The simple answer is yes. Most breads are vegan friendly. Always check those labels though.
Well-made bread (not the processed kinds found in supermarkets), is traditionally made with a few simple ingredients. Yeast, water, a very small amount of sugar, a healthy fat and flour.
Vegan Yes – But Healthy?
Is bread vegan? Mainly, yes. Is it healthy? Not so much.
It has been known for a long time that refined grains (particularly in the form of white bread) aren’t particularly healthy, beneficial or nutritious for humans.
For the last 20 years doctors, dieticians and nutritionists have advised us to consume whole grains instead.
But are whole grains really any better for us and should bread ever be categorised as healthy?
The Gluten Controversy
Bread is largely made of wheat, and wheat is predominantly made of gluten, which is a type of protein that gives bread it’s stretchy/springy quality.
Over the last 15 years there has been mounting evidence that a growing proportion of the population is particularly sensitive to gluten.
It was generally thought that it was only those with Celiac Disease that experience an immune response to gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt). But there is now growing speculation that even those with gluten sensitivity experience a certain amount of immunological damage after consuming wheat products.
There have been a number of controlled trials (study, study) in the last decade that have demonstrated that gluten has the propensity to damage the digestive tract, even in those without Celiac disease. The immunological response can cause symptoms such as tiredness, pain, bloating and irregular bowel movements.
There have also been strong links between gluten sensitivity and certain disorders of the brain. Schizophrenia (study,study) and cerebellar ataxia (study, study), for example.
I always believe there is no smoke without fire. Most bread contains gluten and we know gluten has the propensity to trigger an immune response in certain individuals who have a susceptibility. So if you have unexplained symptoms of tiredness, digestive pains, bloating or even anxiety or depression, then seek medical advice. The only real way to establish whether you have a gluten sensitivity is to remove gluten from your diet for a period of 30 days and then reintroduce foods containing gluten to see if your body reacts (but this should be under the supervision of an experienced professional).
The Toxic Ingredients of Bread
The reality may be that Gluten is actually the lessor of two evils. The real dangers of bread may actually come from some of its unsavoury ingredients:
Artificial Flavours & Colours: Obviously these vary in usage from country to country. Artificial flavours and colours are also normally derived from petroleum. And many of these additives have been linked to health issues in children such as allergies, asthma and hyperactivity.
Preservatives: All foods are supposed to be eaten fresh, and bread is no exception. Steer clear of any breads that contain preservatives. A common one in a lot of countries is calcium propionate. Again, this has been linked to child health problems such as ADHD.
Refined Sugars:This can be an ingredient that is incredibly difficult to spot, even in breads that are marketed as “low sugar” and “healthy”. Some common household breads contain as much as 2-3 grams of sugar per slice. The World Health Organisation advises that we should consume no more than 6 grams a day. There is also the contentious issue in some countries that the sugar used is derived from GMO sugar beets.
Dough Conditioners: In traditional bread making techniques these would never have been used. They have literally been introduced so that manufacturers can speed up the manufacturing process and maximise profit. Many dough conditioners are derived from extracting fat from corn or soybean oil and then manipulating it with other ingredients. Some common examples (and also ones that have been banned) include: sodium stearoyl lactylate, monoglycerides, azodicarbonamide and DATEM.
GMOs: Thankfully these haven’t made their way into the UK yet (but I am sure it’s only a matter of time). A lot of countries (especially the U.S.) use multiple GMO ingredients in the production of household breads. GMO soy flour, corn oil and soybean oil are all common. GMO use is clearly a contentious issue. The issue for me is that there have never been any long term tests on humans that assess the health impacts. And the argument that GMO’s are safer because no pesticides are used is incorrect. Some GMO’s are actually engineered by inserting toxic pesticides into the seed. This then causes the insects stomach to explode when trying to eat the crop.
Nutritional Profile of Bread
Bread is really just empty calories. It contains only low levels of vitamins and minerals. High levels of sugar. Low levels of protein. Often high amounts of unhealthy fats. High amounts of salt. And not much else.
But what about whole grain bread, I hear you cry? Well, it’s not much better I’m afraid.
While whole grains offer slightly more vitamins and minerals than processed grains, whole grain bread will contain higher levels of phytic acid, so it will potentially block any increased nutritional profile.
Is bread vegan? Is bread healthy? It can be. Why not try one of these healthy recipes?
