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The blokes guide to going vegan

The blokes guide to going vegan

The blokes guide to going vegan

Veganism is on the rise and research commissioned by the vegan society in 2016 showed that the number of vegans in the UK has increased by 360% over the last 10 years as a record number of people are choosing to avoid food derived from animals. Over 500,000 people aged 15 or over (more than one per cent of the population) have adopted this plant-based way of eating, making this one of the fasted growing lifestyle movements according to the Vegan Society.  Most vegans live in urban areas, with a quarter residing in London. A Mintel survey carried out in 2017 found that 11% of Britons had tried to follow a vegan diet at some point (1), whilst a previous report found that 33% of Brits had tried eating less meat to be healthier (2).

Vegan men

It wasn’t that long ago that Formula One superhero Lewis Hamilton said he was planning to go vegan full-time in an attempt to function at his healthiest and avoid damaging the planet.  “I stopped eating red meat two years ago”, he told the BBC.  Continuing, he said, “I think it’s the right direction and by letting people who are following me know, maybe that will encourage a couple of people to do the same thing”.  Other male vegan sports people include the footballers, Jermain Defoe and Dean Howell, and even heavyweights such as the British boxer David Hayes have made the switch to this plant-based way of eating. Hollywood celebrities have also followed suit with actors and musicians such as Jared Leto, Chris Martin, Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck all reported to follow a vegan way of eating.

It still stands that more women are vegan but 37% are still made up of men (3) and the increase awareness of health and body weight amongst men may equally be driven these days by celebrity influence as it has always been amongst women. Recent research has suggested that even men who don’t like meat, find it upsets their digestion, or have been asked by a doctor to reduce consumption, still find it difficult to choose the vegetarian or vegan option when in public with other men.

Vegans in the UK

The growing trend towards veganism is reflected in the demand for meat-free food, which has increased by over 900% with this way of eating predicted by some sources to be one of the biggest food trends in 2018 (4,5).  Food industry insight provided by Foodable Labs reported that in 2018, fifty one percent of chefs in the US added vegan items to their menus.  The same report suggests that this rise is in part due to the influence of social media food and health bloggers as it showed a 79% increase in photos tagged as being vegan (6).

High street food outlets have recognised the increase and responded by offering more vegan options and certain branches of Pret are now solely offering vegetarian and vegan food. Dietary food labelling (including dairy and eggs) has also made it easier for vegans to choose their food when looking for something to eat on the High Street, although some restaurant options are still limited.

Benefits of veganism

Whilst some people choose to go vegan for ethical reasons (environmental damage from methane gases and deforestation, water scarcity and land degradation), others see this is a great way to improve their health and rightly so.  Research shows that non-meat eaters have healthier lifestyles compared to a typical omnivore diet. Plus, a well-balanced vegan diet is more likely to contain a greater quantity of fibre-rich wholegrain foods and pulses. It’s also been shown that vegans are more likely to exceed the daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, which means gleaning a greater quantity of certain key vitamins and phytonutrients that help to protect the body from disease (7).

Studies also show associations between meat-free eating and a lower incidence of obesity (8), heart disease (9), high blood pressure (10), type 2 diabetes (11) and digestive disorders such as constipation (12).  Lifestyle habits do play a key role here and this doesn’t mean that following a vegan diet will definitely prevent you from developing these conditions.

Anecdotally, people who have gone vegan report better energy levels and overall wellness, but this could in part be to do with the fact that vegans have been shown to be healthier in general, more likely to exercise and less likely to smoke (13).

Men going vegan

Going vegan may pose challenges to certain men especially those programmed towards a ‘meat and two veg’ way of eating.  The vegan diet can be quite calorie restrictive, which means careful planning for men trying to maintain their body weight.  Men following a demanding fitness regime will also need to adjust their thinking towards how they source their increased requirement for protein. Certain nutrients are also more important for men’s health such as zinc, which is typically found in meat and seafood but easy to source from plant foods once you know which ones to include in your diet.

