Over the last seven weeks I’ve been sharing my top tips for making positive change easy. We started off looking at looking into why you might want to make change, and how it’s important to go at your own pace. Then it was my 5 easy steps; eat more (fruit and vegetables), go brown, make easy swaps, eat real food and now finally – variety. Continue reading “Easy changes – step 5”
The next step in my Easy Changes series is all getting the most out of the food you eat – the most nutrients and benefits that is. The beneficial nutrients in fresh produce starts to diminish as soon as it’s harvested, even more so when processed. A huge percentage of food eaten in the Western world is highly refined and processed and many people are missing out vital nutrients. So this step is about asking yourself if you are eating ‘whole food’ or ‘hole food’.
The world of health and nutrition can seem rather overwhelming and contradictory at times. There’s a lot of confusion, much of which is made worse by the food and diet industry as well as the media reporting sensational headlines. The reductionist approach to food – looking at the component parts rather than the whole thing – is useful for discovering what is actually in it, but focusing only on the component parts has created a seemingly never-ending debate about whether we need to eat more protein or fats or carbs. I talk about this in my book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie if you want to delve into this discussion more.
Outside of this reductionist view point, eating whole foods gives so much more than just its large component parts. And in a balance that’s natural and works for our bodies. When you look at what whole foods contain, it can be surprising just what is in there! For example, rice is defined as a carbohydrate, and as we saw in my last post, is pretty nutrient deficient. But when eaten as a whole-grain, it contains a good amount of protein and even some essential fatty acids, along with a range of minerals, vitamins and even phytonutrients.
Processing and refining means that food loses a lot of the nutritional benefits. The big losers are:
- Fibre. Essential for gut health, removal of waste products and feeding the microbiome, much of it is lost once refined.
- Vitamins. Particularly water-soluble ones like vitamins B and C.
- Minerals. Many essential minerals like magnesium and zinc are bound up in the fibre. Potassium, essential for blood pressure control, is a big loser too.
- Omega fatty acids. Locked up in the oily germ of whole-grains but also in a whole host of fresh produce, this delicate but essential oil gets easily lost.
- Phytonutrients. The magical chemicals found within all plant foods that work together as a team and support metabolic processes are delicate and lost once the produce is refined.
Even eating whole foods does include some element of processing, as even cutting and cooking fresh produce can lead to some form of nutrient loss. But it’s much less. And it’s real – ultra-processed foods are increasingly massively but have a real negative nutrient effect on our bodies. This is particularly important if you have food intolerances and are therefore a sensitive eater, or are using food to manage a health problem.
So how do you maximise your intake of whole foods and avoid the hole food? Here’s a few simple things to help:
- Eat real food as near to its original form as possible. This is one of the key principles of eating a whole-food plant-based diet. Look at the product in your hand and ask yourself “Is this whole or hole?”. The author Micheal Pollan as some good advice on real versus processed food – “If it’s made from a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t.”
- Eat food lowest in the food chain (ie plants!). That way you get all the nutrients first hand rather than second, third or more and less of the toxins (think big fish like tuna accumulating mercury).
- Eat food that is as fresh as possible. That means seasonal with lower food miles. It’s also cheaper too.
- Go for brown (as per last post) and for whole. So eat an orange rather than drink orange juice. Or eat seeds whole instead of having it as an oil.
- Buy products with minimal ingredients. Once you start reading labels you soon realise just how much has been added in as well as taken out, particularly with ‘free from’ items, which seems somewhat ironic!
Once you start thinking ‘whole’ it does get easier to make positive changes to the way you eat which your body will love. But give yourself time to do it in the way that works for you – remember going at your own pace is just as important as making the change in the first place.
There’s one more easy step to come. And also some exciting news that will give you support for making your own positive changes for the New Year. So keep an eye out for the last instalment, and don’t forget to let me know how you get on.
I’m a big fan of carrots. And of rainbow eating. So you can imagine how excited I get when I find rainbow carrots! I’m like a kid in a sweet shop, much to the embarrassment of whoever I’m with. Sometimes hard to find in mainstream supermarkets (although I have noticed them appearing more, along with a premium price), they seem to be easier to find at farmers markets and farm shops. Or even better, try and grow your own – they’ll taste so good! Continue reading “Rainbow roasted carrot and thyme salad”
Wimbledon starts today. Apart from amazing tennis, I always associate this time of year with the start of summer (that box can be checked!) and the beginning of the British strawberry season, as what can be more British than grass-court tennis matched with strawberries and cream? Continue reading “Strawberry delight”
Here’s the final video for this Global Sharing Week – and it’s a good’un! If you like pastry, but cannot or do not eat refined fats (so can’t make it the traditional way or pop to the supermarket for a ready-roll version), you’ll love this super-easy and tasty pastry that is surprisingly easy to make and very forgiving in clumsy hands! Continue reading “Magic pastry”
I love aubergine. Unfortunately my husband can’t stand them. He’s very tolerant of my plant-based experiments, but sadly aubergine is his red line that can’t be crossed! Which is not too much of a problem as there are so many other delicious plant-based foods to play with. Plus he’s often away, so aubergine becomes my indulgence when he’s on his travels.
