Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

High Performance Foods

Everyone needs food but few people realise how eating the right meal at the right time can help you make the most of every minute of the day. More physical energy, better concentration, improved memory, beating stress, or dealing with PMS or the menopause - the answers are here with your Express guide to high performance foods.

Some months ago I was approached by Eaton, a catering company providing food in the workplace all over the country. They wanted to introduce a special section in their menus providing dishes specifically created to help their customers cope with the varied demands of their working lives. Together with their Executive Chef, Chris Towler, we devised a pilot scheme which they launched with two of their clients in central London. The dishes, leaflets and recipes proved so popular that they're now launching the scheme nationwide and already 30% of all the dishes served are chosen from these special menus. Now's your chance to do the same thing at home.

GARLIC SOUP - for coughs, colds, chest infections and a healthy heart

Low in calories, very low in fat but simply awash with all the protective chemicals that occur naturally in garlic. This amazing little bulb helps reduce cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and makes blood less sticky, so it's a great all round protector against heart disease and strokes and perfect for anyone suffering heart or circulation problems. Garlic is also a powerful antibacterial and antifungal, making this the perfect soup for any type of chest infection and the best dish to ward off colds, flu and vampires. There's now growing evidence that garlic protects against many forms of cancer too.

10 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
800g young courgettes, trimmed but not peeled, cut into half lengthwise and sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and finely diced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1.2 litres of vegetable stock
Fresh lemon balm, sage, rosemary and thyme, tied together

In a large saucepan heat the oil and gently cook the onions and garlic till soft. Add the cubed potatoes and cook gently for five minutes. Add the stock, courgettes and herbs, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the herbs, liquidise and serve with crusty wholemeal bread.

YOGURT CRUSTED COD WITH CHICKPEAS - for maximum concentration and stress relief

Total health on a plate. This dish also supplies all the protein you need for a day, lots of iodine to stimulate metabolism and protect the thyroid, with the bonus of extra natural plant hormones from the chickpeas, which together with the spices helps regulate female hormones, making this the perfect choice to iron out those temporary ups and downs. You also get a B vitamin bonus to nourish the nervous system.

1 carton natural yogurt
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fresh mint
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp paprika
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp chopped parsley
400 g can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained.

4 cod fillets

Put all ingredients except fish in a blender and whiz for 1 minute. Put four cod fillets into a dish and pour over sauce. Cook under very hot grill until crust forms - approx 10-15 minutes.

PASTA AND TUNA FISH - for relaxation, slow release energy or an afternoon of boring repetitive jobs

Complex carbohydrates in the pasta provide slow release energy that keeps your blood sugar levels on an even keel. Pasta stimulates the release of the brain's natural calming chemicals making this an ideal dish at the end of a stressful day to help you sleep or at lunch time if you're faced with an afternoon of filing, organising or other undemanding jobs.

500 g short pasta such as penne or pasta shells
8 plump spring onions, finely chopped including the soft green tips
400 g tin tuna, drained and lightly flaked
1 small handful chopped soft herbs, such as oregano, marjoram, basil, tarragon or parsley

Cook pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Mix the onions and tuna. Drain the pasta and stir in tuna and onion mixture. Turn into a bowl and scatter over the herbs.

DUCK BREAST WITH BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD - to fight fatigue and exhaustion, and build better blood

Duck is a rich source of selenium, vital for good immunity and also for protection against breast and prostate cancer. It's also rich in B vitamins for energy production and a strong immune system. It also contains zinc, a nutrient which is often in short supply in most people's diets and a lack of which leads to chronic fatigue. Beetroot helps improve the oxygen carrying properties of blood and the oranges provide vitamin C, essential for the absorption of the minerals in the duck.

1 duck breast (per person)
2 cooked beetroots
bunch of chives
2 tbsp olive oil and cider vinegar dressing
1 large orange
freshly ground pepper

Heat a ridged griddle pan, place the duck skin side down on the griddle, turn after four minutes and cook for another four minutes. Peel and slice the beetroots and orange, arrange on a plate. Put the cooked duck on top, add the dressing and sprinkle with chopped chives and pepper to taste.

There's not always time to eat a cooked meal in the middle of the day but there's nothing wrong with a sandwich as long as it's the right sort. Wholemeal bread, wholewheat pitta pockets, wholewheat baps, ciabatta rolls, rye bread, pumpernickel - these are all a good basis for healthy sandwiches. Here are some ideas you may not have thought of.

1. Hummus, alfalfa sprouts, chopped tomatoes and fresh basil or coriander with soya cream - a bone-builder sandwich thanks to the calcium from chickpeas and plant hormones from the soya and alfalfa.

