Inspiring lifestyles

Chilli: Finding hot ways to spice up your life

Autumn Fog

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant

As the trees shed their leaves and the temperature drops, it is the perfect time to bring the firewood in and enjoy the dark nights from the comfort of your hearth. It is also a good time to wrap up warm and go outside for a bracing walk. As my German friends tell me: “There is no bad weather – only bad clothing!”

Nonetheless, keeping warm is a real concern for many people. With the seemingly ever-rising cost of energy, it is not cheap to heat your house once winter sets in. Austerity, budget cuts and other difficulties in people’s lives have seen homelessness rates rocket, which only makes me appreciate the roof over my family’s head all the more.

On top of heating and wearing good clothing, however, there is another way to keep warm, and that is through food. Yes, it is true: we can all have an impact on our body’s internal heating system based on the types of foods we eat.

Think about it for a moment: Do you eat lots of cucumber when it is cold? No, because presumably you do not want to be as ‘cool as a cucumber’. Like melons, cucumbers have a high water content, inducing a calming, almost sedative effect on the body.

But what about a hot chilli? How does that make you feel? Just thinking about it warms you up and that is before you put one anywhere near your mouth. In fact, waiters in Indian restaurants generally ask ‘how hot you would like your curry?’ when what they really mean is ‘how much chilli do you want in the dish?’

Chilli is an amazing plant. There are literally hundreds of varieties from large, mild ones to small but potent scotch bonnets and blow-your-head-off ghost chillies.

Their heat comes from the compound capsaicin, which has a very positive medicinal effect. It stimulates digestion, releases endorphins and acts as a natural painkiller. It also has antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic properties, can kill parasites and helps lower LDL cholesterol. Chillies are likewise high in vitamin C and collagen, both of which help to strengthen blood and bones.

Red Chilli Peppers

A chilli history

What is interesting though is that, although chillies are one of the spices most associated with Indian cuisine, the plant itself does not originate from there. Chillies are, in fact, originally from Mexico and were brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus.

The Portuguese then took the plant to India during their trade with, and occupation of, Goa, and the rest, as they say, is history. India embraced it as an accompaniment to the country’s already established warming spices such as black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric.

The British occupation, meanwhile, introduced the Raj to the delights of curry – it is said the British used this complex mixture of local spices to disguise the stench of rotting meat that they were unable to keep from going off in the Indian heat (yuck).

But following the collapse of its Empire, Britain started welcoming immigrants from a range of Commonwealth countries, including India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As a result, traditional dishes, such as vindaloo and jalfrezi, as well fusion cuisine, such as baltis and tikka masala, now rank among the nation’s favourite food.

As for growing chillies, in India, I have seen them developing happily in forest gardens. The tree canopy keeps excessive sunlight off the plants and the humidity at ground level provides moisture.

In not-so-sunny Suffolk, we also grow them successfully at the back of our greenhouse in a spot that is warm, sunny and moist. Some people likewise nurture them in conservatories and on windowsills.

Chilli plants like a fair amount of nutrients though, so we created our own liquid fertiliser blend using a mix of comfrey, nettle, seaweed, manure, urine and mineral rock dust. While it may smell pretty bad, it certainly works as this year we have had the best crop ever.

So here is a recipe for my home-grown chilli chutney, which you can use to accompany stir fries, curries or even sandwiches. The combination of red-hot chillies, sweet apples and dried mulberries truly is a taste sensation:

Homemade chutney

Super chilli chutney

1/2 cup of dried mulberries

2 chillies

2 apples

3 dates

10 cherry tomatoes

3 tbs apple cider vinegar

4 tbs water

1 tsp sea salt

2 tbs coconut sugar

Finely chop all the ingredients and place them in a pan. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When cooked, pot the chutney into a clean jar.

Juliette Bryant

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

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Inspiring lifestyles

How ‘intuitive eating’ can help us reconnect to our bodies

Diet culture

By Gemma Kennedy, transformational coach.

So you have made the decision that there is more to life than dieting. But the mixed messages emanating from today’s diet culture are likely to have left you in a quandary over which foods you should actually eat.

