Posts Tagged With: Vitamin C

Vegan Myth Busted! – Top Plant-Based Sources of Iron

vegan

Plant power!

There is still a popular food myth doing the rounds that vegans are generally short of iron in their diets or it’s difficult to find natural sources of iron without taking supplements and the like.  This is way off the mark.

“How do you get enough iron eating only plants?” A question I get asked quite a lot.  The answer is simple; loads of very accessible, inexpensive, plant-based places. Eating a balanced vegan diet, the question is more, “Where do we not get our iron, protein, vitamins, other minerals……..?” A vegan diet allows us all to thrive!

The WHO consider iron deficiency to be the number one nutritional disorder in the world. 80% of the world population may be iron deficient, so it is always a good idea to keep topped up and learn a little about plant-based nutrition (Vitamin B12 for example).

Iron is essential to health and basically helps our blood carry oxegen to our bodies tissues. Our body stores iron but we still need to eat a reasonable amount per day, roughly 18mg for adults  is advised. Women who are menstruating will need more, this can lead to cravings for iron rich foods.

The iron found in plants is different than that in meat. When we eat meat we are basically directly ingesting the iron in the blood, organs and muscles of the animal. It is easier for the body to access. We need to be aware that iron in plants will not be as easily absorbed.  But no worries, this is easily sorted.

Plant-based iron is best absorbed when combined with Vitamin C and it is also best to avoid tea and coffee if you’re looking at helping your body absorb plant based iron.  They both contain tannins and calcium which hinder absorption.  So leave a good half an hour before or after eating until you put the kettle on or eat high foods high in calcium.

THE IRON RICH ‘HIT-LIST’

Many beans like pinto, kidney, black eyed and black.  Lentils. Soya is best fermented like miso, tempeh. Tomato paste or sauce. Potatoes, spring greens (collards), spirulina, tahini, whole wheat, bulghur wheat, oats, nuts, kale, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, quinoa, raisins, peas, sunflower seeds, apricots, watermelon, millet, almonds……I’m getting hungry here!

Popeye did well on it, but spinach is actually not the best choice for iron.  It contains acids that inhibit absorption but Vitamin C again can help.

You can see that many of the staples that most vegans eat are good sources of iron.  1 cup of lentils for example contains almost your RDA for iron and black strap molasses is worth a mention, 2 tbs contains 7.2g iron.

TIPS TO GET IRON INTO YOUR DIET

Seasonal fruits can also be a great source of iron so grab a bowl of oats topped seasonal fruits for a nutritious and iron rich way to start the day.  Some vegetables, like Broccoli and Bo Choi, are rich in both iron and Vitamin C.  Which, as mentioned, is a great combo!  Snacking on dried fruit like raisins and apricots or seeds, eating beans with greens, adding tahini or molasses to dishes or dressings, are all good ways of introducing iron rich foods into our everyday meals.

CALORIE COUNTING

If you are counting calories, it is worth mentioning that sources of plant based iron are obviously the better choice. Cooked spring greens (collards) for example contain 4.5mg of iron/100 calories, whereas Sirloin Steak weighs in with a mere 0.9mg of iron/100 calories.

It has also been said that cooking in iron pots can help.  Cooking a tomato sauce in a cast iron pot can increase the iron levels ten fold!

In a balanced vegan diet there are so many sources of iron and vitamin C that a lack of iron is no major concern.  There is also no evidence to suggest that vegan and vegetarians have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than meat eaters.

As you can see, vegans are sorted for iron!  Another vegan myth busted!!

If you know of any other sources of plant-based iron, please let us know.

Vegan sources of iron

Vegan sources of iron – Image by Vegans of Instagram 

Some of the information and figures for this article came from this link.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Inspiration, Nutrition, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Raw Food vs Cooked Food and The Power of Enzymes

Jane and I are very conscious of the power and cleansing attributes of a full-on raw food diet.  We have tried it out for the past two years for at least a month (normally stretching to two) and have felt amazing; energy levels through the roof, body and mind happy and content…..  Coupled with no alcohol, gluten or caffeine we were incredibly virtuous for a while and (almost) literally floated around in a state of exalted well-being.  It was nice.  We became converts by going through the process of learning to be more experimental with raw produce and the latent potential of the humble nut.  See more of our writing on the topic here Why Raw Food?  and more and even a little more (Raw Earth Month – Moving Back to Nature) for good measure.

The raw food movement does seem to attract a certain amount of food extremists, which puts alot of folk off.  Its not all about being super skinny and living a veg obsessed, semi monastic existence.  Jane and I do not fall into this bracket, we just love to experiment with foods and our bodies and really get a buzz from succulent, vibrant raw food dished.  Check it out!

