Finding Healthy, TASTY, Vegan Food in France – Part 2 – Paris

After our decidedly underwhelming dining out experiences in Avignon and Lyon, which I documented here, we were positive that Paris had to be different. We actually spent two nights in Orleans before arriving in Paris, but we were there to see friends and so didn’t eat in town. However, I’d noticed a place called Djaam in central Orleans that did great-looking African bowls, several of which were vegan, using traditional West African grains and sauces. We’d definitely have tried this out if we’d had time; my taste buds were yearning for some actual taste by this stage in our holiday 😄

I mentioned this in my previous France post – we eat a whole-food vegan diet, as it has served us well health-wise for many years now; so we’re looking for healthy food (with the odd cheeky side of sweet potato fries of course 😋) that is tasty as all hell. There’s just no excuse for mediocre, boring healthy food any more.

We arrived in Paris and right off the bat we discovered this vegan, gluten-free and refined-sugar free chain of restaurants called Wild and the Moon. We went there our first night in Paris and I nearly cried to see their dish of the day was a hearty bean chili. This was honestly the first time in two weeks I’d eaten food that was the same standard in both ‘healthiness’ and taste to what we make at home. My partner had their ‘Jack’s bowl’ – a tasty Thai-inspired concoction. We had a second bowl of chili between us, so starved had we been of spices for the previous two weeks.

Wild and the Moon, in typical French fashion, is hard to define. They sell healthy cold drinks and snacks in fridges near the entrance and at first glance could be mistaken for one of the ubiquitous juice/chia/smoothie bars that you get pretty much everywhere these days. Only when you venture in further do you see the hot food menu, and realise it’s a gorgeous space in which to sit down, relax and enjoy your lunch or evening meal. It’s hard to glean information on their hot food on the website too, as their home page just shows detox juices and superfood snacks. A quick skim would have you thinking it was a juice bar in a yoga studio. Only right at the bottom of the drop-down does it say ‘menu at restaurants.’

They also have a range of sweet bakery items available every day. The Wild Brownie is worth coming here for alone. In fact I’d probably jump on Eurostar for it alone 🤣 Unlike most ‘healthy’ sweet treats, while the ingredients list of the brownie is holier than thou, the taste and texture are pure sinful choc-gasmic delight. I may have eaten more than I should have of these and I ain’t repentin.’

We ended up eating at WatM three times in four days. We wanted to be adventurous and try lots of different places, but after our next experience (which I’ll get to in a sec), and because we’d been so starved of taste for two weeks, we thought f**k it, let’s just eat here from now on. We ate at the Rue Charlot and the Rue St Honore branches, though there are several others. They are in, I guess, the more upmarket areas of town, which is a shame because we were all over town visiting places I used to know when I lived in Paris, and my favourite areas are decidedly NOT the more bougie parts, but I guess they think they are where their market is. You could say it is expensive, but only in the way that everywhere is expensive in Paris – I certainly didn’t find it more expensive than anywhere else.

The next night we thought we’d try a restaurant I’d heard a lot about – Le Potager du Marais – that specialised in vegan French cuisine. It was a Sunday night. We got there before it opened and there was a big queue outside waiting to be let in – which was promising in terms of what the food might be like. Many of those in the queue seemed to be North American, or tourists from elsewhere outside of France. I guess they’d heard the same good things I’d heard.

When the time came to open up, we filed in and the crowd in the queue filled the restaurant entirely – how many restaurants can boast a full house right off the bat on a Sunday night?

I picked the French onion soup as a starter and my partner had a roast potato with tapenade and pesto. For the main course I chose a cassoulet dish. When I lived in France years ago, I loved a good Toulousain cassoulet. Cassoulet is a slow-cooked dish of white beans and sausage – I was never bothered about the sausage but those scrummy melt-in-your-mouth flavoursome beans were everything. I was hoping for a vegan recreation of this. My partner chose a buckwheat mushroom crepe.

The French onion soup is a popular dish of ‘Le Potager’, and rightly so. It does taste exactly the same, even better perhaps, than I tasted in non-vegan days. The melted cheese, onion, and wine flavouring all meld together perfectly. If you’re a vegan lover of French cuisine it’s definitely worth going just for this.

Yummy French Onion Soup

However, I’d forgotten that so much is flavoured with wine in French cooking, and that I am allergic to sulphites (of which there are an abundance in wine), and when the back of my throat started itching to remind me of this pesky affliction, I had to abandon the soup. My husband’s roasted potato thing turned out to be a small baked potato – nice enough but not what he was expecting.

And the main course? To be fair to the cassoulet it was advertised as a ‘Cassoulet de Mer -Pink lentils with smoked tofu, fresh seaweed and fennel grated with hazelnuts.’ So obviously I was wrong to expect something similar to a traditional cassoulet, but this was just…taste and texture-less. Edible but boring. Why you’d use lentils (that were undetectable – they’d just turned to mush, as had the tofu) instead of lush, slow-cooked bigger white beans is unfathomable. There was a subtle seaweed and fennel flavour I guess, but it wasn’t nice enough to make me want to devour this dish as I remembered doing previously. You’ll see it doesn’t resemble cassoulet, and the potato thing you see on the side was like pureed, then compressed potato, that didn’t taste of much either.

This is Cassoulet?

The buckwheat crepe, again, sounded so much sexier than it tasted (‘buckwheat pancake stuffed with leek fondu, carrots and mushrooms’) but was pretty much the same as the cassoulet – OK and edible, but really not stellar. You wouldn’t bother going there for it if you had to travel more than a couple of metro stops.

All the dishes we tried ticked the (sufficiently) healthy box. But they could all (barring the French onion soup, which was excellent) have done that while being crammed full of rich and exciting taste, and they just weren’t.

Again, as with our Lyon vegan restaurant experience, it’s the sort of food we’d have been grateful for 10 years ago, but nowadays there’s just no excuse for not wowing the socks off of vegans just as you’d try to do with non-vegans.

