learning to live a happy, healthy life

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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Is Your Morning Coffee Damaging Your Health?


Love it or hate it Coffee is loved by many and consumed by millions of people every single day but what effect does it have on the body? Coffee is a known stimulate, hence why people drink it throughout the day to wake themselves up and give themselves energy, but is that energy really long-lasting and is your daily coffee doing you more harm than good?


Stress & Anxiety
We all know I'm about happiness boosting foods, and unfortunately coffee doesn't fall into that category. Drinking coffee promotes the release of the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine which increase your body's heart rate, blood pressure and tension levels which leads to that 'flight or fight' response. Caffeine in coffee is also known to interfere with GABA levels, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating your mood - low levels of GABA are linked to depression and anxiety disorders.

Increase Acidity
Protecting the delicate pH levels in your body is extremely important as it can help prevent chronic illness, disease and infection. An acidic body is a breeding ground for bacteria and helps nasty cells  to thrive - this causes problems with our nervous system and muscle function. Coffee has an extremely acidic effect on the body; when you drink coffee it causes your body to produce large amounts hydrochloric acid, the increase in this acid can have really ill effects on the body.
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Monday, 27 June 2016

I'm An Award Winning Blogger - Best Vegan Blog 2016!



So, if you don't follow me on social media you may be oblivious to the fact that this blog is now award winning! Yes I know, it's crazy right? But it's true, this blog won Best Vegan Blog at the Health Blog Awards 2016 and I'm pretty excited about it.

When I set up my blog in December 2015 no way did I ever think it would go on to win any sort of award so to receive this from the Health Bloggers Community & That Protein was not only a huge surprise but a great honour. I'm speechless.


 My blog is my biggest passion, something I work incredibly hard on and it's something I hope continues to grow & grow. My hope and dream has always been to share my love for plant-based eating with others, to prove how delicious it is, to break the ignorance that vegan food is boring and to inspire my readers to live a healthier, happier life so knowing that other people are enjoying the recipes I post and are finding my advice helpful is the biggest boost and brings me so much happiness.

A couple of years ago I was in a deep pit of depression, I was suffering from daily panic attacks, I felt lost & hopeless and I was battling chronic illness that was eventually diagnosed as PCOS and Coeliac Disease. After my lifestyle change and through my journey to live happy, healthy life I've battled many demons, faced great challenges and had quite a few set backs but through setting up my blog, sharing my story and meeting like-minded people I've grown in confidence, feel so much happier, learnt how vital self-love is and for the first time ever I feel excited about what the future will bring!
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Friday, 24 June 2016

Coconut & Strawberry Cupcakes (Vegan & GF)


I've got a bit of a thing about cakes at the moment; I don't know why but I just keep wanting to make cake! I think it's quite difficult to perfect a gluten free, vegan, healthy cake recipe so I like to try different things out and see what works best. My latest cake creation is these amazingly delicious Coconut & Strawberry Cupcakes!



I normally use nut butters in my cake recipes because it gives the sponge that fluffy texture but these are nut-butter free yet still have a delicious cake texture and hold together really well. They're a wonderful Summer cupcake because they're light and have that Summery taste of coconut and fresh strawberry - so good!

The sponge is made using a blend of ground almond, buckwheat flour and brown rice flour which create an amazing & healthy gluten free flour alternative, then there's the flaxseed to hold it together, the coconut sugar for delicious sweetness and coconut oil, as always! I added desiccated coconut into the sponge mixture which not only gives it that delicious taste but it adds a wonderful texture too. I topped the cupcakes with a fresh strawberry for a little Summery sweetness, colour and juicy taste - mmmm!
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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Chocolate & Coconut Banana Pops (With ICON Coconut Oil)


Monday was the the first day of Summer (although it did pour with rain...typical!) and with Summer comes Summery foods - YES! I love Summer foods - delicious salads, cold pasta dishes, fresh fruit, amazing smoothies and best of all....ice lollies or ice creams! Being on a plant-based diet it can be difficult finding ice-creams but these banana pops are the perfect alternative; they're super easy, super quick and of course super delicious.


This blog post contains a paid advertorial from ICON but all opinions are my own, as always.

The banana acts just like ice cream when frozen, it's so creamy and sweet. The smooth chocolate coating alongside the creamy banana and desiccated coconut sprinkles is a match made in heaven and every bite just melts in your mouth!

