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Why I’m not giving up food for lent

Why I’m not giving up food for lent

Why I’m not giving up food for lent.

Each year lent comes and goes, many don’t succeed and for some they do. Most of those who take part in lent have no religious beliefs what so ever, however they want to challenge themselves to give up something to see if they can do it. I am all for supporting peoples desires and if you do this and succeed at it then that is super creditable; good on you!!

I just wanted to share why I won’t be giving up anything for lent this year, and haven’t done for a good few years.

Lent is a religious event where Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. In his honour people give up something for this period of time, mostly a food item. I’m not aware of the “rules” but I know some people chose to give up a behaviour, which is great!

I questioned lent for a few days in the run up thinking, what should I give up? I googled lent and saw the reasoning for it and I knew straight away I wasn’t going to give up a food. Firstly, I’m not religious, but I always like a challenge. The thing that occurred to me however is that for once in my life there isn’t one item of food I want to give up!

I am finally in a great place with my diet and my mind and this means that I can eat anything I desire; no limitations! Coming from an eating disorder it was always about giving up a food, restriction, eating good and eating bad. There was no balance. Fast forward to March 1st 2017 I can say that there is not 1 item of food (or drink for that matter) that I feel I need to give up!

For others you may feel you need to give up something for whatever reason, but if this is the case then don’t let Lent be your reasoning. Do it for you and your health, this doesn’t need to start tomorrow, or at New Years, start now and for the long term.

If you are religious, then go for it! Your beliefs go way beyond just giving up a food for health, it’s your religion. I am just going on why many people I know give up a food for lent, and that isn’t for religious beliefs.

Good luck to all those giving up something for Lent and do what you love, follow what you love, and be happy in doing so.

 

What to Eat to Reduce Inflammation

What to Eat to Reduce Inflammation

What to eat to reduce Inflammation

A topic of conversation that regularly comes up in my working practise is inflammation.

Inflammation is at the root of many common, long term diseases: arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, to name a few. With education and correct food choices, symptoms can be reduced and discomfort eased.

Inflammation is not always a bad thing. In fact, inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. It is a protective response to remove harmful stimuli such as damaged cells, irritants and pathogens. Problems occur however when inflammation becomes chronic.

Chronic inflammation can last from months to years. If not kept under control, or ideally eliminated, chronic inflammation can cause disease and illness. Through our diet, we are able to reduce inflammation and ultimately help health problems away.

Try adding the following foods into your diet to reduce inflammation:

  • Dark leafy greens (Kale, Swiss chard and Spinach)

Rich in Vitamins A, C and K. These greens are high in antioxidants that restore cellular health. Eat in salads, smoothies, stir fries and more.

  • Celery

High in antioxidants and a natural anti-inflammatory. Improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels and can prevent heart disease. Eaten as a raw snack or an addition to any cold pressed juice, stock, stew or homemade pasta sauce.

  • Beetroot

Contains antioxidant Betalain, a fantastic anti-inflammatory. Beetroot has incredible benefits when added in just small quantities. Try adding to a cold pressed juice, made into a beetroot hummus, boiled for a salad topper, burger or sandwich. Alternative options include spiralised on a salad, roasted or home-made healthy crisps!

  • Broccoli

Known as the “antioxidant powerhouse”, broccoli is packed with key vitamins to lower oxidative stress on the body and reduce chronic inflammation.

  • Blueberries

Contain a flavonoid called quercetin which fights inflammation and cancer. Blueberries can be eaten as a snack, put into smoothies, added to cereals or into your oatmeal.

  • Pineapple

Pineapple contains bromelain. Studies have shown that bromelain stops blood platelets from sticking together and building along the walls of blood vessels which leads to heart attacks and stroke.

  • Walnuts

The anti-inflammatory compounds in walnuts help protect against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Walnuts are great chopped up and mixed into pasta sauces, topped on oatmeal or even made into great raw vegan desserts. If you prefer they can be eaten on their own but remember nuts do have a high fat content so although they have fantastic health benefits, do be sure to eat them in moderation.

  • Coconut oil

Lips in coconut oil contain anti-inflammatory compounds which heal arthritis more effectively than medications.

Coconut oil can be heated at high temperatures without destroying its healing benefits, so try using it as an addition to your stir fries, homemade sweet potato chips, or a great addition to oatmeal and smoothies too!

  • Chia seeds

The ultimate “superfood”. Not only high in omega-3 and 6 but Chia seeds have the ability to reverse inflammation, lower blood pressure and regulate cholesterol levels.

Chia seeds can be used in many ways, try adding them onto salads, pasta or rice. Make a chia pudding, pop in a smoothie or into oatmeal. When mixed with water they form a gel which is used as an egg replacer in baking so they really have multiple uses. You will not struggle to get these into your diet!

