The Harmful Effects Of Sugar

Sugar from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Adam Engelhart, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Let’s talk the white stuff.

Uh…that’s sugar.

Not, like, flour.

Or snow.

Or dandruff.

Or any other white stuff.

Sugar.

Several foodstuffs constitute sugar; that’s to say, they act the same as sugar would once inside your body; but to keep it simple, I’m just gonna talk about plain ol’ sugar here. Sugar that is sugar before it goes in your body; sugar once inside.

Now I know YOU KNOW this post is not gonna be good news about sugar; but before sugar, the absolute best first thing you can do for yourself in terms of all aspects of your health is to stop eating animal products. This is the most important dietary change you can make.

I want to talk about sugar however, because it too has some extremely egregious health effects you need to be aware of.

 

Harmful effects of sugar

OK, so I’m pretty sure you know about the link between sugar and tooth decay. (My mouth wishes I’d known sooner).

And you probably have a good grasp on the whole ‘sugar spikes your blood’ dealie. We know that sugar causes energy rushes that soon turn to crashes – not the best way of achieving consistent, long-lasting energy.

So far so blah.

But one of the worst effects in my experience (because I and many others I know have lived through this), is that sugar is candida food.

If you don’t know, candida is a yeast that lives in your gut naturally. Due to various influences disrupting the balance of gut flora (antibiotics* being one, but there are MANY others), it can multiply and proliferate and cause a whole host of awful symptoms.

Sugar, which is candida food, helps this beast grow out of control.

 

Why is candida so bad? What’s the big deal?

Candida is linked to soooo many diseases and conditions.

You may be surprised to know that candida is even linked to mental health – YES, that’s mental health – the extent to which we are only just learning.

It is linked to depression, (here is one academic paper on this subject – there are others) autism, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia.

It is also linked to alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgiaCrohn’s disease, Celiac disease, oral and oesophageal cancers, endometriosis, and inability to lose weight.

There is also a connection between candida and cystic fibrosis, though this link needs to be investigated more.

It is linked to lots of cancers indirectly, as candida suppresses the immune system – an ideal situation for cancer to develop; but it is also thought to be linked to lots of cancers in a more direct way, though there isn’t enough scientific evidence as yet to prove the links conclusively.

There are many more diseases that candida is thought to be linked to, but there haven’t been enough studies carried out as yet to prove this without doubt.

There seems to be a lack of will to fund studies. Possibly this is because candida can be cured with cheap remedies and a change of diet. Therefore, it wouldn’t be accurate to think that just because there isn’t sufficient evidence, that there isn’t a link between a disease and candida.

Bottom line – Stop feeding the candida beast!

Don’t forget that sugar has addictive properties similar to those found in street drugs. It’s all the more surprising then (or is it?), that food manufacturers want to feed our addiction!

 

How do I avoid sugar?

We KNOW there’s gonna be sugar in cookies and candy etc. But where are all the hidden sneaky places sugar can be found?

You’re not going to like this – it’s blinking everywhere!

It’s in:

Breads

Plant-based yoghurts (even plain ones!)

Chilli sauces (except Tabasco and Cholula, woohoo!)

Pasta sauces

Indian restaurant food

Chinese restaurant food

Cans of baked beans, refried beans etc

Plant milks (One popular brand I just looked at had sugar as the second ingredient – before the almonds even!!!)

Pickles

Soft beverages in bottles, cans or cartons (including most healthy-looking ones)

Cereals (including plain ones – Corn Flakes, Weetabix, All-Bran etc.)

 

You can very easily see how over the course of a day your sugar intake can creep up – and that’s without you even knowingly USING sugar.

It’s worth noting none of these foods NEED sugar to taste good, or as a preservative. It’s almost as if it’s in someone’s interest to keep us full of candida-fuelling sugar!!

 

What can you do?

Though the ideal solution is to completely eliminate sugar from every source, it’s very difficult seeing as how we clearly live in a sugar-saturated world.

The best thing you can do is just KNOW when you are eating something containing sugar. That way you can monitor your intake and make sure it is minimal.

