low levels of calcium. The best food sources are whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish.

Selenium: A very important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancer.

Calcium: The most abundant and essential mineral in the body. There are approximately two to three pounds mainly found in the teeth and bones. Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones it is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women. If you are at risk of kidney stones consult your doctor before taking in additional calcium supplements. This also applies if you are suffering from prostate cancer where there may be a link between increased levels of dietary calcium in dairy products and this form of cancer. It is thought it is thought that excess calcium causes lower levels of Vitamin D, which helps protect against prostate cancer.

Compared to the multi-vitamin supplement you might be taking, a serving of asparagus three times a week provides most of the elements, but in a very much more digestible format for the body.

Here is a video that shows you how to prepare fresh asparagus courtesy of the Bald Chef.

I have edited the 2017 Cook from Scratch where you will find many more recipes for Asparagus shared by Carol Taylor: Cook From Scratch with Carol Taylor – Asparagus

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Health Column – The major Organs and systems of the body – The Immune System and how it works by Sally Cronin


Like most things in life there are two sides to every story, which means there are the good guys and the bad guys. When it comes to our health this involves healthy bacteria and dangerous bacteria.

All creatures, including of course humans, have an amazingly complex but effective system to distinguish between the two, and to ensure that we don’t come to harm. It is our Immune System.

This system has been evolving over hundreds of thousands of years and developing strategies to protect us every time it met with a new threat. This is often; as germs mutate when they meet resistance and our software needs frequent updating.

The majority of the bacteria in our body is designed to be there. These are the friendlies and our home defence team. Without a gut teeming with them many of our systems would grind to a halt, our brains would not function and our blood would uselessly circulate our bodies without anything to transport. Our food would not be processed and nutrients would not reach the organs that depend entirely on them to survive.

Along with the worker bacterial cells there are the front line soldiers who rush to our defence when we are under attack. Provided we have a healthy diet of unprocessed natural foods these fighters are in enough numbers to do the job. However, throw sugars and industrial food into the equation along with laziness and you rob your immune system of this vital defence component and you are open to attack.

One of the issues that is also playing a huge part in our downgrading of our anti-virus software is the overuse of commercial anti-bacterial products.  Not only can the active ingredients be harmful to us, but if too strong, their actions can prevent us coming into contact with bacteria needed for our immune systems to detect or develop andidotes.

Having said that, children need to be exposed to non-lethal germs from an early age to develop their immature immune systems effectively.  Living in a home that is 99% germ free is a great concept but the world outside is 99% germ invested.  A child needs to be able to cope with that, and can only do so if its defence system has been allowed to come up to standard.

In the posts on the immune system I will be looking at how it works and what it needs to do so effectively.

In this post  I will cover the components of this complex defence mechanism, how it works and how to maintain its efficiency with some changes in diet.

It is a system that is usually taken for granted and treated with disrespect until it lets us down, and then we blame it for making us ill.  In fact if we have not provided this vital function within our body, the foods containing the nutrients it requires; it is us who is to blame. Many millions in the world do not have access to fresh produce and are unable to give their immune systems what it needs, causing widespread disease. This means that it is even more important for those of us who do live with the luxury of food choice to make the most of it.

Without an efficiently functioning immune system we would all have to spend our lives in a bubble without any contact with the outside world. Ever. One minor infection could kill you!

There have been a number of cases over the years of children born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). They have been forced to spend their lives separated by clear plastic from their family and any contact with bacteria or viruses. Today, thankfully with gene therapy, this devastating disease is curable, but for some a normal life is simply not possible.

The immune system is another one of our silent partners and is an extremely important one. Our most crucial years in terms of this amazing system in our body, is our childhood, when our contact with people, animals, grass, pollens, foods; develops the immune system until it becomes our guardian angel. Watching and waiting for any breach in our system and rushing to our defence within seconds of the alarm being sounded. (Anyone who has had a child going to nursery or school for the first time will have experienced first-hand the process, as the mass contact produces a whole raft of immune system strengthening infections!) It is however, never too late to make the changes necessary to strengthen your immune system.

