Tuesday, 8 June 2021

MUST HAVE store cupboard essentials to make healthy, delicious and cheap meals

We’ve all been there – we see a healthy recipe online and think ‘I would love to make that but I just don’t have half of these ingredients and I don’t want to buy these things just for one meal’. Well usually, many healthy recipes, especially vegan recipes, use the same ingredients time and time again. I’ve learnt that buying some staples at the start will really help you live a healthier life, and save money in the long run. There will be an investment at the start but it will be an investment in your health and all you will have to just will be fruits and veggies. In the end you will make healthier, tastier and cheaper meals. 


I also wanted to tell you about
iHerb because it's free and it's an amazing place to get all your health goodies, including cleaning products and beauty products too! If you want cheap health products and cupboard staples, shipped right to your door, this is a great place to go! I recently got my beloved Biore cleanser from there as you can't buy it here in Spain. It's particularly good if you these kind of things are not so accessible to you. It is great for ex-pats because they deliver to over 150 countries, so you can get your favourite products from home, delivered to the country which you live in! And it's not expensive - cheaper than Amazon or getting it shipped from a different countries website etc.

Seeds

  • Flaxseed (Linseed) – link here
  • Chia seeds – link here
  • Sesame seeds – link here
  • Sunflower seeds – link here
  • Pumpkin seeds – link here

Spices

  • Garam Masala (or a good curry powder) – link here & here
  • Cumin – link here
  • Coriander – link here
  • Chilli powder – link here
  • Cinnamon – link here
  • Turmeric – link here

Oils

Baking/sweeter things

  • Maple Syrup – link here
  • Agave Nectar – link here (or sometimes I just use honey)
  • Coconut sugar– link here (sometimes I just organic brown cane sugar)
  • Dates – Medjool are my favourite but are more expensive and harder to find - link here
  • Raisins/Sultanas – link here (I used to eat them in little boxes which remind me of when I was younger)
  • Cocoa powder – link here
  • Cocoa nibs – link here
A less processed flour. Options:
  1. Oat flour – link here 
  2. Coconut flour - link here
  3. Brown rice flour - link here
  4. Almond flour - link here

Dried legumes and grains

  • Black beans – link here
  • Chickpeas – link here
  • Quinoa – link here
  • Brown pasta or maybe brown rice pasta – link here
  • Brown rice 
  • Cous Cous – link here
  • Rice noodles - theyr're quite easy to get but if you want something like Kelp noodles, you can get them from iHerb – link here

Nuts and nut butters

  • Walnuts – link here
  • Almonds – link here
  • Cashews – link here
  • Pecans – link here
  • Peanut butter – link here
  • Almond butter – link here
  • Tahini – link here

Miscellaneous

  • Chopped tomatoes (I prefer to buy these in a carton rather than in a tin as they taste better) – link here
  • Tomato paste – link here– link here
  • Apple cider vinegar – link here
  • Balsamic vinegar – link here
  • Soy sauce / Tamari – link here & here
  • Canned coconut milk – link here
  • Plant based cream (oat cream etc)
  • Vegetable stock cubes (preferably organic and low in salt is better!) – link here
  • Nutritional yeast – link here

This is great for a parmesan or cheese alternative. You would sprinkle it over food where you would normally sprinkle cheese. It is much lower in calories and is enriched with B12 vitamins, something which most of us don’t get enough of.

Fresher things to buy as and when

  • Plant-based milk – e.g coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk etc
  • Coconut yoghurt
  • Olives
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole
  • Miso pastes


If you’re serious about changing your diet to improve your mental health, or for whatever other reason, I think it’s essential to invest in a well-stocked cupboard, like the above.

 

As always, thanks for reading, lots of love and have a great week!

 

Alice

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Monday, 31 May 2021

HOW to eat in season in Summer and WHY it is important

Summer is here!! With summer, brings sunshine, beaches and fun but also really tasty food! When we go on holiday, it can be easy to forget about our health, but eating seasonal foods could help boost our health.You can still binge on your favourite icecreams on the beach and eat nice dinners in the evening, but also incorporate some seasonal fruits and veggies to make sure your body is still functioning optimally.  It is so important to eat in season, for your health and for the environment, so read on to find out why! I will also tell you which foods are in season during the summer so you can mix and match and try out new foods. Overall it will be better for the environment, healthier and better for your bank balance!


