Brain food

Have you ever thought about how the food you eat directly affects your brain? As its Brain Awareness Week, it’s worth sparing a minute or two to do just that. Do you give your brain what it needs?

The brain is the hungriest organ in the body. Mind you that’s not surprising really as it’s always on the go, managing and controlling everything else in the body, even (and particularly) when we’re asleep. 25% of the body’s energy supply (in the form of glucose, its fuel of choice), is used in the brain Continue reading “Brain food”

Fabulous fibre

Have you noticed how fibre has suddenly appeared in the news again? That’s food-related fibre, not the high-speed broad band type! A large meta-analysis of research studies published in The Lancet last week concluded that a diet high in complex fibre and whole-foods could prevent the development of many chronic health problems. It concluded their study provided a ‘causal link’ between a low fibre diet and poor health (read more here).

The world of food and health is complex and fickle. The fact that fibre is good for health has been known for a long time, but gets conveniently forgotten when more popular diets come along, like low-carb/high fat, or ketogenic programmes. There’s a lot of confusion about the carbohydrate element of foods with many people automatically associating ‘carbs’ with sugar. And it’s true, refined sugar isn’t good for us, but complex, unadulterated carbohydrates are.

As anyone who has participated in my Eat Well Live Well course will know, I’m a big fan of fibre. And one of the benefits of eating a whole-food plant-based diet is that it is packed full of lovely complex fibres that the body just loves. And rather than worrying about how much you should consume, it’s just part and parcel of every meal – as long as you eat a wide range of whole plant foods that is.

So why might you not get enough fibre in your diet?

  1. Only food from plants contain fibre, so if you eat mainly meat, dairy and eggs you’ll be missing out on fibre.
  2. Refined cereals and grains loose their healthy complex fibre, so if you eat white bread, pasta or rice, processed breakfast cereals or ready meals, you’ll be losing all the lovely complex fibre.
  3. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain fibre too, so if you don’t hit your 5 portions a day (like 70% of the UK population), you’ll be missing out on fibre.

So what does fibre do for us? Lots, as it turns out. I go into more details in my new book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie (out next month!), but in a nutshell it:

  1. Improves gut motility – ie: make you poo!
  2. Removes excess bile, fats and toxic waste
  3. Fills you up
  4. Releases nutrients slowly
  5. Looks after the friendly bacteria living in your gut.

As more is learnt about the importance of gut health, this last one is really key. Bacteria living deep down in the large intestine dine out on the insoluble fibre found in complex carbohydrates that we can’t digest ourselves, and then puts it to good use, carrying out functions we have outsourced and can no longer do ourselves. Gut health is connected to many health challenges, including food sensitivities and autoimmune conditions, hence my personal love of all things fibre!

So how do you get more fibre in your diet? It’s easy – eat more plants! And a wide variety of them too. Add beans to soups and stews, more veggies to dishes. Ditch the processed breakfast cereals and opt for wholegrain or oats. Swap to wholegrain pasta, rice and bread. Or just focus on eating amazing plant foods throughout the day and then you don’t have to worry where your fibre is coming from.

A word of warning though, if you’re not used to eating lots of lovely fibre, or have IBS or something similar, take care! Fibre makes you fart. And if your gut is not happy, a sudden overload of high fibre foods could find you trumpeting at inappropriate moments or doubled up in pain. So think about gradually increasing the amount of whole foods over a few days rather than all at once – you, and anyone around you, will appreciate it!

If you’re not sure how to start eating more fibre, check out the recipes on my blog. Made with whole plant foods, they’re all packed with fibre in various forms. And if you’re interested in finding out more, my book is a good place to start. Look out for more information about publication date, or sign up to my book mailing list. You’ll get the lowdown before anyone else, plus special launch information and offers. Just click here.

Simple New Year changes that have a big impact

Wow, it’s the last day of 2018! What a busy year it’s been. How’s it been for you? For me, there’s been some amazing experiences, incredible changes and smattering of challenges and obstacles. A pretty standard year all in all!