Make your own food as much as possible of course; but when you DO buy pre-made products, just take an extra second to scan the ingredients list on the label. If you’re vegan you’ll be checking to see if there are animal products anyway, so just take an extra second to check for sugar. If the product contains sugar – pick a brand that doesn’t contain it.

It may be a pain in the butt initially, but you’ll quickly get to remember which products contain sugar and which don’t.

 

*I am not against antibiotics when they are truly needed; just against the over-prescription of them.

 

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The Best Foods To Improve Your Moods

calm
Please note: This post is intended to give tips and advice for best emotional health through nutrition. If you have been diagnosed with depression, or feel you may be suffering with this or any other mental illness, please consult your medical practitioner, and follow their advice. Do not stop taking any medication without the supervision of a doctor.

 

Are you a moody SOB?

I’m not judging, it’s perhapsmaybepossible that I was once.

Ever thought that what we put in our body could play a part in this?

Don’t even think for one second that it can’t!

But because what we eat affects us this way, the GOOD news is that if we start yamming the right stuff into our faces – we can improve, and even stabilise our moods and emotions.

No more meltdowns. No more unexplainable freakouts. No more random ups and downs. Sound good?

Of course it is no surprise that the same diet that is best for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, is also best for emotional health.

A whole food, plant-based diet is already superior to a diet rich in animal products in terms of maintaining good mental and emotional health. It is more alkaline and anti-inflammatory, as opposed to acidic and inflammatory, and so promotes more vitality and overall health – which in turn affects mood. In fact, depression is thought to be a disease of inflammation. So if you’re vegan and eating healthily, you’re already on the right path to great mental and emotional health.

But, there are certain foods that are especially helpful in achieving a balanced state of being.

Here are 4 foods (and 2 vitamins) to include in your daily diet to avoid experiencing the woohoos and the blues in the space of five minutes:

 

1. Whole grains

(Whole wheat, brown rice, oats, barley, rye, quinoa, millet, corn, buckwheat, amaranth, whole spelt)

Most plant foods, not just whole grains, are rich in tryptophan, which your body needs to produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter that is largely responsible for us feeling wellbeing and happiness.

Whole grains, being unrefined carbohydrates, are an excellent source of tryptophan, and as such, they can serve to regulate serotonin levels, elevating them if they are too low.

The OTHER reason whole grains are at the top of my list is because they maintain steady blood sugar – which also serves to stabilise your moods.

Refined grains such as white flour act as sugar in the body and thus spike your blood and affect your moods negatively. Just think of when a child is given sugar – they become hyperactive and bounce off the walls until they crash and become cranky. We do this too if we eat white flour and white sugar. There may not be walls involved but we get the same wired feeling before we crash!

Whole wheat is an easy way to get your whole grains (as long as you are not celiac). Think whole wheat toast, whole wheat pasta and noodles, whole wheat bagels, whole wheat couscous etc.

 

2. Nuts and seeds

(ALL nuts and seeds are great, but especially flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts)

So many reasons why we need the ol’ nuts and seeds, but stable moods is an important one.

Nuts and seeds contain magnesium, which has been shown to alleviate depression and irritability.

They are also rich in zinc, which is crucial for mental health, and omega 3, which – HELLO! – is the brain nutrient!

A lack of adequate omega 3 can result in depression. Try adding 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds to your cereal or soup every day, or grabbing four walnut halves as a snack.

Nuts and seeds (like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds etc) have a high tryptophan to total protein ratio which as we’ve seen, boosts serotonin levels, and have thus been shown to be an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder.

 

3. Probiotic food (Gut food, if you will 🙂 )

(Sauerkraut, kimchi, non-dairy yoghurts, Ethiopian injera bread, apple cider vinegar, probiotic capsules)

We now know that just as gut health is massively linked to our immune system; it is also linked to mental health.

It is vital, more than ever thanks to deleterious elements that kill off our good gut bacteria such as antibiotics, chlorine in water, and hidden sugars (that feed bad gut bacteria); that we consistently replenish the good bacteria in our guts.

It’s a good idea, as well as incorporating some of the above foods into your diet, and especially if you’ve taken antibiotics for long periods of time (for acne, for example), to take a daily non-dairy probiotic.

