New: CBD Olive Oil – What’s It All About?

Yes, you read right. CBD-infused olive oil for your kitchen cupboard and dinner table. You’ve probably heard of CBD products ranging from oral tinctures, topical salves and muscles rubs, and now introducing CBD Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Drops of Heal.

Firstly, what is CBD? It’s short for cannabidiol, which is the chemical extracted from the marijuana plant (through distillation) and does not contain the psychoactive ingredient, THC – so you cannot get high off CBD products.

Continue reading “New: CBD Olive Oil – What’s It All About?”

Nutrition News: Liquid Curcumin by Truth Origins is Worth Checking Out

truth-origin-liquid-curcumin

As a health and wellness writer for the last 15 years, I’ve always been fascinated with vitamins and mineral supplements and always quizzing the experts for their recommendations.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been vegetarian nearly all my life and vegan since my mid-20s that nutrition has been a special interest of mine. I watch what I eat to try and avoid common vegan-diet deficiencies (D3, B12, EPA/DHA are common ones), and equally aware of supporting my sports and fitness lifestyle, which puts an added strain on my body.

That’s why I was excited to be introduced to Truth Origins water soluble liquid vitamins and invited to be part of the brand’s referral programme. This is the first referral and affiliate programme I’ve joined in the ten years I’ve had this blog so it’s definitely a product that I think is worth checking out.

Continue reading “Nutrition News: Liquid Curcumin by Truth Origins is Worth Checking Out”

Thoughtful Tips for Challenging Times

who coronavirus tips
who coronavirus tips

There’s definitely a lot of information and advice being fired out from all places right now to help people during this tricky time with COVID.

But the best advice I’ve read so far comes from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is not coincidentally, the best place we should be turning to for scientifically-backed, expert advice for how to manage and deal with the situation anyway.

I thought I’d summarise and share their latest notes in case anyone had missed them in the media as they are genuinely useful.

The tips cover basic nutrition (eat a health and nutritious diet, don’t smoke and limit your consumption of alcohol) as well as a few more interesting ones on exercise, working environment, mental health and relationships, which I’ve shared here.

  • During this difficult time it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long term; it will also help you fight COVID if you get it.
  • Exercise. If your local or national guidelines allow it go outside for a walk, a run or a ride and keep a safe distance from others. If you can’t leave the house find an exercise video online, dance to music, do some yoga or walk up and down the stairs.
  • If you’re working at home make sure you don’t sit in the same position for long periods; get up and take a three-minute break every 30 minutes. We will be providing more advice on how to stay healthy at home in the coming days and weeks.
  • Look after your mental health. It’s normal to feel stressed, confused and scared during a crisis. Talking to people you know and trust can help. Supporting other people in your community can help you as much as it does them.
  • Check on neighbours, family and friends. Compassion is a medicine.
  • Listen to music, read a book or play a game and try not to read or watch too much news if it makes you anxious.
  • Get your information from reliable sources once or twice a day.
  • Keep in touch with health alerts via the WHO

4 more tips to help you deal with the cocktail of intensity

A somatic therapist friend of mine, who specialises in treating trauma, has also just shared a few of her own tips, based on Trauma First Aid and the yogic practice of restraint.

Yoga Tara is founder of Isha Institute in Nepal, a centre that promotes personal growth and transformation through holistic counselling (follow on @isha_inspired). I hope you find them as valuable as I did. Please feel free to share with others.

Limit your exposure to information

  • Look at the news or collect information one or two times a day, eg, morning and late afternoon.
  • Avoid looking up information before you go to sleep. This is stimulating and triggering. Give yourself one or two hours quiet time before you go to bed.
  • Limit the amount of time you’re getting your info: 15-30min. Not two hours!

Select your sources of information carefully

  • Choose two or three trustworthy news sources for your updates, such as the WHO, CDC.
  • Avoid spending time on social media. It’s a fascinating study on mass panic/fear response, but not the healthiest place to spend time if you want to stay sane!

Choose with whom you are going to talk to about the situation

  • When it comes to discussing your real concerns, beliefs and decisions in relation to the situation, choose one, two or three people with whom you can share and to whom you can listen. 
  • Not everyone is a steady resource at this time. People you may have thought as calm or even keel, might not be. And vice versa.  
  • How do you know who is right for you? You would feel relatively calm and stable (operative word: relatively) with them.

Simplify your to-do list

  • When we feel under threat or under sustained stress, our brain and body go into life-preserving mode and work in different ways than normal.
  • Functions that tend to get compromised are our ability to think clearly, make decisions, analyse and execute (ie get things done). Our ability to manage emotions can also be compromised. We are not under normal conditions, so we cannot expect ourselves to act perfectly ‘normal’.
  • If you’re working from home, if you have children for home / online schooling, let yourself off the hook and reduce your output or to-do list by 25-30% (at least!).
  • Give yourself and others some extra space and time to get things done. Our brains and bodies are working harder than usual so take the expectation off from ‘normal productivity’.
  • If you or others around you feel fuzzy headed, irritable, tired, please know this is normal.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with others. 

14 Reasons Why I Decided to Do a Personal Trainer Course

no1 fitness education pt course

I started my career as a beauty and wellness writer for print and online magazines but fitness has always been part of my life, ever since early school years. So it feels fitting to be on a personal trainer course now, a Level 3 qualification with No.1 Fitness Education (one of the leading providers in the industry), which I’m so excited about.

I’m currently two weeks into the course, so here’s why I decided to do it and the journey that brought me here… Maybe it’ll inspire you, too.

I started young… I remember going to the library aged 13 and getting books out on diet and fitness – one was on food combining (it was all the rage in the 80s) and another on callisthenics (another 80s throwback). I ran and did athletics for my school and, after a boozy stint at university, I started running again and doing races in my mid 20s and early 30s. I spent the next ten years dedicated to running, marathons and track training, all of which I loved.

The fitness journey took a new turn… Then I started CrossFit in my mid-30s after meeting another editor who looked super strong, lean and fit. I discovered a whole new way of training and learnt how to move my body in new and better ways. I gradually started building total body strength, something I’d not considered enough before, and this helped me become a much stronger runner, too.

I learnt new skills… What I loved most, though, was learning the new skills in Olympic lifting and gymnastics, which is part of CrossFit, as this engaged me mentally not just physically. There was also all the functional training (that other gyms do, too), that help future-proof your body for everyday life.

Things got serious… What started off as a twice weekly workout is now, five years later, a full time hobby; Last year I did two weightlifting competitions and I’m training for my third. I also do the occasional CrossFit comp. I train six days a week (three-four specifically for Olympic lifts and two CrossFit) and I’ve learnt so much about mind and body strength. You can read more about my weightlifting journey here.

My mindset changed too… What’s also changed is that I no longer kill myself with cardio to keep my weight down, but train for strength and performance goals instead. I’ve found the strong, lean body is a happy by-product of that and it’s 100% changed my mindset into something a lot healthier (and happier).

It was all about goals… There’s nothing wrong with aesthetic goals, and I’ve certainly had them in the past, but in my experience I’ve found working towards challenge or physical goals (like an 80kg back squat or doing pull-ups) is more meaningful and I’m more likely to stick to them, almost effortlessly.

