Dieta: Doing away with bread

These days a lot of us are avoiding gluten, whether on a dieta or not.
This is no surprise as gluten is difficult to digest for most people. In addition to this wheat flour, which is the primary source of gluten protein in our diet, is a “dead food” which has been harvested, milled, bleached, refined and left to sit in a warehouse and finally on a shop shelf for what may be years; it doesn’t have much nutritional chutzpah going for it anymore.

Many people are eating this grain at every meal without being particularly aware of it. Too much of anything – even a good thing! – isn’t ideal and it is really worthwhile to cut down on products, often processed, containing wheat flour and look around for nutritious substitutes.

Growing up in Norway, the Land of Open Faced Sandwiches, I know how deeply engrained bread is in our European food culture.
In Norway it is not unusual to have open faced sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, snack and supper and removing this staple of the diet can feel impossible.

Sandwiches travel well, are filling and can be endlessly redecorated to suit one’s palette. However, I have come up with some well tasting and deeply nourishing alternatives that will make your lunch box get all excited.

If you are following the dieta, simply omit all salt/pepper and other spices listed in the ingredients. The result will not be much different from the original and still taste yummy!


Cauliflower buns


This recipe is borrowed from Sarah Britton over at My New Roots and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is simply delicious and the buns can be topped with both sweet and savoury toppings. 

  • 1 large cauliflower (1200g)
  • ¼ cup / 20g almond meal
  • ¼ cup / 20g nutritional yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp. fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder (a crushed clove of fresh garlic is dieta approved!)
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. dried onions or sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. psyllium husk (optional, will make the buns drier)

Chop cauliflower into chunks, place in a food processor and blend until as fine as possible. If you don’t have a food processor, grate the cauliflower with a box grater.
Mix with the almond meal, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic and psyllium husk, if using, and stir to combine.
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
Whisk eggs together in a separate bowl. Add the eggs to the cauliflower mixture and stir until the dough is moist and will hold together.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Taking baseball-sized amounts of dough, squeeze them into a rough ball shape, then drop them from about 1 foot (30cm) onto the baking sheet (this helps to compact them). If you want to make bagels, simply use your finger to poke a hole in the center and shape the rest with your hands. Sprinkle the tops with the dried onion or sesame seeds and place in the oven.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the buns are golden brown around the edges.
Store leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days.

 Image courtesy of MyNewRoots.org

Image courtesy of MyNewRoots.org


Beetroot flatbread

This recipe was inspired by the vegetable flatbreads of Green Kitchen Stories and a mountain of juice pulp. 
As juice pulp is drier than grated beetroot, there will be two recipes for this bread, depending on how you choose to accumulate lots of grated beetroot. 

  • 500 ml grated beetroot OR 750 ml carrot pulp
  • 250-300 ml oat flour (self milled in a blender or using a hand mixer – more nutritious and makes for fluffier baking!)
  • 3 eggs OR 2 eggs plus 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax seeds + 3 tbsp water left to soak for 15 minutes)
  • Salt/pepper if using

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix all the ingredients except the eggs together. Whisk the eggs and add them to the mixture, forming a sticky paste.
Flatten the paste into a rectangular shape with your hands onto the baking tray.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven, carefully flip upside down on a cooling rack and peel off the baking paper.
Store in the fridge for 3-4 days.

 Beetroot flatbread with home made mayo and lentil sprouts

Beetroot flatbread with home made mayo and lentil sprouts


Carrot flatbread

Carrot juice. What can I say, it's my thing. The perfect vehicle for a turmeric and ginger juice, great for making curries and stews (check out the carrot coconut stew in my previous post) and most recently great for making bread. Here's how (without/with juice pulp):

  • 500 ml grated carrots OR 750 ml carrot pulp
  • 200-250 ml oat flour (self milled in a blender or using a hand mixer – more nutritious and makes for fluffier baking!)
  • 3 eggs OR 2 eggs plus 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax seeds + 3 tbsp water left to soak for 15 minutes)
  • Salt/pepper if using

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix all the ingredients except the eggs together. Whisk the eggs and add them to the mixture, forming a sticky paste.
Flatten the paste into a rectangular shape with your hands onto the baking tray.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven, carefully flip upside down on a cooling rack and peel off the baking paper.
Store in the fridge for 3-4 days.

 Probably the last styled picture I could have put up here, but it proves an important point: This bread travels well. Here is a carrot bread sandwich on a flight to Hamburg.

Probably the last styled picture I could have put up here, but it proves an important point: This bread travels well. Here is a carrot bread sandwich on a flight to Hamburg.


Broccoli flatbread

Bbroccoli is one of my favourite things to juice and I often have loads of pulp. This makes a delicious and green flatbread and is also a great way to use old broccoli stems.

  • 500 ml grated broccoli OR 750 ml carrot pulp
  • 200-250 ml oat flour (self milled in a blender or using a hand mixer – more nutritious and makes for fluffier baking!)
  • 3 eggs OR 2 eggs plus 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax seeds + 3 tbsp water left to soak for 15 minutes)
  • Salt/pepper if using

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix all the ingredients except the eggs together. Whisk the eggs and add them to the mixture, forming a sticky paste.
Flatten the paste into a rectangular shape with your hands onto the baking tray.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven, carefully flip upside down on a cooling rack and peel off the baking paper.
Store in the fridge for 3-4 days.

 Broccoli bread with home made hummus and cucumber

Broccoli bread with home made hummus and cucumber


Carrot pulp crackers

As you see, I juice a lot. And I love carrots. So what to do with the surplus of carrot pulp when you can’t face another carrot bread? (just kidding, I can eat carrot bread until the cows come home.) Make crackers, of course! This things have actually become so popular at home they are their own reason to make carrot juice. Yes. Really.  
These crackers can be dehydrated in a dehydrator on 45 degrees or in an oven on the lowest setting for 8-12 hours to stay raw, or they can be baked in the oven on 180 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

  • 1/2 cup flax seeds soaked in 1 cup water overnight (2 hours works in a pinch) 
  • 1,5 litres carrot pulp
  • 100 ml water (more if needed)
  • 60 ml sesame seeds (soaked overnight then drained)
  • 60 ml chia seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 5 small tomatoes (canned is okay in the winter), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 pinch unrefined salt (if using)
  • 1 pinch cayenne (if using)

If using the oven, heat it to 180 degrees celsius. 
Mix all the ingredients together. 
Prepare sheets on your dehydrator trays or baking sheets on your oven trays and spread the mixture out (not too thin!). 
Dehydrate or bake as directed above.

 Carrot pulp crackers hanging out with other dehydrated goodies: raw apple granola, kale crisps and berry  bars

Carrot pulp crackers hanging out with other dehydrated goodies: raw apple granola, kale crisps and berry  bars


Granola bars

If you have a dehydrator, you are probably already well versed in granola bars. I have made a ton of these things since I got my dehydrator for Christmas a mere month ago and they keep evolving. 

As I make these as I go with whatever I have on hand, I have no exact recipes for you. However, here are some combinations I have tried and found delicious! 

  • Roasted buckwheat - chestnut honey - dried figs - cinnamon - almond butter (dieta friendly)
  • Roasted buckwheat - acacia honey - goji berries - cashews - ground ginger
  • Oats - hazelnuts - prunes - nutmeg - chestnut honey - pepitas
  • Oats - almonds - almond butter - cinnamon - rapeseed honey - flaked coconut  
    (dieta friendly)
  • Roasted buckwheat - hazelnuts - cinnamon - acacia honey - dates - raw cocoa nibs 

I hope this has given you some inspiration to cut gluten both for your dieta and overall. There are spots many healthier and more fun options out there and these recipes really don't take much time at all. 

Next week I will continue the dieta series and look at dieta friendly lunch and snack alternatives!
Until next time.

Dieta

Whether it is for spiritual purposes, for cleansing, for treating illness or simply to explore a more sattvic diet, a dieta is beneficial for both body and mind. 

I do this diet regularly for both spiritual purposes and cleansing and I find the restrictive nature of the diet only adds to my creativity. Giving up salt is the hardest one for me, but I know that my body is able to cleanse much better without it due to it's water retaining properties so it is very important to try to stick with it. 

Giving up coffee for me is hard initially, but over time I am satisfied with matcha lattes and herbal teas. For others it may be the sugar that is hard to give up or perhaps cheese. Giving up foods for a certain amount of time is a wonderful opportunity for us to learn about our food addictions and emotional attachments to what we eat.

The diet is restricted as follows:

  • No red meat
  • No dairy
  • No alcohol
  • No non-prescription or prescription drugs
  • No caffeine (coffee, black tea and kombucha included)
  • No cacao
  • No fermented foods (including no vinegar)
  • No wheat or gluten
  • No sugar
  • No spices (except for a little bit of cinnamon)
  • No salt
  • No oil for cooking
  • No fried food
  • No processed or ready made foods

Wait, what can we eat? Let's look at the YES-list instead!
Yes to... 

  • Herbs
  • Ginger, turmeric, garlic and onions
  • All vegetables and fruits
  • Whole grains such as oats, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa
  • Split yellow and green lentils; red, black, brown and puy lentils
  • Chic peas
  • Black beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans, mung beans
  • Brown, wild, basmati or black rice
  • Unroasted and unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Sprouts
  • Dehydrated foods
  • Unheated, cold pressed organic vegetable oils 
  • Fish, eggs, turkey and chicken if you wish

One can of course live on simple salads and steamed vegetables throughout the diet, but as I am as addicted to cooking as I am to salt I want to be a little more creative with my meal choices over the course of a dieta.  

Over the course of the next few weeks I will share a few meal ideas for a dieta in order to inspire and to help. From breakfast to late night snack, from sweet to savoury, we will take a look at what we can make on a dieta.
Let's begin with the main course...
 

