Veganism

Veganism is a lifestyle choice, stemming from the desire not to harm or exploit animals. It is growing in popularity as a result of concerns for the planet. In terms of blood pressure, cholesterol levels and BMI, the vegan diet is also considered more healthful. 

Eat well, feel happy.

IMPORTANT: These ideas do not constitute dietary advice. Please consult your doctor if you’re concerned about your diet or have an allergy or intolerance of any kind (including headaches, skin issues, digestive discomfort or chronic fatigue). A qualified Nutritionist may be able to help.

Plant-Based

Dairy

People commonly cite a love of cheese as a reason for not going vegan. Making your own could be a rewarding experiment, and shop-bought alternatives are improving all the time (try Bute Island Sheese, and Mouse’s Favourite!). 

Alternatively, calcium is found in watercress, kale, spinach, millet, some seeds, nuts and legumes, as well as some fruit, such as figs and oranges. Milk alternatives may also be fortified with calcium (soya, almond, rice, hemp, coconut, oat, etc.), although environmental impact may affect your choice (the amount of water required to produce almond milk, for example). 

Some people express concern for the devastation of forests for soya production, although the vast majority is grown to feed farm animals. Soya is also reported to affect oestrogen levels, although this would depend on quantity consumed. You may find research around soya and men’s health interesting, however, if you are at all concerned.

Other alternatives to dairy, which are now more widely available, include ice-cream (try Booja-Booja and Oatly), cream and custard (e.g. Alpro) and artisan chocolate (e.g. Booja-Booja and Hipo Hyfryd truffles). Numerous dark chocolate brands, as well as raw cacao nibs are also dairy free (over 70% cacao is said to be antioxidant, good for brain function and in lowering blood pressure).

Protein

We only need a handful of protein with each meal. Beans, peas, lentils, quinoa, nuts, flax, hemp, soya, tempeh and seeds all fall into this category. Small amounts of protein are also found in many other things, such as asparagus and avocados. Iron can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashews, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal.

Omegas (essential fatty acids), commonly found in oily fish, can be found in Hemp, ground flaxseed and products such as Udo’s Choice™ oil blend, which are good sources of omegas 3 and 6. These fatty acids contribute to normal blood cholesterol. Omega 3 may also help fight depression and anxiety.

Essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are important for many functions in the body. Deficiencies can lead to symptoms such as tiredness and premature ageing of the skin. Tryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid involved in the synthesis of serotonin in the body. It can help with low mood, fatigue and lack of motivation, and can be purchased in capsule form. Serotonin being an important neurotransmitter for normal brain and nerve functioning. 

Note: DO NOT take supplements of 5-HTP if you are on anti-depressant medication, as your serotonin levels may get out of hand. 

Choices

Alcohol

The ingredients in alcohol are not always apparent, but supermarket labelling is improving. Animal fat is commonly used in the distilling process (not in Germany), but may not be present in the end product. Apps, such as Barnivore, list vegan drinks (e.g. Gordon’s Gin), so that people can make their own choice. 

Raw

This is a diet of over 70% raw vegan food or cooked below 118 degrees. Meals consist largely of fruit, vegetables nuts and seeds. With the argument that cooking destroys a lot of nutrients and enzymes, raw is seen as a return to a more natural way of life. Some people even claim that a raw food diet cleared up their health conditions. 

This is an extreme dietary choice, requiring a lot of invention and research, but it is also something that can be done once in a while as a ‘detox’ for the digestive system.

Raw tip: soak nuts and seeds to make them easier to digest. 

Pranic

Eating positive pranic food is a mindful option, about increasing life force energy in the body (prana) by way of what we consume. Eating negative or zero pranic food is about taking energy away, causing lethargy, etc. Meat would be negative, due to the many hours it takes to digest (if left for that long in a warm environment, it would go off). Fruit, nuts and vegetables only take a few hours to digest, so are classed as positive. Black pepper and turmeric are classed as rich in prana also. Interestingly, garlic is considered negative if consumed daily, because it is strongly medicinal.

Honey

Bees are a much exploited creature. We rely on them to pollinate the plants we eat, but with brokers shipping them all over the world in mass beekeeping operations, some vegans believe that the use of bee labour is immoral. The brilliant book ‘A World Without Bees’ (Benjamin & McCallum) explains the possible reasons behind Colony Collapse Disorder and how poorly we’d fair without bees.