The right expertise is inspiring… All of these experiences have helped me gain a deeper understanding of the training world, what real athlete training is like, and it’s introduced me to some amazing coaches and trainers, whose wisdom has inspired me endlessly. I’m hoping all of this will be genuinely valuable in my own PT training. Last year, I was inspired (mainly by others around me) to take my British Weightlifting Level 1 course; you can read my review here.

My 9 – 5 will benefit… I’m lucky for health and fitness to be part of my job and career and while I’m not planning to pack up my job at Women’s Health, Men’s Health, NetDoctor and Runner’s World at Hearst, this qualification will simply feed into my work as a health and fitness editor there.

I create commercial content for clients ranging from Nike and adidas to Deep Heat and Imodium across print, digital, video and social, and fitness features heavily in this. Whether I’m shooting a workout video or interviewing experts, having a formal training in fitness will amplify my work and give me more credibility as an editor.

Being qualified matters outside of work, too… I know I won’t be any kind of expert overnight but having a formal qualification is so important when it comes to sharing content or advice on my own channels and circles. These days people are too easily self-appointed experts without the right backing, so having credentials from somewhere reputable (another important difference) makes a huge difference.

I might have clients one day… Just because I have no plans to leave my job and become a full-time PT doesn’t mean I can’t be open to possibilities of having PT clients in the future. I absolutely love sharing knowledge, experiences and inspiration so it seems fitting that I might have a client or two one day. In the meantime, I’ll be using my knowledge as an editor.

Choosing the right course is important… Finding an education provider for any kind of course is without a doubt, a minefield. There are so many options, and so many shortcuts. PT or yoga teacher training in four weeks online, without ever having to train a real human? Sure, that’s possible. But how good a professional will you be in the real world?

I choose No.1 Fitness as they came highly recommended from several people I know and their 10-year reputation in the industry is strong. Secondly, they’re one of the only remaining educators with classroom teaching; others have moved entirely online, which seems wrong for something so practical and physical.

It’s comprehensive… My Level 3 course involves a group learning session every Saturday for 12 weeks and on-going e-learning (mainly anatomy) that’s done in your own time throughout. The weekly group sessions are mixture of classroom and gym floor where we are shown how to use and instruct the gym resistance machines, cardio machines, free weights, dynamic stretches and five barbell lifts: deadlift, squat, bench press, overhead press and barbell row. Other providers may not have this level of real-life coaching so we’re so so lucky to have this.

There’s real pride… It’s not just the face to face structure I like but the calibre of the teachers and trainers leading each session is impressive, each one a leader in their field and proud to be working with No.1. There’s also a huge focus, communicated from day one, that this course (unlike others) prepares you fully for the realities of working in the fitness industry, whichever path you choose to take. All the trainers are highly connected and come with decades of experiences and backstories so they are keen to guide, advice and help as much as possible.

I’m obviously excited… having spent most of last year thinking about doing this, I’m so pleased I’ve actually made it happen. I’m the kind of person slightly obsessed with learning and growth anyway, so progressing in an area I’m already passionate about makes it even more valuable and worthwhile; I’m even enjoying the anatomy (although I’ll admit it’s not easy trying to remember it!). I’m looking forward to more knowledge over the next 12 weeks and then finally waving a bit of paper and shouting out that I’m a qualified PT.

If you fancy finding out more about the fitness instructor and personal trainer courses at No.1 Fitness check them out at no1fitnesseducation.co.uk and @no1fitnesseducation

Step-by-Step Guide: How To Do a DIY Natural Beauty Home Facial

weleda Skin Food facial review

If you’ve been inspired by the continued rise of natural and organic beauty then you’ll love this DIY natural facial massage from Weleda, one of my favourite natural and organic beauty brands. It’s also a lovely, nourishing treat to give skin at this time of year as the season and temperatures change.

The key product in this facial is Weleda Skin Food – an iconic skincare product that contains natural extracts of calendula, chamomile, rosemary and lavender, with natural waxes and plant oils (now also available in light version, lip balm and body butter) – alongside a few other Weleda products.

I was lucky to have this facial – also known as the 30-minute miracle worker by Weleda therapists as it’s so good at boosting the complexion – at Valley Fest in Bristol this summer.

Weleda Skin Food - Product Still

Valley Fest is a lovely family-friendly weekend of music, local food and fancy dress. Weleda had a corner with a fabulous van stocked full of products and therapy tents for the perfect post-party respite.

There were also talks and workshops on natural skincare, with special guest such as Emine Ali Rushton, sharing her wisdom on holistic and Ayurvedic living, following the launch of her book, Sattva.

weleda tent valley fest.JPG

If you’re not familiar with the community of Weleda therapists, they’re a lovely bunch who work remotely around the country and who are available for products, treatments, and knowledge-sharing on skincare and ingredients.

If you don’t live near a Weleda therapist then you can try this facial on yourself at home. Here’s a complete step-by-step guide to the Skin Food Facial – get ready for some personal pamper time…

weleda tent valley fest.JPG
Me enjoying my Skin Food facial at Valley Fest

Step 1.

COMPRESS

Soak a face flannel in hot water with a little Rosemary Bath Milk, wring the flannel so it’s only damp but still warm and apply to the face to open up the pores and wake up/perk up the circulation. If skin would benefit from calming/soothing rather than stimulating, try the Lavender Bath Milk. If skin is hypersensitive, the gentle Calendula Baby Cream Bath could be used instead which is less aromatic.

Step 2.

CLEANSE

Using the Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion on two damp cotton wool pads, remove grime and make-up. Use both hands simultaneously, mirror image, for a lovely balanced feeling. Around the eyes, gently cleanse with Almond Soothing Facial Oil to remove eye make-up. Warm or luke-warm cotton wool pads are preferable to very cold water on the eyes.

Optional extra.

PUFFINESS

If more time, an organic unbleached chamomile tea bag can be used to make as an infusion for an eye compress (lightly soak cotton wool pads in the tea which has been allowed to cool slightly in a bowl before applying; cotton pads can be folded into half moons) whilst the facial massage is being done or the mask is on (to complete the Skin Food experience). The calming chamomile fragrance relaxes.

Step 3.

MASSAGE

Using the fragrance-free Almond Soothing Facial Oil, gently massage the face to stimulate the circulation and relax the soft tissues, tailoring the massage to the individual.

weleda skin food facial how to

Step 4.

MASK

Apply a generous layer of Skin Food, warming it between your hands to make it easier to work with, and leave on the face as an intensive treatment for five minutes (or longer if time allows). If you have combination skin with an oily T-zone, just use Skin Food on the cheeks and drier areas, to avoid overloading the skin.

Step 5.

COMPRESS

Soak a face flannel in hot water with a little Lavender Bath Milk and apply to the face to melt and release the mask. Gently lift away any excess Skin Food with the flannel and gently wipe/tidy any remaining thick areas of cream using a damp cotton pad (this may not be necessary if it has been absorbed).

Step 6.

MOISTURISE

Depending on the skin, finish with a light application of Skin Food Light to moisturise (for younger/oilier skin, this may not be necessary if Skin Food has worked its magic), and a little Skin Food Lip Balm on the lips.

Would love to hear if you’ve had this facial with a Weleda therapist or if you give it a go at home!

The Lowdown On Yoga Nidra – Yogic Sleep

Photo by Alice Moore on Unsplash

Yoga nidra is an old yogic practice that takes you to a deeply relaxed state between waking, sleeping and dreaming, and can be quite transformative. I’ve been doing yoga nidra as part of my yoga practice for over ten years now and as more of today’s teachers and studios are talking about and offering it, it seems fitting to share the benefits of yoga nidra and how it’s helped me.  