Vegetable stock and soups

Most vegetable soups can be adapted to fit the dieta, but the simpler the better. Of course you must omit sautéing onions in oil, eliminate spices and salty dried vegetable stock. The best way to achieve a flavourful soup without these things is by making your own vegetable stock (makes about 1,5 litres):

  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 3-4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Bay leaves and/or thyme sprigs 
  • A few cloves of garlic, crushed with the back of a knife
  • Some parsley stalks (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a pot and add 1,75 litres of boiling water. Let cook for 1-2 hours and strain.
You can keep this stock in the fridge for 4-5 days or freeze it in batches.

I use all sorts of vegetable trimmings from farmer's market vegetables in my vegetable stock and the tops of leeks, the leaves of cauliflowers, fennel tops, celeriac and other flavourful vegetables and their trimmings can go in the stock pot in addition to, or as a replacement of, the ingredients listed above.


In order to make an easy and dieta friendly vegetable soup, simply chop whatever vegetables you would like in the soup, add them to hot stock and boil them until tender before mixing it all with a hand mixer or in a blender.
Feel free to top the soups with pepitas, sesame seeds, flaked almonds, sunflower seeds or other crunchy options.
Here are some suggestions for the winter season. All recipes serves 2 generously.
 

Parsnip soup with ginger

700 ml stock, 3-4 parsnips (depending on size), half an onion, 2 cloves garlic, 5 cm ginger. Option to replace some of the stock with nut milk for a creamier soup


Sweet potato and tomato soup

300 ml stock, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 large or 4 small sweet potatoes, half an onion, 2 cloves garlic, basil to garnish
 

Butternut squash soup

600 ml stock, 1 medium butternut squash (skin and seeds removed), half an onion, 2 cloves garlic, thyme and/or rosemary
 

Simple noodle soup

Lastly, something a little different: a simple noodle soup with a little more complex recipe.

  • 1 litre vegetable stock or chicken bone broth
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 5 cm ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 carrots, chopped to bite-size
  • Shiitake mushrooms, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 broccoli flower, bite sized pieces
  • Optional: other exotic mushrooms of your choice
  • Spring onions, finely chopped
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 packet of soba noodles (enough for 2 persons)

Bring the stock to a simmer and add the cinnamon, ginger and garlic and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Add the carrots to the stock, seven minutes later add the broccoli and boil until the carrots are just tender.
Meanwhile, boil the soba noodles following packet instructions and toast the sesame seeds in a clean pan – careful so they don't burn!
Once the carrots are tender, add the mushrooms to the soup. 
To serve, place noodles in bowls and pout hot soup over, followed by raw spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.


Hot dishes

It is possible to make many "normal" hot dished on the dieta if you just modify the recipes a little bit! 
Here are a few recipes to get you inspired...
 

Carrot and coconut stew

  • 1 tin coconut milk, refrigerated for 15 minutes
  • 500 ml carrot juice
  • 7 kaffir lime leaves
  • 5 cm ginger, grated 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, gently bashed and roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 courgettes, chopped 
  • 2 handfuls sugar snap peas, finely chopped
  • Spring onions, finely chopped
  • Coriander
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 lime
  • Optional: flaked coconut

Using a spoon, remove the coconut cream from the coconut milk tin and heat it slowly in a pan. Add the lime leaves, ginger, and garlic and let simmer for 8 minutes.
Add the lemongrass, coconut water and carrot juice and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds. 
Add the carrots and red pepper. When the carrots are almost tender, add the courgette and when the courgette is tender add the sugar snap peas and cook for another 2 minutes before turning the heat off. 
Serve with rice, sprinkle with spring onions, coriander, toasted sesame seeds , flaked coconut and a squeeze of lime.


Black rice congee with salmon

One of the very few meat recipes you will ever find here on the blog. Make sure to buy wild caught salmon.

It is also important to soak the black rice in lukewarm water with an acidic medium such as lemon juice or vinegar overnight as this will help break down the complex and hard to digest starches of the rice and make its nutrients more available. 
Serves 2-3.

  • 200 g black rice
  • 1.7 litres vegetable stock or chicken bone broth
  • 5 cm ginger, grated,
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • Spring onions,  finely chopped
  • Half a broccoli floret, chopped
  • Toasted sesame seeds and coriander (optional).

Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
Boil the rice until tender, about 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the salmon fillets in aluminium foil and rub them with the crushed garlic and ginger.
Add a few tablespoons of stock to the aluminium parcel, close the parcel and place it on a baking tray in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes.
Steam broccoli in a steamer or over a pot of boiling water until tender.
Once the rice and fish is done (the rice and stock should have a soupy consistency), place the rice in  bowls, place the fish fillets on top and garnish with spring onions, sesame seeds and coriander.
 

Spaghetti bolognaise 

  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 ladle(s) vegetable stock or chicken bone broth
  • Half an onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 250 g button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • A few thyme sprigs 
  • Optional: basil to garnish
  • Gluten free spaghetti such as Dove's Farm gluten free spaghetti

Serves 2.
Bring the tomatoes and the broth to a boil and add the vegetables and the thyme sprigs, the reduce to a low simmer for 20-30 minutes or longer – the longer the better!
Let the sauce rest while you boil the spaghetti according to package instructions.
Serve with basil to garnish.
 

Stuffed winter squashes with buckwheat

"This tastes like stuffing" was the reaction from my man. It sure does! I served this with some left over lunch salad on the side. Serves 2.

  • 100 grams roasted buckwheat, soaked overnight
  • 2 medium sized red squashes such as hokkaido, turban squash or sugar pumpkin
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • A handful of kale or cavolo nero, stalks removed and finely chopped

Soak the buckwheat overnight with an acidic medium such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
Open the top of the squashes and remove the seeds.
Roast cut sides down for 30-40 minutes until tender, then remove from the oven and let cool.
Scoop out the flesh from the squashes and add to a bowl with the drained buckwheat and the other ingredients, then stuff it all back into the squash.
Roast for 10-15 minutes then serve.
 

Savoury porridge

A savoury breakfast dish that works just as well as lunch or even a last minute dinner. You be the judge of ratios here depending on how many you are feeding and how hungry you are.

  • Porridge oats
  • Vegetable stock or chicken bone broth
  • Carrots, grated
  • Garlic clove(s), crushed
  • Kale, spinach or cavolo nero, finely chopped
  • Optional: poached egg(s)

Cook the oats in the stock together with the carrot, greens and garlic until the oats have reached the desired consistency. Top with a poached egg if you wish.

 Dieta makes me feel like ...

Dieta makes me feel like ...

I hope this has provided some inspiration on how to go about a dieta.

I will continue to post dieta friendly recipes over the next couple of weeks and cover topics such as breakfasts, snacks, salads, bread alternatives and treats as well as recommend some spots for eating out in London on the dieta.
Stay tuned!

Interview with LHM

Do you remember that I wrote about raw honey and my visit to the Local Honey Man a few months ago?

Turns out the interview we did has been up on their website for a little while and I completely missed it! You can read the interview here and we also made this little film.

All this reminiscing has awoken my sweet tooth, so excuse me while I go eat a jar of honey...

Veganuary (Veganyear)

New year, new intentions, new possibilities.
Whether or not this rings true to you, it is hard to underestimate the psychological effect of a new year and how powerful it can be to choose to turn over a new leaf at this time.

I believe that deep down inside we all want to live on a whole, peaceful planet and that we can all make an impact to turn things around for the better.
This is why I would like to devote this small post to inspire more conscious eating in the new year, both for the sake of the planet and for our own health, and to advocate for a more plant based – if not completely plant based – diet for yourself and your family this year.

I myself am not strictly vegan, but I end up eating foods free of animal products at almost every single meal without giving it much thought. Admittedly it takes a little bit of getting used to, but believe me when I say it is not impossible! I will be following a completely vegan diet myself this January as a support for the Veganuary initiative – they will ship you a free cookbook if you care to join!

 My vegan fridge

My vegan fridge

There is a well of information out there on the benefits of becoming a vegan for the sake of mother earth and you can make a serious impact on climate change just by your diet:
6.75 square kilometres are needed to feed one vegan per year while a meat eater needs 12140 square kilometres – 18 times as much as a vegan: 6000 sqm. can produce 16782 kg of plant food or 170 kg meat.

Also, most of the world’s deforestation is due to livestock, including 91% of the rainforest’s.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases which is more than all transportation exhaust combined.
It also uses an astonishing amount of freshwater: 11365 litres of water is required to produce half a kilo of beef.

But the meat industry is not just wreaking havoc on our planet – it is doing the same to our health.
Frequent meat consumption contributes to tumour growth, acidity and inflammation in the body (cancer), diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Commercially farmed meat contains antibiotics and by eating it we develop antibiotic resistance and digestive diseases.

We are currently growing enough food for 10 billion people, but humans around the world are starving. Worldwide, 50% of all grain is fed to livestock.

To sum it up, animal agriculture is responsible for all of humanity’s major problems: deforestation, water scarcity, world hunger, climate change, extinction of animal species and western diseases.

 By following the Instagram hashtag #lisecooks you get lots of (mostly) vegan inspiration from my Instagram!

By following the Instagram hashtag #lisecooks you get lots of (mostly) vegan inspiration from my Instagram!

Animal suffering is a given consequence of animal agriculture and the PETA website will provide adequate informative videos such as Meet Your Meat.

Last month the new website ianimal.uk went live to tell the story of factory farming and provide an immersive experience into the lives of factory farmed animals. If you do eat meat I urge you to watch this video.
To quote one of my favourite films (10 points if you can guess it):

“Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men."

Other great sources for knowledge and facts are Veganuary, VeganSociety, Counting Animals, Cowspiracy, The China Study by Campbell, Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine by Cousens and Eating Animals by Foer.

Vegan food is delicious and versatile and there are a lot of inspiration online for a well balanced plant based diet.
Oh She Glows has vegan recipes for every occasion, My New Roots has a wide range of vegan recipes complete with nutritional information, Green Kitchen Stories has great vegan breakfast ideas and Sprouted Kitchen is fantastic for when you want to impress. Instagram also has a ton of very talented users uploading inspiration every day!