It’s possible other dishes at the PdM might be amazing, just as the soup was, so if you’re a vegan lover of French food I’d still recommend going – definitely ordering the French onion soup, then something other than what we had.

It’s also true to say that I love very taste-full cuisines like Indian, Ethiopian and West African – I live in London and have great examples of these close to hand – so it’s likely my taste buds have grown accustomed to very strong flavours, and the subtle herby thing doesn’t really do it for me any more.

So for the rest of our stay we ate at Wild and the Moon – as well as the chili I can heartily recommend the Banh Mi and the burger – and bought snacks from Naturalia (that I mentioned in my previous France post).

Top burger and Banh Mi

Of course there are other great restaurants that we never got to – some were closed at the beginning of the week, some may have been too far to travel. Restaurants I’ve learned of since my return and VERY MUCH WISHED WE’D HAVE VISITED are Jah Jah Le Tricycle which specialises in healthy Caribbean food – particularly galling as we were on Rue des Petites Ecuries where it is based but just didn’t see it; and L’Embuscade, again Afro-Caribbean, again healthy, and again annoyingly in an area we were in but just weren’t aware of its existence. These restaurants will be top of our list on our next Paris trip.

I surmised several things on this France trip. Unsurprisingly, Paris is the best place for a vegan in France. However, it’s still fairly difficult to find that mix of stunning taste and healthiness in a vegan restaurant meal. In my experience other western capitals seem to be ahead on this and US cities even more so. On a subsequent visit to Paris, outside of Wild and the Moon, I’d probably stick to ethnic restaurants to ensure a tasty meal. The problem I noticed with the restaurants I visited that try to recreate French cuisine for vegans is that they don’t seem to know how to do it for the best. There is an overuse of mushrooms; I didn’t see many (any?) bean dishes – how easy is it to make beans taste delicious!? You could say that French cuisine doesn’t lend itself to vegan conversion in a way that could be healthy and tasty, but I think that would be a cop-out. This lagging behind is perhaps something to do with a French reluctance/stubbornness (yes, I’m stereotyping) to change traditions (I noticed the amount of people that still smoke in France, despite restrictive smoking bans), and perhaps great vegan French food will come as more and more people in the country go vegan and demand excellent versions of their traditional food.

I can’t wait to revisit. I love Paris – I lived here for a while and it still feels like home. Next trip I’m gonna be all about the Caribbean food; with trips to Wild and the Moon to gorge on enjoy their Wild brownie.

Finding Healthy, TASTY, Vegan Food in France

Part 1 – Avignon and Lyon

I’ll start by saying that this post is entirely biased and informed by MY taste in food.

There- it’s easy to declare conflicts of interest and biases when you have a mind to – take note governments, regulatory bodies and mainstream media 😄

We just spent two weeks in France, specifically: Avignon, Lyon, Orleans and Paris. I feel this gave me a pretty good indication of how it might be in most of France for those seeking to eat great plant-based food.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting it to be much better – I guess on a par with the UK – maybe not as great as in the US, but at least similar to how it is here. We visited Beirut, Portugal and Austria in the last few years and had pretty good experiences so I was expecting France to be at least as good as these places, if not a little better.

I eat a whole food, plant-based diet, because I believe it is the most optimal diet for health – both physical and mental. So far it has served me well. Thus, what I’m looking for is food that is not just vegan, but as far as possible made with whole foods – so brown or black rice instead of white, wholewheat (or other whole grain) products instead of those made with white flour, and as little white sugar and oil as possible. I don’t act like a fanatic on holiday however and will eat things I know to have SOME oil and sugar in them.

It goes without saying that every meal must be tasty AF too!

I found France to be very much a mixed bag when it comes to healthy, tasty vegan food.

We spent six days in Avignon, a charming city in the Vaucluse region of Provence. We didn’t eat out once, unless you count the one time we stopped at a make-your-own poke bowl place, or the time we grabbed some sorbet from a branch of Amorino.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t lots of restaurants with vegan options – to be perfectly fair, most Avignon restaurants DO have a vegan option – though it usually is just one amongst an absolute meatfest of a menu. The problem for me is that the option is usually either a burger or something yawn-inducing like butternut puree and quinoa (I have noticed that trend on London menus too). That wouldn’t be a problem if there were also specific vegan restaurants in Avignon, but there aren’t. I should mention that there are plenty of juice, smoothie and chia porridge type places – but these are not the kind of places you can sit down with your partner and have a romantic meal 😄

And forget about it anywhere in the region outside of Avignon. We visited a few other places in this region – Fontaine de Vaucluse, Gordes and Le Sentier des Ocres – all beautiful and absolutely worth a visit, but no bueno for vegan food. This time not even the burger or the quinoa/squash deal. I figured we could do what we’ve done in the past when in the depths of Mississippi or Louisiana and there has been no vegan option – just explain we are vegan and order a salad and fries – which has always been responded to with careful and creatively presented salads. Whack a bit of Cajun spice on the fries and boom, you got a tasty meal – something healthy and something cheeky – balance!

This didn’t wash here however. Every salad was at the very least covered in egg or cheese, and the wait staff I spoke to didn’t know what vegan was. Unfortunately the first excursion we were woefully unprepared and I hadn’t even packed my bag with the fruit, dried apricots and crackers that I’d normally carry, so we ended up buying some ‘artisanal’ crisps and hummous from a rip-off joint deli for 11 euros. Yes I’m still bitter 😂

Now the good:

There is a chain of health food stores in France called Naturalia. Most cities will have at least one. These stores saved my life while in the south of France. Thankfully we were staying in Airbnbs so we could cook for ourselves. In Naturalia we found plentiful healthy, tasty food. The French tend to sell many products in jars – I guess ‘cos it’s better than a can – so we found things like jarred ratatouille, beans and lentils pre-flavoured with herbs and spices, curried tofu; but the absolute gem for us were the Jay & Joy vegan camembert and chevre. I don’t buy vegan camembert often in the UK as it’s so damn expensive. In France it’s much cheaper. I’d never tried vegan chevre before and it was not disappointing – it tasted just as I remember chevre to taste. This made up somewhat for the uninteresting restaurant scene.

