White Flour. Eat It If You Don’t Like Going To The Toilet.

qstJZUtQ4uAjijbpLzbT_LO234824

One of the biggest initial challenges when embarking on a healthful plant-based lifestyle is losing the white flour.

It’s not that whole grains don’t taste good; it’s just the sheer ubiquity of white flour in everything.

The bloody stuff is everywhere!

It is even – get this – in WHOLEMEAL bread! It’s like the manufacturers are scared to let the bread be 100% wholemeal. There is a particular wholemeal bread in a UK supermarket, which is sold as 100% wholemeal, but the ingredients say it has white flour sprinkled on top! FTW? Why would they DO this?

White flour is essentially wholemeal flour with the germ and the bran (i.e. THE GOODNESS) removed. If you’re really unlucky, your white flour will also be bleached. What the heck else would you eat bleached??

Why was white flour invented in the first place?

Was it because the millers cared about the health of the people?

Nuh-uh.

Was it because it made the flour cheaper for the people?

No (when it was first invented it was much more expensive than wholemeal flour)

Was there any other lovely, altruistic reason to white up the flour?

Ha!

This is why it was done.

To give it a longer shelf life, i.e. less waste. i.e.more profit.

Some old miller way back when (there is conflicting information as to when this was) found out you could take out the bran and the germ, and the flour lasted longer – but it still had the wheat germ oil in it from when the wheat had been crushed, and this still meant the flour had limited life.

So, they found a way to strip the germ clean away from the grain, oil and all, and voila – white flour.

Another popular theory, not for the invention of white flour but for its popularity, is the age-old thing of people liking white flour better because it made the bread look purer and cleaner, and made them feel that by eating it they were somehow of higher status than those that ate brown bread.

Yes, people were stupid and vain then, too.

In the years that followed the invention of white flour, there were higher than ever recorded cases of Pellagra – a gross skin disease of malnourishment caused by deficiency of B vitamins. All the vitamins that had been stripped from wholemeal flour, funnily enough.

And THIS is the most crazypants thing I’ve ever heard – instead of stopping dicking around with perfectly good, healthy whole wheat; white flour is now ‘enriched’ with B vitamins and iron – the very nutrients it has been stripped of in the refining process! Isn’t this more energy consuming?

And this still doesn’t make up for the fibre that is lost by removing the bran.

It’s amazing that white flour is still a thing. It does nothing but constipate and spike your blood (as it converts very quickly to sugar in the body).

I completely understand however, that we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking white flour is necessary to make cakes and baked goods, and it can be a challenge at first to find alternatives. I’ve also seen all the ads for white bread, or the ridiculous ‘Best of Both’ (what, really? 100% wholemeal bread would kill you?), where it’s portrayed time after time as what ‘normal’ ‘healthy’ salt-of-the-earth families eat.

White pasta and white snack crackers are the ‘norm’, but there are amazing and readily accessible alternatives to EVERYTHING that would normally contain the nutrient stripped scourge that is white flour! 🙂

 

Bread

Find a good wholemeal bread, like this one (available in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose) in the UK, or this one (available in Whole Foods) in the US. I can’t recommend for anywhere else because I haven’t tried wholemeal bread anywhere else, but basically what you’re looking for is a bread with 100% whole wheat, no sugar, and minimal ingredients. This can be difficult. I know in the US I’ve been surprised to see many breads that look great and are marketed as healthy, but have an ingredient list as long as your arm (with lots of chemicals included), and packed full of sugar. If all else fails, wholemeal pita bread is great. It’s rare that it has more than a few ingredients, and seldom will contain sugar.

It doesn’t take very long at all to get accustomed to the taste of wholemeal bread, and very soon you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with the tasteless white stuff.

 

Homemade cakes and other baked goods

You do not need white flour to get a light cake sponge.

The best flour for lightness of cake-age, is this one – Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour – and it’s gluten-free too, for any celiacs out there.

IMG_4970

It’s made of garbanzo bean (chick pea) flour, tapioca flour, fava bean (broad bean), and sorghum flour. Don’t worry; it doesn’t taste of any of those things! It’s white-ish in colour too. No-one will know your goodies are not made with white flour, and it’s healthy as heck!

And it’s available everywhere, and online – hoorah!

As it’s quite expensive, if I’m making a cake I’ll use half Bob’s Red Mill, and half organic whole spelt flour.

IMG_4975Spelt is an ancient form of wheat (it’s what the Romans used!), and has more nutrients than regular wholemeal flour.

Otherwise, it acts pretty much the same as wholemeal flour, and gives the same kind of texture.

I personally don’t mind the denser texture of these whole wheat flours, but if you want more lightness use whole spelt or wholemeal flour for half the recipes recommended amount, and IMG_4976Bob’s Red Mill for the other half – or just use all Bob’s Red Mill and get a super light consistency.

If you are making your own bread, either the whole spelt, or wholemeal flour will give you a rustic, dense, delicious loaf.

There are other flours – buckwheat, brown rice etc – which are gluten-free and you may want to look into these if you’re celiac so you have other options than the Bob’s Red Mill – but they are not as easy to bake with, so if you’re not gluten intolerant, I’d stick with the three already mentioned.

