Tag: spinach

That zincing feeling

As far as play on words go, that was pretty bad, I know. I’m sorry. Let’s move swiftly on, shall we? This is a longish story, and perhaps contains a little too much information. I’ll probably cringe as  I hit the publish button. It’s a story about my face, inspired by this post on adult acne by the oh-so-fabulous Laura Jane Williams, who also wrote an entire ebook on acne which is pretty damn good.

Now, I wouldn’t call my face situation adult acne, mostly because at 22 I don’t class myself as an adult, despite the fact that I now have to pay council tax. Sadly, to the rest of the world that’s probably what I am.

During my teenage years, the universe, not content with making me ginger, overweight, short sighted and a brace wearer, threw a healthy dose of pizza face my way. Really, it was never that bad and I’ve not been left with any acne scars, but it was enough that I spent 8 years on the hunt for a cure.

When I approached my doctor, they prescribed me with a roll-on solution, with an aroma much like chip shop vinegar, to apply to my face every morning and night. It worked. It made me smell like a fish and chip wrapper, and gave my skin the feel of a recently wiped chalkboard, but it really did help my skin.

Sadly, the last thing an 18-year-old girl wants is vinegar face, particularly when it comes to snuggling down for the night with a fella. Nothing says “Worship me, for I am a goddess” less than snogs that taste like that anti-biting nail varnish your mum made you use when you were 7.

At university, passed between doctors that saw dozens of students every day, things improved slightly, starting with a puzzled GP asking me why I was on the pill and applied acne medication. She looked at my records and saw that at no point had my doctors at home tried to merge these 2 medications by moving me onto a pill that’s better for skin.

It was a start. But none of them – none of the dozen or so doctors I’ve seen in the past 8 years about my skin – mentioned that I might not need medication for it at all.

Let’s back up a second. That original medication. The one that worked, but made my face smell distinctly unappealing. The active ingredients in that solution had 2 main functions: inhibiting bacteria growth (ew), and getting zinc into the skin.

The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 5.5-9.5mg for men and 4-7mg for women

So I did my research and it turns out that zinc is an unsung hero. Despite being one of the lesser vitamins and minerals in terms of recommended intake, it’s linked to a wide array of bodily processes: most notably, the immune system and cell renewal. It’s also linked with fatigue, which explained being constantly tired, and stress. The puzzle pieces all came together and, without any medical professional saying so, I knew that the problem wasn’t acne that needed meds. I just needed to get more zinc.

You could say that making the following changes means a generally healthier diet which would of course lead to improved skin. But when I flicked through my mother’s well-thumbed copy of “Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal”, I raced to the shops to buy supplements, not actual food, and within days the situation got better. These days, it’s all about getting it through small changes in diet, and if I fall off the wagon a few green smoothies sort me right out. Here’s my top 5 foods for getting more zinc without faddy eating.

Spinach

Spinach isn’t just for Popeye. I can’t say it’s made me particularly strong yet, but it’s one of my favourite ways to get a quick hit of zinc and a load of other vitamins, blitzed up in a green smoothie with apple juice and ginger. Zing!

But it doesn’t have to feel like a health food, as this deliciously cheesy spinach bake at Smitten Kitchen shows. Good news there, too – 100g of cheddar cheese will give you 3.11mg of zinc. I probably wouldn’t recommend eating that much cheese, though. Nobody likes the cheese sweats.

0.53mg per 100g
Also a good source of: vitamins K, A, C, B1, B2, B6 and E, and manganese, iron, and calcium.

Seeds

Roasted pumpkin and squash seeds and dried watermelon seeds provide a whole lot of zinc in a really small space, with about 10mg of zinc per 100g, so there’s no excuse for not eating those watermelon pips. Throw seeds into your breakfast, straight into your mouth, or on top of a cake (totally counts). There are also some amazing sounding recipes for pumpkin seeds here.

Dark chocolate

I know, I know, it just keeps getting better and better. High cocoa content (70-85%) dark chocolate contains up to 9.6mg of zinc per 100g, whereas milk chocolate contains around 2.3mg.

Chickpeas

Nope, that doesn’t mean eating a lot of houmous. Chickpeas can be worked into main meals really easily, by adding them to meat dishes and curries to make the most of their 3.4mg/100g zinc levels. For a sweeter tooth, honey cinnamon roasted chickpeas may be the way forward.

