Browsed by
Tag: weightloss

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)

Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate.

There seems to be a misconception that when you turn vegan you suddenly stop eating chocolate; this is not the case. There are many brands of chocolate offering dairy free options which don’t have to come from the “free from” section. If you like dark chocolate then you will find the transition easy. If you don’t enjoy dark chocolate it could take a while to make the transition however over time you will get used to the taste and start to love it.

It is possible to get milk and white vegan chocolate however it does have to come from the “free from” section because it isn’t naturally made dairy free. As a result the cost will be a bit higher than your regular chocolate bars.

Things to note:

  • not all dark chocolate is vegan so always double check the label.
  • dairy products are mostly always in bold however “butterfat” is sometimes not highlighted; so again double check the label.

Some facts about chocolate:

Chocolate is made from the cacao plant which in its most natural state is actually a health food. Not to be confused with cocoa, cacao is naturally high in antioxidants and has numerous health benefits. Alongside a healthy diet, cacao has the ability to balance blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce arterial plaque and ultimately reverse heart disease.

Other health benefits:

  • Its high in magnesium which increases energy levels and protects against osteoporosis.
  • Cacao boosts serotonin levels and endorphins which improve mood and balance mood swings.
  • It contains healthy fats which create chemical reactions for growth, immune function and metabolic function.

I have accumulated a section of photos on my trip around Tesco, finding all the vegan chocolate I could. Other supermarkets and health shops have more choice so you’re never short of options. These are mainstream brands, where as health shops have great raw chocolate varieties (and more!) but at a higher cost.

Other alternatives include raw cacao powder (to create your own great vegan desserts/ treats) and cacao nibs (to add to snacks, smoothies and oats).

Find some of your mainstream varieties below.

Green & Black’s

Tesco’s Own

Lindt

Green & Blacks Thins

Tesco Finest

Bournville

Ritter Sport (not their mint variety)

BENDICK’S

 

To find out more about how chocolate is made, go view my post on how I made chocolate in the Amazon!

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.

 

 

Vegan Egg Replacements

Vegan Egg Replacements

Vegan Egg Replacements

As you transition into a vegan/ plant-based diet there will be obstacles you’ll come across which can leave you stuck. As I speak to more and more people about problems they’re coming across I have found that for some people giving up eggs is difficult. Eggs are a quick meal and high in protein which is good for filling you up. However, eggs contain high levels of cholesterol and zero fibre. Research into eggs have even compared eating eggs as bad a smoking cigarettes due to the plaque build up in arteries they produce.

Unfortunately, in the food industry there isn’t much on the market that can replicate the taste of egg. Fried eggs and poached eggs simply can not be replaced at present, however scrambled eggs and omelette have a similar plant-based alternative. As for baking, this is an easy transition that won’t effect your bakes.

 

For cooking

Tofu.

The stereotypical “vegan food”. Tofu is the closest and cheapest you can get to scrambled eggs or an eggy taste and texture.

To scramble simply mash the tofu in a pan and cook with soy sauce to bring out the flavour. You can also add in: spices, turmeric for colour, spring onion, tomatoes, mushrooms etc. Cook as you would normally do your scramble.

To note: tofu comes in a packet of water which needs to be drained and rinsed off. For cubing tofu you need to pat dry the tofu and dry it out; instructions will be on packet.

Tofu is great when cubed and put into main meals but for this you need a firm tofu as typical tofu crumbles easily (better for scramble) You can buy tofu pre-marinated if this is an easier option for you.

VeganEgg.

Personally I have never tried this and it’s not something that appeals to me. However I have known people to use it and opinion varies. VeganEgg can be used for omelettes and scrambled egg and it tries to replicate the taste of real eggs.

The downsides to this product are:

1. It it is very expensive for the amount of product that you get. Online it will cost you around £7 plus delivery!
3. It is hard to come across unless you purchase online. However it is sold in SOME health food stores.
4. It is an egg replacer meaning they have tried to replicate the taste and texture the best they can, consequently the ingredients reflect that.

The plus side of this product is that you get a close replication of egg and the most similar you’ll possibly find. It all depends on how much you miss real eggs and if you’re able to go without them.

For baking.

Banana

Simply use 1 banana to replace 1 egg. Mash into your baked goods and pancakes too!

Flaxegg and Chiaegg

Flaxmeal

As a binder for baked goods flaxsmeal is brilliant. Combine 1 part flaxmeal to 3 parts water. 1 tbsp flaxmeal + 3 tbsp water equivocates to 1 egg. Combine and wait ten minutes for the mixture to go gooey, then use as you would egg.

