Happy Two Year Blog Anniversary!

imageI’ve just had a notification from WordPress saying it’s my 2 year anniversary today! I remember being so very nervous of putting myself into the blogosphere, never having even read a blog before. I barely used social media, having left Facebook a couple of years before and only recently joined Twitter, more to follow the news and a few sports people than to actually write anything insightful.

I had written a few recipes for The Raw Chocolate Company (for free) and my son suggested I start my own blog. It must have taken me 2 or 3 months to pluck up the courage and then to look into how to go about it. I had a few false starts with other companies, usually to do with incompatibility with iPads, before I tried WordPress. I floundered around trying to choose a theme – I had no idea what that meant – and eventually discovered the Blogging 101 course, which was very helpful and was where I met some of my first followers.

I soon found myself staring at a blank screen awaiting my first words of wisdom! I wrote what eventually became my Home page and my About Me pages, lost and rewrote them several times, eventually realising that what was supposed to be my first post was in fact several posts and resembled a novel. I was still writing in essay mode. It took a long time to find a more informal style for blogging – and I still haven’t mastered brevity!

imageFinally I wrote Pears But No More Parsnips: In Which I Confront My Parsnip Phobia! as a way of explaining the title of my blog and introducing my readers to juicing at the same time. I thought it was worth providing a link to this original post so that new followers can have an opportunity to read it and stop puzzling over my name 🙂

At the outset, I thought I would be answering questions about juicing and health. I thought my posts would be responses to requests from people seeking information about food- and health-related issues. I certainly wasn’t going to reveal anything personal. I didn’t even have a profile picture. In my blogging innocence, I never imagined I would have to come up with self-generated topics and send them off into what seemed like a vacuum, in the hope that someone would read them. I also never intended to write recipes! I didn’t want to write a food blog. It’s been hard marrying the two together and finding a balance. At times, I have felt that the balance has shifted too far over into food and away from health and wellbeing, hence the introduction of Monday Meditation, posts on mindfulness and creativity, kindness and gratitude, as well as the occasional post about struggles with my own health issues and about chronic pain, mental health and disability.

For a long time I had difficulty finding a balance between producing enough to keep people interested and not letting posting schedules take over my life. I feel more relaxed about my output now, but I do occasionally have a bit of a panic when my ideas/draft folder shows signs of haemorrhaging!

Thank you to everyone who has supported my endeavours, I never thought I would have a core of regular readers still cheering me on from the sidelines two years later. It has made a big difference to my life and I have ‘met’ so many people from such different places and walks of life. I am truly grateful. Namaste.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

How to Make Cashew Nut Milk & Why You Should!

28597920_UnknownThe other night I was woken up with a horrible cramp in my right leg. I rarely get cramp so it’s a painful shock when I do. I decided I needed magnesium, which is necessary to prevent tight muscles, and while we normally use almonds or tiger nuts for homemade milk (see Nut & Seed Milks & Smoothie Recipes), yesterday morning it was cashew nuts I turned to for their magnesium content (see Magnesium: Are You Getting Enough?).

I like cashew milk, the blended cashew pulp is so fine, smooth and creamy, if you press too hard it all starts to come through the straining bag; in fact, many people prefer not to strain it at all.

Homemade cashew milk is much better nutritionally than commercial nut milk: many manufacturers add thickeners, gum, sugar and so on, and the levels of protein and other nutrients are a fair way behind those in homemade milk.

Cashew nut milk is lactose- and cholesterol- free, contains calming and relaxing magnesium, iron, calcium and several other vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fats. It also contains tryptophan an amino acid that enables the production of serotonin, which is mood-enhancing.

We make our plant milks in a Froothie Optimum blender (pictured above). It is fast, easy to use, can handle ice cubes and is super-easy to clean. The Retro Fast Blend* (featured in the photo below with its partner the Retro Cold-Press Juicer* ) also makes nut milk, but is smaller so we use the Optimum for larger quantities.

Here’s our version:

Vegan, Organic, Gluten-free.

1 Cup Cashews (we use broken pieces, they are cheaper), soaked overnight and soaking water discarded

3 Cups Water

1 Medjool Date (optional)

1/4 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Pink Himalayan Salt

(The date and salt help preserve the milk so it keeps for 3-4 days in an airtight jar or bottle in the fridge).

Add them all to a high-speed blender and blend on high for about 60 seconds.

Strain through a nut milk bag or a piece of muslin into a large jug or use as it is.

Store in an glass jar or bottle in the fridge. We use these funky easy-grip bottles from Grip and Go

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For breakfast, the cashew milk was used to make a gorgeous Frozen Mango Chia Pudding – see next post for recipe!

