7 things what stops you from becoming healthy and how to overcome them

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Imagine if you had a magical machine that can print money around the clock. But in the manual you read that once a day the machine must be turned off for 8 hours, and once every couple months you have to turn it off for two weeks so that it does not work at all – what would you do? Would you print the money recklessly 24/7 – who cares it will break at most? Or you would do as instructed?

Your body is that kind of machine. I like this analogy because it shows that we are more mindful about the machines than about ourselves.

But in fact our body works better if we eat better, if we have enough rest and sleep, if we spend some time outside in the sun and fresh air. If we have deficiencies in any of these areas, or in all of them, it’s really difficult to get yourself together and start becoming a healthy person. If you’re so tired, enervated, you can barely organize more than basics, it’s hard to expect from yourself that you will get your shit together and reorganize every aspect of your life. And usually we become angry with ourselves if we truly want to make a change, but it always come out different than expected. It’s like you would throw a seed on the concrete floor and expect it to grow. Seed has plenty of potential but the conditions are not suitable for it to sprout.

Sometimes we set up goals that may be too big and too difficult for us. And when we fail achieving them, we abandon these goals thinking that they are unattainable for us. What we can do instead, is to break one big goal into several smaller ones and/or think about which elements of our goal are the most difficult for us and why.

So it’s good to have a seat and analyse which aspect are problematic and why? We are not living in perfect conditions. Contrary to what it seems to us, we have influence on these conditions. Perhaps it won’t be a spectacular and dramatic change, but it will be enough for our seed to slowly sprout.

These are the 6 things that may stop you from becoming healthy, I have learned that from my experience, from other people and books. I have noticed these obstacles in my life that often prevent me from making progress in many different areas, not only healthy eating and physical exercise but others too.

Boredom

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Have you caught yourself going to the kitchen several times, and opening the fridge and all the kitchen cupboards looking for something to eat? You kind of feeling hungry, but you would rather eat a snack or a sweetie rather than a proper meal?

We have two types of hunger: physical hunger and psychological hunger. It’s good to know which one you actually feel. The first one is when your body needs fuel to produce energy, usually happens if you haven’t been eating for couple hours, you start feeling weak, cannot focus, your stomach is empty, you might feeling cramps. It happens gradually, until you feel you really need a proper meal (some people starting to have a headache). Psychological hunger on the other side, doesn’t really show in your body, it’s more in your mind. You rather think about food, you’re craving something specific, without experiencing physical symptoms.

What is boredom? Boredom happens when a current activity or situation isn’t providing engagement or meaning, may occur when our energy isn’t channelled into an outlet that provides meaning or fulfilment. A lot of people eat when they are bored. According to some researchers, the excitement or stimulation of food can be used to create a sense of escape and cope with boredom. So in some way we are trying to eat our emotions. We are trying to cover lack of positive emotions with tasty snack, instead of generating these emotions from other activities. Why? Because it’s easy? Downside of this method is, that having a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps will fulfil this lack of engagement and positive emotion only for the time we consume the food. After the last chunk of chocolate vanishes in our mouth all the magic is gone. And then we go to the kitchen again… Ask yourself if you are truly hungry or if you are craving food for another reason. If you’re not sure the answer, make yourself a tea or drink glass of water. Many times it helps. Some people have more tendencies to generate state of boredom, some people are less prone to that. If you recognise yourself as boredom eater you can do couple things.

Put a large sticky note on your fridge that will divert your attention towards more mindful direction: am I bored or hungry? So each time you mindlessly go to the kitchen you will see this question. Have on hand a list of things you can do to occupy your mind until the craving stops. Whatever floats your boat: reading, knitting, drawing, colouring, going for a walk, playing with your pet, dancing. Anything that will draw your attention and create positive emotions. Keep sweets and snack out of sight or even better – don’t keep them at home.

Stress

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Stress often becomes a trap it’s hard to get out of. When you experience permanent stress, you’re feeling under pressure most of the time, it’s not only hard to relax, but you don’t even think about implementing healthy habits. Stress and pressure make you look for quick solutions that will give relief immediately. You do not anticipate the long-term effects of your daily decisions, or the effects of bad habits. You find yourself in vicious circle, where bad habits produces more stress to the body, and stressed body gives more stress to your mind. The longer you stay in bad habits, the more you consolidate them and the harder it becomes to deal with them. It is good to have someone with you who will help you notice these bad habits, change them and persevere without them or change them into positive ones. It could be a partner, friend, mum or even a good work colleague, who reminds you that a quick Mac for your lunch is not the best idea. Ask someone to pay attention to your behaviour. Choose a person who will be meticulous and in front of whom you will want to do well. It will be an additional motivation for you to consolidate good behaviour and give up bad habits. It is important to choose a kind person, someone who will not cause additional stress in you. Look for alternative behaviours together – with benefits similar to or even greater than those caused by bad habits. Maybe it’s time to learn relaxation techniques? Reach for soothing music? Start playing sports to defuse bad emotions or get creative and start some DIY project? If you do not have such a person next to you, look for support groups, people who try, for example, to eat healthy or get rid of a bad habit. There will always be someone in the group, who at the moment will give you support or a positive kick, even if it’s only virtual.

Social interactions

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When we were on a strict keto diet, attending to birthday parties or meeting friends was kind of awkward food-wise. While everyone were tasting a slice of birthday cake, we could taste only a strawberry from the top. But that was a unique situation, that we decided we will stick to the diet as prescribed without exceptions. Apart from that I don’t see any reason why would you should refuse to try someone’s birthday cake, even if you decide not to eat sweets. Obviously if you’re able to restrain and finish after a slice. But I can’t see any reason why you would need to feel awkward or embarrassed in social situations. Don’t be afraid to be that weirdo who doesn’t want to go to Mac, or that weirdo who doesn’t drink alcohol at the party (that’s me – my body has low tolerance to alcohol). Try to find a different place to eat with your friends, and if they still insist or laugh, maybe you should consider looking for new friends. In general people get used to your eating habits and do not insist when you explain them your new lifestyle.

Lack of regularity

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I am the prime example of that. I used to set up plenty of goals and ideas what I would like to do regularly and 90% of the times I would fail. I also get distracted easily. So even if I remember to do something I planned, I often get distracted by something else and I’m out of my track. Have you experience something like that?

Healthy lifestyle requires regularity and permanence. Learning new habits takes time and some effort at the beginning. What can help in introducing new habits into your daily routine? What works best for me, is to attach new habits to the old ones I already have. For example straight after I finish my morning coffee which is a strong habit of mine, in the same mug I prepare myself linseed and cacao drink. If I would like to drink it any time of the day I would probably forget, and instead of drinking it daily, I would have it 2-3 times a week. It’s also a great idea to connect new habits with things we do to entertain ourselves. For example if you have a habit of watching one or two episodes of Netflix series each evening, connect a new habit to it. Exercise watching an episode. Or always prepare yourself a portion of smoothie and drink it while watching.

Other idea I’ve heard about that people do, is making one plank on the bath tub or pull up on the door frame each time they go pee. Try to connect somehow a new habit with the old one and this way the new habit has a bigger chance to stick for longer.

Other way you can do is make a habit tracker – simply draw a table with all your habits you would like to implement and cross out each time you comply a task. It didn’t work for me, but maybe it will work for you. Next thing you can try is to set up an alarm that will remind you about something you would like to become a habit. Like drinking more water. There’s plenty of apps you can download on your phone, to help you remind and track how much water you should drink. Or simply set up multiple alarms on your phone that reminds you to drink water (set them up according to your daily routine, so you will be able to actually drink some water when the alarm rings). On the other hand if you want to get rid of a bad habit, try to replace it with a good one, that will replace the same need. My personal example: it has become a habit to watch my favourite youtubers to relax after work or with my morning coffee. Sometimes (often) it gets out of hand, and a few or several minutes of YouTube watching turns into an hour or two. While several minutes can actually be relaxing, an hour or two is a waste of time. So now whenever my hand wants to reach for the phone to watch YouTube, I rather grab the book and not the phone. Reading is far more relaxing and has lot more benefits.

Old believes

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We have a lot of beliefs about food and health, that we are not even aware of and which have an influence on our daily decisions. And often, until we are aware of them, we will not be able to move forward with healthy lifestyle. Many of our beliefs are old, resulting from ignorance or the willingness to mislead us by food producers. Let us recall how many times you have heard that eggs are not healthy, and then that they are healthy, the same with butter, idea that to be healthy you should eat fewer calories. That breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that there should be 5 meals a day, etc. Let’s try to think about common food and healthy lifestyle believes that stops us from taking action:

“Eating healthy is too expensive” – basic types of veggies are far more cheap than processed foods, and the ratio of the number of meals that you can prepare from them is several times greater than, for example, buying ready meals. Good quality meat and fish is a bit more expensive than meat from the supermarket, but you save up quite a lot of money when you stop buying all the junk food, snacks, processed foods, sweets and fizzy drinks you were buying up until now. Also pre-washed, pre-cut, individual servings of produce as they are often more expensive. So if you actually think and calculate, eating healthy is not as expensive as you might think. This is an entire topic I could start, but we would never get to the end of this post.

Eating fat will make you fat” – that’s an old belief from the 80’s and 90’s when the infamous Ancel Keys published epidemiological data linking fat-consumption to heart disease. While this type of data doesn’t prove cause and effect, markets were swarmed with low-fat, fat-free, and 0% fat products. These items were marketed as “diet” products and promoted as being helpful at helping people lose weight. Over time, society grew fearful of fat, and people started to believe that eating fat will make you fat. The fact is that carbohydrates, protein, and fat can all be stored as fat. There is also evidence that low carbohydrate (high-fat) diets may actually be more beneficial than low-fat diets for weight loss, when healthy sources of fat are included.

You shouldn’t eat anything after 6 pm” – late night eating can lead to weight gain not just because it’s late. Our strong will tends to get very weak till the evening, and in the evening we make the worst eating decisions. Lots of highly processed food we tend to eat late at night are rather a reason for our problems. This myth also does not take into account a lifestyle of a person, lumps everyone into one basket.

“Salt is unhealthy” – Excess sodium in the diet can cause numerous disorders in our body. The most serious of these is the increase in blood pressure, which causes heart disease. That’s why it’s often said that we shouldn’t use salt if we want to lower our blood pressure. Too much salt in the diet can also cause the body to excrete more calcium. Which, in turn, can cause cramp problems or osteoporosis. On the other hand, sodium is an electrolyte that helps water balance, and is necessary for our muscles and nerves to function, including our heart and brain. But we often can’t see how much of the excess sodium is consumed from the salt added to processed, ready-to-eat foods and fast food meals. Limit the processed foods and enjoy more fresh, home cooked meals. Also type of salt you use has a big impact. Natural rock salt, sea salt or Himalayan salt contains plenty of minerals that our body needs. Supermarket salt is a highly purified product and devoid of naturally occurring microelements, almost always sold with addition of anti-caking agent.

This kind of believes and hundreds more as a rule, they build our concept of healthy or unhealthy lifestyle. Most of us doesn’t verify if the information served by mainstream media is true or false. We assume that everything we hear is the truth confirmed by “experts”. But if you dig a bit in the subject, you discover that “experts” are not always quite right and information providers not always have pure intentions.

What to do? If you catch yourself with a thought that is a belief, and does not come from your experience, take a little bit of time to dig deeper to see what’s beneath. Check if it works for you. Free yourself from stereotypical thinking according to well-established patterns. They limit our field of view, narrowing down the possibilities of choice. Ask yourself: on what basis do I think so? Since when do i think so? Who showed me this way of thinking/who did I take it from? What could prove the validity of such a view? What do i really think about it?

You don’t want to take an effort

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Let’s be honest – most of the best things in life comes with an effort. You want to have a beautiful garden? – you need to take an effort to grow and maintain it. You want to have great kids? – it needs an effort to raise them well. Clean and organised home? Look fabulous and put together everyday? – some effort will be needed. It’s the same with your health. If you won’t take time and effort to take care of it, no one else will do it for you. Most of us would like good things to come to us effortlessly, myself included. Imagine going to the doctor with some health problems that bothers you. Doctor makes an exam, some blood tests and say: “you have some vitamin deficiencies, you should loose some weight and maybe work on your sugar levels that are a bit too high. Eat more veggies, stop with junk food and fizzy drinks, and exercise everyday – then you should feel much better”. What is a typical answer of the patient? “Is there any kind of a pill I could take instead?” How wonderful it would be if we could eat junk food, sweets, drink fizzy drinks, lay on the sofa all day watching Netflix and look and feel fabulous with just one magic pill?

The truth is our brain always wants to follow the path of least resistance.

“Our brain tricks us into believing the low-hanging fruit really is the ripest,” says Dr Nobuhiro Hagura. University College London study from 2017 shows, not only that humans are simply quite lazy but also that the amount of effort required to do something influences what we think we see. 52 participants took part in a series of tests where they had to judge whether a cloud of dots on a screen was moving to the left or to the right. They were instructed to move a handle to the right if the dot cloud was moving right and to the left if the cloud was moving left. Easy and simple so far. But when researchers added a directional load to the handle, making it slightly harder to move it the way the dots were going, participants avoided the response that caused more effort and moved the handle in the opposite direction of the dots. Participants didn’t realize that the researchers were manipulating their decisions, instead becoming convinced that the dots were actually moving in the direction of least resistance. Their motor system automatically adapted, triggering a change in their perception.

