Saturday 19 October 2019

Healthy habits: Making the most of your best years

There is no reason to feel unhealthy in your later years of life – simple lifestyle tweaks can help you to take care of your body as you grow older. Here, Sarah Keogh, John West Consultant Dietitian, shares five tips to follow.

Mind your heart

“There seems to be a perception in Ireland that heart disease is a man’s disease,” says Sarah Keogh. “For women, the risk of heart problems are often overlooked. However, heart disease can affect both men and women at the same level. It’s very important for women to mind their hearts just as much as men should. Anything that we can do, at any age to take care of our heart health, will be beneficial for the future.”

Many health conditions can contribute to heart disease, and Sarah says some ways to reduce the risk are keeping an eye on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. “It’s important to visit your local GP for regular health checks and lifestyle advice. If you haven’t visited the GP in a while, just pop in and ask them how frequently you should be returning for checks.”

A balancing act

Enjoying a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fibre and lean proteins, as well as low in saturated fats, sugars and salt, is key to keeping your heart strong and maintaining a healthy weight.

“There is scientific evidence that wholegrains are beneficial for good heart health, as they are a rich source of dietary fibre,” says Sarah. “This includes foods such as wholegrain or wholemeal bread, cereals, rice and pasta. There are even many other new food products available in wholegrain, such as buckwheat, which you can use to make pancakes or have with porridge.”

When it comes to fruit and vegetables, Sarah says the rule of thumb is to make sure you are including a variety of colours on the plate. This way, you will get a mix of nutrients for your general health.

“Carrots and sweet potatoes are a source of Vitamin A, which can help to keep eyes and skin healthy, while broccoli and kiwis are a source of potassium, which may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.”

Catch of the day

“It is important to make sure you are including protein and iron in the diet, particularly in your main dishes,” says Sarah. “Protein helps to maintain muscle and red meat is a good source of iron, which is needed for normal, healthy red blood cells.”

Healthy Ireland and The Irish Heart Foundation recommend that we choose lean red meat about three times a week, as well as poultry. They also recommend eating oil-rich fish at least twice a week.

“Along with being an excellent source of protein, oil-rich fish like salmon and mackerel are rich in Vitamin B and the omega-3s EPA and DHA.

“DHA and EPA contribute to the normal function of the heart and they also help to maintain normal brain function and vision. Oil-rich fish also helps to keep triglyceride levels healthy, which are a type of fat found in our blood that act like cholesterol.”

John West make it easy to consume oil-rich fish with their various salmon, mackerel and sardine products.

“To see the heart-healthy benefits of omega-3s, we need to eat between 250mg and 3g of EPA and DHA per day,” says Sarah. “Mackerel is one of the highest sources of omega-3 and is a very popular fish choice in Ireland.”

To make it even easier to eat fish twice a week, John West have just launched their new Easy Peel Mackerel. The tasty product is available in a variety of flavours, including the more traditional Easy Peel Mackerel Fillets in Sunflower Oil, or for those looking for more of a kick, there is Easy Peel Mackerel Fillets in Jalapeño. Not only are they delicious and suitable for a variety of quick meals such as pastas or sandwiches, but the packaging provides the added advantage of being easy to open.

Elimination stage

Sarah says some additives, such as excess salt and sugar, in the diet can contribute to high blood pressure, so “limiting foods high in salt such as processed foods and takeaways is important”.

“When you’re making lunches or dinners, there are many healthy alternative flavours to add instead of salt. For example, lemon, garlic, black pepper, and herbs all taste great with fish.”

However, Sarah advises being wary of eliminating food groups from the diet that are in fact good for you, such as dairy.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding around dairy and heart health. I see some people completely avoiding dairy products and that is unnecessary. If you cut all dairy from your diet, it can be difficult to get the calcium you need for both your heart and bone health. Milk and yogurt are absolutely fine even if you have high cholesterol, but if you are concerned about what you need to limit for a healthy heart, it’s things like butter and cream.

Keep moving

“Exercise is a really effective way to reduce the risk of heart disease, there is no question about it,” says Sarah. “It is also very good for your general wellbeing and can help to reduce stress levels. Everyone should be getting at least 150 minutes of exercise in every week, spread out over a few days. Anything that will make you breathe a little faster than normal, for example, a brisk walk.”

The benefits of exercise for those with arthritis are also abundant, adds Sarah who works on an arthritis programme.

“People with arthritis often think that they have to stop moving and this is the worst thing they can do. The best thing is to keep moving – exercise can be more effective than most medicines as a pain relief for arthritis. It’s important to talk to your physiotherapist and get some basic exercises if you are experiencing difficulties. But, we find that increasing exercise does make a huge difference.”

For more health advice or to find a dietitian in your local area, visit

Recipe time

Here are two healthy, fish-inspired lunches to create with the new John West Mackerel Easy Peel


Quinoa Mackerel Salad with Asparagus and Orange Mustard Dressing

Serves 2 to 4

120g quinoa, rinsed well under cold water

12 asparagus spears, woody ends removed

Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

2 John West Easy Peel Mackerel Fillets in Olive Oil, flaked

½ x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Black pepper

For the dressing:

Zest and juice of ½ an orange

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


1. Cook the quinoa according to package instructions. Set aside and allow to cool.

2. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Brush the asparagus tips with a little olive oil and cook on the griddle pan for two minutes per side until nicely charred. Transfer to a board and chop into bite-sized pieces.

3. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, flaked mackerel, beans and pumpkin seeds. Season with black pepper.

4. In a jar, combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Close the jar and shake to combine.

5. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine well.


Mackerel with Warm Cauliflower Piccata Salad

Serves 2

300g cauliflower, chopped into florets

3 tsp olive oil

Black pepper

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 tsp capers, rinsed

Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 John West Easy Peel Mackerel Fillets in Sunflower Oil  


1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C fan/gas mark 6. Spread the cauliflower out on a baking tray. Drizzle with two teaspoons of the olive oil, season with black pepper and roast for 25-30 minutes until golden and crisp.

2. In a large bowl, combine the lemon zest and juice with the capers, parsley, mint, garlic and the remaining teaspoon of olive oil.

3. Allow the cauliflower to cool slightly for 2-3 minutes, then stir into the herb dressing while still warm.

4. Flake the mackerel over the warm cauliflower salad.

Try the new John West Mackerel Easy Peel!


Since its founding about 150 years ago, John West has been a trusted family name, synonymous with quality everyday fish.

John West are appealing to both loyal and new customers by launching innovative products that are not only tasty and convenient, but are also relevant to their lifestyles. They are all about enabling the consumers to include quality fish regularly in the diet throughout the week. John West are committed to sustainable fishing, making sure the oceans can be home to fish for future generations to enjoy.

The new John West Mackerel Easy Peel is currently available in a 115g format and come in four variants including sunflower oil, olive oil, jalapeño and tomato. Perfect in rice or pasta dishes, as well as on crackers or in sandwiches and wraps.

For more inspiring recipes, check out the John West Ireland website or YouTube channel.

Sponsored by: John West

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