Chia seeds

Exactly as above. 1 part chia to 3 parts water. 1tbsp chia seeds + 3tbsp water = 1 egg. Leave to get sticky for approximately 10 minutes.

This should hopefully make your life easier as you transition to a vegan / plant-based lifestyle. The more you research into the egg industry and the health consequences, it should be enough to cut them out of you diet. I ate eggs on a regular basis before going vegan and although I missed their convenience initially I could never eat them again knowing what I know now. I really hope this helps you out and if you’re still sceptical then just research, research, research. The more you know the better you’ll feel.

 

Let’s talk cheese

Let’s talk cheese

Let’s talk cheese.

When it comes to transitioning to a vegan diet or simply going dairy free, the main difficulty people find is giving up cheese.

All dairy products contain a protein called Casein and cheese contains the most addictive and concentrated form of Casein, Casomorphins. Casomorphins have an opioid effect (opioids: known as one the world’s oldest drugs)! This addictive formula is what was designed to keep the calf suckling its mother’s milk. Now can you see why cheese is so difficult to give up!?

 As well as being highly addictive, cheese contains no fibre. This means that when consuming it you simply don’t get full. If you were to eat fibre rich foods such as rice or beans however, you’d get full. When you can understand this it makes in mentally easier to make the transition to dairy free alternatives, limiting your intake or cutting out cheese all together!

Ultimately you want to make the transition as smoothly as possible and you don’t want to feel like you are restricting yourself. If you want to reduce/ cut out cheese from your life then you need great alternatives and you need flavourful, texture-rich foods that stop you reaching for the cheese!

Habits are made over a life time so don’t expect to be cheese free in a day, although this is possible! However, realistically it is a change of habit. Habits on average take three weeks to break. Three weeks to break a habit which could last a lifetime, really isn’t that long.

 So how can you break the habit?

1) Cheese alternatives. 

These are a great way of transitioning and sticking to a lifetime without real cheese. There are some great varieties out there now and most supermarkets have an entire array of alternatives.

For cheese on toast, baked potatoes, sandwiches, pizza and more! Try Violife (here in the U.K.). I’ve heard from many people that this is the best on the market and they come in many varieties.

There is a brand in the US called Daiya which is also a great branded alternative, however this is more difficult to find in the U.K.

Vegan cheeses are a fantastic alternative when going dairy free and there is absolutely no casein added. Give them a go and really try to get used to them because they are a much healthier alternative.

2) For a “cheesy flavour”: Nutritional Yeast aka Nooch. 

One of my personal favourites.

  

 Nutritional yeast is de-activated yeast, not to be confused with baking yeast, which gives your meals a cheesy flavour. You can sprinkle it on pasta, toast, baked potatoes and into soups or sauces. It’s a parmesan style addition to a meal and packed with Vitamin B12 (an essential addition to a Vegan diet).

 3) For a creamy, cheesy sauce: Tahini

 

 Used with nutritional yeast or simply on its own, tahini is a fantastic way to create a creamy, cheese like sauce. Used in most of my pasta sauces, tahini is a staple in my kitchen. Simply stir in your desired amount into your pasta sauce (I normal use about 1tbsp) or you can make a dressing with it too.

 Tahini is great combined with soy sauce, lemon and garlic. Add some water for a thinner consistency and it can used on salad or on potatoes (thicker consistency is better here). Another way I like to use tahini is on toast! It’s a staple that you will need in your home. Think of it as a cheese spread replacement.

  4) Get creative in the kitchen.

      

In other words, try making foods other than cheese based foods. There is such an array of foods in the world that meals don’t always have to revolve around cheese. Thai foods, Indian foods, Chinese, Mediterranean and more. The world’s cuisine has so much more to offer than cheese, you just have to experiment more. 

An increase of flavours and textures will have you so satisfied that you won’t need to be reaching for the Cheddar and the grater!

 To summarise: 

 Cheese is an addictive food. To break your cheese habit it can take up to three weeks and it can be done. I know that due to the addictiveness some people may really struggle to give up cheese completely but at least give it a go. If you are trying your hardest to be vegan and cheese is the only component of it that you can’t do then don’t beat yourself up about it! You want something that is manageable long term and if the only food you can’t let go of is cheese then so be it. However, do not give up. Research is clear that a plant-based vegan diet is the healthiest way to live and can eliminate disease and illness.

Take your time in making the transition; the more you reduce your intake the easier it will be to give it up in the long run. As you experience the health benefits of a plant-based diet and how fantastic you feel, gradually the desire for “real cheese” will go away. Every small step makes a huge difference so stick with it and do your very best!