Tag Archives: vegan

There’s No Good Reason to Always Eat Sweet in the Morning

When you think about a Western diet and breakfast, you think cereal, fried meats, pancakes and waffles. These are often laden with sugars, syrups and other additives that tax the digestive system. In the east, you almost never see this style of eating in the morning. Foods are typically cooked rice with fish or vegetables. Breakfast and to be honest, most meals throughout the day are savoury, not sweet.

Sugar is a priority for the digestive system. It will happily put the digestion of fibrous/ meaty/ fatty foods on the backburner to take the sugar out of the meal. When sugar is the focus, the other foods will sit in the stomach, far longer than they should, encouraging bacterial overgrowth or pathogenic yeasts, as well as training the body to expect this style of prioritisation throughout the day. When your digestion expects sugar first, it can become reliant and expectant. This can encourage cravings which can plague you throughout the day.

So, my thought for the day, something which you can implement more easily than a radical diet overhaul, is to try and have rice with vegetables for breakfast. You could use a little sesame oil and lots of soy sauce for seasoning, but keeping it paired down and simple is best. This way, your body gets trained to expect high quality carbohydrates and nutrition in its first meal of the day, which can help offset some of the pesky sugar craving that you might expect starting with cereal.

I know from my own experience that when I start with a sugary meal, the rest of the day remains that much harder to stay on track. We should try to start our day in a way that sets us up for success, and unfortunately, for those of us who experience weak digestion or chronic pain/ illness, the Western diet teaches us all the wrong habits at breakfast time.

You’re also allowing your body to accept good nutrition first thing, which allows it to better regulate focus, concentration, and energy levels throughout the day. If you can concentrate better, you can make healthier decisions and build healthier habits. It’s in all of our interests to bear this in mind when we start the day.

As I said in my last post, something I’m finding to be a game changer is buying a rice cooker. It cooks rice perfectly every time and I don’t have to keep an eye on it at all. If you want a more tactile experience (texture is so important alongside flavour) I would urge you to try Jasmine rice, which is a little on the sticky side and have a wonderfully fluffy, chewy texture that is satisfying in and of itself. Many rice cookers also come with a steaming compartment. Steamed vegetables retain more nutrients than boiled because they are not immersed in the water which can leach nutrients. You could add fish, a soy/ garlic dressing, wilt some spinach in sesame oil with garlic, or whatever you want, but it’s a great, simple way to get healthier options with less work.

Part of healing is finding simple, easy ideas that can transform the way you live and eat. Fuelling your body with the best nutrition, not just what you’re told is good for you, is essential to a healthier and happier life. There are lots of good recipes for rice cooker rice which can be enjoyed for breakfast, and you can also do variations of porridge in it too! The opportunity for supporting your health is there for the taking.

Good health to all my readers, J

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Hot, Cold or Damp – Digestive Issues and Chinese Medicine

What we eat affects us in profound ways. It’s all the more surprising then, that what we eat is so low down on our list of priorities. Society is so fast-paced now. We’re expected to eat on the go, to pick up something quick and easy, highly processed and with very little nutritional value. This is what society teaches us, so if you feel bad about the choices you’ve made with your diet up to now, give yourself a break. Life is so complicated. There are more spinning plates than ever before. You’re bound to let a couple come crashing down, but maybe I can help you realise that what you eat is a spinning plate that should keep an eye on. Let something else go instead.

When we eat highly processed foods, with lots of sugar, dairy, refined flours and heavy fats, it taxes the digestive system. All of these foods are known as ‘warming’ and ‘wet’ in Chinese medicine. That means that they generate heat, a key factor in the onset of chronic disease. When the body generates too much heat, it leads to inflammation, which can manifest in many of the health issues which are common today. These tend to be things like lupus, fibromyalgia, arthritis, rhinitis, asthma, GERD, IBS, Chrons and multiple sclerosis (though this is by no means an exhaustive list). These are the sorts of problems which I aim to talk about here because they are largely some of the same issues which I experience myself and am on a journey of healing from every day.

