Friday, 25 July 2014

10 Life Hacks for Better Health



So you have a shelf full of vegan and raw vegan recipe books, a Vitamix, a dehydrator, a cupboard full of natural supplements and superfood powders and a pantry full of organic produce... great! Now all you have to do is get it all inside you. Regularly. In decent quantities. And that's where a few life hacks might come in handy, because it may seem a tad daunting to incorporate all of this into your busy daily life. But do it you must, if you want to glow with health and vitality, (not to mention getting your money's worth out of all that specialist equipment). Now I don't want to come across all smug and self-righteous because I struggled to organise myself into healthier habits for years and it was only really when I met my fabulously wholefoodie husband that I began to get to grips with it all. I'm probably not completely there yet either... So here are a few tips to get you into- and keep you in- those healthy habits:

  1. Look at your relationship with food: Do you really listen to your body? Do you only eat "healthy" because secretly you're afraid of putting on weight? Do you eat just for the flavour or do you love the energised buzz from something like a glass of kale juice? Don't be afraid to eat in quantity, especially if your diet is mainly raw. Let me explain: If your going to get all the nutrients your body needs daily, let alone what it needs to go beyond just maintenance and into healing and health promotion, you'll have to eat a variety of different foods daily. Yes, you will take in calories on the way, but that's okay because we need calories to function. As long as you don't eat junk foods and get extra "empty" calories, and you get some excercise, your figure will not suffer. Studies are now showing that it's not so much the calories per se but which food groups you get them from that counts*. (500 calories from chips is not going to be assimilated in the same way as 500 calories from an avocado and banana smoothie with rye bread toast.) Humans are designed to be active so fuel up, be active, rest, refuel, then go and run around some more...
  2. Plan when you can: Approach your daily nutrition as you would any other routine task if you were at work and organise carefully. Then carry it all out conscientiously.  At first, you may even need to have a list on your fridge door (or in your head) of when you are going to have which foods/ meals to eat, when you are going to make that litre of hemp milk or what times you need to water your beansprouts. This way, it's much easier to keep up those good health routines. Most importantly, don't forget to eat/ drink all that good stuff at regular intervals! You may want to do certain things in the morning that will set you up for the day's healthy eating, like make plant milks, filter tap water, grind or toast seeds, water sprouts, make bread etc. Perhaps there is an afternoon or evening which you can devote to stocking up on home made vegan cheese, raw crackers, kale chips etc. for the week ahead. If you fall in through the front door exhausted after a day out at work and head straight for the biscuit tin or the crisps to keep you awake (like I do if I'm not careful!) make sure you have fruit, nuts and seeds in whatever form you like (dried fruit bars, roasted and spiced etc.), kale chips, a smoothie or some chia pudding in the fridge. Even if they are left over from that morning or the night before, it's still better than junk food. After a while, it will all come together seamlessly, with hardly a second thought, and your body will be so happy with what you're putting into it you genuinely won't crave junk any more.
  3. Water:  Water is vital to all life, and we generally don't drink nearly enough pure water. When you are properly hydrated, you feel more alert, you have less of a tendency to get headaches, your organs function better and your eyes and skin look fantastic. Under normal circumstances, aim for 1 1/2 to 2 litres of water daily. Carry a water bottle around with you, especially at work or school. Stainless steel/ glass bottles are best; avoid aluminium or plastic. Keep it by your bed and reach for it first thing. Do whatever you feel you need to do to your water to make it cleaner and more palatable- filter, ozonate, etc. If you don't like drinking plain water, then squeeze a little fresh lemon or lime juice in for flavour.
  4. Smoothie time: If you have decide to have a smoothie every day for breakfast, which by the way is an excellent way to get plenty of nutrients in one go, don't be daunted by the washing up or noise of the blender; have a smoothie bowl instead. This simply involves throwing everything you would have put into the blender into a bowl with maybe some wholegrain cereal like oats or muesli, picking up a spoon and eating it. Simple!
  5. Get sprouting: If you grow your own sprouts and put love and care into them, you are much more likely to eat them than if they were rotting in the fridge in a little plastic bag from the shop. Your own sprouts will be fresher and more vitalising than anything you can buy. And just how hard is it to grab a handful off the windowsill and munch on them?
  6. Fruit bowl: Make sure you have a bowl of fresh and tempting fruit where you can easily get to it if you fancy a snack. It's amazing how many kitchens/ dining rooms don't have this, so if yours is one of those, put it right. Now.
  7. Use probiotics: You can buy live soya or coconut yoghurts, kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut and live miso. These all help alkalise the body, combat candida yeast infection and populate the gut with "friendly" bacteria that help digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Traditional societies who take probiotic foods tend to be freer from disease and live longer on average, like the Hunza and the Maasai peoples of The Himalayas and Africa respectively. If you are on a budget, making some of these things yourself can be a thrifty and rewarding option, as long as you make sure you actually find time to do it. (See no. 2.)
  8. Omega wisdom: Omega oils are essential for good health. Get the right balance of these every day by making our four seed mix. This is ground hemp, flax, chia and pumpkin seeds which you can make and keep in a jar in the fridge. Even if this is the only healthy habit you do regularly, you will see the difference in your skin, hair and hormone regulation.  Add it to breads, sauces and soups, or sprinkle into cereals, fruit salads, yoghurt and smoothies. Use at least a tablespoon of this daily. Easy!
  9. Exercise: Yes, we all know that exercise benefits your cardiovascular health, your joints and pretty much everything in your body. But how many of us are actually doing enough? According to the NHS, adults under 65 need at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise per week. You don't have to join a gym or tennis club or yoga class if that's not your thing- it can be as simple as walking a bit more, going swimming regularly, or getting those trainers on and going for a run. Or get into gardening. Or put some favourite music on and dance like no-one's watching. (These last 3 things are free, so there's really no excuse now, is there?)
  10. Make the commitment: Yes, you are worth it! And so are your loved ones. Once you have started out on your healthier lifestyle, take regular note of the benefits you are feeling and you'll want to continue.
*Patrick Holford: "The New Optimum Nutrition Bible", Piatkus Books Ltd, 2004