And gram (chick pea/garbanzo) flour or coconut flour etc, are great whole flours to use if a specific recipe calls for it, but again, whole spelt, wholemeal and Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose should cover your main flour needs.

 

Pasta

Wholemeal pasta is cheap and available everywhere. You’ll get used to it so quickly. You got used to the taste of white pasta when you first started eating that, and you’ll get used to whole grain pasta in exactly the same way.

If you struggle at the beginning, keep reminding yourself of the vitamins and minerals and fibre that your body is getting. IT wants the whole stuff even if you don’t!

Crackers

Rice crackers are a great alternative to white flour crackers, and there are lots of speciality crackers out there now that have whole ingredients and do not use white flour.  Try these, or make your own!

 

Just B (12) Yourself! (Why Supplementing With Vitamin B12 Doesn’t Mean A Vegan Diet Isn’t Natural)

IMG_20151209_195433192

There are those who love to chirp about how a vegan diet cannot be natural because it needs supplementing with vitamin B12.

Little do they know.

Vitamin B12 is a bacteria that used to be found naturally in soil and water. It is not PRODUCED by animals or plants. Animals can absorb vitamin B12 from their intestinal tracts. Humans also have it in their intestines but can’t absorb it efficiently from here, so they either acquire it from animal products, or preferably(!) take a supplement.

Vitamin B12 is vital for a healthy nervous system, and to ensure the proper formation of red blood cells.

In years gone by we would have obtained plenty of it from the soil our veg and fruit were grown in. Now however, our topsoil is not of the same quality and doesn’t contain the same level of nutrients; and as we sterilise everything to the max, we just can’t guarantee getting enough from plant foods without supplementation.

We would also have acquired B12 from water in the past. Excessive chlorination put paid to that, so water is no longer a source either.

Should anyone lay the old ‘it’s not natural to be vegan blah blah blah B12’ chestnut on you, you can hip them to THIS fact: Meat eaters are just as likely to be deficient in B12 as vegans these days and oftentimes more so, by virtue of the fact that someone who hasn’t questioned their diet and just eats whatever they’re given or whatever is advertised to them, is not going to be aware of their B12 needs, and even less aware of how to fulfil them. Vegans, on the other hand, tend to be well-educated folk (they have thought about how their dietary habits impact the world outside themselves) and have likely read up on how to get the nutrients they need. That’s why, these days, lots of dieticians advise meat eaters to take a B12 supplement too!

As a nutritional therapist, I would definitely advise anyone transitioning to, or already following a vegan diet, to take a quality vitamin B12 supplement daily.

It is thought that there is vitamin B12 in fermented foods such as kimchi and miso. These are great foods that are ideally part of a healthy diet anyway, but I would NOT rely on these.

You MAY be getting some on your veg and fruit, but the amount is unmeasurable and it’s unlikely that you’ll be getting enough. Better be safe than sorry – take it.

The doctors I often refer to who are experts in plant-based nutrition recommend a minimum of 250mcg per day.

There are three forms of B12. The most common – and probably the one you’ll find in your health shop is cyanocobalamin, and this is fine.

It IS important to take it. You may be fine for a very long time without taking it but the symptoms of B12 deficiency, if and when they hit, are NOT cool. They include fatigue, rapid heartbeat, uneven moods, easy bruising, bleeding gums, numbness in extremities, and sometimes even dementia.

Don’t worry about OD’ing on B12. I mean, don’t go crazy with the tablets, just take one a day, but don’t fret that you could be overdoing it if there might be any already in your food. It is very difficult to experience B12 toxicity – you’d have to take a ridiculous amount to suffer this, and your body will probably excrete what it doesn’t need anyway.

The brand I take is GNC B12 tablets. When in the US I buy Whole Foods own brand B12 sub lingual tablets. B12 is inexpensive – so there is no excuse for skipping it!

Taking your one B12 supplement every day is best practise, though if you DO forget to take it occasionally, don’t sweat it. B12 can store up in the body, so if you’ve been taking it for a while, you probably have enough to see you through. Just make sure you take it most of the time.

And if you buy organic veg and fruit from a farmers market, don’t be too fastidious about washing them. I mean, get rid of huge globs of soil and bugs of course! But don’t over scrub them. It’s always great to get a bit of B12 the way we were meant to get it!

 

The Healing Power Of A Plant-Based Diet, Part 3 – Fibroids

One of the commonest health issues facing women of child-bearing age is uterine fibroids.

If you don’t know, they are exactly what they sound like – pesky fibrous growths that develop in the womb.

Fibroids are not usually dangerous. It’s exceedingly rare for them to turn cancerous. Because they can be small (pea-sized) they can even be pretty well behaved and not cause any problems at all, to the point where you might not even know you have one. However they can also grow to be grapefruit sized, and wreak quite a bit of havoc.

From excessive blood loss when menstruating, to constipation, fertility issues, pelvic pain, bloating, pain during sex, increased urinary frequency, and backache, they can sure make their presence felt.

Caused by an excess of estrogen, the good news is, there’s a lot we can do, diet wise, to improve and even eradicate them.