Why is eating in season so important?

  1. The food tastes better - In-season produce is fresher and tastes better, sweeter and perfectly ripe. 
  2. Cheaper - when producing fruits and veg, more can be produced so the cost of produce will go down.
  3. Fresher with higher nutritional value - Fruits and veggies stored for longer periods have a reduction in phyto-nutrient content
  4. Avoid overseas contaminates - When you order berries in winter, the food is being transported a long way. So maybe your food is coming from a 
  5. Support your body natural nutritional needs - It's really cool because seasonal produce helps us get the vitamins we need the most in that period. For example, winter vegetables contain vitamin C which is important for supporting the immune system to help against the flu etc. In Summer, stone fruits provide us with extra beta-carotenes that help protect us against sun damage and the sweetness gives us more energy for the hot weather
  6. More environmentally friendly - Eating in season supports local produce which means less transportation, refrigeration, etc. 

 

What should I eat during summer? And what are their health benefits?



Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, are super high in antioxidants and fibre. Many berries have proven benefits for heart health as they lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

How can I incorporate? I like to various berries and put them together to make a berry salad. Then it is easy to simply scoop out every morning on a place on top of your breakfast oats or cereal or to have before your toast. Note that because berries digest very quickly, you should eat them first thing in the morning, or before a meal.

Peaches – they are rich in many vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. A peach has 10% of your daily amount of vitamin A and 17% of vitamin C.

How can I incorporate? Peaches are a great snack but can be messy to put in your bag. So heating some peach with some maple syrup or honey could be a nice topping on porridge or overnight oats.

Cherries – Cherries are a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals, including potassium, calcium, vitamin A and folic acid. Please note that cherries contain melatonin, which is the chemical that helps you sleep. So, I would recommend eating them only in the evening or at a time where you can relax.

How can I incorporate? You could eat cherries as an evening snack or make a cherry pie to have after dinner.

Mangoes are full of Vitamin C which helps protect the immune system; something which we want to be strong right now! Plus, mangoes are just so yummy!

How can I incorporate? Mango taste delicious in salads or poke bowls. Alternatively, you could pop them in your oats in the morning.

Lemons are a great source of vitamin C, fibre and various beneficial plant compounds. There is evidence that they help support heart health, weight control and is good for digestive health. Lemons and limes may also prevent kidney stones because they are high in citric acid by raising levels of citrate and binding stone-forming minerals in the urine.

How can I incorporate? As cliché as it sounds, putting lemon in your water on a morning, or throughout the day, can be a great way to incorporate lemon. Or, you could squeeze it on your salad, or bake salmon in the oven with slices of lemon on top for extra flavour.

Limes are also high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Limes are great for improving immunity, aiding iron absorption and promoting health skin. One study in people following a vegetarian diet found that drinking a glass of lemonade alongside a plant based meal, increased iron absorption by up to 70%!!

How can I incorporate? I love to make Mexican dishes and have a squeeze of lime. Alternatively, my Sri Lankan curry includes the juice of a lime. The tanginess of the lime compliments the sweet and spicy in the dish.

Honeydew melon contains multiple nutrients that are vital for bone health, including folate, vitamin K and magnesium. Melon is rich in electrolytes and water so is great to stay hydrated in the summer.

How can I incorporate? Honeydew melon is great as a snack, especially if on the go. Or having a picnic outside in the sun. It is very hydrating.

Watermelon has vitamin A, C potassium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B5 and B6. Lycopene, a plant compound found in Watermelon, have been studied for their anti-cancer effects.

How can I incorporate? You could eat slices of watermelon or if you prefer, drink watermelon juice!

Apples We all know the saying “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away’’ That saying is really old but rings so true with me. Investing in your health now, will help you in the future. Studies have linked apple consumption with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, which may be related to the cholesterol-lowering benefits of the soluble fibre found in apples.

How can I incorporate? A great snack by itself, or you could top it on your oats. I personally prefer heating apple and sprinkling it with cinnamon.

Bananas are rich in potassium, as everyone knows, but they actually have a higher % of your recommended daily amount of vitamin B6, vitamin C and manganese.

How can I incorporate? Bananas are a great on the go snack. I like to take it to work with me and have one when I get hungry which is usually before lunchtime. It saves me reaching for chocolate bars instead.