In a nutshell if your immune system is not functioning well, your entire body including the tissues, organs and systems, suffer damage and cannot repair themselves. Additionally you are wide open to bacterial, viral and toxic invaders who are looking for a nesting site. You have what they need to reproduce and thrive but they like to make some adjustments when they arrive. They like a lovely acidic, toxic, waste filled environment without too much oxygen. (A rubbish diet with little exercise will achieve that nicely)

They are particularly fond of a new home that does not have troublesome neighbours such as anti-oxidants and they prefer a quiet life without too much exercise so that they get on and breed. They are a class act and make sure that they give you something back in the form of rent. Frequent colds and flu, thrush, skin complaints, fatigue and stomach problems. If you are a really up market landlord and are offering premium accommodation they will pay you back with arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

The immune system is not involved in just our internal defences. It actually has a pretty formidable array of physical barriers that are designed to keep pathogens, which is all harmful substances out of our bodies.

Our first line of defence

The skin is our main external protector. If it is not damaged it will not allow harmful substances to enter the blood stream. The problem is that of course it is porous and is designed to allow fluids out and in through the pores. So any substance that touches your skin such as chemical preparations can pass right through. For example if you use strong household cleaners these contain highly toxic substances that will pass through the dermal layer and store in the tissues causing anything to a mild rash to a violent allergic reaction. This is why you must wear gloves when using them. Many of us react to perfume, cosmetics or even simple hand creams that our body obviously thinks of as toxic. If you cut yourself then germs can pass through directly to the bloodstream and from there they have complete access to the rest of your body.

We have special hairs and mucus tissues in our nose, mouth and throat that are designed to catch anything harmful.   If a toxin gets as far as our stomachs, then acid and enzymes will react and cause you to vomit to get rid of it. Should any harmful bacteria, virus or toxin get past these barriers then we have a very complex system of cells and anti-bodies that will rush to our defence. Most of us have suffered stomach upsets before and it is just the body getting rid of the toxins. (More about these in a later post.)

The liver is of course the place where most of these toxins are going to pass through, and it has specific enzymes designed to destroy them so that they can then be evicted from the body. Which is fine if the toxicity is only occasional but unfortunately our modern diet and environment puts the liver under a great deal of pressure and toxins will not all be expelled, going on to do sometimes irreparable damage.

Free radicals running riot through the body.

If you cut an apple and effectively damage it, within a few minutes it will begin to turn brown. If you leave it long enough the tissue of the apple will begin to break down and you will end up with a liquid, bacteria covered and unidentifiable lump on your cutting board. That just about sums up what free radical damage does to your body. We bandy about the phrase Free Radicals as if they are some dissident political group or school yard bullies which is essentially true. Like most bullies they are missing something and want yours.

A free radical is a molecule. A normal molecule has an even number of electrons and is considered stable. Free radicals on the other hand have an uneven number of electrons and are unstable. They are desperate to be like the normal molecules so they have to steal from them to get another electron. This of course means that they have created another free radical. More and more cells become damaged and leave the body open to most diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Like the apple the damage is a kind of oxidation, which is the action of adding oxygen to a substance or rusting and when I wrote about cholesterol, it was the low density lipoprotein with its smaller particles that becomes oxidised by free radicals making it unhealthy.

Do Free Radicals have a positive effect on the body?

Ironically the immune system uses some free radicals to go and steal an electron from harmful molecules that have entered the system illegally. Problem is, like everything else in the body we need balances and checks. The Free Radical police are anti-oxidants and if you have not got enough of them then the free radicals become vigilantes and go after everything that moves.

Also we create free radicals when we exercise energetically and take in additional oxygen. These then assist with the metabolism of foods that enter the body. Again if the balance between these and anti-oxidants is not correct more free radicals are created than are needed. This is why we need a healthy diet including foods that provide these anti-oxidants.

vegetablesThose of you who read my articles on a regular basis know what is coming next!… To boost your immune system there are some very easy guidelines to follow.

