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Find the best bread for your health

Q: I FIND breads from the supermarket very stodgy and they don't sit well in my stomach, can you recommend a healthy alternative that's easy to digest?

A Like many, you may be mildly intolerant to the wheat found in everyday breads, so I'd suggest that you go for a wholegrain spelt bread instead. Spelt is a wonderfully nutritious grain with a nutty flavour. It can be used in many of the same ways as wheat, including bread and pasta making. However, it is easier to digest and contains more nutrients than wheat. Many supermarkets now stock spelt bread or you can make your own by following this easy recipe.

Simply line a loaf tin and preheat oven to 180C/gas 4. Thoroughly mix together 425g of whole spelt flour and 2tsp of baking powder in a large bowl. Then add 40g of pumpkin seeds, 40g of sunflower seeds and 50g of chopped walnuts to the bowl. In a jug, measure out 500mls of hot water and dissolve one tbsp of blackstrap molasses in it. Now combine the wet and dry ingredients, adding the liquid bit by bit to the dry until you have a nice dough. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for one hour, or until the bottom of the loaf when tapped sounds hollow.

Cover with a tea towel and leave to cool on a rack before slicing. This bread goes well with just about everything, enjoy!

Q I suffer with bad period pain every month. It seems to get worse as I get older, is there anything I can do to improve it?

A Eating a healthy diet can help relieve many PMS symptoms, including cramping, bloating, breast tenderness, fluid retention, irritability and headaches.

Painful periods (dysmenorrhea) are caused by an increased amount of inflammation and decreased blood circulation. Therefore it's important that you avoid foods which increase inflammation. Foods and drinks which promote inflammation in the body, and so worsen period pain, include sugar, alcohol, caffeine, salt, dairy, fried foods and refined carbohydrates.

Zinc, vitamin B6 and magnesium are the common nutrients which are often deficient in women experiencing cramps and menstrual dysfunction. Therefore, I would recommend that your diet be predominantly made up of high fibre, anti-inflammatory foods which are rich in these nutrients, such as beans, lentils, oily fish, berry fruits, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains such as brown rice and oats.

In addition, excessive consumption of dietary arachidonic acid (AA), found in red meat can contribute to dysmenorrhea, so minimise your consumption of red meat. Exercise is also an important factor because it helps to increase endorphins which are potent anti-inflammatories that help reduce the pain associated with menstruation.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy Are You? on TV3. Elsa offers one-to-one consultations. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie


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