Browsing Category

Nutrition

Featured/ Nutrition

Why is organic better for us

Top 10 dirty foods in the UK

As some of you may know I have sent quite a few emails and pester social media posts to ask you to nominate me for 2017 Boom Awards Organic Food Blogger category…and I will continue to ask you to nominate me…nominations close on 31st March so no excuses to put in a nomination right?

Anyway, these awards got me thinking…I didn’t ever write about eating organic foods and why is it better to eat organic versus conventional foods.

My journey to becoming organic?

I have been eating organic for 4 years now. In my About section I mentioned that my journey to health started when, 6 years ago I really wanted to lose weight, because I felt I lost my fitness, I lost my self esteem as I didn’t take care of myself. 2 years into my ambition to become my fittest I was really struggling because I was not really making any progress. Researching into the potential reason for why I was struggling to lose weight I came across loads of cases of people saying that when they detoxified their bodies they started to lose weight. So, jackpot…I said to myself I need to limit the intake of toxins. At the time there was not as much choice in terms of organic food and felt that going through the traditional retail channel (ie. Supermarket) will be quite expensive. And my path crossed with a small food box delivery service, going by the name of Abel and Cole. I loved the fact that I could get veggies that looked similar to the ones I used to buy in the markets from Romania. I mean veggies that were not polished to death, not in plastic bags and all looking exactly the same.

What does organic mean?

NO PESTICIDES

  • An organic crop means that farmers are prohibited to use syhthetic chemical fertilisers (like N, KCl, superphosphate) and instead use organic fertilisers (manure, composts), use of legume crops in rotation (to increase soil N levels which is important for the plans to grow). I like to call these the old school of doing things, like my grandma used to do;
  • However, organic standards permit the use of certain plant or microbial extract and/or mineral (Cu and S based);
  • Organic crops tend to grow more slowly, and produce more of what scientists call secondary plant metabolites (ie. antioxidants, minerals);
  • However this also means that it’s not as reliable as conventional farming because if a pest was to hit if the crop is not able to “defend” itself then most likely the crop will be lost…and no mouths to feed;

TRACEABLE & NO BADDIES

  • Because of it being a highly regulated industry all organic foods are fully traceable so you will know where every ingredient comes from;
    – Hydrogenated fats and controversial artificial food colours and preservatives are banned under organic standards;

NO GM FOODS

  • Crops are not modified genetically or animals are not fed GM foods;

NO ANTIBIOTICS

  • Antibiotics are banned. Farm animals account for almost two-thirds of all antibiotics used in the EU and these are passed down to us through the food chain (Source: Soil Association, 2017);

ANIMAL WELFARE

  •  Organic animals must have access to pasture (when weather and ground conditions permit) and are truly free range;
  • Must have plenty of space – which helps to reduce stress and disease;
  • Graze and forage naturally on organic pasture (grasses and other crops) where only natural fertilisers are used and pesticides are severely restricted;

What is the current evidence around the benefits of organic food

There has always been a lot of controversy around the benefits of eating organic but there is a growing body of evidence now to suggest eating organic is beneficial for our health.
The key benefits to organic foods are:

  • The higher content of vitamins and minerals in organic food;
  • The negative impact of pesticides to health;
  • There are ecological and ethical grounds for supporting organic farming, which may be beneficial for supporting organic farming, which may be beneficial for soil health, water quality and the health of farmworkers and their families (Source: Mark F. McCarty, James J. DiNicolantonio, 2014).

1. Higher content of vitamins and minerals
A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in February 2017 has shown that both organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, and a higher concentrations of certain essential minerals and antioxidants than conventionally produced products.

Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function. Western European diets are recognised as being too low in these fatty acids and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends we should double our intake.