What does that prove? The researchers believe that our daily decisions could be modified not just through deliberate cognitive strategies, but also by designing the environment to make these decisions that cause you more effort. So what doest it mean in our situation? Maybe if you have issues with sweets, fizzy drinks or unhealthy processed snacks it would be better not to have them at home? It cost more effort if you actually need to go to the shop and buy something (and it’s raining, it’s far away, or it’s middle of the night). So if you won’t have these foods around you, at home, it will be easier for you to stay away from them. Maybe it’s a good idea not to keep “snacks for guests” in your kitchen cupboard? Or if you’re like me avoid going to the shop to buy your groceries, if it’s more tempting to grab something from the shelf that you might regret buying (and eating) and do your shopping online instead?

You’re still not convinced?

Try baby steps, to overcome your lazy-self. Let’s say you want to exercise everyday but you’re tired, not motivated enough, not in the mood or you just feel lazy as hell, but you know deep down inside that you would really like to exercise everyday. Set up a timer for 5 minutes and exercise whatever you like. You like squats, do squats, you like stretch, stretch for 5 minutes, if you like jumping rope, jump for 5 minutes. But not more. Only 5 minutes. When the timer rings, stop and give yourself a high five. Next day do exactly the same. Only 5 minutes. 5 minutes is so short, that your brain won’t be able to talk yourself out of it. When this 5 minutes of exercise becomes a habit, and you will not have to convince yourself to do it every time, switch the timer for 10 minutes and add some more type of exercise (or more repetitions of the same exercise). And then exercise for 10 minutes each day until it becomes a habit. I know it’s a tiny baby steps and it seems like it 5 minute exercise wont change much, but remember that the best exercises are the one that you actually do. Not the on that you think would be the best, but you’re not able to do them at the moment. Someone will tell you that an hour training a day gives the best results, but at the stage you’re at the moment, you’re not able to workout for an hour. But that 5 minutes a day is better than nothing at all. That’s how I started exercising. Just 10 minutes every morning. When this became a habit I added a bit more exercise. After some time your body gets used to exercise so much, that it will feel the urge to move even if your brain won’t feel like it.

Exactly the same situation with food. You’d like to include more veggies into your diet? But it’s difficult for you to start preparing meals full of veg, or simply you don’t like cooking. Find one vegetable you really like and have it on hand. You don’t have any particular veg you like, but you actually like smoothies? Make yourself an everyday smoothie. Explore smoothie world. Everyone say: avocado is the healthiest veg, but you absolutely hate it? It doesn’t mean that you can’t eat healthy, because you hate avocados. Eat carrots or beets. Or green beans. Or challenge yourself trying all veggies in the shop you can find. Everyday different veg.

And for God’s sake don’t punish yourself if you fail. You failed because you were stressed/sad/angry/tired and you ate a pack of doughnuts, and now you think all your healthy life went to trash because of that, and you will never ever become healthy? Start brand new tomorrow. You can always do better.

We usually underestimate things we can do little but often. I love the example that one of the authors always gives: what will be better in the long run – exercising 5 times a week for 15 minutes, or going to the gym once a month for 10 hours? Ignore the fact that no one would be able to exercise for 10 hours in the gym, but we actually underestimate what we can do by taking small steps. Perhaps the effect will not be visible and noticeable immediately, but going to have better and more long-term effects, than single outbursts of motivation.

You don’t have good enough reason

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Maybe becoming healthy is not good enough reason for you? How come? – how just being healthy would might not be good enough reason?

Being healthy is not good enough reward – you’re healthy, so what? Why do you want to be healthy? What does it mean for you? Maybe you love hillwalking and being healthy and strong will let you go for longer distance trips and see places you’d love to see? Maybe you would like to be able to play with your grandkids and see how they grow? Maybe you would like to have a dog that requires lots of activities, and you would like to be able go for long walks? Find a good reason, whatever floats your boat. So when your brain will try to lead you astray, remind yourself that reason. You can also pop a sticky note on your fridge: I EAT HEALTHY – that might help you making better decisions, because you will feel committed to that sentence.

Remember that food should not only be healthy, it should also be tasty. Unfortunately, lots of tasty food we are used to eat is not necessarily healthy. Combination of sugar and fat (that I believe doesn’t exist in nature) actually has a narcotic effect, so we are not always able to manipulate our mind, so it’s better to manipulate our environment. I’m sure you noticed that in the morning you’re more motivated to make healthy decisions. It’s easier to eat healthy breakfast than healthy supper, to workout in the morning rather than in the afternoon. Take advantage of it, and when you prepare your healthy breakfast, make your healthy dinner ready, so when you come back home in the evening, you will have it ready in your fridge. And you will be less tempted to order some junk food or dig in the cupboards looking for some snacks.

Ask yourself whether what I eat helps me to be who I want to be or doesn’t help?

Have you noticed any of these issues that stops you from taking action and becoming healthy? I would be happy to read your tips ans your ways to deal with them, so do not hesitate and leave a comment or send a feedback.

Source of knowledge:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170221101016.htm

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0139817

what you eat? – how to read food labels

I believe there’s one positive side of this whole pandemic situation – that people started more taking care about their health and trying to be more aware of what they eat. At least I hope that. It should be obvious that if you keep your body healthy and your immune system is strong you’re going to be less prone not only to the most famous sickness in the world, but any sickness. Sadly mainstream media does not inform how to boost your immunity, how to make your body stronger. They don’t teach about small but important daily habits you can develop (completely for free) to improve your immunity and health. And this is very sad because if we would all started treating our bodies more like temples and less like machines that’s utilizing what the food industry has to offer, I think that we would be not only healthier but also happier. And I do not say it from the position of a person whose diet is impeccable, I eat only organic food and have absolutely no health problems. I am only a weak-willed human and I sometimes eat highly processed foods and those generally considered unhealthy. With the fact that I do it with full awareness. And I would like to instill this awareness in you.

It’s going to be a long post, so grab yourself a tea or coffee and make yourself comfortable 🙂

There’s lots of things you can do to improve your awareness about what you put in your mouth and it’s completely for free.

It’s reading food labels.

Do you ever look at them? If you judge the food product only from the front of the packaging – usually very colourful and promising, you may actually be very disappointed when you read the label.

Couple days ago we’ve got delivered a new product in the cafe I work in. Very eco-looking packaging – vegan, gluten free, milk free – healthy you would think. BTW, did you noticed that in last couple years everything that is labelled as vegan/vegetarian – is considered healthy? Gluten free- healthy? Dairy free – healthy? So I took a look on the back of the packaging to see the label and that’s what I saw:

“Ingredients: Sugar, Rice Flour, Palm Oil, Belgian Dark Chocolate (12%) [Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins), Flavouring], Rapeseed Oil, Golden Syrup, Cornflour, Tapioca Starch, Water, Soya Flour, Salt, Emultisifires (Soya Lecithins, Mono- and Diglicerydes of Fatty Acids), Flavouring, Colour (Carotens)”

After reading this all my enthusiasm for this promising product went away. What’s wrong you would ask? OK, lets go through this ingredients list.

What is the ingredient list?

The ingredient list on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance by weight. It means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. In some cases, manufacturer also needs to show the percentage of each ingredient. All ingredients should be listed by its common or usual name so it’s easy to recognize and understand by customers.

Every food product has to have the ingredients list on the packaging, also most of them has nutrition facts label contains product-specific information (serving size, calories, and nutrient information), also explains the % Daily Value and gives the number of calories used for general nutrition advice. For me personally the most important is the list of ingredients. Nutritional value is also important to know, especially if you’re on some kind of diet that requires counting macros (calories, carbohydrates, fats etc.) For me in the nutritional label important is how many carobohydrates product contains, how much of it is fiber and if there’s any extra added sugar in the product.

So lets have a look on our example:

  • Sugar is the ingredient that weighs the most in this product – I’m sure you know that sugar is not the healthiest foods in the world, in fact it’s one of the most unhealthy food ingredients. Do not confuse the sugar naturally contained in, for example, fruits with the sugar that you can buy in the supermarket, because they are two different sugars. But here we are not going to go into details because this post would never ends 😉 After Wikipedia: the average person consumes about 24 kilograms (53 lb) of sugar each year, with North and South Americans consuming up to 50 kilograms (110 lb) and Africans consuming under 20 kilograms. Excessive consumption of sugar has been implicated in the onset of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and tooth decay. Numerous studies have tried to clarify those implications, but with varying results, mainly because of the difficulty of finding populations for use as controls that consume little or no sugar. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended that adults and children reduce their intake of free sugars to less than 10%, and encouraged a reduction to below 5%, of their total energy intake;
  • Rice Flour – common substitute for wheat flour in gluten free food products. It’s simply finely milled rice;
  • Palm Oil – became very popular when the United States banned the addition of trans fats to products. Palm oil has become an easy and cheap replacement as it does not contain them. It does, however, contain saturated fatty acids. But the problem with palm oil is somewhere else. Well, the oil from the flesh of the palm oil in industrial applications is divided into the so-called fractions. One of them is the called: palm stearin. It contains high concentration of saturated stearic acid, which makes it solid at room temperature. And this makes it extremely attractive to producers. It easily gives products a “buttery” structure. However, when processing palm oil, another fraction is formed – the called: palm olein. It is high in monounsaturated oleic acid but liquid at room temperature. For this reason, it is often hardened by hydrogenation. And this causes the formation of harmful compounds in it. The hydrogenation process produces trans fatty acids – extremely harmful to health. However, we may not find out from the labels what type of palm fat was used. Also from ecological point of view (which became so important recently) according to WWF, irresponsible expansion of oil palm plantations has negatively impacted many vulnerable and threatened species, also the rights and interests of local communities and indigenous peoples. Should also mention about dramatic employment conditions of plantation workers, soil erosion and pollution, as well as air pollution. The burning of forests and peatlands to clear and manage land for palm oil plantations releases massive quantities of carbon dioxide (hmm… who than produces more CO2, average person like you and me or giant plantation owners?). Take a look at WWF website, I linked it below, it’s actually quite interesting how food industry exploits ecosystem.
  • Belgian Dark Chocolate (12%) [Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins), Flavouring] – 12% of the whole product is Belgian Chocolate, but chocolate apart from cocoa mas and cocoa butter is also made with sugar listed as a second ingredient perdominance by weight. But let’s focus on Soya Lecithins, as it’s quite mysterious ingredient. Dr. Axe describes very accurately and simply what Soya Lecithins is: manufacturers use it when mixing oils and water in a food product to become uniform and smooth in texture. Soy is that it contains isoflavones or phytoestrogens, which are naturally occurring estrogenic compounds. Isoflavones are found in many different plant foods, soybeans contain uniquely rich amounts. Although consuming isoflavones may have potential health benefits, like improving menopause and osteoporosis symptoms, there are concerns about their estrogen-like properties and how they affect the thyroid, uterus and breasts. That’s why Dr. Axe advises to eat soy fermented – fermentation process breaks down the antinutrients that are present in soybeans. But that’s a whole different story… Also last one on the list is: Flavouring – might be natural or artificial, but we don’t know that, and it doesn’t say what flavour is that;
  • Rapeseed Oil – naturally low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat, which is excellent for your health, but…It’s also famous for its affordability and versatility in food industry and in chemical and automotive industries. Follow the money – most rapeseed oil (also called canola oil) sold in grocery stores is genetically modified (although I found that all the rapeseed oil produced in UK is GM free). Growers genetically modify plants to produce higher yields and more affordable products. What are the constituencies for us? Most research does suggest that genetically modified products are generally safe. But as we know from the long history of food, tabacco and alcohol industry, what’s commonly used to be considered as healthy or “generally safe” often proved to be quite the opposite;
  • Golden Syrup – it’s production according to Wikipedia seems to be quite complicated but at the end it is just – sugar but in a different form;
  • Cornflour – very finely ground corn kernels, used in baked goods or to thicken liquids. Is it healthy? It depends, corn as a vegetable has plenty of different nutrients, but again according to Dr. Axe, almost all the corn in the U.S. is genetically modified and sprayed with dangerous pesticides. Organic corn is loaded with fibre and protein, also rich in anti-oxidants and easy to digest;
  • Tapioca Starch – popular gluten free flour made from cassava roots. Again after Dr. Axe, it’s used as a thickening agent, is made up of almost all carbohydrates and is very low in all types of fats, sugar, fiber, protein, sodium, and essential vitamins or minerals. Why then why use it?;
  • Water – not much to explain here;
  • Soya flour – After sciencedirect.com: soya flour has improving effects on dough handling and product quality. The enzyme lipoxygenase bleaches the xanthophyll pigments, resulting in a whiter crumb. Seriously?;
  • Salt – natural rock salt or himalayan is great, but I don’t think they used it here;
  • Emultisifires (Soya Lecithins, Mono- and Diglicerydes of Fatty Acids)Soya Lecithins we know already, the rest on the other hand are simply food additives called E471. Generally used to improve texture, volume of product, also prolongs shelf life and freshness. Approved as “generally recognized as safe”, although it may increase the amounts of trans fatty acids in final products;
  • Colour (Carotens) – natural food colourant driven from wide range of plants (for example: palm oil).

So…it took mi couple hours to go through one small product and write about it. And you may think: what?? you want me to google all the ingredients one by one while I’m shopping? No, because we would all die starving analysing each ingredient in each product we would like to put in the shopping basket.

But what this analyse let us know about this product?

It’s made mostly with sugar and different flours and starches, fats and additives. It’s vegan, gluten and dairy free, sounds great but after reading description of each ingredient do you still feel like it’s healthy or you feel like you’d love to eat it? I think the main problem is, that we are easily tempted by pretty packaging, tasty looking product that looks the same like you would make it at home or as your grandma used to make. But unfortunately it doesn’t mean that it’s made the same way as you or your grandma would make it. In modern food industry there’s lots of ingredient’s that we don’t even know that exists, that only pretends the ingredients we know, but are cheaper or easier to produce or grow.

If you take a quick look on the back of the food item you want to buy, and you see that list of ingredients is very long and has ingredients that names you cannot even read, you might want to put it back on the shelf. Especially if it’s simple one or two ingredients product, like for example jogurt or chocolate bar.