Food aside, Avignon is a beautiful city, but I was excited to get to Lyon, France’s third biggest city, for some top tasty grub.

First night in Lyon, we tried an all-vegan restaurant, which I’m about to excoriate so I won’t name them.

They had a set menu only, with a choice between two starters and two mains. They say they keep the menu small to avoid waste. Hmmm. Nothing on this menu was really calling out to me. You might ask ‘didn’t you know this in advance when you looked at the menu online?’ HAH! Finding accurate menus of restaurants online in France is damn near impossible as they… pretty much do what they like every day. It’s rare that a restaurant will have the menu on their website. Most of the time the restaurant may only have an FB page so either you are relying on a photo of a menu someone took two years ago, or they say up front that they change their menu seasonally and if you’re lucky, they may give a few examples of what they serve.

I had a miso soup for starters which was, I guess, fair enough, nothing wrong with a good miso. My main course – that this restaurant believed was their ‘piece de resistance’ – was a cannelloni made with courgette and was filled with cold, wet, mushroomy..stuff. There was black rice and butternut puree on the side – see the picture that heads this post. I was grateful for the healthy squash and rice but it didn’t really taste of much. The courgette cannelloni was just wet, cold and pretty tasteless. The waiter came up to me when I’d finished and said enthusiastically ‘did you experience a marvel?’ And to my shame, for (uncharacteristically) I had no fight left in me that night, I lied ‘yes.’

This restaurant thought it was so much better than it was. I would have been grateful for it ten years ago, but now I just want great-tasting food, like everybody who ISN’T saving the planet gets to eat 🤣

The next day, I was excited to go to Lyons branch of The Copper Branch. This is a Canadian chain of vegan restaurants (with branches in the US and a couple in Europe) that have tasty looking burgers – with healthier options for the bun, and the patties made of yummy spicy beans rather than the ubiquitous Beyond Meat burgers – I don’t like these and Bill Gates isn’t getting a penny from me (HA, he’ll be sorry! 🙂 ) The menu also showed chilis and other delicious looking bowls.

It turned out that The Copper Branch in Lyon is in a Westfield shopping centre – I mean, who wants to be in one of those monstrosities on holiday?? And it also turned out the menu of the Lyon branch had only a fraction of the items on the Canadian menus – and the tastier, healthier burgers and bowls were not available. I think I had a soggy portobello mushroom and some sweet potato fries.

It was back to Naturalia to find food for that evening!

We were only in Lyon for two nights, and it is possible there is a vegan jewel of a restaurant that I just didn’t come across. I had researched pretty extensively on Happy Cow, but that isn’t always 100% comprehensive, so don’t sue me if you know the best vegan restaurant ever in Lyon.

To summarise: you can eat as a vegan in Avignon, Lyon and bigger cities in the south of France in general, if your only requirement is that your food be vegan and nothing else. You will not starve. You may however end up either getting ‘burger-ed’ out, or your taste buds will go on strike out of boredom.

If you want to eat not only vegan but great-tasting healthy food, my advice is to stay in an apartment or Airbnb and use Naturalia, with the occasional meal out if you get bored of cooking. Take plentiful little snacks with you when sight-seeing – fruit, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, good chocolate, nut bars etc.

Next week – Paris!

NEW: The Allergi App

Allergi

Isn’t it about time there was a free App that was super easy to use that you could consult whenever you wanted to eat out that told you where the vegan dishes were?

I thought so too.

Well now we have one.

Yes we have Happy Cow and that is always brilliant, I use it often, but the new Allergi App is unique in that A) It ALSO tells you the dishes that are free of any allergens you wish to avoid (nuts, gluten etc) and B) It tells you all the restaurants and cafes nearest your location that have dishes that match your vegan and other allergen requirements.

We don’t always have access to a bangin’ vegan restaurant in our locale, and I’ve found there are some excellent vegan-by-default meals at various restaurants – especially at Middle Eastern, Indian and other Asian restaurants, and we deserve to get our hands (and taste buds) on them!

The Allergi app will completely take the pain out of asking the server which meals are vegan, and having to check and double check if you are still unsure, or if the server doesn’t really understand what you’re talking about. Trust me, this is invaluable. I can’t tell you how many confusing, cross-purposes, awkward exchanges I’ve had in restaurants with waiters over the years. To be fair, I’ve had some great convo’s with waitstaff too, but you don’t want to take that chance, especially if you’re going out for a special meal, or first date meal, lol!

The app was founded by Charles Burns, who some of you may remember as a candidate on The Apprentice a few years back. We had a chat, and he is incredibly excited to debut this app. He was motivated to create it as he suffers from food intolerances, and knew he could develop it so it would be useful to vegans too. He is interested in veganism, has watched all the vegan docs, and of course I couldn’t let him escape without encouraging him to take the plunge 🙂

Some of you know I mainly coach a health-oriented whole food, plant-based diet, and at some point I hope there will be the facility with this app to find out the places where whole foods (like whole grains – brown rice, wholewheat products) are served instead of refined starches. In US restaurants you often get a choice between white and brown rice, wholewheat and white burger buns etc, and it would be great to know who offers this choice.

No worries if your phone is Android or iPhone – the Allergi app is available at both the App Store and Google Play

Did I mention it was FREE??

While the app isn’t a strictly vegan resource, it’s one that has been created taking vegans into consideration, and I believe it will be invaluable to vegans. For this reason I have no hesitation recommending it to you all.

Happy eating!

Let me know how the App works for you, and OF COURSE let me know of any surprise yummy vegan dishes you come across!

How To Be A Healthy Vegan – 11 Basic Tips

 

Science says eating 100% plant-based can be the most healthful diet there is – but of course it has to be done right. Coke and vegan marshmallows do not a healthy vegan make.

