Keep Colds At Bay The Plant-Based Way!

No273 13 Oct 2009 Sneeze from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 mcfarlandmo, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

So, if you’re in this hemisphere, you’ll know it’s winter. And if you have to travel by public transport every day like I do, you’ll have had the pleasure of dodging the sneezes and splutters of fellow travellers for a few months now. Maybe you’ve been the offender? Hell, it’s the best way to get a seat right?

On a train the other day, someone actually sneezed ON MY HEAD. I was sitting down, and as there were no seats left a girl was standing over me, holding on to my seat and reading her phone. I heard her sneeze build-up and didn’t sweat it too much as I assumed she would turn her head and the, um, sneeze rain (?) would land well away from me.

Instead she stayed where she was and put her hand over her nose. This would have been fine except the sneeze escaped from under her hand and landed on my head. Yes. The sneeze rain settled, droplet by droplet, On. My. Head.

Have you ever been laying on your back in yoga in the relaxation position, been caught off guard by a sneeze, and then felt the fine mist slowly land on your face? Me neither (Just kidding!) This felt similar, but on my scalp. I may wear a rain hat for the rest of the winter.

Needless to say, I didn’t know what to do with this. I sat with it for a while, and then decided to erase it from history. Then I got off the train at Streatham Hill.

What am I leading to? Well, I’m pretty sure you’ve had similar experiences at some point this season, and in order to avoid catching the lurgy it’s a good idea to give our immune systems a little help at this time of year.

Some swear by chicken soup, but as this is a meat-free zone, my plant-based tips for keeping away the snot-goblins are as follows:


This is a no-brainer, but I’m still gonna say it, dammit. Include more than ever lots of green leafy veg and plenty of citrus fruit in your diet. The clementines and navel oranges around at this time of year are vitamin C bombs and I’m positive they were invented for us public transport users. Eat them. Eat them on the train too. I love it when someone cracks open an orange on the train – it smells divine, and makes me want one too.

As we learned in this post, keep up the health of your gut, as this is the majority of your immune system. Make sure to eat some kimchi or sauerkraut several times a week, or at the very least, take a non-dairy probiotic every day throughout winter.

Garlic is your best friend in winter. It is good for your immune system by helping keep your gut in order, but on top of that it has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and is a potent anti-inflammatory. You can crush it and put it in dishes at the end of cooking, and it will do it’s darndest to prevent you getting sick.


These next two are purely anecdotal. I know they work for me, and that they will not harm you should you decide to try them too, as indicated.


There is a product called Citricidal (GSE in the US). It is grapefruit seed extract, and a very powerful anti-viral, anti-biotic, and anti-fungal. If I’ve been travelling with lots of sniffly commuters, when I get home I put 2 drops of Citricidal in about a whiskey shot amount of water, and stir. I then take a cotton bud, dip one end it in the water and then swirl it around one nostril, then do the same with the other end in the other nostril, all the while sniffing slightly, so a tiny bit goes up my nose. I also do this before embarking on a plane journey, and it truly seems to keep me free from the lurgy.

If I feel like I have the first signs of a cold – the bone-ache, the slightly swollen feeling in the back of the throat etc, then I take half an umeboshi plum. If you don’t know these already, they are salted Japanese plums (available in health stores) and are the sourest little mofo’s you ever did taste – and that’s the point. They are extremely acidic, but they have an alkalising effect once in the body. And as you may be aware, the more alkaline your body is, the less disease it can harbour. If I remember to take half a plum in time, the cold-feelings are gone by the next day. Just remember to take a couple of mouthfuls of water afterwards, to rinse excess acid from your teeth. If they are too sour for you to eat as they are, then you can mash half a plum and stir it into some cooked brown rice. This actually flavours the rice nicely, and kids like it too. They are around ten pounds for a jar (around fifteen bucks in the US?), but if you only take them when you need them, they last an absolute age.


May the rest of your winter be cold free!


Why a Whole Food Vegan Lifestyle is Best for Weight Loss and Maintenance.

Start diet today from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Alan Cleaver, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Recently, I’ve noticed lots of friends on social media bemoaning the fact that they’ve over-indulged during the holidays. They are now back on the ‘diet’ and are, quite understandably, miserable about it.

I am heartily grateful that I haven’t dieted for a very long time, and know that I’ll NEVER have to.

I’ve lost count of the number of insane diets and weight-loss programmes out there. Dukan, Atkins, Weightwatchers, Slimming World, it never ends, each year brings new diets, or old ones in new clothes (Hi Paleo! Didn’t you used to be Atkins?). Why? Because even though most of these diets DO work in the short term, they are not sustainable.

You’ve heard about conventional medicine only treating the symptoms, while holistic medicine treats the cause of the symptoms?

Well, it’s the same thing here.

These diets only treat the symptoms of a bad lifestyle, i.e. the excess weight, and don’t challenge the lifestyle itself. Therefore, most people will end up going back to their old habits, and in lots of cases even putting on extra weight.

We all know people who have done this. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has followed one of these diets and kept the weight off. And so, there is always a market for new diets, and always enough people to buy into them and hope that this next one will work.

I’ve always had a huge appetite. I know for a fact that if I was on, say, the Weightwatchers diet, I couldn’t possibly have two bites of a cheesecake instead of two slices. Once you’ve tasted the cheesecake (or whatever happens to be your favourite treat), that’s it, you’ve got the taste for it!

How horrific to have the taste for it but to not be able to eat as much of it as you want! And people say vegans are depriving themselves!

Better to make a healthy plant-based cheesecake, and be able to eat as much as you desire – but guess what? You won’t be able to eat that much as it’s made with whole foods, and is really filling.