So now it’s time to start thinking about the new year ahead. Have you thought about your New Year’s resolutions, or what you would like to achieve over the next 12 months? For many, January is a time for ‘going on a diet’ and ‘getting fit’. Both great goals to have, but more often than not the enthusiasm starts to wane after just a couple of weeks. Or it might be that you are planning on going plant-based, either by joining a campaign like Veganuary or following your own ideas. This works really well for anyone who is an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of person. But it’s not for everyone.

I actually think that early January is not a good time of year to make major changes. For a start, the weather is cold and the whole month can seem rather dull and miserable after the colourful build up to Christmas. Going on a diet has connotations of missing out or deprivation. The cold weather outside naturally drives us towards warming comfort foods rather than salad. Plus the ‘hang-over’ from all the Christmas and New Year excitement and celebrations takes a while to pass.

It’s because of this that I never run my Eat Well Live Well course until the end of January or beginning of February – that’s the time when you’re fully recovered from the festive fun and truly ready to make some positive, lasting changes.

Now that’s not to say that being a bingeing coach potato is a good idea! If you want to ease yourself into a positive health change or just want to make some easy changes, here are 5 simple changes to make that will have a big impact.

  1. Eat more. Ha, bet you didn’t expect that one first! If you’ve pigged out over the last week, this might not sound like a good thing. But I don’t mean eat more of everything. Just eat more fresh fruit and vegetables every day, some raw, some cooked. An incredible 75% of the UK population still don’t hit the 5-a-day target (click here for statistics) so if you are one of them, now’s your chance to go for it. But don’t stop at 5. As fresh fruit and vegetables are packed full of amazing nutrients and phytonutrients that support our bodies right at cellular level, 10 portions a day is much nearer to what we should be aiming for. Your body will love you for it and you’ll soon start feeling the benefits. Plus if you fill up on the fresh stuff, there’s less room for the junk!

2) Go brown. White flour, pasta and rice have all their wonderful nutrients stripped away and all you’re left with is the starchy endosperm that rapidly gets broken down into simple sugars. It’s calories and not much else. Wholegrains on the other hand retain their fabulous fibre, essential oils and protein as well as other nutrients. They’re more filling and your helpful friendly bacteria love them. If you want to give it a try but don’t think your family will be on board with it, don’t tell them! Just change one at a time and see if they notice (sneaky but effective 😉 )

3) Eat real. Have you explored the label on processed foods recently, even ‘healthy’, and specifically ‘free-from’ items? Do you recognise half the ingredients? Many of the common items bought contain a cacophony of refined ingredients or lab-made chemicals. Even ‘natural’ ones are not quite as natural as you might think. Hundreds of new chemicals are passed as safe for human consumption every year, but most have not been tested over long periods of time (for accumulation) or in combination with other chemicals. A report last year highlighted that 51% of the food consumed in the UK is now ‘ultra-processed‘. That’s far away from the original ingredient, if it even had one. Our bodies take time to recognise and respond to these chemicals. They much prefer things simple and natural. So next time you go to buy something, ask yourself “Is this real?”. If not, put it back on the shelf and find something else to put in your basket.

4) Eat a rainbow. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about this before, but it’s so important, I’m saying it again! Plant foods all contain magical tiny chemicals that help support the body in a multitude of ways. We evolved foraging off the land and consumed whatever the land provided, much of which was colourful and attractive to the eye. Try to make a conscience decision to eat red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, brown and white produce every day.

5) Eat variety. As well as eating different colours, we evolved eating a wide variety of food items – basically whatever was found. Variety is key to our gut health, to look after our magical microbiome. The modern western diet tends to offer four main food sources – meat, dairy, soya and wheat – as 90% of the food eaten. Our ancestors are known to have eaten about 130 sources. Whilst that may be hard to achieve, try to avoid eating the same things day in, day out. Make a conscience effort to try new things too. Your gut will love you for it!

That’s it – more, brown, real, rainbow variety and you’re set for a healthy 2019! If you need any recipe ideas, then have a browse through the recipe index on the menu above. There’s loads to try, all of which will help you achieve these 5 easy steps. If you haven’t already subscribed to the blog, why not do that now and get new recipes directly to your inbox?

Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year.

Empower yourself

I’m in the process of fulfilling one of my life’s ambitions – writing a book. It’s a huge and often overwhelming project – it’s certainly tested my commitment and drive on many occasions as I go on the emotional rollercoaster of self-doubt and belief. I’ve abandoned it at times, and yet still get pulled back in and over 100,000 words later, I’m still going!

The book – The Sensitive Foodie (of course!) explores the connection between food and health based on my experiences of dealing with food intolerances and autoimmune disease followed by a whole range of (mainly new) delicious whole-food plant-based recipes that I can’t wait for people to try. The recipes section was the easy part, and is all wrapped up. The first half has been more of a challenge as I’ve had to work out how to get all the ‘stuff’ in my head out into words that form some kind of sense. It’s made my brain work hard, which it doesn’t like to do!

What’s interesting is that the more I write, the more I realise the power of eating a whole-food plant-based diet. And the thing is, it’s not that difficult! Up until now, this way of eating has been on the fringe, but fortunately the tide is changing; a body of independent research is finally coming up with extensive proof and health professionals are beginning to open their mind to the power of plants. Excitingly, the first plant-based conference in London for doctors and other health professionals in March this year sold out, and reports suggest it was a great success. New evidence continues to support using a whole-food plant-based diet (often alongside existing medication) to help manage and improve a whole host of chronic health problems ranging from diabetes to heart disease to cancer to autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

One fabulous example of this is Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, the evidence-based diet and lifestyle programme that I follow that helps keep my MS under control. It’s a plan than can be applied to many health problems – super healthy and tasty food, adequate amounts of vitamin D, exercise, stress reduction through mindfulness or meditation and medication if needed. It’s premise is to do whatever it takes to stay well – that’s something that’s surprisingly hard for some people to get on board with! We’re so used to relying on medical professionals to be able to give a pill that will solve the problem. It’s so easy to become a ‘patient’ or a ‘sufferer’.

A change in mindset makes a huge difference; one way to persuade people is through their pocket. Companies like Kaiser Permente, a pre-paid health insurance provider in the US, are encouraging and supporting people to make life-style changes that will reduce the amount of health care services they will need to use, rewarding them with lower premiums.

Even without such financial incentives, it’s worth taking a look at how you feel about your health, whether you have a problem or not. It’s all about empowerment. Programmes like OMS pass the power back to you, the person with the problem. MS is my problem, and it’s up to me to do something about it; I refuse to be a victim but chose to empower myself to make the most of the situation. And get to eat fab food in the process – that can’t be bad! Today (30th May) is World MS Day, designed to raise awareness of the condition and the research being undertaken to find a cure for this currently incurable condition. It’s also a day to celebrate programmes like OMS that may not be a cure, but can go a long way to keep it under control. Check out www.overcomingmultiplesclerosis.org if you want to find out more.

There are many things in the modern world that conspire to make us feel pretty crap. But crap can be useful – lotus flowers feed off the crap at the bottom of the pond. The most beautiful blooms flourish from the dirtiest silt. If you have a health challenge, don’t let that overwhelm you, use it as a spur to make amazing changes to the way you eat and live, and you will flourish beautifully.

Not all calories are equal

In a quest to fight against the continual growth (literally!) of obesity in both children and adults, Public Health England have altered their healthy eating advice. Action to help improve long term health is a good thing, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they are focusing on the right issue to create the level of change that’s required.

The new guidelines focus on the amount of calories consumed at each meal, broken down into a 400-600-600 parameter for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To anyone who has spent any modicum of time on a diet, this might seem a reasonable guide. But if calorie counting actually worked, would there still be such a huge problem with obesity and other weight-related issues?

I believe Public Health England are missing the point. For it’s not just the amount of calories consumed during a day that’s the issue, but the quality of the food itself that’s causing the problem. Anyone who eats processed and refined products are just not getting the nutrients they need to keep their weight under control, their digestive tract happy and their body healthy. Low calorie processed foods are bereft of the very nutrients the body needs to function well – essentially they’re full of empty calories.