He’s not the only one who can’t or won’t tolerate aubergine. Some people find it too bitter (although this is much less of a problem now than in the past as cross-breeding has removed much of the bitterness) whilst others can’t stand the texture, particularly when it’s over-soft and mushy. Then there are those who are sensitive to produce from the night-shade family which includes aubergines. Continue reading “Sticky ginger-garlic aubergine”
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”
Drum roll please………my new book is out! If you follow me on Facebook hopefully you’ve seen the posts and know it’s a thing. But do you know what it’s all about? And not everyone has been sucked in to the time-wasting chasm that is social media, so here is the run down.
Eat Well Live Well with the Sensitive Foodie – may not be the catchiest of titles but it sums it up rather nicely! Based on the idea that the food we eat really is key to health, it’s part information, part cookbook interwoven with the story of my own health challenges and the desire to eat great food. Basically everything The Sensitive Foodie is all about! Continue reading “Read all about it!”
The last few weeks have been so busy, getting the last bits of my new book finalised. It’s very exciting – I have 250 copies of Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie currently being printed and hopefully being delivered tomorrow. I’m at the Horsham Vegan Festival on Saturday (click here for details) where I’ll be giving a talk and selling my book for the first time! If you’re in the area, do pop by and say hi.
In the meantime, there’s still some baking going on (if nothing else it’s therapy to being on the computer for hours on end!). And as its half term, I thought you might like something simple to do with the kids, especially if you’ve run out of ideas that don’t cost money, as school holidays can be such an expensive time.
I used to love baking with my children when they were young, but it had to be simple otherwise 1) they would run out of patience and 2) the kitchen would turn into a baking bomb-site! And sometimes is was wise not to do highly sugar-laden cookies otherwise it would send them a bit bonkers – not ideal on a wet February day!
These cookies are super easy to make and contain no refined sugar, the sweetness coming from the ripe banana and dried fruit. If they are not sweet enough for your family’s taste-buds, add a little maple syrup. I’ve used raisins and almonds in my recipe, but there’s lots of alternatives like cranberries, pecan nuts, peanuts or chocolate drops (dairy-free of course!).
These can be made strictly gluten-free if that’s important to you by using gluten-free oats. And there’s loads of lovely fibre here from both the oats and the flaxseed to keep your gut bacteria happy. The flaxseed also provides health omega 3 fatty acids which help boost brain power and reduce inflammation in the body. Yay!
Of course, you don’ have to be a child to enjoy these! Just a lover of cookies! Perfect for lunch-boxes and snacks, you could even get away with eating them for breakfast. And as they are fully plant-based and low in fat, they are suitable for many specialist health programmes like Overcoming MS and reversing diabetes and heart disease.
I hope you give these a go. If you do, let me know how you get on. And if you can come to Horsham on Saturday – see you there! If not, I’ll be posting details on how to buy my book very soon.
Healthy oat and flaxseed cookies
- 1 large ripe banana
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
- 100 grams oats gluten free if needed
- 50 grams ground flaxseed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 30 grams raisins
- 30 grams sliced almonds
- 3 tablespoons dairy-free milk
- Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper or a silicon mat. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
- Hunt out 10 good almond flakes and put to one side for decoration. Roughly chop the remaining almonds
- Place the ripe banana in a bowl and mash it until soft and smooth. Add the oats, ground flaxseed, salt, cinnamon, raisins and almonds to the banana and mix well to combine. Pour in the dairy-free milk and stir to form a thick dough. Leave it to settle for 5 minutes. If the dough is really dry, add a little more dairy-free milk but take care not to make it soggy.
- Split the dough into 10 equal sections. Roll each one into a ball, place on the baking sheet and flatten with your hand until it’s approximately 2cm thick. Repeat with the remaining sections.
- Press a sliced almond into the top then place the tray in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn over and bake for another 10 until firm and lightly browned.
- Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. That’s if they don’t all get eaten at once!
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?
- Only food from plants contain fibre, so if you eat mainly meat, dairy and eggs you’ll be missing out on fibre.
- 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.
- 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:
- Improves gut motility – ie: make you poo!
- Removes excess bile, fats and toxic waste
- Fills you up
- Releases nutrients slowly
- 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.