The best cheesecake I ever had was at Cafe Gratitude, a vegan restaurant in San Francisco. It was better than any dairy cheesecake by far.

You can get very similar cheesecakes in some Whole Foods in the US (and I just saw you can also order them online!).

Some branches of Whole Foods in the UK sell the Saf White chocolate and jasmine tart (tastes like cheesecake!), and Inspiral cheesecakes are available online.

Or, if this is unavailable to you – you can make your own. They all taste just as good, if not better than dairy cheesecake – I promise! Wow, I just realised I’m coming across as obsessed with cheesecake – but, the same is true for any treat. You can nearly always make a veganized version, and in the rare case where you cannot, you still have a multitude of other treats to discover, that will keep you satisfied and happy.

It’s easier to change your lifestyle and mindset to a vegan one, and therefore not have the dairy cheesecake in the house in the first place and so not be tempted by it, than have it in close proximity constantly calling your name!  Rather fill your house up with plant-based whole food treats that will not make you pile on the poundage!

As we all know, it’s not a vegan diet in itself that is good for weight loss. Chips, cola and white bread are usually vegan, and of course they aren’t going to do anyone’s waistline any favours. Also, exercise is a vital part of any lifestyle, and equally as important to health and weight maintenance as a plant-based diet.

I mostly coach a whole food vegan lifestyle, that is to say, a vegan diet, with no refined carbohydrates (such as white sugar, white bread, white pasta and rice) just healthy, whole products (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa. whole wheat bread etc). This is the optimal way to lose weight gradually and healthily), and in a way that will last.

If you are interested in losing weight in the healthiest and most sustainable way possible this year (no artery-clogging meat or ketosis bad breath with this lifestyle!), I am here to guide you through the transition, to inspire you with ideas for gorgeous, decadent meals and treats so you NEVER feel deprived , or like you’re on a ‘diet’. Who the hell wants the misery of a diet? Not me, and I’m betting, not you.

Vegan? Plant-based? Wtf?

I want to clarify what these terms are and how they came about. Firstly, let it be known that in terms of diet, these words are used interchangeably.

The term ‘vegan’ came about in 1944, and was coined by a guy called Donald Watson – founder of the Vegan Society in the UK, who wanted to distinguish between a vegetarian, who doesn’t eat animal flesh but eats other animal products, and people who didn’t eat any animal produce at all. He took the first three, and last two letters of the word ‘vegetarian,’ and voila! The term ‘vegan’ came about.

This was the word used for years to describe people who ate this way, until there came a time when there were so many negative associations with this word, that some people decided to use the term ‘plant-based’ instead.

Technically – there IS a difference in the meaning of these words. ‘Veganism’ can involve a whole lifestyle of ways in which to avoid cruelty to animals, i.e. not wearing fur, leather, wool etc, and not using any products containing animals or that have been tested on animals, whereas plant-based tends to refer to diet only.

I noticed recently, on some new health coach type websites, the term ‘plant-based’ being used. Upon further investigation, I realised that animal products were involved in their diet suggestions, so they really meant ‘mostly plant-based.’ I’m not suggesting these people are purposely usurping the dialogue, (or am I?) (Of course I’m not!) (Or am I?) but they are clearly not aware of the genesis of the term, and are (ok, most likely unwittingly) mis-using it so it fits their purpose. So I thought clarification was needed.

Which term do I use? I always used to say vegan. Then I learned the term ‘plant-based’ and totally latched on to that. Now? I really don’t care. I use them both. Thankfully, and not before time, vegan is not the dirty word it once was, and if someone really does have a problem with that word? Well, it’s exactly that – their problem.

People will project what they will whatEVER lifestyle you choose, so whatever term(s) you use to describe your diet – just own it, and know that any negative reactions are nothing to do with you.

Do you prefer one term over the other? Why? Please let me know in the comments.

I Hardly Eat Any Meat/Dairy/Eggs…

What is the most common response I get to people finding out I’m vegan?

I bet it’s not at all what you’d think.

I’m rarely met with the ‘but how do you get your protein?’ question that other vegans seem to get so often, and equally rarely do I get an indignant snort, followed by something along the lines of ‘good for you, now pass the bacon.’

Occasionally, I’m met with an ‘ooh, I don’t know how you do that, I couldn’t do it.’ But the most common response goes a bit like this:

‘Well, I don’t eat much meat, and I don’t really eat dairy either.’


‘I hardly ever eat meat, and I only have a tiny bit of milk in tea.’


‘Oh, I only eat meat for Saturday lunch, and rarely eat dairy.’

You get the gist.

I must say at this point, that it only ever comes up that I’m vegan in a natural, organic, way, when it is relevant to the conversation, and I never carry the subject any further, unless asked. So the people uttering the above phrases were not about to be judged in any way. No-one was asking them what they ate, and there was no need conversationally to offer this information.

My best guess as to why this is a common response is this.

They have heard the negative associations attached to the word vegan – one of them being that vegans are judgemental. Ironically, because of these preconceived ideas, they have judged ME as being judgemental before I’ve said a word on the subject. They thus feel the need to justify or explain their eating habits to a very bemused listener who had asked them precisely nothing.

My other issue with this response (though I would only bring this up in actual conversation if asked), is that we all tend to think we eat less of something than we actually do. The truth is, we never know how much we eat of something until we stop. And with dairy especially (as it has so many forms – whey, lactose etc), it crops up in everything, from cookies to cakes to tablets to sauces, so it can be difficult to keep track.

After all this time I’m still learning and trying to improve the ways in which I respond to the reactions I get if it comes up that I’m vegan. This one has always kind of stumped me, I usually just mumble something lame like ‘oh…ok.’

Any ideas?