There’s absolutely no reason why anyone can’t glean everything they need on a vegan diet. The issue of nutrient sufficiency has nothing to do with the food and is more a case of people understanding what foods they should be including in their diet and how to incorporate them. Following a vegan diet does take a little more thought and planning, especially when you first start out, but once you begin to understand what this diet looks like in terms of food, then it’s no different to any other way of eating and the same basic principles of healthy eating apply.

What to expect and how to start

Firstly, you may find yourself feeling hungrier once you switch to a vegan diet, so you may need to be prepared to include a couple of snacks during the day and think about including certain more nutrient dense foods.  Switching to eating solely plants means you may be eating a larger volume of food but fewer calories so choosing the right foods to supply you with enough energy is key.

It’s essential to include foods such as nut butters, avocados, oils, nuts and seeds to your diet to maintain adequate energy levels. Try and make your meals up of a protein (see below), grain, and healthy fats (nut, seed, oil, tahini, avocado, nut or seed). Explore dressings and sauces to accompany your meals. If you do get hungry then fill the gap with dips (bean or veggie based), nuts, seeds, soya yoghurt with toppings, smoothies (try adding oats for extra protein) or breads (topped with nut butter, avocado or banana).

Secondly, there’s likely to be a greater burden on cooking and preparing meals so work out your go-to meals to make things a little easier.  This might be a tofu or vegan Quorn stir-fry or one pot dishes such as a bean-based chilli that can be batch cooked and frozen for future meals.

Thirdly, you may experience bloating and gas when you make the switch to eating more beans, pulses and other high fibre foods. This will pass as your body adapts to this way of eating.

You may want to ease yourself in gently to veganism by starting with eliminating animal flesh then after a few weeks cutting out eggs and dairy.

Nutrients you may want to focus on as you begin vegan eating

A balanced diet is bedrock to good nutrition but if you’re used to eating animal foods as the main component of your diet then you may want to consider how you source certain nutrients in your diet.

Protein

There’s a current obsession with protein and whilst the richest sources are found in animal foods, there’s no reason you can’t get everything you need from plants. The trick is to include a source of vegan protein with every meal.  The richest sources are tofu, beans, lentils, pulses and vegan Quorn but other sources include quinoa, nuts, nut butters and seeds.  You will also glean a little protein from foods such as breads, pasta and rice.  The idea of pairing proteins is outdated so just mix and match them across the day to get a good intake of all the amino acids that make up this macronutrient.

Zinc

Zinc is an important part of many enzymes and has a role to play in immunity, processing carbohydrates, fats and proteins from foods and wound healing. The recommended daily intake for zinc is set higher for men as it plays a key role in maintaining prostate health, testosterone levels and overall reproductive health.

There’s a suggestion that vegans may fall short of this mineral in their diet but there are plenty of plant foods containing zinc. There’s also the issue of absorption, which is thought to be less from plant sources so just being mindful to include plenty of zinc-rich foods in your diet such as spinach, nuts, seeds, cocoa powder, mushrooms, beans, breads and cereal products will do the trick.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is mostly found in foods of animal origin so vegans should try to include fortified products such as plant milks and breakfast cereals in the diet. Yeast extract is one of the few vegan-friendly natural sources of vitamin B12. Contrary to popular belief, spirulina and other algae products are not reliable sources of this vitamin

Iron

Low intakes of iron can lead to tiredness, fatigue and low mood as this mineral is required to make red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. The type of iron found in meat is more easily absorbed by the body than plant-based sources, but you can increase the uptake by partnering them with a source of vitamin C such as serving fruit juice with your breakfast cereals or combining red peppers with pulses, beans and lentils. Avoiding tea with meals can also help maximise the absorption of iron from your food. Good sources include pulses, nuts, seeds, fortified breakfast cereals, tofu, tempeh, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, molasses and dried spices.

Calcium

Calcium is essential for the good health of your bones and is also required for proper muscle and nerve function. Although dairy is often (falsely) thought to be one of the only sources of this mineral, you can glean more than enough from foods such as tofu, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, tahini and fortified plant-milks. Try eating two or three servings of calcium-rich foods on a daily basis.

Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids cannot be made in the body. The two most important are called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexeanoic acid (DHA), which are predominantly found in oily fish.  Another type of Omega 3 called alphalinolenic acid (ALA) can be found in foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, quinoa, walnuts and chia seed oil.  This Omega 3 fatty acid is converted to EPA and DHA in the body, but the conversion rate is poor, so you may want to consider supplementing your diet with a vegan Omega 3 supplement (sourced from algae).

Store cupboard essentials for all vegans

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Oils (extra virgin olive, rapeseed, sesame, chia)
  • Soy (tofu, miso, tempeh)
  • Fortified plant milks
  • Yeast extract
  • Dried spices
  • Cocoa powder
  • Quinoa
  • Canned beans, pulses and lentils
  • Tahini
  • Avocado
  • Hummus
  • Dried fruit
  • Wholegrains (oats, barley, brown rice, spelt)
  • Wholemeal pasta and breads
  • Vegan Quorn
  • Yeast extract
  • Fortified cereals

There’s no reason why anyone can’t get everything they need from a vegan diet.  Certain nutrients such as zinc are particularly important for men and they may also need to consider their overall energy and protein intake if they are trying to gain or maintain body weight alongside a heavy training regime.  They key is planning and understanding how to create quick and easy vegan meals to reduce the burden of cooking.  Supplements such as a multivitamin and mineral or omega 3 may be worth investing in as you begin the transition to vegan eating to insure you are getting everything your body needs.

 

  1. https://store.mintel.com/uk-meat-free-foods-market-report
  2. https://store.mintel.com/healthy-lifestyles-uk-october-2016
  3. https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/migrations/en-uk/files/Assets/Docs/Polls/vegan-society-poll-2016-topline.pdf
  4. https://www.just-eat.ie/blog/plant-based-diet-2018/
  5. https://foodrevolution.org/blog/vegan-statistics-global/
  6. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/vegan-dishes-chefs-restaurant-menus-added-2018-veganism-trend-us-a8511526.html
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26707634
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26138004
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24636393
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466938/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21983060
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10466166
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23583444

 

Can we eat our way to good health? Most definitely yes!

Can we eat our way to good health? Most definitely yes!

Current state of health and nutrient intake in the UK (Download as PDF Current state of health in the UK)

Two thirds of the UK population are now classed as being overweight or obese.  It’s well established from research that eating the right foods that lower your BMI can help reduce your risk of developing a whole raft of diseases from heart disease to cancer.   UK Food surveys also show that a significant number of people have low intakes of certain nutrients, which may impact on areas of your health including tiredness and fatigue, poor skin and digestion. 

Fibre intake in the UK is low as is intake of omega 3-rich foods such as oily fish, both of which help protect against heart disease and certain cancers.  Women in particular are shown to have low intakes of certain minerals in their diets including magnesium and iron (nearly quarter of women have inadequate intakes of iron) both of which can impact on energy levels and fatigue. One in five Brits are also at risk of profound vitamin D deficiency according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey that can impact on bone health which is especially important for the young and older people (research has also linked this vitamin to helping with symptoms of depression).

 Research shows that in some cases, including or removing certain foods from your diet may help to reduce the symptoms and management of certain conditions including high cholesterol, depression, PMS or menopause.

 

Can you heal yourself with food?

 So, it is possible to heal yourself with food?  Yes, absolutely.  Food has the ability to heal and nurture your health and getting your diet at a place of balance is the way to start, from there you can begin to add or remove certain foods according to your health concerns.  Don’t get me wrong, there is no magic food to suddenly cure you of disease and many conditions require medical intervention but diet may certainly help to compliment a treatment or provide a more holistic approach, it’s also just food so why not give it a go.

