Veganuary – living 6 days on a vegan diet

veganuary

Before everyone starts ranting and raving about what defines vegan, I am not living the complete vegan lifestyle which I know includes involves living a completely cruelty free lifestyle. I am purely testing out the health benefits from the vegan diet – food and drink only here.

As you can see from my blog, I am very into health and fitness and diet has always been very important to me. Saying that, I often indulge in meat, fish and dairy daily. In fact, I don’t think there are many days at all that I have been without all these food groups until now of course.

This has been a challenge and a bit of a shock to the system, but all is well so far and I’m even enjoying it.

First things first – essential preparation:

  • State of mind

You must be mentally ready to start this diet just as you do with any diet. They always say that starting something on a Monday or first of the month means it’s more likely that you will stick to it. I started on Saturday the 5th of January and enjoyed a Domino’s pizza on the 1st of Jan (don’t judge me).

  • Education

Before starting what some people might think of as an extreme diet, education is the key! I encourage you to read books, search the internet or pick up a magazine and understand what you are getting yourself into. Learn about the benefits to health and the environment and any negative impacts. There are some good documentaries on Netflix, I watched ‘What the Health’ and ‘Cowspiracy’.

  • The food shop

I decided I can’t go into this without having all the tools to help me. The last thing you want is to be starving and have nothing tasty that you can eat. This will just set you up to fail and you will immediately start eating what you were before or become ill.

I did my food shop in my local Tesco, now after speaking to other Vegans it is probably the worst choice in supermarket for vegan products. People keep recommending Sainsbury’s, so I’ll give that a go on my next shop.

What I bought:

  • Pomegranate
  • Red cabbage
  • Beet root
  • Tesco Free From Vegan Cheese
  • Jus-Rol vegan puff pastry
  • Linda McCartney 2 deep dish country pies
  • Strong Roots Spinach and Pumpkin Burgers
  • 5 Alpro Go On Mango Yogurt Alternative
  • Oat milk
  • Miso Soup

Total – Just under £20

The trick is to prepare your meals in advance. Know what you have in your cupboards and if you may need to pop to the shops before you get home. Make enough dinner so that you can take the left over for dinner the next day. As the world is learning more about veganism more places are accommodating for the diet. I have been able to find some lovely lunches to buy at work but that may be because I’m based in central London where you can find anything. Itsu is one of my faves with an extensive vegan range to choose from, and just to make it easier its about 20 meters from my office.

I made an absolutely delicious cauliflower tabbouleh, roast sweet  potato and spicy red kidney bean dish featured in the image below. Yum to mindful eating!

vegan dinner

If you love eating out and live in the London area check out vegan restaurant Mildred’s, they even have a bottomless brunch! Have a read of my review for more information.

Today is my 6th day as a vegan and I’m feeling fine and I can carry out the same activities as before.

Negatives

  • Bloated

Day 3 was the worst for me. I put on my gym leggings and I can honestly say I looked pregnant. I think it’s just due to my body getting used to me drinking triple the amount of water that I’m used to and 1 million vegetables. It’s a change to the body so I’m hoping over time this will go away and ill be back to normal. Many people say that they are less bloated, I guess this is just a great example of everyone being different and having a unique experience.

  • Tired

I was feeling very tired and lazy with no motivation to do anything. Now this could be to do with the change in diet, but you also must bear in mind that I have only just returned to work after almost two weeks of eating and doing nothing over Christmas. It could just as easily be the change in routine or both. As I read that the vegan diet can make you feel sluggish due to the lack of B vitamins found in meat I decided to buy a supplement. I went to Holland and Barrett’s and bought Nature’s Way ALIVE! B-complex. They are soft jell multi-vitamins including vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12. They claim to help your energy release, boost vitamin C and reduce tiredness and fatigue. They taste like low sugar gummy bears and are of course vegan. I’ve been taking these for the last couple of days and I feel much better.

alive vegan b vitamin supplements

If you want to try the vegan diet I recommend stocking up on these. As mentioned, you can get them in Holland and Barrett’s for £14.99 and currently they have a sale buy 1 get one for 1 p – excellent deal.