While I have not personally suffered from fibroids, I did have several fibro adenomas in my breasts years ago. These are smaller fibrous lumps, but have the same causes as fibroids. They are fibroids of the breast, if you will. After a couple of years of eating a whole food, plant-based diet, I realised these fibro adenomas that I’d had for ages, were all gone.

Be sure to consult your medical practitioner if you think you have fibroids; and if you are diagnosed, be sure to get their advice on all your options for treating them.

As a vegetarian and vegan nutritional therapist, my advice is usually centred on how to nourish and heal your body with plant-foods. Meat and dairy contain hormones, and fats that can stress the liver, so it is a good idea to at least minimise your intake of animal foods as much as possible, and boost your veg, fruit, legume, bean, wholegrain, nut and seed intake to ensure lots of fibre. However, even if you are not veggie or vegan, my advice still very much applies to you.

There are three KEY dietary changes I would recommend any client with fibroids to make:

 

1. Eliminate or DRASTICALLY reduce sugars. Sugars mean, well – sugar, alcohol, any product either processed or home made that contains sugar. Sugar causes insulin levels to rise to a point that can inhibit your body from being able to bind and break down excessive estrogen. For times when a sweetener is needed, a touch of maple syrup, or a squirt of brown rice syrup does the trick.

 

2. Eliminate refined carbohydrates. This mean white flour, white rice, and any product that contains these (bread, pasta etc). White flour and rice are white because they have had the bran and the germ (the goodness) taken out, and consequently they have a similar effect to sugar once in your body. They are easily replaced with wholemeal or whole spelt flour (or one of the many gluten free flours on the market), wholemeal bread and pasta, and brown rice.

 

3. Ensure an adequate intake of phytoestrogens. These are plant estrogens, which when ingested are believed to have the effect of regulating the body’s estrogen levels, with excess estrogen being eliminated in the urine. Flax seeds and whole grains are excellent sources.

 

Aside from these dietary recommendations, incorporate some enjoyable exercise into your daily routine if you haven’t already, drink enough water, and supplement with selenium and vitamin E.

Fibroids tend to improve or disappear after menopause, as estrogen levels drop. If this is a long way off for you – take control and fight fibroids with natures own plant power!

 

The Healing Power Of A Plant-Based Diet, Part 2 – Cancer

k3839-3 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

From first hand experience of healing myself of several conditions through diet and exercise, I can say that It feels amazing to be able to take power back into your own hands and control your health destiny and wellness as much as possible.

Because when you first get diagnosed (or as in my case, slowly realise through multiple symptoms and exhaustive research that you have a particular disease), you can feel helpless and powerless.

And prevention will of course, always be better than cure, and we really can drastically reduce the chances of being chronically ill with a whole food, plant-based diet. But it makes sense that the same foods that can prevent a disease can also fight it.

If you have a chronic disease, then consult with your medical practitioner about the best course of action for you. I am not against western medicine. When it’s used responsibly it can be very effective. We know that it tends to treat the symptoms of a disease, which in some cases may be necessary.  But you can also make a plan of action for yourself to treat your whole being, so that you can fight the disease more effectively. If, through diet, you can make your body an environment that doesn’t accommodate disease; that is hostile to it; then you stand the best chance of stabilising, reversing, or even healing it.

Honestly, it’s difficult to choose which disease to focus on, as a plant-based diet is effective for damn near most of them. But for now, as with last week’s post, we’ll focus on a common chronic disease; one we hear an awful lot about and have possibly been affected by in some way already.

It’s this hot potato:

 

Cancer

We should really discuss prevention and healing together, as the same foods apply to each, but a here’s a little bit about prevention first.

You know what’s coming but I’m gonna say it anyway – a whole foods plant-based diet is the ultimate cancer prevention diet.

This is the conclusion of a recent academic study:

‘…[a] Vegan diet seems to confer lower risk for overall and female-specific cancer than other dietary patterns’

‘But I have terrible genes,’ you cry, ‘everyone in my family died of ‘x’ cancer, even if I eat a plant-based diet my genes will get me sooner or later, so I may as well stick to my sausage rolls.’

Now, you may well have some dastardly genes, but lordy, please don’t feed them sausage rolls.

Even if you know you have inherited cancer genes, the truth is that they need never be expressed, and a whole food vegan diet has the power to stop them playing out. Here’s the study regarding prostate cancer and gene expression. Here and here is some info on breast cancer and gene expression.

Dr T Colin Campbell, author of The China Study (the conclusion of which was that cancer can be switched on with animal protein, and off with plant protein), states in this excerpt from his most recent book. ‘Whole:’

‘…I am suggesting that nutritional inputs are the primary factor in gene expression, and that in the vast majority of cases, the vast majority of the time, good nutrition has a much greater impact than anything else – including the most complicated and expensive genetic intervention.

Genes are the starting point for health and disease events; they are the ‘nature’ part of the equation. But it is nutrition and other lifestyle factors, the ‘nurture’ part, that control whether and how these genes are expressed. The influence of nurture (i.e. nutrition) has far more influence on health and disease outcome than nature (i.e. genes).’