Deliciously Ella: Date & Pecan Loaf
Plant Based Judy: Date & Pecan Loaf
Vegan Corner: Gluten Free Buns
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Avoid skipping breakfast. It is by far the most important meal of the day. Since your evening meal the previous evening, you have literally been fasting, so if you skip breakfast your blood sugar levels will become very erratic and you will be scrambling for sugary treats by 10am.
Avoid sugary breakfast cereals. And also avoid any cereals containing gluten. Gluten is becoming more and more of a problem as it is very difficult for the body to break down and digest. Try organic oats, quinoa, kamut or amaranth as they will be far easier for the body to digest (and they are far healthier). Also try nut milks as a healthier alternative to milk.
Also consider making a healthy smoothie for breakfast. It will be packed full of nutrients and you can also add some healthy protein powders to really kick start the day. Spurilna, hemp or even pea powders are great choices.
Variety is the spice of life. Avoid getting caught in the routine trap. Most people will buy the same foods week in week out. This creates a susceptibility to certain food allergies. Eat a wide variety of foods and ideally foods that are grown locally and organic. These foods will contain a greater quantity of nutrients compared to foods that have been shipped from the other side of the world. The last few years have also seen organic foods becoming cheaper and cheaper (as more and more people purchase) and I strongly believe that you can dramatically reduce your chances of developing cancer if you can cut your exposure to these pesticides.
It’s not just what you eat. You should also try and avoid toiletries that contain harmful ingredients. Again, try and select organic products for your hair and skin – this is particularly important as much of what you put on the skin ends up in the bloodstream. And especially try and avoid exposure to harmful cleaning products, opting for natural organic alternatives.
In the winter, choose hearty warm meals and lighter fresh meals (with lots of raw fruits and vegetables) in the summer. During the winter you can try and make fruit compotes or lightly grilling fruits. These are particularly warming and easier on your digestive tract.
So many people today are failing to drink sufficient amounts of healthy clean water. The repercussions of this are wide ranging. See my recent article: Getting Enough Water? for more information. Basically your body requires about one and a half to two litres a day. More if you are exercising.
Remove as much caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks from your diet as possible. These types of drinks will cause dehydration (and cause lots of other health conditions). As a general rule of thumb if you drink any of these types of drinks then your body will need approx. 250ml water for every drink you have. Remember, many of the foods and drinks that you crave have been designed to trigger that response. And its these types of snack foods in your diet that will be causing or contributing to many of your health problems.
As an alternative to caffeine, trying drinking more herbal teas, particularly green and white teas. These are packed full of antioxidants that will assist your body in removing many of the unwanted toxins.
Aim for at least 9 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Also aim to have one plate full a day of salad (containing as many different colours as possible). By adopting this approach you will dramatically reduce your chances of developing many of today’s leading causes of death.
When cooking try and lightly steam vegetables instead of cooking at very high temperatures (such as stir frying) as this will preserve more nutrients.
Keep things simple. You should always strive to eat foods as close to nature as possible. Avoid foods that contain ingredients that you can’t pronounce and always try and avoid rich foods and sauces, fried foods, barbequed foods and foods cooked at very high temperatures (these will create toxic compounds such as heterocyclic amines that have been heavily linked to cancer growth).
Avoid pre-packed, ready meals and tinned foods. These types of foods are often loaded with sugar and harmful preservatives. Also, tinned foods contain mercury and aluminium which will leak into the food. Not something you want to be ingesting! These types of metals have been linked with everything from heart disease to degenerative brain disorders.
Do not add table salt to your food. It is devoid of all nutrients and will cause water retention in the body, and subsequently cause high blood pressure. The average diet today contains approx. 10 grams of salt per day. It has been estimated that if this was reduced to below 3 grams a day there would be approximately 80,000 deaths avoided in the UK each year.
Avoid ALL FAD DIETS. Diets do not work. You need to concentrate on a healthy well balanced lifestyle and not yo-yo weight loss programmes.
Avoid all cooking oils if possible. If you are going to use them then I would suggest that you use cold pressed olive or coconut oil as these will be slightly less damaging in the body.
Eat your meals sitting down and chewing your food properly before swallowing. You can further aid digestion by snacking on fruits between meals.
Avoid any foods and oils that contain hydrogenated or trans-fats. They are now being banned in many countries because they cause fat deposits around the heart.
Avoid red meats. They can putrefy in the gut and the intestines and often contain antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals.