  1. Cut out sugars from your diet so that you are only ingesting a maximum of 6 teaspoons per day in cooked foods and as a sweetener. Effectively, that means do not eat industrial processed foods, particularly items such as breakfast cereals and most commercial flavoured yogurts. Do not be taken in by low-fat food and those that say artificially sweetened. The chemical stuff is definitely unhealthy and has documented side effects. Too much sugar in the system provides a wonderful environment for all toxic pathogens and your immune system will only be able to stand on the side lines as its defence team fights a losing battle.
  2. Industrially produced foods have been through a machine, rarely has many natural ingredients and has chemical additives. If it is wrapped in plastic, comes in a packet or has very attractive cardboard advertising then treat with suspicion. Most of the time your immune system will spend more time dealing with the toxins than your digestive system will take to consume and process. If after the main ingredients you have a long list of additives and E numbers…. skip it.
  3. Drink sufficient fluids to help toxins pass out of the body. If you are one of those who boast that you manage on a cup or two of tea a day and that you get all the fluids you need from the food you eat; think again. We lose moisture when we exhale, through our skin and when we pee, which adds up to between 1.5 to 2 litres per day. You cannot replenish that from food alone and if you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and it is slow to resume its normal smooth appearance then you are dehydrated. This will impact how your immune system functions.
  4. Adopt the 80/20 rule for your diet. 80% all fresh natural produce that has been grown, picked or dug up out of the ground. The brighter the colour the better. I know that having a busy work and personal life makes this daunting sometimes but I use frozen vegetables all the time.. Especially out of season. The only foods that I usually prefer to prepare myself are carrots, potatoes and sweet potato as the frozen ones do not taste as good. Also economically onions are much better non-frozen but I do in bulk and they keep in the fridge for a week. Green vegetables particularly are very good these days and if you are really in a hurry get a good quality mixed veg bag.
  5.  Combine with good quality protein that has not been mass farmed (farm shops are great) and moderate intake of grains and whilst I enjoy my whole grains I have developed a taste of fresh sourdough bread which has additives (you know it goes stale in 24 hours)also Basmati rice. (Carbohydrates are treated like sugar by the body so moderation is the key) . Milk, Butter, Eggs and Olive Oil should also be part of your nutritional shopping list as they provide vitamins and minerals as well as Omega Fatty Acids to boost your entire system.
  6. Follow my ‘Cook From Scratch’ approach to eating. That includes sauces so that you have minimum industrially manufactured produce in the diet. (I hesitate to call it food)
  7.  20% of your diet is where the Red Wine, Dark Chocolate and occasional Guinness comes in!

Next time – ignorance is not bliss.. your body is your only real asset and its well-being should be your primary concern.

© Sally Cronin Justfoodforhealth 1998 -2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction in ebooks you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and please help spread the word by sharing..Sally.

Smorgasbord Health Column – Turning Back the Clock – Taking Care of the Externals by Sally Cronin


This week a look at the person that we present to the world. I don’t think I would ever consider plastic surgery, but I have certainly invested time and money in creams that promise the earth!  However, apart from our attitude to life that I talked about a couple of weeks ago…our appearance does influence how others see us in age terms. This does not mean getting out there an buying a mini-skirt (unless you have the legs for it of course) but making the most of what you have got…. and this includes eating the right foods to nourish our skin and bones.

Turning Back the ClockTurning Back the Clock – Taking Care of the Externals by Sally Cronin

We have concentrated, up to now, on the internal aspects of aging. But we also need to take a look at our external presentation. Not just healthy eating for skin, hair and nails but also the way that we show them off.

We would all love to possess radiant and glowing skin, thick and stunningly coloured hair, beautifully manicured nails and eyes with a twinkle in them.

There is no doubt that eating plenty of fresh vegetables and lean protein, combined with drinking sufficient fluids will assist your body to make positive changes in all those areas. Lack of fluids causes blotchy and dull skin and spots so drinking the 2 litres of fluid a day will give your skin improved tone and texture. Dehydrated skin is very flaccid and flat and a simple test to determine how hydrated you are, is to pinch some skin on the back of your hand and let it go. The longer it takes to return to its former shape, the more dehydrated you are. It should spring back immediately.

Apart from fluids, what else do we need to ensure this glowing skin and shiny hair?

We need a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, with the right amount of the essential nutrients to ensure that all the body systems, such as waste management, are working efficiently. If you are not eliminating waste then it will accumulate and cause tissues such as skin and even the hair to become lifeless and dull.

I have covered the importance of proteins earlier and how we are essentially made up of water and protein. Both the skin and hair need sufficient protein in the diet and this does not mean eating 5lbs of prime-rib every day. Protein is present in lots of plant foods as well and these would include all types of beans, sprouting seeds and beans, cheese, milk, whole grains. Live yoghurt is great as it also contains the friendly bacteria to keep your intestines healthy. If they are working efficiently then of course you will be eliminating toxins efficiently.

