Category Archives: Nutrition

Useful Supplements for Vegans… and Everyone Else!

As I’ve come to expect, the latest issue of Vegan Life was jam-packed with interesting articles, interviews and delicious recipes. It’s so refreshing to have a magazine where you don’t have to flick through pages and pages of adverts before you actually find something worth reading! In fact, there was so much to read in this issue that I managed to savour it over an entire week

Did you manage to get a copy yourself? If so, I’d love to know whether you’ve tried those onion rings yet. They look lush!

Vegan Life Issue 3

One feature in particular that caught my eye in this issue was the guide to useful supplements. This is something that I looked into myself last year as I wanted to make sure the family was getting all the nutrients needed for tip-top health and not lacking anything vital.

Vegan Life Issue 3

While a varied, balanced vegan diet can meet all nutrients needs (with the exception of vitamin B12), as mentioned in The Vegan Life article, there are four key nutrients to consider supplementing, and these are vitamins B12 and D, iodine and omega 3 essential fatty acids.

However, it’s worth noting that it’s not vegans exclusively that would benefit from taking these supplements. As we get older, our ability to absorb B12 from foods diminishes, so anyone over 50 years old is advised to consume fortified foods and/or take a B12 supplement. The UK government’s health advisers are also proposing that millions of people should be offered free vitamin D supplements as it’s estimated that one in five adults in the UK is at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Worldwide, iodine deficiency has become a major health problem too. To reduce the risk amongst their own populations, countries such as the USA, India, Denmark and Switzerland fortify table salt with iodine (‘iodized salt’). And when it comes to essential fatty acids, people are generally getting too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3.

Let food be thy medicineMy number one choice for nutrient intake will always be food. However, for these key nutrients – vitamins B12 and D, iodine, omega 3 (especially EPA & DHA) – I’ve decided to take a ‘belt and braces’ approach for now and use supplements to top up our levels, as and when needed.

Here’s how my family currently accesses these four nutrients…

Vitamin B12
Foods – fortified non dairy milks, non dairy yogurts, nutritional yeast flakes, breakfast cereals
Supplement – We’re currently using the BetterYou B12 Boost Oral Spray, which has a nice apricot flavour. (I do find that an opened bottle leaks when we travel though, so I’ll try out another brand for vacations). UPDATE 2016 – We also use SOLGAR Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) 1000mg Sublingual Nuggets, which we buy from a local health food shop (Green Ginger in Corsham).

Vitamin D
Food – fortified non dairy milks, non dairy yogurts, breakfast cereals
Summer months – lots of time spent outdoors in T-shirts & vest tops
SupplementViridian Liquid Vitamin D drops and virikid Vitamin D drops, which have a nice, fruity flavour (we squirt it straight into our mouths or into smoothies/yogurt).

Iodine
Foodiodised salt; seaweed (Clearspring Nori Sprinkle is a favourite) UPDATE 2017 – we also love making vegan sushi rolls with nori sheets – another great source of iodine!

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
Food – walnuts, ground linseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, greens
Supplements – Since it’s not known how well the body converts the omega 3 in walnuts and seeds from ALA into DHA, I also like to give the family a supplement which includes DHA (derived from marine algae). Our current favourite is Solgar Omega Advanced Blend 2:1:1, which is a lemon flavoured liquid – UPDATE 2016 – sadly Solgar have discontinued this omega 3 blend :o( UPDATE 2017 – we’re now using Viridian Vegan EPA & DHA – a lovely orange-tasting liquid that we squirt on smoothies, yogurts or straight into our mouths!

In addition to these four, I also think it’s important to pay attention to Iron and ensure that we eat lots of iron-rich meals. Worldwide, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder and affects a staggering 2 billion people.

