Category Archives: Essential Oils & Natural Foods

How to Make Your Own Cashew Milk

I like making my own cashew milk because its rich and creamy and it tends not to split in coffee or tea. I won’t lie and say I never buy store bought plant milks (because I do), but I try not to do so all the time because commercial manufacturers do add rather a lot of extra unnecessary additives. (However, as with cow’s milk, they do fortify these milks as well, so remember to adequately supplement your diet if you decide to eschew the commercial plant milks entirely.)  Of all the homemade plant milks I’ve made, cashew milk is my most successful one and everyone who has tasted it has loved it. It passes my “milk and cookies test” meaning it is delicious served neat in a glass with a cookie for dunking.

Nutrition-wise, cashews are one of the lowest fat nuts with around 82% of their fat being unsaturated, and of that, 66% is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, like the kind you find in olive oil. It has been found that when added to a low-fat diet, monounsaturated fats can help reduce high triglyceride levels in diabetes patients.  (Triglycerides are the form in which fats are carried in our blood and are what block our insulin receptors from activating and prevent glucose from entering our cells, thus keeping blood glucose levels high and contributing to the diabetes process.)

Cashews are also a great source of copper and a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Its also great news that regular nut eaters tend to be slimmer than non nut-eaters and are also at a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, gallstones and Type 2 Diabetes. Just stick to your portion sizes of roughly 1/3 c of nuts per day.

I make my cashew milk quite extra thick and creamy, but if you want a thinner drink, just add more fresh filtered water in 50ml increments until you get the consistency you like. I also recommend buying cashew pieces because its often cheaper than buying whole cashew pieces. If you’re buying in bulk, make sure you store your cashews in the fridge (for up to 6 months) or the freezer (for up to a year).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic cashew nuts*
  • 6 cups fresh filtered water
  • medjool date*
  • Pinch of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (optional)

Equipment

Method

1. Soak your cashew nuts overnight (or for at least 4 hours) in 2 cups of fresh filtered water with the medjool date and a pinch of salt. You’ll be amazed at how plump and moist the nuts will become after even just a few hours of soaking.

2. After soaking, drain the pre-soaked nuts (and de-pitted medjool date) and add them all to a high speed blender with 4 cups of fresh filtered water. You can now add a pinch of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. This is optional, but I highly recommend it because of how delicious it makes the end product! Blend this mixture on a high speed for 1-2 minutes, depending on how powerful your blender is.

3. Strain the mixture through your nut milk bag* and store in a jar or milk bottle in the fridge. It will keep for up to 3 days.

Tip: You can save any remaining strained nut pulp by freezing it and adding it to cookies or other baked goods at a later date, however if you have a high speed blender, you’re unlikely to have much or any pulp leftover.

cashewsSources: World’s Healthiest FoodsJournal of Biological ChemistryLivestrong, “How Not to Die” by Dr Michael Greger MD



*I’ve popped in a few affiliate links into this post, directly with Nutri Ninja (worldwide) and Amazon (UK), so if you’d like to support what I do here at Our Little Organic Life, then please do shop via these links – you don’t pay any more and I get a small commission. Thanks!

BBC Good Food Show – Summer 2016

So yesterday my friend Amy and I headed over to the ExCel centre in Docklands here in London with our babies to check out the BBC Good Food Show.  I had very kindly been invited by Umi from new start up kefir company, Little Bird Kefir to come visit her at the exhibition and it seemed a wonderful opportunity to see what new foods and producers were out there.

My overall impression of the show was that there are a lot of ‘healthy’ drink companies out there now.  Like, a lot.  These days people know they should avoid sugary soft drinks but they seem to just not want to drink water and there were a plethora of sweet herbal tea and juice or flavoured stevia type drinks on the market.  There also seemed to be a lot of companies selling products to make ‘fat free, sugar free’ baked goods.  Kind of reminds me of the Olestra days of the 1990’s, but these products were marketed as ‘natural’.  I love the catch all marketing use of ‘all natural’ which is essentially meaningless.