One of the things I share with people who come along to my Eat Well Live Well course is that all calories are not equal. For what is a calorie in the first place? Simply put, its a unit of energy, fuel for the body to function effectively. We use different sources of energy to fuel our metabolic functions. Diet gurus will tell you that you need a certain balance of fat, protein and carbohydrate to do this, and then argue about what that balance it. Food packaging details the amount of each group, and how many calories there are contained within. But what they miss out is all the other important nutrients contained in the food, all of which are equally essential for the body to function. Micronutrients, phytonutrients and fibre all have massively important jobs to do – and many of these are lost as soon as you start processing a food source. This leads to an imbalance in the nutrient profile, which has led many people to the current state of being overfed and undernourished.

When you follow a mainly whole-food plant-based way of eating, the focus is not on calories. It’s on the whole-food! When you eat the whole product, you consume more fibre, more nutrients and – very importantly – more vitality. All of these things benefit your body. Let’s have a look how:

  • You feel full up more readily because of the high fibre content
  • You don’t experience sudden sugar lows that make you ‘hangry’ and head for the biscuit tin
  • You consume wonderful amounts of nutrients found in fresh fruit and vegetables than benefit your skin, hair and nails, as well as your health, and give you more energy and vitality
  • You naturally lose weight as your body is flooded with the right nutrient combination
  • Your body stops being under attack from toxic, highly processed chemicals and fats
  • You look after your telomeres, the key to slowing ageing, and minimise chronic health problems
  • You can reverse and even cure some chronic health problems
  • Lastly, and most importantly, you can eat loads of food!

Some health insurance companies in the US are beginning to recognise the value of using a whole-food plant-based diet as their first line treatment for ‘lifestyle’ health conditions. Here in the UK, we’re a little behind. It can be hard finding how to eat the right way, but with the right help, knowledge and support, it can be a real journey of food love.

As someone who spent many years ‘on a diet’ to lose weight, I love that I no longer have to  count calories. It’s a shame that Public Health England still think that’s the way to go. Hopefully they’ll change soon. But you don’t have to wait for them, just start making your own changes. And if you need some support, I’m always here to help.

 

Top tips for a healthy start to the year

It’s day two of the New Year. How are your resolutions going? You may be of the opinion it’s not worth making any as they are doomed to fail, right? Wrong! Apparently, new research suggests that 44% of people manage to stick with their resolutions six months into the year. That may not seem a lot, but as the previously generally accepted statistic is that only 8% stick to their good intentions, with many failing within the first 24 hours, that’s a major breakthrough!

A top New Year’s resolution is to eat more healthily, whether to lose weight or for a health problem. Membership for slimming groups and gyms rocket at this time of the year – great for their business plans, maybe not so good for their clientele in the long term. According to one research programme, 84% of dieters with a well known dieting club were return customers over a 5 year period (ie only 16% successfully kept their weight off over 5 years).

Diets for weight loss tend to be viewed as a short-term venture; many people slip back into their old ways of eating, only to pile the pounds back on at a scarily rapid rate. Real success comes from changing life-long habits, and (I believe most importantly) from eating delicious food that satisfies and cares for the body.

Before I discovered my food intolerances and changed to a whole-food plant-based way of eating, I was forever ‘on a diet’. Now I don’t have to be, as it turns out that the foods I used to love and crave, were also the ones that contributed to my weight gain. Dairy and yeast turn up in so many different food products; once I cut them out and started eating more fresh produce and wholegrains, the weight just naturally came off, and whilst there is a little fluctuation now and then, I generally stay the same. It’s a great side effect to have – along with reducing my risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health problems! And plant-based eating is also a positive way to manage my autoimmune condition.

That’s not to say the journey has been easy – my transition to a whole food plant-based diet took some time. You only have to look back on some of my earlier blog posts to see how my recipes have changed! There’s also been some major changes over the last five years in the acceptability and availability of plant-based food, which is amazing and makes life much easier. But these changes also include an increase in vegan processed food; junk food is not going to get you healthy, no matter where it’s sourced.