The reason a varied whole food, plant-based diet is effective at cancer prevention, is the same reason why it is a good idea to adopt it if you have cancer. This article explains the science, but in a nutshell, this is why:

  • It makes it easier to maintain an appropriate weight, and we know that being overweight is a cancer risk factor.
  • It is full of protective vitamins and minerals and anti-oxidants.
  • It is full of fibre. This helps food travel through the body in a healthy amount of time, and takes toxins with it.
  • It contains phytoestrogens. These are plant estrogens that have a very different effect to animal estrogens. They stop our levels of estrogen getting too high (a risk factor for the reproductive cancers). It’s explained here.
  • It is widely believed (and science points towards this) that cancers do not thrive in alkaline conditions. If we reduce the acid’y’ foods we eat, and maximise the ‘alkaline,’ we have the best chance of stopping cancer from appearing, or growing if we already have it. The most acid’y’ foods are meat, dairy, eggs, alcohol, coffee and refined starches. The most alkalising foods are veg, whole grains, water, most fruits, nuts and seeds.

 

A plant-based diet to treat or help treat (along with conventional medicine) cancer should contain an abundance of green leafy veg, the darker green the better – kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli are all great choices. Beta-carotene rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and red peppers are protective. Calcium rich foods are also needed, such as green leafy veg, sesame seeds, tofu and seaweeds. Whole grains, oats, pulses and fresh fruits provide excellent fibre sources, and water and herbal teas ensure optimal hydration. A daily serving of ground flax seeds are important, for their lignan (lignans are anti-cancer) and super-fibre content.

It may also be advisable to supplement with selenium and vitamins C and D.

Processed foods and sugar should be removed from the diet, and salt should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Don’t forget, exercise and relaxation techniques also play a vital role in cancer prevention and treatment.

This is just an outline. If you are considering making the life-affirming change to a cancer prevention/cancer fighting, ‘taking back the power,’ whole food plant-based diet, We can help you on your journey to your best health.

 

The Healing Power Of A Plant-Based Diet, Part 1 – Diabetes and Heart Disease

The Gift of Life from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Melissa Johnson, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

“…The idea that whole foods, plant-based diets can protect against and even treat a wide variety of chronic diseases can no longer be denied…now there are hundreds of detailed, comprehensive, well-done research studies that point in the same direction….” T. Colin Campbell, The China Study

 

So, exactly what diseases can a vegan diet heal, reverse, or improve?

We need to be really specific about how we define ‘vegan and ‘plant-based’ here. As we discussed in last week’s post, a junk-food vegan diet is not an optimal healing diet, so, for the rest of this post, when I say ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based,’ please know that I mean a whole-foods vegan diet – the diet I mostly coach on my programs. As well as no animal products this also means no refined carbohydrates and no processed crap; just good old veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, beans, whole grains, seeds, and minimal oil.

There are not many diseases that a plant-based diet won’t have a beneficial effect on. In my experience and studies, it is ALWAYS a good idea. As there are so many other elements at play (such as how active a person is, their emotional state, how toxic their environment is/has been, and even their spiritual state (apol’s for the ‘woo’) there are no guarantees that a plant-based diet will cure terminal cancer. However, fuelling your body with clean, whole, nutritious food while you are ill can only have a positive impact, even if it just extends the timescale of a terminal prognosis, or eases digestion and regulates metabolism and weight, thereby making life more comfortable.

If you are not already plant-based then always get the ok from your medical practitioner before changing your diet to treat, or help treat (along with conventional medicine) your illness. This diet can have positive effects very quickly.  If you have a chronic disease and are on specific medications, you may need to reduce them, as regular doses may start to be too much. This is why it is important to do this with the knowledge (and supervision with regard to any medication) of a doctor.

Also:  Prevention prevention prevention! Don’t wait till you’re good and crook to change your ways. The animals and the planet need you to go vegan asap, so jump right in! You can think of your ‘reward’ as getting the best protection there is from most illness. What better upside could there be?

Anyhow, let’s kick this off with a couple of biggies:

 

Diabetes Type 2

Firstly, this disease is easily PREVENTED with a plant-based diet.

Secondly, there is a small possiblity that you have genes that make you more susceptible to diabetes than others, BUT, on a whole-foods plant-based diet, these genes need never play out.

If you already have diabetes type 2? The good news is it can be reversed with a plant-based diet. You can become symptom and medication free. Seeing as how I’m not a doctor, I’m gonna let someone that is, talk and explain the specifics:

If you want Dr Barnard’s book on reversing diabetes, you can find it here.

This disease is unnecessary, it is a lifestyle disease – no-one has to get it. There is no need to suffer.

Some doctors know about this way of reversing diabetes, some don’t (most doctors don’t know much at all about nutrition, it simply doesn’t play a big part in their training). Some doctors may have read about reversing diabetes with a whole food vegan diet, but don’t believe their patients will agree to trying it. However, doctors that have given their patients the option of following a plant-based diet to reverse their diabetes have proved this wrong; most people are only too glad to help themselves.