My list favourite plant based cookbooks includes:
Oh She Glows
POWER VEGETABLES!
Dirt Candy
Thug Kitchen and Thug Kitchen 101
Vegan Bible
and the Gaia House Cookbook

A tip to get you started:
Look for vegan alternatives to dishes that you love. Scrambled eggs? Tofu scramble! Milky porridge? Delicious nut milks! Meatballs? Aubergine balls! (Love and Lemons has an amazing recipe)
Short on time? Minimalist Baker has 10-ingredients-or-less recipes made within the half hour.

Eat a wide variety of organic fruit and veg and you need not fear nutritional deficiencies: eat the rainbow!

Surround yourself with fresh produce, beautiful inspiring cookbooks and arm yourself with knowledge so you are ready to face the new year as a happy, healthy being that lives in harmony with the world around you.

With this I wish you a happy, peaceful entry into the new year.

Sweeping the temple

Isn't it strange that a weekly cleaning of one’s lodgings (house, flat, cave) is not only seen as normal but even mandatory, while housekeeping of our fleshy lodgings (our bodies) is looked upon as something a little bit weird and even unnecessary?
However, cleaning the body and cleaning the house works in the same way: if it’s not done regularly, lots of gunk will gather in the nooks and corners and getting rid of it will be more difficult the longer you leave it.

This is why I want to share with you an array of useful tools to detox and support the body: the enema, face masks, body scrubbing and brushing, the detox bath, hair and scalp treatments, the castor oil pack and the neti pot.
It’s a lot, I know, but I hope to inspire you to during this cold and quiet seasons delve into your personal spa at home and really clean out the gunky corners of your fleshy household.
And who knows, maybe you establish a new routine for all seasons?

 One of my favourite posessions: my body brush

One of my favourite posessions: my body brush

In today’s modern society it is difficult to avoid environmental toxins no matter how health conscious our diet and lifestyle.
Pharmaceutical drugs, while sometimes helpful, are still toxic to the body and residue and after-effects may linger in unexpected places.
A cure of antibiotics still affects the body’s natural flora 2 years after it is taken.
The polluted air that we breathe, pathogenic microorganisms in our drinking water, chemicals in household cleaning products as well as in body lotions, makeup and hair products, pesticides and heavy metals in our vegetables… The list goes on and on.

These are poisons which are very hard to avoid if we wish to live in a modern society today, especially if we enjoy the pulsating life of a big city!
As humans we are equipped with eliminatory organs such as the lymphatic system, the liver and the kidneys, but these organs need support in order not to buckle down under the pressure of filtering out a serious load of toxins every single day.

As these poisons are impossible to avoid (although I of course encourage you to do your best!), our focus should be on limiting the effect these harmful substances have on our bodies.
A brilliant way to do this is to frequently give yourself time to do some bodily housekeeping; sometimes a light vacuum and sometimes deep cleanings.

Here are a few things that I do at home to support my healing and well being, both when going through a cleanse such as a juice or water fast or when I am just doing some “general housework” on a weekly basis:


 The turmeric face mask, aloe vera hair mask and – dare I say it? – coffee enema all in action this very morning!

The turmeric face mask, aloe vera hair mask and – dare I say it? – coffee enema all in action this very morning!

FACE MASKS

I make my own simple face masks at home, different ones for different purposes. I will not take credit for any of these recipes! They are simply recipes I’ve picked up on the way and modified to suit my needs.
There are three: one for oily skin, one for blemish prone skin (that time of the month, hello!) and one for dry skin.

The best way to prepare your skin for a face mask is by opening the pores using a clean face towel rinsed in hot water. Keep the towel on the face until it cools, pat dry with a clean towel and then apply the face mask.
 

SPIRULINA FACE MASK – for oily skin and clogged pores

You will need:
1/2 teaspoon spirulina
1 tbsp water OR 1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar

Instructions:
Vinegar will dry the skin somewhat so it is best used on particularly oily skin. This mineral heavy face mask will dry up on your skin, balance your PH and suck lots of crap our of your pores. Spirulina and apple cider are both antibacterial foods and this will help keep your pores from irritation which causes blemishes and redness.
Leave for max 20 minutes and rinse with warm water.
 

TURMERIC FACE MASK – for blemish prone skin

You will need:
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions:
Turmeric and raw honey are both very antibacterial and will deeply disinfect your pores. Lemon juice cleanses, tones and reduces pore size.
This mask gets kind of grainy because of the turmeric, so you can scrub your face with it for 30 seconds before leaving it on as a mask.
Leave for max 15 minutes.
Note that this mask may leave your face a little bit yellow for a couple of hours after you have removed it! Fear not, it will fade. Just wipe your face with a cloth after the mask before moisturising.
 

RAW HONEY FACE MASK - hydrating

You will need:
1 teaspoon refrigerated raw honey

Instructions:
Refrigerating the honey is key as this will make the sugars in the honey crystallise and you will have a fine scrub. Raw honey is antibacterial, moisturising and it smells nice; this is the one I use most frequently. Scrub the cold honey into your pores and then leave it on your face for 20-30 minutes before washing with warm water.
 

MOISTURISE

Moisturising is always important, but especially after a face mask like the spriulina or the turmeric face mask as these put your skin though a lot. I prefer an oil after a face mask, either argan oil or, if my skin is not going through an oily phase, rose hip oil.
 

 Raw honey

Raw honey


ENEMA

The health benefits of enemas, in particular my favourite coffee enema, are too numerous to list in one small post and there have been written books on the subject. But believe me, having your morning coffee this way is much better for you!
This is something I do once a week.

Coffee in the colon causes the ducts in the liver to dilate and release bile and the coffee that is being absorbed through the enema dilutes the bile, causing it to flow more easily in order to be flushed out.
Proper bile flow helps your body rid itself of waste products so this is crucial to detoxing properly.
Enhancing bile flow is a great way support for the liver, an organ which works so hard for us in particular during times of illness or after a period of drinking alcohol to excess and showing this organ some love can feel very intimate and powerful.

Substances found in the coffee (kahweol and cafestol palmitate) gives a 600% activity boost to the liver enzyme glutathione-S-transferase which is known to remove free radicals from the blood stream.
If you manage to hold the coffee enema in for 15 minutes, all the blood of the body will pass through the liver at least 4 times (roughly just below every 3 minutes) and you will effectively cleanse the blood of free radicals.

In addition to this, an enema is excellent for colon health as it properly washes out old material that otherwise can get stuck in the colon and block the intestinal lining, preventing nutrient assimilation, water uptake and proper digestion.
You especially see the effects of the enema when on a juice or water fast as you keep passing solids several days after your last solid meal… It is really quite revolting and inspiring all at once.

As you clean out both good and bad bacteria when doing an enema I recommend having a probiotic supplement or food when you're done.
I usually do my enemas first thing in the morning before I eat anything (drinking water is fine), but this is a preference and not strictly nescessary.

Coffee enemas are vigorously employed in alternative cancer treatments and were a cornerstone in Dr. Max Gerson’s cancer therapy. The method I am using is borrowed from the Gerson therapy.

 My trusty enema kit

My trusty enema kit

You will need:

A bag of ground ORGANIC coffee
An enema bag or bucket
Filtered water
A timer or a phone with a timer
A comfy place to rest
Coconut oil for lubrication
A good book or a podcast (my favourite enema-time-podcast is SMNTY!)

I always do two enemas: a flush and a coffee enema. The flush enables me to hold the coffee enema for a full 20 minutes and it cleans far up into the bowels.
Prepare both enemas before you start.


THE FLUSH ENEMA

Boil 500 ml of filtered water
Add this to a bowl along with 1 litre cold filtered water
(you are aiming for water that is warm, almost hot)


The coffee enema

Bring 1,2 litres of filtered water to a boil and add 4 tablespoons of coffee.
Turn off the heat and let the coffee infuse for 20 minutes before straining.
The coffee will be too hot to use at this point, but I find that it cools down during my flush enema.

Then we begin.
Hang your enema bag or bucket up on a door handle or a picture hook in your bathroom and release the clamp on the hose into a sink so that you release some air.
Clamp the hose again, lubricate the tip with coconut oil and lay down on a towel, on the floor, in the bathtub… Wherever you can be comfortable.
Laying on your left side, insert the hose and try to relax your muscles and your breath.
Once all of the water has been inserted, go to the toilet and release at once.
This may take some time as the water can get lodged far up. Massaging clockwise on the lower abdomen can help, as can getting up and walking around for a bit – I assure you that 2 minutes will be more than enough!

Then it is time for the coffee enema.
Strain the coffee infusion into the enema bag, checking the temperature. If it is too hot or cold, tweak it with water.
Again, release air over the sink and lay down on your left side.
After all the coffee has been inserted, start a timer for 5 minutes.
Every 5 minutes, turn around as turning like this ensures that you give your bowels proper “wash”.
Turn from the left side to laying on your back, on your right side and finally (this is the hardest one!) come to rest on your knees with your forehead on the floor (child’s pose) before going to the toilet to release the enema.
Massaging anti-clockwise throughout the coffee enema can help retain the enema as this moves the water further up the colon.
Breathing exercises and mediation is also helpful and so is a good podcast!


BODY SCRUB

The perfect thing to do with your left over coffee grounds from your enema is to make an exfoliating body scrub.
This recipe is very simple and while the coffee exfoliates and tones the skin, the coconut oil moisturises and the essential oil of your choosing can either uplift or relax.
This is also a great way to enjoy the benefits of mineral rich salts if you don’t have a bath tub.

Scrubbing vigorously aides detoxification as it stimulates the lymphatic system at the same time as removing dead layers of skin which allows the skin to breathe and sweat to properly exit the pores.