There are many tantalising, colourful new vegan products out there now, and ‘dirty’ vegan hipster joints are popping up in East London (what seems like) daily. And this is all good, and harmless to indulge in once in a while. But a new vegan could be forgiven for thinking that this is the stuff vegans eat ALL the time. And the worst thing in the world would be for a new vegan to partake of this kind of food only, and end up feeling so bad that they mistake the fact they are feeling gross to be due to a lack of meat. Or eggs. Or salmon.

Another reason some vegans turn back to meat is because they’ve been influenced by Youtube videos where (slightly crazy imo) people eat 50 mangoes for breakfast, 20 bananas for lunch etc and end up believing that buckets of fruit are the answer to all their health and wellness problems. When they don’t get the desired health outcome they expected from eating all the fruit all the time, they blame it on not eating animal products.

Firstly, none of the problems I’ve ever heard these ex-vegans complain of are because of a lack of animal products.

The one and only time you may NEED to eat meat is if there is no plant-food around anywhere; no chance of you coming across any in the next few days; you are already malnourished and semi-dead of starvation; and an unsuspecting animal walks by. In this scenario, go for it. Otherwise, there is no medical need to eat animal products.

Being a healthy vegan isn’t a mystery, but it’s not about guzzling a fuck-ton of fruit, or buying all the pretty new vegan products. And it’s a good idea to get a blood test done with your GP after a couple of months to check your levels of vitamins and minerals to see how you are going. Then, should you be deficient in any, you may well be able to make up the shortfall through diet.

I wonder who could help you do that?????

*coughs loudly*

**waves manically**

Oh……me?

*blushes demurely*

Well, since you asked, here is my nutritional therapy page 😀

But for right now – here are 11 helpful tips that should keep you on the straight and narrow health-wise:

1. Whole Foods. I was going to say ‘if its brown, gobble it down’ but that sounded a little…weird 🙂 What I mean is, always choose the whole versions of grains. So – brown or black rice; wholewheat products over white wheat products (whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole wheat couscous etc); and try using more natural sugars over white sugar – agave and maple syrup are a better choice than white sugar and they don’t spike your blood at the same rate.

When you DO buy pre-made products, try and ensure they have minimal ingedients, and that you know what all the ingredients are – no unpronouncable chemical rubbish needed!

2. Watch your oil consumption. It’s very easy to overdo the oil, especially with all the tempting new junk food vegan places around. Even the better plant oils (olive, coconut etc) count as processed foods. Unless you have chronic disease it’s fine to include a little, but restaurant food very often contains a LOT.

Eat at home as much as possible and take your own lunch into work. Eating out occasionally is fine, it’s when you do it constantly that the excess oil can be harmful to digestion, weight maintenance and health in general. If you have to eat out a lot for whatever reason, try and space it out so you’re not doing it on consecutive nights, and eat oil-free meals the days in between.

3. Beans, grains, greens baby! It’s always gonna be your beans and whole grains that will give you the energy and fibre you need to maintain good basic health, with root veg like sweet and white potatoes making a regular appearance too for the same benefits. The greens are a great source of calcium. When you make a meal, try and incude ‘a bean, a green and a grain’ – or a root veg in place of the grain. So that can incude fabulous chilis, curries, pasta dishes, couscous, hearty salads – pretty much most dishes can contain these elements. I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as ‘Sloppy Joes’ or ‘Dirty mac n’ cheeze,’ but it’s not sexy having digestive issues from too much oil either, so… 🙂

4. Eat the rainbow. The colour of each fruit and vegetable represent different nutrients, so try and eat a variety of coloured fruit and veg throughout your week. For example; red – tomatoes, red peppers, red apples; orange -carrots, sweet potatoes, canteloupe; green – um..greens :), kiwi, okra; purple – beetroot; yellow – bananas, yellow peppers.

5. Love your kitchen. Dudes, there’s no easy way to say this and not sound like an authoritarian school head teacher. But you HAVE TO PRIORITISE SPENDING TIME IN THE KITCHEN. You want the health? Good. I want that for you too. Now GET YOUR ASS IN THE KITCH.

If there was a professional goal you desperately wanted, I don’t doubt you would do whatever it took to achieve that. I never understand why people don’t prioritise their health in the same way when health is so basic to happiness and wellbeing. Health, imo, should be a starting point, and everything else comes out of that. If you feel good, you’re gonna be so much more productive – and fun! 🙂

If you make as many of your own meals as possible, YOU can control the oil that goes into your food, and make sure there is no pesky sugar or white flour added. God knows there are plenty of vegan cookbooks and recipe websites out there. Pick one, get a podcast up on the laptop to help you enjoy your kitchen time, and get cooking.

6. Pamper your guts. We now know that gut-health is key to overall health. Your guts contain 70-80 % of your immune system, and bad gut-health can be responsible for all sorts of issues such as leaky gut, IBS, and fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar and even schizophrenia. Sugars and white, refined starches feed bad gut bacteria, so yet another reason to avoid or at least minimise consumption of them.

Eat a portion of fermented foods every day. Pick from sauerkraut, kimchi, soy/coconut yoghurt, miso, tempeh, or a drink like kombucha, vegan kefir, water with apple cider vinegar. This will help re-establish the good bacteria your gut needs to thrive. Me? I make my own kimchi, because I’m a hippie that knits her own sandals 😀 But seriously, it’s yummy. My recipe here.

If you have any of the health issues mentioned at the top of this paragraph, think about taking non-dairy probiotics.

7. Face the flax. Try and include 2 x tbspns ground flax seeds in your diet 6 days a week. There are SO many reasons why this is a good idea for overall health. Firstly; they provide masses of fibre. Secondly; they promote great gut health. Thirdly; they are thought to be cancer-protective. Fourthly; they are thought to soak up any heavy metals lingering in our bodies and help them to..er…exit the body 🙂 Fifthly; they will help keep estrogen levels stable, again, by helping your body to excrete any excess. Sixthly; they are a great source of omega 3.

