Eat Your Sunscreen

What if I told you that you could protect your skin from sun damage by altering what you eat? I’m going to guess your reaction would be fairly similar to mine: excited. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a nice, cruelty-free and non-greasy sunscreen. But if I can boost my skin’s self-protective mechanisms with some of the foods that I consume, then why the hell not?

According to 2014 data from Cancer Research UK, 86% of melanomas were preventable. That makes you think, doesn’t it? All the stress and pain that comes with skin cancer which could have been avoided with better self-care.

When our skin is exposed to the sun, melanogenesis occurs. This is the process whereby skin pigment melanin is produced in melanosomes by melanocytes. This is what gives us our tan. Ultraviolet rays can cause cellular damage, so our skin has to have some sort of protective mechanism to prevent frazzling. That’s where the melanin steps up. It’s pretty remarkable really. It’s also the pigment behind our eye and hair colour.

But even with melanogenesis, cell damage can still occur in the form of DNA lesions. Our bodies have protective mechanisms that allow for these and can correct them to a certain extent, but once equilibrium has been surpassed, that’s when danger strikes.

Let’s talk about lycopene. This red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, papaya and red carrots was shown to have tremendous sun-protecting benefits. A study was carried out on a group of women who were used to burning very easily in the sun. They were asked to eat tomato paste (known to contain high levels of lycopene) every day for 12 weeks prior to being exposed again and what was found was a 30% reduction in burning! It’s no substitute for sunscreen of course, but a definite help in protecting the most sensitive of skins.

Ketchup is an easy source of lycopene, but at only 2.5mg per tablespoon, it’s not enough. Consider tomato paste instead, at a whopping 75.4mg per cup or a wedge of watermelon which will provide about 13mg.

Next up we’ve got vitamin B3, otherwise known as nicotinamide. This has been shown to prevent skin cancer in those who are considered ‘high risk’ patients. It is found in trace amounts in many multivitamins, otherwise can be obtained from green vegetables, nuts and mushrooms.

This is really key in patients who have already been diagnosed with milder skin cancers. Supplementing with B3 was shown to have a 23% decrease in the likelihood of these patients developing another cancer.

Finally, let’s discuss Vitamin D. Because while the sun can hurt us, it also really benefits us if we’re exposed in the right amount. Vitamin D is metabolised when UVB rays come into contact with the skin. It is a steroid hormone that prevents a whole host of chronic illnesses as well as fighting short-term infections like cold and flu. It helps regulate calcium and phosphate in the body and a deficiency can cause bone deformities. The key to generating vitamin D is to expose as much surface area of your skin as possible to sunlight, as close to solar noon as possible for as long as possible without getting burned. A pretty staggering finding is shown below:

Having optimum vitamin D levels (70 ng/ml) could prevent 16 different types of cancer including breast, ovarian and prostate.

But what happens when you simply can’t get out in the sun? Perhaps it’s the dead of winter, or maybe you have a demanding job that’s indoors and you work long hours. This is where supplements can come in. You can either buy supplements in the form of pills, or you can enjoy the intake through delicious foods. Do some research and you’ll see that things like oily fish, red meat and eggs all crop up. None of these are vegan-friendly, however. So let’s instead talk veggie options.

  1. Mushrooms – They naturally contain vitamin D, however a cool trick is to leave them in the sunlight to boost levels. Then, eat up! Seems mushrooms really are the one when it comes to powerful prevention. Hello portobello burgers at BBQs this summer…
  2. Plant-based milks – Consider fortified milks as an ideal and easy source of vitamin D. Whether it’s almond, soy, or oat that you’re chugging, check the ingredients list and see what’s included as a helpful addition.
  3. Tofu – Check your tofu ingredients because it’s likely that this too has been fortified. Job done.

If you needed another reason to consider eating more healthily and sun exposure is a risk where you live, consider these protective foods to help yourself out a little. The same goes for including more vitamin D in your diet if your problem is not getting enough sun. For something that can be so easily prevented, skin cancer is incredibly common. Keep your sunscreen handy, but enjoy the deliciousness too.

Photo via Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

miso soup

For some reason, when I hear the word fermented, I think of it as being synonymous with festering. It’s not. That’s such a putrid, incorrect association that was so unfortunately formed in one of my synapses. But there we go. No, fermentation is actually the chemical breakdown of a substance by one or more microorganisms that convert sugars to acids, gases or alcohol. And when it comes to foods, fermentation makes things better (not like festering, which means something gets worse…). I’ve just finished a course of antibiotics and I believe that stuffing my face full of fermented foods has made all the difference. The usual side-effects that I get were not to be seen, so they clearly did something! And I’ll definitely be carrying on with having them in my diet for numerous other reasons.