But Amy and I had a great time walking around the exhibition and sampling all the goodies.  I always really enjoy chatting to small producers and hearing their stories of how they came to create their business and what they have to say about their products.  They’re so passionate and bursting with pride about what they’ve made.  There were a few products that really stood out for me for various reasons and I thought I’d share them here.

I should also say that I’m not sponsored, paid or compensated in kind by BBC Good Food Shows or any of the producers below, aside from Little Bird Kefir who gave me my ticket, no strings attached, to come sample their kefir.  So a particular thank you to them for giving this mum & blogger a fun day out.

Little Bird Kefir

I love my cultured foods (think sourdough bread and yogurt) and this was – I’m pretty sure – the only cultured food producer at the show.  Umi and her husband have set up this company making kefir, a delicious cultured dairy drink, very similar to yogurt, but with up to 5 times more strains of bacteria than are found in yogurt.  They are really friendly, genuine people.  They don’t hard sell their product at all and are happy to explain a million times to people what kefir is and its benefits.  And their kefir is delicious.  I’m a bit funny about kefir when its over-cultured and gets too sour or bubbly (I’m not one for the carbonated milk thing!) and I’ve run into this a lot with some of the other brands on the market here in the UK, but Little Bird Kefir is very similar to a drinking yogurt.  Unfortunately they’re not quite yet certified organic, and as their kefir is produced in Poland I don’t know quite what that means in terms of the dairy being used.  But when they’re able to clarify that their product is organic, I’ll be ordering it regularly because now that my daughter is moving on to drinking cow’s milk in a bottle, I’d like to introduce a bottle of watered down kefir to her each night, to maintain healthy gut bacteria.  Oh and I think the best part of their business model is that if you live on the UK mainland, you can order their kefir online for home delivery and its priced reasonably enough at 1.5 litres for £8.50, so that you can enjoy it as a daily drink and not just as an expensive occasional treat.

Sukrin Peanut Flour

Where has this been all my life?  Seriously.  I mean it.  Where has peanut powder been all my life?  This stuff is delicious.  And not just ‘healthy’ delicious.  Really delicious.  If you’re familiar with the Mexican candy ‘de la Rosa’ – a little disc of powdery peanut-ey deliciousness, generically called mazapan – it tastes like that.  Concentrated peanut buttery-ness.  I guess you could bake with this like a coconut or almond flour, but where this really comes into its own is when added to frozen banana smoothies or when you use it to make a reconstituted peanut butter by adding water or almond milk. Its more delicious than any actual peanut butter and its completely smooth like the fake, sugary Jif, Skippy type peanut butters.  And I bought a bag of it for only £3 at the show.  (Its normally £5 at Sainsburys or £5.85 direct through the Sukrin website.)  Oh yeah…I guess I should mention the nutrition part now…this powder is 50% protein and a whopping 11% fibre.  So, fill your boots.

Bart ‘n’ Lainy’s Canadian Wild Blueberries

These folks are ADORABLE.  And after chatting to Lainy (Elaine) one of the owners, I can see this business is both a leap of faith and a labour of love for them.  I mean, people here have never seen our small wild blueberries before.  Their berries are imported from Nova Scotia and Maine (not all Canadian then!) and are packaged in glass bottles in a light syrup (which you could stir into yogurt or spoon into the bottom of a champagne glass and top up with prosecco).  I sampled some of their berries and they tasted exactly as they should – nothing like the big cultivated blueberries I’ve become used to.  They’re tiny and delicious and full of that sweet, concentrated, real blueberry flavour.  They’re available at various independent delis and health food shops around the country, but you can order them direct from the owners with free shipping!

Ginger Love

This company is based in Belgium.  They started out as a popular restaurant called Lombardia in Antwerpen, where they serve fresh, raw juices, but realising they couldn’t export their juices and maintain the raw enzyme benefits, they decided to concentrate them into a powder so they could be reconstituted.  Ginger Love is the most popular blend, but they have others as well.  I think there are plenty of sweet drinks on the market, but I like ginger and these have that strong, fresh ginger flavour and they can also be blended with hot water to make a sweet fruity, herbal tea…and I kind of like that. EDIT 2018: I am still buying this stuff occasionally from Holland and Barrett when I see it there.  I love it and it makes a lovely iced tea.

