Review of Beyond Sushi (The Best Sushi You’ll Ever Taste)

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I’m freshly back from a short jaunt to NYC, and I HAVE to share my experience at Beyond Sushi.

We’ve visited New York several times, and I’d heard tell of the gloriousness of Beyond Sushi, and even walked past the branch in Chelsea Market; but not stopped to eat there because it looked tiny, and didn’t seem like there was an area to sit down comfortably.

When we’re on vacation, we like to sit down properly ya know? We like to enjoy our time in a restaurant – we do this so little at home in London so we really like to savour the experience when we’re away, rather than just grabbing food and eating it quickly at a bar or a high table.

However, we’re MAJOR sushi lovers, and on this visit it was time to try this place we’d heard so much about.

There are three branches of Beyond Sushi – in Chelsea Market, Union Square, and Midtown West.

Since we knew we wanted to spend our last afternoon in Central Park, we chose the Midtown West branch.

I had no idea if the space was as small as the Chelsea Market branch but decided to give it a go anyway, if the food was as good as I’d been led to believe, it would be worth the discomfort, right? I’m a foodie and I’ll suffer a LOT to satisfy my palate 😀

But when we hit West 56th, I saw the frontage of the place and my heart sank. It was obvious the place was REALLY tiny. Even kinda hole-in-the-wall’y.’ This wasn’t how I’d envisaged spending my last precious lunchtime in NYC.

On walking in I saw there were around 5 or 6 high chairs at a wall bar, and maybe 3 or 4 tiny tables for two. The place is SO narrow though, and it was SO PACKED, that nothing looked comfortable. Wherever you sat (IF you got a seat in the first place) people would be brushing past you, constantly knocking you.

It was too late to turn back now, so as soon as I saw two of the better wall bar chairs become free, I got my partner to bag them, and I got in line to order.

The menu looked delicious but there wasn’t much time to make selections before someone was yelling at me for my order. It was so noisy and bustly it was difficult to think straight. I went for three of the sushi rolls, but if the atmosphere had been more relaxed I’d probably have ordered from the rest of the menu too.

They have noodle salads, noodle soups, incredible sounding dumplings and wraps; but if you’re new to the place, you don’t have long enough to peruse the menu in this cramped, crowded type of set-up; which is a shame.

I guess this place is great for if you know the menu well, and can go in and order what you want straight away.

There seemed to be lots of workers on their lunch breaks that had ordered take-out, and were just there to pick up their food. The place (at least this branch) seemed to cater best to these people; OR, those that just waltz in knowing exactly what they want ’cause they’ve been so many times before.

As well as the sushi rolls, I also ordered a seaweed salad, and a small bowl of kimchi. We had to catch the red-eye home to London later that night, and kimchi is great for keeping the bugs away!

The kimchi and salad were served quickly, and before too long, out came the rolls, and OMG, they looked specTACular.

I’d ordered these:

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Check out the La Fiesta and the Chic Pea
My top choice - the Mighty Mushroom!
My top choice – the Mighty Mushroom!

They looked like this:

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WOW!

What magnificent, gourmet sushi.

The one that stood out for me was the Mighty Mushroom. That blob of shiitake truffle on top so perfectly and subtly infused each piece with smoke and salt and…just…shiitake-ishness (!) I could’ve eaten these all day.

The next best for me, La Fiesta, was still incredible. You could taste each element just enough, and each complimented the other delightfully in taste and texture.

My other choice, the Chic Pea, was still delicious, even though the other two were slightly better. I love tahini with anything, so I was always going to love this.

The seaweed salad couldn’t have been any better unless it had been brought to me by a hot naked dude. I’ve had plenty of crappy ones where there’s too much added sugar and the seaweed is too hard and chewy. This seaweed was fresh, soft and delicately flavoured.

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As for the house-made kimchi, it looked like a classic kimchi, but I felt it may have contained  pear? I thought I could taste it. I’m normally weird about fruit in savoury stuff, but pear or no, it was great.

I learnt later that it’s the Spicy Mang roll that everyone raves about (avo, mango, cucumber, spiced veggies and toasted cayenne). I saw it on the menu, but again, BLECH with the whole fruit in savoury stuff.

So I didn’t go there.

Next time I’ll quit being a special snowflake and try it.

I was absolutely blown away by this food, and could’ve easily eaten another round of everything – not because I was still hungry, but just so that eating this scrumptiousness wouldn’t have to stop.

As we were eating, the place cleared out a bit (this happened around 1pm) and it became a much more comfortable atmosphere. If we’d have known, we’d have come a bit later to avoid the lunch rush.

Inside Beyond Sushi, Midtown West branch, as the rush hour calms down!
Inside Beyond Sushi, Midtown West branch, as the rush hour calms down!

Look. The food really IS beyond sushi, it’s BEYOND BEYOND. I’d come back in a heartbeat. I’ll dream about these rolls until I get the chance to come back and eat them again.

But, it’s such a shame Beyond Sushi don’t have bigger spaces and can’t make newbies more comfortable, and feel more welcome.

I mean, I get it – they don’t need to. You taste it; you’re hooked, and you’d come back even if they set up in a public toilet.