So if you’re starting out on making some healthy choices for the new year, here’s a few questions to ask yourself so you can succeed and keep your resolution intact. Tomorrow, I will post my top 5 tips for eating well and helping you reach your goal. If you want to know more, or think I can help you keep your resolutions this year, then why not comment below or send me a message on the contact page here.

Questions to think about:

  1. Is this the right time of year to make major changes? The beginning of January is not always the best time to ‘go on a diet’. It’s cold, wet and dark for a start, not ideal particularly if you are planning to try juice or raw food plan (not that I’m keen on them any time of the year!). Personally, my New Years resolutions start on 6th January as it’s my birthday on 5th and am more than likely to eat out and enjoy a glass of something bubbly! So there’s no point in starting something before then. Recognise challenges and limitations and be ready for them. That’s not an excuse not to take action at all, though. It’s about being aware and making constructive choices. One of the benefits of eating a whole-food plant-based diet is that you are eating amazingly healthy food all year round, so there’s no real need for a new healthy regime anyway!
  2. Are you an all or nothing person? Know yourself. Some people can only set out with strict parameters and an all-in attitude, whilst others think they should be that way but are more suited to gradual changes. Be honest with yourself and find what works for you. This is a new way of eating and living, not a short-term project. Recognise your personality tendencies and work with them, not against them.
  3. What’s your ‘why’? This is most important. Whether you are making changes to deal with a food intolerance, a health or weight problem, to help the environment or animal welfare, or just because ‘going vegan’ is the in thing to do, you need to know your goal to get you through the tricky times. It doesn’t have to be high brow – my initial aim for going plant-based was to deal with my yeast intolerance so I could drink wine again! It may seem superficial, but it helped when temptation loomed.
  4. What support do you need to achieve your goal? If you’re diving in to a plant-based way, campaigns like Veganuary may be your inspiration, or you may find a favourite blog or cookery book, follow a Youtuber or Instagrammer. Then there’s courses and groups you can join (like my Eat Well course!). Most importantly, you need the support from the people around you, your family and friends. That’s why you need to know your why, so you can explain it to them and get them behind you.
  5. Are you prepared for obstacles? This links back to your why, but it’s also a practical issue. Despite the increase in interest in a more plant-based way of eating, it is still seen as being a fad, unsustainable or even dangerous to health (depending on which commercial interest is being challenged). It can be hard to find something quick to snack on when you’re out and about. Medical professionals may not be aware of the benefits. Family members may see it as a slight on them if you won’t eat the meal they’ve prepared for you, even if you’ve told them it will make you ill. Food is a contentious issue! Then theres your own internal obstacles, negative self-talk or deep-seated cravings that nag and tell you that just one cream bun won’t hurt. Obstacles will appear, particularly when you don’t expect them, and sometimes you may lapse. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you do. Just notice what happened and try to act differently next time. You may even find that eating something you’re trying to avoid doesn’t actually feel so good – that’s your body telling you it prefers the good stuff. It knows best, trust me.

 

The cost/benefit analysis of cake

When someone finds out that I don’t eat any dairy products, the conversation generally goes like this:

Aghast person: “You don’t eat dairy? What not even cheese?”
Me: “No, nor milk, or cream or butter.”
Aghast person, face starting to look like Munch’s ‘Scream’: “Oh you poor thing. I just couldn’t live without my cheese!”
Me: “It’s actually not that difficult once you haven’t had it for a while.”
Aghast person’s, expression turning from horror to disbelief: “Really? You must be so strong-willed. I couldn’t do that.”

I wouldn’t describe myself as particularly strong-willed. Or brave, single-minded or mad (all regular responses). Although cheese was hard to resist at first, for me it was cake. How to say no to a beautifully fresh buttery sponge laden with jam and cream, or a sumptuously delicious chocolate mud cake topped with whipped cream? There’s no denying my refusal to offers of cake were heavily laden with regret, enveloped in a thick wave of self-pity and woe. Life was so cruel, why did I have to deny myself such pleasure?