To help you understand what I mean I will show you another example: we have three packs of cheese snacks from different brands. All strongly advertised for kids.

Let’s take a look on the ingredients list:

Cheese snack number 1

Ingredients: Milk. Added Ingredients: Acidity Regulators (Citric Acid, Lactic Acid), Paprika, Vitamin D

Cheese snack number 2

Ingredients: Cheese Dip: Skimmed Milk (Water, Skimmed Milk Powder), Cheese, Concentrated Whey (from Milk), Inulin, Milk Protein, Milk Fat, Emulsifying Salt (Polyphosphates), Modified Starch, Calcium Phosphate, Acidity Regulator (Lactic Acid), Corn and Potato Snack: Corn Flour, Potato Granules, Palm Oil, Flavourings, Sugar, Salt, Onion Powder, Emulsifier (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids), Yeast Extract, Garlic Powder, Parsley, Acid (Citric Acid), Rosemary, Horseradish

Cheese snack number 3

Ingredients: Milk. Free From: Artificial Colours, Artificial Flavours, Artificial Preservatives.

I’m sure you can see the difference, that you wouldn’t spot looking only on the front of the packaging advertised as cheese snack for kids. And it’s exactly the same with all the food products you buy. Lists of ingredients in potentially the same or very similar products might vary a lot.

Moreover some of the food products cannot be manufactured other way than in complicated processes, that are more like laboratory processes rather than cooking. For example vegan foods that pretend no-vegan foods – like vegan bacon, vegan chicken, vegan cheese, vegan burgers etc. Vegan diet is advertised as healthy and on based on this opinion lots of people still think that they can become healthy eating vegan highly processed foods. Why they buy it? Because it’s easy, even tasty, doesn’t cost any effort to prepare and if someone likes meat they can cheat their brain consuming something that pretends to be meat.

Because I think examples are the best way to explain what I mean, I will show you another one. Vegan bacon rashers.

Ingredients: Water, Rehydrated Textured Soya and Wheat Protein (22%)(Water, Soya Protein, Wheat Protein, Salt, Soya Bean Oil, Natural Flavouring), Rapeseed Oil, Stabilisers: Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Methyl Cellulose, Wheat Protein, Soya Protein, Salt, Dextrose, Natural Flavourings, Colouring Foods: Blackcurrant, Radish, Apple, Starch, Natural Smoke Flavouring, Chicory Root Fibre, Acid: Citric Acid

Let’s break down this list and have a closer look on each ingredient:

  • Water – main ingredient, it’s first on the list so this bacon rashers are made mainly with water;
  • Rehydrated Textured Soya and Wheat Protein – it’s a highly processed food product that’s manufactured by isolating the soy protein from other components found in whole soybeans or other plants like wheat. It’s a result of thermo-mechanical process, which combines high heat, high shear, and high pressure to form a product that can be moulded into various forms for different uses. By itself, textured vegetable protein has a bland flavour, so it’s easy to add spices and other flavourings to make it taste like the meat product it’s imitating. What’s interesting, that it’s not unusual to find textured vegetable protein in foods that contains meat, such as frozen or canned pasta dishes. That’s because its texture is similar to that of meat, so it can serve as a meat extender, making it seem as if the dish contains more expensive meat than it actually does. Cheeky, isn’t it?
  • Rapeseed Oil – we’ve mentioned about it before;
  • Carrageenan – a family of marine polysaccharides isolated from seaweeds, has been at the heart of considerable debate in recent years. They are widely used in the food industry, for their gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties. Their main application is in dairy and meat products, due to their strong binding to food proteins. As of 2011, global sales of carrageenan were estimated at $640 million. The largest producer of industrial carrageenan was the Philippines, where cultivated seaweed produces about 80% of the world supply, while China is the main exporter to global markets in the US and Europe (after Wikipedia). The use of carrageenan in infant formula, organic or otherwise, is prohibited in the EU for precautionary reasons, but is permitted in other food items. As of 2018, carrageenan was deemed non-toxic under certain consumption levels (75 mg/kg bw per day), although further research was recommended. Simply there’s no enough research to know how carrageenan impacts colon microbiome, digestion, there is no knowledge if and how it impacts elderly people or the one with chronic digestive issues;
  • Guar Gum – is made from legumes called guar beans, it’s a food additive known also as E412. It’s used in food manufacturing because it’s soluble and able to absorb water, forming a gel that can thicken and bind products. Guar gum is generally low in calories and mainly composed of soluble fiber. So might have positive impact on digestion. Soluble fibers such as guar gum have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering effects. High amounts of guar gum can cause problems like intestinal obstruction and death. The amounts in processed foods do not usually cause side effects but can sometimes lead to mild digestive symptoms;
  • Methyl Cellulose – is a filler used to add bulk — rather than more real ingredients — to processed foods. It’s a cheap additive that allows processed food manufacturers to increase the weight and improve the texture of products without adding any nutritional benefits. Methylcellulose is the active ingredient in many laxatives, but animal studies indicate that the additive may promote colorectal cancer at levels typically present in processed foods;
  • Wheat Protein, Soya Protein – similar to Rehydrated Textured Soya Protein and Wheat Protein – highly processed carbohydrate with no nutritional benefits;
  • Salt – also mentioned above;
  • Dextrose – simply – processed sugar. Produced by culturing sugar with bacteria, marketed as a “more natural” way to preserve, sweeten, or texturize processed food. Can cause: upset stomach, fatigue, and increased thirst;
  • Natural Flavourings – according to FDA definition: “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating, or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit, or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavouring rather than nutritional.” In the EU, the natural flavour has to originate from a vegetable, animal, or microbiological source and must be made through a traditional food preparation process. India requires that they’re derived exclusively from vegetables and doesn’t allow microbiological processes. In Japan, natural flavours can be made from a limited list of plant and animal sources. In Canada, any flavourings that are not made from plant, animal, or microbiological sources have to be called “artificial flavourings.” In 2002, regulations in Australia and New Zealand were revised to remove any references to natural flavours, making it impossible to differentiate between artificial and natural flavours anymore. Great example of how natural flavours are used is mentioned by foodrevolution.org. “a piece of ripe fruit can taste amazing. But if a farm picks its fruit too green, and ships it 10,000 miles, it may lack flavor, color, and sweetness. If a company can add some natural flavors (plus a hefty dose of sugar and maybe even some food dye), suddenly the food will taste sweet and flavorful, and look brightly colored. The result is a poor substitute for real food, but these practices can be profitable, and most consumers will be fooled. Creating these substances is big business. The food industry employs what are called “flavor scientists,” whose main job is to mimic the taste of different foods and make them more flavorful and even addictive to consumers.”
  • Colouring Foods: Blackcurrant, Radish, Apple – food ingredients used by the food industry for the primary purpose of imparting colour to food and beverage products. They are manufactured from fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, algae or other edible source materials;
  • Natural Smoke Flavouring – produced by a wood-burning process called “pyrolysis”. As an alternative to traditional smoking, producers add them to a range of different foods to give a “smoked” flavour. They can also be added to foods which are not traditionally smoked. Smoke flavourings are regulated separately from other flavourings as they consist of complex mixtures including unidentified substances, which give rise to different safety issues;
  • Chicory Root Fibre – chicory root is a bit wood-like and, due to its fibrous composition, it’s not digested in the small intestine but instead maintains its forms as is travels to the colon or large intestine. Contains inulin, a type of plant-based carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes. Inulin is classified as both a soluble fiber and a type of prebiotic. In general – beneficial for your body;
  • Acid: Citric Acid – flavouring and preservative in food and beverages, especially soft drinks and candies, also called E330. Citric acid can be added to ice cream as an emulsifying agent to keep fats from separating, to caramel to prevent sucrose crystallization, or in recipes in place of fresh lemon juice. Over-ingestion may cause abdominal pain and sore throat.

If you ask for my opinion, it’s healthier to eat a slice of real bacon, rather than highly processed slice of something that kind of looks and kind of tastes like bacon. And what do you think about that? Do you buy or eat this kind of foods? Do you feel better after eating them? If you are interested in this subject and you would like to read more informations about highly processed vegan food and other food ingredients take a look at this website: https://wellness.consumerfreedom.com/plant-based-meat/

Brave and patient one who managed to read until the end. I also learned a couple new thing while writing this post. I hope I encouraged you to start reading labels and ingredients list. And if health factors still didn’t convinced you to put some of the food items back on the shelf, ask yourself: do I really want to spend my money in this food product?

Source of knowledge:

https://www.tygodnik-rolniczy.pl/articles/wies-i-rodzina/olej-palmowy-kiedy-jest-szkodliwy-dla-zdrowia/

https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/food_practice/sustainable_production/palm_oil/

https://draxe.com/nutrition/what-is-soy-lecithin/

https://www.hardquestionstoanswer.com/2022/01/04/is-rapeseed-oil-banned-in-the-uk/

https://draxe.com/nutrition/corn-flour/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/soy-flour

https://foodadditives.net/emulsifiers/mono-and-diglycerides/

https://www.carotene.org/food-coloring/

https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/food-labels.html

https://www.verywellfit.com/textured-vegetable-protein-4693634

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/guar-gum#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1

https://wellness.consumerfreedom.com

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/natural-flavors/

https://natcol.org/library/what-are-colouring-foods/

https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/smoke-flavourings

https://draxe.com/nutrition/chicory-root/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citric_acid

5 easy remedies for digestion problems

After two years of being more mindful about our eating habits and food and health in general, we’ve developed couple tips and tricks that helps us stay free from digestive problems. Even though we’re not on keto at the moment we try to keep up with some rules that make our life a little bit more healthy.

I also noticed many people around me complaining about their digestive problems, stomach pains etc. So I thought I would share with you couple small but very powerful tips that can really help if you deal with digestive issues on a daily basis. And believe me they really work if you commit to make them regularly.

Also there’s couple people around me who already tried some of this tips and can confirm that they worked and helped them with their uncomfortable issues, that sometimes can be really bothering and often can ruin your day.

But lets start from the beginning.

How do I find if I have digestive problems?

If you notice any of this symptoms it means that there’s something not quite right with your digestion and you should start looking for solutions.

  • belching
  • reflux (reflux is a symptom of a deficiency of hydrochloric acid)
  • flatulence
  • gas
  • intestinal overflow
  • unpleasant taste in the throat
  • upper abdominal discomfort
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • tightness in the abdomen
  • general pain and discomfort in your stomach and intestines.

As I said many times, we got so used to this symptoms, they became so common, that most of us doesn’t even recognize them as something wrong. If these happens to you often you should definitely keep reading.

Lots of these symptoms are due to low level of gastric acid in your stomach. Stomach acid creates an environment where digestion begins. In the stomach, thanks to the gastric acid, proteins are broken down and in this form they go to the duodenum. When there are too few gastric enzymes, including stomach acid, the whole proteins (undigested) go to further processing. Then if you digest badly, undigested proteins sit in you and rot, undigested carbs ferment, your stomach swells, eventually the toxins begin to leach into your blood.

What are the consequences of lacking stomach acid?

  • proteins (meat, fish, dairy products, nuts, legumes) will not be digested and absorbed, which increases the risk of related diseases, e.g. osteoporosis, degenerative conditions.
  • immune system begins to treat poorly digested proteins as an enemy and begins to fight “with itself” and produces inflammation that locates in various places and can cause, for example, allergies, asthma, skin problems, and thyroid diseases,
  • malnutrition – limiting the absorption of nutrients from food – so even if you eat lots of healthy stuff if it cannot be digested properly your body won’t be able to absorb all the vitamins and microelements you provide with food,
  • when this situation becomes chronic, and if you add to this prolonged stress, medications (especially antibiotics), constipation – bacteria and toxins can break the gut barrier and flow into the bloodstream. It’s called leaky gut syndrome and can cause “small” discomfort in our body (bloating, cramps, fatigue, food allergies and sensitivities, gas, and headaches) or more serious issues (autoimmune conditions, depression and other mood disorders, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis),
  • our blood sugar levels are rising,
  • it can cause skin problems: eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, vitiligo,
  • fermentation and rotting of improperly digested food that creates bacteria, yeast and parasites growing in the gut.

How do I know if I have not enough gastric acid?

Bicarbonate of soda test.

Baking soda is alkaline, and your stomach is acidic. If the gastric acid level is high enough in contact with soda, it should cause a reaction that will result in the appearance of carbon dioxide. So – a powerful burp! But if you don’t have the right amount of stomach acid, the reaction will be very late or not at all.


How to make soda test?


Make sure you do the test on an empty stomach and you ate your last meal yesterday at 6 p.m. at the latest. That’s a requirement!
Then drink 3/4 cup of water with a level teaspoon of baking soda. I have to warn you it’s not going to be tasty.
Burp times:

  • burp while drinking the potion, it’s acidosis. Low probability, but of course it does happens,
  • burp up to 40 seconds after drinking: acidity (the closer to 40 seconds, the smaller),
  • burp within 40 – 90 seconds, it means that your stomach is acidic,
  • burp from 90 to 3 minutes, then weak (the closer to 3 minutes, the worse),
  • and you don’t burp after more than 180 seconds or not at all, which also happens, means it’s not good.

I made this test before my keto diet and my result wasn’t the best (weak burp around 2 minutes after drinking soda). And now I regret that I didn’t do it again after couple months of keto. But I’m sure that the result would be much better.

OK, so you’ve noticed these uncomfortable symptoms I listed above, and you’ve made a test that came out as bad as mine. What to do next? There’s lots of thing you can do starting from changing your diet removing highly processed foods, gluten, sugar and/or dairy (depending which one creates the problem) and replace them with lots of fermented foods like: kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, pickles. But that’s usually a big change and huge step for most of people. I guess not everyone is ready for that. If you’re that kind of person, maybe small steps, small changes are better for you. So if you suspect that you have an issue with not enough gastric acid and other digestive difficulties, there are very simple, easy and cheap remedies.