Results from several mother and child cohort studies linking organic milk, dairy product and vegetable consumption to a reduced risk of certain diseases. This included reduced risks of eczema in babies.
In another study also published in British Journal of Nutrition in 2014 showed there are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops, and contained less pesticides and less of the toxic metal cadmium, which is naturally occurring in the soil.
The concentrations of a range of antioxidants were found to be substantially higher in organic crops:

  •  Phenolic acid 19% higher
  • Flavanones 69% higher
  • Stilbenes 28% higher
  • Flavones 26% higher
  • Flavonols 50% Higher
  • Anthocyanins 51% higher

These have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease (CVD – cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and certain cancers in dietary interventions and epidemiological studies. A recent meta-analysis has reported that a 10mg/d increase in flavonoid intake is associated with a 5% reduction in cardiovascular disease. However the same study did not find that there was a significant increase in certain vitamins and minerals. What you will have to remember is that these are really big studies, done across many years to be able to assess significant differences in accordance with action standards set by researching agencies. This is why sometimes I am frustrated by the constant need to demonstrate something. Some of these studies were conducted in 2009 and at the time the results were not the same. It took another 8 years of researching to be able to then conclude what sometimes for me feels the obvious…food grown properly and taken care of should in theory be better for you…as I always used to say to my mum: “your food tastes a lot better when you make it with passion and love”:).

2. Negative impact of pesticides on health
In the same study the frequency of occurance of pesticides residues was 4 times higher in conventional crops (mainly in fruits vs vegetables) and there were higher concentrations of toxic metal cadmium (48% higher) in conventional crops.

The higher NO3 and NO2 (both synthetic pesticides) concentrations in conventional crops is also nutritionally not desired as they have been described to be risk factors for stomach cancer and methaemoglobinaemia in humans. Greater accumulation of cadmium is associated with reduced fertility in both men and women.

Recent study showing that high level of certain types of pesticides may contribute to the increasing incidence of food allergies in westernised societies (Jerschow E, McGinn AP, de Vos G, et al, 2012, Dichlorophenol containing pesticides and allergies, results from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2006).

There is a growing body of evidence that highlights a positive association between certain types of cancer and exposure to pesticides and contaminants in epidemiological studies (Alavanja MCR, Ross MK & Bonner MR, 2013, Increased cancer burden amongst pesticides applicators and other due to pesticides exposure; Alavanja MCR, Ross MK, 2012, Occupational pesticide exposures and cancer risk: a review; Lebailly P, Niez E & Baldi I, 2007, Epidemiological data on the relationship between cancer and pesticides; Nasterlack M, 2007, Pesticides and childhood cancer: an update).

Top dirty foods

By dirty foods I mean foods that are most frequently found with pesticides. In the UK there is a government body who’s job is to test foods in the UK against pesticides used. They check for residues of pesticides above the reporting level, pesticides above the MRL level (maximum residue level set by the EU) and traces of multiple pesticides residues.

There is still scientific controversy about the safety of some currently permitted pesticides even at levels below MRL and complex mixtures of pesticides as safety testing of pesticide mixtures is currently not required as part of the regulatory pesticide approval process. But again, I will make my point around the frustration of having to have endless data to demonstrate something which for me instinctively feels rights. If all our food is tempered with pesticides, and we live a stressful life in a polluted area, with our bodies less effective to detoxify then why do we need to allow ourselves to eat low quality food. They take samples of different foods from across the UK from British supermarkets to form a representative sample. However, not every year they take all available fruits and veg. Not sure if this driven by money they have available to spend on the research.
According to the latest annual report (2015)Pesticide Residues Monitoring Results in the UK 58.39% of samples contained residues at or below the MRL. 5.05% of samples contained residues over the MRL. I have taken the annual report because it takes into consideration a much wider variety of foods. The list of offenders is below presented in the order of most frequently found with pesticides above the reporting levels. However it is missing some ingredients like strawberries and tomatoes which we frequently consume.