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See also Magnesium-Rich Hippy Hippy Shake

* You may like to read Retro Super Blend – Review,  Which Juicer? – Where to Begin?, and Juicemaster Retro Super Fast Juicer: Review for information on blenders and juicers we have tried and currently use.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

How to Make Vegan Raw Chocolate Love Hearts & Mini Eggs

img_3122A bit late in the day, but better late than never, I hope! These were made with ingredients I won in a recent Raw Chocolate Company giveaway. We’re looking forward to having another go and substituting some of the ingredients, meanwhile these happily passed the taste test: husband and gardener friend (here to prune trees and replace broken flags) demolished them and gave them their seal of approval. (Gardener took some home for his wife!)

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My prize:

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We began with a basic recipe by Eighty20Nutrition but halved the amount, changed the nuts and greatly reduced the amount since they were chopped – we didn’t need as many as the whole pistachios in the original recipe – we also added vanilla. I would have used almond butter instead of tahini but didn’t have enough. Next time.

We also thought we might use Goldenberries next time, they are a bit tart and very fruity. You could also try dried sour cherries or cranberries (I like them infused with apple juice).

For those of you who like to spice it up, you could add a little chilli powder.

So here’s how we did it – all organic where possible, measurements very approximate, substitute like for like where you wish.

Vegan & Gluten-Free.

Ingredients

120g Cacao Butter*

About 50g Sweet Apricot Kernels,* finely chopped but not ground (you could use almonds or any other nuts)

 1/4 Cup Cacao Powder*

75g Dried Mulberries*, lightly broken up if using small moulds (reserve 1/4 Cup whole ones for the end)

150g Tahini or Almond Butter

1/4 Tsp Organic Vanilla Extract

3/4 (three-quarters) Tbsp Maple Syrup

 Method

Place the tub of cacao butter in hot water until it starts melting (you can also use cacao butter buttons). Slide it out and break up until you have the amount you need, in this case, half a tub.

Place a Pyrex bowl over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water and slowly melt the cacao butter.

When completely melted, add the remaining ingredients except the reserved mulberries, stirring until mixed in.

Blend until smooth with a stick blender.

Fold in the remaining mulberries and if setting flat in a tray some larger pieces of nuts – pistachios work well.

img_3126Spoon into silicone moulds or into a baking tray and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set. Cut into slices if set in a tray.

(The moulds are inexpensive, we found ours on Amazon).

Best eaten from the fridge as home-made chocolate melts quicker than commercial chocolate.

They also keep in the freezer.

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We made 15 hearts and 20 mini egg halves, which have gone into the freezer for Easter.

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See also further raw chocolate recipes in these posts:

 Food Matters’ ‘One Minute Slice’ Raw Chocolate Protein Bars

This Valentine’s Day Scrooge is Spreading the Love!

Fill Your Easter Basket with Home Made Vegan Raw Chocolate Eggs

Raw Treats – Recipes

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

500 Up: It’s Giveaway Time!

Yesterday, I received a lovely surprise in the form of a notification from WordPress that I now have 500 followers! I only began blogging just over a year ago, not having much of a clue technically, but having completed the Blogging 101 course I had gained a little more know-how and a few blogging friends, many of whom are still with me and have provided much-needed support.

My (at the time) newly-retired husband is very grateful to you all for keeping me occupied and out of mischief!

To say thank you, we are having a small giveaway. 

imageMy friend, Dale Preece-Kelly, aka Organic Guinea Pig, published his first book ‘Health Revolution’ almost 2 years ago. I have a spare paperback copy to give away. You can read a fuller review of the book here but briefly, Dale lost everything, his marriage, his home, his job and almost his life following a motorbike accident. His lifestyle didn’t help: he smoked, drank was overweight and had a heart attack.

He managed to turn his life around through healthy eating, juicing, exercise and a positive attitude.

Dale tells his story in a chatty, light-hearted style, providing amusing anecdotes, recipes and advice in a non-dogmatic manner.

We had a visit from our smallest grandchildren at the weekend and we made Dale’s Sweet Potato Chocolate Orange Brownies, the recipe is in the review above and in the book.

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If you would like a chance to win this book, simply leave a comment on this post saying you would like your name to go into the hat. You don’t need to do anything else.

  1. The competition is open to all my Blog Followers. My husband will pick a name at random.

2. The competition runs from publication of this post until midnight GMT Saturday, 28th January, 2017.

Dale is a successful author, nutritional therapist, Life Coach and also runs a renowned and well-respected animal assisted therapy business, focusing on mental health issues.