As a disclaimer I have to notice that any of these are medical advice. All of these advises are coming from my nutritionist or from our personal experience. If you have any health issues please first advise your GP.

5 simple, easy and cheap remedies

for digestion problems

Apple cider vinegar.

You might feel it’s disgusting, but if you overcome the first couple times you drink it, later on it will be much easier. At the beginning I also thought it’s disgusting, but after couple days I got used to the taste. And couple of people I know that tried it also confirmed that it makes a huge difference and they feel relief. Always use raw unfiltered (also “with mother”) apple cider vinegar, you can also make your own using apples, water and sugar (there’s plenty of information online how to make it). To prepare apple cider vinegar drink you’ll need apple cider vinegar and lukewarm water. Simply add 1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to a glass and fill with water up to about 2/3. Drink about 15 minutes before meal. As with most natural remedies, to work it needs to be done regularly. But if you try to include it into your daily routine it will become obvious and you won’t forget about it. Definitely worth trying. But if you absolutely cannot stand the taste of apple cider vinegar, at least try water with lots of lemon juice.

Linseeds.

Linseed or flaxseed as they say in US is a great remedy for constipation and for general digestive health. Main causes of constipation is lack of fiber in your diet. Fibre is not digestible but it increases the size of your stools and makes them softer. Larger, softer stools help keep you regular, as they move more quickly through your bowels and are easier to pass. Insoluble fiber bulks up your stool and acts like a brush, sweeping through your bowels to get everything out and keep things moving. The soluble variety absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance. This helps your stool pass smoothly through your bowels and improves its form and consistency. Linseed contains plenty of soluble fiber and when comes in contact with water becomes gel-like paste that has a defecating effect, which makes it move faster through your intestines. This defecation process is what makes consuming linseed so different from any other kind of laxative. I know it doesn’t sound attractive but really works. I have a cup of linseeds every morning after my first coffee (morning without coffee is wasted), but you could have a cup in the evening. It’s also quite filling because of the fiber content, keeps you full for a while. You can mix couple teaspoons (like 2-3) of linseeds in boiling water and leave for the night then drink it, or rather eat it. But I prefer much more tasty option. Simply I grind linseeds using my old good coffee grinder. I mix 3 heaped teaspoons of linseed and 1 teaspoon of raw cacao powder with boiling water and leave it for about 10-15 minutes. Then I add a splash of almond milk and drink it. Tastes great and it has less gel-like consistency that’s difficult to swallow. I can guarantee that your visits in the bathroom becomes less stressful 🙂

Exercise.

Imagine your organs if you’re are sitting on the sofa or in front of the computer for most of the day – squeezed together without movement for hours. Believe it or not, but little bit of exercise every day can bring you some relief with your digestive issues. I felt much better (in every way) when I exercised in the morning. It’s past tense on purpose – I had a quite good morning routine before covid, then lockdown came and since then it’s really difficult for me to come back to morning exercise. But studies show that regular exercises can improve circulation in all areas of the body, including the digestive tract, physical activity improves gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, also constipation could be prevented with exercise, as being too sedentary can slow down digestion. Exercise although the simplest and the cheapest way to improve your digestion, is also the most demanding. At least for me. But definitely helps your body and mind in every way.

No drinking during meals.

As simple as it can be. Just skip a drink while you’re having your meal. It’s connected with the first point I mentioned – gastric acid. When you drink during meal gastric acid and digestive enzymes becomes diluted, which may result in slower digestion and retention of food in the stomach. The best is not to drink anything during the meal and have a glass of water or tea after 30 minutes when you finish your meal. Especially herbal teas are great for digestion, you can even make a with spices like: oregano, thyme or fennel. Which leads me to the fifth and last one remedy.

Use lots of spices.

I noticed that lots of people tends to use pre-made cooking sauces, stocks and dressings, instead of making there own full of flavour of freshly added spices. Even dried ones. Spices are everything! They not only boost the flavours of the food, but also (or mostly) have digestive properties. Sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, pepper, turmeric, ginger. All of them helps to stimulate digestion, regulates fermentation processes in bowels, helps to digest fats that our meals contains. They have bactericidal, cleansing and circulation-stimulating properties. They help especially with heavy meals full of fats that are more difficult to digest. Using lots of spices makes this process easier and less burdensome for the body. You can also use spices in a for of a tea or cold drink. My partner’s recent favourite drink mixture is camomile, fresh ginger, turmeric, mint and lemon boiled for about 5 minutes. He drinks it cold through out the day instead of water. He says it cleans his body, gives him energy and helps to digest.

All of these together will work like a charm for your digestive system. I highly encourage you to try at least one of them. Would be happy to hear how they helped you, just share you experience in the comment section.

Source of knowledge:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4519257/

https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/hydrochloric_acid#section=Top

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946491/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6790068/

https://drbeckyfitness.com/exercises-to-help-digestion/

seasonal eating – vegetables & fruits – with free calendar

If you think you need expensive and exotic vegetables and fruits or extraordinary superfoods to be healthy, then you are wrong.

Seasonal vegetables and fruits bought locally are a brilliant source of not only delicious taste, but also vitamins, micro elements, freshness and health. And Spring is a perfect time to introduce more vegetables and fruits to your diet. I wanted to prepare a list for myself of vegetables and fruits according to the season, but I thought it will be a great idea for a blog post, so I prepared a vegetable and fruit calendar for you. Availability of all vegetables and fruits in supermarkets all year round made me lose track a bit when it comes to their seasonality. As I currently live in the UK, I chose this country as my fruit and vegetable base. But I encourage you to prepare your own vegetable and fruit calendar for the country you live in.

We have access to fresh vegetables and fruit all year round. Obviously, if you look at the labels lots of these veggies and fruits are grown thousands of miles away from UK. It’s because some of them do not grow in UK at all, like tropical fruits and veggies, others does grow but in different season, like tomatoes in January. But imported vegetables and fruits have one big drawback – in order to survive, they are sprayed with pesticides, which cannot be fully removed, even by washing and scrubbing the plant. This is not the case with seasonal fruit and vegetables, as they are usually grown on nearby farms, so we can be sure that they are fresh, and even if they are sprayed, to a much lesser extent.
In addition, fruit and vegetables from abroad are harvested not fully ripe (so that the banana comes to us yellow, it is picked when it is still green), so they are not fully developed with vitamins and minerals. This takes away their health benefits and makes them less valuable for our body. My friend who lives i Malawi told me once, that bananas that we eat here in UK have absolutely different taste that the one that grow until ripen in Malawi. It’s like completely different fruit. You can easily experience that eating juicy strawberry from your garden in the middle of Summer, and large and beautiful but absolutely tasteless strawberry bought in the supermarket in the middle of Winter.

It’s also worth knowing that vegetables and fruits begin to lose their nutritional value at the time of harvesting and larger amounts of bacteria responsible for spoilage begin to appear. So by eating them as quickly as possible since harvesting, we gain more benefits for our body. Also imported fruits and veggies are more expensive than seasonal ones. They need to be transported many miles before they reach to your local shop.

Transporting such fruit and vegetables leaves behind a huge carbon footprint and a multitude of other pollutants. I’m not saying that we should suddenly stop eating exotic fruits or imported vegetables if we like them. I love vegetables myself and I like to eat them all year round, and it would be difficult for me to only eat root vegetables out of season. However, if we would like to introduce more seasonality into our diet, it is a good idea to start from buying vegetables and fruits in season. A great idea in my opinion is also buying vegetables and fruits from local farmers – such vegetables will not only be much healthier but also cheaper, and their cultivation and sale more environmentally friendly (if you’d like to know more about the difference between supermarket veggies and the one from sustainable farms, take a look at my interview with one of our local farmers).

Lastly it’s worth mentioning that seasonal vegetables and fruits are simply much tastier. It’s much nicer to enjoy the taste of strawberries on a sunny Summer day, when they are juicy, full of flavour and sweet, than to spoil your experience by buying an expensive small plastic box of strawberries that taste like nothing.

Very often the simplest solutions are the best, so if you want to make a little revolution in your vegetable world this Spring, start by downloading the calendar I have prepared (you’ll find it on the bottom of this post below the photos). Keep it on your phone, for easy access when you go shopping, or print it and stick to your fridge.

farming with passion – how you can benefit from supporting the local farmers (interview)

Ever since we started travelling around Scotland, I was very curious to see how people live in tiny villages or on farms in the middle of nowhere. How is it when your life is far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, from work 9 to 5, with a completely different rhythm. The rhythm of nature. I also regret that I delayed my decision so long to stop buying vegetables and fruits in the supermarket and start buying local organic vegetables. But better late than never. Of course, in the off-season, in the winter I am a bit forced to buy vegetables in a supermarket, but I am very happy that I have the opportunity to buy fresh, local products from farmers who work with passion and commitment to provide the best quality and most nutritious fruit and vegetables. This is how I found Berwick Wood Produce farm – I was looking for a local vegetable supplier for whom growing vegetables is not only a way to earn money. Mhairi and her family have a woodland farm near Hatton of Fintray in Scotland. And I was looking for words to introduce them, but I think Mhairi on their Instagram page @berwickwoodproduce did it the best:

I’m Mhairi and I am incredibly lucky to manage my family woodland farm near Hatton of Fintray. I do this with the help of my husband Aus and our quickly growing up offspring (when they are around). We have spent the last few years learning about small scale regenerative farming and how to make a living from local food. We are passionate about sustainability: ecologically, socially and economically. We want farms to be able to farm in ways that increase biodiversity and leave nutrients in the soil for the next generations. We believe local communities have the right to access good food and that skills in food production need not to be lost. Farmers should make a fair wage for their work and do so by selling locally. As I am a “veg snob” having lived nearly exclusively off my own veg for the last 10 years I started with a no till market garden which sells veg boxes, to food hubs and to small independent shops and cafes.With our wood being thinned we will be able to introduce livestock ready to add more regeneration to this land.

@berwickwoodproduce
(all photos are from Mhairi’s Instagram page)

To satisfy my curiosity a bit, and I hope yours as well, I asked Mhairi a few questions about what the running of the farm looks like, what her day looks like, and how organic vegetables from sustainable crops differ from those, we usually buy in the supermarket.

I hope this will encourage you to delve into this topic and look for a similar farm in your area. It would be great if we could support local farmers who love nature, while at the same time making our life and health better with nutritious and fresh vegetables and fruits.

So grab yourself a cup of tea and enjoy reading.

Hello Mhairi, could you tell me how your farming adventure started? Did you grow up on a farm?

I grew up in with small scale farming. My grandfather had a croft on the West coast of Scotland that looked onto Ben Nevis. He had a herd of Highland cows that can be seen in movies such as “The Highlander”, “Braveheart” and “Rob Roy”. My dad was an agricultural economist and later took over the croft from his dad. Though I always loved being on the land in 1998 I decided to come to Aberdeen and become an occupational therapist. I worked for both the NHS and in schools until a series of bone tumours meant I needed to stop working. To help out my family financially I started growing food again and reignited my love for working the land. Working outside and eating better food really helped my physical recovery and when the opportunity to grow on a larger scale arose I knew that is what I wanted to do.


Has farming been viewed as more of a business for you, or a lifestyle choice? Some combination of both?

Though I do need to make a livelihood, for me farming is very much a lifestyle. I am passionate about looking after the land for future generations and for wildlife. I wish to provide fresh nutritious food to my local community and to contribute to a better food system in this country.


What was the most challenging at the beginning? And what’s the most challenging right now?

The biggest challenges have been to get the infrastructure on the farm. The land was originally part of a large estate, then broken down into a smaller parcel of land which was planted into a woodland in 1990. It had no buildings, water, fencing, power or vehicular access so we had to start with all that while trying to get growing. It was also hard to find markets for the veg that we grew as most people and cafes/restaurants could not initially see the value of our veg over wholesale or supermarket. As more people tried local veg or have become interested in where their food comes from the demand for our produce is increasing and the challenge now is to grow enough to meet the best supply and demand. This means
that we are always trying to collect as much data about best varieties, dates for planting / harvesting and yields while keeping all the planting etc.. going.

What crops do you grow?

This year on the farm we are growing 45 different types of vegetables, 15 different types of herbs and hope to get a small crop from our apples trees and fruit bushes (they have only been in a few years). We also look after the woodland and this year we will thin out some of the sitka spruce and plant some willow, alder and hazel trees to increase diversity and make sure the trees left can grow better.

Which part of farming is the most satisfying for you?

There are lots of parts of the farm that I find satisfying but mostly I love to see the ecosystems on the farm. I love to see all the wildlife that is there from the toads and dragonflies on the pond to the buzzards and heron that fly over our heads. This week I have been watching the worms heat up, the beetles mate and the ladybirds on the young trees.

Could you describe how your typical day look like in a growing season?

In the growing season my typical day begins about 5am or at first light as the days get shorter. I start by watering the polytunnels and checking the market garden plot. It is then usually either a harvesting day or a planting/ seeding day. On a harvesting day we have a list of what is to be harvested and it is all done as early as possible as that is when the leaves
are most turgid and tasty. On seeding/planting days each bed that is to be planted is weeded and raked. Either plants that have already been sown into trays are then transplanted into the ground or seeds are sown directly into the ground using our push along seeder. Once the seeds/plants are in the ground they sometimes need protection such as fleeces or nets. We also spend time cleaning and organising tools and keeping records up to date. I try to finish work by 6pm though often have paperwork to do after my tea. I also try to find time everyday just to observe the environment both from an enjoyment point of view and also to take note of my surroundings.