Donat Mg Water

Most people are deficient in magnesium.  And the magnesium in most supplements is in its least bioavailable form, meaning your body isn’t absorbing any of it.  So I liked the idea of this natural magnesium water from Slovenia.  Okay, that’s a lot of food miles for bottled water and for that reason I probably won’t be buying this water very regularly, but as little as 300 ml of this water is enough to meet the RDA for magnesium.  Which is easier than choking down those huge, chalky Cal-Mag ‘horse pills’.   And I also like that its naturally balanced with calcium as well.

The Olive Shop

Okay, I don’t think anybody takes as much pride in sharing how great their food is, as do the Greeks.  And John, the owner of The Olive Shop was no exception.  He had me trying everything they make, just so I could see how delicious it was.  And it was.  They don’t sell a million types of olive oil; just two, an extra virgin olive oil and an organic version.  I bought the litre size tin of EVOO, only realising afterwards that I don’t think it was the organic one, but that’s okay.  They also sell olive pastes, honey, balsamic vinegar (balsamic vinegar with honey…yum!), olives, wild organic mountain herbs and some organic olive oil and botanical based toiletries which their friend makes.  They also sell what they call ‘rock salt’, which isn’t what we would call rock salt (crushed mountain salt), but is in fact, hand scraped from the rocks along the shores of the Peloponnese (Mani, to be specific) during the hottest months of the year.  Although I didn’t taste John’s salt, I can say with confidence that I think this is the most delicious salt in the world, because my Greek friends who live a short distance across the water from Mani buy this same salt harvested from their shoes and it is the only one I use at home now.  I also bought some of the Akess Hamamelis & Helichrysum eye cream (only £9!!!) made by John’s friend and I look forward to trying it in a couple of months when I run out of my current eye cream.

EDIT 2018: I’ve had to remove the link for this because sadly I don’t think they exist anymore.

MaxBurn Fitness Plate

These aren’t a food, but I was kind of intrigued by these vibrating boards.  There were a couple of companies selling them at the show and so I went to the one which looked to be the highest quality in appearance to give them a try.  I always used to enjoy the PowerPlates when I went to the gym, and this is a similar concept, except you don’t hold on to anything.  You can do lower body, abdominal and upper body work on them and they were super easy to use.  The only downside I could see was the staff they’d hired to help customers try them out.  There were two members of staff on hand.  Their booth was empty of other customers and the first staff member I made eye contact just gave me an irritated, dull look and turned around and the second staff member begrudgingly came over and helped me after I asked her to, and answered my questions with as little care or energy as she could possibly do.  I’m not quite sure why or how a new mum in her 30’s with a few pounds to lose WOULDN’T be their target demographic, but apparently not.  Anyway, despite their lackadaisical and zombie-like approach to selling, I liked the product and will give some thought to researching the various brands and perhaps getting one of these for home workouts at some point, because who doesn’t want to burn up to 500 calories in a half hour workout session?

So the BBC Good Food Show is still on all day today here in London, in case you want to go meet some of these people and try out their goods.  Check out their website as they’ll also be at the NEC in Birmingham next month and at Hampton Court Palace in August.  I’m hoping to check out the Taste of London show next month as well, so will share my thoughts on that if I make it.

There were other sellers I haven’t mentioned above, like the big organic company, Seeds of Change, who had an adorable little faux garden with fresh vegetables plopped on the earth in little terraced beds and little watering cans for kiddies to pretend to water the plants.  There were also some beautiful, brightly glazed natural terracotta ceramics designed by the owner at Bristol-based Collectively Artisan (I’m afraid I didn’t catch his name) and then made by potters in Spain and Greece.  (We both bought some little tapas bowls for serving snacks in at home.)  And my friend Amy couldn’t stop raving about the Limpopo Biltong stand selling biltong and drywors which she had to visit twice and then stocked up on their dried meats to take home with her.