Health Revolution’ and Dale’s new book ‘Unleashing The Healing Power of Animals ‘ are available on Amazon.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Veganuary

January has been designated Veganuary and even has its own website! 

It was such a success last year that I think it is probably here to stay.

40,000 people have signed up to try being vegan for a month and the website is there to provide support, advice, product websites and tasty recipes for people wanting to increase the plant-based element of their diet and reduce meat and dairy. 

Cartoon by www.vegansidekick.comEveryone has their own food journey, we are all at differing stages and are there for different reasons, whether it be health, ethics or environmental impact.

I am not about to go through all the whys and wherefores, others have done a much better job than I can, but I have decided to provide a Vegan category to house the information about being vegan if people wish to look it up.

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(Photo from The Vegan Community)

Recently, I published Hanna’s post Plant Powered New Year which was her response to a specific question about whether a diet containing meat would have an effect on psoriasis. Hanna suffered with appalling psoriasis and is now mostly vegan after ridding herself of the misery of itchy, inflamed skin through juicing and a plant-based diet. Hanna was quite forthright in her language, which may not appeal to some, but she has had a rough journey to where she stands now as a beautifully healthy, energetic young woman and has just had her first book published called ‘Radiant’. It includes her story along with beautiful photography and tasty recipes to help achieve the same results.

Today, I have decided to provide links not only to her post but also 3 others which take a more softly-softly approach and give a guiding hand to those just beginning to look into the subject of ‘going vegan’.

The first is Rachel at Healthy and Psyched5 Tips For Transitioning To Veganism where she is at pains to reduce the guilt element so often present in such articles. Rachel says basically that you are not a bad person because you unwittingly – or even wittingly – eat something that has dairy in it at a family party for instance, and my favourite is not to throw away all your make-up, which is expensive to replace and such a waste, and which is exactly what I did!

The second post is from Feminine Boutique BlogHow To Go Vegan in 4 Steps This post gives links to sites, YouTubers and books where you can find the information you crave and the support. It is short and there is nothing to scare the horses (pun intended!) It too is written in an easy-going style and isn’t at all ‘preachy’.

Another interesting post is from Our Green Nation2016’s Top 10 Vegan Moments which lists interesting topics such as the American government, scientists and doctors giving vegetarian and vegan diets the thumbs up as being healthy and suitable for any stage in life, while the latest American Nutritional Guidelines are the most vegetarian-friendly ever; they feature the Sainsbury’s ‘Gary’ vegan cheese furore and the members of the USA Olympic team who have plantbased diets including a weightlifter.

Finally, there is even a website for teenage vegetarians and vegans: http://www.teenvgn.com It is a great site, describing iteslf as a social network for teen vegetarians and vegans, providing a safe place for 12-19 year olds to obtain information, recipes and exchange ideas. They even run a summer camp every year full of activities for 11 a 17 year olds. They encourage volunteering and put together care boxes for homeless people in local areas. They are sponsored by several reputable companies and supported by The Raw Chocolate Company.

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Going vegan doesn’t mean going boring! There are many websites and Instagram accounts with colourful, balanced vegan recipes. You can also check out the vegan recipes in my menu.

The Vegan Society will provide answers to most of your questions.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

What To Do If You Feel Hungry on a Juice Plan or Don’t Need To Lose a Lot of Weight

imageThis morning I was asked by Siobhan of Paris Here And There if there is anything she can do to avoid the hunger pangs on a juicing program and also to prevent her losing weight unnecessarily.

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that next Monday I am joining Jason Vale’s ‘Big January Clean-Up’ which involves doing the first 14 days of his 28 day SuperJuiceMe! plan (there is still time to sign up via the Juicemaster website, all coaching videos, shopping lists, recipes are free).

First, let me explain about hunger pangs.

It is normal to feel hunger in the first 3 days of a juice plan.

More often than not these are withdrawal pangs, not genuine hunger. Your body is getting everything it needs from the nutritionally balanced juices, blends and smoothies. What it is not getting is the caffeine, sugar, alcohol and hopefully nicotine it has become dependent upon and it is shouting at you very loudly about this restriction, as with any withdrawal from addictive substances.

And let’s make no bones about it: all these substances are addictive. Sugar has the same effect on the brain as crack cocaine and heroin!

Here are some tips and advice:

1. The way to reduce these withdrawal symptoms (headaches, cravings) is to taper off and finally quit in the 2 weeks before a juice-only program.