The desserts are something truly heavenly, Raw Chocolate Brownie with Chocolate Icing  or Raw Coconut and Lime Cheesecake.  Even the inventive way that salads are used is something to get the taste buds whirling, think Sprouted Wheat Grain, Apple and Mustard Salad or how about a Crunchy Thai Salad with Green Coco Dressing?  OK, now I’m on a roll, how about a Raw Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta?  In fact its probably best just to check out our Raw button in the tags section (top right of the page)….

Raw Vegan Lasage with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta

Raw – Vegan Golden Courgette Lasagna with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta

RAW FOOD VS COOKED FOOD

So the food can be inspiring and creative, but what about the health side of things.  Most fruits and veggies are best served raw, but those containing lycopene (tomatoes, red pepper and other reddish fruits and veg like watermelons, red guava etc) are best served, from a nutritional point of view, slightly cooked.  Lycopene is a very potent antioxidant.  When cooked, tomatoes for example, show a boost in lycopene levels.  The drawback however, and this goes for most vegetation, is that when cooked for lets say 30 minutes, the Vitamin C levels of tomatoes decreases by 30%.  Basically heat increases the rate of degradation of food or ‘oxidisation’, which is bad for foods and bad for our bodies (hence the name ‘anti-oxidants’ which help against it).  Boiling foods results in loss of valuable nutrients which leech into the water (more reasons to use it as soup stock!?)  The healthiest way to cook food is to gently steam them and not to overcook them.  Firm is fine.  This will preserve much of their nutritional value.

So its a bit of a balancing act really, gain lycopene and lose Vitamin C.  Some people say that Vitamin C is more prevalent in the plant world and we are better served to boost the lycopene levels, which is rarer.  ‘Raw food vs Cooked Food’ is a complex comparison and I’d say that mostly raw is best for optimum health (if that’s what you’re driving at).  We are still not sure of all of the benefits of raw food, but each year, science is discovering more reasons to get excited about salads and carrot batons!!!!!

Oven Baked Summer Squash filled with Buckwheat, Beetroot and Walnuts

Cooked – Oven Baked Summer Squash filled with Buckwheat, Beetroot and Smoked Tofu

Here is an interesting article I just read about the importance of enzymes to overall health, our bodies cannot thrive without them!

Importance of Enzymes

Enzymes are the sparks that start the essential chemical reactions our bodies need to live. They are necessary for digesting food, for stimulating the brain, for providing cellular energy, and for repairing all tissues, organs, and cells. Humbart Santillo, in his book, Food Enzymes, quotes a Scottish medical journal that says it well: “Each of us, as with all living organisms, could be regarded as an orderly, integrated succession of enzyme reactions.”

There are three types of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes, and food enzymes.

Metabolic enzymes catalyze, or spark, the reactions within the cells. The body’s organs, tissues, and cells are run by metabolic enzymes. Without them our bodies would not work. Among their chores are helping to turn phosphorus into bone, attaching iron to our red blood cells, healing wounds, thinking, and making a heart beat.

Digestive enzymes break down foods, allowing their nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream and used in body functions. Digestive enzymes ensure that we get the greatest possible nutritional value from foods.

Food enzymes are enzymes supplied to us through the foods we eat. Nature has placed them there to aid in our digestion of foods. This way, we do not use as many of the body’s “in-house” enzymes in the digestive process.

This is important to remember. Dr. Edward Howell, who has written two books on enzymes, theorizes that humans are given a limited supply of enzyme energy at birth, and that it is up to us to replenish our supply of enzymes to ensure that their vital jobs get done. If we don’t replenish our supply, we run the risk of ill health.

In the Enzyme Nutrition axiom, Howell postulates that “The length of life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential of an organism. The increased use of food enzymes promotes a decreased rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential.”

In other words, the more food enzymes you get, the longer, and healthier, you live.

The key is to remember that food enzymes are destroyed at temperatures above 118 F. This means that cooked and processed foods contain few, if any enzymes, and that the typical North American diet is enzyme-deficient. When we eat this type of diet, we could well be eating for a shorter and less-than-healthy life.

This points back to the importance of eating raw fruits and vegetables because they are “live foods”; that is, foods in which the enzymes are active. The more enzymes you get, the healthier you are. And the more raw foods you eat, the more enzymes you get.

DETOXIFICATION

One of the roles of enzymes in the body is detoxification — breaking down toxic substances so that they are excreted and cannot build up to possibly cause harm. Although this is done by metabolic enzymes, research shows that enzymes found in the foods we eat — although not food enzymes — may help our bodies do this.

This has such potential that the U.S. Army is looking into it. The U.S. Army Edgewood Research, Development, and Engineering Center has isolated enzymes that neutralize chemical warfare agents. The center’s Dr. Joseph J. DeFrank believes the enzymes can be used to rapidly decontaminate facilities, equipment, and vehicles.

The Frank M. Raushel Research Group is looking at ways to exploit the properties of enzymes for a variety of chemical and medicinal uses. One project is studying enzymes that catalyze the detoxification of organophosphate insecticides.

