Is Eating Dairy Healthy or Not?

Whether or not you should eat dairy products is one of the things that people most ask me about as a nutrition professional.

There’s the argument from the dairy industry and conventional medicine that if you don’t eat dairy you’re putting your bone health at risk.

Other health professionals have long argued that consuming dairy products causes low-grade inflammation in the body, may increase the risk of cancer, drain your energy and give you spots.

Vegans also argue that eating dairy isn’t natural for humans, and that dairy farming involves cruelty to animals many of us are unaware of, plus it significantly contributes to global warming.

In this newsletter, I want to give you all the details on what’s good and not so good about dairy, and the positive benefits of giving up milk-based products. If you’re even considering ditching dairy, there is one really important thing you need to do. I’ll tell you about that too.

WHY SHOULD I EAT DAIRY?

Dairy products contain a range of beneficial nutrients. Of course, there’s calcium, but it’s also a good source of protein, vitamins D and B12 and phosphorus.

Let’s talk about the calcium in dairy, because this is the thing you are told you will miss most if you stop consuming milk-based products.

Bone is not static but is constantly changing. Old bone breaks down and new bone is formed on a continuous basis. In fact, the tissue of the skeleton is replaced many times during life. When you get past 30, your process of bone breakdown is a bit speedier than new bone being made, so you need to make sure you’re getting good levels of calcium to fortify your skeletal frame.

Although you can get calcium from other foods, the reason why dairy is touted as being the best source, is that the calcium from milk-based foods are more readily absorbed by the body.  Skip down to the bottom of the story to find out how you can safely choose not to have dairy in your life. There are some specific foods you will need to eat.

Cow’s milk also contains the omega 6 fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Studies suggest CLA can help with weight loss, and can reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer. CLA is also contained in grass-fed beef.

IS DAIRY BAD FOR YOU?

The bottom line is that human beings weren’t designed to drink milk of any kind after the weaning period (around two years old). Not human milk, and certainly not milk from cows, sheep or goats. Some cultures have embraced drinking dairy products, and people in those cultures have genetically adapted to tolerate it. Others haven’t and for those people in particular, eating dairy can cause problems. Two of the biggest problems associated with dairy are digestive and skin issues.

Let’s have a look at the undesirable stuff in dairy products…

Contrary to popular misconception, growth hormones are banned in the UK and antibiotic use is limited. However, a dairy cow can be given reproductive hormones and prescribed antibiotics by a vet to ensure she is kept in a condition to produce an unnatural amount of milk.

Contains oestrogen. Small amounts, true, but still oestrogen. Some cancers and medical conditions like endometriosis, PMS, fibroids and even menopause are linked to a dominance of oestrogen compared to progesterone.

As well as having more naturally occurring sugar than you’d think. A cup of milk has about 3 teaspoons. Sugar, I hear you say. Where? The type of sugar in milk is called lactose. You might be tempted to say, ‘I’ll have lactose-free milk then’. Lactose-free milk has had the milk sugars broken into galactose and glucose. Same amount of sugars, different currency. However, the milk sugar is often the ingredient people do not tolerate, so a lactose-free milk can provide the benefits of regular milk without the dodgy tummy.

Non-organic dairy products contain antibiotic residues, so if you are eating dairy, try to choose organic.

Many studies have examined the relationship between dairy consumption and cancer. Some studies indicate that dairy may protect against cancer, while others suggest that dairy may increase cancer risk. Most of them are so-called observational studies. These types of studies use statistics to estimate the relationship between dietary intake and the risk of getting a disease. Observational studies can not prove that a food caused a disease, only that those who consumed the food were more or less likely to get the disease.

And you’re more likely to get spots or have acne. There’s significant data supporting the role of dairy consumption in the development of acne, with the strongest association being skim milk. Scientists aren’t 100% sure of the reason why though it’s likely to be something to do with the hormones present in milk. Another theory is that dairy products stimulate insulin secretion and scientists have found that more insulin means more acne.

HOW WILL I FEEL IF I GIVE UP DAIRY?

Everyone will be a little different but these are some of the reported benefits of ditching dairy:

  • Less nasal congestion and stuffiness.
  • Better sleep.
  • Clearer skin.
  • More energy.
  • Weight loss.
  • Reduction in bloating/ other digestive symptoms.
  • Fewer headaches.

I’m not going to go into the impact on the environment of consuming less dairy, and the animal welfare argument. Too many variables. I’ll leave you to just ponder that.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES IF I DON’T WANT TO EAT DAIRY?

My favourite non-dairy milks are almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and rice. You’ll want to choose the unsweetened varieties if there is an option.

Use these in porridge, overnight oats smoothies and the like.

THE FOODS YOU NEED TO EAT WHEN YOU’RE GIVING UP DAIRY

You’ll be missing out on calcium for bones, so you’ll need to find it some place else. That means letting more of these foods into your diet on a daily basis: cabbage, spring greens, bok choy, kale, broccoli, okra, almonds, tofu, and fish where you eat the bones (like tinned sardines or tinned salmon with bones).

The RDA (recommended daily allowance or how much a healthy person needs to eat to not get sick) for calcium is 700mg a day.

A fist-sized serving of tofu can be between 200mg and 800mg. One serving in a stir fry at night could get you your calcium fix for the day.

Small can of sardines has 351mg.

2tbsp sesame seeds have 280mg.

2tbsp chia seeds has 179mg.

A cupful of cooked kale has 177mg. Raw (because less fits in the cup), it’s 53mg.