A little info on diabetes type 1 (I focussed on type 2 here as it is more prolific). Diabetes type 1 can likely be prevented with a plant-based diet if you are vegan from birth, as there is very strong evidence to suggest it is caused by too high a consumption of dairy in childhood. Though a diabetes type 1 patient will always have to take some level of insulin, the amount can often be greatly reduced, and all the usual diabetes type 1 complications can be minimised by adopting a plant-based diet.

 

Heart disease

It has been known for at least the last thirty years, that a whole food plant-based diet prevents and reverses heart disease. Another lifestyle disease just like diabetes, it has been described by Dr Caldwell B Esselstyn (the author of ‘Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease’) as a ‘toothless paper tiger’ i.e. a disease that need not happen.

So why is it our biggest killer? Because most people are brainwashed into thinking that our standard diet rich in animal products is healthy, when in fact it is the cause of most chronic disease. Most doctors will just come out with ambiguous suggestions like ‘eat everything in moderation’ or ‘eat lots of veg and fruit and low fat proteins.’ Advice like this is not helpful. Who can define moderation? According to Dr Esselstyn, ‘moderation kills.’ And the second piece of advice is useless as it ignores the fact that protein is in vegetables too – it makes it sound as if protein is ONLY in meat and dairy, and it does not even touch on whole grains versus refined grains.

As with diabetes, there are doctors who do have this information, but are loathe to suggest it to their patients:

‘Why don’t more cardiologists employ this simple and successfully proven method? The stock answer is “My patients won’t follow such a diet.” That is indeed hard to accept when entire cultures without heart disease have preferred this way of eating for centuries and thousands of heart patients have accepted this technique. A more honest answer would be there is much less financial reward for the caregiver. The hope is that insurance carriers will appreciate this less expensive and more reliable approach and reward lifestyle counselling which will accelerate momentum and acceptance. Dr. Esselstyn now treats invasive cardiologists who seek his counsel when they have the disease. Viewing a broader landscape for the health of America is imperative.’   – Dr Caldwell Esselstyn

As for the how and why a standard diet causes heart disease and how a plant-based diet reverses it – take it away Doc:

The fact that these diseases can be reversed is incredible, but I can’t stress enough – prevention is key.

If you suffer from either of these diseases, or are interested in avoiding them – go plant-based now. If you need any help – I can guide you through the transition, and make it easy and fun. You know where I am!

 

A Vegan Diet Isn’t Always Healthy…

Being a long-time vegan, I am thrilled that a plant-based diet has received so much media attention in recent months, and delighted that people are waking up to the health benefits the lifestyle has to offer.

The thing that bothers me, is that too many times I’ve read/heard some version of this phrase: ‘A vegan diet is the best thing you can do for your health.’

It’s true, it can be the healthiest diet on the planet, and it’s also true that just by going vegan you have done your body a blinking huge favour, but a lot more information needs to be given.

Yes, it’s very likely that just by eliminating meat, dairy and eggs you will experience better health. After all, you’ll be forgoing all non-essential cholesterol, and most forms of saturated fat. You may well lose some weight, have more energy than before, and improve a few health niggles.

However, the words that are often missed out when referring to the health promises of a vegan diet are ‘whole foods.’

Bottom line – to experience everything a vegan diet has to offer health-wise, try to swap refined carbs and sugars for whole grains. Refined products were once ‘whole,’ but they had the goodness (including the fibre) stripped out, mainly to make them white and more neutral tasting. They therefore do nothing but spike your blood, constipate, and promote heart disease and cancer.

It’s very simple to switch from white rice to brown rice, but the most ubiquitous refined products we use are white flour and white sugar, and you’d be surprised how many products contain them.

From bread (including regular sliced, bagels, veggie burger buns, baguettes, paninis, matzo), to cookies, cakes, and white pasta, there are many ways white flour is sneaking into your body.

As for sugar, not only is it in obvious places like candies and cakes, but also in ketchup, jam, canned beans, chilli sauce (most shop-bought sauces, in fact), and you’d be surprised how much it is used in restaurants – even in main dishes.

Avoiding refined products like white flour and sugar does require a certain amount of label reading at first, but after a while you get to remember which products contain them and which don’t. I think of it this way – how much refined starch goes into your body needs to be controlled by you, not huge food corporations, whose only interest is to keep you addicted to their product.

Wholewheat, whole spelt or gluten free flour can be used in place of white in baking; wholewheat or brown rice pasta are good alternatives to white pasta, and there are many quality pre-made products in health shops that contain only whole grains.

Try quinoa and buckwheat in place of brown rice sometimes.
To replace sugar? Maple syrup or brown rice syrup are a much healthier option for those times when you just have to sweeten something up a little, and they are also great for baking with.

It’s ok to adopt new habits little by little. Just as you may have given up one animal product at a time, you can sub whole grains for refined products one by one if that is easier.

(I should add here that complex carbohydrates are a massive part of a healthy vegan diet – please don’t ever fall for the low-carb nonsense. I’ll talk about this in another post).

It is so important to not misrepresent a vegan diet, saying it is the healthiest way to live without being more specific about how this is achieved.

Fries, coke and white bread can all be vegan – but good luck trying to thrive on that!

With a varied diet made up of whole grains, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit and legumes, with sugar kept to a minimum, you’ll soon start to reap the benefits other vegans have been shouting about.

