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How to eat more sustainably

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We all know that eating less meat is good for our health and good for the planet. Last year, the largest scientific analysis to date found that avoiding meat and dairy is the biggest single way you can reduce your negative impact on the environment. Perhaps you’ve decided to swap some of the meat out of your diet, or gone vegetarian or vegan, as many people have, in an effort to eat in a way that’s more sustainable. It’s commendable, but unfortunately, the truth isn’t always as black and white as it seems to be.

The idea that a certain way of eating could be more sustainable and eco-friendly is certainly appealing, especially in the wake of the reports and news coverage about the catastrophic destruction we are doing to the planet. Veganism is often touted as the most effective answer for reducing CO2 emissions, however, it seems this brings a host of other problems in itself.

The fact is, just because something is vegan doesn’t mean there’s not a big impact on the environment. Take almond milk, for example. A fridge staple for many vegans, it can be used as a dairy milk substitute in everything from porridge to tea, and the growing shelf space given to it in supermarkets is testament to its popularity. But what people don’t realise is the damage being done by plantations in California, where more than 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from. It takes nearly 7000 litres of water to produce one litre of almond milk, and California has been in severe drought for the best part of the last decade.

THE TROUBLE WITH TOFU

Some tofu, a popular plant-based protein, is also far from innocent. Soy farming in Brazil is causing mass deforestation and destroying the country’s grasslands. Most of this farming is to produce feed for cattle, but still, it’s better to choose European tofu, which has a much smaller carbon footprint – some soy products from South America can have twice the carbon footprint of a chicken.

Avocados, whose rise to fame is credited to their Instagram-friendly appearance, have been in such demand that Kenya earlier this year banned their exportation and Mexico, which supplies almost half of the planet’s avocados, last year was considering importing a supply to feed its own citizens, creating a crazy carbon loop! The country makes so much from exporting the fruit that illegal deforestation to make way for avocado plantations is now commonplace.

The danger in simply saying certain ways of eating are better for the planet can lead to a very false sense of a box being ticked, a much more valuable approach is to think about everything more holistically.

There is no blanket rule for sustainable food. Common sense says that a free-range, slow-grown chicken from the farm down the road would have less of a carbon footprint than fruit or vegetables flown half way across the world.

It’s true that vegan foods that contain ingredients such as palm oil, which is devastating to forests, local communities and animals, are wreaking more havoc on the planet than locally-sourced eggs, for example.

So is locally-sourced a good signifier for planet-friendly purchases? It seems it is, in most cases, although there are exceptions. It sounds strange, but it’s backed up by a DEFRA report, which found New Zealand lamb has a lower carbon footprint than British lamb because it is grown at such a low intensity, even when shipping to the UK is factored in. Kiwi lamb aside, choosing fruit and veg that’s in season means avoiding produce which has been air freighted or grown in heated greenhouses. An easy way to do this is to use a vegetable box service like Riverford, which sources in-season food from a network of farms. The company extends the vegetable growing season as far as it can using polytunnels but never uses artificial light or heat. Some commercially-produced vegetables are grown in glass hothouses which burn gas or oil, and for every kilo of tomatoes produced this way, two to three kilos of CO2 are released into the atmosphere. When the weather no longer allows them to be grown in this country, Riverford trucks the fruits over from Spain, which uses just a tenth of the carbon compared with growing them in the UK using heat.

ORGANIC SOLUTION

Another way to ensure better sustainability is to shop for organic food, which has a lesser carbon footprint, Organic farming means working with nature. It means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides and no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers. It’s a more environmentally sustainable way to manage the land and natural environment, which means more wildlife and healthier soils.

One final word of warning: next time you set off for the shops with your bags for life, confident you’re doing enough to offset your carbon footprint, remember this. You need to reuse a bag for life eight times before its footprint becomes lower than a normal carrier bag, and if you think your cotton tote lets you off the hook, make sure you use it 149 times! Some experts have said reusable, thicker plastic bags might be making the problem worse as there are now more in circulation than ever – so whatever you use, make sure you reuse it.

PLENTY OF FISH?

We know about the health benefits but, when it comes to seafood, sustainability isn’t entirely clear cut, as it isn’t just the individual species of fish that determines whether it is a good choice, but how and where it lived and where it was caught. Helpfully, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) produces the Good Fish Guide, which it updates yearly. You can read in detail about any individual fish and its environmental impact by visiting mcsuk.org/goodfishguide/search but, in the meantime, here’s a quick guide of which to focus on:

5 most sustainable

  • Pollock (Alaska/walleye)
  • Native oysters (sail and oar)
  • European hake (gill or fixed)
  • Herring/sild (MCS-certified)
  • Coley/saithe (MCS-certified)
  • Haddock (from Rockall or MCS-certified)

5 to avoid

  • Seabass (caught at sea)
  • Dover Sole (from the Irish sea and pulse trawled)
  • Plaice (from southwest Ireland and caught using pulse trawls)
  • Sturgeon (wild-caught)
  • Squid (common or European squid caught in the English Channel with fishing gear other than jigs)

Rachel x 

 

Please Note: I was not paid or sponsored by Riverford in any way, I am just a big fan of what they do!