You will need:
2 parts coffee grounds
1 part epsom salt or other mineral rich salt crystals
1 part melted coconut oil at room temperature
A few drops of essential oil of your choice. I like eucalyptus or orange for an uplifting experience and lavender for a more soothing feel.

Instructions:
Mix all the ingredients together and keep in a jar in your shower or bathtub.
Scrub the skin vigorously, then rinse.
In order to further moisturise the skin, resist the urge to wash off with soap and instead gently pat your body dry and enjoy the feeling of the oil entering your pores.

 Finished body scrub and essential oils

Finished body scrub and essential oils


BODY BRUSHING

Body brushing has become a bit of an addiction of mine: I have to do it every morning and I don’t really feel that I have woken up properly without! I even travel with my brush.

Body brushing has the same detoxifying effects as a body scrub in that is stimulates the lymphs and allows the skin to breathe properly.
It is a great way to wake up the body in the morning as well as preparing the pores for an epsom salt bath or a ginger bath (see below). 
Needless to say, please purchase an all natural brush for your skin. I use this one (not sponsored, I just love it!).

You will need:
A body brush

Instructions:
In order to best stimulate the lymphatic system try to follow the guidelines of the lymph drainage map below, scrubbing from the extremities towards the core using circular motions.
Try to be as enthusiastic as possible: the goal is to make your skin really pink and a stiff brush takes some getting used to!
 


DETOX BATH

A nice, hot bath is very relaxing, but did you know that it can help you detox as well?

Epsom salt, coming from Epsom in Surrey here in the UK, is well renowned for it’s high compound of magnesium and sulphate and has gained popularity as THE bath salt.
However I will say that any mineral rich unrefined salt such as dead sea salt and Himalayan pink salt will do the job nicely.
The point is to have a bath with a high mineral content as these minerals help relieve muscle cramps, improve circulation and draw toxins out of the pores, more efficiently so if the skin is prepared with a body brush as outlined above.
In addition to this a hot bath of course helps the body sweat, which is a powerful cleanse in itself. It is important to replenish with at least a large 500 ml glass of lukewarm water (as lukewarm is more hydrating) to replace lost fluids after a hot bath.

If you want to get a serious sweat on you can add powdered ginger to you bath. This will make you sweat and feel very hot for a good hour after your bath so it is best to do just before bedtime.

After a salt bath with or without ginger I prefer not to apply any moisturisers or oils to my skin as I want to keep the pores open and the sweat going for as long as my body feels is necessary.
Try not to stay in the bath for more than 25 minutes as the toxins you draw out of the pores will slowly begin to go back in after half an hour and that ruins the whole point!
Rinsing off with cold water before stepping out of the bath is a great way to get both the blood and lymphatic circulation going.

You will need:
A bathtub
Good quality salt
Ground ginger (optional)

Instructions:
Run a hot bath (as hot as you can handle) and add a few good handfuls of salt and, if you wish, 1 1/2 tablespoons of powdered ginger. Stir the bath to dissolve the salt and ginger.
Soak for no longer than 25 minutes. Keep drinking water to stay hydrated!
Rinse off with cold water, pat dry and lay down while your body sweats and returns to normal temperature.


SCALP AND HAIR TREATMENT

Our scalps and hair needs some love as well, especially if we subject them to chemical laden hair products and heat through blow drying or otherwise heat treating the hair. And let’s not even begin to think about the toxins in hair colour!

A hair mask is perfect for when you are having an enema, a bath or a face mask and I keep returning to these three masks depending on what my hair and scalp needs.
I have a very sensitive scalp and suffer after using hair colour and/or products as well as when the winter temperatures set in so the aloe vera mask is especially helpful to me.

Essential oils can be very helpful in a hair and scalp treatment. I like lavender as it soothes and relaxes and itchy scalp and also rosemary which promotes hair growth and decreases hair loss.


ALOE VERA MASK

You will need:
Freshly harvested aloe vera inner gel from an aloe vera plant (instructions here), puréed, or 100% aloe vera inner leaf extract.
Essential oil of your choice can be added to the mix.

Instructions:
Damp the hair and scalp with a warm cloth as to open the pores.
Massage into the hair and scalp for a few minutes, leave for as long as you like and wash your hair as normal.
Brushing your hair as you add the gel will help expose the scalp.
This mask will treat a dry, flaky and itchy scalp as well as provide moisture to the hair.

 

COCONUT OIL HAIR MASK

You will need:
Organic coconut oil

Instrictions:
Damp the hair and scalp with a warm cloth as to open the pores.
Melt coconut oil on in a pan on the stove and allow to cool before massaging into hair and scalp.
You can add essential oils to this mix as well as raw honey.
Massage into the hair and scalp for a few minutes, leave for 30 minutes and wash your hair as normal.
This mask will soothe a dry scalp as well as give plenty of moisture and bounce to the hair.

 

AVOCADO MASK

You will need:
An avocado
You can add a banana (deep conditioning and promotes natural curls), raw honey (protects the hair if you often subject it to heat), an egg yolk (strengthens hair and reduces hair loss) or olive oil (fights frizz and helps remove tangles) to the blend.

Instructions:
Blend smooth 1 avocado with any essential oil/other ingredient(s) of your choice.
Damp the hair and scalp with a warm cloth as to open the pores.
Massage into the hair and scalp for a few minutes, leave for 45 minutes and was your hair as normal.
This mask thickens the hair and promotes shine and growth as well as soothes a sore scalp.


CASTOR OIL PACK

A castor oil pack is made by soaking a flannel in castor oil and letting it sit on the abdomen for an hour or more.
Used this way, castor oil greatly improves detoxification as it supports the liver and the lymphatic system.
Castor oil packs are able to help regulating menstruation and support ovarian and uterine health and can be used before or after a cycle (not when menstruating).
In addition to this a castor oil pack relieves digestive issues such as gas, bloating, inflammation, congestion and bowel toxicity.

A 1999 study found that “castor oil packs produced a significant temporary increase in the number of T-11 cells that increased over a 7 hour period following treatment and then returned to normal levels within 24 hours later”.
A T-11 cell lymphocyte is a powerful antibody that kill viruses, unwanted bacteria, fungi and cancer cells. We want more of those, please!

You will need:
A flannel or face towel made from a natural fabric such as wool or cotton
Good quality hexane free castor oil (I use this one)
A small cotton towel you don’t mind dedicating to castor oil packs as the oil won’t wash out (but feel free to reuse the towel again for castor oil packs)
A hot water bottle or heating pad
Cling film or a castor oil pack holder
Old clothes or blankets you don’t mind staining or a medical grade toxin free plastic sheet if you can find one. Or, if you have a bath tub, you can do your castor oil pack there and won't need a plastic sheet.

Instructions:
Make sure your flannel is the right size to cover the lower part of your abdomen, either folded or unfolded. A thinner flannel should be folded, whereas a thicker flannel or cloth can have one layer only.
Thoroughly saturate the flannel in castor oil. One way to do this is to keep the flannel in a glass jar or bowl and add a tablespoon of oil every 15 minutes until the flannel is saturated. It may sound like a lot of work, but you can reuse the flannel once it’s done!
Lay down on a towel or plastic sheet in bed or on the floor or in the bath tub, wearing clothes or blankets you won’t mind stain.
Place the oil soaked flannel on your lower abdomen (roughly from under the ribs to the hip bones) and wrap around with the cotton towel followed by the cling film or, if you have it, a castor oil pack holder.
Place the heating pad or hot water bottle on top of your abdomen.
Relax! Read a book, listen to a podcast or meditate for an hour. If possible, keep your feet elevated using pillows, a stool or a ledge nearby.
When done, store the castor oil flannel in a glass jar or box in the fridge.
Wash the oil off using natural soap or baking soda and water.
Make sure to drink plenty of water.


NETI POT

A neti pot is a small pot that may be shaped like horn or a small tea pot and is used for cleaning the sinuses.
By simply mixing salt with water, the neti pot offers relief from congested sinuses either from a cold or from air pollution.
The fancy word for it is nasal saline irrigation, but it is basically the use of lukewarm salt water to flush out the sinuses.
The inside of the nasal and sinus cavities is lined with tiny little things called cilia and these are the ones that move mucous back and forth in the sinus passages. Saline solution seems to boost these cilia so that they coordinate more easily and can remove allergens and irritants from the sinus passages. Neat, isn’t it?
Thus, the neti pot can provide relief from allergies as well as ward off infections without the use of pharmaceutical treatment.

You will need:
A neti pot
High quality, finely ground salt

Instructions:
Fill the neti pot with lukewarm water and add a pinch of salt.
Shake the neti pot for 30 seconds to mix the salt and the water.
Insert the tip of the neti pot into one nostril and tilt your head in the opposite direction of the pot. The salt water should begin to trickle out of your other nostril.
Keep breathing through your mouth! When halfway through the water in the pot, switch sides.
Blow your nose after. You may feel temporarily more congested, but this will last only for a few minutes.
Use the neti pot as often as you like, either to treat specific ailments or as a maintenance tool.


Finally, I want to assure you that it is okay – more than okay, necessary – to take the time to do these things.
Our bodies work so hard for us no matter what we put them through and one of the few things we can be certain of is that we will spend the rest of our time in this life inside the bodies we have been given.

In order to be the best we can be, to be most efficient, to achieve our goals and to have spare energy to care for other beings we need to be as healthy and pain free as possible.
We need to help ourselves before we can help others and treat our bodies as if they belong to someone we love. This is why caring for oneself shouldn’t be seen as or thought of as a selfish act but a necessary act, something that ultimately supports the wellbeing of all that cross our path.
Take good care of yourself.

 

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about any of the treatments outlined and I will do my best to answer them!

Hello flow!

 Artwork by Jen Lewis

Artwork by Jen Lewis

Hey, my period started yesterday! Raise your hand if we're syncing – and raise your hand if these first sentences of this post has embarrassed you.

