When life gives you lemons...
make homemade lemonade!
This week we're discussing all things lemon, lactose intolerance, lentils and leeks!
A delicious and incredibly versatile citrus that can be paired with everything from fish, to meat, to drinks, to puddings and cakes!
It hadn't occurred to me until I sat down to write this that I think lemons are probably one of my favourite citrus fruits. Why? Because you can literally use them do anything and everything. They give that very distinct sweet sharpness - which certainly can't be substituted by a lime or anything else for that matter.
Mixed in to drizzles to top decadent cakes, sliced and popped in water (or a G&T!), grated zest added to a pudding, used to enhance fish, to create a delicious sauce for chicken, marinades, sauces, dressings or simply using the juice to be the star of the show - in homemade lemonade.
Quick Food Hack: To help a lemon release more juice - either gently roll it on a counter top pressing a little of your weight in it until it becomes a little less resistant to the touch, or popping it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so - again so it loses its resistance and then when you come to cutting it in half and squeeze it on a juicer - it's little liquid capsules are fit to burst and give up their liquid much more freely.
Benefits to eating lemons:
An excellent source of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Antioxidants can help remove free radicals from the body which can be responsible for damaging cells.
Lemons also contain flavanoids - which have been proven to help lower the reduce of risk in stroke in women.
Quick eats: Simple and yummy lemon-based dressing.
Use this to coat some simple green leaves - or add to dress some steamed green lentils or as a dressing for a rice, quinoa or any form of grain salad. Put it on green veggies once cooked to give them a little more pep or even roast veggies.
Fresh lemon juice
Olive oil (ideally extra-virgin and as good a quality as you can afford! It makes all the difference)
Salt and pepper
Honey/agave syrup to taste
Garlic clove - crushed with your hand/fist
Start by mixing lemon juice, mustard, honey and garlic in a bowl.
Then slowly add the olive oil. And keep whisking until it starts to thicken.
If you want a sharper dressing do equal quantities of lemon mix to oil (1:1). If you want a more gentle acid level - add in a higher ratio of oil e.g. 3 parts lemon to 4 parts oil.
You can always add in some fresh herbs or dried (I personally think fresh taste better).
You can use anything from thyme to chives, parsley, coriander - whatever tastes you like.
You can also leave out the mustard if you'd like or switch it up with wholegrain mustard too.
Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body has an inability to digest lactose. It is important to note that it is not the same as being allergic to milk.
What is lactose?
Lactose is the main sugar found in milk and dairy products. The body then turns lactose in to sugars that can be absorbed by the bloodstream through the intestinal lining. These sugars are glucose and galactose.
Why are people lactose intolerant?
Lactose intolerance occurs when people don't produce enough lactase (a digestive enzyme designed to break down lactose) in their small intestine. Some people even if they have a small amount of lactase in their small intestine can still manage to digest a small amount of dairy products without adverse effects. But if you have too little lactase, you will not be able to digest lactose effectively and your body will then suffer adverse effects after eating dairy products.
There are different types of lactose intolerance which develop as a result of certain factors. It can also be temporary or permanent in nature.
If you're lactase deficient, lactose in your food stays in your digestive system, moving into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed in your intestine. In the colon, it then reacts with the gut bacteria present, fermenting and causing the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
The symptoms of lactose intolerance can vary from being quite mild to quite extreme determined by how much lactose you might have consumed.
The can appear anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours after you have consumed dairy products. The more lactose you consume, the faster you might feel the onset of symptoms.
Symptoms include the following:
stomach cramps and pains
feeling sick/ vomiting
What do I do if I think I am lactose intolerant?
If you are noticing symptoms described above after you are eating diary-based products and think you could be lactose intolerant, it is sensible to go and see your doctor as the symptoms of lactose intolerance can also be similar to other digestive conditions - so before you start eliminating diary products from your diet - it is sensible to see your doctor.
You can find out more about lactose intolerance from the NHS website here.
Lentils are a fantastic addition to anyone's diet. Packed full of protein and fibre and uber cheap - they can be used to bulk out, as a side dish, to replace meat, the list goes on.
They belong to the legume family and are super easy and quick to prepare - making them a winning meal when you're in a hurry. You can buy them pre-cooked but because they are different to other members of the legume family - you can cook them in 20 minutes without having to pre-soak them either.
Plant-based foods have a wide-variety of health benefits as they are associated with reducing the risk of many life-style related health conditions.
Lentils in particular are packed full of fibre, folic acid and potassium - all of which are known to help support heart health.
They help add essential vitamins and minerals to the diet such a iron to help fight fatigue; iron deficiency is a common cause of fatigue as not having enough iron can impact how the body uses energy.
Meat and fish provide heme iron - the easiest type of iron for our body to absorb.
Lentils however for non-meat or fish eaters provide a particularly good source of nonheme iron - which is the type of iron provided by plants. However in order to be absorbed most efficiently by your body - it is important to combine nonheme iron with vitamin C rich foods like citrus (lemons/limes), berries and peppers which can all help absorption.
Quick eats: Lentil salad with honey dressing
An absolute favourite of mine. Think peas, feta, lentils, mint - and a delicious zesty, sweet dressing.
Frozen peas/broad beans (you can also add in some whole leaf frozen spinach)
Garlic (finely chopped/crushed)
Honey (the recipe says Rowse - but any honey will work)
Red wine vinegar (you can also use lemon juice)
Smoked paprika (if you have it)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh herbs (mints, parsley - or your choice)
This dish can be tweaked to make it work for you. If you don't have fresh thyme or rosemary - don't worry - you can leave it out. The same for the smoked paprika - it is not essential.
Again make it yours by using herbs you like and also adding in maybe extra spinach to the frozen peas or beans.
Leeks, leeks oh wonderful leeks! One of the most brilliant and versatile veggies to whack in almost any savoury dish - they pair perfectly with chicken, add a sweetness to any veggie dish and can be used to pimp anything with cheese!
Benefits of eating leeks on your health
Leeks are full of flavonoids. What are these? Simply put - they're brilliant for health as they are antioxidants which can have anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anticancer properties - as well as other health benefits.
They can help reduce cancer risk.
As they are part of the allium family (the same family that onions and garlic are in too). Plants in this family are said to have a connection with a lower-risk of certain cancers.
They can help bone strength
Packed full of vitamin K, which has a link between higher intake and denser bones. So consuming leeks might help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Leeks contain substances (lutein and zeaxanthin) known as carotenoids which help protect the eyes. Carotenoids are known to help reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration which are two common eye conditions which can severely impact vision and quality of life.
Leeks are a low-calorie food so can be used in weight management programmes as they have a high water and fibre content, giving you that fuller for longer feeling - they also have the added benefit of adding a lot of flavour - making healthy dishes tasty!
Quick hacks: One of the quickest food hacks for leeks is to buy them, and slice them (approx 1cm slices) and then freeze - when you then need a handful or more to add to a dish they're ready chopped and ready to pop in the pan.
Quick eats: Leek, bacon and cheese tart
Those three words just conjure up pure heaven to me. Sweet soft leaks, salty crispy bacon and gooey, tangy cheese - what more could you want to add in - oh yup - pastry. (I think I actually might be drooling!)
This is a super simple recipe that requires minimal input and is perfect for a mid-week supper.
Soft cheese with garlic and herbs (Boursin or similar)
Grated cheese - Emmental, mature cheddar - whatever cheese you fancy.
For the method and exact quantities - find the full recipe here.
(photo credit: BBC Good Food)