Sprinkle it on oatmeal, soups, stews, salads.

8. Vitamin B12. Supplement with this. No backtalk. Do it.

9. Hydrate! Well yeah, it’s obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how many people still don’t. Hydrate even more if you consume alcohol and/or coffee. Water and single herb teas are the ONLY liquids that count as water.

10. Sleep well. Another obvious one, and not really my remit, but I DO know it’s best to leave 3 hours between your last meal and going to bed. You wanna be resting in bed, not digesting.

11. Move it! Move it! Move it! Exercise is key. Pick whatever works for you and be CONSISTENT. If nothing more, then get out and walk briskly for half an hour every day – you get even more points if some of the walk has an upwards gradient.

Iodine – More Important Than I Knew

I need to preface this post by saying that if you have any health concerns at all, go to your GP. I present you my experiences in case they can be of help, but I am a nutritionist, not a doctor.

Recently, I had an iodine issue, and once I’d resolved it, I thought ‘I really should update and repost my article on iodine, so that anyone who needs to can benefit from what I just learned.’

So I searched my website and everything I’ve ever written EVER. Turns out I’ve never written a dedicated post about iodine! I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d written about every nutrient and health issue pertaining to veganism that existed.

Yet nope.

But now I know more than I previously did about iodine, it’s probably just as well.

So I’d previously thought iodine was mainly for thyroid health, and that we should try and eat sea vegetables whenever we got the opportunity, monitor our levels, and if we needed to, take a kelp supplement occasionally (as kelp is a great source of iodine), but that it was important not to overdo the kelp, as it could pack too much of a punch.

Iodine is in other plant food too, but the levels aren’t reliable because it depends how much iodine was in the soil the plants were grown in – and we know our soil is pretty depleted of nutrients these days.

Thus, vegans are definitely at risk for iodine deficiency, in fact this study shows that they can be quite worryingly so. Do not mistake this to mean it’s better to eat animal products, because it’s not, for a multitude of reasons.

Anyway, I followed my own advice faithfully, and took kelp supplements occasionally, or whenever I became aware that I wasn’t really eating much seaweed.

Until I didn’t. Until I ran out of kelp supplements and firstly forgot to buy more, then kept putting it off for no reason other than I thought it wasn’t a priority. I probably went for a good three months without taking any – and to be honest, I hadn’t been that great at taking them on a regular basis even when I had some. I felt fine and didn’t think it was a priority.

Then I started getting the following symptoms (to any men reading this – don’t stop, this post will apply to you too very shortly!); breast tenderness throughout the whole cycle as opposed to just before a period, and a dry skin rash near my temple which was…well…weird.

Now it’s true that you can have weird cycle things happen as you get older, but I felt like these symptoms were specific, and could not be explained away that glibly. So I did my research like a good little health freak, and eventually I had the thought ‘ah, iodine, I wonder if that could have had an impact?’

It turns out it had more of an impact than I could have known with my previous knowledge.

Obviously there’s a whole juicy scientific explanation but in a nutshell, iodine has a really huge influence on our estrogen levels. If you are prone to estrogen dominance as many people are (I am, it’s in the genes), then an iodine deficiency will mean estrogen can get out of control. So despite the fact that I was doing everything to keep my levels balanced (including flax in my daily diet, exercising, eating whole, plant foods etc), I was still getting those symptoms of estrogen dominance.

I quickly bought some kelp supplements and started taking them. Within a few weeks, everything was back to normal, and the dry skin weirdness vanished almost immediately. I wish I’d discovered this earlier, but it took the breast and skin thing to make me take notice.

Further reading revealed that iodine is super important for fertility in both women AND men. I’m definitely not trying to get pregnant but you might be. Men – you need adequate iodine levels for optimal semen quality.

An iodine deficiency can also be responsible for irregular or anovulatory periods, fibroids and fibrocystic breasts.

The other thing is that conventional doctors, and even the plant-based doctors, will tell you you need a very small amount of iodine daily – 130-150mcg, and that to take any more is excessive.

However, people that specialise in reproductive health say that larger amounts can be needed. It is believed that people can take up to 1100 mcg daily safely.

There is also so much that even doctors don’t yet understand about the way iodine works in our body, and even prestigious vegan websites aren’t giving clear information. For example, The Vegan Society website gives some facts on iodine, and their advice is ‘every vegan needs a reliable source of iodine in their diet’ and ‘in the UK, the recommended daily iodine intake is 140mcg.’ What is that saying? Take a supplement? Don’t take one?

What am I saying?

I’m not saying everybody should rush out and buy a shit-ton of kelp.

I’m saying that I’ve discovered that iodine is more key to basic health, especially reproductive health in both men and women than I’d previously been taught.

I’m saying know your body. If you get any symptoms like the ones I was experiencing, go to the doctors and get a blood test to check your iodine levels. Those symptoms could have other causes, but then you’d want to go to the doctors in any case, and it does no harm to get a blood test while you’re there. If your iodine levels are low, supplement. Start by taking the recommended daily amount, and have another test after a few weeks to see if your levels have improved.

If you have a thyroid issue, you WILL need to take extra care supplementing with iodine so definitely inform your doctor and get their opinion first.

I’ve learned that sometimes the available information about some nutrients just isn’t set in stone, even amongst medical people. Even amongst eminent plant-based medical people. Sometimes we have to be the CEO of our own health, know our bodies, and research all we can. Iodine is one of those nutrients where it’s worth doing this. 


Vegan YouTube ‘Stars’ that Stop Being Vegan For Health Reasons

In recent months there have been several high profile vegan Youtubers that have gone back to eating animal products; and Twitter, FB et all has had much to say about it.

The one I knew the best is Tim Sheiff, who I followed pretty consistently at the beginning of his transition to veganism. I followed him less over the years because, I don’t know, I just became less attracted to his persona.