Other research points in the same direction. Research at the University of California — Davis is showing that green barley extract may accelerate the body’s breakdown of malathion, an organophosphate insecticide used heavily throughout the world.

Six different experiments measured the ability of barley leaf extract to “detoxify” this insecticide. All revealed positive results.

Interestingly enough, one more test was run after subjecting the green barley extract to high heat. This, the researchers believe, denatured and removed the proteins. Detoxification ability was again measured, and this time, did not take place. This indicates that the detoxifying agent in green barley is an enzyme, and when heated, the enzymes are destroyed. It also points out that green barley extract is “alive” — that is, that the enzymes are intact.

This info taken from the AIM International Partners Magazine, July, 1997

 

If you fancy trying out a raw food diet, you will find loads of recipes on the B.H.K. and if you need any advice, just drop us a line.  The more raw food you can incorporate into your diet, the better.   With the sun shining on our beautiful little island, I can think of no better time to drop the wok and pick up the grater.  Go Raw!!!!!!(mostly)  But most of all, have fun and enjoy cooking and eating!

Categories: Detox, Healing foods, Raw Food, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Carrot, Orange and Ginger Juice

Carrot, Orange and Ginger Juice

Playing with the Magimix is becoming a great pastime.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.  All those combos of veg and fruit, it really inspires you to get juicing.

I have been feeling great the last couple of days and I’m putting it down to our new morning juice routine.  As they say, “an apple a day keeps the doctors away”.  Well I could probably fit seven apples into one glass of juice.  That’s putting yourself at some serious distance from that doctor!

Here was todays wonder juice. Granted not the most amazingly original, but a classic combo.

The Bits

4 carrots, 6 oranges, one cube of fresh ginger.

Do It

Juice your oranges first (using your juicer if you have the right fitting, saves plenty of time), then put your ginger in the juicer first, followed by the carrots.

Foodie Fact

This one is jam packed with Vitamin C and A.

Toast the morning, smile and drink…..

Categories: Healthy Living, Juices, Raw Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rainbow ‘Slaw and Rosehip Tea

Beets and 'Rots

Today the sky is the deepest of greys, the washing nearly blew away and Jane poured a pint of water all over her computer.  We both held the stricken machine in our hands, then noticed the water pouring out of the side with the plug still in the wall…the penny dropped…we placed it in-front of the fire and thanked our lucky stars for not getting frazzled.

We put on some Vashti Bunyan and started to make lunch……….

Out of this peaceful state came this wonderful combination of vibrant colours and flavours.  The salad is an old friend from past summer days, the beetroot, carrot and orange is a tantalising combination and packed full of good things.  Preparation could not be easier, this is a real raw food delight.  The tea is fairly straightforward also!

From a potential near-death experience, to a rainbow lunch and ‘Rosehip November’ (in April).  Happy days at the Beach House.

The ‘Slaw

The Bits

1 large beetroot, 1 large carrot, 1 large chunk of butternut squash (optional, just increase the carrot by one), juice of half an orange, handful of chopped coriander.

Do It

Grate all veggies, we used a hand grater, or plug-in your food processor.  I appreciated the exercise actually.  I peeled the beetroot and the squash.  Squeeze in the OJ and throw in the greenery.  Add the finely chopped pith of the orange for even more of a citrus POW!  Mix up and leave at room temp for a while, let the flavours mingle a little.

Serve

We made a lunch out of it with some toasted leek oatbread (recipe soon to appear on the blog) and cucumber raita.  This is a versatile ‘slaw that will brighten up any plate.

We spiced it up with a couple of pinches of Ras El- Hanout spice and a splash of olive  oil.  Our raw life starts in June, why not live dangerously for a while!

The Tea 

Clipper Rose hip (and Hibiscus)

It’s a Clipper Tea.  An organically grown infusion, fruity, with a deep colour and plenty of vitamin C.  The good people of Clipper are in all of our supermarkets in the UK and always good value.

They use unbleached bags and have an awesome range.  Their black tea is a winner with a splash of soya milk (and lashings of honey, B.H.K style).  We have also tried the tasty Dandelion and Burdock Tea, which took us back to our childhood days, drinking the fizzy sweet version out of glass bottles in bracken, near streams.

Buy the Rose hip tea here:

http://shop.clipper-teas.com/teas/fruit/organic-rosehip-infusion

And check out the new Clipper Green Room, for offers on the range of teas and loads of top giveaways:

http://www.clippergreenroom.com/

Foodie Fact

Rose hip has been used for years for its health properties, the fruit of the Rose is especially good for the joints.  The Vikings used it on long sea voyages to ward off scurvy, its packed with Vitamin C.  It also contains most of the B vitamins and the mighty vitamin K, with antioxidants and rich fatty acids surely making this a real superfood.

Rosehip November/ April

Categories: B.H.K Reviews, Infusions, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Organic, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Snacks and Inbetweens, Superfoods, Tea, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Buzz Smoothie

The Morning Zing!