Translated from Sanskirt, yoga nidra means yogic sleep. It’s a guided relaxation technique that leads to a light withdrawal of external senses while connecting to internal awareness and still maintaining full consciousness. Through a systematic sequence of verbal instructions, it helps to release physical and mental tension, relieve stress as well as help with issues such as insomnia and anxiety. 

My teacher, Swami Pragyamurti at the Satyananda Yoga Centre in London treats the advanced classes to a monthly session and beginner classes to one a week, so I’ve experienced firsthand how amazing the practice is.  Now that I’m teacher training and learning to deliver yoga nidra myself, I can share its incredible benefits and see how much people really do love it. 

A tonic for tiredness – and more

You know the feeling after a really hard day when you body is heavy with tiredness and your mind is full of fog. That’s when I reach for a yoga nidra recording. However exhausted I might be, I know it will recalibrate and recharge me. 

A full yoga nidra is 30 mins but even a short versions (around 20 mins) will be effective at settling the body, mind and emotions. I always wake up feeling refreshed, reenergised, and with eyes and mind bright and alert. Over the years it’s helped me feel calmer in mind and has helped to ease physical tiredness. It’s honestly quite magical.

The practice can also work on a deeper level to help heal and transform, making it a tool for some yoga therapists in the treatment of trauma, stress and anxiety. The use of the resolve / sankulpa is also thought to help initiate change in a person’s life as that intension is mentally repeated in a subconscious state.

Studies have shown it can calm the nervous system, increase the relaxation response and act as a powerful tool for coping with stress.

What happens during yoga nidra? 

During the practice of yoga nidra you lie on the floor (it can also be done seated) with back and legs flat against the floor in shavasana (relaxation pose). Something to cover the body  may be helpful as body temperature drops when lying still so it’s important to have appropriate cover so the body can remain warm and comfortable. 

If it’s a full yoga nidra, and one that follows the traditional sequence, the teacher would go through eight stages. Shorter versions, or versions for beginners, might be cut down to three or four. The stages are:

  1. Settling the body – one of the most important stages – by connecting to the physical body and becoming aware of the different senses, such as touch and sound, it’s an effective route to relaxation 
  2. Breath awareness – connecting to the sound, touch and flow of breath through the body 
  3. Resolve – a positive intention or change you’d like to see in your self or life (in Sanskrit this is called the Sankulpa) 
  4. Rotation of awareness – a systematic sequence of verbal cues through the body, starting on the right side. The teacher will go call out each body part and you follow, visualising or repeating each one mentally  
  5. Pairs and opposites visualisation – describing sensory opposites, such as cold and hot to facilitate deep imagination and visualisation  
  6. Visualisation story – a creative journey that might have some symbolic meaning 
  7. Resolve – returning to your resolve, mentally repeated three times again – this is like sowing the seeds of transformation
  8. Externalisation – the teacher will externalise your senses and bring awareness back to the physical body so you awake safely and comfortably 

All you have do is listen and follow mentally. Each stage sends you deeper and deeper into a relaxed state and if your teacher has the right tone, pace and intonation, you might fall quickly into sleep or drift in and out of sleep. This is completely normal! Staying awake and aware is the aim but a good yoga nidra often ends up with a few snoring heads. 

How to do yoga nidra 

Yoga nidra is always delivered and guided by a teacher so if you read descriptions online about how to do yoga nidra yourself (I’ve read a few, worryingly high up on google searches) these are incorrect and seem to be describing relaxation in shavasana (corpse pose), which can be done on your own but is a totally different practice.

To do yoga nidra you need a teacher to deliver it or a recording. Online recordings (there are many now on YouTube) can be a bit hit or miss so I have a few good ones from teachers I like bookmarked on my iTunes and on CDs. A classical version for beginners can be purchased and downloaded here and another traditional version on YouTube here.   

There are several schools and traditions offering yoga nidra sessions (as well as teacher training) now but the Satyananda tradition is the most well known for bringing this ancient practice into the modern day over the last 40-50 years. You can read more about this in the well known text Yoga Nidra from the Bihar School of Yoga. 

So, if you’re struggling to find ways to deeply relax, you want to feel well-rested, and release physical and mental fatigue, try yoga nidra. Would love to hear what you think.

 

Introducing Fjaka – the Mediterranean way of mindful living

saint-iris-adriatica-skincare

Saint Iris Adriatica, a luxury green beauty brand, takes its inspiration from the Adriatic sea, mountains, thermal spas and wild spaces.

Founder Sanela Lazic says the brand is all about channelling fjaka [pronounced: fyak.ka], which is a relaxed state that embodies the spirit and wellbeing of Croatian life.

Sanela has taken traditional Adriatic folk remedies and combined them with natural ingredients to create products that help to strengthen skin against the stresses of modern life and encourage a more balanced state of body and mind.

I asked Sanela to talk more about fjaka….

Saint Iris Adriatica instagram
@saintirisadriatica

What is fjaka and how can you create the Fjaka feeling?

‘Fjaka is a way of life from Croatia but also practised in Italy, Spain and Latin America (with different spellings across these regions).

‘Fjaka is about being relaxed yet powerfully alive with a sense of mindfulness. It’s a blissful Adriatic state of mind that comes from simply feeling great in your own body and doing what you love.

‘Fjaka is taking time for yourself, which shouldn’t be seen as lazy or selfish; in Croatia and Italy this is seen as an essential part of self-love. Only by investing in yourself can you give back to others.

‘Often, in Croatia, you’ll hear people saying “pomalo” or “polako”, which means “bit by bit” or “slowly” and we’re now returning to some of these slower lifestyle qualities: slow-cooked food, slow fashion, self-care time – this is all fjaka in action.

How can we create fjaka?

Saint Iris Adriatica

‘Start by asking yourself, what brings you joy? What makes you feel good in body and mind? Think long-term and tune into your needs and energy.

‘The world today is skewed towards a masculine, fast-paced energy that can drain us, bring stress and self-doubt, chase the ideal, compete or fight rather than slow down or flow. Fjaka helps to create a balance of energies.’

Saint Iris Adriatica is a natural and cruelty-free brand and contains no parabens, sulphates, propylene glycol or synthetic fragrances.

My 8 favourite cookbooks for healthy vegan and vegetarian cooking

fresh india cookbook best vegetarian

I love a good cookbook. I have over 35-40 of them – bought, inherited or gratefully received. A few have proven their worth and have become absolute favourites. They’re the ones I can always rely on to provide me a new or interesting way of cooking with an ingredient. Or offer an inspiring recipe I can pull together with minimum effort and with simple foods I usually already have.

Friends often ask if I can recommend a good book and there are a few I always call out, which I’ve listed here. Each one is best for a different reason, occasion or cooking style. So if you’re looking to renew your repertoire of recipes or need fresh inspiration for healthy, plant-based cooking (that’s still hearty and filling!) then this is the list for you. Feel free to pass it on.

1. World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible

By Chris and Carolyn caldicott

And it really is a bible. If you’re excited by the variety and flavours of world cuisine you will love this. Organised by region, the authors have cherrypicked recipes that show off the best from that area. I usually turn to this book when I’m looking for a curry, going straight to the index to see the options for my chosen veg (which is how I use most cookbooks) and then I can almost guarantee the dish I find in here wouldn’t be in any other cookbook.