 

Restrictive diets

There is a growing trend to follow alternative ways of eating that restrict certain foods groups such as paleo and Pegan but do these ways of eating really improve our health and is the approach of cutting out wheat, dairy and sugar make a difference? I don’t believe that cutting out large swathes of foods is the best approach to take unless you are aware of what foods you have to replace them with to still get a balance of nutrients in the diet.  

Too many people embark on highly restrictive, complicated diets and end up suffering nutritionally, whilst diagnosed food intolerances and allergies are relatively rare for some people replacing dairy with calcium-rich alternatives and cutting down on the amount of refined carbs they eat simply makes them feel better and often helps improve digestion which is why we took this approach with the Detox Kitchen Bible cookbook.  Be realistic and be sensible about removing foods from your diet as they have to be replaced with similar foods to maintain a balanced diet. There’s little benefit removing it if it doesn’t cause a problem!”

 

Top tips for taking a food approach to some of the UK’s top health concerns.

 Weight loss

  • Include a mix of healthy fats, protein and  a little wholegrain carb for a balance of nutrients guaranteed to keep you feeling full between meals
  • Mindfulness and intuitive eating can play a key part in maintaining weight so think before you eat!
  • If you are reducing calories then choose high nutrient dense foods
  • Setting realistic goals and avoiding extreme diets are the best approach for lasting results
  • Fill up on veggies at each meal (fresh or frozen)
  • Choose foods with a high water content such as soups, stews and casseroles to increase fullness

Healing foods: aubergine, quinoa, eggs, brown rice, seeds, broccoli, kale

Recipe: Roasted aubergine and pomegranate

 

 

Heart health

  • High fibre diets (especially oats) are effective for reducing cholesterol, weight loss and risk of T2 diabetes
  • Soy foods are shown to be effective at reducing cholesterol
  • Omega 3 fatty acids help to thin the blood, reduce inflammation and increase levels of ‘good’ cholesterol
  • Food high in potassium can help to maintain health blood pressure
  • Plant compounds such as beta-sitosterol found in avocados and olive oil effective at reducing cholesterol
  • High sugar and refined carbs just as damaging if not more so than saturated fat in the diet
  • Antioxidants such as flavanoids and polyphenols affective at reducing free radical damage and reducing inflammation

Healing foods:  Avocados, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, berries, beetroot, edamame, brown rice, salmon

 Recipe:  Salmon, green beans, orange and hazelnut salad

 

 

Women’s health – PMS, Menopause

  • High intake of non-meat iron (pulses, dried fruit) may be effective at reducing symptoms of PMS
  • Limit spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol to help with flushes and night sweats
  • Maintaining steady blood sugar levels is an effective strategy for PMS, PCOS and menopause
  • Ganestien, a compound found in soy foods (especially fermented varieties such as miso) may help reduce hot flushes during the menopause as may other phytoestrogen rich foods such as lentils sprouts.
  • Women suffering with PMS are often seen to have low levels of calcium and affective to treat with calcium and vitamin D supplements 
  • Boost intake of the amino acid, tryptophan to increase serotonin production (along with eating Low GI carbs) – low levels are a result of sensitivity to progesterone during ovulation – affect mood and responsible for PMS cravings

Healing foods:  Edamame beans, miso, pumpkin seeds, lentil sprouts, dried fruit, eggs, turkey, quinoa

RecipeAvocado smash with toasted nuts and seeds

 

 

Skin health  

  • Sufficient intake of zinc may help to regulate the production of sebum
  • Omega 3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation and may help with conditions such as psoriasis
  • In the case of eczema and psoriasis, try avoiding foods such as eggs and dairy that are rich in arachidonic acid (a type of omega 6), which promotes inflammation.
  • Eat plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants to help fight free radical damage from environmental factors.
  • Eat plenty of foods rich in beta-carotene (orange and green vegetables) as this is converted to vitamin A in the body which is essential for the repair and maintenance of healthy skin.

