The humble vegetable. A crucial part of a balanced diet.
Shirked by many and loved by the few for so long it is great to see an increased appetite for our “greens” as the numbers of vegan and vegetarians grow in response to health, environmental and animal welfare concerns.
So how many vegetables should we be eating as part of a balanced diet?
Whilst I say “the more the merrier”, you can’t eat too many did you know there is an extraordinary effect of eating too many carrots which is a yellowish discolouration of the skin, a condition called carotenemia, which is most noticeable on the palms and soles! Sounds extraordinary doesn’t it.
So perhaps we take heed of the government dietary guidelines which suggest we should be eating a minimum of 400g of vegetables everyday as adults or 5 x 80g portions. We are reminded of this with the unforgettable “one of your 5 a day” slogan which we are all familiar with on product packaging.
Fruit and vegetables should make up half your plate at any given meal – approximately 30% vegetables and 20% fruit so we are told.
But how easy do you find this?
For many this is a simple and enjoyable undertaking but I believe this is down to being able to prepare and/or cook our vegetable friends in a delicious flavour filled way. This can often be a great skill with the average lack lustre specimens we find in our supermarket that have often been picked weeks before they land on your plate.
I believe the key to increasing your intake of vegetables is to choose locally sourced and seasonal varieties.
You can immediately taste the difference between a carrot grown by your local farm shop or vegetable box provider and the ones from your supermarket. Most importantly as an advocate for organic you are more likely to find truly organically grown vegetables in these places whose taste isn’t hindered by a barage of chemicals.
Carrots that actually taste of carrot! Amazing.
Equally it is important to remember as we begin to reduce our salt and sugar intake in our diets our taste buds are heightened once more and the subtle flavours of vegetables that have been lost from us due to our diet then return.
So now we have rediscovered our interest in vegetables how can we more easily incorporate them into our diet?
Here are a few ideas to inspire you.
Savoury and Sweet
When we think of a vegetable we often think of them as savoury additions when in fact so many vegetables are very versatile and can be incorporated into a variety of more sweet dishes.
Beetroot for example works well in brownies, carrot in cake and biscuits, courgette in muffins.
Often their use minimizes the use for excess sugar and binders and forms a welcome high fibre addition.
Take a look at the recipes on our website for some great ideas to inspire you such as our carrot waffles!
Whilst at PK we make muesli using you can likewise try grating fresh carrot and apple into your bowl of oats and soak them over night as a bircher mixed with warming spices of cinnamon and ginger for a wholesome start to your day.
So often the time factor has a huge part of play on our creativity and inclusion of vegetables in our diet. A nice way to overcome this whilst also providing yourself with easy lunch options for the week is to prepare 3 or 4 chosen vegetables on a Sunday and store in boxes to make up a healthy meze during the week. Roasted sweet potatoes, peppers and courgettes work well for this mixed with herbs and spices.
Vegetable noodle anyone?
Often the way we prepare our vegetables can turn them into something else! What do I mean by this?
Well.. courgettes and sweet potato can be spiralised into noodles which combined with a nice sauce could replace flour noodles and pasta.
Cauliflower can be breadcrumbed and used as a flour or rice substitute. There are some great recipes for cauliflower pizza now.
Even simply grating carrot and beetroot together can make it more palatable as a salad addition topped with some crunchy roasted seeds.
Fresh, raw vegetables are very high in enzymes which are crucial for optimum digestion and often far more flavoursome often than the cooked ones. Snack on carrots, celery, cucumber, thinly sliced beetroot, radishes dipped into hummus, dukkah or runny cheese and nibble on freshly podded peas and broadbeans in season. Delicious…
If you prefer the art of disguise then blending might be the answer, either into a smoothie, juice or soup.
Now it is summer time why not try a refreshing gazpacho.
Or check out a smoothie recipe from our website.
When we think of getting our vegetables down us we think of putting them in our mouth but another organ of assimilation is our skin.
We forget our skin is the largest organ of our body and absorbs what it touches. Therefore we can absorb nutrients and benefits of vegetables when we use them on our skin.
Some great examples of these are:
Avocado face mask – used by the Mayans as an anti-wrinkle cure this leaves the skin feeling super soft as it absorbs the vitamin A and E within it.
Cucumbers pureed with a little honey are cooling and hydrating for the skin reducing redness.
And thats a wrap..
My last contender is a clever replacement for bread. A Korean concept but easily adopted, the art of using seaweed sheets or lettuce leaves to wrap your sandwich ingredients. Especially good if you have gone gluten free or given up bread!
It is Summer so there is no better or more abundant time to go green and be experimenting with delicious seasonal vegetables.
But if all else fails you can always reach for a bowl of our muesli!