 


Carrots are a particularly good source of beta carotene, fibre, vitamin K1, potassium and antioxidants. They have been linked to lower cholesterol levels and improved eye health.

How can I incorporate? Try adding carrots into your stir-fries for some extra crunch and flavour. Some people like to have raw carrot in a salad too.

Celery Celery reduces inflammation due to their approx. 25 anti-inflammatory compounds that can offer protection against inflammation in the body. It has 95% water content including generous amounts of soluble and insoluble fibre therefore, it supports digestion well.

How can I incorporate? Some people like to eat celery raw dipped into hummus. However, that is not for me. The way I incorporate celery into my diet is when making a stew or chilli. I chop it up and fry it with onions and garlic as a base for a dish.

Aubergine or eggplant, are an excellent source of dietary fibre. They are high in vitamins and minerals.

How can I incorporate? Stuffed aubergine is always a great shout or an aubergine roasted in the oven, covered in miso sauce. However, my favourite summer dish is ratatouille. This is aubergine, courgette and pepper baked in a tomato sauce – super simple, healthy and delicious! You could have ratatouille with pasta or with cous cous and some protein. /

Courgette or 'Zucchini' is low in calories and have a high water content. They don’t have a super high number of micronutrients but they do provide useful amounts of immune system boosting vitamin C and significant levels of potassium, which is key to controlling blood pressure.

How can I incorporate? As I said above, you could make ratatouille which is so delicious.

Peppers – Did you know half a raw pepper has 100% of your daily amount of vitamin C? People eat oranges when they want vitamin C but pepper has way more.

How can I incorporate? I eat a lot of pepper as I have my chickpea dish a couple of times a week. Another great idea for pepper is to make a gazpacho or an easier option, slice up raw better (more nutrition) and dip in hummus or guacamole; crudités. I also love having stuffed peppers for a lighter dinner.

Cucumber is great to eat in summer as it is also a source of liquid and helps to keep you hydrated.

How can I incorporate? Of course, you can make a salad and in Summer, many of us crave this lighter type of meal. However, if that’s not you, don’t worry. You could make a gazpacho, put in your tuna sandwich or simply pop some in your Pimms and eat after!

 


There are a lot of fruits and veggies here and it can feel overwhelming trying to incorporate all of them. Therefore, I recommend that you try to incorporate one or two new ones a week and switch it up each week. For example, try having mango as a snack one week then pineapple the next. Incorporate some corn into a Mexican dish one week then make ratatouille the next week which uses aubergine, courgette and peppers!

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Alice
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Wednesday, 19 May 2021

How to improve your gut health: 6 ways to TRANSFORM your tummy

My aim with this blog is to raise awareness about the link between mental health and lifestyle choices such as what we eat. The gut is the main factor in this link, due to how strong the gut brain axis is. I spoke about this in my recent post – how to boost mental health with these nutrition hacks.

There are some great tips in this post (if I do say so myself). It is about slowly incorporating lifestyle factors so that you can make them a sustainable habit. But, if you implement just one, I recommend #1 the most to kick start your gut health journey. You will really start to notice the difference.

Take probiotics

Probiotics feed our guts billions of good bacteria each time. Our guts can be void of good bacteria due to many things but mainly the use of antibiotics and a poor diet, or simply too much processed food. Antibiotics don’t discriminate between the good and bad bacteria so when trying to treat a bacterial infection or remove bad bacteria, it will also remove the god bacteria.

I personally LOVE Symprove your life (link here) because it is a water-based bacteria. You just take a shot of it every morning so it is super easy and much more pleasant than taking pills. Water based bacteria also has the benefit of reaching your gut better – there is research to show that water based probiotics feed the gut more bacteria than probiotics in tablet form. 

I first saw this product on Deliciously Ella’s social media – I knew she had gone through a health journey and really swore by these so I decided to give them a go. They are a little expensive but I would recommend signing up for the 12 week plan so that you can really see the difference (plus you get a great discount if you buy in bulk). Despite the price, they were SO worth it. My bloating went away and I felt much lighter mentally and physically.

Note: if you are on a budget and really cannot afford it, look on Amazon at these pill versions. You could also get digestive enzymes.