It’s called ‘The Buzz’ for a reason.  It’s a real lipsmacker!

This beats a double espresso buzz any day.  One glass and you’re de-fuzzed.  After drinking this concoction, the fruit sugars (fructose) and vitamins get to work and the morning coffee jolt seems a little beige in comparison.

It’s a vibrant looking number and bursting with citrus, sweet apple and carrot flavours.  Packed full of all the good stuff that you need in the morning to get you fired up for another day of life.  It’s a wake up call for the body and mind.

We don’t have a juicer (yet) so we blitz it all up in a food processor.  I imagine these ingredients will make an amazing juice, maybe you’ll need to throw in another carrot or so.

Organic fruit and veg will make all the difference in your juices and smoothies with bags more flavour and juice, even if they cost a few pennies more.  They will definitely have more nutrients in them, keeping your insides and outside in better condition.  After visiting a few shops in Spain, I feel fortunate that we have the choice of organic in Britain.  The carrots in this were particularly special, from Hootons Homegrown, Farm Shop on Anglesey (thats in Wales for global readers).  We are blessed with some amazing producers in these parts.

Enjoy responsibly, this is full-on juice!

This recipe will make enough for 4 glasses of what is more a chunky juice than a smoothie.  We keep some in the fridge for later, it’s so full of good things that it takes care of any mid-morning hunger pangs.

The Bits

All chopped into chunks – 1 apple (unpeeled), 1 carrot (unpeeled), 2 oranges, 1 grapefruit (a squeeze of lemon if you really want a hit!), 2 cups of filtered water (or 1 cup of water, 1 1/2 cups of ice)

Do It

Put it all in a blender and whizz it up.  Taste and add more water if needed.

We Love It!

The colour alone helps get my juices going.  We like the balance of sweet and acidic in this one.

Foodie Fact

Grapefruit (Citrus Paradisi or Paradise Citrus in Latin) is full of vitamin C.  On average, half a grapefruit contains 75% of your required Vitamin C for the day.  It also contains the super antioxidant lycopene.

Without getting to grim and technical, eating more grapefruit (and Organic fruit and vegetables) lessens your chances of catching things and dying in general.  Hooray!

The usual suspects

Categories: Breakfast, gluten-free, Juices, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Organic, Raw Food, Recipes, Smoothies, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Orange and Apricot Rooibos Salad

Get off to a flier!

This is a quick recipe, like a compote, perfect for a morning citrus buzz or desert option.
It will keep your muesli interesting and is actually best on its own.  I like it chilled.

The Bits
Small handful of dried apricots (unsulphured if poss. and halved), 2 good oranges (cut into segments, the less pith, the better), 2 cardoman pods (well bashed), long ribbons of orange zest, 1 cup of rooibos tea (we used vanilla rooibos), small handful of sunflower seeds, 1 teas of your favourite honey.

Do It
Make a cup of rooibos, leave to infuse a little, put all bits in a tupperware and pour over still hot tea. This gets the infusion going, Stir. When cool, put in the fridge overnight.
Serve
With a blob of creamy greek yoghurt, can go on muesli or is great, chilled by itself. The liquid is a refreshing juice.  We had it with a dash of cointreau on pancakes.  I imagine it would go very well indeed with a nice slab of chocolate cake.  Hmm.
We Love It
It’s the right kind of colour for a morning pick me up! Great sweet and citrus double act.
Foodie Fact
Dried apricot are a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as dietary fibre and have the wonder antioxidant Lycopene in full effect.  Try to avoid the ones treated with sulphur dioxide, they will have the bright orange colour.  It can cause a nasty reaction for people who are sensitive to sulphur, especially those who have ashtma.

Categories: Breakfast, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Infusions, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sprout! The evolution of the mung

Heres something that could change your life.  Maybe extend it a little also.

Sprouts!

Mung bean sprouts this time.

These little wonders are a gift from nature. They are packed with nutrients, very, very good for us and best of all, easy and cheap to prepare at home.

My sprouting guru is a wandering flautist named Yanny, he is in his late 70’s and fit as a fiddle.  Yanny even sprouts on his travels in hotel rooms and in backpacks.

There are a few companies selling sprouts in the U.K. at inflated prices. They need not be a costly ‘health’ food.  They can add an incredible range of flavours to salads.

Many prices in ‘health’ food shops are appalling, some necessary, but many seem to go against the ethos of the ‘good life’, where money (you would hope) plays a secondary role to living well and helping others.

We are fortunate to have many good people living around us, giving us inspiration and positive examples of methods and practices that are sustainable, meaning that we can move away from the mass food movement (Tesco’s et al) or prohibitive ‘Health Food’  Shops.

You don’t need to spend a small fortune to eat healthy.  All you need are sprouts!  Mung beans are the easiest, but once you get into it, there are so many avenues of sprouting joy.