Overall, I wish there had been more organic producers and I wish I’d arrived earlier in the day because there were a few stalls I just didn’t get to see and had wanted to (such as Arctic Power Berries with their powdered berry food supplements, as I’m quite fascinated by the idea of them and Oppo ice cream made with milk, coconut oil and stevia) but by 4.15 we simply had to leave to avoid the Friday rush hour traffic.  (Think getting a large stroller onto the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf!)  We had a nice time and I’d like to thank all the producers and sellers who took the time to chat to us.

 

 

Product Review: Karma Cola

Okay, so although I’m not a habitual drinker of sweet drinks, I think all you guys know I like the occasional cola with a veggie burger or pizza. I don’t drink Coke or Pepsi because they are…well…Coke and Pepsi. I don’t need to patronise you by explaining the dangers of the GMO high fructose corn syrup and aspartame that sweetens most sweet tasting drinks on the market, but in case you need reminding why its so dangerous, or if this is news to you entirely, just have a quick read of my article from last summer on Alternative Natural Sodas.

I know a cola addiction is a real problem for a lot of people. Even for some people who know enough to know better. You already know they’re not great for your body and health.  The colas on the market aren’t organic, so they’re not great for the planet. And they’re not fair trade, so they’re not great for the people producing the raw ingredients.  Until now.  The folks over at Karma Cola have made the first fair trade (real) cola in the UK and they were nice enough to send me over a selection of their fair trade, organic sodas to try out.

I want to say at this point, that 99% of the time you should JUST DRINK WATER.  Yes I am reviewing a soft drink today, but that does not change my view that sodas are meant to be a treat.  And I think the people at Karma Cola get that, which is why each of their drinks is quite special – in taste and packaging – and they feel special to drink.

So here’s what I thought of what they sent me:

Karma Cola

My 5 minute review in the video below pretty much sums up my views on this drink. But to recap, this cola has a satisfying mouth feel because its made with real cane sugar and it has the right amount of carbonation. There are distinct spicy and botanical notes that come from the nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, lime and orange oils used in it (and presumably the cola nuts themselves…though I have no idea what a cola nut tastes like). There is also a clear citrusy-ness to it that reminds you of when you order a Coke while holidaying in Europe and it comes with a slice of lemon in it.  But this is nicer because the flavour comes from the Sicilian lemons they use. In short, I like it. I think its the best tasting natural cola on the market.

Lemony Lemonade 

Okay, first off, isn’t the bottle adorable?

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Who can resist the charms of a nonchalant lemon?

But lets talk about the taste. I hate to be London-centric, but if you are a Londoner, maybe you’re familiar with a chain of restaurants here called Franco Manca. They just do sourdough pizzas. That’s it. Pizzas, organic wine, fantastic coffees and a homemade sparkling lemonade they bottle themselves. I order it every time I go there. And that is what Lemony Lemonade tastes like to me. Its those big old lumpy Sicilian lemons that do it. They have a heady, floral quality to them. But there was something else there…a slight but pleasant bitterness. What was it…what was it….ah…yes, a hint of Fresca. Lemony Lemonade has a trick up its sleeve…grapefruit! So, Karma Cola had another win with me.  But could they get top marks for 3 out of 3 flavours?

Gingerella

This is where Karma Cola could lose me. I’m kind of funny about ginger beers, ginger ales, etc.  I just don’t like the aftertaste.  Up until now, its been the bottle I’ve left in the fridge and I’ve not tasted it.  So here it goes, as I write this.  (I take a sip.)  Okay, my first thought is that I think it would be better over ice with some pineapple juice, Brugal and a small paper umbrella stuck in the glass…served poolside. But…as far as ginger drinks go its pretty good.  If you like fiery Jamaican ginger beers, its a bit like one of those, but not as cloyingly sweet.  It does have lemon in it, but if I were designing the perfect ginger ale or ginger beer to suit my own tastes, it would have more lemon in it.  As it is, its like a lightly carbonated honey and ginger tea.  Definitely natural tasting and less carbonated than the other two flavours I tried.

So, this was fun.  Thanks to Karma Cola for the drinks.  And thanks to you for reading what I’ve had to say about them.  And if you’re after any of these fair trade organic sodas, I believe they’re available at Waitrose in the UK.