Foods that cool the body can be those which are actually cold, like cold water or ice cream, for example, or raw vegetables. Anything which requires the digestive system to work hard to warm, those sapping vital heat from the system. Those who suffer from cold, tend to get ill from common colds, can be extremely thin or malnourished, and experience lethargy. Cold is less of a focus in this article, but is no doubt a very serious problem when severe.

Dampness is caused when the internal environment is both hot and wet. Again, wet foods are starchy, highly processed and sugary. When the body generates too much heat and damp, we get chronic health issues as mentioned above. Rather than experiencing just an upset stomach after a meal, returning to normal the next day, somebody who experiences damp in the digestive system, could continue to experience chronic stomach upsets, even after the discontinuation of a disruptive food type.

If you suffer from a chronic inflammatory disorder, you may be experiencing damp heat, which gives rise to longstanding conditions. As an auxiliary to whatever medications you must take to keep you healthy, it’s important to work on the foundations of good health by balancing digestion. As I have long said on my blog, digestion is the cornerstone of good health. What enters the body must be digested properly. If it isn’t, we don’t nourish the body and our other organs and systems become unbalanced to compensate.

So what is the solution? As always, I recommend small changes. We do not want to make the conditions for maintaining new habits too difficult, so we need to take baby steps. Damp is treated well by avoiding the inflammatory foods which generate damp and heat. The safest way to start getting the nutrition your body needs to heal is to eat rice and steamed/ boiled vegetables more often. These are guaranteed to be digested by the body completely and will not generate gastric pain or discomfort (brown rice may be more taxing, so try white rices, jasmine is lovely). You can essentially do a lot of good for your digestion by incorporating at least one bowl of white rice and steamed vegetables every day. I really recommend a rice cooker too, one with a steamer, which can do your veggies at the same time. It’s easy, simple and can be left unattended.

Cooked vegan meals are a good place to begin, but ideally, you want to reduce the amount of fats you mix in with your vegetable and grain dishes. Bread is almost always an inflammatory substance, so is best avoided. If you can’t avoid it, try to go for rye or less processed types. Meats can tax the digestion, especially when fatty.

You can add lots of delicious things to your rice meals. A bit of soy sauce or some chilli sauce can help lift a quick meal. For something more complex, there are loads of rice cooker recipes which can be lobbed in and produce delicious meals in next to no time.

As always, I hope the best for everyone who reads in finding health and wellbeing. Chinese medicine is just one of many ways to view health, but I like to consider it from all angles so that I can give you best information. For inflammatory disorders, eliminating culprit food types and eating a little more blandly can do wonders as a treatment and to build the strength of the digestive system. But by bland, I don’t mean tasteless. Far from it! These meals can be wonderfully sumptuous without becoming difficult to digest!

Well wishes, J

Three Common Ideas In Keto, Paleo and Vegan Diets That Actually Promote Total Health

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly searching for the latest information and breakthroughs in the world of health. You’re searching because you’ve been affected by any number of setbacks which you’ve pinned down to your diet. You’re an intelligent person. You know that research can put you ahead of the curve and pull you out of your own physical and mental obstacles. 

Diet is a key pillar of overall health, along with the other basics, so you know it’s important to nail right? But it’s stressful! We are constantly bombarded by information, most of it bad, some of it ineffective, if not harmful, and yet fewer golden nuggets, truth bombs which work every time. 

Now, I won’t claim to have all the golden pieces. But, I can tell you that I’ve sifted a lot of dietary information. The perks of being something of a hypochondriac will drive you to rinse the medical literature for answers. I’m not proud of that weakness, but it’s something that improves every day my health does. 

Nevertheless, after sifting through that information and the prevailing popular diets of our era, there do appear to be some rules which apply across these very different approaches that could be the key to better health REGARDLESS of how you want to approach it. With that in mind, let’s quickly blast through a few notable connections that you can remember when you’re choosing foods at home. 