5 Of The Best Morning-After Foods

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GINGER

Make a brew with this medicinal root and your upset tum will thank you for it! Just finely chop or grate a couple of inches of fresh ginger and pour over a pint of boiling water. Brew for five or ten minutes then sip slowly – Voila! Hydration and a soothed stomach in a single glass.

EGGS

Gentle on a nauseous tummy the morning after, eggs help replenish some of the B vitamins depleted by quaffing a little too much wine, plus they contain cysteine which helps to get rid of the excess toxins left in your body by alcohol. Get cracking!

ARTICHOKE

The globe was used medically as long ago as 400BC for disorders involving the liver and digestion. It’s now known to stimulate the liver to produce more bile. Cynarin, one of the active compounds in the plant, is found in the leaves in small amounts, but becomes much more potent when extracted and dried. The compounds in artichoke also help to reduce nausea, vomiting, intestinal spasms and gas.

COCONUT WATER

Many of the symptoms of a hangover are caused by dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic – it makes you pee out more liquid than you’re putting in to your body. Coconut water is rich in the minerals potassium and magnesium, which help your body to re hydrate more effectively than drinking just plain old water. But it does contain calories so isn’t ideal as a complete replacement for your normal two liters a day sipping.

BANANAS

If you’re feeling shaky and weak when you wake up, the chances are that your blood sugar is very low. Eating a banana will help get it back on track, plus it will pack a mean punch of potassium, something you lose when you become dehydrated through drinking alcohol. Upping your level of this mineral back into normal territory will help with any cramps, nausea or sickness you’re suffering too.

Rachel x

What You Need To Know About Healthy Living In Your 30s

Turning 30 can be both joyful and perplexing. Especially if the majority of your twenties was spent partying, pulling all-nighters, and eating all the pizza you wished to, this decade can be one of transformation and acceptance that your body likely won’t recover as quickly as it used to.

Oftentimes your thirties can be a rough 10 years of mental and physical metamorphosis, until you hit your forties and the crusade continues. To make it simple, let’s break down the various changes that can happen and discuss how to support your body through this decade.

Mental health in your thirties.

This is the decade in which you gain clarity about what you really want out of life. And this can be stressful as it means you must shift your habits—oftentimes taking your foot off the accelerator and putting it on the brakes. This is when you often decide whether you want to have a child or not, and you may struggle with focusing on your career but also wanting to settle down and start a family. In our thirties our lives tend to be all-around demanding: mentally, physically, and psychologically. So make a list of all the things that overwhelm you, and prioritize the ones you absolutely have to do. Simplifying life is the key. Know exactly what you want and the strategy to get there. It will take trial and error, but it will be worth it!

Weight loss in your thirties.

Depending on how well you lived your twenties, the thirties can be a decade of slow and steady weight gain, bone-density loss, and loss of muscle mass. So being physically fit is crucial; you cannot be overweight and be optimally healthy. Weight is a marker of inflammation and oftentimes leptin and insulin resistance, so exercise is a must—especially if you have a sedentary job. A great option is to work with a personal trainer until you are comfortable doing strength-training exercises to control weight, protect muscle mass, and keep you fit and active. Thyroid problems are also common in this decade, so if you’re having real trouble losing weight, it might be wise to get a thyroid check.

Breast health in your thirties.

Breast health can be an issue in your thirties, with fibrocystic breast tissue being at its peak. Avoiding and correcting any iodine deficiencies can help protect your breasts during this time. This is also the decade during which we should become more accountable when it comes to our own health; make sure you see your doctor regularly and do plenty of self-exams.

Self-care in your thirties.

Being a thirtysomething can get overwhelming—so much so that there’s a tendency to turn your focus away from the self. Be deliberate and commit to carving out time for yourself. Our skin often starts to show early signs of aging during our thirties. This is a good time to slow down the fun in the sun and ramp up your skin self-care regimen and invest in natural beauty and skin care products.

Fertility in your thirties.

Fertility is often a big topic of conversation in your thirties. And this is the time to get serious about having children if it’s something you want. Having a baby in your forties not impossible or wrong, but the risk for birth defects is certainly higher after 35. If you’re planning a pregnancy, take prenatal vitamins, and avoid alcoholic drinks at least two months before conception as it will help you have a normal and healthy pregnancy.

Sleep in your thirties.