There is so much stigma related to our periods, but all healthy women experience menstruation in their reproductive years – that's half the human population! This is why I have no problem talking about it and by doing so I hope I can spread more acceptance of these very natural, interesting and sometimes challenging periods of our lives (no pun intended).

Some women find this monthly event not only embarassing, but also an ordeal due to pains such as lower back pain and cramps, ovarian pain, mood swings and fatigue.
Knowing what the body needs during this crucial time can help alleviate some of the discomfort and also help the body regenerate more quickly after a period.

What are the key nutrients that a woman needs during her cycle?

Firstly, there is an obvious but very important item on the list: water.
We always hear that we should be drinking more water and this is usually true for all of us, but especially true for women who are loosing a lot of liquid while on their period.
The European Food Safety Authority has recommended at least 2 litres of water per day under regular circumstances, so being on your cycle is a great excuse to start getting used to a bigger water intake to keep things literally flowing.
 

Because of the blood loss, women are more susceptible to iron deficiency anaemia than men.
This occurs when red blood cells and haemoglobin levels are at a low point.
Haemoglobin is an iron-containing transport molecule for oxygen in red blood cells and without it oxygen transport through the body fails and will make us feel tired, nauseous and weak. The biggest and easiest source of iron for omnivores are meat, but there are also some great options for vegetarians:

  • Dark leafy greens: Almost all common leafy greens, but especially spinach, arugula, watercress, beet greens, kale and chard contain a lot of iron. Chard also has a very high vitamin C content and is therefore the perfect match with other iron rich greens because vitamin C aids the uptake of iron – more about that later.
  • Sea vegetables: Use your monthly as an excuse to explore the fabulous world or flavourful sea vegetables! Nori, kelp and other sea weeds are highly alkaline, naturally salty and contain plenty of iron.
  • Iron rich supplements: Wheatgrass and spirulina are great natural supplements to add to your diet on a regular basis, but their high levels of iron are especially crucial during your period.
  • Fresh herbs: Many fresh herbs has a very high content of iron. For instance, 10 grams of fresh oregano contains 50% of your recommended daily intake of iron. Other herbals sources for iron are nettles, flat leaf parsley and basil.
  • Blackstrap molasses: Blackstrap molasses is a third-extraction-syrup from unrefined sugar cane. It has a low GI score and a very high mineral content, notably of iron but also including selenium, manganese, potassium, copper and zinc. (B5, B6)
  • Tofu: Tofu is a versatile protein source for vegetarians and contains a fair amount of iron, about 30 % RDI per 100 g.
  • Currants: currants are delicious as a sweet snack and also incredibly rich in iron as well as being one of the most vitamin C rich foods on the planet.
     

Meanwhile, vitamin C is needed to facilitate the body’s uptake of iron as well as it helps energise the body and relieve fatigue.
Some greens with a high iron content, such as chard, broccoli, watercress as well as flat leaf parsley, are also high in vitamin C.
Another way to facilitate iron uptake is to drink a little lemon water or use lemon or lime in whatever sauce or dressing you are making for your iron rich foods.
 

Another important vitamin to take into account is vitamin K.
Vitamin K supports the bones and the body’s ability to heal and deficiency in this vitamin can mean excessive bleeding, heavy periods, nose bleeds and bruisability.
Two vitamin K all stars are the already mentioned flat leaf parsley and kale. 10 grams of parsley will provide you with over 100% of your recommended daily vitamin K intake and along with a high iron and vitamin C content, this makes parsley an excellent addition to your diet during your cycle.
Other wonderful vegetarian sources for vitamin K are:

  • Dark leafy greens: collards, chard, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens, broccoli.
  • Fresh herbs: Coriander, basil, nettles and oregano.
  • Vegetables: Endive, radicchio, garden cress, watercress, chicory, asparagus and leeks.


Speaking of dark greens, let’s talk about chlorophyll!
Chlorophyll is found in all plants and is a green biomolecule that allows plants to convert sunlight into energy.
It is referred to as plant blood and the comparison is not by chance: chlorophyll is actually molecularly structured in a very similar way to haemoglobin. The only difference between the chlorophyll and haemoglobin molecules is the central atom – chlorophyll’s is magnesium, while haemoglobin’s is iron.
In this peculiar and beautiful way we are connected to the plants and can use plant blood in order to help build our own blood, which is especially important during a menstrual cycle.
Dark leafy greens, the darker the better, are fantastic sources of chlorophyll, as is spirulina and wheatgrass. You can even grow your own powerful chlorophyll-hit on your windowsill!


As a vegetarian, my vitamin B-12 consumption is something that I keep an especially watchful eye on as it is a vitamin that is mostly found in meat and eggs.
B-12 is necessary during your period to keep your energy level up, protect the body from megaloblastic anaemia and aid the formation of red blood cells.
Many vegetarians swear by B12 supplements, but I myself prefer to eat the whole food rather that a fortified product or a vitamin capsule and I am getting my B12 fix from whole, natural sources such as:

  • Kale: Again, kale makes it to the list – the ultimate menstrual cycle food! Kale is one of the few greens containing vitamin B12, so here is yet another reason to be excited about kale.
  • Nutritional yeast: The vegan’s secret weapon. Nutritional yeast is inactive test which makes anything take kind of cheesy. I drizzle it over baked kale in order to make the perfectly salty PMS snack,and it can be used in sauces or dressings for a creamy, cheesy flavour.
  • Palmyra palm sugar (palmyra jaggery): I am not kidding when I tell you that a sugar actually can be good for you. The palmyra palm is native to India and Sri Lanka and its sugar has a wonderful caramel flavour, with one tbs containing 133% or your RDI of B12, as well as many other B-complex vitamins and minerals. Palmyra jaggery has a Gi score of 41 and a very low fructose content so it is a descent alternative to satisfy your cravings for sweets. It's still a sugar, so don't go crazy! A little goes a long way.
  • Nori: The seaweed nori is flavourful and deliciously salty as well as a B12 provider.
  • Tempeh: My favourite bacon substitute! Tempeh fried in coconut oil with a little bit of salt and smoked paprika will make even the most hard core omnivore drool. Soy beans contain no B12 and tempeh owes it’s B12 content due to fermentation.
  • Fermented products: B12 does not naturally occur in humans or plants, but is synthesised by bacteria. As the bacteria flora in a fermentation process is never consistent so is the case with the vitamin content in fermented products. Yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles are all made with the lactic bacteria that under certain circumstances produce B12.


Alkaline minerals are important features in our diet at any time in order to balance out the foods we eat, which are often acidic.
During the menstruation period, the alkaline minerals potassium, calcium, and magnesium are especially important.
Potassium can help relieve bloating, tender breasts and promote a more regular digestion for the women who struggle with diarrhoea during their period.
Calcium acts as a muscle relaxant, especially when taken alongside magnesium.
Magnesium help reduce bloating during menstruation and will similarly to calcium release muscle tension which will help on the cramps and discomfort.

  • Sources of alkaline minerals: cabbage (potassium – and also high in vitamin C!), blackstrap molasses (potassium, calcium), bananas (potassium, magnesium), coconut water (potassium), avocados (potassium), sweet potatoes (potassium), chia seeds (calcium), milk products (calcium), nettles (calcium, magnesium), collard greens (calcium), kale (calcium, potassium), oats (magnesium), kelp (magnesium), almonds (potassium, magnesium), cocoa and cacao (magnesium and also iron), pumpkin seeds (magnesium), beet greens (calcium, magnesium).


Healthy fats are key components for a healthy hormonal balance and a healthy lifestyle overall.
The production of hormones is a complex process, but one thing we know is that hormones are dependant on fats. If your diet is short on good fats, the body no longer has the building blocks to create hormones.
If the body has a too high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, meaning margarine and vegetable oils, it will attempt to create hormones out of these wrong building blocks and we get hormonal deficiency.
In addition to this, vegetable oils are chemically extracted and they often contain a high level of toxins which can lead to “mutant oestrogen”.
Build your hormones the way they were meant to using saturated fats from raw butter, raw cheese, unheated olive oil, eggs, avocados, nuts and coconut oil.

The fat content of the body is 97% saturated fats and 3% polyunsaturated fats containing omega-3 and omega-6 in a 1:1 ratio.
Unfortunately the consumption of omega-6 has skyrocketed due to its presence in seed oils such as canola oil and soybean oil which are found in most packaged and manufactured foods.
Therefore, we must steer away from manufactured foods and load up on omega-3.
In addition to this, studies have shown omega-3 to help alleviate menstrual cramps, inflammation and tension during the period.
Omega-3 is found in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, tofu and chia seeds and can also be taken as a supplement (look for a DHA and EPA supplement – this is a great guide).
 

Lastly, there are some superfoods and herbs that have shown to aid hormonal imbalance and relieve uncomfortable PMS symptoms and period pains:

  • Maca: Maca is a root in the radish family that has been used in Peru for a very long time. Maca is high in calcium, potassium and iron and is known to balance hormones and can help relieve PMS symptoms, improve skin condition and fertility and act as an aphrodisiac.
  • Spirulina: Contains potassium, magnesium and calcium and plenty of protein. Perfect for your morning smoothie.
  • Bee pollen: Used in Chinese medicine, bee pollen can help improve digestion, build the blood for iron stores and increase energy.
  • Vitex: Vitex is a medicinal herb that can be taken as a tea or a tincture. Vitex is used to treat headaches, problem skin, breast tenderness, fatigue and bloating.
  • Lady’s Mantle: Lady’s mantle is a powerfully antioxidant plant that can be taken as a tea or a tincture. Lady’s mantle is used to treat all kinds of female problems including hormonal conditions, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, irregular bleeding and menstrual cramps. Ideally, one should begin drinking the tea or tincture ten days before the period for maximum effect.
 Jen Lewis

Jen Lewis

A balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle is as we know key to many things in life and a less painful menstruation period is one of them.

Make sure to always buy organic products, especially during such a sensitive time as your moon cycle. Foods like leafy greens, blackstrap molasses, palmyra jaggery and maca are especially dependent on fertile soil in order for them to display their health properties.