If you don’t live close to Holland and Barrett, you can also find these on Amazon by CLICKING HERE.

Positives

  • No cravings for meat

I can honestly say I have not once felt this dying need to eat any kind of meat. I do think about steak from time to time, but I never really ate it apart form when I went to a restaurant anyway. I now have the option to select things that I wouldn’t normally be interested in and learn many new recipes and flavours.

  • No stuffed feeling after a meal, even an extremely large one

Normally I don’t eat between the hours of 1 pm-8 pm as after lunch I don’t have a snack, I travel home from work and go straight to the gym. By the time I’ve showered and prepared for the next day its 8pm and dinner time. By this time, I am starving and eat a huge dinner of everything I can get my hands on. Usually after this I am stuffed! This very full feeling is something we are accustomed to and I didn’t even notice it until I had the absence of it. I’ve still been eating in the same pattern, but I suppose my food just digests easier and quicker.

  • Trying new recipes and foods

I find it so much fun browsing the supermarkets for unusual healthy products and finding ways to incorporate them into my diet. I love cooking and looking up new recipes, so it has been great for me so far. I’ve had the opportunity to book new restaurants – Tell Your Friends (blog post coming soon) and new recipe book – Joe Wicks Veggie Meals with Workouts. It’s all exciting stuff in the name of health.

  • Cheaper

6 days on and I still haven’t had to return to the supermarket. You can season vegetables just as you would meat, so you still get loads of variation. Vegetables are cheaper than meat in general which makes for a healthy, ethical and money saving lifestyle.

This week I’ve managed to burn 1700 calories in two gym sessions so as you can tell my fitness isn’t deteriorating. I still feel able to get enough energy together for a solid workout.

You can buy vegan products in all the supermarkets:

  • Tesco – increased range for Veganuary
  • Sainsburys – Increased range for Veganuary
  • Asda – Increased range for Veganuary
  • Morrisons – clearly labelling all its own brand products that are vegan
  • Waitrose – has a dedicated vegan section
  • Iceland – dedicated vegan freezer section
  • Marks and Spencer – increased range for Veganuary

 

You can sign up to receive a free meal plan from the official Veganuary site here – https://veganuary.com/

I recommend purchasing the Joe Wicks Vegetarian cook book and substituting any non-vegan products. You can buy that bye CLICKING HERE.

As you know from my other blog posts I highly recommend all the Joe Wicks range. It has really helped me with quick and easy recipes that cater for vegans. He also creates recipes where all the ingredients are easy to find in the local supermarket. If you’re looking for quick easy recipes and a bit of veggie inspiration, look no further.

Good luck and I hope you enjoy Veganuary as much as I am.

 

Insta @keziakco

xxx

Is fish healthy?

We know there are so many positive things about incorporating fish into your diet:

  • Lean protein
  • Lighter food option
  • Omega 3
  • Lower in fat than any other source of animal protein

deep sea fish

There are also some negatives that you need to be aware of. I have made a list of fish to avoid and the reasons why:

Fish you should never eat:

  • Chilean Seabass

I was quite sad to find out this fish should be avoided as it is one of my favourites. It has very high mercury levels.

  • Farmed Salmon

Just to gross you out, the fish feed that is fed to these farmed salmon consists of chicken, duck and pig feces. This alone could be the reason why farmed salmon has 10 times the amount of cancer causing pollutants in comparison to the wild salmon. ALWAYS go for the wild option!

If that isn’t enough to put you off, the waters that these farmed salmon reside in are also often filled with pesticides, feces, bacteria and parasites.

A study where mice where fed farmed salmon showed weight gain and diabetes so if I were you I would stay well away.

You can easily tell if the salmon you buy is farmed or not by the colour:

wild vs farmed salmon

  • Catfish

Catfish might not be the most common item on the menu but it is growing in popularity. Beware as this is one of the dirtiest items on the menu as about 80% of it contains the bacteria responsible for food poisoning. Farmed catfish are also treated with antibiotics, pesticides and disinfectants so when consumed by us these drugs get into our system as well.