1. No Artificial Products/ Focus On Wholefoods: 

It’s quite clear that serious paleo, keto and vegan dieters all share a profound aversion for artificial products. When I say artificial, we’re talking anything which has a list bigger than ONE food item, or, consists of less than FIVE items, all of which you can reasonably understand the origins of. For example, all whole foods are just one item in their ingredient list. Items which might have more than one ingredient, but could still be very healthy are things like organic breads and maybe even some cheeses which are combined with dried fruits etc. If you don’t understand the ingredient as a wholefood in itself, DON’T buy it. Generally, the more complex the list, the less healthful the product! 

2. Focus On Organic Produce: 

Again, all three of these diets ask you to look at what organic produce you can buy. Organic foods tend to have less hormones, antibiotic, pesticides and genetic modification than their commercial counterparts. These added poisons can be hard to remove and can hurt the healing process. 

3. Focus On Healthy Fats:

Keto and Paleo encourage fatty cuts of meat so that your body can absorb the healthy omega 3 and 6 unsaturated fats. Vegan diets focus on a lot of coconut oil, avocado and olive, as well as a push towards naturally fatty products like avocados. These healthy fats really contribute to healing the gut lining by providing the body with the building blocks it needs to heal. Remember, a huge portion of the body is made from fat, the brain is almost entirely fat! 

That’s three connections across these prevailing big boys of the dieting world. If you are finding it tough to follow any one diet, avoiding multi ingredient foods, trying to eat more organic produce and getting more of your nourishment from saturated fats may help your digestion improve without the need for strict adherence to any one of the three.

The whole point of this blog is about demystifying the dieting world for my subscribers. I love to find patterns and trends which can act as hacks for better health! 

Let’s see what we can find!

J

 

 

The Commercialisation of Veganism

As I said in my last vegan related post, veganism has had such a warped presence in the media lately. It’s become a sign of political deviancy (definitely not always a bad thing), it’s become a trend or social statement amongst certain subcultures, but probably the most disturbing aspect of it’s image, and what has the most potential to destroy its benefits, are its aggressive commercialisation.

I believe the commercialisation of veganism is a slippery slope that takes the diet away from its root values.

Sure, it’s great that we have so many options now a days. For instance, we can get alternative milk products nearly anywhere – great for someone like me who has eliminated dairy. I can make sure I have something other than water to add to my porridge, and it means I don’t have to drink my hot drinks black all the time (though I don’t mind black coffee at all). There are so many types of tofu and other alternative meat products, and they’re getting cheaper. Even the dreaded vegan cheese is improving and I am seriously impressed with some of these options, no doubt attained through well meaning and dedicated research. All wonderful stuff.

However, I am falling into the convenience trap. I can go to any local store these days and pick up a vegan sandwich. It’s probably still healthier than the meat filled alternative, but the list of additives and preservatives in these meal deal sandwiches is, or can be, astonishing.

I am primarily a vegan for my health and secondarily for the planet and its animals. When I eat these easy-to-grab meals, I’m making a sacrifice in this aspect. These chemicals are not good for our bodies, and I now have to fend off the ever growing number of unhealthy vegan options available. This is fine if you’re not in it for the health reasons, but for me, it’s a shame to see more and more of this ‘technically vegan but not very nutritious’ commercial food being brought into our near view and within arm’s reach.

Macdonalds, the kings of convenience food, even launched a vegan meal just the other day. Again, it’s technically vegan, but it’s also deep fried. Is the market now going to become saturated with unhealthy vegan foods at the expense of one of its core tenets, health? As with most things that become popular, they tend to lose their roots, their original purpose and human benefits.

So, how do we combat this change? Campaigning is one thing, but we aren’t all into that, and many of us are using veganism as a way to recover from mental and physical illness.  We don’t have the time or energy yet to face the political and business side of commercialisation.

On the ground level, the individual only has two choices. To join groups where knowledge of healthy, free from additives foods can be found. We deserve to gain information from our like-minded peers on places that do nutritious vegan food that can still be enjoyed without cooking from scratch. Convenience doesn’t actually have to cut corners on health, but often it does and we must scan our local towns and cities intently to find those hidden gems, restaurants, diners and sandwich stores, that make the effort to produce good, nutritious food.