  1. Wheat (96% of samples have been found to contain pesticides above the reporting level)
  2. Blackberries (95%)
  3. Pears (94%)
  4. Pineapple (92%)
  5. Brussel sprouts (76%)
  6. Mango (73%)
  7. Apples (67%)
  8. Salad (63%)
  9. Beans in pods (62%)
  10. Celery (60%)
  11. Peppers (60%)
  12. Chilli (54%)
  13. Radish (54%)
  14. Melon 53%
  15. Potatoes 53%
  16. Blueberries 46%
  17. Aubergine/Courgette 44%
  18. Okra 41%
  19. Broccoli 32%
  20. Peas 24%
  21. Ginger 15%

Top 5 foods with pesticides

The committee has also a quarterly reporting and according to the latest report (Q3’16). In this case the Top 10 is:

  1. Grapes (100%)
  2. Peaches (98%)
  3. Apricots (97%)
  4. Strawberry (96%)
  5. Apple (92%)
  6. Pears (83%)
  7. Beans in pods (58%)
  8. Tomatoes/Okra (56%)
  9. Peppers (47%)
  10. Leek (35%)

Given the big picture, lots of experts say that, from a health perspective, what you eat matters more than whether you choose organic or conventional. However, considering that the current environment where we live we are exposed to stress and pollution which we cannot really avoid and the fact that we don’t always have the time to exercise I believe that at least something we can control is the food we eat and maximise the level of nutrients we get.

One important point to conclude on…not all organic food is great food. You still have fairly processed foods that are organic but contain for example emulsifiers, disguised sugars (brown rice malt, concentrated grape juice). It took a few chemical process to get to these ingredients. Also, just because those blueberries are organic but come from Chile doesn’t make them great. Fresh foods lose a lot of their nutrients from the moment they are picked. Now think about how long they have been transported, how long have they been on shelf before they get into our mouth. I have always been a promoter of eating locally and organic because this means you eat in season and you maximise the level of nutrients you get in a day and age where quality of air, soil and water it’s not at it’s best.

 

Nutrition

7 simple ways to DETOX your Body and Mind

Wow, a year has passed and 2017 is now upon us. With a new year comes a new blog post on how to bring us back into health. So here I am writing about 7 simple ways to detox your body and mind that will prepare us for the year ahead. You will also find out your detox potential, what you can do to accelerate your health potential and simple swaps that will keep you on track for wellness.

So, what does detox actually mean for you? For some is extreme 7 day juicing, for some is going to some expensive 5 day retreat in the Dolomite’s to not eat much and have colonic hydrotherapy once a day. But in truth detoxing has been here for hundreds of years. People use to fast for either short periods of time or long periods of time to achieve spiritual cleansing. So in simple words detoxing is removing toxins from our body and bring it back to its naturally healthy state.

FIND YOUR DETOX POTENTIAL

Here’s a list of questions that can help you work out if you need to improve your detox potential:

  • Do you often suffer from headaches or migraines?
  • Do you have dark circles under your eyes?
  • Do you sometimes have earache, drainage from ears or ringing in the ear?
  • Do you often suffer from stuffy nose or sinus problems?
  • Do you suffer from acne or skin rashes?
  • Do you sometimes have joint or muscle aches or pains? why
  • Do you find it hard to lose weight or if underweight find it hard to put on weight?
  • Do you often have a bitter taste in your mouth or a furry tongue?
  • Do you suffer from bloating

If you answered yes to 4 or more questions you will really benefit from improving your detox potential.

If you answered between yes between 2 or 4 times you are showing signs of poor detoxification.

HOW DOES YOUR BODY DETOXIFY

About 80% of the chemical processes happening in the body involves detoxifying harmful chemical. Much of this is done by the liver – sometimes called the chemical brain of the body.
The liver detoxifies by sticking things on to them (enzymes) so that they are ready to be eliminated from the body in a process called conjucation. Vitamins and minerals play a vital role in supporting the liver in this process. The majority of our diet is full of refined foods unfortunately depleted by nutrients and not enough plant based foods.