Over the last year I have heard people talk about the benefits of journaling more than ever – there definitely appears to be a buzz about it.
A favourite guru of mine Oprah Winfrey has kept a journal all her life and often refers back to them, using them as a tool to learn things about herself in the process.
Having never been one for writing a diary or journal and instead preferring something shorter like writing intentions and affirmations I decided to see what it was all about.
However, with keeping a diary usually something done before bed and that not being my most productive time of day, I was keen to look for an alternative.
In order to take advice on the subject I referred to a book that I had been given but never used by a lady called Julia Cameron. An American creativity coach and guru formally married to the film producer Martin Scorsese she appeared to be very much at the forefront of the “journaling” movement having written her book “The Artists Way” in 1992 which has since been republished.
In it she introduced a practise she called Morning Pages (already I liked the sound of it).
The book has been a huge best seller and the practise has been adopted by thousands of people so there is clearly something in it.
What are these mystical morning pages?
The instructions are that you sit down and write three full A4 pages of words. Anything that comes to you. It is best to do it first thing in the morning when you are fresh and keep writing until all 3 pages are done. Those are the rules.
When it comes to what you write. Just write anything. Literally it can be as brilliant or pointless as you like. No one is ever going to read them so don’t worry. Cameron says herself:
“All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity. Worrying about the job, the funny knock in the car, the weird look in your lover’s eye — this stuff eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days. Get it on the page.”
What is great is that you are not meant to read your morning pages. The idea is to get things out and clear your mind and get it gone.
The connection between the hand and the paper I believe is an important one to recognise. We know it intuitively with other craft work done with our hands. Why don’t morning pages work typed up?
When we write by hand, we slow ourselves down. There is a time lag between the thought appearing in our minds and then on the page. It is hard to keep up with your thoughts, which is key so you can’t sensor what you write.
When we type it is the opposite as most of us can type pretty quicky and usually we cannot think of things fast enough to type.
It is important to stick to the 3 pages. Anymore you don’t have time for on a daily basis realistically and too little and you don’t get much from the exercise as you need to push yourself a little.
It is clearly a discipline if we are doing it every morning. It can be hard to stick to things unless there is a benefit. So, what are the benefits to our health and wellbeing?
The desire to record your daily life and keep a journal or diary has gone on for centuries although the benefits of it for our health and wellbeing were only starting to be realised in the 1960s.
Probably one of the most common reports from people who write journals is that the act of putting thought and feelings on paper helps give useful emotional and mental clarity. However, Dr. James Pennebaker, a researcher in Texas (Centre of Journal Therapy), has conducted studies that show that when people write about emotionally difficult events or feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over three or four days, their immune system functioning increases. Dr. Pennebaker’s studies indicate that the release offered by writing has a direct impact on the body’s capacity to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease.
This is pretty incredible. Writing down your thoughts and anxieties clearing your mind actually helps your body to function better. It makes sense doesn’t it? All those thoughts are baggage, weighing down your system, putting extra pressure on. Take the pressure off and everything can work better.
It is believed that by recording and describing the salient issues in one’s life, one can better understand these issues and eventually diagnose problems that stem from them. Journal therapy has been used effectively for grief and loss; coping with life-threatening or chronic illness; recovery from addictions, eating disorders and trauma; repairing troubled marriages and family relationships; increasing communication skills; developing healthier self-esteem; getting a better perspective on life; and clarifying life goals.
It is clear to say the benefits to our mental health with this technique are potentially great which is important to know when we consider as a nation, we are in the midst of a mental health crisis.
So now spring has sprung and our energy is raised it is a great time to implement new positive habits in our life.
I can confidently say since starting this exercise I feel better for it and definitely have more clarity.
Why not give morning pages a go?
It seems we don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain!
Being a keen gardener and grower of vegetables, I have come to know the value of good soil and rejoice at the sight of lots of worms when I plant. Since moving to Dartmoor I have been so pleased to find them in abundance and am always very careful not to hurt them as I go about my pottering.
I re-watched the film Seven year in Tibet again over lockdown. There was a great scene which I thoroughly approved of when Brad Pitt was instructed to build a theatre for the Dalai Lama and was told that no worms could be harmed (in line with Buddhist philosophy) so during the construction process the monks lifted each worm they found to safety elsewhere.
If only everyone took that that care with Nature as they went about their work perhaps it would be in a better state than it is now.
Is the soil abundant?
Whilst soil appears abundant to the distant untrained eye the quality of it in most parts of the world is far from where it has been historically. I read a great quote recently perfectly summing up the importance of something that is so easily taken for granted.
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
― Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
‘We can have no life’. That is a pretty powerful statement to read but ultimately true when you think that we need good soil to grow the food we eat most crucially and that is before even considering all the other amazing things soil is responsible for.