Silk, Wool, Leather

The cruel treatment of animals in intensive farming (including cattle, sheep and the angora rabbit) leads many vegans to boycott all animal products, including in clothing, footwear and furnishings. Note that the silkworm is now extinct in the wild and that millions of prematurely sheared sheep die from exposure every year. Leather is often considered a byproduct of the meat industry. However, the manufacture of leather goods is a billion-dollar industry. If animal protection is important to you, then there are many reasons to avoid their skin also. 

Medicine, Cosmetics

Animal products are widely used by the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Drugs, including painkillers and vitamins, for example, are often encased in gelatine or contain lactose, and many flu vaccines are incubated in egg protein. Additionally, medicines must undergo non-human testing before human testing can take place (prior to licensing). Although cosmetics tested on animals are banned for sale in Europe, many products still contain animal-derived ingredients (including wool grease, cow urine, fish scales and crushed beetles). With a little bit of research, more ethical alternatives can be found.

Medicinal

Apple Cider Vinegar

Organic apple cider vinegar has long been known for its nutritional properties. Try adding a few drops to your water glass (never drink neat).

Ginger

Ginger has medicinal properties. It is anti-oxidant, can help fight infection and treat symptoms, such as nausea and indigestion. It may also help in reducing muscle pain and  in conditions, such as osteoarthritis, as well as helping to lower cholesterol and, as such, the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a condiment that can be added to many dishes and drinks. It is widely reported to be anti-oxidant and of benefit in reducing inflammation in the body (such as in arthritis), and may also improve the symptoms of depression. Try in a smoothie or mix with tofu in a pan as an alternative to scrambled eggs.


Check out the Source Newsletter for more notes on plant-based food. 

Below are some easy vegan recipes and nutritional facts to help spark your own ideas and creativity in the kitchen, as I learn how to cook and explore mine. Bon appétit!

Avocado

Avocados contain healthy fats (including  inflammation-reducing oleic acid), fibre, potassium (more than bananas), B vitamins and vitamins D, E and K. 

Guacamole

Mash the flesh of 2 avocados in a bowl.

Finely chop ½ red onion, ¼ chilli, a handful of fresh coriander and 1 tomato and add to the avocado, together with the juice of ½ a lime. Season, mix, taste and add more lime juice or chilli to suit. 

Serve freshly made with chilli flakes on hot sourdough bread or with alfalfa sprouts, sliced cherry tomatoes, vegan sausage or other toppings you like. 

Beans

Beans are good for heart health (cholesterol and blood pressure). They are high in fibre and contain iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins. They are an inexpensive and versatile source of plant-based protein.

Mixed Bean Chilli

Fry a chopped onion, red pepper and 2 cloves of garlic in 1tbsp oil for a few minutes. Add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 1 tin of mixed beans (drained), 2 chopped chillies (or 1tsp chilli powder), 1tsp cumin, salt and pepper. Stir in 3tsp vegan gravy granules. Simmer for 10 mins. Serve on brown rice, garnished with parsley.

Beetroot

Beetroot is a good source of fibre, manganese, potassium, calcium, vitamin C and iron. It may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.

Beetroot Risotto

Heat the oven to gas 4, 180C (160C fan, 360F). 

Peel and wedge 500g beetroot and toss in 1 tbsp olive oil. Place on a foiled baking sheet, season and cook for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat 1tbsp olive oil and a knob of margarine in an ovenproof dish. Add 1 chopped onion and 1 clove of crushed garlic, and stir for a few mins. Stir in 250g risotto rice. Add 150ml white wine and cook for 5 mins. Sir in 700ml hot veg. stock. Cover and place in the oven for 25 mins (or until the rice is soft). 

Remove the beetroot. Purée ¼ of it and chop the rest into small pieces. Remove the risotto from the oven. Stir in a handful of grated vegan cheese, the beetroot purée and chopped beetroot. 

Serve with grated vegan cheese.

Blueberries

Blueberries reduce oxidative stress in the body, so are said to be good for brain, heart and immune health, as well as helping with muscle recovery after exercise. They contain vitamins C and K, fibre and manganese.

Blueberry Cake

Preheat oven to gas 4, 180C (160C fan, 360F). Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl (200g self-raising flour, 110g brown sugar, 1 tsp baking powder).

Mix all wet ingredients together separately (150ml plant milk, 75ml sunflower oil, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar).

Combine both mixtures into a smooth batter. Fold in 250g fresh blueberries.

Grease a baking tray with removable base. Pour in the batter and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 30 mins.