7 SIMPLE WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR DETOX POTENTIAL

1. Keep calm and drink water

We can survive without food for several days but we can survive without water only for a few days. Without water our organs start to fail, because water helps circulate nutrients around the body and flushes out toxins. So the more we drink the more we flush out the bad stuff…

I tend to drink filtered water in the morning and early afternoon as this helps cleanse and flush the system and mineral water in the afternoon to deliver minerals to the body and give me a revitalising effect.

In 24 hours we lose 1.5 litres in urine, 750ml through skin, 400ml in the breath, 150ml in faeces. A total of 2.8 l per day. So drinking 2 l of water per day (8 large glasses) is optimal according to research (Source: S.M. Kleiner,  Journal of American dietetics association).

One way to make water a bit more fun to drink is either by using a fruit infuser water bottle  or just add a few drops of lemon or orange juice for a citrus kick to your plain water. The rule is: pick a fruit and add a herb or spice or both to create your personal combination. Some of my favourite combinations are Cucumber and Mint, Grapefruit and Rosemary, Lemon, ginger and green tea which are known to also help detox your body.

2. Eat plenty of …fruits and veggies

More and more research shows that eating plant based foods is beneficial to our health. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals which as I shown you before are vital in helping your body, specifically your liver to properly eliminate toxins. More around the benefit of fruits and vegetables will come in my future sessions.

Some of veggies known for their detoxifying properties that you can get your hand now in the UK as they are still in season: chicory, broccoli (try some purple sprouting variety too which you can find in Whole Foods or at farmers markets or tender stem and normal broccoli which are widely available are fine too), red cabbage, beetroot, horseradish (which works amazingly grated over beetroot), chillies, garlic and sprouted tops (which are actually the leafy tops of Brussel sprouts which unfortunately I haven’t seen in supermarkets but I get them through my Abel and Cole delivery).

3. Eat in moderation…

Grains – like quinoa, brown rice, millet, etc. These are important sources of complex carbohydates or slow releasing carbohydrates which provide more sustained energy than the refined grains. Also most of these contain no or little gliadin, a known intestinal irritant which means it gives your body to focus on what it needs rather than fighting allergens. Not to say they contain more nutrients compared to refined grains.

Oily fish – important source of complex fats from the omega 3 family fats (EPA and DHA) which are converted in the body in prostaglandins, essential for brain function, control blood cholesterol, increase immune function, reduce inflammation. Mackerel contains 10 times more EPA and DHA per serving than swordfish or white fish.

Cold pressed olive and seed oils – good sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats again essential for brain and nerve function. These are very unstable at heat and light so keep in dark bottles away from heat and only use as salad dressings. Olive oil is best for cooking as more stable and doesn’t oxidise as much.

Seeds and nuts – as above but in addition to their oils they also contain minerals.

4. Limit…

The protein gluten contains gliadin, a known intestinal irritant. A small amount can be tolerated but post people in Britain consume wheat in the form of biscuits, toast, bread, cereals, cakes, pastry, pasta at least 3 times a day. There is also the problem of phytates found in the outer hull of the grain – helping it not sprout until confiditions are right. These block the absorbption of calcium, magnesium, zinc in the gut.

Protein: the average Briton eats over 900g of meat in a week. Animal protein puts a lot of strain on your digestive system. It takes 24h sometimes to completely digest protein. Also, unfortunately due to the current intensive farming in order to ensure high yield animals are fed antibiotics and hormones. Another issue with animal protein is also the high content of saturated fat.

Dairy: although the UK represents only 20% of the EU population we consume 40% of it’s dairy products with an average weekly intake of four pints of milk. Think about yourself: first thing in the morning is a latte or cappuccino (at least 250ml of milk), porridge or cereal with milk and or yogurt, lunch will be soup which contains cream or milk for taste or salad or a main meal which will contain either cheese, or cream or milk, another few coffees and teas and then dinner. The truth is is that many minerals are found in higher levels in fruits and vegetables and also it has also higher levels of oestrogen than normal. Hormones are good for us, but diet reliant of food that is pumped with additional hormones brings imbalance through oestrogen dominance.