2. Once you begin the plan, keep well-hydrated, using herbal and fruit teas, warm water with a slice of lemon, as well as plain water; rest – go for walks in the fresh air, do yoga, rather than sessions at the gym – and watch or read inspiring films and books to keep you motivated. (See the suggested list at the end).

3. If you genuinely feel hungry, you can’t sleep for tummy rumbles etc. there are emergency rations you can turn to (see later).

4. The point of the plan is to give your digestive system a rest and allow your body to repair, renew and rest, so try to resist for the first 3 days.

5. Keep yourself occupied so you’re not thinking about food all the time.

6. Have your juices ready and don’t wait until you’re desperate before having them, then you won’t be tempted to grab a sugary snack or bag of crisps. Also, sip your juices slowly through a straw.

7. Try to find a juice buddy. If this is your first time, support is vital and you can either persuade a friend or family member to join you or find amazing support on Jason Vale’s Facebook page, where you can ask questions and get advice, or on Twitter/Instagram.

8. Keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it. Read up on the health benefits of juicing and arm yourself to fend off all the doubters and sceptics who will try to undermine your resolve.

9. Don’t be put off, the results will speak for themselves and will silence the naysayers.

10. Over 25 people, including some who tried to put me off, started juicing after they saw the amazing results from my first plan.

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For those who don’t want or need to lose a lot of weight:

When I did the last 14 day juice challenge, I didn’t need to lose weight but this time after a cold, too much comfort food and lots of family visits/festive food I could do with it!

However, there are those who just want the re-energising health benefits or want to clear up their skin or reduce aches and pains and who have no wish or need to lose weight. I have compiled a list of things you can do if you fall into these categories.

You may still lose some weight just by the fact that you have cut out a lot of snacks and high fat/sugary foods during your juice plan, but you will slowly regain what you need when your body readjusts to what is normal eating for you.

You will generally only lose the weight you need to lose. 

I do these juice challenges 4 times a year. My first 2 times I lost  2 1/2 stones (35lbs) altogether. Now, I lose about 5 lbs as I don’t need to lose any more.

And for those who really do suffer genuine hunger pangs, there are things you can eat to alleviate them, but only in a dire emergency!

Tips for emergency rations or to prevent unwanted weight loss:

1. To allay hunger pangs or to avoid a big weight loss, stick to plant foods and oils as your emergency rations. You can add an extra juice, or a tsp of flax oil or coconut oil to a glass of juice.

2. To prevent digestive issues, I reiterate: stay away from processed and sugary foods, meat and dairy, coffee and alcohol.

3. Half a ripe avocado either on its own in the evening with lemon juice and cracked black pepper or blended into a couple of juices a day (1/4 at a time) will usually do the trick. It is normal to feel hungry in the first 2 to 3 days but then your body adjusts.

4. Hunger and thirst can be confused. More often than not, it is hydration you need rather than food. Again, keep hydrated using herbal and fruit teas as well as plenty of water.

5. You can add a tablespoon of ground organic linseeds (or other seeds) to your juices (this also helps if you have any problems with constipation).

6. Half a very ripe banana in the evening can also help.

7. If out and about and the avocados and banana are not an option, a healthy version of a fruit bar can help, but make sure it does not contain refined sugar, dairy or other additives, just pure fruit and nuts.

8. My go-to emergency ration is one of Jason’s ‘Juice in a Bar’ snacks. These really do replace a juice if you need to and are very filling.  Usually, I can manage only half.

9. You could add a higher calorie vegetable to your juices like sweet potato – I use these often in my own juices (usually to replace parsnips!)

10. Whatever you decide, always chew slowly and thoroughly, otherwise your tummy will object if it is already adapting to the juice program.

Bonus tip: Try adding some good quality pea or hemp protein powder to some of your juices to stave off the hunger and give your juices some extra oomph!

Most of all, remember that if you have to miss a juice or you do feel the need for extras, it doesn’t mean you have failed and you have to give up! Just pick up where you left off. You will still gain the benefits. Even if you just have one juice a day and cut down or cut out the processed, sugary stuff, you will feel more energy, your skin, hair and nails will benefit and if you need to lose some weight, then this will help.

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I hope I have covered everything. If you have any other questions please ask in the comments and I will try to address them in another post. You may find the answers already in the Juicing Tips section of the Menu.

Finally, a list of films, books and websites for motivation and support.

These websites are excellent for books, articles, recipes, information, support

Juicemaster I recommend all of Jason’s books for their down-to-earth, lighthearted style in explaining how food works, how the food and pharma industries work, how juicing works.

Reboot with Joe Cross Aussie Joe is inspirational for his own journey, documented in his film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. He also does guided reboots and his website has a wealth of information and advice.