The moments when my self-control cracked and I indulged in the momentary pleasure of dairy-laden cake soon hit me with a stark reminder of why it was off the menu. The ‘grey gunge’ would soon descend, my neck wouldd start to ache and the tell-tale signs of a misery migraine would start to flicker, ending in booming pain and general discomfort. Once dairy and yeast were out of my diet, I didn’t feel awful all the time. When the headaches and general feeling of grot reappear due to a slip-up, they seem even more intense than before. It’s a real lesson in appreciating how great your new normal is.

Once I understood this, it didn’t take long to realise that there was a clear decision making process to follow when tempted to indulge in something deliciously and aromatically enticing but accompanied by unpleasant consequences; the cost/benefit analysis of cake/cheese/bread or anything else that you happen to be intolerant to.

It’s a simple equation – how much is that moment of pleasure worth related to how long the side-effects will last for? As you can see from the diagram, it’s a simple process of weighing up the pros and the cons. What’s the ultimate value of cake vs feeling well?

It’s also a conscious decision; most importantly it’s your decision; don’t let anyone else do the analysis for you, as they don’t know exactly how it feels (this is one of the subjects I address in my new book ‘The Sensitive Foodie‘). Sometimes you will make the wrong choice (I gave in to a small soft bread roll on a flight one time, no idea why. It led to a 3 day migraine. Never again!) but the key to it is it’s your choice. Mindful decisions are the best ones!

And of course, by eating a whole food plant based diet, there are loads of amazing alternatives to enjoy just as much, especially cake. So all is not lost, just different. Check out some of the gorgeous cake recipes on my blog – eating these is definitely a good decision!

Edamame or pea and mint dip

Everyone is different; we look, sound, feel and act differently, and so it follows this is reflected in what we choose to eat, from what we just love to something that may potentially be lethal if we’re allergic to it. Food choices are influenced by a whole multitude of factors from family, religion or health to income, location or social standing. It’s a fascinating subject.

When it comes to food allergies or intolerances, anything goes – there’s no end to the variety of substances people can be allergic to. This could be due to the makeup of a person’s microbiota, the billions of bacteria and other microbes that live in the gut. In the same way a person has their own characteristics externally, their internal makeup does too! It’s an exciting area of research, but not really that new as ‘alternative’ therapists have been going on about gut health for decades!

Despite our individual differences, there are a number of foods that people are more commonly sensitive too – the ‘Big 8’. Top of that list is dairy, followed by eggs, fish and shellfish, then nuts and peanuts, wheat and finally soybeans. Interesting that most of these are used in processed foods in some form, either as a main ingredient or a chemical derivative. Another good reason to avoid the ready-meal aisle!

I often get asked my opinion about soya products; it’s amazing how controversial a small bean can be! One of the biggest issues is that in the US, the vast majority of soya products come from genetically modified crops. Living in Europe, we don’t have the same problem but I always aim to buy organic soya products if possible, or check where in the world it has come from to avoid GM – consumer choice.

Soya is a key feature in a lot of vegetarian food, whether as tofu or tempeh, textured protein or in vegetarian or vegan products or ready meals. This is often used as a criticism of a more plant based diet, particularly as an increase in growing soya crops is responsible for deforestation and the devastation of tropical rainforests. What’s interesting though, is that about 75% of soya crops are actually used for animal feed, not human consumption. So you may avoid eating soya directly, but if you eat meat, unless it’s grass-fed, you’re also consuming highly processed soya. The world of food production is a complicated place these days!

Another issue with soya products is that it is thought to be a hormone disruptor, particularly for the thyroid gland. For some people, this may well be true. As I mentioned above, we’re all different, and foods can harm as well as heal, so it’s good to be aware if your thyroid function is compromised, but then there are lots of factors that might be involved, far to many to talk about in a blog post. Current research has found little correlation*, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Soya contains isoflavones, phytonutrients that can help balance hormone levels, good for ladies of a certain age suffering from hot flushes due to oestrogen fluctuations! But maybe another reason that soya may be associated with disrupting hormones is the type and volume of pesticides and insecticides that are used on non-organic crops. Chemicals and humans don’t tend to go together well, even when deemed ‘safe’.