Eat gut-loving foods

Think of them as the 3 Ks: Kombucha, Kefir, Kimchi. I have never tried Kefir because I don’t really like milk/dairy (although I am curious) but I love both Kombucha and Kimchi. Kombucha is a drink made of fermented tea and at first, it can taste kind of strange. I had it a couple of times and now I love it! It feels refreshing, like a soda, but it is super healthy and doesn’t have all the chemicals and sugar.

Kimchi is a great Korean side dish and I love getting it in a restaurant with noodles or rice. I think Kimchi is nice with sushi too! They can be trickier to get your hands on in some countries, but in the UK I think you can pick it up in most supermarkets and if all else fails, Waitrose will do the job! If you are living internationally, you can buy from a site called iHerb - they sell a lot of health products at great prices. They ship to 150 different countries!!

Note: if you decide to sign up using this link you get $10 off!

Eat more fibre

Fibre makes you regular in the bathroom and that is so important for your gut health, and your brain. There is nothing worse than needing the toilet or being constipated – it can definitely affect your mental health and make you feel groggy and there is evidence to show that this can give you low mood including depression and anxiety. Additionally, studies show that eating a lot of fibre reduces your risk of colon cancer. It makes sense if we think about it: regular bowel movements prohibits toxins building up in the bowel area.

Fibre is contained in almost every plant-based food but great sources of fibre include: wholegrains, fruit (berries specifically), beans and pulses, potatoes with their skin and vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn. Tip: remember to eat the brown or wholegrain version of a grain for extra fibre and eating the skin on fruits and vegetables will give you that extra kick of fibre!

Eat slowly

The more you chew your food, the better it will digest. Your stomach will have to do less work and will produce more digestive enzymes.

Don’t drink water with your meal (only small sips if you have to!)

Drinking water can dampen the digestive fire in your body. This is a big part of Ayurveda but modern medicine also recognises this fact. It doesn’t allow your food to digest naturally. Once you start doing this, you will feel like you need less and less water in your meals. Soon, you won’t need any drinks with your meals and you won’t even think about it.

If you have to drink, try taking small sips of room temperature/warm or even hot water.

Eat a variety of plant-based foods

I spoke about this in my post – the 5 pillars of health. One of the tips for ultimate health is to eat a variety of foods. A variety of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes are essential for obtaining all of the micronutrients that your body needs to function correctly. All the different foods feed your healthy gut bacteria and make your gut more diverse. The more bacteria and the more diverse the bacteria, the better your gut health will be.

The guidance is to aim for 30 different types of plant-based foods a week. Tis sounds like a lot but it is surprisingly easy to do. A sprinkling of seeds on your food will count as one – it doesn’t have to be a full portion. It is just about exposing your gut to all the different foods.


Other applicable general health tips

These points are pretty obvious because they are important for general health and can apply to almost anything but they are still really important so I wanted to include them. 

Drink plenty of water (extra tip: make it warm/room temperature!)

This was the second pillar of health in this post but I am definitely guilty of missing this one. When we are thirsty, we will draw water from our bodies and this can cause bloating. Our bodies are made up of a LOT of water so we really need to replenish our bodies with this essential element of life. It’s no surprise that this extends to gut health too. 

Sleep

You can see a pattern here: again, this was one of the tips from the 5 pillars of health. When the body is rested, it will detox and rejuvenate.

Lack of sleep increases stress, which is shown to affect the gut. Also when tired, you will make poorer choices around food. Lack of the sleep hormone, melatonin, may be related to gastroesophageal reflux disorder. Also, if you stay up too late, you might eat close to bedtime, which can negatively impact your digestive health.

I hope these were some helpful tips. Let me know in the comments if you incorporate any of these.


Lots of love,


Alice


Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that any purchase you make from the links - I will get a very small commission. This does NOT result in any additional cost to you, and the affiliate money earnt will go back into creating the best content. Thanks for your support!

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Monday, 3 May 2021

SWEET POTATO VEGGIE BURGER SLIDERS

I mentioned this in my last post: Healthy picnic ideas. It would be a great bulkier addition to your picnic but also I made this for dinner. They are full of flavour - so delicious! And very healthy. I like to use a veggie burger that is as natural as possible - no emulsifiers, gums and I like to stay away from fake meats such as soya. I like whole food burgers - you could find one made of mushrooms or beans. This one was a quinoa and borraja burger from Carrefour - Borraja is a plant (I had never seen it before either!) It was very tasty!