A small handful (about 35g) almonds has nearly 100mg.

A cup of broccoli has 43mg.

Should I eat more spinach to increase calcium?

Some – like spinach or chard – contain oxalic acid, which binds to calcium and can mess with your body’s ability to absorb it properly. Turns out Popeye was eating the wrong sort of greens because, even though spinach technically has a lot of calcium, it’s only a tenth as bioavailable as that from milk due to the oxalic acid.

But, wait, I couldn’t give up…

You don’t have to. If you love pizza, try giving up dairy but having an exception for pizza. Although going completely dairy-free would be the goal, even taking most of the dairy out of your diet can still bring benefits. For most dairy products, there is an excellent dairy alternative. Some are most surprising. I wonder whether you have experienced the delicious creaminess that a handful of cashews can bring to a soup, for example?

However, there are some groups of people who really should give it a miss; those who have an intolerance to dairy would do well to remove it entirely for at least three months to heal the gut. And, if you have a true allergy to dairy (IgE reaction), you will want to steer clear forever.

Would You Go Vegan?

Being vegan is really fashionable right now, and those in favour of this way of eating will tell you that it’s the absolutely healthiest diet you can have from a nutritional perspective, plus you get to save not only the lives of animals but the planet too. For many of us it could be a bit challenging to go from where we are now to a 100% vegan diet.

So, I’m going to put it all out there for you: what it means to be vegan, what’s great about it, potential drawbacks and where you might struggle – and I’ll also be giving you tips for getting started, whether your intention is to immerse yourself fully or if you just fancy dabbling (either is fine – just saying).

WHAT IS A VEGAN DIET?

A vegan diet is a stricter version of a vegetarian diet. So in addition to not eating any meat, fish or seafood – i.e. dead animals, a vegan diet also cuts out any food stuffs made from animal sources (some of which are the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat). So, not just cutting out chicken meat, but also cutting out eggs. In the same vein, not just cutting out beef but also milk, yoghurt, butter and cream. And that means honey, too, as well as certain wines* and desserts (gelatine).

In a nutshell, vegan diets abstain from ALL animal products and consume only plant-based foods  which means NO meat, fish, eggs or dairy.

There is no set macro of micro nutrient ratio for a vegan diet; just vegetables, grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and any other foods made from plants. However, since the main vegan protein sources are pulses and grains, and only a combination of the two provides complete proteins (containing all the amino acids), by definition this can be a high carbohydrate diet.

* If you’re wondering ‘why is wine not vegan?’ Here’s the answer…all young wines are a little bit cloudy thanks to tiny molecules like proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are completely harmless, but we wine-drinkers like our wines to be clear and bright. To make the wines clear, wine makers have traditionally used some added ingredients called ‘fining agents’ to help the process along. They include casein (milk protein) or albumin (egg whites), gelatine (animal protein) or isinglass (fish bladder protein). They act like a magnet, resulting in far fewer ­– but larger – particles that are more easily removed.

Advantages Of Going Vegan

  • Cruelty-free
  • Promotes natural foods
  • Rich in vitamin C, fibre, antioxidants and other plant chemicals
  • Helpful for some health conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, other auto-immune conditions).

Potential Challenges In Going Vegan

  • Natural food is not a requirement to comply with the diet
  • Does not explicitly encourage healthy eating patterns
  • May be nutrient deficient (B12, haem iron, omega-3 fats, complete protein)
  • Often high in carbohydrates which can lead to weight management issues
  • Can be too low in protein, which could be problematic if you’re stressed or recovering from adrenal fatigue
  • Does not limit or exclude sugar
  • Not suitable for elderly, pregnant women, type 2 diabetics, or those with high triglycerides or carbohydrate intolerance
  • Not always practical, especially when travelling abroad
  • May or may not be effective for weight loss

IS BEING VEGAN HEALTHY?

 Good question! There have been various well-publicised assertions over the years (most notably the book The China Study and, more recently, the film What the Health) that claimed eating a vegan diet was the healthiest thing you could do. A vegan diet, when carefully planned and executed, can be healthy for many people — however, it’s not always a good idea for everyone nor does it automatically mean it’s a healthy diet. And it depends whether you do it short or long-term.

Some studies have found that compared to lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets (those who eat eggs and dairy but not meat), vegan diets seem to offer additional protection for obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular mortality. On the other hand, studies also show that there are some nutrient deficiencies that tend to be higher among vegans, especially those consuming processed diets or struggling with other health conditions that interfere with normal nutrient absorption (like anaemia, or being underweight).

Although vegans commonly take an interest in how diet relates to health and tend to educate themselves about nutrition, the vegan diet does not explicitly prescribe healthy foods. There is a vegan alternative for every junk food out there.  And you can live on white toast with margarine and jam (and see your blood sugar levels sky rocket) while still being vegan – and that is certainly not healthy.

Given that the vast majority of health complaints are linked to chronic inflammation, a plant-focussed, antioxidant-rich vegan diet plays an important part in mediating inflammation, and it will certainly not hinder your attempts to become more healthy. Plus, given we don’t eat nearly as much fibre as we should for optimum health, committing to eating more plant foods is only going to be a good thing.

But, it may not provide sufficient nutrients for combatting certain conditions, notably auto-immune conditions where inflammation is at the root cause- here the addition of fish and eggs would better support the immune system.