Some of the foods that you should remove or reduce in your diet can cause acne such as too much sugar. Alcohol in particular can cause bloating and refined, white carbohydrates get stored as fat and increase the lumpy and uneven texture to our skin.

We need a certain amount of fat, not only for the B vitamins that it supplies but also because it assists in circulation and improves the suppleness and softness of skin. Vitamin B – complex is very important for skin tone and the B vitamins are also great for the immune system – keeping us clear of infections.

Other vitamins that we should be taking in for our skin health are Vitamin A, which strengthens and repairs the tissues and prevents spots. It is a powerful anti-oxidant, which keeps your skin clear of toxins.

Vitamin C is vital for wound healing and repair and maintenance of the blood vessels close to the surface of the skin and can be used in creams on the surface to help stabilise the collagen and help prevent fine lines appearing.

Vitamin E is definitely a great anti-oxidant and has an anti-inflammatory effect when applied directly to the skin. It helps keep the skin soft and smooth and has a mild sunscreen effect.

Zinc works like the vitamin C and E and is great for wound healing and in a cream is great for mild rashes etc.

So, if you include foods providing these in your healthy eating programme, you should be getting all of the nutrients necessary to keep your skin youthful.

What about expensive skin creams?

Like most women on the fast track to wrinkles, I have tried most of the face creams that are advertised. I know deep down that I pursuing a photo-shopped pipe dream but you never know!!! However, in my explorations, I have found that there are some great products in the lower end of the price scale. I now use a combination of creams including Nivea soft cream, E45 as a body lotion and Aloe Vera cream after being in the sun. I rarely spend more than £5 a large pot that lasts at least a couple of months.

My mother washed her face at night with soap and water, with a cold water rinse followed by some Ponds Cold cream cleanser and moisturiser from the age of 15 until she died and had great skin at 95. In fact I wrote to Ponds just before her 90th birthday and they sent her six jars free which she thought was a little optomistic.

Men as well as women need to moisturise and care for their skin from the inside and the outside. There is nothing effeminate about a man putting cream on his face, neck and hands. Men need to glow as well as women and there is nothing more attractive than a clean-shaven, slightly bronzed older man with radiant skin. Fragrance free ranges are available and very inexpensive.

Is smoking a leading cause of skin aging?

When you smoke cigarettes, you inhale hundreds of dangerous chemicals into your body, which have a harmful effect every organ including the skin. These toxins help to breakdown the structure of the skin, destroying the collagen fibres, which keep the skin taut and smooth. The result is premature aging of the skin, with thinning and the early development of lines and wrinkles. Women also seem more prone to wrinkles developing around the mouth as fine lines radiating outwards. There is also a genetic reason that smoking and obesity can cause premature aging and a Professor Spector printed some recent research in the Lancet

Every time a cell divides, and as people age, their telomeres get shorter. The loss is associated with aging which is why telomeres are thought to hold the secrets of youth and the aging process.

The investigators measured concentrations of a body fat regulator, leptin, and telomere length in blood samples from 1,122 women between 18 and 76. Telomere length decreased steadily with age, and telomeres of obese women and smokers were much shorter than those of lean women and those who had never smoked.

There was a difference between being obese and lean, which corresponded to 8.8 years of aging. Being a current or ex-smoker equated to about 4.6 years and smoking a pack a day for 40 years corresponded to 7.4 years of aging.

Apparently if you stop smoking before 40 this process can be stopped and the effects minimised.

What are the areas of our skin that give away our age most of all?

Most of us as we get older tend to cover up certain bits of our body unless we are very brave and don’t give a fig leaf. If you take care of your face you must make sure that you also moisturise and take care of your neck and your hands. Both these areas are forgotten very often and the face will look great but the crinkly neck and dry and chapped hands will give you real age away.

What about hair and the effects of aging?

We need a nutrient rich diet and plenty of fluids for a healthy head of hair. My favourite foods, salmon and walnuts with their Omega fatty acids are perfect in the diet to prevent the hair looking dry and lifeless.