 

 

Real Food Organic Groceries on a Budget

We’re a family of 3 living on a single income and that’s not always easy when you don’t eat processed or GMO foods and try to buy mostly organic.  But, you know, it can be done.

I do a video each month on my YouTube channel showing what I’ve received in my real food organic grocery order (and yes…the odd pizza might sneak its way in there!).  My grocery order has to accommodate myself (pescatarian and mostly gluten-free), my husband (full on meat eater) and our baby (can’t decide what she likes/doesn’t like from one week to the next!) as well as our dog.

We budget around £45-£75 per week (depending on whether its a ‘big shop’ or not) and I’ll let you know how we do it in 3 easy ways.

1. Meal Planning

This is the most important thing I do to save money and still buy the food I want to buy for my family.  There are many ways to meal plan.  There are meal planning services you can use for only a few dollars/pounds a month and this is great when you’re short on time.  If you can find 15 spare minutes per week though, you don’t need to use a service.  I’ll tell you how I do it.  I have a Pinterest account and keep a folder of favourite family meals that are tried and true.  If I’m short on time, I’ll choose 5 or 6 at random, check the ingredients list and add the required items to my grocery list.

2. Online Shopping

This isn’t an option for everyone, as not all areas offer online shopping, but if you are able to do this, I highly recommend it as it helps in avoiding making any ‘impulse buys’.  I just go online, stick to my list and check out.  A lot of grocery stores have delivery plans which are just a few £££’s a month you can do unlimited grocery orders without additional delivery charges.  I find I’m able to get the best variety of real food products and organic groceries at Ocado and if you’re a new customer, they’ll offer you £20 off your first online grocery shop (email me at ourlittleorganiclifeblog@gmail.com for your voucher).

3. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Box or Organic Delivery Box

Many rural areas run CSA schemes which support local farmers and are great value.  You will have to meal plan according to what’s in your box – so sort of reverse meal planning.  There are also non CSA style organic delivery boxes here in the UK such as Abel & Cole and Riverford Organics.  I get my organic fruit, veg & salad box with my Ocado order from a company called Wholegood.  Their fruit and veg are really good quality and they’re very generous with the volume of produce in their boxes.  They also let you know what you’ll be receiving in your box a couple of weeks in advance, which is helpful for meal planning.

Homemade Antibacterial Foaming Handsoap

I love DIY personal care and home care recipes because, as the name of my blog kind of implies, I don’t like using toxic chemicals around myself and my family.  Its not just an ‘in principle’ kind of a thing either for me.  Conventional cleaning products make my throat swell up and I get really seriously fatigued.  So making my own stuff is both fun and helps me feel at my best all the time.

However…its got to work.  I hate natural products that don’t work.

One product I do love is Dr Bronner’s liquid Castile soap, but when I’ve put it into soap dispensers in the past, it shoots out, straight past your hand onto your nice clean shirt (your houseguests will love this), and after a few days, it clogs up in the pump nozzle.

So I adapted this great recipe for DIY foaming hand soap from the Homemade Mommy’s blog and adjusted it to suit my love of rich, foamy and delicious smelling moisturising hand soap.  Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my essential oils and the Thieves oil I use in here isn’t just nice smelling (its that too!) but its antibacterial and it actually supports your immune system rather than systematically destroying it like the commercial antibacterial soaps do.*  Here’s where I get my Thieves oil, but if you like you can make a version of it yourself.  Or, you can use any essential oil or essential oil blend you like, such as lavender, orange, peppermint or tea tree.  Keep in mind the antibacterial qualities will depend on the essential oil you’re using.

PicMonkey Collage

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup liquid unscented Castile soap (such as Dr Bronners)
  • 2/3 cup filtered water
  • 1/4 tsp essential oil

heres the stuff you'll need

Now, here’s where it gets really complicated.  Blend all the ingredients together and pour it into your foaming hand soap dispenser.  The one I got is from Interdesign and I ordered it from Amazon.  I need to double the above recipe to fill my dispenser.