A topic that has been in the forefront of environmentalist’s minds over the last 20 years is climate change and the excess carbon in our atmosphere. As a recent film Kiss the Ground confirms, the solution to climate change is indeed “right under our feet”.
Carbon is key
Carbon is the building block of all life. There is 417ppm of carbon dioxide currently in our atmosphere which as we know is too much for our climate. So what is the answer? Draw down is the answer. This happens very efficiently with our soil. Atmospheric carbon is converted to carbon in biomass taking it out of the atmosphere and sinking it to make nutritious soil. In 1950 to give some perspective there was 300 ppm of carbon in our atmosphere which would be a good target to aim for.
The thing I find most exciting about Regenerative agriculture is that the reduction of carbon can be reduced faster than we had previously thought possible. Just by returning to some ancient wisdom.
But what are the other crucial roles that soil plays in maintaining balance on Earth?
When our soil is bare and the rain falls it runs off as the soil cannot hold it. It also takes remaining topsoil with it and any chemicals previously used on the land end up in our water cycles. With regenerative agriculture you are rebuilding the soil sponge. Every 1% increase in soil organic matter, allows 17-25k gallons of water to be held per acre. This is a lot of water.
This then feeds into ground water increasing our underground water reserves – something that is also in great decline at the moment and is predicted to be more valuable than gold in the future.
Scientists tell us we are creating the sixth mass extinction due to the degradation of the land, mostly by agriculture. It is being called the Holocene. Even when I think back to my childhood 25 years ago I remember more birds and insects than there are now and my father remembers even more during his childhood.
The ground is becoming less viable and species are declining with up to 500 species of land animals alone expected to be extinct in the next 20 years. It is pretty shocking stuff but somehow because we have been talking about it for so long it doesn’t hit with the punch that it should. Mechanisms such as tilling and the use of chemicals in pesticides all degrade soil killing valuable bacteria and fungi communities and paving the way to sterility of the land.
Fertility and human health
There is an epidemic of sickness and I strongly believe the sickness of our own bodies is a reflection of the sickness of the earth. We think we are separate but we are intrinsically connected.
We are consuming food that is produced by mass chemical agriculture which is causing major issues in human health. By improving the soil, it is a win win situation as you are also helping the plants to access the nutrients and minerals in the soil with the help of the mycorrhizal fungi which makes the food, we eat more nutritious. This is why at Primrose’s Kitchen we are such firm advocates of organic. Organic means a healthier planet which in turn means we are healthier.
So how can we all do our little bit to help regenerate our land at home?
You may have come across Charles Dowding the well-known “No dig” gardener, I am a great fan of his books. He understands the benefits that no digging brings to your vegetables. Digging the soil releases carbon that has been trapped. Instead of weeding and digging its best to use mulch such as grass cuttings, aged manure, cardboard or wood chippings. Cover your weeds with these and as they start to come through you can add more.
Embrace the weeds
In addition to no digging, I am a great fan of planting lots of weeds! Well, I say weeds because a lot of gardeners would dig them up and declare them weeds because they are plants you find growing out in the wild. There is a great quote that says ‘weeds are just plants growing in the wrong place’. The reason I love these weeds is because insects love them and they are more native than most of the plants grown in gardens these days.
We need to do everything we can to help our wildlife and this starts by supporting the insect populations that have been so badly hit over the last 50 years. Planting wild flowers can really help.
Feed the birds
Mary Poppins was right. If you buy some bird feeders and some food to put in them, I don’t think you ever have an excuse to be bored. Not only are you are supporting your local bird population you are being given something to watch, engage with and learn about on a daily basis which is a great form of meditation in itself.
So, it might seem like an overwhelming challenge we have ahead of us but if we all make small steps, we can make a real difference. Change is upon us but the good type. Where we reconnect with nature and understand its true value, seeing it not as a commodity but part of who we are.
Happy bird watching!
I don’t think I just speak for myself when I say that living a very happy long and happy life is something we all aspire too. Certainly, the long and the happy go hand in hand. Being able to enjoy your life to the full is very important so looking after your health is key.
So, what is the secret? Well, because it is February, the month of love l am starting with the L word. This is something that makes us feel good whether we are sending it out or receiving it.
So how important is love to our longevity and happiness?It all starts with a little self-love don’t you think? When we give enough attention in our life to self-love and self-care, our health is prioritised. We do things that are good for us like maintaining a balanced diet or doing regular exercise. This year, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that those who engage in moderate or vigorous exercise for 150 minutes per week had a lower rate of mortality for all causes. It makes sense. The more oxygen we can move around our cells the more renewal can take place and the more detoxification of waste materials can occur.