Time
30 minutes

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes

2 veggie burgers

Some lettuce - I used lambs lettuce

A tomato

 An avocado

A white onion (you could use red onion and have it raw if you would prefer. Marinating this in lime juice would be amazing)

 Alioli or mayonnaise

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 210c.

2.) Slice the sweet potatoes into disks about 1/2" thick. 

3.) Rub with some oil, salt and pepper then place on a baking tray. Put in the oven for about 20 minutes. turning after 10 mins.

4.) Meanwhile, slice some onion. You have two options: red onion and mix in a bowl with lime juice, sugar and salt. Or, slice a white onion and fry it if you would prefer it warm.

5.) Wash and drain the lettuce.

6.) Wash and slice the tomato.

7.) Halve, pit and slice avocado

8.) Heat oil in a pan and fry the burgers for about 5-6 minutes until golden. 

9.) When the sweet potatoes are tender, take two pieces and spread with mayo or alioli. 

10.) Layer 1 piece of sweet potato with lettuce, veggie patty, tomato, avocado and then the onions. Close the second piece of sweet potato and skewer with a wooden stick to secure if you prefer to.



Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe and enjoy it!

Wishing you total health and happiness!

Alice
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Thursday, 29 April 2021

HEALTHY PICNIC IDEAS

So, this blog focuses on mental health and improving it through diet and lifestyle. And what makes one happier than eating a picnic in the sun with friends?

As the world is opening up in most parts of the world and the weather in the northern hemisphere is approaching summer, it is most definitely picnic season!

Of course, you can eat a lot of junk at a picnic if that is your wish. We are not about restrictions here!! I usually munch on crisps and dips and never really get full or satiated or satisfied. I feel groggy afterwards and still hungry because the junk has no nutritional value to fill me up.

So if you want to feel happy and energised after and are interested in improving your mental health through food, then maybe you can bring some healthy (still yummy!) treats along to the party! After all, we want to eat food that makes us feel good. Good mood food!



Savoury snacks

Olives (Tip: I like the ones stuffed with red pepper and they also provide extra nutrition)

Cashew nuts – (Tip: less processed if unsalted and unroasted)

Natural grain-free crackers (Tip: make your own! But my healthy cracker snack would be fine)

Crudités – sliced red pepper, sliced cucumber – to dip in the below dips

Tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and oregano (I am not a big fan of cold tomatoes but when drizzled with olive oil and dashed with oregano – they have a sort of pizza taste. You could also add some feta if you eat cheese)

Graze snacks – I love the flapjacks, the roasted chickpeas etc. This is a great option if you are busy and don’t have the time to make it. I love that you can sign up for a subscription so you don’t have to remember to go and buy healthy snacks.

Sourdough slices - this is a great staple to spread with dips or homemade spreads or even homemade jam.

Dips

Guacamole (Tip: choose one that is over 95% avocado and doesn’t include dairy etc. Here in Spain the guacamoles are so good – they are basically just avocado. But I remember in the UK that guacamole would often contain sour cream. It doesn’t taste as good and just isn’t healthy. You could also make your own (Smash some avocado with lime juice, maybe some coriander, onion, chilli…whatever you fancy!)

Hummus (Tip: I actually prefer hummus that has more water in it as it is more creamy. In the UK, I really liked the Tesco Organic or Waitrose Organic hummus. In Spain, I really love the hummus from Dia.)

Any veggie dip you can find (Tip: if it's free of dairy then it is much better)

Make your own! – Have a go at making your own dip. I fell in love with veggie/nut/bean dips when I went on a yoga retreat to Fuerteventura. The food was mostly vegan and these dips were honestly incredible. It was things like broad bean and basil – this book (link here) is cool for exploring recipes for dips.



Main dishes

Sweet potato sliders – see recipe coming on Sunday!

Roasted veggie hummus sandwich (I will do a recipe on my blog. I roast courgette (zucchini) and red bell pepper in olive oil. As that is roasting, I spread a good layer of hummus on both sides of m sourdough bread. I then put the veg inside. It is really filling, healthy and tasty!