Drink lots of water; fill your smoothies, salads and stews with lots of leafy greens and chlorophyll; go heavy on delicious butter and coconut oil; eat a variety of vegetables and fermented foods; experiment with fresh herbs in your cooking; drink lots of warming vitex and lady’s mantle tea and most of all allow yourself to be still and immerse yourself in this powerful week every month.

PS! If you need some entertainment while you are in your monthly fetal position, too crampy to leave the house but still hungry for information about what’s going on inside you, check out these fantastic podcasts on periods and period-related things:

The Period Pride Episode
The Period Tracker Apps Episode
The Menstrual Cups Episode

And do you have questions you don't even dare to ask your doctor? Visit HelloFlo.

The year's last, loveliest smile

"Autumn – the year’s last, loveliest smile"
William Cullen Bryant
 

My favourite season is here!

Time to tidy the wardrobe and pull all the cosy sweaters out from their hiding places, to kick leaves in the park and to sample the best vegetables nature has to offer.
At the farmer’s market the stalls are creaking under the weight of the loveliest things around: lingering summer flavours such as strawberries, courgette flowers, lettuce, curly leaf kale and cucumbers are mixing with pumpkins, apples, beets and carrots, the first winter vegetables of the season.
It is such a joy to follow nature as she dances on through the seasons.

In my last post I discussed the health benefits of raw honey and promised to share some autumnal treats with you after experimenting a little. Now is the time!

Using raw honey from The Local Honey Man I have made two autumn treats, although both are so healthy you could even have them for breakfast if you so wish. In fact, the tahini date balls are ideal before a workout!
So without much further ado, here are two recipes to take with you into the new season.


AUTUMN HONEY CAKE


As the initial excitement over the arrival of the winter squashes slowly fades into frustration over the course of the cold season (my man calls this state of mind “squashed out”), it is nice to have some recipes to hand that offer an alternative take on these colourful bubbleheads.

For this recipe I have used butternut squash, but it is perfectly okay to use pumpkins, hokkaido squash, or a mix of orange and green squashes – whatever you have on hand.
Butternut squash is one of the most powerful sources of the antioxidant betacarotene in the plant kingdom, which out bodies convert to vitamin A.
As betacarotene is fat soluble, a good source of healthy fat (coconut oil in this case) alongside any orange vegetable aids the body in the uptake of nutrients.

I used borage honey from the Local Honey Man in this recipe as it is sweet, but still with some flavour to it.
I also chose to decorate my cake with a pumpkin flower from the garden, but if you can’t find one the cake can also be decorated with chopped walnuts, desiccated coconut, seeds, bee pollen, honey swirls… Whatever takes your fancy!

For the base:
140 grams walnuts
50 grams ground almonds (left overs from nut milk is fine!)
190 grams pitted dates
2 tbsp coconut oil
a pinch of sea salt

For the cake:
600 grams butternut squash
200 ml orange juice (fresh is of course best)
140 grams raw honey
180 ml coconut oil, melted and room temperature

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.
Peel the squash, half it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, cut into cubes and roast for 30-40 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, blend all the base ingredients in a food processor or with a hand mixer to a crumble-like consistence that holds together in a pinch.
Line an 18 cm spring-form baking tin with baking paper, spoon the base mix into the form and press it down with your fingers, making sure that it is of even height all around.
Refrigerate the base.

Once the squash is roasted, leave it to cool before adding it to a blender with the rest of the cake-ingredients and blent until completely smooth.
Remove the cake tin from the fridge and pour the cake filling over the cake base.
This is the time to decorate the cake if you so wish.
Then place the whole thing back into the fridge to set: a couple of hours will do, but overnight is better.

To serve, open the spring form and either cut the paper around the cake base or, if you are brave, carefully transfer the cake from the baking paper to a serving plate with the help of spatulas.
 


FERMENTED HONEY ENERGY BALLS

 

I got to try something very special when I let visited the Local Honey Man, namely fermented honey!
As you may know if you have ever read anything on this blog at all, I am ever so slightly obsessed with fermented foods, so this honey was right up my alley. It is sweet yet fermented, bitter, malty, almost a little bit like honey-beer.

Energy balls, bliss balls, raw balls; you’ve probably had one somewhere lately.
These things are all the rage these days and as there are so many wonderful recipes out there this is the first time I have seen any reason to create a recipe myself.
Why add another one to the pile?
Firstly, because I wanted to create something special in honour of the fermented honey instead of having to make this unique flavour fit into an other recipe and secondly because I find many energy balls too sweet for my liking.

If you read my post about foods to eat before exercise, you may recall that the ideal thing to eat before a workout is a high carb snack that will replenish your glycogen storage (=energy) while at the same time not being too fibrous so that it will linger in your stomach and make you queasy.
Dates are ideal as they are taken up by the bloodstream quickly to give you a burst of energy before physical activity.

If you can’t find fermented honey, another more bitter honey such as chestnut honey will do the trick here. Or, if you like it sweeter, feel free to substitute with any regular (RAW!) honey you can find.

50 grams ground almonds (left overs from nut milk is fine!)
3 tsp tahini
2.5 tsp raw honey
50 grams pitted dates
small pinch of sea salt
sesame seeds

Mix all the ingredients except for the sesame seeds into a paste in a food processor or with a hand mixer.
Pinch off enough dough to make a roughly 3cm ball and roll it in the sesame seeds, refrigerate for minimum 1 hour and enjoy.
Makes approx. 10 balls.

Local Honey Man

A little while back I was incredibly lucky to be invited by The Local Honey Man to see their honey production behind the scenes first hand and to sneak a peek at their new and beautiful products and logo.

The Local Honey Man (LHM) produces raw honey in Essex and London and is run by Curtis who learnt the bee keeping trade from his uncle.
LHM works tirelessly to better the situation for the world’s bees, who are nearing extinction because they have nowhere to feed in an increasingly urbanised world and because big agro are fond of using bee killing pesticides. (Which can also produce cancer in humans by the way… Choose organic!)

Bees, while being beautiful beings in their own right, are also vital to the ecosystem in that they help pollinate the plants that all species need in order to live.
This is why, in addition to selling raw honey and beeswax products, LHM also sells bee keeping equipment and holds bee keeping courses so that anyone who is interested can take up a rewarding hobby and help save the planet at the same time!

Personally I am not sure if I am ready to take on a hive for myself just yet, but at home we have planted a wildflower meadow in order to give the bees a safe feeding ground and I urge everyone who has a garden to do the same. Not only will you help the quickly diminishing bee population, but you will have gorgeous (and some edible!) flowers all summer to cherish outside or to pick and display on the dinner table.

 The beeswax of the LHM honey is scraped off by hand before the honey is sucked out of the honeycomb in a centrifugal machine.

The beeswax of the LHM honey is scraped off by hand before the honey is sucked out of the honeycomb in a centrifugal machine.

As raw honey is unpasteurised and unfiltered it contains an incredible amount of beneficial enzymes, phytonutrients, macro- and micronutrients.
Honey is often heat-treated and “purified” before reaching the market and this strips off its natural anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties. This is why raw honey is excellent ON the body as well as IN the body! More on this later.

The nutritional content of honey varies with the floral source, but often include the B complex vitamins and vitamin A, C, E and K, minerals like copper, zinc manganese, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and an abundance of amino acids.
In comparison to “purified” commercially sold pasteurised honey, raw honey is incredibly more nutritionally beneficial. For instance, raw honey is alkaline forming in the body in contrast to pasteurised or refined honey which is acidic.
Raw honey also has a relatively low glycemic index score (how quickly the sugar is taken up by the bloodstream – the higher score, the bigger spike in blood sugar) of 30 to 40, while pasteurised honey can reach up to 80.
Raw honey has been linked to treating candida overgrowth, aiding the digestion, boosting the immune system and relieving infections and hay fever.

 Scraping beeswax: surprisingly meditative

Scraping beeswax: surprisingly meditative

Raw honey is antiseptic and anti-bacterial, it minimises the chance for inflammation of the skin which causes redness and blemishes and this is why it is great as a face mask.
My favourite facemark and scrub consists of raw honey only. The true mark of raw honey is that is crystallises when it gets cold, so if you keep a small jar in the fridge it is great as a scrub and then it can be left on the face for 30 minutes after. Rinse with warm water and you are good to go! I use this scrub/mask at least once a week.

LHM has also released a raw honey lip balm in their product range. As we eat most of our lip balm throughout the day, I think it is only logical to opt for a natural option and this one is lovely.
 


I cook with raw honey all the time and it is not only for desserts!

I love playing around with it in the kitchen and this is why I would like to share with you three everyday-recipes using raw honey as well as dedicate my next post to the perfect raw honey autumn dessert. Stay tuned…
Meanwhile, enjoy these inspiring and simple ideas for using raw honey!
 

ON ANYTHING ANYTIME SALAD DRESSING

This is so easy that it is hardly a recipe, but I find that this salad dressing can liven up even the most bitter-tasting wilted salad (old dandelion greens laying around, anyone?).
It is sweet, sour, salty and pungent all at the same time, which is why it goes with anything. I also adjust the ratios to suit the salad in question: a sweet salad with root vegetables need less honey for example, while a sour salad with sorrel can use a bit more mustard and honey.
The key is to have the best ingredients available and because you only need to use a little bit of everything each time it is cost-effective in the long run.

1/2 tsp strong mustard
1 big tsp raw honey
1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 good pinch pink himalayan salt
2 good grinds of black pepper

Mix everything together in a glass or small cup and add to any salad. Suitable for a salad serving 2-3 people

TURMERIC RAW HONEY SHOTS    

I recently started making these shots after visiting Boulder, CO, where it is all the rage and so I won’t take credit for inventing them.
What I will say though is that this is the ultimate cold and inflammation fighter!