Best for: interesting DISHES from FAR AND WIDE

2. The Happy Pear

by David and Stephen Flynn

This was a gift from a good friend and very quickly became a regular go-to. I’m quite averse to vegan food that’s light or superficial, inadvertently channeling the notion that vegans are not hearty eaters (which is far from the truth, in my case anyway!). The Flynn brothers have taken everyday, popular ingredients such as squash and lentils and not only given them fuss-free makeovers but the recipes are sure to fill you up too. There’s not a drop of pretentious cooking here, just down to earth, wholesome meals that are both inviting and easy to follow.

BEST FOR: keeping the family full and happy

 

3. Fresh India

by Meera Sodha

I received this as a birthday present from another good friend only a few months ago and it’s been the most exciting edition to my collection. I made three recipes within the first few days of receiving it and instantly bookmarked so many more to try. Possibly because I’m obsessed with vegetarian Indian cuisine – you’ll find me at one of London’s local pure vegetarian restaurants feasting on dosa, idly and vada at any possible opportunity – that I was smitten by this book but also because Meera Sodha makes everything so simple. For example, I’ve picked up lots of new (and uncomplicated) ways of cooking Indian-inspired sauces and I found it super easy to take ingredients from one recipe and combine with the method of another, depending on what I have in the kitchen.

Best for: being creative with Indian cooking with hardly any effort

 

 

4. The Nut Butter Cookbook by Pip & Nut

By Pippa Murray

This book isn’t vegetarian or vegan (in fact, apart from the nut butters there’s hardly any vegan recipes) but I have easily adapted ideas and replaced dairy ingredients with non-dairy alternatives. The highlight for me is the Peanut Sweet Potato Gratin – once I’d swapped the cream and milk for coconut milk, it was divine.  I have also discovered super easy ways to turn nut butter into sauces, dips and dressings which has transformed my lunches and dinners. I now make peanut and sriracha sauce almost daily!

Best for: surprisingLy endless ways with nut butter


5. Silk Road Vegetarian

by Dahlia Abraham-Klein

This one was a bit of a wild card which I bought after a recommendation from my uncle, who also loves vegetarian cooking, and despite its slightly old fashioned imagery it’s definitely proven itself. Covering a region I’m naturally drawn thanks to my Iraqi heritage, I often reach for this when I want comfort food inspiration. It’s great for stews and rice dishes.

Best for: traditional cuisine that’s true to its origins

 

6. Cook, Share, Eat Vegan

by Aine Carlin

Who would have thought that one day there would be as many modern vegan cookbooks as there are out today. Bookshops and bookshelves are bursting with them all vying for our attention but it’s hard to see which ones are really worth having. Having eaten a vegan diet for over a decade now (way back when veganism was still very hippie) I feel like my plant-based cooking skills constantly needs challenging and refreshing which is why Aine Carlin’s collections appeal. If you’re looking for the next step up in plant-based cooking I’d definitely recommend this. The ideas go the extra mile to impress but still accessible and easy to make.     

Best for: Impressing guests (but not leaving them hungry)

 

 

7. Riverford Companion: Autumn Winter and Spring Summer

By GuyWatson

I’m a regular customer of Riverford veg delivery boxes (I’ve tried other veg boxes over the years but always come back to Riverford for the variety and generous portion sizes) so it’s no surprise I also love their cookbooks, thoughtfully presented for seasonal cooking. Guy Watson and the Riverford team never fail to reveal a new or enlivening way to prep or cook a vegetable, banishing boredom and educating with their decades of expertise along the way.

Best for: never being stuck with what to do with a vegetable again

 

8. The Dal Cookbook

By Krishna Dutta

An oldie but a goodie. I have no idea how this one entered my life (another gift maybe?) but for lovers of dal (obviously) it’s a must-have. From simple to elaborate and all styles and flavours in between, this is a chance to experiment with over 50 ways to find your favourites. It’s also a bit of a reference book for all things lentil-based, another reason why it’s stood the test of time on my bookshelf.

Best for: Never cooking the same dal twice

 

Would love to hear what your go-to veggie/vegan cookbooks are! Thanks for reading :)

My three fitness goals for 2019

1000 KM challenge medal

Every year I have a few big fitness goals to focus my time on. For a goal-orientated person this is what gets me out of bed (usually at 5:30AM to train!).

Last year I ran Snowdonia Trail Marathon in July which was an amazing ultra event on really challenging terrain and where we summited Snowdon (around mile 23) and then hobbled downhill to the finish line. I’ve done many marathons but this required specific work on muscle endurance and to get comfortable on hills and elevations so I spent the first six months of the year training for that with running and endurance coach, Luke Tyburski.

snowdonia trail marathon finishers
The finish line Snowdon Trail Marathon @yanarbeauty

After a lovely long summer break with almost no running, the rest of 2018 was spent doing Park Runs (although not sure what’s harder, running fast 5Ks or marathons!) and enjoying being back at my CrossFit gym building strength and working on my olympic lifting skills.

The snatch is my nemesis so I’ve been really trying to crack that with coaches at Royal Docks CrossFit as well as oly-lifting coach and ex-British champion, John McComish, who I’ve been training with at Peacock Gym in east London for the last few months and will continue next year.

I’ve always liked working with coaches for the expertise and accountability they bring so that’s something I highly recommend if you’re serious about a goal.

What’s in store for 2019?

The 2019 goals are in place. I usually start thinking about these in the last few months of each year so I have enough time to mentally prepare and plan ahead.

This quote by Seth Godin which is one of the ways I approach goal setting. It has to be something difficult and scary enough to keep you on your toes but not completely out of reach. I also like it to involve a mix of physical and mental.

If it scares you quote seth godin

Yoga

From January to July I’ll be spending most of my time and energy on my yoga teacher training course, which finishes with two weeks of assessments in July. The coming months will involve lots of practice teaching friends and family, assignments and homework and a big end of year project.

To squeeze this in to my already packed schedule (and because I don’t want to cut back on my training) I plan to basically cull my social life for a few months to carve out the extra time I need. It’s only temporary so I’m sure my friends and family will understand and won’t mind. I did the same last year for the marathon training so they’re pretty used to it now!

CrossFit

To keep making improvements I have booked a CrossFit competition in May – a pairs fitness competition called Inferno Series, which I did last year. It will be great to try and beat our 2018 scores and ranking and give us something to work towards. After that I’d love to do a singles CrossFit competition (Rainhill Trials in Manchester is one of the most popular ones) but as this is is a ballot entry I’ll have to wait and see.

Running

I’m trying something different this year so instead of one big event I’ve signed up to do the 1000KM challenge with Pow Virtual Running, which simply involves running 1000KM within 12 months, from January 1st. I chose this for the aim of being more consistent with my running rather than doing a massive push for six months and then nothing for a few months.

I’m definitely motivated by numbers so by splitting the challenge into weekly and monthly goals (it’s around 20K a week or 80KM a month) I will have something very tangible to keep me on track provide me with a more regular running habit. Plus you get a really fun-looking medal at the end of it :)

1000 KM challenge medal

So there we have it. Three key focusses for 2019 which should definitely keep me busy, motivated and excited. What are yours??