2. Watercress, baby spinach leaves, pak choi, finely grated carrot, thinly sliced cucumber, mint and bio yoghurt - the “eye opener” sandwich with all the essential carotenoids for good vision and healthy eyes. Particularly good for anyone spending hours in front of a computer.

3. Tuna with thinly chopped celery, celery leaves, roasted red peppers, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil - anti-inflammatory thanks to the essential fatty acids in the fish, mildly diuretic with lots of vitamin E and betacarotene for good skin and antioxidant protection.

4. Shredded chicken, with Cos lettuce, chopped tomato, bean sprouts, basil and raisins, with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and mild mustard dressing. Pile this lot into pitta pockets. The “energy plus” sandwich - high protein for mental alertness and energy, extra iron from the raisins, vitamin E and lycopene from the beansprouts and tomatoes and the mood enhancing natural oils in the basil make this the perfect sandwich when you've got a high powered afternoon in front of you.

5. A selection of dark green and red lettuce with fresh lemon balm and chervil tossed lightly in lemon juice and rape seed oil, topped with slices of mango in a coarse country style wholemeal bread - the “de-stress, unwind and relaxation” sandwich. All modern lettuces are descended from wild lettuce which contains morphine-like natural chemicals which have a calming effect on the brain. The coarse bread provides tryptophan which is another brain soother.

6. Pureed uncooked green peas with garlic, mint, olive oil, combined with low fat cream cheese, toasted flaked almonds and soya sprouts, ideally served in a soya enriched bread - the lady's sandwich for PMS, hot flushes and other hormonal upsets.


Everyone thinks of desserts as sinful but here are two that aren't.

EXOTIC FRUIT KEBABS - full of protective and healing enzymes, masses of energy, some protein and essential fatty acids.

Using a wooden skewer, thread on alternately strawberries, mango, banana, pineapple, paw paw and grapes. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon and pine kernels. Place under a hot grill till golden and sizzling.

FABULOUS CHOCOLATE LOAF - for depression, anxiety, stress and indulgence

Anyone with Celiac disease must avoid the gluten in wheat and most other cereals and there are other people whose digestive systems do not tolerate wheat. So here's a delicious chocolate dessert which they and everybody else can enjoy. Good quality chocolate contains no animal or hydrogenated fats and is rich in the natural feel-good and anti-stress chemical theobromine. This recipe also provides iron, potassium and protein, so is a real mental and physical booster.

75 g unsalted butter - try using olive oil, prune puree or Vitaquell margarine if you need dairy-free as well
100 g Green & Black's dark organic chocolate
5 eggs, separated
75 g Fruisana fruit sugar
75 g ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 5. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double saucepan. Whisk the egg yolks and Fruisana till thick then mix with the chocolate, together with the ground almonds. Whisk the whites then fold into the chocolate using a metal spoon. Grease and flour (use rice flour) a 1 lb loaf tin, pour in the mixture. Put the tin in a deep baking tray half filled with water and bake for 45 minutes. Serve cool with strawberries and a sprig of mint.

Fruit sugar has the same number of calories as ordinary sugar but it's twice as sweet, so you need half the quantities or less. What's more it has a very low glycemic index making it absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream to provide slow release energy and avoid the swings of blood sugar level normally caused by ordinary sugars.


Some of my books...

Sign up for my e-mail newsletter:


10 Day Detox With Kim WildeMichael Van Straten's 10 Day Detox With Kim Wilde

"In this video, we will take you through a series of easy to follow and achievable steps. You too can safely and effectively lose weight as well as significantly increase energy levels".

Migraine Misery?


MigraHerb® Feverfew capsules.

MigraHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the prevention of migraine headaches exclusively based upon long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickLessens frequency and severity of migraine attacks

tickFor people who have a doctor's diagnosis for this condition

MigraHerb® 30 one-a-day capsules.
Normally £8.16
NOW £6.90
Save £1.26.

» For more information visit www.migraherb.co.uk

De-stress and Energise!


Vitano® Rhodiola rosea tablets.

Vitano® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. Always read the label.

tickHelps revive both mental and physical performance

tickBalances a hectic lifestyle... naturally!

Vitano® 30 tablets normally £13.27
NOW £9.90 - Save £3.37.
Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.vitano.co.uk

Not Sleeping?


NiteHerb® Valerian tablets.

NiteHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances due to symptoms of mild anxiety exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickA natural solution to a good night's sleep

tickWake up revived - not groggy!

NiteHerb® 30 tablets normally £6.12
NOW £5.20 - Save £0.92.
Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.niteherb.co.uk