So your day is full of different jobs that need to be done, do you have your favourite farm task?

I have 3 favourite tasks on the farm. Firstly I love planning the year ahead especially new things we might want to try to plant, creating new micro environments or learning new ways of doing things. Secondly I love my quiet time in the propagation area seeding trays of veg and finally I love harvesting (and eating!!) a really successful crop.

I guess farming is not only enjoyable and satisfying work, but you also need to deal with many factors that are beyond your control: weeds, insects, diseases, weather devastating to the crop you have cared for months. How do you deal with fail? What helps you to keep going even though sometimes it might look like everything is against you?

Fingers crossed we have never had a complete crop fail. Our most basic philosophy is good soil and strong plants do well. If a veg does not do as well as we hoped to take notes and see what we can change.
Sometimes a different way of planting, timings, variety can make a difference but occasionally we might decide not to do that type of veg anymore. Equally we take notes of what goes well.
Weeds can get me down sometimes but our no dig beds have helped to minimise them. Weeds are really helpful indicators of your soil so can be really useful for letting you know what is going on. To prevent disease we try to keep our soils well looked after and plants strong. As of yet we have not had any diseases. Pests are always seen as a challenge but recently I have changed the way I view “pests”. I am spending a lot of time learning about the lifecycles of these “pest” and viewing them more as food for the other things which are part of our farm ecosystem. Creating a balance of “pests” and “predators” leads to a much healthier system. We choose not to use any chemicals on our plants even ones that organic farms can use as we hope that this will give the best chance for our ecosystem to balance. On the whole this has worked though slugs and flea beetles can at times be an issue!! When things go wrong I find it best to let myself feel a bit sad then pick myself up, learn what you can and focus on the things that are going right.

From your perspective, what people should be aware of when they shop for vegetables?

When people are shopping for veg they should always be aware of what is in season. Using glass or tunnels it is possible to extend seasons slightly or grow things under cover that you could not grow outdoors but veg or fruit that is been grown out of season is always less tasty and nutritious. Different veg also has different shelf life time. Leaves need to be picked and cooled quickly and kept in the fridge where as onions, potatoes, swedes or other root crops can last longer just kept somewhere dry or darker. For this reason you are more likely to get a good swede in a supermarket then good kale or spinach. Veg that is a bit past its best can still be used in soups, stews or fermented or pickled rather then wasted.

What are the differences between vegetables from supermarket and the one grown on your farm? Many people thinks that veg is a veg and the only difference is that the one from supermarket are nicely washed and packed in foil, which for many people is much more convenient.

There are two main differences between our veg and that bought in a supermarket. The first is providence. With our veg you can know exactly where it came from right back to the seed, how it was grown and when it was harvested. Secondly there is growing practices. We spend a lot of time learning about the best ways to grow our veg, the most suitable varieties and how to create the right soils to optimise nutrition. A lot of supermarket veg is grown for high yield, speed and prices which means that growing best practices can not be observed.

And they are often sprayed with pesticides, and travel thousands of miles before they get to the shop. While you can buy fresh, healthy local vegetables, that may be a bit dirty from the soil, but so much healthier and nutritious. What can consumers do to support small farms more actively?

There are a lot of things that consumers can do which are free if price is an issue for them. They can share social media posts of small producers, they can support campaigns to keep food standard high or they can start to cook more seasonally. If they can buy more locally they can write reviews to promote small producers products that they have enjoyed. They can try occasionally buying from farmers markets or food hubs rather then from the supermarkets. They can engage with their small producers. Usually small producers are passionate about what they do and are happy to talk about what they do. Hopefully as restrictions ease farms will also be able to have open days again.

If you had one piece of advice for someone who would like to become a farmer, what would it be?

My one piece of advice for someone who would like to start a farm is to decide what farm you want to start. If you want to start a agri-ecological farm then join one of the small association which promote these such as The land workers alliance, the organic growers alliance, the nature friendly farming association or community supported agricultural. These associations all have mentorships, placements, peer to peer learning and loads of support and information for those interested in farming for a better planet/ food system.

Thank you Mhairi that you found some time to answer my questions. Even though season of harvesting and delivering veggies didn’t started yet, it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do on the farm. That’s another thing that need to be mention – farmers work hard all year round 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and maybe it encouraged you to make some changes to your diet this Spring. Rather than buying fruit and vegetables at a supermarket, make a research to find a local farmer who grows delicious, healthy and organic vegetables. So you will be able to cook healthy and nutritious meals for yourself and your family.
In the meantime, you can take a look at a few recipes I made using vegetables from Berwick Wood Produce.

angry chef made me angry – processed foods

I stepped upon “The Angry Chef” e-book couple times in my local library, and eventually decided to borrow it, simply because other I wanted to borrow were unavailable. The whole title is: “The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating” and it’s written by Anthony Warner – blogger and a chef with 20 years of experience. I’ve never heard about him before, so I was curious about why his anger is so big?

If you’ve never heard about Angry Chef I will briefly outline what the book is about, so you can see what we are talking about. I will use a description from the back of the book:

“Never before have we had so much information available to us about food and health. There’s GAPS, paleo, detox, gluten-free, alkaline, the sugar conspiracy, clean eating… Unfortunately, a lot of it is not only wrong but actually harmful. So why do so many of us believe this bad science?”

So basically author tries to debunk nonsensical pseudoscience that diets are based on. I’m not going to talk about the style or form of how it’s been written, because that’s not the point. The point is that Angry Chef made me thinking about some things, which is good, but also made me angry about others. But we will get there. I would really like this post to be the start for discussion rather than the way to unbosom my frustration. Because I feel like there’s a lot to discuss, and Angry Chef rises a lot of important issues in this book, although I cannot agree with lots of his opinions. I have an impression, but maybe I’m wrong, that the book is dominated by the author’s opinions, not facts established by scientific research. Because as Angry Chef claims established scientific research should be the only source of knowledge and opinions of sensible and intelligent people. So it’s going to be a lot of reading, if you’re ready for it, grab yourself a cup of tea or coffee and dive in.

Actually it’s very good that I don’t agree with Angry Chef’s opinions, because at this point we can discuss (not in the conversation though but still) all the different points of view. I have this strange trait, that I always try to look on a given situation or person’s behaviour from a different (than others) point of view.

Angry Chef vs processed foods vs me

Processed foods, are widely discussed in the book and it’s quite sensitive subject as Angry Chef is employed by one of the food manufacturers. The author praises processed foods, as a rescue from diseases, lack of hygiene and poorness. As if processed foods would not exist we would still be sitting at the table next to the gutter with rats and poo as our entourage.

Photo by hitesh choudhary on Pexels.com

Don’t confuse the processes thanks to which food can be kept and transported in a safe and hygienic way, with processes in which couple different chemical substances are joined together to become something that looks like food. But Angry Chef likes extreme examples to prove his theory.

As one of the book reviewers from Good Reads (yes, I read the reviews to see if it’s me or the book) noticed that it’s “incredibly naive in his thinking that governments wouldn’t allow something into the market that wasn’t good for us. He greatly underestimates the phenomenal power and influence that the lobbyists of these multi-billion conglomerates employ.”

I’m the most naive person I know, but even I know that in global food industry (in every big industry actually) the only thing that counts is money. The same Good Read reviewer Keen gives a perfect example of tobacco industry: “remember that big tobacco claimed for decades to have health benefits in moderation, using images of babies, Santa and it was endorsed by athletes, and doctors in the US who publicly advocated the health benefits of smoking. They were doing this for years and this was still happening in the second half of the 20th century. These are not the rantings of conspiracy theorists, or paranoid extremists. These are highly educated people with power and influence.” Sadly I have to agree, even though I would like to think, that governments, manufacturers and simply people who runs this world wants only our own good. I think 2020 showed us in what a mess we live in, like monkeys in the circus. But obviously “The Angry Chef” was published in 2017, so the author haven’t experienced 2020 yet.

Money, money, money as ABBA sings

When I started digging deeper after Keen’s review I stepped upon New York Times article (link is down below) from 2016 about documents that has been discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. According to them a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. And they were not some kind of scientist that nobody knows. One of them become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture, another one was the chairman of Harvard’s nutrition department. You might say: that was over 50 years ago, that was an incident.

Here you have: another New York Times article (again link down below) revealed that Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, had provided millions of dollars in funding to researchers who sought to play down the link between sugary drinks and obesity. Even though Sugar Association still claims that sugar “does not have a unique role in heart disease.” In June 2016, The Associated Press reported that candy makers were funding studies that claimed that children who eat candy tend to weigh less than those who do not. Can you believe it?

So what it tells us? That documents published in very prominent and popular scientific journals does not give us any guarantee, that what is written in them is true. Not because scientists might be wrong, or make a mistake, they might be wrong on purpose.

As Angry Chef writes: “facts produced by science will always change, sometimes fundamentally”…”because they are based on evidence-based scientific research and the sort of systematic reviews of evidence that get us as close to the truth as possible”. What I can say: follow the money. If facts produced by science changes frequently and fundamentally, that should ring us a bell that something might be wrong in that science business. And the word “business” is the key.

Bring your papers

That’s why it’s hard for me to understand why Angry Chef puts so much trust in titles. Having MD or PhD before your name doesn’t make you last instance of knowledge. And not having a history of writing for medical journals or being approved by some kind of authority does not mean that your knowledge is less valuable. Even though author plays down medical doctors he mention in his book and glorifies the ones with titles or registered with authorities: “All registered nutritionist I have met over the years have a passion for rising evidence-based to improve people’s health through diet”.

It’s like you would say someone is not an artist because his art work wasn’t shown in National Gallery. It’s like not holding the title of a well-known university excludes having great knowledge and passion in helping people. Obviously it should be controlled somehow, since you cannot harm anyone with art, but you can with bad treatment. But such claims are grossly unfair for those doctors whose diploma has not been approved in a given country (he gives example of a Russian doctor practising in UK), as well as for those who have great knowledge, very often from many different fields but doesn’t have a diploma of a prominent university.

McDonald’s again?

I know I still didn’t start talking about processed foods but, believe me I’m getting there. It’s just that highly unfair opinions like that (not scientifically proven by the way) makes me feel sad and angry.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

OK, lets get to the point. This should be written on every McDonald’s happy meal bag ( if happy meal still exists). After Angry Chef:

“As I write these words I am sat in McDonald’s on a bright Summer’s evening toward the end of Summer school holidays. I am watching the succesions of families returning from action-packed busy days, many irreplaceable and fractious, yet all full of irreplaceable and joyous memories of time well spent. They are rounding of their day with the unhealthiest of convenience foods: burgers, fries and sugar-laden drinks. They are doing this for pleasure and because they want to be filled without having to think about it. They are willing to trade away the healthier option of a scratched-cooked meal because the memories they have created today are vastly more important. This is not an illogical choice, it is more than worth a trade. Conveniences foods enhances lifes because it frees people to live them how they choose.”

That should be an ad of McDonald’s – don’t use your head, just fill up your belly. Seriously Angry Chef? Maybe I’m the only weird person who value more sitting in the park on the grass with homemade sandwiches? Through the whole book Angry Chef tries to prove us that we should not draw conclusions from random situations, and secondly, the fact that something happened (accidentally) does not mean that it always happens:

  1. Anecdotes are not evidence – his almost idyllic McDonald’s story is just an anecdote. His subjective assessment of this situation, unless he interviewed whole family to prove that his image of that situation was actually truth.
  2. Correlation is not causation – Angry Chef keeps saying this million times – end of Summer holidays and family visiting this “restaurant” does not mean that it’s their special day “full of irreplaceable and joyous memories of time well spent”. Maybe they come there every second day, because parents don’t want to be bothered to cook? We don’t know that unless we make a research and ask at least a hundred families about their reasons and frequency of visiting McDonald’s. At his point it’s the only facts we have, is that it was end of Summer school holidays and that the family visited McDonalds, the rest is a story imagined by the author. There’s no science there.

And one more thing “Conveniences foods enhances lifes because it frees people to live them how they choose” – I’m really glad that when I was a kid there was no McDonald’s and no conveniences foods (in the 80’s and beginning of 90’s there was no such thing as ready meals and first McDonald’s was built in my home town last year) and my grandma was making sandwiches for my school trips. They were wrapped in paper that become greasy from the butter, but they were delicious and made with love – butter tasted like butter not margarine and tomatoes smelled from far away with their red juiciness. So Angry Chef if you let them eat in McDonald’s, also give me a freedom to eat paleo, GASP, no sugar or any other, OK? Without judgement.

BTW don’t you think that we’ve been modified to this impatient and demanding society that wants everything right now and right here? Like burger from McD. Meanwhile cooking from scratch is not only time consuming activity that’s only purpose is to fill our stomach. But it also socialize people, teach them how to care about each other. Cooking is spending time together and bonding relations.

After idyllic McDonald’s scene I’ve been even more motivated to dig deeper and deeper. And I stepped upon another article, this time The Guardian (link down below).

Over half of Britons eats highly processed foods

Cambridge University Press in 2017 published a research about “Household availability of ultra-processed foods and obesity in nineteen European countries”. Estimates of highly processed foods was calculated from national household budget surveys conducted between 1991 and 2008, so quite a long time ago. And I’m really curious how it looks right now, I hope that someone will make that research so we could compare it with this one.