Fermented foods include the likes of sauerkraut, kimchee, miso, kombucha, probiotic yoghurt, natto, tempeh, and so many others that you may not have heard of. They’re pungent, acquired-taste-required foods that I feel are losing the battle to the more bland and processed foods on the market. Sure, they’ve got a noticeable taste, but adjust your palette and you’ll be loving them in no time. Especially when you think about all the good that they can do for your body.

When you hear about fermented foods being described as those that are full of bacteria, I realise how that might make you wince. But make no mistake – these are good bacteria. Not the kind that will make you ill. They are species that aid our bodily functions. These include aiding digestion, boosting the immune system, keeping our, ahem, downstairs regions free of nasties like thrush and UTIs, boosting healthier skin, and increasing energy levels. You see, pumping your system full of good bacteria forces out the bad bacteria and yeast that can otherwise take over. The good outcompetes the bad. And these common species fall within two genera: Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp,.

Bifidobacterium spp. are natural inhabitants of our gut, vagina and mouth. Treatments where Bifidobacterium was given to those suffering from colitis was found to reduce inflammation in patients and improve rates of remission. That’s pretty astounding when you think about it. But it doesn’t have to be limited to those suffering from a terrible bowl condition. It reduces inflammation caused by any irritating foods and will combat nasty bloating. There’s also evidence for it helping IBS sufferers, so if you’re one of the many, definitely start consuming.

Then there’s Lactobacillus spp. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most popular for its ability to prevent thrush caused by candida, as well as helping with the gut. It creates by-products that include lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide when it metabolises the foods in our body. These kill off candida yeast. Candida are found naturally in our body and in low numbers do no harm. In fact, they even aid functions like digestion. But when we consume too many sugary carbohydrates, they proliferate. When this happens, it’s bad news. They make us feel tired, cause various autoimmune diseases, cause vaginal infections, make us irritable and make us crave yet more sugary food.

Probiotics are a healthy addition to the diet of anyone at any time, but they really come into their own for those on antibiotics or those having eaten irritating, processed foods. I’ve just been dealing with the former, unfortunately. And I can say from first-hand experience that they have done me the world of good. I’ve had to take antibiotics a good few times in my twenty-six years and every time I do I am met with nausea and thrush. Every. Single. Time. And it sucks. But it’s normal. If you’ve suffered from the same thing, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone! Nausea is listed as a common side effect, but I read about thrush being this ‘very rare’ potential side effect and I’m like, ‘but everyone I know who takes antibiotics gets thrush?’ *bewildered shrug*.

Antibiotics kill off all the bacteria in your body. The aim is to kill what’s made you sick, but a negative side effect is killing everything else off in the process. This includes the healthy, wonderful helpers that keep our bodily functioning nice and efficiently. Combating these side effects can be done by consuming probiotics, whether that’s in food form or in a pill. I put sauerkraut on everything I could this past week, ate a bowl of miso soup every day and took an L. acidophilus capsule daily with a meal. The trick, however, is to try to consume these as far apart from your antibiotics doses as possible, to minimise how many are killed by the antibiotic. I took my first antibiotic when I woke up, but didn’t take my second until 3-4pm, so lunch around midday was a great time to get the probiotics in my system. The same thing occurred for dinner. My last dose of antibiotics was around 10pm, so dinner around 6 or 7pm gave me another opportunity to get my fill. The result? I suffered no negative side effects. Pretty incredible, considering what I’ve experienced in the past.

While I love the strong flavours of kimchi and sauerkraut, they’re obviously not the kinds of foods I’ll be eating every day for the rest of my life now that I’m off the meds. However, I now think of them as delicious medicines, in a weird way. If I’m going to have a veggie dog in a white bread roll, a sauerkraut topping will definitely help the digestion along. Or if I ever have a heavy lunch of pizza and dough balls, an afternoon miso soup will do wonders.

No one likes the bloat, or feeling like their body is heavy and holding on to all that processed, difficult-to-digest material. Do yourself a favour and introduce probiotics as a way of helping yourself along. I know I certainly will be. Now to go make myself some kimchi, because ohmygodit’sthebest. Recipe might follow soon on that one, hmm…

Probiotics! What are your thoughts?!

Save

Josh Eggleton

This weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Bristol Foodies Festival. One of 10 Foodies Festivals across the UK this summer, the Bristol special took place on Durdham Downs. Three days of deliciousness against a backdrop of whispering park land and good grooves included everything from a cake theatre to demonstrations from top chefs. I had family in town for the weekend and all being enthusiastic foodies themselves, the universe really had aligned perfectly and so of course we spent Sunday scoffing our way round.