Compromise….? Because a vegan diet can be both hard to follow long-term and is also potentially problematic, some people prefer to stick with a “flexitarian” approach instead which involves eating fewer animal products. For example, you might not consider yourself a vegan or even a vegetarian, but you can still make a conscious effort to limit your intake of animal products, focusing on eating plant foods the majority of the time. With this flexible approach you might still choose to have animal products several times per week but probably not every single day.

Things To Be Mindful Of On A Vegan Diet

  • Vegan diets don’t provide the fat-soluble vitamins A and D. You can’t get vitamin A from carrots. What you get is beta carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A.
    • You may have heard that carotene can be converted into vitamin A, but this conversion is usually insignificant.
    • Firstly, it takes a huge amount of carotene to convert into a small amount of vitamin A.
    • And, if you have low thyroid function, impaired digestion or a lack of healthy fats in the diet, this conversion won’t happen at all.
  • Vegan diets (unless you’re eating a lot of natto – a kind of fermented soy) don’t give you the vitamin K2. This is needed for shuttling calcium into your bones.
  • Many people try to be vegan by relying on fake food ­– they replace milk, cheese and meat with foods manufactured to look and taste as though they are milk, cheese and meat. What is used is non-foodstuffs, including stabilisers, gums, thickeners and highly processed protein extracts. Moreover, you may be counting your vegan cheese in as a source of protein, when many of them are actually made from carbs or fats.
  • Vegan diets can be low in protein– proteins are broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle and are important for cellular health, proper metabolism and the immune system. Too little protein can contribute to muscle wasting, cognitive changes, mood swings, low energy and a weakened immune system.
  • Vegan diets are low on vitamin B12 and iron. The readily-absorbed forms of these nutrients are found in animal products. Several studies suggest that up to 68% of vegans are deficient in vitamin B12.
  • Several studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are also prone to deficiencies in calcium, iron, zinc, and essential fats like omega 3 (fats which can’t be made by the body but need to be obtained from food- or supplements) which are readily- absorbed only from oily fish.

HOW TO GET STARTED ON A VEGAN DIET

Some people like to make changes all in one go. If this is you, choosing a vegan recipe book from the resources I’ve listed below will be helpful.

Or you might try changing one meal at a time – possible having a vegan breakfast during your first week, adding a vegan lunch during week two and so on.

You might try changing one product at a time, for example, swapping traditional cow’s milk for almond milk, or butter for coconut oil. There’s a plant-based alternative for most things you can think of.

One thing that you can look forward to is some exciting new recipes. Bringing vegan principles into your life even a few days a week (assuming we are talking veg-based meals rather than fake or junk foods) will deliver a whole new taste experience. There will be things that you love – and things the family rejects. It’s all part of the fun of discovering new things.

RESOURCES – BEST VEGAN BLOGS

The Colourful Kitchen www.thecolorfulkitchen.com

Deliciously Ella www.deliciouslyella.com

Minimalist Baker www.minimalistbaker.com

Oh She Glows www.ohsheglows.com

The Vegan Woman www.theveganwoman.com

RESOURCES – VEGAN RECIPE BOOKS

Christine Bailey, Go Lean Vegan: The Revolutionary 30-day Diet Plan to Lose Weight and Feel Great

Hugh, Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Much More Veg: 175 easy and delicious vegan recipes for every meal

Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows

Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows Everyday

Ella Mills (Woodward), Deliciously Ella

Ella Mills (Woodward), Deliciously Ella The Plant-Based Cookbook: 100 simple vegan recipes to make every day delicious

Celeriac Ribbons Tossed with Chard, Garlic & Pumpkin Seeds

One of my favourite recipes, courtesy of BBC good food. It has fibre for a healthy digestive system, high amounts of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and lots of B vitamins to keep your energy up. Just serve with some chicken or fish for a healthy, balanced meal.

Ingredients

1 small celeriac, peeled

1 lemon, juiced

40g pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

15g butter

4 thyme sprigs, leaves removed

2 finely chopped cloves of garlic

½ tsp of dried chilli flakes

1 bunch of chard, leaves separated from stalks, stalks sliced and leaves shredded

Method

  1. Using a good vegetable peeler, cut long, wide strips (about the width of pappardelle) around the circumference of the celeriac, into a bowl of water and lemon juice, until you have lots of ribbons. Allow for more than you would if using pasta.
  2. Dry-fry the pumpkin seeds in a pan until they’ve puffed and popped. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the celeriac for 1 min, drain and reserve the water. In a non-stick frying pan, heat the oil and butter until the butter has melted and foamed up. Add the thyme, garlic and chilli.
  4. Cook the garlic mixture for 5 mins until fragrant and almost golden, add the chard stalks and stir, cooking for a couple more mins. Add the pumpkin seeds and the chard leaves, season and squeeze in some lemon juice. Add the celeriac and a slosh of the cooking water and toss, shaking the pan until the sauce looks glossy. Divide between plates and serve.

Are YOU Suffering from Festive Food FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?

Hey, would you like to come to the party, spend the evening at that place, have a mince pie, egg nog, mulled wine, taste my world-beating Yule log…?

And you’ll go because you can’t resist. You’ll feast like you’ll never see another meal, and you’ll consume frightening amounts of festive tipples because otherwise you’ll be missing out on all the fun, right? You’ll worry that this is your only chance to eat turkey stuffing until this time next year so you’ll have to eat it, even though you’re not really hungry! Small wonder. Apparently, the British cram 44% more social occasions into December than any other month.

What is Food FOMO?