So head to the hills, of your windowsill and start sprouting.

The Bits

Mung beans (any variety works well, we used the green ones)

Filtered water

Do It

Acquire a receptical (see the evolution of the sprout), a spare plastic tray (recycled normally), a large water bottle with vents cut into it (be creative) or a proper sprouter.  I was so lucky to pick up a sprouter from a charity shop for two quid!  They should not be costly bought new.

The important thing is that the sprouts get air and are not in direct sunlight, they also need to be kept warm.  Optimum conditions will result in a quicker sprout.

The evolution of the sprout (tray, to bottle, to sprouter)

Soak the beans in filtered water for 24 hours, empty water and place in your sprouter.  Keep them damp for the next 48 hours and then leave them dry (rinsing regularly if you can).

After a couple of days, they should start to sprout.  Younger sprouts are sweeter and large sprouts have a fuller flavour.  Experiment on which you prefer.

You won’t get them all to sprout, so try to sort out the hard un-sprouted beans.  They can be a little crunchy and some hard as rocks.  Beware.

It’s as easy as that.  They keep well in the fridge.  Once one batch is finished, get the other one started and you have a rolling harvest on your hands.

Serve

Put them on anything, of course salads are best.  If you are feeling decadent, or need a serious boost, mix up an unadulterated sprout salad.  ZING>

Foodie Fact

Mung beans are one of the most cherished foods in Ayurveda, full of vitamins, minerals and vital veggie protein.  They are said to balance all three doshas (making you more stable and relaxed) and make absorption of nutrients easier.  When sprouted, very high levels of Vitamin C become available (rising by 60%).  Most importantly, Mung Beans contain a low quantity of the sugar molecule that make you fart!

It is simple, if you avoid speeding buses and eat more sprouts, you’ll live longer.

PS – Yanny is a wood sculptor, this video show the life of a true artist and dear soul:

Categories: 'The Good Life', Ayurveda, Healthy Living, Raw Food, Salads, Superfoods | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The B.H.K Awards – Top 15 Seasonal Superfoods (Winter)

Beat those dark winter nights. Blow away those frosty morning blues. Hah! These foods give your body a super kick and are packed full of a feel good vibes. Spring is getting closer, but these beauties will help you across the dark season finish line.

Everybody seems to love a ‘Top 10’.  So surely a ‘Top 15’ is better?!  I was looking into healthy eating and came across several sites claiming to have the definitive selection of ‘Top 10 Superfoods’. I don’t know who or when the term ‘Superfood’ was created, but I like it. It simply suggests food that is super packed full of goodness.

Superfoods come into their own in the busy modern world, when we don’t always have time to prepare meals. They can be grabbed and munched, giving a nutritious boost.  This is especially important during winter when the sun retreats early and the cold can chill you to the bone. It’s a strenuous time for body and mind.

I’ve compiled my own Winter ‘Top 15’ (better than 10) below. The criteria are simple. Is it tasty? Is it also super healthy? Do we eat it regularly? Is it local(ish) and seasonal? I haven’t added things like spirulina, goji berries, wheatgrass etc, although they are very healthy they don’t have the delicious-ness. They are just not your everyday hero.

Our selection will inevitably change towards summer, expect another instalment.

All of these contenders are packed with goodness and if eaten with other healthy bits and some regular exercise, will keep you shining all winter.

15) Red Wine – Dodgy start you may say.  Well yes and no.  I’ve managed to stem the tide of wine in recent years.  Everything in moderation.  Grapes provide vitamin C, vitamin  B1 and vitamin B6–red grapes also contain powerful phytochemicals (especially  phenolics) that may help decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. These compounds are housed mostly in the skin of the red grapes, which gives red wine its colour. Resveratrol, found in the skins of red fruits has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory activity.

14) Green tea – Not exactly a local crop, but this brew has a serious ‘feel good’ effect in the mornings.  Green tea contains polyphenols, which may reduce heart disease, cancer and stroke risk. Green tea also supports brain health and memory, likely due a key compound in green tea called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), a flavonoid. EGCG is thought to boost the immune system and prevent tumors. Aim for at least two cups daily.

12)  Whole grains (whole wheat, barley) – Bread and beer, not healthy really, but ever so British.  Two of the myriad of uses for the humble, yet essential whole grain.  Whole grains help stabilize blood sugar and insulin and may protect against heart disease. They include all three parts of a grain kernel: the bran, germ and endosperm. Whole wheat flour, brown rice and barley are all whole grain foods. Look for the words “whole grain” on the label, and the word “whole” immediately before the name of the grain in the list of ingredients.  Contrary to popular perception, the benefits of whole grains go well beyond fiber and fiber’s role in digestive health. Whole grains contain vitamins B and E; the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc; phytonutrients; that appear to work together in powerful ways.