Rest and Sleep
Allowing time for relaxation and sleep is also key. In fact, sleep definitely shouldn’t be underrated. The Dalai Lama who recently celebrated his 85th birthday is an advocate of sleep for longevity. He has said in interviews that he wakes up at 3 a.m. and goes to bed at 7 p.m. in order to get a solid eight hours of sleep a night consistently.
But back to love. When we come from a place of love for ourselves our relationships automatically improve with more moments of happiness and connection. When it comes to sharing the love, this takes many forms. Fundamentally it is taking a care and interest in the wellbeing of your fellow humans. Looking out for people and offering them whatever support you are able to give.
This kind of connectedness is something that I believe as a society has been lacking for a long time. Lacking because our world has been sped up with technology making things more efficient but ironically leaving us with less time for one another, resulting in people staring into phones more often than another’s eyes. We forget that we are all in this world together and by helping one another we all progress.
A wonderful example of this support and connectedness is in the book I have been reading recently called Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. In it they discuss the secrets of Okinawa in Japan where there are the most centenarians.
Okinawans form close bonds within the local communities. They form what they call Moai’s. These are informal groups of people and their origins lie in hard times of past where farmers would support each other through meagre harvests. They make monthly contributions to the group so that should anyone be short of money they share it with them and in that way help them through difficult times.
And it is not just emotional health but physical health that is supported. Louis Cozolino, a professor of psychology who wrote the book “The Neuroscience of Human Relationships,” discussed that “people who have more social support tend to have better mental health, cardiovascular health, immunological functioning, and cognitive performance.” The article also states that “social relationships help calm our stress-response system” because they lower the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to “wreak havoc on our physical and emotional health.”
Whilst social connection is clearly a key part of longevity the Okinawans have other secrets to share and that word love returns. In Japan most interestingly they don’t have a word for retire, ultimately as they don’t believe in it. They carry on doing what they love until the end. They execute discipline in their daily lives.
Discipline is a form of self-love as through discipline you can improve mental and physical health and agility. They show this through the 80% rule that they have adopted when eating which means they eat to 80% fullness. Ancient wisdom advises against eating until we are full. Digestion uses a lot of energy so long digestive processes increase cellular oxidation. Intuitively we all know when we have got the that point. We know if we tuck into that extra portion, we are going to burst. They also have another eating hack which is that they choose to eat their food on lots of little plates rather than one large one. Whilst having lots of plates makes you feel like you are eating a lot, you end up actually eating less.
As we know stress is one of the largest killers in our society. The lifestyle elements that the Okinawans put in place cleverly reduce the usual physical and emotional pressures and provide support.
For me personally I believe the more time I spend in nature, the longer I will live. Walking barefoot in nature has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and dispels the effects of the electromagnetic stress that surrounds us on the day-to-day basis. My favourite way to pass time is working in a polytunnel or garden and the very act of sowing seeds connects you to the future. Dan Buettner author of the blue zone’s kitchen that looks at areas of the world where people live the longest talks about the positive effect gardening has “Gardening is the epitome of a Blue Zone activity because it’s sort of a nudge: You plant the seeds and you’re going to be nudged in the next three to four months to water it, weed it, harvest it,”
So, it’s not just living people who help us feel connected it is all the living things which we are able to nurture.
So, share the love this February. In a time of isolation our connectedness is needed more than ever.
With so much information at our finger tips via the web, podcasts and books that is often contradictory it can sometimes be overwhelming to know what are ultimately the best food choices for your health.
In order to lessen our reliance on these channels of information as well as moving away from our own often critical overthinking of our food choices we need to spend time developing our relationship with ourselves and our own body. This can also be called developing your intuition.
The definition of intuition is “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning”.
Our brain is usually the one in charge, calling the shots, instead we need to allow our body to guide us to the correct outcome, using it like a dowser uses a pendulum for an answer.
If this is something that comes naturally to you then great if it doesn’t don’t worry, what is wonderful about our intuition is that it can be developed by all of us with some awareness and intention over time. The most important element is learning to trust ourselves which can often be easier said than done.
Often with our busy lives we don’t have time to slow down and really listen and notice the subtleties of symptoms our body may develop from eating certain foods over others. Left unnoticed these symptoms can turn into intolerances.
One thing that this recent lockdown has enabled I believe is for a reconnection to nature. When we reconnect to nature we reconnect to ourselves and what makes us feel good and what doesn’t. This enables us to better gauge when we feel we are in balance and when we are not quite and instead of ignoring these subtle changes we can look for ways to rectify them.
So what is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is is a framework for helping us establish a better relationship to food, our body image and movement.
It involves eliminating the word diet from our repertoire and practising an unconditional self acceptance and compassion towards ourselves so when we are struggling with food we have the strength to overcome it.