  • Flaxseeds

Another great source of omega-3’s. Flaxseeds are high in antioxidants which are hormone balancing and great for cellular health.

Like chia seeds, flaxseeds can be used in multiple ways: sprinkle onto salads, on top of pastas or rice, or as an egg replacer in baking. For baking you will need the ground version of flaxseed and not the whole seed. An easy way to add flaxseed into your diet is in smoothies, 1 tbsp is a great amount and you can’t taste it either!

  • Turmeric

As you may have heard before, turmeric is fantastic at reducing inflammation. It’s active anti-inflammatory component, curcumin, is it’s primary compound.

Simply add this powerhouse into home-made curries, a warming addition to your rice, cold pressed juices or a warming turmeric latte!

  • Ginger

Ginger has the ability to break down the accumulation of toxins in the bodies organs. Use dry or fresh, it works the same way.

Ginger is a common spice and an essential part of any curry however it has many other uses. Try: fresh ginger and lemon water, freshly made juice, stir fries and raw vegan desserts. Due to the powerful flavour of ginger it can be a more difficult addition to a diet, however you only need a small amount to get the benefits so have some practise with it.

 

Eliminate the following inflammation inducing foods:

  • ALL processed meats
  • Red meats
  • Margarine, shortening and lard
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Fried foods
  • Refined carbohydrates (white breads, pastries, doughnuts etc)

Being the only vegan at a party

Being the only vegan at a party

Being the only vegan at a party

I don’t know if it has happened to you before but I sometimes feel like I am the only vegan in the village. Eating a vegan diet does make you the minority, although the number of us are on the increase, so there are things you need to accept.

  • people don’t always understand you
  • people think you only eat lettuce and carrots
  • you may be weird to some people
  • some people assume you are judging them OR that they’re making you feel uncomfortable eating meat near you
  • some genuinely don’t know how to cater for you
  • don’t expect to be catered for at parties and don’t take offence!!

As a result of this you have to be confident in what you’re doing, happy with what you’re doing and always be prepared.

Here are some quick tips to help you feel comfortable in party situations:

  • eat before you go: you wont offend anyone at the party because chances are there’s not much substantial you will be able to eat there. Eating before hand ensures you wont be hungry there so you wont get “hangry” and want to leave. You want to be happy and comfortable there so make sure you’re well fed before hand.
  • take something with you:  super easy tip. Take food with you! Share you’re food with others, it will make you blend in and people will appreciate the gift 🙂
  • don’t make comments about there being no vegan food available: in a room full of numerous “normal” eating people, you can’t expect that on top of catering for all them people that they’re going to go that extra mile for you. They have spent a lot of time and effort into preparing the party so don’t mention you’re vegan and there’s nothing to eat, simply say you’re not hungry or “no thank you” to non-vegan offerings.
  • find any vegan food you can and take it before it goes: there’s a chance that there will be a cheese board with fresh or dried fruits. Take some and pop them on your plate before they all go. Bread is normally available and if you’re lucky some salads or veggie sticks. More times than none there will be vegan options but get them on your plate at the beginning of the party, just incase they run out by the time you’re hungry.
  • don’t worry about it: at the end of the day you’re not there for the food, you’re there for the party. Enjoy the party and be social. Social environments don’t always have to revolve around food and if they do just make sure you’re prepared.

I hope these few, quick tips help you for when you feel like the only vegan in the village 🙂

 

 

Be Fat Smart

Be Fat Smart

Be Fat Smart: your guide to knowing what fats you should and shouldn’t be eating and why they are good for us!

Before we get into the benefits of adding fats into your diet let share some knowledge.

What exactly is fat?

Fat is a rich source of energy made up of essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are broken down into the following classifications, determined by their chemical structure: saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Fats high source of energy means for 1 gram of fat, we are provided with 9kcals. To compare this, for 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein we consume we are provided with just 4 kcals.

Ultimately, it is easier to overeat on fats than it is on carbohydrates or protein. Although is it possible eat too much of both, the way our bodies store this over consumption of energy is the same; it is stored as fat. The reason for this is that our body’s cells have limited stores therefore once full it can no longer create any more energy from that source. The more fat that is deposited, over time leads to serious conditions such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Know the differences

Saturated:

Known as the “bad fat” saturated fats are known to raise low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) leading to blocked arteries, and restricted blood flow to the brain and heart. This increases risk of stroke and heart disease. There are ongoing debates as to whether there is “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, but for many years it has been suggested that high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is good for us. HDL cholesterol is known to take cholesterol from parts of the body where there is too much of it and transport it back to the liver where it is deposited of.