A study entitled “Assessment of the Psychotropic Properties of Probiotics” found that one month of probiotics appeared to significantly decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger and hostility.

 

4. Beans and greens

(Black-eyed peas, red/white kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, butter beans, haricot beans, fava beans etc – dark leafy greens; kale, collards, bok choy, broccoli, spinach etc)

Lots of depression sufferers have been found to be low in folic acid. Beans and greens are your best way to get this stuff!

Think bean chillies, bean stews or bean curries (on brown rice with steamed greens on the side – WAY to get three mood foods in one meal!); soups containing beans and veg, salads full of beans and spinach, couscous with beans, or you know what? The great British culinary delight that is beans on (whole wheat) toast!

 

5. Take your vitamin B12!

It’s been known for decades that poor mental health is often associated with low levels of folic acid (eat your beans – see above!) and vitamin B12.

You need to be taking vitamin B12 anyway if you’re eating plant-based (and possibly even if you’re not), so ideally you’re doing this already.

 

6. Take vitamin D supplements if you need to

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression, especially in areas of the world that don’t get a great deal of sunlight, so get your levels checked at the docs, and supplement if you need to – either with plant-based vitamin D2, or vegan vitamin D3.

 

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Constipation. Not A Natural State Of Affairs

Vintage Tins of Ramon's Mild Laxative Pills, Trade Mark - "The Little Doctor", NOS from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Joe Haupt, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

I’m hearing frighteningly often that people are constipated.

I’ve heard it so often it seems like it’s an epidemic.

It’s such a shame that people are feeling so uncomfortable when there is no reason at all they should.

Life is too short to spend that much of it in the bathroom!

If you’re suffering with this all-too-common problem, read on.

Once you’ve checked with your doctor that there isn’t a more serious problem causing it; that is, once you’ve been told its good old regular constipation, you can start the remedy immediately.

I know that YOU know I’m about to go on a fibre-filled rant…and you probably suspect I’m going to tell you that the BEST cure is a whole food, plant-based diet, right?

CORRECT!

Give yourself a candy.

To better understand WHY though, we need to be aware of a few things.

Food in = an almost equal amount of stuff coming out the other end, right?

And you eat three/four times a day?

This food needs to pass through our bodies in 8-12 hours, to avoid overstaying its welcome!

If it takes longer to pass through it will fester and putrefy – your body isn’t refrigerated. When you eat you’re pretty much putting food in a hothouse for 12 hours.

Ick.

It’s fibre that takes food through our bodies. So for timeliness of digestion, everything we eat should contain fibre.

There are two main food villains when it comes to constipation.

The first one is ANIMAL PRODUCTS, ALL OF THEM: MEAT, DAIRY AND EGGS. They have a constipating effect due to their lack of fibre, because….

……fibre is ONLY in plant food.

Therefore, the more animal foods you eat, the more chance you have of being constipated.

The OTHER constipating villain(s) you have to look out for is WHITE, REFINED GRAINS such as white rice and any product containing white wheat –  white pasta, white bread, cookies and cake made with white flour etc.

White flour is wholewheat flour with the bran and the germ taken out – the very elements that contain the fibre. White rice is brown rice with the fibrous elements removed; not exactly ideal for easy transition out of the body.

When I hear (and I DO hear this) that a relatively young person has been prescribed prunes (EFFING PRUNES!) for constipation by a doctor, and the doctor hasn’t even recommended a diet rethink; I get a bit crazy.

Nothing wrong with prunes, they are a delightful fruit. But it’s the most root-cause-dodging, short-term remedy ever. Do you have to buy prunes for the rest of your life? What happens when you stop eating the prunes?

Why buy prunes, or take laxatives when you can just erase the constipating animal products and refined starches from your diet and everything will start working as it should, forever?

And doesn’t this tell us that a whole food, plant-based diet is how we are meant to eat for our bodies to perform correctly?

If you can’t eliminate all the constipating animal products and refined starches at once, then add two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to one of your meals every day (adding it to breakfast oatmeal is probably easiest!)

Try also to eat more bean, whole grain and legume-based curries, stews and soups. These are also full of fibre, and will fill you up so you will hopefully consume less animal products.