For years, you have been told to avoid entire food groups, not to eat after 6pm, or to fast for two days a week. It is impossible to remember a time when your supermarket trolley was not piled high with zero-calorie noodles, meal-replacement bars or cottage cheese.

But what do you really want to eat? What makes your body feel good? By this, I do not mean what makes your body slim. Or what satisfies your hunger with the minimum possible amount of calories.

No, what I am asking about is what food would you like to eat right here and right now if there were no limits. If no foods were designated as either good or bad, what would you choose?

Writing this, I find myself fancying a wild mushroom and parmesan risotto with crunchy garlic bread, a crisp side salad and, seeing as the weather is now feeling suitably autumnal, a delicious plum crumble with custard to follow. Be patient though as there is a point to all of this – it is about exploring the antithesis of dieting.

You may remember a time as a child that involved eating when you were hungry and stopping when you were full. While you may not have been in charge of the food that was available at that point, you may have had a strong understanding of what your body enjoyed – and at times, certain foods may have seemed more appealing than others.

If you are anything like the millions of dieters around the world, it is likely you will have become disconnected from this profoundly important way of nourishing your body. It may have been a result of encouragement from others to finish everything on your plate when you were a child or to have a drink to fill you up when you felt hungry. But whatever the source, such suggestions inevitably lead us to question our body’s instinctive knowledge.

As a result, many in the anti-diet movement are now support a return to eating mindfully or what Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch call ‘intuitive eating’.

The key principles of intuitive eating are to honour your body’s hunger and fullness, being sure to eat foods that bring you enjoyment while at the same time leaving the negative messages behind. Intuitive eaters might consider whether their bodies are in need of something salty or sweet, crunchy or soft, warm or cold, spicy or mild.

Of course, it is not always possible to eat exactly what we want as there are often time, financial or other constraints. But by returning to this way of eating, you do feel an immense sense of freedom from dieting.

Happy eating

Permission to eat

One of the concerns that people often raise about this approach is the safety of giving ourselves permission to eat whatever we fancy. “Wouldn’t we just live on pizza or ice cream?” they ask.

Founders of the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramore discuss just this subject in their book ‘Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight’. They say: “The idea that you can stop watching your calories and eat what you want, when you want, is so contrary to current ideas that it evokes tremendous fear.”

But one of their studies confirmed that: “Once participants realized they could eat whatever they wanted and were supported in choosing foods they fancied, and in letting food serve many roles, food stopped holding as much power over them.”

Think about it: If you truly knew that you would be able to eat more of a particular food whenever you felt like it, without guilt or judgment, would you still spend so much time thinking about whether to eat it or not?

But it is worth noting that many people experience what anti-diet registered dietician and certified intuitive eating counsellor Christy Harrison calls the “honeymoon phase”. At this stage, they often feel “out of control” or as though they “can’t get enough” of food.

Moreover, exploring their new-found, unconditional permission to eat can last for months or years, particularly for those who have been dieting for a long time. It may feel like a pendulum swinging between eating a great deal and restricting your input again, but this situation will settle down in time, as I have experienced myself.

With regard to the issue of physical health, I do not tend to discuss it much in my work as I believe every body is worthy of respect, regardless of their state of health. But a recent HAES study showed clearly that after two years, those who lived by HAES principles, which include intuitive eating and movement, were markedly healthier, both mentally and physically, than those who continued to diet.

The report stated: “The HAES group sustained improvements in blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and depression, among many other health parameters. The typical-diet group, on the other hand, showed initial improvements in all of those parameters (and weight loss), but returned to their starting point within a year. The HAES group improved their self-esteem and reported feeling much better about themselves at the program’s end, whilst the dieters’ self-esteem plummeted.”

Due to its considerable benefits, intuitive eating is unsurprisingly becoming better known as the body- and fat-positive communities spread the word. I really hope it is only a matter of time before more people begin to question the compounded misery that dieting brings, which includes everything from food restriction to binging and the inevitable process of weight cycling (gaining and losing the same weight many times).

The fact that someone felt the need to coin the phrase ‘intuitive eating’ makes it clear just how disconnected many of us have become from our own bodies. But only when we stop relying on diet companies and the media to tell us what to eat and start listening to our own bodies instead will we truly experience life beyond dieting.

Gemma Kennedy

Gem Kennedy is a Body Positive activist and transformational coach. Having started her first diet aged 10 and spent many years promising herself that this would be the year to lose weight and start living, a switch flicked in 2017 when she discovered the Body Positive and Fat Activist communities. After training as a transformational coach, she now specialises in coaching and mentoring clients both individually and in groups to help them shed the burden of today’s diet culture and feel confident enough to be in the world exactly as they are, right now.

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Inspiring lifestyles

Why go organic?

agriculture basket beets bokeh
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant.

A couple of years ago, colonic hydrotherapist Esther McCulloch contacted me about her vision of creating a pioneering centre that combined food and wellbeing. With my help, she launched the Primrose Juice Bar & Naturopathic Centre in Chelmsford.

One of the important considerations that attracted me to this project was that Esther wanted all of the produce sold in her shop to be organic. When pregnant with my first child 13 years ago, I had started to look more closely at the food I was eating. I was growing a little being inside me that would be affected by what I consumed. From that point on, whenever possible, I have eaten organic food.

But what are the benefits? Is it healthier? Why do most farmers use artificial pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers? Hasn’t the spectre of DDT pesticides faded into the past now? Surely agricultural chemicals have to be tested and safe? What about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) – are they toxic in terms of long-term health?

I have been investigating these questions for some time. My research has included studying Environmental Science at Writtle College, living and working on a conventional farm, growing fruit and veg myself, and talking to experts. So let’s explore some of the issues.

Leading authority on natural health Dr Joseph Mercola writes: “People have been led to believe that industrial farming is the only way to feed the skyrocketing population. Farmers turned to genetically modified organisms to ‘improve’ the quantity and quality of their crops. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where thousands of animals are housed in constricted quarters, have also become the norm.

But although GMOs and CAFOs “make livestock and crops cheaper, while giving farmers higher profits”, Mercola questions “at what cost?” “Widespread pollution, drug-resistant diseases, nutrient deficiencies and animal cruelty are just some of the costs associated with cheap and low quality meat and crops,” he says.

Contrast this statement with that of local producer Phil Mizen from Moyns Park Organics in the upper Stour Valley on the Essex and Suffolk border, who points out: “Growing organically is not a methodology. It’s a philosophy, a way of life. For me, it’s about respecting the soil and the wider environment, while producing nutritious and tasty vegetables in a sustainable way.”

Ecology
Ecology

Ethical growing

Mizen also cites US philosopher and ecologist Aldo Leopold, who once said: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Another local business that follows the organic food philosophy is the Cradle vegan bakery and café in Sudbury. Its take on the subject is that: “Our mission is to produce delicious food grown by ethical growers whose methods encourage healthy soils and biodiversity.” And given how packed their café is, their customers certainly appear to like it.

Esther takes a similar line at Primrose Juice Bar. “We have a sign that says: ‘Don’t panic, we’re organic’, she says. “We firmly believe that everything we take into our body should have a beneficial effect on our whole being.”

She also points out that in her professional work, she has seen the negative effects that eating a conventional diet can have on people’s health. “Consuming organic produce and goods gives us the best chance of a healthy, more fulfilling life. And it is better for the planet too,” Esther says.

Here are also a few statistics that you may find interesting:

Put another way, the message is: ‘When possible, go organic.’

Vegan curry
Vegan curry

Recipe

My 10-veg organic curry:

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 chilli

1 tbs of coconut oil

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp garam masala

½ teaspoon of salt

cup of tomatoes

2 cups of cooked vegetables eg red split lentils, sweet potato, carrots

1 cup of fresh vegetables eg courgettes, broccoli, peppers, kale

1 cup of ground almonds

1 cup of hot water

Sautee your onion, crushed garlic clove and chilli in a pan with the coconut oil. Next add the curry powder, garam masala and salt and mix well. Stir in your tomatoes
 and simmer for five minutes. Blend the ingredients together to make a masala sauce.

Add in your cooked and fresh vegetables, before adding the ground almonds and hot water. Mix all of the ingredients together and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Serve with rice and salad.