Rather than wanting to be the perfect weight and determining your self worth on what you have eaten or managed not to eat it is about accepting the beautiful person that you are.
Key steps to an intuitive eating way of life are as follows:
In order to avoid overeating it is important to listen to your body when it is feeling full. Eat slowly and chew your food. Maintain hydration levels during the day so when you eat you are not dehydrated and compensating with food.
Listen to Hunger
Hunger is an important natural function of the body.
During your everyday don’t wait till you are starving to eat. Your body doesn’t know the difference between food scarcity and starvation so will compensate for you starving yourself by slowing down the metabolism to conserve energy which can lead to weight gain.
Watch your emotions
We all know it is a disaster to go to the supermarket when we are hungry as our emotions are strong and we end up making impulsive usually more unhealthy food choices but how often do we watch how our eating fluctuates with our other emotions? Become consciously aware of when this happens and consider other methods of soothing yourself that don’t involve food.
Move from emotive eating to mindful eating. Slow down, savour and enjoy the subtle flavours of the food and appreciate each mouthful.
Avoid reactive and habitual behaviour
Be conscious and be guided to what makes your body feel good rather than following habitual behaviour.
Walk down the aisle and feel your way towards the variety of different vegetables and fruit. What do you feel like? What does your body want?
Rather than doing the same shop every week for the same set of meals you do every week focus on variety.
Following the food that is in season is a great and simple starting point for this intuitive eating journey. Eating what is in season means eating what is grown in your local area, it has travelled the least distance and has the most nutrition. It is also most likely to be closest to what our ancestors were eating at that time and as it is grown in the same soil that we live on if often high in the minerals and nutrients we actually need as we are intrinsically connected to our environment whether we realise it or not.
Neutralise your attitude towards food and give yourself permission to eat any food that you want. By restricting certain things you will end up craving them more and put them in the “bad for me” box. An intuitive diet is about moderation. Sometimes the magnesium in chocolate is exactly what your body needs and you should listen to it!
Exercise in the moment
When you are exercising don’t be highly focussed on the outcome you want to achieve but focus on how you feel whilst you are doing it. Focus on what your body likes and what it doesn’t and adapt from there.
Don’t forget that eating should be a pleasurable and satisfying experience.
Allow it be that for you by not diminishing it to what is on your plate, become aware of the environment or company as part of your eating experience and make necessary changes so that it supports you best.
I leave you with a quote from Amanda Levitt (writer and activist)
“ It sometimes is as simple as reminding myself that my body is a good body, that all bodies are good bodies”
We hear the word sustainable a lot but what does it mean?
“Causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time”
Sounds good, but how can we apply this to our kitchen?
What choices do we make in this space that have the biggest effect on the environment?
The biggest ways I believe we can reduce our impact on the environment within our kitchen is through packaging, food sourcing, food waste and cleaning products.
Here are some ideas below.
The food we buy has more packaging on it than ever before, especially if you do most of your shopping in the supermarket. Finding ways to eliminate this from our life can be hard.
Clearly processed foods have the most packaging. The more we process food the less healthy they are for our body and for the planet. More processing means more factory production, more chemicals, more sugar, more preservatives, and more shipping.
So try and eatas many whole foods as possible where you can. Buy your staples in bulk bags from a wholesaler so you get a better price and less packaging to deal with. Choose fruit and vegetables that are sold loose rather than in plastic packaging.
Read the ingredients
When you are buying food read the ingredients list. Look for products that use whole foods and just a few ingredients. Avoid ingredient lists that include chemicals or items you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize. Keep things pure and simple. Processed foods are designed to be addictive. By sticking to whole foods your taste buds will quickly adapt and begin to appreciate the amazing taste of fresh fruits and vegetables. Bear in mind that fruits and vegetables that taste the best are often the ones that hold the most nutrients.
Eating local is a great way to be more sustainable.When you eat what is grown locally and in season, you are eating more nutrient dense foods, decreasing the demand for food from other regions, reducing food miles, contributing to the local economy, and shrinking your carbon footprint.
Reduce Food Waste
Globally, over 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown away. Over 51% of the rubbish going to landfills is compostable, including food scraps, paper, yard trimmings, and wood.
Unfortunately, the environmental costs of food waste worldwide are staggering, and 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year through the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of wasted food. Even more troubling – once food waste reaches the landfills, it begins to decompose and emit methane gas. Methane has 21 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide—meaning it has an even greater impact on global warming than CO2.
You can reduce your food waste by buying only what you need.
Take responsibility for your food scraps by returning these nutrient-dense items to the earth. Composting fertilizes future plants, clears space in landfills, and dramatically reduces your personal greenhouse gas emissions. You could even use it to fertilise your own vegetable garden!