Panamanian Bean Mix (Good name for a band)

11) Beans –  A staple.  Anybody who knows me, understands my passion for these little beauties.  A fabulous source of vegetarian protein and fibre, two nutrients that help you stay full and satisfied.  Important to feel fully sustained in winter.  The protein and fibre in beans also tempers the rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal, which can help stabilize mood. The fibre in beans helps keep you regular. Beans are low in fat and a good source of magnesium and potassium, nutrients that work together to lower blood pressure and keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. Added bean bonus: They’re cheap and when growing add vital nitrogen back to the soil.

10) Pumpkin – Orange veggies are all loaded with Vitamin A, vital in the winter when the sun is so shy. We are lucky to have two different varieties growing locally to give us some variety.  Pumpkin is loaded with nutrients that will help your heart, bones, eyes, and skin shining.  Beta-carotene and potassium are the two standouts here: Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that helps rejuvenate skin, protect your vision, and may even reduce risk of arthritis. Potassium is a mineral involved in lowering blood pressure and maintaining healthy bones.  There is nothing sweeter than a well roasted pumpkin?

9) Oats – Are technically whole grains, but get their own section in these parts.  Britain, this windswept little island, has been fuelled on the stuff since early man first landed here.  I don’t think any food better sums up our predicament and history.  The oats in porridge acts as central heating for your body, one bowl in the morning and you’ll be simmering all day.  Eating oats is good for those with high cholesterol.  Whole grain oats are one of the best sources of soluble fibre, which, in addition to lowering cholesterol, helps keep blood sugar levels under control.  No peaks and troughs, just plain sailing.

8) Olive oil – Reminds me of my other home in Spain.  My heart generally resides there, as my body does the rounds.  The freshly pressed oils of Murcia are hard to come by here, but with our uber consumerist ways, good olive oil is easy to find.  One of the best types of fat you can opt for in your diet.  Olive oil helps to protect against heart disease and cancer. Recent research shows that heart-attack survivors on a Mediterranean diet had half the death rates of those on an ordinary low-fat diet.  Nice to know.  Spaniards do eat a lot of fish, which keeps them healthy, but normally drink like one too.  However olive oil is also high in antioxidant activity.  Is there nothing this golden amritar is not capable of?!

7)  Crucifers (broccoli, kale, cabbage) – This family thrives around here.  They are so tasty and versatile.  Trigonos (our organic veg farm) grows the finest red cabbage and kale imaginable.  In fact, all of their vegetables are rather special.  Cruciferous vegetables contain indole alkaloids that may help prevent the big C.  They are high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Foods from the cruciferous and cabbage family (including broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards and turnips) may help bolster memory as you age.  Something I need help with right now!

6) Tomatoes – Grown in a local poly-tunnel.  We are so blessed to be surrounded by die hard green fingers.  These wonderful orbs contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant shown to help stimulate the immune system and protect from certain cancers, especially prostate. Lycopene is more highly concentrated in cooked tomato products including tomato paste, passata or tomato sauce.

5) NUTS (Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, cashews etcetc)Generally, limit yourself to a handful of nuts per day.  But what a handful!  Nuts are so precious.  They are not local, but are one of our favourite treats.  Adding a dose of almonds daily helps the intake of key nutrients, lowering the intake of dietary detractors like trans fats, excessive sodium, sugars and cholesterol. Eating nuts may help protect against heart disease and inflammation, enjoying 11 walnuts daily reduces total cholesterol by up to 4 percent.  Walnuts also look like a brain, so are good for your brain (Ayuvedic wisdom).  They are a rich source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a compound called ellagic acid that has been shown to reduce artery-forming plaque.  Love NUTS!

4) Leeks – It goes without saying that this gorgeous Allium would crop up.  We are in Wales after all.  Regardless of that fact, leeks are one of my favourite vegetables.  Packed with flavour, vitamins, minerals and flavanoid anti-oxidants.  They are low in calories and contain both soluble and in-soluble fibre.  They contain lots of folic acid, essential in DNA synthesis and cell division.   Vitamin wise the are packed with A (hooray) and C, which not only protects against infections, but also harmful free radicals.  Wear your leeks with pride!  So much tastier than a rose (not to mention a thistle).

3) The Cuppa (Tea) – Another tea?  Why not!  The elixir of the B.H.K.  Without it, we’d be lost and flaccid. The caffeine content in tea is useful for stimulating alertness, mood and motivation, but is also a rich source of the antioxidant called catechins. Studies suggest that catechins protect the artery walls against the damage that causes heart disease and prevents the formation of blood clots. It also does wonders for the spirit on a dark winters day.  Avoid drinking too much milk, try a slice of lemon or drink good quality tea black.  It’s one of those things that will grow on you.

2) Dark Chocolate – The finest of news.  Believe it or not, chocolate is a healthy treat, as long as you choose wisely. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa to optimize the antioxidant power and health benefits. Dark chocolate may even boost your mood. The rich taste and sensuous mouth-feel of a decadent piece of dark chocolate may be to thank (remember the Flae advert Brits).  Just don’t eat a whole bar. Our favourite is Green and Blacks.