Raw honey is, as you know by now, anti-inflammatory and alongside turmeric and ginger this is a very powerful shot for the immune system to kickstart the body’s anti-inflammatory response. The carrots sweetens this powerful drink and the black pepper aids the uptake of curcumin (the main curcuminoid in turmeric).
When my man suffered from an inflamed achilles after too much running I fed him this daily.

4 finger sized pieces of fresh turmeric
3 large thumb sized pieces of fresh ginger 2 carrots
1 tsp raw honey
Freshly ground black pepper

Juice the turmeric, ginger and carrots in your juicer. Mix in the raw honey and add a few good grinds of pepper. Swirl and drink.

This makes one very powerful shot, so you may want to sip it rather than shoot it!

SUPER POWER OATS

This is my favourite thing to eat after a hard workout as these oats contain a fine balance of everything you need after a training. Carbs, anti-inflammatories, calcium, iron, protein, antioxidants and healthy fats… It’s all in there. And you can make it the night before so that you can hit it straight after you finish your training!

To recap from my post on exercise and diet:
the oats provide healthy carbohydrates to replenish your energy storage and promote metabolic hormone function; the anti-inflammatory functions of the raw honey help prevent damage to ligaments and muscles; the chia and flax seeds provide a healthy dose of omega 3 and protein; bone and blood minerals are supplied by chia seeds (calcium) and maca powder (iron); antioxidant heavy goji berries prevent inflammation and the ghee supplies the body with healthy building blocks for cells and hormones in the shape of saturated fats.
In short, the perfect recipe for promoting metabolism, building the body and preventing damage. Raw honey is particularly great for this dish as an enzyme present in the honey called amylase has the ability to pre-digest grains and make them easier on your digestion.

(For 1 person)
70-100 grams oats (depending on the intensity of your exercise regime)
1 tbsp goji berries
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp maca powder
1 tbsp flax seeds (if you have the time and patience, grind them up beforehand: this allows for better assimilation)
1 large tsp raw honey
1 pinch himalayan pink salt/unrefined sea salt 200-250 grams almond milk (depending on how much oats you are using)
1 large tsp ghee

In the evening before bedtime find yourself a jam jar or an old coconut oil jar (I have quite the selection) and add the oats, goji berries, chia and flax seeds, maca, honey and salt.
Mix everything with a fork before adding the almond milk and stir as you go.
Pop the lid on and leave in the fridge overnight.
In the morning after your exercise (or no exercise!) add the ghee, stir and enjoy!

 Super power oats

Super power oats


The next post will tackle the perfect autumn treat as well as looking into fermented honey and how to cook with it.
I want to thank The Local Honey Man for giving me such an educational experience and I hope this post has inspired you to incorporate more raw honey into your diet!

 Ready steady scrape!

Ready steady scrape!

Eat sleep run repeat

Both me and my man lead a very active lifestyle, he as a runner and a lifter of heavy things and me as a yoga-addict, and in addition to this we both choose cycling as our main method of transport around London (my bicycle especially gives a good workout as it weighs 22 kg all alone…).
We both eat a mainly plant-based diet with a small amount of dairy and eggs interspersed in between and we have both been subject to many a concerned, but of course well-meaning, speech about the dangers of exercising without eating enough meat.
This, in addition to the fact that Edward is currently training for a half-marathon, prompted me to look into plant based nutrition in relation to exercise.
What are the main food groups the body needs in order to regenerate after exercise? What foods best repair muscle? And are there any particular foods that give accessible energy before/after exercise?

Actually, eating a whole food plant based diet when exercising (of course not just when exercising, I should perhaps say EVEN WHEN exercising) comes with numerous benefits.
The antioxidants found in plants reduce the oxidative stress imposed on the body when exercising (which again leads to less inflammation of for instance stressed joints) and they help flush out lactic acid which makes your muscles sore.
Also, when eating a whole food diet there are no need for vitamin supplements as the macronutrients, minerals and vitamins naturally found in plant foods will keep the body happy, healthy and able to heal itself and regenerate quickly.

The food groups that are most important in relation to exercise are carbohydrates taken in combination with healthy fats (such as saturated fats, see my previous post) and protein.

A diet higher in carbs on training days results in approximately the same amount of fat loss as a low carb diet, but on a low carb diet it is impossible to gain muscle and strength.
How can a high carb diet make you loose fat? Well, studies have shown that eating a low carb diet for extended periods of time will cause a decline in the hormones that are responsible for metabolism. For instance a hormone a hormone called “active T3”, a thyroid hormone that is vital for energy production, muscle gain and fat-burning (i.e. all the reasons you train) will decline when there is not enough readily available energy in the body – energy in the form of glucose derived from carbohydrates.
Another hormone that thrives in a carbohydrate-heavy post-workout environment is leptin, responsible for the production of the already mentioned T3 as well as neuropeptides, epinephrine and T4 which are all hormones that affect metabolism. The insulin spike (insulin is also a hormone) caused by eating large amounts of carbs will aid in shuttling nutrients to the muscles which is necessary for muscle gain and muscle recovery.

The best time to eat carbohydrates when exercising is right after training as this will help you gain or lose weight depending on what your body needs.
The carbohydrates help you negate the metabolic hormonal issues and keep your fat gains to a minimum as you put on lean mass. If you ingest carbohydrates right after a workout you replenish the body’s glycogen (glucose) stores which is what fuels the muscles during intense workouts. If it is not spent it will be stored as fat.
When you train you spend this stored glycogen which means that you afterwards should eat a sufficient amount of carbs to “charge your batteries”. When your batteries are charged, there is no need to continue to eat high carbohydrate meals throughout the day and your post-workout meal should be your carb-heaviest meal that day.

 Chia is a good ally after working out: full of protein, bone minerals and healthy omega-3 fat

Chia is a good ally after working out: full of protein, bone minerals and healthy omega-3 fat

It is, as with every food group, important to make sure that you eat the best and healthiest source of carbohydrates.
Before exercise it is a good idea to avoid too fibrous carbohydrate foods as these stay in the stomach for longer and can make you feel a little queasy when exercising. Of course, high carb foods with low fibre are often processed foods such as white bread and white rice, but there are some wholesome alternatives too.
Bananas and dates are good options just before a workout.
Sweet potato is also a good idea as it is high in sugars, but with little fibre. Bake a couple on the day before training and eat them as they come or even add to a smoothie.
After the exercise, feel free to aim for heavier and more fibrous carbohydrates. Oats are wonderful as a morning meal after training as they are high in carbohydrates as well as fibre, iron and magnesium (I will look at minerals and exercise later in the assignment). If soaked overnight in almond milk, this gives an extra carbohydrate boost as well as protein and good fats.
Buckwheat is also a fibre rich carbohydrate alternative which even contains protein and at home we mill fresh buckwheat flour to make vegan soda bread as a post-workout meal.
Quinoa is a very versatile “pseudocereal” which can be made into a sweet or savoury meal depending on what you feel like. Quinoa, in addition to being high in protein is also very high in minerals.

 Fiberous and versatile carbs: oats, quinoa and buckwheat

Fiberous and versatile carbs: oats, quinoa and buckwheat

So, protein.
After a workout, aiming for a protein carbohydrate ratio of 1:4 is ideal (I mean, approximately: It's not as if I weigh everything).
Protein is the material that your body uses to build and repair muscle fibres and is therefore a very important. How much you need depends on the intensity of your training: heavy weight lifters need more protein than long distance runners, for example. On a plant-based diet, this is the thing that people fret most about: “You’re vegan? But how do you get enough protein?!”

The answer is that although animal-derived protein is the most easily accessible protein for humans, there are many wonderful sources for plant based protein out there. It is also important to remember that carbohydrates, not protein, is the main food group that will keep you going during a run and if you eat a varied plant-based diet chances are that you are getting enough protein.
Also, meat is highly acidic and this forces the body to alkalise by drawing minerals out of the bones to reach a neutral PH. Osteoporosis is no joke for anybody, but it is especially important to maintain bone health running as you are repetitively forcing high impact on your joints.

Many gym heads are prone to over-consumption of protein as clever marketing makes protein out to be the one thing that will help you gain Popeye-biceps (see: protein shakes), but most people don’t know about the dangers that come with too much protein in the diet.
Eating more protein than you need can lead to weight gain, dehydration, stress on the kidneys and loss of bone minerals. If you eat too much protein it will be converted to sugar and fat and the increased blood sugar levels can lead to yeast overgrowth (such as candida albicans) and tumour growth – just look at how Max Gerson’s alternative cancer treatment is based on limiting protein intake.
When there is too much protein in the body, the kidneys work overtime to remove excess nitrogen waste from the bloodstream that is created when protein is processed in the body. This can lead to dehydration and kidney problems.

To make sure that your protein intake is healthy it is important to balance your amino acids and this is a good example why meat based protein isn’t the best option.
Varied plant based protein sources ensures that you get a range of amino acids to choose from.
Avocados, for instance, contain 18 amino acids and are also a great source of healthy fats.
Chia seeds are great as they are incredible versatile in making jams, in porridge or on their own as a pudding. In addition to their high protein content they are also full of minerals.
Seeds in general, especially when sprouted, are perfect protein filled additions to the diet.
Pulses such as chic peas, black beans and lentils offer carbohydrates as well as plenty of protein in one neat package and can be added to any kind of dish, from salads to tortillas to soups.
Superfoods such as spirulina and wheatgrass are excellent sources of easily accessible protein. Spirulina, an algae that is sold in powdered form, contains loads of protein that is even more accessible to the body than that of meat and a lot easier to digest. Wheatgrass also contains plenty of protein and both of these foods are high in minerals.

 Fresh wheatgrass

Fresh wheatgrass

As for minerals, bone health is key when exercising a lot and calcium is the number one bone mineral. It is found in dairy products, sure, but it is also found in high quantities in chia seeds, tofu and nuts and their milk, for instance my favourite nut milk almond milk.