Choose meat wisely
If you are a meat eater, choosing your meat carefully is key. Animals are an essential part of the nutrient cycle, and managing them properly within our agricultural systems is critical for restoring soils and balancing the climate. Land is being deforested to support herds of grazing animals, disrupting the natural ecosystem. Buy meat that has been grass fed and from farmers who support regenerative farming practises.
The cleaning products in our kitchen contain hidden nasties which are not good for our health or the environment.
Did you know the average home contains 62 toxic chemicals?
Of those 62 there are 8 that are most commonly used which are:
Phthalates, Perchloroethylene, Triclosan, QUATS, 2-Butoxyethanol, ammonia, chlorine and sodium hydroxide.
These are known endocrine disruptors, irritants and can cause damage to vital organs as well as promote the growth of drug resistant bacteria.
My suggestion is remove these from your kitchen or anywhere in your house for that matter and try a replacement like the below.
Tea tree oil
For an alternative to chemical disinfectants and sanitizers include antibacterial and antifungal tea-tree oil. Mix a few drops of tea-tree oil and a tablespoon of vinegar with water in a spray bottle for a safe, germ killing, all-purpose cleaner. Add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for scent.
This is a great all-purpose cleaner great for mirrors and windows and also works as a clothes softener if you add a teaspoon to your washing machine.
If you save up your lemon or orange peels you can add vinegar to them and let them sit for 2 weeks then use as a citrus surface cleaner.
This can also be used as a natural cleaning agent for scrubbing kitchen sides or as an oven cleaner.
Creating a more sustainable kitchen and indeed a more sustainable home is an ongoing process and doesn’t happen overnight. Implement small things slowly, which over time will make a real difference.
“ Be the change you want to see in the world”
I have always loved this quote by Gandhi and have always tried to embody it with the choices I make but in this context I am going to change it to…
“Buy the change you wish to see in the world”.
By this I mean to say that the way in which we spend our money can have a major influence in the world.
If we choose to buy more locally, that money stays in the local economy and supports UK manufacture as opposed to it ending up abroad. This is important as manufacturing is the heartbeat of a community and has a multiplying effect for the UK as a whole.
Totnes in Devon cleverly introduced it’s own currency a while ago called “the Totnes pound” – an initiative that was part of the transition town movement whose vision was just this – to keep money in the local economy.
Shopping consciously, buying local for its quality and superior native nutrition is an important step in reconnecting not just to our food but also to the land and the biodiversity that depends on it.
I am always fascinated by other peoples shopping baskets when I am shopping for groceries and I am often asked:
What is on my shopping list in a typical week and what you can find in my larder.
I thought I would share my staple list with you and also some of my favourite places to shop in Dorset where I live in case you get the chance to go.
It all starts with a well stocked larder – “ Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”
It is easier to eat well when you are prepared and can follow a recipe without finding that you haven’t got everything you need!
These are some of my staples I wouldn’t want to be without.
- Organic Gluten free oats
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Black sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Cashew nuts
- Shelled hemp seeds
- Organic tahini – packed with calcium
- Peanut butter
- Corn cakes
- Oat cakes
- Brown rice pasta
- Buckwheat pasta
- Rice noodles
- Buckwheat flour
- Spelt flour – an ancient grain alternative to wheat
- Coconut oil
Having a good range of nuts and seeds allows you to make your own milks, butters and snacks very easily and is a lot more cost effective.
When it comes to shopping I prefer small and local because you can usually be sure of quality and are far clearer on origin. Usually cost is given as the main reason for not shopping in this way but f you don’t buy a lot of ready to go food and don’t buy much meat it doesn’t need to be an expensive affair.
I am lucky enough to live near to one of the oldest organic farms in the country called Tamarisk Farm, which is in West Bexington near the coast, by Bridport. Rosie who works there has an acre of land where she grows the finest organic vegetables. The farm also produces their own pea, rye and wheat flour as well as eggs, lamb, beef and pork all raised on their land. I put in a weekly order from Rosie of whatever is in season at the time and she picks it a few hours before I arrive.
I am currently enjoying rainbow chard, mixed salad/herb bags, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, yellow and green courgettes, and cucumbers. I use all this for a lunchtime salad everyday which I combine with Somerset feta or goats cheese, some hummus and crackers.
Nearby in the Bride Valley is most charming farm shop you will ever see. It still runs as an honesty shop and it is stocked to the brim with lovely local produce including our muesli.
I buy my free-range eggs here, free range chicken and local honey.
For my staples I head to Fruits of the Earth, the best health food shop in the South West nestled just of South Street in Bridport.
As well as stocking up on staples like pasta, lentils and quinoa I Iike to buy halva (sesame and honey cake), Bombay mix and dark chocolate from here.
