Pycnogenol and the menopause

A recent study has concluded that a relatively low does of Pycnogenol could help reduce menopausal symptoms.

Researchers wanted to see just how effective pycnogenol (  French maritime Pine bark extract) is in reducing symptoms through tests using a double blind, placebo-controlled study.

In the trial 170 perimenopausal women took 30mg of either Pycnogenol or a placebo twice a day over a period of 3 months. Climacteric symptoms were evaluated using a questionnaire and routine blood chemistry and sex hormone tests.

The results showed that the Pycnogenal group showed a significant improvement on almost all symptoms. The Pycnogenol was seen to be most effective for improving vasomotor and insomnia/ sleep problems which showed a significant improvement most notable after between 4-12 weeks.

The researchers stated in conclusion that the study has successfully identified which symptoms of the menopause respond well to taking a supplement of Pycnogenol.

For more info on Pycnogenol try

Gluten Free Pasty – a tip

We have a good common sense tip here from Emma Speake who sent in this tip for making Gluten Free pastry:Gluten free pastry

‘I like baking with gluten free flour but I always find the pastry too crumbly to handle. When making pies or tarts etc, instead of carrying the pastry on my rolling pin, as I would if I was using ‘normal/wheat flour’ pastry, I roll it out on a large chopping board (the thin plastic ones are the best for this) and use the chopping board in a number of ways: firstly it allows me to place the pie dish on the pastry upside down and then turn the board upside down to place the pastry unbroken in the bottom of the pie dish, this obviously doesn’t work if the pie is filled so in that case I use the board to carry the pastry to the untopped pie and slide it off, usually tilting the board slightly, and onto the pie. Works perfectly and allows me to work with shortcrust gluten free pastry, minimising crumbling’.

Thanks Emma. Next time I make pastry I won’t be so exasperated as usual 🙂



Food Allergies, a City Curse?

I saw this in the Daily Mail on Saturday..

Children in heavily built-up town centres have more food allergies than those in rural areas. Lead author Ruchi Gupta, assistant prof of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said “We have found for the first time that higher population density corresponds with a greater likelihood of food allergies in children.” The US study in ‘Clinical Pediatrics’ journal, investigated 38,465 children aged 18 & under. City areas had 9.8% of children with food allergies, compared with 6.2% in rural communities. Dr. Gupta said “Similar trends have been seen for related conditions like asthma. The big question is – what in the environment is triggering them? One theory is pollutants in urban areas may trigger the development of allergies.”

See the updated Daily Mail report here

Food allergy is a serious & growing problem in UK. Severe reactions include a drop in blood pressure, trouble breathing & swelling of the throat. It can cause death.

Making Gluten Free Batter

We asked a few of our coeliac friends for their top tips in Gluten Free Cooking. Here is Diane Cochrane from Saltcoats top gluten free tip: Gluten Free Batter –

“When making a Gluten free batter, add egg to the batter for thickness, but also add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, so that it cooks all the way through.

My recipe is really tasty for chicken, fish and onion rings, and cheese sticks too”.


180g cornflour
180ml milk
1 egg
half teaspoon bicarb of soda
half teaspoon xantham gum
half teaspoon of salt

Clive’s organic and vegan pies

Clives vegan and organic piesWe are shouting about Clive’s organic and vegan pies. The flavours take you around the world and the pastry is out of this world – good enough to eat on its own. Clive’s vegan range of pies includes Aloo Matar Curry, Arabian Chickpea, Chestnut Cassoulet, Creamy Mushroom, Vegetable Chilli, Greek Olive and Lentil, Hungarian Goulash, Mexican Chilli, and Minty Checkpea. Clives also produce an amazing array of vegan and organic Ready Pot Meals, a yummy selection for easy lunches or a main meal. All available from 1000’s of veggie and vegan foods delivered.

Pesticides cling to fruit and veg even if washed

We are filling our bodies with a preservative cocktail

Recent tests commissioned by the Governments’ Food Watchdog show that even if we wash our  fruit & vegetables it does not  remove all of the chemical pesticide residues.

Experts at the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland tried this out and  found residues of diphenylamine & carbendazim were not decreased by washing. Researchers looked at apples treated with insecticide chlorpyrifos, fungicides captan & carbendazim & anti-oxidant diphenylamine. Cardendazim is banned in US as it has been linked to cancer, birth defects & disruption of cell development. It was banned from many food crops in UK in 2006. In the study potatoes were treated with parasite suppressant oxamyl, sprout suppressant maleic hydrazide, post-harvest fungicide imazlil & post-harvest sprout suppressant chlorpropham. The study found washing decreased imzalil & chlorpropham, but malic hydrazide did not wash off. When the potatoes were cooked in their skins, the experts found “some evidence of transfer of pesticide residue from peel to flesh.”

Campaigner Nick Mole of Pesticide Action Network UK, said “Repeated exposure to low doses & mixtures can have a deleterious effect on health, especially amongst the more vulnerable groups such as children.”

Organic Farming

Please note that organic farming does not use chemical fertilisers, pesticides or growth enhancers. Also, for further rigour in washing your fruit and vegetables a special formulation Veggie Wash has been developed to maximise effectiveness and help you be as thorough as possible at cleaning your food.

Quinoa, perfect grain for you and the kids

Middle Eastern Quinoa Salad
So easy to make and very nutritious

Not sure what to do with Quinoa? Try this delicious, healthy recipe from Nutritionist and Chef Christine Bailey. This recipe is adapted from one of her popular recipe books The Top 100 Recipes for Brainy Kids (Duncan Baird). For more free recipes from Christine Bailey visit her website and check out her recipe pages and Christine’s Healthy Kitchen blog

Middle Eastern Quinoa Salad

Dubbed the ‘supergrain’, quinoa is an excellent protein rich, gluten free alternative to rice and couscous in salads. You can also buy quinoa flakes which can be used to make porridge, granola, muesli and are fabulous in protein bars, cakes and biscuits. Quinoa flour makes a great gluten free flour and can be blended with other gluten free flours to use in baking.

This Middle Eastern inspired combination of fruit, nuts and herbs makes this a great lunch box filler and is equally delicious as a side dish with meat and fish. Quinoa is an incredibly nutritious grain providing a complete source of protein and high levels of calcium, phosphorous, iron, B vitamins including brain boosting B6, B3, B1 and B2 plus vitamin E to protect the fatty membrane of our brain cells.

Quinoa is suitable for Vegetarians, Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Seed-Free

Serves 4

Preparation and Cooking
10 minutes + 22 minutes

Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to two days

180g/6oz quinoa grain
500ml/16floz vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron
1 tbsp coconut butter or olive oil
½ red onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
60g (2oz) chopped apricots
60g (2oz) toasted flaked almonds
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
½ red pepper, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
Handful of pitted olives
2tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp flaxseed oil
2tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 preserved lemon, rind only chopped (flesh and pips discarded)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the quinoa in a pan with the vegetable stock and saffron. Bring to the boil then simmer, covered for 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Switch off and leave covered for a further 5 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion and garlic until softened but not brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Place the quinoa in a bowl with the onion and remaining ingredients. Toss well and season to taste.