Healing foods:  Kale, butternut squash, mango, salmon, dried figs, berries, prawns, seeds

Recipe: Cajun chicken with avocado salad and mango salsa

 

 

Tiredness and fatigue

  • Low intake of iron responsible for fatigue (23% of women have low intakes in the UK)
  • Low levels of magnesium and B vitamins may also result in tiredness and fatigue
  • Migraine sufferers faced with fatigue – reducing intake of tyramine foods (red wine, pickled foods, chocolate) and increasing vitamin B2 (mackerel, eggs, mushrooms) can help
  • Low levels of magnesium may lead to insomnia, which can impact on tiredness.
  • Combine foods high in vitamin C with iron-rich foods to boost absorption.

Healing foods: Brown rice, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashew nuts, mushrooms, almonds, mackerel, egg

Recipe: Beetroot falafel

 

You can find more information on health and recipes to help health the body in the new edition of the Detox Kitchen Bible.

Download as PDF (Current state of health in the UK)

Cooking seared tuna with Fighting Fifty

Cooking seared tuna with Fighting Fifty

So, I have previously posted the delicious recipe for sesame seared tuna with Asian green salad but had the chance to cook the dish with Tracey McAlpine from Fighting Fifty.  Always love cooking with Tracey as we have such as laugh.

What you need to know about tuna

Tuna belongs to the oily group of fish along with salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring.  These fish are a rich source of omega 3, which research has shown can have a positive effect on many areas of health.  Tuna, along with other oily fish is beneficial for heart health and although it is not entirely clear exactly how omega 3 fatty acids benefit the heart, the results show they do.  It is also thought that the heart health benefits may be a combination of omega 3 fatty acids and some other component of oily fish.

Omega 3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation in the body which is thought to be at the root of many diseases including that of the heart.  These fats also help to increase the amount of good (HDL) cholesterol and reduce overall triglycerides in the body as well as thin the blood, which also benefits the health of your heart.

Omega 3 has also been associated with good skin and helps to maintain healthy skin cell membranes that keep it supple and moisturised.  The anti-inflammatory effect of these fats may also help with skin conditions such as psoriasis.

It is recommended that we try and eat about two servings of oily fish each week in order to glean adequate omega 3.  These fatty acids are referred to as essential as they must be obtained from the diet.  However, you should try and limit your intake to no more than four servings each week given the fact that oily fish have a high level of heavy metals, which may build up over time.

Tuna is also rich in vitamin A, which is important for healthy skin, immune system and normal vision.  Iron is also an important mineral in the diet and food surveys show that up to 23% of women in the UK have inadequate intakes, which can result in tiredness and fatigue.  Tuna contains a useful 10% of the RDA for iron.  Another key mineral is magnesium that plays a key role in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body and is involved in muscle relaxation and the conversion of food into energy (tuna contains 17% of the RDA per serving).

Tuna are also a rich source of many B vitamins, in particular B12 (over 200% of the RDA).  B vitamins are essential for the health of your skin and required for energy metabolism.  Low intakes of B vitamins can result in tiredness and fatigue.

Try this recipe for yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

Sesame crusted tuna with Asian salad and soy/mirin dressing

Sesame crusted tuna with Asian salad and soy/mirin dressing

Japanese-style lunch bursting with omega 3 (download as a PDF japanese-style-tuna-with-asian-salad)

Don’t be scared off by the long list of ingredients as this dish is simple to prepare and is beyond tasty and fresh. Tuna is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids that have are thought to benefit the heart by increasing HDL cholesterol and reducing inflammation in the body.

These fatty acids are also good for the skin by supporting cell membranes that act as a passageway to nutrients in and waste out of cells as well as retaining water that moisturises and plumps the skin. This dish is also a good option for those trying to cut down the carbs in their diet, but you can serve with brown rice or quinoa as an option.