Some great fibre-filled recipes are this lentil dhal , this Italian white bean soup , or this delicious Hoppin’ John

Fruits for dessert and snacks will also help.

But if you don’t want to waste time in the WC, lose the constipating animal products and refined grains.

 

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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!

 

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Super Simple Kimchi Recipe – It Practically Makes Itself!

Following on from last weeks tips for great gut health, I’m going to show you how I make my own simple and tasty kimchi.

Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are fantastic for the gut because of the rich source of probiotics and digestive enzymes they contain. Ideally, a little would be eaten every day, but a few times a week is good.

My kimchi is riDICulously easy, and though I’m sure kimchi purists would have something to say about it, it is yummy, healthy, vegan, and doesn’t take too much time or effort out of your busy day.

You will need:

-1 mason jar, here’s a pic of mine:-IMG_3292

-1 napa cabbage (Chinese leaf)

-salt

-1 long pointed red pepper

-3 big cloves or 6 small cloves garlic

-1/4 onion

-1 knob of ginger, around 3 cm (1 in) thick

-4/6 spring onions, sliced width-wise

-1 small mild to medium red chilli (optional)

The amounts of garlic, onion, ginger; and spring onions can all be adapted to taste. Try it this way first, then you can always make it to suit your own taste next time if desired.

 

What you do:

Wash the outer leaves of the cabbage (if not organic), and pat dry. Put the cabbage horizontally in front of you and chop the root end off (you can compost this or feed it to the rabbit!)

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Then slice it, with each slice around 4-5 cm (2 in) thick.

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Then take a handful of the chopped cabbage, and lay it over the bottom of a cake mixing bowl or pyrex dish and sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon of salt all over it.

IMG_3286

 

Then take another handful of the chopped cabbage, layer it on top of the first, and sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon of salt over that layer. Repeat until there is no more cabbage left.

Put the lid on (or cover with a plate) and stick it somewhere darkish, and room temperature or cool, for eight hours.

IMG_3289

 

Wait eight hours….tum ti tum….la la la….

…go get your salty cabbage! You will see that during this time, the cabbage has absorbed the salt, shrunk down into the bowl, and there will be lots of salty liquid at the bottom of the bowl. This is good.

Blitz the red pepper, ginger, garlic, onion, and chilli (if you’re using it) in a blender until it looks like a smoothie.

IMG_3294

 

IMG_3300

 

Pour this over the cabbage. Put the sliced spring onions on top.

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Mix it all together – salad tongs are really helpful for this, but you can use a fork or spoon.

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When all the cabbage is nicely coated in the red mixture, and the spring onions are spread throughout, it’s time to put it in the jar (again, salad tongs make this easy, but use whatever).

You can keep pushing the cabbage down in the jar, to make room for it all. Get as much in as you can, and make sure there is enough liquid in there. When you’ve filled the jar to the top, push the cabbage down once more, and the liquid should just come over the top of the veg.

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Seal the jar. It’s advisable, while the kimchi is fermenting and doing its thang, that you keep it in a bowl like this…

IMG_3320

….Because it can get a bit frisky and leak out the top.

Store it in the same place you stored the salted cabbage.

Wait 48 hours….la di da di dum….

Done that? Yay! Now you can open your kimchi and sample it.

Please note: At first it may taste quite mild, and as the days/weeks go by it will get stronger. I prefer it strong, but you may be different! It lasts in the fridge for weeks, but at some point it will get too strong to eat. 3-4 weeks is probably a good life for your jar of kimchi – if it lasts that long!

You can eat it solo as a quick snack, in a sandwich, or on toast. You can make a kimchi stew with it, but my FAVOURITE way to enjoy kimchi is this: Warm a wholewheat pitta pocket in a toaster, then cut it open one side and put a scraping of Pure, Earthbalance (or any vegan spread) inside it, along with some sliced, cold, leftover vegan sausages. I particularly favour Vbites sage and marjoram sausages. Cover the sausage with kimchi, close pocket and devour. This.Snack.Will.Change.Your.Life.

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5 Plant-Based Tips for Gorgeous Guts!

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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!

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