FOMO – shorthand for fear of missing out –is  the pervasive and often unjustified apprehension that others might be having way more fun than you, and that you’re somehow being left out of all the said fun. It usually goes along with the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.  We hate feeling that we aren’t there for something important, something epic, something fun, where memories are made and friendships created.  And it reaches its annual high any day now.

But did you know that we also experience food FOMO?

Digging A Bit Deeper

Food FOMO isn’t our fault as it’s often driven by cultural and biological programming we’re unaware of. Our survival as an individual within a tribe, and thus our survival as a species, once hinged on being “in the know”. To not be aware of a new food source, for example, meant you literally missed out on something that could mean the difference between life and death.

When humans began to create more stable farming communities, being in the know involved paying attention, being in the right places at the right times to get resources and information and engaging in the gossip of the day as it filtered through the community.

We actually have a part of our brain that specializes in sensing if we’re being left out and it activates the stress response. In an attempt to prevent the stress response, which doesn’t feel good at all, some people will (unfortunately) redouble their efforts to not miss out on anything.

Because we are also a species that values and seeks out variety, we feel compelled to partake in it all, lest we miss out on anything. We are also culturally programmed to over-value losses and under-value gains.

Scarcity thoughts lead many of us to have anxiety around food, rather than food being enjoyable. The “lack” mentality also means that we allow food to control us. It’s also very difficult to feel satisfaction when filled with food FOMO because there will be the constant niggling feeling that there’s just not enough to satisfy us. In this way food FOMO leads to eating past the point of what our bodies need or want, causing anxiety, physical ailments and overall malaise, and getting out of tune with what our body really needs.

All of this means we put more importance on the food we may be missing out on, and less on our goals and well-being.

So, FOMO really is not your friend this month (or indeed any month) – especially if you want to maintain your weight, energy, mood and support your digestion over the holidays.

Let’s take a look at how that festive FOMO usually pans out…

You’re committed to healthy eating during the Festive Season, and you go to just a few buffet parties or events. The food looks delicious, but you are watching your weight, so your deprived mouth can only water. There’s a very subtle fear that you are never going to be able to have any of these delicious treats ever again. The fear of missing out activates your survival instinct to consume everything and anything. And so you go on a binge, and your healthy eating plans are obliterated. The self-recriminations start.

The big question, of course, is what are you are you really missing out on? Nothing. OK, maybe some sweet or high-carb treats, some booze filled evenings and such. But eating and drinking these have a flip side: blood sugar imbalance, energy crashes, irritability, poor sleep, bloating and other digestive issues, and almost certain weight gain (if you consume in excess) – and that’s without mentioning the negative self-talk for having over-indulged.

There’s another thing about this festive FOMO and it’s that it has you giving up taking responsibility for your actions around food and alcohol (you would have been able to resist, right, but it was the party season?)

FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND FOOD

There are several things going on when it comes to food. Your fear of ‘missing out’ on that delicious dessert is the first. But also refusing food (though it should be a basic human right) is mired in emotional meaning both for you and for the host.

The answer is not to find more and more creative ways to say no. If you have to own up to eating healthily around this time or being gluten or dairy free, this seems to compound the original offence of not wanting to eat.

Can you get that it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t want to stuff yourself to the max with the cheese smorgasbord and mince pies? It doesn’t mean anything about your relationship with food, or how you feel about the host. You just don’t want the cheese smorgasbord or mince pies, or not to the extent that you’re so stuffed you feel sick!

Your action plan is this:

  1. HAVE AN ACTUAL PLAN Before you go to bed each night, plan out your food for the next day. This is never more true than during the Festive Season, when parties, chocolates, cookies and “treats” are just about everywhere.
  2. DON’T TRY TO DIET JUST NOW Set a maintenance goal instead. This is much more realistic and it is achievable, even at this time of year. It will also give you the freedom to enjoy yourself without feeling deprived, or that you’ve failed, which in turn means you’re more likely to rebel (and this is code for heading straight for the box of chocolates without a second glance).
  3. TAKE A BALANCED APPROACH Manage portions. Eat slowly. Savour each mouthful.
  4. YOU EAT WELL AT OTHER MEALS. Lots of vegetables. Making sure you’re feeling full with smart carbohydrate choices and plenty of protein-rich foods. Then you head to your party, have one or two drinks, a few nibbles and – most of all – enjoy time with the people you love!
  5. OH, AND DON’T GO TO A PARTY HUNGRY If you do, you’ll be fighting a losing battle. Have a low GI snack before you go – just a little something that includes protein and slow release carbs (cottage cheese or unsweetened nut butter on an oatcake, for example).
  6. KEEP FAMILY CHOCOLATES OUT OF SIGHT so you’re not tempted to tuck in just because they’re there. Ever heard of the ‘out of sight, out of mind diet’?
  7. Go from FOMO to JOMO. It’s all right to happily avoid certain activities and have the “Joy Of Missing Out (JOMO).” Learn to get comfortable with the idea of doing what you actually want instead of what you feel like you should do. In the end, you will be much happier if you are following your own urges rather than those of someone else.
  8. KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES Remember that each person has different priorities in life. Know what’s important to you so you can really analyse every opportunity that comes your way. When you treat everything as a priority, nothing is truly important. Remember that you can do a lot of things in your lifetime, but you certainly cannot do everything. You won’t be having a blast during every single moment of your life, and that is all right.