I know myself how difficult it is to limit or not eat at all some of these….so here I’ve put a simple list of swaps.

So, the most difficult thing that I found giving up was bread…but then I found sourdough rye bread. It’s absolutely delicious and it has less gliadin than the wheat counterpart, as well as sprouting ensures that phytates (which prevent the digestive system absorbing several essential nutrients) are mostly neutralised. Also, always choose a product for a good bakery as this ensures you don’t have the other 20 ingredients to keep the bread on the shelf for longer.

How about pasta…I love pasta! The good news is that there are so many more alternatives out there which are making it onto the supermarket shelves. My favourites are sprouted  spelt pasta or buckwheat noodles.

An alternative to the morning bacon sandwich? How about my mushroom egg breakfast?

Milk…I like having milk with my coffee (which I usually have as a treat) but everything else I like to choose almond milk. It doesn’t have the hormones but it has all the nutrients.

Cheese? I would always swap cheddar for goats cheese…goats cheese has less lactase and therefore easier to digest.

4. Avoid…

Refined Sugar, Caffeine, Alcohol and Saturated fat. From a nutritional perspective these do not help your body but mainly are “chemicals” that your body is trying to remove once ingested.

Ok, sugar would be a tough one to avoid. BUT, so many great alternatives out there which are much better for you. How about swapping milk chocolate for dark chocolate. Or if you are stuck for a snack why not try my energy protein balls? Or Pip and Nut squeeze pack?

Energy protein balls

How to swap that morning coffee? Well…my new discovery is turmeric latte…a blend of amazingly fragrant turmeric, cinnamon, honey and almond milk with all the goodness that comes with it.

How about alcohol…well, again a new discovery but Seedlip  is a drink using the art of herbal remedies to now produce a non alcoholic spirit from spices or from herbs.

5. Remove toxic minerals…

ALUMINIUM is widespread in food packaging and beauty packaging but not all aluminium will enter the body. It leaches into the water when we heat something acidic like tea, tomatoes or rhubarb. The more zinc deficient we are the more we will absorb. It tends to bind to essential vitamins and mineral and research has shown to be linked to kidney problems in babies and behavioural problems and autism in older children (Lodge Reese, 1979 – aluminium toxicity as indicated by hair analysis – journal of orthomolecular psychiatry). While plenty of studies have shown increased accumulation of aluminium in people with alzeihermer disease what isn’t clear is weather this is a cause or a consequence of disease.

CADMIUM – cigarette smoke (directly inhaled or passively inhaled, refined grains and have also been found in shellfish from polluted waters. Greater accumulation of cadmium is associated with reduced fertility in both men and women.

COPPER – is both an essential element and a toxic one. Exposure from copper comes from water pipes, jewellery , swimming pool anti-fungal agents – so we tend to have too much of it rather than too little. Excess copper can be good as it thought to be a stimulus for the uterus when a women falls pregnant but it is also thought to be linked with miscarriages, post natal depression, anxiety and paranoia when it’s found in excess in the bloodstream. Hair mineral analysis of student hair samples revealed that high copper concentration was in kids that had aggressive behaviour, hyperactivity and poor attention span.

LEAD – exposure from petrol (banning lead in petrol campaign by the institute of optimum nutrition), water contaminated by lead piping, flaking paint, paint dust, pesticides, cosmetics. Excess lead is related to behavioural problems and IQ (numerous studies studied this relationship).

MERCURY – exposure fish (the larger and fattier) and tooth fillings (Sweden have banned mercury fillings for pregnant women).
You can easily test for your own mineral level with a hair mineral analysis.

