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Archive for June, 2009

Well, it’s obvious to me.

‘Experts’ have discovered that if you cook carrots whole rather than cut up, then they lose less nutrients. Of course they do! If there is less surface area for water to come into contact to, thus preventing less soluble vitamins from being lost, then of course they will be more nutritious.

By the way, have you ever had organic carrots straight from a farm, not these pre-packed economy carrots that are all exactly the same length and width? If you haven’t then may I suggest you have a try this weekend. Then you’ll really know what a carrot should taste like. Amazing.

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Last Saturday I got up very early to make my way down to Bedfont Lakes Country Park to take part in one of the Parkrun series of weekly 5k runs. These runs take place every Saturday around the country, mostly in the South East at the moment and the best thing is they are free to enter – check out http://www.parkrun.com

Driving along the perimeter of Heathrow Airport, around an industrial estate and along the busy A30, I eventually found the Country Park. I was delightfully suprised to find this beautiful nature reserve with 180 acres of rolling meadows, woodland and lakes. Apparently, since 1995 it as won numerous awards including the prestigious Green Flag Award. There was a lovely family of swans, the cygnets still very young, grey and fluffy; some Coots and Moorhens; Chaffinches and some strange frog sounding noises coming from the reeds. Throughout the year other birds such as woodpeckers, herons, kingfishers and even Ring-Neck Parakeets can be spotted.

Bedfont Lakes Country Park

Bedfont Lakes Country Park

The Park was lovely and quiet, you’d never have known that planes were taking off and landing just a mile or so away, and that the M25 was close by.

There is a trim trail and a facilities for picnics and fishing, plus a great children’s play area. Well worth a day out.

But back to the reason I was there: my running has really improved lately thanks to attendance at the running club. Running with others is a great motivator. My 5K PB has stood for a few years but I knew I had been running quite well lately so thought I might just beat it by a few seconds. In the end, I put everyting into it and ran the two lap course with all the energy I had. There were only 40 competitors of all abilities so it wasn’t crowded at all along the paths and I pushed myself to a 41 second PB.

Running really is great for stress levels and for helping the body to release it’s natural feel-good chemical, serotonin. After the run I felt on top of the world and that feeling is pretty much still with me. I can’t wait for the next time I run this 5k so I can try to beat my time and I think next time we’ll take a picnic and really enjoy the delights that Bedfont Lakes has to offer us.

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My lovely Mum had a bit of an accident in the early hours of Sunday morning. She’d got out of bed at 1.30am to cheer on some colleagues who were taking part in a midnight walk which happened to be passing her road. When crossing back over the road to go back in, she slipped over, crashed down and walloped her elbow and head against the tarmac. Unfortunately her elbow came out worst and was badly dislocated. Luckily there was a St Johns ambulance close by to support the runners so they saw to her until the paramedics arrived to take her to Stoke Mandeville. Big cheers for St Johns and the paramedics by the way as by all accounts they treated my Mum with excellent care. At the hospital she was dosed up with gas and morphine to take away the pain whilst they relocated her elbow but morphine can leave you with nausea which she suffered with most of yesterday.

The amazing thing is that she didn’t break any bones. At her age, 77 (although she is going on 57!), the doctors and nurses at the hospital were apparently amazed that nothing was broken at all – not her knee, which has a shiner now, nor right wrist and, not least, any bones in her arm.

Mum reckons that the supplements she takes went a long way to help the strength of her bones and meant that there were no fractures.

She’s been taking glucosamine for nearly 20 years. It was David Wilkie, the Olympic gold medallist swimmer, who found out about glucosamine whilst training in the US. He was so impressed with the results that he decided to introduce it to the UK. At the time, Mum had been suffering for years with lower back pain. My late Dad happened to see David on a tv programme talking about the product, and so Dad rang up the tv station to get some details and they proptly put him in direct contact with David. Apparently they had a very long conversation aabout glucosamine, David sent my Dad some capusules and Mum hasn’t looked back. Her back pains soon disappeared and Mum has been a picture of bone and joint health even since. Gardening, walking, running (yes, she did her first 5k aged 75!), decorating – nothing is beyond Mum.

So what’s with this glucosamine? Well, it’s found naurally in tendon, ligament and cartilage tissue and maintians strong healthy flexible bones and joints. Low levels of glucosamine can be associated with delayed repair to cartilage and studies have shown that taking glucosamine supplements can boost cartilage compound levels by up to 170%, thereby facilitating the repair process.

Research has shown that it can slow the progression of arhtiritis and in fact it is often taken by those suffering with osteoarthritis, especially that of the knee.

It’s available as glucosamine sulphate or glucosamine hydrochloride, although most studies has been done with the sulphate version. Careful though if you are allergic to shellfish as it is derived from them. There is a vegan version available made with corn. The maximum dose is 1500mg a day which can be taken in two or three smaller doses a day.

Mum has also takes omega 3 and 6 oils and for many years took cod liver oil which is rich in Vitamin D, vital for healthy bone growth.

Omega 3 and 6 are essential fatty acids, essential to human health but not produced naturally by our bodies. We therefore obtain them through food sources. Omega 3 is found in cold water fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon whilst Omega 6 is found in vegetable oils. Studies have shown that a deficiency in essential fatty acids, can lead to severe bone loss and osteoporosis. Essential fatty acids may also enhance calcium absorption, increase calcium deposits in bones, diminish calcium loss in urine, improve bone strength, and enhance bone growth, all of which may contribute to improved bone mass and, therefore, strength.

So, if you want to be like my Mum, active with healthy strong bones well into your 70s, then follow her example and make sure you get the right nutrients in your diet, particularly via supplment form if your food intake is not as good as it should be.

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I would have love to have been brought up on a farm. My aunt used to live near one when I was little and I remember having a look round it once and being fascinated by the tractors! We also spent a couple of family holidays on farms in Wales and Devon. I remember the lovely farmer’s wife serving us up fresh milk with our breakfast and allowing me to hold the piglets. I’m sure it’s flippin hard work on a farm, a 24 hour a day job pretty much but probably great fun for the children.

For those that have never been to a farm, there’s a wonderful opportunity this Sunday to find out what farming is all about. Farms throughout the UK are opening their gates to the public and welcoming them in. People, young an old, can discover what it’s really like to be a farmer and to taste their produce. Farmers will be talking about their farms, their history and what goes on there, and many activities will be taking place, including nature walks, meeting the animals, tasting produce, picnic, tractor rides and much more.

I think it’s so important to support our local farms. Some have had it hard over recent years with mad cow disease and the like, and we really should be eating our local grown produce as much as we can rather than contributing to the carbon footprint and eating imported foods. I’m fully aware at how much organic and locally produced food can be and, as much as anyone I need to be thrifty at the moment, so even if you can buy one type of foodstuff, eg your eggs or potatoes from your local farmer then you are doing your bit for the local trade and environment.

Anyway, back to Open Farm Sunday – you can find a local participating farm near you by looking on the webiste www.farmsunday.org.

I’m wondering if I should borrow a friend’s child for the day to take with me as my lovely man is at work, or will it be perfectly acceptable for a 40 year old to enjoy walking amongst the cows and chickens and going for a tractor ride? Still, I can always do what I’m good at and go shopping in the farm shop.

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