Disturbances in your sleep can be an important marker of hormonal imbalance and the state of your overall health. Make sure you’re sleeping well (seven to nine hours each night) and not requiring any extra medication for this. If you do have trouble sleeping, avoid blue light for the few hours before bed. I also find that if you journal your most stressful thoughts prior to bedtime it can break the “looping” of these negative thoughts in the brain and help you fall asleep more peacefully.

Supplementing in your thirties.

Supplements are recommended when what we eat is not fulfilling all of our nutritional needs. And this is especially important in the thirties because stress can eat up a lot of the essential nutrients. These supplements are commonly recommended for thirtysomething women:

  • B-vitamin
  • Omega-3
  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin C

All of the above are common-sense approaches to the changes that occur during this decade and will help create a smooth transition into your forties. Women who take care of themselves in their thirties really blossom in their forties. But if they ignore this decade, it can take even longer to recover their health and happiness. Work with a GP on preventive care and a life coach or wellness coach who can help you tackle the most pressing decisions of this decade.

Rachel x

 

Organic September: What is Organic?

Organic food is food as it should be

All organic food is fully traceable from farm to fork, so you can be sure of what you’re eating. The standards for organic food are laid down in European law so any food labelled as organic must meet strict rules. Unlike non-organic food production, which makes wide use of manufactured and mined fertilisers and pesticides, organic food is produced with natural fertilisers from plants, less energy and more respect for the animals that provide it.

Organic farming and food production is not easy and takes real commitment and attention to detail, and is backed up by rigorous, independent inspection and certification.

In the face of climate change, rising diet-related ill-health and widespread declines in our wildlife, the need to produce healthy food, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and protect wildlife grows more acute by the year. There is no magic bullet to tackle the challenges that face us, but the buying decisions we make every day are a simple but powerful form of direct action.

Organic Always Means

  • Fewer Pesticides
  • No artificial colours and preservatives
  • Always free range
  • No routine use of antibiotics
  • No GM ingredients

All organic farms and manufacturing companies are inspected at least once a year and the standards for organic food are laid down in European law. Getting organic certification isn’t easy and when you buy an organic product you know what you’re buying really is what it says on the tin.

Why choose organic?

Organic means working with nature. It means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment, which means more wildlife.

Whatever you’re buying – from cotton buds to carrots – when you choose organic food, drink or beauty and textiles, you choose products that promote a better world.

Organic food comes from trusted sources. All organic farms and food companies are inspected at least once a year and the standards for organic food are laid down in European law.

Why does organic sometimes cost more?

In an ideal world, organic wouldn’t need to be more expensive. A big part of the problem is that the true cost of our food isn’t reflected in the price, both the positives and the negatives. So food that is produced in ways that may contaminate our water, or lead to antibiotic resistance in people, may seem cheap in the store, but the real cost can be very high indeed.

Where there is a price difference, you are paying for the special care organic farmers place on protecting the environment and improving animal welfare. As the costs of farming with oil-based fertilisers and chemicals increase, the price gap between organic and non-organic is closing.

While organic food is sometimes more expensive than non-organic, staples like pulses, pasta, rice and whole grains often only differ in price by a couple of pence, and when you can, buying directly from farmers like through box schemes, helps too.  Organic sales are up in the UK (and across Europe and US) and more and more shops are offering a good range of organic.

Look for the logo

Going organic is easier than you’d think. Food, health, beauty and textiles products that hold the Soil Association organic symbol have been produced to the highest possible animal welfare and environmental standards.

It’s easier than you think to choose organic 

Switching to just one extra organic item really can help contribute to changing our food and farming systems for the better. Demand for more organic food means more organic farms. More organic farms mean fewer pesticides, more wildlife and more animals raised under the very highest standards.

Going organic doesn’t have to break the bank. Many organic products are the same price or cheaper than branded non-organic and most retailers also have their own organic range.

Rachel x

 

 

 

Fatigue Fighting Foods

Do you often find yourself crashing out halfway through the day and struggling to keep your eyes open? A lot of the time those feelings of extreme tiredness and fatigue are down to diet so I’ve rounded up 8 foods you should try to boost your energy levels.

Oats

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Seriously filling and packed with protein and fibre, oats are great for people who experience blood sugar spikes and drops. Choosing plain versions is best as they have less sugar and you can then get creative and add fruit, honey and milk as you wish.

Pumpkin seeds

A handful of these can help give you an energy surge in the middle of the day. A source of protein, healthy fats, fibre and essential minerals, they can be eaten plain or sprinkled over salads and cereal.

Eggs

If these aren’t part of your morning routine, they should be. They’re an excellent way to enjoy sustained levels of energy without the insulin spikes or sugar crashes that eating a lot of sweet breakfasts like cereal and pastries can result in.