7 reasons how yoga can improve mental health

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Yoga is one of the cheapest and most effective means of releasing trauma, stress and emotions from the body.

Symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD) include anxiety, nightmares, sleep disturbance, withdrawal, loss of concentration, stress-related physical ailments, anger and aggression. These issues can easily impact a person’s ability to function in society.

Here’s why simple techniques from classical yoga are powerfully therapeutic.

  1. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading trauma psychiatrist, advocates yoga as one of the foremost means to quiet the brain and regulate emotional and physiological states. ‘Ten weeks of yoga practice markedly reduced the PTSD symptoms of patients who had failed to respond to medication or to any other treatment.’
  2. Experts have in recent years shown how traumatic stress rearranges the brain’s wiring, and sets it on high alert. A key to the treatment of psychological trauma is soothing the nervous system and inducing the relaxation response.
  3. For traumatised people, strengthening the relaxation response allows them to reengage in the present.
  4. Through regular practice of simple yoga techniques, developing awareness of body and breath, the nervous system’s relaxation response gets stronger and the body’s stress responses calm down.
  5. Bessel van der Kolk has spent three decades trying to understand how people recover from traumatic stress. He views awareness as the first step toward healing in his book, The Body Keeps the Score.
  6. He says: ‘Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience’ – because yoga is fundamentally about developing awareness, research has proven it can help improve mental health.
  7. Yoga develops awareness, first of the body and the breath, and then of our thought processes, emotions and behaviours. Through developing self-awareness, we can access our feelings, observe them, and eventually release them.

bessel van der kolk the body keeps the score book

 

Read more about how we’re using yoga to help the refugee community recover from PTSD and other mental health issues on tools4innerpeace.org.

Is yoga an exercise?

Is yoga an exercise blog

Is yoga an exercise blog

It’s a common misconception that yoga is an exercise. When people hear or talk about yoga it’s almost always referred to and understood as a form of exercise. But is it? Well, not really. So what is the difference between yoga and exercise?

While exercise and yogic postures (asana) share similarities in that they both involve movement, (most) exercise works on the sympathetic system and yoga (when done correctly) works on the parasympathetic system which is why it can be useful for people suffering from stress and anxiety. Both contribute to physical health but yoga relates to so much more than the physical. 

Evolving slowly by ancient sages all over the world, yoga has it roots in early civilisation as people developed an awareness of spiritual capabilities. Its origins are also found in the Vedas, the oldest collection of Indian spiritual scriptures for personal and spiritual development.

This ancient discipline works on all aspects of the person: the physical, mental, vital, emotional, psychic and spiritual self. This is done through a practice of asana (posture or pose), pranayama (control of breath), mudra (hand gestures), bandha (energy locks), shatkarma (cleansing and purification of the body) and meditation. These are a few of the Eight Limbs of Yoga written in the scriptures that help to remove mental and physical obstacles.

Today, mainly in western cultures, yoga classes tend to embrace asana more than any other aspect of traditional yoga which may result in a one-sided development. Engaging with all ‘limbs’, can help to expand our connection and understanding of inner ourselves and outside world.  

Physical asanas are usually people’s first experience with yoga. Not just movement though, asanas tap into energy points in the body with the potential to release energy blocks from wherever energy flow is suppressed, which is why people can feel good after a yoga class.

Moving on from the physical, yogic practices can help develop an awareness of connection between emotional, mental and physical body and how an imbalance in one of these can affect the others.

We are a combination of body, emotions, intellect and psyche and through the practices and experience of yoga – by actually living it, not just reading about it – we can develop and balance all of these, to become a happier and more integrated person.

 

13 Holiday workouts, no equipment needed

best holiday workout no equipment needed blog

best holiday workout no equipment needed blog
My own holiday workout completed in a sweaty time of 13 minutes 22 seconds. Can you beat it?

I know working out on holiday isn’t top of most people’s agendas but occasionally you might feel like sweating it out to balance out the cocktail calories and clear away the cobwebs. If you don’t have access to a gym – say you’re doing a villa or apartment rental – it’s handy to have an arsenal of drills to dip into. That’s why I’ve collected and compiled this list of workouts that can be done any time, anywhere, quickly (because there’s a holiday to enjoy) and most importantly, with no equipment needed (so there really are no excuses). They are also accessible for any level of fitness which is also great.

The sequences on this list targets the whole body, strength, mobility and cardiovascular power in one swift session and mixing up high intensity and strength makes it super efficient. Most have been taken from CrossFit programming so for time means as fast as possible to get your best time – this definitely lends more intensity, as does the higher volume of reps. You can even then repeat your workout another day to see if you can beat your time.

AMRAP means as many rounds or reps as possible which also creates a sense of urgency. Having a rep scheme to work to – rather than simply working for 30-seconds – contributes to a more effective session as you have a specific volume of work to get through which creates more focus. This combination of time and reps pushes you further. Most of these are short, sharp and sweat-pouringly effective.

I recently did #2 and it took me 13 minutes 22 seconds. Can you beat it? Have a go and let me know!

TIP: When you see 100 reps, break it up which ever way want. So I did 10 rounds of 10 for workout #2. Five rounds of 20 is also doable, although you might find you slow down on the burpees if you have to do too many in a round.

13 best holiday workouts

#1. For time: 100 burpees

#2. For time:

  • 100 push ups
  • 100 squats (hip crease below knee)
  • 100 burpees

#3. 10 rounds for time:

  • 10 pushups
  • 10 sit-ups
  • 10 air squats

#4. As fast as possible for time: – this is a great warm up workout

  • 21 air squats (hip crease below knee)
  • 21 pushups
  • 15 air squats
  • 15 pushups
  • 9 air squats
  • 9 pushups

#5. 8 rounds for time:

  • 10 situps
  • 10 burpees

#6. For time: 

  • 75 air squats
  • 50 pushups
  • 25 burpees

#7. 10 rounds for time:

  • 10 air squats
  • 10 pushups
  • 10 situps
  • 10 dips

#8. 20 minute AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible):

  • 20 walking lunges
  • 20 situps
  • 20 pushups
  • 20 squats

#9. Go as fast as possible for time: (another great warm up workout)

  • 21 squats
  • 21 burpees
  • 15 squats
  • 15 burpees
  • 9 squats
  • 9 burpees

#10. 15 minute AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible)

  • 5 push-ups
  • 15 sit-ups
  • 30 squats

#11. 3 rounds for time:

  • Run a half mile
  • 30 burpees

#12. 4 rounds for time:

  • 20 burpees
  • 20 push ups
  • 20 sit ups
  • 20 squats

#13. Stabilisation / core work 

  • 30 second or 1 minute plank hold
  • straight into 25 sit ups
  • repeated 3-4 times

 

Yoga for balancing hormones

yanar alkayat tenpilates yoga for hormones
Me and yoga teacher Danielle Willemsen at Ten for Yoga for Hormone Balance class

A few months ago I attended the launch of Ten Health & Fitness’ new class, Yoga for Hormone Balance. Designed to support and strengthen natural hormone function as well as to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind, after trying it out it seemed like the perfect antidote to a fast-paced life that puts a strain on the nervous system and hormones.

“When the sympathetic nervous system is constantly over-active, the adrenals are churning out adrenaline and cortisol to keep us going” says Dr Annaradnams of The Marion Gluck Clinic in London.