Try asking yourselves these questions next time you’re faced with food FOMO:

  1. Is this a real or perceived food scarcity?
  2. Is my body physically hungry right now?
  3. What is driving my decision to eat right now?
  4. Is this food readily available to me or is this a special or seasonal food that only comes around once in a while?
  5. Am I stuck in dieting mentality right now, which is telling me to restrict calories or limit what foods I eat?

FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND ALCOHOL

Frequently, party goers who are cautious about their alcohol consumption are viewed with suspicion. You can roll out the usual excuses for abstention: I’ve got a hangover from the party the night before, I’m on antibiotics, I’ve got a really important work thing tomorrow, and the like.

If you want to have a few glasses of wine, have a few glasses of wine. But make that decision inside of what you know to be your social schedule over the entire Christmas period.

How does the amount of socialising stack up against your health goals?

To be clear, you absolutely can honour all your social commitments but, in order not to find yourself tempted by the usual crash diet in January, hear this: it IS possible to go out, have fun, eat well and not have everyone notice you are being ‘healthy’.

If you cut back on the amount you are drinking at social events – even choosing not to drink at some events at all – you can feel the improvements almost immediately. On those nights that you don’t drink at all, you’ll sleep better, wake feeling more refreshed, you’ll have much more energy, and your mood will be better. The impact on your waistline will be positive too – alcohol is a big contributor to belly fat and is brimming with unnecessary calories.

Here are a few suggestions for cutting down – if that’s what you choose to do.

  1. Decide how much you are going to drink (maximum) before you go out.
  2. Consider telling someone else who will be there (friend or partner, perhaps), to help keep you accountable.
  3. Don’t feel pressurised by others. It’s your life and you are the one who makes the decisions.
  4. Have an excuse ready when you want to give it a miss (remember ‘no, thanks, I’d rather have …..’ is perfectly OK.

So, you see, the fear around missing out is just an illusion. And, actually (in social media terms, certainly) FOMO is a bit old hat. What’s trending right now is JOMO, the joy of missing out. Think what you will be gaining from taking on board some of my tips, enjoying yourself without over eating or drinking too much…

Chestnut & Chorizo Soup with Vegetarian Option

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… There’s no other ingredient half as evocative of the Festive Season than the humble chestnut. You can buy fresh chestnuts and cook them yourself or buy ready- cooked which usually come vacuum packed.

To make this vegetarian/vegan omit the chorizo and add Spanish paprika when you are frying the onions and vegetables, so that the spice is able to flavour the cooking oil and permeate through the dish. To make it a complete meal add a tin of drained and rinsed chickpeas.

Ingredients- Serves 4

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

1 celery stick, thinly sliced

120g mild cooking chorizo, thin casing/skin removed and cut into 1cm cubes

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1tsp ground cumin

1½tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 small dried red chillies, crushed

2 tomatoes, fresh or tinned, roughly chopped

500g cooked, peeled chestnuts (fresh or vacuum-packed), roughly broken up

1 litre water

Sea salt and black pepper

 

Method

In a large saucepan, cook the chorizo until its fat is released and the sausage is cooked. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon to drain the oil. Wipe the pan clean and heat the olive oil over a medium heat.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt and fry for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything caramelises and turns quite brown. This gives the soup a wonderfully rich colour and taste.

Now add the garlic, cumin, thyme and chilli and cook for one more minute, followed by the tomato and, after about two minutes, the chestnuts and chorizo.

Add the water, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and mash by hand (with a potato masher) until almost smooth but still with a little bit of texture. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.

 

Adapted from Moro: The Cookbook

Healthy, Yummy Apple Crumble

Apple crumble – and the smell of it cooking – is one of the most wonderful things about October. This healthy version uses dessert apples rather than tart cooking apples, meaning no sugar is needed for the filling to taste sweet.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

For the topping

75g oats

30g whole-wheat flour, gluten free flour, or millet flour (do not use coconut flour)

25g chopped pecans

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp pure maple syrup/Sweet Freedom

25g unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

750g chopped red apples (Fuji are ideal but Gala and Braeburn apples would work as well)

2 tbsp cornflour

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

⅛ tsp ground nutmeg

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, and grease an 8”-square pan.
  2. To make the topping, combine the oats, pecans, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the maple syrup//Sweet Freedom and melted butter. Stir until fully incorporated. If it’s a bit dry, add water in sprinkles until it’s the consistency you want. The wetter it is the crunchier it will be.
  3. For the filling, mix the apples with the cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl until completely coated.
  4. Transfer the filling to the prepared pan, and gently press down with a spoon. Sprinkle evenly with the topping (The topping tends to clump, so try to break it up into fairly small pieces). Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the apple pieces are tender. The juices will start to thicken as the crumble cools.

 

 

Juicing and Smoothies- How Healthy Are They?

Smoothie vs juicing Fruit and veg is good for you. No one would argue with that.

There has been a great deal of research in recent years to support the claim that eating more fruit and veg may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer, while also helping to manage your weight. It can be a challenge to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day, even when you like vegetables. And now a new report suggests that eating 10 portions is what we need to stay healthy for longer. Most people don’t come nearly close to having enough, and I bet you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to manage that!

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of juicing and smoothies. Both are trending right now and there’s a huge debate. But what is better for your health – and losing weight- and are there any downsides? I’m going to give you the lowdown on both so you can get the hard facts from a nutrition professional and make an informed choice.