Lettuce wraps (or just wraps) – fill a big lettuce leaf with spiced beans or chickpeas – season with paprika and chilli powder. You could also add sweetcorn for another flavour and texture. You could also do this with wholegrain tortilla wraps and add any veggies and beans that you would like.

Veggie skewers – roasted pepper, onions and mushrooms on skewers. These would be nice dipped in sweet chilli sauce or maybe a pesto.

Mini veggie burgers – This is self-explanatory. You could make your own bean and quinoa burgers or you could just buy them and stick them in burger buns with some salad!

Caramelised onion and tomato tarts – this is just some caramelised onion and tomato in pastry but it is divine!


Desserts

Dates filled with almond butter or peanut butter (I love these! Tip: You can also freeze them before if it is going to be a hot day!)

Frozen grapes (Tip: Green grapes when frozen taste like ice lollies/popsicles – they are so refreshing for a hot day!)

Chia seed pudding – I love a chia seed pudding. Simply add chia seeds and plant milk into a container and leave them in the fridge for minimum of 30 minutes. You can add nut butters, fresh fruit, cocoa nibs for extra deliciousness and extra nutrition. Chia seeds are so good for you and you can buy a 1kg bag of whole food raw Chia seeds from Amazon (link here)


So, I hope these ideas gave you some inspiration for healthy, filling, nutritious, tasty picnic foods. If you want more ideas, you can buy a book that gives you ideas. Link here to one on Amazon which has some great ideas!

Enjoy!


Wishing you a week full of health and happiness

 

Alice

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that any purchase you make from the links - I will get a very small commission. This does NOT result in any additional cost to you, and the affiliate money earnt will go back into creating the best content. Thanks for your support!

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Monday, 26 April 2021

RECIPE: SMOKY BEAN CHILLI

Ok so this bean chilli tastes INCREDIBLE. It is ridiculously cheap to make and SO easy to put together in only 20 minutes.

When I made it the other day, I didn’t expect it to taste SO good. The flavours blended together so well – the sweetness from the agave, the acidity from the balsamic vinegar, the freshness from the tomatoes and the spice from the chilli. Best of all, it made me feel great afterwards: satiated but not overly full. It’s a great good mood food!

If you already have the ingredients, great! If you don’t, I recommend buying them as they are staples for so many whole food recipes. I always like to have jars of beans and chickpeas in the cupboard so that when I don’t know what to make, I can easily throw together a healthy recipe like this! It also stops me buying takeaway food. Yes we have all been there when we are so hungry and then realise that we don’t have anything in the cupboard so we think ahhh lets get a pizza!!


Time

20 minutes

Ingredients (for 2 people)

❤ Olive oil (link)

 2 cloves of Garlic

 ½ Red pepper

 ½ Courgette (Zucchini)

 Black beans (link)

 Kidney beans

 Chopped tomatoes

 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

 1 tbsp of agave nectar (You can use maple syrup or sugar – you can choose (whatever you have)

 1 tbsp sweet or smoky paprika

 1 tbsp chilli powder

 Salt and pepper to season

 

Method

1.  Start by lightly cooking the garlic, pepper and courgette in some olive oil.

2.  After a few minutes, add a tablespoon of chilli powder and paprika powder (This also depends on how spicy you want it and how spicy your chilli powder is. So adjust it based on your preferences).

3.  After a few minutes of bathing in the spices, add the black beans and kidney beans and let them be coated by the spices.

4.  After a few more minutes, add the chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, the agave nectar and season with salt and pepper.

5.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes (the longer you simmer, the better the flavour). The sauce will become nice and thick but make sure you don’t dry it out

6. Serve with whatever you would like! I like quinoa for extra protein and it is a less processed grain. 


Nutrition

- Beans and quinoa are a great source of protein.

- Beans, especially black beans, enhance gut health by improving intestinal barrier function and increasing the number of bacteria. This is amazing for gut health which is so important for your mental health.

- Peppers contain lots of vitamin C which is great for your immune system. 1/2 a  raw red pepper contains 100% of your daily amount of vitamin C.

- Try use an organic tomato sauce to make the dish void of chemicals and pesticides. Tomatoes, especially when heated up, are rich in antioxidants


Please comment below if you want to make this, have made it or if you have a great chilli recipe already!

As always, I wish you the best health and happiness!