You’re done.

foamy

*Commercial antibacterial soaps and hand gels target all your bacteria, including your good bacteria.  This weakens your immune system, leaving ‘gaps’ for bad bacteria to take the place of the good bacteria you’ve killed off.

The Lowdown on Goji Berry Juice

Goji berries.  Those little shrivelled orangey red berries you bought at the health food store that were disappointingly bland.  Remember them?  You bought them because of something about them being a superfood…but then they languished in the cupboard and they were thrown out after the expiration date.

Yes.  That was my experience anyway.

I really didn’t like them and proceeded to forget about them for the next six or seven years.

The Facts

Goji berries are also known as wolf berries and they originate in Tibet and China.  The best wolf berries come from the Ningxia Province of China.  They’re a member of the nightshade family, like tomatoes and aubergines, and they are considered a superfood because they are rich in antioxidants, as most berries are, and because of the generations-old traditional Chinese belief that eating them can lead to a long and healthy life.  As with most natural products, the big pharmaceutical companies don’t want to invest their money in researching inexpensive and easily available food products, and so the research which has been done on the health benefits of goji has been sparse and of poor quality so far.

However…here are some nutritional facts about the fruit and you can make your own conclusions about whether it is likely to offer some health benefits:

  • contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it unique amongst fruits
  • highest concentration of protein of any fruit
  • high in vitamin C
  • contains more carotenoids than any other food
  • contains 21 trace minerals
  • high in fibre
  • has 15 times more iron than spinach

In my internet travels, I found an online lecture which I took with a pinch of salt, as it was promoted by a particular brand of goji berry juice supplement, but unless they were out and out lying, the results were impressive.  The lecturer shared sample blood work results for their producBaseline Blood Samplet had done for an individual’s red blood cells.  First they showed the baseline blood sample of the individual.  The red blood cells were stacked and unhealthy with very little surface area.  The video doesn’t go into it, but I should explain that in cytology, stacked red blood cells are called ‘rouleau’ and this happens as a result of various types of physical and/or mental stress which sends electrical currents through the body, forcing the cells to change their charge and stick together.  In practical terms, this is what high blood pressure looks like.

The lecturer then showed the second blood sample taken from the same individual, only 15 Second Blood Sampleminutes after they had consumed 1oz their brand of goji berry juice supplement.  These red blood cells now appeared much healthier.  Again, the lecturer didn’t cover this, but in cytology these would be called ‘normocytes’ which are the red blood cells of a healthy person.  They have a dip in the middle, with lots of surface space to detox and they flow freely in the plasma because they are all negatively charged.

I then went to the NHS website to see what they said and they pretty well pooh pooh’d the benefits of the goji berry.  Not because they had any evidence that the goji berries did not do what the anecdotal evidence suggested, but because of the lack of solid scientific evidence in favour of them.   Unfortunately, without serious financial investment, such evidence is unlikely to be researched and conventional medical websites like the NHS will continue to sing the same tune.

However…when generations of a traditional culture have relied on a food for its health benefits…its usually for a good reason.  And there is an awful lot of anecdotal evidence as well as the evidence from the small number of studies mentioned above which suggest that regular consumption of goji berries can improve diabetes*, high blood pressure* and age related macular degeneration.    In particular, preliminary studies involving consumption of goji berry juice resulted in a feeling of well being and calmness, improved athletic performance and quality of sleep as well as weight loss.  So, I guess I’m willing to play that gamble for the small expense of a few goji berries every day.

The Problem

The problem is that goji berries and goji juice…well, they don’t taste very nice.

My Experience

I had heard so many positive things about a particular brand of goji berry juice, that I ordered a couple of bottles and about a month ago I started taking a 50ml shot of it daily first thing after waking in the morning.  At first it just tasted good and I didn’t notice anything special in how I felt.  But after about a week of taking it daily, I found my energy levels significantly improved.  I mean really really improved.  I went from a constant state of lethargy and “I can’t keep up with this toddler” to feeling absolutely rested during the day, perfectly able to keep up with whatever is new in the world of my toddler, and I never have that ‘shattered’ feeling I had all the time before.  I have so much energy.  And I’m not sure why, but also an uncharacteristically optimistic and positive outlook on life…which I guess I can just describe as an overall sensation of ‘wellness’.  Another result, which I was not at all expecting, but am nonetheless delighted by, is that I have lost about 10 pounds, despite no change in exercise or diet (aside from the addition of the goji juice).  And the product I purchased** tasted delicious as it was blended with other antioxidant juices and had a tad of stevia added for sweetness.