 

Will I Die Of Something Horrid If I Don’t Eat Everything Organic?


 
No.

I mean, probably not.

I mean, you might, but it may not be because your veg wasn’t organic. You know what I mean, don’t you?

Er…This is what I mean:

Bottom line – of cooourrrsse it is better to buy everything organic if you can. Fewer chemicals on your food is always a good thing.

BUT…

….if you’re like me, and haven’t (ahem..yet) won the jackpot, and your current budget is not organic friendly, what can you do? Are you doomed to pesticide laden purgatory and herbicide ridden hades?

Not in the least.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to minimise the nasties, and not piss off your pocketbook!

  • First of all – if you are vegan (and I’m assuming you are trying to be, or at least interested in the subject if you’re reading this), do not even worry if you can’t budget for anything organic. Really. Why am I saying this? Because the most chemical laden foods are animal products. By eating these you are taking on the chemical load of the animal. Crops grown for livestock feed are the most heavily sprayed. The chemicals from these pesticides are fat-soluble and accumulate in the fat of the animal. Add this to the fact that lots of livestock are fed ground-up bits of other animals, and you’ll see how the problem is compounded. Meat and milk have much higher chemical levels than plant-food, so by ditching them you’ve already avoided the most pesticide laden food on the planet! Well done!
  • Familiarise yourself with the clean fifteen (fruit and veg that contain the least pesticide residues, that are ok to buy non-organic) and the dirty dozen (fruit and veg to prioritise buying organic if you can).
  • If you need to be super canny with the budget and can’t always afford to buy a dirty dozen item organic, maybe buy it organic every other time. Maybe see if the dish you are planning to make that would ordinarily contain something from the dirty dozen list could be made with another from the clean fifteen list. For example, I often make an Ethiopian soup that calls for a pound of potatoes (Booooooo, dirty). I realised the soup flavours would go just as well with sweet potatoes (yaaaay, clean!), and so now always make it that way. Sometimes, admittedly, that just won’t do. The recipe calls for an apple – you need a frickin’ apple. In that case, apply my next tips!
  • Scrub, scrub, scrub your non-organic fruit and veg. You can buy an inexpensive little brush (like this one) specifically for this purpose.
  • H2O. Drink it. If you are drinking enough water, your body is continuously being flushed out, so any toxins or chemicals that may be on your food have the best chance of being eliminated expediently. Or, should I say, exPEEdiently. Hee.
  • If you read my post about flax seeds, you will remember that one of their many benefits is that they bind to, and transport toxins and heavy metals out of the body. Add 5 teaspoons ground flaxseeds to one meal per day (breakfast is often easier, as they go well on cereal or porridge).
  • If you eat meat and dairy, or know you might have to buy non-organic fruit and veg on the dirty dozen list (or any others that may have been sprayed) here’s what to do: Try to eat plenty of soluble fibres (fruit, beans, oats, legumes, nuts), that soak up toxins in a sponge-like fashion as they pass through your body and prohibit them from entering the blood stream. Insoluble fibre foods are important too (found in veg, whole grains and seeds) as they ‘sweep up’ the colon as they pass through. As we’ve learnt, animal foods contains the most residues and precisely NO fibre, so it’s ultra important, if you’re a meat/dairy eater, to ensure you are getting plenty.

This last tip does rather beg the question ‘if I buy non-organic beans, does the fibre in them cancel out the pesticide residue?’ Hah! I don’t know. You just gotta do the best you can.

What do I always buy organic? Soy milk, whole grains, and as many veg and fruit on the dirty dozen list as possible (but I don’t always buy every single one organic).

Lentils and dried beans I often buy in bulk from the Asian aisle in the supermarket. This can be a good idea to offset the expense of the organic grains.

So, don’t fret if your budget doesn’t allow for a 100% organic foodshop. Follow these tips, and eliminate or minimise animal products for the greatest reduction in chemical nasties.

Plant-Based Tips For Glowy, Radiant, Youthful Skin

Skin 3 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Iwan Gabovitch, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Who on earth doesn’t want amazing skin?

The good news is plants are here to help! And they are cheap! Forget your La Prairie or Creme de la Mer expensive gloop. In order to get and maintain beautiful skin, we need lots of alkaline, anti-inflammatory, vitamin and mineral-rich foods (veg, fruit, legumes, beans) that nourish and keep the skin well hydrated; whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, wholewheat products etc) to keep the moisture inside us as long as possible; and nutritious fats (found in avocados, nuts and seeds) that keep the skin moisturised from the inside out.

Meat dairy and eggs are acid-y when in the body and only promote skin inflammation and dehydration.

Here are some of the absolute best things you can do to maintain a youthful, dewy, glowy, radiant skin. Some are well-known and scientific, and hell, I’ve thrown in a few anecdotal tips that I’ve found out for myself. YOU’RE WELCOME!