The Natural Juice Junkie Neil is a leading Britsh juice exponent and lifestyle coach. His articles are informative, short and easy to read. He also does guided juice challenges.

My Goodness Recipes (Hanna and Jason Vale both rid themselves of the terrible symptoms of psoriasis through juicing and offer free plans on their websites)

SuperJuiceMe! The Documentary  Jason Vale took 8 volunteers with 22 different diseases, some life-threatening, which were not improving with allopathic (conventional) treatment, some very overweight, others not. He put them on a juicing regimen of fruit and vegetables for 28 days. This documentary follows their path and I defy you to watch and not reach for the tissues then quickly determine to make some changes to your lifestyle.

Food Matters TV From 11th January, 2017 you can watch both the Food Matters and Hungry for Change films free for 5 days via this website. The Food Matters team have an excellent website bringing regular articles on current health topics and research as well as healthy recipes and tips for an all round healthier lifestyle, including environmental changes.

My Post How I Juiced My Skin Clear: A Rash Decision?

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Happy Anniversary To Me – & A Big ‘Thank You’ To You!

img_2202Today, we are 1.

I’ve just received a message from WordPress, it seems it’s a whole year since I registered and tentatively, nervously began blogging. I had no idea what I was doing or if I was doing the right thing. It had been suggested a couple of times some time before that I write a blog, but I couldn’t imagine what I would have to say that was of any interest to anyone else.

Two things changed. I had been contributing recipes to The Raw Chocolate Company  blog for a few months when my son suggested I set up my own blog and I had also completed a couple of courses in raw nutrition and naturopathic nutrition. Now I felt I had something to say! I hoped I could pass on the knowledge and experience I had gained through decades of researching food and health. So many people are struggling with lifestyle health issues, perhaps I could help in some small way?

I have always needed to write, even if it was just a letter or a journal entry. I loved the old days of Compuserve where I was a regular contributor and in some instances Section Leader of various forums. I loved writing amusing anecdotes about our family as well as helping people with problems of one sort or another. Perhaps a blog could be an amalgamation of all that.

When I first wrote my About page, I was focused on juicing and raw food, providing health and nutrition advice, answering readers’ questions and so on. I categorically stated this wasn’t going to be a food blog as such and I wouldn’t be posting recipes other than juices!

Well, who knew!! Here I am a whole year later, and my blog is chock full of recipes! I quickly found they were the posts that garnered most views – people are obsessed with food photos, just take a glance at Instagram! – and I tried a different tack of including the health and nutritional information within these posts.

Therein lies the dilemma for many new bloggers: do I write what I want to write about or do I provide the content people want to read?

I also didn’t intend including any personal information – it took some time for me to pluck up the courage to even include a profile pic – however, after some months I was itching to return to family anecdotes, I really enjoy writing those, but I have to ration them and reign myself in because in the olden days of Compuserve, my family were either too young, too old or just not interested in forums so I was quite safe in the knowledge that no-one would ever read them. It’s all very different now! Every time I take a photo I hear a moan: Oh no, it’s not going on your blog is it?!

Today, twelve months down the line blogging takes up most of my thinking and writing time. I’ve also expanded to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook too, I am slowly taking over the world. You can’t get away fom me!

imageI want to say a bigthank you‘ to you all for giving me a reason to  do this, for all your kind comments and encouragement, with a particular thank you to those of you who have been here since the beginning when it was all a bit clunky and earnest at times.

Here’s your opportunity to give some feedback and let me know if there’s anything in particular you want me to include or you want to ask me about. Any constructive criticism? Do I post too often, for instance? Are the topics too diverse or too similar? Too many smoothies?

I realised recently that I tend to assume people know what certain items and terms are, so if there is ever anything I mention that you don’t understand, please ask me to explain.

I thought it might be fun to revisit one of my earliest posts: Pears But No More Parsnips: In Which I Confront My Parsnip Phobia! It explains in a light-hearted manner the origins of my blog title. It might give you smile.

Enjoy the video!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

My Top 20 Tips for Juicing – updated to 25!

imagePoor Thalia of Backpacking (and eating) my way around the world was suffering with a nasty flu-like virus and we chatted about juicing to try to clear her sinuses.

(Here’s my daily Morning Glory juice to help prevent and treat colds and hayfever).

One thing that came out of the conversation was that she had got out of the habit of juicing since going on her travels and her juicer was away in a cupboard.