The chocolate coating may not look the healthiest but it's actually packed full of superfood goodness! It's made using a mixture of raw cacao, honey (you can sub maple syrup) and coconut oil. The cacao is loaded with antioxidant goodness, iron and magnesium, the honey is a natural sweetener that won't spike your blood-sugar levels and the coconut oil is going to give your body a boost of healthy fats for clear skin, shiney hair, a healthy heart and immune boosting properties.
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Monday, 20 June 2016

Raw Cacao - The Chocolate You Should Be Eating



Who doesn't love chocolate? It's something I thought I'd have to miss out on when I transitioned to this plant-based lifestyle but oh how wrong I was. Yes, ditching the shop-bought refined chocolate bars is beneficial for a healthy, happy body & mind but that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy all kinds of delicious chocolatey treats - all you have to do is replace cocoa powder with raw cacao powder and voila....healthy chocolate!



Raw cacao tastes the exact same as cocoa powder, actually that's a lie...it tastes even better; richer, smoother and more indulgent, but the big difference is raw cacao powder is actually good for you! Cocoa powder is very refined; it's been through a long process and roasted at high temperatures which removes the goodness and a lot of the cocoa powders available in the shops contain added sugars, milk or fats. Cacao, however, is the raw powder that comes from cold-pressed unroasted cocoa beans; this process keeps all the living enzymes intact and it's thought to be the highest source of antioxidants of any food in the world (20 times more powerful than blueberries!), as well as the highest source of magnesium.

Raw cacao comes in a variety of different forms, there's the standard powder which is made by grounding down raw cacao beans, the cacao nibs which are simply pure cacao beans peeled and chopped up and cacao butter which is the fattiest part of the crop and makes up the outer lining of the cacao bean, it's white in colour with a buttery texture and is ideal for making homemade chocolate.
I tend to use cacao powder the most as it's so easy to incorporate into chocolatey recipes, perfect for making chocolate smoothies, great for healthy hot chocolate and works well if you want to come your own chocolate.....you can even add it to porridge for chocolate oats, such a dreamy breakfast!
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Friday, 17 June 2016

Plant-Based Tapas - Rootcandi Restaurant Review


I'm lucky enough to live very close to Brighton & Hove, a city in the South East of England that's always buzzing, full of interesting shops and there's always something fun going on. Brighton has also got a large vegan community which makes it a great place to go for plant-based meals.
One of the newest vegan restaurants in Brighton is Rootcandi, a plant-based tapas restaurant on Western Road, that only opened as a full-time restaurant in March of this year. I'd been dying to try their tapas from the moment I heard about the restaurant so when they kindly invited me down for a meal I was so excited....and my goodness it didn't disappoint!


Rootcandi is situated on Western Road which is away from the hustle and bustle of the main town centre but only a short walk from the Churchill Square. The restaurant is on a corner of a road and has glass windows the whole way around which gives a lovely feel of openness and light which is especially nice as the downstairs of the restaurant isn't very big. Although not the largest restaurant it's beautifully set out with wooden furniture, a solid dark wooden bar at one end, plenty of plants that add a nice touch and a smart looking grey staircase that leads to the upstairs of the restaurant. We were taken to a two seat table next to the window and immediately brought over some water and the tapas menu which was clearly explained to us. There are four tapas sets - Preston (South-American inspired), Brunswick (Indian inspired), Stanmer (Modern European inspired) and Queens (Pan-Asian inspired) and they're all carefully crafted for complementary tastes and textures. Each set is for two people and priced per person (ranging from £16-£22). It's advised to pick a ready-designed set but alternatively you can pick, choose your favourite dishes and build your own tapas meal, which is what I did!

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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Garlic, Lemon & Herb Cannellini Bean Dip


Summer time is the time for crisps & dips, right? There's something I really love about munching on tortilla chips and a delicious dip on a Summer's evening or seeing a selection of different dips at a Summer's party or BBQ! I'm a huge hummus and guacamole lover but on a plant-based diet there's not a whole load of choice of ready-made dips available that I can eat, so I like to make my own (they taste far nicer that way anyway!).

My most recent dip creation is this super Summery garlic, lemon & herb cannellini bean dip which is just a dream! It's so fresh & herby, only contains natural ingredients, is super duper easy to make and goes perfectly with tortilla chips, in salads or even spread on toast....you're going to love it!