Vegan for Life has a useful section on iron, which includes the levels needed by gender and age, ways to enhance iron absorption, and a list of foods and their iron content. I also love this infographic by Vegans of Instagram

 

Iron Rich Plant Sources

 

While the recommended intake for men and post menopausal women is 8mg (which is pretty easy to achieve on a well-balanced varied diet), for menstruating women it’s 18mg – more than double! Considering ½ cup beans and ½ cup cooked greens each contain around 2mg, it can be quite a challenge to reach the 18 mg RDA. And that’s before we even take account of the fact that certain minerals (especially calcium), and beverages such as coffee and tea inhibit the absorption of iron. I’ve had my iron levels checked twice in the past couple of years and both times they’ve been low. Not anaemic low, but lower than optimal.

A few months ago I decided to top up my iron intake during the ‘time of the month’ with an iron supplement. I’ve been taking Viridian Balanced Iron Complex, which contains iron bisglycinate, a form of iron that is gentler on the digestive system than ferrous sulphate. I’ve had no stomach issues at all taking this supplement. As an added bonus, the supplement contains B12, magnesium, folic acid and vitamin C. I either swallow the tablets or simply empty the contents of the capsule into my daily smoothie.

For years, I was ‘anti supplements’ but now I understand that they do have their place… just as long as we see them as a ‘supplement’ rather than a substitute for healthy eating 😉

What’s your stance on supplements? Do you take any yourself?

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Filed under Nutrition, Vegan magazines

Chocolate Orange Chia Pudding

I first shared a recipe for chocolate orange chia pudding back in February 2012 and, to this day, it remains one of my family’s favourite desserts It’s such a simple pudding to make and, since I originally posted the recipe, I’ve refined the method so that it’s even quicker. Honestly, this recipe could not be more easy! The original photo I took doesn’t do this pudding justice, so I thought it was time for a re-post with the updated recipe and some shiny new photos.

Chocolate Orange Chia Pudding

Since that original post, chia seeds have become much more popular here in the UK. You can buy them in most health food shops, and even supermarkets have started stocking them. They’re also widely available (and often much cheaper) from online stores. I find they can vary a lot in price, so I always shop around for the best deal.

Since I use them daily in smoothies and puddings, lately I’ve been buying the Sevenhills 1kg bags as they work out much better value. You can buy them in a range of quantities though, so it’s probably a good idea to start with a smaller bag if you’re trying them for the first time (Holland & Barrett are currently selling a 100g bag for £2.49).

Chia Seeds

So why do I love chia seeds so much?

Well, there are two main reasons. The first is their amazing nutritional profile. Chia seeds are very high in dietary fibre, a good source of ‘complete’ protein, and rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids. They’re also hydrophilic and can absorb around 10 times their weight in water, thus helping to keep us nicely hydrated. Their fibre, fat and protein content, along with these hydrophilic abilities, means that the seeds are a great source of slow release energy, they help to balance blood sugar levels, and they keep us feeling full up for hours. Adding a spoonful to smoothies is a great way to keep hunger pangs at bay.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds contain a range of trace minerals, and are especially rich in manganese, phosphorus and calcium, which are all important for good bone health. A 28g / 1 oz serving provides 30% of the manganese RDA, 27% of phosphorus, and 18% of the calcium RDA. The seeds also contain a multitude of antioxidants, including the flavonoid quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties.

The second reason I love chia so much is that they make the most incredible chocolate puddings! Once blended with some cacao or cocoa powder and a little liquid, they transform into a delicious, silky smooth pudding that will easily rival any shop-bought chocolate dessert. And unlike the shop-bought varieties that tend to be laden with sugar and little nutritional value, these chia puddings are refined sugar free and packed with nutrition.

Chia Seeds

I used to soak the chia seeds in liquid for an hour or so until they’d transformed into a gel-like substance before blending them up, but these days I literally throw all the ingredients straight in the blender. High speed blenders are best for this job as they’ll blend the seeds smooth in a matter of seconds. Since I’ve had the Froothie, making chia puddings has been a breeze. After blending, the puddings are chilled for half an hour or so, during which time they will thicken nicely.