Thalia had broken the number 2 rule for juicing (see below) and so I thought I would revisit my Top Tips for Juicing. There are several posts in the blog Menu with tips for juicing success both as part of Juicing Programmes and for everyday juicing, but I thought I would try to condense it all into one post. So here goes:

  1. Choosing a juicer: if possible, ask a regular juicer what they recommend. Most regular juicers have started with a fairly cheap one to see how they get on with juicing and have progressed through the brands and prices, so will know the difference between a fast, centrifugal juicer and a slower, masticating or cold-pressed juicer. My advice is buy the best you can afford so you won’t be put off juicing from the start by a machine that breaks down/can’t manage celery/leaves or doesn’t extract enough juice. (See Which Juicer? and my review of the Retro Super Juicer for some suggestions).
  2. Always, Always keep your juicer readily accessible! If you have to get it out of a box/cupboard every time you need it and reassemble, it won’t get used. So not only have you wasted your money, you won’t get into the habit of juicing daily or reap the benefits of adding healthy juices to your menu. If you need to create space, get rid of the microwave/toasted sandwich-maker/ice-cream maker/ waffle maker. image
  3. Read a Juicing Book/Watch a Juicing Film to inspire/motivate/help you understand why it is worth doing, how the food and pharmaceutical industries work to manipulate your food and health choices, how juicing works and to explode all the myths put out there by so-called ‘experts’. If your family or friends start questioning or making fun of your attempts to improve your health and fitness, you’ll be better equipped to rebuff their comments! I like Jason Vale’s books/apps and his SuperJuiceMe! documentary (click here to watch for free). He has a light, down-to-earth style, makes you laugh while you learn and has dealt with every question thrown at him by the sceptics by proving time after time that juicing works. (See How I Juiced My Skin Clear and  Juicing: How To Begin to read my own experiences). Joe Cross aka Joe the Juicer also has books, juicing programmes and several inspiring films based on his own experiences of being ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’.
  4. To avoid any potential side effects like headaches, try not to jump into a full-on juice programme without preparing your body first. Spend a couple of weeks to a month cutting down, then cutting out, processed foods especially those laden with sugar and unhealthy fats – ready meals, takeaways etc. – fizzy drinks (even so-called energy drinks are usually chock full of sugar, chemicals, additives, artificial sweeteners and caffeine), coffee and of course, tobacco and other artificial stimulants. Introduce a juice a day and you’ll feel the benefits in no time at all. (See Do As I Say Not As I Did!)
  5. If possible and affordable, juice organic vegetables. If not, choose local produce where possible. Always wash and scrub well before using. Research the fruits and veg in your country that are the most highly sprayed with chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, fungicides etc and try at least to buy organic versions of these. Grapes, strawberries and potatoes often fall into this category, for example. Above all, please don’t think juicing is a waste of time if you can’t buy organic. Any fruit and veg are better than no fruit and veg. Just make sure you wash before use.
  6. If organic, you can leave the peel on (except for oranges and grapefruit, and pineapples if you have a juicer that can’t manage the skin).image
  7. If you peel citrus fruit, do it as thinly as possible leaving the pith where the micronutrients are.
  8. Don’t let excuses get in the way. If time is an issue, make your juice/s the night before and put it/them in the fridge for the following day. They are best used fresh but a few hours late is better than not at all.
  9. Keep juices in the fridge, preferably in glass or metal containers to keep them away from the light and from chemical-laden plastic, or in a cool box with ice packs if you need to transport them.  If you’re going to drink them soon after making, glass jars are good to store them and you can drink from them too. We save jam jars for this. image
  10. Keep hydrated. You still need to drink water/herbal/fruit teas in addition to juices. I made this mistake and suffered symptoms of dehydration during my first juice challenge.
  11. Metal Straws are great for drinking juices: no plastic or waxy chemicals, no landfill; they can be used over and over and go in the dishwasher. They come with a tiny brush to clean the inside.  image
  12. Try not to treat juicing as a form of dieting. It is all about adding healthy nutrients to your body in the most accessible and digestible form to optimise health, increase energy levels and improve chronic conditions. Weight loss is a bonus, it comes naturally when you introduce fresh home-made, nutritionally-balanced juices into your daily routine.
  13. All juices are not equal! When I write about juicing, unless I state otherwise, I am referring to freshly-made juices not commercially-produced juices bought in supermarkets. They have generally been pasteurised and stored, often contain added sugars and come in single-use plastic bottles. They don’t have the same nutritional content as home-made juice produced and consumed on the same day and shouldn’t be used as regular meal replacements or for longterm juice challenges.
  14. Beware of adding too much fruit to your juice. This is usual when new to juicing, but as you get used to the flavours and combinations you should gradually reduce the fruit in favour of more vegetable content, especially leafy greens, broccoli etc.
  15. Adding a slice of lemon to a juice helps slow down the oxidation and deterioration of the juice, improves the flavour of green juices and adds its own nutrient content of course.
  16. Rotate the leafy greens so you’re not consuming the same ones every day. This varies the nutrients but also ensures you don’t consume too many oxalates which can lead to kidney stones in those who are susceptible. I alternate kale, spinach etc with romaine and other kinds of lettuce. (Did you know that romaine has good protein content?)
  17. You don’t need to become a juice fanatic to be a juicer. Juice whenever you can. It’s not a competition. There’s no winning and losing, no succeeding or failing. If you miss a couple of days or even a few days, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Just don’t put your juicer away. Get right back on the juicing wagon as soon as you can.
  18. This is a contentious one: some say always wash your juicer straightaway (I am one of them), while others say, if you’re in a rush, leave it till you get home. For me, it’s a question of health and safety. If you leave it, the pulp dries and is really hard to remove properly. This can lead to harmful bacteria developing and the last thing you want from a healthy juicing regimen is food poisoning! Also, it can reduce the efficiency of your juicer, even damage it. At the very least, empty it and give it a quick rinse through or leave the parts soaking until you can get to it. For me, there is nothing worse than being faced with dirty pots several hours later.
  19. Try to use the pulp rather than throwing it away. You can use it for burgers, nut roasts and so on, we compost it and our daughter fed it to her chickens! It is full of fibre and still contains some of the original nutrients.
  20. Lead by example. Let your progress do the talking when confronted by naysayers. Don’t let them put you off doing something you find beneficial. I started juicing entirely on my own. It was suggested that it would harm my health, that I was losing too much weight, that neither the juicing nor the weight loss or health improvement were sustainable – that was 3 years ago. Everyone who sees me now compared with 5 years ago remarks on how well I look and how did I do it! Now all the family juice and many friends/acquaintances have bought juicers and not looked back. Here are some of my before and after photos:
  21. If you’re on your own and need some support, advice, inspiration, there are many groups on social media who will be happy to help and you may make some new like-minded friends as I have done.
  22. Jason Vale, Joe Cross, the guys from Food Matters TV and Neil Martin (Natural Juice Junkie) all do regular free juicing reboots/programs/challenges/detoxes if you’d like to join in, get free recipes, apps, coaching etc and share experiences with fellow juicers.
  23. If you want a more substantial juice, blend it with 1/4 avocado. This will add essential fats and make a more satisfying juice, you will feel fuller longer. It is not ‘cheating’, it is providing you with what your body needs and will help prevent random snacking on less healthy foods. Your body needs healthy fats to metabolise certain vitamins, balance hormones and keep your brain functioning healthily.
  24. If ‘super-juicing’ and you have a lot of weight to lose, adding avocado to your juice occasionally can help prevent loose skin.
  25. Finally, REMEMBER NOT ONLY TO USE YOUR JUICER, BUT ENJOY IT TOO. You are not being punished, you are not doing penance. Enjoy getting creative. Enjoy its benefits. You have spent time, energy and money researching your purchase, you made a commitment, it’s not there to decorate your counter or impress your friends and family! You resolved to take control of your diet and health.

