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Archive for the ‘organic’ Category

The sun has been out and when that happens I always start thinking salad and for the first one of the summer I rustled up a special carrot salad, but without raisins. I just can’t bare them in salads.

I always used to go for the simple cucumber and tomato style salads of my youth but since becoming vegan I’ve been way more experimental.

One of my favourite responses to any variety of stock statement people give when they find out you’re vegan, is related to being experimental in a salad sense

“What do you eat?”

“Pips and leaves” is my tongue in cheek reply. Pips and leaves would be considered experimental up until quite recently.

“It opens up a whole new world of different foods to try, it’s easy” is my more serious response. And of course it does.

If I hadn’t become vegetarian, in the first instance, I’m not sure I would have even tried red peppers. Eventually, maybe, but this was the catalyst to trying a lot of vegetables and other veggie foods. Becoming vegan and living in Balsall Heath expanded this out look and my veggie world exploded!

But back to my salad. I just used things I had in

  • red onion
  • two carrots, grated
  • some white cabbage
  • plenty sesame seeds
  • sprouted organic mung beans
  • ground organic hazelnuts
  • garnish – olive oil, organic cider vinegar, dash of soy sauce, plenty lemon juice and salt
First Salad of the summer

First salad

It’s a bit like a posh coleslaw but I would’ve added more seeds (pips) and some spinach leaves if I had them. I didn’t so I just chopped all the veg up nice and small and combined the lot. It was lovely and along with the sunshine made me think summery thoughts…..

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Agave plant

A while back I wrote about agave syrup and it’s use as an alternative to processed sugar. After writing the post I came across a fair amount of opinion opposed to the use of commercially derived agave syrup. There is some debate as to whether the claims for it being a wonder food are just hype.

For example, the food renegade dislikes agave, and suggests it has an unhealthy nutritional profile. On the other hand, there are plenty others out there who disagree with the renegade’s argument.

I’ll try to present an abridged version of her rather rambling attack.  Firstly, she suggests that the method of producing commercial agave syrup, involves chemicals and is different to that used by Mexicans when they produce miel de agave. Fortunately, all the agave syrup I’ve seen in the UK (it maybe different in the US) is organically produced and so cannot involve chemicals in the production process. This is pointed out in the comments where the renegade waves this aside by saying that the process is not traditional and so should be avoided!

The post then goes on to consider the low-GI aspect of agave. This oxymoronic aspect is explained by agave syrup consisting of 95% fructose, much high than corn syrup (55%) which is used to sweeten ‘soda’ and other sweet foods, certainly in the US it seems. Fructose is stored as fat rather than being converted to glucose before being used by the body, similar to alcohol. Therefore it does not affect blood sugar at all.

Fructose is good when naturally occurring in fruit but bad, says the renegade, when it is produced through a refining process. A report in the Huffington Post says the following

Fructose — the sugar found naturally in fruit — is perfectly fine when you get it from whole foods like apples (about 7 percent fructose) — it comes with a host of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. But when it’s commercially extracted from fruit, concentrated and made into a sweetener, it exacts a considerable metabolic price – Dr Jonny Bowden,  Huffington Post

Caloric intake

recommended Caloric intake

The renegade supports the ‘metabolic price’ view by quoting some research that shows that a high intake of both fructose and glucose increase fat, more visceral fat in the case of fructose, and detrimentally alters the metabolic profile of the fructose intakers. All very scary but I do have a problem with the study. Participants consumed 25% of their caloric intake from the fructose or glucose drink while on the nine week study. Apparently, that’s average in the US! Seems like a huge amount to me.

This is really where the argument against agave begins to falter. Why on earth would you consume that amount of the stuff! Studies like this are commonly used to ‘diss’ fructose, the Fructose information centre says that these studies

are based on poorly conceived experimentation of little relevance to the human diet, which tests unphysiologically high levels of fructose as the sole carbohydrate, often in animals that are poor models for human metabolism. The consequences of such exaggerated diets are predictably extreme

Even Dr. Bowden says that agave is okay now and again. I think the take home message is that any sweetener you use should be consumed sparingly. Omit sweetener from your tea/coffee and use it in recipes that are laden with ‘good stuff’ to lessen the amount you need and provide nutritional value.

Previously, I mentioned that I add it to porridge, along with other ‘good stuff’ but that’s only if it is required. For example, dates and dried fruit or banana’s are often sufficient to sweeten porridge without the need for agave. I personally think if you are looking to use agave you are sufficiently health minded to not consume anything close to 25% of your caloric intake from any kind of sugar at all.