Spinach

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Popeye had the right idea getting his muscle power from my favourite green. Rich in iron, which improves mitochondrial efficiency, these greens make it easier for cells to convert the food you’re eating into usable energy.

Sweet potatoes

Keep your carbohydrate cravings at bay by bringing more of this under-rated vegetable into your diet. The slowly digested starch can help you feel full and the vitamin C will help fight colds and illnesses which naturally make you feel more tired.

Crimini mushrooms

These are a source of vitamin B6 which is a must for energy production. It protects the mitochondria from damage and in times of stress, supports adrenal glands and niacin which help to convert foods into usable energy.

 

Nuts

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Great for replenishing and boosting energy post workout, these are perfect for putting electrolytes back into your body that are lost during exercise. They’re filled with protein, fibre and magnesium which keeps your energy levels high and stable too.

Water

If you aren’t getting eight glasses a day, you really need to start! Dehydration is one of the main causes of tiredness, slowing down your metabolism and making your brain run slower.

Rachel x

Detox Green Smoothie.

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The morning after a heavy night of drinking always calls for a Detox Green Smoothie. I love having this smoothie whenever I need a pick me up , it’s bursting with goodness and full of nutrients to give your body a healthy start to the day.

Ingredients:

300ml Coconut Water

20g Spinach

10g Rocket

5g Basil

1/2 Avocado

1 Medjool Date

Directions:

Blend everything together in a Nutribullet  and pour over ice.

Rachel x

 

 

Recipe taken from Madeleine Shaw’s website, no copyright infringement intended.

 

 

Food Intolerance & Intolerance Testing

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My skin has been so bad over the past few months I made the decision to have food intolerance testing, as most skin conditions are orientated around diet and digestion.

I saw a nutritionist called Nathalie this afternoon for testing, which was non-invasive and completely painless! The best way I can describe the test is that it was like having a ballpoint pen touching the tip of my finger.

The machine Nathalie used was a Di Etx machine, which is a bio-electronic analyser that measures the body’s electrical resistance to over 120 common foods/drinks and other substances like house dust mites and mixed pollens. If a substance is causing a problem, it will affect the body’s electrical resistance.  The test also provided an assessment of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Some of the substances tested included:

wheat – rye – tomatoes – orange – eggs – oats – cow’s milk – cow’s cheese – yogurt – sugar – yeast – coffee – tea – wine – a variety of fruits and vegetables – MSG – aspartame – mixed pollens – pets’ hair.

The consultation lasted just over an hour and included some advice on elimination strategies and alternative foods.  The test had shown that I am intolerant to dairy, bananas, coffee, tuna, onion and cabbage. Nathalie made diet recommendations and gave me advice about supplements, including a prescription for Iron, Magnesium Citrate and Milk Thistle. I have booked a follow-up session with her in four weeks time to review my progress and make adjustments if needed.

What are the signs that you may suffer from a food intolerance or sensitivity?

  1. IBS (stomach cramps, sudden urge to have a bowel movement, a mixture of constipation and diarrhoea etc)
  2. Bloating
  3. Skin issues (Eczema, Athletes’ foot..)
  4. Asthma
  5. Constipation or diarrhoea
  6. Lethargy, constant fatigue
  7. Mood swings or depression
  8. Reoccuring ear or throat infections
  9. Constant mucous, drippy nose
  10. Hay fever
  11. weight issues
  12. migraines and more..

Will I have to avoid certain foods forever?

You may be advised to eliminate one or more foods that could be giving you problems for a period of  six to eight weeks, before carefully re-introducing each substance. Your reactions are monitored during this re-introduction period to assess whether you are better off with or without the food in question. Often people feel fine after the four-six week elimination and are advised to re-introduce the food to their diet.  Others may feel better during that elimination period and decide to leave that food out of their diets.

What’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?

A food allergy is usually an obvious reaction to a food but food intolerances can be easily missed with vague symptoms that might seem totally unrelated to digestion.

The simple, painless and non-invasive test can give you immediate answers! The food test targets a different part of the immune system than an allergy test. This is an important difference. Any diet changes are well supported with good nutritional advice and tips on making simple meals and snacks.

Common food intolerance include wheat, dairy, eggs, yeast. It is often the foods we eat most of in our diets that can end up being a trigger. Those foods listed above tend to be the most prolific foods in our diets and with such high exposure, a susceptible digestive system may form an intolerance.

70% of our immune system resides in our gut with more immune reactions happening in our digestive system in a day, than in the rest of our bodies in a year.

This means that our digestive system integrity, balance and function can make us susceptible to the immune response that forms food intolerances. When a child is born, both the digestive system and the immune system is not yet fully developed. This is why allergy and food intolerance symptoms are common when kids are little and seem to ‘grow out’ of them.

Rachel x

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