Juliette Bryant

 

 

 

 

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

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Inspiring lifestyles

Undoing the damage done by diet culture

Diet culture
Diet culture

By Gemma Kennedy, transformational coach.

After getting ‘beach body-ready’ for the summer, it is now time to start thinking about how best to fit into our Christmas party outfits – and maybe even how to build up a calorie deficit in the run-up, so we won’t “overdo” it during the festive period. Then, of course, in January, it will be time to shed all the weight we gained at Yuletide.

We will tell ourselves that this year will the one where we lose weight and get to do all of the things we have wanted to do for so long – to try a new hobby or wear a dress we bought ages ago that never quite fit. In fact, you could include any number of items on the list of things our bodies are perfectly capable of doing right now but we are discouraged from doing until our diet succeeds.

I cannot tell you how many times I have made these kinds of promises to myself, stuck in a continuous loop of saying that tomorrow will be better and, when it is not, promising myself that the next day will be the one when I finally crack it.

But around 18 months ago, I started working with a transformational coach to focus on various areas of my life, including work and family relationships. After only four sessions, I felt I had made huge progress, but there was still one area where I felt like a complete and utter failure. I was unable to understand how I could create such positive change in all areas of my life except this one. So I screwed up the courage to name my problem and, ultimately, it changed my life.

Since the age of 10, I had been encouraged to diet and utterly loathed my body. It governed everything I did. I experienced disordered eating, including both binge eating disorder and orthorexia, and have tried every diet you can imagine.

Almost every other adult woman in my life was also dieting off and on too, and yet I felt so alone and ashamed. The thought of being stuck in the cycle of binging and restriction for the rest of my life felt more depressing than I can express, but it was something I thought I would just have to get used to. I could not imagine ever being able to do the things I had always wanted to as my focus was constantly on the size/weight I would need to be before I could.

At that point, my coach asked if she could share some resources with me, which led me to do further research and discover the body positive movement and fat activism. Along with the realisation that I was not alone in this struggle, it also became apparent that it is no coincidence so many people spend their lives on the diet travellator.

Diet culture stems from a constant fat phobia that we are bombarded with from a young age. We are not born thinking that being fat is bad and thin is good, yet we are soon exposed to this idea in many forms.

Body Positive
Body Positive

The impact of society’s fat phobia

As fat activist and author Virgie Tovar points out: “We learnt these things through an ongoing cultural education”. She also notes that in some regions of the world, “women go to extreme lengths to be as fat as possible”.

But in Western culture, fat is assigned a negative image through advertising that depicts models with perfect (thin) bodies, TV programmes that only include a small range of ‘acceptable bodies’ and women’s magazines that tell us about the latest diet that we simply must try. The medical profession also does not help with its constant talk of the “obesity crisis”.

Even if we are able to avoid these influences, however, many of the people around us expend a great deal of energy on dieting, watching their weight, being on a health kick or any other number of euphemisms to drop the pounds.

Interestingly though, anti-diet dietitian Christy Harrison believes diet culture “promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.”

In fact, for the majority of the population, the body shape they aspire to is actually unattainable. A former finance director of Weight Watchers admitted, for example, that a mere 16% of its customers achieve their goals long-term and the company is “successful because the other 84% have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from”.

On the positive side though, there are things you can do. For instance, transformational coaching has been an invaluable tool in my journey towards radical self-love – and it is by no means over. It takes a long time to undo decades of self-loathing and of having such a negative body image, but the freedom I experience from not subjecting myself to the diet culture, and working with others to help them do the same, is liberating.

As you may have guessed, this is a subject I am incredibly passionate about. I spend much of my time trying to dismantle diet culture and encouraging a movement towards self-acceptance and radical self-love. If you are keen to find out more, here are some resources that you may find helpful:

Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe aka Bodyposipanda

Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker.

Gemma Kennedy

Gem Kennedy is a Body Positive activist and transformational coach. Having started her first diet aged 10 and spent many years promising herself that this would be the year to lose weight and start living, a switch flicked in 2017 when she discovered the Body Positive and Fat Activist communities. After training as a transformational coach, she now specialises in coaching and mentoring clients both individually and in groups to help them shed the burden of today’s diet culture and feel confident enough to be in the world exactly as they are, right now.

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The hidden scourge of nutritional deficiency

 

Inspiring lifestyles

The hidden scourge of nutritional deficiency

abundance agriculture bananas batch
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant.

While great swathes of the UK population are suffering from food intolerances these days, another more hidden issue that is creating even greater problems for people’s health is nutritional deficiency.

There are a number of reasons why nutritional deficiency is on the increase. Some of the nutrients in our food, particularly minerals, come largely from the nutrients in the soil. But soil erosion and industrial-scale farming have led to a massive reduction in soil nutrient levels.

Another problem is that poor gut health leads to the poor absorption of whatever nutrients are left. This means it is not so much that ‘we are what we eat’ but rather ‘we are what we absorb’. But to make matters worse, many people are also over-indulging in processed food, which is often devoid of nutrients in the first place.

The University of Texas published a landmark study on the topic as long ago as December 2004 in the ‘Journal of the American College of Nutrition’. It studied US Department of Agriculture nutritional data from 1950 and 1999 relating to 43 different vegetables and fruits.

The study revealed there had been “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C found in our food over the last half century. It also showed that this situation was mainly down to agricultural practices designed to improve produce size, growth rate and pest resistance – but not nutritional content.

Meanwhile, Volkert Engelsman, an activist with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements warned a forum at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome in 2014 that: “We are losing 30 soccer fields of soil every minute, mostly due to intensive farming.”

In fact, he added, most current farming methods are so destructive that they are leading to the serious erosion of our top soil, which could be completely depleted within three generations. This situation would inevitably lead to major global food production challenges.

So what key nutrients are people deficient in today and what we can do to overcome the situation? The first and most important piece of advice is, where possible, always seek to gain your nutrition from food sources rather than chemical pills as human bodies have a limited ability to absorb synthetic ingredients.

apricot fruits on bowl
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Here are some of the nutrients that you need:

Essential fats

Essential fats are vital for cellular-level processes to take place in the body and are key to brain and nerve function. The best sources are nuts, seeds, avocado, olive and algae oil, marine phytoplankton and oily fish – but do not eat too much of the latter as they can contain high levels of heavy metals. A vegan omega three supplement made from blue-green algae oil is another good source too.

Minerals

It is important to consume a wide range of minerals for good health, although some are required in only very small amounts. Linus Pauling, who twice won the Nobel Prize, once said: “You can trace every sickness, disease and ailment to a mineral deficiency.

Magnesium is a key mineral that plays in important role in mental and heart health, sleep and general wellbeing.  It is also one that most people are deficient in – studies suggest this may be true of as many as 80% of US citizens.  Magnesium can be found in whole grains, leafy greens and raw chocolate. I recommend a supplement called ReMag as it has a high absorption rate.

Iodine is an important mineral for your metabolism and is the key to a healthy thyroid. It can be obtained from sea vegetables such as seaweed.

Zinc plays a key role in supporting a healthy immune system and enables wounds to heal effectively. Good sources include pumpkin seeds, lentils, almonds and bee pollen.

Vitamin D has been in the news a lot lately. The short-sighted advice of the last 20 years that has told us to fear the sun has contributed to a chronic vitamin D deficiency in the UK. This situation is tragic as vitamin D is required for many cellular functions to occur. The best source is the sun, although during a UK winter, it is unlikely you will get enough. Some mushrooms if dried in the sun can be a useful source, but the latest advice is to take it as a food supplement from autumn onwards. I take Vitamin D3 with a K2 supplement throughout autumn and winter.

Vitamin C is another nutrient you may become deficient in due to toxins, stress, prescription drugs and smoking, but it is essential for the immune system and your general health. The best sources are rosehips, acerola cherry, amla, camu camu and lemon, but there are reasonable amounts in many fruits and vegetables.

diet fresh green detox green smoothie
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Superfood smoothie

Here is one of my favourite superfood smoothie recipes to give you a great nutritional boost:

1 cup of water

¼ avocado

1 banana

¼ cup of kale or spinach

1 tbs raw chocolate powder

1 tsp Juliette’s Kitchen supergreen mix (or alternative)

2 tbs omega seed mix

3 dates

¼ cup of ice

Blend and serve.

Juliette Bryant

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

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