The weather could not have been better and we could smell the BBQs all fired up from across The Downs. Upon arrival we headed straight to the Chefs Theatre to sign up for Josh Eggleton’s afternoon slot. This local lad is a Michel Star Chef at The Pony & Trap down in Chew Magna. Having heard nothing but good things about said gastropub, I simply had to see what he would be wowing us with. The theatre tickets are free, but on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you attend one of these festivals, I recommend checking out the timetable ahead of time and getting your tickets upon arrival so you don’t miss out. The four areas worth paying a visit are: The Chefs Theatre, The Cakes & Desserts Theatre, The Drinks Theatre and Kids Cookery Theatre. See what appeals to you before you go so you don’t miss out. *Vegan readers: Sarah Sibley will be demonstrating a vegan chocolate & raspberry bundt at all of the festivals, so be sure to get a ticket for that one (swoon)!*

Until our 2pm Egglton-extraordinaire event came round, we were free to roam, tummy-first. The first port of call was melt-in-the-mouth liquid nitrogen sorbet from Whipsmiths. I opted for lemon & elderflower. It was fascinating to watch them create the treat right there on the spot and even better to taste. Post-ice, we did a recce of the site. This took us past coconut water, specialist liquors, a sexy cocktail bar playing an excellent selection of lounge music, stall-after-stall of street food and a yoga tent! Who knew this would be included?!

As I’m on the subject, I’ll mention that one of the things that rather quickly jumped out at me is how well-balanced this festival felt. I’m a plant-based eater and always feel quite put off when food festivals are all about the meat and not much else. I feel like it’s a cop out of getting creative with your cuisine. If you’re in the same boat as me, you need not worry at all. The Foodie Festivals do things right. There is plenty on offer that you can and will want to eat. Plus I really appreciated the yoga ‘wellness’ element thrown in here in Bristol. It was just one of the ways that this festival was able to add in something unexpected and wonderfully wholesome for you and your family to enjoy.

After a chillax in the sunshine, we headed into the cool of the Chef’s Theatre where Eggleton mesmerised us with his years of knowledge and expertise. I loved how he bigged up vegetables and emphasised the importance of eating local and natural foods. He’s opening up another Salt & Malt in Wapping Wharf soon and it sounds like he’s got great plans to give back to RNLI via specialist Monday-night menus. One more reason to love the guy, if his cooking doesn’t already blow you away.

With 8 Foodie Festivals left across the UK, I recommend planning a visit to one near you this summer. London kicks off on the Bank Holiday weekend (May 27th-29th) followed by Newcastle, Birmingham, Blackheath, Tatton Park, Edinburgh, Alexandra Palace and finally Oxford from September 1st-3rd.

Bristol Foodies Festival

Exotic Tagine Wiltshire ChilliWhipsmithsJosh EggletonBristol Foodies FestivalBristol City Yoga

Bristol Foodies Festival

Bristol Foodies Music

Save

Save

Save

Save

Vegan Brownies

For the month of May, I’ve decided to take a break from all junk food. This isn’t as difficult as I’m sure it is for many others. Most of the time my meals are home-cooked, vegetable-dense and fresh. But my big thing is baking. I LOVE baking. And I bake frequently. But while I love the therapeutic process, it’s a lot of sugar. Let’s be honest. I guess it doesn’t affect me so much if I’m passing on the goods, but if they’re staying under my roof? Well…

These days, my cakes are vegan. And generally speaking the recipes I follow opt for sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, agave and date syrup whenever possible. Otherwise, it’s unrefined cane sugar. However, sugar is sugar at the end of the day. And then there’s flour. Too much flour isn’t the best either. SO I decided to put something I’d read about to the test: sugar-free, gluten-free brownies – wait for it – with just THREE ingredients!

This recipe is super quick, convenient and can be made ahead of time. I think of these brownies as both as a dessert and a snack. They’re a great bite to have after the gym, as a mid-morning snack at work, or to end a meal with a treat. I cannot recommend them enough.

Ingredients

3 Ripe bananas

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 Cup nut butter (in the below I’ve used almond butter, but I’ve also made mixing almond and peanut, or just using peanut. Experiment and let me know which is your favourite!)

Process

  1. Preheat over to 180 C and grease a small round or square brownie tin
  2. Blend all ingredients together
  3. Smooth batter into tin and bake for 20 minutes (or until inserted skewer comes out clean)
  4. Let cool completely
  5. Slice and refrigerate – these definitely taste best cold from the fridge. Voila!