A little bit of this is ok when we need to kickstart ourselves into action but when the body is constantly in red alert mode there’s a knock on effect. Without sufficient downtime health and hormones will suffer.

The Ten Yoga for Hormone Balance class is two hours long and created by yoga teacher and movement expert Danielle Willemsen. It focusses on poses that open up the hips, elongate the spine and encourage the four key hormonal glands – pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and ovaries – to behave more harmoniously.

So much of modern yoga is fast-paced and dynamic and on top of an already stressful day and hyped up nervous system the results can be over-stimulating on the body so this new hormone-balancing class is a welcome change of pace.

Yoga was not originally designed to be a workout – in my opinion, if you want to sweat do a cardio class and choose to do yoga to slow down your breath, soften the mind and create more balance, physically and mentally.

Hormone doctors even agree that slow movement can benefit hormone function as it taps into the parasympathetic nervous system to settle the body and in turn, the nervous system.

After trying this Ten Pilates class at the press launch it inspired me to check out what classical yoga says about hormone balancing. For the last seven years I’ve been practicing a classic hatha yoga (Satyananda yoga) which is super slow and meditative and calms everything right down – mind, body and breath. My weekly Wednesday class is like a natural tranquilliser – there’s nothing quite like it – and I leave fully grounded and deeply relaxed.

The Bihar School of Yoga which I’ve been reading recently has an extensive library of books and in Yogic Management of Common Diseases I found a whole chapter on thyroid function. Here are a few extracts if you’re looking for more inspiration on yoga for hormones:

Yoga for the thyroid gland

“Long before medical science knew about the existence of thyroid glands, the yogis had devised practices that maintained healthy glands and metabolism. The good health of the neuroendocrine system was understood to be vital to higher awareness.” (pg. 24-45)

Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) is the most well recognised asana for the thyroid gland. An enormous pressure is placed on the gland by this powerful posture. As the thyroid has one of the largest blood supplies of any body organ, this pressure has dramatic effects on its function, improving circulation and squeezing out stagnant secretions.”

“The most effective pranayama (breathing work) for thyroid problems is ujjayi breath. It acts on the throat area and its relaxing and stimulating effects are most probably due to stimulation of reflex pathways within the throat area which are controlled by the brain stem and hypothalamus.”

“One of the most prominent precipitating factors in states of thyroid imbalance is long-term suppression and blockage of emotional expression. Balancing the emotions and giving a suitable outlet for their expression is an important part of yoga therapy for thyroid disease. Kirtan (signing of mantras collectively) is one of the most useful means. Another is ajapa japa meditation in conjunction with ajjayi breath.”

 xx

How not to get a cold #2

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Brrr.. it’s baltic! Surviving winter without getting ill is no mean feat. The Organic Pharmacy Immune Tonic (which I previously blogged about here) is brilliant for supporting health and wellness over a period of time but for on the spot defence do not leave home without A. Vogel Echinaforce Sore Throat Spray. 

avogel-echinaforce-throat-spray-30ml-reviewAt the very first sign of a tickling throat (you know that feeling when you might be coming down with something) or if you already have a sore throat, or people around you are coughing or contagious just whip out this mean machine herbal tincture and spritz three to four times.

With a few sprays to the back of the throat (I’m warning you now it’s got a crazily intense taste that will shock your taste buds but a few seconds later most people love the sage-hit) it instantly attacks gristly germs trying to bring you down.

It’s probably the one product I recommended the most and everyone who’s bought it at the back of my recommendation now swears by it. I love it even more because it’s a combo of natural, herbal and botanical ingredients: freshly harvested echinacea purpurea herb and root and sage leaves. The back of pack also says it contains sorbitol (407mg), ethanol (370mg), soy lecithin (20mg) and sucrose laurate (5mg).

It rarely leaves my side November through to March and even throughout summer I take it with me on travels, especially if I’m on a plane where the air is rife with germs. Even my editor, Anna Magee at Healthista love it- here’s her raving about it on Instagram:

healthista instagram avogel echinaforce throat spray

I’m already on my second bottle this winter because this stuff really works!

Review: Amchara Detox Retreat in Gozo, Malta

amchara spa malta juice detox review

In August I visited Amchara Detox Retreat on Malta’s sister island, Gozo for a review in Health & Fitness magazine. I stayed for five sunny days, three of which I spent on a juice detox and two were spent on a raw food diet. After a summer of festivals, holidays and fun it was a welcome break but the no-food-only-juice days were a shock to the system, mainly mentally because I hate going hungry! But after day two I started to settle into the process and after a few treatments a more positive feeling took over. Amchara is a laid-back, down to earth, nurturing and the people (staff and guests) really make the stay extra special. If you’re a first-timer to detoxing or fancy a relaxed retreat this is a great place to start. Here are the highlights with snapshots of my stay…

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About Amchara Detox Retreat

Guests come to detox and fast at Amchara for a variety of reasons: to inspire a healthier lifestyle; learn about detoxing and nutrition; lose or manage weight; address health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome; or simply to rest and recharge. The Amchara team includes naturopaths, a colonic therapist, a health director, a raw food chef, massage therapists and a yoga and fitness instructor – all are invaluable at guiding and inspiring guests through the process, and always on hand for advice.

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The juice detox programme

An initial health screening with the naturopath identifies which of the two programmes you should choose: a classic juice fast aimed to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes or a raw food diet. I chose a three-day juice fast and two days of raw food. Based on the philosophy of functional health, Amchara aims to tackle the underlying cause of health conditions, not just the symptoms. Your relationship with food as well as your lifestyle, genetics and environment are all considered. You can stay from three days to a month or more and there are no fixed start dates.

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A typical day at Amchara

The vibe here is relaxed and laid back. Juices and superfood shots are delivered with nameplates daily at 9am, midday and 3pm, with an evening broth at 6:30pm. The juices are based on a mixture of beetroot, cucumber, fennel, courgette, apple, carrot, celery, ginger and lemon to support your digestion, cleanse the liver and feed your body with essential nutrients and vitamins.

amchara-detox-retreat-review-6

The shots of nutritional super supplements can include chlorella, wheatgrass, spirulina, turmeric, maca and bitter aloe, selected by the naturopaths to suit your health needs. Headaches, fatigue or nausea can be experienced before you feel better – I felt grumpy, hungry and had headaches on the first day, but this cleared by the end of day two. To stave off hunger, we had unlimited herbal teas and psyllium husks with water– as well as lemon and Himalayan salt with water to aid hydration and the detox.

amchara-detox-retreat-review-6

 

Gentle activities such as yoga, Pilates, a walk, a health talk or aqua aerobics punctuate the days but there’s no pressure to join in. The mellow evening activities might involve a local guest such as a Tibetan sound healer or a group sunset walk. Bikes are available for a coastal ride or you can go for a gentle jog. Other activities include visiting the local town, Victoria or going to Comino island.
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The treatments

An important part of the detox process at Amchara is intestinal cleansing, so colonic hydrotherapy and enemas are encouraged. Sally Jobes, a registered colon hydrotherapist, is a wealth of information. I chose an enema (once with water and once with coffee, which stimulates liver detoxification) and felt brighter with a burst of energy after. You can also have massages, facials, lymphatic drainage and food intolerance tests. All treatments cost extra. I also had a health mentoring session with health director Kirstie Chisholm (€180 for 90 minutes). After discussing daily nutrition, emotional concerns, stress management and work-life balance, I walked away with a manageable plan.

amchara-detox-retreat-review-20

The rooms

With only 26 apartments at the retreat, you can enjoy a peaceful atmosphere but still be sociable. Each apartment has air con, a spacious double bedroom, living area, fully equipped kitchen, bathroom and a balcony or veranda overlooking the central pool.