Go on…Just do it!

Oh, ps Nutribullets and their ilk are not juicers, they are super-blenders, they do not extract juice.

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Jason Vale’s website

Reboot With Joe

Food Matters TV

Natural Juice Junkie

Copyright: Chris McGowan

What Colour’s Your Wee?! Water: Part 1 – Are You Hydrated?

(Spoiler alert: We are talking water, wee and whoopsies!)

Whenever my 85 year old mum comes to visit, I am struck by… Oops, sorry, Mum… I’d better quickly explain that no, I am not going to be discussing the colour of my mum’s wee!!

Let’s start again:

Whenever my 85 year old mum comes to visit, I am struck by her antipathy towards drinking plain, unadulterated water. The only water that passes her lips is a sip to wash down her medication. She only ever drinks coffee throughout the day and a glass of wine with dinner. Very rarely, in hot weather, she drinks a glass of orange squash.  I can’t persuade her even to finish the glass of water when she has her tablets. Yet, a lot of the time she is tired, confused and has difficulty walking due to problems with her leg muscles. These are just three of the typical symptoms of dehydration.

Dehydration in the elderly is of particular concern as symptoms can be mistaken for those of dementia, and they are often given yet more drugs to help counter its effects and slow its progression.

But it is not only the elderly who risk becoming dehydrated. As we (hopefully) approach Summer, we all could do with assessing our intake of such a vital substance as we become more active, expelling more breath and perspiring more in the (slight intake of breath) warmer temperatures. (One can but hope!)