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

This article leaded me to professor Carlos Monteiro from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, who led the research team. Professor Monteiro used a method of food classification called NOVA. This puts foods or ingredients in to one of four categories depending on their level of processing:

  1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods (e.g. fruits, grains, meat, milk) – natural products which may have been processed in some way but have had no sugar, salts, fats or oils added.
  2. Processed culinary ingredients – ingredients derived from nature usually used in combination with ingredients from the group above – examples are salt, sugar, honey, vegetable oil.
  3. Processed foods – ‘relatively simple’ products made by adding ingredients from category 2 to category 1 – usually two to three ingredients. Examples include canned vegetables, fruits in syrup, cheese, freshly made bread, salted/sugared nuts or seeds, smoked fish and cured meats (preserved, pickled, fermented or salted foods).
  4. Ultra-processed food and drink products – described as ‘industrial formulations’ with five or more ingredients: for example, ice-cream, chocolate, sweets. This also includes foods from category 3 which have had ‘cosmetic/sensory additives’ added. Ingredients from category 2 are now transformed through colours, emulsifiers, flavourings and other additives to become more palatable. They contain ingredients unfamiliar to domestic kitchens such as soy protein isolate (in cereal bars or shakes with added protein) and “mechanically separated meat” (turkey hotdogs, sausage rolls). Examples include yoghurt with added sweeteners and non-artisanal bread. 

Anyway, what they discovered? Half of all the food bought by families in the UK is highly processed (exactly 50.4%), made in a factory with industrial ingredients and additives invented by food technologists. After the research:

“A significant positive association was found between national household availability of ultra-processed foods and national prevalence of obesity among adults. After adjustment for national income, prevalence of physical inactivity, prevalence of smoking, measured or self-reported prevalence of obesity, and time lag between estimates on household food availability and obesity, each percentage point increase in the household availability of ultra-processed foods resulted in an increase of 0·25 percentage points in obesity prevalence.”

Researchers concludes that the consumption of highly processed foods is associated with an increased risk of diet-related non-communicable diseases. And that there’s need for public policies and actions to promote consumption of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and make highly processed foods less available and affordable.

However British Nutrition Foundation has found a number of issues because of “correlation is not causation” statement:

  • cross-sectional study, it can only show that there is a relationship between these variables; it cannot show whether availability of ultra-processed foods actually caused an increase in levels of obesity,
  • looking at averages within populations, it cannot show that individuals within countries who consume the ultra-processed foods are most likely to be obese,
  • for many of the countries studied the data on obesity and food availability were not from the same year, in fact they were sometimes 5 years apart. While the authors stated that they used methods to account for this time difference, this means that the paper only provides a theoretical snapshot of these factors in time,
  • most of the data on obesity was self-reported and so likely to be inaccurate,
  • NOVA classification does not take the nutrient content of foods into account,
  • study suggests an association between ultra-processed foods and obesity, it cannot tell us anything about why this association might exist, as it provides no information about the levels of macronutrients or energy in the foods within the different categories.

These doubts are obviously logic, but it doesn’t mean that we should throw the whole study to rubbish and go for happy meal.

Everything comes from China 😉

I would like to mention about China Study. “The China Study” book is based on “China-Oxford-Cornell Study on Dietary, Lifestyle and Disease Mortality Characteristics in 65 Rural Chinese Counties,” In 1983 two villages were chosen at random in each of 65 rural counties in China, and 50 families were chosen at random in each village for a total of 6,500 people. The dietary habits of one adult member of each family were examined—half male, half female—and the results compared to the death rates in those counties from around 48 forms of cancers and other diseases during 1973–75. The study compared the health consequences of diets rich in animal-based foods to diets rich in plant-based foods among people who were genetically similar. You’ll find lots of different statements about if this study conclusion is truth or not, and lots of debunking opinions. And I’m not going to debate about is the plant – based diet the healthiest in the world or not. But I want to mention about other things, that I noticed in that book, because by accident I read it couple years ago, that is in my opinion can refer to highly processed foods.

Dr Campbell and his team discovered couple very interesting facts:

“Atlas of cancer and morality in the People’s Republic of China. An aid for cancer control and research.” was created in the 1970s and contained information on mortality from more than 60 different diseases. Thanks to this data, Campbell team was able to distinguish two groups of diseases:

  • diseases that usually occur in more economically developed areas (diseases of civilization) like cancer (anus, lung, breast, brain, stomach, liver), diabetes, heart disease
  • and diseases that usually occur in rural areas (poverty diseases): pneumonia, digestive disorders, peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, parasitic diseases, rheumatic fever, birth complications, etc.

The results were interesting enough because the differences in numbers turned out to be huge. The provinces with the highest cancer rates had over one hundred times more cancer than the provinces with the lowest cancer rates. For comparison, in the USA, the incidence of cancer in different regions of the country will not exceed two or three times.

Study also showed that when over the years the more civilized cities of eastern China began to include highly processed western diet, it caused an increase in the so-called civilization diseases. Chinese consumers prefer the imported products than the local ones due to the impression of the product’s reputation of foreign brands. I fully understand it, because in the country I come from, for many years there there was a belief that everything that comes from the West is better (and this belief still exists unfortunately). On a China Highlights website you can find an information that there are now more KFCs in China than even in the USA and more get built every week. We can read there: “only few Chinese have ever been to a Western country. While having dinner at a “Western restaurant”, they might happily eat something no Westerner has ever seen…”, “McDonald’s is a big chain in China. They’ve had about 25 years to experiment with their food. Younger people especially like their hamburgers. It is said to be made with real beef patties, and it tastes authentic”. So we should not be surprised to see that in China, one in five children is classified as obese. This is even more shocking when you consider that back in 1995, that number was only 1 out of 20 children.

What’s wrong with this food?

Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi on Pexels.com

OK, so let us go back to ultra-processed foods. I found an article related to Dr. Monteiro’s research, the author Bee Wilson, just wrote everything I’ve been thinking about in this subject. Author recalls the times of her childhood full of toasted bread, Pringles and breakfast cereals. The guilt she had after eating with no limits made her thinking there must be something wrong with her. Today she asks: what’s wrong with this food?

“As I ate my Pringles and my white bread, I felt like a failure for not being able to stop. I had no idea that there would one day be a technical explanation for why I found them so hard to resist”. Do you recall anything like that in your life? I do.

We eat processed food every single day, cooking is a process, fermenting is a process, peeling is a process. And it just came into my mind, so please don’t feel offended, but that’s a comparison that popped into my mind. It’s like you have two beautiful woman, one is full of her natural beauty, the other one is…uhm…spiced up here and there by plastic surgeon. Hyaluron lips, silicon breasts, maybe silicon bum, one pair of ribs less to make waist thinner, maybe some extension hair and glam make up for nicer finish. Honestly, which one would you like to spend your time every day until the rest of your life?

After Bee: what characterises ultra-processed foods is that they are so altered that it can be hard to recognise the underlying ingredients. These are concoctions of concoctions, engineered from ingredients that are already highly refined, such as cheap vegetable oils, flours, whey proteins and sugars, which are then whipped up into something more appetising with the help of industrial additives such as emulsifiers”.

And lots of these ultra processed products are existing in our everyday life. I just ate Quorn mince for my dinner and have long life plant milk in my fridge. It’s really difficult to eliminate all the processed foods from our diet. The question is what happens with the body when these foods replace unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits and meat? Question number two that Bee asks is: “consumers may blame themselves for overindulging in these foods, but what if it is in the nature of these products to be overeaten?” Moreover, there’s “adage repeated constantly by the food industry and adopted by politicians – that there’s no such thing as bad food, just too much food – Bee said. It’s like with alcohol and cigarettes – they are strongly addictive, but politicians, health care providers tells us it’s our fault that we drink and smoke too much. The truth is that no one cares about you, the only one who should truly care about you is YOU.

Life is difficult

And here we are going back to Dr Monteiro. He had started off in the 70’s treating poor people in rural villages, and was startled to see how quickly the problems of malnutrition were replaced by those of tooth decay and obesity, particularly among children. When Monteiro looked at the foods that had increased the most in the Brazilian diet – from cookies and sodas to crackers and savoury snacks – what they had in common was that they were all highly processed. And what’s even wore they are advertised as a replace to freshly made regular meals and dishes, with snacking any time, anywhere.

Soon after the arrival in Nepal of brightly coloured packages that, as Victor Aguayo, chief of nutrition at Unicef describes them, “look like food for children: the cookies, the savoury snacks, the cereals”, aid workers started to see an epidemic of “both overweight and micronutrient deficiency” including anaemia among Nepalese children under the age of five. That’s another example.

But as I already mention lots of people decided that Monteiro’s classification makes no sense. Bee reminds a story of Kevin Hall of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland who was very sceptic about ultra-processed foods theory. Just because people who eat a lot of ultra-processed foods are more likely to be obese or get cancer does not mean that obesity and cancer are caused by ultra-processed foods. At the end of 2018, Hall and his colleagues became the first scientists to test whether diets high in ultra-processed foods could actually cause overeating and weight gain.

For four weeks, 10 men and 10 women agreed to be confined to a clinic under Hall’s care and agreed to eat only what they were given. For two weeks, Hall’s participants ate mostly ultra-processed meals and for another two weeks they ate mostly unprocessed food. The subjects were told to eat as much or as little as they liked. It turned out that, during the weeks of the ultra-processed diet, the volunteers ate an extra 500 calories a day, equivalent to a whole quarter pounder with cheese. Blood tests showed that the hormones in the body responsible for hunger remained elevated on the ultra-processed diet compared to the unprocessed diet, which confirms the feeling I used to have that however much I ate, these foods didn’t sate my hunger. Over just two weeks, the subjects gained an average of 1kg. Came out that after publication of Hall’s study results, Monteiro’s study started being treated more seriously.

I think I know why my perception of processed foods is so different that Angry Chef. I grew in a country where highly processed foods started being sold in the 90’s, so in the culture of my country homemade, cooked from scratch meals are the one that we love, the one that are our soul food. In Britain or USA highly processed foods where normal from the 60’s, so their food memories are much different than mine. So when Bee dreams about Iced Gems (ultra-processed cookies topped with ultra-processed frosting), I dream about juicy, red tomatoes that had a smell and taste as real tomato. Not wrapped in plastic tomato-looking veg that taste like absolutely nothing. Or little wild strawberries and blueberries that grandma was bringing from the forest.

Surprise!

What was a surprise when at the end of Bee Wilson’s article I stepped upon the information that Angry Chef, the same Angry Chef from my book, argued that Nova was stoking fear and guilt about food and “adding to the stress of already difficult lives” by making people feel judged for their food choices (it’s like he’s not judging everyone in his book about their food choices). Moreover after having read Kevin Hall’s study, Angry Chef wrote an article in May 2019 admitting: “I was wrong about ultra-processed food – it really is making you fat.”

Ta! daa! What can I say?

And what do you think about processed foods and this luckless McDonald’s? Shall we eat whatever we want, because we have only one life and it’s already hard? I know people from both sides of the spectrum, some of them are surprised that I don’t go to McDonald’s, they eat whatever they want and complain how bad they feel. But that’s their thing. Thanks God in the subject of food we still have freedom of choice 😉

Source of knowledge:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/coca-cola-funds-scientists-who-shift-blame-for-obesity-away-from-bad-diets/

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/02/ultra-processed-products-now-half-of-all-uk-family-food-purchases

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/feb/13/how-ultra-processed-food-took-over-your-shopping-basket-brazil-carlos-monteiro

https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/headlines/ultraprocessedfoods.html

https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2001/06/china-study-ii-western-diet-might-bring-western-disease

https://biuletyn.servier.pl/38977/wysoko-przetworzone-produkty-zywnosciowe-pierwsze-badanie-oceniajace-wplyw-na-wskazniki-umieralnosci

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/household-availability-of-ultraprocessed-foods-and-obesity-in-nineteen-european-countries/D63EF7095E8EFE72BD825AFC2F331149

https://daxueconsulting.com/processed-food-industry-in-china/

https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/article-western-food-in-china.htm

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/19/health/china-obesity-kids-intl/index.html

all veggies you didn’t know you can eat raw

We are so used to prepare certain foods in a certain way, don’t you feel a bit bored with your cooking choices? When it comes to veggies we usually prepare them in a same way – cooked, pickled or raw. Typically we use raw so called “salad veggies” like: cucumber, cabbage, lettuce, bell peppers or tomatoes. Others like: broccoli, cauliflower and root veggies usually land in the soups, stews or casseroles. But what if we would look out of the veggie comfort zone and see if we can eat raw these vegetables that we usually cook?

Curious? Lets go then!

But before we get to the point lets have a look at some nutritional facts.

Apart from vitamins and minerals obvious for everyone, what else vegetables have that other foods don’t?

The answer is fiber. According to food science dietary fiber is essential for healthy body.

But what it is exactly and what it does?

Dietary fiber is the parts of plants that your body cannot absorb or digest. Normally all the carbs, fats and proteins are processed in your body and transformed to energy. Fiber travels thorough your digestive system mostly intact, and simply leaves you body. It also contains different nutrients and minerals but have different function. Scientists divided fiber into two types:

  • soluble fiber – this type of fiber dissolves in water making gel-like consistency. They bypass the digestion of the small intestine and are easily fermented by the microflora of the large intestine. Soluble fiber helps to lower glucose and cholesterol levels.
  • insoluble fiber on the other hand helps to move all of that you’ve digested to smoothly get to the point where you get rid of it. So it’s really helpful when you have constipation issues.
So what are the benefits of fibre?
  1. Ability to decrease body weight or attenuate weight gain – soluble fiber, when fermented in the large intestine produces hormones generate feeling of satiety. So Foods that contain a lot of fiber make you feel full and satisfied for longer.
  2. Dietary fiber may significantly decrease energy intake.
  3. Dietary fiber intake increases, the intake of simple carbohydrates tends to decrease. Soluble fibre can slow down the absorption of sugar and improve blood sugar levels.
  4. Fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it so it’s easier to pass. When you increase your fiber intake also increase the amount of water you drink, so the fiber can absorb it properly.
  5. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease).

That’s some of the good things that fiber does for our body. Although researchers still don’t know everything about what fiber does, many of them claims that there’s is a strong relationship between fiber and coronary diseases and certain types of cancer. There’s still a lot to discover.