 

In a nutshell, is Amchara for you?

If you’re looking for a relaxed and gentle detox experience, Amchara is perfect. There are no bootcamp vibes and ideal for first time detoxers. If you’ve had enough of the juice cleanse you can go onto the raw food programme, no quibbles. I left feeling mentally and physically revived. There is also Amchara Somerset for those looking for a UK detox.

Visit: amchara.com for prices and more info

 

5 Top Tips for Going (and Staying) Vegan

gemma-correll-who-invited-the-vegetarian-illustration-tips-for-going-vegan
Enter a caption

 

If you’re considering a meat and dairy-free, plant-based diet but don’t want to lose friends or your social life in the process then read on…

As someone who’s been vegan for over ten years and vegetarian nearly all of my life I thought I’d share my top five tips. After years of experience these are my go-to ways and shortcuts.

Maybe you’ve discovered your own – would love to hear them – and if you want more tips and tricks (I have so many) don’t forget you can leave a comment by hitting the plus sign below or tweet me @yanarbeauty.

1. Work out your motivation

Why are you doing it? What’s your motivation for taking on this way of eating. It’s also a way of life so the more you believe in what you’re doing the more likely you are to stick to it.

I wrote about my motivations and reasons for being vegan in a previous post here. It was a natural extension of being vegetarian from the age of nine – as my knowledge of the meat and dairy industry (and the impact it has on our health) grew so did my commitment. It’s taken years of education and awareness and I now passionately believe in it, it’s nothing like a fad.

2. Find your own boundaries

At the very beginning when I first toyed with the idea of going vegan I tried to be strict and failed miserably. A very miserable six month start ended up with a huge Christmas binge on cake and chocolate – lesson learnt – extreme and sudden deprivation can only lead to rebellion or failure!

There’s no need to lose your head over it so start gently, especially if you’re going from being a full meat eater. If someone offers you some cheese after dinner or chocolates in the office and you really can’t resist, it’s ok! Take it easy and be lenient and kind to yourself.

My boundaries are meat (obviously) and dairy as a whole ingredient, for example I would never have an egg sandwich but if someone has baked a cake for a birthday then I may have a bite or a slice out of courtesy (and sometimes I won’t – I’ll just judge the situation). I think it’s good to be balanced in mind and make small exceptions when needed and know you’re committed all other times.

3. Be flexible eating out

Eating out my seem like an impossible feat at first but it gets easier once you get the hang of it, I promise. The trick? Be flexible and open minded with the menu (mix and match ingredients and check out the sides menu for vegan-friendly options), be nice to waiters/waitresses, and don’t be anal. By that I mean, if something has a hint of butter in it maybe you can let it pass? For me, as long as butter, eggs or cheese are not the main ingredients I don’t get too caught up. For example, it’s ok if some ghee has been used in an Indian vegetarian meal (it’s likely to be minimal) but I won’t choose a paneer cheese dish. No one likes a food bore so it works for me to be flexible when social and then as true to veganism as I like when I’m at home. That way I get to keep my friends and social life too!

4. Eat more!

Cutting out three major food groups (meat, fish, dairy) means making up the calories, vitamins and nutrients somewhere else otherwise you might waste away or end up looking like a pale, unhealthy, anaemic vegan and that’s no fun. Stay strong and satiated with bigger portion sizes than you’re probably used to – the calorie content of vegetables and pulses is far lower than meat, fish and dairy so you have a lot of catching up to do at meal times.

Anyone who knows me well knows I eat family portion sized meals (and I’m still small) with a mega fast metabolism. In the past I’ve tried dipped into packet vegan / meat substitute foods (non-dairy cheese springs to mind) but found unprocessed wholefoods in their most natural state work best for me. This area is yours to experiment with.

5. Get friendly with fats

My secret to staying fuller for longer is to eat plenty of plant fats… I always have avocados, coconut oil, tahini paste, olive oil, argan oil and rapeseed oil in the cupboard and eat them with food on a daily basis. I use coconut oil instead of butter to spread onto toast (delicious on sourdough or rye bread) and drizzle olive or argan oil on food so it goes the extra mile. Otherwise I’d be starving again very soon! PLUS all of these plant fats are nourishing for skin and cells so it’s a win-win situation.

I do believe you need to be a bit of food lover to be vegan otherwise it’s difficult to make it work as it’s already a restricted diet. Enjoy yourself and be creative within the boundaries and experiment… Don’t be afraid to try something new and you’ll eventually arrive at foods and meals you love. Would love to hear any questions or tips you might have…  Happy eating!

(Image credit: Gemma Correll – my favourite illustration, brilliantly depicted)

NEW: Mr Black Sport Refresh – the eco version of Fabreze

I’ve always loved the idea of Fabreze to refresh clothes but now I’ve found an eco version with biodegradable ingredients and I’m totally hooked.

mr black refresh review
@mrblackessentials instagram

Mr Black Sport Refresh is made from natural ingredients that gently reduce sweat odours and kill bacteria in sporty technical fabrics. The lovely scent is from rose leaf, ylang-ylang blossom and vanilla.

If I’m heading out for the day after a workout then I’ve been carrying it in my gym bag so I can spritz my kit to avoid that gross smell by the time I get home. It’s also good product to take away on holiday if you’re not able to do a regular wash.

The Refresh range also includes Denim, Wool & Cashmere, Shoe, and Cotton & Linen sprays, as well as a Cleanse Sports Wash (pictured above) that I’m keen to try; another biodegradable option for sport fabrics.

My only disappointment with Mr Black Refresh is that it comes in a 125ml bottle not 100ml which meant I couldn’t pack it away in my hand luggage on a weekend trip abroad recently. Maybe a set of minis could be next for Mr Black…

Buy it at www.mr-blacks.com £9.99 for 125ml.

6 Best Natural Sleep Products 

Viridian Cherry Night best natural sleep products

If you’re stressed out by sleepless nights you’re not alone. Apparently 56% of adults say lack of sleep is stressing them out*. April was Stress Awareness Month so here are my favourite natural sleep and relaxation products from supplements to sprays that I use, recommend and often write about.Wishing you a calmer and more peaceful night…

1. A.Vogel Dormeasan

When I’ve struggled to sleep in the past, this has been my favourite way to nod. Made from organically grown valerian root and hops. Simply add 30 drops to a dash of water, 30 minutes before bedtime and swig it back. You may not like the taste but it’s short and sharp, works beautifully and worth the restful night. avogel.co.uk  

A.Vogel Dormeasan

2. Viridian Cherry Night

A powder mix of magnesium, red date, cherry extracts and the amino acid glycine. Add one teaspoon to water or juice and drink half an hour before bed. A friend of mine swears by this and was surprised how quickly it brought on sleep and how deep that sleep was. Viridian.co.uk

Viridian Cherry Night

3. Potter’s Nodoff Plus Mixture

This has the consistency of a cough syrup which makes it super convenient to take. You can easily reach for a teaspoon and jump into bed. Contains passionflower, hops, valerian and skullcap, all clinically proven to aid sleep. pottersherbals.co.uk