High saturated fats include:

Animal based:

  • meat products: sausages, pies, sandwich meats
  • fatty cuts of meat
  • butter, ghee and lard
  • all cheese
  • all creams including ice cream
  • cakes, biscuits and pastries
  • some savoury snacks and chocolate confectionery

Plant based:

  • palm oil
  • coconut oil and cream

Trans fats:

The UK eats minimal levels of trans fats and it is found in low levels in the following foods: animal products, both meat and dairy, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. Supermarkets have taken strong measures to ensure that hydrogenated oils aren’t in their own products however always be sure to check. On average the UK gets just half the required maximum level recommended therefore it is more important to focus on reducing saturated fats. Like saturated fats, trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and the recommended daily intake is just 5% of our daily caloric intake. Eating a plant based diet you will more than likely consume 0% trans fats in your diet.

Unsaturated fats:

The fats that we all SHOULD be eating! These are the fats you want to include in your diet and switch out the saturated fats. Unsaturated fats come from plant based foods and this is what makes the body thrive. Eating unsaturated fats and banishing saturated fats will cut your risk of heart disease and stroke, and can even help to lower cholesterol.

Unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

Monounsaturated fats:

These fats help to reduce our LDL cholesterol and maintain our HDL cholesterol, thus protecting our hearts.

Monounsaturated fats are found in:

  • oils from: olives and rapeseed (including their spreads)
  • almonds, brazils and peanuts
  • avocados

Polyunsaturated:

Polyunsaturated fats can also help reduce our LDL cholesterol and come in two types: omega 3 and omega 6. The body cannot make all the essential omega 3 and 6 fats and therefor these need to be added into our diets.

Omega 6:

  • nuts
  • sunflower oil and rapeseed oil

Omega 3:

  • flaxseeds
  • chia seeds
  • oily fish (if you consume fish)

Omega 3 and 6 are extremely important to have in a plant based diet as these are found in the least common foods. If you cook with oil then you will get enough Omega 6 in your diet, however to get sufficient levels of Omega 3 it is important toad flaxseed and chia seeds into your diet, as well as a plant based protein which included Omega 3’s.

Benefits of getting healthy Unsaturated fats in your diets include:

  • reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancers and more
  • increased satiety levels meaning you will be full and satisfied and not reach for unhealthy foods instead
  • provides us with energy
  • provides us with essential fatty acids for growth, healthy skin, vitamin-absorption
  • regulates of bodily functions

To summarise, eating fats is an essential part of our diets. When we choose correctly we are able to lower our cholesterol levels and thrive off the fat that we eat. Making the swap from saturated to unsaturated fats can reduce your risk of serious health conditions and it doesn’t include cutting out fat from your diet completely. You can still enjoy good, healthy plant based foods but like most tings this still needs to be done in moderation. Our body only has limited energy stores so no matter where the food is coming from, if we eat too much of it it gets deposited as fat.

Your meals should consist of mostly fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates. A small addition of fats should be added to each meal to help you feel satisfied and full.

Try adding:

  • nut butter into your porridge
  • avocado into your pasta or onto toast
  • tahini onto your toast or pasta sources
  • flaxseeds into your smoothie
  • chia seeds onto salads, oats, smoothies
  • some squares of rich dark chocolate as a treat
  • coconut milk into your curries
  • nut butters with dates

The key is to not be afraid to add fat into your diet because it can be so beneficial for us when done correctly. Have small amounts and enjoy it. Food is for enjoyment as well as keeping us healthy and thriving so always keep that in mind.

 

 

Cuppa Tea and a Biscuit?

Cuppa Tea and a Biscuit?

Cuppa Tea and a Biscuit anyone?

I mean, who doesn’t love a cuppa tea and a biscuit?!

I try to make transitioning into a plant based diet easy for everyone and I understand that not all of us have time to make our own alternatives. Making plant based biscuits by hand are definitely a healthier alternative to shop bought, but I know this isn’t convenient for everyone. As a result I have accumulated a bunch of photographs for you for some shop bought biscuits which are all vegan and easily accessible.

The Oreo’s I noticed contain vegetable oils including palm oil. This actually makes them non-vegan! I’m not 100% sure about ingredients for them around the world but this left me a bit suspicious. Oreo’s have always been known  as a vegan go-to biscuit/ cookie so I’m left wondering.  I will leave this up to you to make your own opinion but as for ingredients otherwise, they’re definitely plant based; no dairy.

I want you to know that a vegan/ plant based diet doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. If you do have time to make your own biscuits then I’d definitely recommend doing this! However if you have a party to go to and need to take something, these could be useful. Alternatively you may have children who still want their biscuits as a treat and this way you can feed them vegan foods without them knowing the difference.

Whatever works for you is what is most important and there are lots more on the market so do keep an eye open for them.

Things to take into account:

Recipes change all the time so always double check the packaging. For example: Jaffa Cakes and After Eights used to be vegan and now they are NOT.

Brands differ. For example: Regular digestives are NOT vegan, but some cheaper brands ARE.