Alice


Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that any purchase you make from the links - I will get a very small commission. This does NOT result in any additional cost to you, and the affiliate money earnt will go back into creating the best content. Thanks for your support!

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Thursday, 22 April 2021

HOW TO improve your mental health through diet and nutrition

Do you want to improve your mental health, whether it be anxiety or depression? Do you, like me, want to solve the problem without taking pills? Well, I will tell you how you can SIGNIFICANTLY improve your mental health through diet and nutrition.

Right now, we have a mental health crisis on our hands, not helped by the pandemic and its restrictions. Many see the solution as medication (anti-depressants etc), and as much as that helps a lot of people and I don’t necessarily disagree with them, they’re not for me as I don’t feel like they are a sustainable long term solution.

From the age of 13, I suffered from bad anxiety: I didn’t want to go to sleepovers or even leave my house sometimes. After years of struggle and some therapy, I found a more holistic ‘healthy’ lifestyle and this has really helped me. My story is on my ‘about me’ page. The way I eat now and the awareness I have of my body, really helps to control my anxiety and I haven’t had a panic attack in quite a while. I have reaped the benefits of eating this way, so I really want to share it and hope it can help you! It is the inspiration for writing this blog. I improved my mental health through lifestyle changes, not anti-anxiety medication.

What saddens me is that we don’t hear in the mainstream about the studies and data highlighting the significant impact that nutrition and diet has on our mental health.

Evidence
The smile trial conducted in Australia divided a group of moderate-severely depressed people into 2 groups. Half had their diet changed (I will discuss later what was involved in this diet) and half used talking therapy. Those that changed their diet showed much better results: over 30% went into FULL remission. I’m sorry but FULL remission of severe depression through changing diet….why do more people not know this?! 8% of those in the social support group went into full remission, so you can see why there needs to be more of an emphasis on diet and nutrition as well as therapy.

The theory: Gut health
Our GI tract is home to billions of bacteria that influence the production of neurotransmitters; chemical substances that constantly carry messages from the gut to the brain. For example Dopamine and serotonin – the happiness hormones. Our gut-brain axis is a bidirectional link between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system so we feel better when our gut is healthy but also when we feel nervous, our gut can react (we’ve all been on the toilet before something nerve-wracking, for example).

1: Eat a whole food diet with a variety of plant-based foods
The flora in your gut needs to thrive so you need to feed it a variety of foods. You should aim for 30 different plant-based sources a week. It is easier than you think because I don’t mean full portions. For example, a sprinkling of seeds on your cereal would class as one portion. Eating this way will also ensure you reach those micronutrients, which make your body and brain work better, and give you more energy in the day. In turn, you will sleep better at night, which is a huge contributing factor in mental health. This post is just about diet and nutrition but I am going to talk about sleep another time.

So what is involved in this way of eating? Well, the diet used in the Smile trial was described as a modified Mediterranean diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and fish. This is what I refer to when I say ‘wholefoods’ – foods in their natural form. Food that has been taken from the land – no emulsifiers, additives, etc.

When I eat this way, I literally feel less anxiety in my body. It makes SUCH a difference to how my body and brain feels – it’s amazing. For me, my anxiety can happen when I don’t feel well and I rarely feel sick or dizzy when I eat this way.

On my food Instagram page, @alicesgoodmoodfood , I post whole food recipes every week: curries, stews, stir-fries, chillis, sliders, salads, risottos, etc. I will keep adding to it, so check it out if you are in need of inspiration! I do admit that the photography needs to improve, though. Also on this blog every Sunday I will be posting a recipe.

Alternatively, I think Hello Fresh is really amazing. They provide whole food recipes along with the exact ingredients so that you don't waste any food. You can choose whether to have veggie dishes if you prefer.


2: Reduce processed foods
The diet used in the Smile trial was void of processed foods. This is because they cause inflammation in the brain and body, which can contribute to mood disorders. They often contain a lot of sugar, which in the short term, can give you a high, but with any high comes a big CRASH. This happens to me: I become lethargic and more on edge or moody.

The problem is that it is a cycle. When we’re tired, we reach for junk and sugar. When we’re stressed, we reach for highly processed foods. BUT if we can break the cycle and eat something nutritious and filling, we will feel better and in turn, will not reach for those junk foods.