Lil’ L absolutely loves these puddings and sees them as a real treat. It’s great to be able to treat him to something that’s so nutritionally packed and full of healthy goodness.

Chocolate Orange Chia Pudding

 

Have you tried chia puddings before? If so, what’s your favourite flavour combo? If you’ve posted any recipes or pics, please do share the links below x

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Filed under Desserts, Nutrition

Baobab Fruit Powder & Eden Project Family Ticket Giveaway!

When I was a child, as a treat during grocery trips, my mum used to let me choose a new fruit to try. I was always drawn to the exotic fruit section and it was here that I discovered my love of pomegranate, pineapple and coconut. The one disappointment was the Sharon fruit. Imagine my excitement as a kid to find a fruit named after me! Sadly it turned out to be the blandest fruit I’d ever tasted. It certainly didn’t live up to its name 😉

To this day, I still love seeking out new exotic fruits to try, so when I was invited to sample baobab fruit powder, I was more than delighted to accept. Originating in sub-Saharan Africa, the melon-like fruits grow on the legendary ‘upside down tree’, which is pollinated by bats! It’s widely consumed all over southern Africa as a refreshing juice or health snack. The Kung San bushman of the Kalahari eat it for medicinal purposes, to ward off winter colds, combat fevers, stomach upsets and as a general pick-me-up.

Avenue of Baobab Trees Madagascar

Source

Baobab fruit powder is a 100% natural whole food often referred to as ‘Nature’s Multivitamin’ due to its high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It contains more than 12 minerals and vitamins, but is particularly rich in vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. It is reported to contain more calcium than milk, more iron than steak, six times more potassium than a banana and to have more than 100 times the antioxidant activity of oranges!

Baobab Fruit

Source

The powdery fruit pulp is obtained through a simple process that involves collecting the fruit by hand, cracking open the hard shells, then milling. Flavourwise, it has hints of pineapple and melon.  I love adding it to smoothies (especially our Oaty Pineapple Breakfast Smoothie) for an extra boost of nutritional power. It can also be sprinkled into breakfast cereals, added to yoghurt, used to make jams, sauces and ice creams, and even used in baking. I often add it to my home-made energy bars to give them an extra nutritional boost.

Baobab Fruit

Source

The Eden Project in Cornwall recently launched their own range of baobab fruit powder, which is sustainably harvested and bought from rural harvester groups in Malawi. Money from every sale of baobab goes to PhytoTrade Africa, who help support rural harvesters and producers across southern Africa. 

Baobab Fruit Phyto Trade Africa

Source

The Eden Project sells a variety of baobab fruit products, including fruit powder sachets, pouches and jars, as well as gift bags, chocolate and even hand cream! They are available to purchase online however, if you fancy buying them in person, I have one AMAZING giveaway lined up for you!

Baobab Fruit Powder Pouch

GIVEAWAY TIME!

The Eden Project is kindly offering my readers the chance to win a FREE DAY TICKET to the Eden Project in Cornwall (England) for up to two adults and two children (worth £68!)

Described as the “eighth wonder of the world”, the Eden Project is a global garden which lets people discover plants that have changed the world and plants that could change the future. People can explore the sights, smells and sheer scale of the Rainforest Biome, take a journey through the fragrant Mediterranean Biome and zig-zag their way through the 30 acres of outdoor gardens. There are also world-class art installations, unique sculptures and exciting events to be found across the site.

Panoramic view of the geodesic dome structures of Eden Project

To be in with a chance of winning, simply leave me a comment answering the question featured in the Rafflecopter below. Do make sure you tick the box in the Rafflecopter to register that you have done so!

This giveaway is worldwide, open to all residents aged 18 and over. The closing date is Friday 25th April 2014 at midnight GMT. The winner will be selected at random using Rafflecopter and notified by email. The winner can choose to visit the Eden Project on the day of their choice (there is no expiry date on the ticket!)