So finally let see what veggies you didn’t know (or maybe you already knew that and it’s just me?) you can eat raw.

Cauliflower

Rich in nutrients, full of fibre. Great low carb alternative for grains and legumes. Recently very popular as a replacement for everything (I mean popular in low carb and ketogenic communities). Can be eaten raw, and taste delicious for examle with avocado dip, joghurt and garlic sauce or tomato salsa. My favourite option – caulislaw – coleslaw like salad made with raw cauliflower instead of cabbage. Yummy!

Courgette

Did you know that courgette is actually botanically clacified as a fruit not a vegetable? Wild courgettes are very bitter and should not be eaten raw. This bitterness comes from cucurbitacins, which may be poisonous for humans and animals. Store bought courgettes are safe, and can safely be eaten raw. Although if you bite into courgette and it tastes extremely unpleasant and bitter, it’s best to spit it out and dispose of the entire fruit to avoid the risk of cucurbitacin toxicity. Don’t let this discourage you from eating courgettes. It’s very unlikely that you’ll buy very bitter courgette in the shop. The best is always buy from proven stores or farmers markets. You can use courgette for variety of ways: it’s great in salads, you can use it as a low carb noodles, as a wrap or simply eat with a dip as a snack. The sky is the limit!

Beetroot

Oh I love beets, but all my live I’ve been eating them cooked or pickled. If you like beets, try them raw. According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science, pickled beets have less nutrients than raw ones. You can eat raw beets in many different ways: thinly slices, served as carpaccio, grathed or chopped in salads, blended in fruit and vegetable smoothies, you can juice them with other fruits (like apples) and drink. Beetroots comes also in other colours than red, they are yellow and white. Try my raw beetroot recipes: raw beets and avocado salad, raw beets, broad beans and feta salad, golden beets carpaccio.

Brussels sprouts

Surprised? I was as well. But actually you can eat them raw as cabbage. They are quite firm and not everyone will enjoy their taste, especially if you’re used to eat them roasted or cooked. Wasn’t my favourite raw veg of choice, but definitely I could consider adding raw Brussels sprouts to all sorts of salads. The best way is to slice them very thinly, you can use a mandoline. With all sorts of dressings will be great addition to sandwiches or side salad for meat dishes. Definitely give it a try to find out if you like it or not.

Broccoli

Just the same as cauliflower, broccoli can easily be eaten raw. Small tendersteam broccolies can be delicious in all sorts of salads, but regular large broccoli finely chopped or divided into small florets can make crunchy, beautiful green salad. Just let yourself experiment.

Parsley root

Did you know you can use parsley root just the same as you use carrot? Add raw parsley root to smoothies, salads or make thin slices using a peeler and prepare small rolls adding some goat cheese for example.

Root celery/celeriac

Exactly the same as parsley root – instead of popping them into a broth or stew prepare juicy spring salad. You can grate celery root and prepare all sorts of different side salads. It goes great with: apple, raisins, cranberries, sweetcorn, pineapple, hard cheese, Greek yogurt or mayonnaise. Perfect with white meat or fish dishes.

Collard greens

I love collard greens slightly sauted with butter and garlic, but as othe cabbage they can also be eaten raw. Although similar to kale they need a lot of chewing. To make it less difficult to eat you can chop them finely, drizzle with olive oil and some salt and massage rubbing the toughness away. After this “treatment” you can add them to your salads and happily eat without feeling like a cow in the pasture 😉 Because of their large leaves, they will be also a great wrap if do not enjoy traditional flour wraps.

When you got to this point and you think: I wish I could eat more veggies, but they make me feel bloated, I have cramps and gases! Okey dokey – that may happen if your body is not used to eating raw foods (I mean raw vegetables) and whole grains. In this case start adding high fiber foods gradually and observe which ones makes you feel better which ones make digestive issues. That’s the easiest way – observing how your body reacts to certain foods if you feel like your body doesn’t like certain veg, you feel discomfort or simply don’t enjoy the taste, just grab a different one. Vegetable world is wide and for sure you’ll find couple veggies you really like. Or maybe you don’t like it’s cooked version, and the raw one will taste much much better? Become an explorer in a vegetable world this Spring and find your favourite tastes.

And one more thing before I let you dive into your veggie drawer: always wash your vegetables thoroughly before you eat them raw! Choose veggies from trusted source – your local shop or farmer. Personally I hate buying veggies packed in plastic, that travelled thousands kilometres before they landed in my bag, but it’s obvious that buying sustainable and local isn’t always possible. So choose wisely, but also do not resign from buying vegetables, just because you can buy them only in the supermarket. Work with what you have, the best you can 🙂

Source of knowledge:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/

7 kitchen items I will never regret buying

I would call myself a minimalist in every material aspect of living, and even though my whole love for cooking I try to think deeply about each purchase. Before I buy any kitchen or electronic gadgets I ask myself the magic question: do I really need that? And I do it many times, to avoid the situation that I will spend the money for something I will use once or twice and it will collect the dust after that.

So this post is not intended to persuade you to buy any of these items, but if you are considering purchasing any of them at the moment, it may help you to make a decision. For example, I thought almost a year about buying a slow cooker, and finally a detailed description and a review on one of the blogs helped me to make my decision. So maybe it will also help you to find the item that will serve you well for a long time and make your cooking and living more pleasurable.

Over the years I’ve collected couple kitchen items I use very often, some of them everyday, some at least once a week. It saved me tons of time and made my cooking and living more pleasurable and enjoyable. I would not hesitate to spend my money again to buy them, even if they cost twice as much. Although none of these items cost more than £30, the value for money and usefulness is amazing.

Some of them might seem to very basic and seemingly insignificant, but if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen you understand that small things can make a big difference.

Moka Pot

I have small, 1 cup size Bialetti Moka Express pot (produces 2.0 oz/60ml of coffee) – perfect for a morning cup of coffee. But there’s also bigger sizes up to 18 cups. You won’t be able to make traditional espresso with this pot, because moka pot is not able to make 9 bars of pressure to extract espresso. But if you’re not very keen to spend a lot of money for good espresso machine, or simply just make 1-2 coffee cups a day and you need something simple and easy to maintain, moka pot will be perfect for you.

I believe Moka Pot is with me about 10 years now, and even though it shows visible signs of use it still makes delicious coffee. I only had to buy a new rubber gasket, to replace the old one. Two things that might be important for you: it can by only washed by hand (using only water, no need for chemicals) and it’s not suitable for induction plates.

Cast Aluminium Pots

Recently I had to get rid of my first ever cast aluminium pot. Similar to Moka Pot it was about 10 years since I got it. I was large, suitable for oven use and coated with non stick layer (Teflon). Perfect for multiple uses: casseroles, stews, bread baking, slowly cooked meats and all dishes that need longer cooking time and might stick and get burned during cooking. Literally it was the most used pot i my kitchen. My next one (the one you see on the photo) is the same brand but a different range – inside is covered with non-stick coating, imitating a stone. It’s much smaller then my previous one and works great with smaller amounts of food. It’s perfect to braise small amounts of meat. These pots evenly distribute heat throughout the entire surface of the dish, so nothing gets burned or stick to the bottom. The only downside I would consider is that they are quite heavy, so for example for older person it might feel uncomfortable and difficult to handle especially when full. Apart from that I cannot say enough good things about them.

Slow cooker

That’s one of the cooking appliances I was thinking about a long time before buying. I didn’t want to spend money on something that’s very popular, but I would use it couple times and it would turn out I don’t really need it. Finally I decided to buy it when we’ve started keto diet. At that time I’ve been working full time and needed some help with cooking. Came out that buying a slow cooker saved my life. I was making a lot of stews, soups and meat that needed some time to cook. Being able to pop them into the slow cooker before work and have a meal ready after coming back from fork, saved me a lot of time. But if you’d like to set your cooking time, so that the slow cooker will switch on and off while you’re out of the house, there’s a lot of different programmable models you can choose from. You can also choose from different sizes even up to 7,5L. 3,5L that we have is perfect for 2 people with lots of leftovers. The one I have is 1,5 years old and works perfectly fine, I would not hesitate to pay twice as much for it. What’s also important cooking in the slow cooker is not expensive, working for a few hours costs less than just starting an electric cooker and using it for a few minutes. And it’s absolutely safe to leave it on when you’re out of the house or during the night.

Blender

This blender is so old I don’t even remember when I bought it. And I believe that’s the most used appliance in my kitchen. Mixing wand became yellow from blending my turmeric latte and pumpkin soup. I killed a chopper trying to blend dates couple times, but I used it for multiple things like: chopping veggies and nuts, blending biscuits for cake bases, making peanut butter or even chopping small amounts of chicken breasts. Mixing wand is perfect for anything else: making smoothies, bulletproof coffees, cream soups, sauces, making crepe batter, blending cooked spinach, beating eggs… And it’s again the most basic model 600W, but serves me well for many years. Sometimes I only regret that I killed the chopper, but if this one dies too I won’t hesitate to buy a new one. If you regularly make smoothies, cream soups, bulletproof coffee, you like to make your own hummus or different kind of dips and pastes – basic blender will save a tons of your time.

Fermenting jar

That’s quite recent purchase. We’ve bought it couple months ago, after a few fails with fermenting cabbage in regular jars. What can I say about it – it does the job. 3 litres is not to big nor too little. Silicone lid with air lock makes you sure that no air will be left in the jar that would make the veg go wrong. Two ceramic stones are perfect to keep the cabbage in place and prevent from floating on the surface and getting mouldy. With fermenting in regular jars, we’ve had problems with cabbage exploding because of the amount of gas, sometimes getting mould and smelly even though it seemed that we did everything correctly. If you want to start fermenting vegetables regularly, without experiments with jars and stone pots and you want to make sure that nothing will go wrong, that’s a perfect solution. Using fermenting set you can make saurekraut, kimchi, pickles, if you’re into fermented foods you can actually use: tomatoes, garlic, beets, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini and even fruits like apples, lemons, oranges, bananas, plums, strawberries or rhubarb. Although I make only cabbage at the moment I will definitely try to try other veggies and fruits in the future.

Good quality peeler

It might seem silly writing about as basic thing as vegetable peeler, but not all peelers are created equal. Seriously if you use a lot of veggies in your kitchen, good peeler will save you time and nerves. Obviously you can buy cheap £1 peeler that will last for couple uses, then you bin it because it gets blunt and rusty and buy another one. But why would you be so wasteful? The one I have wasn’t extremely expensive (something about £5 or £7) but it’s a peeling terminator made by Lakeland. Peeling butternut squash with this peeler is as easy as pie. Blade is sharp, doesn’t get rusty (it’s stainless steel), peeler lays good and sturdy in your hand. Also peels very thinly, so won’t let you waste a lot of veg. I have it for at least 3 years and it’s still as sharp as new. You can also use it to make ribbons of courgette, cucumber or carrot. From the same brand there’s also julienne peeler, I don’t have it, but I bought one for my mum and she’s very happy with it. Oh and a fact worth noticing: it can be used by both right and left-handed people.

When you will be in need for a new peeler, consider spending a little bit more for something that will truly serve you well.

Glass water bottle

Another basic item that might serves you more then you might think. If you like to take your own drink to work, you might consider getting yourself a glass bottle. Why I think it’s much better than plastic bottle or reusable coffee/tea cup? You can use it for multiple drinks and occasions. From as simple as water, through smoothies (it has a leak-proof quite wide screw cup that makes easy to drink thicker liquids), handmade juices, but what’s the best on a colder days you can make yourself a hot tea or coffee. During my busy working day I often popped a teabag into the bottle added boiling water and I had something warming to sip. Obviously it’s not going to work as thermos and won’t keep your warm drinks warm for hours. But if you’re looking for something you can easily pop into your bag or backpack without being afraid that it will somehow open and spill inside this kind of bottle is great solution. It’s great to take for a trip or a long walk. Silicone cover protects your hands against the heat of the bottle and makes it comfortable and easy to grip. The only downside I can see, is that in comparison to a plastic bottle is much more heavy. But even though I would not swap it for anything else.

I hope you find this post useful, maybe you even thought – that’s what I was looking for! If you’d like me to go into more details about any of the items simply let me know in the comments.

And what are your favourite kitchen items you wouldn’t hesitate to buy for double price?

eat it! don’t bin-it! the edible parts of vegetables you usually put to rubbish

Did you know that some parts of vegetables that you usually put to rubbish are in fact edible? If you buy veggies from the farmers market or in small local shops, often you can get broccoli, cauliflower or carrots as a whole veg – with leaves and stems. When I was getting my veg delivery from a local farm I was feeling sorry to bin carrot, cauliflower and broccoli leaves, so I’ve made a research and see if I can use them anyhow. It turned out that there’s plenty of veggie parts we usually get rid of, that we could actually eat. And if you get your veggies from a sustainable and good source, that are harvested locally during the natural growing season you can go ahead and eat them whole. Moreover, sometimes leaves that we usually put to rubbish are more nutritious that the actual vegetable. There’s also couple fruits which parts you always throw away, but even though unbelievably they are edible. I will tell you about them at the end.

Why locally grown and seasonal veggies and fruits I think are the best?

Nutritional values are highest immediately after harvesting and decline over time. Long transportation and storing time requires some kind of chemicals that will make veggies and fruits look good for a long time. According to EWG there’s couple veggies and fruits that should be considered as highest content of pesticides. Strawberries are first. Apples came second in the ranking. The third place was taken by nectarines, and the fourth by peaches. There’s also: celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, cherry tomatoes and green cucumber. Unfortunately also very popular as a healthy food – kale. That’s why it’s so important to avoid buying vegetables from big supermarkets, or the one that where growing thousands miles from where you live. Buying locally means that fruits and veg are much less likely to be treated with chemicals to increase their shelf life during transport and storage.