Water makes up about 60% of our bodies and is essential in lubricating our joints, spinal discs and chord, transporting nutrients, and expelling waste products and toxins; it regulates our temperature and keeps the tissues in our ears, nose and throat moist. Water helps keep your blood thin and your Blood Pressure down and flushes away unwanted fats. We need to keep hydrated to keep healthy.

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How do we know when we are dehydrated?

There are lots of signs that you are not taking in enough fluid:

  1. Constipation
  2.  Brain fog, feeling unfocused
  3. Confusion
  4. Headache
  5. Dizziness
  6. Muscle fatigue
  7. General fatigue
  8. Dry mouth
  9. Drowsiness
  10. Dark or strong-smelling urine: if you are well-hydrated, it should be straw-coloured.
  11. Stiff joints, disc problems
  12. In children, they are less active than usual
  13. Drinking too much coffee and/or alcohol  – they are diuretics

Many experts think that if you wait until you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. They advise drinking small amounts of water throughout the day.

Drinking large amounts of water infrequently can put your body under stress.

Carrying a water bottle helps. Preferably not plastic.

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(See Jerry Stainless Steel Bottles, a non-profit company supporting clean water projects in India and Africa).

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Image courtesy of Jerry Bottles

(Colour may be affected by medication or Vitamin supplements – 1 person I know had a shock after taking a Vitamin B supplement!)

How Much Water is Enough?

The European Food Authority recommends 2.5 litres of total fluid per day for men and 2.0 litres for women, whilst the US Institute of Medicine recommends 3 litres (13 Cups) for men and 2.2 litres (9 Cups) for women. These amounts can vary according to health, weight, intensity of activity and where you live, temperature and so on.

70-80% should come from fluids and 20-30% from foods.

Children need 6-8 glasses of fluid over and above what they access from food, with younger children needing smaller drinks of 150ml size.

A general guide is to take your weight in pounds, divide by 2 and that is your amount of fluid required in fluid ounces.

Getting children to drink water can be really hard. Adding a slice of fruit or a strawberry may help. Starting them off as babies is perhaps the best policy and if they see you drinking water regularly, they will soon adopt the habit. Schools could do more to ensure children have the opportunity to drink throughout the school day, they would see results in the classroom in terms of concentration and energy. Parents can also ensure they take sugar-free drinks in their lunchboxes as well as hydrating foods.

All of us can benefit from eating more hydrating foods. Cucumber is well-known for its hydrating properties  (I juice it every day), but also celery, carrot, tomatoes, beets, fruits and salads. Most whole fruits and vegetables are made up of 80-90% water and go a long way to helping us keep up our fluid intake as well as giving us all their essential nutrients.

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Your skin will benefit from all the extra fluid, vitamins, minerals and healthy oils while your eyes will be sparkly bright! Your brain will function better, you’ll feel more alert and focused. You may also get relief from some of the aches and pains in your joints and muscles.

Having trouble with your weight? Keeping up your fluid intake helps keep your weight in check: your body often interprets extreme thirst as hunger and so you eat more. If you ignore normal signs of dehydration, your body thinks, well if she’s not going to give me any actual fluid, I’ll have to get it the hard way – through food. And so you eat, and snack, until it gets what it needs.

If you don’t drink enough, you become constipated and your body reabsorbs fluid (and thereby toxins) from your stools. Now there’s a pleasant image!

I find cold water difficult to drink, so I prefer it out of the kettle. Hot water with a slice of wax-free lemon first thing in the morning is a great start to the day, it rehydrates, wakes up the liver and kick-starts the metabolism.

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I also drink a variety of teas: green tea with jasmine; licorice and cinnamon; lemon and ginger; chamomile and some fruit teas.

There are lots of interesting and flavoursome ways to increase your fluid intake and nurture your body.

We in the developed world are fortunate that hydration for optimum health is pretty much our main concern when it comes to water intake – give or take the odd chemical spill. There are millions of others who struggle to get enough clean water just to survive. We literally have it on tap, so let’s use it to keep ourselves and our families hydrated and healthy.

By the way, what colour is your wee?

(Watch out for the beetroot!)

This is Part 1 of 2 posts on water. Part 2 is about 3 socially responsible businesses who donate all their profits to clean water projects in developing countries. Please read and see if you can support their efforts.

Water: Part 2 – They Can’t Get Enough

N.B. If you are at all concerned about dark-coloured urine or any of the other symptoms listed, please see you doctor.

Copyright: Chris McGowan