Some of the other nutrients are also necessary

Such as:

  • Copper (mushrooms, sunflower seeds, crab, lobster and oysters).
  • Zinc (barley, oysters, crab, chicken, whole wheat, lamb, beef and turkey).
  • Selenium (brown rice, chicken, shrimp, sunflower seeds, tuna, Brazil nuts, walnuts and eggs) can help promote hair growth and slow down the loss of hair over time.
  • There is another substance found in food called PABA (Para aminobenzoic acid) which may protect the hair follicles and prevent hair loss in men and women. The best food sources for this are barley, oysters (the real reason men eat them) crab, chicken, whole wheat, lamb, beef, turkey, brown rice, mushrooms, eggs and milk.

How about the way that we present our hair and the age it reflects?

This is purely a personal opinion but I find that older men with balding, grey hair look fantastic with a neat haircut and a shiny, slightly tanned, bald head. Long grey hair with baldness or combing long strands of hair over a bald spot are not really sexy. I have seen years taken off men who have gone to the groomed look.

For women it is easy to stick with a style that you have worn for years. You certainly do not need to dye your hair. In fact if not done properly it can look aging. Go and get some advice about your style. A stunning cut can frame your face in the right way and knock years off you. Also, if you are a mottled grey then think about going the whole way and have a silver rinse or go completely white – with the right cut this can look stunning. I am sorry to say that most perms and stiff hairdos can be aging and today it is about light, soft and flattering hairstyles. Word of warning – look at your hairdressers cut and colour – if it is bright green and looks like a poodle cut – go somewhere else.

Do be careful about what you put on your hair. It is a billion pound business and not all products are produced to the same height standard. Choose the simplest shampoo and conditioner possible. Do a final rinse with cold water and that will bring a shine to any colour hair. NB. One of the most used words on a label for hair products is ‘Repeat’ do remember the label is written by the marketing department!

How about our nail health and how should we present them?

This is not just for the girls as we all need to make sure that our nails are healthy as they can reflect our inner state of wellbeing too. Healthy nails should be strong, smooth and translucent in colour. Nail health can be compromised not only by poor diet but also exposure to toxins, too many prescription drugs, or by fungal infections. A trained practitioner can tell if a person has health problems such as heart disease or lung problems from the state of the nails.

Taking in the right nutrients for your nails will also benefit your hair. Calcium is important but do remember that if you are taking any supplements of calcium that they should be accompanied by Vitamin D or Magnesium so that it is absorbed.

If you are deficient in iron this can cause brittle nails, as can a lack of zinc. The essential fatty acids that I have covered in previous chapters are also necessary. Foods that can help give you healthy and strong nails are in the healthy eating programme in the last chapters of the book.

So as long as you are eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, moderate intake of dairy foods, sardines, canned salmon (with the bones) spinach and soy products you will be getting calcium.

  • Magnesium is in whole grains, beans, dried apricots, spinach and fish.
  • Iron is in shellfish, liver, salmon and turkey.

What about how our hands – does this affect the age we look?

Again this is only a personal preference. Men can often neglect their hands and they need to be moisturised and also have neatly trimmed and rounded nails. I am sorry but men with long nails turn me right off. Also fellows, do remember that you may be touching parts of our bodies that Heineken never reaches so having soft and manicured hands is much more sensual.

A tip for men – women look at a man’s eyes and his hands when they first meet them – short of shoving them in your trouser pockets – get the moisturiser out and the nail file.

For women – long curly nails are a turn off. The fashion for very long false nails may be fine for party night but if you have ever stood in a queue at a check out whilst the cashier pecks at the buttons on her machine you understand that they are not very practical.

I think that smooth soft hands with neat rounded and moderately long nails are lovely on a woman. I like nail varnish and it should always match fingers and toes. (That goes for men too).

Healthy feet are also very important and as much care should be taken with them as with your hands. Unfortunately as we get older our feet can begin to look a little gnarled and ragged around the edges and with all the walking that everyone is now doing, taking that bit of extra care is essential. Treat yourself to a pedicure every few weeks and it will be wonderful.

Make sure that shoes fit correctly and a good soak in some hot salty water with a dash of fairy liquid works wonders for relaxing the whole body.

©sallycronin Turning Back the Clock 2013

The previous chapters are in the directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/turning-back-the-clock-anti-aging-programme/

©sallycronin- Turning Back the Clock 2013

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from:  http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally