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
SIGN-UP FOR MY WEEKLY NEWSLETTER FOR ARTICLES, RECIPES, MEAL PLANS AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!
It is estimated that between six and eight million people in the UK suffer from regular migraines. And women are twice as likely as men to suffer from them. These figures are only rough estimates though as it is believed that as many as 50-60% of people who suffer from migraines never visit their GP. The average migraine sufferer (if there is such a creature) will have approximately 13-15 attacks a year.
Staggeringly, migraines cost the NHS more than £1 billion per year. And what is particularly frustrating is that in the vast majority of these cases simple dietary modifications can prevent them from ever occurring again.
The condition can be absolutely debilitating for sufferers. Symptoms range from seeing flashing lights, vomiting, severe headaches (usually down one side of the head) and even partial loss of sight in severe cases. These attacks can last for a few hours or even for days on end.
The vast majority of migraines can be directly linked to food intolerances. The main two culprits are wheat and milk. These may account for approximately 80-90% of cases. What is also interesting is that in a large proportion of migraine sufferers (40-50%) they have the bacteria helicobacter pylori living in their stomach and intestines. Other fairly common triggers for migraines are a poorly functioning liver as a result of alcohol consumption, too much caffeine, too much saturated fat in your diet and a lack of water (you should aim for approximately 2 litres a day – more if exercising). The weather, high stress levels and poor sleeping patterns can also exacerbate the condition.
Below is a list of some of the worst and best foods to eat if you are a migraine sufferer. Just keep in mind though that everyone is different. A food that triggers a migraine in you may not cause symptoms in somebody else. I suggest that as well as modifying your diet around the below foods, you also keep a diary of the foods you are eating until your symptoms are completely eradicated.
Common Migraine Triggers
Cheese, dairy, milk and wheat are among the most common triggers. Many sufferers also report migraines developing after consuming citrus fruits, peanuts, crisps, biscuits, corn and chocolate.
Avoid all processed and refined sugars – found in all processed foods!
Avoid artificial flavours, colours, preservatives and anything else that is not natural.
Avoid or limit animal fats and other foods that contain hydrogenated fats.
Reduce the amount of animal proteins and meats that you consume (and also eggs). We know from lots of research that those who eat dramatically fewer saturated fats experience dramatically fewer migraine attacks.
Another common trigger that people don’t know about is associated to infrequent bowel movements. When food is sat in the intestines, certain bacteria can easily convert tyrosine to tyramine. Tyramine can then circulate in the body and trigger migraine attacks.
Two great fruits to eat on a regular basis are papaya and pineapples. Both have enzymes that help the body digest foods. This will help keep you regular and prevent tyramine build-up.
Incorporate more turmeric into your foods. It is one of the most potent anti-inflammatories in the world and known to reduce the symptoms of migraine attacks.
Try and aim for at least nine portions of fruit and vegetables a day (opt for organic if you can). This will ensure your fibre intake is above 35 grams a day and that the amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds circulating in the body are greatly increased.
Dehydration massively exacerbates migraines. Ensure you drink a minimum of two litres a day. More if you are exercising.
Make your own wheat free bread.
Drink more herbal teas.
Stress less (try yoga) or listening to relaxing music.
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.
SIGN-UP FOR MY WEEKLY NEWSLETTER FOR ARTICLES, RECIPES, MEAL PLANS AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!
You may recall from part one (Cellular Ageing & Telomeres: Part 1 of 3: Stress & Meditation) that the ageing process is largely governed by telomeres and that there has been contentious debate as to whether it is stress management, exercise or diet that has the greatest impacts on telomere activity and length. Part one looked at stress management. Today we look at exercise and diet.
In recent studies researchers looked at 2400 twins and analysed their exercise activity levels against their telomere lengths. Their findings are summarised in the graph below. Essentially, telomere length was positively associated with increased physical activity. So the more you do the greater the impacts are. But to get the greatest impacts you need to be the equivalent of an olympic athlete running 60 miles a week! This group had telomeres that were more than 200 nucleotides longer than the other exercise groups. I don’t know about you, but I am not keen on those numbers!
So to recap on what we have learned thus far. The greater your stress levels the shorter your telomeres. You can get slight increases in telomere length by meditating for 12 minutes a day. The greatest benefits, however, were found in those who meditated for 500 hours. So realistically, meditation isn’t going to help most people to significantly increase telomere length, unless you have a lot of time. Equally, you have to run for approx 60 miles a week to get the greatest impacts from exercise (walking provides only small increases). Hmmmmm, there has to be another easier way to increase telomere length. Time to look at diet, and I hope this is more favourable for my longevity prospects, because I certainly don’t want to meditate for 500 hours or run 60 miles a week!
At last we have some good news. Recent studies have shown that you will increase your telomere length dramatically by consuming a healthy diet :). And these benefits are far greater then even meditating for 500 hours or running 60 miles per week. But before looking at anything else, lets look at dietary factors that will shorten telomere length.