Fructose Glucose Total Sugar Cals per 100g Glycemic Index
Table Sugar 50% 50% 97% 500 58-65
Honey 38 to 42% 35 to 40% 80 to 84% 304 46-83
Date Paste 32% 34% 70 to 80% 270 103
Corn Syrup 55 to 90% 45 to 10% 100% 370 62
Agave Syrup 47% 17% 64% 308 30

Furthermore, as agave is sweeter than glucose and sugar you need to consume relatively less than other sweeteners. One report shows that agave is actually lower than sugar and corn syrup in total sugar, calories and GI index (see table above)!

Overall I’d say that there’s no need to believe the hype, while there is also no need to overdo ANY sweetener.

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When I was a kid Milky Way was the sweet you could eat between meals without ruining your appetite. Not an option now but what exactly can you eat to keep you going when you’re out and about? Well here’s a couple of healthy snack ideas you could try.

There’s two new, well at least new to me, fruity health bars that are really very good. Both are luxurious flavour sensations available in several styles.

The first of these is the ‘nakd’ range, which has three flavours – Berry Cheeky, Apple Pie and Cocao Loco. Made from fruit, oats and nuts these bars are stunning. The berry and apple flavours are fantastic, but the choccy one is amazing, it’s like eating a chocolate pudding from school, or something. The beauty is they are 100% raw, ‘smooshed’ not baked, wheat, dairy and GM free! You gotta love the ingredients of the Berry Cheeky bar

  • Raw dates
  • oats
  • raw raisins
  • raw peanuts
  • apple juice
  • raw raspberries
  • raw almonds
  • raw walnuts
  • raw strawberries
  • hint of natural flavour

great stuff. And apparently the obligatory best before is before your friends nick ’em, which you had better look out for.

They even have an ad for Animal Aid on the multi-pack box and on each bar wrapper, which shows their ethical side. I really like these, they really are a bit cakey, muffin-ish or a bit like flapjack.

Made by Natural Balance Foods, there are a number of other healthy snacks available, I’ll be trying more of these when I get the chance. They are not cheap in the Health Food shop, but you can order from there site at a significant reduction. Definitely recommended.

Fruitus bars, a healthy snack idea!

The second bar range is ‘fruitus’, from Lyme Regis Foods. As the name suggests these these are fruity, but also nice and chewy. The Summer Fruits one has a good old tang and really gets your mouth going. Lush. They also do Pomegranate, Blueberry and Oat bar, which is another tang-ilicious sensation but a little more cakey and delicious. A ‘vegan’ label would be useful but I’m probably being a bit fussy. Again, highly recommended.

Lyme Regis Foods are clearly a bigger operation than Natural Balance Foods and as such the website is not quite so jolly. If that kind of thing bothers you just go nakd.

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Fruit & Veg Wars

Fruit & Veg Wars

I usually get all my vegan specific foods from Moseley. I use Indigo, the Health Food shop, who, very nicely, give you a loyalty card stamp for every fiver you spend, which eventually gives you a fiver off your shopping. That’s the norm, but the other day I was looking for a voucher advertised on the ‘MoneySavingExpert.com’ newsletter when I stumbled across another offer for the Organic website, Planet Organic. It’s not exclusively vegan or anything but there are a lot of vegan options which were sufficient to upend my loyalty!

The offer is 15% off all purchases before April 10th and if you spend over £30 shipping is free, £4.95 otherwise. So I stocked up! There are a few good deals and as I was stocking up I took advantage of some ‘2 for £2’ pasta deals. Wholewheat pasta and alternatives are stupidly priced in comparison to the processed versions, it really gets on my nerves having to spend so much on the healthy variety, so I enjoyed these offers.

In all, I spent something like £31.03, £8.61 off, and received a huge parcel two days later. Very efficient! The site is pretty good to use, there are loads of filter options including a vegan one. This helps you wade through all the groceries efficiently.

Always on the lookout for cheaper food sources I’ve found another local option. We’re lucky to have Lidl veg reductions on our doorstep in Balsall Heath, but two local shops have entered into a Veg War. Just past Lidl on either side of the Moseley Road, the two ‘corner’ shops are trying to outdo each other on the fruit and veg. You can get a bowl for a pound. That is anything from apples, banana’s and mangoes to chillies, ginger, garlic and onions. A bowl for a pound!

More cheap fruit

How much for a quid?

It’s just fantastic, I got five large mangoes last week, for a pound! While the amount of ginger I bought will last me several months, I’ve frozen most of it, and will simply grate the amount I need straight from the freezer. It’s not such good value for potatoes and onions, but then we have Lidl next door! It’s great!

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