 

  • Water, water, water. Of course skin needs water to stop it from drying out. If you eat a whole-food, plant-based diet, you don’t need to go too crazy as the veg and fruit you eat will contain lots of water, so just drink when you feel thirsty – but don’t put it off. If you are not vegan, then at least a litre and a half of water (plus more if you feel thirsty) per day will keep the skin well-hydrated. You can always do the dehydration test (not hugely scientific but nevertheless a good indication): Put your hand, palm side down, flat on a table; pinch some skin from the back of your hand and hold it for a couple of seconds. Release it! If it goes back down flat right away – well done! You are well hydrated. If it takes a couple of seconds to go down, this is telling you you need to be supping more water.
  • Vitamin E – This is an anti-oxidant vitamin and, as such, great for the skin, and anti-aging. Get it from nuts, seeds, green leafy veg, and whole grains. Olives and avocados are other great sources, and as we know, avocados have the added benefit of providing the moisturising oils to the skin. Try avocado toast, avocado maki rolls or rustle up a quick guacamole.
  • Vitamin C – Yup, good old, ubiquitous (in the plant world, anyway!) vitamin C. Aside from being an antioxidant, it is needed to produce the collagen which maintains the skins structure. so chow down on those citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, and brussels sprouts!
  • Vitamin A – Get yo’ vitamin A on – in the plant-based form – beta carotene. Like vitamin C, this is a powerful antioxidant. Generally speaking, the more intense a colour the fruit or veg is, the more beta carotene it contains. Orange, yellow and red veg are great examples. Get chomping on sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, cantaloupe and butternut squash. Green leafy veg are good sources too. DON’T take beta carotene supplements though. This could mean you get too much. Although not seriously harmful in excess, it can turn your skin orange – really! Just get your vits from your food and you’ll be fine.
  • Zinc – This hardworking mineral doesn’t get as much press as vitamins A and E when talking about healthy skin, but it is vital for skin healing and reparation. If you have acne or psoriasis you may need to check you have adequate levels of zinc with your medical practitioner. Vegetarians and vegans may get told they can only get zinc from animal foods, but, like lots of things we get told, this is monumental BS. You can get plenty from brown rice, wholemeal bread, legumes, nuts, seeds and beans.

 

And here are a few anecdotal tips!

  • Dried rose buds. What do you do with these? You make an infusion with them, that’s what. You can get them from any Chinese herbalist, or from ebay. Put maybe 6 or 7 buds in a large mug and pour boiling water on top. Leave for a few minutes and drink. This has been used for centuries in China as a skin beautifier, and if you have it before bed you may even notice the rosy hue in your cheeks the next morning! I can’t NOT have a big cup of this before bed now! Added bonus – it is also thought to ease depression and menstrual cramps, calm nerves and aid the body in absorbing iron.
  • Coconut oil (as a topical night cream!) In my opinion, you don’t need fancy schmancy creams to have great skin. Cut the middle man and just invest in a jar of coconut oil (good coconut oil, mind; organic virgin). All the expensive-ass creams contain coconut oil anyway, so you’ll just be getting the goodness of the creams, but cheaper! Apply it liberally before bed and massage in well. Though it is oil, it doesn’t feel too greasy on the skin, and absorbs quite quickly. Rose-hip oil is also fantastic, but coconut oil works out more economical.
  • Kimchi – I noticed a while back that whenever I ate kimchi, the following day my skin was glowing. I had no idea why this could be – in particular why the effect would be so immediate. After a little research I’ve found that kimchi is chocka with vitamins A and C, which would go some way to explaining its beauty promoting qualities (see above). For it to work so quickly however, there must be something else at play too. I don’t know what that is. Maybe it’s because it aids digestion, and good digestion is reflected in your skin (bad digestion can give you skin issues). Maybe it’s that if your gut is happy with all the good bacteria from the kimchi, then your skin is happy too. All I know is that there are lots of Korean blogs touting kimchi as being amazing for the skin, so I know there is something to it. And I’ve seen it for myself!

 

Don’t waste hard-earned money on the gloop and the gunk in fancy packaging.

Combine these tips with lots of fresh air and exercise, and your skin will show you how grateful it can be!

 

What’s Wrong With Eggs? They Are Good For You And Chickens Don’t Need Them!

egg

A couple of years ago, somewhere in the southern states of America, (it could have been Chattanooga) I got talking to a lady who owned a second hand book and bric-a-brac store. We had a perfectly lovely conversation until she asked me what I was writing about (I’d mentioned I was writing a book). When I told her it was about how a standard diet negatively impacts our health, the environment and animals, and how a vegan diet was the antidote to this, she got very animated.

She got the most worked up about eggs, saying she didn’t understand how I didn’t eat them, telling me how they were the most healthy food you could eat, and she went as far as to say that eggs are ‘God’s own protein,’ whatever the feckin’ heck that meant.

Firstly, she was most decidedly not the best advertisement for her health claims regarding eggs. I don’t want to snark (ok I do, but I shan’t), let’s just say she was very evidently NOT healthy.

Secondly, I haven’t eaten eggs for 23 years, and I am still here and thriving – not a shrivelled pile of protein-deprived fatigue, convulsing on the floor. I do not believe I am missing the so-called protein of God.

I didn’t want to continue the conversation, so I just wrapped it up politely and left. I intuited that she would not have been open to receiving any actual facts on eggs, as invested as she clearly was in what were probably lifelong, myth-based beliefs, so I let it go. Although I believe in advocating when possible, it’s also important to know when to conserve your energy for better opportunities!