SMOOTHIES

The Benefits of Smoothies

When you make a smoothie, the whole lot is whizzed up in a blender. The juice and the pulp go in. This means that smoothies contain fibre. Fibre is good for you for so many reasons. It’s great for the digestive tract, helping to bulk out stools which helps you ‘go’ more regularly. Fibre supports weight loss because it helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the body, meaning that fruit and sugar-rich vegetables like beetroot and carrots are less likely to give you a blood sugar spike – ­ albeit a natural one. Fibre absorbs cholesterol in your digestive tract and flushes it out of your body, which is helpful for reducing risk factors for heart disease.

Dietary fibre also activates a few hormones really helpful in weight loss (called PYY and CKK and GLP-1, since you ask). These are appetite suppressors, meaning you’ll want to naturally eat less the more veg you consume. Fibre also decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and increases another hormone called leptin, which tells your body you’re full. So, all in all fruit and veg are the good guys.

Fibre isn’t the only good thing in a smoothie. In a 2012 study in which scientists blended and juiced grapefruit, researchers found that the blended fruit had a higher concentration of the beneficial phytochemicals than juices because that compound is primarily found in the fibrous membranes of the fruit.

Given a smoothie can be packed with fibre, it can even serve as a meal replacement if you’re smart about what you add in it- more on this next (breakfast would be the perfect example).

The Downsides to Smoothies

When you eat fruit and veg you have to chew them which helps breaks down the fibre This in turn slows down the release of the sugars, helping to prevent a blood sugar spike which can lead to fatigue, low mood, increased hunger, weight problems, sleep problems etc.

On the other hand, when you blend fruits and vegetables in a machine, although the smoothie still contains fibre, it’s been broken down (literally pulverized) super-fast during the blending process- basically, the blender is doing the work your digestive system should be doing, which takes both energy and time to digest.

Even if you’re making your smoothie at home, using only fruits and vegetables with no other added ingredients, you can drink it in just a few minutes, compared with the time it would take to eat the same fruits or vegetables whole. It’s very likely that you are also getting more calories and sugar when you drink a smoothie than when eating whole fruits or vegetables. Research shows that we don’t register liquid calories as accurately as food we’ve chewed. So, smoothies enjoy a “health halo” that can be misleading.

The Best Way to Have Smoothies

If your idea of the perfect smoothie is only fruit and some liquid … Well, that’s a sugar bomb waiting to happen and is likely to upset your blood sugar balance. Plus, if consumed too frequently, this will have you start piling on the pounds.

But, if you combine a little bit of fruit and mostly veg, with a healthy source of protein such as yoghurt, a handful of nuts and seeds, nut butter  or a protein powder that would be best. Why? Firstly, with the addition of protein you’ll have a healthy, nutritious and filling meal to take with you on-the-go. And secondly, you’ll help avoid the blood sugar spike.

Also, quantity is important. To give you an idea, according to the national Eatwell Guide, we should only be having one serving of smoothie or juice, which is 150ml. That’s the same as a “mini” can of cola and less than half the size of a standard can of soft drink. If you’re using mostly veg in your juices and smoothies, and adding protein to your smoothies then the amount can be increased.

JUICING

The Benefits of Juicing

When you juice, your juicers extract the water and nutrients from what you feed it, leaving behind the pulp. Many juicers will also have a filter attachment, so you can remove even more ‘bits’ from your juice.

Given the lack of fibre, juices provide an almost immediate energy boost. The bulk of the vitamins and minerals found within a fruit are typically in the juice rather than the fibrous pulp. And without the fibre, the nutrients are absorbed into the body more efficiently. Additionally, the digestive system doesn’t have to work hard at all to process what you’re consuming. The cherry on top is that juicing allows you to eat a far higher range of nutrients from leafy greens and vegetables you wouldn’t normally eat in such quantity or blend – like cabbage and wheatgrass! Typically, juices (rather than smoothies) are a great way to detox.

 Downsides to Juicing

When you juice, the fibre is usually removed. And without the fibre slowing digestion of the sugar in fruit, the juice drives up your blood sugar rapidly which can lead to symptoms discussed above. This can also contribute to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

If you juice mostly vegetables, you’ll get a potent dose of phytochemicals and disease-fighting compounds without all the sugar. But do it incorrectly, and you can get more sugar than a soda. Thing is, many “green juices” actually do have more sugar than a can of soda. Why? Because people don’t like bitter green juices and so most contain lots of fruit juice, carrots, and beets. A study in 2014 found that, on average, fruit juices contain 45.5 grams of fructose per litre, not far off from the average of 50 grams per litre in fizzy drinks.  If it has more than 5 grams of sugar, stay away.

Verdict

Which is better depends very much on what your health goal is. Juicing offers the possibility of getting in a greater concentration of nutrients, increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption, and possibly making it easier on your tummy if have a hard time digesting the fibre in vegetables.

On the other hand, fibre IS super important in your diet, and in juices you are missing out – plus you could also be losing other important elements like antioxidants.

For weight loss, energy, mood, PCOS, high cholesterol the added fibre is a huge bonus for balancing your blood sugar levels. Smoothies provide this. They also bring the possibility of adding other beneficial ingredients, like collagen (for arthritis suffers), protein powders, prebiotics, nuts or seeds.

Ultimately, you need to consume more fruit and veg than you are currently eating. Both smoothies and juices give you options to consider.

 HEALTHY JUICES

Green juice

2 apples

4 stalks celery

1 orange

½ lemon

5 handfuls spinach

½ thumb ginger root

Start with the spinach. A good tip is to try to roll it into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Peel the orange and lemon, then juice. Cut the apples into halves, then juice the rest.