I really feel the positive effect on my body when I eat whole foods, so it puts me off eating junk. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat processed food now and again, and I am a sucker for Doritos. And chocolate is just the best. But what I prefer to do, and a tip for you is to try junk food that is less processed and has fewer ingredients. For example, some crisps (chips if you’re American) can be made with only potato, oil, and a little sea salt. This is much much better than crisps with ‘natural’ flavourings, ‘natural’ colourings, emulsifiers, etc. I will come on to these in another post because there is a lot to unpack as just about anything can be described as ‘natural’.

I love websites that help you eat more natural products. I love iherb because it has healthy snacks on there and it is a great website if you don’t have any health food shops near you. It's also great for expats like me because sometimes I find it difficult to find all the natural healthy things that I used to buy so regularly in London. Natural collection is also a great website for natural things for body products too.

3: Take probiotics
A variety of foods can help our gut but sometimes it may need a little more help and this is where probiotics come in. Signs such as regular bloating, gas, and funny toilet habits may insinuate that you need this extra help. You may have taken antibiotics that have killed the good bacteria or you may eat a lot of meat or processed foods.

Once your gut is flourishing, your brain will follow suit and I really believe they are a worthwhile investment in your health. I took the 12-week programme of Symprove your life because it is so easy: you just take a shot every morning. It’s a water-based bacteria so more bacteria can reach your gut hence making it more effective than probitoic pills. I first saw Deliciously Ella talk about this, so I bought it and it was honestly amazing. Seriously. I was amazed at how good I felt. Less bloating and I felt mentally more clear-headed.

If you would rather take a pill, I like these ones from Amazon or alternatively, you could you go to iHerb as previously mentioned – they have everything! 

4: Eat regularly to keep blood sugars stable
From my experience, my anxiety and panic increase if I am in public and I don’t feel well. This often happens if I haven’t eaten in a while because my blood sugars are low. I feel dizzy and light-headed and it makes me feel very out of control. Feeling out of control is a large source of anxiety for many people, so this could be something to consider.

I don’t know about you but I have to snack regularly to feel balanced. Something I miss from England is the Graze snacks. You can sign up for a monthly membership, where you get posted a mixed box of snacks every month. I think it’s amazing because then you don’t need to worry about walking around different shops looking for healthy snacks.

5: Reduce caffeine if you have anxiety
Caffeine stimulates the body and if you suffer from anxiety, caffeine is not really a good idea. I personally don’t drink coffee but that is because I don’t like it (I KNOW, I AM CRAZY!) But, I remember in freshers week of university, I thought it was time to be an adult and I went for a coffee with a friend I had just met. I ordered a latte... yes a LATTE and I ended up in the toilets of Nandos having a panic attack. Choose caffeine free alternatives such as decaf coffee or peppermint tea. You can also get this instant herbal beverage with dandelion which also gives you antioxidant benefits.


6: Have a healthy relationship with alcohol
Alcohol is the WORST for my mental health. If I get drunk in the evening, the whole of the next day is a write-off and I can’t travel very far from home: I am an anxious mess. I am not necessarily anxious about what I said or did, but I get physical panic sensations in my body. Alcohol is a depressant and our brains rely on a delicate balance of chemicals and processes, which can easily be disrupted by alcohol.

Of course you don’t need to go tee-total but especially if you have anxiety, think bout your alcohol intake and whether this is a contributing factor to any poor mental health. I know that having alcohol-free days can really help some people.

I used to have the philosophy: get super drunk and suffer the consequences the next day or drink nothing at all. I have now learnt to have a more balanced approach to alcohol and I will sometimes drink a glass of wine with a meal, for example without much effect on my mentality. So thankfully it has improved! And I do get drunk now and again (albeit not often!)


Conclusion
I hope that I have convinced you how important diet and nutrition is to your mental health and that you will try even just one of those tips to improve your mental health. If you were to eat a variety of plant-based foods, reduce your junk food intake, take probiotics, eat regularly, and monitor caffeine and alcohol, I think you will be surprised what can happen! They all seem like big things but if your mental health is poor, you know that it is worth it. I know that if I knew this 10 years ago, I would have done anything!

Do you do any of these tips? If so, let me know in the comments below.

As always, I am wishing you a life full of health and happiness!

Alice.


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