In case YOU have questions about eggs, or in case you get asked questions by curious friends – who you feel may be more receptive to facts than my book-store lady; here are some of the common egg myths dispelled.

 

Eggs are good for you

Uh-uh.

Yes, eggs do contain protein. But they are also very high in cholesterol, and like all animal products, they contain destructive saturated fat.  Just consider this for a hot second: Eggs have inside them the wherewithal to grow ONE cell into a baby chick in a relatively short space of time. They actually contain the most concentrated form of protein (second only to animal brains). This is excessive for humans – ‘too much of a good thing,’ if you will. We have been led to believe that the more protein the better, and some people eat egg whites believing them to be the healthiest and most protein-filled part of the egg, but this is just not a balanced form of protein for humans to be ingesting.

Because of this, consumption of eggs is very closely linked to cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

You do not need eggs for health. You can meet ALL your protein needs with plants.

 

How is the egg industry cruel? The chickens aren’t killed or anything…

Ok, so I don’t need to go into why battery hen farming is cruel – that’s obvious.

Cage-free, free-range and organic are just great labels to make you feel you are doing something good for the hens when you buy eggs. BUT, in terms of hen suffering, they mean nothing. And all across the board, baby male chicks are gassed, ground alive or suffocated, being of no profit to the egg industry.

All that farmers need in order to classify their eggs as free range, is a tiny ‘door’ hole in a barn, so they can say that chickens have access to fresh air. These barns are normally crammed with so many thousands of hens, and hens are hierarchical, so only a very few will see the fresh air. Most will live in very cramped conditions, walking around (as much as they can walk) in their own pee and poop. Many grow deformed or die and aren’t discovered for ages. They are also debeaked without anaesthetic, just like battery hens.

 

What if I have chickens in my back garden and I treat them well? Surely it’s ok to take their eggs?

This article very nicely explains the ethical stance regarding backyard chickens that are kept for eggs.

Also, the reason hens KEEP laying eggs is because their eggs KEEP getting taken away. They would only normally lay enough to fill their nest.

Laying so many eggs takes up a lot of energy, and so lots of chickens eat their own eggs to replenish the nutrients they’ve lost in this effort. Lots of backyard hens are rescues from the egg industry, so they will often do this, as they are attempting to restore a lifetimes worth of nutrient loss.

If you’re wondering whether you can eat the eggs that backyard hens don’t eat that might otherwise go to waste? Weeell, you could…but first, reread about the health dangers of eating eggs!

 

5 Plant-Based Tips for Gorgeous Guts!

IMG_20150726_123223

 

You may have heard that 70-80% of the immune system is in the gut.

Thus, we need to keep topping up the good bacteria in our guts to help fight the bad. When there is too much bad bacteria (candida) and not enough good, there are a bazillion horrid symptoms that can ensue.

It is particularly nasty because symptoms can appear one by one and gradually, so it can take a long time to realise the core of the problem. While it’s not a death sentence (though if left too long it can lead to chronic diseases – multiple sclerosis, cancer, ME, IBS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and alcoholism have all been linked to candida overgrowth), it can take a while for the body to get rid of it.

How can we support a healthy gut in the best (and vegan) way?

Here are 5 solid, sure-fire ways:

1. Take a pro-biotic or two daily. (I take Quest acidophilus non-dairy capsules, but there are lots of brands out there that do a vegan probiotic)

2. Eat a serving of (non-pasteurised) sauerkraut or kimchi daily, or at least 4 times a week (next week, I’ll post how I make my own unbelievably simple kimchi!)

3. Garlic, garlic, garlic! You can take vegetarian garlic capsules, or try eating dishes where the garlic is still fairly raw, like in kimchi. Get your garlic any way you can, it really helps keep the gut in order. It’s a natural anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-biotic. Win-win-win.

4. Yoghurt – dairy-free of course! Soy yoghurts are widely available. Sojade is an amazing brand because their plain yoghurt is sugar free, and you can just pop in some maple syrup or some sugar free jam, stir, and you have a delish dessert. Coconut yoghurt is creamy and lush, and in the UK, Australia and New Zealand you can pick up the Coyo brand. In the US there are several brands of yummy coconut yoghurt, Whole Foods have a good selection – ideally buy one without sugar and add your own flavour.

5. Eliminate or cut WAAAAY back on sugar (and all things containing it!) and refined carbs – such as white bread, white pasta and white rice. Sugar and refined carbs FEED candida, so it’s best to reduce our intake of these as much as possible. Don’t worry, wholegrain pasta and brown rice are just as tasty (and you will soon find them even tastier than their inferior versions!).

Feel like you may have a candida overgrowth problem? While I’d normally ALWAYS say consult your healthcare practitioner, unfortunately many doctors either don’t acknowledge candida, or believe it only occurs in severely immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV, or simply just don’t know anything about it. So, if you are lucky enough to have an enlightened doctor, go see them. If not, it may be a good idea to see a reputable holistic doctor or naturopath.

Otherwise, use these 5 tips to help maintain gorgeous gut flora!