  • Imported farmed Shrimp

Most imported shrimp – about 90% is treated with a high oestrogen containing food additive. This increases the risk of breast cancer in women and reduces sperm count in men.

The shrimp pond waters are often treated with cancer causing pesticides and another linked with ADHD and Parkinson’s disease.

  • Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna

This is a large deep sea predatory fish that has very high levels of mercury so is best avoided. Mercury can cause neurological issues and has been linked with individuals getting symptoms of an uncontrollable tremor, numbness or pain in certain parts of the skin.

  • Swordfish

Swordfish is also a large predatory fish that contains high levels of mercury so is best avoided.

  • King and Spanish Mackerel

King and Spanish mackerel also contain high levels of mercury so is best avoided.

  • Grouper

Grouper, again has high levels of mercury.

  • Tilapia

Apparently eating tilapia is as bad as eating bacon and worse than eating a hamburger but recent studies have found that eating this type of farmed fish can increase the risk of inflammatory disease.

This are the reasons specifically associated to health. However, there are many other reasons to avoid the fish mentioned above. These include the following:

  • Extinction due to heavy fishing
  • Disturbing the natural food web
  • Reducing species
  • Farming is destroying river life and wetlands
  • Some fish is sourced from locations where unsustainable fishing practices are common
  • Imported fish is associated with a slavery network in Thailand

If you are concerned about the environment these fish should also be avoided but they do not pose as a health risk:

  • Atlantic cod
  • Atlantic flatfish
  • Caviar
  • Eel
  • Imported king crab
  • Orange roughy
  • Shark
  • Sturgeon

Not to worry, there are some fish types that are fine for you to eat and benefit your health, please see the list below:

Healthy fish options:

  • Wild caught Alaskan salmon
  • Pacific sardines
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Albacore Tuna
  • Black cod

black cod

These fish are all farmed sustainably and contain far less contaminates. When you add these fish into your diet you will gain higher levels of omega 3 which is great for your health.

I hope I haven’t completely put you off from eating fish as I have also mentioned the great benefits it has. However, if you are put off and fish just isn’t for you any more you can still have fish oil supplements so that you don’t  miss out on the omega 3. The oils are taken from both fish caught for human consumption but also animal consumption. Please do make sure to only buy capsules made from purified fish oil or you may be exposed to contaminates.

It is not always immediately obvious as to which fish oil is purified so I have create a small list of recommended brands:

Benefits of Omega 3:

  • Fights depression and anxiety
  • Improves eye health
  • Connected with promoting brain health during pregnancy and early life
  • Improves risk factors for heart health
  • Reduces symptoms of ADHD in children
  • Reduces symptoms of metabolic syndrome
  • Fights and reduce inflammation
  • Fights autoimmune disease
  • Improves mental disorders
  • Fights age related mental decline including Alzheimer’s
  • Helps prevent cancer
  • Reduces Asthma
  • Reduces fat content in the liver
  • Alleviate menstrual pain
  • Improves sleep
  • Good for your skin

Are you sold yet? I am!

omega 3

If you are vegan or vegetarian and fish and capsules wont work for you, fear not as you can get Omega 3 from other sources including:

  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Wheat germ

However, they are not quite as good as the omega 3 found in fish.

Instagram @Keziakco

xxx

Fitness supplements – what are they and what do I buy?

A friend of mine asked me to write my next blog on fitness supplements and of course, I said ‘yeah sure’. When I came to write this, I didn’t know what the exact definition of a fitness supplement was. Does this include protein powder, vitamins or just things associated with fitness professionals like creatine and BCAAs? Let’s find out.

On further research the internet has broken these supplements into various categories:

  • Protein supplements
  • Dietary supplements
  • Pre-Workout supplements
  • Sports supplements
  • Bodybuilding supplements

The definition of a supplement is as follows:

A thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.

Therefore, a fitness supplement includes all of the above and is designed to support whatever you are trying to achieve within your fitness goal.