6. Move your achy bones

At least 15 min per day and keep it gentle…ease into it.  Exercise is like an oil to a machine. It helps improve blood flow and send those vital nutrients to your body and then collects the toxins from the liver to push them quickly out. Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous to be beneficial. To begin with, focus on getting regular exercise into your routine. Get off the tube station a station earlier and walk home, walk to the train station or to the office from rather taking the bus, take the stairs in the tube or in the office. When I feel stressed and I don’t have the energy to do a HIIT workout I love doing yoga. The beauty of the digital world which we live in currently is that you don’t need to have a personal trainer or attend classes if you don’t have the time or money. Here’s a quick link to a yoga session I sometimes do.

7. Breath

But most importantly breathe….
Take 5-10 min to go out and take some really good breaths, inflate your chest and belly and exhale either with your mouth open or through your nose (whatever works for you).
Escape into a meeting room or the wellness room and put your feet up the wall and breathe. Breathing is the most powerful way to de-stress and clear your mind. This in turn lower the cortisol level to enable your body to function properly rather than thinking it’s in fight mode every time.

Nutrition/ Quick meals/ Snacks

Avocado hummus

Watching TV or when I have friends around I like to have something to snack around. Usually snacking is associated with unhealthy things but there are so many other alternatives that are good for you as well. So I am sharing my recipe for avocado hummus which you guessed it it’s incredibly good for you…food for your body and for your soul I dare to say. It’s also such a versatile dip as you can have it with celery sticks, slices of fresh walnut rye sourdough, olives or one of my favourites is fresh romaine leaves which look like a scoop perfect to hold the hummus. Why not add also a baba ganoush to have a complimentary dip to your platter? Coincidently I have a recipe for this as well…posted a few months ago:).

By now you got used to the next section of health benefits and this one is no different. Continue Reading…

Breakfast/ Nutrition

Bircher Porridge

Blood orange bircher porridge

Porridge is almost a British institution…you associate it with British culture (especially if you live on the island like me:) ), but in actual fact it is present in other menus (US, Thailand with the savoury porridge called jok).

It’s an incredibly nutritious breakfast. Usually made out of oats (however you can make it out of other grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc) which contain multiple nutrients (like potassium which regulates blood pressure, hormone and water balance or magnesium which helps with the DNA repair) as well as a water soluble fibre that plays a role in reducing “unhealthy” cholesterol and prevents spikes in blood sugar levels making it a perfect meal for people suffering from diabetes. Oats are easy to digest and useful to relieve upset stomach. Continue Reading…

Nutrition

10 simple principles of healthy eating

Healthy eating

Is this the year of healthy eating?

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you! May the new year bring you all the fulfilment and happiness you desire and may all your wishes come true.
With a new year come new resolutions for the year ahead! Have you set yours? For the first time I have thought far more about where I want to be next year. It is my belief that if you don’t really think about where you want to get to you will never be able to achieve your dreams because everything will just become a very foggy map. Just think about really mapping out where you want to go to and you will be far more accountable for the milestones by the end of the year (think this is very much my inner self talking to me as well :P). Continue Reading…

Nutrition

Why is sugar bad for us

Why is sugar bad for you

This post will be a bit different from my usual recipe post. If you remember my first post was actually on detox. Well, now I am picking up another of the baddies that I called out in my principles…SUGAR. When I say sugar I mainly refer to the refined kind. Most people are scared of fat, but for me the biggest enemy is sugar. It’s hidden everywhere (from breakfast cereals, fruit juices, some almond milk, fat free yogurt, and even hummus).

In a report from the World Health Organisation in 2014 more than 1.9 billion people (13% of total population) were obese and almost 30% are overweight. More worryingly, a study conducted by the same organisation in 2013 concluded that 42 million children under age of 5 were obese or overweight! This is truly shocking…Being obese decreases life expectancy by 10 years in average and it is also linked with high incidence of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer (endometrial, breast and colon). In the context of the UK, this costs our national health system over £3 billion per year. In some respects I am not at all surprised by these figures. We are over exposed to high sugar, high salt, high fat, micronutrient poor food. Continue Reading…