You’d go and see a good gig in a cramped, hot hall without a/c; you’d go to the theatre and sit on the floor to see a good play – anything that is so good it feeds the soul you’d happily suffer a little discomfort for.

It’d just be nice to be able to eat this gorgeous food in a comfortable space, like omnivores get to do all the time.

My recommendation: Go to Beyond Sushi ASAP. Avoid lunch hours and rush hours. Maybe look at the menu online first, decide what you want, order take-out then eat in a nearby park.

I think next time we’ll get take-out from the Chelsea Market branch, then go up to the High Line, bag sunbeds, and eat in (relative) peace.

 

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Killer Snacks (That Were Already Vegan), Part 4: Toast ‘n’ …

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Toast rules.

You know this already of course.

There is nothing like the smell of fresh, wholewheat bread, toasting away in the, er, toaster.

If you weren’t hungry before, once you get a whiff of the toast your partner is fixin’ you want some yourself amirite?

I remember being in a theatre in Paris when I lived there, oooh, a long-ass time ago, being really stoked to see a play in English (Sam Shepherd’s True West, since you ask). I spoke French fluently, but sometimes it was just nice to see something in my own tongue.

Halfway through the play, as part of the scene, one of the characters starts making toast (for realz, not fake prop toast). Though I was at the very back of the theatre, the gorgeous smell of it entered my nostrils – I’m not sure whether it wafted that far back or if my nostrils actually involuntarily suckered it back there.  I hadn’t eaten before going out and was STAR-VING. The minute that smell hit my nasal passages the play was over for me. I couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore, only fantasise about toooooaaaaast!

When you first go vegan it’s important to have killer, quick, easy snacks to hand, so you don’t feel like it always takes an age to get some good, tasty grub down your throat.

You need to know there are as many amazing, quick bites for you as there are for those who consume animal products.

Though ideally, when first transitioning to a plant-based diet you’ll spend at least a few nights a week in the kitchen cooking from scratch making simple, yet incredible tasting meals (this is the best way to realise that being vegan isn’t difficult or bland), there needs to be something you can grab those times you come in late from a gig/match/play/party and NO WAY are you gonna cook anything at THAT time.

IMG_20150726_123031I found myself desirous of a savoury snack yesterday afternoon (uh, I hadn’t come in late from anything, it was just a regular between-meal snack),  and with bewilderment, realised I had too large a choice of toast toppings, each one equally delectable, each one calling my name as loud as the others.

This is a fabulous (yet confusing) dilemma to have – but one that people think doesn’t apply to vegans. ‘What DO you eat?’  is the first thing many new vegans get asked. Yesterday I really needed to decide what NOT to eat.

I weighed up my options:

  • Tapenade. If you don’t know what this is, it’s crushed olives with garlic and capers. You can get both black and green olive tapenade, and you’ve never had anything more delish on a thick slice of artisanal wholewheat toast. It’s available in Whole Foods and in most big supermarkets – you might need to look in the world food section as it’s often with Greek products, and may also be called ‘olive meze.’
  • Guacamole. One of my favourites. Of course plain old ‘avo toast’ is excellent, but you can either buy ‘guac’ from a deli, or make it yourself with some avo’s, salt, coriander/cilantro, lime juice, chopped onion  – and chilli if a little kick is what’s called for.
  • IMG_20150726_123223Kimchi. I’ve spoken of the spicy, pickle’y’ delight that is kimchi here, and here I show you how to make it. You can also find it in Whole Foods or other supermarkets (though you’d need to check it’s vegan as it can contain anchovies or fish sauce). It’s soooo good on toast, especially when the toast is well done and the juice from the kimchi soaks down into it. You get the burnished taste of the browned toast with the salty, ginger of the kimchi –  *’MWAA’S’ on fingers and gesticulates like an Italian*
  • IMG_20150725_191714709Peanut butter. You might think humble old PB is the runt of the litter here, or pure filler, and I can see why you’d think that. Admittedly, you need quality peanut butter, preferably organic. Crunchy or smooth? Up to you. I prefer crunchy for added texture. Spread it liberally while the toast is still hot, maybe add a few drops of soy sauce and smoosh it into the PB with the spreading knife. Add some chopped spring onions if desired.

 

 

What did I choose? One slice guac and one kimchi. I’d had toast with tapenade that morning.

SHUTUPITWASTHEWEEKEND

 

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‘Simple Healing’ Podcast

Check out this podcast I did with Dr Mitchel Schwindt, a longtime A&E physician in Minnesota. Though he’s conventionally trained, he practises and is passionate about functional medicine,  which takes a holistic view of a patient and finds and treats the root cause of their problem by looking at things like diet and lifestyle, rather than just treating the outward symptoms.

He reached out through LinkedIn and I am thrilled to be included in his series of podcasts based on optimising health.

He was easy to chat to and made one of my first podcast experiences relaxed and delightful.

I emphasise – I haven’t done many of these (so don’t judge too harshly!) but I think I’ve just about found my ‘podcasting feet’ and hope to do lots more in the future.

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

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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!

 

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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….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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