This should already help you when shopping for fitness supplements. For example, if you’re struggling with getting enough protein into your diet you know you should look for protein supplements. If you lack energy and motivation before a workout you know to search for pre-workout supplements etc.

I strongly believe in going for the most natural approach as possible. I don’t think its good practise to fill your body full of things that you are unfamiliar with. Just because they claim to do amazing things on the pack doesn’t mean they do and you need to educate yourself on what you consume before doing so.

These are the supplements in my cupboard:

  • Protein powder – to get extra protein in my diet
  • BCAA’s (Branched chain amino acids) – Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They help with maintaining and creating muscle.
  • Lysine tablets – helps the body to absorb calcium and build muscle. *
  • Calcium tablets – to strengthen my teeth and bones. *

* Both Lysine and calcium together help with the production of collagen in the body which is good for skin and looking younger. It increases bone strength and density and build muscle.

So out of the million fitness supplement options to choose from I’ve whittled it down to just 4 things. As you would have noticed I don’t use pre-workout. I find that they are very synthetic and have an extremely high caffeine content that is not entirely necessary. Also, it can’t be healthy having a huge dose of caffeine and then increasing your heart rate further when working out – just saying. Another thing that puts me off is the huge list of chemical ingredients. I don’t know what they all are so when in doubt best not to have it in my opinion. Normally I don’t actually find a need to get additional energy before the gym and I wouldn’t want my body to get used to the extra boost and rely on this before every gym session. However, if I am exhausted and severely lacking energy I would either have a black coffee or espresso or alternatively make myself a matcha latte. I use the natural ground matcha that can be bought on Amazon – click here.

Fitness supplements

Match is extremely healthy and also very tasty. The latte tastes sweet but you can add some sweetener or agave syrup to sweeten and it will taste just like the ice cream (if you’ve ever tried it).

Matcha latte

Steps to making a matcha Latte:

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon matcha Powder
  • 1 cup of milk (almond, cashew, oat, skimmed, soya – your preference)
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup

Steps:

  1. Poor cup of selected milk into saucepan
  2. Add one teaspoon on matcha powder
  3. Add one teaspoon of agave syrup
  4. Heat until boiling and serve

And the result should look like this:

What I use to boost my health - matcha

There are so many variations in the way that you can make a matcha latte. Here is some inspiration of pictures I took from Instagram:

There are so many fitness supplements out there, here is a list of others you can explore in your own time as these might work better for you and your personal goal:

  • Fat burners
  • Creatine
  • Casein
  • Multivitamins
  • Fish oil capsules

This selection of fitness supplements work for me and for what I’m trying to achieve but everyone is different. I suggest try things and see how they work for you. Remember less is more and always try to find a natural alternative if you can.

What fitness supplements do you use?

Instagram – @keziakco

xxx

October is Cholesterol Month – a guide on cholesterol health including where to check your cholesterol level and where to get your cholesterol tested

What is cholesterol?

There are two type:

HDL (high density lipoprotein), this one is often associated with good cholesterol as it is protective.

LDL (low density lipoprotein), this one is often associated with bad cholesterol as it blocks your arteries.

Do you actually need cholesterol?

Cholesterol is needed to make vitamin D, some hormones and bile but too much of it in our bodies can be extremely dangerous. Cholesterol is labelled as the silent killer so awareness is crucial.

Signs of high cholesterol

You can have high cholesterol and experience no signs at all hence the name – the silent killer. That is why I urge you to get yours checked so something can be done before it’s too late. There are some signs you can look out for:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart burn
  • Angina
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Pain whilst walking

As you can see these are extreme symptoms and you wouldn’t want it to get to this before diagnosing the issue

Find out more on cholesterol symptoms, causes and treatments in the link. Stay woke.

Check your cholesterol level

Many people will ask the question how do I check my cholesterol level? What is the normal cholesterol level? And can I check my cholesterol level at home?

How do I check my cholesterol level?

You can start by booking an appointment with your local GP and they can advise you accordingly.

There are also home test kits designed for checking your cholesterol level. You can pick these up from your local pharmacy such as Boots.