1) Beetroot (or beta vulgaris) – King Crimson!  The dark purple avenger!  Anything that comes out of the dark soil this colour, is bound to be packed full of good.  The pigment that gives beets their super-beautiful fuschia depth (betacyanin) is a powerful cancer-fighting agent. Beets’ potential effectiveness against colon cancer, in particular, has been demonstrated in several studies. Beets are also particularly rich in the B vitamin folate (see above) and the mighty vitamin C.  If you’re lucky enough, use the leaves.  They are higher in vitamin A and anitoxidants than the root.  We roast them up, put them in cakes, pickles, pies…..They add amazing hues of purples and pinks to anything they touch (including your chopping board) and generally brighten up any day.  Truly our winter king.

So Beetroot is the winner.  What drama!  I wonder who it will be in the summer (strawberries).

Heart of the 'root

Categories: Ayurveda, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Nutrition, photography, Superfoods, Tea, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magic Morning Lemon Water

I have always known that a glass of hot water and lemon is a good idea first thing.  It just feels right (especially after a whiskey the night before).  I thought I’d read into exactly why and was pleasantly surprised.

A glass of hot(ish) water and lemon will stimulate your digestive system, the potassium in lemons will help to give the brain and nervous systems a wake up call.  The vitamin C boosts the immune system and reduces the signs of aging by purging toxins from the blood.  The citric acid, when metabolised, will help lower your bodies acidity.  Most of us are too acidic (in many ways!).

Lemons are high in pectin fibre, which helps fight hunger pangs.  They help to stimulate the liver into producing more bile, which aids digestion, helping against heartburn and indigestion.  Your peeing rate will increase, flushing out more toxins.

The fructose is lemon will give you a gradual sugar kick.  Fructose levels are relatively low in fruit and vegetables and release sugar into the blood slowly (a low glycemic index), so its better than most other sugar***.

Fresh lemon will help to beat chest infections and has been known to help with allergies and asthma.  You will be more chilled, Vitamin C is one of the first things to be depleted by a stressful life.

Most of all, it starts the day of with a zing!  A real citrus wake up call.

As of this very day, I will almost definately, be drinking this every morning (maybe).

Remember – use the lemon peel.  Its bursting with flavour and it’s such a waste to just use the juice.

***However, there is an increased use of high fructose corn syrup in processed foods.  We can end up eating too much fructose, which can be a problem.  Fructose is processed in the liver and avoids the normal appetite stimulators.  This means that we feel like scoffing more and put on weight.  If the liver processes too much frustose it begins to form triglycerides which may lead to heart disease.  Diabetes is another potential concern.

The Hit List

HFCS is found in processed cereals, sweets (candy), soft drinks, ice cream, tinnned fruits, cakes, even some cough syrups.  Thankfully its used less in Europe than the U.S.A, but its still there and ever increasing.  It’s a cheap way for big business to sweeten food.  Stay away from food wrapped in plastic and you are on the right track.      

Categories: Breakfast, Healthy Living, Infusions, Nutrition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pumpkin and Almond Tagine

Tagine Market

I love Morocco, the sleepy mountain villages and endless desert sands.  I always made time for the local spice markets, checking out the intoxicating mix of aroma and colour.  I shipped many bags of the stuff back to Spain, running the gauntlet of some very suspicious customs officers and barking Alsatians.  Apparently my bag smelled like a vagrant (must have been the intense cumin?!)

The variety and freshness of these spices make a tagine.  It’s a bit like Guinness and Ireland, something is lost when eaten anywhere outside of its Motherland.

Add fistfuls of dried fruits, olives and ras el hanout and you have a perfect expression of Morocco’s incredible produce.  This is one of those evocative dishes that can sum up the spirit and atmosphere of a diverse country, on one platter, better than a lengthy commentary or travel article.  It’s basically Morocco on a plate.

Having said all of this, due to financial constraints (being a skint traveller), I rarely ate in decent restaurants during my stay there and have had better Moroccan food in London than Marrakech!  My Moroccan diet mainly consisted of triangles of manufactured cheese, handfuls of figs and the ubiquitous flat bread.

However, I was lucky to meet some truly amazing and hospitable folk, who invited me into their homes (the finest place to sample true culture and food worldwide).  I especially remember a chap named Khalid, staying in his family home in Taroundant made me understand the importance and pride attached to the traditional of the tagine.

I met Khalid in a spice market and immediately realised he was the kindest of sorts.  He showed me around the old city for days, but one afternoon he took me, with a big gang of friends and family, to an oasis where we sat under a fig tree and shared a delicious lunch.  We ate straight from the dish, with hunks of bread and greedy hands.  It contained a few spices, vegetables and a whole lot of care and pride.  It was not a tagine strictly speaking, we cooked it in a heavy pan with a good lid, as we do in the B.H.K (we’re tagine-less, hence the generic tagine pot picture), but it’s almost as good.  Only the name changes, its called a ‘Gimb…….’ something or other.  The results are very similar, but you just lose some of the mystique and authenticity.