If you’re new to Rafflecopter, it’s pretty easy! Simply click on ‘Use Your Email’ and enter a name and your email address (rest assured it won’t be published anywhere). You can also log in using your Facebook account, if you wish. A quick demo of how to use Rafflecopter can be accessed here.

There are a number of additional ways you can enter in order to increase your chances of winning. You will find these listed in the Rafflecopter. All entries will be verified prior to the winner being selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NB. If you experience any technical problems when trying to enter the Rafflecopter, leave me a comment below and I’ll submit your entry for you.

Good luck everyone! xx

 

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Filed under Nutrition, Reviews

Coconut Chocolate Bark with Goji Berries and Pecans

My love affair with the little goji berry is still going strong I adore their sweet/salty flavour and vibrant colour. I eat gojis every day, sprinkled on my porridge, muesli, yoghurts and chocolate chia puddings. And, as you may have seen already, they’re my favourite ingredient to add to home-made chocolates.

Goji Berries

And did you know, goji berries are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet? They are a complete protein, contain 11 essential vitamins, 22 trace minerals, and are packed with antioxidants, including flavonoids, polyphenols, carotenoids and vitamins C, E and A. They contain more vitamin C than oranges, more betacarotene than carrots and more iron than spinach. No wonder the goji berry is referred to as the ‘fruit of longevity and well-being‘!

Of course, in the East, they’ve known about the health benefits of goji berries for thousands of years. We’ve been a bit slower to catch on in the West, but we’re finally getting there 😉

Recently, nu3 invited me to take part in blogger challenge to create a recipe using their goji berries. Of course, I was more than happy to accept! I started to think of all kinds of weird and wonderful creations, but M suggested that I should keep it simple and rather than creating something new, I should share one of our family favourites.

And heeding his advice, this is what I’ve chosen to do. My entry for the Nu3 challenge is a simple home-made chocolate bark. M and Lil’ L mentioned to me the other day that this could actually be their favourite chocolate ever! Now that is a statement!

Coconut Chocolate Bark with Goji Berries and Pecans

I make this chocolate using virgin coconut oil (instead of cocoa butter), which gives it a gentle hint of coconut flavour and a glorious ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ sensation. It also features two of my favourite ingredients – goji berries and pecans – which add extra dimensions of flavour, texture and nutrients.

Pecans

This chocolate is incredibly easy to make. No expertise required! You simply melt the coconut oil, stir in the remaining ingredients, and pour them into a container. I line the container with cling film, which makes it really easy to lift out. Sometimes I toast the pecans prior to chopping them but this isn’t an essential step.

Coconut Chocolate Bar Making

The chocolate is then placed in the freezer until set and voila, you have your own scrumptious chocolate bark And you can feel very proud that you made it yourself, from scratch 😀

Coconut Chocolate Bark with Goji Berries and Pecans

It is up to you how you choose to break up the chocolate. You can either go for the rustic look and chop it into shards, or go for more uniform squares.

Store and serve the chocolates straight from the fridge and freezer, as coconut oil goes soft and melty at room temperature. In an airtight container, they will keep for weeks, but I somehow doubt they’ll last that long 😉

Products used in this recipe
nu3 goji berries
– Essential Organic Virgin Coconut Oil – I bought this from Harvest in Bath, but it’s also available in other health food shops and online stores, including Amazon
Sweet Freedom Original, available from Asda, Waitrose, Morrisons, Ocado and online stores, including Amazon
Kenwood Mini Chopper, purchased from Amazon 

[This recipe has been entered into Ricki Heller’s Wellness Weekend]

Coconut Chocolate Bark with Goji Berries and Pecans

Good luck to all the bloggers entering the nu3 challenge. I’m sure there will be many beautiful and inspiring entries

I think nu3 are planning to invite the public to vote on the entries and a prize will be awarded to the entry with the most votes. As soon as I have the details, I’ll post a link.