Fruit is something I always find the trickiest to buy and get the best quality when you do. Often farm shop fruit is a bit of a let down and has been hanging around for a while.
My preferred choice is called Fruit and Two Vege and it is in a village called Beaminster. They source the freshest local fruit and I like to get berries and plums when they are in season and apples every week. Alternative to that I would buy it in the supermarket focusing on what was in season in the UK.
This might seem like a lot of places to go but in reality I tend to go to two of these places a week and stock up for a couple of weeks at a time making my trips as efficient as I can.
The only thing I buy online is a monthly subscription to Chuckling Goat, which makes kefir. An important probiotic supplement which I find very effective and highly recommend.
I am also more than happy to take advantage of some of the incredible, fresh, high quality ready to eat food and have recently come across Bini’s Curries made in Somerset with the finest ingredients and the most incredible taste. Her products are gluten free and vegan and have so much flavour!
So my top tips are:
- Stay local
- Buy less but buy quality and make sure it all gets eaten as we are currently throwing away a third of the food we purchase in the UK which is pretty catastrophic.
- Keep a well stocked larder as it will help support a varied diet.
We hear the word “stress” a lot.
What exactly is it?
Stress is the body’s physical, mental or emotional reaction to any change that requires an adjustment.
Whilst short bursts of stress can act as a positive stimulating driving factor if it becomes chronic it is one of the most damaging things we can do to our body lowering our immune system and undermining our ability to repair and cope with our environment often leading the way to serious dis-ease.
Finding ways to manage it with foods and natural supplements is the answer.
The best foods for helping your body cope with stress are called adaptogens.
These support your adrenal system and stave off fatigue and weight gain (due to increased cortisol).
Having had glandular fever and ME when I was younger I know what it feels like to have a stressed out low energy body and finding foods that can help you cope both physically and emotionally are key.
I thought I would share my tried and tested favourites which are:
Chaga mushroom is a type of fungus that grows mainly on the bark of birch trees in cold climates.
It can be purchased as a powder or whole pieces. I usually simmer up the powder for 10-15 mins, strain and drink. It is not unpleasant to drink and I find it very restorative and supportive.
Whilst an acquired taste for some over the years of adding it to homemade chai I have got used to it and don’t mind chewing it raw.
Helps to regulate hormones like cortisol helping your body cope.
Highly anti-inflammatory and excellent for leaky gut something a lot of people suffer with unknowingly.
Nettle is super nourishing for anyone experiencing stress or burnout.
Contains antioxidants great for reducing stress related inflammation.
Vitamin B complex and iron help support energy levels.
I dry the tops and powder them down. Add fresh tops to smoothies or collect the seeds and have them on my porridge or munch on them when out walking.
The goji berry is known to harmonize and increase the Jing energy of the adrenals resulting in enhanced stamina and strength and I was prescribed these mixed with raisins as a tea to drink daily by a Tibetan herbalist. I found it very effective and drink it a lot just because I love the taste!
Is known as arctic or golden root.
You can take this as a supplement and I would recommend this alongside supporting your system with the foods above.
It has a positive effect on the immune system and helps with depression.
So let that stress go! Take a deep a breath and try some of the above and let me know how you get on x
How often do you think about the effect your gut is having on your brain?
The link between our gut and our brain was an unknown in the mainstream for years but recent studies show conclusive evidence between the health of our colon and the state of our mental health as well as our skin.
Did you know the very thought of eating releases digestive juices into your gut?
The “ butterflies” we feel in our stomach when we are nervous or the sick feeling we have when we are anxious should all send alarm bells that our thoughts and our bowel are intrinsically connected.
Jeroen Raes of the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology drew on medical tests and GP records to look for links between depression, quality of life and microbes lurking in the faeces of more than 1,000 people. He found that two kinds of bugs, namely Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus, were both more common in people who claimed to enjoy a high mental quality of life. Meanwhile, those with depression had lower than average levels of Coprococcus and Dialister.
Probiotics are a type of bacteria found in your gut that play an integral role in almost every aspect of our health.
So how can we support these good bacteria?
I have a few suggestions for you below that are simple to incorporate into everyday life and support your friendly bacteria.
Kefir is made by adding a culture of milk grains to milk and letting it for ferment in a warm place.
My preferred choice for a ready made version of this is a goat based kefir called Chuckling goat which you can find online.
This is a fermented carbonated drink made from water kefir grains. Unlike the milk kefir it is made by combining water, grains and sugar together for 48 hours until fermentation occurs. You can buy the grains easily online.
Kvasse is a traditional fermented beverage originating from the Ukraine commonly made from stale bread or beetroots. It is a great support for the liver.
Try making it with beetroots!