One of the worst culprits are short chain fatty acids (or saturated fats). Recent leading studies have shown that those in the top quartile for fat intake had significantly shorter telomere lengths. But the study also showed that if these people in the top quartile removed just 1% of the saturated fats from their diets, they would be able to add approximately a years worth of ageing onto the length of their telomeres. In simple terms, the more saturated fats you remove from your diet, the longer you live.
This rule can also be applied to cholesterol. We know from recent studies that those who had a lifetime of low cholesterol levels had significantly longer telomere lengths. So avoid both cholesterol and saturated fats and have even longer telomeres :).
The science has become so advanced over recent years that you can now see how much certain foods will shorten your telomeres. I strongly suggest you have a look at this study to see how much damage those burgers are doing to your life expectancy.
In summary, the below schematic shows the constant warfare that your telomeres undergo. All the bad stuff hacking away at their length and cutting down on your life expectancy. At the same time, a healthy diet, exercise and stress management are constantly trying to rebuild them.
Dietary factors have the most beneficial impacts over telomere lengths, but you should take measures to reduce stress and increase physical activity to receive maximum benefits. Otherwise, progressive shortening of your telomeres will lead to premature cell death and mutation, both of which will lead to serious health consequences and a shortened lifespan.
The power is in your hands. Your genes cock the gun but the environment (you subject your body to) pulls the trigger.
In this 3 part series we will look at how stress, diet and exercise affect our cellular ageing processes and how you can limit the damage to your DNA and talomeres.
In a recent article I looked at whether diet or exercise was more important for your longevity prospects. (See: What’s More Important? Diet or Exercise?). We know that diet wins hands down in terms of reducing risk factors. But you should never underestimate exercise and stress management. Pioneers like Dr Dean Ornish and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn where among the first to show that if you combined a low fat, plant based diet, with walking and stress management, not only could you prevent and reverse heart disease (and many other chronic conditions), but you could also increase telomerase activity. But what is telomerase activity and why is it so important?
On the end of chromosomes we have these little caps called telomeres. You can think of telomeres as like the plastic on the end of shoe laces that prevents the lace from fraying. When you increase telomerase activity you increase the enzyme activity that slows down the ageing of our cells. If you get the balance right you can slow down the ageing process. For many years there has been a contentious debate over whether it was diet, exercise or stress management that enabled increased telomerase activity. Recent studies over the last 10 years have actually offered some interesting clues on the matter. Today we look at stress, Monday, exercise and Tuesday, diet. So here we go…..
We all know that stress is no good for us. But do stressed people have shorter telomeres? This is what researchers looked at in the study: Accelerated Telomere Shortening in Response to Life Stress. The researchers measured the length of telomeres from parents with chronically ill children. There probably isn’t many more stressful situations in life. They found an unexpected correlation: The longer the parents had spent time caring for their chronically sick children, the shorter their telomeres were. The correlation showed that this telomere shortening process was comparable to a decade of ageing. So in simple terms, the more stressed you are, the shorter your life will potentially be.
Similar telomere shortening correlations can be seen in those who experience constant stress at work, those who go through any bereavement, those caring for ill parents and even those with anxiety or other mental health conditions. This was a particularly worrying finding. It meant that the more stress you had in life the greater the likelihood that you would lead a shorter lifespan. But is there anything you can do about this? If you reduce your stress levels can you grow these telomeres back?
In a word yes 🙂 In a 2011 study, researchers looked at Intensive Meditation Training, Immune Cell Telomerase Activity, and Psychological Mediators. The researchers analysed those who who went off to meditation retreats and measured their telomere activity after meditating for 500 hours. They found massive increases in telomere length and activity. That’s great if you have 500 spare hours. But what if you want the same benefits in a shorter time-frame? How long would you need to meditate for?Recent studies have answered this dilemma. A pilot study of yogic meditation looked at those who meditated while looking after family members with dementia. They found that those who meditated over a period of 8 weeks for just 12 minutes a day had significant increases in telomere activity. But not only that, these subjects also experienced greater mental and psychological function. Happy days 🙂 Who can’t spare 12 minutes a day 🙂
If you ask most people why they drink milk you will generally get the response “because it contains lots of calcium and is good for bones”. “It contains essential proteins”. “It’s something we have always done”. While these statements are true, many people are unaware that milk also contains other constituent parts that can have detrimental effects on our health.
So if milk has increased health risks associated to it, what other sources can you get calcium from, I hear you cry? Well funnily enough there are lots of other healthier sources of calcium. Leafy greens, such as kale, for example, contain up to 150 mg of calcium per 100 grams, whereas milk contains around 120-125 mg (See my article:Facts Everyone Should Know About Kale). Leafy greens also contain other benefits that are absent from milk: folate, fibre, phytonutrients and many other nutrients. There is also a growing trend for nut milks, such as almond and soy milk. One cup of almond milk provides up to 300 mg of calcium, which is approx 25%-30% of your RDA (depending on country).