Cannellini beans are one of my favourite beans to use in chilli and stews, the firm but buttery texture and slightly nutty flavour is just delicious, but I'd never thought of making a dip out of them before. Cannellini beans are low GI so won't spike your blood sugar levels but instead keep you feeling full, happy and satisfied. They're also loaded with anti-oxidants to protect your body from free-radical damage linked to the development of many serious diseases and keep your skin looking supple and young. These beans are high in fibre, iron, manganese and protein which all help keep your body super healthy and happy!
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Monday, 13 June 2016

Walnut & Tahini Bites


I'm a bit of a tahini fiend, I don't really know what I did before I started buying the stuff I'm that obsessed with it. It's amazing salad dressings, perfect in stir-fry, wonderful with roasted veggies and it's even delicious in smoothies but I'd never really experimented with using it in sweet treats until I had the idea to make raw energy balls using tahini instead of nut butter like I usually use. The idea was one I'm extremely glad I had because these Walnut & Tahini bites are not only the quickest, easiest treats ever but they taste heavenly!



For those of you who don't know Tahini is sesame seed paste, think peanut butter but this one's made out of sesame seeds. It's definitely more savoury that nut butters, creamier and just as delicious! It's one of the main ingredients in hummus and it's commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern dishes, so you can perhaps see why I'd never thought of making sweet treats with it! However, when combined with sweetness of honey, the spice of the cinnamon and amazing oats & walnuts it's completely magical. These little bites are insanely creamy, perfectly sweet, unbelievably moreish and packed full of goodness too!

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Friday, 10 June 2016

What's Wrong With 'Cheat Days'?


It's no secret that I'm not a fan of diets, 'quick-fix' weight-loss products and those weight-loss companies that focus solely on the number on the scales. Something I see a lot of on social media is people having 'cheat days', the idea is that you can have anything you want to eat on this day....cakes, chocolate, sweets, takeaways, fried chips, fizzy drinks, etc and it's almost like a free pass, it's a cheat day so you're allowed those normally forbidden products as long as you go back to your diet the next day. Cheat days are something I have a real problem with, not just because they wouldn't work for me but I believe they're extremely unhealthy and cause a bad relationship with the food you're eating. Mentally & physically I think they're a bad idea, I thought I'd explain why.


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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Battle Of The Coconut Yogurts


Yogurt is a staple in a lot of peoples diets, whether it's with granola and fresh fruit for breakfast, a dollop in homemade chilli or as a dessert I think it's safe to say we've all had it and most of us love the creamy, delicious taste. Going dairy-free doesn't mean you have to miss out on a simple thing like yogurt and there are so many options in the supermarket these days for cows milk-free yogurt alternatives! There's loads of soya yogurts out there but if you read my milk-alternatives blog post you'll know soya isn't the best option and it shouldn't be consumed regular, so what other dairy-free yogurt is there? Coconut yogurt! Coconut yogurt is a fairly new thing but more and more brands are coming out with their own varieties and it's becoming incredibly popular thanks to it's creamy taste and better-for-you nutritional profile. I'm a huge fan of coconut yogurt and have tried the 4 main brands out there, so which is best? Let me compare....



Coyo
Coyo was the first brand of coconut yogurt and it remains the one I buy most often and definitely my favourite. Coyo was launched in 2012 and since then it's won countless awards and has become the leading brand of coconut yogurt with it being stocked all over the place - including Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado, Whole Foods, Planet Organic and more! Coyo is one of the more pricey options (at £2 for 125g) but I think that's expected and a fair price for the quality of the product. Coyo is ultra creamy and rich, every mouthful just melts in your mouth, which is thanks to the fact they use 1 whole coconut per 100g and the natural flavour is made from 99% pure coconut milk! These yogurts also contain live vegan yogurt cultures (AKA probiotics) which are great for gut health. They are completely free of chemicals and pesticides, there's no added sugar or starches and the little pots of goodness are produced in an allergen-free factory - amazing!  Coyo comes in the following flavours - natural, vanilla, raw chocolate, salted caramel and matcha as well as a few options that have a fruity bottom layer - cherry, mango and berry. The vanilla and salted caramel options are my favourite, they're a complete dream.  Coyo is also a very ethical and sustainable company, which is very important to me.

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Monday, 6 June 2016

Creamy Avocado & Watercress Potato Salad


Potato salad always reminds me to Summer. It was always a food I used to eat with a BBQ or something I craved on a warm Summer's evening! Standard potato salad isn't vegan-friendly though, so I decided to put a healthier spin on the classic dish and came up with this avocado & watercress potato salad that is just so creamy and full of yummy flavours!