Obviously it’s not always possible, and not everyone has an opportunity to buy only organic and locally grown products. But there’s still something you can do. Try to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, and when you’re in the supermarket take a good look on the label to see where the fruit or veg is from – choose these ones that was growing closest to you.

And now let’s see which parts of veg and fruit you’ve been foolishly putting to rubbish bin 😉

Photo by Petra Nesti on Pexels.com

Cauliflower leaves

If you buy cauliflower with leaves, do not get rid of them. As the cauliflower have a lot of vitamins – from A and C to E, K, B6, folic acid, thiamine and niacin, also minerals like: zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Cauliflower leaves are perfect as homemade chips. Just drizzle them with olive oil and spices, and then put in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Cooked in vegetable broth and blended with cream and spices, turn into a delicious green soup. Fried with clarified butter, can even be eaten solo. You can easily add them when making caulislaw (coleslaw made with cauliflower). Sky is the limit!

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com

Broccoli leaves

Broccoli stem and leaves are edible too. They contain a lot of fiber and are rich in, among others, valuable vitamin K. Just cut the stalk a little from the fibrous outer part and cut it into slices, and then boil it in water or steam. The leaves can be added to a salad, a green smoothie, or sautéed or baked with salt and pepper. If you like preparing homemade vegetable juices, you can also add broccoli leaves and stems.

Photo by Hana Mara on Pexels.com

Carrot leaves

Although it’s not very popular, but sometimes you can buy a beautiful bunch of carrot s with leaves. If you do so, never get rid of the leaves, because they contains more nutritional properties than the root itself! They are full of chlorophyll, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin K and C, helping to cleanse the body of toxins and deposits, detoxifies the liver and boosts your energy. You can use them to make pesto, green smoothies, chimichurri sauce, can be added to vegetable broth or different kind of salads.

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Kohlrabi leaves

Comparing to the root kohlrabi leaves contains much more vitamin C that the root. If you don’t want to loose this valuable vitamin put leaves to a salad. They also contain large amounts of iron. So if you deal with anaemia, you’re pregnant or just delivered a baby, make yourself a salad with kohlrabi leaves. They have quite intensive taste, so young leaves will be the best to spice up your salad, and larger leaves can be added to the soups.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Radish leaves

Do you also always get rid of them? They contain twice as much vitamin C as lemon juice! They are a rich source of iron and calcium (they even win over spinach). They perfectly detoxify the body and improve metabolism. Finally, they regulate blood pressure and increase natural immunity. Young radish leaves can be added to a salad, larger ones because of their hardness and roughness will be better added to a green smoothie, soup or as a base for green pesto.

Surprised? If you do, take a look at these two fruits – the parts you always get rid of are also edible:

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on Pexels.com

Strawberry stems and leaves

As it turns out, strawberry leaves are teeming with bioactive compounds, including anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. Chlorophyll, protects the body against the harmful effects of free radicals and slows down the ageing process, and because of the fiber that supports the functioning of the intestines. Strawberry stalks also contain vitamin C and iron. You can obviously eat the stems with the strawberry itself, but you can also add the stems and leaves to a salad, green smoothies or pop them into a bottle with water to infuse. If you decide to eat the whole strawberry make sur that it’s from a good source. According to EWG strawberries contain, on average, as many as 13 dangerous pesticides. If you buy the perfect strawberries – large, red and without any blemish, you must be aware that such fruits are grown with pesticides.

Photo by Brian van den Heuvel on Pexels.com

Watermelon rind

Would you ever consider watermelon rind? It’s edible as a cucumber. Watermelon rind is full of easily digestible fiber, which helps to remove toxins from the body. The same as watermelon flesh has plenty of nutritional benefits. You can either pickle the rind, or remove the hard green skin, finely chop the rest and prepare a summer salsa or chutney – perfect as an addition to BBQ. Also watermelon seeds are edible. If you always spit them out, try to save them, dry and roast on a hot pan and you’ll get a great healthy snack.

As the icing on the cake, there’s quite a good few edible flowers you can add to your food if you’re lucky enough to have a garden or a meadow near by. Of course never pick up flowers that are growing near busy roads and industrial areas. I’m very curious about them, because I’ve never tried any edible flowers and they look so amazing as a decoration or a salad garnish. Have you ever tried them?

Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Pexels.com

Edible flowers

  • basil – flowers come in a variety of colours, from white to pink to lavender. The taste is similar to the leaves, but milder
  • garden pansy – petals have a slightly vague flavour, but if you eat the whole flower, it has a more mellow flavour. A good addition to cheeses and salads
  • courgette and pumpkin – flowers of both are wonderful stuffing “vessels”, each with a delicate flavour. The stamens must be removed before use
  • violet tricolor (Johnny Jump-Up) – lovely and delicious, the flowers have a subtle mint flavour, great for salads, pasta, fruit and drinks
  • arugula (rocket) – flowers are small with dark centres and a peppery flavour that resembles leaves
  • chamomile – small and daisy-like. Its flowers have a sweet flavour and are often used in tea. Allergy sufferers must be careful because they may be more prone to chamomile allergy
  • lavender – sweet, spicy and fragrant flowers are a great addition to spicy and sweet dishes or homemade ice cream
  • mint – flowers are just mint. Their intensity varies depending on the variety
  • radish – variegated flowers of the radish have a distinct, peppery flavour
  • rosemary – flowers taste like a milder version of the herb
  • sage – flowers have a subtle flavour similar to the leaves
  • daisy – has an interesting mint flavour.

For a change parts of vegetables and fruits

that you should never eat:

  • potato stems, shoots and leaves – they contain solanine – toxic compound. Solanine is also found in unripe green potatoes
  • tomato leaves and stems – they also contain solanine
  • aubergine leaves and stems – can cause abdominal pain and food poisoning
  • rhubarb leaves – contain large amounts of the dangerous oxalic acid. It can cause acute food poisoning, vomiting and severe stomach pain
  • asparagus – only the young shoots of this plant are edible. We colloquially call them “asparagus” even though they are merely asparagus spikes. After the harvest period, the female variety of this plant produces buds and flowers, which develop red, berry-shaped fruits. Although they look tempting, they cannot be eaten. They contain a toxic chemical called sapogenin that can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting.

I can’t wait until spring and summer when I will get my veggie delivery again. I hope I encouraged you to try and instead of getting rid of some veggie parts you’ll use them to make a smoothie, pesto or delicious salad. Also take a look at your local community or farmers market when the Spring comes – I’m sure you will find plenty of healthy and delicious seasonal vegetables and fruits.

how to sprout everything

I thought that it would be a good idea to start new year with something different than another recipe, so I want to encourage you to start sprouting 🙂 I don’t know how about you, but I love plants, it gives me a lot of joy to watch them growing. And what’s great about sprouts is that you can germinate them yourself in couple days, watch them grow and eat them. And then grow another batch again. They are easy to maintain, you just need to stick to the rules, so your small plantation will be able to grow healthy.

Sprouter/germinator works very simple – it is made of trays / containers stacked on top of each other (in our case there are 2 round trays) also the top cover and the bottom tray that collects the water that runs off. Containers have holes through which excess water flows. Water flows through trays, stopping at the surface, and its excess is collected in the container at the bottom. In this way, the effect of a small greenhouse is created. Sprouts should be rinsed two times a day with fresh water, and its excess should be poured out from the bottom tray to prevent mould.

When looking for a sprouter online, I saw various models and very different prices, finally we decided to buy one of the cheapest models with two dishes (the trays can be purchased separately and added if needed, we decided that two are quite enough for us). The trays are quite tall (approx. 4 cm) and the sprouts have plenty of room for growth and good access to light. The only downside I noticed is that very small seed run through the holes in the tray when rinsing and end up in the bottom container, so you loose most of them. The only solution I see is to buy seeds big enough so they won’t go through the holes. Keep it in mind choosing a sprouter.

Sprouting of seeds has been known for a very long time, mainly in the Eastern countries where seedlings are traditionally consumed as an important component of culinary history. Starting from the 1980s, the consumption of sprouted seeds raised popularity also in the Western countries due to the consumer demand for dietetics and exotic healthy foods.

What can sprouts be used for?

Basically for everything: for salads, sandwiches, pizza, as an addition to pasta dishes, for bread spreads, sprouts can be eaten as a snack. They grow quickly, up to a week, depending on the size of the seed. They can be stored in the refrigerator in air tight container for about 2-3 days.

Generally sprouts are eaten raw, but may also be stir-fried or cooked, usually no more than 30 seconds. Some sprouts are easier to digest after heat treatment, e.g. bean sprouts, chickpeas, lentils. Avoid older sprouts or those that are musty-smelling, dark, or slimy-looking. Sprouts – the bean or seed and root – are usually eaten when the root is the length of the soaked seed. Inspect seeds and beans before eating and remove hulls that are still hard or those that are not to your taste requirements–that will come with a bit of taste testing.

The most popular seeds for sprouting are: broccoli, beetroot, onion, mung bean, rocket, white mustard, clover, alfalfa, wheat, radish, watercress, sunflower seeds, lentils and soybeans.

What makes sprouts beneficial for the body?

Germination leads to substantial changes in biochemical composition of whole grains and seeds, among others: triacylglycerols start to be hydrolyzed and saturated/unsaturated fatty acids ratio rises up, the amount of anti-nutritional factors (e.g., phytate, trypsin inhibitor, tannin) decreases significantly, and bioactive compounds such as phenolics, phyrosterols, folates and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid – this compound has a number of properties that affect muscle building, but also the nervous system – makes it easier to fall asleep, soothes anxiety symptoms, relaxes and calms down) increase. Hence, in sprouted grains almost all nutrients are fully available and various antioxidants occur at higher concentrations, thus providing the base to define sprouts as “functional foods”. Allergic reactions are generally mediated by proteins that act as antibodies. During sprouting, a deep modification of proteins profile occurs, thus potentially reducing the concentration of allergenic storage proteins. Although in some cases the consumption of germinated seeds does not cause an allergic reaction as severe as that associated to raw seeds, sprouts can manifest unexpected cross-reactions in sensitive individuals.

Among many plant species, the sprouts of cruciferous vegetables stand out significantly, with beneficial effects on health, with anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant capacities. In past studies and researches these foods have showed an effect on the normalization of blood glucose levels. Bioactive compounds in cruciferous sprouts are beneficial for the treatment of some metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Also available informations suggests that the bioactive phytochemicals present in these vegetables have a prominent role in the control of the incidence and severity of a number of cardiovascular processes. When it comes to colored flavonoids, broccoli, radishes, cabbages, and kale sprouts are rich in anthocyanins. They control diseases like obesity or diabetes and the possibility of them acting positively on brain function. Apart from broccoli, red radish sprouts contain high concentrations of glucoraphasatin and glucoraphenin contributes to the lowering of oxidative stress in cells.

radish sprouts

That’s a germination of radish sprouts – it was nice to see how tiny plants grow out of brown, inconspicuous seeds. The taste of sprouts is like a radish, which is clear and quite spicy. Radish sprouts comes in different varieties and colours. Radish sprouts are usually found raw or lightly cooked, and are often found in salads and sushi, or used as a garnish. They have a large dose of vitamin C and a whole bunch of minerals: magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper … all the good stuff.

wheat sprouts

Wheatgrass, on the other hand, has a delicate, slightly sweet taste. If in your childhood you sucked the juice from young grass, the taste of wheat is similar. It’s full of immune boosting enzymes, cancer-fighting agents, and a host of important vitamins and minerals.Wheat is rich in B vitamins, vitamins A and E and, like radish, a whole package of minerals.

In order sprouts to benefit you as much as possible, pay attention to:

  • soaking and rinsing seeds – this is a step that cannot be ignored, it allows you to remove impurities, fungal spores and bacteria, rinse out toxins and substances harmful to our health irrigation of sprouts allows you to rinse out the remnants of natural toxins, fungal spores and bacteria that may have entered the air
  • get rid of seed scales, which are a great breeding ground for microorganisms
  • inspect – if you see a sprout that’s getting mouldy remove it quickly before it infects the others
  • store seeds properly – dried, weak seeds are more susceptible to disease
  • keep the germination trays clean, wash them thoroughly after finishing each germination process, sterilize them occasionally and wash them with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.

Do not eat sprouts if they are:

  • mouldy
  • stale
  • dry
  • immature
  • Solanaceous plants (e.g. peppers, tomatoes, potatoes) – they are poisonous
  • plants to which you are allergic
  • raw: buckwheat, peas, soybeans

Before you start growing and consuming sprouts of a given species, it is worth reading about their properties, cultivation and care. Usually you’ll find all informations on the packaging.

Here’s some basic informations about other the most popular homegrown sprouts:

  • Alfalfa sprouts will germinate and grow approximately 3-7 days after seeds have been placed in a warm, humid environment. It’s typically eaten raw and have a mild flavour and a crunchy texture. Alfalfa sprouts are a rich source of vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, protein and dietary fiber.
  • Mung bean sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein and dietary fiber. They germinate and grow about a week. You probably ate them at least once in your life as they are the most popular sprouts used widely in Asian restaurants.
  • Clover sprouts have a mild flavour and mild crunch. They are quite fragile so they are the best raw added to sandwiches and salads. They are rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and protein.
  • Broccoli sprouts are mild with a little crunch, typically eaten raw as part of a salad or on sandwiches. Broccoli sprouts are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid, and soluble fiber and are particularly sought-after for their high concentration of antioxidants.

I hope this short post encouraged you to start your homegrown sprout plantation, something that will give you some joy and help you to start a year with a healthy step.

Source of knowledge:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413227/

https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4395/10/9/1424/htm

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/2/429/htm

https://fsi.colostate.edu/sprouts/