Green goddess

3 cups spinach

6 stalks celery

2 pears

½ cup parsley

½ lemon

Start with the spinach and parsley, rolling them into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Follow with the lemon (peeled), then juice the remaining ingredients.

Liver cleanse

1 apple

1 beetroot

3 beet leaves (or a small handful of spinach)

4 carrots

1 stalk celery

½ thumb ginger root

Cut the beetroot and apples in half to juice. Add the ginger and celery. Roll the leaves into a ball (makes it easier to juice). Cut the skin from the pineapple (but leave in the core – it has extra enzymes), peel the orange and then juice.

HEALTHY SMOOTHIES

Put all the ingredients in the blender with a cup of liquid (water or almond milk, etc.) to start with and increase liquid to desired consistency.

Berry nice

½ avocado

75g fresh or frozen blueberries

1 tbsp chia seeds

½ tbsp coconut oil

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ banana (ideally frozen)

Small handful of ice

Water, as desired

Hidden greens

25g vanilla protein powder

1 kiwi, peeled

Handful of strawberries

Handful of kale

Handful of watercress

1 tbsp cashew butter/cashews

2tbsp broccoli sprouts

Small handful of ice

Water as desired

Blueberry + kale

Handful blueberries

Handful kale

1 small banana

1 tsp cashew or almond nut butter

1 tbsp sunflower seeds

Small handful of ice

250ml coconut or almond milk

Courgette, Mackerel and Bean Salad

This is super easy to make and totally delicious.A plate serving smoked mackerel, courgette & butter bean salad

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (deseeded if you don’t like it very hot)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed and broken into large flakes.
  • 1 courgette, cut into ribbons using a vegetable peeler.
  • 400g can butter beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small packet fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 50g feta, broken into large pieces.
  • Black pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Toss everything together in a salad bowl, taste and adjust for seasoning, then serve.

 

Courtesy of Good Food Magazine

Easy, Yummy, Healthy Ice Cream

2 Ingredient Cantaloupe Ice Cream- Serves 4

Recipe for a super easy, but awesome vegan 2 Ingredient Cantaloupe Ice Cream. No ice cream machine is needed for this treat! It’s also gluten-free and raw.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cantaloupe melon
  • 2 bananas

Instructions

  1. Cut the banana and the cantaloupe (remove the skin and seeds) in pieces, put them in a ziploc bag and freeze them overnight.
  2. Put the frozen banana and cantaloupe pieces in your food processor or high-speed blender.
  3. Pulse or blend until completely smooth. (Don’t give up, this may take a while depending on the power of your processor).
  4. Transfer the ice cream in the bowls and enjoy immediately!

Banana Stracciatella Ice Cream- Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 peeled, bananas
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • 50 g 70% dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Instructions

Cut bananas in pieces and freeze at least overnight.

Put the frozen banana pieces + coconut milk in your kitchen processor or blender and pulse until it is a smooth cream. Don’t give up, this may take a while depending on the power of your processor.

Put the banana mixture in a freezer safe dish.

Heat up chopped chocolate + coconut oil in a small pot.

Pour it over the banana mixture.

Put it in the freezer for at least 3-4 hours, but stir occasionally to break up the chocolate into the banana (every half hour should do). This should break up any ice crystals.

If it is too hard, let it sit for about 5-10 at room temperature. Then you’re good to go. Enjoy!

Courtesy of the Elephantastic Vegan

How to Minimise Jet Lag

How Our Sleep Rhythms Are Controlled

Jet lag happens when travel across time zones disrupts our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm and is considered a  sleep disorder.

A key factor in how our sleep is regulated is exposure to light or to darkness. Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain called the hypothalamus. There, a special centre called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) initiates signals to other parts of the brain that that are involved in making us feel sleepy or wide awake.

Once exposed to the first light each day, the clock in the SCN begins performing functions to prepare us for the day ahead, including raising body temperature and releasing stimulating hormones like cortisol. The SCN also delays the release of other hormones like melatonin, which helps us feel sleepy, until many hours later when darkness arrives.

Melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body’s pineal gland. This is a pea-sized gland located just above the middle of the brain. During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is “turned on” by the SCN and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. Usually, this occurs around 9 pm. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Sleep becomes more inviting. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours – all through the night – before the light of a new day when they fall back to low daytime levels by about 9 am. Daytime levels of melatonin are barely detectable.

How Air Travel Affects Your Body and Mind

Jet lag can result in mental, emotional and physical symptoms such as:

Pressure in the ears due to changes in air pressure. Chewing gum during ascent, and swallowing or yawning during descent can help equalise the pressure
Headache due to low oxygen. Prevent by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol during the flight
Foot, ankle and leg swelling, raising your risk for a blood clot, due to impaired blood flow. Prevent by standing up now and then, and flexing, rotating and extending your ankles while sitting. Compression stockings may also be helpful
Dehydration due to dry air. Prevent by drinking plenty of water before and during the flight
Toothache due to shifts in air pressure. There’s no way to prevent the pain associated with the expansion of gas trapped in fillings or cavities, so see a dentist before traveling if you suspect you have a problem
Fatigue, sleepiness, increased reaction times and reduced ability to make decisions due to low oxygen
Gassiness due to shifts in cabin pressure
Altered/dulled sense of taste and smell. Taste sensitivity can be restored by staying well hydrated
Dry skin due to dry air — a problem easily addressed with moisturizing lotion. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water
Bad breath due to dry mouth. Remedy by brushing your teeth on the plane and staying well hydrated

How to Reduce Symptoms of Jet Lag

When you’re traveling shorter distances

If your destination is just one or two time zones away, it may be possible to wake up, eat, and sleep on your regular home schedule. At your destination, schedule appointments and activities for times when you would be alert at home.