Hope these tips are helpful, and if you have any health-related life hacks, please share!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

More Budget Vegan Beauty Products

The lovely lineup looks good enough to eat ! (But please don't)
Continuing my quest for budget beauty that doesn't cost lives: This time I've been to Superdrug again, and Poundland for some colourful, cruelty- free bargains, with mixed results. 

 Let's start at Poundland:
Original Source Vanilla and Raspberry Handwash: Certainly no complaints here; it's great to get Original Source products for around half the normal price, and this is a sweet-smelling and gentle handwash that's perfect for the bathroom. They also stock the Tea Tree Handwash, another favourite of mine. There are usually also Original Source shower gels to be had from here, though the choice is rather hit-and-miss.

On to Superdrug:
Original Source Lime Shower Gel: the only reason I didn't take my chances in Poundland for this was that Superdrug were having a half price sale on Original source items, and there was more choice here. The males in my family tend to like the zinginess of this citrus-y gel, and so it caters for everyone; a great way to reduce bathroom clutter, I find, is to get products that everyone likes and can use.
Superdrug Tea Tree and Pink Grapefruit Face Wash: This smells amazing, and it's all I can do to stop myself from drinking it out of the tube of a morning... but maybe I've been spoilt with the Ayumi Turmeric and Bergamot face wash I had before because I find this one a wee bit too harsh. It is laden with sls (sodium laureth sulphate, a nasty chemical that can do nasty things) and maybe more suitable for ultra-oily teenage skins than my forty-something combination skin. I only use it at night, after being out all day, for a thorough cleanse. That said, it is very reasonably priced, at £3.29 (at the time of writing).
Superdrug uplifting Red Cherry and Fig Shampoo (£1.99 for 400ml) and Conditioner (£1.99 for 400ml): I also use the coconut shampoo and conditioner in this range, which are good for moisturising the hair, but for their beautiful, lingering fragrance and volumising effect these are my favourites. The fruitiness of cherry combines beautifully with the sweet, almost honey-like scent of a laden fig tree in the sun- and there's something almost sandalwood/ musk-y in there too. I'll be buying these again. (At the moment Superdrug own brand shampoos and conditioners are on offer as well, so you can get the shampoo and conditioner together for £3.)

PS: Original Source products carry the Vegan Society approved mark wherever applicable (some of their stuff has honey) and vegan Superdrug products are labelled as suitable for vegans and carry the BUAV symbol to show they are not animal-tested.


                                                           Happy vegan bathing!