I suppose that after spending so many years being disappointed by so many supplements, vitamins, superfoods, eating trends and so on, in battling my general state of poor energy and fatigue, I’m a little surprised that I feel as good as I do just from one tiny glass of juice each morning.  But I do.  So I guess I should just be happy about that!

In Summary

I am seriously impressed by my experience with this goji berry juice and will continue taking it long term.

I did have some slight concerns about the fact that goji berries are grown in China, but the company that made the supplement I have been taking is very aware of issues of toxicity with foods coming from China and their berries come strictly from the Ningxia Province which is very remote and is separated from the rest of China by a desert.  In addition to this, they perform a metals test on every new batch of berries they receive. Goji berries from ANY other part of China are loaded with heavy metals, including mercury.

And, I’ll add that I also gave the dried berries themselves a second chance and made some goji berry muffins.  I’ve include a link to the video and recipe!  They were delicious!  (I don’t recommend making the sugar glaze as directed in the muffin recipe – they don’t need it.  You can also use regular flour in place of the einkorn flour, although Dove’s Farm does make an einkorn flour here in the UK, and the ‘Blue Agave’ just means agave syrup.  You could use honey instead.)

*If you are taking drugs for either of these conditions, or if you are taking a blood thinning medication such as warfarin, please discuss taking any goji berry supplement with your doctor first, as it could interact with these prescriptions.

**I bought this product at full price with my own money and have not been paid or otherwise compensated to review it.  The results I describe are honest and based on my own experiences using this product.  There are many goji berry products on the market, however, I cannot guarantee that they come from the Ningxia Province in China and are free of heavy metals.  If you are interested in knowing the product I used, please follow this link.  You can order it retail or set up your own wholesale account, in which case you may be asked for a ‘Sponsor or Enroller ID’.  I’d be very grateful if you used mine, which is #3514264 and they’ll send me some sort of referral thank you.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  I bought the product referred to with my own money and my comments are based on my own research and experience.  The information presented on this website is for informational purposes only.  The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals.  Consult your physician, nutritionally oriented doctor, and/or chemist regarding any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.

Photo Credit: Healthyfig.com

Pescatarian Paleo

Okay, like soooooo many others, I’ve jumped on the Paleo bandwagon this January.

But here in the UK the Paleo diet is not quite so much a ‘thing’ yet. In fact, if I had a nickel for every blank look I’ve received when I’ve said I’m doing Paleo, well, I’d have a few nickels at least. (But hey, I live in the UK, so what good are nickels to me?)

So, what IS the Paleo diet? Well, its based on the premise that our guts haven’t really evolved much in the last 15,000 years so we’re really better off eating what our Paleolithic ancestors ate, including fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, eggs, vegetables & fruit, fungi, roots and nuts. Things you can’t eat are grains, legumes, dairy, (white) potatoes, refined salts and sugars and processed oils. (Processed oils? Yeah, I know, all oils are processed. I use common sense here: pasture-fed butter, organic raw coconut oil and olive oil are the only cooking fats I keep in the house. If I ate red meat, lard would be on that list as well.) This way of eating isn’t just about weight loss. Done properly, its helped a lot of people with autoimmune issues (Crohn’s, Coeliac, etc) and leaky gut, as well as people with inflammation issues caused by food intolerances they may not even have been aware of before.