Just because biscuits say chocolate or cream, it doesn’t always mean it isn’t vegan. You’ll be amazed by what is vegan so always check the packet first.

OREO’S: so far I have found that all varieties are dairy free apart from the Peanut Butter brand.

These are not a “health food”: although the biscuits are vegan and/ or plant based they contain oils and unhealthy sugars. If you do choose to eat them then do so in small amounts.

 

Selection:

   

The British Classics

    

 

Oreo’s – the “Vegan” favourite

   

Childhood favourites

 

Like I say, these are just a few I found whilst out shopping today. Always double check before you buy, dairy products are written in BOLD so are easy to find.

Good luck!

What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

We have all heard about the importance Vitamin D but how much do we really know?

As the cold, dark nights set in here in the UK it is a known fact that with that comes a dip in our overall mood. This dip in our mood is largely influenced by lack of sunlight. Lack of sunlight disrupts our bodies internal clock, reduces serotonin productivity and production of melatonin. These disruptions cause feelings of depression, increased tiredness, affected sleep pattern and appetite.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a vitamin which regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. It helps maintain a strong immune system, supports our mood and keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

Where can we find it?

Unfortunately, unlike other Vitamins, Vitamin D is only available to us 10% by diet. The further 90% of our Vitamin D comes from UVB rays, which during winter time is virtually impossible to achieve. Even during our Sumer months, with the use of sun cream restricting the amount of UVB we absorb and time spent indoors, it isn’t always achievable to reach our optimal levels.

Supplementation.

Due to the population only getting 10% of Vitamin D from their diet and 90% through direct sunlight, supplementation is strongly advised by Health Experts to achieve optimal levels. Public Health England recommends taking a supplementation during Autumn and Winter months of 10mcg. For those who spend a lot of time indoors throughout the year, it is advisable that these individuals supplement throughout the year, also with a daily 10mcg supplement.

Types of Supplementation.

Supplements are available by either a Vitamin D3 pill or an Oral Spray. Vitamin D is a fat soluble Vitamin therefore an Oral Spray is a preferred method as it absorbed directly into the blood stream via the inner cheek. This quick absorption means your body is able to benefit from it sooner.

vd2

Vitamin D supplementation is just one way you can stay healthy this Winter. An active lifestyle, stress management and adequate nutrition are all other ways you can stay healthy this Winter, and all year around.

vd1

Vegan food sources for Vitamin D include:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Plant based milks (look for added Vitamin D)
  • Soy products (yoghurts, drinks)
  • Some mushroom varieties

But remember, only 10% comes from food so supplementing is still crucial! Focus also on getting enough calcium rich food in your diet to aid in bone health.

Ashridge Estate – Hertfordshire

Ashridge Estate – Hertfordshire

The Ashridge Estate and Autumn Colours Trail

What a place.

As a fully fledged National Trust member, I love to take advantage of this and find new great places to visit. This week I woke up to a gorgeous foggy day, not too cold, and with Autumn is full bloom I wanted to get outdoors and explore. Also, with the dark nights now setting in I am determined to get as much day light as I can. As Winter approaches it is far too easy to stay in and get depressed from a lack of Vitamin D!

I went onto the National Trust website and found places to visit in my county; this lead me to Ashridge.

The website has a selection of walks you can do but as it’s Autumn, it made sense to do the Autumn Colours Trail.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate/lists/self-led-walks-at-ashridge

5.9 miles (9.4 km) – Moderate Level – Dog friendly

The walk is absolutely stunning. One moment you’re immersed in colourful woodlands of oranges, greens, yellows and browns, then you turn a corner and you’re welcomed by great open fields. Want to see Deer? Five minutes into our walk we saw our first herd! I couldn’t believe it. By the end of the walk we had seen a total of four herds.

The walk was beautiful and we got to see deer, cows, squirrels and riders on horse back. It was stunning.

Unfortunately there is one downfall to this walk and that is the signing.

Online and in the Store you are able to get a copy of instructions and a map. The problem is that the trail isn’t well sign posted so it is quite easy to get confused as to where you are going. We stumbled across many other confused walkers, on the same route as us, whom we had to confer with as to where we should be going. Although much confusion on the walk, we did end up completing  the trail and made it out before dark.

It is a bit unnerving being lost in a woodland, especially in the Autumn when daylight is short, but with so many other walkers around I’m sure you couldn’t get completely lost.

Overall the Estate and surrounding areas are absolutely stunning. It is a great location for walking, a picnic, a dog walk and so on. I will definitely be returning again and I will be less anxious about getting lost.

If you are in the Herts area or near by, it’s definitely a must see. There are lots of people there exploring the woodlands, it’s free of charge and is a brilliant day out for all.

P.S. If you happen to get lost and stumble across this cute house, turn left and you’re almost at then end.

Enjoy and thanks for reading 🙂