When you’re traveling longer distances

As a general rule, your body will adjust to the time zone change at a rate of one time zone per day. What this means is, if you need to be at your physical or psychological best, you’d want to fly out one or more days ahead of time. If you cannot squeeze in the extra time, you could act “as if,” and pretend you’re in your destination time zone while still at home.

To do this, gradually switch your routine before the trip. For several days before you leave, move mealtimes and bedtime incrementally closer to the schedule of your destination. Even a partial switch may help. As an example, if you were planning to travel from New York to Paris, start going to bed (and shift your mealtimes up) an hour earlier each day, three days ahead of your flight, and avoid bright light for two to three hours before going to bed.

During the flight

  1. Drink plenty of fluids, but not caffeine or alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol promote dehydration, which worsens the symptoms of jet lag. They can also disturb sleep.
  2. If traveling at night, wear blue-blocking glasses on the plane, and continue wearing them until you go to sleep, as excess blue light will impair your melatonin production and make it difficult to fall asleep
  3. Jet lag checker : https://www.britishairways.com/travel/drsleep/public/en_gb    Dr Idzikowski , director of The Edinburgh Sleep Centre, has drawn up a jet lag checker for passengers, which tailors the amount of time and when passengers are to wear sunglasses. Dr Idzikowskisaid that without using sunglasses it took a day to recover for every hour of time difference travelled westwards.

Once you’re at your destination

  • Switch your bedtime as rapidly as possible upon arrival. Don’t turn in until it’s bedtime in the new time zone.
  • If you have travelled east, try going to sleep earlier and getting up and out into the early morning sun. Or if not possible switch on the lights, to shut down melatonin production (the hormone which makes you feel sleepy)
  • If you travelled west, try to get at least an hour’s worth of sunlight as soon as possible after reaching your destination
  • The sunlight will cue your hypothalamus to reduce the production of sleep-inducing melatonin during the day, thereby initiating the process of resetting your internal clock
  • The sooner you adapt to the local schedule, the quicker your body will adjust. Therefore, if you arrive at noon local time (but 6 a.m. your time), eat lunch, not breakfast.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption Before Bed

Both alcohol and caffeine can adversely affect quality of sleep when they’re consumed a few hours before bedtime. Alcohol should be avoided altogether if you still have jet lag and caffeine should only be consumed in order to enhance daytime alertness.

Studies show that when caffeine is consumed too close to bedtime, it may result in difficulty falling or maintaining sleep. This can lead to exposure to light during the night, which further shifts the internal clock out of phase with the new light-dark cycle.

The Anti-Jet Lag Fast

Devised by a team of researchers at Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, the anti-jet lag fast involves determining the time of breakfast at your destination and then fasting (abstaining from all food and drink except noncaloric beverages like water) for 12 to 16 hours beforehand. One of the researchers states “Since most of us go 12 to 16 hours between dinner and breakfast anyway, the abstention is a small hardship.”

This strategy is thought to work because fasting causes your master clock to suspend the circadian clock and instructs your body to sleep less. When food intake resumes, the master clock switches the circadian clock back “on.”

“The master clock probably evolved because when our prehistoric forebears were starving, they would have been tempted in their weakness to sleep rather than forage for the food they needed to survive. 

Today, when a traveller suspends his circadian clock before flying from Los Angeles to London, and then reactivates it upon breaking the fast, the clock doesn’t know that it should still be on Pacific Time. It knows only that the breakfast and the daylight declare morning in Mayfair, and it resets the body’s rhythms accordingly.”

Minimize Jet Lag With Traditional Chinese Medicine

You can also trick your body into connecting with a new time zone using Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques involving the stimulation of certain acupuncture meridians.

Borrowing the knowledge of the general circulation of chi, and being aware that each meridian undergoes a two-hour time peak that moves and peaks from meridian to meridian as it travels through its general circulation, it was reasoned that if one were to reset the body clock utilizing the horary cycle, the body in theory could be made to function at the horary cycle of wherever the person is physically located on the planet, disregarding the effects of so-called ‘time travel.’

Cardiologist Dr. Lee Cowden devised  a shorter version of this technique, focusing on just one meridian — the heart meridian. He explains this technique in the very short video below, originally taped in 2009. Here’s a summary of the steps:

  1. The day of your trip, set your clock to match the local time at your destination (depending on the time of your flight, you may have to do this a day ahead)
  2. At 11 a.m. (the local time at your destination), stroke your heart meridian three times on the left and three times on the right. Your heart meridian begins just to the outer side of your nipple, up through your armpit and down the ulnar aspect (inner side) of your arm, down the outside of your pinky. Once you reach the end of your pinky, gently press into the base of the fingernail (heart point in Traditional Chinese Medicine). For a demonstration, please see the video below.
  3. At noon, repeat the heart meridian strokes

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=K3qlO3wM8ho

References:

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/10/19/ways-to-minimize-jet-lag.aspx

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/melatonin-and-sleep

https://www.medicinenet.com/jet_lag/article.htm#are_there_any_remedies_for_jet_lag_is_it_possible_to_prevent_jet_lag