I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I heard he was no longer vegan, because for all of my going off his vibe, I still really thought he fully comprehended all the reasons to be vegan, and thought he understood about health – which was the main reason for him stopping his vegan lifestyle.

I understand that he felt like crap, and that it’s crap to feel like crap. And that his excessive fasts and other slightly outlandish-seeming dietary experiments were in his pursuit of health. I get that. When you feel like shit and you read something that gives you hope, you’ll try it, even if it seems a bit crazy. I’ve been there and empathise with this. A few years back, I discovered I had chronic candidiasis, manifesting in horrible skin….stuff…on my body. I won’t even tell you the most horrendous symptoms because I don’t want to put you off your cocoa 🙂 That’s one of the things I DID like about Tim, he wasn’t afraid to go there with the gross body stuff 😀 Anyway, at this time I would have tried pretty much anything just to feel better.

Thankfully, I eventually found a way to overcome my issues. I went on an anti-candida diet, took grapefruit seed extract, and used apple cider vinegar and manuka honey (yes I know honey isn’t vegan, but it was medicinal. Lots of medications aren’t vegan, so shut up). It was a long, slow process, but I got there.

From the symptoms he described, I believe Tim’s issues were also candida and digestion-linked. He seemed to end up associating these issues with his vegan diet.

I’m not trying to blow my own horn here. Ok, maybe I am just a little, but at no time during my couple of years of candida hell on earth did I think my suffering was because of my vegan diet.

It didn’t make sense that that could have been the cause. And now there is enough research to show that a varied whole food, plant-based diet is the best diet to keep candida at bay (listen to this doctor who is an expert in the field). You may, like I did, need to try a more restricted anti-candida diet at first if you currently HAVE candida, but once you are free of it, it’s a whole food vegan diet that is best.

I remember every time I saw videos of Tim, he was guzzling ridicuous amounts of fruit. I mean, fruit is a snack or a dessert. We are not meant to eat 50 frickin’ mangoes for breakfast FFS. Of course eating fruit in those quantites can contribute to candida overgrowth. That’s wayyyy too much fruit sugar fermenting in your gut! Admittedly sometimes I did see him eating a nutritionally balanced meal, but this didn’t seem to be a consistent thing. It often seemed to be one new food philosophy or another.

The YouTuber Rawvana – the vegan who got caught eating fish – I knew less about. From what I did see, she seemed, like Tim, to constantly be trying new things, whether all raw food, or water fasts, or whatever it may be. Her health issues seemed similar too – yeast and digestive issues. She thought that eating fish and eggs would be the answer to her health problems.

Although it’s disappointing that these people amassed huge profiles and thousands of followers by proclaiming how vegan they were, and personally profited from this – then stopped – thereby probably causing a significant amount of their followers to stop too, my reason for writing this is not to judge Tim or the others (even though if I’m honest they do piss me off a little. Hey, I’m human). I’m not interested in anyone’s path except my own (she says trying to sound grown up and shit :D).

But seriously, my point in writing this piece is as follows:

1. To reassure you that a whole food vegan diet is suitable, health-wise, for everybody at any stage of life. No ifs, no buts. To also assure you that animal products in the diet are not a cure for anything. Unless you are dying of hunger on a desert island and there is no vegetation anywhere, just the proverbial cow… That’s it. Some people may need to avoid certain plant foods in the case of intolerances or allergies – but this is the same with a non-vegan diet. For example, I am highly allergic to eggs. So, um..it’s a good job I’m vegan.

2. To encourage you to watch whoever appeals to you on social media. We all follow people for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes I’ll follow an absolute moron just because they make me laugh. BUT, if you are following a vegan on a particular platform for the sole purpose of learning how to be a healthy, happy vegan, PLEASE make sure they refer to science (peer-reviewed if possible). If you’re not sure how to do this, you can just cross-reference what your new vegan hero is saying with the works of the eminent plant-based doctors – Dr’s T. Colin Campbell, Michael Greger, John McDougall, Caldwell Essylstyn, Michael Klaper, Neal Barnard – they all have plenty of resources online.

Make sure your new vegan gal/guy is consistently eating/cooking (and advising you to eat) a diet rich in whole grains, beans, lentils, root veg, leafy greens and other veg, fruit, nuts seeds, herbs and spices. If they start talking about fasting or being 100% raw, or eating 50 mangoes for breakfast – throw your phone or laptop in the garbage instantly and run as far away from it as you can 😀


When Non-Vegans Ask ‘…But Why Do Vegans Eat Fake Meat If They Don’t Like Meat?’

My Tofurky roast from a couple of years ago


When discussing veganism with non-vegans; hot on the tail of ‘…but palm oil will often follow: ‘why do vegans eat fake meat if they don’t like meat?’

It’s a misconception that people go vegan because they don’t like the taste of meat. Some may quit meat for that reason – wasn’t a huge fan myself – but the main reason people go vegan is because they’ve stopped believing that animals are a commodity put here for our use, and the main way that manifests is in them stopping participating in the cruelty and barbarism that is animal agriculture.

Bearing this in mind – why shouldn’t some vegans want to recreate the taste and texture of meat with an animal free product? I mean, why not? In terms of the ethical reasons, a meat alternative serves the purpose of avoiding the cruelty but still having the taste, so win-win no?

People often find that even if they start off eating alternative meat and cheese products as a vegan, they’ll gradually learn how to make amazing dishes themselves consisting of veg, beans, lentils, grains, herbs and spices etc – think chili’s, soups, curries, pad thais, tagines, porotos granados and all manner of dishes that just don’t need a meat substitute.

Alternative meats can be a great help to people who want to move towards veganism but are a little fearful their new food will be too ‘different.’ It can be helpful, then, for them to have their ‘new’ plate resemble the old one. For this reason I am thrilled about all the alternative meat products we now have available to us – vive la Gregg’s sausage roll!

People also go vegan for health and environmental reasons as well as the ethics (for me all three are interconnected).