The thing is, I’m pescatarian. I don’t eat red meat or poultry, but I do eat fish, so I can’t strictly be called a vegetarian or an omnivore. So I contacted Dr Loren Cordain, an expert on the Paleo diet about whether I could adapt this diet as a pescatarian. I received a fairly prompt, blunt and unhelpful response setting out that in no uncertain terms would they advocate not eating meat. It threw me a little bit, but only for about 2 minutes until I thought about it logically. Whats not to love about this way of eating and why did I need commercial validation to do it anyway? My diet is now filled with brightly coloured vegetables and greenery, fresh organic fish, organic free-range eggs and healthy fats & nuts – lots of unprocessed foods. All I have eliminated from my diet is a vast amount of sugar – by this I mean sugar in the form of bread, pasta and grains, not just refined sugar. So, I say boooo to Dr Cordain and I’m just enjoying doing Paleo the way that works for me.

So, have I lost any weight with the diet? Well, its only been 3 weeks and as I don’t have a functional set of scales, I honestly couldn’t tell you. What I can say is that my stomach is much flatter, I feel overall much more toned and my energy levels are much higher than they were.

Have I cheated? Well, yes. I have. Several times. And I’m okay with that. There have been a couple of mornings when I have really missed my oatmeal, cooked with coconut cream and sweetened with apple and raisins – so I made it. I didn’t feel the worse for having it. I’ve also continued to have a bit of organic milk in my tea and the odd bit of sheep or goat milk cheese. For me its not a competition about being ‘right’ – its a process of finding out what works best for my lifestyle and what makes me feel the healthiest. I lived a low-fat lifestyle for years, but now my diet is full of plenty of healthy fats – yes, including some saturated fats – and as a result, I’m staying full throughout the day and my usual mid-afternoon hypoglycaemic episodes appear to have disappeared.

What do I eat? You know, its much MUCH easier than I thought it would be. For lunch I might pack a tupperware box filled with organic baby spinach, a small baked sweet potato with a tad of feta crumbled on top, a grated carrot salad with raisins, a small bag of nuts as a snack and a couple of pieces of fruit. Or a half an avocado on a bed of quinoa with some greens on the side or cooked kale with a lemon wedge to squeeze over it all. Because I work in an office, I tend to save eating fishy things for dinner at home or restaurants – at the moment I’m really into Alaskan wild salmon, though also am trying to eat more local sustainable fish and also sardines. I’ve also found a fantastic recipe for cauliflower pizza that I have adapted by putting sheep feta in the crust and grating some St Helen’s hard goat cheese (a version of cheddar) on top.

Because I have a sweet tooth, I also sometimes make an um…healthy(ish) sundae for dessert. To do this, I whiz up 1.5 frozen bananas in the food processor with a tablespoon of maple syrup. If it needs more liquid to get creamy, add a tablespoon of coconut water or coconut milk. That makes the ice ‘cream’, which is like the texture of soft serve. To make the chocolate sauce, you’ll need to open a can of full fat coconut milk which has been in the fridge for at least 24 hours (I always keep a few in the fridge now – the coconut cream rises to the top of the can and hardens and delicious coconut water remains at the bottom of the can, so you can use both) and scoop a heaped tablespoon of the coconut cream into a small saucepan. On a low-med heat, melt the coconut cream and whisk in a couple of teaspoons of a dark cacao powder along with enough maple syrup or coconut sugar to sweeten. It will make a thick, fudgey hot chocolate sauce to pour over your ice ‘cream’. Delicious!

There are some wonderful bloggers out there who inspire me with a regular dose of Paleo friendly recipes for meals, packed lunches, cakes, cookies & muffins. Here are my favourites! (And please don’t knock the Mommy Bloggers – these women channel their energies into creating delicious food for their amazing websites and have a better grasp on social media than most FTSE500 companies!)

Against All Grain

Primal Palate

Coconut Mama

Elana’s Pantry

Nom Nom Paleo

The Paleo Mama

The Paleo Mom

Paleo Newbie

In general, I guess while there is a lot I’m enjoying about this way of eating, I’m a little cautious about cutting significant food groups from the diet and probably lean a bit more toward the Weston A Price dietary guidelines than strict Paleo, but we’ll see how it goes. By my next post I may have eased off the Paleo thing a bit. Its not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m not convinced that its necessary to eliminate properly prepared grains from the diet but rest assured there are some tasty recipes in the wings and more adventures of dining in London to come.