3 Ingredient Brownies

Brownie Batter

Vegan Brownies

Instagram Avocado

There’s no denying that these days there is a particular ideal that we strive for. Or feel we ought to strive for. It’s the kind of lifestyle that all the healthy lifestyle ‘become a green goddess’ sites are flogging. All the top Instagrammers are snapping it. All the popular Youtubers are promoting it. It’s the chia-seed-sprinkling, smoothie-bowl-consuming, yoga-doing, quinoa-basking lifestyle. Haven’t you heard of it?

What ever happened to eating local? That one fell by the wayside some time ago, I guess. It’s not trendy enough to consume different variations of root vegetables in the UK in winter time. God forbid we shine the spotlight on bread and potatoes to get us through the coldest months! No, let’s focus on imported goods that really aren’t that fresh or tasty by the time they get to us. At least in comparison to their foreign brothers and sisters. Eat a Mexican avocado and you won’t even be able to look at the ones in Sainsbury’s next time you’re in there.

So I’m totally going to put it out there: I AM GUILTY! I am a maple-syrup-drizzling, almond-milk-drinking, tofu-wolfing, guacamolivore through and through. I love food and am forever experimenting with new recipes, preferably void of animal-derived ingredients.

However, the gut instinct tells me that it really is best to eat local. Because local is fresh. Fresh is highest in nutrients. Nutrients = body love. So I’ve compiled some research on some of my fashionable, imported staples to look at the environmental footprint that I am contributing to.

  1. QUINOA: a grain generally eaten like rice. It’s gluten-free and easy to digest, plus packed with loads of essential vitamins and minerals. Is it any wonder that this crop with the frequently-butchered name is so popular amongst the healthy-eaters across the globe? But let’s talk about origin. Quinoa has been a staple of the Andes since way back when. Bolivians, Peruvians and Ecuadorians happily chowed down on quinoa without qualm until it rose in popularity around the world. Now, this cash crop is causing devestating effects. The demand for quinoa increases and farmers are selling more and more of what’s being grown. The local stash is dwindling because of it. And because it’s a source of income, farmers sell their quinoa for export and are eating nutrient-poor staples like rice and pasta instead, thus depleting their health. And for locals wanting to eat it, sadly now because prices have increased so much, many can’t afford it.
  2. AVOCADOS: those sensitive green souls. Yes they infuriate us, doing the dance to perfectly ripe so quickly that many of us miss it, but get a good one and you almost feel as though you can die happy right then and there. Rich in many vitamins and healthy fats, they are delicious on their own or used in many recipes as a dairy substitute due to their exquisite creaminess. But the problem is that demand is sky-high, with so many of us wanting them several times a week as part of our normal diet. And this is bad news for the Mexican landscape. Because farming avocados is so profitable, many farmers are ignoring the law and destroying mature pine forest to make way for more avocados. And there’s also the issue of pestiside use and water consumption, specifically 272 litres per handful of mature avocados produced. For drought-ridden California, it means growth isn’t such a smart choice.
  3. ALMOND MILK: an excellent dairy substitute for your morning cereal. I adore almond milk. I think out of all the dairy alternatives, almond is my favourite. But much like the aforementioned water-guzzling avocados, most of our almonds come from California and they too drink up all the water you can throw at them; 5 litres per almond to be exact. Not only that, but California’s almond bloom – which occurs every February – relies on 85% of US honeybee hives to pollinate them. It’s the largest managed pollination event anywhere in the world. Pretty mind-boggling! But there are many concerns with bee health declining due to pesticide use and time on the road being ferried to California from across the country.

The environmental cost of transporting foods around the world is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And a diet consisting of imported foods uses roughly four times the energy compared to a local diet. But trying to grow tropical foods in the far north and south or vice versa isn’t the answer either. The change in climate and biodiversity from where the foods are naturally grown means intensive temperature, pesticide and fertiliser use is required. That ultimately outweighs the costs of shipping them in.

And if you want to look at another aspect of what is considered inefficient energy distribution of food, this study from Cornell published 20 years ago found that the grain currently used to feed US livestock could instead be used to feel 800 million people. To put that into perspective, the current US population is just over 300 million.

So what’s the answer? Let’s be honest; we can’t really revert to living on an entirely local diet because we’ve developed a palate satiated only by the colourful variety of produce we’ve come to know and love. The variety is healthier and more exciting, after all. It would simply cause uproar if we had our exotic foods taken away. But rather than reversing things – which human nature rarely has a tendency to do – what about progression? What about renewable energy, intelligent farming and zero-carbon transport? What about taking new approaches to the old-school way we’re doing things? Or, if you want to go local, I bow down to you.