Cucumbers are one of those “go to” salad ingredients that everyone enjoys. They are refreshing to eat and will help rehydrate the body. They have good amounts of vitamin K, C, B, manganese, potassium and copper. Below I have put together a list of their main benefits and why you should eat them on a regular basis.
Pinky And The Brains
One of the main benefits of cucumbers is that they contain antioxidants called fisteins. Fisteins are vitally important for brain health as they prevent inflammation. It is also great for improving memory and preventing damage to nerves in the brain, one of the leading causes of degenerative diseases like alzheimer’s.
As well as fisteins, cucumbers are packed full of other essential antioxidants incusing beta-carotene and vitamin C. Flavonoids are also abundant in the form of kaempferol, apigentin, luteolin and quercetin. Quercetin is great for people who have hay-fever and other allergies as it helps prevent histamine being released in the body, making it a great natural antihistamine. Kaempferol has been shown to protect you from the two leading causes of death (cancer and heart disease).
They Help Prevent Inflammation
A really cool thing about cucumbers is that they target enzymes that cause inflammation in the body after they have carried out their roles. This is particularly great if you are already suffering from inflammatory diseases, which most people are!
They Help Prevent Cancer
Cucumbers are packed with lignans, a type of polyphenol (or an antioxidant). Many leading studies have demonstrated that people who regularly consume foods that contain lignans had a much lower risk of developing prostate, breast and ovarian cancers. Cucumbers are also loaded with cucurbitacins, a chemical compound contained in plants that also helps ward of cancer growth.
To have a healthy gut you need to provide it with an abundant supply of fibre and water. Cucumbers provide a rich source of both. The water helps hydrate the digestive tract and the fibre adds bulk to your stools and speeds up transit times. They are also great for relieving the symptoms associated with IBS and acid reflux.
Avoid Dog Breath
If you are struggling with bad breath then it is probably caused by a poor diet. Having said that, some people are often afflicted with bad breath as a result of conditions such as tonsil stones. Cucumbers can help reduce the odours produced by bacteria. Simply place a slice of cucumber in your mouth and swish it around while it dissolves. By doing this it will help remove some of those unwanted odours!
Avoid The Stress
People who have low levels of certain B vitamins are generally more prone to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress. Cucumbers contain a good amount of B1, B5 and B7 that will help reduce some of the symptoms associated with these conditions.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
There are basically no calories in cucumbers. But their fibre content will make you feel fuller for longer, making them a great snaking food throughout the day. Cucumbers also break down into a gel-like texture as the body digests them. This texture slows down the digestive process slightly, making your feel fuller for longer.
A Healthy Heart
To maintain a healthy heart function you need a diet rich in potassium. Potassium helps maintain a regular beat as well as maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Potassium is also an electrolyte and interacts and regulates sodium in the body. This process is essential for a healthy heart contractions and overall heart health.
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disease affecting more and more children every year. In the UK current estimates suggest that at least 1 in 10 boys and 1 in 30 girls are affected by the disease. Higher rates are seen in many other western countries.
For many years these children were simply labelled as problem children that were a result of bad parenting. We now know that many different factors feed into the development of ADHD. Poor nutrition, smoking and alcohol exposure during pregnancy, allergies and various other environmental pollutants.
Unfortunately, because of the standard medical approach, children are often prescribed medications such as Ritalin (which come with serious side effects). This is usually at the expense of looking at nutrition, testing for certain allergies or even looking at therapy. All of which will more often than not work far more effectively that medications.
While in most cases ADHD is not solely a nutritional deficiency disease, the vast majority of children afflicted with the disease will respond very well when dietary modifications are implemented. It is essential that there is a correct balance of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and healthy fats in the child’s diet.
First and foremost you need to get the child’s blood sugar levels in balance. Remove ALL refined sugars from their diet. Study after study has shown that children with ADHD are far more sensitive to sugar and will experience more pronounced hyperactivity symptoms when exposed to it.
You need to ensure that the child eats lots of plant based wholefoods and complex carbohydrates. Foods such as quinoa, brown rice, lentils, beans and oats. These foods will provide a slow release of energy and sugar and prevent erratic sugar swings. You can further aid this slow release by adding some protein with the complex carbs. Nuts and salmon are both good choices.
Omega-3’s are also imperative for improving ADHD symptoms. Aim for one or two portions a week of oily fish (salmon, sardines and mackerel are fine). Restrict the amount of tuna as this often contains higher amounts of mercury which can be counter-productive when treating the disorder. Healthy plant based sources of omega-3’s can be found in flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and also pumkin seeds. These can all be added to porridge or salads.