So how does ‘fake meat’ fare compared to meat in terms of health and the environment?

Fake meat will never contain cholesterol, anti-biotics or hormones, so already it has that over meat. The chances are very high it will also contain less fat. Another score. So while it may not be a super healthy product, a meat alternative will pretty much always be healthier than a meat one.

As for the environment, even if non-vegans are quick to point out the meat alternative contains palm oil (and I kill that line of argument dead here), it will still be much better for the environment than meat. Animal agriculture is the prime driver behind ALL FORMS of environmental destruction.

And did you know we have 12 years to avoid planetary ruin, and we’re advised to move away from animal products NOW?

So yeah – bring on the fauxsages, and quick!

When Non-Vegans Yell ‘….But Palm Oil!!’

I feel like I’ve been called to write this post 😀

In the last 3 days, on 3 separate occasions (one in print and twice in TV interviews), I’ve heard non-vegans using ‘…but palm oil’ either to denigrate a vegan product, or just generally throw it at vegans with the implication that vegans are hypocritical for using palm oil, when palm oil contributes to deforestation and loss of orang-utan life.

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that palm oil production IS a problem and does cause deforestation and the deaths of the animals of the forest, among them orang-utans. Obviously this is not desirable and nobody would deny that it behoves us all, especially vegans who are mindful of the well-being of all animals, to either make our best attempts to avoid it, or to source products that contain palm oil from an ethical, sustainable supplier.

There are several elements to this.

What non-vegans that throw ‘but palm oil’ in our faces, forget (or just choose to ignore), is the following.

  • 26 million rainforest acres have been cleared for palm oil production*
  • 136 million rainforest acres have been cleared for animal agriculture

Perspective right there! And:

  • The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feedcrops

These are just the stats on rainforest destruction; I haven’t even got the space or time to talk about how much more animal agriculture destroys the rest of the environment than does palm oil.

I feel we can all agree that animal agriculture is responsible for far more animal deaths than palm oil production?

  • 70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide. More than 6 billion animals are killed for food every hour

I totally agree orang-utans are cute AF, but it is not a worse crime to needlessly kill them than it is cows or pigs. All have the same capacity to suffer.

And another fun fact, just to illustrate how ridiculous the ‘but palm oil’ argument is:

  • 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries

Bottom line; animal agriculture will always be more destructive in terms of environmental damage and animal cruelty and killing than will the palm oil industry.

The other line of ‘reasoning’ the ‘but palm oil’ crowd seem to have is that we, as vegans, are not as damn well perfect as we think we are because we consume products that contain palm oil, so we are hypocrites, and may as well not be vegan.

To this I say:

Many vegans DO avoid palm oil, I know of a couple personally.

Also, as vegans, we are not trying to be perfect, we never were. This is a projection that non-vegans impose on us – I dare say fuelled by a defensiveness they have about not being vegan when on some level they are aware it would be the right thing to do. It’s impossible to be a ‘perfect’ vegan in any case. We can go for a walk and trample bugs underfoot. We use cars that have tires made with animal products; we take planes that use aviation fuel containing animal products. In terms of the environment, we all drain the resources of the planet in some way every day, just by living. All we vegans are trying to do, as far as is practical and practicable, is limit unnecessary cruelty to animals and minimise environmental ruin. The best way to do this to have maximum impact will always be to go vegan. If we make the conscientious decision to avoid palm oil too, well great! And I hope more people do. I need to make greater effort in this direction myself. But we are no less vegan if we don’t, and we are still having the most impactful positive effect on the planet and animals than a non-vegan who just avoids palm oil.

*All stats from the Cowspiracy Facts page

End Capitalism – Save Animals And The Planet

Lol…if you haven’t realised already, I don’t write the sort of blog posts that other wellness types do, i.e. give you a little helpful content and then yell ‘buy my shit.’ I mean, I totally should, being someone who relies on people to buy my shit, but ugh, I can only write about what’s on my mind.

This is what’s on my mind right now:

I heartily applaud those of you who participate in Cubes of Truth, vigils for animals about to be slaughtered, animal rights marches etc etc.

These actions are effective, I know, and this post isn’t meant to throw shade on any of them.

As much as I respect it, I’ve never participated in any action of that sort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always posting vegan advocacy stuff on social media, and continually having conversations where I’m encouraging folks to think about veganism.

I think it’s that I’ve been vegan such a long time – in the beginning there wasn’t as much of that stuff going on, and there wasn’t social media, so even if marches etc were going on, I wouldn’t have had much awareness of them.

But in the last few years, it’s probably more because I’ve become very aware that animal rights and speciesism are not single issue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tackle them in a ‘single issue’ way sometimes – Cubes of Truth, marches etc – of course we should. It’s just that I’ve come to believe very strongly that there is a bigger foundational cause of animals being ‘otherised’ by humans that also needs addressing.

I feel like we should address the cause and not just the symptom, if you will.

It can be argued (and in fact IS by many including Martin Luther King) that the driver of continued racism, sexism and even speciesism – in fact all oppressions – is unfettered capitalism, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is the state we are living in now.

Regarding how capitalism is tied to racism, King argued thus:

You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.

and:

We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.

Sure, we ended slavery and had the Civil Rights movement. But there are now more people incarcerated in US jails than any other country, most of them brown-skinned (African Americans and Hispanics make up 56% of the prison population), and  most of them employed while in prison, by multi-national companies, on VERY low wages – like 4 cents an hour – to do extremely menial jobs.

Where there is profit in exploitation, it will be done. And even if we think we are progressing, by trying to stop child exploitation and slavery – corporations and company owners will just find a different section of society to exploit. Capitalism is an energy that’s entire point is to grow exponentially, and fuck the consequences. A little like cancer I guess.