Personally, I do include soya in my diet. It’s a great source of plant based protein, fibre and minerals and as well as phytoestrogen, it has other isoflavones beneficial for health. I don’t eat it every day, I check it’s source and tend to avoid highly processed ready meals, so mainly have it in the form of soya milk, yoghurt, tofu and edamame beans. But that’s my choice, which won’t be right for everyone!

If you don’t have a problem with soya but haven’t ever tried edamame, do give them a go. These are young, unprocessed soya beans. Bright green, fresh and packed with flavour, I love eating them straight out of the pod as a snack or starter at Japanese restaurants. This is soya at it’s most unprocessed, and so in my mind it’s healthiest – all the fibre and nutrients remain intact rather than lost in processing. Edamame have to be cooked otherwise it’s poisonous but only takes a couple of minutes, so no big deal. They can be added to salads, stews or just eaten straight from the pan. Alternatively, try this super tasty and simple dip to get a mouthful of flavour and bellyful of nutrients. If, however, you know that soya’s not for you, then peas work just as well – still lots of protein and fibre, just a slightly darker green. Enjoy!

Edamame (or pea) and mint dip
1 cup edamame bean or peas – defrosted if frozen
juice of 1 – 2 limes depending on size
20g fresh mint leaves
salt and pepper
flaxseed oil

Bring a pan of water to the boil and simmer the beans or peas for a few minutes until cooked. Drain and refresh with cold water. Leave to cool.

Place the beans or peas in a small food processor with the mint, lime juice and salt and pepper. Blitz until smoothish – a little texture is good – adding more lime juice or a dash of water if too thick. Add a glug of flaxseed oil, blitz again and taste. Add more lime juice, mint or seasoning if needed. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16571087

 

New Year, new Eating – the whole issue

So, what are your resolutions for 2017? Most people tend to say eat better and exercise – both positive actions, often short lived though! Making changes can be hard, especially if you are doing it on your own. With social media, however, you never need be alone now, and there are campaigns throughout the year you can join in with to help keep you going on your well-being mission.

There’s been a huge rise in eating a more natural plant based diet and the Veganuary campaign during January has played a big part in this (see www.veganuary.com for more information). It’s easy to access, with lots of information, ideas and recipes to keep you interested throughout the month, and hopefully feeling keen and enthusiastic to make lasting changes to the way you eat as well as your health.

Big campaigns that raise awareness are great, and as customer demands increase, so does supply of products – you only need to see the expansion of ‘free from’ ranges in the supermarkets to note how animal-free is becoming mainstream. But that’s where my word of warning comes in – just because something is ‘vegan’ doesn’t automatically give it ‘healthy’ status. Chips (as a rule) are vegan after all!

Essentially, the way I look at it from a nutrition, and therefore health, side of things is that processed and refined food is still generally junk, whether it’s animal or plant derived. Once the ‘whole’ has been taken out of ‘food’ and chemicals and extras added in the nutritional content goes down and the negative impact on us, and the environmental cost, goes up.

As a sensitive eater, vegan processed food is often still a no-go area, with yeasts added in all over the place, whether as yeast extract or ‘natural’ flavourings and preservatives. And you’ll often still find a high amount of refined sugars in varying forms as well as highly refined oils.

So what to do? The best way is to eat as close to a food’s natural form as possible most of the time and enjoy it in all it’s lovely gloriousness, and add in a few plant based extras in every now and then. Then you will get all the amazing benefits of going plant based, and will feel so good and energised that Veganuary will slip into February, then March……..see where it will take you!

So if you’re taking the plant based plunge for New Year – enjoy!  Don’t forget there’s loads of easy, tasty recipes for you to try on this blog. And if you want to know more, then why not check out my Eat Well, Live Well course that starts again at the end of the month? You will gain loads of essential information about eating whole food and plant based plus a whole bunch of amazing recipes, meet some great people and dine on dishes made by me. What more could you want to really get 2017 off to a great start? Check out http://www.thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/courses.html

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year!