You also need to ensure that the child is getting enough vitamins and minerals. When the child eats foods that contain lots of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium it will help to control their levels of hyperactivity. If the child is eating lots of fruits and vegetables then they will have no problem in getting sufficient quantities of these essential nutrients.
A recommended strategy that many parents use is keeping a log of foods that trigger the hyperactivity symptoms. If these symptoms appear after consuming wheat or dairy products then the child could potentially have a gluten, wheat or lactose allergy and you should seek further advice from your doctor so that the child can be tested.
Lastly, remember there are no quick fixes. It may take 3-6 months to see dramatic improvements in the child’s symptoms, but it will certainly be worth it. It is a trial and error process that will eventually provide the child with a healthier and happier life.
The young and old generally have weaker immune systems. This is why health authorities target these groups during the winter for various vaccinations . These groups are said to be immunocompromised.
Over the last 20 years there has been much speculation over the extent to which diet can boost the immune system. A recent leading study in 2010 looked at this very subject. Dublin University looked at the immune function of a group of participants aged between 65 and 95, and their findings were startling.
They divided the participants into two groups. The first group consumed 2 or less portions of fruit and vegetables a day and the second group were encouraged to eat 5 or more portions a day (although not all complied with this). They followed this dietary plan for 28 days and then were given the standard pneumonia vaccine.
The below graphs shows how the immune systems of both groups of patients responded. You can see that when the first group (red line) were given the pneumonia vaccine their immune systems didn’t respond particularly well. Their immune systems should have been buzzing with activity and releasing antibodies to intercept the “perceived threat”. In contrast, look at the immune system responses from those in the second group (green) after receiving their pneumonia vaccine. They become a hive of activity.
Throughout different countries around the world diseases such as influenza and pneumonia are often in the top seven leading causes of death for the elderly. What this and other studies show is that potentially hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved every year by simple dietary modifications.
Tips to Boost Your Immune System
Eat lots of fruit & vegetables: Aim for at least 9 portions a day. By doing this you will get enough essential nutrients for an effective immune system. Nutrients such as: Selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and zinc.
Water: A lack of water can significantly impact the efficiency of your immune system. Make sure you drink 1.5-2 litres of water a day. More when you exercise.
The below international “chasing arrow” symbols are located on all plastic containers and products. It is there to be able to identify the type of plastics used in the manufacturing process. But what does each one mean and how can you identify which ones are safe for your health?
What The Numbers And Abbreviations Mean
#1 – PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): PET plastics are one of the most common type of plastics used around the world. Most water and fizzy drink bottles are made from PET plastics. It is manufactured for single use only and repeated use can cause leaching of the plastic into the fluid. Bacteria also thrives in PET environments.
#2 – HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene): HDPE is a rigid type of plastic that is commonly used to make the containers for detergents and cleaning products. It is also used for milk containers and toys.
#3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): PVC is one of the softer and malleable plastics. It is commonly used in processed food packaging, olive oil bottles, teething rings and for many technology products such as computer cables.
#4 – LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene): LDPE plastics are used in bread packaging, different squeezable bottles and many different shrink wrap products.
#5 – PP (Polypropylene): PP plastics are very tough and lightweight. PP is commonly used in manufacturing nappies, butter and yoghurt containers, plastic bottle tops and even rope.
#6 – PS (Polystyrene): PS is very lightweight and cheap to manufacture. It is used in egg cartons, disposable cutlery, disposable drinking cups and even as insulation in the home.
#7 – Other (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN): BPA is the one plastic that receives more attention and concern than all the others. BPA can easily leach into fluids and foods and because it is a xenoestrogen it can disrupt many of the endocrine and hormone functions in the body. It is used to make a wide variety of food containers and water bottles. It is also commonly used to line tin cans.
Which Plastics Are Harmful To Your Health?
From all the studies we have to date, it is highly advisable to stay away from numbers 3 and 7. There has been lots of studies over the last 15-20 years that have looked at the health impacts of BPA’s, but the one that has generated most attention has been this one. The study was published in the Journal of The American Medical Association and heavily linked BPA plastics to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and inflamed livers.
While I would absolutely advise limiting your exposure to all of these plastics (not always possible, I know), it appears that numbers 2 and 5 are slightly safer than the other (less leaching), but you should still definitely avoid microwaving foods that are contained in these plastics.