I used the classic new potatoes in this dish, alongside avocado and watercress which are both every-day superfoods! Avocado's are one of the healthiest foods in the world, they're loaded with good-for-you fats which will help keep your heart healthy, your skin glowing and your hair shiny. Avocados are unbelievably anti-inflammatory too and have even been shown to help people with diabetes, heart disease and cancer thanks to this! They contain a large amount of antioxidants, fibre and they have the ability to help your body absorb nutrients - pretty cool right?
Watercress is supposedly going to be the next big thing, and no doubt it should be as it's an awesome ingredient to add to dishes. Weight for weight, watercress contains more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach as well as lots of vitamin A, vitamin B6 and magnesium which are all needed for a healthy, happy body. Watercress has also been shown to be hugely effective at cancer prevention, especially breast cancer, stomach cancer and lung cancer! It has been shown to reverse the DNA damage done to white blood cells, reduces oxidative stress in the body and lowers bad cholesterol in the body - isn't food amazing?

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Friday, 3 June 2016

What I Eat Around My Workouts


As well as a huge passion for healthy food I've grown to become passionate about exercise, woah...there's something I thought I'd never say! I was always that girl at school who'd 'forget' her P.E kit or suddenly feel unwell when it was time to play rounders or netball, but since leaving school I've found a real love for exercise and moving my body every day. This is mainly due to actually finding forms of exercise I enjoy but also feeling the amazing effects on my body (physically & mentally) and the benefits of regular exercise. My exercise routine isn't a strict one, I don't force myself to work out if I don't want to and I don't have set 'leg days' or 'cardio days', I try and keep it varied but I always do what I feel like my body needs or is craving and never push myself through exercise I hate. When I first starting working out I didn't have a clue about exercise nutrition and how important it is to eat the right things before and after a workout to fuel your body and help repair/build muscles, but I've since educated myself and now try and stick to certain foods before and after a workout that replenish my energy, aid in muscle recovery and keep me happy.



Before A Workout (High Intensity Exercise)
I tend to eat quite intuitively, I don't count calories or track macros but one thing that is important to me is being aware of my carb and protein intake on heavy workout days. Around 4 times a week I like to do high intensity interval training, better known as HIIT, which is very intense and puts the body through a lot. The whole time I'm doing HIIT training I can feel my body exerting so much energy and I know it's working hard to perform it's best, so it's no surprise that after I finish my workout I'm exhausted, dripping with sweat and my legs always feel like jelly. Occasionally I will do HIIT fasted first thing in the morning (apparently it's more effective at burning fat), this means I do the 30 minute workout before I eat anything but I'll always make sure I've had a nutritious meal the night before that included carbs. Carbohydrates are your body's preferred fuel source, so eating a meal high in carbs the night before a morning workout will help your body power through! Preferably I do like to eat before workouts and when I do I'll have a meal high in carbohydrates and protein but low in fat a couple of hours beforehand. The healthy carbohydrates should provide slow releasing energy to keep you feeling strong and energised throughout your workout, think oats or quinoa. The protein is important to fuel your muscles before a workout, specifically BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) and could prevent aching the next day...yipee! Adding protein to your pre-workout meal or snack also starts the protein synthesis and decreases the chance of muscle breakdown. Making sure your pre workout is low in fat is a good idea, this is because fats are harder to digest and the body will be using energy and precious oxygen to do the job, taking away the power you need in your muscles for a workout. It could also increase your risk of stomach-ache after exercise.
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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Tomato & Chive Tofu Scramble


I love breakfast foods, they're without a doubt my favourite, and before I transitioned to a plant-based diet I used to love a good scrambled eggs on toasts with cherry tomatoes and avocado. You'd think being on a plant-based diet there's no way you could get a substitution for this classic food, but actually there's one that fits the bill perfectly! Let me introduce you to tofu scramble..



Tofu scramble is made by crumbling a block of firm tofu into a pan with spices such as turmeric (to give it that yellow colour). The consistency turns into that of scrambled eggs and the taste is completely delicious - especially when you add in juicy cherry tomatoes, fresh chives and gorgeous spinach! It's the perfect food for a vegan brunch or a quick and easy yet super filling lunch paired with avocado on toast.
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