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4. Pukka Night Time

If you prefer popping a capsule pill then try Pukka Night Time. Containing valerian too but also the ancient Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha root which aids relaxation. The outer capsule shell is vegetable based / vegan and all the herbs are harvested from highly fertile organic soils via Pukka’s fairtrade programmes.  Contains no dairy, wheat, gluten, added sugar or soya and no GMO ingredients. pukkaherbs.com

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5. This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray

I was sceptical about a pillow spray at first but after diligent testing night after night, I became a total convert and dare I say a bit of an addict. I loved spritzing my pillow and duvet edges with this and letting the aromatherapeutic scents drift around and work their magic. You don’t need to suffer from sleepless nights to experience this product – if you’re prone to endless thoughts before falling asleep this gently relaxes and unwinds. thisworks.com

best natural sleep products This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray

6. Fushi Passion Seed Oil

For an alternative to tinctures, supplements and sprays I’ve also tried a calming natural body oil. This maracuja oil by herbal health and beauty brand Fushi is obtained from the the passion flower, known for its calming and stress relieving properties. Harvested from Uganda and supporting over 200 families via a women’s cooperative. I recommend adding a few drops to your bath or applying it as a body oil before bed. I also found an impressive array of Fushi night time tinctures here – can’t wait to try them!

Fushi Passion Seed Oil

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that since adopting a regular breathing practice before bed I’m now able to nod off fairly calmly without help from herbal remedies. This has been a transformative habit and highly recommend it as a way to de-stress the body and mind. You can read more about my bedtime breathing practices here.

Let me know if there’s a product or practice that works for you!

*Research conducted by the Henry Potter Advisory Committee on behalf of Potter’s Herbals.

In the kitchen: 4 best non-dairy and vegan protein powders

I’m on a mission to get stronger and if you read my column on Healthista.com you’ll see I’ve taken up Crossfit. To build more lean muscle only protein will help. As I don’t eat dairy I need an alternative to whey powder so I’ve been trying a variety of non-dairy shakes and powders suitable for vegans. These are my favourite, ie. the tastiest and best I’ve tried so far. 

1. Neat Nutrition Vegan Protein, £34

A combo of hemp and pea powder for 25gm protein per serving. Try the chocolate or vanilla for a delicious milkshake-style drink. I think the touches of xylitol and stevia are the secret to the great taste so even without milk, just water, and without having to add any other powder or ingredients, it’s lip-lickingly tasty. If it’s too rich however, just add more liquid. www.neat-nutrition.com 

Neat Nutrition Best Vegan_Protein

 

2. The Protein Works Natural Sunflower Protein

Made from 100% organic sunflower seeds, high in fibre, minerals and nine amino acids and the taste is surprisingly nice – I thought it would be bland but it’s mild, nutty and a bit creamy. While it doesn’t really need mixing with any other powder I’ve been adding Neal’s Yard Organic Berry Complex to give it a lift – a powdered berry complex high in vitamin C so it’s a great antioxidant and immune boost especially after working out so hard when oxidation is at its peak. Best bit about Protein Works Sunflower Protein is the price – not everyone can afford the super luxurious protein shakes out there so if you’re on a budget, look no further. www.theproteinworks.com

 

best vegan dairy free protein shakes

 

3. The Super Elixir Nourishing Protein Powder, £48

I’m so pleased I’ve discovered this one from Elle Macpherson’s WelleCo brand and was lucky enough to hear all about it from Elle herself at the press launch of her 4-Week Body programme this week. The Protein Powder contains all high quality, organic and vegan ingredients as a superior alternative to whey: pea, brown rice, all nine essential amino acids, B vitamins, cacao powder and a plethora of antioxidant richness from acai, pomegranate, dandelion, grapeseed, rosehip and so much more!  This is a truly intelligent supplement drink. The tasty is mild and chocolatey and works perfectly well alone which I love. The sweetness and chocolate taste are both low so if you want a more intensive experience on your taste buds add one and a half or two scoops. www.welleco.co.uk 

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Meeting Elle Macpherson and Dr. Simone Laubscher at the launch of 4-Week Body ReBoot in London

elle macpherson super elixir protein review

 

4. Nutriseed Hemp Protein Powder, £11.49

This is from a new superfood retailer Nutriseed and I just love the style and packaging – simple, bold and gutsy. Hemp powder is green in colour but doesn’t taste as green as you might imagine (it’s not as terrible as spirulina) but it doesn taste better with another ingredient so I’ve been using this with the same Neal’s Yard Organic Berry Complex featured above. I’ve also been adding this hemp powder to supplement other shakes. While hemp is not a complete protein (as it’s lower in a few of the amino acids) the bonus is the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and fibre it contains. www.nutriseed.co.uk

hemp protein nutriseed review best non dairy and vegan

 

I have a protein shake after every single Crossfit workout (I do three a week at Royal Docks in East London). The protein fuels muscle growth and aids recovery and the liquid forms means it’s broken down and digested quicker then solid food. I ALWAYS follow with a proper breakfast or lunch though as these are not meal replacements, but food supplements.

Doing more weight-bearing exercises as I speed through my 30s is important to help maintain bone health, keep metabolism high (which starts to drop the older you get), keep limbs nimble and skin toned. Basically to help fight all the signs of ageing!

Not heard of Crossfit? Now’s the time to check it out! It’s an intense workout that uses functional training, weightlifting and gymnastic exercises in interval style drills. It’s fast, furious and fun and a great way to build all-round fitness and strength but to really make a difference it’s also down to nutrition.

If you’ve tried a good protein shake recently sans the whey and dairy then let me know! Or maybe you’re a dairy-free Crossfitter with some good tips? Tell me more!  x

 

Favourite kitchen gadget: Almond/Soya Milk Maker

I’m lucky I get to try out all sorts of gadgets and fun things for work and very occasionally one will stand out from the rest, be genuinely fabulous and earn a place in my everyday life. This year I found one of those star products: Tribest Soyabella Milk Maker. If you love non-dairy milk, check out my full review of this milk maker and get it on your Christmas wishlist.

Tribest-Soyabella-Nut-Milk-Maker-Healthista-Reviewed-384

Non-dairy milks are massively on the rise and have never been as popular with supermarkets and health food shops exploding with choice, more than I’ve ever seen. So if you are regularly buying soya or almond milk, making your own could be a healthier, cheaper and more ecological way to enjoy it.

Apart from the obvious being fresh, natural and homemade almond milk, the best bit for me is the speed and ease. Making things quick and easy is the sign of a good gadget! 

Once you’ve soaked your almonds for a few hours or overnight, you just pop them in the maker and it takes less than 60 seconds to turn the almonds into milk. Incredible! I believe a 200gm of almonds makes me just under a litre of milk, and that lasts a few days. The water and pulp does seperate slightly once it’s been sitting in the fridge so you just need to give it a stir before using. 

You also know exactly what’s going into it and it’s actually very little – just almonds and filtered water! Flavour is optional so you can add a couple of drops of vanilla or agave syrup but I make it completely flavour-free and tastes great.

For my full review and verdict, including what to do with nut or almond pulp left over from the milk, my review of the milk maker is on Healthista.com here and let me know what you think, and if you have one or tempted to buy one let me know too!