Shellfish

Shellfish are among the most zinc-rich foods out there. Oysters ranking as the most laden with 3.49mg zinc per oyster, whereas crab provides 5.5mg/100g. There’s a good excuse to go to that fancy seafood restaurant, eh?

Please note this does not constitute medical advice. I’m not trained in health in any capacity – this is simply what has worked for me and it is possible to overdo zinc consumption. Visit NHS Choices for more information on zinc and consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet! 

Main image courtesy of yannickgar/Flickr.

Wholemeal spinach, goats cheese and prosciutto pizza

At 4pm, every single day, my phone goes off. It’s that time of day when I’m at my desk, the weight of my lunch having left my stomach, considering a cup of coffee and something to eat. And then my phone vibrates somewhere off to my left.

It’s a text about pizza.

It’s not always a text – sometimes it’s an email. It’s not always Dominos – sometimes it’s Papa Johns or Pizza Hut, because I’m not that into brand loyalty. Sometimes within a five minute window I get two, from two different companies. It’s no coincidence of course – 4pm is when we’re in a slump, between meals and with flagging attention spans. But every time it makes me want a cheesy, gooey delight.

Wholemeal-PizzaTo make it clear, I’m not the kind of pizza eater that can sit down with a side salad and a glass of wine and have a sophisticated pizza-eating session. The vast majority of my pizza experiences in recent years have occurred in one of two ways. A) When I’m walking home after a night out, having repeatedly asked “But what is the rum gone?”, and in desperate need of all of the carbs; or B) 9 hours after A) having sat starring at my laptop whining, “But why doesn’t anyone deliver pizza before 12 o’clock? It’s 10am and I need a meat feast with cheesy crust NOW!”, and then spending two hours gazing forlornly at my un-knocked-upon front door, waiting for a man in a motorbike helmet to relieve my pain.

So you can see why, until recently, I’d never made pizza at home – honestly, it sounded kind of a pain in the ass. It sounded like all the faff of bread making but with added hassle with sorting out toppings. That’s not what you need at 6pm on a weeknight, let alone after one too many bottles glasses of wine. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

This is the part of the post where I should be all “But it was so easy! So quick!” But a liar I am not.

It was kind of a pain in the ass. Even using a quick dough from Smitten Kitchen, it takes a while, although admittedly this is at least in part because I like to jam as much garlic into tomato sauce as possible. But being able to control exactly what goes into it makes the whole job more worth it, because there’s no uneven cheese distribution, and no mystery fat left pooling in a cardboard box when the rest has been hoovered up by your hungover face. You can’t get tricked into eating green peppers.

And the absence of peppers, alone, makes it worth it. See ya later, Pizza Hut. Sayonara, Papa Johns. Au revoir, Dominos.

Notes

Pizza dough recipe from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
I used half plain flour and half wholemeal bread flour, but you could use 200g plain flour, or 200g white bread flour. If not using wholemeal flour, you will need less water.
Unearthed prosciutto is currently on offer in Waitrose!
I drizzled the cooked pizza with a little balsamic vinegar and served it with a rocket salad.

Serves 2

Ingredients

7g (one sachet) fast action dried yeast
100g plain flour
100g wholemeal bread flour
1tsp salt
Approximately 150ml warm water
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
3/4 cup passata or chopped tomatoes
30g cheddar, grated
50g mozzarella, sliced
A handful of spinach, or more as desired
50g goats cheese, sliced
40g prosciutto, chopped

Method

1) Stir together the flours, yeast, and salt, then gradually add the water, mixing with a wooden spoon, until the dough comes roughly together – you may not need all of the water. Gather the dough and tip out onto a lightly floured counter to knead it for about 5 minutes, so that the dough becomes smooth.
2) Coat a medium sized bowl with olive oil, place the dough in it, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to double in size (about half an hour).
3) While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 170C.
4) Lightly fry the onion and garlic until soft, and then add the passata or chopped tomato and simmer over a low heat.
5) When the dough has doubled in size, tip it out, lightly knead it. Tear off a piece of baking parchment just bigger than your baking tray and on this roll out the dough into a rough square the size of your baking tray, about half a centimetre thick.
6) Spread the tomato sauce onto your base, and then layer with the remaining ingredients – apart form the prosciutto – as you wish. (I went sauce, cheddar, mozzarella, spinach, goats cheese).
7) Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 20 minutes before adding the prosciutto. Bake for a further 15-25 minutes, until the base of the pizza is mid-brown underneath.