Tagine is named after the earthenware dish used in the cooking.  The dish is normally cooked slowly and captures all the condensation, making the dish moist.  It’s an easy and healthy way to cook vegetables.

This recipes is slightly more complex than Khalids, and not completely traditional.  It’s another one of my Mum’s favs.  We are lucky here that we have a wonderful organic farm, just over the way, that grows brilliant pumpkins.  Good pumpkin is as important, as the spices.  Use fresh spices and keep all opened spices in a cool place in a tightly sealed container.  Being tagines-less at the moment we opt for a thick bottomed pan or a casserole pot:

Makes one big tagine or pan full, enough for four.  Like all stews, it is better left a while in the fridge to infuse and serve the next day.

The Bits 

Handful of dried apricots (chopped into large chunks), juice of one lemon (add rind finely chopped for more zing), 1 inch root ginger (chopped), 2 tbs tomato puree, 3 cloves garlic (chopped), 2 tsps smoked paprika, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 2 cardoman pods (split or bashed), 2 tsps ground cinnamon, 1 small pumpkin (chopped and roasted, skin on), 1 carrot (chopped into chunks and roasted), 1 tin chickpeas (drained), 5 tomato’s skinned and chopped (or a good tin of chopped tomatoes), 1 tbs honey, handful of fresh coriander (chopped), 2 red peppers (roasted and chopped), salt and pepper, handful of unpeeled roasted almonds.
(If we could get hold of some ras el hanout, we may substitute that for all the spices except paprika.  A handful of pitted olives can add an extra tang to the dish.  Especially good when feeding carnivores for a bigger flavour.)
Do It
Start by frying off you pumpkin chunks, carrot and pepper in a pan with olive oil.  Cook quickly, until coloured nicely, then set aside in a covered dish.
Heat the olive oil in a casserole and stir in the lemon juice, tomato puree with the spices.  Season with s/p.
Add chopped tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots and peppers, cover the dish.
Cook over a very gentle heat, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 mins.
Stir in the almonds, apricots, ginger and garlic and cook for another 15 mins.
When the pumpkin is good and soft, add the chick peas giving a good mix.
Cover and cook about 15 mins until everything is tender, then stir in the honey.
The tagine should be checked regularly and water topped up if required.
Serve
With an extra splash of olive oil, the chopped coriander and a generous dollop of creamy yoghurt and a scattering of almonds and seeds.  Accompanied traditionally by a nice warm flat bread or cous cous.  We made it gluten-free and opted for some quinoa.  ‘As you wish, you are free’ as many of my Moroccan friends would say.
We Love It
Moroccans make some of the finest stews, they are so blessed with amazing local ingredients.  As I said, this is really Morocco on a platter and that makes it a glorious thing.  It’s the perfect winter stew, bursting with spice, flavour and bright colours.
Foodie Fact
Pumpkin, and most very orange veggies, are packed with the important anti-oxidant beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into Vitamin A.  It’s also a good source of fibre, Vitamin C, K and E and loads of different minerals.   Even its seeds are packed with goodness, especially omega 3 fatty acids.
The big orange beauty is a member of the cururbitaceae family, making it a relative of the cucumber and can grow to be 25 kgs in weight.

The Djem El Fna, the mad Market Square in Marrakech

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, Lunch, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mum’s Broccoli and Potato Soup

Like this, but soup

Proper winter warmer and so easy.
 
My Mum may be like yours, everything she touches turns tasty.  This soup is an ace in Mum’s repertoire and makes me feel at home wherever I eat it.
 
Makes a nice big pan full.
 
 The Bits
2 onions, chopped, 5 cups vegetable stock (homemade if you’re Mum), 6 potatoes, 2 lge broccoli heads, 1 garlic clove pressed, 2 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste
 
Do It
Combine onions, vegetable broth, potatoes, and broccoli in a large pot.
Cook until vegetables are tender.
Puree mixture until creamy.
Return to pot add lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.
 
Serve
Particularly good with Avocado slices on top or grated cheese if you fancy.
 
We Love It
Because as Jane’s Dad would put it, ‘this is good fuel kid.’
 
Foodie Fact
Broccoli can help to maintain healthy bones, it is rich in indoles and sulforaphane compounds which have Cancer fighting properties.
Abundant in Fibre, Folate, Vitamin- C Vitamin- K. Calcuim, Coenzyme, Q10, Carotenoid and under a microscope looks like a magic green fractal kaleidoscope.
 

A snap of Mum on Christmas morning. Thanks MumX

 
Categories: gluten-free, Lunch, Recipes, Soups, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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