Have a great weekend everyone!  xx

UPDATE: Thank you so much to everyone that voted for me in the nu3 Blogger Challenge I am so thrilled to have won! 😀

 

17 Comments

Filed under Nutrition, Raw Chocolate Making, Treats & Sweets

Our Wildlife Garden & Summer Fruits Energy Shake (‘Breakfast in a Glass’)

What a glorious summer we’ve had this year! After a spell of wet, overcast summers, it was such a refreshing change to have blue skies and sunshine for pretty much the whole of July and August.  I absolutely loved it and took every opportunity I could to be outside, making the most of it

The plants and insects clearly loved the weather too!  This year, I decided to let the failed ‘veggie’ patch grow wild and turn it into a little haven for wildlife.

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 1 500

The whole summer it’s been a hive of activity, filled with all manner of bee, butterfly and beetle. We’ve also had baby toads and slow worms living in there too!

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 3 500

Does anyone know the name of the yellow plant below? I think it’s beautiful and it doesn’t get munched at all. As soon as I know its name, I’ll add it to my list of slug and snail resistant plants 🙂

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 4 500

We’ve also had success growing raspberries in the patch 🙂 A generous friend gave me six plants earlier this summer, and by late August they were already producing fruit. This raspberry is golden yellow in colour, which seems to make it less appealing to the birds. While the leaves of the plant have been munched, the fruits haven’t been touched at all!

Raspberries September 2013

Normally at this time of year, I would be out on my bike foraging for blackberries, but this year there was no need. By leaving the garden wild, we ended up with our own bumper crop!

Blackberries 4

In the mornings, I’ve been enjoying energy shakes for breakfast, made with a cup of freshly picked blackberries. By adding in some oats, ground almonds and chia seeds, the shake becomes a very satisfying ‘breakfast in a glass’. The additions make the shake so filling that I don’t get hungry all morning!

Blackberries 3

This shake also makes a fantastic post-exercise recovery drink and after-school ‘snack’ to revive energy levels.  I find they’re especially useful as a filling, energy booster on weekday nights when Lil’ L has after-school activities and dinner is going to be served late.

Blackberry Shake 1 500 copy

These smoothies have been a great way to encourage Lil’ L to eat berries. He still won’t go anywhere near whole berries (it’s a ‘texture thing’) but he’ll happily gulp them down in a shake. When he was little, I used to blend the berries and milk first, then strain it to make it completely smooth before blending in the remaining ingredients. These days, he’s happy to drink the smoothies straight up, pips and all!

Here’s how we make them:

And to make to even more scrumptious, I like to top off my shake with some ground cacao nibs 🙂

Berry Shake with Cacao Nibs 1 500 copy

The Good Stuff ♥
Blackberries – Fantastic immunity boosters, packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C. Also a great source of dietary fibre, vitamin K, and manganese
Fortified soya milk & yoghurt – Good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, yoghurt cultures
Oats – Provides slow-release energy

Almonds – Provides protein. Rich source of antioxidant Vitamin E, riboflavin, manganese and magnesium

Chia seeds – Good source of protein and dietary fibre. Rich in calcium, manganese, phosphorous and omega 3 fat
Cacao Nibs – Packed with nutrients, including lots of antioxidants. Check out my raw chocolate post to find out more.

Products used in this recipe
Alpro soya milk and plain soya yoghurt (available in all major UK supermarkets)
Mornflake Superfast Oats (available from Tesco and Asda)
Chia seeds (available from health food stores and online. I purchased mine from Earthfare)
Duronic 1200 1.8 litre Jug Blender, available from Amazon

Cacao nibs – available from health food stores and online. I use the Elements for Life Cacao Nib Grinder

 

Have you had any success growing fruits or veggies this year? Do you ever go foraging?

 

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Filed under Breakfast & Elevenses, Drinks, Growing Fruit & Veggies, Healthy Snacking, Nutrition, The Garden