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been around for thousands of years, first brewed in China. The ingredients are yeast (usually from a scoby), sugar and black tea left to ferment for a week.
Saurkraut is fermented cabbage thought to have originated in China as a way of preserving food so as to not spoil but now more popular with germans.
Sauerkraut fermentation is the process of microorganisms on the cabbage digesting its natural sugars and converting them into carbon dioxide and organic acids.
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish most familiarly made with cabbage and spices. Kimchi is often mixed with other vegetables like radish, onion and garlic.
Because the vegetables in Saurkraut and Kimchi are fermented they have excellent probiotic qualities.
Probiotics in fermented drinks and food reduce inflammation in the gut, aid digestion, support the liver and immune system. If you can do one thing for your health by advice is to love your gut!
The positive effect of improving your gut health on your mental health was shown in a study documented by the BMJ.
“Overall, 11 of the 21 studies showed a positive effect on anxiety symptoms by regulating intestinal microbiota, meaning that more than half (52%) of the studies showed this approach to be effective, although some studies that had used this approach did not find it worked.”
Guest Blog by Alexandra Parren, Sundried
If you’re a runner, staying strong and supple are very important for both your performance and to prevent injury. I think most of us are guilty of not stretching enough, even though we know that it is imperative for improving flexibility, range of motion, and helping us stay pain-free. There are other lesser known benefits to stretching too, such as improved balance, as stretching can help with fine muscle coordination. You only need to find around 10-15 minutes a day to dedicate to this important training supplement, and you’ll be feeling the benefits all day!
Yoga and running go hand in hand for a number of reasons, and you can use the two to really complement each other. Focus on each element and see how you can use yoga to improve your running.
There are many yoga poses which will target your core strength and help you switch it on while you’re running. The side plank pose is useful for really engaging your abdominal muscles and also strengthening your obliques which are the muscles on the sides of your torso. To perform a side plank, lie on your side on the floor and place your hand on the floor directly under your shoulder. Straighten your legs and stack your feet on top of each other. When you’re ready, use your core muscles to lift your torso up of the floor and make sure your hips are high. Raise your other arm straight up into the air and squeeze your core in tight and keep your entire body aligned. Hold the pose for around 30 seconds before switching to the other side. This is a tough exercise but you’ll feel the benefits instantly! Having a strong core while running is important as it will prevent your legs and back from overcompensating and therefore getting injured.
This may seem like an obvious one, but having strong legs is key to a successful run. Running can feel very natural, so you may not realise just how much pressure and strain is being put on your legs. Having strong leg muscles is crucial in protecting your knees, hips, and ankles from exerting too much pressure and getting injured. The warrior pose is perfect for building endurance in your leg muscles as well as your glutes. From a standing pose, step one leg out sideways and bend the knee so that you are almost in a lunge. Turn the foot at a 45 degree angle so that it faces away from you and turn your body so that it faces the same way. Slowly stretch your arms out, lift your ribcage, and then lean into the front leg. You should start to feel a burn in the quad! Hold this pose for as long as you can, while keeping your breathing slow and controlled.
One of the biggest elements of yoga is breathing. Every pose has a set breathing pattern and you should be very aware of your inhalations and exhalations every time you move. This translates very well into running as breathing can become laboured which can in turn cause you to lose your concentration. One of the worst things is becoming too aware of your breathing and it becoming strained! But if you control it properly, you can really use it to your advantage. The formal practice of controlling your breath in yoga is called Pranayama and there are many different techniques you can try. Start by closing your eyes and tune into your natural breathing rhythm. Notice the length of the inhalations and exhalations. When you’re ready, start to consciously alter your breathing my making the intake longer; count to 4 while breathing in, and the same on the way out. Your breathing should be audible to you, but not to anyone around you; it should be soft and relaxed. Try to apply this practice while you are running, particularly if you find yourself at a point in the run where you are struggling.
Finally, your mind plays a big role when you are running. Especially if you do not listen to music while running, it’s a long time to be alone with nothing but your thoughts! If you focus too much on how much your legs hurt and how out of breath you are then any run will become long and arduous. Meditating is a common practice which is not just bound to yoga, but knowing how to meditate effectively may really help you during those long and unrelenting miles. Meditating has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as helping in dealing with pain (which is something runners know all too much about!) Before you set off on your run, sit quietly for a few minutes and practice Pranayama. While you are running, make a mental list of all the things that you are seeing around you. You can also incorporate other senses so that you list the things you are feeling and hearing too, for example “I can hear a dog barking, my skin feels hot..” Finally, focus on loosening and relaxing your entire body. Your jaw, your shoulders, your arms, even your hands. These body parts can become very tense when you are running, so it’s important to make a conscious effort to relax and just try to enjoy the run!