The other branch of focus is pretty straight forward and we attempt to do it all the time. We must try to organise our time so that we can cook healthy vegan food that we know will give us energy and help us recover from our ailments. We need to try hard to bring our enjoyment of cooking and preparation to life and to find ways to make food at home which is nutritious, simple and easy. It can be done, and like anything worth doing in life, persistence and practice makes it possible.

Well-being for the planet and the individual should remain the core focus of veganism going forward, and we can achieve this by drawing on our collective knowledge through local groups and working on our relationship with cooking and food preparation. Remember why eating vegan is important to you, perhaps even meditate and reflect on it a bit every day, so that you can focus on your goals and prepare yourself for daily success.

Good eating, cooking and learning friends,

J

Veganism Helped Treat My Depression

Veganism has garnered a reputation as something for radical political youths, hippies and edgy people with colourful hair (which I love, don’t get me wrong). But what is the merit and practicality inherent in a diet that has often been labelled the bad banana in the bunch?

I reached a critical point in my life only months ago. I was suffering with chronic back pain from a slipped disk, mood swings, something I imagine close to hypomania, joint pain in my knees and asthmatic symptoms like severe tightness in the chest. When I was energetic and ‘up’, a lot of these symptoms went away. Every couple of weeks, I would be sure to plunge into ever greater depths of dark depression, which no longer remained contained in my mind, spreading now deep into my bones and my heart and my lungs. My plummeting abyssal thoughts began to twist my body as well as my mind.

I reached a breaking point. I could not bear to go lower. To live in endless cycles of physical and emotional pain, followed by the barest respite of a fickle and uncanny happiness, like there were threads sewn into my lips, pulled up in a wild grin by an evil puppeteer, destined to cut them away and lead me back into doom with a shadowy, hollow cackle.

I started to move towards fixing myself. I did research. I read books and articles. What I discovered was that there appeared to be several links between food allergies (I was food intolerant to dairy as a child and this issue may still persist), chronic pain and mental health. One diet promised to eliminate or drastically reduce the impact of all three.

To the average individual, going vegan may seem drastic. Sadly, I have been to some very dark places in my head. I would eat or drink anything, a laughing periwinkle, ground unicorn patties, the algae on a whale’s back. Anything, to reduce the pain and suffering I was experiencing. When your depression starts to make you feel paper thin, until you start to feel the cracking of your soul, parched, barren and dry, I cannot express the lengths you would go to to avoid that feeling again. It is indescribable.

For me, this was an easy choice.

I feel better.

I am by no means happy every day. That would be impossible. I still have many bad days, but the bad days aren’t as bad anymore. I have more energy. I do not spend so many of my evenings in pain.

I am writing again! I work full time and I STILL spend some of my evening writing and looking after myself. This is an incredible milestone for me. I never expected to feel well enough ever again to write three blog posts in a week. Yet, here I am!

Part of this change will surely be down to my resolution to look after myself, to tackle my fears and insecurities, to grow as a person and to never take life for granted, yet part of that transformation is absolutely about radically overhauling what I choose to put into my body.

My last few blog posts have also been about the impact of meditation and meditation has so far proved extremely helpful in the fight against mental illness. I am tackling this problem from as many different angle as I can. I will not settle and give into my pain and suffering. I will use it to transform myself.

So, there we have it. Veganism is part of my commitment to look after myself. It’s not political, though I am happy to be choosing a more sustainable and animal friendly lifestyle in the process. It’s not to be trendy. I don’t and have never run in trendy social circles. I’m doing this because my research has led me here and I refuse to give into pain and stop fighting for my happiness in this life. Veganism is a commitment to my individual well-being and that is where my stance on the diet ends.

Nevertheless, I do believe that many people could improve their depressive symptoms by trying a vegan diet. It’s naturally low-inflammatory food staples do help to reduce allergic stress responses in the body which absolutely can adversely effect mental health. I won’t stress this too much as I am not a doctor and my research is purely personal, but I do want to share my story so that others may find some respite from their pain in depression.

We are all different. What is helping for me is not necessarily for you, but unless we research and persevere, how will we know what is?

I wish you happiness and good health, and a diet that helps you maintain the best possible head space.

Greenly,

J

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