If MORE profit can be made by exploiting brown people, so be it. If MORE profit can be made exploiting women, so be it. Animals, the same. There is no reformation of capitalism. You can improve an area, maybe make it a little more socially conscious, this is true – but it’s a bit like a pesky air-bubble, that no matter how you try and get rid of it, that insidious energy will just go somewhere else. For example, we ended slavery in America, but that just led to the Jim Crow laws. We ended those, kinda, but now US for-profit prisons (thanks Bill Clinton!) are disproportionately full of black prisoners who didn’t get due justice- see point above.

As for the otherisation and objectification of women? We KNOW that the pornification of society has detrimental effects on both men and women, and only serves to keep some men viewing women as objects for their use – but porn makes scads of  money, so no-one cares. Young girls are increasingly expected by their boyfriends to look and behave like porn stars, but who gives a toss? Too much money in porn to rock the boat.

It IS true that people ate animals before capitalism existed. Women and people of colour were otherised too. But capitalism took this to whole new levels – by its very nature it sees everything and everyone as commodities, so where money could be made off the backs of the oppressed, for the oppressors, this naturally happened.

This is an exceedingly complex subject – there are myriad ways in which capitalism has reinforced oppressions (while appearing to improve some things), and a blog post is not going to address all of those.

My point is, a move towards a more socialist society will be a move towards a more vegan one. US readers – whatever you’ve been taught, socialism IS. NOT.THE.SAME.AS.COMMUNISM! It just means prioritising people and not profits. It means caring more about the welfare of people than the welfare of the markets. Out of the vegans I know, most if not all have socialist values. You probably do too, whether you know it or not. You believe in free university tuition? Publicly-owned national services? The regulation of banks so they can’t get too big for their boots and cause another crash like in 2008? Think the rich should pay more tax, the poor less? Free health care for all? Bingo – you have socialist values, and they are nothing to be scared of. Jeremy Corbyn is known to be vegetarian and I’ve heard those that know him say he’s actually vegan. The French politician who is on the socialist left is not yet vegan, but is aware that he should be, is trying his best and talks often about the plight of farm animals.

Thus, I’ve come to believe that in order to most effectively fight for animals (and women and people of colour) and against the forces that enslave and commodify them, then working towards a more socialist society has to make up a large part of our activism.

The neoliberal/neoconservative (they are the same thing – the neoliberals are just a little more polite is all) economic models that we currently have are not gonna cut it, in terms of how we look at the ‘other.’ They both uphold the rabid capitalist narrative. If we want to see a change from the ground up, we have to change the system.

A Quick, No Hassle, Guaranteed Way To Get Your Omega 3

As a vegan coach and nutritionist, many’s the time I’ve been asked about omega 3, and how to obtain adequate amounts on a plant-based diet.

Omega 3 is vital for heart, eye, joint, brain and mental health, amongst other things.

The answer is – it’s easy. Include a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseeds on your breakfast oatmeal every day; snack on a few walnuts a week; eat a varied, colourful, whole food diet; and you’re good.

However, as with lots of nutrients (protein, calcium, iron etc), I’m fighting against decades (if not more) of societal conditioning that has told us the only place to get sufficient amounts of omega 3 is from animal products – and that the best source is fish, and fish oil.

This is the short version of why this myth persists:

Omega 3 consists of ALA, DHA and EPA.

These are a-linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.

The DHA and EPA can only be obtained, we are told, from fish and fish oil.

What we are never told, is that if we consume flax seed, walnuts and oatmeal that are all rich in ALA, our bodies are perfectly capable of converting the ALA into the DHA and EPA.

But…but….BUT:

What if you just want a super quick way of ensuring you are getting enough omega 3?  What if you are allergic to seeds? What if you hate oatmeal because it reminds you of your yucky boarding school porridge? What if you just want another way to get omega 3 for the days you just don’t fancy oatmeal and flaxseeds? What if you have heard the ‘omega 3 comes from the sea’ line so much that you’d JUST PREFER to get it from a sea-based source? (I would completely understand this – we have been so indoctrinated that sometimes it’s hard to change our thinking).

And there is some truth to omega 3 coming from the sea.

Seaweed contains the DHA and EPA. This is, in fact, where the fish get their omega 3. So you can cut out the middle man (fish?) and just go straight to the source!

But how will you know if you are eating enough? I mean, it’s great to eat vegan nori rolls and sushi, and sprinkle wakame flakes into noodle dishes, and to eat miso – but they are not necessarily things we would eat every day, so….. how to ensure we would be getting enough omega 3?

British-based company Vegan Vitality have us completely covered on this. They have made a vegan capsule with algae (seaweed) oil containing concentrated levels of EPA and DPA – more than any other algae oil capsule currently available, which means you need only take 1 – 2 capsules daily to ensure adequate levels of omega 3.

As it doesn’t come from fish, it doesn’t contain any of the nasties that are currently found in all sea creatures – the PCB’s, dioxins, heavy metals etc. And of course, there is not the fishy aftertaste you’d get from a fish oil capsule.

My partner gets up late and ends up rushing like a mutha to get to work on time (I feel sure plenty of you reading this will relate 🙂 ), and so almost NEVER has the time to pour himself out a bowl of oatmeal and grind up some flax seeds. These capsules are an ideal way of getting his daily omega 3. He has been taking them for the past week. We can’t really report any benefits in such a short time, but he says it’s nice not having to feel bad because he knows he hasn’t eaten the nutrients he should have.

Now I’m all about price. I really AM Bargain Basement Betty – attractive as that is. These capsules are available on Amazon for £15.99 for 60 capsules, which is a 2 month supply. For peace of mind that you are getting this critical nutrient, I’d say that was excellent value.

If you know you are not the person who is going to be eating oatmeal and flax seeds most days- whether due to lack of time or it’s just not your thing, or even if you just want to make sure you have back up for those days you have no groceries left in the house, or you’re eating breakfast out etc –  then I recommend these capsules.

Omega 3 is important, make sure you have it covered!

 

Please note: Excepting the pot of capsules I was sent to review, I am not being paid for this article. This article reflects my authentic, professional opinion, as with every product I review.