Allow to cool and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Broccoli

Broccoli contains fibre, folate, potassium, manganese, iron, and vitamins A, C and K1. It is said to be antioxidant, good for the immune system and helpful in lowering cholesterol.

Chargrilled Broccoli

Separate 2 heads of broccoli into florets and blanch in boiling water for 2 mins. Plunge into a bowl of ice water, drain and leave to dry.

Next, toss with 2tbsp olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. Place a griddle pan on high heat for 5 minutes. Grill the broccoli in batches, turning to char on all sides.

At the same time, place 2tbsl olive oil in a saucepan with 4 crushed cloves of garlic and 2 chopped chillies. Cook on medium heat until the garlic just starts to turn golden.

Pour the oil over the broccoli and toss together. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Celery

Celery is rich in vitamins and minerals, is anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It may help with cardiovascular health, liver disease and rheumatic disorders.

Celery & Almond Soup

Melt 1oz margarine in a pan, sauté 1 chopped onion for a few minutes. Add ¾ head of celery (chopped) and stir for another few minutes. 

Add 1 medium potato (peeled and chopped), 2oz  ground almonds, 1 and ¼ pints of vegetable stock and a bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then simmer with lid for 25 mins (stir occasionally).

Remove bay leaf, liquidise, season and serve garnished with celery leaves.

Note: some people are allergic to celery and nuts.

Kale

Kale is a powerhouse of nutrition, including Vitamins A and C, potassium, iron, calcium and folate.

Kale Smoothie

Chop and blend the following ingredients, adding more water, if needed: 

2 cups of water, 2 large kale leaves, 1 stalk of celery, 1 medium carrot, 1 cored apple, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

Kale Crisps

Preheat oven to gas 4, 180C (160C fan, 360F).

Strip the kale leaves from the stems and tear into small pieces. Make sure the kale is completely dry. Place on a baking tray in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, add 1tsp apple cider vinegar and season lightly with sea salt. Sprinkle with chilli flakes and sesame seeds (optional). Toss to coat completely. 

Bake for 10mins, remove, stir and return to the oven for a further 5mins until crispy and starting to brown, being careful not to let it burn.

Lentils

Lentils are highly nutritious. They are a good source of protein and fibre, and contain B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium.

Red Lentil Dahl

In either coconut oil or olive oil, sweat down an onion and a few chopped cloves of garlic for a few minutes. Stir in 1tsp of cumin seeds, 1 ½ tsps of turmeric and 2tsps of curry powder. 

Stir in ½ packet of red lentils (approx 250g) and add 750ml of vegetable stock (make up 1ltr, so you can add more later, if needed).

Add a tin of coconut milk (400ml). Keep stirring until the lentils turn creamy. Add salt & pepper to taste, plus chopped coriander and spinach, if you want to give it something extra. 

Allow to simmer for 30 mins, adding 1tsp garam masala after 20 mins, stirring occasionally.

This is a warming, nutritious filling meal to have as a side dish, or main event, with brown rice, veggies, bread or all three. Garnish with fresh coriander.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a source of Vitamin D.

Mushroom Stroganoff

Fry 1 diced onion and 3 crushed cloves of garlic in olive oil for a few mins. Add 250g of mixed mushrooms and 1tbsp vegan margarine and cook for a few more mins. Stir in 1tsp dried thyme and 1tsp mustard. Pour in 100ml vegetable stock and 25ml cooking sherry. Bring to the boil, before turning to a very low simmer.

Mix 120ml vegan cream with the juice of 1/2 lemon in a bowl. Carefully stir into the mushroom mix, and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Serve on a bed of tagliatelle or brown rice, garnished with vegan parmesan or parsley.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are high in fibre and contain the antioxidant, beta carotene.

Sweet Potato Fries


Preheat oven to gas 6, 200C (180C fan, 400F). Peel 2 large sweet potatoes and cut lengthwise into sticks or wedges. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with 1tbsp of olive oil (don’t over-oil). Toss to coat.

Mix 1tsp cumin, 1/4tsp paprika, and ½ tsp sea salt together in a small bowl. Sprinkle onto the sweet potatoes. Gently mix until the potatoes are evenly coated.

Spray a baking sheet with coconut or vegetable oil or use a silicone baking mat.

Arrange the sweet potatoes in a single layer and bake for about 30 mins, turning a couple of times to ensure they bake evenly. 

Water

Don’t forget that water is vegan!
Drink enough to replenish your system.

Go with the flow

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