Although sodium is listed as the bad-boy of minerals, we do need that too.
Many people get far too much sodium in their diet as this is the main component of common table salt (which nobody should ever eat, by the way), but it is found in good salts like my favourite himalayan pink salt too.
However if you are on a low-salt or salt free diet or cleanse, you need to make sure that you get sodium from somewhere as you will lose a lot of sodium when you sweat. There are sodium sports drinks to be found, but I prefer to look to natural “supplements” instead. Raw beetroot, carrots, celery and chard all contain a fair amount of sodium, as does cooked spinach and sweet potato, so if you sweat a lot (like me – yay!) and are on a low-salt diet you may want to take extra care with your sodium intake, for instance by juicing or eating raw salads.

Finally, magnesium is a trick to have up one’s sleeve when exercising.
Magnesium plays a part in muscle contraction and endurance performance as it is essential for delivering oxygen to the muscles as well as releasing muscle tension and reduce muscle cramping. Kale, spinach and other dark leafy greens are high in magnesium content, as is tofu, oats and brown/wild rice.
As you see, many of the foods overlap in nutritional benefits as rice and oats are great carbohydrate sources, tofu is excellent protein and dark greens contain a variety of minerals.

 Almonds, a source of both carbs and protein

Almonds, a source of both carbs and protein

Lastly, healthy fats are extremely important in a balanced diet and as the body fat content consist of 97% saturated fats this is the main fat that should be going into the diet so that the body can rebuild itself properly.
Saturated fats are the building blocks of hormones which control metabolism; the lining of the lungs is 100% saturated fatty acids; saturated fat is required by the bones for them to incorporate calcium; white blood cells function better with sufficient saturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids provide the main building blocks from which anti-inflammatory chemicals are made in the body – key to reduce muscle soreness, inflammation and to aid muscle recovery.
Vegan sources of saturated fatty acids include nuts and coconut oil and one can also add raw butter and eggs from free-range (REAL free range) hens.

 Yoga on!

Yoga on!

Happy workout and happy replenishing, dear people!

 

The fat of the land

Did anybody see this front page of the Daily Express a couple of weeks ago? I know, it's not exactly my regular newspaper either, but I got so excited about the front page that I just had to get a copy because it is saying something that I have said myself for quite some time now.

When my cooking calls for heated fats – such as in frying and baking – I always opt for saturated fats such as coconut oil or butter. I am often met with “Saturated fats? But aren’t they bad for you?” and it is time to settle this once and for all.

Firstly, what are we talking about when we mean saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats? A quick chemistry lesson for you:
Fats consist of carbon atoms that can be linked with a double or a single bond. If the carbon atoms have a double bond, they can break off one bond and attach it to a hydrogen atom. When this happens we can say that the fat is then saturated with hydrogen and that is why these fats are called saturated fats.
This fat is a stable fat, because all of its bonds are attached to something and it does not need to go around looking for other atoms to hang out with. Its happy just the way it is! These fats are recognisable as they solidify in cold temperatures, but go soft in room temperature.

 

An unsaturated fat however, is of course not saturated with hydrogen.
It is a fatty acid which can consist of single and double bonds and is always in liquid form.
A monounsaturated fatty acid contains just one double bond, whereas a polyunsaturated fatty acid contains more than one double bond.
These fats are unstable as one of these double bonds may break off to mingle with something else. When these fats are warmed, their bonds break up and start seeking something to attach to: we say that the fat oxidises and the atoms in the fat becomes free radicals.
As these oils are unstable, the temperature at which these fats oxidise is very low and can react to the heat changes in a grocery store or the heat of the human body.


 

When you eat these oxidised oils, the unpaired atoms (free radicals) will want to bond with molecules inside your body.
If this happens, the molecule that loses its bond to a free radical will then want to form with another molecule and thus starts a chain reaction of disruption. Once this process starts it can damage the cells inside your body which will lead to organ damage.

Antioxidants can stop this chain reactions as these happily donate one of their own bonds to the electron-seeking free radical and end the chain reaction. But if there are too many free radicals in the body, not all the antioxidants in the world may be able to stop them. Free radicals in the body have been liked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune diseases, tumours and infertility and trigger mutations in tissue, blood vessels and the skin.

Many unsaturated fats are unstable before they enter your body as vegetable oils. If you think about it this makes sense: is impossible to just squeeze the oil out of for instance sunflower seeds, grape seeds and sesame seeds! So in order to extract these oils the product has to be treated on high heat or under very high pressure. After this, most oils must have chemicals added to them in order to adjust colour, flavour and viscosity and to prolong their shelf life.
Then the oils are most likely subjected to high heat when travelling and the lastly they are heated up again in millions of homes and restaurants for frying and baking. By this point the oils are highly unstable.

In a world without machines, vegetable oils are impossible to get to for humans and it is thus not a natural food.
As vegetable oils were marketed as the healthy option from the 1950s and butter consumption fell, overall consumption of polyunsaturated fats skyrocketed and today the average person consumes 30 kilos of vegetable oil per year.
What will a food that was previously non-existent in our diet to to our health? As we look at the increase of polyunsaturated fat consumption we can see how diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes – diseases which were rare in a time when butter was our main fat source – follow the same curve.

The fat content of the human body consists of 97% saturated fat and 3% polyunsaturated fats.
In order to function properly, the body needs the right building blocks and that is saturated fat: Saturated fat is the building blocks for hormones which controls fertility, mood and in part metabolism; the brain consists mostly of saturated fat and cholesterol; the lining of the lungs is 100% saturated fatty acids; the liver is protected from alcohol and pain medications by saturated fat; saturated fat is required by the bones for them to incorporate calcium; white blood cells function better with sufficient saturated fatty acids.

 Unpasteurised butter: a healthy fat

Unpasteurised butter: a healthy fat

Meanwhile, in addition to the free radical formation polyunsaturated fatty acids overburden the liver, age the skin and can damage the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin thus making the body prone to diabetes type 2.

When there is not a sufficient amount of saturated fats around, the body will attempt to build and renew itself using the next best thing, which is polyunsaturated fats. Clearly, building yourself with the wrong material is not a great idea.

Then there is cholesterol. Scary, troublesome, misunderstood cholesterol.
Cholesterol is often the first thing that comes up in a discussion about saturated fats as cholesterol is regarded as Bad.
However, several studies have found that the idea that cholesterol leads to heart disease is a myth.  A 1994-study published in the Lancelet on elderly people shows that atherosclerosis, the culmination of plaque in artery walls that lead to heart disease, cannot be blamed on saturated fats as almost three quarts of the plaque in the arteries stems from unsaturated fat. The study concluded that “We have been unable to explain our results. These data cast doubt on the scientific justification for lowering cholesterol to very low concentrations in elderly people.” In fact, the reason that there is any saturated fat present in the plaque at all may be because the body uses cholesterol to repair injuries and irritations in the arterial wall.

Cholesterol is essential in a number of functions in the body: absorption of fat soluble vitamins, hormone production and cell regeneration. Discussing cholesterol is a large topic that is perhaps better saved for another post, but suffice to say that many, many studies on cholesterol and saturated fat found NO correlation between a high saturated fat intake and heart disease! (Need more studies? Here is a sample.)

The most dangerous fats one can eat are called trans-fats and are found in hydrogentated vegetable oils such as margarine. Sadly, these fats are markeded as the healthier option to unknowing consumers!

Trans-fats are created in the process of hydrogenation of vegetable oils in order to turn them from liquid in room temperature to solid (like for instance in margarine).
The vegetable oil is artificially saturated with hydrogen, but since this is done by humans and not by nature the final product ends up with an unnatural chemical structure and our bodies have trouble breaking them down.
As saturated fats are responsible for many vital organs and processes in our bodies they are the body’s preferred building blocks. However, when the body tries to build itself out of trans fats instead the trans fat is too rigid and are unable to perform the tasks fats have to do in bodies.
For example, cell walls made out of trans fats are unable to open and close to let nutrients in and waste out.
Trans fats also stop our cell receptors from functioning properly, which may be why trans fats contribute to diabetes type 2 (as this is a condition where the insulin receptors in the body are not responding).
Trans fats, not cholesterol, seem to be the reason for artery clogging and heart attacks according to many studies . The hydrogenation process also further oxidises the vegetable oils, creating more free radicals that damage the body.

We need fat in our diet in order to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D E and K. If there is not enough healthy fat in our diet, we can eat all the carrots we can muster to little effect.
Fat soluble vitamins are essential for life and support growth, immune system function, cell division and differentiation, they protect us from bone damage, regulate our sleep patterns, protect us from free radical damage and keep our blood functioning optimally.

 My two favourites: coconut oil and raw butter

My two favourites: coconut oil and raw butter

So what should you eat?

As I have mentioned before, the only fats to heat are saturated fats: coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, other animal fats (from meat).
When making cold dishes such as salads we are free to experiment a little more. Oils from seeds can be extracted safely if they are extracted with minimal exposure to light and oxygen and under low temperatures. Organic oils labelled cold pressed and unrefined are key. Extra-virgin olive oil, for example, should be produced by crushing the olives between stone rollers.

Monounsaturated fatty acids are relatively stable and can be slightly heated without oxidising and are thus safe to use on warm food. This includes extra-virgin olive oil and oils from avocados, pecans and almonds. I prefer to cook my Italian-style foods in butter or coconut oil and then drizzle lots of olive oil onto the dish just before serving. Avocado-oil mostly consists of monounsaturated fats and is great on salads and in guacamole.

Good oils to use in cold dishes are flax seed oil (which should be refrigerated between uses), sesame oil (delicious in asian-style cold dishes or drizzled on soups), and macadamia nut oil (great for mayonnaise). When purchasing these oils, be absolutely sure that they are cold pressed and organic.

If I have not made myself clear and if you were to take only one thing from this post then let it be this: NEVER EAT MARGARINE!

 My favourite oils to use unheated.

My favourite oils to use unheated.