 

Serves 2

480 calories per serving (using 1 tbsp of chive oil)

 

Ingredients

250g fresh tuna (the best quality you can find)

25g sesame seeds

 

Salad

1 medium avocado

½ cucumber

1 head of pak choy

1 tbsp chives, chopped

Small handful of coriander, finely chopped

A few mint leaves, finely chopped

2 tsp sesame oil

½ lime, juiced

 

Dressing

 

30ml reduced sodium, light soy sauce

30ml mirin

2 tsp rice wine vinegar
Chive oil
120ml light olive oil

Large handful of chives, finely chopped

 

Method

 

  1. Place the sesame seeds on a small plate.
  2. Brush the tuna with a little light olive oil and roll in the sesame seeds until all the sides are covered then set aside.
  3. Prepare the salad. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone then peel off the skin. Cut each half into thin slices. Half the cucumber and remove the seeds then cut each half into thin slices diagonally. Trim the bottom off the pak choy and wash the leaves then dry and slice each leaf into thin strips. Add the avocado, cucumber and pak choy to a medium-sized bowl and gently combine. Add the chives, coriander and mint along with the sesame oil and lime juice then continue to combine.
  4. Prepare the dressing by adding the ingredients to a small bowl and whisking with a fork.
  5. For the chive oil, place the oil and chives in a small blender and whizz for 30 seconds. This will make a larger quantity of oil than required but you can keep it in a container in the fridge.
  6. Heat a little oil in a large, non-stick frying pan or griddle until smoking hot. Place the tuna on the pan and cook for one and a half minutes on each side (medium-rare).
  7. To serve the dish, cut the tuna into thin slices and place on a long, rectangular, shallow-sided dish. Mound the salad at one end of the dish. Pour the soy dressing over the tuna and salad the drizzle a little of the chive oil over the tuna (to taste).

 

Download as a PDF (japanese-style-tuna-with-asian-salad)

 

 

Nutrient packed protein snack

Nutrient packed protein snack

I’m always getting asked for post-training snack ideas so thought I would take a quick snap of today’s little number.

If your fitness regime involves a few trips to the gym each week, and your goal is to lose weight, then there’s really no point in replacing those calories you have sweat your heart out to burn.  However, if you’ve skipped breakfast or eaten very little for lunch before a workout then this snack is perfect to satisfy your hunger.

There’s also no need for mega protein shakes after training.  They don’t make you miraculously sprout muscles and are usually loaded with sugar.  You’ll get more than enough protein from your daily food intake.  If weight gain is your goal then bulk up with lots of small meals throughout the day that also include carbs and healthy fats (gaining weight can be just as hard as losing it for some people).

For those who are super-fit, training hard to gain weight or maintain a high calorie intake to meet your intensive training needs, then nutritious snacks will make up an essential part of your regime.

This snack is rich in healthy fats, including anti-inflammatory omega 3’s, which research suggests may help with post training soreness (although the amount of omega 3 implied in such studies exceeds what this snack provides but hey, my legs will thank any help they can get!). It’s also rich in magnesium (natures muscle relaxer), low levels of which may encourage cramping.

As always, a good supply of antioxidants from fresh veggies is beneficial for overall health and may be especially important for professional sports people who are exposed to an excess of free radicals from intensive training regimes.

If you’re training hard or looking to gain weight then you may want to add some carbs to this dish.  Try a little white pitta bread as it’s quickly broken down to restore glycogen stores in the muscles and liver.

 

Lentil sprout salad with smoked salmon

Serves one

270 calories per serving

Rich in protein, omega 3, potassium, magnesium, vitamins B & C

 

Ingredients

2 slices of smoked salmon (about 60g)

5 raw cashew nuts

1 tsp pumpkin or sunflower seeds

3 radish, quartered

1/6th small white cabbage, finely shredded

1 tbsp lentil sprouts

1/4 small cucumber, diced

1/2 small courgette, diced

Small handful of coriander, finely chopped

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small lemon, juiced

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

 

Method

  1. Place the salmon on a plate.
  2. Set a small frying pan over a low heat and add the nuts and seeds. Toast gently for a few minutes until slightly coloured (don’t leave the pan as they will burn!) then set aside to cool.
  3. Add all the veggies to a medium-sized bowl and combine with the oil and lemon juice then season well.
  4. Add the nuts and seeds to the salad then serve alongside the salmon.