Please find some suggested links here:

Boots home test kit

Lloyds Pharmacy home test kit

Amazon home test kit

What is the normal cholesterol level?

Please see the test results described below:

The lower your cholesterol ratio is the better. To work this out (total cholesterol / HDL cholesterol). The result should be below 4:1

A cholesterol level of 6 and above is considered ‘high risk’. If you do a home kit and get this result book an appointment with your GP to get further advice.

NHS recommended cholesterol level:

Adult

Total Cholesterol 5mmol/L or less
Non HDL Cholesterol 4mmol/L or less
LDL Cholesterol 3mmol/L or less
HDL Cholesterol 1mmol/L or less

My cholesterol Results:

So I went and bought a test form Amazon – the CARE diagnostica Cholesterol Health Care Test as seen below. This cost £12.99 from Amazon.

Test your cholesterol level from home

The kit comes with a lancet, plaster, the test wheel and instruction booklet as seen below:

cholesterol health care test

I carefully read the instruction manual before completing the test. Please note the test is only accurate if you have fasted for 12 hours prior to doing the test and the test is best read in day light. Please see instruction manual below:

cholesterol kit

Cholesterol test instructions

You now need to open the cholesterol wheel where you find a round circle. This is where the blood will go when you prick your finger. Now for the tricky part, you need to prepare the lancet and place it on your finger. When in the correct position you must press down and there should be a little bubble of blood that you dab onto the wheel. In my case I found it really difficult to prick my own finger and have this automatic response to pull my finger away. unfortunately there was very little blood and not enough for the test.

Self testing cholesterol kit, how how to do it at home

The circle above should really be full with blood and I just couldn’t do it to myself. I think the test itself needs to be better adapted for this as once you press the button on the lancet the mechanism is done. There is no option for a retry so that is basically £12.99 down the drain.

I never got to find out my results as there wasn’t enough blood so the test just remained red as you can see above. In an ideal situation it should change a shade of green to match the wheel giving you an indication of your cholesterol level.

After going through this ordeal to find out my cholesterol level and being unsuccessful I wasn’t going to give up just yet. I booked an appointment at the GP and was able to find out I have a healthy cholesterol level of 3.1.

If you don’t like the doctors or simply don’t have time I found these great Easy Cholesterol Test Strips. The great thing about them is that you get 10 if you mess up like I did and they are a lot cheaper £19.99 for 10.

The best method at keeping your cholesterol levels under control is to make a cholesterol diet sheet.

Foods that lower cholesterol:

  • Wholegrain
  • Bran
  • Oats
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Vegetables
  • Avocado
  • Flax
  • Nuts

Food to avoid as they increase your cholesterol:

  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Margarine
  • Lard
  • Fatty meats
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut cream
  • Palm oil

Healthy food swaps to lower cholesterol levels can be found on Heart UK website with a load of other useful information.

If you are looking for cholesterol-friendly recipe inspiration, look no further. This is a dish I eat regularly that is great for your health and keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level:

Vegetarian Low cholesterol recipe (serves 4) – Garlic and Herb Freekeh

  • Ingredients:
  • 200g Freekeh
  • 175g Frozen peas
  • 6 tbsp Garlic oil
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Handful of herbs – mint parsley chives

Method

  1. Boil the freekeh
  2. After 15 minutes add the frozen peas and leave to boil for an addition 5 minutes.
  3. Finely chop the herbs.
  4. Drain the water and add contents to a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

Now you can enjoy a lovely healthy vegetarian low cholesterol meal 🙂

low cholesterol recipe - freekeh

 

If you enjoyed the recipe and are serious about lowering your cholesterol there is a great cook book dedicated to just that. Eat Your Way To A Lower Cholesterol will keep you inspired and claims to reduce cholesterol level by 20% in just three months.

To increase your knowledge and awareness of National Cholesterol Month please take a look at the UK Heart website.

Please make a donation to Heart UK to keep supporting the amazing work they do.

Click the link to DONATE HERE.

national cholesterol month

Instagram @keziakco

xxx